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Tolva's Veil

When a Khezvaran swears "by Tolva's eyes," most of them understand that they're referencing Tolva, the legendary Queen of Thieves who ruled the region of Tarsa during the first Imperial century through a combination of popular support and raw power. Fewer know what exactly made the eyes of Tolva so worthy of expressions of sincerity or exasperation. Some credit her vision, which allowed her to rise from common thief to feared bandit warlord to beloved co-ruler of the city. Others say that Tolva's eyes were the tools that allowed her to shrewdly observe the world around her for even the slightest hint of opportunity. Then, of course, there are the more romantic legends positing that Tolva's eyes held such beauty that she could make men, women, and even trolls fall in love with her with a mere glance. The real reason that Tolva's eyes are given such prominence in the legends, however, is that they were the only part of her face anyone ever saw. The veil she wore at all times covered the rest, and according to some legends was the source of her power.

Summary

There are hundreds of stories regarding the Queen of Thieves, each with a hundred variations, but the ones that mention her habit of going veiled agree that the garment was made of the darkest black cloth and completely obscured every feature of her face below her eyes (which were either hazel, green, or violet depending on the telling).   Since veils were a rarity in the region before the Empire began annexing Tarsan city-states, many tales have arisen to explain Tolva's peculiar affectation. The simplest explanation is that it was a holdover from her bandit days, when she covered her face to hide her identity, and that Tolva wore the veil as a reminder of her humble beginnings (an explanation that seems unlikely for someone who gave herself the title "Queen of Thieves") or out of simple habit. Two warring explanations say that she was either horribly disfigured or possessed such otherworldly beauty that the mere sight of her could shatter men's minds. The third common explanation, and the reason so many adventurers can be lured into crypts and ruins with rumors of Tolva's Veil, is that the veil held a powerful enchantment that was partially responsible for Tolva's immense success. The purported magical properties of the veil are as varied as the stories of Tolva's triumphs and conquests.

Historical Basis

During the first Imperial century, the plains of Tarsa were the domain of Tolva, Queen of Thieves. Tolva ruled the area first by fear, then as a folk hero, and finally as the co-ruler of Khezvaros, which by the time she took power was one of the most powerful cities in the region. When she rose to formal power, Tolva took the title of Meguvyurno, which that can be roughly translated as either "shield maiden" or "the hidden lady."   The first translation of the title is straightforward: Tolva's new role made her the protector of the city, chief officer of the garrison, and equal in power to the Ipsan. The second translation is sometimes mistaken for a slight aimed at the "Queen of Thieves" who ruled over an army that operated by stealth and deception. In truth, "The Hidden Lady" may be the most literally accurate of Tolva's epithets. Everything Tolva did--forging an army of cutthroats, making and breaking mercantile empires through her choice of targets, fighting off an army of savage Horse Lords, winning the loyalty of the people, and essentially naming herself co-ruler of Khezvaros--she did without anyone ever seeing her face. Tolva always wore a veil, even in the presence of her most trusted lieutenants.

Spread

While tales of Tolva are widespread, mentions of the veil have fallen from the stories as the fashions of the empire made their way to the Tarsan planes. Since veils now come in and out of fashion with some regularity, the significance of the veil is often overlooked as merely a storyteller's flourish. While it's generally agreed that the veil can be found wherever Tolva breathed her last, the many conflicting stories regarding her fate after the rise of the Dragon Kings means that nearly every ruin, cave, or ditch within 100 leagues of Khezvaros has at one time or another been rumored to be the Queen of Thieves' tomb.

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