“Excuse me, I am a weary traveller. Is there an inn nearby?” “My apologies, I thought you were my Lord/Lady.” “Where’s the blacksmith? I need the damned blacksmith!” “I hear the Queen has been having a sordid affair.” “You cannot put your horse here, you’ll need to take it to the stables.” “You don’t hail from these parts, do you?” “My Lord/Lady, it’s a pleasure to have you in our lands.” “Have you heard the rumours of magic in these parts?” “I wouldn’t travel to those parts if I were you - dragons hail in those parts.” “My goodness, you look like an elven beauty.” “I’ll have the largest tankard of mead available.” “Do you pledge fealty to the King/Queen?” “Who goes there? Friend or foe?” “Dwarven crafts and wares for sale!.” “I can offer you my sword on your travels - for a price.” “You have not pledged fealty to my King/Queen - therefore you are my enemy.” “It is an honour to welcome a noble from such far lands.” “You there! I wish to hire your sword!” “Healer! We need a healer!” “Wait a minute… You’re no human, are you?” “You practice magic, don’t you? I can smell it on you.” “Halt! In the name of the King/Queen!” “Welcome, clearly the tales of your beauty/strength do you no justice.” “So I guess you’re my sparring buddy for this training exercise.” “You must have travelled from far off lands, I have never seen anyone who looks like you.”
I wrote the backstory for a fighter I hope to play at some point, based off of this image from Pathfinder.
Born to a carpenter and a mason, Inke was the only child and her parents adored her. Their town was not the largest, it sat on the border of two great nations, so occasionally travelers would come through telling stories of lands close and far and Inke played pretend at a life of adventure. Life was uneventful yet wholesome, she learned the values of hard work and commitment as she helped her parents with their labors and around the house.
In her seventh year war, began to stir between the two great nations. And, for a time, the war remained afar, in distant lands beyond the hills and forests that were Inke’s world. When soldiers began to pass through the town, stories circulated that the war was drawing nearer. At first, it meant good work for her parents as they repaired supply wagons, provided stone for the garrisons and outposts.
When a garrison was established on the edge of the town, Inke spent time playing near it as her parents worked. She became a regular feature of the garrison, making friends with the soldiers, hearing their stories, idealizing the life of a soldier. She thought it was like the stories her grandmother and the adventurers had used to tell her. She would pretend to spar with the soldiers, follow them around, and salute officers who would pat her on the shoulder and send her on her way.
When her mother passed away from a fever that swept through the town, her father floundered. He began to drink, staying out long into the night. It was not uncommon for Inke to find her father passed out in the entryway to their small home, she would wrap him in a blanket and move him to his bed. Tend his scrapes and alchohol fevers with a cold cloth. Yet as the sun rose, he would struggle through his hangover, over thin porridge that Inke would serve up in battered tin bowls, and make his way to the woodshop next to the garrison for another day of repairing wagons and other industries of war.
As the years passed and the war grew ever closer, refugees flooded the town, bringing with them desparation and a hopelessness Inke had never seen before. Food shortages began as farmer’s lands were burned. Inke spent her days now amongst the soldiers, running errands to earn coin, following along with their training, heading home only after dark to await her father stumbling in.
When the war arrived, she was sixteen. Her father, now barely able to conduct the labors which he had practiced his entire life for tremors now shook his hands, spent most of his days at home. Inke no longer played at training or sparring, as she had spent nearly a decade beside soldiers as they trained, went to the front lines and died, or worse, returned broken. When she enlisted, none of the officers at the garrison were surprised, for she could best any of the soldiers that came to fill their ranks. She saw that her pay went to her father, gave him a small purse of coin that she had saved over the years, and sent him away to the towns far to the south, away from the front lines.
The war lasted another three years. Every march to a front line a march towards death, every battle with the enemy a battle to see the light within darkness, every companion laid to rest another restless night wondering if it was the last. Her compatriots nicknamed her Break, for when the enemies surged through their trenches, they would break upon her pole-arm or axe and shield and she would not.
When the war ended, Inke survived.
Inke stayed with her squad for another six months, trying to figure out life on the other side of the war. Looking upon her squad, all she could see were the missing faces, all she could hear in the orders were the ghosts of those who came before.
She left the army, the war never left her.
At first she traveled south to the many farming towns in hopes to find her father. Town after town came up empty, when she found herself in a small travelers inn amongst a quiet farming village. Thinking her hopes lost, she bought a meal and drink eating slowly as she tumbled her dice slowly on the table.
Dining alone, a fellow patron began to chat her up. A farmer in his middle years whom she at first attempted to push away, but as conversation turned to her and she mentioned her search for her father, the farmer paused. He mentioned that there had been a old carpenter matching her fathers description who had moved to a nearby village a few years past. He lived on the edge of town with a younger couple, helping them around their farm. It’d been a while since he’d been out that way, but suggested that she seek it out. Without even finishing the dinner she thanked the farmer, and left.
She rushed through the night, the years falling away as she thought of seeing her father once more. There in the distance, the small light of a farmhouse grew larger and larger. As she pounded up the steps, startling the young couple just cleaning up from dinner, she stood, breathless. The farmers came out cautiously, the young man brandishing a battered shortsword she recognized instantly, her fathers sword. She clutched at the blade, pulling it from the farmers grasp.
She held it.
When the farmer placed a gentle hand on her shoulder, tears obscured her vision, “Idrus, he was your father, I can see it in your face.” The sword clattered.
Leading Inke into the small farmhouse, they sat for a while, talking while Inke listened.
Her father had made his way to the village three years ago, much of his coin had purchased him passage on a boat down the river. Arriving in the village, he at first attempted to open up a woodshop, but there wasn’t enough business as most of the farm hands knew enough to not need his services. Plus his hands shook and he drank too much. When their cart broke outside of the village and he rode by on an old mule, perhaps to the next village perhaps just into the woods to die, he stopped. Lent aid, repairing the cart, at least enough to make it back to their farmhouse he had said. He refused any coin. Managing to persuade him to at least join them for dinner, as their farm was the way he was headed and the roads were dangerous at night, he stayed the night. In the morning, they found him slowly but diligently repairing their cart.
He stayed for two years when the years and labors finally caught up with him. They found him in the morning, sitting in his a chair by the fire, breathing no more. They buried him, not far on the edge of the fields.
In the morning, they served a thin porridge for breakfast and walked her out to the small stone that sat before the edge of the forest. She sat till the sun crested high above her, holding the shortsword, staring at the stone.
When she left, the stone bore a simple mark, carved crudely.
Please fire me. When I agreed to spend two weeks travelling with a “high-power businessman” as his “personal interpreter” during “global strategy meetings about environmental issues” (he seems like he should be in advertising), I did not know that would include going to dinners with him and him alone and spending 35 minutes reading and translating his entire menu every single night. Good thing I went to school for 22 years and got my PhD.