Wyrmshadow History: The Age of the Phoenix

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The Age of the Phoenix

ca. 2,000 – 50 years ago

The Ten Curses of Asmous

At the dawn of the Age of the Phoenix, a child, a boy no older than ten, walked up the steps to the Imperian Royal Palace to deliver a message to then Empress Dihan II. That message was one whose impact would alter the course of history, an ominous list of races and the curses Asmous the Foul had levied against them. These “Ten Curses” were obviously devised to weaken and distract the peoples of Wyrmshadow in preparation for another invasion. Since it had been so long since the previous invasion, few took the threat seriously enough. That was, unfortunately, until these Ten Curses of Asmous began to manifest among the people.

The first to suffer were the Weren, whose curse read: “Forever more a disease of infection and rage will ravage your people, and as you spread this disease, create more Infected Weren, your friends in the rest of Wyrmshadow will come to shun and despise you. This is the Curse of Asmous.”

The Weren did indeed witness a growing number of Infected among them, the disease spreading like brushfire. Whenever the Weren Infected caught the light of a full moon, their bite was capable of spreading the disease to the other races of Wyrmshadow, and their uncontrollable rage would render them incapable of halting their berserk attacks. Soon, even the non-Infected Weren were mistrusted by the peoples of Wyrmshadow, and it was decided to make a mass migration back to Freel, the large tropical island Southwest of the continent, and leave the other races to their own devices. This element of Asmous’s plan would seem to have worked splendidly, as the Weren were a formidable force to be reckoned with when the time came to invade Wyrmshadow once more.

The second curse was on the Dwarves. Their curse read: “In silent depths your people will be lured, drawn by fate, pushed by a growing resentment and mistrust of the other surface races. You will have within you an unnatural fear of the sky and the open air of the surface world, and your people will cower and hide in the ‘Neath. You will forsake your allies as enemies, isolate yourselves, and breathe not the idea of return. This is the Curse of Asmous.”

The Dwarves at first scoffed at the curse, claiming that nothing could scare them into exile beneath the surface, nor could any force come between the Dwarves and their allies. However, slowly, the attitude of the Dwarves began to change. They delved to greater depths in their subterranean expeditions, and soon small pockets of Dwarven civilization began to form deep within Wyrmshadow. Eventually, the Dwarven kingdom of Kordoth was all but abandoned for a new frontier in the dark depths of the ‘Neath. Indeed, when the time came for their aid to be called upon by their once close allies, the Dwarves would answer only with silence, hoping that the surface world would forget about them and leave them in their comfortable isolation.

The third of the Ten Curses affected the Dwarve’s cousins in the frigid Great Northern Wastes, the Gnomes. This curse read: “Every child of every child of the Gnomish blood will feel their vitality slipping sooner and sooner. Parents will bury their older children, grandparents their older grandchildren, until the last of the gnomes dies at birth. This is the Curse of Asmous.” This curse, like many of the others, would not be taken seriously until it became apparent that it was true.

Every new generation of Gnomes witnessed their life expectancy dwindling. By the time of the Age of the Phoenix, Gnomes being born were less long-lived than humans. A Gnome child born on the first year of the Age of the Phoenix (1 YP) might live to see 90, whereas their great, great, great grandparents were still alive, upwards of 500 years of age, to bury their descendants as if they were their ancestors. Eventually, without miraculous intervention or drastic solutions, the Gnomish race would soon cease to be.

The fourth curse involved the Elfenkind, and would serve to sever the elder race of Wyrmshadow into fragments of its former self. The curse read: “The faefolk of Quae will see their people fraught with dissent and discord, fragmented, segregated, and unable to see their bonds through the veil of their arrogance and hypocrisy. The one race will become two, then four, then perhaps even more, until naught remains of the once noble race but squabbling, neutered folk ripe for the slaughter. This is the Curse of Asmous.”

This curse came true almost immediately, as new Elven children began to be born with ashen-gray skin and glowing red eyes, oversensitivity to daylight and predisposed to distrust one another. The aquatic elves that once lived in concert with their surface cousins also saw themselves drawn further from their kin, eventually being led beneath the waves altogether. Even the High Elves and Wood Elves would squabble in dissent, whole swaths of the once inseparable folk segmenting to form new, smaller civilizations where a once great empire stood. The dark-skinned elves came to be called the Drao, and despite the fact that they were direct descendants of High Elves, they were shunned and exiled to the ‘Neath. The elves of Quae would never indeed be as strong as they once were, and eventually, the race of High Elves would vanish from Wyrmshadow forever.

The fifth curse afflicted the Orcs who had once served Asmous but, toward the end of the war, switched sides as mercenaries hired by the Elves of Quae Elfien. The curse read: “Those of Orcish blood will see your honor useless, as the whole of the world will revile you as monsters and savages. No matter your deeds, cause, or words, no matter your achievements or merits, you will forever be relegated to fodder for crusaders and ‘heroes’ of the other peoples of Wyrmshadow. You will sour on this honor code you have foolishly clung to, come to hate the other races of Wyrmshadow as much as they you, and when the time comes, you will offer yourselves unto my service again gladly. This is the Curse of Asmous.”

This curse was another that seemed immediately clear to be true. The orcs were mistrusted and mistreated, and despite an orc’s most heroic deeds, they were hated and feared for their differences. Eventually, their care for such things as honor soured and, as a race, they began to revert to the very savage behaviors their stereotypes seemed to propagate. There were exceptions, including the small pockets of Or’Krannah and On’Dontii orc clans that attempted to maintain some semblance of civility and ethical purity. However, as Asmous willed, the Orcs would serve his dark will once again, whether they wanted to or not.

The sixth of the Ten Curses was on the Zardians, an unfortunate, unfair curse on a people who had never directly challenged or threatened Asmous or his Infernian invasion force. The curse reads: “Zardians, offspring of the Sau, those would become the wretched Dragons of Wyrmshadow, you shall share in the burden of your cousins and taste the wrath of Infernia. You will lose your intellect and revert to savage barbarism, even cannibalism. You will be naught but animals, beasts to be hunted, monsters to be destroyed by the other races. Such is the fate of all whose blood, no matter how distant, interferes with Infernal manifest destiny. This is the Curse of Asmous.”

The lizardfolk known as Zardians were indeed cousins to the Dragons in that they shared a common ancestor, the Sau. However, unlike the Dragons, many of whom were born and bred for war and conquest, the Zardians were always agrarian pacifists, keeping to themselves and remaining neutral even throughout the Infernal invasion. However, after the curse, a majority of Zardians became truly mindless killing machines, devoid of logic or remorse, seemingly made just to ravage the land and sow chaos for their neighbor races. There were rare exceptions who managed to maintain some rudimentary sense of right and wrong, but for the most part, Zardians would be barbaric monsters for all of time to come.

The seventh curse was against the Dragons themselves, who had been so critical in repelling the demons in their last invasion. The curse reads “Dragonkind will be cursed triple-fold. They will see their gods fall in vein, both at once, and be swept up into a vacuum of disbelief and chaos. They will see their egg yields stemmed from the hundreds to tens to ones, until the laying of a fertile egg is something not occurring but once in a hundred years. The air of Wyrmshadow will become as poison to them, slowly decaying their body like the ravages of age does to mortals, forcing them to flee to their pathetic Draconia and watch helplessly as Infernia conquers their precious Wyrmshadow. This is the Curse of Asmous.”

In some form or another, all of these curses would eventually come true as well. The egg yields dropped severely in just the first hundred years, dragons bearing a scant percent of their former numbers. The trend was staggering enough, but the poisonous nature of Wyrmshadow’s atmosphere was even more cruel. Those dragons who had chosen to remain on Wyrmshadow when the majority of their kin had migrated to Draconia began to feel the impact of aging for the first time. Before this, once a dragon reached adulthood, they aged a single year, if not less, for every thousand that passed. Now, Dragons, like the cursed Gnomes, were dying within a century of birth, and that trend, too was worsening. The only curse that had not come true was the death of their ‘gods’, by which it was thought that Asmous meant Tiamat and Bahamut. Since the Dragon King and Queen were safely in Draconia, it was believed that no harm could come to them. That belief was, unfortunately, quite wrong.

