“Hello at the gate! I swear to you we are not Mordok or bandits. We just want a room, it’s fucking cold and wet out here!” Marcus bellowed at the northern gates of Newhope.
“Very subtle. You know it’s really late in the night, they may not have a guard out.” I said as I held my cape over my other hand to shield my magefire from the wind and rain.“We should have camped out again. Found a dryer bunch of pines to sleep under.”
Marcus turned away from the large gates, his features mostly shrouded in darkness as my magefire continuously flickered in the chilly spring wind. Dropping his large pack to the cobblestone street, he exclaimed “To hell with that! You’re barely keeping your flame alight, and I will be damned if I wake up with a pine cone up my ass again. Which wouldn’t be the case if your aim was better!”
I exhaled a moment and remembered how the tent got destroyed. After the ruckus that was caused at the Ironmound feast, we went with the escort taking the Nightriver representative back to their territory, which wasn’t without conflict. They were constantly hounded by Grimward and wild animals. We had managed to either outmaneuver or avoid most of Grimward’s advances, but there had been a few minor skirmishes. One such instance happened when we were a day’s walk from Nightriver territory. We had just had our rations and were looking to turn in for the night. Since our supplies had been limited and not everyone had a tent, many of us had to double up in tents. This was not very ideal, since Marcus snores very loudly. Anyway we were about to turn in, when a guard screamed briefly before being silenced. Both Marcus and I emerged from the tent with our weapons, minus our boots, and yelled that an attack was happening. Losing the element of surprise, a handful of Grimward attacked, war cries filling the night. Our group was able to dispatch of them fairly quickly. Marcus was in the process of fighting one of the last ones, when this larger than usual Ulven stomped on his exposed right foot. Marcus howled in pain and fell to the ground. I primed a stun bolt and threw it, before the looming Ulven could finish off my friend. Solara take me, I don’t know how I missed that throw. The bolt flew over his left shoulder and landed in dying campfire, which caused it to explode showering the camp in sparks and embers. Everyone was shocked for a couple seconds except for the Nightriver representative, who snuck up behind the Grimward warrior standing over Marcus and slit his throat. She started helping Marcus to his feet, favoring his wounded foot, when the tents started on fire. It had been very dry as of late and many of the tents were made of canvas. I tried to put out the fire on our tent, but by the time I did, half of it was gone. A cleric healed Marcus’s broken foot and we delivered the representative safely to a Nightriver patrol. They couldn’t spare any supplies, so our best bet was to make it to Newhope. Marcus said there was a detachment of Gallant Feathers that he wanted to speak with about getting a unit to protect Ironmound, so we struck towards Newhope, tentless, and low on supplies.
“Gods above and below, how many times do I have to say I’m sorry?!” I yelled as the rain increased tempo.
“I will let it go when I’m not starving and drenched to the bone!” Marcus yelled back, turned and rapped on the door spouting obscenities.
At the end of his rant, a small window in the large door opened, showering them in a yellow light from a torch. Holding a torch was a bleary eyed, unshaven middle-aged man with bad teeth. “What the hell do you want? What is your business here at this ungodly hour?” he said, clearly annoyed that we woke him up.
“It’s about fucking time!” Marcus said pointedly. “We are a couple travelers from Nightriver, we seek lodging from the rain. Can you let us in?”
The guard looked between Marcus and I. “Why don’t you use your tent and come back in the morning?”
Marcus looked back at me briefly. “We lost it due to extenuating circumstances, and we don’t wish to die of exposure to the weather and litter your nice road. So can you please let us in?”
The guard thought about our answer for a few breaths. “Well, I don’t know. I will have to ask my sergeant, but he won’t like being awoken.”
I interjected before Marcus could snap out an insult. “We would really appreciate if you could wake him up. The Phoenix would appreciate it.”
The guard rubbed his eyes and yawned, clearly not impressed. “All right, I will go ask him. It will take a while though. You never know, I might forget on my way.” He closed the window before we could say anything.
“Listen here you little shit, if you forget us and we die, I swear to the gods I will haunt your scrawny ass for the rest of your miserable, pitiful life!” Marcus yelled at the door before turning around and leaning against the cold heavy wood. “This is bullshit!”
I walked over to the door and put my back against the door next to my friend and exhaled. My breath steamed out in a cloud of vapor, which dissipated in the cold rain. There was a slight eve next to the door that kept most of the rain off, except for when the wind blew. I was really exhausted and was not thinking clearly. My magefire was slowly flickering in this miserable weather. I was cold and sleeping here seemed like a good idea.
Marcus then tapped me on the shoulder, briefly clearing my thoughts. “Hey, keep that fire going for a little bit. I have to get something out of my bag. If we are to die tonight, I might as well die happy.” He bent down and started rummaging in his pack. He straightened a minute later with a large leather clad flask. He pulled the cork and smelled the contents, his eyes widening as he did. “That innkeeper wasn’t lying, his wife does make a mean raspberry wine.” He took a drink and passed it to me.
