The Reign of Darkness

Dead by Dawn - Aftermath

The sanctuary interior was suddenly filled with shafts of pale, morning sunshine that came bursting through the cracks and holes in the doors, windows, and walls. The Shadowguard realized the town outside the cathedral had become still and quiet.

Dawn had come, and the power of the undead horde faded in the light of the morning sun, turning the walking corpses to ash. The Shadowguard and the people of Threshold had won out and survived the zombie apocalypse.

As Prelate Abercrombie led the townsfolk out of the priest hole, they celebrated and thanked the Shadowguard for all they had done. After a night of the walking dead reaching and grasping for them in thronging hordes, the heroes were in no mood for crowds – even if they were of people wishing to congratulate them.

After nearly half an hour seeing to their own injuries, to the townsfolk making it out of the hideaway, and to ensuring that the undead threat did not persist, the Shadowguard made to leave for some much deserved rest in their rental house. But a commotion at the cathedral entrance stopped them in their tracks as the masses began to stop and bow – Lady Jadale and an entourage of fully equipped Tarnskeep guards had entered looking for the Prelate:

“By Him Above and all the saints! What WAS that?” Lady Jadale had found Prelate Abercrombie in a small huddle with Inquisitor Dace, Sister Linora, and a number of other clergy around the broken remains of the sanctuary’s altar.

It was not long after that a call went throughout Threshold that a Council of Town Leaders was being convened and, as the Champions of Threshold, the Shadowguard were summoned as well. It was only a few hours after sunrise before all who had been called were in the Town Hall.

It was Lady Jadale who addressed the assembly. “What happened last night was a disaster of profane magnitude. It is only the divine protections of the Holy Light and the courageous acts of the Champions of Threshold, our watch and guards, and you, the dedicated leaders of this township, that no lives were lost. Though much property was destroyed, we will rebuild.”

“There is too much speculation and conjecture regarding the cause of last night’s events and there are none who can say with certitude that tonight will not offer more of the same. Therefore, in the name of his lordship Lord Padraig Kovosar, I decree that Threshold is in a state of siege. All of those outside the township’s walls are to withdraw within by nightfall and the gates thereupon sealed. The Militia is to be called up and armed. Additionally, all those learned and educated people within the town are to work in unity and given full access to any and all repositories of arcane and esoteric knowledge here to one single purpose – explaining what threat we are facing. We are to reconvene here at three hours after noon to determine our next steps.”

The research could only be cursory given such a short period of time, but with so many working together to aid one another their efforts paid off. From such diverse fields of knowledge such as Arcana, History, Nature, and the Planes the findings were presented with Yasir bin Hassan as spokesman:

“The Rite of the Blood Moon is a great and blasphemous ritual designed by Thuul-Sogoth to plunge the world into the Shadowfell under his command and cut it off from the gods. In such a state, the Arch-Lich’s power would be unmatched and he would ascend to godhood himself to lord as Necromancer-King over all the world.”

“Thuul-Sogoth was defeated before he could accomplish this ritual millennia ago when he ruled over Arjhaan and has renewed it upon returning his Pyramid of Shadows to the Natural World.”

“The Blood Moon can only occur once a month on the night of the full moon. Each time it does so it brings the Natural World and the Shadowfell closer into alignment. Should it rise three months in a row, the ritual will be complete and the world will be lost to a reign of darkness.”

After hearing all that had been discovered the Town Hall was deathly silent. Once again, it was Lady Jadale who spoke first. Addressing the Shadowguard she asked one question: “Will you do all you can to stop this from happening?”

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Yasir's Journal 03
We survived the night

.

I was sure of our doom last night when the air turned chill and misty, and the dead poured into Threshold. My past crimes coming to haunt me, my sins revisited upon me one-thousand-fold, here was justice come to take it’s due.

My tutors in Ariya used to tell me about the world of shadows that existed apart from ours, and I’ve since learned what kinds of horrible creatures dwell in that place. I’ve even helped those that would use their foul power, and used it myself. That so many could cross over, surely meant that someone has breached the barrier between our worlds.

