Ardath Dastagir was a Nykaran magician and fortune-teller. Born in Melekess, he was raised by the witch Livia Agravain, who taught him magic. He was the husband of Marena Roland, Livia's niece and second apprentice.
Shortly after their wedding, a plague struck the land, killing many, including Marena. Grief-stricken, Ardath dove into occult studies, desperate to find a way to bring her back. Working with King Luther Arimanes and the sorceress Zainab Xander, Ardath was able to summon the Magician, with whom he made a deal. In exchange for Ardath's soul, Marena was resurrected.
Three years later, Marena and Ardath were drawn into the mystery surrounding the assassination of King Luther Arimanes. While Ardath fled into the desert with Marena in an attempt to protect them, Marena ultimately decided to return after encountering her long-lost father Marcus Roland.
At the Palace, Ardath performed a summoning ritual intended to draw Luther's ghost out of hiding. To the shock of everyone involved, Luther's ghost accused Ardath of murdering him. At Ardath's trial the sorceress Zainab Xander confessed to the murder and was executed, but faked her death. Ardath reluctantly agreed to participate in an exorcism meant to expel Luther's ghost from the Palace. Unbeknownst to him, the exorcism also undid his deal with the Magician, causing Marena to die once more and her soul to be captured by the Magician.
Accompanied by Marcus, Ardath traveled into the Arcane Realm in order to free Marena's spirit. Disillusioned with the Magician, tarot, and magic in general, Ardath fought and successfully defeated the Magician, but it was Marcus' sacrifice which finally freed Marena as well as restoring her to life.
Ardath and Marena presumably lived out the rest of their days together in Melekess, though their exact fate is unknown.
Ardath is described as a handsome young man of average height and svelte build. He has a bronze skin tone common among native Nykarans. Prior to making a deal with the Magician, his hair was dark and his eyes were brown; after making the deal, his hair turned white and his eyes became violet. 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. He has dimples which appear when he smiles.
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. It is difficult to get to know him personally as he is intensely private and secretive. Since there are only a few people he would consider 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 he suffers from feelings of inferiority.
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 tendency to try and put a positive front over his problems rather than acknowledging them and working to better himself stems from his low confidence and lack of assertion.
While he is not vindictive, one should avoid incurring his wrath. His opinions can change, and he is not inclined to prejudice. He considers bigotry one of the worst traits a person can possess, but has been known to jump to wrong conclusions himself.
An avid tea drinker, he owns an antique copper samovar, which he uses to brew a variety of different flavors. (Although his favorite is lapsang souchong.)
His nickname is "Arda".
Ardath was a magic user for much of his life, although his powers were generally limited. He believed in the power of crystals, potions, and certain rituals could be used to benefit himself and others, so he made a living selling such items and their accouterments. His best work was with manipulating water, but he "never was a very good magician" and his abilities would deplete to the point of uselessness whenever he was nervous and/or under stress.
He was particularly fascinated with divination, which he performed using tarot cards. He could "hear" the cards speaking to him when he divined the future, and on occasion they even "called" to him. If he accepted the call, he would be pulled into another world, where he had considerably more control over his powers.
Ardath was born in 143 AYZ in Melekess. The identity of his birth parents were unknown. According to Livia, his mother was a teenage girl who came to her for an abortion. Livia, who was a young witch at the time and largely inexperienced with such matters, initially gave her herbs to induce premature labor, but the girl later returned and claimed the herbs had no effect. Livia then reluctantly attempted surgery, and believed she had successfully removed the fetus. However, a few months later the girl came to her again, having felt the baby kicking. Livia realized that the girl must have been carrying twins and only one of them had been successfully aborted. Fed up, she told the girl to go to someone else, but the girl replied "This child is clearly intent on being born, wouldn't you say? Only I'm not fit to be its mother." After the child's birth, the girl left the baby (who was born missing an arm due to the botched surgery) at a local orphanage.
Perhaps motivated by guilt over her failure or realizing that the child's mysterious birth might hold some special significance, Livia adopted him and gave him the name Ardath. She began schooling him in the ways of the tarot and witchcraft, taking him on as her first apprentice. Ardath proved an eager learner. Ardath created his own tarot deck, through which he was able to "hear" the cards "speak". He used the deck for divination, and on occasion the cards would 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.
Despite his enthusiasm, Livia considered Ardath a lousy magician prone to mistakes and mishaps. According to her, his timid nature ruined his approach to the art of magic, as he was unwilling or unable to seize power for himself for fear of hurting others in the process.
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, helping her adapt to life in Melekess.
As they grew older, he and Marena developed romantic feelings for each other. Both Livia and Marena's parents attempted to discourage their romance, albeit for different reasons. Livia wanted Marena to become a witch like her, a role which demanded independence, while 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.
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 Melekess. It was a small party, consisting of close friends of the family and a few members of the Zantine community.
