Zail Hakken, my Drow Rogue/Sorceress


(Image from the Dungeons & Dragons webpage)

I’m taking a quick break from video games this week to talk a little about D&D. You’ve seen the epic multiple posts from Jinx about his D&D campaign Upheaval as well as BrightMatrix character (Lu the Deva Cleric/Swordmage) that he ran in said campaign, so today I thought I would share my character with you, and her name is Zail.

Now the original concept came after BrightMatrix and I ran our outrageously successful pair of his Kobold/Barbarian Rex Regulus Rex and my Goblin/Cleric Throck Bonesmasher. The characters were fun and we realized we play off each other very well and it would fun to create characters that were created to work together or at least complement each other in the game. Our original thoughts were to have two D&D version of “80s valley girls,” which sadly didn’t work out since Jinx changed the world from standard fantasy to Upheaval we had to revamp them into something more serious. (Luckily for our gaming group, we would have annoyed the hell out of everyone.) Anyway, Lu went on to become the beacon of hope for the world while my character Zail went to become the realist of the pair. BrightMatrix and I talk long about the characters, how they got along, which powers we would choose, how the met, why they were friends, and so on. One of the great joy of creating her was to be able to work on the background and story with a friend and bond the characters together similar to our friendship.

I tend to be a role-player more than any other type of player when it come to table top gaming so where Jinx focuses on powers and so forth I focus on the character’s background and choose powers, traits, and items that fit into the character’s story. Zail is no different, that’s not to say she can’t hold her own, by all means my little Drow is quite the bad ass in combat but that’s not the focus for me, it’s creating a character that is believable and has a sense of place in the world. So with that in mine here is Zail background. I really enjoy creating background for all my characters, it’s a bit long as I give them a full life story, but also realized this one of my shorter ones. I hope you enjoy it.
Zail Hakken was born Xune Helhar, to a Matron Mother in a large Underkark Drow city. While still an infant her house was attacked by both the house directly above and directly below, in the social ranking of Drow society. She was kidnapped by the house above. Xune’s house survived and she was taken out of the city by the remaining members of the higher house and sold as quickly as possible t a trade caravan. That is all she would know of her life with her birth family. She spent most of her formative years with various trade caravans. She would stay with one for a while then be sold off for goods or gold, always with the promise as a future servant. She learned many thing s at this young age, reading, writing, and not to hold onto lasting friendships as they would always either leave her or she would be forced to leave them. Eventually, she was sold to a surface trader who took her away from the comforting darkness and to the surface of the world and to the sun. Initially she hated the sun and the daytime; it burned her eyes and reminded her of how exposed she was without a stone ceiling. Although, for how much she loathed the sun and the day, she loved night, the bright glowing moon, and the millions of stars. Finally though she would find one place she would call home or at least a place to live.
Sadly, she ended up being sold to a thief’s guild called The Carnival of Thieves, where she served in near slavery. For the nine years she was bound to her servitude, never leaving the guild hall, never seeing the moon and the disliked sun. Only now through windows did she see the free people walking by, even her bedroom was no more than a closet with a mattress. For the most part she was rarely acknowledge by the guild members, who saw her more as a thing then a person and the other servants were afraid of her, even as a child they feared the Drow. The guild knew not her name so they simply called her Drow, she also had no memory of her life in the Underdark so she assumed it was just her name. All life seemed to her was work and she worked and watched, always watched. For years she observed the thieves at work and at play and she began to learn, to move in silence, to the basics of sword play, and a base understanding of lock picking. She was never formally taught but just through years of observation she began to understand. When the guild fared well she had little concern for her most basic needs, but in the times when the guild found little work those needs became harder to come by as it was after eight years that the guild fell on rough times and she was simply not provided enough to eat, she more than others as she was at the bottom of pecking order, even below the other servants. She started putting the skill she spend years observing to the test, she began stealing food. All were aware that food was going missing but no one knew who the culprit was, even those on watch saw nothing in the night, complete darkness. It was at this time the guild most experienced and auspicious member returned from a long mission, Ryder Hakken was back. He would come and go over the years, never staying long and only having a passing view of the Drow servant. Ryder was requested to stand watch to find the thief. After a few nights he realized the darkness that crept into the store room was not natural, and it was Drow using one of her gifts, her Cloud of Darkness to avoid detection. He confronted her about the stealing; she did not deny it and stood tall prepared for her punishment. He was impressed with her fearlessness, her strong will, and her ability to steal from a thieves guild under their own roof for years and never get caught. After sending her to bed he began thinking, by morning he made his decision he would take her. The very next day he bought her from the guild and would make her his protégé. That day she walked out of the guild hall for the first time in nine years and would never look back, she was walking toward her new life.
