Jan 14, 2006
Vurokk realized he was now completely immersed in the lush forest. The direction to take was clear in his mind, and he didn't doubt it for one bit thanks to the signs he was quick to associate with his long-held superstitions. Bones of small chiropters never fell randomly to the ground, this is what he knew and always told to everyone back on the trader's ship. Nobody laughed, but probably more out of fear and respect than true belief. Besides, Vurokk always generated down-to-earth sympathy in his various comrades throughout his mercenary life, so sometimes he even convinced others of his strange beliefs.
Following those esoterically-indicated paths, Vurokk quickly found himself in the "second floor" of the gigantic forest, walking the heavily covered corridors already at several tens of feet from the ground level. The one he walked most of the time was wide enough for big trees to grow, and the dense vegetation made it easy for a camouflage-expert ranger like him to blend in, especially when using his shade powers that made him the famous Zulaport Runner he had been in the past.
Hunger wasn't a problem for the time being, since big melon-nuts were everywhere, miraculously not smashed into pieces after falling from hundreds of meters. "Their fall must have be broken by the tangle-vines", he thought. Little did he suspect that they were provided by an unseen ally, who also dropped
some chiropter bones now and then, in the right
His diet wasn't accustomed to so much fruit (contrary to his unseen friend's), so by the late afternoon, he began to think about hunting. Animals could be heard everywhere, but they couldn't be found just lying there as the melon-nuts: these needed active hunting. And Vurokk's eyes were particularly sore that day, probably still due to all the salt they endured during the long swim of two days before. So he decided to rely on his passive hunting technique: he assessed what could have been the best hunting ground and then simply moved slowly in the undergrowth in complete, shadow-muted silence and practically invisible. After three or four hours in which his hunger had grown to such proportions that he was starting to channel Fury in his mind even in that otherwise calm state, he nearly bumped on a grazing baloth.
It was the right prey, a herbivorous baloth, he just needed to make sure it wasn't part of a herd. But no, there were no other beasts in sight. So he readied a mighty strike with his composite doubly-curved sword, the Kleevv as he called it. Wasn't the baloth being alone an even worse sign than it being part of a herd? That question didn't touch Vurokk's simple mind, but it did worry Nashdu, very much.
"Oh no! That baloth is no herbivore, there are no herbivore baloths in this region, he doesn't know! How long until he strikes... How long until he strikes?? I must do something. Maybe the baloth is big enough for me to go under it in my other form... And then I'll stay there, unrecognizable, and hidden too... I just have to make sure he'll survive... But I cannot let him understand I'm here..."
The black warrior stopped thinking completely and struck, like a praying mantis closing its serrated claws on a bigger insect. The baloth bellowed its pain and for a few inches didn't trample Vurokk over while stampeding in small circles, trying to find its attacker. The cold flames of Vurokk's dread smite chewed the flesh of the beast for long painful seconds, until it shook them off. "And this is where I strike again... No reason to waste my flames of fury when they're burning..."
. The second strike was even stronger, an uppercut reaching the previous wound and entering the soft exposed flesh like a hot blade through Gladehart's butter. But the beast's more alerted state generated a reaction that made it impossible for Vurokk to maintain his magically-enhanced hiding. The gigantic beast's tusked jaws turned directly towards Vurokk this time and became red while the internal blood vessels pumped more and more fluid, something that Vurokk had never seen before, but that he clearly recognized as... The beast having recognized him. The charge came swift and Vurokk raised his sword, like a scorpion its stinger-tail, with the same courage of the predator arachnid. The same ill-placed courage.
