By JD Dempster
Legends of Aerwynd is a short introduction into the world of Aerwynd through narrative fiction. We hope you enjoy the tales of our heroic characters as we world build, play test, and develop the Aerwynd Campaign Setting. Updates to the stories may occur as things become more fleshed out. Look at the end of the Gegrik series (there will be three parts) for NPC stats of characters like Gregrik Hammermane to add into your adventures. Welcome to Aerwynd!
– Allen Childers, publisher, creative director, and owner of Spellhawks Press
Clouds laced with lightning pounded over the horizon.
“One of the Sky Herds approaches, my son. We must ask if the Stormspeaker sees an omen,” Bremos said, keeping his eyes on the approaching storm. Young as he was, Gegrik still felt excitement on seeing one of the many impressive storms that raged across Rovarrah.
Their kin-band had arrived at one of the many stopping points built by the herds only that morning, which was now proving to be fortunate with a storm approaching. Mounds of earth and stone were spread over a small area based around a central fire pit. Framed with wooden beams traded from other lands and with stones from the plains, they were a strong shelter from whatever the Herd’s kin-bands were near. This was not the only such place; many had been built in the paths of the yearly migrations to give some protection when something more than a tent was needed.
The earth lodge that currently housed the Stormspeaker was near the middle of the small cluster, easily recognized by the storm staff leaning outside the entrance. Gegrik had always been slightly afraid of the Stormspeaker’s staff, hung all over with leather cords bearing feathers, stones, and bones with vivid designs carved into the wood. Everything about the staff seemed to move on its own at times, as though it made what wind it wished. Father and son stopped at the lodge door, waiting for the Stormspeaker to invite them in. As a centaur just beginning to reach the later years of his life, he had grey starting to streak his hair and coat heavily. Gesturing to his apprentice, he turned his gaze to the pair at the door. At her master’s gesture, the apprentice tossed a pouch full of dried herbs into the fire in the heart of the small earth shelter.
Having gazed deeply at Bremos and Gegrik for what felt like a lifetime to the young centaur, he gestured for them to enter. Already a heavy smoke was starting to fill the small room with the strong scent of different plants, and Gegrik could swear he saw faces begin to form within its swirling depths. Bremos gave a nod of respect and acknowledgment to the kin-band’s conduit to the divine.
“One of Trenorok’s Storm Herds nears, wise one.” Bremos said. “Have the winds of its coming spoken to you?”
The aging Stormspeaker stared deeply into the flames, then took a feather fan from his waiting apprentice. Stirring the thickening smoke, he pondered just a moment more before speaking. His eyes seemed to suddenly look far away while a slight wind began to move through the room.
“The winds speak of a time when great change comes to the land. Not just our land, but all lands.” Pausing, he turned his still distant-seeing eyes to Bremos. “They also speak of bloodshed, betrayal, and a new future for our people. A hard, dark path, but one that can lead to great things should the right one rise up to lead. Trenorok, Father of Storms, will let his children speak no more.”
The Stormspeaker seemed to return to himself and shivered, feeling the cold greatly. Starting a little when his apprentice brought a small blanket to wrap around his shoulders, he turned back to his leader.
“Strong, strange portents it would seem,” he said. “Are you decided upon your course now, Kin Leader?”
Bremos was deep in thought as he replied, “Yes, wise one, I have. Now more than ever our people must embrace a new way of living. That is what I feel has been revealed.”
“Our Chief may not like what you plan. He sees anything but blind obedience as a threat to himself, foolish as that may be. I agree, Bremos, go forward with what you intend.” Smiling more to himself that anything, the Stormspeaker turned and headed toward the side of the shelter where he slept. “Now, off with you both! Let my old bones get some rest.” With his last words, the thunder that had been distant now boomed overhead.
“Yes, we had best get to our own shelter, lest we get caught in the storm,” Bremos said. Following his father out, Gegrik did not grasp all that had happened. What he did know was that something exciting and possibly new would be happening soon.
Pulling back the string of his bow, Gegrik let loose another arrow at the warriors of the Cloudwatcher Herd. His father was nearly among them, the ancestral weapon of their kin-band held across his chest before being raised high for a swing when near an enemy. Gegrik always felt awe mixed with a rush of energy when he saw that ancient axe. It was made of the jawbone from some large beast, mounted so that the long part of the bone that attached to the skull was a blade. The bone was hard and strong, enough so that an edge could be ground onto it. All along its length it was carved with symbols and images of their herd, the Firehoof.
