PLAYED BY: Matthew
CHARACTER NAME: Aladrin Greywood
PREFFERED PRONOUN(S): He/Him
RACE: Feral Syndar
OCCUPATION: Aladrin is a cook/adventurer who uses nature’s ingredients to make potions and food for all who seek comfort. As part of an adventuring group, he regularly seeks out anything that might further his knowledge, or just provide an excuse to explore.
KNOWN SKILLS: A skilled fighter and inventor, he brings these skills to help provide food and necessary items to any of his projects. Whether it’s a new type of crossbow or something to bring healing comfort. Through his travels, he’s learned how to pick locks and pockets, clean and gut a wild boar, and deal with bandits.
BIRTHPLACE: At a young age, Aladrin was born in the dense woods of Lairthudual. Living most of his time in the southern wood by the narrow mountains pass, he spent his youth scaling trees, hiding from random caravans in rocky crevasses, when daring enough to venture south, and learning about plants and wildlife from his parents.
APPEARANCE: Aladrin, like many Feral Syndar, has notable facial features. His include “less than neatlooking” ears he inherited from his father’s side, but the cheek tusks of his mother. Blue eyes, and brown hair, he would be hard pressed to pass for anyone but his parent’s child. Standing over 6′ as an adult, he has a muscular frame from years of traveling and fighting.
NOTABLE TRAITS: Love to play his lute and sing. Skilled with a bow and swords.
RELATIONSHIPS: In a group with Zenteagan Wincress, Connor Ashmane, and Stanley Lorden
RUMORS: He has a silver tongue
BIO / BACKGROUND HISTORY:
Our story begins in the year 242, in the dense, thick woods of Lairthudual near the mountain’s pass narrow. His father and mother celebrated his birth with a great feast held for close family and friends. However, despite the tightly knit group of individuals invited, the entire village, if one could call it that, joined in merriment with the newest Syndar clan member. For, it had been years since a family conceived and birthed another feral Syndar, and as such, the name “Aladrin Greywood” was chosen to signify the great lineage of honorable feral chiefs. While, Aladrin’s parents were neither chieftains or leaders, in any way, they still held high regard in their little town. For, they fed and nurtured their neighbors their entire lives. As farmers and lovers of nature and all it could offer, Arendril and Millian Greywood would always be known as givers.
It was in this town that Aladrin first learned how to hold a sword, swing a hoe, identify important herbs, and most beloved of all his skills and talents to his parents, share music. Nothing stirred the small dense forest village more than the quiet humming of the young boy as he weeded his mother’s garden or to listen to him leap tree to tree while shouting the ancient songs of Syndar past. Where he learned how to carry a tune or even handle an instrument bewildered his parents, as neither had so much as whispered any melodies in front of their friends. But, somehow, Aladrin caught on rapidly and shared strange songs unknown to the rest of their village.
Aladrin, however, knew where he learned, but was too fearful of the stern rebuking of his mother to ever let tell that he discovered his love of music by spying on the traveling caravans passing through the narrow mountain ranges. From a young age, any chance that Aladrin had to venture off into the woods and beyond, he took, and often saw more than his parents would wish. Either hanging careful from tree branches, shrouded by the dense foliage, or nestled between boulders in rocky outcrops, he would watch the horses pull wagon after wagon. Mysterious occupants and treasure, no doubt, lay hidden within, waiting for the opportunity to shine in the glaring sun. Aladrin would often wait for hours, watching and learning as much as he could about the newcomers to the region. His parents would never approve, as they spoke harshly of taking risks, not only at such a young age, but also the chances of their village being seen and absorbed by one of the many local governments.
While not one for politics, Aladrin would often listen to his parents discuss matters beyond his understanding. Even at 9, sometimes in the open, or behind closed doors, he would peek beneath or through keyholes to listen in on many individuals. He had, afterall, been honing this skill since nearly his birth. Whether it was watching caravans pass while the guards talked about marauding bandits or his parents talking about the surge of “undead” moving north, he paid close attention and listened attentively.
“They are getting closer each day” He heard his father say, hushed. Aladrin leaned closer to the door of his bedroom, attempting to hear more, despite it being far past his bedtime.
“What can we do? We are farmers, not fighters. We barely know magic,and we can’t rely on your sword alone to defend us”, Millian replied, not looking up from the herbs she was crushing. Though, Aladrin did spot a harsh, anxious increase in the rhythm of his mother’s muddling.
“I think it’s about time we consider moving further north… toward the ocean”, Arendril stopped sharpening his favorite hoe. His long, curved sword hanging from his side. It wasn’t often Aladrin saw his father carrying his sword in the village, let alone the house. Aside from once swinging away some attacking bandits and leaving for a week to venture north, he hadn’t known his father to do more than practice with a sword.
“FURTHER north?” His mother finally looked up. “We just moved down here. Our people traveled a great long while to finally reach a land where we felt safe. Why on earth would we move again?” Millian had begun tearing up, clutching a handful of herbs in her hand and wiping a tear with the other. The muddler she still held smeared some crushed brushweed across her cheek.
