Lungorthin is a cunning scoundrel of a rogue on a journey of self discovery and redemption.
somewhere among the walls of the Varghiem Gaurd’s Hall of Records there lies a scroll which reads…
The following information is based on a single witness report. The criminal known only as Lungorthin is a male tiefling approximately twenty cycles old. His skin is blood red and tattooed from the shoulders to waist in an interlocking pattern of lines and arcs that form a complex network of harmonious geometry. Above his golden eyes, thin horns extend from his enlarged brow and curve around his head of loose, pitch black hair. In battle, he wields both heavy and light blades in a martial style that relies on sneaking and dodging attacks while also striking with brutal slashes and precision ranged attacks. He was last seen fleeing the city headed South, but all attempts to track his location failed.
Sleep will not come tonight, not after that haunting vision. Surrounded by total darkness, I can feel myself falling as if into a botttomless pit. The recognizable odor of burnt flesh is faint at first, and then gets stronger as tortured screams become audible. I can now discern what must be the bottom of the abyss; at first it appears to be a small fire, but as I approach certain death the blaze seperates into enormous concentric circles. I can see that my descent will end in its center. A booming voice calls out above the ubiquitous shrieks of horror, “Now you shall fulfill your oath, Leohorn!” The surface of infinite bones quickly rises to meet me, but my eyes open just before the impact.
Perhaps I should expand on this habit of documenting my experiences. It pains me to call forth old memories, for, until recently, my life has been a series of waking nightmares. There are events in my life I have been trying to forget for twenty years. Maybe it will help my mental state to get these horrible things out so that I may analyze them from a less painful perspective. On paper is not as hard as in the air. At least for the time being I can occupy my mind and tend to the fire. Rurik’s thunderous snoring is somewhat distracting, though it doesn’t seem to disturb Orn or Rothar’s slumber. Althaea is surely aware of it, but then again she is capable of perceiving many things at once without breaking her meditation. Oh, what a noble group of adventurers! If only they could see what I have. Maybe then they could understand my cold and calculative nature. Or maybe they would think me a monster.
First I will record the evil which was my life before now, and if the whole book is not filled I may finish the rest with something good.
My story begins in the great city of Vargheim. I was raised in a ramshackle hut in the outermost circle by my dear mother, Elda, having never known my father. The bastard abandoned his pregnant wife, leaving her with the burden of raising me. Maybe I’m the bastard? Oh well. Mother always insisted he had good reason to leave us but would never tell me why. Perhaps I was too innocent to understand. Independence came with age, and I learned how to make it by in squalid conditions. I admired and pitied my mother for working hard to support us, so I began to lift apples and bread from merchant stalls in order to feed myself. Such practice was common among rats; that is how the wealthy referred to the starving children that inhabited the streets. More than a few times I was caught in the act so, at an early age, I learned both how to steal without being seen and how to navigate a crowd.
Around the age of seven, I returned after a day full of mischief to find my home occupied by four men in dark clothing. They tried to tell me the owner had sent them to repossess our belongings until we paid off our debts, but I could tell by the tattoos on their collars and the shape of weapons under their cloaks that their intentions were entirely different. My eyes were drawn to a movement in the corner of the room. A pool of red liquid was slowly spreading across the earthen floor, and that’s when I noticed a familiar, worn hand sticking out from under the cot. Fearing the worst, I sprang toward my poor mother but was quickly grabbed by one of her murderers. The fiend pulled back my head as another stepped forward. The walls were closing in, the lights fading. Above the sound of my own cries I heard a sinister voice say, “Don’t worry, boy. This is all a dream. Soon you will wake up to your mother’s smiling face and you can go back to your pitiful lives. Hahaha!” I knew the villian was lying, that he was enjoying these moments of torture before he inevitably slit my throat. In admission of defeat, I struggled to look at mother’s body. How much pain did she endure before she was allowed to die? Was this event my fault, somehow brought about by my felonious activity? My vision suddenly turned red as a searing pain erupted across my entire skull. I would have thought they were taking my scalp if the one holding me had not let go of his grasp, yelling something about his hand. Boiling with grief and hatred, I sank to my knees. The anger spread down my back and arms. No, I decided. This wasn’t fair. There was no justice in this. The scum who killed my mother would likely get away if I didn’t act. Another man with a crooked snarl, wild eyes, and a bloody dagger stepped in my direction as I forced myself to rise. All of my emotions reached their limit and came flooding out, exhibited only as my wrath. I clenched my fists, and a ring of fire appeared around my feet. The thief’s grin was replaced by a look of perplexity. “You must pay for your crimes!” I exclaimed with a voice not quite my own. They had almost reached the door when a beastly roar filled the small hut. Flames leapt out in all directions, somehow failing to injure me. Fatigued, I fell unconscious to the floor as the burning ceiling of my only home came crashing down.
I awoke to an unfamiliar setting. I was tucked into a cozy bed, with fine sheets that felt as smooth as silk. Burning braziers cast flickering light over the stone walls of a large chamber and the tapestries that ornamented them. Much to my surprise, there appeared to be a genuine devil calmly walking in my direction. He introduced himself as Xavos Blackblood and informed me that one of his agents pulled me from the rubble of my old home and brought me here, to their underground lair, where I had been asleep for three days. He was happy to answer any and all of my questions pertaining to his appearance. I learned for the first time of a powerful race known as Tieflings who mostly stayed unnoticed but still possessed some power in the ancient city. Then he lifted a looking glass which showed a young tiefling whose horns had just begun to grow.
