It is excellent to have a giant's strength, but it is tyrannous to use it like a giant.
Rada is a knight from Katapesh, though he was not born there. He originally came from Atlun, a small village in Linnorm country, close to the border with Irrisen. He spent his youth in the green hills at the base of the mountains, getting into trouble with his brother, Malak, and his sister, Sanyasana. His father, Cyril Haaken, was a great Ulfen swordsman, and instructed all three children in the art of the blade. His mother, Lithlasi, was a gentle woman, and taught little Rada about the frailty of the heart, and how to show tact and discretion in all things. Those were good days, Rada says. He fondly remembers playing beneath the high waterfalls of Vosslund and running footraces on Worm’s Way, that famous and ancient road which rests on stone pillars a mile above the ground. On some days, he says, the clouds would descend from the sky to haunt the highest parts of Worm’s Way, and he recalls touching them, and letting their thin wisps curl over the back of his hand.
However, good things do not last.
For Cyril Haaken was an implacable enemy of Elvanna, the witch queen of Irrisen, fourteenth daughter of the Baba Yaga, whom Ulfens even today call “the Lady of Groaning Ice.” The witch had been building settlements in Linnorm territory for years, trying to destabilize the political border between the two countries in order to expand her own demesne. This was an outrage to old Cyril – indeed, to the entire Haaken family – and they raided and razed to the ground every fey village they could find, destroying as many as fifteen in a single year.
Elvanna’s revenge was pitiless. One night, when Rada was thirteen, he came home to find Atlun in ruins, and all the adult members of his family – all those of fighting age, including his father and mother – dead. Huge tracks in the muddy earth, pools of scalding water, and the white, bone-deep burns on the bodies of his friends and neighbors told him all he needed to know: this could only have been the work of a linnorm, descended from the deep tarn lakes at the top of the mountain, a local legend known as Graav the Boiling.
With his brother and his young sister, who were away with him during the attack, he rode immediately to seek aid from his cousins in Trollheim. But Darkwine, the castellan captain of that city, was unsympathetic, viewing the tragedy as the inevitable consequence of raiding Irrisen’s settlements. Rather than assist Rada in his quest for revenge, he separated the three siblings instead, sending each to a different, remote place for safe-keeping (and thereby insuring that the children of Cyril Haaken did not remain in Trollheim long enough for the witch queen to turn her attentions there).
So it was that Rada wound up in Katapesh, entrusted to the care of Jalal Abdul, the keeper of the scales of Abadar. There he learned the ways of the world, apprenticing himself to the paladins of the Immaculate Repository. Years passed, and he absorbed the rich culture of Katapesh, dwelling in the throng of that lively city, but never truly becoming part of it. Just the same, he felt he did not really belong to the Repository, either: “The clerics of Abadar are a peaceful, quiet folk,” he says, “and resigned to tolerate the evils of the world, as long as that tolerance prevents the much greater evils that follow social upheavals.” So young Rada grew up to be a man out of joint with the world, his thoughts utterly unlike those of the people he talked to every day. And always, he harbored inside a deep bitterness towards the powers that had taken away his youth.
For a while, this way of living suited Rada. But by his twenties, he had become thoroughly disgusted with the Abadaran church’s tacit acceptance of human trafficking in Katapesh, and he left the capital for good. Traveling west, he joined a misfit band of adventurers in the border town of Solku. Though they were worshipers of Sarenrae, he found them to be good company, as their primary mission was combating the gnoll slavers of Noor, the self-proclaimed “Red Sultana” of the western wastes. Indeed, at that time, Solku was facing down the threat of invasion and enslavement by the gnolls, and it occurred to Rada that the situation was quite similar to what his father had confronted in Atlun. So he took up arms with the Dawn Vigil, the paladin guard of the city, and made himself a new home in Castraban, a desert fortress in the border country, which – along with Fort Longjaw – was one of Solku’s only lines of defense. For five years, he and his comrades – Yuni Caspara, Barram il-Souf, Abdenour Rastan, and the fortress captain, Daitana Zos – conducted weekly sorties on slaver encampments, whittling down Noor’s forces little by little, and rendering their usual trafficking operations slow and unprofitable.
And for a while, it appeared that the tide had turned. Slavers, afraid of the Dawn Vigil, no longer camped in daylight, preferring to hide and travel at night. Captured gnolls were bewildered and easily gave up the locations of their comrades. The quality of their weapons had declined, too, and it seemed that the Red Sultana no longer had the hold over her troops that she had once possessed. With every passing day, a final victory crept closer; Captain Zos guessed that Noor would simply give up her ambitions. Rada now admits that this was a terrible error: the paladins of Castraban believed Noor was in despair, when actually she was merely desperate.
Rada himself writes of the final day of Castraban:
“One day, without warning, a dour and ominous mood settled on the fortress, as if everyone had realized the worst was yet to come. Low clouds covered the sky, and a shadow rested on the countryside. The earth trembled slightly, just once every few hours. And everywhere was the sharp smell of burning lilacs, though no fires could be seen.”
“When the chapel clock struck ten, a terrible booming began in the distance. The sky turned darker and darker orange, and clouds swirled around each other much too quickly. Scorching, driving winds blew debris around the fortress courtyard. Then a sound came, like the rush of thunder over the plains, louder and louder. The smoke-smell was sickening, and the earth shook violently, loosing two of the fort’s ramparts. We took cover, Abdenour and me, and then the sky split and there was light.”
“It is morning, Abdenour shouted. Why is the sun in the west?”
“But the light we saw then was no sun.”
“It remains the most terrible thing I have ever seen. Muraq the Ash, despair of the angels, the Choir of Screams, wreathed in laurels of fire. We had no chance against a horror such as that. The captain was killed almost instantly. It would hearten me to say that she died courageously, but there was no opportunity for courage. She was ash and bones before she could unsheathe her sword. Stoical Barram perished under one of the monster’s talons, impaled, and vomiting molten viscera, his body erupting with heat from the inside out. Little Yuni, to her enormous credit, stood fast on top of the fortress wall and tried to strike the devil with a sorcerous dart, but it burned up in the air before reaching him. He split her in half with one flick of his tail. Thirty-two other paladins, good and righteous every one, were scorched to nothing in the space of a few moments. Three fighters, eight clerics of Sarenrae, and our Osirian wizard, died too. None could even approach the dragon, let alone harm him.”
“Every second that he remained in the courtyard, the temperature rose, and already the padding of my armor had grown nearly too hot to bear. I knew I must escape this doom.”
“I seized Abdenour, who stood transfixed, and we made our way out the south gate, away from the monster’s attention. There, we took what little provisions we could grab in haste and joined the laity, who had wisely chosen to flee.”
“Every day since then, I have cursed myself for abdicating the fortress. It tastes of cowardice, and though I can justify it to Abadar, I cannot justify it to me. From every intelligence I have gathered, Muraq the Ash still lies in Castraban, his body covered with the ashes of his victims, which are his only hoard and treasure. One day, I will go back there, when I am strong enough, and remind him of the good people he so casually destroyed.”
After the fall of Castraban, Rada wandered the world for many decades, meeting new friends and foes. He even found his long-lost brother, Malak, though their reunion was short-lived. His views and philosophies have changed many times in the past forty years, but an internal attitude has cemented itself: a poisonous hatred of dragons. At thirty three, he took his sacred oath against the worm, and has been committed to their destruction ever since.
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Ring / Amulet / Etc.
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|Sleight of Hand||Dex|
|Use Magic Device||Cha|
Special Abilities+ Add
|Light Load||Medium Load||Heavy Load||Lift Over Head||Push/Drag|