Neverwinter the city that was. Beset from all sides yet still it prevailed. Neither volcano, nor sea, nor forces dark could crumble her majesty. And from the rubble of her walls, the sealing of her wounded chasm, once more the city rose. Not as glorious as before, for the still new was her spark, but still she survived. And the greed of men came down upon her, like suitors to a bride, before the first seeds had spouted. Those who were born to her womb, who have struggled to scratch out a living through and through as if trapped by her maternal grasp, they were pushed out. Those who kept their silence in the cycle were viciously thrown into the pit, as looters came to prosper, new inhabitants clawing into the old city, finding ruins and old villas to haunt. New blood trickled in as the walls fell down, and opportunity lay for those aggressive enough to carve out a piece of Neverwinter's ruins. These distressed streets paved piece by piece over the years, and Lord Protector Neverember hand came down upon Neverwinter years ago to stabilize the resurfacing factions. Renewed the spirit, invigorated by the desires of outsiders to control and divide, uniting the once splendorous city under their own banner, every district flooded with new arrivals as travelers from near and far come. It was the dawn of a new day over Neverwinter.
Yet it was not the city he remembered. The city was a harsh father, teaching him what lessons in life he took with him. A cruel master tormenting you hunger though the markets were alive with all manners of food. Long ago, a dry throat thirsted over the taverns lit with carousal and flowing ales, and a weary head rested dreaming of the warm beds of the inn below him. Born nearly two and a half decades ago, M never knew who it was that left him there to be raised by the streets, taken in not by the orphanage that found him there, but rather by the city of Neverwinter itself. Who would adopt a child without a voice? Did they think he was slow? Addled and unable to speak his mind? His caretakers never bothered, keeping the boy alive, but thin and meager, and yet still he took after his rightful parents and survived. They at the orphanage gave him a name, one he no longer uses after leaving that place of sadness. For in the streets of Neverwinter he adopted a new moniker, a name to call his own, for it was he who bestowed it upon himself. Rechristened and reborn, the boy swore he would one day make a home for all the forgotten children.
How long ago was that? Toil and sweat grunted, blood and tears shed. An old building partially restored with what scrap lay in the Chasm's rundown district. A humble place reclaimed from an broken down inn, looted dry of goods by the structure still standing. A roof partially caved in, leaking in the rain, a creaking wood and rickety stairways, and a sewage system long in need of a washing. Through the years by his work the inn became a safe haven for other children left behind. A place quietly run by what they'd consider an older brother, a kind stranger who treated them like family. The coins earned from every odd job that rolled his way, going towards keeping the children fed and sheltered. In a way the makeshift orphanage was his kingdom, and he was the Prince in rags, a working class citizen with a noble heart. What gracious charity was accepted by those few who knew of his work, certainly with two dozen kids running around parentless he alone could not be there all the time. So at times the widowed women came, or the eldest of the children, to keep an eye on the ever-changing lot. They came and went freely, it was there so they could have a place to call home, even if they had wandered well and lost.
There were rules however, and the finances were managed by himself, shrewdly negotiating the prices of daily meals and goods. Work was difficult, and coins were precious, each to be spent prudently in the marketplace. Not the finest nor the freshest of produce and breads, nor the best quality cuts of meats or fish, but there was always something at the table. Where they could all join together as one large family, each taking a bit under the eye of big brother. A simple life, a small pleasure afforded by the wages earned, and a bit of subliminal manipulations. Being a psion had its perks, as he had discovered at an early age. The vast knowledge of the Noosphere waiting to be plucked by his mind, raided for its contents until eventually a new topic was sought to be learned and the memory of the old ones faded away. It was after all how the boy learned all his skills, reading, writing, mathematics, everything was available in the mystery of the Noosphere as the collective body of thought. And this was merely the beginning of what his mind could do.
So looking back, Neverwinter was still visible on the northern horizon smaller but still ever present. A few days away would be fine, there was enough food to last, a few coins left with the eldest Laura and Jules. They were good kids, wouldn't spend so lavishly as the others, knew how to be safe and keep the money tight. In the care of those so dependent on the shelter, it would be respected, unlike those who sought to use its innocence for all sorts of illicit activities. Yes, thieves and other scum had sometimes found it a tempting target, and those honorless bastards found themselves at odds with the building's protector. A solo scoundrel would be easily dispatched, their brains impaled and pierced by psychic ravaging, until their bodies were left brain dead. But a gang or group would be more difficult, especially when they threatened the safety of the kids. To which it was easier to come to an agreement of providing a stipend of money monthly, and some services in exchange for 'protection.' Yet every month they squeezed harder, asking for a bit more each time they came back. The factions wouldn't lend a hand, keeping order elsewhere in Neverwinter, and the rest were vying to rebuild and glean a position of higher power. All the politicks making it difficult to voice anything in the will of the mighty.
