This is a flash-forward to the last battle of an Age– a time when the forces of darkness have massed together and allied themselves to crush the last remaining points of light and civilization in this part of the world. After nearly two decades of semi-retirement, great peril once again brings the heroes together. One final time they strap on their armor, shoulder their packs and set off to stop an alliance of their three most hated enemies.
This future is not guaranteed, for though prophecy tells us glimpses of what is to come, the minds of mortals and gods alike cannot comprehend the turnings and twistings of Fate completely. This is a possible future, and a likely one, should our heroes fail in any of the tasks set before them by the weavings of Destiny…
Grunthar, Master of the Eternal Hunt, arrives first at the site of the heroes’ first adventure together– now the shattered, fire-blackened ruins of Barradin’s Hold. The castle lies in a tumbledown ruin, and Grunthar runs a hand over the stones, his memory wandering. His eyes glitter with sparks of primal energy as the rage begins to bubble to the surface of his thoughts. The enchanted feyleather armor protecting his body– a gift from Kalistiri, his immortal sidhe lover– creaks as the veins in his arms pulse as his anger burns hot. Too long the darkness has encroached; too long has the shadow barely been kept at bay. Once more the Wastewalkers must gather and defend mortals from the horror of that which lies beyond the natural world. The red-enameled greatbow carried in his fist shimmers with magical heat as he glares up at the mound of earth where he once stood accepting accolades from a long-dead Lord. Grunthar’s gravelly voice echoes out into the dusk, “The Master of the Hunt has returned. The Reckoning is upon us. May the gods and spirits help us all… the end is coming.”
Far on the other side of the valley that once was Barradin’s Hold, another of the Wastewalkers closes on the pre-determined gathering point. His face lined with marks of worry and the line that come with great responsibility, Tayle the Stormwrath walks toward the battle he knows will be his last. For good or ill, the half-elf knows that the next few days will determine the fate of all Brittanis, and possibly the world. Elemental power crackles at his footsteps–fire and lightning, frost and thunder wafting away from his flesh as he walks ever onward. His soul infused with elemental and primal power, the Stormwrath feels the land cry out for vengeance beneath his feet. Despite their efforts, the war against the undead plague has always been a losing battle. Each soul lost to the plague becomes another soldier in the enemy horde, and the land is poisoned by their necrotic essence. Tayle’s spirit burns to cleanse the filth from these tainted lands he once called home. His hand unconsciously reaches up and runs the length of the old scar round his throat, memento of a long-past betrayal at the hands of his own blood. So long ago, and so many dead since then. Were his friends enough to stand against the shadow and prevail? Tayle did not think so, not if he was honest. But there was no one else. They had to be enough. They must prevail, or Brittanis would be lost beneath a flood of maddening slime and necrotic flesh and dark fey magics– and he would not allow it. The vines and living plants that made up his right arm writhed and shuddered at the force of his emotion, and the ancient bronze-tipped spear entwined in the grasp of his vine-arm wriggled as if it, too, was alive. “We will prevail. We must, for there is no one else to stand. Spirits of the land forgive me, but I do not believe we can win. But that does not mean we shall not fight.”
The clanking of heavy armor echoed round the soot-scarred granite that had once been Barradin’s Hold, and Lord Trifus of the Northwatch strode with purpose amongst it, eyes scanning for enemies. The heavy battleaxe of unshining adamantine held easily in his hand, and his wary eyes searched for signs of his foes. The Black Lion of Caer Rydecan carried himself easily in armor that lesser men would collapse under. The mighty warrior’s disc-shaped shield with the black-enameled lion crest was slung across his back within easy reach. His face was grim, and his eyes glared out of the helmet upon his head, hiding the viciously-scarred half of his face that had nearly been melted away in dragonfire– a battle that seemed like it had taken place ages ago and only yesterday. His armored boots made strangely hollow sounds as they clomped among the stones of the fallen castle, ancient runes of dwarven smithcraft matching the axe in his fist. He, too, had the look of a man knowing he marches to his death. Since founding the Northwatch, Lord Trifus had fought so many battles he thought he would never be free of them. Step by blood-soaked step his his men had been pushed back from their holdings, away from the mouth of the Waste and the slime-covered, tentacled horrors that had come pouring out of it, wakened and called forth by the ravings of a mad warlock. Year after year his boys had fought and fallen, and now the aberrant horrors had unified as never before. Some said that the Voidcaller had returned, but Trifus remembered that battle clearly–the same battle that cost him his son had seen the end of that horror-casting arcanist. Hard tears glinted unshed behind Trifus’ eyes. It had been years since he had mourned for his child, and now as not the time– besides, he would be joining young Cedric soon enough as it was. He would see Elaine and his boy again soon.
Opalescent purple orbs scanned the horizon as Aydin Arbor, the Harbinger of Caiphon, made his way down to the blasted castle. He never regretted the decision that had torn the fortress asunder, but he knew the others likely still would, even decades later. He shook his head and the whispers in his spirit grew a little louder. IT would need to be fed before long, but He could wait a little longer. His power had grown so much since his companions had last seen him– conquering the wilderness as innocent as babes, unknowing of the bleak, horror-filled future that awaited all of them. His mouth turned up in a grin as IT influenced his actions without his conscious control. He had made the bargain with the Whisperer in an attempt to keep IT from coming into the mortal world, but he had only been partially successful. Aydin had managed to delay IT, but at the cost of fracturing his own mind and body. His hunched, mangled figure still carried itself with dignity, but he moved slowly and with wracking pain except in the most dire of emergencies. The solid, magically-hardened silver staff that supported his frame bore him without difficulty and though his body had been ravaged by the power of the creature that inhabited his shell, his driving and ambitious personality still burned hot within him. The others would not understand the sacrifice he had made to save the world that day in the throne room of Barradin’s Hold, but it did not matter. The Witch King had arisen, and his power would blot the world in shadow unless they stood together again. Surely they could see past the murder of a king and his entire family tree to face the greater evil. Surely they would see the necessity in that. His mouth gibbered in laughter, unbeknownst to his mind as Aydin walked onward towards a meeting where he was not wanted, but would be desperately needed.
More to come soon… Draxxus, Captain of the Black Legion; Barthram Tremayne, High Chief of the Tharn; and Queen Caelynn, the Frost Bride and High Lady of Neverwinter!!!
After nearly two decades of semi-retirement, great peril once again brings the heroes together. One final time they strap on their armor, shoulder their packs and set off to stop an alliance of their three most hated enemies.
[MONTAGE]Grunthar, Master of the Eternal Hunt,