“Millian…” His father offered quietly, standing. Moving across the room, Aladrin was able to see his father grab a rag off the table and wipe his mother’s face. “We mustn’t worry ourselves with things we can’t control. We have a responsibility to our people and to our son to keep them all safe. We can’t do that with these… creatures… moving toward us. The only option we have is moving north to a potential safe haven.” Smiling, he stood and patted his sword. “Besides, who is the best swordsman you know?”
“SwordsWOMAN. Me, and you know it”, Millian looked up smirking.
“Well… yes, but…”
“Too bad YOU wouldn’t let ME teach our son.”
“Yeah, well… you taught me. So, in a way..” Arendril shrugged, and held his hand out for his wife to hold. “Anyway, you couldn’t teach him swordsmanship.” He stated, turning and looking over his shoulder with a devilish smile. “SOMEone had to teach the boy how to cook and clean”.
“OH YOU!” Millian jumped up and tackled her husband to the floor, rolling around faking punches. Aladrin noticed it got quiet, then heard the sounds of kissing. Grimacing, he knew what was coming next and returned to bed covering his head with his pillow.
Awakening to the sound of loud talking, blackness surrounded Aladrin. Leaning up, he noticed his room had been packed into boxes. All but a few objects lay neatly folded and by his bedroom door. Stumbling out of bed, he turned the handle of his bedroom door to be greeted by a living room full of village leaders, his parents, and some very imposing men in thick, metal armor.
“It’s time to go, we have horses ready and wagons for all of you.” The man nearest his door spoke, bellowing for the room to hear. He stood several feet over Aladrin, dwarfing him in the doorway. “Up north, we have secured a passage through Lairthudual, up to the northern sea near Karindren. You will be a part of a larger group leaving the southern continent.”
Aladrin could now see his parents staring at him, passed the great man that stood before him. The fear in his mother’s eyes only reaffirmed that which he had heard the night before. They would be leaving their home and traveling. The notion filled him with dread, but also excitement. He knew only this village his entire life, this would be his chance to see something beyond the forest.
Moving quickly passed the armored man, his mother scooped him up, bringing him closer to his father.
“Did you know about this?” She asked, looking at Arendril, with almost an air of contempt.
“I had a feeling”, his father replied, looking back at the armored man, who had begun barking orders at the village leaders. “During our venture north, we encountered a few traveling groups that spoke about a newly discovered continent called Mardrun. Suppo…” he trailed off, interrupted by Millian.
“A CONTINENT? You want us to move to an entirely new landmass? I thought this was just about heading north to a safer part of Lairthudual!” She exploded, hurting Aladrin’s still sleepy ears. Noticing, his mother cradled his head gently.
“Millian…” the large man in armor spoke, walking toward them taking off his helmet to reveal a thick head of golden hair. How did he know his mother? “It’s so much worse than you know. The undead aren’t slowing down. If anything their onslaught has only garnered fervor. It won’t be long before everything south of the mountain pass is destroyed or consumed. We have to leave.”
Aladrin could feel his mother’s knees begin to weaken. Loosening himself from her grasp, he dropped to the floor and hastily moved toward his room. Millian, as well, dropped to her knees and sat stunned and silent.
They all stood in silence for what felt like ages, before Aladrin himself broke the tension. Standing in his doorway, holding a box, his practice sword atop, and his traveling cloak across his back.
“Let’s go.” He said, shuffling the heavy box and his remaining belongings toward the front door of their home.
As he passed his mother, Millian reached an arm out and brought him to a stop. Holding a trembling hand to his shoulder, “We will be ok, Aladrin. I promise.” Mustering the strength to offer a smile, she stood and wiped her eyes.
“Well… you heard him. Let’s go.”
The following weeks Aladrin saw more of the world than he had ever before. Either riding atop or walking beside the moving wagons and horses, he rapidly darted his eyes across the land. New smells, animals, people, everything. If all this was new to him, how would a new continent feel? What is a continent? How big is it? At each stop, his father would pull him aside to hone his swordsmanship skills while the women cooked and prepared a noonday meal. Aside from the looming threat of an undead invasion at any point, Aladrin had never felt more alive. He didn’t want this feeling to end, and for once, he felt more at home on the road, than he did in his own village.
The morning fog had just begun to settle, as the traveling group crested the immense hill in northern Lairthudual. With the sun peaking over the horizon, Aladrin and the caravan shielded their eyes, only to be met with the sight of an immense sea with dabbled islands in the distance. Taking in the stupefying splendor of the vast body of water, and the harsh, but welcoming breeze of sea water, the group felt an air of relaxation for the first time in what felt like ages.
“Is that the continent??” Aladrin exclaimed excitedly, running forward to get a better, less crowded look at the sea. The adults in the party had a hearty chuckle, with several hugging their nearest neighbor in relief. Stooping, his father put a hand on his shoulder.
