Griffin Sword War

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Griffin Sword War is an Official GemStone IV Document, and it is protected from editing.

Introduction

It has been both a pleasure and a torment gathering the assembled documents regarding the incidents that occurred both in the Eastern and Western sides of the continent. I speak, of course, of what is commonly referred to as 'The Griffin Sword War' – a rather small blot on the pages of elven history, but noteworthy for its widespread effects on places of historical significance and the political thunderstorms in both Illistim and Vaalor which heralded its arrival.

Let us begin with the source of this information – a being which goes simply by the name "Nershuul". Countless papers could – and will – be written on what I will simply refer to from this point on as 'his' origins, but suffice it to say that the contingent of our representatives were able to acquire the corpse after he was struck down, and we summarily managed to revive what little life was left in the creature.

As the report must stay focused on the events, I will keep my descriptions brief – the being known as Nershuul's true form is a small black creature shaped roughly like a hand, with three 'fingers' branching from each hemisphere for a total of six. A number of eyes line the top of its, for what may be termed, 'head', insectoid in nature. A long, prehensile stinger protrudes from its back, and this is the means by which it can communicate, either by forcefully overtaking a living host's body with the stinger or by manipulating a 'fresh' corpse. It had been attached to a giantman, whose true identity was unable to be scryed when we found it. It seems unable to communicate properly without a host.

Regardless of the creature's fascinating biology, the most interesting facet of Nershuul is that he was close to one of the pivotal figures in these events – he was a right hand of Morvule far before the events of the Griffin Sword we know of came to play.

While it took quite a long time of what will simply be referred to as 'persuasion,' Nershuul eventually disclosed everything we asked of him. Whether he is lying or not cannot be known – he has expressed regret that his Master is no longer among us and is well aware of the fact that everyone but our people thinks him dead. Rescue has not come for many years, and he eventually realized the hopelessness of his situation.

Let us begin with Morvule himself – according to Nershuul, Morvule was originally of elven origin, though he does not know of his originating House. During the days after the Undead War, he underwent a transformation initiated by Luukos and appeared forever changed. Many remember his serpentine appearance – the slitted eyes, the scaled skin –

what many in religious circles simply call a "True Luukosian," internally referred to as one of "the Flawless" by cultists and fanatics of Luukos.

We know from the "trinkets of fate" that appeared throughout the various shrines and temples of the world shortly after the conclusion of the events that each of the four priests had personal contact with their deities. This seems to have been a trend with Morvule, according to Nershuul. He apparently acted on behalf of his Arkati a number of times throughout his long life. The details of these incidents will be enclosed in a separate report.

His role in the Griffin Sword War was easily apparent from only a few sessions with Nershuul – he was the bond that kept a somewhat shaky alliance together. It was he who initially brought the four together, and it was he who knew the secrets of the Griffin Sword.

According to Nershuul, the plans, even the alliance, came into effect far before the sword was ever sundered. The four initially met years before and began construction on their stronghold which was revealed at the pinnacle of their campaign against the civilized world. This was achieved through a stunning array of powerful flow magic from all four leaders of the respective sects – Morvule, a student of the planes as clearly evidenced by his penchant for demon summoning, provided the locale for their hidden sanctuary, hiding it away in planar secrecy. Draezir – closest to Morvule of the four due to past campaigns and exploits – was entrusted with shrouding the sanctuary and the plane itself from magical detection when crossing between worlds. Eryael, often thought to be the weakest magically of the four, was actually charged with the gateway into the other realm, persistently linking it to our own, a feat which is positively remarkable given the size of their armies. Zerroth provided a foundation for the physical building of the sanctuary, linking the very walls and materials to his body.

The aim of the alliance, Nershuul said, was to empower their respective Arkati with the stolen power imbued in the sword – rumored to be that of Lorminstra herself and to ascend into true immortality and join the pantheon after ravaging the general landscape of Elanith in a victorious bloodbath unseen before or ever again. He even fondly mentioned what the symbols of the four were going to be -- a three-headed serpent, an amber jackal's eye, a jagged black greatsword, and a tattered incarnadine rose.

To that end, the four's first aim was to build their sanctuary, which held what is simply called, 'The Altar of Darkness' – supposedly a direct conduit to their Arkati's power. Nershuul spoke of its creation with what might have been the first sign of fear we've ever seen from him – none were allowed to enter save for the sacrifices used, and they were brought in by the thousands. When it was completed, he said, the temple came alive – what was once simply an obsidian construct in the middle of a forgotten plane became a living heart whose pulses were that of the dark Arkati its inhabitants worshipped.

Such an undertaking was not without its precautions, it was explained – the four realized what folly it is to imbue anything directly with an Arkati's power, after all, the same folly is what they were now seeking to exploit. The altar was merely a conduit, a place to channel power, but not draw from. The same dynamics of a simple shrine or temple were at play here, but they were magnified beyond any humble priest's dreams. Nershuul spoke of audiences at the altar with both the Arkati themselves and their spiritual servants, though they were brief in the years of their campaign and only the four ever convened there during those times – all others were forbidden.

After the building of their sanctuary, what has been henceforth called 'The Black Temple,' the second part of their plan involved the abduction and conversion of the last known connection to the Griffin Sword – Morfell Destrieder.

Morfell, one could say, was the one who set all this in motion – prior to this rather worldwide campaign of destruction, he had been originally bequeathed the sword, purportedly by the Arkati Lorminstra herself. It was also he who betrayed her, and summarily the sword was broken up into four pieces, which started a small war in the Western region, specifically near the town of Wehnimer's Landing. It ended with the sword reforged.

However, in the interim years it was never touched – a point of curiosity to many historians looking at the current events that lead to its second sundering. This question appears to have been answered by our informant – it could not be touched merely for the fact that the protections were put in place by the Arkati Lorminstra herself. No matter the amazing power of the four, they could not overcome such a warding.

What was known, however, was that the sword was irrevocably linked to Morfell. As it had been sundered under his hand once before, it could be recovered in the same fashion. And Morfell was mortal – he could be broken, Nershuul explained. They used his connection in order to exploit that which had remained pure and untouched for years following its reforging. According to reports, Morfell, while betraying his chosen Arkati, repented at the end of the first war over the sword and went through a long journey of penance.

It seems this desire for redemption kept the sword fully protected. So long as Morfell remained devout, the sword would forever be unattainable.

Nershuul spoke proudly of how he was among the few chosen to be present and help with the capture of this man.

They found him among an outpost of Voln near the Turamzyrrian Empire. According to Nershuul, no one was aware of his past, and he was taken quietly and without incident. It was then his tortures began. Nershuul apparently took part in these quite extensively – he spoke in detail of preying on the mind of the warrior-priest after all four of the priests visited him, and he delighted in the illusory worlds of torment they would plunge him into. Suffice it to say, this went on for several years before the submission they sought was attained. I can barely imagine the suffering that was visited upon Morfell -- after seeing what destruction the four priests wrought when loosed upon the world, their combined power focused on one man is an almost unthinkable situation.

We also see why Eryael's allegiances were tapped – the devotees of Pain and Suffering seem to take a more 'personal' approach to torment rather than the massive armies of Luukosian, Sheruvian, and V'tullian, which has often been a point of question to many observing this event – after all, outwardly, it did not seem Eryael was incredibly useful in terms of battle until the very end days of the alliance. However, Nershuul speaks highly of Eryael's unwavering efforts to break Morfell in the most useful way possible and points to his efforts as a key point in their strategy.

Regardless, it was when Morfell finally succumbed to his captors that the 'taint' in the sword was detected by the prophet of the Arkati Lorminstra - Ulstram Chanerser.

Part One

Early reports regarding Ulstram's background places him initially among a small group of radical Lorminstran cultists devout to the point of zealotry. This would seem to be the case as the "trinkets of fate" show him among these zealots and battling seemingly innocent people.

In this trinket, it was shown that he slaughtered both an innocent man and what, according to interviews with witnesses of the events leading up to Ulstram's death, appears to have been the man's daughter. This, in turn, lead to a sort of haunting, yet the presence which visited Ulstram on several occasions seemed to lack any qualities of the undead, and we believe it to be a memory, his guilt transmogrified into spiritual form.

Regardless, Ulstram's path ultimately led him to the sword, having been set on his quest by Lorminstra herself. He was accompanied by Kendryth, a former paladin of Koar.

Kendryth hailed from the Turamzyrrian Empire, having trained under various knightly orders within the empire and spent a brief amount of time on the Demonwall fighting against the Scourge. He met Ulstram when, during the Jantalarian invasion of Mestanir, his brother was murdered by a witch-hunter under the employ of the Jantalarian forces. Hunting down the murderous woman to a darkened alley, he nearly struck the killing blow before a voice stopped him – it was Ulstram, who spoke of how vengeance would never solve his grief, it would only worsen it. Casting his sword and vows aside, he would become Ulstram's Ward, learning from him and protecting him all at once.

The taint which Ulstram sensed was ultimately unrealized to be the taint that was spreading inside Morfell – this was the fatal flaw in Ulstram's plan. While Nershuul points out that Ulstram's presence was unexpected to the alliance, Morvule had contingencies for a number of situations. Intervention during the final stages of their long plans was among them.

It was decided, then, to leverage the armies of the four to provide a suitable distraction, while Morvule planned around Ulstram's proposed cleansing of the sword. The original plan, Nershuul described, was to rend the taint upon the sword open right in Erebor's Square while Ulstram attempted to cleanse it. While this would not have plunged the sword fully into darkness – such a thing was to come later upon their altar -- it had the grimly satisfying result of turning the surrounding environs into a wasteland. Had they gone through with their original plans, the city known as Wehnimer's Landing would have been destroyed utterly, condemned to be a cursed, infertile land for ages akin to the Wizardwaste or many of the places where undead horrors walk indefinitely.

Morvule had limited interaction among those who would come to be known to us as the free agents of Lornon – adventurers who, for one reason or another, claimed their allegiance to a number of Lornon Arkati, yet were not among the throngs of generally mindless hordes of the armies of the Four. They were independent – some agreeing wholly with the Four's plans, some only partially, and some not at all. They would eventually be come to be accepted at varying levels by the Four priests, with each of them forging different ways of contact with their respective followers. Later on in their campaign, they would be used for various missions of deception and would prove to be quite integral to the plans of the Four.

Morvule saw the usefulness in those who followed Luukos in the general area, and moved to make contact with them early, tasking them with general reconnaissance and revealing an ancient shrine that was lost to the area for them to convene.

Among those contacted would be Dispater ArchDevil, Dajamar Nasci'Serpente, Nevrek Araknathalin, Armaxis Telexana, and Achillea Ormeth. They would be the first to carry the mark of the Luukosian Order – dark ophidian marks for those of the priesthood and dark red fang-shaped marks for those who would act as guardians of the faith and whose prowess lay in the art of physical combat.

As the armies marched, the four continued to weave their plans quietly in the background.

This did not happen, however, as Ulstram did the one thing they did not expect – he fought back, using the sword's power. It was explained that Morvule was certain Ulstram would not fight once he revealed himself – they apparently knew of his background – and that his attempts to further cleanse the sword would only make the taint more palpable and easily culled.

The details of what truly happened were only fully explained to me by Nershuul himself, who was apparently present at the events, cloaked in shadow.

What was expected was that Ulstram would be untrusting of the assembled crowd – he admittedly knew of people there who were unsympathetic and even hostile to his cause and that he would not open a conduit between the gathering and the sword. That is exactly what happened though, and he used the combined power of the crowd to anchor the sword's purification process, essentially spreading out the burden of the taint's energies to the entire crowd instead of simply himself. With so many targets, Morvule had to act quickly. It was risky, but it was the only way – he had to destroy the bridge of this power – Ulstram – in order to stop the purification process.

It was then that Ulstram made his stand, using the sword itself. As the crowd bore a significant weight of the taint and had actively begun to seal it away, Ulstram was able to focus on awakening the power of light contained within the sword and thus use its power against Morvule.

The four's plans were nearly crumbled that evening. Ulstram's unexpected actions served to leave Morvule only one choice; the sword had to be sundered under less than optimal conditions. The clash of two opposing powers caused the entire sword to nearly be destroyed – were it not for its sundering years ago, it might have – but the scars which remained became wounds once again, and the sword exploded in a fireball of cataclysmic power over the skies of Wehnimer's Landing as the two battled fiercely.

