The Tome of Lore

The Tome of Lore

Postby Lirandel » Wed Oct 31, 2007 12:17 am

((Taken from the Lore section of Everquest.Com with a bit of editing...))

Chapter I: Council Of The Gods

"There is only one solution: Destroy them all."

Rallos Zek's burning eyes moved disdainfully from one god to the next, hoping his harsh edict had convinced more of them to take his side. It had been countless ages since virtually all the gods had gathered together like this, and he did not intend to miss the opportunity to expand his influence.

"I maintain that this would be an overreaction," Tunare said, shaking her head. The mortals need our guidance, not our wrath. We should inspire them and strengthen the spirituality within them, not snuff it out."

"You mean your precious elves?" Rallos countered. "Did they need your guidance as their greed soiled your plane, murdering your servants in their lust for power and wealth? Attacking the very manifestation of your being as if you were a boar for the slaughter?"

She scowled and shook her head. "That is your influence at work, Rallos. It was only when they breached the Planes of Power that you lost the delight you had taken in their growing viciousness."

"We all agree that the mortals have gone too far," Brell interjected, sensing the need to interrupt before the argument dragged on further. "But surely the answer isn't to wipe away all our handywork. After all, it is only a few races that have committed offenses worthy of such action. Perhaps a selective pruning is in order rather than complete annihilation."

Solusek Ro shook his head. "I must agree with Rallos on this matter. Wipe them out; it is the only way."

"The solution is obvious," interjected Cazic-Thule. "If my influence were allowed to grow, the mortals would not be in a position to challenge us. Fear will keep them in check, as it always should have."

Karana scowled. "Preposterous. It has been proven that any one of us alone can be overcome by the mortals. It is underestimating them that has brought us to this place, that has forced us to become allies in action if not in principle. But the solution must be one that we can all agree to."

"How can you be so blind?" Rallos growled. "How can you not see that the mortals must be made to pay for their insolence?"

"You ignore the honor in their hearts," Mithaniel Marr countered. "They have earned the right to exist, to ascend to greatness."

"Greatness?" Innoruuk cackled gleefully. "Leave them to their own devices and they will devour themselves in jealousy and hatred. The solution is not for us to kill them, but to step aside and let them feed upon each other."

"We don't have time for that," Solusek Ro asserted. "The demi-planes are already weakened--in fact, some have simply faded from existence, as our powers have grown too thin to sustain them. We must refocus our resources and strike back while we still can."

Quellious had listened to the bickering for what seemed like ages. Though time had no meaning for them in this place, she could bear to listen no longer. She spoke softly, yet with a directness that silenced the others.

"I propose a compromise," she said, her gaze moving from one god to the next. "It will not be ideal for any of us, and it does not come without risk. But I feel it is the only way to satisfy all our objectives and restore balance between us and the mortals."

Bristlebane perked an ear. "Speak, please, for this endless debate is maddening even for me."

Quellious continued. "We all agree the mortals have gained too much power, but there are non-destructive ways to correct this. There is also a way for us to regain our strength, though it means removing our influence from this world for a time. But if we all agree--including those who sit upon the greater wheel of Elemental Power--it could save us all."

"Speak, Tranquil One," Xegony said, breaking her long silence. "We will listen to your proposal."

Quellious nodded. "It is through their unity that the mortals initially became strong. The first thing we must do is to disrupt that unity…"

When Quellious had finished, Erollisi Marr nodded. "It would be an acceptable compromise."

"Agreed," her twin brother added.

"It does not matter to me," Innoruuk grinned, "for I still believe that the mortals will destroy themselves eventually."

Brell rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "I will do as you suggest."

The Faceless shrugged. "It seems like a waste of time, but I will follow the wishes of this council."

Tunare sighed sadly. "I will do what you ask in order to make this work."

Fennin Ro spoke for the first time since he had entered the chamber. "The rulers of the Elemental Planes will abide by this decision."

One by one the other gods either agreed or said nothing, nodding silently.

Quellious eyed Rallos Zek as he whispered something to Solusek Ro. The Prince of Flame shook his head.

"We agree," the god of War said at last. "When does it begin?"

"In seven mortal days' time, we will act as one. Will that be long enough to do what is needed?"

"It will," Solusek Ro said coldly. Tunare nodded with reluctance.

"Then it is agreed," the Tribunal spoke in a single voice. "This council stands adjourned."

The gods began to leave the chambers, but Quellious lingered. She noticed as Rallos approached Cazic-Thule and began to whisper something to him, and watched as Solusek Ro did the same to Brell.

Tunare stood next to her. "Is this really the only way?"

"I believe it is," Quellious responded softly. "But I think we need to remain watchful, as not everyone may honor the intent of this pact."

Karana approached the two goddesses. "I have some trepidation in this matter, and I'd wager you feel the same."

"I do," replied Quellious. "But I have another proposal to share with the two of you to ensure our interests are preserved."

As the three gods left the council chamber together, Rallos Zek eyed them loathingly. He muttered to himself. "So, Quellious, you have your allies and I have mine. But your weakness will be your downfall. Let the endgame begin."
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Re: The Tome of Lore

Postby Lirandel » Wed Oct 31, 2007 12:22 am

Chapter 2: Call Of Tranquility

The old man stood in the kitchen of his small home and faced the window, cleaning the dishes from supper while watching the orange glow of sunset gradually descend upon the Commonlands. He loved this twilight time and the calm it brought to the countryside--a rare commodity these days. With Freeport having grown so much over the years and as more and more people built their homes in the surrounding area, tranquility was in short supply.

He finished with the dishes just as the sun sank behind the hillside. His bones ached slightly as he sat down near the firelight, closing his eyes and letting the warmth drift over him. Just as his masters in the Ashen Order had taught him so many years ago, he cleared his mind and began to meditate.

His eyes opened when he heard the knock at the door. It would have startled him had it not been so soft, so rhythmic, almost like a heartbeat. He stood and moved to the doorway, pausing to collect himself. While the Commonlands had become much safer these days, it would not be the first time some brigand had tried to take advantage of a seemingly helpless old man. He flexed his fist and smiled. Yes, the magic was still there if it was needed. He nodded silently to himself and opened the door.

The old man froze. He recognized her instantly, even though he had never set eyes on her before. She was just a small girl, but she glowed with a radiance and warmth that put the firelight to shame. A sense of peace emanated from her, touching him deep inside. Tears welled in his eyes and he swallowed hard, his mouth unable to speak.

She looked up at him and gave him a slight smile. Her voice was like a soft, lingering melody as she spoke. “Hello, disciple.”

He realized he was trembling, despite the sense of belonging that flowed through every cell of his being. He knelt to the ground before her, his voice nearly a whisper. “Is it time to go now? To pass beyond this veil and make my home in Tranquility at last?’

She reached out and took his hand, her smile bathing him in warmth. She shook her head. “No, disciple, you cannot rest just yet. I have need of you, now more than ever. Rise and walk with me, for my time here is short and there is much that I must tell you.”

He obeyed her instantly, following as she guided him out the door. The land around them was perfectly still, glowing with a kind of preternatural light that allowed him to see and sense everything around him. He breathed deeply and smelled every flower all at once. Suddenly he felt foolish for being filled with such a sense of wonder. Of course she could do this. She could bring forth the serenity from any place.

She kept hold of his hand as they walked. Her voice was soft yet clear. “Troubled times lay ahead, disciple. We stand on the threshold of change, and whether this will come to good or ill I do not know. The future is clouded, even to me. Soon turmoil will fall across the lands. Events have been set in motion that cannot be undone, and dark things will come to pass. My presence will no longer be known here, and strife will take my place.”

“No, my mistress, this cannot be,” he pleaded urgently. “Norrath needs your guidance and light. I need it too, so very much.”

She shook her head slowly. “These things are written and cannot be changed. That is why I have come for you. It is time for you to fulfill your destiny and help your world. You must pass down my teachings, and prepare this land for the perils ahead.”

He fell to his knees in front of her and bowed his head. “I am yours to command, mistress.”

She laid her hands upon his shoulders and spoke, her voice full of kindness and peace. “Then, arise, disciple, and accept your destiny.”

He took a deep breath and stood. The ache in his joints was gone and his vision seemed somehow sharper. The wrinkles on his hands had faded, and he felt a new strength surge within them.

“The veil of age has passed away. Your body shall be renewed by my strength now, for as long as you serve me.”

He bowed his head and spoke, his own voice somehow new and different. “Thank you, mistress. What duty now lies before me?”

“You will be my presence in this land, disciple. You will preserve the ways of Tranquility and teach my principles as the world drifts toward despair. You will be my voice when I must be silent.”

