Heroes of Freeport present the backstory of some of the characters depicted in art (and sometimes text) in Freeport: City of Adventure, and the Return to Freeport adventure path. They serve as examples of the kinds of characters that may be found in the City of Freeport, and be used as inspiration for PCs or as NPC backgrounds for the GM to draw from.
Redjak was born into the extremely narrow middle class of the Eastern District in Freeport. His parents ran a successful haberdashery, and his earliest memories were of well-dressed patrons speaking kindly to him as his father measured their hat sizes, and his mother offered them tea. As most smart halflings in the Eastern District, his family was officially a member of the Halfling Beneficent Association, but they made sure to distance themselves from its more questionable activities. They were wealthier halflings than most, and could even afford dues to the Golden Pillar Society. His parents assured him that if he worked hard and walked the straight and narrow line, Redjak would have a better life than even his parents.
Then, one nightmarish and stormy night, their store was attacked by hooded humans. His father was brutally murdered, and alchemist’s fire was thrown on the walls of the building that was both shop and home. Redjak and his mother would also have been killed, if the attackers hadn’t severely underestimated the fierceness of a halfling mother defending her child. More than a tea-maker, Redjak’s mother was also the tanner for the haberdashery’s leatherwork, and was skilled with her knives. At least one hooded assailant died, and she might have killed another if she hadn’t instead fled into the night with her young son.
Redjak and his mother rushed to the nearby Golden Pillar Society. She pounded on the door and begged entry. But the interior guards saw two ragged, bloodied, smoke-stained vagabonds in the rain. And refused to even open the door. If they were truly Golden Society members, the guard assured them, they could bring their membership paperwork in the morning to prove it during normal business hours.
Redjak cried but, grim –faced and stern, his mother told him polite society didn’t protect those who had lost everything. Now that all they owned was lost to fire and knives, no proper person would lift a finger to aid them. Instead, she rushed them across town to the Halfling Beneficent Association. For years Redjak’s strongest memory was that when they arrived there at night – still covered in soot and blood and with not a single coin to their name – and asking for aid, without another question he and his mother were whisked inside. He was sat in front of a fire, given a blanket, and a bowl of soup, and assured he was safe.
His mother spent a few hours talking to passive-faced halflings, explaining what had happened and answering their questions. Redjak fell asleep. He work as the first rays of morning light came through barred windows high in the common room. His mother was missing, but a well-dressed Halfling sat nearby. Introducing himself as Finn, the older Halfling explained he owned and ran the Beneficent Association. He assured Redjak his mother was safe, just showing some associates the remains of their shop, and she’d be back shortly. He also told Redjak how the world really worked. The strong took from the weak, and the large bullied the small, unless the weak worked together. An insult left unaddressed was an invitation to being mistreated. Finn asked Redjak if he understood, and the young Halfling confirmed he did. Finn nodded, stood, and left just as Redjak’s mother returned to tell him their home was gone, and their life would be different now. Redjak would not see Finn again for years.
Within a few days, Redjak and his mother were moved to a tiny room in a back ally, not far from the Hellhound Social Club. This club was center for the Hellhound bravos, who keep the peace in the Eastern District for Finn. The room wasn’t nearly as nice as their apartment over the now destroyed shop, but it was warm in winter and dry during the rains. And being so close to the Hellhounds made Redjak feel safe. His mother was soon employed as an apprentice leatherworker at Turtle’s Shell, and armory. Redjak was kept on as a scullion at the Beneficent Association.
And there, he met Orm Readleaf.
Orm was small, even for a Halfling, and worked as the chief accountant for the Beneficent Association’s moneylending operation. He showed Redjak the ledger with the debt to Finn that was accrued by Redjak and his mother. Every kindness had a cost, of course. The job his mother had gotten, the room they lived in, even the soup Redjak enjoyed on his first night; all neatly accounted for. Orm explained that the Beneficent Association wasn’t a charity. It was a brotherhood. It helped those that asked for aid, but expected them to pay back everything they received when they were able. Redjak’s mother wasn’t making much headway on her debt to the Association, but that was fine. Eventually, Redjak could help pay it off. And if he did well, he might even learn who had killed his father, and burned down his home.
Redjak began running errands for Orm that day, and ensuring each act was properly accounted for. He also began hanging around the Hellhounds that often lounged in taverns near his home. Redjak applied himself to learning everything he could about how Eastside worked, who was in charge of what, and who knew things no one else did. He was quick and clever, and though he often tumbled into scrapes through curiosity or carelessness, he mostly got himself out of them.
In addition to Orm, Redjak managed to befriend Dunbar, the human in charge of the Hellhounds. Dunbar told Redjak that if he ever heard a whisper the Beneficent Association would want to know, it would earn him good coin. Redjak spent the next several years spying, fighting, and learning money matters. He managed to move his mother to nicer rooms, and got a small apartment of his own. As he grew, he came to the attention of more senior members of the association and started getting offers for “special” jobs outside of the Eastern District. Some were simply deliveries. Other required secure items to be liberated, or paper copied in a neat hand without the owner knowing. Redjak did well at all these tasks, but continued to be frustrated in his main goal. Despite the full support of the Beneficent Association, Redjak could not discover who had killed his father and destroyed his childhood home.
Finally, after years of hard work, Redjak paid off his family’s debt to the Beneficent Association. Orm, now in charge of all moneylending operations, offered Redjak a permanent position as his personal assistant. Similarly, Dunbar offered him a job as a Hellhound. To both, Redjak politely refused. Both seemed sad, but neither pushed.
And when Redjak went home to his apartment, he found Finn sitting inside. Finn calmly offered Redjak a drink, and asked what the now-adult halfling’s plans were. Redjak sat, keeping his hands where Finn could see them, and explained that in the long run, he wanted to work for Finn. He saw the Beneficent Association as his real family, and hoped to be a formal part of it someday. But he couldn’t do that yet, because he had unfinished business. His family had been attacked, and THAT debt was still unpaid.
Finn sat quietly, and sipped his drink. Then he told Redjak he understood. As long as the Beneficent Association remained on Redjak’s list of allies, he was fine with letting Redjak finish some family matters. He even encouraged it. But when that was done, he expected to see Redjak take a role within the organization.
Then Finn slid a small ledger to Redjak, and left. Within the book, Redjak found years of research into the attack on his family. Who had benefitted. Who sold the alchemist’s fire used. Descriptions of the hooded men. Nothing definitive, but links to cults, and crimes, and secrets scattered throughout the city.
Redjak has a lot of ground to cover, and he needed to be sure his ultimate target didn’t see him coming. The next day, Redjak placed an ad in The Shipping News, offering his services as a guide around the city.