“Not quite, buddy. You see, somewhere, beyond that huge sea is another land. As big as ours. Maybe bigger, called Mardrun. They discovered it last year. That’s where we are going.”
“Wait… we’re gonna cross the sea? How?” Aladrin asked, looking up at his father.
“BY BOAT!” Exclaimed a voice behind them. Turning, they saw another Syndar man, considerably older than Aladrin and his father. Clad in black and navy robes and holding a tall staff, the man knelt close to Aladrin and pointed off into the distance, at the shore. “You see those groups of people by the water? They are climbing onto huge ships meant to carry us across the water.”
Squinting, Aladrin was barely able to make out the droves of people and wagons piling onto what appeared to be large wooden boxes attached to rolled up cloth. “I don’t get it. That’s a boat? So, in the stories of people sailing, that’s what they were on? I pictured some kind of floating turtle.”
The man gave a hearty laugh and stood to his full height. “Ahha, yes, well I can see how you’d think that. But, in reality, they are merely made of wood. The very trees that you, yourself, climb every day. They are made in such a way that they float on the water and can hold hundreds of people!”
Aladrin stood in awe at both the concept of a ship and the immense knowledge with which this man possessed. His father smiled and extended a hand toward the Syndar introducing himself and Aladrin. Taking it, the man bowed. “Greetings, I am Zenteagan Wincress, a healer by trade, and also a purveyor of rare and delicious ales.” Aladrin only now noticed that he had been holding a large tankard in his other hand this entire time, seeing him take a large swig periodically.
“What’s an ale?” Aladrin asked, staring at the mug.
“Well, it’s something that, in time, I’m sure you will enjoy. Brewed and malted from the finest hops and barley and aged in both oak and wine barrels, this ale is sure to fill your belly and your spirits…..when you’re older.” He added with a wink. Aladrin scowled, having heard this exact thing about the various fruit wines his parents consumed in the evening after working on the farm. “On that note, I must be off, for I desire a ‘window seat’ on our fair vessel, for, I get rather sick of staring at sweaty backs and cracks all day. Dear Arendril and Aladrin, I pray that when we land or sometime in the future, you look me up, for a familiar face makes a journey that much fonder. Remember the name Zenteagan Wincress and pour it across your lips!” He exclaimed, walking toward the sea, taking a large drink of his mug.
“Well… he was a character” His father smirked, looking down at Aladrin. “Let’s get to it. Time to get off these feet and see a new land”. Hoisting his pack further onto his shoulder, Arendril patted the horses nearby and continued forward to settle on the ship. Aladrin didn’t know what to expect or what lay in store for him on this new continent, but his heart was filled with wonder and excitement for a new world.
The hot glaring sun beat down on him mercilessly, as he hacked away at the dry dirt. Wiping sweat from his forehead, Aladrin straightened his back and gave his neck a crack. Looking around, he saw the hard working people of his former village toiling away, attempting to make the soil once again feasible in the early parts of spring. It had been a harsh winter in their 10th year here in Mardrun, but every year it got a little better. Aladrin still thinks fondly of the ship ride from Faedrun, despite the near year-long journey, it was pleasant with much of his village aboard the same vessel.
Looking into the distance across the field, he could see his mother lovingly bring his father a mid morning refreshment. Their love, it seemed, had continued to spur confidence in their decision to settle where they had. Originally lovers of the woods, they left Davens Hold in search of more fertile ground, as the mountains rarely had a moment of good tilling. Traveling east, they settled in the heart of Nightriver territory away from the dueling grounds of rivaling clans. Amidst their Ulven neighbors, they harbored the same friendly demeanor to win over the minds and attitude of the locals from nigh-hostile to a warm tolerance. With much of a similar agricultural landscape, but with some new changes in herbs, they found themselves flourishing once again growing crops and feeding friends and family alike. Life was slowly adapting to normal again, and in this new home grew contentment.
Aladrin settled down at the kitchen table, throwing a recently slain rabbit hastily onto the counter. Kicking up his feet and tossing his bow into the corner, he could catch the stern glare of his mother out of the corner of his eye.
“Young man, you do NOT get to mess up my kitchen with rabbit’s blood and think you can ALSO slam your disgusting feet onto my table”, she started moving across the room and swiping his dirt covered, boot laden feet off the placemats. “This isn’t a barn. Gut this rabbit, then go clean up. I’d get dinner started”.
Sighing, Aladrin, slunk toward the wash basin and quickly stripped the rabbit of its innards, fur, and various, inedible pieces. A task so brainless as he had done it hundreds of times with various animals. Life hadn’t changed much in this aspect. Even on Faedrun he often helped his father trap and kill animals for food, learning all the important aspects of hunting but also of respecting nature.
“Nature provides us with sustenance and nourishment, Aladrin”, his father would say. “As such, it’s our responsibility to maintain a healthy balance of prey and predator.”
“Why can’t we just hunt whatever we want”, an impatient Aladrin huffed, getting colder and colder in the evening chill.
