The Onland Campaign V
Micah Koll Ap Collin - bastard son of Thane Colin Koll ap Codwin
Corsair 4 / Bard 5 Str 12 Dex 18 Con 10 Int 14 Wis 10 Cha 18 Hp: 64 AC: 21 (chain + dex + canny defense) Fort +5 Ref +12 Will +9
Trouble started for Micah at any early age – before he was even born, in fact. Micah is the bastard son of Collin, a widowed noble and landowner who, after the death of his wife, became enamored of a local woman of dubious repute. A local “wise woman”, Malena was a stunningly beautiful dark-haired, blue-eyed girl who was consulted widely by the commoners of the area, while at the same time being condemned as a witch by many—most especially the local preacher of Onn. Micah’s father met her when, desperate to save his dying wife, he enlisted her help when all else had failed – the priests had failed to save her, he was willing to try anything. She did not succeed in saving the wife, but the noble found in her a very willing shoulder to lean on in his moments of grief. They fell deeply in love despite their shame in how they met, each entranced by a glimpse into the world and life experiences of the other. A strange attraction took hold of them, and though both of them knew it could never work, they clung on trying to ignore that doom hanging over their heads.
They kept their relationship a secret for months, until the cleric of Onn found out about the affair and pressured Collin to cease it, lest he be excommunicated for fornication with an obvious infidel and worshipper of Arhiman. Collin was unsure what to do – his critical mistake was to hesitate and appear to listen to the priest; for Malena, fiery of spirit and quick to anger, became sure that Collin would choose his faith over his love. Before Collin could truly make up his mind, she left him, returning to her country abode and swearing to never love again. For her spurned love, she had only harsh words and tears; for the priest of Onn, she had another gift – a curse. From that day on, the priest was subject to frequent bouts of explosive and foul flatulence, most particularly when he was giving a sermon. That last bit of spiteful revenge would prove her undoing.
Retreating to her home and shuttering herself away from all contact, Malena soon realized she was with child. As her anger with Collin soothed, she came to cherish the life growing within her, and she struggled on whether to tell him. As the hour of birth approached, she knew she could not keep this from Collin; whether he could love her on not, he should know his child and have a chance to love him. Summoning a friendly messenger spirit, she sent word to Collin; his son was about to be born, and he needed his father. Little did she know how true that might be.
The baby came, and he was the spitting image of his mother – dark haired with eyes of deepest blue, and a peaceful spirit upon him. She lay him in the crib, and rested, awaiting her love to come and for a new day to begin in their lives. That day was not destined to come, however.
The priest of Onn had endured his humiliation for many months. Where once he had been a man of respect and power, now he was a fool for all to laugh at. His anger seethed inside of him, and he knew that the witch must be the cause. He had endured her fiendish lures on his flock long enough—oh, he knew that witch well. She had even dared to seduce the lord of this domain, and attempt to turn him against Onn! This could not stand!
The priest had long preached against Malena. Now, he fanned the flames to their greatest height – rousing the peasants, he called upon them to strike down the witch. Recent crop failures and deaths of livestock had stirred up their superstitions, and now they sought someone to blame. For Malena, this would be her bitter end. They broke into her simple hut, catching her at her weakest point; had she possessed her full powers and wits, the peasants might have been the ones feeling her wrath. Alas, weak from childbirth, she could not resist as they dragged her off. The priest imagined the honors he might be bestowed for rooting out this witch and bringing her to the Inquisitors – but he had gone too far already. The peasants, stirred to a frenzy, lit a fire and put the “witch” to the stake. Malena, wise woman and heir to a legacy of secret arcane knowledge known only to a select few, died as her infant son slept in his crib, so quiet that he had not been noticed.
Collin arrived, too late to save her. The peasants had scattered, and none would ever speak of who was there and who lit the pyre that doomed her, but many attribute the early demise of several leading citizens of the area to their culpability in this crime, and the phrase “Malena’s curse” is often uttered in that area. Collin ran to Malena’s home, the priest of Onn and several onlookers in his wake. All were confused at the angry demeanor and rash actions of their lord – surely, the witch shouldn’t have been killed without a trial, but could he not see that she was a curse upon his lands?
