There are times in a man's life you know, when you want to weep in awe at what you are privledged to see. Then there are times in a man's life, when he just wants to cower under a rock in a dark corner and never have to see what he has witnessed.
These both came to me recently, courtesy of the Great Binder himself. The world is troubled, plagued by a coming threat that is terrifying in scope and mystery. It isn't the first time that He has come either; once before He was nearly victorious and turned back only by the meagerest of margins.
The Gods cannot step in this time as they did before. It comes down to today's heroes to rise to the occassion and the defense of our world. But the Binder was able to impart this knowledge unto me, as a loyal worshipper. Knowledge is his domain, and stories are mine. But this one, I think, requires no embellishment.
As I was shown.....
Koldaren stood amidst his field in the valley of the Alterian mountains (somewhere East of what would become Waterdeep) busily harvesting wheat. It was a cloudy day and thunderstorms had been threatening to overtake the valley all week, but the tall peaks had broken the cloud banks each day. He was contemplating the cooler temperature that morning when suddenly he heard a thunderous blast. Koldaren looked up in the direction of Mount Skelenak, the tallest peak in the Alterian range and observed a massive bank of nearly pitch black clouds descending over the mountain. The great temple there was normally visible for miles around, and from Koldarens vantage point he could see a gathering of hundreds of followers lined up like rows of ants surrounding the temple's base. As the miles-high bank of clouds rolled in, the temple quickly became obscured from sight. Leaning on his scythe, Koldaren watched out of curiosity to the ominous black clouds covered over half of the mountain.
His curiosity quickly turned to fear though when many thunderous bangs followed by a tremor knocked him off his feet. Discarding any encumbrances, Koldaren stood and began running towards home. He had good reason to be afraid, as a cataclysmic struggle was unfolding at the mountain's temple. "The Great One' as he was known by his followers had been a source of disdain for the region's population. It was rumored that the Great One was responsible for the crop failures and immoderate weather that had plagued the region's populace in recent years. His followers, who had long predicted the end of the world was at hand, were largely ignored and frown upon. A cold chill ran up Koldaren's spine as the realization set in that their long held prophecy might be at hand. He quickened his pace for the field to be with his wife and children if the end was truly at hand, but was again knocked off his feet by an even larger tremor.
He turned back towards the mountain which was now completely obscured, and froze in terror. The great black cloud had centered on the mountain, and was now emitting massive bolts of lightning that arced from clouded ground only hundreds of yards away. Each clap of thunder shook him terribly, and hail began to spatter the ground all around him. He contemplated getting up, but the thought was a fleeting one as another quake shook the ground. Another sound assaulted Koldaren's already strained ears from behind. As he turned and looked into the western sky, what he saw there filled him with terror and awe..
A massive army of golden chariots led by dragons roared out of the West towards Mount Skelenak. The chariots were filled with thousands of warriors dressed in an ornate plate mail armor and brandishing glowing magical weapons that were drawn and ready for battle. The dragon's scales reflected light in every direction as their huge wings flapped, creating the illusion of a giant rainbow that stretched from north to south across the sky. In their wake the chariots left a plume of fire and smoke that stretched back as far as the eye could see. The sound that this great army made as its streaked overhead drowned out everything else, the battle cries of the mounted warriors filled with fury.
As the mounted army approached mount Skelenak, the black clouds responded as if they had a life of their own by forming into a giant wedge. Tremendous bolts of lightning struck out of the cloud at the mounted army, turning many of the chariots and their dragon hosts into smoldering meteorites that streaked toward the ground. Koldaren watched in horror as one chariot crashed into his field nearby, killing its occupants and setting his wheat ablaze. He looked back up just in time to see the Army plunge headfirst into the cloud, and the battle was joined. The ground shivered and the roar intensified so greatly that Koldaren's ears buckled and bled under the strain.
Inside the cloud all was Chaos.
