A monk, clad in loose brown robes, steps over the threshold of the hill to look upon the village down below. From this distance he could see the chaos of civilization. “Like ants in an ant hill” he chuckled to himself before taking a small drink of water from his flask. He gently rubbed the horse pulling the cart next to him, and began walking towards the village.
“Vaeraesarol!”, she shouts waving the orb atop her staff at the unsuspecting apple. A small hiss can be heard as the apple begins to lightly smoke. The robed wizard lets out a small sigh as she looks to her left and starts flipping through the massive tome that sits on top the pedestal. Mindlessly she reaches over to the table and grabs the apple and takes a bite, not loosing a moment of inspecting the tome.
Without warning a pounding can be heard from the door of the cottage. “Odd”, she mumbled and walked to the door.
The silence of the temple spoke to her soul. It had been longer than she had wanted since she could enjoy the serenity of the temple grounds. She mumbled a small prayer to no god in particular and lit the intense seated on small alter in front of her. Her essence soared beyond the confines of the temple. She could feel something calling to her, something she couldn’t place.
Suddenly her clarity was smashed as the town bell rung. The bell never rang. “I wonder what that is about”, she spoke to herself and left the temple to find the residents gathering in the street.
“Boy! Run back to the house and grab the baskets”, the farmer shouted. The boy, no more than 13, vanished into the corn fields towards the house. The farmer reexamined the corn husk. “The weather has been good, it’s time to harvest” he mumbled mindlessly.
In the distance he heard the chilling clatter of hooves. “No one ever comes from the south”, he said as a chill ran through his bones. He ran to the old road just in time to see the rider, shroud in darkness, blister past him. The unholy sight caused him to drop the husk of corn. It withered upon landing on the earth. “No, Not good at all”.
He raced to the barn for tools. The farmer glanced around furiously. He grabbed the last healthy board from the old, decrepit cart. From the wall, he grabbed a stretch of rope. With fervor he strapped the improvised shield to his arm and grabbed a sickle from the table. Freashly armed, he ran after the rider, into the center of the village.
As Leomorn approached the grizzly scene, his stomach fell. The rider, still covered within shadow, sit mounted upon his horse. The horse wearing impressive implements of war, standing over the body of Magistrate Ozmalen. A look of horror ripped across Ozmalen’s face, as his body lay mangled, contorted, and withered.
A deep, ominous laugh emanates from the shadow, “You shall conform, or you ALL will share his fate. You have until the sun rises on the third day from now to have all your food and worldly positions in carts in the middle of town, or a wave of death will wash over this village. Of this, I promise”.
As the shadow began to reached down words the magistrates body, a hand of decrepit flesh and bone reached out from within the shroud. Leomorn saw the skeletal fist clench as if he was grabbing something prized. Slowly, he drew his fist towards the sky and the broken body began to move slowly at first. And more and more rapidly it began to stand, his flesh falling to the ground. The shadows fist became lost inside the shroud again it rose to it’s pinnacle. “Show them the power of the dead”, the shadow said near matter-of-factly. He pulled back his reigns and charged to the north.
The skeletal form of Magistrate Ozmalen stood in a daze until the footprints of it’s master faded. As if being yanked from a deep trance, Ozmalen dropped into a hunched stance, ready to pounce. He looked left, then jerked his head right. In a flash he grabbed the scimitar lying the remains of his own body and began to charge the crowd who watched the gruesome special. If the eyes had remained in the skeleton of Magistrate Ozmalen, anyone could tell it’s intended target was Madeline, the young girl of no more than sixteen. She screeched in horror and the crowd darted away from her. The skeleton raised it’s curved sword for a killing blow, and leashed it towards the innocent victim.
The wooden shield of Leomorn slammed hard into the magistrate. He expected much more resistance from the impact. The remains became unexpectedly brittle under the force of Leomorn’s strength. The scimitar fell helplessly to the ground.
