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"Heroes of Sundale"

1342 BE

This is a tale of daring-do, from the inestimable master bard, Quillian.
                Hold and listen friends! For here is a story of legends made, heroes forged, villains vanquished! A tale of companionship and camaraderie, through dangers great and immeasurable. This is the tale of the Heroes of Sundale.
                As many do, the companions started from humble beginnings. They all had great dreams, and heart enough to try to accomplish them. Their backgrounds as varied as could be imagined. Lawrence Olivia, an orphan stable boy in Shadydale, hearing the divine call of an unknown god. Anteries, a youth of questionable background fresh off the streets of Mistdale, and eluding the law by running south. Kazeem, a newly freed slave from the pits of Keltesar, looking to find enlightenment and hope in a new land. The half-orc, Kronc, raised amongst his human heritage, yet never fitting in and living in constant ridicule for his orcish features. Dark and brooding Nadalis, orphan of Maladar after dark elves ravaged his home and slaughtered many of his people, including his parents. And half-drow, Alystin Darthiir. Who had been raised in a surface drow enclave worshipping Ellistrae, she just recently leaving her old travel companion Terrance, who had grown too old to continue such an adventurous life.
                They all met, as so many do, in an old run-down tavern. On the outskirts of Shadydale, the Bristling Pine it was called. The elves, Nadalis and Alystin, had been traveling companions for a couple of months now, having left Elvaris together to explore Eiridos. Anteries had settled at this bar, and was sitting back enjoying a well earned brew after eluding the authorities of Mistdale. He was entertaining another business venture, and was looking for extra muscle. So he sat in the corner interviewing a large brute of a man, with definite orcish heritage… none other than Kronc. Kazeem was a loner who had wandered in, penniless yet calm. Moving with grace that ill fitted his poverty. He had entered the tavern to observe people, had he had done dozens of times before on his journey cross country. And finally, Lawrence. He worked at the stables across the street, and over the last few weeks had been having decidedly unrestfull sleep. Visions plagued him, of things he must do to prevent catastrophe. He did not worry for his sanity, for he knew that he was being divinely visited with a surety which only the faithful can proclaim, yet he remained doubtful of his own worthiness. And yet, he followed his visions into this tavern, and saw sitting throughout the bar the very heroes of his dreams.
                And so he spoke to each in turn, offering to them what his vision guaranteed. To the elves he went first, offering vengeance and adventure. Then to Kazeem, offering knowledge of truth. And last, he approached Anteries and Kronc, with promises of wealth, power and everlasting fame. None of the five could refute Lawrence’s charismatic personality, so humble and earnest, yet with a strength of character which convinced them that he could only be telling the truth. And there was a sense of power surrounding the young man, and he seemed to almost glow with an inner light.
                Such was it that the group of companions was formed, yet unknown to the world for the great things they would do. They followed Lawrence and his visions for over a year, traveling across the dale lands giving aid to local lords and becoming heroes to all the folk who called the dales their homes. Anteries earned a pardon in Mistdale when they traveled north to the tower known as the Spire, and vanquished an evil demon from its abode there. They left the dales as ambassadors to the Empire Estar and to the Free Cities of Ibis, Trenton and Cunaxa. Also, they worked for the elves of Elvaris, daring missions deep into Thallasia, home of necromantic power, Asmodean. Self named after the devil Asmodar, he raised massive undead armies from what used to be a thriving northern nation. Enslaving hundreds of thousands to his will and starting what became known as the wars of the dead.
                During all their travels and trials, the group became closer knit. A bond of friendship and trust was formed. They had all that was promised by Lawrence and his visions. Well known throughout all their homelands, they had avenged Nadalis’ people, helping to bring the survivors into the elven nation. Alystin had become not only a well known adventuress, but also had found her own faith and had earned her rank in the bladesinger wolf clan, as a divine bladesinger. Anteries was now rich and famous, and had also begun dabbling in the arcane. Kazeem had learned much, yet life is learning and so his journey was ongoing, and Kronc had become more than his mixed heritage, and was regarded as a hero, not a monster. They had all they wanted.