The eighth of the Ten Curses, affecting the druidic Nasnoi, read: “The people of Nas’Nos, caretakers of the Great Tree, will see their civilization wiped from Wyrmshadow in one, great sweep of Infernal fury. There will be no survivors, and your Great Tree will topple over you. The lush valleys you over which you dote and covet will be rendered into a Dead Land from which no life may spring again. The seas in which you ply your trades and sun your skins will be made a roil of unending chaos, an Ever Tide where none may enter and survive. Your lives, and your legacy, will be forfeit, and there will be naught you can do to stop it. This is the Curse of Asmous.”

Unfortunately, the curse warned of a single event causing all this chaos to unfold. There were no slow-developing signs that Nas’Nos or the Nasnoi living there under the shade of their Great Tree were in any danger. This curse went utterly unheeded for thousands of years, even as the other curses came true, because it seemed so impossible that Asmous could keep true to his boastful claims… The ninth curse was against the Humans. It read: “Humanity worships its heroes, places them on high peaks to bask in their pathetic ideals of glory and virtue. Your heroes will let you down, humans, until you no longer believe in their ability to save you. Then, you will watch as your heroes become your villains, subjugating you, killing you, to sate their anger at you for your lack of faith in them. You create your own heroes, and they shall be your undoing. This is the Curse of Asmous.”

This curse did not threaten that the Fiends would directly cause harm or foul to humanity, but that it would somehow see some of its own turn against them and bring them to the brink of destruction. Like many of the curses, this one seemed to develop into a slow mistrust among humanity. Many men took such warnings heavily, choosing to isolate themselves, avoiding hero worship, hoping to avoid the fate of their fellow man. However, war has a way of drawing a people together, a way of setting them up to fall even harder thereafter…

The tenth and final curse was against the Phoenix itself, reading: “The returning hero, the champion of Wyrmshadow whose sacrifice bears no consequence because of your eventual resurrection. I, Asmous, swear to solve this problem as well. I will bring your death, your true, permanent, and ultimate Oblivion. You will not rise to see this world I have taken from you, nor to see yourself victorious in its defense once more. You will perish, and your world will be rightly mine for the taking. This is the Curse of Asmous.”

It would be now, during the Age of the Phoenix, when this curse would bear its darkest fruit.

The Machinations of Archangel Belthazar

The faith of the peoples of Wyrmshadow began to wane as these curses took their toll, and the gods felt a great draining of their powers as a result of this lapse in faith, the fuel for their divine powers. Word reached the Archangel Lacan, leader of the Seraphim, that his predecessor, Belthazar, wished to discuss a possible solution to the problem these curses posed. Lacan descended to Materia to discuss this plan, only to learn that Belthazar intended to imprison the Phoenix in order to use its powers as he saw fit. Belthazar believed that, for the good of the world, such power needed to be in the hands of those willing to use it whenever and however they deemed necessary. It was the same old argument, and one which Lacan scoffed at. The God of Justice, Caladonius at the time, would not allow anyone to upset the balance of power the Phoenix represented, especially not a fallen angel such as Belthazar. Rather than allow Lacan to take word of his plot back to Caladonius, Belthazar employed the use of his newest creation, a Living Polymorph, to assassinate the Archangel of Justice. Successfully placing blame for the assassination upon the demon Yllgrash, whom Belthazar had been holding captive since the Age of the Gods for just such an occasion, Belthazar and his Nameless servant disappeared once again into obscurity, solidifying their plans to save Wyrmshadow, even at the cost of his soul.

All eyes turned to Nas’Nos on the dawn of the 12th of Winterwake, 954 YP. The new Phoenix was born unto Wyrmshadow, this time in the form of a Nasnoi child whose powers seemed poised less for war and conquest than any iteration of the Phoenix that had come before. As this child grew to become the great Phoenix King, the most powerful druid who ever lived, it became apparent that this incarnation was meant not to conquer the world, but to heal it from its slow decay. The Great Tree in Nas’Nos, already an amazing spectacle to behold before the Phoenix King’s coming, grew so large in size that its shadow would cast out across the continent to the Western Coast upon the morning. Under the protective umbrella of this tree grew every fruit and vegetable, on the fields below grew every wheat and grain, in the lands surrounding flourished every form of animal and plant life the world had ever seen. Predatory animals coexisted with their prey, and the once endangered species of the world began to grow in numbers, migrate outward into the wilds, and replenish the world of all that it had been drained over the past millenia.

The Birth of the Phoenix Kingdom

In order to bring the peoples of the world back together, the Phoenix King began to revolutionize the creation and distribution of mana in a form that could be used to bring food and drinking water, medicine and life-giving warmth of shelter to all the peoples of Wyrmshadow, all on the condition that aggressions cease, bonds form between the races, and a new age of cooperation and enlightenment begin in earnest. The peoples of Wyrmshadow began to set aside their differences, each of them eager to take advantage of the many gifts of the Phoenix.

Unfortunately for the Phoenix King, his prophesied Age of Enlightenment would not come for over a thousand years… a thousand years fraught with strife and war, death and destruction, most of which would come by his own reincarnation’s hands.

From a hidden fortress high in the frigid mountains of the Rohn Highlands, a man calling himself Pavanoth began to spread his influence throughout Wyrmshadow’s deepest recesses. Pavanoth wished to sow discord in an effort to buy time for the demons to complete their weapon for destroying the Phoenix King. Pavanoth was in reality a guise for the Archdemon Testament, who feared this newfound solidarity of the peoples of Wyrmshadow would once again spell disaster for the coming invasion force. Pavanoth had allied himself with, of all people, the fallen Archangel Belthazar. Belthazar’s interests were in somehow capturing the Phoenix King and harnessing his powers for himself. Despite the fact that the Phoenix King was beginning to overcome the very problems Belthazar sought this power to confront, the Archangel obsessed over the idea that such power did not belong in the hands of someone so unpredictable as the Phoenix. ‘What about the next disaster, or the following one,’ Belthazar thought. ‘Does Creation itself hang in the balance while this Phoenix hero decides its fate?

However, Pavanoth’s efforts did not go unnoticed. General Thranos of Idrahaal, the human guise of the Dragon King, Thoron, learned of a plot against the Phoenix King and began to take steps to unravel this plot before it was too late. Thranos enlisted the aid of a small, yet fearless group of heroes, the Dragon’s Shadow, to seek out the details of Pavanoth’s plan and stop them. For their parts, the Dragon’s Shadow would seem to have succeeded, learning that Pavanoth planned to capture the Phoenix King on behalf of another party whose identity they never got a chance to identify. They foiled the plan, preventing the Phoenix King from being captured and exiled into some sort of a pocket dimension. They were hailed as heroes and showered with praise and applause. They were then, one by one, assassinated by the very people they loved most, at least by Belthazar’s Nameless servant, who had taken the form of said people in order to lure his prey to their deaths. Nameless was positioned to replace one of these Dragon’s Shadow heroes in a position of power, working directly with the Phoenix King, waiting for another chance to capture the Phoenix. That chance would very soon come.

Unexpectedly, the ground beneath Nas’Nos trembled and erupted forth from beneath, a massive swath of Fiends pouring forth from within. Deep underground, unbeknownst to the Phoenix King and his vassals, Testament had completed construction of a new Hellryft. Though the force of demons crossing through the Hellryft was massive, it was not a full invasion force. Rather, these demons would act as escort to Testament’s weapon to destroy the Phoenix King once and for all: Oblivion.

