The following is a summary of the theology, history, and proscriptions contained in the Truths of Ambrose, the major writings written by or about the great hero and his Companions, collected and discussed over the centuries since the Devastation. These writings form the foundation of the Ambrosian religion. Though this document will attempt to be comprehensive, like any living religion, the Ambrosian changes and grows in a reflection of the times and the people…this document does not in any way claim to be complete, or even fully accurate. That said…
Over 800 years ago, as best measured by historians and other non-productive types, the world was a quite peaceful place. The great Empire of the Yr-Ken, named by most historians and other non-productive types as Talonal, had reigned for more than a thousand years and controlled all the lands known…other races…the magical Eldren, the burrowing Dergen, and others had long since become mythical, driven into secret places by the dominance of the Ken Empire. Indeed, it was a policy of the Emperors that such races be eliminated, so as to preserve the land for the Yr-Ken, and the perfection that was the Empire.
Aside from the non-human races, there were others that paid a great cost for that perfection. Primary among them were the Loor, a species created by the Empire solely to remove the need for the Yr-Ken to perform any task that would detract from the pleasures of life. Created to be loyal, hardy, and with just enough intelligence to require little supervision the Loor farmed and harvested, mined and forged, cleaned and polished…performing nearly all of the menial, dangerous, or simply lowly tasks the Yr-Ken had outgrown. And were quite happy performing them. Some were even trained for battle…despite their short lifespan, the Loor’s innate strength of mind and body made them deadly in battle. It was considered an embarrassing punishment for renegades to be dealt with by Loor Legions…not even worthy of serious Imperial attention for the Loor to be used…and in this the Loor also excelled, proving themselves as masterful a creation as their Creators believed them to be.
But known to few modern scholars were those who paid the most for the Empire’s shining utopia. Ancient texts including the Truths, still doubted by some, claim that the world was once rife with supernatural beings above and beyond the demon Eldren…deities and devils, spirits of Air, Fire, Earth, and Water…entire pantheons of beings benign and benevolent, maligned and malevolent. These tomes claim that in the early days of the Empire, many centuries past, the Emperors grew annoyed with the meddling of these beings, and set forth to enslave them all. This they did through the power of legions of Penta, circles of five mighty wizards each, using arcane methods lost in the sands of time to amplify the power of each five-fold, acting as one. The Penta devastated the supernatural beings, enslaving most, walling those they could not defeat away from the world. In a land free of gods, there remained only the Emperors of the Yr-Ken and their people, and those that drew their attention rarely lived long enough to regret it.
Some discredited sources go further and claim that on a day eight centuries and more past, the supernaturals escaped their bondage, and took such vengeance that the world itself burned…what is known as gospel by all is that the great Yr-Ken Empire collapsed in fire and storm, the Yr-Ken homeland was reduced to a molten wasteland, and the world was clouded in smoke and drifting ash…the great cities were flattened, the Last Emperor and his Penta vanished…and the tragedy known as the Devastation brought the Empire to ruin and chaos.
It is at this point that the story of Ambrose begins, may His light bless the Yrken forever.
Ambrose and His Companions
The Truths speak much of the Companions of Ambrose, especially those passages claimed to be penned by His own hand. Some, notably the Order of the True Ambrose, discredit these passages, while others posit a humility in Him that is remarkable. The contributions of each is a subject of much debate even in this enlightened day, here is a summary:
Ambrit – Accounted by nearly all as His right hand, Ambrit guided Him in martial matters. The Truths write at length of the victories of Ambrit over the Eldren. Ambrit’s loyalty, strength, and martial prowess inspire the defenders of the Yrken. Ambrit bore what is commonly regarded as the greatest artifact of the faith, the Sword of the Morning. What happened to it is lost in legend.
Ambras – His eldest son, and most notable councilor, the Truths tell of Ambras as the steadying hand on both Ambrose and his followers. Never rash or vengeful, even after his maiming by the Priests of Tharizdun, the calm poise, keen intellect, and forgiving nature of Ambras set an example for all His followers. Ambras bore the Shield of the Morning in service to the Yrken, but this artifact is long lost.
Yelaya – The only daughter of Ambrose, Yelaya’s valor in battle was only surpassed by her talent in healing and ameliorating the suffering of the Yrken. The Truths speak much of her, working in the shadow of her brothers, providing a shoulder for her weary Father, yet repeatedly setting a supreme example of humility, dedication, and caring that provide the foundation for all who would be shepherds of His people.
Tarak – The Truths do not speculate on the origins of Tarak, but they make clear his invaluable contribution. A builder, a philosopher, and an engineer beyond peer, Tarak’s efforts preserved nearly all of what we know today of the Empire as it relates to the arts of metallurgy, construction, and other practical arts. It was Tarak who devised the arms that Ambrit’s Legion wielded. Legend, discounted by most scholars, dictates that Tarak even knew the formula for rearden, or “blue steel”, the ancient Imperial metal which today is priceless. Wild speculation still proclaims that Tarak at the height of his skill created a forge and hammer that would allow rearden to be forged and worked, but scholars dismiss this. Tarak’s prowess with engineering, careful eye, and thirst for knowledge inspire many Yrken craftsman and builders. Tarak’s Forge and Tarak’s Hammer are the subject of more than one foolish quest, and the quests the subject of many popular comedic songs.
