Ardath Dastagir is a human man currently residing in the magic/curio shop Something Borrowed in the city of Amarna. He is an amateur magician with a particular knack for divination, which he performs using tarot cards.
He lives with Marena Roland, a young woman suffering from amnesia.
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. He has a bizarre fashion sense, often wearing outlandish, ill-fitting, or "tacky" clothing and jewelry.
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.
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 those he loves, he will likely suggest they run away from their problems together. This trait is often conflated with or softened by an ennobled comparison to wanderlust. 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".
Ardath believes in magic. He thinks crystals, potions, and certain rituals can be used to benefit him. In addition, he collects "enchanted" items, most of which he sells, but some of which he keeps for himself.
He is particularly fascinated with divination, which he performs using tarot cards. Unusually, 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.
Ardath 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. 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. 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 in the alley beside the shop. A short while later, Livia noticed a strange light through her window. She went out to investigate, and found an old woman using Zantine 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 successfully healed and developed to a survivable weight and size, but the Zantine magic left him with a marked appearance - totally white hair and dark purple eyes.
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 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 and even tried to get Marcus to teach him Zantine magic. He was put off by Marcus' incompetence, however, and soon abandoned the notion.
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 love 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, becoming Ardath Dastagir.
Upon learning that Marcus had "given in" to his daughter's desires, Livia became enraged. During an explosive argument to which the entire household bore witness, Livia 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 in 159. 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.
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 had survived. Sure enough, he found her wedding ring among the ashes of the cremated dead. 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 Prince Alastair. Selca was an occultist who had amassed a large library on the subject. Upon learning of Ardath's studies, the prince himself arranged a meeting with Ardath.
At their meeting, Alastair revealed he was also interested in the Major Arcana. Ardath was astonished to find that Alastair shared his belief in these beings, and was immediately hooked. Alastair offered him a place in his court as the new magician if he would help him summon each of the Major Arcana and bind them to the prince's will, a proposition which Ardath readily agreed to.
While preparing for the ritual, Ardath was approached by Selca, who warned him that Alastair didn't fully understand what he was asking for. With his own agenda in mind, Ardath ignored his warnings.
Alastair 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. Ardath himself participated, representing the Magician. Cyrus Spyridon, the arena champion, helped Ardath with the ritual in hopes that it would result in Alastair's demise.
Rather than summoning the "cosmic archetypes" as planned, only one being appeared - the Magician. This being with the body of a man and the head of a fox claimed that there were no other Arcana besides him.
Ardath asked the Magician to bring Marena back from the dead. The Magician told him that a special deal 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 Alastair'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, Alastair called to Selca for help before he vanished, leaving behind only his clothes.
In the chaos that ensued as the guests realized Alastair 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 five years, Ardath gradually reintroduced Marena to life at the magic shop. She was unable to walk or talk at first, but with his guidance she regained her independence. To his frustration, accidentally or intentionally reminding her of certain things from her life before, particularly her family or their marriage, 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 unable to train her in magic.
Eventually, Ardath decided to take a long overdue trip to visit his old friend Malachi in Carondei. As Malachi had known Marena before her memory loss and thought she was still dead, he opted to leave her behind to avoid explaining her to his friend. Saying goodbye to Marena, he boarded a ship and departed for Dardanos.
By the time he returned, Marena had been captured by Princess Philomena, escaped, fled Amarna and had been discovered by her father, who told her many things. She no longer fully trusted Ardath.
Ardath observed the 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. Marena went with Ardath into the Arcane Realm. While Ardath was fascinated by the Magician, Marena found him creepy and suspicious. Using her magical belt - 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 Ardath was really her husband and that she had been presumed dead. While Ardath tried to convince her otherwise, Marena remained wary and distrustful of the Arcana.
They finally met with Philomena. She revealed she was being haunted by Alastair'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 her belt to protect Ardath; the ghost then lashed out at her. Ardath tended to her injuries, 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 Alastair's death.
Ardath was put on trial for the prince'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 princess' 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 Alastair's body and his own soul.
Unable to reveal the truth to Philomena, they enlisted Marcus' help in rescuing Selca from the scaffold. After faking his death, Selca went with Marcus to the Zantine enclave in the city, where he claimed sanctuary in the cathedral run by Watchman Dimiter Yen and his trainee Rowan Renard. 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. They advised her to cancel the party, but she refused. 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 Alastair'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, Alastair 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 Dimiter, Rowan, and Selca. Concerned that Marena was now trapped in the Arcane Realm, Selca suggested Ardath travel there. Marcus insisted upon going with him.
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 his own magic to accomplish this, Marcus' spirit promptly attacked the Magician, distracting him while Ardath and Marena fled.
They returned to the palace to find Alastair had resumed the throne of Amarna. Philomena, her sister Naomi, and Gavin Zosimus were preoccupied with him. Alastair announced he was divorcing Philomena and marrying Naomi, much to their horror, and stated he intended to make an alliance with Iskirra against Apicarta. As he was running through his new proclamations, Selca came up behind him and stabbed him in the back, ending his second reign just as it was beginning.
With Selca having been pardoned by Philomena, Rowan challenged him to a duel. In the resulting fight, Selca cheated, badly wounding Rowan. Marena used magic to heal him, and Ardath defended him from Selca's continued attacks. With their help, Rowan was able to recover and killed Selca.