Nicholas Faros is a former Thranish assassin.
Nicholas was born in Andros, the youngest son of a noble family. He joined the Imperial Assassins and (after years of proving his worth) was chosen to serve the Empress Kaori Valarion as a personal guard. He developed strong feelings of attachment and attraction toward her. During the hobgoblin occupation of Daln, she sent him to assassinate the hobgoblin king Tazrak (in reality the jackal lord Kahaeshan, though she was not aware of it at the time). Taking Nicholas by surprise, Kahaeshan used his supernatural powers to transform the assassin into the form of a jackal. He then managed to slip past Zarek's hobgoblin guards, but was captured and chained to the bed of Kahaeshan's concubine - a sand elf sorceress. After Kahaeshan was defeated, Nicholas commanded the palace guard and was partially responsible for restoring order in Daln after the occupation. He later helped prevent an attempt by Kasimir and Darevor on Kaori's life and led her safely out of Daln. However they encountered a group of Black Hand mercenaries led by Kaldak who abducted Kaori (and later delivered her to his employer Lorenzo Garazzi) and left Nicholas for dead. Nicholas was wanted by the Thranish authorities for the murder of the Empress, and fled south to the city of Asora, where he sought refuge with his ally Vittorio Daviara. When he heard the announcement that Kaori was to marry Garazzi, he returned to her.
Nicholas is generally solemn and serious. He has dark, curly hair. He is apparently utterly devoted to the Empress. He is a skilled scout, strategist and fighter. He has become somewhat paranoid - seeing threats to Thrane and to the Empress in all kinds of things. Since he became seperated from the Kaori he has become increasingly desperate and reckless, perhaps because he had few allies and was being hunted by his former associates.
In the CampaignEdit
Vantis and Lannus encountered Nicholas in jackal form during their exploration of the palace of Daln. The wizard Calantyr used a spell to restore Nicholas - though it required a kiss from the object of the Nicholas' devotion, the Empress herself.
Nicholas Faros at the Imperial ZooEdit
The shirtless ogre swung the barrel forwards, heaving a thick wave of water onto the straw and mud that covered the floor of the huge cage. Nicholas could smell the soap, but it was not potent enough to even lessen the stench of animal dung. In any other city north of Corhyr, using such a volume of water for the cleaning of a zoo enclosure would be an unforgiveable waste. This was Daln, though, a safe haven from the bitter thirst of the desert.
The young Empress Kaori stood clutching the bars of the cage, her eyes fixed on the mother elephant and its baby. There were flecks of mud on the hem of her blue dress, Nicholas noted, as he allowed his eyes to explore her once more. Her dark hair fell loosely to her shoulders, and a sapphire glittered between her soft breasts. Being so close to her was intoxicating, but he could not allow himself to become too distracted. His duty was to serve her and protect her – he would die before he allowed her to come to any harm. His keen eyes resumed searching the shadows for hidden threats, and he resolved not to look at her again for an entire minute.
The sky was growing dark - it was almost an hour since the Imperial Zoo had closed its doors. Kaori often chose to visit at times like these, avoiding the crowds. She came here in public too, of course, but such appearances were stressful and afforded her little chance to do as she pleased, which was usually to gaze at the ostriches and giraffes and whatever else until duty demanded her elsewhere.
The ogre – Churg, its name was – lumbered out of the enclosure, the cleaning done. Nicholas did not trust it, he knew all too well the brutalities their kind were capable of. He had even shown Kaori evidence that Churg had assisted the marauder Azgar in several of his crimes, but the Empress had chosen to pardon the hulking thing. She had stated that as far as she was concerned Churg's tender devotion to the animals was sufficient proof of the ogre's good intentions.
"Anything more, majesty?"grunted Churg, as he fumbled at the lock of the elephant cage with his massive hands.
"Yes, I'd like to speak with Mira,"said Kaori. "Where is she now?"
"The cells, majesty,"said Churg, and the Empress thanked him then began to move away from the elephant enclosure towards the main zoo building. Inside there were a flight of stone stairs which led to the underground cells. Kaori descended, Nicholas at her heels.
The cells here were different to the regular zoo cages – they were designed to contain even the most malevolent and powerful creatures, those which would have been destroyed were it not for the scientific knowledge experts could gain from studying them. Some were constructed from rare and valuable materials or warded with powerful abjuration magic, and at least one Thranish wizard remained here at all times to ensure that the protective spells remained active. This area was also open to the public (for an additional fee, of course, but the crowds were always willing to pay), though visitors had to keep to a safe distance and children were not allowed in at all. These cells were where the Thranish kept their monsters.
A young Thranish wizard with long fair hair and a dull red robe narrowed his eyes and inclined his head as they entered. Balls of coloured light danced between his fingers, lighting up the far end of the austere corridor. His name was Darevor, and he hadn't been quite the same since the first night he had spent alone guarding the two seemingly empty adjacent cells behind him. That had been before they had thought to use spells to obscure light and muffle sound from the two cells.
Nicholas could see nothing behind those bars, but he knew what was there. Concealed with invisibility magic were two rakshasa siblings - brother and sister, the spawn of Khreeshan himself. The male in the left cell was Ahiravan, who had slain the Corhyrian hero Rashid and used illusion magic to impersonate the adventurer after his death. It was the same trick the jackal lord Kahaeshan had used to steal the hobgoblin king Tazrak's life and throne for himself. The servants of chaos could be disturbingly resourceful.
