Hurts us both.
Your grave will be even colder, my dear.
It's said that a centaur's road is paved with the corpses of the fallen. For the one called Warrunner, it has been a long road indeed. To outsiders, the four-legged clans of Druud are often mistaken for simple, brutish creatures. Their language has no written form; their culture lacks pictographic traditions, structured music, formalized religion. For centaurs, combat is the perfect articulation of thought, the highest expression of self. If killing is an art among centaurs, then Bradwarden the Warrunner is their greatest artist. He rose to dominance on the proving grounds of Omexe, an ancient arena where centaur clans have for millennia gathered to perform their gladiatorial rites. As his fame spread, spectators came from far and wide to see the great centaur in action. Always the first to step into the arena, and the last to leave, he composes a masterpiece in each guttering spray, each thrust of blood-slickened blade-length. It is the poetry of blood on steel, flung in complex patterns across the pale sands of the killing floor. Warrunner defeated warrior after warrior, until the arena boomed with the cheering of his name, and he found himself alone, the uncontested champion of his kind. The great belt of Omexe was bestowed, wrapped around his broad torso, but in his victory, the death-artist found only emptiness. For what is a warrior without a challenge? The great centaur galloped out of Omexe that day with a new goal. To his people, Warrunner is the greatest warrior to ever step into the arena. Now he has set out to prove he is the greatest fighter who has ever lived.
The Font of Avernus is the source of a family's strength, a crack in primal stones from which vapors of prophetic power have issued for generations. Each newborn of the cavernous House Avernus is bathed in the black mist, and by this baptism they are given an innate connection to the mystic energies of the land. They grow up believing themselves fierce protectors of their lineal traditions, the customs of the realm — but what they really are protecting is the Font itself. And the motives of the mist are unclear.
When the infant Abaddon was bathed in the Font, they say something went awry. In the child's eyes there flared a light of comprehension that startled all present and set the sacerdotes to whispering. He was raised with every expectation of following the path all scions of Avernus took — to train in war, that in times of need he might lead the family's army in defense of the ancestral lands. But Abaddon was always one apart. Where others trained with weapons, he bent himself to meditation in the presence of the mist. He drank deep from the vapors that welled from the Font, learning to blend his spirit with the potency that flowed from far beneath the House; he became a creature of the black mist.
There was bitterness within the House Avernus — elders and young alike accusing him of neglecting his responsibilities. But all such accusations stopped when Abaddon rode into battle, and they saw how the powers of the mist had given him mastery over life and death beyond those of any lord the House had ever known.
Karroch was born a child of the stocks. His mother died in childbirth; his father, a farrier for the Last King of Slom, was trampled to death when Karroch was five. Afterward Karroch was indentured to the king’s menagerie, where he grew up among all the beasts of the royal court: lions, apes, fell-deer, and things less known, things barely believed in. When the lad was seven, an explorer brought in a beast like none before seen. Dragged before the King in chains, the beast spoke, though its mouth moved not. Its words: a plea for freedom. The King only laughed and ordered the beast perform for his amusement; and when it refused, struck it with the Mad Scepter and ordered it dragged to the stocks.
Over the coming months, the boy Karroch sneaked food and medicinal draughts to the wounded creature, but only managed to slow its deterioration. Wordlessly, the beast spoke to the boy, and over time their bond strengthened until the boy found he could hold up his end of a conversation—could in fact speak now to all the creatures of the King's menagerie. On the night the beast died, a rage came over the boy. He incited the animals of the court to rebel and threw open their cages to set them amok on the palace grounds. The Last King was mauled in the mayhem. In the chaos, one regal stag bowed to the boy who had freed him; and with Beastmaster astride him, leapt the high walls of the estate, and escaped. Now a man, Karroch the Beastmaster has not lost his ability to converse with wild creatures. He has grown into a warrior at one with nature’s savagery.
Could have offered me a swig afore dying.
Bury me quills down, so's to poke the devil.
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