Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Zorab's backstory

Past Life:

I lived with a large dwarven nation. The dwarves lived within the mountains, mining for jewels and precious metals. I ventured alone from the city one day, and I was captured by dragonborn. I was tortured. After several months of mind-breaking punishment, I was taken before a red dragon. In my confused state, the dragon convinced me that the dwarves were under an evil curse, placed on them by a demon that was entombed within the mountains. The curse was leading them to mine deeper and would eventually cause them to free the demon from his prison. The dragon informed me that I had been under the same curse and the torture was necessary to free my mind of its effects. He said that the dwarves, however, were not strong-minded enough to be cured of the curse and must be killed. They would become hostile to anyone who tried to turn them against their drive to do as the demon was commanding them to do. The dragon implored me to aid in his attempt to stop the demon from being freed. I agreed. I went back to the dwarves and at the appropriate time, I sabotaged their defenses. When the dragon and his minions attacked, I aided in the slaughter. It was not until I looked into the eyes of a dwarf woman and her child that I realized I’d been deceived.

I turned my wrath on the dragon, but I was too late. The destruction was virtually complete and the dragon killed me without a second thought. I was of no more use to him now that he had his stolen kingdom. I was reborn in the midst of a purifying fire. The dwarven goddess of safety, community, truth, and justice, Berronar Truesilver, saved me from being reborn as a rakshasa and gave me a chance to redeem the wrongs of my past life.

Current Life:

After my rebirth, Berronar guided me to a new community of dwarves. The dwarves, while somewhat suspicious of an obvious outsider, allowed me to stay. I established myself quickly, however, as I knew the native dwarven tongue fluently, and I was familiar with their culture and their gods (Berronar, of course being one). I provided them with divine wisdom and bestowed blessings on their children. Within a year I was a respected member of the community.

Dwarves being a proud and territorial people, I earned much respect with my prowess on the battlefield. Berronar’s power flowed through me as I stood side by side with their warriors and drove off attackers. I worked with them in the rocky mountain passes of our homeland, hunting for food and mining for precious metals. Though I stood a full two feet taller than even the tallest, I was regarded as an equal. Every night as I sat in conversation with Berronar, I thanked her for the second chance she gave me. I no longer worried about my previous life’s mistakes.

Then it all changed.

I came home one day from a wedding. The ceremony’s beauty had distracted me from an empty feeling in my chest, but now that I was alone and had a moment to be still, the emptiness consumed me. Berronar…her presence had left me. As I began to panic, I felt an invisible hand on my shoulder. It turned me toward the window that looked out over the valley stretching away from the village. And then she spoke to me.


Go? What do you mean “go”?This is my home! These are my people! I have done all that you asked, Berronar! I have defended the community! I have loved them! I have been honest and true! Surely you can’t be telling me to leave.


Why? Why must I go? Is there something I have done or not done? Have I been disobedient? When have I ignored your voice? When have I acted apart from your will?


No. No, Berronar. This is where I belong! What I am doing here is good! I am protecting and uplifting the community! I am upholding truth and justice! I am redeeming myself! I will not go!

I was acting like a child throwing a tantrum. Ridiculous behavior, now that I think back on it. How dare I speak that way to my god? The god who gave me life and saved me from the depths of horror that was my past life. Although the torture I endured in that life had left a legacy of occasional fits of violence and rage, those raw emotions were always directed at enemies who threatened the sanctity of the community. Now my anger was focused squarely on the divine being threatening the sanctity of my life. I was so blinded by my own vision of self-righteousness that I could not accept what Berronar was saying to me.

And then I was blinded to everything.

With a great flash of light, the room around me exploded with divine radiance. I heard Berronar intone softly.


Everything went black.

I don’t know how long I laid there unconscious. When I awoke, I opened my eyes…but the blackness did not dissipate. Berronar had removed my sight. With a crushing weight the realization of what I had done came full upon me, and I cried out to my god. I pleaded for forgiveness. I begged for mercy. But the emptiness inside me and the blindness of my eyes persisted. For the first time in seven years since my rebirth, I wept.

