Scaled Down Scales
somewhat of a cipher, as a human monk
Currently working as an agent of Storm Johnson out of Johnson’s secret base in the Sea of Fire.
Storm is pursuing rumors that someone has occupied the Obsidian Citadel of Djamela, an efreeti outcast who was thrown out of the City of Brass for pursuing dangerous research, which was rumored to be putting the entire city at risk of some chaotic doom. Storm Johnson is concerned that the secrecy of his base of operations would be put at risk if the prohibitions on activity on Djamela’s island are being violated.
Possibility: If the rulers of the City of Brass find their will is being violated on one island in the Sea of Fire, they may investigate others. And find that a group of ex-slaves has set up a secret base on one of those islands.
So, he has sent Duilin Silverfang to check out what is happening on Djamela’s Island.
On the day Duilin Silverfang was born, a comet shaped like a dragon’s head appeared in the sky over the city where he was born: The City of Argent.
The comet’s color was hard to discern. At times, it seemed clearly to be red. Then the reddish color would become harder and harder to discern, until people became convinced they had only imagined the red. Then it would take on a greenish hue, then blue, before it finally faded into blackness.
When Duilin demonstrated an affinity to the interactions between the planes, they began to wonder if the different colors of the comet somehow represented the various planes of existence. The sages of Argent suspected the comet was sent as a sign that Duilin could hear the rhythm of the planes.
His parents, concerned over the lack of support Argent was receiving from Nerath and the rest of the material plane, sent the young Duilin to the Monastery of the Transcendent Order at a fairly young age. He learned there that action without thought can be more than charging in blindly whenever an opportunity arises. If a monk can hear that which is all around them, unifying it with all of the planes around them, then action without thought can transcend the moment, touch a higher purpose, and become the most perfect form of action.
“Would you rather be remembered as someone who thought about the perfect action?” asked the Master of Transcendence.
When he reached the moment when his master declared him a Cipher, they asked him what riddle puzzled him them most. Silverfang thought long and hard before telling them the story of the Comet of the Changing Color.
“What does this mean?” he asked them, posing a riddle even the Masters of the Transcendent Order could not answer. They asked among their oracles and their sages until one remembered a group of githzerai who sought the answers to such riddles in the Chaos of the Elemental Plane.
“I would be remembered as someone who took that action,” replied Duilin Silverfang.
The journey to the Elemental Chaos was long and hard, but Duilin knew he had to persevere. These travels hardened his body and strengthened his mind. Many of the techniques which were — for him — only theoretical became well-practiced skills.
But they did not prepare him for Zerthadlun when he finally found the City of Riddles. While he was expecting a tiny sanctuary like the Monastery of the Transcendent Order, he found instead a great city, given over not just to its famous monastic pursuits, but also to the efforts required to supply and protect its monasteries in the midst of the Elemental Chaos.
Zerthadlun provided a sharp contrast both to Argent and to the Monastery of the Transcendent Order. For both of those institutions relied on aid from outside their own lands. Argent had paid a heavy price for such reliance, because when the aid dried up, Argent withered. This withering was already apparent when Duilin Silverfang left the Silver City.
At the monastery, Duilin heard that the decline of Argent had continued further, its servants abandoning the alabaster towers and its quaint neighborhoods falling into decay. But he could see the Monastery of Transcendent Order was paying a different kind of price for dependency: It was tiny compared to the vast boulevards of Argent; and it kept its buildings from decay by staying small and eschewing ambition.
No one could accuse Zerthadlun of lacking ambition: The City of Riddles was dedicated to the understanding of Chaos itself. Thus it had to be positioned in the one of the most dangerous and chaotic neighborhoods in all of the planes.
That location constrained Zerthadlun’s ostentation, but not its ambition. In a neighborhood where the Githzerai’s enemies hunted them as slaves, the city had to hide its presence from prying eyes.
Even the prying eyes of those who would seek it out for noble purposes.
Like the purposes of a young human monk like Duilin Silverfang.
Eventually the rumors of the City of Riddles led Duilin to a region of the Elemental Chaos where Air reigned supreme, impinged only slightly by the element of Earth in its most chaotic form. Gravity behaved in strange ways in this region: While it pulled most objects in a direction which he came to understand as “downward,” other objects seemed to float in defiance of the same gravity that held most objects against their tops.
The rumors suggested that Zerthadlun was hidden somewhere in one of those floating rocks.
