Scholar of the Cult of Vengeful Souls, Scourge Warlock of the Infernal Pact, the Water Shadow
Character concept by Sam Deutsch, all rights reserved.
Born: circa 1311 Avard
Current Status: In the employ of the Star's End Monastery.
Even though he looks no older than 25 years old, Halkad almost always has a dark and stolid look about him. Dressed in his midnight black hooded cloak and leather boots, he stands one inch over six feet tall. His 200 pounds may not all be muscle, but he shows no sign of being soft. Far from it, the Water Shadow, as he has often times been called, always seems to have a lean and somewhat menacing look. Halkad’s face is one that once seemed to have radiated with boyish beauty, but that has now taken on a more hardened edge. A glance from his water blue eyes, which contrast sharply against his shoulder-length black hair and light-colored skin, is often enough to give anyone pause. Perhaps it wasn’t just the eyes. When it wasn’t covered by a cloak, cap or patch, people were often drawn to the savage scar that ran down through his left eyebrow and then around the eye socket itself, ending on the highest point of Halkad’s angular cheekbone. Once taking on gruesome shades of reds and purples, the scar had changed color a few years ago to a mesmerizing array of ocean blues and turquoise.
Underneath the cloak is padded leather armor the color of charcoal. The armor is unremarkable other than the fact that it always seemed to be slippery, damp, and cool to the touch, much like the skin of a stingray. The armor extends just past his wrists, and on the index finger of Halkad’s left hand is an iron band that, if anyone dared to stare at it long enough, seems to take on various shades of silver and obsidian. In this hand is usually a cylinder measuring approximately six inches long and one inch in diameter. It has a polished surface revealing swirling ebony seemingly trapped inside of it, and in Halkad’s hand the rod seems to vibrate with energy as if it can barely be contained. When the cylinder cannot be seen, it is because it has been stowed in a hidden pocket in the sleeve of Halkad’s cloak.
Halkad’s other hand is free, save for the coin he sometimes holds there. One inch in diameter, the iron coin looks heavy and full of substance. On one side are the words written in the Primordial language, “The Cult of Vengeful Souls.” On the other side are symbols arranged in an interlocking pattern, representing all of the worldly elements. Despite the coin’s seemingly great arcane immensity, Halkad is often seen flipping the coin deftly through his fingers, over and then under his knuckles, back and forth from one end of his hand to the other as if he was a hypnotist or magician.
“This has always been my most cherished place in the kingdom. There is nothing I love more than the waters of my homeland, Quor Kamal. I will miss them, and you, dear Halkad, terribly.”
And thus were the final words spoken by the Lady Stonda on the day she left her Lord Father’s realm and entered The World.
Even at fourteen years old, Halkad knew why she had to leave. Stonda’s life in her Lord Father’s keep had become unbearable to her. The games of politics, the court, and nobility had left her disenchanted, and there was nothing left here for her now. Nothing, but Halkad. He and the Lady Stonda had kept their friendship a secret to her family, which allowed her to confide in him. Halkad knew of the savage and lustful minds of men, and thus it came as no surprise when Stonda told him of the desires of Lord Bitha. Those in power always wielded it for their own personal ends, and as a low-born commoner, he knew better than to trust his fate to the rule of the noble-born.
With Stonda gone there was nothing left in the kingdom for Halkad, and he was considering leaving as well. However, Halkad’s path was much different than Stonda’s. He knew this two years earlier when the name calling and bullying took a turn for the worse and turned into savage beatings. Upon learning of Halkad’s close friendship with the Lady Stonda, Halkad’s peers sniggered at his audacity. Who was he, Halkad, to have a confidant such as the Lord’s Daughter? They called Halkad “the Lady’s Puppy” and “the Great Lord Halkad,” but when he confronted them about the name-calling, words turned to fists. Eventually, fists turned to sticks, rocks, and anything else close at hand for anyone who wanted a piece of the Lady’s Puppy. It was after the second time that he had been beaten unconscious and left for dead that he vowed he would kill the boys who had hurt him. They would all die by his hand.
It was at that moment that a stranger had approached Halkad, who was laying curled up in the dirt of an alleyway, still bleeding from his last beating. If one were to ask him later, Halkad would not have been able to recognize this person, even if he hadn’t lost vision in one of his eyes from a recent clubbing. “When you are ready to exact your revenge, I will be waiting for you. He placed in Halkad’s hand a silver coin. Written on the coin in a language he would only later come to understand, were the words “The Cult of Vengeful Souls”.
Halkad never knew his father, and his mother had taken ill years ago and hadn’t even been able to recognize her own son for months. Later, with Stonda gone, Halkad had thought long and hard about what the stranger had said. He knew it hadn’t been a dream because he still had the coin. As he sat in the dirt with his back against the stone wall of the castle, Halkad removed the coin from his pocket, turned it over in his fingers, and thought about the stranger.