He nodded. “I will do this gladly and with great honor, mistress. All the lands of Norrath and the skies above will know your teachings.”

She grew quiet a moment, her eyes looking toward the moon of Luclin as it glowed brightly above them. Her brow furrowed slightly.

“There is more to tell, and time is short. Walk with me, Avatar of Tranquility, and hear my words.”

She reached out her hand to him and he took it, walking with her into the cool calm of evening. As their footsteps led him farther still from his old life, he knew his true purpose at last. This was an ending and a beginning, a goodbye and a hello.

The night was quiet and still. It would not remain that way much longer.
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Re: The Tome of Lore

Postby Lirandel » Wed Oct 31, 2007 12:25 am

Chapter 3: Attack on the Nexus

Ayenden concluded his business in the Bazaar and strolled into the Nexus. The usual crowd of travelers was passing through, and Ayenden thought he might look around for some familiar faces with which to seek adventure. He caught sight of an old friend standing atop the platform. “Enkasha,” he called out. “I didn’t expect to see you here today.”

The tall, serene Erudite saw him and smiled slightly. Ayenden knew this was the extent of the emotion she was likely to show. She walked down the stairs and greeted him.

“You are correct, my friend. I am indeed overdue for the festival. I was exploring the planes with my guild mates, which took far longer than I had anticipated. I am certain to be chided for my tardiness.”

“It sounds like a glorious occasion for your people,” Ayenden said. “Are you sure I can’t convince you to take me along as a guest?”

Enkasha rolled her eyes and sighed, a gesture Ayenden knew to be playful rather than demeaning. “You know full well that the celebration of the anniversary of Erud’s birth is a sacred and private ritual for us. Outsiders are never allowed to attend.”

“Yes, you told me before,” Ayenden muttered. “I hope you will tell me the details later, at least. I’m sure this eighth centennial will be quite an occasion. Who knows, one of you might even tell a joke.”

Enkasha sighed again, but the faintest of grins betrayed her amusement. “It shall indeed be special, though not for the reason you posit. But enough of this chatter; I must see the scion about teleportation to Odus.”

Before he could respond, Ayenden’s attention was drawn to a commotion atop the Nexus platform. The air itself seemed to crackle and sputter as a vortex of energy began to swirl. “What in the name of Tunare is that?”

Enkasha turned and watched, her eyes narrow. “Something is teleporting into this chamber.”

Ayenden shook his head slowly. “That is no ordinary spell. Someone is opening a doorway to this place, and is expending a great amount of energy to do so.” He muttered the beginnings of an incantation, his eyes fixed upon the growing vortex. “I think perhaps you should be visiting that scion now, my friend.”

“Nonsense,” Enkasha protested. “Who else will defend a fragile old wizard like you?” She cast a spell to summon forth a fiery pet and commanded it to stand in front of her. The swirl of energy on the platform above them was expanding rapidly.

“You pick a curious time to develop a sense of humor, milady. Not that I’m ungrateful, but I really must insist that--“ Ayenden gasped as the portal opened and dark, massive beings began to rush through it. “The Diaku!” he shouted in disbelief. “Get back, Enkasha!”

The huge, heavily armored soldiers poured through the opening with weapons drawn. They stormed down the stairway toward the crowds that had gathered and began to attack.

“What are they doing outside the Plane of Tactics?” Enkasha cried out. Instinctively she bolstered her pet and ordered it forward as a soldier charged her. The Nexus was now flooded with adventurers from the Bazaar and Shadowhaven, but more Diaku continued to charge out of the gateway. “There are so many!” she exclaimed. “We cannot stop them.”

“Let me translocate you away, Enkasha,” Ayenden pleaded. “Now is the time for neither jokes nor pride.”

“No, I will stand here and defend this place,” she countered, healing her pet as it fought against a Diaku swordsman. “But you must go and warn others. We need reinforcements.”

“I will not leave you!” Energy bolts flew from his fingertips as more planar invaders kept coming.

“Which of us is being prideful? You must go, and go now. I think something else is coming through the portal.”

From behind the Diaku came tall beings whose very heads seemed to be made of fire, their massive weapons burning with the arcane power of their master.

“By all the gods!” Ayenden hissed. “Those are the servants of Solusek Ro. And they seem to be carrying a massive gem of some sort with them.”

Enkasha was pouring all her strength into her pet, struggling against the assault of the Diaku. “There can be no more delay. We need help, Ayenden. Go now!”

He wanted desperately to stay by her side but knew that she was right. Ayenden cast his gate spell and waited for it to spirit him away. “I’ll be back soon. Stand fast, my friend.” As reality began to shimmer around him, he saw a Diaku archer take aim at Enkasha from atop the platform. He tried to call out to warn her, but before he could utter a sound he was gone.

The familiar scent of the Faydark filled his nostrils, instantly replacing the stench of burning air that had permeated the Nexus just moments before. Teleportation was always vaguely disconcerting, but no more so than this night. He turned and sprinted down the pathways he had learned so well in his youth.

At last he caught sight of the guards outside the grand city of Felwithe. “Sound the alarm!” he shouted. “The Nexus is being attacked!”

Ayenden charged past the various people milling around the open gate and ran inside. He had to tell the paladins to gather their forces. This invasion may take an entire legion of knights to repel.

The captain of the guard walked toward the wizard, flanked by his lieutenant. “What is this attack you speak of? Tell me quickly.”

Ayenden gulped for air as he told the captain what had transpired. The captain considered the wizard's words for a moment, then turned to his lieutenant. “Send word to the king of what is transpiring. Tell him we may need additional reinforcements. I will bring a squadron with me to hold these beings back.”

The lieutenant saluted and marched quickly down the corridor. The captain pointed back toward the city gate. “Meet me outside. I must gather my forces, and then we will need you to take us to the Nexus.”

Ayenden nodded and ran back outside. After what seemed an eternity, the captain and his guard arrived, accompanied by additional wizards.

“Weave your magic and take us to the Nexus,” the captain ordered. Ayenden began to cast immediately, and as he chanted the spell he felt the familiar gathering of energy around him and his passengers. But suddenly the gate collapsed and the spell was broken.

Ayenden cursed to himself and began to cast again. This time his power seemed lessened, despite the fact that he had been meditating for the last several minutes. He looked at the captain and shook his head.

The captain turned to his wizards. “You take us there,” he ordered. They began to cast, but their spells fizzled as well.

“I cannot explain this,” one of them said aloud. The others were just as baffled.

“We must go to the spires. The scion can take us there,” Ayenden pleaded. The captain nodded and ordered his soldiers forward.

This run seemed far longer to Ayenden than the last one had, but finally they reached the gigantic forest spires. He knew something was wrong before they got there. The familiar hum was gone, and the scion stood alone at the center of the spires.

“What is it? What has happened?” Ayenden cried out. “Tell us!”

The scion looked around helplessly. “They’re dead,” he said softly. “The spires are silent.”

Ayenden stood, his mouth agape. He looked up at the sky, feeling more lost than he could ever remember. He thought of his friend so far away.

“I’m sorry, Enkasha,” he whispered to the clinging darkness of the night. “I’m so sorry.”
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Re: The Tome of Lore

Postby Lirandel » Wed Oct 31, 2007 12:26 am

More to come...
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Re: The Tome of Lore

Postby Haelewulf » Wed Oct 31, 2007 12:37 pm

Riveting, bro, awesome! :D
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Re: The Tome of Lore

Postby Lirandel » Wed Oct 31, 2007 1:54 pm

Chapter 4: Awakenings

Urduuk woke up feeling much the same way. More, perhaps. Definitely not less.

He rubbed his eyes and looked around, noticing that Karna was cooking breakfast. He shook his massive head. "How is it that we live like this?" he asked aloud.

"What?" she grunted back at him. "Live like what?"

"This place," he said, rising to his feet, "it's nothing more than a jumble of rocks with some crude rugs on the floor. Yet we've lived like this for years and never thought twice about it. Doesn't that seem odd to you?"

Karna was baffled. "This place is our home. Oggok is as it has been all of our lives. I don't understand this sudden... change in your thinking."

"Dissatisfaction, you mean? Don't you feel it, Karna? Don't you feel something rising up within you? It's as if a fog has slowly been receding and my mind understands things for the first time. We are a race of kings, Karna. Once we held all of Norrath in the palm of our hand. Yet for centuries our people have lived in a city that is nothing more than a shambling pile of stones and rotting vines. Doesn't that seem ridiculous to you? Doesn't that seem absurd?"

She bared her teeth and slowly shook her head. "My mind... it's fuzzy, Urduuk. It scares me a little. I know of what you speak, but still... it's like I'm trudging slowly through deep water. I want so much to move faster, but I simply cannot."

