Male half-orc barbarian 1/cleric of Kord 1: CR 2; Medium humanoid (human, orc); Hit Dice 1d12 + 1d8 + 4; 24 hp; Init +0; Spd 30 ft. (6 squares); AC 16 (+4 armor, +2 shield), 10 touch, 16 flat-footed; BAB/Grapple +1/+4; Atk +4 melee (1d10+4, glaive) or +4 melee (1d8+3, heavy mace); Full atk +4 melee (1d10+4, glaive) or +4 melee (1d8+3, heavy mace); SA rage 1/day, turn undead; SQ darkvision 60ft, half-orc traits, fast movement; AL CG; SV Fort +6, Reflex +0, Will +4; Str 16, Dex 10, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 14, Cha 10.
Skills and Feats (-6 armor check): Climb -2, Concentration +4, Handle animal +1, Heal +4, Jump –4, Spellcraft +2, Survival +3; Endurance.
Luck Domain: Once per day, Harl d’Gunder can reroll one roll before the DM declares whether it is a success or failure. He must accept the result of the reroll, even if it is worse than the original roll.
Strength Domain: Once per day as a supernatural ability, Harl d’Gunder can perform a feat of amazing strength. He gains an enhancement bonus to Strength equal to his cleric level (1), which lasts for a single round. Activating this power is a free action.
Typical Cleric Spells Prepared (Save DC 12+spell level): 0th—detect magic, guidance, read magic; 1st—enlarge person*, magic weapon, summon monster I.
Languages: Common, orc
Possessions: Backpack, belt pouch (x3), canvas (4 yards), glaive, heavy mace, heavy wooden shield, potion of cure light wounds, potion of longstrider, tindertwig (x10), trail rations (x4), whetstone.
Harl d’Gunder is not pretty. His grayish skin is ruddy and thick, a consequence of growing up in a frigid land. His muscular bulk and the fact his course black hair is rarely handled beyond being tied into a topknot only seem to add to his lack of good looks. Harl’s face is a mask of indifference, though. He cares little what people think of him, only showing anger when his strength and valor are impugned. His eyes are hard, the eyes of someone that has borne witness to violence, but they soften when he hears the stories of people who have been victimized.
While Harl d’Gunder has the look of someone that would run a man through for sneezing, he is actually a very personable man. He doesn’t say much, but if he hears about the weak being preyed upon, he is quick to find out the circumstances. His orc heritage immediately marks him as someone to be feared and distrusted, but he has left many grateful smallfolk in the wake of his random travels…people who have been surprised to have him come to their aid without asking for more than a bowl of soup or a night by the fire.
Harl doesn’t talk much, and when he does, he’ll never use three words when two will suffice. If someone were to map his wanderings, they’d find that he has traveled randomly, almost without any course at all. When traveling with friends or companions, he’s more than willing to follow them wherever they go, and will come to their defense as long as they never question his valor, something he holds in the highest respect.
Harl d’Gunder was born and bred to combat. His great strength is a thing to be feared, but his potent abilities make him a true terror. If faced with many opponents or an obviously stronger enemy, Harl will use enlarge person, increasing his size to large and his reach with the glaive to 15 feet. As soon as he’s able, he’ll fly into a barbarian rage. Coupled with the bonuses granted by enlarge person, most opponents can’t stand up to the fury of Harl’s enraged attacks.
The story of the hero Harl t’Gunder begins with violence, as do most stories originating from the Frozen North. It is important that the reader understands how little life is worth in the North and how small wars between neighboring villages or bands of orcs or ogres are commonplace. Between battle and the harsh, icy climate, few survive long enough to make their mark on the world as Harl did. As harsh as it sounds, this is the way it must be, for such brutal environments breed extremely hardy and almost savage men and it is good that their numbers are small, lest they sweep Southward, teaching all of Arian their famed “Lesson of the Axe.”
—Preface from the anonymous author of “Harl t’Gunder: Lost Warrior” from the composition book entitled “The Origins of Minor Heroes of Note, A Comprehensive Guide, volume IV”—
Gunder t’Gunder led raised a single finger to indicate silence. It was an unnecessary gesture. The warriors of his village were grizzled veterans of dozens of raids and while their merriment would be loud enough to wake the dead tonight, right now they were as silent as the frozen ice. From his position at the top of the snow bank, Gunder could clearly see the snow-topped yurts and the smoke rising from well-tended cooking fires within. The orcs were here, just as their captive had told them prior to his death.
