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September 271

A crispness settles into the air all across the continent of Mardrun. The very first of the leaves begin to change their colors and the harvest season is well and begun. Fall blankets the denizens of the land in her cool, refreshing embrace. But then somewhere on the eastern seaboard, someone accidentally knocks over a small ceramic pot, spilling tea all over their tablecloth. It’s News-and-Rumors, baby!

 

After her notoriously sloppy escape attempt, Celestial Arragones has been captured by Newhope forces and turned over to the Lictor Courts to stand trial. Many rumors swirl over the lands about what is going to happen to her. Many agree that she was likely looking at a stern rebuke and an escort back to her holdings prior to her attempts to raise an army and fight against her state. Now most agree that she is likely looking at charges of treason, though not all agree on what this could mean. Some say she could lose her head, others argue that the nobles on the Council would never eat one of their own like that and she’ll probably still escape with blood on her hands and a slap on the wrist. No one at this point knows what will happen, but there is no doubt that many eyes are resting on The Newhope Council.

 

Deep in The Hackles a story was born of a young Ulven hunter. That tale goes that she was stalking some prey through the wilderness when a heavy bout of hail struck that forced her to take cover in the hollow of a mighty oak tree. While she hunkered down she heard what she swears were the heavy footsteps of a large beast walking on two legs. She tried to poke her head out and get a good look, but was unable to see anything. Eventually the footsteps marched off into the woods away from her and soon after the hail eased and let up. She immediately ran back to her village and told everyone in the local meadhall. Most laughed at her, but some piped up to mention ancient Ulven tales of spirits and landwights bringing storms, hail, and forest fires. Did the echo of hail on the tree trunk cause this young hunter to imagine the sound of heavy footsteps, or has something called back the landwights that walked Mardrun in the eras before history.

 

News is slow in the small village of Brackenloft in Clan Goldenfield. In fact not many people even know it exists. Most maps don’t include it and those that do often find this little village mistaken for an accidental drop of ink. But this miniscule village has found its way to the forefront of the harvest season news. A farmer by the name of Harrod Mudfingers has risen to great acclaim for a feat unlike any seen before. This year Harrod managed to grow the most amazing turnip. People have flocked to the village to see this turnip, which is so large it could almost be hollowed out and turned into a hut! Harrod will stop and tell any who will listen of how it took him days to dig this turnip out of the ground and how it took a team of sixteen burly Ulven with ropes to pull it from its hole. If you want a chance to see this marvel of root-veg then make sure to take a trip out to Brackenloft!

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August 2022 – The Siege of the Celestial

= EVENT STORY =
As the excitement of last month’s market faire winds down, gossip continues about the City-State of Newhope’s proclamation. It seems that a major shift has taken place within the Council of Newhope, with Celestial Arragones being removed from her position. Skeptics have jumped at the chance to proclaim that this is a sign of greater instability within the City-State while others worry if influences, both inside and out, might try to take advantage of the situation against the City-State or the Council.

Eventually, news catches up on the next step of this unfolding drama; the City-State Council has made their intent known that there is a plan to detain Celestial Arragones and bring her in so that she may work through this situation in the City-State court system. This could become a large City-State effort and may end up requiring those that swear fealty to Newhope to be present or involved in some way.

Sources close to the council have said that Celestial Arragones has removed herself from the city proper due to feeling like the Council was “looking for a scapegoat” and is now residing in one of her outer estates. She has taken her most loyal followers with her, and it becomes clear rather quickly that the magical libraries she tended to within the city have been almost completely emptied. She has long proclaimed that these libraries are personal property of hers and until now there has been little to no dispute of that. Word on the street is that various local mercenary groups are being contacted for a “security contract” which is speculated to be from the Celestial’s people.

As this unfolding situation seems to be quickly coming to a head, it is unknown at this time as to whether the City-State will be collaborative on moving forward or if the Celestial will be cooperative with these recent decisions.

Many hold their breath to see what will happen next as some sort of confrontation, one way or another, seems unavoidable.

= UPDATE =

After receiving a foreboding letter early in the day bearing the seal of Aylin’s Reach, it was learned by those assembled that the Aldorian garrison of troops at the Spire of the Archons was made aware that a mysterious benefactor had given aid to the Archons and their (in)famous Recall Point magical project was completed. The timing seemed incredibly convenient given the fact that the Celestial was well versed in the magical defenses and countermeasures available to the City-State. On a similar note, City-State forces reported a magical feeling wash over them, detonating protective auras and harming those that wore them. It seemed the Celestial’s forces had unique magical defenses of their own.

The anti-Arragones forces did some work ahead of time to undermine the efforts of hiring mercenary thugs in the area, the collective group was able to negotiate with and pay off the remaining mercs. While trying to oversell their skills and abilities, it was obvious this group was little more than a band of thugs and brigands. Still, they took a pretty substantial amount of money after some tense discussion and left the area without further issue.

The second line of defense was the Tartan Moors, a semi-professional mercenary unit. It seemed like there would be no real efforts to pay them off or even an attempt to, as the honor and reputation of the group was on the line. Without a substantial reason given to the mercenary unit to abandon their contract, both sides would agree that they would fight it out but would spare the wounded or those who would yield. After a drawn out fight with both groups feeling the attrition of the battle, the Tartan Moors were defeated and given quarter and first aid. This was also done in tandem with awaiting martial units of the City-State and several of their allies and vassals pressing in to begin a fight against the estate’s defenders on multiple fronts.

The final line of defense was the devote followers and personal retinue of Celestial Arragones. Access to the personal libraries of the Celestial seemed sought after by many, but the Celestial’s demands to appease her tarnished reputation and standing revealed her intentions to destroy it instead of handing it over or be taken for her were deemed too much. After brief negotiations seem to stagnate, it was clear that the group had come to an impasse; the Celestial would not back down on her demands and the City-State would not agree to them. Both sides prepared for violence.

Where the first group was paid off and violence avoided and the second group battled it out in honorable and respectful combat, the third group of defenders saw the full brutality of martial conflict. Martial units in other parts of the estate’s holding pressed in to fight various groups of the Celestial’s defenders. The City-State task force pushed in and soon a pell mell skirmish took place all over. Wounded City-State allies were dragged off to be tended to while the Celestial’s defenders were cut down and either bled to death or a few were saved by neutral parties that offered to lend aid. Even with some the City-State forces giving some quarter to their enemy, many were killed in the fighting.

At the start of the attack, the Celestial’s forces were given a signal; to burn her private research and materials and deny it from being taken from her. She, and her followers, were determined that if the City-State persisted, they would not be allowed to take these items. Numerous fires were fed immense amounts of documents, scrolls, invaluable research notes, and magical formulas and it choked the air around the estate. Some of these materials had no copies, were one of a kind, and survived the fall of Faedrun, but were burned to ash and lost forever. The entirety of magical research of the people of Mardrun has been dealt an incredible setback.

