Return of the Black Prince
Jean-Luc Baptiste du Sangreal
"I won't do things just because they're 'right.' I'll do them because they're effective."
Jean-Luc was born the third son of a minor baron in House Sangreal. While not fabulously wealthy, his father made a comfortable living as the owner of a number of sailing ships which carried goods, legal and otherwise, up and down the coast. His childhood was spent in large part on these same ships, where he learned to swing from the ships’ rigging almost before he could walk.
When the time came for him to choose a profession, his years spent at sea had a profound influence on his decision. He entered the clergy of Lagos, the sea god. While not terribly devout as a young man, he firmly believed that he should do everything in his power to help protect his family’s business, so gaining the powers of a priest and the magic to protect ships at sea was an excellent way to do this. He was never terribly comfortable at court, and so being able to continue spending his time at sea during his novitiate suited him just fine.
His training served him well, allowing him to bring the ships he was on through more dangerous waters than other captains dared to sail. He was able to bring cargoes in faster, fetching higher prices, and acquired a not inconsiderable personal fortune. However, all of this came to naught when the Tarne uprising began. Cut off from his home and thrust into a conflict with powers beyond his understanding, he took up with a motley crew of adventurers: Scintilla, an elvish ranger; Yamamoto-san, a dwarf ronin (though his prowess as a warrior was never in question); Alysanne, a Duernese gunslinger of some disrepute (as far as he could tell from her stories of past exploits and…conquests); and “Effy,” a bubbly little halfling bard whom he took a great liking to, as she reminded him of a girl he had known in his youth (though he never told her that). The five of them ran helter-skelter across the land in a desperate race against time to stop what seemed at first to be a simple rebellion, but turned out to be far, far more.
As they traveled south to escape the beseiged capital, the encountered a massive blight upon the earth, a plague of supernatural origins causing the land itself to die and the recently dead to rise again as mindless zombies. During their travels they further encountered other horrors within the blight, until they finally found what they thought was refuge at the center: A clear, unblighted area of land around a city.
This was not actually the case. The city’s populace were being used to fuel the very ritual that created the blight! When the party discovered the truth they were rightly horrified at the revelation, but unable to do anything about it. So, they did the only logical thing they could do: flee for help. Once more, they trekked across the horrid blight towards the city of Bijou Maison. Reaching it, they passed along their knowledge of what was going on to some loyalist forces, led by one of the princes in disguise, and then attempted to gain the help of the dwarves of the Dragonspine Mountains.
Entering the mountains with the Dragonfang and Blackiron clans, the party helped to reconquer a fallen keep that had been overrun by orcs and trolls, then defeated the dragon Littleflame, child of Riyukazangan. They then proceeded on to the capital to try and win over the dwarven clan heads. Though unsuccessful in this, they did recruit a large force of ronin and others to help take down the demons in the city at the center of the blight, to which they returned. Along the way the recovered an artifact of considerable power: The first magical item ever created, from which all other magical items could be traced in some way.
And a good thing it was that they had that! For when they returned to the city at the center of the blight, they found it dead, emptied of people and of life. They watched a massive column of undead march out from the city, led by vampires and a lich. Entering the city with their ragtag army of ronin and the retainers of the dwarf Yamamoto-san (who had since regained his honor and been adopted into the Dragonfang clan), they found that the great ritual they observed when last they were here had been completed. SOMETHING had been brought back to life, at the expense of the surrounding thousands of square miles and hundreds of thousands of lives.
For the first time in his life, Jean-Luc felt true rage. He had always been somewhat even-tempered. Never one to let his emotions rule him, it often led to his being sidelined in courtly affairs (and had also cost him at least two potential marriages years before). Now, though, all that was gone. The sight of twenty charred human hearts on the blasphemously defiled altar, ringed by the coffins of twenty vampires (the same ones who had been leading the army of undead out of the city hours before) was more than he could bear to see. Without saying a word to his companions, he called down holy fire upon the coffins, burning them all to cinders in an instant. He then turned to his friends and told them that he would handle the rest of it.
He looked over the arrangement of the altar and attempted to determine how he could possibly reverse the ritual and destroy the blight. However, the magic was of an order beyond that which he had ever studied. He took some time and delved into the great library, but found that any books which could have helped him were long gone. Finally, in desperation, he told everyone else to clear out of the temple spire. He took the hammer, the first magic item, and as he cast a spell of sanctification, he smashed it down upon the blasphemous altar in the center of the temple, the focus of the rite.
He knew full well that what he was doing would probably kill him. He knew that it only had a small chance of actually working. Despite that, he also knew that this was the only chance that they would have to try something. The destruction of the vampires would not have gone unnoticed, and there would surely be a response soon. Even if it didn’t work completely, even if it only ended the great ritual fueling the blight without actually reversing it, and the land had to heal on its own, it would be worth it. That much he knew he could actually make happen, and that much was worth his own life.
As the altar shattered, he felt the massive surge of unholy energy fueling the ritual, more than he had ever imagined could possibly be harnessed by mortals, surge out through it and into his body. He felt the rite of consecration he had cast turn the unholy energy from black to white, unholy to holy. The aura of death turned to an aura of life. In an instant, enough energy to crack open the continent had flooded through him.
His body vaporized.
Yet as he died his last thought was one of exultation and of hope. His last thought was simple, only two words, but as far as he was concerned they were the only words that would ever matter to him. As his spirit hovered there, the tug of the wheel of reincarnation pulling on it, he laughed. A deep, rolling, satisfied laugh. His spirit charged with the full power of the ritual he had sacrificed himself to, he shouted his victory for all the cosmos to hear. His last thought, his last words before darkness claimed him, were a defiant clarion call: