Denariel and "The Way"
The following is taken from the personal writings of Janiston, a priest of Alowca during the time following Denariel's death
The barbarians came upon us at dawn, but they were not unexpected. Our scouts had been tracking their army for days, ever since the first reports of pillaging and murder in nearby regions. Our own army was ready, our Paladin Primus confident in his men, of which I was one. When the barbarians attacked, we rode out to meet them in combat and the fighting was fierce. But early on, our forces suffered a crippling wound of which it seemed we would not recover. Our General, leading the foremost thrust into the barbarian ranks, had plunged deep into their lines with his company of men. Just when a swift victory seemed possible, the Trolls came. Such huge beasts most of us had never before seen. They swarmed into our force and overwhelmed the General's company, striking him down in the process. Our men wavered, lines broke and fled. Then the true slaughter began, as the barbarians and trolls killed all they came across - soldier, peasant, man, woman, or child.
All seemed lost, and I was sure my own life was nearing its end as the barbarians overran my position. I do not know why I noticed the peasant woman at first, for she looked the same as everyone else fleeing the carnage. Perhaps that was it - she was not fleeing, but stood calm amidst the storm of violence raging around her. She knelt down over a fallen soldier and grasped his mace in her hand. Then, before rising, I overheard her utter a prayer to Alluran, hoping that her actions might find acceptance from him as clearly she soon expected to die.
What happened next, I now can see was a prayer answered. But at the time, I was astonished beyond belief. The peasant woman began swinging the mace about wildly, evidently having no formal training in such matters. Nevertheless, with each swing, a barbarian fell lifeless to the ground. Bodies piled up around her, and her pale yellow dress was soon stained blood red.
Soldiers that had previously been scattered rallied around the beautiful, deadly woman, and resistance to the horde was renewed in earnest. Something about being in the woman's presence stirred the spirit inside my fellow soldiers and me. I called out to her, asking who she was, and she paused a moment to regard me for the first time. I will never forget the look of determination in her steel blue eyes at that moment. Her response was only one word, "Denariel", but it was all that was needed. She threw herself back into the battle once more, and all around her did the same. We fought more bravely than ever before, and although we were outnumbered severely, the tide was soon turned. With the routing of the barbarians, the smaller Troll contingent was forced to withdraw from battle as well, and Alowca was saved - as it turned out, in more ways than one.
At that time, policy of Alowca both politcally and militarily, was one of pacifism. We believed that if we lived our lives peacefully, doing the just and honorable thing whenever possible, others would treat us in a similar manner. In foreign affairs, we took on the idea of leading by example, never forcing our own beliefs upon others, but always hoping they would learn from our own peaceful existence. Only when left with no other choice did we march to war, and only for as long as absolutely necessary.
Thus, when the barbarian and troll army was defeated, we did not set off in pursuit. Alowca had been defended successfully, and so things could go on as normal. The ruling Council desired to meet the heroine of the battle, and a great banquet was held in her honor. The Council expressed their admiration and thanks to the woman in both words and gifts, but instead of responding with humility and reverence as was expected, Denariel spoke out against the Council and their decision in not pursuing their attackers. She condemned them for their pacifist beliefs and called upon anyone who would follow her to ride off and finish them once and for all, for if we did not, they would surely attack again, and just because those they attacked might not be Alowcan did not lessen the evil of their deeds. With those words uttered, she turned away and mounted one of her gifts, one of the finest stallions in all of Alowca., and stormed out of her own banquet.
To a man, all of us who had fought beside her in the previous battle joined her once more. We could not deny that feeling of power and confidence that overcame us in her presence. All of us, and those others we managed to convince to ride amounted to no more than perhaps a hundred men. We set off immediately in pursuit of our enemy, and when it became evident that the barbarians and trolls had split up, we followed the trolls. There was no doubt they had been the true leaders of the attack.
Riding hard, we came upon their camp shortly before nightfall. Though I am ashamed to admit it, our courage failed us at the sight of the troll encampment. Though there could not have been more than half our number of them, such huge, fearsome looking creatures carried with them an aura of fear and uncertainty that directly opposed that of our leader. Sensing our hesitance, Denariel rode forth alone, turning to face us briefly. She said no words to us, but the look she cast upon us was not one of consternation or disgust, though I felt such feelings myself. It was a look of understanding.
Denariel rode alone into their camp with the speed of lightning. Almost quicker than the eye could perceive, she bolted past their guards, her mace striking out against their skulls like thunder. The suddenness and ferocity of her attack caught the outer ring of trolls completely by surprise, but by the time she closed on the troll chieftain, he was ready for her. As she bore down upon him atop her horse, the chieftain slammed his great club into the stallion, sending both horse and rider tumbling to the ground. Battered, but not beaten, Denariel rose to face the hulking troll leader on foot. With a strength and speed hard to believe, she battled the chieftain face to face. Both warriors gave and received tremendous blows, but finally Denariel's mace found its mark against the troll's temple, and his body crumpled lifeless to the ground. Denariel had not come out of this battle unscathed, however, and she staggered dizzily under the weight of her wounds. The remaining trolls, seeing the death in their leader and the weakness in the one who fell him, charged the young woman in a frenzy and struck her down.
But, before the trolls could rip her body apart limb from limb, something happened. A white haze quickly descended surrounded all who remained, freezing both us and the trolls in place, and my comrades and I heard a presence speak inside our minds.
"Rise from the ground Lady Denariel, and face your judgment, for you have nothing to fear."
And to all who watched, a shimmer in Denariel's image appeared above her lifeless body. We heard no more from that awe-inspiring voice, but observed Denariel's shimmering image appear to nod and smile at something or someone unseen, and then she turned to face us. It was then her voice we heard inside our minds.
"I have passed the test, soldiers of Alowca, and move on to where none have gone before me. If you follow what is true in your hearts from this day forth, you will see me again when your time comes. I will be waiting to watch over you when you arrive."
With those last words echoing inside our heads, we watched Denariel's image drift up into the haze and disappear from sight. The haze then began to dissipate, and we looked at one another not in confusion, but with a surety we had never known before. In unison, without a word, we drew our weapons and charged down the remaining trolls, slaughtering them to the last.
Upon our return to Alowca, we were changed men. We would go on to actively preach not of an entirely new religion, but of a new "way". We simply spread the word of Denariel that had been forever instilled in our hearts - that evil, no matter where it may lie, must be sought out and utterly destroyed. Only through evil's destruction may good triumph and peace persevere.
The Way of Denariel was born.