Once, about two years or a hundred sessions into what would eventually become a twelve-year campaign, the party was exclusively made up of warrior and warrior-rogue types. Their young elvish mage had gotten himself transformed into a non-sapient doglike creature and escaped (to be replaced in the interim by a warrior-type), the their overly self-reliant priest had gone off by himself to explore when down to three hits and out of spells and (not surprisingly) gotten killed (and had brought in a self-reliant ranger-type as a replacement), and their bardic enchantress had gotten herself sold into slavery – and been replaced with an archer. Of course, the swordsman, the berserker, and the quasi-ninja had been warriors to begin with.
And everybody was having a lot of fun with their characters. Nevertheless, it soon became apparent that – without access to some sort of skilled healer or some major magical device – their explorations into the dangerous northern wilderness were going to be held up quite a lot.
Enter Aldwin – a young, pacifistic, and quite dedicated mage specializing in light-based and healing magic with a few telepathically-based psychic abilities (the ability to sense injuries, to soothe emotional and physical pain, and the ability to control small animals and borrow their senses). Aldwin had run across an old journal, which mentioned a hidden cache of supplies – including some powerful healing magic – hidden in a cave a few days journey into the wilderness. (It had been set up as a fallback position for a punitive expedition against the Frost Jotun, but the Jotun had pretty much wiped out the expedition before they got a chance to fall back)
Unfortunately, while he’d made it there, he was trapped and partially pinned by a cave-in. His life magic would let him survive for quite some time – but he needed rescue.
This could be a stopgap: if the party followed up on the raccoon which was trying to get them to follow it, they could pick up some healing supplies and would know where to find a good healer for later on.
Instead, the group dug out the mage, and the supply cache he’d been looking for, and gave it to him without asking for anything.
So he stuck around for awhile. The party continued to cheerily make absolutely sure that he had all the protection he needed, to give him everything they ran across that could possibly be of use to him, and to undertake a lot of charitable expeditions – and fund various other charities – at his urging.
So he stuck around, long after their need for a healer had passed. He was still around – albeit as one of the most powerful healing mages for the last millennia – ten years of real time, and about two and a half centuries of game time, later on. By that time, some characters were dead of old age, others had founded dynasties, many had fallen, quite a few had destroyed or sacrificed themselves (whether intentionally or through massive foolishness), and a small horde of them had retired.
At which point, a character’s daughter – a talented alchemist and healer in her own right – decided that she wanted to marry him. That was reasonable enough, but he just didn’t seem to be interested – leading to a good deal of trouble with love potions and such. While none of them had much effect on Aldwin, it did bring up the question of WHY he was apparently so oblivious to romance – leading to one of the groups best telepaths being hauled out of retirement for a bit of probing.
Given that the character had been an important part of the campaign for ten years, it seemed worth a writeup.
Here, resurrected from the campaign handout files of some eighteen years ago, is what he found:
<Aldwin’s mindscape is the purest you’ve ever seen. A shimmering geometric citadel of pure light – colored here and there with emotion or self-delusion, like any human beings – but still, so much light… The citadel hangs suspended in space, surrounded by a myriad other star-like minds. Some beckon, calling in pain and fear. To those the light reaches out… Deeper. “Down” into the earlier, cruder, memories. What you seek will not be here, in the memories saturated by centuries of the magic of light. Foundations… The paths of light grow cruder, vaguer, colored in the emotions of childhood – ringing with the pure tones of intuition and uncomplex thought – rather then the mingled chorus of adulthood. Earliest memories… About “seven years old”. Hmmm – There should be earlier memories then those, but there are not even scattered fragments of light to shine ag- ainst the darkness… Ah. Of course. Hidden memories must lie where the light does not reach… Forbidding though it is, the path lies into the darkness… Here>
He was nearly “six” – and everybody said he’d be a great healer when he grew up. He could already touch people’s thoughts a bit, and work the little healing spells. Today he’d healed a kitty with a sore paw, and a beesting, and Aunt Eliris’s sneezing. Now he was out playing in all the leaves the wind knocked down last night. They were red and orange and brown and…)
(The wind had strained the branch last night. It had already been a little rotten. Another gust today brought it tumbling down.)
It struck Teramil, his second cousin, on the upper back. She was nearly four. It broke her spine and drove broken ribs into her lungs. He felt her scream in his mind, although she had no breath to touch his ears. It took him a minute to reach her. He tried. He tried to clear her lungs, to start her heart, to bridge the gap in her spinal cord, to rebuild her bones, to oxygenate her brain… There wasn’t enough time. He didn’t have enough power. He touched her mind to stop the pain, to try to hold her against the welling darkness – to pull her back from death – and he wasn’t strong enough. He felt her slip away where he couldn’t follow…
The search found two small bodies hours later. One weeping silent, exhausted, tears – and the other very, very, still.
If only he’d gotten there sooner.
If only he hadn’t spent his power on little things.
If only he’d been stronger.
Aldwin would be a healer.
He’s been trying to reach them – her – in time ever since. To find the power to heal everyone who needs him. To always be strong enough. To make it up to two small children who passed away more then four hundred years ago…
Since then, he’s never really been able to see a girl as anything except a patient.
It might have been easier if anyone else had ever blamed him as he blamed himself –
Even if he no longer remembered why.
<Oh Aldwin… It was too late when it struck. You’d have been helpless to save her with a dozen times your full power at the time. You couldn’t possibly have used telepathy to hold her mind back from death. She needed a master healer – and you were only a child. In a way you’ve given her that. You are a master now. How many children have you saved for her? How much pain have you ended? How much more can you do if you don’t burn yourself out?>
<Aldwin… Let her go. Death is not your enemy. Death is the final healer… Your enemy is Pain – and you defeated that. You took her pain away. There is no need to keep it for yourself.>
In Memory Of
14,017 – 14,021
May Her Spirit Find Joy
She Has Left A Legacy