Sisters of Ain Ghazal (book)

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The Sisters of Ain Ghazal

-* Author's Preface *-

After hearing a bit of confusion about the role of the Sisterhood of the Rose in the world and the questions about the women themselves, I decided to undertake the writing of this book to dispel some of the rumors. The truth about the order is much more interesting! Much of the information has been relayed to me directly from the handful of Rose Sisters generous enough to extend their friendship towards a fledgling diplomat. I encourage everyone to make the trip to Ain Ghazal to explore the Chateau individually; the view and hospitality are unrivaled.

Sendithu Shima'ionare
Ilithic Ambassador to Zoluren, 397 A.V.

-* The Unveiling *-

The island of Ain Ghazal lay quietly in the center of the Segoltha River for centuries on end. In the year 384 A.V., accompanied by the Dwarves and Gor'Togs of Forfedhdar, they revealed themselves to the world by opening their borders to the adventuring population. With the assistance of some hardworking citizens of the neighboring cities, the docks were expanded to accommodate larger vessels, and the Chateau opened its doors to all visitors for the first time.

-* The History *-

The Sisterhood's roots are buried deep in the mountains of Forfedhdar. The group once called themselves Knarn Stok, or Rose Clan, and any truth to the story of their origins may never be known. The legend tells of a group of Kwarlogian Dwarves chancing upon the body of a perfectly preserved maiden, a pristine white stone rose clasped to her breast, deep within tunnels which can no longer be accessed. Nothing of the tale can be authenticated, of course, and whether the Dwarves who found the inexplicable maiden truly received visions of her afterward remains a mystery as well. However, it is known that Cordhvirae Stonesekker and the three maidens who followed her embraced the legend and set into motion what stands today as a bastion of light and wisdom: a collective of chaste women committed to the ideals of universal service which the Dwarven visionary began centuries ago.

-* The Present *-

Today's Rose Sisters are similar in many respects to the Dwarven maidens who founded the clan. Admission to the group is restricted to women, and while men are permitted to visit the island and tour the Chateau, they are not allowed to remain for extended periods of time. The Sisterhood is open to women of any race. Chastity is still one of the primary tenets. The Sisters dress modestly as well, eschewing glittering jewels and extravagant clothing in favor of simple white robes and one carefully chosen piece of jewelry adorned with a rose emblem. This style sets them well apart from other courtly women of the world.

-* The Journey *-

While any female is welcome to apply, the Sisterhood is by necessity a very selective group. Young girls who aspire to join the order are occasionally discovered by the Sisters in their travels and brought back to Ain Ghazal to be initiated. More often, hope- ful parents will present their daughters to the Chateau at a young age for the Sisters to evaluate their potential for success. If a girl is accepted into the fold, she will undergo years of careful preparation and training. In addition to more traditional studies of history and lore, she will learn to focus herself using intense, powerful meditation techniques in an attempt to achieve perfect mastery of body and mind.

-* The Philosophy *-

The Chateau maintains a delicate balance among the powers of the world, developed over centuries, and the members are required to be exceptionally disciplined and strong both mentally and physically. As a community, the Sisters maintain a philosophical balance between two perspectives. First, an appreciation for the beauty of craftsmanship and material items -- which they see as a physical manifestation of what can be achieved with a disciplined mind and focus of intent. Second, the reality that material items are of a transitory nature, and therefore one is ill-advised to cling to them too tightly. This sense of the impermanence of all things in the physical world is what they use to justify their extravagant, lavish surroundings.

-* The Duty *-

Rose Sisters can be found in every province serving as emissaries, mediators and trusted counselors to the noble hands guiding the various kingdoms. The Chateau frequently welcomes dignitaries to Ain Ghazal for aid in resolving disputes or comfort in times of trouble. In 385, for example, Rose Sister Satarra lived in Ulf'Hara Keep as the guest of the late Prince Vorclaf Lasa'Sorvendig. She worked to strengthen bonds between the island and Zoluren as well as offered instruction in the specialized meditation techniques to any interested citizens and court members. In Ilithi, Rose Sister Vethine visited the Great Tower in Shard, offering communication and teaching to the folks in the south in addition to providing political advice to Ferdahl Aemmin.

-* The Leadership *-

The Lyba Khalo, or "Spiritual Leader," is the foremost authority for the Sisterhood. Once she has been chosen by her peers, the Lyba Khalo forsakes her given name and answers only to the title of her new station. She serves for life unless she chooses to step down, and once she has retired, the Lyba Khalo is free to fade from public view or remain at the Chateau at her discretion. As of this writing, a Dwarven Lyba Khalo has ruled for around a century, but as evidenced by the busts in the Chateau's main foyer, a woman need not be a Dwarf to rise to the role. Even though the founders were Dwarves, women of any race who adhere to the order's strict guidelines have a chance to ascend to the top leadership position. The choosing of the Lyba Khalo is always done with a great deal of meditation and care.

-* The Hospitality *-

Though the Sisters dress in a humble style, the Chateau itself is anything but. From the massive glaes doors in the main hall to the carefully maintained grounds, the priceless antiques in the music conservatory to the carillon in the bell tower with a view of all of Forfedhdar, the home of the Sisterhood of the Rose is a masterpiece of style and comfort. Visitors are attended to by the Hentaian Dellat Iko, who makes sure their every wish and desire are met during their stay. All of the priceless treasures contained within are amassed and cared for by the skilled hands of the chateau's Curator, an Elven lady whose wisdom is only surpassed by her grace. A guided tour through the site at the Curator's side is a once in a lifetime opportunity that, if offered, should never be missed. One might wonder about a certain irony between the public and private lives of these women, but as they march through the centuries, always striving towards the ideal of universal service, the leaders of the world shower them with gifts of appreciation for their tireless work. The elegant tranquility of the house high atop the rock is a testament to the esteem in which the Sisters have been held for generation after generation. Their main source of support, however, is their vineyards, particularly the fine grapes used for Ain Ghazal's signature wine and the plums that produce their world famous brandy.

-* The Justice *-

While the Sisters are pillars of the community in every sense of the word, occasionally a foolish traveler will commit some transgression or another. It should be noted that while Ain Ghazal itself is just one small island, the Sisterhood employs its own distinct version of justice for criminals -- that of a painful and unforgettable sort. Thankfully, misbehavior rarely transpires and crime is nearly nonexistent, leaving the Sisters of the Rose free to wander the world, serving every nation and guiding by their intellectual example.

-* Parting Thoughts *-

Mediation, education, commitment: these are the legacies of the Sisterhood of the Rose. The steel of their disciplined core is belied somewhat by the Sisters' silken exterior, but their determination to help maintain order in this often chaotic world should not be underestimated. In these dark days of Necromancy and interprovincial strife, the pristine light of the Rose serves as a beacon to all the goodly folk of the realms. May that light never diminish!