You and your squad of guardsmen come upon a terrible sight: a merchant caravan waylaid by highwaymen. Clothes and other goods are scattered across the road, as are the bodies of the caravan’s guards and merchants. The wagons have been ransacked. The horses are missing, no doubt laden with the goods worth stealing. Standing in the middle of the carnage, in a soiled white shift, is a young woman, completely unharmed. She is frantically sketching and writing in a leather-bound book, her body trembling, tears running unchecked down her face.
The Rootless are a class of holy people with a single unifying trait: an overwhelming drive to seek out the truths of the world. Unable to settle in one place, they constantly wander. Some cover a small area: two or three villages or towns and the land between them. Others never visit the same place twice. Some may spend their lives learning all they can about a small wood, or a pond, or a single family of squirrels. Others will document great migrations, following the herds wherever they roam. Still others will chart the movement of the stars, or the currents along the coast, or the ebb and flow of tides and seasons.
They come from all walks of life. They are merchants, nobles, artisans, priests, sailors, farmers, peasants, and beggars. Some are skilled with sword or bow. Others are skilled with magic. All must follow the call. Because they are holy, they are granted the basic authority of clerics. They may conduct weddings, preside over divorces, or perform funeral rites. But they do not follow one particular deity. They are not part of a single religious tradition. Each of the Rootless will worship and keep faith in his or her own unique way.
Becoming Rootless is not a choice, but a calling. Some are called when they are young. Others don’t hear the call until they are grey-haired and nearing the Last Sleep. Whatever, or whoever, calls to them, they are generally not driven into situations they can’t handle. So a four-year old who hears the call will start by exploring her home, though someday she may explore the wildest forests.
Secondary to discovery is a need to communicate. Most of the Rootless have a drive to share their knowledge. Many keep journals, detailing the things they have discovered. Those who can’t read and write will instead tell their stories to anyone who will listen. Sages and scholars have the wit and wisdom to stop and listen, and to record anything they’re told. In addition, the Rootless who have artistic talents will create detailed drawings and illustrations, or craft songs and stories, or carve their knowledge into wood and bone.
Few people would dare to assault one of the Rootless. Many are the tales of brigands or thieves who have met untimely, gruesome ends after harming one of the Rootless. “Strip them bare, if you dare, but leave their skins whole and fair.”
This work by Jean Headley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.