Nathlo! I eneth nîn Erredil Uíren. Im nestor.

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Nathlo! I eneth nîn Erredil Uíren. Im nestor.

Post by ClockworkPanda on Sun Dec 27, 2015 10:16 pm

We've been on the road for two days now, making the trip from the northern mining city of Mirabar to Waterdeep, the Crown of the North. Travel between the two cities can only be described as treacherous at best. The water route is only usable for part of the year, when the River Mirar is free of ice. Even then, magic warped tribes of goblins and kobolds stalk the banks, and the fetid bog that was once its estuary is infested with unnamed aquatic horrors. The once great port city of Luskan never fully recovered from the Time of Troubles. The city and its bridges are in disrepair. The rickety Upstream Span is now run by gangs that demand coin in exchange for passage. Over the years, it has become a kind of safe haven for wanted criminals and other undesirable individuals.

Attempting the journey overland isn't much better. The Long Road is the primary trade route; however, it runs directly through the Deadlands. Some two-hundred years in the past, a great conflict turned a large part of the region into a no man's land. The devastation stretched as far as the southernmost reaches of the Neverwinter Wood, north to the hamlet of Longsaddle, and east to the citadel of Yartar. Within the Deadlands, magic fluctuates wildly, or in some places simply fails to work at all. Much of the land is contaminated by spellplague; therefore, few living things still exist within the region. What little life does manage to claw out an existence there has been grotesquely warped by the diabolical power of the plague.

That is where adventurers come in. Merchants are willing to pay, and pay well, any entity which can guarantee their safety. Most reputable merchant houses hold contracts with adventuring companies or guilds, while shadier organizations tend to hire less scrupulous mercenaries. Small traders tend to hire up and coming adventurers. For them, surviving a tour on the Road is seen as a coming of age ritual.

On this excursion, I am protecting a small group of dwarven craftsmen, seeking to set up a smithy in the big city. They must be on a tight budget, the caravan guard consists of two grizzled veterans and a handful of fresh faces.

There are few better to watch over such a motley group. I have been on this path countless times and have seen all the wastes can offer. To walk them is my penance.

After all, I had a hand in creating this wasteland.    



"...and that's how I killed the hag!"

The speaker, a young human clad in weathered mail, turned his green gaze to me. I know little about him, other than his name. Leohorn. One of the newcomers.

"So what about you? Healers are rare out here, and elves even rarer. Something about the ground feeling wrong, I never understood it. Besides, you look like you can hardly lift that sword you carry."

Tense silence falls over the assorted caravan guard. Out of the corner of my eye I see the veterans exchange concerned glances. They watch with baited breath, perhaps sensing the story to come. Or maybe they merely expect a fight.

"You want to know about me? Fine, I shall humor your insolence.

I was born far from here, in a city deep beneath a forest. I never knew my father, though in infancy I was scared for by a potent sorcerer. My mother was a warrior, known for her skill with both blade and spell. I was raised to follow in her footsteps, a thing I took the utmost pride in. I enlisted as soon as I was able, eager to begin my career as a soldier. I wasted no time in distinguishing myself, but not for raw talent. Instead, I was known for single-minded determination. I had no goal other than to rise through the ranks as quickly as possible.

The work I put in paid off, I became one of the youngest bladesinger trainees. Taught in peacetime, none of us expected to be thrown into battle as soon as we were.

My first battle was, to be blunt, a meat grinder. An army of fiends broke through the wards containing a weak place between Bator, and our plane. They were bloodthirsty, seeking to overrun our city, make it a battleground for a conflict of their own. More importantly, they wanted control of the only stable portal in the material realm to lead to the heart of the planes.

The assault was quick and brutal. The tunnel they chose to begin the invasion through had long been deemed safe, and therefore was only lightly patrolled. What few officers we had were killed or fled early into the attack. I saw fortifications overrun, men slaughtered like cattle, and a complete breakdown of the rigid military structure I was used to. It was literal hell. The first fortifications fell quickly, forcing the remaining defenders back. To this day, I am unsure how they repealed the initial onslaught.

My small squad was left intact following the first wave. Some of us wanted to stay and wait for orders. Others wanted to flee. We did not have time to argue long. As the second wave began to break against the remaining weakened structures, we came to an agreement. If any of us wanted to live to see the next day, we would need to collapse the tunnel. It wouldn't stop them for long but it would buy us valuable time.

The rest is all a blur. I remember scrambling to prepare the explosives. There was screaming and fire reflected on the walls. Heavy footsteps echoing, growing ever closer. I felt panic and fear and rage. A great roar rang out and I found myself running with my blade drawn, there was a tremendous heat... and then nothing.

The rest I had to piece together from secondhand accounts. From what I understand, we were attacked by a Balor. To hear some tell the tale, I fought it to a standstill as the personification of war-craft. The truth is less then glamorous. One fortunate blow claimed part of the demon's horn, but that was near all the luck I had. Judging from the wounds the monstrosity dealt me, I lost rather badly. At the least my efforts bought the others time to finish placing the explosives. I was able to retreat a ways before collapsing from both exhaustion and my wounds.

That singular event did more to boost my career than anything else I had ever done. I was regarded as a hero, willing to face certain death to protect my friends. To the higher-ups, it proved I was strong and capable of handling the toughest of assignments. They wanted to make use of me as soon as I recovered. And I was more than willing to allow it.

I worked my way higher and higher over the next few years. I took on a myriad of missions, everything from escort to monster hunting. They had in me the perfect soldier.

Until the day it all changed.

I was tasked to lead a small group into an unmapped section of caves. Scouts had reported catching glimpses of monsters deep in the dark, so our commanders wanted to investigate the threat. We thought the assignment would be simple. We couldn't have been more wrong.

I'll spare you the details. In short, we walked into a Beholder hive. I managed to escape, but was separated and badly injured. Lost and alone, I found refuge in a small side passage. There seemed to be no escape. With no plan and no hope, I accepted my fate. Death would soon find me.

That is when I first head it. A small voice ticking at my ears, slow and faint, like a whisper carried on the wind. It called to me, promising me peace and healing if I would but follow. At first I thought it to be a trick. Either the beholders were attempting to lure me from hiding, or my own sanity was starting to slip. I resisted for a time. However I did not have much to lose by listening. I was dead if I stayed and dead if I moved. In the end I gave in. Following the voice became the best decision I ever made.

Do you know where it lead me? The voice came from a portal to Elysium, to the True Grove. Eldath's Realm. It was there I found a peace greater than anything I had ever known. All of my pain, my desires, faded away. My physical body was perfectly restored, just as I had been promised.




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ClockworkPanda
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