Skills [General, Doomguard]
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Along with Erin Montgomery, Duke Rowan Darkwood is counted one of the two most powerful people in Sigil. A man in his late fifties, Darkwood has kept himself in excellent shape, and his tall frame and craggy features put one in mind of a mountain. He's been eroded by time and pain, his numerous scars attest to that, but it's only served to expose the bedrock that is the Duke's personality.
Darkwood grew up on the prime world of Oerth, the third son of a trivial noble in a country called Furyondy. His family was blessed with a grove of Darkwood trees - trees whose wood is as light as oak but as strong as steel. Through careful management and cutting, they'd been a steady source of income for generations, and the family proudly bore the tree's name.
But young Rowan stood to inherit little, and so took to a life of adventuring throughout his home world. He traveled far and wide, even venturing onto the planes on a few occasions, most notably when he fought in the Demonweb Pits of Lloth. And as his accomplishments grew, he earned the respect of his peers, so that he was granted a fief in his own in his homeland of Furyondy. And in the fullness of time, he settled down, marrying his life-long love and fellow adventurer Merilyn. It seemed the Duke had everything, until the day that a wandering minstrel appeared.
Why the minstrel appeared then and there is a question that may never be answered. Perhaps Darkwood had slighted the Baatezu in some way, and they sought revenge. Perhaps they felt that Darkwood would be useful if bent to their purposes - after all, he was a supremely skilled warrior and by that time held no little political power. Or perhaps the Duke was simply unlucky. Regardless, when the minstrel sought shelter at his abode during a particularly violent storm, Darkwood took him in. The next day when the minstrel departed, he left a battered deck of playing cards that his children began playing with.
The deck was magical, and summoned a Baatezu named Armaggel, who laid claim to the children's souls. The Duke offered Armaggel a deal - they would play one game of cards, and if the Duke won, his children would go free. If he lost, he would offer himself to Armaggel as well. The fiend accepted, and they played their game. It was a close match, and the Duke won. But Armaggel had another trick up his sleeve. See, Armaggel could lay claim to the soul of whoever played the deck, and deal or no, the Duke had done just that. True to his word, Armaggel spared his children, but took Darkwood with him back to the Nine Hells.
There, Rowan was imprisoned and was submitted to every torture that the Baatezu knew. And they knew many, many methods of torture. After ten years, the Duke had still not broken, and the Baatezu had exhausted every technique in their voluminous manual. Desperate, Armaggel even invented a few new tortures, but when the Duke's will still held, he came to a decision. Over the last decade, Armaggel had come to respect the Duke - the man he could not break. And so, he freed Rowan, and sent him on his way.
Battered and physically broken, the Duke made his way back to Oerth. The clerics healed what they could, but due to the nature of the fiend's torture, it wasn't much. Most of his tortures had long since healed naturally, leaving scars that would never vanish, and he would never see from his right eye again.
Upon his return to Furyondy, he found the life he'd hoped to return to in ruins. In his absence, the Greyhawk Wars had taken place, and Iuz's armies had swept south, laying waste to both his personal fiefdom and his ancient family estate. His wife Merilyn had survived, but thinking the Duke dead she had remarried. His sons had grown, and barely remembered him. With no life left for him on Oerth, the Duke returned to the planes, where he fell in with the priesthood of Heimdall, quickly becoming one of the god's most powerful champions.
Just over a year ago, the Duke came once again to Sigil, and joined the ranks of the Fated, whose self-reliance appealed to him greatly. If there was one thing the Duke had learned in all of his long years, it was that he could only count on himself. Among the Taker, the Duke shot up through the ranks. In less than a year he ran the whole faction, a feat that most agree couldn't have possibly occurred without some cross-trading. Still, the Fated believe that power belongs to whoever can seize it, by hook or by crook, and so most don't begrudge the Duke his meteoric rise.
In a way, the Duke reminds many of the Harmonium's factol, Sarin. Like Sarin, the Duke is forthright, brusque, and doesn't beat around the bush. But unlike Sarin, who uses these traits to earn others' trust and respect, the Duke simply plows through debates, dismissing other's opinions out of hand and grating on almost everyone's nerves. Still, the Duke has all the inevitability of a glacier, and seems to get what he wants most of the time.
And right now, the chant says the Duke wants nothing less than complete rule of the Cage. Of course, no one else would even consider the possibility. After all, the Lady of Pain runs the city, and has for countless millennia. But the Duke didn't grow up on the planes hearing the stories of how the Lady has defeated every adversary that's ever challenged her. He only heard of her a few years ago, and considering all the challenges he's faced in his own life, he figures this is just one more. After all, the bigger they are, the harder they fall.