Atlas   Rules   Resources   Adventures   Stories       FAQ   Search   Links

Character stories

by Gareth Larter

Well, I'm sitting at work with very little to do so I thought that I'd share some of the character stories that I developed for my players. Bear in mind that this entire game was played using HARP so there will be things that don't fit with what you're expecting. With that said, allow me to introduce our first guest ...

Anyway, the full list of characters are:

Imgunil Yakovich - Traladaran Rogue (Think Errol Flynn type)
Vilecia Hararlorn - Thyatian Rogue (Shapeshifter) (played by my wife, no less!)
Masangrak Pyotrescu - Traladaran Fighter (Berserk)
Khazbirulan Stonehollow - Dwarven Cleric of Kagyar
Molar Trenchermann - Hin Fighter (Bounty Hunter)
Monnedhel - Callarii Aeromancer

Imgunil Yakovich (Traladaran Rogue)

Birthday: Eirmont 17th
Home Town: Penhaligon

Imgunil was the son of a Traladaran cabinet maker. During his schooling, he was great friends with two other youths of a similar age: Vilecia and Masangrak. His small stature meant that he was often a target for a group of Thyatian youths, looking for someone to bully. At least he was until his friends caught them in the act and gave them some of their own medicine.

Approximately three years ago, he went to his parents and asked to be Sheared. His parents tearfully and proudly agreed, and the following night they held the Shearing feast. Many of his family were there to wish him well, as were his two closest friends.

The following morning, with pounding heads and proud hearts, his parents dressed him in travelling clothes and handed him a simple sword. His father gathered up the tail of the cloak and Sheared his son.

Imgunil signed up as a caravan guard on the Great Caravan. The long trip to Specularum was tedious, but not without its high points. During the trip, he became friends with a young Dwarf named Khazbirulan.

Upon arrival at Specularum, Imgunil and Khazbirulan were released from the Caravan's service and paid with a small purse of gold each. They remained together for a little while but Khazbirulan was spending more and more time at the great Cathedral of Karameikos, learning more of Kagyar and the other Immortals, whilst Imgunil was wandering the nearby forests.

During one such wandering, he came across a young Thyatian boy being menaced by a large boar. His blood boiled at the sight and he was filled with a strange energy. Moving faster than he'd believed possible, he lifted the boy to safety as the boar charged in for the kill. Three mighty bows sang, three great arrows flew, Imgunil and the boy were across the clearing in the time that it took for the boar to be slain.

A figure stepped out from the undergrowth, partly hidden by the shadows of the forest. With a voice like water over stones, it asked a question in a language unlike anything Imgunil had heard before. To his surprise, the young boy answered the figure without hesitation, and in the exact same language.

Two more figures stepped out of the undergrowth besides Imgunil, and he was quickly disarmed as the young boy stepped to one side. The small group moved swiftly along little-known trails to a hunting lodge in the forests. As he travelled with them, Imgunil identified the other three as Elves; their sloping cheekbones and pointed ears giving them away as they passed through patches of sunlight that peeked through the forest canopy.

He was escorted into a large study and politely asked to wait. He looked around the study as he waited. It was well-appointed, the cabinetry was of a far better quality to anything his father had produced and there were rich tapestries on all the walls. It was not long before he heard someone enter the study behind him as he examined one of the cabinets. He delayed a moment before rising to his feet, straighten his clothing and turned around.

The young boy had entered the room. With him, was one of the Elves who had led them to this lodge. They were accompanied by an older man. As the Elf and boy bowed to the older man, his face became visible in the candlelight of the room, and Imgunil had the shock of his life.

Imgunil quickly bowed to the older man, for he was in the presence of the Grand Duke himself. He quickly glanced at the boy. There was definitely a resemblance, and given the age, he concluded that the boy must be Valen, the youngest of the Duke's children.