“Because”, Arendril replied, smiling and poking his son in the chest. “Each and every one of us is a piece of this world. We represent just a tiny fraction in this balance. But all of us play an important role in keeping nature healthy. Why, we could kill all the mountain lions, but then who would keep the deer population from destroying our farms? Similarly, if we hunt all of the deer in the region, how will the wolves feed their young? All of us are responsible for each other. For together, we are what make this world whole”.
Smiling at himself and the decade-past words of his father, Aladrin finished cleaning the rabbit and his hands before tidying up the mess he made in the kitchen. Millian smiled behind her back, as she sliced potatoes, knowing that for all his still-youthful antics, Aladrin loved his family as they represented a portion of himself.
Wiping his mouth and rubbing his stomach, both Aladrin and his father leaned back in their chairs with a horn of wine and thanked Millian for the meal. Since he was young, Aladrin couldn’t remember a night when their family didn’t eat together for dinner. It was a family tradition, if they ever had one, and perhaps the reason why they still remained so close. But in no shortness of words did Aladrin ever express his gratitude for his mother’s cooking, a habit he had picked up from his father.
Settling in for the night, the Greywoods relaxed by the fire out behind their little home, smoking tobacco and drinking wine. Plucking away at his lute and humming softly, he would see his father and mother swaying in their seats along to the beat. Smiles across their faces as they held hands. It had been a while since he had thought about Faedrun, and even now sitting by the cracking pit of embers and watching them dance, he reminisced of all the moments climbing trees and sneaking through rocks, spying on the very types of caravans he, too had used to get to this very land. Much had changed, but above all else, he loved his family and their love for eachother had never waivered. If anything, he felt himself covering his head with his pillow at night more often than not, or merely using that as an excuse for an evening walk through the woods. Life was certainly different, but in the important ways, it remained the same.
Aladrin could feel the smoke burning his lungs before he even awoke. Coughing and struggling to rid his breath of the putrid smell of charred corpses and crackling wood, he rolled out of bed and heaved several times. Feeling his eyes tear, as he attempted to open them in the dark, hazy room, he could barely make out the sounds of his own breathing and coughing beyond the harsh clanging of steel and the piercing screams echoing outside his window.
Stumbling across the room, shielding his face from the growing heat, he grabbed the handle of his door only to feel the intense pain singe his fingers. Taking several steps back, he lunged against the door, feeling the hinges give way slightly. This time, aiming for the lock, he kicked with as much sleepy muster as he could manage and busted the door open. Met with an inferno of swirling flames and broken windows, the interior of their little home was torn asunder. Seeing the hilt of his father’s short sword sticking out from behind the table, he grabbed it and ran outside.
Dark objects darted across his vision in the dozens. Some clad in dark clothing and armor, others in nightwear, being chased by the former. Unsheathing the sword, Aladrin took in a deep breath to clear his senses and looked around for familiar faces. It took little time to spot his father standing back to back with another village elder, both holding swords, and swinging wildly at dark, quickly moving, almost human looking objects hunched and catapulting themselves in alarming speed. Without a second thought, Aladrin bolted toward the fray in nothing but soot covered nightwear and abandon.
Within 20 paces, he could see his father was defending a small cluster of village members, most familiar, with some Ulven mixed in, from the attackers. Quickly diving under a swinging sword and between the lines of dark figures, he thrust his back against his father’s and faced the onslaught, shouting for the whereabouts of his mother. With his head turned toward Arendril, and hearing that his mother was safely hiding somewhere with the majority of the other women and children, he turned once again toward the enemy. It was then that he noticed the crouching, disfigured faces of the dark figures. With green tinged skin and horrific features, they angrily shouted in a strange language and attacked in an alarming frenzy.
“What in the devil are these things?” Aladrin found himself shrieking, still unable to fully comprehend what was happening.
“Mordok”, replied his father, in a hushed, but also anxious tone. It had been many moons, since he saw his father with a concerned look on his face. Between the blood soaked hair and various burn marks, it was clear that he had missed quite a bit of the evening. “I don’t know why they are here, and so far south in Nightriver territory, but that’s a discussion for another..”
His father trailed off, as the Mordok continued their assault. In flurries of steel and fury, Aladrin found themselves amidst a relentless barrage of flying arrows, axes, and shields.
“We can’t hold them here, we have to move!” Shouted Arendril, to the other village leader, who simply nodded, while taking a swipe at an approaching shield. Aladrin’s father then leaned in closer to his ear, “Son, I’m going to run forward, you grab these people and drag them out of the village in the opposite direction. Head to the woods, you’ll find your mother there guarding the rest of the women and children.”
“Like hell, I will. I’m staying here to fight”.
“You’ll do as I say… and watch your language.” His father replied, giving him a shove. “Or your mother will kill us before these things can”. With that, Arendril turned and gave an aggressive kick to the shield of an approaching Mordok, staggering it, then using the same shield as a stepping stone to leap past the attackers. Confused, several turned and pursued, as Arendril bolted into the smoky darkness.
