- "Nobody's going to serve you if it doesn't serve them."
- — The Black Wolf
Finn Adrianovich Hamm
Adrian, Gomez, the Black Wolf
Pirate, smuggler, privateer
Finn Adrianovich Hamm was an Occan pirate born in 4821 operating out of the Rift. Nicknamed "the Black Wolf" for his brutality, Hamm and the crew of the Adipocere were among the most notable pirates of the chaotic interregnum and war period, particularly for their involvement in the sacking of Corona and the ensuing legendary Hunt for the Tomb of Herobrine. His complicated life and eventual death became the stuff of much folklore and fiction, and public view of his character has warped and shifted from his heyday to the contemporary period.
Hamm was born in a period of relative prosperity for Aquila. With the Alliance at the height of its power and the founding of Nova Aquila in sight, the continent of Aphelion was undergoing rapid efforts to chart its harsh interior, and the city of Corona was one of many settlements to reap the rewards of the continent's growing export sector. While the remote city of Dreiton, the so-called Shimmering Jewel of the southern coast, was no doubt the fastest growing colony, its political situation was quickly deteriorating due to growing secessionist sentiment against its "benefactors" back in the old world. While Corona was de-facto within Dreiton's sphere of influence due to the latter's monopoly over the former's bountiful redstone mines, Corona was much more content with the colonial status quo, and used its friendly relationship with the corporate wing of the Alliance to negotiate full sovereignty over the Strait of Corona, the highly profitable stretch of air and sea between the Aquilan mainland and the Aphelion.
The city of Corona had been under full political control of the "Last Bastion" Templar cell for some time by Hamm's adolescence, owing to a swift and bloodless coup some 5 years prior. Widely regarded as the last remaining formal Templar cell in existence, the Last Bastion rapidly consolidated control over Corona under the guidance of the Seneschal and his inner Circle of Knowing, converting the humble city into the Principality of Corona, a crusader state; while the reawakening of the Old Ways was taking the rest of the world by storm, Corona advertised itself as a haven against new heathenistic practices where all magic was outlawed. Additionally, to compete with Dreiton's wildly profitable lumber, diamond, and iron industries, the Circle of Knowing nationalized the state's redstone mines, freeing itself from both Aquilan and Dreitonese shareholders. Immigration to the Principality grew exponentially; merchants and mercenaries willing to fly the Templar cross were welcomed with open arms, while refugees were expected to work in the redstone mines until the arbitrary price of citizenship was paid. Many would die due to exertion or spontaneous ignition before their "debt" was absolved.
Hamm's family immigrated to Corona from the Occan city of Humberto. Once a humble wheat colony for the Empire of Medriaas, the city fell into hard times with the annihilation of Providence some years prior, and was itself sacked by the Ancient Fear in the Final Incursion. Some stubborn merchants stayed behind, but the Hamms eventually hitched a sloop to the Principality with a paltry sum of emeralds and some healing potions in tow. They were able to bargain citizenship with what little they had - under the condition that Finn be offered as collateral to work off the remaining tithe. His parents reluctantly agreed, and he was shipped off to the mines; only a lad at the time, "Finn Hamm" was merely a pseudonym - he had no memory of his given or family name.
Finn would often dream of freedom and rebellion. He would hear legends of a group of heroes called the "Outlanders" who saved the world, and naively believed that eventually they would come and liberate him from the mines some day as well. That day never came, and he had his naivety and compassion beaten out of him by the time he was a teenager. Eventually, though, some hope for emancipation came when news spread that the Brotherhood was in need of fresh recruits to help protect its shipping lanes in the Strait of Corona. Hamm jumped at the opportunity and began to petition for knighthood.
His freedom did not come so easily, however. Initiation was not lightly given, and Hamm was forced to prove himself by rite of battle before he could be unshackled. He bludgeoned, beat, and clawed his way through dozens of other miners petitioning for knighthood before his trial was complete. Afterwards, he underwent several months of brutal conditioning until he was finally declared a Knight Irregular by the Circle of Knowing. He was immediately deployed to the Strait upon the Templar vessel, the Vindicator, part of a new line of Aphelion-manufactured airships, which were rapidly becoming the world standard after reverse-engineering of Ender technology made traditional sailing obsolete.
Hamm was a remarkably effective and brutal privateer, and due to his expert tactical sense and proclivity for intimidation and aggressive strategy was quickly named Captain of the Vindicator after the previous holder captain was fried by a stray lightning bolt from a pirate with a strange enchanted grimoire. Hamm was bewildered and fascinated having never witnessed the Old Ways in person before, and surreptitiously claimed the tome for himself, claiming it was destroyed in the battle.
Finn's obsession with the occult grew. He intercepted exponentially more profane artifacts attempting to be smuggled across the Strait by the month, and had even begun to attempt some rites of his own. His first mate, Sofia, was initially mortified upon discovering his secret, but quickly became enthralled as well; steadily, more and more members of the crew were clued into the conspiracy, and whispers of mutiny against the Last Bastion began to circulate. Hamm had never bore any love for the Brotherhood - he simply viewed them as a tool for his ascension, and was eager to cast them aside if it meant he could live as a free man and continue to uncover secrets of eld.
Eventually, however, talk of the conspiracy reached the wrong ear. One particularly stubborn Prior immediately deserted and made a beeline back to Corona to alert the Circle of Knowing of the imminent mutiny; sensing treachery, Hamm quickly purged any of his crewmates not already involved in the rebellion and attempted to flee south. The Vindicator was intercepted in the skies over Dashari by a Templar warship and an epic clash ensued - though it was quickly cut short once the Dashari warriors began to fire at both sides indiscriminately from below. Narrowly, Hamm's crew were able to use the distraction to lose the warship and continue on their path towards the Free City of Dreiton, far beyond the reach of the Last Bastion.
