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Kingmaker 1 Setting ou

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There was something about Stannin, something that ensured the city could never possibly hold someone's interest for longer than a few seconds. On the maps of the dwarven king, it was a frequently overlooked spot, possessing little value. Everything about the town was unremarkable, and nothing was in the least remarkable. Every little detail reeked of redundancy; Pointless, pointless redundancy. Repeated rows of ramshackle houses, each sporting the same spiderweb of cracks. Rows and rows and rows of bricks, all nearly identical. After decades of living in the former colony, the residents echoed the town's sleepy mentality. The vast expanse of sooty chimneys, and thatched roofs, the occasional tuft of smoke that rose from in some hearth somewhere, made for a singularly dull landscape. There were myths that even the famed dwarven painter Binorthl who could paint anything never came a second time to Stannin, for even he could not bear to continue painting Stannin. Like all folk stories, half it was lies, and the other half of it was made up. And within this sleepy town he did stay.

After roaming the Dwarven Kingdom, Binorthl came to Stannin, sat, and waited. When he had been a young dwarf, at the peak of his powers, his paintings were even capable of moving demons to rare bursts of emotion. There was beauty in his art, something the world had never seen before, nor never sought to see again. Binorthl had roamed the ashen foothills surrounding the New Citadel, and had seen the bloodied fields of Ferranth. From the highest peaks to the deepest mines, he had seen it all. He had drawn it all. And once he came to Stannin, he draw at last what he desired. He drew a picture of his love, his long lost love whom he had now found, and his son. It was a picture he never completed since he couldn't bear to. His love died soon after their son was born and his son grew soon after he was born. It was a moment frozen in time, one that he did not want to forget. Binorthl couldn't bear to pick up the brush anymore. The last time he had not completed one of his pieces was during the great Battle of Ferranth, as perched upon the city walls, he stood and saw all the soldiers hack each other to pieces; humans, elves, and dwarves, the whole lot of them. It was his drawing that led to the treaty of the Iron Fist. It was a work he despised. He couldn't bear to finish it, for in the painting those soldiers were alive, until that single stroke of brush put an end to their existence forever. Faces lost within the blood. It was also his most famous piece.

And so Miyar grew up, a strong and healthy lad. He thought he was a poor smith's son, born and brought up in the forge. He continued to labor within the forge since he had been strong enough to hold a hammer, smelting and hammering metal into various crude forms. He was no craftsman, but he was a capable child and with his sturdy arms he would forge whatever he could. It was difficult work but the pay was enough for them to live comfortably. His mother had passed on with his birth and his father worked alongside him, his mentor and guide. But he bore hope of a better life, one spent doing something he wanted to. He had never found the need to struggle. The table was always laden with food, nothing lavish, but what an artisan's table might expect. He was satisfied with it all, except work. It was tedious, and irksome work, something he did not enjoy in the least. His name was the ancient Dwarven word for dream, a word long lost within the annals of history. It had been his mother's last words, and Binorthl acted out her wish, naming their child Miyar. And dream the boy did. Of the Old Citadel, the city of Auranth, or the great mountain in which the mountain king resided, holding dominion over all the dwarves of the world. Of the Three Great Mines of Ferranth, and the famed Crags of Tel'nar within which dark and ominous secrets lay. He wished truly that perhaps his life was different. That he might go to these places. He dreamt youthful dreams, that perhaps he might be the long-lost descendant of some king, or hero. He wished his life till now had simply been a lie.

Binorthl never had much to lie about, though lie he did. He himself was the a member of a respectable artisan family of the old citadel, not some king or hero. He had been born in the old citadel, Auranth, but his family had ventured forth, to the new citadel. He had watched a Kingdom be born from ashes. He had little to worry about in Stannin, except those things that everyone must worry about. Yet in these recent times he found something to worry about. Humans were not common in the heavily defended dwarven lands. However with the recent establishment of trade deals, this was not a problem. And so they had migrated to Stannin. The trade deals fell apart, like all trade deals must, and every now and then the customary war would be fought before diplomatic relationships began again.

Human adventurers often set foot with Stannin, looking for equipment, or a quick fix to some of their broken gear. Adventuring was really a way of life. They lived on the road, wandering from path to path. The human kingdoms, he heard, had a guild, a great big group of people not unlike the Three Great Mines of Ferranth. The guild gave adventurers requests, tasks they fulfilled for money. They were mere goons, attracted to the lucrative industry of hired arms. True adventurers, he had heard, were like the people who made their way to Stannin, exploring the furthest reaches of civilization. They made a few coins now and then, taking care of requests that were brought in. To be a true adventurer there were stringent requirements, thus the explanation for why there were so few of them.