He wrapped his huge arms around her and pulled her close to him. "I'm sorry, my love. I do not mean to upset you. But I can see it in myself and in the others. I can hear it in the way we speak. Something about us is changing, Karna. We are not what we once were."

"I think you are right, Urduuk," she said, almost vulnerably. She squeezed him because it made her feel better to do so.

He kissed her brow. "That's enough nonsense out of me for now. What about that breakfast?"

"Pathetic," he muttered angrily to himself. Then, to the old man, "Are you sure this is all of them?"

The silver-crested ogre slowly shook his head. "I have told you twice already that it is. We simply have not kept many written records of our history, young man. Those scrolls and tablets are all that our shamans have scribed over the centuries."

"Ridiculous!" he hissed to himself as the old man sat down. "It's as if our entire civilization has been in a stupor. Stories have been passed down from one generation to the next through the telling, but there is so little concrete information. And this shambles of a library is laughable. Even the cursed frogloks have better books than these." Urduuk pushed the scrolls and tablets away and clenched his fist.

"What's that, young one?" the old ogre asked. "Did you find the answers you seek?"

"Sadly, I think I have, old one." Urduuk shook his head. "At least, the only answer there is to find." He stood up and walked out of the library, his feet pounding angrily on the crumbled cobblestones of the street.

"Be careful how you speak to your chieftain, Urduuk. My word is law here in Oggok."

Urduuk held his tongue a moment before speaking again. "I meant no offense, Chieftain Orrek. I simply feel there is a better approach."

"My plan is sound. We will expand our farmlands and feed our bellies. We will strengthen our outposts in the Feerrott and ensure that our borders are safe. Oggok will grow and prosper under my hand."

"We need to do more than survive! We are not a race of farmers, Orrek. We are a race of warriors and kings. Norrath knew our domination once, and it must know it again. But we will never see that glory if we till the soil like oafish farmhands."

"Your tone offends me, Urduuk. Say another word and I'll have you in chains before this assembly."

"Assembly? Are you joking? Look around you," he said, gesturing at the crowd in the square surrounding them. "The center of our city is nothing more than broken boulders and fetid ponds. How can this be enough for you?" He looked at the other citizens. "How can this be enough for any of you?" Many of the ogres murmured in agreement.

The chieftain sensed the dissent growing around him. "Enough! I lead this city, and I determine its course. This meeting is over."

"It is not!" Urduuk growled. "It is time for us to show the courage to embrace our destiny."

"Those are the words," announced a deep, booming voice, "that I have waited for one of you to speak."

Urduuk turned and gasped, as did the crowd. Out of nowhere a massive figure stood, twice as tall as any ogre, with a thick, imposing frame. It wore dark metallic armor that seemed to faintly glow with power, and a horned helm that hung just above its burning eyes. It was like an ogre but more than an ogre, a creature of power and terror and death.

Urduuk stood transfixed for a moment, then stammered a question almost in a whisper. "Lord... Lord Rallos?'

"No," answered the voice, echoing throughout the square. "I am not your maker, but rather the one who has remained behind to carry out his will. I am the hand of Zek while he must be absent. And I am the one who will guide you to once again dominate all of Norrath."

Urduuk looked over at the chieftain, who stood awed and terrified. Urduuk sneered at him and then turned back to the dark figure. "Avatar of War, emissary of our maker, we live and die at your command. Tell us what to do."

A dark smile seemed to cross the being's otherworldly face for a moment. "You will build. You will waste no time growing wheat or baking bread. You will take what you need from others and make this a city fit for kings. You will expand your knowledge and relearn the dark arts lost to you for so long. You will raise a new Rallosian Army that shall conquer the world and wipe out the children of the lesser gods once and for all. This is your destiny, son of Zek. Will you make it yours, or will you wander about the jungle with lizards and toads?"

Urduuk stepped forward and stood in front of the avatar. "We will seize our destiny. We will build a new city of Rallos that will be grander than any other on Norrath. One by one the lands of those who oppose us will be burned to the ground. On this you have my blood oath. We will not fail."

The avatar reached to his side and drew a runed, flaming blade. He touched it to Urduuk's shoulder and watched as the ogre refused to flinch. The avatar nodded. "You, Urduuk, will be my general. You will lead your people to their rightful destiny. By the touch of Soulfire I ordain this to be so." He sheathed the blade and drew a second weapon from his belt. "This sword was blessed by Vallon Zek and forged in the fires of Drunder. The unholy blade Vel'Arek must drink the blood of the weak, and in turn it will make you strong. Use it to claim what is yours, Urduuk."

Urduuk took hold of the massive weapon and felt its weight. It looked as if it would take two hands to wield it, but he could easily swing it with one. It had a long, dark blade with ancient words inscribed down the length of it. He looked up at the avatar a moment, then turned and walked to Chieftain Orrek. "Would you still have us be farmers, chieftain? Would you still have us be weak?"

"I... have devoted my life to the service of Zek," he stammered nervously. "I will not fail him."

"You are correct, chieftain, for your death shall serve him as well." Urduuk thrust the blade forward suddenly and drove it through the chieftain's chest, staring into the ogre's eyes as he crumpled to the ground. Urduuk withdrew the blade and lifted it to the sky, watching as it seemed to drink in the blood of the fallen chieftain.

"This," boomed the voice of the avatar, "is the force of will necessary to rule these lands. Even now my ally, the Avatar of Flame, is bringing this same message to the orc legions. Together the children of Zek will conquer this world and cleanse it of elves and men."

"The word of Zek shall guide us, Avatar," General Urduuk proclaimed. "We will build this city and your army. We will learn the dark magics and once again become the masters of this realm."

The avatar watched as the ogres knelt before their ruler. Urduuk narrowed his eyes and looked to the east. "And when the time is right," he said with disdain, "Gukta and the wretched frogloks will be the first to fall."
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Re: The Tome of Lore

Postby Lirandel » Wed Oct 31, 2007 2:00 pm

Chapter 5: A Moment of Reflection

The ranger’s footsteps made no sound as he climbed toward the summit. No rock was loosed, no twig snapped; it was as if nature itself carried him along his path.

He reached the top and saw the monk sitting with his back to him. The monk seemed to be looking out over the landscape, the Plains of Karana to the west and the Commonlands to the east. The ranger approached silently, drawing closer to the one he came seeking.

“Welcome, Avatar,” the monk said without turning. “Have the preparations been made?”

The ranger stopped and smiled to himself. “The rangers of Surefall stand ready, while the Knights of Thunder are assembling their forces. And you, my friend, have excellent hearing.”

“It was not my ears that told me you were coming, I assure you. Your skills are unmatched. Karana chose well.”

“I still wonder if that is true,” the ranger replied. “It seems only yesterday that I was merely Askr the Lost, a refugee stranded in a cave in the Plane of Storms. Why would Karana choose someone like me to serve him?”

The monk rose and turned toward the ranger. “It is natural to question yourself, especially when there is so much at stake. But just as I must trust in the wisdom of Quellious, so you must trust in the decision of your master. Whatever you once were, you are now the Avatar of Storms, and you have a duty before you.”

The ranger nodded. “You are right. Please forgive my doubts. When the time comes, I will do what is needed.”

The monk smiled. “I know you will, my friend. May we both prove worthy for the task ahead of us.”

“And what of your preparations, Avatar? Will Freeport be ready?”

The monk’s brow furrowed. “Though few in number, the Knights of Truth will return to defend the city. Their sense of duty is unwavering. It was not so easy to secure the same assurance from the Ashen Order, however. Strife has arisen within their ranks, and many wish to ignore their obligation and remain isolated in their desert fortress. Thankfully I was able to convince them otherwise. As for the city itself, it is as I suspected. The Overlord refuses to believe any army could challenge his reign, and has chosen to ignore the warnings. Still, we can be certain he will defend his borders when he sees he has no other choice left.”

The ranger nodded. “I sensed reluctance on the part of the Bayle family as well. They seem unwilling to accept that the Rallosian Army could be rising again, despite all the evidence shown to them.”

“Kings and dictators see only what they want to see,” the monk said. “But there comes a time when the truth can no longer be ignored. And that time is fast approaching.”

“Aye. The orcs in the north will move soon. I do not believe Halas will be able to withstand their assault.”

“I have similar fears for Gukta. The ogres eye it jealously, and their leader harbors a fierce hatred for the frogloks. But the Guktans refuse to leave the lands they believe Marr gave to them, no matter the cost.”

The ranger moved to the edge of the mountaintop and looked around him. From this peak it seemed he could see to the very ends of Antonica. He sighed and lowered his head. “So much death is coming. Are you sure there is no other way?”

