Part VIII: The Troubles in Barloz and the Unity Blade
Part VIII: The Troubles in Barloz and the Unity Blade
The Troubles in Barloz
The Civil War
The Troubles of Barloz began upon the death of the old King, Greco Tasmane. King Greco was survived by two sons – the princes Sobial and Kraye. After the King’s death, Bue Eason, then the head of the Barlozian Wizard’s College, called for ninety days of mourning before Sobial would be crowned. This was unprecedented in Barlozian history, and many of the local Dukes and Barons began preparing for war, hiring every soldier they could find. Many eastern towns began to expel all priests within their boundaries (due to rumors that priests had poisoned the King), causing much unrest, along with other inexplicable events such as a huge rise in the power of the Orc tribes of the Alyrran forest began to plague the countryside. These Orc tribes were rumored to be working together, which was unusual, and moreover to be working alongside gnolls, goblins, trolls and ogres, which was unheard of. Wild rumors circulated through the countryside that they also worked alongside men wearing a three-headed wolf badge, though many at the time refused to believe such talk.
Regardless, it was well known that the Orc tribes were led by Thangor, called the Claw of the Dark, and he was blamed for much of the rising and the destruction of the Barony of Kambala. Soon after the destruction of Kambala, the situation amongst Barloz’ nobility began to worsen. Prince Sobial was suddenly engaged to a minor noblewoman few of his peers had ever heard of – lady Livia of Ganelon. Bue Eason was besieged by the Royal Leopard Guard within the Wizard’s College. Prince Kraye was said to be under house arrest. Moreover, Sobial insulted the Aruthien ambassador, and that nation closed its embassy and began recalling its citizens from Barloz. The one bright point in these tidings was the heroic defense of Perdaith against the Orc hordes led by Duke Rogan Garn – a defense which divided the Barlozian army still further, between those who were loyal to the Duke and those loyal to the General of the Armies.
Investigation by a small party of adventurers found that the entire town of Ganelon had been murdered, probably through foul magics. This news was long delayed, however, by the hordes of Orcs in the forests, which drove these scouts far northward to the city of Aranor. Those familiar with the history of these times will know their names already – Aramis of Newholm, Fox of Kael, Malik & Elle of Aruthien, Oak of Rothgorod, Dende of Barloz, and Kin, the Spaarthan Elf. Upon arriving in Aranor, these heroes discovered something was amiss – though they did not yet understand the evidence which had been lain before them. Before they could leave the city, Aranor was besieged. Worse than the horde of Orcs or their Ogre allies was the massive Flying Fortress the evil army brought to bear. Huge boulders were dropped from its height, smashing the city walls to rubble and allowing the evil army to assault the city. The defenders fought valiantly, but in the end only a remnant of a handful were still on their feet, led by the archers Malik and Kin.
The next day the evil army was driven off by the arrival of the Aruthien Caspan Legion and the mercenary Elf scouts of the Unforgiven. Perdaith itself suffered during this time. Bue Eason was killed when the Leopard Guard stormed the Wizard’s College. A far more serious assault had taken place during this fighting – Arn, Gantha and Alhanna had been seen fighting an unidentified foe. Alhanna was slain outright, and both Gantha and Arn were missing. The small band of heroes discovered that several of the Crystals of Power were now missing, and worse, the men fighting alongside the Orcs and other dark forces were Jotunn, those human tribes who are ruled by powerful bands of Frost Giants. Jotunn were at that time unknown in Barloz. Prince Sobial, rid of Bue Eason, crowned himself king and wed immediately, in one ceremony. Livia of Ganelon was now Queen of Barloz. The Aruthien Caspan Legion, denied entry into Perdaith despite their role in lifting the siege of Aranor, gathered a huge caravan of Rogan Garn’s supporters – including Prince Kraye, recently smuggled out of the capital – and began to escort them to Bardoon, Duke Rogan Garn's fief.
