By JD Dempster
Gegrik gazed over the battlefield. His followers were busy collecting weapons and retrieving arrows from the dead. Shelera Stormspeaker was at his side, using a sharp blade and channeled lightning to carve a few new designs into his shoulder to symbolize another victory.
“We continue to kill Steelpelts and Firehoofs, and our numbers grow. We have members from almost every Herd now.”
Her comment was heard, though Gegrik only grunted in acknowledgment. She was right; they had been growing well in number. Enough that they had three bands of warriors now, constantly raiding one or the other of the two herds declared as their enemies. After four years of warring, he still felt it was not enough.
“We must kill those who laid the trap for our kin, then we can truly have a victory worth celebrating. And then I can continue my father’s dream.” He spoke more to himself than to her, though she listened just the same.
One of his scouts came dashing from the east. “Another band of Steelpelts just a mile or so east! Do we attack?”
Gegrik thought for a moment. Decision solidified.
“Gather the warriors, we go to set an ambush!” Those near cheered at the opportunity for more battle.
The approaching Steelpelt warrior band seemed oblivious to those lying in wait for them amidst the tall grasses of the plain. It wasn’t until the trap was being sprung, his warriors rising from the grasses and charging while letting arrows loose, that Gegrik felt stirrings of apprehension. Just as they began to engage the foe up close, dozens of Firehoof warriors came from the north.
“Our trap has become their trap! Flee! Split up and get back to the nearest safe haven!” Gegrik shouted, raising his axe high before smashing it straight through the head of an opposing warrior. The top half of his foe’s head flew off, trailing blood and brains. He began to try and break off but as his band made it free, more and more of the enemy focused on him. That was when Gegrik knew he was the target of the trap. A blow to the back of the head blurred his vision and he stumbled. Lashing out, he tried to use the broad blade of his axe to force back the enemies that surrounded him. Another blow and he fell, barely holding onto consciousness. They began to kick him and beat him. Finally, after longer than he wished, he slipped into darkness.
A hammer striking steel began to bring him back to consciousness. Tightness gripped his head, both from his wounds and something else, which he was not yet coherent enough to grasp. More hammer blows to steel. Trying to move his head, he learned that his long hair was pulled tightly back, bound somehow to whatever was behind him. Opening his eyes was painful, but necessary. A small group of Steelpelt and Firehoof warriors surrounded him, while one of their number finished driving what appeared to be steel spikes into a large boulder behind Gegrik. Once the spike was driven in, they gathered up the last free strands of his hair and bound it to the stake just like the rest of his hair was.
“So the trouble maker wakes.” The warrior who spoke had a fresh wound to the side of his face that continued on down to part of his chest. “Looks like we can have more fun.”
They proceeded to beat Gegrik more, and he nearly lost consciousness again. By then it seemed they had tired of tormenting him and left without any word, heading for a thin trail of smoke in the distance that was the only sign of a camp for a long way. When he was sure that his captors were gone, Gegrik began to force himself to think. Knowing that his band had most likely not had time to find him yet, he lashed out with his hoof several times in frustration. It collided with the stone behind him, breaking off a chunk on the last kick. An idea began to form.
Checking again that none were near, he began to take strong measured kicks to the stone he was bound too. When he began to tire, Gegrik allowed himself to sink into unconsciousness. So began his new routine. Get beaten and tortured, then left to himself most likely as bait for his warriors, while spending his time alone steadily trying to weaken the rock that trapped him. He did not know how many days passed thus, just that it was several. Shouts and the sounds of battle woke him while the morning was still dark.
“Find Gegrik, we have to free him!”
His warriors had found him! Rousing himself, Gegrik began to kick the stone as hard as he could. Sharp cracking sounds began to accompany the blows, while he felt the pull on his head lessen. Finally, with several great cracks, the spikes fell free. Panting and trying to summon the energy to begin fleeing, Gegrik saw several of the enemy had noticed the beginning of his escape as the dawn sky lightened moment by moment, revealing all.
“Do not let him escape! Kill him if you must!”
Pulling on whatever reserves he could, Gegrik began to charge his foes. Knowing he could not face their blades with just his fists, he realized he did have a weapon. The fastest of the enemy reached him, and Gegrik swung his spike-strung hair as hard as he could. Several pounds of steel struck the warrior in the temple, causing a loud crunch. The Steelpelt crumpled to the ground, dead. His companions stopped in shock, giving Gegrik all the time he needed to be among them, striking with his new found hammers. Before long all his foes were dead or badly wounded.
