Gannon 'Turncloak' ca. Season 1
Leader of the mercenary band 'Warborn,' Gannon was dubbed 'Turncloak' during the war with Zhûrasca, after betraying the Khaja to the Empire of Solgard, thus ending to the Seven Years War. As a reward, he was appointed Imperial Inquisitor of Fallen Oak
A History of Gannon Lowborn, Today Known as ‘Turncloak’
My name is Varus Garrell. I have known Gannon nearly all of his adult life. I know him, perhaps, better than any living man, and it is my great honor to be writing this letter on his behalf.
Gannon’s story, as with most great men, begins tragically. The son of a whore, Gannon never knew his father, and was raised in a brothel until the age of 7. It was then, as a drunken patron beat his mother to death with a club, that Gannon first killed a man. He described to me the killing in elaborate detail, and I was astonished to find that he remembered it so vividly. ‘The soft skin split, and blood flowed down the sword hit onto my hands, and I felt him bleed warm, then cool, and then cold and black.’ (It was, ironically, the man’s own sword that killed him, Gannon had used his now legendary prowess to take it out of the scabbard as the naked villain savaged his mother.) What shocked Gannon most, he once told me, was the apathy he felt. A blood soaked boy left that brothel with a stolen blade, a small pouch of coin, and absolutely no fear in him; not of solitude, not of men or the world, nor the Gods that govern them.
Having left his boyhood behind, Gannon lived for some years on the streets of Winedark. He spent his days as a cutpurse, a small time thief, and eventually as a young assassin. He spoke seldom of these days to me, and aside from himself, none now living know exactly how he spent his time and money. Eventually, Gannon found himself deeply indebted, (by the age of 17, he was nearly 1,000 Platinum in with the BlackSail of Winedark.) and selling his skilled blade for mere coppers to pay interest on his massive bill. During this dark time, some personal tragedy befell the young man, although I have heard only mumbled phrases spoken when the boy is deep in his cups, and while I’m certain he will never tell me the full story, I know that he carries with him a terrible burden, and utters always an apology to ears that cannot hear.
It was as this point in the story that I met Gannon ‘Lowborn,’ as he was then known. He was fleeing his creditors on a ship that I crewed, the ‘Fellwind’, and while I saw great potential in him, I sensed that he hoped to flee not only his debts, but his entire life. We were bound for the hard land of Ustjubai, a place few but traders, magi and pirates ever venture.
One night, under the spell of wine and wave, I asked Gannon why he was traveling so far from home. He confided in me that he was going to make his fortune in Greystone, and while he knew how dangerous it was, he would either find his success, or lose his life. The way he spoke, the hard as steel tone of his voice; I knew this was a mind made up, one that could not be swayed by any living man. The boy who had first killed at 7, who had shed not a tear for his dead mother and abandon his entire life without a moment of mourning or remorse now fled into almost certain death. Gannon started me from my dark thoughts by asking what it was I wanted out of this life. I muttered an offhand comment, more to sade his curiosity than anything, and told him that I wanted to captain a ship one day. ‘So why don’t you?’ he smirked. I began to explain my financial state, my rank amongst the crew and my uncertainty in my abilities. My world then changed forever.Gannon stood up, and walked over to the Captain’s cabin. He knocked at the door, and when the Captain came forth, Gannon smiled; and stabbed him through the heart. Perhaps 15 people froze in place as the Captain fell to his knees and bled onto the deck, Gannon casually wiping his blade on the Captains’ nightdress. He gasped a pitiful ‘Why,’ starring wide eyed at his murderer, to which Gannon answered ‘Because you trusted me.’ Then, Captain Bellock, a man whom I had served from the moment I came aboard that ship, simply died. Gannon turned to the crew on deck and said ‘if I am wrong, then Serus* strike me dead.’
- Zhûrascan god of fortune, often associated with successful voyage
No one moved. Men clutched weapons and held fire in their eyes. The audacity of this commoner, the sheer arrogance and the disregard for all civilized manner; he had eaten the Captains food, slept on his ship, paid for the voyage and then murdered him in a cowardly act of cold blood. Surly he deserved to die, to rot forever in the underworld, a lapdog for the Gods bellow.
But nothing happened.
The sea did not take him. The sky did not fall, and while anger and hate still brewed, and at any moment, it seemed, the spell would be broken and the nearest man would leap forth and open the dogs throat; a cold fear began to sink into the heart every man present. A fear of death, a fear that maybe there was no punishment, no Gods, no world, perhaps that life itself was a strange dream. Gannon came to me and said ‘Live this life now, Captain Varus.’
