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The Shadow of Selain


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#1 bkc56

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Posted 06 March 2006 - 06:05 AM

This is the back-story that goes with The Shadow of Selain contest. You should read all five parts prior to the actual contest. One part will be posted each day this week (Monday through Friday).

Chapter 1
The teller of stories.


Greetings. My name? My name is not important. I am but a merchant. A dealer in tales, stories, and news. I travel the lands acquiring interesting tales and information and sharing what I have with those who are interested. It may be a heroic tale of adventure told in a crowded tavern on a Saturday night. Perhaps a tale of youth and love told to families at a town festival on a summer's day. Perhaps news of distant military activities told to a town council at a monthly meeting. I enjoy the travels, the people, and the telling. It is the life I have selected for myself.

But there is another side which I dread. At times my tales are to bring warnings. Sometimes I must raise the alarm about something that is coming. To tell people to prepare while there is still time, or, to flee if time has run out. There are times when my travels and tellings are the only things that separate the unaware from certain destruction.

This may be one of those times.

There is a gathering shadow. A thing, not yet known, but no longer able to be ignored. This is not the simple wrath of an angry god whom we might pray to and turn aside. This is deeper, darker, and more menacing than that. There are stories of terrible events that have taken place in distant lands. So terrible, and so distant that all decent folk dismiss them as simple tales told to frighten young children. But the tales continue. And the lands are not as distant as they were before. And it's no longer just the children who are frightened.

And it is not my intent to frighten you either. For fear will not protect you from what is coming. I bring a warning. A call to prepare yourselves and your families. An alert that you might save your lands and loved ones from the shadow that is drawing ever nearer. But all must hear this. So spread the word. Gather your leaders, your warriors, your skilled craftsmen. I shall return tomorrow and share the tales as I have learned them. It will then be up to you to decide what to do.

So until the morrow, farewell.

#2 bkc56

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Posted 07 March 2006 - 07:00 AM

Chapter 2
A shadow on the land


Greetings, and welcome back. I am glad so many of you have come to hear what I have to say. I am not glad to say it, but it must be said. You may want to send your younger children off to play as what I have to say may not be for all ears.

About three weeks ago I was on my normal travels. I stopped by a temple to seek shelter for the night, and perhaps some food in exchange for a tale or two of events happening far from the temple walls. While there I met a man being tended to by the priests. He claimed to be the sole survivor of a small town located some distance away. He was horribly injured with deep wounds on his body and his left arm missing just below the elbow. The priests were amazed that he had survived his wounds. But their faces betrayed their true thoughts on his condition. This is his story.

His name was Rolltof. He was a farmer who lived just outside a small town. He, his wife and two children had a pleasant life raising their crops for sale in the town. They were not rich, but they had enough and were happy.

Two nights prior he was asleep in bed with his wife. He never heard a warning cry or anything, but suddenly found himself on the ground under an overturned bed with the ceiling and wall collapsed all around him. He called for his wife but heard nothing. He heard one of his children cry out, but the cry was cut short. There was only one explanation for a cry cut off mid-breath like that. He struggled to free himself from the rubble. He heard noises all around him - heavy breathing and growls. His first thought was that a pack of wolves had attacked, but surely that would not have destroyed the house.

As he freed himself from the rubble, something suddenly grabbed his left arm. It was not like a hand or even a jaw with teeth. It was hard like dried leather, and sharp like many knives. He felt something warm on his arm and smelled that unmistakable smell. He was bleeding. And suddenly he was on the ground being dragged. The rubble of the house was scraping and cutting his skin as he was dragged along. Then he stopped as his body became wedged between what was left of a wall and the broken pieces of rubble and furniture that was once his home. His arm was yanked twice with such force that he was sure it would be pulled off. Then the grip on his arm tightened. His mind clouded over with pain, and the last thing he remembered was the sound of the bones in his arm breaking and crushing under the pressure.

He awoke at dawn, battered and bleeding. His arm was gone where it had been grabbed the night before. His house was but rubble, and the town was also destroyed with scattered fires burning. There was no one moving about, and no sign of any injured or dead. The town was gone, as was his family. He remembered the temple located a couple miles away, so he pulled his way from the rubble and began to make his way towards it. He was in great pain, weak, and moving very slowly. It took him most of the day to get there, but when he arrived the priests quickly began to tend to him. Surely without their help he would have died that day.

And here he had been for the last two days, until I arrived.

While I did get some food, I did not get my night's shelter. The story he told upset me so that I could not remain there. I had to move on and find a place that seemed safer. So after thanking the priests for their kindness and asking directions to the next town, I headed out into the night. The priests lit a lamp in the tower which they said would be visible until I could see the lights of the next town. It would serve as a reference behind me so I did not stray from the path.

As I began to walk I could sense something was not right. The night was quiet, no sounds of animals or insects. The night was dark, but I was sure there was a half moon out when I had arrived at the temple. No stars were visible but I know the day had been clear earlier. I quickened my pace. This was not a place I wished to linger in.

