Character Name: Ivy of Baja
Not A Simple Tale To Tell
My story is not a simple one to tell. Many who try often get it wrong. They would tell you of a witch, a monster, of a horrible woman of such evil deeds that her name dare only be whispered far from shadows lest she overhear and steal their children in the night. Their words, though true, tell only half of the story. Let me tell you of my life as I've known it - let me tell you of the life of a simple woman who wanted little more than the comfort of family, and the freedom to pursue knowledge.
I grew up, in a sense, on the streets of Britain. I knew no mother, no father and certainly no siblings. My earliest memories are all of dank alleyways and stinking taverns full of sailors with dirty mouths and roaming hands. I would say I was probably 13 years old when I first began working at the Unicorn's Horn. It was quieter than most of Britain's taverns, but that also meant that even darker deeds went overlooked there.
The first step toward what many would call my downfall involved an old seadog named Malachi the Black. He was a large man, and few dared to cross him. If anything was spoken of Malachi with any regularity and truth, it was that Malachi got everything Malachi wanted. There has been only one exception and it cost him his life.
I was nearly 16 summers old when he first approached and propositioned me. I was no whore - I have never been a whore. I refused him. Two days later, I was set upon by his goons. They threatened and beat me. I was told that I would cooperate, and the next time Malachi approached me, I would accept his offer as I kissed his boots, begging forgiveness for refusing him previously.
I had taken up, by that time, a side job that I found much more profitable. In one of the abandoned shacks in eastern Britain, I had set up a small distillery where I brewed poisons from the deadly nightshade plants that grew wild in the eastern forests. Before I reported to the Unicorn's Horn that night, I finished bottling two vials of my best poison. I dumped them into Malachi's ale that night. When he drank it, the effect was almost immediate. He began to seize and his eyes rolled up into his head. I remember it all very well. He fell to the floor and his mouth began to foam. A yell went up from the crowd and I simply stared at the man as he lay at my feet. "You…" was the last word he said, and mine was the last face he saw before death took him.
I was summarily fired, told many times I was lucky no one could prove I was responsible for the death, and no tavern would take me on. It was just as well. I devoted more time to my poisons. I learned, in time, to apply them to blades. There were many who would buy a poisoned blade from me. My clients numbered among the underhanded and even the supposedly noble. Just as many Order soldiers came to me for my talents, as Chaos soldiers did.
It was while I was working near the East Britain bank one day that I met a man named Thorgrim. I was suspicious of him when he would tip me with coin double what the poisoned blades he'd purchased had cost. He began donating bundles of nightshade to my work. In time we grew to know one another and I felt something for him I had never felt before. I thought it was love. I know now that I'm simply sensitive to kindness.
Believing ourselves in love, Thorgrim invited me to accompany him to a new town. A hope for a new life, away from Lord British and Lord Blackthorn and their warring factions. I accepted and we traveled northward to the peninsula Free City of Avalon. City of Destiny they called it. How right they were.
I spent a good deal of time in Avalon. It was there I learned to wield a kryss and put my poisons to even better use. Thorgrim and I grew apart as new faces entered our lives and we became part of a true community of citizens. If any asked, we introduced ourselves as brother and sister. We quickly realized that even our moral beliefs diverged quite a bit. I eventually became involved with a dark mage. It was because of this man that I gave up the study of fencing and gravitated toward the Art.
Magic was his one true love, and I always took a second seat to it. I thought I could be content with this. I had a loving community to call home, people who cared for me, and I did not doubt that he loved me. Still, he loved me second. He loved Magic above all else. I knew, deep in my heart, that if he were somehow forced to choose between myself and the Magic he held so dear, I would be left alone.
It was one night after an attack on the nearby Free City of Haven that I found him sitting at the Silver Steed Saloon. Many of the regular patrons had long since departed. He was having a drink and discussing the exciting chase he'd been on, running the marauders out of town with the barkeep and some of the late nighters. I sat quietly at his side as he boasted of his skill. He spoke of it all in the way a young boy gushes about his new love. He had never spoken like that of me. I decided then that I could not be second string to anything when it came to love. I deserved more than this. I stood and returned his engagement ring to him. "You know where to find me, when you are ready to really be the man I deserve."
I walked out, intent on making the long walk home to Avalon on my own. A near-fatal mistake. As I walked, I was attacked by what I can only guess was a vampire. I fought it off and fled through the trees. I was weakened by my loss of blood and stumbled as I rounded the side of a large tower. The dark stone stood in sharp contrast to the rest of the forest. I was still being pursued and did not care what the nature of the tower's inhabitants would be - certainly they must be safer than that which pursued me, yes? That has often been up for debate.