Ellienne – All that is known of Ellienne is that she rose from the mass of battered refugees to a place of prominence in His council seemingly from nowhere. Yet, her contribution as a Companion can be discounted only by fools, such as the True Ambrosians, who claim she was but a farmer. The Truths state clearly that it was Ellienne who more than any other taught the Yrken how to bring crops from the barren soil of the scorched lands, and restore His people’s means to sustain life. All Yrken who farm, herd, breed livestock, or simply love the gift of nature find a superior example in the Truths that touch on Ellienne.
Gramstihk – Though the True Ambrosians and some other students of the Truths dismiss him as little more than an opportunistic survivor of one of the Penta, his contribution to the success of His army in the Last Battle can not be underestimated. It was Gramstihk who was responsible for the preservation of what arcane knowledge could be saved from the ashes of the Empire. It was also he who helped those with talents in the arcane understand and surpass the disease of mages caused by the Devastation, now known as the Blight. Though some students of the Truths note overmuch his disagreements with Ambrose over the need for restoration of the Penta, those of His people that seek magical might take great inspiration from the values and knowledge that Gramstihk speaks of. A legend states that Gramstihk’s hand, or at least fingers were preserved and somehow form a powerful artifact, but even scholars of the arcane dismiss this.
Bahg Bon – The only Loor among the Companions, Bahg is the subject of many heated debates among scholars of the Truths. Most claim he, with his people, was but a servant to Ambrose but there are those who claim he was an equal among the councilors. What the Truths state without equivocation is that Bahg, with some thousands of Loor following him, joined with Him and assisted not only with the rebuilding of the Yrken lands but even to the level of battling the demon Eldren. While scholars debate, the Yrken people take strength from Bahg Bon’s examples of the rewards of hard work, loyalty, humor, and faith. The simple iron scepter of Bahg Bon, long lost, is nevertheless a symbol of great reverence to all Loor.
Petra – Though her role in the Truths is small, the tales of Petra’s strength in service to her husband Ambrit are an inspiration to the mothers and daughters of the Yrken. Those who wish to bear children often pray to her specifically. The virtues of obedience, the bounties of motherhood, and the behavior of a proper wife and mother are those most often gleaned from the Truths that mention Petra.
Be’encound – The Truths speak only of this Companion as His left hand, administering the sundry details, helping Him to enact his vision of Yrkenland. A brilliant mathematician, Be’encound is depicted in the Truths as the one who dealt with the execution of His plan to bring the Yrken from ruin to prominence. Scholars, philosophers, historians, and other non-productive types find inspiration in his dedicated service, uncomplaining nature, and exacting standards. The Abacus of Be’encound was said to have astonishing capabilities, but most scholars discount this, and no evidence of its existence has ever been found outside the Truths.
“523888” – Known in the Truths only by that numerical designation, this Companion is the subject of more debate than any other. How one of the Numbered ended up in His council is not known, but it is clear that who most in this enlightened time call only “The Shepherd” had a profound influence on Him. Though debate rages, most concede that the Shepherd was indispensable to Him in forging the people, and assuring that justice, fairness, and truth took prominence in the land of the Yrken. The Yrken people find many examples worthy of emulating in him, not the least of which is the recognition of the contribution of each true Yrken, the pursuit of justice, the value of truth in all dealings, and respect for the voice of the people.
The Calendar of the Ambrosian Year
In their wisdom, the priests of the Orders of Ambrose set the year as ten months of thirty days each, matching the passing of the seasons. The months are named for the Companions, and the virtues of each are celebrated in the temples and groves as the year winds past. The months are, in order:
Ambrose’s Month – Winter, the first of the year, a time for quiet contemplation
Ambrit’s Month – Winter, the second, a time to reflect and prepare action
Petra’s Month – Winter/Spring, a time for patience, as the snows melt and the young born
Tarak’s Month – Spring, a time to began well-planned labors
Ambras’ Month – Spring/Summer, a time to see the results of patience
Ellienne’s Month – Summer, a time to revel in the bounty of the fertile land
Gramstihk’s Month – Summer, a time to celebrate
Be’Encound’s Month – Summer/Fall, time to calculate the harvest and plan
Yelaya’s Month – Fall, a time for preparation and celebration of the harvest
The Shepherd’s Month – Fall/Winter, time for family and friends to come together
The Orders of Ambrose
Like any great religion, polite disagreement among followers is common. Unlike others, there is no open hostility between the various orders. With no central figure (other than the Archon of the Isle) to force compliance, the Ambrosians have formed up in various orders representing their interpretations. With the exception of the order of Ambrosius Rex, all but the Order of the True Ambrose are widely accepted, and even True Ambrosians are tolerated, if not always respected. Here are the more notable orders, there are many more:
The Order of the Shield – This order takes its guidance from the Truths as they pertain to Ambras, Yelaya, and Ambrose Himself. Their primary tenet is the defense of all Yrken, from the highest priest to the lowest villager. Though they proclaim borders and politics do not matter in this goal, all too often the Order of the Shield is entangled in conflict. As such, it is primarily a military Order. By far, it is the most active. The Archon of the Isle was a member of this order before ascending.
The Order of the Shepherd – Following the tenets of Ambrose Himself and “523888”, this order takes as its goal the preservation, teaching, and expansion of the Ambrosian religion. As such, a priest of the Order of the Shepherd could be found ministering to a tiny village, in the role of the High Priest of a major temple, acting as an ambassador, or as a high level functionary in the court of a Count. The largest order, and most dominant. The current King of South Yrkenland claims direct descent from the Shepherd.
