A wandering Bard with a touch of the Divine about him
The wandering Bard known as ‘The Walker’, Johnathan Schmidt, was born in the frozen wilds of Narfell. His parents were wanderers on their way to Thay to visit family, when his mother went into premature labour. Before long Johnathan was born, and his mother, unable to handle a screaming child while still on the road sold him to the shaman that helped deliver him, and continued upon their way.
The shaman raised Johnathan as his own, claiming that his blonde hair, blue eyes and unusual complexion were due to a gift from Auril the Goddess of Winter marking him as one of the Frost Maidens Chosen, instead of the swarthy, dark haired, brown eyed locals.
Learning young how cruel life could be, Johnathan grew up early. His childhood lost behind biting winds, sub zero temperatures, unrelenting ice, and having to tend to an unforgiving and crotchety old man. Eventually, the shaman’s health started to fail, and Johnathan knew it would not be long before he was on his own.
In the last few months before he died, the old man taught Johnathan the secrets of his personal brand of shamanism: that you should always please your audience, that words have power when used properly, that music soothes the savage beast, a handful of flash powder and solemn chanting can make any occasion seem both more religious and more powerful, and to never give them quite what they want or expect; you want them to keep coming back for more.
Johnathan realised that all along, the old man had been a con artist, tricking the naive Nars into feeding and clothing them in exchange for “spiritual guidance”. Caught between disgust and admiration that the old fool had been able to pull it off for over 20 years, Johnathan stayed with him, and in the last few weeks before his death, Johnathan finally grew to regard the old man as his father and his friend.
When the old man was finally dead, Johnathan ‘inherited’ his belongings. These included a strange pair of gloves with many magical properties. These were the source of the old man’s “mystical” abilities. That was the day that Johnathan earned his name, as he became ‘The Walker’. He began wandering from place to place, earning a crust through the power of his music and the occasional confidence trick, and making friends wherever he went.
He was passing by the Dunwood when he was attacked by a tribe of Orcs. The sheer numbers of the creatures meant that he didn’t really stand a chance and after a very short fight, he was captured, and drawn deep within the Dunwood to await his fate.
He heard the Orcs chanting, in what was quite obviously a religious ceremony of some kind, and became concerned that he was about to become a sacrifice. Fearing for his life, Johnathan fell back on his mentors teachings, rocking in place and chanting along in an imaginary language with the Orcs. The Orc shaman noticed, and the ceremony was paused while the beast interrogated Johnathan in its own language. Not understanding a word the creature was saying, Johnathan fell back on the old mans confidence tricks, and played the role of angry shaman. Although he was not able to speak the language, he recognised the basic layout of the shamans worship as the people he was brought up by were also tribal. The two faiths shared a lot of similarities so he managed to fake worship of the Orcish deity.
Before too long he had been freed and was living with the Orcs as a guest instead of sacrifice. He learned their language and customs, and assisted the shaman in his duties. The shaman never knew that the strange human was being anything less than honest with him, and that the “god-signs” were just tricks he had picked up from his mentor, many moons ago.
Eventually, Johnathan started feeling wanderlust and ‘arranged’ for a sign to point to the fact that he was needed by another tribe, far to the south. The tribe said a tearful goodbye to him and Johnathan moved on.
Travelling the trade route to Impiltur, Johnathan was thankful to find that he was left alone a lot of the time, allowing him to practice his personal traditions and use the magic taught to him by the Orcs, and what little snippets of ritual the old man had actually known to travel fast and light, eventually arriving at the shores of the Sea of Fallen Stars. Again, his ‘unnaturally’ blond hair and blue eyes marked him as a non-resident, but the people of Impiltur were a much more civilised people, with only a few bribes needed to get him aboard a ship heading south from Procampur.
Johnathan truly enjoyed the weeks at sea that he spent aboard the vessel; finding the privateers employed by Impiltur to patrol the sea and ward off enemies to be a swarthy, coarse but generally friendly lot. The sailors were especially pleased when Johnathans’ pseudo-religious ‘rituals’ seemed to summon strong winds, and increase the quality of hunting on the open waters. It was during this time that Johnathan mastered the use of the shipbow, a small weapon capable of firing an arrow from the deck of one ship, to hit a target on the deck of another, nearby. When he left the ship, many tears were shed on both sides, for after so long at sea, they were like family, but he needed to keep moving.
Alighting at Sapra, just north of the Aphrunn Mountains, he travelled on, drawn by some unknown compulsion. Crossing the deepwater at the Vilhon Wilds late one night, he encountered a circus caravan accompanied by a party of pilgrims heading to the Plaguewrought Land to attend the Spellplague ceremonies there. For the first time since he was a child, Johnathan was uncomfortable. He did not know why, but several of the pilgrims really made his skin crawl.
