Britannia Lost: Dark Ages
Bridei, Vigiles Aestas; the Lion of Maiden Hill; the Empty Handed King
Somewhat of a short fellow, Bridei generally stands at eye level to most wizened, though that is where the similarities end; Bridei is far from unimpressive. In fact it is hard to ignore the white-haired pict when he makes himself known (though good fortune to those who look for him when he _doesn’t _want to be found). At first glance it is hard to discern the Vigiles’ seeming; he shows far less of his connection to the land than other elementals, though the signs are there. Bridei’s transformation was far more of an internal one: thick, amber blood flows through his veins like sap, and wherever a wound heals to scar the tissue is almost indistinguishable from a living tree. By far the most telling sign of his seeming is one few have seen; the gaping hole in the center of his chest where, in lieu of a heart, sits a large gnarled acorn, its roots extending out of sight into his body.
Bridei is rarely seen not wearing some form of armour, though the particular suit changes frequently. From a set of Roman Segmentata (a gift from the Queen of Spring) to an enchanted set of ebony lamellar, few armours seem to be able to cope with the sheer amount of physical punishment the Pict seems to attract. However there are some staples to his wardrobe. One item he is never seen without is the ragged cloth he keeps wrapped around his body, held in place by a pair of brooches. One, a lions head; a gift from the goblins of the hedge. The other’s origin is unknown to all save a select few; a symbol of marriage among his native people, the Picts of the Wyrwood. The most iconic part of this ensemble is his mask, by which most people recognise him. A terrifying amalgamation of the bones of unrecognisable animals pieced together around two large amber eye-pieces; the mask’s origin is unknown to even Bridei himself, though some of his more Wyrd associates recognise the mask as the face of the Fir Adhmaid, soldiers of a certain member of the Gentry. Bridei also owns a cloak fashioned from the pelt of a Briarwolf.
Bridei was the firstborn son Drust, the Cheiftain of the Wyrwood Picts, and Etain, his wife. While Drust was a great hero of his people, it was apparent from a young age that Bridei would grow to be sickly and frail, unable to wield a sword and honour the name of his father. When Etain fell pregnant a second time, she took her own life, rather than living with the shame of bearing Drust a second unworthy child. Bridei’s childhood was harsh and although his father loved him greatly, he was despised by his people, for the great line of Drust’s father’s had been tainted by his birth. Unable to wield a sword, Bridei was given the duties of a woman, learning crafts and medicine, and while never quite mastering the skills, he grew proficient enough to practice them. Bridei was married at a young age to Arianne; it was not a marriage befitting the firstborn son of Drust. Bridei did not care for the stigma of marrying such a lowborn woman, the two grew to love each other greatly. When Arianne first fell pregnant they were but fifteen, the village predicted yet another sickly child would be born. On the night before the birth, Bridei received a dream; that two sons would be born to him, and that the gods would flip a coin over each ones soul, deciding whether they would be sickly like the father, or strong like the grandfather. Sure enough two sons were born; Drust IV and Broichan II. It was seen as a miracle for both sons and mother had survived the birth. It was obvious neither would grow to be sickly, and the village rejoiced. Bridei finally received respect from his people, who hailed him as the Sire of the Twin Kings.
It was close to three years later, when Bridei and Arianne were due their second child, that scouts reported a roman column moving into their lands. Drust assembled a warband of the fiercest fighters to do battle with the legion. They were slaughtered two days later in a skirmish with the Romans. News reached the village, and the people despaired. That night Bridei’s daughter, Tuala, was born. Bridei wandered into the woods alone, terrified for the fate that awaited his family. He came upon an ancient battlefield, littered with the bodies and weapons of those long dead. Picking up an ancient blade he attempted to swing it, mimicking what he had seen his father do so effortlessly and so many times. He achieved nothing but a deep gash in his own leg. He fell to the growl howling in pain and despair. Then a single moth landed on his hand. In half desperation, half madness, he begged the moth to make him strong, to let him save his family. The moth listened.
