Male half-elf fighter (cad) 1
AC 16, touch 14, flat-footed 12
Fort +2, Ref +4, Will -1
Speed 30 ft.
Melee dueling sword +5 (1d8+1/19-20) OR
Ranged longbow +5 (1d8/x3) OR
Combat Options Quick Draw, Weapon Finesse
Str 12, Dex 18, Con 10, Int 14, Wis 8, Cha 14
Base Attack +1; CMB +2; CMD 16
Feats Exotic Weapon Proficiency (dueling sword), Quick Draw, Weapon Finesse
Traits Buccaneer’s Blood, Dueling Cloak Adept
Languages Common, Elven, Polyglot, Taldane
Ancestral Arms: proficient with dueling swords
Elf Blood: count as elf and human for racial effects
Elven Immunities: immune to sleep effects, +2 saves vs. enchantments
Keen Senses: +2 Perception
Low-light Vision: see twice as far as humans in low light
Multitalented: 2 favored classes (fighter, duelist)
Class: fighter (cad)
A Flash of Steel: Backstory:
In the courtyard of the House Rivadria, swords cleared their scabbards, and the ringing sound of steel on steel broke the silence of the early morning.
One of the combatants--the one falling back defensively--wore the tabard of a House guard, Brevoy’s coat of arms standing beside the sword-bearing falcon of Rivadria. A stocky man with wide shoulders and chest, his weapon was a heavy broadsword, which he hefted as easily as another man might wield an arming sword. Under the tabard he wore a mail byrnie, with thick leather breeches and a heavily-padded helmet, and under these, he was sweating profusely despite the autumn chill, red-faced with effort.
His assailant was a taller, slimmer man, wielding a longer, slimmer blade. Wearing plain riding leathers, he moved quickly, dancing around the apparent guard, raining incredibly fast blows on the thick blade before darting back out of reach. In and out he wove, his forest green cloak--the color of Rivadria--held out in one hand, trailing his movements but not interfering with them. A padded helmet covered his head and face as well.
The cloaked man stepped in after a slow, clumsy swing, smacking the shorter man’s mailed ribs once on each side. Just before leaving the reach of his foe, the cloaked man threw out his free hand in a lightning quick grab, tugging the tabard sideways, throwing off the broadsword-wielder’s balance. This last-second improvisation knocked his counterattack wide, the blade coming down more than a hand-width to the left of the cloaked man.
Angered, the shorter man raised his sword and stepped forward for a powerful overhand chop--and got a slap in the armpit for his trouble.
The cloaked man quickstepped back from the strike and pulled the cloak with him as he spun, flicking the trailing fabric at his foe’s face as the shorter man pounced forward. The distraction halted the eager charge, and when the thin blade appeared from behind the twirling cloak, the shorter man barely had time to raise a block for the shoulder-high slash.
And then that slash dropped and angled upward, driving under the broadsword. The flat of the dueling blade smashed into the shorter man’s temple, and he fell with a small groan.
Even as he toppled, though, a second man bearing a Rivadrian crest appeared from behind, dashing swiftly into the courtyard. He was almost as tall as the cloaked man, and even thinner, wearing no armor but a surcoat bearing the heraldry. Lightning fast, he drew a long, thin rapier and lunged forward, face also protected in padding.
Turning, the cloaked man raised his gloved free hand and slapped the thrust aside. He then stuck his own blade between the thin man’s knees, sending him sprawling, dirt and grass staining the surcoat and its design. Stepping toward him, the cloaked man raised his sword--
Before the strike could even begin, the thin man rose, but rather than attacking or even defending himself, he tore off his helmet. The face underneath was that of a young Taldan, perhaps fifteen, with short, tousled brown hair, hazel eyes, and an aquiline nose.
”He can’t do that!” he said in a pitchy whine.
From the side of the courtyard stepped a man in a suit of gleaming mail, a Rivadrian tabard over it, a blade like that used by the cloaked man at his belt. ”Obviously he can, seeing as he just did,” remarked Swordlord Edrovic Van Ordant wryly. ”And why should he not? It is a valid technique, seeing as your weapon is without cutting edge, Aldger.”
”But--but--” Aldger Rivadria blustered, clearly unready for his teacher to go against him.
”But?” Ordant asked, raising an eyebrow. ”I teach you for years on end in the art of swordplay--you even select a proper sword for it, unlike your brother--and yet you still are defeated.” Edrovic sighed. ”Still, I suppose you all have your talents, and Variziel’s is clearly swordplay.”
The cloaked man sheathed his sword and removed his helmet. From within came a shock of white hair, tied back with a piece of cord, falling to his shoulderblades. Piercing green eyes rested below strands of hair that had come loose in the fight. The face was thin, though not gaunt, and the tapered ears gave it away as that of a half-elf. Variziel was only slightly flushed from the fight, but more color was in his cheeks than normal due to Ordant’s praise. ”Thank you, Swordlord,” he said, bowing.
”You can thank me by helping Master Nathaniel from his place on the ground,” Ordant said, gesturing to the stocky man who had regained consciousness.
Variziel and Aldger helped Nathaniel up, and the third young man removed his helmet as well. His face was sweaty and red, but grinning. ”That was a neat move there, Var. Damned ungentelmanly, and only a fairy like you could be quick enough to do it, but neat the same.”
Variziel grinned back. ”I use what I can,” he said, the Elven in his voice making it clear. ”One hit from you and I’d likely be flat on my arse, and I’d be lucky to have my skull intact.”
Nathaniel laughed, and even Aldger cracked a smile. Ordant himself shook his head at the boys’ banter, but was smiling behind his thick moustache. ”Yes, yes, clever play on all your parts. That was a good usage of Vadril’s Counter, Nathaniel, and a clever adaptation of Marcantis’ Iai, Aldger, and Variziel, you follow the teachings of Swordlord Lebeda quite well. Your reward is cleaning all your gear, twice”--groans from the trio--”and then the rest of the day off until this evening after dinner”--hoots and laughter.
As the young men walked off, Ordant couldn’t help but keep his smile on. Accepting the position as swordmaster at House Rivadria was the finest decision he’d made in a long time.
- - - - -
That evening after another practice drill--this time swords and archery, the latter of which being Aldger’s specialty--the boy had decisivelybeaten his competition--Variziel oiled his gear and stored it back in the armory alongside Aldger and Nathaniel’s belongings before heading toward his bedroom. Walking through the halls of the manse, he caught a drift of conversation. ””
Intrigued, and sure that the comment was about him--he was, as far as he knew, the only half-breed of any kind at the House--Variziel diverged from his course, creeping softly down the hall until he reached the door to Lord Markess Rivadria’s study, cracked open. Wanting to peer inside but fearing punishment, Variziel contented himself with pressing his ear to the door.
”Now, now,” came Rivadria’s voice, ”don’t be hasty, Gerrard. I’m sure the boy is perfectly safe, and I’m certain the Lady means no offense.”
”Then what does the Lady mean?” Responded, somewhat accusingly, Gerrard Rivadria, second cousin of Markess and captain of the guard at House Rivadria.
”There are greater things than this for the young half-elf,” came a clear voice, not unlike Variziel’s own, but that of a woman. ”He deserves to know his heritage.”
”Grandfather disowned Arkan,” Rivadria responded roughly. ”That man cut his ties to Rivadria and all who live here when he left, and that includes Variziel.”
”Like it or not, he is the boy’s ancestor, and Variziel has no life here ahead of him. Not as an illegitimate child descended from a dishonored Swordlord.”
Variziel blinked, confused. This was more than he was prepared to take in. He’d figured, of course, that he was a bastard--after all, he knew his father had been killed in a duel while Variziel was still an infant, and he’d never known his mother--but this talk of disowning and dishonor and a Swordlord was overwhelming.
”And like it or not, the boy is inquisitive.” The woman’s voice grew louder and closer during the sentence, and then the door behind which Variziel stood was thrown open. It revealed to the shocked youth a woman of great beauty, all creamy skin and golden hair and bright green eyes. She was dressed in a deep green formal gown, nearly the color of Variziel’s own cloak, the collar near the neck but revealing her delicate collarbone, the hem at her ankles. More surprisingly, her ears were more pointed than his own, tapering up to rise nearly to the crown of her head. She was the first true elf Variziel had ever seen.
”Boy!” Rivadria cried as he rose, face reddening slightly at the embarassment of his own ward eavesdropping on his private conversations.
Gerrard also rose, frowning. ”Shall I have him whipped, m’lord?” he asked, clearly expected to do so but not relishing the act itself.
”No, no,” Lord Rivadria said, waving a hand. Looking at Variziel, he furrowed his brow in thought. ”How long have you been there, boy? How much have you heard?”
Variziel opened his mouth to answer, but the elf woman cut him off. ”What does it matter, Markess? Tell him what he needs to hear.”
Lord Markess Rivadria sighed deeply, and sat back down, beckoning Variziel forward with his hand. ”Boy--Variziel--I have tried my best to make life good for you, here. You have grown up, more or less, alongside your cousins, my children. You have been taught as they have, for the most part--though I decided not to bother you with tedious lessons of politics and other pursuits of a lord.”
At this comment, Variziel frowned. Pursuits of a lord?
Rivadria caught the look and sighed again. ”Yes, perhaps unfair of me, but you see, boy... No matter how I try, there are limits to your position. You are an illegitimate child, Variziel, and as such, may never inherit the name Rivadria.”
Variziel was taken aback. His “uncle,” as he’d always known him, was telling him they were no true kin?
Gerrard put in, ”Now, boy, keep in mind that Lord Markess has shown you the utmost kindness for a bastard, let alone his cousin’s and a descendant of a disowned man--most families would have you thrown out and never recognize you at all.”
”Thank you, Captain,” Rivadria said, his tone somewhat exasperated. Gerrard meant well, but wasn’t the most delicate speaker. ”The point is, Vyridia is correct: there is not a great life for you here. It is why I was so thrilled to see you take to Swordlord Van Ordant; you could become a great Swordlord in your own right, regardless of station, and it would offer you prestige and freedom that station as an illegitimate child in a minor noble’s house never could.”
Variziel was still confused and taken aback, but he nodded, trying to take it all in.
”But it is unfair for you to be cut off from your past,” the elf woman, Vyridia, said. ”Our history is what makes us who we are--the elves know this better than any. You should know the truth.”
Rivadria sighed again, sounding more tired than he ever had to Variziel. ”And so you shall. Your aunt will teach you, and then you shall decide.”
Variziel looked from Rivadria to Vyridia, and then again. Finally, he nodded. ”I would like to learn.”
As the pair exited, Rivadria whispered, ”I only pray you don’t hate what you find.”
- - - - -
In the guest bedroom where Vyridia was staying--she’d arrived while Variziel was out riding with Aldger and Nathaniel--there was a large trunk, with three padlocks barring opening. From a thin chain around her neck, she produced two keys to fit the locks to either side. She then pulled her dress up--Variziel flushed and glanced away--and removed a third key on a chain from around her thigh. Turning it in the central lock, the chest opened a fraction as it was unlocked.
Vyridia turned to her nephew and said, solemnly, ”Within this container are items that will greatly affect your life, young man. They are the treasures of a great and terrible pirate--your great-grandfather.”
Variziel blinked in wonder and confusion as he looked into the trunk. Resting on a pile of clothing and padding were several objects. The first Vyridia removed was a thin object wrapped in cloth, about four feet in length and roughly cylindrical. Unrwapping the cloth revealed a dueling sword similar to the one with which Variziel was accustomed. It looked old and somewhat worn, but that only gave it an extra level of mystique and wonder.
”His first sword at sea,” Vyridia said with a faint smile. ”Not as well known, perhaps, as the weapon he wielded later in life, once he had become a true Free Captain, but still a pleasant blade. The grip is sharkskin, feel.” Variziel touched it, feeling the smooth but gripping surface of the handle. ”Won’t easily leave your hand, that sword. And this is an added benefit,” she said, lifting the weapon and motioning to the scabbard. ”Specially made with tempered steel. This hits like a club, and it makes a nice backup if your sword ever does leave your hand.” She smiled. ”Though a Swordlord never drops his blade.”
The next parcel was a small box wrapped in silk. Vyridia carefully removed the covering and opened it, removing from the container a deck of playing cards. ”These were also from his early days, used them in ports all across the coast." She laid the card down and pointed to a part of the design on the back. ”Marked. Your great-grandfather swindled dozens of layabouts and sailors with these.”
