The Reign of Darkness

Yasir's Journal 01

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First entry since escaping The Tower of Necromancy.

Yasir bin hassan   burning hands

I have been rescued by my old companions, the Shadowguard, but my salvation feels like a curse as well. Each time I look in Gryff’s eyes, I see a man filled with joy and triumph. Indeed, the rest of the guard, with the exception of Ryn, revel in a kind of naïve exuberance that both disgusts me, and makes me envious. No, I do not begrudge their happiness, but I cannot share in it either.

My debts too deep, my heart soured, my spirit broken; Pizentious left me with little of myself intact. The dark powers I witnessed –and aided, weigh heavily upon me. Have I been rescued? The torments of my conscience tell me that perhaps death would have been a happier companion, but Fate has brought me to friends and light again; perhaps there is some good I can yet do.

There are powers rising in Pellioh, and I will do what I can to protect those that call me a friend, and the lands they call home.

I have spent the last weeks pouring through the items we took from Pizentious’ tower of necromancy. While in his service, I often wondered about the old, over-sized scroll that hung in his chamber. Now it seems to portend some terrible prophesy, greater perhaps than Pizentious’ own plans. I do not know if this prophesy is near at-hand, but the mention of the dead king reversing his fortunes makes me wonder about the lost Maramet. We should fear his return, I think, and speed to staunch the evil that seeps into Anathar.

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What Next?

Magma dwarf adj2

On a table in what has become the meeting room of the Shadowguard home, lies several books, scroll cases and maps. None, however, have the current occupants attention. It is late and Gryff sits at the table worry on his brow, quell in hand and a bit of ink on his night shirt. A truly unusual look for him.

Having completed the festivities his focus has turned to the disturbing news both from Yasir and Ryn. In truth he was only looking for news from Ryn as the Shadowguard as a whole were incredibly curious as to the influx of adventures passing through Threshold and into the Foamfire Valley. It is not simply that adventures of have found their mettle and sense of curiosity for the place… it is the sheer volume of travelers that seems…. wrong.

Ryn’s news further supported this feeling as it seems most of these adventures have been commissioned by, or lead by mages. Mage’s answering a dream… a call… a pull from a mysterious place called the Pyramid of Shadows. A dream that both Yasir and Silver had.

As bad as an untold number of mages seeking the power from the same location is… (and that is indeed a BAD THING!) that is only part of what is keeping Gryff up this night. Yasir’s research has uncovered something larger and possibly connected to a few of the evils the Shadowguard has faced. It is this that he reviews…. on this that he worries… On this that he is setting pen to parchment collecting his thoughts.

The Reign of Darkness Prophecy

(prophecy transcribed in common with annotations in dwarven)

The reign of darkness shall descend
When this hexad of signs is near its end:
-Believe this indicates the the traditional signs to look for marking this particular prophecy. Hmm… I pray to the Forge and Hearth that this can be stopped

Lost child of dark mother, found
Heralds a time of evil unbound.
-This appears to indicate the return of someone but unknown as to who. Identifying this Dark Mother will be key I think in solving this part of the riddle.

From house of ravens a heart is torn
Through life, unlife, the living shall mourn
-This makes me think of Rifflian and the Endless Night Abbey. The shadar-kai were looking for and possibly found something from there. We all felt the heartbeat. Felt the sense of dread. Ravens have always been associated with death as well as well as the term Endless Night. This line could be referring to that. If it does… then this is further proof of a possible planar event. We must alert the church!

Second time dark way open lies
To bathe the world in silent cries.
-This I fear refers to Shadowguard Keep and the portal below it. I had planned to check on it before we ventured off again but now I feel it’s imperative we do so. If someone has again taken up residence seeking the gate below, we must show them the error of their ways.

Light of night shining overhead
Shall gutter and fail, turning all to red.
-This seems to indicate a red moon. Blood Moon I believe some call it. A horrible omen indeed.

Dead king will his fortunes reverse
And world shall weep with dreaded curse.
-What king do they refer to? One of the living or perhaps one of the Shadowfell? Could this be tied to the Bone Night? What was it he said… the last prince of Moil? Perhaps this king is in that line? Again I fear its critical that we notify the church. If again the undead seek to breach our plane… we will need all the help we can muster. However they deem to answer the call it is clear the Shadowguard is again needed!!

