Cowl L9 Cowl L8

Cowl is a member of a secretive, isolated cult of philosophers. Cloistered in a hidden abbey in the foothills of the western mountains, they call themselves the Wakers. They believe that life is pain. They also believe pain is an illusion. By their logic this makes life an illusion - a Vast Dream from which we all must wake. Through understanding and overcoming pain, the wakers learn how to manipulate the illusion we call life. They call the spellike powers they gain from their meditation and self flagellation Lucid Dreaming. This Lucid Dreaming affords them a small amount of power over the very forces of life and death. As an initiation, an arduous scarification rite covers nearly their entire bodies in a geometric tapestry - only their hands, neck and face are left untouched. Those who die or "Wake", as the order calls it, during this initiation ceremony are hailed as apt students. Their shuffling off of the mortal coil is celebrated by all the Wakers. It is only to stay behind and teach others that the surviving Wakers linger in the Vast Dream at all.

The spiked chain is the preferred weapon of the Wakers as it symbolizes the cruel bonds that tie each of us to the Vast Dream. All initiates who do not immediately Wake are trained in its martial use. It is also a focus for their meditations on pain and the nature of so called life.
Numbering only a few dozen, the wakers keep mostly to themselves. Outsiders tend to view their beliefs and practices as a hideous perversion of the Way, but only the vaguest rumors of their existence circulate through the valley. From time to time one or more of the order ventures out into the vale looking for lost souls in search of inner peace and truth.
Cowl is on just such a mission. This is his first time leaving the abbey. Thirty years ago, his mother staggered up to the wall of the abbey, bruised, bleeding, very pregnant, and in the throws of labor. She came from the West as if from over the mountains, but most agreed this couldn't be so - even though her clothes and coloring were strange. The Wakers helped her as best they could, delivering her premature child and healing her battered body. But her mind was a different matter altogether. She could not or would not speak a single word and refused food or water. She died a few weeks after Cowl's birth despite the Waker's best efforts. The Wakers cared for her son and were very gentle with him until he was old enough to decide for himself whether he wanted to join the order. Theirs was the only life he'd known so the choice for him was an easy one. Cowl took his new name at the completion of his initiation, choosing name himself after the deep hood worn by all of the Wakers. He left his old name behind along with the few wooden toys some of the order had carved for him. After receiving his chain when the myriad tiny wounds from his initiation closed, Cowl carved his childhood name on each of his toys and burned them. Leaving behind the only home he's ever known, Cowl is in search of those who need him.
***How Cowl got his chain***
There is a sub basement chamber in the center of the Waker's abbey. Ever since the Great Schism, when the Wakers split from the followers of the Way, this hidden abbey has stood in the Western mountains. Each initiate is taken to this dark chamber when their physical wounds have healed to begin learning to Channel. Set into the stone of a raised dais is an ancient spiked chain, the symbol of the order. Initiates are to channel through this sacred chain before they receive one of their own. Each Waker has described it as cold to the touch. Each Waker, that is, except for Cowl. When the boy who would come to be known as Cowl laid his shaking hands upon the chain he could not quite contain a startled gasp. Ul- Nullith arched an eyebrow at the boy's response.
"What is it you feel, my child?" The monks rumbling basso intoned.
"The chain," said the boy in a quavering tenor, "It is warm like breath, hot like bloo- Ow!"
One of the cruel barbs sank deep into the ball of the boy's thumb at this last exclamation, spilling blood onto the dais. He tried to pull his hands away but as he did, the stone released its grip on the ancient chain. The boy staggered backward, chain in hand. All the fear and surprise of the moment, all the loneliness and angst of his childhood, seemed to boil over inside of him a and flow into the chain. The room was bathed in azure light as the boy tilted his head back and unleashed an inhuman shriek. It was the monk's turn to gasp.
"The prophesy..." whispered the old man.
Drained of emotion, an unearthly calm filling him to the brim, the boy lowered his head. Breath steady, eyes alert, he looked down at the bloody hand. Except - there was no blood. The wound had healed as if it had never been, and not a drop of blood stained hand, chain, or dais. Lacking the strength of emotion for fear, a mild look of confusion spread across the boy's face.
"Ul-Nullith, I do not understand." he said, in much too steady a voice.
"Come, my child." Rumbled the old monk. "We have much to discuss."
In all the years that followed, through all the self flagellation and martial training with the sacred chain, Cowl has never found it necessary to clean it of blood. It simply dissipates - almost as if absorbed...

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