Aestus Fellblade Backstory

1. Human baby, stolen away at age 2 by orc raiding party, but I had a wooden toy rhinoceros on me that I’ve been able to keep since. I do not remember my name, my parents, or where I was taken from.

2. I was taken from my parents by the Fell clan of orcs and kept by Tulklak Fellgrave. I was made a child-slave by Tulklak and made to serve him. I was called Smoragig, which is translated as “insignificant smear.” I was put to tasks such as digging his latrines, taking his orc filth to the latrines, burying the bodies of other child-slaves, skinning and butchering hunted game, tending crops, repairing damaged furniture after orc brawls, polishing weapons and armor, sharpening fangs, etc, and was severely beaten if I didn’t complete these tasks according to Tulklak’s expectations. My enslavement by Tulklak Fellgrave didn’t last long, however, as an even fiercer orc, Ungro Fellblade, killed him and claimed ownership over all of his possessions, including me.

Ungro Fellblade was the most brutal orc I had ever known. I was kept chained up in a shed outside his home and given only a couple tattered and torn blankets to keep me warm through the nights and winters. I was given old, torn clothes that were always too big or too small and often soiled, filthy, or bloody and taken from the slain bodies of other victims of the warband, and these were only given because “nobody should have to tolerate disgusting human nakedness.” My bed was a shallow trough dug into the ground inside the shed. I was fed spoiled leftovers, moldy bread, rotting fruit rinds, and, on occasion, meat scraps and bones.

I had very limited contact with other child-slaves, even one or two who were taken from my village (though I never knew it), and such contact provided the only friendship I would experience as a child. The closest of these friends, “No-Thumbs,” was only my friend for 3 years before he succumbed to the brutality of his master, Apaugh Fellsoul, the clan’s chieftain. There were other “friends,” or rather, child-slaves I had occasion to interact with, but all eventually died off to beatings, malnourishment, sickness, or infection.

I, too, was expected to “fulfill my debt” to the clan by dying off like the rest, but I somehow survived the violence and harshness. The orcs never took adult slaves and kept all child-slaves from becoming adults by ensuring conditions were so harsh that they died while still children. Ungro Fellblade eventually stopped calling me Smoragig and renamed me Dulgan, meaning “Hardscrabble.” Of course, this was an ironic name and he used it very mockingly – almost as if I had become his personal challenge – still expecting to cause me to die. I never did, and after 7 years, Ungro Fellblade decided to dispose of me, but found a way to profit by doing so: he sold me to a passing group of slavers.

3. I was taken to Darkcrest by the slavers and sold to House Araric led by Lord Itham Araric and Lady Lyra Araric, brother and sister. They immediately recognized the strength within me and sent me to the gladiator pits to be trained for the arena. The manager of the arena was a gnome vampire worshipper named Birkiss Pebbletoe. He had tattoos covering half of his face, many piercings in his ears and nose, and a nasty scar stretching from his lower lip down to his chin, giving him a very fierce appearance. He always seemed to have a drink in his hand or nearby – he drank like a fish. Though he was never drunk, he was always somewhat tipsy. He sized me up pretty quickly, noting my pathetic appearance and malnourished body, and in his usual no-nonsense manner assigned me to the household of Spikes to have my health attended to.

Spikes was a Maha’i gladiator slave whose renown had earned him great respect and value within House Araric. He had his own personal quarters big enough for his own family. He was so important that Lord and Lady Araric even assigned slaves to tend to his wife, Labiba, and their daughter, Farah. It was the most luxurious thing I had ever seen! I quickly learned to appreciate having clean, fitted clothing and shoes, and, I don’t know why, but a tear ran down my face when I tasted cooked food for the first time.

After several weeks in their care, they were able to coax the tale of my prior experiences out of me. They marveled at the cruelty and the shape I was in when I came to them. Spikes remarked that there must be a fire burning in my soul to survive the way I did. Soon after, Spikes and Labiba gave me a name, Hajir al-Shams (heat of the sun). A name! I couldn’t believe it. It was the first time I had ever had a name – and a home.