I crawled on hands and knees to the door, found my staff, and used it like a crutch to raise myself to my feet. I stumbled out and felt my way to the middle of town. I needed to find someone to help me pack my belongings so I could leave. I may not have been in Berronar’s good graces, but I would humble myself and repent. I would obey her command and try to regain her blessing.

I heard a commotion in the village square as I approached. A gruff voice to my right spoke to me. It was Grimdrin, a friend of mine and one of the elders of the community.

“Zorab? Are you hurt? What is the matter with your eyes?” he asked, concerned.

I would not deny my sin. “I have gone against the will of Berronar. Blindness is the punishment of my insubordination,” I said. While nothing could compare to the despair I felt at having alienated my god, I still cringed as a new wave of shame washed over me. My piety was nothing but a house of sticks knocked over by a stiff breeze.

There was an uncomfortable silence. Finally, Grimdrin cleared his throat. He said, “Well, Zor, I…I am sorry to hear that. Please let me know if there is some way I can help.” For the first time in some years, I knew the dwarf was contemplating the differences between us. Could I blame him? This was not something that he had ever seen among his own people.

There was another long silence. Finally he spoke again, “I know this may be a bad time, but there is someone I would like you to meet. A refugee has found us. She has traveled far. It seems her home was destroyed some years ago and she has been living with her child on the fringes of society until she could gather enough provisions to make the journey to our village. Come, maybe welcoming her into our community will help you with Berronar.”

I knew that my status with Berronar would not change until I obeyed her command and left the town, but I let him lead me towards the throng of dwarves clamoring in front of me. I could feel us push through the onlookers. Finally, we stopped and Grimdrin began his introduction, “Krystrid, this is…”

Krystrid? That name sounded familiar. When I heard her sharp inhale of breath, the memory came to me.

“Zorab?!?” she exclaimed. I could hear the confusion and the pain in her voice. It was a voice out of my previous life - the life that had ended so terribly. The life that had seen me aid in the destruction of an entire dwarven nation. My eyes were blind, but my mind could still replay the images of slaughter. I could do nothing as I watched myself kill men, women, and children, thinking all the while that I was delivering them mercy. The last image lingered – it was Krystrid, clutching her baby to her bosom, a look of unimaginable betrayal on her face as I raised my staff to strike her down. It was her face that had brought me to my senses; her face that freed my mind from the dragon’s deception; her face that showed pain so intense that I knew there could be no evil enchantment. I had been deceived by the dragon. I remembered that the last thing I had done before I went to my death was to lead Krystrid past the marauding dragonborn so that she could flee to safety. The image faded.

And now I knew why Berronar had commanded me to go. She was honoring my obedience and wanted to spare me the pain of enduring this meeting. For the first and last time, I was grateful that I could not see. The images of my past lives would flicker in and out of my mind’s eye, but they rarely lingered. But if I had seen the face of this woman before me, with eyes of anger and hatred and loss staring into mine, I might have lost all semblance of hope for maintaining my sanity, much less restoring my relationship with my god.

I stood there, head bowed, as Krystrid explained to my friends and neighbors how she recognized me. I heard gasps of shock and exclamations of disbelief. I felt as if my soul was being stoned – every condemning word a rock that left me bruised and bloodied. After what seemed like an eternity, Krystrid fell silent. I felt the eyes of the entire village burning into me. It spoke well of their honor and sense of justice that they did not tear me to pieces on the spot.

Grimdrin spoke, his deep voice rough with emotion, “What have you to say, Zorab? Is this true?”

I gathered myself and spoke to them for the final time. “It is true. I was captured by the dragon, and deceived into believing the dwarves were evil. My mind was not strong enough to resist the lies he fed me. Berronar Truesilver gave me a chance to redeem that mistake in this life, and I made it my covenant with her to protect and honor the people of this community in any way I could. It seems I have failed at that, as well. I am truly sorry for my actions. I will not ask your forgiveness. It is not deserved. If you desire to enact some sort of retribution, I will accept that. However, if you allow it, I will simply leave, and never return. My penance will be the knowledge of the pain that I have wrought.”

