Campaign of the Month: July 2014
Winter is Coming
Standing at 5’9 tall with the dark hair and skin of Dorne matched with amethyst eyes, Jacek Synen was the sort of man easily misplaced in a large crowd, a fact not lost upon his employer and captain, Salandrez Topaxis. At nearly twenty-six, his bearing was neither that of a soldier nor a mercenary, a fact that improved his ability to glean information from the whispers of common folk easily. The Synens trace their descent to one Oliver Waters, whose mother claimed he was sired by a member of House Velaryon of Driftmark. Not content to bear the shame of a bastard’s lot, Oliver’s son discarded the traditional appellation, taking the surname his kin would carry through the following generations. While the notion of the Synens holding a link to House Velaryon is grounded in hearsay, the prominence of silver hair and purple eyes among the family does at least point towards strong strains of Valyrian blood.
Jarek was the younger of a set of twins born to Iarys Synen of Diftmark and Ellaris Morien of Dorne aboard Iarys’ ship during a typhoon. Subsequently, as he was born while at sea, Jarek often refers to himself as a citizen of all ports. His childhood evenly split between his family’s house in Duskendale and the ships of his father and uncles, Jarek learned to craft blades as well as wield them, Iarys and Ellaris’ maternal sides both having engaged in the blacksmithing trade for many generations. His twin proved to be a more successful sailor though much to their mother’s disappointment neither twin held interest in the mercantile business of her father’s family.
At the age of fourteen tragedy struck as an outbreak of bloody flux swept through Maidenpool while visiting an uncle, taking lives regardless of social standing. Among the victims was Jarek’s twin, Jacek. The Synens, utterly devastated by the loss, returned to Duskendale forever scarred. His mother became particularly unstable, veering between fits of rage, depression and absolute terror whenever any of her children did not send letters regularly. In spite of Iarys’ best efforts to reassure his wife, the worst came after he had taken Jarek on an extended tour of the various ports the family conducted their business. Iarys’ second in command jokingly referred to Jarek as “a better Jacek than Jacek himself”, causing Ellaris to strike the man across the face with a red-hot poker.
From that day forward, Iarys knew he could no longer deny his beloved wife’s sanity was in question. After consulting with local maesters and family on the matter, it was decided that Ellaris must live as normal a life as possible. She spent the following two years clinging to what six children of the seven she bore remained at home, yet four left to live with extended family, marry or find their own paths. Aside from a sister, sixteen year old Jarek remained the sole child living under the watchful, paranoid eyes of Ellaris.
Until he took a traveling pack and sole away into the night, no longer answering to Jarek…..but as Jacek Synen..
In Duskendale Jacek found employment aboard the Dreadnaught, a merchant ship under the command of a Northman, Captain Adney Pyke from White Harbor. When his acrophobia was inadvertently discovered Jacek was restricted to deck-duties only, the captain’s own son Maven having the same problem. In spite of the Pyke surname, Captain Adney often could be found roaring all manner of obscenities concerning Iornborn noble houses, a favourite subject of his cursing litanies being House Greyjoy with occasional snipes about one Aeron Locke. Maven and Jacek grew close during Jacek’s time aboard the ship, though when Maven expressed an interest in creating a more intimate bond, Jacek hopped ship in the nearest port in The Free Cities.
Not yet willing to put behind the memory of Haelan, a youth sent to the Wall for throwing a pot of hot oil in his stepfather’s face when he caught the man hitting Haelan’s mother, Jacek felt the act of jumping ship was the smartest solution to the problem of Maven. Any guilt over the craven act was quickly vaporized by the daily fight for survival. Three months of this passed when he was rescued from a dunken brawl by the son of a local blacksmith, who saw in Jacek a replacement for a runaway apprentice. Delighted by the teen’s understanding of the trade and Jacek’s willingness to help his fellow apprentices, the blacksmith knew his son had made a wise choice in offering Jacek this new life.
For four years Jacek toiled at the forges gladly as he shaped simple nails, then hinges, links for chainmail, horseshoes and finally blades. All of this came to an end when an older apprentice, Jacoby Stone, incensed that their employer had not yet named him a journeyman, slit the throats of the smith, his wife and their four children in their sleep. He then moved on to the five younger apprentices, but was caught in the act of slitting the throat of nine-year-old Wallace by Jacek and Rafe, a fellow apprentice. Rafe fled with the surviving apprentices, leaving Jacek alone to distract Jacoby. During the fight that ensued, Jacek killed Jacoby when he managed to turn the older apprentice’s own knife on him. In the aftermath, their possessions were retrieved and all the apprentices went their separate ways, leaving Jacek alone once again.
