The Eroding Empire
Cleric of the End
NAME Ayn (rhymes with “mine,” not “main”)
CLASS Cleric (Domains: Death, War, Vengeance)
AGE Uncertain, but late teens (nomadic tribes don’t keep birth records)
She always wears a mask that covers her entire face including her eyes, and a hood or helmet that covers her head. The mask has no sculpted facial features or eye holes. She wears long gloves that conceal her hands and arms. No part of her skin is ever exposed. She never removes the mask in front of people, not even when the shock factor could be useful. She eats alone when no one else is looking and covers her face with a sheet when sleeping. She removes the mask only when she is completely alone, in the dark and in prayer to her gods.
She is of average height and build for a human female her age, but is physically hardier than her size would suggest because of her life as a nomad in difficult environments and her recent battle training with the Cult of the Four Horsemen.BACKGROUNDS
Daughter of the nomadic Askari tribe
Initiate of the Cult of the Four Horsemen
What is left of her eyes is useless. Instead, her gods will grant her the power of sight as long as her faith in them is strong. If her fervor dims, so shall her sight.
Ayn was born into the nomadic Askari tribe that roamed the fringes of civilization, resisting assimilation into the Dragon Empire and clinging to their savage and barbaric customs. She was originally bright and vivacious, and her pretty youth attracted the attention of the chieftain’s son which soon developed into secret trysts. This was eventually discovered and as such relations were considered scandalous for a girl before marriage and a dishonor upon her family, the tribal elders ruled that the family could regain its honor if Ayn were punished by acid.
She was dragged to the ruins of an old temple near the location where the tribe had set up camp. Her older brother poured acid on her while her mother and father pinned her down and the rest of the tribe watched. As her face and hands burned and melted away she was abandoned to her fate, which was almost certain to be death. Blinded, wracked by pain and cast away by her people, she had no chance of survival.
Her almost inhuman screams drew a passing group of doomsday cultists led by a priest. They had been wandering the area for days after the priest had heard the voices of the gods telling him he would discover something important in the old temple. He gazed upon the girl with no more face, and proclaimed her to be what they were searching for.
Ayn was brought back to the cultists’ commune, where she was ritually presented to the Four Horsemen and healed by the priest’s spells and prayers. When she finally regained consciousness, the priest told her that Death had stayed her feet before she crossed into the afterlife; that Pestilence had closed her wounds and stopped them from festering; that Famine had restored her strength and vigor; only War had declined to do her a favor, saying she was untested and not yet worthy of receiving a boon from him.
The Horsemen intervened to save her life because they chose her for a greater destiny, the priest said. To fulfill this destiny she needed to win the remaining gift of War, then she would be able to pave the way toward the End. And she would be exalted in the afterlife forever for her exceptional service to the gods.
But, she asked the priest in an anguished whisper, if they could save my life why did they not save my face? My eyes? My hands?
My child, she heard the priest say, your scarring was what alerted the Horsemen to the existence of one nomad girl wandering the edge of the Empire. That was the moment you were reborn for a higher purpose. Thus the gods have no reason to remove your scars and you have no reason to be ashamed of them.
She rasped, then I curse your gods! They will not let me die, they will not restore my face nor my sight, they would make me their slave. I spit upon your gods!
Difficult days followed; the priest was unrelentingly stern, she was watched closely lest she kill herself, and she was drowning in despair. Yet the cultists, remembering the circumstances of her discovery and seeing proof of the gods’ favor in her miraculous revival, adopted her as one of their own and treated her with kindness.
Forced to attend prayers every day, one day Ayn found herself nodding as the priest spoke to the commune of the rot and corruption of this world and of the treachery, cruelty and baseness of men. She found that very easy to agree with. The total darkness of her blindness seemed to lift just a bit. The priest continued: and for those sins the Four Horsemen shall alight upon the land and trample everything in their path beneath the hooves of their mighty steeds. Ayn imagined the gods unleashing the Apocalypse, and in her mind the figures appeared heroic and noble, and righteous. Then she noticed she could actually see dark shadows in front of her eyes and silhouettes of the other cultists with their heads bowed in prayer; with dawning shock she wondered if her sight could actually be returning. She turned her head toward the priest, who was passionately describing in detail how each of the Horsemen would purify this worthless world through punishment. Her heart thrilled to hear his voice tell the story of the cataclysmic End and she imagined her tribe among those who would be erased from the face of the earth just as they had tried to erase her; her sight became brighter and brighter until she saw for the first time the face of the man who had saved her life through prayer and magic, as clearly as if she had never lost her eyes at all.
After the service she raced to the priest’s study, somehow still able to see through the mask with no eye holes and needing no assistance to manage her way through the hallways and the staircases. She burst into the room and described to him what happened during the sermon, along with the shape of his nose and the color of his eyes and the number of books on his desk. She saw the priest’s face light up with joy. He told her there was no doubt the Horsemen had chosen her as their instrument; now that she had finally accepted them as her gods they would grant her the power of sight as long as her faith did not waver.
From that day on Ayn began the study of the cult’s doctrines and prophecies, how to weave the powers of the Four Horsemen into magic to hurt and heal, and how to wield a weapon. She was mindful that War was still withholding his gift from her as she was yet “untested,” and pursued her study of the sword with vigor.
Meanwhile, 99% of the world would have just thought she’s crazy.ICON RELATIONSHIPS
Priestess (negative, 1): The Priestess, servant of the gods of light, is naturally opposed to doomsday cults. There is a suspicion among adherents of such fringe beliefs that she or her agents are now resorting to somewhat extreme methods to stamp out these subversive faiths.
Crusader (conflicted, 1): The Crusader realizes his gods and the Four Horsemen are on the same side of the “light vs. dark” spectrum, and respects the cult’s desire to follow the Horsemen. At the same time, he considers them foolish and misguided for focusing so much on those four, whom he sees as minor gods of destruction in the service of his own dark deities.
High Druid (positive, 1) — The Askari tribe resists assimilation into civilization and survives through their knowledge of nature and the occasional raid on the outermost towns of the Empire. They do not form permanent settlements and leave a minimal footprint on the lands they roam. The tribe has noticed a change in the harsh environment of the areas they traditionally wander; nature appears to have become more bountiful and somewhat more forgiving, and the Askari attribute this to the recent expansion of the High Druid’s influence.