Rising Passions

A meeting in Carrington

“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…

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The Journals of Grantham LaFleur

Curse her for her arrogance. Alachia has banished me, me, her most trusted advisor. Surely the others must see the folly of rejecting the Theran’s Rites, and why now, right before the Scourge is to begin. A wooden citadel simply does not offer the same security as an earthen one, my advice was just to make a contingency plan. The pattern of wood is simply not as solid in astral space no matter how complex it is woven together. Even I, a Nethermancer, could foresee its failure. I do not understand how Natruma, as an Elementalist, could have gone along with this inane scheme from its inception. I pray to the Passions he has his own contingency plan for when it assuredly fails but had more wit than I to speak of it.
It falls to me now to make my own plans for survival and so I have begun this journal to think this through. The first thing to consider is what will be my next move if I am to survive the long night. I’m sure my considerable skills in the dark arts will secure me a place anywhere but I must consider what the best course would be for me. There is of course the option of heading towards Throal, but the idea of living in those close confines with the obtrusive dwarves is frankly, repellent to me, though perhaps I could put up with it if it were not for their snivelling adoration of the Theran dogs.
Perhaps I could find shelter in Landis, I’m sure the humans have made arrangements for their kingdom. Of course that’s assuming they have finally made peace with their ork neighbours. Perhaps that is not such a good idea after all. Most of the T’skrang have already retreated to their Kaers so that is not an option. Additionally I must factor in the time it will take to get to my haven. This complicates matters.
The larger cities will probably stay open later, especially those still involved in trading. That leaves my best options as Jerris in the west and Ustrecht, Kratas, Travar and Scavia to the south. Well that settles it, south is the better option. I think it best I find a suitable mount from the next town or village I come across to hasten my journey.

Three weeks I have been travelling and yet not a single village has offered aid to me. I am reduced to scavenging in fields for provisions. Curse these fools and curse Alachia. Her folly will not only cause the death of Wyrm Wood but my own, if my fortune does not turn soon. I find my mind thinking of my friends and family back in that doomed nation. Their deaths at her hand lies heavily on my mind. I only pray that when he comes, he comes swiftly and does not let them linger in the face of the Horrors.

Finally, I have a bed to lie in and some real food. Not to the standards of the elven court of course but after the last month, it seems the most luxurious abode I have ever stayed. The kind folk hear even offered to let me dwell in their community Kaer with them, which should be finished within 10 years. Though tempted, I have decided to push on towards the south, especially, as I managed to buy a fair riding horse from one of the farmers. It would just be too hard for me to adjust to village life at this stage in my life. I still have plenty of time to reach safety.

After many months of travelling I can see the lights of Kratas, the city of walls. I wanted to try and push on but I am too weary from my travels. One more night in the cold air will not kill me and the sight of that fortified city has convinced me of my wisdom to continue thus far. It is hard to imagine what force could break through those walls. Surely, their preparations will be equally impressive. I am pleased to have evaded the ever more frequent bandit attacks against me of late. It was unfortunate that many of such raids resulted in their deaths but at least it relieves other travellers of their nuisance. I hear the merchants here are sharp ones so I am glad I still have a full purse to make dealings with them.

Unfathomable, they have only just begun a hastily designed citadel. It seems the nobles of the Trading Houses in charge of this city have all made plans to shelter in other Kaers. Many have already left, leaving the poor people of Kratas to fend for themselves. Though, perhaps I should not call them poor. Never before have I met so many fundamentally selfish curs in all my life. The wretched stall owners cheated me out of more than half my coin. It is more a city of thieves than merchants in my view. Tomorrow I set off for the fertile southern lands.

Looking back at my journal the last few weeks, my fears have been confirmed. I have directly encountered over twenty Horrors powerful enough to be a danger for even my considerable skill. The long night is fast approaching and is in full swing in the wilder places of Barsaive. I must make haste to Travar. How I regret now leaving left that town on the outskirts of Scavia. It was a small town, it is true, but it was placed on the bottom of a cliff face and surrounded by a fully completed dome of True Earth. Still the people assured me that the citadel would not be sealed for many months, therefore I still believe it worth the risk to travel to Travar. There is a risk of course, there are few other travellers and I have not seen an airship passing overhead for many weeks which is an ill omen.
My mind again passes to my loved ones and their impending deaths thanks to that accursed witch Alachia. It seems my only travelling companion has been this knowledge for such a long time. It is almost as if Death himself walks with me and the changing landscape lends weight to this theory. All around the vegetation is dying as if the encroaching Horrors bring with them a rot to blight the land. Enough of these thoughts, I must reach Travar.

I was too late. What a sight it was, surrounded by a dome of molten rock. They had the most impressive fortifications I have seen yet my travels, what misfortune to have arrived too late. I have no choice but to return to the small town of Clifton. It is too dangerous even for me to risk travelling further. I will return and give them my aid in the difficult times to come. It remains to be seen if my invisible travelling companion gets the best of me before I reach my salvation

I am lost, I am dead, though my feet do not yet know it. Clifton has been sealed early. Although I realise the early closure was due to increasing danger in the area, I cannot help but feel resentment. Part of me wishes my travelling companion would pay them a visit before we move on and then perhaps spend a few days entertaining the elven court. I must put these thoughts out of my head. The truth of these musings is finally apparent. The sense of Death walking with me was some part of me trying to say that my end is near. I have seen too much to allow myself to fall to the abominations breaking through into this world. It is time to face my fate and meet Death head on. It almost seems poetic that the place of his imprisonment is not so far away. What more legendary an ending for one such as I to hurl myself into Death’s sea, not only unafraid of his cruel touch but embracing it. Once more I curse you Alachia for your arrogance.

I do not quite understand it. It seems death is not to be my fate after all. It is very perplexing. Only a Passion could possibly have the power to have prevented the flames from consuming but I have rarely in my life paid any of them heed. Upon reaching the shores of Death’s Sea I found a steep embankment and stepped off before I could change my mind. Yet when I hit the fiery ocean, I did not sink nor burn but landed on a heap on its surface. At first I thought I had landed on one of the almost invisible floating islands which are known to exist there so I walked along the surface seeking its edge. I must have walked for hours, every step I took landed on solid rock. It seemed to form right under my feet. It is exhilarating to know that I am for a higher purpose but what purpose and where am I to go now. I must rest to dwell on this…
…The answer came in my sleep. I dreamt of a great shadow in the shape of a dragon passing over icy mountains. I could not have received a clearer sign that the Dragon Mountains are my new destination.

