|Most men are old when they become a burden unto others. Swidda was still young. Most, when they are not maimed in battle, are taken with disease and feebleness in their waning years. Swidda lost his body to the mountains, to the elements; really, to the land itself and the gods which govern it.|
He carried a square shield on his back and an axe and a sword on his waist. His body was strong and beautiful under its warpaint. He did as all hale-bodied youths aspire which is to join a war party, winning wealth and territory for his struggling community. So, equipped with good bronze, trained and led by a very decent captain, they took to the Thraxians, the rival tribes there, in search of their wants. Salt came first, as winter was nigh and there would be nothing to forage until the evergreens beared fruits again, but mead, iron, tools, anything the southern empires would buy the warband could bear to haul back over the peaks.
Only they found no liquor, or tools, or metals precious and otherwise. And winter had come early, from the north, as a sort of short-lived raiding party much like their own. First they saw it through the boughs, a bubbling black ambush sliding down the sky like pitch. They smelled its stinging sweetness; it prickled their necks. Before long they were buried, huddling around a tiny fire they couldn't keep lit, burning their oily meat rations when there was no more dry wood left to scrounge. Swidda never saw an enemy, never mind slayed one.
He also never saw some of those men again; they did not walk out of the blizzard with the rest, anyway. But they must have survived if he could, even as his toes went black, his fingers next; even as the snow sucked the vigor from his body and a dreadful peace swept over his soul. What had he done to deserve this abject end? He had a good idea, until he made it through the white hell, until he felt warmth and light again and needed only sacrifice a few digits for the privilege. It was less obvious then.
Today, in the better wisdoms of his seasoned years, his experience in the mountains feels far less like punishment than it once did. He was robbed of his most conspicuous blessings, certainly, but has uncovered others since. He cannot help but feel these days that that storm saved him, in its way; it stole the swiftness in his stride, and the hardiness of his hands, and even the tips of his ears and nose, but in some useless skirmish or other he would surely have lost his mind, too, and his mind has proven a far sharper gift than any limb.
On the wrong side of the mountains, taken unto another tribe's land, unable to fight or to forage, unable even to rise from his bedding once he was placed there, Swidda had only books and stories for company through his many, many moons of healing still to come. And the books he could not even read. But time was on his side, and the sages of this village had taken to their precocious guest, who the mountains had changed. While he recovered he was able to learn the dialect as it is scratched into stones, scribbled onto slabs of wax and clay. He could never swing a sword again, he could barely pick up a stylus with the fingers he had left, but the more wisened tribesmen must have seen in him that same art which was once buried under his muscles and weapons; unless they simply pitied him. Whatever the case, when Swidda's body returned from the Thraxians he was sure that it had shed its fierceness like a snake its old skin. All notions of cruelty and violence had gone out of his life, and the sages had to have seen a potential in him for healing the world, for teaching it, for bettering its understanding of itself. Alas that they were wrong, in the very end; war returns to the hills, and before very long all men begin to obsess over it.
Swidda had returned to his first people, the one which sired him, a few years after this experience, when he was strong enough again to make the journey back through the daggered hills. They were pleased to see him again, and pleased moreover that the loss of his strength had not ruined his spirit as well. For generations Swidda served this community of old and continued his learning under their own seers and scholars and poets. He expected to die here as he had lived in youth. But he remembered well his debt to the ones who had saved him, too, and planned to return there someday already.
Until the Nhirians came he was even slated to become a druid. But the men who would have elected him are gone now. Only a few have scattered into the Thraxians who may still remember their names, who honor their sacrifices, including a certain gentle sage.
He has returned, if under mournful circumstances, to aid the Eioni, intent on compensating the ones who nursed him back to life all those decades ago; to help them find peace, if peace is possible, and avert them of the fate which befell his first people. The sons rule now where once the father reigned; Gederhyn is chief, and he pays well, in companionship and beer, for the stories Swidda can tell of his forebear's courage and kindness. The two have become dear friends. Young tribesmen cannot remember Swidda's first visit to this place, but he can never forget. This time he won't run away; if there is even anywhere left to run by the time the Eioni have fallen.
The same scourge comes to annihilate them which has already annihilated Swidda's own people, made servants and corpses of them far to the east of the venerable mountains. Can he survive this war without losing all that he holds dear a second time? What else will he have to sacrifice to finally know a true and lasting peace?
Tall and supple stands this sage of the Eioni peoples, like wheat bowing to the wind. Gaunt of countenance and humorless of demeanor is he, barding himself of dark and rough-hewn robes. He wears no jewelry, and while speaking he hides his ruined fist behind his back or in the recesses of his sleeves, striking a scholarly pose but also hiding the mangled flesh from the vanities of others. Other parts of him are said to have been kissed by the same rot, although no witnesses—including his wives, goes the gossip—can claim to have seen it themselves. He does walk with a heavy limp, however.
Unlike most Thraxians he keeps his whole face shaven. His straight steel mane he meticulously brushes for knots and lice.
Skills & Talents: Swidda was a warrior in youth. Though he can no longer fight he remembers well the tactics and practices which kept his fighting-fellows alive. His advice in war goes unheard nowadays, or unspoken, but he could serve any chieftain well at the rear of a battle.
Swidda is a practiced diplomat and negotiator.
Swidda reads, although he cannot write; he recites well the memories of his peoples, although no songs will be written about his own life.
He tends a garden. Small animals get nearer to him than most, sensing a gentleness in his weathered and weary spirit.
Traits: Gentle; Nurturing; Thoughtful; Indecisive; Fearful; Tormented
Allegiances: The Angaturiz peoples; The Eioni peoples; the Acani tribe; Gederhyn, its chief.
Rank & Role: RETAINER. Swidda serves Chief Gederhyn of the Acani tribe as a scribe, an advisor, and a diplomat.