Masters of the Old Lore
Masters of the Old Lore as wise hermits who maintain secrets and knowledge about the Realms
The sun rises and the sun sets, the two moons dance across the heavens, and the seasons pass. Since the earliest days, the Masters of the Old Lore have watched the Eternal Circle of Nature. They know the ways of nature and the mysteries of The Realms, but they are not its master. Instead, they are servants of nature and tend to the needs of the land and its creatures. Only the foolish would underestimate their power for they have mastered the secrets of the world itself. The “Masters of the Old Lore” are an order of scholars and mystics who study and preserve the Old Lore . Very few of these hermits are left. Masters of the Old Lore are distinguished by their noble origins, their tradition of scholarship, and their use of druidic magic. The prospective Old Lore Master must be of human, eladrin or elven descent and noble birth.
“Noble born” means that the Masters of the Old Lore come from a handful of families. Some claim blood purity, but others have maintained extensive cultural traditions; some families’ do both, while others are stewards of an elder site or a magical item. Tradition demands that each candidate have proven skill in war-making and stealth, in addition to surpassing grace, in order to receive druidic training.
Masters of the Old Lore are wanderers, defenders, and guardians of lore. The level of trust and dedication involved in their position demands that they be both exemplars of their kind and remarkably rare. Once a person is marked as having the potential for becoming a Master of the Old Lore, a “watch ling” (a small animal serving another Master of the Old Lore) is dispatched to follow him for a year and a day to report his behavior and character. After this time, if seen fit, the prospective member is approached in secret. If this meeting goes well, after another year and a day passes, the prospective student is initiated into the ranks of the Masters.
This begins the time of training, and it is extremely grueling: year after year of rote memorization of ancient texts and writings detailing everything the races have learned about the natural world. The Master also learns to commune with the spirits of the land learning all that they have to teach. The training takes up to fifty years to complete and the Master either tempers from the stress or his mind breaks and he wanders the forest a madman.
Beliefs of the Old Lore The Old Lore is about truths present in nature. The Masters seek to understand these truths, internalize them, and preserve them. Four truths permeate the philosophy and teachings of the Old Lore.
• The Eternal Circle: The central belief of the Old Lore is that of the Eternal Circle. Spring blooms into summer, which fades to autumn and then descends into winter before winter gives rise to spring. The moon waxes, wanes, and waxes again. Life gives way to death, which leads to rebirth. The root of all Old Lore philosophy is grounded in the belief that the Eternal Circle continues without end, and all that is will pass away before being reborn.
• All Things in Balance: For the Eternal Circle to turn, all things must exist in Balance. There is a place for everything natural somewhere in the world. Death exists because it must, and winter comes because it is part of the cycle. Nature is wild and dangerous, and the predator is just as much a part of the world as the prey. Masters of the Old Lore constantly strive to maintain the Balance of nature through their actions and in their thoughts.
• Symbolism through Nature: The Masters of the Old Lore hold great store in symbolism and respect oracles, auguries, and omens. Animals and plants both represent philosophical truths, and druidic auguries are centered on observing natural phenomena – such as what kind of birds fly overhead or the pattern formed by dropping a stone into a still pond – and interpreting the meaning rather than asking a god’s servants directly. Masters often keep oracular animals to assist with the divinations. The elemental weirds (described below) are greatly revered, and many Masters seek their advice.
• The Power of Four: The number four has powerful significance in the Old Lore traditions. There are four seasons in the year. The family has four roles – mother, father, daughter, and son. The four elements – fire, water, earth, and air – are the foundation of nature.
Friends of the Old Lore
The Old Lore does not exist in isolation. As an ancient religion, the Old Lore has made numerous allies over the centuries. The tenet of All Things in Balance allows the Masters to accept the widely varying customs and faiths of people across the Realms. However, a few friends bear special mentioning.
• Elves: The cordial relations between the elves and the Old Lore stretch over millennia. When the elves first encountered humans, they interacted with the men who were devout followers of the Old Lore. The elves were impressed by the level of understanding and reverence of nature possessed by the Masters and that friendship continues to this day.
• Fey: The Masters of the Old Lore have long had relations with the fey. Because of the Masters’ strong connection to the land and nature, they seemingly understand the capricious fey and can treat with them without dire peril. The fey, in turn, respect the Masters and deal with them in preference to other mortals. However, a faerie’s definition of respect and dire peril are often far different from a mortal’s.
• Rangers of the Mists: Numbering roughly 200, the Rangers of the Mists are quasi-immortal beings that exist solely in the confines of the Veil. They are the souls and essences of warriors and soldiers who have died in the service of the Old Lore and have been granted this sacred task by the Realm Lords. The Masters rely on the Rangers to eliminate threats to the Balance. Foes of the Old Lore
The Masters of the Old Lore have gained their fair share of enemies as well as allies over the years.
The Shadowfell: Beyond the fabric of reality lies the Shadowfell. This horrific place is the home of aberrations that are not part of the natural order of The Realms. Normally, the Old Lore would not concern itself with the matters of another plane, but sometimes the barriers between planes wear thin and things seep across the boundaries. The gruesome might of the incomprehensible beings from the Shadowfell warp nature in disturbing and impossible ways by their very presence. This perversion to nature is anathema to the Masters of the Old Lore, who constantly attempt to destroy the intruders and seal the breaches between the worlds.
Places of Power
Worship of the Old Lore always takes place outdoors. Instead of temples, the Masters and their followers gather at places of natural significance. The Masters often accentuate the power of these sites through additions of stones or carefully chosen trees.
• Elemental Weirds: The Masters believe that elemental weirds are either manifestations of Nature’s will in The Realms or reflections of its consciousness. Either way, these cryptic beings are powerful diviners that dwell in remote and hidden locations. The air weirds specialize in exploration and can be found on windy plains or mountaintops. The earth weirds speak of death and fate and live in soft earthen pools of mud or clay. The fire weirds keep ancient lore and give guidance to the suffering and ignorant, and their essences are bound to pools of fire or lava. The water weirds speak words of healing and hope and dwell only in the clearest springs.
• Megalithic Circles: The great megalithic circles are the heart of the Old Lore. The Masters erect standing stones on prominent hilltops or other places of natural power. The massive stones are either solitary (a menhir), arranged to form a doorway (a trilithon), or a covered room (a dolmen). The stones commonly are arranged in circles, but the exact arrangement varies widely.
• Sacred Groves: The sacred groves act as centers of worship for the Old Lore. They are the lesser of the two worship sites and are much more common than megalithic circles. Oak groves are the most prevalent, but other trees are used as well, such as Birch or Pine. The choice of trees in a grove is crucial as every tree has symbolism to the Old Lore.
• Ways of the World: The Ways of the World are a secret means of travel for the Masters of the Old Lore. They access a portion of the Ethereal Plane, which allows the Masters to cover long distances on The Realms by walking a short distance in the Ethereal. The Ways open to The Realms between the stones of a trilithon at a megalithic circle and are guarded by a fey spirit bound to that gateway. Every gateway has a different guardian with a different personality, and the Masters must bargain with the fey for passage into the Ways. Common prices are a bit of gossip, a song, or a flower, but sometimes the fey demands a difficult or valuable gift for passage. The appearance of the Ways changes drastically depending on the season and the whim of the natural world. Sometimes it resembles islands of stone in a thick sea of mist connected by narrow stone bridges. Other times, it is twisting network of caverns or raised causeways through endless mire. The one constant are the menhirs located at any crossroads in the Ways. Markings written in the Ancient language of the Old Lore cover these stones to guide the Masters through the Ways.