A life of poverty, devoid of any extravagance, of any comfort or rest- that was the life of an adventurer. To live carefree within the wild, to do whatever your heart desired, that was the life of an adventurer. The dirty and grimy humans all claimed that the virtues of such a romantic life were great. To live as one saw fit, it was a great proposition, one that had captivated Miyur so thoroughly, that he found meaning no longer in the repetitive life of a smith. His discontent had always lingered stealthily within his mind. But once he had heard of the adventurer's life, it became a burning desire, a longing for this great wild that existed beyond the rocky city walls, beyond the safety of this remote haven. Of course Stannin was no small town; it was large in its own way, but insignificant in the scheme of things. The town was densely populated, but there was little of interest to the Three Great Mines, and thus little got done. The town had only a single noble family, a single scattered remnant of what used to be before the Three Great Mines.

Those who lived here had all come in search for a better life. Indeed it might have been better than life in the Three Great Mines of Ferranth. But opportunity was not found here, and a growing population of the poor was bound to be unprofitable for whoever lorded over this dusty haven. The child's family too was a member of the growing masses in Stannin. Yet Miyar saw no opportunity here, where his father seemed to see visions of golden heaps of coins. The days had gone by as he worked in the rusty little smithy, and the world seemed oblivious to the presence of Stannin. The days had gone by, and the Three Great Mines showed no signs of sudden interest in Stannin. After all, no ore had been found, and agriculture was only of interest to the little merchant caravan's that enjoyed the full benefits of an underpopulated trade industry.

It was in this way that the child lived here, yearning for the romantic life of adventure he had only heard legends and stories of. But it all came to a head with the latest party. They stayed in town for more than a week, unusually long. Miyar was but a child of thirteen, a tender age for a Dwarven boy in the forge. He lived and breathed the sooty air of the smithy, and any change was welcome. The troop of human adventurers frequented the smithy, asking for arrows and swords, daggers and an occasional iron bow. They bought poisons from the apothecary and seemed to spend money as if it had little worth. The children of Stannin were hypnotized, Miyar included. They rarely played, for not all had things as well off as Miyar. Some worked day in and day out within the fields, a thoroughly unsuitable place for a dwarf. Still other's learned their parent's craft, millers, and innkeepers, bartenders, and weavers, tailors and herbalists; the occasional alchemist as well. But it was for this one week that the children, in all their excitement, had gathered to listen to the adventurers.

There were tales of ogres and orcs, of goblins devious and still more exotic monsters. Tales that enchanted them so that they could only listen. After they listened for a good one hour, they would scurry back home to get a thorough dressing down from their parents, before work was resumed as usual. They listened with vigor, and repeated these tales to themselves so that they wouldn't forget. How could they forget? They talked about it day in and day out. While they at dinner, they would tell their many brother's and sister's their parents and grandparents, all to be greeted by a few casual grunts, or a sarcastic remark. Their fervor was undiminished, however, and they listened to the Adventurer's tales with a vengeance. By the time the adventurer's announced that they were leaving, their parent's nonchalance was near unbearable. His father's disapproval of anything to do with the Adventurer's had angered Miyar. He was thirteen, soon to be fourteen, and he should have more responsibility. His coming of age was a good five years away, but with his height, he was near passable as an adult dwarf, excepting his young face.

It had all finally contributed to a little meeting within a dark alleyway. The fourteen sat together, all of them having known each other for a long enough time to grant such a level of intimacy. They sat with thick sheep-shorn clothes pulled around their shivering shoulders, to protect against the biting cold. The first of them, an eighteen-year-old boy spoke. His authority as the Eldest was not taken for granted, and the other's seemed to take in every word seriously, despite their brevity.

"This might be our last chance. Who knows when they return? Innkeeping can go to hell for all I care; I want to see what's outside these city walls." A nod went around the circle before the speech was continued. "You've heard the tales, slaying monsters and wandering around the wild, who hasn't? Who doesn't want to do that?" A soft murmur of 'Aye' passed around. "I say we go. I'm bloody tired of everyone who thinks there's any hope in this godforsaken town. You lot know me well enough. We've been dreaming of becoming adventurers since as long as we can remember. Sure they're human's, and we're dwarves, and we don't 'mingle, but I say it's time to forget that nonsense".

"We'd best leave now, and gossip later." And so the fourteen left for the gates, eager for the exciting life of an adventurer, the magnificence, and fame that would soon await them, as their names spread throughout the land. But little did they notice the two furtive shadows stalking them. Despite the ardent refusal of the band of fourteen, Miyar had, of course, followed them. He was bent on leaving this town, and he would do anything to leave. Anything.

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The Eldest had always been the leader amongst the group of children that he lead. When they were all young dwarves, he had decided what they would play. Of course, he listened to the wishes of all the younglings, but it was him who led them all. It was a burden to bear, but their admiring gazes made him feel like it was all worth it. He was kind most of the time, but strict when it was required. He kept them out of trouble for the most part, and they trusted him as well. All of that had led to his decision today. Stannin had confined him. The walls that bordered the town made him feel claustrophobic.