While the four put on a façade of unity, ultimately, it was at that point where their alliance was nearly shattered. After revealing themselves, their armies were set upon Wehnimer's Landing – yet another distraction as they retreated to their sanctuary, the priests leaving the hastily assembled forces to raze half of the town, leaving it in tatters. The breaking of the sword had even more unexpected consequences – Morfell was dead.

This apparently set the four into a rage, as their one link to the sword was now severed. Eventually, however, Morvule was able to regain control and went through with a drastic plan. He raised Morfell as one of the higher forms of undeath – a lich. Nershuul had said something regarding the idea of simply raising him from the dead, that the sword had destroyed any chances of regaining him in such an intact fashion – as the sword was cast into shards, so was Morfell's soul. Lichdom was the last resort, and Morvule used a significant portion of his power in reassembling the tattered remains of Morfell's soul and binding it inside of his former shell of a body.

However, the one advantage the four had counted on since the failure to recapture the sword, that Morfell's connection would lead them to the sword pieces, was nonexistent. Apparently, this connection was only maintained by Morfell being alive – with him among the ranks of the undead now, it was impossible to use him as a tool in their plotting. Realizing this, he was simply put to use in the creation of the undead armies and monitored as one would keep watch on a prisoner. Nershuul notes that Eryael took particular interest in Morfell's transformation, having never encountered someone who survived their soul getting nearly obliterated. Ultimately, it was Eryael who convinced Morfell to fully become a willing and trusted pawn of the four's alliance. Faced with no other paths, I imagine such a fate was a welcome respite to the myriad of horrifying alternatives.

Part Two

It was then the contingency plans of both sides began to come into play. The rumors of the first shard began to surface as having landed near the dwarven settlement of Kharam-Dzu, on the island of Teras.

It was decided among the four that one priest would be used to combat the forces of the opposing side, while the other three would search quietly for the other shards. This, as we know now, apparently did not work. The first to be dispatched was Zerroth, the berserker warrior-priest of V'tull.

Zerroth's background is hazy, and Nershuul knew only basics – he was an outcast of the Grot'Karesh Hammer clan, and through some bizarre circumstances was possessed by V'tull a number of times, eventually becoming one of the Arkati's favored through his sheer lust for blood and battle. He led several cults over the years, dissolving in a bloody frenzy and reforming with the most elite of soldiers who survived the self-imposed armageddons. He was known to favor places of volcanic activity, and the four decided that he would first strike at Teras, as he was the most familiar with the harsh layout of the land, having had past dealings in the primordial subterranean lava flows.

Thus, a fleet of Zerroth's warships was dispatched to surround the island even as Ulstram's followers descended upon it. Both sides were consumed with battle every evening, with neither giving any quarter. From what Nershuul tells us, the V'tullians were so consumed with battle to the point of neglecting several important key points of information. During a raid on a dwarven caravan, several scraps from a lost expedition were found – these scraps would eventually point to the last known location of the shard.

It was these scraps that Ulstram and his followers found – they mounted a raid upon the ships, first intended simply to disable the V'tullians ability to wage war on a nightly basis. However, they stumbled upon this information while destroying Zerroth's flagship and quickly used it to locate the first piece – the hilt, buried deep in one of the lava flows.

However, Ulstram's penchant for trusting those who seemed on the verge of conversion cost him dearly here. Among his group was an empath, Siwas Devessi, whom accompanied the group to the flows. She spotted the hilt and summarily made off with it.

While initially conflicted, Siwas would eventually offer up the hilt to her patron, Mularos, through Eryael's hands. After recovering the piece, she fled to Solhaven, which incidentally, is where the search for the next piece began.

The recovery of the hilt by one hidden in the midst of Ulstram's followers caused a moral fallout and a schism which would only grow wider as the conflict became more and more desperate. A portion of Ulstram's followers were unhappy with his forgiving, pacifistic nature and sought to punish the local followers of the four.

Siwas, Nershuul explained, took refuge in the underground Temple of Luukos – the only active temple in the region – and was guarded fiercely by both the inhabitants of the temple and the various free agents of Lornon, who joined the fight against Ulstram. Nershuul himself monitored her from the shadows day and night, and spoke of her doubts regarding her ability to hold on to such a powerful artifact and what might happen. Among those to console her were Mekthros, Licel, Aramana, Pyrocite Burnweed, Alisaire Freya, Sepher, Querthose Mallick, Setzier vonEvenlore, and Grhim Anyukal.

While there were a number of skirmishes that Nershuul vaguely recalls monitoring, the catalyst of this schism occurred when Siwas was burned alive on the market bridge of Solhaven. Lead by a faction of radical religious zealots emboldened by the backing of a number of powerful adventurers, she was abducted and burned before any of the local authorities could respond. This would ultimately strain Siwas' relationship with her lover – Turinrond Coyoterre, a follower of Onar's ways, counted himself as her protector. His failure to do so, along with her mounting allegiance to the Four, would serve as a catalyst for the final annulment of their courtship and a rather brutal act of violence towards Siwas on Turinrond's part.

Nershuul responds to this with a vague hint of amusement – it had apparently been Eryael's plan to cultivate this schism, and he intentionally refused to accept the hilt, risking the scorn and chiding of his compatriots. Siwas was told that she needed to become a martyr, that her suffering would serve as a fitting beginning to the conversion of the hilt's properties into one the four priests could use.

It is here that we must digress into a curious aspect of the sword. The sole reason for the immediacy of the search, and the only reason why the bearers of these shards were not instantly slaughtered and their corpse plundered, was that once a shard was touched by anything living, its dormant power awakened, however slightly. Once someone 'claimed' a shard by touching it, it would send a ripple throughout the world that both Ulstram and the Four would surely detect. Even while it was unwhole, the wards imbued in it since its creation became active once again, and it would remain inert and utterly resistant to any magic that was not the bearer's own. This lead to a situation where if the bearer was killed or destroyed before willfully passing over the bond to someone else, the piece remained untouchable. For both the priests and Ulstram, this was an incredibly dire thing, as both sought to cleanse or reforge the sword, and if it were to remain untouchable by all magic, be it light or dark, their respective missions would fail instantly.

On the eve of her burning, Eryael accepted the hilt from Siwas, even as the search for the next shard – what would come to be found as the quillions -- began in the Freeport of Solhaven.

Nershuul spoke with excitement as he described the transformation of the hilt – it was brought before the altar, and for the first time in many years, he was among those chosen to be admitted and participate in the ceremony. He described how the temple underwent yet another change – rooms appeared that he did not remember being there, the air took on strange scents, and a myriad of other things which indicated that immense power had been gained. It seemed to affect Eryael in particular as he had originally claimed the piece and lead the ceremony – which was described to me as a blend of the respective Arkati's rituals, with blatant Mularosian overtones.

Meanwhile, however, the campaign in Solhaven had been decided on both sides, and we must take a moment to examine the political climate therein. The Mercantyler's Guild, at the time, was one of the largest political influences on Solhaven's law enforcement. They had remained neutral to the Dark Arkati, building single, simple shrines to each so as not to anger any of them. The religious nature of the inhabitants and travelers really did not concern them much, and, as so often humans are, they were concerned over trade issues with those of darker persuasions and did not move to enact a harsher outlook toward the adventurers whose allegiances were aligned with the four priests. So long as there was not open fighting, they did not choose to intervene. Ulstram, as was his philosophy, preached of understanding, forgiveness, and purity. This only served to frustrate the more militant of his would-be followers. Nershuul also spoke of deep roots in regards to Luukosian and Sheruvian activity there, however, there was no implicit suggestion of cooperation between those sects and Solhaven's lawmakers.

It was decided that the Sheruvian High Priest – Draezir Moltoniron – would be the one to lead the search in Solhaven. Nershuul knows very little of his background, save that he had an active role in setting up the temple of Sheru in the Broken Lands and establishing a solid foothold for Sheruvian forces on the continent. We also know that Draezir despised Estrion and Siarl's past exploits, as their actions were an affront to Sheru's power to think that anyone would seek to overthrow him, according to the High Priest.

Regardless, the campaign in Solhaven had begun. Kendryth's forces began to fan out among the woods and were reported to have limited engagement with Draezir's forces. While Kendryth had a small contingent of men, he could not spread them so far as Draezir's armies and had to balance between focusing solely on the search or rooting out Draezir's camps and destroying them. While bolstered by the helpers and followers of Ulstram in the search, it seemed for a time neither would be successful.

Nershuul spoke of Draezir being familiar with the outlying forests where the shard was rumored to have been. The initial plan was rather covert in nature; Draezir's encampment was hidden by a veil constructed by the Sheruvian High Priest himself, and it took a large amount of power to maintain it as his armies worked to scour the land. Having no forces to spare, Draezir loosed something terrible upon the inhabitants of Solhaven to keep them busy – living nightmares, the essence of terror made real. Neither living or unliving, demonic or holy, where these beings came from, Nershuul knows nothing of – however, to his senses, they were very similar in makeup to the rapture cloaks, which have been spread throughout the world as ancient artifacts of Sheruvian origin. Where these specific artifacts have their power checked, these creatures were unbridled in their lust for the flesh of the living.

Nershuul spoke of their innate desire to become, for what is better termed, 'alive.' Without any guidance or control from their apparent maker, the creatures terrorized the city night after night. At first, it was merely one of these beings, and after several isolated attacks on travelers throughout the city, the victims flesh was consumed and they were left dead or barely struggling for life, the pattern of attack changed. A resident of Solhaven – Revalos – was taken on one of the rainy nights when the creatures would lurk throughout the southern portion of the city, and through a grisly ritual, another creature was birthed from his flesh – nearly identical to the first.

As Revalos was chosen to harbor a shadowy passenger to grow within him, so was another – a rogue named Haxley Dormagic, whose betrothed named herself among one of Sheru's ranks – Witcheaven Glantria. While Witcheaven sought to culminate the shadowy presence within Haxley, ultimately he was cleansed by Ulstram and Kendryth in a ritual undertaken within the confines of Phoen's temple. Revealing the truth that Witcheaven had coaxed the infection within Haxley, he summarily left her, her wavering allegiances finally solidified with that of Sheru's forces.

The two otherworldly beings would later come to find an unlikely ally in a Dhe'nar elf known as Alisaire Frey. Beyond the fact that Nershuul knew of her guidance by two prominent Luukosian figures in the Western regions – Armaxis Telexana and Nevrek Araknathalin – they knew little else of her origins. Nershuul spoke of a ritual undertaken in the abandoned Luukosian temple on Teras Island -- conducted by Armaxis sometime in the past -- that essentially had sealed the path she walked.

The motivations of the creatures became clear when they met the young Dhe'nar elf atop the temple of Niima. They would use her as an anchor to this world, and through her become as close to living as possible. A fusion of shadow and flesh, essentially.

Part Three

However, during this time, Ulstram's efforts had been focused on ridding the city of excessive violence, and the creatures had become a point of contention among many in Solhaven. On the eve of what would have been the completion of this bizarre process, Ulstram lead a group of followers to the street-side lair of the shadowy creatures and Alisaire, where they disrupted the ritual at the last moment. The creatures were banished to wherever they had come from, and Alisaire remained incomplete. What the three plotted was never truly known, even to those who interrupted the ritual, and most likely will never be known beyond the limited eyes of those allowed to read this document.

Furious at the loss of what must have been precious assets, Draezir took a cue from his Luukosian allies and hatched a plot of deception. Betraying Ulstram's trusting nature, Draezir tasked one of the Sheru free agents within Solhaven – Aramana Leirath – to hand him a relic. Playing the part of a confused and pain-stricken convert, Aramana was able to serve as the bearer of a perfect trap for Ulstram. Taking the relic in his hands, Ulstram was instantly whisked away to a realm of Draezir's creation – nightmares and darkness.

In the interim, Draezir had begun to split his forces once his creatures were dispatched – the Sheruvian armies marched nearly daily on the city of Solhaven.

Nershuul was delighted to tell us of this particular exploit, as he was able to freely participate in the torture against Ulstram. It was explained that he was interrogated by all four of the priests quite extensively. It was particularly tactical in nature, Eryael seemed to gain no pleasure from his normal frivolities in torture. It was mentioned that something deeper was torturing Ulstram several times, and the scars that Eryael could inflict on the surface would pale in comparison to the wounds Ulstram had inflicted upon himself. Nershuul remarks that Eryael would simply gaze at Ulstram in a fascinated fashion between sessions of torture, mouthing words no one could hear.

