Sorrow Dealt a Crushing Blow.
(Crossing, Zoluren: 369 Nissa 359)
A blurry image of some object streaks across your vision. The object’s flight is halted by the rough wooden floor, where it collides and tumbles across. You attempt to focus your vision on the tumbling mass, only able to get a clear picture of it as its roll slows. Lying before you on the floor is the head of a Elpalzi Commander, still spinning slightly with momentum.
At the same moment the tavern doors fling open and Garfaldo walks into the tavern. He casually steps past the unbound head of the commander on the floor, not even so much as glancing at the horrific site.
Walking toward the bar, he stops short about three feet from it, gazing up and down the length of the counter at all the patrons gathered there with a hardened look of contempt. Parting his blood stained lips he murmers a greeting and gives a slight nod to the barkeep.
"Ye’ll have ta’ pardon the entrance Baresh, but I fear the cruelty of battle still runs cold in my veins from tonight’s massacre."
"To understand what transpired this night, I will update ye on the circumstances which brought us ta’ this bloodshed."
"A Dwarven guard payed Marshal Hegemonic and his Dwarven kinsmen a visit during one of their meetings held in the Stone Clan. Ta’ much of everyone’s amazement, he lead them ta’ a room within the cave in which sits the powerful book of Lord Sorrow’s Desire."
"About 8 days ago tha’ Necromancer Marstan visited the Paladin guild I heard. He spread word of Sorrow’s plans ta’ attack the clan an’ retrieve the book. He also offered his aid in taking down Sorrow, given our forces cooperated with him."
"The plan was to draw Sorrow’s minions away from the Keep, so tha’ Marstan would be given ample time and clearance ta’ reach Sorrow and work his powers on him."
Garfaldo pauses for a brief moment as his right arm begins to twitch uncontrollably. He mutters a curse about the effects of channelling so much mana in own day, and violently grips his shaking arm with the other. He stands there for a moment, grasping his arm firmly until the twitching subsides… he continues.
"The day which Marstan spoke of finally came, and with it many of our warriors banded in preparation to defend our welfare. Marshal Hegemonic and his dwarven band sit stationed within the stone clan, ready to protect the sacred book. The paladin Daython and a group of adventurers patrolled the Reach, ready to act out our part in Marstan’s plan ta’ destroy Sorrow. Myself and many other defenders stood stationed outside the doors ta’ the keep, preparing for battle amidst the watchful stares of the two grand sentinels guarding the cave."
"Suddenly, Marstan’s thoughts filled our heads, he announced that the time has come… and to ready ourselves. I know not exactly what transpired in the moments that passed, but it seems Marstan was successful in reaching Sorrow. Using his powers, I believe he somehow drained Sorrow’s evil energies, leaving him striken to die a slow withering death. The thoughts of Prayk and Sadiaer filled rang out, denouncing Marstan’s actions and spewing threats of revenge."
"In an instant, hordes of Elpalzi and S’lai clamored to the gates of the Stone Clan. Elpalzi Commanders, officers, swordsmen, and mages began the assault as our defenders rallied to protect the clan. S’lai crossbowmen, archers, warriors, and footsoldiers backed up our enemies efforts as the battle erupted into full force."
"However, Sorrow’s army was no match fer the wit an’ skill of our defenders, for not a sole Elpalzi ‘er S’lai stepped foot within the Stone Clan grounds. The enemy was crushed, an’ jus as things began ta’ seem calm… it appeared as if the whole world began to feel the pain of Sorrow’s past. Visions began to cloud the visions of all, and a fearsome glance into Sorrow’s history was revealed."
Garfaldo inhales deeply, then speaks, "I will speak of these visions to ye…. as they came ta’ myself."