Despite my time in Pizentios’ tower, I was not prepared for the horror at seeing these stinking, grasping masses of hungry corpses, closing in from all directions. It was a miracle that we got all the townsfolk into the sanctity of the cathedral, but it’s wards did not hold for long, and death came pouring in again.

Zombies burn

When the creatures peeled Mighty Gryff’s armor back and tore into his throat, I was sure none of us would last much longer. I was sure that nothing any of us did would do more than delay the inevitable. But I could not give in to despair. I found that despite my cowardly character, I could not let them take gryff unchallenged. I summoned a spell that I had never used before, despite having studied it in great detail. In a great burst of fire, more intense flames than ever I had conjured before erupted amongst the evil creatures. The throngs of undead were burned away, gryff survived, and we were able to escape into a better-defended area.

As the night wore on, and the re-dead bodies of defeated undead began to pile upon the floor, our efforts began to feel Sisyphean. I used every word of artful destruction I could remember, but still the zombies came. Separated from my friends and pulled to the floor by a squirming graveyard, my only solace was that at least my death would come now, after I had already become useless to my friends. But at that moment the sun shone through the window of the cathedral – incinerating the dead even as their rotting mouths would have torn my skin from my bones.

Whatever reason fate had for saving us, this much is clear: our actions against this terrible foe can make a difference. We may not be strong enough to hold back the tide of darkness, but nevertheless, we must use every ounce of our cunning and skill to guard this world from shadow.

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Yasir's Journal 02

.

I have been frantic, trying for the last month to discern what Pizentios’ plans were, and what these artifacts from his tower mean. With Valthrun’s help, I’ve found the key to the ancient Arjhaani script Pizentios used in his journal, but for every piece of insight I glean, I have at least three new questions. Some answers raise questions I dare not ask. After talking with Obakong and Gryff, I’ve concluded that some parts of the dark prophecy may have already come to pass.

My research has become more difficult in recent days. My sleep is troubled, and when I wake, my mind is filled with visions of a dark pyramid. Pizentios himself saw and drew these same images over and over again. They seem to be affecting many arcanists in a similar way, drawing us all toward the Foamfire Valley. Rather than bring ourselves and our powerful weapons and artifacts to the Necromancer-King, I believe we must find the Nycoptic Tapestry first, to learn more about how to approach our enemy.

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The Savage Sword of Grunkh, Final

Festival of life

And so, while within the Old Dwarf Mine, Grunkh frees an orc shaman exile named Jukha Warmonger from a torturer’s rack, subdues a hunger-mad ogre in unarmed combat, releases the remaining slaves and eventually makes his way back to the surface through a series of natural ceiling vents only to be captured by the Bloodstone clan of orcs

…but that is a story for another time.

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The Savage Sword of Grunkh, Pt. 4

Dust and blood clouded Grunkh’s vision even as his eyes adjusted to the dim lighting of the mine. He had avoided the collapsing of the entrance and now ignored the minor cuts he suffered from its shrapnel. The slave woman had not been so fortunate…

Grunkh looked to the rubble that had been the Old Dwarf Mine entrance and saw only the slave woman’s arm – the rest of her crushed beneath tons of stone. Though he had not known the woman, he had taken it upon himself to save her and now she lay dead. Grunkh turned as goblin guards, hobgoblin taskmasters and bugbear enforcers came to investigate the explosion. What they saw was a near naked savage with grim aspect.

Grunk killing goblins

Rage and hate arose in Grunkh’s heart the like of which he had not known since his youth in the wilds of the Western March. The goblins closed in, having great experience in brutalizing men and women slaves weakened by hunger and despair, but that is a far different thing than facing a wild-eyed Gael consumed with fury and bloodlust… far, far different.

