Two weapons for the price of one, baby!
For Tegan’s inventory, click here.
Tegan Ashmara is a ranger. Tegan has had three animal companions: Germanicus, the snow leopard, Snuffles, a wild boar who was often polymorphed into a copper dragon, and the dire cougar Britannicus. Germanicus and Snuffles both perished in the line of duty.
This is her story.
Tegan Ashmara is a young human Ranger with issues. She was born on the edge of Nachtbaum forest, the oldest child of Sir Caleb Utlich and his wife Branwen Ashmara, during one of their rare visits to their country estate. Lady Branwen was a daughter of the powerful Ashmara wizarding clan, and as is their custom, Tegan took her mother’s family name. Her parents expected Tegan to follow in her mother’s footsteps becomming a wizard and advisor to the rich and powerful of the court. Tegan had other plans. A lonely and difficult child, she preferred the home of her birth to the stifling and stylized court life that was her mother’s passion. As children below “The Age of Intellect” (10) had little interest to her mother, Tegan was left to her gentle, ineffectual Father to raise. Sir Caleb was besotted with his wife, so he chose to put Tegan in the care of a nanny, and when a little older, a tutor. When she was 4 the court was going through one of its periods of violent intrigue, so Sir Caleb felt it was safer to keep Tegan, and later her 2 younger brothers, Seth and Jacob, out of the way of kidnappers at the country estate.
Tegan flourished. Her latent Tomboy was given full reign, as both the nanny and the tutor were more interested in lining their pockets than raising children. This was her first exposure to animals other that the pampered lap dogs and creepy familiars of court. First the farm animals and then the animals of the wood became her passion. At the age of 5 she attacked the boot boy for cutting off the tail of a squirrel, bloodied his nose, and came to the attention of the Gamekeeper, Herne, who broke up the fight.
Herne was Tegan’s true father. He taught her the ways of the wood, and showed her some of the small magic given to those who love the woods. The next 5 years were the happiest of her life. From dawn to dusk, and even in to the night she explored the woods, tracked and nurtured wildlife, and incidentally, fought with and protected her brothers.
Things changed when she turned 10 on midsummer’s eve. Branwen summoned Tegan to court to begin her formal training.
Lady Branwen was horrified by the semi-savage young stranger. She had expected Tegan to perhaps be shy and scholarly (some court polish would take care of the shyness)but she was confronted by a wild child who refused to even consider trying on the finery her mother had prepared. It took her Father’s intervention to create an armed truce between the two Ashmara women. Even though Tegan wished she was a changeling, she and her mother shared a iron-bound stubbornness, though Branwen had learned to hide her intent behind a silk veil of gentle reason. Tegan agreed to begin her training as a wizard, but only if she were allowed to train in armed combat. Branwen chose to consider it a hobby.
Nothing but the best was acceptable for an Ashmara, so Tegan trained under the retired Captain of the Royal Guard, Emnet Schwartztete. Emnet was a ledgendary fighter, hero of innumerable campaigns, but age and drink had finally caught up with him and he had settled for an easy life of training (abusing) the scions of the noble families he had served for as long as he could remember. Tegan proved an apt pupil. Her determination tickled him, and her loathing for court life appealed to his whiskey pickled cynicism. It amused him to encourage her anger while turning her into a model fighter, mostly to annoy Lady Branwen.
Her training in magic and court intrigue were not going as well. Lady Branwen was far too busy to attend to Tegan’s studies herself, but she knew their importance so she ordered one of the most talented of her followers to “force some intelligence into her slightly grubby head.” Donal was willing to try. Petty cruelty appealed to him, and since he was far too afraid of Branwen to ever think of challenging her, making Tegan’s life hell was a satisfying substitute. Her studies were a daily trial.