Captain Hamm and the newly renamed Adipocere eventually ran out of of redstone fuel and crash landed in the outskirts of Dreiton, within a massive forest whose canopy shrouded the savage groves below. The crew fought tooth and nail to evade the hostile fauna within the evil forest - jumbees, slimes, and other unnatural beastes - before arriving upon an abandoned settlement called the Grotto. Its dilapidated spires evoked memories of a byegone era where the Old Ways reigned supreme. They came upon a hollow which seemed curiously recently inhabited, within which was a wealth of arcane artifacts and knowledge. They raided the domicile, only losing a handful of crewmen to sinister traps meant to ward off looters. Hamm soon reached the sealed off depths of the hollow, where he discovered a corrupted diamond hosting the spirit of a deceased black mage named Benthamic. The sorcerer's consciousness immediately latched itself into Finn's mind, instructing him in the ways of the dark arts and constantly insisting that he set aside his vain worldly pursuits and instead devote his efforts to the "grand struggle" against injustice and tyranny. Hamm was mostly uninterested in the dead wizard's musings, but occasionally heeded his wisdom in moments of turmoil; the two were forever intertwined, and it is unclear whether some decisions Finn made in his life were truly his, or the result of possession by the spirit.
After sufficiently turning the Grotto inside out, the crew of the Adipocere finally proceeded to Dreiton, where they acquired the parts to refit their airship and laid low for a few months, accumulating some capital by reselling Templar plunder and establishing connections within the city for later exploits. Hamm was initially somewhat content to simply remain in Dreiton to continue studying the arcane, but his first mate and confidant Sofia convinced him to use his newfound powers to live a life of crime instead, and perhaps even take revenge on their new Templar enemies, who were certain to come after them eventually. After scouring the city for enough scallywags brave and foolish enough to replenish the ranks of the Adipocere, Captain Hamm and Sofia set off for Bakadaja, the pirate haven on the west coast of Aphelion in a state of cold war between Windforth and Tyfen.
Hamm and his boys were a welcome addition to the pirate republic's fleet, though some were suspicious of their link to the Templar contingent, who were tightening their grip upon pirate activities in the Strait of Corona by the day. Nevertheless, Finn used his intricate knowledge of Templar strategy to offer the pirates new smuggling routes which mostly avoided Bastion interception. With Hamm at the helm of pirate activities in the Strait, the Templars were forced to withdraw and reevaluate their strategy. Meanwhile, the Adipocere established itself as one of the most feared pirate vessels in all Aquila, even harassing Nova Aquilan merchant ships as far north as the waters of New Augusta. With the Templars temporarily outsmarted and the Alliance's navy all but defunct due to Pluton's Rebellion in Sivistys, Hamm and Sofia began to build something of a pirate fleet of their own, sparing their victims from being thrown off the bow in exchange for vassalship. Hamm and his crew became the stuff of legend for their brutal effectiveness, and merchants across the Avunian Ocean came to fear the menacing black-masked captain they called "the Black Wolf."
The Adipocere did not have free reign indefinitely, however. The Circle of Knowing eventually brokered a deal with Tyfen, Windforth, Nova Aquila, and Dreiton to set aside their political intrigue and clamp down on pirate activities in the Strait of Corona, spearheaded by a newly revamped Templar fleet armed with guns derived from designs salvaged from the Incursion. Caught off guard, Hamm attempted to flee back towards Bakadaja, but they were intercepted by a newly established Templar blockade launched from Windforth. The Adipocere was forced to flee north, heading up towards Sivistys where they hoped to obtain temporary political asylum.
The battered city of New Detroit reluctantly sheltered the pirates. After being virtually destroyed in the Resurgent War and put down by scorched earth tactics by the Alliance quite recently, the populace were bitter and defeated. Memories of Pluton's Rebellion were still fresh on their minds, and many yearned for another chance to strike against Nova Aquila and regain sovereignty. Sensing an opportunity, Captain Hamm began to reignite the spark of rebellion, and set himself up as the leader of the new revolution that New Detroit desperately needed. In truth, he was apathetic towards the revolutionary fervor of the city and despised politics, but saw great potential in creating a distraction for Aquila so he could resume his activities.
Over the course of several months, Hamm bided his time, leading expeditions across Sivistys to Sidon and Corvus to secure supplies whilst Sofia smuggled herself and a small detachment of bodyguards to Dreiton to rendezvous with their old contacts for weapons and fuel. Upon arriving at the Free City, it became immediately apparent that the citystate's political turmoil had reached a breaking point. The so-called "Dirty Wars" were now in full force, and the Council of 8 could no longer maintain influence over the region. Sofia and the detachment returned to New Detroit with a shipload of enchanted armor, weapons, and potions. Meanwhile, Hamm slipped past the aerial blockade by foot to reach his allies in Bakadaja to arrange for a coordinated assault. The captains there agreed on the condition that they be given a fair share of the Templars' plunder.
Hamm and Sofia led a daring attack on a Nova Aquilan redstone fuel refinery in Aragon to begin the insurgency, causing the Aquilan fleet to immediately withdraw from the Strait and travel northeast to protect its fuel interests. Upon arriving in the region, revolutionary forces beset the fleet, providing a distraction for the Adipocere to race directly for Corona. With Dreitonese and Aquilan forces scattered, Bakad forces were able to penetrate the blockade and allow Hamm and his boys to infiltrate the city's walls. The assassins detoned a redstone fuel cell under the inner chamber of the Circle of Knowing, violently killing them all, save the Seneschal, who escaped to Tyfen and became Hamm's bitter rival to the end.
With the city in chaos, the crew of the Adipocere infiltrated the vault of the Last Bastion, discovering massive obsidian chambers filled to the brim with precious gems and forbidden enchanted books. Most notable to Finn, though, was a thin golden blade crackling with black and cyan energy called the Invidere, along with a map to "the Tomb of Herobrine." The map alleged that only the Invidere could unlock whatever chthonic power lay within the Tomb, and that the secret could not leave the halls of the Templars.
The crew fled before the Bakad distraction could be broken, gathering what loot they could and setting aside a share for their associates as promised. With the Circle of Knowing annihilated and their leader sent into exile, the Templars had finally been crushed, and a provisional government sympathetic to Dreiton was established to restore some semblance of democracy. The blockade disintegrated, at least for the time being, and as piracy returned to the Strait, the trading powers sought alternative routes.
Hamm and his crew returned to Bakadaja as heroes and spent the next year ruthlessly plundering the Strait, much to Benthamic's chagrin, as the spirit insisted that Finn instead devote his efforts towards seeking the Tomb of Herobrine. Hamm was initially content to remain within familiar waters, but his hunger for a challenge eventually won over, and he and Sofia departed to seek the Tomb with the Templar map and the mage's guidance.
