He brushed his long red curls from his face and feigned a scowl. “It’s a boring story!”
The patrons argued and complained loudly.
“Tell us of the Silver Hand!”
“…yes, and the story of his victory in the Battle of Shadow Hills…”
“…and of the Forgotten Kingdom of Sha’Quessar, and the Elves…”
“…the Dragon, I want to hear of his defeat of the dragon…”
“…and the King’s Road! Tell us of his deeds on the King’s Road…”
They knew the bard would tell the story if they kept at it a bit. This happened every time he came through town.
“Come now, Jarreth” the innkeeper shouted from the bar “these people asked for the tale of the Wanderer, and now you must tell it!”
Hiding a satisfied grin he reached for his travel worn yarting. He tucked his signet ring, emblazoned with a sword in a crossroad over a setting sun, into his pouch.
If a story of Taran the Wanderer is what they wanted, then he would share his tale with them…
As the story goes…
Sometime time ago in the not so distant past was born a boy. His mother was a merchant’s daughter, a refugee from a land torn apart by war. His father was a soldier and an honorable man, highly decorated and respected.
There was nothing out of the ordinary about the night of his birth, nor the circumstances surrounding it. The rest of his story, however, is not so ordinary…
His father never returned from their warring homeland. His mother, having traveled a long distance with child, had grown very ill. The squalid living conditions and winter weather proved to be too much for her, and at the age of only two springs, the boy was without parents. A few short days later his crying from the ramshackle cottage gained the attention of an old man passing by.
This was no ordinary man, he was Reithe Corr, a well known and respected traveler and retired soldier. He quickly retrieved the crying child and set out to find someone who was family to him. No one in the city knew of the mother or father, nor where they had come from.
With this sad news, Reithe went to the city council and asked that he would be charged with the raising of the child. Agreeing quickly the council named Reithe Corr the guardian of the boy.
Giving him the name Taran, he took the child home to his farm, just outside the city.
Several years passed, as they tend to do, and Taran grew. He was slight for a boy, slim and gaunt, and his stature never quite caught up with his heart. Brave and fearless, he learned anything and everything he could at an alarming rate. The use of herbs, reading and writing, weapons and combat, and even some of the skills of a woodsman like tracking, hunting, and foraging were easy for him. He was trained in the use of the staff, dagger, bow, and stout sword from an early age. History and tales of long dead heroes were by far his favorites, along with the yarting.
In the late spring of his fourteenth year, just after planting the fields, he went to the old man whom he knew not to be his father.
“Reithe, you know I’m nearly at the age that I should be on my own, right?” he asked him calmly and quietly. The old man looked up from the hearth. “Take up the yarting, boy, and sing me a tale of the Great War.” Reithe looked at him, a slight smile growing on his lips. Taran lifted the yarting and, brushing the long red curls from his face, began to play. He chose a slow dirge, one about a good boy setting out to war to become a man, his quest for honor and glory, and his return home. Reithe listened, his eyes closed while drawing from the long pipe in his hand. When the song was finished, the old man stood.
“Take yourself outside, and get a staff along the way.” He said flatly.
Having not the slightest clue as to the odd request, he did as he was told.
After a time Reithe came from the old farmhouse, a stout oaken staff in his hand. Leaping towards Taran with unexpected grace and force he yelled “Defend your self!”
Not knowing what to do, and not wanting a split in his skull, he did just that. After nearly an hour of feinting, parrying, striking, and counterstriking, the old man halted his assault.
“You are a good boy, Taran” he said nearly out of breath “and very well trained, if I do say so myself.” He gave a wry smile “There is no more you can learn from an old man like me. In the morning, if it is your wish, you have my blessing to set out.”
And, come the rising of the sun, he did just that. Carrying only the simplest of supplies, a sharp dagger, and an iron shod staff gifted to him by Reithe, he set out upon the open road. Looking back to the the old farmhouse he called home he saw Reithe standing in the door. “I will return, but not before Fate has shown me my way!” he called back to him. Reithe waved in acknowledgement.
Turning on he heels he set his sights to the road heading west, towards the city Reithe had found him. He only looked back that one time…
”...that doesn’t sound like what I heard!” one of the patrons said.
“Well” the bard retorted “that is how it happened, now may I continue?”
The crowd quieted again, waiting for the bard.
Clearing his throat, he strummed the yarting.
“And now I will tell you of his first sadness, as he knew many in his life…”
Starting out with his newfound freedom, he decided after but a day that being a beggar just would not do. He decided to use his skills to their fullest potential and hire himself out as a guide, laborer, carter, chapman, scrivener, porter, hewer, linkboy, and even an herbalist, although these jobs seemed to pay too little or not often enough.
During his search for gainful employment he met an elf bookbinder by the name of Sha’Jal Aqidel and took the job of messenger for him. He traveled bettween the closest cities, delivering books and secret messages to Jal’s many clients.
While returning home from a late evening delivery he happened upon a lovely cutpurse named Tander, trying to escape the local guard. Taran, thinking himself a gentleman, slipped her into an alley and led her to his room above the local tavern. By the next day they were inseparable. He learned many things from the young girl, most of them dealing with “love and the larcenous arts”. Tander soon gave him a new name, Silverhand, for his eerie skill at disarming small traps and bypassing nearly every window, barred door, and lock he encountered.
He continued his work for Jal by day, and studied with Tander at night. But things were not to remain thus. Fate would bring darkness to Taran for the second time in his short life. After several months both Jal and Tander were dead, neither by accident or natural means.
Shortly after these painful events Taran decided to set off onto the road again. A barkeep at the tavern suggested he build a life as a minstrel, as his talent for song was apparent even to the ruffians who frequented the establishment. This sounded as good an idea as any to him, but deep inside he knew this was not to be.
So once again Taran set out to find what the Fates had in store for him, but this time he was weighted by the pain in his heart and felt no joy from setting out for new lands. Tightening the laces on the boots given him by Jal and pulling on Tander’s gloves, he started his journey.
“What happened to the Elf and the girl?” one of the youths in the audience asked. Her mother hushed her quickly.
“The Elf was killed by the theives in the city for selling their secrets, or at least that is what most believe to be true” the bard said “and the girl…poor Tander…was hanged for his murder.”
The bard looked into the fire with a saddness in his eyes. “Poor Tander, she should have run away…” he whispered.
“So he just lef…” the youth asked, but this time her mother covered her mouth before she could finish.
The bard looked to the young girl. She looked very much like Tander. “With a broken heart, child, one is known to do many foolish things.” He shifted his weight from one foot to the other. The sad look cleared from his face once again.
He lifted his insrument and began to play.
Over the next few years He worked as a wagon driver, guard, and on an occasion a “recovery specialist”. Then came the time of the invasion from the south.
Enlisting with a local militia Taran set out, along with several others, to a place called Shadow Hills.
A front was being formed to hold back the advancing hoard. Along the road Taran met another man who, like him, was seeking honor and glory. He was a huge man, barrel-chested, powerfully built and about as cordial as an angry bear. His name was Ginaman, a barbarian from the north. They became fast friends, each seeing the potential in each other for greatness.
The supply lines had been compromised within the first three weeks, and Taran and Ginaman survived on what they could find in the wild. The battle lasted near two seasons, the southern hoard pressing ever forward into the Shadow Hills. Early one morning, just before dawn, Taran had an idea. They were camped near the top of a hill, what meager supplies they still had stored in a broken wagon. He woke Ginaman and shared his plan.
“Alright, you old brute, this is my plan. As you are fit for battle and I’m better at being subtle, I want you to rally the remaining militia, lead them around the hills, and attack the encampment from the southwest. That will be my cue.” He said, nearly beginning to laugh. “Are you insane, you pitiful excuse for a man! That would be the death of me!” Ginaman bellowed, turning red. Taran raised his finger. “At your signal, I’m going to light the wagon on fire and send it down the hill into their tents. We’ll burn them out!” he sat up straight and spread his arms wide “Am I a genius or what?”