The impact was tremendous, but different from what he was expecting. After a second, he realized he had been hit and pushed back by a slab of vine-covered rock, and a small crater had formed in front of the beast's head, which raised confused from the bottom of the unstable ground. It had missed Vurokk by a few inches, but why? He was surely visible. The beast looked more confused than Vurokk, but for a short time. It attacked furiously again, even without room to charge, this time with its hooked claws. But before striking Vurokk, the natural weapons seemed to catch a big translucent reptile of some sort, that apparently lied just in front of Vurokk in the undergrowth. The animal was kicked aside by the baloth, and Vurokk lost sight of it in an instant. That was the time to strike hard. He moved quickly and then jump-charged the behemoth, landing on its back and connecting his heavy blade right on top of its neck, following-up the blow with another dread smite, the flames of which engulfed the creature's head. The bellows had become screeching, the pain of the beast was extreme. In a final rush of primal fury, it trampled Vurokk over and over, and when it reached the previously generated crater, big cracks began to form along the supporting rock-branch, and before either the baloth or Vurokk could react, they were both falling in mid-air, the beast clawing desperately at the air. Vurokk's fury, augmented by the pain he was beginning to seriously feel, unleashed a violent strike even there in mid-air, but when their fall was broken by the impact with the underlying forested rock-branch, the pain from the fall seemed to be stronger then normal "I either broke my head, or... Damn, my head's splitting!"
- Apparently, the baloth was in that state too, its screams maddened and deafening, while it moved its legs convulsively, trying to get back on its feet.
The vision of Vurokk blurred for a second, while looking at its Kleevv. All was out of focus, the sword's metal looked as if it was dancing like a flame. "The angel's silver sword is glistening..."
- He didn't even know what he was saying, but he was now upright and walking backwards he barely saw the creature walking in the opposite direction. It too seemed to be dancing like a flame in his eyes. He had become invisible nearly reflexively, and that was the reason the creature wasn't charging or escaping him yet. "The angel's silver sword is STRIKING THE DAMNED!!..."
- He launched himself in a bullet-charge, and knew nothing more.
He woke up with his sword completely bored inside the baloth's dead body, the night fallen, and heavy rain hitting his armor and helm-mask, unbearable to his confounded ears. He took off the helm. Lightning and thunder alternatively ran through the night sky, and from the other side of the large tree next to the baloth's body, a small line of smoke was rising. He approached slowly the source of it. A lightning had struck the inside of the tree, leaving most of it intact but lighting a fire in the innermost lattice structure which was probably flammable due to a colony of Ashcap mushrooms. Or so it seemed. He recovered his strength using the fire and the cover from inside the tree to barely cook and quickly eat an insane amount of baloth meat, and before he knew it, he was asleep.
"Vurokk never ceases to amaze when it comes to fighting. But was my intervention useful this time too? Yes, probably. Probably, I'm starting to be of real help. Even if I couldn't avoid sending off the pain waves after the fall. But the mind-fire I created in the end was probably worth it. I wonder if Vurokk truly mistook the effect for that of an angel. And what angel by the way? I guess I should sleep and recover too, it's not like what hits my other form doesn't affect my normal one..."
The hot, humid night passed slowly. His improvised bed was surrounded by vegetation in literally all directions. The big nightflowers had opened their petals and were emanating their pungent perfume. He was sleeping undisturbed despite all the undigested meat in his insides, until a strange, short sound woke him up. The forest was choke full of strange sounds. But perhaps that very sound was strange among them rightly for not being strange. It was simple, like a finger snap. The sleepy mind of the warrior tried to localize the source of it while consciousness slowly crawled back to it in slithering, thin layers. It was as if all his senses couldn't even apply to the searching of that sound in the space surrounding him. Instinctively, his mind did an abstract operation, changing the field of the search from space to time. That time that was so alien to him, so blurred. Yet searching and searching, while the night was made more and more wet by his sweat more than the damp air, he was slowly realizing something. But the more he felt closing in the solution, the more he felt something moving on his back, like a small but hard arthropod trying to escape from within his armor and clothes, on his bare skin. He was near to the solution, he was so near, he knew where the sound came from, just couldn't realize it quite yet, a word was at the tip of its mental tongue, but couldn't form completely... The footprints of that unstoppable, nonexistent creature seemed to have left marks on his skin that he couldn't ignore, they were chilling as ice and yet he sweated and sweated even more. At a certain point he felt like he had become incredibly little. Then all of a sudden he knew nothing more.
