Arnold Brandyken is the eldest of 12 children, born in the small halfling farming community of Brandykenthwaite-on-Trickle in the hills east of Waterdeep. The Brandyken family—a relatively modest branch of the Pericyrr clan—had settled the area more than three hundred years earlier as farmers, artisans, and small merchants. Arnold’s father, Roger, was a stonemason, who supplemented his income with a small plot attached to the family home as well as by periodically traveling further afield to sell his skills and wares. Arnold’s mother, Regina, worked part-time as a seamstress. The children helped with both the gardening and their parent’s work. While young Arnold tended to assist his father, his reluctant participation in sewing large projects undoubtedly contributed to the remarkable manual dexterity that he later developed.
As a young halfling, Arnold distinguished himself both at school both in his studies and in his frequent disregard for school rules. Despite the latter, he was chosen to write a entrance exam for the prestigious Upper Waterdeep College, which at the time was trying to secure a major donation from a potential halfling benefactor. To his parents’ joy, Arnold was selected for a scholarship.
With much trepidation, the young halfling was sent to stay with a paternal uncle in Waterdeep, Reginald “Reggie” Brandyken, so that he might attend UWC. “Uncle Reggie,” a weaponsmith by trade, had neither a spouse nor children of his own. Fortunately, he and his nephew soon bonded, providing Arnold with an introduction to the attractions, dreams, dangers, and opportunities of a city unlike anything he could have imagined back in Brandykenthwaite.
Things went less well for Arnold at school, however. The new student was soon taunted and bullied by many of his classmates for his height, rural accent, and unexceptional family pedigree. Unable to fight the much larger children, Arnold soon learned to put his small size to best service by hiding from dangerous foes, or using his wits and glib halfling tongue to talk himself out of a pummeling.
Such school experiences soon led Arnold to become increasingly critical of the class differences afflicting Waterdeep society, and especially the contrast between those born to wealth and those–like his uncle and father–whose modest incomes derived from the sweat of their own (rather short) brows. A year later, he was implicated in the disappearance of a large amount of school funds, which UWC officials suspected might be linked to the anonymous gifts that had been recently been left for the school’s poorly-treated domestic servants. Despite any proof of his guilt, Arnold was asked–or, more accurately, forced–to leave.
Although his parents wished him to return to Brandykenthwaite, Arnold had no intention of trading the expanded horizons of Waterdeep for the rural confines of his native village. Instead, he took up the position of apprentice with his uncle, and learned the basics of weapons-crafting. While he did a reputable enough job of this, it soon became apparent to Uncle Reggie that Arnold’s true gift lay as a salesman, and indeed his ability to convince a great many people of a great many things. He therefore began to take his nephew on trips to nearby communities up and down the Sword Coast, where they would often stay with members of their large extended family. “Arnold,” his uncle would say, “could sell bandages to a troll.” When their halfling caravan was indeed ambushed by a small group of trolls one day, Arnold took this as a personal challenge. Not only did he talk the his uncle and other travelers out of harm, but also sold several bundles of old sheets to the gullible assailants as “Brandyken Enchanted Wound-Wraps” —turning a tidy profit on the deal.
Uncle Reggie—having long lived a bachelor’s life—also introduced Arnold to the taverns and gambling dens of the city. When news came that his father had been injured while working on construction of a stone folly for a local noble, Arnold sought to use his neophyte gambling skills to raise money for his family. Soon he discovered that it was much easier to win at games of skill and chance when one cheated, sleight of hand proving useful at producing cards that one had not been dealt. This, in turn, this led on to a further discovery, namely that it was still easier to lift gold from the bulging purses of the wealthy-but-drunk, rather than leaving it to the luck of the deck. Still later, Arnold discovered that many of the rich and greedy of the city could, given the right story, be convinced to part with their gold voluntarily for one dubious scheme or another. These revelations were as close to a religious experience as Arnold has ever had. Never quite knowing whether his uncle approved, disapproved, or simply did not care, he joined the Waterdeep Thieves Guild, of which he remains a levy-paying member until present.
Fortunately, his father eventually recovered and the family had less need of Arnold’s earnings. In keeping with his rule-resistant redistributive economic worldview, he would often contribute a large share of coin pried lose from the gentry and nobility to the beggars, orphans, and streetworkers of the city. (An unintended consequence of this has been an excellent network of sympathetic informants.)
Yet, despite his successes in the taverns and underground gambling houses of the City of Splendors, separating the obnoxiously rich from their money, Arnold remained at heart a Brandyken. Notably, he shared with both his father and Uncle Reggie a deep love for the halfling sport (and rather esoteric martial art) of skip-rock throwing. Among the objects of greatest pride in the Brandyken family were the several trophies that Roger and Regggie had won in skip-rock contests during their youth, and when he traveled with his uncle to visit family and halfling communities along the Sword Coast he would often hear tales told of their renown. This renown was soon matched by Arnold’s own, within the small skiprock fraternity at least, as he encountered growing success in competitions himself.
Sadly, three years ago, Reggie Brandyken died in an apparent robbery attempt. While officials proclaimed it a simple break-and-enter, Arnold remained unconvinced: the signs of crude forced entry to his uncle’s house were just a little too artfully done, and whoever had ransacked the residence showed more method than one would expect from common thugs. Fortunately they had failed to recognize the value (or simply did not care about) of the battered shield, and the small pouch containing some old gloves, halfling war-sling and strangely polished stones in his uncle’s workshop. These Arnold took, together with the small (and well-hidden) cache of magical items that he had liberated from their undeserving feudal and bourgeois owners over the years, and set off to travel the world. In doing so, he hoped not only to find respite from the pain of loss, but also to find answers to the mysterious death of Reginald Brandyken.