The Ruinlords Present Curse of the Crimson Throne
A young Lean Teifling, with a peircing molten gold gaze
Hilde was a woman of little means and even less luck. Resigned to a life as a beggar in the slums of Korvosa, Hilde would often curse her own luck as she searched for her nightly meals amidst the garbage in the alleys of the city. Her only happy moments were with Silar, a young man who, despite her pleas to stop, worked as one of Gaedrin Lamm’s rare adult collaborators. Though a rough man with a less than positive moral compass, her time with him felt like the lifestyle of royalty when compared with her time in the streets alone.
It was not to last though as this was not Silar’s first tryst with a woman of the street. He left Hilde with something to remember him by – a child. Although she was overjoyed, Hilde decided that Silar was just too important for her and it was not meant to last. That thought got her through a difficult, if short, pregnancy but even that joy was not to last.
After 7 months Straxus – a horned, slate skinned child, was born. Horrified by the birth of a hellspawn, Hilde was convinced that it was her repetitive cursing of her own fate and lot in life that landed her with this creature. She fled to the one church to ever show her mercy – the Church of Sarenrae.
Without hesitation Hilde devoted herself to the church and begged them to help absolve her of the tainted child. Much to her regret the church denied her plea to rid her of the child and instead charged her to raise him like any mother would a normal child.
Straxus’s early childhood was a mixture of of confusing elements. Most around him tried, with mix degrees of success, to remain cordial. On the other hand, others he encountered, from within and outside of the church, seemed to hate him for no reason. These interactions lead to many, many adventures by Straxus by himself.
What started as just a few forays from his mother’s rooms- his unofficial cell in the church - turned into a daily test to see how far he could stray before getting caught. Day after day Straxus would travel about the church and its grounds investigating the daily lives of its members, all the while, becoming a master at hiding and observing those unaware of him.
It was one such day as Straxus was observing a group of kids that he met Theodor. Theodor was a young Half-Elf boy who also lived at the temple after his mother had passed away from the filth fever. Theodor was born with a malformed leg that force him to drag his oversized foot when he walked. This often gave the other local boys a target when it came to bullying.
Knowing full well the bullies’ opinion of Straxus was hateful and violent, he could not idly stand by and watch the harmless orphan be bullied. He leapt from his hiding spot in the courtyard bushes and interjected himself between the boy and his assailants. Straxus gained two things that day, his first real beating and his life long friend Theodor. From that point on Theodor and Straxus were inseparable.
As a duo they would often adventure together and Theodor showed a surprising knack for engineering and architecture, often helping Straxus find new areas to hide with various routes of escape. Now the game was was not only not being caught out of his room, but how many times could he taunt the other children who frequented the grounds around the church and not get caught by his pursuers.
When Straxus and Theodor’s antics grew too disruptive for the church grounds they began taking it outside its hallowed walls. There they would provoke others into giving chase, and see if Straxus could outrun them. A guard here, a merchant there, a noble man for fun. Nothing they did was particularly unlawful or mean, just enough to entice the chase. After a particularly good row with a pair of fat town guards- one Straxus’s favorite quarries- Straxus was approached by another child he had never met before.
This child thanked him for helping him complete a task and offered Straxus to come join him for a game of tag. Straxus obliged and followed the urchin into the back alleys of the city to find that this child had many friends of the same ilk and means. These homely, bedraggled children did not look at him with any derision or anger. They all played for hours until Straxus had to return home for his nightly scolding from his mother.
For the next couple of days Straxus would leave almost before dawn to go play with these kids who seemed to operate on their own set of rules with no adults to scold them and no bullies to pick on them. From time to time their games would have to wait while the children would stop and performed some sort of task or another for an adult he didn’t recognize but always after the children were free do play.
One day though one of the children returned from their “work” very bloody and bruised. When asked he said he had not done his chores right and so he was punished. Straxus resolved not to let that happen again and offered to help the child on their next chore. That night Straxus was confronted by his mother. She was angry that he was never around and she had even convinced Theodor to tell her of his whereabouts which served only to enrage her further. She demanded he never leave the room again and even promised to place the room under lock and key while she was away. Several days passed this way til one morning, Theodor’s face appeared past a loose tile in the roof.
"I found it while playin’ wiff som’ old maps," he said
Delighted, Straxus escaped with Theodor to play and took mental note of the tile. Later that night long after his mother had passed into sleep’s embrace Straxus rose, gathered what scant belongings he owned and made away from the church for what he thought then would be forever.
