For the first time in as long as I can remember, there is a calmness to life; there are no rampaging monsters to slay, no mercenary armies bearing down on us, no extra-dimensional enemies interfering with our lives. Just the tasks of the day to day, smithing, training our troops, managing the slow rebirth of Luxor . . . despite the challenges, it’s comforting, bringing back memories of my father and mother managing our family’s small barony. Perhaps it’s that familiarity, that nostalgia, that has been disturbing my dreams with memories of the past, bringing up the pain of the emptiness inside me that used to be filled by my family . . .
Being with my family, living in Firenze, it feels like a lifetime ago . . . in many ways it was. Sometimes it doesn’t just feel like another life, but another person entirely. What would the boy I was think of me now? A mercenary who kills for money, my hands stained with the blood of so many men and beasts it seems like it’ll never wash off? I’ve been covered in the gore and ichor of my foes so much I know them by the smell and taste of their blood, and more have fallen by my blade than I can count; am I a monster? No matter the cause, can anything justify so much bloodshed, so much killing? Only the gods may know the answer to that, for when I think of it I can find none, only emptiness, void . . . and it terrifies me, that nothingness I find within myself.
Funny, how that reminds me of my family’s history, our origin if you will. You see, it all has to do with Nothing, or more appropriately the Vo-Pah-Los. Every Firenzian child learns the story of Siegfried, Firenze’s first Hero-King, and the Vo-Pah-Los. The Vo-Pah-Los was nothingness made manifest, literally the word for “nothing” in the language of creation. It was a living word, destroying everything it came in contact with, unraveling and destroying the song of creation bit by bit and erasing people, places and things from existence as it did so. No weapon could touch it, becoming undone before they could strike it; no magics could effect it, the words that empower each spell being erased before the eldritch energies could affect the Vo-Pah-Los. Siegfried and his companions were already heroes of the land, having driven back the hordes of the orc warlord Belkzen and slain the great red wyrm Cyranidax that had for so long terrorized and ruled over eastern Firenze, but this was challenge that seemed beyond even them; Johanna the fallen Valkyrie, Baradlandolar the king of the elven nomad tribes, Filcher the Halfling slave turned thief of legend, and Siegfried Drachentöter, none of them could discover a way to stop the Vo-Pah-Los.
It was artisan known only as Kunsthandwerker, who had crafted the hide of Cyranidax into a suit of armor for Siegfried, who found a way. He brought the Heart of the Mountain that they had found in the Great Red Wyrm’s hoard to the dwarven fortress-city of Dun-Torag, said to be the first dwarven city, and entreated the dwarves to teach him the ancient secrets of their wordsmithing. Recognizing his unparalleled skill and the danger facing all existence, they took him in and for the first time taught an outsider their ways. For thirteen days and thirteen nights straight Kunsthandwerker slaved over the forges more ancient than civilization with no sleep or food, chanting in a tongue older than creation, shaping and forging the Heart of the Mountain into the very essence, the word, “sword”. Haggard and drained, he emerged from Dun-Torag to give the blade to Siegfried.
Wielding the true-name for sword, Siegfried faced the Vo-Pah-Los. The battle was fierce, and the toll heavy, with two of Siegfried’s closest companions being unwritten from creation so that the only thing left of them was their absence as their names and the memory of their lives were erased from existence. Filcher supposedly fell to the Vo-Pah-Los as well, though it’s said that the mater thief stole his life from death itself, and that is why we still remember his name and deeds. Baradlandolar invoked ancient blood magics and sacrificed his right eye as tribute to cast a protective spell on Siegfried so he could approach and battle the Vo-Pah-Los. Riding Johanna’s flying steed, Siegfried charged the Nothing and swung his true-name blade at it even as it was stripping away the magic protecting him. For the first and only time, the Vo-Pah-Los was struck, and its truename was shattered, undoing and unwriting it from the song of creation. In the process, the true-name for sword was garbled, warping and distorting it into a useless hunk of ore. Despite rumors that the Vo-Pah-Los had hidden part of its true-name, the threat to all that is and will be was ended. Thus Siegfried became the first hero-king of Firenze.
As reward for his service and bravery, Siegfried bestowed on Kunsthandwerker the title of Baron and the family name Dietrichstahl, giving him a small barony in the southwest of Firenze where Dun-Torag was located, and the remains of Siegfried’s blade as a mark of his families status. How long ago this was is lost to the ages, but in the centuries that followed the barony of Dietrichstahl became a haven for artisans and craftsmen from all parts of the globe. The Dietrichstahl family passed down the passion and secrets of smithing from one generation to the next, and as the area became more and more renowned as the home for the best artists and artisans in the land, combined with the presence of Dun-Torag and forests that were home to many of the nomadic wood elf tribes, the barony of Dietrichstahl grew into a rich and diverse community for demi-humans of all kinds. This tradition would continue for ages, all the way until the rule of my father, Baron Leto von Dietrichstahl; and it would have continued long afterwards, if it weren’t for the rise Jurgen Ironfist whose hate and maleficence tore apart the kingdom, the Dietrichstahl community, my family, and my life in ways far worse than the even Vo-Pah-Los could have . . .