Wetting his exposed thumb with his tongue, he ran it down the edge of his axe, thus ensuring that his enemies couldn’t draw first blood from him. He stared briefly for a moment at the red blood which was already beginning to freeze on the massive blade of his axe, allowing himself a few heartbeats to let his battle fury begin. All at once, he leapt to his feet as an enraged challenge erupted from his lungs, loud enough to give pause even to the great white bears that live near the sea. Before his breath was done, his men, a dozen in number, did likewise, filling the entire field with the sound of their fury.
The warriors charged, lead by Gunder, his enormous axe held high above his head for all to see. There were no ranks, no pretty lines of soldiers paraded out to show the enemy how skilled in war they were. This was not the coordinated and planned battle of soft men that were over reliant on their comrades. This was all out war, a wholesale attack meant to end with the bloody slaughter of the enemy.
Sweeping downward from their vantage point on the high snow bank, Gunder’s warriors decimated everything in their path. In some places, they cut through tent walls and slaughtered those inside that were too dull-headed from sleep and drunkenness to have awoken in time. In other places, orc warriors met them head-on and were cut down for their trouble. More than one orc fled in terror, exchanging a swift death by axe for a slow death by exposure. Flames rose as some of the yurts caught fire and began to burn.
Gunder grabbed the hide flap covering the entrance to the largest yurt and yanked it down, throwing it aside onto the muddy snow before stepping inside. As he broke the threshold, the stink of unwashed bodies and a smoky fire assaulted his nostrils. His eyes, the eyes of an experienced warrior, took in every detail of his surroundings; the embers of a dying fire in the center of the tent, the pile of thick furs in one corner, but the most obvious feature of the room was the occupant, an enormous orc male, hastily dressed for battle. At his feet lay the crumpled form of a dead human female, the broad-bladed sword that ended her life sunk deep into her chest. A young orc child furiously beat ineffectually against his armored chest, gaining little more than mocking laughter for his trouble.
A heartbeat later, the Gunder’s eyes met those of the orc, who continued his mocking laughter even as he backhanded the child, sending him flying as though he were little more than a rag doll. As Gunder raised his axe, the orc stepped forward, grabbing a leaning spear from the tent wall as he did so. With a single swift move, the orc raised his spear to a threatening position and kicked at the burning coals from the firepit, catching Gunder in his face. Gunder screamed in anger and brought one hand to his blinded face, barely managing to block a spear thrust with the head of his axe. Again the orc stabbed, slicing Gunder across the thigh and twisting his weapon to throw his opponent’s feet from under him. As Gunder’s back hit the floor, he knew he was as good as dead and even as his hands raised his axe for one last half-blind strike, his mind made peace with Kord and prepared to meet him face to face.
The killing blow never landed. As Gunder watched through tear-blurred eyes, the orc raised his spear for the coup de gras, but stopped as a shiny blade erupted suddenly from his midsection. Dazed, the orc stared down stupidly at the weapon it knew should not be there as if wondering how his opponent had managed such a feat. The spear fell silently to the floor of the tent as the orc slowly turned and collapsed to one knee. It was then that Gunder saw the orc child standing defiantly and staring with undisguised hatred at the orc warrior it had just skewered. Never one to ignore a god-granted opportunity, Gunder quickly dove forward and buried his axe in the orc’s back, cleaving through flesh and bone and splattering the child with orc blood as the blade exited the warrior’s chest and was pulled free of Guner’s hands as the body fell.
Gunder cautiously waited for the young orc’s reaction. If it attacked, he knew he could kill it, even with his bare hands, but he was curious. He knew orcs were brutal and savage, but he was curious about what could make a child turn so savagely on an opponent that he obviously had no hope of beating. The child made no move, though, and stared at Gunder with curiosity. “Why,” asked Gunder. The child tilted its head as though confused. “Why kill your own kind?”
The child’s features hardened in irritation. It pointed to itself. “Not orc,” it said in strained common tongue. Its voice was surprisingly deep, deeper than many men Gunder knew and obviously masculine. “Orc,” it declared, pointing to the dead warrior between them. It pointed to Gunder. “You man. Man,” it repeated, pointing to the woman’s corpse across the room. Again it point at itself, thumping its chest lightly. “Not orc. Not man.”
Suddenly Gunder understood. The child was the product of an orc and a human parent. Obviously not human, but not orc either. Perhaps there was hope for it. Him! Him, Gunder corrected himself. Perhaps there was hope for him.
