I recently started playing a Dungeons & Dragons 5e game and thought it would be fun to write up the back story the group and I came up with for our characters.
The Aldor family. Three siblings each born to a destiny bigger than the small town of Kalansvale where they lived. Each feeling a calling from somewhere beyond the comforts of the warm hearth of home. Each with a darkness inside them that they never dared to speak of.
Ildengard, the oldest, had dedicated his life to service. Following in the footsteps of his father, Jandar Aldor, he had risen through the ranks of The Stand defending Kalansvale with every fibre of his being. An age of prosperity and peace had fallen upon the town and surrounding forests but Ildengard remained vigilant, ever watchful for signs of The Darkness. He longed to take the fight to that unspeakable foe, beyond the Last Keep to join the ranks of the fabled Watchers and stand beside Emperor Kalphon in his eternal battle to hold back The Darkness. The desire to protect was strong in Ildengard and was fiercest for his younger sister and brother. He carried the burden of their parents deaths on his shoulders. Nothing would come before his family.
Aya, full blood sister to Ildengard, had always felt closer to her half-brother Damrai. Wracked with a lifetime of unspoken guilt for her mother Imzel’s death in childbirth she preferred the company of the trees and wildlife of the forests to that of people. Her Elven step-mother, Sylvaria – Damrai’s birth-mother, recognised her affinity with nature at an early age and taught her the skills of her people. Hunting with bow, tracking, communing with nature. Aya was happy to disappear from town for days always returning with plenty of game and foraged food to replenish the towns stores. When she was in town Aya was never far from Damrai’s side always watching out for him.
Damrai, Dammy to his siblings (but no-one else!). A half-elf, a Beacon, he served his Penance when it suited him. When it didn’t he had a way of never being discovered. Slight of frame and not suited to hard labour the name and reputation of his family had seen him serve his daily toil in the houses and business of the town elders and merchants. His thirst for knowledge was unquenchable by the modest libraries and collections in Kalansvale but he had consumed every drop of learning he could. He discovered as a young boy that the shadow of his elder brother and sister was the perfect place to hide. As a Beacon he would have been subject to prejudice and mistrust but as an Aldor he was tolerated and given as much freedom as anyone could expect who served the Penance. Of all the knowledge he craved it was knowledge of magic that he desired the most. Marked at birth, magic was inside him, it was drawn to him and he to it. He wanted nothing more than to learn how to use it. He had figured out much in the dark corners of buildings in which he served his Penance, always shielded from suspicion by he shadow of his family, but he desired, deserved so much more. Darkness was his place, he did not fear it.
The bond between the siblings was far stronger than the bond of blood they shared through their father. Something fierce and strong had been forged in the burning fires of pain and loss. Ildengard and Aya’s mother died giving birth to Aya. Their father took the loss hard. As Captain of the town guard he had always counted on his wife to raise his children. He was lost on his own and threw himself into his work. At only 7 years old Ildengard carried much of the burden of the household, heartbroken that the light in his father’s eyes had dimmed with grief. He cared for his infant sister as best he could. Jandar desperately wanted to repair his family but the pain of Imzel’s death was too raw. No-one in town could fill the void left by her passing until one night he met a stranger.
Though not long lived like the Elves in the stories from before the Cataclysm Sylvaria was just as beautiful as the Elfmaidens of legends. She had travelled from town to town easing the suffering of those touched by The Darkness. She was not a healer but somehow had the ability calm those afflicted by maladies of the soul. When she came to Kalansvale she eased the final days of Fyevarra, the elderly village school mistress, who at the end had fallen to a deep dementia screaming of darkness and destruction. In a grief stricken rage Fyevarra’s son, Marcon, ambushed Sylvaria in the night – crying that she was the cause of his mothers demise. He fell upon her in a frenzy raining his massive labourer’s fists down upon her delicate Elven frame.
It was on this night that Sylvaria met Jandar. Ever alert Jandar responded to the sounds of the brutal attack knocking Marcon senseless with the flat of his mighty greatsword. Sylvaria fell into his arms half beaten to death. When she awoke she found her wounds bound and tended to by Jandar and his children. She recovered in the warmth of the Adlor home and as her strength grew so did her love for Jandar, Ildengard and Aya. They were married on Midsummers Eve in front of the whole town. Marcon and some of the other men of the town muttered dark words under their breath but never within earshot of an Aldor. They called Sylvaria witch and said that Jandar was falling to The Darkness that she had brought upon him.
