I felt a searing pain as the scythes of the fanatic dug into my flesh. I attempted to dodge, to do anything, but the bugbear was too fast. I fell to the ground hard, bleeding profusely. My vision blurred as I saw my attacker step over me and continue onto my companions. I began to go numb and seemed removed from the events around me. The last thing I saw before blacking out was my companions being bound and dragged away, leaving me to my death.
Oh yes, my death. Quite an experience, that.
When I opened my eyes, I was surrounded by an endless, gray wasteland. Dollurh. Land of the dead. Almost immediately, a heavy, smothering apathy pressed down on me. I don’t know how long I was there, sitting in that slow, solemn moment. Minutes? Hours? Days? Years, perhaps? Suddenly, my eyes widened. Laila. The Daask. Those two names burned themselves into my mind, washing away the apathy in a tide of red hatred. The Daask had taken everything I loved, and now they’d taken my life, and I could do nothing about it. Nothing. I was dead. Powerless. All I could think of was that I had failed my Laila, my love. I stood and gazed around me. No, it wouldn’t end like this. I wouldn’t let it. Choosing a random direction, I began to walk.
As I traveled, I began to feel depressed and directionless again, but every time I felt myself slipping, Laila’s smiling face would appear behind my eyes, and the image of her bleeding out on her floor would sear itself once again into my brain. I had already failed her once. This was NOT going to happen again. And so I walked. On and on. Step after step. Then, one day, month, year, lifetime later, I bumped into something. Surprised, I looked up and saw a young man standing before me, a small smirk on his face. He wore a long, black coat, belted at the waist, and a hood that hid most of his features. He reached up, pulled the hood back and looked me in the eye. Suddenly, my mind was filled with images. A pathway through the gray wastes, up cliffs, the bodies of the Daask laying before me. As I returned to the present, the young man laid a hand on my shoulder.
“You’ve been through much. Now, you know where you need to go. You owe me a favor, when the time comes, Kyrinvar.” He chuckled. “Oh yes, I know your real name. I know you, my friend. Intimately.” With that, he turned and blinked out of existence. I knew who he was, he didn’t have to say. Before my feet, the ground seemed to glow. A path led into the distance, into a range of bleak, gray mountains. I followed. What else could I do? I made my way through the mountains, seeming to age with every step. The path grew steeper and steeper, winding upward through the craggy peaks. Eventually, it ended in a cave. Having nowhere else to go, I entered. As soon as my foot hit the black inside the cave, shadows engulfed me. They smothered me, clawed at me, blinded me. I shouted in alarm, stumbling blindly deeper into the cave. I fell to me knees as the living shadows ripped at me, tearing at my soul. The pain was unbearable. I didn’t know what was happening, but I knew that I had to get out. Suddenly, I opened my eyes, and Laila was there. She stood, shining and smiling, before me.
“Kyrinvar,” she whispered “You can’t give in. This is your true challenge. Your inner turmoil manifest, and it’s eating you from the inside out. You must control it. With it, you can weave your own fate.” She then disappeared. I stood slowly, breathing deep as the shadows continued to rend my flesh. I concentrated on Laila, on the Daask, on my revenge. A smoldering power built slowly within me, and as it did, the shadows seemed to subside. They swirled around me, burning patterns into my flesh. Sharp, black designs slowly began to appear as the shadows became a part of me. My inner turmoil and my outer determination becoming one, I stumbled out of the cave and into a back alley of Sharn. My skin was ashen, and smoke rose in whisps from dark tattoos across my arms, and from the pain under my slashed leather armor, I could tell my chest and back bore the same designs. Everything stood out in a sharp relief, almost outlined by the light of the sun. My instincts taking over, I checked my equipment. My leathers, although worse for wear, were still serviceable. My enchanted cloak had withstood the punishment, and remained intact. My dagger remained belted to my side, but when my hand moved to the hilt of what should have been my rapier, I looked down, puzzled. Instead of the long, slender blade, a heavy, jagged-edged sword sat in a black and red scabbard with my belt threaded neatly through it. I drew it, and swung it experimentally. I was lighter than I had expected, and felt almost at home in my hand as my rapier had.
Just then, a voice whispered in my mind, “A gift. I thought it might be a bit more appropriate than your previous weapon. I assumed you’d want to cause as much pain as possible to the Daask, and this should help you with that.” A grin flashed in my mind, then the image disappeared. The Traveler had provided once again. I had no idea why he’d taken such an interest in me, but I wouldn’t question his sudden benevolence. I looked down into a puddle at my feet, and blinked in surprise. My hair had turned jet black, as had my eyes, with the exception of the pupils, which were a burning red. On a whim, I tried to change form to something less noticeable. Nothing happened. I tried again. Still nothing. In anger, I punched at the brick in front of me. As I moved, the tattoos around my arms leapt to life and lashed out, punching through the wall as my fist connected, then receded into my skin. I jumped back, shocked. I felt a power within me that was new and frightening. The words of the Traveler echoed in my mind. “You’ll owe me a favor, when the time comes.” I suppose this was why. Without a glance back into the alley from which I’d come, I strode into the street towards the market, my captured companions, and, most importantly, those that had taken everything from me. They would pay.
Oh yes, they would pay.