Lands of Astoria
George Madoc SOUL TRAPPED
But first, you've got to get mad!
AKA The Hero of Broken Ridge
AKA ‘Furious’ George Madoc
AKA George ‘Mad Dog’ Madoc
George is slight of build for a human, let alone a half-orc, but he is comprised entirely of compact, corded muscle. His black hair has a white streak at the back where he was shot, and his grey eyes have an unblinking, feral intensity. On his back is a zweihander taken from an Efrian landsknecht which is longer than he is tall, and his head is always covered by a tricorne hat and a headband – the better to conceal his Erathisian heretic’s brand. While he is travelling or on a mission he wears a mask of a sort occasionally donned by his mercenary band, of blackened steel carved with the likeness of a snarling wolf, as well as a ragged red cloak. While his otherwise drab attire comprises several armoured pieces, there does not appear to be enough to actually offer any serious protection.
‘Ice’ (Frost Brand Zweihander), The Sword of Pirn (+1 Longsword), Dusty Rose Prism Ioun Stone, Bag of Holding, Ring of the Ram, Boots of Elvenkind, Amulet of Water Breathing, Periapt of Proof against Poison, Drow Cloak of Protection +1, Drow Short Sword +3, Drow Spear +3
George was born in a small hamlet in Sior’s Reach, a region in the mountains on the border of Efria and Tegria; the descendant of hard-working Tegrian pioneers and, somewhere down the line, an orcish raider. Blood which had lain dormant for generations resurfaced, watered down with human blood though it was – slightly pointed ears, pronounced lower canines, a brutish face, and a surly demeanour. By some quirk of ancestry, George was actually smaller than most of his peers, though he gave as good as a boy twice his size and years when it came to scrapping in the yard outside the local inn. Sior’s Reach had little in the way of arable farmland, so George grew up learning the ways of the wild, and how to hunt for his supper.
In George’s 16th year, the local Tegrian lord died in a hunting accident, and dominion over Sior’s Reach passed down the line of succession to an Efrian nobleman – the Baron von Pirn. Sior’s Reach was a minor holding in the middle of nowhere, however, so the Baron von Pirn sent the least and youngest of his sons, Viktor, to rule there in his stead.
Viktor was a man with ambition beyond his station. When he was appointed ruler of Sior’s Reach, he decided that he would make a name for himself by rooting out some of the hardy mountain orc tribes which would occasionally come down from the peaks to raid and pillage. Accompanying Viktor was a company of his father’s soldiers and a band of Efrian knights from the Order of the Mailed Fist. Not wanting to unduly risk such valuable troops, however, Viktor also conscripted peasant levies from the local population – among them, George.
The Hero of Broken Ridge
Over the course of several weeks of skirmishing against the Broken Tusks, the campaign finally drew to a close at what would later be known as the Battle of Broken Ridge. The orcs massed just over the ridge, creating an area of no man’s land between each force with volley after volley of arrows. Viktor finally saw his chance for glory – a sortie up the ridge by his well-armoured knights to resist their arrows and break their lines. Organising his father’s men, he led the charge personally, resplendent in his ancestral plate mail.
The Broken Tusks warchief was no fool, however. Over the course of the past several weeks he had taken Viktor’s measure as a commander, and he knew that if Viktor was presented with an opportunity for a glorious cavalry charge, he would take it. Halfway up the ridge the orcs revealed why they had concealed themselves behind its lip; rolling over the edge was a line of huge boulders which brought Viktor’s charge to a crashing halt. Viktor himself survived, but he was left trapped under his horse, watching helplessly as wave upon wave of orcish raiders descended after the boulders, screaming for his head.
As Viktor’s forces milled in confusion ahead of the charging green tide, George, seeing his commander about to die, leaped into action, dashing towards the line of dead knights. This galvanised first his own section, and then the rest of the now leaderless forces, and they charged the orcs with equal ferocity. Just as the lead raider came to deliver the finishing blow to Viktor, his blade was blocked by George’s flimsy wooden shield, and his head taken by George’s humble woodcutting axe. Soon George was joined by the rest of Viktor’s forces, who rallied around their fallen leader and managed a fighting retreat back to their lines, Viktor in tow.
With the Broken Tusks’ strategy foiled and their numbers now greatly depleted, Viktor’s forces were able to finally defeat them, and Viktor achieved his first major victory as a commander. But as he thanked his men, and smiled, and made merry, and his men held George high, chanting that he was the Hero of Broken Ridge, internally Viktor was seething – he owed his life and his triumph to a lowly, pathetic, half-breed peasant levy – and only technically even an Efrian peasant levy, at that!
The Man with the Silver Gun
George was popular amongst the troops after the Battle of Broken Ridge, however, and Viktor’s Army’s morale would be greatly damaged by Viktor turning on the man who saved his life. Outwardly, Viktor maintained the façade of the personable, daring commander who cared for his troops, but his hatred kept building, and he never stopped looking for an opportunity to finally take George out of the picture.