The Duke invited Imgunil to be seated, and expressed his thanks for rescuing Valen. Indicating the Elf who was still stood by the door, he said that the Callarii hunters who'd witnessed the rescue, were interested in Imgunil. They were prepared to offer him training to better control his talents, and potentially a place in the Elvenguard.

Without the slightest hesitation, he accepted. As the Duke was leaving, he turned and asked why Imgunil had been examining the cabinet. He replied that his father may have made some of them so he'd been double-checking. The Duke's eyebrows raised slightly as he considered the information, and he left the room with his son.

That evening, Imgunil was allowed to sleep in one of the guest rooms of the lodge, and the following morning, his training began. For the next year, he endured a harsh regime of training in swordplay, archery and a bit of magic. His skills developed rapidly under the watchful eyes of his Callarii tutors, no mistake went unnoticed, no slacking went unpunished.

At the end of that year, the Callarii turned Imgunil over to the Elvenguard where he served for two years. During his tenure in the Elvenguard, he learnt much about woodcraft, and he learnt much about the workings of the court from those occasions when the Elvenguard were called to assist the Guard Phorsis. He made friends with a Callarii Aeromancer named Monnedhel, and the two were often paired up for patrols and missions when their superiors saw how well they worked together.

Two years passed very rapidly, and despite his friendship with the Callarii, being the only human in an exclusively Elven regiment was becoming lonely. He mustered out and began the long trip back to his home town of Penhaligon, with his swords and armour, letters of recommendation from his commander and a full pouch of gold.

He was not very far north of Specularum on the Duke's Road, when he came across Monnedhel, seated on a mile post and feeding his horse apple slices.

M: "I heard that you mustered out"
I: "You could say that"
M: "I thought that you might want company"
I: "Why would you think that?"
M: "Because I know you, Imgunil. And besides, who'll haul your feet out of the fire if I'm not there?"

Imgunil glared at the Callarii for a moment, before his face broke into a grin. The Elf smiled, mounted his horse and the two of them headed north towards Penhaligon and who knew what else ...

Khazbirulan Stonehollow (Dwarven Cleric)

Birthday: Eirmont 7th
Home Town: Highforge

Khazbirulan originally hails from the Kingdom of Highforge, wedged between the Hillfollow and Windrush rivers in the northern territories of the Duchy of Karameikos. Through his youth, he had followed the teachings of Kagyar, and has always known that he would serve his Patron until the day he dies.

One summer, for no other reason than pure inspiration, he took service with the Great Caravan. He served as a guard on the long trip south to Specularum, as did many of his kinfolk. During the trip down, he made the acquaintance of a Traladaran youth by the name of Imgunil. The tattered state of the youth's cloak indicated to him that the youngster had recently undertaken the human tradition of "Shearing" but to Khazbirulan, the youth seemed woefully unprepared.

The sturdy dwarf took the youth under his wing and began teaching him how to fight properly. All too soon, the caravan arrived in Specularum and Khazbirulan wondered what he was to do. He took himself off to the humans' Great Cathedral, hoping to find inspiration. Within the Cathedral, he found that the humans also worshipped the Great Artisan and suddenly his path seemed clear.

When the time came for the Caravan to return to Highforge, Khazbirulan remained in Specularum to finished teaching Imgunil how to fight, and to learn more from the seminary about Kagyar's teachings. Most of his kinfolk were understanding although a small number, mainly younger hotheads, made empty threats of ostracism. Khazbirulan was genuinely sorrowful that they could not understand his choice, but he knew that it was the right one.

Once Imgunil had been trained and had gone on his own path, Khazbirulan remained at the Cathedral and seminary for a few more months before his feet became desirous of travel again. Believing this to be a sign from his Patron, Khazbirulan packed his possessions, made his goodbyes and headed off into the wild lands of Karameikos.

He wandered through the Western reaches of the Duchy, blessing crops, building ventures and children, his feet pulling him ever westward towards Luln. At Luln, near the borders of the Black Eagle Barony, the desire to keep moving was all but gone, and he settled down for a time, offering his engineering experience to the town's building projects, and his strong right arm to the militia.