Training in court etiquette, the most ridiculous, asinine waste of time, in Tegan’s opinion, was left to her father’s mother, Lady Ottille. Ottille had the remains of a kind woman about her (Sir Caleb took after her rather than his Father) but was terrified of disappointing her daughter-in-law. She did her best with Tegan, but only because Tegan felt sorry for her did each lesson remain civil. Tegan went through the motions, learned the Byzantine familial connections, studied the spider’s webs of loyalties and vendettas, even occasionally appeared presentable, but every moment of her day she missed the estate and the woods. She missed her little brothers, who were 6 and 8 now, and worried about their welfare without her.
She couldn’t even think about how much she missed Herne. Other than a shy peck on the cheek from her father and some random hugs from her little brothers Herne was the only person to ever touch Tegan in kindness, even if it was usually to guide her hand when planting a seed or mending a sparrow’s broken wing. His infrequent pats on the shoulder in approbation were treasured in her memory. She wrote to him weekly, but had little hope of ever recieving a reply, as all messages into the keep went through her mother’s hands first. Tegan hoped Herne at least got her letters and knew he lived in her thoughts, as she contrived to slip her letters to him into the estate messenger bag while it was being strapped to the messenger’s horse in the stables. Besides, she thought, Branwen only has ordered that all messenges to the keep reach her first.
Tegan had spent nearly two lonely, difficult years at court. She was showing remarkable ability as a swordsman, but her wizarding studies were a disaster. Donal had taught Tegan nothing but a loathing for those who strive for power, and who cling to the skirts of those with power. Lady Ottille had had slightly more success. Tegan was usually clean, knew who should be seated next to whom at a state dinner, and could walk in a gown without tripping. Her grandmother secretly despaired of anything more.
Tegan recieved occasional letters from her brothers, especially Jacob as he grew older. Branwen apparently saw no harm in this. She had not heard from Herne since she came to the city. She still wrote faithfully every week, but it was becomming harder to hide her anger and her pain.
One day in the late spring, when the smell of life and growth were in the air and she was missing the estate more than ever, she recieved a letter from her brother Jacob. In with the comfortable news of puppies and a fall out of the oak tree was a casual mention of somthing that would change Tegan’s life forever. “Oh Tig, I know you’ll want to know this, Herne died two days ago. He’d been sick for awhile, I thought he’d get better, but I guess not. I’ll miss him, he was going to show us a foxes den next week. I’m sorry though. It gets lonlier here all the time.”
Tegan found Branwen in her study with Sir Caleb. “Really Teagan, you’ll never ammount to anything if you don’t learn to control yourself. I don’t see what you’re so upset about. Herne was a good gameskeeper, but he was merely a servent after all.” Tegan stared at her parents, Branwen looking beautiful and remote, already focused on the parchment before her, Caleb looking concerned, but more worred about the fuss than anything else.
That night Tegan ran away. Taking her swords, and enough food for the trip, she headed out to the estate. She arrived too late for Herne’s burial, but she knelt by his grave and swore never to value the life of any good being over the life of another. Herne had protected and valued each soul on it’s own terms, Tegan wanted to be as much like him – and as little like her mother – as she could.
Jacob and Seth were happy to see Tegan, and Jacob’s affection filled a place in her heart she hadn’t realised was empty. Seth was a brilliant scholar, already showing promise to some day become a powerful Wizard. Jacob was a happy boy, simple in the best possible meaning of the word. He took pleasure in everything, even his studies, though he was not half the scholar his brother was.
Donal arrived the next morning. All the children were to return to Tulk. If Tegan refused, Donal had orders to have her tied up and carried back to the city.
Three years later. Branwen had realised that the way to control Tegan was to make punishments universal. If Tegan refused to attend court, Jacob and Seth went without dinner as well. Jacob had no desire to disobey, and Seth was the apple of his mother’s eye, so every afternoon spent locked in their rooms, every hungry night in bed was Tegan’s fault.
Branwen was winning. At 15 Tegan was a subdued, silent young woman of the court. Her only outlet was her training in arms. Her parents saw the value of having a protector right in the family. The Ashmara family had grown even more powerful under Branwen’s reign, and had developed enemies accordingly.