I can hardly believe how quickly the time has passed. It has been 50 years since this Kaer was sealed. It seems I have yet to find my guiding Passion and my life is drawing to an end. It seems a shame to have to face my old travelling companion without having learned my true purpose in life. For this reason I think it is time I devoted my considerable training in my Discipline to discovering the means of extending my life. Perhaps that is my purpose, to truly defeat Death. I could be the most legendary Nethermancer ever to have lived. Yes, that is my purpose, my goal. It is time to fulfil my destiny.

I am successful. I have defeated Death. I have extended my own life with only a small expenditure of life magic. With time I can perfect the spell and should no longer need this. Then I can spread the knowledge with those who gave me sanctuary all those years ago.

I am not proud of what I have done but I had no choice. I could not risk spending my own life magic indefinitely. The death of one messenger should go relatively unnoticed and it would mean another 15 years for me to continue perfecting the Eternal Youth spell. My research is for the greater good. All of those who originally sheltered me have died and though I am too late to save them, I at least can pass on the favour to their later generations. What is a simple messenger to that.

On the 198th anniversary of the Kaer’s sealing I have become a recluse. No one visits me and people whisper as I pass. I fear they believe me to be a Horror and I do not blame them. I do not age and every generation I take the life of an innocent so that I might continue to exist. How did this come to be? My purpose was for the greater good and I am sure that I am on the cusp of a great discovery. Just a little more time, that is all I need.

Ungrateful fools. They assaulted my sanctuary. What did they think they would accomplish. I shall adorn my door with their corpses as a warning to the rest.

Again and again I am attacked and disturbed. It is time to put these dogs in their place. I shall take over the founders’ mansion. All those in my path will be greeted by my age old travelling companion. No longer will I be outcast but respected for who I am and what I can bring to their ungrateful lives.

On this, the 300th anniversary of the Kaer’s sealing I have yet to perfect the spell which I believed to be tasked to research. The remaining small population lives in fear of their ever-living tyrant lord. They even use a lottery to decide, which among them to sacrifice to him every generation. I am a monster and what’s worse, it has all been for naught. The spell is perfect as it is. My research concluded I know now that it is not a fault in the spells pattern but rather the limits imposed by the current magic level that result in the cost to life. I must face the truth. If this was to be my divine purpose then it was not the end goal that was important but the journey. It seems my old travelling companion never left my side. It all fits now, the miracle at Death’s Sea, the constant bandit attacks, the discovery of a spell with a terrible cost. It has been Death guiding my hand. Even the prophetic dream of the Dragon Mountains, wasn’t it once said that sleep is but a little death. His purpose was for me to become this creature so that I would forever be in his service. If I cease casting the spell I will have to face him and also my final judgement. I have no option but to continue and continue in his service so that I might escape his judgement indefinitely. May the rest of the Passions forgive me.

The end of the long night approaches. The elemental clock has not moved in a century. Soon I will be free of this underground prison. I realise now better than most the plight the Dark Lord suffers. Of course he hungers for escape and would do anything to accomplish it. The few remaining townsfolk have dubbed me the Master of Shadows. How quaint, I may yet let some of them live so that they might spread my legend and keep those who would stop my mission in check. Another year, perhaps two and I will complete the prophecy and spread so much blood on the shores of Death that his bonds will tear apart. I know just where to start too, Clifton.

Clifton was a difficult Kaer to break. It survived the Scourge despite huge geographical changes. It now lies at the bottom of a Canyon in the heart of the newly christened Badlands. It was riddled with shored up cracks and structural damage but was still intact. Intact that is until my considerable power was brought to bear on it and my hordes of cadaver men attacked. It took nearly a month to march the remaining survivors to the shores of Death’s Sea. A few of them escaped but they can serve to spread my legend if they survive the Badlands. Let all men who live fear the Master of Shadows. The sacrifice was glorious. It brought tears to my eyes. The Dark Lord will be pleased.

I was foolish to believe the imprisonment of the Dark Lord could be undone so easily. What wasted time and effort. Six years of massacres and no sign of change. I must research more. I must collect all I can about His imprisonment, the nature of the Passions and Death’s Sea itself.

It seems like an eternity since I started my research. Year after year has passed without a sign but it seems Death’s plans will come to fruition sooner than I imagined. Yesterday, I received some interesting visitors. They bypassed my best students without any difficulty which gained my personal attention. What confronted me was a black robed, pale human with amber eyes. The interesting thing about him was that he was undead, but not just that, he had retained his intelligence into unlife. Still musing on this, I was then to meet the contents of his backpack. At first glance it appeared to be an ordinary human skull. That was until it started to talk.

The skull was the remains of Deadwood Martha and she related to me a convoluted tale of how she had escaped Death but he was after her. That she had stolen from Death his window to the world and once he had retrieved it, he would come for her. That she needed my aid to create for her a new body resistant to aging so that she might escape his clutches. She offered me service and what knowledge she had in exchange for this. It seems that she had heard of my considerable nethermantic power but not, surprisingly, my association with Death. I agreed, but not out of kindness or any desire for her service. Rather, I suspect that such an omission could not have been by accident but by design.

In order to create a new body for Martha, I needed to create a new Named Spell loosely based on the patterns for Alter and Create Life. It is unlikely to be useful for any other purpose but I believe the effort to be worth it. The concoction was particularly potent and for such a special casting I decided to use the last three drops of Dragonblood. The results should be interesting to say the least.
Martha’s skull had not yet even hit the bottom of the bloodbath when her undead companion decided to finally speak up. It is none other than Cassius, the Blood Prince, blight of Landis since its founding. I believed him defeated, destroyed, but instead he had been trapped in an underground tunnel system. Without blood to feed off he fell into a hibernative state until Martha somehow accidentally roused him through the side effects of a magical combat with some ragtag adventuring group. The tunnels had become unstable over the years, causing other openings to form, thereby allowing the weakened Prince to escape. He has pretended to be in Martha’s service both in an effort to find me and because he believed that she could be of great service to our Dark Lord. How did he know to look for me? He has spoken to the Dark Lord himself. Death has servants, it seems who can speak only to intelligent undead and though the Dark Lord is missing his view on the world, they continued to seek any sign of the Blood Prince’s return.

