: Arkus looks down at ground and begins to speak...

 

I am Arkus Ebonblade, this is my story...

 

I never knew my parents. The earliest memories I have are those of growing up in the orphanage of Tunare. I was a rebellious child and often found myself in trouble with the headmaster of the order. In my 12th year on Norrath, I was summoned before the headmaster and told it was time for me to begin learning a skill. He told me that they had found a sponsor for me - that I would be apprenticed to a man named Chronos Blackiron. He ran a small forge in East Freeport far from the hub of town - down in the slums where I would eventually find my destiny. He had lost most of the use of one of his legs in a battle long ago, and now required the use of a huge staff to walk - I often wondered about it in those days - but the crux of my point is that while he could stand and forge - travelling was a hardship for him, even the simple trip to Ikthar for sheet metal was a chore, never mind going into North Freeport to obtain ore. Do not get me wrong, the items he made were of great quality, his leg did not impair his ability to forge weapons of great beauty and balance.

 

It was in my 16th year that my life changed completely. The story is not important, suffice to say that I questioned the religious doctrine of the order one time too many and found myself facing banishment from the orphanage. Some would say that it would be cruel to throw a child out into the streets, but to me it was a chance for freedom. Freedom from the forced ideology, from the restrictive rules, from those that would hold me back. When I left it was with a sense one only gets when the future finally opens up and all things become possible. While there were a few who I would miss, I never looked back.

 

:raises his head and faces his audience - not really looking at them - more looking into the past...

 

The early days on the streets were rough for me. I had little practical experience in the world, and while smart had no contacts to work with. I often found myself scrounging in filth and garbage for a meal. My only source of coinage was my continuing apprenticeship with Chronos. I would spend many nights speaking with Chronos - he had the same beliefs that I did - namely that most of those who would champion the cause of good, were false in their beliefs, that they did not follow that which they preached and that the world was not the place they made it out to be. We both agreed that the world was a harsh place where you had to take care of yourself and those you called friend.

 

Chronos could be harsh at times, but he was always fair with me - and by the middle of my 17th year he would allow me to use the forge, creating simple items that were time consuming but trivial for him - Now able to earn additional money through my simple smithing, I was able to sustain myself somewhat better - I could buy my food instead of scavenging - I often had a roof of some sort over my head.

           

That change heralded the beginning of a new part of my life - a time when all my rage was forgotten...

 

:Arkus looks up at the sky - almost questioningly as if asking a question of the fates...

 

            I met Kymara in the Chops & Hops during my 19th year. It was evening and I had decided to get a quick meal before finding a place to sleep for the night - she came running through the door panic stricken. It seems the guard was looking for her as she had stolen some food from one of the vendors and was searching for a place to hide. I knew she was a rogue immediately, because she stole my heart in that moment. I helped her hide from the guard that night - and by dawn they had given up the search.

           

Hades, she was beautiful - from that point on we were inseparable - for the first time in my life I knew what love was. We never had much, but we didn't care - we had one another. It was during this time that I began to take as many odd jobs as I could find - I would work as a bartender in several bars in Freeport and began to learn the art of brewery, I would fashion a crude bow and arrows from wood I could find, climb the ramparts of the West gate and fire arrows down onto the battlefield in hopes of being able to kill dinner for us, all the while still working for Chronos. She too worked towards making our lives better - she would travel with me and I would give her the pelts of the creatures I had killed and she would make all manners of items from them. She could also fashion the most amazing trinkets from any metal she could find or steal. Together we were able to afford a small room in a local inn - once more, it wasn't much, but it was ours.

           

:Arkus' attention focuses back on the audience and continues to speak...

 

            Over time, such a situation leads to the settling of life, and by my 20th year I began to want more for us. It was at that time that I decided to join the Freeport Militia - It would be steady pay and would give us the ability to have a  better life...

 

:Arkus' gaze shifts away again

 

            There are things in this world one often wishes they could take back - I have no regrets save one - If I could go back and tell myself what would follow I would do so in a heartbeat...

