What stands before you is not so much a man as the absence of one, a twisted form covered in thick robes which twist and writhe with their own life. His very presence seems to punch a hole in the shadows, the only article of clothing he wears which isn't blacker than black being the porcelain mask which covers his face. The mask itself seems aged, the once white porcelain slightly yellowed, but the flashes of red decoration across it blaze as bright as ever, shining in brilliant decoration over his otherwise usually drab form. Behind that decorative facade sits a ruined head on a ruined body, his flesh finally let to rot after years of carefully maintaining life. The thick cloak he wears does little to contain the rank smell which wafts from him with each grinding breath, and the only thing colder than the air around him is to experience the touch of his leathery, dead hands. At one point he had been a half elf, but if any of his original flesh remains it gives no clue as to what kind of creature he was before he began to decay, and now he is more defined by his mask than by any physical form behind it.
Sage forest has stood strong and mighty through many an age, and over the days it has produced numerous strong-willed and strong-armed folk with a resolve as sturdy as the trees which nurtured them, but rarely have the woods fostered a mind so broken as that of the dark one named Redhale. However, there he roamed as a small boy, as happy in the leaves as any other child of his age, his eyes, now long forgotten, glittering with the aspirations of an unharmed soul. He was a child already familiar with the charming ways, a skill which was only bolstered by the dark silken hair which framed his face and the two ever-smiling eyes which shone from beneath its fringe, a smile which when reflected by his grinning mouth could convince just about any mother that he hadn't been the one who had stolen her freshly baked scones.
The young half elf's own dreams of a world outside the forest were shared by his brother, two years older though no brighter, and as close a friend as any child could have. Still, that was years ago, and were you to ask Redhale now he would probably not even remember his brother's name. Each day as the last rays of sun trickled down through the canopy the two of them would sneak away to a secret spot by the river and practice what little of magic they could grasp. The evening's tricks usually only amounted to a haze of light or perhaps a small warm glow, but they were enough to attract the attention of a passing member of the mage's guild, a group that was still fairly small at the time. After spending some time with the pair the representative decided to bring them with him back to the tower to begin their first real training as mages, a notion which didn't sit too right with their parents, but heats of even the harshest punishments couldn't discourage the two from vanishing into the western mountains to learn the ways of magic.
If one was to ask Redhale for a single defining moment of his time learning under the mages of Xalious he would probably remark that on a whole they were phenomenally dreary, or that he could beat his brother in a fair fight despite the fact that his brother practiced combat magics while Redhale himself principally studied illusions and charms, he might even suggest that studying there taught him more about his female classmates and their various tendencies than it did about magic, but the truth would remain hidden through all of these. If there is one truly defining moment in all of his life, it was what happened late in his seventeenth year, during an outing from the tower with the rest of his class.
In days gone past, there have been multiple outposts from the central tower in the mountains of Xalious, and it was to a small cavelike bunker carved into the mountain itself that Redhale and his class were headed to on a field trip of sorts, under the assumption that spending time away from the relatively workaday monotony of learning on the tower grounds. After a good few days of meditation and training the two brothers decided they would end their excursion with a duel, an activity which was forbidden among younger students without the permission and supervision of an elder. Never ones to be told what to do the two made their way over to the next valley, accompanied by a few of their friends eager to witness the clash, and there they held their fight.
The battle itself was nothing spectacular, mainly just two young men showing off to their peers and occasionally putting the pressure on each other to actually make an effort. After an hour or so of prancing around Redhale had already picked out of the small crowd who he would walk home with tonight, and so set to end the ordeal quickly. In less than a second of his decision the young illusionist had cut a swift slash across his brother's leg with a lick of spiraling flame, and as he graciously took praise from one pretty young girl another helped his injured brother along with just as much infatuation. Such a scene wasn't uncommon amongst the younger, and the elder mages knew that they would grow out of it soon enough, indeed one had even seen the group depart that evening, but no one saw them slip back over the ridge. No one was there to chastise them for their absence as they descended the stone steps into the bunker, and no one was there behind the door hanging ajar, no one sitting at the table, no one getting ready to go to bed. The first few in the door were blissfully lost in shock as they peered about the empty room, until their gazes fell down to spy the first of the bodies lying on the floor. After the first scream had sounded reality broke in and the young rebels could see the spilt cups, the overturned chairs, and one large red smear which ran down the back wall, however hard it must have been to miss in the first place. Once all that was in their minds the smell hit them, that thick, wet, metallic smell of freshly spilt blood, and seemingly all at once they bolted back out into the night.
Unfortunately, someone was there to see them spill out of the bunker, and in the cover of darkness a swarm of devils descended upon the group, deadly and vicious as they erased the last remaining members of the class, a clan of ancient vampires who fed on all and left none alive. This is how the apprentices fell:
The first person to flee from the room was a young girl named Ella, the very same girl who had moments before been helping a wounded hero along his way, her baggage now forgotten as she raced to escape the nightmarish room. Her own selfish steps only carried her halfway up the stairs before she tripped, fell, and was trampled, even by the one she had held up only moments ago. Her agony of broken bones was mercifully cut short as the first of the hunters descended upon her.
The second to be taken was one of the students bright enough to decide where he was heading before he raced off, running as fast as he could in the direction of the tower, which would have been visible if he had managed to climb the first ridge, though the vampires could climb uphill much faster than he, and so the second student, and those who thought it prudent to follow him, were taken out, their screams punctuated by soft tearing noises which carried disturbingly well in the valley.
