Monday, June 4, 2018

The Ruin of Nimbar: The Gathering of the Wardens

Astifoorn. City of Stars and the blessed Vale. Here it was that the Eldar Mages crafted the Everlast, a powerful gem wrought of Starfire and held atop Altoth - the ancient tower in the heart of the city. For many years, the magic of the Everlast held the darkness of the Chaos realms at bay with a protective shield which the people of Nimbar called the Shimmer.

But the Shimmer is no more and the light of the Everlast is failing fast. Now the four Wardens of the Realm and their companions have gathered. For the fate of Nimbar hangs in the balance and the heroes seek to restore order lest their world fall into chaos and ruin.

Quinn, Warden of the North recounted then his ordeal with the sorcerer Klak in Nerath:

"As much as he sought to break my mind in the hope of finding the location of the Everlast, the sorcerer's wizardry showed me also a glimpse of his purpose. Whichever evil master he so greedily serves has already discerned that the gem is at its end. But in my torment I saw a vision that the Everlast could be remade. The Starfire from which it was forged still burns deep beneath the mountains of Firestorm Peak. The enemy knows this and they have beset the mountain with legions of orcs and monsters and with their best captains at its guard. They cannot bear the Starfire nor suffer its touch for its powers are elemental and ancient and it burns them but to look towards it. However, they have laid siege to it and will let none pass beneath for they have a fear...and it is that fear that gives us hope: If the Starfire were brought back to Astifoorn, the Everlast could be reforged!
For now we have an advantage, for the enemy knows not that the resting place of the gem is here and we arrived all here in secrecy and it is here and in few places yet that the Shimmer still holds...for now."

"Alas! The Shimmer holds not in the Underdark. Menzoberranzan has fallen, the Drow are all dead or driven mad and a Primordial was awakened deep inside the caverns."
Thus spoke the Dark Elf, Drizzt Do' Urden, Warden of the West, and he gave an account of what befell his party on their journey to Astifoorn:
"Much was lost and more in ruin but the victory was ours. For ere the Balor fell and we escaped through the river, we happened across one who may have a bigger telling in this tale than I. For the Druid we found by the river should now speak at this council."

"I am Aldred, Druid of Dal Haleth. Our forests were thick with greenery and leaf and a place for resting and peace for friends, travellers and strangers. Then our vales were overrun by shadow and darkness as the magic of the Shimmer waned. My people stayed to their havens and ventured seldom out, for rumour came of fell beasts and dark things that blackened the green earth. Then came the vanishings: first those woodland creatures whom we held under our protection - birds and deer and rabbits...we found mutilated and hung to tree. We retreated to the innermost part of the forests and our people used our crafts of concealment to lay hid. But some of us were not as lucky. Father was taken and I, foolishly, went in search of him. I found him... eventually...or what was left of him..."

The Druid's tone turned then to bitter resentment:

"In a vengeful rage and stupor I summoned a forest spirit and together we flew at his attackers but we were overwhelmed. The spirit was destroyed and I was taken...for the enemy saw fit to corrupt me with their dark magics, seeing that a Druid under their power would prove useful. I...I saw what they did to the Drow...and it almost drove me to madness. They held me, with great abuse and torment, ever prying, ever probing...trying to drive my mind beyond the borders of sanity. It took all strength of will to stay the madness but my knowledge of roots and herbs spared me. For the Underdark is thick with growth and mosses and I used this secretly and to dull my agony. As such I began noting that the legions of Goblins and Orcs were if in preparation for a great war. One evening as I was being tortured I overheard telling of an attack on Astifoorn and the coming of an ancient chaos lord by the name 'Zaldramas'. This name is spoken with much fear...even the Balor seemed to cower in the mere mention of it. Then, just as the last of my hopes and health began to fade, Drizzt and his party attacked, I chanced my escape and made for the river...even as dark arrows rained down upon me as I swam to daylight...
This is my tale and of my place in all of it I know only that I cannot return to Dal Haleth. To to do so would risk breaking the concealment spell and exposing my people to even greater danger. I thus offer my services as a Druid unto you, good Wardens, that they may be of use, even if my part is small."

Then did Bruenor, last scion of the Dwarven Kingsline raise forth his hammer in salute:

"Bruenor Battlehammer, last of my clan and Warden of the East. Druid, your deeds in this is already counted amongst the Mighty and I would have your valiance at my side. But the Shimmer in the East fades too and hard times have befallen the lands of H' Garth. With tumult indeed was our journey met 'ere we came over the river, to Dal Astari. But, if it is as you say, then an even greater tumult awaits the City of Stars with the coming of a lord of chaos...this...Zaldramas."

