In retrospect, Break 1 could have been soooo much better. Oh well, live and learn.
Break 3 – Roegen the Survivalist
Many stories have been told about the forest of Verdant. The wood from its trees is some of the strongest material in Rym, and the trees grow tall quickly. Because of this, it is known as the Eternal Forest. It is also known as the Shifting Maze, because the forest is ever-changing. Paths open and close every year, making maps worthless.
The nature of the forest makes it the perfect place for Hunters, and perhaps the most skilled of the lot was Roegen the Survivalist.
Traditionally, Verdant was ruled by the Three Noble Houses, the heads of which were known as the Noble Lords. Each of the Noble Lords represented the strongest of the three promoted Hunter classes: the Selene family of Tamers, the Springer family of Trappers, and the Keane family of Snipers. Roegen was the nephew of the then Noble Lord of Keane.
Because he wasn’t a member of the main bloodline, Roegen was trained to be a bodyguard and mentor to the heir, his younger cousin Gavin Keane. In his teen years, Roegen gained a reputation as a skilled Hunter, often going on increasingly lengthy excursions into the wild and surviving for weeks without aid.
Verdant always had a tense relationship with Astoria, with which they share a long history of wars, primarily over the land of Etrium, which lay at the midpoint between the two nations. After Balken’s forces conquered Astoria, they marched south to Verdant, whose people were eager to prove they were Astoria’s superior.
Their advance, already slowed by the thick forest, was further hindered by packs of Verdant wolves sent by the House of Selene. Though they fought bravely, Balken’s army showed no mercy, fending off their attackers and setting fire to the forest.
The House of Springer surrendered to Balken and invited them to the capitol. However, Balken’s general Lodi saw through the subterfuge and revealed the myriad of traps and ambushes that awaited them. The false deserters were wiped out, and Balken proclaimed he would raze all of Verdant if the remaining armies refused to surrender. The House of Keane gave in, hoping Balken would spare them and their positions. They were wrong.
Terrence Keane (Noble Lord): They’ve breached the castle. But it’s not over for our family.
Gavin: We’ll fight to the end, right, father?
Roegen: Let the Dark Lord come. I’ll introduce him to a few arrows. Face to face.
Terrence: No, Roegen. I’ll fight the Dark Lord, and I’ll lose. You take Gavin far from here. Go to the Ballista.
Gavin: Why can’t you come as well?
Terrence: I can give you some extra time. Besides, this situation is my fault in the first place. Go!
Roegen: Yes, my Lord! Come, Gavin!
Roegen: That was an order. We can’t let the bloodline die here!
Roegen and Gavin escaped up Castle Keane’s keep to its roof, where Roegen operated the castle’s secret weapon, an oversized iron ballista. Designed to fire heavy bolts at long distances, its original purpose was to destroy siege weapons while they were still outside of effective range. In this situation, it had a second purpose: a harpoon bolt carrying a strong, lengthy wire. Firing the harpoon extended a line from the top of the tower to the target. It was an emergency escape tool.
Gavin: Hooks on the parapet! They’re climbing!
Roegen: They can’t be far up. Take my baselard, slow them down while I aim the Ballista.
Gavin: Yes, Coz.
Gavin took Roegen’s short sword and hacked away at the ropes hanging off the parapet as Roegen took hold of the Ballista. He fired the harpoon bolt deep into the forest, away from Balken’s approaching army, and hung a hand-held pulley over the wire.
Roegen: Gavin, you haven’t used this before, have you? Hold tight.
Gavin: What will we do in the forest?
Roegen: We’ll survive.
Upon landing half a kilometer away from the castle, Roegen aimed his bow and shot an arrow through the wire to ensure no one would follow them easily. The two then fled deep into the forest.
Balken’s army had set fire to random sections of the forest in order to flush out ambushers. They had also hunted many of Verdant’s animals down for meat. This made it hard enough for Roegen to find enough food to survive off; the fact that Gavin had trained in archery but had no experience in wilderness survival meant Roegen had to work twice as hard. Though the two were able to evade Balken’s soldiers for a week, their strength was growing thin.
