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The Tale of the Dark Knightby Robin editorial assistance by AllanP from Threshold Magazine issue 25
This article provides the backstory to a prominent character that has connections to the author’s “The Barrel” location and characters as seen in issue #23 of Threshold Magazine. This could be an NPC encountered in the Dymrak region as described in issue #24 and this current issue of Threshold Magazine.
The Dark Knight: Thrakius Furion Gryphon
Thrakius was born on 22 Kaldmont 951 AC in Foreston. He is the bastard child of Donna von Hendriks (sister of Amelia von Hendriks1 and Lucius Gryphon, the second in line of order in the Gryphon family). His mother named him Thrakius after a family with whom she was friends, and rumors suggested that one of them might be the father. Due to his illegitimacy Thrakius has no rights whatever to titles, heritages or similar from either of the parental families. Not wanting to take on the responsibility of raising an illegitimate child, a few days after its birth Donna left the child on the doorstep of the Gryphon mansion, with a note saying he was a child of the family without naming the father (Donna did not know Lucius’ first name).
The Gryphon family were sent into a state of disarray at the thought of the shame and degradation this act would cause. Such an affair could ruin all their good deeds as heroes and disgrace them all. For the first thirteen years of his life the young Thrakius the child was handed from one family member to another. In each situation Thrakius was taken care of by the staff of the house, without any familiar love. It was not actually the existence of Thrakius which was the problem at that time. The main problem was the social etiquette and expectations that the Church of Thyatis effectively imposed causing embarrassments and disappointment.
Thrakius reacted very aggressively to the manner of his early upbringing and as a result grew up as an egotistical misogynist, sociopath, and narcist. When he reached puberty, Thrakius did not know how to behave, often getting drunk and even arrested many times for violent or indecent acts, bringing further shame on to his adoptive family. The cumulative shame, guilt and loss of recognition saw the boy handed on to another related family. Thrakius’ behaviour, and the reactions of those around him pushed many of the family almost to the edge of bankruptcy. Some married family members even divorced in attempts to save their valuables and lands. Eventually, in 969 AC, the family’s disintegrated situation led the Thyatian state to impound their lands and most assets for unpaid taxes. Thrakius was furious as even his items of wealth were attempted to be seized’ he was arrested several times for assaulting the tax officials. He ended up living together with several family members who had lost everything, in a small keep that had not yet been confiscated.
It seemed there was nothing the Gryphon family could do to prevent their further decline. However, the next year, 970 AC, Stefan Karameikos, a friend of the family, acquired the lands of Traladara and sort help to establish his new nation. As a result, new titles, wages and above all importance were able to be gained. Stefan’s new duchy was ideal for the sons and daughters of Thyatian aristocracy who would not inherit the opportunity to rule due to the presence of elder (and healthy) siblings. Most of the remaining Gryphon family grabbed what they still owned and moved westwards into Karameikos. Of the Thyatian settlers who came to the country, many were ruthless men who literally stole lands, goods and women from the Traladarans. The worst amongst them was Baron Ludwig von Hendricks and his followers. These Thyatians were taller and tanned and easily felt superior to the shorter pale native Traladarans who were seen as superstitious and ignorant. Even though some Tralasarans could speak Thyatian (albeit with an accent), they were looked upon as having a lack of mental ability amongst other prejudices. The extremists Thyatians saw the Traladarans as “ignorant foul smelling Traladari swine” and belittled them whenever possible, robbed them of wealth, land and other possessions On the other hand the Traladarans felt that too much Thyatian sophistication was decadence, and by surviving the worst thrown at them, they gained a racial pride, and quietly and patiently worked to make their nation into a prosperous and thriving one. The native Traladarans bore a quiet stubborn assurance that no one else, especially not those tall Thyatians, was better than them. Despite these racial resentments many interracial romances developed resulting in a generation of mixed Thyatian/Traladarans who became accepted (more grudgingly by pure Thyatians) as members of the duchy.
