Ties That Bind

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Ties That Bind was a storyline in the Elven Nations that took place over the first several months of 5117. The sorcerer known as Vindicto drove bands of orcs, then later demons, undead, and Ithzir, against Ta'Vaalor and Ta'Illistim. As the elven defenders battled these invasions, they discovered that Vindicto had also been responsible for the corruption of Commander Tiope and, through her, the assassination of King Tyrnian several years prior. Vindicto was finally defeated in the northern woods of Old Ta'Faendryl.

29th Lormesta, 5117

Kakoon

Lord Legionnaire Commander Cyik,

War. War has come to the Elven Nations. I fear our time of peace has come to an end. The last couple weeks both Ta'Vaalor and Ta'Illistim have come under attack by an intelligent and organized force. Sir, this voice continues to taunt us on the wind. It speaks of revenge, of hate and betrayal. Worst yet, it speaks of the demons as its children, as its babies. Repeated attacks of Vathor, Abyran'an, and Oculoth have taken us to the edge of our resolve and back, yet we continue to hold the line. With the constant taunting on the wind, threats of revenge, demon attacks, I can't help but be reminded of the entity that identified itself as Vengeance a few months back. The same entity that had brought the Voln-Dai to the Fortress. Attempts have been made to speak with Brother Monk about the recent attacks in hope that perhaps he has found some new information.

Sir, I'm making a number of assumptions and conjectures with the theory that this is Vengeance again. After its last attack those months ago it seemed... lacking. There was no finality, it just vanished. Perhaps it was gathering strength for these new round of assaults, to build an army to bring war to our doorsteps.

Each attack has been proceeded by the smell of death on the wind. We can always smell them long before the horde makes an appearance. In some of these earlier attacks a howl can be heard crying out in the distance, their dogs of war. A rather pathetic pack of mangy mutts that bring with them lesser ghouls and skeletons. The Shadowy Spectral Canine are probably used to coral and drive the inhabitants of the Cemetery towards our gates. Even Ghoul Masters along Virktoth's Path were pushed forward as fodder. Fodder they were, each wave charging headlong into a rain of arrows from the walls, to crash and break on our shield wall. It wasn't long before the voice started sending its own forces to break our line. It started as a low rumble at first, barely audible over the clash of metal on metal. We felt it in our boots next, the hordes of undead never slowing in their attacks, as if they knew and wanted what was coming. The earth cracked and broke as Massive Crimson Deathworms came burrowing up from beneath us. We were caught flat footed, we lost a number of defenders in their first attack. Our line wavered as our backs were pushed against the gate, the defenders in Vermilion Tower had no choice but to shoot down on us to keep the gate from breaching.

Sir, the commission of the signal towers by both King Qalinor and the Argent Mirror Myasara have been one of the greatest additions for our defences. Defenders from Ta'Illistim arrived just in time to reinforce the lines. Vermilion held firm and pushed them back as the line advanced across the bridge towards Timmorain Road. Annatto Gate began to get assaulted by Rotting Hags, Spectral Warhorses, more Deathworms and creatures of rotting, grotesque horror. Annatto's numbers began to fall as Vermilion pushed forward off the bridge. It was the gully Sir. We watched as half their lines kept breaking off and cutting through Neartofar to attack Annatto, we had to take the gully. Vermilion fought on, cutting a path through the undead horde. As we reached the gully, we saw the beacon from Ta'Illistim light up, the undead were attacking on two major fronts. The defenders from the Shining City quickly rallied and returned to their homes to defend it. Undead don't normally organize like this Sir, they knew exactly what we were trying to do and divided our forces. They cut our numbers in half and all the while the whispered words "How easily your cousins have abandoned you. How quickly they've stabbed your house in the back..." could be heard on the wind. Our numbers gone, moral low, it looked bad for us Sir. It got much worse when it started sending the things of nightmares.

Fear can do terrible things Sir. I remember stories as a child of the horrors that called Old Ta'Faendryl their home. Bed time stories meant to keep children in line, behave or the Ithzir will get you. When I joined the Legion I knew one day I would be assigned a patrol through the Old City. By then I had learned about the barrier protecting us from those horrors. I had lost my fear from when I was a child and am proud to say I've even lead Bandons on patrol through the Old City. I would be reminded very suddenly of that childhood fear.

We held the gully as the defenders at Annatto regrouped and pressed their advantage. With no new forces coming from Neartofar the undead were soon cleared from Annatto Bridge and Neartofar Road. By this time the rotting corpses had stacked up in the gully, we were no longer fighting with an advantage of terrain. Vermilion was fighting on even ground as the bodies piled, we held firm until we heard that Annatto was clear and guarded. We saw the shadows across the moon at first, birdlike silhouettes covering us in darkness. As we were looking up, we never saw the fresh wave of hell the undead had brought to bare. Constructs crashed through and broke our lines as Ithzir Seers and Adepts cast unspeakable magics. Fear gripped our hearts as a familiar screech sounded over the din of battle, a screech that is normally only heard within the protective barrier. War Griffins dove from out of the sky, their beaks and talons ripping the throats from so many. We warned of the new threat and began an organized retreat, back under the protection of Vermilion Tower. Again I was baffled by the organization of the undead, they pressed their advantage and sent the unimaginable. Fire errupted across the battlefield and death stepped from the flames.

