Chapter 2 - Racing to Ruin
Muxu Conallan Darren Mac'Dara
Darren is an odd blending of extreme culture and uncivilized wilderness. His clothes appear worn but well maintained and mended. His armor, while beautifully decorated and proudly worn, is not garish in any way; it’s neutral grey coloring also makes it fairly easy to overlook unless rather close-in. The bow and quiver on his back and sword by his side make it apparent he is able and willing to fight, but the look in his eyes suggests he would rather sit quietly with a song and a drink. His black hair is only loosely bound and is an unruly mess, unlike the carefully groomed locks the rest of his race maintains.
Detailed blurb on the armor: The armor is a neutral grey in color (the color of White Oak) and covers Darren’s torso from just below the neck down to his waist. It is a single, unbroken piece of carved wood. Engraved on the breast is an astonishingly detailed woman (see the pic below) sitting beneath an oak tree and staring outward from the engraving. The engraving is circled in the playful runes and scrollwork of a Fey craftsman. On the back is the engraving of a dead oak tree surrounded with more Fey runes, but these are sad and solemn, rather than playful.
Pic of Lady on armor: http://i24.photobucket.com/albums/c35/dhawerdaverda101/RP%20Chars/Golden_by_omgwtfboom.jpg
Pic of sword: http://i24.photobucket.com/albums/c35/dhawerdaverda101/Current%20RP/UC1373_1_l.jpg
Muxu (public/given) Conallan (family/intimate/given) Darren (Public/Chosen) Mac’Dara (clan)
-Born in Kyonin
-(92 yrs) Called to defend the woods
-(109 yrs) Met a Dryad and fell in love
-(112 yrs) “Married” the Dryad
-(138 yrs) Dryad killed by evil druid
-(153 yrs) Met Nkechi and started studying under him
Darren was born one hundred sixty years ago years ago in the midst of the elven kingdom of Kyonin. His childhood was spent like that of most elves: fencing with rapiers and longswords, dreaming about magic, and wondering about the world at large. He was a little unusual, however, because he was feyborn; the first feyborn in seven generations born to his little corner of Kyonin to boot. The people swooned over his cat-like eyes and strange manner in a near-frenzy that drove Darren crazy. Rather than the one or two visits a decade he would have preferred, he was visited regularly by almost every member of the community. Many long years passed in this manner, and before he realized it, the Brightness was upon him.
The Brightness takes many forms among elves. Some elves are driven to explore the world, some to explore magic and their own minds, but some are called solely to guard and journey among the woods. Darren was one of these called to defend the elven lands. He worked alone at first, exploring the woods he had lived in all his life with new eyes, learning of the flora and fauna and how the natural world worked. As he started to learn more, he eventually found a friend and companion to accompany him. This friend was a wolf, whom he called Markus. Markus was but a pup when Darren found him, and for nearly twelve years the pair traveled the elven forest, “dealing” with those who harmed the wildlife. Markus was killed in a fight with a small band of orcs. If asked about it, Darren says simply “It had to happen eventually.”
This served as a turning point for Darren. Suddenly, this world in which he had been roaming, romantically killing those who didn’t care about the land he loved, had depth. It was no longer a childish game for him, something to be enjoyed while it lasted and discarded when he was done with it: it was real. The consequences of this ‘game’ he had been living were both real and irreversible. He was immeasurably sobered by this, and he vowed to never again loose his sense of reality.
Of course, such a vow must be put to the test. He spent the next several years alone, refusing animal companions, save those who were unable to fend for themselves, and only keeping them until they were able to survive by themselves before he sent them on their way. The years continued to pass and, in many ways, he became emotionally distant.
One day, after a particularly difficult separation with a young wolf, Darren sat down under an oak tree and just rested for a while. He had always loved Oak trees, despite the half-fearful legends the elves had regarding the fey. Something about them always seemed to calm him, and his dreams, such as they were in an elven trance, were filled with the singing and dancing of strange, surreal women. It was certainly a break from the lackluster evergreens and or odd willows he usually slept under.
Tonight’s meditations started more or less the same as they always did. His mind filled with the black absence of the void. Unlike the usual dreams he got from sitting under an oak, however, he was given a much more unusual experience. In his dreams, the oak he leaned against cracked open and swallowed him whole. At first there was a sense of fear, but it passed quickly. Fear was replaced with a sense of astonishment and wonder. He would almost swear he was in a home. There seemed to him furniture, a bed, and all of the things he took for granted in a house.