The screams of the dying, the crash of lightning, the glow of magic, and the roars of the dragons mixed together in a great symphony of battle. This was unlike any Army that stood before or since, comprised of Heros and Avatars, Humans and Ogres, Drow and Grey. Literally every race on Toril could be found in its ranks. The dragons, of every metallic or chromatic origin, swooped in on the Vile One's temple to bathing it in successive breath weapons of every kind. On each pass, a few more were struck down by powerful bolts of lightning from the black clouds above.
Most of the chariots charged upon the temple, dismounting their warriors to meet the Army of the Vile One. A great melee began, as brutal and savage as any in known history.
Arex the Great, a heroic captain risen from simple farmer, lead the great army atop his elder blue dragon Kaldam'Zorlentharius. From his vantage point above the battle, his warriors were slaying the Vile One's followers in scores, clearly a one-sided victory. Filled with the joy of melee, he raced down overtop of the battle towards the temple - a massive granite structure hundreds of feet tall and magically reinforced. As he passed it, his mount unleashed a terrifying bolt of bluish-white lightning that was every bit as devastating as those the Vile One was throwing at them. The temple shook from the blast, one of its support columns exploding upon impact of Kaldam'Zorlentharius' lightning. It knocked more than a hundred combatants on the ground. Within minutes, nearly all of the Vile One's followers lay dead, a macabre scene with their blood flowing in streams down the side of the mountain. Even the dark clouds, which had fallen scores of his dragons and warriors, began to thin. Victory seemed all but assured.
Until the mountain itself, began to move.
As if animated by some incredibly powerful force, Mt. Skelenak itself - the entire mountain - began to quiver and shake. The entire battle stopped cold as everyone was knocked from their feet, and Arex could only watch in horror as thousands of earth elementals rose up from the ground. From the air, Arex saw the mountain itself shrink in size as a significant portion of its mass fueled the rise of the elementals. No sooner did Arex order the attack, than the elementals joined the fray. Any single earth elemental was dangerous. Thousands of them in concert were unfathomable. The mountain had been a trap, and Arex suddenly found himself outnumbered five to one. Arex's army fought desperately against this new threat. The battle was fierce, with chunks of stone spattered with blood falling like an avalanche down the mountain.
The dragons too faced a new enemy, for from the black clouds descended a thousand giant air elementals. Lightning and thunder roared around the dragons as the elements tore at their wings, knocked riders into death-falls, and turned the air above the mountain into a hurricane. Despite loosing many of their kind, the noble dragons did not falter, blasting as many of the airy beasts as their magic could summon. But the distraction denied the ground troops their air support, and even though 10 elements fell to each Hero, Arex's ranks became dangerous thin. It seemed now that the tide had turned, and that the Vile One would indeed succeed in his unthinkable plan.
Koldaren still lay in his wheat field, struck in awe of the battle that he could now see through the waning clouds. He could not fathom why the ground moved so much, or why the dragons fell out of the sky to unseen foes. He did not know who was good or bad, and was solidly convinced that he alone was witnessing the final battle for the world. He was able to stand now, which was good as a wall of burning wheat fast approached him. He turned and ran across the other side and jumped a stream at the field's edge.
No sooner did he reach safety and turn to watch the battle, the world erupted in fire.
A gigantic explosion ripped across the sky as the top of Mt. Skelenak literally exploded, erupting into a giant volcano. The temple, the warriors, and the moving ground vanished in an instant as the mountain came apart. The explosion sent a giant plume of flaming debris and ash hurtling outward at incredible speed, consuming the black cloud and everything above it. The dragons were incinerated by the cloud just as rivers of lava began pouring down the face of the mountain. Rocks and debris began falling all around Koldaren, and the clouds of ash were racing down the valley at incredible speeds. Terror again gripped his soul as he turned and raced towards home as fast as he could.
At the center of the inferno in the Volcano's crater, with flaming clouds of ash and rivers of lava flowing outward, stood the Vile One. He hovered over the lava in temperatures that would incinerate any living being, laughing hideously at the events that had just unfolded. Both armies lay in ruin hardly a survivor in sight. His temple was gone, but victory over the world seemed assured.
His celebration was pre-mature.
