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Ardath Dastagir is a human man currently residing in the magic/curio shop in the city of Amarna. He is an amateur fortune-teller, which he performs using tarot cards.

He lives with Marena Roland, a young woman suffering from amnesia.

Appearance/Personality

Ardath is described as a handsome young man of average height and svelte build. He has a bronze skin tone common among native Amarnans, but unusually, he has white hair. His eyes are a shade of dark purple similar in color to the skin of a ripe fig. As a result of the unusual events of his birth, he suffers from a noticeable defect - he is missing his left arm from the elbow down.

Possessing a bizarre fashion sense, he often wears outlandish, ill-fitting, or "tacky" clothing and jewelry. His curly white hair is usually not styled, giving him a somewhat wild, unkempt look. He has a penchant for the color purple, as it "brings out his eyes", as well as a liking for gold.

While playful, mischievous, and a bit of a show-off, he tends to be an enigmatic character in the lives of others. Most people he encounters are not sure what to make of him. It is difficult to get to know him personally, and he has few friends. He doubts that anyone would like him for himself and believes no one really cares about him. He is often distrustful of others' motives in befriending or pursuing him and suffers from an inferiority complex.

He is highly protective of and devoted to the few people he truly loves, but these virtues are offset by his inability to face down adversity. Rather than fighting for himself or others, he will run away from his problems. He often conflates or softens this trait by calling it wanderlust, but it is in reality cowardice. His relationships are further complicated due to his keeping secrets, though not without just cause.

While he is not vindictive, one should avoid incurring his wrath. His opinion can be changed fairly easily, and he is not inclined to prejudice. He considers bigotry the worst trait a person can possess, but has been known to jump to conclusions if he sees anything remotely resembling it.

He is a tea drinker, with his favorite being lapsang souchong.

His nickname is "Arda".

Abilities

Ardath believes in magic and uses it himself, although he is not talented or adept at it. He thinks crystals, potions, and certain rituals can be used to benefit himself and others, so he makes a living selling such items and accouterments. His best work is with manipulating water, but he "never was a very good magician" and his abilities deplete almost to the point of uselessness when he is nervous and/or under stress.

He is particularly fascinated with divination, which he performs using tarot cards. He can "hear" the cards speaking to him when he divines the future, and on occasion they even "call" to him. If he accepts the call, he is pulled into another world.

Biography

Ardath was born in 143 AYZ in Amarna. He does not know who his parents are.

Livia, the original owner of the shop, initially claimed to have found him abandoned as an infant and took him in out of pity. But during a particularly nasty argument with her brother-in-law, Marcus Roland, she revealed that Ardath's mother was in fact a young girl who came to her for an abortion, and that the child was implied to have been conceived through rape. Livia performed the procedure in exchange for seven gold coins and after the girl left she disposed of the fetus' mutilated remains in the trash. A short while later, Livia noticed a strange light through her window. She went out to investigate, and found an old woman using magic on the fetus. This was done using an enchanted dagger of some kind, and it resulted in the old woman's death. The child was healed and developed to a survivable weight and size, but the magic left him with a marked appearance - totally white hair and dark purple eyes. In addition, the abortion had resulted in his left arm being cut off at the elbow.

As the baby boy began to wail loudly, Livia took him inside to avoid attracting attention. She disposed of the old woman's body and tried to find a place for the baby elsewhere, but no one wanted the odd-looking child. Finally, she was left with no choice but to raise him herself. Once he was old enough to walk and talk, she pitched him out onto the streets, letting him run wild. When he was a little older, she began schooling him in the ways of the tarot and witchcraft.

Throughout his childhood and teen years, Ardath was eager to learn about magic. He received a tarot deck of his own, through which he was able to "hear" the cards "speak". He uses the deck for divination, and on occasion the cards have been known to pull him into the Arcane Realm, a wondrous world of magic and ethereal beauty. As a result of these experiences, Ardath developed a belief in the Major Arcana as "cosmic archetypes", similar to angels or gods, and while he never overtly worshiped these beings, he trusted them implicitly.

Meeting the Rolands

Ardath's life was forever changed with the arrival of the Rolands. The family, consisting of Livia's estranged sister Lygia, her husband Marcus, and their daughter Marena, moved in with Livia when Ardath was about ten years old. He befriended Marena, who was one of the few children willing to play with him.

As they grew older, he and Marena developed romantic feelings for each other. Both Livia and Marena's parents attempted to discourage their romance for different reasons. Livia wanted Marena to become a witch like her, a role which demanded independence; Marena's parents were concerned Ardath was a bad influence on their daughter. Marcus and Lygia were eventually persuaded to accept them and Marcus gave their union his blessing, albeit on the grounds that the two marry in a traditional Zantine ceremony, fulfilling all the requirements of Zantine law.