However, as these materials were cast into the fire, a traitor among the Celestial’s groups convinced a scholar to turn on her forces and steal away some research materials. Trapped away from City-State forces, these two were able to save some research materials from the fire composing of lustful letters and stories between scholars along with some important and even some rare research notes. Despite these few items being saved, the vast majority of the libraries were destroyed.

As soldiers marched into the inner sanctum of the estate, Celestial Arragones conducted a Recall ritual to attempt to escape. Due to the fact that the City-State forces voted to deploy a “Recall Trap” magical countermeasure and their choice to move it as close as possible to the estate, the Celestial found herself reappearing from the mana stream into the waiting arms of City-State soldiers and shackled instead of whisked away to safety.

By the end of the day, the Celestial was detained and her forces were utterly devastated. The ramp-up of intensity of the fighting left many dead or seriously wounded, and the billowing smoke of numerous fires carried away the ashes of the largest magical library on the entire continent, the condemning words of several wounded and dying Arragones supporters reminding everyone of the consequences of the day.

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July 2022 – Festivities at Bladehome

= EVENT STORY =
As the hustle and bustle of the last several month’s activities continue to circulate around the continent, focus begins to shift toward the upcoming annual market faire gathering. After Chief Merchants and various administrators have met and discussed options, the decision on where to host it is finally made public and announced to all.

Bladehome, the settlement of the newly expanded Statehood territory of the Broken Blade Company, has put in some behind-the-scenes work to be chosen to host the market faire. Naysayers, used to having a shorter trip to attend the market faire, have already started to be vocal about security concerns over the well-known issue of banditry and lawlessness in this area. However, martial units bearing the Broken Blade Company heraldry have already been seen on patrol and work is in full swing on rebuilding bridges in the territory, so some of these concerns seem to have already been addressed.

As has been the norm at previous political dinners and market faires, there is news of an impending proclamation expected to be made by the City-State of Newhope. Whether it be speculation about the Outlands and the strange Syndar visitors last month, an address to concerns over the previous expeditions and research done into such things, or an official response to the declaration made be the collective Ulven Clans months ago about exerting more supervision and control on colonist activities, the rumor mill is in full swing about it. The exact focus of this official message to the masses is still unknown.

Regardless of big politics, many people are excited to come and peddle their wares or spend their coin at the market faire. Trade routes are already being redirected and travelers prepared to make the journey into former Riverhead territory and Bladehome is expecting a considerable influx of coin and travelers.

 

= UPDATE = 

The day went largely as Market Faires do. People from all walks spilled into the new home of the Broken Blade Company and were met with indisputably excellent hospitality. Merchants peddled wares and leaders of various groups and factions met to talk shop. Grand feats of strength, cunning, and iron-stomachs ranging from Archery and Melee Tournaments, to messy pie-eating contests dazzled and entertained the crowd. There was even the Unofficial Official return of the Official Unofficial Chairs Street Rules Championships where a new contender appeared from nowhere to take away the prized Golden Stool.

Though there was a great amount of joy and revelry in the air there was also business. A representative from Newhope read out a proclamation written by Grand Duke Richards that stripped Celestial Arragones from her seat on the Newhope Council and removed her as the head of research for the colonies. In her place The Ravens University of Keys Crossing was promoted to stand as the managerial head of all City-State research projects moving forward.

This piece of business could not depress the mood long, however. Before you knew it people were back to their festivities, the fate of Arragones seeming to have no dampening effect on their moods. The day rounded to a close with a hearty drinking song sang together by all in attendence.

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June 2022 – Strangers from the North

= EVENT STORY =
After an incredibly eventful expedition into the Outlands there is a consistent buzz throughout the continent of Mardrun. People of all walks of life want to hear the stories of previously unknown beasts and strange Syndar to the north. The expeditionary forces reveal that they had spoken with the strange Syndar before leaving the Outlands and she agreed that she would travel south of the Swamp after returning to her people with the fruits of her hunt. She did, however, make it clear that she would go no further south than an outpost on The Shield of Mardrun until she had more time to vet and understand the strange southerners.

Hersir Sigurmond Shattered Spear heard the news and reached out to the people of Newhope to volunteer his outpost as a meeting place, but did make it clear that it was still an operating military outpost and while people were welcomed to visit and they should feel safe within his walls, there is still a threat from the Swamp. On the other hand, outposts along the Shield always offer excellent opportunities for people of all walks of life looking to make some coin and the thought of a stranger from a previously unknown culture has excited the minds of many a merchant looking to establish new routes or trade in unique goods from The Outlands.

Soon mercenaries, supply merchants, and caravans alike began to take Sigurmond up on his offer and before long the usually quiet outpost has become a flurry of life and activity. Whether they are there simply to find work or to speak with the stranger from the north, all sorts of people find themselves within the walls of The Shattered Spear Outpost or sprawling outside nearby in makeshift camps.

Unfortunately, it seems that things are not destined to remain quiet. News from scouts starts to spill into the outpost that a Mordok has been seen creating corruption idols in the edges of the swamp near the outpost. While these idols have yet to wreak havoc upon the garrisoned warriors, their effects have already begun to be felt. A familiar choking of the mana in the area has started to affect the ability of the mages and clerics within the outpost to regain their mana through meditation. At the time this is little more than an annoyance, but if left unchecked then the issue could prove to hinder the responsiveness of the outpost to a future Mordok assault.

Luckily, researchers have recently developed a standardized ritual to deactivate or destroy corruption idols and anyone with the means to gather this information should be able to procure the needed instructions to aid the outpost. Sigurmond has placed the outpost Quartermaster in charge of gathering volunteer forces to travel beyond the outpost to seek out and destroy these idols before they have a chance to become more than a simple thorn in the side.

 

= UPDATE = 

The Stranger from the North arrived at the Shattered Spear Outpost, but she did not arrive alone. Alongside her was an additional Syndar dressed in the same manner. The two took turns through the day meeting with the various people of the camp and sharing little information about themselves or where they had come from. Throughout the day some people here and there were able to ingratiate themselves to the newcomers to enough of a degree that they were able to glean some information from them, but as far as public knowledge goes we were unfortunately left with more questions than answers.

As for the corruption idols in the area – The volunteer forces of the Shattered Spear Outposts were successful in their attempts to thwart these idols. One in the area seemed to act just as expected, but the other showed significantly more resilience, though luckily it was able to be contained and damaged enough that by the time the local Daughter of Gaia returned with aid, it was easily able to be dispatched.

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Guardians of the Wall

Organization Name: Guardians of the Wall (GOW)

Leading pc: Zenteagan Wincress
Members: Aladrin Greywood, Stanley Lorden, Conner Ashmane, Zenteagan Wincress, Audreanna Delamore
Setup: Affiliation
Focus: Economics / Martial
Location of Settlement: South of the Great Forest Lake near the point of the mountains. West of Clan Goldenfield.
Name of Settlement: Shieldhaven

Political Ideologies: GOW has no positions of agreeing with any particular political group or faction. We have no holdings with positions of power that are established as of writing this edict. In terms of leanings, GOW is neutral in all political squabbles unless it directly affects our members or organization.

BIO:
Do you want a place to belong? Do you want a family to call your own? Would you die for your family and hope they would die for you? Then join the Guardians of the Wall.