The first order of business was her name, Ryder hated that she called herself Drow and had to explain why she needed a new name for her new life. He told her that Drow was not her name but what she was, as he was a human and an elf was an elf, she was a Drow. He asked her to choose her own name, she thought for a while finally she chose a name she crafted herself, her very own name that was hers and hers alone, Zail. From that day forth Ryder and everyone else called her Zail. She and Ryder moved out of the old city to a larger city called Safe Haven, Ryder owned a small house within the city walls. It was a fairly large trade city mostly surrounded by the Crescent Wood, a forest that had grown in the shape of a crescent moon. There she spent the first year with Ryder training in thievery, moving ins silence, from shadow to shadow, she learned lock picking, wall scaling, pick pocketing, and breaking and unlocking traps. Over and over, day after day she learned and studied. Ryder was always impressed with her progress; she seemed born for the work. After spending so much time together Zail felt comfortable sharing a secret she hid from everyone for years, she could use magic. She didn’t know why or how but when stressed and pushed she could call magic to her as if it was bubbling insider her. She told no one for fear of how the guild would react and treat her. Soon after Ryder sent a letter to a friend who he had helped a long time ago who had sworn to help him one day. He received a letter a few weeks later that appeared out of thin air, he was coming. Until that day would come Zail would work on her thieving lessons.
Finally, on a bright night under a full moon a man appeared at the door, except it was not a human, it was in fact a Drow, and not just any Drow a Wizard named Karcillus. Zail was naturally excited to meet one of her own kind, she had no memory of any other and while Karcillus was kind to her he warned that much of their race were evil to the core, they would kill her and Ryder if ever they found that he was raising her. He told her one thing about the Drow, if you ever see one…run. For the next year Karcillus trained her in the ways of the arcane. Ryder would come and go as work came or as he needed, knowing that Karcillus would take good care of her. Soon into her teaching Karcillus realized he could not teacher her with books of spells and wands or orbs, she needed them not. She was not in fact a wizard, nor was she an invoker, her magic seemed to flow within her very blood, she was a sorceress. He put away his books and implements she could not wield and began from a whole different perspective. He taught her to call up her power from within. After months of teaching she could call her power at will and the dagger that Ryder had given as self protection served her as he taught her how to wield them as implements to focus her power. Although she could not control the type of magic she called (as she was still a child in the world of the Drow) she could now call it at will. With the teaching of the arcane he also explained to her what it meant to be a Drow, the gifts of her race that others did not posses. He taught her the she was never really sleeping but was in fact in a state of trance, she learned how to increase her Cloud of Darkness, and how to levitate, this came to Karcillus as worrisome, for only a Drow noble could levitate. He put that out of his mind for the time being as he focused on teaching her. One evening the three ate, as Ryder had returned that day, Karcillus mentioned to Zail that if she desired he could teach her to call a familiar. Her eyes went wide, she leapt out of her chair and began screaming and running around, Karcillus was in shock, Ryder just laughed and explained that meant, yes. The next day under his guidance Zail began the spell, at first…nothing. Zail began to lose faith that she had failed, then suddenly a small wisp of smoke tumble into existence at the center of the table and began to grow. The wisp soon grew into a small cloud that began to take shape, first legs, a tail, then a head, even ears, still it appeared as a cloud until two eyes opened from the still forming head, they eyes opened and stared at Zail they were a deep lavender, just like hers. The smoke settled into the form of a black cat that matched Zail for it was small and lean with its lavender eyes. It purred and lazily walked over and brushed up against Zail, leaving a small wisp of smoke on her. Zail was in love, never before had she had a pet, much less one that was such a reflection of her, Karcillus told her she must name it. Karcillus and Ryder game some suggestions that both Zail and her new familiar disagreed with, finally it came to Zail, the perfect name, one that she herself had carried. She named her cat familiar Drow, the cat agreed. Zail and Drow had a strong connection from the start; she seemed to understand the cat, which informed her it was in fact a female spirit, as the cat seemed to understand Zail. Sadly, a week or so later Karcillus had to leave to return to the mage guild he had taken leave of. Ryder thanked him and Zail hugged him, he never believed he would ever be hugged by a member of his own race, he was pleased at the way Ryder was raising her. He told him as much when he said Ryder should be proud he had a fine daughter. Zail looked at Ryder; he agreed he had a wonderful daughter. From that day on Ryder always called Zail his daughter and to her he was always her father. Before disappearing Karcillus had given them an unexpected gift, that of family.
