Tumultuous Galt has captured the popular imagination—and noble nightmares—as blood-drenched anarchy dominated by unscrupulous demagogues, anonymous executioners known as the Gray Gardeners, frothing mobs that seek the destruction of a shattered aristocracy, and imposing guillotines known as final blades that drink the souls of the deceased. The madness has persisted for decades and consumed more than a dozen failed governments, claiming countless lives and shattering as many families—all in the name of liberty and the common good.
Aric was too young to understand why the Gray Gardeners came, dragging his parents into the night on charges of treason. He was too scared to watch as the final blade known as Madame Margaery descended twice, and he was too lonely to stop crying on the ride from the capital to his new home in the countryside. At Sister Sarinda's Home for Revolutionary Orphans, he learned that he could not show too much anger, even when forced to work too many hours sewing garments sold by his pitiless caretaker, his wages garnished to supplement funds the revolutionary governments promised but rarely delivered. While food was scarce, he was fed a torrent of “true” Galtan values that changed with every coup.
Like his fellow orphans, Aric eagerly absorbed these hateful lessons. However, where they believed themselves young revolutionaries who might sniff out traitors, he could not forget the cruel regime that had killed his parents and changed his life. He instead likened himself to the folk heroes of legend who served the common people at the expense of foul nobles. And so he ran away to live out his reckless fantasy.
He didn't find freedom so much as bandits found him. Fortunately they also found young Aric's dream amusing, and the aging leader Thanarus accepted the boy as his protégé. As Aric quickly learned, the bandits were not unprincipled thieves; the Revolution had wronged every one of them, much as it had wronged him. As a former knight who had seen the anarchy consume everything he held dear decades before, Thanarus had suffered longest of all. Nonetheless, he had upheld the old oaths of conduct sworn so long ago, and instructed Aric in the ways of mercy and morality, hoping to banish the hatred that burned within his pupil's heart. Thanarus also taught him the arts of the battlefield, acknowledging that no amount of integrity could keep a man safe in their tumultuous land.
These relatively happy times could not last. The merciless eyes of the Gray Gardeners inevitably turned upon Thanarus and his daring exploits, capturing him and his followers just before Aric returned from an errand in Woodsedge. By the time Aric pushed his way into Isarn, Thanarus was already dead—one more spirit consumed by Madame Margaery, body unceremoniously thrown from the city's crumbling walls, and victim of the current Revolutionary Council, known as the Council of Skulls. Aric waited until nightfall, chased away the scavengers, and buried his mentor by moonlight, keeping only the shredded cloak and ivory cameo of a bygone age that Thanarus had worn so proudly.
What followed was a blur of nights, weeks, and months spent seeking revenge against the council and Galt's corruption. Aric—now garbed in scarlet and Thanarus's cloak to hide his identity—tracked down and destroyed the Council of Skulls' inner circle. Hardly a morning passed without some citizen discovering a dead senator being scavenged by gruesome ravens that cawed with pride. In time, the people of Galt gave this crimson killer a name: the Red Raven.
The Council of Skulls buckled under the Red Raven's attacks and the demagoguery of their political rivals. The bloodthirsty mobs overthrew the regime and elected a new council headed by Citizen Korran Goss, who invited the red-garbed vigilante to help rebuild Galt and stop those who would perpetuate anarchy. At first the tasks were simple: deliver a message here and spy on a conspirator there. Then the requests grew in their violence: the breaking of an arm to send a warning or the apprehension of a traitor. Donning his mask gave Aric the courage to act and suppressed the mercy Thanarus had taught behind a faceless mien of unforgiving justice. As Citizen Goss's requests grew increasingly bloody, Aric began questioning his own role and whether the Red Raven was truly serving Galt or merely perpetuating a new generation of hatred. By night, the Red Raven could bury these doubts. By day, Aric couldn't help but voice his concerns, hoping to unearth some method behind the madness—or at least find true allies among the angry mobs. Driven by his passion and Thanarus's training, Aric's words began to find purchase in sympathetic ears. Unfortunately, they also reached the Revolutionary Council, and Citizen Goss quietly signed Aric's death warrant, contacting the only man he trusted to apprehend the miscreant: the Red Raven.
With the signed orders in hand, the Red Raven set off across the city while grappling with the irony of his task: the capture of his secret identity by his masked guise. Questions coursed through his mind. How could he, the Red Raven, survive the night without sacrificing the seductive fame in which he reveled? How could he convince Citizen Goss to reconsider? At last, he paused atop a roof and tore the mask from his face. “How?” he asked. “How can I delude myself? The Red Raven was supposed to end tyranny, yet here I am the worst tyrant of them all.”
Citizen Goss awoke to delightful news. The knave Aric of Halvon had been captured and left on the front steps of the council building, and the Red Raven had left a personal note praying that Aric's death would bring Galt one step closer to freedom. Goss cackled his approval when Aric's sham trial delivered a guilty verdict, and congratulated himself when the Gray Gardeners threw Aric into prison to await execution. His mirth only faded when the Red Raven stopped answering his summons. There was no sign of the masked hero. Even the ashes of the vigilante's incinerated costume had been swept from the street the day before. And in the prison Aric found peace.
However, not all were content to let another innocent fall to Madame Magaery, especially one so outspoken as Aric. In the dead of night, his cell door swung open, and an aging legal clerk by the name of Quinn extended a hand to help Aric to his feet. Together they fled south to Taldor, evading bounty hunters and exchanging tales of noble souls who had fallen prey to Galt's bloodlust. Where guilt wracked Aric with memories of the lives he had taken, Quinn was resolute, dedicated to aiding the falsely accused no matter the price. Aric could not help but find strength in his savior's words and actions. They parted ways soon thereafter, Quinn vowing to one day lay low the red-cloaked vigilante who had captured Aric. Aric in turn silently promised to uphold the ideals that Thanarus had taught him so long ago, and that Quinn had reinforced.
Aric has wandered ever since, wielding his courtly charms as an outspoken defender of liberty and peace. Thanarus's cameo once more serves as a reminder of the virtues Aric hopes to uphold—and the cost of losing himself in a cycle of violence. Yet charisma cannot vanquish all evils. When nothing can stop an injustice but cold steel, Aric dons his recreated disguise, and the Red Raven flies once more.
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