Inspiring awe in every common man who sees him, there is something otherworldly about the appearance of this paladin. While slightly taller than the average man, it is his metallic-like bronze hair and jewel-like sinhalite eyes that most often capture the attention of his fellow men and suggest that some part of his ancestry may contain races other than that of man.
- 60 years ago **************
“But you heard what the mid-wife said Duraina. Perhaps it is the will of the gods or perhaps it is fate. I neither know nor care. Childless, copperless…my love for you will not change”. They had been hiking into the Gronzi Forest for hours and had still not reached the shrine of Desna.
“How could I forget the mid-wife’s words Rowan?” Duraina’s voice trembled as tears welled up in her eyes. “I have wanted to be a mother since I was a girl. To feel a new life growing inside of you….to dream of the person your child will one day become…a man would never understand such things…”
Duraina’s voice trailed off as tears began to fall like raindrops in spring. “To hear…to hear her say I was barren…that I could never conceive…” Duraina buried her face into her hands and wept. “I felt a piece of me die that day Rowan…”
Rowan stopped and gently touched his wife’s shoulder. His calloused hands lifted her face and he looked into her tear laced eyes.
“I did not mean to upset you Duraina. I am a soldier and have been all of my life. Give me a sword and I will strike down your enemies wherever they may be.” Rowan paused as he moved his hand over his wife’s heart. “But the sadness and pain that this news causes you…I don’t know how to defeat it…or how to protect you from it.”
“There are some battles that cannot be won with strength of arms Rowan” Duraina said, regaining her composure. “Come, the shrine cannot be much further…”
Another hour of hiking brought Rowan and Duraina to a small clearing in the forest. A carpet of flowers blossomed in the warmth of the sunbathed opening and a swarm of brilliantly colored butterflies flew lazily from bloom to bloom. A small, seven pointed shrine covered in images of stars stood in the middle of the clearing.
“Now we pray” Duraina said, pulling her husband towards the shrine. “Perhaps the goddess will bless us with children”.
Though Rowan thought it hopeless to pray to the gods for help, he could easily read the sincerity on Duraina’s face. “If that is your wish, my love, then I will do as you ask”.
Duraina knelt before the shrine and offered her sincerest prayers to the goddess. Rowan had never been much for prayer or religious ceremonies but despite his reservations, he dutifully knelt by his wife and prayed for the goddess’ blessing.
An hour or two had past and the sun was beginning its slow descent in the sky. Duraina pressed on in fervent devotion, but Rowan had begun to grow nervous. His years as a soldier in the Brevic army had taught him to trust his instincts and now they were telling him that danger was close at hand.
“We are not alone here Duraina. We are being watched” Rowan whispered.
“What do you mean Rowan?” Duraina asked, seeing the stern and wary look on her husband’s face. “What is the matter?”
“I do not know but something is here and it intends us harm.”
Just as Rowan had finished his warning, a band of twenty orcs burst in the clearing. One of the orcs pointed towards Duraina and muttered something in a foul, guttural language. The other orcs grunted and charged towards the couple.
“Run Duraina!” shouted Rowan. “I will do my best to hold them off and buy you time! Run! Run and do not look back!”
Rowan drew his sword. Though he was an accomplished soldier who had taken the lives of many enemy warriors, he knew a lost cause when he saw one. “If I can buy her enough time to escape”, he said, “then that will be good enough”.
Though he had never been a religious man, he offered a quick prayer to the goddess whose shrine he was visiting. “Desna, I do not ask you to spare me from death. I do not ask for your protection for me or for you to release me from the pain I will endure. All I ask is that you protect my wife from these foul beasts.”
“For Brevoy!” Rowan shouted as charged towards the oncoming horde. His blade glistened in the afternoon sun as he cut down the first orc he met. Thick droplets of blood sprayed the flowers of the glade and the tranquility of the shrine was shattered by the sounds of battle and death. Rowan fought like a caged bear, dismembering any orc who came within reach of his blade. He fought through the pain as one and then two arrows pieced his body. An axe gashed the side of his face and a hammer broke the bones of his off-hand. Still, Rowan fought on killing each orc who appeared before him.