If that was not fascinating enough, a simply clad woman slowly melted her way into the room. He was not sure how, but he knew this was the tree’s owner, protector, and inhabitant. It was a curious thing, this first meeting; simply a quiet conversation held in the dryad’s home. But this first meeting opened doors which Darren has thought long closed to his kind. It did not take him long at all to compare some of the half-remembered legends of his childhood describing fey creatures, nor the ones specifically surrounding what he was sure was a nymph.
The slight when he brought his suspicions to the table was a rather substantial one, not because it was so insulting to be compared to one of nature’s most beloved and beautiful protectors, but because it was pointedly obvious that she was a dryad, and to be called anything else was insulting. He awoke with a start when he bodily flew from the tree and landed face-first on the ground. A second later he heard a loud slam as the tree closed behind him. The final slam told him it was definitely a real experience, not something his odd mind had thrown at him during his rest.
His curiosity got the better of him, so he spent the next week camped out near that oak. When the dryad finally showed herself again the night of the sixth day, he almost missed it. He was expecting it to be the usual, boring watch with nothing to show for it but a few insect bites and a bit of boredom. He was surprised, then, when out of the corner of his eye he caught a fleeting glimpse of a woman retreating from the oak. It took him a moment before he started moving to follow her. He never did catch her of his own accord, nor would he ever have done so. She moved thru the forest so rapidly, deftly dodging brambles, vines, and undergrowth of the forest floor, that he quickly lost sight of her (Woodland Stride).
Perhaps the most curious part of the entire evening, not long after he lost sight of her he spotted a trail he could track, made by a humanoid of about 50 kilos. He was absolutely sure she had never left a trail before: he’d been looking for it (trackless step). He decided to follow the trail after a moment of indecision; if she hadn’t wanted to be followed, she would not have left the trail, or so he told himself.
It was a long while before the trail ended. It had looped across much of the local forest, ending almost three miles from the tree where his watch began. He continued to head in the direction the trail had led, and shortly thereafter he came upon a very curious sight. He spotted the dryad from the night before, surprisingly weakened somehow, as well as a creature he was not quite sure of. Long, black hair fell from her shoulders; long ears protruded gracefully from the veil of hair; Perhaps the most important aspect for identifying this creature, however, was her incredible beauty. Were it not for the fey blood running in his veins, he felt that he surely would have been blinded by her radiance. He still could not take his eyes off her, however, and his presence was announced to the two fey when he tripped over a branch and fell flat on his face.
He heard soft, melodious laughter as the two fey turned toward him. The dryad walked to his side and helped him back to his feet. He was almost reluctant to look at the nymph again. He felt like a foolish young boy pining after an irresistibly beautiful crush. He had never been particularly good at social interaction, and it showed when compared to these beautiful creatures. His meager understanding of the world was utterly overwhelmed as he stood there like a fool, gaping at truly ancient marvels.
After what felt like an hour, he started to come to his senses again. The two fey had retreated a bit from him and were talking to one another. As he began to focus, he started to make out bits of conversation about the forest and going’s on for many, many leagues around them over the past few days. Again his curiosity got the better of him, so he asked, rather rudely and very crudely he thought immediately after he finished speaking, about how they were able to keep current on those happenings. As his comparatively rough voice broke into the melodious tones of the fey, they turned to look at him. The explanation was surprising to him. Fey know almost everything that happens within their tended lands; it is a natural part of their being so in-tune with the woods they love.
The rest of the night was spent in similar conversation with Darren butting in on occasion to ask a question about something he did not understand. When he was nearly entranced, he heard something unusual which he did not recognize, and which did not happen within either of their realms. They began discussing the ‘recent’ actions of the Eldest and their reaction to a Nymph queen. By this time, Darren was utterly used to being out of his element, so he did not even bother asking questions.
Darren awoke from this trance-like state several hours later to the conversation ending and the two fey parting ways. He stood up, stretched, and was about to head on his way back to the tree and his camp site when the nymph called him over by name. He had never introduced himself, or been introduced to her proper, so he assumed he had come up during their long conversation. As he approached her, she cut a lock of that beautiful hair from her head and passed it to him. Before he could ask why she simply turned and walked away.
Darren was mystified during the long walk back to the tree. The dryad again beat him to her home effortlessly, but he barely noticed. When he finally reached the tree, he fell into a trance almost immediately. He spent nearly seven hours in that trance, trying to understand the events he had witnessed the night before. He never did figure out the entirety of the events that had happened that night, but after a while he started to understand the honor the nymph had bestowed on him. He also started to understand the Dryad’s curious ways.
Rather than explain what she was, she took him to see what he had thought she was. She didn’t coddle him, but she did give him enough pieces of the puzzles he got himself into to sort out an answer. The first world was one such curiosity that he spent a long, long time trying to understand. Even more important to him, however, was a slowly budding understanding the two had developed. Miran, for he eventually learned that her name was such, was one of the most intriguing people he had ever met.
His routine while he attempted to sort her out was a patrol of sorts. He always worked his way around all of Kyonin, to do anything less would fail in his responsibilities, but he tended to patrol Miran’s corner of the forest a good bit more than the other areas. The next year was spent in this way, before he came across an affair that changed his life.
As he was roaming near Miran’s home on a somewhat stormy day, he became aware of several potent spells going off in short succession, mostly because of the volume with which they went off. As he neared her tree, he saw a column of blue light strike down from the storm clouds above, coupled with a peal of thunder and a deep, wordless cry of rage. He broke into a run, drawing and stringing his bow and entered the clearing surrounding her tree a few moments later. He saw Miran caught in the grasp of a Scythe Tree and proceeded to enter the fray. His arrows, he knew, would be to relatively little effect against such a creature, so he grabbed a flask of oil and hurled it as hard as he could at the flailing monstrosity. He then lit a torch and hurled it at the creature, hoping to ignite the patch where the oil had coated the Scythe tree’s bark. He missed.
It did not, however, go unnoticed by the tree. Flame, being a source of perpetual consternation to a highly flammable creature, was something that could not go ignored. It dropped the bleeding dryad to the ground and turned it’s bulk to the new threat. Darren cursed in sylvan and began firing at the monstrosity with his bow. He managed to fire three arrows before the thing started to attack him in earnest. He managed to avoid the first few strikes, but it managed to slash deeply across his chest.
Two more arrows, however, and the giant tree turned tail and fled. Darren fired another arrow at it for the sake of spite, before he ran to check on Miran. She was doing poorly. Sap was flowing from her in a manner that could not possibly be good for her. He did not know much of medicine, but he bandaged her wounds as best as he was able and prayed that it was enough. He tried to make her comfortable, but having only a barely used bedroll and a blanket, his hospitality was far from perfect.
The next half-hour was one of the most difficult times Darren has ever experienced. He could do nothing as this dryad whom he had slowly fallen for was bleeding out. As he sat there in anguish, he slowly came to realize how deeply he cared for this dryad. It shocked him at first. He was not expecting such a thing within himself, and it caught him completely off guard; this realization also made watching her die even more painful. He was never sure how or why it happened, even all these years later, but it didn’t take him long to decide that it was a miracle.
He was sitting next to Miran, crying over his helplessness and looking to anybody and everybody who could possibly help her, when he heard a sudden and surprisingly cheerful birdsong from the trees behind him. He turned to look and saw, for the briefest of instants, the figure of a beautiful human. Almost instantly after, something new clicked in his mind, and he was suddenly aware of how to stop Miran’s bleeding. As he started to use the knowledge he had been given to cast the spell stabilize, he heard a soft whisper in his ear; “Bring beauty to this world.” He has never told anyone what was said, but as Miran recovered, and tho he was never far from her side, he spent many long hours carving a life-sized statue of the woman he had so fleetingly seen.
The next two years went by rapidly for Darren. He and Miran courted one another in a most unusual way which Darren barely understood; Darren also began to worship Shelyn, a practice which drove Miran nuts, but also one she could never manage to break him of; towards the end of this period, Darren also began to think of their relationship as a marriage, tho there was never an official ceremony. All in all, it was an important time in his life, and one he would always remember fondly.
