Heroic suffragette and rogue.
Appearance: dwarf, Fair skin, red hair, 4’2”. Wears a simple housedress over leather armor. Carries a picnic basket for her knitting and daggers.
Temperament: Excited, nervous.
Saving Throw Proficiencies: Dexterity, Intelligence
Skill Proficiencies: Athletics, Deception, Sleight of Hand, Stealth
Trinket: A dead scarab beetle the size of an apple
Known Alias: Barbara Stonetunnel
Valdosta is a member of the Ironaxe clan, who, generations before, were led by Korin Ironaxe when they broke off from the Ironeaters (led by ) to return to the holds of Mount Illefarn, which they renamed the Ironaxe Halls. With the help of a group of gnomes, the Ironaxe clan reclaimed the holds which had been their ancestral duty to guard, which had been overrun by orcs.
Though they drove out the orcs and reclaimed the holds, the Ironaxe clan tenuously maintained their numbers. A confluence of kidnappings by duergar, a higher female to male birth ratio, and a strict patriarchy forbidding females to be properly trained as fighters has led Valdosta’s clan to the brink of extinction. Against her father’s orders she took to exploring the caves and tunnels below Ironaxe Halls that the duergar used on their raids in the hopes of rescuing those who had been kidnapped. In this way she first developed her aptitude for sneaking around. Because she was forbidden from training with traditional dwarven weapons, or even handling them, she used less conspicuous weapons such as small axes and hammers, picks, and daggers, anything that could be concealed or explained as having an alternate use.
Valdosta is the only child ofand Thhig. Bolrim, her father, was adamant that she adhere to the traditional female roles of the Ironaxe Clan, even as the number of healthy males who could defend the hold dwindled. Valdosta had many cousins who she grew up with. When , a cousin she was especially close to, started weapon training, his mother, , Valdosta’s favorite aunt, looked the other way when he showed Val what he had learned. Aunt Darstina was seen as an eccentric in the Halls. Fardria saw her sister as an embarrassment and constantly worked to undo her influence over Valdosta. Shortly after her covert training with Bin began, Valdosta started laying in wait for duergar to attack at night and trailing them down the caverns. Gradually she would track them further and further in the hopes of finding where the dwarves were being taken.
Valdosta and her parents argued over many things, but their adherence to the restriction against female dwarves training as fighters to the detriment of the clan was the most frequent source of conflict. Val believed that her father, having no sons, should agitate for change, so that his lineage could aid in the defense of the Ironaxe Halls. Her parents felt that the traditional ways would ensure the Ironaxe Clan’s longevity. Valdosta was also strongly critical of the clan leadership’s refusal to abandon their defensive strategy against the duergar attacks, which involved sentries, in favor of setting traps and ambushes. Her father claimed that dwarves could win fights without cowering in the shadows. Her mother warned her to not let anyone know that she had been contemplating military strategy.
The Halls had only one temple, and it was dedicated to Moradin. In it was an altar, a platinum anvil. The legend held by the Ironaxe dwarves said that a great hammer (referred to simply as The Hammer) paired with the anvil, but untold generations prior it had gone missing or been stolen. When it returned, great strength and prosperity would fill the Halls. As the duergar attacks increased, so did faith in the legend. Many dwarves, Valdosta’s parents included, claimed that as the years grew bleaker the reckoning that the Hammer would bring drew nearer and that their faith in the old ways would beckon it home. Valdosta dreamed of being the hero who wielded it in its return to Ironaxe Halls. She and Bin, in their younger days, talked about striking out on an adventure that would lead them to the Hammer. As they grew older, each dreaded that their clan would die out before the Hammer could save them.
One night, three dwarves were taken by the duergar, Valdosta had been lying in wait and followed silently behind the raiding party. Silently moving through the tunnels she seethed over how the Ironaxe leaders refused to send search parties in the direction the duergar came from, claiming that any group that was attacked and completely lost would have devastating consequences. She didn’t see how sitting back and playing defense while they were picked off was less devastating. After her frustration at these thoughts built, she rushed at the group she had been trailing, stealthily picking off duergar towards the rear. She was able to rescue one of the captives, Aldrich Ungart. The other two she could reach. When Valdosta and Aldrich made it back to Ironaxe Halls their appearance caused an uproar. At first, the dwarves thought Valdosta had been kidnapped. No female had been kidnapped before and the idea created a new sense of fear. When it became clear that Valdosta had rescued Aldrich, not the other way around, this caused a new ripple of scandal. Aldrich could not hide his embarrassment at being rescued by a girl.
