A little over a year ago, I made a post about a character idea I had for a halfling barbarian. I did actually end up playing her for a while, and during a session I sketched what I imagined she would look like. Here it is!
Gap-toothed and all
The creaking of the ship as it gently rocked made Evalyn uneasy at first. She was accustomed to sleeping lightly, keeping an ear out for such sounds, and now she attempted to tune out those would-be warnings. Soon, there would be the rolling nature of the ship to add to her discomfort. And yet, she was eager for the ship to depart.
The morning fog fled the sun’s touch, and the docks teemed with townspeople again. Evalyn stood on the top deck, left hand resting on her short sword’s pommel, waiting for the remaining two members of their new gang. The elf stood with her, occasionally commenting in an attempt to goad her into conversation, but she ignored him for the most part. He was prattling on now about the beauty of nature or some such. She watched as burly men (now there was some beauty of nature) loaded supply crates onto their ship, many of the crates those purchased by her new employer the previous day.
As if summoned by her thoughts and announced by great clanking as loud as any king’s trumpeters, up came Jack from the bowels of the ship, strapping his long sword to his hip. Unforn followed from a distance hauling an unhappy Turchak.
“Are you ready?” Evalyn asked Jack.
“Of course.” His voice betrayed nothing other than excitement. He seemed to fidget but not from nerves, she guessed. He practically bounced on the balls of his feet; she imagined he would be jumping if his armor was suddenly removed and chuckled at the thought.
“What’s going on? Why are you laughing?” Trev asked, glancing back and forth between Evalyn and Jack.
“Jack has a duel in about an hour or so,” Unforn answered, placing Turchak on the deck. The wolf perked up after standing in open air.
“Oh. And I assume we can leave after that?”
Evalyn stared at Turchak and then pointedly at the elf. “Hey, aren’t you a druid?”
“Uh, yeah. Why?”
“This guy isn’t a druid and has a wolf. You’re telling me you don’t have an animal?”
Jack laughed and said, “Yeah, what kind of druid are you?”
“Oh, I didn’t know you wanted to meet my friend,” he replied and then made a loud, shrill cry. A hawk swooped down and landed on his staff, tilting its head back and forth to take everyone in.
On closer inspection, Evalyn noted he was a ferruginous hawk, and memories of her father flooded in unbidden. She shook her head to clear it. “What’s his name?”
The druid made a noise, a combination of clicks and shrieks. The bird stood taller, and Trev grinned proudly. Birdbrained elf.
“Sorry I asked,” she replied, rubbing her ear as if pained. Trev didn’t seem to notice or care as he presumably conversed with his hawk. “Shall we?” she asked, turning to Jack.
They wormed their way through the crowd to the less infested streets. After wandering many alleyways, they found the plaza as the sun reached its zenith. As they approached, so too did Marus and his seconds. Evalyn noted his helm was indeed quite impressive.
“Good to see at least one of Ern’s followers has a spine. My men did not believe you would show your face,” Marus’ deep voice rang through the suddenly silent space. The tension was nearly tangible, and Evalyn was happy she wasn’t the fool about to duel the imposing man some thirty feet away; a mile would be too close for comfort.
“Yes, we all know you talk big, but let’s see how well you fight,” Jack bellowed back, drawing his blade and readying his shield. Marus appeared to attempt a smile though the result was more of a disdainful grimace. He dawned his helm and likewise prepared himself.
Evalyn barely heard the crunch of rock on rock through the clatter of the metal clad men approaching one another when three Darkblades burst forth from an alley, instantly the center of everyone’s attention. They quickly took stock and drew their weapons upon the sight of her.
“You are interrupting a fight of honor. Stand down,” Marus growled, clearly irritated by the intrusion.
“These people have been harassing my companions quite stubbornly. I doubt they’ll stop now,” Jack responded. As if to confirm his point, two additional Darkblades tried to slip in and would have succeeded had the area not been so scrutinized. Evalyn drew her short sword and stretched her offhand to check the dart up her sleeve.
