2021-12-14

Mysteries of Mystara Lucky

The background and prequel story of Vlajic Savago, the Lucky Savage, a Traladaran bard starring in the on-going GURPS saga of five unlikely companions attempting to unravel the mysteries of Mystara.
Mysteries of Mystara
Lucky's Background and Prequel Story

My Life in Song

It begins as a story.  But doesn’t everything? My grandpa told me if you do anything in life make sure you come out of it with an interesting story. At first, one would think my grandfather’s story was a simple one. He raised a family, ran a farm (with some success), and died a happy man. Ah, but that is the thing isn’t it? What lies below the surface of this man? When he and his brother, Paolo, would get together, maybe encouraged by a little drink, they would tell fantastic tales from their youth.  In fact, some of my songs are embellishments of a few of their tales. That is for you to decide which ones. But this is my tale, not theirs. So let’s get started.


It begins as most, I was a small boy outside the village of Marilenev.  I worked the family farm with my siblings and father. It was nice, boring and some may say idyllic.  We wanted for nothing. I found working the farm was fine but I needed more. Something was drawing me out beyond our village into the dangers and adventure of the unknown. My mom called it, “wanderlust” and that I take after Paolo. I found some joy in singing when I did my work. It made the day go faster. A traveler in our area heard me singing while I was herding the sheep. He claims they were the calmest sheep he had ever seen.  He taught me my first actual song. It was called “The Three Merry Maids”. At the time I didn’t, at the time, understand the meaning of the lyrics but I did like the tune. One could say that was the beginning of my career as a bard. 


Then the day came that set me down the journey away from the farm and into the unknown. My great uncle, Paolo, died when I was barely fourteen. Rumor has it that he was fighting a dragon in some dark cave somewhere. Another one was that he was caught in the throes of passion with a nobleman’s wife. My dad just said he died as he lived. It fell upon my family to take away his effects.  Since my brothers were busy in the fields and, well, let’s just say I didn’t take to farming, my dad dragged me along to Paolo’s house.  It was glorious! Sure, it wasn’t as tidy as some but the lines were amazing. It had turrets, towers, and round windows.  Curves in the roof line where one wouldn’t expect curves.  The yard was full of songbirds and variations of wildflowers that I had never seen before.  Once inside, it was like a warm blanket with things everywhere. Nooks and Crannies on every wall and corner. Some of the nooks had crannies of their own. But in one corner, next to this fabulous wooden chair sat the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. My dad called it a mandolin. It was strings, dark wood, red, and yellow paint.  It was amazing. I picked it up without thinking and strummed it.  Visions of songbirds, hero’s adventures, and beautiful women popped into my head.  I HAD to have it. I asked my dad if I could keep it.  He grunted and said, “Yea, sure. It won’t fetch much anyway.”  It took a few days and several cart loads but we got most of his stuff over to the local consignment shop.  Then a month later we sold his house. That saddens me some.


Over the next few years, I spent every available hour with this mandolin trying to unlock it’s magic. Eventually, I got good enough to play for my family.  After about a year of this, I started seeing smiles on a few of their faces.  This unexpectedly warmed my heart. So a local tavern offered entertainment on select nights of the week. I auditioned several times and finally got a gig.  After that I played there consistently for a couple of years. I couldn’t believe I could get paid to do this! One night after a very successful show, a man approached me, he was dressed as a merchant.  He told me he had a book he could give me for a fair price that would increase my repertoire of songs.  His “fair price” cost me my night’s wages and then some. It was worth it.  When I added these songs to my playlist, the audiences increased in size, and the tavern owner also increased my pay. I loved it! Money, music, and did I mention my activity with the ladies also increased. Let’s just say I was popular among a lot of female clientele of the tavern. 


It was because of this extra curricular activity that I’m now a professional bard and adventurer. You see, certain farmer’s didn’t like their wives and daughters in the bed of a local “popinjay” (I think that is what Farmer Vlojic called me).  Anyway, when I was about 18 years old, my parents told me I’m not a farmer, and I should find my way elsewhere.  They gave me some food and money for travel and sent me on my way. I decided to head north.  After about a week, I met up with a merchant caravan.  I decided to play music to occupy them while they traveled. I noticed some female merchants smile and wink more than a few times.  Then we were besieged by a band of ruffians.I’m not much of a fighter so I decided to try to play some heroic music.  I feel it helped. We may have suffered a few losses but we won the engagement. I was rewarded by the caravan leader with a stack of coins, a bottle of wine, and eventually the intimate company of a female half-elf who sold textiles. I couldn’t think of a better life. I don’t answer to anyone, get paid for something I love doing, and the admiration of a happy audience. 