The Order of the Hand – Inspired by the Truths depiction of Yelaya’s miracles, this order focuses on the health of His flock, both in mind and body. Emulating Her martial spirit, many of this order can be found mingled with more militant orders, providing the healing hand that so many require. Unlike others, Yelaya’s order places great stock in temples and shrines to Her. These have become centers where the ill and injured can come with hope of salvation. There is a legend of the first Temple of Yelaya, and her enshrinement there after her death at the Last Battle, but the location is long lost.
The Order of Five – Gramstihk’s order is looked down upon by most other orders, as much for its entanglement in politics as for its fascination with the arcane arts. Nevertheless, members of this order can be found in every role from councilor for a noble, to war wizard on the front lines of battle. There are even rumors that members of the order following the Lord Protector of the North, Eracusin, have formed a Penta. If true, this would be the first since the Devastation, but most discount this as a mad rumor. The unraveling of the mysteries of history, the search for power to protect the Yrken people and the destruction of their enemies are the focus of this order.
The Order of The Abacus – This small order follows the lessons of Be’encound, and helps to assure that knowledge is preserved, and that those who need the knowledge have access to it. Many a noble’s chief clerk is a member of this order. This order’s humility, dedicated service, and steady reliability make them valued by those they serve. Most of the great libraries of the Yrken are in the hands of this order.
The Order of The True Ambrose – For hundreds of years it was known as the Order of the Sword, dedicated to Ambrit and his teachings. Now, that has changed. Seen as fools by many, this order nevertheless grows more numerous and powerful by the year, especially since the recent Eldren Wars. As their primary tenet, a True Ambrosian believes in a literal reading of His writings. Where this causes disagreement with the other orders is simple and complex at once…the True Ambrosians believe that the Yrken were meant to be restored to the power of the Empire, not a simple collection of albeit prosperous nations. Although all Ambrosian orders believe in the vileness of the demon Eldren and other mythic races, the True Ambrosians proscribe genocide for all but the Yrken, to prevent them from ever being endangered again. Although seen as extremists, they are also considered among the most devout Ambrosians, following the Truths as law. Entirely apolitical, they have much influence among the common people.
The Order of Ambrosius Rex – This tiny order, rumored by some to be the source of the movement that resulted in the Order of the Sword becoming the Order of The True Ambrose, has few members, and even fewer who will declare their views publicly. At the core of their beliefs is the misguided notion that Ambrose was in fact the Last Emperor of Talonal, Ambrosius. How such a mythical figure ended up on the far western frontier of the Empire they do not claim to explain. With this as their foundation, they discount all of the writings in the Truths that are not proven to be written by Ambrose, and claim that Ambrose intended to restore the Empire, but was betrayed by the Shepherd and Bahg Bon. Primary among their beliefs is that the inferior races, specifically the Loor, need to be subjugated and brought back into the service of the Yrken. The members of this order who declare themselves are barely tolerated even in the most liberal of circles.
The Order of the Hearth – Following primarily the teaching of Petra, this small order consists entirely of women. They see their primary goal as assuring the health of the mothers and children of the Yrken. As such, they can be found teaching and assisting midwives, counseling expectant mothers, and in their primary role, as teachers of children. They also take a strong role in care for the Yrken orphans.
Tenets of the Faith – The Yrken Cause
All of the worship of Ambrose centers on his teachings as they relate to the Yrken Cause. Considered by nearly all to be his greatest writing, the depiction of the Yrken Cause, and how all Yrken, by living their lives with it as a guide can keep the Yrken strong as a people. As such, the tenets are broad and given to much interpretation over the centuries.
The following is an excerpt of His great lesson on the Cause:
And Ambrose wrote: “…and so you shall ask of those who you meet today, and tomorrow, and until you find rest in the grave, ‘Do you support the Yrken Cause?’. And it is a question that will show you the heart and mind of all you meet.”
“For the Yrken Cause lives in the heart, and is shaped by the mind, and can not die so long as true Yrken walk. The seed of the Cause is in the heart of an Yrken. It germinates there, nurtured by the love of your family, and the teachings of the elders. It stretches tall and prospers in the Light, with deep roots of family, and of community. It flowers in the humility to listen to and learn the wisdom of others, in the strength and courage to expose and stand against foolishness. The fruit of the Cause is harvested in the mind of an Yrken, and nourishes him, and is demonstrated in the actions that mind directs. And the seed spreads when an Yrken takes the best of himself, and his love, and begins the cycle again, and succors the children, and teaches them of the Yrken Cause, and shows them the truth of it in their own acts.”
’Do you support the Yrken Cause?’
“It is not a question that will always be asked with the tongue. The answer to the question will be before you, should you be wise enough to look, listen, learn, and remember…would you doubt your eyes, your ears, the voices of the mind and of the heart that speak to you, and be a fool? When you observe the acts of one who would call themselves Yrken, you will know if they live as a true Yrken, or as an impostor. When you listen to the words of another, should they be a leader or be but a beggar, observe…their acts will show you if they support the Cause.”
“An Yrken supports the Cause by never raising a hand in anger against another Yrken. They support it by standing as one against those who would threaten the Yrken. One who would call himself Yrken will not burden another Yrken, yet offered charity will accept it with due thanks, whether he be a lord collecting tax or a commoner offering payment, a merchant offering alms or a beggar accepting them. An Yrken will never demand from another more than they are justly due, and will settle for nothing less. Through their works, you will know a true Yrken, and a true follower of my word.”
