The Lost Seas
Human ardent, Noble Adept theme
Androcles was born into the Balic noble family Pellikaras. His father was a former adventurer who, well into his middle age, was still afflicted with a sense of curiosity and wanderlust. When Androcles was old enough, his father began taking him on excursions into the countryside around their estate house, into the frontier around the city of Balic. To this day, Androcles distinctly remembers once standing upon the shores of the Silt Sea, his father telling him the stories shared by House Tomblador’s silt skimmer crews in the taverns of Balic about gigantic bones in the far reaches of the sea. Dragon-sized bones, bones larger even than dragons, belonging to creatures that likely would have dwarfed even the larger buildings of Balic. Beasts that may have long since gone extinct, or perhaps not. Perhaps they were still lurking somewhere out there in the silt. Androcles was fascinated by these tales. He longed someday to travel out into the Silt Sea in search of these remains.
In the meantime, he satisfied himself with searching the grounds around his house for old bones. There were none, of course, though the house slaves, amused by the boy’s scavenging, would hide bones from the house meals in the bushes or bury them in shallow mounds for Androcles to find. One slave in particular, a dark skinned man named Nassim, who claimed to be from an island nation in the very center of the Silt Sea, took a liking to Androcles. He told stories about Gith raids on his village, how the men of the village would fashion jewelry out of the teeth of their conquests, and each year, the man with the most teeth was elected champion for a year’s time, a position that put him only below the chieftain and shaman in prestige. “I was my village’s champion for nine straight years,” he boasted. Later, he crafted for Androcles an anklet made from the teeth of the vicious little sand lizards that scurried about the yards of Family Pellikaras. Androcles still keeps this anklet with him, though it’s now too small for him to wear.
Androcles’ father was proud of his son, and he could be a loving man, but he was also very strict and set in his ideas of what was proper for the son of a nobleman. Though the child showed no exceptional proficiency for it, not even a single wild talent, Androcles’ father hired the finest psionicists in Balic to train his son. Eventually, the boy’s proficiency in the psionic craft grew, as did his hand to hand combat skills, as the captain of the house guard was tasked with teaching Androcles how to defend himself. “We live in a hard world,” his father told him, “and if you can’t fend for yourself and your family, you are a burden.”
Meanwhile, Androcles would sneak out of the house in the evenings to visit his friend Nassim in the slaves’ quarters. As one of the elder slaves, he was granted his own private, if squalid, room. On one of these late visits, Androcles found his friend performing some sort of ancient rite. His face was marked in white paint with an intricate swirling pattern. He sat cross-legged on the floor of his room upon a rough woolen blanket, rocking back and forth and chanting in an unrecognizable language, his forehead damp with sweat. Androcles watched until Nassim was finished. The old man’s eyes opened suddenly, and he appeared frightened. Nassim saw the boy watching him and patted the blanket next to him. Androcles came and sat next to Nassim and listened as the old man explained that he’d been communing with the totem spirits of his tribe. “You must be careful,” he said. “I foresee a shadow falling upon you.”
A few days later, Androcles’ father arranged a trip for his family to one of their country houses. He brought along many of the family’s elder slaves, including Nassim. The slaves followed in several covered wagons behind the family’s well-appointed private car, in which Androcles rode with his mother and father. When they were maybe a half day’s journey from their destination, they heard a strange sound, a mournful trumpeting, which they first thought to be some wild beast. “Giants!” one of the house guards yelled. Androcles went to the rear of the wagon and peeked out. He saw them emerging slowly from the silt. First their chests, then their waists, then their legs, the silt falling from their clothes and limbs, from their enormous, rough-hewn clubs and axes. Some looked like massive, brutish humans; others had the heads of animals: goats, eagles, wolves, big cats. Their leader, a dreadlocked humanoid, blew into his massive warhorn a second time, the sound vibrating the wagon beneath Androcles. He bellowed for his comrades to attack. Androcles’ mother snatched him up and hid him under a pile of luxurious furred bedding. “Please, don’t come out,” she said.
At first, Androcles stayed hidden. He heard the sounds of combat, the captain of the guard shouting orders, the giants roaring in a mix of human and nonhuman voices. Eventually, Androcles’ morbid curiosity got the better of him and he peeked out. Through the rear of the wagon, he saw shapes through the dust of battle: guardsmen sent airborne by swinging clubs, a massive foot toppling the wagon behind Androcles’, the one in which Nassim had been riding. The slaves had been roped together as a precaution, and chains of humans were crushed all together beneath fists and feet and clubs. Unable to watch any longer, he pulled the bedding back over his head and waited for the weight of a giant’s boot to descend upon his back.
It never came. The sound of battle ceased. He crawled out of the wagon and began the search for his mother, for his father, for Nassim. Of his parents, no sign. Perhaps the giants had taken them prisoner. Perhaps they’d eaten them on the spot. But he found Nassim, crushed beneath the wheel of one of the overturned wagons, still roped to several of his dead and dismembered fellows. He knelt next to the man and was shocked when his eyes snapped open and he grabbed the boy’s wrist. “Stay with the wagons,” he said. “The guards will come looking.” He moved his hands from Androcle’s wrist, brushed the back of his fingers across the boy’s cheek, and died.