I had been walking about an hour and could still just see the lamp in the tower of the temple. I was still going the correct way and would be able to see the town in just a few more minutes. And then it happened. How to explain what I experienced. It was the dark of a moonless, starless night and yet a shadow of darkness moved across the land. A darkness you could feel, like when a heavy fog blankets the ground. But there was no fog for I could still see the tower light. And then I heard it. Terrible noises distorted by distance, faintly carried on the wind. Sounds that turned me cold. And then it was moving. The light in the tower was moving in a slow arc as if the tower were falling on its side. And then it was gone. The light was out. And in that instant, all those childhood fears of the dark, long hidden by the reason of adulthood, came back in a terrible flood. I turned and ran. It wasn't long until I did see the lights of the next town, and not much longer until I was among its buildings. Slowing, I found an open tavern and went inside.

The shadow was gone. It was light, and warm, and the sound of men drinking and talking filled the air. The last few minutes seemed like a dream. Should I tell those gathered of what I saw? But what did I see? I had nothing to show of the events, save perhaps a pair of still trembling hands. I chose to remain silent. I picked a table in the corner and spent the night deep in my thoughts.

The next day the events seemed even more unreal. It was warm and sunny and the sounds of a vibrant town were all around me. But I could not shake the feelings, even now standing in the warm sun. So I turned and headed out of town to continue my journey. But as I was nearing the edge of town I heard a commotion back by the inn. Someone had just ridden into town. Broken words, bits of sentences, I couldn't hear it all from this distance. Something of the temple. Walls destroyed. No sign of the priests. Some other things I couldn't make out. It was too much for me. I did not have the strength to go back and find out the truth. I turned and continued on my way.

Fantastic? Unbelievable? Perhaps. But I plead with you to not ignore this. Do not dismiss me as a lunatic or simply someone who is after attention. It's not that your insults will hurt me, I don't care. But if you do not heed my warnings then you may not survive the coming week. A warning ignored is a chance for life cast away.

There is more to share, but I am tired now. The telling is not easy, and I must rest. Return tomorrow and I shall share more of this with you.

#3 bkc56

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Posted 08 March 2006 - 06:43 AM

Chapter 3
Preparations


Hello again. Allow me to continue the story of my travels and the threat that is close behind me.

After the incident at the temple and at the town the next day, I continued on my path towards the mountains. I was now very interested in getting as far away from this area as I could. It was several days journey to the pass, and I intentionally kept to the back roads and by-passed any towns or villages I came upon. I did stop at a couple farms to pick up some food but I was getting low on gold coins so I needed to push on. I'd started before dawn, and walked until it got to dark to continue safely. A few hours of fitful sleep wherever I could find, interrupted with bad dreams, and I was on my way again.

My travels for the next few days were uneventful, almost pleasant. Time spent by yourself in nature is always restful. But I could never fully shake the feeling that there was something behind me, getting ever closer. Something, that if it were to catch up, would be worse than the new stories I now carried with me. I started getting up just a bit earlier, and walking just a bit later each day.

It was a bit more than a week later that I reached the foothills and began the climb to the pass. It wasn't a high pass, but it was above the tree line so I knew I'd have a good view of the countryside once I reached it. It was mid afternoon by the time I reached the tree line and I was concerned if I'd have time to get over the pass and down the other side before nightfall. I did not want to spend the night up there, so I was thinking about returning to the trees for the night and starting fresh in the morning. As I turned to consider my options my eyes scanned the countryside behind me from this new vantage point.

I froze. My breath caught in my throat, and I could feel the pulse of my racing heartbeat. I don't know how long I stood there transfixed by what I saw.

As I looked over the countryside I saw several columns of black smoke. These were not little wisps that might come from the blacksmith's forge, or from cooking fires in the taverns and homes. I'd seen this type of smoke before. This is the smoke you see after a battle has completely destroyed a town and left it a burning ruin. This is the smoke of total destruction, and of death.

I studied the positions of the smoke. That one over there. That's the town I spent the night in after the temple. Off to the left, that's probably Rolltof's village. It's about the right direction and distance. This one here a bit closer, that's close to the farm where I got food four days ago. And there were several other columns of smoke that were not from places I recognized from my travels. And other towns to the left or right of my path.

There was an army moving through this land. It was destructive and deadly. It appeared to be unstoppable, at least by the limited fighters available in these villages. And I don't believe it's any of the races that inhabit this land.

And then I realized, it seemed to be heading in the same direction as the pass I was about to cross.

I didn't care any more. I had to get over the pass that very night. Something was going on, and I had to spread a warning. They may not believe me. There may be nothing they can do. But I had to try. This terror was traveling faster than any sort of warning could be sent. This meant that each new village was completely unaware that anything was coming until it was too late. They didn't even have enough warning so they could flee. They were dying in their sleep, just like Rolltof's family.

And I seemed to be the only one going in this direction that new something was coming.

I walked all night. Sometimes I ran. I was so tired, but I couldn't stop. By morning I was down the other side and back below the tree line. I stopped at a stream for a short rest, then continued. No longer sticking to the back roads, I searched out the first well traveled path that might lead to a village. I had to find people. I had to find them now. I had to find them before another night came.