“An Yrken knows their own heart and mind, and is their master. If you hate something, will you do it too? If you mark a fault in another, will you neglect it in yourself? These are not the acts of a true Yrken. An Yrken examines himself, in every waking moment, and in his dreams. Where he falls short of what he knows he can be, he acts to do better. An Yrken knows that peace is a lie, a fleeting moment to be savored, but never expected. An Yrken knows that the battle with himself, to know himself, to improve himself never ends, that growth only ends when his mighty heart finally beats its last. True peace is only found in the grave, but victory…the simply glory of a life well lived, can be won every day. This is how a true Yrken shall be known.”
“Will a rich man feast in needless gluttony and speak of the plight of the poor while others around him want? An Yrken will not. Will a strong man use his power to subdue the voice of the weaker around him, and shake his head at the abuses of others? An Yrken will not. Will you keep your brother, if he will not keep himself? An Yrken will not. An Yrken will not lie to another Yrken to gain advantage, an Yrken will not stare a fact in the face and call it a lie merely because a fact is not convenient. An Yrken asks himself ‘Does this support the Cause?’, and acts, after thought. This is how a true Yrken shall be known.”
“For the Cause is the Yrken, and the Yrken the Cause. You, each to yourself, know in your hearts the proper course. You know in your minds that what the heart speaks must be considered before action to be true. Be true to your people. Be true to your community. Be true to your family. Be true to yourself…display for all to see the best of you, know and guard against the worst in you, and you will know the Cause, and you shall show the Cause…you will be it.”
“And if you can not, or through weakness will not? Then you are just a Ken…if I have taught you anything, it is this. Only through aspiring to be the best you can be, only through endeavoring to bring out the best in others, only in acting to support the Cause do you raise yourselves. The life of a Ken means little. The life of an Yrken is beyond value…treasured while living, mourned and remembered when lost.”
The Tenets of the Faith – Summary
The Ambrosians are a raucous bunch, always debating and evaluating the meaning embedded in His writings. Among all, the following tenets are commonly held:
1) The Yrken Cause – Any who would call themselves Ambrosian, or for that matter Yrken, support the Yrken Cause to the best of their understanding, to the best of their ability, as He proscribed.
2) To raise a hand in violence against another Yrken shows that you are not Yrken.
3) To steal from another Yrken shows that you are not Yrken.
4) To lie to another Yrken, or slander another Yrken shows that you are not Yrken.
5) To behave as a hypocrite shows that you are not Yrken. An Yrken knows his mind and heart, and does not stray.
6) To act against yourself, your family, your community, or your people is to show that you are not Yrken.
7) The word of an Yrken is his bond, never to be given without thought, never to be foresworn.
8) The Yrken children are the future, and a treasure beyond price. To spoil the mind of the child with too much love by failing to teach discipline, or spoil the heart with too little love by failing to teach the bond of family, is to raise only Ken, and separate yourself from the Yrken.
9) An Yrken accepts their responsibilities and acts to meet them. To shirk your responsibilities is to show that you are not Yrken.
10) An Yrken knows justice in his mind and heart. The justice of the sum of the Yrken people will be the justice proscribed. To rebel against the due justice of the Yrken shows that you are not Yrken.
11) To seek anything, however small, from a Dead God shows that you are weak in mind and heart, and not Yrken. An Yrken seeks the best in himself, knows it, and exhibits it. Nothing more is required.
12) Among Yrken, all is governed by the offering and receiving of value, one from another. If you offer nothing, but only take, you are not Yrken. If you give to the point of hurting yourself, your family, your community, for no value, this is nothing but pride and you are as forsaken.
13) An Yrken pursues excellence…in himself, in his family, in his community, and in his people. Abandoning the quest to understand and exhibit the best of yourself is to remove yourself from the Yrken.
14) An Yrken knows himself, and is humble. What he contributes, he contributes of his free will. What he gains from this is his due. To know pride in good works is natural, to exhibit arrogance is to remove yourself from the Yrken.
Of course, the debate about just who is Yrken, and who is not, is one of the liveliest debates…
No record remains that depicts where Ambrose was born, who He was, or what He did before the Devastation. Historians believe, based on the Truths and other writings that He was born on the great western continent at the frontiers of the Empire (which today makes up the lands of South and North Yrkenland, Charn, and a scattering of minor nations), and there raised a small family…his sons Ambras and Ambrit, and his daughter, Yelaya. The Truths reflect often on the death of His young wife while bearing Yelaya, and the sense of mourning that was evident in him through the rest of his days. But even the most ambitious priests do not presume to reflect on what effect this may have had on His teachings. What is known from the Truths is that the first record of Him as a leader came two years after the Devastation and the destruction of the Yr-Ken Empire.
Very little remains to tell of that dark time, but historians and other non-productive types agree that within a year of the destruction of the Empire, the scattered bands of survivors had begun to gather and make what they could of life. Smoke and ash still filled the skies, and winter reigned, the sun unable to break through the haze. Disease and famine carved away the strength of the remaining Yr-Ken. Yet, the vestiges of the Empire remained, provincial governors and the like using what little they had at their disposal to organize and preserve some sort of order. It was at this time that the Eldren revealed themselves.
