The Land of Gold
Human Gifted Gun Mage/Pistoleer.
Marcus Blackbourne: Mercenary. Brigand. Murderer.
Religious fanatics. Greedy northerners. Conniving southerners. Nightmares from the sea. Life in the Iron Kingdoms isn’t an easy one. In lands defined as much through war and death as they are through innovation and progress, one must not only have the will, but the skills to survive. A lesson that Marcus Blackbourne has learned, the hard way.
Looking back on his history, one would never have suspected Marcus would have turned to a life of blood and coin, but life is rarely fair nor predictable. Born to a well-to-do family, spent his youth in Corvis, the City of Ghosts. Situated at the confluence of the Dragon’s Tongue and Black rivers, Corvis’ docks are always bustling with activity. It was on these docks that Marcus’ father, Decklan Blackbourne, made a name for himself as a skilled gunsmith, catering to passing mercenaries and the occasional military officer. Eventually, Decklan was able to open a small smithy, wedged between two of the many warehouses that lined the docks. And through this smithy, did he meet the woman that would eventually become Marcus’ mother, Caitlin, then a lieutenant in the Cygnaran military and a member of the Militant Order of the Arcane Tempest.
Growing up, Marcus spent his childhood either causing havoc with his circle of friends or receiving an education his parents’ sides. From his father, he learned the intricate craft of gun smithing. From the simplest musket to the latest marvel from Radcliffe Gunwerks, no repair was too complicated, no order too hard. And from his mother, the better educated of his parents, he learned how to read, write, perform advanced mathematics, and, as an occasional treat, how to shoot. But when he wasn’t learning or with his friends, more often than not, he could be found listening to the stories of passing mercenaries as they stopped into the shop.
This changed the summer of Marcus’ tenth year as he took up formal apprenticeship at the family shop. As he was test firing a newly repaired Magelock, his Gift manifested itself in a spectacular way. The giant hole left in the back of the shop was never repaired and instead provided the impetus for his father to the expand the shop, once the shock had worn off. His mother, however, recognized his Gift for what it was, being a Gun Mage herself, albeit retired. That summer, his mother decided against shipping Marcus off to the Tempest Academy, instead her lessons took on another facet as she sought to instill the discipline needed to teach him everything she knew.
Seven years later and an expanded smithy later, Marcus was a almost gun smith in his own right, assisting his father to help meet the ever growing demands placed upon the shop, with his Gift and his mother’s training something only spoken about amongst family and close friends. But, while the life he led was a good one with friends and family he loved dearly, he grated underneath it, longing to experience the stories of adventure and wealth he heard as a child.
So it came to be, that almost to the day he discovered his Gift, he stole into his mother’s belongings in a fit of youthful misadventure until he found her old Magelock and supply of Rune bullets. Collecting his savings as well as a few choice belongings, including the inherited hand cannon he practiced with as a child, he set off towards the riverboats, leaving a good-bye note and a promise to send back coin in his wake.
Slowly making his way up the Black River, Marcus quickly found that the life as a mercenary was not as he thought and all dreams of adventure and coin faded away as he faced harsh reality. Keeping his Gift secret and with most reputable mercenary companies refusing to hire him due to his youth, inexperience and general lack of equipment, he was forced to resort to his skills as a gun smith to make ends meet until he reached Merywyn, where he hoped he would have better luck.
Merywyn, unfortunately, proved to be worse. A large city, capital of Llael and seat of several prodigious orders, such as the Golden Crucible, finding skilled mercenaries and artisans was quite a bit easier than even cities such as Corvis. As such, Marcus found even his gun smithing skills were not enough to sustain him. With his supply of coins quickly dwindling, he was forced to look to less reputable mercenary companies with less…stringent hiring standards in hopes to get hired on.
After several weeks of searching and on his last coin, he finally managed to get hired with a small band of mercenaries after raising a few eyebrows with a couple difficult shots with his hand cannon and repairing a couple repeating pistols that had fallen into disrepair. Unimaginatively named the Black River Raiders, they were a small operation on retainer to a minor Llaelese noble and had acquired an equally minor reputation for completing their contracts, no matter how…unsavory.
While Marcus was merely employed as an ‘in house’ gun smith, he worked diligently and efficiently, all the while sending a portion of his meager earnings back home, as he had promised. This continued for several months until he finally caught the break he had been looking for. The Raider’s employer had a vital task and he was to accompany the band on the road towards Laedry to intercept a vital shipment from a rival house.
The Raiders set off immediately and managed to find an ambush point half way to Laedry. For two days they laid in wait until the shipment and its accompanying guards came into view. The ensuing battle was short and bloody as the initial surprise of the ambush was quickly spent and the Raiders were forced to engage the ravaged but disciplined ranks of Steelhead guards surrounding the objective.
When the last Steelhead fell, all told, there were four Raiders left, including himself. With the adrenaline of battle wearing off, Marcus found himself kneeling at the side of the road, retching as the enormity of taking a life finally caught hold.
That is, until he heard the scream.
Though he was educated, Marcus was rather naïve in regards to the depths aristocrats were willing to go in order to further their house. Rushing around what he belatedly realized was a carriage, hand cannon in hand, he came to a stop at the scene before him. A child, no older than five had been thrown to the ground, the boy feebly struggling as a Raider held him down with a booted foot. Shifting his gaze the two other Raiders, he spotted a woman on the ground, between them, her dress torn. And all three had their backs to him.
Barely aware as a cold fury took hold, Marcus Blackbourne leveled his hand cannon at the Raider over the boy and pulled the trigger. Not bothering to check for a kill beyond the spray of blood, his dropped the spent pistol and drew his mother’s Magelock from his coat, taking aim at the two remaining Raiders. Arcane runes blazed to life in the afternoon air as he channeled his Gift for the first time since leaving Corvis.
Two days later, a man rode into Laedry atop a damaged carriage accompanied by an injured woman and child. Not a word was spoken as he guided the carriage through the streets. Nor was a word spoken when he pulled to a stop in front of the local barracks and slipped off the carriage, disappearing into the surrounding crowd.
For two years following that day, Marcus drifted from contract to contract, from company to company, never once staying long in anyone place, nor really caring who he worked for, save for one rule. No women, no children. When word reached him in Ord of Vinter Raelthorne’s abortive attempt to retake the throne and the destruction of his family’s shop and the loss of his father’s leg during the Skorne invasion of Corvis, he immediately returned home, though clearly a changed man.
He tried to stay, to help rebuild but found he couldn’t, despite not knowing why. Setting off once more, he let the fate dictate his travels, until he found himself looking for a short-term contract in a small town called Winterhaven…