Lord Marshal Ashryth EbonDrake, the legendary paladin of Aldauth... it tends to amuse me, at times. While I always knew my ambition was strong, I never expected to achieve what I have as the illegitimate half-breed son of an idle Dragon Clan minstrel and an elven priestess who died during my birth.
I have always been prone to introspection. Perhaps it is a blessing for one of my guild to reflect upon the past and learn from it. Many years have passed since I left the north as a mere teenager to make my way in Zoluren, and much has happened in that short time, especially as of late. It has been several years since the lands faced the threat of Lyras and her undead, but the impact those events had on me were significant, and still cause me to look back and scrutinize how it all happened as it did.
I can speak little of my mother, aside from what my father told me, and that was not much. All I heard were simple, tired phrasings, such as, “She was a beautiful elven lady.” None of what I was told was informative, but I suppose I should be happy that he decided to keep me, rather than blaming me for my mother’s death, which resulted from my birth. No doubt, being a human, my father likely did not expect to even deal with my mother aging, let alone dying young.
Unlike my mother, I can say quite a bit about my father, but will keep it brief. He was a member of the Dragon Clan of humans, displaying the typical nomadic spirit and lust for life of those people. From what I was told, he became moreso, almost hedonistic after my mother’s death, perhaps having seen the brevity of life, firsthand. He was part of one of the small, wandering groups that made up this clan’s presence in Therengia.
Obviously, I was a half-breed, but a fortunate one. Outwardly, I always appeared as a human, a little taller than average for my age, and luckily, significantly less hairy and ungainly than those around me. I also had no objection to a long life. Unfortunately, the gypsy-like members of the clan that I grew up with insisted on telling everyone they could that I was “a delightful melding” just like their “beloved Lanival.” I really wish they would have just kept their mouths shut, and allowed me a normal childhood.
Of course, normal is a relative term, especially with the Dragon Clan. It seemed like those people had a celebration every day, and insisted on accomplishing only revelry, rather than doing anything remotely constructive. Even worse was the way they seemed to be utterly dumbfounded when I would question why they had no other ambitions in life, or why they had no wish to achieve anything more in their lives. I had expected them to be even more impatient for success, gain, and fame with their short life spans.
However, while the laziness frustrated me, their insistence on dressing in a drunken cacophony of colors was just downright irritating. Needless to say, I began choosing my own attire at a very young age, so that I could avoid appearing as a circus performer. I may have looked like an outsider, but I also felt like one, so something was consistent.
Simply put, I did not want to live the life of an impoverished, hedonistic gypsy, having nothing, doing nothing, and being forgotten after my death. I wanted to actually make a difference, to be someone important, to do something important. I wanted to lead others, and I wanted respect, not derision.
Needless to say, I knew I had to leave, especially since I really felt no bond with anyone there, including my father. No one could hope to tell of my mixed heritage, were I not to reveal it, so I would not face any adversity with that. Moreover, Zoluren provided many with a will the opportunity for achievement. Try as I could, I could think of no reason to stay.
Out of respect for not killing me in a fit of rage after my mother’s death, and having his little, familial group care for me, I said goodbye to my father, informing him of my decision. He wished me luck, and thankfully, did not object, despite my youth. With that, I slipped onto the Zoluren ferry one night when my father’s small group was camped outside of Riverhaven.
Considering how much everything in my life haa changed since that day, I should only see the change in my status as par for the course. From my days as a wide-eyed youth entering the paladin guild in the Crossing for the first time, struggling to grow accustomed to my armor, I strengthened my sword arm to the point where few would dare to challenge me, and my actions rocketed me up the social ladder to be one of Zoluren's nobles.
I suppose, throughout it all, I retained a lingering desire to forge some connection to my departed mother, which drove me to follow her faith, taking Aldauth as my patron. Truly, I did not seek the affection of those around me during my childhood, with my chosen surname serving only as a reminder of how far I have climbed from the recessed gutters of society, rather than reflecting any sense of nostalgia or pride in my people. I was not accustomed to, let alone desirous of, being liked.
Needless to say, I had no second thoughts when I became a paladin of Aldauth. While I would be a part of society, respected and even feared, I was not exactly going to have a full social calendar, and that suited me well. Unlike most of the brethren of my guild, I was not so much the helpful hand reaching out to the weak, as I was the punishing fist to those deserving of it. No one really wants to meet up with one whose primary job it is to dole out the appropriate penalties.
A few years ago, all of this changed. When the undead grew in strength, and necromancers began gaining in power, the people of Elanthia -- the common people, even, those who cling most fervently to old superstitions and fears -- viewed me in a different light. No longer was I the punishing fist, but I now became their force of vengeance. As I brought Aldauth's justice to those enacting forbidden practices, they felt they were doing so vicariously. They experienced a sense of satisfaction, as though they themselves were fighting back against the forces that had hurt them so.
People were happy to see me, for a change. Huddled in the streets, seeking refuge from the roving bands of zombies, old women called out blessings to me. Children, orphaned by the whatever horror claimed the day, rushed to me and asked me to "make the bad people pay for taking away mommy and daddy." For once, my path in life actually caused people to like me, and while my education allowed me to respond courteously, I honestly had no idea what to think or how to react. I do not know if I will ever grow acclimated to how things have changed.
Moreover, will things return to the way they were? The threat of necromancy still exists, although Lyras is gone. These forbidden practices touched nearly everyone in the past years, and even the undead cannot hope to outlive our memories. Am I to be lauded by all not as a shield against the darkness, but a blade of light lashing out against it? Having spent most of my adult life as the necessary but inconvenient tool of society, can I ever hope to adapt?