Grunkh did not curse, but instead let out a roar as he leapt into the midst of the goblins with with his greatsword Aecris as if only blood could quench the fire of his frenzy. In wide arcs and cleaving slashes the thirsty sword rose and fell with the sound of a butcher’s cleaver as blood and gore splashed the mine walls. Grunkh was oblivious to the dozens of goblins that continued to pour from deeper within the mine and instead only piled corpse upon corpse until it became no longer a battle, but a slaughter.

After some time, the tide of enemies stopped and the gurgling cries of the dying soon dwindled away to nothing. As the haze of Grunkh’s rage fled him, he looked upon the gory travesty that only vaguely resembled the force of goblins it once was. Taking a moment to catch his breath, he took a torch from the wall and plunged forward into the mine.

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The Savage Sword of Grunkh, Pt. 3

Goblin alchemist

Grunkh looked to the camp, but it was too late to avoid notice. The door to the burned shack had disintegrated long ago and at its threshold now stood a goblin alchemist staring directly at him with his wide, toothy mouth spread in a perverse grin. The choice whether to cover the distance to the alchemist and try to silence him before he raised the alarm or to plunge into the Old Dwarf Mine in an effort to evade the goblins was made for Grunkh as he saw the black, smoking egg-like object the alchemist threw descending in its arc towards him…

The bomb exploded nearby and though Grunkh had evaded a direct hit, shrapnel scrapped his flesh and the sound drew the camp’s attention. As the alchemist prepared another bomb, he gave an order to someone inside his lab and pointed to Grunkh. Grunkh pushed the woman behind him as he prepared his blade for whatever monster would be emerging. Instead, what he saw was another goblin, this one even smaller than the alchemist, and as that goblin began running towards him, Grunkh’s blood turned cold.

“Gorum’s iron bones! Run woman!” Grunkh commanded as he turned, grabbed the slave woman by her arm and plunged into the depths of the Old Dwarf Mine. The small goblin closed in quickly. Holding a smoking bomb in front of himself with both hands, he wore a backpack over-stuffed with even more of them and an expression on his face that showed that his sanity had been lost long ago. When the goblin sapper reached the mine entrance, the bombs detonated. The resulting explosion threw Grunkh and the slave woman to the ground, showering them with stone shards and dust as everything went black.

Outside, the goblin alchemist bounced back and forth from one foot to the other, giggling in glee while the rest of the camp gathered around him growling in disapproval as they gazed upon the now completely demolished mine entrance.

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The Savage Sword of Grunkh, Pt. 2

Grunkh climbed higher into the Cloudscape Mountains, traveling parallel to the trail but never upon it. When he saw the trail widen and become well-traveled, he climbed over a nearby ridge to see where it led and discovered he had found the Old Dwarf Mine.

The goblins had an established base camp here and Grunkh saw bugbears, worgs, hobgoblins, goblins and even one or two human cutthroats, going about among the crude, ramshackle construction. One building in particular stood out among the rest as its crumbling wood walls had been scorched by many fires and acrid smoke continuously bellowed from a chimney. Grunkh could not see the mine entrance itself and so moved to a better position.

Grunkh on ridge

Having found a lower ledge, Grunkh was able to see the mine entrance nearby. As he watched, a bedraggled human female in chains weakly pushed a wheelbarrow out of the mine entrance to dump rocks. She paused to look up at the sky with squinting eyes, earning a devastating crack from the hobgoblin taskmaster’s whip causing her to fall to the ground. The hobgoblin drew out a rod and approached the woman with dark purpose…

Grunkh cursed as he lifted Aecris over his head, “Nine hells if you’ll ever beat anyone again dog!” Jumping down from the ledge, Grunkh’s greatsword sank deep into the taskmaster, cleaving flesh, cracking bone and spilling his life onto the dirt. The hobgoblin’s body crashed to the ground in a heap beside the cringing woman and she looked up in disbelief to see a giant of a man whose hand was held out to her – “Get up girl, if you value your life!”

