Legends in the Sand: The Sword of Dregoth
Finnian the Flexible
Hiding a Dark Secret, this Circus Performer Has Seen it All. Outcasted from his Troupe, he Looks to Redeem Himself by Bringing Home the Most Valuable Necessity: Flesh.
-S. A. Kit
-18 Cannibal Food Scraps
-6 Cannibal Survival Day
-10 Normal Survival Days
-2 Healing Apples
-Jumping Blade Assault
As many Halflings are, Finnian is short, nimble, light, and sneaky-seeming. Being fair of skin, he takes his hair and eye color from the normal range of Halflings: dark brown. His eyes are rather large seeming, larger than most of his race would have, and darkened with worry, insomnia, despair, and (occasionally) drunkenness. Sometimes he just stares into space, thinking on his past and the tasks needed to return to his clan’s good graces. On his left shoulder blade, there is a rather large, still-healing scar, where it looks as though he was branded. The shape is of a simple diagnal line, as an outcast would have on his back.
As for his clothing/armor, there is one thing worth mentioning: He will forever wear his old Circus Performing pants. Striped vertically a dirty, faded maroon and cream, it’s his only thing left over from his old job. They are held up with brown suspenders, and can be seen through holes in his leather armor.
In short, he’s an average-looking Halfling. The only major difference is that he can grow facial hair, though it accounts for, at most, a scruffy five o’clock shadow. He currently wears clothing that would fit a city-dweller, but he carries with him clothing that would fit in his original home: The Forest Ridge. Underneath his shirt, he carries a series of spaces (Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, Thyme, Ginger, Ground Mustard, and Onion Salt), partially for meals, and partially for the familiar scents that remind him of home.
Finnian was born as the second son of a high-ranking tribal leader, within the Forest Ridge-residing, 100-member-or-so Alaric Clan. They had made their home within the northern regions of the Ridge, and, being slightly nomadic for strategic and defensive purposes, relocated themselves regularly anywhere in the area parallel to the space between Tyr and Freedom. They never delved too deeply into the Ridge, as they had other priorities facing them outside the trees, but nevertheless, they still remained a good distance away from the Ringing Mountains.
Within the tribe itself, there were several factions of Halflings. One was the standard population: the breeders, the children, the gatherers, the weapon makers, the “merchant” (by which, I mean the one that would actually do the bartering), and such. These all were headed by the group’s spiritual leader: Finnian’s Uncle Nelear, who took on the role of general peace-keeper within the clan itself. He would teach the younglings all they would know to need to be a Halfling, as well as uphold the sacred beliefs of their tribe, passed from generation to generation. He is the oldest of the clan, yet he has the least number of offspring (none), has never paired up with a mate, and never will. He is an extremist in his beliefs, and holds true to the idea that the spiritual leader of any clan should be celibate. Within his teachings, the idea of being “Sarquindi” is drilled into the minds of all younglings from the moment they are born. This idea is essentially their entire religious belief system, in so many words. Basically, what each Halfling of the Alaric Clan believes is that all living things (plants, animals, people, and so on) carry within them a life force. This life force is unique to them, and remains with them, even after death. Upon eating the flesh of a dead creature/vegetables, however, its life force is transferred into the body of that which ate it. This allows the creature that is eating to live longer, as the life force determines how long an individual will live. So, let’s say…you ate a salad. You are taking the life-force from the lettuce and other mix-ins and bringing it into your body, and will live longer because of it. If a meat is putrid, however, the life-force is already gone, and thus there is no reason to eat it. This, of course, creates some problems with the more…adventurous of the clan, as the idea of the undead challenges this belief. Thus, most of the Clan believes (rather falsely) that the undead have taken the life-force eaten by another creature (in other words, making a living creature’s life shorter), and come back to life fully without any way of “eating away” the unnecessary life force.
On a similar note, because this idea of “Eating Life Force” is so heavily followed, meals are a very important event within the society. Everyone eats together, no matter what time of day or how much food was cooked, and many view it as a sign of respect if you allow someone to cook for you (like, trusting them to handle the life-force you will eat with care.) Finnian is no exception to this, as he knows how to cook, and constantly carries around jars and jars of spices with him, to doctor up any meat he finds.