For the next three years Straxus found himself running with Lamm’s Lambs. He would work as the gangs lookout, scout, and, when punishments where in order, the gang’s whipping boy. He did not like seeing Lamm harming the other children and would almost always take credit for their mistakes, coming up with some lie or another to place the blame on him. This was especially true when it came to Faith. The younger girl with strawberry blonde hair always seemed to look past Straxus’s appearance and treated him with honesty. Not that the other kids didn’t, but this was different. She was kind hearted and not well suited to life on the streets. She would always share her meager bread with him even if nobody else would. She had joined the Lambs out of necessity.
It was the day of a big plan. Lamm had heard of an old woman with a fat purse who had been traveling down devil’s alley asking about pesh for her son. As of yet she seemed too suspicious for anybody to take her seriously, but Lamm didn’t care. His plan was to have his Lambs gang up on her in the alley, steal her purse, and kill her for her troubles.
"Who’s gonna miss a crusty old pesh addict," he’d said. “Now go my Lambs, and don’t you come back til you have what’s mine!” The threat was obvious that failure was not an option. This time however he sent two of the children with crossbows, one of them a boy who was particularly cruel natured by the name of Brutis, and Faith. They were to be the ones that laid the old woman low.
The Lambs spent an hour preparing Devil’s Alley for the ambush. They first had to run off the urchins that bedded there and those others who would try to swoop in on their heist. Then Straxus guided each of the Lambs to decent hiding spots to prepare the ambush and gave them their word to initiate the attack.
"Wait for my signal to attack." He told them and then turned to Faith. "Be careful Faith… I done won you to get hert. Ifin tings get bat… I won you to hide til I say it safe." He smiled and ruffled her hair. She smiled and nodded.
Right on time the old woman made her way into the alley an hour later. She was a short hunched woman shrouded in robes. True enough there was a purse on her hip the size of a melon and clinked true with the sound of coin. Straxus’s breath caught as he noticed her long before the others.
She made her way to the designated spot with an odd but weak shuffle. Once there Straxus took a look at each of other the kids, gaging their responses. As usual Brutus lain as instructed with a wicked grin on his face, Faith was trembling in fear and anticipation, and the others were a mix of fear and tension. Straxus took a moment longer to observe the older woman. Suddenly his heart felt heavy. Here this poor woman was walking the streets alone without any protection. Probably trying despirately to fufill a need that was driving her insane. Straxus took note again and sucked in his breath as he could see that Brutus had murder in his eyes and would not be waiting for the go ahead.
In a split second decision, Straxus lept from his hiding spot to tackle the woman. Just as he reached her he heard the twang of the crossbow. Leaping at the woman he barreled her to the ground just in time to take the bolt himself to the shoulder. Roaring in agony Straxus fell to the ground just in time to see the woman leap up and shed her robes. There standing before him was a well built man in his late 20’s, with nearly perfect musculature, black leathers, a sword at his hip, bow on his back. The man took a defensive stance just as the kids where on him. With light punches the man fended off the attacks with practiced ease. Once every child who had beset him was down with differing levels of injuries he turned to Straxus with a hard look in his eyes that softened. Kneeling down he looked over Straxus’s wound without a word.
"This will hurt. Bite down on this." He said handing him a small kerchief. "I have to get the bolt out, it went through but I still have to break it or it’ll get bigger." Straxus did as commanded and then the world went white with pain. After a few moments Straxus looked up his eyes foggy with pain. "Ya did good kid…. ya did good. Look ifin your ever around, reach out to me so I can repay you. The names Barloc." With that the alley began to thrum with a heavy pressure. Suddenly every bit of loose debris began to fly about as the pressure came and went in rhythm. A creature the size of a horse, with wings twice that length began to descend from the air itself. The man smiling down to Straxus again leapt into a saddle nestled between its wings and at that took off leaving Straxus with the kerchief.
With Faith’s help Straxus was escorted back to the loft that the gang stayed at. That night Lamm returned and was furious. The entire gang save Faith instantly ratted him out to spare themselves Lamm’s fury. Lamm made true on his promise and began to beat Straxus far worse than ever before, even his innate toughness from his hellish heritage did not save him the fury of Lamm’s blows. Straxus already wounded from the bolt wound reached into his shirt to grab his holy symbol. Lamm seeing this dove into an even deeper almost unchecked rage. Straxus could only curl up and pray- pray that Lamm would not kill him, pray that Lamm would not seek to hurt the others for his mistake, and pray beyond measure that the pain would end soon… at that the world went black.
Straxus awoke to find himself back in his childhood home, the church of Abadar. Resting on a bed and covered in bandages back in his old room. After a while he mustered the strength to cough and his mother came from the ajoined room. She looked him over stoicly checking his bandages.
"Are you okay?" she asked her tone slightly flat. Straxus nodded. "I was worried." She stated. "Theo told me where you had gone… I can’t blame you." She sat down at the edge of her bed. "I can’t blame you and yet….." She turned and looked away. "Why Straxus… you have never been a bad child, why would you leave me here alone to join that gang?"
