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A flame against the night

Sage-Archer Nora Pestrib

No, no extinguished spark is she,
Her voice still echoes, shining bright,
Her words, adored on bended knee,
Remain a flame against the night.
– Anonymous
  Nora, one of the most important legends of halorin prehistory, is a person akin to Shennong or the Yellow Emperor in Chinese mythos. She is known for unifying the tribes of the Salt Range and establishing a cultural identity for the Kalian peoples. She is also known variously as the Flame Empress, the Red Empress, or the Sage-archer of Flame. The majority ethnic group of the Salt Range and Plain, the Pestrib, trace their lineage back to Nora.  

Birth and Early Life

This is an automated warning of the Archaeological Institute of Halor. There is much legend and reverence surrounding this person. Attempts to get a factual account of her tale have failed: the following is from third-party sources and primary documents.
  According to legend, and seconded by the Grand History of the Salt Plains, the sage-archer Nora was born in the foothills of the Salt Range. A slight earthquake was recorded at her birth, and this has placed her birth either at 6,841 years ago or 7,094 years ago based on drone geological records.   She was born to the nomadic gate of Pestrib, itself a tribal union of four different bands that united for safety. By the time of her birth, the Pestrib had control of much of the coastal salt marsh up to the foothills, but were perpetually in conflict with the dozens of other gates in the Salt Plain. Nora was, in myth, trained by Kali, the Bringer of Peace, and by age seven she could shoot a hole through the leaf of a kava tree from one hundred paces away.   After becoming an elder at the young age of twelve, she devoted her time to the study of waging war. She was blinded in one eye during a stand against numerically superior barbarian forces during skirmishes in the foothills of the Salt Range, when she was sixteen years old. However, she recovered, and legend has it that she never again was wounded in battle.   After conquering holdout barbarians in the foothills of the Salt Range, Nora was promoted by common consent of the elders to commander-in-chief of the Pestrib forces. Many in her position would have relaxed and celebrated, content to be the youngest commander-in-chief ever. However, Nora knew to maintain peace she would have to fight her way into the Salt Range proper, for the barbarian bases were in the mountains. Her mind went immediately to the planning of an attack.  

As head of Pestrib forces

So stubborn... the sage-archer Nora is a skilled tactician, yes, and can easily destroy enemy forces, yes, but who are we? We are soldiers too, who have fought without rest or respite, for the past several months. Our men, the ones that still live, are weak, and need rest before an attempt like this.
Elder Councilman Aquilan, Outrider Drone recorded
  However, her forces had not the strength to fight, and after several meetings with subordinate officers, Nora finally relented, changing her strategy to a defensive approach. During this two-year respite, Nora drilled her troops and spent many a restless night studying the geopolitical situation of the tribes of the Salt Range.   Then, that respite suddenly ended. When she was twenty-two years old, the Wind Emperor, a Halora spearman leading the Yan tribe north of the Pestrib, was attacked by a massive wave of mountain tribes. The horde first pushed him out of the foothills, then out of the fertile valley of the Great River. As he fled south, he accidentally intruded into the territory of the Pestrib.   Nora was ready, and quickly dispatched troops to destroy this horde of halorin armed with spears in her north. Personally flying in to battle, she rapidly defeated the tired tribe of the Wind Emperor. However, the Wind Emperor was able to signal a surrender early in the fight, and an amicable resolution was reached, in which the Pestrib would ally with the Yan tribe, and strike back at the enemy barbarians. Nora was pleased with the new influx of troops from the new alliance, and quickly cemented new alliances with three other smaller tribes in the west: Nong, Hausi, and Zent. At this point, she wrote a work still passed down through the centuries: The Six Methods of Diplomacy. In it, she described her shift of view: while before war was a strong tool, that she used against all threats, now she viewed war as a last resort, before which every other option had to be exhausted.   After the ratification of the Kalian League by the assembled elders of the five states, the new alliance of gates pushed north, and then east, achieving several rapid victories against the scouts of the barbarians. However, the mountain tribal chief, angered at the loss of several elite units, moved to engage the army of Nora.  

Battle of the Salt Plains

The Battle of the Salt Plains
Battle of the Salt Plains by ElementalShrike
The first battle in recorded halorin history, the Battle of the Salt Plains, would occur. Instead of a straightforward skirmish lasting hours, this battle lasted weeks, with continual fighting going on. Nora, having studied strategy for several years, decided upon an unorthodox course of action. Instead of engaging the enemy immediately, she organized a retreat, her troops fleeing slightly to the south. This allowed her to rendezvous with the forces of her allies.   After weeks of skirmishes across the terrain, Nora had finally found a suitable place for her soldiers to stand and fight. This time pretending to be in a full rout, she retreated until the backs of her soldiers were to an impassable cliff.   Then, seeing that she had backed her soldiers into a corner, and that they had no option but to fight, she ordered an attack on the now-overconfident pursuing force. It was a decisive victory, allowing Nora to pacify the frontier lands of the new alliance. Her fame eternally cemented as a brilliant tactician and valorous commander, she set upon governing the new union that she had made.  