What started as a group of adventurers, has turned into a family that continues to grow. We look out for each other and we look out for our own. We don’t take sides with warring nations or infighting, but rather we treat each of our family members as a trusted ally and would willingly give up our lives to defend those among us. Whether it’s defending our home against attacking Mordok or sending our Wall to aid other members in their trials, we will do what is necessary to provide our fellow members with a safe and secure family. Most importantly, we are connoisseurs of pork and ale.

The following are our tenants and upheld agreements by which all members will abide and agree:

Tenant 1: All members will act in the GOW’s best interest and not act in any way that would jeopardize the validity or honor of our organization.

Tenant 2: You must never harm or steal from another member, but rather must defend each member with your life. Each member of the Wall will protect and defend eachother ato the absolute best of their individual abilities.

Tenant 3: No single member speaks for the entire group, decisions that may affect more than one self or the image of the wall will be discussed as a whole.

 

Ranking and hierarchy:
All ranking is by honorable title and nothing more. No position has lordship or control of any subsequent positions.

The Council: The nameless, founding members of the GOW solely exist to establish and uphold rules agreed upon by the various members. In the event of disputes and ultimately decisions regarding membership and the wellbeing of the GOW, the Council will convene and deliberate a decision.

The Wall: The sole individual with the honorary title of “The Wall” is Stanley Lorden. While not a position of authority, it is the founding member’s ranking that must be honored and held in regard, as we would not exist without him. In the event of combat, any questions of tactics will fall to the Wall.

Shield Brothers/Maidens: Below noone, this highest of honorary titles is bestowed to all who choose to don a shield to protect the Wall. These individuals will be respected and cherished as positioning themselves in the most dangerous areas of combat and have devoted their lives to the sole responsibility of protecting the members. 

Guardians: All members are considered guardians and will be addressed as such when necessary.

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The Golden Hand

The Golden Hand

The Golden hand is a group of like-minded individuals who want to make the world a
better place. Threw no common religion, race, or occupation the members are committed to
helping those in need and leaving the world better then we found it. Every member is equally
important and everyone has a place. The Golden Hand works to make the world a better place
primarily with their physical effort. We are First and foremost merchants. We specialize in
practical resources such as grain, lumber, tools. Anything the working class will need and we
sell our supplies accordingly. Everything is pay what you can, because those in need shouldn’t
go without and those who can afford it will pay a little extra to help everyone out. We stay in
business with a lot of hard work and the goodness of others.

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June 271 – News and Rumors

The weather across Mardrun has been fair over the last several weeks and the people of Mardrun have been making ample use of the long days. While fields still need tending, the bulk of the planting season has passed and it’s still some months til harvest season. The month of June brings about a time of relative leisure for many citizens and the local taverns, alehouses, and meadhalls make immediate use of this. All across the continent outdoor biergartens and seating areas spring up next to drinking establishments, easily enticing passersby to stop in for a pint, a curious summer mixed-drink, or just to pass the time with friends and gossip.

 

*

Many tell the story of a young Syndar woman who’d wandered into the foothills north of Starkhaven. Know one knows why she left her home or where she was going. Her mysterious disappearance has shaken her friends and family who immediately put together a small search party to head to the hills to find her. They asked around to gather any information they could and eventually found a member of the Layorder Militia who told them that he’d seen a person matching her description around the time that they claim she went missing. He tells the story that he saw her walking out of the eastern gate and turning north toward the foothills around midnight. He tried calling out to her to ask where she was going that time of night, but she seemed unable to hear him, fixated on her destination. “I assumed it was some kinda Syndar moon thing, I dunno,” he told the worried party, “But either way she walked her way right up into the hills. 

 

The party set off immediately up into the hills and luckily were able to pick up the trail of their missing. They followed the trail for hours and eventually crested a hill and found her standing in the middle of a clearing below. They called out to her but she didn’t respond; she simply stood still, holding a purple flower clasped over her heart and an empty smile on her face. One of her friends took a step toward her and immediately she vanished into the mana stream leaving behind nothing but a cascade of purple flower petals. The search party returned to Starkhaven, crestfallen and with more questions than answers.

 

*

 

Some people in a roadside tavern between Keys Crossing and The City of Newhope have begun spreading tales of a strange occurrence. Some days ago the people of the tavern were awoken in the early morning hours to an eardrum shattering blast on the road in front of the building. People fled outside to gawk at the source of the explosion, but saw nothing more than a black-haired Syndar running about frantically, cursing and worrying, and picking up shattered bits and bobs while a human clad in a green tunic tried desperately to assure her that everything will be okay and that things can be replaced. The pair looked up and saw that they had drawn a crowd and quickly gathered what they could onto their travois and took off on the road toward Keys Crossing without acknowledging their audience.

 

*

 

A sickness has gripped the people of a small Stormjarl village near their border with Aylin’s Reach. People report incredible fatigue and stomach pains. Some have been seen vomiting blood. No one can be certain of the cause of this disease, but luckily it hasn’t seemed to spread beyond the village. A few travelers visiting the area also fell ill, but grew better after they left the area. Only one family has managed to avoid the rapidly onsetting plague though no one can tell why. They have mingled with the rest of the village, but not contracted the illness. Some are beginning to accuse the healthy family of dark magics and claim that they have placed a curse upon the town for some unknown slight. Hopefully someone will step in and get to the bottom of the situation before it ends in bloodshed.

*

The Council of Newhope has been meeting regularly over the last couple months. Such activity is to be expected after the proclamation from the Ulven leadership. What takes this from a mundane news report to a load of hot gossip that spreads over the continent is one small detail. It seems that Arragones and her stewards have been formally barred from these meetings. No one can be certain whether or not this is a calculated move that Arragones is also a party too and simply a series of political maneuvering; or a serious sign that things may be shaking up for The Council.

It does appear, at least outwardly, that the latter is the case. Small whispers have drifted out of the Libraries of Celestial Arragones that tell of her increasingly erratic behaviors and apparent genuine upset at the current turn of events. 

 

*

 

Reports start surfacing from people in coastal settlements and those living along larger waterways about small longships passing their homes with increasing regularity. These ships have been seen flying various flags, none of which are recognized as Clan flags and none of which match any Packs local to the area. While these ships haven’t made any large moves that anyone is aware of, there are still reports trickling in of some of them harassing people as they pass them on the rivers, often shouting insults and hurling refuse. The speculation is that these boats may be related to the recent raids, but others say that they could just as easily be drunken sailors blowing off steam, but then why would they be sailing the routes in the first place? Regardless of the origins of these unidentified aquatic objects, the people of the coastal and riverfront settlements are growing anxious.

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Amiya Stormjarl

PLAYED BY: Leah Maas
CHARACTER NAME: Amiya
GENDER: Female
PREFFERED PRONOUN(S): She / her
CLASS: Rogue
AGE: 12 (year 271)
RACE: Ulven
HAIR: Brown
EYES: Blue/ gray

OCCUPATION: Herbalist, hunter

KNOWN SKILLS: Learning to live off the land during a war she has learned to identify and properly harvest plants that benefit many.

