Beyond the Veil
Grief is cautious for himself and those who he fears to lose. The last to fight, but the first to fling his weapons into the hearts of the enemy once the battle is joined. He talks very little and his deep-voiced mutterings are usually the essence of cynicism or sarcasm, but when he and his companions are elbows deep in ichor a surprising amount of encouragement can flow from his lips.
Mannerisms and Appearance:
Szarmas is the first in his father’s line to lose the intense, crimson eyes in favor his mother’s Silver orbs. Her influence extends to his skin tone as well offering a greater red hue giving Szarmas a more demonic appearance, but the straight black hair and his symmetrical, understated horns are definitely his father’s.
His slave-life amid Belial’s demons left Szarmas with a wide but shallow scar that wraps around his upper arm from the shoulder to just past his elbow. Being a Tiefling in the slave pits also taught young Szarmas to literally watch his tail. On numerous occasions his longest appendage was stomped on, twice it was cut deeply by the unkeen weapons of the demons-slavers, and once it was pulled from its socket as young Szarmas was flung across a mining tunnel. It has since recovered from its most grievous wounds but, just in case, he keeps it ‘high and dry’.
Removed from his family as a child and taken south down the slave trails to Sar’kahl, Szarmas found no friends or mercy at the hands of Belial’s henchmen. As time passed Belial was surprised at Szarmas’ ability to learn the language of the demons (Supernal) and through this Szarmas was used to weave seeds of fear and despair into the ranks of the Tiefling slaves breaking their spirits and making them easier to control. This forced cooperation gained him favor with Belial and the other overseers and Szarmas soon learned to use this for his own benefit.
Amid the art of language Szarmas also learned the desires of those around him. The trade among slaves and overseers was small but profitable and through his years in the pits he began trading, stealing, borrowing and begging from his power hungry keepers and selling to his fellow slaves. It was down this path that he was able to see a way out of the pits, but knowing his escape would not be easy, he began using his renown to inspire a small rebellion and enlisted the aid of his greatest rivals within the slaves to lead the others.
Belial was kept unaware of the insurgency and Szarmas managed to put together a hopeful plan for at least 50 of his Tiefling brethren to escape and the oppression that kept the slaves in check was the same oppression that fueled their plans and their hope. On the day of the planned escape all was set and at first, though dangerous, all plans were held together, but the spark of hope turned to a flood of fear when the alarm went up and their flight was real.
From Sar’kahl the fifty plus slaves ran not looking back. Through their frustratingly inefficient sandy footsteps and the growling pit hounds closing their fear and excitement pushed them onward up and over the dunes just north of Sar’kahl. Beyond the first set of dunes and on to the next they ran and even as the hounds came closer only two were lost as they fell and tumbled down the dune. Just over the third dune from Sar’kahl the shouts and the hounds receded then were silent. At the bottom, the running slowed, then stopped as exhaustion prevailed and a feeling of victory grew.
As soon as the slaves were beginning to cheer the ground shook and sand cascaded down the dune to their feet. In the pause that followed the heavy breathing stopped and all looked about them and a monstrous roar was heard from over the last dune. Immediately all turned toward the next dune but it was much higher than the rest and Szarmas knew that sound. The overseers told tales of great worms that could destroy whole caravans and devour entire companies of warriors.
Szarmas yelled out, “Wait! Don’t move! It’s a great worm, it can feel your feet!” No one listened…they ran helplessly up the dune…it was too late.
As his voice echoed off the dunes around him another scream preceded a great mass that lunged overhead. Its landing scattered the slaves like a drop of water on a puddle.
Screams of those slaves who weren’t killed instantly filled the hot desert air and Szarmas found himself cradling his legs in his arms and crying. To what bitter end have I brought my people? To make it all this way and end up in the jaws of a great worm of the desert is folly! Damn, Belial and his kind!
The worm made easy work of the helpless slaves strewn about the dunes and Szarmas found himself alone in the wastes just outside Sar’kahl without any home or any family save those that he led to the slaughter.
Questions began soon after the shock wave left him.
Who did this?
Szarmas knew the answer but all he could do was recount in silence the beast…crushing, chasing, biting and swallowing the slaves, nay…his family; the family he wanted to save.