I found myself within the halls of the Dark Tower.
What passed that evening in the bowels of the Dark Tower has remained secret, even to this day. In short, I encountered a dark power there that offered me everything I longed for. Life, love, knowledge. The order is somewhat questionable, but I received all of these things and more. Most importantly, it offered and delivered unto me sweet oblivion when I needed it most. It was my enduring companion through the years that followed when others were shaken and weak.
The side effects, however, were unfortunate. The power of the Dark Tower saved me that evening, but at a cost. From that point forward, I suffered from what I came to call Ether Sickness. Where other mages experienced a kind of euphoria when they tapped into the ether to weave their magical spells, I felt only a searing pain. Not only did the act of using magic cause me pain, it drew on my life energies to power my spells. Every incantation uttered ate away at my life-force and left me weaker than I had been before the casting. It was possible that I could, quite literally, cast myself to death. I nearly did on a number of occasions.
Short months later, I came to face the Cabal leader of the Blades of the Dark Tower in single combat. I was still very capable and had taken up the use of a short spear - it made up in power what I had lost in physicality due to my magical studies. In a few quick moments, the drow lay at my feet defeated. As was tradition, he offered his place as Cabal of the Blade path to me. I was torn, but felt a strange pull toward the Dark Tower. I accepted his place, and became the first member of the Dark Tower to join in its later years and begin in a position of such power. I was the youngest member and the only female leader for quite some time.
My years with the Dark Tower are some of the most controversial and most often incorrectly relayed. I was party to a great many ill deeds, I confess. I have always been one to obey orders when I am governed over by a superior. When the second Master of the Tower rose, I met with many more troubles in my career and life within the Tower's ranks. I never viewed the second Master as a superior. If anything, I suppose one might say I half despised him. I never outwardly disobeyed him, but I did question him more than one ought to question the Master or Mistress of the Dark Tower. Subsequently I was demoted and joined the path of Ether, giving up my studies of weaponry to fully dedicate myself to magic.
I was married once, for the benefit of the Tower, to an elder of the Sea Elf Free Town of Lumaria. The arrangement was that I would be given over to Galen Kai'tan's father in marriage and in exchange the Dark Tower could use Lumaria as a supply point to help aid Minax's army of trolls besieging the nearby Britannian town of Vesper. It was only a matter of days before documents were found that caused the marriage to be annulled, naming me Galen's half-sister, and half sea elven. I'm certain they were forged, but I never did find out who was responsible.
That brief encounter was but one maneuver the Dark Tower made in the attempt to aid Minax's attack on British's cities. Dark Tower members were ordered to stay clear of the city of Trinsic, while the main undead forces slaughtered the townspeople and what heroes came forward in an attempt to defend them. I gladly obeyed, though I secretly lamented the loss of such a beautiful city. Our offensive stance in Yew, however, kept me preoccupied. Forces of "good" allied against Keeonean and were amassing to stop a shipment of goods that were being delivered to his hordes of orcs. The Dark Tower made many such supply runs on behalf of Keeonean and would not see their efforts undone so late in the game.
Many Emerald Sashes and other Defenders of Yew died that day to blades and spells wielded not only by Keeonean and his orcs, but by the gathered forces of the Dark Tower. It was a glorious battle and one of the few I fought on the front lines.
When the battles had subsided and the new lands of Trammel were born, I felt a weariness I had not felt before. Many others felt it as well, as the lands around us died, and Minax's remaining forces trickled away. Though the Dark Tower had nearly killed Dupre at his encampment just hours before he undid the power of Juo'nar's temple*, our efforts were not enough. Dissent reigned in the Dark Tower as everything seemed to fall apart. In short time, the second Master of the Tower took our prized Blackrock and opened a portal to another world. He claimed it to be another shard where Minax had claimed the day and the Dark Tower could rise and rule a portion of the empire for itself. Keeping of the Tower in our home lands fell to me and I did my duty as well I could.
