This week, we have our first dual-author post! (Who knew that I would post so much creative writing.) Having two authors is fitting, since character creation is generally best when it is a collaborative process. This is the backstory I wrote with one of my players for a once-off game – incidentally, the same one that gave Wenric Loudbottle his first starring turn.
The character creation process for Valkyrion began with a race and a class. My player knew he wanted to play a drow warlock, and when he had to choose a patron for himself he was immediately drawn to the darker overtones of the Hexblade. This meant that he needed to have had some experience of the Shadowfell in order to have met his patron. So then we had to figure out how exactly his character had ended up in such a strange place.
It took about an hour and a half to write this backstory, since we went back and forth a bit on the details. The following story is the version we agreed to, and it worked quite well during the game. Even though we both wrote parts of this, I have assigned Valkyrion as the main author (at least until I can figure out this shiny new plugin). Because backstory only comes to life in the hands of the player. — Jacques
The Day the Shadows Fell
As a youth, Valkyrion had a habit of exploring the drow necropolis, to be alone with his thoughts. Although he did not shun the company of his fellows or his kin, he nevertheless appreciated the chance to contemplate his thoughts of the future, his place in the world, and his desires regarding his own destiny.
One day, when he was 17, he wandered particularly lost in thought, without minding his steps or the direction he was going. So it was some time before he realised that he must have taken an unfamiliar turn, for he found himself walking down a long forgotten path. He had never seen either the tombs or the trees around him, so that he knew he must be lost. The gravestones grew steadily older, and the buildings more decrepit, and the sky became increasingly dour. And yet the path and his surroundings seemed somehow familiar, as if they were decrepit versions of the paths he knew, albeit grown twisted and distorted as reflected through a dark, warped mirror.
Unbeknownst to him, he had wandered into the Shadowfell, another plane of existence akin to the realm where the fey folk live. But unlike that bright and verdant realm, this was a land of monochromatic despair, void of love or hope. To the east, he saw an enormous bank of fog, stretching out to the horizon where a castle loomed out against the sky. But though he tried to pass in its direction, he quickly found it impassible. While wandering into the mists towards the castle, he kept getting turned around, getting lost; kept finding himself where he started hours before.
In this vein, Valkyrion wandered a few days long, feeding himself off berries, fruits, and pools of water he found. He had little rest on the road, as his sleep was plagued by dreams – nightmares, really, though he had never had such before. Mere moments after he fell asleep, he started seeing visions of terrible things happening to his family while he was stuck here, in this strange realm, unable to help them. And when he awoke, dreams will torment him still, with the certainty that he knew nothing of how he came here, or how he could return.
And so it when, until he stumbled across a path that led him to a small village. Here he apprenticed himself to a master warlock, who taught him some of what he knew, although he kept a great deal more knowledge to himself. Valkyrion would spend a decade and a half in this master’s service, gradually became accustomed to the idea of staying in the Shadowfell. Throughout this time, he kept having the dreams, but eventually a voice started speaking to him. The voice promised him great power, to help Valkyrion defend and protect the ones he loved. But Valkyrion always turned him down.
Until one day, when he had some time to himself, and he went to the nearby necropolis to think. Not so lost in thought as before, he soon realised he was being followed. Looking up and around him, he noticed in the corner of his vision a pack of shadow mastiffs circling and stalking him.
Although he wasn’t a weak caster, he was badly outnumbered. So he was looking for a place to make his stand when he stumbled – backwards – into a hidden sepulchre. Oddly clean, free of either cobwebs or dust, with only a coffin on a podium. Hoping to find a weapon or even a shield buried with the corpse, he moved to open the coffin – but when he put his hand on the stone, he heard a voice in the back of his head. The same voice from his dreams, making the same offer as before. Knowing he had no real option, and also wishing the power that was offered, he accepted the pact. He emerged from the crypt, and slew the beasts as if they were mere phantoms, even though their blood and viscera covered him when he was done.
He made his way back towards the village, but found that he was lost. His heart knocking in his chest, he stumbled on, until he found himself upon the Material Plane once more, once more among his beloved necropolis so familiar to him from his youth. But wandering back into the village he had left, he had an even greater shock – for while more than 15 years had passed in the Shadowfell, he had been gone mere moments.
Relieved that his family were safe, he tried to settle back into the world he had left behind. Alas, he had changed, and while his family tried to welcome him and make him feel at home, he knew he no longer belonged here. And he was not using his talents. Whatever dark entity had made him those promises back in the Shadowfell, he knew it would not be happy if he left his gifts unused. And that would be very bad indeed.