They had initially hoped to coax something of Ulstram's latent prophetic abilities to foresee where the shards might be, but it was proving fruitless. Morvule was rallying to simply destroy him and leave it at that, but Eryael and Zerroth, particularly, were of the opposite persuasion. They had forcefully destroyed Morfell's will; what was this but another holy man to be dashed against the rocks?

Regardless, Draezir found the constant encroachment into his efforts to find the shard more than annoying and began to focus his forces into simply capturing the town of Solhaven. This was achieved on the 23rd of Jastatos, 5102, at the hour of midnight. Initially, Sheruvian forces were flooding the streets, pushing back the defenders. When the Sheruvians had finally gained a tactical advantage in the battle, a strange type of magical construct was deployed – similar but not wholly the same as the constructs found around Old Ta'Faendryl.

They were the guardians of the city, keeping the occupied area quiet by allowing those of the proper alignment to roam free among the streets, while others were forced inside homes, inns, and other such refuges with threats of inexorable death. Nershuul speaks fondly of this time, as a child might remember a favorite candy, for he was free to roam the streets and break in to whatever houses he wished. He speaks of devouring entire families as they slept huddled together in fear of the onyx jackal statues outside. The era of what Nershuul calls 'Nighthaven' had begun, the term apparently having been coined by the local worshipers, who could now wander the streets as if they owned the city themselves. .

Many attempts were made to destroy these constructs, but it proved fruitless.

It was at this time when the formal terms of each opposing side became increasingly widespread – the four priests became known as the Dark Alliance, and those who sided with Ulstram or simply opposed the Dark Alliance were referred to as The Resistance. While initially quite true in every sense of the word due to the occupation of Solhaven, this term stuck with those opposing the four priests throughout the conclusion of the battle.

Kendryth had become a more persistent and driving presence since Ulstram's capture, seeking to bolster the beleaguered and weary forces of the Resistance. He took responsibility for the fall of Solhaven and vowed to take it back. Having been ambushed and nearly captured and killed by Sheruvian forces whilst the city was being occupied, his officers gained a vital piece of information – a high-ranking Sheruvian would be traveling to the city on the 29th of Jastatos.

Finally making his way to the captured city, Kendryth found he was also nearly powerless against the sentinels of Sheru. The Resistance planned and waited patiently, while Draezir lorded over the streets nightly. Nershuul explains that this, again, was a subterfuge meant to enrage those who would seek out the shard and focus their attention elsewhere.

The evening of the 29th finally came, and with it, an ambush was laid on the wooded path that leads to Solhaven. Initially, the followers of the four priests – Mekthros, Pyrocite, and others mounted an attack, which initially dealt several blows to the Resistance's efforts, but they were dispatched within moments. Hoping that the ambush was not revealed, the Resistance stormed into a carriage and there found a Sheruvian Inquisitor. The Inquisitor, Nershuul explained, was to act as a regent, while Draezir left to focus his efforts on the search and to eventually negotiate with the inner barony of Vornavis for the transition of Solhaven back to their rule in exchange for Vornavian forces covertly searching for the shard. This would be accomplished by enacting a second stage to their plan of occupation – the kidnapping and torture of citizens, with supporters of Ulstram specifically targeted. Since the Inquisitor's death occurred that night, this plan was never enacted.

What was found in the wake of the Inquisitor's death, however, was a chest containing the keys to the eventual freeing of Solhaven and Ulstram. Draezir, now enraged at the success of Kendryth's campaign, began to simply raze Solhaven in search of the chest. Fleeing Draezir in order to concentrate their efforts on opening it, they fooled the Sheruvian into heading north into the forest, while they hid in the sea caves to the south of the city. There, they opened the chest to find onyx shards and an orb. Within was a small note explaining the purpose of the items.

The onyx shards, ultimately, disabled a strong field of magic permeating the sentinel statues patrolling the streets of Solhaven and allowed for the Resistance to destroy their would-be captors by hacking them to pieces.

The orb, on the other hand, was a link to the realm created specifically for Ulstram. Nershuul describes the sphere's purpose as a way to interrogate the prophet remotely to obtain lists of names for the sentinels to eventually seek out on the streets.

Ultimately, Kendryth was able to open a link to the realm where Ulstram was imprisoned, and the assembled supporters were able to free the prophet from his prison. As they journeyed toward this goal, Draezir's occupying forces were crumbled, and the Freeport of Solhaven was taken back by the Resistance.

While Draezir and the rest of the four were taken aback by the sudden victory of the Resistance, this did not halt the main effort of their ultimate goal. Rather than attempt to retake the town, which would have simply served as a bargaining chip for more resources to search for the shard, they redoubled their efforts and gained some important information from a very small tribe of shan that had made their home deep in the Cairnfang forests, where they had continually searched.

Bolstered by their efforts to free Solhaven of the grip of the priests, the Resistance planned a strike against Draezir's encampment – with Ulstram's considerable magical power, there was a greater chance the location could be uncovered. Within a few days, the locale of the encampment was found, and Ulstram and Kendryth's forces moved out.

Several things were happening concurrently when this plan was being carried out – Draezir's forces were arriving on the site that was told to them by the shan tribe, and several of the allies of the four were gathering by the order of Morvule to destroy any survivors of Kendryth's camp. While the Sheruvians expected a backlash, their army's sole goal was to find the shard, and they focused on just such a thing even as Ulstram and Kendryth neared the camp.

Fighting through the Sheruvian forces, Ulstram eventually began to get flashes of their intentions, and coupled with newly found clues within the encampment itself, the group was lead through a maze of forest where the search had previously been conducted. Eventually the two opposing groups met exactly where the new dig site had been.

It was within a cave that eventually Alisaire Frey found the sword piece beneath a charred rock. She was among the many who stood at that spot, and she reacted quickly.

Initially, many thought Alisaire was simply neutral with possibly a darker bent due to her being a full-blooded Dhe'nar elf. Her past was cloudy to most, but Nershuul informs us she had been aiding the priests since their arrival in Wehnimer's. However, even Morvule was unsure of how her reactions would be – the Dhe'nar elves have an innate thirst for power, and with her in control of the quillions and having already betrayed her blood for the path of Luukos, they were curious as to what she might do.

Nershuul spoke of their meeting – Alisaire had become enamored with the creatures with which she'd almost bonded her very soul. She wished to complete what had been severed so abruptly by Ulstram and his kin. Morvule, both punishing and rewarding her for her ruthless ambition in subtly holding the sword piece hostage, granted her wish. She was bequeathed a talisman, whose very nature was linked to the shadowy creatures and told that once a thousand years had passed, the bonding would be complete.

Alisaire accepted the offer, and the quillions were turned over to Draezir for the additional price of withdrawing his army from Solhaven's borders – a thing which was no longer necessary at this point in their campaign. Nershuul again describes its reforging into a component of darkness – the Black Temple once more expanded of its own accord, and each of the priests was able to more easily keep up their individual functions with less and less of their own power. It simply became more self-sustaining.

Part Four

It is here we must take pause to present our own findings through various channels other than Nershuul. As mentioned prior, our interest had been piqued ever since the Griffin Sword itself was shattered, and we have compiled information on several significant events, if not slightly lesser in scope to the grand scheme, that occurred that could possibly have influenced the overall situation.

At this point in time, several prominent Western militias had come to the stage – the Northern Fury, lead by Valicar VonWraithmaster, the House Onoir, lead by Morgiest Frostgiant, the Freeholders, jointly lead by Cappurnicus Calerous and Kaishaku Kenshiyaku. It also planted the seeds for future organizations such as the Haven Emergency Resource Team and catapulted other local organizations such as Cairnfang Manor into prominence due to their help with both the invasion, recovery, and rebuilding efforts. The Silver Gryphons, an old established order, would also lend aid during this time, as well the Free Citizens of River's Rest – their involvement here would deeply root them in the joint defense of Solhaven.

Help from the East would come in the form of the Second Militia – a local band of adventurers of mixed races who took up residence around Ta'Vaalor and attempted to uphold the standards of the Vaalorian military.

Among the myriad events which happened in Solhaven was the introduction of several who would aid the Four priests consistently – Mekthros Savius, Alisaire Frey, Armaxis Telexana, Setzier vonEvenlore, Querthose Mallick, Aramana Leirath, Naamit DMonica, Grhim Anyukal, Maimara Andriatti, Avidleigh, Maphiston, Sepher, Angelrise, Witcheaven, Aramana, Ysharra, Uniana, Rekarth, Hadya, Thrassus, Licel, Dispater, Dajamar, Achillea, Wulfhen Rayliad, Sayori, Naessi, Marclar, and Valanis would all seek to serve the aims of one of the Four in some fashion. Some were rewarded for their efforts, while others were ostracized for their failures.

It was then that a period of quiet settled over the lands, a brief respite due to no sign of any of the other sword pieces. This would essentially be the calm before both a political and quite physical storm.

From reports of our contact within the Illistim political circles, the changes began very quietly – among the various factions and causes within Illistim's walls, those with a militant bent began to receive a large amount of funds from unidentified sources, increasing their political clout within the various courts. Rumors also began to circulate among the nobility – one of the most prominent being that Tyrnian, King of House Vaalor, had openly disparaged the Illistim's military might during a formal ceremony. While we know for a fact this is untrue, the sewing circles of the Illistim nobility were set ablaze with these scandalous whispers. While a majority of the mostly scholarly elves didn't pay attention, the scant few who did held enormous power within the courts, and their actions soon paved the way for what was to come.

Nershuul reveals that he himself helped greatly during this time – he was given a list of minor political nobles and told to overtake them while they slept. Once attached, he would manipulate the elf to say certain things among certain groups. He would then leave them the next night, leaving no trace of his presence beyond a mild headache and a faint feeling of forgetfulness. He also speaks of Morvule's personal involvement – of his impersonation of more notable figures among prominent Illistim families for brief amounts of time, of his investments into the right factions and causes, of his subtle manipulations, which ultimately brought the Illistim army to ShadowGuard.

The reasoning for this, Nershuul explains, was twofold – they had gotten wind of someone discovering the sword piece either directly in the area of ShadowGuard or within Ta'Illistim's walls itself. The second was that they encountered a number of issues with transporting their forces to the eastern side of the DragonSpine. They would require more forces, and Morvule's solution for such was easy – more corpses.

They also began planting seeds of discord throughout the north, near Ta'Vaalor, by bolstering some of the local outcasts, specifically necromancers and other such pariahs, in order to keep split Ta'Vaalor's normally unified forces with seemingly random incursions.

Regardless, through these various manipulations, Illistim's political climate was raging, and the political factions behind the primarily non-magical military ached for an enemy on which to prove their newest training regimen. They found this enemy when Morvule finally revealed a small band of undead near ShadowGuard's borders.

The response was massive – the full force of the political movement which had built up for months was behind the plan to send a quarter of Illistim's military might to meet the threat. The Vaalorian forces consented to such a thing, as there was very little need to mobilize their own army to deal with such an insignificant threat.

The Illistim army was slaughtered in a single night. Nershuul speaks with delight on the transgression – all of the assembled Illistim were raised as undead to join the fight and the search. A small outpost keep was taken over as their base of operations, and for a time, Nershuul was allowed to take part in the outright battle during one of the four's absence, serving as a general of the undead forces.

This, as expected, unified the elven forces against a common threat. The four had apparently spent weeks preparing the grounds for an extended siege as this had one singular purpose – to force the Vaalor to act and keep their attention focused there.

With the Vaalor forces split between defending their own homeland and dispatching the threat to the rest of the Elven Nations, the Four began to search among Ta'Illistim's borders in a very discreet fashion. The free agents of Lornon were tapped heavily during this time, and they were directly competing with those of Ulstram in the search.

We must digress here to discuss some of the political ramifications of the search for the pieces coming to the eastern side of the world – while, generally the western side of the continent is rather used to those termed 'adventurers,' for the most part, the elves of the east had only recently become inundated with their kind. Whereas help from these generally good natured adventurers was often accepted in the west, in the east, such efforts were thought as an affront to the ability of the elves to take care of their own problems. This caused strife among the followers of Ulstram and, specifically, the Vaalor elves.