The demons beat a path straight to the Phoenix King’s palace, carved into the trunk of the Great Tree of Nas’Nos. However, the Phoenix King’s allies were many, including the Dragons Tiamat and Bahamut, having brought the whole of the Dragon race back from Draconia at the Phoenix King’s request. These two mortal enemies were bound in a common goal: defending what the Phoenix King had built, and protecting the Phoenix King himself. The Battle of Nas’Nos was epic, the greatest seen in Wyrmshadow since Lord Asmous’s battle with the Legendary Wyrm. From Elves to Dwarves to Gnomes and Men, all races of the world united beneath the shade of the tree in defense of their Phoenix King. Even in strife, he brought the peoples of Wyrmshadow together. For a time, it appeared that the demons would fail. That was before Oblivion itself emerged from the Hellryft.

Oblivion was an enormous creature; Tiamat and Bahamut, the largest creatures in Wyrmshadow at the time, were simply dwarfed by Oblivion. The demonic weapon was as powerful and deadly as it was gigantic. Within moments of its arrival, every living being within two square miles was dead, the closest of them vaporized. Oblivion had about it a bizarre heat, a radiation aura that no mortal creature could withstand. It was slow, but not unintelligent, as it picked off Dragons and other flyers attempting to pelt it with their breath weapons and other assorted ranged attacks. When it was within 100 miles of the Great Tree, Oblivion broke into a sprint. The quakes caused by its every footstep tore mountainous chunks off the continent and poured them into the seas. Within a day, millions lay dead in its path, and it seemed that there was nothing that could stop Oblivion from completing its mission and destroying the Phoenix King. That was, except for the Phoenix King himself.

Tiamat and Bahamut were joined in Nas’Nos’ defense by all the Lesser Gods, descended from Arcadia the moment Oblivion began to pick up speed. The Elder Gods had been studying Oblivion’s patterns and noticed a kind of tether-like trail of energy leading back from Oblivion to the gaping Hellryft from which it sprung. Demons and monsters continued to pour forth from the Hellryft, and it seemed that they were at their most powerful when within a kind of zone of influence. The Hellryft itself was a living being, a kind of sentient conduit for Infernal power, and it was devoting every bit of energy to Oblivion. Tiamat and Bahamut rushed off to close the Hellryft, bringing their Dragon children with them. The God of the Dwarven Might, H’Ruyn XXVII, rallied his people to tunnel water channels beneath Oblivion’s path, hoping to soften the ground at its feet and slow its progress. The God of the Human Strength, Cordd, gathered the armies of Imperia and Idrahaal to stave off the lesser fiends blazing a trail for Oblivion, acting as cover for the God of Elven Wisdom, Corael, whose elves operated the massive trebuchet erected by the God of Gnomish Ingenuity, Qaehlys. Indeed, all the races of Wyrmshadow and their Gods united, but it seemed that nothing would halt the progress Oblivion made toward the Great Tree.

The Phoenix King himself stepped forth, drawing upon the mana flowing from his Great Tree just as Oblivion had from its Hellryft. He grew in size to match that of Oblivion, sprouting golden flaming wings, his shimmering armor casting forth an intense light that temporarily blinded Oblivion incinerated most of the demons between the two. Taking advantage of the opportunity this represented, the Phoenix King lunged toward Oblivion, and the two massive beings whose heads scraped the clouds began their long and deadly battle. All of creation trembled at the power unleashed as these two beings clashed. Infernia, Arcadia, and all the other realms felt the impact of every blow. Some could even swear that they saw the sky itself shattering in places like a suddenly fragile glass eggshell. The winds whipped around their arms as they lashed out to strike one another, causing tremendous cyclones the world over. Every time one of them managed to topple the other to the ground, volcanoes would violently erupt half a world away, snow shifted from the peaks of distant mountains to bury whole cities beneath them. The Phoenix King cared greatly for all the damage this battle was causing, but Oblivion cared not but for the Phoenix King’s death. Oblivion screamed out in Infernal for more power to crush its foe, and the Hellryft obliged. Tiamat, Bahamut, Thoron, Reignyth, and all the other dragons in battle with the demons near the Hellryft were forced to cower as it unleashed a searing torrent of radiation toward and into the distant body of Oblivion. Oblivion smiled, spat corrosive blood, and began to grow even larger, even stronger, beginning to dwarf the Phoenix King at his mightiest. One unstoppable blow to the Phoenix King’s head shattered his helmet into thousands of pieces, temporarily blinding him. The next moments of the battle were dominated by Oblivion, whose every strike met its target perfectly, leaving the Phoenix King weaker and weaker by the moment.

Bahamut and Tiamat looked to one another, mortal enemies, yet knowing what sacrifices must be made to ensure the survival of their people and all of Wyrmshadow. Bahamut turned to Thoron, Tiamat to Reignyth, and they transferred power over all Dragonkind to their most troublesome, most precious children. They then dove into the Hellryft together, emerging on the Infernian side, and unleashed all of their energies in a single, concentrated attack. This act of heroism, though fatal to both Tiamat and Bahamut, destroyed the Hellryft and severed Oblivion’s source of power. The Dragons had turned the tide of this battle inexorably in the Phoenix King’s favor. While Thoron, Reignyth, and the other dragons mourned their dreadful loss, they witnessed the Phoenix King smashing Oblivion into the air and retaking control of their battle.

Still able to draw upon the Great Tree for an intense influx of powerful mana, the Phoenix King began to turn the tide in his battle with Oblivion, leveling the titanic demon with his wondrous winged-sword, Exhumalas. However, it was too soon to begin rejoicing, as Oblivion was not stupid enough to lose a source of power while allowing its opponent such a luxury. Oblivion spun from the Phoenix King and dug its clawed hands deep into the Great Tree, uprooting it in one vicious motion and hurling it toward the Phoenix King. As the Tree flew through the sky, Oblivion channeled much of its radiation into it, causing what amounted to a thermal explosion. Nas’Nos was completely obliterated, all nearby onlookers torn apart and incinerated in the blast, but Oblivion remained, and so did the Phoenix King. Rattled, even from their distance, Thoron and Reignyth joined the rest of Wyrmshadow’s leaders in witnessing the final moments of the battle.

The Fall of the Phoenix King

Oblivion and the Phoenix King were both mortally wounded from the blast, their bodies a testimony to their fierce battle, their continued efforts to kill one another testimony of their fierce forces of will. Finally, the two managed to stab one another, collapsing into each other and falling to the ground. Their bodies shrunk to their normal sizes, even Oblivion turning out to be an Infernian man no larger than most humans. As the dust settled and the intense heat and pressure of the explosion began to fade, the world’s leaders came to bear witness to the fallen Phoenix King, his eyes vacant, his body limp, his blood, and that of Oblivion, flowing into a single pool at the center of the great crater their battle had formed. Nas’Nos was now a Deadland, much as Asmous had predicted, and it was believed that all the Nasnoi were wiped out in the explosion as well. All these kingdoms who had sword fealty to the Phoenix King saw little reason to continue their allegiance in his absence. This was especially true after an artifact was found, seemingly forged from the very blood of the Phoenix King and Oblivion.

It was a sword, long and straight in the blade, molded from a single piece of metal whose surface seemed to be a constant reflection of a clear, starry night’s sky. The blade was dubbed the Night Sword, and it would become the most coveted artifact in Wyrmshadow’s storied history. Within a year, with hordes of demons still roaming the world, monsters infesting the land, the leaders of the world’s nations became so obsessed with claiming ownership of the Night Sword that a great world-wide war would soon erupt. The fragile peace the Phoenix King had fought to create was lost. Oblivion had won, and Testament rejoiced.