All that changed one night. As he lay asleep, his Patron gifted his dreams with a vision. He saw himself cresting a rise west of Luln, the town far behind him. Before him lay a bowl-shaped depression, in which he saw a young child being savaged by wolf-like shadows.

He surfaced from the dream rapidly, his mind reeling with horror. Barely taking time to don his armour and weapons, he rushed out of Luln. The gate guard was not prepared to let him out but Khazbirulan would brook no arguments. He chaffed at the delay as the watch commander was called, shifting feet and gripping his maul compulsively.

As the dwarf outlined the dream vision in short, curt sentences, the watch commander ordered the gate to be opened. Khazbirulan rushed through as soon as the gap was large enough for him, heading west over the hills at a rate of knots as though the Hounds of Thanatos were after him.

He continued this way for several miles until he crested a hill. There, before him, lay the bowl from his dream. Within the bowl, there was a party of Orcs, laughing and joking as they cruelly whipped and beat what appeared to be a young child. Anger, righteous anger surged through him when he saw this. He called on his Patron and strode into battle with the foul creatures.

Earth shook them from their feet, holes opened beneath some of them. Those that tried to fight, found their weapons turning in their hands. Yet others were sent flying as the power of Kagyar and the Earth were channelled through the Dwarf's maul. Left, right and centre, he broke skulls and crushed limbs; his fury fuelled by Immortal blessings. As more and more Orcs fell, the remainder began to flee; small groups first but then more and more until they were all fleeing westwards.

Rushing to the child's side, Khazbirulan was shocked to find that it was no child but a Hin. Nevertheless, the poor Hin had been beaten to within an inch of his life. Calling on his Patron's blessing, Khazbirulan stabilised what wounds he could, before lifting the Hin onto his shoulders and making his way back to Luln.

Dawn was breaking as the Dwarf and his burden arrived within site of Luln. His arrival was expected, as evidenced by the small group of healers and guardsmen who ran from the gates upon sighting him. The Hin took months to heal but during his convalescence and fevers, he spoke of the loss of his family, how he'd tracked the raiders and begun killing them off one by one.

He'd managed to track down the final raider; a tall, thin human with dark hair, eyes, and a small dark goatee beard, all hidden within a dark hooded robe. Unfortunately for the Hin, the raider was prepared and trapped him with magic. His weapons and armour hade been taken from him, and he had been given to the Orcs for sport.

Khazbirulan was troubled by this, and many times did find himself dwelling on the Hin's problem. He prayed for guidance from his Patron, oft-times at strange hours of the night. As he found his thoughts dwelling on the strange dark man, he was gripped with a sense of purpose.

During the following weeks, Khazbirulan enquired around town about the dark man. At the same time, he arranged for the Hin to be outfitted with armour, a sword and shield, and a fine pony. His enquiries bore fruit and he was able to tell the Hin that the man had passed through or by Luln several months past. Once the Hin was fit enough to travel, he was desperate to follow the trail but despondent that he could not.

Khazbirulan took the Hin to the stables and led him to where the new pony stood, all tacked and ready with saddlebags. As Khazbirulan led his own pony out from another stall, the Hin seemed almost shocked and asked what he was doing.

"I'm going with you" replied the Dwarf gently.
"But why?" demanded the Hin, "why would you help me?"
"Because Kagyar wills it" answered the Dwarf with a small, enigmatic smile.

Monnedhel - Callarii Aeromancer

Birthday: Nuwmont 20th
Home Town: Somewhere in the Dymrak Forest

Monnedhel is one of the Callarii, the Elves of the Dymrak Forest, Like his peers, he is shorter than the humans in the surrounding lands of Karameikos with sharply upswept ears and violet eyes.

Throughout his adolescence, he'd been taught, as all youngling Callarii were, of the Trees of Life and how they'd been gifted to the Elven people by the Immortal Ilsundel. Magic was strong in this youngling and many of his people expected him to follow the Leader's Path and become a Treekeeper himself.