The Vaalor's disdain for the westerners eventually brought a number of conflicts between such two vastly different ideologies. What they did do that most of Ulstram's group agreed with was execute and banish the free agents of Lornon when they appeared to vocally support the Dark Alliance. The Illistim elves, on the other hand, were fairly apathetic and would do no such thing – the reasoning being that there are generally a number of outright supporters of Fash'lo'nae's ideals among prominent political groups, and while Illistim elves are generally ambivalent, they find such widely discriminatory actions reminiscent of the Rysus Codex in the Turamzyrrian Empire, which they absolutely abhor and consider barbaric. As such, save for acts of aggression or outright treachery, the free agents of Lornon were not persecuted within the walls of Ta'Illistim.

It was also a time when Eryael was able to freely torture the minds of several members of Ulstram's Resistance – with two sword pieces fueling the connection between this plane and the locale of the Black Temple, his efforts into maintaining the link were drastically reduced. He had already turned one of their kind from Ronan to Mularos – Tierus Morvaenus – and he aimed to continue the trend. His workings in Ta'Illistim eventually would lead to a minor cult springing up in his wake, a decadent house of debauchery meant to lure those to the hidden shrine below it. It exists still to this day, even without Eryael's hand to guide it.

This also marks a time when both the stratagems of Ulstram and the Dark Alliance changed slightly – Ulstram realized the need for an inner circle of trusted companions, and he and Kendryth provided sanctuaries accessible only to those who bore a relic of their creation.

The Four agreed that the free agents had become useful over time and rather than risk another possible betrayal by a questionable allegiance, they attempted to solidify their connections by allowing them access to that which they'd never seen before – The Black Temple. Given relics by Eryael, they were soon able to traverse the planes with little difficulty -- while they knew very little of where they were exactly, they were given access to sacrificial altars that allowed them to bolster the power of their respective patron priests through bloodletting.

It was at this time that the various independent outcasts of Ta'Vaalor began to make their presence known – random forays along their borders began to show an inherent flaw in Ta'Vaalor's usually flawless strategies; their army was stretched thinly across two mounting fronts. Realizing this, they created two special divisions of the military that were rather historically ground breaking – they allowed elves of other Houses to join, as well as Vaalor elves which, for whatever reasons, had been born abroad or were simply out of touch with their heritage over the recent years. These two groups would be known as the Crimson Ravens and the Golden Hawks and would eventually play a prominent role in foiling part of the Dark Alliance's plans.

The campaigns launched by both groups eventually felled a local sorcerer contracted by the Dark Alliance to create a number of undead, destroyed several enemy camps, and halted the infestation of a strange new type of undead creature called the Overseer; a sessile slime-like creature anchored within a network of caverns. Nershuul explained the Overseers briefly when pressed – apparently a creation of Morvule, the Overseers take a large amount of time to ramp up to anything usable, but their main strength is in the fact that they are rarely detected until they have a sustainable amount of lesser undead to protect them. Essentially, the Overseers are a collective intelligence trained by their creator to perform certain duties. They are attached to a locale where there are a number of living or dead things – they then passively attract and entrap local creatures or absorb the previous dead matter and convert such resources into a simple undead construct. These constructs are then directed by the Overseer to harvest new and better living materials and the process snowballs. Once suitable constructs are able to acquire sentient resources, there is usually a sufficient horde of simple undead to provide it adequate protection. Eventually, once the resources within a certain area become depleted, the Overseer then begins to convert the simplest of undead into another copy of itself, splitting the souls instilled into it and its creations to form a new Overseer, which is then transported farther and farther away. This process continues until a large area is seemingly randomly infested with the undead.

Such plans were laid to rest when the newly founded Vaalorian military groups destroyed the original Overseer's lair. They then eventually tracked the source of these beings to a sorcerer, whose lair was within a tower near Ta'Vaalor. Having been a local outcast for centuries, he had been little more than a hermit until the Dark Alliance gave him the knowledge to create various types of undead.

These victories grated on the non-elven supporters of Ulstram – they desired to help the cause, but were continually rebuffed by the Vaalor elves. The guards of Vaalor openly mocked such efforts, calling the various military groups from the west little more than mercenary bands seeking to plunder the spoils of war rather than actually fight for the protection of the Vaalor homeland. This would lead to a number of conflicts amongst the westerners and the Vaalor elves – including several which lead to bloodshed and arrests by local law enforcement.

The culmination in the frustration of the Westerners would come in the form of a suicidal dwarf named Kahrla Kahram – she was the leader of the Second Militia, a small band of adventurers of all races who upheld the Vaalorian military's edicts voluntarily. While largely ignored by the city during their inception, they were cast in the same lot as those who came from the West, and the unending stress of such attempts to make the Vaalorian's see past their own arrogance was too much for her, and she proceeded to kill herself. This only further complicated matters between two groups with generally like-minded goals.

In Ta'Illistim, however, the climate was different – while frustrated with the lack of progress, the apathy of the Illistim elves against the threat was made clear through conflicts with vocal supporters of the Dark Alliance, bloodshed, kidnappings, and other such acts that were played out on a near nightly basis on both sides. With the introduction of Eryael into the foray, the anger in supporters of Ulstram only grew deeper.

It was at this time that several new faces came upon the scene. Harith Caerines, self-proclaimed Whip of Mularos and a powerful psionic who was corrupted and then raised to power by Eryael. She began to infest the local mental channels of Ta'Illistim so often referred to by Westerners as 'the amulet,' a term derived from the common magical devices which allow otherwise non-magical users to tap into the thoughts of others.

At first seeking to simply disrupt the thoughts of Westerners that would use such means to communicate and strategize, Nershuul informed us that once the true extent of Harith's powers were tested, a plan was eventually formed to overtake, or simply destroy, the minds of several prominent Illistim mages, whose sole duty was the control of transportation magic through the city. The ultimate goal of her presence there was to disrupt the wardings which protect the city from a massive incursion via teleportation spells and simply phase their armies within the walls of Ta'Illistim itself. As she continued to dominate the networks of thought, another rather surprising ability became apparent – she could give rise to undead creations of a serpentine nature – apparently a skill bequeathed to her by Morvule, and send them forth to attack anyone tapped into the thoughts she reigned.

Before such plans could be followed through with, the joint efforts of both the Golden Hawks and the Crimson Ravens produced Harith's location – Arelyth Keep, an abandoned military base of the Vaalor. Converted into use as a discreet base of operations by the Dark Alliance, Harith was guarded by a number of fairly powerful undead that the two companies had to fight through. Nershuul tells us that the discovery of Harith was completely unexpected, and Eryael rushed quickly to her aid, but he was not fast enough. Darvas Vashdar of the Golden Hawks managed to strike the killing blow. Facing increasingly powerful waves of undead, the Hawks and Ravens beat a hasty retreat. Once she was struck down, they believed her fully dead – shadows bled over her body and eventually encompassed it, her corpse fading into the blackness. This was not to be, as Morvule had placed a teleportation enchantment on her should she ever die, and even as Eryael was rushing to her rescue, Morvule had already begun the preparations for what was to happen to her after her death.

Shortly before Harith's arrival, another prominent figure rose to recognition among the conflict in Ta'Illistim – Maluverre Sil'Andruthile. While initially neither our channels of information nor the Dark Alliance's could produce anything of use on his background, it became clearer and clearer he was not simply an eccentric scholar seeking enlightening conversation with both Ulstram's supporters and those of the Dark Alliance. He would become a bridge of information, a secondary source to Ulstram and a rallying point for those who sought a neutral stance on the goings-on. Later, once his past was revealed, he would play a vital role in the sword's ultimate fate.

Part Five

Yet another name would be spoken with reverence or disdain among those who waged war over the sword – Chaeye Larrinthe. Rumoured to be chosen by Ronan to fight against those who would encroach upon his realm, Chaeye provided the supporters of Ulstram an outlet for their righteous anger – where Ulstram preached understanding and tolerance, Chaeye rose up to speak highly about the struggle and the fight against those who would sink them into darkness.

Shortly before the Dark Alliance's incursion into the East, Chaeye broke free from an institution in Ta'Illistim, where she had been sent for study. Apparently a young up-and-comer in the Vaalorian army, she inexplicably murdered her commanding officer and would have suffered death were it not for her family's prominent background. Condemned to an eternity in a ward of an Illistim research facility focusing on broken minds, she had, according to their diagnosis, gone insane with visions of Ronan. Her supposed insanity was disproved the night she escaped – apparently disappearing from a heavily warded cell with no reasonable explanation.

While she and Ulstram differed philosophically, they regarded each other quite civilly, if not outright friendly, and worked with one another against the Dark Alliance.

Chaeye would eventually recruit a number of warriors within her fold – among those being Arimantis, Errethe, Evelith, Guarrin, Ichiko, Ilvane, Kabriel, Kresl, Kylinarr, Lumaco, Malikary, Maricc, Morgiest, Purplenyte, Shirkon, Silverphenix, Sylviana, Tebon, Xanthias, and Yviara. Their first act of aggression towards the Four would be the construction of massive statues that revealed the free agents of Lornon and stopped them as they attempted to gain entrance into Ta'Vaalor. They would be set against many battles in the future, all the while under Chaeye's guidance.

In ShadowGuard, the battle raged on ceaselessly – most Westerners, and, indeed, most pure-blooded elves of the two cities only heard brief snippets or updates of what had occurred. Nershuul describes the difficulties of contending with the Vaalorian army as he led the hordes of undead against them. While their search continued unabated, the numerous incursions and raids set forth by the Vaalorian armies were an annoyance, and he struggled to maintain the borders of their hold on the land.

At times, one of the Four would arrive to provide reinforcements, but mostly, their concentrated efforts were set on the search – during this time, they had been hoping to use the both the hilt and the quillions in their possession to home in on the remaining pieces. This effort was ultimately fruitless, and new rumours begin to surface regarding the fate of the third piece – tales of a badly burned Illistim soldier, a survivor of the ambush the Dark Alliance had laid months ago, holding onto something powerful, traveling toward his homeland after a terrifying ordeal of survival.

As the search surrounding the lands of ShadowGuard had been completed with absolutely no sign of the sword piece, the Dark Alliance would now need to focus their search on Ta'Illistim exclusively. Nershuul describes the painstaking details of the ruse to make the Vaalor elves leave – several constructs of both himself and generals that had become notable among the Vaalor elves were created. Following the faux generals' insertion into several elite units of the Dark Alliance's forces, a number of situations that appeared as decisive victories for the Vaalor elves were set in motion. Through careful planning, it appeared as if the Vaalor elves had crushed the Dark Alliance utterly. Confident in their ability to clean up the remaining pockets of seemingly uncontrolled undead, the Vaalorian forces began to withdraw to their homeland.

It was at this point that Morvule, Draezir, and Zerroth joined the battle personally, leading hordes of undead and living soldiers they had brought with them against the remaining Vaalorian companies. The defenses that had been set up were summarily obliterated as the Dark Alliance's renewed armies began to march toward Ta'Illistim. The mages of Illistim began preparing defenses, and the Vaalorian guard arrived to reinforce the walls, as the best they could hope for was an extended siege. The Illistim elves, ambivalent toward Western help, consented to their offers of aid and Ulstram helped smooth over any tense relations. What this generally amounted to was the Illistim elves keeping to themselves in regards to their plans of defense and letting the Westerners act autonomously as long as they didn't specifically get in the way of said defenses. It was an absolutely positive situation given what had occurred in Ta'Vaalor.

It was then that the prolonged siege began. The Dark Alliance's hordes began to infest the outlying provinces of Ta'Illistim, and a blockade was established. The initial defenses of the Illistim mages held, and while the Vaalorian forces were in abundance, their focus was in fortifying their own stronghold should any misfortune arise in Ta'Illistim. The Illistim elves eventually accepted the offer of aid from the Ardenai elves, and several companies of their archers arrived to blanket the most heavily infested areas with defensive fire.

Nershuul explained that the Dark Alliance's aims were not to take over the city, but merely search the outlying areas. The Four were counting on the elves' infighting, specifically Vaalor's xenophobia and the Illistim's ambivalence to keep most reinforcements away, but with the limited aid from both the Ardenai and the Vaalor, they began to suffer difficulties in the search. It became necessary for Zerroth and Morvule to personally be involved in some of the battles surrounding Ta'Illistim, while Draezir plagued various decision-makers in the elven Houses with nightmares. Eryael also began to take a hand in the proceedings, attempting to corrupt various elven politicians with honeyed words and pleasures.

