I was the progeny of a loveless marriage. My mother was a noble woman who did not deserve her fate. Her hand was given to my father in exchange for a service he performed. She would not speak of the details and very little of her life before. She was honest with me yet she also performed her role as dutiful wife with the honor with which a noble is expected to perform their duty.
My Father for his part was not a bad man. In fact, I have heard many refer to him as “Great.” But those who did so knew him only as a wizard, and not as a man or as a father. His intelligence was unmatched by anyone I have met and I sincerely doubt that even I, his heir and successor, understood its full depths. Other than that he was uninspiring. He was already old when I was conceived and by the time of his death he would have almost been considered frail. Almost, had it not been for the power to alter reality that he commanded.
He had no use for people other than as tools used to complete a task. It is cruel of me to say so, but that, truly, is what my mother and I were to him. She was a face that could be presented to the world of aristocracy that had always made him feel so out of place. She was also the means to create me. Do not get me wrong, he was not malicious or evil. He was just too distracted by “more important matters” to concern himself with trivialities like feelings.
I was supposed to be his legacy. His own son trained from birth to be entrusted with his power and knowledge. Given secrets that he would not share even with his most promising of apprentices. To say that I was a disappointment would be an understatement.
It always irks my Father when My mother said I was “the spitting image of your Grandfather.” It annoyed me too. My Grandfather was a man I do not know; in a land I have never been to. Other than his name, the name of the seat of his duchy, and the fact that he bore a striking resemblance to me in his youth, I know naught else of the man. That is except that he was probably not a scholar.
You see there’s the rub. I have neither my Father’s pale complexion nor his acute mental acumen. He claims, that with his training, I should have been a master wizard by now, despite being a year shy of twenty. Instead, I am “scarcely more capable than the average apprentice.” And now it seems he is gone.
Our first indication that he would not be returning from his latest endeavor was when certain spells and enchantments started to fail around the keep. Not long after, the first band of cutthroats appeared at the gates. Informing us that the late Kaden Stormbringer owed them restitution for a long ago grievance. We turned them away handily as the mountain keep that was our home was easily defended from conventional assaults. We also had two score men at arms and half a dozen officers, numerous servants including a seneschal, steward, huntsman/scout, smith, and their families, as well as several of father’s apprentices, and a priest of Oghma who served as librarian, healer, and spiritual councilor. What threats we could not handle had always been deterred by Father’s reputation.
Not long after that, an officer, several men at arms, as well some of the servants left. He had annoyed many of them with is abruptness and dismissive attitude, and many of those who left felt they owed him no loyalty. They had been here when Father had been given the keep but he was never given the title of baron. They had only stayed to this point out of fear of inciting his wrath if they had left. In truth, he would not have noticed until he needed them and then would not have cared except for the inconvenience he must then face to teleport somewhere to get something he needed that should have been right at hand.
The next assault was neither conventional nor easily repulsed. Several among the attackers wore scarlet robes or cloaks and whispers of “Thay” could be heard among the apprentices and was then taken up by all the others. The attack lasted less than ten minutes before they withdrew down the mountain side a bit. But before they did, they promised safe passage to any who left the keep and took the road down the mountainside. They even promised we could keep our possessions and weapons as long as they were mundane. But any magic had to be left behind.
We had not fared as well as the Red Wizards. There were several among the men at arms and the apprentices who lay dead and others who needed treatment by the priest. Therefore, it was no surprise when the captain and steward came forward and explained to Mother that they could not withstand another assault, and they wished to take the offer of free passage while it still stood. Mother warned them the Red Wizards were not to be trusted, but the captain assured her if that was the case then he would at least take a couple of them with him and make her job easier. She relented and asked that he take the servants with him, which he did.
It was not long after that when all hell broke loose. We had been in the Library with Theo, helping pick out the most important books for him to take with him to Candlekeep. He had implored Lady Jehan to let him take the books from Fathers “personal” library but she refused. Instead he had stuffed about three dozen or so volumes into a bag that should have held only six or so of the bulkier ones. It was then that the alarm was sounded. And not the general alarm. Incoming flyers. The walls would be abandoned and the keep sealed. I did not know how long the wards would hold with Father’s spells in tatters but I suspected not long.
We made our way quickly to Father’s sanctum. Combination personal library, summoning room, and teleportation circle. Surprisingly the door was ajar and the two-ton iron plate that normally covered and secured the teleportation circle had been raised with the winch.
Mother had grabbed several scrolls from the counter, looked at their wax seals and handed one to Theo, several to me, keeping two for herself. She tossed me a worn backpack and said, “quick take what you will need” and then turned and exchanged a few private words with Theo. I was surprised to see tears in the old clerics eyes and even more so when he kissed her on the cheek. I must have been petrified by my thoughts for I had ceased moving for she turned to me again and shouted “Move!”
