Sir Lord Baron Venfreid Harrold Senubus, Duke of Halfcreek, Count of Thesland, Khan of the Purrheus Empire, a.k.a. "Harrold the Herald"
A corpulent, middle-aged man of average height, Harrold looks all the world like a sewer rat. His straight silver hair is pulled back into a short pony tail, revealing a high forehead on a round face. Below his aquiline nose is a short and triangular moustache; and below his thick and pursed lips is a pointed goatee. Beady brown eyes peer out from beneath a thin brow. Harrold's walk might be described as a pompous waddle, an almost clown-like imitation of a royal stride. His attire is invariably unnecessary, consisting of thick and flowing robes of finer fabric, and often uses bright, gaudy colors. A coat-of-arms of some sort is always found on his clothes, usually featured prominently on the chest, back, or shoulders. When not frowning in disdain and noble stoicism, he is smiling through artificial ivory teeth.
Family and Life
Ah, Harrold. In some ways, he is a devise man: everyone either loves him or hates him, there are none undecided. Lenders met him long ago on one of his bardic travels, and they became fast friends of mutual humor, arrogance, and weakness. When Ferdinand returned to the town, he brought Harrold in tow, and both settled down to start a life of permanence.
It is difficult to separate Harrold's true biography from fiction and fantasy: a well-known liar and "decorator of truth" (to use his words), there are many stories about Harrold's past. Some say he is a disgraced noble of a neighboring kingdom, disguised here in shame. Others, that he is an outright fraud, a highway robber who stole deeds and titles in order to make riches. The truth certainly lies somewhere in between.
What is known is that Harrold is an excellent herald. His knowledge of heraldry - shields, crests, badges, coats-of-arms, and the like - is encyclopedic. Anyone that discovers a tattered flag from a passing soldier or a badge left from an old battlefield will find Harrold a wise and interesting man, immediately able to identify the family and perhaps even the individual. Along with his heraldic knowledge comes extensive history, and few in the town know the kingdom's storied past than he. Often, Harrold is considered the most knowledgeable man in the town.
Unfortunately, he also has a sordid past and ignoble career. As self-appointed town herald, Harrold is glad to research the family history and provide coats-of-arms to anyone at the right price. Indeed, any coat-of-arms or history can be purchased from Harrold, who will gladly "discover" (read: invent) ancient royal lineages and noble ties. An unusually large number of merchants and politicians in the town have some sort of nobility attached to their names thanks to the disreputable herald. Harrold's own titles are not invented, though: they were bought, purchased from disgraced lords and dissolved fiefs. Halfcreek, Harrold's own duchy, is completely underwater, flooded by a volcanic disaster decades ago and sold to Harrold by its unfortunate heir. Thesland, the county which gives Harrold his countship, is only an acre in size. The obscure and exotic Purrheus Empire was dissolved nearly a century ago; Harrold won the title of khan in a card game from a descendent of its last chief. His other titles are just as obscure, though Harrold surely has the papers to them somewhere around here. Even these have a price and may be bought for a hefty sum. Though true nobility despise and rebuke him, a number of merchants say he was their lifesaver: when the Ranulphens and Bowerblades gained economic dominance of the town, some small shops resorted to claiming lines as noble as their rivals' families, an attraction that attracted enough customers to keep many afloat.
Harrold married two decades ago to the comely Jildain who married him primarily for his titles. She has long since discovered the royal farce but refuses to admit it to anyone (though some say Harrold himself gets an earful of it every night). Their son Chervis, 17, is rather shiftless, sometimes minding the heraldry shop while his father is about, the rest of the time lounging with friends and unsuccessfully trying to court the town's maidens. Harrold is still proud of the boy, though. His only real friend in town is still Frederic Lenders. Harrold, aware of his "falling sickness," always covers for his friend at public events; likewise, Frederic excuses Harrold's occasional acute asthma attacks, something he developed from a bad (but since dropped) habit of pipe smoking.
Harrold has at his disposal a wide variety of coats-of-arms, badges, and other heraldry items. Many are authentic, but just as many are of his own invention.
Harrold is usually found either in his heraldry shop or wandering about town looking noble. If anyone needs some sort of official heraldic document, Harrold can produce one for the right price. He has another use as well: information. As a well-informed heraldic officer - legitimate or not - he can easily identify forged or otherwise untrue claims to nobility. Go to Comment
The people of the Great Forests often gather around campfires and tell tall tales of half-beast, half-man creatures that wander the Deep Quagmire. A variety of stories abound: some say they are the spawn of demons, the result of unholy unions between succubus and man; other that they are nomads, descendents of those who were banished from the tribes centuries ago, now made to scour the lonely swamps for food and lost family. Most adventurers scoff and dismiss the tales as legend and myth, hiding their true fears behind a screen of temerity. Just the name of these creatures is enough to frighten children and send a chill up rangers' spines: the Kuodokaki.