The Prince told me many wondrous things about our Dark Lord that night and also about his own origins. He is aged beyond compare and was Death’s champion from a time before he was imprisoned. His eternal unlife was a gift for faithful service and he has yet to shirk his duties. He told me of Death’s old outpost, in Kratas of all places, built before there was a city there but so shrouded in Illusion magic that Kratas was built around it. He told me how Death had heard word of my work and wished to know more of it. Cassius suggested we head towards this outpost which still held many of his servants while Martha lay indisposed, though he first wished to retrieve his armour and sword which still lay in Landis. I wonder if my Bone circle in Clifton is still intact. A gateway would much decrease the distance we need to travel. It has been a long time since I left the confines of my sanctuary I must prepare, but first I’ll need to do some tweaking to the spell creating Martha’s new form, now that I know more about her.

The Bone Circle was as I left it and crossing the rest of the Badlands held no danger for us. Cassius has some interesting innate spell like abilities which sped things up considerably. Principle among these was one similar to the effects of Nightflyer’s Cloak. He also showed an affinity with ghouls that was astounding, especially to one who knows their nature as well as I. It should not take us long to reach Landis.

It has been a long and fruitful day. Death’s outpost was impressive to say the least. Inside all manner of undead and spirits dwelt. The most curious of whom were his messengers who even I could not sense in any way but Cassius could as clear as day. I suspect that it is this extreme intangibility of nature that allows them to pass so easily through the barrier surrounding Death’s Realm. One possessed the slave girl we had purchased in the back streets of Kratas and brought with us at Cassius’s behest. Through this girl I spoke indirectly to Death himself.

I spoke of my finding of the location of the Seals binding them and how I had prepared the basic formula to create spells binding the True Patterns of pattern items of each Passion to their respective seal using the Law of Similarity. Once done, by destroying the item you could break the seal. This is a simple concept in itself but has an extremely complex design and one that took quite a long time to explain to His messenger. I also spoke of Deadwood Martha and the special surprise she was due when she awoke. After I was done we were thanked and told to spend the night. I doubt I will sleep so close to the presence of my Lord but I shall try.

It has returned and with it, it carried instructions. Death was pleased with my work which bypassed the need for an item He thought critical to His escape, something called the Bauble of Vestrial. This was the item Martha had stolen from him which also functioned as his window to Barsaive. He was especially pleased at my hand in her fate. He instructed Cassius to work with me and perform any task which would help me complete this goal. Lastly, he then told us to set off for Jerris and seek out a Weaponsmith called Iffan Rundlehide, the head of the Keys of Death in that city, who could help us with finding these Pattern Items.

Iffan was more accomplished than I could have hoped. I had heard of the Keys of Death though most seemed to me to be bumbling buffoons, blind to Death’s true purpose. Iffan was different, a warden in his primary Discipline and accomplished in two others. He is to return with us to my home in the Dragon Mountains to help in my research.

Iffan has completed the work I asked of him and much more. He has also strengthened the blades and armour of my disciples and those of Cassius which had lost some of their keen edge after so many years below ground. After many months Martha is ready to emerge from her long sleep. We are due a long talk, she and I. She owes my Lord a great debt, one which her own life simply cannot fulfil alone. It is his will that she serve him in her new form and once she hears the true nature of the spell that created her, I doubt she would dare refuse.

Patterns are my speciality, which is why she sought me out, but a pity for her that I can manipulate the pattern of a spell as easy as warm pudding. Her new form will be everything she desired, strong, fast, long-living but it will not be stable. I built into it what could best be described as a loose thread. One metaphorical tweak on this thread would unravel her entire pattern. This could result in her losing her memory and abilities at best or her new form unravelling along with it until it was but a pile of gloop at worst. Her considerable powers will be very useful.

The stage is set for the first stage of my plans. Iffan believed the Anvil of Upandal held with the confines of Upandal’s Forge in Travar to be the best way to break his seal on Death’s prison. Cassius and his ghouls are approaching from the Badlands in the west, Martha has infiltrated Travar itself and will spread havoc within and my own undead army, which is considerably larger than I had hoped, it must be due to some large scale battles in the area in recent years, approaches from the east. We intend to assault 3 different, high profile locations to disguise our true intentions for as long as possible. I will attack Upandal’s Forge directly and retrieve the Anvil. Cassius desired to slaughter those within the temple of Garlen, I suspect because of an ancient grudge. Similarly, Deadwood Martha found it easy to choose a target, somewhere called the Stormwarrior Academy. I declined to ask her purpose in this, let her have her fun.

The casting failed. It is regrettable but the Patterns could not be linked together with enough force for me to consider destroying the Anvil. The spell needs a catalyst of some kind. I suspect Death may have been right all along, the Bauble is the key. Our new task will be to learn of its location as soon as possible.

What luck, we have obtained the Bauble. It was handed to one of my Disciples out of nowhere. There must be some other power at play here that is thankfully on our side. I have studied it and questioned Martha on it. She was not pleased I obtained it and it is obvious why. With it I can spy on her wherever she goes and whenever I choose. She should be pleased as at least this means I will give her a longer leash.

The other interesting titbit I discovered was a severed thread attached to it. I have only very rarely seen cases like this occurring before. It happens when a thread item goes through a profound change very quickly. Adepts who have attached threads to these items have them torn apart rather than simply unwoven. These pieces of thread contain part of the pattern of the adept and can even function as a pattern item for them. Perhaps I shall try and contain it in a vessel when I get some time. It may prove useful should the last owner of the Bauble come looking for it.

The seal is broken and the Anvil destroyed. Finally, we have made progress. I shall start work on the second spell immediately. Cassius is already marching on the remains of Scavia for the Eternal Flame with the army I raised for him. It was uncharacteristically foolish of him to have discarded the last one for a personal grudge. It seems he loses his reason somewhat when followers of Garlen cross him. Perhaps, it would be best to let Martha retrieve the Blue Flower when it is time.

Martha performed exceptionally. With luck, it will be some time before anyone even notices the carnage she wrought. She seems to be blossoming under Death’s watchful eye. After this spell is cast we will be halfway to completing our goal. Unfortunately, the next step will be our most difficult. Jaspree rarely creates items of power. Our best chance to obtain an item of hers is through her greatest work, the unicorn. Unfortunately, they are so rare in Barsaive that we have only heard of the location of one such creature. We must be at full strength and well prepared to face the Thief of Names in his own territory. I hope the stories about his fast approaching senility are more than just rumours.

It seems we have reached an impasse. Though Iffan has researched a number of items for both Thystonius and Mynbruje, none have surfaced in Barsaive for quite some time. Martha is searching the land alone for clues, while I look through my collection again. Cassius is content to bide his time in Clifton until he is next called upon to act but Iffan has retreated to his new Forge in the Mountains to continue his own research. I can’t work on the binding spell until I know which item we will use so perhaps I will start another project. It has been a while since I created a new creature. Perhaps it is time to make a new personal guard to accompany me.

