The founders of Lietsin could have never imagined that the tiny rest stop they established within the Tanaroch desert would grow to become the sweltering metropolis at the center of a vast trade route which stretched the continent. Tightly packed and overpopulated, owing to the constant stream of visitors and guests wishing to observe the great arena games—let alone the swaths of organized labor which enabled them—it was difficult to get ahead; any real or perceived vulnerability was jumped on by everyone else trying to survive in the cramped and violence-prone city underbelly.
Shade Vandran was born with plenty of disadvantages to overcome, his slight build and lack of bravado making him an easy target for up-and-coming bullies who spent their days chasing him through the rabbit warrens of back alleys and crowded market streets. He had to learn how to think on his feet and outrun, outhide, or outclimb his pursuers or face an onslaught of kicks and punches until they got bored. Only through sheer luck or the rampant ignorance of his constant tormentors did they fail to notice the sharp point of his ears, normally hidden beneath his mussed tresses, even through years of abuse. If they had discovered his elven bloodline they would have become even more encouraged to violence, elves being a rare and mysterious race about whom all manner of sinister rumors and distrustful qualities were attributed.
His only solace, born out of both a desire for security and a want to learn more about his own cursed heritage, was the protection of an aged wisewoman who covered for Shade one day as he sought to escape pursuit by sneaking into the old scholar’s basement home. There he was treated to an endless array of scrolls, books, and tales of lore from across the known world, and the encouragement to explore the myths and stories contained within. At first he didn’t understand the use or benefit of such an eclectic and esoteric education, but he soon realized travelers came to Lietsin in pursuit of those same stories—whether for their own edification or in search of great treasure lost to the desert sands—and those visitors were usually flush with coin.
Growing proficient in mysteries of the arcane, history, religion, and nature in equal measure, as well as cartography and how to research new topics, his attention to detail was quickly identified by leaders of a local thieving guild who taught him to sharpen his mind even further, to use his knowledge—and occasionally his light fingers—for the betterment of himself, as well as his fellow street folk. It wasn’t long before adventurers started seeking out the guild specifically for the information “they” were able to provide when it came to lost relics, secret tombs, or dangerous monsters.
As Shade grew into his own, he came to envy the adventurers who swept through Lietsin, chasing down mysteries and challenges across the world. They all seemed to be cut from a different cloth than the common townsfolk, spending coin as freely as ale which dripped from a generous pour at the local watering hole. They seemed driven, always working to improve something—their prowess, their reputation, their adopted homelands—and to not feel tied to the urea-soaked back alleys and dirt-choked gutters of their birth. Though it took him a long while to realize it—introspection not among his varied his strong suits—he knew that he had designs and desires that could not be met if he stayed in the filthy streets of his unfortunate upbringing.
Slipping away in the night from everything he had known—the barbarous violence and cutthroat merchants, price-gougers and swindlers—he firmly took his first steps, hitching along with a passing caravan, striding with confidence into his new life, his new calling, within the greater world.
Alignment: Chaotic Neutral or Neutral Evil (selfish more than anything)
Eventual Path: Soulknife
Playstyle: a booksmart know-it-all who either uses his knowledge to impress (high Charisma) or oozes like a damp librarian emerging from a crypt (Charisma as a dump stat)
Header image from Pixabay.com, a great source of stock images