Arius Holdt’s face is an inscrutable mask, he learned long ago that his emotions were his greatest weakness and would betray him to his enemies; Arius Holdt has some very dangerous enemies. He lives and works at the heart of the great Library of Harenis, where, to his fellow scholars and archivists, he is a mystery. Nobody is ever quite sure what Arius is looking for in the vast archives and stacks of the library, but he definitely seems to be driven to find something.
From Skaris to Harenis
Arius is a Skarisi by birth and has managed to mask his accent successfully, though some of his more astute colleagues have guessed he has a Skarisian background. Skaris is the paranoic theocracy of the Arclands, a walled city in the heart of the Blackbriar Forest, whose rulers believe it is the source of all spiritual authority across the continent of Aestis. Skaris eyes other cities with intense suspicion and punishes traitors and heretics mercilessly.
Arius was originally a master of the Perendian Dycrit, a secretive chamber of Skarisian religious knowledge, where monstrous experiments were permitted by the city’s founders. The Dycrits were unlike any other aspect of Skarisian society, and were able to cross boundaries that most Skarisi were completely unaware of. Arius and other members of these secretive organisations swore an oath not to use the secrets they uncovered for their own ends, but ultimately the lure of forbidden power was too much for Arius, who spoke with a mysterious and cunning entity from the realm known as the Red Waste, which called itself Nalmut.
The Perendians had attempted to create a map of known dimensional doorways, after spying on the cartographic order, the Carathenes. They were far less cautious than the Carathene Order and did not understand that by finding and observing a doorway, one could cause it to open. They also failed to understand that powerful entities on the other side could sense when an opportunity to cross over presented itself. The creature Nalmut sought out the highly intelligent but flawed Arius, knowing that he was weak and vulnerable to the creature’s beguiling words. At first all Arius heard was a whisper in the dark, cold chambers and cells of the Perendian Crypts, but slowly he began to realise something was speaking to him, calling him, enticing him with an offer. After days of this relentless voice, Arius, on the edge of his sanity called back, demanding that the voice show itself, and in doing so he fell into the Nalmut’s trap; his words opened a door into Arius’s chambers from the blistering, choking Red Waste and Nalmut, a grinning fanged mouth etched from fire and surrounded by a thousand burning, shifting eyes, introduced itself.
Terrified, Arius collapsed to his knees and shook uncontrollably in front of his guest, who told him that his veneration of the Aruhvian god, The Keeper was at an end. Nalmut would now be his master, and Arius would be his eyes in the Mortal Realm, and would serve whatever purposes wished. Nalmut told Arius that he had lived the wrong life in the Dycrit, and that he had something within him an ‘akarue’ (which after research, Arius realised was an Old Vannic word for ‘sacred spark’). It was this akarue that Nalmut was most interested in, and he left a helper, a creature called Falwynd, which chose the form of a salamander to help guide Arius. With that, Nalmut vanished and Arius was gripped with a new fear; he knew that Skaris, a city of watchers and whisperers would not be safe for him. The city’s inquisitors, the Skargoline, could were feared precisely for their ability to see the slightest wavering of faith in the eyes of those they patrolled. With help from Falwynd, Arius escaped through the city’s storm drains and into the wild and dangerous Blackbriar Forest. Arius discovered his power, the ‘akarue’ that Nalmut spoke of, when he was drawn to a hidden Spellforge in the forest and created a spell he called Light Surge, which dazzled and blinded the malevolent creatures of the forest, the Blackbriar Fey.
After years of hiding and evading the Skargoline, who search for him endlessly, Arius has now found a hiding place in the great Library of Harenis, where he searches endlessly for a book called the Lynykari, which contains something of immense value for Nalmut. His master urges him to delve ever deeper into the darkness of the library and Arius emerges from the darkened districts of the vast city sized archive ever closer to madness each time.
The PCs are hired by a wealthy merchant called Losian Kaas, to kidnap Arius Holdt, and they are told that he is former servant of the Kaas who has lost his mind and needs to be brought back to safety from the Library of Harenis. Losian Kaas is in reality Master Sorian Dacah, Skargoline interrogator, who wishes to plunge Arius into the darkest dungeons of Skaris and to torture him until he reveals his connection with Nalmut. Dacah intends to kill the PCs when they deliver Arius, but can’t risk the Skargoline being caught directly meddling in the affairs of Harenis and its library. The PCs find Arius, just as he is about to find the Lynykari, a book that will give Nalmut much more power and influence in the Mortal Realm. Once the book is discovered, Nalmut sends its own minions to retrieve it.
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