-- -- --
A harsh life begets a harsh outlook on life. Harl often showed one of the most harsh outlooks on life I’ve ever seen in a man. What do you think that says about him?.”
—Saint Julius Marcone on his friend Harl t’Gunder—
From the memoirs of St. Julius Marcone, Archbishop in the service of Saint Cuthbert the Just:
This is an accounting of the early life of Harl t’Gunder, as it was told to me by the people who knew him best and by Harl himself. Nothing has been altered or embellished beyond what information was given to me.
Harl t’Gunder often said that the first time he died was when he watched his orc father cruelly murder his mother. She apparently tried to free herself from her long enslavement at the hands of her orc captives. Perhaps Harl really would have died that day had the Trogheim warrior Gunder t’Gunder, not shown up. Though he never spoke of the details to me directly, I understand that Harl was able to bring justice to his mother that day.
Gunder t’Gunder never told Harl why he allowed him to come back to Trogheim with his band of warriors. Perhaps his sense of morality wouldn’t allow him to leave the child to freeze or starve to death. Perhaps it was gratitude for his aid in the killing of Harl’s orc father. Perhaps he just felt some sort of special connection to the boy, even then. Whatever the reason, Gunder took the boy under his own protection, despite cries of “Kill it and be done with it!” from his warriors. As I understand it, the young boy had no name until the journey back to Trogheim, when Gunder named him after one of his own warriors that had fallen that day, much to the annoyance of the fallen Harl’s comrades.
Harl’s life was difficult, to say the least. While no one in the village dared oppose Gunder’s decision, the young half-orc was never accepted and never trusted by most of the village. He was viewed with undisguised disgust and even hatred. His human father used this as a basis for teaching young Harl the lessons of Kord, telling him to remain strong, even in the face of overwhelming opposition. Harl took these lessons to heart, standing his ground even when the other village children ganged up on him and beat him, all the while perverting his name and calling him “Snarl.”
Apparently, the lessons of his human father were the catalyst for Harl’s meeting with the only true friend he ever had in Trogheim. Noticing how quickly and piously his lessons were adopted, Gunder took his young son to meet the village healer, Khai, an elderly priest dedicated to Kord. Knowing the hardships that Harl lived through (as everyone in the village knew of the young half-orc), and seeing that despite his difficulties, he kept his head held high and maintained an unbreakable inner strength, Khai took an immediate liking to the boy. Likewise, Harl took a liking to the man who would become his teacher and best friend through the coming years.
As one harsh winter year after another passed in Trogheim, Harl grew into manhood. He did what he could to help the village, but never gained the liking or respect of most of the villagers. On the occasions where Gunder led a warband, he would allow Harl to accompany him, though none of the other battle leaders would so much as speak to him. When he was old enough, Khai officially adopted him into the service of Kord, telling him that so long as he remained strong, he would have the respect of his god. It was one of the few truly happy days in Harl’s life, and one he spoke of to me very often.
When Harl was twenty five, Khai grew sick. Already well advanced in years, it became obvious that his sickness was going to kill him. Khai rejected most of the villagers that tried to offer their sympathies, but specifically called for Harl. He asked Harl that after his body was cremated in the traditional way that his ashes be taken South and sprinkled into the Great Eye. He instructed Harl on how to reach this destination and gave him what few supplies he had for the journey. Some time later, Khai met his god with dignity and honor, which is all a god can ask of a man.
The pages become obscured at this point, having apparently become food for moths or mice before being exposed to mildew. Every so often a single word or group of letters is legible, but the next few pages are entirely unreadable.
Once, and only once, Harl told me of his human father’s passing. He was a little more than drunk and he slurred every other word, but I could tell from the look on his face that not a single word was made up or embellished in the least. It was a pained look, much like a man recalling a great battle wound. He did not weep, but looked as though he wanted to.
Having been seriously wounded during an ogre ambush, Gunder was not long for this world. His last words were to tell Harl that it was not his fault, that he had willingly accompanied his son southward. He told Harl to proudly bare his name and to proclaim to the world that he was the son of Gunder who was himself the son of Gunder. Harl held his father’s body for a while before building a pyre to burn it on. He would take his father’s ashes to the Great Eye as well. The ogre bodies were left for the wolves.
…knew that there was nothing for him in Trogheim, but he had no direction now that Gunder and Khai had been sent to the Great Eye. He set off randomly, hoping to find a new path in life.
The pages beyond this point are completely unreadable and it appears that half the book has simply rotted away, looking as though it had sat it a puddle of liquid for quite some time.