Rising Passions

A tale of redemption and retribution

Mitch's account

Editors Note: The below document is a letter from Paragon Knight Mitch Runner, first Grand Master of the Guardian Order, sent to his then lieutenant Christine “of the Fortress” at the time of the famed voyage of the independence. It was recently unearthed in a cache of accounting records belonging to a minor bookkeeper of the time and while it is not known how he came upon it; the document itself has been verified as genuine through painstaking analysis and referral to the other surviving letters of the author. The letter gives a window onto the lives of the fabled Storm Warriors at what would later become known as a critical turning point in the history of Barsaive and is peppered throughout with references to people who would go on to shape the destiny of the entire region. Perhaps most valuable of all it sheds new light on the mystery of why the band decided to interrupt their quest for nearly a month after their arrival at Haven.

Christine,

I have set down the events between the return of Torgak to his rule in Haven and our arrival at the edge of blood wood. I write these words in a small tower next to the woods as I believe it will be some time before I can communicate again. My companions were somewhat irritated that I chose to stop our journey to write it but that can’t be helped, it would be remiss of me to set down a rule for all Paragons telling them to keep in contact with the order and then not do it myself.

You already know the events which led up to the return of Torgak from my last letter which I wrote up the following morning. I had hoped for an uneventful few days in which to relax my guard but alas it was not to be. Less than an hour after I had written to you I was in council with Arristan on what the best way approach to Blood Wood would be when Olaf requested an audience with us. Naturally we agreed and retired to a private quarter, he insisted on not being overheard and we soon learned why. He had learned of an army of wormskulls which were soon to descend on the twilight peaks through a mark a horror had left on him some years before. I can only surmise that the horror had been dormant for that time and had merely existed as an irritant in the back of Olaf’s mind. Only Garlen can possibly know how else he managed to live with it for so long. But back to the tale at hand, the horror had apparently awakened and set about creating an army of duplicate wormskull monsters and living cadavers with which he was planning on massacring of the trolls living in the peaks.

If some of this seems familiar then you may remember a story I told you at the temple before we founded the order. Before I found Garlen I travelled much of Barsaive with the Storm Warriors as an adventurer, battling monsters and searching for ancient treasures in long forgotten kaers. Yes, I know it’s a stereotype but that’s neither here nor there. One of the places we explored in search for those treasures was an old kaer in the twilight peaks. I won’t write down everything that happened at that time, you know it all already, but suffice to say that we faced and defeated a wormskull horror and left after burning as much of the vile place as we could. We learned at that time that the horrors was trapped in the kaer, it’s astral form was trapped in a mirror while a silvered shield provided the power to trap the physical form. We were unable to collapse the entrance of the kaer so we put up as many warnings as we could around the entrance and then went on our way. It would appear that this was the time Olaf was marked, I seem to remember him touching the horror’s oricalchum armour which bore his taint. In any event, we learned later that the shield which had kept his physical form trapped had apparently been removed by an eager troll warrior, perhaps this was what led to his awakening, and the horror was now using the army he had gathered to blackmail Olaf into releasing his astral form as well.

In order to plan out what we would do we had to first summon Thorval and Reish and (after a brief discussion) bid Olaf wait downstairs. We could not take the chance that the horror would hear what we would do. On his leaving, Arristan informed us that he knew about this horror as it was named in a grimoire we had acquired from another adventure (I believe it was the time Travar was attacked by those flying horrors – a story for another time). This meant that if we could defeat its physical form we had a way of ridding the world of its astral one as well, in essence getting rid of it forever. Having made up our minds to confront the thing we summoned Olaf back to the room and told him that we were going with him to the kaer where he should break the mirrror and release the horror. A lie we wanted the horror to hear and believe.

Reish summoned his ship “the lightning edge” to bring us to the twilight peaks while independence was left behind to garrison Haven. Even though Torgak was in charge again, the people of Haven were afraid that he didn’t have the ability to protect them from the things that dwelt in the ruins of Parlainth. Having the independence provide garrison duty served as a valuable cover for our mission. With things set in place we departed immediately. En route Olaf cast a named counter-spell to counteract the horrors powers on the group and in so doing empowered us with a mighty defence against spells and magic. We were confident that we could take the horror on once again.

