10: Trell, Ranger of the Forklands

Profile

Trell is a seasoned ais’lun huntsman who has spent the past fifty-nine years of his life in and around Rendalenn. He stands 3′ 9″ and weighs 128 lbs., and carries striking burn scars along his shoulders and the left side of his face–wounds he received during the great fire that took the life of his family. After recovering from the great fire, Trell was destitute living as a pauper in the filth-ridden streets of the ais’lun quarter in Rendalenn and squatting in abandoned hovels. The merchant master Entok of Rendalenn found Trell there, and collected the impoverished ais’lun as a laborer for his household. Trell found himself indebted to Entok’s house, and while the life of an indentured servant was a difficult one, Trell learned valuable skills and spent most of his time working outside the city walls to procure food and supplies for the other indentured servants living under Entok’s charge. Trell had saved enough of his meager wages to buy himself out of his contract with Entok after twelve years, but remained there to care for a number of viantu who Entok had coerced to become fighters in his arena. Trell found himself deeply admiring one of the viantu gladiators named Tsahzhast, and the two became friends. Trell watched the man’s career until the day Tsahzhast was defeated in battle due to the treachery of a strange weapon wielded by a crooked spellsword. After that day, Trell vowed to adopt the name Tsahzhast as his own, and leave the west to seek adventure.

Background

The ais’lun quarter of Rendalenn is a poor district with a population of over eight thousand people. The name is somewhat misleading, in that ais’lun are not the only residents of the district; anyone unable to afford purchasing plots in other more wealthy districts inevitably find their way into the ais’lun quarter. It was first settled by ais’lun who helped the human and Djenndan wall builders in the early days of the Empire. At present it is an often neglected and overpopulated district where many people have to labor just to survive from day to day. Trell was born in this district to a loving family–two mothers, a father, a brother and a sister. They were not rich by any means, but they also lived with more resources than most of the residents of the ais’lun quarter. Trell’s family were able to pay their rent, share food, and have brief moments of entertainment and leisure together as a family and with their neighborhood block. For the first twenty-five years of Trell’s life things were simple and dependable. His mother had even taught him to hunt small game just south of the city, which brought in another source of food that was a benefit to Trell’s neighbors as well. Trell’s family brought a vibrance to the ais’lun quarter that reminded the people who lived their that being poor did not have to mean that they should be treated as lesser citizens; they could have an enjoyable life.

In Trell’s twenty-sixth year, tragedy struck their neighborhood block when a nearby hovel broke out in violent fire. While Trell was out hunting, his parents and siblings found themselves trapped inside the cluster of hovels as flames erupted and spread throughout the block. Trell remembered seeing a plume of smoke rising from Rendalenn that day, feeling a deep pit in his stomach as he rushed back toward the ais’lun quarter. The fire raged on throughout the night, and the bucket tossers could not hope to penetrate the wall of flame until the mouth of the street had burned through the thick wood, dung, and thatch hovels once gathered there. He tried to enter but  was badly burned, which left him scarred for life. When the flame and smoke parted enough to explore inside the block, Trell found many of his neighbors and his whole family. Some of them had burned; others died from breathing the smoke. In less than a day, everyone and everything that Trell knew was taken from him.

Stability always rests at the edge of a precipice when one lives in the ais’lun quarter. The buildings are owned by the merchant masters of Rendalenn, and anyone who destroys their property or fails to pay their rent might find themselves bound by law to labor under strict contract in order to pay their debts. Slavery is outlawed in the Empire, but in the far reaches of the Djenndan Protectorate, the laws favor the merchant masters who use their contracted laborers little better than slaves. Often the salaries paid to indentured servants are less than meager, and merchant masters claim fees at their own discretion. The laws encourage corruption. Merchant masters who find laborers to exploit often manipulate their contracts endlessly to keep their servants bound to contract and to make it extremely difficulty for them to earn enough to buy out their contract and finally be free.

As soon as the fires cooled in the quarter neighborhood, the merchant master Entok inspected the losses of his property and charged Trell with the responsibility of paying damages, as he was the only living member of the neighborhood block. In Rendalenn, there is no course to oppose the law or the merchant masters unless you have enough money to hire a court scholar. Those legally responsible for paying the merchant masters for debts owed have two options: indentured servitude or death by hanging. Some have escaped and fled to other parts of the Empire, but most merchant masters hire hunters to track down deserters and kill them. Trell felt he had no recourse, and soon found himself in the employ of Entok.

In addition to owning many hovel neighborhoods in the ais’lun quarter, Entok is a merchant master who runs a fighting arena in the city. He procures fighters who battle to the death for the entertainment of the citizens of Rendalenn, and oversees the criminal network of wagers on his own death matches. Trell soon found himself as the laborer responsible for providing food stores to the arena fighters, ensuring that the cooks and the trainers had the game and other foods they needed to stay fit and fighting. It was a mundane job at first, but after several years Trell found that he excelled in hunting and foraging and enjoyed being outdoors honing skills in the wilds. He began to live more strictly and spend less of his coin in the city, saving as much of it as he could so he might soon buy his freedom and find a spot of land somewhere to live freely away from the corruption of the merchant masters in civilization.

When Trell had saved nearly enough money to buy his freedom, Entok entrusted him with the care of a family of viantu from the far south. Entok had offered to allow them to labor for him in exchange for passage to the city. Trell immediately felt sorry for the viantu, and was moved by their resilience despite their circumstances; he respected anyone with a deep desire to survive and persevere against impossible odds. Within months of their additon to the arena fighters, one of the viantu gave birth to a litter of three males, and for a short time Trell felt connected to another family unit. It was the one thing he was lacking over the past decade of hunting the wilds for Entok’s household. And so Trell continued to save his money while still working for Entok in order to watch over the viantu. The young viantu males–Halkcha, Yizrazhya, and Tsahzhast–each grew into capable fighters who began to dominate Entok’s gladiatorial ring. Trell was drawn to Tsahzhast, a strange looking fellow with a powerful presence, and the two became fast friends. Trell watched the young viantu grow to become a formidable warrior and then provided for him as his name rose to relative fame within the arena circuit.

For nine years, Trell continued to serve Entok’s fighters, and Trell felt like stability had returned to his life until the day that the viantu brothers battled a powerful spellsword from Schelk. Trell had returned in the morning with rabbits and mushrooms for the early day pie. Tsahzhast thanked Trell as usual for providing such good food for their fighting days, and by midday the arena crowd began to fill the ampitheater. Soon there was no room left for people to sit or stand, and crowds gathered outside the arena by the thousands, so many eager to witness what promised to be a legendary fight. During that battle, Trell saw the most hideous weapon he had ever encountered–a dagger imbued with a dangerous, glowing stone. The stone dagger was debilitating somehow, and Trell called foul when the cheating spellsword stabbed Tsahzhast with the weapon. The arena crowd rioted when the viantu brothers fell, and when the commotion died down, Trell held his friend who he had shared his regular meal with not even hours before. In less than a day his world had changed yet again.

Trell vowed to take the name Tsahzhast as his own and leave Rendalenn. He gathered his savings and bought his freedom, deciding to travel into the forklands and toward Valadagal to find where Tsahzhast’s family came from. Someday he hopes to head east as well, toward the Cliffs of Boralis. Wherever he goes, he travels as a free ranger, sharing the story of Tsahzhast wherever he stops along the way and performing deeds in his name.

010-Trell

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Fractalform is the gaming handle of Bret Woods--ethnomediologist, author, and lead developer of Augur's Lore RPGs. Bret is Thing 1 at http://descrypt-studios.com.

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