Atrius MoonOrchid jumped through the air, greatspear held high above his head with both hands, and disappeared.
… and reappeared seconds later driving the shaft of the mighty weapon full strength into the chest of a training dummy set up for him, the force of the impact shattering his target into splinters.
The sound of clapping echoed loudly in the large empty room; that is, empty but for himself and weapons master Triel Sunbreeze, a noble from a minor house, but, unquestionably, the greatest Eladrin combat tactician of his time. A ballista bolt had very nearly ended his life two years back, and the damage to his leg proved too strong for even the strongest of available magics to fully repair. Now he walked with a limp and was relegated to ‘merely’ training all of Shae Joridal’s best military officers in advanced techniques. And he did not tolerate soft leaders at all.
Atrius was exhausted, physically and emotionally. He had carried the weight of an entire nation on his shoulders and failed. Shae Joridal had fallen. The Archfey was dead and the Darguun flag blew in the wind from the highest tower. And all of this because of a truly ancient and mysterious foe.
That day, Eladrin murdered Eladrin, and a civilization, so far removed in history so as to have become legend, had reappeared enraged and vengeful.
It had started with dreams and visions of terror. And a talking head.
Brynn had delivered to them the rotting head of a gnome, specifically that of the very circus gnome they had met in Droaam. Seemed he had betrayed them, and Brynn’s mysterious patron had delivered the gnome to the party as a gift … minus it’s body below the neck. A ritual had allowed the party to interrogate the remains only to discover that events to come were unfolding due to the machinations of a so called Prince of Nightmares, a name as of yet unknown to them. And then the gnome had uttered words that had sent a chill down Atrius’ back: Taer Lian Doresh. The Tower of Dreams, lost for many thousands of years.
News of Morocco’s mercenary troops’ early deployment as well visions of Shae Joridal’s failing magical defenses prompted Atrius, Morocco, Raven, and Brynn to seek out the nearest teleportation ring and travel back to his home to both seek council and warn his leaders of a possible new player involved in what now appeared to have become some sort of global Machiavellian game: a future conflict that could eclipse the great war that had ravaged these same lands less than five years ago and utterly destroyed the greatest human nation.
An additional vision had seemed to indicate the Archfey may have been a possible target of mental corruption.
The Council seemed simultaneously stunned and sceptical. Despite the seeming urgency of the situation, they advised they could only take this new information into consideration without promising to act on it. Privately, the Archfey confided in Atrius that with morale already dropping, it was best if they would focus on the dangers they already knew, rather than those that could only be speculated on. Including that of his own mental subordination.
And that is when an explosion, bigger than he had personally ever seen, had thrown apart one of Shae Joridal’s two tower and threw him to the ground, stunned and deafened. Through blurred vision, he vaguely registered the Archfey blasting a hole through a wall of his chamber and fly out to the now decapitated second tower, a very familiar Raven flying not too far behind.
Once they found their bearings, Atrius, Morocco, and Brynn ran to the nearest bridge, intent on crossing it to the other side and assess the disaster for themselves. On that bridge, the party encountered one of the mysterious ‘dark Eladrin’, alongside some ogres and shadowy winged creatures, all intent on blocking their way. And it was on this bridge where the party finally got to witness Brynn’s mettle in combat. In a very short combat that mostly consisted of her slamming foes to the ground and pushing them off the bridge, they ran across and climbed the rubble.
In the meantime, Raven had found herself on the newly created roof of the second tower, witnessing an epic battle between the Archfey and three equally godlike antagonists. And behind them, a portal leading somewhere, clearly where many of these new enemy forces had swept in from. with stealth and deft agility, she slowly dismantled the magical mechanisms keeping the portal open. When she was eventually spotted, the Archfey sacrificed himself in a final act of immolation that would destroy himself and his titanic foes before they could turn their attention fully on the much weaker druid attempting to shut down their means of entry and exit.
The party would come back together further along the roof to assist the defenders in mopping up some more of this terrifying new enemy. With vast control over powers of darkness, and a truly irritating capacity to virtually paralyse combatants, it was a much closer fight than the previous one. But once again, the four of them prevailed.
Hundreds of feet below, the Eladrin defenders were in a desperate fight for survival. A massive chunk of the tower had struck open a large hole at the surface, and suddenly, eight thousand raging goblins and hobgoblins charged forward to take advantage, defended only by sixteen hundred combat-weary Eladrin.
The battle lasted hours, with huge casualties on both sides, but in the end, the much more experienced Eladrin defenders soaked the earth with the blood of five hobgoblins for every one Eladrin killed. Nonetheless, with a huge gaping hole in their defenses, the now leaderless Eladrin of Shae Joridal were forced to surrender to vastly superior Darguun forces.
The Darguun leaders did not wish to see the fighting continue, a fight that was far more costly to their forces than those of the defenders. In the end, the Eladrin were forced to become a vassal state to the Darguun empire, with a military unit of Eladrin sent to serve in Rhukaan Draal, as well as several nobles kept there as hostages. In exchange, the Eladrin were allowed, for the most part, their autonomy within the walls of the their city-state.
Autonomy. To Atrius, there was absolutely nothing autonomous about their situation. There were many Eladrin that were content with the fact that the fighting had finally come to an end, but Atrius was a noble and a soldier. He had spent years defending the walls specifically so that his proud race could maintain their freedom … and conditional freedom, on bent knee, was no freedom at all.
No, this could not stand. It may be a necessary evil for the moment, especially with Prince of Nightmares attempting to manipulate all the nearby nations into an epic war, but it could not become the new status quo. He would find a way to free his people from the tyranny of these barbarians, one way or another!
Soon, the time of rest and training would be over. Despite the necessity of his presence having come to an end, Morocco had elected to stay at his side. As did their incredibly stubborn druid, for whatever reasons she had decided on. And Brynn had been promised to keep his company for a period of a year and had to stay … and yet, beneath the coy playful selfish exterior, he sensed a certain affection for this group. Or perhaps she enjoyed the challenges that came with sticking around and fighting in the battles they had fought, and would likely continue to fight.
The sun of this chapter of life had set amidst a river of ashes, but a new dawn approached that promised events and circumstances that would prove to be very interesting to this quartet of Paragons in the near future!