We travelled south west for a week and were received at the troll village nearest to the kaer where the silvered shield lay. The elders told us of bad dreams among their people and sightings of strange things in the night. Warriors had gone into the kaer and had either not returned or had come back as undead monsters. They told Thorval that he could keep the shield either way as it had brought them nothing but suffering. Our business with the trolls complete we made our way in haste to the kaer being careful to hide the shield from Olaf’s view.

At the kaer, our warning signs were still there but the entrance was guarded. We were stopped as we approached by four of the wormskull’s duplicates who indicated that only Olaf would be allowed to enter. This being unacceptable we informed the monsters that we would come in together or not at all. It was our hope that by appearing to do the creatures bidding we could get close enough to strike. Again the guards refused us entry and seizing the moment Olaf called forth his magic, bringing a sphere of deadly cold which obliterated the creatures where they stood before I had the opportunity of firing off even a single shot. Our jubilation at such a stunning victory was to be short lived however as in revenge the wormskull used its own magic to tear and twist Olaf’s skin in a truly monstrous fashion. I gave what help I could with the limited medical supplies I had, but without Garlen’s healing powers there was little I could do but try to help with the pain. Olaf, in pain but still in charge of his faculties told us that the horror had now consented to our entering. Helping him to his feet, we entered.

A horde of the duplicates met us when we entered, I estimate perhaps forty strong, and fell in step behind us as we walked down to the horrors lair. As we approached where we knew him to be we were surrounded at the entrance by them and Olaf was separated from us. The horror had seen through our plans and had done all this to get Olaf into his possession, his plan nearly succeeded. The wormskull grabbed Olaf, first disarming him, and then started bringing him to an alter of some kind which nestled in the middle of the chamber. Seeing that it intended him harm we immediately sprang into action. Thorval and Reish cut a way past the duplicartes between us and Olaf and Arristan went in after them to begin the ritual which would send the horrors astral form back to its fell domain. It fell to me to hold the doorway into the room against the duplicates which had followed us there. I held it for the few moments that the others needed but not easily and not without injury, had what happened next been even a few seconds later I would not have survived.

Thorval and Reish attacked the wormskull from behind and knocked down the monster who dropped Olaf onto the alter. Throval then smashed the accursed thing into pieces with a devastating blow, but without his astral form destroyed we knew that the physical form would be re-grown. But that was not to be – Arristan cast his spell, I remember hearing a cry of anger and disbelief from the horror and then it was gone, banished forever. The mirror shattered and the duplicates I was trying to hold off imploded. The spirit of the nethermancer Belial trapped in the mirror which had kept the horror imprisoned was released from its suffering and the job was finished. The horrors name was Tessayeel, even though he is no more I will write it here but once.

We returned to haven to continue our voyage. Olaf required extensive medical help on the way and I cared for him as best I could. On our return we decided to stay for another two weeks before leaving for Blood Wood. Haven still needed to be garrisoned and the others wanted to spend some time training their disciplines before leaving. Having no trainer I felt at a bit of a loose end but I remembered that I still had someone to speak to. I met up with Torgak about the ruins of his house and my part in the affair. His reaction surprised me a great deal as I was expecting to have to repay him in some manner. He laughed at me and said that as it happened while I fought his enemies he saw no debt which existed between us. I really must track down Javier De La Contra at some future venture and hand him over to Torgak for just punishment, if for no other reason than to say thank you to such a gracious man.

We spent the next two weeks in haven, as I have already written the others trained up their circles while I spent the time training the guardsmen Torgak had hired on. This proved to be timely as no sooner had the training been completed than a wave of horror constructs descended on Haven. I stood with them on the walls to resist the incursion and provided as much medical assistance as I could after the battle. I feel so frustrated without my healing powers at these times. I could have done so much more. I also used the time to speak to the blood elf Tylara in haven and asked how best to approach the wood. She told me to go to kaer Eidelon and meet Kyron Everglade, the leader of the blood elves there.