The sweat dried up in the sunshine, and the burning ice on his back had melted away, just like the word he had at the fingertips of his mind. The memories of the whole thing were more blurred than the dancing fire he saw on his blade hours before. And breakfast was ready, just as the new day in front of him.Spoiler:
Nashdu is a Merfolk Observer , looking a lot like the iconic Skywatcher Adept merfolk.
Found by an expedition in search of artifacts when he was just a baby, abandoned near the Enatu Temple ruins before the first Enatu Golem s awakened, Nashdu was taken into custody by a Merfolk Wayfinder known as Raya, who raised him in multiple places. Most of the time in Portage, with the help of the person closest to her, Piqua, one of the leaders of the Tazeem Expeditionary House. Then at times also in her underwater community near Magosi, the Waterveil , or on the go, while participating in expeditions.
"You want to go to Ruins of Ysterid, huh? The sages know they lie at the bottom of deep cave near Magosi Falls. But I don't recommend it. The pit will poison you, boil you, and regurgitate your body up to the surface to be eaten by bloodbeaks."
—Piqua, Tazeem Expeditionary House
Nashdu grew up a very good scout like his adoptive mother, and took an interest in writing expedition logs and reports, becoming the youngest journal-keeper of the Tazeem Expeditionary House. He was always deemed strange though, especially by Raya's merfolk acquaintances in the udnerwater settlement. The elders and sages said there was something strange in his eyes, and treated him as an outcast of sorts, saying he was probably the cursed offspring of a Cosi's Trickster (who are said to be sterile, normally). Raya defended him whenever she could, reassuring him that he was normal, but she changed her mind during an expedition in which he was brought along at the age of 15, which equates to perhaps 8 or 10 in human years.
While exploring an underground ruin connected to a complex of Pit Caves typical of Northern Tazeem, the group ignored young Nashdu's warning and fell into a Cobra Trap , while Nashdu managed to cling to the edge of the pit, grasping it barely with a hand. The snakes actively ammassed near the spot below Nashdu, and before the others could act, the young merfolk fell down. The reptiles coiled and jumped with demonic speed, but in a split-second, they all fell dead to the floor, as if hit in mid-air during their assault by some unknown force exactly in the same moment Nashdu screamed after the painful fall. No one could determine the cause of death of the snakes, and Raya began to secretly worry that the merfolk sages were right about the child.
After the expedition, Raya consulted with Piqua far from the ears of Nashdu, trying to come up with a way for the strange mer-child to grow up far from the dangerous superstitions of the isolated merfolk community near Portage. But perhaps also far from her, first and foremost. She made arrangements to accelerate the coming of the merfolk initiation ritual that sanctioned Nashdu as a Free Roamer, and she then suggested him to go to Sea Gate to work as a journal writer there, at the main establishment of Halimar's Expeditionary House, where Raya and Piqua had some acquaintances. Nashdu was happy to embrace that new path he had desired before, the first one as a true independent merfolk, but had also heard the talks of his mother about his strangeness and hid in his heart a deep feeling of inadequacy, which he chose to keep secret.
In Sea Gate, for fear of having his strange nature discovered by the famous adventurers of the House, he worked very little there, just the bare minimum so that Raya's aquaintances could feel like they were doing their job of watching over him, but secretly got involved with a rogue association that aimed at boycotting the Expeditionary House. He was appointed master spy due to his abilities and his favored position in the House, and was in charge of writing and posting around the city pamphlets that exposed the House's dirtiest deeds.He became very close to one of the leaders of the association, a Kabira Evangel with a magnetic charisma and secrets and bonds far dirtier than those of the Expeditionary House. One day, a Nashdu's scoop went a bit too deep and, unknown to him, uncovered facts that were more incriminating for the Association and one of its dangerous clients than for the House. A corp of Enclave Elite from the Lighthouse was mobilized and began to search the city, in collaboration with the Expeditionary House.
