Visions of the Arcane

Prologue - Darkness Surrounds
Prologue

The world of Shadahl is a dark and unforgiving place for all, but a living Hell for you.

For as long as you’ve known life, the Darkness has spread, coming into your lives as a seepage, and then as a flood. When you were taken by the Khalmarde, either from your travels, or from your home, any chance of a light-blessed life ended.

Now, for however long, you’ve been a prisoner, servant, or play thing of the Khalmarde in what you’ve come to call Deathhome, and what they call Felris. The place you now call home, Limbo, is a shanty town, built in a large earthen pit in a section of Felris.

The people in Limbo with you try to eek out what lives they can while waiting for the death they know, or hope, will come too soon. There are not many good days and the nature of all folk rises to the surface here, both for good and ill.

The days are filled with tasks for all in Limbo, whether it’s tended to the wounded who have returned from “work,” or sending more out into the city to meet the daily demands of the sentient undead who harbor you. The workload is brutal, often gruesome, and sometimes fatal, with all manner of needs to be solved for necessity, and pleasures, alike.

This is your place now, regardless of background, origin or history, and this is what you live with every day. This is where our story begins…

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Where we start

We are introduced to our protagonists in this story, who are currently slaves to the undead of Deathhome, and their cruel and sadistic purposes. They are:

  • Nhya, the deva avenger
  • Nayeva, the druid taught ver’ali ranger
  • Wilfyre Hawklight, the Janthian human warrior with a mind toward the old faith
  • Arannis Arvannor, sen’ali swordmage
  • Ohr, half-orc monk
  • and, Agony Seyes, tiefling bard

These companions have come to know each other through shared pain, loss and suffering, and their trust is secure, given the lack of freedom in their miserable lives. Today is a day like many others in Deathhome, except that our companions have a chance to change their fate.

On this day in Deathhome, the companions in question are brought out of their home-crypt for work as any other. The taskmaster assigned to their tier, Felserris, and his retinue of skeletal guards, usher them along to their first chores of the day, cleaning the meat from the bones of those “fortunate enough” to meet their end. As Felserris would note: “There are many unliving mouths to feed in Deathhome, but order must be kept if we are to flourish as a society of the new world!”

Felserris leaves them to their task, yet returns early, with a wicked sneer as he greets the companions. He tells them of a new task for them, and that they are “specially requested” by one of the Khalmarde to perform this task. Without any choice for denying the request, the party is taken to the upper tier of Deathhome, where the largest crypt resides – an awesome mausoleum covered with statues and deatiled architecture, all very well kept. This structure is sometimes referred to as the Last Tomb, for those who enter with life, never seem to leave with it.

Felserris and his guard lead them to an under-crypt, one of many surrounding the Tomb, and told there’s a vermin infestation that has eluded the skeleton crews that must be cleaned out. They are given an assortment of old armor and arms to complete their next task, and sent into the under-crypt. When inside the skeletal guards stop at the entrance and the party continues onward to a lower chamber, not finding anything in the upper one.

The lower crypt poses a far greater challenge as torchlight reveals hundreds of rats and some giant rats, fully three feet in length! The party charges in and dispatches the vermin without much trouble. As they’re gathering themselves, Nayeva and Agony begin to search about and find a hidden door set as a depression in the stone of the back right wall! As the heroes are discussing what to do, they hear the approach of the skeletal guards from out in the hall. The party quickly makes up their mind to escape and pushes the stone open, bursting through to the darkness and whatever it holds.

The area behind the door is quickly revealed to be a slim hall with another two “wall” doors out. The sounds of the skeletal guards and the added curses of Felserris press the companions onward and they choose to leave one of the doors open and head through the other in efforts to mask their escape. Closing the stone with a grinding sound they turn to find where they’ve come.

Arannis blasts some broken timber with a gout of flame to let light flow, they use it to light some sconces on the walls. The companions survey the room from a raised stair and find themselves looking upon a stone floored, high ceilinged and columned room, with a dais in the center, upon which seems to be a large sarcophagus. They approach cautiously, but eager to find some way out and away from their pursuers. As they cross the threshold the columns create, a hollow voice rings out from the room itself leaving a ringing echo, “By what name have you come?”

With that, the sarcophagus lid slides quickly over and something in dark armor sits up and moves out of the sarcophagus. This helmed entity looked like a suit of walking plate armor, but with a shadow holding them together where one would normally find flesh. The guardian stepped forward and the tomb seemed to ask once again, “By what name have you come?”

Agony answered first with her name, and the guardian turned its attention to her. Agony asked the thing by what name it was known, and it didn’t respond except to note that it served the tomb’s master, whoever that would be. While being pressed for information, the guardian gave little away, which flustered Agony, but she persisted, bringing the guardian to state in a hollow and metallic voice that it awaited a challenge.

As Agony went through what dialog the guardian could muster, Ohr began to search the surroundings, thinking that the guardian was distracted, and then large metal banging came echoing around the tomb. Two large walking creatures, appearing to be made of iron and some type of stone, lumbered down from the north and south hallways. The guardian cut off his dialog with Agony, and the tomb seemed to give a soft warning, “You shall not pass until you have met my challenge.” It was surmised that these golems would move to attack the party if they tried to skirt their way around this guardian, or in some way tried to cheat their way out.