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Approaching End Game

“In our third lot in realisation of the estate of Baron Hilligan of Dryers Peak we have included several post-scourge documents and letters from the time of the Great Theran War. The gem in this collection and in fabulous condition is a letter written by Grand Master Mitch Runner to Christine Fortress mentioning the world shaking events of the time. As most consummate collectors know, Grand Master Runner instigated a culture of reporting among his followers and even mandated that all travels be recorded and sent to the Fortress of Carrington where they were compiled and copies forwarded to the great libraries of Throal and Travar. Critics have often argued that this compilation amounted to censorship so as to present a better picture of the Order of Garlen to the world (and even glean more funds from the payments those libraries gave for such “adventuring logs”). Such original documents are a window onto a time which shaped our nation and as such are priceless. The bidding starts at five thousand…”

Christine,

My visit to the Fortress was too short, but the events we have witnessed here in Kratas has proven my haste necessary indeed.

You already know about our escape from Vivane after the disastrous meeting with Overgovernor Kypros and our return to Travar. Once in Travar we received word from Garlthic one-eye, the ruler of Kratas. Garlthic told us that an item had come into his possession which would prove useful to us. He is the patron of the faceless thief who had set out to steal several items of power which we were after. This tempted us sufficiently to set out at once.

The journey to Kratas was uneventful and we were immediately allowed in to meet with Kratas. The one-eye told us that the faceless thief was dead but that she had managed to steal one of the items on our list. He refused to be drawn on what the item was and demanded that we give him something of equal value. Eventually, after much discussion, we gleaned that his ability to renew himself was lost along with the rest of Garlen’s healing magic. The Storm Warriors swore oaths to restore Garlen within a year and a day to appease him and I handed over the scarab of Illithor at his demand. You may wonder why we went so far without knowing what the item was but in truth we recognised what it must be immediately. After all, the faceless thief had stolen from death before – what else could she have but his second most prized possession? I was amazed at my companions, who must have come to the same conclusion as myself, pretending to have no clue as to what Garlthic had. Never have I witnessed such skill at negotiation – and with a 15th circle thief at that!

The negotiations completed Garlthic led us to a hidden spot where he revealed our prize and left us to return to his palace. The rules of the game have changed Christine for now we have taken away Death’s trinity blade and his ability to kill the other passions. This is a great victory in itself, but yet more was to come.

While in Kratas I searched for and found signs of our missing paragons, the Fratelli brothers. They had stayed at the abandoned temple of Garlen and had left a map indicating they went to the fallen troll kingdom on a quest of some sort. My fears for them grow, that blighted place is not somewhere I would journey willingly, but it will prove important to do so. I do not want any of our brothers to fall alone and unknown. Before we were to leave I convince my companions to journey to the site of a holy shrine dedicated to Garlen to investigate rumours of strange goings on there which I had been told of in Carrington. One of hundreds of rumours I know, but there was something about this one. It seemed too coincidental that we had had a trinity sword delivered to us and that the storm warriors had fully committed to our cause as well as finding signs of the Fratellis all at the same time.

We journeyed to the shrine which was only a short trip from Kratas. The shrine itself is perched atop a holy mountain site and has had a sect of monks dedicated to Garlen tending to it for some years. You may recall that this sect did not answer my call for questors to come to Carrington as had the others scattered across Barsaive. I had hoped that if the rumours were unfounded that they would at least speak to me about the possibility of joining. As the last major surviving sect that we know about it would have united the last of the questors under our banner. Events, however, had beaten us to the shrine.

Scattered all around the mountain road and half buried by the snow, we found corpse after corpse. They bore signs of terrible battle wounds and one poor individual had been cut clean in two. Nervously, we approached the shrine awaiting something terrible to strike. From the door of the shrine burst a twelve foot tall warrior clad in steel from head to toe and wielding a sword as long as a man. We were prepared for the attack, but it was still so rapid that it came close to overwhelming us in the first few seconds for it was a Harbringer of Dis which had attacked us. We joined battle immediately and inflicted some harm on the abomination but not just content with physical violation he ordered Reish to attack me using a compelling power unique to DIs’s followers. Reish immediately ran towards me with sword held high, intent on my head. Had Thorval not (literally) jumped off the mountain with me using his wind catcher powers forcing Reish to follow on foot then it would have gone very badly indeed. Olaf and Arristan finished the job and combined their spell power to blast the servant of Dis to pieces.

In the shrine we found the heavily guarded reason for the monks’ doom. In the centre of a circular room we found that which we have searched for so long for. Our beloved Garlen turned to stone and encased in a statue, still in the position I remember from the abyss met our gaze.

We argued over our course of action, trying to figure out our best approach. The sword did nothing in our hands as it was made for a passion’s powers. We had learned over the years how to contact one of the passions however and decided to seek out Mynbruje, passion of truth and justice.

Not wanting to leave such powerful artefacts unprotected, both Olaf and I waited at the shrine to guard Garlen. While Olaf setup powerful wardings and traps I attended to the monks, burying those who had died out here. The mystery surrounding this sect’s actions may never be known. How did they come into the possession of the Garlen statue? Why did the Harbringer come here to attack them? I could wish that they had come to us for aid whatever reason but they chose instead to act alone. Let us hope we can finish what they started.

While we waited Thorval, Arristan and Reish travelled to the hidden monastery of the Oracle of Mynbruje. Only an illusionist can see through the disguises that keep the valley secret, but Arristan is one of the most powerful in Barsaive, so its defences were not adequate this time. I do not know exactly what transpired there, but Mynbruje promised to come to the shrine when we were reunited there. Thorval’s skyship quickly returned and the passion kept his promise, appearing as a tall golden skinned t’strang in our midst.

It was then that we formulated our plan. With Garlen entrapped in stone we needed to free her and then deal with the swords themselves. The trinity swords grant a passion the ability to use their powers on another passion. It is therefore possible that Garlen may be freed by Lochost, passion of freedom, were he to wield a sword in her presence. Once free, the passion Upandal could break the sword as it was he who originally created it. As all three blades are connected if one breaks they all do, this would deprive Dis and Vestrial of their swords and keep Death from ever regaining his. We needed then, to find Lochost and ask him to help Garlen and then to find Upandal and convince him to break one of his creations. To ensure that Garlen and the sword would remain safe, we entrusted both to the care of Mynbruje. Carrying around a couple of world shattering artefacts tends to attract undue attention and we were going to dangerous places.

