You don’t deserve their help, Airk heard an inner voice tell him. You’re going to get them all killed. They’ll never realize their own dreams, because they’ll die trying to save your wretched hide.
Airk tried to ignore the voice, but it came back to him again and again.
Day after day after day.
Heavy Is The Head That
Seeks The Crown
took a long drink of water as he looked at the wooden engraving in his hand. It
showed several scenes that told an unusual story. A single wolf wandered alone,
wounded after losing most of his pack. He seemed doomed to always be on his own
until he found six other wolves who formed a new pack with him. The seven
wolves were of different heights, colors and builds, but they had a sense of
unity among them that belied their differences.
Airk smiled before
he put the engraving back in his pocket. He glanced over towards the heavy
plate armor, the shield decorated with the insignia of the twin moons and the
stars, and the military pick and spiked morning star, which all lay in a pile
on his bed in his room at the Wizard’s Hat Inn.
Airk wore the
equipment well. The firmness of his stride, the alert look on his face and the
vigilance of his manner were those of an experienced soldier. His well-muscled
frame, immaculately trimmed blonde hair, beard and handlebar moustache only
reinforced that image. He had the light brown skin and long pointy nose of a
gnome, but unlike most of his kin Airk had little use for humor or joy. His
hands were never far from his weapons, and everyone who met him knew how ready
he was to use them.
As part of the
Company of the Silver Wolf, Airk used his soldier’s training to fight alongside
his human and halfling adventuring companions. In the roughly four months since
they’d come together, the companions had begun to form a tight bond of
friendship, one that helped Airk cope with his inner turmoil.
had been festering for a long time. During the bloody Hateful Wars over seven
and a half decades ago, Airk’s military unit was betrayed by one of its own, a
cunning warrior named Kalrek Burunne. Kalrek’s betrayal left the gnomes’
kingdom of Flinthold weakened when it was attacked by the Steelheart dwarven
clan Kalrek betrayed Flinthold to. Airk fought in Flinthold’s defense, but he’d
left once the Steelhearts were defeated and he’d seen to the needs of his
family. His guilt and shame over his failing to anticipate Kalrek’s treason
made him unable to face any of his kin.
following decades, Airk wandered the Flanaess as an adventurer. He’d mostly
kept his guilt and despair under control, but they exploded again once he
learned about Kalrek’s plan to seize the Crown of Arumdina. The Crown was a
sacred artifact said to be blessed by no less than Garl Glittergold, the
supreme god of the gnomes. It earned its name from its monde, a piece of
mithril shaped like a battleaxe. The monde was said to be a piece of Arumdina,
the divine mithril axe wielded by Garl himself. As a symbol of Garl’s favor,
the Crown made Flinthold prosper so long as its monarchs wore it.
When the Crown
was stolen, Flinthold’s fortunes declined. Its old monarchy faded into history,
replaced by regents who lacked the same confidence or power as the old kings. Kalrek
sought the Crown so that he could claim the throne of Flinthold for himself. To
finance his search, he employed a small army of bandits and soldiers who raided
for treasure in the lands around the Nyr Dyv, laundering his blood money
through agents he forced to help him. One of those agents was the gem merchant
Laessar Bradon, the only other gnome in Airk’s unit who’d survived Kalrek’s
treason during the Wars.
Airk and his
friends learned about Kalrek’s schemes and Laessar’s involvement when they
fought one of Kalrek’s bandit gangs. The companions traveled to the gnome city
of Copper Crossing where Airk confronted Laessar to make him reveal Kalrek’s
whereabouts. Airk succeeded at that, but his decades-old rage and grief led him
to unintentionally kill Laessar. He and his companions rescued Laessar’s
family, who Kalrek kidnapped to force Laessar’s cooperation, but their efforts
to raise Laessar from the dead ended in failure.
permanently dead, his son Trendin inherited his gem-dealing business. Despite
his anger at Laessar’s death, Trendin chose not to take vengeance on Airk. Instead,
he demanded that Airk find the Crown and restore Flinthold’s long-lost glory,
wanting to honor his family’s roots. Airk initially wanted to go alone, not
knowing how long the quest would take and thinking that his friends had already
done enough for him. His companions all insisted on accompanying him,
regardless of how long the search took.
Now, nearly a
month after Laessar’s death, the Company of the Silver Wolf returned to the
Free City of Greyhawk to begin the search for the Crown. Seline Roas Del
Cranden, one of Airk’s companions, arranged a meeting with a sage who
specialized in gnomish history and culture who might be able to tell them where
the Crown was.
A thin smile
crossed Airk’s face as he considered what his friends had done for him. Another
one of his human companions, Revafour Greystar, carved and painted the wooden
engraving to try and help Airk cope with his guilt and shame.
vanished from Airk’s face as he suddenly remembered the rivers of blood on the
stone when the Steelhearts ambushed his unit, and the blood on his hands when
he’d killed Laessar.
He began to
shudder involuntarily as the memories came flooding back, breathing heavily as
he put his face in his hands.
You don’t deserve their help, Airk heard an inner voice tell him. You’re going to get them all killed. They’ll
never realize their own dreams, because they’ll die trying to save your
Airk tried to
ignore the voice, but it came back to him again and again.
Day after day