Adventures in Avernos
Templar of the Sun
• Race: Deathtouched Elf
• Age: 25 years old
• Height: 6’0”
• Weight: 185 lbs
• Hair: Jet black
• Eyes: Golden yellow with a faint glow
• Alignment: Neutral Good
• Deity: Saranae/Pelor
From a distance, Lady Zahara appears to be a normal elf, though perhaps a bit taller than most. Upon closer examination, however, subtle features set her apart from her typical kin – though not immediately noticeable to someone who is not paying attention. Besides standing close to a foot taller than the average elf (more like the standard height of a half-elf), she is quite slender. While this is rather typical for body type, it is particularly pronounced in her facial features. She has extremely high cheekbones, hollow cheeks, and almost sunken eyes…causing her pointed ears to stick out slightly, and giving her an overall gaunt appearance. While her lithe figure may not seem particularly intimidating, when she dons her heavy armor, enormous shield, and massive flail – known as a war flail – only the foolish would not perceive her as a force to be reckoned with.
Lady Zahara’s eyes are a rich, golden yellow (think the Cullens from Twilight), and in regular lighting, they seem normal, though exceptionally bright. In low-light environments, they appear to flicker subtly, though it is difficult to tell if it is real, or if they are simply reflecting the flame of a nearby torch or campfire. In true darkness, however, it becomes quite clear that her eyes are actually glowing, and when the golden light plays off of the sharp edges of her bony face, the result can be quite haunting.
Lady Zahara’s skin is quite pale – like smooth, polished alabaster – sitting in sharp contrast of her sleek, raven-black hair. She wears it long and loose on the right side, accentuated with a few tight, thin braids bound with golden cord; the left side is completely shorn, revealing an intricate tattoo of runic symbols in a faintly glowing blue ink that starts just above her left ear, trails down her neck, and disappears under the shoulder of her armor. Those familiar with the Elvish language will recognize the delicate script of her native tongue and can read the prayer in its entirety when it is fully exposed (it runs from above her ear, down her neck, across her shoulder, down her shield arm, and to the back of her hand, where it ends with a stylized sun):
Shine forth thy light
Drive back the darkness
Bring life where there was death
Bring mercy where there was none
Bring peace where there was strife
Bring warmth where clawed the fingers of ice
Bring growth where all was barren
Bring knowledge where there was ignorance
Bring comfort where there was fear
Let the sun rise!
Let the shadows flee!
Both in the world…
and in my own heart
WHAT EVERYONE KNOWS:
Zahara joined the church of Saranae (a faction of the church of Pelor) at a young age, feeling a calling to help others in need. She quickly flourished in her new environment, taking quickly to the structure and discipline required to learn her craft. She spent her free time studying in the temples archives, and soon learned how to channel the power of Saranae to heal and encourage those in need.
During her combat training, Zahara surprised everyone when she proved she was also quite talented in the martial skills, both with a weapon, and particularly with a shield. The ability to not only cast spells, but also protect her allies, quickly caught the attention of the church Templars. They approached her with an offer to join their order and continue her tutelage under the High Knight-Cleric, which she accepted and became a Templar Squire. Upon the completion of her apprenticeship, a ceremony was held at her home temple, where she was knighted and granted the title of “Lady.” Now a full-fledged Templar of the Sun, Lady Zahara is ready to set out on her own quest to bring the light of the Dawn Mother into the world.
[She only reveals her true origins to those she is closest to – those she trusts with her life. You — as the player — know these circumstances, but your character will not be aware of any of this until she trusts them enough to tell them herself.]
Morana* Blackwood was born into a typical elven enclave – a secluded village of branches, walkways, and hollowed out trees nestled in the heart of a thick forest – however nothing about her was typical. Onyx hair, gaunt features, and glowing eyes… all of these things set her apart from her kin, and immediately drew the attention of the village Magistrate.
Morana’s mother was horrified that she had given birth to a child that gave away the truth behind her dalliance with a traveling stranger. He had been passing through the forest one moonless night when she came across him on her return to the village after a day spent cultivating her beautiful garden of rare flowers under the nearby giant oak. She barely has any recollection of the night she spent with him – only that he was tall and pale, and exceptionally charming. Waking the following morning in a bed of soft earth and leaves, the stranger was nowhere to be found, nor was there even any trace of him. By the time she had returned to the village, she had convinced herself it had all been a strange – if lifelike – dream. She carried on life as normal, living happily with her current life-mate, and they were both elated to find a few months later that she was with child.