That was my life. I would play in a tavern in whatever town I was in at the time. Maybe a festival or two then I attach myself to a caravan to the next town as a “morale enhancement specialist.”  My life was pretty sweet. Then I met Kovin Elmhurst. The most amazing bard to ever grace this earth and my life changed. 


Kovin said he liked something in me and he would teach me “the ways.”  I started traveling with him.  He had his own caravan which housed him and his staff.  I would open for him then after he would coach and guide ways to improve my performance. He taught me how to shop for clothes to enhance my stage presence. Of course, he helped with my after performance activities also. I learn the gift of diplomacy and seduction.  Our after parties were insane.  Soon I was getting offers to go to specific towns by myself.  After two years of his tutelage, he said he believed I was ready to fly free. So we departed ways. . I should mention that he was the one that coined my new name, “Lucky Savage.”  He felt people would have a difficult time with Vlajic Savago but Lucky Savage that just sounds like someone you want to know. 


It was about half a year in when a small village I was playing in was overrun by goblins. As soon as the fighting started, I decided I needed to find somewhere safe to go while this blew over.  As I was running to the local stable, what felt like a sharp sting hit my left shoulder blade. It hurt like hell. I was able to make it to the door of the stable when I collapsed and fell unconscious. I awoke in a cave to the smell of bacon. I looked to see if I was captured by the goblins but my warden was a large green female in armor with a vicious looking greatsword on her back. She was staring straight at me while awoke.  She finally spoke to me harshly, “I’m Sestril, and what are you doing with Paolo’s mandolin?”  “I’m his great nephew. You knew him?,” I replied. She smiled wryly, like she was holding a secret then said, “Yea, you could say I knew him. I was there when he died. I guess it's my bad luck that I have to save his kinfolk.”  I looked at her astonished, “Wait, what? You were with him? How did he die?”  She laughed, “Stupidly, that is how he died. He just had to save that youngling. I protected best I could but he just took too many wounds.”  We conversed over the next few days about my great uncle. They were in an adventuring party together to find the lost sword of Elhelmeril when they encountered a new adventuring party on the same quest. I should clarify what was left of the adventuring party.  All that was left after being attacked by undead skeletons was a rogue by the name Osil. They got Osil out but lost Paolo. As we wandered through the woods, I learnt many things about camping and living in the woods. Sestril was a good teacher. I got the feeling that she had a special connection with Paolo but wasn't certain. I also found out that she has a wicked sense of humor. 


At night, when she felt it was safe, I would sing for her. She would drink then get lost somewhere and end up falling asleep. My month in the woods with her ended when she pointed to a village close to home. She stated, “You go home, farm, raise many human babies. Do not go adventuring like Paolo.” Then she left and silently disappeared into the woods. I found my way back home.  My family was glad to see me but I realized I couldn’t stay.  My heart was out in the world with the people who had heard my music yet. I had a need to uplift just one soul, make one person glad to see another day. So after a couple of days, I left again.  Perhaps this is the beginning of a new story.


Lucky's Musical Meanderings

It was spring and the world was a beautiful place. Vlajic had greatly enjoyed his cruise upriver on the Volaga River, mostly because of his unexpectedly charming traveling companion, Fergus Proudsun. The Halfling, or Hin, they prefer to be called, appeared to be something of a rogue and an adventurer, if Vlajic was any judge of character… and of course he was! Vlajic and Fergus traded many stories and tales over quite a few bottles of wine. 


Vlajic was quite disappointed when the boat reached Misha's Ferry and it was time for him to disembark. He had made plans to tour the Susikyn Hinterlands and visit the several Traladaran homesteads and lumber camps of the Dymrak Forest. There had been great unrest and turmoil in this area some years ago because of some Goblin uprisings and the Human settlers were busy rebuilding and more than likely in need of some spirit lifting. Plus, according to his mother, several lines of forebears had come from this area and he should get by to visit his roots.


Before departing, he learned that Fergus was traveling north, all the way up the connecting Castellan River, to a keep of the same name.  The two new friends say their goodbyes and Vlajic stands on the rickety pier near a dilapidated ferry raft as the merchant boat slowly rows away. 