A silence befell the Company then. And it seemed as if a twilight was setting upon the blessed Vale.

Then Drizzt spoke:

"It appears we are now assaulted on all fronts. What of the South? Eladrin of the Elves - what can be said of your journey?"

Eladrin, the Elvish Wizard and Warden of the South offered a haunting tale:

"Heeding the summons of Quinn, our party of five set off from Khymer but were pursued by goblins, orcs and wraiths all the way to the Ranarth. There we managed to evade our pursuers and sought the secret pass over the mountains. That was when we saw them. Just west of the pass: hordes of skeletons and zombies, fey creatures that had been summoned from darkness for darker purposes and again the name being whispered: Zaldramas! The Enemy held summoners captive, wizards who would have had no part in all of this but were forced to summon creatures against their will, lest their families and loved ones be slaughtered before their eyes. We stayed hidden then, planning a rescue for those poor captive souls but even as dawn broke the next morning we found them butchered by their tainted wraith masters.
All but one wizard remained - burned and scarred but driven mad by the deaths of his friends and family...he had grown dark and powerful, a Necromancer who turned their very forces against them. I had never seen such raw power - their hordes were destroyed and the orcs and wraiths fled in terror, lest they be crushed by the power of the Necromancer. Yet, even as he bested them, he fell...his power spent...and like you, Druid Aldred, we brought him here to the blessed Vale, wherein he may find solace. He rests now, in the Houses of Healing and has sworn his allegiance to us in the war to come."

In the blessed Vale, a nightingale sang as the company sat and considered. Again, Quinn spoke:

"Dark indeed are the days that drives men to madness and darker still... to necromancy. The fate of Nimbar now rests in the balance. This is the prophecy come to pass at last and our choices as Wardens now split according to our tasks: Astifoorn must be protected at all costs. As long as the Tower of Altoth stands, the Everlast can be reforged. But even the Vale cannot withstand an attack on all fronts and the city will soon be besieged. We will defend our borders to the East and South. Our allies amongst the Elves of the Havens will stand with us and armies from Hala and Ren will come... But, we will need aid...Bruenor, from the Dwarves of the Iron Mountains. There is none better equipped to deal with siege warfare than your people and we will have need of helm and hammer before the end."

"I shall go Comoth and pledge every axe, hammer and shield in defending the blessed Vale" spoke Bruenor Battlehammer valiantly.

Then Quinn spoke again and this time, his voice was remorseful:

"In years past, the Mages were the guardians of the all realms of Nimbar and Faerun but they have passed now beyond veil and shadow and all that lingers of them is but myth and legend."

And then, turning to Eladrin, he added: "All but One..."

And then Eladrin, Prince of the Elves and Warden of the South, spoke and his tone was one of deep memory:

"Yes, North Warden, there is one as you say, who may yet reclaim the title of magedom but he has turned from that path and chosen for himself a life of isolation. A recluse and a hermit who has rebuked all claims of power and has taken refuge in the hidden caves and paths of the Ranarth and is seldom seen or heard of these days."

A sadness seemed to overcome him. He sighed softly and continued:

"In the aftermath of the war against Tiamat the Mages sought a means whereby they could prevent any more chaos and evil from entering the world so they took, each for themselves, an apprentice. These apprentices they selected from amongst the nine races and instructed them in the ways of the Word and the Will. Soon they were well versed in mage-lore and their repute was known far and wide throughout the realm. They were the scions of the mages - the 'Magi Scyns' amongst the Elves or 'Magicians' in the common tongue. Then did the Mages create the Everlast and the Shimmer and  entrusted the protection of Nimbar to the Magicians and withdrew themselves from the world, never to be seen or heard from again. For a long time there was peace and the Magicians upheld order and maintained balance. But over time the powers entrusted to them led them to ignorance. They became arrogant and dark thoughts began festering in their minds and instead of guidance they sought dominance, instead of peace they sought power and and so the seeds of their own corruption was sown.
Of the nine, six there were whos malevolent thoughts led them down the path to greed until their hearts and souls were irreversibly corrupted. They no longer called associated themselves with the Mages of old and took a new name: 'Arkhornasts' - The Arcanists. Together they wrought terrible deeds upon the realm, operating always in secrecy and causing great wars and upheavals. Three there were that stood in defiance of their fellows and were steadfast and true to the old ways and were pure of heart. They sought the help of all the races in defeating the Arcanists. A last alliance of the nine races was formed and marched together against the stronghold of the Six in Khymer."