Such efforts would be in vain when further rumors, uncovered by both Ulstram and Maluverre, pointed that the sword piece had indeed been recovered and was within the walls of the city itself. Draezir and Chaeye began scouring the tormented dreams of those within Ta'Illistim, and Nershuul reports of several skirmishes between the two on the dreamscape, with neither really hampering the other.

It was at this point when the Dark Alliance switched its tactics. The Four came to the agreement that actually laying siege to the city with all of their combined efforts would be long, drawn out, and could possibly have the unwanted result of unifying the elves against them. Throughout the various mana foci surrounding Ta'Illistim, they discreetly built shrines similar to the sacrificial altars. These shrines, once activated, would sap away the life energy from the surrounding areas and provide anchors for what was to come.

Nershuul divulged that these shrines were connected wholly to the sacrificial altars within the Black Temple. The free agents of Lornon were instructed to offer their blood even further – among those who remained upon bent knee night and day at such altars were Naamit DMonica of Mularos, Ysharra Nagorn of V'tull, Aramana Leirath and Angelrise Viviiont of Sheru, and Licel Lotanfa of Luukos.

Foreseeing what the Dark Alliance sought to do, Ulstram set in motion a plan to gather components from across the continent in order to combat the new threat. He also divulged the use of the shrines to those who would listen, and they sought to destroy as many as they could find. The Resistance began its search and eventually gathered all that was needed. Using the gathered ingredients, Ulstram crafted three blades – again, a product of his prophetic visions. He only had a vague idea of what might be coming, but it disturbed him deeply.

Nershuul spoke of their ultimate plan, kept secret save for only a few of the highest-ranking members of the alliance. They nearly thought it impossible, an undertaking rivaling the building of the Black Temple, and to accomplish it, all four of the priests needed to be completely and utterly focused on channeling their power toward its creation.

What they would ultimately create is a historical precedent in necromantic magic: The Miscere'Golab.

Nershuul described the process: Draezir scoured the nightmares of thousands to create the creature's body, to give it form and a terrible intelligence; Zerroth was bound to its very creation to serve as an engine of rage and fury, giving it the strength to destroy all in its path. Eryael led the mass sacrifice of living recruits from all of the four's armies – they suffered beyond all measure before their ultimate death, maximizing their usefulness to Morvule, who gathered their souls and flesh using the power of the shrines set up across the borders of Ta'Illistim and created the construct, infusing into its dead flesh a method of control.

We will include a separate report of what Nershuul knows of the processes used to create this construct – he's a wealth of information, and such advances in necromancy are positively mind-boggling.

Three eyes crowned the creature's head, its long maw lined with boulder-sized teeth, while its torso looked vaguely humanoid, its lower body split into a mass of tentacles. Its size dwarfed mountains and had it reached the city of Ta'Illistim, there would surely be lasting scars to this day, if the city stood at all. It was held aloft by six bat-like wings, and each time they beat, they sent storms across the countryside.

The creation was birthed near the foot of the DragonSpine mountains and took flight shortly after. There are numerous accounts of its creation as it was very hard to miss. The surrounding armies of Ta'Illistim were merely swept up into the sky and added to the shifting mass of flesh and bone, and it formed in mere minutes, purportedly blocking out the light of day with its six huge wings.

There were several reports of small settlements and villages that were instantly wiped out as the creature made its way towards Ta'Illistim, either burned away by a swipe of a tentacle or a shower of acidic rain that simply melted everything in its path.

Here we revisit Maluverre's presence in events. While he sought the company of both sides of the conflict so long as civility was maintained, he remained decidedly neutral and quiet in larger matters, seeking to serve as a well of information for any who would listen. However, his deep love for the Shining City lead him to act when all seemed irrevocably lost. He took to the air in his small airship and along with it those who sought to stop the Dark Alliance.

Ulstram also prepared those who would board the airship for what was to come – he bequeathed the weapons he had fashioned prior upon three of those going – Kinshack Starblade, Kadesha Yrmehiah, and Tebon Hawggweiler.

Once within range, ropes were lowered, and the assembled combatants were free to roam the beast's body, seeking out several orbs of power, which apparently were intrinsic to the beast's design and function. Crawling across the skin of the massive construct and seemingly springing forth from within its mass were thousands upon thousands of undead creatures, hampering the efforts of the fighters. Shattering these hidden caches of collected power, the defenses of the beast were dropped, and it suffered severe wounds as a result.

As soon as all were back on board, Maluverre crashed into the creature's head, where the assembled descended into its maw even as it reached striking distance of Ta'Illistim. There, they tore into its heart chambers, and the three blades given to those assembled by Ulstram were put to use. Stabbing them directly into the fibrous columns of flesh, the magic imbued within the daggers began to destroy the very makeup of the beast.

Quickly making their way back to the airship, the Resistance beat a hasty retreat as the power of Ulstram's daggers worked its way into the Miscere'Golab. Eventually, as it reached the city, the power completely permeated its massive body, and it disintegrated in a blinding flash of light.

However, during the ensuing panic within the city walls itself, the soldier who was rumored to have found the third piece surfaced. Stricken by the visions of war and the terror from the massive beast in the skies, the soldier took to the streets along with many other of his kin, seeking a way to flee the city. This was one of the many contingencies of the Dark Alliance's plan, Nershuul explained; no matter the fate of the creature the Four had created, its goal was to either cause the bearer of the third piece to surface, or to destroy him and the city of Ta'Illistim with it, leaving them a very convenient smoking hole of debris to sift through for it. As neither side detected that anyone had claimed or touched a sword piece, the Four's plan hinged on the assumption that it had remained untouched. They had been fighting a war of attrition for many months and could do nothing else save something as drastic as the Miscere'Golab in order to achieve their aims in the Elven Nations.

The soldier was summarily slaughtered by a free agent of Lornon – Maimara Andriatti, servant of Mularos – and the assumption the Dark Alliance had counted on was indeed true. Being badly injured and burned, the soldier was prone to wearing thick clothing and gloves to hide his scars and had summarily stashed the sword piece away in a small leather sack – and the pommel itself was encased in melted rock.

As soon as it was known she bore the sword piece, Maimara was whisked away to the underground temple of Luukos in Solhaven. Nershuul tells us that it was almost his duty to guard over her, but it was instead given to a wraith – Xavean – whose service in the Luukosian Order was quite long and illustrious. Apparently once a Lorminstran priest, Xavean was torn from his order during an ancient battle and sacrificed within the heart of a Luukosian temple, his soul forcibly bound to the form of a wraith.

However, the Four had remained somewhat drained and nearly incapacitated after their efforts with the Miscere'Golab. Zerroth in particular was forever scarred by his efforts – he remained connected to the beast as it died, blinded by rage, and it took the combined power of the three others to pull him back. Eryael in particular took the brunt of his suffering, which nearly destroyed him in the process, and summarily made him utterly useless for several weeks. While Morvule and Draezir prepared for the ritual to convert the pommel of the sword, Eryael and Zerroth recovered, unable to do anything but struggle back to life.

Meanwhile, the schism that had been growing between Ulstram and those who would fight with him was widened even further to the point of nearly outright hostility towards his seeming inability to attain a sword piece or lead his allies to one. Faced with near rebellion, Ulstram and Chaeye began to speak more directly in terms of aiding one another's goals. Realizing he had to take the fight to the source of the entire conflict, Ulstram devised a plan to strike at the very heart of the Dark Alliance – its four leaders.

Part Six

Before such a plan could be enacted, Zerroth recovered and began to rage across Solhaven with his armies. Rumors of another piece surfacing in Zul Lugoth and finding its way to the Freeport had already begun to surface on the black market, and the Dark Alliance wasted no time in pushing forward with their plans to capture the last piece. Zerroth, in particular, had changed due to his involvement with the Miscere'Golab – his arms were transmogrified into something wholly different. They resembled rocky, burnt basalt shot through with cracks of liquid flame. This did not seem to disturb him at all as he personally tore through the city streets, using his beastly new hands to conjure up massive conflagrations that seared all in his way.

Zerroth's armies were relentless, striking quickly and then disappearing back into darkness. The Barony of Vornavis once again opened its gates to those who could not defend themselves and dispatched soldiers of its own to aid against the threat, but they were hard pressed to push back the invaders.

Ulstram and Chaeye, however, were deep in planning in order to halt all the incursions in one fell swoop. Sources close to the two speak of their difficulty in blending their respective schools of flow magic together – Chaeye provided a gateway into the minds of the priests, but Ulstram's immense holy power was able to sustain it and shield her from any possible dangerous backlashes should the Four become aware. The Dreamwalker's wary attitude did not let down, however, and she was always vaguely hesitant about being the link between this world and the world of the dreaming.

The first to be struck at would be Zerroth, and plans were laid in deep secret. Once all was prepared, the two met with the trusted group of warriors in Ulstram's inner sanctum. The Dreamwalker explained that within the minds of the priests were their innermost thoughts, dreams, and desires. She went on to assure the adventurers that everything there was not real, and in order to keep the Four unaware of their presences, they may have to play into certain things which they may find objectionable in reality. However real the events might seem, they were merely illusion and in no way real.

She also explained that while things in a dream may not be real, they can still harm things that are real within it, and thus she cautioned all to be wary, as the minds of the Four were akin to massive traps of fatal fantasies. She explained that she could not come with them, as her power needed to remain anchored in reality to keep the way open for them to return.

Bequeathing one of the chosen with a golden orb, Ulstram informed them that they should seek the heart of the dream – that which ties the fantasy to the reality of the mind of the dreamer. Then the gateway was opened, and the group stepped inside.

They were met by clouds of swirling ash and soot and a blackened landscape. Finding a massive coliseum of basalt, they were met by an imp who seemed to expect them. Opening the gate, the imp informed the group that there were matches to be fought and lead them to the heart of the coliseum. There, they were told to pick a champion to battle the lord of the ring. This process continued for nine levels of the coliseum – among those that Nershuul professes to remember as being on 'a list' that Zerroth mentioned a few times in his presence were Silverphenix Luminasa, who defeated a large black beast, Jacinto Quetzal, who defeated a wispy black sandling, Charna, who defeated a skeletal golem. And they fought on still – Tebon Hawggweiler defeating a massive bloodshot eye, Fizzan Wheinm defeating a massive ice construct, Atlanteax Grandeur'Scipio felling a massive column of lava that Murp Grunthop perished from. As soon as one of the dream creatures was dispatched by one of the warriors of Ulstram and Chaeye, the entire structure would open up to another subterranean level, leading them down a pit that would eventually take them to the core of the world – a flaming hell storm of magma and rock. The very heart of the world was guarded by a flaming black beast, who Kinshack Starblade battled against and eventually won. Within that furnace of volcanic heat pulsed a massive heart of glaes, its very veins coursing with flames. The bearer of the orb, Kerl Argonus, shone its power upon the heart, and the very dreamworld they were within collapsed as Zerroth was plunged into an inescapable coma.

The group was transported back into reality even as Ulstram and Chaeye struggled to pull back the bond with Zerroth as his mind crashed around him. They had been successful – while they had not destroyed Zerroth's mind as originally intended, they had been able to plunge him into a deep slumber from which he would not wake.

Nershuul speaks of their complete unpreparedness for this. The one most equipped to deal with such a situation – Draezir – was alongside Morvule in the Sea of Fire, searching for the sword piece on a vague hint of information that it might be there.

While Draezir did eventually examine Zerroth, there was nothing he could do – he was an expert in disassembling minds through dreams, not repairing them. He instructed the two remaining of the Four on how to best defend against such an attack. While Morvule gleaned valuable information from such lessons, Eryael seemed unworried, confident and flippant, as was his usual demeanor, Nershuul noted. Draezir eventually began to actively ward both of their minds using his own power, which would prove to be a great challenge to Ulstram and Chaeye even as they prepared the next assault.

Following the collapse of Zerroth's mind, his generals and followers retreated back to their sanctums, hoping to arouse him from slumber through bloody sacrifice and battle. Even Morvule, who summarily slaughtered several of his more insubordinate of minions in a display of cold, ruthless command, failed to rouse them from their ritualistic battles in order to use them in their campaign. Nershuul informs us they were eventually left to their own devices as Morvule tired of snapping their necks in order to convince them.