Leaving their growing pirate fleet in the hands of their quartermaster Anatole, the duo travelled first to the site of the Elverum Trench in the center of the Avunian Ocean - the deepest confirmed point in all Aquila at the time. They made base camp at the nearby isle of Kalga Bland, a long-abandoned holy site for the Aquilan Empire. Beset by automata guardians left behind by the ancient architects, they fled into the depths of the temple through a series of caves before coming upon a ruined Nether portal. Pursued by constructs, Hamm used the fire aspect properties of the Invidere to light the portal, and the two entered.
A short trek through the remains of a long-abandoned Nether fortress guarded by Wither skeletons brought them to an extravagant throne room which could only have belonged to the late Herobrine himself. Displayed in the center of the chamber was a looking glass emanating with chthonic energy called "the Oraculum." Before Finn and Sofia could snatch it, they were attacked by a swarm of dark acolytes who called themselves the Followers of the Old Ways, who had long sought the secrets of the Tomb for themselves and could now claim it at last thanks to the unearthing of the map from the Templar vault. Their leader, a Khotanese warrior in black robes called Haru, took the Oraculum and the map before vanishing into the shadows.
Narrowly surviving a skirmish with the remaining disciples, the two pirates escaped the crumbling temple and, upon discovering that their entry portal had been smashed beyond repair, wandered through the depths of the Nether aimlessly for several hours before coming upon an ice way that brought them to a guarded exit portal. The sentries, clad in diamond armor, claimed to be guarding the entrance to the aptly-named Sanctuary, a haven for pirates in the southern ocean. Hamm brandished the Invidere and threatened the wrath of the legendary pirate, the Black Wolf, to strongarm their way in.
Arriving in the obsidian fortress known as Sanctuary, Finn and Sofia laid low for a few days, gathering what information they could about the so-called Followers of the Beyond. Apparently, their organization had existed in some form or other since before the founding of the Aquilan Empire, worshipping the Daemon-Sultan "Moros" and collecting arcane relics across the world for his glory. They were all but exterminated by the Empire and then the Knights Thash in subsequent genocides, and had recently resurfaced after centuries of dormancy. They learned from an archer named Reeve that they were rumored to be operating out of an island called Kuwaktana within the cursed Lost Passage. She offered to lend her bow to their quest in exchange for a stake in whatever treasures lay within the Tomb, to which they hesitantly agreed.
Lacking the funds and manpower to mount an airship expedition, the three travelled by sea to the infamous Lost Passage aboard a humble sloop with the aid of some rapscallions whom they had no intention of paying. According to legend, this stretch of sea was where the Mad King's inquisition forced 100,000 accused magic-wielders, prisoners of war, and other political enemies to row out and be consumed by the Passage's evil guardian, a monster known only as the Hunger. Hamm admired their brutality.
Suddenly, the moon disappeared from the night sky and the sea fell into complete darkness. The crew were met by apparitions of their past - Finn himself glimpsed the spirits of what he'd imagined his parents to have been, and was nearly enthralled by their presence before he shattered the illusion, noticing the massive sets of teeth encroaching upon the ship from the water. The captain shook Reeve and Sofia from their trances as well, enraging the beast. Thinking quickly, Hamm cast a handful of the remaining enchanted sailors into the depths, hoping to satiate the Hunger. The monster's advance slowed, allowing Reeve to cast a lit redstone fire charge into the beast's gaping mouth. With what remained of the crew roused, the sloop made for the nearest shore on the northern coast of Ertdor, the site of a Nova Aquilan encampment.
Hamm's face wasn't recognized by the scrambling Aquilan soldiers. Before the pirates could get their bearings, the base was attacked by a massive fleet of airships bearing the Khotanese standard - the red Sunflower. Covered by artillery fire, the Khotanese warriors assaulted the Aquilan base camp with elytra support, bearing all manner of enchanted weapons and armor which bore a curious resemblance to those brandished by the assassins from Herobrine's fortress. Hamm reasoned that the Khotanese forces couldn't have mounted such a full-scale invasion from the Khotan mainland and must have captured a refuelling point midway in the Surlada Ocean, just outside the Lost Passage. Hedging his bets, Finn took his comrades Sofia and Reeve and stowed away on one of the Khotanese airships heading back north, leaving the rest of their shipmates to fend for themselves.
The pirates arrived on the frozen desert island of Kuwaktana, where they observed the Khotanese invaders meeting with two acolytes clad in black robes upon sneaking off the airship. The War of the Sunflower had begun, and apparently Khotan had found an ally in the vengeful Followers of the Old Ways. Infiltrating the acolyte fortress in stolen black robes, the trio stealthed their way into the inner chamber, which housed the prized Oraculum. They were discovered by a black mage who called himself Jojosamu, who was familiar with them and joined their party as a fourth, claiming that Haru had gone insane and had to be stopped as he could not be trusted with the secrets within the Tomb. According to the mage, it was better that a simple pirate wield the power than a man as dangerous as the Archmage Haru.
They were greeted by the selfsame leader of the assassins whom they'd met back in Herobrine's fortress. Rather than attacking, Haru offered his hand in friendship, proclaiming that the Followers were on the "right side of history" - wielders of the Old Ways had been repressed for milennia, and now, the cultist argued, it was time for them to seek retribution and finally claim Aquila for themselves with the aid of Khotan. Confessing that the Invidere was the final key to unlocking the Tomb, Haru claimed to have foreseen that the interlopers would be vital to their counter-crusade, and that the secrets within would be the instruments of their final victory. To the horror of his comrades, Finn agreed to accompany Haru to the tomb, much to the Archmage's delight.
Hamm, Sofia, Reeve, and Jojosamu travelled to the Crag in far northeast Kilran aboard a Khotanese frigate, accompanied by Haru and his top assassins along with a small detachment of elite Khotanese samurai. Arriving at the Crag, Finn's compatriots were completely unsure whether it was all an elaborate rouse to claim the Tomb's power for himself or he was genuinely attempting to join the Followers of the Old Ways, and he most likely did not know either. Regardless, the expedition hiked to the center of the foreboding mountain range, following the map closely until they came upon a desolate valley. Haru used the Oraculum to reveal the location of the Tomb, allowing the party to enter its cursed depths, infested with eldritch abominations and strange obsidian stalagmite formations.
