- Strands of shadow cling to the past
Shadows of the Past is the 28th questing area released (listed as 18 on the map) in the game and becomes available after completing the zone Thresholds on at least normal difficulty.
|History Repeats | Deities at War | Rally | What Lies Below|
|Title||Level 1||Level 2||Level 3||Level 4||Level 5||Level 6||Level 7|
|Threads of the Past |
(Complete Shadows of the Past on Nightmare difficulty.)
|Brown Shadow Fragments||Craft 10x Stat Points||Questing: Shadows of the Past|
|Grey Shadow Fragments||Craft 10x Stat Points||Questing: Shadows of the Past|
|Green Shadow Fragments||Craft 10x Stat Points||Questing: Shadows of the Past|
|Blue Shadow Fragments||Craft 10x Stat Points||Questing: Shadows of the Past|
|Purple Shadow Fragments||Craft 10x Stat Points||Questing: Shadows of the Past|
|Orange Shadow Fragments||Craft 10x Stat Points||Questing: Shadows of the Past|
|Red Shadow Fragments||Craft 1/3x Stat Points (6 for 2), Crystal Infusion Set||Shadow Behemoth (World Raid)|
|Caracalla lay silent, only the sound of your boots against the cobblestone and the faint drip of distant water betrays the presence of life in this dark tomb. You and Liann lingered after the defeat of Drakontos. Try as you might you didn't feel particularly up to meeting with your family in Dracoshire again and chose instead to explore the crypt and see what other secrets it might offer up.
Aelfthryth parted ways with you and Liann shortly after you had made your final decision. She was a loyal soldier and would ensure that news of your victory would reach the ears of those who needed to hear it most. You periodically reached out with your magic, feeling her presence grow ever more distant until you were satisfied that she had indeed made it to safety.
As time passes you've found yourself growing more familiar with the magical intricacies of the crypt. Each time you reach out you feel the energy flowing through the structure like veins pumping blood. You can feel a presence stirring within the ancient walls and you wonder what other secrets are lying in wait within its musty halls.
|Eventually you come upon a room with engravings running along the walls. It greatly resembles the hall in which you spoke with the spirit of the Ascended previously. As you study the walls with greater scrutiny a story slowly begins to form though you know not its intended meaning. You see figures, potentially representing hundreds or even thousands of individuals all without arms. As you take a step back you take note that the room is split in two very distinct colorations; one is bright and heavily laden with gold whereas the other is dark and carved with obsidian. Liann's eyes sparkle as she runs her fingers along the golden walls, but she keeps any comments she may have to herself.
Engravings upon the darkened wall repeatedly show a massive and tentacled figure reaching out to what you can only assume are the Ascended. You ponder this for a time and rub your weary eyes. Liann suggests that it might be prudent to rest here for the night, assuming it was night, and resume your examination with fresh eyes. You begin to protest but are unable to stifle the yawn that emanates from your mouth and decide some rest wouldn't be out of the question.
Finding a comfortable corner you make your bed and close your eyes. Sleep overcomes you quickly and you find yourself dreaming. You see the Ascended figure whom had spoken with you earlier, almost as if you were seeing the room through its shimmering eyes. You look down at your sleeping form and come closer. You try to wake yourself, to give your consciousness some form of warning that there is an approaching threat but find yourself unable to rise.
"Your curiosity runs deep. You poke and prod our history as a hapless and wayward child might prod a family hound. What is it you seek? Have you not already accomplished the goal with which you came here for?"
"Yes, but I cannot ignore the ancient powers I feel within this place. It runs deep and is old, perhaps older than the dragons themselves. I must know more," you reply. The Ascendant sits there, motionless for a time before giving its response.
"Then let me show you." And with those words the world turns to darkness, only the distant dripping of water echoing in your ears.
|Your eyes come into focus and before you stands an assembly of creatures adorned in elegant cloth robes. As you look around you attempt to reach out with your hands but realize that you are an unwilling passenger in someone else's mind. You sooth your emotions and focus on your magical training. Slowly you can start to feel air enter your lungs and odors assault your senses. You settle in and witness the scene before you.
Four cloaked and hooded figures stand in front of you, their heads bowed and backs to you. Your host lowers their head and closes their eyes and while they speak in an alien tongue you discern their meaning as naturally as if you had heard it all your life.
"Let Her radiance guide us through these turbulent times. Let Her hands steady our hearts and Her words lead our minds. So we say, thus we do." All assembled figures raise their heads and pull back their hoods revealing distinctively elven features; elongated ears, supple cheeks and lithe and elegant frames. You take note, however, that as they part and remove cloaks which hid their bodies that their arms are forged of almost pure and bright energy. Golden tendrils wrap around their skin and move with it as gently as a river stream. One figure looks to your host and speaks, "Vexanna, we are happy to see you have joined us today."
Your host whom you now know as Vexanna nods solemnly before replying, "Yes well, I have much to report and little time remaining. Our fears have manifested into reality and we must act before our work is undone." There is a definite sense of urgency in your host's voice, but you detect a sense of uncertainty cleverly veiled behind her words. The group look to one another uncomfortably and then seat themselves.
"The dragons then?" another elf asks. Vexanna simply nods in response. "What could they desire? They've been content to leave us alone for all this time, why would they wish to cause trouble now?"
"Clearly they grow jealous. They seek our Goddess' favor for their own - well they shall not have it!" a heated voice retorts. This causes a vexing argument to break out amongst the four figures. Vexanna sighs and calmly waits for them to finish squabbling. Hearing an opening in the conversation she interjects, "While we could certainly sit here and debate the desires of creatures we scarcely fathom, I feel it would behoove us to move onto the facts. I do have information you know," she says, her voice rising with anger "But if you'd rather argue like children I'll happily take my findings to the Sh'kava if you'd prefer." You focus intently on the word "Sh'kava" but can't seem to force the comprehension forth as to what this word means. Whatever it is, it makes the assembly rather agitated.
"No, that won't be necessary. My apologies, Sister Vexanna. Please continue with your findings." Vexanna smiles to herself and you can feel satisfaction run through your, or rather, her body.
The conversation goes deep into the night. Food and other refreshments are shared at various intervals and you quickly take in every detail of the conversation that you can. You learn that these elves are being approached by the dragons of this time and that relations are tenuous at best. The elves have harnessed a powerful magical conduit that they attribute to their Goddess, whose name you have yet to uncover through this conversation and cannot force into recollection from your hosts' memories. The dragons have been discussing the manner civilly until recently where they've started making threats of invading the elves' sacred halls if they are continually denied entry.
A particular name is mentioned repeatedly and it's one you're all too familiar with: Drakontos.
|After the scene concludes you are enveloped in darkness. You can hear the beating of a heart though you know not if it is your own or your ethereal host's. You're in a room and, though you cannot fathom why, you understand this vision to be further in the past. Something before the vision which greeted you with the assembly.
You see a woman, adorned in a white robe kneeling before an altar with a benevolent woman staring down. There is a bowl filled to the brim with water in front of her and you feel incredibly drawn to it. There is an alien, yet familiar presence which stirs within the bowl and you can see the woman drawing ever closer. Your host rises and with a gentle touch places her hand upon the elven woman. She affectionately grips yours and smiles before slowly placing her face into the bowl.
An eternity seems to pass and you feel an air of tension within the room until finally she raises her head from the bowl and takes a deep and reassuring breath. Everyone in the room seems to stop holding theirs in unison and you can feel the tension replaced with excitement.
She reaches her hands into the bowl and tears stream down her cheeks. As she withdraws her hands from the water you see that the water itself does not let go but instead it begins to change into a golden energy which slowly creeps up her outstretched finger. Then it moves like a gentle river enveloping her entire arm and only stopping once it reaches her shoulders. The room is bathed in golden light and a low hum resonates within the hall. She stares wide eyed at one arm and then the other as the light begins to stream down both and pulsate with divine energy. A part of you feels these emotions within your own breast and you feel a peace within you unlike any you have felt before.
This process is repeated once, twice and finally hundreds of times until all are blessed with these gifts. You start to realize that the mosaics within the crypt were depicting these people as you see them now, touched by some unseen presence. Your dealings with the various Gods and Goddesses of West Kruna have taught you that such gifts often come at a price and you wonder just what these elves have paid to receive this boon or if that payment is yet to come.