Man: Hey, are they dead?
Girl: They’re from the House of Keane. Leave them to rot.
Man: It was the Noble Lord of Keane who made that decision, and he paid for it with his life. They’re not at fault.
Girl: If the rest of the House isn’t to blame, then what is the point of even having them?
Man: At the moment, our Houses don’t exist regardless. Cover me while I drag them to the cave.
Roegen awoke in a cave surrounded by vaguely familiar men in ragged clothes.
Roegen: Where am I?
Richard: You’re in the hideout of the Band of Nobles. I am Richard. And I believe you would be Roegen.
Roegen: Band of Nobles? You’re… bandits?
Richard: And Nobles. Or don’t you recognize us without our royal garb?
Roegen: Nobles? Richard? You don’t mean…
Richard: That’s right, I’m Richard Springer, the would-be heir to the throne of Springer. My younger brother and two of my cousins are in the band as well, but they’re off on an… errand. The tiny one over there is Viola from the House of Selene.
Viola: You’re not dead yet? What a pity. And how dare you refer to me as “tiny,” Springer?
Richard: Don’t tease her too much, she has a temper.
Roegen: Viola Selene… She’s the only heir to the House of Selene?
Richard: That she is. Well, her uncle’s alive as well. Secondary line, of course. Not that it matters with Balken in charge now.
Roegen: The House of Keane…. Gavin is the heir… Where’s Gavin?
Richard: Oh, he’s resting. You should build up your strength as well. We’ll be counting on your skills from now on.
Roegen: What’s the point? The hunting’s terrible, and there’s nothing to forage.
Richard: True, the foraging is a problem. But this is Verdant. Even something like this is nothing. The plants will be back and healthy in time. As for the hunting… that’s where you’re wrong.
Roegen: What do you mean?
Viola: The prey… is Balken’s soldiers.
Roegen: Y… You’re EATING them?
Richard: What?! No, no! We’re stealing from them.
Viola: And murdering them in cold blood.
Richard: Well, that’s a given. It’s only fair, of course. Gold is practically worthless, but we take it anyway. Armor and weapons are good to replenish our armory. The main targets are of course supply carts.
Viola: They steal our goods, so we take them back.
Roegen: Makes perfect sense to me. But how successful have you been?
Richard: We’re very careful about where we strike, and we don’t leave any trace of our presence. No survivors, of course. I’m sure they suspect something, but they don’t have the manpower to care about us. Balken’s already left Verdant with most of his army. The only ones left are to “keep the peace.” If we keep attacking at our current rate and make sure no messengers leave Verdant, we can corner the remaining army and force a siege.
Roegen: We don’t have the forces to stage a siege.
Richard: Yeah, but they don’t know that.
Roegen: And if they lock themselves up, we’ll be without a source of food.
Richard: That’s why we’re not pushing the strategy. We’re pacing ourselves just right so by the time it comes to that, the forest will be close to normal. Don’t tell me you’re not joining.
Roegen: I don’t have a choice. I can’t protect Gavin if we have to survive by normal means.
Richard: Then welcome aboard, House of Keane.
Viola: You’d better fight, or I’m feeding you to Diana. She’s having pups soon and could use the fresh meat.
Richard: She’s not kidding, I don’t think.
And so, Roegen joined the Band of Nobles. Once Gavin was healthy enough, his skill with the bow was added to the team.
Then one day, the Band came across different prey: Kruseid and Meuri, along with the remnants of Kruseid’s unit.
Roegen: They’re not with Balken! That’s Astorian armor.
Viola: As if there’s any difference.
Roegen: Balken is Astoria’s enemy as well. We can’t let old grudges throw away a potential ally. Stay here, I’ll test their mettle.
Viola: Test their mettle all you want, just remember to take their metal as well.
Kruseid and Roegen had a duel in the forest, one in which Kruseid was the eventual but hard-fought victor. Kruseid’s party was invited to the Band’s hideout, where the Astorian Prince attempted to persuade the Band to join him in his quest to challenge Balken. Although Roegen was eager to join, the rest of the Band elected not to abandon Verdant.