Finally, the expedition arrived at the burial chamber of the fallen god himself, opened by way of a complex lock opened with the flames of the Invidere - only to find that his sarcophagus had long been sprung open and desecrated. Enraged, Haru prepared to execute the pirates before Hamm investigated the empty coffin to reveal what appeared to be a gleaming white gem - the Eye of Makrozoia. The Archmage rushed to snatch it for himself, but Finn activated its power by instinct, using its dark juju to reanimate the scores of undead warriors housed within the Tomb and sic them upon the acolytes. Only a pair of samurai escaped, fleeing into the wastes as Finn, Jojo, Sofia, and Reeve returned to the airship. Having grown disillusioned towards the frightful ambitions of the Followers of the Old Ways, Samu agreed to return to Aphelion with the captain, if only to ensure that the Eye was kept in worthy hands. Hamm found the mage's counsel useful and was eager to bring him into the fold.
The pirates returned to Bakadaja triumphant and with Herobrine's final secret in tow. Upon returning to his fleet, however, he'd discovered that his quartermaster Anatole had spread a lie that Hamm had been executed by Khotan in his travels, and thus attempted to take the reins of the pirate fleet himself. Finn and his new comrades, alongside his old friend, the "Pirate Paladin" Virgil, destroyed Anatole's operation and purged the disloyal who had given into his deception. When interrogated, Anatole admitted that he was not acting purely out of greed - he was on the payroll of the captain's old nemesis, the Seneschal.
With the Eye of Makrozoia uncovered, his fleet restored, and with old enemies resurfacing, Hamm got back to work in Aphelion, putting his growing pirate syndicate back in order and setting his sights upon the profit to be made in the escalating War of the Sunflower, alongside his most trusted allies - Sofia the Rogue, Reeve the Deadeye, Samu the Mage, and the newly promoted quartermaster Virgil, the Bruiser.
Trade activity in the Strait of Corona rapidly shifted once the War began in earnest. With the Templars crushed, the humble city's monopoly over activities in the region vanished, allowing piracy to flourish. The crew of the Adipocere became a singular thorn in the side of the Free City of Dreiton, whose financial empire claimed soft economic sovereignty over the waters of all Aphelion. The citystate's premier joint-stock company, the Dreiton Exchange Mandate, acted with arguably even greater authority than the Council itself, and maintained a private navy larger than the Free City's own formal standing army. Though Dreiton maintained de-jure neutrality in the War, the Mandate's coffers grew fuller by the day due to its massive weapons exports - to both sides. Thus, the company began to devote its resources towards eliminating the resurgent pirate threat.
Not to be outsmarted, Hamm feigned retreat by redirecting his flotilla away from the Strait, where Mandate presence was strongest, and instead basing his operations out of the lawless isle of Voshe. From the dense jungles of the wild sub-continent, Finn and his associates could easily intercept trade vessels in the vast Gulf of Mes Raina, just behind the supply lines of Nova Aquilan forces. The pirates made a fortune plundering war supplies - primarily enchanted diamond gear, redstone cannons, potion stimulants, and chemical weapons - which they resold to black marketeers in Elitia and the hidden pirate haven of Arcadia, a reclaimed underwater factory. Their activities severely crippled the war effort. Undersupplied and losing morale quickly, Alliance forces were forced to cede more and more vital land to Khotan by the week, and imperial forces had begun to encroach as far as Apollyon.
The Mandate were furious. Addison Mayfield, the vicious Dreitonese captain responsible for the annexation of Barcelona and the Animus Isles, was chartered into the company and dispatched to the Gulf of Mes Raina to snuff out the pirates. Mayfield, widely regarded as nearly Hamm's equal in terms of strategic mind, was the first to deduce that the Adipocere could only logically be operating out of Voshe, as Krak was under a state of Alliance marshal law and Hog Bay was too remote to provide the pirates the fuel they needed to stay airbourne for weeks at a time. Mayfield orchestrated a plot to lure the Adipocere out from Voshe with a wayward company galleon appearing to be bound for the Aquilan outpost of Aragon - Hamm slipped up and gave pursuit, allowing Mayfield's warship, the Leviathan, to covertly launch from New Tempus and cripple the Adipocere.
The resulting battle aboard the Adipocere was brutal, drawing both sides to a stalemate - though the Leviathan's crew were more plentiful and better equipped, Finn and his boys were willing to fight to the bitter end, and the captain's growing control over the Eye of Makrozoia created havoc amongst the frenzied Mandate hunters. Cutting his losses, Mayfield ordered a cease-fire and quickly offered Hamm a non-negotiable accord - surrender his ship and crew, and sign a letter of marque for Dreiton, absolving him of his crimes. Hamm agreed, to the disgust of his crew, who were taken to the Free City's secure facility on Canine for trial.
With the Black Wolf now flying the colors of Dreiton with a crew of elite company mercenaries, Aquilan supply lines quickly recalibrated, allowing Alliance forces to liberate huge swaths of land in Kilran and Ertdor. Hamm was patient, slowly gaining the trust and respect of the Mandate and their allies in Apollyon whilst keeping the true extent of his knowledge of pirate activites in the Gulf a secret, and keeping tabs on the trials of his comrades back in Canine - reportedly, his remaining agents in the Free City were able to delay the proceedings long enough to keep his crew locked safely away indefinitely. Finn operated as a remarkably efficient smuggler for Alliance forces for upward of a year, outsmarting Khotanese patrols easily and slipping weapons to supply lines as far north as Sivistys regularly. The captain had begun to accidentally help turn the tide of the war.
Eventually, however, Hamm grew bored of working for his nemeses and prepared to execute his plan to restore his honor. Flying Dreitonese colors, he attacked a hidden Khotan base in the ruined city of Providence, alleging that the samurai there were merely pirates flying false colors to evade detection. When the counter-attack launched, Hamm marooned his crew on Occa and fled to Arcadia, using his remaining emeralds and clout to convince the pirates there to shelter him temporarily, and to send word to Bakadaja that the Black Wolf would howl again. The Immortal Emperor of Khotan, in his fury, declared their non-aggression pact with Dreiton broken, and warships flying the Sunflower standard were immediately launched toward the ill-prepared Free City. Finn doubled back to Providence and stowed away aboard one of the massive Khotan warships, arriving in Dreiton within the week.
