White Ravens Of Moonsea
Harald is a 22 year old Half-Elf, who spent his early years as a mining slave in the Moonwatch Hills. He recently escaped captivity and had a life changing experience in the process. He is now a novice Paladin to Solonor Thelandira. Harald lives his life in a perilous balance between letting the horror of his childhood overwhelm him and attempting to live life to the fullest, with the most joy possible. Harald has had few friends and his loneliness often propels him to accept people too readily. Boisterous and charismatic, the powerful half-elf can also be sulky and impulsive. He loves nature and is much more at home in the moors of Thar or the forests of the Moonsea shores than in the crowded cities. Only the desire for companionship and the quest for the White Ravens brings him to civilization.
Harald scurried forward on all fours. His breathe came in ragged gasps, making it impossible to hear if his pursuers were gaining. He risked a glance over his shoulder but despite the moon hanging low in the sky, he could see no figures. Around him the broken terrain that made up Thar extended in all directions. The light sought out crevasses and gorges and gleamed off of broken stone. Harald kept moving. The manacles made his escape more difficult. He’d managed to break the ankle irons with his pick-ax but, despite his considerable strength, he hadn’t been able to fully free himself.
By the time he collapsed against a broken tree, the moon was setting. In the east he could see the first thin line of dawn. His eyes, always good in the dark, darted across the landscape. He’d done it. He was finally free. The slave camp was far to the south and east, in the Moonwatch Hills. Harald had lived there most of his life and the thought of spending an entire day outside of its wooden palisade, was both terrifying and exciting. He could admit to himself that if his mother hadn’t died, he would probably still be there. Unbidden, tears pooled in his eyes. His mother, Natheana, had worked alongside him in the mines since he was a boy. The winter cold had crawled into her lungs and brought on the illness that lead to her death. Harald had decided shortly after that he had to leave or die in the attempt. Over the years of his servitude, Harald had seen many attempt to escape. Few were successful. More often than not, the escapee’s body was hung by chain from the punishment rock and left to rot. The sickly sweet stench of decay was a constant reminder of the fate that awaited those who thought to leave.
Harald’s life had been more difficult than most. As a half-elf, the fruit of a human guard violating his mother, neither society would claim him. Harald had only had his mother. She was the one who protected him until he’d grown big enough to protect himself. She was the one who whispered to him in Elven, teaching him the language of her people. Sometimes, when their work took them far into the wilderness, she’d taught him about the trees and plants and animals. Sometimes he’d been so mesmerized that he’d forgotten the chains.
The growth spurt that had been his salvation from bullies had also nearly been his doom. His father’s blood ran much more strongly in his blood than his mother’s. His shoulders had broadened and his chest grew thick with the muscle from daily labor. Eventually the camp overseer had selected him for special work. Harald was taken into the deep pits. Most of the slaves gathered building stone and coal for sale in Melvaunt. A few were taken down into the old mine and into the deep pits where they searched for gems. The work was brutal, even by the camp standards. Harald didn’t see the sun for over six months and likely would have died if not for the demon.
One minute he and his digging partner were toiling in the weak lantern light, and the next the ground had exploded. A figure had crawled out, huge claws ripping into the granite. It was so large that Harald’s mind refused to process the entirety of it and forever after he could only remember the massive claws and the piercing shriek that the monster emitted. Later the work crew, picking up the shredded bodies, had discovered that he lived. They’d dumped him in his mother’s hovel and she had spent her free time, and most of her own food, nursing him back to health. He knew that eating her food had contributed to her death. He lived with that.
And now he was free. Just as his breathing was returning to normal, he saw the horse. It carried a lone figure, dressed in battered chain mail and covered in a long black cloak. Harald’s chest tightened. The people in the camp called the man The Dog. He tracked those who escaped. Harald lurched to his feet and began running again. The rocky ground fought him. Each step was perilous but he pushed himself to move faster. Behind him he heard the snort of the horse echo across the distance between predator and prey.
Harald looked back again. The horse was closing but slowly. He locked eyes with The Dog and the man smiled. And then Harald fell.
His arms and legs continued their movement, sending him whirling into the open air. He hit the ground hard. The pain was so intense that he had no idea where he was or what was happening. Eventually the pain receded and, carefully, he sat up. His ribs ached and his eyesight swam. He was in a small cave. The light from the coming dawn illuminated the space just enough for Harald to make out the gruesome scene. Bodies lay all around him. He could tell that they had been dead for a long time. Almost no flesh remained on the skeletons, just tarnished metal covered with crests and scraps of cloth. He stood up, turning in a circle, looking for a way out.
He stopped turning when he saw the stag. For a brief moment he stopped breathing. It was a magnificent creature. He guessed it was nine feet tall with a spread of antlers that dwarfed anything he had ever seen. Then the dawn light burst through the open ceiling and it blazed. A river of silver ran through the body of the stone stag. Harald sank to his knees in awe. The cave chamber glittered with the reflected sunlight and where a moment before there had been gloom and death, Harald now saw beauty and life. He felt something inside himself crack.
“You’re kneeling already? Good. That will save me some time.”
The voice broke the calm surrounding Harald. He whipped his head around and saw The Dog standing casually atop a pile of bodies. Behind him a rope dangled from the ceiling. With a languid gesture, The Dog pulled a dull gray longsword from a sheath. Harald knew he should move. He should run. He should do something. But he was so tired. The sword flashed above him. Stone ground on stone and the floor shook.
The antler swept The Hound from his feet, ripped a fatal wound across his chest. The body smacked against the cave wall with a wet cracking sound, leaving a smear of red as it sank to the ground. Harald looked up into the serene face of the great stone stag.
Choose Life. Choose Joy. Kindle the light. Be the light.
The words rang in Harald’s head.
“Who are you?” He said.
The stag snorted and tossed its head and then froze.
Harald stood for the third time that day and heard a clanking sound. The manacles hung limply from his wrists, revealing red calloused skin beneath. He shook his arms and watched as the two pieces of iron landed atop a shield covered with the symbol of a white raven.