After a few days travelling together, Johnathan was bathing in the river, when one of the pilgrims came to the river carrying an apparently unconscious figure over his shoulder. The pilgrim removed his robe before walking into the water still carrying the unconscious form. What Johnathan saw changed him forever. While the pilgrim’s hands and face were relatively normal, his body was almost skeletal. Flesh hung off him in strips as if shredded by a blade, and there were no bubbles of air when the creature walked into the water deeper than its head, except for those of the carried form which soon stopped bubbling up to the surface. Johnathan watched for an hour, but no sign of the creature returned, so he started to pack up his things ready to return to the caravan. Then the water broke and the pilgrim returned to his robe, whole and healthy, but with no sign of his victim.
He investigated his travelling companions, quietly, and discovered that most of the circus caravan was now empty wagons, which had once been filled with acrobats, animals, and other performers. Hidden in the hay of one of the animal cages, Johnathan found a white tiger cub trembling in terror. Bundling it up in His white cloak, Johnathan stole from the cage, and headed to the woodland nearby. He protected the cub, bundling it in his cloak in the undergrowth as he returned to the caravan to continue his investigations. Johnathan soon discovered that over three quarters of the pilgrims were now some kind of unliving monstrosity, who would slowly lose solidity and cohesion, and need the life force of another creature to feed upon. Keeping a wary eye around him, Johnathan ensured he never slept close to the caravan after that, lest he be the next victim. Instead, he always returned to the cub, which he named Seigfried, meaning “Victory through Peace” in the Orcish Tongue.
It wasn’t long before his investigations attracted the attention of the creatures, and they arranged that while the remaining true pilgrims would be asleep, they swarmed him, trying to kill him to stop word of their deeds from spreading. They overwhelmed his defences as he vanished beneath a pile of rotting ambulatory flesh, Johnathan heard a voice in his head, like a rumble of thunder over the Giantspire Mountains “Now is not your time” and power erupted from him in all directions, blasting the undead apart with its ferocity. After a few moments, only the Caravan Master remained, looking terrified as Johns fierce blue gaze fell upon him.
Johnathan opened his mouth, but it wasn’t his own voice that issued forth. The same deep rumbling voice that had spoken to him, now spoke through him instead. “Your foul existence is at an end, mockery of life. No more will you disrespect the natural order. Begone!” and a ray of shining silvery energy speared out from his finger to strike the creature into true death. The creature erupted into blue flame and crumbled to dust before Johns eyes, leaving nothing but a pile of ash as it desiccated away.
Packing up his belongings and recovering his new pet, Johnathan once more started on his way, intrigued by the Pilgrimage that he was accompanying. The survivors were terrified, and huddled together, soothed only by Johns music, played on a harp he found in one of the almost empty wagons of the caravan. He led them to the south, guiding them to the Plaguewrought Lands, keeping their spirits up with good humour and calming tunes.
Crossing the Plaguewrought Lands against the border of the Chondalwood, Johnathan and the pilgrims parted ways. He set up camp and relaxed in the quiet of the night, listening to the sounds of the world around him, admiring its natural beauty and the cycles of nature. In the darkness a twig snapped, and Johnathan turned to see who was approaching. Seigfried lifted his furry head and growled menacingly as the figures approached through the darkness. Johnathan focussed his will and incanted a Ritual which created a ball of Dark Light, and the figures resolved in the darkness. The figures froze when they saw him watching them, and fled in terror. Catching sight of his reflection in a pool of water Johnathan was dumbfounded. His skin was glowing with a thick stripe pattern of blue ‘flame-like’ energy! He had been touched by the Spellplague, and his life would never be the same again.
He curled in with his companion, and forced himself to calm, and sleep, knowing that morning would come soon, and he would need his wits about him. Dawn broke, and Johnathan opened his eyes and immediately headed to the pool of water to examine the stripes of blue flames on his skin. To his amazement, his skin looked almost normal, just a faint outline of the stripes which he wouldn’t have noticed if he hadn’t been looking for them. Murmuring a prayer to Tymora, he dressed, and packed up the small camp. No fire pit had been needed, as his time in the frozen north had endured him to the temperatures of the world. Strumming almost giddily on his harp as he travelled, he continued his way with his friend accompanying him.
Johnathan continued to explore the area around the Lake of Steam for a few weeks, enjoying the company of his growing friend. Before long, Seigfried was fully grown, and was attracting almost as much attention in settlements and villages, as Johnathan himself. The low chanting, and strumming on the harp, helping pass the time as they travel. He visited every small settlement, and homestead, often trading an evening of entertainment, for room and board. Before long, he caught sight of a large settlement, a small town, fortified and with sunlight glinting off the armour of the guards on the walls. Johnathan smiled, and Seigfried cocked his head to one side as Johnathan’s fingers caressed him lightly. New friends, new adventures and new experiences awaited him, and he was hungry to find out what they were…