Mayaheine on Oerth, Part 1
Date: Fri, February 22, 2008
Topic: Heretic's Nest
An accounting of the manifestation of the goddess Mayaheine on Oerth and of her Prophetess, the so-called Maiden Knight.
Mayaheine on Oerth, Part 1
I am sent here by God, the King of Heaven. – Joan of Arc
In early Fireseek of 584 CY King Belvor IV of Furyondy was encamped in the village of Brancast on the south bank of the Crystal River. The winter had been unusually harsh with frequent snows, and the war had almost ground to a standstill. Most of the Barony of Kalinstren to the north, and to the northeast a sizeable portion of the County of Crystalreach, including the city of Grabford, were controlled by Iuz’s forces. Only Castle Redoubt, commanded by Baron Kalinstren himself held out in these lands, surround by a sea of the Old One’s foul armies. Even Chendl, the capital of the nation, was besieged by an army of humanoids. To the east the raiders' probing attack from across the Veng and Ritensa Rivers had all but ceased, except for the occasional sortie by Iuz to capture Critwall Bridge.
Directly across the Crystal River from the king’s camp lay the foundations of Brancast Keep, which had barely been begun by Baron Kalinstren before the war came. It was now the base for an army of orcs, orog and other grim creatures, led by demons and evil men. Daily they crucified, impaled and tortured prisoners for all on the southern shore to see, while their champion, a monstrous fiend-blooded troll called out in broken Common for someone to cross to the small, bare islet near the northern shore and fight him. The best of Belvor’s Heironean knights and paladins had taken up the challenge and paid for it with their lives. The King had forbidden anyone else from accepting the challenge for fear of losing more manpower and for the effect these futile duels were having on the morale of his army. Though the King’s forces held off the attackers there were many desertions, and his nobles; especially the great land owners in the south, ever mistrustful of the northern lords and the Knights of the Hart. The southerners also squabbled and complained of the expense of the war, worrying more about who would plant and harvest their crops in the coming spring, than the fate of the lands to the north.
It was in this dark time that Belvor received a most unusual supplicant at his court, one who would change the course of the war. A young female knight had arrived one evening at the head of a large company of men-at-arms and infantry, with a number of Pelorian priests and paladins among them. The company’s white banner depicted a sword with a sunburst coming out of the blade with a golden orb and victory rune to each side. Rumor spread like wildfire through the village and the camp. Some had already heard tales of the Maiden Knight, a young woman in the lands to the south who claimed to speak for a demi-deity never heard of before in the Flanaess; Mayaheine, the Shield Maiden of Pelor. Now here the Maiden Knight was in the flesh. Crowds of the common folk gathered about her pavilion, seeking her blessings. Soon, even knights and squires, especially the few paladins of Pelor, began to seek her out. Though furiously denounced as a charlatan by most of the paladins and priesthood of Heironeous who clustered around the throne, the King sent for her.
While official histories speak in broad terms, and the journals of many scribes present during the war can attest to having seen the “... glorious heaven-lights shine on her noble brow... (1)” as she channeled the goddess, few can or even attempt to say anything of the origins of the Maiden Knight and how she came to be the apostle and vessel of Mayaheine. Most of the details that may be known about the divine visitation is from the writings of Luke Blackwell, called the Fair Esquire by those who favored him, and the Bastard of Blackwell by his detractors. Master Blackwell himself deserves a brief biography and I hope my readers will bear with me in this diversion from an already long tale, as Blackwell was lucky enough to be witness to the visitation of Mayaheine from its beginning to its end.
Though natural-born (2) to the mistress of Sir Belvor Ponda of Blackwell in southern Furyondy, Luke was treated well by his father, who saw to his education and training. When the town was wiped out by plague in 579 CY (3), Luke was lucky enough to be away at school in Greyhawk, though unlucky in that he was forced to make his own way in the world, and that the name of Blackwell became a byword for bad luck in his homeland. He eventually found himself in service as a free-lance to the House of Longland in Hardby. In early 581 a gynarch of the Longlands was captured by the so-called Szek of Safeton, a brigand and pirate lord, and held for ransom, which the Longlands refused to pay. To make a long tale brief, the Szek ran out of patience and murdered the woman outright. The Longlands acted swiftly, and though the tale says that Diedre and Oscar Longland rode through the gates of Safeton alone, riding back out with the Szek’s head (4), it was only after a long siege that they did so.
Serving alongside Blackwell in the siege was a young female free-lance of Almorian origin, Phaedra Rillidor. Like Blackwell, she was of gentle origin, though in her case, legitimate, but had been disinherited and exiled by her family, for refusing an arranged marriage. Blackwell describes her as having been “... of average height with a face neither homely nor comely, and rather plain mud-brown hair. She was little more than a girl, and without her armor and sword you would not think her to be anything but a simple maid. She was stronger than she looked though, and skilled in battle, if not notably so, being given neither to heroics nor timidity. This appearance belied the role that she would come to play as the prophetess and ultimately vessel to a divine being.” The event which set her on that road would happen during the siege of Safeton.