Fifteen of the twenty orcs lay dead or dying at his feet before he finally collapsed from the pain. No matter how hard he tried, he could no longer will his body to fight. He had lost too much blood and pushed his body well beyond his breaking point. “I can only hope that it was enough” he thought.
Suddenly, Rowan felt an enormous hand gripping him by his hair. With a sudden jerk, the hand pulled him up and onto his knees. An intense wave of pain washed over him and he winced as he slumped back onto his calves and feet.
“This one is Azok” the orc grunted in broken common. “This one want you know name of one who kill you”.
Rowan barely heard what the orc had said. His eyes were fixed on his wife, bruised and struggling between two orc guards. She had been caught after all and by the looks of her, taken a pretty serious beating herself. She screamed and cursed the orcs who held her and shouted Rowen’s name.
“I’m sorry Duraina” he cried to himself. “I am sorry I could not protect you. I have failed you”
“We take her back to chieftan” Azok said as he pointed to Duraina. “That one is strong. She make good slave cow for clan”.
Rowan grasped Azok’s wrist and tried to jerk himself free. He had lost too much blood; however, and his weak struggles did nothing but amuse Azok.
“You not know that you already dead. Azok will help you learn”.
Rowan felt a sharp pain as the spear entered his back and pushed its way downward and through his abdomen. A fountain of blood erupted from his belly as Azok drove the spear through him and into the ground, impaling him in a kneeling position.
Azok laughed heartily at the cleverness of his actions “You like pray? You like kneel? Azok help you die on knees while pray”. Azok laughed again and strode towards Duraina. Impaled and gasping for breath, Rowan felt the cold grip of death on his shoulder. Just as he began to lose consciousness, he thought he heard an angelic voice calling out to him.
“Do not be afraid, Rowan” the mysterious voice said. “I have seen the goodness within you and I will save your wife as you have asked. Her prayers will be answered”.
Somehow, Rowan mustered the strength to raise his head one last time. Though his vision was beginning to blur, he could still see his wife struggling between the two orc guards. Some distance behind her; however, stood an elf-like creature with silver-white hair and sinhalite eyes. A whirlwind of mist and lightening swirled about the creature and it drew what looked like a bow to fire at the orcs.
Rowan smiled as his head fell towards his chest. “Be strong Duraina…live well and lead a happy life. I will wait for you on the other side”.
- 30 years ago **************
“Let her go!”
The thug picked the street urchin up by the collar, spat in his face, and tossed him to the pavement. As the boy tried to rise to his feet, the thug delivered a swift kick to the ribs. A second kick followed and soon the boy had lost count of the number of blows he had taken. He lay broken and batted on the cold paving stones, gasping for air and wincing in pain. The thug stopped and laughed.
“You’re pathetic boy. I know beggars and cripples who put up more of a fight than you!”
The thug spit on the lad and turned his attention back to the elven girl he had been trying to protect. She tried to run but the man caught her by the wrist. “And where do you think you’re going lassie?” The flicker in his eyes hinted at the evil he was intending to do. “We haven’t even started to have our fun yet.” The thug pulled out a large knife and laughed maliciously as the girl struggled in his grip.
The boy gasped for air. His broken ribs made breathing difficult and his body quivered from the pain of the beating he had just taken. He felt ashamed at his weakness and wanted desperately to disappear into a hole in the ground.
“Get up Roland”
It was that voice again. The same voice he had been hearing in his dreams for the last few years. Roland tried to ignore it out of the fear that hearing the voice meant that he had gone mad.
“Get up Roland” the voice repeated.
