Character Name: Shiloh Dal-Rashid
Played By: Sadie Raab
UPDATE: After being caught being involved in the undead scandal, Shiloh was tried and sentenced to a rehabilitation program in Starkhaven and then banished to the Fire Isle of the Phoenix to spend no less than 1 year doing community service.
During the many battles of the war against the Undead on Faedrun, a caravan was sent to the people of the May’Kar dominion: a symbol of good will and solidarity from the people of Vandregon. My mother was a part of that caravan, a Ranger in the service of the Vandregonian army. Pressing their way past the undead surrounding the border of Saresh, the caravan was immediately greeted with open arms and ushered into the city. Food and water were brought to the visitors, and clerics were sent to tend to the wounded. My father was one of these clerics. Such is young love that my mother convinced my father to return to Vandregon with her, “to ensure her safety in the war”. Their timing could not have been better, as the month following their departure saw the betrayal of the May’Kar Dominion.
Fueled by his belief in a balance of the world, my father sought to bring new life to Faedrun to help offset the death caused by the Penitent, Undead, and now, his own people. For seven years, my parents tried to conceive, although they grew increasingly depressed as their efforts remained fruitless. My mother turned to alcohol, terrified of the possibility that she might never have been a mother, that no life would follow her. My father, growing concerned for my mother, informed her that he would begin to meditate and pray for an answer. For two days he neither ate nor drank, deep in prayer. When he emerged, he took my mother in his arms, a look of determination and purpose filling his eyes, and whispered “My prayers have been answered.” That night I was conceived.
The months passed, and my parents moved from outpost to outpost: my father providing healing to the wounded soldiers there; my mother scouting and hunting for food. All was well, until four months after my father awoke from his meditation. Riding from the small village of Thornborough to the nearby Yewford Outpost, a pair of bandits spooked my mother’s horse, throwing her from its back. My father, no stranger to combat, though no friend of war, drew his mace and slew one of the bandits, causing the other to flee before he returned to his wife’s side. Her head was bleeding from the fall, and although shallow, her breath was clear. My father held his wife as he rode to his destination, apologizing to none for depleting his mana trying to revive her instead of healing the soldiers. He brought healers to her side, though they could not divine why she would not wake. A cleric of the Order of Arnath’s Fist, stationed in the outpost, tried his hand at healing my mother, to no avail. Desperate, my father even called upon the Serous and Feral Syndar in the region, offering a substantial reward, drawn from his earnings as a healer, to bring his wife back to him. Try as they might, none could rouse my mother from her slumber.
My father began to spend more and more time in prayer, locked in his room as the months passed with no progress. Five months of loneliness followed my father, though he refused to leave his wife’s side. Again he decided to enter his meditative state, losing himself in his prayers, asking for a miracle. Those close to him grew anxious as he prayed, with nearly a week spent in meditation. We was finally awoken by the screams of my mother, finally returned to consciousness by the labor of childbirth. He returned to her side rapidly, grasping her hand throughout the ordeal. When he was finally allowed to hold me, he wept openly, thankful that where he thought he had lost a life, he now had two. My mother, exhausted by the ordeal, returned to her sleep, although her breathing was even and she awoke the next morning.
As I was growing up, my parents taught me about many subjects. I learned of the balance and patience through my father. My mother taught me to reason and infer. My curiosity amazed them, and I would never be satisfied that I knew enough. They were kind to me, and answered any questions I could think of, until I became old enough to wonder about my last name: Why was it so different from the other children? Where did it come from? “Those are questions that we will answer when you are older, my child,” they would say to me. “You’re only four. When we know you are mature enough to handle the answer, we will tell you.”
For three years, I would bother my parents and any townsfolk who would indulge me with as many questions as I could ask. One day, I noticed my mother beginning to swell around her belly, and decided to find out why. I asked my father, “Why is mommy getting bigger?”
“She has a child growing in her, my dear,” he explained. “The healers think it’ll be a little boy. You’re going to have a brother!”
I practically squealed with excitement, and couldn’t wait to tell everyone who would listen. My father tried to grab me as I ran out the door, but I was small and eluded his grasp. I ran up to the first person I saw, a tall, thin man with the hood on his elegant robe pulled over his head. “I’m going to have a brother!” I shouted to him, to which he drew back his hood and smiled at me. I noticed his large, pointed ears, and couldn’t help myself: I had heard of the Syndar, but never actually encountered one. “Are you a Syndar? Why are you wearing that robe? Where did you come from?”
“A brother, you say? Well, that certainly is cause for celebration,” he calmly told me, looking up to see my father running down the path behind me, clearly flustered.