Your eyes begin to water and the air before you wavers and distorts. A beautiful grassy meadow in the full bloom of spring fills your vision. A young boy rides upon a sleek brown pony, next to an older man on a large black war-horse. Looking weary from a long trip, they both trot slowly towards a large city looming on the horizon. The man quietly says, "What do you want to do with your life? You have so much opportunity." The boy, without hesitation, replies, "I will be an emperor, father." The man chuckles softly, before noticing his son glaring at him. He says seriously, "Your opportunity might come, but beware the treachery along that path. Times are changing; the Empire is not what it once was. Now let us return to the palace, Sura." With the whisper of a gentle wind, the vision dissipates and you are left staring into the distance.
Your eyes water and the air before you wavers and distorts. A vision of a battered and sacked city overwhelms your senses. Smoke drifts lazily in the air, buildings have been smashed and looted, and piles of the dead are scattered upon the streets, all casting an eerie ambience upon the city. Through the carnage, a young man strides purposely down a ruined roadway, until he comes upon a company of soldiers resting on the ground. A captain brightens at the newcomer, exclaiming, "Sura! Run along and find your father. He is needed." Sura replies flatly, "He is dead. I am in command. Move your soldiers to the eastern gate, now." The captain blinks once and hesitates, then looks into Sura’s war-hardened eyes for a long moment. He nods to himself and barks orders to his men, causing them to spring into motion. With the whisper of a gentle wind, the vision dissipates and you are left staring into the distance.
Your eyes water and the air before you wavers and distorts. Images of a city on the brink of disaster assail your mind, each leaving you with just a vague fragment of an imprint. The elderly slowly dying, exposed to the harsh environment of winter with no hope of finding shelter. Young emasculated children slowly starving to death. The scarce caravans upon the once busy Imperial trade route ambushed, the traders executed for their goods. Terror and thievery on the streets. Lawlessness. Plague. But soon the tide begins to change. Images of public hangings, the reconstruction of great and majestic buildings by the military, trade reestablished, and shipments of food being brought in. With the whisper of a gentle wind, the visions dissipate and you are left staring into the distance.
Your eyes water and the air before you wavers and distorts. A vision of a celebration fills your eyes, people all over a city walking about and being merry. Thousands are gathered in a square before a large palace, repeatedly chanting, "Sura!" Atop a large podium, Sura raises one hand, and the crowd is silenced. He begins to speak. "It has been seven years since the war, and still we stand, alive, despite what everyone else might have said. Mir’Kazeril is well on the road to recovery. No one will ever defeat the courage and determination so evident in our populace. Nor will we ever again depend on the Empire to defend us, for we will do it ourselves!" The crowd lets loose a spontaneous cheer, and Sura pauses before continuing. "Now that the crisis is past us, I will be leaving for a time. I travel to study with those known as the Crystal Hand, but I will return." With the whisper of a gentle wind, the visions dissipate and you are left staring into the distance.
Your eyes water and the air before you wavers and distorts. A sparkling chandelier casts its light upon a large group of Moon Mages, all dressed in formal attire. Sura strides down the room, accompanied by an elder Mage on each side, before coming to stop before a red-robed Mage. The mage looks upon Sura, then says, "You have shown yourself worthy, in such a short time, to be given a seat upon the high council. Do you accept?" Sura opens his mouth, no words coming out, and a confused look upon his face. He gags once, then falls over to his side, blood trickling down his mouth. With the whisper of a gentle wind, the visions dissipate and you are left staring into the distance.
The air grows thick and sluggish, reminding you of a lake just beginning to freeze in the briskness of early winter–only the chill is somehow angry. A tendril of the cold snakes toward your heart and you feel a wrenching at your spirit, as if it were in danger of being pulled from your body. Suddenly, a reassuring warmth spreads through your limbs and you feel a second presence wrap itself around you. The malevolent force, thwarted for now, withdraws from you with a soundless snarl, leaving you exhausted but unharmed.
Your eyes water and the air before you wavers and distorts. The vision of Sura and several elder Moon Mages sitting before an aged oak table appears before you. Holding a wide sheath of papers in his hands, Sura says, "What I hold in my hands is the secret of everlasting life! With this knowledge, we can live forever, doing what needs to be done to better the world. The possibilities are endless!" The Mages sit quietly, their eyes widening slightly in horror as they read the paper, before one exclaims, "This borders on Sorcery! You cannot do this Sura!" With the whisper of a gentle wind, the vision dissipates and you are left staring into the distance.
