NPC Closeup 01/24/2004

Namiid Softstrider,
Child of Two Cultures

Namiid Softstrider, Tribal Hunter: Namiid is an orphan, rescued and adopted by his tribe after orcs made a predawn raid on the frontier homestead where he was born. The orcs killed Namiid's entire family, but someone carried the infant Namiid away from the scene and hid him inside a hollow tree. Sometime after sunrise, a group of barbarian hunters came to investigate the column of smoke that marked the burning ruins of the homestead. They found nothing of monetary value, but they heard the hungry baby crying in the woods and sought him out. The hunters were initially confused (and somewhat frightened) by what they heard. The hollow tree distorted the baby's cries, making them seem unnatural, and the hunters could not see any source for the sounds. Several of the hunters were convinced they were dealing with a malevolent spirit, but their leader, an older man called Kijkaa, insisted on locating the source of the sound. It was Kijkaa who first discovered the baby inside the tree. Kijkaa named the child Akulay (one who looks skyward), because when the hunter looked inside the tree, he saw the baby staring up at him.

Kijkaa and his wife, Lanninko, took in Akulay and raised him as their own son. Adopted children are fairly common in the tribe, and young Akulay fit in fairly well, even though he looked nothing like the other boys. Kijkaa's people are tall, long-legged, and light haired. Akulay was dark, squat, and bandy-legged. The boy received more than his share of teasing, but Kijkaa and Lanninko were wise and taught their son to ignore jeers and gibes from his detractors. Kijkaa, who was just about the best stalker in the tribe, also taught his son the art of moving quietly and remaining unseen.

One night, shortly before he was to undergo the rites of manhood for his tribe, some other boys heated a small stone in a fire, then slipped it into one of Akulay's boots while he was bathing. According to tribal tales, Akulay jumped halfway to the moon when he donned his boots, but quickly sat down and dumped out the hot stone. Akulay took the pain and the embarrassment well, but he quickly determined who was responsible for the prank. (It wasn't difficult as the pranksters were laughing the hardest at Akulay's discomfort.) Akulay decided to get even. During their next hunting trip, Akulay waited until his group was returning home, laden with game, then put the skills his father had taught him to use. During the hunting party's last night on the trail, he slipped out of his bedroll and stole the pranksters' boots. He carefully hid the boots among the carcasses the group was carrying, and nobody found them until after everyone returned to the tribal camp. The pranksters were obliged to finish the trip barefoot, and they had plenty of blisters and thorns in their feet to show for it afterward.

The tribal leaders commanded that the discord between Akulay and his rivals should stop when the boys reached manhood, but they gave Akulay the adult name of Namiid (star dancer) to commemorate the short feud. As an adult, Namiid uses his new name, but members of his family and tribe still call him Akulay when nobody from outside the tribe is present.

As a young man, Namiid is fiercely dedicated to his tribe, but intensely curious about his natural parents and their kin. He has visited the ruins of his old homestead several times. Ostensibly he is merely hunting in the area, but he has combed the site for clues to his true identity several times. He has found nothing. The orcs and the years obliterated all traces.

Aidian Softstrider, Adventurer: After nearly a decade of surreptitious visits to his old family homestead, Namiid received a shock. Someone had rebuilt the place. The new landholders were distant cousins, but they didn't know what to make of this strange young man who just walked out of the wilderness and into their barnyard one autumn day. Namiid, too, was confused at first, and a little angry as well. He had come to think of the old homestead as his own, and he resented finding squatters on the place. Still, Namiid has been brought up with a sense of hospitality and brought offerings of game and other wild foods to the strangers.

After Namiid explained what little he knew of his own past, his relatives supplied a few details. His natural parents, Namiid learned, had named him Aidian, after his paternal grandfather. He had two older siblings, brother and sister, who also apparently perished in the orc raid. When his cousins arrived to reclaim the homestead, they found a simple grave marked by four colored stones and a holy symbol of Pelor (the family's patron deity). The cousins assumed the whole family was buried there, but were delighted that "Aidian" had survived.

Namiid stayed with his cousins through the winter. It was his cousins' first winter on the frontier, and Namiid's survival skills probably kept them alive. In the spring, Namiid bid his cousins farewell and journeyed to the town where his namesake had been buried. He stuck around to learn the ways of the civilized world, using the name his natural parents had given him, but keeping the name Softstrider (a nickname the tribe had given to him and his adopted father).

Aidian soon fell in with a rough crowd. His martial prowess and stealth skills made him a natural recruit for a thieves' guild, and he served as a thug and journeyman thief for a few months before his natural good nature reasserted itself. Still the thieves had taught him to read and write, and they left him with no illusions about civilized life.

Seeking to cleanse his spirit and reestablish his contact with the natural world, Aidian took up studies with the church of Ehlonna. Aidian believed the religious life provided him with a way to bridge the two worlds that gave him birth and brought him to manhood.

Aidian Namiid, Warden of the Frontier: After a few years as an adventurer, Aidian became concerned about increasing tension between settlers moving into the frontier and his adopted people. Settlers were despoiling tribal lands and sacred sites, often through sheer ignorance. Members of his own tribe, on the other hand, were raiding the settlements, making themselves as big a nuisance as the orcs. Aidian foresaw an all-out war between the two groups, and he believed that would be a disaster no matter who eventually won the conflict. He expected that the orcs would snipe at both sides before the war and boost tension, increase their raiding during the confusion of an all-out war, and finally attack the weakened victor.

He quickly set out to help mediate between his tribe and his natural people. He began using both his first names to show his ties to each side. The work was hard, but he eventually persuaded his tribe to stop their raids and help him hunt orcs.

He successfully persuaded the settlers to respect tribal lands, mostly by showing how effective he and his tribe had been in stopping the orc raids. This allowed him to appeal to the settlers' sense of fair play and justice.

Aidian's efforts at mediation have been successful so far. He now spends his days patrolling the frontier, keeping a sharp lookout for orc activity, and making sure that everyone else in the area respects each other's territory and customs.

About the Author

Skip Williams keeps busy with freelance projects for several different game companies and has been the Sage of Dragon Magazine since 1986. Skip is a co-designer of the D&D 3rd Edition game and the chief architect of the Monster Manual. When not devising swift and cruel deaths for player characters, Skip putters in his kitchen or garden (his borscht gets rave reviews).

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