In the interim, however, Ulstram had been working on a near impregnable method of defense – he raised a golden barrier over the city of Solhaven, impeding all but the strongest of the Dark Alliance's minions. Eryael, who had been rarely seen since the death of Harith, appeared then. His strongest trait was not his armies, but his personal involvement and penchant for torture. While his previous interactions seemed to paint him as a charming, twisted youth, the full extent of his cruelty was brought to bear against Solhaven.

It was at this time when Harith briefly returned in Solhaven, having been raised as a banshee by Morvule. Nershuul explains that Naamit DMonica was used as an anchor to bring her back into the world, and after several months of recovery, she was thought to be useful once more. She sought out Tierus Morvaenus due to her past dealings with him – she could not feel pain, being bound into a non-corporeal form of a banshee and sought to remedy this lest she go insane.

An Erithian by the name of Deshian, however, found her completely fascinating, attempting to delve into the mystery of her return, and grant her the corporeal form that would allow her to feel pain once more.

Through numerous plots of deception and murder, a ritual was eventually undertaken to transform her back into something that could feel. Using Tierus as an anchor, Harith sought to become whole again, however, Jacinto Quetzal realized the flaw in their plan and killed Tierus, destroying Harith through her link to him in her fragile state, before the ritual could be completed.

Nershuul responds to this by saying Morvule was not outwardly disappointed by this, but he had sought to make Harith one of his more elite minions. While he expected her to go through some mild form of insanity due to her reliance on being alive, he had hoped she would simply shed her mortal wantings and use her gifts effectively. He chalked such an incident up as culling the weak from the herd – if her dependency on pain lead her to seek it out to the point where she destroyed herself over it, then so be it.

It was here that another faction on the side of light appeared – Ablen, a champion of Phoen. He had honed his skills through years of training and battle and was granted the title of Solar Templar. He would lead many in direct battle of the mounting waves of the armies of the Dark Alliance and would provide key defenses to the Resistance's military campaigns.

Meanwhile, Maluverre, the Illistim elf who had helped those against the Miscere'Golab, would find himself in Solhaven as well – on a holiday, as he termed it. While he maintained his civility and neutral stance, he quietly aided both sides by providing seemingly innocuous information regarding whispers he heard on the black market. As Eryael arrived at Solhaven, another rumor surfaced – that the last piece of the sword had been seen, encased in rock, by a miner in Zul Lugoth and summarily purchased by someone. It had purportedly been briefly shopped around on the antiquities black market by an anonymous source.

This rumor would ultimately prove true, but finding the source of the seller would prove to be quite elusive to the Dark Alliance. Ulstram, however, had already found the man and had enforced a home arrest, concerned for the man's safety and conflicted on his duty to the world and his morals. He spent many days in talks with the merchant, who would simply demand treasures, land, and women for his find. He was quite a shrewd man, hiding the sword piece within a massive vault underground, which would collapse should he ever die, consigning it to be a secret forever buried.

Part Seven

Nershuul describes the involvement of the Painlord after Zerroth's slumber -- Eryael often went back and forth from flippant youth and domineering overlord, but the loss of Zerroth and Harith weighed heavily on his mind. Morvule consented to his plans to take over where Zerroth had started in the search for the sword piece and the demoralization of the populace. Eryael started his campaign of cruelty by abducting defenseless citizens over the course of an evening and creating what he'd term an artistic display of beauty. These generally involved nailing, hanging, or somehow affixing these still-living citizens of the Freeport to various architecture in various states – broken limbs, peeled-back skin, or severe scarring were among the many adornments with which he would leave them. They would often be left in a local shrine or temple of Liabo.

Eryael would also begin to directly lash out against those he deemed to punish, whereas often there would be a long period of psychological breakdown and torture, his methods were far more direct at this point in time. He appeared several times to the Resistance in between his abduction and torture sessions, inviting them to lash out at him. When those who were incensed by his actions were eventually taunted into attacking him, his wounds would simply undergo a scarification process instantaneously, leaving him terribly mutilated but never killing him. It was thought this strengthened him. He seemed to be mad with an euphoric suffering, and the anger of the populace only made him commit more atrocities night after night. As the Dark Alliance gradually came to know by means of information leaks and other such methods that Ulstram had come in contact with the last bearer of the sword piece, Eryael would see fit to guilt him to revealing the merchant's location by dedicating his acts to Ulstram's unwillingness to end his people's suffering. Ulstram, while pained by such acts, ultimately would not falter and never surrendered the location.

His final act of obscenity upon the populace was the abduction of three girls – Jeselle, Privea, and Maige. Using his own power and countless tortures, he instilled within them a lust for suffering and set them loose upon the city, their newfound abilities put to use maiming and killing the very populace which tried to save them. Satisfied with his efforts, he became scarce among the Freeport, once again focusing on the search for the merchant who held the sword piece.

During this, Ulstram's time was split between attempting to subvert Eryael's efforts with the help of his followers and the construction of another link into the mind of the Painlord, all while attempting to convince the merchant to reconsider his offer. He imparted a sphere of power among those who would seek to help the three girls – Subarashi, Rebeya, and Godefroy. They were tasked with unlocking the power of the spheres through various meditation techniques throughout shrines across the world. They set out on their task, which took them to many different places, one of which was Teras Island.

This is where Nershuul was tasked with something other than simple reconnaissance – he was given orders to directly interfere. As their resources were stretched thin, he was tapped to act as a point of contact between the free agents of Lornon and act as a guiding force of violence and chaos throughout the rest of the campaign. He would lead several strike forces of Luukosian soldiers and undead to hamper and interfere with the rituals – but they would ultimately succeed, and the spheres were filled with holy power. However, Nershuul had found a suitable corpse to manipulate and inhabit during his time on Teras Island and would use this to lead attacks against the Resistance.

Returning to Solhaven, the bearers of the spheres would eventually find the three stricken girls, near mad with their newfound powers, and use the spheres to exorcise them of their tortures and of Eryael's power. The girls' minds became unclouded, and while they could barely remember what had happened to them, the scars they suffered ran deep, and they would eventually be returned to their families. Our assigned contacts report that Jeselle broke down after a few months and is now confined to the asylum on Teras Island, while Maige and Privea have lead quiet, reclusive lives.

It was at this time when Ulstram and Chaeye completed their preparations and had found ways around the warding Draezir had placed on Eryael's mind. Navigating through the maze-like channels of power, they were able to open another gateway into the Painlord's mind and hastily assembled their respective followers.

Once again cautioning them against the dangers of the dreamscape, Ulstram and Chaeye breached the realm of dreaming and allowed in those who would fight against Eryael.

The warriors would be faced with something altogether different than the massive coliseum – within Eryael's mind was a chain of islands surrounded by utterly still waters and a deep fog. Upon each island was a specific torture, including bloodletting, whipping, a device which would instantly scar and maim a person, as one of the warriors, Railien, would discover quite unpleasantly, and the final act was to stretch an illusory woman on a rack, which hampered everyone's morale quite soundly.

Boarding the pristine white boats for the last time, they made their way to a temple of pure ivory, its elegant architecture marred by various signs of violent destruction – shattered glass, broken columns. There, they came upon a pool surrounded by several sigils of power. Touching the pool, the warriors were subject to Eryael's deepest memory – his conversion to Mularos.

Apparently a prodigy with various flora, Eryael was left at a temple of unknown faith, though it is very likely it was Imaera from our initial research describing the following incidents. Regardless, the temple and its elderly inhabitants were destroyed by a rather insane individual, whom regarded the land they built their temple on as his own and summarily burned it to the ground, killing Eryael's master in front of him in a most gruesome fashion. Finding Eryael, this man would use him as an outlet for suffering, visiting thousands upon thousands of tortures upon the boy – the most significant being his first act of aggression. He methodically and painfully removed the boy's eyes in order to let his other senses become sharper in preparation for the various tortures he was to plan.

This continued for several years, the man torturing the blind boy until one evening, Eryael heard a voice in his mind. It asked him what kept him from breaking all these years, and he replied that he simply wished to make things beautiful again. The voice – Mularos, if we are to believe this memory – was satisfied with this answer and healed the boy's vision, turning his once golden eyes to violet. The vision ended with Eryael adding this man to what is termed his 'garden.'

When asked about Eryael's garden, Nershuul spoke fondly of it – while Eryael seemed soft and delicate and almost childish on the outside, his true side was shown in the garden. There, he kept thousands of his past victims he deemed unfit to serve save for in this fashion – they would be impaled on pikes within a vast expanse of desert, enchanted with healing magics to ensure their death would never happen prematurely, forever cursed to be impaled over and over again as they writhed in agony. Nershuul speaks of meeting Eryael there several times to discuss strategy, and he found it a rather pleasant backdrop to such discussions. His only regret, he said, is that they never had a cup of tea there.

Beyond such tidbits of historical significance, they eventually connected the events in the pool to the corresponding sigils, and once deciphered, a door was opened. Within lay a single multi-hued rose – pristine white petals bordering the inner crimson ones, while within the very core of the bud were pure black. Using the sphere of power given by Ulstram, Kerl used it against the rose, and once more the dream world was torn asunder, the warriors having succeeded in their mission.

Eryael was also struck by an unending coma, and immediately his relatively small army of followers took up to tending to him and resuming their roles under Morvule's command. As Draezir had recently come upon a particularly intriguing lead, Morvule lead his army from the Sea of Fire to Solhaven with the intent of finishing what would needed to be done.

It is here we must digress into a strange situation that had arisen among the city of Solhaven. A traveler by the name of Volierre had arrived, speaking of something vague that he sought. He was elven in nature, and his eyes were clouded over and completely blinded. He spoke of being plagued by visions, of something called the 'All-Pattern,' and he sipped absinthe – what he called 'The Tongue of the Worm' – in order to stop the pain of the constant visions. From what we observed at the time, this man did indeed see visions, but they were only visions of the past. From his ramblings, it would seem that he saw everything which happened in the past all at once. This pointed fact would become extremely significant during the final days of the war.

Morvule began a brutally efficient assault, using his magical prowess to shatter Ulstram's barrier and combining the sheer number of his forces and his unrelenting, remorseless tactics meant, to utterly destroy morale of those who would stand against him. He tasked many of the free agents of Lornon to set or encourage fires that his forces would set as they blazed a trail of destruction. He gave clear and ominous warnings, demanding a surrender, speaking of mercy, lest he do something that could never be undone and would weigh upon the conscience of all who did not lay down their arms.

The Resistance gave no quarter, eventually tracking down a project of Morvule's – he had captured an adult kraken and planned to create another necromantic horror using troll's blood and other magical components, essentially infesting the waters of Solhaven with these creations forever more. The defenders of the city would retrieve this information and summarily set out to the locale where the horror was housed, destroying it and its guards in one fell swoop before his plans could be enacted.

Morvule's retaliation was swift and merciless.

At this time, the gates of Vornavis had been opened in order to take any who could not join the fight inside for a place of refuge. On the night of his ultimatum, Morvule revealed how utterly and wholly unforgiving he was – he tore back his robes to reveal massive wings and summarily rose into the sky, past the archers of Vornavis, and into the streets of the guarded city filled to the brim with the defenseless and the weak.

His targets were children – the children of all the refugees. He heralded his plan by swooping in and plucking one of the innocents. He landed in North Market, a common gathering place among the adventurers who made their way to Solhaven. There, he faced a large contingent of those he fought hardest against. As he held the mewling child in his claws, he spoke of how they could have prevented what was to happen. Without hesitation, amid the cries to stop from the defenders, he spilled the child's innards right in the market, then ascended into the air once more.

It was then that the true horror began. Shadowy wraiths appeared at strategic locations, stealing away the children among the gates of Vornavis – they were systematically slaughtered and raised as the undead in a massive effort by the serpent priest. The undead children were then set upon the town in waves, and the defenders were forced to dispatch those that they had failed to protect. Hardened warriors were hard-pressed to lift their swords, while others simply refused to have a hand in such things.

Eventually, all the innocents killed were dispatched. Morvule continued to barrage the city with attacks, eventually joining his forces with Draezir's, and they again subjugated Solhaven and renamed it Nighthaven, threatening further atrocities should Ulstram refuse to give the location of the merchant.

Nershuul finds all of this particularly amusing and recalls it extremely fondly, as he was allowed to roam freely in his newfound giantman form, leading Morvule's forces and destroying some of the more vexing of defenders.