”What’s the pattern?” Variziel asked, holding up the card and another, trying to find the difference between the two.
Vyridia grinned mischievously. ”You’ll have to find out yourself.”
Next from the trunk, she pulled a small object, again wrapped in cloth. This, however, turned out to be a pair of strapped leather contraptions. Variziel wasn’t sure what they were until Vyridia loosened one, slipped it over her hand and onto her forearm, and tightened it. ”Wrist sheathes. These, he used for almost his entire career. They certainly won’t hold a sword, but having a trick up your sleeve always pays off.” Vyridia let out a giggle at her own joke and removed the sheath, placing it back with the other and laying them on the bed with the sword and cards.
The next item was simpler: a large drawstring bag, roughly the size of a good waterskin. ”Looks simple, and is, but it’s important for anyone living on the coast, let alone someone living on its waters. This bag has special folds and is made of good material, tarred inside and out. It’s more or less waterproof, though in its condition some might get in after a while. Your great-grandfather used it for his special belongings--trinkets from treasure hoards, mostly. Keep your most prized possessions in here, Variziel.”
The last individually wrapped object in the trunk was very small, but Vyridia picked it up almost reverently. Unwrapping it slowly, Vyridia paused before revealing it. ”Variziel, you must swear to me that you will wear this always, unless it would bring danger. It is the finest, clearest mark of your heritage, though not everyone will love you for it.”
”Of course,” Variziel whispered back.
Vyridia finished the unwrapping and handed her nephew a small ring. It was crafted of steel, mostly, though it bore a flat piece of what looked like petrified wood. A small disc, carved into its surface was a dueling sword crossed with a cutlass of the kind used by sailors. Underneath these were the letters “ABR.”
”Adrian Bloodsword, and Arkan Rivadria. This was his personal mark, just as the crossed swords were his flag.”
”Thank you,” Variziel breathed, slipping the ring on. It was a little larger than his thin, elven ring fingers, but fit perfectly onto his right index. ”But, Vyridia--Aunt Vyridia? How do you know so much about Adrian--Arkan--my great-grandfather?” Variziel looked at her questioningly.
Vyridia gave a sad, beautiful smile. ”I knew him, far back when I was only a young maiden. He and his men came into the port where I lived one day, and everyone was very afraid of them. I had to fetch bread from the baker’s, though, and when I was traveling back to our house, one of the pirates accosted me. I don’t know what he was going to do, but then from around the corner came a dashing man. He drove off my assailant, and of course, it was Captain Adrian Bloodsword himself. I know I was young, and he was an elderly human even then, but he was so charming...” Vyridia sighed.
”I never knew who he really was until much later, when my sister Tellithia met your father. I understand that Adrian sent these belongings to his son Nathan, your grandfather, before his death, but that Nathan hid them away. Of course, Nathan’s son Edran, your father, was the first to forgive Arkan Rivadria for what he’d done, and to accept his heritage, though he never became a Swordlord. He died so young, your father.”
”Do you know why he left?” Variziel questioned. ”Adrian, I mean.”
Vyridia shook her head. ”That, I never learned. I know he was a great man before leaving House Rivadria, and that he looked back often, especially in his old age. Perhaps Lord Markess knows more.”
Variziel nodded, then, after a pause, asked, ”Do you know much about my parents?”
”Only a little, but enough,” Vyridia smiled. ”They were very much in love, that’s certain, and it’s why they couldn’t marry. You see, after my own aunt had taken up with a human and things had gone sour, our family wasn’t very accepting of your mother’s choice for a love. Neither were the Rivadria, for all their tolerance, thrilled at the prospect of one of their own running off to marry an elven adventurer. Your parents loved each other very much, and they loved you more than anything.”
Variziel looked down. ”Then why did my mother leave me?”
Vyridia smiled her sad smile again. ”Things are much more complicated in this world than they should be, somtimes. With your father’s sudden death, your mother was heartbroken--and not a Rivadria. With her only tie to the family being you, she desired to leave, to return to our old home. But old Arkanth Rivadria didn’t want you to go--he was a stubborn and loving old man, that one. And then your mother took ill, and she died only a few months after your father. The doctors had no idea, but we all knew--it was her broken heart. The loss of your father, and the idea of losing you, were just too much for her.” Vyridia’s eyes had welled up with tears, and a single drop fell down her cheek.