Many view this as “Cannibalism,” and Finnian will admit that the word “Sarquindi” does in fact mean the same as “cannibalism.” However, the words to Finnian have different meanings; Sarquindi is a more relaxed term, referring to the religious beliefs and practices he follows, where he cooks, prepares, and eats the life force of any living thing, sentient (like humans, dwarves, etc) or not. “Cannibalism” is a negative look on the same idea, from an ignorant perspective of a non-Clan member (or, at least, non-Halfling.)
The next faction is the hunters, lead by Finnian’s Uncle Lecun (who has countless sons, all of which are within this faction. He is the youngest of brother of Finnian’s Father). These are the warriors of the clan, upholding all aspects of any actual fighting that may occur. Hunting for food, for example, or guarding the settlement are both part of the job of these fine, well-bred warriors, as well as making up the only army this clan has. This army, in all reality, is entirely male, and holds within it almost two-thirds of the entire male population within the clan.
At this point, it’s a good idea to point out what a small clan like this would need such a major army for (in proportion). Halflings see themselves as the perfect race: they are small, they are fast, they are dexterous…and most of all, they are old. Halflings view themselves as the oldest race ever to exist, or at least this is what is taught to the younglings (think along the lines of teaching a child Bible stories. They can take this as literally or figuratively as they want). This leads them to be rather xenophobic, and the Alaric Clan is no exception. Their xenophobia, however, does not end with races that are not their own; each clan is fighting for dominance within the Forest Ridge, not only for land, resources, and women…but also for trait-dominance. Most of the warring tribes consist of one phenotype of Halfling that believes themselves to be the “ideal image of what a Halfling should be.” For example, the Alaric Clan is known as the “bearded Halflings,” as the males can grow small amounts of facial hair. Another tribe that is a rather common adversary is known as the “Black Haired, Blue Eyed” Halflings, as black hair is predominant, as is blue eye color. Each of these Clans focuses their energy to be victorious over all those other Halflings, to prove for once and for all that they are the “Master Race” and the ideal image of such race.
These soldiers are trained from the moment their talent is recognized, which can be anywhere from 5 to 15 years of age. They are taken from their mothers, and trained like one would train a Kank, or other beast of burden. If you saw one on the street (that wasn’t planning on attacking you), he would appear to be a normal Halfling. However, at the sound of a gong given to the heads of the faction, these Halflings turn into savage, wild beasts that can only think of one mantra: “Defend the Clan. Promote Halfling Dominance. Keep Our Way of Life Safe.” They don’t care who they are ordered to kill; the gong rings, they are given an order, and they follow the order without question, like a pack of well-trained dogs.
Finnian was almost a part of this faction. At an early age, Lecun saw potential in Finnian as a stealthy attacker, and attempted to indoctrinate him into the army. However, before this could happen, Finnian’s father noticed his amazing acrobatic skills, and placed him into the Circus Faction instead.