Your eyes begin to water and the air before you wavers and distorts. An image of elder Moon Mages blossoms in your eyes. They sit around a table; their eyes taut and hands unsteady. One mage exclaims, "It must be done. If the populace thinks we are supporting Sorcery, it could start a whole new witch-hunt against all magic. It could take us years to recover!" To his left, another Mage says, "But he isn’t technically a Sorcerer. He is… something else. He could destroy us if we make an enemy of him, but we could temper his ways if he stays. He is young." The first Mage replies, "It does not matter what he is, it matters what the half-witted common people think he is." There is a long moment of silence, before the oldest of them all, at the head of the table, slowly stands up. He says, "Then it is decided. We will denounce him to the Empire as a rogue Sorcerer." With the whisper of a gentle wind, the vision dissipates and you are left staring into the distance.
Your eyes begin to water and the air before you wavers and distorts. The image of a majestic city, high in the mountains, manifests before your eyes. Tall buildings, crafted of smooth stone, rise toward the clouds and cast looming shadows upon the neat cobblestone roadways. Citizens, clad in antiquated clothing, wander the streets, going about daily routines. The vision turns and whirls sickeningly in a blur of motion, before returning to focus upon several figures on the marble steps of an immense palace. An ancient Imperial magistrate, surrounded by a company of elite soldiers, stands before a lone man leaning upon an oak staff. With the whisper of a gentle wind, the vision dissipates and you are left staring into the distance.
Your eyes begin to water and the air before you wavers and distorts. An image manifests before your eyes of a man in formal robes, droning in a monotone voice, "Sura, you are hereby ordered to submit to the will of the emperor and stand trial on the charge of sorcery." Sura pauses a moment, then laughs harshly — a menacing sound that echoes in the air. The soldiers around the magistrate tense and poise to draw weapons. Sura sneers, "I am accused of Sorcery? You fools know nothing! Your minds cannot comprehend the scope of my abilities." His eyes narrow and he softly begins a murmured chant, as the mages quickly reinforce the ethereal shields protecting the entire company. At that moment, a deep rumbling begins. You begin to feel disoriented and it is unclear if you are watching or participating in the quake. With the whisper of a gentle wind, the vision dissipates and you are left staring into the distance.
All of your senses are suddenly thrown into confusion, but the distortion passes so quickly that for a moment you wonder whether it has occurred at all. You see as you did before; your nose picks out scents… All is apparently normal, until you feel your ears pop. Somehow your world of sound has shrunk to only a few feet in each direction–the slightest nearby noise roars in your head, but you hear nothing at all from any distance. The disparity is merely odd at first, then increasingly unnerving. You lurch off balance, as some part of nature folds into itself, put to rout by some unseen, ungodly menace.
Your eyes begin to water and the air before you wavers and distorts. Suddenly you are assaulted with the vision of the fiery red glow of sunset glaring on a dying Imperial city. The ground is being torn asunder, great roads are veined with gaping crevices, and masses of innocent citizens tumble wildly into the jagged flaws. Small buildings collapse upon themselves, while those that grace the sky fall in surreal arcs and smash to the ground, crushing any unlucky souls caught below. The sky is full of dust and the glare of the sun makes it look as if the heavens themselves are on fire. A heart-rending, thunderously grinding *BOOM* explodes in your ears, as the city proceeds to slide down the mountainside. Boulders and giant slabs of stone tumble after it in a massive cloud of gritty dust, turning the once glorious city into a stony mass grave at the base of the mountain. As the dust begins to settle, the vision fades away.
