Pilgrimage of Fates
Vanitil was born to a family of talented magicians and cunning merchants, with a few psionically capable individuals sprinkled throughout his family tree. Like all Kalashtar, Vanitil was born with merged with a quori soul fused to his own. Unlike most Kalashtar children, his soul was disjointed, disconnected. A wall stood between his soul and the fragmented quori soul, where it quailed in terror at the bleak emptiness of disconnection. Leaving Vanitil to suffer from bouts of madness.
He was a child of extremes: withdrawn and silent where as most Kalashtar children are sensible and observant, and ravening and fear maddened where a normal Kalashtar would be shaken. His madness was dismissed as an illness to be treated until the wisest amongst the temple-fortress peered into his soul. Instead of finding a perfect union, they instead found two halves in turmoil. They announced him a lost cause. Something to be tolerated and pitied, and should his madness remove his last moments of lucidity, given the mercy of death.
His family did what they could for the boy, kept him safe when frantic and engaged when calmed. Until one day, when out to enjoy a breath of fresh air with his sister, the madness took hold of him. No longer was he on the walls of their fortress, enjoying the setting sun coupled with a cool summer’s breeze. Instead he was surrounded by darkness, on a precipice overlooking oblivion, with agents of the Dreaming Darkness at his heels. When faced between the perceived options of flight or the tender ministrations of his kind’s enemies, he plunged headlong off the proud walls, and to what surely would have been his death.
But by some cruel or fortunate twist of fate, he survived. Skull shattered and neck broken, it took every ounce of healing magic of the elders to save his life. And when he was healed, they discovered something had greatly changed within him. As he lay dying, his soul’s tether to his broken body weakened, growing distant as the calling of the next life called to him. So too did the quori fragment come loose, drifting free. But as powerful magic pulled him tight to the realm of the living, his two souls were driven forcefully together, in the realm of death finally fusing in harmony what birth could not grant him.
He awoke somber and sane, and from his damaged brain swelled a great power: a spark buried within his bloodline and awakened by his suffering. Vanitil, at the tender age of 10, was granted a new life, and the power of a psion.
Living a life of turmoil granted him a new perspective that most living things do not experience until they have lived a long life. He saw the world for all its goods and evils, and the weakness of mortals. What world could grant life to a child touched by madness and call itself fair? What world could pit man against man to water the earth in blood? The world was broken, and only those with the insight and will could change it. Normally only the aged and short of years had the insight, and the blind and naive had the will, but Vanitil was neither.
He vowed to change the world for the better, no matter how impossible it may be. For he possessed now a power to alter reality around him with but a thought. How could he not make the attempt? And so on the eve of his 17th birthday, Vanitil set out, bidding his family farewell until he could one day return triumphant.
At the onset of his journey, he was already beset by the evils of the world: bandits, cruel beasts, and revelers of violence. But he was not deterred, and pressed on, overcoming every evil and fixing it as he saw fit. The world would not change overnight, and every castle starts with but a single block.
So he sought to make the world a gentler place, fighting evil where he found it and encouraging the growth of good when he could. Greed replaced with generosity, blood lust usurped with kindness. He never tarried to reap the bounty his actions gave, always traveling from village to village; the eradication of evil and establishment of good was its own reward in his eyes.
In his travels he encountered two companions that shared his belief of not simply destroying evil, but replacing it. Markus, a human paladin as spirited as he was stalwart, and Evelinia, an elven cleric possessing a compassion rarely seen in this world. Together they traveled, meeting friends and forming bonds. Markus found love in Evelinia, and even Vanitil shared a tryst with a half-elf druid they found themselves aligned with more than once.
But with the coming of years, things change. His companions created a family together, and the road was no place to raise a child. With a bitter twist of his mouth, Vanitil departed, a feeling of betrayal in his heart as his closest friends found themselves without the will to press on. Determined to carry out his monumental quest alone if need be. Back to sharing a road with only his thoughts, he pressed on, his spirit unwavering, and determination undaunted.
