The Last Days
human wizard pc
Berien is a large man. He towers over over the other humans and elves around him, his bright red hair and beard like a fiery beacon atop a watchtower. He wears a long leather coat, tooled with intricate knot-patterns. In warm weather, he goes sleeveless, baring the awful scarring that covers his arms (and indeed most of his torso as well). He carries a staff wrought of sturdy darkwood, banded in dark iron and carved with the same intricate knot-work, and a dark green, leather-bound tome hangs from his travel-pack, secured with a fine golden chain.
Berien Collier, as his name suggests, grew up the son of a charcoal burner in the great forest about 2 days outside of Korth in the nation of Karrnath. There he lived with his father, Mern, mother, Drosea, three older brothers (Emmell, Terat, and Kron) and his sister, young Adeline. They were assisted in their efforts by Tem, a surprisingly personable Karrnathi Skeleton, damaged beyond battle condition in a skirmish with Thranish knights, who would thrill the boys with stories from his long career, both alive and undead. Despite the ongoing war effort, the production of charcoal was deemed important enough for the boys to avoid the draft. It was a dangerous life, full of hard work and rough living -so far from the easy protection of a large city, like Korth, illness and injury could be incapacitating. Fortunately, Drosea was a skilled healer and trained her children in the ways of the wood, making the small homestead almost entirely self-sufficient.
Twice a year, Mern and one of the older sons would load the family’s wagon with the product of their hard labor and cart it to Korth for market: once in late spring and again in the fall, just before the snows blocked the road and cut the Colliers off from the rest of civilization. Making charcoal is hard work, and the family spent nearly all of their time minding the ovens, chopping wood, or replanting trees to maintain the coppice. In his little bit of free time, Berien would head into the woods to read one of the precious books his father sometimes brought back from Korth; Berien had his mother’s keen mind and learned quickly, devouring the texts and often committing them to memory, so that he could recite them later, fascinating his dear little sister with tales of great heroes and the turbulent history of Khorvaire and the Great War.
For all the hardships of their isolated lives, the Colliers were largely free of great trouble. With Drosea’s skills (which Adi was picking up as well) and the strong backs of the four Collier men and Tem, their loyal retainer, the hold stayed self-sufficient, and its isolation meant that the family drew little attention during the wars that ravaged the country-side or from the greedy eyes of deserters and criminals. In fact, Berien hadn’t been away from the hold, or even met another soul. His family, especially his treasured little sister, was his whole life, and the hold (with the surrounding forest) his whole world.
In Berien’s 13th year, Mern told his youngest son that he was coming on the fall trip into Korth. The boy was thrilled, and even more so when his mother told him the day before the trip, that he needn’t help load the wagon with the heavy pallets of charcoal. She laughingly gave him the day off and handed him a new book, a heavy volume bound in blue-scaled leather that the boy had never seen before; Drosea playfully put one finger to her lips, mock-whispering “Don’t tell your father”. He slipped away into the forest to digest his new treasure, stopping to promise his 10 year-old sister that he’d tell her all about it when he got back from Korth.
Curled up in the branches of his favorite tree, Berien greedily tore into the book -a detailed history of the glory days of early Galifar and the prophecies of the great dragons. Something about this book was different, disorienting. As he read, Berien swore he could see the shining spires of Argonessen, smell the mystical incense of a bygone ritual, hear the arcane intonations of the chanting priests. Wound up in the strange world of the tome, Berien lost all sense of place and gleefully delved deeper into the text.
Suddenly that world vanished with a thud, as the boy landed hard on the mossy turf of the forest-floor, staring up at his tree in the fading sunlight. He had lost all track of time, and whiled away the entire day. The sights of ancient Argonessen were replaced with his familiar forest, the smells of magical incense with thick smoke, and the sonorous chanting with bellows of pain and grief.
Something was wrong.
Springing to his feet, Berien ran home, where he was greeted with a horrific sight: the hold burned, the fallen bodies of his brothers littered the ground, Tem was shattered to splinters, and his father knelt in a growing pool of blood, struggling to stand, trying to follow the trail of the family’s wagon which had disappeared into the trees. The boy ran to his father, who grasped his arm and pushed him away, his speech slurring in pain as he croaked: “Your sister…” Berien thought he understood, and left his father to rescue his little sister from the burning long-house.
The body of his mother lay in the front room, still clutching a wooden box that Berien recognized as her apothecary’s kit. Weeping a prayer to Balinor for her, Berien plunged deeper into the burning building, searching desperately for his little sister. He tried to cry out to her, but the smoke seared his lungs. He tried to reach for her, but the flames licked his flesh. He tried to look for her, but she was nowhere to be found. The burning structure grew unstable, and Berien gave one last look into the flames before he turned to leave, dragging his mother, and the box, out with him. The fires had already wreaked terrible damage upon his young frame, and even dazed and disoriented, the clever boy knew he would need the healing herbs within the kit.
