There are stories told of great endeavors and of tragic heroes, who save worlds and end wars. They are often told of one great mortal, who single-handedly thwarted evil and freed the lands. This is not one of those stories. Do not begin reading this thinking it will be a tale of morally righteous characters, of those whom devote their lives to just causes and ending world suffering. This is not a tale born of good deeds and virtue. It is merely an account of various travelers that perchance banded together because the gold was right. But, I digress. Let me continue.
The land, cracked and broken by combat, is Eberron. It has been a decade since it was ravaged by war and the cities are piecing themselves back together, finally on the mend. The war was The Last War. That is the one recent in minds, not yet fully recorded in history books. It was a territory fight and it broke the land up into several smaller countries, mere shadows of the great land before it. Though, this is not the war of the story. The war that matters is the one that happened before time was recorded, between the Dragons and the Daelkyr. The Daelkyr are foul beings, forged by the blood of Kyber, the underworld. They sought to control Eberron and pushed the Dragons back, forcing them into a corner. The Dragons created their friends the Coultr and the Coultr were wise and brave beyond measure. They sacrificed their souls to bind the Daelkyr in the Silver Flame, a large ethereal fire that traps evil within. There is more to this story, but this is what any child knows in Eberron. It is considered fairy tale, myth, as intangible as the story of Creation.
Our story finally begins in Wroat, the capital of Breland. It was a quiet day, not a common occurrence in the large city. The clouds hung low over the marble and stone that created Broken-Blade castle and the surrounding manors. The city itself was placed on an island in the middle of a large lake. Walls surrounded the outer edges of the city and there were only two bridges on which to exit, both heavily guarded. It was evening time, and rain was threatening from the low slung clouds across the sky. A small crowd was gathered in the town square, watching a wizard perform small magic tricks: levitations, lights, conjuring fire and different items. His name was Mel the Magnificent and he was a rather well known old man. He traveled from town to town, putting on shows and inspiring young magic users to explore their talents in wizardry. He was performing on a small wooden stage, canopied by a red cloth. The crowed was cheering lightheartedly, amused and thankful for the free show. Amidst the people cheering, there were some odd figures. One was a wizard, Markl Hoenheim and his bodyguard, Mordrog, clothed in a large black robe, towering at least three feet over the majority of the crowd. Another was Astrid, a traveling Catfolk merchant. She had large pointed ears and orange fur covered in black stripes. She was handy with a bow, and had worked with a caravan most of her life. Another was a young man that stood off to the edge of the crowd, his eyes not really focused on the show. His clothes were torn and dirty, hanging from his frame. He looked like he had barely escaped a brutal death. His name was Marcus and he was a were, a full-blooded shape-shifter that could change into a wolf. He seemed to shake slightly, or fidget, and one could only wonder if he was nervous or watching for something. The other was even stranger still, a psychic, with dark yellow skin. His body was speckled with black spots and his hair was a fiery red. He didn’t bother to hide his strange features from the townsfolk. His name was Riden’k Rasir. He was abused and tortured by Mind Flayers, thrown out of his home plane and onto the material plane with nothing but his sanity, and maybe not even that. He glanced around the crowd, his eyes shifting from person to person, not really focused on any one thing. Except for his eyes, he seemed oddly still, opposite the Were.
More curious than any of these characters were several purple robed figures spotted throughout the crowd. They wore hooded cloaks and kept their faces dark. As the show progressed, one figure moved to the back of the stage, making his way quietly up behind the curtain.
“This guy has to be joking. I could put on a better show than that,” Markl grumbled to his bodyguard. “Look at how weak his evocation is. Where did this guy study?” He asks incredulously, folding his robe around him and rolling his eyes.
Mordrog grunted in response, tugging at his cloak to make sure it covered his face. “I’m hungry.” He muttered, growing restless. “When do we eat?”
Suddenly, the wizard on stage collapsed, falling to the floor. The cloaked man stood above him, holding a dagger. The end of it dripped in blood.
“What—“ Markl gasped.
“Cool trick.” Mordrog clapped slowly.
The cloaked man stood on stage, overlooking the crowd. His hood fell back and revealed a pale face with a large tattoo taking up the entire left side. The design wrapped around his eye and covered his cheek, going back into his hairline in all directions. The dagger he was holding didn’t have a metal blade at the end but instead, a black shard of crystal that seemed to glow faintly. The man spared one more look of disgust for the crowd and raised his arms, muttering. The ground began to shake beneath them.