The pirate leapt from the airship directly into the Dreiton harbor, covered by devastating artillery fire. Disguised as a Mandate official, he infiltrated the Canine prison and reunited with Sofia, Reeve, Samu, Virgil, and the rest of his motley crew, who were in the midst of an ill-conceived escape attempt themselves. Though bitter, they were swayed by his apparently heartfelt explanation that he'd always planned to free them, and had orchestrated the entire distraction so as to right his wrong. The pirates escaped with the anchored Adipocere with ease as the entire city scrambled to defend against the devastating Khotan invasion; the Adipocere had long since escaped by the time the Empire was finally repelled, bound for safe haven in the west.
===The Rift ===
The newly restored crew of the Adipocere were permitted to make berth in the pirate haven of Bakadaja - though with extreme reluctance. Finn Hamm’s peers were highly suspicious of him on account of his recent stint under the banner of Dreiton, and rumors that he had orchestrated the Free City’s entrance into the War of the Sunflower sowed even more distrust, as heightened military escorts of merchant ships made Bakad operations more difficult. Additionally, due to the Black Wolf’s nearly year-long absence, his respectable fleet had all but disbanded, leaving only himself and his inner circle remaining. Vowing that he would one day return as the most respectable pirate in Aquila, the captain and his remaining comrades left the town and sailed south with precious few allies left. He kept his tattered black and gold Dreiton Exchange Mandate trench coat and wore it thenceforth over his classic brown jacket, both as a reminder of the humiliation and as an act of defiance against his fellow Bakad captains.
Running low on provisions, the Adipocere docked in the misty port of Kalassa, a ruined town shrouded in danger and superstition. In the swampy outskirts of the cove, Hamm came across a reclusive oracle whose juju was elusive even to the minds of Jojosamu and Benthamic, calling herself an "Acolyte of the Beyond." The old witch imparted a sliver of prophetic wisdom upon the pirate: Only by discovering The Rift, revealed by his “Third Eye,” could he regain his honor. After deducing that this “third eye” could only refer to the Eye of Makrozoia, which now hung from his neck as a locket, Finn slew the witch, paranoid that she could be a liability were his enemies to attempt to follow him. He plucked the curious green gem attached to her black hat and fixed it to his own as a reminder of his quest.
The Adipocere continued its journey south, guided by the Eye, whose haunting white luster grew more luminously as they drew inevitably closer to their destination. The pirates were beset by a constant barrage of Phantoms from the black clouds above, who had begun to pick off the sailors one-by-one until Hamm invoked the Eye’s power. Its ancient chthonic power caused the airborne beasts to scatter in terror, allowing the pirates safe passage far south of Aphelion’s most extreme boundaries. After several hours drifting in the void, Finn and his comrades finally made landfall on a strange continent seemingly untouched by human hands.
Trekking a short ways into the empty landmass, the pirates soon deduced that, for all intents and purposes, they had traveled dangerously close to the outer edges of the world itself. The deeper into the interior they traveled, the more the fabric of reality began to warp; mere footsteps seemed as long as miles, every minute lasted an hour, and no quantity of water could quench their thirst. Worse still, they were under constant assault by all manner of undead creatures, whose restless souls boiled with exponentially more vitriol than that of the charted world. On the cusp of being overrun, Hamm bore the full force of the Eye of Makrozoia, annihilating the spirits and trapping their essences in the chaotic matrix of the evil relic. Having finally grasped the true power of the Eye as a means by which to control the undead, Finn’s mastery of the dark arts grew impressively, but at an exponentially greater cost to his body and now bent spirit as he continued to abuse the weapon’s potential. The white streak in his pitch black hair grew more prominent, as did his nascent heterochromia in his dull magenta right eye.
The pirates set up a permanent base of operations on the mostly safe northern coast of The Rift. It was Sofia’s suggestion that the continent be used as a hidden base camp from which to rebuild their pirate fleet and launch future operations - a suggestion to which Hamm emphatically agreed. The tiny village was given the appellation Nastrond, and evolved into a humble town with its own self-sustaining infrastructure as the Black Wolf reconstructed his fleet from the ground up with Sofia as its commodore. Hidden from all except those who had been guided through the mist via the power of the Eye and within striking distance of a weakened Dreiton, the world’s most remote port in Nastrond served as the staging ground for Hamm’s resumed operations throughout the War of the Sunflower and beyond.
Rise of the Black Wolf
The Black Wolf steadily resumed his operations out of the port of Nastrond, though with few resources and no contacts the infamous captain struggled to rebuild his once fearsome pirate fleet. Seeking answers, he dispatched Officer Reeve to the pirate haven of Arcadia in search of financial prospects, he embarked on a mission of his own to the isle of Reunion at the behest of his mentor Benthamic. A centuries-old stronghold for Aquilan mages, the sanctuary of Reunion was destroyed by the Knights Thash in the Secret Wars several decades prior and its Coven scattered; nonetheless, the mage reasoned, any remnants still on the island would be capable allies indeed.
Finn and Jojosamu arrived in Reunion after a short trek, discovering that the once serene garden had been reduced to dust and ashes from the devastation. They were beset by a cadre of skilled mages until their leader, a masked man named Stormfather, relented upon noticing their trespassers’ command of the arcane. The mages refused to give them aid, instead directing them to the nearby desert isle of Aseem Niraasha for the answers they sought. There, Hamm journeyed into the howling desert alone and emerged with a new objective through divine seance - to seek “the Defilers” in Alcyon.
Alcyon was a humble but growing city on the east coast of Aphelion within the peripheries of the Sultanate of Dashari, not more than a day’s travel from Reunion. Its thriving aquaculture sector made it a hugely profitable venture for Occan “investors” in the colonial era, and the city would likely have fallen under Dreiton’s sphere of influence had it not been for the watchful gaze of the Iron Sultana to the east. As such, the status quo by the time of Finn and Samu’s arrival was one of steady economic growth as well as peace with its de-facto protector, the Dashari.
Owing to the city’s relative proximity to Dreiton, the pirates took precautionary measures to disguise themselves, posing as traveling merchants from Port Romana up north. Their hunt for the Defilers turned up little in the way of substance until they caught wind of a rumor that a sect of mad cultists were holed up in a nearby temple in the desert - black robed individuals who were rarely spotted leaving the comforts of their sandstone walls. Both the Sultana and the Alcyonian government were aware of their profane activities but silently permitted them, as they didn’t seem to pose any real material threat. Hedging their bets, the pirates made for the desert under the cover of night after narrowly avoiding a confrontation with Dreitonese bounty hunters who’d apparently been notified of their movements.
