The Sorrow War
On Sorrow Weaving
Did it ever occur to any of us Paladins, or me specifically, that we would Fall to the Shadow? In the whole history of the War Times, no Paladin has ever, to our knowledge, renounced his or her Oath or Service to the Holy Light.
I remember the person asking me this, during one of the many functions it was my role to attend as Marshal of the Armies of the Second Alliance, being berated by her fellows. What kind of a question was that, they rebuked her. How could anyone even imply that the Champions of the Light could so easily Fall?
I merely smiled and pitied the poor lady as her peers teased her. For long ages, the evil was out there, as exemplified by the Shadow King and his minions. Evil we can hit with our weapons, Shadows we can banish with our Light, Demons we can exorcise with our faith. We have long been used to externalizing the things we are afraid of because for so long we could see them, hear them, feel them. Even with the horrors of the Reclamation Conflict and the Intolerance Wars, horrors caused by our squabbling over glowing rocks and unbridled pride and hubris, we remained defining evil and all that we should be afraid of as nowhere near the core of our beings. Always out there. Always someplace else other than inside us.
How easily they forget that there are other things to fear, greater than even the Shadow itself, within the hearts and souls of the Children of the Light.
— From the journals of (the second) Rion Alexander Raios, Grand Duke of Ayrion, two years before the Great Crusade.
Crystal Weaving. The wondrous act of realizing your thoughts, what we know of as Patterns and Effects, the one being the repertoire of established, common Weaves while the other refers to the generalized creations of a Weaver, through the use of Vibranite, the Holy Crystal that is the manifestation of the Soul of the planet.
Regardless of what kind of Weaver it is, or whether he or she Weaves something from the library of established Patterns or from sheer creativity, all requires the use of the Holy Crystal, Vibranite, and, unless one were Gifted, long years of training and mental conditioning. Any person can pick up pure Vibranite and do something with it, but it will be crude and simple, and if the one doing so were of insufficient mental might he or she will end up drained from the effort. It takes a trained Weaver, Gifted or no, to bring to life the Patterns and Effects the public and legends speak about.
The first thing an apprentice Weaver will learn is that central to Weaving is the mind, or rather the mental state of the prospective Weaver. Although Vibranite readily responds to thoughts, like any conductive material it will have resistance. Weavers, especially the strongest and most talented, might seem like they create Effects and Patterns effortlessly, but this is only due to long years of training, practice and mental conditioning, the last considered by all as perhaps the most important aspect of Weaving. After all, a Weaver is only as good as how he or she thinks he or she is. Sap a Weaver’s will, and they cannot even make the simplest of Patterns. Send their minds into confusion, and the Holy Crystal will not understand what it is the Weaver wishes and can simply disregard the Weaving, at best, or bring about horrific Effects at worst.
Paladins are perhaps the best example of how mentality affects Weaving. Ever since the Alari trained the first Human psions in the early centuries of the War Times, the Light Elves have sought a way to harness the martial abilities of Human psions while keeping their powers in check. The Alari were so confident of their connection with the Light, as amplified through their Communion with the Elvenstone, that they could Weave Holy with one hand and cause destruction with the other, and find no contradiction in it. Humans, as the Light Elves viewed their “younger siblings,” could not be given the same amount of trust.
Battlers are Weavers who have trained extensively in the Weaving of Effects and Patterns for combat and warfare. They can send a bolt of Arcane energy to smite their opponent in a duel, or rain down fire from the skies on armies. Some Battlers, especially the pioneers of Crystal Weaving Combat that are the Tikbalang, can engage in melee combat using special Weaves as much as they would strike at foes from a distance. Knights, on the other hand, are melee combatants who use Weaving to negate the significant advantages guns of all types have since their introduction by the Dwarves in the early Steam Age. Knights are Battlers who are proficient in the combining of melee combat using a SoulBlade and Weaving, and train to Ride WarHorses. Blademasters are, at their core, specialized melee combatant Weavers without WarHorses or even battlearmor, relying on their mastery of both combat Weaving and their chosen weapon to defeat even opponents who can strike from a distance.
Paladins, in this context, are a conundrum that defied all logic, mostly because they were able to Weave Holy Patterns and Effects while engaging in combat on the level of Knights. The crudest description ever given of them was they were the Light’s foremost killers, a statement that in itself is a contradiction, but a truth, nonetheless.
