Ardath Dastagir was a male Human-Exekian soul hybrid, the only known example of his kind. Despite the innate conflict arising from his dual nature, he became a magician and fortune-teller as well as a devout follower of tarot.
Born in Amarna as an unwanted, deformed child, he was begrudgingly raised by the witch Livia Agravain. During his childhood he met and became friends with Marena Roland, Livia's niece and protege. The two were eventually married, but not long after their wedding Marena died of the plague. Devastated, Ardath made a deal with the Magician to bring her back to life, at the cost of the human half of his soul. As a result, Ardath began to lose his magic powers.
Five years later, Marena and Ardath were drawn into the mystery surrounding the assassination of King Luther Arimanes. While Ardath fled the city with Marena in an attempt to keep them from getting involved, Marena ultimately decided to return after encountering her long-lost father Marcus Roland in the desert.
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 warlock Selca Ducani confessed to the murder and was executed, but faked his 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 claimed 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 Amarna, 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 Amarnans, but unusually, he has white hair. His eyes are a shade of 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. Other scars are present on his body, but he hides these underneath clothing and jewelry.
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 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 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 opinion can be changed fairly easily, 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 limited and unpredictable due to his Exekian half. He thought 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 Amarna. He never knew who his parents were.
According to Livia, his mother was a young girl who came to her for an abortion. The girl did not identify his father, but implied he had 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, the remains were discovered by an Exekian female. Livia saw her through the window and thought it was an old beggar woman. She went out to shoo her away, only to be blinded by a sudden bright light. When the light dissipated, she found the Exekian had reattached the body parts of the fetus and brought it back to life, though the left arm was missing. The resurrection was made possible through the use of a mystical dagger which replaced the lost life of the fetus with that of the Exekian, resulting in her death. The child was healed and developed to a survivable weight and size, but the procedure left him with a marked appearance - totally white hair and dark purple eyes, similar to those of the Exekian who had given her life for his.
As the baby boy began to wail loudly, Livia took him inside to avoid attracting attention. She disposed of the Exekian's body (retaining the dagger) and tried to find a place for the baby elsewhere, but no one wanted the odd-looking child. Throughout infancy, he was cared for by a woman named Fairuza. She had been hired by Livia as a cleaning lady, and had lost her own child. Fairuza became ill and died when Ardath was about five years old, and Livia promptly 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, although his Exekian life force greatly impaired his abilities.
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, helping her adapt to life in Amarna.
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.
Livia became furious after discovering the two were planning to marry. 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.
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 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. 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 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.
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.
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 beach.
Sure enough, he found Marena washed ashore. 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 headed for the palace. 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 Leon Gorrister and Marcus, triggering a coma. Marcus and Leon promptly whisked her away, with Ardath in pursuit. He attempted to use his magic to stop them, but his desperate attacks were repelled by Leon, armed with the divine metal.
Prevented from entering Marcus' home by Leon, 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. He waited until they reached the safety of 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 the divine metal - 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 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, 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 princess' guards. Philomena had him arrested based on the ghost's accusation.
Thrown into prison, he was approached by a disguised Selca. Selca demanded answers, but Ardath insisted he didn't remember what happened the night of Luther's death. Marena, accompanied by Leon 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 Selca disguised himself as Ardath and took his place.
Ardath was hidden away at Nykara Chapel while Selca faked his death. Marena 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. Selca, robbed of his powers, had killed Dimiter in a rage and disappeared through 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 Leon 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 mystical dagger, 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 Leon had rushed to defend them from an enraged Selca. Leon and Selca were in the midst of a duel to the death, which Leon eventually won with the help of Marena and Ardath.