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Over six decades ago, Curunir (The Cunning One) was born to the noble House of Avanthar (The Shadow) in the forested foothills of the Lortmil Mountains of Celene. His mother was Ainael (Holy Star), a warrior of some repute, and his father Rana (The Wanderer), a Champion of Corellon Larethian who had been a ranger in his younger days. The two raised their son to share their own belief that the fate of the Olve was intertwined with that of the lesser races, and that isolationism would only lead to disaster for Celene. They also believed that one must be willing defend all that is good in the world, and be equally willing to stand by those who share that view, regardless of nation or race. These were the values that Ainael and Rana imprinted on Curunir during his upbringing.
Early on, Curunir showed an interest in the more martial side of Elven culture. As a result, his parents ensured that he received proper training in the use of the traditional weapons of his people, the bow and blade, for if he was to choose the profession of arms, then he would fight like an Elf. Rana, realizing that his son would more readily accept advice and instruction from someone other than his parents, arranged for Curunir to apprentice with one of his most trusted friends and fellow Champion, Elennar (Star Fire). While the youngling excelled in the hit and run tactics so commonly associated with the Olve, his mentor also schooled him to some extent in both religion and diplomacy. These were traits that not only befitted an Elven noble, which Curunir was, but would also serve him well should he decide to take the oath to Corellon Larethian, and accept the mantle of Champion.
For a number of years, Curunir was not only Elennar’s pupil, but also his de facto squire. Regardless of whatever duties he was assigned, though, they were all accepted as being learning experiences by this young, aspiring warrior. Elennar’s assignments took them far and wide, not only within Celene, but at times well beyond its borders. Young Avanthar learned much during his travels, and was blooded in many a skirmish on those occasions when it was only by the blade that their task could be accomplished. Being the companion of essentially a knight errant allowed Curunir to become quite experienced for one of so few years (by Elven standards), and a force to be reckoned with in his own right. Elennar was pleased with the young noble as he showed much promise, not only by his increasing martial prowess and fieldcraft, but also with his growing sense of compassion for decent people of all races. This was truly the Elven Way.
It was during one of their missions that the two crossed paths with a young acolyte of the Golden Coronal. Her name was Durmir (Dark Jewel), a raven-haired beauty with violet eyes and a smile that could melt glaciers. Elennar and Curunir’s task was to escort her (and several others) from the far side of Celene to their Temple in the Lortmils, where they would continue their studies to become full-fledged clerics. Over the course of their journey, Durmir & Curunir became close, and eventually intimate with each other. Their relationship was quite passionate, both in deed and emotion. Elennar looked on these events with quiet amusement, knowing that Durmir and her calling would serve as a final motivation and quash any doubts Curunir had about entering the service of Corellon.
Six months later, in 582 CY, while his parents, Elennar, and Durmir looked on proudly, Curunir Avanthar took the Oath of Service, and became one of the Aelavellin Corellon, or Sword Knights of Corellon. At the age of only 49 he was one of the youngest (relatively speaking) Elves ever to have the honour of carrying the courtblade, but none doubted that he had truly earned it. If his service while under the mentoring of Elennar was any indication of his potential, then Curunir would surely become a rising star within the Order, perhaps even penetrating its inner circle of leadership. The future was bright and promising for the Avanthar heir, and he looked forward to it with the zealousness of youth. Fate had other plans in store for the new Champion, though, as well as the rest of the Flanaess, for 582 CY was also the year that the continent erupted into what would become known as The Greyhawk Wars.
In response, a number of Temples in the region surrounding the Avanthars’ lands decided to collectively raise a company of the Golden Coronal’s Champions for foreign service. It was comprised entirely of volunteers, and their purpose would be to bulwark the other Celunese free companies forming to fight in Furyondy against Iuz. Once ready, these formations would link up with the forces of Duke Grenowin of the Duchy of Ulek, and fight under his banner until Celene officially committed troops. Given the values that he was raised with, it was no surprise when Curunir stepped forward to join this company. Ainael and Rana didn’t argue, for to do so would be hypocritical of what they had taught their son, and in their hearts they both knew he was right. Curunir’s parents elected to stay in Celene, however, to lobby the Royal Court for active participation in the war, which they hoped would be quickly forthcoming.