“I am terribly sorry, Stranger. My daughter is…excitable at times,” my father apologized. “Shiloh, don’t bother the man. I’m sure he’s plenty busy without having to worry about you.”
“No need for apologies,” the Syndar assured my father. “This one is in no rush, and new life is always good news. This one is called Talvor, and is a mage from Tierlorrien.”
My father extended his hand to the Syndar. “Faisal Dal-Rashid. This is my-”
“I’m Shiloh!” I interrupted, drawing a scowl from my father.
“You have quite a lot of energy, don’t you, young one?” Talvor asked, stooping to look me in the eye. “Tell me child, what do you know of the Arcane?”
“Not much,” I responded, although the fire of curiosity had already been lit. “My daddy taught me all about Divine magic, but I was never really good at it…”
“The magical arts are not for everyone, child,” Talvor explained. He then turned to address my father. “Your daughter is curious and passionate. This one would very much like to help her develop into a very capable Mage. With your permission, of course. All this one would require is a meal and a roof during the training.”
“Oh please, daddy? Can I?” I begged, my youthful excitement getting the better of me.
“We’ll have to discuss it with your mother, Shiloh,” my father replied, then offered his hand again to the Syndar. “Talvor, was it? If you feel so inclined, we would be happy to have you for dinner. Perhaps you would be more capable of convincing my wife.”
Staring at my father’s hand, Talvor instead bowed low. “It would be an honor and privilege this one graciously accepts.”
Talvor joined us for dinner that night, and after a long discussion with my parents, they agreed to give him my father’s old study for a room, and keep him fed if he would teach me the ways of arcane magic. My lessons were simple at first: learning to meditate, to focus my mind and will. I struggled with these lessons for nearly a year before I was finally able to concentrate. My baby brother was born during one of these lessons, and it nearly killed me to not be able to run and see him, but Talvor convinced me to sit. “He will still be there when you finish your lesson. Be patient, and the fruit you pick will be ever sweeter.” From there I learned the basics of harnessing mana, how magic flowed through everything in the world: it was simply a matter of finding and redirecting this energy. Eventually, Talvor showed me a few basic spells: mostly things to protect myself, such as stunning an enemy or throwing them backwards, giving me time to run, or cloaking myself in a shroud of protective energy, shielding me from an attack. “Your father has taught you that life is precious, correct?” Talvor asked me one day, to which I nodded silently. “Good. He is a wise man, your father, and most certainly correct. Your life is the most precious thing you own. As such, you may someday come across someone who wishes to take it from you, whom the spells this one has shown you will not deter. This next spell is intended to hurt another, and if used in certain circumstances, can even kill. This one prays you will never need to use it, but is also of the mind that one is better served by being prepared for the worst.” He showed me how to create the ball of energy and hurl it at a target, landing a blow one might expect to see from a mace. I was shocked by the power I now had, but promised Talvor to only use it if necessary.
I noticed around this time that my parents seemed to be growing nervous, though they would never tell me why. One night, when I heard them arguing from my room, I snuck away to listen to their conversation.
“We can’t stay here, Faisal. The Penitent are practically at our doorstep, in numbers we can’t possibly stand against. We have to take what we can and leave.”
“And where do you suppose we go, Andrea? We’re already deep in Vandregon territory. The Syndar have fled to their homes to the north. Most of the May’Kar have turned on us. Even Aldoria is struggling to survive. We have nowhere left to run.”
“Well, there’s always-”
“Andrea, we’ve talked about this. We don’t know what kind of people are already on this new continent. I’ve heard some rumors about wolf-men there, attacking any settlers who set foot on their shores.”
“Those are just rumors, Faisal. And you said it yourself: We don’t have many options. We need to go to Mardrun, and pray for the best.”
My father sighed, “I suppose not. But how will we tell Shiloh?”
By now, tears were streaming down my face, scared of what was to come. I drew a short breath, clapping my hand over my mouth once I realized that any chance of stealth I had was now completely gone.
My mother glanced in my direction. “It seems we won’t have to, dear. Come on out, sweetie. You’re not in trouble.”
I ran into my mother’s arms and cried until I fell asleep, all the while listening to her tell me, over and over, that everything would be okay. I knew she was just as scared as I was, but still, her voice made me believe her words, and I knew she was right. We would all be fine.
The next morning, we left for the coast, packing as many of our belongings as we could carry as we boarded the ships to the new world. I had heard rumors of terrible storms and ghost ships destroying the vessels carrying refugees, but was happy to say that my family made it to Mardrun without incident. We landed, then joined a caravan heading to the city of New Hope. It would appear that our arrival came at a most opportune moment, as just a week before, the colonists had declared a truce with the Ulven in the region, making our lives significantly less stressful, and much less dangerous.
