Valdis was a large, ugly-countenanced youth; what playmates were available nicknamed him “Troglodyte”, and while he spent significant time as the center of attention, it was often as the butt of their jokes. Eventually, this made him solitary, self-conscious, and introverted. The two loves he understood: taking care of the animals of his father’s customers, and playing his mother’s recorder (which she taught him when he was 4 & was gifted to him on his 8th birthday).
No ‘frog to prince’ change here—the swarthy & hulking boy is well on his way to being a swarthy & hulking man. Never quick with a witty quip and often displaying a distinct paucity of grace (social OR physical), in a group of strangers Valdis is often mistaken as either an imbecile or an ogre-like killer.
Valdis Ohne was raised on the western edge of the Great Forest, son of Bandis & his wife Astride. Bandis was a blacksmith in a small village called Arbormead, largely working with the horseshoes of intermittent travellers. Valdis was being groomed to follow in his father’s footsteps—apprenticing, but slowly (as it seemed his most significant contribution to the forge was his strength behind the hammer rather than any subtlety or predilection in metallurgy). While never taking a commission for arms & armory repair, Bandis seemed incredibly knowledgeable in both; young Valdis received a surprising amount of instruction in the use of swords, shields, bows, and arrows (though again, the finer points of combat were lost on him; like in the forge, he found himself most comfortable with a heavy hammer in hand).
In the summer of his 15th year, Valdis’ mother Astride fell ill to a summer fever and passed away. That winter, his father was kicked in the head by the freshly-shod hoof of an angry customer’s horse and, after infection of the wound and eventual blood-poisoning, soon passed as well.
It was in the final days of his father’s life that Valdis’ life was to see a significant shift to greater things. Bandis, bedridden & feverish, would rave incoherently about ‘the Guard’, a ‘destiny’ he seemed sure that Valdis was meant to fulfill, and ‘the place in the higher world’ his son was to claim. On the last day, he pulled Valdis close and with his dying breath, told him 3 things:
a) that buried in the forge was a chest, “in which contains my last gift for you…your birthright”.
b) that he was to take what he found “West—west & west, then north to the Great Falls by the ocean”.
c) the word “Surnereth”.
Upon great searching, Valdis did find a chest buried in the forge. In it was a longsword & shield, the make of which (to him) seemed finer than any arms his father’s customers carried. Additionally, he found a cloth with a strange herald woven into it.
So…Valdis, alone, unsure of what lay ahead, took the weapons from his father, the recorder from his mother, travelled west. He eventually reached Hillbarrow, and there his life truly began.