Death brings peace, quiet, even a sweet release. No more orders being shouted through thoughts in my head, no more cries of the dying. Only the silence of the dead. From the flames stepped a Vathor. It was yards away yet I felt the heat from flames encircling its body. Its wolf-like snout bared its teeth, showing lines of jagged teeth, in some form of smirk. Two massive bat like wings stretched from the Vathor's back as it lept into the air, we watched in horror as it landed behind us, blocking our retreat. I have never fought with braver men or women. We charged the demon as Ithzir and constructs surrounded us. We fought back to back, sword cleaving bone, arrows striking vital organs, spells melting flesh. We fought until the last one, we fought until our weapons became quiet. We fought until we were given that sweet release and found what we had hoped, peace.

Next I knew I was in the Hall of the Arkati with shouts of orders in my head as defenders organized to contain the breach. Triage had been moved inside the Hall of the Arkati when Deathworms burrowed up under King's Court. We fought for our lives, for our homes. Our efforts doubled as we realized that this could be the end. We pushed them back to the gates and that's where we held them. A stalemate of forces, neither side giving ground. For hours we fought shoulder to shoulder inside the arch of the gateways. A storm had blown in, rain pouring from the skies as our feet trampled the dirt to hazardous mud. No matter how much fire poured from the Drake, the undead scourge seemed endless. For every one we killed, two more were there. We knew we couldn't hold out forever. A very cold shiver ran down my spine as a warhorn was sounded in the night.

Hope is the light that casts away the darkness in our lives. In that hour, when the darkness of night stretched on endlessly, hope was but a dwindling spark. I had steeled myself and accepted my fate, Lorminstra would see me through the Ebon Gates. We fought on, when one of ours fell our lines along the archway began to shrink. We heard the warhorn again, this time much closer and no longer echoing off the pass. Sir, the warhorn was coming from behind us, from the west. The beacon from Ta'Illistim had gone out without us realizing. With that extinguished flame came an odd renewed sense of hope, we had our reinforcements. Our spark ignited with fury as Vermilion Gate was soon taken back by defenders from not only Ta'Illistim but west of the Dragon Spine as well. Defenders from across Elanthia had heard of the demons attacking and had come to test their metal.

Test it they did, demons continued to ravage the front lines. Floating black orbs covered in eyes, tossed defenders across the battlefield with inky tendrils, spitting some nightmare inducing venom. Large Humanoid snakes slithered across the field, their hair striking out at unsuspecting victims. Poison making faces quickly turn pale as their lungs ceased to provide oxygen. There in the center was that same demon that had slaughtered us so easily before, fire pouring off its skin. We attacked with ten fold the numbers. The orbs turned to pin cushions as arrows pierced every eye, hissing silenced as heads removed and spiked by sword and spear. As the sun broke the horizon, the burning flames were finally extinguished by holy magic, hope had returned to Ta'Vaalor.

We didn't have long to celebrate. A cold wind blew, carrying a raspy voice crackling the air with energy, "I have withdrawn my forces. Gather your dead and surrender to me that you might live. Refuse and every last one of you will die." I do not know if a similar ultimatum has been presented to our cousins accross the lake but I can promise you this Sir, the Crimson Legion Reserves will die to the last elf before surrender.

For Honor, Pride and Glory, High Legionnaire Kakoon Arakhor

Vindicto

War. War has come to the Elven Nations. The thought thrilled him with anticipation. "At last, my vengeance can begin," he spoke aloud to the shadows surrounding him. It was time to test the enslavers' mettle. He had grown so much in power since that day he heard the calling from the west, from the one that called himself the Lich King. Something had stirred within him, pushed him to strain against the forces that imprisoned him, begged him to extend his will and force it upon whoever he could. So long ago that seemed now…

Drawing on the power of his surroundings, he cast his gaze far afield, to the very gates of the fortress. He watched the inhabitants seem confused by the scent of death and decay that wafted ahead of his scouts. He turned to a red-eyed tormentor and spoke harshly, "Release the canines. Drive the mindless ones forward. Take to the forest and head for the southern gate as well." He heard the howls as his mind cleared and his vision focused.seeing the first of the lesser creatures, skeletons and ghouls, crash against the gates of the mighty fortress.

How long had the fortress stood? He had no recollection of it not being there. He knew it had stood upon that island at least since the time of the exile. He would test what was left of the Elven Empire.

Turning again to the tormentor he cautions, "Patience, the time is not yet right." Wave after wave of his horde destroys itself upon the fortress and its defenders. No matter really, the undead were plentiful and they were taking a heavy toll upon the elves. He watched as the defenders gained a comfortable arrogance, actually asking "Is that all you've got?" Cackling softly to himself he said, "No. No, it isn't," to nobody in particular. "Release the worms. Inform the seers that I want a wave of war griffins ready within the hour. If we cannot take the gates, we will go under or over them," he barked to the tormentor who quickly vanished in a nearby shadow. Turning to a being of fire and shadow that stood beside him he cooed, "You will get your chance, my baby. Just a bit longer and you will taste elven blood."

He marveled at the organization of the Vaalorians, at how they easily incorporated all of those from across the lands that had answered the blazing call of the signal fires. Little did they know, that is precisely what he wanted them to do. "Now, go now and take some of your brothers and sisters with you," he said to the being of fire and shadow. "Make the Shining City shine with your fire. Kill as many as you can," he cooed.