At the shout he turned to find several of his followers led by Shelera, who had his father’s axe in her hands.
“We are so glad you live, we had feared you dead! I found this in their camp,” she said. She handed the axe to him and went to remove the stakes still attached to his hair. Holding up a hand, he stopped her. At her curious look he spoke, “Let them remain as a reminder, of both what can happen when you are deceived and what you can do when you have no other course left. Gather our warriors, we have business to attend to.”
Khelent felt fear, but tried to hide it under outrage.
“This upstart wishes to challenge me to a duel for who will be chief? What gall! And this new name he has gained, Hammermane, ridiculous!”
“It is his right, as it is any of ours who are Firehoof.”
The head Stormspeaker of the Firehoof Herd had long felt that Khelent was unfit to lead, but none had dared to challenge him so she had been forced to bide her time. Her newest apprentice stood behind her, his hands gripping the large bag that held her herbs and tools. Khelent glared at her, as he often did.
“His father was a traitor to the traditions of our people. If anything he is an even greater traitor than Bremos was. It is my opinion that he has forfeit any of the rights of our people.”
Silence filled the large tent. Gazing around, the Firehoof chief realized that his herd was nearly lost to him with only his most trusted warriors still willing to follow him. Looking into the face of the Stormspeaker, he also realized that they wanted him to fight and die. Anger flared up in him. “Send word that I accept his challenge. Let this all be ended when he is cold and dead upon the ground!”
Kin-leaders and warriors from all the kin-bands that made up the Firehoof Herd gathered to watch the duel. Gegrik had arrived first and stood waiting in the center of the gathering where a space had been cleared and was being prepared for the duelists. Khelent arrived with his warriors. He was armed with a mail half plate and a broad curving sword. Gegrik wore the leather and splint armor from his time in the Cinderhold Guard and wielded the ancestral bone axe of his almost extinct kin-band.
Shelera and the head Firehoof Stormspeaker both moved in a circle, cleansing and bespelling the dueling ground. Bowing to one another, they then moved to their respective sides of the circle. Gegrik moved forward, kneeling before Shelera for a blessing.
“Trenorok, give this warrior’s arms your lightning, his legs your storm winds, and his heart your thunder!”
He stood and saw Khelent refused a blessing from his Stormspeaker.
“I shall kill you with no aid from the Stormfather!” he spat.
Stepping into the circle, both warriors raised their weapons high before falling into a ready stance.
“Ready to die, boy?” Khelent thrust forward with his sword, and was easily parried by the bone axe. The thrust hid him pulling a whip from his chest and lashing it toward Gegrik’s face. Quickly jerking his head back saved his eye, yet did not stop a cut from being opened on his forehead. Shaking the blood from his eyes, he glared at his opponent for such a cheap and dirty move. He punched his axe forward to lure Khelent into swatting it aside with his sword. But the axe head was too heavy, along with having both of Gegrik’s arms behind it instead of just the one arm that Khelent held his sword with. Realizing his error, the Firehoof Chief tried to recover just to have Gegrik twist the head of the axe, nearly wrenching the blade from his foe’s hand. The rebel leader took the opening to swing his blade unopposed. Khelent barely saved himself from a mortal wound, though he received a heavy gash to his side.
Trying to reclaim the momentum of the fight, the chief swung his sword in a wide, brutal arc. Catching the swing once more on the head of his axe, Gegrik grunted from the strength behind it. He forced the blade down and punched the handle into Khelent’s face. Stunned by the hit, he stumbled back and never saw the blow that ended his life. Standing tall and proud, Gegrik held Khelent’s severed head up for the gathered members of the Firehoof to see. They cheered and shouted, “Gegrik Hammermane, chief of the Firehoof!”
Now chief of the Firehoof Herd, Gegrik was quick to seek those herds that had agreed with his father, building them into an alliance. Only a few months after his rise to Chief, the gathered warriors of the herds began to strike against the Steelpelt Herd and the few small herds who refused to give up the old ways. Word came to Gegrik that Norolos, Chief of the Steelpelt Herd, was gathering his warriors for a final stand.
“Stormspeaker,” Gegrick asked, “would you send word to the herds to rally their war bands? It is time we ended this bloodshed.”
