Hebchaz is a free man, an outlaw who roams the Empire with no ties to anyone and few scruples about dangerous work. He spent his whole life among criminals and misfits, where he developed a healthy resistance to authority and a distaste for Thelean rule of law. He stands four feet tall and weighs sixty-seven pounds, blending in with most viantu in the Empire. The distinguishing aspect of his appearance is his face. His countenance is weathered and considerably hardened for a viantu so young, and his left eye is greyed and clouded due to an injury he sustained in a duel. Hebchaz could have grown into a position of relative prominence among the free gangs of Omaden, the town of his birth, but when he challenged the authority of a rival gang he was pitted against their captain in battle. He lost the standoff, but the rival gang left him with a souvenir–a slashing wound across his left eye and face. His brothers nursed him back to health, but weakness in Omaden is not tolerated. In order to keep their respect they were required to banish him from their borders. Hebchaz wandered from town to town for many years until a chance encounter with pale stone made him dare to hope that the stories of untold treasures beneath the earth were more than just folk tales.
Townships along the eastern borders of Thelea live at a different pace. This statement rings true especially in Omaden, a small town close to the Eastern Kingdoms in the far reaches of the Brolean Expanse. The town serves as a hub for trade activity into the east of the Empire, as well as travel from the ancient north to the newly formed settlements of the south. Omaden’s network of trade is run by an intricate group of ringleaders and gangs who maintain control over territories and distributions of goods. The gangs of the east tend to be divided (though not strictly) by race and faction, primarily into three powers: the Bladed Fist, a contingent of human miscreants who cause the majority of the territory conflicts in the region; the Klast, a gang of kahlnissá opportunists whose collection of goods is unrivaled in the east; and the Umani, a viantu power who manages the largest network of spies and trade interests in the Empire. Several smaller gangs exist within each of these primary powers–factions who pledge allegiance to the ringleaders at the top of the chain.
Hebchaz was raised in this community of free gangs. His family, the Jashim-Kor, are a gang pledged to the Umani who control the south district of Omaden. By the time Hebchaz was four, he was helping his three older brothers maintain the supply line of Eastern goods–some of them illegal by Empire standards–from Omaden to the south. Running with the free gangs in Omaden was lucrative, but also dangerous. Especially troublesome was dealing with the Bladed Fist members in the north of the town, who seemed intent on stealing from their supply train or starting a territory skirmish at least once per month. The ringleaders among the Bladed Fist and the Umani would usually work out their skirmishes in the interests of business, but as soon as they settled one dispute it seemed that the free gangs under their control would start more trouble.
The Jashim-Kor considered themselves to be the most honorable of the free gangs, only fighting their neighbors when someone encroached on their territories or stole from their supplies. Their strict codes made them one of the more stable free gangs in Omaden, and the Umani thought of the Jashim-Kor as their most trusted assets. The unfortunate nature of such a strict code of honor meant that anyone who stepped out of line needed to be punished quickly and severely. Hebchaz bore the brunt of these harsh punishments, leading to his banishment from Omaden.
Hebchaz was the youngest in his community litter, and worked well with his brothers, but he always had a terrible problem with authority. Even among the free gangs, soldiers were expected to show respect to their betters, their captains and ringleaders, but Hebchaz always felt like he should answer to no one. He was proud at first of his family lineage; to be a Jashim-Kor commanded respect and afforded Hebchaz more privilege than most see in the east. But during his adolescence, he became far more irreverent and rebellious. In a bold coup, Hebchaz gathered five foot soldiers and captured a valuable Bladed Fist shipment. They sold the goods to traveling merchants for a massive profit, and in a week’s time Hebchaz brought a sizable cache of threnns to his captain in the Jashim-Kor. By then, however, the Bladed Fist had already petitioned the Umani for retribution against the people who stole their goods. In the interest of truce, the Umani ringleaders commanded the Jashim-Kor should pay damages to the Bladed Fist who suffered losses. Additionally, the Jashim-Kor were required to hand over the person responsible for leading the theft.
Hebchaz’s brothers did not want to jeopardize their position with the Umani by protecting their brother, so they gave him up. The Bladed Fist pit Hebchaz in an honor duel–their version of a trial–that would end either with his death or his banishment. Hebchaz fought bravely, but ultimately he lost. The duelist he fought slashed Hebchaz across the left eye, crippling his sight. Injured and broke, Hebchaz’s brothers nursed him back to health and then promptly ejected him from Omaden’s borders.
Hebchaz spent the next ten years wandering around into odd jobs. For several years he lived as a bandit in the south Expanse, preying on settlers and travelers alike in order to make enough coin to spend at a tavern, living from meal to meal. But after a decade of aimlessness, he overheard a party of adventurers in some village inn discussing their wild adventures at a Torlish ruin. Curious about what he might find in a similar location, Hebchaz wandered to a ruin near the Cliffs of Boralis. There he found a radiant, jagged stone at the mouth of a pyramid. As he tried to grab the glowing crystal it burned his hand. He retracted in pain, but for the first time in his life he realized that the simple politics of an outlaw seemed inconsequential in the face of this pale stone. Clearly, he thought, the folk tales of this dangerous and valuable substance were based in truth. That meant the stories telling of the deep treasures hidden within underground locations and ruins must also be true. Hebchaz imagined that if he could find the right group of adventurers to form a gang of his own, he might be able to amass a hefty fortune scouring the hidden locations of the Empire.