The reality of these creatures are somewhere between myth and skepticism. Kuodokaki do indeed inhabit the Deep Quagmire, as well as other swamps. Their appearance is disturbing as well: humanoid in form, wizened and hunched but with thick sinewy muscles. Their faces are muscular and neanderthal, with a heavy brow, thick cheeks, and narrow, hanging jaw. Their hands and feet feature only four digits, longer and thicker than human fingers and toes. Their skin seems to hang like torn cloth off their strong bodies, its tone as dark and green-black as the waters of the swamp. They often walk with a slow, deliberate lumber, almost moping, watching the waters and brush carefully. When needed, they move with surprising speed. If their appearance brings great fear, their tale evokes equal sorrow.
Millenia ago, the Kuodokaki's ancestors lived in the Great Forests and beyond, a great if simple civilization. They knew no war and lived in simple huts among the trees. Only occasionally did they trade, well known in the ancient kingdoms and empires for their elaborate wooden carvings. Their language, guttural yet flowing, seemed impossible to translate even by the greatest linguists. To the ancient rangers they were legendary, finding wounded hunters and adventurers before they even sought help and curing the gravest of wounds. Some said that their magic, seemingly innate among their people, was some of the greatest ever known. Most peoples left them in peace, few posessing the sheer rancor to make war on such an innocent and benelovent race. As happens, though, such malice is always found among men.
As the warrior empire of Thonderhaas conquered nation after nation, they began to cast their eye on the resource-filled Great Forests. The woods held many potential mines and lumber yards, and across their expanse lay greater kingdoms and new seas to conquer. Although even most citizens of the warlike Thonderhaas lacked the stomach to sack a defenseless people, the Great Emperor Mardeshan would hear no such talk. The Emperor held an unspeakable contempt for these ancestral Kuodokaki, refusing to even keep them as a subject people. Gathering only a small portion of his vast army, Mardeshan ordered his troops to march on the Great Forests and forcibly remove its denizens. With many soldiers shedding tears, a great slaughter commenced and the Kuodokaki peoples were destroyed. The few that survived were forced in the marshlands of the Deep Quagmire, their sorrow driving many mad. All these years later, by the nature of the swamps and the deep magics these people posessed, the Kuodokaki gradually changed into the beast-like hominids found in the swamps today.
The attack of Thonderhaas still seems to haunt these sad folk. They avoid any settlements and give any travellers a wide berth. Their dark skin, a natural camouflage, makes them difficult to spot. They do occasionally follow visitors to their swamps with great curiosity, always moving silently and just out of sword's reach. A skilled tracker might be lucky enough to see the glint of their eyes on a bright night, reflecting moonlight like the eyes of a cat. Encamped travellers will sometimes hear haunting sounds of groans and gargling; what sounds so vicious and ghastly is, in fact, the language of the Kuodokaki. Adventurers who are severely wounded in the swamps will sometimes awake to find a dark and harsh face hovering over them. What may seem like a carrion eater waiting for a meal is actually a Kuodokaki healing the injured with their natural magic abilities.
Long separated, the Kuodokaki live ferally and distant from each other, meeting only to mate. A mother will raise a child alone, then abandon it at adolescence in order that the young will learn to survive. They live off the swamp's bounty, eating raw fish, snakes, and vegetation. Their once-famous craft abilities have long since dwindled and Kuodokaki now survive without tools or weapons of any kind. They live in the safety of the trees, being naturally strong climbers. A few have returned from the Deep Quagmire with stories of finding sleeping Kuodokaki in lower limbs. Sadly, travellers often fall for the vicious myths of these people and kill them on the spot when confronted with one. Their unique composition of their bodies causes them to decompose very rapidly, and poachers are denied any prize in hunting them. Go to Comment
I like the lifeforms. Expand detail on them and you've got a nice minor race.
