The fate of the Stalker

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Sylvos
Sojourner
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Joined: Mon Jul 23, 2001 5:01 am
Location: Guelph, ON, Canada
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The fate of the Stalker

Postby Sylvos » Sat Aug 11, 2001 6:30 pm

In an attempt to bring some continuity to my character now and my character from Soj2/Toril, I wrote up this story. Enjoy.

__________________________________________

You never realize how profoundly any given event will affect your life. A simple encounter can remain just that, or it can give you revelations that will change your life. Of course, such thoughts were far from my mind as I sat in the Yawning Portal Inn, enjoying a small meal before I returned to the wilderness.

An imposing-looking man approached the table where I was sitting, and I looked up into an unfamiliar face. “Sylvos!” he exclaimed. “Damn, I thought you were dead or something. How have you been?” he asked enthusiastically, dropping into the chair next to me.

After several minutes of confusion as I explained that I am the son of Sylvos Winteraven, the stranger revealed himself to be one of my father’s friends from long ago. I explained that I had taken up his calling and name, but I’d never seen him, which led to this man asking if I could find out what happened to his old friend. More for my own curiosity than his, I agreed.

********************************************

The crystal ball swirled in response to the aged gypsy seer’s command, slowly resolving into a clear image. Dark halls were illuminated by the dancing light of a torch, their cold stone telling me nothing of the location. Slowly the view spiraled outward, until I was looking down upon an aged half-elf and human companion. The human was a woman, and attractive in a large-boned type of way. She was garbed in thick furs, proclaiming her to be a resident of the north, although she was not of the barbarian race. The half-elf was old; his hair a pure silver without any hint of the original color. Despite his obvious age, he still carried himself with strength and grace. There was no doubt of this man’s following – upon his chest he carried a rosy medallion with the symbol of Lathander and a disk of Mielikki next to it. He moved with purpose through the halls, virtually ignoring the larger woman who was trying to impede his progress. As the final effect of the gypsy’s magic took life, the sounds of their discussion echoed hollowly within the confines of the tent.

“By the spirits, you are stubborn. This is a suicide trip, and you know it!” the woman growled at the ranger. “Coming down here, assaulting the Drow without any support? I don’t care how long you’ve been a ranger… even the mighty Stalker can’t win alone against that temple.”

At the use of that name, the elderly ranger turned about to face the woman. I recoiled at the look on his face. I’ve never before seen the face of somebody devoid of all hope, although I have heard of it. Even the wan smile he offered to his tormenter was lifeless, and his silvery-gray eyes were… sad. “I know that, Tal. As you said, I’ve fought my share of battles and I know when I can’t win. But I don’t care. There’s nothing left to carry on for. My wife has been dead for several years, my old friends have all left this world. All I have is one unfinished vow – to avenge my mother who was sacrificed to that vile Goddess they serve.”

His response appeared to shock ‘Tal’. “That’s ridiculous. You’re still great at what you do, there is so much you could teach the other rangers. You have friends and allies who care about you. Why throw it all away?” she asked passionately.

“I have passed on all that needs to be taught. My other lessons – those of tolerance and balance - are ignored by my brethren. This is the age of intolerance, and in the spirit of that I have little patience for such close-minded views. I choose to make my end where I first began my career.”

The moon-white haired woman shook her head violently, planting her body in front of the ranger’s. “You’re just being selfish. It’s not like you, and I’m not about to let you just throw your life away because you’re having a tantrum.”

In a movement too quick to follow and defying his obvious age, ‘Stalker’ grabbed ‘Tal’ and pinned her against the wall. I’ve never before seen such fury cloud a man’s face. His blue-green eyes glinted dangerously as he pushed his face to within inches of her own. “Tantrum?” he asked quietly. The rage on his face would imply a shouting anger, but his quiet intensity was somehow even greater than a shout. “My wife and I were split apart by decree of the gods after we had five years together. My best friend and ally was also torn from me by that decision. I railed against it, I spouted my ideas of balance. Good without evil is nothing, ad infinitum.

“I have been unnaturally aged beyond my time. I have had my heart destroyed several times over. My time is done, my words ignored. I’ll take my death in obscurity over life in misery. I have just one last target to stalk: Essra. The drow bitch won’t escape me this time.”

“Sylvos, I understand what you’re saying. Honest, I do. But suicide isn’t going to solve anything. So she’ll be dead; so will you. What does this accomplish aside from a… a juvenile need for revenge?” It looked ludicrous – the larger woman being pinned against the wall by Sylvos, arguing with him despite the position. “You’ve tried to kill her before, and always she had a clone there for you to kill. Why will this time be any different?”

“Because this time I will attack in the midst of their high ritual. Either way I will succeed in her death. Either I kill her, or her own kin kill her for placing a clone at a high ritual.” Sylvos released Tal from his hold, and looked off down the passageway absently. “I can’t afford to fail. Will you use your magic to aid me, Talshya? To aid but not come with me? For this, I have to be alone.”

