The five hooded riders tore across the frigid, blasted landscape of the cold lands of Narfell. The sun rose high in the frigid winter sky bathing the frozen, treeless landscape in blinding, bright light. The riders’ breath froze in the frigid, biting winter air as the wind from the Great Glacier to the North ripped across the landscape sapping all warmth from whoever it touched.
The riders made no attempt to cover their tracks as their hellish, nightmare steeds left burning, blackened hoof prints across the frozen landscape. Their panicked flight was apparent as the lead rider continually screamed into the wind “Faster! Faster!” as he looked behind him with eyes brimming with fear.
“He will not catch us!” one of the hooded riders cried moments before a black-shafted elven arrow with bright red fletching slammed into his back and the razor-sharp four bladed arrowhead burst through his chest splattering his saddle in blood. The look of confusion faded as the rider’s lifeless eyes rolled up into his skull and he fell from his saddle onto the frozen earth bellow.
The wind tore the hood off the leading rider revealing a thin face with a black beard and two horns sprouting from his forehead. The rider clutched a leather satchel emblazoned with blasphemous runes tightly as he dared to look back once more at the group’s lone pursuer. As the leader turned his horned head, another rider fell from the saddle as yet another black-shafted elven arrow slammed into his skull and exiting his face in a crimson spray. The leader’s eyes grew huge as the form of an elf clad in garb of a ranger riding a massive stag loomed several hundred feet behind the group.
“Gabrion!” the leader screamed his voice thick with fear. “Fall back and deal with the elf, we must reach the camp!”
One of the remaining riders nodded then began to chant in an ancient, unholy tongue. Burning symbols that writhed in the air hung momentarily before fading as the rider stripped off his hooded cloak and flung it into the wind. The black cloak flew sinuously through the air, stretching and warping as it took on a life of its own. The cloak took on a quicksilver consistency as it tore itself into three undulating sections all streaking directly towards the group’s pursuer. As the tendrils drew closer, each of them manifested a massive, toothed maw that snapped open and closed.
The elf saw three sinuous, snake-like tendrils darting towards him and his mount. He leaned close and whispered a quick prayer that resulted in the horns of his great stag mount to glow with a soft silvery light. The elf then quickly shouldered his bow and drew his ancient, elven longswords and crouched in his saddle. The snake creatures darted forward and the elf launched himself from his saddle into the air. As the elven blades slashed forward, their razor sharp edges became coated in an enchanted rime frost and began to glow a soft cyan blue. The enchanted blades flashed in a blur of motion and three snake like shapes lay in pieces on the frozen ground, smoky mist emanating from their remains. The hooded caster screamed in pain and grabbed his ruined hand that was missing three fingers moments before the points of the stags antlers slammed into him and his nightmare mount. The divinely blessed antlers tore through the infernal flesh of the nightmare and shredded the limp form of its human rider. The nightmare dissipated back to it’s home plane as the rider’s body fell to the earth. The elf ran forward and examined the corpse. The man wore the mantle and trappings of a nefarious Nar Demonbinder and the amber necklace around his neck pulsed with an unholy radiance. The elf slammed the frost blades down and shattered the necklace. As the amber exploded, a piercing scream cut through the air and then was quickly cut short. The runes on the smoldering ruin of the necklace pulsed once before fading into nothing.
The elf sheathed his frost blades and mounted the stag pursue the rest of the Demonbinders. He had slain eleven of the thirteen riders after they had snuck into the hold of the Nentyarch and stolen something from the depths of the temple. The ranger knew not what was taken but only that the Demonbinders had ransacked the temple and left a host of powerful artefacts behind in pursuit of their prize. The elf kicked the flanks of the stag and they took off once again following the trail of burned hooves in the frozen earth.
The two remaining Nar Demonbinders watched the death of their companion impassively through their amber medallions as the nightmares continued to tear across the frozen landscape at break neck speeds. The leader closed his eyes for a moment then reached into his robes and pulled out a golden disc the size of his palm inset with a blood-red ruby. He thrust it at his companion and shouted “Take it and unleash the rite of summoning using this seal. It will deal with the elf once and for all.”
The other rider glanced down at the inscription on the seal and shouted back “Are you sure my lord? It may come after us once the elf has perished.”
“Yes, we have no choice. Our lives are forfeit if I don’t get this to the Chosen.”
The rider nodded and wheeled his nightmare around and began chanting in a deep, growling voice. A massive summoning circle burned itself into the ground around the chanting rider, the sigils burning and twisting with an eerie red light. As the rider chanted the infernal rite, his companion rode off quickly not bothering to look back. The summoner held the golden disc high into the air and his voice took on a hard edge as both his hands gripped either side of the disc.
