My story begins… in a brothel, brought screaming into this world, I knew not then the sad and pathetic reasons that brought me into existence. As a young boy I was a single child, yet I had many siblings and only one father. My father you see, hated women, although he would never fully admit this, his constant bile whenever a woman was brought up made it all too painfully obvious. His mother was not a kind, benevolent being, she was cruel, selfish, manipulative, destructive, he would recount these stories too me, as if to show me he knew why he hated women, but not how to change. He was married for a short while, although by his accounts the woman ‘pushed’ him away, I take these stories with carefully chosen grain of salt. But, my father is still a man, he still wanted to carnal relationships with woman, without any of the effort or responsibility; this is how I was born. I never knew what brought him to a gladiator arena, but, whatever his reasons, it was where he met my mother, a whore for champions and other ‘respectable’ men. He stayed with my mother many nights, maybe even started to develop feelings for her, although I personally doubt it. My father stayed purposely vague on why I was raised without my mother, but anytime I had asked, it was always her fault, and since I couldn’t find the truth I stopped asking, it tears at my mind to this day. I had never met a man as delusional as my own father, he carefully filtered the world around him so he could easily justify anything and everything, I have grown, and I know now that, that is a shortly lived life, and so it was with my father. We returned to our home, don’t remember where, I was just a young boy, maybe eight years; I remember the night, it was dark and heavy with dread. A group of people of various races, male and female came for my father, I hid in our secret room, a small place where my father worked his ‘craft’, I later would find to be of the criminal nature. I remember hearing fighting, brief fighting, a thud on the ground above and a small cheer of victory, then silence. I remember being trapped in that room under the ground for hours, my father’s own body covering the hatch, I finally resorted to destroying the hatch with a knife I had found, carving away until the wood splintered and his body falling into the hole. His eyes lifeless, and cold, I teared up at the sight, I knew my father loved me, though his methods of showing his affection were questionable. He told me quite consistently he had a letter hidden in the house for me to find if anything happens to him, although he said it as though he thought he would go missing, not end up dead. His note had some coin, his final words and implored me to buy passage on the next ship leaving, it had some questionable bits of advice, small parts blaming my mother, and other women in his life, but the final words, “I love you my son” and his signature etched into the bottom of the note reminds me to this day that his love for me was true.
This is where I felt destiny played its part, for the ship I received passage on was bound for the Ice Fang Isles. The captain was a fair and stern man, instead of coin he instead asked for labor, I learned quite a bit of basic work on the months we spent on the ship, the captain liked my spirit and admired my courage for setting out on my own. I learned the captain was, well, basically a pirate, although he spent more time smuggling goods than he did stealing them, although he wasn’t above anything that could turn a decent profit. He taught me how to use my wit and charm in several situations, a bit of sword play, dirty tricks and more. In our final week he showed me his finest collection of treasure, not of jewels, gold or silver but, of finely crafted pots, plates, jugs, made of beautiful white porcelain. The design and artistry astounded me, some inlayed with jewels, silver and gold, others had striking color and art that told stories, he had cutlery fashioned of obsidian metal with porcelain handles with the most beautiful markings and art of various colors, my favorite was a fork, inlayed silver and red etchings of a dragon, his wings extending around the handle. We arrived at Port Vona, I said my farewells to the crew, and the captain, Captain Grayraven presented me with the fork I cherished so much, a gift for my hard work he said. The captain leaned down, hand on my shoulder, his amber eyes staring into mine, his words still as clear to me as if I had just heard them “Boy, I may be a scoundrel, and by all laws a criminal, but, remember, not all criminals are evil and that a man can redeem himself if he wants it bad enough. If you ever need company or work, you will be able to find me, I give you permission to use the name Grayraven, and I leave it to you to decide what people will think when they utter the name.” I remember walking slowly and hugging the captain and thanking him, he smiled and we parted ways. There I stood on the docks, in Port Vona of Ice Fang Isle, alone, cold, with a bit of coin, and a beautiful fork. The captain had told me stories of Ice Fang Isle, how forsaken it was and of the white dragon that ‘ruled’ it and his kobold pets, and the expected monthly tribute of the few people here. I set out to the nearest inn; the innkeeper was a large man, round, stout and tall. His hair short and his beard long, he smiled wide with bright cheeks and nose, he was supremely kind. I told him of my journey and asked if I could have a room in exchange for labor, he eyed me carefully, but agreed in the end. I stayed a few weeks at the inn, the innkeeper, Borron, kept me busy, he was a kind man full of cheer and started educating me with basic writing and mathematics to help better serve him at the inn. He told me he would see about finding an actual home for me here at Port Vona, surprisingly in a short amount of time a man came in with his wife and asked to see me. They were Declan Bright and Serena Bright, and they wanted to adopt me as their only child.