Arriving at the Shrine of the Beyond, the pirates were greeted by the all-too familiar black robed adherents of the Followers of the Old Ways, who had apparently been expecting their presence. Taking note of Finn’s possession of both the Invidere and the Eye of Makrozoia, two treasures gravely sought after by the Followers, the cultists took the two corsairs to the Shrine’s inner sanctum to meet their new leader, Shin, another Khotanese man skilled in the dark arts like Haru before him. Shin confessed that he had doubted Haru’s prophecy that the Black Wolf would one day serve the Followers of the Old Ways, but had found rejuvenated faith upon learning that the pirate had mastered the power of the Eye of Makrozoia. He believed that the prophecy could either be disproven with Finn’s death, or be fulfilled with his triumph in battle; the cultist immediately sprang into single combat with the Black Wolf, unleashing an arsenal of black magic the likes of which the pirate had never seen. The ensuing battle was harrowing, but Hamm eventually won through, striking the oracle down and apparently fulfilling the prophecy - the dozens of remaining acolytes in the Shrine immediately pledged their loyalty to him.
Though suspicious of the acolytes, he was quickly enthralled in their scheme to raid the Obsidian Vault under Dashari, which apparently housed priceless treasures both material and immaterial in nature. It was something of an open secret that the black trenches deep below Dashari housed a labyrinth containing nearly all of the Sultanate’s riches, and it was long thought that infiltration would be impossible due to constant surveillance by elite pikewoman sentries. The mages, however, had devised a plan to sneak into the labyrinth undetected, and believed that the Eye of Makrozoia was the key. Finn, in desperate need of capital to rebuild his fleet and always keen to discover new arcane secrets, jumped at the prospect of the heist.
Hamm, Samu, and a team of the cult’s most hardened battle mages traveled through the Nether from the Shrine to the approximate location of the Vault as calculated by recon some weeks prior. Lighting an exit portal, they used the Eye to direct a horde of zombie pigmen through the other side to cover their own entrance, hoping the ensuing chaos, however temporary, would allow them enough time to break into the inner sanctum and loot what they could.
The plan seemed to work perfectly, allowing the party to abscond into the depths of the black trench unscathed. Within the central chamber, they glimpsed all manner of priceless gems and other wonders collected over centuries which no sum could ever match in its entirety; they gathered what loot they could whilst Hamm took interest in a black half-mask inscribed with the name “Sutekh” inside. Upon donning the relic, the pirate was able to see within the dimly lit inner chamber as if it were bright as day, and had the distinct sense that he himself reflected less light in others’ eyes whilst wearing it. After pillaging the secrets of the Vault for several minutes, the blood-curdling screams in the distance began to die down and were replaced with accusatory yells, the intensity of which seemed to increase with each passing moment. The raiders gathered what they’d collected and hightailed back to the portal - only to discover that it had been smashed by pike warriors mere moments prior.
Dropping their valuables, the party leapt into battle, unleashing their array of black magicks and weaponry against the steadfast guardians. Though the Black Wolf and his comrades were powerful and well-equipped, they quickly realized they were no match for the several warriors with whom they’d engaged, barely able to defend against their devastating obsidian spear blows. Hamm was nearly done in by a pair of enraged sentinels before, thinking quickly, he destroyed their torches, allowing him to incapacitate them with a flurry of cuts under his cloak of darkness. The party retrieved the loot and barreled deeper into the trench under hot pursuit by the warriors, soon reaching the bottom of the black ravine amidst a river of hot magma. Moments before being surrounded, Hamm managed to create a jury-rigged Nether portal out of the natural obsidian formations at the bottom of the trench, allowing him, Samu, and his remaining acolytes to escape. Several warriors emerged with them on the other side before they could shatter the frame, prompting Finn to sicc another horde of pigmen on them; with his mojo almost entirely expended, the Eye simply served to send the undead into a frenzy, forcing them to attack each other and the Dashari warriors with unseen ferocity. The Black Wolf escaped, doubling back and rediscovering the route which led to the Shrine portal.
The heist was a resounding success apart from the sacrifice of three acolytes whom Finn had left behind to slow the advance of the warriors. With enough plunder to get the makings of his fleet churning again and yet another arcane artifact of yore uncovered, he was ready to put Alcyon behind before Samu convinced him that the cult he’d wrested leadership of would be too great an asset to waste. The acolytes explained that their ultimate goal had not changed - though the old order had been overturned, the forces of reaction would only grow in power, and centuries of brutal injustice towards adherents of the old magical ways still had to be absolved. Hamm was mostly disinterested in their promises of vengeance and justice for the Old Ways, but nonetheless saw merit in their plight, and could not turn the other cheek to a cult of devoted followers who would follow his every direction, provided he humored their dogma. He ordered that they destroy the Shrine and scour every corner of Aquila in search of more arcane secrets and recruits to their cause, periodically returning to Nastrond to report their progress. Finn was declared Supreme Leader of the reborn Followers of the Old Ways, and appointed Jojosamu as his “High Priest” to coordinate the activities of the acolytes abroad.
Captain Hamm returned to The Rift to rendezvous with Officer Reeve. The gossip in underworld circles was that, with the war effort grinding to a halt in the north, the Dreiton Exchange Mandate was amassing a massive expeditionary fleet to the front lines to resupply Alliance forces, captained by the newly promoted Governor-General Addison Mayfield himself. The fleet, no doubt stocked with a treasure trove of weapons, armor, potions, and other precious commodities, would be a prime target for a reconstituted pirate fleet to plunder, provided it could muster the munitions and manpower required for such a daring prize. With a month to prepare, Finn began to search for buyers for his stolen treasure from the Vault; such priceless gems could easily be traced back to a vengeful Dashari if let into the wrong hands, and finding a broker willing to deal with such exotic finds would be a daunting task in itself. The black marketeers in the Nova Aquilan city of Anselm were selected after some deliberation; after a highly secretive and risky transaction with the Syndicate there, the Black Wolf emerged with a mountain of emeralds with which to resume his business, hiring a small army of mercenaries and directing them to capture and impress as many ships at sea and air as possible. The makings of the Rift Armada were beginning to take shape; a mere week before the launch of the Mandate fleet, however, an encrypted message from Barcelona bearing the Templar cross was intercepted in Nastrond.