           

Upon my first day of employment with the Freeport Militia I was taken to meet Lucan. He was as corrupt as they come, but he made no pretenses about it. He told me there was much money to be made, and while the king's ransom of it was to be his, there would always be enough to go around. It was a deal I could live with, and so I began my training.

           

It was also at this time that I noticed a change in Chronos - he no longer had the same look about him when I would come to see him. It was almost as if he was disappointed in the choices I was making. I felt I had somehow let him down. But, I digress...

           

After training with the militia for roughly a month I was given my first patrol route - the territory near the Hogcallers Inn in West Freeport - I was nowhere near the strength and power of the true guards, my function was merely to quell disputes between towns folk, not the many warriors & mages who call Freeport home.

           

:Arkus' face darkens and he begins to scowl - speaking in a harsher tone...

 

            It was during my 21st year that my world fell apart. I was to meet Kymara at the Hogcallers for the midday meal while working my shift and I remember thinking of nothing but her that whole day. It was because of this lack of inattention that I never saw the Paladin charging me. His shouting of his indignation at the corruption of the Freeport Militia and swearing to bring us down, snapped me from my daydream just in time to avoid having me head swept from my shoulders by his blade. I quickly looked around searching for a sign of the high guard and shouting a call for help - I would later learn a battle at the gate had drawn their attention, which had given my attacker the opening he needed to find one whom he could defeat - namely me. I fought as hard as I could, but was no match for him - within a few moments I had been cut several times and lay prone on the ground - beaten into submission. He stood over me and raised his sword for the killing blow - I remember thinking that at least Kymara would not see me die - I thanked the fates for that.

 

:Arkus' expression becomes downcast as he continues...

 

            It would seem the fates have no mercy - as he drew back his blade I heard Kymara's voice screaming my name and as the blade came down I saw a shadow cross between myself and the Paladin - then the blood hit my face...

           

She had thrown herself between us and had taken the blow meant for me - It was a horrific wound - she had been cut from shoulder to stomach - the moment I saw it, I knew it would be a mortal wound. I held her in my arms as she passed - I know not what happened to the Paladin - perhaps the High Guards returned and he ran, perhaps he was horrified by what he had done - it matters not - what mattered was that the only person I ever truly loved died in my arms that day... Her last words to me were simple - She told me of her love for me, that even death would not keep us apart and that she would be waiting for me on the other side when my time came. She made me promise her two things as well - that I would not rush to join her in death and that I would avenge her. Her exact words I will not repeat, as they are for my ears alone - what I have told you is all you need to know. As I kissed her for the last time, the spark of life faded from her eyes.

 

:The anger returns in Arkus' voice.

 

            My life crumbled around me - after recovering from my wounds, I resigned from the guard - I had no need for the life they offered. I returned to where I started - I returned to the slums. I had but one purpose in mind - to forge weapons and armor so that I could obtain my revenge. Chronos was understanding of my goals and assisted me in learning the skills I needed to obtain that revenge.

           

It was shortly thereafter that a force of paladins came into the slums in search of their enemies - It was a small contingent - 5 at the most - and to cover the most area they split up. I remember looking up from the forge to see a young Paladin walking towards me. From the look in his eyes you could tell he was inexperienced, yet he walked with an arrogance common to his kind. I know not what came over me, but I felt all the rage and hate I had stored in me well up and I charged him. With strength driven by my rage, I knocked him to the ground and began pummeling him - In the corner of my mind I could hear Chronos shouting that this was not the time for revenge. I did not heed his words and continued to pummel the fool. Just as the young fool was passing into unconsciousness I felt a surge of power unlike any I had felt before - The Harm's Touch. In the time since then, I have often seen my dark brothers and sisters call upon The Harm's Touch and know what a horrific sight it is. I can only imagine the fear the paladin felt when he saw the burning light in my eyes as the arcane energy was released - I can only take pleasure in that knowledge now, after the fact. He died writhing in agony from my rage.