As Supreme Commander of Kalian Forces

Two armies fighting on a long, narrow road are like two halora fighting in a duel to the death. The weak one fears the strong one, and the strong one fears the one that does not care for life. In this case, we are the ones that do not care anymore for life.
– Darian, Sage of Lightning
  After the Battle of the Salt Plains, Nora continued her relentless quest for expansion and unity. Now finally with the men to complete an expedition into the Salt Range, her troops moved to pacify the mountains quickly and efficiently.   The severely weakened and demoralized soldiers that still remained of the barbarian forces concentrated themselves in their capital city of Linsent. However, one great commander, who had been deprived of command during the critical battle of the Salt Plains, yet still remaining loyal to Linsent, stepped up to fill the void. The Sage of Lightning, Darian, stepped in with his light infantry to fight a brutal guerrilla campaign against the advancing Kalian vanguard.   Even though he still had some effect, it was nowhere near enough to fight the strong commanderies Nora had set up in conquered territories. Giving her best commanders land in these territories, the Kalians showed no mercy to guerrillas in the area. Darian, finally gaining an order to fight the Kalians, mustered up his men and dealt Nora her first and last battlefield defeat.   Outside the gates of Linsent, a few men were left, with the majority of the tribe already evacuated. After the capture of Linsent, Nora recieved word of a massive attack on the newly-established commandery Widwrat. Nora immediately, knowing her primary objective was achieved, moved back towards the commandery, taking the fast route, which was poorly-maintained.   Halfway along the road, they encountered the forces of Darian's halorin. At first, Nora believed that her brunt force would win: however, this time her troops were not backed against a wall like the last time. The three smaller units, of Hausi, Nong, and Zent, quickly retreated. Nora, alongside her fellow Yan units, fought bravely, but Darian's forces were another beast altogether. His forces did not need to worry about keeping their lives: their hometowns burnt, their families imprisoned, enslaved, or killed.   Soon, it became apparent that Darian's forces would win. Nora quickly called a general retreat, and they moved back to the defensive walls of Linsent. Darian, knowing that he could not sustain his victories, quickly moved for a peace with Nora. Nora, seeing him as one of her equals, quickly accepted, giving his remaining men some protections against slavery, and giving them some of their land back. The barbarian threat had been all but extinguished.  

Revolt of the Hausi

Nora is just like the rest of us: with her flaws of course. She is much too rational to be a commander: her overlords are the timetable and map. She regards the rest of us as tools: tools to accomplish a goal. She has softened much since her defeat at Linsent, but still I fear for her soul, and the souls of my people. She will stop at nothing to advance her people, and her tools take into no account the heart of halorin.
– Hausi chieftain
  After the common threat of the bandits had been all but removed, the nations began bickering amongst themselves again. Hausi, after seeing the crushing of the barbarians, wished to withdraw from the league. However, Nora had no intention of letting them become a threat. She worked with some Hausi chieftains to secure their loyalties, hoping to extinguish the threat of the Hausi independence movement immediately.   However, the independence movement won out, and Hausi attempted to secede from the league. Knowing that if Hausi went, Zent and Nong would go soon too, Nora convened a council. Hausi, after leaving, immediately went back to their old ways, attacking Zent and Nong. Now, Nora had a casus belli for war: she immediately called a vote during the monthslong council. With some manipulation, she was able to get the votes for a declaration of war, and moved rapidly against the Hausi, crushing the revolt.   While the Hausi resistance was all-but extinguished, the revolt would still scar her for the rest of her life. To help preserve her power, she organized a secret police, to make sure that no major regions would think of revolt from her empire. The secret police's power would continue to increase, and the political massacres would continue to worsen, until her emperor consort, Jan, would convince her to disband it.  