Mern had collapsed, his sightless eyes staring emptily at the clear night sky. His family dead, Berien knelt, wracked with pain from his burned flesh to his wounded soul, weeping in the gathering night, watching what was left of his world burn.
He was alone.
The next days were a blur. Berien remembers burying his family, picking through the ashes of the hold for some sign of his sister, finding none. And then he found it. A body.
In some low scrub a short way from the house the creature had one of his father’s axes buried in it’s back. Berien recognized that it was a hobgoblin from his books, now burned, and knew that they had a reputation as slavers and mercenaries. On its chest was a strange symbol, like a dragonmark, but not one of the twelve. Somehow though, it looked familiar. Committing the shape to memory, Berien left the body where it lay, hoping that some wild creature would desecrate it.
The snows came early that year, and Berien built the best shelter he could; lost and alone, Berien knew he was two days from Korth, but he did not know the way, and the family’s wagon and Nell, the old mare, had been taken by the hobgoblins. Along with his sister, little Adeline.
Somehow, whether through the skills taught him by his mother, through fate, or through sheer dogged determination, Berien survived a long, cold winter. Becoming more and more savage, with only the strange sights and sounds of the draconic book to keep him company, Berien survived, grew hard and stern, fighting off predators and becoming one himself. He reveled in the cold, as it shielded him somewhat from the fiery nightmares that plagued his sleep.
Finally, spring came, and one day as he stalked a deer through the trees, Berien heard a strange sound, one he had not heard in a season: singing. Creeping up on the source, Berien spied an old man, a human, sitting on a cart near the burned remains of the long-house. The man scratched his beard for a moment, and climbed down from the cart, muttering to himself curiously. Berien took in this new interloper, and crept up on him, hunting spear in hand. As he approached the man started and turned around, smiling warmly to the boy and trying to reassure him. Berien circled warily, not sure what to make of this new development, until the man produced some food and calmed him down.
The old man’s name was Tyrean d’Cannith, and he introduced himself as a traveling tinker and scholar, curiously free from the difficulty of war; he’d been hoping the side-trail to the long-house was a shortcut on the road to Korth. He was kind and empathetic, and Berien took to him quickly. Tyrean offered to take the scarred, scared boy to the city, and to teach him if he could, for Tyrean was also an Artificer of no small power. Berien was cunning and quick-witted, and proved a quick study, though his talents were more for wizardry than artifice. For years, the two traveled together throughout Khorvaire, until Tyrean was called to Thronehold in Cyre by House Cannith. Unable to ignore the weighty summons, Tyrean was forced to part ways with his pupil until released from his new duties. 18 years old, Berien set out on his own, wandering as he had with his mentor, trading magical aid for food and shelter.
A few months later, Berien receives a strange missive from his old master:
I’m afraid it looks like the attack on your family was not mere coincidence.
Will send word when I know more.
Tyrean has not yet sent any more information, and Berien’s inquiries with House Cannith yield nothing. Tyrean is nowhere to be found, and none of the current House leadership even claim to know the man. It is as though the old scholar has vanished without a trace.
Berien returned to his wandering life, hastened out of Sharn after one-too-many indiscreet investigations regarding the local nobility. He still bears the blue-scaled book, one of the few physical reminders of his family, although he still bears the scars, physically and emotionally, from that night in the fire. He hopes against hope to find some trace of his little sister, Adeline, or his mentor, Tyrean. The hobgoblin’s symbol is etched into his mind, familiar, yet strange.
After his involvement in the disruption of Project Aboleth and his run-in with the Circle of Thirteen at the end of the War, culminating in the destruction of Cyre and the Mourning, Berien attempted to enroll at Morgrave University, hoping the school’s library might hold some keys to unlocking the riddle of that mysterious group. Unfortunately, he wasn’t there long before his short temper, his Karrnathi heritage, and his “theories” about the mourning soured his relationship with the faculty and the other students, and he was forced to move on.
The wizard then attempted to contact House Cannith to arrange a foray into the ruins of Eston to recover anything that remained of of his friend and ally, XVIII. When the house bureaucrat refused to help and grew evasive, things quickly escalated, and Berien spent the night in a Brelish prison for assault. Unwilling to pursue the matter under watchful Brelish eyes, the House dropped all charges and had Berien released, with an unambiguous warning to keep his distance regarding his unique warforged friend.
Berien now travels the villages and steadings of Khorvaire, taking small jobs as a wandering pellar and magewright. He occasionally takes contracts from wealthier patrons to root out minor threats and magical mysteries, but his constant ear for rumors that might lead to the Circle, Tyrean, or his missing sister has caused him to abandon a few of those contracts unfinished, earning the displeasure of minor nobles and merchants from Valenar to the Eldeen Reaches.
The four years since the end of the war have been a litany of burned bridges for Berien, and he is currently in the back country of Karrnath. He has little money and few friends these days, but maintains a regular correspondence with his old allies Morgaine and Daphne Bologna. They are among the few friendly voices he hears lately.