D&D 5E: The Road Not Taken
Valrak was born of house Claddghym in Ched Nasad. He was of a minor house but one that, like all in the Underdark, were always plotting their rise to the top. During the first months of his life, his Matron Mother had planned a takeover of the next highest house in order to attempt ascension in the matriarchal society that is Drow. However their attempted utter destruction of that house proved to be futile. The house was ready for their attack due to having mercenary spies within their ranks. Destroying another Drow family or house is perfectly acceptable, the only rule is it has to be done well, and thoroughly. Nobody can survive, or those that do survive (only the elite that can help the winning house) become adopted and it is understood that their house never was.
On this particular raid, house Claddghym was beaten into extinction, but one of the many mercenary spies within their walls stole Valrak’shi away. There was another secluded, reclusive order of which were in need of young male Drow, and they paid handsomely for one such as he with which nobody would notice missing.
Many weeks journey from the city of Ched Nasad in a cavern shrouded in shadow and silence laid a city named V’lesdexar, devoted to Mask, the Lord of Shadows. The population was small compared to other Drow cities, but that was the point, they were to be a select and secretive order. They did not want any unwanted attention from any followers of Lloth, the spider-bitch. Women were not allowed in this city, other than for personal use by the attending males. Within the city walls was a monastery with a small order of those who fought tireless to train their bodies as the ultimate weapon. Drilling daily to become perfectly balanced forces of will, foregoing chaotic paths of lust or intimacy, only there to hone their bodies and minds to become perfect. They were known as the Order of Maskarran.
Once every 60 years Grandmaster Glorfinn would send out for new recruits. With the Spider Queen constantly pushing her people into chaos, welcoming the infighting, it was a prime culling ground for the order looking for strong minds to be turned to their own ranks, minds that would not be missed.
Grandmaster Glorfinn passed the word to the mercenary band Braegan D’aerth that he would pay well for any Drow male babies, especially those that would not be missed. The monastery where they lived and trained was a world all its own, not following the normal patterns of Drow society but living by their own monastic code of conduct and order. Without order, chaos would reign supreme, and the Spider Queen loves her chaos…
Many years passed as a young Drow babe was trained to become a well-balanced warrior. Of the 12 babies brought to the monastery those years ago, 9 were still alive. Others having died from accidents while training that were not reparable by the Priests of Mask. Even though they were Drow and could never quite call each other friends or family, there was a certain respect they all felt for one another that was closer to a family than any would have ever felt in their original families. They were brothers of purpose, brothers of mind. None knew where they came from, nor did any care to know.
On the 60th year of their training, the 5 remaining monks were allowed to choose which path they would take from V’lesdexar, be it to further their training in the world above or below. They had experience in both as they have taken trips to the surface many times for training over the 40 year span in preparation. Grandmaster Glorfinn believed you needed experience in all aspects of the world to truly appreciate what it was to be Drow, to follow the ways of the Monk, and Mask was the Lord of Shadows, wanting a hand or emissary in every part of Faerun. Valrak’shi chose to travel above on the surface, to seek adventure and enlightenment under the sun. He was warned however that even though he may travel under the sun, he must return routinely below ground so as to allow his Drow heritage to be one with the darkness. Every 5 years a Monk of the Maskarran Order must return to the monastery to teach those still below of what he learned along his travels, be it spiritual, physical or otherwise. There are few Clerics of Mask at the monastery, but one can never truly know how many because of the nature of the deity himself.
Valrak’shi is a serious person, polite of manners and balanced of temperament. He’s not afraid to do what needs done if it helps keep balance and order, which are paramount to his ideals. He doesn’t believe in being cruel or overly kind, only in doing what is right or needs done. He is athletic and acrobatic as one would expect of a Monk, focused in mind and spirit and ready to gain as much knowledge as possible in his quest of enlightenment. He is 5’6" tall and weighs 162lbs. Dark of skin with swirling tattoos along his shoulders, fists, elbows, knees, heels and forehead, he walks with a confidence of one spent an entire lifetime in preparation for any physical encounter. His head is shaven clean and his eyes glow a deep red in the dark like many Drow. He owns nothing but what he can carry, nor does he want for anything more than the knowledge gained along his travels.
Waterdeep pt. 1
Valrak has spent several months on the road and open wilderness since leaving V’lesdexar. So far travel above ground has proved trying. A dark elf is seldom greeted with open arms. On more than one occasion, Valrak has chosen to sleep outside of villages or towns fearing what overly cautious and fearful townsfolk might think to do with him during the night. Even receiving service at small inns became challenging, often having to accept meals out back or at very least outside. The children are the cruelest but every so often proved to be the most kind.