Utter silence. I let the moment linger, waiting for the first shout for my head, but it never came. I turned and shuffled through the crowd, weariness like I had never known sitting like a yoke upon my shoulders. I managed to retrace my steps to my home and I gathered a few provisions. Carrying nothing but my staff and the food I could fit in a sack, I left.

I do not know how far or how long I wandered. My legs were bloody from tripping on rocks and tree roots by the time I descended into the valley. My hands were gashed from breaking the falls. Each step I prayed to Berronar to reclaim me as her own. Days and nights meant nothing to me. Although I ate little food, the provisions I had were gone soon enough. I was reduced to begging in the towns through which I passed.

It had probably been months of wandering in this manner before Berronar heard my prayers. I had once again run out of food and I was weak beyond imagination. To make matters worse, I had contracted some sort of sickness from eating scraps thrown to me by some jeering townsfolk. My breath came in ragged gasps and I coughed up what I assumed was blood. I sank to my knees in the road and offered a last supplication to my god.

“Berronar Truesilver. I beg for your grace and mercy. Take your place in my heart. Flow through me once more with truth and justice. Allow me to be your instrument of protection against those who would threaten the safety of innocent people. I am yours to command.”

I lifted my hands to the sky with the last of my strength. Not getting a response, my body gave way and I collapsed there in the road, waiting for death to take me and dreading the beginning of my next life. A vision of the unnatural being I would become flashed through my brain. I heard a voice from a distance; it seemed to be calling out to me. But I no longer had the ability to respond. As I sank into nothingness, I thought I felt hands lifting me.

When I awoke, I opened my eyes…and I could see! My first thought was that I had been reborn, but I quickly tossed that notion aside – I was in some sort of bedchambers and not in some secluded natural setting. My staff was propped by my bedside. Clothing had been laid out for me, as well as a fine mail tunic. I had not been reborn, but saved by a kind stranger. Berronar be praised! I was alive, I could see, I could walk…

But most of all, I felt whole again. I felt Berronar within me, her power tingling at my fingertips, the language of the angels on my tongue. My penance was complete! I shouted a prayer of thanksgiving.

Quickly I dressed and went to the window to see where had been taken. I was on an upper story of a tower looking out over a good sized settlement, which I did not recognize. A few miles outside of the city at the edge of the hills I saw a keep in ruins. A light fog seemed to emanate from the ruins, and hovered just over the city, blocking the sun from view. Even as the sight chilled me for reasons I could not explain, I felt a familiar warm hand grip my shoulder.


To the ruins? I will, Berronar. I will do as you say.


Rift? What rift?

But her hand was gone. It did not matter though; I had her instructions and I would not ignore them, not again. I grabbed my staff and headed out the door and down the stairs.

I saw no one as I made my way to the tower’s entrance. On a table in the foyer, I saw a note. The name on the top read “Valthrun.” I could find no quill or ink to leave my own message, but I swore that I would return to thank this man in person. I asked Berronar to grant him blessings.

I had no idea how long I had lain in that bed – days, weeks, months, years maybe. I felt surprisingly hale, but that was naught but the grace of Berronar working through the nurturing hands of Valthrun. My strength had returned.

As I walked through the streets, I noticed a distinct lack of activity. No bustling in the marketplace, no children playing. It felt like a ghost town. As joyous as my spirit was at having recovered its purpose, the utter lack of life around me dampened my enthusiasm. I moved as quickly as possible through the city and onto the road leading to the keep.

As I crested a small rise, I saw the ruined structure in front of me. I picked my way across the rubble strewn plateau and over the stone that once formed the outer wall of the keep. Within minutes, I stood in what used to be a courtyard. Facing me was a gaping entrance to the keeps cellar with stairs leading down that were barely visible in the muted afternoon light. Four others stood staring with me – a tattooed giant, a heavily armored paladin, a horned tiefling in dark robes, and a woman whose skin appeared to be barklike and covered in leaves. Apparently Berronar did not mean for me to attempt this alone.

The five of us looked at each other with an unspoken understanding. We moved towards the opening.

No comments: