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.