The monk was silent for a moment, then spoke softly yet certainly. “I wish there was another answer, but there is not. Though the gateway to the Realm of Discord was closed, its influence still holds Norrath in its grasp. Balance must be restored to the lands and this Age of War must finally be ended. But there is a terrible price to be paid. Our duty is to see that these two cities survive, for in the dark times ahead, the strength of both will be needed.”

The ranger nodded and faced the monk. “Then we shall not fail. My only regret is that we cannot save more of them.”

The monk closed his eyes and was silent. The ranger watched him, wondering if his ally knew more than he was telling. Minutes passed with no words between them. Finally the monk spoke.

“Listen to that sound, and remember it.”

“What sound?”

“Silence,” the monk said as he turned and walked away from the ranger. “It will not linger long.”

The ranger watched him go, and then he turned back to the peak’s edge. “Nothing does,” he said to the wind. “Nothing does.”
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Re: The Tome of Lore

Postby Lirandel » Wed Oct 31, 2007 2:04 pm

Chapter 6: The Fall of Gukta

"By the sacred name of Marr… there are so many of them!"

Kyruk stood atop the gate and surveyed the carnage below. The Rallosian Army seemed endless, extending as far into the swamp as his eyes could see. Over the last few years the ogres had sent many raiding parties into Innothule, but nothing close to this.

Captain Gormuk signaled his archers to fire another volley at the Rallosian cavalry and turned to his friend. "Numbers do not matter, for these devils have no honor in their hearts. They will fall as other invaders have."

Kyruk shook his head. "I do not think honor will be enough this day. They will soon breach the walls of Gukta and enter the city. If they reach the hatchery…"

"No!" croaked Gormuk, firing an arrow of his own. "Do not think such things! Marr will preserve us as he always has!"

Kyruk chanted an incantation and gestured. Comets of ice rained down from his webbed fingers onto the ogres below. But for every ogre that fell, it seemed three more took its place.

"The tunnels, Gormuk! You must order the constables to gather the eggs and take the civilians into the tunnels, or all will be lost."

The captain fired more arrows, muttering a prayer with each. The ogres brought catapults to the front of their ranks as their mages summoned huge spheres of flame to launch at the walls. Gormuk could see the fight slipping away from them. "We have fought long and hard for this place. So many battles with the trolls... so much bloodshed. How can we just abandon it? How can we do that to the one who gave us his sacred blessing?"

Kyruk cast bolts of lightning at the ogre wizards, but they were shielded from his attack. "This is just a place, Gormuk. The swamp will preserve us and we will grow strong again. But to stay would be prideful, and such pride brings dishonor. If they stay in the upper tunnels the civilians can safely reach Guk, and the Rallosians will not be able to bring their war machines inside its narrow passageways. There we can make a stand."

Gormuk shot more arrows, but his efforts were futile. The ogres kept coming, and more and more fallen frogloks lined the battlefield. The catapults fired, sending huge globes of flame crashing into the city walls, setting them ablaze.

The captain turned and shouted to the guards below. "Go to the council and tell them that we cannot hold the wall! You must take the eggs and hatchlings into the tunnels. Gather all the civilians and guide them to Guk. We'll seal the tunnels behind you."

The guards saluted and rushed to obey the captain. Gormuk turned to Kyruk. "The elders say some dark power has arisen in the depths of Guk. I pray they are wrong, and that the ancient citadel will protect our people."

"It's the right thing to do, Gormuk. On my oath to Marr, we will hold these monsters back and give our people the time they need to escape."

"We will do more than that!" shouted Gormuk. "The swamp will flow with ogre blood this day!"

Gormuk fired more arrows down at the Rallosians, then dropped his bow and unsheathed his sword. "Make sure the tunnels are sealed, my friend!" With one mighty leap he jumped from the top of the wall down to the battlefield below. He threw back his head and let loose a mighty croak. "For Marr!" He charged into the fray and swung his blade back and forth, cutting a swath into the ogre battle line.

"Gormuk, fall back!" cried Kyruk, casting a protective spell upon the captain. But Gormuk charged into the endless ranks of the ogres and disappeared from view.

"Your sacrifice will not be in vain, old friend." Kyruk wove his strongest spell and unleashed all his power onto the ogres below. The Rallosians drew closer to the wall as the catapults launched again. Kyruk gasped and whispered a swift, fleeting prayer.

"Where are the rest of them?"

"We are not sure, General. The hatchery has been emptied, and we can find no trace of the civilians. They just seem to be… gone."

Urduuk dismounted and walked over to the sergeant, fixing his gaze upon him. "Gone? Gone?" Urduuk clenched his mailed fist and shot it forward, crushing into the jaw of his subordinate. The ogre crumpled to the ground, as much from intimidation as from the blow itself.

The general turned and surveyed the burning rubble that had been Gukta. "I ordered you to wipe all trace of these abominations from this wretched swamp, and yet somehow they managed to escape. How? And more importantly, to where?"

A burly ogre stepped forward and saluted the general. "I swear to you that they did not break our line, sir. But whether through magic or some form of trickery, I believe there is only one place they would go. Back to Guk, to the ancient tunnels they once called home."

Urduuk considered the junior officer's words a moment. "Yes, of course. The frogloks would seek the only safety they could find. You, lieutenant, what is your name?"

"Danarg, my lord."

"Lieutenant Danarg, gather your soldiers and go to the mouth of Guk. Take them into the tunnels and cleanse that cursed place of the froglok pestilence once and for all. Do not emerge until this duty is done. Am I clear?"

Danarg saluted again. "I will not fail you, General." He turned and motioned for others to follow him.

Urduuk climbed atop his steed and addressed his troops. "As planned, the rest of you shall divide into two wings. Those of you who bear the mark of Tallon will secure Innothule and move northward to rendezvous with our orc allies in Southern Ro. Those of you who bear the mark of Vallon will ride with me to the Feerrott and prepare to take the Mountains of Rathe."

One of Urduuk's advisors drew close to him. "General, the Arm of Vallon incurred heavy losses in the taking of Gukta. They need reinforcements."

Urduuk nodded. "We will enter the Temple of Thule and add the forces of Fear to our ranks. They will make a useful addition to our army."

"But General, the Amygdalan were unwilling to join with us before. What will change their minds now?"

"Their minds are irrelevant, for they serve a weak and silent god. They will join us or I will destroy their crumbling temple and shatter the Fear gate."

Urduuk signaled his legion to march westward. He knew his troops had a taste for conquest and they would quickly grow hungry for more. "The Avatar was right," he said to himself as he rode toward the Feerrott. "This world will soon be ours."
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Re: The Tome of Lore

Postby Lirandel » Fri Nov 02, 2007 2:22 pm

Chapter 7: The Burning Snow

Do not turn around, she told herself. Do not look back.

But of course, she did.

Through the thick haze of falling snow she could make out the battle raging behind them. She saw Halas ablaze, her people bravely defending their city against the onslaught of the snow orcs. Every instinct demanded that she turn back and aid her kinsmen, but she knew this was important. This is where her duty lay, not dying on the field of battle. So she kept walking.

"Aimara, we must return and fight for the city," the husky barbarian said to her. "It isn't right to abandon our home to those monsters."

"Shut up, Murbeck," she said coldly.

He bared his teeth at her. "Do not speak to me that way, woman! I say we go back and die with glory instead of fleeing like rats from a sinking ship!"

She spun around and punched him hard in the stomach, then again across the chin. Murbeck fell back into the snow.

"Listen to me!" she said to him, loud enough for the others to hear. "I want to fight for the city as much as you. But we have been ordered to guide the children and the old ones to safety, and by the gods that is what we will do! If you are so eager for your blood to adorn the snow, Murbeck, just tell me and I will be happy to oblige you here and now."

Murbeck rose slowly, holding his stomach. He bowed his head. "I will carry out my duty, Aimara."

She walked up to him and brushed the snow from his armor. "Good," she told him, "for I will have need of your strength very soon. We must pass through Blackburrow, where all our swords will be tested. Now, go to the back and make sure everyone is keeping up." He nodded and walked toward the rear of the group.

Aimara surveyed her band of refugees. There were hundreds of them, mostly too old, too young, or too sick to stay behind and fight. She had been given dangerously few soldiers to escort all of them to Qeynos. The heavy snowfall was a blessing, for it both concealed their exodus and covered their tracks behind them, but it also made travel difficult for the weak ones.

She signaled for them to move forward once again. Aimara led them through the narrow crags she had learned so well as a young girl. Those were happier times.

"If one of them sounds the alarm, we're all dead," Murbeck whispered.