Along the way, the column came under attack by Thangor’s army, and Thangor himself was killed in the fighting. What would have seemed a great victory mere weeks before was now known to be merely the defeat of a cat’s paw – but a cat’s paw of whom was not yet known. Sobial declared Rogan Garn, his brother Kraye, and all who sided with them traitors and outlaws. The eastern cities of Mercan and Zeldon supported Sobial. Bardoon and Aranor sided against him, reluctantly supporting Kraye. Those Aruthiens and Spaarthans in the Kingdom to aid them against the Orcish threat stand clear, reluctant to become involved in Barloz’s internal affairs.
Aramis, Fox, Elle and the other heroes of the Troubles fled Barloz for a time, discovering that their unknown foe had seized the Ice Crystal, and easing the passing of the Fire Archon, Gantha. A visit to the Oracle on the Plain of Lances revealed that the Ice Queen, a foe thought vanquished and imprisoned beneath Perdaith, was free and gathering the Crystals of Power to her. By the summer of 177, she had gathered the crystals of Earth, Fire, Nature, Shadow, and Ice, and had mounted them in an Iron Crown worn by the Frost Giant Nilfog. The Oracle revealed to the heroes that Livia of Ganelon was the Ice Queen in disguise – not only had one of the Kingdom’s oldest foes returned, and gathered up the majority of the Crystals, but she had installed herself on the throne of Barloz and was using Sobial as her instrument to rule that Kingdom.
The heroes, joined by the Barlozian Archer Thorndain, returned to Bardoon in time to join the Archon Arn’s council of war. Rogan Garn, Duke of Bardoon, and Prince Kraye have rebelled against Sobial, and the latter's army is advancing on Bardoon, meaning to put down the rebellion. Kraye and Garn have nearly three thousand men, half Aruthiens who dare not interfere in a Barlozian civil war. Sobial is marching on Bardoon with four thousand men, including most of the Leopard Guards. Sobial also has nearly every Wizard and Sorcerer left in Perdaith, whilst those priests in Bardoon announce they may not fight in the civil war, only give comfort and aid. The predicament of the rebels looks dire. In council with the wizard Sorden, General Urian of Aruthien, Otranto Desh, Erldet priest of Cheleria, Dia priest of Vultan, Arden priest of Kylee, Feris priest of Ulf, Enoch priest of Kern, Tania of Braeya, Wulf priest of Gromm, Tia, Hospitalier of Mishya, and a man called Malthin, of the Spaarthan town of Tranoc, the council has decided to send the Unforgiven and the heroes separately to open the Crossway Gates in Perdaith, so as to give all the Kingdoms the means to halt the Barlozan Civil War before the armies clash.
The heroes defeated a dragon bound by the Ice Queen on the route to Perdaith, and with the assistance of many folk they have aided through the early part of the Troubles, make their way into the city. The rot of the Leopard Guard is made apparent as the heroes cut their way through Sobial’s ‘elite’ bodyguard (dilettante sons of the nobility) and manage to force open the Crossway Gates. Aruthien sent a company of burly King's Dethgar Legion, led by none other than Prince Aruthien II himself, in his role as General of the Armies. From Spaartha came Lord Maddox, head of the Order of Steel, and Lady Valdera, Chief Magistrate of Spaartha, both with bodyguards of their orders. From Newholm, eight Draconis warriors. From Aligindel came fully half of the Emperor's Templar, led by Geurin Aellias. From Ehrenland came a warband famous for their foray into the haunted Elfwoods, including End the Bard, Esk, and of course many others less martial, such as the head of the Aruthien Royal College of Magic, Caig. All these and more came to Perdaith in force, joining Kraye and Rogan Garn.
Through hours of torturous negotiations, Kraye and Rogan managed to force a settlement of the civil war upon Sobial, ending the threat of armed conflict. However, though it seems Civil War has been for a time averted, a new threat has emerged from the Alyrran forest.
