He appeared at the summit of the hill, his cloak drifted in a breeze that only seemed to touch him. Everything was silent. The owls turned away and the crickets and night singers became more interested in inspecting their instruments than making their nocturnal melodies. The criminals felt fear turn their blood to ice and their bowels to jelly. The old woman had called down a demon of vengeance on them for their theft and murder. They had laughed, and then they had done horrible things to her. The Black Reaver moved with an unnatural speed and grace. Arrows flew, but the demon deflected them away with the backs of his gauntlets. The metal was molded to appear as bones. Sparks flew from the strikes, but no arrow found purchase in the demon's flesh. He closed on them, swift and silent. The first drew his sword and was almost ready to stand and fight the demon but was too slow. The blade fell from dead hands, he fell cloven in two. The Reaver ducked two more strikes from the criminals, their scent was rank with fear. It's blade flashed again, a deadly thing of metal mined from no earthly realm. The two fell dead, leaving only the leader of the merry band of murderers. He fell to his knees and begged the Black Reaver mercy. The demon paused, the blade of its sword eating starlight and savoring the blood that dripped down it, and then it pulled back its hood. The murderer screamed for a very
A Being of Vengeance
Once in a great while, something evil and wicked is created. The deeds of mortal men are seldom foul enough to create something like the Black Reaver, deliberate cruelty is required, the sort of sustained malice and evil that even the most hardened of men eventually cannot stand, or the most callous bore with. Such was the case with a young man of the Diernas clan. The clan lived in a somewhat remote area, isolated by copses of trees, casual distance, and a certain apathy that comes from a very quiet rustic lifestyle. It was thus that a group of murderers and brigands made their way to the home of the family and moved in. The home invasion turned from petty theft and assault into something darker and more horrific. The men were tortured and mutilated, in a game of shocking evil, they were slowly butchered alive and fed first to their own dogs, and then to each other. Father and son were forced to endure amputation, hot iron cauterizing of wounds, then face the choice of starvation or to consume their own, or each other's cooked flesh.
The women faired no better, as they were the objects of the evil men's nearly bottomless lusts. They were desecrated and abused, and maimed and mutilated until their was no sport left in their shattered bodies. But this was not the end of the wickedness. The men were not content with the living abuse of their victims, their abuse continued even after death. The bodies of the dead, missing limbs and bearing horrid wounds and emaciated protruding bones were hung like decorations inside and out of the home. The severed head of a fair looking daughter was still used for vile and unimaginable purposes days after it was removed. A few corpses were used as targets for knife throwing, or to extinguish pipes, or any other abuse that the men could think of. They laughed, they emptied the larder and pantry, and even killed the dogs and the livestock for the sole purpose of merry murder.
It was not long after this that the prodigal son returned, and found his home an abattoir of horrors fit for a demon's pleasures. The young man was wracked with a grief that cannot be imagined or even understood by those who did not see the things he saw, or seen the evil inflicted for the sake of laughing evil. He wept bitterly and openly as he did what little he could do for the dead. Some pieces were barely recognizable, while others, such as his sibling's severed and abused head were much more obvious. He arranged them, said a smattering of the last rites and made a pyre of the family home.
Garen Diernas traveled to the nearest town and begged the Lord there to invoke law and order and hunt down the men who had done such wickedness. The Lord there was a dry and pragmatic man who made little effort to find a small group of men with no description, such would be a waste of time and resources better spent elsewhere. The Diernas were remote and paid little in taxes, he cared little as well. Not to be thwarted so easily, Garen sought out the Arms Militant of the Church, and the men of the cloth who directed them. He asked for divine vengeance, for death to find those guilty of such black and wicked evil. But the Men of the Cloth were also dry and pragmatic, and they spoke the verses of the holy canon, vengeance belongs to the gods, and that life is a temporary condition. They spoke that all men come to the same end, a judging before the immaculate and divine. This answer did not suit Garen, for it meant that the men would live their mortal lives without fear of retribution. He despaired and tore at his own flesh with his seething hatred.