Your eyes begin to water and the air before you wavers and distorts. The tattered and dirty remains of once-fine clothing clad a group of Humans. They are lean, pale, and malnourished, but they carry on — helping one another over the mountainous and rugged terrain. A weary young boy asks in a quiet, strained voice, "But why? Why did Lord Sura do this?" A weathered man, possessing the ambience so clear of one who leads, gives the boy a long, hard stare. He replies flatly, "Lord Sura died long ago, consumed by his ambition. Now Now he is the Lord of Sorrow." With the whisper of a gentle wind, the vision dissipates and you are left staring into the distance.
Your eyes begin to water and the air before you wavers and distorts. A rush of visions flies past you at increasing velocity, too quickly to fully comprehend. Fragments of images bespeaking death, destruction, chaos, disorder, and anarchy each last a scant second, before being replaced with an even more horrifying impression. The brutal demise of the Empire. Entire cities lost in civil war. Families torn apart. Lanival. Teiro. Magic. War. Dragons. And then, in the midst of the carnage, one image burns in your mind, staying there: a kindly old S’Kra priest, leaning upon a staff. Masses of S’Kra surround him, looking upon him with awe, murmuring, "Sh’kial!" With the whisper of a gentle wind, the vision dissipates and you are left staring into the distance.
Your eyes begin to water and the air before you wavers and distorts. The stark image of Riverhaven preparing for war overflows your mind. Tall wooden archer’s towers have been strategically placed along the riverfront, and a massive stone wall is being hastily reinforced. Behind the fortifications, a vast army wearing the livery of the Baron of Therengia’s house stands in formation in front of one steel-clad noble knight, currently pacing in front of a complex battle plan. His face is weary but hard, his crystal green eyes cold ice. He stops suddenly, faces the assembled army, and says loudly, "Dzree’s followers have begun their march from the Crossing. We are the last resistance. We must stop them here, or all is lost." With the whisper of a gentle wind, the vision dissipates and you are left staring into the distance.
r eyes begin to water and the air be
ore you wavers and distorts. A contingent of Deathwatch S’Kra Dragon Priest guards surround a S’Kra women and one Human man. The woman says, "I understand you have several talents that could be of use." The Human simply stares at her, waiting. After an uncomfortable pause, the woman continues, "The Baron of Theren has had too much time to reinforce the city of Riverhaven. I can’t take it without your help, Sura." Sorrow nods, leaning back against his chair, before saying. "And why should I help Dragon Priests?" Dzree replies, "Because you will be richly rewarded." With the whisper of a gentle wind, the vision dissipates and you are left staring into the distance.
Your eyes begin to water and the air before you wavers and distorts. Vivid red, green, and purple lightning bolts stream out of the skies, smashing into the city of Riverhaven, tearing apart buildings and sending groups of defenders flying into the air. Wooden towers burst into flames, the burning archers within leap out, screaming the whole way down before mercifully dying upon impact with the ground. Greyish-green Moon Gates pop into existence behind the fortifications, Dragon Priests streaming out and butchering the bewildered soldiers of Therengia. The vision flickers out, but not before the battle standard of the Dragon Priests is raised above the city.
Your eyes begin to water and the air before you wavers and distorts. An unfinished, towering, and well-fortified black Keep looms over you. Multitudes of Dwarven slaves, hampered by the chains on their ankles, struggle to drag large obsidian blocks up the mountainous terrain. Dragon Priests, eager to ensure that they do their job well, severely beat one Dwarf who lags behind. Surrounded by guards, Dzree and Lord Sorrow oversee the whole operation. Dzree says, "I will see that the Elpalzi are given to you in the coming morning, and that will complete our deal. Are you sure you will not stay with us?" Sorrow nods his head, saying, "We are done; your ideals disgust me. I have what I need, and you will soon have what you desire, without my further help." With the whisper of a gentle wind, the vision dissipates and you are left staring into the distance.
Your eyes begin to water and the air before you wavers and distorts. The image of Dzree, cold, pale, and dead atop the body of a guard fills your senses. Above her carcass, two commanders argue vehemently over who is in charge of the situation. One solves the problem by swiftly pulling out his sword and killing the other. He takes one look at Dzree, smirks, and then walks away, before he is backstabbed by another S’Kra. The visage suddenly shifts to a large mountainous region. The twinkling campfires of a vast army dot the night sky. As the view zooms in, the distinct shapes of the S’lai and Elpalzi become visible. With the whisper of a gentle wind, the vision dissipates and you are left staring into the distance.