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The Savage Sword of Grunkh, Pt. 1

The situation looked dire. Mendel the Merchant and his forces had defeated the Shadowguard and now headed towards Saruun Khel. The Shadowguard, in manacles, leg irons and gagged was being led by goblins and orcs to the Old Dwarf Mine. It was during that trek that the orcs turned on the goblins in an attempt to steal their gold and the captives. During the resulting chaos, the different members of the Shadowguard were able to affect an escape, though they became separated from each other. While most of them eventually reunited in the Seven-Pillared Hall, nothing is known of the fate of Grunkh and Rose de Printemps

Grunkh in chains

Though chained, these orcs and goblins did not know the threat that Grunkh still presented. He had grown up in the wilds of the Western March, eking out an existence in competition with the orcs and savage beasts that also made their home there. Though capable of hewing through ranks of enemies with his greatsword, Grunkh’s bare hands could shatter bone and crush the life out of a man. So when the orcs ambushed the goblins, Grunkh did what Grunkh does best.

Kandor made the mistake of focusing all of his attention on a nearby goblin worg rider when Grunkh wrapped his chains around the shaman’s throat. As the life drained from the orc, Grunkh noticed among the shaman’s belongings items that were to have been sent with Mendel but had been treacherously stolen by the orcs. Most importantly, there was Aecris. Reclaiming his enchanted greatsword, Grunkh broke his chains with the blade. But the goblins, having defeated their orc betrayers, were reorganizing and blocked his descent into the Foamfire Valley. Thus, he had no choice but to forge higher into the Cloudscape Mountains while the goblins fanned out in search of the other Shadowguard members.

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Gryffinfest Song of Remembrance

Magma dwarf adj2

Designed in the model of most popular drinking songs, the Gryffinfest Song of Remembrance was intentionally designed to have a catchy chorus tying the song together but allowing anyone to add a verse about a dear comrade, standing or fallen.

It is suggested that the canter take a draw from their mug prior to signing their verse.

Gryffinfest Song of Remembrance

Its grand making new friends and old ones are the best
Lets remember them all and have a ball at the Threshold Gryffinfest

From sun baked lands he traveled here
A true force for good is Yasir
Yet tragic though his path has been,
It is truly great to find this friend

(hahah)

Its grand making new friends and old ones are the best
Lets remember them all and have a ball at the Threshold Gryffinfest

Now to a friend of mine… whose quite as can be
Does not tend to say that much… still a clever one is he
Brave and bold with a heart of gold a mighty hero true
With blades in hand he’ll make a stand against evils unjustly rule

(hahah)

Its grand making new friends and old ones are the best
Lets remember them all and have a ball at the Threshold Gryffinfest

Now to the mad wolf…best archer in the land
Driven to defend his home from evils crushing hand
Sharp of eye and quick of wit his certainly no jack-bout
For when bends back bow and lets arrow go……….he will take a villain out

(hahah)

Its grand making new friends and old ones are the best
Lets remember them all and have a ball at the Threshold Gryffinfest

Heres to the adventurous monkey man… a very brave sort at that
Would stick his head ever hole… for he’s curious as a cat.
In his dangerous travels… he face the king of beast
With razor claws, and snapping jaws on his flesh it sought to feast
Though this crowned lion…was a scarred and vicious thing
Still he faced it done, then stole its crown and said…Now you bow, for its I whose king!

(hahah)

Its grand making new friends and old ones are the best
Lets remember them all and have a ball at the Threshold Gryffinfest

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Character Journal - Thalin 3
A silent night

Threshold ranger knights

The training of the Threshold Ranger-Knights was going well. The men drank in the lessons I could teach as parched ground takes in the early rains of fall. As I learned each man’s personality and skill, they each learned how to trust one another and work as a team AND as “lone wolves.”

While Gryff held and continued his legendary celebrations the locals were calling Gryffinfest I would take the lads out for a hand of days at a time, hunting, camping, teaching and scouting the lands around Threshold. After, we would return to town with wild game, wild boar, wild onions, potatoes and herbs to help feed the throngs of revelers.