Under the doctrine of a derogative of the Church of Thyatis, the new Church of Karameikos enabled the Gryphon family to create a knightly order within the faith:; The Order of the Griffon2, dedicated to both the family name and the heroic deeds they had accomplished earlier and elsewhere, The new order’ knights of honour were to continue in its deeds and glory in the new wild lands of Stefan’s duchy. Thrakius became a member of the new order. Being a young fighter with almost no adventuring experience, initially he could only become a squire under Sir Lucius Gryphon (unaware to both this was Thrakius’ father). Thrakius had great resentment that he could not become a knight instantly. The Griffon Knights were important in overcoming the Marilenev Rebellion of 970 AC shortly after their order was created, and they slew many Traladaran clansmen in achieving their victory. Taking part in the slaughter was an opportunity for the young squire, Thrakius, to unleash his angered feelings, as it was for others of his ilk. Duke Stefan never knew that several of his trusted knights behaved in so vile a fashion.
Not being a handsome man, Thrakius never received gratitude for his deeds. The glory, heroism and comradeship all went to his father, who drew all to him, as he was the honourable Knight. Gradually, neglected of even the bare minimum of love, the young squire’s mind was filled with evil thoughts Lucius, Thrakius’ Knight and father, heralded his own deeds in the castle of Duke Stefan on 22 Kaldmont 974 AC (Thrakius’ 23rd birthday) while totally ignoring his squire. Bored and frustrated Thrakius looked out of the castle’s window onto the streets of Specularum. There, in the light of the street-lantern, he saw a young and beautiful girl sneaking up to a guard and pickpocketing his purse. Unnoticed by the partygoers the squire left the Duke’s castle in search of the thieving girl, with a worrying storm of thoughts in his head. On one side his inclination to enforce justice on the pickpocket, while on the other side was his neglect of love and growing male lust. Strange thoughts as if he was bewitched took root, and tension built up. It was a cold night, a very cold night, and the winter was only beginning; yet many people were still on the streets of the city. Thrakius strolled down Westron Way through the Bricktop quarter passing by lighted shops, until he noticed a beggar wandering off down an alley into a shed in the Old Quarter area of the city. It was the female thief he had seen.
He ran into the alley, rammed open the shed door hoping to catch the girl in the act of handling stolen goods. Shocked, she stumbled and her oil-cloak fell open revealing her poorly dressed young body. Dropping several pieces of wrapped candy, she arose and started to curse heavily. He reacted with a punch, knocking her out. She was no threat to him, the more he thought about it she was nothing at all, a mere thief of despicable Traladaran descent… with only one purpose to serve…to serve him! While unconscious he tore her clothing away revealing her shapely curves that he so longed for. Egotistically he lowered his trousers and did the gravest deed a man can do. The girl awoke while performing his deed, and while he tried to say ‘friendly’ things to calm her down, he held her to the ground, gagging her with his hand to prevent screams.
Afterwards, as he dressed, the girl jumped up and scuttled away. “No, you are mine!” shouted Thrakius as she turned a corner and slid into an open sewer flow. “No, Noo,... I will get you, …THIEF!!” was all the squire could shout while passers-by reacted to the ruckus. The local constabulary was called to attend and Thrakius revealed only that he had almost caught a vile thief. As he bore the squire tabard of a Knight of the Order of the Griffon, his account was believed, and no further action was taken. Over the next few days he heard that the girl had made complaints about his actions to the various constabularies, but his status as a squire in the Order of the Griffon was sufficient for the complaints to be ignored. Over the following ten years Thrakius’ mindset transformed further, from a base guilt to be the only right and good thing, and his desire to tame the little thieving wench and make her his personal toy became greater. He desired riches and fame, which should be handed to him on a platter, as he believed was his right. The adventures he undertook in the name of the church often ended in brutal killings. Then Thrakius discovered who his actual parents had been, and what had happened in his childhood. This sent him over the edge of sanity, as he lost himself in sociopathic egocentric behaviour. This attitude was noticed as something to be controlled by the patriarch Oliver Jowett during Thrakius’ knighting ceremony3 and festival in the summer 984 AC. Ignorant of these concerns, Thrakius relished in the attention he received, feeling brave and important. He visited several ladies in the weeks following his knighting, but thoughts of the young girl thief haunted him. As a result, he could not satisfy his female companions, and angrily sent them away in his shame.