Your eyes begin to water and the air before you wavers and distorts. A fierce battle in front of Stone Clan takes place before your eyes. Tens of thousands of S’lai and Elpalzi warriors press mercilessly against the defending Dwarven and Human soldiers, pushing them slowly back to the gate. Yet this mundane battle is insignificant when compared to the gigantic magical one in the background. Sorrow stands alone before twelve elder Moon Mages, and a mysterious dark robed figure. Fierce magics are traded between the two sides, crackling and sizzling through the air, before exploding harmlessly onto their respective shields. Sorrow leans heavily upon his staff. With the whisper of a gentle wind, the vision dissipates and you are left staring into the distance.
Your eyes begin to water and the air before you wavers and distorts. Sorrow sits in the shadows of a library, alone save for one Elpalzi commander. The Elpalzi says, "We managed to retreat in an orderly fashion, without excess casualties. Shall I plan another attack?" Sorrow is quiet for a long moment before he replies, "No, the window of opportunity is past. Let the short-lived ones forget about me. Let them forget while we prepare for the eventual victory. Seal the tunnel and demolish the road." With the whisper of a gentle wind, the vision dissipates and you are left staring into the distance.
Garfaldo exhales slowly, then breaths in deeply again. He shakes his head slightly, "Hard ta’ believe is it not…. all the evil this man has brung upon the lands."
"Anyhow, back ta’ the battle…"
"Marstan sought ta’ flee from the Reach, aided by his protector Vaxin. They encountered fierce efforts by Sorrow’s Army ta’ hunt them down though. Needing to act quickly, I asked fer half of our men ta’ remain at the Stone Clan entrance to protect it incase another wave hit. The other half of our forces there joined to seek to aid Marstan in his escape."
"We came upon Marstan and Vaxin runnin’ from Sorrow’s men. It appeared Vaxin was not familiar with the area, and Marstan was far too inflicted with the tremendous consiquences of the actions he just performed on Sorrow ta’ be of aid. I offered our aid to Vaxin, and he and Marstan quickly stood no behind our protection."
"Needin’ a quick escape, I lead our group swiftly down the battered road of the Reach, littered scraps of armor and weapons from the still ensuing battle. Runnin’ swiftly with Vaxin and Marstan in tow.. we proceeded ta’ the Crossing. Marstan, still seriously under pain, frequently fell to the ground shuddering."
"We managed ta’ reach the city of Crossing, but we were not free yet, for there we were attacked by Sorrow’s army, and his personal lackeys, Sadiaer, Darkensi, an’ Prayk. Sadaier determined to stop us, casted a slippery sheet of ice beneath my feet… which threw me ta’ the ground. All which happened next is a blur, but somehow I escaped, and Sadiaer was left to fend against the warriors in my group."
"With Marstan with me still, I ran ta’ get him to safety in the town hall, however when we entered there amazingly there Sadiaer stood.. and once again I was brutally assaulted. Somehow managing ta’ let off a ice patch under him… I fleed from the scene… dragging Marstan in tow who was shuddering on the ground once more."
"I dragged Marstan with haste, till we reached the Town Green South East, were I knew the protection of the gods would save us. Severly wounded, the Empath Zymira saved my life… taking the grievous wounds from my body. Vaxin joined up with us, and I asked if he had an escape planned… he mentioned the ferry to Leth Deriel, for they supposedly had a ship waiting on the other side."
"With Marstan back on his feet, and our fellow warriors gathered around us once more. We headed out toward the docks, I paused ta’ give Sadiaer the slip… buying us some time."
