The Heroes of Loudwater
Gnome warlock wandering the verse in search of his destiny
Rellen was born into slavery in the camp of a minor Fomorian lord. Rellen has little memory of this time as it only lasted into his early childhood. By the time he’d seen his sixth autumn, his mother was killed for sport by her keepers. Shortly after that, Rellen’s father went missing over night, and would not be seen again in the Fomorian slave pits. Within a month’s time a band of adventurers entered the Fomorian compound and killed every last giant in the area. The group was not sent to liberate the few Gnomish slaves who remained, but to collect the skulls of the giants for bounty.
Regardless of intent, the members of the Vindication Brotherhood were liberators. The few remaining Gnomish slaves, however, were not willing to chance that their rescuers would turn into captors. Once rescued from the slave pits, they scattered. The adventures made no effort to stop them. In later years, Rellen would look back at that moment and wonder how different his life would have turned out if he’d have given the Vindication Brotherhood a chance. Alas, it was not meant his destiny.
Leaving the horrid pits of the Fomorian behind, Rellen ran until his lungs burst and his legs were leaden. Overcome with fatigue, lost and alone, Rellen found a small hovel under a large oak tree. He quickly gathered some fallen leaves, mud and twigs and camouflaged its entrance as best he could. Rellen then lay quietly, listening for any sound of pursuit. None disturbed his rest that night.
The following morning, hunger drove Rellen out of his hovel. Scrounging for grubs and berries, he quietly stalked the wooded Feywild. After the autumn faded into winter, he braved a return to the Fomorian lair. He found it empty of life and scavenged provisions as best he could. Sliding away through the deepening gloom, he was oblivious to eyes that followed his every move.
From seemingly nowhere and everywhere at the same time, a yellow energy field erupted around Rellen. The force lifted him off the ground, held him there, stifled his breath and muted his screams.
Silently a form took shape out of the growing mist. The shape was ever-changing, but always feminine. She approached the stricken gnome. A voice filled his head.
“I am Lune de Moisson. You are the spawn of Myran and Teburn. Teburn owes me a great debt and has forsaken payment. I claim you as mine as payment of that debt.”
There was no telling when the switch happened, but when the yellow glow faded, Rellen was no longer in the Fomorian cave, but in a transcendent realm. Golden hued light streamed down through red, amber and yellow leaves. The intertwined boughs of Aspen, Elm, Oak, Hickory and Walnut created a room, of sorts. A warm breeze sent a continuous cascade of leaves. The smell of sweet grain and freshly fallen leaves permeated the hall.
Despite the fading spell, Rellen could neither find his breath nor utter a sound beyond a small peep. His only thought was to run and hide, but his feet remained rooted to the spot. The same voice filled his head again, but it was somehow warmer this time. “Welcome to your new home. You’ll be staying for quite some time. If you direct your gaze to the back of the room, you’ll notice a small table with some warm water and some soft bread. Eat and drink your fill and I’ll return for you then. Oh, and from the look of you, you could use a solid washing.”
With that, the female figure produced a silver pitcher from the ether. Filled with perfumed water Lune, doused the frightened gnome. The fragrance of fresh fallen leaves and moist earth filled Rellen’s nose. The water cascaded down his body, removing every speck of dirt and filth. As the water dried, the perfume remained heavy in the air. However, the greatest surprise occurred when Lune presented a large, soft towel and commanded Rellen to dry himself. As the towel passed over his skin, the rags he wore transformed into fine clothes of brown and green.
“The clothes are yours so long as you are in my service. I have great need of an intelligent servant to go out in this world and represent my interests. Before we can start on that, however, you must eat and rest. For now, I’ll leave you be.”
The radiant feminine figure then burst into a yellow shower of dried leaves scattered and tossed by the gentle breeze.