BIRTHPLACE: Village in Stormjarl. Born in the year 259

APPEARANCE: Tall for her age with frizzy hair. She likes to dye it different colors.

RELATIONSHIPS: Fritha Stormjarl : Aunt, Arland: grandfather, Thrand Stormjarl: Uncle, Afkarr: Uncle, Elise Mother,?(David)? :Father and a little sister.

RUMORS: They assume she is meant for great things with her family and friends, only time will tell.

BIO / BACKGROUND HISTORY: My story? Um, I’m not sure when it begins. Everything was confusing for a lot of it. My aunt Fritha lived far away so we would go visit her. It was a long trip, it was boring and I didn’t like it. During one of those trips someone said we can’t come home, that we didn’t have a home anymore. How can that be? Where did my family go?

Then everything was confusing. I had to stay with other clan members while mom went to look for dad. I heard someone say he might never come back, I kicked that old lady in the leg and ran away.

Growing up during a war was terrible. I didn’t have a home, we were moved around and staying with a lot of different people. Mom wasn’t there, dad wasn’t there. I was stuck with my little sister who cried a lot. We didn’t have a lot to eat, so the women started showing me what plants are good to eat and use for healing. There were a lot of wounded all the time.

Then it started to get better. Grandpa came to stay with us, I liked that. And Aunt Fritha was around a lot. But she also left a lot, planning and raiding with her friends. Then dad came back!! And uncle Afkarr came home. Then they said the war was over, but I didn’t care. I had my family back. By then I was older. 10?

We still can’t go home, they said that is gone and we can’t return- Grimworm burned it. So we have a smaller place, but I don’t like it as much. Fritha and uncle Thrand are around more, I like that. Mom said now that I’m older I can start to travel with Auntie, and boy am I ready.

INFO: Being in around a war at such a young age she doesn’t seem to be as effected by it as others think she should be. Her family has tried to show her that death is serious and she should be more scared.

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Rexton Atherton

Player Name: Canyon Crays
Contact Info: canyoncrays@gmail.com
Character Name: Rexton Atherton
Preferred Pronouns: He/Him
Class: Warrior
Age: 20
Race: Human
Hair: Light Brown
Eyes: Blue
Occupation: Sword for hire and general bodyguard for the Hand of Midas
Known Skills: Trained as a soldier and is skilled in shield and sword
Birthplace: an insignificant village in the northern reaches of Faedrun
Relationships: Imrick OakenBrow is his oldest and only friend and one of the few people whose
opinion he respects
Rumors: Strict to his morals and can be almost reckless with his life if it means protecting
another

Background:
I grew up in a backwater village that almost no traveler or merchant would give a second glance at. My family being what was closest to that of the healers of our village helped treat the sick or wounded in any way we could. Since I was a child my mother taught me the teachings of Arnath and the ideals of helping the weak. She tried to teach me medicine and to heal others trying to steer me away from the path of a soldier but I never took well to the practice. I loved playing with wooden swords. My older brother used to tell me stories of a big war where we used to live. He told me he was sad because his friends went away forever or were hurt real bad.  I wanted to go out and stop these violent actions from happening in the first place. To prevent people from being hurt.

Years later, we moved to a new continent named Mardrun. So looking to the Order of Arnath, I decided to join and wanted to become a soldier fighting to save lives directly rather than waiting and healing them after they happen. I had big hopes and dreams for a young kid and the best I could do was random chores as a youth recruit to the Church. We trained a little, and I usually beat the other kids, so I felt I was ready to start training for real. However, there was a problem; I lacked any connection to divine magic. Without it, I would still be able to serve in the military but I couldn’t be an actual part of the Order. I thought this idea to be idiotic. I had the will and drive to serve with my utmost ability but without the presence of divine magic I couldn’t become even the lowest ranking member of the Order. I was fine with this though as simply being able to help in their missions was doing my part. That was until my superiors gave me orders that acted directly against them.

We knew about the tension in the Church; that something was happening between the two remaining chapters. Then all of a sudden everyone was yelling and they were gathering people and everyone was fighting. I saw armored Lion’s battering hammers on each other’s shields. I saw soldiers in the same heraldry cutting each other down. I saw bodies in the blood covered dirt.

I couldn’t believe it. The Order of Arnath was supposed to protect the weak, uphold justice, and be righteous. Now they burned the bodies of a number of their ordained, their Layorder followers, and the young neophytes who believed in the cause… killed by their own during their “civil war”. I spent so much time thinking I would be a great soldier one day and all I could do was hold my training sword in my trembling hand as we were escorted out of the area.

This experience stuck with me for some time after that as I couldn’t get the idea out of my head. I decided I would drop out of the youth recruit program as soon as I could. I hadn’t sworn the oath yet so I was free to leave if I so chose to do so. So after meeting with a fellow soldier, Imrick, who felt similar about his experience I left to fulfill my goals on my own. He told me about an adventure he had going to the Outlands and his ideas of forming an adventuring group. We wouldn’t be alone for long however as we eventually met three others who had an interesting idea. They wanted to create a business of sorts. One that ventures from place to place lending hand and skill to help those it could only asking in return what could be afforded. If a villager needed medical attention but could only cover half the cost we would still do it or if the weapons of the town guard needed to be repaired but the governing Lord gave them too little a budget to cover it we would still help them.

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Connor Ashmane

Player Name: Nik Knight
Character Name: Connor Ashmane
Gender: Male
Preferred Pronouns: He/Him
Class: Mage
Age: 26
Race: Half-Human/ Half-Syndar (Syndar dominant)
Hair: Brown
Eyes: Blue
Occupation: Traveling magician who dabbles in alchemy.
Known Skills: Smart assery, magic, glaring, sleeping
Birthplace: Faedrun
Appearance: No notable features.
Notable Traits: Has the tendency to look down on others.
Relationships: In a group with Zenteagan Wincress, Aladrin Graywood, and Stanley Lorden
Rumors: Has a quick temper and even quicker hands.
BIO:

Connor started his life in a state of pseudo wealth. The son of a human merchant lord and a syndar, life would be expected to have its woes and racial discriminations from both sides. But Connor experienced none of these. Rather, from his father’s name, Ashmane, they flourished in Faedrun and received notable recognition within both the ranks of Humans and Syndar alike. His father’s business, while some might consider crass, sought only to make profit and fill his coffers. This was a way to provide for his family, while also ensuring that war efforts with the undead plaguing the land were fueled. Whether it was securing trade routes for armaments, production of shields through the land, or even just escorting survivors across the travel paths, Connor’s father saw a way to make silver. Everyone, in their time of need, learns that life is more valuable than coin.

On the inverse, Connor’s mother Eliana, was also affected by the rampaging undead throughout the land. As a mage, she studied carefully the arts of her people and used them to her best ability attempting to thwart the horde of undead. It was during this time that her academy, if one could call it that, was overrun, and she was forced to flee with the remaining students and faculty. As the monsters viciously attacked, being torn asunder by various spells and incantations, Connor’s mother ran frantically back and forth between the alchemists of her school, grabbing mana potions, and force feeding them to mages between spells. A never ending barrage of brilliant light and dancing magic, as undead poured into the main gates and beyond.

