Lords of Chaos
Monk in training on a quest
Califred wears the green leather and blue wool robes of a monk in training. His water motif tattoos show his devotion to Adrania, a goddess that protects the Rivermen. A sturdy travel bag is draped over his shoulder but its flatness shows the lightness of an experienced traveler. He has the lithe and strong body an elf devoted to training, and maintains the shaved head and braided beard signifying a learner upon the river of life.
His staff is an essential tool in his teachings and demonstrations of the many techniques learned at the temple. It also adds to the showmanship when performing. Water symbols are carved along its length but practice has left many dents upon them.
While working on his quest he tours the countryside with his brother Jevin, demonstrating the martial arts of the temple while Jevin enthralls the crowds with his feats of amazement.
“As the River flows through the land, so do we flow through our lives.”
I am Califred, devotee of Adrania the daughter of Personus and Mother of the River. I am an initiate to the secrets of the temple and servant of Master Kiatelious the Ancient. I am on a quest from the temple to learn to see tomorrow.
I grew up along the great river as did all truly lucky people. The water provided everything that anyone could need; fresh fish, plentiful birds, cool drinks, easy travel on the ubiquitous rowing skiffs, work moving the trade goods onward in their journey and even a way of understanding the world. Adrania was the goddess of the Eternal River and brought her blessings to those who lived upon this river. She was a teacher to any who would listen. I was always eager to listen.
Work was steady and easy between tending the boats and cooking for the hungry boatmen. I was known for my skill at catching and cooking the cacophony of birds that thrived in the marshes but I was always left with the nagging feeling that life was flowing past me. I heard the calling to be more, to learn more and to find the deeper meaning in life.
I had seen the devotees of Adrania traveling the river, always looking serene and confident. Even when they rowed their long lean boats up the river they never seemed to sweat or break their peaceful concentration. Their demonstration performances on market days were stunning displays of balance, agility and timing. They always knew just where to stand to catch their falling brother. They performed synchronized patterns of kicks, punches, flips and rolls; all with effortless precision either with their eyes open or closed.
I would memorize their patterns and motions and listen intently to their teachings trying to soak it all in. I would spend my free time practicing what I had seen and heard. Apparently this devotion was not missed by the monks. They were always looking for new recruits to train in the service of the river goddess. One day my moment came.
I was drifting on a slow backwater of the river standing on the gunnels of my boat. Any of the rivermen could do that. I was trying to master twirling my poling staff around my body in a pattern I had seen the monks perform. It was going well until I went too fast and clipped the stem post, throwing off my balance and getting dumped into the river. I sputtered and splashed to the surface, easily able to swim back to the boat but still cold and dripping.
As I hauled myself back into the boat I heard gentle laughter from behind me. Turning around I saw a green and blue robed monk standing on one of their impossibly narrow rowing shells. This was a messenger boat out from the temple on some mission. As always it left no ripples on the water.
“I am sorry for delaying you from your travels,” I said, bowing in respect as I had seen the monks do and feeling the embarrassment of having been caught mimicking them. “I am safe and don’t need to be rescued.”
“We are all safe in the Rivers’ arms,” replied the monk, “and we can be neither early nor late.” The monk smiled faintly and leaned comfortably against the air above his boat.
I bowed again more slightly and unsure of what to do. The monk continued to smile and lean.
“What brings you to this eddy,” I asked hoping to break the uncomfortable silence.
“I came to watch you fall in the water.”
“Umm. Yeah, I umm. I like to come here to practice my umm. Have you been watching me before?”
“No, you weren’t going to fall in before today.”
“Right. Why did you want to watch me fall?”
“Because it is the beginning of a new journey for you.”
“Where am I going?” I was hesitant but hopeful that this was life calling with something better.
“The same place you were always going, but now you know you are going.”
“And that is where?”
“With me for the training you so clearly want and need. Adrania knows of your devotion and sent me to bring you home.”
I was as excited as brother Thradic was calm. He answered my questions and led me to the temple on an island up the river. My family had already been informed of my opportunity and that I would accept. My parents had sent my meager possessions ahead. They would help ease my transition until I would come to know the true wisdom of the River Mother.
Life at the temple was long days of study and training and study and training. We read and memorized each step of the sacred forms passed down from the first master. We learned to recite each hand position and foot placement in our waking hours and in our sleep. When we could recite the pattern, word for word, as they were written in the ancient scrolls we were then allowed to train to them, step by step with infinite deliberation and precision.
“Practice the technique until it fully enters your mind and then practice it until it fully leaves your mind” was a favorite saying of the Master.
Practice we did and I was one of the most devoted students. I would practice with the other students and then practice even faster alone at night in my room. The monks knew of my extra practice and must have been impressed because they always gave me special attention during classes. They would work with me to translate my ever increasing speed back down to the dragging pace of my fellow learners.
I would ask the Master when the other students would be ready to move up to my speed, but he would always tell me that I needed to understand patience. “You can push the river, but she will not hurry.” It was hard to have patience with the slow progress of my fellow students. When I asked him questions about how to improve my speed he was clearly not concerned because he would give me private lectures on how to see the future so that I could take my skills to another level.
“The river does not reach out to your boat, it waits for you to arrive.”
“There is no speed beyond knowing where you need to be and being there.”
“There is no faster technique than a correct technique.”
After many such discussions and special teachings the master finally recognized that the River Mother had a special calling for me beyond the temple walls. To truly know the teachings of the River Mother I had to travel far beyond the River to see that the River is everywhere. The Master gave me one last direction and sent me on my way.
“Come back yesterday when you have seen tomorrow.”
Leaving the temple I hurried through the practice room, grabbing a staff, and ran down to the edge of the river, eager to be on my way. My little boat was there waiting for me, drifting slowly along the bank. I stepped aboard and rowed back down stream. I had my staff close at hand and a traveling bag over my shoulder for my few possessions along with my training robes.
I dropped in to my old home to see my parents and say goodbye. Neither of them were there but I found my brother Jevin inspecting a bag of travel cakes, sausages and a packet of herbs. He was admiring the provisions mother had made for me. A reassuring note was pinned to the bag. “We know it is for the best and that you will be safe in the River’s arms. Come back when you have completed your quest.”
It was truly a lucky day because Jevin had also been called to travel abroad. We would be out to learn together.
“Have faith in the River for her bounty is endless.”