His ‘marriage’ was a time of bliss for him. Every day was spent protecting the land, every night was spent with Miran. The only thing truly different from his earlier time, however, was a strange mark that slowly grew upon his forehead; it eventually took the shape of a knot, almost identical to the kind found in many forms of oak trees, save that it conformed to the surface of his skin instead of altering it. Miran’s only comment on this was to call it the “Dryad’s Kiss”. He continued to do his best with Shelyn’s command, carving, shaping, and building things of beauty as best as his limited talents allowed, occasionally even using the Nymph’s gift to craft something he felt particularly beautiful, if somewhat rough around the edges. As with all things, however, this joy-filled time would come to it’s end.
The day that marked the end of this time dawned a little earlier than it usually did for Darren. At first there did not seem to be anything ominous going on, so he started his day like he usually did. About mid-day he started to work on one of his more recent attempts at artwork: a pair of small lockets with a series of intricate vines tracing across their respective surfaces. He was going to finish the vines when something hit him like a brick: he had lost the nymph’s favor. He still had the lock of hair she had given him, but as he held it he saw the power that it had once held had drained away. It had always felt alive, shining and glowing with a soft radiance he had no words to describe, but now it was dead.
He was shocked. In all the nearly thirty years he had known her, the nymph had rather appreciated his attempts to bring beauty into the world, even when he had no idea how she helped him or why she cared. He packed up his tools and started to the nymph’s charge to discover the root of the problem. He moved rapidly, a sense of urgency he could not understand driving him. When he arrived, he was greeted by the sight of a battle. Evidence of numerous spells lay about him. A big area of scorched earth surrounded a small, barely visible out-line of a humanoid figure. A barely perceived pile of ashes rested in front of the humanoid impression. He sifted thru the ashes and came across a belt buckle, implying the attack damaged someone’s clothing. The buckle was shaped like the head of a jackle with a third eye above and between the other two: the holy symbol of Lamashtu.
He moved quickly, surveying the rest of the area where spells had obviously been fired off. An area was covered in sleet and hail, with chunks of flash-frozen flesh, another area was the obvious result of a tangle spell, another appeared to fill the plants with unholy energy. During this trek, he spotted a set of tracks leading away from the battle. He took note of them, before he continued to look over the site. After a few additional moments, he found the nymph’s corpse. She had been very badly burned, and little remained of her but ash and one of her arms. He swore vengeance and moved quickly to follow those tracks: Kyonin would be avenged this greatest transgression.
He was unsure how he would track this person down in the undergrowth, as they appeared to leave almost no trace of their presence, until he spotted a plant utterly drained of it’s life. A few moments later, he came upon an area almost thirty feet across where the plants had all withered and died. His anger grew with every continued occurrence of this effect, the trail of which he followed for nearly ten minutes before he realized where the trail led. He was headed toward Miran’s tree. When he got to Miran’s home, he was far too late. Her corpse was long dead as he knelt beside her, and the tree she had so loved was split asunder.
He wept as her corpse lay beside him. His rage built, directed not at the druid who attacked the one he loved, but at himself. He had not been there. He had not stood by her side. He had not died with her as she defended her home. He had failed. He knelt there in the grass for a long, long time. He kept willing himself to hear the sound of joyous songbirds singing, but none came. He prayed and begged Shelyn to help him, pleaded with his goddess until he was sure she was no longer listening to his pleas. He mourned until he could mourn no more, and he fell into an exhausted sleep, clutching at Miran’s lifeless form.
When he awoke, an unknown time later, he felt dead. Logic, rather than emotion, ruled him. He did not think, save the bare minimum, and that bare minimum buried it’s wife in a coffin made from the wood of her bonded tree. He took several branches from that tree, for which to carve himself something to remember her by when he awoke from his stupor, and left on the trail of the thing that had slaughtered his beloved.
He moved as rapidly as he knew how, following the trail of dead bushes and running towards the danger from which Kyonin’s wildlife fled. He never was sure how long it took him to track her down, nor did he really care, but when he finally spotted her camp he swiftly changed tactics. He moved as silently as he knew how, until he was barely a meter from her prone form. He drew his bow, strung it with two arrows, and sent them both into her tattooed skull. From that day forward, he began training to better kill humans, for as he left the corpse, where it lay, he swore to never forget what stupidity and foolishness that human had displayed. If he had the mind to pay attention to his surroundings, he might have noticed the owl watching him as he walked away. He also might have noticed a subtle form-changing flickering behind him, centered around the wooden doll he’d just shot.