                Yet when Asmodean began bringing out his massed armies of undead out of Thallasia, the heroes never questioned that they would stand and help all the peoples of Eiridos against the evil. They formed the city of Sundale, Farthest west of the Dale lands and closest to the Thallasian armies. With magic, divine and arcane, and with the muscle and sweat of all the people who followed them to help, they built the Church of Pelor and the Aerie. Elvaris supplied them with winged mounts, giant eagles, owls and griffins, to transport them and help with reconnaissance. Sundale became a bastion of good against the armies of evil. Time and time again Asmodean wasted his armies upon the walls of Sundale; time and time again they were repulsed. Asmodean was forced finally to retreat to Thallasia, to regather his strength.
                During the growth of the Heroes, and their repulsion of Asmodean’s advances, others continued to work to aid the side of good. Most obvious and effective of these was the elves of Elvaris, particularly Freya Tauron and a few of the elven spellweavers. She, with the aid of her old companions Rourke Mithrilheart and Kylock Garon, continued research on the necromancer stone and anyway to destroy it. Enlisting many of the resources of the spellweavers, making contacts with the spellcrafters of Freeset, Mithril Anvil, Gnomish Isle and Keltesar, they found hints and riddles of an ancient device capable of destroying any magical artifact no matter how powerful. This ancient Rod, its original name now unknown, had been dismantled into seven pieces and spread throughout the worlds of the Thallesian System. Precise reasons for its dismantlement were unknown, yet hint that it allowed a single person power over magic in a massive area seemed conclusive as to the why. Even separated, each piece of the rod had powers of its own, and was too powerful to be destroyed. And so, they began searching for the location of each of the pieces of the Rod of Seven Parts.
                After the retreat of the dead armies, and the conclusion of the First Dead War, our heroes became known as “The Heroes of Sundale”. The first church of Pelor was founded by the head Priest, Sir Lawrence Olivia. The Rose Monastery was founded outside of town, where Kazeem retired to teaching the Wisdom he had learned. Kronc, seduced by offers of leadership and power, left Sundale after the victories and traveled south to Empire Estar, where he founded mercenary troupes to aid the Empire, Dale lands or Free Cities against undead. Nadalis and Alystin remained just outside of Sundale, in the Aerie, where they maintained an elven intelligence outpost, as well as kept the base of operations for the remaining Heroes of Sundale. Anteries moved into the city, where he founded the security of Sundale, as well as a secret police.
                And so it was, after 3 months of quiet, that Freya herself visited the Aerie and reported that Asmodean was once again rebuilding his armies, but that a way to stop him had been discovered. She entreated the Heroes of Sundale to reform to help to rebuild the Rod of Seven Parts. They sent out word immediately. Lawrence, Anteries and Kazeem returned to the Aerie, but Kronc sent only a message. That he was helping their cause, but in his own way, and would be unable to join them. Kazeem also decided against joining an extended away mission, claiming too many responsibilities with his young students, and the need for someone to remain near Sundale, should there be a need.
                So six was now four, and the four heroes dusted off their traveling gear, gathered up a few coins and sharpened their blades and their wits. Freya soon sent word with the possible location of one of the pieces of the Rod. It was rumored to be in the south of the continent of Eiridos. Somewhere in the Area of Bremen. Bremen was one of Zokara’s generals, an archmagus, and contended with Eiridos himself after Zokara’s fall. He was reputed to have had the claw of the Rod, somewhere near his old seat of power. This area now all swamp, a festering sore on the land filled with trolls and moors.
                Lawrence, Anteries, Alystin and Nadalis followed the rumors south to the city of Freeset, where they hired sages to help look for information. They then followed trails, stories and hints. They traveled through rough mountainous regions into the rural lands of Bremen, small farm communities with independence a primary trait. Through time they gained the trust of these small towns and villages, they championed causes and Lawrence’s charisma once again shone forth as people claimed the Heroes of Sundale as their own heroes as well. A couple of old adventurers eventually came out of the woodwork, and told tales of their own deeds in the area. One, a fallen priestess named Sather, offered information that lead to a cult of dragon and undead worship deep in the swamp. She and her companion, a witless, one-armed gentle giant of a warrior named Gunther, helped the heroes form a plan to travel into the swamps and discover if this was where the piece of the Rod now dwelled.
