Defender of libraries
Francis was born in the mountains to a minor land-owning knight. His father’s greatest ambition was for his only son to become a knight in turn, so Francis was obliged to train in the arts of war from the age of two. His father, who mistrusts magic (anything that you can’t do with your muscles is automatically suspect), punished him if he showed any signs of magic, and so Francis naturally grew up with a great desire to practise magic and a hatred of pushups and his father’s other exercises.
Francis’s greatest ally was mother, an amateur scholar who encouraged his taste for scholarship and recognized his magical abilities. His mother was eccentric and sometimes became distracted or reclusive. Nevertheless, it was after the “accident” that lost him a large part of his hearing, after his father left him for useless, that his mother encouraged him to become a scholar instead.
The “accident” happened when Francis was twelve. When he was very small, his mother had given him a book as a gift. It told a version of the legend of Aishan, the young woman who turned into a wolf. By the time he was five, he could recite the whole book by heart, but it was still his most prized possession. After his father’s harsh training sessions, Francis would creep into the forest to re-read the tattered volume. He knew that his mother had gotten the book at an outpost three mountains to the East. He’d never been there, but sometimes his mother would tell him about it.
When Francis was twleve, his father found him skiving out of training and in a fit of rage threw the Legend of Aishan in the fire. Francis was enraged. That night, with the one remaining page in his pocket, he left. He trecked through the wilderness, trying to keep himself going East—a difficult feat in the winding, deeply forested mountains, even though his father had trained him in tracking.
His father used the household’s hunting dogs to track. Usually used for fox or deer-hunting, the creatures were large, fierce, keen trackers. They came upon Francis when he was crossing a wide brook, full of slippery stones and deep pools. Francis’s father, when he saw the boy, yelled and raised a hand to knock his son down. The dogs took this act of aggression as a signal to attack. The boy was knocked flat in the stream under the 80-pound dogs, who were usually allowed to devour their prey. By the time his father managed to beat them away, Francis was half-drowned and badly bitten. Also, the fall and the water that had been driven into his ear damaged his hearing—permanently.
His father carried Francis back to the compound, where he was looked after. Only one bite, on his left hand, proved dangerous as it became infected. In an effort to stem the infection, they amputated part of his hand and the fifth finger. It did heal, however.
The injuries turned out to be a blessing in disguise. For once, Francis was out of his father’s domain and during his convalescence he enjoyed the company of his mother, who showed him her studies. When he was well again, he was still minus a finger and his hearing was very bad. His father, seeing these deficiencies, no longer thought his son could become the perfect knight. Whether out of some latent guilt, betrayal because of his son’s running away, or because he truly believed his son’s deafness to render him incapable, he declared Francis “useless” and would have nothing more to do with him.
Francis was unexpectedly devastated by this granting of his greatest wish. It was his mother who rescued him from his depressed quiet (he could hardly hear anything). She took him herself to the outpost three mountains away, where they visited the town’s Friar, who looked after the small library (far bigger than his mother’s). With the directions of his mother and the Friar, he climbed through the mountains to the Great Library of Gorsham. This legendary place is hidden high in the mountains. It’s said only the deserving can find it, but that’s rubbish: you just need very, very good directions. Knowledge is dangerous and the library, with its colony of peaceful scholars, would be vulnerable if easily accessible.
Francis was taken in by the scholars. He studied and worked at the library for seven years. In the dusty quiet far up in the rafters, where he read and cared for the delicate scrolls hanging from their many-coloured threads, his hearing gradually improved (though not before he developed, among the scholars, the nickname “What”).
It was the year before the Waning that the library was attacked. Unknown forces of darkness and ignorance looted and torched the great building. Many of Francis’s closest friends were killed, as were all of the older scholars but two. Although the scholars worked water-spells to quell the fire, only the skeletal frame of the great domed tower remained, and thousands of books and scrolls were lost.
His home devastated and the scholarly community scattered, Francis was forced to leave. For some time he worked as a river-boat deckhand, on the wide rivers at the base of the mountains. (He became good at sailing knots. It was the only thing to do, other than pick fights with the sailors). When he had made enough money, he climbed the mountain again and, with his remaining scholars commenced re-building. New rooms, new windows, new rosewood ladders that lead up into the distant gloom of the original, scroll-filled ceiling, new, sturdy ropes (!) to help nimble scholars climb between the more distant stacks. There are now seven scholars at the new Library of Gorsham Mountain (which is dedicated to Aishan: Aishan’s Library, they call it) -well, six since Francis is gone.
The scholars had a problem: too many empty shelves. They sent Francis out: since then, he has been wandering the world, trying to find out more about the forces of ignorance, decay and darkness that attacked his library home, abberations and their ilk. To re-fill the library, and to find out everything about the new evil that managed to attack the old one.
It was only two months ago that he left. He’s quite new to this whole adventuring thing (unless you count the strange things lurking in the farthest reaches of the library, or the dragons that are rumored to live in the basement).