Mynbruje told us that two artefacts still existed that held seals on Death’s prison closed. The third and final seal will break when enough blood is spilled in Barsaive – we surmise that a major war with Thera will achieve this end. I also suspect that the blood prince in the badlands will open a second front during the war to push the bloodshed even further. He also disclosed the location of the rest of the passions. Both the locations of Upandal and Lochost were among them. Time was short, war looms on the horizon and we need to end this quest soon. For this reason we agreed to split up again. Thorval and Reish set out to find Lochost while Arristan, Olaf and I travelled to Deaths Sea to search for Upandal.

We searched for some days along the coast of the burning sea for possible entrances to his forge. Eventually, we were able to pinpoint a location and found an enormous pair of oricalchum doors which led into an underground complex of unbelievable size. It was so large that Throal itself could have fit inside. We wandered along identical passages for hours before finding our way to the forge and there met there with Upandal. Olaf urged him to break the sword and had to stand in the blistering heat of the forge’s fire until he passed out from it. In the end Upandal, who had not been best pleased with our suggestion, agreed to Olaf’s pleas. Not without price was this promise and Olaf now has to deliver on a promise to build something truly worthy and awe-inspiring within a year and a day. Before leaving, while I was carrying Olaf out of that place, Upandel turned to me and gave me a sword with instructions to give it to Olaf. It was of curious design, curved with only one side sharp and lighter than a normal broadsword. How it could punch through armour I can’t tell, but I am no master smith, much less a passion of them. I delivered the weapon to Olaf.

Our task complete we returned to the oracle and waited our companions return. There, I discovered that the Questors who guard the place are actually the remnants of a pre-scourge paragon order. We have discovered others of our kind at last. They have the same problem as we do, with none past the fourth circle, but were open and hospitable to my advances. I have made a deal with their order to share knowledge of our discipline with each other and have extended an open invitation of hospitality to them. Our other guardians need to know of their existence and of these agreements.

Reish and Thorval arrived several days later with the news that Lochost is at the bottom of a mountain kaer infested with so many horrors as to be nearly unreachable. While I write this we are preparing to return and find a way down.

I have attached a map of the location of Upandals forge and the route we took to find him, the method of entering his domain is also marked as well as a map detailing the location of the oracle’s monastery. These maps have been written ancient Landisian and the areas they lie in have been moved according to a certain pattern to lessen the chances of someone being able to use it for ill attempts. The maps in themselves cannot be used without knowing how the location shift has been achieved. I will explain how to read it correctly in a separate missive. Until then they are to be kept under lock and key in the vault of our fortress. Should we fail in our attempts to reach Lochost, it will fall to the Order to continue our quest.

Our plan is fraught with risks. Will each passion, Upandal, Mynbruje and Lochost play the parts we ask of them and not submit to the temptation of keeping the sword? And if we do succeed what effect will Garlens imprisonment have had on her when she awakens? Yet I believe we are close to our goals and are entering the end game. War drums beat at Skypoint and Thystonius is among the Theran armies gathering there. Whatever happens we will still be busy in the world.

Have faith, and remember our goals. Be ready to act swiftly when our powers return.

Mitch Runner, Grand Master of the Order of Travar

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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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Earthdawn: Hives of Scum and Villainy
How the Stormwarriors made both Kratas and Haven look civilised: From the memoirs of Thorvald Harjiliak, Bane of Thera

With the Master of Shadows apprentices nicely butchered the Stormawarriors wasted no time in getting back to business. We had learned that a great horde of undead was growing in the Badlands and threatened all of Barsaive. Unity was essential and the Theran threat had not receded. It was decided to finish the diplomatic mission of the Independence. The ork Gralthik one-eye had to be brought into the fold while the lack of any word from Torgak of Haven added extra reasons to visit the town beside Parlainth.

Some business was taken care of first in Travar. Lots of people probably did secretive shit without telling me so that is not documented here. I got a letter from Nievo indicating that the elementalist had escaped from Theran custody thanks to an old ally of his. He was still with this unnamed individual and working against the empire across Barsaive. He asked for the Stormwarriors to stop looking for him and said that he hoped to get in touch soon. Reish got a letter he said was from that little girl he married. No doubt it was full of feelings and other stuff. Olaf and I went to Uppandal’s forge where there is apparently a book called ‘The Book’. This seemed important but I wasn’t allowed to read it – even though I could read as shown by Nievo’s letter above. Olaf indicated that the Trinity swords were linked (part of the same true pattern I surmised) and that destroying one would destroy them all. He probably learned more stuff but didn’t tell us because we weren’t good enough at making nice things. I asked the smiths about my crystal armour and they confirmed my suspicion that one of my deeds had caused its pattern to change – turning it into a thread item. I had named it ‘Dread Naught’ after it saved my life in the magical onslaught that slew the warrior Uthgor. Arristan was apparently losing money but I couldn’t see how he could tell. If you need to look at a list of stuff to tell how much you own then you obviously have more than you need.

We travelled to Mitch’s monastery and he took counsel with his fellow Garlenites. They had taken a bad beating from the undead and were looking for a second shot at them. Mitch put some things in motion on that front. I spoke with the guardian Swordmaster who had trained me before and we agreed that if time allowed we would exchange blade training a second time. I knew the possibility of facing Cassius soon was very real and there were a few tricks I had run through in my head that I felt could give us an edge. Truth be told I was still hoping one of the brain trust would come up with a way to take him out but it was my job to plan for every eventuality. Reish was quite rude to her and I began to wonder if the elves understood the meaning of hospitality at all. This would become clearer when we eventually got to Blood Wood.

Kratas was our first destination. We went in quietly to speak with Gralthik as we felt that pomp and ceremony were inappropriate in his flea-ridden dung heap of a city. Reish tried to start a fight at the gate and pretty much succeeded but we had to hurry on. Then he tried to have another fight at Gralthik’s mansion but didn’t quite get there thankfully. We got in to see the ork. He refused to sign but agreed in principle to an alliance against the Therans. His aid in securing mercenaries for the coming war would be exchanged for a reasonable piece of the action. We agreed to escort his envoy to Throal where a deal could be thrashed out. We were then forcibly and publicly ejected from the mansion for the benefit of any watching Theran observers. On the way out Reish wanted to fight some more people. I felt we should have taken a detour to New Solender at this stage as he clearly had needs that were not being fulfilled. We met up with Gralthik’s envoy who turned out to be the Re-faced Thief. We had already raised the possibility of a job with Gralthik and we put some items on a list for her to peruse. She could name her price if they were acquired. She required more information to go on but was otherwise open to the idea. We dropped her off at Bartertown and made good speed on the way to Haven.

