Valeran Hardek

A human swordmage, a foundling raised by the dwarven blacksmith Harvel Hardek

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Harvel awoke to three sharp knocks apon his door. “It be damn near three in the mornin’,” the old smith grumbled as he felt with way through the small house. Upon opening the door, he growled out a “Yeah?”
“Be ye Harvel, the Steelweaver?” a low, raspy feminine voice asked. The sound was almost as pleasing as sandpaper on sunburned skin. Almost.
“Aye, that I am. And what be your name, mistress?”
“That is none of your concern.” This drew an even deeper scowl from Harvel. “What does concern you is this babe I hold before me.”
“The wetnurse is down the street from here. I do not deal well with little ones. Now, it be late and I have an early mornin’-”
“The moment this child was born a nearby tree, an ancient oak, was stuck in twain by lightning. It was this event that brought me to the mother as she succumbed to the rigors of childbirth. My Sight does not grant me the knowledge of the boy’s father, but I do know that if he is to have a chance at fulfilling his purpose, he must start with you.”

When Harvel thought of this night in the following years he could not remember ever agreeing to take the boy or ask of his name from this strange, perhaps otherworldly, woman. He only remembered waking up the next morning finding the child in a cradle he did not make and with the knowledge that the boy’s name was Valeran. The messenger was nowhere to be found. Cursing his luck, and maybe the gods a little as well, squared his shoulders to the task ahead. He had been alive for more than a century already. How hard could raising a child be?

The seasons past quickly for Valeran. Harvel was successful in instilling the traditional dwarven values within him. Honesty, fealty, and courage. Perhaps, too well with courage, for Valeran had a distressing habit for finding danger and an unquenchable thirst for adventure. The old dwarf still shuddered at the memory of Valeran, barely after reaching his seventh name day, confronting a lone wolf that had been harassing the town’s livestock for some time with nary but a large dagger newly worked from the forge. Both he and the wolf were found, each slick with blood and barely breathing. However, when one of the townspeople moved to put the wolf down, Valeran stopped him with a word. “He’s beaten,” the boy had said. “He’ll leave us alone now.” And true to his word, the wolf was never seen again.

While an event such as this would cow another child, it seemed to ignite some sort of passion for order within the lad. Valeran took it upon himself to patrol the outskirts of the town, and to become a sort of junior watchman. This had the unfortunate side effect of other children labeling him a tattletale, as he reported every small slight and misdeed to the nearest adult, much to the townperson’s annoyance. Between his “patrols” he would devour any book he could come across, whether it be fiction, magical theory, theology, or history. His duty did not dampen his need for adventure though. Woe be to to the traveler who let slip a tale within the child’s presence, for he would not leave the poor man’s sight till he had drained every story from his lips. Valeran would not even let Harvel escape from his questions.
“Tell me another story from the war, father. Please?”
“I dinnea know how you came to this love of battle, son. I know it’s not from my side of the family. It be much more horrible than a story would be able to convey.”
“But surely there are heroes and great deeds done in the name for truth and justice? Evil has only won when good men do nothing.”
“Aye, perhaps,” the old dwarf conceded. “But all the heroes I know are dead. And stories cannae tell ye what the horror is like, gagging on the stench of your friend’s corpse. Or slipping on the entrails of a dying man who is crying out for his mother. It be terrible, Val. I would not wish it to come so soon if I were you.”

But those warnings did not dampen Valeran’s enthusiasm. When the Presser came to the village, an eleven year old Valeran had lined up with the rest of the eligable and almost pulled it off until the Presser asked for his age. Alas, he found that try as he might, he could not lie about his age, even for such a noble cause as this. He wept for the rest of that day, sure that his only great chance for honor and glory had passed him by on a technicality.

So the year has passed, and with most of the adults gone, Valeran has concentrated on his duties to a much greater degree, much to the chagrin of the entire town. He looks to the town’s entrance often though, hoping to see the Presser come down the street once more, ready to give him the opportunity he has been waiting for. Evil may win when good men do nothing, and if that’s the case, then Valeran will do everything.

Valeran Hardek

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