Before he could find it, Duilin reasoned, a monk would need to learn how to move about in this strange region. Vessels which could do so were available. But not within his price range. As a humble monk that kind of purchase was beyond him.
He began to meditate on the riddle before him: Why were some things in the region affected by gravity while others were not?
He concentrated harder. At times it seemed he could reduce his own weight simply by meditating. Thus he was able to solve the riddle. Gravity here was a matter of choice. Once he knew this, he was able to leap from rock to rock without falling. Eventually he learned to create a controlled fall which he could turn into sideways momentum using precise control of his body’s aerodynamics. Even his clothing could aid in this steering process.
By the time he had mastered the ability to maneuver in the region, Duilin had figured out something else: The masters of the City of Riddles would not appreciate anyone leading others to their Citadel of Quietude.
So he started searching by learning to cover his tracks, looping back on his own position to make sure no one was following him and using rocks as blinds. He would hide behind a rock until he was sure no one was following him. Then he would travel in a straight line away from that floating rock. This forced anyone hiding on the other side of a rock to wait until he was far from the rock before coming around and following.
Eventually he found Zerthadlun, but he was not immediately welcomed there. For he was not a zerth, not even a Githzerai. Some even accused him of being a spy, trying to lead the Githyanki to their city.
But one spoke out on his behalf. Khya was an adventurer, who had been watching his approach. Because she was charged with guarding the City of Riddles, her words carried special weight with the other Githzerai.
For Khya had been watching Duilin’s cautious approach. At first she thought Silverfang was sneaking to get past Zerthadlun’s defenses, but the more she watched, the more she saw a different pattern in his hiding: He was not hiding from those he sought out; he was hiding from any possible followers he might have.
Khya told Ki’sho, her boyfriend, and brought him out to observe the strange monk’s approach. She wanted him to have experience in the kind of adventuring she always participated in. This would be a good way to learn: shadowing someone who was trying to cover his path.
When Khya spoke out in Duilin Silverfang’s behalf, the rest of the Zerthadlunians agreed to let him stay. With one condition: He was not allowed to leave. Now that he knew the way to the City of Riddles, he would never be given a way to reveal that path to outsiders.
That suited Duilin fine. The cloistered life of the cenobite was all he ever wanted. He threw himself into his studies with a fervor that impressed even his master, Ar’jun. He learned to answer The Riddle of Health and the Riddle of Motion, as well as the Riddle of Conversation and The Riddle of Awareness.
Duilin became fast friends with Khya and Ki’sho. As they were cenobites as well, studying under Master Ar’jun. Khya was interested in the meditation method used by Duilin to travel in the region, and he willingly taught them both.
Ki’sho picked up the technique more quickly as he was a zerth, studying to master the contemplative side of the githzerai culture. Khya was more of a githzerai of action. At first all she could do was to lighten her weight slightly. Eventually she was able to balance on one finger or one toe on top of Ki’sho’s head for hours, but she was unable to lose that last bit of gravity’s force on her body.
Khya and Ki’sho sometimes left Duilin behind with his studies. Khya convinced Ki’sho to join her in the war bands she was so fond of. With Master Ar’jun, they went on missions to battle their ancient enemies, the githyanki.
Finally the day came when only Ki’sho returned. He brought bad news: Master Ar’jun was slain and Ki’sho had been knocked unconscious and left for dead by the Githyanki. But before he died he knocked Khya off the rock where they battled. Blaming himself for her death he began calling himself a “Lost Zerth” and never returned to the City of Riddles.
But he did send a message about a year later. The messenger was Blackguard’s Bane, a member of an assassin’s guild who said the Lost Zerth had become associated with The Order of the Black Feather. The message told of a place called Yathrib, where a great leader was defying the slavers who ruled the City of Brass.
Blackguard’s Bane told Duilin that Ki’sho was engaged in other activities which precluded him from helping with the crucial missions which were being undertaken by the small force at Yathrib: fighting the slavers and closing the portals between the Elemental Chaos and Elsir Vale.
But Ki’sho was certain he knew who could help: his old friend, Duilin Silverfang. He knew this would mean that Duilin would become an outlaw in Zerthadlun, but Blackguard’s Bane was able to help him leave and make it to Yathrib.
At Yathrib, in an island stronghold floating on the Sea of Fire, Duilin met Storm Johnson.