Down in the dungeon beneath Castle Harkbeck, provincial capital of the Duchey of Harkbeck, Sergeant Gruber pursed his lips at the strange figure seated before him. The man was tall, several fingers taller than himself, and enshrouded in a heavy cloak better suited to a blizzard than the mild autumn they were in. Beneath the hood, steel grey eyes glared out of a hard face, staring straight ahead as though seeing through the old soldier, and trying to bore a hole through the stone wall behind him.
Clearing his throat, Gruber broke the silence that had been brewing before them. “My men say they found you at the edge of the village, acting… untoward. What were you doing?”
For a long moment, the man simply stared at him, and Gruber wondered if he would remain silent. Just as he opened his mouth to speak, the man uttered a sound, flat and monotone. “Hunting.”
This caused the sergeant’s brow to draw together. “Hunting?” he repeated. “For what, pray tell?” Silence greeted his question once again, but he was already impatient with the odd man. Rather than waiting for an answer, he pressed on. “The Black Mark band has ceased its raiding of caravans at about the same time you were spotted in town. Do you work for them? Are you a scout for an attack, probing out defenses to-”
“They are dead,” the man uttered, his hard mouth turning down into a slight scowl. “A decoy.”
“A decoy?” the sergeant spouted. “What in the nine hells could they be a decoy for?”
At this, the hooded man locked eyes with the older man, causing him to swallow involuntarily. “Across the bay. Slavers. Hidden cove where they work out of.”
Gruber sputtered in disbelief. “But the duke-”
“Is being paid.”
He narrowed his eyes at the stranger. “You speak dangerous words with no evidence. I think I’ll leave you locked up down here for the night and see if you speak less nonsense in the morning.” As he moved to stand, the man produced a heavy tome from within his robes, and set it down on the table with a thud.
“What is this?” the sergeant asked, suspicion hardening his voice.
“Records. Every man, woman, and child sold. Every patrolman bribed. Every percent of revenue to the duke.” He raised a hand and the tome flipped open on its own, pages rapidly flicking until it opened on a map. “Their base. Their patrols. Numbers, ships, schedules, customers, suppliers. All,” he gestured to the open book, “there.”
Gruber’s snowy brows lifted as he hesitantly took the book. He thumbed through the pages, and it was true- the Duke himself was mentioned by name several times, as well as one or two nobles of neighboring lands. And on another page, a list of some of his own men, one of them his own second in command, with a monthly payment of 5 gold listed next to their names.
He sank heavily into the chair, causing it to creak cautiously. His mind churned, digesting this new information. He met the eyes of the stranger and found them still locked onto him. “What… what is your name?”
The man hesitated, his eyes flicking to the right before returning to Gruber. “Van.”
“Van,” the sergeant muttered. “Van, how did you get this?”
Van’s eyes flashed, and for a moment Gruber thought he saw a hint of blue to them. “Even the wicked can be redeemed.”
Another moment of silence, punctuated by the swishing of robes as the man before him stood up, turning toward the door.
“How did you get this? Why?”
The hooded man paused, his head tilting a fraction in the sergeant’s direction. “Sergeant. In this world, a man may seek to create, or he may seek to wield. A blacksmith is no master swordsman, and a swordsman is no great smith.” He raised his hand and the door swung silently open. Within its lock were the keys Gruber had left on the table ten paces from the door. “But should a man master his mind and master his craft, there is no end to what he might do.”
He took a half step towards Gruber, and now he saw his eyes blazed with unnatural light. “The world is broken with grief. It must be reforged.” And with that, the man strode through the doorway. The sergeant sprang to his feet to follow him out, but the hallway was empty. He cast a backwards glance at the book on the table and let out a shaky sigh.
That night, Castle Harkbeck was engulfed in violence, its Duke put to the sword. Within a week, the cove of slavers was rooted out, and its occupants captured or slain. They had been taken by surprise, a note scrawled in the margin of the book detailing a door that would be left unbarred and unguarded. One man had surrendered immediately, relief on his face. When Gruber questioned him, he had broken out into a cold sweat, his eyes darting around.
“The man with the glowing eyes. Did he speak to you too? He said he would. He said this was my chance. That it wasn’t too late to fix what I’d done. Was he right?”