The innuendo narrative was childish, unnecessary, and detrimental to the post. Unless you're really just going for shock/silliness value, take it out. In my opinion, it's just distraction to a potentially good sub. Go to Comment
One glance at him and you can tell Shumal ain't from around here. His skin is a yellowy tan with large almond eyes and an almost blue-black tuft of hair combed straight forward. A long and narrow goatee sprouts from his pointed chin. If not for his strange hairstyles and taste in loud foreign clothes, he might actually be attractive. He is constantly smiling and speaks with an enchanting accent. His grasp of the local language is very solid; his exciting stories always attract the village children, and his poetry makes the women swoon. Shumal's age is difficult to discern: he looks young, but it could be his foreign blood. Though he keeps it a secret to most - just to keep mystery about him - Shumal is actually 47.
Family and Life
Shumal arrived in the village three years ago on camelback, his mount weighted by sacks, chests, bags, crates, and other varities of merchant wares. It was not the first time foreign traders had been to the village, but what really surprised everyone is what Shumal did next: buy a small shop and move in. Shumal will plainly state that his business in the village is business. He opened a small haberdashery dealing in "fine" men's clothes at very "affordable" prices (the clothes aren't particularly fine and the prices are gouged, but at least the style's fresh). Business is decent, and Shumal's styles are found on gentlemen throughout the village, but some say it's not quite enough to keep the shop running. A few accuse him of public theft or witchcraft, but most dismiss these claims.
To fill the economic gap, Shumal leaves for two weeks every other month on his camel, always returning with new sacks of foreign wares and updated styles. He always seems to have something for the Tinker, who ritually locks his door at Shumal's approach, demands he leave, and then eventually reopens the door to barter. Shumal's foreign spices always finds their way into Irres' food and she has become a regular customer for him. The two have forged a friendship, frequently joking and trading flirts. Shumal also frequents Thanen's place for a good brew at the end of the day. The foreigner is enthralled with Thanen's products, often saying they are the best he's ever had in the world. He tries frequently to trade for Thanen's secrets, which is always a bust. On occasion, Thanen will part with one of his better vintages in exchange for an exotic liquor Shumal brings. For the rest of the town, he carries a wide assortment of trinkets and foreign goods, each always having some exotic, romantic story Shumal will tell (and often invent).
A few particular xenophobes in the village still hold him with contempt and suspicion. If he brings in such distant goods, they demand, why does he bring them to tiny Strolehaven? Aren't there larger, more profitable towns to deal in? He must have an alterior motive, they explain. In truth, Shumal's goods are second rate at best, and often third; he would have no chance in a large town with much more quality items. He would much rather be in his homeland, but a feud with his politically powerful father caused him to be exiled forever. Shumal settled in Strolehaven hoping to make a new home for himself. Other accuse him of being a relative of Emily, whom he frequently visits. Their relationship, however, is strictly one-sided: Shumal is enchanted by her exotic beauty, and she gives him only passing (usually negative) thought.
Shumal always has something interesting to trade. They are usually only kitshy souveniers from other lands, but he occasionally has a real prize find. He is also the proud owner of the village's only camel, an old female beast he calls Warisha.
Shumal can often be found in the tavern sharing drinks, stories, and shills with the village folk. He is outgoing and friendly to all; insults, which come not infrequently by some of the locals, have no real effect on him. You might find something suiting at his haberdashery, or he may have some more unique trinkets behind the counter. If cajoled enough - and offered the right price - he may even have some smuggled illegal goods. Don't expect anything major, though; at most, a few exotic narcotics, weapons, or religious goods. One never knows, though: Shumal might have more than meets the eye. Go to Comment
Likes: Interesting concept. Not too powerful in that it takes control of a rod or absorbs its abilities, but it just activates them, creating a haywire situation. Nicely written intro...
Dislikes: ...but not enough for me. Some wizard made it and got attacked. Who is this guy? Who attacked him? What were they trying to find? That part almost seems like a cop-out for writing a real backstory. And why would he make such a rod? Some more stuff on that could make this a great post.
I'll hold off on voting until you can make it shine, which I'm sure you can do. Go to Comment
Tree fox! I'd like a touch more on the biology: how are its feet adapted? What's "slightly smaller" and "slightly longer" in terms of measurable range? Is it the same reddish color as foxes meant to sneak through brush, or has its fur adapted to match the trees better? If it's domesticated, are there any specific breeds or crossbreeds?
A typical iron ore mine, the Irongate was closed some years ago and the entrance was closed off with a heavy gate of oak and thick iron bands, the Irongate. The mine itself was abandoned because it was a breeding ground for dire rats and many of the miners suffered from giant rodent bites as well as diseases from said bites. The mines are haunted by the ghosts of the men who died in dire rat swarms, adding to the mine's unpleasant character.