FROM: General Debinani Rahl
RE: Chapter One – Of New Beginnings
The Origins of The Black Rose Society – Last Free Company
My thanks to Glenn Cook for the inspiration.
Piecing together historical references was never my strong
suit; and piecing together where we came from would
probably give Old Humboldt headaches the likes of which The
Avatar has never seen. Unfortunately, it’s my duty to
commit to manuscript what I could discover of the forming
of our little Society, so here I go. Thus begins The Book
I was quite young when the war started in Cove. We had
known the Horde was coming for weeks, and the local
Imperial Magistrate had hired The Black Rose Society,
totaling over three thousand in number to hold the
beachhead against the onslaught of the Orcs. Everyone was
in the streets when they marched in from Vesper, perfect
ranks and files of gritty soldiers marching through the
city and setting up camp beyond the shield wall. I
instantly succumbed to the sheer awe that young boys are
infected with when watching an army march by. I longed
adventure, and tales of The Society had spread far and wide.
No one really knew where they came from, it was as if they
had always been there, taking contracts from the nobility
to perform one soldiering task or another. They had a
reputation for being the meanest, most cunning standing
army in all of Britannia, and were widely sought for many
reasons both virtuous and not. Every one of em marched
through town with a gleam in their eye, itching for a fight
that they knew they couldn’t lose. Perhaps even itching for
a fight they could put their hearts into. Word had it that
their last job was for a local lord in Vesper to stop the
riots caused by the Prophets of The Avatar. Word of the
slaughter was still coming in long after the Society’s
departure. I don’t imagine any soldier much enjoys killing
Pointedly against my family’s wishes I joined up, proved I
was handy with a sword and even a little petty magic, and
was placed in an infantry unit under the command of Bruenor…
sorry…Sergeant Bruenor of Stormstone Sound…couldn’t forget
the last part. I didn’t know where Stormstone Sound was,
and in fact, no one in the far-traveled company had ever
heard of the place, but Sarge insisted he was from there
and it was a very pleasant place, and by the gods he wasn’t
going to let us forget it. He and Madoc and a few of the
Society’s tame wizards would sit around a barrel and play
some sort of card game for hours on end, complaining
quietly about this contract or that, and laughing heartily
at the thought of sheathing their blades in chaos instead
of man-flesh. I gathered that The Captain had taken the
Cove contract as a morale-booster for his men. Vesper had
taken a lot out of all of them.
My second day The Captain and the Lieutenant took all of us
young-ones aside and read from the earliest of The
Society’s Annals about where we came from.
He said, “The Book of Rothain is the earliest of the annals
still in the possession of the Society, and in chapter
eighteen, he outlines what he knows about our origins. He
said that in The Age of Darkness, before The Shattering,
the Free Companies of Sosaria were sent abroad for a
purpose yet unknown. None of the other companies have been
heard from since that time. We stick to our contracts, as
we have done for two thousand years.
We defeat our enemies with Cunning and poise, not by brute
force. The Society is family, most of us have been here all
our lives. And the only way out is feet-first.”
The next day there was a bustle in the camp. It seemed
British himself wanted to hire The Society on and station
us near Yew to stop yet another growing Orc threat.
Everyone was excited, word was that the men in British’s
service were paid well and ate well, even on the road. We
finished the palisade outside of Cove and made ready to
wipe up the Orcs and move out. We were looking out to sea,
their ships were out there, and everyone knew it.
Which is why no one was prepared when the Horde emerged
from the mountain.
They came in droves, hammering against our undefended rear
and flanks, mercilessly pushing The Society, to a man, to
the coast. We fought hard. I can’t remember very much of
the battle, it was all a blur. The screams of dying men and
the harsh war-cries of the Orcs mixing with the smell of
blood and smoke from the fires of the town of Cove in
flames. At one point I took an arrow in the shoulder and
I woke to a feeble shaking. I opened my eyes to see The
Captain, riddled with arrows and bleeding profusely, lying
beside me, shaking my shoulder.
“We’re all that’s left,” he said, “The Society is broken.”
He gestured to his tent, containing all the remaining
Annals, burning merrily amongst the carnage. The sound of
the Orcs pillaging Cove rang out over the mountain.
“Get out of here…rebuild…write your Book as Captain of The
Society…and return it to The Libraries in Tablenhelm…” He
reached into his pocket and pulled out a wad of roots and
moss, and opened a gate.
“Go…” And then he died.
I dropped to the ground on the other side of the gate
beaten and bleeding, practically into the arms of a
soldier. I looked around and found myself in Cove, in the
fort that we had just completed. There were no signs of
battle, and the town seemed to be thriving.
“Where am I?” I said weekly, as the soldier lowered me to
the ground and began the slow process of extracting the
arrow from my shoulder.
“You’re on Cove, son.”
“NO…where am I?” I replied.
The man looked at me for a long, hard moment.
“Well, I don’t know where you came from or how you got
here, but our Mystics call this place Catskills,” he
chuckled quietly as he worked, ” If you’re one to believe
all that rot about Sosaria and the Age of Darkness.”
I pulled myself to my feet and accepted his aid and we
started to hobble our way into town.
“So what’s your name?” he asked.
“Rahl…Debinani Rahl. Yours?”
“Cethwyn Rhys, Esquire, Soldier for Hire, ” he said with
“Want a job?”
“What kind of job?” he replied.
“You ever heard of The Black Rose Society?” I asked.
I smiled, “You will, Master Rhys…Everybody will.”
And thus The Society began anew. I have no ambition to
return the Society to it’s former glory, just to find the
truth of where we came from and how to get back to fulfill
a promise to my dead predecessor. The recent death of Sage
Humboldt threw a wrench in my plans however, for he was
secretly aiding my in my research to find Tablenhelm. In
the mean time, The Society, I’ve managed to assemble a
small band of outcasts and renegades, dedicated to The
Society’s cause. They’re a good bunch, but like the old
Society they’re itching for the Good Fight.
So here I am, finishing the first chapter of The Book of
Rahl, looking out my window across the snowy waste in which
we train. It’s time The Society found a contract…found a
purpose. It’s time for The Black Rose Society to make
everyone sit up and take notice as we announce to the world
in a clear, resounding voice that the last Free Company of
Sosaria is in town and ready to take on the World.