“Hello Halkad,” the stranger said. It was like he had been next to the boy all along. Are you ready to take your revenge?
The boy nodded. He did not look it, but he was sure.
“Very well, but if you are to join the Cult of Vengeful Souls you must surrender part of yourself to our cause. You will learn to wield the most deadly magic known across the many realms. In exchange, you must bind your spirit to one of the elements through which you will derive your power. Do you know of the elements, Halkad?”
Somehow, he did, and he said so.
“Very well,” replied the stranger. “Which element do you choose?”
Halkad sat silent for a moment. He remembered the last words Stonda had spoken to him about her most cherished love of Quor Kamal. He felt the wetness of the tears on his cheeks. They were tears of longing for his lost friend, tears of hatred of those who punished him for being a friend to a noble-born, and tears of joy for finaly being accepted by those who could bestow upon him the very gift he needed to exact his vengeance.
The answer came to Halkad without another thought. “My Lord,” Halkad said, unsure of how to address the stranger, “I cannot choose and element, for an element has already chosen me. It is in the blood pumping through my heart, which belongs to the Lady Stonda. It is in the tears I shed for my dying mother, who no longer recognizes me as her son. It is in the saliva that wets my lips, from which shall pass the words that will curse my enemies. And finally, it is in the urine that will soak my enemies’ blood-stained and lifeless bodies after I’ve taken my revenge. There is no choice to make. I bind myself, my love, my hate, my being, to water.
Thus was the induction into the Cult of Vengeful Souls of the one who would come to be known as Halkad the Vengeful, Scourge Warlock of the Infernal Pact, the Water Shadow.
Years passed, and with his training complete it was not difficult for Halkad to find his childhood tormentors. Halkad had been honing his craft while his enemies (he no longer considered them his peers) stagnated in the slums of Quor Kamal. Halkad expected his first kill to be difficult. It turned out he was wrong. After five years with the Warlocks of The Cult, acts of extreme violence came easily to Halkad. It was nothing much different from his training. Instead of targeting a fleeing wood deer or a charging boar, the target was another person (another animal, Halkad reminded himself).
Each of his five enemies were struck down in turn, and in each case the strategy had been the same as what he had learned during his training. Halkad opened with his warlock’s curse, which flowed easily from his lips (as he had predicted years earlier). What followed was a preparatory strike, an attack that delivered only modest damage on its own, but the main purpose of which was to leave the enemy completely defenseless when the deathblow was finally unleashed. Curse them, weaken them, and then destroy them. Halkad was quick to learn that when it comes to that third and devastating attack, no curse, spell, charm, or other magic could be used unless it was abhorrently violent. Such was the way of the Cult of Vengeful Souls.
After dispatching his childhood enemies, Halkad turned his attention toward finding his childhood friend. The time he had spent away from her, while valuable, was like a chasm in his heart. He spent a year searching for the Lady Stonda, and ultimately learned she was adventuring in the lands West of Boulderdash near a Monastery called Star’s End. Halkad found that the easiest way to explore and travel while remaining unseen was by indulging his prowess as a watershaper, and navigating the realm via its waterways.
Rising from the depths of a vast lake, yet still far from the shore, Halkad saw somebody sitting by the water’s edge. From the look of the posture it was a young woman of maybe twenty years. He wanted to be certain it was her, but he dared not show himself yet in these lands as to not raise suspicion. As stealthily as his name implied, the Water Shadow sacrificed a portion of his life force to assume liquid form. One with the lake, Halkad flowed to the water’s edge and peered into the most beautiful face he had ever seen. Her green eyes, those lips, that expression of longing… He’d seen that expression before on a girl of only sixteen – it could only be Stonda.
Indeed, it was. Stonda was staring dreamily into the clear shallow water from her perch on a rock adjacent to the shore. She was close enough to reach her slender fingers down into the pool that was Halkad, caress his lapping waves, cup her hand, and bring his cool water up to her full, dark lips to take a drink. How Halkad had longed to kiss those lips and proclaim his adoration for her. He wanted to rematerialize, burst forth from the lake, and embrace her with all of his newfound strength.
“So do it then. Show yourself.” The words were spoken by Lady Stonda. She did not take her eyes off the water. Taken aback by the break in the silence, Halkad gathered himself in preparation to do exactly that, but then steadied himself when he saw three men appear at the edge of the wood near the lake. Stonda had sensed their presence, and had called them out.
All three of the men were very large, and the crimson red plate armor they wore could not hide their muscularity. They walked three abreast. The first carried a hammer, while the other two brandished broadswords. There was a hungry look about them, and as they approached, both Stonda and Halkad could tell they did not intend to leave Stonda in peace.
