“The below text was discovered in several loose pages which appeared to have been torn out of a larger tome. The text purports to be the direct writing of Mitch Runner of Carrington, however the content and writing style has led to it’s origin being disputed among scholars and it is genuinely accepted to be a forgery which would have been used at the time to damage Lord Runner’s reputation in both Travarran and wider Barsaivian circles.”
Last night I dreamed of a dead place blackened with fire and with ash filled air. Ruined buildings surrounded me and the ground was strewn with rubble and what must one have been life. Bodies lay haphardly around the streets, bloodied and burnt they turned their silent eyes to me. Who were these people? Why did they look at me so? Voices, shrill and painful to listen to, screamed at me though I could not make out what they said. I turned to flee from their accusations and saw what seemed like hundreds, if not thousands, of blackened corpses raised to the feet and moving at me. I turned to run, again and again but realised that they surrounded me and there was no direction I could flee in. In terror I reached for my crossbow and rained death upon those who were no longer really alive. A voice laughed mockingly as they fell stricken only to stand their shattered bodies up and come forth again. They were upon me and I despaired of my own doom when a cloud of black biting insects rose from the ground beneath me and swarmed the corpses, flaying the flesh from their bones and tearing their very souls from their bodies. The insects, sated with the lifeforce of my victims, turned to me but instead of the inevitable death I expected their presence rejuvenated me, healing my wounds and filling me with passion and vigour. I let go of my worries and responsibilities and saw myself anew. I was powerful and feared, loved and hated with equal measure. None dared oppose my might. With such power I could destroy the blood prince, exile the Therans and empower my followers. No longer would black robed fanatics attack my people or seek to control my actions. Now I would dictate their destruction! The same laugh echoed through my mind and I laughed with it. The insects left me, flying far out into the sky and dragging the souls of the corpses with them. They left me there, in the dirt, watching as that power bled away into the night. The power had been evil and wrong and yet I knew I wanted it back. I trembled and prayed for the strength to resist such desires.
I awoke to a different nightmare. I lay on a blood-soaked bed and the smell of death seeping in through the shuttered windows. As I opened the slits of my eyes a terrible pain swept through my body and a low moan escaped my body as I hurried to shut them again. Fighting back sobs of anguish I tried to open them again. I needed to be awake, despite the pain it was better than sleep. The curate at my bedside hushed me and dabbed my brow with a sweet smelling cloth. I caught a glimpse of a bloodied towel that was hurriedly taken out of my sight. My speech had started to return after the trauma of the siege and I begged her for water to clear my burning throat. An hour or so of pain and discomfort passed, made somewhat less terrible through her presence when a knock came at the door. Leaving me with a worried glance she walked over to let whomever it was enter. I tried to remember, had I told her about the dream? No, I was sure I hadn’t.
Whoever was at the door would obviously not take no for an answer; the curate, Satari I think her name was, protested at the intrusion and even attempted to close the door on the intruders. The voice of the chapter master cut through the void I was half dreaming in and the girl acquiesced. Chris entered unabashed and with him came Thorvald Harjiliak, Troll Skyraider and Storm Warrior come no doubt to bring me on yet another quest of yet more world shaking consequences. I thought I saw him hesitate, just for a moment, but it could have been the pain playing tricks on me. Trolls don’t hesitate.
“Lord Runner, Thorvald arrived some time ago and wishes to speak with you. I have told him of what happened here.”
My mind raced back to the siege….
On the morning of the assault we had been well prepared. The castle gates were defended, our cavalry was ready and our plan to capture the enemy’s airship in motion. The enemy came at us in three groups, two bands of several hundred cultists apiece separated to either side and assaulted the gates with battering rams and ladders while the third riding giant spider mounts came directly at the north wall. The airship supported that last group and flew leisurely at us. It was clear they intended us to be fighting at the gates when they fell upon us.
But what they had in numbers we made up for in adepts. The gates had been mined and powerful entities conjured by our spellcasters. Every fighter manning the walls was at full strength thanks to our healing abilities despite the long siege. The ability I possessed to rain fire down upon my foes brought death to the tightly packed ranks of the cultists on either side and invisible monsters tore through their ranks as they advanced. As the spider riders approached the cavalry rode out to delay their advance. Less than half returned, but they bought us the time we needed to beat back the cultists. As the airship approached the spider riders started scaling the walls, we were confident that we could break them. A strike team using the metal wings spell flew to the airship and beat the trolls who flew it, some few of them were captured, the spider riders were eventually broken with heavy losses. But they were beaten.