Connor’s father Thomas, had begun his most recent caravan escort with a fleet of wagons, horses, and armed guards, all at his beck and call. Standing atop his office’s looming balcony over the town square, he looked down at the preparations, figuring not only numbers in his head, but how long before the undead finished their incursion by attacking his town. It wasn’t a thought he enjoyed having, but any shrewd businessman thinks 20 steps in advance. It wouldn’t be much longer before someone took notice of the ongoing support of Faedrun’s armies and eventually piece together from where their support was coming. It placed his father in a permanent place of danger, hence the armed guards always following his steps.

“They’re through the main gate! Retreat to the Awning Library!” A voice shrieked out above the sound of channeling mana.

Eliana had just finished her own torrent of striking bolts, watching helplessly as they picked off one or two approaching undead, only to be replaced by more. Grabbing a few lingering potions from the stone floor, she yelled for the forward team of casters to retreat. While not the most high-standing of the positions at the academy, she still ranked among the greatest for her acumen with quick damage magic and protection incantations. As she tucked the mana potions into her satchel, she shouted for her two closest friends.
“Alynda! Naomi! We have to go! Follow me.”

Two heads turned from the front lines facing the undead horde. Beneath the giant, looming double doors that stood gaping open and barricaded with wire, fence posts, desks and benches, they could see the courtyard entrance and the gate entrance to the school. These two have been with her since childhood, since her parents were slaughtered by bandits, and before the world had begun to crumble. No sooner had she called, than the bowing metal frame of the giant gate burst forth, causing the great hinges to fly inward. Whether by reality or just imagination, the sound of the undead echoed even more feverishly than before, and chills ran down the spines of the mages and students.

Her friends hastily packed up their spell casting items, as two women ran up the staircase behind her, following in her wake. In that moment, however, undead burst through the barricade and the two giant doors surrounding the room. Panic filled the giant hall, as undead surrounded the students and mages alike. In a fit of both rage and horror, spells were cast in an insatiable need to survive. Hitting both undead and other mages, the spells sent bodies flying. The panicked casting dwindled numbers as steadily as the horrific creatures at whom they were aiming. The sound of blood and sinew, gushing and tearing, echoed across the stone and marble walls. Connor’s mother watched with broken spirit as her friends fell in a fit of flailing limbs and spells. They were no match, and their screams burned a hole in her heart. Grabbed from behind by the two women who had followed her up the grand staircase, she felt herself pulled to her feet and dragged kicking and screaming out of the hall.

Visions of undead and bright red anger clouded her mind, as she pulled and screamed at the two women hauling her to safety. Without even turning their heads, they continued to pull their co-faculty to safety, as tears fell down their own faces. All their friends. Massacred. How did they break through the gates? How did the doors to the great hall open? They had been locked from the outside, so not only did an unattentive student not open them, but they had the only key. These were undead they fought, not normal humans who could pick locks. Thoughts raced through their minds, as they burst through the small door at the rear of the academy garden. Huge fields spanned out before them, their friend now subdued and wailing silently at her fallen friends, they had to bring her to safety.

Connor’s father rode with the caravan northward. It had been a while since he joined his team on a trip, knowing the risks he was taking; and his own guard had repeatedly told him to stay behind. It wasn’t a long trip, just an excursion to an encampment of survivors, and he knew that spreading his name and his company was always the top priority these early years into the war. With the undead horde gaining steam and growing exponentially, it wouldn’t be long before his time in Faedrun ran out, and he, himself, would have to use his name and company to escape to somewhere safer. This brought forth lots of enemies from the other side, however. With the undead were the Penitent who sought nothing but chaos. On more than one occasion, his guards had arrested someone attempting his life. It wouldn’t be long before one succeeded.

“There, my dear! I knew I saw it!” one of the women had exclaimed. Connor’s mother and the other woman squinted into the distance. Scraps and bandages covering their many bruises and abrasions from their long journey. It had been several weeks since they fled the previously safe walls of the academy, and throughout the numerous rocky valleys and thick woods, they had succumbed to tree branches and rocks slashing at their exposed skin.

“I don’t see anything. I can’t see anything”, Connor’s mother signed. Her own eyes had become blurry with lack of sleep and dirt.

“Wait, I see it too!” The remaining woman exclaimed, jumping up and down with a renewed sense of excitement. Connor’s mother hastily stood to her wobbly feet and carefully traversed the rocky outcrops to her new friends. Wiping her eyes and shielding her face from the glare of the sun, she stood still for several seconds before feeling hope jump in her breast. There in the distance, she could scantily make the outline of wagons being drawn by horses.

“Stop there!” A guard yelled loudly, causing the wagons to come to an abrupt halt. Numerous soldiers and men carrying swords rushed forward to the commotion, only to be greeted by three stumbling and very battered women.

“Please”, one said with a raspy voice, barely standing. “We just need food and water”.

The guard looked at eachother. They were miles from any nearest structure, as they, themselves, had been traveling for days, not having seen any semblance of life. Nary even a bandit could be seen skulking about in the wayside.

Connor’s father looked up from his ledger, having just written up the expense report for this caravan’s northward journey. What could possibly be causing his wagons to stop? Looking at the map hanging on the wall of his wagon, he ventured a guess that they were still two days’ journey away from the nearest outpost. Folding his ledger, he tucked it safely back into the lockbox, turning the key, and returning it to the compartment under the seat. Ducking, and brushing off his tunic, he turned the handle to his wagon and felt his eyes water in the blinding sunlight.

“Sir, these women seek refuge in our caravan. Should we send them on their way or provide them with shelter? They haven’t any coin”

One of his guards stood over the three huddled women who feverishly devoured loaves of bread and fish. All three’s clothing was tattered and in shambles, one would have thought they had been to war themselves.

“No coin you say…”, a nearby soldier said with a lewd look in his eye, glaring at the women. As if by sensing his intentions, the three women looked up in fear and reached toward component pouches. Sensing the impending danger, the guard rushed forward and seized the hand of Connor’s mother, yanking her away from the other two.

“You will stay your hand, or I’ll have it removed!” Connor’s father yelled above the commotion. Standing in the doorway to his wagon, he loomed over the small group. The guard holding Connor’s mother released his arm, which she hurriedly pulled into her chest and nursed. Another bruise to add to her already mounting number. The man who yelled at the soldier was basking in sunlight, almost like a halo of authority. She didn’t know him, but she was grateful.

“Anything they need, give it to them. Silver or not, they are refugees of war”. Connor’s Father stated, looking down at the women. His men eyed each other. Who was this man? A man who cared for naught but coin would allow three women to stay and not pay their passage? Connor’s father stared keep into the eyes of the cowering woman with one in particular catching his attention. The Syndar woman holding her aching arm. Something about her filled him with a deep yearning, a feeling he hadn’t felt since he was young. Who was this woman?