“The high ritual?” she asked incredulously. “You’re kidding, right? That temple will be infested with drow and spiders. You won’t even get close to the priestess. What are you trying to accomplish? Obviously your death, but I thought you wanted a chance at Essra.”

Sylvos shook his head. “I don’t have time to explain. Please Tal, one final favour before the last night falls. The time is just about right.”

With a final sigh, the woman did as he asked. In the image, Sylvos’s form became indistinct and I could see the phantom image of a blur spell. The seer’s spell, it seemed, allowed me to pierce these illusions. The ranger’s body hardened into stone, and the final spell took effect as he loped off down the hallway. His speed doubled, and he virtually flew down the dim halls. Just as the vision spiraled into a new scene, I heard the final blessing. “Rest in peace, Sylvos Winteraven. My clan will say a prayer for you.”

*******************************************

When the image in the ball became clear again, I looked out onto a scene of depravity. I have heard rumours of the famed drow rituals, but they do not do them justice. I was looking out over a vast hall, dimly lit by purple faerie fire strategically placed on the arches. The room was cunningly worked in spider motifs; the images were all of some aspect of the Spider Queen. My vision drifted downward to the floor of the massive chamber and took in the participants. The room was filled with dark elves, their melodious voices raised in righteous prayer-song to their deity. Near the back of the hall, naked bodies heaved against each other in the beginnings of an orgy that I knew would eventually take over the entire gathering. I wanted to recoil from the scene, from the sheer depravity, but I had no control over my own vision. I could dimly hear the seer chuckling as I cringed at the scene, and she finally relented and shifted the vision to one dark corner.

Standing in that corner was a sentry, or so I at first assumed. Upon closer inspection, I realized that it was the old ranger, Sylvos. My namesake, my father. He had shed the gear he was wearing before, and was now garbed just like a drow warrior. The only things unchanged were his weapons, but I knew that the drow used surface weapons as well as their own fine blades. His hair was completely gone, and somehow Sylvos had coloured his skin black. A helmet shaped like a spider perched upon his head concealed the slightly rounded ears that revealed his heritage as a half-elf. In total, the disguise was excellent and should pass given the drug-induced frenzy that occupied the majority of the minds present.

For a long time, Sylvos stood quietly in the shadows and watched the proceedings. Periodically he edged closer to the central dais upon which the spider altar sat. I was forced to listen to the awful hymn, made even worse by the beauty of the voices. Dark elves they may have been, but they were still children of Corellon’s blood and they possessed an innate beauty to them unrivaled.

The hymn took on a different tone, and the enchanted view I had moved back away from Sylvos, to allow me vision of the dais. A drow female was descending from the darkness above, gently floating downwards as though supported by the song. She was dressed in intricate, spider-web woven robes that fluttered with her downwards motion. Coiled upon one hip was one of the dreaded snake-whips that I have heard about; the heads twisted and writhed in sinuous rhythm with the hymn. I could only assume that this was Essra, and the quickly concealed grimace of hatred across Sylvos’ face confirmed my suspicions.

Gently, Essra landed just in front of the blood-stained altar that dominated the dais. She was handsome, unlike the delicate beauty that many drow females possess. Given my limited understanding, I guessed that Essra was several hundred years old. Her face was unmarked by the years, but she had an aura… almost a presence that indicated vast experience and power. A few minutes after she arrived, the glory hymn became muted as the revelers paid attention to their priestess. Off to the side, I saw Sylvos edge still closer as he gazed up at the Drow priestess with as much intensity as the rest of the following.

She raised her arms with a grandiose flourish, allowing the long sleeves to slide down to her elbows and revealing slender, delicate hands. “Let the glory of Lloth be praised!” she called out loudly, inspiring the gathering to break into another hymn to their god. Once the song had subsided, she called out again. “The sacrifice is prepared – let the elf be brought forth and its heart given for Her glory!”

It was this call that spurred Sylvos to action. I watched as his blades appeared in his hands and he leapt forward to strike the priestess down. She turned to face him, a mocking smile upon her face as he bounced off an invisible barrier. “Good,” she purred. “The elf has arrived. Take him!”

Drow warriors surged forward, weapons drawn and ready to smite the intruder. Despite the shock of having his attack thwarted, Sylvos managed to maneuver his way to the rear wall, where he was able to face the horde without having to worry about his back. Where before I saw resolution and determination upon his face, now Sylvos’s face reflected despair.

He fought on, managing to keep a killing blow from landing through dazzling swordwork and no small amount of luck. After the third warrior was felled and the attackers dropped back for a moment, the priestess herself approached the old ranger. “You fool. I was warned of your attack days ago. Ordinarily the Spider Queen wouldn’t want a half-breed’s heart for sacrifice, but for you she was willing to make a sacrifice.” Essra’s face twisted into a malicious grin. “I’m told that she’ll let you experience some of the torment your mother’s soul has been privileged to enjoy.”