While attending one of the endless soirees, where much was said and most was chaff, Tegan met a young Pelorian Cleric named Clement. Two ernest oddballs in this sea of fluff, they took to each other immediately. Tegan was interested in and impressed by Clements work with the indigent in Pavane, and Clement was amused by this intense, awkward girl who had such nasty things to say about the people around her. Clement was the only person other than Jacob who could make Tegan smile.
Branwen summoned Tegan to her study one afternoon, just before her training session with Master Schwartztete. “As you have shown absolutely no ability in anything useful, Tegan, I have decide to arrange a marriage for you. You’re old enough and you’re attractive enough, as long as the man doesn’t speak to you before agreeing to the arrangement. Of course as an Ashmara we can look as high as we wish for an alliance. I have written to the Sultan of Schaukel. He has a 12 year old son and has been maneuvering to gain my favor for years. It fits my plans to allow him to think I am indebted to him at the moment. You’ll begin your training in Schaukel etiquette tomorrow morning. The marriage will take place on last day of Summer.”
Tegan hadn’t cried in front of her mother since she heard of Herne’s death. She raged, wept, and even begged her mother to reconsider. Branwen was adamant. Tegan would be of use to her in this marriage, it was going to happen. Knowing that her mother would never change her mind about this, and having realized recently that she had never won a fight with her mother, Tegan gathered the few remaining shreds of her dignity and went to her last training session.
Her ability as a fighter was the only thing she had left that gave Tegan any sense of worth. She was good, and she knew she could be better. She had thought that at least someday, after her mother died in a horrible but unavoidable accident, she might at least have served as protector to her family. Her last dream had been taken from her.
After a fierce training session she was feeling a little better. There were several other scions of Tulk taking lessons at the same time from Schwartztete, including a young lout by the name of Newtging, whom Tegan particularly loathed.
Drifting through the airduct (and peephole) in to the girls locker room she heard him bragging “Look what I’ve got, and listen to the sound it makes!” followed by a horrible, high pitched scream. Tegan grabbed her swords and ran into the boys locker room. Horrified, she saw Newtging holding a tiny kitten by its tail and sawing it off with his dagger. In a blind fury, Tegan struck out, just as the kitten fell to the floor minus a tail. Newtging got in a stab with his dagger, but in a few motions he lay dying at Tegan’s feet. She gently picked up the kitten then delivered the coup de grace. Newtging was murdered, and in front of the heirs to two of the more prominent families of Tulk. Tegan wrapped the kitten in a towel, picked up her swords, and left. The boys did nothing to stop her. Schwartztete, drawn from his bottle by the clamor, leaned against the doorframe and smiled. He was looking forward to this.
Clement was relaxing in the guest chamber of Tulk’s Temple of Pelor when he was woken by a tremendous knocking. There in his doorway was blood boltered Tegan, silent tears streaming down her face. “I can’t stop the bleeding. He’s dying.” Clement looked at the strangely serene kitten in Tegan’s hands and took pity on the creatures. “Child, be calm. He needs you. I will do what I can.” With that he healed the kitten, though he would be without a tail for the rest of his life. (Jinx, as he came to be known, grew fat on the rats of Pelor, and leads a comfortable life there to this day)
Tegan wasn’t as easy to help. The events of the morning and afternoon poured out of her in a tumbled stream of words, jumbled and intertwined, for a moment Clement thought Tegan had killed her mother after finding that Newtging was to marry a sultana. Eventually he calmed Tegan enough to get the full story. “Daughter, you must face the consequences of your actions. For the good of your soul, and for the good of us all. Your passion, and your sense of what is right, must be controlled so that they can serve you, rather than master you.”
Tegan was tried before the full court, by her peers, with Newtging as the Accusatory witness. Newly resurrected and full of spite, he painted the picture of a psychotic girl, ready at any time to snap and to slaughter. Clement did his best, but he was only allowed to speak of what he had actually witnessed. The other two boys from the locker room gave colorless versions of Newtging’s story. Schwartztete also hadn’t witnessed the start of the fight, though he enjoyed a few digs at the boys’ characters. In Tulk tradition the Accused is not allowed to speak.