“Give us the woman and we’ll cause you no more trouble,” the closest one demanded, voice muffled by the mask each of them now wore. Jack and Marus exchanged incredulous glances. Without saying a word, they both changed their stances to face the new threat.
The Darkblades quickly caught on, and the late comers moved to flank. Anticipating their maneuver, Evalyn flung her dart at one and missed, but he became hesitant to continue his movement. She hadn’t waited to see how fared her aim and launched into her attack on the nearest foe. Her blow connected but only seemed to focus her would-be victim as his armor blocked any damage from getting through. She was vaguely aware that Unforn and Turchak had entered the fray and that Trev had most certainly not, choosing instead to back away and observe. She could hardly blame him.
The two paladins made short work of all that opposed them, and she herself took out a couple with some well placed backstabs. The battle ended within a few minutes, every Darkblade dead on the street. Evalyn sighed. I wanted to avoid this, but you were all so persistent. Look where your greed and ambition got you, she thought as she sifted through their pockets. Only five gold among you?! Shouldn’t have paid that guard so much, you morons.
“Uh, Evalyn?” Jack asked. She looked up and noticed Marus’ disgust and Jack’s feigned indifference. Trev had rejoined them and looked surprised and concerned.
“You’re pretty quick to go pilfering the dead. . .”
“Oh. Well, it isn’t exactly ‘pilfering’ now, is it. Does ownership really exceed death?”
“Nope!” Unforn happily proclaimed, and she turned her attention his way to see him systematically stripping their deceased assailants and placing their armor, weapons, and various other items in a heap.
She turned back to the paladins and said, “And you’re giving me a hard time.”
Marus, disgruntled, rumbled, “You fought well, for one of Ern’s. We need not duel today, but the next time I see you, perhaps then we will cross swords.”
“I look forward to it,” Jack replied as Marus tromped away.
All but the diligent Unforn watched his exit, and when he and his were out of sight, Trev quietly inquired, “So now that your fighting thing is done, what’s next on today’s list?”
“A visit to some armor and weapon merchants, obviously,” Unforn answered.
They headed off to the docks, Jack happily leading the way. Jack’s merry, metallic tromp turned into a slower, wrathful march. Evalyn peeked around him and saw another paladin in dark armor, helm off, speaking in loud, attention-grabbing tones.
“Here’s another of Ern’s people. Proud and ignorant as ever.”
“And here’s another coward who hides behind his words because he doesn’t have the steel to fight,” Jack brashly proclaimed back.
The man’s eyes hardened, and he paused to size up Jack and his companions. A small, angry smile played across his lips. “Bold words. If you believe what you are saying, you would not back from a challenge, right?”
“Of course not!” Jack belted.
“Then tomorrow, here, noon. We’ll duel and see who is the lesser man.”
Jack nodded firmly, and the man with his own companions clanked away. A moment passed as Evalyn and Unforn exchanged confused glances, and suddenly Jack seemed to almost melt. “Shit. That guy is a badass. He might murder me tomorrow. Care to be my seconds?”
“Uh, suuure. . . Who was that?” Evalyn’s tone was forcefully blithe.
“Remember those enemies of my church? The Fallen is one such group. That man is Marus, leader of the Fallen. . . And brother to Ern.”
“Ern? Like, the god you follow Ern?” Evalyn asked, stunned.
“Yeah. . . Remember how he used to be a mortal? Well, that was his brother.” Jack sighed. “His helm was awesome, too.”
The trio walked to the docks in relative silence. The docks themselves were as expected: crowded, smelly, and loud, but oddly not unpleasantly so. They managed to make their way through the masses to one of the smaller vessels. As Jack stepped up to climb aboard, a decrepit woman hailed them, her voice somehow cutting through the din.
“You are travelling to the island that once was lost.” It was not a question.