With nowhere to go and no one to care for but the only other tiefling I knew I was glad to stay in that room for a long time. Xavos gave me things I knew I could not find anywhere else: delicious food, puzzling toys, and even the ability to read. I was presented with many scrolls and tomes which recounted the history of Vargheim and Bal Dima’a ancestry. Some of the books described the curse as a gift unto those who could train themselves to harness that source of power. Most of them outlined the ancestry of the renowned tieflings and drew distinctions among them in order to prove the curse follows a genetic pattern in which the purest tiefling blood holds the greatest potential.
For about three years I never set foot outside that chamber. I allowed a devil to feed me falsities until I believed them myself. I thought Xavos must have disliked me for being born of a human mother, so I sought a way to prove myself to him. Having noticed his longsword before, one day I asked him to teach me how to use one. I still remember how this simple question seemed to bring him joy.
The very next morning, a burly human led me through countless tunnels which all seemed to curve gently downward. Finally, we stepped through a large door and into a circular chamber. In the dim light, I could barely see five horned figures seated at a round table. Someone commented on my size, the fact I was tall for my age. Another scoffed. Xavos’s voice emitted from the central figure, saying that I would be inducted into the Blackbloods as his apprentice. He told me I was going to help bring peace to Varghiem by destroying the corruption which plagued it. Xavos would mentor me in martial arts, but first I would be initiated by recieving a pentaculum, the identifying tattoo of the few dima’a in the Blackbloods. This process proved to be excruciating. It took many days of having nearly every inch of my skin pierced from the neck to waist by a mysterious needle-like instrument containing a viscous ink, but I never shed a tear or uttered a cry. By the time of completion, my whole upper body ached with every movement for weeks, but the result was pleasing. I recognized the central pattern from the cover of an old text: a five pointed star ringed by chains and encapsulating eternal hellfire adorns my chest. Beginning from each point, a single link of chain seperates and intertwines with branches of its own and the others, covering my torso, back, and arms in a pattern sacred to my ancestors. And yet more curious to behold is the ink itself, which against my red skin is dark but matches the color of iron.
My training began when I regained full mobility. Xavos began with lessons on swordplay and blade handling. What I lacked in strength, I made up for in speed. Utilizing the momentum of attacks, soon my long arms could swing a heavy blade through the air just as fast as Xavos could raise his to block. Then he began to strike back, and I learned to how to dodge and parry, tumble and sidestep. When I had mastered single weapon fighting he put a dagger in my off-hand and began to teach me the importance of surprise and misdirection. Xavos told me the serpent relies on his tongue, and only bares his fangs when ready to kill. I guess I should have known he was a snake all along. Following the development of sword skills came tests of endurance. This did not come so naturally. In an effort to harden my body, I was made to spar with servants of the other dima’a while we were pelted with projectiles made of metal and fire. Each day, it seemed, they would increase in size and speed until the two of us could not stand up before being struck again. Always, I was able to pick myself up. I cannot say the same of the other young tieflings.
In private, Xavos also taught me how to hide my appearance. He instructed me to close my eyes and ears to stimuli and focus on the memory of my mother’s face and the sound of her voice. At first, I found this more difficult than any other form of training, but repeating this practice every night for years must have affected something between my horns; eventually I could retract the teifling aspect on command. Xavos made it clear not to show anyone in the Blackbloods, including himself, my human face. This was to ensure I could not be identified on the surface by traitors of dima’a. Also, the purists who govern the Blackbloods would have abhorred it. Now that I think of it, I would have liked to see the look on their faces if I had changed mine in front of them.
Eventually, I was allowed to prove myself through various missions of subterfuge. First, these errands included tailing various officials and reporting their behavior. During this time I struggled to see what the elders viewed as corruption. My success as a spy ensured I would move on to greater criminal activity. Soon, I was receiving instructions to steal documents, poison food supplies, and assassinate nobles and military leaders. With each mission my confidence grew. Though I believe my presence in the city was known, my identity remained a secret thanks to Xavos.
While returning to the elders one fateful night after slaying a priest who sold poor children into slavery, I ran into another man while rounding a corner. One side of his face was heavily scarred as if burned, but my eyes immediately focused on his. I had seen them before. He bared his teeth in an ugly grimace and kept walking. I found myself thinking of the night my mother died, and realized this man had been there too. And he was coming from the Elder’s Council chamber! In a flash, I was right behind him, knife at his neck, telling him to come quietly, or else. In my stone chamber, I bound and questioned him about the thugs’ motives that night that seemed an eternity ago. When no response came forth except for that smug grin things turned ugly. He suffered many cuts before speaking up, and when he did I could not bear to hear it. When he told me Xavos orchestrated it I could see the truth in his eyes and hear it in his voice. My guess is he was forbidden to tell me but knew the truth would hurt the most, and it did. I felt more pain in that instant than did he when my broadsword sent his head rolling. Sprinting through tunnels is no more difficult than sprinting through alleys when you know them like the back of your hand. I was on the surface and at the southern gates in no time. Whatever Xavos and the Blackbloods wanted with me, I may never know. But at least I do not have to find out. I can atone for my sins by felling the enemies of righteous warriors and maybe even gain favor with their gods.