“Who are you?” Roland demand. “And why do you speak to me? And what do you think I can do? I’m not strong or tough or brave like the man you show me in my dreams. I’m just a boy and I’m in pain. Please help me”
“Who I am is not important. Why I speak to you is not important. What is important is that you get up Roland.”
“I just want to be safe. I just want to stop hurting!” Roland shouted back to the voice inside his head.
“If you don’t get up, the girl will die Roland” the voice said.
“I can’t get up! Did you see the beating that man gave me? I can barely breathe” Roland cried. “I can’t save her. Just like I couldn’t save mom from the bandits”.
“Do you want her to die too Roland? Do you want her to suffer like you? Do you not want to see a lawless brigand brought to justice?” the voice asked sternly.
“I don’t want her to die. But I didn’t want mom to die either. I’m too weak and there is nothing I can do!” Roland screamed. “Can’t you find someone else? Someone besides me? Someone who isn’t already hurt?”
“There is no one else Roland” the voice said coolly. “You are the right person, at the right time, in the right place, to do the right thing. It must be you and you alone who acts. Now get up”“I told you to let her go” Roland said in a stern voice.
The thugs paused, his knife an inch from the girl’s face. “I’ll admit that I didn’t think you had it in you boy” the man said laughing. “Well if that beating didn’t teach you your lesson, then maybe this kni…”
The words caught in his throat. Roland had fallen to the ground a weakly boy but what rose from the street was something different. Something had finally awoken in Roland. Silver tendrils snaked across Roland’s face and arms and his eyes blazed in a sinhalite tone. His hair had a metallic bronze sheen and his voice took a more commanding tone.
“I said, Let. Her. Go.”
- One Week before the Adventure **************
“It is that damn Lorelei isn’t it” the priest said in a harsh voice. “That Desna worshipping elf is the one who put this non-sense into your head!”
“Lorelei told me about the charter from the Lord Mayor of Restov” Roland replied calmly. “The decision to leave was mine and mine alone.”
The priest frowned. “The Parables teach us to embrace the simpler joys of life and to value our families and communities. This is your home and your family Roland. You’ve lived here with us for nearly 30 years now…ever since Old Bran found you and that elf girl begging on the streets of New Stetven.”
The priest stomped his foot and looked defiantly at Roland. “This is where you belong, Roland. Here, with us.”
“That elf girl has a name brother” Roland said in a stern voice. “Her name is Lorelei and you will respect her in my presence.”
Roland sighed. “I do not wish to argue with you over Lorelei or her faith. I know you disagree but I feel that I may best serve Erastil by going with her to Restov. After all, does not Erastil command his followers to lead by example and good deeds? Are we not called to use our talents to serve our community in whatever manner is needed?”
The priest tried to interrupt but Roland continued. “You have seen me fight and you have seen my skills with the longbow. Why would Erastil bless me with such gifts if he did not intend for me to use them to protect others? The Banner of the Stag…”
“This folly does not involve the Banner and you know it Roland” the priest interrupted.
“True, it does not” admitted Roland. “But the Banner does organize militias to provide protection and aid to towns and hamlets in times of need. Erastil has blessed me with martial talents and I intend to use my gifts to protect the settlers of the Greenbelt. If my bow can bring law and justice to the people of that region, then I believe I will have served Erastil honorably and faithfully.”
“It seems your mind is truly made up” the priest sighed. “Just remember that revenge is a dish that clouds the mind and poisons the heart”.
“I know you fear for me Brother. And I know you think my sole purpose in heeding the Lord Mayor’s request is to exact revenge on the kinds of men who killed my mother when I was a child.”
Roland paused, thinking of his mother and that terrible day so many years ago. “I assure you it is not the reason I am going. I go only to ensure that Lorelei is safe and to bring justice and law to those who lack it”
“My words cannot stop you Roland” the priest said dejectedly. “May Erastil guide your arrows and bring bountiful harvests. Before you leave, I want you to take my holy symbol to give you guidance on your journey. May it always remind you of hearth and home.”