Rise of the Runelords
Male Human Occultist
Mavaro’s earliest childhood memories are of the silent seclusion of a Pharasmin convent deep in the Mindspin Mountains. The boy never learned what brought his mother to the strange cloister built among ancient standing stones, but there she had sought refuge. The sisters’ strict tutelage was the only life he knew; his only friends the esoteric books and scrolls of the convent’s great library. He spent years in the library, devouring countless tomes to learn more of the world denied him.
Tales of horrors stalking the cloister’s corridors held Mavaro’s wanderlust in check. As he grew older, Mavaro dismissed the stories and learned to secretly navigate the forbidden halls of the convent, where he regularly bore witness to the nuns’ strange ceremonies. One was a ritual of severe fasting and meditation that gradually wasted the sisters’ bodies. After a period of fasting, novices would unveil a yellowed, sigil-scripted skull of the order’s founding abbess, Mother Wren. The acolytes then listened in turn for a ghostly whisper from the skull to indicate a worthy candidate. Soon afterward, the selected nun’s sisters would rise to adorn the candidate’s body, withered in self-starvation, with strange sigils and specially cast silver talismans. They’d wrap her in fresh linens and carry her down into a hidden, spiraling catacomb to carefully place her among generations of similarly mummified worshipers spanning thousands of years.
In Mavaro’s twenty-second year, Varisian traders arrived at the abbey. While the nuns took the opportunity to restock their food stores and other essentials, Mavaro felt entranced by a wagonload of riches reclaimed from the ruins of a stone giant temple. Tribal totems, esoteric steles, and ruined relics of forgotten cultures all called to him—representations of a world and cultures he’d only ever read about. When one of the traders pulled forth a strange sword of ancient design, bearing a carved, glowering face with gleaming red gems inset as eyes, Mavaro knew he had to obtain the treasures at whatever cost.
But as only a lonely scribe, Mavaro had no way to pay for the items. So he quietly stole into the forbidden catacombs where he knew the silver talismans of the abbey’s mummies lay for the taking. Little did he know, though, that the sisters’ starved bodies actually served as unwavering guardians, and with the desecration of their remains, an evil long held in check by their sacrifice slipped free. As the caravan trundled away from the holy ground, taking the convent’s traded relics with it, the binding magic that held the entity in check cracked imperceptibly, and its spiritual corruption leaked forth.
The deaths began slowly. At first they just seemed like bad luck: a broken neck from a short fall; a drowning in the convent’s well; three nuns killed in the collapse of an old stone wall in the kitchens. But soon the malevolent presence grew more bold, and the sisters realized something was hunting them in the quiet corridors. By the time the prioress realized that Mavaro’s pilfering had jeopardized divine defenses centuries in the making, it was too late. One by one, the nuns were slaughtered by the dark thing of rust and chains slipping through their midst. The quiet butcher saved the prioress for last, possessing her body in anticipation of a long, self-inflicted torment. But wrenching back control of her body for the briefest moment, the prioress knocked a lantern aside and set fire to the convent in an attempt to destroy the entity—and herself—in cleansing flame.
Though injured, the vicious entity was not destroyed in the blaze, and only it and Mavaro survived. Desperate to protect himself, Mavaro shifted through the smoldering ruins of the haunted abbey, desperately collecting any holy relics he could find in hope of warding off the lingering evil. Vestments of razor wire still glowing red, the spirit soon found Mavaro. The young scholar would surely have faced his death, had not the skull of Mother Wren whispered to him from the ashes. The ancient holy woman commanded Mavaro to close his eyes and open his soul to the power of the items he had collected. Its long fingers flicking like the lashes of a scourge, the wicked shadow closed on the desperate youth, cooing promises of endless, barb-licked torment. Mavaro felt the power of the relics well up inside him, and shakily reached for the ruby-eyed blade he had purchased. Trembling, but full with strange power, Mavaro blindly struck.
A red gem shattered in the sword’s hilt and the dark thing shrieked, flailing jangling fetters as it retreated through the ruins. Mavaro fled the holy site as quick as he could, never looking back at the only place he’d ever called home.
In the twenty years since, Mavaro’s life has been a strange paradox. He’s now a man of many indulgences, making up for his modest childhood with good food and raucous company. He deflects inquiries about his youth with inconsistent but highly entertaining tales tied in with his mysterious collection of relics and strange objects. Quietly, though, he regularly casts one eye over his shoulder, ever watchful for the shadow he’s come to call the Thorn Priest, which stalks him still. Mavaro regularly consults the yellowed skull of Mother Wren, heeding her ghostly whispers as he pursues the relics he traded away long ago. His travels have taken him to markets across Varisia, the strangest of private collections, and many dangerous, distant locales. Still he seeks to reclaim their power, determined to undo the folly of his youth and face the Thorn Priest once more.