A Thousand Swords
They called it Malefactor.
The land of Agus has many legends, but the dark story of a dark blade has crept into every corner of it, whispered among its many peoples and tongues. It has gone by as many names (Brightkiller, Widowwail, Bloodbrand, among others) as it has origins. Forged from the heart of a dark god ripped from his chest and carelessly cast onto the land by Kord. The ultimate weapon produced by a forgotten, destroyed empire, which laid waste to its creator as a sign of its power. A sword that passed through so many hands and took so many lives that eventually its deeds made it something more. Whatever its name or origin, its horrors were legion. It was said whoever wielded Malefactor gained the strength of every life it took, that no armor could stand before it nor power take away the wounds it left. That it instilled a controlled but neverending bloodthirst that drove its master or mistress to ever greater crimes, that it gave them unnatural influence and charisma. That where it went, it was always followed by myriad other weapons, all raised, voices baying for blood.
But that was just a legend. Even if there was a dark, cursed blade, it has long faded into the mists of history, left merely to stories. Wherever it was cast, it has ceased to affect the land. The troubles of Agus are born not of legendary corrupting darkness, but the many evils within mortal hearts.
…But all stories have come from somewhere.
To the observant, it has perhaps just been a period of greater troubles. Wars have raged fiercer and hotter. The empires of Crown Trail and Vurnir have rattled their sabers louder than they have in generations past. Those who dabble in the arcane and supernatural arts, both light and dark, have occasionally seen things they did not understand or comprehend. And recently, the story of how Malefactor was destroyed has begun to be sung on every street corner: the blade Magnificence, itself with a hundred stories to its name, itself having suffered an unknown fate.
Perhaps it means nothing, a trying time and a time for trying…
1) The Slaying Stone
Cassandra Qien, the Black Dragon, a Human Monk trained by the strange warrior known as B’ahtman. Zena, a Githzerai Ranger with a very dark history, and her traveling companion, the Bard Gabrielle who hides her Changeling race under the guise of illusion-based transformation. Finally, Sir Heskan, Paladin of Bahamut, and son of another paladin of Bahamut who rose to become an Exarch of the Dragon God. In classic adventurer’s fashion, the four met on a bridge, Cassandra having been summoned and the rest meeting by chance. They had been recruited by the sorceress Treona and her employer, the merchant Kiris Alkirk, to go to the town of Kiris Dahn, once the Kiris center of power, but now overrun by goblins. In the past, the town had been defended by dark artifacts of power known as the Slaying Stones, but they were believed to all be used, as each Stone would crumble with the life it snuffed out. Having discovered that there was in fact, one more, Treona tasked the party to enter the town and locate the last Stone, so it could be properly destroyed, instead of falling into the hands of evil forces that could make more of them.
The journey to Kiris Dahn, however, suggested there was more afoot. The party was subjected to strange dreams that did not seem normal, in fact actually seemed prophetic. Zena discovered all wildlife had fled, the weather ravaged by strange storms. The group encountered a group of wounded goblins from Kiris Dahn, claiming to have encountered a terrible monster made of bones that had slaughtered them like they were infants. Despite this strangeness, the group eventually arrived at Kiris Dahn, now controlled by goblins and renamed by them to Gorizbadd. Four against a small army, stealth would be needed.
More incidents arose. The group discovered there was a warband of powerful orcs, known as the Severed Eyes, also looking for the Slaying Stone, The group encountered a Kobold settlement that lived with Dahn/Gorizbadd and were abused by the goblins, the kobolds recruiting the party for revenge. After an encounter with a powerful Severed Eye orc named Krayd the Butcher, the party slew the goblin’s makeshift leader, the hobgoblin Hu-Jat, who sought to rebuilt his shattered army, the Sundered Gate (shattered, unbeknownst to him, by Zena’s dark past and the legions she had commanded, the Bloody Helm). Finally, the group discovered a young brass dragon, Tyristys, who had taken possession of the last remaining Slaying Stone. The party successfully bartered to turn it over to her, as she had only taken it for her own protection. With the Stone procured, the party moved to leave Kiris Dahn…
But all the while, the storms, the sense of wrongness, had been growing worse. As the group left, crashes of something worse than thunder began to sound over Kiris Dahn. The party was ambushed by the remaining Severed Eye orcs, seeking the Slaying Stone, but the battle was swiftly brought to a close when the sky ripped open and it emerged, a nightmare train the size of a skyscraper that manifested tracks to drive on the air. As the party watched, it came down across and into Kiris Dahn, smashing the town to oblivion. The party fled, but it gave chase, driving alongside the party and launching twisted monsters of bone from within, the party frantically attempting to defend themselves.
From within the train, a form emerged.
Zena and Cassandra had the guts to leap to the train and attack its controller, but they were swiftly knocked away. Tyristys proved more successful, attacking the man in black and seemingly forcing the train away, up into the sky. No sooner had the party stopped to rest, though, than a lone goblin emerged, blaming the group for what had occurred. Unable to defeat them by himself, the goblin, Tak, would find a surprising ally, as the man in black armor returned. He called himself Vae Victus, the Seeker Of Power, and made an offer to Tak of power. Tak accepted, but the party destroyed his twisted, empowered form anyway. In response, Vae would leave the party with treasure and some cryptic words of warning, before he returned to his train. Tyristys would be found some distance away, thoroughly beaten. But the party had escaped, with the Slaying Stone.
Returning to Treona brought no answers, just more questions. In the time it had taken them to return, the empires of Crown Point and Vurnir had erupted into all out war, each claiming to possess the legendary dark sword Malefactor. While Treona would prove the truth in her request by destroying the Slaying Stone, her master, Xaiv, would reveal his own hand in their quest, speaking of Treona’s former peer, a woman named Dreus, who had been the one behind the Severed Eye orcs, and his brother Cuvas, who had his own dark plans he wished for the party to stop. With no idea where Dreus or Cuvas were, though, and with no apparent information about Vae and his train, the party’s sole clue was Xaiv’s request for them to go to the dwarf tomb city Hammerfast, that he ‘had a feeling’ that if they would find a path, it would be there. And so, the party of four did just that, arriving without incident and settling down for the night.
Once again, they had dreams. These dreams were not of prophecy, however, but of other lives that would intertwine with their own.
1.5) Odio and the Starspawn