However, there was one thing preventing Testament from celebrating a full victory: The Night Sword. It was believed that within the Night Sword was the power to return the Phoenix King’s stolen ability to reincarnate. Knowing that agents of his former partner Belthazar would be in search for the sword for this reason, Testament began his own quest for the Night Sword in earnest. Eventually, after over a decade, the War of the Night Sword ended when the blade was inexplicably lost to all the kingdoms of Wyrmshadow. Neither Belthazar nor Testament had recovered the sword, so who had it? This mystery would become the catalyst for the campaign Wyrmshadow: The Night Sword.

Regult, Kasai, Caenus, and Canaga may have escaped from the Order of the Three, for the time being, but after a few months of relative peace and quiet, the heroes were once again forced into action. Pavanoth, the human guise of the archdemon Testament, had discovered that Regult Martok was now the bearer of the Night Sword. Once more the heroes were accosted by a host of demons and the mercenaries and bounty hunters employed by them, and Regult was forced into a nomadic lifestyle. Like Garou before him, Regult moved from one town to another, learning to live and survive off the fat of the land, his friends Caenus and Canaga in tow.

Soon, Regult and Kasai began to fall deeply in love. Regult’s recovered memories of his fallen wife made him desperately miss the embrace of a woman, and Garou’s death at the hands of Belthazar had a similar effect on young Kasai. The two found comfort and companionship with each other, and before long, Kasai repeated the same Shidi marriage ceremony that she and Garou had years earlier. Though life on the move was strenuous, it was made less so due to the company they kept.

Three years after the collapse of the Order of the Three, Kasai was expecting her first child. It was an especially harsh winter, and Regult was hoping to settle for a few months in the tiny hamlet of Sylverton, halfway between Imperia and Prair. En route to Sylverton, Regult, Kasai, Canaga, and Caenus were met by Thoron, the King of the Dragons, who sought their aid in seeking out those responsible for the apparent murder of his queen, Reignyth. Unbeknownst to Thoron, Reignyth was not killed but rather captured and smuggled through a Hellryft into Infernia itself, where she would remain for a thousand torturous years. However, believing his beloved Reignyth to have been slain by Pavanoth’s forces, Thoron convinced Regult and company to stop running from the demons and to go on the offensive against them.

Over the next 900 years, generation after generation of the Martok bloodline safeguarded the Night Sword in secrecy, and eventually memory of the extraordinary weapon passed from common memory. The adventures of Garou, Regult, and Grail became akin to fable and legend, held to be true by fewer and fewer as the centuries passed.

The Kordoth Kingdom of Dwarves very suddenly vanished from the surface of Wyrmshadow at the turn of the 15th Century of the Phoenix. Their surface cities and settlements were dismantled with haste and carried deep beneath the surface of the world, to an underground city in an undisclosed location.

The New Gods of Wyrmshadow

In the late summer of the 1,700th Year of the Phoenix a touring group of performers and mystics called the Continental Cavalcade was victim to a tragic accident. One of the victims of this accident was 15 year old performer Neraly Kacsvic. Neraly would be chosen as the new vessel for the thoughts, memories, and powers of the Elder God of Death. She adopted the divine pseudonym Nerhul, and she made the adjustment to her new role almost immediately.

Mercenaries from the city of Freeport banded to form the Freeport Union of Swords, demanding Imperian abdication of Freeport to their rule, vying for a robber-barony. Dubbed the Freeport Uprising of 1,741 Y.P., the Imperian armed forces rallied to retake Freeport from the entrenched Union of Swords forces, massive battles between the two great armies pouring into the streets and beyond. A group of armored insurgents rallied a force to attack the Imperian Emerald Knight’s Academy, hoping to slaughter the fledgling knights-in-training and other young initiates before they would have a chance to contribute to the good of Imperia. These upstarts were well trained, mounted cavalry in possession of enough siege power to take on a border fort, and they set their sights upon a school full of frightened kids and their nearly-as-frightened instructors.

However, Hiram Lochran was not frightened. As the master trainer of the academy, he knew that he had an army at his disposal, and he knew exactly how to repel these invading forces long enough for reinforcements to arrive from the war front, a week’s time. In that time, though the odds were very much against them, Hiram succeeded in rallying his students and their instructors into an effective fighting force, employing complex war strategies their enemy commanders could not hope to overcome, and survived the entire week having diminished the enemy forces by half and only suffering seven casualties of his own.

Unfortunately, one of those casualties was Hiram himself, as he died shielding a young man from shrapnel flung from a catapult outside the academy walls. As reinforcements arrived expecting to find the academy in a state of utter slaughter, they found the students, children of the high houses of Imperia and those of the knights fighting bravely at the war front, safe and well. For Hiram’s part, he was awarded the title of Knight Master of the Emerald Guard, the highest rank ever bestowed posthumously in Imperian history.

However, Hiram’s work was not done. As he died, he was chosen to be the new God of Justice, a role for which he was destined. Taking the divine name Hyronius after a character in an ancient Imperian play called “I, Ashvar”, the new God of Justice would carry the weight of the world’s honor for over 250 years.

In 1,798 Y.P., a hermit woodsman named Ehrahl Buckmere died alone at a ripe old age in his hidden cabin deep in the Anzel Wood. Ehrahl would be selected as the next host of the Elder God of Nature, adopting the divine name Ehlon and, like most hosts of the Elder Gods, adjusting to his divine responsibilities quite quickly.

The Births of Legends

On a warm early spring day in 1,950 Y.P. the Martok Family welcomed its newest addition, Drogyn. Drogyn’s grandfather, Hector Martok, was the bearer of the Night Sword at that time. Drogyn spent much of his early childhood at his grandfather’s apple orchard in the fields west of Sylverton along the Imperian Road. Hector had planned on passing the Night Sword on to Drogyn when he came of age. However, he would never be given the opportunity to do so.

Five years later, in 1.955 Y.P., news reached Drogyn’s father, Derrick, that Hector was slain by robbers in the night. In fact, Hector was murdered by Belthazar’s Nameless agent. Belthazar used the blood of Drogyn’s grandfather to complete the Runometric rite he had begun nearly a thousand years earlier. As a result of this act, a fifty year old woman named Lindsay Gellar, whose barren womb had always denied her and her husband Louis the joy of parenthood, became pregnant from a seemingly divine source. Belthazar visited Lindsay, asking her if she was willing to be the mother of a child of destiny, even if it cost her life. She agreed, and Belthazar used the fragmented soul of the Phoenix to create life within her womb.

Lindsay died giving birth to her son, the rigors of childbirth too much for her aged body to bear. As Louis Gellar cradled the infant in his arms, weeping for his lost wife yet grateful for the opportunity to raise their son, Belthazar returned. This time, the angel asked him whether he would be willing to protect the identity of this child with his life, as agents of darkness would seek him out were his existence to become known. Louis agreed, and as Belthazar left, he asked what the child’s name was to be. Louis named the boy Nathan. Belthazar nodded, saying that Nathan would be well taken care of, and would never be alone.

In 1,960 Y.P., in the forests south of the Western Bogmire, Tempake and Jesiah Silverstem shared the joy of their son Boris’s birth. Tempake, a druid responsible for the care of the bestiary of a wealthy Ilrasi nobleman, began to change dramatically shortly after Boris was born. He grew impatient with his wife, with his infant child, and with the life of a civilized man, yearning for some twisted ideal of wilderness and pure, true freedom. One day, when Boris was about five years old, Tempake disappeared from his family’s lives forever. He had been so absent over the years that Boris never learned his name, and never retained memories of the man who sired him.

That same year, 1,965 Y.P., Drogyn celebrated his fifteenth birthday and was bestowed a wonderful gift by the Order of Hyronius, a gleaming shield bearing their standard, and a handwritten invitation to join the Emerald Academy of Knighthood in Imperia. It was a mystery to Drogyn why he was chosen for such an honor, but his father Derrick knew it was to do with his supposed ties to the hero Regult from the legends of the Night Sword, legends the Order of Hyronius held sacred and canonical. Derrick was never a true believer like Hector before him, but Drogyn was special, a boy destined for greatness, whose shoulders seemed built to carry the weight of the world. Once at the Emerald Academy, Drogyn met and immediately befriended Osar Argentix, a boy his age from the nearby village of Sylverton, and Clive Gaspar, a younger boy from Southport. Osar, Clive, and Drogyn became friendly rivals in all avenues of scholastic and athletic pursuits during their time in the academy.

