Rizal's Story

I'd like to start by saying that I never imagined that I would be here. Becoming an exile was just about the most unlikely thing I could have guessed would happen to me. But I can't change the past, so I will tell you the story of how I came to Puddleby.

I was born in a town on the western border of the Thoom lands, on the mainland. We were across the river from a Sylvan town, and we had a lot of trade and contact with the Sylvans. They were very friendly. Some of my fondest memories were swimming in the river with my Thoom friends and the Sylvan children.

My family had a long history of being healers -- both my mother and my father were healers, they provided medical help at the local clinic, which served both the Thoom and the Sylvans across the river. I was named after a great-uncle on my mother's side, he too was a healer who provided medical assistance to the Halflings and Fen'neko during the Uli Rebellion. Perhaps my parents gave me his name because they wanted a boy Thoom. But they got a girl. I didn't have any brothers or sisters, I was an only Thoom.

We didn't have much contact with the other races -- sometimes some Dwarves would come to visit, and occasionally a Human patrol of Ascendancy guards would come through our town as well, but mostly, we kept to ourselves. As you know, while the Thooms are officially governed by the Ascendancy, we mostly take care of our own affairs, and the Ascendancy did not bother us much at all.

Once, an Ascendancy patrol came through our town, and of all things, a Ghorak Zo soldier was in the patrol. I had heard of them, but of course I had never seen one until that day. I found them fascinating! Of course, being an Ascendancy guard, he was not very friendly and did not let us approach him closely, but still, even from a distance, I could tell that there was something about the Zo which I wanted to know more about.

In any event, time flies when you're a young Thoom, and before I knew it, I was applying to medical school. I did not get in to the Thoom Academy, which is every Thoom's dream, but I did get into a respectable medical school in Mer d'Syl, which, coincidentally, both of my parents attended. So I spent two years there, learning the fine arts of the medical profession, along with many other Thooms and Sylvans.

In my second year in the medical school, when I was twenty, it was announced that there would be a medical exchange program -- with a Ghorak Zo hospital in Mountain's Reach! Even though I was only a second year student, and the medical exchanges are usually reserved for the fourth year students, I had to apply. I never had the opportunity to travel when I was younger, and I still had this fascination with the Zo. So I applied, and somehow, I was selected! I was so excited. I would be spending my third year of medical school in Mountain's Reach, spreading advanced Thoom medical knowledge to another race, and learning more about the Zo than most other Thooms would ever have the opportunity to learn.

So, that summer as school ended, I made arrangements to travel to Mountain's Reach. The first part of the journey was with a Dwarven trading caravan which started in Mer d'Syl and passed through my home town, so I had the opportunity to visit my parents. If only I knew it would probably be the last time I would ever see them!

I spent my time with the caravan providing minor medical assistance for those bumps and bruises you can get on the road, and helping to care for the pack animals. The trip was a lot of work, but it was also fun, as every night, the Dwarves would gather around the campfire and sing jolly songs and drink beer until they passed out. That may not sound like much fun, but at the time, it was new and different for me.

The Dwarves then went to their home of Stonybrook. From there, I had the opportunity to go to the Human Capital with another caravan, and then go to Mountain's Reach from there, or I could stay with the first caravan which was going to make a long trip to the Fen'neko and Halfling lands, and then visit Mountain's Reach at the end of the summer. I thought to myself, I have the time, and I may not have a chance to ever visit the Fen or Halfling lands, so why not take the scenic route?

So after a few days in Stonybrook, we set off for the Rennod Pass, our destination being the Fen'neko lands just west of the Sword of the World mountains. By the time we reached our first Fen'neko town, it was almost mid-summer, which, as everyone knows, is one of the high holidays throughout the Ascendancy. It was here in this town, which I never knew the name of, that I learned more about the Ascendancy than I ever wanted to know.

Before we continue, I just have to say this about the Thooms. We celebrate all holidays, regardless of their origin. Any excuse for a party, is what it comes down to. Mid-summer's day was always one of my favorite holidays, since there was no school or work, and it was always very hot, but we got to swim in the river all day. I realize now that the Ascendancy holidays are not always looked upon favorably by everybody, but since we Thooms never really felt any oppression from the Ascendancy, we always treated the Ascendandy holidays like a Thoom holiday.

And on mid-summer's day of 536, I was in this Fen'neko trading town in the shadows of the Sword of the World Mountains, and I was expecting, well, a party. However, the way the Fen'neko celebrated this "holiday" was more like a funeral. There was a silent procession through town, and everyone in town, as well as any visitors, were required to stand silently to watch the procession go by. Everyone was quiet, and everyone had their heads down, even the dwarves. I was thinking to myself, "This isn't a proper holiday! This place needs some holiday cheer!" So I tried to lighten things up.

I thoomed.

The effect was not exactly what I had in mind. The procession stopped, and everyone looked at me. I realized I had made a mistake, but I did not understand just how badly I had offended my hosts.

Now, I'm not ignorant, and we do study history in our Thoom universities, so I knew that there were some bad feelings between the Fen'neko and the Ascendancy. But until you've really spent time in a place, you just can't understand how the people feel. I realize now that the silent atmosphere of the Ascendancy's biggest holiday is the People's traditional way of showing their "respect" for the Ascendancy. And by breaking the silence and celebrating the holiday, I was, in effect, showing support for the Ascendancy.

Never mind that this was not my intention. I tried to apologize, but the local townsfens wouldn't listen. I have never been so frightened in my life, with all of the People looking at me with venom in their eyes -- especially remembering the campfire stories that my friends and I used to tell, about the fierce cat-people of the north who like to eat Thooms. I was taken away by the local authorities and held in a dark cell for several days. I never saw my friends among the dwarves again. I only hope they tried to see me but the Fen'neko wouldn't let them. I guess I'll never know.

A trial was held, and the town elders made the decision to have me serve the Ascendancy's highest criminal penalty, since in their eyes, I loved the Ascendancy so much. After another month in the Fen'neko town, an Ascendancy guard patrol came by to pick up prisoners. The next four months were a neverending series of dark cells and rides in a locked wagon to the next cell. Other prisoners, of every race, joined the caravan along the way. I tried to use my medical knowledge to keep the other prisoners alive, but some didn't make it, the conditions were too harsh.

We finally reached the Capital, and after another month in a prison, we were herded aboard a boat bound for Puddleby. We arrived in the spring of 537. And that's how I came to be an exile.

As a footnote -- I've been here for two years now, and I have to say that it's not as bad as I thought it would be. There is a very pleasant Thoom community here, and they were kind enough to take me in and almost make me feel like I was at home. I've been fortunate enough to find a group of Thoom healers who wish to provide Puddleby with the best medical service, so I've joined ThoomCare, and I spend a lot of time in the South Forest hospital. And even though I never made it to Mountain's Reach, I'm still considered the ThoomCare expert on Ghorak Zo medicine. I've had the opportunity to work with many wonderful Zo fighters in the South Forest hospital.

And on a personal note -- for a long time after my arrest, I thought I would never be able to thoom again. Fortunately, with the help and support of the Thoom community here in Puddleby, I am comfortable enough to thoom once again.

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