Singleton Stratford, Rank Ventenar, born Ongaah the Small, was among the 21 rescued humans liberated from Orcish bondage, taken over the years from the nearby Alexian Fort and town of Covington in the foothills of the mountains to the east of Nia-Agliare.
Among these freed prisoners were 8 human women all from town but as some had been held captive for multiple winters. The Covington militia also discovered 11 Half orc children all very young. The Ventenar in command of the posse decided to heed the pleading of the rescued prisoners and took their children back with them as well.
The Fort and Town were filled with celebration on hearing the news of the return of some of their lost daughters and wives and friends but once reunited, many claimed that the Half Orc children were not theirs at all. Many of their families would refuse to take in a Half Orc child, some might even go a step further, abandoning the child to the wilds or worse.
The people of Covington have been in a nigh state of war with the area Orc and Bugbear tribes and Wild men that plague these hills for generations and while a pious folk, the hatred and feuds which now take on a family matter caused stark divisions in the community.
This created a conundrum as to what to do with these children. Eventually, it was so ordered by the Commandant that
A. It has been investigated and concluded that these children did not belong to any of the families of Covington and must be the orphans of other poor human captives from lost travelers, tribes of wild men, hermits and the like. This matter is closed as is public discussion of baseless rumormongering. Continued rancor will be treated as sedition. Let none claim ignorance of the law.
B. That these children, despite their inherit wickedness and eventual bloodlust are still children of the Goddess, innocent of any crime or sin of their own doing and still of Alexian blood. And thus must be provided for under the oath
C. It is so ordered and ruled that the Orc-blood foundlings are wards of the Fort and are to be remanded to the custody of FT Covington.
Thus it came to pass that the toddler "Ongaah the Small" became "Singleton Stratford". The name something of a joke by the bored company clerk who used names of nearby streams, ponds, caves and other area landmarks in combinations to name the children.
Most of Stratford and the other foundlings early childhood consisted mainly of being servants for the militiamen and officers of the Fort itself. In time becoming soldiers themselves. As Half Orc's mature faster that human children in a mere 10 years these children went from servants and maids and cooks to manning the watch, joining patrols and leading counterstrikes and rescue missions.
At age 14 Stratford, now in the militia was inducted as a member of the elite Covington Pikemen and served dutifully and faithfully for 5 years during that time he and his fellows saw engagement with A variety of foes and threats frequently Orcs and goblins with sporadic Bugbear attacks, with the curious phenomenon of Bugbear Summer being a significant anomaly.
It was during the Bugbear Summer of 1509 that his life took a turn. As has been the case of all documented Bugbear Summers, the area of the foothills becomes virtually infested with bands of late adolescent and young adult male Bugbears. Who pour out of the of the mountain passes and begin a chaotic and disjointed but tactically sound siege of the FT and town.
Covington being rather remote, rarely receives visitors as most of the original surrounding villages either became abandoned or merged with Covington and most Alexian refugees sought shelter further south and out of the dangerous foothills. As the Militia and it's Pikemen prepared defenses for a long and brutal summer. Hope arrived, when a small battery of grenadiers known as the Bog Wraiths arrived at the edge of town.
The current Commandant Maxil welcomed them and perplexed them as he presented his Fort for inspection and began giving reports as far as fighting strength, rations and other logistics. Maxil and the Covingtons had assumed them reinforcements sent out from Nia Aglaire to finally help them in their time of need and to reopen the nearby gem mines. They assumed that the Bog Wraith Captain named Corraco was their new Commandant and his troops, clearly reinforcements. A reward for them keeping the faith and defending the mine and road for over 158 years.
In reality the battery had simply gotten lost while completing another assignment and had stumbled across this old road, which they rightly assumed would eventually lead them out of the foothills and near a main road. Before the Bog Wraiths and their Captain could extricate themselves of leadership, the alarm sounded and the bugbears were attacking.
The hulking goblinoids had seen the new arrivals as well and feared that more were on the way and decided that it was best to attack now en masse.
