NPC Closeup - Durj, Ettin Bard

NPC Closeup 02/16/2002

Durj, Ettin Bard

Continuation of the species is one of the few reasons that ettins live together for a short period of time. A male and female ettin reside together until their child has matured enough to be self-sufficient. This, at least, is the normal plan in ettin society. Durj's parents, however, were not so lucky...

Shortly after his birth, Durj lost his father, Robbob, to the seductive call of sirens. Not wanting to lose her only son to these enchantresses, Durj's mother, Suellin, decided to move their home to a location away from the sea. So, she packed up the cave and traveled inland to a forest that abutted a swamp. Deep in the heart of the forest, under the roots of a very old tree, Suellin dug out a new home for Durj and herself. Once settled in, Suellin and Durj lived quite well on the abundance of forest life available for their pickings.

Things in the forest, however, didn't remain peaceful for long. The forest's sylvan denizens were outraged at the addition of the ettin family to their peaceful existence. So, they banded together and harassed both Suellin and Durj whenever the opportunity presented itself. Needless to say, the ettins viewed the behavior being displayed by their food as unacceptable. Suellin, being a protective mother, decided that while Durj was sleeping, she needed to strike back at the offending morsels. In doing so, however, she fell right into the sylvan creature's trap. A male Satyr -- the bait for the trap -- lured Suellin to her demise using his magical panpipes.

Durj, then only about three months old, awoke alone and hungry with dusk swiftly approaching. With his mother nowhere to be found and his stomach growling fiercely, Durj wandered into the woods in search of something to eat. Following his superior sense of hearing, Durj chased animals around the forest until, standing in the dark of night, he suddenly realized that he no longer knew how to get back to the safety of his home. This scared the ettin youth. His hunger temporarily forgotten, the young ettin set out trying to find his home. Durj wandered through the woods into the wee hours of the morning. Every now and then, thinking that he heard his mother's call, Durj would rush off in that direction only to find that it was the hoot of an owl or the rustling of some nocturnal creature. After one such occurrence, Durj found himself standing knee-deep in stagnant water.

Alone, hungry, and now wet, Durj was quickly losing his hope of ever finding home again. Still lost, new dangers presented themselves in the darkness of the swamp at night. Fallen trees and bushes took on the form of monsters out to eat poor Durj. Bullfrogs and owls added growling and howling voices to the monsters of the swamp. Not knowing what else to do, Durj took off running as fast as he could and crashed through the swampy brush.

Suddenly, he spotted lights dancing through the trees off to his left. Thinking that this may be help, or at least a source of food, Durj decided to investigate. As slowly and quietly as an ettin could be, he followed the lights and hoped to catch a glimpse of their source. As soon as he was certain that he had caught his would-be meal, Durj would spring out from behind a tree only to find the lights gone. Looking around, the lights would reappear a little ways off. Thus passed the remainder of the night.

Morning found Durj asleep in the hollow bowl of a rotten tree. In relative shelter from the monsters of the swamp, he gorged himself on the insects that had made the tree their home. Thus sated, he fell asleep nestled within the soft peat. Later that day, the mistresses of the swamp, a covey of green hags, found the slumbering ettin youth and, celebrating their find, took the sleeping ettin back to their lair. Once Durj finally awakened, he found himself in a dark, cavernous structure. The hags, not quite sure how to approach the ettin youth, decided that enchantment would offer the most opportunities. Due to his youth and inexperience, Durj easily fell under the spell of the hags.

During the five months it took for him to fully mature, Durj learned how to protect the swamp because of lessons taught by the hags' other protectors, which was a group of four ogres. He learned to fight and terrify from the ogres while his mistresses taught Durj to speak Hag. Durj, it seemed, was far more intelligent than typical for his race. So, the hags weren't very surprised when Durj started inquiring about his past. Using their divinations, the hags retold the story of his youth. They started with the loss of his father to sirens, using their sound mimicry to include a snippet of the sirens' seductive melody. Of course, without the sirens actually producing the melody, the music did little but make Durj remember more. Later, they continued the tale with his mother's demise due to the magic of the satyr's panpipes. Again the hags augmented the tale with the haunting sounds of music. Finally, the trio retold the tale of the night they found Durj, reproducing the nocturnal sounds of the swamp.

As the tale unfolded, the attentive Durj took note of the influence sound had played on his life. Twice sound, or more pointedly music, had been used to lure his parents to their demise. He had also personally born witness to the fearful effects of the sounds of the unknown. At that point, Durj decided that he wanted to know more about sound, music, and magic.

For the remainder of the first year of his life, Durj spent time with the hags learning the "music" the swamp's denizens made on a regular basis. He also asked his mistresses for information about enchantment magic. The hags, fearful that he would find out about the enchantment they placed on him, refused to impart any knowledge about magic. So vehemently had they responded to Durj's inquiries, that he never again broached the subject with any of his mistresses. His curiosity, however, prompted the ettin to experiment into the realm of arcane magic alone.

