The Nentir Vale
A rough-looking, soft-spoken brute of a man, John has lived for decades in the wilderness of the Vale.
STR: 18 +4
CON: 16 +3
DEX: 10 +0
INT: 10 +0
WIS: 12 +1
CHA: 10 +1
Max HP: 45
Surge Value: 11
AC: 18/19 (-, shield)
Ref: 12/13 (-, shield)
The waters of Lake Nen were calm in the early morning, the day John Thornton’s father set out to fish. The hull of the tiny boat cut easily through the glassy surface and the bow sent ripples echoing outward.
John, that day only nine years old, looked on at his father’s cloaked back as it shrank into the distance. He watched as he always had for as long as he could remember, his father row into the deep vastness of the lake for the morning’s catch. In the boy’s mind wound not tension nor fear, but expectation for his father’s return to their village that afternoon to salt and stow what he had caught. He was excited for the work that lay ahead of them, for it meant the foreigners would come from places afar: short, robust men from the mountains with dark beards and deep voices, and the tall, painted men from the jungle to the north. They would bring tools for work John had not yet known, and furs from animals he had never seen, and they would trade these things for his father’s bounty of fish. Young John Thornton never thought for a moment that this day would be any different.
But then the afternoon came and went as it never had, and the traders from elsewhere did too. John’s father had never returned from the lake and his mother, worry-striken, had to turn them away.
For days after, the men of the village took to the water in their own small vessels. They combed the lake’s surface and shores as far as sunlight and time would allow, but to no avail. Little John Thornton’s father was lost somewhere beyond or beneath the reach of men.
From then forward, it was difficult for John to endure life in the village. For five years he stayed with his mother and tried to fill his share of the village’s duties for trade. But he grew bitter and calloused to this world of men. And he was ceaselessly haunted by memories of his father on the day he was lost.
He was well into his fourteenth year when the chance for his exodus came. The traders arrived again from Hammerfell and the northern forest, and John, to his mother’s terrible dismay, offered himself as a trade to the Barbarians. He did this in return for meat and furs for his mother.
“Enough to last her two seasons,” he declared.
Within the dark borders of their facepaint, the eyes of the Barbarians measured him keenly. His size and strength were found good, his potential measured adequate to their work, and so his offer was accepted.
John was taken into the deep northern forest, fabled by the men of his old village as a jungle labyrinth, from which no normal man has returned. And indeed it was, unlike any land he had ever seen at his age. In this new home of John’s, ferns, thickets and vines grew lush and wild. The yells of fishermen and farmers melted into the calls of untamed primordial beasts. Under the tutelage, at first harsh, of a giant clan member named Keothi, John took quickly to his new world among the Tigerclaw Clan. Navigation in the deepening wild became as a second nature, as did hunting and trapping game twice his size and thrice as vicious. He learned these things from Keothi in return for his services to the Clan, giving what he caught and oftentimes defending his catch from the Clan’s more barbarous members. And through this, his new life grew into him.
Over the next decade his relationships with the world around him began to change. With the barbarians, he became a close member of the clan, especially Keothi, but never fully accepted as a brother because of his foreign birthright. His relationship with nature, with the infinitely fluxing world, began to change as well. It was deepening the longer he dwelled within it. When he would hunt in a tree, he found himself unthinking, becoming as the tree. Chasing down a wounded elk rendered him feral as he charged through underbrush and leapt for the pounce. All of these things ignited within him an ancient, wild flame that fanned brighter in the depth of this cold northern jungle.
As he approached his twenty-fifth year, John felt his sojourn into the lush tundra nearing an end. An aged Keothi held for him a celebratory hunting campaign, which led the two men and four others far into the western Winterbole. From there John saluted a farewell to his master and friend of ten years, and broke south from the hunt.
He emerged from the jungle near the western shore of Lake Nen. Memories of his father crept back into his thoughts as he gazed out into the empty water. After so many years spent in the primal vacuum, the thoughts of his loss started to permeate him. But he withstood their control, not forgetting where he came from, only putting them away where they belonged.
From his emergence out of the Winterbole, he traveled south along the river past the Gray Downs until he came to the split of the Nentir River. There he crossed to the eastern bank and continued south to Fallcrest. It was here that he rejoined the world of men, finding work as a woodcutter, hunter, and farmhand for nearly a year before again feeling the heat of the wild flame. From there he took to the southeast, along the King’s Road, and settled in a small clearing in the dense woodland to the north of Harkenwold. Here he remained.
On a late afternoon day in his thirtieth year, John was trading furs and firewood with a traveling caravan on the King’s Road, just south of camp. As he was bartering he noticed that one of the merchant’s dogs, a thick-furred, strong-bred northern Husky, was perked alert and staring intently south across the White River. John was the only one that followed the animal’s gaze and spotted a group of goblin creatures amassing on the far shore. They were darting in and out of the trees, forming what looked to John to be a hunting party. John sprang for the river, and the Husky followed like a ghost beside him, all the while his master called out,
“Jack! Back, boy! Back, I say!”
But to no fortune. The dog Jack ran alongside John as though on a wild hunt.
John and Jack dove into the water and swam across the river’s width, pulling out on the other side into a screaming mass of battle.
The two fought as wolves, circling the horde, darting back and forth, bulling with shoulder and paw. John slashed with axe and fist, Jack gnashed with fang and claw. Soon they were joined by a small band of elvish scouts from the south, a contingent of the Woodsinger Tribe who loosed arrows into the fray and frightened off what goblins remained. This was John’s first meeting with the elves he would grow to respect and learn from, and their Elvish chief, Theren, came to respect him equally.
For two years since, John has grown as a trusted resource to men and elves alike, remaining in a small cottage in the forest north of the King’s Road. He ventures out as often as the wild flame flickers, always with his powerful and faithful companion Husky, Jack, whose master traded to John in exchange for enough furs and meats to last two seasons…