Miguel G. Lourenço
COMMISSION: Erdan Fireforge and the Temple of Kord
Updated: Jul 14, 2018
After one of my pet projects, Tusk Love, picked up a lot of traction from the Critical Role fandom, I ran a giveaway for a three-page short story for my followers on Twitter and the ones on Tumblr.
'Cacia Lee (@Athencialee) was the Twitter winner and commissioned a lovely short story regarding her father's old DnD character that he played with in the 80's.
We talked about the plot, setting and most importantly, the character, and soon came to this: a story about a cleric who seeks the respect and love of his God and the clergy.
Erdan Fireforge and the Temple of Kord
The winds hissed and writhed down the mountain, blowing the fresh coats of snow away from its sharp edges. Erdan Fireforge, a half-dwarf, half-elf testament to the hardiness of both his people, walked under a heap of furs, grumbling and hexing the weather. He furrowed his brow and found his footing once more, scouring the rock with his calloused hands, grabbing unto much need aids. It had been weeks, Erdan reckoned, since a warm and proper meal. He stopped himself from salivating, as the cold would surely stick his frozen hunger to his already chapped lips.
Each step was met with discontent. He never thought that following Kord, the almighty Stormlord and God of Battle and Warfare, would see him climb mountains instead of cleaving his way through his clergy’s foes. Erdan preferred to bathe in crimson than to be washed over by the cold breeze, dispelled from Vasselheim above. As his stomach growled, a noise that could frighten predators away, his eyes stared at the large, weathered walls of the Dawn City. He ignored the people making the climb with him—humans, elves, dwarves—clad in fur, awash with determination seen only in pilgrims. His travels would be perceived as more of the same, but Erdan walked not to repent, as the hardy cleric was bound for Vasselheim for other reasons. His heart was heavy from his journeys, weighing his frame more than his pack. The monks that worshipped his God, made their home in Vasselheim many years ago, and their control over not only their bodies, but their minds, was enviable, Erdan thought, for he wielded only his blades, seeking solace in his lack of discipline in other arts.
Adventuring was seldom done by his lonesome, but his party had long moved on, and away, without him. Erdan Fireforge, cleric of Kord, now walked a lonely road, towards the cradle of faith and the learned ones what would teach him the deep ways of the Stormlord. He could see now, as he walked further up on one of the highest ledges, the peak of the towering mountain, the Heaven’s Stair. Even as Erdan gazed down upon his climb and his efforts getting there, he felt that those hours were useless in the greater scheme of life. It was not until someone bumped into him that his left foot slid, breaking away a dislodged chunk of stone where he had stood. Before he could wave his arms, helplessly flailing for something out of reach, a hand latched on to his forearm. With a quick pull, Erdan gasped and finally sighed, as he faced his saviour.
“Many thanks, friend,” the cleric spoke with a smile, “I owe you many thanks.”
“I would settle for a warm meal.” The voice came muffled through the frosted scarf, covering their mouth. Donning dark furs and a hood, Erdan could not have known who this person was, as they dusted themselves off, watching him.
“Likewise. Been too long since those comforts one has grown accustomated to in Southern Othanzia. Say, are you—”
With no ceremonies or pleasantries expected, they walked off. Erdan was unsure as to follow, but as both were walking to Vasselheim, the cleric continued on his path, at his own pace. It took him another hour before he finally reached the outer walls. Towered over by refined stone, he stared, studying the stonework in several stages of composition, some older than his younger cousins. The birthplace of civilisation was a cold and inhospitable place, but he had reached his destination all the same. There was little to no interest to be found in the districts of Vasselheim that were not the Braving Grounds. Erdan walked with a newfound ease, the soles of his feet delighted by the smooth packed mud under his boots. Through the crowds gathered on the streets, he could barely make the towering figure of the person that saved him on the road up. As he made his way, holding a small sketched out map of Vasselheim he had drawn by a trader near the Vesper Timberland, he saw his saviour make the same right turn he would, and so Erdan made his best to catch up.
“You! You there,” he shouted through huffed breaths, “wait up!”