The young couple had not been wedded for a year when a plague epidemic hit Melekess. Ardath and Marena attempted 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 vowed to bring his bride back. 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 Zainab Xander, a sorceress in the employ of King Luther. Zainab was said to be an Iskirran who had amassed a large library on the subject of magic. Upon learning of Ardath's studies, she arranged a meeting with King Luther Arimanes, who had long harbored an interest in the occult.
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 Zainab, who warned him that Luther didn't fully understand what he was asking for. With his own agenda in mind, Ardath ignored her 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 in the ritual. 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 Zainab for help before he vanished, leaving behind only his clothes.
In the chaos that ensued as the guests realized Luther had disappeared, Ardath stood by as Zainab was charged with the king's murder, feigning ignorance. He left the palace not long after, heading to the beach.
Sure enough, he found Marena washed ashore. She awoke in his arms and asked what had happened. He lied to her and told her she and her family had been in a shipwreck, and that her family had drowned. The two moved to the city of Lydell to escape the bad memories associated with Melekess. They established their own magic shop there, providing goods and services to the people.
As a result of the deal made with the Magician, Ardath's hair began to turn white and his eyes turned violet. The transformation process was slow, and Ardath ignored its significance until three years later, when his arm began to grow back. At that point, events out of their control were moving fast, and the two were swept up in a murder mystery.
Ardath and Marena were visited by Queen Philomena in the middle of the night. She asked to have her fortune read, then revealed that she had been suffering from nightmares about her late husband's ghost haunting her. She believed the ghost was angry because Zainab had escaped justice, and asked Ardath and Marena to help her find the missing sorceress. As they conversed, Marena began to suffer a headache. Ardath agreed that they would come to the palace in the morning, but once the queen and her entourage left, Ardath told Marena they would have to leave the city immediately. The two escaped Lydell and fled into the desert.
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 Leonard Gorrister and Marcus, triggering another headache and causing her to lose consciousness. Marcus and Leonard promptly whisked her away, with Ardath in pursuit. He attempted to use his magic to stop them, but his desperate attacks were repelled by Leonard, armed with a sword made of Exekian steel.
Prevented from entering Marcus' home by Leonard, 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 of course had discovered that Ardath had lied to her about what happened to her family.
Marena gave him back his tarot deck, and Ardath felt the Magician calling to him through the cards. He waited until they reached the safety of his friend Malachi's ranch before telling her about it. 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 belt studded with Exekian steel - which, unbeknownst to Ardath, had been given to her by Marcus - she cut the meeting short, dragging Ardath with her.
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. While Ardath tried to convince her otherwise, Marena remained wary and distrustful of the Magician.
Armed with new information about Luther's ghost, Ardath and Marena returned to the palace to meet with the queen. Ardath offered to "bless" the king's old bedroom, which had remained untouched and sealed off for the six years since his death. Philomena, Marena, and Ardath were left alone in the king's bedchambers, where they did everything they could to draw him out.
The ghost appeared, accused Ardath of betraying him, and attacked him. Marena used her belt to protect Ardath, but the ghost then lashed out, injuring her. Ardath tended to her wounds, refusing to leave her side - until he was forcibly removed by the queen's guards. Philomena had him arrested based on the ghost's accusation.
Thrown into prison, he was approached by a disguised Zainab. Zainab demanded answers, but Ardath insisted he didn't remember what happened the night of Luther's death. Marena, accompanied by Leonard and Marcus, briefly spoke with him before the trial, pleading with him to tell the truth.
Ardath was put on trial for the king's murder, and he revealed what he knew about the ritual, including his involvement in Luther's disappearance. His testimony, along with Marcus' jeering, stirred the crowd's old hatred for Luther. Philomena, determined to be rid of the ghost, nonetheless sentenced Ardath to death. His execution was slated for the following morning, but in the meantime Zainab disguised herself as Ardath and took his place.
Ardath was hidden away at the Zantine Chapel while Zainab faked his death. Marena again pleaded with him to tell her what really happened. He admitted that everyone involved in the ritual had struck a bargain. Knowing this, Marena demanded to know what bargain he had 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. He 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 Watchman Dimiter Yen, 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 as they kept watch outside the chamber in which Dimiter was performing the exorcism. As the exorcism 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 the exorcism chamber. Leonard meanwhile found Dimiter's dead body, and deduced that Zainab had killed him. He wanted to kill Zainab, but Marcus talked him out of it. Concerned that Marena was now trapped in the Arcane Realm, Ardath opted to travel there. Marcus insisted upon going with him. Since they needed someone to stand watch over their bodies, they convinced Leonard to stay behind and guard them.
In the Arcane Realm 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. Marcus gave Marena his body while his spirit promptly attacked the Magician, distracting him as Ardath and Marena fled.
They returned to the palace to find Cyrus had slain Luther and Leonard had slain Zainab.