Gryff uses the sand to dry the ink and reviews his work. Never one for the more scholarly skills much of the sand misses the small basin on the writing desk to spill to the floor. Gryff doesnt seem to notice. Instead he stares at the folder of parchment and grabs another sheet.

After another long moment of staring at the paper he finally begins to write.

Father,

I know its been some time but you should know that I am well…

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Redemption in the Place of Evil

Magma dwarf adj2

Much has happened and again we feel like time is against us. The dangers we have faced here in the Tower of Necromancy are unlike any other. Again testing our resolve… our faith… our friendships.

In this dark place we are forced to face down a dear friend we thought lost. One of the founding members of the Shadowguard. Yasir bin Hassan. This once proud wizard now full of despair. His hope had been crushed and he wore guilt so heavy his soul could barely stand. Dejectedly now serving this Lord Pizentios.

However, due to Thalin’s selfless act and quick thinking, we were not required to shed Yasir’s blood. Instead we were able to remind him of who he is, who we are! That the guilt he feels can be purged through action. That he is not so far down the dark path the he cannot be redeemed. That he is still one of us and welcomed to the fold.

Through faith and devotion to each other the light of hope began to glimmer. Yet it is an ember and not a flame. Still, a spark has been lit and in time will catch and flame anew. Once again fueling the forge of his heart.

Now we can only leave him safe as we move on to the Orchestrator of all our challenges. The true threat behind the Iron Ring, the Blackfang gnolls and the Ambush in the Labyrinth.

For now in the Tower of Necromancy, a black oppressive structure focused on the foulest magics, a would-be conqueror seeks to have this place become the black heart of his new empire…

I say No… not while I breathe.

He tried to damage our resolve by forcing us to defeat one of our own…

But WE said No… not while WE breathe.

As he now ascends into his new undead form, the gleam of victory in his eyes…

Shadowguard we must say NO!!! NOT WHILE WE BREATH!!

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Entry 36

Yasir bin hassan   burning hands

Silvershadow cast web into the laboratory, buying the group some time before it had to deal with the newcomers to the fight. Nevertheless, the highly flammable webs would not last long due to the numerous open flames in the room.

The Shadowguard finished the battle with the bronze warder swiftly as they all subjected it to punishing amounts of damage. But that is when the beasts that were in the library down an unexplored corridor ahead and the laboratory that was now burning came around the corner at some distance.

Uttering draconic words of arcane power, Silvershadow opened his mouth to spew out a cone of acid like a dragon and destroyed many of the deathlocks coming from that direction. As the rest of the party advanced, a man shrouded in flames came into view and yelled, “I can’t believe you’re here! I won’t let you punish me!” Many of the party recognized this man as someone they had thought dead – the elementalist and fellow Shadowguard founder Yasir bin Hassan. With words of magic, he cast chains of fire upon many of the party.

Disregarding the danger, Thalin ran forward to grapple Yasir bin Hassan and prevent him from casting more spells while not harming him. Though Thalin caught on fire due to the fiery aura surrounding the elementalist, it allowed the others to talk Yasir bin Hassan down from the guilt over the deaths he mistakenly believed he caused, the sorrow over his lost parents who had been found, the fear of the power of his captor Lord Pizentios, and despair over a future without hope.

But it was at great price as the nearby slaughter wight tore into Thalin’s very life force before being brought down.

Though no longer a threat, Yasir bin Hassan would be no help either as he became catatonic. The Shadowguard secured him in his cell and advanced to face Lord Pizentios. Taking the transport runes, they appeared in another section of the Tower of Necromancy.

Lord pizentios

It was not long before the Shadowguard entered an ancient throne room and witnessed the necromancer they had come seeking, Lord Pizentios, engaged in a dark ritual. However, the evil mastermind was not alone and his undead minions closed to attack while he moved to complete the ritual.

The Shadowguard entered into the fray in waves – some of the heroes staying back while others advanced. But as they entered the room the Necromanteion burst with negative energy and a previously unseen bronze warder lumbered into the room. Those heroes in the dark sanctuary soon found themselves overwhelmed while the other members of their group remained unengaged.

