Praise to the All-Father, who is called Akhen in the language of the Exekians. May the glory of his light suffuse the earth with heavenly beauty; let his divine spirit illuminate the night around us and banish the darkness within our souls.
I, Lord Gavin Zosimus, bore witness to the events I will record here. All that I say is truth untold before me, for few live now that remember it.
The Origins of the Prophet Vormund
In the city of Bodai there was born a common man of unknown parentage. This commoner was called Dagda Vormund, and he had few skills and was of no great standing. He spent his youth traveling the countrysides, working for whomever would have him, often taking but food and shelter as payment for his labors. And so it was that his heart grew hardened by poverty and strife; he knew no love of any kind and had no one in the world he could call a friend.
So his life went without purpose or pursuit, until he reached the age of thirty five. It was then that Vormund, while sleeping in a field, heard in his dreams the voice of the god, who said to him:
“Do not be afraid, Vormund. I am your true father, the maker of all things.”
Vormund was bewildered and asked, “What do you want of me?”
“It is my desire that you become my mouthpiece and convey my laws to the people. You must be willing to speak to them even when they seek to drown out your voice, and when they drive you from them, you must still come back and continue to preach my message. Will you do this for me?”
“No,” was all Vormund said in answer, for he was but a common man, and thought himself undeserving of such a burden.
He awoke in the morning and went on as usual. But the next night he was again visited by the god, who said:
“Vormund, you must obey me. I am your creator. It was by my doing that you were conceived; you are of my design. Do you not trust that I have made you for this task?”
“That may be so. But I don’t see the point in preaching to them if the people will not listen,” Vormund replied.
“There will always be those who are deaf to me. That is of their own accord. It is not your duty to force them to hear, but to reach those who are willing to listen,” the god told him.
Still Vormund refused, for he feared what the people might do to him. He awoke at once to morning light.
But the god would not let him go, and soon he began to visit Vormund during the day. He would speak to him, halting his work; soon the god’s voice was in his ears at every hour. Those who would employ him thought he was mad and turned him away, until he was left destitute and without food or lodgings.
He went into the wilderness, where the god is the only king, and went down upon his knees to pray for mercy. His heart was softened and his soul was opened; he cared not if he lived or died, for he knew his life had been without purpose and he had no one to call a brother.
Again the god appeared, but this time his presence was felt as well as heard. At once, a great peace overcame Vormund. He was moved to tears. As his vision blurred, he could not see the god, and so he was not blinded as others have been. Still, the encounter left him aged; though he was still young and strong, his hair turned gray and lines were etched into his face, making him appear old.
The god spoke: “Vormund, I will grant you mercy. Will you do as I have asked you?”
And that time, Vormund agreed.
The Prophet Encounters the Murderer
It happened that a certain man called Ethan Zuse was nearby when Vormund accepted his calling. This man was born with a certain curse; he was dominated by a grotesque lust, which compelled him to kill in order to achieve a twisted satisfaction. Thus he became known as woman-slayer, and was pursued by the authorities of the civilized lands.
He evaded capture and escaped to the wild, where he lived as an animal, naked and emaciated. There madness threatened to consume him, as his mind unraveled and his reason was lost to the howling hunger within him.
Vormund, filled with the god’s holy light, headed for the nearest settlement to begin his proselytizing. As he passed by Ethan, the madman’s fever was suddenly broken, and he could think clearly. The prophet went on his way, and Ethan felt his mind slipping. So he rushed after him, chasing the cleansing fire of the god’s servant.
At last Vormund noticed him and asked, “Why are you naked? Night will come soon and it will be cold.”
“I have no clothes because I am mad,” Ethan replied, “but when you came by, I felt reason return to me. Please, let me follow you.”
Surprised at the man’s polite frankness, Vormund said, “You may follow me, but you must be clothed. Take my cloak to cover yourself for now, until we reach civilization.”
So it came about that the two men traveled together and fell into conversation. It was the first intelligent talk Ethan had experienced in many years; for Vormund, it was the first interaction with another being since he was filled with the god’s holy fire. And it was through this exchange that Vormund gained his first follower, Ethan Zuse, who would not part from him out of fear he would lose his sanity once more.
When they arrived in the nearest village, the people recognized Ethan as the madman who dwelled in the woods. They saw him clean, clothed, and sitting calmly beside Vormund, and they were terrified. A rumor spread that Vormund was a sorcerer who had enslaved Ethan through magic. It was only a matter of time before they were run out of town by the superstitious folk.
The Meeting With the Soldier
In their travels, Vormund and Ethan went to many towns and villages. In one such hamlet, there lived a deputy called Drusus Rolfe. Drusus heard tidings of a prophet who preached peace and brotherhood, but he was more concerned with Ethan, who was still a fugitive in the eyes of the law.
He went in search of them and discovered Vormund and Ethan in the forest. Drusus’s first words to Vormund were in the form of a skeptical question: “Is it true that you have cured this murderer of his madness?”
“He tells me that my presence brings him peace. I know only what he tells me. But yes, I think he is cured,” Vormund replied.
Drusus stared at Ethan, who was sitting beside Vormund. “Why doesn’t he answer for himself?”
“I am sane only when I am with him. Therefore I must never leave his side,” Ethan said.
The deputy was not convinced. He placed Ethan under arrest and held him in chains.
Unbeknownst to him, Vormund followed them and stayed outside the window of Ethan's cell, speaking to him through the bars and comforting him. All night they spoke of the god and forgiveness, and Drusus could not help but listen.
In the morning Drusus came to the cell and said, “I will let you out, but you must let me travel with you. While your prophet speaks, I will watch. If you continue to kill, I will bring you to justice. If you do not, I will leave you alone.”
He released Ethan, and the three set out for the city of Zemar.
There had at one time many years earlier been two servants in the household of a wealthy Zemarian lord. The boy and girl conceived a child out of wedlock, a daughter called Sofia Belgrade.
When the child was five, her father left the lord’s service and was never seen by them again. Her mother grew listless and took to the bottle; she and her daughter were eventually forced to leave.
Sofia drifted away from her mother and fell in with disreputable sorts. Soon she joined a brothel and took up work as a prostitute.
In Zemar, the city of artists, philosophers, and madmen, it is considered acceptable for a woman to be a whore, but unacceptable to have a child as a result of prostitution. Sofia became pregnant, having failed to prevent conception. She was released by her employer and had no choice but to beg on the streets. The people who saw her harlot’s brand would often shout insults, attack and chase her away.
After one such incident, Sofia lay injured in an alleyway, where she had hidden herself from view. Vormund stood at the street corner, addressing a crowd. She heard his words on the wind and was moved. When the crowd dispersed, she made her way over.
“Why do you say these things about love and compassion?” she asked, “They love only cruelty. They don’t understand.”
Vormund looked at her and saw that she was bleeding. “I speak so that some may listen, not all. But come, child—one in your condition should not be left alone.”
He carried her to the outskirts of the city, where they had set up camp.