Morning came, and the Romans surrounded the village, what few men were left had no-one to lead them; many fled; few stayed. As the Romans sounded the attack, a guttural roar came from the woods, and out charged a god. A man, naked as the day he was born; body painted with woad, fell upon the legionnaires. He wielded two ancient and ruined blades, one roman, one pictish. The Wyrwood Picts were rallied, and the stranger led them to victory. Only when the battle was done, and the man wiped the gore from his face did they recognise Bridei. No longer puny and weak, his muscles were great and taught, his eyes burned with righteous fury. The gods had taken Bridei from the Picts and given them in return a king. Bridei had the swords he had fought with restored, and a throne made from the wood of the roman shields. Bridei spent the next four years uniting the surrounding peoples, and the four after that ruling as the Twin Bladed King.
It was eight years later, and many hundreds of leagues to the south, that Bridei truly returned from his sojourn into the Wyrwoods, so long ago. A hunter came upon a lone man, ambling through the trees. The hunter moved closer, only to recognise a monster. It wore the unmistakable face of a child-snatcher from legend, and the hunter rushed forward to kill the beast. Bridei was exhausted, lost and confused. He could not understand why this man came at him with hatred in his eyes. When the hunter moved to stab him, Bridei flailed wildly; not attacking; simply trying to escape. With a sickening crunch, Bridei broke the man’s neck. He fled from the body, making his way to a river where at last he saw his reflection. His body was fit and strong, much like the Twin Bladed King had been when he fell upon the Romans, but his hair was bleached white, his body etched with black markings. He bore a hole in the center of his chest, and where his heart should have been was a single acorn, its roots growing into his body. He removed the horrific mask he bore, and saw piercing amber eyes staring back at him. He was a man no more, now Bridei was of the Lost.
For two days he wandered the wilderness, before two of his kind found him. Changelings, they called themselves, of a great Freehold to the South. They took him to Maiden Hill, the main fortification of their court, and the occasional home of their king, Drust. Visions of his father flashed before him, but the king he met was nothing like the man who had sired him. When brought to the summit of Maiden Hill, Bridei first thought was some sort of ceremonial cairn where he would meet this king.
Then it moved.
A giant loomed over him, his body formed of rock and clay. Moss hung over his immense form like the pelt of some great beast; birds nested upon his shoulders; varmint scurried over his limbs. He spoke with a voice Bridei could barely comprehend, and the Pict ran. None attempted to stop him save the giant himself, who spoke; this time; with a voice much clearer.
“Why do you run little lion? You are finally home.”
He’s got a thick skull, but I swear his fist could gore someone worse than a Boar – I’ve seen him knock a man flat with a punch.
Recent promotion to Vigiles Aestas – hard but fair, they say.
Knocked out a nifty deal with the Redcaps – Good Riddance, too
Avitus has a certain resentment for him, but his court seems to get a giggle out of his antics.
He’s met and dealt with True Fae far too much for one of the rumors not to be true.
Another starry-eyed Drust supporter – I guess he’s nostalgic for the old days of the court.
Who knows how, but Autumn seems to find uses for him far more than you’d expect – If you need in with the court, maybe he’d be an alright way of landing an introduction.
Apparently his promotion was controversial – No, I don’t know why they’d elect someone controversial, Summer are odd like that.
Apparently he’s a Pict – I know, it explains the thick skull and the knotted hair.
He’s in over his head with various situations with True Fae, Autumn and Redcap business – Keep away, or risk getting burned.
He’s got himself a mask made out of a True Fae – That’s gotta be some nasty story behind it.
Robin Good Fellow has made him a personal favorite target for his shenanigans.
The General fears his potential for a coup, and has made orders simply to prevent any power accumulation.
He once beat a Summer Courtier half-dead with just one hit. I’ve heard that if he drinks too much he murmurs about it in his sleep. Huge regret, they say.