However his choice of magical studies was completely unexpected. Rather than study the magic of the woods; his heart and soul exulted in the play of the Winds in the Trees. It became obvious to his tutors that his destiny lay on the Wanderer's Path.

Since Elementalism was not really part of the Callarii heritage, Monnedhel was sent to Specularum as soon as he came of age, to the School of Magecraft to study with Master Teldon. Under the patient tutelage of this venerable human Wizard, the young Elf was a quick study. He mastered techniques ahead of many human students who'd been there longer, learning the Arts of calling the Elements to do his bidding.

Always his soul exulted in the Winds, and they rapidly became his elemental speciality. Oft times, he could be found atop a high tower during the winter storms, enjoying the crash of thunder and play of lightning.

All too soon, he was called to Master Teldon's offices. He was told that there was nothing more that he could be taught. Before he could despair, Teldon sprung another surprise on him. The Duke had requested a magical specialist to join the Elvenguard, and Teldon had chosen him to fill this role.

Upon his arrival at the Elvenguard barracks, Monnedhel's attention was caught by the sight of a young Human, training on the parade grounds with some of the other Elves. The two youths, Monnedhel and Imgunil, became firm friends almost from the very outset, their skills complementing each others and increasing their effectiveness to an extraordinary degree.

During patrols, they were quite often paired up at their superior's insistence. Monnedhel's skills with Elementalism proved instrumental for supporting small unit tactics, often hurling lightning and winds to break up pockets of resistance, and providing concealment and information when not actively engaged.

After two long years in the Elvenguard, his divinations showed him that Imgunil wanted to go home to Penhaligon. Without his friend's knowledge, he arranged for himself to be released from service a day earlier and made his way north to the next milepost. It was here that he was seated, feeding apple slices to his horse when Imgunil came over the hill from Specularum.

M: "I heard that you mustered out"
I: "You could say that"
M: "I thought that you might want company"
I: "Why would you think that?"
M: "Because I know you, Imgunil. And besides, who'll haul your feet out of the fire if I'm not there?"

Imgunil glared at the Callarii for a moment, before his face broke into a grin. Monnedhel smiled, mounted his horse and the two of them headed north towards Penhaligon and who knew what else ...

Molar Trenchermann - Hin Fighter

Birthday: Sviftmont 27th
Home Town: Trenchmannheim, a small village east of Wereskalot

Molar is a Hin of the Five Shires, conforming to most people's image of these people. But his eyes are cold hard, for his is a dreadful tale.

The small clanhold of Trenchermannheim is to the east of Wereskalot, thus placing it within the borders of Eastshire and dreadfully close to the borders with the Black Eagle Barony. The clanhold maintains a well-trained militia since their location makes them prey for goblinoid raids that make their way through the Blight Swamp from Fort Doom.

Molar was away from the Clanhold on that fateful day, leading a militia band in search of a reported band of raiders. Unbeknownst to him, the raiders struck in force, sacking the Clanhold completely and taking slaves. The vast majority of the Seniors and Masters were slain outright, and a small number of Hin managed to escape the carnage. Even so, a large number of Hinlings and Hinfemmes were taken as slaves.

Upon his return, the young Hin was furious with grief. He set out with his militia band to track down the raiders. The militia harassed the foragers, disturbing their hunts and their sleep. They attacked on the darkest nights, freeing a couple of Hinlings here, a Hinfemme or two there, even cutting the throat of a camp guard whilst their companions joked only feet away.

As the militia slowly whittled away at the raiders, undermining their morale and freeing prisoners where they could, the raiders became increasingly desperate to return to Fort Doom. In a final act of desperation, they slew the remainder of the slaves and fled eastwards.