Sylvos leapt forward, swinging his scimitar and falchion viciously. Essra laughed and met his attack with her own mace and whip. She blocked the scimitar slash with her mace and allowed the falchion to slice through her robes and scrape along the fine-mesh mithril chainmail she wore. Acting on their own volition, the heads on the whip darted forward and attacked Sylvos, biting where his flesh was unprotected by the armour he wore.

He dropped back, ignoring the mocking laughter the surrounding drow warriors offered. Essra joined the laughter as she looked upon the dejected ranger. “You have provided us with some amusement, Sylvos. For that, you have our gratitude. But it is time for you to go join your mother.” The five heads on the whip darted forward, hissing and biting at my father. He tried to fend them off, but already their poison was working in his system and his attempts were too feeble. With a muted clang, the falchion dropped to the floor as his grip upon the blade slacked. Curiously enough, while it looked like the grip upon his scimitar was similarly weakened, the blade would not leave his grasp. Essra frowned at this, but decided that the ranger was sufficiently weakened. She stepped forward to drag him up, when a rosy glow suddenly filled the cavern.

I have heard rumours of a powerful magical item – one that removes all effects of aging upon an adventurer. It restores them to youth once again in order to continue their efforts in adventuring. I hadn’t given any thought to the rosy medallion that Sylvos had carried, but apparently it was just such an item. The glow washed over the assembly, and as it faded away Sylvos acted. He looked no younger than before, but his left hand found the strength to swing weakly at the gloating Priestess.

The scimitar – a beautiful weapon of obvious elven craft – seemed to come to life in Sylvos’ hand. It began as a tiny spark of light at the tip of the blade that flashed along the length of the weapon into the hand that swung it. I sensed the gypsy slowing down the flow of images, to allow me to see what happened next. The scimitar blurred, striking out wildly at the woman standing in front of Sylvos. The first strike knocked Essra’s mace out of her hand, and the second sliced the heads off her whip. The third slash swung back across and cut cleanly through her armour inches below her collarbones. A fourth strike sent the blade into Essra’s foul heart, stopping her mocking laughter. A final swing - the scimitar buried itself to the hilt in my father’s chest, depriving the drow not only of their priestess, but also their sacrifice.

I tried to pull back, believing the image to be finished. The picture held me though; there was still more to be seen. Essra was lying on the floor, her lifeblood pooled around her motionless form. My father leaned against the wall, one hand grasping the hilt of his scimitar. For the moment, the watching drow were stunned motionless but I suspected that wouldn’t last. A slight smile curved upon my father’s face, and I heard a sound not unlike the sound of ice on a river cracking.

Sylvos’ hand dropped away from the scimitar, and I saw the finely tooled hilt darken slowly as some force crept along the length of it. With a final crack, the now blackened hilt dropped away from my father’s body, revealing my father’s unmarked chest. There was no sign of the mortal injury, nor of the blade to accompany the hilt lying on the floor. As the scene faded from the crystal ball, I saw my father’s body slowly slide to the floor, still wearing the tiny smile of satisfaction.

********************************************

“So, Rylan, that is what happened to your old friend. In the end, he managed to accomplish what he wanted.” I sipped at my drink to clear away the thickness in my throat. I’d only ever had Mother’s stories of him before, and they were coloured always by her own sorrow. But now I have a little bit more of my father; I know how he met his end and I will add my prayer to those of Talshya’s clan.

“So he finally caught up to her in Undermountain. I wish I could have helped him,” Rylan lamented quietly.

I smiled wanly, appreciating the sentiment and knowing that my father would never have allowed anyone else to make that final journey with him. Perhaps if Rylan had still been there he never would have felt the same loneliness that led him to his fateful end. At this point however, it was a moot point. “He would be happy to know that you are back,” I assured him. “I have to leave, but if I find out anything more I’ll let you know.”

I stood and moved as if to leave, when Rylan’s voice halted me for a moment. “There’s a lot of him in you,” he said quietly. “I think he would be proud of who you’ve become. Let me know if you ever need my help.” I nodded without turning, and left the dark tavern into the daylight world. In time, I’d learn more of the Stalker but for now I would be content with the scraps I had.
rylan
Sojourner
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Postby rylan » Sun Aug 12, 2001 5:55 pm

Very nice Sylvos. Can't wait for more Image

Well, that gives me more incentive to start a story now. hehehe Image
Sylvos
Sojourner
Posts: 571
Joined: Mon Jul 23, 2001 5:01 am
Location: Guelph, ON, Canada
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Postby Sylvos » Wed Aug 14, 2002 4:16 am

Bumped this to keep it close to the newly posted sequel...
Nilan
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Postby Nilan » Wed Aug 14, 2002 8:17 am

Well done

Nilan
Sylvos
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Joined: Mon Jul 23, 2001 5:01 am
Location: Guelph, ON, Canada
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Postby Sylvos » Fri Aug 20, 2004 2:06 am

Bumping for the full continuity effect

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