Most of Pizentios’ minions had been dispatched (with the exception of the bronze warder, which was proving to be an near irresistible force as it trampled over Gryff and Obakong) but they had served their purpose. They had caused enough delay to allow Pizentios to bring his ritual to fruition. As the necromancer’s eyes turned white, his skin shriveled up and his cheeks went shallow. Power exploded throughout the room extinguishing the candles and causing the cauldrons to spew columns of smoke. A white, spectral shape left Pizentios’ body, flew across the room and descended into the Necromanteion.

Lord Pizentios stood from the throne – transformed.

Pizentios  changed

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Entry 35

Slaughter wight

The alarm had been activated but before the enemy could close Ryn noticed pillars of Shadowfell marble suffused with necrotic energy lined the corridors – a threat to anything living that lingered near them.

The monsters closed – the festrogs like pack animals and the two slaughter wights violently wading in. Skeletal archers and zombies appeared out of thin air near the pillars, the result of a connection between the pillars and two deathlocks in a remote chamber.

The battle saw the destruction of multiple pillars and all of the undead but Gryffin Farstryder had suffered energy drain from the slaughter wight and Obakong strength drain from a pillar.

Stepping on mystic glyphs transported them to another section of the Tower of Necromancy where Ryn discovered strange grooves in the ground before a set of double doors. it was not long before they saw what made the grooves as the bronze warder that had made them from repeatedly patrolling the area approached.

The bronze warder marched into conflict, indifferent to the attacks it opened itself up to. Then the double doors opened at the hands of a slaughter wight and upon seeing the Shadowguard screamed in undead hate. Behind the slaughter wight lay a laboratory and other figures.

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Entry 34

Necromancer king

The Shadowguard returned what remained of the unaccounted for freed Threshold villagers to the Seven-Pillared Hall and began the week-long preparations for returning to Threshold.

While Silvershadow and Hassan bin Fared began the work of creating a merchant caravan, the rest engaged in activities to unlock the power of their legacy items and other arcane items.

Gathering back together after nearly a week’s time, the Shadowguard decided to pursue Lord Pizentios in the Tower of Necromancy, giving instructions to Sister Phalendra to safeguard the Threshold villagers and have them depart if they do not return after another week.

Following the empathic pull of the Skull Key, the party made its way to a secret exit to the surface where a ridge overlooked the valley containing the Tower of Necromancy. Near the ridge’s edge was an arcane circle morbidly decorated by skulls on pikes. Each skull was carved with a rune that glowed and pulsed in unison.

Approaching closer, the circle suddenly flared and within stood a spiritual aspect of the dreaded Necromancer-King.

The mysteries of the Tower of Necromancy come at a price. What can you offer the dreaded Necromancer-King? I seek lore, power, and your souls.

Though initially unable to offer the Necromancer-King anything of interest, the party members conferred with one another and began discussing with him their recent experiences, the complexities of the life-death-rebirth cycle, minutiae and theory regarding the arcane and divine, and offered small portions of life-energy.

Somewhat satisfied, the Necromancer-King granted the Shadowguard access to the Tower of Necromancy but not without taking a small portion of their life-energy as additional payment.

The party appeared in a chamber with two exits and its walls covered in skulls from floor to ceiling. The skulls had strange bone eyelids that clicked open to reveal bone eyeballs that scratched and scraped as they looked the intruders up and down. They all then began clacking their skeletal jaws… the Shadowguard’s arrival would not go unnoticed.

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Entry 33

Hianthough abandoned her prepatory prayers and began the ritual to dedicate the Well of Demons to Yeenoghu upon the unexpected appearance of the Shadowguard.

The battle that ensued was intense as a number of carnage demons, a boneclaw and a barlgura attacked. Hianthough remained focused on the ritual, the number of days she had spent in preparation aiding her. The ritual drew upon the life force of the three human captives in an arcane circle nearby.

The savage attacks by the monsters left Obakong, Suko, Gryff and Ryn each at some point either severely injured or near death, but ultimately the heroic efforts and superior teamwork of the Shadowguard won out and Hianthough’s rushed attempt to complete the ritual failed. With the monsters destroyed and Hianthough killed, the captives (Delphina Moongem, Hassan bin Fared, and Pegrom Fielder) were freed – two of them being the last of the twelve villagers taken from Threshold.