As he stood there laughing at the slaughter of the world's greatest Hero's, he failed to notice the gathering energies around him. When we finally sensed something was awry, a magical arrow of pure energy nailed him in the chest, knocking him backwards into lava. He stood up in pain, prepared to face and destroy whatever adversary might still be alive, but this time it was his turn to fear. As he willed the clouds of ash to clear, he stood surrounded by Twelve of the pantheon’s most powerful Gods. They stood in a ring around him, each chanting words of arcane power far beyond what any mortal could imagine.
The Twelve simultaneously unleashed their fury upon him. Like spokes of a wheel, their bursts of energy struck the Vile One at it's nucleus from all sides. The skin ripped from his body, his arms and legs were torn apart or dissolved, and his hair turned to fire. Summoning all his remaining strength through the intense waves of agony, he tried to fight back. He called forth god-like healing and erected a magical wall around him in a vain attempt to stop them. But it was no use, he was clearly out-matched, he had struck down the world's Hero's and the pantheon had responded in force. They struck at him again and again, wearing down his magic and finally exhausting it. With a final great blast of energy, the Vile One's body was utterly destroyed.
But his torment had only begun..
As his essence attempted to flee back to his native plane of existence, they stopped him. Calling forth a great magical cage, the twelve imprisoned his essence inside. The Vile One screamed, "Noooooooooooooooooooooo!' in a thunderous roar that echoed across the entire face of Toril. Using their most powerful magic, the pantheon imprisoned and banished the Vile One for so long as the world turned, hurling his cage in astral space, forever lost.
In the valley below, Koldaren had heard the great cry of the Vile One as he held his family close in his arms. They collectively shivered as smoldering lava bombs continued to fall around them, praying to the gods that none hit their house. After more than a day held together, none had struck their home. They praised the gods for saving them, and Koldaren reluctantly let his wife and children go to see what had happened.
When Koldaren stepped through his door, the world had changed. The green was gone, replaced by black and gray. His wheat fields were covered in a foot-thick blanket of ash, and he found it difficult to recognize landmarks. It was as if the entire world had burned down. The air was caustic, and the ground so hot that it burned his feet. Tears streamed from his ash-choked eyes as he looked up towards Mt. Skelenak.
The mountain had been almost totally destroyed in the battle, at least half of its height now replaced by a gigantic volcanic crater. Plumes of smoke rose from it, but the lava flows had thankfully stopped and dried, though they still smoldered. It looked nothing like he remembered, the entire countryside had changed. All traces of the battle seemed erased by the volcano, which had dumped millions of tons of ash over everything. He walked through his once lush field, lost in a daze.
Then something moved beneath the ash. A mound which he had thought to be a rock, choked and rolled over. It was a man, dressed in what might have once been beautiful armor. He was blackened, his hair was burned away, his right arm gone and both legs seemed crushed. Blood oozed from the side of his mouth as the struggled onto all fours. Koldaren rushed over to him and helped him sit up. The warrior stared blankly into Koldaren's eyes, and it was clear to Koldaren that he was going to die. He felt sorry for this warrior, as it had become clear that the army of dragons had come to save the world. Brushing some of the ash from his face, Koldaren asked the man, 'What happened here?'
Arex the Great stared back into Koldaren eyes, and a tear rolled down his cheek. He tried to smile, but the facial muscles no longer responded to his will, and the best he could manage was half-sided grin. Arex looked into Koldaren's eyes, and said, 'Wha.. We died.. So that you could.. " He started to faint but Koldaren shook him back to consciousness. "So that what, hero?' With his last breath air and will of strength, Arex said, 'We died so that you could live.. Remember…"
And with that, the last warrior of the Army of Toril died. A ray of sunlight broke the clouds, and Koldaren looked upwards to face its refreshing gaze. He cried uncontrollably, cradling the fallen hero in his arms to the mournful call of the surviving great Dragons as they departed.
From within the secluded halls of the Moon temple nearby, a pair of golden eyes glittered intensely. “What once was, must not come to be. It must not come to be,” she hissed to herself, touching her star-shrouded holy symbol.
The above story was originally written by Miax and edited by RP-Quest for the current RP Quest campaign. This campaign is drawing to a conclusion and this provides the backstory.
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