The gods favor those who fend for themselves, as the expression goes, and Garen swore eternal and bloody retribution on the men who butchered his family. He trained in the arts of war and the sword. He became a duelist of no small skill, driven as he was. He sought out oracles and seers who gave him guidance in his training to become the best, and then how to find the men who wronged him. Several saw a bleak and miserable future and sought to dissuade him, but his resolve was not shaken. Some oracles spoke what they saw with a hint of fear in their voices, as they could see that if they tried to deceive him that he would return to haunt them with steel and wickedness.
Garen stalked the edges of the earth to find his victims. The band had long since broken up, going their own ways. Their number was five, and he sought them out one by one. The first he found corpulent and wealthy, having since sold his career as an adventurer-upon-return in exchange for a seat on a merchant's guild. The man scarcely remembered the evil he had done, and tried to buy his life with gold. Garen slew him, dressed his carcass like a hunter would clean a deer, and hung him off of his own balcony. He fled quickly, seeking out his next victim. The second man was lean and still had the manner of a viper. They fought, blades were crossed, and though Garen was wounded, he was victorious. The lean man was butchered, chopped into pieces, and his corpse was horribly disfigured.
By this time, both members of law enforcement and city guards were on guard for the psychopath who was viciously and publicly killing citizens, and the other three members of the old band had figured out that someone was hunting down their old adventuring team. Garen sought the third member and walked into a trap. He fought well, injuring all three of the men, but he was in turn soundly beaten, his sword was broken, and he barely escaped with his own life. He recovered in secrecy, hiding in overlooked places.
The Final Fall
A black depression fell over Garen Diernas as his body mended. He had failed, he had lost the element of surprise, and he had been beaten by them. All of his training, and his seeking of mystics had come to bear little fruit. It was true that two had been brought to cold brutal justice, but three remained, and that was simply not goof enough. He languished in bottles of liquor, and the smoke of stupefying herbs, and the haze of exotic potions and elixirs. When he was not intoxicated, he fought people, he robbed from others to pay his way, or to fund his drinking. His narrow focus had cost him any sort of perspective, and in the years that had passed, he had become little different than the men who had wronged him. But, lacking perspective he still saw himself as the wronged youth, innocent and bereaved from his loving and devoted family. Darkness calls to darkness, evil calls to evil, and Garen was indeed answered Garen Diernas been waiting for you, Garen, son of Loran. I have watched you devote yourself to avenging the callous crimes against your family, to learning mundane things and following your bandits to the edges of the earth. I am impressed, otherwise I would leave you to rot in the filth where I now find you," the man dressed all in black extended something, a sword, nothing more. "It is a gift, from me to you. It is a blade forged in Hell, from metal mined by the blistered hands of the damned and beaten against an anvil that was once the indestructible heart of a behemoth. With this blade, you will be able to taste sweet justice, and mete out the punishment that they deserve.
Garen took the blade, it was indeed a fine blade, the sort of tale and myth. The metal was glossy black, his face gleamed back at him in the steel. There were letters inscribed on the blade, a benediction to the demon smith who made the weapon and a promise that each life taken by the sword was one given to the same demon smith who made the sword.
Armed with the sword Garen sped like an arrow back to where he had last fought the remaining men. Once they had gathered together again, they found a common purpose and had since taken over the Thieve's Guild in the city. Garen was stalked by assassins and murderers sent by the men as soon as he stepped foot in the city. Each died screaming on the end of the hellish sword. He showed no mercy, only swift and remorseless action. He faced the finest assassin in the land who came after him with poisoned daggers. Garen slew him, and stole his cloak of shadows. He faced and slew thugs and men who skulked with hidden knives. He finally faced and slew the three who had wronged him. He came upon them unseen in the assassins cloak, and he captured them, slowed them with poisoned daggers, and tortured them in all the ways he had thought of in the years he had spent following them. Thus it was that he came to stand above the last of the wicked men, his face plastered with a hideous grin and splattered with blood. The demon sword ended the lot of them and it was done.
