Lord Ramac - Death Knight of Dranith Keep
In the fall of 194, a son was born to Sir Buron Ramac, an established and respected knight. Sir Buron strove to embody the virtues of a true knight - courage, humility, fairness - and insisted that these values be instilled in his son from an early age. Alon Ramac took to chivalry like a falcon takes to the air. He firmly believed in the responsibility of the strong to protect the weak, and would not suffer injustice, even as a child.
At the age of sixteen, Alon was accepted by Sir Tomas Ilgard to be his squire. This was quite a prestigious post, as Sir Tomas was one of the King's Own - the handpicked elite knights of the crown - and was considered to the greatest personal combatant among King Pelindion's knights. His new post took him to Ethryn, where Alon took full advantage of the opportunity to learn tactics from the great Sir Bragain, personal combat from Sir Tomas, and religious instruction from the orders of Rydor and Therrasor. Duty and honor were his meat and drink, and Alon was knighted in the summer of 213, two months before his nineteenth birthday. That summer, Alon met a girl who made his heart stop, and they fell wildly in love. Unfortunately for their love, her father was a visiting dignitary from Drannon, and he insisted that she have nothing to do with a foreigner. Alon could only watch in sorrow as his beloved was taken away to her home country, never to see him again.
Sir Alon poured himself into his duty, and became invaluable to King Pelindion. He was an accomplished commander, leading several successful campaigns, including the famed Red Gorge stand. The gods seemed to smile on Sir Alon, as his endeavors constantly brought glory to the kingdom, and honor to his name. His gallantry earned him the gift of Elen'naur (Starfire) from the Sylvari - a legendary blade said to be forged from a fallen star. In the spring of 219, Sir Alon met Lydia Camboor, the daughter of a respected Ertainian noble, and they fell in love. That summer, they were wed, and Sir Alon was able to take his bride to their new home - Dranith Keep, a gift from King Pelindion.
Then came the great War of Dergeroth. Hordes of goblins, orcs, and worse, the likes of which had never been seen in human lands, began pouring into the countryside. For three long years Sir Ramac led the forces of Ertain against the dark swarms of monsters, many times holding them back seemingly with nothing but the sheer force of his iron will. After three years of bitter combat, the humans chased the last of the hordes away. Sir Alon was named the Hero of the War of Dergeroth, due not only to his superb command and leading of the troops, but also in no small part to his personal rescue of King Pelindion. In one horrific battle, the king had been cut off and was surrounded by terrible foes, but Sir Alon would not allow him to die. The courageous knight made a charge of the sort legends are made of, and fought, back to back, with the king for three hours against impossible odds, until the enemy retreated from his righteous fury. That day, and Sir Alon's selflessness, would never be forgotten.
Despite all of this honor and accomplishment, Sir Alon never lost sight of his values or his humility. This must be strictly understood, for it is of vital importance to the rest of the tale. In the winter or 225, Sir Alon left behind his wife and two children and made the treacherous journey to Sendria, braving both the terrible weather and feared country, in order to uphold peace with the neighboring kingdom. A petty border dispute between competing nobles had spiraled out of control, and was threatening to become the next in a long line of costly wars to the area. Sir Alon had seen enough bloodshed, and volunteered to go and negotiate with the Sendrians on behalf of the Ertainian crown. As Sir Alon was feared and respected everywhere, the Sendrians treated him with honor and dignity, and promised to listen to his council.
One evening, after a long day of negotiation and rhetoric, the lauded knight had a chance meeting with a face he had thought to never see again - that of Casine Thamril. He had not seen Casine since the day her father had taken her away, and had considered her dead to him. Now, he felt the old feelings return, felt his heart race, felt his mouth go dry. She saw him and smiled - and his heart melted. His sacred marriage vows were forgotten in the face of the love he had never fully released.
Of course, Casine knew all about him, but he knew nothing of her. It turned out that she was now in the service of the Sendrian crown, having learned the diplomatic trade from her father, and was a trusted advisor. She had also grown strong in the ways of magic, though Sir Alon did not realize, or care, at first.
What followed was unthinkable to all who knew Sir Alon. He became obsessed with this woman; she was the focus of his very being. In order to spend time with her, he began neglecting his duty as a representative of his liege, and the negotiations soon stalled. For all his efforts, however, Casine held him at arm's length, stating that she could have nothing to do with a man who had commitments such as he. After all, he owed fealty to his king, his wife, and his family. She convinced him that while she wanted nothing more than to be with him, she could not do so while his duties remained. She was a Sendrian now, she explained, and had her own responsibilities. The time came that Sir Alon must return to Ertain. He met one last time with Casine, who gave him a star-shaped amulet. She explained that if his situation should ever change, and he be free from his vows, he should hold it in his hand and speak her name. The magic within would alert her to the fact, and she would come to his side. Her look was full of the unspoken addition - they would be together forever.
