Balun Barrelman

Son of Jack, village boy in Winterhaven

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Recently, Balun has been hearing voices. At first, he only heard them in the woods outside the village, or when he was alone. He might have said something to someone in the village, but he was afraid they would not believe him, or worse they might accuse him of witchcraft. Lately, the voices have spoken to him at night, when he lays in bed. The voice is telling him to leave the village and seek them out in the hills. Balun is scared to set off into the dangerous hills north of the village. He has heard the other villagers tell of the creatures that dwell there. Goblins, kobolds, and worse. He has even seen merchants arrive on market day with dead and wounded, bearing the marks of attacks by beast that burrow from beneath the earth and attack travelers who stray too far from the road. Balun is full of fears for these tales and all of the other things his young mind conjures up in the darkness.

Still it may be better than enduring life in the village with his father, Jack. Many of the villagers look with pity on the boy when they see how Jack treats his son, heaping abuse upon him for all manner of unfortunate things that are not his fault. They do not intervene, however. Instead, they treat him kindly when they see him alone, giving him morsels from their harvest or inviting him to play with their children.

It is clear that Jack Barrelman intends to drink his way into an early grave to escape his miserable life. Sadly, he appears to be doing his best to ruin his boy’s life before he dies. One evening, as the heroes explored the depths of the dungeons below Shadowfell Keep, on the night of his son’s 12th birthday, Jack returned home a hard day of shoveling the pig pens, followed by an even harder afternoon of spending his wages on ale at Wrafton’s, and passed out on the floor. Somewhere in the night Jack awoke, remembering that is had been Balun’s birthday, and visited his son in the loft. Balun pretended to sleep but he heard every word his father spoke that night.

He listened as Jack recounted the day his son was born. Of course, the story of that day and how it claimed the life of Jack’s wife Mirrien, in a difficult birth out in the wilderness of the downs far from home, how his horse came up lame on the journey home, carrying the body of his dead wife and newborn son, and had to be put down, and how on returning home he found that his landlord was evicting him and his family for alleged unpaid rent, factored more heavily into the story than the new life that was given to him that day. It was the same story he had endured every year on his birthday since he could remember his father’s voice.

Balun feels guilty, somehow, for the misfortune his ill-omened birth has caused. Balun is a good boy and despite everything has tried to love his father, but he hates Jack for not loving him back. He knows he will never hear kind words or have the family he sees other boys enjoy. He needs to get away…

Balun Barrelman

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