Speaking of which, the third and final faction of the tribe is the “Circus” faction, as it has come to be known as. This small group, consisting of performers and trained kidnappers, travel from city state to city state, performing in the markets and slums of everywhere they go, and kidnapping ill-watched slaves and beggars along the way. These victims are taken while those around them are paying attention to the performance, and this creates a wonderful way to get fresh meat to the Forest Ridge. Within the Circus, there would be feats of acrobatic flexibility (Finnian’s specialty), wonderful acts of beauty and symmetry (Mai and Tai, mostly), entertaining sketches, and trained kanks that would roll on top of large wheels, to name a few. When they had room, they would set up a tent and perform within the confines of the maroon-and-cream striped hut. However, in places like Nibenay, where it is impossible to do such things, they would put on street performances instead, out in the open. Depending on where they were located (slums, market district, and so on), they would aim for a different goal. In districts where the majority of the population was workers, foreigners, slaves, and the like, the intent was to kidnap for a later meal. However, whenever they performed in a higher-ranking area, such as a market district, they would mostly pander for small coin, as it would be easier to be caught in such a place. They were the epitome of a circus, at face value. Finnian’s father runs this Faction, and Finnian was a working member of the Circus for twenty years. They would travel on a main route about twice a year, going in a circle from Urik to Tyr, stopping at every major city state with the exception of Draj. In his time (twenty years) as a traveling acrobat (as he was a part of the performance, not the kidnapping), he has been to Draj a total of eight times, Tyr and Urik approximately eighty times, and everywhere else approximately forty. While he may not know much on the history of these places, he does know some of the customs…what to do, what not to do, and where to locate the merchant quarter and the slums. On the second trip to Draj, one of his cousins was arrested and killed for a “Bell Dance” he had performed during the show, and Finnian now knows that “Bells are Bad” from this experience, after learning on “why my cousin was killed.” Also because of the constant traveling, he has a good sense of direction, and can easily pick out which way is North just by closing his eyes and breathing deeply. He also knows “what not to do on a caravan,” and ways to keep one safe from fights with raiders without actually getting into combat. Whether or not he uses this information, however, is a different story, as the main tactic of the caravan was to “get down and speed the kanks up as fast as possible.”
Such a life gave Finnian a good example of the world, and he still holds many strong opinions on each of the city states he would stop in. Starting with the small village of Freedom, the troupe would then move onto Urik, a city that can be described by Finnian as “a wonderful place to get into the traveler’s mindset.” Here, they had to watch everything they did carefully, and constantly be on their toes. Yes, they were tense within this city, for the most part, but it did create a good environment to get back into the mindset of “Yes, we’re kidnapping people, but we have to put on a show and look normal!” A little tidbit of information here, the troupe would place lions’ manes on the Kanks during the animal shows here, to pander to the love of the Lion within the crowd. From here, the troupe would travel to Raam, a favorite place of Finnian’s. Sure, it’s not home, but it was a good place for his troupe to come and “steal away” some of the undesirables. With such chaos, a few missing persons would not be missed, and the Ghost City right outside the city walls was a perfect place to “get new props for the performance,” if you know what I mean. You would have to watch where you stepped, and the chaos was used as a teaching tool for the youngsters of the troupe that “Our way of life is much better than these heathens,” but in general, Finnian regards this place as a decent enough place to stay for a day or two. From here, the troupe would either depart to Draj (on the rare occasion…the troupe did not find Draj a pleasurable place to perform, as the people were too hung up on their Sorcerer King) and then continue to Tyr, or they would continue down the Nibenese Road, which was normal, towards Nibenay and Gulg (in that order). The former of the two city states was viewed as a wonderful place to perform, if not a bit cramped. Such people with such a rich history and love of the arts were always a blessing, when it came to “audience participation,” and thus distractions were easy, even on such narrow streets that only allowed for street performers. It was a group effort to bring in all of the equipment needed, and it strengthened the bonds of the troupe each time they would enter into the city. Gulg is, by far, Finnian’s favorite city to visit and perform in, not only because no one misses the unregistered foreigners that seem to disappear whenever the troupe comes to town, but also because of its semblance to home. He has never been inside the city walls, and respects the idea of keeping foreigners out (after all, that’s what his tribe does on a daily basis). However, he would love to one day walk within the walls of Gulg, and experience what the city has to offer. After this, there would be a long period of time where the troupe would not be in any form of a city state.