The Light, of course, in its long struggle with the Shadow, understands the need for violence. Even Priests of the Church of the Light have Holy Weaves that can harm, smiting their targets with the wrath of the Light. But this repertoire of combat-oriented Holy Weaves is extremely limited, unless the Priest were battling a creature of Shadow, a spirit, or even a demon.
Paladins can do most of what a Priest does, but all in support of their mandate as Knights of the Holy Light. The doctrine, even at the Crystal Age, is that their being psionic allows them to bypass the mental restrictions that come with Priest training, allowing a warrior of such martial ability as a Knight to call upon the powers of the Holy Light.
But (the second) Rion, foremost among Paladins of the Crystal Age, realized that what really defined Paladins of Luminaria was their conditioning: they could Weave the powerful life-giving, abilities-enhancing Patterns of Holy because part of their training kept them from using these same powers for something other than what they were designed to be used for.
Rion pointed out in his memoirs (a copy of which he sent, including updates, to his brother Rigel up to his Fall) that the only time Holy’s power was seen in a context outside of the “regular operational limits” of the Paladin was when a Priest would grant the Blessing of the Crusader. This special Blessing turns the Paladin into the Holy version of a Nomadic berserker, an extremely dangerous foe for anything and anyone since Holy fuels the rage of the Crusading Paladin.
This made Rion theorize that perhaps every Paladin had a form of mental limiter somehow implanted in them during their long training. And because nearly all Paladins – psionic Humans – come from the ranks of the Nobari, their upbringing added to this conditioning. Every scion of a Nobari family, be they noble or commoner, is brought up with a reverence for the precepts of the Holy Light, so nine out of ten chances a Nobari psion would seek out their Parish Priest and declare their intent to become a Paladin. It was only after the defeat of Garaghan by the First Rion that Nobari psions explored… other options (and there were the Demonhunters, but that is a discussion for another time).
Rion also remembers that his namesake forebear was able to wield the might of the combined Seven Swords, and act as Glimmer’s Knight (therefore channeling the powers of both the Sword of Light, and the Elvenstone through Glimmer) while essentially in a state of rage. Even before he acted as Glimmer’s Knight and wielded the Sword of Light, the First Rion managed to stagger the Great Shadow itself through sheer fury, after the Paladin had seen his beloved, House Ozamiyas Crown Princess Aina, and his Lord, High King Larion, die in combat with Garaghan.
The Second Rion himself felt the “stirrings” of this form of Weaving during his battle with Gladiator Prime Isidore Coranes before the Burning of the Plains Union. Unable to defeat Isidore during their celebrated (and some say, fated) duel using his regular Paladin abilities and his psi (since Isidore’s “Awakened Potential” as a First Generation Gladiator was Nobari-level psionics), Rion channeled all his grief, frustration and anger over the yearlong war with the Plains Union into a force that not even Coranes could resist.
In a sense, this is what “Sorrow” Weaving is: the removal of the mental limiters to the powers of a Weaver or Gifted.
The Principles of Weaving that were codified by the Alari at the height of the Mythical Age and became the basis for Crystal Weaving in Luminaria emphasizes control and the precision that comes from this. The Alari, except for a few (like the Brightsuns), are so in control of their emotions that the Great Shadow and its agents found it nigh-impossible to turn them against their fellows, much less the Light. In psychological terms, the Superego of the Alari was extremely developed, their Ids thoroughly suppressed under a lifetime regimen of training and study, a culture that emphasized this control, and the stability of the soul provided by their Communion with the Elvenstone. Because the Nobari learned Weaving from the Alari, it was natural that Humanity would follow what they were taught.
Sorrow Weaving taps into the emotions the Weaver is feeling and uses these to amplify the Patterns and Effects being Woven to great degrees. To a Weaver in a state of Sorrow, the restrictions psychological and spiritually imposed by the Precepts as handed down by the Alari are negated totally. As Isidore Coranes would describe it later on, it was like suddenly removing all the control rods in a nuclear fission reactor.