The Jotunn Attack
Sorrow, Wind, and a handful of Unforgiven inform all present that an army of Jotunn and Giants are fast approaching Perdaith, and will arrive to besiege the nearly undefended city by August the seventh, 177 - the next dawn. The Jotunnish army of more than four thousand – including more than eighty Frost Giants, many winter wolves, ogres, trolls, and other foul creatures – assaulted a city with little more than a thousand Kingdom soldiers defending it. (The majority were not even from Barloz - Much of Sobial’s army was still marching back from the aborted assault on Bardoon, and most of Kraye’s army was still defending Bardoon) The outer walls were quickly breached, and the defenders fell back to the second gate, covered by a massive explosion set when the Ice Queen struck for the first time at the Archmage Arn. This was suddenly breached by the Frost Giant King Nilfog, wearing the Iron Crown, wielding a massive maul which crushed all before it. It seemed as if Nilfog would destroy all who came against him, but then Arn appeared and wounded him sorely with many bolts of lightning, only to vanish himself just as the Ice Queen’s wicked counterstroke landed. The third gate was broken down by Frost Giants and a battering ram. They were delayed for a short time by the heroes of the troubles fighting from horseback, but even they could do little but slow the mighty press of the foe and they were driven back. The fourth gate was taken in a rush, and the dwindling defenders fell back to the fifth gate. Here Nilfog’s lieutenant, Darogar, led the charge, clad in steel from head to foot and wielding a gigantic enchanted greatsword. He cut Rogan Garn from the saddle, slaughtered a dozen Leopard Guard before being charged by the heroes – who only just managed to slay the Jotunn war-leader and retreat with their wounded, including the Duke. The sixth gate saw the last wizards of Barloz try to stem the tide, and though they cast every mighty spell they had available, the Ice Queen’s power could not be halted, and the gates were burst asunder. A badly wounded Rogan Garn called all the defenders back to the seventh gate. Here they would make their last stand, doomed to fight to the end in the courtyard before the palace. The gates of the topmost ring of the city had been sabotaged, and would not close. The last of the defenders of the city faced the onrush of the Jotunn army through an open portal.
In this last lull of the battle, Fox revealed to Rogan Garn that he was his bastard son. The Duke and his son had a few moments to talk before the final charge. Duke Garn pointed out that the Jotunn had only one leader left – Kargor, who was said to ride a giant three-headed winter wolf. If Kargor could be slain, perhaps the Jotunn would break. The final clash was bloody and cruel, with warriors falling on every side. Finally, in the midst of the battle, Fox and Kargor met blade-to-blade. The melee was terrible, but the heroes emerged triumphant, slaying Kargor, his wolf, and his allies. Upon his death, the Jotunn warriors took up the cry ‘The Fox has killed the Raven’ and broke into panicked retreat.
The Ice Queen's War
The remnants of the Jotunn army fell back to Meru pass, to the enormous tower of stone that the Ice Queen had raised there. Here Nilfog and the remnants of his people, plus those allies still remaining to the Ice Queen, gathered and waited. Back in Perdaith, the survivors lit funeral rafts alight as they drifted down the river Castalia. Prince Sobial was nowhere to be found. The Archmage Arn was reclusive. It was well known that the battle with the Ice Queen was not yet over. The hosts of the Kingdoms marched through the Crossway Gates into Perdaith, and within days the city was crowded with soldiers. By the time the army set forth to challenge the Ice Queen in her lair, more than twenty thousand troops from all the Kingdoms marched together. Those eastern cities that had once rebelled pledged to Kraye, and Barloz seemed at last ready to unite under a King.
