Inky – Dusky’s Companion and Steed
Duskridden Shadowborn was born, as many Bantami are, into an impoverished an oppressive environment. Raised in an orphanage from age five, Dusky barely remembers her parents, slain at the hands of Phthian conquerors in her homeland of Drusas. Nor does she know the fate of her three siblings, Chipperdane, Siennasands, or Renfield. All she remembers of them were their smiling faces and how they cared for her, all being older. Her memories from before the orphanage are a dim blur, but she holds fast to the few good moments she had at the orphanage; learning the ways of the body in healing and medicine, and helping other unfortunates who suffered under the ravages of the occupying Phthyan soldiery.
The little bantami has known since her teen years that she was a chosen of Mormekar, even though she could not put a name to the power that visited her dreams, calling her to his side. Dusky knew that this dark and imposing force was not one of The Four, the holy muses of the Drusan people. Dusky, following the truth inside her, persisted in finding the answers she sought, regarding death, resurrection and the spirit world. Unfortunately, the headmistress at the orphanage, rather than helping this wide-eyed truth-seeker, merely punished Dusky for her ‘morbid urges’ and fascination with death. Mistress Audralyn assured her it was a passing phase of adolescence, and when Dusky continued her faithful study of death and all things spiritual, she was punished, time and again. She cannot count the number of cold nights spent in her chambers, where she sat shivering from cold, hunger, and the lash upon her back. She had borne those scars until recently, when she lost her first gift. And, in her resurrection, Dusky was cleansed of all scars, mortal or otherwise.
Dusky eventually fled the orphanage, slipping out unnoticed one day. She had long learned that most humans regard halflings as less than people, and had taken to being a silent observer, slipping from room to room as if she were invisible, or worse, not there at all. Using this second nature of unobtrusiveness, Dusky simply walked out of the orphanage, trailing behind the skirts of a porter who had just finished a delivery to the orphanage. That was over ten years ago, and since then Dusky has had a very hard life.
Despite the hardships, there have been some true blessings in Dusky’s life. The first and arguably most important, was her discovery of the Sacristies of Mormekar. The god himself seemed to lead her to his holy temple, for she had visions and dreams of traveling south into occupied Drusas. Near the southern coast, Dusky discovered, among the forbidden Crypts of Abadathos, an ancient burial site of a long lost race of people. Ducking past the notice of both the Phthyan Imperial soldiers, the town guards, and the watchful eye of the priests of both the Four Holy Muses and the conquering Phthyan Pantheists, Dusky discovered a hidden cult to Mormekar deep within those ruins. There she gained a family, and realized her calling.
In her devotion to Mormekar, Dusky has picked up many talents, including a love of animals. She learned to train and ride the graveyard dogs, and found an aptitude for it. She would ride out of town, mostly unnoticed, into the countryside where Mormekar guided her to discover the circle of life in nature, and the wilderness became a second home to her. She learned the properties of plants and animals to aid her in her medicines, as well as which may cause pain and even death, although to her life is just as sacred as death. Mormekar would have it no other way for her.
It was during one of her forays into the wilds around the coastal city of Mediolanum where she met the second most influential force in her life. Calliope Silversong of Longfellow Downs was playing a small Way-Inn deep in the wilds along a forest road. Dusky was road-weary, and chose a night in an inn on this stormy night, rather than become soaked camping in the wilderness, which was the norm for her. The world brightened that night for Dusky. The melodious voice and splendid musicianship of this Drusai woman captivated Dusky’s heart and mind. Not since her bond with Mormekar had Dusky found such fascination and joy. By the evening’s end, which lasted until well near dawn, Calliope and Dusky talked and talked, in what felt like a bubble set aside from time. Dusky could swear a week passed in just that single night, as they traded tales and anecdotes, their loves and passions, all by the dim candle in the Way-House’s common room.
The next two days, neither Dusky nor Calli were seen again in that common room. Dusky never knew she could have feelings for anyone, let alone a woman – a human woman. But this was the kind of love that troubadours like Calliope sang about in their glorious songs. The fact that this particular bard was a long-time lover of women had little to do with things. It was true love, and they both knew their worlds had changed forever.
Calliope called the road her home, and plied her trade wherever she might. For a human, and a vivacious and charming human at that, traveling throughout the occupied lands of Drusas was not very difficult. One terrible night, during a raid of Mormekar’s Sacristy by a zealous Phthyan Priest of Mars, Dusky was nearly offered up as sacrifice to the vile war god. After that night, both Calli and Dusky decided their time in occupied Drusas was at an end. They fled with little belongings, but they were used to traveling with what they could carry (and for Dusky and her tiny size and meager strength, that was never much), and headed north into protected Drusas.
The pair traveled city to city, Dusky performing the healing arts, and Calli entertaining at faires and Inns. Six years passed, and the two got closer. After building up a sizable nest-egg, they decided to settle down and have a family. They got a splendid apartment overlooking the beautiful river Floridan in Örgent, a lovely city in Central Drusas. They adopted a boy, Carnasos, from a local orphanage, and set to establishing a family life.
Tragedy is never easy to cope with, and Dusky and Calliope have always tried to make the best of any situation, to find the single rose in the midden heap – as it were. But the loss of young Carnasos nearly drove the two apart. The two women, although from the same country, had very different cultural perspectives and upbringings. Calli was a tried-and-true follower of the Four Muses, and believed death was final, except for the very wealthy or privileged. Dusky followed the distant gods of The Tree, the Lords of Heaven, specifically the god of death. She knew that she could capture little Carni’s soul and secure it into his body so it would not pass on, and did so. She and Calliope had a terrible argument, and Dusky fled with the body of their infant son, drowned after he’d played too close to the river.
In the end, Duskridden could not find a temple to a Lord of Heaven in time. She finally begged in prayer to Mormekar to take the boy’s soul, so it might be reborn. The child was innocent and had not had a chance to really live, and to this day, Dusky believes her boy is out there somewhere, reborn to a new family, and in a much better place.
During her vigil over the boy, Mormekar came to her in another of his guiding dreams. He told her of a great deed that needed doing, and that the fate of the land and all the people was at stake. He showed her a vision of a great coffin, borne by six faceless figures. The box glowed with a brilliance she had never experienced – perhaps it was not possible to experience such brilliance with real eyes, without going blind. She was not a bearer, but a guide, and she knew that she must seek out these six. It was the quest she knew she’d been born for, and had subconsciously waited for all her life.
Sad but determined, Dusky returned to Örgent and her lovely Calliope with the now soulless body of their son. It was given the rite of cremation, by Drusai tradition. After the ceremony, Dusky imparted the news of her new calling to her love. Calli was overcome with grief, both for the loss of their son, and their argument, and Dusky’s stealing the child before his body would see the flames of the Muses. But in the end, Dusky had brought the child’s body back, and the depth of their love overcame the tragedy and adversity of the events of those dark days. Dusky set off for a long journey to a terrible jungle, for that is where Mormekar told her she would find the coffin-bearers. The two lovers parted then, but vowed to remain forever faithful to one another, with the truest intent to be reunited once more when the world was once again safe.
Calliope left Örgent, for the pain there was too overwhelming. To this day, she graces festivals and faires, and occasional evenings plies her trade at inns along her journey, with the lively tunes and soul-filled ballads for which she has become famous. Duskridden is now in the company of the Wheel-Breaker and the Thanatophagos Bearers, doing what she was sent to do – guide them and help them in any way she can.
That tale, however, will be told elsewhere…