To continue with the nostalgia break, here’s Dunstan’s history. Unlike most of the other material, this really isn’t AD&D, Second Edition, or Player’s Option: Skills & Powers specific, although it does call for a campaign with Drow and the Underdark.
Somewhere in the Underdark…
The window opened onto darkness.
Glimmering phosphorescence made a poor substitute for stars.
The stagnant airs of the underworld flowed past like turgid water, drenching everything in a fetid miasma.
How she missed the light and breezes, the plants and creatures, the friends and family, of the surface world.
“Let me take you away from all this” indeed!
It had been so romantic at first. He was a trader and adventurer. Full of tales of faraway places and deadly perils faced and overcome. Magically skilled, wealthy, handsome, and exotic. Her family had objected; How could she even think of becoming involved with somebody who’s family could not be checked on, who was so unwilling to talk about his upbringing, and who seemed so resistant to arcane probing? A “permanent spell designed to protect commercial secrets” was such a convenient explanation!
Her family had been right.
How was she to know he was a Drow?
For a time it had been a fascinating adventure. He showed her some of the wonders of the underworld, and was kind enough to her.
It wore thin soon enough. Drow culture was appalling in many ways, they viewed relationships as transient, and the clan saw her as no more then a favored concubine.
Still, her escape would be a long project. It grew even more complicated when she bore her shadowy lover a halfbreed son. Should she leave him with his father? He seemed at home in the underworld – it was all he’d ever known. He channeled the magic of darkness so readily. On the other hand, he deserved to see the sun, to learn the ways of a decent culture while there was still time to reverse the teachings of the drow. Of course, there would be the problem of gaining acceptance for him, but he wouldn’t automatically be despised as a halfbreed.
In the end, for all her internal debates, the choice was a simple one; she could not abandon her son. A tiny bit of magic would lighten his skin enough to pass, and his nascent drow magics could be attributed to a bit of precocious magical study.
Dunstan’s earliest years were spent in the Underdark, on the “estates” of house Luan – a Drow trading family. While his father, Valas, was an important member of the house, Duncan’s halfbreed status still left him with a lower social rank then any of his fullblooded relatives – and some of them never let him forget it. Like the other younger children of the house, his “chores” consisted of lessons and running errands around the which were too sensitive to be entrusted to slaves, rather then to house members – no matter how junior. He learned quickly that you should NEVER lose a message or item entrusted to you. He learned paranoia, social climbing, and basic self-defense, to keep an eye out for poison and traps, and when to push a bully down a monster-infested crevasse. Then his mother finally found her chance to escape with him.
Valas Luan, Mage and Priest of Vhaeraun, smiled. His young son would prosper on the surface. He would have a chance to study the magic of both realms, he would be safe from the constant intrigue among the clans, and he might become a useful contact later on. Even if he never did so, his offspring would strengthen the drow strain in the lands above. It would be easy enough to use his own arcane talents to keep in touch. As for his elvish concubine – he was tiring of her anyway. Let her believe she had “escaped” entirely on her own.
Falormir Ne’ Isilor watched her son and worried. Was it really good that Dunstan had taken so readily to her small deception about his parentage? Were those flares of temper and greed just childish tantrums, or the mark of his drow heritage? Still, he could be so charming when he wanted to be. At least he was learning to present his childish little “demands” smoothly and to negotiate well. It covered up the rough edges nicely.
Or was that simply being manipulative?
Things changed drastically when Falormir and Dunstan relocated above ground. Suddenly Dunstan had lots of relatives he’d never met before, everybody was a lot less suspicious of each other – and nobody treated him as being automatically inferior. It was nice in a lot of ways, even if there weren’t enough servants around to assign one to pick up the children’s rooms. He had an uncle who told him marvelous tales of high adventure and taught him bits of magic, an older cousin who taught him to use a bow, and plenty of other adults who were willing to teach him things or just spend time with him. Most notably, there was Korealis Isilor, his maternal uncle. Korealis is a bard and, while not especially powerful and completely lacking in thievish skills, he knows many current and ancient languages, history and religion, a lot of magical lore and various social skills – many of which were, over the long years of an elvish childhood, easily absorbed by an attentive child.
The hollow tree was cool, dark, and – once past it’s narrow entrance – spacious, at least for a small boy. Floored with fragments of rotten wood, the passages and chambers inside it’s age- hollowed trunk and roots made a wonderful secret place to keep his treasures, to study magic, and to practice with his innate powers.
It was also where his father sometimes came to visit him – if only as a projection. He was always interested in what he’d learned, and often helped him out with the tricky bits. Sometimes he showed him spells and things his teachers hadn’t. Sometimes they simply spoke about what he’d done and seen.
In his secret hiding spot, Dunstan scowled as he contemplated the twisted log that marked his latest effort. Why couldn’t he make it work? It OUGHT to work. It was clear enough; first you reached out and got the magic. If you were clever you could get it from the great sources and work big spells – but the great sources were very far away, and hard to reach. If you were wise you could attune your mind to the magic that flowed through other minds on the intervening planes. That was lots easier, but that magic was weaker, and already partly shaped, so you couldn’t use it for nearly as many things. On the other hand, that very gentleness let you use it for subtle effects, like healing.
