Reign of Winter
Nesteruk the Marked
Half-orc Barbarian (Invulnerable Rager)
Height: 6’ 11"
Alignment: Chaotic Neutral
- Northern Ancestry
It was my 13th birthday and as my father and I made our way back through the woods we walked in silence. Father rarely spoke unless he had something of import to say. He was stoic and powerful yet possessed a tender caring and intelligence quite unusual for his Race. My father was an Orc, my mother a Human and fierce Barbarian. My parents never spoke much of where they came from. I know only that it was a frozen land far to the north and that they left under violent conditions. I am Nesteruk the Marked, so named for a strange blue birthmark between my shoulders. My mother says it reminds her of a large cloud with two forks of lightening, my sister insists that it is a dancing house; she is 6 and prone to such silly fantasies. It may seem odd but, when the air is cold I can almost feel warmth spreading from that mark. It is only very slight warmth, nothing like a warming fire, but enough to make the cold bearable.
The hunt was successful and there was still much to do to clean and store the meat for the winter. I knew my father was proud of my first kill, but there would be time for praise after the work was complete. As we neared our home on the southern edge of the Boarwood, nestled between the wood and the beginnings of the East Sellen River, my father’s ears began to twitch and his pace quickened. Suddenly he stopped, rounded on me and said “Hide! Hide yourself in the hollow where we made camp last night!” I started to protest and he roughly grabbed me by the shoulders and said “You do as I say and do not ask questions! Hide yourself this instant and do not venture forth until I come for you, do you understand?” “Yes father” I replied. My father turned and ran one way and I ran the other. That was the last time I saw my father alive.
It was well after nightfall and my father had not returned. I was exhausted and decided I would surrender to sleep for a short while. I awoke the next morning and was instantly alarmed. My father had not returned and there was the thick smell of smoke in the air, was the Boarwood burning? In spite of my father’s instructions I decided to investigate. I followed the smell of smoke, it was leading toward home. My pace quickened, my fear rose, and I began to run. The closer I got the thicker the smoke became. My run turned into a sprint and as I burst from the forests edge, heedless of possible dangers, my fear quickly turned to a level of horror and sadness that cannot be described.
My father was on his knees, held in place by the multitude of spears penetrating his torso. His clothes and skin burned horribly, a perfect circle of black burnt grass surrounding him. My dear sister lay in the mud with an axe sticking out of her back and her skull crushed, whether by boot or hoof I could not tell. I frantically searched for my mother, a blast of hope surging within me. Then I spotted her and all hope was replaced with a crushing black despair. There by the side of our burning home she was hung from a tree, stripped to the waist, with a strange symbol carved into her abdomen.
I went into a rage like none I had ever felt before. My blood boiled and I howled and bashed, kicked, and tore at the bodies of the men lying all around. It was only when exhaustion finally overtook me that I took time to consider the bodies. Easily 10-15 human men lay dead around me. I did not recognize their dress and their shields had no emblem. The only exception to the men was a shriveled old crone lying face down by the river with my father’s great axe buried 5 inches in her back. Who were these men? Why had they done this to my family?
Overcome by sadness I set to work removing the spears from my father and cutting my mother down from her noose. I said my one-sided goodbyes to my family and as the sun was setting I piled their bodies on to our home… that had now become their pyre. Heedless of the danger, I slept beneath the tree my mother was hung from. I was too exhausted to think or keep my eyes open. I would figure out a course of action in the morning.
By the time I awoke the next morning my sadness and despair had faded, replaced by a sort bubbling rage simmering just below the surface and an animal instinct to survive. My father had always taught me not to fear the animal instincts that arose within me but to examine them closely and use my intellect to make a decision. “Except in times of grave danger” he had said, “then you must trust those instincts implicitly and follow them, for they may save your very life.” This seemed to be a time of grave danger.
That was ten years ago to this very day. I survived alone in the wilderness of the Boarwood for those years. Getting food and shelter from the land as my parents had taught me. It was lonely and I would often talk to the animals just to hear the sound of a voice, even if it was my own. I practiced the battle techniques my parents had taught me for hours every day with the Nodachi my mother had used and the Great Axe that had belonged to my father. I used either equally well but found that I preferred the Nodachi. I stayed away from humans and their cities for fear that my fate would be the same as my family’s.
Still I did not understand what had happened or why, and those questions began driving me to abandon my fear and find what answers I could… or die trying.
As I sat contemplating this I heard the approach of men. I took shelter high in the branches to wait out their passing. As they passed under me I nearly fell out of the tree with shock. There were 2 human men traveling with a Half-orc?! They were jesting and laughing together as they travelled so they could be nothing but companions. I strained to hear their conversation. They were traveling from a human town called Edme in search of a place to the South and West called Heldren. There was work for strong men in Heldren, and food and shelter. Maybe I could pack up my rations and track these men to this Heldren. If there was a place for one Half-orc in Heldren, maybe there would be hope for me. It was that or die out here alone; I packed my rations. Willing to accept whatever fate awaited me in Heldren, I waited for nightfall and began tracking them.