Maltheniir, Tiefling Bard

Zimrazim's picture

"Even I can't make Thingol laugh. I've tried. But I can make Thingol feel, and that's a damn sight more than any of you poseurs have ever done."

-- Maltheniir, tiefling bard

Ah, Maltheniir. Born with the voice, he was. Someone or something blessed him with a true bard's voice at his birth. Incredible vocal range on that cutter... How the worst slums of Torch spawned a voice like that I'll never know. If he hadn't had it he'd have ended up as a low-life thug, or some such. The slums of Karal are very hard. The chant tells us that when he was hardly more than a toddler, one of the servants of this real top-shelf slaver, tag of Marthilah, marked him out among the beggar boys, already singing for his supper. A kid tiefer with an amazing voice. Straight away he gets taken into her mansion, way up on Dohin, above the Bleeding Wall. He might be a slave now, but he hardly knew what that was at the time. Now he had regular meals -- fancy ones, too! -- and baths and a proper kip to sleep in and everything.

So Marthilah starts getting bardic training for him. The lute, drums, harp, hurdy-gurdy, horn, flute, the virginal, you name it. He loved the music, but... well, I doubt you've met Marthilah, you don't know what she's like. She can flip from 'sweet as a deva' to 'deranged harpy' in half a heartbeat. Half kindly, half cruel. So the kid tiefer never knows if she's about to hug him or throw things at him. By the time he's in his teens, he's already thoroughly messed up in the head.

So the little songbird sings and plays for most of the high-ups here in Torch, sometimes going to the other gate-towns on this end of the Ring, once or twice even to the Lower Planes. Yes, it's true, and no screed -- he really sang for a fiend-lord before he even reached the age of majority. By this time he's thoroughly sick of being a slave, and tries to escape more than once. It started with him hanging out with the bridgers when he was supposed to be doing something else. Then the serious attempts started. Marthilah was limited in what she could do, she might drown another slave in the pool, or even throw one off the bridge, but she couldn't afford to harm her precious little songbird too much. It's my understanding that she was looking into getting a geas put on him when he finally escaped for real.

Mal's never had much trouble making friends wherever he goes -- typical bard. This being Torch, plenty of Blood War mercs come through. He approached one of the Blood War companies, and as it happened their bard had had his sodding head taken off by a marilith less than a week before. The tiefer songbird impresses them enough that -- pay attention, this is important -- this bunch of hardened Blood Warriors actually takes up a collection among themselves to pay his manumission fee! They could have just handed him over to Marthilah's bounty hunters for a nice bit of jink, too. So he gets manumitted -- after he agrees to serve the mercenary company for a period of three years.

I wonder if he really thought that jumping straight into the Blood War was better than being Marthilah's property... He was no mighty fire-breath Blood Warrior -- though for a bard he's fair with a blade -- but a bit of good singing does a lot to keep you going when there's fire, pain and despair all around you. Or so mercs have told me before. Loss of the fighting spirit will kill a Blood War company deader than anything, and right quick, which is why so many of those cutters keep a bard or two around. Plus, your average Blood Warrior is real hende at dead-booking fiends or other mortals, but not so good at sweet-talking them. So you want a bard to charm a potential patron into the best contract terms you can get.

That's where so much of the violence in his music comes from -- chant from the bridgers says his lyrics were always angry and dark and all, but you see, he's actually been to the Citadel of Hubris, and the Tower of the Unspeakable, and plenty of other places. He's wigwagged with baatezu nobles and tanar'ri princes. (Speaking of tanar'ri lords, I hear he has an open invite to the court of the Dark Prince at any time, and Maltheniir can get you an audience if he thinks you're worth the effort.)

Being a good player is one thing, but being one of the best players is downright dangerous. More than one patron -- both the mortal kind and the fiendish kind -- would take it into their heads that they wanted to keep the fancy songbird for themselves. In the early days, his fellow mercenaries had to extract him a couple of times. These days, he has enough friends, would-be patrons and admirers that he's not likely to remain stuck anywhere too long.

Once he'd done his three years with the mercenaries, his professional career took off in earnest. He's played all over the lower side of the Ring, and even as high up the Ring as Ysgard (a plane where he's surprisingly popular). He's spent plenty of time in the Cage -- becoming a Sensate almost at once, of course.

And then he met the King of the Crosstrade.

It's common chant around the Cage that he became one of her pretty-boy beaus at one point -- the poor bastard. I wouldn't wish that on anyone. Maltheniir was already famous, but she helped make him the absolute toast of Sigil for a while. He lasted longer than many of her pretty-boys, but eventually they had some kind of falling out, bad enough that he fled the Cage in some fear of his life. 'The flame that burns briefly, burns brightest.'

He stayed far away from the Cage for years, though lately it seems he's managed to appease the Marauder somehow. He's come back, done performances -- packed, as usual. Looks like she no longer wants him in the dead-book, but she's moved on to other pretty-boys, I'm sure.

He's often with a bardic troupe these days, though not always. There's that incredibly hot fire genasi bint, with a voice to die for. Then there's that half-orc drummer with all the tattoos. A madman on the drums, he is. Maltheniir doesn't really seem the type to share the stage with an aasimar, but he's done a couple performances with the Winged Wonder herself, Valeriana. She can literally sodding break glass with the high notes.

What does he look like, you ask? You really are a lemon... He's a tall cutter, slender, like. He's in good shape, but not bulky, he's no basher. He's blond, but you won't always know that, dyes his hair a lot, puts it in all kinds of weird styles, and changes his eye color sometimes -- whether it's tinted glass he uses or minor illusions, I'm not sure. Sometimes has dark glasses on. He looks close enough to human that he could almost 'pass' if he wanted to, if it weren't for the horns. They're kind of on the small side for tiefer-horns, though don't ever say that to his face -- don't ever tell a tiefer his horns are small, heh. I hear he has to file down his nails constantly so he can play his instruments. And I'm told he's got a bit of a brimstone smell.

The outfits! He's an absolute sodding peacock, the piker. Sometimes wears more jewelry than a girl. Even paints his nails sometimes. He's into dusters and long jackets, wears them a lot. And he wears way too much black, and way too much leather. The more totally over-the-top, the better, in his opinion. You should see the outfit the Dark Prince gave him as a present -- incredibly sodding indecent. He's got some nice threads from the King of the Crosstrade, too. Oh, and one thing he usually has on -- this earring on one ear. The very holy symbol of Milil, upside down. I don't think I want to ask.

[DM note: Unlike most tieflings, Maltheniir has a racial bonus to his Charisma score, rather than a penalty. This might be indicative of a yugoloth progenitor in his family tree. On the other hand, he could just as easily be descended from any of the tanar'ri or baatezu tempters.]

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