WINDSOR (formerly Ageragck the Many-Killer)
Ageragck was the greatest of his tribe -- his name alone had become a colloquialism for "agonizing, crushing death," thanks to a massive stone-capped warhammer he carried. Even his own kind fled from his path as he walked through the warrens, surveying all that was his, as occasionally he would decide, for any or no reason, that something had offended him -- and if that something were fortunate, he would simply kill it.
If they weren't lucky...let's just say he liked his meat very, very rare. Still screaming, really.
The walls of his "throne room" were decorated in the skulls and hides of all manner of "food races," the floor a littering of trophy pieces of armor and weapons. Had he taken a "krowwl," a...well, the closest analogy in our language is "concubine," I suppose, though the gnollish word translates more closely to -- well, never mind, this is a family forum -- she might be there, starved and barely alive, not certain whether she truly wanted to live to see Ageragck's usually-large-for-the-breed pups carried to term. It was a lonely life for her; straying beyond the edges of the pit-room meant death, as did speaking out of turn...as did breathing, if he decided to forbid it on a whim. Her only company would be the handful of still-living, crying and praying "snacks" he kept at hand for midnight munchies. A connoisseur among gnolls, he was not as fond of carrion as his underlings.
The summer was rank with carnal stench and filth and the maggots were thriving in the latrines of the warren when his ragtag "army" returned home from the decimation of a local mercenary company, and Marngg, Ageragck's latest "trusted second" (they tended to last a month at best), decided he was of sufficient station to review the spoils before his master did. Among the pile of metal, leather and the occasional severed limb still gripping its weapon, Marngg found a treasure that he was certain would not be missed -- a large, heavy steel helm with a jeweled crown and filigreed sideplates, and it was even gnoll-sized!
Now, perhaps you and I would think twice about trusting an ornate gnoll-sized helmet that had been alleged plucked from a human head, but Marngg wasn't chosen for his cunning. Indeed, Ageragck knew better than to trust ANY intelligent members of his band -- he liked them stupid, strong, and easily led. He was no dummy...but another like him would mean competition. And so, Marngg, in his blessedly finite vision, decided that perhaps his master would not notice if he were to suddenly have a new shiny helmet that he'd never worn before, shiny and undented, while allegedly preventing anyone from picking through the master's treasure pile.
It was a strange and horrible cry that Marngg gave upon seeing Ageragck approach, and immediately he drew blade and charged his once-commander. His people, in the perhaps three seconds hindthought they paid him after his terrible and excruciating defeat and death at Ageragck's feet, assumed that old Marngg had simply snapped, and chosen a very poor time to challenge his master for control of the tribe, that he'd bitten off more than he could chew -- an idiom that does indeed translate to gnollish almost literally. It was, though, his final words that gave Ageragck a moment's pause -- clear brown eyes slowly losing focus, he whispered through shattered lungs, "[Great Ancestor], let him see what I have seen now. Let him be forgiven too." With a snort of disgust, Ageragck tore the helm from his head, and tested the weight of his hammer with a terrible downswing -- hindspike first. Marngg was still gurgling in what can but be described as liquid misery as Ageragck the Terrible, Ageragck the Many-Killer, Ageragck the Ever-Hungry lifted the shining helm to his head, and took his grisly-won trophy.
And that was when everything changed.
The sound of tearing cloth and splintering bone filled his ears as he relived his life, moment by moment, through the eyes and screams of every one of his victims. One by one, he felt the horror, the pain, the misery, the panic -- one by one he lived the lives he had ended, or broken beyond repair. He watched those lives stretch into the silvery depths of the present's edge, and into the future, and then saw the chains of would-be causality he'd destroyed, the futures that could have been, would have been, if not for the choices he made. He was filled with the despair of thousands, and it gnawed at him, chewing at the taut leathery knot of pride and selfishness that was, until this moment, the whole of Ageragck's being.
And Ageragck learned a lesson that gnolls seldom learn -- that what he ate, and hurt for sport, were people, just like him. One by one the stories replayed for him, until he felt himself living and dying as Marngg....until he lay, shivering and sobbing in short, quavering little jackal-hyena-barks, at the feet of a figure in white. Gentle fingers touched his forehead, and though he knew not why, he did not recoil from their furless touch. //Ageragck has died today.// the voice whispered into his mind. //But -you- still live. You need not hate yourself. You did not know. You couldn't see what you were doing. Even willful harm can be forgiven.// The figure stroked the whimpering gnoll's brow. //Will you return to the waking world, knowing what you know now? Will you become what you could be, instead of what you were? Will you take this forgiveness and use it to become something new?//
He didn't even hear himself whisper, //Yes.// as he was returned to the pits again, and for the first time, the stench of rotting meat and offal sickened him.
And it was this way that Ageragck the Terrible rose sadly to his feet, and walked calmly and purposefully from his domain to the surface, no longer one of his own kind. In this way, with a whimper of disgust, did the end of the Reign of the Many-Slayer draw to a close.
CHARACTER'S IN-GAME HISTORY:
Ageragck became a penitent, and his first experiences with the world of humankind were less than positive. He was arrested for entering the nearby city -- "his kind" was forbidden to pass beyond the outer wall -- and sold into slavery after months on the chain gang. His buyer was a carnival owner, who enlisted him as a strongman to push the treadwheel powering the carnival's new wonder, a carousel. The work was grim and the accommodations lacking, but compared to the uncertainty and squalor of gnollish living, he couldn't much complain. He even managed to befriend an elven acrobat, who was touched by his gentleness and intrigued by his introspection. She dubbed him 'Windsor,' at first in jest, later to replace a name he wanted to forget. When the carnival owner boasted that the day "that animal" could sign his own release papers, he'd free him and give him a purse of silver for his road expenses, Windsor struggled to learn to write -- at least his own name! -- and with Nynaeve's help, carved a rudimentary inkwell and channel into the thick topcoat of one of his claws, and practiced the shapes until he could write his name recognizably, if not legibly.