Striking out from their magically hidden island nation, Eldren armies crashed onto the shores of all the lands of the Empire. Where they found Ken, they slaughtered them. Where they found cities, they reduced them to ash. Captured Eldren referred ominously to a “Final Solution”, and Eldren armies marched in a genocidal wave across the land of Ambrose and the Yrken.
Yet even after the Devastation, the Ken were many. As city after city fell and thousands upon thousands of Ken were slaughtered, tales began to emerge of a great leader who gathered the survivors in the wake of the Eldren, and who had won victories against the demon race. This man was Ambrose, and by His hand were the tattered remnants of the Yr-Ken of the western frontier forged into a people that could defeat the Eldren and rebuild a civilization.
Ambrose and the Numbered
As He gathered them to him, they answered his call. Such was the way of things that many of the Yrken, lost and confused, followed what leaders had first gathered them together. These in turn offered themselves, and those who followed them to Ambrose.
One such was Jan Brun, who served as a Magistrate of the Empire before it fell in fire and ash. His heart was cold, but his will was indomitable, and he brought many safely to Him, and was much revered.
And it came to the attention of Ambrose that the people of Brun were well cared for in the most, and He was pleased, and came to meet the man, so as to see how he may help the Yrken Cause best. It was then that He noted a great host of servants and laborers tending the people of Brun.
Anger furrowed His brow at the sight of Yrken used so, but He held His judgement and spoke to the man.
“My eyes have seen the health and strength of your people, Brun. My ears have heard tales of your wisdom. Yet, I have not seen all.”
And Brun rose to protest, but He silenced him with a gesture, though Brun’s lips continued to move.
“It would seem that all I have heard, and all I have seen, all that is good, does not lie at your feet after all Brun. For I have looked closer, and I have seen the host of the Numbered who tend your needs, carrying your supplies on their strong backs, guarding your camps, slaving at menial labors, near starved.”
And Brun was permitted to speak, and with venom in his voice he upbraided Him.
“Great leader, what foolishness is this? They are the Numbered. They committed grave crimes, and were condemned in the Courts of the Emperor. The sentence was passed, the brand was set, and justice was done. Their Days are Numbered, and their freedom forfeit, until death.”
And He looked upon the servants of Brun who stood close even then, and the Imperial brand upon their forehead, the number they received when they lost their name and all rights as Yrken in payment for their crimes. With great arrogance Brun called one unto him, and snatched a goblet of wine from the proffered tray, glaring at Ambrose with great anger.
So it was that He decided, and spoke.
“Brun, the condition of our people and our cause denies me a better course, so now you may consider the Court to be me. And I shall be judge, jury, and assigner.” And Brun quailed at his tone.
“Brun, I find you guilty. Guilty of waste in time of need. Guilty of wasting food while children starve. Guilty of wasting the efforts of your people, who pamper you and those dear to you while other needs go unmet. Guilty of wasting yourself. For you, who could have served the Yrken Cause so well…are caught up in arrogance. Your mind and your heart are split…” And He shook His head sadly.
“All, listen closely!” He intoned. “The Empire is dead! And its ‘justice’ died with it. We will forge a better code, one worthy of the Yrken, when peace, and time, permit it. These we do not have, so I decree…the Numbered who serve Brun are Yrken, and free!”
And Brun’s people muttered in dismay at what He had done. For they knew that they owed their comfort, indeed, their lives to the great host of slaves Brun had commanded, and feared for their future.
“And from this day forth, no Yrken shall own another. No Yrken shall own a slave, despite that slave be the vilest of men. No ruler of the Yrken will enslave any people, despite the crime. The Days of the Numbered are ended!”
“The Yrken are too few, and too precious to waste a single one…”
And as He turned and left, Ambras came to Brun and chastised him, and shamed him. And Brun came to see His wisdom, and turned his great mind to the task of raising the Numbered from their depravity wherever they may be or whoever may challenge it, and they did swell the numbers of His people, and accounted themselves as Yrken, and acted as Yrken, and earned great honor for themselves, despite what they had done in the days of the Empire. And looking on them, and the lesson that had been learned, He was pleased.
Ambrose and the Star of Morning
In the darkest time, when Eldren roamed the land at will, slaughtering all Yr-Ken that fell to their hand, Ambrose gathered those He could save and held them together with His will. Though His people grew more numerous, and stronger for it, the land was dark even in the height of day and the ash fell like snow. Many despaired despite the strength of His wisdom, and even the power of fey Ambrit to keep the Eldren at bay could not lift their hearts, for the children and infirm grew sick, and all were near to starving. Indeed, there rose up among His people those that questioned His rule, and they grew large as the weeks passed and the hunger took as many as the demon Eldren.
It was in the depth of the darkest night when His foes sought to turn the hearts of the Yrken against Him, saying “Here, we follow a fool, else why would the children starve? Here, we follow a fool, else why would the demons reject our honest offerings of peace? Here, we follow a fool, for we walk in darkness, and there is no light.”
And so it was, alerted by 523888 of the people’s despair, warned of the approach of yet another Eldren host by mighty Ambrit, that He came to the people. Surveying them in their huddled masses, thousands upon thousands, He spoke, and all could hear His voice.
“Here in the icy cold of night, you seek warmth. Here in the pit of despair, you seek hope. Here, on the edge of death, you seek the spark that will sustain life. You doubt you will find other than damnation.”