Fully half of the clan lay dead in a cold camp when the militia arrived. Mothers, brothers, sisters and cousins lay on the ground like so many discarded toys, their lifeblood soaking into the trampled soil of Eastshire. Molar howled in anguish over the bodies as the rest of the militia looked on in shock and despair. He swore a mighty oath of vengeance to the High Heroes, and set out alone to hunt down the raiders.

For long weeks, he hunted them across Eastshire, savaging them day and night, leaving the cooling corpse of a guard in their camp every morning. He used his intimate knowledge of Eastshire, and his military experience to pick them off one by one. Many a time, he came close to failure when a spellcaster was able to get off a spell but the natural Denial ability of the Hin race protected him long enough to place a dagger in the spellcaster's eye.

Even the Blight Swamp offered them no protection as he pursued them through the marshy lands and into the Black Eagle Barony. There were only a handful of the raiders left. As always, Fate has a way of turning sour and Molar fell prey to a crafty trap.

Although he killed many of the goblinoids, they had been joined by a human wizard. His magic proved to be the telling factor as the Hin's Denial failed him, and he succumbed to an enchanted sleep. He lost count how many days he was held captive, but each day he was beaten black and blue at the hands of the goblinoids that he had terrorised for so long, whilst the human wizard looked on.

Fortune and the High Heroes didn't leave the young Hin high and dry for long. Just when he thought that he would finally die at the hands of these creatures and the darkness was closing in on him, he saw the stout figure of a Dwarf outlined by the setting sun over the crest of hill. The sound of a Dwarfish battlecry and the wet, meaty noises of a Warhammer impacting skulls followed him down into the darkness of oblivion.

It would be several days later before Molar awakened to find himself in bed. His wounds and injuries had been dressed and neatly bandaged. Through a nearby window, he could see that he was within a small walled town. His Dwarfish rescuer sat on a chair in the corner, fast asleep and snoring loud enough to wake the High Heroes themselves. The Dwarf was plainly dressed with an ornate holy symbol around his neck.

Molar's injuries were very severe and it took several weeks of fevered dreams and pain for him to recover. During his recovery, he learned more of his rescuer. A young Dwarfish Cleric of Kagyar the Artisan, Khazbirulan had been guided to Luln by "an itch" as it was described to him. It had been a divinely inspired vision that had led him to the Hin that morning.

Kahzbirulan took it on himself to find out more information on the human wizard for him, insisting that Molar had to recover before he continued onwards. The enquiries bore fruit but the information was both exciting but disheartening. A tall, thin human with dark hair, eyes, and a small dark goatee beard, all hidden within a dark hooded robe, had been seen passing through or by the town and heading east but this was several months ago, and the Hin feared that the trail had gotten too cold.

When Molar was finally recovered and able to move under his own steam without grimacing in pain, Khazbirulan took him to the stables. The Dwarf led him to a stall at the back. On a table in the stall, there lay a suit of leather armour, a small round shield and a new finely made sword. In the stall stood a new pony, all tacked up and laden with saddlebags full of supplies.

The Hin stood there in shock, dumbfounded as he tried to take it all in. His shock was compounded even more as the Dwarf led his own pony out of the adjacent stall. Molar demanded what was going on.

"I'm going with you" replied the Dwarf gently.
"But why?" demanded the Hin, "why would you help me?"
"Because Kagyar wills it" answered the Dwarf with a small, enigmatic smile.

Masangrak Pyotrescu - Traladaran Fighter (Berserk)

Birthday: Fyrmont 22nd
Home Town: Penhaligon

Masangrak is the son of Penhaligon's blacksmith, a tall imposing man of seemingly dour nature. What most people don't understand, is how a man like Pyotr could be married to Ellina, a petite lady of Darine descent, as the pair of them were so different.

Masangrak was blissfully unaware of other people's opinions as he knew that his parents loved each other, and showered him with much love and affection. His early schooling saw him make friends with two other youths: Vilecia and Imgunil. Often he would have to step in and protect Imgunil as his short stature made him a favourite target of Thyatian bullies.