The female on the left was Ravana. While Ahiravan rarely spoke or revealed himself, she raged and fought against her confinement. Mira had taken to mocking her, Nicholas knew, announcing to audiences that Ravana was currently being trained to perform various tricks. It was surprisingly easy to goad the rakshasa into dramatic but futile responses. Ravana's crimes were many, though - she had killed the wizard Maharion, advisor to the Empress who had loved him like a father. That had been a heavy blow to Kaori on many levels - Maharion had believed that there was an imprisoned genie beneath Charn, and he had promised to try and bring it to Kaori to use as she thought best. There was little chance of that now, Nicholas supposed, the stargazers would take the wish which was the culmination of Maharion's long life's work and use it as they pleased.
Kaori paused outside an open cell. Inside, the grey-haired old zookeeper Mira knelt next to a mass of blood and fur, attempting to crudely bandage the thing's wounds. The unconscious beast's wrists were bound together with iron chains, as were its ankles.
"What is that?"asked Kaori, and Mira looked up with a start. She was a retired adventurer, but her body still bore layers of lean muscle. Scars were visible all over her body, and at some point in her career her right arm had been severely burned.
"Apologies, your majesty,"she said. "I didn't hear you. It's a new one, a she-gnoll."
"A gnoll?"asked Nicholas, his eyes widening. "But it's huge."
"Aye,"said Mira. "Big enough that a greedy mercenary thought he'd be able to make some gold by selling her rather than just taking her head."
"You paid for her, then?"asked the Empress.
"Aye, your majesty,"said Mira. "I thought we could make some gold off her too, she's even more terrifying when she's awake. How can I be of service?"
"I only wanted to thank you for allowing me these visits," said Kaori. "And to commend you for the work you've done maintaining the zoo."
"Of course, your majesty,"said Mira, and bent to continue her work. Kaori turned to leave, and Nicholas followed, sparing the bored-looking wizard only a brief backward glance. Then Nicholas heard footsteps and the clank of armour, and looked up to see three men descending the stairs, weapons drawn.
The first was young, lightly armoured, and like Nicholas carried the curved katana blade of a Thranish assassin. His name was Kasimir, and he had only recently arrived in Daln. Though he was Nicholas' subordinate, he had powerful political allies and tended to dismiss his the specifics of his various orders as technicalities. He was flanked by two heavily armoured guards.
Nicholas could not think what emergency could be so urgent that Kasimir would approach either Kaori or himself here and now, but he began to feel alarmed. The other assassin did not seem concerned, though. He seemed instead to be smiling with something like anticipation.
"I've been ordered to place you under arrest,"said Kasimir calmly. Nicholas felt like he'd been struck. "Will you come quietly, or do you intend to resist?"
"This is ridiculous!"said Kaori furiously.
"What are the charges?"asked Nicholas, trying desperately to think.
"Plotting to murder the Empress,"said Kasimir, and then saw Mira kneeling in the open cell and laughed. "And the old keeper as well, I suppose."
"You will stand down at once!"snapped Kaori. Kasimir didn't move.
"You are dead, Empress,"he said softly. "Your protector killed you."
"I would never,"snarled Nicholas, drawing his sword.
"We'll see, Nicholas,"said Kasimir. "I didn't really expect you to submit. Darevor?"
Nicholas heard the wizard behind him hissing the words of a spell, his face contorted with concentration. Suddenly Nicholas felt invisible hands gripping his limbs, an alien presence forcing its way into his mind. He tried to drop his sword, but his fingers refused to obey him. Instead he was forced to watched in horror as his own arms raised his sword, preparing to strike down the woman he loved, the woman he had sworn to protect, the woman who was now staring at him in shock and confusion. He tried to fight the force controlling him, but it was too powerful.
Then abruptly the spell was gone. Nicholas turned to see Darevor gaping at him, his eyes wide, and then blood began to trickle from the wizard's lips. He fell forward, Mira's short sword buried in his back. The old woman had seen what was happening and intervened.
There was no time to thank her, though. Moving as quickly as he could, Nicholas swept his sword towards Kasimir's throat. The assassin parried his blow, and sliced Nicholas' leg open in response. They began to duel, their blades moving fast enough to dissuade the other guards from joining the battle. Kasimir was a skilled fighter, and Nicholas felt death calling to him as the steel whirled. Then by chance his opponent stumbled, and Nicholas was able plunge his sword into Kasimir's chest. The assassin crumpled to the ground as he drew it out, red with blood.
He looked up at the two guards, who were already fleeing up the stairs and away. They were slowed by their armour, but their helmets concealed their faces so in all probability Nicholas would never discover the identity of the traitors. He turned to face Kaori and Mira, and froze.
The guards had not been fleeing from Nicholas. Behind him the she-gnoll – the size of a bear – had woken, or perhaps had never been unconscious. Either way, it had seized its chance to escape, wrapping its wrist chains around Mira's neck from behind – and was now in the process of choking her to death. Mira had been lifted a foot off the floor, and blood was dripping from the iron links that cut into her aged neck.
"Stop,"said a voice from one of the locked cells. The rakshasa Ravana stood there, her eyes glittering. The chained gnoll dropped the old woman, who lay on the ground unmoving. "I want that one alive."
"Get behind me,"snapped Nicholas to Kaori, eyeing the gnoll warily. Even shackled as it was, this creature was lethal. He backed away as the monster advanced, and then struck as swiftly and as precisely as he could. The gnoll swung its chains, wrapping them around the katana and tugging it from his grasp. It clattered to the floor behind the beast.
Unarmed and wounded, Nicholas knew he had no chance against the gnoll. There was Kaori to think of too – he had prevented one assassination, but there was no reason to think that her enemies would not try again. Kasimir and Darevor would never have been stupid enough to attempt something like this unless they'd been given assurances from powerful allies that they would be protected. Nicholas made his decision, grabbed Kaori by the arm, and they fled.