In a previous post, I explained how my power gaming brother (Joseph) built depth and detail in to his characters. One of those characters was Einar Kret. Here is the backstory he wrote before we began playing
The Duke’s Castle.
Einar was born to Duke Urikan by his wife the Duchess Rimell. Urikan was the heir of the noble family Kret. His wife was a gift from the Larcion family in a neighboring Duchy. Their marriage allied the two most powerful families in the region.
Urikan ruled like a tyrant and broke the backs of the people in the region and then began to level threats towards his neighbors. The Kret and Larcion families’ strength was in prowess of arms and long lines of brilliant tacticians. They maintained barely competent mages, as there were no brilliant wizards or exceptional schools under their dominion.
Rimell was a loving, young mother who lacked the wisdom to realize that you cannot separate a person’s actions and character from what you imagine them to be. Rimell blindly supported her husband and rested herself in self-imposed ignorance of her husband’s deeds.
Einar was the heir and as such was protected, directed and observed by his father, though his father never stooped to be involved. Einar had many tutors, in many subjects, and received advanced military training. His mind and body grew, as did his awareness.
Einar recognized that his mother created her own ignorance and that she would suffer no one to speak of anything negative in her presence. He also saw the unadulterated evil wrought by his father and grew to loathe him.
Einar spied out the secrets of their castle and learned the many hidden passages and hiding places that wormed through the structure. Armed with this knowledge he worked in earnest to learn about all of his father’s doings and the ramifications on the lands around him.
He once thought he would challenge his father and stand upon moral footing to be heralded as the savior of the people. He slowly learned that there would never be such a quiet or positive redemption in their land. This position solidified on the day that the guard brought Urikan four sacks of heads cut from the men, women and children of a small village who failed to pay the proper tax - regardless of the fact that a recent flood had destroyed their crops, many beasts of burden and not a few of the people.
Einar watched from his secret place as the Duke sifted through the bags and chose some of the heads. Urikan then gave the procured heads to one of his men and told him to put them with the others. At that, Urikan turned to look at Einar’s hiding place. Einar knew his father couldn’t see him, but when Urikan dipped his chin, Einar knew that his father had been aware of him throughout the whole exchange.
Duke Urikan the Tyrant.
It was then that he knew what he had to do. He turned and ran down the secret passage blindly looking for some way out. Not a physical way out, but some emotional escape from the horror that now brewed violently within. Tears streamed down his cheeks and he fell against the wall as his body heaved and he wretched up all that was in him. He stayed there for many minutes, his body convulsing long after there was anything left for it to expel.
Einar had long since located the hidden treasury. There in, he had spied his father’s magical blade. It bore many enchantments and was an heirloom of the house. Einar even took the blade down many times to feel its weight and to swing through several of his fighting forms. It pulsed with energy and even seemed to speak to him, but he knew little of magic and even less of the sword, so its purpose was an enigma. He thought to ask about the sword but it was supposed to be a mystery of their house and he felt that prying would in turn reveal too much about what he knew.
In his mind he reviewed his plan, daily, hourly or even minute by minute. His only peace came when he worked through the plan. Finally, the day arrived.
It was the Last Moon Feast held at the end of the Fall season as the moon was full in the sky right before Winter came. He played merry and even danced with the young ladies of the court. His father watched and smiled down upon him. The anger welled over Einar like a delirium. His blood pulsed in his ears – this made him all but deaf to his surroundings and then his vision was obscured as if he were peering down a long tunnel. Those that observed assumed he had had too much wine. Einar did nothing to clarify.
Urikan drank freely and his stupor became apparent. He took a concubine and retired. This was Einar’s queue. He left in the opposite direction and then stole secretly to the treasury. He kneeled for long minutes taking deep breaths and clearing his head. He then pulled a water skin from under his cloak and drank deeply. From a pouch he fed upon hard cheese, cold meat and soft bread. Then, he reviewed his plan.
At last he pulled down the sword and as soon as his hand grasped the hilt he felt as if fire were running through his body. He screamed and knew no more.
When he woke he was face down upon the floor and clutched tightly in his hand was the sword. A voice pounded through his head, “Get Up! You know what you must do!” Over and over again the voice rang until he felt as if his head would split. The pain in his chest (a feeling not unlike being unable to draw breath) and the pain in his hand (a burn so horrible it looked and felt like his fingers were welded to the hilt of the sword) drew a flood of tears from his eyes and if he had been able to draw breath he would have continued to scream. He scrambled to his feet compelled on by a force that he did not recognize.
He wound through the secret ways of the castle blundering along like a drunkard bouncing from wall to wall. His passing brought such a racket that he thought he was rousing the whole castle in his wake. When finally, he stopped outside the secret antechamber that lead to his father’s suite of rooms, he rested and wrestled with the compulsion of the unknown force. With all his will, silently, he screamed back at the voice and demanded it to relent. And, it did.
