Crest - History - Ethos - Demeanour - Races - Relations - Deities - Rules - Headquarters - Stories
The Company's crest is a thorned white rose rising from a stormy sea against a black background, topped by a scroll device bearing the Company motto, "CINCTA SPINIS ROSA", a phrase in Old Oeridian which translates approximately as "The rose is girt with thorns".
The Thorns were originally formed in early CY592, to combat the occupation by the Scarlet Brotherhood. A small service to the Duchess of Sornhill was repaid by a formal introduction to Baron Keirnal Maldrenn, and the formation of a War Company in his service. They took their name from Tessak's Cove, the estate of their patron, at the time still occupied by Brotherhood forces.
They had a strong emphasis on wilderness skills, striking into and through Brotherhood lines. They swiftly built a reputation as a capable but discreet group that could do more than just fight, and who often brought valuable prisoners back alive. Success brought more members, and the Company was forced to turn prospective members away. Eventually, Lyrin, dissatisfied with the Thorns' general approach, joined with Sir Devrin and several others to form a sister Company, the Roses of Tassek. Working together, the two Companies managed to free the Baron's ancestral estate in CY594. This was the first significant victory against the Scarlet Ones, and gradually the tide started to turn against the Brotherhood.
After the Fall of Scant to Free State forces in the autumn of CY595, the war was over and the War Companies came to an end. Almost all of the great Companies were disbanded. Meeting in the mansion of the newly ennobled Baroness Elysia of Onnwal, the Thorns resolved that they would not share the same fate.
While the war is over, the Thorns still rally to the defence of the Free State. They look at the prophecies of Tarnedas, and the 'war that is to come', and see a far greater threat than the Brotherhood ever posed. They hear the growing clamour of the Galai Iorn, and the ancient evils that rise at their call. They also feel the growing might of Ahlissa, fearing the economic and political power that might leash Onnwal to the long shadows cast by the Nightingale Throne.
In the face of such threats, the Thorns of Tassek hatch their own plans. Schemes include one for the revitalisation of trade, reform of the Church of the Velaeri, developing a guild of magic open to all, and many more. Ultimately, however, they will face down evil by force of arms. If evil will hold the flower of Onnwal within its grip, it will find Thorns.
Above all, they are looking beyond Onnwal's borders, trying to see the larger picture and to steer events that previously were beyond their power to influence or control. Now that it has driven the invaders from its shores, Onnwal's fate rests on its ability to withstand those outside forces that see the Free State as an obstacle to their plans. Onnwal needs its ambassadors, its heroes and its guardians. Powerful and influential figures in their own right, together the Thorns of Tassek can help to shape their country's destiny.
The more socially prominent of the Thorns prize tact and diplomacy, even when dealing with those who may not deserve it. While the Thorns won't allow others to compromise their principles or their religious beliefs, they generally make an effort to fit in wherever they go, following local laws and traditions until there is good reason not to. Behind this is a healthy respect for local history, and the Thorns abroad are not above touring local sites, or providing employment for local bards.
The Thorns are generally very careful in what they do, and will often spend long periods of time discussing a moral quandary. At the end of a discussion, dissenters are expected to go with a majority decision. In the case of stalemate, divine guidance may be employed.
Once the group decides to act, they are often extremely thorough, and go to great lengths to ensure that the right thing is done. The Thorns are becoming increasingly conscious of their own strength, dealing not as opportunists or mercenaries, or even crusaders for a particular cause, but as a power capable of shaping the Flanaess in its own right.
The majority of members are human, but all the main races save halflings are represented. The Thorns are often active in areas where certain races or sub-races are looked upon with disfavour. While they do not tolerate unequal treatment, the Thorns will go to reasonable lengths to avoid offending hosts or potential allies.
