Peerless (1)

Originally published at: Peerless (1) | The Associated Worlds

In all of legend and the Time Before, only two warriors are acclaimed as peerless, those whose renown alone carried such force of authority that none would dare stand against them.

Of first note among these was the Sky-Born Loral Torateir of Telírvess, daughter of Marlais Torateir of the Drake-Bone Blade, shield-maiden, shield-biter and blade-licker to the hearth of Cloudpeak’s jarls, the Grimward-Kissed, eldest of the thirty-six Sky-Born Lighning-Blades, the Wolf-Spirit Maiden-o’-the-Pack, captain of the Blood-Blued Wave, crowned with braids of crimson and gold, who in youth sailed and raided with the Fangs of the Storm, who, having earned her name, carved her legend in blood across the islands of the North, and whose bones, and dust, and name lie forever beneath the mount upon which her name was earned.

Fell-handed, tall and grim of mien, she came to the Stairs of Arkuel’s Watch as the ant-men of the southern green-lands descended, and in that narrow place did slay and slay again, step by step, pace by pace along the winding stair. By their hundreds they came upon her, and they died. In hundreds more they held their ranks against her, and they died. The last hundreds fled from her, terrible in aspect, with armor drenched and hair thick with the blood of their fellows, and they too died, slain as they fled wailing, until the last, in their terror, hurled themselves from the cliffs of the Watch.

And from that day, it was said that none would face the Sky-Born Loral Torateir, now known as the Blood-Washed, such was the fear her name alone inspired.

– Legends of the Time-Before

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For those who don’t remember it from discussions elsewhere, a grimward is the local terminology for a place where one of the Great Drakes died, and while it is dead, its reality-warping ontotech, it turns out, can eternal lie. Or at least has a very long half-life.

And as you might expect of places where dead dragons lie dreaming, they are heavily walled, warded, and posted to ensure that people don’t accidentally wander into them. There may be no more than half a dozen in the world, almost all tiny, but they’re rather memorable.

Marlais’s epithet implies that he voluntarily went into one, came out with one of the dragon’s bones, and shaped a sword out of it. This is the approximate equivalent, by our standards, of talking a walk through Chernobyl’s basement, coming out with a lump of ⁶⁰Co or ²¹⁰Po, and shaping a sword from it to make it “more killy”.

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Dare I ask what grimward-kissed means, then, in this context?

Touched by its noodly appendage mutative powers.

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Does the ‘Time Before’ refer to the period before the Gray Wasting?

And “Sky-Born” – is that an epithet, a title, a clan name…?

Nothing so specific, as it happens. The “Time Before” is just a stock reference to the time in which things mythic, legendary, and otherwise previous to being recorded in nice formalized rolls of history happened. In practice, it can be assumed to refer to the deep pre-Imperial era, but it’s really just a “once upon a time”, “of arms and a man I sing”, or “long ago in a galaxy far, far away”…

“Sky-Born” was an epithet granted to those born high enough in the mountains of the Crescent to be within the cloud layer where the storms form and roll down upon the plains. Since no-one homesteaded at those altitudes, that usually implied one special circumstance or another - even if just transiting the high passes at the opportune moment - but regardless of the circumstances, the Sky-Born were believed to be touched by the old gods of sky and storm, and thus imbued with a special destiny.