The Swordlands

Homecoming (Part 2)

Emerging into the dazzling light after several days underground the adventurers were met by an awesome vision. Ahead of them, the snow field climbed across the roof of the glacial range to a solitary peak that rose far above those around it. Squinting in the glare, they could just make out a structure, a tower maybe, sitting at the top of the peak. Howl stopped in his tracks. He knew that he was looking at Byfrost Mountain, and that it was the Crown of Byfrost that sat at its summit. This was the legendary home of the Legion That Waits, his home, which he had not seen for some 500 years or more.

And then the realisation took hold of them. Squinting up into the bright sky it could be seen that, while the sun had risen over the peaks to the East, to the West had appeared another orb, as bright and as fierce as the first. There in the sky above them had finally appeared Surtur, ‘lord of the fire giants’, ‘ancient primordial’, ‘The Prodigal Sun’ had returned to the Swordlands once more, and with him Ragnarok. Steams of melted ice ran through the snow, the air now was oppresively hot in a land which had only known ice and chill for some thousands of years. Now at the end of time, Byfrost Mountain shone under the twin suns with more radiance than ever Howl could remember.

The adventurers trudged across the deep snow fields under the baking heat of Surtur. The oppressive presence of the sceond sun burned their eyes and stole their breath. Soon every onward step became an effort, every upward glance became a threat. The each party member found themself retreating into their own minds in an effort to shield themselves from the gaze of Surtur.

Infront Karl could be heard to be muttering to himself. “You pathetic excuse for a Gnome, call yourself a Death Dealer? You will keep walking and you will not stop, or else you’re gonna cut your own throat real slow and real nice, got it?!”

Some way behind him, Howl laboured onwards, his weighty steps carving deep tracks through the snow. He was lost in his thoughts, thoughts of what might await him at Byfrosts Crown, thoughts of revenge against Siegmund for taking the Legion Ghulra from him, thoughts of furious anger and rage, at the end of which may or may not lie the answer to his torment.

Behind him, Aengus walked with his hands clasped together infront of him, clutching the Nightshade Bloom that contained his mothers soul. Like will-o-wisps, arcane sigils danced around him, spells he had woven to protect both mind and body against the furious onslaught of Surtur’s vision. Despite his considerable arcane might, his step faltered on occasion. He wondered should his magic wear off, would there be a price to pay?

Just beside Aengus walked his Drow father, Dian Cecht, wearing now just a tunic and fine breeches due to the sweltering heat, his long white hair matted across with furrowed brow. Fatherly affection had never been strong between them, Dian Cecht had always known that Aengus would have many battles to fight as he learned of his heritage, and that familial bonds would likely stand against, but as they neared the foot of Byfrost he saw Aengus stagger to one side, whereupon he caught him by the shoulder and looked his son quickly in the eye. At this Aengus regained his composure long enough for them both to reach an overhang where they found Karl and Howl pausing for a moment for breath.

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Homecoming (Part 1)

Karl soon found himself alone, clinging to the icy walls of the dark crevass. With Aengus, Howl, and Dian Cecht hidden away within Angrbodes Ever-Hungry Sack it was his job to carry the party down one face of the cavern and up the far side, where the exit to the Galdhopiggen labyrinth could be seen as a faint speck of light in the black.

Thin rivulets of water trickled down the rough ice and over the Gnome’s calloused hands, an indication that the air temperature was beginning to rise, the implications of which could only be imagined. After just over 15 minutes of climbing, the Death Dealer reached the ground. Creeping several hundred feet across the ice led Karlto the wall of the other side of the cavern, whereupon he began to climb.

Several minutes later the sack Karl was carrying on his back began to bulge and writhe. Suddenly, his companions came leaping out, scrabbling onto the rock face, tumbling this way and that.

“The ship is sinking!” Shouted Howl, before crashing in a heap on a ledge far below. There in the dim flickering torch light the party assembled on a narrow outcrop on the ice wall, gasping for breath. Karl detected a damp, mouldy aroma clinging to them, which he did not believe had been there before, and decided it was better to ask no questions.

Realising that his companions had no intention of getting back in the bag made of ogre guts, Karl showed them how to rope themselves together, and they began to climb as a team, albeit more slowly than before.

