Welcome to My Nightmare
When the light fades away, it is darkness that holds sway.
Male Shadar-Kai, Shadowsoul Sniper
5’10" 160 lbs.
Gray skin, gray hair, gray eyes, gray everything.
For close combat, Alyosha carries a spiked chain to to keep his opponents far from arm’s reach. When the enemies close, a swift flick of the spiked chain sends them reeling on their backs, at which point Alyosha draws a nasty looking dagger called a kukri to finish them off. Although skilled in such tactics, his real prowess is in ranged combat. Given to him by a “benefactor,” Alyosha wields a rifle; a combination of wood, metal, and smoke powder, with deadly efficiency.
Alyosha favors chain shirts, as they offer both mobility and protection, which is useful for a dash to high ground. His cloak, given to him by the same “benefactor” as his rifle, has magical properties, although he is loathe to use them for reasons that he is just as loathe to explain.
Alyosha is a Shadar-Kai, a race of tall, gray humanoids with innumerable piercings and tattoos. The Shadar-Kai originate from the Shadowfell, once known as the Plane of Shadows. Being a Shadar-Kai comes with some unique advantages and disadvantages. The race is able to teleport, called a “Shadow Jaunt.” The range of this action can be up to 30 feet and a skilled Shadar-Kai can even teleport others with him. Having a Shadow Origin, a Shadar-Kai is affected by everything that affects Shadow Creatures.
All Shadar-Kai are born adept in the art of stealth and Alyosha is no exception. Seeing this, his benefactor has trained several Shadar-Kai extensively to the point that the very shadows seem to grow darker around them. Invoking an ancient summoning rite, the benefactor has fused beings of shadow with the Shadar-Kais’ souls. These beings are called Shadow Wisps and they are the source of Alyosha’s power. Alyosha can call on these Shadow Wisps to enhance his speed, skill, vitality, and many other abilities.
In addition to Shadow Wisps, their benefactor also gave them each a weapon and a piece of equipment bound to their soul, in Alyosha’s case, his rifle and cloak. This effectively makes him a Shadowsoul Sniper. Other surviving members of the training received all sorts of weapons and clothing, like swords, spears, belts, headbands, and many other items.
These blessings are not without their curses. Shadow Wisps have little effect in sunlight, effectively stripping Alyosha of any advantages. Losing a soulbound weapon can also spell doom for the bearer, as it may take many months for a Shadowsoul to bind their soul to another weapon.
Alyosha has since left his benefactor’s side, attempting to seek a new life. This is his story.
A foreign land to a foreign being
A searing pain shot through Alyosha’s arm, snapping his eyes open. Lying on his back, he lifts his head to see one of his piercings dangling out of the beak of a carrion bird.
“Hand that back, foul beast!” he croaks, extending his arms. The bird swiftly hops out of Alyosha’s reach, caws, and cocks its head, mocking him. “Ah, fine, you win,” he concedes. The beady eyes cautiously follow Alyosha’s slow movements. He rubs the back of his neck in response to the soreness racking his body. Thoroughly dehydrated, he rummages through his pack for his water skin and squeezes out a stream of water. He lets out a contented sigh and wipes his mouth with his arm only to spit reflexively. “Pahh!” he exclaims. He brings his hand to his face, inspecting it. Dirt? He rubs his fingers together. No, this is much too gritty.
Only now did Alyosha get up and survey his surroundings. Gritty dirt in all directions. A small cluster of what looked to be some sort of dwellings in the distance attracted his attention. He wiped his hands off on his leggings and retrieved his belonging which were somewhat strewn about him. Shouldering his pack and weapon, he smiled, and set off towards what he hoped to be a friendly civilization.
As Alyosha approached the town, a small gathering of humanoids clustered outside one of the buildings. On further inspection, Alyosha realized the cluster was oriented towards him. He could see one of the humanoids, now certainly a human, point in his direction. Alyosha continued onward. He could see their faces now, and the looks of disgust and fear playing across them.
Now 50 feet away, one of them calls out, ordering him to stop. Alyosha obliged, dropping his pack and resting slightly on his weapon. He recognized the language as Rashemi. “What business you have here?” one of them called out.
“I am seeking a roof over my head and food in my belly,” Alyosha responded, “but only until I can continue onward. I will not stay long.” He prayed this response would suffice. His body ached and the lack of protection from such harsh elements was weighing on him.
Several of the humans talked to each other briefly, but Alyosha could not make out what they were saying. “Very well, you may stay, but we will be watching you.” Alyosha breathed a sigh of relief.
2. Hostile LZ
There’s no turning back
Once admitted into the town, Alyosha made his way to the tavern. He had heard from his peers that taverns were a good source of information. The sound of laughter and loud conversations permeated out onto the street from a large wooden structure. Alyosha decided to try that one first, but as he entered, the laughter abruptly halted and all that could be heard was the swinging of the doors behind him. All eyes were riveted upon him.
“I just want a drink,” Alyosha says aloud and smiles. The eyes stay, unwavering.
“Well they sure as hell just don’t come to you, Outsider!” one of them calls. Many of the patrons laugh and conversations resume, albeit somewhat reserved. Alyosha heads to the bar and asks the barkeep to refill his waterskin. He then heads to a table in the corner and drops his bag down next to him. He lays his rifle on his lap and pulls out a cloth from his bag and begins cleaning it.
“You ever been to Rashemen, Outsider?” a large man asks as he takes a seat across from Alyosha. “‘Course you haven’t. You look too delicate for a climate like this.” The man leans forward, inspecting Alyosha. “Did she send you?”
“What’s it to you?” Alyosha replies coldly. Alyosha takes a rod out of his bag. He attaches the cloth to it and begins feeding the rod down the barrel of the rifle.
“A great deal,” he says, a wicked smile playing across his face. “I’m Daregh.”
Alyosha’s eyes widen ever so slightly when he hears the name, but he continues to focus on his rifle. He replaces the rod in his bag and he opens the clasp on a small pouch on his waistline and pulls out a perfectly round metal ball. He holds it up, inspecting it in the light. It glints, the metallic surface reflecting the light.
“Well?” Daregh says, clearly annoyed that Alyosha appears to be ignoring him. Alyosha finally lays his eyes upon Daregh. He is a dark, hulking man, with muscles rippling below his shirt. A moment passes and then Alyosha pulls the bolt back on his rifle and places the metal ball into the chamber.
“I’m not doing it,” Alyosha replies. He pulls a horn from his bag and pours a gray powder into a small recess conjoined to the chamber.
Daregh nearly falls off his chair in astonishment. He says in a quiet, yet scathing tone, “What do you mean… you aren’t going to do it? She has sent you to do a job and you must do it. Any other decision is madness!”
“Then I am mad. I have learned things about my quarry and I am left changed by such knowledge. Knowing what I do, I cannot complete such a mission,” Alyosha says, cocking the hammer back slowly.
Daregh gets up, seething with anger. “You have no right to make a decision like that!” he says venomously. “If you won’t complete the mission, I will!”
“That’s too bad,” Alyosha replies, leveling his rifle at Daregh. “I can’t let you do that.”
As the words “She will find you,” exited Daregh’s mouth, a metal ball with smoke and flame entered it.
3. From a Tavern in Mulsantir, Rashemen
Two bar patrons talk about the events of the “Outsider” that visited their tavern.
“I don’t understand why the Outsider kept botherin’ poor ol’ Daregh. Said they had business, I heard. What did Daregh say to the Outsider?”
“Not sure, ’cept he yelled at him.”
“Some business deal then. Sure, Daregh’s been known to get heavy once in awhile, but that’s nothin’ to kill over! How did the Outsider respond?”
“He didn’t. He pulled out this long steel and wooden tube and two seconds later, Daregh lost his head.”
“Whaddaya mean, ‘lost his head?’”
“I mean that there was a loud crack and fire came out of that tube and then Daregh’s head was gone, save for the blood and bits here and there.”
“Possible. Saw it with my own two eyes. The Outsider just up and left. No one’s seen him here since.”
“Well good riddance. He was nothing but trouble from the moment he stepped into town!”
“Now that’s something I can drink to.”
Stirring up the dust
After several hours of searching through the normal sections, he turns his attention to a door in the back of the library with a sign that says ‘Do Not Enter.’ He approaches it and tries the door handle. It’s locked.
“Excuse me, but that section is off limits.”
Alyosha stops and looks at the librarian. “Yet I require books from this section. Let me in,” he said bluntly.