All but the person whose attention he wanted to grab looked, so his pace was hurried. When Erdan tugged on their sleeve, they turned, the frosted scarf now fallen around their neck. There stood a man, tusks pressed up against his upper lip, crowned by a few days’ worth of stubble. His stare was a concoction of disapproval and curiosity. He lowered his hood and cleared his throat. Erdan expected anyone but a man of orcish blood to have been so kind in that treacherous climb, but he smiled still.
“What do you want?”
“I see you are walking towards the Braving Grounds district, care to talk with me? I believe I owe you a meal.”
“Listen, friend. I appreciate the kindness in your gesture, but I am currently fasting, and late to my prayers. I am thankful, truly. Kord’s strength be with you.”
The Stormlord’s name resonated in his ears, and Erdan stepped in front of the half-orc before he could turn away. His eyes rolled as the cleric persisted.
“And Kord’s strength be with you, brother! I had no idea you carried the mantle. What is your name, so I can include you in my prayers?”
There was sorrow weighing down the half-orc’s chest, as he smiled at Erdan, his cheeks warming up with his greeting. He nodded and placed his left hand on the cleric’s shoulder. “Kern.”
Before Erdan could reply, the man was gone, lumbering past the crowds by the entrance of the Braving Grounds district. Maybe it was his elven pride taken from his mother, or the attitude from his dwarf father, but Erdan scoffed at the man as he walked away. There was no hate in the air exhaled through his lips, but he had been taught to respect his equals, and show affection to worshippers of the same God. These thoughts clouded over any other, as he made his way through the district, ignoring peddlers and the looks of the locals who surely smelled the outsider in him.
Soon, he found himself towered over by a statue of a man like he had never seen before. His muscles were expertly chiselled, complimented by intricate bracers of desirable quality. His beard was larger than Erdan’s, by feet in length and by leagues in beauty. With one knee raised, Kord stood above the district with invigorating might. Erdan smiled wide, filled with the willpower only the pious would know, and climbed the giant steps leading up to the massive doors of the Trial Forge, their colour evoking visions of blood and rust, all too familiar with the warrior cleric. The guards standing by the entrance nodded at Erdan, and he greet the Bastions in a similar fashion.
The inside was everything he had imagined. The warmth bathed his face with the crisp cold nibbling at his neck, as the doors closed behind him. The smell of herbs and burning incensed seduced his nose, his nostrils flaring excitedly. Erdan searched for the familiar face of Kern, but found only modest robes of red and gold. His questions found deaf ears in the robed worshippers of Kord, or as the cleric soon considered to be vows of silence. Walking on the black marble floors of the temple, Erdan roamed aimlessly, waiting for a sign or a voice that called upon him. He eventually found an alcove with little traffic, in which he could lay down his belongings and take off the cloak and jacket that protected him from the cold’s frostbite. His broad shoulders ached more than his feet, who he soon found to be bruised. Erdan ignored the pain and kneeled, bowing his head to a mosaic of the Stormlord, standing in front of a thunderstorm, his hand extended to any onlooker. The cleric found comfort in the image, closing his eyes and placing his forehead on the cold floors. He begun muttering first and chanting second. The winds blew past the windows above, sheltering the steps approaching the alcove. These were louder than the ones who walked past Erdan, and soon came to halt by his side. His left eye opened and watched, as knees were placed carefully on the floor and a long white beard met the black marble before their lips. Erdan pulled away and stared at the dark-brown beaded necklace, hanging from the man’s musclebound neck and shoulders. The man followed his lead with a smile and straightened his back. The cleric placed his hands on his thighs and looked away, hiding his obvious curiosity.
“You are new here, brother,” said the man in robes of bright red and regal gold.
“I am. I have travelled far and faced many dangers to reach the Trial Forge.”
“Good. Those are the first steps one needs to take to please not only Kord, but our own expectations of ourselves. Tell me, what is your name and intent here?”
“I am Erdan Fireforge, I hail from Denvaar and wish to train and gain the respect of Earthbreaker Groon. Why do you ask, brother?”
“Greetings, brother Fireforge of Denvaar. I ask your intent as to know my place in your journey, and your name so as to know how to address the newest pupil of the Trial Forge. For I am the Dawn Marshal of the Braving Grounds, Earthbreaker Groon.”
(Fireforge belongs to its commissioner and the setting and other characters to Critical Role.)