But there was a problem. For years upon years the entire focus of his life had been to find the men who lay dead at his feet, and to slay them. His life was suddenly hollow and without purpose. They were dead, the family had been avenged, but it was not right. One death had not made up for another in the past. Rage shook Garen, even in gaining their deaths and his vengeance his heart was still denied the peace he had craved. And evil, it calls to evil. And he took up the sword and went into the city. It was a dark and dangerous place, not safe after the sun went down, as it was filled with wicked men with wicked hearts. He followed their trails and he killed them, each death, savage and grisly was a balm to his wounded soul. Some might have called him a hero or a vigilante, as his victims were criminals and evil men, but those who saw the corpses he left in his wake had no doubt that it was a monster that stalked their streets and they were afraid.
Thus it was that the city called upon bands of Adventurers-Upon-Return to find Garen and stop him. It was only a matter of time before hunting criminals simply became hunting people. Thrice bands tried to stop him, and thrice he defeated them, visited death and suffering upon them, and no few were sent spiraling into hell's embrace. But he was a single man, driven by madness and it was that the fourth band was able to draw him into a trap. He was bound with sorcery, exiled by magic and forced from the mortal realm back into the hellish domains. A lesser man might have simply perished.
The Birth of the Black Reaver
Garen Diernas was in truth, no more. The things that had made him a man, made him a mortal, were burned away trapped in Hell. Of course, these things were already tattered and atrophied, so the loss was not so great, so much as it was a metamorphosis. Now a thing of hellish ephemera, the Black Reaver is a sort of demon, a devil of Vengeance. The magi who were responsible for his imprisonment retained the power and knowledge to draw forth the Black Reaver from his prison and make him into their Black Knight. He was summoned a few times, but it was always difficult and in the end, doomed to fail. The Black Reaver is not a soldier to be called forth, an engine of war or carnage. It excels at these things, but in the end its true purpose is revenge, retribution and vengeance. The mages struggled to control their creation each time they called it forth, and they had the nerve to look surprised the day it cast off their magical control. The Reaver slew them. Not with the typical savagery it displays, but with the cold calculation of a demon held too long in bondage.
The Black Reaver is free. When a soul calls out, heart laden with hatred and brimming with vitriol, the Reaver may be summoned. Once summoned, the demon hears the last words of its summoner, usually a whisper of the crimes against the aggrieved. Sometimes it is little more than a rattling gasp from a person seconds before their death. They look into the eyes of the Reaver and they know they will be avenged, though the price is terrible. Calling the Reaver condemns the summoners soul to Hell. (Game note: The Black Reaver is most likely going to be summoned by NPCs who have been given a mortal blow but not yet perished. It is not a jack-in-the-box horror to be summoned casually)
The Final Summon:
The PCs become involved when an employer/patron becomes the target of the Black Reaver. The Reaver is a vessel of evil, but it's blade will not seek the innocent. If it is hunting the party benefactor, then he or she was directly responsible/involved in the death of the person who summoned it. Sometimes the past comes back to haunt people, especially powerful people. The PCs must find a way to defeat a martial demon bent on a single target, or give their benefactor over to the demon to take its pound of flesh.
The PCs have come back from a path of warfare and carnage. Many were slain, much XP was harvested, and much loot acquired. They also have drawn the attention of the Reaver. Some person they slew (Maybe an important NPC that the foolish players were supposed to parlay with instead of killing perhaps) was able to summon the Black Reaver before death. The demon comes for them now. Is it possible to atone for their crimes? Can they only run and hide from the monsters, or do they stand and fight a hopeless foe? If the PCs are able to best the demon in single combat, maybe they are forever safe from it?