My spellbook was back in my rooms but I didn’t think now was the time to grab it. I did however have a smaller version of that book on me with several essential spells. I also grabbed an old worn tome that I knew to be my fathers from his youth as well as one elaborate volume that he kept spells of his own devising in. I doubt I could cast any of them but I hated for the knowledge to go to Thay. I grabbed two hands full of vials of unknown substances and tossed them in pretty sure at least one of them shattered in the process.
Theo had completed his scroll and was stepping through the teleportation circle when an explosion echoed through the halls. Willam, a sergeant at arms, stumbled through doorway covered in blood, sweat, and grime.
“I’m sorry my lady, I think I’m the last.” He turned and fired his crossbow down the hallway. The look of determination replaced by fear and then four bright flashes occurred when magic missiles impacted on an invisible plane spanning the opening.
Mother shouted “Get back” and began singing. When she did the door slammed shut and I could almost feel the protective spell slide into place. I was always in awe of my mother’s magic. Father’s was much more powerful, but her’s felt more elegant.
I was about to step through the portal to Candlekeep when she dismissed it with a wave. “I thought…”
She cut me off mid-sentence. “You are not going to Candlekeep. I am sending you to my family in Calimshan.”
“Sending? You mean you’re not coming?”
“No, I’m not,” she insisted. “I have one more duty I owe to your Father, and then I must travel elsewhere before I can meet you again. Willam, guard him well.” she said as she pulled a small coin pouch off the counter, unsheathed her dagger, and stepping over to me, pressed the pouch and the blade into my hands.
“The pouch is like Theo’s bag, only smaller.” She winked, “And between your looks and this dagger there is no way anyone in the family would doubt you are my son. You know this circle correct?”
“Good, but don’t you dare try to use it unless you hear from me it’s safe. And Dam, from this moment on your life is your own, to make with it whatever you desire, not what your Father demanded of you.”
I nodded again and she opened the scroll and summoned the portal. I was about to step through when I felt and heard the protective spells on the room collapse. I tried to stop and for a moment it felt as if the world was in slow motion. I saw the door fly off its hinges and I saw my Mother open her last scroll. I was afraid she was not going to be able to dismiss this one and summon another before the Red Wizards go to her. I wanted to scream for her to come with us now, but I could not breathe and something was pushing my back. And then I was elsewhere.
The first thing that told me this, was the air. It wasn’t the cold mountain air. It was hot and dry like the smith’s furnace. The second was the light, bright sunlight streamed through small openings in the ruined walls and ceiling. As we crawled and scrambled over rocks and under beams, Willam was a constant stream of reassurances my Mother had escaped. She was a fine, resourceful woman and out of loyalty to her, and on account he had already received this month’s pay, he would be happy to take me as far as my family’s palace in Calimshan.
We were walking now through a once palatial solarium. Remnants of frescos could have been seen on those small portions of the walls that were not scorched or crumbling. Likewise, the winds created swirls in the sand and debris through which hints of a geometric mosaic appeared.
As we stepped through an archway and into the intense sunlight it took time for our eyes to adjust, but when they did we found ourselves in an immense courtyard. The ruins of the palace stretched to our right and left encircling a space that could have housed an army. Could have, that is, if it wasn’t overgrown in a riot of palms, fruit trees, and smaller plants. As we stepped further into the light, loud screeches filled the air and we caught a glimpse as several small monkeys disappeared into the canopy.
We walked down what I was sure had once been a paved walkway and my mind began to see order among the chaos. To either side were once small plots with several ornamental pear trees planted around a larger date palm. Ferns and flowering plants interspersed between them. Many plants had overgrown their intended size and other, younger, unplanned ones had grown up in places that obscured the pattern. But the pattern was still there if you filtered out the noise. Years of training kicked in and I looked around me once again seeing not what lay before my eyes but instead the pattern of what was intended. The whole courtyard had once been a living mosaic every bit as intricate, colorful, and beautiful as the glass and tile one I was sure lay beneath the sands in the solarium.
I was brought out of my reverie by the lazy growl of a great cat that permeated the oasis from some far corner of the courtyard. Willam’s crossbow was instantly brought to ready. I looked at him and made a mental note of the small quiver that hung from his belt. It only contained four bolts. I wasn’t too concerned. In addition to the monkeys we saw earlier, I had also noted rabbits, and a multitude of birds that called the oasis home. I doubted a lone cat would be interested in us when there was easier prey. I smiled and continued towards the center of the oasis several steps ahead of Willam.
My laugh startled Willam and he made the last few steps to the fountain rather quickly. When he came around the corner sputtering “What? Who?” I could do nothing but continue to laugh. A week’s worth of fear, and loss, and anger, and awe, fueled the laugh and it bordered on hysterical.
The fountain was thirty feet or so in diameter, surrounded by a two-foot stone wall. The wall continued into the depths straight down. It was at least 20 feet deep. The water was clear but it was getting late in the day and the bottom was shrouded by shadow. In the very center of the pool rose a natural stone pillar extending from some unknown depth all the way and rising some six feet or so above the surface. It’s top gradually became more refined until it ended in a perfect square some three feet to a side. It was topped in a thick black metal plate and standing atop that were four cherubs that appeared to be cast as one unit along with the metal base. They were standing back to back, slightly hunched each holding onto their “manhood” and peeing in what I assumed was the direction of the four cardinal points on a compass.
