"Your life is but one of many threads in existence’s tapestry. All have roles to play in the world’s shaping, but each has a purpose that helps define the larger pattern. The Raven Queen does not so much cut your thread, but she identifies when your life has served its purpose. When she calls, go not in fear but in satisfaction that you have achieved what you were meant to achieve." -Karsus
Affiliation: Emissaries of Gloomwrought
Born into the nobility of the Istani not at any great rank, but high enough to ensure a position of power in the restored empire. Like all Istani, Karsus was raised to believe in Istani supremacy - bombarded constantly with the knowledge that dominance was his people's birthright, that the other peoples were weak and inferior, and that Istan would rule once more. Karsus had no reason not to believe in his great destiny. At least, not at first. However, as his education progressed, Karsus was sent out into the world to observe Istani military actions. Serving the overseers of reclaimed communities, Karsus would occasionally skirmish with the border patrols of neighboring nations. For reasons he did not fully understand, something in the world beyond Shade Enclave spoke to Karsus as his home never had. Karsus stood in the light of the sun, untouched by the lingering darkness of the Shadowfell, and felt its burn not as painful but as cleansing. He observed the weak and worthless folk beyond Istan and perceived a simple joy for life that Karsus could never imagine seeing within the Istani. Karsus knew instantly that this was the life he wanted - one far from the machinations, tyranny, and darkness of his home. He had to pull some strings and con his family into pulling others. However, in the end, it wasn't hard to have himself assigned to the ongoing Istani efforts in the woods, hunting for old ruins and ancient magic. His hope was that this Istani endeavor farthest from Istan would provide Karsus the opportunity to disappear before he was missed. It worked, in part. Karsus was able to slip away between expeditions into the woods and make his way. So far, he'd managed to keep his past a secret, seeming to be just one of the many people trying to make a fresh start in a slowly recovering city. Yet something ate at Karsus as he tried to start his new life.
Karsus died under violent circumstances, and was restored to life by the Raven Queen. He recalled everything from the time he spent dead, but he was lost for a time as to why he was brought back. Nevertheless, this led him to abandon his family's worship of the Undying Light, and dedicate his life to the Raven Queen. Death represents not an end but a transition. It holds no fear for Karsus beyond the concern that it would cause him to miss opportunities to serve the Raven Queen. While he drew breath, Karsus sought to help others with death, whether by comforting a mourner or helping someone find his or her way beyond. There was little passion in his killing, and no pity. Death is the threshold all must cross to meet their final destiny. Of course, some deserve to make that crossing sooner than others. That's where Karsus came in.
From time to time, the Raven Queen's gaze lingers on a mortal soul who's courage and devotion sparks her cold heart. To these mortals she sends a special boon - a raven-shaped shadow whose appearance is a sign of her favor. Those who gain this blessing are known as ravenkin, and from that point on they are never truly alone. The shadow raven that keeps them company is a physical connection to the god of death. Devout worshipers of the Raven Queen are the most common ravenkin. However, some ravenkin are recent converts to her faith, unsure of what they have done to warrant such a gift. Since the blessing that marked Karsus as a ravenkin, he had been aware that he was watched by the Raven Queen. Some might grow uneasy under such scrutiny, but Karsus embraced it, knowing that he had a special place in the god's plans.
Karsus was the mortal incarnation of a deity who holds sway over death. He was not simply Karsus the Ravenkin; he was the Raven Queen, who for a time incarnated in the form of Karsus. His body was a mere shell, a temporary vessel for the unthinkable might of a deity's soul. Karsus was born to be the Raven Queen's mortal form, and as he grew in understanding and power, the light within him shone out for all to see. He might not have realized his true nature before, but finally Karsus knew exactly what he was. As an avatar of death, Karsus incarnated the death aspect of his deity. Good and evil were just words to him, for death makes all causes meaningless. Karsus stared into the vacant sockets of long-dead kings, gazed across the soul-filled plains of the Shadowfell, and stood upon blood-soaked fields of battle. Through it all, Karsus felt no sorrow, no remorse - only a grim sense of bemusement at mortal foolishness in the face of the inevitable. Adventuring was an amusing way to entertain himself before life came to an end.
In the year 49,910 AC, the wizard Quentin attacked Karsus with the intention of skinning him. It was only by the intervention of the Emissaries of Gloomwrought that Karsus was saved, and conducted into Shadowfell to the safety of Gloomwrought. Quentin, however, had noticed something valuable about the Istani ravenkin. For Karsus bore a dragonmark; a draconic sigil on his back from birth. Quentin was convinced that by collecting dragonmarks, he could unlock ancient secrets of the dead god Io. It was for this reason that Quentin gathered his allies from the Elemental Chaos: Mai-sal the Waking Sea, Kaddim-sul the Living Mountain, and Nari-lana the Phoenix.
Quentin led his people in an invasion of Gloomwrought, and the Emissaries repelled them. For a time, Karsus was safe. But Quentin sacrificed his elemental allies for the favor of Julia the Phoenix, and led a second invasion of Gloomwrought. Though the fates of Karsus, the Emissaries, and Quentin are unknown, Julia the Phoenix survived, and was next seen years later as the archmage of Emperor Rurik's Empire-in-Exile.