Scales of War
Aran is a young Shifter. Naturally, he was even more so a few years back, when he could still call home to the large clearing in Riftwood, a forest neighbouring the Underchasm in Faerun; when he still had his clan, top of the forest’s food chain. Aran’s story begins like most other Shifters’. Although mother and father both shared the half-breed, he had met an uncle, his father’s brother, a human living in Baldur’s Gate. This man was not welcome to The Wild, but a Shifter could easily pass as a Half-Elf on a city the size of Baldur’s Gate, and Daenor
such was the man’s name was always happy to see Aran.
When not hunting, or visiting Daenor, Aran played with Magga, a Drow. This most strange friendship was not taken well by the clan, not with the Underdark that close. But Magga was a kind girl, of Aran’s age, and when they race, in Magga’s giant spider and Aran’s wild drake, they were not Drow and Shifter, but the forest itself .
Aran was not the greatest of warriors. In the hunting pack, he would be the tracker more often than not. His light weight and slender constitution, and the awareness of the forest, would give him the upper hand against boar and bear.
But the Underdark is large, and great is the power of Lolth. And as the wolf-men, the Drow did not want one of their kind exposing the secret of the dark to the overworld. So the spider lords conspired, for the forest was rich at the time, and the Underchasm depleted. The conspiracy ran wild through the East Rift branch of the Underdark. And Magga and Aran, young stalkers, knew nothing.
The news came to Aran when he was on the road. Baldur’s Gate was his destination, as many times before that. A black crow brought him the blacker message the master of birds managed to write in the little time he had left.
For months, Aran erred through the woods and mountains of Faërun. Days could no longer be told apart, and seasons lost their meaning to the boy that found himself lost in grief and rage. During the night, the sounds of predators would not allow him to sleep. The next day, even the trees would seem to whisper words of death. At last, Aran’s will broke. He laid his back on the ground, and waited. He closed his eyes, and waited. And when he got tired of waiting, he opened his eyes, to see if he was dead already. And as the biggest, largest damn bear he had ever seen was just there in front of him, he decided to close his eyes again and wait a bit more.
Katar was the shaman’s name. The bear was called Faerun, and the bear was Faerun. And Katar listen to Aran’s tale, and then told him hers. Katar needed a student; Aran needed some fire, and perhaps a bed; Faerun needed nothing, because he was a bear, but mainly because he was a spirit; but still he took in Aran. And Katar showed Aran the trees, and plants, and animals, and the spirits of everithing that lives, and everything that has come to pass. Aran learned fast, and through Faerun, would speak to spirits.
However, Aran was unable to take a spirit as companion. His scars were too deep. With understanding, Katar took to the spirits she knew the least: of wind and of life, of fire, and water. And Aran took them in his heart, and the started mending the pains.
Then, Aran would come of age. With Katar and Faerun’s blessing, Aran was now truly a druid. As a parting gift, Katar created a portal, and, not revealing where it would take him, bade Aran cross it.
For over a year, Aran roamed Greyhawk. Working as a hunter, or maybe a healer, or even the bodyguard of some lordling with airs of grandeur, Aran was comfortable in most any shape he took, but the greater fortunes seem not to smile at him. What he looked for, though, was some other like him. Another orphan, refugee or reject, with the least bit of respect to the spirit world. Katar had taught him well, and the best way to repay, he thought, was to bring to life another primal warrior.
It was on the outskirts of a small village where heard, from a small farmer whose crops he had saved, a tale of a dragon, to the South, which was said to rule the neighbouring city. Stopping at the village for some more info, he was at the bar when a horde of goblins decide it’s probably fun to torch the place. Somewhat annoyed (Aran enjoys his coffee cold..), he fights off the mob with an amazing display of force, and the small help of two bands of adventurers. When it calmed down, his heightened panther senses heard some kind of disturbance to the East, and went to help there too.
For a job well done, Aran was awarded a pouch of magical dust. His inability to recognise not-primal magic dictated that experimentation would be a good way to find out what it was. Along with the pouch, the promise of even greater riches, should he be able to recover that which the goblins took, was given to him by Head of town council, Troyas. And, ten hours later, Aran and his team arrived at the old castle ruins where, he thought, the goblins had set camp, controlled by some higher power. Such is his astonishment, when all they find, room after room, are the battered corpses of the Red Hand. After successfully destroying a Flan, for having taken too much time admiring a strange painting, the team finally detects live opponents. In mere seconds Aran sets up the ambush. And as he surprises his prey, he is surprised himself, for recognising some of the idiots from the bar. Aran is relived for only being able to see one of the dragonborn, although he was quite sure that, sadly, that one was the pyromaniac pyromancer, and not the weird devout of the platinum dragon. Behind the group was someone way past his time upon this world. Probably one of the villagers. Probably, that meant riches. Alternatively, it was food for Monty. The adventurers’ reactions gave no margin for doubt. There was only one option.
Monty had assumed the best position. Hidden behind the massive painting, the python immediately strangled a robed human. Benat charged a small lump of metal, a quarter his size, and Orton, son of Benat, followed through, only to be halted by two longswords to the side, and was suddenly more interested in whatever had made him hurt. Meanwhile, the mad dragonborn rained ice and fire; a hooded giant of tremendous agility swinged and stabbed with his shiny rapier; some ranger fought Orton, and the lump of metal (which, Aran curiously noticed, appeared to have a beard) was shouting challenges of war at everything it laid its eyes on (so, probably not much…). In a corner, the old man quaked with fear,and in the other, Monty toyed with his lunch. Aran, on the back, commanded. Spectral rats manifested with the wave of his hand. All insects in the castle coalesced, buzzed and bit. Knots and roots from ancient trees, buried under stone for ages, would revolt against anyone who would step on them. For a while, the battle was his. But the winds changed and, in that room, the gods would vanquish the spirits. Beam after beam of intense sunlight, Monty perished, finally releasing the human. Benat felled the giant, and Orton took others to the doors of the other world, but was not enough. More than once would an opponent fall to the ground, only to rise moments later. And when Benat and Orton fell, Aran thought it nice to lay down arms. He was no good dead.
So would Aran find the band of morons to be not that moronic. As a token of appreciation for a duel so epic, he offered the team the dust. Sprinkling some of it over the giant, his wounds twitched and the flesh quivered, and then fell together. The skin reknit and the spirit returned to the now only lightly damaged body. Aran gathered and healed his friends, and then talked to the adventurers. It was only fair they would be the ones to finish the job. Aran offered them his services, hoping for a new life, with both friends and meaning, and returned to Brindol, where he remains to the point, researching.