After his first ultimatum and the slaughtering of innocent children, Morvule spoke of another horror to be unleashed. He gave no warning and demanded no surrender now, but many remember seeing his silhouette flying to the locale of Bonespear Tower, an abandoned structure of an incredibly talented demonologist. Scaling the top of the tower with his minions in tow, Morvule used the summoning circle atop it to rip open a plane in the veil. Through it he tore incredibly powerful demons – the abyran'ra, which had accompanied him previously in small numbers, and the newer more hideous creatures – the many-eyed oculoth and the insanely powerful vathor.

Ablen struggled bravely to fend off the first wave – a cloud of demons so large it threatened to black out the sky with the numbers as it burst from the tower and headed straight for Solhaven. Using all of his power, Ablen sent forth a burning torrent of holy fire towards the mass of death and destruction and summarily repelled the majority of the demons in one fell swoop. Their presence would linger from then on, however, and the armies of Luukosian and Sheruvians swelled with demonic power.

With these creatures, the Resistance was hard-pressed to fight against the army – the oculoth's bite would drive a man insane and turn him against his fellows or make him collapse into a mewling pile of spittle and failure. The vathor used the corpses of the dead to create a demonic undead mix of ruthless efficiency – the necleriine, creatures who took on the characteristics of the dead they were 'born' from. Both were incredibly resistant to the efforts of even the most skilled of adventurers.

Ulstram, beyond attempting to bolster the defenses of the beleaguered Solhaven, had found a way into Morvule's mind. Chaeye flat out refused to cooperate several times due to the risk, but eventually relented faced with the mounting terrors Morvule and Draezir loosed upon the populace.

Nershuul explains that Morvule expected this, even counted on it, as his actions forced Ulstram's hand in the matter, but it was not without risk – the land of dreaming and the mind are treacherous, strange places, and Morvule was unfamiliar with such things. Steeling himself, he had to willingly allow the warriors within the confines of his consciousness and rely on several enchantments prepared by himself and the free agents of Lornon. They had gathered a number of gems and components to cast a strange mental spell upon him that would aid in his defense.

Entering the mind of the serpent priest, the warriors encountered something devoid of anything remotely recognizable. They wandered within a massive symbol of infinity – three doors stood before them: upon the left, an entranceway to a monstrous horror, whose body contained a heart, and upon the right, an entranceway to a pomegranate tree, whose leaves bore pristine white fruit and whose branches held a tiny asp. The halls of this construction were filled with the undead creatures they had fought prior, and they pushed to make their way to both chambers.

Finding both items, they met at the convergence of the massive infinity symbol, where a door stood before a plate. Placing these items within the confines of the plate, death's door opened – Morvule's mind was a symbol of Luukos' interpretation of the cycle of Life and Death – on one side were lies, on the other was undeath, with death bridging the gap between them.

They stepped through and were met with three serpents – one black, one white, and one emerald, again an interpretation of Luukos' tenets. They were massive in size, and though they felled one of the beasts, the other two eventually destroyed every single person there. Now Morvule made his move – as there were no conflicting minds within his own, he pushed back against the link Chaeye and Ulstram had forged and into Ulstram's mind. He found exactly what he wanted – the location of the merchant.

Ulstram, momentarily stunned by Morvule's doings, recovered quickly even as the others found themselves expulsed from the dream world forcibly. They reconvened, and at that moment, Ulstram told them what had happened. Scrying the man's location, he found him and Kendryth there and explained what had happened and what would happen should the merchant not divulge the sword piece – Morvule's entire army had withdrawn and was heading towards the merchant's home.

The merchant, stricken with fear, told Ulstram what he needed to know, and Kendryth summarily took action to save his life. Kendryth provided the distraction that Ulstram needed in order to move quickly and challenged Morvule to combat as he approached, eventually slashing the priest's hand off before succumbing to Morvule's power, and escaping only with his life.

Ulstram, knowing the location, took his trusted circle there to meet Morvule's armies. This was where Nershuul was struck down with a blow to the head by Perigourd, injuring the creature's actual body, which appeared to reside in the skull somewhere. Several hours after the initial battle, our teams arrived and knew what to look for – they found Nershuul and placed the head in a box of pure veil iron as a precaution. We would eventually come to coax information out of him through this most fortuitous turn of events.

The group would fight through the Dark Alliance's forces as they descended upon the house and made their way into a subterranean maze, which eventually lead to a vault of epic proportions. Ulstram was able to pass through the nearly impenetrable barrier, and within he found the blade of the sword.

Whisking his supporters away from the onslaught of the Dark Alliance, Ulstram returned to the city triumphant. The blade was theirs, but Morvule's anger was like a storm. He loosed all of his forces and tore fearsome demons from the outermost planes upon Solhaven like a furious whirlwind of destruction, demanding the blade be given to him. They descended like a plague upon the city, burning and destroying everything in their path.

Part Eight

Ulstram, seeing the suffering of all the innocent lives and the destruction of everything his followers held dear, decided there was only one course of action. He reforged the blade using Lorminstra's power, and, while the sword remained incomplete without its other three pieces, it was still a formidable weapon. Despite protests of his followers against the danger and possible folly, Ulstram knew it was the only way.

Perhaps it was part of his prophetic visions, or perhaps it was related to how he had neared resolving his issues with the spirit who plagued him incessantly, but he felt the need to do what he would.

He challenged Morvule, and the two met upon the field of battle, Morvule wielding his own tainted version of the sword. Ulstram fought bravely, but in the end, it was not enough. Morvule struck him down and recovered the blade. As Ulstram had essentially consecrated the blade once more, the power he filled it with could thus be corrupted by Morvule, rather than rendering the blade inert.

Now in possession of all four pieces and the prophet of Lorminstra dead, the Resistance was faced with even greater troubles – as Morvule consecrated the last piece to darkness, the Black Temple was charged with massive amounts of essence and power, which summarily funneled through the links of each priest and instantly awoke Eryael and Zerroth. Unable to convert the sword on another plane of existence, the Four revealed their sanctuary – the Black Temple appeared in the skies as the Four were sequestered into the Altar of Darkness. Their minions were tasked with overseeing the operations in their absence, and as massive energies permeated the skies and day turned into everlasting night, the Four began the conversion process. The undead, demons, and the living servants of the Four ran wild across the lands, slaughtering all in a hellish reaping of their enemies.

Kendryth and Ablen were abducted as they fought against this terrible onslaught and were summarily sacrificed and slaughtered. Nershuul laughs when speaking of this – an odd clicking sound – of seeing images of the two being eaten alive by the very demons they fought against within the confines of the Black Temple through his link to Morvule.

Nershuul reveals that even though our protections in trapping and subduing him were indeed quite impressive, that Morvule's connection with him remained throughout – he just didn't care for failures at this pinnacle of all of their plans and thus did not rescue him. He spoke of seeing brief flashes through Morvule's eyes of Morfell being taken to the Altar of Darkness to reforge his link with the sword as its original bearer. Through him, Nershuul explained, they would corrupt the last trace of Lorminstra's power from the sword.

It was at this time, at this darkest moment, that the events surrounding Maluverre and Volierre came to light. For months, Volierre – often speaking of himself as the 'Foundation' – had been seeking something called the Advent. While he was in Solhaven, strange occurrences would happen, including visions of an old temple, of strange marionettes, of a winged woman standing before a wasteland that would sweep across the citizens and defenders of the city in odd, mass visions. Volierre's constant ramblings, of his singular minded goal of seeking this Advent, would lead him down a strange and difficult path with the defenders of Solhaven.

Maluverre, during all his time spent in Solhaven, had avoided meeting this man. When asked of him, he was evasive and somewhat alarmed by his description. When pressed by people he normally found rather agreeable, he would simply avoid the topic or find an excuse to be elsewhere.

However, due to our most phenomenal research attempts, we've gathered the backgrounds of these two – while the 'trinkets of fate' provided a brief glimpse, the overall story was known to only a few – namely a mute boy named Yukito, a rather intelligent girl named Raelee, and an empath by the name of Nilandia, whose company he often sought out. Maluverre, an elementalist of no small skill, was once drawn to the spiritual side of life and magic – he was inducted into a secret cult of Gosaena during his collegiate years.

The ideology behind this sect was somewhat strange – during Maluverre's time within the ranks, the ruling half of the sect was referred to as 'the Right Hand,' signifying a philosophy amongst Gosaena followers, the right hand embodying the more compassionate side of life's path, and the left signifying the more ruthless side. Most temples depict life as a blend of such paths, and this cult seemed to take such seriously, for every few centuries the cult would switch its leadership to the opposite path.

At this time, the young Maluverre had found himself in quite an influential position within the cult and summarily met a young woman within the fold – a cartographer of unsurpassed skill. Being an esoteric scholar himself, he found her studies intriguing, and the two eventually fell in love. Her name was Sylvirria Azarielle.

She eventually revealed to Maluverre her ultimate goal – she had been seeking the locale of one of the very first temples of Gosaena, an ancient site that supposedly predated the elven empire itself. At this point the accounts of our contacts becomes hazy, as the exact nature of the situation is known only to Maluverre and Sylvirria. It appears that Sylvirria made a breakthrough in her research, and driven by her sole passion, left to seek out the temple alone.

She found what she sought and apparently her time there 'changed' her – from accounts of a journal of Volierre's, within the temple a strange stasis existed. Within the very heart of the massive complex lay three pools – when Volierre visited there, two of these pools were empty, but one was filled with rippling silver light. We suspect that when Sylvirria was there, all three were, lacking a better term, 'active' at the time.

Regardless, when she returned, Maluverre had just been anointed the new spiritual leader of the cult, and his first duty was to transition seats of power from the Right Hand to the Left, as the time was upon them to enact such a change. As the Left Hand rose to power, Maluverre expected his beloved to return with good news.

Instead, she returned as a half-mad visage of their Arkati – upon her back were black wings, and she was cursed with sight of the future constantly. The burden of such power was too much for her, and she began to act incredibly strange. Among her acts were single-handedly stopping a massive military campaign by the Vaalor elves – she was never seen, but the unleashing of her power aroused much suspicion within the political circles. Fearing the discovery of their cult, the Left Hand acted – they had attempted to talk to Sylvirria, but she was utterly uncooperative, refusing to reveal the locale of the temple.

Faced with no other choice, the Left Hand decided that she would be subdued and imprisoned within a crystal – they had attempted to assassinate her, but upon the eve of the assassin's strike, she had simply stood and addressed him as if she had known him all his life, asking him to please do her the mercy. The arrow was loosed and did absolutely nothing to her. She went quietly when they came to take her away, and Maluverre, being the leader of the cult, could not show compassion to her when handing down the decree that the council of his peers had decided on.

Maluverre proceeded over the ritual to seal her away forever into a crystalline prison. She was consigned to the depths of the earth, and her chambers were sealed away so that none could ever come upon her again. But Maluverre's feelings did not fade – the only thing which did was his passion for his compatriot's cult – he left shortly after, stepping down as their leader.

During the few conversations between them when she returned, Maluverre apparently learned the locale of the temple Sylvirria had visited. While she warned him never to go there, his longing for her and his rather dangerous sense of curiosity lead him to its ancient halls.

We can only assume the same thing happened to Maluverre, as he was summarily referred to by Volierre upon meeting him as the 'Keeper of the Present,' a key role in the ritual they would conduct. From witness accounts, it appears that Maluverre also gained a strange ability – he was, for all intents and purposes, unable to be seen, noticed, or remembered after the time since he left the temple, unless he chose to be. So while all those he had met prior certainly retained their memories of him, should they pass him by in the street, he would simply be another face if he wished. He had effectively become nonexistent to history's pages from that point on, only revealing himself as an eccentric, curious scholar to those he thought might be good conversationalists.

Using this strange new ability, he hid in plain sight in Ta'Illistim, his longing for his love eventually leading him to her burial place. He quietly and slowly began an excavation, stealing Sylvirria away in an attempt to awaken her from an eternal sleep. He placed her underneath his new home in Ta'Illistim and began his research efforts.

This continued for several centuries, until at long last, the Illistim scholar gave up hope – he turned away from the spiritual paths and began to use his near infinite free time to study the ways of the elemental planes. He kept Sylvirra underneath his home, occasionally visiting her, but otherwise he'd given up on all such attempts to free her and awaken her.

