High Hopes Low Rolls
Rook Lunera (Valdazar)
Human Wizard; School of Transmutation.
Shrike and Kestrel Lunera spent their lives building Knothol into a better place. Their academy sought to combine magic, art and science in a way not seen anywhere else in the known world. Whilst they built the Academy and the people of Knothol from the ground up, their children, Rook and Jay spent their childhood surrounded by books and inventions, learning from Shrike, Kestrel and their peers, soaking up knowledge at every opportunity.
The Lunera’s philanthropy attracted some unwelcome attention in the form of a businessman named Ernest Drake. At 18, Drake was the same age as Rook, yet owned and ran his family business, which he had inherited after a tragic accident killed his family. Up until Ernest’s family died, their business had been close allies of the Lunera’s, doing similar philanthropic works. Ernest, Rook and Jay had crossed paths as children.
The Lunera’s private laboratory was a grand affair, spanning across two stories. A circular space, the second floor was a balcony overlooking the ground floor. Late one evening, Shrike and Kestrel where upstairs, going over blueprints – occasionally leaning over the balcony to check their 17 and 18 year old children were behaving in the workshop space below. Rook and Jay were working together, when shouting and the sound of boots filled their ears. Upstairs, their parents were being confronted by magic users, wearing a uniform emblazoned with the purple crest of a Drake. Rook pulled his sister under the balcony, out of sight of the upper floor, and the pair watched in horror, through a grate in the floor as the confrontation escalated from waving papers, to shouting, to a fight. Shrike was the first to fall, Kestrel falling as she reached for him. Satisfied with their work, the attackers left. Over the next couple of hours, Rook and Jay crouched, hidden in the workshop, listening intently, and watching with horror as blood dripped through the gaps in the wooden flooring. Finally, Rook found the strength to move and dragged his sister up to the second floor to get out of the building, pausing long enough over the bodies of their parents to notice they had reached for each other in their last moments.
Unable to go home, and afraid of running into Ernest or his men, Rook and Jay spent the next two years on the streets. They scraped by on odd jobs that either could pick up, but eventually they fell into pickpocketing and stealing from stalls to feed themselves. One night, shortly after Jay’s 19th birthday, Rook was returning to their hideout from scrounging them an evening meal, when he noticed armoured men heading away from it. He hid and scoped out the hideout for a few hours before realising Jay had been taken, and with sudden horror, remembered the emblem on the armour: Ernest Drake
Without Jay to protect, Rook got sloppy and was caught trying to pick the pocket of Sareth – a court wizard to the Council of Knothol. Sareth, being exceptionally wise and forgiving, did not haul the young man off to the guards, but instead made him promise to repay the deed by becoming his apprentice. For the first time in four years, Rook felt safe – he was happy. His studies under Sareth were reminiscent of his youth in his parent’s academy, and he excelled under Sareth’s watchful tutelage. Rook found a father figure in Sareth he did not realise he needed.
Not long into Rook’s time with Sareth, Rosa arrived. She too was there to study, but a couple of weeks into her studies, Rook looked up from a book and found her looking at him, a book forgotten in her lap. She smiled before returning to the book, smiling to herself. Whilst Sareth was lecturing them on a tangent, his back to them, they would fire small spells at each other. More and more frequently as time went on Rosa would be Rook’s personal space; leaning over him, or straightening his robes, and Rook would take the opportunity to wrap his arms around her. All of this happened under Sareth’s nose, the eccentric wizard not noticing that them having to share a room would cause any kind of tension. One night, several months into Rosa’s advances, Rook rolled over in bed to see her silhouette crossing their room towards him, and moved over to let her in.
Sareth’s role as a court wizard meant he spent a great deal of his time in the Council’s palace, listening and giving advice. More often than not he would assign Rook and Rosa to the palace staff as assistants, or get them to pursue research in the palace library whilst he was listening and advising the Council. A normal evening for the three after a day’s advising would involve Rook and Rosa divulging what they had learnt and what research they had progressed, and Sareth complaining bitterly about the petty politics of Councils – but tonight was different. Sareth was unusually quiet, pensive and disinterested in his apprentice’s tasks. He retired to his room as soon as they got back to his tower without saying anything, and without anything else to do, Rook and Rosa did the same. Rook however, led awake in th dark – Sareth’s behavior left him feeling uneasy. An unusual noise on the stairs drags Rook out of bed and up towards Sareth’s quarters, when he is attacked on the staircase. The ensuing struggle summons Rosa, and the two fight their way up the staircase, but by the time they get there Rook has been blinded in his left eye, and Sareth had been mortally wounded.
Sareth did not make it through the night. 7 years since the night his parents died, Rook stood over the body of mentor. Rosa returns to him, having searched the bodies of their attackers, with their orders, a letter signed with the Drake seal. Whilst Rook tends to his wounds, Rosa grabs the masks they used for dangerous experiments, and they plan their escape. They cover their faces, change their names and go on the run, Rook knowing he had to find his sister, and finaly deal with Ernest Drake.
Over the next three years Rook and Rosa, now Valdazar and Zameena, travel, looking for Jay, eventually crossing the sea and leaving Knothol behind. This time culminates in Faberston, a small town west of The Silver Homeland that they believed held clues to Jay’s location. Their arrival caught the attention of a local man – Bill Grimethorpe – whose business was a part of the wider Drake empire. He summoned people of similar connections to the town to help him deal with the two magic users who were now threatening to uncover the wider scheme. In the week it took for his allies to arrive he set about throwing Valdazar and Zameena off the scent, with enough success that they did not see the attack coming. In the middle of the night Valdazar and Zameena were awoken by screams and smoke – the town was on fire. Grimethorpe’s orders were clear – no loose ends, at any cost. The Inn they were staying in was raided, and Valdazar and Zameena were dragged from their bed into the inferno of the street. All around them were the sounds of people dying. They were forced to their knees in the mud opposite each other, each with a knife to their throat. Grimethorpe was taking particular pleasure in his success, outlining to them how he was going to make them watch each other die, but before he could give the order a roar shook the ground – for a moment drowning out the sound of the town burning. The knives dropped from their throats as the large form of an adult green dragon passed over their heads, glittering in the fire light – drawn by the column of smoke. The last thing Valdazar saw as he dragged Zameena away from the inferno was the beast landing in what used to be the town’s center.
The next couple of days they spent on the road, in silence. Slowly, like a storm creeping across the sky, they started to argue until Valdazar left Zameena on the road, screaming. He had decided that this was better than to watch anymore of the people he loved die. He kept heading south towards Imardin, the next place he believed he might find his sister.