It was dark rainy night in the fortress of High Clerist’s Tower, the streets were empty, every soul living in the fortress taking cover in their homes from the hard mountain wind, the only sound that could be heard was the wind blowing through the buildings. The sounds of night were suddenly broken by the march of armoured feet, soldiers returning from patrol duty, going towards the fortress orphanage to bring another unfortunate or unwanted soul for their care. During their patrol route a soldier found an abandoned baby on in the field, left to fend for himself and barely protected from the elements, it was left outside to perish and be forgotten by some unknown and uncaring parents, only by some divine miracle spared from such a cruel fate.
The churches orphanage started an investigation to see who would commit such an atrocious act within the wall of the fortress, but amazingly their search revealed that there had been no recent births, no unaccounted children, every house they searched revealed nothing and every person they question was shocked when hearing that someone might commit such an horrible act in their devout fortress. The fortress orphanage accepted to foster unwanted children willingly and without questions, children raised by it being recruited as line soldiers or in some rare cases as priests and clerics for the local churches. Due to the lack of resources and time to search the neighbouring villages, the orphanage accepted the fact that the parents of the young baby, will never be found soon and named him Malik Grim after a cleric who had died recently during an dark knight ambush. The fortress belonged to the knights of Solamnia and guarded the pass through the mountains to Palanthas, being the only access point trough the mountains and a major trade stop, growing from a simple fortification to a impressive fortress-city.
Like all the children under the care of the orphanage, Malik started studying with the other acolytes of the church, the church teaching them in diverse fields, to see where every child excelled and where to be assigned when they grew up. Those who had a knack for knowledge will remain with the church as acolytes and later either becoming priests or scholars, doing research for the church and taking care of the archives, while the rest became soldiers, or some very lucky and exceptional acolytes eventually became squires for the sons of noble men who became knights. Malik at a young age was good at both, but was assigned to the church libraries since he wasn’t able to join the knights or the clerics, where he would be more suited, since he wasn’t nobility and preaching didn’t really suit him. From a young age he didn’t really stand out from the other children, usually keeping to himself, studying in the library or praying in the chapel, even though he was well built and proved his physical prowess in many occasion when provoked by the other children. He also proved to be a good negotiator, managing to persuade other acolytes to back down from fights or to return to their chores when they tried to skip them, despite all of his abilities no knight wanted to take him on as their squire, because most of them didn’t consider him a citizen of the fortress because he wasn’t born there, or others didn’t like the idea of having in their service a bastard child or one who’s origins were completely unknown.
From a young age he used to have strange, very intense dreams, most very confusing, that he couldn’t find any meaning to, some would sometimes repeat but he couldn’t remember what they were about. He would talk to father Thackeray about them, when he started feeling overwhelmed by them and felt the need to talk to someone about them. The father told him that they might be signs from his god, and he should try to focus on them, over the years father Thackeray started regarding Malik as his own son, seeing the potential the young boy possessed he used to encourage him and try to guide him, and using his influence he manage to take Malik as his assistant in the library seeing the boys passion for learning. In the library the boy studied all sorts of texts about legends, folklore, history, religion and even some about magic and other planes, learning as much as he could about everything he had access in the library and some more obscure text’s that the priest gave to him that other acolytes didn’t have access to. Following the father’s suggestion, he started focusing more and more on his strange dreams, trying to remember more and more details, and make sense of them. After a while he started having a recurring dream, he saw a dark figure entering a house shrouded in black smoke with red light windows, and after them man entered the house he heard a very powerful scream and blood gushed out from the house’s door, followed by a very distressing a maniac laughter and a strange chant. He told the priest about his dream, after listening to him at first the father tried to dismiss it as just a simple nightmare, but when the dream got more and more intense, to the point that while working in the library the young boy collapsed, being overpowered by the vision, he suggested that he should investigate it if only just to get some closure and gave him a few days leave to search the city for his mysterious house. After searching the fortress for a few days he didn’t find the house or any person that might even came close to the figure he saw in his dream, starting to dismiss his dream as just a strange recurring nightmare and realising that he had no chance to search the whole fortress in the allotted time, almost decided to give up. On his way to the monastery he suddenly froze, seeing a merchant that used to travel between the fortress and neighbouring cities, he didn’t know why but he could have swore he saw the merchant before. Then it hit him the merchant’s size and stature matched exactly those of the mans in his dream, he followed the merchant for a while, trying to stay out of sight as much as possible, taking side roads and blending with the crowed. Eventually the merchant entered a house near the outskirts of the fortress, and much too young Malik’s surprise it matched exactly the house from his dream, he could almost smell the blood in the air and hear the strange scream and chant from his dream, but since none happened he decided to ask around about the merchant. He learned from the people around the house that the merchant was a live stock trader and butcher, but they didn’t hear any odd sounds from his house, or see him do anything strange, the only thing out of the ordinary about him was that he would sometimes do night runs, returning with a cart full of livestock carcases for processing in his shop even though the roads at night were dangerous, bandit or animal attacks being frequent in the area, but his neighbours figured he needed the money and took that risk and couldn’t tell him more because he usually kept to himself.