In the early spring of 1,966, the Impero-Freelian War begins, and a massive number of troops are sent south to the front lines of the war between Imperia and the Weren of Freel. As many Imperian knights were killed in combat against the Freelian forces, Drogyn’s training was accelerated. Clive Gaspar was unable to keep up with the rigors of this intense training and, despite protests by Osar and Drogyn, he was drummed out of service and sent home to Southport. The war was over by the end of the following winter, but for Drogyn, the realities of life as a soldier were only beginning to manifest.

Silas Vale was born in the Year of the Phoenix 1,968 in a trade village on the road between the city of Imperia and the Frauss Ferry. His father was a jeweler and goldsmith in the employ of the Emperor’s treasury, aiding in appraisals and refitting the spoils of the Emperor’s many conquests for use as gifts for his triumphant knight-generals and their families. For all his work, however, Corbin Vale was not a wealthy man, and most of young Silas’s youth was spent in a state varying from minor spats of prosperity to outright poverty.

Silas was rather flighty as a child, given to hyperactivity, and had a tendency to raise the ire of some of the local townsfolk due to his overactive imagination, rampant curiosity, and utter lack of inhibitions. He became known as something of a menace to the parents of his fellow students at Ms. Charlotte’s Schoolhouse, but he was quite popular with the students themselves… especially the girls. Silas’s natural bravery made him stand up to any bullies or blowhards without hesitation. Whereas the adults in town often referred to Silas as “the Terror”, his peers often referred to him as “the Hero.” These would be extremes to which Silas would alternate throughout the rest of his life.

The Royal Champion

In 1,970 Y.P., Nathan Gellar won the Grand Tournament in the Emerald Arena in Imperia. At fifteen years old, he was the youngest to ever accomplish this task, and he did so with a nigh flawless performance, winning the honorific title Royal Champion of Princess Serafina Delgado, third in line to the Imperian crown. Drogyn and Osar were in attendance, as was precocious two-year-old Silas Vale.

A year after witnessing the young Nathan Gellar triumph in the Grand Tournament, Drogyn attained a personal honor of his own. At 21 years of age, Drogyn was knighted by the Imperian Emerald Guard in a ceremony overseen by Princess Serafina. In the year 1,975 YP when Silas was seven years old he manifested a great wellspring of magical ability at an all-too-early age. Usually such skills had to be learned through years of intense study, but Vale was a natural sorcerer, and soon he began to gain the notice of visitors to the village from the city of Imperia. His parents, proud though they were of their son’s abilities, wanted Silas to gain the insight of adulthood before being thrust into the life of a magician. When a man came to their doorstep and asked to see the child he had heard so much about, Corbin refused, saying that his boy was not a spectacle or an exhibit. When the man offered money, enough money to pay off the loan on the Vale homestead and buy Corbin his own jewelers shop in town, just for a glimpse of what the boy could do, Corbin still refused, saying his son’s innocence held no fee great enough. The man responded ominously, saying that there was no such thing as incorruptible youth. However, his wife Anna, believing that it was the right thing to do, allowed the man to visit with Silas while his father was away in Imperia working on repairs to the Empress’s royal crown.

It was a visit that Silas Vale would remember nothing about, but one that would change this vibrant child’s life forever.

Staying true to his word, the man paid Anna Vale an impressive sum for the brief moments spent studying Silas’s abilities. He then left, and Anna had to figure out how to explain the money to Corbin when he arrived home the next day. However, it was not a problem she would have to deal with anyway, for on the night of Corbin’s return home, he was followed to their door by a robber, forced at knife point into the house. Rushing Silas out the back door and into the wooded hills beyond the Vale lands, Anna heard the brief, horrendous strain of her husband’s last word: “Run!” Silas struggled out of his mother’s arms and ran back to aid his father, Anna screaming at him to come back, chasing after him in tears.

When Silas arrived, he found his father dead on the floor, meeting his vacant gaze. Then, the words of the man who visited the day before echoed in his mind: “When you see the eyes of Death, you will already be mine.” The memory of those words faded and Silas fell to the floor, clinging to consciousness, unable to look away from his father until Anna arrived to scoop him up and remove him from the scene of her husband’s murder.

A Demon’s Influence

The next morning, Sir Kelvan Oakburne and his partner, Drogyn Martok, arrived to investigate the murder of Corbin Vale. Silas was not able to speak, a common ailment to children forced to witness such a traumatic thing as a family member’s death. For this reason, Drogyn felt a kinship with the boy, having lost his grandfather under similarly senseless circumstances, and asked Sir Oakburne for the opportunity to spend some time with Silas and try to get him to open up. Sir Oakburne knew that Drogyn, already twenty-five and recently knighted had been studying under the priests of the Order of Hyronius to become a paladin. Therefore, he decided to let Drogyn mediate with the Vale boy while he surveyed the scene, questioned any witnesses, and gathered evidence.

Anna had found the satchel of money left behind by the burglar and, out of fear that the constabulary would confiscate the money as evidence, money they would now desperately need, Anna decided to keep the money hidden and avoid bringing up the man that had come to visit the previous day. Though Drogyn did manage to get Silas to open up about his father’s death, all he could get the child to say was “Death already has me.” It was haunting to Drogyn, but he understood the grief and confusion of such a tremendously stressful event in a young boy’s life. Silas revealed a bit of his magical abilities, purely by instinct, when he used a cantrip spell to tie his unlaced shoe before Drogyn’s eyes. Impressed, Drogyn struck up a conversation about magic, which somehow cheered Vale up enough to talk about something other than the death of his father.

Before Sir Oakburne left, declaring the case open but unsolved, Silas asked Drogyn if they could be friends. Drogyn placed a hand on Silas’s shoulder, looked the boy squarely in the eyes, and said “With almighty Hyronius as my witness, not a force in all of Wyrmshadow could sever our bond of friendship, Silas Vale. You have my word and my oath. Do I have yours?”

Silas smiled and agreed, swearing to be friends with Drogyn Martok forever, no matter the circumstances. That oath, whether Silas knew it or not, carried incredible weight, as the two would grow to become incredible friends, even when others might become the bitterest of enemies. It was an oath that would truly go unbroken for all time to come.

A Life of Constant Sacrifice

In 1,977 Y.P., Sir Drogyn Martok left the Emerald Guard to become a Diocene Knight (Paladin) in service to the Order of Hyronius. Six months later, when news reached Drogyn that Princess Serafina was assassinated, he rushed to the aid of Sir Nathan Gellar, the Emerald Knight. Sir Gellar, who was very much in love with the princess, was hunting the assassin down alongside his partner and lifelong friend, Sir Alen Wilder. Together, Drogyn, Gellar, and Wilder succeeded in tracking the assassin to Shidi Ma. Drogyn witnessed Sir Gellar beating the assassin to death in order to learn who was responsible for the plot to assassinate Princess Serafina. Drogyn decided that the act was justified, as it was in furtherance of the pursuit of justice against the one who orchestrated the assassination.

In 1,978 Y.P., After three years of mourning, Anna Vale met a wealthy Imperian man and remarried, moving Silas to his new home in the Imperian District of Ouldengaard. Silas had become a shut-in during the remainder of his childhood, no longer the outgoing child, haunted for nearly a decade over the death of his father. Though he was brilliant, he neglected his studies, preferring to read in private, preferring to be left alone. In angst over her son’s diminishing mental state, Anna enrolled Silas in the military academy in nearby Eastgates. Her hopes were that Silas would blossom, overcoming this dark phase in his young life.