Uncertain if it was even possible, he extended his mind's reach. Splitting his focus and pushing a part of him towards the crystal towers of Ta'Illistim. He watched with joy as his babies broke the magical barriers and laid waste to the hanging gardens and all who stupidly relaxed in their presumed safety. He laughed a hollow, spectral laugh as those who had come to aid the fortress fled. Rushing to pick up the pieces of their own ravaged home. How perfectly his plan had worked. Just as they had in days past, House abandoned House. He could not help himself. He focused his voice on the wind, taunting both cities. "Fools," he thought, "Fools to trust one another." His house had learned that lesson long ago.

Speaking rapidly to the tormentor he asked, "The Ithzir are ready? I will exert a great deal of energy creating a path for them. Everything must be perfect." Blazing red soulless eyes stared back intelligently as the tormentor's head bobbed slightly upon its ravaged frame. "Very well, proceed," he snapped. Focusing his mind inward was difficult. He was still often amazed at what he found he could do. Stilling his thoughts, he closed his eyes and reached outward with his mind. Feeling the flows of magic, testing the threads that wove the pattern of all living things, he found what he was searching for… a solid wall woven of spirit and fire. Slowly he picked at the flows of mana creating the magical barrier until he had a hole big enough to push a mental finger through. Carefully he expanded the opening and watched as Ithzir quietly slipped through, followed by hulking constructs and flights of war griffins. "Make for the old road," he gasped as the last of the Ithzir passed through. Releasing the flows, he slumped forward, exhausted. That was enough for tonight. He needed rest. Focusing his voice once more upon the wind he spoke, "I have withdrawn my forces. Gather your dead and surrender to me that you might live. Refuse and every last one of you will die." He felt the cold alien touch of an Ithzir initiate touch his mind, "Te wafi letti kamath." He smiled. They had found the paths and successfully passed over the water and they waited, waited for his orders. Revenge would be his yet.

~Vindicto – Your Adversary

4th Fashanos, 5117

Esana

A cold wind blows, carrying the scent of decay… Inhaling sharply, Esana caught herself. She knew that smell, she had encountered it often. It was the scent of death, of bodies left too long in the sun without proper preservation. Despite her years of tending to the dead, it still churned her stomach a little, though her upbringing prevented her from letting it show.

She knew what was coming, the shambling onslaught of those poor beings who had been wrenched from her mistress grasp and been forced to remain on Elanth in a perverted form through dark magics. The undead.

Quickly, she took stock of her surroundings. Several of the Crimson Legion Reservists were about the fortress tonight. This was good, if the feeling in her stomach was any indication, they would need every soldier tonight. Launching herself into the air, Esana spread her white feathered wings and soared effortlessly above the fortress. The air, warm on the ground, was cold against her face and exhilarating. Never before had she felt so free. Flying was new to her, except for the occasional griffin ride, but this was something entirely different. It had taken some adjustment to be sure, she had faltered and nearly injured herself those first few days after the wings sprouted from her back. Adjusting the angle of her wings with little conscious thought, she rose gracefully on the currents of warmer air, taking in the scene outside the fortress. Alarmed by what she saw, she pulled her wings tight against her body and dove for the ground. She sped off towards the court to warn the others of what she had seen when the shouts rang out from atop the walls, "Contact at Vermilion Gate. Contact at Annatto Gate." She was too late.

Arriving at the court, it was evident that Squire Krystalena had everything firmly in control, as she was already hurrying healers and clerics towards the safety of the Hall of the Arkati. Turning sharply on her heel, Esana rushed for Vermilion Gate, for where the fighting was most fierce. The sounds of battle reached her ears before she passed through the gates as more shouts rang out, calling defenders to man the ballista and the drake. Instinctively she reached for the katana at her side before stopping herself. She had a different purpose now, she had a greater calling. Though she ached in her very soul to join the battle and smite the enemies of the fortress, there were dead that needed care.

Shouts and the ring of steel on bone echoed across the bridge to Timmorain road, towards the cemetery. Rushing ahead, she found the front lines. Legionnaires stood shoulder to shoulder with residents and others who had come from the Shining City to aid the fortress. Arrayed against them were countless undead of every form imaginable. Then there was the dead, everywhere the dead. For every enemy slain, two more appeared to take its place, while every defender lost left a hole in the line.

Thinking quickly, she gathered the three nearest fallen defenders in her arms while dodging the repeated thrusts of an Ithzir janissary's crystal-edged blade. "What are those doing here?", she thought to herself, "They are supposed to be contained within the old city." There would be time to think on that later. Mouthing a silent prayer to Gosaena, a fog enveloped her and the dead, depositing them safely at Victory gate. "Close enough she thought," as she said a silent prayer of thanks to her mistress and began the arduous process of dragging the dead to the court.

She lost count of how many times she repeated the process, of how many bodies she recovered. She only knew she was weary to the bone, that her entire body ached, and yet still she went on. Shrugging her shoulders, her white-feathered wings rustled slightly, a reminder of her purpose. Back to Vermilion gate she ran, the shouts of "Demons on the bridge!" driving her tired legs with renewed vigor.

Expecting to find the crisp, organized defensive lines that were the hallmark of the legion, Esana was dismayed at the scene before her. A large creature composed of fire and shadow delighted in mutilating the bodies of six of her fallen comrades while the line broke in semi-organized retreat. Outraged at the desecration of her allies, Esana charged forward fighting through the stream of retreating defenders. Before reason could stop her, she found herself alone, facing the vathor as it turned its fiery gaze upon her. Moving with the mindless automation of one who had done this thousands of times, she cradled each of the six bodies in her arms and said her prayer. Her surroundings shifted and they were all safe at Victory Gate. Others came to her and dragged the bodies off in the direction of the healers and clerics and she knew what she had to do.