The images disappear just as quickly as they appeared, and you are once again enveloped in blackness. You hear the distant sound of water.
And the familiar voice of Liann calling your name.
Shadows in the Dark
You hear the water echoing down the distant halls of the crypt and your eyes slowly open to the sight of Liann looking over you. Her hands are glowing with arcane energy and you can feel her reaching out to you. You open your eyes; your throat is dry and feels as though you've been yelling at the top of your lungs for hours but you manage to croak out that you're here and mostly alright. You realize that the golden ascendant still looms nearby.
Liann shoots it a deathly look and you feel her mustering magic in her hands. You grip her wrist and simply shake your head no, "I'm fine, really. This... Thing was showing me visions of what I think this place used to be before it became the twisted undead haven it is now," you tell her. She looks down at you with a concerned expression and then back to the ascendant and the energy subsides. She says nothing but her wings flutter in frustration.
You sit up and look at the ascendant. You are weary from the ordeal but you can feel something very different about this creature now than you had previously. There is a power within that shimmer. You close your eyes and focus on your arcane training. You can see the tendrils of arcane energy reaching out from your body, running along your arms like a writhing serpent. It slowly wraps itself around the ascendant and you can see the threads of an illusion at work. As if the golden ascendant stands before you with something else hiding just outside your vision. You want to pull on them and unravel the facade but you decide against such an action. "Who are you and why didn't you kill me?" you say to the ascendant. It shimmers and slowly you see the light melt away as candle wax before the flame.
Where once an armless, golden figure stood before you, a dark skinned elven woman wrapped in bandages and tattered clothing now looms. Her features are gaunt and she is visibly malnourished. Her hair is white as the snow and despite her physical appearance you can see muscle forged from years of battle run through her body. Her eyes are covered by a thick bandage leading you to believe that she does not possess sight as you or Liann might. You can see the faint etchings of tattoos running along her neck and other bits of exposed skin. Her arms, crossed upon her chest in a defiant stance, are like rivers of darkness, shimmering and coalescing with power. "Your arms," you begin "What, ah..." you are at a loss for words. Not out of fear, simply out of sheer bewilderment. She sighs.
"Yes, well. We were getting to that part when your companion severed our link," she says with her head cocked in Liann's direction. She shrugs her shoulders "But no matter. You're here now and your weapons aren't drawn. Yet. I suppose that's more progress than I expected with this initial visit if I'm being honest." You offer no response but look to Liann whose expression is still sour. You can see her muscles tense and ready to strike if a threat presents itself.
"You know me, Void-Walker," the elf speaks to you again, "I am Vexanna, the one whose visions you saw during our link. If I intended either of you harm I would have done something by now, so you can relax. Though I wouldn't take my word for it were I in your shoes either."
It's clearly going to be a long... Well, whatever time it is. Night, day, evening, it hardly seems like it matters at this point.
Lessons of Light and Shadow
|Vexanna sits down on the cold stone floor and sighs. She begins to explain in greater detail what occurred ages ago. "We had spent many years constructing this veritable floating palace with the assistance of the Sh'kava whom I believe you've had the pleasure of knowing through the ever watching Ack'thano. We had formed an alliance with them many years prior and while ours was a tenuous peace it was a peace nonetheless. Their understanding of the arcane arts is beyond any other mortal creature we know of, even today, and without them we never would have been able to complete our rituals. We channeled powerful magics through our krah stones; I believe you've referred to them as ascendant stones. Using these magics we elevated our city into the clouds and looked down upon the other races with contempt. We were above them in more ways than one, or so we thought." She cocks her head and pauses reflectively before continuing her story.
"With the aid of the Sh'kava our mastery over the arcane arts was unparalleled and we started flexing our magical muscles as it were and transporting our city to whatever continents we felt like. We were so caught up in our hubris that we drew the attention of other, less savory and delightful creatures than the Sh'kava. Which is saying quite a lot," she laughs though you detect no mirth in her voice, "Pride cometh before the fall. And fall we did."
You scratch your chin thoughtfully, "But why the ruse? Why this label of 'ascended'?" You pose the question to her as carefully as you can. She seems contemplative for a moment, "My people felt as though we had truly ascended. As I said, we felt above the other races of this world - we had reached higher than any other dared to and had plans to go higher still. Would you not also consider yourself as having 'ascended' to a new, unheard of level of power?"
You listen intently before interjecting as Vexanna pauses, "In the vision I saw your people transformed by what felt like a... Deity perhaps? The power was immense. No small feat to be sure. Who was this divine being?" Vexanna tilts her head and observes a long pause before responding, "Thay'anora. She is a being of immense power. My people worshipped her as an elven Goddess of the Sun. We were taught from a young age that she alone was responsible for the elevation of the sun each day and gave appropriate thanks for her guiding light. Our seers and priests spent countless, sleepless days and nights in worship to her. It was this worship that gave us her most sacred gift; she infused us with a tiny ounce of her power and with that power our society was heralded into a golden age of prosperity. We used that gift to create the krah stones and eventually elevated our city into the clouds." Vexanna allows herself a smile, the only one you've seen dance across her lips during the entirety of your conversation.
Liann crosses her arms, "That would take an immense amount of magical energy to pull off what you are proposing. I've seen magic like that before and it's never unconditional. You must have paid a cost for this 'gift'. The gods don't make a habit of being charitable." Vexanna's jaw tightens slightly but her voice is controlled as she crafts her response, "Yes, there was a cost though we knew not what it was at the time. Thay'anora loved us, her children, with the deepest sense of her heart. She had clearly blessed us but she did not prepare us for what was to come. Our innate magical prowess combined with her divine energy was a potent and intoxicating combination; one that we utilized to the fullest extent. But while she loved us, her children, her gift came at the price of her guidance. No longer did we feel her omnipresence, only the echo of herself within each of us. Who's to say why the gods do what they do, but we ultimately lost a piece of ourselves that day. She entrusted babes with a gift hardly suitable for sages."
"You mentioned earlier that you drew the attention of other powers. Is that Drakontos and his ilk?" As you speak that name, Vexanna visibly winces and takes a deep breath before responding, "Yes. The drakes of the world had paid us no mind until they detected our powers stirring within the air. But soon after our city moved between continents they approached us. Diplomatically and with intrigue at first, but soon their honeyed words turned to malice and threats. They wanted our power and they made it clear after a time that they would gladly extract that power from our bodies whether we were willing or not. We prayed to Thay'anora day and night but she never heeded our call. It was in our darkest hour that a benefactor came forth. Our backs to the wall, fear running rampant throughout our society, it's no wonder we chose the path we did," Vexanna pauses and seems lost in thought for a moment before continuing, "But it was at a great cost."
|Vexanna continues her tale, "With our prayers to Thay'anora falling upon deaf ears we despaired. In the wake of this despair another voice reached out to some of us. Hesitant at first, our curiosity got the best of us and we answered. If you are willing, Void-Walker, I will show you the unfolding of this moment, for sight weaves a story of clarity better than my words ever could." You look to Liann who simply shrugs and flexes her wings in agitation, "She didn't kill you last time so you're probably okay this time. Probably." Liann mockingly reassures you. You sigh and agree to the link.
Vexanna reaches out to you and your world becomes darkness again. You feel the cool and damp stonework underneath your skin slowly fade away into nothing and once again you are back in a dimly lit room within the floating city of the elves. You again inhabit the body of Vexanna from the past, her silent passenger on this journey, but you find your inner calm much more quickly than you had previously.
"Thay'anora, bless us and guide us in our troubled times. Let not our light fade, for it reflects that of your eternal radiance." Silence follows. Vexanna sighs in frustration and leans back, a single tear rolling down her cheek in despair. Another figure is in the room with you and he too looks fatigued from the trials and tribulations of recent events. In this moment of despair you hear a whisper clawing at Vexanna's mind as if it were your own, "Despair not little elves." The voice is deep and echoes off the walls of your mind, "Your Goddess turns a blind eye to your plight during such a pivotal moment. That is no way to reward such devotion." Panic sets in the eyes of the other figure in the room and it's clear that you are both hearing this voice resonate within your minds.