Days passed before the search party found Androcles, huddled beneath a wagon. The sandstorms had raged, tearing at his clothes, coating his face, tangling his hair. His garb was no longer identifiable as that of a nobleman. The guards demanded to know who he was, but his throat was strangled with grief and shock, and he found he couldn’t speak.
Thinking Androcles a slave, the guards returned him to Family Pellikaras, to a distant cousin of Androcles’ who was particularly cruel. Androcles had always believed the slaves of his family to be fairly well treated, and perhaps his parents had treated their house slaves well, but such was not the case with this cousin, an ugly and mean-spirited young man named Catillus. Androcles saw his fellow slaves being brutalized for even the slightest of offenses, though by remaining quiet and out of sight, he himself was spared of all but the occasional angry fist or boot. Once, while bringing up an urn of wine from the basement, Catillus confronted him in the hall outside the dining room. He yelled at Androcles to be faster and raised a hand to strike him, but looking into the boys face, his eyes narrowed. Does he recognize me? Androcles thought. Catillus smiled and told the boy to hurry on his task.
One morning several months after his rescue and subsequent enslavement, Androcles’ slave masters awakened him. The lord of the house wanted to have a word with him, they said. They brought him to a private sitting chamber, where Catillus sat next to an elf clad in the brown robes of an adventurer. The first thing Androcles noticed about his distant cousin was that the young man appeared to be seething. His lips were pressed tightly together. He drummed the base of the gaudy walking stick he always carried with him a little too forcefully against the floorboards. The elf, in contrast, seemed perfectly calm and serene.
“This is ”/campaigns/the-lost-seas/characters/plega" class=“wiki-content-link”>Plega," Catillus said. “He has arranged for your freedom. Androcles. You are to go with him now.” Though Androcles couldn’t speak his question, Catillus seemed to anticipate it. “I don’t know where. Hopefully far away from here.”
The next morning, Androcles and Plega left Catillus’ estate and Balic as well. At first, Androcles didn’t trust the brown elf, who was not forthcoming with his motives. But over time, Plega grew fond of the boy, amused by his curious digging in the dust and sand around their campfire each night, wondering what he might have been looking for. Through many adventures, they grew into a friendly pair, and the brown elf nursed his young charge back to sanity, helping him learn to speak again, helping him to cope as much as possible with the grief and trauma of the attack he had witnessed, with his treatment as a slave. He continued the adventurer’s training that Androcles’ father and the mysterious slave Nassim had begun when Androcles was a boy.
Soon it was time for Plega to leave. A solitary individual who valued his own independence (as well as the independence of Androcles, who might grow too dependent on the elf if he were allowed to), Plega bid the young man a brief farewell before vanishing into the wastes. Over the next few years, Androcles slowly made his way westward along the Balican peninsula and up the coast of the Silt Sea, having adventures of his own along the way. (We can leave the timeframe and place a little hazy for now. Suffice to say you probably did not make it to Tyr yet—that will make it easier when you guys get there).
At the ramshackle port-and-bridge town of Kirungu (some distance east and then south of Altaruk, and occupied mostly by Gulgans), a late-night gambling session turned surprisingly bright for Androcles, who won a valuable amulet from one of the locals. Carved from a single piece of green-grey keratin, the amulet is shaped like a savage silt crocodile. Tiny jewels of various colors are embedded in its carved scales. It struck a particular chord with Androcles as he turned it over in his hand, remembering the enormous bones of the silt creatures of his youth.
Near the middle of the second month (Smolder) in the current year (the Year of the Wind’s Reverence), Androcles found himself in the city-state of Raam. And he was also found there by Plega the brown elf, who he hadn’t seen in years. Plega looked just the same; Androcles did not. Perhaps for a moment Androcles hoped the elf was here to rejoin forces and help him find some direction, but only the latter was true. Plega told him to strike northwest, to the territory of Urik, and specifically to the village of Makla (Urik’s obsidian-mining outpost near the Smoking Crown volcano). There, he would find an elf in whom Plega saw promise (Birel Windchaser, another ardent) and her Tyrian friends, who “needed and deserved aid” for their broader mission (which Plega left undescribed, but hinted that it might involve Tyr, but also later elements beyond Tyr).
As Plega departed, he left Androcles with some cryptical words: “The ocean is poised to rise and flood the land, and when it withdraws, only salt and ash will remain. You might yet find a way to redeem yourself for bearing the Pellikaras name.”
More than a month’s slow journey westward brought Androcles to the ash-choked, blazing-hot mining town of Makla. Asking some oblique questions around, he found that the elf in question and her Tyrian companions were indeed in town—but had only a few days ago been seen departing for a mine in the mountains, a couple of days away, in the company of a famous Urikite general who had retired to Makla many years ago….