"Who are you and where the hells are ya headed?" a Traladaran voice calls out from behind him. Vlajic turns to see a young Traladaran man, possibly close in age to himself,  standing at the base of the pier.


A small boat is pulled up on the bank near the jetty and a small house sits up the bank a bit, nestled into the encroaching forest.


"I'm Bahaznic. I run the ferry," he says, his hands on his hips. 


“I’m Lucky Savage and I’m going wherever the wind takes me. What is across on the other side of this river? Any towns, villages, or fairs that are in need of a great bard?” Lucky replies. He pauses then continues, “And if I feel it is worth the journey, I will regale you with a song and some company.”


"Lucky Savage, ehh? Sure," the young man shrugs, seeming unimpressed with Lucky. "Not much over there, just the Moor and the old path to the Gnome's Ferry on the other side. Homesteads are that way," he points to a forest path behind the little house. My uncle's stead, Susikyn, is about 12 miles that way. The other steads, Hokol, Cherkas, and Segenyeva are further in." Lucky smiles. Cherkas is the homestead his mother's family came from. 


Bahaznic continues, squinting as the lowering evening sun shines directly in his eyes. He points to the north, in the direction the boat was gong, "Couple of lumber camps, Ilyakanya and Sielo, up along the Volaga, bout 5 miles or so, but you shoulda stayed on your boat for them. You can stay in the house, I've got some stew on, 10 silver or something in trade but I've got no need for stories or songs." He turns and heads up to the house. 

Once up at the house, Bahaznic waves a hand toward a large parchment map tacked to a nearby wall. “The homesteads,” he says nonchalantly. He explains all the distances based on the location of Susikyn, his family’s homestead.


As Lucky enters the house he draws out 10 of the silver he earned at his last gig. He sighs as he turns to look at the setting sun then throws the silver on the table. He grins and says, “Let’s see that stew.”  He wanders around the interior of the current room and takes out his mandolin and starts to play an instrumental piece he has been working on called “The Wandering Rabbit.”  He goes over to the map to see what route he has to take tomorrow to get to Cherkas. He ponders possibly seeing if Susikyn might be worth trying to perform at. So many roads to choose from. Before he knows it he has transitioned into one of his favorite tunes to play, “The Lonely Shepherd.”


Bahaznic seems to enjoy the music despite his statement earlier. He tells Lucky that to get to Cherkas he should travel north along the river, passing through the two lumber camps and then head south from Sielo. The trip should take 2 days, one to get to Sielo, and the other to head south to Cherkas. He does say that, of course, to really get the feel of the Traladaran hinterlands, he should first head south east to his family’s homestead of Susikyn, though it is clear that he is just presenting his personal bias. Lucky assumes he can probably earn a little more money playing for the workers at the two lumber camps. Bahaznic says that he should be able to get boat passage from either here or the two lumber camps whenever he is ready to leave the region and suggests that an overland journey out is not suggested. “We’ve had lots of problems with Goblins and such, not so bad as a few years ago when several of the tribes banded together and attack the homesteads, but fortunately, with the help of the Grey Company, a group of adventurers, we were able to fight them off. Susikyn was burned and the other settlements, including the two lumber camps, were all destroyed. Of course, we’ve rebuilt since then, stronger than ever.” The young man seems to have changed his mind and mood about Lucky.


Lucky plays a few bawdy tunes after dinner then in the wee hours of the morn, he plays some gentle songs until he falls asleep. When he wakes, he cheerfully greets Bahaznic and heads for the docks. He practices some general songs and few crowd pleasers as he waits for the boat going upstream to Ilyakara in hopes of gaining some gigs at the lumber camp. 


Lucky makes his way north and spends several days touring the lumber camps. The workers are happy to have some quality entertainment and Lucky finds free lodging, food, and drink. When he finally leaves to seek out his family at Cherkas he has a few more coins in his pocket. 


The homestead at Cherkas is a tidy little place housing about 20 hardworking Traladarans of extended family and friends. He is welcomed in and though he finds out he isn't directly related to everyone there, he is treated as such. They follow a much more traditional, down to earth lifestyle than he is used to, but he finds it comfortable. They are  eager to hear news from the world beyond their little pocket of home and in turn share with him their stories and songs. 


In all, Lucky spends almost a week visiting family in Cherkas and another week traveling between the other homesteads in the area. Like Cherkas, he finds all the people very welcoming, practical, and honest. He greatly enjoys his time there but finally decides it is time to move on. 