Anna Vale would never see or hear from her son Silas again.

In that same year was the Orc Uprisings of Sud Ilras, which drew Sir Drogyn and his squad, including the bard Paschall Kane, to the aid of the struggling King Ryndrick. While on the hunt for a squad of Orc spies, Drogyn encountered and soon befriended Boris Silverstem. An aloof, yet spirited young ranger, Boris decided to tag along with Drogyn and his squad and aid in the quelling of the Orc Uprising, fearing that the violence would spread into, and thus endanger, the wilderness he called home. Boris would come and go often during the following years, but always seemed to make his way back to fight alongside Drogyn and his squad.

In the middle of a harsh winter in 1,980 Y.P., Sir Gellar and Sir Wilder were dispatched to the gnomish village of Glisstil, finding upon arrival that it was destroyed and devoid of all life. In their investigation they found that the perpetrators of this attack came from nearby ice caves that led deep beneath the surface of the world. Gellar and Wilder made their way further and further into the cave, following the trail of a small band of humanoids which Wilder guessed to be Drao, the dark elves who had disappeared from the face of Wyrmshadow millennia ago.

Eventually, the two warriors found themselves surrounded by a Drao patrol led by a young, idealistic warrior named Morkhan Latmour and his twin sister, the witch named Medrahna Nus’Naveidtra.

That same year, in his second year of study, Silas was assigned to Master Valdoran in the Arcane Response Militia (ARM). Silas was happiest in ARM as he had ever been, his talents in magic encouraged and respected rather than feared and misunderstood. One of his instructors, a man named Ozymaris Locke, took a particular interest in Silas, promoting him far sooner than was usual, earning the young sorcerer a wealth of ardor from the Imperian Emerald Guard. In the 1,984th Year of the Phoenix, Boris Silverstem, having parted ways with Drogyn’s squad late the previous year, was at a crossroads in his life. Political tensions between Imperia and the “savage” races allied to Freel were mounting, and Boris knew that soon, war would spread into the great forests that he had long ago sworn to protect. Boris wished to rejoin Drogyn, aid him in his war efforts, but had difficulty jumping into a fight he did not believe in. He became so embroiled in his own thoughts that he could hardly believe his eyes when he came across the most beautiful creature he had ever seen.

A Love Unrequited

A youthful half-elven nymph girl named Rynn was picking berries and enjoying a walk through the woods when Boris saw her. Boris fell in love with Rynn from the very moment he laid eyes on her, from the delicacy with which she glided through the leaf-strewn forest floor, to the radiance of her warm and sincere smile. After a few moments watching Rynn, practically frozen by her majestic beauty, something behind her caught his notice and raised within him a protective alarm. The shadows beyond her were moving, menacingly, and he could make out from these shadows a sound of low growls and snarls. Gnolls. However, he realized that from his distance, he could hear the growls, yet Rynn, as close as these Gnolls were, did not seem to notice their presence. Something was amiss, for she seemed neither deaf nor daft. His eyes took in the scene more closely, and he realized the truth of the matter upon noticing the presence of cleverly camouflaged snare traps. The Gnolls were not the hunters, but the prey.

The Gnolls’ resistance to this lovely bait was finally at its end. Two of them were flung high into the air, rope nooses binding their ankles, hanging them heels-up from the tall branches. The third managed to escape the trap, but before it could react, a silver-lined throwing ax buried itself in its skull. Boris had no sooner released the throwing ax than Rynn’s smile widened. She turned to him as the Gnoll fell dead and said that she wondered how long he was planning on just standing there regarding her. She was enamored with Boris as well, thanking him for his help in dispatching that last Gnoll, and introducing herself. She was Rynn, the daughter of King Ryndrick, who had left her in charge of defending the innocents of the forest.

Boris offered his aid to Rynn, setting traps side-by-side with the lovely woman, and the two became inseparable, at least for a short while. As their friendship drew closer and closer to love, Boris realized that he had to devote himself to her protection, and that meant returning to Drogyn and joining in his war efforts. He knew Rynn would be safest that way, if they could prevent the war from coming far enough South to endanger Rynn or the people she was protecting. Boris left, not saying goodbye, unable to form the words through his own tears.

Boris reached Drogyn, finding that he was gathering a force to accompany Sir Gellar on an escort mission that would lead Boris back toward Rynn. He agreed to accompany Drogyn, becoming acquainted with the new recruit, a sorcerer named Silas Vale. Silas was young, but very confident and impressively skillful and intelligent. Though the others in Drogyn’s unit were disrespectful of Silas, Boris found himself liking the boy despite his reservations.

Vale was selected for service in a unit of the Emerald Guard at the age of sixteen, two years earlier than anyone else had such a distinction. It was in this unit when Silas would be reunited with his old friend, Drogyn Martok. Prior to leaving for his first engagement with Sir Drogyn’s unit, Ozymaris Locke and Master Valdoran pulled Vale to the side to introduce him to their master. Vale was confused, as he believed that Master Valdoran, as ARM Commander General, was the highest-ranked wizard in Imperia. However, they revealed that they were students of the greatest spellcaster of all time, the legendary Ma’Thius PaVayne. PaVayne said that Silas had grown much since they last met, but Vale had no recollection of ever meeting PaVayne. The old wizard simply smiled, telling Vale that his progress would be followed closely, and that nobody must know that he was now a direct student of PaVayne. Vale agreed, excited at the prospect of such a legendary caster taking interest in his education.

The mission was to escort Princess Yliah back to her home in Quae Elfien. It was the first time Drogyn had seen Sir Gellar in seven years, and it was almost impossible for Drogyn to imagine how he had grown so incredibly powerful in that time. There was a majesty surrounding the Emerald Knight, an aura of admiration, even fear, that was simultaneously intoxicating and repellant. Sir Drogyn queried Sir Wilder about the changes to the Emerald Knight, but Alen Wilder was ever loyal to Nathan Gellar’s best interests, and told Drogyn to simply “be glad he’s on our side.”

It was the first time Silas had ever met Gellar, but the knight had an incredible reputation, and he was once again overwhelmed by the odds of joining Sir Drogyn’s unit just as it went on a mission with Sir Gellar. In fact, another member of the unit, a bard named Paschall Kane, teased Vale that he had only been sent to spy on Sir Gellar for the ARM, an assertion Sir Drogyn and Sir Gellar dismissed as absurd. Vale was quite enamored by his presence, latching onto the idea of being feared and respected wherever he went, of the reputation that black and emerald armor carried. He began to nurture the idea of having his own presence, his own symbolic image, to be respected and feared wherever he may roam.

Paschall Kane was the only casualty of the mission, which otherwise went without incident. The reports said that Kane was on watch when he suddenly became abnormally hostile, ran into the swamps of the Bogmire, and wasn’t found until days later, his body stripped of all arms and armor, hung from a tree by his entrails, a warning to stay out of Bogmire carved into his flesh. Sir Gellar stayed behind to investigate while Sir Drogyn’s group completed the quest to escort Princess Yliah back to her family in Quae Elfien. It would never occur to Silas or Drogyn that Paschall died because he stumbled upon the truth of Silas’s reason for being promoted so quickly and placed so hastily into this unit.

After delivering Princess Yliah to Quae Elfien successfully, the King of Quae Elfien delivered a message to Sir Drogyn from King Ryndrick of Sud Ilras in the north. The message asked Drogyn to come at once, as he had been chosen for a great honor. As Drogyn reached Ryndrick’s lands, Boris was pleased to see Rynn again. However, Ryndrick explained the circumstances of her lineage to Drogyn, asking him to take her away so that she would not be in any danger. Rynn was a child born out of wedlock, a result of a nymph’s seduction of Ryndrick. Though he had kept knowledge of her true lineage contained up until then, her nymph heritage was beginning to blossom, and there was no denying that the incredibly beautiful young woman was not the child of Ryndrick and his wife. In order to ensure her safety, Ryndrick believed that Rynn had to be married and taken from Sud Ilras to live forever in foreign lands, away from rumor and speculation. At first he offered Drogyn her hand in marriage. It was a thought that utterly mortified Boris, but luckily, it seemed that Drogyn had other plans for Rynn. Drogyn took her from Ryndrick and found a new place for her to stay, hidden from Ryndrick’s enemies, saying that after the war, he would retrieve her and she would be a part of his family.