Searching Nashdu's apartment. they didn't discover evidences of Nashdu's secret job, but they casually uncovered a secret diary of the young merfolk, that seemed to contain love letters addressed at a person named only with a nickname. Nashdu feared for the worst when they interrogated him over the matter, and didn't want to answer to any question about it. The Enclave Detectives spared him from the punsihment reserved to citizens uncooperative with the Enclave's investigations, partly due to his young age and partly due to the delicate nature of the uncovered facts, but some details of Nahsdu's writings lead to narrow their efforts and they eventually discovered a link with the Kabira Evangel , and started to uncover everything. Before being caught, the corrupt cleric ordered Nashdu to board the ship of an illegal trader, the client whose businesses were jeopardized by his naive and perhaps too insightful information-reporting which initiated all the scandal. The debt owed by Nashdu to the trader was quantified by the previously friendly cleric to be a stellar amount of gold, and Nashdu willingly agreed to repay it by working for the trader, saving his friend from retortions, if not from the Enclave's law enforcing.
Double-crossed by the "friends" whom he had trusted for their apparent welcoming of his strangeness, Nashdu found himself twice ashamed, with the Enclave and probably the whole Halimar Expeditionary House now aware of another secret he was guarding, one he had hoped could remain so, and that involved his love for the very same person that betrayed him and practically sold him to cover his back.
Nashdu's condition went from bad to worse working for the trader, whose company was far more violent than the rogue Association he had grown accustomed too. He became their Merfolk Observer , sent forward to scout and then organize pirate attacks and sometimes even downright assasinations, most of the times to smuggle relics or just steal treasure, then sold on the black market between Sea Gate and distant Zulaport. Even the shame that Nashdu thought at first to have left behind, followed him to the trader's ship, where he became the most hated and derided member of the crew. He answered to the dark situation by becoming a loner and developing abilities perhaps even darker than those of his criminal comrades, although he always refused to personally hurt any body during the raids, something that only worsened his reputation among the crew, but that perhaps kept his mind from going insane.
His grim conditions changed a bit for the better when a new member came on board, endorsed by a dark and important figure named Indorel, during one of their stops in Zulaport. The man was Vurokk Dahvre, an enigmatic warrior, exotically and fully armored other than always masked (from head to toes), said to have been a Nimana Sell-Sword and a Nighthaze -using Zulaport Runner. He quickly became the second in-command of the ship, right beneath the trader in the chain of command, and despite having become himself the most respected and well-liked member of the crew, he also became the only one to treat Nashdu with respect.
After many a violent raid, and adventures in which Nashdu began to display astonishing abilities, evidently fuelled by the same black mana that powered Vurokk's, one day the trader's ship anchored near an island off the Weastern coast of the Halimar, and the two had a very surprising talk, for the first time eye-to-eye as Vurokk showed his real face to the now adult merfolk. Unexpected drinks followed, and a rushed decision followed the drinks. The rest, as they say, is history...Chapter 1 - Unexpected talks and drinks on the trader's ship.
Nashdu's real nature
The unknown truth is that Nashdu hides in his body a spark of Eldrazi power. This explains a lot of his strange abilities, although there's no easy explanation for its origins. Perhaps the Enatu Temple in which he was probably born from an unknown mother had influenced him with its colorless mana. Perhaps he didn't even had a father, the Eldrazi magic of the site being enough to make a Merfolk woman bear a child of her own. In any case, the following feats and powers are connected to his unique nature. They are listed in order of manifestation in Nashdu's short life:
- Ghost Eyes: The feature he had from birth, Nashdu's eyes give off a strange glow under certain lights and he's incredibly good at spotting hidden things and piercing magical glamers.