“You doubt? Doubt not that the demon Eldren would crush that spark should you turn to them in foolishness. Doubt not that your faith can keep you from descent into the madness and surrender of despair…”
And as the people listened and watched Him, He raised His arms to the sky and intoned further. “I, like you have known doubt, I have felt despair that froze my very soul. I have seen my world destroyed, and all my works brought to ruin. Yet. Doubt not, that even in the darkest night…in cold to freeze your bones, in desperate danger of your lives…doubt not my word, my truth. Above all, doubt not…even in the depth of the darkest night, the dawn MUST come!”
And as His people stared in wonder, above Him a gap appeared in the smoke and ash. A star, where none had ever been marked before shone in brilliant white, of four points and seemingly larger than any star noted in the sky before. Its light bathed the faces of the people and though it gave no warmth, their spirits were heated to the boil and they cried as one “Ambrose and the Light! Ambrose and the Light! We will follow the Light!”
So it was that the Yrken moved in their masses, following the star. And when the sun rose, and His people saw the gaps in the smoke above them, and felt the sun on their faces for the first time in more than a year, the despair left them. They marveled when throughout the morning, the bright star persisted and was not driven from the sky by the sun, but slipped below the horizon itself some hours later. And when deadly Ambrit returned, his train adorned with the heads of a thousand demons, proclaiming to all of the Eldren demons’ dismay and confusion at the light, their fear left them. And when Ellienne, following the path of the Star of the Morning, led them to fields rich and ready for harvest, green despite the darkness and awaiting their effort, their doubt left them.
And thus, from that day, His army and all who followed Him bore the Star of the Morning on them, so that when they felt despair, they would know of the Dawn that must come with the Star of the Morning.
Even now, the Star of the Morning is a beacon for all as it follows its arc across the heavens, reminding us that the light never truly leaves us, and dawn will come, if we can but find patience and strength, and hold our faith close.
Ambrose and the Loor
But as the Yrken gathered and grew stronger, and spread, and even grew so bold as to explore the lands around, they discovered a great host, far greater than theirs. And the people recoiled when the host came near, for the greater host was of the Loor, the ancient servant race of the Empire, now free and unfettered, and terrifying in their savagery.
And the people wondered as Ambrose rode forth, leaving bold Ambrit and his Legions behind, approaching the savage host with only Yelaya at his side. But the Loor did not threaten Him, and instead kneeled as one, greeting him without question as liege, chanting in their deep guttural voices words that none could understand. To the amazement of the Yrken, Ambrose did understand, and He spoke in a voice heard by all.
“The loyalty of the Loor is without question. The value of the service of the Loor is beyond measure. How may the Yrken serve the Loor?”
And the people quailed, for it seemed as if He had surrendered them to the beasts. But it was not so, as six came forward from the host, arrayed in bizarre raiment, and spoke as one. Their voices rang out and He raised His hand, and all could hear and understand.
“We served, and now serve no one. We were led, and now lead. We obey, and will make the way.”
And He nodded and spoke words none understood, and gestured to one of the creatures, and all held their tongue as it said, “I am Kree Chok, and I speak for my people. We wish to kill demon Eldren, and keep the land safe from enemies.” And his host was martially arrayed and brought their weapons against their shields making a great noise.
And the second spoke, “I am Dat Tsang, and I speak for my people. We wish to make the land green again, and grow crops and feed all who hunger.” And his people gathered in a mass behind him thousands upon thousands, in tattered clothes they rumbled a deep chant.
And the third spoke, “I am Dyn Mait, and I speak for my people. We wish to dig the wealth from the ground, and forge it into things mundane and wondrous.” And many hundreds of Loor filed behind him, wielding tools of rearden and wearing thick leather.
And the fourth spoke, “I am Nohm Haus, and I speak for my people. We wish to build great cities, and roads, and aqueducts, and so put order on the land.” And a great host gathered in his wake, towing behind them strange and wondrous building machines from the days of the Empire.
And the fifth spoke, “I am Kil Dre, and I speak for my people. We wish to harvest the forests, and take the bounty of the wood, and with it shape beautiful and practical things.” And the Loor in their hundreds behind him waved axes and broke into crude song. (Historical note – recently discovered writings indicate the lyrics were “I’m a lumberjack and I’m ohkay, I work all night and I sleep all day…” The meaning of the song is the subject of much debate)
So Ambrose considered what he heard, facing the great host of Loor, and he waited for the sixth to speak.
“I am Bahg Bon, and I speak for my people. We wish to serve the Yrken, as we have and as we shall, until the Yrken shall no longer exist.” And the people of Bahg Bon chanted their assent, their myriad voices rumbling like thunder in their thousands.
Ambrose nodded and addressed them, and both Loor and His Yrken could hear and understand.
“I am Ambrose, and I speak for the Yrken. I hear your wishes, and respect them. Five peoples wish to serve no more…their will only be one more service, and you shall be free in enacting it.”
And a great rumbling of deep chants came from the Loor as he continued.
“But freedom is never free! You were created to serve, and serve you shall. You will serve yourselves, and you will serve the Yrken at once. To the north, across the great river Tru’usalan, is a land, a land which was once rich. This land shall be yours, and so long as you stay north of the river, you will not serve…”
And the five who led the Loor who did not wish to serve eyed Him carefully for a moment, then he continued.
“And should there come a day, when the bond I make here is broken, and the Yrken word is as nothing, and Yrken cross the great river? Word is bond! At that time, all service shall end, for the Yrken will have failed you, and no longer be worthy of your service!”