Ginaman looked over his shoulder at the old wagon, still full of dried, coarse hay. Abandoned just before the skirmishes began, it sat at the top of the hill, one wheel missing. “Will it roll all the way down, with no horses and driver?” Ginaman asked, sounding a bit confused.
“We’ll see” Taran said, a mischievous twinkle in his eye “we’ll see…”
As the militias horns blew to signal the attack, Taran found himself in a bit of trouble. The wagon, balancing on three wheels, didn’t seem inclined to follow the plan. Trying furiously to get it cooperate, he suddenly knew what had to be done.
Taking a length of rope, he tied one end to the yoke and the other to the stump of wood under one of the wheels. He set a lit torch into the holder on the front of the wagon. He’d need it soon.
Standing on the front he yanked the stump loose. He leaned away from the missing wheel and used the other end of the rope to turn the wagon, keeping it on a fairly straight path into the invaders camp. Seeing his target he pulled the rope hard, turning the wagon towards the encampments oil supply. He quickly tied the rope off to the seat and grabbed the torch. He jumped as far as he could from the wagon that by this time had gathered much speed rolling down the steep hill. Throwing the torch into the back of the wagon, he hit the ground hard. Even in his failed attempt at a graceful dismount his smile grew large as the now burning wagon of dry hay swept through the tents lighting a few on fire as it went. The wagon rolled careening into the stack of large clay urns filled with lamp oil sitting just outside of the opposing forces supply tent.
In a fiery explosion, the oil sprayed an all directions, covering the supply tent and setting almost all the tents ablaze. Taran ran halfway up the hill, turning to see how the skirmishers were faring. As he had hoped the invaders were rushing to the camp and trying to control the fires. He moved towards the battlefield, limping badly and cradling his right arm. Once there he was shocked to find that nearly half of the militia had died. He searched franticly for Ginaman, turning over bodies as he moved through the carnage. It didn’t take long before he found the hulking man. There was a short spear protruding from his midsection. Taran dropped to the ground, close to Ginaman’s head.
“I think we did it. I think we’ve turned the tide” he said. The barbarian leaned to the side, wincing in pain. “I think my time has come, friend. I’m dying” he said as blood trickled from the edge of his mouth “and I’m so far from home.” Taran looked at his face them his grievous wound and then at his face again. “Ask what you will of me and it shall be done” he whispered to the man. After a pause Ginaman spoke. “Burn my body at first light, I don’t believe I’ll be needing it much longer” he said softly “and Taran…always let your foe underestimate your intelligence.” He closed his eyes for the last time.
At dawn Taran placed a torch under the wood below the burning altar and watched as his friend slowly disappeared into the flames. He had splinted his leg and put his arm in a sling. He pulled the strap of his pack a little higher on his shoulder and adjusted Ginaman’s buckler that hung from it. He set out again, hoping the Fates would be kinder in the future.
The bard stopped playing and leaned the yarting on a close chair. Looking to the door, he said “I am sorry but this story must end for a time.” He turned towards his pack as the crowd began to protest.
“...but what of the Forgotten Kingdom?...”
“...and I wanted to hear about the King’s Road! That’s my favorite story!...”
He strapped on his sword belt and hefted his pack onto his shoulder.
“I must go for a while, I have to meet a friend down the road” he said as he picked up his yarting. He carefully hooked it to his pack and slid his arm throught the other strap “but I will return soon, I promise. I’ve never left a story untold.”
As he headed to the door he shook many of their hands, some of them palming a copper or two for his performance.
He liften a sout walking staff from a barrel by the door and waved over his shoulder as he left.
The young girl ran to the door to watch him leave. As she opened the door, a tall strange man was standing just outside. He carried a great axe and sheild and wore heavy banded armor. The girl knew this man to be a soldger-for-hire from his look alone.