For six years, my family worked and survived in the new city. My mother, once a ranger, opened a small tavern to tend to weary souls, while my father lent his healing talents to many of the soldiers and guards of the town. My brother, as he was growing up, made known his hatred of his schooling, preferring to wrestle and play with his friends. I quickly found work helping in the city’s library, content to spend endless hours poring over tomes and stories of old, while taking any opportunity I could find to discuss what I had been reading with anyone who would listen. The librarians paid me a small wage for my work: not enough to live off of alone, but enough to help out my parents. We were content, although my thoughts would often drift back to Talvor and his teachings. I had grown to love the Syndar as an uncle, and heard that he had booked passage on a separate ship, though I had not heard of his fate, nor had I seen him in the city.
On my fourteenth birthday, I had grown too curious about Talvor, and wanted to continue my training, so I set out to find him. I began at the library, talking to anyone who looked like they might know something. Before I knew what had happened, I had followed a trail of whispers into an alley in a part of town I had never seen before.
“Well, well, well. What do we have here? Looks like a little rich girl. How about you just hand over that little coin purse you’ve got there, and we can all walk out of this happy, hmm?” I heard a voice from behind me say. I spun on my heels to face the source, seeing a man in a leather breastplate walking down the alley towards me. He had a scar down his cheek and wore a pair of daggers on his hip, though I could tell that he wouldn’t need them to hurt me. Thinking back to my training with Talvor, I drew my magical protection around me, prepared to cast another spell if he drew closer.
The man took a step forward. “Now now, these streets are dangerous for a young lady like you to be wandering alone.” Another step towards me. “Do you know why they’re dangerous, little girl?” Another step. I was frozen in fear, and he was no more than five feet away from me now. “It’s because of people like me!” He lunged forward, drawing one of his blades and striking with it, colliding with the magical barrier. Before he could recover and land another blow, I threw him backwards with a burst of magical force, turning to run away. I rounded a corner, praying the man wouldn’t follow me.
Soon enough, though, the man found me, although I had enough time to throw a stunning bolt at him, knocking one of his feet out from beneath him and blinding him for a short time. Again, I turned to run, but found myself in a dead end with the man close behind me. Out of mana and out of options, I curled up in the corner, not ready to face what was about to happen. With my head buried in my hands, I jumped when I heard a crash next to me, sure that my assailant was coming to end my life. Instead of feeling the steel pierce my skin, though, I heard a voice. A familiar voice. An urgent voice.
I looked up to see Talvor standing in the alleyway, with my attacker laying in a heap next to me, though he was starting to stir and rise. I bolted from my position and hugged my old friend around the waist, before moving to stand behind him as he primed another spell: the last one he had taught me before he left. The bolt flew from his hand and struck the man in the ribs, knocking the wind out of him and tearing a hole in his breastplate. As the man started to rise, Talvor conjured another bolt and knocked him back down, this time causing a nasty bruise on the man’s shoulder. Twice more the man tried to rise, and twice more he was struck down, until his crumpled body rose no more. Talvor strode over to the man, unsheathing one of his daggers and handing it to me. “It is never wise to be without a plan.”
Awestruck, I could barely manage, “Talvor? H…how did you find me? I was afraid you were gone!”
“This one heard you asking questions. Questions that should not be asked in these parts. It is fortunate that this one came upon you at this time, or else this one may have had one fewer student.” Talvor drew a small vial from among the folds of his robe. “You are drained. Drink, child. You will be refreshed.”
I took the vial and quickly swallowed the bluish liquid it contained. A warmth grew through my extremities as I felt mana surge through my veins once more. Amazed, I asked my old friend what was in the vial.
“It’s a mana potion,” he told me, seemingly shocked at my inexperience. “It restores one’s mana in a pinch.”
“These are incredible! Where do you get them? Can you make them? Can I have another?”
“Still just as curious as when the path this one walks departed from your own. This one will try to answer your questions. Firstly, most alchemists can make these potions, although the prices for them are often quite steep. This one is not an alchemist, and therefore unable to produce these potions, although there are contacts within the city. Finally, no, you may not have another. They are expensive, and take time to acquire. Now, follow this one. There is much to discuss before you return home.”