They would then travel from Gulg to Salt View, Samarah, and then finally Balic, in that order. While in Salt View, the troupe would take a rest and trade information with the other traveling performers who were located within the area. They would not perform, they would not kidnap (as the small village was filled with suspicion and it would be easy to see if someone was missing), but rather stay here for a few days to practice their routines, exchange trade secrets, and share information they had gathered. Samarah was nothing to be noted, but Balic…Balic was confusing to him. Yes, the place was wonderful for coinage, and yes, if the troupe played up the mythology just right, they could bring in a massive amount of ceramic, but…the idea of a “democracy” seemed very off to him. It didn’t make any sense, as he saw the government as “allowing every idiot with a voice to shout until he feels satisfied.” Now, however, this place is filled with poor memories, as this is the place where his family abandoned him. From here, the troupe would travel north, to Altaruk, and then until they reached Tyr. Here, the troupe would hire Mercenaries with the money they had made through tips, to take back to the forest ridge with them. Yes, they aimed to buy the weaker of the bunch, so overcoming them once within the Forest Ridge wouldn’t be a problem, and it seemed to work (most of the time). Here, also, marks a new feeling for Finnian, as this is where he began realizing that “Hey, perhaps these non-Halflings aren’t that bad.” Thus, Altaruk is now seen in a much…lighter light than prior. Moving to Tyr, our little Halfling knew this place well, still knowing the Warrens like the back of his hand. He could find food easily within the crowded streets, he knew a few of the gangs by name, and had a few scuffs with them throughout his life. Here, the enslaved audience seemed to love the performances, and the troupe even occasionally made a trade acquaintance. Jossi would allow the group to switch off street corners with her, and would exchange small bits of information of what to expect within the city for what was coming her way. Of course, they saw her as a petty criminal…whether this was true or not…as, in Finnian’s own words, “He’s a Knife-Ears. What do you expect?”
More recently, Urik and Tyr are seen with fear for Finnian, as the troupe would travel to these two city states frequently throughout the year (and thus, a run-in would seem very likely). He will still enter within these cities, but would try to stay away from the slums, if possible.
A few other things to know about the clan: they are all related in one way. Most of the members of the clan are related by at least one relative, and many are in fact first cousins. It’s hard to get around, when it comes to mating, and incest is not looked down upon. However, with this being said, deformed, ill infants are not uncommon, and are not looked on with any stigma to the mother nor the father. The infant is brought, shortly after birth, to the Temple of the Sky Serpent, and left there to die (as the tribe believes the life force of a newborn is not developed enough to have any effect on the life force of the devouring entity). What happens to it, the clan members do not know. The clan leaders don’t even know themselves…they just know that, if they leave the babe there, it will be taken by something and never seen again. This is the only reason they ever approach this site willingly, as they have no reason to go to it. Many have wandered near it, on occasion, but never ventured inside. Nevertheless, it is still a landmark in the area that they settle in, and thus many can attest to the general location of the temple (“If you walk in that direction, you’ll find it eventually”). What’s inside, what to expect, and so on…that’s a different story.
And with that all being said, I do believe it’s time I actually start on Finnian’s back-story.
Finnian was born the second son of the leader of the Circus faction of the Alaric Clan. He had one older brother, Leithan, who later became one of the clan’s strongest warriors, and would later be an older brother to identical twins, Mai and Tai, who became a sensation on the traveling show. Finnian also has countless sisters…however, because of the lack of a monogamous idea for mating, most of these are just because his father A) fools around a lot, and B) because his father is a high-ranking official. Also, these sisters are not important, as this is a patriarchal society. Initially, his strength and dexterity showed promise for Lecun; however, before long, Finnian was swinging from low-hanging branches, doing feats of extraordinary flexibility in midair. This landed him, at the age of 13, a position in the travelling circus, as part of the performance.
He loved this. Not only could he make his father proud, he could keep an eye out for his identical twin brothers, and (perhaps the most important to him) see the world outside of the Ridge. This, of course, created problems for Finnian. He was fascinated by the other races, by the other customs of the cities…he became secretly enthralled with them. His family noticed, and commented on it on the side, mentioning how “Finnian is not a good Halfling, for he finds the practices of others interesting.” This, along with his father catching him conversing with a mul that would later be dinner, resulted in him being thrown into deeper teaching and memorization of the disciplines that all Halflings need to know, also known as the “Perianath Thenid.” To this day, he can recite large chunks of this orally-passed down code of conduct, as it was drilled into his head. Still, even after all of his retraining and relearning, many of the clan still viewed him as “soft” and as a Halfling that was not the perfect image they had hoped for. He, essentially, was on thin ice, when it came to his behavior. Sure, he still believed that Halflings were superior, and he still followed all of the practices of the Sarquindi lifestyle, but the lack of disgust when dealing with other races caused those who worked with him never ending worry (of betrayal) and resentment.
