Tales of the Red Way
A tragic life, a noble death
Balthazar Durga was a member of the Vendi, a nationality of humans who had migrated from their homeland in the far south under conditions both mysterious and unfortunate. When they arrived in the Great Crooked Lake region, they first attempted to settle in Faris, but were persecuted and harassed, leading to a deep enmity between the Vendi and the Farisees. The Vendi continued their movement north until coming to the town of Crook Lake, where they were, if not welcomed, tolerated.
The Vendi decamped outside the southern walls of Crook Lake, dismantling their colorful wagons and building a ghetto to suit their likes and needs. Very soon, the Vendi became an integral part of the life of Crook Lake, as merchants and procurers of all things obscure, but always for a price. Much of the Vendi Encampment remained off limits to the non-Vendi public, who were welcomed only to the portions of the area designed for general trade.
The Vendi were divided among themselves into various clans, associated with animals. Balthazar Durga was born into the Raven Clan, to a father who worked as a tailor and a mother who was a herbalist. As an only child, Balthazar was lonely, and his isolation was increased by his clearly high intelligence. On top of those issues, Balthazar was born with a birthmark – always a matter of interest to the Vendi – and his was in the shape of a raven. Many a wise Vendi crone prophesied great (or terrible) things for the boy.As a youth, he was apprenticed to an apothecary, where he gained his love and proficiency for alchemy. An unfortunate accident that lead to a explosion in the shop indicated that Balthazar was quickly moving beyond mixing mere potions and poultices. He moved into a basement where he continued to work on his craft, spending many days and nights in lonely study.
He had developed a friendly business relationship with Eckhart Rynos during his time with the apothecary, but was still surprised when the young nobleman invited Balthazar to join a new group of adventurers. The opportunity to learn more of the world’s mysteries and practice his growing craft outside of the laboratory, along with a constant need for funds, spurred him to accept.
Any hope that Balthazar’s life would get easier if he left the Vendi was not to come to fulfillment. It soon became clear that his birthmark was not a simple discoloration of the skin, but was a familiar controlled by the very spirit of Loka, the Raven totem of his people. Through several encounters, it became clear to Balthazar that the release of this creature was dangerous, both to the people around him and to his own sanity. Even as Balthazar grew into one of the most accomplished alchemists of his age, the presence of Loka drove him to engage in a quest neither of his liking nor of his choice.
Balthazar discovered that he and the Loka-Spirit had been linked through many lifetimes, always seeking a means of releasing Loka to its final fate. Loka swore that he was a victim and looked only for the release of death, if a normal life was not possible. Balthazar grew increasingly distrustful of Loka, but had no way of separating himself form the spirit’s influence.
When Balthazar and his companions found themselves attempting to stop an invasion by a demon named Shaxx, powerful magics enabled Balthazar to gain an advantage over Loka. A magical vortex that sent the party into the distant past also permitted Balthazar to make contact with the many spirits related to his past, and to align himself with them, as opposed to giving himself over even more to the power of Loka. This assimilation of the spirits’ power altered him into an Oracle.
In the end, it became clear that the defeat of Shaxx had been orchestrated by other nefarious forces, including Loka, to create a new and more powerful threat. Loka’s betrayal and lies being now manifest, Balthazar released the power of the Mirror of Spirits against the burgeoning threat. The massive blast ended Loka but also sealed Balthazar’s fate. By his death, though, a major threat to the peace and welfare of the world was eliminated.