His body still screamed in pain and he could not catch his breath. But, his mind, once again, was his own. He steadied himself and moved as quietly as he could into the antechamber and then he listened. He heard only the breathing and snoring of his father - either Urikan had killed the mistress or she had been sent away when his act had completed.
He staggered over to the bed and lifted the sword over his head point down with both hands gripping the hilt. In a flash he drove it deep into his father’s chest and two thirds of the blade now pinned him to the bedding. In the briefest of instants, he felt cool air rush into and fill his lungs. A pulsing began and he felt power pouring into him. The pain in his hand was abating. His muscles were coursing with energy. And, at the end of the instant a new terror ripped into him as his father’s hand shot up reflexively and plunged a dagger under Einar’s sternum and into his heart.
Urikan’s drunken dying eyes flew open in rage. Then they softened to venomous pride when he saw that his son had been man enough to ascend in this way. Then his eyes turned to sadness as he thought he had killed his son. But, the sword surged, it sucked, gnawed and chewed harder at Urikan’s soul and pumped life into Einar. Einar’s body attempted to expel the dagger as it convulsed from the energy that was impossibly knitting him back together.
Then revelation hit Urikan: he wanted to live and he knew the source of his undoing. His drunken stupor was waning and a hideous sneer wrenched his face. With one hand he slapped and pawed at Einar’s wrists to pull them from the hilt of his unmaker (The Unmaker) and with the other he thrust and twisted the dagger deeper into his son.
In a battle of wills, that seemed to last an eternity, Einar grasped, the sword surged then Urikan twisted and pawed. Back and forth they went as the sword pumped the life from its former master into the vessel of his son. And, the father cut life away from his progeny. Slowly, the battle wound down. The pulses lessened and the twisting slowed. Einar’s body no longer had any ability to mend and the shell, that was his father, had nothing more to give. And so, they died, in a heap, in a struggle that had no winner.
Einar felt so cold, his teeth chattered and his body shivered uncontrollably. He was laying on his back and he felt rain coming down upon his face.
Then it all flooded back. He relived every moment of his father’s murder and knew that he should be dead, but he wasn’t.
In a rush he perceived many things: the sounds of war, the screams of dying men, the flickering of torch light, the smell of newly turned earth and the walls of the shallow box he was laying in. He sat up with a start and saw that he was laying in an open casket beside his grave that had recently been excavated. In panic, he scrambled weakly out of the casket and into the mud beside it. He rose feebly to his knees, drenched and muddy, and looked around.
He saw on the next hill over, his castle under siege. There was an impossibly large force arrayed around it, their siege engines lobbing incessant death down upon the castle. The walls were broken and flames spouted from everywhere. Soldiers in his livery were hanging by the neck from every possible support. And, immediately around him there was a frail old man in seeming peasant’s clothes and half a dozen archers in a circle around them pointing outward.
The old man said, “Sit still. We haven’t much time.” Einar started to protest and the man coolly replied, “I will not tell you again, I will simply put you back in the hole I pulled you from.” There was no humor in the man’s voice. There was no malice either. Einar knew that this was the way it would be and needed no further convincing.
He continued, “I am sorry to have put you through this. I tried to get here sooner but, alas, it was beyond me.” From under his cloak the old man pulled a crystal bowl into which he poured water. Then he told Einar, “Hold out your hand.” As Einar lifted his hand the old man grabbed it deftly and slit the palm. Where upon he squeezed it and let blood run into the bowl, and an agonized moan fell from Einar’s lips. At that the old man only said, “Look into the bowl.”
The Old Man.
The old man and Einar leaned to look in the bowl. The water seemed to swirl and coalesce with the blood, then out of the mess resolved the image of Urikan’s sergeant of arms racing through the trees on a frothing horse, wearing the tattered remnants of his uniform and holding the sword ‘welded’ to his hand.
The old man poured out the contents of the bowl and looked to Einar. “I have used you from afar. For that I am sorry. To repent, I have prepared two gifts. The first, I have given: I return to you your life, live it well…for now. The second, you probably don’t want, but I give it anyway: I am going to send you to a faraway city to rebuild yourself and escape the sword…for now.”
He continued, “The sword is a blight on all of humanity and I have spent my whole life trying to destroy it. Every time I get close, it eludes me. It knows me and it knows I am coming. This is the closest I’ve gotten. And, that was because of you. I viewed you from afar and saw the goodness that budded within you. I thought, for the first time, that if someone like you were the one to rest it, you might have held it long enough for me to get here. But alas, your will broke and it broke you. And, as so many times before, it found a stooge to run with it.”
“Now, live knowing that you brought down a terrible man that had been terribly corrupted. Know that he would have killed more and that his thirst was already becoming insatiable. In time, it would have gotten worse. What you did, saved this region. Now, my men are going to finish erasing these lands of all remnants of his hold upon the people of this realm.”
“Farewell. I will find you again.”
Einar Kret, fully grown, and setting out to find and destroy The Unmaker.