D&D4E: Rise of the Runelords (Formerly GURPS)
As told to a random man who tried to abduct Portentia in the forest following a fierce nighttime battle:
“My story would be unremarkable, as a social outcast who was born in an unlucky fashion and died alone, a couple hundred or so years later – except for love’s bitter sting, and an unexpected friend, and the strange fingerprints of Fate’s own hand all over my past, present, and future.
But where to start my story… I suppose the beginning would be appropriate, would it not?
I was born, i am told, to a wonderful mother and father who were both filled with joy at the thought of my arrival. As the Fates would have it though, a normal life was never meant to be. Tragedy paved the way on my path from the moment my mother died while giving birth to me – from what i heard, the causes were completely unexplained. My father did not survive long after, having loved my mother with all his heart, for the heartbreak of losing her was too much for him to sustain (i often wonder whether he blamed me for her death, whether consciously or not.
My care was entrusted to an uncle (Helester), who even before my birth was considered to be more than a little eccentric, but with what he imagined to be all the “signs and portents” regarding me, became entirely unhinged. Undertaking all manner of divinations, and indulging every prophetic urging, he convinced himself (and many others, so convincing were his arguments in those tumultuous times) that i was misfortune incarnate, and was solely responsible for the death of Aroden, the god of humanity. I was born, to the hour (as my uncle told it), 13 months, 13 weeks and 13 days after The Last Azlant, died under mysterious circumstances. Aroden was much loved, even in my elven village, and so the thought that his murderer may be sharing living space with the general population (even if many didn’t fully believe the rumors) was reason enough for parents to keep their children away from me. During my youth, i often heard murmuring whispers from the people of our town – that “Aroden saw my birth before its happening and was ruined by it.” Others said that “my soul cursed him before i was conceived”, or that “Fate itself saw to it that there would be no certainty in signs and prophecies for as long as i drew breath.” Always these things were whispered, never spoken.
With a stigma this severe (whether or not the locals actually took stock in my uncle’s lunatic numerological calculations), i found myself with far fewer playmates and companions than others close to my age. To be sure, those who were brave or foolish enough to befriend me suffered no small consequence socially for their decision. Moreover, it didn’t help that the few friends i did have were subject to all manner of bad luck. Most of them became distant (or were removed by zealous parents) after they were nearly injured in one way or another, though i can think of at least one child who may have persevered in the friendship out of either kindness or foolishness – and paid for his decision with blood. The memories pain me somewhat, and i have purposely tried to forget some particularly uncomfortable thoughts in an effort to maintain my sanity and reasonably bright outlook.
For all the supposed “hexes” and “curses” i was said to inflict, there was one young boy who was completely untouched (though in retrospect, my uncle seemed strangely immune as well). His name was Estrien, and he possessed within him a strange quality which to this day i cannot place, but that drew me to him as a moth to flame nonetheless. Not that i was the only one who felt this way, on the contrary, for he had more than his share young admirers that flocked to him, and it seemed like a couple more young women would become enamored with his trademark shock of jet black hair (unusually thick for an elf) every other year as he grew and matured. There was something alluring about him, his eyes perhaps, or the candor of his voice… In any case, he stole my heart away – and he holds it to this day, to my ruin.
We were to be wed, one of the few arranged marriages that i knew of where both bride and groom were perfectly happy with the arrangement. My uncle had decided that since the family name and fortune had lost all luster, and since the two of us seemed to be quite fond of each other anyhow, that a large part of the remainder of my parent’s assets be given as dowry to Estrien’s parents, and that our houses would be unified. Shortly following the formal engagement, the wedding date was set for the 3rd day of Arodus, in six months. And how those months seemed to drag on! Never before has time moved so slowly, and i ached to spend every moment with the one i loved dearly. Planning the details of the wedding was left almost solely in my hands (since there was no reliable family available to me), and more time was taken with the minutiae as the time went on. But love’s flame continued to burn more brightly and fiercely every day leading up to the awaited day. Since this was the case, i am not sure i can be entirely to blame for my actions when my lover’s indiscretion was revealed in the person of a red-headed elf courtesan that lived a short distance away. Something within me broke at the moment Estrien told me that he was calling off the wedding, that he would return my dowry, that he had been in love with her for years now, and never thought to tell me – to SPARE ME the heartbreak! Never before in my life had i consciously wished someone ill, never desired misfortune for another; but for her, all the love that i had held for Estrien collapsed in on itself in a firestorm of hatred. Vengeance had an invincible hold on my heart, and all my thought was bent on her suffering as i suffered, dying as i had died… And so she did.
It would likely do little to alleviate my guilt to say that i did not lift a finger against her, despite my wild rage. All the bad luck that had followed me from my birth until that point now had a tight focus, and in a matter of two days, she was completely incapacitated by random accidents and misfortune – and while on her recovery bed, the house caught fire (due to a completely inexplicable lightning strike) and burned down on top of her. It was in the days following that i first made acquaintance with my now pet raven. I felt as though it understood my ranting and raving as a brief lifetime of sorrows poured out of me, and in its understanding, i found comfort. But the comfort was short-lived indeed.
I had assumed that i would be found as a suspect in her death, despite having sequestered myself within my room before, during, and shortly after the time that she was so sorely afflicted, but i had also counted on the lack of evidence tying me to her death, and the potential for others to identify with my plight and therefore have mercy on me. My ex-fiancee would circumvent both of these things however, as my worst nightmares came to life on the 3rd of Arodus, 4632. While i sat in my room during the late evening, wearing the dress which was to be my wedding gown, i poured out my bitter heart to my new-found friend raven. And unbeknownst to me, a murmur began to rise from somewhere in the village. Angry and frightened villagers, led by my thrice damned Estrien, wound their way through the streets of our fair city, unleashing their pent-up unease much in the same way that i had let my own inner demons loose. I suppose in that way, karma really is a bitch. They stormed into my house, broke down my doors, and carried me to the prison, all before vandalizing my family’s house. Then they left me in darkness, awaiting the trial to be carried out by a mob thirsty for judgment. But for some reason, the raven came to me in the darkness – and for the first time, i heard him speak, his enigmatic voice resounding within my already pounding head. He said that he was sent from beyond to awaken my power, to rescue me from perils such as this, to give me what i most desired.. and then i was lost until early morning, locked in an unexplained communion with this demon wearing a feathered mask.
When i came to my senses, i felt alive – never had i felt so in control, so able to make my wishes so. My wish was to leave, and the walls of my cell fell away to dust as though they had aged eons in an instant, and i walked out, free in every way (or so i thought). A guard sought to hold me back, and was struck blind and deaf where he stood for his efforts. The last fragments of night itself seemed to envelop me from harm as i passed through the last zealous remnants of the night’s mob as though they were not there.. And i was led into the edges of the forest – into 41 long years of living hell.”
To be continued…