On one particularly wet and miserable evening while in a small village outside of Loudwater, a small boy inside his families hut watched intently as Valrak, sitting upon an overturned water trough, ate the last few hard bites of several day old bread. The rain was both curse and blessing as it softened the bread enough to eat. Valrak noticed the boy but has learned not to be overly friendly to children for fear of their protective parents. As soon as Valrak finished the last bite the boy leapt to his feet and emerged in the doorway. Valrak could see him mutter something to the people inside just before heading out in the driving rain. He motioned to Valrak to follow as he made his way down the other side of the muddy cart path between the houses and inn. The boy led Valrak to the back side of town, across a small bean field to a nearly ruined storage building that sits hidden just inside the Southwood tree line. It looked to be a long abandoned logging shed of some sort. Recent work had been done on the roof however so it was reasonably dry and warmer. The boy introduced himself as Cluad. He didn’t say much more before leaving other than, “you should be safe here” , “no one comes here but me and my sister, Ellie” and “I really like your eyes”. He returned briefly a few hours later and left some food and drink just inside the door before leaving again.
In a few villages Valrak did hear from a few common folk that where aware of at least one other dark elf that is known throughout the realm. But even they were apprehensive of the monk. Valrak soon found himself along the Sword Coast heading toward to Waterdeep, City of Splendors. Perhaps a larger city, full of other races, classes and trades would be more welcoming; or at least more tolerant.
Waterdeep pt. 2
Waterdeep has proved to be slightly more accepting of Valrak. He has been staying at the Yawning Portal Inn on Rainrun Street in the Castle Ward for several weeks. The inn seems to be very accustomed to receiving adventures and people from all walks of life and in turn has treated Valrak better than anyone he has encountered above or even below ground in recent memory. The prices are fair and Valrak has been able to earn some food and coin working at the inn doing menial tasks such as hauling people down and up the portal and helping in the kitchen. The proprietor, Durnan, has been very accommodating and even friendly at times.
Waterdeep pt. 3
On this particular morning you are approached by a young boy in ceremonial robes holding a rolled parchment. He hands you the document, bows slightly while taking a step back and leaves saying nothing. The document is sealed with both ribbon and wax. Upon the wax is a seal, depicting a wooden cog with four spokes. The document reads as follows.
Valrak’shi of the Yawning Portal,
On behalf of the House of Inspired Hands, High Seeker Jhoadil Zulthind and associate merchant guilds; you have been selectively invited to audience two days hence forth.
Your unique traits and talents have been deemed worthy of offer. Acceptance and completion will find reward of both opportunity and coin. The utmost discretion is required.
To accept invitation, find yourself upon the noon hour on the twelfth day of this month in front of his Holy Reverence Central Court Service Tower in the Castle Ward.
May Gond bless the hand that crafts for the chosen.
Observer of the Watchful Order
The nights in Waterdeep have been a mixed blessing. Having breached the underdark and arrived in relative safety, you can’t help but feel you have escaped your home. Once again you have to steal from the sun, feel your energy drain where once you were energized and eager to move about. You feel safer but weaker all the same. Durnan has, for whatever reason, taken to you. He is friendlier than anyone you have ever met. His advice has proved acute even though you did not head his words, yet he welcomes you back with open arms, never asking of your whereabouts. While back in the Yawning Portal you learn of a party of adventures that intend to find Skullport for an unknown reason. They are to navigate the maze of Undermountain in hopes of reaching a secluded port. You have worked in the Yawning Portal for some time now.
You are well aware of the naive, would be explorers, that never climb back up the well. Your best guess is that for every ten you lower you bring back one. But dead men tell no tales so still they come and still you take their single gold piece as payment to be lowered to their fate.
What is more troublesome than the ill-fated adventures that are lowered each day are the dreams that have come to occupy your mind. From the darkness rises a shadowed and disfigured face of a woman. At first the dreams resembled the hag that you met in the Underdark but she has changed with each night to become more pale and far more bloodied.
She hovers over you as you lie helpless upon a cold stone surface. Each night your dreams become more vivid, more lucid. You can feel her hair caress your exposed body as she inspects your skin, her chilled bodily fluids drip upon the warmed surface of your shell, making you flinch and recoil as you remain paralyzed.
Each morning, as you wake, you gaze upon your tightening forearm where an empty pit remains. The pain returns to your mind as if it is being cut from you again and again.
In the last few days your arm from which the skin has been removed has convulsed, involuntary striking out and flailing towards nothing.