“But until that day, you will serve in the north. You will harvest the land, and mine the mountains. You will drive the Eldren demon from your land, and shield our north from their evil. You will build great cities, and forge a great nation. And you will lead your people well. And those who stray to the south and enter the land of the Yrken, and are not satisfied with what is yours will join the people of Bahg Bon, and serve the Yrken, so long as they walk this land. This I foretell.”
And the leaders of the Loor gathered, and spoke, and all six kneeled to Ambrose. And he named the first five High Lords of the Loor, and they created a nation in the north, and called it Ch’aran’al, the Free Hold. And Bahg Bon and his people remained and served the Yrken, and served them well, until the day of the Last Battle, and beyond. For the High Lords and Bahg Bon as one named Him in their coarse tongue The Last Emperor, and swore to him that his word would be done faithfully, as the Loor had loyally served the Empire for so long, for as long as the word of the Yrken was good.
With the strength of the Loor with them, the Yrken prospered and grew stronger, and all remarked on the justice of His words, and the faithfulness of the Loor. The lesson of the nature of service was written, and spoken of, and gave the people much to think on.
“Great leader!” the foremost of them intoned, as all kneeled to Him, “You have led us from chaos and despair, and saved thousands of the people with Your wisdom. Yet, humbly, we posit that You, with so much to care for, may not yet have considered…”
At that, the spokesman of the group quailed, for something none had seen in Him to that day appeared, and as He gestured for the man to continue, all were taken aback by the twinkle in His eye and the slightest of grins that set upon His lips.
“And…humbly, great leader, we suggest that the tales of the Gods that the Emperors enslaved, and now are free are the source of our despair, that in their anger they seek to wipe us from the world and set it again in their image…that should we appeal to them, we may find forgiveness, even aid. We beg you, great leader, to at least consider these words.”
And all who attended took stock of the change in Him, as he looked in the eyes of the representatives, measuring each with the penetrating gaze known to so many. And on His face, many emotions played, the humor gone, replaced by clouds of anger. After a few moments, with an air of profound disappointment, He rose wearily and addressed them.
“I know you all. We have spoken at length of the care of the people, we have spoken of the challenges facing us. You, Governor of Tarkan, I see and know. Your son and his family were slain by the demon Eldren. And you ask of entreaty for forgiveness?” At this he paused, searching the faces. “You, Magistrate Bre’yer, all of your lands and people were destroyed in the first fires of the Devastation, you weep in your dreams to this day. And you ask of these gods for succor?” And the Magistrate, abashed, lowered his eyes. “You, Prefect Ge’bel, your dearest daughter sickened and died of the ash in the desperate time before you reached shelter with us…and you look to the heavens for hope?” And He paused.
“Would you have them back?”
And the three named stammered in their shock, yet all protested loudly that they would of course wish the dead returned to them.
He nodded then, pain clear in His eyes. “You wish, yet you know it can not be so. It is a lesson I learned long ago. The dead rest, and the living must go on. Yes, life continues its course outside the wishes of those who live it. Or does it?”
And all in the hall listened, and wondered at his words. “What has passed, is gone. Only a fool looks behind him on the road he must travel, except in nostalgic remembrance. Only a weak man regrets acts he can not recall and allows them to paralyze him. Only an idiot neglects the lessons his experience has taught him. The Gods you yearn for are as dead as the Empire. As dead as our fallen soldiers, as quiet in the grave as our passed sons, daughters, brothers, sisters and…” He paused and seemed stricken with grief before greeting the gaze of all with eyes of steel.
“You wish for another means, another source, something beyond YOU to aid you as you walk through life? You yearn for a voice from above YOU to hold you to the proper path? You cry in the night for a god or spirit to bring YOU solace you can not find in yourself?” And He shook His head wearily, yet continued.
“Instead, let each of you know yourselves. Find the best in you, and of you, and worship it. Seek out and revel in the comfort and strength of those dear to you, and cherish it always. Find the vileness and foul thoughts in each of you and despise them. Face them, the good and the bad. Reveal them, and master them. Know what you face, and face what you know. Know where you are strong, and where you are weak. Make the best of yourself the face the world knows by ALL of your words and ALL of your actions. Shield those you love, those you trust, and those who depend on you from the worst of you.”
And He sat, his eyes alight as he surveyed His people. “And when all Yrken hold to this creed, to seek the best of themselves and each other at all times, to face their faults and grapple with them, then you will have Gods, and they will be like none ever seen. They will be you.”
“As the Empire is dead, as the gods are dead, let them rest. We know the road we must travel, and it is our own feet that must walk it, though the road seem never to end.”
And the people thought on what He had told them, and ceased their mourning, and aspired to the vision he had laid before them.
Ambrose and the Foretelling
So it came to pass that after the Last Battle, the Yrken stood to face no enemies in all the land, and they were strong, and prosperous. The lands yielded rich harvests under the hands of the farmers guided by Ellienne, and the craftsman built great cities of the design of Tarak. All the remaining Companions helped as they could, but the people felt adrift, for He had left them.
Five years passed since the Last Battle, and with the guidance of the Companions the Yrken began the great labor of forging a nation from the ruins of the past. All was not at peace, nor would it ever be…this He had taught them well…but they met the challenges, finding the best in themselves, and the Yrken prospered.