It was in this battle that Stratford made a crucial choice that changed his life forever. As the tide of the siege turned against Covington, Stratford saw many of his comrades human and "Orc blood" die but saw that the Bog Wraiths were holding their own. He saw Captain Corraco cut a bugbear down with a single blow with his sword, three other dead or dying bugbears laid at his feat. Stratford saw as more and more bugbears seemed to take notice of this and began to move towards him.
It was then that Stratford remembered his training and oath.
So, he rushed to the Captain's side and used his pike to keep the multiple foes at bay so that the Captain could focus on them one by one. It worked and so he stayed with her using the reach of his pike to prevent him being attacked from behind and his own ability to endure the blows from the bugbears that he was able to protect so that the Captain could conquer.
Other followed suit surrounding the best of the Bog Wraith warriors and "aiding" them in the battle. They clearly were on a whole other "level" than the Militia, several. Stratford, the entire battle was in awe of the Captain's skill and maneuvers. It was like he had somehow mastered every aspect of battle.
When the battle ended, Corraco had taken a shine to him for his "aid" and offered to allow Stratford to come back with him to Nia Agliare as a member of his retinue.
At age 19, Stratford was a mercenary auxiliary of the Bog Wraith garrison stationed at Nia Agliare. He served under Corraco's command , mostly doing low level guarding duties or running errands or occasionally joining missions. As Captain Corraco is technically Commandant-elect in Covington, Stratford is not listed as a deserter but on "Special Assignment".
At age 20, receives special dispensation by the Captain to allow him to marry Bolen Huse. Their initial courtship was engineered under Commandant Rollio influence in their younger years. Rollio believed he could avoid competition for mates by simply pairing off those recruits he deemed had desirable traits for offspring.
He did not need to bother the two would have found each other eventually and are the only two surviving of the Covington "Orc Bloods" The pair settle in dismal quarters. Later that year Violent Stratford is born.
At age 21, becomes regular guard in rotation at the main gate. Steady employment and consistent pay. Family moves to slightly better housing. Later that year during a massive thunderstorm Summer Stratford
At age 22, picks up extra shifts in rotation at jail. Pay increases. Durbin Stratford is born. Becomes irritable, aggressive. Has several violent outbursts. Injures several prisoners and has several bar fights. No one cares but Bolen demands he quits working at the jail and he does.
At Age 23, Owen Stratford is born. The Stratfords are concerned about the deep corruption and darkness in Nia Agliare. In some ways as dangerous as Covington. Money is very tight this year. The family is briefly forced back into the same dismal quarters they started with. They consider leaving the city to try their luck elsewhere but dismiss it. The pair realize they have nowhere else to go.
At age 24. The Neo Alexandria revolution. a near bloodless coup and total upending of the existing corrupt power structure and it being replaced by the Avatar and daughter of the Goddess Alexandria herself, and her army of mortal followers. Criminal syndicates are crushed. Law and order restored. Poor are provided housing and food. Singleton was on guard at the main gate when the word came down to him.
Due to his mostly clean record. He was formally brought on as a member of the Town guard. Family is assigned better housing Singleton is originally assigned to the pier area a former hotbed of illicit activities. Once again, becomes more aggressive in general. Bolen kicks him out of the house for a week, while he burns off his rage. He applies for transfer to guarding the newly renovated public parks. Request is granted. Bolen allows him to come home.
Marcel Stratford is born.
Violet, Summer and Durbin are all attending the new state run public schools.
Embargo make times hard even with better housing and pay and there are rumors of war.
Still, with lower crime, cleaner streets, compassion for the poor and free education, the pair are optimistic about the future.
At age 25.Lynn Stratford is born. Times are hard and getting harder. Despite all the progress that is being made the family feels like they still cannot get ahead.
When the pair discover that they have another child on the way they after a week of discussing/debating it agree to allow Singleton to pursue a new venture with finding books for the reestablished library of Alexandria in New Alexia. Rumor has it that if you can find some rare old book you can get big money fast.
Of this period of his life an older Stratford would later write..
" I was desperate to find a way to provide for my family and then I look up from my drink and there's this kid, this halfling and this crazy looking old lady with a skull on her head... Needless to say I had no idea how much bigger my world was about to get."- Both Sides of The River