On arriving in Haven it was obvious that something was amiss. A veritable horde of mercenary and bandit scum seemed to have the town in something close to martial law. We went to Torgak’s shop and after being given the run-around (during which time to his credit Reish tried to fight no-one) were greeted by none other than the greasy moustached Javier De La Contra, now styling himself ‘Poisoned Jose’ and claiming to be the leader of Haven. He refused to say what had happened to Torgak or where the Troll was. Ultimately that saved his life as the truth or a lie indicating that he was dead would have given me enough to strike him dead where he stood. Interestingly, Reish didn’t try to start a fight here but if he had he would have been completely correct as it turned out.

We left and sought out some of our friends in Haven. Pagmar said that Torgak was in prison and that Jose was keeping the town in check with his rabble archers and some powerful adepts styling themselves his generals. We were pretty sure they were coming for us and we decided to pull back to the ship. I though we withdrew to minimise the danger to the normal folk of Haven that a battle between adepts could bring. Apparently that was not actually the case as you will see later. Had I known then what I know now I would have been more direct.

We did some planning and scouting with magic and talents. Then we penetrated Torgak’s shop with a sorcerous portal and moved to confront Jose. Our movements were epected and tracked. Soon we had a squad of militiamen at each end of a corridor ready to fire on us. A couple of earlier mentions of poison seemed to have scared the shite out of my companions who decided to unleash hell on Haven. First Arristan sent forth his own vaporous poison to choke everyone and then Mitch overcooked an explosive flame arrow which vaporised a squad of guards and also collapsed about half of the building. We managed to survive the collapse and after trying to box Mitch’s ears I went in search of Torgak.

I found him in a cell, alive but very angry. I armed him and we went about the business of putting the town to rights. It rapidly became clear that Jose and his bum-chums had fled to their bas in the smalls. Torgak showed us a tunnel leading in and we set off in pursuit. We were ambushed by the generals (minus their fearless leader). A Dwarf archer shot me a few times and poisoned me so I was a bit out of it for the fight. I recall fighting an ork cavalryman on a Thundra beast. I cut down the mount and then started on the rider who seemed particularly skilled. He got angry after seeing his mount axed in the face and came at me all out. I responded in the same manner and a couple of seconds later he was dogmeat. In the meantime Arristan dealt with the archer while Reish and Olaf were taking a very long time to deal with a single dwarf shaman. I guess Reish was out of practice after so many unsuccessful attempts to start fights but he got there in the end. Mitch had engaged a windling spellcaster and she was duly taken down. We took heads, bound the living and returned to Haven for beers.

Some interrogation revealed much about Joses dealings with Thera and his likely location. Torgak opted for some hangings and we left him to it. He signed the treaty but was pretty angry when I told him what Mitch had done to his house. He naturally expected full reparations for this damage. Luckily Mitch was always quick to admit an honest mistake and work to make it right.

We had brought Stormwarrior diplomacy to two of the biggest shit-holes in Barsaive and shown them that we can always lower the tone. Now we were headed for fancy places – Bloodwood and the T’skrang domains. At least the blood elves were used to a bunch of pricks!

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Confrontation

The characters confronted the Master of Shadows in an abandoned Kaer. They faced unusual undead constructs and many powerful Nethermancers. Two in particular gave them trouble but all were cut down.

Unfortunately, their newest comrade Uthgor fell during the battle.

The Master of Shadows escaped into a magical portal before the characters got to him, only catching the slightest glimpse of his robed form. They followed but came across a horde of Cadaver men blocking their way to the fleeing mage.

The characters, knowing they could not take on the horde in their weakened state ran back through the portal and dispelled it. The characters then looted the mansion and recuperated the rest of the day.

While resting Olaf noted that the pattern of Thorvald’s armour appeared to becoming more complex and at the cusp of becoming something more than it was.

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Reunion
Taken from Arristan's notes

Reunion

Even after the disastrous results at the abyss, the storm warriors would meet once a year to renew the group pattern. These meetings which had normally been occasion for celebration and recounting adventures long past had descended into a grim affair. Anger boiled below the surface and, whatever the reasons, exchanges were strained and abrupt. Indeed, it is a testament to the enduring nature of the band’s companionship that the affair did not end then and there.

This meeting however had been delayed by the late arrival of the Illusionist and Nethermancer Arristan and the other four found themselves with no choice but to spend time in each other’s company. It has been proposed that the sorcerer was late on purpose so as to force a confrontation, but no credible evidence has been put forward for why he would take such a risk. In any case Arristan arrived the following day to learn that Mitch and Reish had tried to reach a consensus with Mitch giving him a mysterious relic of his order which Reish promised to keep safe. Thus it was that each man tried to prove his willingness to trust the other.

It is from this date that scholars measure the third series of adventures the band would undertake as the attempt to mend ties between Mitch and Reish allowed the band to plan out what their next moves would be.

Each member brought forth concerns which had been endangering their individual homes and Barsaive in totality and the discussions of what presented the most immediate dangers went long into the night.

Death’s Escape

It was revealed here that the Blood Prince Cassius, Vampire Lord and minion of Death, was stealing artifacts of great power and significance to the Passions themselves. In this he was aided by an ancient Nethermancer known only as the Master of Shadows who (the band believed) had been responsible for raising an undead horde which had attacked both Travar and other towns in the area including one village where the last few refugees of Landis had been settled.

Those items which had been stolen were as follows… Upandal’s forge; an artefact with the ability to create any item and the only one which could alter the pattern of already existing ones – normally held in great secrecy in Travar by his followers there. Floranus’ eternal flame. Jaspre’s unicorn was murdered and its horn stolen. The blue rose of Urupa, later the band were to learn that this artefact, sacred to the passion Garlen, had been stolen and replaced with an illusion. Furthermore, the Paragon order dedicated to its protection had been massacred.

Garlen Lost to Barsaive

In addition to the Prince’s aims, a more permanent scar had been left on the surface of Barsaive. The consequences of the abyss seemed to have driven Garlen from the province entirely. Healing magic no longer worked and plague now stalked the countryside. Those few surviving questors were gathering at a fortress monastery close to the town of Carrington three days ride to the south west of Travar. Here a newly re-created military order calling itself the Guardian Paragon Knights and answering to Mitch Runner was gathering and training. In the three years since the events at the abyss no progress was made until one of their number returned from a quest in Vivane with the news that Thera still possessed healing powers and that he could tap into his own powers there.

Action!

