- Andrew M. Trauger
For many young men in and around Westmeade, life moves slowly and with great repetition--seasons of planting and harvest, storms floating in off The Deepening, and much ale during the Brewer's Consortium. For those discontented lads, the promise of adventure is a distant dream, to be found only in joining the Sentinel League.
Mason Rutland, like many youth, dreamed of grand adventures, of defeating dragon-bloods, and of rescuing--then wooing--damsels in distress. Mason grew up on a farm outside of Westmeade and ran the streets with his best friend, Elric Reichtoven, chasing girls and making mischief. When Elric had opportunity to court the daughter of an influential family, Mason did what any good friend would do--distract him with the chance to ride a wild stallion. And so it was that Elric despised the girl for a horse ride, landing Mason a few weeks with Miss Thalana Brackenstone.
But Mason admired his friend, and when Elric joined the city guard, it was the most natural thing for him to follow suit. But when Elric quit the guard, things got confusing very quickly for young Mason. Freeblading in Westmeade was a foolhardy option at best. Joining a freeblade group that had just been sentenced for destroying public property? It was beyond belief. Mason remained loyal to Captain Hunt and stayed at his post...until Elric's freeblades waltzed out of Wilder Tower with the carved-up pieces of a red dragon.
That moment, coupled with some questionable decisions the captain had recently made, compelled Mason to follow Elric's lead once more. He quit Westmeade's guard.
As he sat mulling over his future, he noticed a shady deal going down and decided to follow the lead. This took him beneath Wilder Tower--an area he did not know existed--and into an life-changing encounter. The woman he had followed stepped out of shadow, screaming and writhing. Her face was covered with a living shadow that was tearing her flesh to ribbons. Mason dashed to her rescue, but became the shadow's new target. His life teetered on the edge as the shadow shredded his face. The woman destroyed the shadow and staved off his death with a curative analeptic, but the damage was immense. And irreparable.
Mason never got her name. But that encounter forged within the young man a new goal. He formed plans to expose his former captain and bring true justice to Elric's team. But that meant living in the shadows himself...a place that, despite his experience, he was finding oddly comforting.