In the year 5100, the Left Hand noticed that Sylvirria had gone missing. They began to delve into her leftover research and eventually found an elf as brilliant as herself in both ancient histories and cartography – his name was Volierre. They inducted him swiftly into the ranks, promising him a great cache of artifacts to study, and after a few scant years Volierre found what the Left Hand had never gazed upon – the ancient temple.

Knowing that something had happened there that was extraordinary and possibly dangerous, the Left Hand lead a faux expedition to the site. There they found a great many unusual things – we have a copy of Volierre's journal and will be including it among these reports, in which he expounds upon his expedition and his eventual transformation.

The Left Hand made certain Volierre was within the temple's confines, then orchestrated a cave-in, leaving him completely stranded. Volierre managed to survive, but was haunted by visions and strange dreams. Eventually, he found the pools within the heart of the temple – and he awoke one night to find that he had immersed himself in one of them in his sleep. This experience seemed to change him, and as his vision became overwhelmed by images of the past, he eventually went blind and half-mad from the onslaught of information. If we are to believe his journal, he had knowledge of everything that had ever happened in the past – he speaks of being one of the Vaalorian warriors at the fall of ShadowGuard and of times even more ancient than that. His 'All-Pattern' he spoke so frequently of seemed to be this grand tapestry, a webwork of interconnected events and happenings that spread across the broad expanse of time's past – something he could never escape no matter how hard he tried.

Now armed with intricate knowledge of the temple's purpose, he made his way back to Ta'Illistim. He did not trust the Left Hand any longer, but during his time there they had secretly placed a geas upon him. Upon his return, he was compelled to obey their commands – to find Sylvirria, or the 'Advent,' in his mind. As he sought her regardless, he complied, but revealed nothing of his knowledge on the past, only demonstrating to them that he was powerful enough to be their weapon. According to the notes we have from Maluverre included in this report, the Left Hand intentionally broke the ancient ritual which bequeathed him these gifts for their own lust for power, and it was this realization that eventually lead him to act against them.

He fought against their control while in Solhaven, the distance dissipating some of the effects of the enchantment they had put on him, but not entirely. It was Maluverre who became aware of the Left Hand's manipulations with Volierre and was threatened by their presence in Solhaven and the potential of being discovered through him. He took flight to Ta'Illistim one evening after his realization – scraps of his journal accompany this document to give a fuller explanation of his motives. There, he sabotaged the Left Hand's headquarters, destroying their grip on Volierre and sending some of their well-laid plans into chaos. To his dismay, Volierre searched for him even without their hand to guide him – for he knew what had to be done to complete the cycle which had been set in motion.

So it was that these two never met by Maluverre's avoidance of anything connected to his past dealings with the Gosaena sect.

Getting back to the current happenings with the sword, on the eve of the sword's consecration to complete darkness, Maluverre told the assembled crowd on his airship most of this story. He spoke of his past, of his lost love, of what transgressed with the Gosaena cult. He expressed regret at having to keep such secrets from his newfound companions, colleagues, and friends. While he was brief, those who spoke to him often wondered of his past were given the last pieces of the puzzle, and brought Volierre aboard.

The two met, and suddenly Volierre was able to see him – he seemed to know him already and greeted him as the 'Keeper of the Present.' They spoke little, as Maluverre took to the air, saying that he knew what had to be done, but did not know how to accomplish it. From Solhaven, they flew like the wind on his airship, crossing the massive DragonSpine mountains swiftly, and made haste into Maluverre's small Illistim home. He took them past his study, leading them down a flight of hidden stairs and into a small underground chamber. There, they saw what had been hidden for centuries – Sylvirria, entombed in pure crystal.

Maluverre explained that he had tried to awaken her countless times in the past, but had failed and had simply given up. As the assembled crowd gazed upon her seemingly flawless visage and Volierre railed against any possible solution, a bright golden light suddenly winked into existence within the crystal.

Ulstram's spirit had returned – and suffusing the crystal in a hazy golden energy, the crystal shattered into nothingness and Sylvirria stood before them, awakened for the first time in centuries. Volierre was nearly uncontrollable, speaking of what must be done, of how the final ritual *must* be completed. She silenced him with a wave of her hand and spoke to him of what must happen – that she wished to use her precious few moments as a mortal woman to stop what she had foresaw. Volierre relented, and she took to the skies, wielding two scythes of black and white.

She obliterated the armies of the Dark Alliance that infested the countryside in minutes. Upon her return, they set off for Solhaven, and there Maluverre and Volierre's roles came to light – they had been components of an ancient ritual, conducted in the far distant past in the confines of the ancient temple all three had visited. From what we can deduce, the three participants were to all play a part in raising one of Gosaena's mortal followers to the ranks of her silent, winged angels of death.

Volierre was the Foundation – the knowledge of all things past that her silent servants must be imparted, all of the prophecies that have now passed. Maluverre was the Keeper of the Present, the method by which all memory of those who ascended into Gosaena's silent ranks were never remembered once they had gone, how they had disappeared from society and the pages of history evermore. And Sylvirria was the Advent, the one who would see the death of all things and the mad dance of fate's strings upon the world, her vision was the vision of all those who quietly lead souls to their final death.

They completed their ritual before the crowd, as leaving it uncompleted for years had left all of them as broken pieces in an ancient puzzle long forgotten. Sylvirria was chosen as the one to leave this world for the Void, and before she left, she imparted something to a woman she had reached out for in her eternal sleep – Charna Ja'Varrel'Kav, a servant of Zelia's teetering neutrality. Sylvirria extended her hand and gifted her with a silver sickle, whose immense power was made clear shortly – it would simply end things with but a wave through the air.

Sylvirria then said that she could not accompany them to the temple, that she could no longer affect fate's web, and her duty was now to eternity. She left them then, bidding a sorrowful goodbye to Maluverre. As Volierre departed, his vision now clearing after years of the past blinding his eyes, the group took off in the airship to the Black Temple.

It was a grim time, but the spirit of Ulstram accompanied them silently, opening the massive doors of the giant temple with his golden blessings. The group entered the temple and were denied access to their ultimate goal – the Altar of Darkness. Exploring the temple even as cataclysmic energies raged across its inner walls, they fought through hordes of the Dark Alliance's most fanatical soldiers and creations. Finding shrines and areas dedicated to the Four priests, which were now sequestered away fulfilling their decades long plans, the warriors fought to find the keys that would open the door.

The first, Zerroth's chambers, was filled to the brim with his warriors, seething and already engaged in a violent bloodbath of rage. The Resistance would fight hard to dispatch all of them, and eventually within a ring of bloodied weapons set before an altar, those killed in the battle were absorbed into the enchanted weaponry, and a massive obsidian sword blade appeared – Zerroth's key to the altar.

The group set forth to Eryael's chambers, where they were forced to pay a terrible toll for his key – they had to be the arbiters of pain and suffering, torturing innocents in grisly displays of never-ending torture. As they pulled apart people's limbs, dropped women into vats of boiling oil, and burned men alive, a crystal within the heart of his chamber became energized, and the wounds of the innocents were healed just on the brink of death. They left there, shaken, but with a pale ivory rosewhip.

They then encountered Draezir's chambers, a massive room of puzzles meant to drive those who attempted them insane. The Resistance met with much difficulty here, the driving force of time against them and their minds beset by all that would happen if they did not act quickly enough. They eventually made it through the agonizing puzzles – temporarily going insane to hear the mad whisperings of their own minds to retrieve a cube of shadow, casting spells of light to drive a creature of darkness to stare at itself in a mirror and disperse, making a dead heart beat through sorcerous magic, sacrificing one's eye to a clockwork contraption enchanted with darkness, an observatory where one needed to trace the constellation of the Jackal, and a puzzle of dangerous sigils. Once the Resistance had puzzled through all these, the temple of Draezir revealed his key – an amber-eyed black jackal head of onyx.

Lastly, they came upon Morvule's chambers – a dead temple, ruined beyond all imagining save for a massive statue of a wyrm within the heart of it. Nershuul tells us this was where Morvule was originally converted to Luukos and that he had preserved it within the confines of the Black Temple as some sort of odd sentimental piece. As they came upon the statue, the doorways to the temple suddenly slammed shut and locked, and the statue came alive – its body rippling with motes of strange color. A fierce battle ensued, the girth and size of the wyrm easily hitting all of the assembled warriors with ease. As they attempted to deduce a way to penetrate its thick, stony hide, they began to decipher its secrets – as it changed color, it became vulnerable to spells associated with such a hue. As it turned blue, cold spells were cast upon it, chipping away at its hide; when red, fire spells; when black, sorcerer spells – and so on. Finally, after a prolonged battle, the massive serpent retreated and curled around the remains of a huge statue defensively, blocking parts of its body from attack as the adventurers continued to rage against it. Eventually, they destroyed the statue protecting it and with it, the beast was slain, revealing Morvule's key to the door – a void-black crystal heart.

Possessing all four keys, they stood before the threshold of the Altar of Darkness and opened the door. They found all of the Four priests in heavy prayer, the sword completely suffused with darkness – they were too late. It had been converted. The priests rose, some in anger, some already laughing, drunk with the power of the sword's total conversion. As they moved to descend on the adventurers like a pack of wolves, a golden light pushed them back – Ulstram's spirit was still protecting them, and with a light brighter than the sun, a massive golden barrier surrounded the Resistance and the tainted sword, pushing back the priests.

As everyone breathed a collective sigh of relief, they suddenly realized something was wrong. The sword began to pulse rapidly, and a crack appeared within the golden shield that protected them. Through this sliver, a form stepped through – one that had not been seen by any of them for many years – Morfell. He had used his unbreakable connection to the sword to pierce Ulstram's shield, and he stood triumphant as he unsheathed it from the black rock which held it fast. Raising it high above his head, he prepared to dispatch those which had hampered them from the very beginning once and for all, a grand sacrifice to start off the culling of the world which was to come.

It was then that Charna knew when to strike. She brought the sickle to bear against Morfell just moments before he would strike the killing blow, and the sickle, using all its instilled power, turned the once powerful artifact into nothing, ending its existence in a blinding blur of power. The cataclysmic energies unleashed as the two weapons met slowed time to a crawl, and the world became warped around those gathered. The world faded away altogether around them, and they found themselves immersed in blackness.

They floated in the void on the edge of eternity. Sylvirria appeared to them there, as well as Ulstram, and spoke to them for a time, saying that the sword had been destroyed and that they had carved their own destiny from what could have been a crucible of darkness.

After brief goodbyes, the Resistance was returned to Solhaven in time to see the Black Temple crumbling and bleeding in the sky, its towers and spires cracking like ice. As they watched, it caved in on itself, then disappeared in a flash of incarnadine energy, the magic of the planes far too unstable to keep it in this one. From our studies into planar magic, it would seem that before it was completely destroyed, the temple was thrown into one of the many planes of existence surrounding our own, the enchantments upon it growing unstable until it simply phased away, tossed about in the planar currents like a leaf in the wind. Where it may have gone, and whether the Four priests are alive, remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, the defenders celebrated their victory over the Dark Alliance. While they had lost many compatriots, they had stopped the armageddon which would have come, and they began a slow process of rebuilding.

Among the most ardent of defenders were Kinshack Starblade, Valicar, Malikary, Bristenn, Haxley, Kevralynn, Tebon, Morgiest, Galesmight, Murp, Calean, Rebeya, Subarashi, Nilandia, Mnar, Turinrond, Revalos, Bartain, Kilthal, Teveriel, Gahread, Krisella, Juspera, Arimantis, Ilvane, Evelith, Guarrin, Eahlstan, Vonka, and Yviara.

Chaeye retreated back to dreams, occasionally seen within the depths of a nightmare fending off the devices of Sheru.

As for the free agents of Lornon, they retreated back to their life of quiet and not so quiet worship.

Those of neutrality also retired to their lives, content in the fact that neutrality had prevailed, ending an unbalanced relic of power.

Among those whose voices echoed clearly their sentiments of neutrality were Songowl, Kaishaku, Cappurnicus, and Charna.

And thus concludes our report on the Griffin Sword War – while we have many, many supplementary documents to accompany and follow this collection, this should provide a general overall view of our research efforts throughout the past few years.

By my hand,

Vaelsoth Inzuniel
Watcher of the Eternal Eye

13th of Eorgaen, 5108.

See Also