Evarigus, the Paladin of Death's Mother
I am Evarigus Herdontus. My story, my life, is not important. Except in one little regard. I have a mission. No, I have a calling. I have been presented with a purpose that leads and guides me through this world. It has taken me from the place I had called home and cast me toward the ends of the earth. It has made my simple life before so small in comparison.
It was a small life. My parents disappeared. They were not dead, for there were no bodies or graves to discover. I only have faint recollections of them. They are recollections of loving times. Happiness and warmth comfort me in the memories of them. But then they were gone.
The town folk never explained what happened to them. And when I would walk by, I heard the mutters. “Now in'it such a shame to leave him that ways.” “Right nasty of them folks to abandon the boy and home.” “If weren't for the kindness of folk here, he would be dead.”
They were kind. The folk of that town saw to it I had food or a roof. I had the hand-me-downs of their children's clothes. Patched and mended beyond their liking, I'm sure. But it was a life that could be sustained. No one wanted to claim me, though. No one wanted the shame or the curse.
I never gave up hope that they would come back. My ma and da would some day come trotting back into town. They would find me in the town square. They would grab me up and hug me tightly. All three of us, squeezing each other as if to flow into one another. I still think that will happen. Some day. I know they are out there. My calling will lead me to them eventually.
That calling is what shapes this quest I am on. It started painfully.
I had been “hired” by a family in town. They let me sleep in their barn and gave me food and clothes. In return, I was their sheepherder. I took the flock out to feed. It was my job to look after those dumb animals.
One week I had followed them out of town, farther than I had ever been. I didn't know that place. Something spooked the flock. They scattered in all directions. It took me a day and night to get most of them back. I had penned up all but the big ram. He was the prize of the flock. Big strong animal. I had to find him, or I would pay out of hide for it. The folk might even sell me off.
I found him, alright. He wasn't a big, strong animal no more. Something had torn him apart. I found a cave. It looked like a cave. 'Cept it wasn't a cave. Someone had made it. They carved it into the side of a hillock. They carved the stone to look natural outside. I stepped in to search for the ram. And I saw him laid out in the center of the room. Pieces of him looked like they were ripped right from the body. And all the blood had covered the floor.
I was upset. I cried. I was just a boy. Maybe I was eleven or twelve. That ram had been my buddy and my bed on some cold nights. Now he was gone. And I was going to pay for it. I failed my job.
I stood there for a while. Finally, I was able to think again. I thought if I could bring back part of him that was ripped off, I could show it weren't me that did it. Something got him. I couldn't stop it.
When my barefoot touched that blood, it was still warm. Then the room got lit up. Torches flared up around the room. As I looked around, I saw it wasn't a natural cave. It was carved inside with creatures and people. There were boxes of stone carved right from the floor. It was like someone started cutting away the natural rock and made these boxes as they carved.
When I looked around at the ram, it was gone. The body, the blood, the smell – all of it was gone. And standing in front of me was some one, some thing. It was a tall, silvery, bird-woman. I know I was a boy, but I had looked up on tall folk before. She, or it, was taller by hands. And it wasn't light or armor, the skin was silvery. The torches flickered against the skin. And she had wings and a bird head. Like hawk or falcon. But she had human parts elsewhere.
I was scared. I was so scared that I pissed myself. I won't deny it. Seeing that ram ripped apart was bad. But standing in front of this creature was too much. I was shaking and quivering.
And she just reached out and wrapped her arms around me. She embraced me. Just like I imagine my ma and da will when they come back. She smoothed my hair down. I remember being a little embarrassed cause I hadn't had a wash in a while. I smelled like sheep. And I wasn't sure I didn't have a few bugs in my hair. But she didn't seem to mind. She just rubbed my head and back and made soft noises like some mommas do their little ones.
I guess I calmed down enough for her to let me go. I didn't want to let go. I wanted to stay there. But she took me by the shoulders and pushed back a little. She got down on one knee, so she could look into my face better. I still had to bend my neck a bit to look at her, though.
Then she spoke to. She didn't squawk and whistle like a bird, though. She spoke a few words in something I didn't recognize. Then she spoke to me in Common.
“Hello, little one. I am pleased you found this place. My mistress has been looking for someone like you for a long time. What is your name, little one?”
“I'm Evarigus. Most folks that don't know me call me Evar when they hear it.”
“Evarigus, I am Mutesh.”
“Evarigus, I know that you are just a boy. You will some day grow up into a strong man. My mistress desires someone who can help her in this world. Would you like to be that person?”
I wasn't sure what was being asked of me. I wasn't no one special. I was barely wanted by anyone. I couldn't understand how some strange bird-woman appeared out here in the middle of nowhere. And I couldn't understand how her lady would want someone like me.