The next two years of Zail’s life were dedicated to one single focus, battle. She had a formative understanding on fighting but Ryder expanded that exponentially. She learned the exquisite art of melee fighting utilizing her short sword. She bonded with it so much that she could utilize it to call her arcane powers. She began tying in all he had taught her about stealth, precision movement and surprise striking into an affective and deadly fighting style. Ryder also taught her in the use of daggers as both melee and throwing weapons, her accuracy was deadly. She began integrating her natural Drow born abilities as well, become a force to be reckoned with inside her Cloud of Darkness. As the first year passed the training continued but Ryder started taking her with him on missions where she gained real life experiences and was able to put all she had been trained for to the test, meaning stealing (or liberating as she calls it) items from their owners. She soon began earning a reputation for herself as Ryder’s daughter. That year was the happiest she had known in her life, she had a family in Ryder and close friend in Drow, a home, and a job that she both loved and was exceptional at. She hoped it would last forever, she would soon learn just how wrong that hope was.
No one knew it but the time of The Cleansing was upon the world. Most would believe the gods had abandoned them as volcanoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes reeked havoc all throughout the lands. Safe Haven was not spared. The city was hit hard, a great earthquake, seemed centered on the city began ripping it apart. Ryder was away on a high paying mission and Zail was walking home from the market, wearing her favorite pink gown the sparkled in the sun, when the earth shook and the street she just left splintered. She raced for home, into the house she went and grabber her Handy Haversack, which contained all her gear. A trick Ryder had taught her was to keep all her “work gear” in one bag that way it’s easy to make a quick getaway. She moved her bed and moved the two loose boards that opened up to Ryder’s secret basement he used to smuggle items he took. It was also prepared in case he himself had to hide as it well stocked with food and water. She quickly changed in the basement, putting her last gown away, deep into her pack wondering if she would ever wear it again. For over a week she remained in the hidden basement, rationing the food as best she could. When all the violence seem to subside she tried to leave through the trap door, but it would not budge so she back in the basement she move the hidden door reveling the secret passageway to the Crescent Wood. Ryder had installed this as a quick escape route in case he needed to leave the city in a hurry. Now it was her means to escape whatever was happening above. She sent Drow down the passage ahead of her knowing that nothing could really “kill” her, if she was destroyed Zail would wait a day or so and call her back from the Astral Plain. She was in luck the tunnel was intact, small parts had collapsed but not enough to block her from escaping. She crawled down the long passageway always awaiting an aftershock but finally made it to the end of the tunnel and up the rope ladder leading to the wood. As she exited through the hollowed tree stump what she found drew not just the words from her but her very breath. She fell to her knees and wept for the destruction of the world she knew. The Crescent Wood were gone, burned to the ground and what little was left was still ablaze. From the near center of the forest she could see what was left of Safe Haven. Most of the town was simply gone, swallowed in a great fissure in the earth, what was still there, a small piece of the outer wall and only a couple of building, were also ablaze the rest was flattened. She knew all she had known and all she owned were gone. She stood for most of the day trying to come to grips with what happened, she went to the town to look for survivors but found no one, at least alive. She left the only place she really called home for the first time and the last. The next couple of months were a blur, after her supplies ran out she began foraging for food, hunting when she could, stealing when she couldn’t. She slept when she had to in caves, broken building, in trees, anywhere she could feel safe. The world had been turned upside down she now felt safest during the day as the night now contained monsters she had never seen before, as the Shadowfell leaked into the mortal world. She believed Ryder and Karcillus were still alive if anyone was it was them, all she had to do was find them, her dad was first on her list, but until then she had to focus on surviving each day. Zail felt it was simply herself and Drow, alone, against the world. That too would prove to be very wrong.

Well there it is, Zail’s background, if you are interested comment below and I can give a more game based explanation of her powers, feats, perks, and all the “business” end of D&D. Thanks for reading, I might indulge in a little more D&D posts in the future.

As I always like to leave with a question for everyone, here is this post’s. What kind of play are you? I always see myself as a role-player, I like to do voices and act out what my character is doing. Are you a power gamer (like Jinx) or an explorer? Are you here for the storyline or the snacks and Mountain Dew?

About Ness

As a chaotic good nerd I try to be as well rounded as possible, from video games, comics, tabletop RPGs, anime, and cartoons I try to fit it all in. Although I enjoy all of it, video games have always dominated the majority of my time and attention. My plan for here is not to write previews or reviews but to talk about how I relate to the games I play. Hopefully we can all play along.

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