“I knew I saw me a treat by the lake,” said the one on the left with a toothy grin.
Unsurprised, Stonda stood and turned to face the men. She had known the likes of would-be rapists before. It never ended well for them. But these brutes didn’t know that. They’d soon find out.
“Oh, she’s a pretty one!” hooted the man on the right after getting a look at Stonda’s face. He began fidgeting with his swordbelt and was practically hopping from foot to foot.
The one in the center was the next to speak. He stepped closer, not more than ten feet away from Stonda. She didn’t flinch. “It truly is a fine day for it girl. You should know better than to be out here on your own.”
“She’s not alone.”
The voice came from behind Stonda. It was a familiar voice, but it surprised her nonetheless. She turned suddenly, but glimpsed only a shadow of a man bolting past her, his black cloak shimmering as it seemingly disappeared before her eyes. There was an empty silence in the air.
Then came the blast.
The clearing turned into a scene from Hell. A dense nucleus of fire appeared, and then, in an instant, blasted forward to engulf the three warriors in dense flame. The result was devastating. The fire almost immediately reached the forest at the edge of the clearing, but stopped just short of the trees. After a few seconds, Stonda was able to see through the inferno and made out silhouettes of the three men writhing in pain. Suddenly, at the origin of the blast appeared the black cloak, blowing in the wind brought about by the fire. The figure was facing the flames, so all Stonda was able to see was a figure slightly taller than she was with black wavy hair that fell to just above the un-donned hood of his cloak. She could not catch a glimpse of the face of who it was that attacked her assailants, but before she could call out to him, he bolted to his right, skirting the flames, and then, after only a few strides, he vanished again.
This time Stonda did not hesitate. She ran around the flames to the left and saw two fighters emerging from the inferno. The third – the one with the hammer – was on his knees in the center of the blaze - had succumbed to the fire.
The two fighters shifted so they stood back to back. One faced Stonda, who was standing ten feet away, while the other searched for the man in black. The latter man’s eyes were wild. He was ripe with the stench of fear mixed with blood, shit, and cooked flesh.
And then, opposite Stonda, and ten feet in front of the terrified man, he appeared. Stonda was in the stranger’s mind at once and, for the second time in thirty seconds, she was caught off guard. It wasn’t shock, but more like wonder. Instead of the target of her telepathy trying to reject her psionic advances, it welcomed them.
Stonda shook her head clear. “Halkad?” she sounded into his mind, “Can it be you?”
“Stonda,” she heard in her mind. “Five years ago, when you left me on the shores of Quor Kamal, I was but a boy. I was powerless in the face of violence, but that has changed.”
Stonda took a step backward. “And now?” Stonda asked. Waves of forgotten emotions now rose to the surface. There was fear, awe, love, and then finally, awakening. “Who are you now?”
Halkad closed his eyes and delved deep into the mind of his long lost friend. He hurried past the memories of her battle against the undead king of the Elves, past the deception of the changelings, and beyond the hunt for Tyrok’s treasure. He raced past all of these memories until he found the memory of the two of them trading secrets in Stonda’s most cherished place in their kingdom. It seemed like ages ago. She let him see it, and more. And that was when he knew.
“My Lady Stonda,” Halkad said aloud, “I am that which you love more than anything else in the world. I am the waters of your homeland.”
Halkad opened his eyes to find tears rolling down Stonda’s cheeks and down over the most joyful smile he could have ever imagined. The time had come. He could no longer contain himself. Halkad let out a triumphant roar that traveled over the clearing and to the lake. The sound became amplified there, and then it was distorted until it returned to the clearing as a deafening crash of a waterfall that echoed throughout the forest for miles.
At the sound, the man in front of Halkad moaned in despair and slunk to the ground. He had been grasping for his sword, but all of the courage he had built up to try to save his own life had flowed from his body like the tide leaving the shores of the sea. Next to him, the other remaining swordsman dropped his weapon and began pleading to Stonda for the mercy she would never give him.
Halkad shifted his gaze downward to meet the eyes of the pitiful creatures at his feet. “Come Stonda,” he smiled, and gestured with his left hand for her to come and take it. “Let us wash away this filth together.”
Stonda walked around the cowering men, kicking the grasping hand of the one still crying out for forgiveness. She took Halkad’s hand, and then Halkad raised his other, palm side up, from his side to eye level. He held it there for a moment, turned it to face the men on the ground, and pushed. An enormous wall of churning black water issued forth from the motion. Infused with glistening silver, the wave swept up and carried the two men through the burnt clearing, into the water, and to the bottom of the lake where the force of his element crushed their armored bodies against the rocky bottom.