A month had passed since Connor’s mother had been rescued. This man brought her into his caravan, fed her, protected her, nurtured her wounds, and asked nothing in return. Throughout her life, she had known nothing of a man’s touch beyond the occasional fling. Something about this man had spurned in her feelings she thought long impossible. They would often sit by the fire, late into the evening, talking about the war, magic, the future, lands beyond., and even in her time at the school, nothing brought her as much comfort. Visions of the undead still plagued her mind, but in the presence of this man, she felt safe.

They had arrived at a small town several weeks prior and begun to make preparations to travel northward. Should she travel with them? This town, while further from the undead scourge would eventually fall, but she could at least prepare herself before then. Thoughts filled her head as she continued to eat yet another lavish breakfast prepared for her by her gentleman savior. Just then, she heard a knock at the door.

“Umm… excuse me. Can I come in?” She heard from the other side of the wooden doors. The room much larger than her bedroom at the academy. With a giant, looming ceiling, it felt almost stately, but still had the air of a small town’s inn.

“Of course, please come in”. She replied, wiping her face and standing up. Hearing her rescuer’s voice, his heart fluttered a bit. Straightening her blouse and making sure to appear presentable, she felt like she was back at school awaiting the headmaster’s words.

The door cracked open, and a clean-shaven face appeared in the doorway.

“I hope I’m not intruding, you can finish your breakfast, and I can return, if you’d like”.

“Absolutely not, please come in.” She responded with a shy blush. How could she decline anything from his man? He had not only saved her life, but potentially from a horrid encounter with one of the guards. She later learned that the soldier had never been seen again, but the two women traveling with her had snuck rumors that Connor’s father had been seen walking toward the back of the caravan with a large axe in hand.

Connor’s father clumsily stepped through the doorway, almost as if attempting to make as minimal impact as possible. He straightened himself, after accidentally kicking a nearby tray from the previous night’s meal, sending it clattering and skating across the floor. Chastising himself and looking flushed, he tugged on his vest and faced the woman at the table.

“We are going to be leaving late this afternoon for the next town” He stated, almost not making eye contact with her.

“Oh… so soon?” She knew it had been a few weeks since they had arrived, and he had been bustling ever since. He did always manage to sneak through his work, however, seeing her either in the inn or lakeside to have quiet chats, away from the commotion of the town.

“Yes… err…and, I’d like…” He started, still barely making eye contact. Would he ask her to stay? Come with him? Her heart felt excited but also nervous. She could see herself in a new town, learning the trades, studying magic, training new people, but something about this town also held her fancy. Perhaps it was because this is where their friendship has blossomed, and the concept of leaving made her sad.

“Yes?” She asked, folding her hands in front of her. Connor’s father paused for several seconds, clearly building the strength to ask her something.

“I’d like you to marry me”.

Connor’s father sat in his carriage smiling across from him. There sat his wife. Looking out the window counting the clouds as they passed. It had been barely a year since he stood in her bedroom in the inn, since he mustered the courage to ask her. What had spurned him to make such a bold claim? As she stood there, mouth agape for what felt to be ages, he was sure he had ruined not only a chance at happiness, but their friendship as well. When she said “yes”, a weight had been lifted, and his heart felt light, all in the same moment. Now, as she sat across from him, basking in the warm sunlight coming in from the wagon windows, a gentle hand cradling the growing bump on her stomach, he felt content. No more chasing money, no more chasing fame. Just contentment.

“No, you can’t go play with your friends today. You need to finish your studies!” Connor’s father replied holding the latest scroll from the town crier. It had been like this along as he remembered. Connor’s mother, the incredible mage she was, passed on her knowledge to her half-Syndar son. His father, ever the attentive, caring, but stern caregiver, sought only for success and education for Connor. The combination yielded a sheltered life for the young boy but one full of learning. With his mother as his teacher, he learned the very basics of arcane spellcasting at an early age, excelling at striking bolts and even breaking the occasional shield. However, more often than not, his personal life paled under the light of his mother’s teaching and his father’s insistence on following in her footsteps.

Connor’s father still ran his business, providing refugee caravans for silver and armaments for the battlefield. The life of luxury was something to which the three had grown accustomed. Sitting in their estate that spanned many fields, herbs and reagents in countless supply, and plenty of practice space for Connor, his father ensured they would want for nothing, and often found himself working to the bone. In what used to be an endeavor to accumulate vast wealth for himself, had turned to providing that same life for his family. Connor sought only to spend time with friends and rid himself of the shackles being cooped up in his manor, but such a life was not in his father’s eyes.

“You’ll understand when you’re older, Connor.” his father stated holding a ringed finger to his son’s shoulder. “If I can save you the burden of a troubled life, of poverty, of pain, I will do everything in my power to do so.”

“Dear..” Connor’s mother added, addressing her husband. “Let the boy relax once a while. His studies are hard, and wouldn’t you like to see him happy?” His mother always looked out for him. It wasn’t often that he got to leave the manor in search of kinship and platonic relations.

“Wouldn’t you rather he know all there is about spellcasting and magic?” Connor’s father chided, rolling up and setting down his scroll.

“It took me years to master what I know. If you think Connor is going to get it in a few years, you better sit down and learn a few things, yourself”.

Connor’s father smiled and rubbed his face.

“Perhaps you’re right.” Standing, Connor’s father pushed his chair into the breakfast table and turned to walk out the door. Seconds later, he emerged with what appeared to be a long wooden stick, larger at one end, almost like a club. In the other hand, he held a round object, almost like a leather ball. With a beaming smile, he held them out and offered them to Connor who took them with a shocked look upon his face.

“Let’s go play a game from my childhood. You can study later, I won’t be around forever!”

The rain assaulted their skin in the early evening. Dozens upon dozens of strangers and official looking people he had never seen before stood around the long wooden box holding his father. Tears streamed down his and his mother’s faces, but no one would tell, as the salty tears were swept away by the harsh, summer rain. Connor held the ball his father had given him barely two years ago. It was his most prized possession. It was all he had left. His father was gone, snatched in the middle of the night by a strange man who slunk about their manor. All he can remember from that night was coming back from the larder with a glass of water and a hard biscuit, after waking from the clattering shutters of his room. Standing at the base of the stairs, he looked up and saw the dark figure of a man at the top of the staircase. With a slow movement, the man lifted a finger to his lips in a shushing manner, then disappeared without a trace. An hour later, he was woken by the horrified scream of his mother. His father had been slain in their own bed, blood soaking into the expensive sheets, and pooling beneath his pillow.

Leaving the funeral, he watched into the distance, as his father was lowered into the ground, rain still obscuring his vision, but no longer washing away his tears. Flowing freely, he sniffled in the back of the wagon, as his mother looked quietly out her window.

“What… What do we do now, Mommy?” He asked, wiping his face and squeezing his leather ball.

“I don’t know, sweetie.” He heard his mother reply softly.

“When will daddy come back?” He asked, not fully comprehending the gravity of his father’s untimely death.