He makes his way back to the lumber camp of Sielo, which is more of a fort than a camp since the “trouble” several years ago with the Goblins and such. Seems the Duke liked the lumber so he fortified this camp to make things safer. Seems safe enough to Lucky, anyway, if not loud and boisterous, especially after sundown.


Lucky boards a ship called the River Arrow heading north to Veseya, the last navigable part of the Castellan River. Handful of other passengers board as well. The boat is loaded with various cargo and a good amount of lumber destined for the north. There were already a few other passengers on the boat and Lucky is able to find a semi-sheltered place to camp out for the voyage.  The Captain agrees to give Lucky free passage north if he entertains the crew and passengers to keep their mind off the potential dangers present in this stretch of the river. Lucky heartily agrees and does a fine job of it.


The Captain explains that there are not many safe or civilized places to dock between here and Veseya, so everyone needs to be on the lookout for danger. The river is narrower and runs faster here as well, but surprisingly the boat moves upstream fairly quickly, which is strange because none of the sailors seem to be rowing very hard, mostly just maneuvering. Lucky comes to learn that the dusky skinned man at the prow is some sort of water wizard and is altering the current of the river beneath the boat. Lucky learns that his name is Dak and comes from the Isles of Irendi to the south of Karameikos. Lucky considers engaging him, as he seems interesting, but is mostly busy for the remainder of the trip. 


Just after noon of the first day upriver, the steep northern bank levels off into a wide plain with a high escarpment about 200 yards back. The escarpment is the leading edge of a high plateau that runs on for some distance. Soon, a broken, ruined tower can be seen above the edge of the plateau. Numerous ravines run into the plateau here and facings of buildings and cliffside dwellings can be seen. Flocks of large, dark birds can be seen circling the top of the strange, octogonal tower. Even though it is broken off at the top, it towers some 60 feet over the top of the escarpment and nearly 100 feet above the river. 


"Xitaqa," the Captain mutters. "No good, that place. It was at the center of all the trouble several years ago. Goblins and slavers and the Yellow Wizard. Nothing but trouble." As her boat rushes past, she says no more. 


A little later, both banks are high, rocky cliffs, the sound of many galloping horses can be heard. Up high on the top of the western bank, a company of mounted riders can be seen. After a second look, it seems they are not horses and riders but a large herd of Centaurs, at least thirty of them. They hoot and holler and wave their spears and axes in the air but make no threatening moves. One of the crew calls them the Stormwind Centaurs.


The day ends where the Castellan River joins the Volaga from the north. The Captain directs her crew to make for the bank between where the two join because there is a campsite there that some hunters and trappers use and it is the best, most defensible spot in the area and there are too many people and too much cargo to comfortably rest on the boat anymore. 


The campsite is deserted, which is just fine, as the passengers need all the room they can get. Lucky seeks out the water wizard, Dak, but does not find him. Apparently he slept on the boat, away from everyone. The following two days of travel are uneventful. Only two other boats pass heading downstream. As the boat pushes farther north, the banks become higher and higher, only leveling off occasionally. The dark line of mountains can be seen in the distance, but usually their view is blocked by the wooded hills of this area. The leafy trees obscure anything beyond the banks in most cases. Here and there, pine trees begin to appear. Despite the approaching summer, the wind occasionally has a coolness to it as well.


The land continues to rise slowly and finally, just after noon, the boat arrives in Veseya, a quaint little riverside village. The docks are busy as another boat looks to be loading up. Several dockhands wave and indicate where the River Arrow is to tie off. The crew guides her deftly to her destination. 


Lucky and all of the passengers disembark to the quaint village of Veseya in northern Karameikos. He takes in a deep breath of fresh, mountain air and smiles. Looking around, he notices that the water wizard, Dak, is also getting off the boat. He watches him speak briefly with the Captain, then they shake hands and the wizard makes his way up the dock. Maybe Lucky will get the opportunity to speak to him after all! As Dak approaches, he sees Lucky and gives him a nod then intently looks past him to something across the street. Lucky turns to see a foreign woman, possibly a Ylari, with bronze skin and a top-knot of dark hair wearing an unusual outfit of matching jacket and pants. She seems to be watching Lucky and Dak then stumbles and sits down hard on a barrel, staring at them with her mouth agape.






 




Cast of Characters:

Vlajic Savago, the Lucky Savage, a Traladaran bard - played by Dan E

and GMJasonGURPS as the DM










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