I was cared for as a member of the family. Labiba taught me hygiene and etiquette while Spikes taught me discipline and how to prepare for the gladiator life I had been assigned to. I was included at their table during meals and Labiba told me stories of the Maha’i, including the legend of Tawru One-Horn. I formed a friendship with Farah and especially enjoyed playing with her when she wasn’t constrained by her slave duties.

Birkiss Pebbletoe would make appearances every now and then to check on my progress and offer his approval on the improvement of my health. After several months, when I was 10 years old, he said I was fit enough to begin my training and took me to the gladiator pits to live and train fulltime. I greatly missed the regular company of Labiba and my friend, Farah, but at least I got to train with Spikes very regularly. Spikes’ status allowed him to still invite me over for dinner on occasion, but he feared that I might appear favored to the other slaves, which prohibited more frequent visits.

4. For the next 6 years, I trained hard in various weapons and combat techniques. Spikes was a master and I was the beneficiary of his years of experience. Apparently, Birkiss Pebbletoe had been reporting to the Ararics on my progress; one evening, they summoned me to their courtyard for a private exhibition. Master Pebbletoe escorted me there personally. As I arrived, I recognized Lady Araric, lying on her lounge chair with her entourage of men gathered behind and beside her, and Lord Araric, fully armored and leaning on his sword. Near the center of the courtyard was a prison wagon containing a man dressed in a white cloak.

Master Pebbletoe informed me that I was to have my first fight that night. I was to fight a dangerous criminal who had dreadfully wronged House Araric and my aptitude was being tested. The criminal was to be executed, but the Ararics were making sport of it by pitting him against me in a death match. If I won, I would be serving justice and, as a reward, would be sent to the arena to finally become a gladiator like Spikes.

The white-cloaked man was released from the wagon, his chains removed, and a mace placed in his hands. He had been told that if he killed me he would be set free so he made no move to attack his captors. Master Pebbletoe handed me my battleaxe and instructed me to remember and trust in my training. The fight didn’t last very long, but it was pitched and exhausting. The whitecloak saw my youth and believed he had the advantage, but my first parry and counter maneuver shattered his overconfidence. As I stood over his body, his blood dripping from my axe to spoil his white clothing, the sound of my heart pounding through my ears faded to the sound of Lord Araric’s enthusiastic applause. Lady Araric simply stared at me over her goblet filled with deep red liquid, a subtle smile on her lips, while Lord Araric thanked me for serving justice to his house and asked my name. When I replied, “Hajir al-Shams, my Lord,” Lady Araric scoffed and said, “How uncivilized!” Lord Araric agreed, but asked for the meaning of the Maha’i name and I told him. He stated that I needed a name more suitable for the house, a name for the arena, a name to intimidate and inspire fear. Those last words recalled my childhood and the terrified, broken boy that I was. I could think of only one name that inspired fear as I said, “Fellblade.” “Hmm, Fellblade,” Lord Araric replied, “I suppose that will do. Very well, we’ll call you Aestus Fellblade.” “Yes, that’s a much more civilized term for ‘fire’ than using that bastard language,” Lady Araric said.

From that point on I was known as Aestus Fellblade. When I made my debut appearance in the arena, Master Pebbletoe announced me as the Newcomer, the Fresh Meat, Aestus Fellblade. The other gladiators, Master Pebbletoe, and the Ararics called me Aestus. As I began to win fights and gain my own renown, the fans and people of the city began referring to me as The Fellblade. But to those who truly knew me, to those with whom I shared a bond, I was still Hajir al-Shams.

When I wasn’t fighting in the arena, I was training. I would train with Spikes as often as I could. I shared so much with him. I owed all my victories to the training and discipline he gave me. And I had many victories. I was making quite a name for myself in the arena, gaining some renown, and becoming quite popular, but my greatest victories were the battles won side-by-side with Spikes. Those are the ones I remember the most. It was such a loss for me when he fell in the arena. If only I was with him during that fight… He would have never fallen if I could have had his back that day…

This marked the loss of the only family I’ve known. After the death of her husband, Labiba fell ill to grief and died soon after. Without her parents or the protection of their status, Farah was sold to one of the major houses and I haven’t seen her since.