Aimara nodded. She signaled to the archers on the rocks above them.

The arrows sailed silently through the cold air, piercing the necks of the gnolls guarding the mouth of the tunnel. They whimpered slightly as they fell.

"We don't have much time. There are more within. Move!"

Aimara charged forward into the cave, flanked by Murbeck and a dozen of the other warriors. It was dark, but they could see a campfire ahead. She ran toward it, suppressing a fierce desire to yell out a Halasian battle cry. The gnolls looked up and saw them coming, but they could barely draw their weapons before the barbarians were upon them.

The fight was swift and violent. Murbeck seemed pleased, but Aimara knew the element of surprise would not give them the advantage much longer. "Signal the others to come into the cave but to stay well behind us. We move forward."

The soldiers crept carefully down the rocky passageways. Though she had passed through this place many times, it was easy to become confused by the twists and turns. She knew they'd soon be out in the open where there would be no more hiding.

Aimara turned a corner and there, directly in front of her, stood a young gnoll guard. It seemed as startled to see her as she was to see it, and they both paused for what seemed like an eternity. She moved first, raising her sword and swinging. But before the blow could land, the gnoll reared back its head and let loose a loud howl.

The gnoll was silent as he slumped to the ground, but she knew the damage had been done. "Be ready!" she hissed back at the others. "Here they come!"

They guided the last of the civilians out of the crude maw of rock that marked the entrance to Blackburrow from Qeynos Hills. The battle had been fierce, and too many of them had fallen. But there was no time to mourn the dead.

"We head south," she said somberly. "The city lies ahead."

It was warmer here, but the fur of her armor felt too comforting to abandon. Besides, she intended to make use of it again, when she returned to her homeland to teach a lesson to the beasts that dared defile the Northlands.

As they marched, Murbeck walked beside her. His eyes stared forward as he spoke. "You led us well, Aimara. I regret defying you the day we left. It was not right."

She smiled as she put her arm around him and hugged him tightly. "It is no matter, my husband. You only wanted to do what was in all our hearts. But our people are better served by warning Qeynos of what is coming, for you know as well as I that the orcs will not stop at Halas. And besides, who better to teach these puny humans how to defend their borders than the children of the north, eh?"

He smirked. "It is so warm here. I miss the snow already."

"As do I, love, so very much."

They crossed the grassy hills and made their way toward Qeynos. She thought about the savagery of the orcs' attack and wondered if even this city could withstand such an assault.

In her mind she saw Halas burning, and she shivered.
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Re: The Tome of Lore

Postby Lirandel » Fri Nov 02, 2007 2:24 pm

Chapter 8: Gathering Storms

Urduuk stood atop the crest of the hill and gazed out across the grasslands to the south. The scattered orc villages that dotted the landscape were completely obscured by the legions of ogres and orcs that made up the Rallosian Army. As far as his eye could see were soldiers awaiting his command. This pleased him.

"They are ready, Lieutenant Ignara. Tomorrow we begin the march across the sands that lead us to Freeport. And when we arrive, we will burn it to the ground."

"Aye, General," she replied. "Spies sent by the Rujarkian Orcs tell us that Freeport is ill prepared for our arrival and will fall quickly. Still, I think it unlikely that Lucan knows nothing of our army's approach. He may be baiting a trap."

"Ridiculous!" Urduuk growled through bared teeth. "D'Lere is a fool, and his city will crumble as easily as Gukta did. I will defile his throne just as I desecrated the Temple of Cazic-Thule. Rallos Zek has ordained our victory and promised this world to me. I will rule over the ashes of Norrath until my father returns."

"Your... father?" she asked hesitantly.

"Of course. I am the son and heir of Zek, given the unholy blade Vel'Arek as a symbol of my power. Do you doubt my lineage and birthright, Ignara?" Urduuk drew the sword and locked his burning eyes on hers.

Ignara watched him breathlessly. She knew what fate befell those who disagreed with Urduuk.

"I have no doubt, my lord and master," she said, bowing her head. "You are the true son of Zek."

He gripped the dark blade tightly in his hand. She believed he might swing it at any moment, leaving her head on display to show how he rewarded those who failed him. Instead, he sheathed the sword.

"Order the troops to camp. We leave at first light and make our way across the Desert of Ro."

"By your order, General," she replied. "Do we march on T'Narev?"

"No," Urduuk replied. "Laying siege to the Ashen Order's mountain fortress would be a waste of time and resources. Let the Rujarkians take them when Freeport smolders in ruins."

Ignara dared not question him again, even if she thought it unwise to ignore the threat posed by the monks. "It will be as you command, my lord." She saluted and headed down the hill.

Urduuk surveyed his army again. He knew the others in the west were ready as well. "Mine," he told himself. "Soon it will all be mine."

"They're coming!" Niffet cried as he approached the gates. "They're coming!"

His horse was still at a gallop as he rode in, but the halfling pulled hard at the reigns to bring her to a quick stop. He jumped off the horse's back and yelled again. "The Rallosians are coming!"

The city guards circled him. "Identify yourself!" the captain ordered.

"I am Niffet of Surefall, commanded to stand watch over the plains. I was ordered to bring word when the armies of darkness approached."

"Ordered by whom?" the captain asked.

"By me," a voice replied.

The captain turned and saw the ranger standing before him. He was dressed in dark green chain mail, a longbow of ornate wood slung on his back. The buckle on his belt bore the symbol of the Rainkeeper.

"Avatar," Niffet said, kneeling, "it has come to pass, just as you said it would."

"Arise, Niffet," the ranger said. "Tell me what you saw."

The halfling stood. "I was camped in one of the old guard towers, watching. I saw dark shapes lurking on the horizon. It was as if the mountains themselves were drawing closer, but it was not mountains. It was a wall of giants coming from the east, and from the south came ogres with their gnoll slaves. There were so many, so very many."

"You have done well. My watchers to the north have informed me that the orcs control Blackburrow and are starting to come through. The Rallosians have begun their march toward Qeynos."

The guard captain nodded. "Lord Bayle told us you would come to lead us, Avatar. Our forces stand ready to defend the city."

"Good," said the ranger. "Seal the gates and put all your troops on alert. I will attempt to give us some more time."

"How?" asked the captain.

The ranger reached up and took hold of a pendant around his neck. He whispered an incantation and the blue gem began to glow. In the distance, thunder rumbled across the plains.

"The storms will slow them down, but not for long. We must prepare."

"Seal the gate!" ordered the captain. The giant doors of wood and steel began to slowly draw closed. The captain turned and gave instructions to his men.

"There were so many of them, Avatar," Niffet said to the ranger. "How can we hold them back?"

The ranger said nothing, listening as the thunder drew nearer.

Betrayed! it hissed. Betrayed!

It stirred in the darkness, locked away for so long. Shapeless. Lingering. Cold. Alone.

You have forgotten. You shall be made to remember. You will be taught just like the others who harmed his children.

The ritual was complete. The gift was unsealed. The lesson was coming.

Defiler! You will know Fear until the end of time!

It seeped out. Billowing. Rolling. Moving. Growing.

His gift will find you. His gift will find you all.

The green cloud arose in the temple's stale air. It moved through the corridors, slowly at first, then faster. It would touch the first of them soon.

Betrayed! it hissed again. But now you will learn.

It would have smiled, if only it had a face.
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Re: The Tome of Lore

Postby Lirandel » Fri Nov 02, 2007 2:25 pm

Chapter 9: The Battle of Defiance

The pendant glowed like blue fire around his neck as the ranger called lightning down from the sky, striking the throngs of orcs and ogres. He fired arrow after arrow into their ranks, felling one after another of the cruel beasts.

But he knew it wasn't enough.

The army of Qeynos was vastly outnumbered. Though storms raged above them, the Rallosian legions were drawing closer. Giants from the east uprooted boulders and used them as weapons, hurling them against the city walls. It seemed certain the gates would soon be breached, and then all would be lost.

The ranger signaled for his archers to fire at the giants, but the massive brutes were difficult to take down. And the orcs... the orcs were everywhere.

"For Qeynos!" shouted the ranger, and his troops cheered. They fight bravely, he thought to himself.

"For nothing!" replied a loud, hissing voice from the center of the Rallosian ranks. The ranger looked up. The wall of giants parted, and there, above the orcs and ogres, towered a being that seemed to be made of fire itself.

Niffet drew close to his leader. "What is that creature?"

"The Avatar of Flame," the ranger replied. "The chosen of Solusek Ro."

"Oh. Well, I have no doubt you can defeat it," that halfling announced, a hint of uncertainty in his voice.

The ranger drew his swords. "Keep taking down the giants. The city gates must hold." He began slashing through the mass of orcs, making his way toward the being of fire.

