Rising Passions

A tale of redemption and retribution
Mitch's account

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

Christine,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trust in Garlen’s return,

Mitch Runner

Grand Master of the Order of Garlen

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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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