- Foulborn Heritage: The power that manifested when he fell in the Cobra Trap. He's now able to control it, but basically each time he's hurt, he must concentrate in order not to release a destructive psychic wave around him.
- Shade Form / Wild Shape + Swarming Locusts: These features are interconnected. Nashdu has two levels of polymorphism, which can also be combined. The first makes him indistinct and blurry and is probably more of a psychic effect like the one above, the second is a completely transformed form that is vaguely animal, but the muted colors and lack of features make it seem "off". In this form, Nashdu can also use the Swarming power, although he rarely does that, because he says it feels awful and because he avoids violent attacks whenever possible. He mainly uses this form combined with the former, becoming practically unnoticeable in the fauna-heavy environments of Zendikar.
He follows Vurokk for months without him ever noticing his presence, even when Nashdu physically protected him from harm multiple times.
- Underdark Climber: After having practiced strange movement modes in his polymorphed states, Nashdu learned an exotic form of climbing that proved very important in the verticalized environments of the Oran Rief, following Vurokk.
- Executioner's Noose: This is actually an extension of Nashdu's shadowy psyche, that manifests as a partially-insubstantial tendril similar to those that his quasi-animal forms sometimes display. He uses this attack mainly to hunt and sometimes even just to gather difficult to reach fruits, which he favors over meat in his diet.
- Object Projection: Another side of his Noose, this ability has a longer range but can't pull back things, it can be used just to push small objects at blinding speed. He uses this many times to help Vurokk in multiple ways, since the movement is unnoticeable: the transported object "just appears", leaving no clue as to where it came from (that is, Nashdu's hands)
- Shadowed Legion: This power is actually an extension of his Shade Form, that manifests as a boon to the hiding skills of everyone nearby. The targets are not required to be aware of Nashdu, so he uses this many times on Vurokk, and he never understood what was going on, something that added to his inane superstitions.
- Cloaking Mist: This power is instead an evolution of Swarming Locusts. It always comes from his mouth, but can be used without polymorphing. It's another emergency power that he very rarely uses, preferring his Signature Attack (Fortune Card allowing to re-use an Encounter power by expending a higher level one) that is Provocative Order.
- Shadow Soul: An evolution of the synergies between Object Projection, Shade Form, and the psychic power of his Foulborn Heritage, this power bonds Nashdu to a creature and allows him to teleport just as he telelport objects, although it's much more difficult to perform (and thus is a daily power). He can perform a deadly attack combined with this effect, but the effect is not dependent on the attack, so he even used this ability to follow Vurokk closely without having to run for miles like he does (Nashdu's physical endurance is very low)
- Dream Partner (Fortune Card): This is one of Nashdu's favorite techniques and it comes directly from his Foulborn Heritage. It basically messes up with a creature's mind, making an attack that was a sure hit, miss Nashdu or even an ally, but weakening Nashdu in the process.
- Crab Crawling (Fortune Card): This is connected to Underdark Climber and Nashdu's strange movements while While Shaped. Not easily performed (two cards in a twenty card deck), this maneuver allows Nashdu to crawl with such a speed and grace that it's impossible for an enemy to try to stop him.
- Spellplage Surge (Fortune Card): This is an ability that Nashdu can use rarely (two cards in a twenty card deck), and that even when he can, he uses only in desperate cases. It's a physical and channeled manifestation of the psychic wave generated by his Foulborn Heritage, disconnected from the pain reaction and coalesced into strange colorless fire, not very different from the one used by Ugin right at the Eye of Ugin . The fire comes off at first as an innocuous explosion and encircles everyone in a large area, friend or foe, without causing damage. The affected creatures are then able to use it with each attack, for a short time. Nashdu used it to empower Vurokk's attacks one or two times, again feeding Vurokk's wild superstitions.