Despite the whispers of some townsfolk the light had returned to Jandar’s eyes and shone brightest at the news of his third child. Damrai was born to the great joy of his parents and siblings. Even when he was found to be tainted with magic Jandar’s happiness that his family was complete again could not be dampened.
They lived happily for some time, Ildengard rising through the ranks of The Stand following in Jandar’s footstep. Aya became a valuable asset to the town rangers – the woodcraft Sylvaria taught her as a child blossomed as a young woman. Damrai did well at school at first but soon overtook his teachers. His thirst for knowledge outstripping the capability of his peers and elders. As he entered his teens he became aloof and prone to dark moods having no friends aside from his family. Some days he resented the overbearing love of Ildengard preferring to spend time with the quiet Aya. He would often accompany her on hunting trips studying all he could about the outside world. He became a far better woodsman than his appearance would betray. When Aya ranged deep into the forest Damrai snatched what little time he could to try and manipulate the magical forces within him. His progress was slow with the limited resourced he had obtained whilst serving his Penance in town.
When Jandar retired it was to his great pride that Ildengard took his place as Captain of the town guard. To have risen so high, so fast at such a young age in The Stand marked him as unique. As Captain of the town guard Ildengard gained access to The Stand’s martial library and spent many hours and late nights studying the stories of the Watchers.
It was at the end of one of these nights as he headed home that he came across his siblings entering town from the forest. Aya screamed to him and he rushed to find his brother slumped in her arms his hands raw, bleeding and burned. Ildengard felt a rush of protective desire building inside him and took Damrai’s hands into his own. Stories of the Watchers ability to heal wounds filled his head and for the first time in his life he prayed to the Emperor to grant him this gift. A radiant light grew from the brothers hands and faded moments later. Damrai had fallen into a deep sleep his wounds healed. Aya embraced her brothers, tears of joy falling down her face. Ildengard gave thanks to the Emperor and that night pledged to pay for his gift by joining him at his side.
The cause of Damrai’s wounds was forgotten by Ildengard but Aya had seen Damrai fell a charging boar deep in the forest with a stream of purple energy that seemed to leap from his hands. She had approached him unseen and watched as the energy intensified before exploding around him and taking him to the ground.
Whenever the town was threatened the snap of Aya’s bow was heard alongside the clank of Ildengard’s shining armour. They fought well together, communicating without words. Ildengard meeting his foes head on, protected by his faith and the steel of his chain mail. He swung greatsword or greataxe with righteous fury at all that threatened Kalansvale while Aya struck silently from the shadows felling foes with the deadly accuracy of her bow. Damrai shared in his siblings gift for unspoken communication and was never far when Ildengard and Aya lead the town to fend off bandits, or wolves. Although his role in the fight was never clear to the townspeople he would return alongside his brother and sister exhausted but satisfied from the fight.
It was on a clear cold night in deep mid winter when life for the Aldor family was shattered. Ildengard was patrolling the edge of town when felt a tingling feeling creeping across his skin. His hairs stood on end as dread grew within him. He changed his path and headed towards town following the ever growing sense of despair. The full moon that had lit his way was suddenly plunged into an eerie eclipse. He noticed a house bathed in a sickly purple glow. His house. As he sprinted towards home the light intensified becoming so bright that he had to shield his eyes. A clap of thunder, so loud that it shook the ground, knocked him off his feet. As he scrambled up he saw a figure stumbling out of the house. It was Damrai. “THEY’RE DEAD” he screamed over and over. His eyes wild with grief, his sleeves rolled up showing his charred and blackened forearms and hands. Ildengard, torn by his desire to heal Damrai and his need to discover the fate of his father and step-mother, froze momentarily. A shadow darted from woods nearby, it was Aya, she fell to her knees at Damrai’s side covering her ears to block out his screens. Ildengard snapped back into reality and headed towards the house. Every inch of him screaming with fear. The air tasted foul, it smelled of darkness. He entered the family home to find Jandar and Sylvaria laying at the centre of the room. He knew before he even looked into their vacant eyes that they were gone. The rational side of him told him there was nothing he could do here and that his brother still needed aid. He stepped outside, his face pale and grim and gathered the still screaming Damrai into his arms. He felt the Emperor’s light fill him and as the healing waves engulfed them he whispered “Dammy, what did you do?”
