The Summer Empire
Autumn Oak is of average height and very thin, the legacy of decades of hermit-like existence. As one of the People of the Wood, his body is covered in short, cameleon-like fur that’s usually the dark brown of the robes he wears, or the lighter tan of battered suit of much-mended leather armor he wears in battle. His eyes are a brilliant green under heavy brows, and alternate between a piercing gaze and one that seems to stare off into nothing, depending on what world he is looking into. His fur has some bare patches where he has been tattooed with swirling green and gold designs, showing his devotion to the forest spirits. He walks with a very slight limp.
Staining my soul and stinging my eyes
the red on my hands
won’t wash away, wash away
nowhere to run from what I have done
I’m no longer, no longer
a Rose of May
Third was born in a camp in Alfheim, during the waning days of the Nations of the Night when the Ljosalfar were hunted like dogs by the Nobility. He grew up moving from place to place through the forests, learning to survive in the forest, to keep a low profile, and to hate the Nobility and their servants. When he turned 15 years old, he was sent alone into the forest with nothing but what he carried in his heart to prove his worth. He came back two months later with a staff of oak, a raven perched on his shoulder, and the ear of the forest spirits, and took the name Waning Moon and a position as one of the druids of his sept.
Ten years later, when the jihad against the Nobility broke out and the messengers made their way past the Noble blockade and into the forests of Alfheim to inform the Ljosalfar of the uprising, Waning Moon was one of those who needed no convincing. He pledged himself to the sunburst banner immediately, and an aptitude for warfare learned from leading his sept on raids against the Noble’s soldiers for supplies quickly put him in command of a band of troops. He distinguished himself, winning several battles using the strike-and-fade skirmish style of the Ljosalfar, and served until the end of the Dawn War.
Two incidents later came to define his time of service, however. The first involved a Noble that had been driven to ground in a cave. Waning Moon took thirty men and went into the cave, and 20 minutes later, he and seven soldiers limped out, carrying three seriously-wounded comrades and the ashes of the Baron of Red Creek. Waning Moon refused to speak to anyone other than his superiors of what happened in the cave, but he was judged still fit for command and his company restaffed.
The second involved several villages on the outskirts of the forests and thus under Noble dominion. They were easily occupied, but Waning Moon’s soldiers suffered constant sabotage of their equipment and even murders of the garrison. Realizing that it was the probable result of Noble mental control, that there was no way to tell who was compromised and who was not, and that his thaumaturges couldn’t remove the influence, he ordered the population put to the sword. To this day, those who remember Waning Moon’s roll in the massace speak of him as the Butcher of Hearthglen.
After the end of the war, Waning Moon resigned his commission and retired to the depths of Alfheim’s forests, refusing all contact with the outside world for years. Decades later, a man calling himself Autumn Oak walked out of the forest to the port city of Five Trees, and when he saw the airships waiting in port and heard a description of how they worked from the aethernauts in the city’s drinking places, he immediately went down to the ships and inquired until he found one that needed a shaman. He signed up right away, asking for only enough money to cover his room and board and a little extra.
He traveled throughout the Summer Empire, taking jobs on different ships, until one day in Lanun he ran into a mothballed ship. The ship’s totem was a Phoenix-spirit, and it had a disturbing tendency to decide it was time for renewal and attempt to immolate the crew, but Autumn Oak was convinced he could forge a good relationship with the ship-spirit. He didn’t have enough money to purchase it, but a Lanun merchant named Bartleby did that while Autumn Oak was considering his options, and so he went to Bartleby and presented his case. Bartleby was taken aback by the amount of money that Autumn Oak said would be required in sacrifices to the ship-spirit to keep it happy, but perhaps the good quality of the ship—and the low salary Autumn Oak asked for himself—swayed him, and the two struck a partnership and took to the aether.