“Oh baby…” His mother wept fresh tears and moved across the wagon to hold her son. Squeezing him tightly against her chest, she cried into his hair. Connor didn’t completely understand. He knew his father was gone, but to where, for how long, he couldn’t fathom. In the pit of his stomach, he feared he was never returning. Connor knew his father would regularly leave on business trips, but he always returned, bringing some sort of rare treat or item from his travels. This time, however, Connor seemed to at least glean, to the best of his abilities, that he would never be seeing his father again.

“Ashmane! Ashmane!” Connor’s mother yelled amidst the crowded wharf. Swarms of people clammored around them attempting to pile onto any ship possible. Connor wasn’t sure why his mother was shouting their last name, only that the man to whom his mother addressed hurriedly looked through his binder of paper, flipping and swearing to himself.

“I don’t see Ashmane, ma’am. You’ll have to wait at the ba…” He trailed off, as he continued shuffling through papers, getting more and more frustrated as the seconds wore on. He had other duties to do, more than listening to a woman yell some name at him.

“Look for Thomas. Thomas Ashmane, he is…was my husband. He died barely a year ago” It had been several months since Connor heard his father’s full name. In passing or in letters addressed to their manor, yet not realizing his father had passed. Each one frantically opened by his mother in attempts to learn the cause of the fate of her departed husband. For the last several months, his mother had been sending scouts and emmisaries across the countryside for any sort of information that might shed light on Connor’s father’s murderer. It wasn’t until about two months ago that he finally heard the phrase “Penitent Assassin”. What it meant, he wasn’t sure, but he felt it held some importance to his father’s assassination.

“Ah ok, yes here, it is. Thomas Ashmane”, the man finally stated with an air of relief. He had been rifling through papers for several minutes while this woman berated him and his intelligence. This wasn’t supposed to be his task for the day, he was merely conscripted to lift barrels and supplies aboard the ships. Reading had never been his strong suit, something “those stuffy rich folk and their wizards” he would say. He was able to make out the Ashmane name scrawled amongst the other important names upon which to be on the lookout. He was instructed to note anyone on the list that either wanted to come aboard or had business with the captain of the ship. “Alright, so where is Thomas?”

“He…he is already across the ocean on the other land.” Connor could see the pain in his mother’s face. This wasn’t the first time he heard his mother pretend that his father was still alive. He had heard it twice more on their journey, after the meager funds they were able to scavenge together from the bank had run out. With the undead scourge fast approaching their homeland, he had spent more than a few days packing and traveling to the bank to gather money for their trip. Each time, his mother would say something along the lines of “we will pay you back when we get to the new land”. And each time, Connor knew it wasn’t true.

“Well, how do I know tha..” The man started, and once again Connor’s mother cut off the guard. He could see his mother rummaging about in her bag, looking for something. Seconds later, she brings her hand out holding a colorful piece of fabric.

“Look, here is the Ashmane crest.” She exclaimed, as if it were a form of identification. Nestled within the folds of the fabric, Connor could see some wadded up silver. He had developed a quick eye for sleight of hand and magic tricks in his youth.

“Ah yes..” The man stated, unfolding the cloth and eyeballing the pieces of coin within. “This appears to be in order. Just don’t make any trouble on board, you hear?”

Connor’;s mother bowed and grabbed her son’s hand. She didn’t know what she was doing. Diplomacy was Thomas’s game. If it wasn’t spellcasting or alchemy, she didn’t have any part in his business dealings. All she knew was it pained her heart to lie on her husband’s good name. A man who had rescued her from certain death, provided her with a life full of love, riches, and honor, and only to have his snatched away in the middle of the night by some Penitent assassin. Sickened by the memory, she hastily pocketed the fabric and hauled Connor up the gangway onto the ship, looking about for anyone she knew. Sadly, with such a lavish, comfortable life, she had spent next to little time venturing out to get to know anyone else. With such contentment, why settle for anything less?

“Well… where is he?” The group of men snickered, leering at Connor’s mother.

“He’s umm… just around somewhere. He’ll be back, I swear”, his mother replied, slinking backward. Connor could barely make out the shadows of the men crowding around his mother in their little hut. Such a harsh departure from the life of immense wealth to which he was accustomed. Yet, despite this, he never complained. It had been a few years since his father passed, soon to be a young adult, he understood more about his family now than he ever had.

SMACK!

The sound of skin against skin colliding echoed in the little room, as his mother crumbled to the ground. No sooner had he heard the assault, Connor burst through the opening to his bedroom sword in hand.

“Get your hands off my mother, you filthy ingrate!” He shouted, taking the men by surprise. Seeing clearly the room now, he felt a pange of anxiety as the four men stood hulking in the center of the room. ONe holding a club, Connor was able to make out the silhouette of knives hidden beneath the folds of their tunics.

“And what have we here… another Ashmane piece of shit” The leader of the group snarled, leaning a foot onto the fingers of the fallen woman. Her cries of pain filled the room with a reverberating resonance.

GUSH!

Connor opened his eyes and saw only blood quickly running down his sword and onto his hands. Looking up, he could see the hilt of the blade buried deep into the stomach of the man leading the group.

“Con…Connor…” He could hear his mother say from the floor. His mind had blanked in a fit of anger. He didn’t even remember rushing forward and driving his sword into the man. The only emotion he felt was akin to never wanting to feel useless again. HIs father died in the middle of the night, because he did nothing when he saw the killer. He wouldn’t let that happen again, even if it meant losing his own life. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see the man on his right slowly raise his shirt to grab at the knife hidden near his gut. With barely a hesitation, Connor raised his hand and screamed. A flurry of blue sparks built around his fingers, as he felt the mana within him build. A jet of brilliant blue light exploded out of his palm and crashed into the man, sending him backward against the kitchen table, toppling to the floor. With barely a second to react, he pulled the sword out of the first man, swung it in a wide arc above his head and slashed relentlessly at the neck of the third man, side stepping around the now collapsing leader.

Blood soon pooled at his feet, as two men lay crumpled in a heap, The remaining two had fled after coming to their senses. Connor scarcely had time to make sense of what happened, when he felt a hand pull at his wrist.

“Connor… thank you” He heard his mother whisper. Looking down, he could see his mother pull herself to her feet, coughing several times. It was getting worse. It had been a year in this new land, and since the day they landed, she had developed some type of chest pain and infection.

“Mom, please just relax”, he stated, guiding her to an overturned chair. Righting it, it sat her down and poured her a glass of water. This was the second hut they had built since they landed here. Smaller than the last, and just as disgusting. “I won’t let anything happen to you”.

“Oh sweetie… I know.” His mother felt new tears fall down her face. Somewhere down the road, her son had turned into a young man. He remembered all his spells and practiced them daily, and yet also managed to learn how to use a sword. She had chastised him the first time he held a blade, telling him swords were for ruffians and brain dead soldiers. And it was in this moment, she realized that she was wrong.

“Come on.” Connor said, straightening up and grabbing his bag from across the room. “We have to get moving. Eventually they will catch up, and I don’t want them finding you”.

Connor stood over the fresh pile of flowers in the glaring sun.

