Eternal of Summer
Barien is called the Iron Duke.
He is sometimes called the Seneschal of the Road, the Lord of the Crossroads, Knight of the Long Road, the Host of Hosts or the Traveller. He is the Master of Challenges, the Keeper of the Revels and the Reeve of the Summer Lands. A common name among the Winterfolk, the Jotun and the people of the Commonwealth is Barien Dragonforge, referring to his hidden forge rather than his role as master of challenges - he accepts this title with mild good humour. The Sumaah and Asaveans alike both call him Iron-Staff.
It is unwise to call him the Lame, Half-hand or Maimed Lord to his face.
The Iron Duke appears as a man of average height and build. His ears are pointed and his skin is covered with coiling silver and grey marks. The Duke is lame - he favours his right leg, and sometimes leans on his iron-bound staff for support. He makes no secret of the fact that his lameness is a "natural" condition, rather than the result of any injury.
In contrast to many of the other Summer eternals, he dresses conservatively; favours dark, subdued colours; and eschews jewelry save for a circlet of polished weltsilver that surmounts his brow. When dealing with the Empire his attire is often influenced by the fashions of Dawn or the Marches, but from time to time he favours clothing more appropriate to a Wintermark runesmith.
The Knight of the Crossroads is an artisan, and at any given moment is likely to have several wondrous items about his person which he may call upon if he feels the need to defend himself - and lend or gift to someone he considers worthy. On the rare occasions he has chosen to fight, he wields his iron staff with devastating skill.
When Barien is encountered as part of group, he may be accompanied by members of his own household, or by those seeking his favour. The former tend to be skilled individuals who serve as seneschals, heralds, messengers and artisans. The latter are eternals of Summer who are paying a debt to Barien, or seeking his favour. They are often knights or entertainers, and may be heralds in their own right in service to other eternals.
The most common figure accompanying Barien is his Castellan, an eternal whose power is comparable to that of the Iron Duke and who is his most trusted lieutenant.
Barien exemplifies meeting, setting and overcoming challenges. He regularly sets challenges for those who seek to prove their worth, but also ensures that great successes - or even brave failures - are recognized and celebrated. He favours not only heroes and champions, but also the troubadours, scops and storytellers who celebrate their deeds.
He is scrupulously neutral in the rivalries and alliances of the Summer Realm. His role means he regularly oversees tournaments and presents challenges to the other eternals. He is a regular guest at the courts of Eleonaris and Cathan Canae in particular. He has no realm of his own, but his household travels freely from place to place, and his court is based in a great pavilion camp or outdoors under the open sky. It is not unknown for his heralds to pitch their tents in strong Summer regio from time to time, offering hospitality to travelers and engaging them in contests of strength, wit and will. A common task set by Barien to those who seek his favour is to set their tent up at a crossroads and challenge all travelers to appropriate contests of arms or wit.
In personality Barien is much more restrained than many of the other eternals of Summer. He is absolutely confident in himself, his abilities and the abilities of his court. He is polite - friendly even - to those who treat him and his people with respect, but those who presume too much or who assume too great a level of familiarity find him cold and condescending. Anyone who tries his patience will be given one opportunity to apologise and if they do not they will be ejected from his presence.
He admires self confidence, while disdaining overconfidence and arrogance. People who actively seek out ways to test themselves and hone their abilities find it easier to attract his favour. He enjoys helping others solve their problems almost as much as he loves seeing an underdog overcome the obstacles life has placed in their way. Woe betide the individual who asks Barien for help they do not need, however. He is much more likely to offer advice or suggest allies the petitioner might seek out than he is to involve himself directly. Despite this there are several stories of individuals who asked Barien for advice, triumphed over their challenges, and then received some minor gift of Barien's favour in recognition of their accomplishments.
Barien does not favour any particular form of challenge - strength of arms, cunning, wits and subtlety are all equally important to him. He appears to prefer challenges that pit people against each other if only because it means every challenge will produce a victor, but he celebrates victory over nature or the self with almost as much enthusiasm. The mountaineer who conquers a mountain nobody else has ever scaled receives just as warm a welcome from the Master of Revels as the warrior who saves a village from ogres.
The Master of Revels takes hospitality extremely seriously. Anyone who eats or drinks under his roof and treats him with the cordial respect he is due is treated as part of his household, and he expects the same in return for his heralds and agents. He may ask an unwelcome guest to leave, but when he does so the guest will be assured of safety until they reach the mortal world again - but they should be very cautious about returning to his court.