His return to the burial site was a somber one. His emotions slowly came back, and the sadness drove him to something he could not fully understand. For a moment, it seemed as tho a piece of Miran’s soul still lived in a piece of the oak. Most of it was dead and worthless, but a piece of it, if only a small piece, felt to him as if it was clinging to life. He cut away the dead wood and was left with a piece of wood about a meter on a side. He did not know what to do with it, so he cast a spell, one that let him carry heavy objects, and carted that piece of wood the long miles to the nearest fey he knew of. The psudodragons, whom he had conversed with a few times, told him of an odd magic the drayds used. The details were few and far between, but what little he gleaned from the psudodragons’ ramblings was that the wood from a dryad’s tree was magically prepared to bind the drayd’s spirit within. This magic is, on occasion, powerful enough to hold a small piece of the drayd within the tree’s heartwood, even should she die. He was about to leave, when the psudodragons mentioned something he had never heard before. Apparently, a master fey craftsman could turn that heartwood into a piece of armor. The details were, once again, few and far between. The only useful piece of information he gathered was that the only fey that might be capable of shaping the heartwood would be found in the Land of the Linnorn Kings, where the largest portal between the First World and Golarion had created a densely, for fey, populated wood.
He left the psudodragons’ inane ramblings as quickly as was polite and continued into the heart of Kyonin. He purchased a pair of mules and a small wagon in Greengold and set himself firmly on the path to the portal he had heard about. His quest was fool-hearty, he knew. Psudodragons were notorious, even among the fey, for being forgetful and prone to making things up to fill in the gaps. Even knowing this, he continued onward as best as he was able. This quest took him thru Druma, and it’s strange worship of coin, thru Molthune, and it’s all-pervading desire to be a grand empire, and even thru vast Varissa, with it’s exotic spices and people, until at last he arrived in the lands he sought.
His entry into the Land of Jol was unexciting, as was his trip thru their capital city, but once he entered Grungir Forest, as the local human populace labeled it, he knew had come to the right place. The land, the forest, the creatures… it was alive! Everything about him echoed, smelled, and occasionally even reeked with a fresh, young, life he could not explain. It was here he sought out a fey, any fey, who could help him understand his problem.
It took him nearly a week to manage an audience with a fey. It was not his fault it took so long in the slightest, but the simple fact is: fey are particularly skilled at avoiding those they don’t trust enough to give an audience to until they’re satisfied the interloper presents no threat, or that they have every conceivable advantage. In this instance, Darren simply camped out at the foot of a tree where a small family of grigs nested. After four days of patiently putting up with their many tricks, he set the truncated heartwood of Miran’s tree upon the open ground and sat, leaning patiently against the trunk of the grigs’ tree. It took precisely eleven seconds, by Darren’s count, before a grig showed itself.
The grig was almost livid at Darren for having the gaul to chop down a dryad’s tree. He stood there on the piece of heartwood and seethed, during which Darren impolitely, and very pointedly, ignored him. When the grig finally calmed down enough to address Darren, rather than blatantly accusing him of defacing his lover’s corpse, Darren removed his helm and revealed the mark Miran had given him. At the sight of the Dryad’s Kiss, the grig bowed his head. No apology was given, for the fey do not believe in such niceties, but an immediate understanding of the situation was construed without a word being spoken. Darren knew that his revelation would have that effect, so he had waited until the grig was calm enough to understand the situation.
The next few minutes were spent discussing what he had found and trying to figure out what to do. The grig had little in the way of answers, but offered to introduce him to a fey of significantly more power. Darren accepted this offer readily and packed his camp rapidly. It didn’t take as long as he had thought. Barely a mile from the grig’s nest, a nixie lay claim to a small pond with a creek running past it. It was here he first learned about feywood, a magical material made from a dryad’s tree and further infused with fey magic. This would be the only thing that might save a portion of Miran’s soul.
Darren spent several days talking with the nixie, waiting as patiently as he could when she flitted off to do whatever her whims struck her as important, and gleaning everything he could. The most important piece, beyond the concept of feywood itself, was the name of one of the few remaining artisans capable of working with it: a satyr named Sileni. His skill with shaping feywood was unknown to the nixie, as the last thing she’d heard he only made pipes and flutes, but she’d lost touch with him about a month ago, when he crossed a fey lord by killing one of his sheep and skinning it to reenact a scene from a great play. In his eagerness, however, he left the meat to rot as he treated the skin. When Ng the Hooded, who kept the lands Sileni trespassed upon, discovered Sileni’s careless ways he quickly caught and imprisoned the foolish satyr.