The only Ashmara-Utlich to attend the trial was Lady Branwen. She sat silent, dignified and beautiful, listening gravely to the proceedings. She gained a certain amount of sympathy that day, a commodity in which she was usually in short supply. There is no situation that she can not turn to her advantage.
The verdict: A fine of 20,000 GP and banishment. Her family would pay the fine and Tegan would have 12 hours to leave Tulk, and never again set foot in the city or it’s surrounding protectorates. Clement volunteered to be her warden, to see that she never slept more than 6 hours a night and never rested for more than 20 minutes at a time until she was outside the rule of Tulk law.
During the two days it took to cross the fertile farmland encompassed by Ash and Mara’s legendary Ring of Protection around Tulk, Tegan had little to say about her situation. Clement tried his best to bring the young woman out of herself, but even his kind counsel left her silent. At the end of the second evening, as they drew within a mile of the border, Tegan apologized to Clement “Brother Clement, I have behaved dishonorably. You have been a steadfast support, and if I may say it, a true friend. You deserve greater courtesy from me.”
“Child, while lacking polish and perhaps discretion, you have followed your own, more difficult code of honor. You have no need to apologize to me. You might, however, consider that the world if full of subtle cruelty and there are more successful ways of dealing with it than blind rage.”
“I’m not a child anymore!”
“Then act like an adult,” said Clement with a twinkle.
A moment of silence, then Tegan laughed ruefully, for the first time in what seemed to her half a lifetime. “If you say so, then I will. If only Mother were here to hear me say it! The very idea I would take someone else’s advice over hers!”
“What will you do now, Lady Tegan?” said Clement with a hint of irony.
“First of all, I am no Lady. Respect is earned, not innate. I renounce any claim I have to the privileges and honors of the Ashmara name. And you can tell Mother I said that. Secondly, I think I need to be away from people. I don’t like them much. You’re the only person still alive I’ve never been disappointed in, that is you and Jake. I’m going deep into the forest, and I hope I never see another human being again. Especially since I ‘m not allowed to see you or Jake again. Maybe I’ll just become a crazy hermit, surrounded by foxes. Actually, I think I’d like that.”
“Tegan, don’t despair. The gods will present you with your path. You merely have to keep your eyes open.”
She smiled and shrugged. All she knew is that things were going to be different, and that had to be good.
They approached the border. It might have been the influence of the legend, or it might be that Ash and Mara really did create their famous ring, but both Tegan and Clement felt a change as the passed over into the wild lands.
“I must leave you now, Daughter. May the protection of Pelor go with you, and also my own heartfelt blessing and well-wishes. I only wish I could do more for you.” With this he took her hands in his and kissed her on the forehead.
Tegan blushed furiously, stammered an awkward “Thank you, too much, I’ll miss you,” kissed the startled Clement on the cheek, and hurried off into the woods, determined not to look back, and not to cry.
“By the holy sunspots, what just happened?” he muttered to himself. He watched her with concern until she disappeared into the trees. “She’s an impulsive child, but good at heart. It’s odd, but I feel confident that she will make her way in this world. Perhaps Pelor has His plans for her.” With that he set off back to Pavane.
For six months Tegan lived wild and alone. As winter approached she created a shelter in a dense copse deep in the forest. While the days grew shorter and the nights darker, she at the same time felt a lightening of her spirit. Herne’s voice was loud in her head and it gave her much comfort. She felt more at home than she had felt since she left the estate. However, while she knew that this was her true environment, she missed contact with her own kind, much to her surprise. She had never much liked people, but now the few she respected echoed in her lonely heart. Clement in particular was always in her thoughts.
However, the dark woods outside Ash and Mara’s Ring of Protection are no place for a young person barely an adult to live alone. Food was becoming scarce, and the competition for it was becoming deadly. Tegan was stalking a deer about an hour before sunset a few days after solstice when disaster struck. Intent on the deer, she didn’t hear the wolf who was stalking her. In the struggle her head hit a rock and she knew no more.