Desperate for every opportunity to spend time with Rynn, Boris continued to serve in Drogyn’s squad for the next two years. On the first day of the Year of the Phoenix 1,986, news reached Sir Drogyn’s group that violent insurgents in the island of Freel were raiding Imperian colonies built there after the previous war twenty years prior. These colonies were a part of the treaty ending the Impero-Freelian War, and the raids were an act of war. The Imperian Emperor, Koslov, ordered all main forces to amass on and around Freel for an intense, full-force invasion.

The Fading Glory of Emperor Koslov

Sir Drogyn’s unit was assigned to the haunted mist-fields of Fen Elghann along the western continental border, the shores of which could be used as a staging ground for a Freelian naval invasion. Boris Silverstem, wanted to stop in Bogmire to continue the investigation into the loss of Paschall Kane, as the two had been good friends ever since Boris joined Drogyn’s unit during the Orc Uprisings of 1,978 YP. Drogyn agreed to allow Boris and two others to break off and investigate, after which they would have to report to Fen Elghann in compliance with the Emperor’s orders. Silas Vale was eager to gain the trust and admiration of his fellow troops, so he volunteered to join Boris in his hunt for Kane’s murderers. Boris, Vale, and the elven pikewoman Laurelynne Gyldaire, split off from the rest of Sir Drogyn’s unit as they headed into the forests of Ilras, veering toward the Eastern Bogmire where Sir Gellar reported the trail of Paschall Kane’s killers went cold.

After three days of searching, Silas discovered latent magical energies that betrayed the killer’s more of escape, a mystical teleportation spell known as a “dimension door”. There was also a distinct smell on the wind, fouler than even the dank Bogmire itself: a smell of excrement and human filth potent enough to sting the eyes and wrench the stomach. Fearing that they were under a stinking cloud spell, Silas attempted to dispel the foul odor, but as Boris pointed out, it was on the wind.

Upon reaching the scavenger’s town of Blakhmere on the Eastern shore, it was already the seventh day of their trek. Drogyn would be expecting them back. For their efforts, they did gain the name of a hideous smelling druid who had passed through Blakhmere nearly a month before, the stench of whom still clung to the town like a pox. The man’s name was Tempake. It was a name Boris had no recollection of, even though it was that of his own absent father. For now, it was all Boris and Silas would gain from the trek. However, the journey did serve to form a solid bond between the young Vale and Boris, a bond that would see much strain over the coming years.

Upon rejoining Sir Drogyn’s unit in Fen Elghann, Silas would see first-hand Drogyn’s prowess as a leader of men. A large Freelian invasion fleet had made landfall near the edge of the Cape of Sau in the South. Sir Osar Argentix, a contemporary of Sir Drogyn’s and fellow knight in service to Imperia, had merged his forces with that of Sir Drogyn in order to rout this invasion force and drive them back to the seas. In what would become known as the Battle of Whirlwater, Sir Osar led a majority of Imperian forces South to pin the Freelians on the peninsula and into the Cape itself. Meanwhile, Drogyn led a smaller, elite group along the Ragged River to the Whirlwater Falls, the most powerful, tallest waterfall in all of Wyrmshadow. The Freelians would not expect a force to come from that direction. Using Lodestones charged with a modified form of the Feather Fall spell, Sir Drogyn essentially invented the concept of para-troopers, rowing canoes to the edge of the falls only to have the Lodestones activated just as the canoes began to fall, archers rising over the boat’s edges to rain arrows down on the Freelian forces pinned in the cape below. Imperian losses were few, Freelians lost a great many, and the invasion was successfully routed.

For nearly two years, Sir Osar and Sir Drogyn held the line at Fen Elghann while Sir Gellar and the rest of the Emerald Guard stormed into the island nation of Freel itself. Then, in 1,989 Y.P., at the farthest point they could get from Imperia, word reached Sir Drogyn of the end of this war, and the beginning of another.

The Insurrection

Someone calling himself the Shadow Knight had slaughtered the royal family and assassinated the Emperor, declaring himself the ruler of not only Imperia but of the entire world of Wyrmshadow. The Freelians were released to return to their island, Sir Drogyn seeing no purpose in keeping them captive. In response, a large contingent of the Freelians volunteered to join Sir Drogyn’s unit in their efforts to retake Imperia from the Shadow Knight. The twenty-one-year-old Silas Vale felt overwhelmed by all this, but was reassured by Sir Drogyn and Boris that everything would be fine if they stuck together.

The Shadow Knight was just one man, and though he was incredibly powerful, he needed an army to wage war against those who would prevent him in conquering Wyrmshadow. That army consisted largely of monstrous races once thought impossible to organize and lead effectively in battle, such as goblins, trolls, and ogres. Orcs and gnolls also joined the Shadow Knight’s army, still embittered by their defeats in the previous uprisings against Imperia and Quae Elfien. The elite forces of the Shadow Knight’s armies, however, were comprised of legions of well trained, superiorly armed Drao soldiers and wizards, led by Morkhan Latmour, Medrahna Nus’Naveidtra, and a mysterious shape-changing man known only as the Nameless one. Their story would be told in the campaign Wyrmshadow: Crash and Burn.

Over the next nine months, Silas got more and more secret visits from Master PaVayne, and the effects of these visits began to manifest in a more dour, aggressive Silas Vale. Sir Drogyn chalked it up to war’s effect on youth, but Boris was concerned that it may have been something a bit more substantial. However, until the Shadow Knight was dealt with, there was naught to be done about Vale’s accelerating personality issues. Vale grew ten times more powerful in the nine months of war against the Shadow Knight’s forces, but still the resistance fighters grew weaker and the Shadow Knight’s empire grew greater by the day. At one point, over 70% of the globe was in the Shadow Knight’s control.

When Sir Osar mysteriously disappeared before a major battle, Drogyn had to take command of both his own troops and Osar’s units. Drogyn led the combined forces to a major victory that was critical in turning the tide of the war. However, the true victory was not Drogyn’s for the taking. Before the Loyalist Armies could reach the Shadow Knight’s doorstep, the Guardians, led by Belthazar, took advantage of the distraction caused by the empire’s recent losses. Utilizing the Night Sword, Belthazar re-sealed the Shadow Knight, shattering the blade thereafter into twenty shards of black metal. These shards magically reshaped themselves into the form of ornate keys, each of the Guardians taking one of these keys to safeguard and keep hidden until the time came for the keys to be reassembled.

Neither Drogyn nor the rest of the world could realize what the Guardians had bestowed upon them: a decade in which to entertain thoughts of peace, embrace freedom, and nurture optimism. Less than a year after the end of the Loyalist’s War, Sir Drogyn Martok decided that his days of swordplay and soldiering were finally, thankfully behind him. It was at this time that Drogyn met the hafhie thief named Tarrik Broadleaf. Tarrik was a thief out of necessity, like the troll in the Night Sword legend, taking just enough to stay fed and warm, never more than that, and only from those who could afford the loss. Tarrik attempted to lift Drogyn and Vale’s coinpurses, and was only caught when he tried to replace the purses themselves, the weight of a few coins missing from each. While Vale spat threats and curses at Tarrik for his actions, Drogyn merely asked why he didn’t take all the coins and run off, as he would have gotten away with the crime. Tarrik admitted that he hated stealing from a paladin and his friend, but hadn’t had a decent meal in weeks. Drogyn paid for Tarrik’s meal that night, welcomed him as a friend, and swore that as long as he had Sir Drogyn Martok as his ally, he would never go hungry again. Later that cool, late spring evening, Drogyn rode into the wilderness with Boris and Vale in tow, revealing to them that he officially retired his knighthood effective sunrise the next morning.

