Shadows of Sanctuary
The Mysterious Stranger
A long time ago, when the races of the world started coming out of the shelter of the underground sanctuary, in which they had lived for generations, there lived was a large tribe of grippli living in the mountains to the south of the lakes that would come to be known as The Giant Steps. The tribe lived in relative isolation and peace on the shores of a quiet mountain lake, occasionally trading with human explorers and hunters/trappers who would come into the region for its abundant game and fish; the tribe was adept at making very good fishing nets and enjoyed relative prosperity because of this. For years and years they lived a life of virtually no disturbance; there were occasional raids from a tribe of goblins that lived further down the river valley but, as the tribe lived in huts that were built in the tree-tops along the river side, these raids usually only resulted in the loss of some fishing supplies and the day’s catch.A hunter for the tribe, and a pretty good one at that, our hero would sometimes journey far from the traditional hunting grounds of his people. Sometimes these trips would take him away from the tribe for weeks, but he always returned with a bounty of rare meats so his absence was a well accepted part of tribal life.
About 30 years after emergence, the hunter was investigating a disturbance to the usual game-runs a days journey out of the village. He found much evidence of disturbance, and upon travelling a bit further afield, found that the goblin tribes had been slaughtered in their caves. He found much evidence of the typical sword and axe slaughter, but there were some goblins that seemed to have been smote by some sort of sorcery that left an metallic, burning smell in the air and holes in the bodies of the victims. He began to follow the trail of the humans that did this and quickly found that it was heading directly for the gripplis village.
Even knowing the valley as well as he did, he was not able to overtake the humans. Before he was in sight of his village, he could smell that same metallic burning except this time it was accompanied by thunder. He reached the village in time to see the tribe mother’s tree was ablaze, and a handful of gripplis warriors were making their stand at the foot of the tree. One human charged them and was brought down in a hail of spears. Upon seeing this, another human lifted a bizarre staff, made of mostly metal and not long enough to walk with, and squeezed fire from it. Immediately a grippli warrior fell to the ground dead, the roar of the device echoing through the forest. The hunter watched as, one by one, the warriors fell and the tribe mother’s tree was burned. The rest of the tribe were captured and slaughtered, and some were eaten by the humans. Anything of value was gathered and place in chests the humans brought in with their camp.
That night, the hunter crept into the camp. Armed with only his dagger, he slaughtered the humans one by one but could not find the one with the magic metal stick. Leaving the heads of the humans on pikes surrounding the village, to curse the land and mark it as a place tarnished by evil, the hunter found a trail leaving the village. Grabbing what he could carry, as well as a badge on one of the humans marked with a small insignia, the hunter set out after the man who brought death to his people.
He tracked the humans to a human town much further down the valley; he had been here once before on a trading mission for the tribe when winter came too early and the fall catch would not bring them to spring. On the outskirts of the town he found a large house behind walls, with a gate baring the same insignia as the badge. Under cover of moonlight, the hunter climbed the walls and found entry to the house. The house seemed to be occupied by a handful of gnome servants and the man with the magic stick. In his investigations of the house he found evidence and plans to found a human trade outpost on the site of the grippli village.
In finding that the murder of his people was an accepted consequence of a business deal that held no regard for the grippli, the hunter was thrown into a maddened rage. He began to set fire to the house, barring the doors and setting the curtains ablaze so nobody could escape. He then broke into the man’s bedroom, finding him fumbling through the smoke for the magic stick. The gripplis quickly leapt upon the stick and, pointing it at the man’s head, fired.
The force of the shot caught the gripplis off guard and threw him backwards, but the shot was still true. The gripplis knocked his head and saw visions of the tribe mother, and then the mother to all, and knew in that moment that he had found his calling, his reason for wandering. He awoke choking on smoke and was quick to his feet. Grabbing the burning box that the gun was in, he ran from the room and found the gnome servants huddling against the flames at the entrance to the house. Pulling the gun out again he pointed it at the door and fired again: the shot, seemingly guided by the hand of lady luck, found the lock on the door and blew the doors open allowing fresh air into the mansion.
The influx of oxygen caused the flames to roar, licking at the gripplis’ skin, burning him. Shrugging off the pain he helped the gnomes to safety. Taking the burnt remains of an owners manual, and a small pouch of ammo that was in the box, the gripplis headed off into the night.
He spent the next 200 years of his life wandering the two continents of the known world, helping out where he could, standing strong against the evils of the world, always looking out for the good folk. Over time he lost most of whatever vestiges of tribal life he had to him; carrying on with only a fishing spear, a net, a knife, and a reed instrument his tribe was known for making.
That fateful night, the gnome servants had spoken of him to the authorities, referring to him in gnomic as the gnome word for stranger, “Pern”, as they didn’t know how else to describe the small, dark figure that had lead them from the flames. The name spread among settlements for a while, catching up to the mysterious strange frogfolk that wandered between towns helping out where he could and seeking the knowledge of the old world. Eventually he became somewhat of a local folk tale to the settlements of the southern steps. As folk tales do, the tales of Pern eventually faded into obscurity and then, as the generations passed, were forgotten. But the small gunslinger lived on, and as a way of trying to maintain a connection to his past, took up the name “Pern.” As he was forgotten to the people of the southern steps, he too began to lose elements of his past to the mists of time.
He now roams the world in an effort to find some knowledge of the past, whilst trying not to forget the knowledge of his own, and helping the good folk where he can.