Viola: I’d never fight alongside the Astorian royalty.
Richard: I have to admit, I don’t fully trust him myself. But we’re making progress in Verdant.
Gavin: I’m not leaving Verdant either, Coz.
Roegen: Gavin… Forgive me for leaving my post, then.
Roegen: The Band will take care of you. This is something I must do to make up for the mistake our House made. I will bring the fight to Balken.
That was how Roegen’s quest with Kruseid began. His skills were crucial in traversing the Rhean Forests, where Duvall and Chelsea were added to their forces. Of the Seven Heroes, only he and Kruseid traversed the magical underwater ruins at Wynn to retrieve the sacred relics, Kruseid’s Sword of Judgment and Shield of Truth, and Roegen’s Eye of Malice. And it was Roegen with the help of Rieve Elan’s Raven that felled the Dark General, Lodi the Trap Artist.
Following Balken’s demise, the Seven Heroes helped to drive his armies from their captured lands. Roegen’s return was not met witih celebration.
The Band of Nobles’ hideout was utterly destroyed. Only scorched bones and weapons remained. A complete search of the forest yielded nothing. He had returned the only surviving Noble of Verdant.
Mackenzie (Roegen’s adviser): Sir, half of the scouts have returned.
Roegen: Were they attacked?
Mackenzie: No, they were caught up in our traps.
Roegen: What kind of scouts…? I thought you told me they were the best.
Mackenzie: The ones that returned were. The others were skilled, but chosen in accordance with your order for 12 scouts. Sir, there may be too many traps, and constantly adding more is making it more difficult to traverse the forest.
Roegen: Then train more people to detect the traps.
Mackenzie: There have also been complaints that traveling merchants have been getting caught in the traps and unable to complete their routes.
Roegen: Their own fault for not employing our scouts.
Mackenzie: Actually, they have.
Roegen: Train better ones. Now, what is the report?
Mackenzie: Forces from the Astorian army have been seen moving towards the Sakarlands.
Roegen: It must be Kruseid visiting Meuri again.
Mackenzie: That is what the scouts thought at first, but…
Mackenzie: They carried the standard of the King of Astoria… but Kruseid was not among them. It was a double.
Roegen: I see. And no other movements?
Roegen: How is the hawk and wolf training going?
Mackenzie: Slow-going, but the quality is impressive. The trained hawks are capable of reconnaissance over the entirety of the forest. In terms of one-way distance, they can reach Etrium and back.
Roegen: If we can send our own Tamers to infiltrate Etrium, that distance can be doubled.
Mackenzie: Yes, that was considered, but Etrium has been particularly on its guard recently.
Roegen: Keep at it.
Mackenzie: Understood. As for the wolves…
Roegen: I’m not concerned about the wolves. Top quality doesn’t matter with them, just achieve the numbers.
Mackenzie: Understood. Then…
Roegen: Oh, as for the Watchtower….
Mackenzie: It is on schedule.
Roegen: It needs to be ahead of schedule. I want it done a week earlier.
Mackenzie: A-as you wish…
Mackenzie left the hall to leave Roegen in solitude.
Roegen: Kruseid… We set out to slay a great evil. We never wanted to change the world. But perhaps… our aspirations should have been higher than Balken’s. Must you repeat the mistakes of your blood? I thought we were different.
Title: The Survivalist
1. Noble Bow – A strong longbow carved out of Verdant wood by Roegen himself. No special properties, other than the fact that it’s the weapon Roegen is most comfortable with.
2. Noble Baselard – A short sword used to protect himself in close quarters combat. It is most often used as a tool in the wilderness and to disarm traps.
3. Eye of Malice – A medallion that burns when those with intent to harm its owner approaches. It also bestows a limited blessing that allows its user to hone in on such presences even in a crowd.
Next time, on Bardass! Brier’s party gets separated in the snowfields of Croadin when the cursed Bard is rescued by someone from his past. Find out who in Quest 16 – Whiteout.