                Once again six, the companions traveled to an elven military outpost located deep in the swamps, headed by the elven warrior Jacob Trollfinger, the keep named Trollguard was a training ground for the elven military. During the travel, Sather slowly regained her faith under the guidance of Lawrence, and she became another disciple of Pelor. Yet Sather and Gunther were no longer in good enough health to handle the trials of combat and adventurous travel, so they stayed at Trollguard. Before continuing into the depths of the marsh, Lawrence performed a powerful healing magic on Gunther, which slowly began the regenerative growth of his lost arm.
                And so the Heroes, once again four, traveled south even deeper into the Bremen Marsh. Here they found the old seat of power of Bremen, now a city of arcane learning… for the dark of heart. Called the Necropolis, it sat on the tomb of Bremen himself. And so the Heroes began their greatest challenge, the Tomb of Bremen. Or, as they refer to it, the Tomb of Horrors.
                Anteries, of course, knew the darker sides of society. And so, he planned a deception to get the Heroes into the Tomb under the city. Such plans can never be perfect, but it was as close as was possible. The group not only managed to get into the tomb, but also gathered much information about the Necropolis, as well. It took several days to get in, and they were forced to kill one of the head necromancers of the city to gain entrance, but they managed. The tomb itself took them weeks to navigate. A constant series of death traps and beings from the darkest and most evil planes of existence.
                 That story would itself take hours to tell, so we cannot do it justice by glazing over it, yet we must to complete this story in a timely manner.
                They destroyed a coven of evil vampires, slayed Beard, the Brine dragon (an evil pairing of bronze and black dragon heritage), faced down a number of demons and finally made it to the resting place of Bremen. A resting place which was now the home of Bremen’s most powerful apprentice, Acererak. Acererak had long since been dead, and had converted himself into the forever undead form of a lich. His body long since decayed into dust, his will alone was powerful enough to enslave the demons and dragons which had plagued the Heroes. And so the now faced a being who was nearly godlike in power, and had at his disposal a piece of the Rod.
                The Heroes attacked hard and fast, looking to finish the battle against the powerful Acererak before he could raise his defenses. But the demi-lich was never without defenses. Nadalis released his mightiest magics, Anteries using his own arcane knowledge of necromancy to attempt to counter Acererak. Alystin and Lawrence called upon their deities to assist them against such evil. The lich responded with powerful evocations and life draining spells, magic of entrapments and magics to destroy the minds of his opponents. Nadalis and Alystin's spells were quickly used up, defending themselves. Alystin drew her mighty blades and began that artful dance of death known as the bladesong. Nadalis drew his great bow and unleashed arrow after magical arrow. Their power slamming into the near incorporeal Acererak. Anteries had moved in from behind and managed to get a hold of the skull of Acererak, hoping to finish the battle. As he raised it up to destroy Acererak though, the lich unleashed his mightiest magic, wresting the rogue’s soul from his body and entrapping it in a magical orb held by the claw of the Rod. Then the lich launched assault after assault at Lawrence, breaking through the protective magics that had saved the Heroes thus far. Becoming near desperate, Lawrence used his magic entreat Pelor for knowledge of how to defeat this vile being. He was granted a vision of an orb breaking. The very orb that Anteries’ soul had been sucked into. It was the Lich’s Phylactery, its tie to its body. Should the orb be broken, the lich would be destroyed. But at a horrid cost, for so would the soul of their companion be destroyed.
                As if in answer, the three heroes could see Anteries’ shadow, standing in the orb. His very soul, perhaps. In his eyes was courage and friendship, as he saluted his companions in farewell, entreating them to strike hard and true. The evil of Asmodean must end, he seemed to say, and I am willing to pay the price.
                And so Lawrence raised up his hammer, Alystin her blade, and they struck as one against the orb. As they struck an arrow slammed home as well, as Nadalis added his strength. In an explosion of crystal and magic, Acererak screamed in futility as his soul was finally claimed by the realm of the dead. Yet Lawrence, Alystin and Nadalis felt no victory, as tears shone upon all their cheeks and they raised their weapons in a salute to the sacrifice their companion, Anteries, had made.
            And while this was the end of the Heroes of Sundale, the three continued on as friends, and as a force to stand against Asmodean. So yes, it is an end, my friends. But, it is also a beginning…