Talvor led me through the streets of New Hope, saying nothing as we meandered between shops and buildings, finally coming to an unmarked door down an alley. He led me through the door, locking it tightly behind him. The room we entered was small, a kitchen of sorts. A small stove squatted in the corner, staring blankly at the table around which we sat. Short, spent candles were spread around the table, and every inch of every surface was covered in scrolls and paper. Talvor looked at me, almost through me, for a moment before he began.
“This one is terribly sorry, my dear, but you are very important to my research, you see. Long has this one felt his connection to the mana stream fading. Perhaps it is this one’s old age. Perhaps it is something more. Regardless, this one had been searching for a source of mana when you came forth. It was like a sign from Lunara that this one’s quest was destined for success! And my, how you learned! Such a bright child…”
“Talvor? What’s going on? I’m sca-”
“SILENCE! This one is sorry, child, but you must learn your place, as this is your fate now. You see, there is a skill one can learn, where the mana in one being is transferred to another. Normally, this is a willing gift, although this one’s research has led me to believe that it may be possible to force the process.”
I stared at him, terrified of what was about to happen. He rose, striding to a small chest of drawers along the back wall, removing several sets of manacles, returning to me. “Apologies, child, but these are for your own safety. This one worries to think of what would happen to you, should you leave…” His statement struck me like a hammer, driving home the realization that he had threatened me, that he was no longer the man I knew. The man I thought I knew. With my wrists and ankles locked to the chair on which I sat, Talvor began to explain to me what would happen. “Among the Syndar, there is a process known as Hollowing. Through it, one is stripped of their connection to the magical forces of the world. It is a most dreadful fate. This one, however, has discovered a way to scale back the process. The ritual will draw upon your connection to these forces, but will not sever it, channeling the power elsewhere: in this case, to this one.”
Talvor began to chant as I began to struggle, hoping beyond hope that I might be able to escape. The manacles wouldn’t budge, and I screamed as I felt the icy fingers of his ritual magic caress my temples before plunging into my mind, drawing out my mana, ripping it from my head. I slumped over in the chair, physically and mentally exhausted by the ordeal. Talvor, apparently not satisfied, drew forth another potion, offering it to me. I refused, pursing my lips together and turning my head away. He grabbed me by the chin and forced the edge of the bottle past my teeth, clasping a hand over my mouth and nose. I fought against him, but my body gave in before my mind, swallowing hard for a breath of air. I felt the mana surge through me again, although I knew it would not last.
“Again, apologies. But this one required mana to save your life. The mana must be returned.” Again he began to chant, and once more the icy fingers penetrated my mind. I blacked out rather quickly, losing consciousness before the ritual was complete.
When I finally came to, I had a chance to truly look around the home: There were no windows, very few furnishings, and any light that might have shone under the door would be blocked out by the shadows of the alleyway in which the door stood. I was alone in the house, keeping a watchful eye out for my captor. Confident that he was gone, I scanned the house, my eyes coming to rest on the key I believed would unlock my bindings. Unable to walk with the restraints, I scraped along the floor on my chair until I was able to grab the key from its resting place on the table. After much fidgeting, I managed to unlock the manacle holding one of my hands, then the other. Soon enough my legs were free as well, and I rose to leave. Being drained like I had, however, effected my body as well. I stood too quickly, and my legs were unable to support me. Falling to the floor, my back convulsed with short, quiet cries. I was still sitting on the floor when Talvor returned. I recoiled from his sight, expecting retaliation for my attempt to escape. Instead, he sat on the floor next to me and asked why I would try to flee. “Were it not for this one’s actions, your life would be at its end. Does that not mean you owe this one a debt of gratitude?”
“But why are you doing this, Talvor? Why me? Why now?”
“Your will is strong, young one. There are those that could not survive the process, but this one feels that you will endure. As for why this is happening now. Do you remember what this one told you when your brother was born? ‘Be patient, and the fruit you pick will be ever sweeter.’ This one has been patient. Now it is time to reap the rewards.”
No words could accurately describe my emotions at that point, which was for the best; none would have been able to cross my lips anyway. I felt broken. I felt ashamed. I felt exposed. But more than anything, I felt tired. I clung to consciousness just long enough to be lifted back into the chair from which I had just escaped, sliding into blackness as I felt the restraints on my wrists and ankles fasten once again.
For a year this continued. I would only be allowed outside with Talvor’s supervision, and only to run errands. The rest of the day was spent confined to that awful chair while Talvor would lose himself in his scrolls, researching his rituals and performing experiments on me. Day after day, he would drain the mana out of my body, only to have it forced back upon me with another potion. The warmth, the rush of power I felt after consuming the potion was the only point of my day which was a release from my life as I had come to know it. I grew to look forward to the dose. I grew to like the taste. I grew to crave that rush. I grew to hate myself for it.