When Thrakius’ behaviour came to the attention of Lucius, his former Knight and teacher, the elder man realised it had to be stopped as it did not represent the knightly code of the Quadrivial (the four knightly virtues; Honour, Courage, Faith, Glory4),. Thrakius was confronted, and after lengthy arguments Lucius learned that Thrakius was actually his own estranged illegitimate son. A fierce brawl ensued between the two men. Thrtakius blamed Lucius for everything that had gone wrong in his life, for his lack of riches, for the lack of parental love, for the lack of a true family, honour and a title. On top of this the younger man now had to follow the orders of a so-called honourable knight, who could not even raise the child he had sired out of wedlock. Thrakius had had to earn everything for himself, and that could have been eased if Lucius had accepted him in the beginning. The family fortunes now eaten up by Thyatian debtors and taxes should have all been the son’s; he should never have been here in this land of wretched Traladarans. The fight was stopped by other knights, and the raging Thrakius was escorted out of the Order’s Hall.
Temporarily exiled from the Hall, although still required to undertake some enforced knightly tasks, Thrakius now had the chance to search for the girl thief, ignoring anyone who might oppose him in this. Wandering all over the city, he slowly came closer and closer to finding the female. He learned that she had been seen in Specularum with a child, who he decided was his child, and thus he should own it, and if it was not his offspring, he would slay it. Thrakius had become unaware of how far he had strayed from the Quadrivial how bad his desires had become.
Some years later, in Flaurmont 989 AC, Thrakius accidentally stumbled upon Sascha Mischnikov, the female thief that he had sought for many years. He grabbed her with his metal gauntlet and bore her screaming and yelling over the streets to the nearest constabulary building. The duty constables were on patrol elsewhere at the time, and Thrakiius forced himself on Sascha again and demanded his self-proclaimed right of ownership of her. All she could do was accept and bite her tongue. He poured Thyatian rum down her throat, almost drowning her, and drank the rest. Thrakius became drunk, and when he lost consciousness for a moment Sascha was able to flee. Just outside the constabulary was a neglected young mule. Hiding behind this friendly creature she redressed, when suddenly she was grabbed from behind by Thrakius. Totally in panic she screamed, causing the mule to react and kick backwards with both hind legs into the face and stomach of the drunk knight. Sascha then jumped on the mule and rode swiftly out of Specularum. Awakened later, by the returning constables, Thrakius was enraged, once again his target had escaped his grasp.
Enraged, Thrakius vowed to continue searching for the woman by whom he had sired a child. Rumoured sightings led him towards the ruins and settlements along the Eastron Road. For over a year, to the summer of 990 AC and beyond Thrakius sought for a woman fitting the description of the thief. Unknown to him, simultaneously Sascha was searching for her daughter Alya5 (the child of the unwanted union between her and Thrakius) who had departed on her Shearing Years in 988 AC. Over time Thrakius learned that that the woman he was searching for had joined with a party of unidentified renegade Traladaran adventurers6 who were defeating many Thyatians including lords and ladies. (In fact, these Thyatian ‘victims’ were all vampires and nosferati, or members of the Slaver’s Organisation soon to become the Iron Ring/). Meanwhile, Anya regularly heard stories of a knight looking for a woman with her mother’s description and she used agents that she had recruited to investigate these rumours in order that she might reunite with her mother, which she achieved in 993 AC.
After his temporary exile, Thrakius had begun to worm his way up the ranks of the Order of the Griffon and the Church of Karameikos as well as gaining some respect from his peers. His despise of Traladarans was known, and others shared his view. Many Thyatians felt themselves so much better than the Traladarans and Thrakius became one of the conspirators who spoke to patriarch Oliver Jowett calling for the Knightly Orders of the Traladarans to be disbanded. It took several years of political debate between the Order and the Church but eventually the Duke and his ruling entourage were convinced, and on 15 Kaldmont 995 AC the Order of the Griffon became the only recognised knightly order in the Grand Duchy of Karameikos. But even this power status was not enough for Thrakius, he wanted to also own the people and their souls. He longed to introduce the Thyatian/Hattian serf system and searched for like-minded people to work with him towards this goal. He found these in agents of the Dark Triad7, the evil cult of Orcus, Demogorgon and Leptar. Faking his continued alliance with the Church of Karameikos, from that point he fully embraced the dark and despicable ways of this ancient evi.
On 15th Kaldmont 1009AC Alya learned by adding the various rumours together, what had happened to her mother Sascha at the hands of the evil Thyatian Knight. She became enraged and desired revenge. Not telling her mother of her discovery, Alya began seeking out the foul knight.
DM suggestions: What will happen to the Dark Knight in the future?
Slowly he will lose allies within the Order of the Griffon and the Church of Karameikos, due to his behavior influenced by the Dark Triad. His hate and sociopathic distrust make him a loner, more easily manipulated by the evil cult.
He will suffer several attacks, both physical and political. These might be initiated by Alya (a.k.a. Flameflicker) and her secret agents. Perhaps some of the Pcs have been engaged in this role by Alya?
He becomes more evil over the following years, more entwined in the plans of the Dark Ones, and evolves into a very dark character: a true Dark Knight. His tarnished mind now set on evil and the corrupting thoughts of Leptar will drive him even deeper. Whatever happens, he will manage to survive several attacks; by magic, Raise Dead spells of clerics of the Dark Triad, and similar.
Further options for campaign:
The DM could change details like identity and garb and become the Dark Knight from the novel “Dark Knight of Karameikos. by Timothy Brown8 set in 1018 AC. The PC’s will then be agents of the main hero, helped by the Kingdom of Thieves, and will perhaps become some of Grygory’s companions as they appear in the book. Together they eventually come to the Thunder Mountains where Grygory is separated from the others up in an Elven tree home when the Dark Knight cuts a rope bridge. Here the two knights come to blows and Grygory cannot score a wound. In a desperate struggle he manages to pull off the Dark Knight’s helmet, and in one final fast exchange he beheads the man. When Grygory's companions reach the spot, all they find is the body of a naked old man, all that remains of Thrakius.
Or the DM can evolve Thrakius along a similar path making him their own design of evil knight. Either way, his demise (direct or by guided PCs) will come at the hands of the Kingdom of Thieves ruled by Flameflicker, unknown to most to be Alya, his own daughter filled with the desire for revenge for his vile deeds.
1Author’s expansion on the family tree on page 53 of “Karameikos: Kingdom of Adventure”; Amelia was not even listed in this family tree out of shame.
2As per pages 24-25 of GAZ1: “The Grand Duchy of Karameikos” and as pages 68-69 of “Karameikos Kingdom of Adventure” and also see this Wikipedia article on the “Order of the Griffon” video game https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dungeons_%26_Dragons:_Order_of_the_Griffon
3As per page 22 of GAZ1: “The Grand Duchy of Karameikos”.
4Most knights in Karameikos now belong to the Order of the Griffon or are now removed from their Traladaran knightly title and rights. All these knights try/tried to follow the rules to gain the four virtuous pillars of Quadrivial (as per the Penhaligon Trilogy), as good as they can. The quidrivial is a general theme for knights over Mystara, and all knightly orders have these (or a variation thereof) in their doctrine.