Returning at once to the bridge outside Vermilion gate, she found a small group of defenders confronting the demon that now controlled Timmorain road. With a great cry, Legionnaire Dalnirath rushed forward. With his maul raised high, he charged the vathor, rallying the spirits of those around him. There were no more bodies, no more dead, only herself, a few defenders, and Legionnaire Dalnirath valiantly fighting the demon alone. Silently, she strode towards the abomination, noting the skillful precision with which Dalnirath met each incoming blow of the demon's flaming whip, but hardly noting the cries of those behind her, focusing only on the being of flame and shadow. CRACK, the flaming whip snapped directly over Dalnirath's head a he ducked. Countering with a low sweep of his maul, he connected with what one might call the legs of the creature, but it had little effect. A wave of fire erupted from the vathor, rushing outward with a sizzle, scorching the very stones of the bridge as it churned toward the city. The heat was nearly unbearable as Dalnirath rolled to his left, barely avoiding the inferno's onslaught. Completing the roll and leaping to his feet, he landed a vicious, overhand blow and brought his maul securely down on the abomination's head. It winced… he had injured it… it was vulnerable.

Words came unbidden into her mind and with a thought, the prayer rose upwards and a churning bolt of holy, divine, power leapt from her outstretched hand and raced toward the demon. The bolt struck the vathor square in the chest, boring a hole through its obsidian flesh, and flaring with arcs of holy magic. Tendrils of the purest white shot outward, spider-webbing along the demon's flesh, extinguishing its fire as they sped across its skin. With a final snarl, it fell heavily to the ground, defeated, dead.

A cold wind blows carrying a raspy voice, "This is not over. It has only just begun."

Esana thought to herself, "So be it. We will be ready."

PO First Legionnaire Esana Lartuen-Ilynov Vaalor

6th Fashanos, 5117

Esana

She stood in her library, leaning against the hearth as she watched the flames of the fire flicker and dance. Her mind drifted to the events that happened only a short while ago. It was Squire Valaero that first broached the subject of the vault to Lesser Actuary Thaon. "Squire Valaero had a great point; he may try to fool others with his simple farm elf routine but he's clever. We now know who can gain access to the artifact vault and how," she thought to herself. She had been distracted by personal matters and almost missed the entire conversation. "If it hadn't been for his quiet words in my ear, I would still be standing there lost in my own thoughts," she quietly berated herself. "Answers to questions, leading to more questions needing answers," she thought. She left the warmth of the hearth and moved to the desk, sitting gently down on the edge of her chair. She scooted forward a little, giving her wings the added space they needed to fit between her back and the chair. "I remember this being more comfortable" she mused to herself, as a slight chuckle passed her lips. She pulled a fresh piece of parchment from the drawer, dipped her quill in ink and began to write.

To His Majesty King Qalinor, Sovereign Commander of the Crimson Legion

Pursuant to investigations into the current threat the fortress is facing, I humbly request and petition for permission to view the records concerning entry into the artifacts vault. This information may be vital to defeating the enemy.

Humbly,

Esana Lartuen-Ilynov First Legionnaire

She quietly reviewed her words, making sure they were succinct and to the point. Satisfied, she lightly dusted the parchment with fine white sand to dry the ink. After carefully folding the parchment, she dropped a dollop of crimson wax on it and pressed the heavy brass seal, bearing the segreant wyvern with crossed longswords beneath, of House Ilynov firmly into the wax.

Qalinor

A soldier dressed in the crimson livery of House Vaalor arrives and hands you a sealed parchment before promptly marching off. Inspecting the parchment, you see a folded piece of fine ivory parchment sealed with a hardened dollop of dark crimson wax bearing the wyvern of House Vaalor. Breaking the seal and unfolding the parchment, you read:

First Legionnaire Esana Lartuen-Ilynov

Upon reading your petition, I must agree that the requested information may be pertinent to the current situation facing the fortress. As such, I have ordered a copy of the records requested be scribed immediately and issued to Lord Legionnaire Commander Cyik. The Lord Legionnaire Commander will seek you out this day to deliver the information. The Crown appreciates your interest in this matter.

King Qalinor Vaalor the Sovereign Commander of the Crimson Legions

15th Fashanos, 5117

Mercies

She woke and sat straight up in bed, her heart pounding. “What is that sound?” Hearing that noise before she thought to herself. “The Fortress is under attack”. Quickly she jumped up grabbing her gear and dressing as she run out the door. Making her way down from the Ravelin was hard, creatures were everywhere. Quietly moving along the road toward Amaranth Gate, she barely slipped past a few creatures assaulting the gate. She ran through the City to Kings Court. The cries of death ring loud in her mind. “No silence not this night” She screamed out toward the night sky.

As she stands there grasping the who, when and where the body of a winged one was dropped at her feet. Kneeling down to asses the dead the Court became the center of attacks. Moving quickly Mercies grabbed the body dragging it toward the Hall of Arkati. Before she made it she to was struck down. Her fellow citizens, Her family came for her and the other pulling them to safety. They worked hard and in perfect unison to get the dead back to their feet. With a sigh she sits up glancing around “There is not enough of us to hold the Fortress” She thought to herself. With a slow nod Mercies started sending thoughts out toward other townships and cities, asking for help to reinforce the lines pushing back against the assaults.