“It’s a gate.” I finally managed to choke the words out. Willam looked at me as if I was speaking gibberish. So, blinking tears from my eyes, I calmed my laughter and pointed. “See the faint outline of runes on the base, and on the cherubs. Well somewhere within that sculpture is housed a small gateway to an elemental realm that is the source of all water in our world.”
Willam didn’t care at all about the ridiculousness of housing a permanent gateway to the elemental plane of water in a statue of pissing cherubs. Instead he asked, “That’s all fine and dandy, but is it safe to drink?”
I hadn’t even managed, “I’m sure it is, but…” before his crossbow was set at the base of the wall and he was laying across it. Head and shoulders were submerged and the grit and grime that had covered him was forming a cloud in the water. The waves made water slosh over the edges of the pool, which seemed to be in a constant state of minor overflow anyway.
One wave in particular caught my attention as it had distinct sides and was moving from the far side of the pool directly towards us, gaining in height as it did. I pulled Willam away from the pool and drew my Mother’s dagger from my belt. When I did so the “wave” stopped, a motionless rectangle that rose above the pools surface in defiance of gravity. A space of maybe ten feet separated us. I kept one hand on Willam, indicating he should not move. With the other I moved the dagger. The wave mimicked the movement. I did not know if that meant something or it was simply tracking a threat, but I had a suspicion that had been gnawing at me for some time and I needed to confirm it.
I slowly took my hand off of Willam but indicated he was to stay put. Taking a slow step forward, I transferred the dagger from my left hand to my right and held it by the blade. I displayed the guard, hilt, and pommel and the intricate ivory carving and silver work that made the dagger appear to be more of a show piece than the serviceable weapon that it was. The elemental moved forward at the same rate as I did and seemed to lean towards the dagger as if looking at it. “Do you recognize this?” I asked it first in common but then repeated it in the language wizards use to communicate with the Elemental planes. On hearing the second, the elemental straightened and moved back.
I likewise straightened, squared my shoulders, and sheathed the dagger. I adopted a tone I had seen both my parents use when they formally addressed someone beneath them. “I am Damil Kadenson” I continued in the elemental tongue and then, for the first time, hastily appended “el Ashirii” to my name. The elemental moved back several more inches so I took a step forward and continued “son of Jehan el Ashirii and Kaden Stormbringer, grandson of Bahadur el Ashirii and I believe this palace is mine.”
We faced each other, this elemental spirit and I for what seemed like an eternity. But then it formed an almost humanoid shape and bowed. Then form fell apart and it was once again simply part of the water in the pond.
I let out a sigh of relief and looked a Willam. “Well that’s one mystery solved. I don’t think it appreciated you polluting its pool. I wouldn’t suggest sticking your head in again. There’s a swing arm with an intact bucket attached on the other side of the pool. Try using it next time.”
The “Yes Sir!” that Willam replied was the response of a subordinate to a superior. It was the first time I felt like more than a child when he spoke to me. It felt good.
“Oh and Willam, if you choose to be, consider yourself released from my service.”
He was dumbstruck and maybe a little offended but answered slowly, “Sir, I cannot do that. I made a promise to your Mother.”
“Yes, I am aware. But be assured of two things. First, my Mother is dead. The scroll she held as we left the keep was not another teleportation circle. It contained but a single line of Common text. ‘What my mind has wrought, none other shall wield.’ It was not a spell but a command phrase. A trigger to some contingency that I am sure my father designed to destroy his life’s work and kill any who would dare attempt to take it.” I let this sink in a moment before continuing, “Second, you have fulfilled your duty and seen me safely to my family’s home. Welcome to Mahal el Ashirii”
Damil Kadenson (el Ashirii)
Wizard (2) Generalist
His natural charm and abilities as well as preliminary training by his mother leaves him well positioned to take levels in fighter, paladin, or bard if he so desires. For that matter he could multiclass into anything that does not have a wisdom requirement.
Lady Jehan el Ashirii (believed deceased)
Family, Duty, Honor above all else.
Paladin (1) Oath of the Crown observed but not yet taken.
Bard (7) College of Lore
Feat: Ritual Casting (Wizard)
Human Nobility from Calimshan. One would suspect from her beautiful bronze skin she was descended from fire genasi but there is actually air genasi in her blood and not far back at that. The Ashirii family believes all members should be trained in the ways of combat to defend the family and its honor. As a younger daughter she was also trained as a poet, singer, and dancer. She has not been allowed to overtly practice her martial skills as frequently as she would like but she has honed her performance skills and while she has no “Love” for Kaden, she is loyal and has proven an adept scribe and assistant, often providing a perspective that he is surprised to find welcomed and useful.
Kaden Stormbringer (believed deceased)
Wizard (18) Human master of Evocation.