====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&D Character Builder ======
Nashdu, level 8
Warlord Leadership Option: Canny Leader (Hybrid)
Hybrid Warlord Option: Hybrid Warlord Fortitude
Hybrid Assassin Option: Hybrid Assassin Will
Hybrid Talent Option: Shade Form
Penitent (+2 to Stealth)
FINAL ABILITY SCORES
STR 10, CON 10, DEX 21, INT 16, WIS 16, CHA 8
STARTING ABILITY SCORES
STR 10, CON 10, DEX 17, INT 14, WIS 14, CHA 8
AC: 22 Fort: 17 Ref: 21 Will: 21
HP: 49 Surges: 6 Surge Value: 12
Acrobatics +16, Insight +14, Nature +12, Perception +14, Stealth +17, Thievery +14
Arcana +9, Athletics +4, Bluff +3, Diplomacy +3, Dungeoneering +7, Endurance +4, Heal +7, History +9, Intimidate +3, Religion +7, Streetwise +3
Basic Attack: Melee Basic Attack
Basic Attack: Ranged Basic Attack
Eladrin Racial Power: Fey Step
Warlord Feature: Inspiring Word
Assassin Feature: Assassin's Shroud
Assassin Feature: Shade Form
Wild Talent Cantrip: Object Projection
Feat Utility: Unbalanced Mind
Druid Feature: Wild Shape
Assassin Attack 1: Executioner's Noose
Warlord Attack 1: Commander's Strike
Warlord Attack 1: Provocative Order
Warlord Attack 1: Destructive Surprise
Druid Attack 1: Swarming Locusts
Assassin Utility 2: Shadowed Legion
Assassin Attack 3: Cloaking Mist
Assassin Attack 5: Shadow Soul
Warlord Utility 6: Forward Observer
Warlord Attack 7: Friendly Fire
Level 1: Ghost Eyes
Level 2: Foulborn Heritage
Level 4: Hybrid Talent
Level 6: Initiate of the Old Faith
Level 8: Underdark Climber
Magic Ki Focus +2 x1
Gloaming Leather Armor +1 x1
Sustaining Cloak +2 x1
====== End ======
FORTUNE CARDS DECK:
1, 2 -> Reckless Onslaught (Attack, Common): "Play when you miss with an attack. Reroll the attack roll. You must use the second roll, even if it's lower. You then fall prone and take damage equal to your level."
3, 4 -> Spellplague Surge (Attack, Rare): "Play at the start of your turn. Until the start of your next turn, all attacks made by you and creatures within 5 squares of you deal 5 extra fire and psychic damage. "
5, 6 -> Signature Attack (Attack, Common): "Play when you use an encounter attack power. The power is not expended. Expend a higher level daily attack power or encounter attack power instead."
7, 8, 9 -> Gambler's Dodge (Defense, Common): "Play when you take damage. Roll a d20. On a roll of 10 or higher, you take half the normal damage. On a 9 or lower you take extra damage equal to your level."
10, 11, 12 -> Live And Let Live (Defense, Common): "Play at the end of your turn if you did not make an attack on that turn. You gain a +4 to all defenses until the start of your next turn."
13, 14 -> Self Sacrifice (Tactics, Uncommon): "Play when an ally adjacent to you is hit by a melee or ranged attack. That attack hits you instead."
15, 16 -> Twinkle Toes (Tactics, Uncommon): "Play when an ally you can see moves. After the move, you teleport up to 3 squares as a free action, or up to 5 squares if you have the fey origin. You cannot end this movement adjacent to an enemy."
17,18 -> Crab Crawl (Tactics, Rare): "Play when you start your turn prone. You crawl up to half your speed as a free action before you take any other actions on this turn. This movement does not provoke opportunity attacks."
19, 20 -> Dream Partner (Tactics, Rare): "Play when an enemy hits you or an ally adjacent to you with an attack. The attack misses instead. You are weakened until the end of your next turn."
- 6 Attacks (minimum per type in 20 card deck), 6 Defenses, 8 Tactics
- 6 Rares, 4 Uncommon, 10 Common