NPC Closeup 05/25/2003

Tirith, Undead Seeker

Tirith, The Mourner

Tirith and his brother, Kirith, were orphaned at a young age when a vampire settled in the mountain caves near their rural community. Over the next few months, the village suffered much under the undead's predation. Finally, a band of adventurers led by a priest of Heironeous came to aid the villagers. The priest organized the town's residents to prepare for the vampire's counterattack should the heroes' first attempt to slay it failed. The priest instructed the residents to gather in the most secure building in the village, and he helped them ward the doors and windows with holy symbols. He told the villagers to remain there during the hours of darkness until the heroes returned to tell them the terror that had menaced their lives for so long was defeated, and he also worked with them to come up with some viable defense plans should all their attempts to safeguard the church fail.

The heroes' first attack on the vampire did indeed fail, and the priest was correct that the undead horror would seek its revenge against the harmless farmers and merchants. The vampire bypassed the defenses by coming down the chimney in gaseous form. It attacked mercilessly, killing several of the villagers, including the boys' parents.

The heroes reached the site of the massacre as quickly as possible and, with the help of the remaining residents, destroyed the bloodsucker forever. The priest vowed to take Tirith, Kirith, and the other orphans back to his temple and raise them under the guiding hand and unwavering eye of Heironeous.

Tirith grew to become both a fighter and a cleric of Heironeous, and he served his god as he adventured with a group of likeminded individuals. This changed, however, when the group ran into a hunting pack of wights. Tirith was the only survivor. Both his brother, Kirith, now a paladin of Heironeous, and Tirith's ladylove, Asmea, a half-elf bard, were among the dead. Having seen everyone closest to him struck down and slain by the undead, Tirith determined that he would spend the rest of his days destroying any undead he can find.

Tirith, the Avenger

Tirith eventually made his quest into a profitable, if incredibly dangerous, profession. Tirith, "the Avenger" became quite well known in the region in which he was raised and particularly the city that holds the temple where he grew up. Early in his career as a destroyer of undead, church elders grew pleased that the young man was doing so much good in the name of Heironeous, but one priest carried deep concerned over the dutiful, some say obsessed, warrior of light and life. Castellus is the priest who brought Tirith and his brother back to the temple as orphans, and while all the temple clerics and staff took hands in raising the boys right, they were always closest to Castellus, which was an arrangement that gave Castellus much joy and pride. He came to regard the boys as sons, and he was a fine father figure for the growing boys.

After Tirith started down the path of undead destruction, Castellus continued to seek Tirith's company on the young man's increasingly infrequent visits to the temple, but the young man could see only vengeance and hatred. Love, friendship, and the simple joys of life no longer held any pleasure for Tirith. He lived to kill all the undead he could find. Sometimes he allowed others to accompany him on his quests, but he most commonly worked alone; he didn't want the responsibility of others' lives weighing on his mind and distracting him from the hunt.

This single-mindedness so worried Castellus that he feared another blow to Tirith's psyche would lead to insanity. As a result, Castellus refrained from telling Tirith of recent news regarding the young warrior's rural home. Reports had reached the temple that a vampire (or vampires) again stalked the lush foothills where Tirith was born. Further, Castellus performed divinations that reveal that the vampire matched the description of Tirith's mother, thought slain by the original vampire those many years ago. Castellus, while too old to adventure, made inquiries in the region and confirmed that the body of Tirith's mother may not have been burned as Castellus instructed and that the grave where she was to have been buried was empty. Castellus instructed the temple clergy and staff that this information was to be withheld from Tirith until Castellus deemed it appropriate.

Tirith, the Betrayed

Knowledge of Tirith's ability to hunt and kill undead eventually spread throughout the nation. He has even worked for the royal household to eliminate threats to the nation (and the family's well-kept secrets). The acclaim has done nothing for the man, however. Still haunted by those he has lost to the seemingly never-ending threat posed by the undead, Tirith now wonders if his actions make any difference at all. There always seems to be more undead to destroy, no matter how many he returns to dust. He often wonders why he should go on. Is his life nothing but a delusion of his own self-importance? Is it possible that the undead have taken his reason to live from him, too?

To make matters even worse, Tirith learned recently that Castellus betrayed him. It was only after the elder cleric's death from a plague that recently ravaged the city that the other members of the church's hierarchy no longer felt bound by Castellus's instructions to keep certain information regarding the return of Tirith's mother to this world as a vampire. After Castellus was buried with great honor, for he saved many residents of the city from death by the plague even while he suffered from it himself, Tirith was given the details that Castellus had gathered since the first reports of vampiric activity in his homeland came in.

Since the elder priest last spoke with Tirith, Castellus had uncovered the following facts: A vampire is operating in Tirith's homeland; it claims to ask after "her" sons Tirith and the late Kirith; it resembles Tirith's mother at the time of her death; this vampire is creating spawn and gathering other undead to its lair deep in the mountains; all the priests and adventurers sent to investigate or probe the vampire's group for its overall strength have failed to return. It is this last fact that convinced the church's elders to let their vows to Castellus lapse with his death. They are afraid that the forces this vampire has already gathered may be too powerful to halt. So, they turned to the church's deadliest hunter of the undead to aid them.

For his part, Tirith's psyche tore when he heard that his own mother has returned as a vampire that is creating more of the abominations. He is terribly unbalanced and not even he knows what to do. Can he "kill" the mother he longed to see again for so many years? Can the undead ever be wiped out? Should he continue to fight or give in to what increasingly seems the inevitable march of life into undeath?

Knowing only that he must go back to the home he knew as a boy, Tirith prepares to leave the city. The church elders now wonder if telling the valiant young man was the correct thing to do; they wonder if even he is capable of destroying the growing army of the undead that gathers in the mountains. Have they consigned their greatest warrior to certain death, or worse?

About the Author

Dale Donovan is a thirteen-year veteran of the gaming industry, during which time he edited Dragon Magazine, wrote or edited many Forgotten Realms products (along with every other roleplaying line produced by the company, be it TSR or Wizards of the Coast), moved from rural Wisconsin to suburban Seattle when Peter Adksion of Wizards saved TSR, and served as a Managing Editor. Since going freelance, he has worked for Steve Jackson Games, Guardians of Order, White Wolf, and Wizards, among others. He loves RPGs, horror and fantasy fiction, most every kind of music, and his lovely wife and wonderful daughter.

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