He had seen the outside before. The lush green forests, painted with verdant flowers of red and blue. It was magnificent, a far cry from the muddy roads and brick and mortar walls that guarded this prison of his. On the other side of the forest lay the plains, the endless flatlands home to wolves wild and Warbears free. He had imagined what it would be like to roam those plains, to be a wild Warbear, to be feared an respected by all. To simply roam those plains and forests, and far-off mountains. He longed to be free. Ever since he had first seen the outside twelve years ago, he knew he would leave. He indulged in that childhood dream. His parents called it naiveté, but he knew otherwise. He yearned for that romantic life, and he would have it.

All that had led to today. All of that trust had been built up, and today it had been redeemed. They all agreed. All of them. All nine boys and four girls. All of them were willing to join him. They too were tired of the tiring life they lived within Stannin. It was decided then. He approached the adventurers and they agreed to escort them to the human kingdom of Valk'in. They all gathered all the money they had every earned through their short careers. It wasn't quite enough, but the Adventurers were willing enough people. A few coins short wasn't a problem. He smiled inwardly as the group quickly slipped through the streets till South End.

Stannin was a quiet town, and few every entered or left. As a result, security was limited, not to mention that the city lord spent most of his money on wine, and other luxuries he could only dream of. It was thus easy for them to slip through the sparsely guarded walls. Once they were past the slums of South end, they were out of Stannin. Outside there were little villages and huts. Numerous farmers resided here, but it was dark now, and they were all asleep. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, they reached the clearing which had been decided upon. The adventurers stood there, clad in full armor, their weapons sheathed. It wasn't quite majestic, but it certainly seemed like the beginning of an epic. It inspired a sort of confidence in their safety.

"Alright sir, we're here. Sorry if we've been a bit late." He spoke with confidence, not stuttering at all.

The adventurers looked back at him. They could tell who the head of the band was by his enormous broadsword and fancy-looking sheath. He received no reply from the stoic adventurer. A bit miffed about it the Eldest spoke again. "I'll be holding you to your promise then. You will take us to Valk'in, yes?" The adventurer chief seemed to have finished looking him over. Slowly a smile spread across his face; an uncomfortable smile that made the Eldest squirm within his well-worn boots. He seemed to acutely feel the wind going through every hole in his clothes, and a cold sweat began to drip down his forehead despite the chilly weather.

"Sure we will. We promised that didn't we?." The chief laughed a little. The Eldest was beginning to get a little nervous about what was happening here. The rest of the band of smiled as well. He could feel the tension in the air. All of them were feeling it.

"So shall we leave?" He had no idea what to say, and his nervousness didn't help at all. He had spoken to the adventurer's head only once before and the man had made the very same impression upon him then, as he did now. He wondered as to what He might say that might break up the tension between them, but that was of no use, for he didn't need to speak at all.

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Miyar and Starus stared in horror at the sight in front of them. The body of the Eldest seemed to almost float as he fell after taking a sharp jab in the gut. It made their hairs stand up on end to watch as the adventurers knocked out all of the fourteen. It was gut-wrenchingly bloody. Those who struggled were stabbed, slashed or struck with what seemed to be poisoned daggers. From elsewhere little whizzing darts, just like the ones they played with were shot. Whenever someone was hit, they fell down on the ground, writhing in pain. They stared intently, not moving, afraid of getting caught. Finally, it was all over. They had still not moved, frozen by fear. Finally, it was over. All of the fourteen were on the floor, some unconscious some dead. The only remaining sound was the rustling of the leaves and the mirthful laughter of the adventurers. Finally, it was over. But that fact bore no comfort for Miyar. It only made him fear the adventurers more. He couldn't bear it anymore. He screamed. Starus immediately clamped his hand over Miyar's mouth, but a second later the adventurers burst through the hedges in front of them. The sound had been loud enough to alert them. Of course, it had. Starus ran, for he could do nothing else. His heart pounded as he tried to yank his friend who lay frozen upon the dew-beaded grass. Starus cursed and ran. He cursed, in his heart, and in his mind; 'That damn coward'. He ran. He ran and he ran and he ran until the arrow pierced him straight through the heart amidst worried cries from the armor-clad adventurers who couldn't catch up. They heaved a sigh of satisfaction, as the little boy fell to the floor, his heart pumping out all the blood in his body as he writhed around in pain on the ground. Miyar too was on the floor, but ironically, there was a great difference between him and Starus. Miyar was alive, Starus was dead.

The word echoed through his mind. Dead. It was a short word that flowed off your tongue so easily. There was no resistance, no struggle. It was an ominous word, a deadly one. It was not lightly spoken. It was an ancient word, one of the first to be recorded in the Dwarven Language. It had been a part of the past, and now it seemed to him, that it might be a part of his future. He stared at the razor edge of the blade as it neared his neck, before being drawn back in hurry. And then it reached once more towards his neck, before being drawn back again. The knife seemed to embody the sadistic pleasure that of its wielder as it made long, shallow incisions upon him. He shivered once more as the cold steel drew blood again. The warmth of the red liquid was no comfort to him.

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