One by one, body after body brought into the hall needing brought back from death or healing to keep from it. Mercies shudders as the cold dark raspy voice echos out “I was your Lord Legionnaire Commander” , “You bowed to me in days long past. You shall bow before me again!” Her eyes close in that moment, her mind working all the possibilities.


She finally made her way back to the fortress her body and mind tired but restless. She had one more letter to write, after spending all night and some of this day Leyan, day 15 of the month Fashanos in the year 5117. Moving with haste around to the major township placing her call to arms.

Mercies made way to her house in Ravelin, she walked through the door gave a little sigh as she closed it behind her. Walking over to the desk she pulled out the last piece of parchment. Dipping her quill in the silver ink. Bending over the deck with a quick elegant wipe of her quill she writes.

A clean crisp crimson sheet of parchment with silver inked script

Your Majesty King Qalinor,

I have wandered and gone by magic means placing requests to our wondering cousins for reinforcements to our lines. Let me say I know this was not sanctioned however I was compelled to do such. So I ask of you to make it easy for them our Elven blood to move in and out of the Fortress with ease.

With Honor and Pride

Daughter of Ta’Vaalor Lady Mercies Guardian of Elanthia

Qalinor

A soldier in crimson livery delivers a pristine ivory parchment bearing the crimson seal of Ta'Vaalor. In neatly flowing elven script, it reads:

Daughter of Ta'Vaalor,

Your dedication to the fortress speaks highly of you and does your family honor. I must deny your request to relax gate security at this time. We are at war. We will make no concessions that may jeopardize the safety and security of the residents of Ta'Vaalor during this time. Those traveling to lend us aid must understand that I cannot and will not undertake such an action.

His Majesty King Qalinor Vaalor the Sovereign Commander of the Crimson Legion

17th Fashanos, 5117

Kakoon

Lord Legionnaire Commander Cyik,

Sir, we have finally seen the face of our enemy and it came at the cost of so many. Our streets did not run crimson with uniforms that day. The Vathor's Day Massacre will be remembered as the day so few stood against so many.

We stood at the gate, holding the line the best we could. Rain poured from the sky, reducing visibility no more than eight or ten feet ahead. We could see the foe directly in front of us and that was it until lighting lit up the sky. Before us stood a host of undead that seemingly stretched on forever, and then it was black and our only focus was the undead in front of us again. Each lightning strike bringing with it a fresh vision of hell. Then we saw it. Lightning struck along Timmorain road, and our ears filled with nothing but the boom, deafening us to the screeching of the undead. All around us lit up, as if the sun had come early to cast away the shadows, instead came our dooms. There on the bridge stood what looked to be a being of dark elven descent, at least it had in life. His eyes were flat, lifeless, a white film coated the irises. Bits of rotting flesh hung from his exposed jaw as maggots crawled from his jagged teeth. The scariest part however was that it seemed to casually shift in and out of existence, as if caught between the realm of the spirit and of the living. The legion of undead gave it a wide berth on either side, as if they feared it. Sir, in that flash of light I swear I saw Luukos himself walking among those undead. It was gone and we were plunged back into darkness, fighting for our lives, well aware of this new horror.

Sir, we expected it to be strong. Summoning demons is no easy feat and to do it so often, we expected it to be a hard fight. We never expected a massacre. A sickly pale green aura seemed to rise off the creature. We watched it slowly raise its hand and point to a soldier down the line. There was no fire, no lightning, nothing, the soldier just dropped, dead. A cold chill ran down my spine as I watched. The eyes of the fallen soldier open with the same sickly pale green and he rose to join the ranks of the enemy..

You've seen the reports on the losses, the turning our soldiers into undead, and the subsequent discovery of a cure. It was a long night. I will not go into those details, this report is to focus on the information gained from that evening. During the fight the creature said it was our Lord Legionnaire Commander and then our King. It said we would bow before it as we once had. Throughout the attacks, it has claimed House Vaalor imprisoned it, that it knew how we treated spirits. There is a familiarity in his words.

As you are aware, First Legionnaire Esana and Squire Valaero's investigation on the storage of the orb captured after the Aelotoi deception revealed that Lord Legionnaire Commander Tiope was the last to visit the orb before it was discovered missing by yourself. It's believed that Tiope absconded with the orb before murdering King Tyrnian. Perhaps she even used the orb to open the portal into Shadowguard through which she escaped. Through her defeat, we learned that Lord Legionnaire Tiope was possessed and it has been suggested by Tiope's own words and those of our enemy that King Tyrnian was as well. Sir, this orb appears to be of great significance and danger. Recently, Squire Nihrvanah reminded us that the orb was not found on Tiope's body, nor within the ruins of Shadowguard.. If indeed the orb has a part to play in this, the only connection left is the soldier who was left behind when Shadowguard collapsed. He returned to us months later carrying a banner of a long forgotten house and a journal describing the heroic actions of Taki, the Sabrar, and the EverSworded. Sir, I think it prudent that the reports on the debriefing of the soldier be revisited and, if possible, the soldier be questioned again concerning the new information we have about the orb. I humbly request access to any information that may be available that the Reserves might be better prepared to face this enemy.

