The Nine and Six and One
Neils Barreck, or Neils the Magnificent as he likes to call himself (also sometimes The Amazing Neils, Neils the Wondrous, Neils Wunderkind, and so on), grew up in the small town of Arnheim. Arnheim is situated at a minor crossroads, making it a somewhat prosperous trading hub for the area. The town itself managed to mostly stay out of the crossfires of the Last War, though it played its part in the supply lines, and some of its residents were taken away to serve in the war effort. With the war over, people in the town feel that they can finally get back life as normal, even if no one is old enough to remember what “normal” is really supposed to mean.
Neils is the only child of Arden Barreck, owner of Barreck’s Books and modestly successful book and literature merchant. During the war, Arden also worked as a document courier for the local garrison, and as such, in between courier missions and business trips to acquire and sell new books, was often forced to leave Neils at home to his own devices and to tend to the the shop. This worked out, though, as it turned out that even at an early age Neils displayed an uncanny brightness. Indeed, he is easily the smartest person in town. So, being left to his own devices for large amounts of time and being son of a book merchant gave Neils the opportunity to spend most of his childhood poring through whatever books his father had in inventory at any given time. Neils had little interest in playing or interacting with other children his age, often finding their games inane or tedious and “schoolyard” discussions to be banal, at best. He found his books, filled with histories and classical stories, to be much more stimulating than interacting with any of the simpletons inhabiting the town.
Neils’ favorite books, though, were the ones that dealt with magic and the arcane arts. At a young age, Neils discovered he had something of a knack for magic and took a keen interest in honing his skills. He spent countless hours studying any arcane tomes that came into the shop and, with no other real wizards in the town to serve as a mentor, used them to teach himself the ways of magic. At first, he used his skills to put on small magic shows for the neighbors, but quickly tired of this as his interests turned to more serious magic and as he found trying to please his intellectual inferiors to be an unsatisfying endeavor. As he got older, his skills grew and Neils came to be regarded as a talented young mage in Arnheim, even if most people found his personality unbearable.
It didn’t come as much surprise to Neils when Lord Vanwick’s agent came to invite him to join in the lord’s quest. To Neils, it seemed only a matter of time until someone of Edwin Vanwick’s status learned of Neils’ special talents, and clearly for such an important mission the nobleman would want only the best. The prospect of having to spend a whole season training in the lord’s manor was annoying and seemed unnecessary (what more could Neils possibly need to learn before embarking on the quest?), but Neils decided he could humor him. The opportunity for reward and to get out of his provincial little town, not to mention the chance to finally demonstrate his abilities to someone of real influence and perform a task that could actually earn him a little fame, was too much to pass up. Neils always knew he was destined for greatness and this was obviously the big break he had hoped for. Neils agreed right away.
So, after leaving a note for his father and arranging for a reliable townsperson to take over the shop until his father returned, Neils set out to begin his adventure at Trevek Manor.