Rellen stood fixed to the spot where he had landed when the spell faded. His eyes wide with awe and terror. He considered fleeing, but saw no escape. Between the trunks of the trees that made up the walls of this room, grew heavy briars and brambles. They were woven so tightly Rellen doubted a mouse would be able to squeeze through without tearing itself to ribbons. As Rellen surveyed the room, he took note of the water and bread. His stomach turned in knots at the sight of food such as he had never known. The young gnome could resist no longer. Before his head was aware of it, his feet were moving and his hands reaching. He clambered onto the stool and reached for the first loaf of golden bread, still warm from the oven.
That evening, Rellen ate better than he’d ever eaten, slept soundly for the first time and felt a measure of safety for the first time in his life.
The next morning, and every morning until four autumns had passed, Lune woke him with a warm gentle breeze, presented him with a desk, a blank parchment and quill. She taught him to read, to write and to think. She taught him the art of the conversation. She taught him court etiquette and how to curse like a drunken sailor and when to do either. She taught him to hide himself physically and how to hide in plain sight by appearing to belong where ever he found himself. She taught him the art of the graft and how to look for lies in others. She showed him the world.
Lune was patient in all her lessons, never once in all the seasons did she even raise her voice to Rellen. For his part, Rellen was a quick study and a curious soul. Though, he was a prisoner still, never in all his happiest dreams did he envision a life this rich. He could never figure out, though, why he received such kind treatment. He had no chores, no tasks, no punishment, no responsibilities save his education. Often, Rellen would catch Lune studying him when he was lost in thought. A knowing glance usually followed.
Four years this went on. As autumn drew deep and the chill of winter set in, Lune arrived in her usual manner, with a warm breeze. However, no desk or lesson was forthcoming. Her voice, was the same, though. She explained that her tutelage was over and now it was time for Rellen to earn his keep. He was going to the Eladrin city, Mithrendain. There he was to use the lessons Lune had taught him to track down his father, Teburn. Rellen need only locate Teburn. Nothing more.
Lune continued “You’ve been a quick study. I’ve grown to like you bet among all my wards. But even so, you’ve lived the life of a prisoner for too long to trust anyone. In order for you to carry out your task, you need help and incentive. I’ll provide both now.”
A warm sensation focused on Rellen’s, right between his shoulders. Not painful, but intense.
“I have marked your body and your soul. I’ve imparted you with some of my own power to help you in your task. The mark will allow me to find you, anywhere, anytime. Complete this task for me, you keep the powers I’ve given you, loose the mark and gain your freedom.”
With that, the scene dissolved in front of Rellen’s eyes. Before him stood one of the most magnificent cities ever constructed by the eladrin: Mithrendain.
For a Gnome who’d never seen more than a handful of people in his life, Rellen did a fair job of keeping in his calm when he arrived, confronted with the sight of hundreds of Eladrin, Gnomes, Humans and Elves. The scene before him was a celebration, of what he was not sure. The revelers were all dressed in costumes and most wore masks of some sort or another. None took notice of the young Gnome, and Rellen set off in search of his long missing father.
The search was long and fruitless for many years. If Teburn were in the city, he was obfuscating his presence with the skill of a master. Lune hadn’t been in contact in months and Rellen was begging to despair. In an act of desperation, Rellen began to expand his search out into the wild lands around the city. While he knew there was much danger in that course, he could think of no other.
Rellen found a small cave with a worn path in the underbrush. Delving into the depths, he found a natural spring that formed a large pool. The water was deep beyond sight. A faint glow flickered in the depths.
Suddenly, strong hands shoved the young gnome into the water and held him fast. His breath fading fast, Rellen summoned all of Lune’s power he could and threw it at the figure holding him down. The concussive blast broke the hold and blasted the young Gnome deeper into the pool. The magic seemed to ignite the pool. The faint glow grew into a blinding flash of brilliant white light. The light did not fade. As Rellen pulled himself up to the surface, it grew warm and bright. The pool was no longer in the cave. It was in a no longer in any world Rellen knew. The Sun was hot, the tree’s were thin and the air dry.
Rellen called out to Lune, there was no answer. He reached out in his panic and pushed his rage at the nearest tree. A blast of eldtritch power smoked into the side of it, leaving a large hole.
Rellen was alone, lost in a strange place. But he was free.