By Jim Griffith
The following is a story of a member of the Riders of Elvenflow called Escrima Rusteen, submitted by Jim Griffith. The work below is the property of the author and is used by Candlekeep with permission. Download and install the Tolkien font for the best results).
Once, long ago, a young female aarakocra left her tribe to seek adventure. Her ambitious spirit and fine dexterity applied themselves to a rather larcenous trade as a performing acrobat. An arrogant barbarian named Gilgamesh, wealthy from a successful campaign, employed the young rogue for the purpose of enhancing his appearance with an exotic twist. The two adventured for several weeks until they came into conflict with a rather powerful wizard. During the battle, the mage cast a "polymorph other" spell on the aarakocra. Now inabiting the form of an elf, the young adventurer valiantly continued the fight alongside Gilgamesh. Through events not clearly remembered by either, the two awakened to find themselves lost in a forest so dark and mysterious that the light of the sun barely penetrated the canopy above.
After several weeks of aimless wandering, the barbarian noticed a change in his magically altered companion. She began to speak in a melodious tongue, both strange and familiar. The next few days brought changes in his companion that convinced Gilgamesh that fell magic was at play. As he was not versed in the mystic arts and the complete transformation wrought on a person by the mage's spell, he assumed that her strange conversion was a result of their new surroundings. Fearing for his own safety, Gilgamesh left her asleep by their campfire and plunged into the wilderness.
Ultimately, scouts of the Elven Court (for the young adventuress was lost in Cormanthor, in the Forgotten Realms) found the lost girl and took her in. As the great elven retreat was about to occur, the transformed aarakocra had little time to assimilate into Elven society. Instead, she chose to remain behind as the great society of elves vanished to their island of Evermeet. When it was clear that they were not returning, she departed for human lands. Adopting the name Escrima from the surname of her rescuer, she attempted to discover her heritage. The spell and its terrible effects had convinced Escrima that amnesia of some form had obliterated all memory.
While living among the citizens of Sembia, a nation to the south of the forest Cormanthor, Escrima decided to focus jointly on magical and roguish disciplines. As a victim of an involuntary magical transformation, Escrima was essentially a "blank slate". Her personality was shaped by the mercantile and ambitious nature of most Sembians and by their innate distrust of elves. She interpreted these aspects of the nation's popular culture as indications that elves were worthy of distrust due to their power and superior abilities and lifiespan. Her isolation both by choice and social convetion reinforced this assumption, driving her down the path of a loner seeking power and influence over others.
Ultimately, Escrima earned a modest reputation as a bounty hunter. Without family or friends, she could not be bribed and had no sentiments for her quarry to appeal to. She grew comfortable in this life, and would have continued for quite some time had Gilgamesh not crossed her path during a mission. Her professional credo did not allow her to cease pursuit for a personal matter, so Escrimal allowed him to slip away unchallenged for the time being. However, several years later, she tracked him down to the newly established town of Elvenflow, to the north of Sembia on Haptooth Hill.
Unfortunately, an interview with Magnus Xavier, the ruler of the town and the leader of the Riders of Elvenflow, revealed that Gilgamesh's life had expired quite suddenly when he betrayed the party and attempted to usurp control. Although she was unsuccsesful in gaining answers regarding her past, Escrima developed a positive opinion of the town's elven ruler. This familiarity would ultiumately lead to her membership in the group in later years.
While assisting several independent adventurers in a plane spanning, epic quest, Escrima obtained several items of power, including a Yatil Wand of Zooming from Oerth and Whisper's Rod of Transportation. She also became aware of a pacifistic Cambion adventurer who assisted her in the quest.
After its successful completion, Escrima approached the Zhentarim with an offer to provide the Cambion in echange for a monetary reward.
Unfortunately, she failed in the task. Not wishing to destroy an othewise useful bounty hunter, the Zhentarim agents captured Escrima and reduced her in power at the hands of a Vampire ally. Weakened and humiliated, Escrima asked the Riders to accept her as a member. She performed somewhat poorly, as she was not used to working within a group dynamic. Soon after, an old ally from Greyhaw kdays encountered Escrima by accident and "helped" her by ending the old polymorph other spell. Escrima was thus forced to confront her true nature at a time when she was at her lowest. She left the Riders soon after, and retired from public view for several years.
Ultimately, an extraplanar fiend named Geryon approached Escrima with an offer. He would restore her to her former glory and might if she would agree to destroy an adventuring party that had offended him. On the verge of self destruction from despair, she agreed and received the majority of her original power again. Geryon then revealed that the party was the Riders of Elvenflow. However, Escrima's long standing sentiments of isolation and cynicism catalyzed into a new determination that she would never again fall so low. Consequently, no one would stand in her way.
She firmly took control of malcontents that Geryon had gathered, primarily old enemies of the Riders. Geryon methodically slew civilians that were close to members of the Riders, in order to provoke the group to action and to possibly make careless mistakes. His strategy came close to working when the Riders raced into a confrontation with their mysterious attackers.
Trailing them to an ancient temple in the Jungles of Chult, the Riders narrowly escaped with their lives after Escrima's force routed them. She climaxed the confrontation by revealing her true nature to the startled group.
After several more costly battles, the Riders slew every member of Geryon's band except for Escrima. Magnus was on the verge of executing her when he realized that she represented his best means of reaching Geryon. He offered Escrima membership again, if she would swear loyalty to him. She was very surprised by this offer, and agreed. After Geryon's transformation, Escrima adopted a black color scheme, with the exception of her silver hair and pale elven skin (she often chose to appear in elven form). In her new guise, Escrima proved quite useful in exposing her evil master and in bringing about his destruction.
Over time, the Riders came to gradually accept Escrima. In fact, the extent of her involvement in Geryon's scheme was downplayed by Magnus. She even served dutifully as the magistrate of Elvenflow for several years.
Escrima served the Riders loyally for many years, although she remained a ruthless and formidable combatant. Many in the group often found themselves chilled by her actions that always remained just short of malevolent. Seeking to reclaim her aarakocra heritage, Escrima retreated for a time to Oerth in the company of a curious academecian named Zolkiir.
Ultimately, the two successfully halted a deadly plague on that world that effected her species. Due to her elven spirit, Krocaa (the primitive god of the Aarakocra) interpreted her actions (that included the quarantine of many) as damaging to his people and punished her by splitting Escrima into two distinct beings, one elven and the other aarakocran. Unfortunately, this act threatened to slay her through rapid aging. Zolkiir urgently summoned the Riders, who obtained the Aarakocran Deity's agreement to restore her condition if the party would destroy a TERRASQUE that was threatening a lost aarakocran tribe. The costly battle ended in victory, and Escrima was saved. She learned two things through the experience: the Riders were worthy of her gratitude and also that she would never again seek to adopt the ways of the aarakocra!
This event served to harden Escrima even further, as she had already become convinced that her magically created spirit (for her original personality was forever destroyed) was not worthy of eternal life in Arvandor. As the Elven Gods would not accept her and as she had earned the enmity of the Krocaa, her soul would be lost at the time of her demise. This prospect torments Escrima to this very day. Currently, she is traveling in the company of an extradimensional genius of questionable intent, always accompanied by Zolkiir. As their companion has intentions for the Riders, the final card she will play in that confrontation has yet to be seen.
If one were to encounter Escrima today, they would be immediately judged in terms of their strength of character. Any perception of weakness would result in her immediate disdain. Even worse, any detected aggression on the part of the newcomer would result in dire consequences. As only her former comrades in the Riders could ever keep Escrima in check, anything could be expected of her in a time of conflict. Take the heed!
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