"What do you want? Who are you?" You hear Vexanna try to sound calm and in control but there is a deep sense of panic within her words. The voice chuckles, "I offer another way. You are plagued by the drakes are you not? Those uncouth beasts. I can help you rid yourself of them, I will aid you while your Goddess turns a blind eye to your woes." You can hear a hunger within the creature's voice, something malicious hidden just below the surface trying to break free and manifest. Vexanna's companion replies, "Long have we prayed to our Goddess, She who gave us the eternal sun within our very hands. It is true that our need is immense and the hour grows later by the moment, but we will not betray her love."
"Yes," Vexanna begins, "We will not make pacts with devils. Be gone, demon!" The voice's laughter intensifies. "Demon? Oh no, no, no! Truly I have errored if you would mistake me for such a miserable wretch. Allow me to make my introduction more formal, yes? Perhaps as a show of good faith I can send forth a manifestation of myself to put your mind at ease that I am not some trifling demon lord." Vexanna and her companion exchange looks, but you can feel an insatiable sense of curiosity deep within her breast and she nods in acceptance, "Alright then, go ahead. But know that if you harm us we have ways of protecting ourselves." The voice cackles again, "Oh I wouldn't dream of harming you, young one. No, but please do make some room for my... Assistant."
The candles which light the room threaten to extinguish but manage to stay lit as a rush of air sweeps throughout the room and a swirling vortex of shadow coalesces before your eyes. A figure born of darkness appears before you and it is as if the heat within the room has been sucked out. It stands over seven feet in height and is muscularly built. Upon its head are horns of shadow and its entire body shimmers like fire before a breeze. It brandishes a wicked smile but bows before Vexanna and her companion with an elegance belying its mass. You feel intense power radiate from the being and it kneels before speaking in a harsh, guttural voice laced with arcane power, "I am Garganoth, servant of the Lord of Shadow, Hlaar. Allow me to deliver you from your draconic parasites so that your society may continue to grow and prosper."
Hlaar. A name your host does not recognize but one you know all too well. A god of the shadow realm, and a being of deception. The vision before you shimmers and you are taken to another room where a new scene begins to unfold.
Deities At War
|"Are we certain we should trust this creature, Vexanna?" The man whispers into her ear.
She shifts on her heels nervously as she responds, "It may be the only hope we have. I'll need to inform the Assembly. I realize this is a delicate request, but I think you should spend as much time as you can learning of our benefactor."
The man swallows hard and nods, "As you say, Vexanna. I will see you upon the morrow."
"And you, Layos."
You realize you're being shown the events leading up to the first vision you witnessed earlier. As the scene shifts once again you see Vexanna along with other members of the elven assembly chanting over a new altar, but this time a cloaked figure hovers nearby adorned in heavy robes. Upon closer inspection you can tell that this creature has numerous glowing eyes darting this way and that beneath its cowl and come to realize this creature strongly resembles Ack'thano, a being who has shared your company for some time.
Tall with rigid movements, the Sh'kava seem otherworldly to you. Creatures of nightmare to most, it feels as though it belongs back in the veil among the fey and their ilk. Though it has said little at this point, you detect a keen intellect lurking behind the creature's many eyes and as you reach out with arcane energy you feel it doing the same. You are confident that were you truly in this room, it would quickly detect your magical subterfuge and put a stop to it with considerable speed.
Its voice chitters and chirps in a harsh melody upon your ears, like a broken harp. "Yes, we support this decision. I've spoken with our own council. Hlaar is known to us. Has benefited us before. Exercise caution when proceeding. The ways of the gods are mysterious to all save themselves."
Several elves seem to relax at this information, though Vexanna still fosters a seed of doubt within her heart. She stifles this doubt and nods, "Then we will embrace Hlaar's gifts as we did Thay'anora. Blessed be her guidance, but in this dark time we must have action and Hlaar offers us respite from these beasts."
As if commanded to appear, Garganoth comes forth from the shadows. "My master is pleased by this and has allowed me to place his gift upon you. Give me your hands, elf."
With great caution and an immense amount of doubt, Vexanna extends her hands allowing the creature to envelop them in its large grasp. Its smile never wanes as it grips her hands firmly. Slowly at first, a shadowy tendril latches onto Vexanna's arm and hangs there for a moment, loosely wriggling like a leech attached to flesh.
Suddenly pain runs through Vexanna's arms and a scream escapes her lips.
An Ebon Gift
|As quickly as the pain came, it departs and Vexanna catches her breath. She looks down at her arms which seem normal at a glance, but slowly a small black dot where the shadowy tentacle once latched on now blemishes her otherwise golden arms. Slowly like oil in a lake the blackness begins to envelop the entirety of her arms. The assembly looks on in anticipation of what's to come, and once the the blackness has fully covered her arms Vexanna flexes them as if feeling her limbs for the first time. "This... Power," she begins, "is unlike any I have felt before. With this we could truly forge mighty weapons to destroy these beasts."
The assembly whispers amongst themselves and you feel a portion of Vexanna's soul shift. You detect a presence there that did not exist previously. Something has changed and you feel uncomfortable sharing this vision with her new self.
One by one the assembly is convinced to embrace the gift. Layos nods approvingly. He laid much of the groundwork for this after conversing with Hlaar through his servant. He was the first to truly embrace these gifts and with calculated words he convinced Vexanna that this was the solution and salvation their people had been praying for and in turn Vexanna used her influence to bring the others to heel; including the Sh'kava.
After a time the assembly began working on a plan to defeat the dragons who had taken to circling their structure. They had bought some time through negotiations but Drakontos was not a patient creature and his enormous frame soon shadowed the entirety of the elves' home. They would need to act and quickly lest they run out of time.
|The visions swirl before your eyes and you have difficulty discerning what is transpiring. You see the assembly of elves performing an arcane ritual and you can see the dragons circling the city, their hungry maws eager for the prize within. The massive figure of Drakontos draws near to the city and you can see countless elves channeling an immense amount of power into a number of the crystals surrounding their room. You recognize the krah stones among others and see the crystals begin to absorb the energy all at once.
You can see Garganoth in the room, hovering over the elves as they perform their work, a look of extreme satisfaction playing upon his face. "Yes, yes, use Hlaar's power. Channel all of your might into your spells. Let your hearts feel unburdened by what is about to take place. You shall be delivered from these beasts." His words trail on in a long line of compliments and encouragements to the assembled elves.
You float freely within the room and can see Vexanna as one of the figures. She is focusing intently on the stone in front of her and you can sense an immense amount of power being funneled through her entire soul. The crystal before her begins to sparkle and crackle with potent energy, but further still she pushes her body to the brink of destruction and you can see the crystal begin to crack. Moments later the crystal explodes but the shards are quickly contained within a magical field of energy and they begin to disintegrate and flow into the magical conduit the other elves are channeling into.
"More!" Vexanna screams with bestial fury, "Give me more stones! We must push harder brothers and sisters!"
A young elven boy quickly grabs a crystal and with trembling hands passes it to Vexanna who grins wickedly and grabs the crystal quickly from the boy's hand. As she does so, you can see a shadowy tendril lick the child's outstretched hand and leave a small burn mark. He recoils in terror more than actual pain and flees the room. Vexanna returns to her task and continues channeling once again, her fury unbound and unchecked as she attempts to overload yet another crystal for the conduit.
You feel a sense of immense shame wash over you and realize it is Vexanna as you know her. This is clearly a painful part of her past and something she would likely much rather forget ever occurred than to allow anyone to witness again. You attempt to reassure her as best you can given your current state but feel no response as you reach out and return your focus to the scene unfolding before you.
You feel your body lifting and are suddenly in the sky looking down upon the floating city. You catch your breath as you admire the magnificence of the structure; massive and immensely beautiful you can see how the passage of time has not been kind to it since becoming the Crypt of Caracalla and you feel remorse at losing such an intricate structure to the sands of fate.
Drakontos, incalculably massive and intimidating beyond comprehension, calls out in a deep, guttural voice, "Little elves. Playing with magic beyond their means. You were given the opportunity, no, the privilege to peacefully give over your secrets. But instead you barter and beg like whelps beneath my wings. I am Drakontos., I am he who shall devour this world. I am the undoing of your race and all those who would come after. You dare keep your secrets from me? Then I will bury you within this floating tomb. You shall weep. You shall despair!" Drakontos lets out a gargantuan roar which shakes the very walls of the city.
