Child of the moon and stars==
The tale of Berthold RavensbrookEdit
====Early life to teenage years
Berthold Ravensbrook was born in Andorhal, a town belonging to the Kingdom of Lordaeron. As far as family lore goes, the Ravensbrook clan were traditionally huntsmen of uncanny ability. It was like they had a specific predisposition for the hunt, an understanding of nature that was inexplicable. Berthold wanted to follow, as was the family way, in his father's footsteps and become a huntsman himself. He learned to fish, how to use a rifle and to set traps. He had a manifest talent for identifying useful or edible plants and he loved the peace of the wild.
They would leave for days, and he would love every moment of contact with nature. “The earth provides” his father would say. It was of the maxims of his own father, handed down for generations... At the end of the day, they would sit around a campfire and roast meat while Silas would recount the stories of the hunts of his youth, with his own father. Every time, Berthold would express how he loved toe starry nights of the forest. Invariably, his father would reply “We are children of the stars, my son. Remember it”.
The shadow of the valley of death
He was only fourteen years old when the Scourge took away from him everything he loved and cared for. It all started after he and his father returned from a hunting trip. A few days had passed since their return from the wild when strange things started happening in the town. People they had known all their lives did not recognise them anymore, and paced mindlessly about the town. The glimmer of intelligence in their eyes had dulled, and a few of them had even tried to attack them on the streets, which forced the family to bar the doors to the house, something they were not in habit of doing.
Berthold and his father were away when the plagued grain was distributed to the villagers. Relying heavily on the venison the men brought back home, the family was not as dependent on grain as many families of the area were, and it bought the Ravensbrook family some time, but ultimately not everybody would be spared.
From the windows of the upstairs bedrooms, they had a view on the gruesome spectacle happening on the streets. People were turned into... Light-forsaken creatures, which were cannibalising each other! Loud banging noises shifted the Ravensbrooks' attention from the horrific scene below. The creatures were trying to force the door! The furniture was moved to block the windows and the entrance door. They were safe for the moment, but how long would it last?
Silas Ravensbrook intended to protect his family as long as he had strength, and could count on a sturdy son to aid him in this task. He sent his wife and daughter away to the master bedroom and took his son to the den where he produced a strange purple colored trunk. The top had been hand-carved to represent a tree. The worksmanship was so great that it seemed for a moment that the tree adorning the cover was alive. Silas opened the trunk. From the trunk he retrieved a purple felt hat, which he put on his son’s head. “Children of the stars...” he whispered before closing the trunk and getting his rifles from a gun rack and several boxes of ammunition.
From the daughter’s room, they had an excellent vantage point. They could see the door below them to the left, the path to the house and whatever was going on in the street. They would take turns, one firing while the other reloaded his rifle. They were successful in keeping the monsters off the property, but would eventually run out of ammunition, and when that moment came, there would be little left to do but pray.
Strange noises came from the other end of the corridor. The women were shouting. Or at least one was. It was the little girl, Sami. The zombies had not breached the door yet, so it was assumed that she was simply scared out of her wits. They continued to pick off whoever closed in on the property until Martha, the mother, appeared in the doorway. Her dress was torn and covered in blood, as was her face. The light of humanity had left her. She had eaten the plagued grain, Berthold would later understand.
As she walked in with a kitchen knife, Silas had his back turned to her as he was aiming his rifle at a man who had been a neighbour for 15 years. Berthold was too terrified to even scream. She plunged the knife in her husband’s back before biting him in the area of the jugular. He watched in horror as his father died before his eyes.
Grabbing hold of his rifle, he made a run for door, and made his way to the master bedroom. He stopped at the door, finding the body of his sister, half-eaten on the floor, in a pool of blood. His hands began to shake almost uncontrollably. He slowly managed to grab hold of the pouch of powder across his shoulder and put some in the barrel of the weapon. From the satchel at his belt, he produced a bullet, which he placed in the mouth of the gun. He finally rammed everything in place with the ramrod he had placed under his arm during those delicate operations. When he walked back into his sister’s room, his mother was still eating away at his father, and paid little attention to him. He raised the gun and took his time. He took careful aim, and fired. She crumbled to the ground.