Unfortunately, Curunir’s decision also effectively ended his relationship with Durmir. The young cleric just couldn’t understand why he and the others were willing to risk their lives for the interests of the “lesser” races. He tried to explain to her his belief that the fate of all races were intertwined to a greater or lesser degree, and all that evil needed in order to triumph was for good people (of any race) to stand by and do nothing. Whether or not they liked it, the Olve were part of a much larger world, and must take a stand by their allies in order to assume their rightful place. That place was one of influence and leadership amongst an alliance of equals, and that position could only be gained by setting the example by which all good people would measure themselves. That was the very essence of what being a Champion was (to him). Sadly, Durmir supported Queen Yolande’s policy of isolationism, so while she respected his choice, she rejected his rationale. Maybe one day she will understand, Curunir thought as he left for war.
The next fourteen years were a blur of blood and battle for Curunir and the other Champions of his company. They were spent fighting the ancient evil of Iuz in Furyondy in a campaign of brutality and atrocity. Just when it seemed that he and his comrades might get a respite from the fighting, Turrosh Mak and his legions emerged from the Pomarj and invaded the Principality of Ulek. Curunir’s company was forced to remain in the line while other forces were dispatched south to bolster Prince Corond’s defenders and stem the invasion. Much to the astonishment of the Alliance, and to the shame of its Elven volunteers, Celene not only hadn’t entered the war at all, but had closed its borders. While Elves returning home from the Free Companies were allowed entry, almost all left again shortly afterward. Those who went back to their still serving comrades told stories of disrespect and censure for having fought alongside the “lesser” races. It seemed these veterans were being deliberately driven out of Celene, so their experiences and adjusted world view wouldn’t infect the rest of the populace.
While Curunir had visited his parents a number of times over the years, he hadn’t had any word from them for quite a while. Undoubtedly they would have been supporters of official intervention in the Greyhawk Wars, and deeply saddened and frustrated by their nation’s complete inaction. Young Avanthar did fear for them, but he also had every confidence in their ability to take care of each other, no matter what the situation. Elennar was also back home. While others of the Order had marched off to war, he had decided to stay and try to recruit more Champions and other Elves for foreign service. These new volunteers became replacements for casualties among the already formed and committed companies on both the northern and southern fronts. However, this source of reinforcements had steadily dwindled over the last few years to little more than a trickle. If attitudes and/or official policy back in Celene had shifted dramatically towards isolationism, that would explain the lack of additional troops and support.
Curunir’s thoughts then drifted to Durmir. Was she a simple bystander, or had she become more involved in advancing the isolationist agenda? Were her views born of mere ignorance and the aloofness so commonly associated with the Olve, especially amongst the young who knew little of the outside world? Or did they have a more sinister origin? As a worst case scenario, would he one day be forced to face his former lover on the battlefield? Curunir wished that he had had more time to talk with Durmir of these things before he left, to better understand the young cleric. Now all he could do was pray that Corellon would guide her.
What little information that did come out of Celene was sketchy at best, and not nearly enough to put together an accurate picture of the political climate in the Royal Court. However, several months after the first reports of this blatant discrimination against the veterans, the border became closed even to them. Now all who served in the Free Companies of Celene were Elves without a nation, exiled in absentia from the very home they believed they were defending. This left a bitter taste in the mouths of these expatriate Olve, as the feeling of betrayal is rarely palatable to anyone. Those emotions were somewhat mollified by Furyondy and the Duchy of Ulek, offering a place in their realms for every Celunese volunteer who wanted one. This was to ensure these brave people knew that they had not been abandoned by everyone, and that their sacrifices were appreciated by the Alliance. Not to mention the last thing anyone wanted was several thousand Elven warriors, fully trained and organized, who answered to no one.
The vast majority of the Celunese volunteers decided to stay on with their companies to continue the fight they had started, and Curunir was no exception. Indeed, he tried to bury his thoughts of home and the people there by losing himself in the chaos of war. In some instances he volunteered for more dangerous duties than usual, in order to work out his frustrations on the enemy. In an odd and somewhat disturbing way, battle had become almost cathartic to the young Elf, who sought every opportunity to take the field. There were even times when he went off on his own to hunt the foe, accompanied only by his mount. Curunir was finally shocked out of this behavior when his horse was killed during one of his solo forays. It was with a profound sense of loss and shame that the young Champion walked back to the lines of his company that morning, with his mount’s saddle over one shoulder. It was a needless death, caused solely by his own self-indulgence, and now he had to live with it.