Convinced that his dreams were a sign for his god, Paladine, Malik decided to wait until the merchant left his shop to get new stock and investigate the place, he returned to the church and prepared himself to investigate the house. The told father Thackeray that he actually found the house and figure from his dreams and while telling the priest what he saw, the man listened to his story amazed, only the most devout and powerful clerics had ever had a vision from their deity, such a thing was a very rare thing and happening to a simple acolyte was unheard off, and what was more amazing was that it happened to a follower of Paladine, a god considered dead, having very few followers, most of them fighters or knights that worshiped him due to family tradition, clerics rarely worshiping him, and those that did weren’t very powerful. The priest tried to dismiss what happened as just a coincidence but to many things had happened for it to be that, first the dreams, then the strange episode where Malik passed out in the library, followed by the fact that he actually found the house and man from the nightmare. He urged the young man not to investigate this matter further until he had the chance to talk with the clergy about what happened and if his vision proved real he would be in alot of danger if confronting the merchant.
While father Thackeray went to talk with the clergy, Malik decided not to investigate on his own, learning from the merchant’s neighbours that there would be a large livestock sale in a neighbouring village the next day and the merchant would go there, providing the perfect opportunity for him to search the merchant’s house. He managed to bargain with the acolyte overseeing the soldier armoury and borrow a long sword for “training”, so armed with the sword and his faith, he sneaked to the merchant house at dusk and waited for him to leave. As soon as the merchant was out of sight, going towards the village in his cart, the young acolyte entered the house, and started searching for anything out of the ordinary. After searching the ground and upper floors and not finding anything, he went outside to look in the slaughter house, almost giving up and deciding that everything was just a nightmare, and that he should return and face the reprimand for braking into an innocents man’s house, he found a secret hatch. He almost had given up, but fearing punishment for what he did, he decided to search one last time, praying to his god that his attempt would not be in vain, he spotted a hatch he had first missed dude to all the gore and blood on the floor. Forcing the hatch open he light his torch and descended in the underground room, what he saw there froze, the room was filled with all sorts of torture instruments, knives of all shapes and sizes, strange tomes and drawings on the walls. The room seemed to be some sort of strange place of worship, in the middle of the room was an altar, covered in blood, sounded by strange symbols on the floor and an large bookstand at the end of the altar with an odd looking tome on top of it. As he approached the tome he heard a voice behind him, congratulating him for finding the place and becoming the next sacrifice to the dark one, turning slowly he saw the merchant standing in the stairway, armed with a huge meat cleaver. Muttering a quick prayer to his good Malik rushed to meet the butchers mad charge, dodging a vicious blow that would have severed his head, he slashed his sword at him, nicking his arm, the butcher unable to fully dodge the blow. The butcher enraged by the lucky hit landed by the young acolyte, charged and delivered a gruesome hit in his opponent’s torso. Malik was starting to lose a lot of blood from the hit he just took, and started to blackout, in a last desperate effort he lunched himself at the butcher, praying that his sacrifice wouldn’t be in vain and if couldn’t kill the mad cultist, he could at least deliver a significant blow that injure him enough that the local authorities would start an investigation or at least force him to leave the city not raise any unwanted attention. Fuelled by adrenaline and holy purpose he slammed his body into the butcher, ramming him against a book stand knocking him out and thrusting his sword into one of the butchers lungs impaling him into the wall before falling himself unconscious.
When he woke up he was in the fortress’s infirmary, father Thackeray talking with an armoured man bearing the symbol of Kiri-Jolith, seeing that Malik was waking up they stopped talking and approached the young man. The priest explained that the armoured man was Elmond Bolest, an inquisitor sent by the church to investigate the house where the knights that were looking for him when he disappeared from the church armed, found him following the sounds of battle from the open hatch when they searched the house for him. Father Thackeray told the clergy about his vision and sent some knights to talk to him about it, suspecting themselves that something was going on in the fortress, the bandit and creature attacks getting more and more daring and frequent, suspecting that someone was feeding information to the bandits and making creatures attack the patrols to draw their attention and seeing that they were missing they quickly went to the merchants house and found the there. Elmond wanted to talk to the young acolyte because the cultist committed suicide as soon as he woke up in the infirmary, and needed to see if he read some of the texts in the house and what he had found out during his investigation. Satisfied with the answers, the inquisitor told Malik that he will not be punished for what he did, his actions stopping a great evil, and that if he wished he would be allowed to serve with the inquisition, so that they can put his gift and skills to use.
Malik accepted the offer to join the inquisition, seeing the chance to do more good and use his skills to root out evil, so he entered the service of the inquisition, as an apprentice to Elmond. He served with the inquisition for a while, but rather than continuing his training as an inquisition he started to focus on his connection with his deity, seeking more and more tough challenges to prove himself both to his deity and the church. Focusing on fighting enemies, and proving himself a deadly and honourable warrior he got accepted by the knights as a paladin, due to his victories and with the recommendation from Elmond for the service he provided to the inquisition.