Victory was ours. I stood on the bridge of the airship and breathed in deeply. We had won, these enemies had failed to crush us and we were elated. But we had short time for celebration as a dark cloud caught our eyes. On the horizon a dark swarm of insects miles across pushed towards us, devouring all in their path. It would be upon us in minutes. In desperation the survivors of the siege fled into the chapel at the heart of the keep and sealed any and all ways into the place. What was this foul magic? It was far more powerful than anything the cultists could bring to bear.
Slowly, over several minutes, the insects began to work their way in. They clustered at the door and piled up upon each other, forming a shape of a name giver with the head of a bull. The monster, fully formed, addressed his terrified audience. This was Raggok, mad passion of vengeance, whose army we had just routed.
His enmity was clear, he screamed at us, hating us for destroying his army. Hating us for simply existing. He accused us of violating his seat of power in the long dead city of Ustrecht. When we pled ignorance he threatened us with utter destruction, of which he could surely deliver. Then he mentioned the sword. The trinity sword he claimed for his own and said that Garlen wrongly held it. He seemed upset when we informed him that Dis now held Garlens sword. Dis, who could control the other passions with that terrible blade. Then we told him that Dis was controlling him and I called him a fool to his face. I don’t know whether Dis actually controls him or if it was simply his nature to attack us, but he was enraged and seemed to believe us. He gestured at me and I felt my skin shifting all across my body, flaying it from my muscles. He seemed to believe us. I fell screaming. “Why are your followers in Ustrecht?” he screamed. “That city is mine, you have thirty days to get them out or I will kill every follower of Garlen, everywhere!”
Thus the mad passion laid the quest at my feet to get all followers of Garlen out of Ustrecht. But I had no followers there, I had no idea what he was talking about. The thought occurred to me that it was just an excuse to destroy all of us by giving us an impossible quest to complete. But by then I was in too much pain to contemplate the motivation of a mad god. When I awoke he was gone and he had taken the fallen bodies of my followers as his undead servitors.
“I’ve spoken with the surviving trolls from the ship.” Thorvald’s voice woke me from my reflection of what had passed. The ship, yes there was more to be done here, I remembered an old debt.
“Thorvald, you once helped the temple of Garlen for the promise of a ship, many years ago. That temple is no more but I would still pay the debt. The ship is yours.” I coughed out the words as well as I could, it had to be done. Chris would disapprove, Triana would be furious, but really what would we do with an airship? We did not have the resources or expertise to run it, few possessed the resources to buy it and right now we needed friends more than ever.
“I thank you Mitch, and if you will allow it I will take the surviving trolls as bonded captives to work off their debt as is the sky raider way.”
At this red blocked my vision. Bonded captives? I should let them go? LET THEM GO? “After what they have done?” I lifted myself half up from the bed in anger and immediately fell back in agony but I would not let it be so. I pushed myself up as much as I could. “Those trolls brought death and ruin with them when they came here. The town of Carrington has been burned, my people have been murdered, my castle has been besieged. They will not simply walk away and work off their debts. They will be executed for their crimes.”
Chris went pale, Satari looked worried and Thorvald…surprised. Someone said something about my being in a lot of pain. Satari began to gently push me back into the bed when Triana, whom I had known was in the room, spoke. “My lord it is not your place to decide such things, they have attacked a Travarran town. Their trial will be in Travar under its laws.” She looked furious, yet was keeping calm. She was also right.
“Yes, of course. It must be so.” How had I not thought of that first? I had pushed hard to have Carrington become a part of Travar. The matter was closed, they would be delivered to Travar for judgment.
“We must gather the Storm Warriors together. We have business in Ustrecht.” Thorvalds words echoed my own thoughts. It would have to be so, but we had so little time. I nodded.
“Can you travel?”
A spark of hysteria caught in my throat and I laughed inwardly at the hilarity of it all. Could I travel? I looked down on my shattered body and thought of all those who would die if I could not. Yes, I duly intoned, I could travel. Now it was Satari’s turn to look furious. Chris seemed ashamed. Thorvald merely nodded as if this was what he expected. He would not have asked otherwise.
Another quest, would I want to simply leave my life in the hands of others yet again if I were one of the Guardians here? This was as much their quest as mine. “This time I will not travel alone. Six of the best Paragons are to come with me.” Triana looked quizzically at Chris but Thorvald just nodded again. It mattered not, if the storm warriors were delayed or captured or just too busy to deal with this then I wanted my people ready.
To Ustrect then. On a quest for the mad passion to find out who these followers of Garlen are and get them out. However it needed to be done.
And then Thorvald told me about Storm Fall…