The party is currently in a tower, atop a moving cloud. They've been together traveling for days.
Hey Dhoug, can we step outside? I want to talk to you about something. That got pretty scary earlier.
< non-committal shrug > Fine.
< Looks at ground, scratches back of head >
Look, I know you don’t trust me. I can’t blame you for that. You don’t know me and I haven’t been around long enough to earn any kind of trust. It’ll take time, and that’s fair.
< Looks up at Dhoug >
But I think if I tell you the whole story of what brought me out here, you’ll at least understand me a little beyond “that idiot elf we found in a box”. And, hopefully, understand why I have no intention of running off or doing anything to hurt the group.
Some of this might be hard for me to talk about, and it’s something I’ve never shared with anybody. What you do with this information is ultimately up to you, but I at least have to ask that you keep it between us.
< Clenches jaw and swallows nervously >
A nobleman’s pride lies in his reputation. I’m not like my heathen brothers who will blabber about ever last little secret they know about you. I am, after all, the best of the Tinneths. < smiles smugly with a far off gaze >
< Takes a deep breath >
I should be at the Academy right now. I haven’t completed my studies. But I had to flee because, well… I guess I’m getting ahead of myself.
When I was a kid, barely old enough to remember, My family was pretty well respected in Friken Falls. We weren’t wealthy, but we were comfortable. Comfortable enough to get me into the Academy, alongside the nobles and other elite.
One night everything changed though. My family lost everything in a sudden fire. I was able to stay in school, but only just. My father had to come out of retirement and start working for the Dean to cover my tuition.
I was now the poor kid at school. My peers didn’t exactly respond with kindness. Many simply pitied me and kept their distance, but a few were of the opinion I didn’t deserve to be there. That my presence somehow tainted the Academy. They did not make the following years very easy for me.
Being a Noble of House Tinneth, I’m sure you’ve never been treated as inferior, or “not good enough.” But I can tell you: it wears on you after a while. Being pushed around… spat on… tripped in the halls… that was one thing. But the real hell was being talked down to every day. The disdain in their voices struck me like a punch to the gut.
I couldn’t really talk to anyone about it. My father would be away working for days at a time, and when he was home he was exhausted. There was no telling him I dreaded going to class some days when he was working so hard to keep me enrolled.
I really did love learning, anyway. Books don’t care if you live in a castle or a stable. And there were so many interesting books there… but that’s beside the point. I doubt I’ll ever see that library again, now…
< Looks wistfully out at the clouds >
< feels a strange stirring in his heart… uncomfortably clears throat >
Well…I being poor is something to look down on. It shows that you can’t manage money properly, that you didn’t prepare for any hard times ahead. Still, I suppose if you don’t have any money to run off we aren’t in risk of you robbing us of our earnings.
Why did you leave the library?
< face scrunches in a suppressed smirk, exhales sharply from nose, shakes head slightly before turning back to Dhoug >
There was this other kid a school, Immus. He was big and tough and very wealthy. He and his buddies made a sport out of screwing with me on a daily basis. I had gotten to a point where I decided I wasn’t going to let him see that he was getting to me. He could yell whatever at me, knock my books to the floor, throw my bag in a tree, whatever… and I would pretend he wasn’t even there, gather my things and continue on my way.
So I guess some of the ‘fun’ was gone for him if he couldn’t see me sweat because one day between classes he cornered me in the courtyard. I had been passing through and now suddenly every path I tried to take out had one of his cronies standing in it, closing in on me.
Immus said,“I think it’s time you dropped out.”
I tried to ignore him and push past. He put a palm to my chest and pushed me to the ground.
“I’m serious this time!” he said,“I’m sick of seeing you around here!”
As I tried to stand up he pushed me down again.
Determined not to let him get to me, I dryly said, “Which is it, Immus? Do you want me to leave or do you want me on the ground?”
That pissed him off. “Trying to be funny, Renden? You know what else is funny?”
And then the kicking started. Just Immus at first, kicking at my gut. Then a couple more joined in, aiming at my back and head. In a final attempt to get them off me, I reached for my wand. I think my plan was to threaten them with it. Try to get them to back off. But when I aimed it at Immus, something happened.
Fire poured out of my wand like dragon’s breath. When it made contact with Immus he was thrown probably 20 feet in the air. Everything stopped. I had no idea how I’d managed to cast such a spell. I had studied all kinds of fire spells, but never even attempted to cast something like that.
When the smoke cleared I saw Immus laying burnt and broken on the ground, writhing in silent agony. Everyone around stared on in bewilderment. Some took off running. As the reality of what I had done sank in, I realized there is no way this ends well for me. Immus belonged to a very powerful family, and I couldn’t even fathom what punishment the Academy might bring down on me.
So I ran. I grabbed my bag, and with Immus still smoldering on the ground I ran and ran until my legs gave out. I don’t even know if he survived.
I wish I could tell you it felt bad or wrong to blast him with fire like that. But as the flames billowed out of my wand, it felt AMAZING. I felt… powerful and whole. Seeing what I had done to Immus though, made me sick with regret. I don’t care what he did to me, he didn’t deserve as bad as he got.