 

Chronos came over to me immediately and told me I had to run, that the remainder of his contingent would be here momentarily and that they would kill me. He then told me that he knew I always had it in me, and that he was proud of me. When I questioned him, he stated that the power I had unleashed was a sign that Innoruuk had noticed my rage and judged me worthy to carry out his will. He handed me 2 notes and told me to run - that he had fulfilled his debt and that he was ready to finally go before Innoruuk. He then took the can he always carried and spoke a few words in a language I did not understand. I remember being amazed as a field of magic shimmered around his staff and it slowly shifted it's appearance to a Two Handed Sword with a Blade of the darkest black - A Dark Reaver. He lifted it and told me that he would face the coming Paladins and they would assume that he had killed the young one. He told me to run to a place of safety and read the 2 notes - and he made me swear to honor his wishes - and for the second time in my life, I made an oath to one who was about to die in my place. As I ran off I grabbed the rusty blade of the Paladin. I heard the shouts of the patrol leader as he spotted Chronos and the fallen Paladin - and I heard Chronos shout "I am Chronos Deathiron, Shadow Knight of Innoruuk come forward and meet your death. From a distance, I watched the battle - crippled though he was, he killed 3 of them before succumbing to the last Paladin and his wounds. Once again, those wretched Paladins had taken away someone dear to me.

 

:Arkus' tone calms and he continues the story   

 

I opened the first note and began to read it. Once more the words of the note were for me only, so I will paraphrase what they said. The first note was from Chronos to me - It explained that he was Chronos Deathiron - a Shadow Knight who had once traveled with my father Draco Ebonblade. It explained that Draco too was a Shadow Knight and that he had saved Chronos' life in the same battle which crippled him - but did so at the cost of his own life. Chronos explained that my mother Anaya had been pregnant at the time and that he had asked Chronos to look after his as yet unborn child in payment of the debt. Unfortunately when he arrived in Freeport, he found that my mother Anaya had died in childbirth and that I had been sent to the Orphange of Tunare. He kept tabs on me, and when I was old enough petitioned to have me become his apprentice, so he could fulfill his vow.

 

            He also told me of my father - that he was a courageous Knight and a good friend who followed his own code of honor. He stated that they had fought across the continent of Antonica and at the time were held in infamy by their enemies. He finished off by saying that I could continue in my fathers footsteps and become the knight he would have wanted me to be. He finished off the note by stating that should I decide to become a Shadow Knight I was to read the second note. If I chose to not follow in my fathers footsteps, I was to destroy the note. Finally, he stated that should I follow the dark path, upon the day that I am allowed by the Dismal Rage to take my surname that I return to where his shop once stood and dig in a certain spot - buried within a case would be my fathers last gift to me. He gave me the information I would need to open that case as well.

 

            I thought about it that night - how everything he had ever told me was true - Chronos had never lied to me. I though of how the Paladins - the supposed forces of good had struck at me and taken away the only woman I ever loved - I though of how the forces of good had stripped me of my father. I though of this and so much more. I must have sat there thinking for the whole evening, for when I finally looked up it was pitch black out. I fell asleep from exhaustion shortly after watching the sun rise.

 

            When I finally woke - I had made my decision - I opened the second note. It was a letter of introduction to Pietro Zarn - Leader of the Shadow Knight arm of the Dismal Rage. It also contained instructions for finding him. After a short search, I found the entrance to our underground lair and made the necessary introductions. As the sun set upon Antonica I took the oath of blood and was reborn.

 

:Arkus addresses the gathered listeners

 

That is my story - it is as much who I am as my deeds. I am Arkus Ebonblade, Shadow Knight of Innoruuk, son of Draco Ebonblade. I am beholden to none and I shall kneel before none, not even my Lord Innoruuk. I have lived a dozen lifetimes in my 22 years and shall bring death and mayhem to those who would oppose me, I will see my enemies driven before me and struck down by my blade, for their death is my life.