"The Militia is falling back, General. Freeport will soon be ours."

Urduuk smiled. "As I told you it would, Ignara. I will have Lucan's head on a pike by nightfall."

The ogre surveyed the battlefield. His troops swarmed everywhere, overpowering the city's defenses in both number and ferocity.

"Beautiful," he muttered.

"Indeed it is," a familiar voice replied. Urduuk turned to face the massive being.

"Avatar!" he exclaimed. Have you come to witness my victory?"

"You have done well, Urduuk. This chaos is extraordinary. I look forward to your army decimating the other continents as well."

"This is only the beginning, I assure you. When Antonica is cleansed, we move to Faydwer and--"

"General!" Ignara shouted. "We are being attacked on our southern flank!"

Urduuk looked toward the desert. A small but powerful force was cutting into his ranks, striking at the Rallosians with considerable power.

"The cursed monks have joined the fray," he muttered angrily.

"Why weren't they eliminated already?" The avatar asked. "The servant of the Tranquil will be imparting them a strength your oafish legions do not possess."

"I ordered them to be destroyed, but my incompetent lieutenant betrayed me! I will show her the price of failure!" Urduuk drew his sword and advanced toward Ignara.

"Wait, General!" Ignara cried. "Something else approaches from the south!"

Urduuk turned. A thick cloud rolled rapidly across the sands, darkening the sky with a dense green haze.

"What have you done, Urduuk?" the avatar asked him. "What did you do to unleash this madness?"

The cloud was moving quickly toward the Rallosians. As it reached the edge of the army's ranks, the ogres it touched fell lifelessly to the ground. The general watched them gasping for air one moment and twitching on the ground the next.

"My steed!" Urduuk ordered. "The son of Zek must live to fight another day. Bring me my steed!"

But no one was left to obey. The mist encircled the general, killing all those around him. Ignara struggled to breathe, reaching out to her leader. Finally even she collapsed.

"Fool!" the avatar shouted at Urduuk. "It is you who brought this fate onto your own people! The orcs are my only hope now. I will deal with the monks myself." The massive figure marched toward the center of the orc army.

The mist coalesced around Urduuk, leaving him no escape. He swung his sword at the green cloud, but there was nothing solid for him to hit.

Defiler! it whispered to him. The time has come to pay for your crimes.

"What... what are you?" Urduuk stammered.

I am the voice of the one you betrayed. Your pride has brought your people to their downfall, just as it was in ancient days. But this time, retribution shall be mine.

"I betrayed no one!" he shouted back, swinging his sword wildly.

Liar! Fear could have been your ally. Instead you entered its temple and enslaved its children. Your insolence shall be the death of your people. But your soul, defiler, will know Fear for all eternity!

"No!" he screamed, but there was no reply. The green mist enveloped him, seeping into Urduuk's lungs and stealing his breath. All around him the general could see his fallen soldiers, the lost remnants of his once unstoppable army.

The mist pulled at him, lifting him into the air. Below, Urduuk saw his own body crumpled on the sand. He tried to cry out, but had no voice. The mist carried him southward toward the darkness that lingered hungrily.

The defenders of Qeynos cheered as the mist receded, leaving the bodies of the ogres strewn across the grassland.

Aimara felled another orc and called out to her husband. "That cloud did half our work for us, Murbeck. Now all we've left to do is wipe out the orcs, giants, and goblins!"

"Child's play for a Halasian!" shouted Murbeck. "We'll finish these beasts up in no time."

She laughed and swung her sword again. She relished the battle, but knew the odds were still slim. The orcs were off-balance and confused, but they still held the advantage in numbers. Soon they would realize this fact and resume their advance.

Aimara looked across the field of battle. The Avatar of Flame towered above the orcs, rallying the Rallosian forces and directing the giants to hold their ground. The avatar waved its hand, and suddenly a line of gnolls covered in flame charged toward the Qeynosians.

"By the Tribunal!" Murbeck shouted. "That beast set those pitiful gnolls on fire to use them as living weapons!"

The gnolls yelped in pain as they charged madly into the defenders' ranks. The tactic had its desired effect as the army of Qeynos began to fall back.

"Enough!" cried a booming voice, louder even than the thunder. "You will pay for what you have done to the children of Brell!"

The battle grew still for a moment. The voice seemed to come from the ground itself, as if every rock had suddenly been given a voice.

"Who dares speak to me this way?" hissed the Avatar of Flame.

"The one who will make you pay for looting the dens of Brell's creations!" answered the voice. "In your hunger for power you sought to consume the entire world, but now it is you who will be devoured!"

The earth shook violently and tore open huge chasms beneath the feet of the Rallosian army. The orcs screamed as they fell, their cries muffled as the fissures sealed up and buried them alive. Orc after orc was swallowed by the angry earth.

"No!" hissed the Avatar of Flame as its remaining forces began to scatter and flee. "Hold your ground, I command you!"

The ranger signaled to the knights waiting upon a nearby ridge. They charged down and circled the flaming creature. "Now," said the ranger, "we finish this."

"So you think the Avatar of Below has turned the tide, monk? I will show you that the power of Zek cannot be denied!"

The monk circled the massive being, fists clenched. "It was the pride and ignorance of your own armies that led to their downfall. Urduuk defiled the Temple of Cazic-Thule and made an enemy of the Avatar of Fear, while the enslavement of the gnolls caused Brell's avatar to strike back at the orcs. Now all that remains is to put an end to you."

"Fool! You cannot best me in battle!" The avatar drew his flaming sword. "If all else fails, I will at least have the pleasure of grinding you to dust."

The monk leapt into the air and struck first, kicking the Avatar of War and knocking him back. The avatar swung his sword but missed, leaving him open for a series of punches.

The avatars clashed, striking at each other with the power of their opposing planes. The ground on which they fought began to rise, forming a plateau beneath them. On the flatlands below, the Ashen Order and the Knights of Truth fought the remnants of the Rallosian forces. The Freeport Militia drove the orcs away from the city walls and advanced upon the site of the battle, a helmeted figure in dark armor leading them forward.

The knights slashed at the fiery creature with their swords while the ranger called down winds and storms against it. The avatar was weakening, but it still struck with deadly fury.

The ranger looked around. Most of the remaining orcs were fleeing northward, though a few pockets of resistance held out against the Qeynosians. He could see a fierce battle going on between a group of barbarians and some of the stronger orcs.

"Yield to me, knights!" hissed the avatar. "I will share all the truths that the ranger is keeping from you!"

"Enough of your lies!" cried the leader of the knights. "Back to the abyss from whence you came!" He drove his sword deep into the center of the avatar's chest. The creature crumpled to the ground, flames sputtering as its essence began to fade.

"Fools!" it hissed weakly. "Your victory means nothing. The people of Norrath have not yet begun to suffer!" The avatar collapsed into a smoldering pile of ash.

The ranger touched the pendant at his neck and calmed the storms overhead.

"What did it mean?" asked the leader of the knights. "What suffering is yet to come?"

The ranger didn't reply. He drew his sword, the blade inlaid with ancient runes. He offered it to the knight. "For your service, I give you Maelstrom, Blade of Storms. It will serve you well."

The ranger turned and walked slowly toward the gates of Qeynos, stepping carefully over the bodies of the fallen that lay all around him.

The monk unleashed all his fury on the avatar, striking him down with a final blow. The Avatar of War slumped to the ground, defeated. The monk knelt on the ground to recover and heal his wounds.

An armored rider on a black horse reached the top of the summit and dismounted. He walked to the body of the fallen avatar and lifted the sword from its lifeless hand. The blade burned with unholy fire as the dark knight held it aloft.

"D'Lere!" the monk called out. "That sword doesn't belong to you."

The Overlord removed his helmet to reveal a scarred, smirking face. "Of course it does, fool," he replied. "Soulfire is now where it was always meant to be. I thank you for bringing it to me, and for delivering the true enemies of Freeport to justice."

"True enemies? What do you--"

Lucan walked to the edge of the plateau and faced the army below. "Citizens of Freeport," he called out in a booming voice that carried across the battlefield, "your Overlord has brought you victory this day! Now is the time to bring justice to the criminals who have returned to our lands! Turn your swords against the Knights of Truth and the Priests of Marr and let none of them escape!"

"Are you insane?" the monk asked angrily. "You have a chance to wipe out the rest of the orcs, but you'd rather feed your petty desire for revenge?"
Lucan laughed as he donned his helm again. He climbed atop the black steed and pointed the edge of Soulfire toward the monk. "Be grateful I let you live, Avatar. Don't think I have forgotten our history. I suggest you return to the desert and show your face in my kingdom no more." He turned the horse and rode down the side of the plateau.

