Xanthar The Brave
Brynjolf 'Wolfstrider' Thrainson
A practiced hunter and youngest son of the Jarl
Brynjolf ‘Wolfstrider’, youngest of four sons and two daughters of Jarl Thrain, was never regarded as a ‘normal’ Xanthar in Haskar. The normal process of employment for the lower class men of Haskar is either fisherman or trader. The sons of the Jarl are expected to be warriors and diplomats. So when Brynjolf decided that sword, axe and fancy words held no calling for him, the wise-women were all atwitter with the news. Brynjolf knew that his only happiness lay in the trees and the woods, with a quiver on his hip and a bow on his back. Though seen as a lowly pastime for a Jarl’s son, his skills became incredibly valued by his father, his family and the people of Haskar when he single-handedly hunted and wiped out a wolf pack that had stalked Haskar’s outer farms and herds since before he was born. He is now the one that the people go to whenever their flocks are disturbed in the night, as his prowess for the hunt is unmatched by any in Haskar, with even hunters more than twice his age bowing to his skills.
Brynjolf was born on a stormy night in late December, while his father was off scouting for the legendary White Ceoloth. Legend says that only one is born to the Ceoloth every hundred years, and Jarl Thrain could not pass off the opportunity to hunt the beast. His then wife, Salina, went into labour within the hour of the Jarl’s leaving. By morning, the Jarl returned, to be presented with a son, and in turn, present Salina with the head of the White Ceoloth. Salina then commissioned the local blacksmith to craft the horn into the hilt of an ornate knife for her husband. The head of the Ceoloth still hangs above the Jarl’s Throne.
Brynjolf was slow to learn swordplay, and never took to the axe. He was even slower to learn his letters and numbers. But he could always embarrass his older brothers with his unbeatable archery skills. At the age of six, he could out-shoot Oskar, his 15 year old eldest brother, hitting the centre of the archery target at 50 paces more than Oskar. His archery prowess could not however cause him to forget his pain. When he was barely old enough to be out of swaddling clothes, his mother Salina disappeared from the household never to be seen in Haskar again, leaving only a locket containing a drawing of herself around her son’s neck. When Brynjolf was old enough to understand, he plucked up the courage to ask his father where she had gone. Thrain looked his youngest son in the eyes, and said ‘Gulls go where they please. Do not mention her again.’ Brynjolf did not sleep that night, and sneaked through the rafters into his father’s bedroom, using boltholes and timbers to move through the hold. He found his father speaking to Oskar, who asked where the ‘uppity Gull bitch had flown off to’. Thrain’s eyes flashed, and he struck his heir across the face, sending Oskar sprawling into a heap on the floor. Thrain replied ‘Salina left for reasons that do not concern impertinent children who do not know their place. Insult her honour again and you will not be welcome in this Hold’. Brynjolf swelled with pride, knowing his mother would always be present in his father’s heart. As he sneaked out of the room, one of the roof timbers cracked and he stumbled, only just succeeding to swing himself out the cubbyhole in the wall. But he couldn’t fail to notice Oskar’s eyes follow him out of the room. Brynjolf and Oskar never saw eye-to-eye again.
Brynjolf realised that becoming Jarl was a dream that would not come true for him, and so he devoted his time to developing his hunting skills, becoming a reliable source of food for the Jarl’s household. Many a time, the people of the hold woke to find an squirrel, hare or wood-pigeon roasting over the fire, as Brynjolf slept before the hearth. As Brynjolf grew, so did his conquests. On his thirteenth birthday, he left the house at noon, and returned at dusk with a young elk over his shoulders, proclaiming that it was his gift for the family, in return for those he had received. They ate well that night, with Brynjolf in Oskar’s seat at the right hand of Jarl Thrain. Oskar took this as a rejection by his father, and his rivalry with his brother grew to a hatred, bubbling below the surface. Oskar searched for opportunities to embarrass Brynjolf, currying favour back to himself in the eyes of their father. Brynjolf avoided the political slander, continuing his hunting. Brynjolf was glad that Oskar never found his true weakness, as Brynjolf had now added a second drawing to his locket, one of Petra Freyjasdottir, the daughter of the local butcher. Brynjolf met her when he attempted to sell one of his prizes to her father whilst in disguise, as the Jarl’s household rarely interact with the local villagers. Petra saw straight through his disguise, but did not reveal him in the busy butcher’s shop. She instead organised a meeting between them in the forest the next day, where Brynjolf showed her how to hunt for wild animals. Petra was not a bad huntress, managing to set a trap for a hare, and also trapped Brynjolf’s heart in the process.
Brynjolf had generated a reputation for himself as a loner, as his forays into the forest became longer and longer. As he rested one day from a two week hunting trip from which he returned unusually empty-handed, he was woken at noon by Raif, the Jarl’s housecarl, who informed him that his presence was required in the Great Hall. He arrived, disheveled, to find a group of goat herders and caravanners, who petitioned the Jarl over recent disappearances of livestock and caravans respectively, believing the disappearances to be the work of Karla One-eye, a wolf-bitch that had long terrorised the town. The Jarl had claimed her eye more than ten years before, surrendering two fingers from his left hand in return. Karla was also responsible for the death of Oskar’s mother, the Jarl’s first wife. Karla and her brood had increased the frequency of attacks, which worried the farmers as winter approached, and their food supplies were killed off. Brynjolf turned on his heel and marched out of the hall. The goat herders looked dismayed, but Jarl Thrain merely smiled, a knowing glint in his eye. Sure enough, Brynjolf returned within five minutes in his hunting gear with his bow in his hand and a smile on his face. He marched into the forest, and was not seen again for almost a month. When he finally emerged again, he had a fresh scar down his left arm, a clear scratch from a wolf’s claw, and the head of a one eyed wolf, which his father personally hung over the hearth in the Great Hall. Having spent in total nearly 6 weeks in the forest alone, Brynjolf retired to bed and slept for two days. When he woke, his father summoned him to the Hall and presented Brynjolf with the Ceoloth knife that Salina had commissioned for Thrain. He also summoned the town elders, who bestowed upon Brynjolf the name of ‘Wolfstrider’ along with the rights of a fully grown Xanthar, giving him his first tattoo. Brynjolf chose a bear motif that claws for three gulls, with a howling wolf within the bear’s heart. He was the youngest Xanthar to undergo this ceremony in Haskar, at the age of 16. His first thought was of pride, his second of showing Petra. He sneaked to her bedroom, pulled off his shirt and showed her his badge of manhood on his back. She showed him the wolf tattoo she had received while he was gone, and Xanthar man and woman both passed another test of man- and woman-hood that night.
Manhood to present day
Nearly ten years have passed since Brynjolf’s manhood was earned, years of political backbiting by his brothers over inheritance rights, mainly sparked by Thrain recently passing his 60th birthday, an age often unheard of in Xanthari culture, as cold and stress claim the body long before then. Almost the bearer’s of bad omens, Oskar’s hushed whispers of ascension to the Jarl’s throne have circulated more often of late, as the Jarl has recently been struck by an unknown illness. Oskar, named Jarl until his father recovers, has been gently abusing his new authority, even introducing himself to two strangers in town as the ‘man in charge’. Should the Jarl recover, he will be punished for his impudence. That is, if the Jarl recovers…