Other dragons circle the city like buzzards awaiting a parched deer to finally give in to the sands of fate. As Drakontos nears, dark tendrils of energy shoot out from the city's peak, striking him square in the maw. A howl of pain that shakes you to your very soul cries out across the land and you see the great wyrm slowly descend into the ocean's depths. A gentle feeling of relief runs through your body even though you know yourself to be safe from within the vision.
You know that Drakontos rose again and fell once more to the power of the merfolk hero, but clearly he threatened West Kruna on numerous occasions. After the fall of Drakontos you can see other dragons flying away from the city and the elves begin to revel and rejoice. But you note something different about the once golden city within the sky. Its once beautiful golden bricks are now darker, enveloped with shadow and grime like the Crypt of Caracalla you are so familiar with. You feel uneasy as you watch dragons fly into the distance, hurling an errant puff of flame in rage and frustration.
Slowly your visions shift and you feel the passage of time ebb away. You are once again standing before an assembly of elven priests and warriors.
|"The beast is banished, we have no need of these powers."
You focus in on the discussion now taking place amongst the assembled elven council, their arms still thick with the shadowy gift of Hlaar. You can feel the tension in the air, the frustration is plain on the faces of the assembly.
"One does not simply abandon one god for another without repercussion. These powers came at a cost, something we were all aware of at the time of our acceptance!" A cowled woman responds angrily.
Their voices are drowned out to a dull roar until finally your host looks up. There is a silence in the hallway and out of feeling more than sight you know that Garganoth is near. It walks as silent as a cat through the hall and begins to laugh. The sound sends a shiver down your spine.
"You have banished the great wyrm and given yourself the freedom you sought. But what's this I am hearing? It sounds as though you do not appreciate the gifts my lord has given you. Did he not answer your call when your time was most dire? Did he not give you your salvation?" Its voice is steady, its grin never waning.
An older man clears his throat and speaks up, "Well yes. Of course! And for that we are eternally grateful and will be happy to pay you in an appropriate amount of gold or other precious gems if you like. But we are creatures of the sun and the sky, we cannot be expected to turn our backs to the goddess who has watched over us for ages beyond counting." By the end of his speech his chest was puffed out defiantly and several elves murmured agreement once he had concluded. Some simply glared angrily.
"Oh no, it is not gems nor gold that my lord seeks. These are mortal possessions, man made creations." The smile of Garganoth widens and he approaches the elf who spoke up, "When you embraced my lord's gift, you allowed a little bit of himself to manifest within your soul. Your goddess cannot see you now for you are shrouded in His glory. His excellence. She will not come and your city of the sky shall become darkness." Garganoth laughs madly and you feel the city begin to shake. Screams echo throughout the hallway, but above those screams is Garganoth's wicked laughter, resonating within your mind.
|The city rumbles and you can feel Vexanna's feet begin to slip as the entire foundation you are sitting upon shakes violently. She rises to her feet, an air of defiance about her and lashes out with her shadowy magic at Garganoth, "It is you, demon, who shall bend the knee! It is you who shall know the power of our people. We were powerful before and we shall be powerful after!" She fuels her arms with shadowy power and wraps around Garganoth and starts tearing away at him. Shreds of shadowy essence are flayed from his body and he screams out. But his screams are quickly replaced by laughter and Vexanna has a great sense of confusion wash over her.
"Trifling elf! You dare employ my master's magics upon me? How dare you! I will show you the true meaning of suffering. You will know no rest, gain no respite from the horrors of this world." And with those words, Garganoth charges Vexanna and slams into her body. You can feel as much as see the creature impact with her very soul and there is a brief moment of silence followed by an intense scream. Vexanna reaches for her eyes which erupt in a gout of shadowy flame as they are removed from her sockets. She tries to weep as the pain takes hold, and you can hear Garganoth's laughter ringing throughout the hallway still. Until finally, Vexanna is silent. She looks up and tries to steady herself. She can see, but her world is shadow bathed in spots of purple. She sees people, not truly their features but their outlines, their shapes. Those sitting behind doors are known to her and she finds a dish, well polished and stares into it. Two black sockets filled with swirling violet energy stare back at her and she drops the dish and begins weeping violently.
Suddenly with the disappearance of Garganoth, the city ceases shaking and the assembly of elves breath a heavy sigh of relief. Some begin to thank Vexanna for standing up to Garganoth and taking on such a heavy sacrifice, others try to console her. Tension ebbs away from all within the room.
Too soon it would seem, as you feel that familiar sickness within your stomach as you begin to fall. You feel pain in the back of your head as you slam into the tiled ceiling of the city. Vexanna speaks into your mind, "This is where the beginning of the end happened for us. This is what we called The Fall. Our families, our way of life all changed in this one instant." Suddenly you slam into the floor once again and hear a grinding crash ring throughout the city.
You can feel earth give way to the mighty city as it comes crashing down into the hard earth. The room is thick with the scent of blood as elves cradle broken arms and shattered skulls. Vexanna speaks again, sadness thick in her voice, "We knew there would be a cost. But we never knew it would be... This. Our city, a shining beacon of progress and magic fell to the earth. We have suffered ever since in the service of Hlaar. Many have embraced him over the years but there are a select few of us who won't stand by and watch him cover this world in shadow. This is why I have come to you and why I show you our past. You must understand where we come from and why we did the things we did."
There is blackness. You see visions race through your mind of the elves and also of the Sh'kava, their spider-like mandibles carrying them easily throughout the various caverns of the undercity.
"We spent many years stuck within our once glorious city. Many passages had been cut off and it took our magisters a great deal of effort to twist and turn the city to give us free passage into the caverns below West Kruna." This explains the ever- twisting magics that run throughout Caracalla, you realize.
Your vision blurs and your senses are assaulted by the odor of damp earth and you squint your eyes. You're back in Caracalla as you know it, Liann watching you intently and Vexanna waiting in the corner.
Boss: Shadow Assassins
|Vexanna takes a seat on the cold ground. She sighs, "There are two groups within our society. One that, as I said, embraces Hlaar's gifts to their fullest and seeks to envelop the world in shadow. They follow the beloved Shadow Queen. Another which resists his powers and wishes to make amends for forsaking our goddess and bringing this fate down upon our people. As I am talking to you now I assume you've already guessed where I've placed my bets." She smiles though there is no joy behind her expression.
"Recently we've become aware of your ancestor's victory over the great drakes which roamed the surface of Tor'gyyl. Give or take some stragglers of course. We've been using this as an opportunity to observe and test the defenses of your people and discern their prowess."
Understanding creeps in, "In preparation for an invasion?" you ask.
Vexanna nods and cocks her head, "I fear I've become careless. We're being tracked."
Liann scoffs, "Impossible! I haven't heard or felt any distu-" She's cut off as a dagger narrowly misses her torso.
In one fluid motion Liann nocks an arrow and lets loose in the direction of the dagger. Though the arrow strikes true there are more daggers from the darkness and you pull forth your weapons and prepare your spells as combat is joined.
You wipe your blade clean and return it to its sheath. You note that Vexanna aided in the battle for your benefit when she could have just as easily slit your throat or weakened you for your would-be-assassins. You nod your thanks to her and she returns the gesture.
|"I'm guessing this is just the start of what you were talking about?" Vexanna seems to consider her response for a long time before finally giving you an answer, "There will be more and it will get much, much worse and quickly. War is coming to your people and if you are not prepared it will sweep you away in its current." You begin to protest that the Veil will be a tough combatant to overcome but catch yourself. Who are your people truly? Your mood darkens and you try to shake the feeling of frustration away.
"There are members of the sh'kava who would prove to be a valuable ally. Ack'thano was dispatched to observe and report on your actions. It is his words which led me to you on the good faith that you would listen." You look to Liann who simply shrugs her shoulders in response.
