It was a cold, wet day the day I died. It had been raining all day and by sundown a thick fog had rolled in. The sounds all around camp were the sounds of the soldiers preparing for their final battle; and the sounds of the dying. We had pushed deep into the enemy’s territory that day. A move our Cormyrian General at the time had thought was a good idea. But it was a move that proved to be our undoing. The deeper we pushed, the more the enemy surrounded us. Until we were completely cut off from any retreat. And still we pushed. The objective was a high plateau where we had plans to establish a new camp from which we could launch a new offensive into the Demon infested lands of the Mount Hotenow. But our demonic foe sensed this and refused us our prize. And so we fell. One by one we were butchered by the hell fused blades of our foe. And as we grew weaker, our foe grew stronger; their fury bolstered by every dying scream of every Crusader that fell before them.
Things turned worse when the Commander died. Our foe sensing that the end was near, redoubled their efforts and pressed us from all sides. If not for the bravery and courage of the few remaining Paladins, we would have been slaughtered to a man. But this was not to be our fate. Instead, the Paladins regrouped. They formed the remaining heavy Calvary into a wedge and drove south, riding through the enemy’s ranks. The sudden charge took our foe by surprise, and through the chaos we rode. We rode for four days straight. By the end of the second day we had lost half of our surviving group to demons who pursued us. By the third day horses started to drop dead from the forced ride. Some riders were able to double up, while others stayed to buy us time and die fighting.
All I remember from the fourth day was my horse going down. I fell hard from the saddle and blacked out from the fall and exhaustion. I learned later that Sir Marcus’s squire, Landros, stopped and hoisted me to his saddle. Sir Marcus had fallen the first day as we made our escape. As Landros lashed me to the saddle and then mounted himself, he took a wicked spear in the back from a closing demon. Somehow he still managed to get the horse moving again. By the time our column rode through the gates of town, Landros was dead, his body slumped over mine, protectively.
I had survived one of the worse routs in the history of the Fourth Crusade. But I would not last the night. I had lost a lot of blood and my wounds festered from demonic taint. I was taken to the infirmary and made as comfortable as possible. I slipped in and out of consciousness.
As I lay there dying, all I could think of was how I had come to this end. Had I not been pious and faithful to Torms cause which I had fought and now died for?
Had I not forsworn my birthright and taken up the cloth in his name? And now to die fighting his enemies, it seemed unfair. It is said that when faced with certain death men react differently. Some men fall apart and weep for their mothers. Others, like the men of the Moonshae’s, laugh defiantly in the face of death. Not I. I became bitter and angry. There was so much left to do, wars to be fought, demons and their spawn to be weeded out and destroyed. And every face of every dead crusader that rose from my memories just seemed to fuel the anger, until I recalled the face of Landros; the squire who had given his life for me. Suddenly my anger was replaced with shame, shame and sadness. He had stopped for me, and for his act of kindness he had died. He had given everything to see that I returned safe. And now I had laid here, questioning my God. Demanding to know why I was going to die. I had demanded justice for this perceived wrong. I had demanded another chance. And here a lowly squire had given his life just for the chance that I make it back alive. I died some time that night crying for forgiveness.
As a man of the cloth let me make one thing very clear. When the divine being you worship, the divine being who lets you perform wondrous miracles in his or her name, has a plan for you, he or she is under no obligation to let you in on it. Nor are they under any obligation to even let you know there IS a divine plan for you. So when you suddenly wake up after having been dead for four days try to do so with dignity and poise and remember, divine plans most often come as trials and tribulations. I woke up screaming. Let me make another thing clear, as well as trials and tribulations your divine plan may also be revealed in dreams and visions. Most coming in flashes right before you wake from a deep sleep. This is exactly what happened to me, except the deep sleep was the sleep of death. And the visions were horrifying.
I saw in my vision a blasted landscape of floating plateaus and boulders. As each floated by me I saw upon them figures locked in battle. On one stood a knight locked in battle with two copies of him self, one savage and feral, the other noble and pure. On another stood a dark, shadow shrouded figure, a wicked, blood soaked blade in his hand. The only feature of the body I was able to make out were the eyes, eyes which shone with kindness and compassion, a stark contrast to his outward appearance. On another was a massive demon, and entwined around his waste, locked in mortal battle, was a purple wyrm. This plateau was surrounded by other large spinning boulders. And on these I saw a shadow flit from bolder to bolder. As the battle raged the demon was on the verge of ripping the wyrm in half when a score of arrows suddenly sprouted from its body. As it howled in fury the wrym opened its massive jaws and lunged for the demons throat. But just then the rock and its grizzly scene sailed out of my view. Others sailed by with various battles raging. Suddenly I realized most of these were battles with demons. As I realized this I suddenly started calling on my God to help these valiant souls. As new scenes sailed by I started hurling healing magics at the brave souls who fought these hellish creatures and finally started calling on his divine power to blast as many demons as I could with Holy Light. But then more and more sailed by, faster than I could handle. Suddenly I started to feel overwhelmed, helpless. And then in rage I screamed my defiance as I leaped out at a passing boulder.