His mother was an fiery woman, with passion for her work and her family. Masangrak inherited a great deal of this, particularly her temper which quite often landed him in hot water when coupled with his size and strength from working in the forge with his father. Most of the time, the punishments were fairly lenient as most people were aware of the bullying and saw it as justified, particularly since Masangrak only ever acted in self defence.

As the youths got older, they began spending less time together as their lives took their divergent paths. Still, it came as a shock three years ago when Imgunil announced that he was to be Sheared. Shortly after that, he left town with the Gnome Caravan.

Unsurprisingly things came to a head some time ago, when a group of Thyatian bullies who were deep in their cups began taunting and mocking Masangrak and a friend. The bullies began pushing them around and Masangrak defended himself. But one of the bullies went too far and pulled a knife, slicing deep into the friend's ribs.

It was as though as a red veil had swept over his eyes as Masangrak went Berserk. One of the bullies was killed outright as his neck was snapped in a single blow, two others were left with multiple injuries before the Militia could wrestle Masangrak to the ground.

The trial was a daunting affair. Lady Penhaligon herself had to preside over it as no-one trusted the local justicars to be fair. The bullies' families were howling for blood, and the Traladarans were sharpening their knives. The Lady examined all the evidence that she heard from witnesses, learning of the systematic bullying from Vilecia who appeared as a surprise witness in Masangrak's defence.

The Lady's verdict was a major feat of diplomacy. Having learned of the bullying and how the families of the bullies had encouraged it, she fined each family heavily to pay for public works and sentenced the bullies to a month's work on these projects. Looking at Masangrak, she stated that in his case, the fact that a man had died at his hands meant murder and that he should rightly hang for this (The bullies' families were rubbing their hands in glee at this point).

However in the light of the circumstances, since he acted in self-defence, and it was the bullies who pulled the weapon, and it had been happening over a long period of time, she offered him a choice: 2 years service in the Militia or 8 years in the Workgangs. Naturally he choose the Militia (There were howls of indignation from the bullies' families at this point).

That evening, he was moved into the Militia barracks under guard. The following morning, he turned out for training under a grizzled Traladaran sergeant. The sergeant looked the youth up and down without saying a word, walking around him as though examining a prize bull. He turned to look at the Lieutenant and said only one word: "Greatsword".

The Lieutenant took one look at the Traladaran youth and nodded. From that day, Masangrak spent many hours practising with this ancient Traladaran weapon in both attacking and defensive postures. The two years service in the Militia went by very quickly and he learned how to control his temper, so that he didn't lose control unless he wished to. He learned well the lessons of the grizzled veteran sergeant, which tended to be followed up by his fist if you weren't listening.

When not patrolling the town, drinking with his fellow Militia or helping his father in the forge, he would be out roaming the local area on patrol or fending off goblinoid attacks. His skill with the greatsword grew quickly and he learned how to create a whirlwind of steel with this weapon. His curiosity about the world beyond Penhaligon grew stronger as well, making him want to see more.

Not long after he left the Militia, having returned to the forge to assist his father, he decided that he'd like to find out about his childhood friends. Although Imgunil was no longer in Penhaligon, word had come back from Specularum via the Gnome Caravan that he was doing well in the South. Vilecia was still around, and supposedly learning the silversmith's craft from her father but rumour had it that she was about to become betrothed to the son of a prominent Thyatian merchant in town.

Rather than get himself into trouble over Vilecia, Masangrak turned round and asked his parents to Shear him. There was much fussing over him by his mother but they both agreed in the end. They threw his Shearing feast on the same night that Vilecia's betrothal was supposed to take place, and he invited many of his Militia friends to join him. Amongst them was the Lieutenant who presented him with the Greatsword that he'd been training with for so long.

The following morning, Masangrak woke up with a sore head. Although he wasn't hungover, he'd consumed more than enough to leave him with a mild headache but nothing that several mugs of klava wouldn't cure. The family and friends made their way to the Town Square where the semi-official part of the Shearing ceremony would take place.