"Well," you begin, "I have and I see the threat to be very real. But I do not know how much I can convince the King to rally his forces. It may take much more than my words to sway him." Frustration dances across Vexanna's face for a moment, but as quickly as it came it fades and she composes herself. "I will consult with my order and contact you again soon. You would do well to make haste to your king and do what you can to convince him of the threat that looms. I fear proof of my warnings will be made apparent all too soon." She rises to her feet and you feel a small burst of magic emanate from her. It's subtle, but very powerful. You notice that a hallway has become illuminated as she does this. "Take that path and follow the lights. It will carry you swiftly to the surface. Until we meet again, Veil-Walker." She bows and takes her leave.
You sigh and start following the corridor.
Return to the Surface
|You make your way untroubled through the long, twisting corridors of Caracalla. Little is said between you and Liann as you let your thoughts wander. Eventually you can smell fresh air up ahead and quicken your pace; you'll be delighted to finally be back outside again.
You get back out and take a deep breath, letting the fresh air run over you gladly. You pause for a moment and ponder your next move, "I haven't really decided what we should do next. Any thoughts on the matter?" Liann flexes her wings and crosses her arms, a thoughtful look on her face.
"Well, while I share your reservations in trusting these elves, the threat seems real enough. It couldn't hurt to inform the king what we've discovered while we were in the crypt. I don't expect him to simply ignore your claims. Plus, where else would we really go?" You consider that question for a long while and nod in agreement. You still aren't certain where you truly belong. "I'm a little beside myself, to be honest," you say as your feet find their way on the path towards Dracoshire.
"Oh? How do you mean?" Liann questions, though you believe she already has an inclination of where the conversation is headed. "I was born a human to a wonderful home but that's not really where 'home' is to me. But while the veil is where I grew up under the thumb of the fey, I also do not feel any love for them. When Vexanna called them 'my people' I don't quite know who 'my people' are."
"Perhaps there doesn't need to be 'your' people, simply 'people' you know of and are acquainted with. Labels like the ones you're hung up on are a very human dilemma. They don't need to be 'your people' to warrant assistance. The king seems reasonable for a human." She squeezes your shoulder reassuringly.
You think on her words for a long time. You feel better but still haven't quite made peace with the emotions as of yet. You decide that being a human is not only complex, but also frustrating at times.
The Burden of Lordship
|The journey is long and tiring but you eventually arrive at Dracoshire. You are dismayed to learn that Lucian has left recently and travels on an errand for the king. You feel awkward within the great walls of the castle and shift uneasily from foot to foot as you draw closer to the entrance of the king's quarters. You wait outside for an audience as he finishes with noblemen from the north.
"What do you suppose the impact will be on the veil if these elves do attack?" You ask Liann, hoping to break the silence and relax your mind before meeting with the king. "I don't imagine it will do much in the short term. The veil is well guarded and hidden from most as you well know. They certainly aren't likely to mettle in the affairs of others unless it benefits them in some way." She tilts her head in thought, "Although, if it were to benefit or amuse them in some fashion it's plausible that they would strike a deal with the elves. Though I feel that's not very likely." She shrugs. The door to the king's chambers opens wide and two men of considerable girth and opulent garb exit the chamber, a smile dancing upon their lips.
"His Majesty is too kind!" one says while stroking a lavish and oily mustache. Liann shudders and leans in close, "He looks like a pig got stuck in a closet for a day or two. Smells like one as well." You both share a quiet laugh at the noble's expense. They pass you by with little more than a glance as they are escorted through the hallway. The steward nods in your direction and you rise to your feet, Liann close behind. You remove your mask and stow it under your cloak as you enter and bow before King Jamus.
"Your majesty," you kneel and bow your head. "Rise %name%. I'm told we have you to thank for resolving the threat within Caracalla." You rise to your feet, a grim look upon your face.
"Well, to a point your highness, yes. It is true that the great beast Drakontos has been dealt with but another war looms over your kingdom as we speak. Perhaps as dire or more so than the great wyrm."
King Jamus works his hands into a steeple and looks through them to you, "It seems trouble follows you everywhere you go. I said before you live up to your family's namesake. It seems that was more literal than I had originally anticipated. Come then, sit and give your report."
A King's Command
|King Jamus listens to your report in silence. He interjects only rarely with a question and once the question has been answered to his satisfaction he returns to his contemplative silence.
"If this is as you say then we're potentially looking at a war on two fronts. Something that would surely be of the same magnitude as the Dragon War. Another matter has arisen that may be related to your findings. A group known as the Black Hand Bandits have long been a thorn in the side of West Kruna, but recently their attacks have increased in frequency. I've dispatched an investigation team under the command of Shod Trackerfoot, but I have a potential lead as to the origin of these attacks." He rises from his throne and begins pacing.
You feel relief in your heart that the king is taking your information seriously, but are concerned to hear that another group is already weakening his forces. Is this the initial assault Vexanna warned of?
"What would you have me do, your majesty?" The king ceases his pacing and puts his arms behind his back and smiles at you, "How do you feel about forests?"
You spent a great deal of time discussing the situation with King Jamus and ultimately were sent to investigate the possible location of the Black Hand Bandits' fortress. You have spoken with several defectors from the Black Hand Bandits to try and learn whatever you could but haven't uncovered any significant details. It seems that the commander of the Black Hand forces tends to keep to himself.
You spend some time with your mother and father but relations are strained at best. While your previous visit was an emotionally draining ordeal, you prefer it to the cold and solemn faces which greeted you upon this visit. They had accepted who you are. They clearly still have a lot of reservations and emotional processing to do before coming to truly accept you as their own. You feel Lucian's absence made the situation harder on both occasions and have decided to ensure he is there upon your next visit.
You waste no time and set off in the direction the king urged you to take. You have been assigned to a group of soldiers and feel a bit out of place in such a large assortment of bodies, generally preferring the company of a smaller group. The Captain senses your unease and rides up next to you.
"It gets easier, at times." He was a broad-chested dwarven warrior sporting the king's colors. "Me name's Dokthannon Grizzlebeard. I'm the Captain ah' this crew. We met initially but ya' seemed ill at ease. Decided to letchya' settle in a wee bit first." You nod your thanks and manage a smile though it's hidden behind your mask. You detect a deep and thick accent you've seldom heard before except from dwarves who come from traditional holds scattered across the mountains. "A pleasure," you manage to say, "I'm just a little exhausted from many days of travel. Do you know much of what we're looking for?"
The old dwarf chuckles. "Aye, that I do, that I do. We've been followin' the trail of a halfling, Shod Trackerfoot. Left some messages wit' the local townsfolk. Accordin' to them and some ah' the notes we recovered we've got a good idea on the whereabouts o' their Captain. Centaur by the name o' Gnarlhorn. Sure 'tis just a wee beasty, wouldn't worry ya' self too much." He winks at you and you imagine this is intended as reassurance. It's not the battle you're concerned about, it's what else you'll find once you're there.
|You've traveled a great distance and fought several battles along the way. You eventually follow Shod Trackerfoot's journal notes to their conclusion and slay the monstrous Centaur known as Gnarlhorn. The battle was fierce and you lost many soldiers in the process but Dokthannon's leadership saved many. Through further investigation you discover that this was not the leader of the Black Hand Bandits, simply a Captain. In his possession was an otherworldly flail that is made from a material unlike anything you've ever seen before. Turning it over in your hands you reach out with your magical senses but are unable to discern its origin.
You learn more of Dokthannon along the way and begin to feel more at ease in his company. You travel further into the forests of West Kruna to a location mentioned in Gnarlhorn's journals. You eventually come to a great fortress jutting up out of the treeline, towering over much of the foliage and forestry surrounding it. It looks hastily built but sturdy enough. You assist in removing a number of the guards outside the camp with the aid of a group of soldiers who defected from the Black Hand Bandits and accompanied you on this journey.
After much sneaking around your presence was made known to the enemy and an all out assault began. You took to the field on the first wave and slew many warriors along the way, but were sent back to rest for a time. In the tent you survey the battered walls and contemplate your next move.
Liann flexes her wings, feeling comfortable enough given the current circumstances not to hide them under a cloak. "You seem lost in thought," she observes. You nod slowly before giving your response. "I'm just considering our options is all. Have you heard of anything quite like this Shadow Lord before?" She frowns and looks out over the fortified walls of the bandit's camp.
"No. Not quite. There have been plenty of would-be-sorcerer-lords of course but none that control shadow energy as these soldiers are describing. It's possible these are simply illusions being used to intimidate or inspire the Shadow Lord's forces." You consider her words and do note that you haven't encountered any magically gifted individuals within the Black Hand Bandit forces. Perhaps Liann is right.