"Bless my beard! But surely you speak of the Battle of the Silver Rivers! The Dwarves of the Iron Mountains were present there and fought alongside the Blessed Three against the Six!" exclaimed Bruenor with great mirth.

"Yes, " continued Eladrin quietly, "The last Great War. Many were the deeds of valour and tales of legend woven in that war and in the end, victory was ours. The Six were overthrown but at too great a cost. There were slain many a Dwarf, Elf and Human and two of the Blessed Three also were slain. Only one remained and it was he, who at the very end, bested Blaughir and  Khythri at the Silver River. Some there were who recorded seeing the likeness of the Mages of Old fighting alongside him, the last of the great scions. The Six were destroyed and the shadow of their corruption driven from our lands for good. But the remaining Magician went into exile and now wanders the Ranarth in shadow and secrecy."

"So...this hermit of the mountains is indeed the last Magician?" asked Tarak Half-Orc incredulously, "But that would make him nigh to 900 years of age!"

"947 years to be exact," said Eladrin ruefully, "And young still by our Elvish lore. Yes,Tarak, he was of Elven ancestry. Eldarion was his name, the first born prince of King Halithir, the one true scion brother."

Eladrin's voice was remorseful and filled with grief: "He renounced all ties to his former talents and teachings, fearing lest his heart be corrupted as his fellow Magicians before him. He will not wilfully aid us."

"Nonetheless, wilfully or not, we must seek his aid, " said Quinn firmly, "For should the Shimmer fall there would not be a nook or cranny in any mountain where evil would not reach and even a scion of the Mages could not hope to defeat a Lord of Chaos. No, Eladrin, we must reach out to must try...for a I sense that a greater work is in play here now that Druids and even Necromancers gather with us in council in the Blessed Vale. But even our combined strengths and might cannot stay the dark tide.
Astifoorn has its own spells and protection should the Everlast cease this very night but it will not hold forever.
What I ask of next is no easy task. It may even be akin to a greater sacrifice on any of our parts - I go thus to infiltrate Firestorm Peak and bring back here a vial of the starfire that burns yet deep beneath that cursed mountain. The Peak is swarming with Orc and Beast and Monster and whoever pledges to join me in this quest should have knowledge of secret paths and skills in espionage and shadows..."

Then, from the shadows came a rasping voice. All turned, for a hooded figure emerged then. The Necromancer it seemed, had slipped from the Houses of Healing and silently joined the council: "I know those paths better than any before me... I, who have taken this form of a Necromancer and go now by the name of Loth, shall join your company. This is not a request, I seek not your permission nor your blessings. A lifetime ago, before the darkness, before Tiamet, Ashardalon and Zaldramas, the Starfire that flowed beneath was protected by the Wizards of the Sacred kin. I go now to reclaim that fire and avenge the deaths of my people family."

Aldred, the Druid of Dal Haleth spoke thus: "I too shall join you in this quest. You shall have my allegiance and my skill of bark and leaf and tree."
And, finally, the Dragonborn Wizard Heskan spoke: "I wass with Quinn in Nerak. I shall fight alongsside him again in his quest to Firesstorm Peak"

"So it is decided," spoke Quinn, "Heskan, Aldred, Loth and I shall seek out the Starfire from beneath Firestorm Peak."
"And the Companions of the Hall shall join Bruenor in his quest to ally the Dwarves," spoke Drizzt Do' Urden.
"And I, Eladrin, the Warden of the South shall ensure that the Ranarth is secure. And..." and he hesitated for a moment before continuing: "And I shall seek out Eladrion and request his help thought I fear the outcome may not be to our betterment."
"And I shall see to it that the lands that lay East of the City of Stars are fortified" spoke Tarak Half-Orc and Warden of the East, "There are ancient battlements upon the foot of Ren. And my soldiers and armies are at the ready. We will hold the darkness at bay for as long as we can"

And thus were the 4 Wardens divided in their tasks: To reclaim the Starfire for the reforging of the Everlast, to seek the service and skill of the Dwarves of the Iron Mountains, to seek the aid of the last scion of the Mages and to secure the Eastern paths and fortify the battlements of Ren.

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