The secret message’s contents suggested that, even after their humiliating defeat in Corona, the Templar Order was not only still in operation, but had a stake in the activities of the Mandate; to what extent the Templars influenced the Board of Directors of the most powerful conglomerate in Aquila was uncertain, though it was clear that the Seneschal, Hamm’s old nemesis, was still at large and was aware that the Black Wolf had come out of exile. The letter also made mention of a rising military and political faction in Nova Aquila known as the Maximists - a sect which idolized the Aquilan Empire of yore and sought to cleanse the nation of magical and Khotanese influences through indiscriminate purges. It was clear to Finn that a triumvirate of enemies both old and new were rising against him - the Templars, the Mandate, and now the enigmatic Maximists - though exactly how they were all connected was difficult to say.
Nevertheless, the plan to intercept the Mandate expeditionary fleet was proceeding as anticipated. In the days just before zero hour, Hamm called an emergency meeting of his growing network of spies and saboteurs within the reconstituted Followers of the Old Ways. He directed them to investigate the clandestine activities of the Maximists and search for ways to destabilize their influence within the declining Nova Aquilan government, as well as scour suspected Templar nests in Aphelion for clues as to the current whereabouts of the Seneschal. With the Sin-eaters activated, preparations for the surprise attack were nearing completion.
The plan was simple: Several hours before the launch of the fleet, members of the Rift alliance would tip off the Khotanese armada stationed in the imperial enclave of Providence of their operation, and the two fleets would inevitably converge in the sky near Daguo some time that evening. While the Mandate and the Khotanese were engaged in a vicious firefight, the crew of the Adipocere would launch from their temporary base in Voshe and move to commandeer Mayfield’s flagship, the Leviathan, with its escorts crippled from a combination of imperial bombardment in the sky, as well as artillery fire from conventional Rift gunboats in the sea below. Though no doubt risky, Hamm believed the operation was sound and that the implications of victory far outweighed potential losses.
The attack proceeded as planned, though Khotanese forces were slower than anticipated in moving to intercept the fleet, moving the battle dangerously close to Aquilan forces in Daguo and thus closing the margin error significantly. The pirates moved quickly, boarding the Leviathan the moment its two escorts were caught between imperial and gunboat artillery fire; the Black Wolf and his comrades were able to scatter the ill-prepared Mandate mercenaries quickly, but the infamous captain was caught off guard by Governor-General Mayfield’s entrance in the fray, prompting a personal duel to the death between the two nemeses. Mayfield fought valiantly but was clearly no match for the Wolf at the height of his power; before he could be slain, however, the Mandate general fired a fatal crossbow shot at Finn’s commodore, Sofia, killing her instantly. Enraged, the pirate eviscerated his adversary and ordered his crew to seize the flagship and double back to Nastrond before reinforcements arrived. The Khotanese gave no pursuit, satisfied that they had successfully delayed a vital resupply of the suffering Alliance front line in northern Kilran.
The Adipocere returned to the Rift with the Leviathan and all of its salvaged riches in tow - a resounding a sorely needed victory for the pirates. Though Finn was genuinely pained for the loss of his friend and confidant, he quickly re-immersed himself in his work, setting about taking inventory of the haul and gleaning what intel he could about further Mandate activities in the region. News of the Rift’s successful interception of the company fleet reached the rest of the world with marked haste - Dreiton was infuriated, Nova Aquila fell into despair, and the pirates of Bakadaja were shocked at the remarkable resurgence of the Black Wolf. Within the year, Hamm’s pirate fleet had nearly surpassed what it had once been, now operating independently out of Nastrond with a king’s bounty and the weapons of an army to finance its exploits. As the War of the Sunflower seemed to near its bloody climax, Finn’s spies reported that the irredentist Maximists had grown wildly popular in Nova Aquila owing to its substantial losses in the conflict. The next stage of the war was approaching.
The year was 4850. The conclusion of the War of the Sunflower was in sight as the Alliance slowly recovered from the disruption of its supply lines, allowing Republican and Dreitonese forces to slowly push back the advancement of the Khotanese war machine in northern Kilran. For the past two and a half years, the Black Wolf had been biding his time in Nastrond, developing the town into a veritable fortress and pirate haven of its own to rival Bakadaja with a now-prospering marauder fleet to boot, dubbed the Armada of the Rift. Airships and sailboats bearing the Wolf’s feared insignia terrorized merchant and navy vessels across the Avunian Sea to astonishing effect, to the extent that, by the end of the War, Hamm was virtually unopposed as the most notorious pirate in southern Aquila. The yellow banner of the Sunflower had brought him and his wild ilk enormous profit.
At the height of their influence and power, however, chaos enveloped the forces of the Rift. A swift and violent transition of power took place in Nova Aquila, installing three influential Senators as the ultimate political authority in the superstate - all of them belonging to the ascendant Maximist faction, guided by totalist ideology imported from insurgent groups who were thought to have died out in the Dreiton Dirty Wars. The new Republican government not only redoubled the war efforts, taking a more aggressive stance against the Empire, but sought to shore up its trade interests in the south. Finn’s agents on the continent were quick to alert him of this, prompting the Rift to lie low for a time to discuss strategy, but the warning came too late; in the summer of 4850, disaster struck, with Nastrond’s location leaked and invaded by a flotilla of Aquilan warships. Hamm’s presence at the time of the coordinated strike allowed the pirates to minimize their losses, but the damage was done; the Armada no longer had the invariable advantage of surprise, and their control over activities of the Avunian Ocean was now seriously in question.
While Commodore Virgil conducted an audit of Nastrond’s infrastructure to search for vulnerabilities of signs of espionage, Finn immediately got to work planning a counter-attack. Despite a noticeable absence of Mandate activities in the region after the routing of their expeditionary fleet, he grew intensely paranoid of a possible attack from Dreiton during Nastrond’s moment of vulnerability. Taking no chances, the Black Wolf temporarily decentralized his fleet to avoid the risk of another single point of failure, dispatching them to make berth out of several lawless ports in Moiros, Vaffel, Thaddeus, and Lagos. Finn himself, along with several of his most trusted officers, took the Adipocere to Khotan-occupied Lucca to demand a meeting with the government of the Golden City, to which the desperate invaders happily agreed.