After that first year, Talvor believed that he had reached a breakthrough in his research. “This one knows why his experiments have been failing!” He exclaimed. He quickly reigned in his excitement, however. “You are too weak. Your connection to the Mana Stream is too weak. This one will teach you, strengthen your bond. Then, we can continue.”
So began my training. Though I would struggle and resist, my natural curiosity got the better of me. I succumbed to Talvor’s instruction, learning more powerful spells, and training myself to harness more mana. The experiments continued daily, at Talvor’s insistence, because he “didn’t want to miss the threshold” or something like that. With each day, my connection to the Mana Stream grew stronger, as did the rush which followed drinking the potion. In a few short months, Talvor had taught me all he could about arcane magic, and the rush I found from the potions now was nearly overwhelming. Talvor kept bringing me these potions. He kept giving me this sensation. Sure, he treated me like a slave, for that was what I had become, but those small moments of ecstasy surely outweighed the bad. I actually began to look forward to the experiments, because I knew that a potion would soon follow.
The months continued to pass, although my training was long since complete. Talvor’s experiments remained fruitless, but his frustration grew daily. I was close to him, so I bore the brunt of his fury. The bruises began to emerge, but it was a small price to pay for my daily potion. Talvor began to trust me with running into town for small errands. I would be given a few silver, and would be sent to fetch bread or reagents for spells. On one such trip, I was stopped dead in my tracks. A sheet of paper was stuck to the side of the building, one I had seen many times before. This time, however, my eye was drawn to the “MISSING” printed across the top, of the face, MY face, drawn on the front. I tore down the paper and shoved it in my pouch, afraid of being recognized. I hurried about my business and ran back to Talvor’s home, tears starting to fill my eyes. I flung the door open and threw the poster on his table. “I need to go see them, Talvor,” I cried.
“You cannot, child. They would not recognize you. They would not accept what you have become,” he replied.
“And what am I?”
“You are mine.”
On my seventeenth birthday, Talvor allowed me to join him on an expedition outside of the city walls. We would be collecting a rare mushroom for one of his spells, he told me. We wandered past the gates, pulling our cloaks up high to block our faces from the prying eyes of the city watchmen. Following a small dirt path off of the main road, Talvor and I came across a small cabin. “This is it, child.”
“In there? We’re going to find your mushroom inside a cabin?”
“Do not question me, child. Follow me.”
Talvor pushed past the old wooden door and led me inside the cabin where I was surprised to see four large men standing around a table, torches in one hand, the other on the hilts of their swords. I did not see the figure sitting behind the table, however, until she stood up and walked towards me. Tall and thin, her pointed ears protruded ever so slightly past her blonde hair. Her clothes were worn, but still retained all of their previous elegance. Each step was accented by a slight jingle from her skirt. Her face bore a scar down one cheek, and a wicked smile that was as far from sincere as a mortal could muster. “Is this her, Talvor?”
“Right down to business, Faelyn? This one admires that.”
Talvor stood by the door as I remained helpless, staring at him like a lost dog as this new woman approached me, poked and prodded me, asking me questions about my abilities. After what seemed like hours, Faelyn reached into her pocket and removed a small pouch and tossed it at the ground by Talvor’s feet. He shot me an apologetic glance, quickly broken as he bent down to pick up the bag.With his gaze averted, Faelyn motioned to her guards, who drew their swords and approached my mentor. I screamed, trying to warn him to run, but it was too late. Before he could stand back up, my mentor was cut down before my eyes. Terrified sobs wracked my body as I started to channel the mana to begin to avenge my mentor when I felt a sharp pain in my cheek. Faelyn had slapped me, drawing my concentration away from my spell and snapping me back to the overwhelming reality of the situation in which I found myself. I knew that resisting would be futile, and perhaps lethal, so I made no moves as she placed a leather collar around my neck, instructing me to follow her. We weren’t even out of the cabin before her guards began to ransack Talvor’s still bleeding body, and I had to avoid looking at him, overcome by a single emotion, certainly not the one I would have expected:
I was thirsty.
Never again would I be provided with the mana potions I had come to crave so much. As we walked away, I asked Faelyn how I could acquire another, just one more to satisfy my urge. In mid-sentence, however, one of her guards had come running up to us, a handful of scrolls in hand.
“Ma’am, we found these on the Syndar. They look like they might be important.”
“Good work, Charles,” Faelyn responded, unrolling one of the scrolls. Her eyes lit up as she saw what was written on the parchment. “Yes, these will do nicely. Girl, you say you want another mana potion? I think that we can work something out…”