Then, when he was thirty three, everything changed. The Circus was on its normal bi-yearly route, stopping in Balic for their normal show. As they were packing up, Finnian decided to see who/what had been captured, to see what would be on the menu in months to come. Inside one of the cages, bound and gagged to keep her from screaming, was a pregnant dwarf, carrying a mul child.
Now, a little information on the Perianath Thenid: It’s like the Bible in the sense that there are many interpretations, there are many different versions, and yet two people using the exact same translation and version will get totally different meanings. Finnian took one thing that was taught to him to heart, and used this in his judgment with his next action:
“Always protect the Women and Children first. Always take their life force last.”
Now, the clan wasn’t low on food (that Finnian was aware of), and they had caught plenty of other “meals” for later. The lines pertaining to eating pregnant women (which Finnian interpreted as “don’t eat them”) ran through his head, and he felt as though he knew what to do.
He let the woman go, on the condition that she would not tell a single soul about this. She has since kept her promise, as far as Finnian knows.
Finnian was proud of himself, as he had followed the code correctly, and returned back to his post on the caravan. The next day, upon finding the cage empty, Finnian confessed proudly to his actions, claiming that the kidnappers had made a mistake, and that it clearly says that “we are not to eat pregnant women” within the Perianath Thenid. The rest of the crew, however, did not share this belief. They branded him a first time (representing that he is banished until he can redeem himself, a single diagonal line on his shoulder blade), allowed him to take his belongings, and left him in Balic with no one familiar. He had been abandoned, banished, and branded, all for the life of one dwarf slave woman he doubted he would see again. Making his way to a tavern, he spent the next two days trying to drown his sorrows in liquor. He had never had anything alcoholic before, and thus the drunken “high” felt nice. Until the hangover, of course, during which he realized that he needed to begin working on how to redeem himself. Then, it hit him all at once, upon hearing a newsboy cry out about how one of the Sorcerer Kings needed a group of individuals to go on a quest for him. Finnian thought for a while, and then came to the realization that if he were able to gain the party’s trust and lure them into the Ridge, there would be a feast beyond normal proportions. He dedicated himself to this idea, and the next morning (while still a little hung over), he was on his way to Tyr with a group of individuals that would later become his new kin.
For all of his teachings, Finnian is rather laid back when it comes to decision making. While he may not trust the ideas of his new-found, non-Perian kin, he will allow them to outvote him on most matters. Initially, this was to allow them to get a false sense of trust for Finnian, only to later be betrayed in a stew pot. However, as time has progressed, Finnian is more lenient because he wants to be and because he legitimately has very little qualms about where the SS Redwood “sails” to next. He has made his home on this ship, up in the rafters and in the crow’s nest, as the constant rush of air reminds him of swinging back and forth on the trapezes he loves so much. He’s even gone as far as to transform some of the ropes into his own little play ground, with a total of two wooden swings and six femur-bone trapezes for him to twist and dash between. As long as he’s allowed that, and the few requirements that he states are met, the ship could be going straight to Hell and he wouldn’t give a kank’s ass.
Because of the teachings of Sarquindi, Finnian has a massive issue with the undead, or anything that looks rotten/long dead. Ghosts, spirits, zombies, skeletons, and the like all insight massive fear for him, especially if it’s from something he, himself, ate. He has pissed himself at the sight of a Deva, looking to him like a ghost, and will chant a small mantra to himself (“Life has passed on from you to the living” or “Saura Stay Dead,” depending on the circumstance) when faced with such beings. He can be a bit of what would be called a coward, but this is mostly due to the tactics the travelling circus implemented: They did not want to fight more than they had to, even though they did have trained fighters within their ranks. They would keep their heads down, and speed as fast as possible through the desert, essentially fleeing from any possible danger. The sound of bells (from his experience in Draj) and the undead hold a spot of fear within him, and he will always attempt to flee before attacking these creatures. While traveling, he will attempt to get the navigator to circumvent any possible raiders before they can get attacked (of course, if they don’t try to avoid them, he won’t say or do much against it, as he’s laid back in decision making for the most part).