Durj's protective duties included raiding into the forest to keep the sylvan creatures from wandering into the swamp. After a few successful raids, the hags decided to send Durj on longer and longer excursions. One such excursion was to make a delivery to a nearby encampment of hill giants. The letter, which Durj thought was a request for supplies, was actually a letter of introduction to the leader of the encampment. The hags, you see, wanted Durj to learn more about music. They thought that if he could learn to inspire their other protectors, then they would have a more efficient fighting force.

Under the tutelage of the hill giants, Durj learned how to inspire courage in his allies with his music. There were two main instruments the hill giants used in their campaigns: drums created a cadence for their troops, and a lur inspired courage in the troops once battle was joined. The lur, a typical giant musical instrument, is a large horn about 8 feet long weighting approximately 50 pounds. After learning everything the hill giants could teach him, Durj was offered his choice of either a drum or a lur prior to leaving the hill giant encampment.

Returning triumphantly to the swamp with his new musical abilities and a lur with which to use them, Durj immediately looked for other things he could do with music. Using the lur as a focus, he found that he could fascinate the denizens of the swamp. So, Durj practiced and practiced with the lur until he could mingle his arcane mutterings with the music he was creating. Durj continued his protective duties, inspiring his allied ogres to great feats, and succeeding at many raiding missions, in the name of the hag covey.

Over the next couple of years, he became quite adept in fusing his music with arcane magic. In fact, Durj could now use his music to counter spells, inspire competence in his allies, and even entwine suggestions into his musical tales. This, coupled with the feeling that the hags were holding him back from his true calling caused him to confront them. With his ogre companions under the enchantment of his music, and his ability to counter the magic of the hags with his muscial talents, he easily defeated the hags.

Proclaiming himself the new ruler of the swamp, he immediately initiated a campaign to rid the nearby forest of the sylvan creatures that had caused his mother's death. With the combination of Durj's music and his ogre minions, the sylvan denizens of the forest were driven off. This, however, was not enough to satisfy the ettin. There happened to be a road that passed not a mile from the edge of the swamp, and many caravans passed along this trail carrying goods to and from a nearby village.

Late at night, after most of the caravans made camp for the night, Durj set about creating enchanting music that would carry on the winds to the caravan encampments. Hearing the music, guards and merchants alike would stray from the safety of their campsites and fall under the thrall of the ettin. Durj, however, would not kill his captives right away for being a crafty ettin, he knew he could learn from his captives. Once the captives held no more interest for the ettin, he could feed them to his ogres.

After about a year, the local lords hired a band of adventurers to investigate the reduction in trade passing the swamp. The lords, however, never saw nor heard from the adventurers again once they had ventured into the swamp. Durj, and his little band of ogres, grew in might and magic from the frequent feasts visited upon them by the local lords.

At some point, since none who ventured into the swamp were ever seen again, rumors began circulating through the nearby inns and villages. It was said that by night the enchanting music of the "Swamp Ghost" lured the unwary to their doom. From then on, only the most foolhardy, or the unlucky, ventured into, or even near, the "haunted" swamp.

Even though the amount of travel near the swamp had abated, foolish adventurers who thought themselves more than capable continued to pour into the swamp. The promise of years of accumulated treasure, and the possibility of ridding the world of a significant source of evil, proved quite a source of temptation. Few of the adventurers who entered the swamp returned with their lives. Those who escaped the clutches of the "Swamp Ghost" considered themselves lucky. Most usually retired after the harrowing experience. None ever ventured near the swamp again.

With his source of entertainment, information, and food thus diminished, Durj became bored. Considering the swamp relatively safe from intruders, he turned his attention to the world beyond his demesnes. This attention came in Durj's desire to rid the world of those who shaped the course of his childhood. For Durj, ridding the local forest of the sylvan races was only the first step in his revenge. With this in mind, he sent a message to the leader of the hill giant encampment where he learned his trade so long ago. The message to the hill giants was an invitation to live in greener pastures.

Durj had offered the nearby forest to the hill giants as a military installation. This mutually beneficial arrangement would allow Durj to work in tandem with the hill giants on their military objectives while leaving the swamp protected by the significant might of the hill giant army. The hill giants, understanding the benefit of this arrangement, came to live in the forest near the swamp. As they both agreed, whenever the hill giants marched, they carried with them the bolstering songs of the "Swamp Ghost".

*The virtuoso prestige class is in Song and Silence.

About the Author

"Hard work has never come easy for me, it's just too much effort. I, therefore, pay homage to the gods of Automation. They make me happy!" -- Sloth

Alan Eaton has been roleplaying since the first time Dungeons & Dragons was called just Dungeons & Dragons. He now works as a web developer whose work has been seen at the Virtual Convention websites for Origins 1999, GenCon 1999, Origins 2000, GenCon 2000, and GenCon 2001. Other credits to his name may be found as a playtester for various Dungeons & Dragons materials.

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