From behind the crowd, the courageous mayor ran to the forefront of the crowd. “Quickly, quickly! We must call a town meeting. Gather everyone! Quickly” the gnome shouted! And the crowd dispersed franticly, panic painted over their faces. The town bell was rang, and parties where sent to the outskirts to gather everyone from their homes.
“Quiet everyone! Quiet! QUIET!”, the gnome shouted from his platform, which is neatly set on top of his extra platform. The crowd settled down a touch to listen to the mayor. The monk sat on the outside of the crowd. It had been some time since he had been in a city. “Nothing changes”, he thought to himself. He was here for supplies for his temple, which was located several days away in the hills. This was by far the nearest town for them to get supplies. If this town fell, they had no recourse. The nearest town he knew of was three weeks away, and even that was smaller than Amn-laur.
“We have quite the conundrum. We must plan. We must the evacuation” he tried to speak firmly, but was quickly overridden by the roar of the crowd. The chaos and fear where rampant amongst the crowd. They argued amongst each other whether or not evacuation was the right answer. Some said fight, others said give in, the rest said run.
Stormy stood inside the outer ring of the crowd. She had read of the dangers of a powerful necromancer. Against trained soldiers, it was a possible fight. Against the rabble of an untrained militia, their losses would fuel the necromancers assault. It was an age old tactic of the undead. Her thoughts where interrupted as the noise of the crowed overwhelmed their thoughts.
“Amn-laur does not have the resources to commit to a fight of this magnitude. We have no choice”, the gnome cried. This speech was interrupted by two farmers from the far reaches broke into a fight. The crowd quickly pulled them apart and the gnome continued, “We must get all the wagons and carts filled with supplies. Only take your necessities, and bring your food to the middle of town”.
It was no secret Wierdrin had a knack for the arcane arts. Much of the village was frightened of her for it, a fact she found highly amusing. Her spells had no chance of harming a soul, they where merely rituals. And now, for the first time, she was welcomed to the village with open arms, thanks to something being more horrifying. How amusing. Her rituals wouldn’t help them against this menace. Running was probably the most sensible option. She could leave now, with little more than some rations, and her spell book.
The mayor was engaged in an argument with one individual over the merits of his decision when he stopped mid-sentence. He gazed over the crowed and stared. Slowly, the crowd also turned.
In from the south rode a troupe of strangers. Each wearing what appeared to be amazing implements of war. The leader of the pack, a slim-shouldered female dawning a heave set of chain armor. The mace she carried, massive. It looks as if lifting it would crush her under it’s weight. An unidentifiable aura of light almost seemed to glow about her.
The one on the left wearing majestic robes of purple and red. A staff, larger than her attached to her back. The fire in her eyes was apparently obvious, even from this distance. “Her horse, is it transparent?”, the gnome stuttered as he stared at the intruders.
Next to her was the most unremarkable member of the cabal. His robes, plane and clean. His head shaven, albeit tattooed in red inks. His horse, plane and smaller than the others in the group. His gaze into the crowd, almost serene, almost as if the chaos of the crowd was non-existent.
Quite possibly the most impressive of the four was the one on the right. His heavy armor scratched and dented. His face, full of deep scars. Over his shoulder was thrown a shield of gargantuan proportions. Even his horse was armored to the teeth, dawning scaled plate and spikes from many places.
The crowd parted as the adventurers rode through the center. They dismounted their horses, which where quickly taken up by an unseen boy riding behind them. The boy quickly tied up their horses to a near by horse rack. The heavily armored female gestured for the gnome to step aside for a few moments and they talked in private. The fighter, with his back to the stage, gave the crowd a menacing glare.
Quaren, the tattooed one, drawing little attention compared to the heavily armored warrior, silently stepped to the edge of the crowd and approached Wil. “Greetings, traveler”, the elder of the two said.
“Greetings”, replied Wil.
“It’s odd to see one of your order out in the world. Tell me brother, what brings you to this troubled village” Quaren said.
“Supplies for the next few months” Wil replied, “we are running short on food”.
“It seems most opportunistic that a fellow monk would arrive at such a location in a time of need. Almost too opportunistic. Come, let us talk about this… situation in a more peaceful setting”, and the two stepped away from the crowd.
