Kingmaker - As the Ravens Gather
The sight of the obviously long-dead man, flesh putrescent and dripping, with a ranseur clutched in his hands drives horror into the heart.
Not so long ago, a retired Brevic engineer named Davik Nettles ran a simple but profitable toll bridge across a narrow reach of the Shrike River. He made no judgments on those who chose to use his bridge—as long as they had the coin, be they bandit or trapper, he would allow them to cross the Shrike. As this crossing was the only significant one to be had over the Shrike in the Kamelands, Davik made a fair amount of money for his hard work.
Unfortunately, not long after he finally made enough to recoup the cost of building the rope bridge, the bandit king known as the Stag Lord rose to power on the north shore of the Tuskwater downriver. When the Stag Lord paid a visit to the crossing and informed Davik that not only would the men bearing his badge be granted free passage over the bridge, but that Davik would pay the Stag Lord two-thirds of his monthly take in return for the Stag Lord’s “protection,” Davik made a foolish error. He not only refused the Stag Lord’s offer, but ran the bandit and his men off downriver with the aid of his three slavering hounds. After the incident, Davik rewarded himself with a meal of fresh fish and went to bed early. Not surprisingly, the Stag Lord did not stay away for long.
Later, in the dead of night, the bandits returned. They surrounded Davik’s house and lit the building on fire with flaming arrows. Davik woke in terror as his dogs’ frantic barking alerted him, but as he stumbled out of his burning home and fled for his bridge, the bandits awaited him. More flaming arrows rained down, killing his hounds and wounding Davik. With his nightshirt aflame, the doomed bridge keeper tumbled down the path toward the river. After dousing himself with water, he clambered up to the bridge and tried to escape to the north shore. Unfortunately, the bandits had followed, and as Davik passed the midpoint on his bridge, the Stag Lord cut one of the ropes that held the bridge intact. The bridge immediately collapsed, plunging the shrieking Davik into the deep, icy water. By the time his body lodged downriver in the debris of his ruined bridge, he had drowned.
Onshore, the bandits watched, gleefully chuckling, their leering shadows dancing before the hovel’s flames as it collapsed into cinders. The Stag Lord and one of the bandits named Regik returned to his fort, leaving behind several bandits with the task of rebuilding the bridge and taking up the positions of toll takers.
Yet one night later, as the remaining bandits argued over which of them would get to be the “boss” of the new bridge, Davik rose from the river, an undead spirit of vengeance. The undead stalked out of the water and into the bandit camp, swiftly murdering them all and dragging their bodies into the river. The Stag Lord sent Regik with some more bandits to investigate several days later, and when Davik rose again and killed several of them, Regik and two of the bandits escaped and fled back to report to their lord. The Stag Lord wisely decided to abandon his plans to rebuild the bridge (traffic there was never that busy anyway), and in the months since has all but forgotten about Davik and his bridge.
Today, Nettles’ Crossing is a soggy, abandoned remnant. A thick, sagging rope still hangs across the river, all that remains of the bridge that once spanned it. A signpost at either end of the ruined bridge reads “Nettles’ Crossing—5 coppers—ring bell for service.” A rusty bell hangs by each sign. On the south bank of the river, the crumbled remains of a burnt-down wooden building are slowly being overgrown by encroaching vegetation.
Davik was able to task Markoa and, to a lesser degree, Brother Zero’s band of adventurers to deliver his vengeance upon the Stag Lord but the undead man also focused on the last living bandit who was responsible for his death. Davik Nettles visited Regik in his dreams turned nightmares in order to force the bandit to end his own life but soon found that the man was truly sorry for what had occurred and stepped back to merely become a constant presence of atonement for the man. When Regik refused the offer of Happs Bydon and the Company of Masks and was taken by them for sacrifice it was Davik Nettles who stood and watched and gave the ex-bandit something to focus on to carry him through. Since that redemption Nettles has become but a shadow of his former presence but does continue to haunt Regik if in a more familiar manner.