But Morana’s birth had changed all of that. She was clearly not the child of her mother’s current partner… in fact, she was clearly not the child of ANY normal elf. Who, then – or what – had been her father? The Magistrate and his elders set themselves immediately to discover the truth. Eventually, it was determined that the pale stranger had been a “deathtouched” being. Somewhere in his lineage, one of his ancestors had mated with an undead creature. While this seemed impossible at first, they had uncovered some records in a musty old tome documenting the birth of a legion of half-vampire children in the distant past – typically occurring when an already pregnant mother was turned while still with child. Most of these children had been destroyed out of fear when found, but some of them had learned to blend in with mortal societies. They eventually settled down, took mates, and had children of their own. Generations later, there are still descendants of those original half-vampires walking the realms…most are able to hide their true lineage (so as to avoid lynch mobs of terrified villagers that don’t understand that they are not undead and don’t have any unnatural powers) and carry out normal lives. It seems some, however, embrace their mysterious nature and choose to use it to their advantage – as is the apparent case with the stranger in the woods.
With the rigid beliefs of the elven society concerning the unnatural and the undead, Morana was treated with disdain even as an innocent child. Most gave her a wide berth as she was growing up, viewing her as an abomination better off avoided. Her mother was cold and distant to her, and she was often shunned from social events and gatherings. The other children picked on her from the time she was old enough to join them for lessons. While they were still very young, this mostly just consisted of harsh words and exclusion. But as they began to reach the pre-pubescent years, the bullying turned physical, and she often returned home at the end of the day with bruises, cuts, and even burn marks and brandings.
At the age of thirteen, one of the beatings was so bad that she was nearly killed. Barely managing to escape into the thick woods, Morana kept going until she could no longer hear the jeers and insults being called after her. Disoriented from the assault, she did not know how far she ran, nor in which direction. Eventually collapsing from exhaustion and the loss of blood from her wounds, she lost consciousness on the forest floor.
When she awoke, she found herself in a soft, warm bed in a stone chamber. There was an oil lamb burning on a table in the corner, a blue rug with an embroidered yellow sun on the floor, and a leather chair next to the bed. When she sat up, Morana discovered that her wounds had been dressed, and her tattered, bloody clothes were draped across the back of the chair. Folded on the seat cushion was a simple white robe, and a tray next to the lamp on the table held a loaf of brown bread and a clay pitcher full of water.
To keep a much longer story a little bit shorter, Morana had been found by a ranger in the woods near his hut, who then took her to the Sanctuary of the Sun in the nearby town. The clerics of Pelor and Saranae had mended her wounds, fed her, and given her a place to stay while she recovered. She told them about the attack, and that she didn’t think she wanted to return to her village as she was afraid for her life. She left out the part concerning her heritage, as she feared that clerics of thy Sun god might see her as an unholy creature to be killed.
Seeking refuge at the Sanctuary turned out to be the best thing that had ever happened to Morana. She saw how the priests helped all of the townsfolk, regardless of race, occupation, or other social standing. She had never seen such benevolence in her entire life. After a few months, she built up the courage to disclose her lineage to the kind old priest that had taken her under his wing. Rather than being spurned, he embraced her and explained that the Shining One and the Everlight show compassion to all of their children, regardless of their pasts so long as they have a desire in their hearts to do good.
Morana decided that she wanted to not only stay at the temple as an assistant, but as an actual follower. In order to leave her dark past behind her, she also decided to shed her name – which was a constant reminder of how her people had seen her. She chose a new name that would give glory to the Sun Father and the Dawn Mother who had rescued her: Zahara** (she decided against a family or clan name, as she does not have one anymore…she uses only the single name). Zahara began studying the ways of the cleric, and with her desire to show the compassion she was never shown as a child, she was a natural – especially in the area of Saranae’s healing spells. Due to her heritage, she took up a side project in her free time – she spent nearly every free minute in the temple’s archives learning everything she could about the plethora of undead creatures in the world and how best to combat them. She believed that in order to atone for what she perceived as a “taint” in her blood, she would make it her holy calling to cleanse as many of the undead scourge from the world as she was able.
When she reached the age of sixteen, she began the martial combat training that all clerics undergo in order to better survive while spreading the Light. She carried on in this manner for the next few years: honing her talent for divine magic and sharpening her combat skills during the days, and studying the strengths and weakness of the undead by night.
By the time Zahara was twenty, she had mastered both the divine and the martial disciplines, with a particular talent for healing magic and using her shield to protect her allies. This caught the attention of a group of Templars of the Sun who had been visiting the Sanctuary. After discussing the star student with the local priests, clerics, and the resident paladin who served as her combat instructor, the High Knight-Cleric approached her with an offer to join their order. After some advice from her mentors and a night of fasting and prayer, she accepted the offer and became a Templar Squire. She traveled with the Templars for five years as their apprentice, learning more about ways to protect others and to spread the Light into the darkness. Eventually, they returned to her home temple, holding a ceremony where she was knighted and granted the title of “Lady.” Now a full-fledged Templar of the Sun, Lady Zahara is ready to set out on her own quest to bring the light of the Dawn Mother into the world.
* Morana is the Slavic word for “death” and in Slavic mythology, this was the name of the goddess of winter and death. Her clan branded her with this name as a way to constantly remind her of the so-called “taint” she carried in her veins.
* *Zahara is the female version of the name Zohar, which means “pure light” in Hebrew. She chose this name to combat the darkness she felt within, and to honor the god and goddess of the sun.