Evalyn answered anyway. “Yes. . .?”
“Then please, take these trinkets for good luck.” She handed carved wooden necklaces to each adventurer. Evalyn immediately put hers on with a shrug of her shoulders and noticed the others do likewise.
“Thank –” Evalyn began, turning toward the woman. . . who was hobbling away. “What is it with these people?” Evalyn muttered under her breath and swiftly caught up. “Thank you!” She said quickly before the old hag could escape. “Take this with my gratitude.” She handed the woman some copper pieces. The crone accepted with an expression one part amusement, three parts condescension before shuffling away. Evalyn turned back toward the others who both had similar gazes. “What, I can’t give a bit of compensation? It’s luckier that way, right?” She grinned widely, and they rolled their eyes nearly simultaneously. What a couple of wet blankets.
The two men walked across the gang plank, wolf trailing uncertainly behind them. As Evalyn began to follow suit, she looked back toward the old woman in the crowd. That druid from outside the wall was talking to her, accepting one of her trinkets. HE definitely needs one, Evalyn thought. He can use all the luck he can get. Ha! Petition. But he wasn’t her problem, so she hopped onto the deck to catch the last of the discussion between Jack and the captain of the ship. Money exchanged, hands shaken, and they were off the boat once more. . .
. . . And the druid walked aboard after them. Great, maybe he will be my problem. The elf stopped as if he heard her thoughts and turned to them.
“Hey, are you guys going to Lemuria, too?” His voice was gentle but not nearly as musical as she thought elven voices were normally.
“What’s it to you?” Evalyn asked before Jack could respond. He elbowed her in the ribs.
“Shut up, maybe this guy can help us,” he told her then turned to the druid. “Yes. Do you want to join us and share resources?”
“Sure! I’m not good with people, so. . .”
“So what?” Evalyn asked irritably.
“So. . . if you have a problem with me, you’ll have to tell me. I won’t really get hints.”
“Ookaay. . . who would ever have a problem with you?” She rolled her eyes.
“Wow, what’s your problem, Evalyn?” Jack asked with an amused half smile.
“Yeah, Evalyn, what did this guy do to you?” Unforn joined in, looking as if he held back a laugh.
“I don’t know what’s going on or what seems to be funny, but my name is Taurvantian,” the druid said slowly, glancing among the three of them confusedly. “And I like your wolf.”
“Thanks,” Unforn replied, puffing up his chest slightly. “His name is Turchak. Good to know some people appreciate him,” he said pointedly. Evalyn waved dismissively.
“So, Torvanton?” Jack asked.
“I’ll just call you Trev, how about that.” Jack looked pleased with himself; “Trev” did not. Evalyn grinned wickedly.
“Trev it is,” she said cheerily.
Near exhaustion, Evalyn stumbled along the road, the port city of York sprawling before her. Even from here, she could see a great mass of people clinging to the outside of the city’s walls; a line wound around the city. That may prove problematic. . . Nonetheless, she continued on, hoping for sanctuary within those walls.
When she reached the crowds of people, she noticed they appeared to be refugees camping outside the walls, a city surrounding a city. They were pitiful, dirty, and rank. She kept her distance to the best of her abilities in what little room was reserved for a sort of walkway.
Walking among them yet clearly out of place, a tall, lanky elf with twigs and leaves stuck in his long, blonde hair was talking to groups of refugees, leaning against a staff and holding out pen and paper. Curious, Evalyn walked just a little closer and caught the words “petition,” “city,” and “lord.” She chuckled softly to herself as she passed. Does he really think a petition will do anything? Obviously, these people all want in. Strange for an elf to get so involved with humans in such a way. A druid, no less. . . What is he doing near such a big city?
She reached the main gate and confidently stepped up to a guard, completely bypassing the line and ignoring a loud, “Hey!” accompanied by many glares. She smiled.
“Good day, sir, quite the fuss you have out here,” she said pleasantly.