Masangrak was not the only person being Sheared. There was another Shearing taking place that morning in the Square, and it was none other than his childhood friend Vilecia, looking very much the worse for wear. From the door of the Golden Cup tavern nearby, came the sound of very familiar laughter. Leaning against the doorframe, a mug of klava in one hand, a pair of scabbarded swords in the other and dressed in what looked to be a uniform of some kind, was Imgunil.

Vilecia Hararlorn - Thyatian Rogue (Shapeshifter)

Birthday: Flaurmont 10th
Home Town: Penhaligon

Vilecia is the daughter of a prominent Thyatian silversmith. She loves her father dearly for he deals with everyone equally, regardless of their ancestry. His reputation for fairness and honesty is well-known in town, and is often a source of pride to the young lady.

Her mother was a wholly different matter. Coming from an old Thyatian family, the woman seemed to epitomise the worse traits of the Thyatian invaders, constantly looking down her nose at the natives, treating them as though they were simple animals.

All her mother wanted was a shy, retiring female who could be ordered around and married off to another Thyatian merchant family to form an alliance. What she got was a rebellious, sullen tomboy who went out of her way to be awkward.

Her early schooling saw him make friends with two Traladarn youths, despite her mother's attempts to stop it: Masangrak and Imgunil. Often the three youths would get into trouble together, or Masangrak and Vilecia would have to step in and stop bullies from picking on Imgunil. This obviously scandalised her mother but Vilecia took great pleasure in causing her mother grief.

Endless parties held by her mother, and being forced into formal clothing, really irritated the girl. It didn't help that the families that were usually invited to these parties shared similar sentiments to her mother. Vilecia despised these people and would make elaborate plans to upset them. Doing it during the parties were out of the question as that would bring Father's disapproval.

She struck on the idea of embarrassing these ladies by stealing their trinkets. After all, they used these trinkets to assert their superiority over the Traladarans. One night, she sneaked into a neighbour's house and took a single earring. As she was leaving the house, a swarthy hand clapped around her mouth and she was lifted off her feet.

Within seconds, she'd been taken through alleys and side streets, that she was confused and lost. Finally she was put down inside an old house, far from her home. The darkened room made it hard to see but her sharp ears could make out the sounds of breathing and whispered conversation. What happened next, was a conversation that would change her life forever.

A voice spoke to her, asking why she'd gone into the neighbour's house. Without a second thought, she blurted out the whole story including her reasons for doing it. The following silence was broken by many rapid whispers of approval. The spokesman laughed and gave a small measure of applause which seemed to be echoed by many pairs of hands.

He proposed a deal: that he and his brethren would train her to be a better thief, and in return she would hand over the stolen property to them. Vilecia agreed immediately, after all she wasn't in it for the money but to cause serious embarrassment to the Thyatian merchants who acted like her mother. In the following nights, her training began on two levels.

On the Brethren's recommendation, she apprenticed herself to her father so that she could learn to make and evaluate jewellery, and how to run a business. Her father raised an eyebrow at the sudden interest in the family business but as he had no other apprentices, he agreed to it.

Her mother tried to put a stop to it by saying that a Thyatian lady didn't do such things but her father angrily put his foot down by saying that a Karameikan lady does what she wishes. Her mother wisely shut up and said nothing more about it.

During the evenings, she met members of the Brethren who trained her in thieving skills; how to slip a shutter latch with a dagger, how to make her way across a slick roof, how to case a building, how to identify and disarm booby traps, how to open locks without their keys and how to enter and leave a room without making a sound.

One of her mentors was a hedge-wizard who taught her a number of minor spells to assist her. Spells such as Light, Locksmith, Slowfall and Apportation enhanced and complemented her rapidly improving abilities. By the time Imgunil was Sheared and Masangrak went into the Militia, she was regularly breaking and entering into the houses of her mother's friends, and stealing small pieces of jewellery that left them red-faced in embarrassment.