I looked confused at him for a second before taking it. “Where did you get this?” I asked as I raised the flask to my lips and took a small drink. The liquid was sweet, but very powerful and it took my breath away. I started coughing, as my chest and throat felt like they were on fire.
“Ha! I got that from the innkeeper’s wife when we almost died in that snowstorm last winter. I thought since we might die tonight, it only seemed fair that we die drunk.” Marcus spoke as he took another drink, and handed it back to me. “Also if I can’t sleep, neither can you. Misery loves company!”
Taking the flask, while nodding I responded “Yes, yes she does.” I took another drink. This time I didn’t cough, but the fire in my throat and chest persisted. I handed it back to him as I started feeling warm and giddy. The alcohol was sitting heavy on my stomach, after not having very much food in the last few days. “Thanks Marcus. Thanks for having my back and being there when I needed it.”
He took another drink, smiled and said “No problem buddy. I’m sure a lot of people would have done the same. Also thanks for watching out for me as well and keeping me in check from time to time.”
I looked down at the ground and thought of how many people had my back. The list was very small. “Not as many as you think. Growing up was pretty hard and lonely. After my parents died, I didn’t have very many people that would help me out.” I said, still staring at the ground.
“I thought all you Syndar keep an eye out for each other?” he said inquisitively. I looked at him for a second, and remembered he didn’t have a lot of exposure to Syndar culture. “The ignorant bastard”, I thought.
“I’m half Syndar, Marcus. I’m considered impure, broken, a bastard compared to full Syndar. Some of them wouldn’t spit on me if I was on fire. It’s pretty bad.” Marcus took another drink, looking down at the ground.
“That sucks shit Brodin. I didn’t know. But don’t you have any family or friends left in the world?” he asked as he handed me the flask.
I took a good long drink. “It’s probably better if I started from the beginning.”
“I was born in 218 on Faedrun in the May’Kar desert to the Syndar Phoenix Enclave. My mother was a Syndar silversmith named Carmella. My father was a human candle maker named Brosk. My mother was originally from the Enclave and she showed talent in the working of silver. By the time she was in her 80’s, her craft had made her pretty well known and liked. My father was a traveling candle maker, always traveling and “illuminating the world” as he once told me.” I smiled remembering those times, so long ago.
“He stopped at the Enclave to resupply his stock and hopefully to make a little profit. He told me that he had no intentions of settling down, but then he met my mother. She was not one to give up on things that she wanted. She knew what kind of scandal it would cause, but they didn’t care. Both my mother and father provided a service that people needed, so as long as they didn’t advertise it too much, no one openly denounced them.
I came along three years later. At the time my name was Brodin Wic. They agreed that my first name should be Syndar and that I should be given a second name of a sign of respect for my father. My second name changed when I was showing signs of magic. When I was 8, certain things happened. I was helping my father make a batch of candles. I became focused on something and suddenly a lot of the candles just exploded or melted everywhere. After that incident, my mother suggested that my second name needed to be altered to represent who I would become.Therefore, my second name was changed to FizzleWic. My childhood was excellent, memorable and fun. The enclave treated me as one its own, and I enjoyed playing with the few other syndar children. I was very curious, a bit naive, and very gullible. As I grew older, I tended to listen more, speak when it was necessary, and tell people the truth, even if they didn’t want to hear it. That goes for insulting them too, if they were acting like it. Mother said that it was a very human trait. After the candle incident my mother took me under her wing to learn silver metal crafting. Along with silver crafting, I was sent to the magus to receive training as a mage. Becoming a silversmith and training to be a mage was busy, but it kept me out of trouble.
Life was good in the Phoenix enclave. It changed when the magus Yara went on her journey of enlightenment. When she returned it was not with good news. Magus Yara told of her journey into the desert and how Solar spoke to her. The Sun God spoke of the Undead and that they would envelop Faedrun and bring an era of evil and degradation to the continent. Solar told her that they could find a new home across the great sea. This news was not received very well, because it brought more questions than answers and a lot of arguments in the enclave. My mother knew the magus for a long time and she looked worried.
We left with Magus Yara immediately after she told of her vision of Solar. I was leaving the only real home that I had ever known with most of the enclave in year 232. I was 13 summers old at the time. My parents bought three dusty camels for the journey. One for each of us to ride on and to carry our few valuables. Everything else my parents sold to those who insisted on staying. I was excited to go on an adventure to see new lands and journey where very few of our enclave had been. Our caravan was a decent size when we left our home. At the first oasis we stopped at to replenish our water supply we ran into another caravan. They looked very road worn and didn’t have a much in terms of supplies. They spoke of horror stories to the magus and elders, communicating rumors of undead. We traveled for a week after that before we came upon a band of armed men. They had a very grimy look. Many of them were armored in various degrees of cloth, leather armor and patches of chainmail. This was my first encounter with bandits.