“Hey mom. How are you doing? It’s a warm one, today”.

He came here often. More often than he should, he felt. The infection in her chest had finally taken her a few years prior. They had spent the last few remaining years of her life running and hiding. Slinking about in the shadows and keeping hidden from the various men who sought only to redeem a few silver his mother had promised them. How someone could be so relentless as to badger a sick woman and her son for only a few coin astounded him, and knowing it led to her early death, it made him livid. Shrugging off the anger, he could feel tears begin to fill his eyes.

“Sorry…heh” He chuckled, wiping away the first of the salty water droplets on his cheek. “Sorry about the rain.”

Every few months, he would return to her grave, placing new flowers on it. It had been a year since he dug a new one next to her for his father. While he didn’t have his father’s body, he knew that the sentiment of him resting next to his beloved wife would mean more to his mother than anything. Still, amidst all the traveling, hiding, and running, he was able to find the leather ball that his father had given him so many years ago. After digging the grave, he placed the ball within, surrounded by the Ashmane crest his mother carried with her. Feeling a pang in his stomach as he tossed the dirt onto the only remaining piece of his father he knew, somehow peace found itself once again in his heart.

“I know you want to know how I’m doing. I see you and dad are still good here. Life has been… interesting for me. Lots of moving about, learning, spellcasting, the usual. I met a couple guys in Raven’s Landing. Some bard guy and a cleric. They are waiting for me with the wagon, I told them I had to…” Connor could feel himself trail off, as more tears flooded his cheeks. No matter how much he focused on squinting his eyes, they wouldn’t stop.

“I… I miss you so much. I know I say I’m fine, but I’m so lost without you. Without father. I hate it here. I’ve thought about ending it all, but I know that would make you sad. What should I do? Where do I go?” He held his stomach as the pain grew. Falling to his knees, he played with the dirt at his feet. “I can’t do this without you. I have no one now. It’s just me, and I’m scared. Please… let me end it, or at least give me some kind of sign I should keep going”. He buried his face now as emotions flooded his senses.

The next few days felt eerily familiar, as the trio traveled along the dirt road in an old wagon, pulled by a farmer. This man and Zenteagan, the cleric he met, apparently knew each other, and conversed joyously the entire trip. Connor and Aladrin, his new bard friend, sat uncomfortably in the back making small talk.

“Well, what have we here…” Connor could hear Zen say from the front of the wagon. “It appears a tree has fallen in the road”. Looking up and past the farmer, it did seem that at some point a tree must have come down.

“That’s weird,” Connor piped up. “We haven’t had any thunderstorms or heavy winds at all.” Just then, Aladrin spotted some quick movement in the treeline.

“It’s a trap!” Aladrin exclaimed, drawing his bow off his back and knocking an arrow. Surely as he had spoken, a dozen bandits seized the opportunity and darted from the woods toward the wagon. Zenteagan and Connor both lifted their staffs and began to channel mana to cast a spell, while Aladrin dropped one of the bandits with an arrow. The bandits were closing in rapidly, and the horses begane to buck wildly, throwing the occupants around in the cart.

“Make for the trees!” Aladrin shouted, dropping another one with an arrow, before stowing his bow and pulling out his two long swords.

“Are you insane, that’s where they came from!” Replied Zen, hastily channeling more mana, while kicking down at a bandit attempting to swing at his legs.

“I know the woods like the back of my hand. We can take them out one by one, let’s go!” Aladrin shouted.

After a blinding ball of light, dazing the few bandits hovering around the wagon, the three jumped from the cart and made a mad dash for the closest gathering of trees. Aladrin knew he would be much more effective in combat when he could use his natural environment. Zen and Connor were not so sure, but having seen Aladrin drop three bandits before even pulling a sword, they had nothing to do but trust him.

The three ran into the woods, but stayed as close together as possible. The dense, thick woods offered little protection from natural, thorny shrubbery, but greater protection from arrows and heavy swings of a sword. Several bandits made a hasty pursuit, and found themselves chasing the three through a heavy brush of briarwood and bramble. Aladrin quickly darted from tree to tree, looking for the best one to scale. Spotting it, he quickly climbed his way up, and obscured his position from the pursuing bandits. Zen and Connor continued forward, aware of the plan to ambush the chasing bandits. Moments later, Aladrin saw the three following closely behind and jumped on top to take them by surprise. Knocking the one he landed on unconscious, he rolled aside and quickly slashed at the legs of the remaining two. Barely seconds passed that two more bandits quickly jumped out. However, this time, Zenteagan and Connor quickly dispatched them with prepared spells, as they revealed their position from behind nearby trees.

“Well, we’ll take care of them right quick, we will!” Yelled Connor, as he brushed off his wide brimmed hat. Moving away from the three, he reaffixed his hat, turning. “I think we make quite a tea….”

SNAP!

The feeling of air flew past their faces, as an immense net hoisted them far into the trees. Dangling helplessly, they heard the chuckles of some voices below.

“Looks like we managed to grab some live ones, boys”. One of the voices said. In the position they were in, it was difficult to establish which one was talking. The trees provide shelter from the sun during warm days, but as the night wore on, it also brought about darkness much faster. With the sun setting, it became painfully apparent that they would be dangling in the dark soon.

“Whatcha think, boss? Skin them and make some new clothes?”

“Nah, I want the pretty one’s face”.

Zen, leaned over to Aladrin and whispered “they’re talking about me. Hehe.”. Aladrin scowled at his friend’s light-hearted comment, as they were in serious danger. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a loud voice echoed in the trees.

“GENTLEMEN”

“What the hell?”
“Who was that?”
“Show yourself!”

“GLADLY!”

The next few seconds were filled with horrific screaming intertwined with the sound of metal tearing through flesh. No sooner had it started, then it was quiet. The giant net suddenly gave a lurch. Colliding with the soft forest ground, they rose, brushing themselves off and favoring a few limbs.

“GENTLEMEN! GREETINGS!” A voice rang out again, this time from behind them.

Turning, they could see a tall figure, clad in armor with an immense tower shield, holding a torch. Beside him lay the three bandits in a pile of bloody sinew and flesh, pinned to the ground by an impressively long sword.

“Uhh, hey there” Zenteagan spoke first, “Thanks for saving us. I’m Zenteagan Wincress, this is Aladrin Greywood, and Connor Ashmane.”

“HELLO! I am Stanley Lorden, the last of the Guardians of the Wall. At your service!”

“Guardians of the Wall, what’s that?” Aladrin asked.

“That’s… a story for another time” Zenteagan interjected, “right now, I’m sure we still have bandits following us still, and it’d be fantastic to actually get my ale for a change.”

“I will escort you to the next town” Stanley spoke, offering his hand. Connor accepted the handshake in turn and felt a bit of peace. Was this the sign for which he asked his mother. Was she still watching over him? He wasn’t sure, but he felt comfort knowing that there were good people left in the world, perhaps a world he didn’t have to leave so soon. Pledging himself to the service of Stanley Lorden, he vowed to use his life to aid in whatever way he could and use it to bring honor to his family.