Upon Arristan’s arrival a plan was enacted to gather more information on what was afoot. Arristan went to J’Role, the spymaster of Throal who dealt in information. Olaf and Reish went to the great dragon Mountainshadow, and ancient and learned creature. Lastly Thorvald and Mitch travelled to Vivane to see if he could tap into his own powers there, in addition he had previously been contacted directly by Garlen in his dreams and intended to see if he could commune with her again.

This information gathering exercise can be charitably said to have produced mixed results. Arristan found out that J’Role, head of the Eye of Throal is not the same as J’Role the honourable thief. He suspects J’Role is an agent or disguise of Icewing but has no proof. J’Role gave little information but asked that the Stormwarriors assemble in Throal on a matter of great importance.

It emerged that Mountainshadow was a little miffed that he had not been consulted previously. In matters of such great importance as the healing of a mad passion he had decided that he would be consulted and the non appearance of the storm warriors to his front door had offended him badly. He demanded that the entire band be present to speak with him before he would talk to any. A quote from the memoirs of Arristan Redemptor says it all “In fairness, if it was such a big deal to him, he could have contacted us, the big whinger.”

Finally the journey to Vivane revealed little more than what the band had already knew. Mitch was indeed able to use his powers in Thera, but no communications from Garlen were forthcoming. Contacting the local questors of Garlen yielded even less, with one going as far as saying that the reason he believed she had abandoned Barsaive was because it was full of undeserving savages.

Reuniting in Travar each group relayed what they had learned. It was then that Mitch revealed that he had secreted away the remains of the staff of Vestrial. This caused a massive falling out, as Olaf had been looking for that staff in an effort to ascertain the effects of the events leading to its sundering. After both Mitch and Olaf had offered to leave the Stormwarriors, cooler heads prevailed and a permanent rift was, hopefully, averted.

Meeting the Dragon

Realising that ignoring a Dragon’s summons is a bad idea at the best of times the group next set out to placate Mountainshadow and met with him in his lair in the Dragon Mountains. The Dragon, after first berating the group for not asking his advice before their last quest, sent them on a quest to Mynbruje’s oracle, where crucial new information was gleaned about three powerful artifacts known as the trinity swords.

These “Trinity Swords” were made by Uppandal as a way to control those passions who were out of control and running wild on Barsaive’s populace. Their design allowed a Passion to use their own powers on another. He gave these swords to Tystonius, who could best any passion with it; Mynbruje who could pierce any passions deceit with it and Garlen, who could heal any mistakes with it.

One such uncontrollable Passion, Oblivion, stole Garlen’s sword to allow himself to follow his vision of the utter destruction of all. In desperation Mynbruje located Oblivion and gave her sword to Death to kill him. Tystonius beat Oblivion while Death killed him but then left with the sword. Death killed multitudes of the minor passion and was about to embark on a killing spree of the others then Vestrial, the Passion of trickery, conceived and put into motion his plan to trap Death under the fiery lake known as Death’s Sea.

It was after that grisly task was completed that Garlen noticed that Vestrial had stolen her second sword. With little choice, Tystonius gave Garlen his sword so she could undo Death’s damage, should he be freed from confinement. It is said that little cooperation now exists between the Passions after the disastrous actions of Oblivion and Death.

Armed with this new knowledge the storm warriors now know that one of these swords is in the hands of Death, while the mad passion Vestrial now holds two after defeating Garlen at the abyss. A certain dread came upon the adventurers over who else would be given such a sword by Vestrial. An unconfirmed belief is that Dis, the Passion of slavery, has been given the sword and even now holds Garlen in sway in Thera.

A cry for help

Deciding to journey to Throal and hasten to the audience with King Neden, an illusionist friend of Arristan called for help by magical means. He had been attacked at his hidden tower deep in the wastes. This illusionist was known as the “thief of names” and was by far one of the most powerful sorcerers in all Barsaive. That he would call out for help was grave news indeed.

Days past as Thorval’s skyship bore them to the illusionist’s lair, while they sailed as quickly as possible it was to no avail they found the Thief of Names murdered and his home ransacked. Knowing little Arristan called forth the spirit of the old sorcerer who could not say who had murdered him but issued dire warnings about the master of shadows. The ally of the blood prince Cassius was working on breaking the seals to the prison in which he lay and was gathering artifacts to do so. The seals were created by Garlen, Upandal, Jaspree, Thystonius, Floranuus and Mynbruje. So far only Thystonius and Mynbruje artifacts were outside his grasp.

The voyage of the independence

With no other recourse, the Stormwarriors journeyed to Throal where they were King Neden himself met with them and requested them to convey a document called “The Declaration of Separation” to the governments of Barsaive for signature. This document stated that should Thera dare invade any of the signed entities then they would consider it an attack on them all.

Throal and Travar has signed with great fanfare and little prompting, while Cara Fahd signed after Thorval bested their best warrior in unarmed combat, while all of the Trollmoots saving one signed. Urupa however, has refused.

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What has come before
Some context for the story

A letter from Mitch Runner of the Order of Garlen to the spymaster J’Roel of Throal setting out the recent tragic events which occurred at the abyss of Aras Nerem.

J’Roel,

I had expected to correspond with you sooner, but a great deal has transpired since last we spoke and I have been occupied with the needs of my city. I thank you for the aid that Throal has provided Travar; it has not gone unnoticed. But let us get to the reason of this missive. You have asked of what happened in the abyss.

Much has been made of that grave night and I have no doubt you will have already heard from my former companions who are still in denial over the part they played in the heinous crime that occurred. They blame Garlen of all creatures – and why? For not telling them what she had planned beforehand, as if The Passion explains herself to us mere mortals.

But I will not get into recriminations. Too much has been lost and it would be easy to give in to bitterness.

I will start, if you permit me, somewhat before the battle and remind you of what had come to pass. My companions and I met some six years ago in Travar. I was but a guardsman then and had recently recovered in the temple of Garlen from terrible wounds inflicted by the Theran Nethermancer Threefang. The adventures that followed in my pursuit of that creature have been well documented, but suffice it to say that it brought us into contact with and artifact known as the Bauble Of Vestrial, a powerful relic that still contained part of the un-corrupted spirit of that mad passion. Spurred on by our discovery and the knowledge that more such artefacts existed, we set out to find and combine them in a great ritual that created Jester’s Redemption, a staff with the power of creation itself. Garlen had led us to this. Imagine it – that maddened passion cleansed of his corruption and on the side of light once more.Can you conceive of any nobler a quest a name-giver could set out on? We faced terrible dangers and losses, but we endured. Thus it was that I realised that my entire existence from my first salvation at the temple and those first adventures were revealed to be a part of Garlen’s grand plan.

