Shtall’s Story (2018 - 2019)
Shtall is a burghal gnome that works as a toymaker, travelling throughout Elanthia and making toys for any that seek them. This story doesn’t begin with Shtall though…
One day, adventurers began hearing voices from the shadows that spoke in rhyme and relished taunting their victims. The voices belonged to a multitude of dolls that appeared cherub like and innocent, but harbored the souls of malicious and evil spirits. Although they all looked very similar one difference did stand out; each doll’s hair was of a different color. Some dolls had red hair and some blue. Some dolls even had green or yellow hair. In time the dolls with hair of gold came to be the most feared of all.
From Wehnimer’s Landing to Ta’Vaalor, no city was spared a visitation by the dolls. Some reports claimed the dolls to be gentle souls that only wished to play games with people and have tea parties. Other witnesses claimed to have seen the dolls mercilessly attack victims and gorge themselves on blood. Some people even offered up their flesh to the dolls and made pacts with them, promising the dolls a feast of flesh in exchange for the dolls’ help in some scheme or another. The dolls did seem to enjoy teasing their victims before their feast and during these exchanges a few details were learned from the dolls. Apparently they were created a very long time ago by a master they had eventually devoured. Their original master had also created a Keeper that was able to control them, but in their opinion the Keeper was stupid and fast asleep anyways.
The majority of the dolls victims were adventurers and those people that inhabit every town and city that are not likely to be missed, because of this fact, the dolls were never hunted down and only faced resistance the few times adventurers were able to organize a defense to some degree. A number of dolls did perish in these encounters, but for the most part the dolls only ever retreated once their lust for blood had been sated. Things continued on in this manner for many months.
The situation abruptly changed one evening when the dolls openly attacked the Sapphire Gate of Ta’Illistim in an attempt to force their way into the city in mass. The dolls had managed to come and go in secret for the most part due to their small size and they kept their raiding parties few in number for the most part. Adventurers came together in great number to repel this assault along with the help of the Sapphire Guard and although the number of dolls slain was great, so to was the number of defenders slain. The city was saved, but at best the battle could be called a draw.
The very next night the dolls assaulted the town of Wehnimer’s Landing and were able to penetrate its defenses due to the much weaker defenses of the frontier town. The dolls managed to assault the West and North Gates as well as taking control of the docks. Having faced a similar battle the night before, adventurers were better prepared to face this stronger invasion of the dolls, but the price in blood paid by the defenders was still great. The dolls were driven back in the end, but the outlook was grim should these invasions continue to increase in frequency and strength.
Once things had settled down that evening, Shtall arrived at the Wehnimer’s Landing West Gate saying. Shtall was familiar with the lore of the dolls and since there appearance, he had been searching for a relic to end the doll menace. He was finally successful in tracking down such a relic and had managed to acquire a certain gem within the Turamzzyrian Empire that was capable of binding and sealing away the dolls. The gem was protected by magical wards and safely secure in his wagon for the time being. Shtall feared the gem would not remain safe for long, as the dolls were likely to learn of the threat posed by the gem and would eventually attack and overwhelm the defenses he had in place. Shtall advised those adventurers gathered that a ritual requiring the light of the moon would be necessary to activate the gem. He would go into hiding for now and return in the evening a few days hence once his preparations for the ritual were complete.
Later in the week, the dolls tried to attack Ta’Illistim again, but the city had been fortified and the dolls were easily repelled with fire magic. A number of the burning dolls lamented the use of fire and decided to attack a city that was cold instead. Icemule Trace quickly came under attack and the town has hard pressed to hold off the assault of the dolls at their three gates. Adventurers quickly organized and even an impromptu concert was held by a band of dwarves calling themselves “Mithril Mayhem”, to rally the morale of the defenders. Just as the town seemed poised to fall to the dolls onslaught, a number of them were heard to scream and thrash in frustration and bitterly complain of “wards” having been erected. Then they all disappeared into the night, leaving the town of Icemule Trace to recover.
A few nights later, Shtall rolled into town on his wagon outside the Wehnimer’s Landing West Gate as he said he would and awaited the gathering of the adventurers that would aid him in the ritual to bind and seal away the dolls. The adventurers gathered at the appointed time and went to see Shtall in his wagon, but upon entering they found the poor toymaker had literally been bitten a thousand times over and apparently bled to death. A note was found in his hands, telling the adventurers how to enter the sealed door at the back of his wagon. Instructions were found on a desk in a room behind the sealed door along with a diamond skull and 5 shadow amethysts needed to complete the ritual. The instructions said that a person would need to be designated as the “chanter” and stand in a circle next to the diamond skull, surrounded by six shadow amethysts arranged in a circle. Luckily, one of the adventurers present already had a sixth shadow amethyst on their person. The adventures left the wagon interior and moved to a clearing a little ways to the south of the Wehnimer’s West Gate that would be more easily defended as the dolls would have to leave the shelter of the forest and openly attack. The skull was placed at the center of the clearing, surrounded by the six shadow amethysts. The designated chanter stepped inside the circle and the rest of the adventurers took up defensive positions surrounding the chanter.
The ritual began as the chanter uttered the first words. A horrid scream was heard from the surrounding forest and wave upon wave of maddened dolls attacked the adventurers as they tried desperately to defend the chanter as she continued to entone the words of the ritual that would seal the dolls away for good. Two, three, four, five, six, the dolls continued to pour from the forest and the ferocity of their attack only grew as the chanter continued the ritual. Fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, defenders began to fall from the onslaught and were buried underneath a multitude of tiny bodies as they fell. As the twenty-second chant was uttered, the chanter was quickly overwhelmed by a mob of dolls as they broke through the defenders suddenly. Even in death though, she continued her chant. The ritual could not be completed though without the chanter being cut and her blood consumed though. A reluctant adventurer knelt down to swipe her fingers through the spilt blood of the chanter and gingerly licked the blood off her fingers; hoping it would be enough to complete the ritual.
As the blood was consumed, 3 rifts appeared above the skull and amethysts. A deafening howl was heard as the head of a massive dog pushed its way through one of the rifts; two more dog heads followed through the other rifts. The dogs gaped open their maws and began to inhale the massed dolls. A steady stream of dolls was being pulled in from the surrounding environs to disappear into the mouths of the beast until at last no more dolls remained. The three massive heads seemed to yawn as one and retreated back into their respective rifts as well, leaving the remaining adventurers to gape in wonder at what had just transpired.