Many of our caravan were unarmed and didn’t know how to defend themselves. There were a few, however, including my father who knew their way around a blade, or could cast spells. It was in that battle that I used my first push spell to dismount an armored man into a group of camels. An irritable camel named Birtha started stepping on the bandit until he stopped moving. We fought off the bandits, but many of our men and women died in the fray. The main force of the thieves were pushed back until they broke and fled.
That night many of our people were exhausted beyond belief. I am not sure if the sentry fell asleep or was knocked unconscious, but a few stealthy bandits returned to take what they could with the cover of night. My father was awakened to a bandit rooting through my mother’s silver things. The other man got the upper hand and slit my father’s throat before he could call for help. My mother woke up from the struggle and screamed as my father was killed. The bandit turned and ran, but fell over a sack of things he intended to steal. My mother then took my father’s sword and buried it in the bandit’s skull. Three other bandits were found and instantly killed.
My father’s death hit the both of us really hard. My mother decided it was best to bury it with continuing my training as a silversmith. I asked Raina, a magus in training, to teach me battle spells to punish those bandits lurking in the shadows. She looked at me and gave me a sympathetic look, and told me “Vengeance is not what we seek, but to survive the coming storm that will swallow this land. Forgive me, little one, you are still too young to receive such training. I will however teach you how to protect those who cannot protect themselves.”
It took many months to reach the sea. Dealing with bandits and bribing border guards became the norm. Our caravan used many of its valuables to procure mercenaries that would protect our people. Eventually the loss of my father just became a dull ache. I worked closely with my mother to keep her safe and to learn what I could. We both found the loss easier to deal with if we were busy. My rage had subsided to wonder again as we reached the sea in Aldoria. For most of us it was our first time seeing the seemingly endless blue expanse. I stood in awe at the sight of it. By this time many of the ship captains were not interested in leaving port to cross the vast sea, but before too long we found two ships big enough to take all of us in the direction that we wanted.
The enclave sold most, if not all of its belongings, including the camels. My mother was no exception, though she did keep her silversmith tools, many of which I still use today.
We left a week later and many of our caravan were trained to be passable sailors. I went to work as a cabin boy and kitchen aid. It was grueling work to maintain the captain’s ship. While working with the human sailors, I picked up many mannerisms and dialects. I also found out what it means to curse like a sailor. Some of the things that were said made my mother blush. It was nice to see her smile again for a bit. I lost her a month later.
It started with the storms that knocked us off course and then we slowly ran low on supplies. The ship was fairly cramped with people and provisions were scarce. Disease was starting to become common. My mother got sick when she was trying to cure many of the ill. Always trying to help others, rather than herself.
I was decimated. I had lost my parents and most of the people I knew to this journey. I spent the next couple of days below deck holding onto my mother’s tools, depressed and crying my eyes out. It was not fair that I was alone. Some of the enclave huddled around me when I didn’t realize it and spent the nights through my trauma, holding me close. I woke on the third day with no tears left to cry. Then I looked at all those that remained and saw that we all had lost someone dear to us. I didn’t have a family anymore, but I had my people. I may not be a full Syndar, but we all bled and cried on this journey. We were family! Then I knew that I had a home no matter where I went.
Weeks later, Raina spotted land. It was a deserted island which would become our new home. We spent the next few months establishing a settlement and working hard to repair the ships that brought us here. The journey from the desert in 232 to the island in 238 had been a six year journey.
25 years later, I had a home built in a strong oak tree and had a silversmith shop built at the base. I was now a silversmith and a magus in training, which kept my mind pretty busy. Yet, I still wanted something more. I wanted to help people, and hopefully make a difference.
I sold many of my wares to everyone on the island, so I had a decent reputation, and was well liked. I was visiting Lady Anariel to get the specifics on an earring commission when she got news that a couple of her mage friends had taken ill. She was scheduled to leave in the morning for the mainland to attend a political dinner as a delegate from the Fire Isle. She couldn’t summon anyone with the short time that she had, so she asked if I would accompany her to the dinner. I eagerly accepted and ran home to pack a few things. I was going on another adventure and I couldn’t wait to get moving.
Upon reaching the mainland, we gathered our little procession and moved out. Lady Anariel stopped me before we got too far out of port and asked me if I could gather some reagents from the surrounding landscape. She wished to know if they could be used to enhance the flavor and special effects of her pickles. Always the one to please and looking to explore as much as I could of this new place, I accepted. Finishing with my task, I hurried to catch up with my caravan. That is when I ran into bandits and you, Marcus. Thank you again for helping me out with them.”