All the way back to Ertain, thoughts of Casine replayed themselves in Sir Alon's mind. Still, while his wife, his family, his king lived, the knight knew that he could never have her. His entire life had been devoted to duty and honor… what had that left for him? They would have to die.
And so, when Sir Alon arrived in Dergeroth to meet with King Pelindion, he had already hardened his heart and made up his mind. He requested a private audience, which the king happily granted. When the opportunity presented itself, Sir Alon drove his blade into the king's chest, murdering in cold blood the man who had been his liege, his comrade, and his friend. Before anyone could learn of his crime, Sir Alon slipped away and rode for Dranith Keep. The legends say that even the gods themselves were surprised by this unprecedented act of treachery. Still, for all his great service, they gave him a second chance. On the road to Dranith, Sir Alon was overcome with a vision in which he saw his son, fully grown, and a holy knight of goodness. It is said that he wept when he saw the vision, but believed himself too far gone to turn back. Besides, his unholy lust for the sorceress Casine would not be denied. When Lydia joyfully met him at the door, she took one look at his bloodstained blade and empty eyes, and knew that something was terribly wrong. She begged her husband in the name of all the good gods to turn from this wicked course, but he would not be swayed.
Soon, she too, was dead.
Sir Alon strode into the nursery, sword in one hand, pendant clutched in the other. The children's maid, seeing the murder in their father's eyes, cried out for mercy. The knight stabbed her in the gut for her trouble. Mercifully, the dark deeds were soon finished. With both his king and his family dead, Sir Alon spoke Casine's name aloud, and waited for her to arrive.
Meanwhile, Ertain was in an uproar over the assassination of the king. Even though everyone knew that Ramac had been the last to see Pelindion alive, no one wished to believe he could be responsible for the monarch's death. Some branded it a terrible accident; others even went so far as to suggest that perhaps the king had gone mad and drawn steel on the noble knight first. At least one man was brave enough to admit the truth. Sir Brius Liasor, a holy warrior of Rydor (and onetime squire of Sir Alon), had been given a vision of what had happened, and knew what had to be done. Hurriedly, he rallied every willing knight to his banner, and set off for Dranith Keep. Back at Dranith, Sir Alon was on the edge of insanity. Casine had not responded to his summons, and the reality of his actions had begun to sink in. He had walked right in and killed his own king; the law would demand his death.
Just before dawn, he finished burying his family in a shallow grave, and sat down to ponder his fate. Some say he considered giving himself up, thought of begging forgiveness and willingly paying the price for his crimes. It is known that when the pennants of Sir Brius' force became visible on the horizon, a portion of Sir Alon's garrison were allowed to leave, if they wished to do so. However, the majority elected to stay, believing that the knight must have had a reason for his actions. A long, tiring siege followed; after several weeks, sappers were finally able to weaken a portion of the outer wall enough to create a breach. The following battle was horrifically bloody, for despite being badly outnumbered, Ramac's forces routed the attackers time and again. As with many such battles, the leaders decided it, in the end. Ramac slew every knight of note who dared come against him, including the gallant Sir Brius. However, the paladin did manage to mortally wound Sir Alon before he fell.
At the moment Sir Alon slumped to the ground, an earthquake began to shake the ground, and the survivors of the battle fled the courtyard of the Keep. Sir Alon lay there in the mud as his lifeblood poured out, and waited for D'hurgen's embrace... ...but the Devourer would not take him; his punishment would be far worse.
Instead, the fallen knight awoke to find his existence sustained in the most fearsome form of undeath imaginable - he was now a death knight
The church of Rydor reacted quickly, and organized powerful clerics of several faiths to assemble, where they placed a great ward binding Ramac to his keep.
Even now, the once noble knight stalks the halls of his ruined castle. But he is not alone, oh no. He is ever accompanied by his handpicked bodyguard, who were once skilled knights in their own right, and are now horrible undead creations... and dangerous warriors. In addition, he commands a formidable force of skeletal soldiers who man the walls tirelessly.
It is said that, inside the Keep, there is a special mirror that beckons Lord Ramac to look into it. Despite his loathing for the object, he cannot help but gaze into it daily. For, you see, it does not reflect his terrible visage as it is now; rather, the reflection is that of the great knight he was once, and should have been. No one dares approach Dranith Keep, and Ramac cannot leave. But he still aches for Casine, and he hates the living of Ertain with a deep, black, undying passion. So he schemes, and waits for the day that he can be free of his prison...
Thanks to Olan Suddeth for this contribution!