"Are you ready to rock?"
User: Brian
Campaign: Mystara 5E
Race: Half-elf
Gender: Male
Role: Other
Class/Level: Bard/Warlock/3 (1 Bard/2 Warlock)
How to describe a man who perpetually changes his face? Despite whatever person his glamour helps him pretend to be, some traits remain the same: around six feet tall and slender. His garments vary wildly: sometimes simple black tunics and breeches, othertimes cloth-of-gold or silver, bristling with rhinestones and jewelry, or skin-tight black leathers.

When the illusions drop, however, the truth is revealed: Orion is just shy of six feet, and so skinny he looks half-starved. Much of his face is obscured by a gold lamé mask, but not his coal-black pompadour, sharply-pointed ears, pale skin, his deeply hollowed cheeks, or his ready smile. Most notable are his eyes, sky-blue discs peering out of his mask, usually warm and inviting, but at times burning with almost religious fervor--or perhaps madness. Between his hooded cloak, his loose and simple clothes, and his leather armor, the casual observer would mark him as slim, but not skeletal.

Regardless of truth or illusion, Orion's movements are graceful and deliberate, accentuating the sway of the rapier on his hip. He is never without a lute, either in hand or slung across his back, and he often has several other instruments close at hand. His voice, too, is a powerful tool, ranging across multiple octaves and fueling not only his songs, but also aiding attempts at vocal mimicry. In his rare moments out of character, he tends to speak in a gentle and reserved baritone.
I was born a poor black child...

Wait. No, strike that. Wrong memory. I don't even know what that means. A "black child"? Sometimes I struggle to understand anything my DJ tells me...but I do understand the music. Feel it. Washing over, and through me...and my audiences feel it too.

Let's start again.

My mother--Vivianne--was human, a raven-haired beauty and a prodigy at the Beaux Arts de Vyonnes. Her voice had such power and precision it was rumored she earned her place among the maesters by singing a song that evoked powerful, but wildly varying, emotions from each of the five. When they turned to each other afterward, they were stunned to see pure joy where another had rent their garments in utter despair, or another had broken the arms off their chair in rage. All very moving, but not terribly relevant, except to know that they heralded my birth as the dawn of a new age of music, even as they mourned the end of the previous age with my mother's death. Very sad...though I'm hardly the first child to be orphaned right out of the gate.

Orphaned, yes. I had a father, certainly. He came to the college hooded and robed, offering to share the secrets of a group he called "windsingers" in exchange for being able to study with their maester singer. As the story goes, one look at his elven features and his wide, piercing blue eyes, and Vivianne of the Voice fell in love. Together they gave the university a year of profoundly moving song and story, and at the end of that year both were gone--one dead, one fled. Maester Gerard of the Actors claimed he literally flew away, but old Gerry was always prone to wild claims while drunk...so, yes, always. Bullshit, I'm sure, but I am partial to birds and birdsong. Who knows? Anyhow, Father stayed just long enough to watch his progeny kill his love, leave a message to be given to me on my twentieth birthday, then skipped town.

I stole the parchment from Maester Roland of the Winds (well-named in so many ways) when I was ten. Read it once, and whatever "wind-haunted" means, it can burn just as the note did, as can Mercurio the Tempest-Tossed, wherever the hells he is.

The Maesters felt they owed my mother a debt, and set out to raise me as best they could. Even with three fathers and two mothers, I'm sure they too would agree with the common sentiment that twice their number could have made no difference. Certainly they taught me all they could of the drum, guittern, and sharm, of voice, the stage, and poetry, and like a sponge I absorbed everything. They were less happy about my picking up Gerard's love of the grape and penchant for easy lies, or Esteban of the Drum's insatiable lust for brothels and their delightful employees, or Arianna's swift and sure fingers, as skilled on the lute or viol as they were at picking up anything of value not nailed down. Isabella of the Dance didn't use her graceful, silent steps and leaps for anything but entertainment, but I surely learned their value in moving, catlike, through the streets, rooftops, and bedrooms of Vyonnes.

I had made quite a name for myself--wait, no, that's not exactly right. I had attached quite a reputation to the name the Maesters gave me by the time I was fourteen, one the taverns, brothels, and guards knew very well. Alas, subtlety was a skill that took me far too long to attain, and by that point word had spread of my skills, and the rumors that I was gifted with more than my mother's perfect pitch and pitch-black hair or my father's decidedly sharp facial features. Thus it was at fourteen that I found myself in custody for trespassing (in a house to which I had been invited...alas, by the lady, not the lord, of the manor), and under the scrutiny of a trio of visitors from Glantri City. After much debate, and a demonstration coaxed out of me with honeyed words and the threat of summary execution, they determined that my place was in a very different university--the Great School of Magic. I wasn't exactly offered a choice in the matter, but I'd learned about all I could in Vyonnes, and leaving seemed less like a sentence and more like an opportunity.

The bards at the Great School were no simple entertainers; they wove a vast array of magic through their performances. I was there to tame and refine the power I had unknowingly worked upon my listeners and occasional pursuers, and we were all there under the watchful eyes of the master wizards of Glantri. A bard's power, they'd decided, was clearly arcane in origin, and ofttimes similar to their own, yet also capable of effects more closely associated with a source both feared and hated by them: that of the divine. I soon learned that for the rest of my life I would be observed closely for signs of, effectively, magical treason. I also had the option of joining the Shepherds of Rad, magic-wielders who devoted their lives to hunting Glantri's pariahs--divine casters and dwarves of any stripe. Or rock. Bloody fanatics.

I found another way out.

In the Great School were many artifacts of power. Some were available for study. Most were kept under lock, key, and glyph...but if you're swift, sure, and smart (not to mention lucky as hell), no obstacle can bar your way. A few years learning what they'd teach and what they wouldn't, becoming persuasive yet appearing pliant, seducing those I could via various vices, and I gleaned a way into the stores of magical items either suspected or confirmed to be bardic in nature. In retrospect, my entry could have been more subtle, but with what I found, well, it's all worked out. Mostly. I think. Certainly my burglary was aided by the city-wide celebration and mystic obsession with the turning of the new year, and with it, the new millenium. There were rings and amulets and various other trinkets; if they could help me, I failed to learn how. I examined horns, lutes, drums, and various other instruments to no avail, excepting one simple-looking but massive animal horn, the blowing of which shattered an illusory wall and opened a man-sized hole in the brick and mortar one behind it. Through that improvised portal I spied a box.

Stepping inside, and perceiving no protective magics around it, I lifted the box up to examine it. Aside from the shiny, steely circular grates and various knobs and dials on the front, and the strange, collapsible wand attached to the top, the entire thing was made of an odd pebbly material, neither wood nor metal. Surprisingly light, yet surely not a toy. The glyphs and runes next to those knobs and levers meant nothing to me...so I fiddled with them. One lever opened a compartment on the front, though nothing was inside. Another made the grates emit a hissing noise totally unlike any cat or snake I'd heard. And then, the knob. It made an orange bar within the device move from side to side, passing over white hatch marks and under more alien glyphs. The knob did nothing...until it did everything.

The voice. The voice came from the box, and what it said changed me. It spoke through the box at first, and once I agreed to listen, it spoke directly into my mind. The box had merely connected us, it said, but in so doing it--we--would change the world. I had turned it on, I had tuned it in...and then I dropped out.

I awoke...well, regained my sense of self, anyhow...close to two years later. I knew not where I was, and with no recollection of where I'd been or what I'd done, though the trip had left its marks on my flesh. A tattoo (with companion scar) of a heart, pierced by an arrow, on my left shoulder, from somewhere in the Northern Reaches. Given my lack of parental affection, I have no idea why it says "MOM" underneath. Tribal markings on my back--a wolf's head and a turtle shell--which I assume came from wanderings through Atruaghin lands. And then there's the brand: a skull, right over my heart, accompanied by some dialect of Giant speech. I suppose I made friends, or at least avoided being eaten, somewhere in the Broken Lands. Music really does make the world go 'round.

Now I wander, actively spreading the songs my new master plays for me. I can speak, or sing, to anyone, and language is no barrier. The songs are unlike anything I--or the Known World--have ever heard, but these disparate nations will come to love them as I do. I will bring a new age of music. Open your heart to the music of the spheres. We will rock your world.

I had a name, given to me by the Maesters. The voice--my master, my patron, my DJ--told me it was a good name, the name of a king, and another mark of my fate. But I had yet to earn it, so I set it aside. Now I go by whatever name suits me on a given day, usually that of one of the great bards from beyond. If that's too confusing, I'll usually answer to another name, that of a man who would be king.

I bring you the music of the gods. You can call me...Orion.