Introduction to the Red Keep
At twenty-five, two years after Salandrez had pulled him out of the mired backalleys, Jacek was given the additional post of the captain’s personal advisor; a duty Jacek would uphold along with his services as an armorer and blacksmith for Salandrez’ crew. It was during this time that Salandrez began to court favour with the most powerful nobles in King’s Landing, though the Tyroshi pirate set his eyes on the Hand of the Queen. Jacek found himself wary and initially intimidated by Wolfgang Locke, though he survived the meeting with little more than excessively sweaty feet. Salandrez betrayed Wolfgang, subsequently losing a hand and joining forces with the dreaded Anders Volpahart, causing a rift in his men as they divided into several camps. Jacek staunchly supported those who wished to distance themselves from their leader’s potentially fatal error in judgement as well as avoid punishment by association.
An Unexpected Reunion
While attending the masquerade held by Wolfgang, Jacek met Horace Allard, and a slew of other denizens and allies of the dwellers of the Red Keep. Most intriguing was the meeting between himself and a young woman named Khaavren Synen. As his family surname had been picked by an ancestor long ago while travelling abroad, the shared surname did not strike his interest. Khaavren proved a highly intelligent and intuitive sort, deducing that she and Jacek were cousins through Jacek’s uncle Aedrin, a friend and former lover of Khaavren’s mother.
The Aftermath of the Second Battle of Blackwater:
In the wake of the chaos left by Salandrez’s actions and a rebellion among his fellow sellsails, Jacek was declared the current leader of the Argent Talons, whom he had sworn to Wolfgang Locke’s service. With Salandrez’s confirmed death, he took responsibility for the command of twenty ships, only to lose them in the Second Battle of Blackwater. In a heroic and some might say suicidal, gamble Jacek steered his remaining ten ships straight into the path of a Qartheen war galley to buy time for Lord Allard’s galley The Forlorn Hope to escape. Injured by flaming debris and sharp wreckage after being flung from his ship when it exploded beneath him, the right side of Jacek’s face was marred by vicious scarring. Under the influence of strong drink, he admitted to the Lord Hand he has situs inversus totalis, he once spent three years with an oddities’ troupe and that he is not quite normal.
Moving Up The Ladder
Two weeks following the Second Battle of Blackwater, Jacek was summoned by Wolfgang, who inquired if the blacksmith would accept the position of Lord Commander of the Goldcloaks following Ihniel Fyr’s fall from favor with the Lord Hand. Jacek, though uncertain of the wisdom of Lord Locke placing such faith in him, accepted the offer. While now a Lord as a courtesy title only, Jacek aimed to use his newfound power to improve relations between the City Watch and the smallfolk as well as crack down severely upon breaches of justice. He was all too aware of how precarious his fortunes were and that he may share in his predecessor’s fate or far worse should the new Lord Hand find him incompetent in his duties.
While he managed to foster good relations between the smallfolk and the Goldcloaks, he could not have anticipated the waves of crime and corruption that chipped away at all he had done. After twice receiving news that his men had failed in their duties in spite of the many drills and talks he had given them, Jacek wrote a letter of resignation, nailed it to the door of the feast hall in the Red Keep and left, taking his fifty seven Argent Talons with him. Whether he will return is a matter of conjecture, though he intends to keep contact with what friends he made and continue the search for his missing sister, Jocaste.
With Winter sweeping over Westeros, no word has been heard of Jacek since he took his leave of King’s Landing, though occasional sightings of him have been reported in locations as varied as the Reach, Oldtown or the North. Much of these sightings are grounded in the hearsay of smallfolk, though a young Dornishman with a half-scarred face is the one trait they share.
My entire fleet was destroyed, my men are all dead or missing. Tell me then, what use is one songbird smith?
Men, brothers! I was once your smith aboard this vessel, no more or less! While we as Salandrez’ lackeys are now split among several commanders….this ship…the twenty who sail with me, listen here! My brothers I am you brother still! I am no lord, but I would seek your loyalty, your courage! What gods you pray to, be they the Seven, the Old Gods, R’hilor, or others unknown, I care not! What ports you hail from, I care not! We are called to rise above our past as sellsails and brigands. We sail under House Locke and House Locke alone we shall answer to! Let the royals die for their chair of swords, let all forsake us! We will not bow with the winds! The man speaking upon that wall is the only master my knee will ever bend to and no other! FOR WOLFGANG LOCKE, LORD HAND OF THE QUEEN AND FOR WESTEROS!
I will not brook such insubordination. The Goldcloaks of King’s Landing will no longer be mockeries and objects of ridicule. I aim to mold them into something far better. Have the man brought to me. Now