Broad of build and deeply tanned from years of manual labor, one might easily mistake Farmer for his namesake. Indeed, his few positions seem to include little more than the weather-stained grey cloak on his shoulders, a ragged farmhand’s outfit underneath, a farmers jingasa on his head, and a razor sharp scythe in his hands. More than a few flecks of grey in his otherwise dark hair betray a man well into his 40’s, although one would never guess it from his physique. Farmer walks with a slow gait and rarely speaks, however you suspect that you wouldn’t want to see him when he’s angry, at least not opposite that blade…
Farmer Ash – that’s not his real name of course, but it’s been a long time since anyone called him anything else. While in the cities he’s not well known, in the countryside, especially among the poor, tales of the Farmer have spread far and wide. Be it extortionate landlords, rampaging pirates, or restless undead, he’s been there to watch over poor and humble workers and travelers in both the old world and the new. And while in many stories he is accompanied by an Oriental Martial Arts master, currently he is nowhere to be seen. Aside from those stories most people know little about Farmer – just his name and a few rumors of his deeds, but now on the way to Nursetrail he’s decided it’s time that someone knew a little more of the true story. Who knows, maybe someday he’ll even tell you his name.
Part 1 – Life on the Farm
Farmer was born in Lestecha around 45 years ago to human parents who lived in a rural village and were farmhands. It was a rough time, squeezing life from the desert soil, but it taught Farmer many of the skills he needed to survive. While his parents were part of the human minority in their village, they various races banded together in order to weather the constant threats of bandit attacks. At one point his father served in the rotating position of village sheriff. Observing his father Farmer dreamed of the day when he could help bring protection and justice to those he cared about.
After his parents death during a bandit raid when he was in his late teens, Farmer decided to move on to what he hoped were greener pastures (literally). He had heard that the farms in Eustace were as green as could be and often needed extra hands – while he’d have to work for someone else, that couldn’t be any worse than tilling the desert soil, could it? Upon arriving in North Almond Farmer was able to find work with a group of local share croppers. In exchange for farm work Farmer received a roof over his head, some food to eat, and a small wage. He rarely saw the Archmage who owned the vast fields around him. While Farmer was content in his life, it baffled him that a man who drew so much wealth from these fields never set foot in them.
While there were few social events out in the countryside, on holidays many of the farm hands and other sharecroppers would often gather at the local village inn for a festive meal and rounds of drinks. It was at one such event that Farmer met his future wife, Lyria. She was a lovely young woman in her early 20’s who had worked with her parents as sharecroppers her entire life. While there romance was slow to bloom – only being able to meet occasionally on the few rest days – their love built up over time and eventually Farmer was able to save enough money to afford a small wedding and a place of their own. Lyria came to live with Farmer and work the fields where he also labored. It was a hard life, but hard work is what Farmer was suited too and they both enjoyed their time together, in the fields and out. It was a couple of years after Lyria came to join Farmer that he noticed his landowner coming to visit the fields more and more often. While Farmer had never met him in person, he had occasionally seen his palanquin from a distance as the Archmage surveyed his fields. Now he saw it much more regularly, especially when his wife was out working. Farmer didn’t read too much into this though; perhaps, he thought, the man is finally coming to see how much labor actually goes into making these crops grow.
It was a few months later when Farmer was home making dinner that he noticed that his wife was later than usual in returning. As he went out to investigate he heard his wife scream from several fields over. While Farmer had never been too hot tempered, he suddenly felt rage and fear well up in his blood as he worried for Lyria’s safety. Wolves and other beasts weren’t completely unheard of in these parts. Farmer felt his legs carry him faster than he had ever moved before in the direction of the calls. As he came closer he recognized a completely different beast assailing his wife – the Archmage who he had seen from a distance was chasing after her, and just as Farmer crested the hill he let of a spell that seemed to freeze his wife in her tracks. The Archmage was just beginning to tear at her clothing when Farmer caught up with him. Without even thinking Farmer let his rage take control and with one mighty swing of his scythe he lopped the Archmages head right off.
Immediately after, Lyria was able to move again. “Husband, what have you done?” she called, “they’ll have your head for this.” It took a moment for Farmer to come out of his rage, and as soon as he did he fell to the ground exhausted. Lyria was able to drag him back to their house, but she already knew that if they wanted to live then this would be the last time she would see this home. While Farmer may have been justified in stopping the mage, she was after all not part of his property, there was little chance of a fair trial or jury in this land. Their only option was to flee.
Part 2 – Escape
Farmer and Lyria left home that night heading for Hydrascale. Neither had ever been there before, but it was the only location aside from North Almond where they thought they could find refuge in a temple. Since no one had witnessed what happened they had a significant head start on whichever Archmages would come after them, and although they knew the mages had magical means of tracking, they made it to Hydrascale without any sign of pursuit. However there they quickly heard rumors that the Archmages were offering a bounty for a couple fitting their description. Painful as it was, they decided to split up and seek refuge with various monastic orders dedicated to Avillion. Although Farmer was not particularly religious during his youth, Lyria and her family had long venerated Farmer Shareloaf and she was certain he would extend to them his protection. They agreed to separate for one year in order to avoid detection or suspicion. While Farmer joined an order of wandering clerics of Avillion Lyria joined a similar order of nuns. They assumed being constantly on the move would help throw off any magical means of detection.
