The Veil-Watcher

Na’ra is a seasoned pride chief, a Mau-kind chimera, and a powerful Veil Watcher from the Oasis. Her mastery over the spirit realm, resulting from witnessing the horrors of war, grants her unique abilities to see and command the ethereal entities beyond the Veil. Despite being in her sixties, she is still in the prime of her life, a testament to the longevity of her chimera kind.

Nestled in the far north of the Sand Kingdoms and neighboring the Empire of Soga, lies the Oasis – an amalgamation of autonomous tribes. A vast majority of these tribes and their lands are situated along the northern expanse of the desert, tracing the path of the mighty river Asha, the region’s lifeblood. One can find a plethora of chimeric and rin-like tribes scattered throughout the landscape, each about a day’s journey apart. These tribes have embraced a more organic way of life, attuned to the natural rhythms of their surroundings and infused with primal magic. Among the many tribes are Na’ra’s kin, the Mau – a shapeshifting species endowed with remarkable abilities. The Mau possesses the uncanny ability to alter their physical form at will, adapting their body and fur coverage to suit their needs. They can morph their paws into human-like hands or feet and extend their talons or fur as required. Their senses are equally impressive, boasting exceptional eyesight capable of piercing through darkness and acute hearing, able to detect sounds beyond the reach of most other creatures. Na’ra’s tribe made their home in the southmost part of the Valley, residing on the outer rim of a verdant tropical habitat. Their dwellings were intricately woven into the canopies of the trees, where they lived in concord with nature, relying solely on themselves and their surroundings for sustenance.

Na’ra was coddled and nurtured in the bosom of her village. She was an orphan and thus became the tribe’s child, reared by the entire community. She did not develop any particular gift for magic and instead learned how to hunt well and fight proudly. Her talent for combat was apparent, as she flourished in competitive bouts and easily wielded her shapeshifting abilities.

However, the onset of the War of River Asha plunged her community, perched precariously on the edge of the Valley, into the throes of conflict.

One day, the Ashan Nomes, hailing from the Eastern Dunes of the Sand Kingdoms, proclaimed open war against the Oasis tribes over the prized possession of the river Asha’s spring. The hostile forces swept across the desert and the lush lands along the river, the unpredictable warfare inching towards the Valley’s outer edges. Her tribe and a few dozen others valiantly battled to protect their territory amidst the skirmish engagements and guerrilla warfare.

Na’ra remained largely oblivious to the world beyond the Valley for the first six years of the war. It wasn’t until the seventh year that the full extent of the conflict was revealed to her. She was on the cusp of her coming-of-age trial to earn the fighter title of a Warclaw that would render her a protector and warrior of the tribe. The trial demanded her to reach the highest peak of the Valley, a two-day hike away from her tribe, and bring back her first kill – a dreadwing wyvern, a fierce and savage predator that preys on the offspring of the tribes.

Undeterred by the perilous journey, Na’ra emerged triumphant, returning to her community with the slain beast in tow.

Returning to her village, there was no joyous reception to greet her, just a few younglings and peers in warpaint preparing to depart. No adults or fighters were left, and Na’ra felt an eerie sense of what this meant. Inquiring about the commotion, she was led to the edge of her tribe’s territory. She stood atop an elevated cliff overlooking a once-lush gulley split into two by the mighty river. It was now ablaze with the horrors of war. The battle had reached the doorstep of their Valley, with hundreds of her people fighting against the mages and summons of the Kingdoms. There were dozens of their monstrosities, unnatural and bereft of soul. Some were made of stone and crystal, but most were made from pure mana; they were djinn, creatures of the Void. Their blazing shapes and magic tore through the flesh of her people with no effort. The mages commanded these monstrosities with bindings and chains, calling upon other realms to summon demons into being. In what seemed like moments to her, the monsters dominated the center with their enormous forms, snuffing out life like extinguishing candles. The once-thriving valley was now scorched and torn, with small ruptures in mana littering the land. Death and destruction were so pervasive that they twisted her features and caused something deep within her to break.

Suddenly, she saw thousands of small, intangible shapes filling the sky and battlefield. These were the spirits of the fallen, born of their sorrow and terror in their last moments of existence.

Her heart pulled her toward the battlefield, pleading to join her brothers and sisters in the fight below. As she was considering her options, a spirit approached her. It was one of her elders, the one who taught her how to fight as a youngling. Tears filled her eyes as the spirit tried to hold her hand, its incorporeal fingers falling through. It looked at her, and she heard its thoughts. Leave this place, and take the cubs.

She realized she might be the sole Warclaw left to lead the younglings to safety before the battlefield overtook their settlement. Consumed with thoughts of the safety of the younglings, she fled with the desperation of one who knew her village was indeed lost.
She led her remaining tribe along the river Asha towards the Valley of Life, the central and largest region of Oasis, enshrouded by impenetrable mountains.

As they progressed, she warned every settlement they encountered about the approaching enemy, pleading with them to relinquish their homes and seek sanctuary within the Valley. She told them to light the bonfires. Soon, fires were kindled along the river Asha, lighting the way towards the Sacred Cradle, the hallowed settlement that rose above the canopy and the preeminent sacred lake at the core of the ancient tropical woodland.

The war raged for the next eight years, and Na’ra fought for the Valley to remain free of control. Na’ra was chosen as the chieftain of her tribe and a warrior who fought relentlessly to preserve the Valley’s independence.

During the war, no tribe was left outside the Valley. The resistance of the tribes staved off the Sand Kingdom forces’ advance, and the frontline stagnated at the narrow chokepoint south of the Valley’s mouth.

In the fifteenth year of the prolonged conflict, the Adventurer’s Guild stepped forward to mediate between the warring factions. During negotiations, the Guild wanted to explore the settlements and ancient ruins concealed in the Valley.

They soon discovered the unique and powerful abilities of the chimeric tribes, their deep connection to magic and nature, but most of all, they coveted the veil-watchers. These individuals had witnessed the horrors of the war and possessed the rare talent to perceive and navigate the realm of the dead that lay beyond the Veil. Na’ra was in high demand as one of the most powerful and experienced veil-watchers with necromantic powers. The Guild sought to leverage her abilities to repel otherworldly threats and investigate the mysterious mana ruptures and portals connected to the veil.

The Guild offered Na’ra and other tribes their assistance in reclaiming and protecting their ancestral lands and granting them autonomy. In exchange, Na’ra and many other tribes pledged allegiance to the Guild.

Several decades later, Na’ra was dispatched to the far-flung war camps of the Empire as one of the Guild’s most skilled specialists.

Other Articles

Sign up for the Newsletter!