Legacy of Brutality
Ranth Two Cups
He was warned to be out of sight of the encampment by dawn. Just hours before he had been merry, basking in glory and mead, never noticing that none of his tribesmen shared his celebration. Blurred memories traveled with the Barbarian as he stumbled along the stony path away from his birthplace.
Scenes flash through his throbbing head: snatches of the Iron Ring mass battle, of dark beguiling eyes, the girl’s soft hands stroking his arms and face, her bright laughter as she led him out of the mead hall, huge forms tearing open the flap of his tent and dragging him naked into the moonlight, heavy blows raining down on his bare form as he struggled to rise, and finally, the words of the Elders – We will be rid of your curse Ranth the fatherless. Too long have you clouded the Eagle Clan. Your soul is in Crom’s fist to do with what he pleases. We cast you down the Mountain, into the world as a mongrel dog. Do not return, for our mercy has been exhausted, death will greet you if you are found in our hills from this day forward.
Ranth made his way down the mountain that dawn. He staggered for two passes of the sun with no food, drinking water from streams and wearing only his skins and horned helm, his rightful prize as the Iron Ring champion. Behind him he dragged his Great axe, won in drinking competition from Callum the Horse during that year’s Dawn Festival. Step by step, the shunned young man made his way south. Occasionally he was able to scare away predators from a fresh kill and sup upon meat. Most nights he ate nothing or scratched roots from the hard soil of his people’s unforgiving hill lands. Most living creatures avoided his path, but the hill cats were a different story.
Early on his third day afoot, Ranth startled a mother cat returning to her den at dusk. There was no posturing, no warning for this was the wild, not a civilized battlefield. The dark cat sprung at the Barbarian’s chest, a wild cry leaving her throat as she leapt. Ranth’s form coiled and leapt to meet her midair as an unplanned roar of his own tore itself from his core. Claws and teeth battled fists and hands, they rolled down, down across dry brush and jagged rock before slamming to an abrupt stop against an iron oak. Ranth found himself on top of the cat, his teeth buried in the oily fur beneath her chin. His corded arms wrapped around her body as he desperately tried to keep her pinned. The cat’s outraged screams echoed across the hillside, sending all living creatures afoot scampering to their holes. Biting and rending, Ranth tore past the cat’s thick fur and felt the rush of hot blood steam down his chin. The mother cat’s struggles lessened as her she bleed away from the ragged hole in her throat until, at last she lay paralyzed and panting beneath the Barbarians crushing weight. Ranth dared not release her. He poured the last bit of strength he had into crushing whatever life was left before stepping away from his wild foe. Spitting away fur and flesh, the youth looked down upon the once magnificent creature with disdain. That was how he lost his ear.
Protected by his new cloak of ragged, stinking panther skin, Ranth continued his wandering. He resorted to a life of banditry for a time. The rare unprotected travelers he encountered never had much worth stealing but they often gave him food in exchange for their lives and thus was his existence. A skilled highwayman he was not, lacking both the mental resources to seek out fatter victims and a band to successfully ambush any protected parties, until he was discovered by the Hill Crows.
The Hill Crows were a bandit tribe haunting the Vanahiem hill lands and taking tribute from all who passed through their territory. They took Ranth in and taught him cunning and stealth. He raided with them for a year and a month, honing his fighting skills and slowly accumulating a purse of coin and a sense of self. It is with the Hill Crows that Ranth first dared imagine vengeance upon the Eagle Clan Elders who had cast him adrift. Eventually he had his fill of one sided battle against helpless merchants and their weak outriders and he separated from the Crows to again take up his travels. Truth be told the Crows had had their fill of the bitter young Barbarian as well and welcomed his departure.
Long of limb with a simian cast, young Ranth Two-Cups now walks with a soft footstep. The left side of his head is a mass of brownish red scar, a gift from the mountain cat battle. His lips are thin and perpetually grimacing. His eyes are small and dull, sitting above a wide, flattened nose and below a jutting brow. Stringy black hair rests across his broad shoulders and down his back. Tribal scarring of his Eagle Clan cross his lanky forearms, meshing with random scarring from untold knife-fights. Strapped across his trunk and lower body is a deep red-brown set of leather armour and he carries a long, downward turned horned helm beneath his arm as he walks. Across his back rests a gigantic, curved great axe, simple and crude in design but honed to a razors edge.