Stern takes a deep breath and begins, relating his story in an almost confessional manner,
“I did not have a religious upbringing, Brother.”
“From the time I could stand I was baptized in the fire of combat.
Taught never to retreat, never to surrender, taught that death on the battle field in the service to Krom and the Cabal was the greatest glory I could achieve in my life. Not understanding at the time that the two were not necessarily the same thing.”
Stern shakes his head at his young naiveté.
“At age 7, I was taken from my mother, I never knew who my father was. I was plunged into a world of violence, manufactured by a thousand years of Illumian Cabal warrior society to create the finest warriors of my people.”
“The Cabal, forced me to fight, starved me, forced me to steal and to… kill. These things I did with great reluctance and, so I was told, with skill beyond my years when I had to. An unruly battle savant. By rod, lash, and deprivation I was punished.
Taught to show no pain, no mercy, constantly tested, tossed into various brutal arenas, left to test my wits and will against other initiates, until finally the instructors deemed me ready for service to The Cabal.
As I grew older, life in the Cabal became more and more difficult, leaving me in seemingly untenable situations over and over again because of my blaring difference. My faith in the Lord of Battle, and deep sense of right and wrong, clashing with the demands of the Cabal.
Within the secretive depths of an Illumian cabal where mystery and intrigue, misdirection and espionage are laudable traits, a straightforward young warrior like myself stood out painfully until finally….. I grew disgusted by this life and feeling the guidance of Krom, I left, boldly severing all ties and setting out into the world to pursue life according to my own ingrained ideals. From the moment I walked out I felt the might of Krom within me grow. Oh in my time I have been affiliated with the formal Church, assisting it from time to time as the Lord directs me but my spirit is not that of a cloistered cleric, and as such I would roam on. Bringing the fire of Krom to the darkness of this world.
My road has not been easy but it has lead me to find kindred here and there. The majority of which are waiting outside.
The Mighty Hrothgar, a skilled fighter whose match has yet to be found, he too has come to learn the might of Krom in battle. The elegant, yet powerful Caris, High Priestess of Elhonna whose many miracles have save countless lives and villages alike. And Grognak a hot headed spell slinger whose magicks shake the very foundations of the world when employed erasing foes in the mere blink of an eye. Powerful they are in combat; they make Krom proud. Even better so they are in trueness of heart, bringing peace in their wake.” Stern’s eyes shine with pride.
“And Grey, My first real friend, well…” Sterns steady gaze goes unfocused and he stares off into space for a bit his thoughts on his friend. “…if Krom wills it you will meet him later.” He finishes bringing his Steel blue eyes back to Cassiel.
“Grey is actually the main reason we are all here in Yun Shan. He and I together with our old group K’ni, Krylon and Ran traveled north, northeast from the moors of Cydonia to Absalom for two months. It was in Cydonia that we met our other companions, Hrothgar, Grognak, Caris, and Tealia. Grey had convinced them to travel north to Yun Shan as well but due to the current situation and demands upon them they could not travel with us at the time. We vowed to meet again in Fan Lu.
Grey, Krylon, K’ni, Ran and I hurried out of Cydonia to meet a caravan heading east to Absalom. We had been in Absalom for barely a single night before it came under assault by the forces of Orin Targ.” Stern stops to smile at the memory of that horrible night and the trials that followed.
“We were forced to flee, taking with us a sizeable amount of refugees. We saw them, through the trials of the desert and fell beasts, to the village of Shuku. After that we took our leave and continued on up towards Yun Shan.” His expression closes up with remembered grief, his voice drops to a whisper. “The road after that was a dark one, we lost Ran but made it to Fan Lu, Grey’s ancestral home. A good sized city a week or so from here.”
His countenance brightening now “We made Fan Lu our focal point, Grey’s manor our home. From there we have traveled near and far doing what we can to aid and protect the peoples of this strange land.”
Gaining inspiration “From focal point to Home, Fan Lu is our home now. We have branched out from the manor in many ways. Grognak keeps a tower surrounded by vast tombs of knowledge at a nearby Monastery, Hrothgar having gained a bond with his patron spirit has made his home on the mountainside overlooking the city.”
Cassiel raises an eye brow at the mention of a “Patron Spirit”. Stern raises his hands “All will be explained in time.” He whispers before continuing.
“The Champion of Elhonna, Caris has taken up part time residence in a kingdom to the south called Shin ling. Where we recently drove back the forces of an invading Orc hoard, their leader a singularly devastating and devious daemon of an Orc, seeming to be tied to Grummsh himself, with great supernatural aid in any event. That too is a story for another day.” Stern smiles.
“And I… I have been doing my best spreading the great word of Krom in this land. I am not an evangelical man but I have established a small temple/orphanage where with the aid of the Old Man we are raising these boys in service of Krom. All learn to fight, some go to special training from Hrothgar, some are seeming more bent to the priestly ways and I hope shall soon be taught in those ways as well, that the fire of Krom may yet light their forges “But I have not the tongue for it, though I have been looking for someone to take on that mantle”.” Says Stern with a leading nod towards Cassiel.
After a cleansing deep breath Stern leans in “And now that brings us to the present.”