A call rings out throughout the camp. It's time to advance and you won't be the last one to fall in line. You brandish your blade and charge alongside the other soldiers moving into place.
A great deal of blood is spilled and fatigue starts to take hold of your senses. Many of the Shadow Lord's forces lay face down in the dirt behind you, but the elusive Shadow Lord himself has yet to reveal himself. Dokthannon motions for you to stand back as you advance towards the mouth of a cave. The tension is thick within the air as you advance forward.
Slowly you enter the enormous cavern. Inside there are braziers providing a limited amount of light, but with a quick flick of your wrist your eyes adjust with the aid of magic and you spot a kneeling figure in the corner. He is wearing an assortment of tattered clothes and wicked looking blades. You point him out to Dokthannon who nods. Liann nocks an arrow into her bow and aims.
"So, the sheep have come to the shepherd." The voice booms throughout the cavern. It is exotic and rings with a heavy accent. "You have proven more worthy than I had ever expected. Your people shall make fine slaves." With unnatural speed the Shadow Lord rises from his knees and disappears into darkness, reappearing a moment later, blade in hand and poised to strike you.
You quickly create a magical barrier and Liann lets loose her arrow. It misses its mark and you feel an immense amount of weight strike against your barrier as the Shadow Lord collides with it. You twist your body and attempt to counterattack but he quickly uses magic of his own and disappears from sight. Dokthannon raises his monstrous warhammer to deflect an incoming blow but is too slow. You see a massive dent in the back of his armor from where the Shadow Lord's blade struck true.
You raise your blade and reach out with your senses. You can see him moving quickly from place to place. You look for a weakness in his movements, a stumble, a mistake, anything.
There! You hone in on it. Every time he teleports there is a slight delay and you can sense his breathing becoming more labored with his assault.
Strike! You bring your sword up and exploit the weakness in your foe's movements. You feel warm blood splatter your skin and the familiar smell of blood assaults your nostrils. A look of astonishment dances across the Shadow Lord's face as he slumps downward.
"Your... lives are... meaningless. I return... To the shadow..." he croaks as blood fills his lungs and he finally lays there, unmoving.
You look down upon his corpse. The impressive mastermind behind the Black Hand Bandits and their frequent raids. As you stare down at his lifeless, gaunt form you realize that this is certainly no illusion. You only hope he was the only one of his kind.
As quickly as that hope creeps into your heart, you take a closer look at his arms and realize that this is a shadow elf. Vexanna was correct, and you only hope it didn't arrive too late.
Boss: Umbra Spider
|Exhaustion takes hold of your body that night and you rest soundly. Guards have been established within the caverns of the Shadow Lord and the Black Hand Bandit's keep is under the control of the king's forces. While you were in the cavern you saw a myriad of different tunnels leading deeper within the earth and worry about what lurks within the depths of West Kruna. You know the answers but try to think through any other possibilities.
As you close your eyes and sleep sets in you are troubled by dreams of battle. You can hear the screams of soldiers around you as life is ripped from them. You try to force your dreams to manifest into something more pleasant, but despite all of your training you cannot shake the sounds nor feelings from your mind.
You can smell a sulfurous odor, something monstrous from another plane of existence. Your eyes open wide and you rise to your feet. You sense more than see a blade flash from the corner of your vision and quickly duck and roll away just in time as the blade cleaves the spot your head lay but a moment before. You summon arcane power from the air around you and lash out with a magical spark which strikes your opponent square in the chest with a hiss of powerful energy. They stagger back and fall to the ground, blood pooling from the crater your spell carved within their chest.
You hear the sound of battle and grab your things as quickly as you can and rush outside. Within the camp you pause to process what stands before you. Shadow elves astride spiders created from the stuff of nightmares. Shadowy and vile in appearance, they scurry and skitter this way and that, gorging upon the flesh of the soldiers who weren't as quick as you in their sleep. You turn and spot one such creature rushing towards you and prepare for their deadly charge.
You pull your blade from the shattered husk of the horrific creature. It lay slain upon the ground alongside its vile rider. A terrible and odiferous mixture of sulfur and bile assaults your senses. You nearly vomit but manage to stop yourself and survey the camp. You see numerous, similar corpses littering the battlefield and see that many of the troops survived the encounter, though a few have horrific wounds to show for it.
Liann flies over to you, nearly out of breath. She has a few scrapes but seems otherwise entirely unscathed. You set about the camp looking to assist in any way that you can.
What Lies Below
|Dawn breaks over the horizon, heralding the start of a new day. You've already had an eventful night after the attack of the shadow elves, and try as you might you can't seem to find a good moment to settle in for a nap. You weave a few temporary spells to relieve your fatigue for a few hours. For at least a small period of time you feel better and more alert but you know this to be temporary.
"Well," Dokthannon begins, "we lost a few soldiers, but most of 'em are good lads n' lasses and kept their wits about 'em. We'll manage, but I canna shake the feelin' that this is but the start of something bigger." He absent-mindedly scratches at his beard, deep in thought. "Those caverns go on potentially fir miles. We'll wanta get back in there as soon as we can. I'll need to send many of my soldiers back to Dracoshire, but a small group could make it into the caverns if yer' feelin' up to it?" He looks to you expectantly, a smile creasing his lips. Dwarves were always ready to bash a skull or two.
You look to Liann, "I was getting rather comfortable not being inside a cramped cavern. But I guess I can put up with my wings scraping against stone again." She smiles and nods towards you. In part you're glad that your companions are excited to journey below, but a small part of you was hoping they'd want to go back to town for a long rest and maybe an ale or two. You begin to make preparations to depart and Dokthannon barks orders to his soldiers. You write a short letter for King Jamus to inform him of your findings and entrust it to one of the soldiers who seems honored to accept such a charge.
You begin cleaning your weapons and packing what supplies you can for the journey to come.
Dokthannon insists on leading the group forward, his warmace at the ready. The caverns are surprisingly spacious compared to the cramped tomb that is the Crypt of Caracalla. Every few minutes you reach out with your magic and attempt to feel the presence of other beings besides your companions but none are revealed.
The walls of the cavern are smooth in many areas, chiseled or shaped by the hands of mortal creatures whereas the upper portions are clearly formed from the passage of time and the elements. The air is thick with moisture and you can hear the distant running of water as you continue upon your path.
Just as you begin to feel comfortable your magic senses are triggered and you whisper for the group to hide. You take to the shadows to the best of your abilities and a moment later a trio of shadow elves are walking through. You nod to Liann who has an arrow at the ready.
She takes aim and lets an arrow fly free, striking one of the elves in the throat. He slumps to the ground, clutching his throat and gurgling as blood flows freely from his fatal wound. The other two charge forth towards the direction of the arrow. Dokthannon rises from his hiding location and with a swiftness belying his stocky nature brings the seasoned weapon crashing down upon another elf's skull.
Liann flies forward, dodging the assault of the final guard and flying overhead. She appears to miss her mark, but a moment later you see the elf drop his weapon and fall to his knees as gouts of blood pour from his face. Liann employed a rather potent and fast acting veil poison to the guard and you can't help but wonder if that would have been your fate back in Dracoshire had the would-be assassin been successful.
You nod your appreciation to your companions who resolved the situation before you had to get involved and begin picking through the elves' belongings. You don't find much but you pick up one of the swords and recognize that it is crafted from the same material as the flail you found in Gnarlhorn's possession. Lighter than human steel, it's incredibly sharp and well kept. You twirl it around in your hands momentarily, testing its weight before stowing it for later use.
You continue deeper into the caverns, wondering what else you'll discover as you proceed into the depths of West Kruna.
|The caverns twist and turn in a seemingly endless labyrinth of stone. You dispatch several more patrols which increase in frequency the deeper you travel. You suffer only minor wounds, catching your opponents by surprise each time. You imagine they don't anticipate intruders this deep beneath the earth. After a full day of travel you find an appropriate and relatively sheltered place to rest for the night. Your spells have worn off and you begin to feel the fatigue seep deeply into your bones. You greet the cold stone floor as lovingly as if it were a royal bed within the castle; anything to get you off your feet and allow you to rest.
