The Zhentarim Gambit
Kardos "Trust" Cruze
The Noble Tiefling Warlock
Kardos was born to Sameia and Theadius Curze, in a shack on the outskirts of a small human fishing village. Tieflings, due to their appearance and tales of their evil nature, were largely shunned if not outright hated by non-humans so Kardos was most likely doomed to the same life of impoverished living of his parents. But fate, or something more insidious had other thoughts
Young Kardos found a kind soul in a travelling merchant, who lent Kardos books to read and told tales and news from the larger cities. Tales of kings and magic appealed to the young tiefling the most. Stories where individuals held great power either within themselves, or from the respect of those who served allowed Kardos to escape the small village, if only in his mind.
Being naturally magical, tieflings often experimented with magic, but Sameia forbade Kardos from tapping into his talents. She believed that drawing unnecessary attention to themselves might make the humans change their opinion about allowing them a place to live. Like any child however, Kardos saw the rule as a guideline rather than law and practiced simple tricks in secret, hoping to someday impress one of the many Universities that the merchant told him of.
When Kardos neared adulthood, he left the fishing village behind and applied to the College of Arcana in the nearby city of Dorn. Despite not having a noble heritage, Kardos was accepted. Rumors of bribes and a powerful figure swaying the council flew among the administration, but no real evidence emerged and Kardos wholeheartedly believed that me was accepted on merit.
Education was a perfect place for Kardos, he thrived academically and found a great love in research. Social life was a mixed bag; Dorn was a diverse city and almost all races were tolerated at worst, but tieflings were still a rare sight. What Kardos was normally bullied about was his status. The children of the rich and influential frowned at his unrefined manners and lack of culture. Kardos knew that when he rose in prominence, he would be better.
Kardos made fast friends with the half-orc Krogg. They both were attending the University for a purpose, and not just being sent away by their parents. Krogg’s poor grasp of the Common tongue was seem as a lack of intelligence to his peers, though in any other language he was as eloquent as the best poets. While Krogg didn’t manage to leave the College of Arcana with honors or a degree, Kardos’ opinion of him never changed and still considers him one of his only friends.
Before Kardos left school, he made a forbidden pact with a fiend from the outer planes. He swore never to reveal his patron or the terms of the contract, and Kardos has kept good on his word. Gifted with the power of a warlock, and a confidence that grew from his first taste of real power, Kardos’ desire for power and prestige grew to new heights.
Concluding his education, Kardos was bursting with zeal but was found lacking in direction. Unable to get his foot in the door, Kardos prowled Dorn’s watering holes looking for opportunities and fleecing drunkards in card games. His game of choice was Grasp. Played with a regular deck of cards, it revolved around amassing powerful cards and passing lesser ones to the other players. A simple game, but with a few intricacies that were quickly forgotten after a few drinks.
In one such game, Kardos won a substantial pot from an aspiring knight named Gideon. Gideon couldn’t pay, but rather than resorting to violence Kardos saw a golden opportunity.
Kardos said he would invest his winnings back into Gideon, assist him in his goals for payment later. With interest of course. Gideon was hesitant, to him he was quite literally making a deal with a devil, but reluctantly accepted.
Kardos’ gamble bore fruit, and Gideon was taken in as a squire in the Order of the Sacred Fire, the largest and most powerful knightly circle in the region.
Soon though, the Order found itself on the wrong end of some very unfortunate happenings. A simple quest to kill some trolls left the higher ranks of knights in tatters, though why so many elite knights went on a simple test and how it turned to disaster are unknown. Stranger still is the heroism of the squire Gideon, who despite not having completed training managed to slay a troll. Gideon attributed his feat to his faith in the cause, but suspected that a chance encounter with his tiefling patron the night before to be the real reason.
Seeing how he was already in deep, Gideon began relying more and more on Kardos. Kardos provided Gideon with information that he was able to pry from informants, and the occasional omen that often came true.
With Gideon relying on Kardos, Kardos began relying on his silver tongue and his Infernal Patron. As Gideon’s position with the Order grew, so did the area that Kardos needed to travel to keep up his end. On his travels he often found himself of the wrong end of unsavory sorts. Usually he was able to talk his way out or throw a few spells and scare them off, but Kardos found himself detained against his will on two notable occasions. The first by an insane human Kardos dubbed the Historian, and the second by Grokk, a half-orc with a disdain for wizards.
Through the trials faced by both the knight and the tiefling, Gideon was the Grand Master of the Order and launched a crusade to cleanse a vast swath of land north of Dorn that is overrun with gnolls. The land was largely ignored in the past because the gnolls limited their hostile actions with the city and the land was thought to have no natural resources. The cleansing took two years, but uncovered vast ruins filled with knowledge from the last age. The land became immensely valuable, and Kardos felt it was time to recall his debt.
The gambling debt, a pittance now to Gideon had mature into the two things that Kardos needed; land and a noble title. The master happily obliged, hoping to be done with the devil once and for all. Unknown to Gideon though, this had the consequence of legitimizing Kardos’ information business, calling into question many of the actions of the Knight.
Wealth, land, and title secured, and with a budding reputation in Dorn, Kardos began construction of a manor on his land, and left the city to meet with Krogg, hoping to assist in the half-orcs own quest for power.