An arrow flashed by the summoner’s face as the final words of the incantation were muttered and an eerie silence filled the area. A moment later the sound of ripping cloth echoed across the landscape as a massive tear was rent in the air before the summoner. Within the tear a hellish landscape could be seen as a huge shape burst through the rift, flames exploding around it as it slammed into the earth. As the huge form slammed into the earth, shards of frozen tundra exploded into the air as the creature sprang into action leaving behind a smoldering crater in its wake.
“Destroy him!” the summoner cried and the creature raised its massive, horned head and let loose a bone shattering roar as its massive head looked around in search of its prey. The creature’s hulking frame loomed over three stories tall as a massive pair of horns like that of a bull sprang from its head. Blood red eyes that glowed with a fiery malevolence focused on the form of the ranger as its mouth formed into a nightmarish smile revealing razor sharp teeth that dripped burning saliva. The creature resembled a massive demonic Minotaur. Massive, clawed hands tore great chunks from the earth as the creature lowered its head and bounded forward, its hooved feet gnashing and rending the ground.
The elf had slowed up his mount when the summoner had begun to chant in order to get a clear shot but he had been unable to disrupt the ritual as his arrow was off the mark. The elf had stared in disbelief as the huge rent between worlds had opened before him and the huge, hulking form of some extradimensional terror had burst forth. As the darkness fell from the creature’s huge form the elf wracked his mind to remember what exact hellish terror he faced. Time stood still as the creature slammed into the earth from the rift, reality distorting as two planes of existence had their borders torn open to permit the summoning. The world slammed back into motion as the summoner screamed his command and the massive hell-bull exploded into motion.
As the huge demonic bull creature lowered its head the recognition flickered in the ranger’s mind. “Goristro” he whispered as tales of these massive Minotaur like demons ravaging Myth Drannor and Cormanthor during the Crown Wars filled his mind. The demon was shortening the gap between itself and the ranger at an alarming rate so the ranger kicked his mount into motion. In one fluid motion the ranger reached back and drew forth an arrow inscribed with celestial runes that glowed brightly as he knocked it in his War Bow of Hellish Fury. The ranger loosed the enchanted arrow and the bow’s magic encased the arrow in magical hellfire as it left the cradle. The runes on the arrow glowed brightly and the red hellfire turned into a bright blue coldfire as it streaked towards the demon. The coldfire arrow slammed into the demon’s eye and exploded, encasing the demon’s eye and half its skull in rimefrost. The demon roared in pain and crashed into the frozen tundra sending tremors in all directions. The elf spun his mount around and drew his twin enchanted frost blades from their sheaths. As the elf closed the distance between him and the demon, the enchanted elven frost blades began to glow brightly until they were almost blinding in intensity.
One of the frost blades slashed forwards scoring a deep slash in the Goristro’s arm as the ranger and his stag ran past. The wound spurted black blood until the rimefrost formed along the edges of the wound. Roaring in pain, the Goristro slammed its clawed fists into the earth sending a huge tremor in all directions. The stag faltered and threw the elf from its saddle. The elf landed hard on his shoulder but managed to roll and get to his feet almost instantly. Pain erupted from his shoulder yet he gripped the longsword tighter.
The demon looked at the ranger and barked a phrase in the language of the lower planes. A wall of flame sprang into existence and encircled the ranger and the demon. A deep, bellowing laugh erupted from the fanged maw of the demon as it rose to its feet and towered over the ranger. The ranger straightened and held both his longswords before him, their cyan glow encompassing the entire length of both blades. As the demon raised its clawed hand to smash the ranger, the ranger lunged forward slashing both blades across the creature’s left. In a flurry of moment the ranger danced between the Goristro’s legs slashing and wounding the massive demon wrecking engine. The demon slammed a hand down only to have the ranger dodge at the last moment and cross his blades overhead sending a blast of icy rime frost into the demon’s face. Howling in pain the Goristro went berserk and lashed out blindly trying to catch the accursed elf. The elf dodged to the right and left, avoiding being pulped several times as the creature’s massive fists demolished the earth around him and sent bursts of flame as its hooves crashed down. The enchanted blades kept the demonic flames from harming the elf and with every cut the blades power began to grow in intensity.