Unfortunately he still needed a horse to stay mobile with the rest of his company. Several days later Curunir was looking for a replacement in the paddock designated as the holding area for available mounts. He had been there for about an hour observing potential choices when a magnificent wild stallion trotted in amongst them. He was grayeux in colouring, which gradually darkened from the brownish-grey at the top of his limbs (and his entire torso) to almost black at the hoof, with an equally dark mane and tail. Despite his somewhat rare colouring, what was most striking about this particular equine was his regal bearing, which seemed to be the very embodiment of dignity. After a few minutes of meandering around the other horses, the stallion came right up to Curunir, and nuzzled him affectionately. He didn’t know why, but the Sword Knight felt an immediate bond with the animal, and the warmth of its friendship was almost tangible.
Driven by curiosity, Curunir borrowed an enchanted collar from one of the senior wranglers so he could communicate with this extraordinary animal. When asked why he had come, the horse replied that he was just looking for a friend, as he was bored and somewhat lonely. He had come over to Curunir because he could sense strong sadness coming from the Elf, and thought that he could use a friend. Touched by the sentiment of this complete stranger of a horse, Curunir ensured that he was fed and groomed. He then let it be known that he was in need of a new mount, and the circumstances surrounding the death of his old one. The stallion was amenable to the idea, and volunteered for the role, even after being warned of the dangers and hardships it would entail. When the beast told him he had no name, Curunir dubbed him Arer for his demeanor, and explained that it meant “Noble One” in the Elven tongue. Arer seemed quite pleased with his new moniker, and expressed his hopes that he would live up to it.
While others with more experience in such matters actually trained Arer to be a light war mount, Curunir made sure he was very much involved in the process. Through enchanted means, both mount and rider developed a more mundane method of communication between them involving key words, whistles, whinnies, snorts, hand gestures, and body language. The training went faster than normal, for Arer was a quick and enthusiastic student, and the two of them soon became a pair to be reckoned with. This diversion taught Curunir that there was still much more to enjoy about life, even something as simple as a steed’s friendship and loyalty.
Over the next few months Curunir and Arer’s rapport grew by leaps and bounds. Riding had become not only a pleasure for the Elf, but almost instinctive as his mount responded to even the slightest touch, almost in anticipation of his command. When Curunir gave it some thought, he believed it was quite odd, since he had not received enough training as a ranger to call forth an animal to be his bound companion. He didn’t question it very much, though, for Elves are usually more in tune with nature just by virtue of being Elves, and he certainly would not look the proverbial (and in this case literal) “gift horse in the mouth.” But he never would have thought that he would find redemption for his tortured soul in the companionship of an animal. Yet the young Sword Knight had learned through personal experience that many strange things happen in war, and even during times of peace come to think of it. The world can indeed be a place full of wonders that need no explanation, only to be accepted.
It would be several more years of fighting and hardship in the service of Furyondy before Curunir worked through his feelings. At long last, he finally felt he had done all he could to expunge the shame his nation had caused him, not only as a subject of Celene, but also as an Elf. As the situation stabilized in the Pomarj, additional troops (including more expatriate Elves) had become available for the northern front and Furyondy’s perpetual crusade against Iuz. With the influx of these reinforcements, Curunir felt that he could finally take leave of his company in good conscience. The once proud Champion was spent in both mind and body, and in desperate need of a respite from war. After a short period of training replacements and integrating them into the company, the weary Sword Knight bid farewell to his noble brethren, and departed to the south. He knew not his destination, only the hope that his journey would take him far away from the heat of battle and the clash of steel that had been his constant companions for the better part of fourteen long years.
As he ventured south into the Duchy of Ulek, he heard tell of a small and relatively quiet community with a substantial Elven population. This was the Free Town of Auldvoron, established approximately six years earlier (give or take a year or two) by a number of freed slaves and refugees. The most intriguing fact was that by all accounts, it was being run by a Gray Elven noblewoman. Curious as to how such a settlement could have evolved, given its origins, Curunir decided to visit this town. It had the added benefits of being in a relatively secure area, not in Celene, and obscure enough that he should be able to find some quiet time to rebuild the civilized veneer that too many years of war had begun to strip away. The young Champion was surprised to discover from the gatekeepers when he arrived that the next day was the start of the town’s inaugural Market Festival. So much for peace and quiet, he thought, slapping the dust from his clothes with his gloves as he walked into the foyer of an appealing (if unusually sturdy) establishment. This was reputed by the locals to be the best inn and tavern in Auldvoron, known simply as The Prince and Pony. Now, if he could only get some service…