Blood arced through the air as a blade collided with a warrior not fast enough to get from its path. More arrows flew between both parties as all neared for the final part of the engagement. Axes, both stone and metal, were pulled from shoulder belts while a small handful pulled raided swords of a variety of shapes and sizes from scabbards strapped to their sides. Two or three even held light lances, already lowered and ready to pierce any enemy flesh that approached them. Once both sides met, the fight went quickly. A few wounds on both sides, three dead, two of the Cloudwatcher’s with one of the Firehoof. Both sides broke off, dashing away from one another. Such was the way of the Storm Herds: quick strikes against one another with bloody raids against the caravans or any other outlanders. Dragging their dead kinsman along with them grew tiring fast, and when they were a comfortable distance they prepared the body to be returned to their father, Trenorok.
Centaurs in Rovarrah believed that they were once part of the many storms that raged across their lands, but Trenorok fell in love with the land that his herds constantly crossed. When he could stand it no longer, he tried to reach the ground below. In the tumultuous aftermath of that attempt, the Centaurs were born of earth, wind, and lightning. So the old legends state. Bremos stood over the dead member of his kin.
“Return to our brothers of the storm, brave one,” he said.
Running fingers over his eyes to pull the lids closed, Bremos turned and took in the state of his small party. Only a few small injuries, nothing too severe. All then gathered a few paces from the fallen warrior. Standing in silence with eyes closed and heads bowed, all spent the time in silent prayer asking the Thunderwalkers, those who take the spirits of the fallen back into the storms, to carry their kinsman back to their father.
Bremos broke the silence. “We are nearly there, let us press on and finish the journey.”
Putting his hand to Gegrik’s shoulder, he squeezed a moment to comfort his son before they all began to move with speed toward their destination, which even now was beginning to grow on the horizon. Upon seeing what they approached, Gegrik felt amazement increasing with every passing moment. Before them lay Cinderhold, the only city in Rovarrah. Tall, aged stone walls loomed steadily higher while a small lake, formed from a tributary, shimmered next to the buttresses. Having never seen walls, let alone so large a community, it was no surprise that Gegrik stared in awe.
“Part of our future lies here, Gegrik,” Bremos said, seeing his son’s expression. “Only through working and trading with the outlanders can we flourish and have peace. Treating them as enemies for no reason other than they are not of our people must change, or else we will fade. Already it is getting harder to raid, as the merchants are hiring more guards with better weapons each passing year. Here you will learn what you need to know to help bring our people into a better future. I am counting on you to help me with this dream, my son.”
They had neared the walls of Cinderhold and stopped a safe distance from the city, Gegrik noticed a small well-armed party making its way toward them. When they got closer, he could make out humans of several skin shades on horseback along with several Centaurs and even a Dwarf! All wore armor of some sort, mostly leather with pieces of metal riveted onto it, though one Centaur had a breastplate. They stopped a short distance away before calling out.
“Are you Bremos of the Firehoof?”
“I am. Do you still accept my offer?” Bremos stood, waiting and hoping that nothing had changed.
The Dwarf smiled, a gruesome sight with all the scars he bore. “We do indeed! Send the boy to us and we will teach him all that we can.”
Gegrik turned to his father in surprise. “You said this was a trading mission, father!”
A laugh burst from his father’s lips.
“It is,” he replied. “I am trading you to them so that you can learn things of the world outside our own, as well as new ways of living. Fighting for peace must be won at the end of a blade. While you are here learning the things we need to bring lasting change, I will be back with the rest of the Firehoof trying to sway more hearts to a new way of life.”
Embracing his son, Bremos continued. “Learn well, Gegrik, and know that I have endless faith in you. I will see you in a few years once I have prepared the way for what you will learn.”
They moved apart and Gegrik went to join the motley assortment of warriors awaiting him. He glanced back at the small party of his kin one last time. His father lifted his bone axe high as the group began to pick up speed heading back into the deep plains.
The Dwarf turned to him. “Well boy, seems that you are ours now. Welcome to the Cinderhold Guard.”
To be continued . . .