Cinder (aka Quarl) : Character profile
Quarl was raised on the inhospitable world of Dusk, far from Imperial civilisation and the "welcoming" arms of what would eventually become his accepted family at the front lines of the Unending War. He was born at nightfall, with skin matching the sun’s final rays, and seeing this as a portent of impending doom his tribe abandoned him in the harsh wilderness.
“Let the earth claim him,” the elders said, forever sealing his fate - or so it seemed. As history would show, perhaps it was the other way around.
The boy indeed would have perished in the bitter wilds if not for help from the tribe's youngest princess, Varna, who moved him to a nearby cave system and secretly fed and cared for him. She also gave him the name he still occasionally uses today.
Varna tended Quarl until his sixth cycle, when three scouts discovered her private excurisons and tracked her to the caves. The scouts recognized the boy and knew what had to be done: they cut the princess down where she stood - right before her young ward - and moved in to dispose of the abomination as well.
This was not the scouts' best day, and for all but one it proved their last. Varna hadn’t just fed and clothed Quarl; she’d also passed along all the tribe’s training, and he'd learned more hunting in the jungle. Though he almost fell dispatching the second intruder, he steeled himself against the pain and shock of his wounds and stepped into the light...
Hours later, the third scout returned to the village with a frenzied story about the boy - now "a savage the color of fire, bathed in blood" - and how he’d uttered just three words: "No one lives."
A war party was sent to the cave but found it empty. They followed a heavy blood trail into the jungle and through a stretch of immense root systems, a place Quarl knew well. This was his favored hunting ground, where he used the twisted earth to conceal deep murder pits.
Driven by anger and bloodlust, the war party stumbled right into one of Quarl's traps and found themselves twenty feet down and skewered on sharpened root stumps, but this was not enough for the boy. Quarl used this pit to hunt the biggest game in the area and it was lined with flammable swamp oil to “distract” creatures that would otherwise climb or burrow free.
Quarl pitched a torch into the pit and smiled as a pillar of fire rose up into the night.
Miles away, the tribesmen spotted the pillar and knew something was wrong. They’d seen it before, and heard the panicked death-cries of Quarl’s previous prey, but they’d always assumed in their backward way that it was a sign of displeasure from the earth. For years Varna had been all too happy to foster this delusion, and it wasn’t long after her death that the tribesmen learned the true price of their ignorance.
Several weeks later, Imperial miners arrived in the area, seeking disposable slave labor to harvest a nearby pocket of particularly potent swamp gas. They’d earmarked Varna’s tribe of nearly a hundred as generally sturdy, with a decent selection of females to sell into the slave trade or offer to the Guard as prizes for low-ranking war heroes (read: anyone who survived their first tour).
The miners had originally planned to cultivate the tribals in the early summer, just before the worst fumes rose from the muck and weakened their new "recruits." However, a routine flyover had spotted fires at the edge of the village and so the miners descended early, expecting to "rescue" most of the savages from themselves. Instead, they touched down into a field of utter desolation.
Everywhere shelters were reduced to scorched husks, and littering the wreckage were dozens of charred bodies, spiked and propped up like garish marionettes. Only one structure remained untouched - the largest and most central - and inside the miners found two elders and seven females, huddling in fear and refusing to venture out.
The survivors spoke of a man-beast they called Cinder, a creature colored as the heart of fire that possessed supernatural abilities and walked with the dominion of a vengeful god. The miners scoffed at this, of course, accepting no divinity beyond their Emperor, but their curiosity was piqued and so they left the tribals in their tomb and waited, watching from a distance.
Soon this "Cinder" emerged from the trees and the miners understood the name, at least in part. Quarl approached with the setting sun at his back, his fiery complexion blending into the ruddy glow at the horizon.
The miners saw only a man with an unusual skin condition but it was easy to understand how the tribals - those cringing backward fools - might see him as more... especially when he callously lit the remaining structure on fire and cut down anyone bold enough to flee.
Quarl made sure every body burned and took his time stringing each up, both to keep them from returning to the swamp per their custom, but also a warning: "no one lives when the Cinder sparks." It's a warning that lingers with Dusk tribes to this day.
Perhaps Quarl would have grown into the myth, conquered and lusted and fought across Dusk for years to come - if the Imperials hadn't seen his potential and decided to claim it as their own. They dropped him with slave tranqs and shackled him in their hold, trading him for a small finder's fee from the Guard.
The next eight years of Quarl’s life were an unending span of indoctrination and training, first to "free him of his savage ways" and later to familiarize him with the tools and talents favored by the Emperor's Hammer.
Today Quarl is known simply as "Cinder,” though sometimes his closest Guardsmates use his birth name. He honors Varna’s training by fielding mostly primitive weapons but also recognizes the value of technology, wearing Imperial flak armour and slinging a trusty lasgun.
Cinder never forgets the clansmen who abandoned him, or how they died, wallowing in darkness. Some wonder if this is why he seizes every opportunity to live life to the absolute fullest. It may also explain the phrase he sometimes utters just before diving headlong into battle...
"No one lives... in shadow."
Divination: "Sins hidden in the heart turn all to decay"