An emissary of vengeance: what is necessary for the punishment of the wrong, will be done
I was twelve years old when they ripped me from my home. Shambling monstrosities, they were, unholy abominations whose time on this earth had long passed; they were the living dead, wretched, cursed souls whose existence hinged upon an undiluted hatred for those still blessed with life. Why they came to the village of Fyr that cold winter’s day, I do not know. I suppose that the randomness of it all makes a sick sort of sense, in a way—what does a skeleton or zombie care what confronts it, but to destroy and consume indiscriminately? They came suddenly—a lifeless moan, the only warning that preceded them. I was playing outside, as a child should, when I first saw their crooked forms step through the trees. My father ushered me inside, where my mother held me close and we cowered in a corner of our unassuming home. My father was the village smith, so we barricaded the door with as much metal as we could move. The men of the village equipped themselves with what meager arms they could—we were a peaceful people; what need did we have of armors and weapons for slaughter?
But need them we did. Our town was small, and the waves of corpse-pallor bodies that lurched hungrily forward, many. They overwhelmed the men of our village and advanced into the town proper. When my mother saw the devastation coming, she lifted a piece of our home’s floor up and pushed me inside. “You stay there, now, Theren. Mommy will come get you soon.” She was crying. Hard. As she closed the trap door to the cubby of our family’s valuables, the floorboards blending perfectly with the surrounding wood, our house’s door flew from its hinges, and in came the undead. My mother screamed once, and they were upon her. She fell, her face down so that between the slight cracks of the wooden boards, I could make our slivers of her face. Disgusting, revolting sounds drifted down to my ears, and I could feel my heart exploding in my chest with the weight of the silence I knew I must keep. But then a single tear dripped from my mother’s eye and fell lightly to my forehead—her final caress, a last kiss goodbye. I blacked out.
I awoke to nothing. None of the other villagers had survived whatever attack this had been. Even now, surrounded by lifeless remains, I couldn’t leave my home. I sat in the empty house, arms curled around my knees. And I would have died in that house just the same. But within a day, two men came to my village—their names were Kendrick and Caldin. They were oddly garbed, in plates of a metal I hadn’t seen before, and they were the most armed men I’d ever seen. They told me they were Sentinels of the Twilight: they said that life is a force that burns bright as day, while death is the darkest of nights that never ends—the gloaming passage between them, the twilight of our existence, is like purgatory to a spirit if it is trapped in a corpse. They questioned me about the attack, and then they argued at length about what to do with me. I must have impressed them somehow—perhaps my insistence to accompany them, or perhaps my newfound hatred of the undead. In any case, they took me under their wings. They mentored me, trained me in the ways to hunt the dead that walk among us, for it was their sacred mission to guard well the passage of all souls from life into the peace of death, and that none should be displaced from this holy road.
When I was 30, I swore an oath to the Morninglord, Master of the Day and King of Radiance—his light was the only power on which we, the Sentinels, could truly rely in our never-ending fight against the undead. As was customary, I struck out on my own for a time—it was like a pilgrimage of sorts for new Sentinels, to find their place and their best means to fulfill their calling. And that’s when I found the adventurers. I travelled to the City on rumors that new breeds of the unliving were stirring—not the mindless engines of death that were skeletons and zombies, but cunning creatures, those that could blend in with our society and assume positions of power to twist to their own nefarious ends: vampires, liches, and worse. Strangely, when I arrived, the people seemed disturbed; fires and riots had occurred, and some sort of anarchy at the local arena. And one word appeared in all traces I could run down form the rumor mill: “umbrella.” What such a device could do, I had not the faintest idea, but perhaps it was a weapon powerful enough to stand in defiance of the evil I knew surrounded me. I joined with the adventurers, and for a time, I was satisfied.
But now I find that my faith is called into question. In order to acquire the information we needed to avert a coming orc assault, I employed, shall we say, unsavory tactics on an enemy we had captured. He was never in any real danger—well, if he complied, that is—but perhaps the brutality of weaving an acidic caltrop into someone’s leg while exploiting knowledge of pain tolerance and healing magic to keep them conscious disturbed my companions. My god, the Morninglord, seemed to agree with them: when the assault was finally over, and we had repulsed the storm, he came to me during my prayers. He chastised me for my methods and rebuked my abuse of his powerful gifts. But how could he not see?
The world is black and white. There is no middle ground—there exists good and evil, but more importantly, order is set against chaos, law battles injustice. And all of them are made worthwhile by vengeance. The innocent, those who respect law and do no harm to others, must be protected at all costs, while the guilty, those who transgress against order and justice and mercy, must be met with swift retribution. These alone are the states of mankind. But he did not see. So I renounced my vows to him. I broke my tie to the Morninglord, and he has withdrawn, to all effect that I can see, his glorious light from my presence. But I have come to peace with this decision, for it has shown me where right truly lies. In place of the Oaths of the Day I have sworn myself not to a god, but to an ideal—I am devoted, I belong to, the vengeance of justice. And in the simplicity of this promise, I have found new strength.
I do not know whether I may still find welcome with the Sentinels of the Twilight—I still believe in and uphold their cause, for never will I cease to hunt for the one who ordered my village destroyed. All I know of him is that he exists—a few whispers have claimed he is a powerful necromancer, and one lone voice has whispered that he names himself Lord D’tesh, but beyond that I still search. What I do know is that I cannot find the will to do what needs to be done in the promise of a new day—only the promise of justice as vengeance has delivered that.