He has no patience for those who demand what is not due to them - those who expect respect without earning it, or who express feelings of entitlement. Those who take their position, possessions or friends for granted or who assume they are 'owed a living' by the universe irritate him, and he has little time for them. The complacent and the content also annoy him, but he is more likely to try and challenge their complacency or contentment than to eject them from his court.
He absolutely despises both cheats and those who claim deeds or glory they have not earned. On the rare occasions such individuals have been exposed before him, he has lain terrible curses on them that have robbed them of their strength and will, and occasionally seen them waste away and die.
The Iron Duke is known to look on the Empire with approval as a place where merit often determines success; where personal glory is recognised and celebrated; and where commitment to ideals and goals is encouraged. While he predictably favours people of Dawn, he is also known to appreciate the Wintermark willingness to test themselves and the stubbornness of the Marchers. He is also said to have a soft spot for the Imperial orcs and is believed to greatly admire their commitment to their plan.
The most common boon offered by the Iron Duke is a challenge - an opportunity to face dangerous odds and either triumph or fail. The ritual Challenge the Iron Duke is specifically designed to allow mortal magicians to find those worthy of the Duke's time. He has been known to offer covens who favour this ritual boons that make the ritual easier to perform, or that allow the coven to help arrange the challenge more easily.
Barien is an artisan, and he makes many of the rewards he offers to victorious challengers himself. He also collects items of worth - and in this regard his definition of 'worth' is very similar to that of the Imperial Orcs. Specifically, he likes to acquire items associated with heroes and champions which he then uses as the basis for the magical items he crafts to reward the victorious. When questioned about it, he explains that his purpose is two-fold. First, he honours the champion who bore the worthy item; second, he finds it easier to make a potent artifact from a worthy relic. Magical items crafted by Barien often encourage personal pride, strength of will and the drive to seek out and overcome obstacles in their bearers.
The Master of Revels knows how to prepare a magical brew that restores bodily strength and integrity, removing supernatural afflictions such as the Curse of Gangrenous Flesh or the Curse of Decrepitude and similar effects. Gaining a flask of this strong elixir always requires someone to complete a difficult quest on Barien's behalf.
He has some ability to help smooth the path of those seeking a personal challenge. He might identify someone who knows the location of an object a questor seeks, or suggest ways to overcome a certain problem presented by a difficult quest. This aid never removes the danger from a challenge or quest; instead it helps make the quest or challenge attemptable. For example, when the Knight-errant Trisant sought aid in defeating the terrible Azerdack it was Barien who told him about the Kallavesi mystic who could prepare a defensive elixir to let them penetrate the fetid glen where it dwelt - although this meant Trisant and his companions had to face three challenges from a Jotun warlord in order to secure the rare flowers that formed the basis of the elixir.
While he is largely disinterested in trade, he is said to value dragonbone and ilium, and favours those who offer him gifts of these materials - although any suggestion that these gifts are bribes or payment is likely to annoy him.
This creature is a woman with two swords and mithril armour who serves as Barien's champion, body-guard and primary agent. She never uses any other name than Castellan, and is his trusted lieutenant. She bears the same silvery designs on her skin as her lord. She is an extremely practical creature, who speaks in terse sentences, and unlike Barien she is much less tolerant of fools and time-wasters.
Except when she is serving as Barien's agent in the mortal world, she is rarely encountered apart from Barien but on the very rare occasions that she is alone she is generally pursuing her personal interest in the challenges that face those who fancy themselves in love. Occasionally, she intentionally places obstacles in their way to test the strength of their commitment to each other.
She is described in the writings of Lydia de Courland as "one of the least romantic patrons of star-crossed lovers one could hope to meet; her advice is direct, her support uncompromising and her patience for fools almost entirely non-existent."
Castellan claims to be an eternal of equal power to Barien although some magicians believe that this cannot be true (due to her ability to enter the mortal world rather), and she might simply be an extremely powerful herald. Others point out that mortal classifications of the inhabitants of the Realms become a little unreliable when applied to creatures such as Castellan, Reed, or the Voivode of Chains.
The following are known heralds of Barien:
- There is speculation that Barien is served (knowingly or perhaps otherwise) by a herald or heralds called Aben-Nuath