“FATHER!” Aladrin yelled, attempting to move forward. The older villager with them, grabbed his shoulder, shaking his head feverishly, and dragged Aladrin the other direction, hacking away at a few lingering Mordok. Looking back over his shoulder, Aladrin squinted in an attempt to see his father’s figure still moving about, but was unable to pierce the darkness with his vision.
It felt like an hour, running and diving past various Mordok, only to turn and swing, catching them in the back with a swift strike. The two of them, along with the helpful hand of a stout female they were “rescuing”, made quick work of the single, looting Mordok they would encounter. Reaching the edge of the village, the elder turned to Aladrin.
“Quick, now that we’ve avoided their attention, you meet up with your mother in the woods. I will take this group to the north of the village near the grove. From there, we will wait and reconvene once we know it’s safe to return to the village. Your father should meet us there within a day or two.”
“Are you sure? How does he know when to meet us?” Aladrin grew worried about splitting up so quickly.
“Trust me, your father and I go way back. When we first settled in Lairthudual, we had to backtrack a lot to keep bandits and various ruffians off our tail. It’s an old battle tactic.” He added with a wink. This was the first Aladrin was hearing about his father ever being in battle. “I promise, we’ll meet up in the village in a few days.”
Aladrin watched him and the other villagers slink off into the hazy distance before turning to head into the woods. Leaping over the logs he followed the instructions of the older villager to the center of the woods by the large crop of boulders. He knew the place well. Naturally, sunlit in a clearing, it was a great place to soak up some sun in the early spring days and to hide from the same glaring heat in the summer. Shrouded in a blanket of night, it was just as easy to find, as the moss that grew on the rocks rippled in the moonlight and laid a well lit path through the woods. Phantom images of Mordok flashed across his face as he stumbled through the trees, making him hallucinate that he was being followed. Every so often, he would stop and listen, utilizing his hunting skills to remain deathly silent. Then, when he was certain nothing was stalking him through the night, he continued.
As he ran, he could see the clearing begin to illuminate in the night sky, breaths of relief and exhaustion left his lungs, renewed with vigor to be reunited with his mother and the other villagers in safety. Looking down in the fresh light of the moon, he could see the heavily trodden forest path with recent foot prints, showing that they had indeed made it. As he approached, and slowed, he couldn’t help but feel anxious. He didn’t detect any noise coming from the clearing. No whimpers of saddened children, no gasps of frightened escapees. Just silence. Breaking into the clearing, the large boulders loomed above him bathed in the night light, but nothing else. No villagers, no mother. Hastily looking around, now with a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, he ran around the boulder, and again, and again. There were clear signs that someone had been here. Broken sticks and leaves, muddy footprints from the evening dew trampled into the soft forest floor. But then, silence.
Bolting once more through the woods, he headed to the second rendezvous point the old man had told him of. North of the village just past the large oak tree and grassy hill overlooking the vast plain north of the forest. Clearing from the trees, he could see the oak in the distance.With the smoldering village to his right and the oak tree beyond, he made a mad dash to the gathering place. Air had long since left his lungs. Despite being a hard worker, diligent farm hand, and a skilled hunter, his entire body ached and his chest burned in agony with each breath.
“Please, please please…” Aladrin found himself muttering to himself as he broke into a renewed sprint coming closer to the giant oak tree. Reaching the base, he halted and threw his back against the trunk, listening beyond to hear any signs of Mordok or otherwise. Nothing. Peering from his hiding spot, he looked over the hill to spot the remaining villagers and hopefully his mother. Again, nothing.
Staggering away from the tree, he collapsed to his knees in exasperation. Where were the villagers? Where was his mother? He hadn’t seen any blood in either location. No torn clothes, no drag marks showing dead or captured bodies being hauled away to wagons. Even here, he saw the remnants of fresh footprints showing the villagers had indeed been here. With a great breath of air and muster, he stood turning back toward the hazy, burning village. Plumes of great black smoke billowed against the night sky, occasionally shrouding the moon in thick blankets of soot.
With sword in hand, he marched through the fields toward the village. Hoping for some kind of answer. As he approached the edge of the village, he again stopped to listen. Apart from the steady crackling of beams absorbing heat and flame and the occasional collapse of a distant building, he was met with an eerie silence. No shrieking of Mordok. No screams of fleeing villagers. No clanging of hardened steel against shields. Aladrin slowly walked up the main path through the village square where he had once stood on the basin steps to ward off attacking Mordok. Piles of dead and decaying dark figures lay on the ground, faces covered in blood, ash, and war paint. The occasional villager could be seen crumpled in a bloody heep at the foot of another dead invader, some with limbs, others without. The gruesome scene before him left him numb to all but the desire to be reunited with someone. Anyone.
Aladrin spent a few hours wandering the village’s smoldering remnants, hoping to find some kind of answer. Horrific scene after horrific scene could be seen after every corner, with bloody streaks depicting a horrid death followed by some type of mutilation. It wasn’t until he neared the far end of the village, following in the same steps his father had taken only earlier that night that he found some semblance of an answer. There, embedded in a pile of dead Mordok were two swords thrust between the rib cages and backs of freshly bled bodies. A long, curved, blade with a spiked pommel and dappled metal indents along the spine. Clearly, something only a Mordok would carry. And a second blade.