The sun had moved two hand widths across the sky since the worm disappeared and in the hot sun Szarmas arose and began to crawl toward the scraps of the fallen. Sunset would bring a cold he was not prepared for.
Donned in the bloody scraps of cloth and canvas, Szarmas climbed the large dune ahead of him and surveyed his life. Looking behind, he saw the torch lights of Sar’kahl beckoning with thoughts of safety he knew didn’t exist. There was laughter in the easterly wind as well. It was the sweet laughter of ultimate victory after defeat. It was Belial’s laughter and then it was Szarmas who laughed at himself for knowing the chances of surviving this desert alone.
Beyond the threat to his morale, Szarmas knows that Belial would soon learn of his deception and betrayal, and there is no failing Belial. He will find his deceiver and he will exact revenge as is his way.
Looking forward and northwest, Szarmas could see the orange-pink glow of sunlight on high distant rocks and set his course. A road was there to his left which he would parallel and hope for a safe journey along the dunes.
Beyond…who knows, but for the first 12 days when he slept he dreamt of desert sand that twisted, grew and morphed into a symbol, a destination, a path. A green three angled shape encased eyes of a deep red and a familiar voice echoed through his soul saying nothing specific, but the tone stuck with him. Each night the symbol became more clear, and the voice with it, but when he reached the rocks, the dream stopped as he floundered to survive.
On a diet of insects and reptiles he lived for a week there until his strength and the questions returned.
Who am I?
Who alone can escape Belial and the demons?
The name Szarmas, must be left behind.
I must become someone else until the hunt is over or the prey becomes predator.
I will never forget what happened to my last family and I will endeavor to find my first family.
Grief consumed him for three days and nights and the dreams fell away.
On the morning of the eighth day amid the rocks, Szarmas watched a caravan approach from Sar’kahl, and as it moved swiftly past the rocks and into the open desert to the north he felt it was time to act.
It was difficult to manage, but following until dark Szarmas stowed away on what appeared to be a Gith’yanki caravan. An uneventful day and night in an empty crate marked with some unintelligible phrase brought him that much closer to the freedom of the north and though he was safe when they were moving, the night was spent awake and trying not to make a sound.
The first town the caravan landed in was not what he was hoping for and his lack of sleep and water left him much weaker than before. Szarmas knew he could not survive another day travelling and so he decided to try to move about town and secure food and water. He failed and he was caught and brought among his Gith’yanki host. The Gith’yanki were surprised to find him and not ready for a demon-speaking Tiefling, and once again, through some bit of luck, managed to talk them into allowing him to work for them to pay for his passage.
Stealing was Szarmas claim to fame in Sar’kahl and though he desperately hated being reminded of it, he accepted stealing as his penance. The desperate Tiefling had no choice, but maintained his anonymity and began to steal for his life.
He managed a good bit of success and even though some nights he went without dinner it forced him to concentrate harder on his next tasks. The scraps from the Gith’yanki’s table were all he was given as long as he succeeded in his thefts, and thefts were not easy along the desert road.
Most stops were populated with demons, some had Gith’yanki and humans as well but all were non-accommodating types and the thefts were difficult for a barely skilled individual. It was the tenth day of travel and his sixteenth theft that Szarmas ran into a group of demons fighting brutally to the death. It was some pathetic dispute over seating order, but Szarmas had seen enough of demons to know how this would end and as the fight escalated and drew a crowd it was here that a demon recognized him.
Szarmas was quick enough to not be seen again in town and paid for the choice not to leave the caravan, but it was too close a call to attempt another sighting. Belial will surely hear about it and fear gripped him for days. His time in the caravan reminded him of his deal with the Gith’yanki.
"You steal, we take, you live."
It was quite a simple arrangement, and though, not quite sure of his skills, the "Gith" leader was aroused by his charisma and Szarmas’ will in withholding his name and so agreed, but under one condition: when they reached the last stop of their journey, Szarmas would have to fight for his freedom.
It was this last stop in the desert that loomed before him and the words of his new ‘lord’ echoed in his mind. Do I fight as he says, or do I run and survive? Who am I?