The gnome regained his composure and stood before the crowd on his double pedestal. “Ladies and gentleman”, the gnome cleared his throat “these fine ladies and gentleman have things to say to you all. Please listen”. His voice tapered off as he looked over to the cleric. She took a few steps forward to the edge of the stage.
“Citizens of Amn-laur, a great evil has chosen your town as his next victim. We have traveled long and hard to find this monster. He has pillaged cities much more fortified prior to now. He has razed cities with children, families, and livestock. Under his dominion, he will burnt this entire city to the ground, accumulate your wealth, and enslave you all.
“But that will NOT happen. He cannot be allowed to destroy another family, to hurt another child. But we cannot do this alone. Those of you able to bear arms must join in the fray. Those of you who cannot, will make shelter to the east, in the mountains. The temple will harbor your refugees until this conflict has ended.
“Go to your homes now and rest. Tomorrow we plan. Tomorrow we pack. Tomorrow we train. Tomorrow, we win the war against evil” And with that, the crowd dispersed back to their homes. But not with their heads dragging. Most of them believed what they had heard. And those that didn’t want to fight, knew they could run.
The following day, chaos reigned the village. A convoy of food, positions, and children was assembled in the heart of the town. Every detail of this operation overseen by the mayor. The elderly packed neatly in with the children, the men and women, who would not fight, would have to walk. The livestock was rounded up and herded to one of the distant farms from the village.
It was an emotional time for the village. Families where being separated, unsure if they would ever see one another again. Those who decided to fight, began forming the militia. They still had two days before the monsters return.
After the caravan left, the hope stored in the remaining townsfolk seemed to vanish. The opportunistic arrival of their champions had made the remaining work seem so easy, but that illusion had vanished. The heroes began to train those who stayed. Most all of them had little more than farming tools to fend of the forces of the undead, but trained they did.
From the hills Madeline turned and looked back to see her home one last time before it disappeared over the hill. From this distance she could still make out the remaining villagers standing in straight lines, making stabbing motions with their pitch forks, while the plated warrior circled, likely yelling she imagined. Her soul crumpled as she turned back to the path and marched over the hill. She knew this was the last time she would see her home.
“That is a beautiful song…”, Quaren said. Stormy jumped. She hadn’t realized anyone else was in the temple. Everyone was in the inn, trying to relax, and forget about the dangers ahead of them.
“I…”, she stuttered, “Thank you”. She blushed.
”...yet it feels so sad, so empty. A song like that could make any god smile. But tragically, I don’t think it was sung to any god, was it?” Quaren pried. Before Stormy could answer Quaren kept talking, “A village like this, the community probably only knows of gods such as Chauntea and the demi-god Baervanian. But tell me of yourself child, and maybe we can find a home for you in this house of gods.”
”...and the frigid air chilled our bones. The forest was a brutal enemy in the winter.”, Felnar continued his story, obviously his lips loose from drink. More than any man or women, but he stood firm. The crowd was obviously enjoying his story, nestled warmly in front of the fire with a nice drink, and company. “Four days we traveled in the snow drenched forest. The side of the mountain grew steeper still, but we had not yet crossed the tree line”.
“His stories are always so much more epic than they actually where”, Meotra said quietly to Wierdrin, who was sitting alone in the back of the room. Meotra’s face betrayed a small smile. “I have heard a rumor around the village that you have a knack for… the bizarre.”
Wierdrin shifted uncomfortably. Her gifts had left her isolated from the village her whole life. No friends. Her only companions where her books. “How much did the stranger know? People in this town talk way to much”, she thought.
“It’s alright. I understand how hard it is to be different” She pulled a small metal orb out of her sleeve and held it in her palm. The ball slowly drifted from her hand up into the air. It hovered there for just a few moments, and then danced it’s way across the table into Wierdrin’s hand.
Felnar’s story continued, “We had lost the initiative. We where under heavy fire from the archers of the Frost Giants. We would have to push, despite the costs, or get pinned down by a hail of arrows”.