Damrai stopped screaming and his face was filled with peace. Ildengard felt Aya join them in their embrace. The Aldor children held each other tight in the chill air of the moon lit night. Ildengard knew that the townspeople would blame Damrai for this tragedy. This would mean death for a Beacon. He knew of the whispers about his brother – though none would dare say a word against Damrai in Ildengard’s presence. He made a heartbreaking decision. As Captain of the town guard he would have to report to the town council on the death of his parents. If he blamed his father the family would be disgraced and he would lose his rank and any chance he had of becoming a watcher. They would be shunned him, Aya and Damrai. His only hope was to say that his beloved step-mother Sylvaria had fallen to The Darkness bringing about her death and the death of her husband.
As he made his report he fought back the bile that rose in his throat as he told the lies. He had tried to discover the truth from Damrai but at any mention of that night Damrai would became cold and shut down. He knew in his heart that his brother could never have killed his parents but it tortured his very soul that he would never know the cause of their deaths. He searched for miles for taints of The Darkness leaving the daily defence of Kalansvale to the other men of The Stand. He knew now, more than ever, that holding back The Darkness was not enough, it had taken so much from him and he must play his part in destroying it.
Aya and Damrai had agreed reluctantly to Ildengard’s deception. The three of them had buried Slyvaria deep in the forest as was the custom of her people and cried bitter tears at her lose. That her memory would be forever tainted in the minds of the townsfolk cut them deep. It hurt most how readily people accepted the lies. They whispered that they had never trusted the Elven witch and that they had always seen this day coming. It was only the great love and respect that the town had for Jandar, Ildengard and Aya that kept them in good standing. Damrai was tolerated at best, the rumours about him intensifying.
Damrai became withdrawn, even more so than usual, and distant. Aya lost her joy and spent longer and longer away from the village in the forests. Ildengard ranged further and further in his quest leaving more and more responsibility to his underlings.
Ildengard could feel his family crumbling, the grief still burning years after the night of his parents passing. The Darkness dominated his thoughts, he spoke at every chance he got to his siblings and about his desire to join with the Watchers at the side of the Emperor. Usually the rock and strength of the family Damrai and Aya looked upon their brother with pity. Feeling his pain and their own. Five years of grief filled existence later the three Aldors stood in a clearing in the forest outside of Kalansvale. In the light of the full moon in the deep mid winter they honoured the memories of their mother and their father as they had every year since they had passed.
Now in his 40th year Ildengard stood silent in full armour his great sword and great axe slung across his back. He glanced at his sister. Aya almost melted into the forest in her rangers garb. Her longbow slung ready, her quiver of deadly arrows full. Her eyes where wide and alert as usual but they looked sad and empty. Her 33 years had been kind to her and see looked far closer in age to Damrai than to Ildengard.
Damrai stood tall and slender, his features clearly showing his Elven heritage. In this light he looked like his mother. His hands hidden in the soft velvety robes that he favoured. Mysterious pouches hung from his belt. At 24 he was barely a man but something in his eyes was old. Noticing Ildengard’s gaze upon him he scratched at the marking on his neck. The eye that marked him as a Beacon.
Ildengard turned to his siblings his eyes bright in the light of the moon. He stood imposing at his full height and drew his fathers great sword. Aya and Damrai met his gaze, this was the Ildengard then knew in battle, the leader, the older brother that would always protect them.
His voice rang out across the clearing
“I’m leaving, I’m transferring to the Last Keep”
“We know…” Damrai said his lips curling into the faintest of smiles.
“We’re coming with you!”
Aya laughed at the shrill tone of her own voice in the stillness of the empty forest. Soon Ildengard’s booming baritone joined Aya’s laughter alongside the soft chuckle of Damrai.