A Rise of the Runelords campaign journal that became two books

1. I am Alpharius

I’m on nobody’s side because nobody is on my side. Not anymore. That is my guideline and that has kept me alive in this dangerous, petty and harsh world. It would do me good to remember this. I’ve begun this journal to remember. To stay focused in times of doubt and despair.

I’m a bastard son of an elven warrior and a human farmer’s daughter. I remember the name my mother gave me, my true name, but it is a cherished secret. A tool in my personal mission. The name Alpharius that by my former lord and owner, wealthy merchant and ruthless slaver Eximedes Horryn gave me, works well as a cloak.

Where should I start? I watch the blank page of this small, empty book, and travel in my mind to the first thing I remember.

Though they tried to beat my past out of me, I vividly recall the small village of Ravenhill, in north-western Molthune, close to the border to Nirmanthas – the place of my birth. Though situated in the contested area between the nations, Ravenhill was an inconspicuous, insignificant village that offered nothing but a simple, hard life of peasantry and hunting. I’m still young, by both elven and human standards, but that life feels like something from a history book. A golden dream, something to feel warmly nostalgic about if it wouldn’t hurt to remember. I was eight when Horryn’s raiding party came across our little village. I recall the black horses, shouts and the tension, children huddling at the feet of their mothers, fathers looking warily at the armed men. Our village elders slighted him somehow, as they turned against us, killing the men, raping the women and taking them and children as slaves before burning the village down. I’ll never know why it happened. But it doesn’t really matter anymore, does it?

I have a twin brother.

That day, we killed one of his soldiers, me and him. Horryn and a group of burly, rugged soldiers entered our small cabin on the side of the forest, outside the village. Their sergeant slew our grandfather with a single blow of his battle-axe and laid his hands on Mother. Somehow, we had the courage to protect her as we sprang into action: my brother stabbed the sergeant with his rusty short sword and I finished him with an arrow to the heart. That was my first kill, and my brother’s too. Looking back, I think Horryn found it amusing to see two half-elven boys best one of his sergeants. We of course didn’t have a chance to save ourselves or our mother. I didn’t see what happened to her. I feared the worst. We were both overpowered, chained, thrown into a wagon and sent off to Canorate, capital of Molthune. And we never saw our mother again.

Our fate was to enter a nightmare of slavery. But we lived. We endured and every day made our skin thicker.

Undoubtedly it was my skill with the bow and my brother’s with the sword that kept Horryn from reselling us like cattle. We had practically lived in the forest – I guess we had our elven blood to thank for the natural inclination – and came to know our way in the wilds. This of course had irritated the villagers and our family who would’ve rather seen us toil in the farms and meadows like normal people. Other villagers, pure-blood humans, children in particular, had given us a hard time. Horryn on the other hand saw the raw talent we had and selected us into his personal entourage of servants and martial slaves – boys, girls, men, women – from all races that he groomed to become his bodyguards, gladiators, assassins, manhunters and so on.

Surviving at the edge of what wiser men call civilization had made us adept trackers and hunters, which Horryn quickly took note of, and had his officers and other martial slaves train us further in our arts. My brother and I are by nature extremely attuned to our surroundings, quick to note if something was wrong or out of place or if someone was being deceitful. While hardier and more robust than pure-blood elves, neither of us had the raw strength accompanied with mad lust for blood required to become a successful gladiator, so I was destined to be trained as one of our master’s assassins and man-hunters, while my brother was to join his bodyguard. He wanted us to become expert killers, so we drilled continuously. The training was unforgiving, hard and bloody and we were treated as animals. As part of my training I went out with Horryn’s bands to track and eliminate fugitive slaves, people who had borrowed money and never repaid Horryn, people who had outright stolen from him, his competitors, and so on. My brother remained by his side, protecting him from enemies, tasting his foods and patrolling his grounds as one of his honour guard. To keep us humble and to break our will, we were beaten and humiliated regularly like some gladiator game beasts. All the boys and girls in Horryn’s stock of slaves eventually succumbed and turned into broken husks of people with servitude as their sole reason for existence. But we never broke. We solemnly promised each other to stay true and avenge our family. While our bond provided Horryn with means to control us, we planned to escape together when the possibility would present itself.

Ultimately our window of opportunity never came, but Horryn came to realize that training us was his worst mistake. No – his worst mistake was to send my brother to die. I don’t know of the exact details of the mission Horryn sent him to – I only know it was a task outside of the city and one that he, according to hearsay, was never expected to return alive.

I lost the only reason keeping me chained to my master. I think he thought he had made me subservient and blindly loyal to him, but he was wrong. After my brother’s supposed date of return from the mission I waited for seven days and seven nights. Then I made the biggest, boldest decision of my live: I would kill Horryn, and I would run, and I would find my brother, whether he was alive or dead.

I had to wait for another two weeks before I could move against my master. I didn’t have the luxury of killing him face to face, but crushing his windpipe and neck arteries and splitting his heart with two well placed arrows while he was raping a young slave girl in his master bedroom suited me quite well. I admit I was not the honorable type – rather, I was and I will always be pragmatic. As his blood flowed to coat his sheets and his soul spiraled to the deepest Hells, I ran like I’d never run before, through the estates of the rich and into the squalor of the Docks of Canorate. Horryn’s master-of-arms, one particularly sadistic and ambitious captain called Pontus personally led my chase. I was barely staying ahead of them in the city, but when I finally reached the swamps and forests outside the city, the playing field was leveled. I’ve come to learn how to survive and thrive in urban environments, but I’ve always felt more at home in the wild. They kept after me for a month, almost catching me many times before finally quitting their pursuit. Granted, putting an arrow through Pontus’s head helped them decide to leave me be. At least that was what I initially believed – later would-be-assassins of mine proved that House Horryn was still very keen on killing me.

That was seven years ago. Since then I’ve wandered both the civilized lands and the wilds in solitude. I have walked, ridden and sailed thousands of miles. First east, around Lake Encarthan, from Molthune to Kyonin, to Razmiran and Nirmathas, and finally west across the Mindspin Mountains to Varisia. I am searching for my brother, looking for clues, never trusting anyone with too much of my past and my intentions, moving and evading House Horryn’s agents – and never taking sides nor bowing to no master or god, settling down with no woman even though I’ve fallen in love with one. I’ve used my slave name instead of my true name, even though doing so makes it easier to follow my trail. I’ve barely earned my keep with bounty hunting but it has kept me on the road. It has given me the means to keep searching.

My toll of successful hunts, captured men and kills has risen slowly if steadily, while my hope to uncover the fate of my brother crumbles. Everywhere I arrive, I leave without any leads. All I hear are ifs and hearsay. I still don’t know if he is alive or dead. My doubt is a rising front of the blackest rainclouds. Still I choose to believe.

Now I am in Varisia. I don’t think I can find answers here, but I’m compelled to walk these lands, even though I sense something evil blankets them with its hungry gaze..

Alpharius

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