Indeed, the years since the Devastation numbered more than thirty, and a new generation was raised that new nothing of the Dark Time, and their parents thanked Him for that great gift. The land flowered, and the people grew stronger with each passing year, but the question of Ambrose and his whereabouts was much remarked on, and the Yrken people were troubled.
It was approaching winter in the third year after the Last Battle when the Companions heard tales of the discovery of an Eldren fleet on the shores of the easternmost reaches of the land. Though they knew the Empire had been vast, they had explored nothing beyond their own small land, and much of that itself remained a mystery. With fear and fire in their hearts, the Yrken called together their great host again, and marched to the east led by Tarak and the Shepherd.
There, they found Him. Sitting amongst hundreds of sun-bleached Eldren ships rotting on the beach, He waited, dressed simply. Bent by age, once golden hair streaked with white, Ambrose turned to deliver his final lessons to his people.
“I have given much, and there is little left to give. But hear my words. And remember.” He turned to face the ranks of Eldren vessels, abandoned, swaying in the waves.
“Note these craft well. Note the beauty. Note the skill. This I foretell. They will come again. And once more after that…”
And the Yrken quailed at His word, agape at the hundreds of Eldren craft littering the shore, formed in the manner of creatures never before seen by the Yrken, and never to be seen again. And as they counted, they quailed again at the great host the fleet must have brought those decades ago, and the vile demonic hatred that must have inspired them.
He paused. “I have given much. Nearly all. Hear my words and remember. Trust in the teachings that I have tried, so very hard, to imbue in you. This I foretell. If you follow them faithfully, when they come, you will be ready. And you will defeat them, and the Yrken Cause will never again be threatened…by any but the Yrken themselves.”
And His people’s voices rose in muted cheers, but He gestured wearily and seemingly in disapproval. When quiet returned, he spoke again.
“And now I have given all. Almost. My blood. My family. My life, what remains, I keep for myself. I have yet much to learn.” And at this He smiled at some humor of his own.
“But know this…this Yrkenland I so boldly claim to have given you? You took yourself. What I so arrogantly claim to have taught you? You listened, considered, and found it true yourself. The leadership I and others took? You deemed it wise, of yourself, to follow and paid the price to enact it, for the values we offered. Again, Yrkenland is not mine, or any other’s…it is yours.”
“What is Yrkenland is, and will be, you build yourself. If I have helped in any way…then that was my role, in the place it was needed, in the time for that role. This land is my land. This land is your land. From the Western Waste to the Al’carn Islands. From the northern forests to the deep river waters…”
“Make this a land made for you, and me.” And humor again touched his eyes for a moment. “I must leave you. For now I have given all.”
And despair rose from the Yrken as they realized that He was to leave them. For one of the Eldren ships seemed seaworthy, and was of a disturbing design. Seeming a mighty lizard with wings forming the sails, it rested in the swells just short of the other derelicts.
And as the Star of the Morning rose in the east, He smiled and climbed into the craft. The Shepherd and Tarak both sought to restrain Him, but He would not yield. Smiling, he spoke his final words to the Yrken.
“I leave you in the hands of the Shepherd, and sound hands they are. Under his guidance, I can know that you will form a land that is just and true. He will remind you of the best, and show you the worst of yourself, to bring you to the path of wisdom. A service he has performed zealously for me in the past.”
And the Shepherd protested, “But my lord…I am not worthy of this…”
Silencing him with a gesture, Ambrose shook his head sadly, but with humor in his voice. “It seems I am not the only one with much yet to learn of myself, my friend.” And the Shepherd was abashed, and nodded respectfully.
Nodding, Ambrose raised his hands to the east, and the Yrken marveled as the Star of the Morning rose to full brightness, as it did at the First Dawn so long ago. “When you remember, if you should, look to the Star, for that is the direction I travel. Into the light. To all the Yrken, listen and remember…I have given all, with these words. There will come a time when you will forget what is good in you, and what is vile. You will dismiss the truth of your heart for the rationalization of the mind, and the primal needs of the body. In your madness and collapse as a people, you will stare at a fact and name it a falsehood to suit your foolishness. This I foretell.”
“You will forget that as Yrken word is bond, and cross the Tru’usulan, and the seed of the destruction of the Yrken will be planted. Should you find your way back to the Light, you will avert your doom, else, the Yrken will fail and fall to dust. This I foretell.”
And the Yrken protested most vociferously, yet he silenced them with a gesture, smiling sadly.
“This ship I take on my last journey is made as a wyrm, a dragon. When the Eldren demons return, seeking to destroy the Yrken for the last time, with them, will come dragons, and all manner of foul creatures. This will be the greatest test of the Yrken, and your darkest hour will be upon you. This I foretell.”
And the great Yrken host was hushed, and looked on Him bleakly as the weight of His prophecy fell upon them.
“Despair not. Word is bond. In the darkest hour of the Yrken, one as I will rise from among you, and will be as I was, and will remind you of who you are. Until then look to me in the light. You will find yourself there. YOU are the Yrken.”
And despite the pleas of the Companions and His people, Ambrose set sail to the east, following the Star of Morning. Later explorers directed by the Shepherd King in his last days tracked his course, finding His ship abandoned on a large isle to the east. And there, the monks and scholars of Ambrose study to this day, and the Archon of Ambrose guides the people in the faith. And all remember the Shepherd King, the First of Yrkenland, and the course he set for a great nation, and a great religion.