The elf slipped over the broken earth as the demon finally landed a strike. The demon’s claw tore a rent in the elf’s armor and crimson blood sprayed across the shattered landscape. The elf was hurled several feet into the air and crashed hard near the edge of the wall of flames. The elf looked down and saw the gash in his side and one of his frost blades on the other side of the demon. Getting unsteadily to his feet, the elf gripped his remaining longsword tightly and met the gaze of the Goristro before him. A red, pupil less orb met his gaze and the elf smiled. The demon took the bait and lunged forward seeking to crush the annoying elf beneath its towering bulk. The elf slid at the last moment and went beneath the demon’s legs and lunged for his other frost blade. As the fingers of his left hand closed around the hilt the blade flashed into life and the ranger hefted both eldritch blades high into the air and slammed them down into the earth before him. A brilliant light flashed as both blades send a cone of ice slamming into the hunched form of the Goristro demon. Within seconds the towering form of the demon was encased in magical ice as the ranger sprinted into action. Running up the back of the frozen demon the ranger shouted “Back to the darkness from which came ye demon!” and slashed his blades through the demon’s neck. Enchanted elven steel met demonic flesh and parted the demon’s head from its shoulders. The elf jumped from the demons body as the wall of flames dissipated and the creature’s form crashed to the earth then slowly began to melt into shadow, banished to the abyss for 100 years.
As the demonic form melted away, a scream of terror ripped through the air. A huge clawed hand reached through the portal towards the summoner. The demonbinder wail of terror was cut short as the clawed hand pulped him into a gory red mass and dragged him through the closing rift between worlds. As the portal closed the golden disc exploded leaving a smoldering hole in the ground in its wake.
As the thrill of battle dissipated the ranger’s side sent waves of pain through his body as he stumbled to the ground. He reached into a pouch and withdrew a golden elixir and a needle and thread. He drank the potion and most of the bleeding ceased as the magical elixir healed his body but it still left a long gash in his side. The ranger gritted his teeth as he sewed the wound shut and then bandaged himself before climbing on top of his mount once again and renewing the hunt. The ranger’s gaze looked to the north and the trail of burning hoofprints stretched well beyond the horizon. Frowning, the ranger looked far to the east, his gaze finally falling upon a small tor with a ring of stones a top it. He smiled as he kicked the stag towards the tor.
The horned Demonbinder looked on in disbelief as the image of the ranger carving up a legendary Goristro faded from his amber talisman.
“How is this possible? It is a single elf!” the Demonbinder thought as his nightmare steed churned the earth beneath him.
Miles melted beneath the nightmare’s hooves and the Demonbinder began to think he had finally lost the accursed ranger. The Demonbinder took a deep breath when an arrow slammed into his shoulder knocking him off his mount and crashing to the ground. Pain blazed from the wound in his shoulder as the broken shaft of the arrow had lodged itself in the bone. The Demonbinder swooned before steading himself and looking around. A single, solitary form stood up from behind a small hill a bow held in his arms.
“How did you get in front of me?!” screamed the Demonbinder clutching at the shattered arrow shaft in his shoulder.
The elf smiled and remarked “You travel across this land but you do not know it, the Great Dale has waystones and menhirs all over the ancient land. Transportation is simple if one knows the path.” The elf then shouldered his longbow and drew both of his blades and walked purposely towards the Demonbinder. “Now I believe you took something that does not belong to you Demonbinder. I aim to take it back now.”
The Demonbinder surged to his feet and hurled bolts of black energy at the elf. The elf casually deflected them with his blades as he continued his approach. The Demonbinder screamed an incantation and a pillar of flame slammed down on the ranger. The Demonbinder howled in triumph until the elven form casually walked from the pillar of flame, small wisps of smoke trailing from his clothes. Before the Demonbinder could cast another spell the elf had surged forward, his quicksilver agility closing the distance in seconds and he slammed both sword pommels into the face of the Demonbinder knocking him to the ground. The Demonbinder tried to scramble away until the ranger’s frigid blades rested against his throat.
“As I said before Demonbinder, you have something that doesn’t belong to you. Hand it over before we have to resort to unpleasant means of coercion” the elf said.
The Demonbinder reached over and slowly pushed the runed satchel towards the ranger. The elf looked down at the satchel and the look of annoyance crossed his face. “Do you actually think I’m going to open that satchel myself? I recognize a sorcerous trap when I see one. Would you care to go through the rest of your miserable life with only one hand?”