During an assignment for the inquisition Malik got ambused in the Khalkist Mountains by some dark knights, after a vicious fight he got severely wounded finishing off the last enemy, but unfortunately his entire squad was killed. He wandered close to death in the mountains desperately trying to reach an Solamnian outpost, slowly felling his life force leaving him he passed out, thinking that this is his end he passed out. Much to his surprise he woke up near a camp fire, with a old elf tending his wounds, he tried to ask the elf his name, but he told him not to speak, he lost a lot of blood and needs to regain his strength, Malik tried to ask the elf another question but passed out before he got the chance. Struggling between life and death he had another very intense vision, a giant cavern with a huge horde in it and some strange looking eggs, guarded by some vicious looking draconic creatures, and then heard a strange voice telling him that there lies his destiny, strangely the voice sounded somehow very familiar like it had been with him his whole life, even though that was the first time he heard it. The voice told him that there he would find his true destiny and calling, but for that first he will need to find help in order to overcome the challenges that will arise on his quest. When he woke up again much to his surprise he now saw a draconic figure watching over him, at first he was startled recognising the creature as the one in his vision, but before he could do anything the creature told him to calm down, they mean him no harm, a patrol found him near one of their routes, unconscious, and with some bandaged wounds that needed further tending. They didn’t know how but where they found him, it was almost like someone knew their patrol route; they usually took hidden routes to avoid unwanted attention and if they could swear that someone specially placed him there so that they would find him.
When he got better due to the careful tending of the draconians, and was surprised to see that unlike the myths and legends he heard about draconic creatures being evil creatures that raided villages and worked for evil dragons, this draconian were a secluded society, not wanting to take part in current world wars and politics, focusing on peace and doing good. They lived in a gigantic fortress high up in the mountains, being hidden by clouds, and only accessible through a hidden mountain paths. He stayed with the draconians until he got better and able to travel again, he asked them for a small patrol so he would return to where his men were killed so he could bury their remains. After that he stayed for a while with them to learn more about their society and wanting to repay them for their help, he asked about the strange elf that saved his life but none of the draconian patrols ever encountered him before. During his time spent helping the draconians he had another strong vision about a vast wasteland, so devoid of life and inhospitable that made him wander that should he do there, then he saw something bright, that shone on top of a cliff, when he focused on the light he sensed a void inside it, but also great power, that lacked purpose. The voice he heard last time returned telling him that that is where he will find the first and most powerful and trusted aid for his quest, and that his determination and faith will be tested in that valley, he told the voice that armed with his faith in Paladine, he will not falter and will not fail in the task set before him. The voice chuckled telling him it’s nice to see a man with such determination and showed him the image of a huge port, he recognised as Port Balifor, and told him that there is where he will find the rest that will help him and that no matter what will happen there not to judge his future allies by the way they might act, that their destinies are bound and with their help he will complete his quest.
After receiving this latest vision Malik, talked with the draconians about the place he saw in his vision, at first they looked oddly at him when he told them that he receives visions from Paladine, although they still worshiped Paladine accepted the fact the he haven’t showed himself in a long time and might have lost his powers, but hoped that this strange man might have some sort of connection with their beloved good, so few people remained that had any connection with him, the last few being some of their clerics, but they never received any visions or signs from Paladine. After describing the place he saw in his vision the draconian scouts recognised the area as The Vale of the Accursed, and strongly advised him not to go there, no sane soul dared enter such an desolate and cursed place, he thanked them for everything they did for him and promised that he would return to them after his quest is completed, feeling more at home there, that he felt anywhere else.
Malik began to travel with renewed purpose, happy that he finally found a place where he could call home and where people accepted him for who he was, and swore he would defend that place with his last breath, but before he set on his quest he visited the High Clerist’s Tower one last time to say his goodbyes, and thank father Thackeray and inquisitor Elmond for all the help and support they offered to him. When he arrived at the fortress everyone was shocked to see him return alive, they considered him and the squad sent out dead, no one hearing anything from them in a long time, and the patrols they sent out to search for them found nothing, but everyone was overjoyed to see him return and that the families of the lost knight would finally have closure, by knowing what happed to the knights and that they received a proper burial. He thanked them for the warm welcome, but told them that he couldn’t stay, that he has to embark on a holy quest set before him by his god, before he left father Thackeray gave him a ancient holy symbol of Paladine that the church had for a long time, and he wanted to give it to him when he joined the paladins, a relic that true follower of Paladine should have, but since things has changed he gave him the holy symbol hopping that this symbol would bring him luck on his quest. Inquisitor Elmond told him that he will always be welcome back at the fortress when his quest is complete, and that he should consider himself an fully fledged member of the order of paladins, managing to come back alive against such odds and overcoming such difficulties proved that he is more than worthy of joining the order. Malik promised them that he would return from time to time, grabbed the armoured they offered him when he joined the paladins and his gear, thanking everyone for all their help and set off for the Vale of the Accursed and then port Balifor.