After some time, from somewhere across the ice wall, in the darkness could be heard faint cracking sounds, as if the ice itself was splitting. At the edges of their vision the party could just make out long, twisted forms clambering out of seams that seemed to open and close in the ice. Rushing across the ice wall from all sides came grotesque centipede-like creatures made almost entirely of long, razor sharp bones. The ‘Osteopedes’ were dazzlingly quick as they encircled the party, and there on the ice face the adventurers had no choice but to battle the undead creatures.

Aengus found that he could teleport them away from the wall so that they would fall hundreds of feet into the darkness. Howl and Dian Cecht were forced to wait until each the creatures came rushing in to attack with long necrotic mandibles, at which point they would strikle with all their might. Howl found himself wrestling with the creatures, and through sheer strength managed to fling them away and into the darkness. Karl was almost as nimble on the ice wall as the Osteopedes, and scrambled up and down, leaping from ledge to ledge in pursuit of the creatures.

Eventually the party saw no more of the undead creatures and made their way to the top of the ice wall, where daylight finally greeted them.

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From 'The Last Warrior'

The two warforged speak at the gates of the hall at the roof of the world. It is to be the last time The Strength Of Steel would ever see Byfrost with his own eyes.

“Why are you so sure that I am equal to the task?” Asks the smaller legionary. “I possess no single virtue that sets me above the others. In faith, I have but a modest talent. In spirit, I boast no great gift. With the sword I am unexceptional at best. Why are you so convinced I am the one?”

“If I were seeking faith I would have asked The Darkening Of The Sky. Had I been seeking zeal I would have asked Justice For All. Had I been seeking skill at arms I would have asked Shiny Metal Bastard. In temperance alone you are different to your comrades.” continues the general. “I would not say that you are uncaring, but your passion does not burn in your eyes.”

The smaller soldier is silent as he hears the generals words.

The Strength Of Steel continues, “In the years ahead you will be tested, and more arduously than any of us ever have been before. You will need your patience, you will need your wisdom. You will be distant, calm, perceptive, and you will endure. You will wait.”

The smaller legionary turns away. Quiet for some time, the soldier looked across the snowy mountainside.

“This duty you place upon me breaks my heart in twain, but I will do as the council has ordained.”

“This task is fit only for you. I am certain no other legionary can endure the horrors that await without becoming unbalanced. You will see mankind tear itself apart. You will see humanity descend into evil beyond imagining. I myself would sooner rip my Ghulra from my brow than bear witness to the future of this world. But the legion must live out it’s destiny, we must be ready when the time comes, and one of us must sound the call.” replies the general.

“And if I cannot endure… if I fail?”

“Then, come Ragnarok, what remains of mankind shall cease to be, and we all will have failed.” replies The Strength Of Steel.

The legionary watches as the general departs, as he trudges through the snow fields under the brilliant blue sky, as he disappears from view.

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An Audience With Shewva, Oracle Of Chronepsis

A century ago came what is known as The Curse. At that time I sensed the presence of a dark power. In a dream I saw The Boon Companion, The Apple Thief, The Trickster, Jack-In-A-Hood, The Sleepless Dreamer, The Gift That Is A Curse, A King Unborn, Night and Fear, Death and Dream, Friend and Foe, The One Who Waits At The End Of A Journey, The Night Watchman who fashions a ship from the torn nails of dead men in which will sail the army of the damned through seas of blood at the end of time. That the dead once walked the land was doing of this dark force. That they are now restless is the doing of Siegmund, for it was he who has disturbed them in his search for the Crown.

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From 'The Saga of Harald-Know-No-Fear'

Where now the legion and the crown?
The old king asked the knight,
We now are lost and so remain,
For this war we cannot fight.

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From ‘The Chronicles Of Wyrm And Man'

The throne of Himinborg was won by knight after knight until the time of Gylfi Beast-Skull, named so for the bones of his defeated foes that ornated his hall at Himinborg. No king before him had furnished Kørd’s church with as many conquests. Wyrm-kin, wolf-braer and Jotunbrud, beasts long, tall, scaled and horned he claimed in the name of the One God. Blessed he was with strength and skill in equal measure, and his knights followed him above all others. He one day asked of his champion ‘Rivenhart, my armies now make for the lands far to the west. Will you not fight with me and make peace for our people once more?’