Khotan provided the enraged Hamm with several months worth of armaments and supplies with which to mount a surprise attack on Nova Aquila - to send a message that the Rift’s operations in the south were not to be interfered with. Though the Immortal Emperor would have been happy to sign the Black Wolf on as a privateer, Hamm’s days as a soldier of fortune had long passed, and he was content with a simple alliance of circumstance with the Empire. Finn rendezvoused with the Sin-eaters in Magheim, the only true center of economic activity in Ertdor. Magheim had come to act as a sort of haven for the oppressed of Kilran, with minority populations, especially those accused of consorting with the Old Ways, fleeing there in droves to escape persecution from the new regime in Xolumir. Their minute government had nothing but disdain for the Maximist faction, and the city was situated deliciously close to the regime’s base of operations in the Avunian Ocean - the gleaming Port Ramona - making it a prime target for disruption.
Finn and his bunch were quite unexpectedly revered as heroes in Magheim for tales of their legendary incursions against the Templars, though they kept their presence in the outlandish city a secret for fear of exposing their operations. They set up a temporary base camp in the long-abandoned Temple of Herobrine in the city’s center, which had long functioned as a fortress for the mysterious assassins-for-hire, the Sin-eaters. The Sin-eaters had a proud heritage that could be traced quite linearly from servitude as the deceased dark lord’s personal executioners to allies of the more recent Gleaming Road terrorist faction in the region. The assassins had been dormant for several decades, and their leadership divined that the Black Wolf’s arrival in the city signaled a turning of the tide for the oppressed of Aquila. The time to strike was approaching.
The glittering city of Port Ramona was one of the foremost cities in Nova Aquila and among the fastest growing economies in the world by its own right. Though nearby Daguo had greater proximity to the Sea of Mes Raina and was the greater military power, Ramona’s unique geography made it a prime location for the housing of Aquila’s merchant fleet and served as the staging ground for the country’s nascent fleet - meaning that its sacking would cripple anti-piracy measures in the Avunian Ocean indefinitely. It lay a stone’s throw from Magheim, just over the great Cascade mountain range that informally separated the continents of Ertdor and Kilran. Meeting with his inner circle, as well as his acolytes within the region and the hosting Sin-eaters, Hamm quickly devised a simple but effective plan to choke Port Ramona into submission long enough to coax submission out of the Maximists while they were preoccupied with their quasi-civil war and the remnants of Imperial forces in the north.
Coinciding with the Battle of Codania, the devastating penultimate skirmish of the War, Officer Reeve launched a surprise attack on Daguo with the Leviathan and a sizeable fleet of escorts. Believing that Daguo was the target, Aquilan forces in the region converged on the fortress city, including the majority of those in Port Ramona. While the Leviathan played a protracted game of cat-and-mouse with the sluggish artillery of Daguo, Hamm and the Sin-eaters landed in the savannah near the Port aboard the Adipocere, accompanied by a horde of hired irregulars from Magheim. The city was pitifully ill-prepared for their incursion, and within the hour Hamm and his men had seized the prime administrative building and effectively taken the town hostage under the bluff that their navy would be obliterated by a third attack force if the government rejected his demands: That the Maximists permanently halt their operations in the south and leave Magheim to its own devices. Fearing the economic damage should they refuse, the Senate tacitly agreed; Ramona was abandoned by the victorious attack force, who plundered a small fortune of healing potions, enchanted armor, and emeralds on their way out. Though Hamm was tempted to take the haul back to Nastrond for himself, he chose to leave the spoils for Magheim, sympathizing with the plight of the refugees there and seeing the wisdom in creating a powerful ally in the region with which to keep the Maximists in check in the future. The Black Wolf made an eternal ally with what would evolve into the armed anarchist republic of Magheim, a safe haven for political exiles across the world in the interwar period.
The Rift’s bountiful activities in the south resumed, though to a much more cautious degree than before. Though they had humiliated Nova Aquila, the Maximists were bound to retaliate, and Finn knew better than to trust that the totalists would honor their agreement forever - especially after the signing of the Xiantung Armistice which ended hostilities with Khotan in 4851. Additionally, Dreiton was rapidly recalibrating its economy, and the Mandate was unlikely to allow Hamm to operate with impunity for much longer. Worse still, the Seneschal and what remained of the Templars still lurked in the shadows, and word in the underworld was that they were close to discovering the whereabouts of the lost treasure of King Puffin. For now, however, the Black Wolf continues to howl, striking fear into the hearts of all who would dare oppose him.
Public reputation and character
Hamm maintained a fierce persona, as was necessary for a corsair of his time. Due to his violent exploits and merciless demeanor towards his enemies, he garnered a uniquely infamous reputation - particularly within the sphere of influence of the Free City of Dreiton, where the pirate known as the Black Wolf was recognized as public enemy number one for a time. He was more warmly received in other parts of the world where he operated less frequently; writers in Nova Aquila were fascinated by him, and their fanciful accounts of his tale created a public image of a flawed but likeable southern renegade - in Sivistys, he was all but a national hero in some circles due to his aiding of the revolutionary elements there.
The pirate, gambler, and ex-Templar kept his personal life quite secretive to keep an air of mystery about him, but associates and others close to the outlaw often commented upon his calculative and volatile nature. He was an introvert - taciturn and reserved in speech, but nonetheless carrying a sort of unconventional charisma which could command a room or spin a lie with ease. His wrathful disposition and singular devotion to his goals meant he kept even his closest allies and confidants at arms' length, often leaving his true feelings quite ambiguous. His only moral code was one which prioritized self-preservation above all else without regard to arbitrary standards of good and evil - he was no sociopath, and rarely resorted to violence for its own sake, but had no qualms about sowing chaos or harming the innocent if it advanced his overarching goal of seeking power as a means unto itself.
- Strength: 5
- Dexterity: 14
- Constitution: 7
- Intelligence: 14
- Wisdom: 7
- Charisma: 13
- Class: Arcane trickster/swashbuckler
- Weapons: Rapier (the Invidere), daggers, sorcery
- Armor: None
- Alignment: Neutral evil
- Proficiencies: Piloting, puzzle solving, battle planning, stealth, deception
The Black Wolf was a master of traditional swordsmanship and used his superior battle sense and cunning to easily dispense with enemies in single combat, often employing occult methods to weaken or outwit his foes before advancing for a swift execution. He was somewhat vulnerable towards more physically powerful adversaries, owing to his lackluster durability, and his mastery of the dark arts was not effective against the especially intelligent or wise.