5. Over the next couple years, I had a great many more victories and my popularity rose. My name was shouted throughout the arena with praise by those who wanted to see how far I could go, or with disdain by those who wanted to see me finally meet my end. I was gifted weapons and armor by wealthy patrons who wanted to give me an advantage or by grateful gamblers who wanted to repay me for the fortunes I had won them. This popularity eventually brought me into the direct service of Lord and Lady Araric.

While my status hadn’t increased to that of Spikes and his family, Lady Araric pulled me out of the arena to join her all-male entourage. She reveled in flaunting her celebrity gladiator as her personal bodyguard. I went from having a purpose in the arena to being a mere decoration, a vain symbol of her wealth; it was disgraceful. At least the Lord still appreciated my skills. I became his chosen champion in personal battles of honor and private bouts for his entertainment. This usually meant more executions of prisoners disguised in the pomp of his personal arena. At his command, I’ve fought and killed many criminals, traitors, and wrong-doers for the house, including several more people wearing the same white cloaks as my first opponent.

6. 10 years have passed since Spikes was killed and there’s been some strange goings-on happening in town. There are rumors of a feud heating up between two of the greater vampire houses. One day, an uproarious commotion stirs up in town and Birkiss Pebbletoe charges down to the gladiator pits with a desperate look on his face. He announces that House Araric and the whole city are under attack and that Lord Araric has called all soldiers, guards, and even all of the gladiators to arms. He promises that all who serve in defense of the house shall be rewarded. He urges us to haste as we collect our armaments, strap on our armor, and leave the pits. We spot a squad of guards and follow them into the city.

We followed the guards into the marketplace where Lord and Lady Araric were already issuing orders alongside the head of another house. Tables and trade carts were overturned to fortify a barrier while we all took up defensive positions. Suddenly, a fierce, feral-looking vampire dropped out of nowhere into the midst of our fighters. Her face covered in burns and scars, she seemed to feel no pain as she sought the destruction of everything around her. She went right at Lord Araric with unearthly speed, ending him in a flurry of blows so fast, I’m not sure he swung his sword even once before he went down.

This enraged Lady Araric who immediately engaged the maddened creature. While they fought, we were able to close in on her, but this crazed vampire was incredibly skilled. She was dodging and parrying attacks coming from every direction while at the same time struggling with Lady Araric. I’ve never seen such skill and power! She felled several of my comrades, including Master Pebbletoe. I was able to land several good hits on her with my pike, but it didn’t seem to matter, she was so strong.

Even more chaos ensued as a ray of light shot across the marketplace and lanced into the assailant. She seemed to catch fire from the light. Then she arched her back in pain as she was struck by two arrows. In her fury she reached out and grabbed the vampire leader of the other house and tore out his life. Lady Araric continued her onslaught as another beam of light struck the attacker, narrowly missing the only house leader still standing. Her skin was melting away now; I couldn’t believe she was still standing! I charged in for another attack, but a wild swing of her blade forced me to dodge away. Suddenly, above the sounds of combat I heard, “The day comes for darkness!” As I turned to the source, I could swear I saw the familiar horns of a Maha’i, but thought my eyes were tricking me in the heated melee. My attention was immediately drawn away as a pillar of fire fell from the sky and completely enveloped Lady Araric and the monster she was entangled with.

We all raised our hands in front of our faces to block out the light and the heat, but as soon as it was gone, so was our foe, and the Lady of the house. We stood astonished and confused. Had the creature vanished? In her quickness, had she repositioned herself behind us while we were blinded by the skyfire? Then, the sight of my eyes was confirmed as a Maha’i stepped forward, body glowing, holding a gleaming sword aloft, and began to speak. I barely heard the words he spoke as I began to realize who it was that I saw. It was Tawru One-Horn! The legendary figure from Labiba’s stories himself! How could it be? But I guess that’s what makes legendary heroes so legendary. The last of his words rang out, “…even Darkcrest shall come to be known as Dusklight,” and I knew I had to follow him.