As for myself, I drank in the good cheer rather than the good drink, I wanted to remember always the smiles, fellowship and good natured pats on the back. When out of town I let the smell of evergreens in the chill breeze wash over me as a balm, the song of birds and rustling branches sooth my mind, the feel of natural spring-fed streams refresh my soul and I was thankful to Erastil for all of this. I was ravenous for these familiar sights and sounds as I felt in the back of my mind that I would again soon feel the hands of the gods tug at the leash and the Shadowguard would find itself fighting, alone in some dark corner of the earth against things best left unspoken of. With an inward chuckle I thought to myself, “How did the world go on prior to us putting our lives on the line to save it?” and the slightest smile came to my face at my own dark joke.

On our third excursion away from town, I wanted to take the Ranger-Knights far north then east into the deep wilds in a great loop before returning to Threshold. Three days out I spied something on the road ahead in the distance that boded ill. Motioning Davan, Joop and Karl into the tall grasses we approached an ambush sight. Teaching my charges a patience I myself do not always feel, we took our time before stepping into the open and examining the scene. It was easy tracking a path where bodies and goods were dragged off the road to a lonely copse of trees. Spotting a figure standing at the treeline I split us into two groups and we slowly approached from either side. It turned out the figure was a woman who would never again feel pain in this life as she was already dead, pinned upright to a tree by a black wooded spear of the Norven people. In the nearby foliage more bodies would be found, dumped without care, left for the wilds to claim.

The woman seemed to be a mage of some sort and the comparison came unbidden to my mind that, like my mother, her magics could not save her from determined men with blade in hand and hatred in their hearts. It also crossed my mind that here, was yet another practitioner of magic drawn to this land in recent weeks by some unknown call.

Almost at once we found more tracks leading away from the site as overconfidence had led the attackers to take no effort to hide them. Within a few hours, as the sun was setting, casting the sky in orange and blood red hues we came upon the camp, guards posted and tents of animal skins and canvas to hold roughly thirty men. Burning recognition warmed my blood to a boil as I could confirm that they were in fact, the Scange and their leader, Hrothgar who, a month earlier aided the foul Mendel the Merchant in capturing, enslaving and scattering the Shadowguard. An act for which he would pay with his life. Looking again to the sky, I took it as a sign that blood would flow before the sun would rise again and Thalin called Madwolf would once again prowl the night.

Again, we waited, as we planned, getting familiar the rhythm of the camp and the changing of the guards. Three sets of eyes looked to me for leadership and although it is not something I seek, neither would I shirk the responsibility.

Instructions were given and we surrounded the camp and removed two of the guards allowing myself to approach the camp unseen. The position of the moon and stars told me it was almost midnight as I came to the first tent. Smelling the area with the supernaturally accurate scent granted me by my Wolf Spirit Cowl, I could tell exactly the location of the nearest man within the small tent though he was unseen. As I put an arrow to my trusted Stalker’s Bow I worried about what lessons I was teaching my young Ranger-Knights. The lessons they learned now would stay with them the rest of their lives. Did I want to rise up a troop of protectors or murderers? Remembering the abused woman speared to the tree, the feel of iron chains on my own wrists and not knowing the fate of my companions Rose and Grunkh steeled my resolve. It would be at the hands of rough men in the wilds, away from hearth and home that Threshold would be protected.

And so, going from tent to tent in the dead of night, silent as the grave, I put arrow after arrow into the sleeping raiders of the North until all but the leader Hrothgar were dead without sound. Were I to kill him as well I would still sleep with the peace of a babe knowing this land was that much safer. Although I wanted to ask him many questions, I knew that such things needed to be asked with a subtle expertise that I lacked but my companion Ryn had in spades. I would then take him alive.

Knocking conscious thought from the sleeping man with my elven light blades, I then removed all but loincloth from the man and bound him with rope and canvas. We then gathered what valuables could be found in the camp and proceeded along the Old Road back to Threshold. Let others decide what is to be done with these stolen treasures and the ultimate fate of Hrothgar, I wanted answers and to get back to the warmth of my adopted home.

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