“LOREAT!” He shouted, thrusting his palms upward and vanishing. The other few purple-clad figures around the crowd vanished as well. As the ground quaked, parts of it began to split open and the crowd scattered. Astrid swore and readied her bow, running to a safe distance and pulling out an arrow, notching it to the string. Marcus took a deep breath and pulled two flails from his belt. The metal handle was attached to a chain which in turn was attached to a spiked ball. He had taught himself how to use them and they were deadly when they hit. The yellow creature closed his eyes, taking an even breath and readying his mind for attacks. He was psychic and the only weapon he needed to ready was his mind. Markl muttered and prepared a sign with his hand, furrowing his brow.
“That man spoke Draconic…” He watched the ground, preparing himself for whatever showed. “Loreat… it means… ‘die’”. He shook his head. “Ridiculous.”
Mordrog threw off his cloak. The nine foot tall creature was clad in heavy spiked armor, including a helm that covered his whole face. Chains wrapped his arms and waist, made of several different types of metal. He detached one from his mid-section now, holding it loosely in one hand, ready to attack. “Better get food after this.” He said angrily, watching the earth beside Markl. “Better be fish.” He grumbled.
The rest of the crowd continued to scatter and scream wildly. The cracks in the ground widened and a greyish rotting hand appeared, followed by another, and another as a hideous stumped monster pulled itself out of the ground. Its face was squished into his chest, which sprouted 4 arms, a Morningstar in each one. It had two mouths, one right below the first and two short legs with bare oversized feet on the end of them. It grunted and growled, running after Mordrog.
“A Dolgrim!” Astrid let the word fall from her mouth, unbidden. “It’s a Dolgrim.” She shook her head, taking aim at the creature. Dolgrim were foul beings, created by the Daelkyr as minions in the First War. They were thought to be two creatures smashed together and known to have two separate consciousness’s which abled them to dual wield weapons and perform attacks without flaw. When alone, Dolgrim carried on unintelligible conversations with themselves and kept to the Shadow Marches, awaiting the return of their banished leaders. “How could this be?” She furrowed her brow and took the shot, hitting the Dolgrim through the eye. As he collapsed, others began crawling out of the ground as well. There were 12 total. She had no more time for thought as she took off, raining arrows on the creatures.
Mordrog let out a wild yell and swung one of his chains, lashing out and smashing a Dolgrim into the ground. Markl winced slightly at the disgusting sight before casting his own fireball spell and scorching 4 of them. The Dolgrim let out a stream of unintelligible yowls and ran in circles, patting out the flames. Astrid was streaming arrows at them relentlessly. Marcus approached with a loud growl and sunk his flail into the head of the nearest one, taking it down, and immediately swinging after another.
Riden’k closed his eyes and focused on a group in front of him. As he opened his eyes he released a burst of energy that tore flesh from bone. Several of the monsters fell back to the ground, unable to scream with the wind knocked out of them.
One Dolgrim looked upon the smatterings of blood that remained of his fellow monsters and ran, screeching into the middle of town, desperately looking for a place to hide.
“No you don’t.” Mordrog growled, chasing after him. He caught up with him easily and mercilessly crushed him with one large claw. The other four finished the monsters off as Mordrog sprinted back over.
A cleric stood on the stage, hunched over Mel, examining his body. His name was Clarence and this was the sixth murder he had seen this week. He shook his head. The eyes of the body were white, drained of color, like all the others. What could it mean?
“You there! Heroes!” He called out to the travelers. “I’ve never seen anyone fight like that. It was quite amazing!”
Markl huffed and looked at Mel’s body. “Not so magnificent now.” He muttered, his back turned towards the cleric.
“Any idea what happened just now?” Astrid slung her bow on her back and walked gracefully towards the stage.
“Sadly, no.” He said, once more looking at poor Mel’s corpse. “We have had multiple deaths and disappearances in the past months. Fifteen are missing and ten are dead.” His face darkened. “Nothing so out in the open, though.”
“Do you know what’s causing all of this?” She gestured towards the ground and the bodies of Dolgrim littering the now bloodied square.
“I don’t…” He shook his head. “Derek knew more about the Dolgrim than any of us did, but he’s been missing for two weeks now.” He lowered his head so she wouldn’t see the tears in his eyes.
Astrid looked at him sadly, then awkwardly looked around the square.
“I know it’s a lot to ask, but do you think you could help us look for him?” He asked, gritting his teeth. “You all dispatched those monsters so quickly…”
Mordrog grunted and turned to Markl. “Fish.”
Markl placed a hand on his large back. “Fine, fine. Let’s go see if they have any. We need to stop by the general store anyways.” They turned around and headed towards the shop. They were slowly followed by the others, who also apparently needed to restock on their items.
“Wait!” The cleric ran after them, frantic. “I’ll pay you!” The desperation was leaking through his voice, staining his words. “I don’t know what else to do!” He fell to his knees. “He was my friend.”
Markl turned, towards him, raising his eyebrow and looking down. “How much gold?”