Flustered, the librarian sputters, “I am the head librarian of Ilmwatch’s Grand Library and I will not be spoken to in such a manner.”
“Fine,” Alyosha concedes. “If it so pleases you, miss, how may I obtain entrance into this section?”
“Well, you don’t,” she says, clearly feeling that she is in complete control of the situation. “You need a writ of permission from the Viscount or one of his advisers, and you don’t look like the type to have ties with any of them.” she says almost mockingly.
“Can you enter this section without a writ?” he asks, ignoring the librarian’s tone.
“Well, yes, but I only go in to dust and make sure no books are missing.”
Alyosha pulls out a small piece of parchment and hands it to the librarian. “I am searching for these books. It is imperative that I see them.”
The librarian’s eyes grow wide. “These… these are books on dark magic. How do you..” She looks frightened, unable to form anymore words for a moment. Then, “Guar-!” She tries to scream, but Alyosha manages to cover her mouth with his hand.
“Quiet!” Alyosha says, staring into her frightened eyes. “I’m not here to hurt anyone. I only seek information.” With that, he slowly removes his hand from the librarian’s mouth. “Now, if you will not allow me to enter the section, I will leave, but in barring my entrance know that you may be condemning men to die.”
5. Ilmwatch, Impiltur
Two scholars in the library argue over the “Shadowelf.”
“Spit it out, Hermann.”
“Fine. Head Librarian Isolde told me the Shadowelf tried several times to gain admittance to the
Forbidden section, namely where we kept anything on dark powers.”
“I knew it! He must be a demon, come to destroy us!”
“Calm down, Erik! Pull yourself together. If that were so, why hasn’t he already rained fire down on us?”
“But look at him! Everything about him, the piercings, the tattoos, his skin, it screams demonic!”
“No, he is no demon. If anything, it’s a demon that’s after him.”
“What do you mean?”
“He was pouring over maps west of here and he came from the east.”
“So that means he’s running from a demon?”
“It’s better than your idea.”
6. The Flooded Forest
My Guardian Angel
“Father, father!” a young female voice calls out. “He’s awake!”
“Out of the way, Klethi,” the father responds. “Vonis, follow me inside and bring your sword.”
“Nnnngh,” Alyosha rasps. His eyes flutter open and he surveys his surroundings. Pillows prop his head up off of a bed. The room is small with little lighting. The walls are carved out of wood. A movement out of the corner of his eye catches his attention and he reaches for his knife only to find that it is not there.
“Easy there,” comes a voice. “I am Cythal of House Hlae’tylar and this is my son, Vonis.We mean you no harm.” The man approaches Alyosha cautiously. Alyosha recognizes this Cythal as an elf.
“What am I doing here?” Alyosha asks weakly.
“Vonis and I found you while we were hunting. We heard a loud noise and decided to investigate. It led us to you. You had taken several arrows and were losing both blood and consciousness when we arrived. You’re lucky to be alive.”
“Who attack me?”
“Of that I can not be of much use. The arrows are of much finer quality than that of what even the Drow might possess. I’ve never seen such craftsmanship before. Here,” he turns around and pulls something out of a drawer,” we kept a few in case you came around.” He hands them to Alyosha.
“She has already found me.” Alyosha whispers after inspecting them briefly. “How much farther to Elmwood?”
“Not even half a day’s travel, though I’d suggest you stay another day at least to let those wounds properly heal.”
7. Elmwood, Cormanthor
An Elven guardsman and a cadet discuss the “Gray Drow’s” arrival.
“I don’t trust him.”
“Nor should you, young one. Strangers must earn our trust.”
“So why didn’t you shoot him? He looked Drow enough to me.”
“But he’s not. He’s something else.”
“Have you ever seen anything like him?”
“Never. His appearance, those piercings… and tattoos, they are so eerie.”
“Who would defile their body so?”
“I know not; however, his choices seem to be catching up with him.”
“What do you mean?”
“He’s running from something.”
8. Trial by Fire
The lesser of two evils
The desert, Alyosha chuckled to himself. It would be the last place she would look for him. He knew the heat could kill him, but he figured taking a chance was better than no chance at all. He had to move onward.
Alyosha had trouble rationing his water. He had finished several of his canteens after only a few days of travel and he knew the desert would not be kind to him if he kept that up. He decided to slow his pace and conserve what little he had left.
The heat was unforgiving. The sand was unyielding. The sun’s rays were unrelenting. The hours stretched into days, and the days into weeks. He could not continue.
And then one day, he felt a breeze unlike any other he had ever felt. It spoke to him, it soothed him. He was no longer alone. Behind him far out in the distance, he could make out several black specks.
He stopped and waited, knowing he couldn’t go much further anyway. As the black specks became larger, he could make out horses, wagons, and short men. Dwarves, he deduced. He hoped these men were more understanding than the elves and humans he had encountered.
9. From a Caravan passing through Anauroch
Two dwarves from a caravan converse about their run-in with the “Gray Elf.”
“Odd lad, that gray elf.“
“You talkin’ ‘bout the designs on his body?”
“If I said I wasn’t, I’d be lying. I’d ‘magine that a piercing or two could get stuck in his chainmail.”
“Har har, that’d be a sight indeed!”
“Ahh, but did yeh see his weapon?”
“They call ‘em ‘boomsticks.’ Uses smoke powder and fires a bullet much finer than a sling’s.”
“Methinks my father had one. Gray elf though, his wasn’t so awkward. Looked beautiful.”
“Aye, sleek it was. When I asked him iff’n I could take a look at it, he hid it under his cloak.”
“The blackguard! Doesn’t he know us Dwarves invented the damn things?”
“S’pose not. I wonder if he’ll make it to ‘ere he’s headed…”
Never safe, never alone
“The Jewel of the North,” Alyosha mused. He felt compelled to agree with such an observation. The streets were bustling with workers and craftsmen. Merchants were selling their wares on every other street corner. Even the nobles of the city walked around with minimal protection.
“We are the city of skilled hands, we are!” calls out a merchant to Alyosha, breaking his reverie. “Come get yourself whatever you like here!” Alyosha approaches the stall the vendor is calling from. “What would you like? We’ve got death. For you. It will come swiftly, but will last an eternity. I will find you. I will crush you. You do not defy the will of-”
“Arghh!” Alyosha grunts, falling to his knees and clutching his ears. The words echoed inside his head over and over. “Death will come to you,” he hears softly just before he loses consciousness.
“What the hell did you do to him?” someone yells at the vendor.
“All I said is that we’ve got imported rum,” the merchant explains, perplexed.
“Well help me, will ya? Let’s take him inside,” the other man says.
11. On the Road between Neverwinter and Waterdeep
A Neverwinter patrolman asks a peasant about what happened to the “Dark Elf.”
“What did he look like?”
“He-he had all sorts of piercings! And tattoos! Covered his whole body, they did.”
“Explain it to me again, peasant, the Captain will want to hear about this.”
“Well sir, it went like this, it did. I saw him walking on the road from the tree I was in. That’s when the bandits attacked him.”
“How many were there?”
“Oh, eight or so I’d say. They were all wearing bloody scarves, they were.”
“Well the stranger pulled out a metal pole of sorts and fire came out the end and he killed one of the bandits with it, he did.”
“What rubbish is this?”
“Not rubbish at all, sir! It was loud, scared away all the birds, it did. The bandits nearly ran, but no more fire came out. He was fumbling with it, maybe he broke it, I don’t know. That’s when the bandits charged him and made away with him.”
12. Safety in numbers
The end is just a new beginning
Alyosha awakes to the sound of metal clashing against metal. He looks around, seeing high vaulted ceiling. It appears he is in some sort of huge ruined stone building. He attempts to get up, but his hands are tied. Someone in front of him hears his movement and turns around. “You there, don’t move or I’ll gut you!” he says menacingly, waving his spear.
Alyosha complies until the man turns back around. Slowly, quietly, he works his hands free of the rope. He could now hear men yelling in the next room over. Alyosha slowly gets up and moves behind a large destroyed pillar a few feet away. He peeks around the corner.
“They’re coming!” a man says, running into the room. He moves to close the large wooden doors, but an arrow through his throat stops him in his tracks. Moments later, a group of men rush in and vanquish the spear-wielding guard.
Clearly outmatched, Alyosha slowly moves to become visible, hands in the air.
“Hold it right there,” one of them, an elf, yells. “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t place this arrow right between your eyes.”