Straxus took a soft ragged breath. "To help them, momma. The man in charge was so mean… I had to help them." She looked at him incredulously. So Straxus elaborated. “I’m always in trouble here. Everybody but Theo hates me… You hate me. The kids there didn’t hate me… at least not at first. But the man who takes care of them, he was evil. He would hurt them for not doing as he said, he would hurt them for no reason at all. I… I just wanted to help them.” He said as tears began to well up in his molten red eyes.
His mother taken aback by this wore a look of shock. Then as tender as she could manage bent down to hug her child for the first time. They remained like that for time untold until sleep took Straxus again.
For the next few weeks Straxus enjoyed a new found relationship with his mother and at long last rekindled his friendship with Theodore. While Straxus healed he devoted a lot of his time to the study of Sarenrae and her teachings. His near death experience had solidified his need to help those in need and stop those who would do wrong. His evenings where spent working the church’s stables. His encounter with the winged horse had left him in awe of such creatures and he strove to learn all he could. One night during dinner with his mother he broached the subject of the man in the alley.
"Momma, do you know what this is?" Straxus said as he produced the kerchief. "The night I got beat up, a man gave this to me for saving his life. He said that I should seek him out when I got better."
She looked over the the insignia on the kerchief. "This is the insignia of the Sable Company Marines. I don’t know much of them, but I think they are like a kind guard and I know they ride some strange flying horse." She turned it over in her hand thinking on it quietly. "I assume you want to search for him… that man you saved?"
Straxus nodded quietly knowing good and well the answer. But never again would he defy his mother as he had. For beyond their new found trust, Abadar’s teachings spoke of respect for one’s parents. "I would." He braced himself for the inevitable no.
"You have been such a good boy lately. And I would hate for you to keep this kerchief. It’s the right thing to do to return it to its rightful owner. You may go tomorrow, but take Theo with you." She said with a smile as Straxus rose from his chair whooping and hollering in excitement. Finally an adventure. After weeks of being bed bound, and weeks after remaining close to the church he was finally allowed to set out again.
"Yes ma’am." He said as he rushed from the room to go find Theo.
That next morning Straxus and Theo rose early to attend their chores and Theo’s studies. After those and an early lunch provided by his mother they set off. Theo knew where to head from the multitudes of maps and books he studied. And the entire trip he filled Straxus’s head with facts about the Sable Company ranging anywhere from their hierarchy, their tasks, all the way down to notable Marines in history. Straxus drank in every word. He was surprised to find out about the hippogriffs and made sure that Theo recounted everything he could about the creatures.
Once there Straxus stood dumbfounded. Here he could see several men practicing with swords, other with bows, a still others working atop those magnificent hippogriffs. All about him was a flurry of activity. It was several moments before Theo prodded him along. Straxus wandered in towards a mess hall after several overly embellished recounts of a description of the man he sought. Once there he froze.
"I ca… I can’t." Straxus turned to leave but Theo forced him back. Straxus looked down at the kerchief in his shaking hands.
"You have to Strax… Go I’ll wait here." Straxus began walking forward his tail twitching with his nervousness. After several slow heart beats Straxus stood before the man. He cleared his throat a few times but the man was lost in the recounting of a past glory. Straxus hung on every word til the man finished. His companions became uncomfortable and silent at the new arrival. The man turned to regard this young hellspawn with a smile that turned deadpan.
"Can I help you little one?" He said slightly nervously. He turned back to his friends with a shrug.
"I’ve…. " Straxus coughed to clear his throat of the butterflies making it nearly impossible to speak. “I’ve come to return your kerchief.” The man turned to him deadpan again. He mouthed the words “By the scales of Abadar” but remained silent.
“I’ve come to return what’s yours and hold you to your word.” Straxus said squaring his shoulders to look more brave than he felt.
"Well I’ll be damned… This is that kid who saved me from that gang of squatlings in Devil’s Alley. Kid what are you doing here!" He looked to the kerchief and his face went soft. “Damn hells kid….. wait… Kid I didn’t plan on you turning that back in to me. Look, name one favor and it’s yours… it’s the least I can do for what you did.” He looked to Straxus with a smirk on his face.
"I want to be a Sable Company Marine." Straxus said as he filled with excitement. The man looked to him his face growing concerned.
"Come on kid… don’t you want some money for sweets, or how about a cool dagger to show your friends." But Straxus wouldn’t budge. He shook his head and squared his shoulders.
"No. I want to be a Marine." Straxus said firmly. "I want to be a Marine so I can protect people and help people. I want to be a hero like you."