A look of panic crossed the Demonbinder’s face as his ruse was discovered; he slowly reached into his pocket and withdrew a purple crystal that he placed on top of the locking mechanism on the satchel. He then opened the satchel and dumped out the contents of it upon the ground. A onyx chased spellbook with bindings made from what appeared to be flesh tumbled to the ground along with various rings and coins and finally a package wrapped in an aged shroud that seemed to hum with power. As the ranger’s gaze was drawn to the shrouded item, the Demonbinder kicked at his feet knocking the elf to the ground. The wizard then scrambled away and hurled one of his rings to the ground as he shouted a single eldritch command. Dozens of skeletal hands burst from the ground grasping at the elf as skeletal warriors clawed their way out of the frozen tundra. The elf scrambled to his feet, the fall had opened the wound in his side and every breath was painful. Within moments the elf was surrounded by dozens of skeletal warriors converging on him and the shrouded item on the ground before him. The elf looked down to see his side drenched in blood and he barely parried the lunge from one of the skeletal warriors. The elf fought back, his twin blades cutting a swath of destruction through the ranks of skeletal warriors. His blades became a blur as they cut their way through leather, metal and bone. The elf looked up to see the Demonbinder floating several feet above the ground and in the middle of casting another spell. Before he could disrupt the wizard however a skeletal mace crashed into his side knocking him to the earth. His world exploded in agony as he felt several ribs break under the crunching impact and his sword skittered from his grasp along the ground. The Demonbinder completed summoning his spell and two rents opened in the air as two huge, hulking forms stepped through the rifts grinning. One of the demons was a huge dogheaded creature sporting two massive arms ending in crab like pinchers and two smaller human ones wielding axe. The other demon was a huge insect like creature wielding a wicked glaive encased in ice. Both creatures stalked over towards the elf flanking him on either side. The Demonbinder’s howls of laughter echoed across the landscape as he prepared to watch the elf meet his doom.
Seeing the demons flanking his position, the elf reached out to grab his blade when his hand instead grasped the shrouded artefact on the ground. The elf’s fingers closed around a piece of a white shattered rod and suddenly the artefact blazed into life. Brilliant white light emanated in waves from the rod and the elf slowly floated to his feet, the gash in his side closing and surges of power coursed through his frame. The song of the wind blew through the air filling his ears with their hymn, and the elf raised his hand and sent forth a burst of power. The skeletal warriors were blown apart and the knocking the demons to the ground. The elf then turned to the demons and said “BEGONE!” and the two demons were turned to ash in seconds as the elf then turned to the Demonbinder floating in the air. “Now you shall know what power you sought to steal foolish wizard” the elf said his voice booming like thunder. A moment later arcs of lightning shot forth from the ends of the broken rod and engulfed the Demonbinder. As the wizard’s body was turned to ash a voice from his amber amulet screamed “No!!!!” The clearing grew silent and the elf lowered his arm as the light slowly died away and he fell to the earth unconscious.
The elf awoke hours later, the shattered piece of rod laying inches from his grasp. He rubbed his eyes and looked around him, in a circle splaying outwards were shattered skeletal remains of the warriors that had attacked him. He felt his side to find no wound there but there a tingling sensation on his shoulder. He stripped off his armor and saw emblazoned upon his flesh a sigil that matched one of the runes upon the rod he had grasped. He donned his armor and retrieved his blades before reaching down and grasping the rod within its shroud. He held the rod in his hands; he could still hear the song of the wind in his ears. He brushed the tip of his finger across the rune on the rod and a series of images flashed into his mind. The image of great antlered giant standing beneath a shattered moon within a great forest appeared before him only to melt into a battle scene where the ranger saw himself battling alongside his cousin, a half-orc mounted upon a hellhound and a hulking horned troll wielding a humming black blade. The four were battling demons, elementals, devils and other humans in a great war. The scene of battle shifted to that of a great black metal-plated ship sporting sails emblazoned with the symbol of Valkur then as the vision drew close the scene melted away to that of darkness and death. A dark elf wearing armor that was fused to his frame wielding a broken blade stood above thousands upon thousands of demons, devils and other denizens of darkness. As the vision drew closer the dark elf turned and it felt like the dark elf was looking right at the ranger through the vision. Death and madness screamed through the ranger’s mind as the vision abruptly ended and he snapped back into the present. The ranger’s finger hovered over the rod once more then he shook his head and placed the shrouded artefact into his satchel and called for his stag to return to Dun Tharos.
The ranger returned to the Nentyarch and tried to return the stolen artefact to the temple’s vault. The Nentyarch shook his head and told him that now that has activated the rod then the others shall begin to call one another. The Nentyarch informed him to journey to Bartertown off the Sea of Fallen Stars and present this letter and the piece of the rod to the leader of the Valkurian Blades. The ranger nodded and took the letter from the Nentyarch and said “as you wish my lord”. The Nentyarch then nodded to one of his guardians and they opened a silvery moonwell to the Sea of Fallen Stars. The ranger bowed once again and entered the moonwell and appeared before the gates of Bartertown. The ranger strode through the town, the humidity making his clothes stick to his skin in an uncomfortable fashion. His blue eyes caught sight of the black-plated ship from his vision and he strode towards it on the docks. Before the ramp to board the ship stood a great green skinned centaur sporting a rack of antlers and a massive spear.
“State thy name and business” the horned guardian boomed.
The elf paused a moment and then smiled, “I’m looking for the leader of the Valkurian Blades, the name is Cyre Tahl’Veras the Huntsman of Ashen Lorenthal.”
Thus began the adventures of the Storm Wardens of Ashen Lorenthal and the Valkurian Blades.
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