For Honor, Pride, and Glory, High Legionnaire Kakoon

19th Fashanos, 5117

Kakoon

Defenders of Ta'Illistim,

Ta'Vaalor has faced off against Vindicto a number of times these past few days, some more successfully than others. During one of these successful defences, in great part to the Hand of the Arkati and the Ardenai Temple Knights, we were able to dispatch Vindicto twice. Following both 'deaths', the waves of undead slowed drastically, providing proof that we were weakening the monster attacking our homes. After the fighting had died down Squire Legionnaire Lyrna was able to locate a set of shuffling tracks along Aradhul Road leading into Old Ta'Faendryl. Upon further investigation by a patrol of soldier and civilian alike Ithzir Champions were seen coming from the North Woods in Old Ta'Faendryl. The next evening, after another incursion with Vindicto and his death, the undead slowed and came to a stop. Reports from Sacru in Old Ta'Faendryl quickly followed, bringing news of a wall of shadows blocking off the North Woods. Again the patrol was sent out to investigate this wall of shadows but met little success. The barrier proved to be empenetrable to both spell and sword.

If Vindicto is using the North Woods to bring more Ithzir into our world, he must be stopped. If the Defenders of Ta'Vaalor can draw Vindicto's attention during the next attack, bring the full force of his army to our gates, it should clear a path. I ask that you send your strongest and bravest fighters to assault the wall, for I do not know what spawns of Luukos you may find on the other side. Ta'Vaalor will hold our lines until Vindicto shows, if we can weaken him, the wall of shadows may weaken as well. Branch Guardian Daenalan was able to discern some sort of connection between the wall and Vindicto. Perhaps Lumnis gifted him with the knowledge, I do not know the ways of priests and their magics.

When Vindicto falls, Ta'Vaalor will press our advantage and make our way across Aradhul Road into the old city to reinforce those behind the wall. We do not have long before his strength returns but if we can kill him in his weakened state, we might be able to finish this fight.

For Honor, Pride, and Glory, High Legionnaire Kakoon Arakhor

[Carefully pushing his signet made of polished eahnor deep into the crimson wax, he lifts his fist away. An impressions of the seal of the Crimson Legion of Ta'Vaalor is left. Stepping from the Alabaster Bastion High Legionnaire Kakoon summons a passing runner. He hands the sealed parchment off and returns inside.]

20th Fashanos, 5117

Esana

Since before the sun had risen, they’d been preparing. They were both exhausted but pushing through, forcing themselves to keep their minds sharp as they poured over their battle plans and new strategies. After many hours, revisions, meetings, and cups of coffee they felt they had a solid battle plan. “You’re right, I think this is our best option, sir”, she said after reviewing the missive the High Legionnaire had penned. He took the parchment back into his hands and gave it a quick review, before folding it and sealing it with his ring. “It will have to be,” he replied, his voice deep with concern. “We need to spread the word now. This letter will go to Ta’Illistim, while we spread the word here. We’ll gather the legion, citizens, and residents alike to inform them of our strategy,” his voice firm. “Yes, sir,” she replied. The group that had gathered dispersed and made their way into King’s Court. Squire Nihrvanah called out to the Legion in voice and thought.

The legion gathered and the plans were reviewed. No one questioned, no one said a word. Silent acquiescence of what was to be done was their reply. “Spread the word, and prepare yourselves for battle,” were the High Legionnaire's final words to the group.

Dark clouds gathered, and rain began to fall. The smell of wet cobble stone and mud filled the air. “It’s time,” she thought, and she was ready. She joined the forces which had gathered at Vermilion Gate. It wasn’t long before the first wave advanced against the fortress, and not long before she felt the death cry of a fallen-in-arms. A quick assessment of the battle lines told her they could hold while she tended to the fallen. She moved quickly, a cloud of fog surrounding her before she appeared beside the body, took it within her arms, and once again stepped into the cloud of fog taking her to the nearest gate. There, with all her might, she dragged the body to triage where she knew the fallen would be taken care of.

Wave after wave the foul beings came forth, and fallen soldier after fallen soldier were rescued, taken to triage and revived. The guards at Vermilion pushed the foul creatures to the gully, cutting off the enemy’s ability to send their additional forces south to Annatto Gate. “The plan is working!” she thought as she felt a great wave of hope surge through her body, giving her tired muscles strength to press on. Once more the creatures advanced in strong waves, pushing the defenders back to the bridge losing the ground they had just taken. It was then we heard it, the rallying cry of our King. Guarded by Lord Legionnaire Commander Cyik, King Qalinor strode forth and cried out, “Push forward!” With one swoop of the King’s longblade, he smote four of his enemy. Lord Legionnaire Commander Cyik at the King’s side doubled the count, cutting a hole in their lines. We pushed hard and advanced, but so did the foul beings. It was then we saw it, the lich Vindicto stood before us. Stretching its hand forth, the lich pointed at a nearby soldier, a wave of cold burst forth enveloping the soldier, and not a moment later they collapsed dead at the lich’s feet. One fell, then another, then another. Again and again the lich came, fading in and out of existence, but not before taking another life. Closing his eyes, seeming to anticipate the lich’s appearance, the King swung his sword and with a mighty cry connected with what flesh there was of Vindicto and smote the foul creature down. The lich faded from existence, but we knew it was not dead, only weakened. At the moment, we dragged the dead to triage and the King had given the command, “Fall back to King’s Court, the representative of the Hall of Mages arrives shortly.” She rushed, with the body in her hands, into triage and called out, “Return to King’s Court, the King requests the presence of all.”