It was at this time that we were approached by a spirit bearing a message from queen Twiceborn of the cadavers of Parlainth. The Queen apparently believed that she should be approached by our delegation with the treaty. Realising that a great deal of valuable information could be gleaned from her I had no hesitation recommending that we at least listen to her. The others agreed and we were guided into Parlainth by the spirit. It brought us into her underground domain, past the faded glories and ruined edifaces of the place. The journey was tiring and not without its own dangers. At one point Arristan fell down a great chasm and badly injured his leg. One again my medical skills were called into action and he was able to hobble the rest of the way. Next time I’ll be sure to bring more bandages. I should note at this stage that Olaf had broadly recovered from his injuries as well.

We were escorted past an area which we recognised from yet another adventure where we had fought Cadaver men while searching for ancient treasures. It was apparent that we had been fighting Twiceborn’s own people at that time. That’s three times in a single month now, there must be somewhere in Barsaive we havn’t ended up battling monsters. We finally were escorted in to meet Queen Twiceborn, She was watching a hall of ballroom dancing cadavers who would move and dance to music provided by the animated corpses of other. The room may once have been grand but was now faded and corrupted.

We introduced ourselves and briefly spoke of the treaty. She said that she would not sign the compact as it held nothing for her but thanked us for treating her as an equal. She also indicated that we were fools to even try to fight Thera and that we would always be but a province. Not quite what we expected. It was then that I approached her and asked her what she knew about the undead horde in the badlands. She expressed surprise, saying it would not be possible to control such a horde. I mentioned the elven name of the master of shadows and that of the blood prince Cassius. As I’d hoped, she recognised both. Here then is what I have learned and the most important part of this letter.

Cassius was a terrible and cruel enemy of Landis who delighted in torturing it. A particular enjoyment of his was to break the paragons of that place and turn them to the service of evil. He was eventually defeated in a great battle by a paragon knight in Landis itself. Alas but Twiceborn could not remember the name. Tell Wraith Weaver to concentrate her search on this battle, if we can learn the name of this paragon we can unlock the powers of the paragon discipline and learn how to defeat the blood prince. If the prince used to use his power to break paragons then we are doubly threatened by him.

The master of shadows was originally from wyrm wood and was exiled just before the scourge, he went to Parlainth but was refused entry. I hope to find out more about him from the blood elves. Perhaps they can shed some light on why he is cooperating with Cassius.

In return for helping us locate Cassius’s base of operations we have agreed to tell Twiceborn what we learn of the horde. She is sending a spirit occasionally to Arristan to find out what we learn. I believe that the queen is afraid of what someone who can control thousands of undead can do to her followers. She was very eager to help us in this matter.

Departing from the place we decided that Haven was now as safe as it could be made and set out to the wood. Curiously, Reish announced that he’d meet us there and set out in the lightning edge to return to his wife in New Solander. Perhaps he wanted to take advantage of being so close to visit his pregnant wife Kara, sometimes letters can only provide so much. In any event he met up with us just as we approached Kaer Eidelon and seemed to be in a much better mood than he had previously. He didn’t even try to pick a fight anywhere, which is unusual. Actually now that I think about it, there may be a reason why everywhere we visit seems to be a previous battleground.

We were met at the kaer by the admiral of the T’strang there. The Syrtis T’strang are led by a prophetess and he had known of our arrival. He promptly informed us that yes, they’d certainly be signing the treaty and we were very welcome indeed. We were then shown to comfortable quarters and told that we would meet Kyron Everglade at dinner. I must admit it’s nice when things just go right for you. I think the others were trying to figure out where the ambush was going to come from. I can heartily recommend the hospitality of our T’strang hosts, the quarters were just what I needed after living on an airship for so long.

I won’t dwell too much more on events. Suffice it to say that we met our blood elf contact who has agreed to allow us to be escorted to the royal palace in the blood wood. We travelled by riverboat to a small tower at the edge of the wood and will now be escorted in on foot by the elves. I estimate another two weeks travel before we return and journey to the T’strang to sign the treaty. From there the journey enters its most dangerous part – it will be then that we have to give the document to the Therans.

Trust in Garlen’s return,

Mitch Runner

Grand Master of the Order of Garlen

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