You establish a watch rotation to ensure nothing disturbs you while you get some much needed sleep and request the final shift as you don't imagine you'd be much use before then. Liann agrees to first watch and Dokthannon to the second. You let sleep overcome you and settle in until your shift.
Liann watches the cavern closely, her eyes darting this way and that in search of any hidden dangers. The gentle snoring from you and Dokthannon resonates quietly within your pocket of the cavern and Liann erects a multitude of silencing spells to help maintain your secrecy. Spells complete, she surveys the cavern once again. Something, just the faintest shimmer comes from the corner of her vision and she attempts to focus on it. Immediately she sends out detection spells to identify the potential intruders.
"Are you looking for me, butterfly?" Before she can pull forth her bow, a heavy body slams into her from the ceiling and pins her down onto the floor. Its body is cowled but many eyes dart this way and that staring at her as spider mandibles hold her firmly to the floor. She attempts to yell out but is silenced by a powerful spell. The creature is large, at least the height of a human but of considerable strength. It moves itself in closer and speaks again in her mind, "You've done quite well for yourselves. Many of the elves are dead by your bow." It lifts itself off of her and backs up non-threateningly and stares back at where you and Dokthannon resting. Liann is breathing rapidly and has her bow at the ready. She subtly sends an alarm spell to you and you feel a tingling sensation in your mind and open your eyes. Seeing the creature before you, you spring to your feet and brandish your blade. You only stop short of engaging the creature when you see Liann aiming her bow at it.
"Ahhh yes, the Veil-Walker. Ack'thano has spoken of you, as has the she-elf, Vexanna." You keep your blade steady, slowing your breathing in case the creature betrays your current and uneasy trust. "Make your intentions known, Sh'kava." Its mandibles twitch excitedly. "Oh! It knows us. How intriguing." It gives a low sweeping motion that you can only assume is intended to be a bow and extends two of its spider mandibles outward. "I felt your presence within the cavern. Wanted to meet you. Vexanna informed me that you could be traveling these tunnels but you do so quicker than anticipated." You lower your weapon and nod to Liann to do the same.
You realize that while you've spoken outwardly this creature has only clicked and clattered, scraping its mandibles together in chittering noises. The actual voices seem to be resonating within your skull.
"We were attacked on the surface by one of the shadow elves; Shadow Lord Hrakka'thon. We came to investigate and gauge the forces of our newfound foes."
"Then it seems our goals are in line..."
The Webs of Fate
|You learn that the rebellion that Vexanna spoke of has escalated and that the underworld of West Kruna is caught in the middle of a civil war. The rebels are calling themselves the Hands of Thay'anora and are working towards earning back their goddess' favor. The remaining Shadow Elves who have embraced the dark powers of Hlaar are putting up considerable resistance against the rebels and have begun combing the cavernous depths for their presence.
"I am Gath'manah," the creature finally introduces itself. "We must make haste towards the deeper recesses of the cave system. I can take you to Vexanna and she will tell you of our next move." Gath'manah recognizes your hesitation and looks to you expectantly. You give voice to your concerns, "I understand your predicament, but my initial mission was simply to discover more about what's taking place down here. Getting involved in a secret, underground civil war is hardly what I had in mind." Liann nods in agreement and Dokthannon continues to snore loudly in the corner, still unaware of the ongoing conversation taking place.
"Should they succeed, Hlaar will hold sway not only over the depths of the earth and the darkest shadows but also the surface. This fight comes to you, whether you want it to or not, Veil-Walker. It is up to you to accept its charge or turn away." With that Gath'manah walks away a few feet. "You may discuss it further amongst yourselves. But make haste, there is much to be done."
You put the toe of your boot into Dokthannon's stomach and an audible gurgle emanates from his throat, followed by a deep belch. He opens his eyes and looks up with concern on his face. You motion for a moment of silence and lean in close so only he and Liann can hear.
"Well, it seems we're being asked to join the rebellion. I'm not sure that we want to go any further with this creature." Liann seems to think for a moment, "I can't get a good read on this one. He has powerful warding spells., I can say from experience if he meant us harm he would have done it by now." She rubs her shoulders where Gath'manah's mandibles had pinned her down. "If we don't fight them down here, right now, we're simply going to have to deal with them again later. Something tells me this little rebellion of theirs isn't going according to plan or they wouldn't need us in the first place."
You think on Liann's words for a moment. Dokthannon holds back his impatience and confusion as best he can but you can see he's fit to burst. "Alright, you've made a good point. Let's see where this goes." You look to Dokthannon, "I'll explain on the way."
You nod to Gath'manah, "We'll go with you. Let us collect our things and we'll be off quickly." Gath'manah gives no response. He simply watches as you pack your belongings and waits.
Hands of Thay'anora
|The journey is long and exhausting. You dispatch several patrols along the way and take care to avoid many more until you finally arrive at a small cavern entrance. You subtly feel out with magic and can detect a very obvious illusionary spell in the area. As you place your foot into the very edge of the illusion the visions of the area shift and shimmer before you. Shadow elves and Sh'kava run to and fro on one mission or another with great haste. Some are mending arms and armor, others are simply resting or engaged in conversation. There are many eyes watching you carefully despite your Sh'kava escort.
The cavern is large and harbors hundreds of elves and sh'kava alike. The walls are lined with a wide assortment of weapons and armor and you get the familiar feeling of a war camp in between campaigns and at rest. You relax a little as you see Vexanna stooped over a table with a sh'kava and several other elves. She has a piece of paper sprawled out in front of her. Despite her blindfold she looks up as you approach and nods, "We have an important guest." The assembly looks up to you. Puzzlement dances across their faces until their eyes rest upon your mask and realization sinks in. They greet you in kind and make space for you and your companions to take a seat at their table.
"We've been hitting their patrols and the outskirts but soon we'll need to hit them where it will do the most damage. Lady Vas'ok is visiting her troops at the various garrisons in the fringe tunnels. If we can take her out it will be a big win for our forces. Vas'ok commands a great deal of respect within the court and the Queen has entrusted her with overseeing the war efforts in wiping us out. We have the advantage if we strike first." The assembly nods in agreement, "Let's work out the details this evening. Rael, please prepare your soldiers. We'll need them to be well rested before we set off." A tall elf in armor nods and salutes before running off to do as requested. With that, Vexanna looks to you. "Have you eaten?" The rumbling of Dokthannon's stomach is all the answer she needs and she takes your group to get some fresh food.
You listen to Vexanna between bites of food. The food is strange to your tongue; a thick and creamy soup with floating chunks of white flesh inside. You're unsure exactly what it is you're eating but figure it best not to ask.
"The Shadow Queen commands a great deal of respect amongst her followers. She gave in to the promises of Hlaar long ago and would rather die before giving up the gifts bestowed upon her. Her throne is deep behind enemy lines, we'll never have the opportunity to strike at her directly unless we can first remove some of her most prominent supporters. But if we can manage to strike at them before their assault of the surface is in motion then we may be able to save many lives. Both above and below ground."
Liann adds her voice to the conversation, "Why is this happening in the first place? Political gain? She's the Queen and seems to pretty much run everything down here. What does she have to gain by starting a war with the surface? A surface, I might add, that hardly is aware of her existence. So it's not as though we'd threaten her crown." Vexanna shakes her head sadly, "If only it were so simple. She's quite content with her rulership over her people, but the voices of Hlaar beckon her to strike the surface. Trying to divine the wills and whims of the gods could drive a person to madness, but shortly before I left for this rebellion I learned that Hlaar is no longer content with the shadows of the earth. He wants to extend his reach a great distance it would seem."
You scratch your chin thoughtfully for a moment, "Well, I've never killed a god before but I've got more than a few monarchs under my belt at this point."
Nobody laughs. You clear your throat uncomfortably.
Blade to Blade
|You spend a great deal of time working out the plan. Where to be, when to be there and how to attack. You rest up and resupply as best you can in preparation for the upcoming assault. Several divisions of Vexanna's best warriors are set up in groups and will assault different points. You set out at what you assume is the early portion of your day and travel for what feels like many hours.