This created a small snag: under Zantine law marriage between "cousins" was considered incestuous. Ardath thus could not claim Livia as his relative, even if their relationship was through adoption. The issue was resolved when Ardath convinced his childhood friend Malachi Dastagir to act as his "brother" - as a result, Ardath gained Malachi's surname. He also was required to choose a middle name, becoming Ardath Esra Dastagir.

The impending wedding day only infuriated Livia, and during an explosive argument to which the entire household bore witness, she admitted Ardath's true origins as an unwanted child who was supposed to never have been born. The shock of this revelation led to Ardath running away; he was chased down by Marena, who convinced him to return home.

Ardath and Marena were married at the age of eighteen. The ceremony was conducted by Watchman Dimiter Yen in front of the Zantine chapel in Amarna. It was a small party, consisting of close friends of the family and a few members of the Zantine community.

Pestilence

The young couple had not been wedded for a year before a plague epidemic hit Amarna. Both Lygia and Livia succumbed fairly quickly to the disease. Marcus arranged for Ardath and Marena to leave the city, but they became separated during the chaos which ensued when the government attempted to contain the outbreak. Marena became trapped in a quarantined section and the two lost contact with each other.

By the time the quarantine was lifted, Ardath knew there was no way Marena could have survived. Sure enough, he found her wedding ring among the ashes of the cremated victims. Unable to handle his grief, he gradually became determined to bring his bride back from the dead. He threw himself into studying the Arcana and all forms of occultism in hopes of discovering a means of cheating death.

In his pursuit of knowledge, he contacted Selca Ducani, an agent in the employ of King Luther. Selca was a known warlock who had amassed a large library on the subject of magic. Upon learning of Ardath's studies, he arranged a meeting with King Luther Arimanes, who had long harbored an interest in the occult.

Court Magician

At their meeting, Ardath was astonished to find that Luther shared his belief in the Arcana and was immediately hooked. Luther offered him a place in his court if he would help him summon each of the Major Arcana and bind them to the king's will, a proposition which Ardath readily agreed to.

While preparing for the ritual, Ardath was approached by Selca, who warned him that Luther didn't fully understand what he was asking for. With his own agenda in mind, Ardath ignored his warnings.

Luther held a banquet on his birthday, inviting all his family members and friends. Unbeknownst to most of the guests, they were made to represent the Arcana. But rather than summoning the "cosmic archetypes" as Luther desired, only one being appeared - the Magician. He showed an interest in making deals with those present.

Ardath asked the Magician to bring Marena back from the dead. The Magician told him that a special bargain was necessary to accomplish such a task, and suggested it was too high a price to pay. But Ardath insisted, so the Magician presented his terms: in exchange for Luther's body and Ardath's soul, Marena would be restored, and Ardath would be able to find her on the beach in three days' time. Ardath agreed to the deal without hesitation. Horrified at the betrayal, Luther called to Selca for help before he vanished, leaving behind only his clothes.

Borrowed Time

In the chaos that ensued as the guests realized Luther had disappeared, Ardath stood by as Selca was charged with the prince's murder, feigning ignorance. He left the palace not long after, heading to the abandoned magic shop, which he spent a day cleaning up and preparing for Marena's return.

Sure enough, he found Marena at the exact place and time the Magician said she would be, washed ashore on the beach three days after the ritual. She awoke in his arms - a complete amnesiac with the mind of a newborn, but alive.

Over the next six years, Ardath gradually reintroduced Marena to life in Amarna. She was unable to walk or talk at first, but with his guidance she regained her independence and began accompanying him on errands and walks through the city. To his frustration and concern, accidentally or intentionally reminding her of certain things from her life before, particularly her family and heritage, caused her intense headaches, seizures, and comas. To avoid triggering these episodes, he hid any items that served as links or reminders of her life before. He refused to answer her questions regarding her past, and was reluctant to train her in magic. Likewise, in her childish understanding of the world she could not fully comprehend what it meant to be his wife.

Eventually, Ardath decided to take a long overdue trip to visit his old friend Malachi. As Malachi had known Marena before her memory loss and thought she was dead, he opted to leave her behind to avoid explaining her to his friend. Saying goodbye to Marena, he left for Malachi's ranch, near the city of Lydell.

He didn't get very far before he was contacted (via magic) by Selca Ducani. Ducani informed him that Marena had been lured to the palace by Queen Philomena, who intended to hold her captive until she agreed to offer magical aid in her quest for her husband's murderer. Ardath immediately turned back, heading for the palace, and with Ducani's help, he smuggled Marena out of the city.