As Collin arrived at the home, Micah stirred, and let out a cry, seeming to sense his father’s presence. Collin removed him from the crib, and the first sign many would speak of against Micah was seen – for not only did he have the dark hair of a fiend-touched one, but he had the witch’s milk – infant nipples leaking fluid. The priest tamely suggested that the child should perhaps be subjected to an exorcism ritual immediately, and exposed if that did not remove the fiend-taints. What force stayed Collin’s sword that moment, none can say… but he merely left the hut, mounted his horse, and rode back to his manor without a word.
Soon, the priest was transfered – Collin had enough favors to see that the temptation to slay a holy man was removed from him, and figured that that favor to Onn was enough to forgive him from observing any but the most required of offerings and rituals from then on. He issued word that the boy was to be raised as his son, and though he was never able to acknowledge being his birth father, he would be his legal father. Of course, such a child of dubious circumstance could never be an heir; so Micah grew up the eldest son, but not the heir – Collin remarried and had a “legitimate” son.
Micah never lacked for love from his father, although a certain formality and distance often had to be observed. The boy was forever tainted by his appearance and reputation, and as he grew up he showed every sign of living up to it in many ways. Handsome and intelligent, he knew how to sting with a word. When pushed, or accused of being the spawn of a demon and a whore, he stung with a well-placed fist or elbow also. Destined to always be under a cloud of suspicion and fear, Micah decided from a young age to use that reputation to his advantage. If he was to be the outsider, he would embrace that role.
Still, he was intelligent enough to see the corruption and decadence all around him. Other nobles were often oafs or callous pigs, showing no signs of the lofty reputation they flattered themselves with. As for priests of Onn, he saw in them only petty ambitions or foolish subservience to the hierarchy of the Church. He had read countless books of legend and lore in is father’s library—where was any of that in this world that surrounded him? His one refuge from utter despair at times was those legends, and even those who spoke out against him agreed that his speech and his song could enrapture an audience like few priests of Onn could with their best sermon. Songs of heroism, songs of humor, and songs of bawdy matters best not spoken of in front of those of delicate dispositions – Micah knew them all. The songs won him favor that at last began to overtake the legacy of his parentage.
Still, for him the world often seemed a dark place. As war raged through the land and the priests of Onn spoke of a crusade, all he could see was more funeral pyres for all those caught up in the wake of events beyond their control. Pawns in a game they didn’t know they were playing. A night of celebration, a pause in the calm before the storm of the crusade, turned into a dark moment for Micah. Strong drink and news from his cousin Quartz, news of the horrors of the front lines, overcame him. A dark dark spirit came upon him, and the man who could make the most dour monk cry with laughter found nothing to laugh about. Seized with a madness disturbingly similar to his mother’s rash decision to leave Collin, Micah was determined to throw himself from the tower of the castle holding the celebration. Had Quartz not come looking for his cousin, to ask him for a song of remembrance for lost comrades, Micah’s life would have ended then.
Quartz was astonished at his cousin’s sudden madness – distant as they were, he had only known the public Micah, the dashing and happy young man who, though irreverant and sometimes even skirting blasphemous, brought joy to those around him. Hearing now of the despair and dark thoughts Micah held, he felt compelled to not only pull him down from his suicidal perch, but to convince him that not all in the world was dark. Hope existed, even in these times. Not all nobles were fools; some were good men, who needed someone like Micah to inspire them to live up to their ideals. Not all priests were shallow syncophants; for some, Onn’s voice was clear and the message it delivered was one of hope and love. Could Micah agree to accompany Quartz on his travels, and see a better way?
Although Micah was reluctant to go, Quartz insisted. “I just saved your life, you crazy fool! Now you cannot possibly ask of me that I leave you here and risk you giving in to these spirits again! Ahriman is seeking to draw you in, and although I know many swear he’s had his claws in you all along, you and I both know that is not true – do not leave this world and let those people be right! You and I are now bound by a pact deeper than our shared blood—together, we will find this world of legends and make it exist again!”