I forged diplomatic alliances with old foes and the new Free Cities that sprang up in the wilds of the world of Trammel. I helped mend or even undo the Dark Tower's past deeds. I claimed the title Mistress of the Dark Tower when it appeared that the former Master would not be returning to our world. My action seemed to summon his wrath. He did return, and besieged me with summon minions and demons of the Abyss. I stood my ground, having grown strong with the ether, despite my illness, and I undid his summonings for as long as I could. Due to the efforts of some kind citizens in the Free City of Heaven's Forge, I escaped with my life. I was greatly wounded, however. The magical efforts I exerted to send his hellish minions back to their homes had taken a great deal of my life's energy to work. I fell into a coma and it is hard to say how long I laid in that state.
When I returned, I found the Dark Tower in ruins. The guildstone, the source of our unity, had been destroyed. I found its pieces and set out to rebuild the Tower. My efforts were costly. I gave up many of my worldly assets and all of my time to build the Tower up once more. Then I reconstructed the guildstone. The Dark Tower was resurrected by my hand. Again, the former second Master's voice rose to challenge me. Being stronger and wiser, I rebuffed him and then ignored his warnings and harsh words. There was nothing he could do to me now. I was the true Mistress of the Dark Tower, and I felt its presence with me even stronger in those years.
The ranks were rebuilt and I stood looking over the glory that I had revived. I cannot lie - I was very proud of what I'd accomplished, looking back on my origins. Still, I was not the leader the Dark Tower needed and I was strong enough to recognize this. My interests turned more toward the pursuit of knowledge and the power that could bring, while the members of the Dark Tower sought conquest of a more physical sort. It was then I decided that I would step down as Mistress of the Dark Tower and hand the mantle over to someone who better suited the newest era of the Dark Tower. It was not difficult to choose from among the ranks - I bestowed Cymidei Fier with my place. It was her right to kill me then and I do not know why she stayed her hand. Instead I was named a Seer of the Tower and allowed to keep my home in the Tower's small claim of lands. I was treated as an honored elder and the new Mistress treated me as her counsel.
The Dark Tower returned to petty murders and greater conquests. I was hampered in my pursuits by bearing the crest of the Tower upon my collar. And so it was that I left the Dark Tower's ranks for the final time. I do not deny I have felt its pull, heard its siren's song begging me to return. To bring life back to its empty halls, to pour my life's blood upon its altar so that it may live and thrive. I do not deny that its promise of oblivion, forgetfulness and comfort tempt me. But I shall never return to the Dark Tower. I've forged a new home.
I disappeared from public view for quite a while after leaving the Tower for the last time. It was years before I again was recognized. I was studying rock formations in the land known as Malas when I noticed an old man veritably spying on me. He approached and introduced himself, saying he knew me. He wished to apprentice himself, after a fashion. He explained further that he wished to serve me as the Cabal once served the Mistress of the Dark Tower. I made him swear a binding oath, and so began the founding of the Wanderers of Ether. For Mishka Azghul, it was as much of a church as anything else. For me, it was a chance to pursue my scholarly hobbies. We founded the House of Ether in the lands of Malas and I built my library next to it. As the Wanderers made their rise, we served as negotiators in a great Epic conflict between old nations. Serving an ancient order of knights under the leadership of Derek Valkyre, our efforts were well rewarded when he was on the victorious end of the conflict. I also acquired, from a hermit living in the Ethereal Fortress, an amulet that negates my Ether Sickness so long as I wear it. This has been a great boon to my arcane studies.
Later we directed our efforts into defending Cove against the orcish invasions, attempting to make up for the Royal Guard's neglect of their duties. The Wanderers forged ahead, gathering lumber to build fortifications to defend the city of Britain from imminent invasion, despite the fact that no workers could be convinced. Still, our efforts were not in vain. We, with the citizens of Sosaria's contributions, were able to amass enough lumber to convince the Royal Architects and Builders to take the wood and work in spite of the peril posed. Sadly, the army invaded from a direction the Builders and Royal guard did not seem to anticipate. Since then, the House has grown quiet.
I have furthered my studies and the High Priest Mishka Azghul has departed the lands for further exploits. At first I found his ambitions curious, as we often agreed on so many things, but now I know the truth. Next to the papers upon which I scribe this tale is the last letter left to me. It gives stewardship of the House over to me, fully, and lets me in on one secret that has eluded me for so very long. My father is proud of the woman I have become, regardless of the path I took to get here.
Though far from complete, this tale is true. History, alas, is nothing but a reduction of details into palatable quantities. Besides, a lady never reveals all of her secrets.
*The RPC forgot to turn on his Invulnerability tag and DT members literally almost killed him. Lots of people kept him healed and he eventually 'escaped' with an invisibility command. We were made aware of this mistake later.