Unsure of where to go, Ardath initially took Marena with him to a nearby village, Oasis. They spent the night there, but in the morning Marena encountered Rowan Renard. Over the course of their conversation, she discovered that Renard was apprenticed to her father Marcus, and she eagerly went to meet him. Marcus and Rowan promptly whisked her away, with Ardath in pursuit. He attempted to use his magic to stop them, but his desperate magic attacks were repelled by Rowan, armed with silver.

Prevented from entering Marcus' home by Rowan, Ardath begrudgingly waited outside for her to come out. Upon her release, Ardath observed a change in Marena's attitude toward him. He tried in vain to talk to her, but this only made things worse between them. Marena had grown tired of his keeping secrets from her, and it seemed like Marcus had given her information meant to turn her against him.

Marena gave him back his tarot deck, and Ardath felt the Magician calling to him through the cards. Despite her reluctance, Marena went with Ardath into the Arcane Realm. While Ardath was fascinated by the Magician, Marena found him creepy and suspicious. Using a piece of silver - which, unbeknownst to Ardath, had been given to her by Marcus - she cut the meeting short.

Back in the real world, Marena revealed that Marcus had found a way to stop her headaches and proceeded to reveal everything he knew to her. Her odd behavior was the result of her father's warnings about the dangers of the Arcana, as well as having discovered that they thought she was dead. While Ardath tried to convince her otherwise, Marena remained wary and distrustful of the Arcana.

They were recaptured by Philomena and brought back to the palace. Philomena revealed she was being haunted by Luther's ghost. Ardath offered to "bless" the prince's old bedroom, which had remained untouched and sealed off for the five years since his death. Philomena, Marena, and Ardath were left alone in the prince's chambers, where they did everything they could to draw him out.

The ghost appeared, accused Ardath of betraying him, and attacked him. Marena used the silver to protect Ardath, but the ghost then lashed out at her, destroying the silver and injuring her. Ardath tended to her wounds, refusing to leave her side - until he was forcibly removed by the princess' guards. Philomena had him arrested on the ghost's accusation alone.

Thrown into prison, he was approached by a disguised Selca. Selca demanded the truth, but Ardath insisted he didn't remember what happened the night of Luther's death.

Ardath was put on trial for the king's murder. The evidence beyond the ghost's condemnation was scarce, and the court was undecided. Then, Selca appeared unannounced and confessed to the murder. The trial was brought to an abrupt end, and Selca was slated to be executed the following morning.

Marena pleaded with Ardath to help her find out what really happened. The two obtained the queen's permission to examine the private dining room where the summoning ritual had taken place. They began to understand the nature of what had happened there - namely, that everyone involved in the ritual had struck a bargain. Knowing this, Marena demanded the truth from Ardath: what bargain had he struck?

Ardath tearfully revealed to Marena that she had died of the plague, and that he had made a deal with the Magician to return her to life in exchange for Luther's body and his own soul.

Later, the two went with Marcus to the Zantine cathedral run by Watchman Dimiter Yen. Ardath urged Marena not to tell her father the truth about her resurrection, as he would likely react badly to the news. Unbeknownst to him, she did reveal the truth in private to Dimiter, who agreed to conduct an exorcism that would undo the ritual, saving Ardath and the others at the cost of her own life.

They all returned to the palace, where Philomena was getting ready for the celebratory masquerade. With no other options, the gang donned costumes and masks and mingled with the guests to hide the fact that Dimiter was performing an exorcism to banish Luther's spirit.

As the ritual progressed, Marena grew weak. After telling Ardath she loved him, her body disappeared in his arms, leaving behind a pile of clothes. Shortly after, Luther appeared, alive and furious with everyone who had betrayed him.

Marcus dragged the hysterical Ardath away from the crowds, hiding them in a room with Rowan. Selca, robbed of his powers, had killed Dimiter in a rage and disappeared in one of the palace's secret passages. Concerned that Marena was now trapped in the Arcane Realm, Ardath opted to travel there. Marcus insisted upon going with him, leaving Rowan to watch over their bodies.

The two found Marena and commenced their search for the Magician. Upon finding him, Marcus decided to save Marena at the cost of his own life and soul. Using the same dagger which had saved Ardath to accomplish this, Marcus' spirit promptly attacked the Magician, distracting him while Ardath and Marena fled.

They returned to the palace to find Cyrus had slain Luther, and Rowan had rushed to defend them from an enraged Selca. Rowan and Selca were in the midst of a duel to the death, which Rowan eventually won with the help of Marena and Ardath.

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