Destruction. Black ash coats the ground in the aftermath of the explosion. Smoldering timber with pockets of flame surround the area of impact. A young tielfing huddles in the center, clear of all debris. His pale red skin is emblazoned in scars that vent small flames. His once budding horns have taken their darkened, hard exterior. His skin turns a harsher, crimson red, as the fiery tears in his skin begin to seal up.
Frightened. As his thoughts fade back from white, Valrus opens his eyes to the hellish scene. The house he began to grow up in only two years ago, a more than modest living that he was just becoming accustomed to, was in ruins. The garden his mother enjoyed now singed and reduced to earth. A table leg lit aflame attempts to support half of where their family enjoyed his father’s favorite dishes. And inside, two singed corpses thrown to either side of him. He remembers how close they were, and how tightly they held him before it happened.
Anguish. Guilt. Confusion. How could this have happened? Did I cause this? Why am I alive? As the tiefling struggles to find his balance, he picks himself up from off the ground. The rush of energy he wishes not to feel. If he could just sleep and let this end, if he could just die and never remember, if he could just go back… A crowd begins to gather with the militia cautiously approaching the fallout. “Angar? Sofri? Are you in there?” a man shouts toward the wreckage. As they get closer they find only one tiefling, completely still with his head hung low. Unrecognizable to the guards, they see Valrus standing two feet taller than he did this morning, the dark complexion and fully grown horns. As he turns his head toward them, no pupils but fire emit from his eyes. They raise their weapons and in a panicked stutter: “What have you done?”
“Valrus! Say something!” The few guards that approached, now anxious, take a fortified position and start to move in. The other men and women, busy comforting the spectators unwilling to accept the tragedy. A black energy scars the air in the rubble of his childhood home, and a grayish-purple energy pushes out from the center creating an oval of endless space. Crackling with magic, a robed man exits. “Child, you have many questions.” As the old man gestures toward Valrus, gaining his attention with just those words. Valrus turns his head away from the pursuing guards and looks into the portal’s abyss. Dim outlines, colorless aside from the purple veil on the outside. He takes a step toward it, and at the man’s will, he leaves his home behind.
Disoriented. Without any explanation, Valrus found himself traversing an entirely different plane of existence. Deep chasms threaten eternal falling. Squeaks and snarls accompany skitters and scraping. Every once in a while, Valrus would look over his shoulder to see packs of stalking red eyes fade into the darkness, only to pierce through again when he turned his head back forward. There was no talking while they walked through the winding path. And not for any reason other than Valrus had no desire to speak about what had happened. Ahead, a precipice where the ground fell deftly into nothingness. The man turned and repeated himself, “You have many questions.” Pausing briefly, the man raised a fist. As arcane energy swirled down his arm, a black tear formed again. This time: color inside. Valrus could make out a cityscape through the purple visage of the portal. The man gestured, and Valrus walked through it.
Valrus gleaned that he was back in the world he grew up in, although he was unsure where he had been, and if it itself was a part of the world that he’d never known about for the past fourteen years. The two of them found themselves in an alleyway and then stepped out onto one of the main streets of the city. Valrus was stricken by the sounds- cheerful banter, wind blowing, rustling the trees that lined the walkway, a ring from a bell as someone opened the door to a nearby shop. His mind muddled in a way that made him want to cry. It seemed like for as long as he could remember, the only sound he knew was muted chaos.
It took him a while to regain his wits, and finally got a good look at the man he reliantly followed. A tall man, over six-feet, wore a long gray beard that was wiry but tame. His robes were not extravagant looking, but sewn to perfection. His wrinkled face showed an indeterminate age, from 50 to 200 years old. A large porous nose rested between two hazel eyes and some very bushy eyebrows. As soon as Valrus noticed the eyebrows, the man made eye contact that Valrus quickly disconnected. “Surely your questions aren’t about my eyebrows, are they, Child of Bhaal?”
Child. Of. Bhaal. What? Valrus knew his parents to be his biological parents. They were both red-born tielflings. As he recalled a memory from his childhood to reassure himself, his mind reverberated yet again. As he tightly closed his eyes to keep this pain from surfacing, he felt his mind clear once again. And Valrus spoke. Slowly at first.
“What… happened… who… are you? How was my house… Did I… ?” His speech began to quicken with every word until a glance from the old-man interrupted him. “You are, Valrus. The son of Sofri and Angar Tarenso.” As if the man knew what was most important to him, Valrus was calm and allowed himself to collect his questions more thoroughly. “Let us walk, Child. A crowded street is no place for a conversation of this magnitude.” And just like that, Valrus was worried again.
Moving to the first story of an Inn, they entered, continuing the silent precedent they established inside the portals. Moving around the tables and stopping to flirt with the patrons, a large, built man was passing out ale, five pitchers in each hand. His eccentric voice carried well over the volume of the chatter, “Hello you two gentlebabies! I suppose not so much of a baby you are, are you sir?” As he looked toward the old man, “And you! Aren’t you just a delicious specimen of dragon decent!”. Without skipping a beat, he poured a table-full of mugs to the top and continued on to another table. “Please, please! Take a seat you two!”
The two sat themselves in a corner booth. Valrus spoke first. “What happened to my home? My parents…” The man postured himself with a deep inhale and exhaled, “You did, Child. Now, this is not going to be easy, but you erupted. The explosion was you, Child.” Valrus found himself in his mind once more, there he was on the floor of the kitchen. Crouched in fear, his body trembling with a force he could not control. His mother and father, holding onto each other, with Valrus locked in their embrace. Their heads pressed so strongly against his body, turned away as they couldn’t bear to watch. In the last seconds, Valrus opened his mouth to speak, “Mom..?” and his memory fades to white.