A long, curved cutlass. Belonging to his father.
It had been a long, grueling year since he found himself leaving his village. Trudging through the thick marshes of southern Grimward, he felt his energy renewed when he saw a familiar town in the distance. Though, it had grown considerably since first seeing it over 10 years ago. Davens Hold loomed in the distance, and for the first time in nearly a month, he felt excited. Primarily for the chance at a warm bath. Tossing aside his walking stick, after crossing the wide river east of the Grimward southern woods, he was able to make the trek across farm fields and open terrain much faster. It had been a solid week since he had a full meal.
Almost a week, in fact, since he met a traveling pork merchant by the name of Lanseall. It was purely a notion of fate and divine intervention that they met, as meat appeared to be scarce in this area. Or perhaps, Aladrin found his hunting skills lacking due to exhaustion. Lanseall happened to be smoking a fresh boar when Aladrin stumbled into his clearing, collapsing near the fire. A few hours later, he was eating the best tasting meat he had ever had. For nigh a month, Aladrin learned the secrets of smoking and curing wild meat from Lanseall, and vowed, upon leaving his new friend, that he’d meet again and best him in his own craft.
“Before you leave,” Lanseall stated, wiping some fresh herbs from his mortar and pestle, “I suggest you take some time and relax. If what you’ve told me about your family still holds true, you might get some answers from town.”. Aladrin sat up. It had been almost a full moon since he first told his friend about the fate of his village. In fact, he wasn’t entirely sure the man had heard, for he was staring intently into the pit of his smoker, fanning flames, while his hair was catching fire.
“Just across this region is Davens Hold. I’m sure you’ve heard of it.” Lanseall said, using a flask of river water to clean his utensils.
“Of course, it was one of the first places we visited, when we landed from the ships”, Aladrin piped up, wiping his face of sauce. Even after a month straight of eating nothing but smoked pork, he had yet to grow tired of the sweet, savory, smoky flavor.
“Well, I’ve heard they have a carriage that runs the distance from there to Crow’s Landing”.
“What’s in Crow’s Landing?” Aladrin inquired.
“What’s in… why, it’s the festival. Well… more like a gathering of cooks and drunkards who meet every year. We call it a festival. Every year, we meet, we eat meat, and we uhh… touch meats.” He added with a smirk, still looking down at his cleaning supplies.
“You touch.,.. Oh what the hell, man. “ Aladrin blushed.
“Basically, we all get together and get drunk, share stories, eat food, and we relax. Something you’re in sore need of. In fact, I’ll be heading there in about a week’s time after I do some more hunting. You’ve GOT to try this new ale that I had there last year. Absolutely blew me off my ass. I don’t remember the name of it, but some guy named…. Zen? Tea? Teazen?” He trailed off, in thought.
Aladrin immediately pulled himself away from his plate of meat.
“Surely you don’t mean Zenteagan”. He blurted, still with meat filling his mouth. How he still remembered the name, he wasn’t sure, but the name was burned into his memory as much as that day, so many years ago.
“That’s the one! Wait, how do you know him?”
“I met him back in Faedrun before we left! I never even thought of him until you said his name!”
After saying their goodbyes, a few days later, Aladrin bid his friend farewell, promising to catch up with him at the Crow’s Landing “festival”, but not before he had a chance to meet a long lost acquaintance.
The ride from Davens Hold to Crow’s Landing was considerably more eventful than he had anticipated. What Lanseall had described as a “carriage” service to the southernmost tip of the continent was nothing more than a drunk farmer with no family who carted people around in exchange for more wine. After securing his passage with the promise of as much wine as he could drink when they arrived at the festival, Aladrin spent the following weeks with a sore rear-end from a bumpy wagon and fighting off the occasional bandit who stopped their travels to rough up some coin.
After arriving in Crow’s Landing, it was a considerably larger town than Aladrin had expected. With merchants, and no shortage of taverns, he ambled through the streets looking for the closest semblance of a “festival” he could imagine. It wasn’t until he neared the center of the town than he heard a distantly familiar booming voice.
“Why, that’s the taste of fresh, roasted barley and tasty hops my friend! HAHA! See how it caresses the taste buds delicately then BLAM! Smacks you right in the throat”
“Whether it’s ships or ales, you always have a lot of say, don’t you Zenteagan” Aladrin called out as he approached. His old friend turned around hearing his name, and stared at Aladrin. A few seconds passed, and his eyes lit up.
“Well, I’d recognize those ears if it took another decade! Little Aladrin Grey..Greywood! Aladrin Greywood, how are you, old friend?” He beamed, immediately disregarding the man to whom he was trying to sell and was now pilfering coins out of Zenteagan’s coffer.
“That… that guy is stealing from you!” Aladrin exclaimed, pointing past his friend.