Another day through the desert and mountains to the north meant the near-end of the journey, the border town of Anavas. Szarmas would be surrounded by many more races of the world than he had seen since his time in Sar’kahl and his opportunities for yet another escape from this set of bonds and possible death at the hands of the Gith’yanki would be greatly improved.
Anavas loomed into view at the end of their second day on the road and it seemed like freedom was so close though he knew it may not yet be so. He rode quietly pondering his next act as the caravan came to a halt in front of a large structure that overflowed with beings from all over the lands of the world. It was a bazaar unlike anything he had seen before.
What must have been a magical light illuminated the interior spaces and allowed for the after dusk festivities. Dark shapes moved to music, even darker shapes loomed in the corners and the doorways watching everything while small groups sat together beneath the lights talking, laughing, smoking and playing instruments. Szarmas felt a tremendous welling of excitement and resisted the urge to jump off the wagon and run through the crowds shouting joyfully. The Gith’yanki leader broke his entrancement.
“It is time for you, tiefling.”
Szarmas was immediately brought back to the doom of his choice. He sat staring at the Gith’yanki until it spoke again.
A smugness was there about him that was reminiscent of their first meeting.
“You are ready for this, young one, and you will win either way. There will be peace or freedom.”
He spoke no more, but motioned Szarmas down and pointed toward the square of people still dancing, laughing, smoking, watching and Szarmas felt himself move down from the wagon and into the square. The Gith’yanki followed close, but made no move to prevent him from going anywhere he wanted, and that’s when the light of the event struck him.
In the center of the square was a large open pit freakishly similar in design to the Belial’s pit in Sar’kahl and then there he was. Belial stood plain as if the Sun had arisen suddenly in the center of town and all eyes were on Szarmas as if worshipers of that Sun were sending a gift, a sacrifice. It was of course exactly that. Szarmas felt the betrayal as thickly as he had betrayed and the slow march to the feet of Belial was excruciating.
The Gith’yanki was deceitful, but he was no liar. Belial was prepared to fight personally and given a dagger only, Szarmas could only prepare himself for the inevitable. The bashing only lasted a dozen seconds or so and Szarmas was lying unconscious on the ground and the dreaming returned.
The desert sand came toward him and began spinning about him and he saw again the destination symbol. The three angled shape with a pair of red eyes in the center and that voice. It had never quite come together so clearly and so quickly, but now it was clear as Pelor’s bell. A woman’s voice filled the space around him and the eyes blinked slowly as he heard his full name. Szarmas Daimonius … it repeated several times before he came to in another place at another time.
[an 8th level mercenary/bounty hunter/?wizard? took a risk and created a ritual LINKED PORTAL that teleported Szarmas to a safe location while he awaits Belial’s command to find the missing slave no knowing it was the bounty hunter who created the job.]
In and out of sleep he fell and while conscious he noted several human females tending to his wounds. They brought him warm meals and while their techniques were simple they quickly refreshed the young tiefling and within what he felt was a day, he was returned to his feet and they spoke their first words to him in the common language of his childhood, and told him he must leave their care and this place.
Stunned, he tried to speak with them, but they abandoned him and were not seen again. The stone building was built like a tower with a long stair along the outer wall’s interior and several rooms along its length; all locked. The door at the bottom however, opened easily onto a green field and a distant tree line that felt all too contrived, as did the cloak, dagger and basic clothes that were all set out for him. Szarmas quickly adjusted his new outfit and adjusted his thoughts to his new task and as this tale continually reminds us, that choices are often not ours to make.
The small green field seemed much larger from the tower as Szarmas walked out toward the tree line and the path in front of him. As he passed the tree line and the thick wood twisted his path he lost sight of where he had been and continued on until the path led him to a crossroad where that familiar voice came to him, Szarmas Daimonius … and a sign that pointed West read, Three Points. Szarmas covered his head with his cloak and began walking the road of his destiny armed with the sand-drawn symbol, a destination and a voice. As for the name, Szarmas Daimonius would not speak it again until he heard spoken to him. His grief would haunt him until that day and those around him would have to wonder why until he is released by that voice and those red eyes.