The Lance of Marduk
Vairis of Valenwold
Vairis was born in the small town of Valenwold, but was forced out of the town with the rest of the population when it was flooded as a result of a dam built just upriver. Vairis moved north to the city of Harkenwold; and with no money, no family, and the bare minimum of possessions became a sneak-thief and a pickpocket just to scrape by. He met his first lover in the city, but the relationship ended badly. Some time later he became romantically involved with the dwarf Bjorn Torgnür, and after Bjorn travelled west to Winterhaven, Vairis followed. While passing through the city of Fallcrest, a string of unfortunate events (and more than a few poor decisions) led to his arrest, along with that of the wizard Mikhail. Both were released with the understanding that they would assist the cleric Aryawwn Thetryn with her mission to investigate rumors of a death cult near Winterhaven. Unfortunately, before they could reach the town, the group was ambushed by kobold raiders, and Vairis was knocked unconscious. In the confusion, Mikhail slipped free of his restraints and cut down the halfling (along with two of the raiders) with a blast of flame.
Mikhail was imprisoned and later executed for his actions, but not before being painfully sterilized by Bjorn Torgnür.
Defection and Interaction with the Lance
Unbeknownst to Bjorn or the remainder of the Lance, Vairis had been involved with a cult of Orcus prior to his meeting Bjorn. Though his relationship with Bjorn was initially genuine, and Vairis did have feelings for the Dwarf, his motives shifted when he discovered that his lover was an avenger of the Raven Queen. Before he could act on those motives, however, Bjorn left for Winterhaven. Vairis followed him shortly thereafter, and met with Phalanx and Phenex en route. He had planned to sabotage Bjorn’s actions against the cult near Winterhaven, however was prevented from doing so by his death at the hands of Kobold raiders and the wizard Mikhail prior to arriving in Winterhaven.
That was thought to be the (regrettable) end of the Halfling. In reality, these events only slowed Vairis’s actions. While involved with the cult in Harkenwold, Vairis found a way to bind a portion of his soul to a small object (an emerald ring that used to belong to his father); protecting his soul should he be killed. As a result, his body re-formed in Harkenwold some days after his death. His first instinct was to head for Winterhaven again, but learned from the acolytes in Harkenwold that an important discovery had been made in the city of Cadrin. He travelled there and took command of the cultist’s operations beneath the city, assuming the title of “The Lord Beyond.” By the time the Lance arrived some weeks later, Vairis had already set his plans for the city into motion.
Upon his arrival in Cadrin, Vairis assumed leadership of the cult of Orcus operating in the area. At this time, Cadrin was cleaning up the last of the rebellion and beginning to reconstruct. Vairis saw an opportunity and immediately focused his attentions on Luther Yderig, a high-ranking senator and now war hero. He and his agents began whispering in Yderig’s ear, subtly at first. The Black Guard, though suggested and backed by Yderig, stemmed from these whispers. When the force was approved and put under Yderig’s command, Vairis made certain to cherry-pick the ranking officers from his own operatives. When the rebellion ended, Vairis’s whisperings grew stronger. Luther began to resist, however Vairis’s backstage control of the Guard allowed him to force the now-king into submission. After Vairis’s suggestions won him favor, Yderig began to trust the Lord Beyond again, believing his actions to be wholly beneficial to his city.
Vairis’s other visible action upon his arrival in Cadrin was to raise the mage Trestin Thetryn, who’s name he had heard used by both Yderig and his daughter Aryawwn. He planned to reanimate Trestin as a sentient undead, and use him as an additional operative within the city. To his surprise, Trestin’s soul returned to his body without resistance. As a result, Vairis was forced to quickly amend the ritual, and the result was that Trestin was resurrected as his former self. His mind was irrevocably split by the process, however, and Vairis retained power of suggestion over him. Trestin often could not tell if these suggestions were fantasy or reality. For fear of being called mad and seen as even more frail (which may well have led to increased ‘protection’ to be akin to house arrest), he kept such visions to himself. Vairis and his agents managed to convince Yderig that Trestin had miraculously survived the battle, and no evidence could be produced to refute it.
Trestin’s own will gradually began to reassert itself, and eventually began to contest Vairis’s control. Trestin’s will swelled greatly when Aryawwn reappeared in Cadrin, alerting Vairis to the Lance’s presence in the city. Trestin and Vairis increasingly struggled against each other after the Lance’s arrival, and their contest of wills reached a peak during the time that the Lance was investigating the subterranean temple. Vairis brought Trestin to the lowest level of the complex in an attempt to subdue him, or at least to keep him contained where he could not interfere with Vairis’s plans. When the Lance broke through to the chamber, Vairis found himself faced with the challenges of fighting the adventurers, restraining Trestin, and completing his original goals. In the chaos that ensued, Trestin succeeded in throwing Vairis off, an action that ultimately won the day for the Lance.
Actions in Cadrin
Vairis assumed control of the cult’s operations in Cadrin shortly after the discovery of the ancient temple of Nerull beneath the city. He was not present for the original excavation of the library, and was therefore not on hand when the automaton guards attacked, but he did investigate the contents of the chamber for himself upon his arrival. During his perusal of the library’s contents, he noticed a number of texts detailing transmutation circles. Intrigued, he gathered what information he could from the library (translating what he could). In the process, he learned that the original temple was a multi-leveled complex, and immediately began excavating for the remainder of the temple. When the laboratory was discovered, he acquired what research he could from it and began to translate what he could. He stumbled across the transmutation circles for death and the creation of the Philosopher’s Stone, and discovered the array for reanimation through his own experimentation. When he discovered that physical landmarks could be used as elements of transmutation arrays, he began work on a massive circle that would consume all of Cadrin, using the city walls as the basis of the array. He used Luther Yderig to accomplish this, and convinced him to plan the reconstruction of the outer wall such that it would assume the shape required for the transmutation circle.
During excavation of the second level of the temple, Vairis and his cultists also stumbled upon the portal to Xoriat, and quickly guessed that it was the gateway that the wizard Tephra had opened, using Lifecutter as a focus. Though legend holds that the scythe was pulled through the portal with her, Vairis became convinced that the weapon remained on Midgard. Driven by the idea of finding the scythe and using it to curry favor with his master Orcus, he immediately devoted all available resources to further dig out the original complex in hopes of finding Lifecutter.
During the process of excavation, a Duergar mine shaft broke through to the excavation. Seizing an opportunity, Vairis negotiated with the mining crew’s foreman for use of the crew’s services. In exchange, Hjalmar (the foreman) requested a small army to be placed in the service of Njarovik, the Duergar stronghold under the Dawnforge Mountains. Hjalmar showed no trepidation when Vairis mentioned that the army would be composed of undead (the corpses of Cadrin), and for his part Vairis never asked what the army was to be used for. As work went on and turned up no results, Vairis increasingly retreated to the lowest level of the temple to work on the transmutation circle that would turn the people of Cadrin into an undead army and bind their souls into a powerful magical artifact (a Philosopher’s Stone); sending envoys to meet with Hjalmer and negotiate continued terms. Over time, relations between the cult and Hjalmar soured; but never enough to drive Hjalmar to go back on their bargain.