I am Ashreal Groves’kin, druid, protector of the wild. I am nature’s balance. My father, Sir Devon Fairheart, was a great knight and master of a beautiful Castle (Glastone Keep) which ruled the surrounding lands of “Glastone” near the city of Trigold in the Kingdome of Nyrond. My father was renowned for being a fair and humble lord of the lands, as his father was before him. He would often take me for long journeys through the countryside and on the Riverboats of the gypsies. My father’s benevolence became so well-known among gypsies that the entire gypsy population of the nearby lands came at some point or another to live in his lands.
One day, when I was 8 years old, when we were enjoying some gypsy tunes on our favorite Riverboat, “The Sneering Serpent”, we were set upon by Orcs, Trolls, and vile humans. The Gypsies fought bravely (swashbuckler’s, rogues, thieves, wizards) but we were vastly outnumbered and our enemies lit the boat on fire (What I discovered later is that there was evil sorcery involved). My father knew he could not jump into the water to escape. He was fully armored. He died on that boat.
I managed to escape and fled back to the castle. When I returned, the castle was under siege by an enormous army of orcs, trolls, and goblins. As I understand now from that army’s advances, they were following instruction from their General (Allabane Falsewing – A High Level Fighter – Evil Cleric) to overtake the castle which guarded the Glastone Ruby Mines. What I don’t understand is why they wanted the mines so badly. The mines were almost completely drained of all their precious gems. There is nothing left in them, and yet they send hundreds of slaves into the mines, even to this day. The Castle was also overtaken and my family was killed. (2 older sisters Krista, Megan and a baby brother – Jerel, and my mother) and all of its inhabitants (120 people).
I stayed in the woods, surviving off the roots and berries that my gypsy friends had taught me to eat. I hunted as well. It was months until another boat drifted down the river. It was the gypsy ship, “the Sinking Skully”, one of the largest ships to pass through my father’s lands. On the stern of the ship I saw the captain’s mate of the Sneering Serpent – Brutus Deckond. He had somehow survived the attack and found his cousin’s ship!!! He was so overjoyed to see me. He had retrieved my father’s armor and his rings from the wreckage of the ship and kept them locked away. He was planning on selling them once he had discovered that all the Fairhearts had died. But when he saw me, he told me he would safeguard the armor until I was old enough.
I lived on the Riverboat, learning some of the skills of my fellow gypsies. It was Brutus’ other cousin who most intrigued me. He was a fair-skinned, short man with angular features. His name was Silver (8th level Ranger). He would always tell me he was the product of interbreeding. Silver never liked sailing on the Riverboat, so he would go on hunting excursions along the river, hunting small bands of human fighters patrolling for Allabane (who was residing in Glastone Keep). Silver’s skill with a bow was unbelievable. He could kill a man standing 30 feet away, in pure darkness. He once felled three men before they could even draw their swords.
It was on his hunting excursions that I felt most alive, most happy being in the wild. He taught me the ways of the wild. Moving peacefully through the woods, reading the signs of nature. The most valuable lessons he taught me were the ways of animals. He could calm a raging beast by whispering softly to it. The way he handled horses was also unlike any other person I had ever seen. Horses fell madly in love with him and birds would often circle in close to perch on his shoulders. He taught me so much. We had a strange kinship together and I began to hunt the vile creatures that made up the army that killed my family, getting a fervent satisfaction from watching them die.
Four times a year, we would travel deep into the woods to visit one of Silver’s friends. He was a powerful druid who lived in a sacred Grove of trees. He was the most enchanting and frightening person I had ever seen. They called him Dextar ForestGuard. He was like an animal himself. What he wore was thin hide, bones in his hair and many feathers. The skin of his face was tattooed with the image of a wolf. He was very kind and friendly to me once he saw my kinship with the wood. He taught me some of the lore and magic of his kind. I became an even fiercer defender of the woods and my love for the sacred Grove and all creatures grew until I found myself spending the greater portion of the year with Dextar. In time, I learned to be so one with the wood, I took on one of its forms. The bear came to me in a dream. It spoke some foreign tongue in my ear and when I repeated these words in the waking state I changed into a bear, brown, strong and powerful, and it was the most vivid, brilliant memory I have of my entire life. To be in my bear form is a strange and awesome ecstasy that I cannot convey adequately in the human tongue. Dextar told me I had graduated to the status of ‘Forest Friend’ and he tattooed my face with the image of the bear.
Through the years that followed, Silver would visit from time to time, often with the urgency of having found a band of Allabane’s minions and requiring my help to dispose of them. I would always do so gladly and my skill with the Elohnna’s power of Nature ever increased.
I am not a knight as my father was. My name, Ashreal Groves’kin is rather a nickname that my gypsy brother’s and sisters call me. Ashreal means ‘He who rose out of the ashes’. They were amazed that I survived the fires of the ship that claimed my father’s life. That experiences scarred me for life and left a deep mark upon me. I have always had a strange relationship with fire. As my skills in nature’s magic increased, I found a deep pleasure in wielding the fire magicks and I do so with great ease and relish.
The gypsies have often marveled at how gentle and kind I have remained despite their knowledge that I also possess a seething rage inside of me which comes out readily when I am near my foes. I still love to be with the gypsies and take as many opportunities as I can, as few as they are, to leave my duties to the land to be with them. On one such trip we made our way into the great city of Rel Mord to buy supplies for the ship.
It was then that I met Herenkar. A dire bear the likes of which I had rarely seen.
He was hauling stones across the courtyard to repair some fallen walls for the local lord. He was overworked and underfed. His companion, Macy, a black bear, was even more severely malnourished and completely miserable from her terrible work for her human master, curse his soul. Herenkar saw me before I saw him. He strayed from his normal route and came right up to me, ignoring that abominable human’s lashes. The charm spell that he was under must have not been very powerful, because he began to disobey the slave driver’s whips and to be drawn toward my nature’s aura.
Herenkar placed a paw on my shoulder and I felt an instant bond with him. When he saw his love reciprocated, his eyes lit up and his face was animated, probably for the first time in his life, with a comical innocence that made me understand that he was to be my companion. I beat the human that enslaved them to a pulp and left the city with Macy and Herenkar. Macy died three days later, despite all the healing I attempted to give her. Herenkar recovered perfectly and remains my loyal companion and never leaves my side. He is very intelligent and awakened in many ways that is unusual for a bear. He has taught me much about animals and I know that Ehlonna created him for me as a companion. The Gypsy women tell me that he is the incarnation of the soul of my father. I don’t know.
That is my story – Attikin Fairheart, son of Sir Devin Fairheart, and now I am known as Ashreal Groves’kin, he who rose out of the fire and defender of the woods of Glastone lands, friend of the gypsy and all who are friends of the woods, adversary of the hated Allabane and all his orcs, trolls and humans servants. I shall retake my father’s Castle and reclaim the lands if it is the last thing I ever do. Herenkar says if it is the last thing he does as well. I know he means it.