Darren’s thoughts of success were only mildly dimmed by the need to locate a portal to the first world and the need to track down Ng the Hooded across a landscape that changed endlessly, compared to his year long journey to discover a slim hope, he felt this would be simple in comparison. Getting to the first world was easy enough for him, despite the difficulty many people seeking to cross to the first plane discover; being mated to a fey for twenty six years had taught him a great deal about the fey. Tracking down one of the most powerful fey to exist, in a realm that conformed to the whims of it’s inhabitants, was another story entirely.
The first thing he encountered upon arriving in the First World was a caravan of some sort. Tents, wagons, pavilions, and all other manner of temporary or mobile dwelling were represented there, and it seemed that every one of them was selling something. As he slowly made his way across the camp he was accosted, begged, and, in one encounter, magically compelled, to buy everything from shiney beads to specially crafted weapons to a whole slew of magical items. The currencies they asked for were equally varied, everything from a song, poem or dirty lymeric to the color from his hair appeared were considered perfectly acceptable. He barely made it to the forest, inside which, thankfully, the procession seemed unwilling to set up shop.
After getting directions from one of the ‘locals’ at the edge of their camp, he pushed onward for almost a day before he stopped to set up camp. His first night in the first world resulted in his bedroll being devoured by something he could not identify that vaguely resembled a big, legless beetle. He spent the next few hours in a tree, and as he marched towards the permanent settlement closest to his path, a strange place known as The Riddled Sphere. It took him almost a month to find his way to the Riddled Sphere, and his journey brought him into contact will all kinds of creatures and plants. He was surprised when he discovered a surprising number of the inhabitants were ones he recognized, with but mild differences to those he’d known all his life.
His arrival at the Sphere was both interesting and abhorrently average. Despite the locale, the city was a city like any other. Smithies, taverns, and a large population of sapient, and often annoying, creatures. While this city was occupied by fey, and thus more interesting than most other sapient species to Darren, he spent very little time there. He quickly replaced his bedroll, purchased a hammock made of a silken material he didn’t recognize, and acquired directions toward the next stop on his journey.
Along the two month (estimated) trip to Ng the Hooded’s domain from the Riddled Sphere, Darren encountered one of the oddest things he’d ever seen. A mostly transparent wall of energy blocked his path, shimmering tantalizingly in the sunlight. It took him only a minute to scale a tree and find out that the area was directly in his path, and extended for a long way to either side. If he didn’t want a long side journey, he would have to pass thru it. Steeling himself for the unexpected, he climbed down and touched the barrier; it gave way, yielding as if it was not even there. He passed inside, and within barely ten seconds changes started to happen to his body. Caught totally off guard by the nature of the place, he retreated quickly back beyond the barrier. A tail, fully a meter long and covered in black fur, was the price of his indiscretion. Perhaps the most unusual aspect of that short jaunt into the unknown, was the fact that within seconds it seemed like he had possessed that tail all his life. It was so convincing, he did not even realize that the nails adorning his fingers and toes had solidified and lengthened, growing into a proper set of claws until much later. After the tail’s sudden appearance, he took the long way around.
It took him almost four months to reach his eventual destination, but, aside from encountering a few unusual creatures, the rest of the journey was largely uneventful. The change into lands dominated by Ng the Hooded was not a gradual affair, which surprised Darren. One moment he was walking, listening to the forest as it moved and swayed around him, and the next the woods seemed placid, almost tame. He continued walking, and in short order he was in a pasture, filled with various animals. Two hours later, he spotted something that was truly awe inspiring. A vast desert filled with shifting sands lay before him. Utterly unfamiliar with such places, he stopped only long enough to fill his water skins and continued on his way.
A day later, he was wishing he’d taken better precautions as the sun beat down on him almost constantly. He had nearly run out of water his first day in the ocean of sand, and by the end of the second day he was badly dehydrated. If he had not spotted something about sundown, he surely would have died. Rising from the dunes, a building seemed to rise and dominate the lands around him. Four hours later, he stumbled into the Palace gate.