Variziel looked up, also close to shedding tears, and seeing one another, they both began to weep softly, embracing as family.
Later that night, Variziel made his decision, and in the morning, he told Lord Markess Rivadria that he, Variziel Dawnshadow, would leave to discover his heritage.
- - - - -
The following morning, Variziel stood ready to leave behind his home. Lord Rivadria had offered to hire a carriage to take Variziel and Vyridia where they wished to go, but the pair had declined, preferring to walk. Within his heart, secretly, Variziel also thought that, perhaps, leaving House Rivadria on his own would be for the best, as he could never dare hope to receive help from them in the future.
Sitting on the stairs that led to the main entrance to the manse, Variziel watched the sunrise with his keen eyes, losing himself in thoughts of pirates and Swordlords. He never heard his visitor until the voice behind him asked, ”Is it true? You’re leaving?”
Variziel stood and turned to see the second child of Lord Markess Rivadria, the daughter who was born between his sons: Alysia. A girl of eighteen, Alysia had been destined for the same fate as so many noble’s daughters until she displayed a knack for the arcane arts. From then on, she had continued studies of being a lady, but they were coupled with lessons on ancient tomes and the Art. She was thin and small, her head barely coming to Variziel’s chest, with fine hair and bright blue eyes, and very pretty. She and Variziel had played together since her youth, and due to his slower half-elf aging, they were now roughly the same physical age.
”Yes,” Variziel responded shortly and softly, not trusting himself to say more. He’d hoped Alysia wouldn’t see him before he left, because he knew it would be the hardest part of leaving--
With a sob, she hugged him. ”Zee,” she let out, calling him by the nickname she’d used as a small girl. Variziel hugged her tightly back, picking her up and twirling her around once, which always made her laugh. She did, and so did he, and he put her back down.
”I have something for you,” Alysia said, pulling a string from around her neck. Variziel blushed a little as she withdrew the object from where it had rested, but she just stuck out her tongue at him. ”I do have a wrap on, you know,” she muttered, untying a ring on the string. ”And in these stupid fancy dresses there aren’t any pockets. Where was I supposed to put it?”
Variziel opened his mouth to answer, but she put a finger to his lips. ”Just be quiet,” she said with a smile, and held out her palm. On it was a ring with the symbol of House Rivadria stamped onto it, a signet ring of the kind Lord Markess wore. ”Go on, it’s for you!” she said.
Variziel picked it up and put it on his right ring finger; it fit perfectly. ”Oh, good, I thought we had the same size,” Alysia said happily. Variziel looked up, and she held out her own hand, where an identical ring sat on her finger. She clasped his hand and called out, ”Quick, Brother!”
From behind a hedge came Brother Calfard, one of the priests who lived at the house. He was an older man, his hair a gray-white color, a beard on his face, and his garments simple. He hobbled up to the pair and smiled to each in turn. Murmuring in a language Variziel didn’t understand, he put his gnarled old hand over Variziel and Alysia’s, and a small white light shown from the trio of hands. He removed his hand and smield again. ”There.”
”Thank you, Brother!” Alysia said with a small curtsy, and Brother Calfard nodded and hobbled off. The girl returned her gaze to Variziel. ”I had them specially made. They’re called sanctified rings; they’ll help us keep in touch. As long as we wear them, we’ll always know that the other is safe and sound. But they crack if one of us takes them off,” she added, ”so don’t remove it! And they’ll also break if you... oh, I don’t want to say it!” Tears were coming again, and she gave Variziel another tight hug. ”Just promise you’ll stay safe.”
The half-elf was touched. ”I promise,” he whispered in her ear.
She pulled back suddenly. ”Oh! I almost forgot! I’ll be right back; don’t you leave, Variziel, or I’ll have Nathaniel and Aldger on you!”