Barloc was at a loss. This kid was obviously unaware of how things worked here in Korovsa. There was surely no way this could join the Sable Company, but maybe he was just a little too young.
"I’ll tell you what kid… Sable company isn’t just a group you can join cause you want to. You have to try out. And for that your going to need training. Dangerous training. Its hard and you get hurt a lot. Now that doesn’t sound like fun does it?"
"Then that’s what I want… I want you to train me to become a Sable Company Marine." The man moved to protest, but Straxus cut him off as he lowered the shoulder of his tunic. "I am brave, I am strong, and I am no stranger to pain or danger. Remember I took this crossbow bolt to save you!"
"Alright alright kid. I’ll tell you what. My day ends at the stables with Daya. Meet me there today with a note from your mother saying its okay, and I’ll see if you can be trained." Barloc said knowing good an well the kid could never make it back here in time and surely his mother would not allow it. "Deal?"
Straxus nodded and took off like a bucket brigade to a fire. He left Theo with only a few passing words. “Make your way home, I need to be quick.” At that he flew back to the church with such speed he could hardly believe it. Once there he tracked down his mother like a bloodhound.
"Momma, Momma… the man said that if it was okay with you, he would train me to be a Marine!" Straxus panted between breaths. "Momma, this is it, I can finally be a hero!"
His mother smiled at him softly. "An apprenticeship would do you good. Of course it’s okay with me." Straxus jumped for joy then turned pale. "He needs you to make him a note and sign it saying its okay. With haste he gathered the materials and she wrote the note and with twice the effort as before he took off like a red streak of lightening. He made it to the stables just as Barloc had finished rubbing down Daya his Hippogriff. He stood staring at the kid dumbfounded.
"You really want to do this don’t you kid?" He said. Straxus nodded. "It isn’t going to be easy… hell for you it may be impossible." He looked at the kid, strong and proud, completely oblivious to the social and political hellstorm he would have to go through just to try. "Alright. I promised you one thing and damned if I don’t think your wasting your time, but… I’ll do it. Every day, once my shift is over you will meet me here. There is a lot you have to learn, and your going to need to be damn near perfect at them all just to get noticed." With that Barloc took Straxus and began instantly.
20 years passed in almost the blink of an eye. Barloc had retired almost 5 years prior and continued to train a now grown Straxus. Straxus had grown into a fine young man if a little slower than almost everyone around him. Still strong, still proud, and still thick with that sense of guardianship and morality. With a sword, Straxus could meet Barloc blow for blow, but with a bow, no one Straxus’s age was his equal. He had a knack for the bowmanship and a dead eye that could see leagues out and an arm that could adjust to the worst of conditions. Every year Straxus would beg Barloc to let him attempt entry to the Sable Company and every year Barloc would come up with some excuse. This time it was to be different. Barloc had become old… and in his age he had finally become quite ill. On his death bed, Straxus approached Barloc.
"I om going to tree out for de Sable Company dis year." Barloc went to complain but Straxus stood firm. "No! You ave been draining me mi ole life for dis… and Im gonna do et while yur still alibe to see it." Straxus stood with his chest poked out down at his master for the last 20 years. How frail he seemed now compared to that hero who once stood in the alley.
"Strax…" cough, “I know your heart. And damned the hells I know if you were human you’d a been in by now. But your old enough to know by now… Your never gonna be accepted into the Company.” The old man coughed heavily into his gnarled hands.
"But Barloc you said…" Straxus began to plea but the man held up his hand.
"I know what I said Strax, but you were a young kid with stars in your eyes… how could I crush your dreams… it would have killed every bit of good in you. I don’t know that I agree with the people here in this city. In you I’ve seen a boy twice as much worth his salt as some of those that have made their way into the company. But… " Cough, Cough, " Unless you can make them see that what you are isn’t who you are… its just not going to happen."
Straxus looked down at his Master knowing good and well he would not be of this world much longer smiled. "Then I thank you Master, for all that you have taught me. And I will. I will make them see I am more than my blood. I will make the whole world see. Then I will make the world see it was you… you who saw past the skin of a hellspawn into the heart of the hero you have made me."
Barloc smiled. It was another fanciful whim brought on by Straxus youth. But who was he to crush it, a man soon to depart this world on to his just rewards no matter his destination. If he did nothing else he would do right by this kid. "Listen Straxus… I want you to have this." He reached out towards the wall to who blackened bow that sat resting unstrung in the corner. "Its not much… but consider it your inheritance. I know I wasn’t your father… but I’ve always seen you as a son." He coughed again and this time the fit took a great deal out of him. "Now go. I’ll see you tommorow." That was the last, anybody saw of Barloc save for the Lady of Graves.
- Large Animals
- Sable Company
- Child Abuse
- Loss of Friend
- Not being accepted