Groups made their way from the Hall of Arkati to the Court, she ran as quickly as she could but only caught a glimpse of the Mages opening the portal when she arrived. “A portal, but to where?” she asked herself. It wasn’t long before she had her answer. Lord Legionnaire Commander Cyik called out, “Those who can stand in Old Ta’Faendryl, fall in on High Legionnaire Kakoon to take the fight to the wall of shadow. Lord Legionnaire Commander Jaranzair will be joining this patrol, while the King and I will stay behind to guard the fortress.” She joined the High Legionnaire and prepared herself for the assault to come. The High Legionnaire and company stepped through the portal and were immediately assault by a barrage of friendly fire spells as they met with the group from Illistim. “Friendly Fire!” she belted, “There are two groups here!” she shouted, but it was too late, several from the group from Vaalor had fallen. “Form one group!” someone called out in the masses. She fell in line with the massive group and turned her attention to the wall of shadows that stood before her. One by one, spells were cast until light broke through the darkness. A massive wave of Ithzir Champions spewed forth accompanied by wave of demons. One by one the creatures were dispatched of. She stood, one among many, ready to face off with what she knew was going to be a dangerous fight against one. Vindicto came and went, in and out, killing a comrade-in-arms as it did. The lich was struck down by one, but not for long, again Vindicto assaulted, and once more was struck down. “It is weakening him!” She thought to herself. With a surge of its last energy it came, fading in and out, but harder to strike at. “Dispel the creature!” someone cried out in the mass of bodies and the fighting force. In and out it weaved, and finally the chance everyone needed to dispel the being. Having been weakened and its vulnerabilities exposed with a lack of spells. The lich was no match for the group as Champion Menos struck him down with a final blow.

22nd Fashanos, 5117

Vindicto

Orcs, he hated orcs. They were even lesser than humans, if that was possible. How he had ever succumbed to that binding circle, he would never know. He had been a powerful sorcerer in life, even more so in unlife. He cursed himself for not recognizing the runes, for falling into that worthless whelp's trap. Not much he could do for it now, what's done is done. As long as the orb that bound him was attached to the scepter of power, he was destined to do the bidding of whoever controlled it. Perhaps if he could exert his will ,he could change things... Defeat, of course she was defeated. Such small minded fools often were, they didn't dream big enough.

Had it really been two years? Time held little meaning to him, trapped as he was. He often fought just to retain memories of who, and what he was. Pushing his will outward, attempting to thwart his captor's plans, and planning his revenge if he were ever to free himself were all that kept him from sinking into a darkness that scared him. "Always with House Vaalor," he spoke to the emptiness inside the orb. "Will this fool never learn? Still… they could be of some use, their rigidity may be their downfall," he continued his inner monologue. They were smart for sure, maybe they would see through the disguise, see through the ridiculous statue, see through the trap. "Or not," he sighed, "Their King's pride is too great." He did as he was commanded, wove his charms and illusions, turning the feeble excuse for a sorceress into an Aelotoi of all things. He trusted in magic, not the Arkati, and yet he found himself entreating their aid in ending his torment. He was never sure who answered his plea, as his captor was defeated and the Vaalorians in their ignorance separated his prison from its binding power source. He soon found his elation turn to ash in his soul as his prison was stashed away in darkness… in some vault to be left and forgotten.

He had no idea how long he had been in darkness, with only the sporadic mental contacts with the clerks outside to measure the passing of time. Slowly he reached out his will, sending only vague images at first to any minds he felt. The King, the darkness, the sorceress. Eventually, light flooded his prison as he saw the face of an elven King through the blue haze of the orb that entrapped him. He thrust images at the King with all of the force of mind he could muster. The sorceress, danger, her execution. The paranoia already present in the King's mind due to the betrayal of the Aelotoi made him susceptible, a weakness Vindicto could exploit. He fed paranoia to the King, and His Majesty ate it up readily like the wounded gobbled down acantha leaf. He smiled to himself, if one without lips could smile. He knew he had his freedom, it would only take time.

Constantly he worked his newfound power, extending its reach until he had full possession of this "King". Then came a new presence, this one much more guarded, which he soon came to know as a Lord Legionnaire Commander in the Legion. He could feel her thoughts, he knew she was charged with Royal security and was ever near to the King. She was much more wary than the King, and sought often to thwart his more diabolical commands to "His Majesty". Slowly he worked at her, chipping away at the sense of loyalty and duty that guarded her mind. He used her sense of duty to the Crown against her, forcing King Tyrnian to issue edicts to her, each one more outrageous than the last. Slowly doubt built within her as the idea that her Liege could be mad took hold and provided an opening for him to utilize. A foothold was all he needed to corrupt her mind. He reveled in his victory the day she heeded her King's command and executed the sorceress. Vengeance was his and it felt oh so sweet.

As things deteriorated within Ta'Vaalor, he fed the uncertainty and mistrust until the time was ripe. With a single command, Lord Legionnaire Commander Tiope entered the vault and secreted the orb, secreted him, within her jacket pocket as she hurried to fulfill his most audacious command. His freedom was at hand. The spirits had proven far easier to control early in his captivity, and the trolls even more so. They had provided a great distraction for his true plan, freedom. Even this latest command to assassinate King Tyrnian was truly nothing more than a ruse to cover his escape. That the King would die as a result was a happy coincidence to him. He felt the movement and heard the shouts around him as Tiope dragged the King through the fortress, through the gates, and onto the bridge. Fear gripped him for the first time in centuries as Tiope threw off his control and shouted some loyal nonsense that sickened him with its duty filled sentiments. The struggle was short, the lapse in control brief, and as he regained control he drew the knife across the monarch's throat himself before conjuring a portal and stepping through.