The members of the Thorns have a wide variety of individual enmities, from Elysia's fondness for collecting the holy symbols of slain evil priests, to Zareba's violent dislike of Ur-Flannae magics, from Fox striking terror into the heart of urban crime, to Jel's complicated soliloquies against the philosophical justification of oppression. The Thorns as a group have rather fewer. Many of their members are wanted criminals as a result of their actions in Ahlissa, and all are enemies of the Scarlet Brotherhood and the Ur-Flan.
Allies are harder to define. They retain good relations with the former Roses of Tassek (their sister Company having now disbanded, and some of the erstwhile Roses now returned to the Thorns) and with a wide group of adventurers from across the Flanaess, collectively referred to as 'Friends of the Thorns'. They also stay on good terms with both their old patron, Baron Keirnal Maldrenn, and his liege lady, Duchess Saielma Relaster of Sornhill.
There have been some past clashes with both the Hillstalkers, several of whom were once arrested by the Thorns after an unfortunate misunderstanding, and the Duchess' Own Sornhill Skirmishers, over who should be chosen to recapture Tessak's Cove. Neither conflict lasted long, and nothing has come of either one. Indeed, the Thorns today include a Hillstalker and a former officer of the (now disbanded) Skirmishers among their own number.
The Thorns are by tradition a very religious group, and usually hold some form of evening prayers to the gods of good and nature the members hold dear. The most popular deities are Atroa, Beory and Wenta, the last a relic of the faith of one of the founders. The link to Wenta is kept alive in the form of a bar-room trick, involving not spilling a full tankard of ale, that is taught to all members. All are willing to tolerate appeals to other deities, recognising differing interests can ally to a common cause in the heavens as well as on earth.
The Thorns have only one set rule - that all those who travel with them share in the costs of any healing or resurrection needed. The life of a comrade is of value to all. They have no laws as such, although their custom of discussing important moral decisions at length is a practice so ingrained as to have the force of law. Their habits involve caring for the weak, capturing rather than killing enemies, and doing their best for the communities through which they travel, even if that aid is not without cost.
A manor house lying a few miles southwest of Sornhill, the Thorns' base of operations is owned by the Company, on land adjoining that of Baroness Elysia of Onnwal, with the Duchess Saielma Relaster of the Storm Coast as their ultimate overlord. As the Baroness is a member of the Thorns herself, and relations are very good with the Duchess, there are few political problems with their presence. The Thorns are generally quite discreet and as yet have caused no problems with what few neighbours they have, although the comings and goings of Vola the half-orc and a number of Suel craftsmen have raised some local comment.
The house is set in a few acres of forest, in the rolling foothills south of Sornhill. The main path winds through thick trees, emerging into a straight run south to a small circle before the main doors, and then curving off east to end in a small set of stables and a carriage house (suitable for a single wagon or carriage, and generally empty).
The manor house itself is a two storey building built mainly from local stone, reinforced with a core of conjured granite, and decorated with imported marble. The exterior and interior have been heavily influenced by Suloise architecture, from the Corinthian capitals used in upper arched windows, to the decorated frieze above the main door. While the front is largely clear, with a few formal flower beds and a neat lawn, the rear of the building is partly covered in a crowded mass of vines and creepers. A sturdy platform has been built onto the roof, although this is not visible from the ground unless it is occupied.
Next to the house, to the east, the stable backs onto a cloister, with a narrow pillared walkway surrounding a quadrangle. The small wooden buildings that surround this serve as overflow quarters for servants, soldiers and other hangers-on of Thorns and visitors alike. Around two dozen servants and guards are generally resident here.
In the centre of this courtyard is a pond. A large wooden cover is kept against one wall, to put over the pond when the courtyard is used for sparring or exercise. A carved wooden door showing a fine rendering of the Fall of Scant leads into the main house, while a large round door, a copy of a typical gnomish burrow door scaled up to normal size, leads into the cellars.
The main house is a formal affair. A wide sweeping staircase leads to the upper floors, largely made of wood, containing twelve private bedrooms of varying sizes, and stairs to the roof. The ground floor is made of stone, decorated with marble, and contains the communal chambers.