While life on the farm had largely insulated them from outside events, Farmer’s new role with the group of traveling healers quickly threw him into the middle of one of the most tumultuous conflicts of the century, the Human Revolution. While Farmer new little of dragon overlords or great power struggles, Farmer and the other clerics saw their call in the suffering that was being inflicted on both sides. However, try as he might, Farmer just was not suited to a life of healing. While he could bind basic wounds and manage a few small spells, he knew this was not his true calling. The other clerics seemed to sense this as well. Nevertheless, his unusually muscular build, especially when paired with the farm implement that he took everywhere as a sign of what they assumed was penance, certainly made them sleep better at night in dangerous places.
After 9 months on the road Farmer was beginning to long to return to Hydrascale to meet again with Lyria. However it was just when he was contemplating making his request to the head cleric that the group received the news that they were urgently needed in a nearby town. A group of nuns of Avillion, along with many townspeople had just been hit by dragons who were attempting to flush out a rebel stronghold. Farmer hoped beyond hope that these were not the same nuns who had taken in his wife, but as soon as he arrived in the town and saw the identity of the few surviving nuns, he knew it was the same group. Apparently the building many of the nuns were in was instantly incinerated, and further inquiries confirmed that his wife was among the casualties.
Part 3 – Transition
Farmer was once again in his life overcome with rage, but this time cut with intense grief. He tried to control it by meditating on Avillion’s mercy, just as the clerics had taught him, but soon he found himself beating his fists against the masonry of destroyed building, taking chunks out of the raw stonework with his bare, bloody hands. After what seemed like days of tears and pain, he felt a hand on his shoulder. Turning around he nearly missed the short, Oriental man in the straw jingasa standing behind him. “What has brought you so much rage, and at the same time so much pain?” he asked. Farmer was so overcome with grief that he nearly punched the man just for intruding on his private rage, but something about this man, who seemed to have the demeanor he would expect from Avillion himself, compelled Farmer to speak instead of strike. In the following minutes and hours Farmer poured out his story, telling a complete stranger everything from the death of the Archmage to his most recent grief and uncontrollable rage.
After hearing his story the strange man replied, “I am Wang Guan, and although you have deep grief, and also deep rage, I believe that I can help you control and channel these emotions for a better cause than destroying masonry. Although I cannot bring your wife back, perhaps I can teach you to honor her memory by defending others.” “Healing is not the only way to help the poor and injured; prevention and intervention can be just as useful.” And with that Farmer Ash got up, bandaged his hands, took leave of his fellow clerics, and went on to follow Wang Guan.
For the next 15 years Farmer and Wang Guan traveled together. While Wang Guan never revealed his full story, it was clear that he came from the Orient on a mission of some importance. Somewhere along the way Wang Guan’s own martial arts prowess failed him, and it was only through the intervention of Avillion that he came through his ordeal alive. After that he had pledged himself to work in Avillion’s service, defending the hardworking farmers and travelers of the Occident. During the Human Revolution this meant attempting to protect civilians wherever battle raged. It was in this setting that Farmer first learned to channel his grief and rage into true fighting prowess. Wang Guan taught Farmer to take his scythe, the tool of his downfall, and turn it into a mighty tool of Avillion. Wang also discovered that it was not just Farmer’s personality that caused him to rage, but that something was strange in his blood. When Farmer bled on the battlefield his wounds were often black and his blood was cold to the touch. While neither man knew where this came from, it was now clear that Farmer was no ordinary man.
Although the Human Revolution ended a few years later, there was no end of work for Wang Guan and Farmer. After traveling extensively in the Old World, Wang and Farmer took a ship to the New World, battling monsters, protecting colonists, and even joining briefly with the Duchess Rangers to help defeat a band of pirates who sacked Dragonfall in 464.
Just as you’re about to ask what happened next, Farmer grows suddenly silent. Considering that Wang Guan is currently nowhere to be seen you know there must be another part to this story, but whatever it is, Farmer seems reluctant to share it just yet.
The Loss of Master Wang
The last time I saw Master Wang was around 7 years ago, far to the south in the wilds outside of Dragonfall. We had just helped the Duchess Rangers defeat the pirate force that had taken Dragonfall and headed off into the jungle to capture the remaining pirates that had fled there so that they could face justice in town. After several days in the jungle we tracked the pirates to what appeared to be a long abandoned temple where they had taken shelter for the night. As we approached the temple we heard screams from inside and quickly rushed in to see what was happening. By the time we reached the inner rooms of the overgrown building there were torn apart bodies everywhere – the pirates were all dead. Before we knew what was happening some invisible attacker came after us too. Master Wang and I fought hard, but the power of this evil creature was overwhelming. Sensing that this thing was too strong for us, Master Wang moved up to take the thing one on one. I yelled at him to let me help, but he said it was no use, and that I had a mission in this world beyond this temple. Not knowing what he meant by this, but knowing I must obey my master above all else, I ran from that place with all of my speed. I am still ashamed of leaving him, but to disobey would be worse. That was the last I saw of my teacher. Since then I have been doing my best to follow his teachings and to discover what mission he had in mind for me, although I suspect I might be in the middle of it already.
I still don’t know what happened to Master Wang in the temple that day. Perhaps one day when I am stronger and this civil war is over I will return to that temple to see what happened and to take vengeance for Master Wang, if he didn’t get it already