“Who is that man?” he asked the girl, pointing at the bard as he sank below the ridge of the hill “he seeems familiar to me.” The girl looked up at the mercinary and quietly said “He’s a bard, sir. He comes this way often.”
The man smiled. “That is no mere bard, young one” he laughed “that was the Wanderer…”
Apperarance and Demeanor
Taran, as much now as when he was a boy, is small in stature. He stands just just shy of five and one half feet, and with a slim build. He wears his red hair quite long and pulled back, except for a few curls in the front (he always seems to be brushing them out of the way). His eyes are a bright greyish green with dark rings about the iris’. His smile is quiet comforting, and often mischevious.
He travels in ordinary leather armor, a hooded cowl, and when the weather is cold a long cape that drags a bit on the ground as he walks.
He is cordial, poliet, and well manered when meeting new people. When drinking (as he often does) he is quick to tell a joke or amusing tale. He carries himself humbly while on the road, but as royalty does while in cities and large towns.
Well Known Deeds
Taran has been a man of particularly good fortune over the years. He is a well known traveler and stories of him are told the land over, describing him as a roguish peasant hero (some even calling him a “living legend”). Many people claim him to be from their own towns or cities, even going as far as to claim relation to him, albiet distantly. Even a king was said to once refer to him as a “poor country cousin”. Most of these claims are far from the truth, the many versions of his story are embellished a bit in the in the tellings.
He has held a few different careers in his fifteen years of travel. His reputation is derived mostly from the unique way he manages to accidently turn every obsticle to his favor.
Being a “slayer of dragons” was never an occupational concideration, although he managed to gain the reputation nonetheless.
He is no stranger to war, having turned the tide at the Battle of Shadow Hill, with the help of his friend Ginaman.
Honored by two kings, he has recieved the titles of both General and Knight of the Crown, as well as being given land and estates in both kingdoms.
He is also well known for being a bit of a rogue. His calling card (a fine silver embroidered glove) has been found in many a mage’s and merchant’s home, and not a few items missing.
His truest calling, however, has been that of a bard. Telling a story or two while traveling gives him pleasure, and a few coppers. He travels under a false name. This is partly due to his wish to avoid the enemies he has made over the years and partly due to his ego, as his favorite tales to tell are most often of himself.
Confirmed aliases and descriptions:
Lord Regnant Imshreen of Har Rhun (“south east” in elfish, noble attire)
Jal the Minstrel (upper class traveling garb, paste and glass jewelry)
Alder Ginaman of (insert city or kingdom name here) (wears wealthy merchant’s robes)
Errustil Finethorn (common attire for middle to low class, cloth merchant)
Areon Fengrim the Seer (robes with ancient letters embroidered on them, diviner for hire)
Suspected aliases and descriptions:
Jarren the Hunter (dresses as a woodsman)
Lew Aqidel (simple clothes, herbalist’s bag carried)
Canandur of Mornelin (armored and carries a bare blade, mercenary)
Artemo Maelthenon (foppish garments, drunkard mage)
Kasin Mirinar (priestly robes, questing monk under vow of silence)
QuickJack Stormfist (ONLY in the company of pirates!)
Role playing notes
Taran is for the most part non-combative. He prefers to use his wits rather than his weapons if at all possible. If he must use weapons, he will make every attempt to do so with style and flair. The harder it seems, the more he likes it.
He has skills as both a fighter and thief. In his travels he has learned the use of a few spells, but none of them are offensive. The yarting (a seven stringed instrument similar to a guitar) is by far his best talent.
He also knows a fair amount about hunting, tracking, foraging, herbalism, ancient history, ancient languages ,ancient religion, astronomy, and orienteering although he is not by any means an expert in any of them.
He is almost always a bit flirtatious in the presence of an attractive barmaid, and all too often feels the sting of a solid slap as the conversation ends abruptly.
He is loyal to the death to those who prove to be friends and maliciously cruel to his enemies.
His standard possessions can be found at Items of Legend; the Wanderer’s equipment and tools and The Magic behind the Man; the Wanderer’s magical items