Rivenhart replied:
’At night I look to the stars
For it is they who speak of the coming end.
Ragnarok approaches and all your warring will count for nought.
But this you should know, great king Gyfli Beast-Slayer:
There is no further salvation
Byfrost is lost to you for the wars of your forefathers
And with it the Crown that was meant for your safekeeping
I made a vow in the sight of Kørd
I know now that I have been unwise
I vowed to protect you against any foe
But I cannot protect you from yourself
If there is an answer to this riddle it is not here in the world of men
And I must follow my destiny
I will take up one last quest
And journey deep into the underworld
There lies below a land of darkness
Born of men’s misdeeds and Faerie magic
Where my journey will end I cannot say
But my time here is past.’

And with that Rivenhart, First knight of Himinborg, took off his badge of office and cast it into the firepit. He sailed a small boat out of the harbour and took the first tide northwards, never to be seen again.

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Last Orders Of The Legion

The Last Orders of Requiem

The gods forged the world in war. Their fury shook the skies, the bones of the fallen made the mountains of the mortal realms, their tears filled the oceans, and from their blood were born men and beasts. As it was made so shall it be unmade. Surtur, the lord of fire, shall come. Thrymm, the lord of ice, shall follow. The great primordials are almost upon us.

Find the Crown. Hold the Bridge! Hold the Bridge! For the Bridge must hold! And from the Byfrost Bridge shall the last among men watch the giants fall.

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The Eladrin Prophecy

From ‘The Prophecy Of House Aellrinath’

I dreamed. I dreamed of a land of Ice and Steel.
I saw the Old King, his heart twisted and poisoned by lies.
I dreamed. I dreamed of the UnBorn King.
I saw his acolytes everywhere. In the shadows they dwell, and in the shadows of mens hearts.
I dreamed. I dreamed of the Last Warrior.
I saw his battles against the UnBorn King’s acolytes.
I dreamed. I dreamed of the Last Days of Man.
I saw men accepting the Gift from the UnBorn King.
I saw Man, that strange, foolish, and noble race, become Other.
I dreamed. I dreamed, and I wish, how I wish, I had never woken. For upon waking I knew the dream was real.

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Coming Soon...
Homecoming

I will catch a dragon fish and offer her to they,
Who look down from the mountain where they watch our children play,
They look out from the silver stream that falls from up on high,
They watch our children dance by day, by night they watch them lie.

I will catch a dragon fish and feed her to the moon,
That lights the silent waters of the ancient high lagoon,
From the darkness of the ocean to the black and sandy shore,
But a ripple on the water and the moon will dance once more.

I will catch a dragon fish and feed her to the land,
Where once there walked a legionnaire, a child within his hand,
His foot trod lichen carpet and his brow with garland lain,
Lies now below the earth and waves, and there he shall remain.

I will catch a dragon fish and feed her to the sea,
Where once were halls of golden boughs now shall sorrows be,
The weeping of the hours pass before the sun shall rise,
Upon that pool of blackened glass where our warrior now lies.

I shall catch a dragon fish and turn it on the hearth,
In my home of ice and crystal on the high and secret path,
The house of all my fathers where my children shall be born,
From whence we hear the prayers till the coming of the dawn.

From ‘Homecoming’, a traditional song from Kindraed

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Into The Labyrinth

Observing the battle from Siegmund’s cliff-top command post, the adventurers behold savagery and carnage on a scale they have never before witnessed. The 2 armies have become intertwined in bloody slaughter and it is difficult to tell friend from foe. It appears that Siegmund himself is missing, and the party resolve to track him down and exact vengeance upon him.

They decide that he is heading for the Crown of Byfrost, and they travel through the crags to the cave entrance into the Galdhopiggen glacier, beyond which lies Byfrost. The follow the tracks of a dozen centaurs through the ice caverns, and are disturbed to notice a lingering stench of death in the quiet air.

Over several days of travel, negotiating routes through the labyrinth, the adventurers encounter strange fleshwarped monstrosities, undead more vile and twisted than any they have witnessed elsewhere. They study some of these specimens and deduce that, unlike the traditional process of fleshwarping which transforms one thing into another, these obscenities have either grown, mutated from a series of fleshwarping experiments and have taken hold in this environment, possibly in a process similar to adaptation, or evolution.

The tracks eventually lead the party to an enormous yawning chasm in the darkness of the cavern network. An ice bridge which until recently spanned the gap of several hundred feet has been destroyed, and at the far side a single dot of light indicates that they have nearly reached the end of the Galdhopiggen caves.

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