Your group is careful and quiet, making sure to avoid as many patrols as possible. After a time you approach a massive structure embedded into the earth itself. The stonework is well crafted from a dark, obsidian material that you're unfamiliar with. There is a massive chasm separating you from the barracks save for a narrow bridge hewn from the earth itself which extends from the main room all the way to the barracks. An assault with a large force would be impossible and result in gravity claiming more lives of the would be attackers than any blades of the shadow elves themselves.
There are many guards stationed in front of the barracks whose keen eyes are watching the shadows for any movement. Vexanna motions for several of her soldiers to take out the entrance patrols. They nod and set out to do as they are bidden.
You watch from a distance. Your muscles tense as you watch and you catch yourself holding your breath in anticipation. You see Vexanna's soldiers creeping to the shadows and admire their ability to blend into the darkest parts of the cavern. They move like specters in the night, silent and deadly and dispatch the guards with relative ease.
One of them motions for your group to move forward and you do so. But the moment you step onto open ground you can feel a magical tingle run through your body, "We've been spotted!" Vexanna looks to you curiously and then feels it as well. "Damn! We'll need to-" she's cut off as an arrow narrowly misses her face and embeds itself in the rock next to where she is standing.
Shadow elves rush forward from the darkness, brandishing wicked blades. You bring your weapon to bare and fire off an arcane blast into the face of one would be attacker, melting his face entirely. The next brings his sword high. You feint a block but take the glancing blow on your shoulder as you duck and bring your own weapon in low, catching your opponent in the gut, knocking the wind out of him, and following the counterblow with a killing gash to the attacker's throat.
A heavily armored elf lunges at Liann. She uses her wings to provide a burst of momentum and moves to the side, and in the same motion throws a handful of coarse, sparkling dust into the face of her attacker. The elf drops his blade and begins coughing violently but is silenced by an arrow through the throat by Liann.
All around you, battle is joined and you throw yourself into several more skirmishes to put an end to it as quickly as possible.
Boss: Lady Vas'ok
|You catch your breath and survey the carnage before you. The fighting was fierce with many more attackers than you had originally anticipated joining the fray. Your heart sinks as you realize many of the bodies littered before you belong to Vexanna's rebellion. You look to your companions. Liann and Dokthannon are breathing heavily and nursing some shallow cuts but nothing that looks serious. Vexanna tends to the handful of her troops that remain, but it isn't long before the assault must begin anew.
"I am certain Vas'ok knows we're coming now. Our one advantage may be lost. If you wish to turn back now I would not blame you. Though your collective talents would be a great boon to our battle I understand that this fight is ours first." She never looks to you as she speaks, continuing to tend to her wounded soldiers and making plans for those too injured to fight to return to the encampment. You shake your head, "No. We're in this now, we can't just stand by while your people bleed for us." Liann looks at you with a wide smile, a sense of pride on her face.
"I thank you for your courage. Let's be off before they have the opportunity to regroup." You nod in agreement, take a deep breath and let Vexanna lead the way.
The bridge is narrow and your stomach is in your throat as you make the mistake of looking over the edge. Your eyes, even with the benefit of magical sight, do not allow you to see the bottom of the pit before you. A seemingly endless pit of pure darkness. You wonder how many unfortunate wayward souls have met their end at the bottom of that pit? You swallow hard and force your gaze straight ahead and try not to imagine yourself falling off the precarious bridge.
Vexanna moves with grace and complete silence fifty feet ahead of you. Liann has her wings ready to take flight should things go awry and Dokthannon does his best to muffle his armor, at one point being so desperate to silence it that he begins putting large tufts of his beard in comical places to prevent steel grinding upon steel. Under most circumstances this would be a hilarious moment, but in the heat of this tense situation you simply appreciate his resourcefulness.
Before long the barracks looms before you. An imposing structure with intricate statues of great beasts carved into the stonework, you take a quick moment to admire the craftsmanship before turning your attention back to the task at hand.
Vexanna approaches the heavy wooden door before you. She places her ear upon it and for a long moment there's nothing. Everyone holds their breath before she takes a step back and looks around. She shrugs her shoulders and pushes on the door gently. It begins to swing open and you anticipate a loud creaking but it instead gives way quietly, with only a slight groan of protest.
Your eyes take a moment to adjust and you look around the room. It's dark and the walls are lined with an assortment of different weapons. Each one curved and finely crafted from the same material as the flail you came in possession of earlier.
"You are brave, Vexanna." An elegant and sultry voice calls out through the darkness, "Your rebellion will be short lived. And I see you've been kind enough to bring surfacers with you. That's generous and I sincerely appreciate your assistance." An elven woman emerges from the shadows.
She's wearing dark purple plate armor with interlocking scales to protect her flesh where the plate ends. She has long white hair which is held back by intricate braidings and clasps to keep it out of her face in battle. She has a seductive smile which dances upon her lips and you'd wager her to be as dangerous in the courtroom as she is in battle. Vexanna visibly tenses as Vas'ok approaches.
She holds a curved glaive in her hand and with a speed you were not expecting hurls it at Vexanna. It cuts the air with a high pitched whine and Vexanna narrowly avoids the blade's spinning edges. But as quickly as she evades the glaive she is assaulted by a minion of Hlarr reaching from the shadows - she screams in agony as her skin begins to turn blue from where the creature grasps her arm.
You unleash a powerful spell infused with golden light in the direction of the creature and it howls in pain as it is utterly destroyed by your spell. Vas'ok leaps forward, catching her glaive as it returns to her hand. She slides on the ground and comes up quick in an upward thrust intended to disembowel you. You quickly step back and attempt a counterattack but only land a glancing blow off Vas'ok's armor.
Dokthannon shouts a dwarven warcry and charges Vas'ok who deflects his blows easily, but is taken by surprise as Liann's arrow embeds itself in Vas'ok's shoulder. A small stream of blood begins to flow easily from the wound.
Rage overtakes Vas'ok and she chants something in an alien language. Suddenly she disappears into the shadows and a deep rumbling sound cascades throughout the room.
"That's not a good sound..." you manage to say.
The roar is deep and guttural and the shadows coalesce and form into a large dragon, created from shadow. Upon its back sits Vas'ok. Looking down at you arrogantly she bids her shadow steed to charge the group.
Its dangerous maw clamps down on Dokthannon who grunts in pain and the smell of blood assaults your senses. You charge forward and drive your blade deep into the creature's hide and are blasted by an intense cold which sends you reeling. The dragon howls in rage at your attack and Vexanna deftly uses the handle of the blade protruding from the beast's hide to leap up to Vas'ok.
She puts her full weight into her and they both go tumbling down off the back of the great shadow dragon. Dokthannon props his weapon in the creature's mouth and does everything he can to avoid being swallowed whole. Liann peppers bolts of magical energy into its face and manages to get Dokthannon loose.
You weave another bolt of yellow energy and send it into the creature and it turns its attention to you. It swipes at you repeatedly, trying to make you its next victim. You roll across the ground to avoid being decapitated by its gnarled claws and from the corner of your vision you see Vexanna and Vas'ok engaged in a heated battle, neither able to get the advantage over the other.
As the great dragon comes down to close its maw upon you, you pull your dagger free from its scabbard and dodge to the side. You grip the ridge of the dragon's eyebrow and hoist yourself up to the top of its head. You stab downward over and over with your dagger and a purple blood floods outward. The dragon rears up and you do your best to hold on.
Liann and Dokthannon press the advantage and assault the dragon's exposed belly, attempting to cut the great creature open. You channel a powerful spell into your final blow and stand atop the creature's head and bring the full force of your spell downward.
The creature howls and slumps forward, the last shreds of life ebb away as you roll off its head. You spot Vexanna and Vas'ok still entangled in battle and you rush forward to aid your new ally.
As you do, Vas'ok leaps backward and catches Vexanna in the back of her head with her knee. Vexanna is sent to the floor, reeling from the blow and with a word of power shadow energy bursts out from Vas'ok and you see a shadowy figure looming over her. It is massive and brandishes a wicked smile. You feel utter despair as you look upon its face, and before you can react you feel your muscles no longer obeying your command. You look down and try to scream out as shadowy tendrils wrap themselves around your limbs.
Vas'ok grins wickedly, a purple energy radiating from her body and your world becomes darkness.
All you hear in your final moments of consciousness is a dripping within the cavern.
And then, nothing.