Red Riders of the Realms
Isles of the Moonshae
In all the years of abuse at the hands of Captain Vasser, Vincenzo had never called out for the help of the gods. Instead, he dwelled on the moment he would be able to return the punishment and free himself from the Captain. Now that the moment had come and he was assured Vasser was dead, the fire of hate within him had gone cold and filling the void was the icy grip of fear. Fear that he would not be able to go unnoticed by the CuttSpraak, fear that other pirate ships lay out of sight on the horizon waiting to pick him up, and fear that even if he did escape, he had nowhere to go and nothing to survive on. So prayers flew from his lips and they went up to the only god Vincenzo had ever heard of, the Raven Queen.
His father had only mentioned the god on occasion when he was a child but in the last hour Vincenzo was with him, his father prayed quietly to her as his mother’s life was taken. Strangely though, his father’s prayer did not include any intercession for Shelda. Instead, Vincenzo clearly recalled his father’s words were for the Captain, because he remembered the softly spoken phrase, “My dearest lady, render unto Wilhelm Vasser all the rewards of the fate he deserves.” So in his prayers, Vincenzo simply asked that the Raven Queen deliver him to whatever fate he deserved, sincerely hoping that it would include living a good deal longer.
But so many years aboard a pirate ship had forced Vincenzo to develop the instinct to survive. And he now found it was of more use than just escaping a blow or his throat being cut by a fellow crewmate. Even though his navigation skills were poor, his survival instinct carried him to several small islands in the Korinn Archipelago, where he avoided detection by the orcs and goblins inhabiting many of the places he landed. Vincenzo continued to make his way among the islands surrounding the Moonshae Sea and eventually gave up his crew boat on the shores of the island of Alaron. There he made his way to Llewellyn where he survived for a couple of years on the streets, laboring when he could find work and stealing when hunger forced him to.
At the age of twenty, Vincenzo took a job as laborer with a caravan bound for Caer Calidyrr not knowing that his struggle to survive on the streets was about to end. The greater richness of the capital city wooed him and upon completing his tasks with the caravan, Vincenzo decided not to return to Llewellyn. His small wages from his laboring job were only enough to get him a bug infested room in a dodgy inn but as fate would have it that was more than enough.
While boarding at the Sheep’s Spitt Inn, Vincenzo bunked with a battered old hunchbacked man named Hanfar. Although Hanfar took to boarding at rundown inns and generally living on the cheap, he was an explorer, an adventure, and a mercenary. For the two nights of lodging Vincenzo could afford, Hanfar was there, regaling the young man with stories of the wealth and treasure he had discovered throughout the islands of the Moonshae. Hanfar’s best stories always included the stupidity of orcs and goblins and how much harder it was to take candy from children than to take from them. Hanfar admitted to Vincenzo his own wealth was meager because he always worked for someone else. Yet his small takes on big discoveries had allowed him make a living and even to support the family of a twin brother who had been Hanfar’s partner until he met a gruesome death.