The study is filled with notes and records, and a carefully hand drawn chart of the coats of arms and seals of persons of note, from the noble houses of Onnwal to the dwarven Thegns and notables from Irongate.
The library contains an impressive collection of almost forty books, many of them of obscure and occult origin, kept in cubbyholes and shelves caged in brass. The collection includes books such as 'The Ebon Lexicon of Gyrtulyndarrath', 'A Comparative History of Ur-Flan and Modern Magics', several books on ancient history, gnomish legend, and 'Dialectal tense variations in Ancient Suloise'.
The dining room cum conference room is lit by a pair of fey-crafted silver candelabra, hung from an adjustable rig of gnomish design. One wall holds a complicated scoreboard of wood and ivory, for keeping track of the Thorns' arcane decision-making procedures. Another is entirely covered with a gigantic map of the Flanaess, once a model of elegant simplicity but slowly becoming a mass of hand-written alterations and notations.
The kitchen is built of firebrick and stone. The ovens are in a pit sunk into the ground for insulation. Since this means they only rise up waist-high, a half floor has been built over them for a food preparation area. A fountain set into one wall fills a large basin with fresh water supplied via the water passages from the stream, although the system is plagued with leaks. The kitchen is kept well supplied with exotic herbs and spices gathered by the Thorns on their various travels, though it still relies on local farmers for more basic supplies.
The solar is an area of comfortable chairs and large windows, set to catch the morning sun. Oddments from the Thorns' latest travels are often left here for general comment, as the Thorns rarely meet all at once. The choice of object is usually sufficient to tell who found it, and where it is from, and thus is a way of announcing where one has recently been.
The upper landing is adorned with a large painting showing a battle scene - the Fall of Scant. The Szek making a speech to his nobles is shown in the foreground. Close examination of the detail of the siege itself reveals the Thorns in the various roles they played during the campaign, including the battlefield ennoblement of Elysia of the Fallnos Vale to Baroness. While the details are accurate, the picture as a whole is plainly a combination of events that in practice took place over several months.
The grounds are not even, but slope down from south to north. On the south side, a short open area ends in a wooded slope extending upwards to a low ridge behind the house. The land beyond is a wild tangle of shrubby woods and hills, thick with briars and blackberries. To the east lie the cloisters, stable and courtyard, opening out into a small watermeadow. Here a stream running off the ridge opens up into a small pool, screened by willow and elm trees. To the north the land is flat, rising slightly towards the house, with the front path, main doors, flower beds and formal lawn. To the west is the herb garden, kitchen garden, and a number of fruit trees, gradually merging with the surrounding woodland. Various targets, weighted ropes, balancing posts and platforms have been dotted here and there amongst the surrounding trees, suggesting the area is also used for some form of battle practice.
The cellars are low ceilinged and rambling, containing wine, beer, and a large collection of oddments and trophies from the Thorns' adventures. Since such items are often transported magically, almost half are too large to fit through any of the entranceways. The passages look to have been bored by some large creature, and then magically strengthened and smoothed, along dwarven lines. The cellars also connect to the waterpassages running water from the stream to the pond and sewerage system. Extensive additions and extra rooms have been planned, including a large chamber for dangerous experiments and activities, but so far only limited excavation work has been done.
Two ballads are sung about various members of the Thorns of Tassek, composed during their days as a War Company. The first is "The Bold Thorns of Tassek", composed by Andar of the Green in Coldeven 593 CY. The second is "The Old Grey-Olve Monk-Wizard", composed by Jhillian Waywalker, Bard of Sornhill, in Fireseek 594CY. There is also "The Turning Tide", a tale about some of Jel's exploits featuring a few of her companions.
Crest - History - Ethos - Demeanour - Races - Relations - Deities - Rules - Headquarters - Stories
This page last updated: 13th October 2008
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