He had no real clue as to the destination of the portal, he simply allowed the pull of spirits not at rest to guide him. He was pleasantly surprised to find himself in the ruins of the fabled ShadowGuard fortress. Such poetic justice that he would torment House Vaalor with their own dead soldiers, he cackled with uncharacteristic mirth. First things first, he calmed himself, it was time to be free of his prison. A simple thought was all it took, the self loathing and sense of failure inside Tiope had crushed all resistance to his commands. With a mighty downward stomp of her heavy boot, the fragile glass orb shattered and his spirit rose free once more. So ironic that such a delicate object had held him so tightly for so many years. How many had it been? Six, seven? He had lost count. They would pay for his time in the darkness, pay with more than their King's life. He felt his power magnified with his freedom and he easily pierced the veil, calling forth a massive oculoth. Without a word, he commanded it to enter the beaten soldier and her feeble resistance proved futile as the demon easily occupied her being. "Marshal the undead forces here," he snapped raspily, "For we assault the elven nations soon. I will rebuild the Faendryl empire of old and punish those usurping Houses in the process."

He was disappointed, of course, when Tiope managed to wrest control of her actions from his baby and fall on her sword, but no matter. It was just another step along the way. They didn't even know he existed yet. There would be time. Taking refuge in his ancestral home of Old Ta'Faendryl, he spent the next couple of years perfecting his arts, growing his power. When his demons, his "babies", obeyed him without hesitation it was time. Once again he assaulted the fortress of Ta'Vaalor, unleashing his babies upon them. Time and again they fought him back but he didn't care, he was probing their weaknesses, looking for holes in their vaunted defenses. What was that cursed monk doing here anyway? The voln master's presence made his babies uneasy. He had the intelligence he needed, it was time to withdraw.

As he became more familiar with the magics encapsulating Old Ta'Faendryl, Vindicto sensed an attunement he had never felt before. Focusing on it, following the threads of magic, he pierced the veil and found himself staring into an alien world. A being stepped through, similar to those he had seen in the old city. It was an Ithzir, but larger than the others, a true champion of their race. Sensing a presence, he took stock of his surroundings and found himself amid a great number of Ithzir of all sorts, all of them staring intently at their champion. He knew enough of summoning to know that he controlled this champion, and it was obvious the other Ithzir followed it. He smiled a wicked, evil smile. He had another army.

The assaults began in earnest. Vindicto sent his army of undead, Ithzir, and demons against the fortress of Ta'Vaalor with occasional assaults on Ta'Illistim as well. The assaults on Ta'Illistim were mainly diversionary in nature, but every ounce of pain inflicted on the usurping Houses was a win in his book. Time and again, his attacks were repelled despite exploiting the weaknesses he had discovered. He sent deathworms under the walls and war griffins over them, all to no avail. He had not anticipated the amount of outside aid that would arrive, nor the excellent organization of the defense. He was losing this war!

After weeks of battle and numerous losses, he didn't really care about the undead there would always be more, he hastily withdrew back into Old Ta'Faendryl summoning a wall of shadows to guard his temporary abode. Curse the persistence of the elves! They had dug through the histories and discovered who he was and now pushed their advantage with a brilliant pincer move that sent forces into the old city while others occupied his army in Ta'Vaalor. Slowly the attackers assaulted the shadows, picking away at it with spells of light. He summoned more of his babies and several Ithzir champions to be at the ready should they break through. His forces had been defeated in Ta'Vaalor and the group in the old city had been reinforced by more troops. His babies were no match for the combined force and were quickly dispatched. He had expended too much of himself in summoning so many demons at once. He was weakened, vulnerable, and using much of his remaining power just to hold his form together. There was nothing left to do, his forces depleted, his babies slain, he took to the fight himself. Each blow the enemy landed made it harder and harder to maintain his form. Each expenditure of power required to pull himself back together weakened him further till there was little left. One would think he had some inclination for what the elves had felt, but that would require empathy which he did not possess. For every attacker he slew, two more stepped in to take its place. He faded in and out of existence, hitting them where he could. One among them must have noticed some pattern, for his swing was timed perfectly as Vindicto faded into existence for the last time. He felt his life force unraveling as the magic that had maintained his form for so long sped away from him. He felt his very essence torn to shreds. As he lay there consumed by shadows, one last thought went through his mind, "At least I've left the Ithzir their Champions to guard my home…" With that, he was no more.

23th Fashanos, 5117

Qalinor

A soldier in crimson livery marches in, unfurls a scroll, and recites:

His Majesty King Qalinor Vaalor the Sovereign Commander of the Crimson Legion, the Pride, Honor, and Glory of Ta'Vaalor cordially invites you to a Royal celebration. On Feastday, the fourth day of Charlatos, in the year 5117, His Majesty will open the festival ground surrounding the Festival of the Fallen Arena at eight o'clock in the evening as the elves tell time. An awards ceremony honoring those who fought in the recent war will be held around the bonfire on the inner walkway and will be followed by dinner and dancing in the adjacent pavilion.

See Also