The guard gave an annoyed look and replied, “Yes, many people want in but few have the proper permissions. We are not letting just everyone through, or our city would be overrun with these. . . refugees. . .” His expression was of long-suffering as he pointedly glanced at the surrounding people. He made the last word sound like a curse, which undoubtedly was to him.
“Very wise of you. Judging by the state of their, uh, camps, they would cause this fair city a lot of grief. Keeping the majority out is by far the best solution. . . I, however, am not a refugee and come bearing extremely important information for the lord of this city.”
The guard’s expression turned dubious. “Then tell me, and if it truly is important, I’ll let you pass and provide you with an escort.”
“I’m sorry, it is for the lord’s ears only. I can assure you, the information is vital as well as its secrecy.”
He eyed her and seemed to be calculating the risks of each choice. Finally, he sighed and waved her through, perhaps coming to the conclusion it wasn’t worth the trouble.
“Wait! Stop her! She’s a thief!” someone bellowed from the crowd. A glance behind revealed a Darkblade rushing toward her.
The guard gave her a look. “Honest, they’re lying and they’re the thieves,” she quickly said, then flipped him a coin. “For your trouble.”
And she bolted through the open gate with a quick look back. The Darkblade was joined by two others; they all handed over coins to the guard and stared at her. They were through, and the chase continued.
They were fast, but she was faster and had a head start. She took a few turns down narrow alleyways and pressed herself flat in a small alcove. She waited a few tense moments listening for her pursuers. Convinced that she lost them, she crept out of hiding.
Somehow managing to keep herself together, Evalyn wandered around looking for a tavern or inn. As she rounded the next corner, she heard the sound of running feet but too late.
“Over here! Thief! Thief!” one of the Darkblades yelled as he charged. He took a swing at her and she wearily tried to dodge, to no avail. The blade found purchase past her armor, and she nearly doubled over as it pierced her abdomen. She jumped back and ran, sweat dripping into her eyes. She lost them again in the alleyways, panting heavily. I’ve got to get away from them. How are they still running?!
Her darting eyes found what she sought: a tavern full of adventurers, booze, and hopefully empty beds. She dragged herself toward it, wiped the sweat off her brow, straightened up, forced a smile, and shoved through the door and people up to the bar.
“Some of your strongest, please,” she said, tossing some coins on the bar. The barkeep nodded and disappeared to the back.
Above the usual din, she heard clanking behind her, and so she turned to catch a glimpse. A black-haired man wearing full plate armor with a long sword at his hip approached her.
“Hello,” the man said. “Is everything okay? You seem a little out of sorts. . .”
Shit, I must look horrible if this stranger noticed something off. She followed his gaze to her stomach where blood was seeping through her armor.
“Nah, I’m fine,” she responded, meeting his eyes. The barkeep brought out a tankard, which she grabbed gratefully. She took a step toward an empty table and involuntarily grunted. The man grabbed her elbow to steady her. “On second thought. . . maybe a little help would be appreciated,” she hissed through clinched teeth. The world started spinning; she clung desperately to the back of a chair.
“Okay, hold on, this should help,” she vaguely heard him say. Warmth spread from his light touch. When it reached her stomach, it blazed into a brief inferno, but before she could cry out, the pain vanished.
“Wooooo,” she breathed as she straightened and tried to dust herself off and put herself in order. “Thank you. What’s your name, sir?”
“I am Jack.”
“Evalyn Wright. Nice to meet you. Care to join me for a drink?”
“Sure, lead the way.”
Evalyn continued to the empty table and plopped down wearily. She flagged down a barmaid, ordered another couple of drinks, and took a long swig from the one she miraculously still held.
“So, Jack, what are you doing in this fine city of York? Heading off to that island?”
“Yes, actually, and I’m looking to hire some adventurers and mercenaries to go with me. My church is seeking artifacts to help us face our enemies.”
“And who are they, exactly?” she asked cautiously.
