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Impudent Peasant!

by Andrew Wright


Background
The town of Bitterford lies in the valley of the Red River, on the southern edge of the Pagan Plains. Built on the ruins of an older settlement that dates from before the War of the Wizards, Bitterford is connected by road to the much larger settlements of Kaad, Mirewater and Port Blacksand (via Riverglade). As a result, much trade passes through the town, whether it be ore-barges from the Dwarfish mines upriver or merchant caravans carrying exotic wares to the Allansian interior. In addition to wealth from trade, the farmland surrounding Bitterford is rich and fertile, supporting a prosperous community of farmers and freeholders. Not surprisingly then, the town has been often raided by marauding tribes of nonhumans and bandits from the windswept Pagan Plains to the north.

Raljak Lying-Jackal, A Shorter History of Allansia, 284 AC, the Year of the Fox, Salamonis: Scrolls from the Halls of Learning.

Spit Toad
Artwork © David Alexander Smith
After Bitterford was razed for the third time since its founding, merchants from both Kaad and Mirewater banded together to create the Bitterford Guard, a small but efficient unit led by a Human or Dwarf warrior appointed from either town. Since then, although the raids haven't stopped, they have been limited instead to stealing the odd herd animal under cover of darkness, as opposed to wanton bloody destruction of the entire town. The current Marshal of the Bitterford Guard is Urad Blackaxe from Mirewater, a grizzled Dwarf skilled with either axe or crossbow and rumoured to have one time been a Trialmaster in Baron Sukumvit's legendary Trial of Champions. As well as directing the operations of the Bitterford Guard, Urad is the face of law and order in Bitterford though he usually leaves the more mundane judgements and trials to a Bitterford Council made up of the more wealthy merchants and land-owners living in the town.

For the past week however, both Urad and the Council have been sorely troubled by rumours and portents emanating out of the trackless wastes that are the Pagan Plains. Thick intertwining columns of smoke have been spotted rising from the Plains, always an excellent indicator of a predatory warband on the move. A small family clan of Centaurs was found slaughtered on the northern road to Kaad by a merchant convoy from that town. Such was the scene of carnage they encountered that the convoy's Strongarms were still grey-faced and shaking even as they crossed the Red River and left for Mirewater the next day. Then, Lael Whitebeard, a hermit and hedge-wizard who lived in a small stone hut about a day's ride into the Plains, was found wandering towards Bitterford by a Guard rider out scouting. Most of his skin had been flayed and removed, apparently by a particularly blunt sword. He said just one thing before expiring, whispering slowly whilst clutching the Guard rider with his now-skinless fingers: "Gore! Gore will come!"

YOU however, still possess all your skin and have never strayed further than a day from Bitterford in the first fifteen years of your life. You were orphaned five years ago when a rogue band of Hill Trolls, raiding further west than is usual, got as far as the Bitterford outer reaches, slaying your parents and several other townsfolk in the process, before being wiped out by Urad Blackaxe and his Guard. The only reason you survived was that you were with the Guard at the time, pestering the younger ones for combat lessons. Since then, you have lived in the simple wooden hovel your father built, employed by the people of the town to do odd jobs and general labour about the town and its surrounding farmlands. Partly due to the fact you are significantly larger than a typical fifteen year-old Human, and partly due to the odd spot of combat practice with the Bitterford Guard, a large number of your jobs involve disposing of various weird Allansian creatures that wander into town in search of food. And there are a few. Darkwood Forest is not that far to the east, the Dawn Mounds and the woods around the Tower of Zanbar Bone to the south have long been a baneful area of ill repute, and then of course there are the Pagan Plains... You are, in short, self-appointed peasant pest-destroyer of Bitterford, but also open to other forms of employment. Could an adventuring career be among them?
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