For all her skills, sometimes fate plays a wild card, and Vilecia was very nearly caught one night. The fact that she wasn't, was due to her ancestry coming forth. She was caught up on the window of a house, with the owner rapidly approaching. She began to panic, the panic triggered a latent ability and caused her to take the form of a large magpie.

The startled look on the householder's face said it all. He shooed the magpie out the window, and closed and latched the shutters again. Vilecia the Magpie flew down to the ground almost drunkenly. Her relief at not being caught soon caused the change to reverse, leaving her kneeling naked in the grass below the window.

She quickly made her way home and began investigating this strange gift. She discovered that it came from her mother's side of the family, it only affected the females and it regularly skipped generations. At first, only stress would trigger the change but in time, Vilecia learned to effect the change at will. She kept this ability a secret but it became a great boon to her work. She also used it as her trademark by leaving a single magpie feather behind at each job, and having a tattoo of a black feather on her shoulder.

Vilecia's mentors in the Brethren had warned her on many occasions of an organisation known only as the Kingdom of Thieves. Both the Kingdom and the Brethren operated in Penhaligon, albeit with some friction between the two. Vilecia herself had had a couple of close shaves with them. Her independent nature, and the Kingdom's propensity of rules, meant that she'd rather not work for them.

She kept the thieving to a minimum, only doing the occasional job to embarrass a particularly obnoxious woman, or just to have a bit of fun. The Brethren recognised this by granting her a small stipend from her enterprises. Over the years, this stipend has accumulated in a small but respectable stash which she kept hidden from her family.

Things came to a head recently when her mother announced that she was throwing a party. Vilecia was told that she was to attend this party. A quick glance at her father's puzzled face filled her with dread. She wore the new dress that her mother insisted that she wore although she was careful to secrete some weapons in the fold.

Her feelings of dread were well-founded when her mother announced to all and sundry that Vilecia would be betrothed to the son of another merchant. The feeling of dread was replaced by livid fury when she realised that her mother had set this up without asking her. Not only that but the woman had the audacity to set this up behind her father's back.

Vilecia looked at her father, who was staring back at her. She realised that her father had been lied to and thought that she'd agreed to this betrothal. She swallowed down her anger lest it trigger a change, and raised her voice in cold anger above the sound of the applause.

She said bluntly that she would not be marrying the potential groom because you hadn't agreed to this and hadn't chosen him. She proceeded to list all the faults and shortcomings of the potential groom in great detail whilst walking towards him and her mother. He grabbed her arm angrily but she punched him in the face, breaking his nose, before drawing a dagger and making a number of strategic cuts in his tunic at rapid speed.

With the dagger point against the man's neck, Vilecia looked over at her father. Mother looked like she was apoplexic, as did the potential groom's family. The potential groom was looking particularly groggy and not a little fearful for his life. Vilecia said that she'd rather be Sheared than be forced to marry a stranger against her will, and she removed the dagger and sheathed it.

At this, her father's face broke into a grin. He laughed and hugged his daughter whilst her mother retired in shame and the potential groom's family left in indignation. The majority of the guests cheered and laughed as the supposed betrothal party rapidly became a Shearing feast, those that left were the people who shared her mother's sentiments.

The following morning, Vilecia woke up with a rotten hangover. Several mugs of klava took the edge off it whilst her father fussed around making the preparations for the Shearing. The family and friends made their way to the Town Square where the semi-official part of the Shearing ceremony would take place. Unsurprisingly her mother was not present.

She was not the only person being Sheared. There was another Shearing taking place that morning in the Square, and it was none other than her childhood friend Masangrak, looking very much the worse for wear. From the door of the Golden Cup tavern nearby, came the sound of very familiar laughter. Leaning against the doorframe, a mug of klava in one hand, a pair of scabbarded swords in the other and dressed in what looked to be a uniform of some kind, was Imgunil.