This is a was a rewrite of a character history for a D&D 4E game that I did for a player at our table, the 16 year old son of one of the players, who wanted to intertwine his history with my character’s. I worked with him on his history and then he sent it to me. I was inspired with what he wrote so I rewrote and cleaned it up for him. At the time I had been reading a lot on religion so, as a part of my original character history, I came up with this cult for one of the most popular gods in 4E – the Raven Queen, the goddess of Winter, Fate, and Death. My character was a tiefling warlock-knight named Tzeez’dar and he belonged to a minority cult called the Blood Knights of the Gloaming Chalice. They were a mostly tielfling cult dedicated to a unique view of worshipping and serving the Raven Queen. His character, Demascatus, was a tiefling warlock who had a special connection to the Raven Queen and was given a special gift because of it. This history is really going into the special gift and why it is more of a curse than a gift.
The darkness spoke in whispered and bloodied words to Demascatus for a long as he could remember. He has never been truly alone. The voices spoke to him and it was not at all about rainbows and unicorns. Mostly they spoke of blood, viscera, duty and rage, but sometimes, only sometimes did they chose to be useful.
On that fateful day during his youth when his village was attacked by servants of Orcus the voices, in a rare moment of lucidity and perhaps benevolence, led Demascatus away from the village to escape from the evil clutches of the Horned King of Undeath. Having run away, Demascatus was now free from the corrupt hands of Orcus and his minions, but what would he do now. He was all alone with no food or shelter, without protection from friends or family who were now slaves to the vile servants of the horned one or worse.
The voices, demons Demascatus called them, even though he was not sure who or what they/it was, spoke to him differently now. They were strangely helpful, which truly made Demascatus very uneasy. They were pushing him to learn, to grow, and to challenge himself, but he noticed that their “training” kept him moving through the darkness and seeking, even manipulating the darkness. In these strange and uneasy lessons Demascatus found a sort of serenity and solace there in the quiet and cover of the pitch black blanket of night.
During these “trainings” Demascatus listened and thought hard and carefully about their carefully selected words, about what they said and what they did not say, about how they answered, didn;t answer or redirected their answers. He had this suspicion that the “demons” were trapped inside him and were trying to get out. They were using him, training him, to set themselves free, or even worse, to possess him and take control of his being to do whatever bloody things that could be on their agenda for the mortal world.
Demascatus caught on to their game and focused his thoughts and everything he has learned to try to ensure that they would stay contained and would never get “out”. Whatever “out” would finally mean he did not want to know. Even though they knew that he knew they still kept teaching and pushing him to learn and grow more. He could feel that they were still waiting, like a powerful and fierce predator just watching for just the right moment to pounce and rend their hapless prey.
This training took time and Demascatus still needed food and other supplies. He still needed to survive. The “demons” did not pay so much attention to that, sometimes pushing him in his exercises, prayers, and meditations until he fell unconscious, sometimes from starvation or lack of sleep. Someone had to look out for him, especially since the “voices” did not seem to care for his wellbeing. He was just a tool to them – a means to an end, and that end was most likely freedom.
Demascatus crept into nearby villages during the night taking food and other supplies. It seemed that the easiest targets were the churches. There he found their books of scriptures and histories and he stole whatever he could find that was of immediate use. His mind was hungry, hungry for knowledge and understanding. His appetite for learning was borderline insatiable, much hungrier that his physical appetite for eating was by a large margin.
He found the scriptures and other books on history and the arcane interesting, but what intrigued the young Demascatus was the brief mentionings of the goddess of death – The Raven Queen. Maybe it was the voices or maybe it was the training or the lack of food, but he found death even more interesting than any of the other worldly writings. The ephemeral lights of death and of what happens when we sluff off our mortal coils to be embraced” by the goddess of death. What would she do with us? Would it be painful? Would there be a tomorrow when we pass from this world? Would we serve her for an eternity once we die? Do the dead of those of other faiths still go to her? So very many questions and not so many answers. The other books provided what seemed to be definitive answers to other worldly matters, but the answers for death seemed quite elusive and ephemeral, and this intrigued the young Demascatus greatly.
Years passed of this cycle: train, pass out, search for food and books, return to hiding to eat and read, perhaps even sleep a little, and do it all again the next day. Day after day his youth was spent alone and in the darkness, looking for refuge and someone to trust. The demons have tried on several occasions to harm him indirectly or to exert direct control over him, but each time he fought them back harder than they were able to attack him. There have even been moments where he has won their silence. The quietness in his mind, the emotional and mental solitude was scary after so may years, but also comforting, because it meant, at least to him, that he was getting stronger.
Zerda was her name and she seemed young, too young to be a priestess at any rate, but in reality she was Tiefling about his age or maybe a year or four older. Demascatus was now in his mid teens. She was a priestess of the Raven Queen. He watched her from the shadows of the darkness inside of a small roadside shrine. He knew that she knew that he was there watching her, but she did not let on to this fact. She prayed to the Raven Queen and he even caught her preaching a parable or two of the Raven Queen to some locals. She came back a few times and he was there to watch and listen to her. In his mind he was begging, no, yearning to hear more about the Raven Queen and what knowledge and understanding she could impart to him.
One day while he was watching her quietly pray she smiled, stood up, and looked directly at Demascatus hiding in the darkness. She called him forth by his name. “Demascatus” she said whispered in a gentle, but yet commanding voice. It was sort of strange to hear his name being spoken in a “normal” voice – one not contaminated with disdain, hatred, and detachment. It shocked him. He had almost forgotten what name sounded like when spoken aloud. She spoke his name with a gentleness and compassion has has not heard since he lost his family so many years ago. Those words, those intentions, he knew, but they seemed so foreign to him now after years of a sort of a self-imposed isolation with just the demons as companions, if you could call them that.
Zerda could immediately sense the power and the struggle that was going on in him as he stood there unsure what to do. She smiled warmly to him and slowly approached. She gently caressed his tangled mess of hair and smiled as if she had known him all her life. It was a strange look to see from someone, well anyone, but it was comforting to Demascatus. Zerda said to him “It is time to come home, Demascatus. The Raven Queen is calling your name. She needs you and you need her.”
Demascatus smiled the largest smile that he could ever remember smiling and he felt a great wave of elation, safety, and strength at that moment wash over him. Tears began to fall from his eyes. He did not know where they came from they would just not stop. He just broke down sobbing as Zerda held him. Finally, Demascatus was home. He had forgotten what home felt like.
What happened next seemed like a blur. He knew it all happened, but it went so fast and it was such a challenging and freeing joy. Demascatus rode with Zerda for several weeks on horseback, and all the while she was telling him the parables of the Raven Queen. During this time the demons slowly quieted themselves, as if they struggled to have themselves heard, or perhaps Zerda’s presence, the presence of a pirestess of the Raven Queen, silenced them, until all was finally quiet in his mind. She taught him the scripture of the Blood Queen and he devoured it like it was his life, as if it was his existence. At the end of the journey, they worked their way through the mountains to a citadel in where the Blood Knights of the Gloaming Chalice trained.
Years passed as he trained, and, prayed, and meditated, and learned. Demascatus devoured everything that they taught him. He relished the challenge and the feeling of belonging. He lost himself in it all. He was afraid that someday he would just wake up in the darkness with just the voices to keep him company, and that this ‘dream’ was their way of torturing or playing with him. Demascatus was blind to it, but Zerda became very close to Demascatus in those years, for she spent much of her time teaching him and preparing him for his eventual rites of initiation. She knew that he was unaware of her feelings and sometimes she grew impatient. She tried to show her affection without throwing herself on him, which she really wanted to do for he had grown from a boy into a man. A man of great power and respect. He, of all of the people that have come through in all the years that this citadel has stood, was chosen, as only one other has been chosen, for special a special gift from the Raven Queen. He was chosen to wield the Bloodfire of the Raven Queen that purging flame that not even demons or devils can resist. After several rigorous and intense years of scripture and training, he was initiated into the ranks of the Blood Knights of the Gloaming Chalice as a wielder of the sacred Bloodfire of his beloved Gloaming Queen.
During his years training in the citadel, Demascatus became close friends, no, brothers, with another Tiefling named Tszeez’dar. The paths that led them into the Raven Queens arms were similar. They both suffered losses of loved ones and spurned too many close connections, so they found “family” of sorts in each other. Most of their brothers and sisters in arms called him Zadi, but Damascátus preferred to call him his full name, Tszeez’dar, and Demascatus was probably the only person who did. They were most often paired up on almost every campaign given to the Blood Knights by their Blood Matron. Tszeez’dar and Demascatus were a very powerful pair in the field together, and after every battle they would share the ceremonial cup with the blood of their enemies in honor of the Raven Queen.
Distubing thoughts crept into Demascatus’ mind after several years of campaigning for the Blood Matron. It bothered him that he was thinking these thoughts, and this time, it was not the words of the malign demons that bothered him. It was a desire that he started to feel. After all of these years, he was starting to want a family or something more than what his brothers and sisters at arms could provide. This though has previously always scared him. He knew what it was like to love and feel safe and to lose it all again. He did not want that again. Tszeez’dar had similar sentiments. Such wounds were old, but still ever present for both of them. They both mused that all they needed was each other to stay strong. We have the family of the Blood Queen here in the Citadel. Why would we need anything else?
Tszeez’dar was moving on. He seemed to finally have found a sort of peace that came over him following his rite of advancement in the Blood Knights. Following these rites he confidently asked Tarranna for her hand in marriage. He let go of the pain and the regret, but has never forgotten his family and their loss. He has moved on with a peace that he has not seen in his friend’s eyes before. Seeing what was happening with Tszeez’dar, Demascatus had revealed to him someone in plain sight who has been waiting for his affection. It never occurred to him before now.
Zerda and Demascatus began to spend more quality time together, and when Demascatus heard that Tszeez’dar was engaged to be married to Tarranna, he knew that it was time for him to move on too. Right before he was about to ask Zerda for her hand in marriage their Blood Matron summoned her Blood Knights for a great battle. Tszeez’dar and Demascatus were among these selected individuals that were to prove themselves, yet again, in the eyes of the Blood Queen. Following the mission debriefing Demascatus returned to Zerda to tell her what was happening. He promised his safe return and told her that he had a very important question to ask her when he returned from the proving grounds of blood and combat.
The Scars of Battle
The battle was going well in their favor when something went horribly awry – large undead creatures of fire and necrotic energy surged around them like ants. There were so many… these immoliths were everywhere and they were hungry for flesh and spirit. Many Blood Knights were lost on the field that day. Too many were lost, but then again, the dead found themselves in the loving and icy embrace of the Winter Queen. He would not shed a tear for them. In some strange way he envied them, his fallen brothers and sisters, for now they knew peace and were with Her.
Demascatus suffered horrible burns from the Immoliths. Their necrotic laced flames were more than his innate devil-born flame resistance could stave off. There were too many and they were too powerful. In the end, Demascatus and the Blood Knights prevailed with great losses. The surviving Knights returned to the Shadowfell, worse-for-the-wear, with their blood filled chalices being carried in trembling and weakened hands. Demascatus’ face was horribly scarred to the point that he could not be recognized by his face which was now deformed by scar tissue brought on by the Immoliths and their relentless assault.
The surviving Knights were sequestered away in an isolated part of the citadel so they could heal and not be disturbed, nor be infected by outsiders. Their clerics tended to them, but even their expertise and magics could not fully heal their scars. Even with all the magics flowing from priests of the Queen of Death, it still took several months for him to be able to walk and talk again without support.
When he was able to he left isolation and went to find Zerda. She was shocked and deeply saddened to see what happened to Demascatus, but she did not care what he looked like now, for she knew the beauty of the man beneath that grizzled mess of a face. She knew his heart and soul. When Demascatus asked for her hand she squealed with delight. She just wanted to be with him. They were married within the week and shortly thereafter she became pregnant.
Even though he could now walk and talk without assistance his burn scars still greatly weakened him. Their lingering necrotic energies still held sway over his body sapping his ability to recover. He very deeply wanted to return to the service of their beloved Queen, but these scars would just not purge themselves of their necrotic energies.
After a few more months of tending by their clerics he was able and ready to return to service. Demascatus looked proudly at the his blood filled chalice from that fateful battle against the Immoliths. This chalice was waiting for one other person to partake of the honor of the blood of battle and that person was Tszeez’dar. Demascatus had not seen his friend in the isolation area and wondered what had became of him. He went to search for Tszeez’dar to see how he fared against the Immolith swarm, but he was told by the Blood Matron that his friend had been sent ahead to assist a group of the Raven Queen’s choice and faithful servants to stop of on-coming wave of Tieflings that threatened to wipe out large human civilizations. These Tieflings worked their intrigues under the fetid breath of Orcus and they needed to be stopped at all costs.
The very thought of his friend and battle companion being in the midst of a plot born on the horns of Orcus’ minions without him by his side enraged him. His friend needed him by his side to stop the mechanizations of the vile demon lord of the undead. With these thoughts and emotions roiling in his mind, his skin reddened with deep-seated and personal rage that brought something that he had almost forgotten about…. the voices… his demons inexplicably returned to the forefront of his thoughts and they were whispering their dark and bloody whispers as if they had never been gone. This angered Demascatus even more…
The Blood Matron told Demascatus that he would soon join Tszeez’dar in his mission. He must be patient and, when she says he is ready, he will go to this assist in this important mission. After hearing this news, the rage still warm in his skin, Demscatus returned to Zerda to tell her what he had learned. Zerda was very understanding. She knew how close Demascatus and Tszeez’dar were, and service to the Blood Queen was all that was important to all of them. There was much work to be done and they were all servants of the Blood Queen. They are all her soldiers and when there is war brewing and Orcus rears his putrescent mange then it is up to them, the Blood Knights, to stop them.
After a few days he was summoned to service and told he would be sent forth in a few hours and that he needed to prepare himself. He went to his room with Zerda to tell her the news. Zerda proudly told him to go and return safely, preferably returning more “safely” than he did last time. As a parting gift to her beloved she handed to Demscatus a red ruby engraved with her name to the left the symbol of the Blood Knights. To the right of the symbol was the name of their unborn son, Zadi. Zerda had also put what all Blood Knights think before they go into battle running along the top and bottom of the signet:
“All ends lead to none but the serentity of the wintery embrace of the Blood Queen.”
Demascatus was deeply touched by this gift and, after gathering all of his gear, he said goodbye to his wife. Demascatus was ported to the location of the Tszeez’dar and the faithful of the Raven Queen. He arrived with his ceremonial chalice full of the blood from that battle so long ago. It was the only way Tszeez’dar would be able to recognize him under all of the scar tissue that was now his face.