Three Rings of Evil: A Tale of Mystara
Vorian is a mountain of a man, standing six and a half feet tall and with muscles upon muscles built from hard labor and combat. He has unkempt brown hair and gentle brown eyes. Scars crisscross his face and body, a testimony to years of beatings with the rod and the whip and making him seem older than his mere twenty odd years. A brand on his right shoulder shows him to be a conscripted sailor in the Thyatian navy. He almost always wears a large holy symbol of Odin around his neck.
Vorian was born to a peasant family in the small coastal fishing village of Cottswald on the northern frontier of the Kingdom of Vestland. Life in the northern lands is rugged, but Vorian was a happy child, raised by his parents to appreciate a humble life and to respect gods, jarls, and neighbors alike. Vorian was a large boy and at an early age was sent to apprentice with Jakob, his mother’s cousin and the only blacksmith in town. Jakob was strict and worked the boy hard, but he was just and kind. Jakob taught the boy the value of selfless service and pride in work for its own sake. Jakob complained that Vorian had no brains and would never make an accomplished smith, but Vorian was strong enough to work the bellows and haul the coal. Eventually he was also allowed to use the hammer on simple jobs. Vorian loved to hammer the raw pig iron, though he never had the chance to learn the finer points of the craft.
Vorian was content with village life, but it was not to be. Before dawn one fateful morning Ostland raiders came ashore with their longboats and laid waste to the town. Their goal was not to steal goods, for the village had nothing of value. The Empire of Thyatis was at war on the high seas and the raiders came for slaves to sell as indentured “freemen” working for citizenship as galley rowers in the Thyatian navy. Vorian would spend the next twelve years working off his “debt” to his Thyatian masters.
If a life in the northern lands is hard, the life a galley slave was harder. Vorian was assigned to the Blackthorn, a war galley with 144 oars, each manned by a rower. In addition, the vessel crew consisted of officers, sailors, handlers, and a squad of marines for a total crew of over 200. The rowers were a mix of poor citizens, prisoners, and foreigners pressed into service in exchange for the promise of citizenship. Rowers would often row for more than twelve hours per day. But they did not row all of the time and the rowers would often spend long days either on board ship, anchored offshore, or beached on some desolate stretch of land restocking or waiting for orders. The ship was owned by Captain Roagan, a mercenary who contracted his ship to the service of the Thyatian navy. Roagan had considerable latitude in the acquisition and maintenance of his crew, so he (along with other mercenary captains) did not generally understand themselves to be bound by the Thyatian laws prohibiting slavery.
At first Vorian did not speak Thyatian so he was chained to a bench with another Northman named Kordan. Kordan was an older man and a cleric of Odin. He took the young Vorian under his wing and the two quickly became friends. Over time Kordan recognized the promise of the young Vorian and began to teach him the religious heritage of their homeland and in matters of the priesthood. Kordan taught Vorian to speak Thyatian (and even to read and write a bit) and taught him how to read and interpret the runes of the north. As the years passed Vorian eventually became recognized as Kordan’s apprentice and together the two were very jealously guarded (and strictly controlled) assets of the ship. Due to the preferred status, they received better rations and certain other concessions, but Roagan was a strict disciplinarian and did not relieve the two of their rowing duties. Now in his early twenties, Vorian had reached his adult size and strength, which was considerable. Vorian bore most of the rowing burden for the two of them, protecting his mentor from the beatings he would otherwise endure.
When the navy no longer required the services of the rogue mercenary galley, Captain Roagan decided to explore other means of supporting himself. At first he was a privateer sanctioned by the Thyatian Empire to protect the western sea lanes from Minrothad pirates. But eventually the empire signed agreements with the Minrothad Guilds and privateers were ordered to cease their provocations. The new orders did not diminish Roagan’s enthusiasm and the ship became known for smuggling and piracy. The exploits of the Blackthorn and her captain eventually became so infamous that the Thyatian navy issued a warrant to capture or destroy the ship and to bring Captain Roagan to justice along with his entire crew, dead or alive. This was the last straw for the embittered officers and they mutinied against the captain with the help of the rowers and most of the marines. In exchange for their assistance in the mutiny, the new captain freed the galley slaves at the port of Specularum. Each man was paid a portion of the fortune amassed by Roagan and was given an opportunity to hire on as a free member of the crew.
Kordan and Vorian took their cut and left the ship, vowing to return to their homeland in the north. Wanting nothing more to do with the sea, and fearing a price on their head in the imperial city of Kerendas, they outfitted themselves for the journey and headed north towards Kelvin. The journey was taken at a leisurely pace, affording Kordan time to teach Vorian other skills, such as riding, wearing heavy armor and wielding a weapon and shield. In Kelvin they learned that the road north was plagued with bandits and that no reliable route was to be had between Selenica and Ylaruam. Not knowing what else to do, the two decided to risk traveling cross-country west from Kelvin with a goal of reaching Blazzan.
Unfortunately, bands of goblinoids where active in the area and set upon the two travelers. The two fought bravely and many of the monsters fell to Kordan’s spear and Vorian’s hammer. The last thing Vorian saw before he was knocked unconscious was Kordan howling prayers to Odin with a ring of dead hobgoblins around him. Kordan was killed in the attack and Vorian was captured.