"We reached the docks to the ferry, but I made a terrible miscalculation of my wealth, and none of us had the fare ta’ board. In addition, Prayk began to attack members of our group, and Sorrow’s men marched in ta’ stop us. Sensing possible defeat, I quickly decided ta’ make a run fer the bank.. in hoped we could return an’ board the next ferry out."
"Sadiaer met us along the way, and once again we clashed in battle. Tired of running from this piece of filth, I finally decided it was time ta’ have the showdown. I was lucky enough ta’ get off a sheet of ice under Sadiaer, causin’ him ta’ fall to the ground. I then proceeded to assault him with fireball after fireball.. seven in all. Charred and broken, Sadiaer rose ta’ his feet, not before I called upon my mana reserve.. sending him crashing once more. And there he was slain by another of our warriors, I din’t see who, but whoever they are.. I mus’ thank them."
"We stormed into the bank, dashing about screaming at the clerks ta’ make haste in their actions. With sufficient fare now, we sped ta’ the ferry and boarded it."
"The ferry almost instantly pushed off, and with a sigh of relief.. I thought we had won… but Sorrow still had a few tricks up his sleeve. An’ eerie sick green glow filled the ferry, as moongates opened up… out streaming horders of S’lai screamers. Our warriors rose to arms, quick to defend Marstan and Vaxin in their escape."
"The ride seemed ta’ have lasted fer an enternity, moongate after moongate… S’lai after S’lai fallin’ dead ta’ our skilled blades an’ magic. Finally there was a bump as the ferry hit land, and out we raced ta’ see Marstan off ta’ safety."
"Apparently their boat was by the Chelsea Overlook, an’ there we paused briefly ta’ part. Marstan left warning, ta’ look out fer Sadiaer.. fer it would be him who would know try ta’ seize control in Sorrow’s impendin’ demise. Marstan’s words were short, fer Sorrow’s Army soon caught up with us… and launched a desperate assault ta’ stop Marstan, but it was no use… he managed ta’ flee ta’ safety."
"The battle that followed was the clearin’ of Sorrow’s forces in Leth, then our return to the Reach to aid our warriors there. Many brave men an’ women fell at the hands of the Elpalzi, an’ Sorrow’s men… but it was not in vain. Fer in the end, Sorrow and his forces were driven back ta’ the safety of their keep, and we survived ta’ fight another battle… with the book still in our safe keepin’"
"I’d like ta’ commend all our defenders on a job well done, we know are aware what were up against. Thanks ta’ the actions of Marstan, Sorrow has been dealth a crippling blow."
"I know not were we go from here… I can only guess of what Sadiaer has planned. I do however know this… If we succeed in bandin’ ta’gather fer a common cause as we did this night, we can surely thwart the plans of our most evilest of enemies…."
Garfaldo pivots smoothly, his greatcloak flowing outward as he heads toward the direction of the door. Suddenly the tavern doors fly open, and there stands a towering Elpalzi officer. He glances at the head on the floor of his fallen commander, let’s out a hoarse battle cry and draws his blade, charging at Garfaldo!
Spinningly slightly, Garfaldo reaches into his harness for his scimitar, then screams in rage as he dashes to meet the officer. The two meet in the center of the tavern, the officer slices for Garfaldo’s head, but he ducks dodging the black steel. Still running at full speed, Garfaldo raises his scimitar at his foe and drives it deep within his chest, impaling the officer and drivin’ the hilt to his ribs. Screaming roar of anger, he drives forward, with the officer at the edge of his blade, lifting him agaist the wall and lodging the blade of the scimitar deep into the wall.
Garfaldo releases the grip on his blade, and stands to look at the slain officer hanging from the wall. Looking back at Baresh he says, "What do you think Baresh? Does it go good wit’ the room?" Baresh stands still.. shaking his head slowly, "Nay Garfaldo, methinks it clashes with the colors." Garfaldo replies, "Yeah.. I din’t think so either…" He reaches for the hilt of the scimitar and draws out the blade, the officer falling in a slump to the ground leavin’ a streak of blood upon the wall. Garfaldo sheaths his weapon and steps out through the door.