Viktor’s opportunity came when his father, seeing that Viktor was making a bit of a name for himself in the borderlands, sent more soldiers and support personnel to bolster Viktor’s army. Among them was a priest of Erathis, the god of civilisation and one of the patron gods of Efria. The Baron von Pirn also sent a gift for his newly favoured son – a bespoke ebony-handled silver-inlaid flintlock pistol, fresh from the artisanal workshops of Mr Burleigh and Mr Stronginthearm.
Erathisian doctrine, and indeed Efrian law, held that while the civilised magic of the wizard or the priest was to be admired, the magic of the wilds was to be abhorred. Amongst the peasants of Tegria, a certain amount of hedge magic was practised – simple charms to ward off hunger or thirst, to sharpen a blade, or turn aside an enemy’s. What in Tegria was viewed as harmless folk magic was viewed as witchcraft, through the lens of Erathis.
Viktor, who had not previously given this aspect of Efrian law much thought, became aware of it when his new priest started complaining loudly about the small charms that some of the peasant levies wore around their necks. These trinkets were foci for wild magic, clear evidence of druidic sorcery, used to erode civilisation itself! And if Viktor wanted to avoid a mortal insult to Erathis, he must purge the Wildmen from his army.
As Viktor stood contemplating whether to christen his new pistol with the brains of his new priest, he recalled that George was never seen without a small bronze pentacle with an etching of a rat’s head in its centre, on a cord around his neck. Abruptly changing tack, he agreed wholeheartedly with the priest, and ordered that the peasant levies’ meagre possessions be searched for evidence of heresy. Unsurprisingly, he found this evidence around the necks of George and his section.
While George’s recollection of the events leading up to his execution are somewhat hazy these days, George does recall Viktor’s artfully shocked expression, his passionate argument in George’s defence, countered by the priest’s conclusion, after measuring George’s head with a pair of oversized callipers, that George had the skull of a Wildman (among other things). The heat of the brand on George’s forehead, applying the mark of an Erathisian heretic. Viktor’s words as he stood behind his victims vowing that he could allow no one else to stain their hands with the blood of his men. Victor’s face, pointed away from his men but reflected in a nearby puddle, an expression of mad glee as he put his pistol to the back of George’s head and finally rid himself of the reminder of his near failure.
Or at least, he would have, had George not possessed that trace of orcish ancestry, and the ability to survive apparently mortal wounds that came with it.
I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!
Some time later, George awoke in a ditch, skull throbbing with the worst headache he would ever experience. As he lay there in torment, the slightest movement sending agonising pulses through his shattered cranium, he considered many things: the circumstances and events which had led him to this situation. The treacherous ‘noble’ whoreson who had just shot him in the back of the head, and the myriad ways in which he might die. The relative status and privileges of the upper and lower classes. How one might remedy this disparity. Through some combination of insight, severe brain damage, and semi-intentional trepanning, George had an epiphany:
…an epiphany rudely disturbed by the rumble of a wagon train on the nearby road. To George’s ears, so close to the ground, the rumbling of the wagons sounded almost like the stamping feet of wave upon wave upon wave of orcish warriors… like a cavalry charge up a steep ridge… like the war drums of the Broken Tusks… like gunshots heard at deafening proximity. As these thoughts flashed across his fractured consciousness, George began to feel like he was flying across an alien landscape, with a sky full of red mist and a collection of nebulous figures. These figures resolved themselves first into Orcs, and then Viktor’s Efrian soldiers, and finally a myriad horde of Viktor himself, leering with that damnable expression of mad glee. George mercilessly struck the spectres down, screaming with rage and pain as he tore them apart. Abruptly, he came to – and found himself standing in the middle of a large pile of wreckage and bodies. He was covered in blood, his muscles burning, and his throat raw – but, his headache had inexplicably lessened.
George wandered aimlessly for a time, living off the land and continuing to suffer from murderous blackouts. While time eventually healed some of the damage he had sustained at Viktor’s hands, these periods of rage when all conscious thought fled his mind were a persistent legacy, and one which precluded George’s being able to seek healing for his ailment. He became in fact as well as by judgement one of the Wildmen that Erathisian doctrine warned of so fiercely, and was turned away from any towns he encountered in his travel as a result. Eventually, George drew hunters to himself as well.
At first George was not entirely aware of this, but as his blackouts kept leaving him in places of concealment, or placed to watch someone pass by, he began applying what he’d learned fighting the orcs in the highlands to evading, trapping, and ambushing his pursuers. After some weeks of this George was finally caught, but rather than being executed out of hand, his hunters seemed impressed. Here was a man clearly suffering a massive head wound and not in his right mind, yet even in the throes of madness and rage he’d been able to foil their pursuit with skill and cunning. His hunters introduced themselves as members of the Wolves of Castra Novus, and asked George if he’d like a job with the Wolves of Castra Novus.
