Call of the Vigilant
As the Scourge approached, many of the old city-states and kingdoms of Barsaive bled to pay the price demanded by Thera for the Rites of Protection and Passage (the necessary knowledge to create kaers and citadels and survive within them through the Scourge). They fought wars over the elemental resources needed to not only pay the Therans but to build their own defenses. They sold off their enemies, their allies and their families as slaves to meet the price of survival. Several of the old kingdoms perished before the Scourge even began in earnest.
Amidst this chaos Marrek grew strong as an independent body of merchants, serving the needs of all sides of every conflict. The agents of Marrek quietly opened the most profitable ventures, disrupted the endeavors of enemies, and frustrated the aims of rivals. The alchemists of Marrek supplied cunning charms, poultices and potions to aid in the Burning of the Invae, the Orichalcum Wars, the luxuries of Imperial Parlainth, and the defense against the onrushing Scourge.
When the dealings of a Theran councilor of some importance by the name of Mavril Benaris became an impediment to the fortunes of Marrek, it was only natural to deal with him. His quiet removal would open the way for a more tractable rival to take his place. Sadly, the operation was botched, and the baleful eye of Thera was drawn to our people. Our people were blacklisted among the merchants who sold the secrets of survival itself, and Thera laughed in its conceit at our inevitable demise.
Fools, the lot of them.
In the centuries before the Scourge, we had learned that a quiet whisper in the ear, a slight push at the proper time, and a small blade in the right place were worth more than armies. We who had agents in the Governor’s own household would not be doomed by an inability to purchase the Rites! It was true that the most vital Rites were kept under the strongest security, to deter those who would survive without paying the merchant houses of Thera for the privilege. The leaders of every customer city, village, nation, or tribe underwent binding oaths to keep the knowledge close. One of our rivals did not pay close enough attention.
The city of Blackcliff, by Lake Vors, had purchased the knowledge we needed. Our agent, a mage Named Carrick the Fox, arranged an alliance with a desperate group of nomads called The Riders of the Black Plain. Carrick arranged for the ambush and replacement of the Warden of Blackcliff to gain access to the Rites. Carrick stole the Rites and granted a copy to the Riders in exchange for their help. Carrick was also wise enough to leave evidence in Blackcliff that the Warden was a turncoat and actually the king of the Riders.
The necessary skills and elemental resources to ensure our survival also had to be obtained, so deals were struck with small, desperate groups of all races all over Barsaive, allowing them safe haven in exchange for their secrecy and resources.
Mighty Thera would not look kindly upon any city that gained their knowledge without paying their price (witness their conflict with the dragons!). Our hidden citadel was built in secret, deep in the treacherous valleys of the Caucavic mountains, and Named New Marrek. It was guarded by the thickest stone, the mightiest wards, a dome of True Air, Earth, and Water, and a web of the most cunning illusions. As the predations of the Horrors increased, our people moved into its hidden fastnesses, a few at a time, as needed to complete the work. We had to guard our survival, however, from Thera as well as the Horrors.
Thus we come to the tale of the Two Hundred. As the Scourge came upon us and the Citadel neared completion, some had to stay behind to give the illusion that doomed Marrek was populated. The gates need to be guarded, lights needed to be lit, walls needed to be manned, and fields needed to be sown. Two hundred volunteers, all of whom had family in New Marrek, stayed behind and died to protect the secret of our survival after the citadel was sealed. Their exact fate is unknown, but undoubtedly was unpleasant.
Of the long and terrible years of the Scourge, little will be said here. By the blood of heroes we stood Vigil and survived. We have grown strong from our trials, and once again venture into a world of opportunity.
We first opened our gates to find a new world. The ruins of Marrek lay shattered and empty. The dwarfs of Throal have survived as strong as ever, and are attempting to rebuild Barsaive in their image. Thera returned in force before our first explorers, in 1452 TH, began rebuilding our knowledge of current events. We live in a world of danger and opportunity.
Marrek is dead, but Marrek lives on in hidden New Marrek. Thera would be most displeased to find us alive, so we must remain hidden. We cannot simply hide, though, without ceding our rightful place in the future of Barsaive. So we have to fall back on the traditional tools of our forefathers: our eyes and our wits.
We have founded a new town of Marrek on the bones of the old. It acts as a front, a decoy, a filter to insulate our people from the dangers of the world. It appears to be a new village of opportunists trading on our ancient reputation. In reality, it serves as a conduit for our agents and our wares to again penetrate the markets of Barsaive. It is the sleeve through which we can reach out in safety.
You are one of the Vigilant, our defenders and agents in the world. You are sworn to maintain the Vigil to protect our people in honor of the sacrifice of the Two Hundred. You are respected and honored for your sacrifice when you return home, in exchange for your virtual exile for most of your time in service. You are our whisper in the dark, our eye in the shadows, and the blade at our enemy’s throat.
One day New Marrek will be free to step out into the sun, when Thera is no longer a threat. Perhaps you will help bring this about. Until then, we have the Vigilant, and you have the Vigil.