From that moment on, I was Gannon Lowborns man. The ship was mine, its wealth was mine, and eventually under him, many lives would be mine, but not my own life; not under his sky. When we reached Ustjubai, most of the crew fled. It sounds strange, I am sure, that over 30 men feared a single. Still, to have been there on that night, I believe it was the will of the Gods that Gannon kill my poor Captain. I should have retaliated. I was a strong man, a skilled warrior of 35, I could have taken him in single combat, and Honor demanded I kill the knave; but I was no longer that man. Gannon gave no heed to Honor, and so for me it no longer existed. As Gannon himself was reborn under those strange skies on that starry night, so was I. ‘You are free to go, or to follow me.’ He said after we made port. Nine simple words that forever altered the course of my life. Gannon had given me all I had ever wanted, the freedom to sail the sea and make my living. I knew that I would have to throw it away. If you have met Gannon, you may know why. You want to be with him. His magnetism, his steely eyes and somewhat aloof nature draw you in because you know, just below the surface, a tempest rages. When with him, the sky seems brighter, and the dark, much darker. Food taste better, coin feels heavier; and men cannot discern blood from wine.
We sold the ‘Fellwind’, and made our way alone up the ‘Jubian coast. In the towns and villages we passed through, we would drink and eat and make merry; and quietly bought up the skilled village chiefs and pirate lords that plagued the coast. Gannon himself knew little enough about military leadership, but he knew so much about the hearts of men, and the way they thought, that he became a charismatic leader simply by being there.
Eventually, gold ran out, and Gannon used his purchased warriors to sack small towns, and raid Magi caravans. His attacks were often suicidal, but also brilliant in their execution. He was a master of subterfuge, and would suddenly disappear from the middle of a melee, and appear behind the Lord Magi, sinking into him his blade to the hilt. It was during this time, that Gannon came to be called by local authorities The Stone Warden (at this point, it was widely believed that Gannon was himself a rouge Magi, when he was in actuality only stealing shipments of stone to sell to the Pyrinium, and various groups of woden)
Eventually, the gloves came off. The tribal leaders mobilized a host of fighting men and Magi, and the criminal known as The Stone Warden was captured, his army dispersed, and his corps hung at the port of Portala.
The corps, unfortunately, belonged to Gannon’s man servant, Jalen, and he, myself and a few loyal soldiers set sail for Solgard, before the trial of “The Stone Warden” even began.
We made port in Garens Landing, and spent the next few weeks in petty banditry. When the city guard became to much for the few of us to handle, we took to the countryside. At first, we picked up the rejected city guard, and hired out as wandering enforcers; breaking up bandit camps and protecting Imperial caravans. Still, this work paid little, and soon we added extortion to our racket. I am not proud of these years, and would that he could feel it, I believe Gannon is not either. Soon enough, the men deserted, and Gannon and I found ourselves, once again, alone. These months were long and bitter, and need not be mentioned here. We wandered the Empire, and survived only just, searching for the next step in our lives. It was then that we met Stanus Brackenbile and ‘The Warborn.’
Fearless, powerful, and well equipped; this was the band of warriors that Gannon had always wanted fight with. Stanus claimed to have selected every soldier only after they had ‘Killed a man for no reason other than money.’ He said that war was greed, and a man who kills for greed is a man you can always trust; to be greedy.
Gannon got in because he still had a little reputation in Winedark as a hired knife, and I think Stanus was amused such a young boy arrogantly claimed to be the now dead Stone Warden. (It is also my belief that Stanus found it amusing the Gannon fought for him in a campaign against Rasha Lent, one of Gannons many creditors) I got in because Gannon vouched for me. We spent a few months in the south fighting gangs and mobs, then we traveled to the far north near Evernight, battling raiders and pirates pillaging the undefended coast. It was not long before the Greencloaks massed in Bagalon. When the war started, the Empire cancelled our contract defending the north, and the Khaja’s army sent word that they were hiring all skilled warriors. It didn’t take a full day for us to betray our people. We set sail for Zhûrasca.
I will not say much of the war. We alive now lived through it. Those who are not alive did not. Stanus died in battle, I refuse to believe otherwise, and when a great leader falls, someone must fulfill his duties. As I described above, Gannon was born to lead, born to take lives. The chaos of battle falls on him like a tailored cloak, and when he stood he did not proclaim his ‘intention to lead’ or his ‘desire to take Stantus’ place,’ he simply said he would lead The Warborn; or he would leave them.
The first 3 years of his leadership were filled with sand and blood. Small skirmish and large battle alike, they all blended one into the other. I do not need to recount his military achievements and failures, as you fine gentleman are already no doubt aware of them all. I will say that we all followed Gannon with a sense of wonder and dread; was this intense drive on the end of its life, we often wondered? How could we keep going at this pace? Battle after battle followed drunken night, looting, rape a pillage, a headache in the morning made all the worse by the trumpet signaling a return to violence. Gannon and the rest of us became monstrously rich on the blood of war. The Khaja paid us handsomely, and relented more and more to Gannon’s advice and guidance. Not only that, but ‘The Warborn’ was the only mercenary band that (officially) enjoyed permission to plunder all defended positions; even if they were captured Zhûrascan towns or outposts (although we were expected to show proper restraint and respect)
Soon, the toils of battle became apparent, the ranks dwindled as more and more skilled swordsman fell under the crushing wheels of war.