For hours he continued to fight, and fatigue eventually became a more terrible threat than whatever evil lurked out there...Until he heard something, far in the distance. Horns. Someone was coming to assist the villagers who had not yet succumbed to the plague! The men and women of the Knights of the Silver Hand had finally come, and with sword and hammer they brought about the power of the Light to save the day.
Berthold was taken to one of the Silver Hand’s monasteries where he remained safe for a time. After he recounted the story his family’s fate, research was done to find other relatives who could take him in, but the village was lost. It was decided that he would remain at the monastery, where he would be provided for if he would take on the path of the squire, his natural affinity with beasts being a strong asset. Having nowhere else to go, Berthold accepted.
Exile in the mountains
His stay with the Silver Hand was not to last. A few months only in his training, internal struggles within the Order forced him to fend for himself. For a few weeks, he lived off what he had learned from his father in the wilderness of the Hinterlands, to the south. He eventually found refuge among the Wildhammer dwarves of Aerie Peaks. It is there that he met the hunter Grunnewald.
The old dwarf had a kind heart, and had taken the young human in. He would have offered his hospitality to the youngling longer should it have been needed, but Berthold assured him that he would not remain long after he had figured out his course of action. It was with Grunnewald that Berthold first experienced Hinterlands blend tobacco. The old dwarf smoked it in great quantity with a hickory pipe he had made himself. Berthold grew quite fond of it.
While Berthold became very attached to Grunnewald, he longed to make his own place in the world. His options were somewhat limited, but not nonexistent. He assessed his objectives, and came up with two. It was fortunate that they were compatible. He would complete his training first and becoming a master huntsman. When that was done, he would be better able to take on his second objective, which was to see his homeland rid of the plague of undeath. But where should he start?
While tending to the gryphons, he overheard the huntsmen discussing news form the north. Apparently, a new group had surfaced and had vowed to eradicate the Scourge. They were some sort of theocratic order, backed by some potent militia. They were calling out to young men and women to join their cause in reclaiming once-glorious Lordaeron. They were called the Scarlet Crusade.
It was very difficult to leave Aerie Peaks. In the old hunter, he had found a good friend and, one could say, almost a father figure. Or someone that reminded him of his father. The lines were quite blurry by the time he left. Grunnewald packed a traveling bag for him before he vanished over the mountains. The bag contained rations for a few days, a lucky dwarven rune, a pipe and a pouch of Hinterlands blend tobacco.
The Scarlet brand
It took him a lot of resourcefulness to contact a recruiting officer of the Scarlet Crusade, but after a few of efforts, he made his way north to Tyr’s hand. He was put in quarantine for a period of 30 days, as is the practice of the Order. It is common knowledge that the plague could take a few days to manifest itself, depending on an individual’s constitution. It was believed that, should anyone be infected, they would by then have manifested themselves by then.
Once he was cleared, he was interrogated on several occasions by both military and ecclesiastical personnel on his background, special skills and intentions. He explained that he was from one of the ravaged villages, that he had some skills as a huntsman, and that he was trained for a time as a squire for the Silver Hand. That detail seemed to attract the attention of the man sitting across the table from him, a paladin in a shiny red armor.
Berthold could not take his eyes off the brightly colored suit of armor. One day, he would have his own. He knew it. He could feel it. There was a glint in his eyes, like a burning fire, as he went on to explain that he wanted to become a Scout, or perhaps a Tracker or even a Houndmaster, and have a part in the reclaiming of Lordaeron. The officer nodded, and said he would relate the information to the competent authorities.
Two days later, he was on a caravan along with a few others setting out west towards the Scarlet Monastery, and the fulfilment of his goals. He and the others underwent an intense period of conditioning, to “fortify [their] minds against the corruption present in these lands”. The precepts of the Light were hammered into their brains, from the Core Writings to the most obscure passages of the Apocrypha. Special attention was given to certain parts of the apocrypha, pertaining to the cost on self from the fight against evil, and the measures that should be taken towards the ultimate purpose of the brethren.