A couple weeks later, when I found myself locked in a chest and seemingly forgotten by some guys I had mistakenly chosen to trust, I thought,“I deserve this. I ruined a guys life, and smiled while I did it. I’m going to die in this box and it’ll be exactly what ought to happen.”
But then you guys found me, and took me in. I did a lot of reflecting during the wagon ride that next day. You gave me a second chance and I’m going to earn it. I don’t want to live the life of a guy that deserves a slow death in a dark place. I want to go out there and do some good with my friends.
Friends! I have friends now! And I never want to screw that up. I’m not going anywhere… that is, if you can refrain from using your mind magic on me all the time…
< Smirks at Dhoug, clearly half-joking with the mind magic comment >
You know they used to tell me you could own all the land and businesses in town, but you could never own a man’s mind. I think they were wrong. All I have to do is look at them and poof! They’re my followers, like Tre Tre. I think I have him fairly convinced I’m on the way to being a diety.
But that’s besides the point. You said you were once wealthy. We could always destroy immus’ house. Destroy his reputation, take his wealth…It probably wouldn’t even be too hard! And then your family would be in debt to me for getting their status back! You could be my first ally! < shouts with a small fist pump in the air >
< Sighs, looks at ground, shakes head >
No, Dhoug. I don’t want to do any more harm to Immus or his family. < Looks up at Dhoug >
That’s what I’m saying. I’m not looking for any kind of wealth or… status or… glory that has to be stolen from people that worked hard for it.
And you need to be careful with that mind stuff. Do you remember how you felt when Urnhold took your ability to speak? That’s how people feel when you show up in their head uninvited. I’m not saying that stuff will never be useful, but so far it has hurt the group a lot more than it has helped. It’s not something that should be done lightly. It’s a last resort.
Yeah, yeah, you sound like my masters back at the academy. < Rolls his eyes > And it doesn’t sound like that Immus guy has worked hard for anything. He sounds like some of my brothers, born into a better position just pushing people around. You shouldn’t feel bad about using people like that. Maybe the fact that you felt amazing after making him a little crispy shows that you’re not living up to your full potential. Or maybe it’s just because you don’t have an actual goal to drive you. If you’re not looking for wealth or power or glory, what else is there?
Wealth and glory are fine as long as I’m not screwing over honest people to get it. But what I really want is knowledge. I want to learn as much as I can about the Arcane. I want to discover things that change the way magic is understood. I want to publish books that are used in Academies for years to come. That’s the real glory. That’s Immortality… But again, I don’t want to abuse people to achieve it. And maybe Immus never had to work for the things he had, but its how you use that position and power you’re given that defines your character. When I finally retaliated, it was because he got to me. He changed me. In a way, by sinking his level, he won. I mean, he may not feel like he won, but I certainly don’t feel like a winner either.
You say your brothers pushed people around with their power, too? How so? You were born into the same family. What advantages did they have that you didn’t?
Well let’s see. Rhellius is the heir, Timony is the back up in case Rhellius gets himself killed being the pompous ass that he is. Georgory was ‘born scholar’ according to father, so he got to go to the best institutions and study under the same masters that teach the upper nobility. Henreal has gotten involved in local politics, so he’s already helping father and Rhellius with all the things that matter for our land and our house. Then Shelbeth and Helbeth have a knack for finding and buying trendy businesses, earning a fair bit of gold, so father overlooks the fact that they are nasty and mean and are constantly trying to trick people so they look better. Even the women don’t care that they are conceited asses since they have money and are constantly involved in the latest fashion craze. I can’t even count the number of times I was THIS CLOSE to getting one of the pretty girls at the pub to show me her quarters when that bastard Shelbeth would swoop in and snatch her away. It’s not my fault father wouldn’t give me a bigger allowance. It wasn’t even enough to invest in something if I wanted to do something productive with it. But no, my allowance was the same as the twins, minus the extra ‘pocket change’ my mother always gave them.
So what advantages did they have that I didn’t? I was born last. There isn’t anything left for me to do unless someone dies. Even the fact that I suddenly got magic wasn’t impressive enough for father to send me to a good magic school. Instead he sent me to a run-down has-been thinking that that should be good enough. That’s why we need to be doing jobs that pay well, so I can get enough to actually start making a name for myself. No one will ever care about some younger son who doesn’t influence anything or do anything heroic on a grand scale.
< Eyes wide > You just suddenly got magic? I mean, that is pretty impressive, if not a little scary. But it sounds to me like your magic is an advantage that they don’t have. I think you could easily use your powers to be the “Best Tinneth”. Just my opinion, though: if you want to be remembered as such, you’ll have better results using your powers to genuinely help the “little people” we encounter rather than just charming them into liking you for a short time. Just something to think about…
< Walks back towards the tower, relieved to have made it through the conversation without being blasted off the edge of the cloud >
DM: All the characters notice that the cloud they are riding on noticeable begins to slow it’s pace of travel.
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