As ‘The Warborn’ lost more and more rank and file, Gannon sent more and more letters to the Khaja and his staff. It was not long before only a small number remained, and we were all called to the Capitol, to guard the Khaja, and for Gannon to act as a foreign adviser. Well versed in Imperial tactics by then, Gannon served the Khaja well, perhaps too well, as a citizen of the Empire. Still, in the end, it was not enough.
It was a cold night when the messenger arrived. I had seen him come and go before, always mysterious, always in the night. Dressed in Imperial Blue, and suffering from massive wounds, he was brought before the Khaja alone. Gannon and I stood in the foyer, and exchanged worried looks. The Holy Army had been all but routed, SandKnights laid down arms and land in exchange for Imperial amnesty, and servants were caught learning basic Imperial phrases for the inevitable occupation. It was a shock to me when the Khaja left the messengers bedside, and asked Gannon to speak with him. Alone.
To this day, I do not know what Gannon heard from that Imperial messenger. Some say he died just after they spoke. Others say that Gannon killed him. If he did die, then that makes sense; he was badly wounded. If Gannon killed him, then it was an act of mercy. It is not this meeting that keeps me up at night. What Gannon may or may not have learned, I do not think it was enough to change the man he had become.
What I am curious about, what does make me wonder if I chose the right path, is this; what did the messenger say to the Khaja? What made Gannon do whatever it is that he is now infamous for? He strode out and said to me ‘Gather the men’ as he walked, unopposed into the Royal Chambers. I stood, stunned, unable to act. What had my master heard that caused him to commit such offence? I did not ponder long.
Gannon emerged from the chamber with a bloodied blade, and motioned for me to follow. I did as I was bade, and it was not long before the Boy King ascended the throne, the few remaining Warborn opened the city gates, and the war was over. A few weeks later (and only a few days ago) Gannon informed me that he was tapped to be an Imperial Inquisitor, and I was asked to write this letter.
So here, at the end; why should Gannon be allowed to assume a position of Inquisition? There are many reasons;
I do not know what happened in that chamber on the ‘Night of No Moon.’ Some say he walked in and informed the king he was there to break him. I find that unlikely. Some say he stabbed him in the back. While this is more likely, it is still suspect in my mind. What I know for a fact is that Gannon, dubbed (supposedly by the Khajas dying breath ‘Turncloak’) was never the Khajas man. Yes, he said the words. Yes, he kissed the ring. But Gannon has ever been his own. A man, blessed by the Gods to live amongst us, as much as we may despise him. He should be an Inquisitor because he knows the hearts of evil men. He should be an Inquisitor because whatever happened, he ordered those gates opened, and ended what could have been a 3 year siege. He should be an Inquisitor because he was not struck dead by Man or Nature on the many occasions he broke an oath, or a common rite.
Still, he should be an Inquisitor because he was born.
He was born to fight. Born to end life. Born to set the world on fire. And most of all, this man whom you have the attention of, this man whom holds no allegiance, whom has lead armies of monsters into bloodied carnage, is not a man you want out of your sight, least of all to the highest bidder. I have no doubt he will serve with great success. Find him a problem, and he will solve it, or at last find someone who can.
I imagine this is all academic; I know you brought him into the Office of Inquisition at the request of Lord General Gauis Malcavian, who is a man of great Honor, and I am pleased that he sees the benefit of men like Gannon. Personally, I can imagine Gannon doing quite well as an Inquisitor, growing fat off a pension, and retiring from public life to die quietly, and alone. Still, while he has had a great adventure of a life, something tells me that his story is not done, that there is still something left for him to do. The fire that smolders in him I believe will rekindle, and eventually lead him out of the darkness in which he has lived for so long.
I will close with a well remembered story that took place at the height of the war. We had been invited to the Khajas Palace for the Midsummer Feast. As was custom, Generals, Horde leaders, and Mercenary Captains would present to the Khaja a gift; a token of thanks for the Khajas blessing and employment. When Gannon was to present his gift, the Khaja held up his hand in refusal. His words still echo in my mind;
‘I cannot accept your gift, Gannon ‘Warborn.’ You have what we in Zhûrasca call Mek-heilum; a haunted soul. I have looked into your eyes, my dear, and I have seen nothing worth liking. I do not think you are evil, nor do I think you righteous. I think that you are a slave to destiny. A man bent to the whims of the world, and a tool for the Gods to effect change. While this is a not a Noble charge, it is your sad lot in life, my friend.’
Gannon stood his ground, but the Khajas words had hit him hard, and I could see that bellow the calm surface, he was a storm of thought.
‘I do not wish to offend you, young warrior. You have served well, with bravery and distinction; but this is our culture and it is not for me to change.’
My master came out of his thought and stepped forward to say these words.
‘You have the right of it, my liege. I am the puppet of destiny, the plaything of fate. But I swear to you and to the Gods that govern this and all lands, that my gift to you will be more than any man has ever given; I will grab destiny by the throat, and strangle the courage out of her.’
It is possible that Gannon has done just that.
Yours very respectfully; Capt. Varus Garrell