by Shannon Ward
Taran stared up at the crowd in annoyance -- as the challenger he was forced to stand in the middle of the arena enduring the taunts, jeers, and comments from the crowd. He stood, clenched fists at his side, with the sun beating down on his bare chest. The master of the games returned to his balcony overlooking the arena. The arena master held high in each hand an iron rod that he began to strike together rhythmically -- CLANG CLANG CLANG . . . soon the crowd in the arena joined in and the sound of metal on metal filled the air.
Art by andi jones
Taran allowed himself a grim smile -- now he would finally meet this champion "Ironhand" and the sorely needed prize money would be his! His smile deepened as a halfling stepped out the opposite gate -- his opponent was no more than four feet tall. The halfling wore a mask over the lower half of his face, showing only his bright red hair and piercing green eyes. He was dressed in a suit of black leather and wore a set of ornate gauntlets that he banged together in rhythm with the crowd.
Taran screamed a northern battle cry and rushed his diminutive opponent . . .
Champion Halfling Gladiator4', 141 lbs.; green eyes, long red hair (braided) 35 years old.
Speed: 6.25; Move: 5
Damage: Thrust 1d-2 Swing 1d-1
Dodge: 7 Block: (6 if buckler carried) Parry: 8
In the arena, Ironhand typically wears steel gauntlets (PD 3, DR 4) and a suit of black leather (PD 2, DR 2).
Advantages: +1 DX ; +1 HT; Reputation (Good Neighbors) +1; (Everyone); Halfling Skill Bonus (+2 to Bow); Halfling Skill Bonus (+2 Sling); Halfling Skill Bonus (+2 Throwing); Silence; Combat Reflexes; Fearlessness +3; Reputation (Champion Gladiator; Large Group) +2.
Disadvantages: -3 ST; Code of Honor (hospitality); Gluttony; Reduced Move; Appearance: Ugly; Mute; No Sense of Smell/Taste.
Quirks: Dislikes Traveling by water; Uncomfortable around other halflings; Dislikes orcs and half-orcs; Attempts to be self-reliant; Showoff in the arena.
Skills: Agronomy-10; Area Knowledge (The slum district)-14; Armoury-11; Brawling-16; Buckler-13; Close Combat (Knife)-14; Cooking-12; Gesture-13; Knife-14; Leatherworking-12; Scrounging-11; Shortsword-12; Sling-13; Spear-14; Stealth-15; Streetwise-12; Survival (woodland)-11; Throwing-14; Tournament Law (Arena)-2; Tracking-12; Woodworking-12.
The halfling now known as Ironhand was a reckless and rebellious youth in his village. One day a group of mercenaries came through, looking to recruit some halfling scouts for an upcoming campaign. He eagerly signed on. After a few weeks with no pay and increasingly standoffish treatment he began to worry. He soon found out that the mercenaries (many of whom were half-orcs) were scouting his home territory as an advance unit for the Firehand Orc tribe!
He tried to sneak away and warn his people but he was caught. After the mercenaries "interrogated" him, they turned him over to an orc warband that had linked up with them. The orcs did not think too highly of his plans to warn his village and made sure he would never say anything again. He was chained down, his mouth forced open with iron hooks and his tongue burnt out with a hot iron. The magic of the orcish shamans ensured he survived the process.
As a result of being tortured, his feet and face were scarred and deformed; consequently, he wears soft boots most of the time. His mask covers the hideous smile caused by the hooks tearing his mouth open as well as the broken and blackened teeth caused by the hot iron.
He was in the slave chain when the orcs massacred his village. The Firehand tribe, as was their custom, burned everything they did not take. A few other halflings were added to the slave chain, but most were slain or had fled.
Later that night, when the orcs were gorged on looted food and beer, the halflings that fled the initial attack struck back -- they freed the slaves and scattered the orc's mounts. Ironhand fled into the surrounding woods with his surviving brethren where they waged a month long running battle with the orcs. Finally, in frustration the Firehand tribe burned the woods to the ground, further scattering Highdale's residents.
Those halflings that could, escaped to the north. Ironhand, frustrated by the second defeat at the orc's hands, followed them for weeks as they raided, killing where he could, destroying food supplies, weapons and fouling water. The strain was finally too much. He could not keep up with the orcs, and he watched mutely as they headed back to their homeland where he could no longer oppose them.
He feels a lot of guilt and rage over Highdale's destruction. He holds himself partly responsible for showing the "mercenaries" the terrain around Highdale.
Setting to the road, Ironhand eventually found himself in the Arena, where he has earned his name and sharpened his skills besting opponents much larger than himself. He plans to eventually leave the gladiator life, and go searching for the Firehand orc tribe.
Ironhand is well aware that it is only a matter of time before he is beaten in the Arena. His speed and agility have enabled him to defeat much larger opponents so far. He takes care not to kill or hurt anyone too badly, so he has not made himself a target -- yet.
PCs that win his trust could talk him out of his gladiator lifestyle and convince him to take up a life on the road, especially with news of the Firehand orcs . . .
The mighty northman howled in pain as the healers loaded him onto a stretcher -- his knee was a twisted lump, and blood flowed freely from his shattered nose. The crowd cheered mightily as Ironhand, grimacing in pain under his mask, silently turned and left the arena.
Article publication date: September 24, 1999
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