Marcus looked at me with a smile on his face and a glimmer in his eye. He was drunk. “Any time Brodin, like I said, I like to think that anyone would have done the same. We both bled a lot these last couple months, and I am sure that we will bleed more. This world is messed up and we are trying to fix it, but I will tell you what. There isn’t anyone that I would have by my side but you, brother.” He said as he patted me on the back.
A single tear rolled from my eye, which was lost in the rain. “I have a brother!”, my mind screamed. My chest filled with joy that warmed my whole body, I recast my mage fire with renewed effort. I looked off to the east and saw the sky start to grey as a new day approached.
Marcus saw me turn and looked himself. “Hey shitheads! Open up this rotten gate!”
“Stand by! We are opening the gate!” called a voice from the up in the gatehouse.
“About fucking time!” I heard Marcus grumble. I also heard the large timber moving away from the lock as the door slid open. As the door opened, a man with a thick cape and sword walked through. “I am Sergeant Olsen, what business do you have here?” He said with authority.
“Gunny, is that you? Gunny Olsen put that pig sticker away and let me in. I’m so cold my balls are saying dirty things to my liver.” Marcus said, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
“Marcus! What the hell are you doing outside? It’s good to see you!” the sergeant said, turning to the gate.
“Say, sergeant, are your men supposed to keep people outside all night in the rain?” I asked dryly.
“No, the corporal on duty, Derget, I think his name is, should have let you in. There are 5 archers and bolters on this wall alone. You would have been a pincushion if you tried anything funny.” he said as he let us inside the gate.
“And which one is Corporal Derget?” Marcus said neutrally.
Sergeant Olsen pointed to a bleary-eyed man that had just come out of the guard tower, and was making his way up the street. When he was about to pass us, not aware that we even existed, Marcus turned swiftly to grab the corporal’s tunic and punched him solidly with his left hand. Derget’s feet left the ground as he landed in the mud and didn’t move.
“That’s what you fucking get for leaving us out all fucking night! You son of a whore!” Marcus screamed at the unconscious man. The rest of the guards all drew steel and readied bows.
“Stand down!” Gunny commanded. “Richards!” He pointed to a youth up on the wall with a bow. “Is what Marcus said true? Did Corporal Derget leave them outside all night while he slept in the tower?” The youth looked left and right. “Yes Sergeant, he did. He said that they can all rot for waking him up. He also said that if we opened our mouths we would be on night duty for the next month.” Others nodded their heads, confirming what Richards stated. Obviously this Derget wasn’t much liked.
Gunny looked down at Derget and spat on him. “Jenkins and Gotter, take Corporal Derget to the brig. I will get to him this afternoon.” Turning to Marcus and me, he said “I would like to offer apologies for the Newhope City Guard’s negligence. I’m sure corporal Derget has learned his lesson and he is willing to pay for a room so that you may dry your clothes and get a warm meal.”
Marcus looked at me and winked. “That sounds good, Gunny. I will stop by after your duty is done for the day. Let’s go, Brodin. Some breakfast and hopefully a bed with a warm lady is in my future.” I followed him for a few muddy, sodden streets into a small square, where I saw a few cloaked merchants preparing their covered stalls. I recognized one of the merchants as Myra Silvertongue, a half Syndar like myself, who lived and worked in Newhope as a tailor. I currently wore the tunic she gave me the last time I saw her, road worn and sodden, but still in one piece. Turning to Marcus. “My friend, this one has business with a certain seamstress, and will see you later.”
He glanced over my shoulder to Myra, and his face split into a toothy grin. “I will see you later, buddy.” Patting me on the shoulder, he turned and walked deeper into the city.
I turned and walked up to Myra, suddenly warm. “Siala Kay Nu Myra. Do you remember this one?” She turned to me and gave me a little sly smile. “Siala Kay Nu Brodin. This one does remember you and is wondering what took you so long to return? This one has noticed your tunic has seen better days.” She looked up at the slate grey sky, as the rain continued its relentless assault on Newhope, with no signs of letting up. “This one also thinks that this is not a good day to sell much. This one would be happy to dry and repair your tunic, if you would regale me of your travels”
Again she shocked me with her forwardness, but I was very cold, wet, and very hungry. Marcus’ brew also wearing off. I gave her a slight bow, and deciding to Solar with formality. “I would like that very much.” She smiled more as she gathered her large duffel sack full of wares. “Follow me, my sodden hero.” My heart started racing as I felt warm again. I followed her for a few steps and asked if I could carry her heavy pack. She looked at me for a moment before accepting. I shouldered the heavy sack and took her hand in my free hand. Her warm hand felt delicate yet strong in my cold callused hands. She did not recoil from the coldness and grittiness of my hand. She instead gripped tighter, her warmth slowly spreading to me. It made me feel safer than I had felt in a long time.