Old habits do die hard, and he still views Halflings of any kind to be the highest and most pure of all races. That being said, he uses derogatory terms constantly when referring to other races. “Knife Ears,” “Stone Skin,” “Diggers,” “Tree Beasts,” “Gorgons,” and so on are just a few of the names he gives to various races (Elves and Half Elves, Goliaths, Dwarves, Wilden, and Teiflings, respectively.) He also has names for different professions, namely the arcane. To him, all arcane users are “Arcane Bastards,” as that’s the term that was taught to him, and that’s all he knows to call them. Whether they defile or not, whether they are good or evil, he calls them all “arcane bastards,” even if he finds them to be an ally. He is only beginning to realize that “hey, that’s not what they’re actually called,” but is still trying to find the right word for them.
When contemplating his own race, he has some massive issues. He was taught that everything being told to him was absolute, yet here in the real world, he can easily see the holes within their logic. He was taught that all arcane users are wealthy, greedy defilers that can only destroy and will kill you on the spot for being a tree-lover or for a single ceramic piece. However, with the introduction of The Doctor into his life, he can clearly see that this is not the case; sure, The Doctor is a noble, and The Doctor does defile. However, the Artificer also can heal, and treats Finnian as kin (for the most part, the occasional butting-of-the-metaphorical-heads notwithstanding). He was taught that the most dexterous beings on the planet were the Halflings, yet a Wilden within the party seems to be able to slip in and out of shadows even better than Finnian could ever do. This, to him, is brain-wrecking, as essentially everything he was ever taught to be absolute is turning out to not be so true, and it’s beginning to cause him doubt on his own race. This is making him think of himself as a “Bad Halfling,” as he’s beginning to doubt the teachings of his elders. This dissent, to him, is what is bringing him down and keeping him from fulfilling his goal of “bringing home a feast and redeeming himself,” and is powering the feelings of mutual trust he’s beginning to have towards the party. This makes him worry about his own being, his own state of mind, as he begins to believe that he is and will forever be a “broken Halfling.” (Currently, after what the Deva told him, he is realizing that he is not a dissenter for doubting his kind, but rather thinking in a way that is normal for someone to do with evidence against the information given.)
Finnian still retains his love of food, even after being forced out of a society with so much emphasis put on meals. He carries around with him a variety of spices, and knows how to mix and blend them all into a wonderful combination. He uses these spice-blends not only for preserving meat and making meals, but also to mask the scent of the arcane user on board. If you see him flying on the ropes, with brownish-red powder falling from the sky, don’t worry: he’s just masking the ship’s defiling odor. Still a firm believer in the Sarquindi lifestyle, he will take meat from what is killed by the party, and will preserve it for a later date, and, having travelled a lot, his pallet is complex and unique. He can recount the best way to prepare an elf, and how it is not the best for long travels (as, while it is very sweet and plentiful in the lands, it is light and it does not keep one full), and tell you the best way to make a dwarf’s meat less tough (one word: stew). He can tell you how each of the major races taste, unless he has never eaten them before (Shardmind, Gith, Deva, to name a few), and his favorite above all others is Mul. To him, Mul is a delicacy, and is bred for the slaughter. At a slave market, he will examine the Muls on auction for knuckle size, for fat content, for skin coloration, and the like, like a farmer would examine a bull for auction. Whether or not he can buy them is a different story, but he views slave markets as food markets for this reason.
Speaking of slavery, he is indifferent about it. It happens, he can’t do anything about it, and through slavery he can get amazing Mul steaks.
For some more minor details, he will not touch alcohol with a ten foot pole; he longs to be a performer once again; and he views the Ridge with fear, as he is still a “broken Halfling.” In short, Finnian is a self-doubting coward that knows how to flip, tumble, and charge into battle gracefully, can direct any group in the right direction for traveling, and is slowly seeing that, perhaps, things that are taught to us are not always as they appear.