Unarmed, unassuming, fit but unimposing. Valen wears a perpetually upbeat expression. His simple peasant's clothes and easy smile certainly don't project much in the way of menace.
Human Monk/Adroit Explorer
“Valen of Threshold” is a name known in much of the Known World of Mystara, having been attached to several important explorers and their discoveries. His fame is greatest within the Grand Duchy of Karameikos, where he is often seen as a hero by both the peasantry and the ruling nobility. Yet he is not from Threshold at all…
Valen was originally born to a family in the wizard-dominated Empire of Alphatia far to the east. His mother, a wizard of some esteem, engaged in a duel with another mage while she was pregnant over a matter of insults and honor. Alandra won her duel, but years later when her child showed no ability at magic at all, there were many murmured comments about Alandra’s recklessness having cost her child his future. He was a bright, healthy child, but there was no spark of the arcane within him. Valen’s options were sharply limited.
He was at least well-educated as a child, but he had little hope for social mobility or acceptance within his mother’s circles. Valen read of the far-off frontier land of the Grand Duchy of Karameikos (well beyond the Empire’s reach) and its strange native customs. A child on the cusp of adulthood underwent the practice of “shearing:” in a ceremony, the child wears a cloak that the parents cut off with shears to symbolize cutting the child off from the family. At that point, the child must make his or her own way in the world for a minimum of one year before returning to the family. Valen was fourteen when he read of this, the earliest age on record for a shearing ceremony. Fed up with discrimination and unappealing options, Valen promptly conducted his own shearing ceremony all by himself and ran away from home. He found his way onto a ship bound for the East and made his way to the Duchy.
Eventually, he was taken in by a monastery outside the northern logging town of Threshold. Valen had snuck into the monastery in search of food; he was typically a very honest boy who offered honest labor, but times had become very rough. He had a tremendous brawl in the kitchen with a very surprised cook who liked the boy’s spirit and accepted his apologies. It was at this monastery that Valen learned to channel his inner energies, not arcane nor divine at all, and how to project them outward.
Fame came from a grassroots manner at first: a vanquished pack of bandits here, a merchant plucked from orcish captivity there. Valen would plunge into the dangerous wilderness to find whatever lost child or traveler needed aid. He also began a fateful feud with a bandit mage by the name of Bargle, whose schemes Valen frequently stumbled upon and disrupted out of a simple desire to do good. In their first clash, Bargle murdered a friend of Valen’s — a brave young warrior and fellow hometown hero by the name of Landon.
Eventually, Valen caught the eye of the Duke and his family when he exposed the influential Radu clan as the leaders of the Veiled Society, a ruthless and seditious thieves’ guild in the capital city of Specularum. At the Duke’s court, Valen was introduced to adventurers and explorers planning journeys to far-off lands. Valen’s name has a place in the history of Mystara as one of the primary figures in the rediscovery of the lost city of Cyndicea, buried under
desert sands, and in the discovery of the Isle of Dread far to the south of Karameikos.
Eventually, war broke out between Duke Stefan and his scheming, melodramatically oppressive cousin, Baron Ludwig von Hendricks. (In all the Duchy, only the Duke himself was surprised when Ludwig led his barony in rebellion.) With Bargle himself at Hendricks’ side, Valen felt he had an obligation to join in the fight. The war was over in less than a year, with Hendricks in chains and Bargle on the run.
His feud with Bargle continued, however, and eventually became quite vicious. Seeking to learn the source of Valen’s abilities, Bargle led an overwhelming attack with goblinoid allies on the monastery. What he found was gibberish at best; there were no arcane secrets here, no mystic texts or artifacts from which he could gain power. The wizard found the ghosts of those he’d murdered in the monastery to be similarly worthless; all they did was spout philosophy.
Valen was away when the attack happened. He did not hear of it until weeks later. Valen has had time to visit the ruins, ensure the proper burial of the dead, and to mourn… but he has yet to settle things with Bargle. He was taught not to be vengeful, and he holds to this, but the very personal nature that this conflict has taken on demands that Valen take on the burden of bringing Bargle to justice.