The best example of a Sorrow-fueled Weave is the Pattern used by the Sorrow King himself to obliterate the core of Manidria. In one single Weave, the Sorrow King destroyed an area the size of London. To replicate such an effect, a Master-level Weaver needs to do a controlled overload of the “powercrystal” that acts as the engine of a prime-grade WeaverHorse and “stoke the fire,” as it were, steadily increasing the Pattern into what is essentially the equivalent of a multi-megaton nuclear explosion. That, or a DragonKnight would do a Kamikaze maneuver with his Dragon – which is, essentially, a Dragon sending his Vibranite heart into “meltdown” – which is what the Order of the Blades of the Dragons, the ancient organization of the DragonKnights, did to deny Anarcaine access to their cities, fortresses and storehouses at the end of the Mythical Age and the beginning of the War Times.
Such a spectacular display is not necessary to understand the power in this new form of Weaving. Those Knights who survived the Razing of Manidria, particularly LanceKnight Ardain Sherezad, Knight Marshal Valedor Augustine, and Order of the Star Grand Knight Warren Andunias described their duels against the “Shadow Knights” in perfect detail.
The first thing anyone will notice, especially if they’re psionic, is the palpable Battle Aura of these “Shadow Knights.” Even Norms could feel the oppressive pressure of the power of a Sorrow Knight / Justicar unsheathed. To the Sight of a Gifted, or a Weaver trained to See, the aura of a Sorrow Knight is thick with power barely controlled. A psionic Sorrow Knight has spiritual and physical manifestations of this power depending on their Totem: lightning crackles around Thunderbirds; flames and intense heat move around Phoenixes; a swirling maelstrom of wind accompanies Griffins.
Then, there is the unleashing of this power. Few records are available of non-combat Weaves by Sorrow Knights, so no one as of yet knows how Sorrow Weaving happens outside of a battle. But what the Realms know of what happens when the “limiters” go off with Battle Weavers is accurately recorded in the after-action reports of those who survived the Razing of Manidria.
Ardain, Valedor and Warren all describe fighting a Sorrow Knight as akin to being in the middle of a hurricane or tornado of psychic might. Each contact of their SoulBlades creates shockwaves that can topple or fling away objects and people not secured or strong enough to resist the force emanating from the two combatants. Valedor, who fought the Grand Knight of Sorrow on the stone steps of the Grand Cathedral of Manidria, remembers craters forming underneath him with each meeting of their blades. Every blast and every psychokinetic push felt like a warhammer weighing tonnes slammed onto you or whatever unfortunate structure was standing behind or beneath you as you dodged. Even Warren Andunias, the greatest Paladin of the High Kingdoms, commander of the elite Knights of the Order of the Star, complained of pain in his arms and chest weeks after dueling the Grand Knight of Sorrow. Warren admitted to his liege lord, Valerion High King Leonar, and Grand Marshal Leothran, that if he had not asked a Priest of Lark’s Heralds to give him the Blessing of the Crusader before their desperate rescue of Valedor, he might have died then and there given the sheer fury of the assault the Grand Knight of Sorrow backed his every Weave with.
This, in a sense, explains the overwhelming power that managed to all but destroy the Republic of Philodos in just over two years. Armies and regiments were crushed under their bootheels. The Skyfleets of the Republic fell in flaming wrecks. And not even the strategic brilliance of Madeleine Albrecht could hold back the tide of Sorrow sweeping their world away.
This is also, some people say, what keeps the High King from sending his Guardians, Knights, Weavers, Paladins and Skyships to the defeat of the Sorrow Fleet. The Elenghearts, like their symbolic animal that is the Lion, are not given to charging into a battle unprepared, and the Sorrow King and his forces are foes that have not only defeated a major Realm of Heptos and contains the industrial might of the Confederacy of Forges, but has also claimed the lives of many of his Knights and Guardians, including (he believes) some of his greatest, like Rion and Order of the Star Swordmaster Arkan.
Until now, at the dawn of the War’s third year, he refuses to directly confront the Sorrow Fleet and its deadly Knights, depending instead on the Buffer Zones to contain this invasion while the High Kingdoms rebuild the strength and confidence they lost in the Great Crusade. The massive losses the Ozamiyas took in their ill-advised Summer Offensive during the second year of the War has further reinforced his belief in a defensive policy for now.
The Lion will move, and the other High Kingdoms will follow. But only after he has taken the true measure of the what they face.