Valdosta’s parents dragged her home and immediately initiated a conversation about the prospect of her marrying. In a year she would be an adult, and if she wanted to help protect the clan starting a family and raising strong boys would be the only proper way. After the yelling was over, Valdosta went straight to her Aunt Darstina’s house to see Bin. She demanded that he leave with her right away and begin their search for the Hammer.
“These old idiots are so set in their traditions that they’d let those dark creatures from below eat us where we sit rather than change.”
“Val, daydreams of roaming the surface while we seek the Hammer don’t constitute a plan to save the clan and the Halls.”
“Do you have a better plan, Bin?”
“No, but the legend of the Hammer doesn’t tell us how to find it, who took it, or where it is. Just that it exists. We don’t know where to start.”
“Then what would you do? Follow traditions until we’re extinct?”
“I can’t go with you, Val.”
“So we sit and wither with the clan.”
“Valdosta. I can’t go with you.”
Bin explained that as an of-age, healthy male dwarf he could best serve the Halls by staying to defend it. His absence would be too great. She had to go alone. He agreed that her courage and ability would be squandered by the clan’s leadership and that staying in Ironaxe Halls would not be good for her. He went to the armory to gather equipment that she could carry unnoticed through the Halls. While he did, she went and told her aunt of her plan.
“Aunt Darstina, I’m leaving the Halls to
-” to find…excuse me? Why are you so happy? I haven’t even told you why.”
“Oh,” Darstina’s face lit up, “I’ve been waiting for this day.”
“To find the Hammer, I assume.”
Valdosta was speechless. Aunt Darstina said that she had something for Valdosta and left the room, returning moments later with a dead scarab beetle the size of an apple. Valdosta was now speechless and grossed out.
“Has your mother ever told you that our mother, your grandmother, was a seer?”
“Of course not. Your parents can’t bear the thought of anything as unstructured and subjective as visions and prophecies. Not until they’ve been codified into a proper legend, as the Hammer has been. Your grandmother was a seer. She knew that a first-born in our family would leave Ironaxe Halls to seek the Hammer.”
“Mother knew that I would find the Hammer and never told me?”
“Seek it. And we only knew that a first-born would be the one, but not which first-born. It could have been you, , , , or . But few bet on you since you’re the only girl in the lot. And your mother wouldn’t have told you in fear that it would encourage you.”
“What does the dead beetle have to do with me finding the Hammer?” Valdosta eyed the dark brown husk in her aunt’s hand.
“Seeking the Hammer. And I don’t know.”
“Aunt Darstina! This is not a joke. I’m really leaving.”
“I know you are. I’m not having a laugh. It’s just that your grandmother never explained the connection. She said, ‘The scarab will guide the child.’ Didn’t say how, just that it would. If you’re lucky, it might come to life and lead the way or whisper directions when you hold it up to your ear.”
Valdosta rolled her eyes at her aunt, who put the insect husk into her hand. Bin returned with gear, and Valdosta said goodbye to her aunt. She and Bin walked together to the Ironaxe Halls entrance. Once there, they too said their farewells.
On the surface, Valdosta moved from town to town, city to city relying on her charm to get by, frequently concealing her true identity. Growing up, she had been told that the Ironaxe name was not popular among other dwarf clans, least of all the Ironeaters. She soon fell in with a group of rogues, mostly thieves. Despite her distaste for Ironaxe social structure, being a dwarf, she still does not approve to obtaining wealth through extrajudicial means, but found that the cat-burglar methods she learned work well for obtaining information on the legend of the Hammer. And when circumstances became desperate, Valdosta could justify stealing from a thief or dishonest person.
She became an adept conwoman and fast-talker, able to gain the confidence of others using invented personas. Her short stature, pale skin, and red hair often caused others to let their guard down around her, her physical appearance was so unthreatening. She uses this to her advantage when planting items on people, picking pockets, or shanking someone who needs shanked. She traveled a lot following leads about the legend of the Hammer. Some were dead ends. Sometimes she had nothing to go on and chose a destination at random using her gut.
Valdosta, admiring Cherry‘s freedom to act as a warrior and with a coincidental interest in traveling to Fonhenge to see if she could learn anything from the scholars in its monasteries or from the stories that travel through its bustling gathering spots takes the Diamond-Studds’ commission to accompany Cherry and see that she reaches Fonhenge safely. They provide the young women with letters of introduction to the craft guild masters and a payment order for a Fonhenge bank to provide Valdosta payment for successfully guiding Cherry to the city.