What followed was one of the largest battles that had been seen in Rovarrah in many ages. Many were slain, including Norolos of the Steelpelt, and the remaining Steelpelt Herd scattered to the winds. The few herds that had sided with the Steelpelt were shattered the same, several extinguished completely, and the remainder joined with those working with the Firehoof.
With such a great victory achieved, the old Stormspeaker of the Firehoof Herd came to Gegrik.
“Now that you have accomplished the destruction of your enemies and the near complete unification of our people, what will you do?”
“We will begin to trade with the merchants that pass through our lands,” Gegrik answered without hesitation, “and we will offer our warriors as guards and guides for a fee. When we begin to undo the centuries of hostility that our raiding has caused, we will start trying to use some of the better things that we can learn from the outlanders to improve the lives of our people!”
Seeing the fire that burned in the young chief’s eyes as he spoke of his dreams, the Stormspeaker felt at ease. Here at last was one worthy to lead.
* * *
Want to play Gegrik as an NPC? Here are the basic stats for this legendary Aerwynd character!
Gegrik Hammermane, Chief of The Firehoof Herd
Class: Barbarian, fifth level/Ranger, fifth level
Background: Outlander Known Alliances: Firehoof Herd, Cinderhold Guard
Hit Points: 121
Armor Class: 17
Class Feats: Rage, unarmored defense, reckless attack, danger sense, extra attack and fast movement, storm aura* (grasslands – this feat is for Spellhawks’ Path of the Storm Herald)
*When this affect is activated, you can choose one creature that you can see in your aura. The target must make a strength saving throw or be pushed 15 feet away in a straight line from you. On a failed save, the target takes 1d6 bludgeoning damage from any debris from the gusting winds. Half as much damage on a successful throw.
Class Feats: Favored enemy, natural explorer, fighting style (two-weapon fighting), spellcasting, ranger archetype (Hunter), hunter’s prey, primeval awareness and extra attack
Spells (PHB) (XGE): Zephyr Strike, Hunter’s Mark, Longstrider, Beast Bond, Pass without Trace, Beast Sense
Equipment: Ancestral bone axe, splint armor, Horn of Rovarrah
Ancestral bone axe: +1 magic weapon for anyone, but a +3 for Gegrik and his bloodline.He also gets advantage on combat roles while using it (up to once a day) and has 1d8 slashing damage.
Armor class: 17
Centaur Race Traits
Ability Score Increase: Your Strength score increases by 2.
Age: Centaurs reach maturity at age 17. They tend to live as long as humans.
Alignment: Centaurs tend toward the chaotic and neutral alignments.
Size: Centaurs are 7 to 9 feet tall and weigh in at 1800 pounds. Your size category is large.
Humanoid Torso: Your size is large, but your torso is considered medium for armor and weapons.
Speed: Your base land speed is 40 feet.
Type: You have a Monstrous ancestry.
Natural Weaponry: Your proficient with using your hoofs as weapons. With a single attack, your hoofs do 2d6 bludgeoning damage.
Centaur Weapon Training: You are proficient with longbows and pole arm weapons.
Charger: When you use your action to Dash, you can use a bonus action to make one melee weapon attack or to shove a creature. If you move at least 10 feet in a straight line immediately before taking this bonus action, you either gain a +5 bonus to the attack’s damage roll (if you chose to make a melee attack and hit) or push the target up to 10 feet away from you (if you chose to shove and you succeed) (PHB).
Quadruped Gait: Your hooves give you a disadvantage to your Stealth checks. Your larger size makes navigating human-designed structures troublesome. Climbing ladders and other scaling may cause issues as well.
Languages: You speak, read, and write Centaur and Common.
Rovarrahn Centaur Subrace
You are a part of massive cavalry of nomadic tribal warriors that, when drawn together, rivals the largest of armies. Occasionally, you are mystically called away to defend your homeland.
Ability Score Modifier: +1 to Wisdom, + 1 to Constitution
Thunderheart: Your courage beats in your heart like an elemental tempest. Advantage to all saving throws against intimidation or fear effects.
Stormbrand: Your Stormbrand is the mark of your herd. Your herd is considered your blood kin tribe. Once per day you can cast Thunderclap as if your stormbrand was a magical tattoo (XGE).
Weathersight: You have proficiency and skill in reading nature’s signs in the weather. You can also determine if weather patterns are unnatural.