Variziel smiled as she dashed into the house, and to his surprise, her family came out, first her brothers, then Lord Markess, who was talking with Vyridia. They stood in front of him, each with a small bundle in their hands, and there was an awkward moment of wondering what to say until Lord Rivadria cleared his throat and kicked the back of Aldger’s leg, muttering, ””
”” Aldger murmured himself, prompting Lord Rivadria to roll his eyes, and stepped forward. His bundle was the largest, nearly as long as he was tall. ”For you to keep safe in your travels, that you may never find trouble close at hand.” He pulled the string that kept the wrap in place, revealing a fine oak longbow and two quivers of arrows. ”Normals, and special flights that travel further. Practice, and maybe when you come back we’ll have a shooting match. Doubtless I’ll win,” Aldger smirked, then clasped Variziel’s wrist. ”It’s been good, cousin.”
Nathaniel was next. ”Also for your safety, that when you do find trouble close, you are not caught unready.” His package was a small box, and opening it revealed two single-edge daggers, each about a foot in length. ”I’ll miss you, Var. You’ve been good for my swordplay.” Variziel grinned back to Nathaniel and clasped his wrist as well.
Finally, Lord Markess stepped forward. ”For you to keep warm in your travels, and to remember them well, including home.” He shook out the bundle of cloth he carried, revealing it to be a cloak sewn together from many squares of fabric, Rivandria green in color. On the top left inner patch was stitched an image of House Rivandria, the sword-bearing falcon stylized in the sky above the manse. ”Keep us in mind on your travels, swordsman,” the lord said, smiling, and Variziel thought he saw a glimpse of wetness in his eyes.
Vyridia stepped up and gave Variziel a pack and waterskin. ”Already packed with your things,” she said, not meaning the wrist sheathes, sword, and ring, of course, which Variziel was already wearing. ”Put on your new belongings and we can head out--we’ve a long journey before us.”
Variziel slipped the daggers into the wrist sheathes and tightened the straps, then looked up after securing the bow and quivers with his pack. ”Alysia--”
”--is here!” she called out, reappearing in the doorway. Her own gift wasn’t wrapped, and it was clear as soon as she walked up. In her hands she held a leather-bound book with a vial of ink and an inkpen attached. She opened the book to show the blank pages.
”I want you to write everything down in here, and I expect letters as often as you can send them!” she said, smiling. Variziel took the gift with a smile, and set it on his pack, which was still on the ground. Standing, he saw that Alysia was still just in front of him.
”And,” she said, swallowing once, looking almost nervous, ”this is so you’ll come back yourself.” Pulling him down by his shirt, she stood up on her toes and kissed his cheek. ”And this,” she said, lightly slapping his other cheek, ”is in case you don’t.”
Variziel grinned and hugged her again, and then she pushed back, tears in her eyes, before fleeing back into the manse.
”Women,” Nathaniel said with a grin, and Aldger rolled his eyes. Variziel grinned himself, fighting the urge to touch where Alysia had kissed him.
As the pair walked off from the House Rivadria, Variziel looked down at the journal and writing utensils.
Keep your most prized possessions in here, Variziel.
Smiling to himself, Variziel pulled the waterproof bag from his belt and slipped the items inside, then shifted his pack so he could place the bag carefully within.
And so Variziel Dawnshadow set off to find his life...
Important Figures from Variziel's Backstory:
Alysia Rivadria, NG female human wizard 1, 18 years old.
Variziel's closest friend, Alysia is a young woman who has begun to study under a mage. She is the main connection that Variziel still has to House Rivadria, and he keeps a journal and writes letters for her. The ring he wears on his right hand is a match to hers, and the rings crack if either party is killed or removes it.
Nathaniel Rivadria, LG male human aristocrat 1/ fighter (two-handed fighter) 1, 23 years old.
Aldger Rivadria, NG male human fighter (lore warden) 1, 16 years old.
Swordlord Edrovic Van Ordant, LN male human fighter (swordlord) 5/ swordlord 2, 44 years old.
Vyridia Dawnshadow, CG female elf rogue (survivalist) 2/ ranger (freebooter) 3, 176 years old.
Lord Markess Rivadria, LG male human aristocrat 3, 48 years old.
Swordlord Arkan Rivadria, a.k.a. Captain Adrian Bloodsword, CN male human fighter (free hand fighter) 5/ swordlord 3/ rogue 3/ Shackles pirate 5, deceased.