Expansion into the Salt Range

Back then, when I first met Nora, I saw her as an analytical commander truly in service of her people, helping them through whatever means possible. I still stand by my statement, but we must ask, who are her people? And who are the ones that are silenced?
– Wind Emperor, Jan
  At the end of the Hausi revolt, Nora was one of the most powerful people in the known world. She now focused her efforts on repairing and fortifying the Salt Range, an important barrier against other tribes, such as the now-organized and powerful Jern Gate Alliance in the eastern bays of Zentland. She hence moved to Linsent, and for a while disappeared from public view.   It is said that Nora invented the plow, and other methods for farming, that she applied in Linsent. Modern historians believe this to be at least partially false: while she was definitely mother of strategic studies and civil engineering, most of the methods would have probably developed earlier, and combined during the unification of the tribes.   However, her architectural and planning prowess was undisputed, and she, along with native architects, worked to rebuild Linsent from its ruins. Soon, a well-organized, grid-planned city arose, which would later be named one of Zentland's greatest manmade wonders. She also repaired The Beautiful Road, or the road where she was defeated by Darian. The road was widened and made to stretch the entire mountain range, linking essential commanderies.   At her fortieth birthday, she was able to see the barbarian cities, rebuilt from the ashes. The longest manmade road, the best-planned city, and the longest-spanning bridge and tunnel had all been completed, in just the span of a decade. She returned to her post in the ancestral lands of Pestrib.  

Later Life and Death

  Not much is recorded about this revered leader after her brilliant accomplishments. However, some results can be gleaned by the historical records of the Outrider Drones. At a certain point after her leave from the Salt Range, her husband, Jan the Wind Sage, convinced her to disband the secret police and give the regions more autonomy.   She is supposed to have devoted the last years of her life to study, creating imperial schools in all the tribal regions, and instating a meritocratic system of appointment to government positions to replace the "birthright" system of elders that had happened before then. She also instated harsh punishments to crime, and did not spare even her son when he was found guilty of trespassing. She is supposed to have ascended to heaven, and her daughter Emma is said to have succeeded her.

Physical Description

General Physical Condition

Nora is, as many had to be, strong of body and fit of mind. She is an agile fighter, preferring to take indirect routes as to deal with the enemies' fighting, and use the enemy's own force to one's advantage. One defining feature of Nora is her left eye, which was permanently blinded by a blow from a spear. She believes that that gives her humility, in terms of respecting the strength of others.

Personality Characteristics


My people are great, but they are not what they could be. They are strong, but they are not as strong as they could be. They need to be united, to face the world together. Because it is a harsh world.
– Flame Empress Nora
  Nora wants to help her people achieve new heights. This motivation is partially her upbringing: according to legend, when she was young, her village was burned by barbarians, and her father was killed defending her mother, who was sold into slavery.

Savvies & Ineptitudes

Nora, being the mother of strategic studies, is extremely good at many things. However, she has her weaknesses as well. Here are her strengths and weaknesses.

  • Archery
  • Architecture
  • Campaigning
  • Generalship
  • Inspiring
  • Leadership
  • Learning
  • Managing
  • Planning
  • Rallying others
  • Keeping Peace
  • Most Games
  • Judging Emotions
  • Listening to Others
  • Spearmanship

Virtues & Personality perks

Efficient – As a leader, she sees inefficiency as something that pulls time and energy away from all her future goals. She pulls inefficiency away from government, replacing it with more effective methods.
Self-Confident – Nora is not just self-confident: she is decisive. She trusts her skills and uses them effectively to accomplish her goals and the goals of the citizenry as a whole
Strong-Willed – It seems like every setback energizes Nora. Her strength is used to pull through those moments that the going gets tough, even if it means the deaths of tens of thousands of halorin. However, she is borderline stubborn in this aspect.

Vices & Personality flaws

Cold and Ruthless – Her obsession with efficiency and unwavering belief in the merits of rationalism makes her incredibly insensitive in pursuing her goals, using all methods at her disposal for "the common good".
Poor Handling of Emotions – Her "soft sense" is notoriously weak, and her true stance often has to be put into softer words by her ruling partner, the Wind Emperor. She is notoriously bad at the personal side of issues: while she is charismatic and can inspire nations to do her bidding, sometimes she can't even understand her husband.

Current Location
Port Nora
Brown Halora
Honorary & Occupational Titles
Sage of Flame
Calus District Senior Elder
Senior Elder of the Pestrib
Commander of Pestrib Gatekeepers
Supreme Commander of the Kalian Guard
Founder of the Kalian Guard
Calus District Junior Elder [former]
Calus District Militia Commander [former]
Circumstances of Birth
Slight earthquake, meteor shower
Circumstances of Death
Ascended into heaven [myth]
Died of pneumonia [historical]
Foothills of the Salt Range
Current Residence
Port Nora, South Zentland
Biological Sex
Deep green
1.2 m
33 kg
Quotes & Catchphrases
"I like fish. I like kava leaf. If I had to choose between them, I would choose kava leaf. I like my life. I also like honor. If I had to choose, I would choose honor. I like everything about my life. But I also love my people. If I had to choose between them, I would give everything for my people."
– Nora addressing her children
  "I'm sorry. I can't see anything. I really am blind in one eye, I have a right to not see my orders half the time."
– Nora when ordered to retreat and abandon an important city
Aligned Organization
Baiqiang Union

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Cover image: Winter Campfire by tkasabov2


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