The Grey Wanderers
Preserve what can be preserved
Redeem what can be redeemed
Part with what must be lost
— Penitent Creed
Over the last few months, sightings of the Grey Wanderers have increased. Men and women clad in coarse gray robes, they travel from town to town, departing as swiftly as they came. Rumors disagree on their mission. Some say they bewitch children and steal their souls, others identify them as healers and miracle workers. The Church of Our Triumphant Family remains uncertain about their presence, neither condemning nor condoning the Grey Wanderers. After all, nobody really knows what they believe, what they do, or why.
Except, perhaps, our heroes.
What We Know
- The Wanderers call themselves the Penitents. They are all outlaws, murderers, drunkards, criminals, traitors and sinners who spend their remaining days atoning for their past lives.
- Each Penitent recounts their story: engulfed by grief and regret for the harm they’ve wrought, they have dreams of a figure made of ash, crumbling in the wind, who reaches out. If they accept its grasp, it burns their right palm with a brand. When they awake, there is no sign of any such brand, but other Penitents swiftly find them and bring them away from civilization.
- Penitents keep nothing they cannot carry, usually restricted to their signature grey robes, walking sticks, basic supplies, shoes, and medicine. The remainder of their belongings they either give away or simply leave behind.
- Once among the Penitents, new recruits are instructed in healing, wood lore, herbalism and so forth. The longer they stay with their group, the more they learn.
- Penitents never stay in one place long. They arrive in a settlement and administer medicine and healing as needed, then go when the need has passed.
- Occasionally an entire group of Penitents will have the same dream. Usually this is a sign that it’s time to move on, hopefully with guidance from details of the dream.
- Eventually Penitents learn that in addition to tending to the bodies of the wounded, their calling is to guard against supernatural nightmares. They “Stand watch on the Walls of Waking.” There may be a second half to this oath.
- Senior Penitents know rites and ceremonies that can drive out creatures that hunt mortal minds in the Fifth Kingdom. They never truly understand how these rituals work, but they believe with the right words, actions and items, they can draw the attention of powerful predators that hunt the unnatural forces that haunt Dream.
- It is believed that these rites involve ash and amethyst—ash holds special ceremonial importance for the Penitents, and Amethyst is associated with protection from drunkenness and nightmares.
- There is no formal organization that binds them. Each group of Penitents acts independently. Within each group there is no hierarchy, but new members typically heed the advice of older members.
- Among each other, the penitents share a blessing:
Peace be with you, pest rest upon you
Peace dwell within you and peace flow from you
Let pain, and fear, and dark dreams cease
Let go, and dream of peace
- Though they know little else, even junior members of the Penitents know about the Root of Sorrow. They speak of it in grim, hushed tones, and call it “The Enemy.”
- The Gray Wanders came to Fiebras the Miller during the time of the Mists of Arkaley. When Fiebras’ twins were wracked with a feverish sleep, the Gray Wanderers released them and the twins recovered.
- They left behind an Amethyst Goblet slightly soiled by ashes. They seem to be affiliated with ashes in general, as referred by Nuinn and Arram the Old Beggar.
- King Raalzemon has banned the Gray Wanderers from Borgondhi on the grounds of Heresy.
- Sir Eklos met some of them along the road. They were quiet but friendly and shared a meal.
- The Wind Dwarves call them Ibrukzuden, Ash-Keepers, and consider them lucky. They share food whenever they meet.
- The Gealacha, Wild Hunt of Cloigeann, is mercilessly running them down every full moon throughout Marchen.
- An unknown voice in Winesong told Tyrandriel that if he does not borrow their grey robes for a time, a disaster will spread across the land that will be the exact opposite of wine, women and song.
- The Penitents do not know who is hunting them, but they have seen the power of the Root of Sorrow spreading across the land, and know it’s not a coincidence.