But I digress, with the staff whole our final goal was in sight. We set out for the abyss of Aras Nerem to perform the ritual to cleanse Vestrial. With us went the Guardians, the seekers and the curates of Travar; the three member bodies of our holy questor order. We also brought a mercenary troop and though I find it distasteful, a nethermancer among our number raised a corps of undead soldiers to help guard us. Such filthy practices need to be removed from our fair city, but I had not the ability to interfere that day, as I would learn to our cost.

Once there, we quickly dispatched any opposition we encountered and setup to perform the ritual. The seekers had infiltrated the cultists which guarded the area and it was an easy matter to defeat them. We setup on a square deep below ground with temples of the mad passions on three sides and the fourth cut off by what seemed to be a bottomless abyss spanned by an old rope bridge.

The curates were surrounded by the other members of our order and began to chant out the necessary rites. Blue and white spiritual fire surrounded the procession and the spirit of Lady Loragale, our late beloved high priestess, manifested and raised the staff high. Power arced back and forth. I fear I cannot adequately describe to you the sight that I beheld for I have not the words, but it brought tears of joy to my eyes to know that we were accomplishing something that would truly help to heal the world of the ravages of the scourge. We were so close.

At the bridge to the abyss a form appeared, it was gigantic – twelve feet in height and cloaked in shadow. As it approached it screamed out defiance at us, a thick black smoking mist curled around behind it corrupting anything that touched it. This figure was none other than Vestrial made manifest and the smog demon was the horror that had corrupted him. For a moment it seemed that time drew slow and Vestrial approached us, waving a burning sword longer than a man. Then, she was there. Garlen herself stood between us and the night and bid us continue the ritual. She held off horror and madness both.

The seekers and their brethren who had infiltrated the cultists had surrounded the curates as I had said before. At the furthest outreaches of this line were the guardians and my former companions, the band known as the storm warriors. Also with us was one Hawk, a horror stalker of some renown who had decided to accompany us to the abyss.

I shall not gloss over what the ritual entailed, although I myself only learned of it that night. For the staff to be powered it needed life force to power it. The curates had given of themselves to power the ritual and even now slowly aged and died. Some would think this an abomination, but I ask you what captain would not give his life for his ship? What mother not hers for her child? Tens of thousands would be saved by their sacrifice. What they gave freely was the very essence of heroism, and I honour their memory.

It was at this point that Hawk seemed to snap and went berserk, slashing through the ranks of the undead guard to try to reach and slay the gentle curates. Garlen turned and smiled at him, encasing him in a bubble of pure energy that stopped him in his tracks. With that she went back to battling Vestrial.

Hawk then turned to Reish Kalan, one of the storm warriors and told him the falsehood that ruined that night. He told him that instead of saving Vestrial, the ritual was instead freeing the horror.

The other storm warriors seemed frozen in their places; I did not see them act as I was concentrating on Reish as the madness that had befallen Hawk also took him and he started to slash through our guardsmen, striking down any in our way and crippling the guardian Christine. We have yet to find the body of our companion Puffy. I ran to Reish and placed myself between him and the curates, but he seemed to be in a blind madness. He refused to listen to anything I could say and slashed wildly around him, cutting down curates left and right. Unable to stop him I cried out to Garlen who encased him in another one of her energy bubbles. I was sure that we were safe, that the madness would not grip another and that the ritual would finally be complete.

But somehow, Reish managed to move the sphere he was in. And he moved it directly between the spell threads and the curates. The links were cut and the lights went out. Vestrial and the horror vanished – all was dark. Then we heard Garlen’s voice cut through the night and saw her stride forward. I can still hear her words burned into my memory. I can still feel her anguish at our failure.

“You cannot know what you have done this day. You see only what is in front of you. You do not see through a passions eyes”.

She lifted a hand and granted us a glimpse through her eyes. We saw hundreds; no, thousands of people with shadowy creatures whispering into their ears, directing their actions, controlling them with suggestions and corruptions. We saw Hawk being whispered to by one of those shadows…just before his actions that night. Vestrial had been in control of him and had driven him to act against us.

Up until that we had merely been defeated; but then came the hammer blow that would change everything forever and turn defeat into a calamity. Vestrial returned – and with Garlen distracted he ran her through from behind with his terrible sword.

She fell, and vanished.

I as yet do not know the consequences of this terrible act, but I fear that I shall find out sooner than I would want.

Vestrial laughed a cruel mocking laugh and tore of the top of the staff, our original bauble, and joked about knowing someone who would be glad of it’s ownership. I do not think I need elaborate on that to convey my horror at what he meant.

The rest of the night is a blur to me. The questors were in shock, or wailing at our loss. Korum was desperately trying keep Christine alive. There was blood everywhere – everywhere. Somehow, we last few survivors managed to get to the galley, I can’t remember exactly how long it took us to get there, it seemed like an eternity of stumbling back through that fell place. Mocking laughter followed our every step. When we emerged, we were ashen faced and broken. I had somehow picked up what remained of the staff, now a useless piece of twisted metal, and clutched it in my hands under my cloak, away from prying eyes. The trip back was as grim as the long walk from the abyss. Some were overcome and died of heartache. Still others could not bear to face what remained of their lives. I pray for their souls each night.

The storm warriors returned to Travar aboard one of the drakkars Thorval had thought to bring and from there they scattered to their assorted hiding places. Thorval to his mountains, Kalan to his place near the thieves’ city, Olaf to his forge and Arristan to his new headquarters in Throal.

But there is something more. My questor powers appear to have failed me. At first I had feared that Garlen had felt I that had failed her and had abandoned me, but then I learned on arriving back at Travar that no healing magic seemed to work at all. The people are in panic. They believe Garlen has deserted them.

I see my dreams, my plans for the future shatter before my eyes. Garlen never said this path would be an easy one just that it is was mine to follow. The city is in ruins, it’s people decimated and it’s army smashed. It will take years of work to rebuild and we may never return to being the great shining city we once were. With the questors of Garlen distraught and traumatised, the healing of Travar will be more difficult still, but we will persevere – we must. We will triumph even over this blood prince, who burned our city with his army of ghouls and cadaver men.

I go over the events of that night again and again, could I have done something to change what occurred? Should I have struck down Kalan instead of trying to reason with him? My instincts say no, I would have ended up as dead as the rest of those we left behind. And yet…would it have been worth it for even the possibility of a few seconds?

I must now turn to the tasks ahead. Travar is in need and I shall not leave her undefended or alone again.

For Travar,

Mitch Runner

Grand Master of the Order of Garlen

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