Vale took the news poorly, but eventually both he and Boris congratulated Drogyn on a spectacular career, wishing him a dull, peaceful future in blissful obscurity. Vale and Boris still had unattended business together, and worked quite well with one another, so they left Drogyn the next morning, not to see him until years later, when Drogyn was happily married and tending bar in a tavern that bore his name. Boris would make several returns to meet with Drogyn, using any excuse to see the lovely Rynn once again, though he would never admit such thoughts openly. Vale, however, truly begrudged Drogyn for choosing retirement and obscurity over vigilance and glory, and he would not see Drogyn for nearly a decade to come.

Our Heroes Divided

In late 1,991 Y.P., Boris too decided to walk away from all the violence and adventure. He had, up until then, partnered with Silas Vale, now a potent sorcerer with an ever more present streak of arrogance and sadism. Vale did not take news of Boris’s retirement well, just as he reacted with barely contained spite when Drogyn took his leave from militaristic life. As Boris Silverstem retired back to the Anzel Wood, hoping to meet the Old Man of the Wood once more, Silas Vale began to carve a path of dread and fear e’er he went.

By the middle of 1,992 Y.P., Silas was barely recognizable as the young man he once was, growing ever closer to the image of his shadowy master, Ma’Thius PaVayne. Boris found the Old Man’s cabin occupied by a skeleton at eternal rest, and found solace in his mentor’s peaceful passing in comfortable surroundings. Boris would take up residence in the Old Man’s cabin, living a quiet, content life for the next year and most of the one that followed. In 1,994 Y.P., Silas Vale adopted the moniker “The Reaper”, donning a blood red cloak and carrying a wicked magical scythe called the Life Tap. His master’s familiar pet, a dire raven named Vicious, was bestowed upon him by PaVayne as a symbol of his faith and pride in his student. Pa’Vayne encouraged Vale to continue carving his name across the world in service to their mutual god, Nerhul, the Elder God of Death. Vale had been slowly coming to worship Nerhul under consistent persuasion by PaVayne, and was now almost impossible to relate to the young man who once served under Drogyn Martok, a hero in the making.

That same year, Boris Silverstem stopped to take a drink from a clear lake, noticing bears at play across the waters. He smiled, thinking nothing of it, and continued to drink. He noticed the reflection of a tall, bear-like creature towering behind him, but turned too late to offer a proper defense. He was being attacked by Infected Weren Ursites, also called Were-Bears, and he suffered bite after excruciating bite. He passed out from the loss of blood, and was honestly quite surprised to wake up again. However, he soon realized that over a month had passed, and that he had been roaming the forest since the attack as a member of the same pack of Infected Weren. He had become a monster, an unnatural creature, and everything that he had once hated. Boris fought the Weren of Freel during the war, and as is often the case, stories of the enemy were hardly kind. Weren were savage, murderous monsters who had no control over their actions when they took on their animalistic form. Now, Boris thought, he was nothing more than a monster.

Boris stumbled upon a small settlement in the woods during one of his nightly rages. As he began to tear through the settlement, he came across a woman who did not flee from him and seemed totally unafraid of his appearance. She held her hand up and started talking to Boris, her kind words and even tone somehow able to cut through the confusion and calm Boris down. Her name was Katiera Hexan, and she was a Weren Felite. She explained that once, all Weren could control their transformations, and that their loss of this ability, their rage, and their infectious bite, were a result of a dreadful demonic curse on her people… on their people. Like it or not, Boris was not a human anymore, but, like Katiera, he could learn to control his transformation, temper his rage, and even cure his infectious bite.

She was born with a special gift, an ability to calm the rage of Infected Weren and help cure them of their eccentricities. Her coming was foretold by her people and she was considered a high shaman of Freel. She had found others like Boris and had assembled a makeshift team of misfits, former members of other races, now Weren, to help one another come to terms with their new nature. One of those Weren was her own child, the 19 year old Sharakh Hexan. Boris and Sharakh became great friends. Sharakh, a student of the master monk, Gara, taught Boris how to refocus his Weren bloodrage and harness the power for more beneficial purposes. Boris learned how to meditate, how to live as a human once more, all thanks to the guidance of a young trueblood Weren named Sharakh.

In 1,996 Y.P., Eldranas, a war priest who had served under Sir Osar during the Loyalist’s War, began to track the recent slew of violent slayings along the eastern coast of Prair. He determined that the murderer was none other than Silas Vale. Eldranas had had several encounters with Vale over the years, each one proving more hostile, and both of the men knew that a violent confrontation was forthcoming. Eldranas knew that Silas Vale was nothing if not a lover of raven haired young women, but he also knew that if he were to set a trap for the ever-more-powerful Vale, it had to be one assured of killing him. Eldranas managed to track down and imprison a beautiful, voluptuous woman, holding her imprisoned in a cage wagon on the road he knew Silas to be travelling on. Vale approached from the north, saw that Eldranas had someone captive, someone utterly stunning, and any enemy of Eldranas was worth taking off the dreaded priest’s hands. Eldranas sprung his trap as Vale descended on him, massive walls of spiked stone springing up around the sorcerer, trapping him within. As the air within these four walls ignited in an uproarious blaze, Eldranas began self congratulations a bit too early, as Vale had instead allowed an illusion to walk into the trap while he stood by to see what his hated foe was plotting. Vale was nobody’s fool, and as Eldranas realized his mistake and took flight, Vale came to release his captive maiden.

The woman, whose name was not offered and never asked for, threw herself into Silas’s arms. Unbeknownst to Silas, the woman’s name was Blight, and she was a Black Dragon in human guise. Also unknown to him, it was on that very day that his son, Darien, was conceived. Still not knowing the woman’s identity, nor really caring, Silas left her in the night and continued on his personal journey, the dire raven Vicious in tow.

In the border town of Sylverton at that same time, Drogyn Martok’s wife of five years fell dreadfully ill. Drogyn owned a bar in town and his wife was a beloved member of the community, so when she became unwell the whole of Sylverton stood beside Drogyn.

Unfortunately, her illness was a mysterious wasting disease and, despite exhaustive efforts to fight it’s effects, all Drogyn could do for his wife was make her remaining time as comfortable as possible. Mrs. Martok declined slowly over the course of two years, finally passing on early in the 1,998th Year of the Phoenix.

To Bear Again Once Treasured Burdens

Within months of her passing, Drogyn started to entertain the idea of returning to his old life once more. Over a period of ten months, he secretly began a regimen of rigorous training, including several furtive excursions on behalf of the Temple of Hyronius.

Eventually, Drogyn’s live-in allies, Rynn Woodsong and Tarrik Broadleaf, informed Drogyn that they were aware of his activities, citing the recent bruises and renewed vigor in his step. He had been desperately depressed after his wife passed away, and it seemed that the life of a paladin agreed with him. With their support and encouragement, Drogyn pursued and received his Diocene Knighthood once again, regaining his paladin status.

When news reached Mayor McCaseus of Drogyn’s restored knighthood, the mayor asked Drogyn to summon a group of reliable warriors for a vastly important mission to protect Sylverton from a looming threat. Drogyn sent word for Boris and Silas Vale to meet him in Sylverton on a certain date, the anniversary of his wife’s death, and the beginning of his second chance at protecting Wyrmshadow from those wicked forces poised to threaten it once more.

As the Era of Good Intentions faded with the demise of its greatest heroes, the Age of Shadow cast forth the first throes of its birth.

So it was that the world came closer to its demise than it had ever come in its long and storied history. So it was that a shadow greater than that of the Wyrm’s enshrouded the world.

The Age of Shadow had at last come to Wyrmshadow.