Chapter 1: A Distinguished Crew
It is cold…And I mean, very cold. When a man stands outside for only a short time, and has icicles hanging from his face, one knows that the breath of winter is great indeed. Ah, but there has been many a man who has called Icewind Dale, the upper arse-end of Faerun. A fitting yet none too appealing comparison.
Oh…hello, so sorry to ramble on. I didn't see you there, and I'm afraid that I've got a bit of a bad habit of talking to myself. But please, come in, sit by the fire, make yourself comfortable. Have a glass of wine; it will chase away that nasty chill in no time. We've been expecting you for some time now. Frankly, we were wondering if something had happened to you. But it would seem you've haven't landed in any undesirable situations involving kidnapping after all. Quite a relief. Ho, a nasty can of worms that can be…Ah, there I go again. Please forgive my meanderings.
Oh right, names…names, how rude of me to forget. My name is Dominic Hugos. A pleasure indeed. My background is a bit dull I'm afraid, when compared to others. I'm the one and only son of the noble-blooded Sterious family of Waterdeep. Unlike my parents who are stuffy and incorrigible, at a young age my personality curved towards seeing the world beyond our lavish home and irksome dinner parties. Oh sweet Helm, the boredom I've had to endure…
I took up the great art of fencing at a young age to appease my desire for combat, and I've gotten rather good at it. On the opposite end, my parents, in hopes I'd abandon my fanciful ideas of adventure for a promising career, insisted that I studied hard so that I may take my father's place within the city council. Though I had no desire to do such things, I did indeed apply myself diligently to my studies, so you'll not find a sharper wit or keener intellect anywhere else. Hah, I embellish a bit…Force of habit, what can I say?
But of course, that is just me, and though I have as much vanity as the next man, I'll not be so bold or arrogant as to say that I am the only man of my group. Hah, I wouldn't get very far if I was, I can tell you that.
Now then, if you'd look over that way, towards that rickety old barstool, you'll see my good personal friend Sol. A very nice chap, though he can be a bit arrogant for his own good. He's never revealed his last name to us, insisting that if we don't already know it, then he isn't going to tell. Peculiar yes? Though his garb is light, white with the outer lining of silver, you undoubtedly see that splash of color around his left sleeve. That red sash, which gives him his full self-appointed title…Sol the Red. Strangely enough, his title is due to the sash, and is a mere coincidence that he has rather unkempt red hair.
Though we have all been somewhat skeptical about it, he claims that he is a very famous man in other parts of the world, being a feared and powerful spell-caster. I'm not so sure about the fame part, but he can certainly throw fireballs and lightning like nobody's business, and has certainly proven his destructive capabilities with no small amount of undoubtedly practiced fanfare many times. His magical prowess has indeed been invaluable.
What's that? The big fellow? Oh, don't mind him. That is Sir Victor. Sir Victor Tolis, if you'd like his full name. He is a paladin, but of what religion, I cannot say. As a matter of fact, I'm actually unsure as to what he even looks like under all that armor. He has never once removed his cuirass, or his helmet for that matter. How he sleeps in that armored heap is a mystery to me. In fact, he as a whole is a great enigma. Of all my companions, he hardly says a thing.
Barely a word, a sigh, or even a simple grunt passes from his invisible lips. He speaks with his actions, I suppose you could say. Striking down evil when and where he senses it with that enormous steel maul of his. And that is good enough for me. Naturally, because he only speaks on the rarest of occasions, we know very little about his past, or who he was before joining with us. It is quite possible that we may never learn the truth…
Now, over there sits our youngest, and dare I say…most rambunctious of our group. Miss Carrin Westfire. The silly elven girl of eighteen, with that curious white hair of hers…ah, a sweet girl if not a bit…uh…verbose. Which is rather strange for an elf…She has a seemingly limitless supply of jokes and taunts to try us with, day in and day out, and someone is always telling her to hush if only for a moment.
As if this talkativeness wasn't enough, but what with being a skilled "person who takes other people's things," we quite often find ourselves in unappealing situations due to her sticky fingers. But we all have faults, as well as other traits that make up for them. Carrin is a master of traps, both arming and disarming, and our primary information gatherer. If there is a shadow, even the slightest hint of one, she will melt away into it, only to reappear with her daggers digging into a foes unguarded back.