In the final assault on Safeton Phaedra was badly wounded by a spear. Though the healers stanched her wounds they became infected and she lay in a fever, near death for several days. Upon her fever breaking and her return to consciousness she told a remarkable story, which the Fair Squire relates as follows:
“When the spear had pierced her she had fallen to the ground in shock and lost consciousness. Upon waking she realized her spirit was floating above the scene of battle. She looked down and saw her body, pierced by the spear, being carried from the field. As she watched the sun had flared brightly, seeming to wash all other color out of the world around her, and as she looked up toward that heavenly body she had seen a speck cross in front of it and grow in size as it descended until she discerned the figure of a giant eagle with shining white feathers. The eagle stooped upon her spirit and took her up gently in his great brazen talons, saying, ‘Do not fear me child. I am Noonfeather, the servant of the Sun Father, and I am come to bear you to your destiny' (5). He had soared high and far into the west for many days with her, to snow-capped peaks that reach up into the sky, and though she was but spirit Phaedra was chilled by the freezing cold air. Upon the highest of the peaks Noonfeather gently set her down in the snow. Above her on the very summit of the mountain was a throne upon which sat a tall, beautiful, golden-haired woman dressed in shining silver armor and crowned with a halo of blinding light. Across her knees rested a bastard sword and beside her seat was a burnished shield. Phaedra fell to her knees in the snow before the throne. The woman’s blue eyes flashed like lightening as she looked down upon the girl, and she slowly raised her right arm and pointed her forefinger at Phaedra. As she did so a voice rang inside the girl’s head like thunder, saying that the woman’s name was Mayaheine and that she had once lived as a mortal on another world which had been beset by a great evil. As a paladin of Pelor in her mortal life she had served the Sun Father loyally and with great valor. For her deeds Pelor had elevated her to godhood and shown her the way to Oerth so that she might be a strong right arm to his suffering children there (6).
When Phaedra had asked what the goddess wanted with her, Mayaheine said that she had chosen the young woman to be her messenger. Phaedra was to tell all the people of the lands, common and mighty alike that they were to protect the weak and innocent who suffered. She was to prepare the way for Mayaheine and the for the terrible years to come. Phaedra was stunned, needless to say and had protested, asking what was to come and how she was to do anything to prepare for it? She was but a free-lance of gentle birth and an exile at that, not a great knight. Why would the mighty listen to her and what could she do to aid them?
The voice of Mayaheine answered calmly, 'Because you will be my apostle and I will be with you, and when the time comes you will bear my power within you. Those to whom you bring my message will see the light of the Sun Father which I bear inside me, and which you will also bear if you will take this burden upon yourself.'
Phaedra had only been able to nod her head in assent and as she did a blinding light exploded in her head and filled her freezing body with the glowing warmth of the sun. With that Phaedra awoke in a tent outside the walls of Safeton.”
As Blackwell goes on to relate the siege had been ended for days and the head of the Szek was being taken back by the Longlands to be mounted on a pike over Hardby’s gate. The Longland forces were securing and looting the town and would be at it for some days before heading back across Wooly Bay.
He and others noted a change that had come over Phaedra in the days that followed. Never particularly devout before, usually praying to the gods that soldiers habitually prayed to, the girl began to spend much time in prayer and conversation with a Peloran chaplain in the camp. At times she appeared deeply distressed and would weep and shake uncontrollably. On one such instance which Blackwell witnessed, a hulking monster of a soldier, known for being a bully and for loudly proclaiming his dedication to Hextor, though he was probably no more devout than any of his fellows, mocked and jeered Phaedra. Blackwell describes her reaction:
"Immediately her weeping and quaking stopped and she looked up at the soldier with fury in her eyes that I had never seen before, even in the heat of battle. The Hextoran was taken aback and stopped his mockery, but quickly regained his composure and chuckled with amusement. The blow that followed was so fast that I hardly saw it though it was heard quite clearly. A sound like a cleaver striking a slab of meat. All gathered around were staring in shock at the Hextoran sprawled on the ground at Phaedra’s feet.
‘Do not mock the servant of the Sun Father’s Shield Maiden. Repent of the ways of the Herald of Hell, for he will surely lead you to the sufferings of that unhappy place,’ she said to him.
I put my hand on my sword hilts to draw, sure that the brute would be intent on murdering the girl, but he merely rose to his feet and stalked away. When I saw him the next day he was following her about the camp, meek as a puppy. The day after, she was gone, no one knew where.”
That was the last Blackwell was to see of her for a number of years, until fate brought him to be in the court of Belvor at Brancast on the day the King sent for her.
Read Part II HERE.
(1) The author pokes fun at these scribes, despite being guilty himself of such florid language.
(2) i.e., Illegitimate.
(3) The Marklands, pg. 31.
(4) "Mysterious Places: Safeton" available at http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=lg/lgmp/20071106a
(5) “Core Beliefs: Pelor” in Dragon 346, pg. 32.
(6) Based on the descriptions of the goddess in published sources, including Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, pg. 176 and “Core Beliefs: Pelor” in Dragon 346, pg. 27.