Life in the isle was as good as I could have expected, given my circumstances. My foster parents were very devout followers of the goddess Tylora, master of magic, knowledge and secrets. They went to great lengths to incorporate her teaching into my life, and since being on my own I have learned how lucky I am to have had such a in depth education on a variety of subjects. I embraced the pure logic and creed demanded by Tylora, it brings me comfort and reprise from a world that is not so simple to understand. Through the years I spent my time mostly with my foster father, we had a strong bond of friendship that he carefully crafted to the extent of his word being the ultimate authority and to be respected despite my own disagreement. He was fair, albeit sometimes harshly so, I cared for him very much, and he taught me the life of a cleric of Tylora and how best to serve the churches and schools as well as the good people in the world. My foster mother Serena was more even tempered and sweet, at nights she would teach me simple trades and smart ways of using my simple magic. She was less demanding, and treated me more like her own blood son than Declan ever did, although I understand his reasons. My full title now, is Layior the Icewind; this came about one week with my foster parents. The Ice Fang Isle’s ruler is a cruel dragon, the isle themselves a frozen wasteland, much of the cities are full of empty buildings with very few homes with nary a semblance of warmth inside. This is the second greatest tragedy in my life. The isle has these mysterious pillars, emanating auras of frost, freezing all who get near, whether by coincidence or the cruel hand of fate, we were foolish in our quest for all knowledge, we had found a way to bear the power of the pillars, only for a short while, we slowly catalogued the symbols and began to understand the past behind the isles. But then, the dragon appeared, wings darkened the skies, and as if the pillars were alive they thundered at their masters appearance, the auras intensified, my parents began to freeze from the feet up, my parents prayed to Tylora to save me, she teleported me to safety, but, not far enough away, for the ice made its mark upon me and I had to suffer the sight and pain of seeing my foster parents hold each other’s hands and put their foreheads together before becoming solid statues, frozen, cold, together, I not with them. The mark on my shoulder from the incident is that of a woman, black eye sockets, no eyes to see, and hair made of blades, running down my left backside to my torso, the side that was closest to my parents before I was teleported away.
I know not what happened that day or what the mark means, only that I was alone again, at least I was the age of a young man, but nevertheless, alone. I thanked Tylora for saving me and begged for some way to free my parents, if not bring them back then to free their spirits and souls. No answers came, and I grew furious, angered by the silence. I sunk into depression, my home grew cold, and I lay waiting to pass on in the hopes of being with my foster parents. Visitors came to my door, one night, a particular band of men, seeking the man with the mark on his shoulder. If these people were itching to fight, I would fight them and hope to die in the process. However, things did not turn out that way; they paid me a large sum of gold and moved into my home, turning it into a base. The introduced themselves as an independent company of independently minded individuals doing independent work for individuals in need of specialist who are independent, loyal only to coin. Criminals, my anger with Tylora was solid, I thought to spite her I would use my abilities as a cleric under her to amass wealth. I learned much from my years with this company, I learned different trades, my favorite being the art of blackmail, and other things this company employed such as how to find the network spanning all the continents, fences for items and information and more, I became a full fledge member, under the alias as Grayraven.
I spent the remaining years stealing information and knowledge from those who I felt didn’t deserve it, those who abused it to hold power over others, I in turn, would hold power over them. I became a well-known artist of blackmail, and became a reliable member, the name Grayraven was soon whispered by those who had seen my work first hand. I had made a good bit of coin, using it to procure more and more knowledge in the forms of lost or stolen scrolls, books and so forth. Then one day very recently, I learned of a book relating to the isles, and its master, this book I believe may be the key to me learning how to free my parents from their icy tombs, or at least free their spirits. I setup a dead-drop meetup for where this book would be delivered to me by one of our group’s couriers and in turn I would pay for them with every last coin I had. Unfortunately, things did not turn out that way, for whatever reason, I came upon the dead-drop, with a slain courier at my feet, and the cold winds. I brought the body to my home, had a group take the body for examination, and to be returned to his own home afterword. Anger set it, I had lost a lead on finding out more about the isle, this white dragon, and maybe a way to bring my family back. That very night I had dreams, visions, the goddess Tylora spoke to me, she berated me for blaming her, told her the book went missing because I had turned my back on her and the faith, I knew in the end, she was right, in my dream I got down on a knee, put one palm on the ground and outstretched my other hand to her, I spoke “goddess, forgive me, you did not deserve my ire or wrath, my anger clouded my mind and judgement for so long, and now it is final, I do not deserve this, but please, forgive me, I would do anything to know your presences once more, what can I do to prove myself? I am humbled by my most recent loss, it serves as a reminder of my family and that day, and I know, I knew you would not have done so to me.” The goddess considered, “retrieve the book of Ice Fang Isles, you will travel far and wide to search for it, I will only help you if you help others in greater need, I am placing my faith in you, do not disappoint me, you will face a great trial, survive the trial and retrieve the book, and I will reward you.” I woke, drenched in sweat, but, feeling renewed hope, I knew my path, and my contacts informed me that the courier was killed by a type of necromantic magic and that only the book was taken. They also presented me with the hilt of a bladed weapon, it had inscriptions on it I had never seen before. With only these two clues, I set out from Ice Fang Isle, taking only what I could carry. I slept on the large ship peacefully, it was nostalgic for me to feel the bounce of a ship at sea, but then…I woke up in a black room, smooth rocks on all walls, hay in the corner, and a cup of…food…How did this happen?