Tegan woke in a warm cocoon, more comfortable than she’d been in months except for the splitting headache. She panicked, thinking she was back in her room at Castle Ashmara. Leaping up, she dashed through the door, only to be overcome by nausea. Kneeling on the ground, retching, she felt a strong, warm pair of hands pull her hair back and stroke her forehead.
“It’s perhaps best to access the situation before you react.”
Tegan looked up blearily to see a silver haired 1/2 elf woman, dressed in woodsman gear. A large brown bear peered curiously over her shoulder.
“I am Honoria, warden of Nachtbaum and this is Ursula,” she said, indicating the bear. “I don’t like killing wolves just because some foolish young woman makes herself bait. You need some training, if you are to live alone in the woods. Feeling better?”
“Yes. Madam. Thank you.” growled Tegan, reluctantly remembering her manners. “I am sorry to be a bother. I will be leaving now, and trouble you no further.”
“Don’t think so. Winter has barely begun, City Girl. However, I’ve been watching you, and you have potential. If you want to you can learn from me. If you insist on leaving I’ll escort you to the nearest town where perhaps you can get a job as a barmaid or something. I won’t allow the trouble you’ll cause here in my woods without training.”
It hurt her pride, but Tegan knew Honoria was right. “I can fight. I killed a man. And how long have you been watching me!” She winced from the pain in her head.
“Aren’t you hard,” said Honoria with a grin. “Fighting is one thing, woodslore is another. You were loud enough to be heard in Tulk.”
Involuntarily Tegan shuddered at the idea that her mother might be able to hear her . “Maybe I do have things to learn. Why do you want to teach me? Nothing is done for no reason.”
“Someday you will find that motives are not always ulterior. However, I do have a reason. Obad-Hai himself told me that I would be given one to train. He didn’t tell me why, but I suspect he knows I will need a successor before too many seasons have passed. Perhaps you are the one.”
Tegan was secretly grateful. She knew that living alone in the forest was getting more and more difficult as winter closed in and she also knew that she was getting a bit – strange. Some animals can live alone, but most need the company of their kind. Humans are some of the most social.
Honoria had been the Forest Warden for over 70 years. She was vastly experienced and kind, with a dry sense of humor. For the first time in her life, Tegan found that a woman could be giving without being weak. As part of her duty Honoria took Tegan with her to visit the various hunters and charcoal burners who made their living supplying the needs of Tulk. Nachtbaum was not an untouched forest. Civilization had been spreading around Tulk for hundreds of years.
One of Honoria’s favorite denizens of Nauchtbaum was Robert Robertson, a charcoal burner who lived and worked there with his wife Barbara and their youngest son Bob, a strapping, shy 17 year old. The now 16 year old Tegan found the young man confusingly attractive, and he was equally attracted to her.
After a few days of enduring Tegan’s tedious adolescent mooning Honoria sat Tegan down and got straight to the point.
“You want him. What in the name of the earth is stopping you?”
Tegan hung her head and blushed, and mumbled “Don’t know what you mean.”
“If you didn’t know what I meant you wouldn’t be blushing. How much of an innocent are you?”
Tegan was beginning to get a bit angry. “We’re not supposed to. It’s about Honor and about Chastity. And Duty. Grandmother was very clear about it. I’m not worth anything if I’m sullied.”
Honoria shook her head and smiled. “Of course. You are nobility, I had almost forgotten, you’ve improved so much. In that world mating is about property, and women bear the heirs. Will you listen to yourself? The worth you have is of your own making, and only can be appraised by you yourself, not by any other. Chastity is an unnatural invention of the Intelligent species that is used for control, and control only. Fidelity is a matter of the soul, not the body. You may find your soul mate some day, but until then you are young and ardent. Enjoy it while you can.” She smiled. “At least think about what you’ve heard here tonight.” With that Honoria kissed Tegan and headed into bed.