Fortunately there was favour with a dwarf named Gundren Rockseeker. Who occasionally provided small jobs and contacts for work throughout the city. A man of talent could always find something to use his mind for, even with the strange mutism he had. Whether it was a simple go fetch this from this person from one of the self-style nobles, which a former street urchin could do with ease, slipping in and out of the bustling city and reappearing later like magic, or assisting scholars in finding information scattered throughout Neverwinter. The psion swallowed his pride and served effectively, though never quite telling anyone his name. Rather, he was referred to as either 'Errand Boy' or 'that quiet one' or whatever name his direct employer decided to call him. This time Gundren had hired him for a mere 10 gold pieces to escort a supply wagon to Phandalin. Phandalin of all places, a grungy little settlement wasn't it? What was there to behold? The dwarf wouldn't say, and certainly the mute didn't ask. Work was work, certainly the dwarf had amassed a strange group.
First was the bard, ever cheery atop a horse, a half-elf girl with locks of golden hair in the wind as her coy smile made the psion doubt her nature. Perhaps it was because he too wore a mask and concealed a hidden talent that the mute man found this girl's mannerisms to be unsettling. For behind her tugged in two another carriage, for some scholar they had hired, one who had yet to be seen thus far. Yet like the stranger, he too was not ready to reveal his own talents and invade the minds of his fellow travellers, especially not that of the Barbarian half-orc. Yes, it was almost a redundancy to say barbican half-orc, and this one as much of his ilk and kin were short on brains. All muscle without thought, a stupid creature that spoke too loudly for its own intellect, telepathy would most likely frighten the simple minded, the voice of gods or demons, or whatever other power they believe it to be talking to them. At least he managed to keep out of the creature's strange ritual of 'testing armor' as their hire called it. Three members to be wary of, as it was.
And then there was lutist, who often accompanied the flutist, another female and a traveler from afar by the looks and sounds of it. He had kept his distance from most, his silence being the bastion that gave him reason to remain aloof, yet she was some sort of warrior by the weapons she carried and armor she wore, though one who prefer finesse over brute strength he concluded by her sleek form and supple armor. Yes, being the one to listen and observe, to think rather than speak, there was the benefit in being a thus far the group's watcher. It was he who drove the supply wagon, sitting with the reins in hand as the oxen plod forward along. A team of horses would have been faster, yet the equipment carried behind him seemed quite the stash. How much was it worth to the dwarf to get it all to Phandalin? A mining operation by the sounds of it, the secrecy and the man involved. Dwarf and his brothers, even taking a guard to go scout ahead? 10 golds was 10 golds, and a man's good faith and trust had been bought for less. Still, the mystery of Phandalin piqued the interest, and what motivations the others had for accepting the job. The traveler he could understand needing the work, and the barbarian perhaps some hired muscle, the bard entertainment for them both.
Then the final two where the academics, a fiery nobleman and a young girl. The former was a member of the Alliance no doubt, the airs and way he carried himself, buried in books or recounting a tale. Perhaps that was why he was here, official business sanctioned by the Lords. He was a genasi of fire as suggested by those crackling curtains, the redness of his iris burning with the look of superiority brightly glowing. The latter was a young girl, not one far younger than Laura by her looks, still wide-eyed and wondering about the world. A holy symbol marked her office, a worshiper, someone who prayed for a miracle to come and thanked the gods for their deliverance. Prayer only did so much, thrown at the mercy of the uncaring gods, the chaos of their dice and the cruel justice of their self-righteousness. And as for magic, magic was either a gift at an accidental birth, borrowed from a moment, or learned to be forgotten. Only the strength of the mind and one's own will persisted. Was he not living proof of that?
Enough looking back. Reminiscence was to be put behind him. For a few days this rag-tag group would be his acquaintances. Three women, and three men, one unknown, each of differing personas certainly, for a balanced grouped it would seem, and each had their role, two mercenaries, two morale keepers, a scholar, a captain and a servant. Strange that the barbarian refused to wear clothing in front of such young ladies, but perhaps decency for one as dimwitted as the half-orc was out the window, despite how much the Lordsmen could protest for. The psion himself wore simple clothes, his thin and lanky frame beneath a shabby white tunic and brown patched linen trousers, his boots clearly his only pair as thin as the soles ran worn down as he walked. A weather-beaten traveler's cloak across his shoulder, serving as a blanket for chilly nights sleeping atop the wagon, he could sleep anywhere by now despite carrying a bedroll. The silent one amongst the group preferred to keep a close count on the supplies promised to be delivered, in case something was missing from the cargo and their pay suspect to thievery, and of course someone had to notice any bandits approaching from the rear and snap the reins to rush the oxen forward. Though their journey so far had been quiet, danger always lurked on these roads thus vigilance was key. They were party united by the threads of their simple task, to guard this supply wagon safely through to the city ahead. What compensation was there should anything happen between Neverwinter and their destination? Was it really worth to risk your life 10 golds? Or would it be more fitting to risk a total stranger's? But the new names of his troupe was learned and placed into memory, written somewhere into the Noosphere. Ardiane, Bar, Kiki, Seethe, and Elki...
And he would remain a stranger to them,
Though they may call him many things,
His name was truly and only his own.