“Basically everyone else. My church is kind of. . . unpopular. And when I say, ‘kind of,’ I mean very.”
“Why? What’s the name of your church?” Do I want to get involved with this guy’s problem? The money might be good and it’s a way to get to the island, but religious fights are the worst. . .
“It’s. . . complicated. I follow Ern, who was once a man but ascended to godhood when he sacrificed himself for the good of all.”
“Why do people not love you, then?”
“You realize you’re talking to one of Ern’s followers, right? I’m biased. I don’t know why they don’t all follow Ern. . . maybe they don’t like that he used to be a mortal.”
As he spoke, she noticed a half-orc man wearing a ridiculous cap over his black braids approach as if he belonged at the table. When he had reached within a fairly close proximity, Evalyn stared pointedly at him. When he continued to move forward, she asked, “Yes?”
“Huh, it isn’t often I’m greeted in the affirmative,” the half-orc replied, his voice strangely soft, belying his appearance as a brute. A scratch-clacking sound came from behind him, and Evalyn saw a hint of fur; a gray wolf leaned against the man. Before she knew it, she was standing on her chair, blade bare. “It’s okay!” the half-orc quickly said, holding his arms out as a gesture of peace. “No need for alarm!” Tavern patrons looked their way, waiting to see what happened next.
Slightly embarrassed, Evalyn sheathed her short sword and sank back into her chair. “You might have mentioned you had a wolf following you around. . .” she muttered. The rest of the tavern went back to their business and drinks when it became apparent nothing interesting was going to happen.
“Turchak isn’t just any wolf; he’s a ranger’s wolf. He’ll behave, so long as I’m around,” the man stated proudly with a smug grin.
“And who the hell are you?” she asked grumpily.
“Another adventurer I hired to go with me,” Jack interrupted. “Evalyn, this is Unforn. Unforn, meet Evalyn Wright.”
“Nice to meet you,” Unforn warmly said.
“Yeah, a real pleasure,” Evalyn replied. She grinned then and accepted his handshake.
The door slammed open and three sweaty Darkblades stormed up to the bar, noticed her, and shoved their way forward. Jack stood up and blocked their way. “What’s your problem?” he asked. They gave him frustrated looks before going back to staring intensely at Evalyn.
“That woman is a thief and stole a very valuable amulet from the lord of the neighboring city. As a godly man, surely you see she must come to justice?” their spokesman asked.
“Is this true?” Jack turned to her with an expression that was all seriousness.
“No, I definitely did not steal the amulet they are talking about,” she replied with all the sincerity she could muster. Which was not much at this moment. Jack looked doubtful, and the Darkblades sneered at her. She tensed, waiting for his verdict, ready to claw her way out of her situation.
Jack turned decisively toward them and asked, “Well? You heard her. She doesn’t have it.” Well, that’s a different story, she thought but kept her mouth shut and face straight.
Their sneers turned to scowls and haughty disbelief. “She’s a liar and a thief. You best watch your back, Sir Paladin, lest you find her blade in it,” their spokesman spat. They angrily turned around and stormed out of the tavern, which had grown quiet and watchful yet again because of her antics.
“Thank you, again, Sir Jack. They’ve been harassing me quite consistently for the past several days now,” Evalyn said with a sigh and allowed her face to fall.
“Hmm, you’re going to be trouble, aren’t you,” Jack replied, looking her over warily. She tensed again. He barked a short laugh, slammed a hand (a bit painfully) on her shoulder, and said, “It’s fine. We’ll deal with it.” She winced jokingly and gave an exaggerated pained grin.
“So what do we do now?” Unforn asked patiently.
“Right!” Jack exclaimed. “First, we should see about our sea fare, then maybe pick up supplies. Who knows how long we’ll be on that island. . .” They lingered around, lost in their own thoughts, until Jack broke their trances with a loud, impatient, “Okay, let’s go, then.”