O Ho, I see your eyes wander, my friend. Settling upon our golden-hared messenger of the gods eh? Allow me to introduce our priestess, Lady Cassandra Dolan. Although, I believe she could also be called a cleric by some. A great healer, and defender of good she is. Her powers of purification of all that is sinister is awe-inspiring, and her ability to calm tortured spirits is a sight to behold. When it comes to destroying undead, the rest of us handle that, but she…yes our dear Cassandra, she can do so much more. In essence, she does more than the rest of us combined.
We exterminate their bodies but she cleanses their souls, something that can prevent them from rising ever again. Nothing is as satisfying to us as to see the heartwarming smile on her face as she helps a hapless apparition on to divine rest. As caring as she is, she dislikes harming any living creature, regardless if it is hostile or not. At times, I wonder how her pure spirit can stand to mingle with the rest of us…
Anywho, let me direct your attention to the scruffy-looking fellow to your immediate left, who is the last of my party. You will notice his black raven hair and far darker complexion, as he is not a local from these parts. His name certainly implies this as well, I'm afraid. It is quite the mouthful. Xanlamin Uthadar Zanros the 5th. But thankfully, he goes most often by the nickname Bishop. Simple and easy to pronounce. I assume by noticing his toughened leather armor, and twin swords you have guessed at his profession. A fighter, true enough, but there is more to him than that.
Our friend here is what one may call a professional scalawag. More of a mercenary than the rest of us, though he's not wholly focused on getting paid. Oh, I know what you're thinking…With all those scars and tattoos, he must be a vicious ornery fellow. Well it might surprise you to know that while he is like that some of the time, he isn't always that way. Every once in a great moon he'll show a bit of human compassion, though he often complains about it afterwards. He tends to be more of the gruff man of the group. Not a part I was born to play, I'll say that much. Hah ha!
So…that's us, quite a crew indeed, don't you think? Eh…what's that?
What do we do, you ask? Why my dear friend, I do apologize. I've been so busy introducing us all; I've forgotten to introduce ourselves…If you follow. Ahem…My party and I go by the collective name of The Six Pale Hands, and unlike Sol and his mawkish boasting, we as a group are somewhat famous throughout lower Faerun as professional exorcists.
We've banded together for the single purpose of destroying and/or purifying the walking dead, apparitions, phantoms, or anything of its equivalency. Ghost fighters I suppose you might say. We all have our reasons of course, although most of which are rather unsavory, only bringing harsh memories better forgotten to the surface.
Of course, this by no means suggests that we are incapable of handling creatures of the living, monsters, beasts, and things of that nature. Oh goodness me no, we have to fight our fair share of them as we travel along. Undead is merely our specialty. And when a community or people are menaced by a threat other than ghostly beings, we'll gladly render our services to aid them.
As one may expect, our much-needed service has taken us many places across the realms, from the deep south, to the far east, and as you undoubtedly are aware, now to the far north. To the base of the Spine of the World Mountains, here in the fridge tundra of Icewind Dale.
Many tales of course are known about the mountains and the folks who dwell in them, but this tale isn't about the native mountain residences; barbarians, common folk, or anyone like that. You might want to make yourself comfortable my friend, and secure yourself another drink. This tale is a long one indeed…
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Note: The descriptions above may have been a bit hard to follow, so I've added this little blurp to make it easier…
Dominic Hugos: An average fellow, with sharp green eyes covered by thin spectacles, short tidy brown hair, nice clothes, a blue noble-jacket, wields a rather thick steel rapier
Sol the Red: Tall thin man, poofy red hair, small beard and moustache, white robes with silver trim, red sash around left arm, carries a quarterstaff / Invoker
Sir Victor Tolis: Towering suit of armor, red plume from helmet which blocks his face, breastplate has red and gold insignia of unknown origin; he carries an enormous steel maul (A 6 foot long hammer)
Carrin Westfire: Young elven girl, short messy crystalline white hair, violet eyes, rather pale, wears a darkened piece of Shadow armor, and uses two magic daggers
Lady Cassandra Dolan: Beautiful, statuesque, voluptuous, but with a pair of very soft endearing blue eyes, full blonde hair, light-fitting plate armor, wields a simple spiked mace
Xanlamin Uthadar Zanros the 5th (a.k.a. Bishop): Darker skin, deep brown eyes, braided black hair, several scars and tattoos, hardened studded leather armor, uses two serrated scimitars