Mordrog turned and leaned in front of the wizard baring his teeth. “Do you have fish?”
Clarence looked up, wide-eyed and answered Mordrog first. “If you agree to help me, I will catch you all the fish I can.” Turning to Markl he frowned slightly. “I don’t have much, but you can have whatever I own.”
Markl rolled his eyes. “Fine.”
Astrid stepped in front of the wizard, looking at the cleric. “We’d be happy to help. Do you know where we could start our search?”
Clarence breathed a sigh of relief. “Derek was staying in an apartment provided by the church. They’re only about a three minute walk north of here.”
The five of them nodded and Clarence’s eyes welled up. “Thank you.”
“Can you point us in the right direction please?” Astrid asked, politely.
The cleric raised his hand and pointed north through the shops and to a small stone path. After giving them directions and the apartment number, Clarence returned to the stage to take care of Mel’s body.
As they made their way to the apartments, they passed by two shops. The shop windows were plastered with advertisements and posters and the like. A few of them caught Marcus’s eye and he clenched his fists.
John’s Jeneral Goods
Wolfsbane now fully stocked
Don’t become Were-Chow.
His lip curled into a sneer as they passed the window.
“I need to make a stop.” He said to the rest of the group, veering off towards the entrance. He pushed through the shop doors and made his way to the counter.
“Hello there, boy.” The shopkeeper smiled. “What can I do for ya?”
“You guys have belladonna in stock?” He asked, as nonchalantly as he could, his fists still clenched beneath the counter.
“Yes, sirree. Just got a shipment.”
The shopkeeper raised his eyebrows. “Well, it makes good money.”
“Have you seen any lycans?”
“Lycans?” The shopkeeper wrinkled his nose. “Nah, I don’t believe in that stuff, really. They said there was an attack to the south, sent a bunch of Templars and the like. But I dunno if I believe it.”
“Then why keep it in stock?” Marcus was fighting anger at the ignorance of the man.
“Like I said, son, it makes good money. People buy it up.” He shook his head. “You gonna buy some or what?”
“No, thank you.” As Marcus turned away from the man, Markl shouted from the front of the store.
“How much for these wagons?”
“Do you have any fish?” Mordrog stuck his head in front of Markl, asking loudly.
“The wagons are 35 gold a piece. Nah, don’t have any fish. The docks are always full of fisherman selling their catch though.”
Mordrog’s shoulders fell and he stepped back outside.
“When are we going to the docks?” He asked Markl.
“I’ll take five of the wagons.” He said, digging out some coins and handing them to the shopkeeper, who had walked to the front now. “We’ll go to the docks later, Mordrog.”
“Fine.” He grunted.
Markl attached the wagons to each other, making a train of sorts for Mordrog to pull. While Astrid and Markl argued over whether or not she should have to pay for a ride, Marcus glowered at the shop signs and Redin’k focused on nothing in particular, standing oddly still again. Mordrog asked the shopkeeper once again if he had any fish.
After a few moments, the band set off towards the church. Two Templars stood guard. One stood lazily at his post, leaning on his sword and staring off into space, the other stood ready to greet them as they approached. He stared at the ridiculously large Mordrog.
“What is your business with the Church of the Silver Flame?” He asked, his face showing no signs of intimidation.
Astrid stepped forward. “We were asked by Clarence to help find a fellow cleric.”
“Derek?” The Templar nodded solemnly. “He was a good man. I hope you find him.”
“Can you tell us anything about him?”
“Very little. I’ve only been here a week. I met him a few times. He seemed very into his studies. He was very devoted to the Church.”
Marcus’s nostrils flared as he watched the Templar from behind the others. Bradford. It was the man who had led the attack on his town, Reven. The man who had driven him here, starved and alone, without his family. Bradford had stormed the town and killed everyone. His insides flamed.
Suddenly, Bradford’s eyes turned on him. He seemed to sniff the air. “You.” His eyes were cold and his hand moved to his blade. “You do not belong here.” He stared at the boy, willing him to die on the spot. He was a monster. He thought he had slain what was left of them in Reven.
Marcus took a step back, shielding himself behind Mordrog. “You are mistaken, sir. I know not what you speak of.” Bradford was a beast all on his own. He couldn’t best the man by himself, especially without shifting. He also knew it would be wrong to reveal his nature and show himself to this group, especially if he was being attacked by the member of the church.
“Good man, if you will just show us to Derek’s quarters…” Markl said, watching the exchange between Marcus and the Templar carefully.
“Right this way.” Bradford said, carefully, removing his hand from his sword. “He’s in apartment 3.” He walked them over to the neighboring building and unlocked the door. As Marcus walked past him into the room he almost shuddered with disgust before leaving and going back to his post.