Darren’s first encounter with Ng was one he was utterly unprepared for. The gate, glistening in the eerie moonlight, opened to reveal a hooded figure who simply looked at Darren with an unnerving gaze. It would be impossible for Darren to have actually seen where the figure was actually looking, everything beneath his dark hood was veiled in impenetrable shadow, but the shear weight of that gaze made it perfectly clear where he was looking. The figure stood there for a long time, apparently studying his guest, before he spoke. His voice mirrored the silent weight of his gaze; the words were spoken slowly and with full measure and consideration. “It is long since I have seen an elf in these lands. By what are you called, and why have you come?”
Darren, his voice rasping from the lack of water, did his best to explain the situation. He didn’t know how to phrase it, so he often stumbled as he tried to clearly dictate his thoughts. After twenty minutes or so his request and reason was depicted well enough for Ng to nod slowly and invite him into the palace. They discussed the situation over a light meal, during which Darren must have consumed a gallon of the curious drought served. His attempts at negotiation were clumsy at best, not only because of his inherent lack of skill, but also because his host was utterly impossible to read. If Ng had not been looking for a way to be rid of his annoying burden without triggering any of the many potential problems to begin with, there is little doubt that Darren would have been blatantly turned down.
Ng’s negotiation tactics were far more effective, mostly because of his long, long experience with matters such as these. When it was done, Ng had implied a personal favor if Darren took the satyr to the material plane and placed a ring, which Ng generously provided, on the satyr’s hand to enforce his banishment from the First World. Anything above and beyond that that Darren sought from the Satire was no affair of his, so long as this simple deed was performed. Somewhat confused as to this turn of events, particularly at the needless generosity displayed by this ancient being, Darren accepted the deal heartily.
The return journey was, oddly, a great deal shorter. The portal deposited the two of them in a Sanos Forest, strangely, leaving Darren as he was before he’d ever entered the First World. Darren held true to his portion of his deal with Ng, placing the ring on the satyr’s hand almost as soon as he was sure they had left the first world. He then asked the satyr for his help in forging the breast plate which he would never again remove. It was another month and a half before the breast plate was finished as well as the pair were able. The magics within the wood were difficult to work with, however, and even as Darren first donned it, he knew that the best work that the two of them had done only scratched the surface of what this remnant of his lost love had been.
He brought this up with Sileni and eventually he learned of a portion of the First World barely known to most fey, where there might be a craftsman better able to affect the wood, or where the art of shaping it might not have been lost in the first place. Saddened by this, Darren journeyed Across Sanos until he discovered Sipplerose, and from there to Nybor. A few more months of traveling and he arrived in Eleder, where he hoped to manage travel into the Mwangi Expanse, rumored to have connections to the First World unknown to the more civilized realms. He spent several years wandering the forest, hoping to find the same kinds of luck he had encountered previously on this journey.
Eventually, he came across an odd druid whom undoubtedly held some of the secrets he sought. His name was Nkechi and he proved to be an almost endless annoyance for Darren. After a tentative greeting, followed almost immediately by a few tests, challenges, and trials, the most noteworthy of which resulting in a cursed monkey that practically drove Darren mad, he eventually managed to earn the man’s grudging respect. Soon after, he managed to convince the old hermit to teach him; his expectations continually failed to be met. Time and time again he was subjected to seemingly pointless tasks, herbs, drugs, and all manner of other things which wholly failed to provide him with the answers he sought. Other information, trivial information, such as the nature of his animal totema/totem, how the spirits lived and thought, and dozens of like things, served only to try his patience.
Working with the man for almost a year yielded no tangible results towards Darren’s ends, and Darren’s frustrations finally exploded in the man’s face. Some-time later he came to regret that out-burst, but at the time it was perfectly natural. He was no where near finished when Nkechi chased him away with numerous spells, not the least of which a lightning bolt powerful enough to permanently scorch the right side of the armor he had works so hard to build. It took him nearly a month to return to the old hermit, swallow his pride, and ask to start learning again. ten years in the Expanse and the surrounding area had revealed no other potential source of finding the information he sought, and that information was more precious to him than anything he owned, save the armor on which he must use that knowledge.
Earning back Nkechi’s trust, however, was a far more lengthy process than swallowing his pride or venting his frustrations. Over the next eight months he strove to fix the results his frustrations had given him, and when that time had passed he started almost from the beginning. The last seven years have been spent under Nkechi’s tuition, and his plan is finally starting to come to fruition…