“What do you want me to do? I'm not no good at much. I can't even keep my sheep from getting killed.”
“Evarigus, my mistress doesn't want you for what you are. She wants you for what you can become. She knows how to make you into what she needs. She can help you get better at what is necessary.”
“Who is your mistress?” Is she from near here? I don't know many towns around here.”
“My mistress is not from here. She is from another realm, another plane of reality. My mistress is a goddess. She is worshiped by many who are far from here. But she sees that this plane, this world needs her. There are wrongs happening right now that she wants to correct. There are things that people are doing that need to be stopped. Would you help her do that?”
“I'm not strong enough to stop nobody. I'm used to being kicked and pushed around my the bigger boys. I can't stop no grown up from doing bad stuff.”
“My mistress can make you stronger. She can give you the power to stop those who do wrong. She can help you stop bad things from happening.”
I admit that I was hooked right then. I wasn't very strong, and I knew it. Maybe Mutesh knew that I knew it. Maybe she was playing on my fantasies of being stronger than others. Maybe she knew that I wanted to be strong enough to go looking for my ma and da. But I wasn't going to make it easy for her.
“What kind of bad stuff am I supposed to stop?”
“Evarigus, do you know what happens when people die?”
“I know some of those churchies talk about living some life after dying. I ain't no churchie, though. They don't like me in their pretty place.”
“Evarigus, when someone dies, there is part of them that is no longer tied to their body. That part doesn't need to be bound to this world or this plane of existence. There are other planes where that sense of their self can go.
“There are people who live in this world who believe they have the right to take the body that is left here and use it for their own desires. They use magics and powers and artifacts to make those bodies move again; as if there were life in them….”
“You mean zombies and skeletons and such like?”
“Exactly, Evarigus. For my mistress, those creatures are an abomination. They should not exist. And the people who make those creatures are doing a horrible thing. For when those creatures are made, the self of the person they were before is harmed. They experience pain and torment in the other plane where they reside. My mistress cares deeply for those. She wishes to stop the pain that comes to them.
“She wants someone to help her here, in this world, to become her champion. Would you become her champion?”
As Mutesh was explaining what was happening, all I could see was my ma's and da's ghosts being hurt. I know I'll see them again some day, but it was their faces that popped up in my mind. Well, the faces I gave them.
“I'll do it,” I said softly. “But I'm not much to help. And I don't know what I'm doing when it comes to fighting and churchie stuff.”
“Evarigus, I will teach you all you need to know. The first thing you need to know is that our mistress' name is Nebthet. Some call her Nephthys. Others worship her when they worship Kelemvor in this world. She is to be your patron goddess. And I will be your messenger from her.”
“ummm. I don't mean to be disrespectful to you or mistress Nebthet, but I gots sheep to tend. They aren't mine to own. And I gots to get them back home.”
“Evarigus, I am well aware of the animals you tend. I am also aware that the ram that was slain here was your responsibility. There is no way to replace the animal that was sacrificed. But if you will face the responsibility of its loss with honor, then our mistress will see that you are provided for after. Go, and take care of your responsibility. Then return swiftly, for we must begin your training.”
I turned to leave the cave. But in that moment, I was hit by a wave of the feelings I get when I think about my ma and da. Those feelings that make me cry myself to sleep in the deep parts of the night.
“Will you be here when I get back?”
I ran back to the sheep pen. Those blessed, bleating beasts were all still there. Save the ram, of course. I hated having to tell the folk back there that it was gone.
That trip back to town was a mixture of excitement and terror. I wasn't sure if I wanted to face what was coming. And I don't mean just telling about the ram.
When I got back to the farm, I walked right up to the mister. I told him plain that the ram got torn up by something. He was upsets quite fierce. He stomped and raged and knocked stuff over. Then he took it in his head to say I killed it or sold it. He kept yelling at me to tell him the truth.
So I did.
He didn't take it for truth. He just called me a liar and a fool. He took a switch and started beating me. He didn't care nothing for my words or my cries. He didn't stop when I quit, either. I'm not sure when it was he quit. Or why he stopped. I woke up on the side of the road. I had a little bundle of my things from the barn. There was also some bread heels and cheese rind and a couple of little pieces of dried meat. I hurt everywhere. But I didn't have no mind to take care of it. I only knew I needed to go back to the cave.
It took me three days to get back there. I would stumble a ways, then have to stop. I think I kept bleeding, but I didn't have any way to get it to stop. He whipped me down the back and legs. There were cuts on the back of my arms and on my shoulders. If he thought I was some kind of curse, he was trying to beat it out of me, that is certain.
When I stumbled into the cave, Mutesh wasn't there. And that was the end. I laid down right on the spot where I found the ram. And I just wanted to die.
But that was not to be.