The army marched up into Meru Pass, and there found a knot of a few thousand Jotunn – mostly women and children – singing prayers to Gromm, the war god, and preparing to give battle. They had thrown down their old banners of white wolves and ravens, and seemed strangely fatalistic. When parleyed with, they told of Jotunn belief in the way of the raven – the cunning black bird who would lead them to victory. In Jotunn myth the raven is always opposed by the fox, a silver animal who often foils him or tricks him in battle. The fall of Kargor, who bore a great raven banner, to a warrior named Fox, who used a silver animal as his badge, was enough to convince these three thousand Jotunn to abandon the way of the raven. They asked to follow Fox, who agreed, suddenly finding himself responsible for three thousand people.
The army arrived beneath the Ice Queen’s tower. It had been joined by all the might of the Kingdoms. Arn was said to lead the army, along with Rogan Garn and the heroes of the Troubles. The Seafarers, freshly returned from their journey, joined the army. Even the last of the Silent Heroes were said to be there, along with many others. For all their powers, the Ice Queen nearly destroyed them. The powers of the crystals combined were far greater than any single item. The army was surrounded by walls of earth, attacked by armies of the dead, chilled by freezing winds, and bombarded by flaming stones hurled by Fire Giants. Small bands of heroes charged free of the army, fought their way past Giant and foul monsters, and brought the battle inside the Ice Queen’s fortress. The fighting was desperate, as the forces of the Ice Queen were cornered, but they could not prevail against such a host. The Frost Giant King Nilfog was brought low by the heroes of the Troubles, and his Iron Crown burst asunder.
The Ice Queen fled with none of the relics she had worked so long to steal. The Archmage Arn, to the cheers of the victorious army below, carefully destroyed each Crystal, one by one, including his own Crystal of Lightning, making him Archon no more. Arn and the heroes of the Troubles searched far and wide for the Ice Queen, unwilling to risk her escape and further plots. She was found by the diviner Sorden, trapped on her flying fortress, far out over the Gulf of Ordred. Arn and the heroes traveled by magical means to the fortress, there giving battle the last of the Ice Queen’s minions and finally the Ice Queen herself, with Arn’s help. She was slain here, her body laying next to murdered Sobial, Prince of Barloz. Rumors abound, however, that though the Ice Queenhad been slain, that so old and wily an adversary would not be so easily defeated.
Barloz’ troubles were far from over, however. Just as it seemed that peace was restored to the realm, bands of strange creatures began stirring forth from Tantathia, striking across the border into both Barloz and Aruthien. Long ignored, it seemed that something would have to be done about the Tantathian question. An Aruthien Hospitalier named Aylis was the only survivor of a trek into Tantathia. Aylis and those with her had just managed to obtain a powerful scroll from one of the nearly abandoned great temples atop mount Fum. This scroll was a spell – a very, very powerful spell. After analysis by various loremasters and powerful wizards, it was determined that someone or something in Tantathia was going to attempt to cast this spell – a very, very dire event to be sure.
The Tantathian Crisis
Fresh from what is normally called the Ice Queen’s War (that being the first part of the Barlozian Troubles), the small band of heroes who had been so instrumental in that war were joined by Feris, priest of Ulf, and were tasked with investigating these strange occurrences. The party set out, well armed and ready for battle – and disappeared. Two weeks later, the Archmage Caig was called to the top of mount Fum, where he found this same party having just emerged from some sort of huge phylactery which had apparently been destroyed from within. The Archmage Arn, exhausted, was with them. Caig only just managed to bring all present back with him to Arcada, where the dire truth was revealed at last. Tantathia had been overrun by a swarm of Undead, probably all of the Undead which for so long had haunted Cathan. Refugees had poured out of Tantathia to the north and south, and an undead army 15,000 strong – led by Vampires, great shadow creatures, and worse – was marching in two parts upon the Kingdoms. The stronger force, to the north, was coming into Aruthien, while the smaller army was striking south towards Barloz. The Aruthien army swiftly mobilized, returning legions from the Ice Queen’s War were turned about, and within a week Princess Regent Brynnia’s nation had assembled eight thousand men on their southern border. Barloz was far weaker, with the army in shambles and few good officers to lead them. However, help from Aligindel and Spaartha poured in. Caig bel-Shanya, a Necromancer himself and head of the Aruthien Royal College of Magic, determined that while the Undead armies might be defeated by force of arms, other armies could simply be raised behind them and the defenders of the Kingdoms overwhelmed by sheer numbers.