The monk stood wearily. "It never changes," he told himself. He clenched his fist and hoped he wasn't too late to aid the followers of Marr who had risked their lives by trusting him.

The ranger wandered the battlefield looking for survivors. There were so many fallen, so many who had lost everything for this cause.

He saw a barbarian kneeling on the ground, her face stained with dirt and tears. She cradled the fallen man in her arms, rocking him gently back and forth. His armor was cracked by arrows that stuck out from his lifeless chest.

"Are you injured, milady?" The ranger asked softly.

The barbarian looked up at him. "Murbeck chased after the orcs, even though I told him we'd already beaten them. He didn't notice the archers taking aim. He never saw the arrows coming." She dropped her head and sobbed.

The ranger looked down. He had no solace to give, no answer for her pain. He knew that soon he would leave this realm, and that it would be left to mortals like her to prepare for what was to come.

"You fought well, my husband," she whispered to him. "You died as a Halasian, and one day your name will be sung in the great halls of our people. You will never be forgotten."

The ranger swallowed hard and turned away, leaving the barbarian to her sorrow. The price was too high, he thought to himself. And this was only the beginning.
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Re: The Tome of Lore

Postby Lirandel » Mon Nov 05, 2007 2:03 pm

Chapter 10: The Rending

"You were there when it started?" Vinmar asked.

"Aye. The first day." Durgen answered grimly.

"What was it like?"

The old dwarf shook his head. "I don't like tellin' of it. Some things are best forgotten."

"Please," the young man pleaded. "I grew up here within the walls of Qeynos. It's not as if the city has gone untouched, but I've never seen the worst of it. I met a Teir'Dal once who claimed she was in Freeport when it began and saw an entire section of the city start to--"

"Enough!" the dwarf growled as he slammed his tankard on the bar. "You babble as if this was all some children's story told for your amusement. I've lost friends in the Rendin'. I've lost brothers. You hid in your mama's skirt and soiled your diaper. You know nothin' of it."

Vinmar was quiet for a moment. "I lost my father. He was first mate aboard a ship that went out to look for castaways when the seas started to go wild. My mother pleaded with him not to go, but he insisted it was his duty. He never came back."

Durgen stared at the young man for a time, then spoke softly. "How old were you when your dad went missin'?"

"I wasn't born yet," he answered. "My mother found out she was carrying me a week after his ship was lost. Up until the day I was born, she would walk to the harbor every night at sunset. She'd stand there and watch for that ship to come sailing back. It never did."

Durgen took a long drink of ale. "I lived in the Karanas for many years. Made a livin' there, along with my three brothers."

"You were a farmer?"

The dwarf chuckled. "No, boy. I was a thief!"

"Oh," Vinmar replied nervously.

"No need to watch your coin purse. I gave up that life a long time ago. But back in the day, my brothers and I were the most feared bandits in the plains. Brell's Brigands, we called ourselves. Nothin' made us gladder than to see some rich merchant caravan makin' its way across the countryside, for we knew it was ours for the takin'."

"So you stole from the rich and gave to the poor?"

"Ha!" Durgen scoffed loudly. "We stole from the rich and gave to ourselves! Well, and to the card tables in Highkeep, that is. We had a taste for gamblin' and for fine the ladies up in that old castle. We lost our gold as quickly as we stole it, but it was a good life."

"So what was it like when it began?"

The old dwarf lost his grin and stroked his gnarled beard. "We were headin' eastward. We'd just robbed some rich high elves and were feelin' pretty pleased with ourselves. There was a village near the eastern edge of the plains, just some farmers and ranchers. We never troubled them, for stealin' from honest folks wasn't our way. We stopped to water our horses, and that's when we noticed it."

"Noticed what?" Vinmar asked.

"The silence. Every bird and every critter all of a sudden got quiet. The wind seemed perfectly still. It was eerie, I tell ya. My brothers and I looked at each other, wonderin' what in blazes was going on. Then, after a few moments, the animals when wild. The birds started crowin', the horses were buckin' and fussin'. Seconds later the ground shook like I'd never felt before."

Durgen paused and drank again. Even beneath his overgrown eyebrows, Vinmar could see the sad, faraway look in the dwarf's eyes.

"My brothers and I were knocked clear off our feet--and to do that to a band of rowdy dwarves, you know it was a powerful force indeed. Most every buildin' in that village started breakin' apart, and the people ran out in a panic. Cracks started formin' in the ground, then those cracks ripped wide open. Many of the poor animals got dragged down as the earth beneath them gave way."

"Poor creatures," Vinmar noted.

"We could barely stand up. The ground was tearin' itself apart all around us. I pictured the stories I'd heard about the Battle of Defiance, and suddenly I felt like one of those wretched orcs being punished by Brell. I didn't know if the gods were cursin' us, but it sure felt like it that day."

"What did you do?"

"We tried to run. I was the slowest of my brothers, so they were out in front. Bergen and Bormen were no more than fifteen paces ahead of me when the ground opened up under them. They tumbled downward, and in the blink of an eye they were gone."

Vinmar silently looked away as the dwarf paused to collect himself. Durgen was quiet for a long while.

"Curnen and I couldn't do a thing to save them. We sat there in shock, knowin' we were probably next. I looked around and couldn't believe how everything was bein' ripped apart like that. A family of halflings was runnin' toward us, and I saw their little girl trip as a crack opened up beneath her. She started slippin' away, screaming out for her mama."

"Gods!" Vinmar exclaimed. "Did her parents help her?"

"They each had a child in their arms already. They couldn't do anythin' without puttin' another child at risk. Without even thinkin' I grabbed Curnen's arm and charged toward that little girl. I yelled at my brother to hang onto my ankles so I could scoot forward and grab her. I got hold of her little hands and pulled her up, then we ran westward with that family to find safer ground."

"What became of the village?" Vinmar asked.

"I turned around to look. There was no trace; not one house or buildin' stood. The earth had ripped open and made a small canyon where that family's house had been. Over the days we spent travelin' toward Qeynos, we saw even more destruction. Bridges had collapsed, roads were torn up, and many lives were lost. That was only the start of it. Soon it happened again, then again, and again, with more devastation comin' at a quicker pace. The seas went wild and became impassable. The wind brought fires one day and storms the next. Priests prayed for the elemental gods to come back and restore balance, but there was no answer. They keep on prayin', and nothin' comes of it. Norrath is still tearin' itself apart."

"You were a hero, saving the little girl like that."

"Bah, some hero," Durgen scoffed. "I couldn't save my own brothers. Nothin' we did mattered."

"That's not true," a small voice responded. Vinmar and the dwarf turned to see the barmaid, a pretty halfling woman standing nearby. "What you did mattered a lot to my family, and especially to me. I was the little girl you rescued that day, and I've always wanted to meet the brave dwarf who risked his life to save mine."

The young man smiled. "See, you are a hero!" he said to Durgen.

"No," the dwarf replied. "I'm just a retired thief who spends too much time in bars. Look for heroes elsewhere, boy."

"Nonsense," the halfling declared. "Heroes arise when they're needed. Whatever you did before, that day you proved yourself. And I'll always be grateful." She climbed up onto the barstool next to Durgen and leaned close to him, kissing the dwarf's nose. Beneath his hairy features, he almost seemed to blush.

"A round of drinks then," Vinmar told the barkeep. "A toast to Durgen!"

"A toast to my brothers," the dwarf added.

"To all of those who have been lost," said the halfling.

The three of them nodded and drank in silence, grateful for the things that still endured.
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Re: The Tome of Lore

Postby Lirandel » Mon Nov 05, 2007 2:05 pm

Chapter 11: The Shattering

They crept through the shadows and waited for the guard to pass.

"He's gone, Tielya. It's safe."

"The guards should be the least of your concerns," she replied. "If my father ever found out that a human like you would be so bold as to touch a Teir'Dal maiden, he'd have your head on a pike before dawn."

"Good point," he said, pulling her close to him. "And what do you think he'd do if he found out that I'm going to marry you?"

"Impudent human!" she exclaimed, pushing away. "What makes you think a daughter of the house of V'Dreth would consent to such a union?"

"This," he answered, kissing her softly.

She smiled. "Even so, my father will be furious. I'm not joking when I say we have to be careful."

"I know," he answered, "but your father isn't here right now. And if we don't make our way to the docks soon, the guard will be back. Let's go."

He took her hand and led her to the pier. A small boat was tied up below the dock. They climbed down into it and untied the rope, rowing quietly into the harbor.

"Such a beautiful night," Tielya said. "I love the darkness of the new moon. Don't you, Sarven?"