“Oh who cares, most of that was fake money anyway. You think I’d have real silver lying around a place like this?” He laughed loudly, looking at the man reexamining the coins he stole, and throwing them down in disgust. “My, you’re armed to the teeth, aren’t you? What’s the occasion wait… that’s… your father’s sword isn’t it. He isn’t…” He tapered off, looking at Aladrin in concern.
“It is his sword, and I don’t know. I haven’t seen him in over a year.” Aladrin started, then seeing Zenteagan’s anxious looks, he waved him off. “I’ll tell you about it over a flask of your finest, what do you say? I believe I’m long overdue for a taste”.
Zenteagan continued his concerned look for but a moment, before smiling, and clasping a hand on Aladrin’s shoulder. “Of course! I know just the place!”
The two of them walked through the town, now starting to fill up with an alarming number of drunken and scantily clad individuals. After a few minutes of walking, Zenteagan stopped in front of a large wooden door with a hastily scribbled sign above it saying “The Wandering Bard”.
“Is this…an actual tavern?” Aladrin asked inquisitively, looking at the questionably official sign.
“Well… yes and no. But mostly no. It’s better to not ask questions”, his friend laughed after knocking with a few loud bangs on the door, which cracked open and some leering eyes could be seen peering from the darkness.
“Aye, Zen is that you?” The voice asked mysteriously.
“The one and only!” Zenteagan exclaimed with a slap to his thigh. The entire conversation ended there, as the door closed, then, following a harsh click, reopened with a hand extended.
“Well, then come on in, your ale will pair nicely with the little magic show we got going on right now.”
Aladrin had never experienced so raw an environment as the inside of the Wandering Bard, or whatever this place was. Drunkards brawling, fornicating, dancing, and passed out on the floor. Openly naked women walking about, with an equal number of openly naked men following either in tow or leading. They sat down, and Aladrin noticed the barkeep was a short, questionably aged individual barely able to reach the top of the bar, but yelling with the language of a sailor. It made him briefly reminisce of the first time he cursed in front of his mother, and she assailed him with a flying eggplant from across the kitchen. He doesn’t remember what he said, but he does remember he didn’t say it again. At least in front of her.
In the middle of the open space was a man in a wide brimmed hat, casting spells and creating baubles out of thin air, only to have them disappear seconds later. The magic show, from what Aladrin could surmise. It wasn’t much of a show, as the mage was merely performing child’s tricks while sneakily moving towards and away from unattended bags in the vicinity.
“Hey Zenteagan…” Aladrin started, nudging his friend.
“Please, you’re an adult now. Call me Zen, no need for formality”.
“Of course Zente…err… Zen. What’s up with this mage. Is he stealing?”
“I should imagine so. I can’t see why anyone would be amused by these kinds of parlor tricks until it’s meant to be a distraction for something else. I’ll tell you what, nothing is more distracted than a drunk audience, and it doesn’t get much drunker than this!” Zen laughed, holding his belly. He was clearly in his element, Aladrin noted, with he far from his own. He hadn’t ever seen this type of debauchery, yet at the same time, there was a familial tone to it all. At least, until the mage was caught with his hand in the bar til. Unfortunately for Zen and Aladrin, they happened to be in the way of the oncoming bouncers.
“HEY! That’s enough out of you!” A large Ulven man shouted, grabbing a club leaned against the wall. He hastily made his way toward Aladrin, who stood out of force of habit if nothing else.
“Wha…” Aladrin started, but not until Zen and Aladrin felt a shove from behind. The mage had received a rather hearty accosting from one of the naked women who had assumed it was him that slapped her back side. With physical agitation coming from all sides, the three individuals found themselves amidst a huddle of angry, naked, and drunken people all trying to punish someone for something, while it felt unknown what the actual crime truly was.
Aladrin felt a firm hand grab his cloak at the same time as he took a knee to the stomach from a thin, naked man with glittery skin.
“Time to go”, the voice said from behind him, as he felt his entire self being lifted off the floor and up and out the back door of the tavern. As he was dragged through the doorway, he collided with the mage, who apart from a busted lip, appeared in good spirits. Perhaps, Aladrin guessed, because he had consumed quite a few himself. Whomever was dragging them out of the tavern apparently had both of them in tow.
Moments later, he felt the roughly, scarcely grassy ground collide with his still swollen back side, and looked up to see not only himself and the mage, but Zenteagan also in a crumpled heap on the earth beside him. Looming above them was, strangely enough, the diminutive barkeep who spoke with a rather gruff voice.
“I SAID, it’s time to leave. You can participate in the festival next year. Leave the mage at home”.
With that, he slammed the door closed, and the sound of music and shouting resumed once more from within. Aladrin leaned over to the barely conscious Zenteagan and said with a groan, “I think it’s best we do our drinking elsewhere”. With an alarming speed, Zen hopped up, brushed off his cloaks, and checked his coin purse.
“Ah good, it’s still there. They didn’t get the real one. Can never be too careful!” He laughed, hauling Aladrin off the ground. “Now, who is our clever little mage friend who deprived me of a week of drunkenness”?”