With so many of the great defenders of the Kingdoms joining the two armies defending Aruthien and Barloz, only a handful could be spared for the dash into Tantathia to attempt to disable or destroy whatever was driving such forces. Aramis, Fox, Feris, Kin, & Oak volunteered for the dangerous mission, returning to mount Fum in great secrecy. The heroes were at least forearmed with knowledge of what they would be facing, given to them by the Diviner Sorden: Krag, the ancient Dracoliche of Murmanityed, who had laired these many long years in lost Cathan. Krag was a monstrous evil, immense, powerful, his very touch death. The Kingdoms had done what they could to fortify this small band – they carried with them powerful elixirs, ancient magical weapons, and of course, a heavy bronze hammer, blessed by Vultan. The heroes despaired of their own lives. They had learned something of what a Dracoliche such as Krag was capable of, and they feared they had little chance of killing such an ancient and terrible evil. What were Feris’ spells against such a monster? Would the weapons of Fox and Aramis, ancient though they were, even mar Krag’s bones? Would Kin’s arrows sting? Would Oak’s great falchion simply rebound from the corrupt form? Worse – was their courage equal to the task? Facing such a monster and not fleeing instantly would try the noblest Paladin or greatest hero of the Kingdoms. Regardless of the danger, the heroes resolved to try. Krag would not expect a direct attack.
Their long absence had consisted of many strange and dangerous adventures *inside* the pocket worlds of Krag’s phylactery; adventures which had destroyed the item, making Krag, for the moment, vulnerable. The Dracoliche could be slain, though it was not known if any of the heroes would survive the attempt. The battle was joined at the top of mount Fum, after the enchanted hammer had been hurled into the mountain’s belly. This hammer, favored of the fire god, hurled with the blessing of an earth-priest, stirred Fum to slow activity. The mountain would destroy itself – the heroes hoped that if they fell, the Dracoliche would remain long enough for the eruption of the volcano to consume him utterly.
They charged into the great hall and faced Krag. He was a horrific abomination. Long ago Krag had stolen the body of a gigantic Storm Dragon, and as that body had turned to corruption and finally rendered down to a huge, bony mass, surrounded by flickering witchfire. The heroes charged this abomination, and though all were sorely hurt, they had developed a plan with some small chance of success. The Dracoliche, arrogant in his great power, fought them with tooth and claw and poison breath. Weapons clashed against his bones, heroes were burnt – and Feris drew close to the creature, and cast a single, mighty spell – the greatest of healing magics. Though he was not a greatly powerful priest, as priests go, he was strong enough to land a blow upon Krag, and transfer the immense positive energy he had summoned into the dark heart of the Dracoliche. The spell did not kill Krag, of course, but it deeply disrupted the negative furies that kept him bound to the mortal world. Sword and glaive and Falchion and longbow tore at Krag, and finally, in a great, heaving crash, like an ancient, long-dead tree toppling in a rotted forest, the Dracoliche fell, destroyed.
When he fell, the Troubles fell with him – the Tantathian hordes were destroyed. Tantathia itself was utterly reshaped by the eruption of Fum. Barloz, Aruthien, and the rest of the Kingdoms were finally at peace, though it was to be an uneasy peace for some.
The Unity Blade
- See also Unity Blade
All had not been silent on the opposite side of the Gulf of Ordred. Long ago, in the time of Skos and Naduum, six artifacts were forged by Vultan. These blades, though small, possessed terrible power, being a threat even to the gods themselves. After the fall of Naduum, all but one of these blades was destroyed. The surviving blade was, of course, greatly coveted. The mortal races, in order to keep the blade from falling into the wrong hands and to keep the gods from destroying it, bound the blade with five rings – one for Elves, one for Men, one for Gnomes, one for Flen, and one for Dwarves. Each ring could only be removed by an arcane caster, and so long as one ring remained attached, the blade was only an ordinary dagger. For thousands of years, this weapon, called the Unity Blade, was kept in secret.
