Rise of the Runelords
Female Human Barbarian
There are a million ways to die in the Realm of the Mammoth Lords. The natives of this brutal land are the nomadic Kellids, and they have made the best of this primal world. Amiri is one of these barbarians. Although she was blessed with a combination of independence and brawn, Amiri’s childhood remained one of constant challenge. To the people of her tribe, the Six Bears, brawn and bravery were not ideal characteristics for a woman to have. To the Six Bears, a woman’s role was simple—raise children, tend to the sick, and forge bonds with other tribes. Women were resources. When a tribe wished to form an alliance, they would send gifts of meat, furs, treasure, and daughters. Amiri didn’t see herself as livestock, and every chance she got, she tried to one-up her brothers and cousins. When a hunter went out and caught a caribou for the tribe, she would go out and catch two. When a party of orc raiders stumbled into their hunting grounds and a tribal hero killed four, she took it upon herself to kill six. Her constant sense of competition made her few friends—her brothers were both intimidated by her ferocity and enthralled by her beauty, while her sisters knew that each time she went against tradition, they would all be punished.
When Amiri finally came of age, her reputation had spread beyond the Six Bears. The other tribes took to calling her the “Soft Chieftain” of the Six Bears, a name that humiliated her almost as much as it did her kin, inferring that they were weak for allowing one of their women to grow so independent and strong. None of the other tribes wanted any part of her—her continued presence among the Six Bears caused much strife between once friendly tribes, and so the elders determined that there was but one choice—Amiri had to die. The only problem was the commonly held belief that murder of one’s kin was the greatest taboo and the surest path to Hell.
The opportunity to be rid of their troublesome sister rose soon enough, when word came of a tribe of frost giants who had been sighted in the nearby mountains. The elders organized a warband to scout the mountains and to drive back the giants, and they made sure that Amiri was included in the band. Shocked but proud to have finally been chosen, Amiri didn’t notice how the elders smiled at her eagerness to be on her way. The elders knew that Amiri’s sense of competition would swiftly get her in over her head, and in secret tasked the rest of the hunters to goad her into just such a situation.
The warband headed up into the Kodar foothills, and it wasn’t long before they found evidence of giants. One morning, the leader of the band rushed into camp, waving a dagger the size of a man’s arm over his head. The warrior claimed to have single-handedly slain a giant and to have taken his dagger, and the others in the band congratulated him on his skill and bravery. Amiri took the bait, and announced that she would return by sundown with an even greater weapon. She could have no way of knowing that the dagger was part of the deception—that the warband had brought it with them as a prop to incite her into a foolish plan.
What the warband themselves didn’t anticipate was that Amiri would find a frost giant. After wandering the mountains, she came to an immense body at the foot of a cliff—the giant had fallen to his death weeks before, and at his side lay his immense bastard sword. Although Amiri knew that she had not killed the giant, she also knew that all she needed was his sword as proof—certainly her kin wouldn’t think to dispute her claim with such a grand trophy. Yet when she returned to the place she had left her kin, she found the camp empty. Concerned, worried that they had fallen victim to the region’s dangers, she tracked them, catching up with the warband halfway back to the tribal camp. As she approached the camp, though, she realized something was amiss—they were talking of her, and they were laughing.
Creeping unseen to the edge of the camp, she realized that she had been duped. She heard her kin mocking her ways, of how she had fallen for their ruse, and how even now she was likely cooking in a giant’s stewpot. That they seemed grateful and so at ease with her death was not what enraged Amiri. It was the proof that her own people thought of her as a fool that did it. Eyes blazing, Amiri stepped into the camp and held her new sword out, proclaiming that even now she had bested them. The other warriors, shocked to see her alive, quickly fell back to laughter, pointing out that she could hardly wield such an ungainly weapon. Her fury growing, Amiri hefted the weapon and tried to adopt a menacing pose, but the weapon’s size threw her off balance and she toppled over, much to the other barbarian’s growing amusement.
It was enough. With a roar, Amiri leapt back to her feet. Her rage filled her body, clouded her vision, stole over her soul. Two of the barbarians had been decapitated by her immense sword before they realized that death had come. The battle was swift and brutal, with Amiri not noticing the blows that landed on her, simply stepping from one traitor to the next and cutting them down.
When her rage finally subsided, Amiri realized what she had done. She knew that the hunters had certainly deserved their fates, but they were still kin. That her reasons for murdering them were, to her, valid didn’t change the ties of blood. She knew that she had cut those ties, and so she turned her back on the remains, trusting that they would be discovered by another hunting party soon enough. As she headed west into the lands of Irrisen and the unknown reaches beyond, her heart was for the first time free—no longer was her future tied to traditions that would constrain her. She has come to value her oversized sword, and even though she can only truly wield it properly when her blood rage takes her, it has become as much a part of her as her fierce independence or her fiery heart. She no longer sees herself as a member of the Six Bears, but never speaks of the circumstances that forced her to flee her homeland. Some things are better left unsaid.