As the fourth son of the lord of Barrowdale Alquin's future path was not clear. His oldest brother was to inherit and was being coached by their father in how to manage the estates. His next brother had shown an interest in and aptitude for the worship of Deneir and so was training as a priest at Arabel. The third son was in the army, training to be an officer of the Purple Dragons. Alquin however had no great enthusiasms, and no expectations were placed on him. He first took a place in the military college at Suzail where he performed well in the early part of the course and finished in the top half the class in personal combat. However the following year he was expelled, failing all the exams in tactics and organisation due to having spent his time idling in the library or hung over. He returned under a cloud to Barrowdale and only the outbreak of the Goblin War prevented his father from disowning him. With a warning that he should not further disgrace the family name his father pulled some strings and Alquin was enrolled in the army as a gentleman volunteer. The position of a gentlemen volunteer was peculiar (as were many of the people who held the position). They were independently wealthy, and of higher status than ordinary soldiers due to this; they were not officers as they had no authority or training; and as they were outside the rank structure officers could technically not order them about, merely suggest. They were generally viewed as a nuisance and hindrance.
Alquin spent most of the war in garrisons and saw no action - until one day the commander of his company was ordered to send a scouting group to investigate an ominous event. A long-abandoned fortress in the foothills of the Stormhorns appeared to have been occupied by a band of orcs, stragglers from the main army, who were raiding the countryside round about. The strength, organisation and ability of the orc warband had to be ascertained. And so a small group of soldiers under the experienced sergeant _____ were despatched. Alquin and another gentleman volunteer, also considered to be disposable, accompanied them, to the embarrassment of the sergeant.
In ____ the company Alquin was attached to was moved to _______ and by chance was in the place to respond to an unusual incursion. A band of minotaurs was raiding outlying farms around _________, and frightened villagers were trickling into _______ . The road to ______ was effectively blocked. Alquin's company ended up patrolling the road. Alquin was intrigued. While browsing in the college library he had read Sermar's On Minotaur Society and had some thoughts on these marauders. During rutting season there was fierce competition between minotaur bulls. Youngsters jostled for position, while males of breeding age fought for status. A bull who was weaker, or infirm, or less aggressive, or past his prime, would find himself challenged by others lower and lower down the ladder and would eventually have nowhere to go but out of the herd. These outcasts would become solitary raiders, terrorising farms or villages for food until eventually hunted down or dying of accident or starvation. But occasionally a bull previously of high status before being driven from the herd would gather a band of outcasts into a formidable raiding party. Such, surmised Alquin, was this group.