It was at this point I came to, the scream still in my throat. I was laying in a bed, soft pillows and blankets, and a war breeze blowing through the tent. The tent was lit by a score of candles, and incents burned in a near-by brazier. Beside my bed, with a look of utter surprise stood the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Sharp Elven features were outlined by long flowing blond hair and beautiful green eyes. She wore the white of a Healer and had an open prayer book in her hands. “I…is…is there something…” she suddenly seemed to compose her self. “I am sorry. There is usually a more peaceful response when one returns to the living.” The scream still rung in my ears. “Where am I?” I asked with a throat sore and dry. “Where am I?” I tried to rise but a wave of weakness overtook me. “You are in the Grey Vale. The High Priest Pontius brought you in three days ago. By Divine guidance he was led to the battle front. He instructed his men to bring your body back to the temple of Torm and prepare you for resurrection. Apparently the God has a plan for you.” She closed her book, composed herself and started out the tent. “I believe the High Priest will explain. He has asked to be notified when you came to.” With that she left the tent.
Like I said, divine plans are never made clear. I would learn later that the High Priest had been given his own vision concerning me. He was to insure I was returned to the living, trained and then sent to the city of Neverwinter. That was all he knew. He assured me that when Torm wanted me to know he would let me know. Until then I was to just be thankful and start my training as soon as I could.
I was sent from the Vale to the city of Splendors with a small contingent of knights and the beautiful Elven girl from my bedside, and from there on up the coast to Neverwinter by ship. Her name was Larissa. She was a healer from a noble Elven family whose name I struggled with. As we rode I found myself beside her most of the way. We spoke little at first. But the ride was three weeks long and before long we were talking throughout the day. We talked about religion at first. Then about healing arts and finally about our families. I told her of my father, a minor Baron from Cormyr who had his first wife, my mother, put to death for adultery. I told her how he was constantly reminded of her with my constant presence. My relationship with my father had worsened when he had remarried and had another son by her. He became determined to rid himself of me one way or another. I told her of his plot to poison me that I had uncovered. When I confronted him he denied it of course. So in order to avoid a sudden accidental death I denounced my father and my family name and took up the cloth of priesthood. I had always been devout and the life as a priest seemed more enticing than the death as a noble.
I had always thought my father a *******, and compared to Larissa’s I was now convinced all fathers were <font color="orange">HAMSTER</font>. It seemed strange to listen as she told me how her father hated humans and forbid his children from contact with humans for fear of death for the male and exile for the female. Here was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen and all she cared about was helping and healing others. Yet she was sired by a man who despised the “lesser” races. She seemed incapable of cruelty or meanness and her father seemed incapable of kindness, even within his own house. He had even arranged a loveless political marriage for her brother just to further his own political standing.
When I arrived at Waterdeep I began training to fight and hunt demons in earnest. We would learn the history and tactics for fighting them as well as practice fighting techniques designed to defeat them. Our group learned to fight together and survive together. We spent as much time in the books as we did on the practice field. And through it all, Larissa and I would spend all of our down time together. She had been sent to Waterdeep as a healer for the trainees. So her time was not as constricted as mine. But we still managed to find time to spend together. We spent this time in deep conversations. From the ancient history of her people as well as ancient history of men that her people had recorded, to the Gods and their divine plans. We spoke of everything and anything. And during this time she stole my heart. When I finally had the courage to tell her, she broke down and wept. She too had the same feelings but knew, as well as I, that it could never be, for though she did not agree with her father she was still dutiful to her House. We were sworn to each other but forever forbidden.
She left a few weeks later to return home for her bothers wedding. She loved her brother and wanted to be there for him. She knew the marriage was going to be hard on him and she wanted to be there. She planned on returning to Neverwinter after, so we planned on seeing each other again there.
When my training completed I was ordered to report to the High Priest. After a long discussion he seemed pleased with the results of my training. He instructed me to return the next day after I had performed my vigil and cleansing. I would be given my new duties at that time.
When I returned the next morning I was refreshed, energetic and thrilled to be alive. I was on my way to battle once again with my fellow Crusaders, but this time I was armed. I was armed with knowledge and skills designed to defeat these demons. This time would be different. Remember what I said about divine plans? Well, they are also never what we think they are. When I arrived at the Temple I found that the High Priest had left for duties elsewhere. He had left a letter for me though. In it he described his vision and why I had been brought back from the dead and trained as I had been trained. I was headed for Neverwinter and back to Mount Hotenow.
I spent the next few days with Larissa who had returned with her brother, Korvin. Korvin was mage and a scholar headed south. He had spent some time fighting the Crusades as well and now had business to the north. We agreed to travel as far as Neverwinter together. Larissa’s duties kept her from traveling with us, but we vowed a reunion as soon as we all could. With a long and tearful farewell Korvin and I set out for the north by ship. But those tales are for another day.
I posted this here because our charcater background space is...well...tiny. Devs, please make this block bigger! Thanks!