By the time Vincenzo’s coin ran out Hanfar had heard enough of the young slave-turned-pirate’s story to make him an offer for a somewhat honest living. Vincenzo was so captivated with Hanfar’s stories of adventure that he was quick to accept. The fact that the old man was the first person to show any true kindness to him was also a factor. Hanfar expressed sympathy for Vincenzo’s story of separation from his father and a sincere anger against the cruel punishment which had permanently scarred Vincenzo’s face. Once the two agreed that Vincenzo would join Hanfar as his assistant, the old man sealed the pact with a quick prayer to the Raven Queen, asking her to guide them to the fate they both deserved. In that instant, Vincenzo knew that his destiny had changed
Vincenzo worked with Hanfar for four years as his assistant. As such, his duties were very much similar to those he performed during the CuttSpraak’s landing parties but without the beatings. Hanfar was a fair boss and despite his gnarled appearance, he was inherently kind, at least towards Vincenzo. Together they would explore dark caves or abandoned ruins on commissions paid by various wealthy merchants or lords to find loot stolen and hidden by goblins and pirates. Vincenzo began to build a reputation with many of their employers of being able to bring back the goods, even if they may not have been the original goods that were lost to thievery. But as time went on, Hanfar became much less able to keep up with Vincenzo. In the dark, Hanfar was becoming a liability, and his hand with a sword and a dagger was slow. When Vincenzo turned twenty-four, Hanfar offered him a partnership in the adventuring business. Each of them knew that Hanfar was really seeking a way to retire. Vincenzo accepted the offer which was conditioned on the provision that as long as Hanfar lived, part of the business take had to go to his twin brother’s family. Vincenzo agreed and took up all the hard work of their business while Hanfar mainly obtained their commissions. Getting work was easy to do with Vincenzo’s growing reputation but the work was more dangerous than ever before. Not only did Vincenzo find himself exploring alone more often than not, but the activity of pirates was increasing throughout the Archipelago. More than once, Vincenzo found himself close to death at the hand of pirates. Unfortunately, Hanfar was not immune from the rage of pirates just because he was no longer in the field with Vincenzo. Upon learning of who was obtaining commissions to recapture lost goods, one particular captain swore an oath.
Captain Vasser found Hanfar late at night in a rundown inn between Llewellyn and Caer Calidyrr. Like Hanfar, the Captain’s body had also been broken in some places but his cruelty was still whole. He mercifully cut Hanfar’s throat only after torturing him for several hours to obtain the name of his business partners. He never did receive the names, as Hanfar’s loyalty to Vincenzo was as strong as his loyalty to his long dead brother. He had withstood the torture until it was clear to the Captain that not only would he not speak but, he no longer had the ability to speak. Though Vasser never discovered Vincenzo’s name from Hanfar, Captain Vasser added a new oath to his inventory. Vincenzo learned of Hanfar’s fate two days later from a rider in a tavern in Caer Calidyrr. Even though the story of Hanfar’s murder was surely embellished, the description of the pirate captain who had led the raiding party described a ghoul from Vincenzo’s past.
Vincenzo knew of most jobs around the capital city that were available to those with his skills. He was also aware of that a number of jobs could take him away from Moonshae altogether. After making a few contacts, Vincenzo found a commission which would take him back to the Sword Coast where he might be able to make a life for himself. The job he found was as a scout to replace one lost by a party from the Sunset Vale. Vincenzo knew nothing of the lands east of the Sword Coast or of the Heartlands. Yet Vincenzo knew that this chance may be his only one to leave the realm of Captain Vasser for good. Vincenzo met with his soon to be employer, Tarrel, an aid to a Lord Stephens of Penhaligon. Tarrel accepted Vincenzo’s credentials which included references from some well positioned lords in the court of the High King and offered him a commission with their group. The offer included an option for permanent employment if he fulfilled his duties well.
Tarrel’s party had come to the Archipelago to bring trade goods on behalf of their Lord. The party was tasked with escorting goods from Baldur’s Gate and through many dangerous lands back to the Western Heartlands. Having lost its scout during a pirate raid, Vincenzo’s particular skills were needed. Vincenzo prepared to leave by gathering up what little he had obtained during his work with Hanfar. Although he had his hands on an amazing wealth of gold many times, he had little more to his name than a few months of saved wages and the tools of his trade. Deep inside he knew even that was too much for he also had an oath to fulfill, at least the best he could. Vincenzo kept only a small amount of coin and gave the rest of his savings to the wife of Hanfar’s long lost brother. Though Hanfar was now dead, Vincenzo owed him at least a final installment as part of their pact.
Vincenzo left Alaron the next morning, perhaps never to see that land again and embarked on adventure with Lord Stephen’s party. Once again fate had led him onto a new path. And the Raven Queen, who holds all the skeins of fate, is the only being in all of Faerun who knows where Vincenzo’s path will lead.
Continued in – Another Sergeant Kilrad Adventure