I am most relieved to report that Windsor made the fateful proficiency roll, in the moment of truth. And a disgusted Mr. Tortello, though he reneged on the silver, let Windsor go, and fired Nynaeve for "conspiring to rob him of a perfectly good draft animal."
Windsor wanted to become a paladin, but this was, perhaps, a bit ambitious for a creature whose heart, thanks to a helm of opposite alignment, was in the right place, but who lacked a thorough understanding of what exactly it meant to be a champion of lawful good. (The dogface thing wasn't helping him much, either.) He became a mendicant, and parlayed the spectacle of himself in a traveler's cloak singing hymns to the regional pastoral good-patriarch-god-of-justice-and-fairness into a fairly lucrative little gig. Over time, he learned to invest that money back into the church, and became its handyman in exchange for meals and permission to use surplus materials now and then to build his home in the back of the church's rather large pastoral backyard.
Over the years and between adventures -- which were really the less interesting part of Windsor's story -- Windsor learned to read, and memorized the holy text of his newfound god. There was little resistance to his eventually becoming a deacon, and he was widely regarded as a walking miracle, the lion who had chosen to become a lamb. He never became a paladin in character class, but he certainly became one in demeanor and in heart. He was happy to lift sword and charge into battle to protect those who couldn't protect themselves, but he happiest moments were spent mending fences, cooking hunter's stew, and preaching the good word. He also became a fairly accomplished cartographer and wilderness artist in his later years, still drawing ink sketches with his carved claw.
Nynaeve remained his best friend and adventuring companion for the rest of his days. She never really took a shine to his god -- far too patriarchal and rules-happy for a chaotic good elf who valued her freedom -- but she liked watching him get fired up and explain the layers of parables to his flock. She was the thrillseeker, and enjoyed adventuring for the rush. He loved her dearly and wouldn't deny her the chance to risk life and limb for a good cause.
Windsor died quite spectacularly, in a raid on Baator. It seems the cocky, impulsive demigod son of a lawful evil deity had taken it upon himself to avenge an insult by kidnapping the ambassador of the Celestial Bureaucracy, who was instrumental in the thousands-of-years-pending "merger" philosophically of the Bureaucracy and the council of generally-harmonious-and-cooperative western-minded lawful good Powers. (What happens when two huge rival lawful good worlds collide? They sit and exchange gifts and thoroughly share their ideologies, until both can be expressed flawlessly in the language of the other! It's most civil and usually very friendly, but tedious and bureaucratic and takes forever.) Rescuing her was far too difficult for an army -- Baator's pretty well stocked with soldiers and not keen on occupation -- so the attempt was made with a small crack team of specialists led by a highly atraditional solar.
Windsor stole what was to be the death scene of the solar -- a mounting battle with baatezu gating in more baatezu every round, as our solar performed martial arts moves with as many holy strike touches as he could deliver, a fight to rival the playground battle in The Matrix Reloaded! -- by observing that the team could afford to lose him, but not Jaryen (the solar). He managed to hold them off for six rounds. (I would prefer not to recount the seventh round in any appreciable detail.)
I like to think that somewhere on the sunwarmed slopes of Mount Celestia, which glows in the luminous Silver Sea like Frederic Church's final and most glorious masterpiece in colors that defy descriptions by my coarse mortal tongue, in a little town near the base of the mountain, a helpful hound archon serves as town constable and welcoming committee. The spots can be seen if you look closely at his fur, but they've faded from years of that liquid amber sun and gentle murmuring moon. He remembers his life, because, as he would explain, "Some of us never want to forget." And he'll tell you the story of Ageragck, if only to remind you that one is never out of reach of the light of the Mountain. "We can turn our faces from it," he would say, "but it still pours down upon our backs, when we do."
Windsor was born from a question I've had about what, exactly, it's like to put on a helm of opposite alignment, for the wearer. While "magic" could certainly account for a spontaneous one-eighty of alignment, it seemed like a poor place to stop the inquiry. I wondered if it wasn't more that the donning of the helmet resulted in a supernatural force fairly high up on the food chain of the opposite alignment to one's own whispering an Undeniable Truth (tm) into the mind of the wearer, something so large and so world-eclipsingly vivid that it couldn't help but change the way one looks at life, the universe, and indeed, Mr. Adams, everything. I like to think I'm a fairly competent author, so I tried to pen an experience that'd get "lawful good" through even to a particularly chaotic and particularly evil gnoll.
Yeah, Windsor went on quests and adventures. But his heart was never really in 'em. The real Windsor scenes were the between-quest character development moments, and watching him grow and mature as he pursued an ideal he didn't fully understand. Watching him learn that keeping one's gains is not as good as passing them on the more needy, then watching him learn that the burden of fitting into society was his, not society's, was the real adventure, for me. The game in which I played Windsor was a flexible one with regard to "canon," and though I'm not sure Windsor's story would have worked fully in a strictly-canon game, I still think it was a marvelous one, and very much worth writing.
Windsor is dearly missed, and I'm so glad I could give him a really spectacular curtain call at the end.
Last edited by Rancourt on Sun Oct 12, 2008 3:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.