With this new variable, Wilfyre stepped forward and said, “I challenge you, then.” The helmed guardian turned, and if it could have smiled, it would have. The party heard an echoing, “Challenge Accepted,” and the black armored shadow strode forward. As Wilfyre prepared to engage the seemingly unarmed foe, a massive and bright flam erupted from its hands and it grasped it as if it were holding a large blade. With that, it came forward in a rush to smite Wilfyre and the contest began.

As the challenge was waged between Wilfyre and the dark guardian, the stone door they had entered from quickly ground open and the light of the sconces revealed walking corpses pushing their way into the room! A scream of anger followed them through from a familiar voice. “They’re here! Get them, stop them, charge!,” Felserris’ zombies came through and charged the lower level where the companions stood watching the challenge of Wilfyre. Two skeletal archers brought up the rear of his small troupe, and Felserris cursed in rage while he came in to command his forces.

With Wilfyre engaged, Ohr jumped in with Arannis to hold a line against the rear assault and Agony, and Nayeva began peppering the zombies with bolts both physical and mystical in nature. One of the zombies fell quickly, but Ohr’s whirling defenses didn’t stop him from being grabbed by one of them and crushed. Arannis drew the attention of the other closer to Ohr, and Nayeva and Agony’s offensive began shredding the bone and flesh from the creature crushing Ohr. Ohr slammed the creature with a free fist and broke it’s grip. Arannis and Ohr saw the opportunity to form a better defense and fell back closer to Wilfyre, still caught in the midst of the guardian’s challenge. The zombies moved to pursue.

After maneuvering into position, Nhya, calling upon some inner strength, leapt over the line of rotting, walking, corpses, seemingly with shimmering wings, to land and strike against Felserris with a vicious blow. Felserris’s eyes seethed with rage, and perhaps a hint of fear, and he struck back with a vicious swing of his staff, which Nhya turned aside with her massive blade. She then focused her enmity on the man, swearing an oath to defeat him as his horrid and crooked grin was enjoying challenge.

Wilfyre was thinking of some way to help the others, when he remembered the old rules of challenge: those who break the challenge are in contempt of those in the challenge. Wilfyre backed off of his challenge for a moment and scanned around for the nearest zombie, trying to find a way to help his companions. He looked to get one of the zombies to attack him, but they were not interested in him and were slightly further away then he would like.

After dodging an arrow from one of the archers, Nhya spun and dealt another vicious blow to Felserris, and the old man crumpled briefly. Gathering his strength and with gritted teeth, he rose suddenly, thrust his staff in the air, and screamed, “Fall!” With the power erupting from his word of power, everyone near to him was pushed back and staggered. He cursed and ran toward to the door he came from, bursting past his skeletal archers, and screaming, “Escape! Prisoner Escape.” echoing further and further away.

The blast backwards by Felserris had made the zombies maneuver closer to Wilfyre, and he used the opportunity to grab one’s attention. As soon as the zombie turned to Wilfyre and struck, the helmed guardian shrieked, “How dare you break my challenge,” and turned to strike the zombie! The golems immediately moved into motion and started to pummel the other zombies that remained, with the party falling backward to let them destroy each other. Shortly, with the companions and the golems striking them, the zombies fell, and the golems moved to the archers, and then out of the door in pursuit of Felserris.

With Felserris gone and under the pursuit of the tomb’s golems, the attention turned back to the Tomb’s Guardian, and the surrounding area. The party quickly explored the halls to the north and south, without angering the guardian at all, and found something odd. Strange, large machinery, exact in design, was found at the end of each of the halls. It appeared to be comprised of metal, but bits of stone, or rubble were layered about. There was some discussion as to what these machines were, when some large whirring began, and the machines seemed to be initiating somehow. After a little more analysis, Arannis and Agony both theorized that the machines were responsible for the golems, and that the newly began whirring would only lead to another set of them being created. This, was not ideal.

Now, realizing that any removed threat from the golems was only temporary, Wilfyre once again challenged the tomb’s guardian, only this time, the rest of the companions joined in, with no obvious retribution in sight. They dispatched the helmed guardian into a wisp of shadow and the armor fell, turning to rusting iron before their eyes. But there was no key, and no clue what there was to proceed. The only clue was the symbol on the armor, that of a reversed C with a high line from the top closing hook. No one knew where it came from, though Agony remembered seeing it before. Perhaps it would come to her later.

As the whirring progressed, the party began scouring the room for more information: Ohr broke into one of the four doors, finding the same symbol on the doors as on the rotting armor, and discovered a room of stacked corpses carefully prepared, and, hidden in a small compartment, a locked box. Nayeva and Agony examined the sarcophagus and found a fall away panel inside the coffin. They moved it aside and watched as it fell into darkness, hearing it shatter shortly thereafter letting them know the floor wasn’t so far away; perhaps thirty feet.

Around then, the whirring sound changed, and became an almost hum, now with the metallic clang of metal on metal and sometimes, metal on stone. Sensing that their time of exploration was at an end, and fearing the return of Felserris once more, the companions decided that their safest bet was to leap into the blackness under the sarcophagus, and so, one by one, they fell…

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