"I love the darkness of your skin more, but the moon is nice, too." He smiled. Her eyes glinted back at him.

They rowed around the edge of the harbor, past the tall ships anchored at the Freeport docks. Their boat glided out of sight of the watchtowers to a deserted spot near the sandy shore. Sarven put down the oars and Tielya leaned back against him. They looked out across the silent water.

"The sea hasn't been this calm for a long time. A good omen, I think," she said to him.

"Indeed. Maybe it's a sign that we should run away from your family and start a new life somewhere else."

"Where could we go that a human and a dark elf would be allowed to live together? The Commonlands are overrun by orcs. If we fled to Nektulos, the fanatical Thexians would eagerly hunt you down. And while you might be able to find a place in Qeynos, I doubt they'd be very welcoming to a Teir'Dal. The oceans are still unsafe to cross. Our options are--"

She stopped when she noticed the sky over the water begin to shimmer and grow brighter.

"What is that?" Sarven asked.

"Some kind of distortion is forming. Whatever it is, it's enormous."

The flickering light coalesced. There, in the sky before them, was a round moon circled by an ephemeral ring.

"By the gods!" Tielya exclaimed. "Can that be Luclin?"

"I read about it growing up, but access to the moon was lost centuries ago. It was said to be hidden behind some kind of veil. Why would it be visible now?"

As he spoke, the moon began to glow brighter. Lines of energy arced across its surface as if the entire sphere crackled with power.

"What is happening?" she asked.

"Tielya, cover your eyes," he told her.

"But it's so beautiful."

"Cover your eyes!"

For an instant the sky flashed as bright as day. Sarven squinted and shielded his eyes with his arm. After a moment the light dimmed, and he looked up to see Luclin broken apart in the sky, a wave of energy carrying chunks of debris rapidly toward Norrath.

"We need to go quickly," he said. I don't know how far away Luclin is, but it looks like pieces of it will be hitting soon."

"Sarven," she said softly, her eyes staring forward.


"I can't see anymore."

"What do we know?" he asked.

"Very little," the informant replied. "Most in Freeport were asleep when it happened, though of course the intensity of the light awoke them."

"Can we even confirm it was Luclin?"

"Some who claim to have been to the Plane of Sky long ago agreed it looked like what they saw there, but who can say for certain? The planes play tricks on the eyes, and nothing may be what it appears. If it was Luclin, it was not as distant as many thought."

"Any idea as to the cause?"

"Just rumors. Luclin has been cut off from us for so long now, many had all but forgotten about it. The priests think its destruction is a portent that the gods will soon return. Others speak of an invasion that happened there long ago and claim this is the result. The ogres blame it on gnome meddling; the humans suspect the ratonga. The Overlord has begun an investigation of his own, but at this point nothing is certain."

"How bad are the casualties?"

"Too many to count. The largest pieces hit first, causing huge impact craters and scorching the lands. The Arcane Scientists claim that debris may be falling for years, perhaps even decades. They simply don't know."

The older Teir'Dal scowled. "I must have answers. Bring him in."

Two guards opened the door and left the room, returning moments later dragging a man between them. He had been beaten badly and couldn't walk on his own. They brought him before their master and held him up.

"Tell me, human, what did you see?"

"I... already told you," he replied weakly.

The dark elf slapped him hard across the face. "Vile wretch! You blind my daughter and now lie to my face! No one may do that to V'Dreth and live!" The Teir'Dal slapped him again.

"We were... on the boat. We saw the flash. I begged her to look away. I would never hurt her."

"Lies!" V'Dreth cried out as he hit Sarven again. "You kidnapped Tielya to hold her for ransom and stole her sight to hide your identity! Now tell me what you saw!" He clenched his fist and prepared to strike him again.

"Enough, father," Tielya called out from the doorway. "Do not hurt the man I love."

V'Dreth cringed. "You do not know what you are saying. He is a filthy human who has cast some spell on your mind. You could not love one such as him!"

She let go of the doorway and walked forward, nearly stumbling when she reached the edge of the table. She felt her way along it until she stood near her father.

"You have asked him over and over again what he saw. Why do you not ask the same of me?"

V'Dreth was silent for a moment. "Alright then, what did you see?"

She smiled faintly as she stared straight ahead with sightless eyes. "The moon was so clear. It was alive with energy flowing through every part of it. Then it was as if something in the center broke loose and leapt outward, like a bird of prey hatching from an egg. I couldn't turn away. It was so beautiful."

He looked down at the ground, then back at his daughter. "Do you really love this human?"

"I do," she said defiantly.

"Then have him," he said, motioning for his guards to drop Sarven on the floor. "Leave now, and never return to my house. I no longer have a daughter."

Her face was stoic as she nodded once, bending down to help Sarven to his feet. "Guide me, my love, and I will carry you," she whispered to him.

V'Dreth watched them go. He turned to the guards. "See that they find a room in an inn, somewhere out of the way. Deliver her things there. Make sure no harm comes to them, but never speak of them to me again. Go."

The guard saluted and walked away. V'Dreth turned back to his informant. "There must be more answers to be had. Find them."

The informant bowed and headed through the door, leaving V'Dreth alone in the dark chamber. The Teir'Dal touched the edge of the table his daughter had followed, then clenched his fist and stared into the shadows.
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Re: The Tome of Lore

Postby Lirandel » Mon Nov 12, 2007 6:57 pm

Chapter 12: Hunted (Final)

Qeynos. The City of Light. The City of heroes, adventurers and merchants. An evolving metropolis in the continually striving world of Norrath. Here, hope resides. Hope for a better and free world, without the constant fear of slavery, domination and warmongering from the darker servants of the old Gods. But especially it is a place of strength towards the forces of D'lere. The Dark elves leader who in ages past proclaimed himself the "protecter" of the Avatar of War's sword. And now. Stands as the sole malevolent corruptor of all that "once" was good in this world. It is a sword balancing on the edge. Until now...

Qeynos. Poor Quarters. Present day.
The Kerran merchant looked down the dark alley way with a concerned expression on his face. His green eyes glinting as he walked into the gathering darkness. As his steps touched the dirty cobblestones covered with grime and unseen predators with red hateful eyes, who in return scattered with small scuffled paws into the safe reaches of the alley. His silkish robes and splotched black furry mane fluttered as they were caught by the warm winds of summer.

He coughed as the stench of the alley hit him. And hurried to procure a green embroidered handkerchief, which he used to cover his mouth with. His face turning into a grimace.

"Youre late Kerran..."

The merchant turned in surprise and looked for the male voice, who had spoken. His keen eyes searching the alley with a mixture of dread and predatory survival. The alley remained empty.

"Did you gather the information concerning the Coin's whereabouts..? I"

The voice was cold and deep and there was something that gave the merchant the chills down his spine. As if somebody had walked over his grave and had found it unwanted.

His almost fluently common spoke of his talent for languages. A slight accent was all that remained of his true heritage as a Kerran as he in return spoke, although wavering.

"Yes. The Carpenter has taken a room in the Whistle and Anvil Inn. But the bribe was steep! It appears that he does not want to be found. And knows the right people. He has taken every precaution there is to take. My bet is he knows he is being hunted. "

A purse landed in front of him. Thrown from nowhere. The sound of coins clinging off stones could be heard as they landed.

"This is for your efforts. Now get lost. Until your services are needed once again."

The Kerran nodded and looked around, trying to figure where the person was hiding. But the alley remained empty and dark.

As he hurried out into the sunlight he gave the dark alley one final look. Then shaked his head in disbelief and was gone.

The Young guard removed the grey linen sheet that covered the body and tried to prevent from gagging. The sound of flies could be heard and he waved them away and got up, wabbling on his legs and turned around to look at his senior guard as he coughed.

"By the Great Mother! *burp* What happened to him?"

The senior guardsman looked down at the face of the corpse with an experienced look upon his brow. But his eyes were asking the same question. The corpse's face was frozen in a silent scream and his eyes turned back in endless agony. It looked like he had been sucked dry, his body nothing more than a husk of his former self. His flesh sagging, bones protruding like sharp spikes. Muscular and well fed, this man might have been prior to this state. But now. He was nothing more than flesh on bones. Dead.

"I dont know. There was no sound of this happening. None of the patron below heard a thing. Until they found the source of the stench."

"How long has he been here?"

The gagging guard opened the window and breathed the fresh air with a sigh of relief.

"According to the Innkeeper he has been living here for a week or so. No one knew him. Just a worksman I guess."

The young guard by the window turned and looked at the corpse with curiosity and dread in his eyes.


The old guard looked at the young cub, then pointed at the tools hanging by the side of the bed.

"Carpenter by the looks of it..."
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