Anyway, once you had some magic, you could trap it in a pattern. That was easy, but then you couldn’t do anything else with it. If you could store it inside yourself, you should be able to channel it into whatever patterns you wanted to use whenever you wanted them. It was the patterns that were the problem. They were so complicated, and you had to have them just right or the magic went all wrong. It was easier if you took your time – or if a lot of other people knew the pattern you were using. It was like the magic which went through other minds; they helped to stabilize it and give it shape. You shouldn’t need other people though. If you were clever enough, and understood the way that patterns went together well enough, you should be able to make up your own patterns when you wanted them.
He tried again – and it went ALL WRONG yet again.
It wasn’t FAIR. SOMEDAY he’d be skilled enough to make it work.
The long years of an elven childhood went by slowly. Dunstan had numerous small adventures, got caught (with some other youngsters) in a border skirmish, healed a number of injuries there, mourned another youngster he’d been unable to save, grew into a dashing young rogue and – while he never fully mastered the art of composing his own spells “on the fly” – a talented wielder of magic. Things got a bit more complicated when he hit adolescence. Dunstan was good-looking even for an elf, charming, and with just a hint of roguishness. Worse, his early youth among the hedonistic dark elves had left him well aware of just how much fun a girl could be – and he cut quite a swath through the girls of his generation. The elves valued freedom and individual choice highly – but the girls parents had their own opinions. Still, despite his new interests, his skills progressed – until his experimentations in sex magic bore unexpected fruit when it became apparent that his latest effort had somehow resulted (despite elven infertility) in him impregnating all five of his current girlfriends.
While their parents were pretty upset at first, things calmed down rapidly. It had obviously enough been some accidental side-effect of whatever spell the boy had been experimenting with – and elven children are rare and precious. The elders WANTED THAT SPELL – but Dunstan had heard the tone of the initial discussion, had seen how upset the girl’s parents were, and had witnessed the fates of a few of those who’d upset the elders of the drow clans in early childhood. By the time the discussion was over late that night, Dunstan was long gone.
It was morning before that was known, late afternoon before it was realized that he’d seriously run – and morning again before they sent anyone after him. After all, he couldn’t get too far, and the border partol would never let a runaway youngster past.
Unfortunately, Dunstan knew enough illusion magic to get past the border guard – and was unexpectedly good at eluding pursuit. By the time it was realized that he’d crossed the border, Duncan had signed up for an overseas voyage as a journeyman healer-mage, cast a spell or two to obscure divination, and was well out to sea.
Dunstan is still being quietly sought. Access to a spell which obviously virtually guarantees conception, rather then getting about a 15% chance per decade of trying, would be a boon to the elves – and while the general nature of the spell he was using is clear enough, whatever the boys accidental discovery was, no one else has been able to duplicate it since.
Dunstan’s nautical career didn’t last for long. The “romance of the sea” never made much impression on him, while things like his initial seasickness, the complete lack of female companionship, the lousy food, and the other disadvantages did. Still, it did leave him with a certain fondness for “seeing the world”.
Finding himself halfway across the continent, and with money in his pocket, Dunstan (incorrectly) assumed that he need no longer worry about pursuit – and indulged a bit of wanderlust by investing in some gear and taking up a career as a courier. It let him keep seeing the world – visiting new places, trying exotic food and drink, seducing women (and leaving them with some gifts when he could afford it), studying magic, and gathering treasure. Inadvertently, at least so far, this (and his habitual use of the Shadow Cloak spell) has kept him ahead of all attempts to locate him.
While Dunstan has occasionally joined parties of adventurers, he has yet to find one that he feels comfortable with for long. For the most part, it’s been an adventure or two (mostly now-classic modules, such as Against the Cult of the Reptile God in pickup games), and then goodbye.
Dunstan is slim by human standards, of average build for an elf. He has green eyes, copper-silver hair, and bronzed skin (slightly lightened with minor magics). At the moment he is 117 years old, 5’4, and weighs 103 pounds. He prefers to dress in black and green – usually accented with gold embroidery and gold-and-emerald jewelry (at the moment mostly small and badly-flawed gems and gold filagree, and hence of little actual value, but he does his best to cover up such flaws with Shaping). His “personal emblem” is a green-and-gold tiger with crimson eyes, playing with a swirling mandala of magical symbols. He usually his it embroidered on his shirt and sash, carries his swords (and eastern-style set, although this has no game effect) thrust through the sash, and wears high soft boots. “In the field” he generally wears hunting leathers, adding his bow and quiver – and possibly a cloak – as appropriate to the situation. Naturally enough, really dangerous situations, such as formally “going adventuring”, call for heavier armor.
Some other notable relatives:
Among the Drow:
A drow half-brother of about the same age. He was fairly nice for a drow, and Dunstan quite liked him. He’ll probably need to be rescued at some point.
A considerably older drow half-brother who treated Dunstan decently enough. He thought their father had poor taste, but younger brothers often made good contacts later if you didn’t mistreat them.
An older drow half-sister who took it on herself to teach him some of the ins and outs of drow politics. They tended to be allies despite their radically different philosophies.
A pair of (male) cousins of about his age who saw Dunstan as a useless halfbreed bastard. In return, Dunstan always hated them both. He still thinks they’d make good slaves.
On the surface:
At this point his casual habit of seducing women and casual use of his potency spell has led him to father at least three additional half-elven children. In general, the mothers were provided with a substantial portion of the treasure from his local adventures at the time.
Dunstan was especially fond of his armsmaster, but – of course- hasn’t seen him since he ran away.