He demonstrated accute talent in “tracking down of enemies of the Order”, and had an “exemplary hatred of the undead”. That got him noticed by His instructors. A note has been placed in his file. “Would make a superb field agent”. When his file was moved to the next level, that note was taken into consideration, and the focus of his training was shifted towards marksmanship and assassination.
After a few years as a scarlet squire and initiate, he was finally expected to join the ranks of the Order. By the time he was 20, he was a full member of the Scarlet Crusade, and fighting daily to retake what was by now known as the Plaguelands. He would be leaving soon, having been posted at Hearthglen.
The Scarlet stain
As a Knight of the Scarlet Crusade, he obtained the trust of the secretive order, and learned of many things kept secret from even their own initiates. He witnessed firsthand the torture chambers below the monastery and other installations of the Crusade. He assisted in the “interrogation” of the “heretics” he had tracked down and captured.
He was well aware of the “extreme situations calling for extreme measures” routine of the Crusade, and for what seemed like a long time, he accepted it, until the Crusade’s blind zeal made them capable of the inadmissible. He witnessed a party of humans who had come to the Crusade seeking protection. They were slain by the Crusaders for being unable to prove that they were not “Forsaken or Scourge sympathisers”.
Not able to endorse the atrocities committed by his own, he one night simply disappeared. Out there in the forest, a tabard of the Crusade was burning.
As he escaped from Hearthglen, he realised that he needed once again to reassess his situation. He had to lay low for a while. He thought about returning to Aerie Peaks. He knew he would be welcome there but thought against it. The Crusade would be on his trail, and he could not lead them to Aerie Peaks and disturb their peace. Besides he would stand out a little, wouldn't he...
His clothes and the purple hat in tatters, he commissioned from Bartolo Ginseti, a tailor from Southshore, an outfit complete with a wide-brim hat and a matching cloak. As for armor, he would scrounge-up what he could from the very corpses of his enemies. They would be his prizes and trophies of war.
For close to 10 years, Berthold has been living as a ghost, sporadically appearing in cities and settlements to acquire essential goods, but has been almost entirely self sufficient. The earth provided him with abundance of venison and fish and fruits. He would occasionally trade for vegetables and spices to preserve the meats, and perhaps a few repairs to his gear and a warm bed if he decided to remain overnight.
He dedicated his life to hunting down and destroying the undead and demonic taint that had taken over his homeland. Without aligning with them, he would make friends within the Argent Dawn and and the Church of the Holy light, trading with them for tools furthering his objectives, and sometimes take jobs from them to acquire the occasionally necessary currency.
The dreams (This is where the CoA adventure begins!)
On his 33rd birthday, the strangest thing occurred. While he was sleeping in the makeshift shelter he had build around one of the last ancient trees left uncorrupted, Berthold had a dream. Similar dreams occured on three occasions over a period of a month.
He stood in a very warm place where the sun-beaten and humid jungle land had grown some palm trees. The region was brimming with life. Amazed with the pristine, primordial beauty of the place, he did not hear the sound of hooves in the dirt coming from behind him. He jumped when saw the majestic creature that was now standing beside him. The enormous stag was of a white so pure that he radiated a soft glow, like moonlight. It stared at Berthold with eyes that were silver pools of deep and ancient wisdom, and it’s mere presence gave off an aura of calm, safety, and peacefulness.
On the next such event, the great stag led the way through the jungle and Berthold followed under the baking sun for what seemed like hours, but the sheer presence of the white stag soothed him, and he followed without questioning. They paused in front of a large structure that looked of ancient troll design. He could hear the crowd roar inside of it, and the clanging sounds of swords and shields. He knew what a gladiatorial arena was, but had never seen one. The stag looked the structure as if it has some importance, but when Berthold headed in the direction of the arena, it would not get any closer. They then moved along to a beautiful coastline where a pier extended into the waters, and a ship arrived.====