Taking George back to Castra Novus through the Whisperwoods, he finally received proper healing for his head wound. While the periods of involuntary madness were gone, the rage bubbling just below the service remained, and George was a changed man from the young Hero of Broken Ridge. His eyes now had a mad hunger to them, and he spoke often of a desire to topple the ruling classes, of a society run by the common man. Most of all, he sought revenge against Viktor von Pirn for his treachery.
George has served with the Wolves ever since, hunting roving bands of monsters, sabotaging the defences of their employers’ rivals, chasing the odd pirate, taking in bounties, and occasionally robbing employers who thought they shouldn’t have to pay for the Wolves’ services. He has sought Viktor for all this time, but to no avail; wherever he is seeking glory, it has been far from Tegria.
Most recently, he has been tasked by the Wolves to repay a debt to an old friend of theirs…
The ‘Unseelie’ Spectre
Several years ago, George was stationed at the Castra itself when they received word that a fugitive had escaped an angry mob in a nearby town and fled into the Whisperwoods. Thinking nothing of it, it was with great surprise that George and his section encountered a ragged figure stumbling through the forest while on patrol along the Way about a week later. The Wolves prepared to ambush this unfortunate who had travelled so close to their Castra, but as they closed in, the figure became shrouded in a fell darkness, sprouting skeletal, ghostly wings. Faced with this spectre who so resembled a noble of the Unseelie fey court, most of the Wolves fled in terror. George, however, could see the well-worn weapons at the figure’s side and the ragged travelling clothes, and held his ground. As the darkness receded and the figure stumbled forward a few more steps, George laughed heartily, for he had found a new recruit for the Wolves.
The Wandering Hermit of the Whisperwoods
On a number of occasions when travelling to and from Castra Novus, the Wolves have encountered a peculiar figure wandering the Whisperwoods; seemingly a gnome rather than a fey trickster spirit, but one that never seems the suffer the horrible fate of other trespassers in the fey-haunted forest. The Wolves view this figure with some suspicion, not knowing the source of its ability to freely traverse the Whisperwoods, but it is believed to be bad luck to interfere with its passage, and the hermit occasionally shadows the Wolves on their patrols along the Way.
On one such occasion while George was on a routine patrol, a black mist descended upon the Wolves’ camp as they slept, and a group of twisted, stunted figures emerged; almost gnome-like, except somehow twisted and malevolent. The Wolves were unprepared for this ambush, and the creatures cut several of the mercenaries down before they knew what was happening.
The hermit had been shadowing this patrol, however, and had encountered such creatures of the mist before – she knew they were beings of madness given form, ravening creatures which would not respect the compact the Wolves had struck with Relkath. Springing into action, the hermit drew on Relkath’s presence in her mind to project an illusion of his rage, causing several of the creatures to shrink and flee in terror as they felt the anger of the Lord of the Whisperwoods. Those remaining were made of sterner stuff, and attacked the hermit en masse, savaging her furiously as she responded with blasts of iridescent, crackling force.
The brief lull in the assault as the hermit intervened allowed George and his Wolves to regroup, and they drove the creatures away – but not before the hermit lay grievously wounded on the forest floor. Setting aside the normal restriction forbidding outsiders from entering the Castra (or, for that matter, being allowed to live if they knew its location), George and his section rushed the hermit back to their base to heal her. Once she regained consciousness she introduced herself as Oriandi, and ever since she will occasionally join George on his journeys through the forest.
The Lizardfolk Huntress
On the way back from a successful bout of pirate hunting, George and his section were partway back to the Castra when they encountered a lizardfolk in a clearing. Swords were half out of sheathes and the creature looked ready to bolt before George held up a hand to stop them. For one, the lizardfolk did not look hostile and appeared to be wearing tribal garb, and more intriguingly, it had a large game animal slung over its back. To George’s knowledge, no one was allowed to hunt in Relkath’s domain, and this was perhaps the most common source of complaint in the ranks of the Wolves. That this lizardfolk appeared to be doing so with impunity got the gears turning in George’s head, and he motioned his men to quiescence and introduced himself. The lizardfolk was wary, but in halting common she introduced herself as well.
The Wolves and the lizard made camp in the clearing, put the meat on a spit, and they spoke of many things – whether the lizardfolk was part of a greater tribe (she wasn’t), whether she was allowed to hunt in the Whisperwoods (she was), who the Wolves were, and some of their adventures in the outside world. The lizardfolk appeared very interested in this last part, and George expounded on the topic, with occasional contributions from his men. It seemed the lizardfolk had never been outside of the Whisperwoods, and she was very excited when George produced some minor trinkets he had found amidst the pirates’ haul.
George proposed a trade – he would tell the lizardfolk tales of the outside world, and provide some small, interesting items, and in return she would hunt some game for George’s section. The lizardfolk eagerly agreed, and ever since, after a successful mission, George and his men will enjoy a fine spit roast over daring tales of adventure.