Sometime after the founding of the Murmanityedi Empire, the Blade was lost, and eventually, it became a legend. Until, early in 175, word reached Tyllawen of Aligindel that the Dwarven ring of the Blade had been found. She sent out a small party to investigate, led by her apprentice, Roderick. They found that the Blade was in the possession of a mad Dwarf, called Magnus, who had removed the Dwarven ring, and was seeking out the means to remove the Gnomish ring in the ruins of the ancient city of Gheladel, where a handful of Gnomes had fled the oppression of the Jarls. The small party of adventurers traveled to Gheladel, met the Gnomes that dwelled there, and indeed, found the Unity Blade and Magnus. There was a great battle, and Magnus was struck down.
Just as Tyllawen, the Silent Hero Avaril, and several Templar arrived on the scene to bring the Blade away, an ancient and terrible creature of shadow arose to contest ownership of the relic – a dark creature, said to be one of the Shadi themselves, a direct servant of Shalokar. Avaril and the Shadi fought a horrible battle, and though the creature was vanquished, Avaril was mortally wounded. One of the last of the Silent Heroes perished, passing on his responsibilities to the unborn sons Tyllawen carried. The saga of the Unity Blade did not end here. Cahill, the Dwarven Druid who had accompanied Roderick on the quest, entrusted the blade to a great elder Earth Elemental, who hid it deep in a mountain. The small band though their quest ended and went their separate ways.
Two years later, at the same time as mount Fum in Tantathia exploded, an earthquake struck Aligindel. It seems that the dagger had been hidden within the very mountain the city of Aligindel rested upon, and the earthquake was caused by a profusion of shadow-spirits who had been attempting to wrest the dagger from its resting place. These spirits were set upon and destroyed by the defenders of the city, including, by happenstance, many of those who had hidden the blade in the first place. Feeling again the weary weight of responsibility, Alastor, Cahill, Baloran, Keth, and Cedric Stoat took up the burden of the Unity Blade again. On Tyllawen’s advice, they traveled far south, into the great forest of New Elysia. There they met the ancient Druid Clarandyn, who told them the full history of the Unity Blade, and revealed to the heroes that Shalokar, the god of trickery, was striving to gain the Unity Blade. Shalokar had offended the other gods with his meddling in the Troubles of Barloz and other crimes, and Kern the Hunter had been sent to punish him. Shalokar needed the Unity Blade – in the hands of one of his mortal minions – to foil Kern’s just punishment of him.
Clarandyn had been made aware of a dark menace to the west, near the roots of the mountains. With his blessing, the heroes went to go and combat this evil, hoping to secure the Unity Blade from the depredations of Shalokar’s minions. Their quest discovered a smoking crater, where a falling sky-rock had wounded the earth. Around the still-warm rim of the depression a Jotunnish priest of Shalokar had stationed his minions while he performed a ceremony upon the smoldering stone – a ceremony designed to release something, though even wise Cahill knew not what. The heroes attacked, and thought the followers of the trickster god fought with guile and cunning, they were overwhelmed by the fury of the Blade’s company. The priest was slain, and Cahill caused the earth bury the sky-rock deep in the unforgiving stone. Though it seemed that the threat to the Blade was ended, something must have gone amiss – perhaps the ceremony was not halted in time, or Cahill stood too close to whatever dark presence lurked, trapped within the sky rock. Whatever the cause, the rings of the Unity Blade were loosened, and began to fall away from the Blade. The Unity Blade now lies hidden, and none of the company which protects it will speak of where the Blade is located or whether any of the rings remain bound to the handle of the weapon. The saga of the Unity Blade is not ended.