Tome of the End Times
Vahl has never known true solitude. Even in his earliest memories of sharing a filthy cave with a dozen other children, the voices tugged at the edge of his consciousness; then only as half-remembered feelings rather than actual sounds. ‘The Caretaker’ was the only other that resided in the dim cavern, a strange robed humanoid with pale, almost translucent skin and pools of unreflecting darkness were eyes should have been. “You are all very special,” it would whisper to them, “We will do great things and remake the world as it should have been.” Shortly after they learned to walk, they were taught to draw increasingly complicated patterns of circles and symbols; after they learned to speak, words that they could barely say let alone comprehend.
As they grew, The Caretaker told them of the world outside. How an arrogant and careless race called the Eladrin had nearly destroyed everything. How powerful and benevolent saviors came forth to stop them, to punish them for their hubris only to be met with fear and violence by the other races. How even when the Eladrin were laid low, the spiteful creatures prevented the true salvation of their world. And finally, how the Caretaker would shape them into the instruments that would help usher in a new era.
With countless recitations of the tale over the next decade, the distant chorus grew closer to Vahl. First as a rustle within his mind, then an echo, a whisper, a voice, until it swirled within him like a maelstrom of other thoughts; all screaming the falsehoods of the Caretaker’s words. Vahl did not know what to believe and kept the sacrilige to himself.
Time, as it was vaguely measured by Vahl, carried him into young adulthood and the Caretaker began the rituals. Once a month it would take one of them into a separate cavern and chant in some unknown terrible language that awoke primal fears deep within Vahl, causing even the spirits to wail in terror. When it became his turn, he knew why they shrieked. He had intended to resist, to not end up like the hollowed parodies of his kin that returned after their ‘sessions’ with the Caretaker, but when the time came he could do nothing but answer the call.
Though exact details escape Vahl’s mind to this day, flashes of images appear to him in nightmares. Kneeling manacled in an unreadable circle of silver runes; an impossibly gaunt humanoid wreathed in purple flames; floating high above his body, watching as it claws at itself and screams in foul tongues. Part of him is glad that he cannot remember the entirety of something that even the spirits refuse to speak to him about.
He did not become an empty shell like the others however. After the Caretaker had moved onto his next subject the spirit chorus embraced Vahl and kept him from falling prey to madness. One by one, over an imperceptible gulf of time, his kin stopped returning from the circle and he could see that the Caretaker was beginning to change; an air of desperation hung thick in the air. Before long, Vahl was the last of his kin left. Now a twisted and monstrous looking thing, the Caretaker bound him to the circle and began a chant unlike any he had ever heard before. Barely conscious, Vahl called out to the spirits, searching among the chorus for anything that would help him.
At the apex of the ceremony, as whatever terrible entity that was never intended to possess a physical form was entering the world, Vahl felt the rush of countless spirits flowing into him through the way prepared by the Caretaker. In a split second surge of strength he broke the circle and collapsed. The last thing he saw before blacking out was a great swarming mass of smoke and teeth erupting from, then consuming, the summoner.
Some time later he awoke to find the ritual altar ravaged with a scorched skull sitting atop a pile of ashes at its center. The event had changed Vahl drastically; he could now see the spirits that chose to show themselves to him, even actively entreat them for their power. Vahl followed their guidance, took up the remains, and set off into the into the tunnels. Without their assistance he would have never found his way out of the labyrinthine caverns into a world that he had never seen before.
He wandered the wilderness following the spirits, avoiding lethal threats in some places, being led to those (spirit and living alike) in need in others. Though he was still learning of the basic ways of the world Vahl came to discover that spirits existed not just in living beings, but places, elements, even concepts. He came to see reality in a distinctly different manner than the vast majority of other creatures. As such, his manner and fatalistic outlook is utterly unsettling to most.
Encountering his first civilized settlements, he realized just how different he was. Apparently Vahl was a half-elf that looked to be about thirty years old with no family or name; those terms held little to no meaning to him. Coming to understand the importance that names had, he chose to call himself Vahl; only after speaking it aloud did he realize it was a word that the spirits had whispered to him since childhood.
After being chased from several villages, he also discovered that speaking with things that others could not see or hear, and tracing ritual circles meant to calm spirits in the places where their dead were laid to rest was often a bad idea. Despite his initial naivety Vahl quickly adapted to the variety of trials thrust upon him, often feeling he was simply remembering things that he had forgotten rather than learning them anew.
Of all the knowledge that he has discovered within the world thus far, the act of raising the tortured spirits of the dead and the forceful binding of spirits is utter blasphemy to him; he will do anything in his power to see to it that the offenders are made to suffer appropriate punishment. Vahl has been shown though, that some potent malevolent spirits can be bested in a battle of wills and made to assist him as atonement for their crimes. Through these implements, Vahl can actually partially manifest his spiritual patrons to aid him in a variety of ways; a sight which unsettles observers far more than a strange man talking to things that aren’t there.
Vahl knows that the spirits chose him as their instrument for a reason and has faith that they will reveal that destiny when the time is right. He senses something wrong growing within the world, something that the spirits want him to be prepared for. Slowly, they draw back the veil before Vahl and reveal the secrets of their nature and how they may come to act as a single force of supernatural power, to enact their will in the physical world. Occasionally, he walks in a dream-like fugue state through a realm where the sky is black and the land is utterly dead, Vahl sees what the world might look like. He fears that he is not sure if it is what he is fighting for or against.