“Ah right, umm… sorry friends.” the mage started, getting up and gingerly touching his lip with a wince. “The name’s Connor Ashmane”.
“Well, Connor, while I appreciate the rabble rousing, I think you owe me a drink. You can buy it in the next town over with the coins you’ve been stealing all night.” Zenteagan said with a dramatic flair and his hands on his hips. “For, I should, right now, be face deep in a tankard of ale and a bed full of women”.
“Right, yes, well. No worries, no problem. Let’s just head on over to Newhope. I hear there is a great little tavern there that’ll sort you right up”. Connor replied, digging around in his cloak, appearing to be looking for something.
“Newhope, well, that’s a bit further than I’d like to go for a drink, but I’m heading that way, myself.”.
Aladrin, finished cleaning himself off, and applying a salve to an open wound from a bottle, “Actually, before we head out, I’d like to see my friend Lanseall again real quick. He was the one who told me you’d be here, Zen.”
“Did he now, and how did he know that?” Zenteagan replied with a furrowed brow.
“I guess he had some of your ale last year, and thought it was amazing. He said he was coming back just for more of it”.
“Well, then I’m sorry that he’ll miss it” Zenteagan distressed with a feigned exasperation. “For to deprive one of a Wincress ale is a tragedy akin to a dive in the Dirge.”
“What now?” Aladrin asked, again unsure, as he knew that Zen held a lot more knowledge than he.
“Oh boy, well, that’s a long discussion, definitely over a drink. In any case, I’m sure you’ll see your friend on the way to New Hope, as our paths are likely to cross. How did you get here? Did you pay for the carriage service?”
“Why does everyone keep calling it a carriage? It’s a rickety wagon with a drunk old farmer..”
“Ah, so you HAVE met him. Good, yes, let’s go find him, and we can head out. Aladrin shook his head, unsure of what to make of the last few days.
The next few days felt eerily familiar, as the trio traveled along the same dirt road in the same old wagon, pulled by the same old farmer. Though, unlike his previous journey, this man and Zenteagan apparently knew each other, and conversed joyously the entire trip. Connor and Aladrin sat awkwardly in the back making small talk.
“Well, what have we here…” Aladrin 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. Something he saw only a few days prior in this journey.
“It’s a trap!” He 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. Several of the bandits carried crossbows, and Aladrin felt bolts whiz by his ear with barely a hair missing his head. Another two bandits dropped from Zen and Connor casting spells. 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.
After dispatching the three incapacitated bandits, Zenteagan clasped a hand on Aladrin’s shoulder.
“Your father would be proud to see his sword being put to such good and well-trained use. Though, seeing a Mordok sword being used alongside, does fill me with a bit of unease as to the story of how you acquired both…”
Aladrin smiled back and returned the friendly hand on Zenteagan. “That is a story for another time. Right now, we have I believe three more awaiting us somewhere in these woods”.
“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….”
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.
“What the hell?”
“Who was that?”
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. Aladrin could hear Connor say “Uh oh”, before they heard a ripping noise, and they plummeted toward earth. 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, finding he knew a lot less about the world than he thought.
“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. Aladrin gladly took it, appreciative for the help and looking forward to getting out on the open road again. As much as he loved being in the woods, with the onslaught of Mordok and bandits, it was painfully clear that he would need all the help he could get.
The following few days passed without much note. The three arrived at Newhope and hastily made their way to the nearest tavern. Guzzling down pint after pint and joining in merriment, they spoke excitedly about their future prospects, how they felt working together, and after an evening of joyous fun, the four agreed that they would travel together from here on out. Whether it be adventure or daring escapades, it had been a long time since Aladrin felt at ease.
Connor apologized for setting off the trap, stating he wasn’t much one for the woods. Zenteagan reassured him that as long as he didn’t try to distract them with magic tricks while stealing their silver, all was forgiven. Stanley Lorden spoke at length of the history of the Wall, their adventures, how they disbanded, and how he still carried true the namesake of their predecessors. Aladrin gave a brief recount of his past, how he fled from Faedrun and settled in Mardrun. The attack from the Mordok, and how he found his father’s blade. Zenteagan listened intently, appearing to have shaken off the effects of the alcohol, nodding and furrowing his brow at points in the story. It was truly serendipitous that they meet again, and Aladrin was glad to have finally found some friends whom he could trust.
Lanseall was right. He needed to relax. His life had been difficult, but so had Zen’s. Seeing the older Syndar laugh merrily despite the despair and trauma they had both shared, reminded him that life could still be ok. He missed his parents with an anxious heart and could he, he would have wept openly. But he didn’t. He smiled, stood and toasted his new kinship, and after a few hearty drinks and a handshake to solidify their agreement to continue on as a group, Aladrin did something he hadn’t done in over a year.
He sat down on a free barstool, pulled out his lute, and began to quietly play, whispering to himself the words of his mother “We will be ok, Aladrin. I promise.”