Skull key

Among Hianthough’s belongings were the Skull Key and a number of correspondences from Lord Pizentios describing his schemes to acquire ancient necromantic artifacts with names like the Heart of Darkness, the Obsidian Orb, the Nycoptic Tapestry, and so on. The last correspondence, only a week old, reads:

Hianthough,
Exalted Matriarch of the Blackfangs and Chosen of Yeenoghu:

Your exile from the Foamfire Valley shall merely allow your triumphant reemergence in vicious conquest over Goyathlay and the Death’s Heads.

As I have used the ancient relics of Saruun Khel to unlock the mysteries of the Tower of Necromancy, so too shall you use these relics to unlock the mysteries of the Well of Demons.

As I now stand on the verge of transcendence and prepare to dispose of the Mages of Saruun as my first step toward dominion over the lands above and below, so too shall you become transformed when you stand face-to-face with the Beast of Butchery.

The Skull Key will grant you access to my sanctuary when your ritual is complete.

Your friend and ally,
Lord Pizentios

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Entry 32

The preparations were done and the Shadowguard commenced the ceremony for opening the door to the Inner Sanctum. A blaring wail shot throughout the Well of Demons deafening all and the lights dimmed to darkness, leaving Ryn and Thalin blinded. A great roar briefly rose above the din… the Guardian had awoken.

Through heroic efforts and the desperation of men whose lives were on the line, the individuals of the Shadowguard reunited in the sacrificial chamber as they awaited the slow opening of the Inner Sanctum doors. The chains, manacles and hooks of the sacrificial chamber had come to life and were plaguing them. Then the Guardian caught up.

After a failed attack upon Thalin, the Guardian sunk its jaws into Gryff and moved to swallow the dwarf whole. Gryff managed to escape but in a desperate attempt to get out of harm’s way, left himself vulnerable to another attack in which the Guardian constricted itself around him.

Barlgura

At the command of Obakong, Suko attacked the wyrm and sunk its claws and teeth into the Guardian’s throat. Thalin fired a flurry of arrows each making its way towards the monster’s heart until the last did pierce it and, like a coil of dropped rope, the Guardian collapsed around Gryff.

Making their way to the Inner Sanctum, the Shadowguard came face to face with Hianthough and her monstrous bodyguards. Three humans were seen held captive within an arcane ritual circle – their lives being drained to power the profane ceremony the gnoll was conducting. In her foul Abyssal tongue (which Ryn understands), Hianthough screamed:

I can delay with prayers no longer! I must commence the ritual… Barlgura, kill!

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Entry 31

Bell and axe
Exploring the Well of Demons, the Shadowguard discovered the numerous chambers making up the Proving Grounds: a temple to Baphomet, a statuary of demonic creatures, a chamber of colored pools, a sacrificial chamber, and a central chamber with a pit.

They ventured into the blood-filled Chamber of the Crimson Scourge to retrieve the Bloodhorn Axe and then into the Chamber of Howling Pillars with columns of animated severed heads to retrieve the Bell of Fury’s Calling. Now possessing all four ceremonial relics, they set about the task of preparing themselves and the environment around them for the threats that follow the completion of the ritual to open the door to the Inner Sanctum.

As the Shadowguard prepared for the dangers ahead, Thalin spoke aloud the words he had only previously written:

From certain death to possible damnation.

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Character Journal - Thalin #2
Ghost of the past

From certain death to possible damnation. We had defeated the gnolls only to learn of worse threats.

The warnings of fallen heroes grated against my ears like dry leaves across a cold gravestone but my fellows and I believed the words spoken by the dead. The Guardian, an abyssal wyrm from the fiery pits would need to be dealt with and then a foul construct of rolling death – doom sphere golem it is called. These and more would await to sever us from this mortal coil.

All the while time was passing for the captured villagers of Threshold.

We would have to go slower than I would like but go forward I would. Let the hordes of fiendish demon lords come forth, my soul is iron, my aim is true, my blood is vengeance, my arrows… unleashed!

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