The small group headed by our hero himself made good ground, heading along the path of least resistance straight down the valley. The girl who Redhale had taken as his trophy ran at the back, and in one of the silly girlish outfits she was prone to wearing it seemed she was only getting slower in her panic. A sharp pain shot through her shoulder and before she knew what was happening her face had run into the rocky ground, body pinned there by some kind of spear. As she called out through split lips and shattered bones for Redhale to come back and save her, heroism an attribute so unfairly associated with young men such as himself, a second blade interrupted the crying.
Eventually it was just the two brothers again, thick as thieves even as they grew older. Any others who had come with them on their midnight escapade had either been taken or run off in another direction, and so the brothers ran only for themselves. Every few seconds Redhale would pull ahead, and then halt a moment to let his wounded brother catch up. A few steps more, and then another moments hesitation, this continued for what was probably a minute but felt like breathless years until, as Redhale turned about to check where his brother was, they were caught. At least, one of them was, the lagging leg of the older boy leaving him relatively easy prey as some huge shadowy figure, all teeth and horns, crashed down upon him. Redhale wasn't sure if there was a scream, but he would remember the rest of his life the sound of his brother's crumpling body, better, apparently, than he would remember his name. The sound told Redhale there was no use going back, despite the cries of loss and shame, the voices which told him he had been the one to slow him in the first place. Instinct won out, as it would forever more, and the boy fled into the night, spared either through apathy or cruelty, depending on who you ask.
It isn't easy to live for two, but the weight of another's soul is a burden often carried by the denizens of the world, and it was a weight Redhale felt for many years of his life. Since losing his brother among the rocks in the West the young man sought to make up for the other's lost time, and it didn't take long for him to decide that the best way to do that would be to stay alive himself, no matter what. As he fumbled his way through the final foothills of the mountains, fleeing from the final resting place of his sibling, his mind was filled with an agonizing fit of misery, the world immediately a lonely place for such a small boy. He hadn't quite yet come to realize that being alone meant having no responsibilities, no need for allies. He didn't yet know that it was loneliness which would keep him alive.
After a day and a half of moving as fast as his feet could carry him, which meant about a day of just about crawling, Redhale hit the tree line, and despite the multitude of shadows which could have been harboring more nasty surprises the boy felt at safe, nestled in an environment similar to home, if where he had been born could sill be considered home after spending more time away than he had in Sage. He scaled a tree without even bothering to scavenge for food and slept nestled in an elbow of a branch for a good long while, waking to find the sun in almost exactly the same position as it had been the day before. The first thing he did with his new life of lonely freedom, after descending from the tree, was estimate how far the sun had moved since he fell asleep (three degrees was the figure he settled on, which meant at least a day had passed.) Shortly after he began to rummage for food.
The half elf made his way slowly through the next section of his journey, catching his food every day by making use of what he learned from his time with the mages, creating illusions of animals, mimicking mating calls, and following his mother's rules of bringing his food to his mouth, not the other way around. The forest nurtured him as it had in his early years, and each day he thought of returning to that home, and his parents, though each day the guilt of leaving his brother caused him to remain on the run. In fact, not a soul was met on his journey for near a year, and the first person who did meet his eye could never have been prepared to meet him.
The problem with making contact with another was that he simply couldn't trust a stranger. He had spent so long by himself, playing the events which had left him alone over and over in his head, sure that with time the beasts would track him down and finish what they had started, and that was the thought which came to mind when he saw the distinctive outline of another person wandering through the trees. Instantly he dropped to his belly, and while it had been almost a year since the terrible massacre it seemed to his panicking mind as though the beasts had only taken a few days to catch up with him. Soon they would spy him, and then he would be done, sucked dry and left to rot in the depths of the forest. As he slunk forwards, intent on ensuring his survival, it never occurred to him that perhaps he wasn't so deep in the forest, perhaps there was a road not a minutes walk away, perhaps the person he had spotted was of no threat to him.
Even as he crept up on the figure, even as he let down upon them like some jungle tiger taking out prey, he didn't really see the poor soul who had stumbled upon him. Even as he shoved a fistful of fire down their throat he didn't hear the screams which were trying to force their way out against the scalding magic flames. Even as he removed the head to ensure the thing wouldn't come back to life he didn't see the tear streaked face of the innocent. It wasn't until he began to dig the grave in an effort to cover his tracks that he saw that this body didn't have the twisted face and corrupted skin of the undead beings who had attacked him so long ago, but instead wore long blond hair, now choked with the first few handfuls of dirt he had thrown into the pit. The woman, while perhaps a few years beyond himself, had been no being of ancient evil, just a traveller, undoubtedly moving with a caravan as well. The thought of her friends looking for her shattered any sympathy he might have suffered and brought him right back into survival mode. The thought of what they might do to a savage wanderer, a murderer, made clear what he had to do. He had promised to himself, and his brother, that he would live.
All that was left behind after this first meeting with civilization was the burnt husk of a stagecoach and several shallow graves marked only with the grim sentiment, "I didn't know them."
Name: Redhale Leonhart Race: Half Elf by birth. Class: Illusionist. Alignment: Neutral Evil Height: Varies by day Weight: Immeasurable Age: He is not one to tell Build: Usually obscured by his robes and cloak. Hair Color: Dark brown Eye Color: Grey, though no longer attached to his face...