Tegan spent a restless night. Her Grandmother’s firm rules and Honoria’s advice swirled in her head with images of Bob’s strong shoulders glistening in the sun, her fighting instructor’s scared sardonic face, and especially the feeling of Clement’s lips on her forehead.
In the morning she prayed to Obad-Hai, thanking him as usual for the gift of life, and this time asking him for guidance in this matter. Much to her surprise, he answered.
“THE ACT ITSELF, LIKE EVERYTHING OF NATURE, IS NEITHER GOOD NOR EVIL. IT IS WHAT INTELLIGENCE BRINGS TO IT THAT MAKES IT APPROACH THE HOLY OR THE PROFANE. MATING FOR DUTY OR IN VIOLENCE IS A SORROW TO ME. MATING FOR JOY BRINGS THE SAME JOY TO ME. LISTEN TO YOUR HEART, IT WILL ALWAYS SPEAK THE TRUTH TO YOU.
Tegan and young Bob spent an idyllic summer, and parted with a few tears and great fondness when he left in the Autumn to join the Brestalcian Army. Over the next few years Tegan had a number of affairs, worshiping Obad-Hai in her own unique way. Her heart remained her own, however. The more men she knew, the more she thought of one man’s kind voice and strong, gentle hands.
Honoria was an excellent teacher. After just a few years Tegan was a full fledged Ranger. On the first warm day that Spring Honoria came to her and said “I’m dying, Tegan. I’ll be gone by the end of the month. Cremate me – Robertson will give you the charcoal I’m sure – and scatter my ashes here. Ursula will leave, I’ve done my best to explain the situation to her. After that you are to go to Brandon’s Bridge. Your future awaits you there.”
Tegan was distraught. “How do you know? There must be something we can do!”
“I am 165 years old. I’ve outlived so many friends and loved ones and I don’t want to outlive you, dear. It’s my time. Obad-Hai has given me the gift of being able to complete my final tasks, the most important of which is to take care of you.”
Tegan stood silently, the tears streaming down her face. “Why can’t I stay here, and look after the forest as you did. For you.”
Honoria hugged Tegan, who towered over her by now. “After I am dead King Rupert will appoint a new Warden of Nauchtbaum. The king has kindly informed me of his choice of successor. He will be liege to a family that are deadly enemies to yours, Lady Tegan Ashmara.”
“How long have you know about my family? I never wanted to deceive you, you know, I just felt reborn here, in the forest.”
“I once traveled in very different circles, and you are the twin of your Grandmother Drusilla. Your family is the stuff of legend, and as the title descends through the female line you are the heir, no matter what you do. Remember who Ash and Mara were, not who your mother is. Listen to me this one last time, and as you love me, go to Brandon’s Bridge when I am gone. In every life there are forks in the road where a decision made changes the whole color of the future. This is one of those for you.”
“How can I disobey you, my true Mother? I’ll do it, willingly.” Tegan attempted to smile. “See? You’ve remade me yet again.”
Honoria declined quickly after that. Tegan stayed with her as much as she could, leaving only for the few woods duties that couldn’t wait. Finally, just before dawn on the last day of the month, Honoria drew her last breath. Urusula, who had remained by her side throughout her last days, roared and paced and menaced Tegan, who had to put all her new found skill into calming the bear. Ursula allowed Tegan to hug her, who dried her tears in her bristly fur. “Go,” she whispered, “She wanted you to be free. Remember that she loved you, and still does.” The saddened bear snuffled at Honoria’s face one last time before roaring and lumbering off into the woods.
Tegan began the solemn tasks of death. She washed the body and dressed her in her best clothes, arranging her on a litter over the stack of wood and charcoal in the clearing. By her side Tegan placed her swords, bow, and quarterstaff. She put no food with the body, for if Honoria could not catch her own dinner then the Gods too were dead. She cleaned the cottage thoroughly and packed her own belongings.
Tegan lit the pyre and watched while the flames caught. She didn’t pray, her mind was too numb for prayer. She waited until Honoria was no longer visible through the roaring flames, picked up her bag, and set off for Brandon’s Bridge.