By mid afternoon I saw it. Another small town, probably the closest one to the pass I had just crossed. As I entered it I realized it was one of the larger ones I had seen. A place of commerce, it was probably located at a cross roads on this side of the pass and was a central place people came to buy and sell goods.

I searched out what appeared to be a local council meeting hall. I hoped I would find someone I could talk to. I burst in to find several men sitting about a table talking. Without hardly a pause my whole story came flowing out. The temple, the village, what I'd seen, what I suspected, all of it.

After I finished I stood there as they all stared at me. I couldn't tell if they were going to kick me out as a lunatic, or have me arrested as a dangerous person. A strange fear began to rise up in me. One I'd never felt when telling stories to people. But this was no ordinary story, and I knew their response would tell the fate of this town.

Then one of them spoke. He told of reports they'd received of destroyed towns. Of people who had gone over the pass and not returned. Of a scout they'd sent up the pass, probably just hours before I crossed, who also spoke of columns of smoke rising from the land. But mine was the first evidence they had of what might be happening. They knew something was coming over that pass soon, and now they had a bit of an idea of what it might be.

They believed me. In that brief instant all the emotional tension that had been building over the last couple weeks poured out of me. All I could do was sit and sob for some minutes. They sent for some food and water for me. And after a few minutes we sat together, and began to form a plan.

When next we meet, I shall tell you of that plan. And of the outcome.

#4 bkc56

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Posted 09 March 2006 - 06:57 AM

Chapter 4
The Battle


As I spoke of yesterday, the council had believed my story, and even more important were prepared to put together a plan to deal with it. In fact, part of the plan had already been put in place before my arrival. A couple days prior they had sent out a call for help to the neighboring villages - a request for their best warriors to come in defense of the city.

Two of those warriors were called in to join the meeting: Ice and Antiroot. Both were traveling from a far off land and, even though they did not call this land their home, they answered the call for help. In fact, they came from here, Seridia. Ice was a skilled warrior and had been put in charge of the local forces for planning the defense. Antiroot was skilled in the art of summoning. At this point I had no idea how important that skill would be.

A third warrior, Tsunami, also from Seridia was not present. He was still out going from village to village collecting information and warriors. A runner was sent to have him return. A code had been devised so that each of the three warriors would know a message was from one of their own. Any message needed to be accompanied by a Black Rose. With that flower, any message was known to be valid and would be acted upon.

The questions before this groups were: how much time did we have, and how could we defend the city? From the information they had, the council figured the attacking force was composed of goblins. My gut told me they were wrong (based on Rolltof’s tale of events), but I had no proof so I held my tongue. Based on what I had seen coming over the pass, I guessed the dark forces were perhaps one day behind me. They agreed. The attack could come as early as the next night.

The topic turned to how to protect a small city that had no walls. Many of the buildings had no doors or windows to the outside of the city, but that wasn’t the same as a wall with defensible gates.

And our forces were meager despite the call for help. We had 45-50 warriors of varying experience, a handful of magic casters, a summoner, and the residents of the village who, while not trained, were prepared to fight for their lives and property. Somehow a plan needed to be developed that would allow a handful of warriors to defend against an army of attackers.

It was Ice, a skilled tactician, who devised a plan. We were defending against monsters. They tended to overwhelm through numbers, not battle tactics. If we could focus and narrow their attack perhaps we could hold the city. It is much easier to defend against an attacking force ten people wide (with others behind them) than one that’s 100 people wide. We couldn’t prevent then from attacking, but perhaps we could force them into a narrow attack that would cause most of their forces to be piled up behind a few leaders.

It was decided to cut down many of the trees in the forest surrounding the town. Some would be used to block other entrances to the city. But most would be used to build barricades that would act as a funnel to narrow the attacking forces to a fine point which could be stopped. At least we hoped it could be stopped.

I reminded them of the total destruction that seemed to accompany these attacks so it was decided to also reinforce the exterior buildings in the hopes that they would not fall as easily.

The next day was a blur of activity. Every resident of the city plus all the farmers from the surrounding lands were hard at work felling trees and moving them into position. By late afternoon, the preparations were completed, at least what could be done that day. All were gathered in the city square for some food and rest. By dusk everyone was in their assigned position for the final defense. Some of the women and all the children were evacuated to a small village a couple miles away. If the city fell, they would have the time to flee far away and hopefully survive. But most of the women stayed to defend their homes. Some took up arms, others prepared to deal with the devastating results of a battle.

A few of the women who were evacuated were also entrusted with documents to be given to other city leaders to warn them of what was coming. It was a grim story, but the documents were written as if the city had already fallen, as that’s the only reason the documents would be delivered.

As night fell the only movement was of the commander Ice slowly moving around the defenses checking them and giving words of encouragement. As far as any outsider could tell, the city was asleep and undefended. It was during this time that Tsunami quietly slipped back into the city and joined the ranks of warriors.

It was after midnight, perhaps 1:00 in the morning when it started. Just has I had experienced that night leaving the temple, a darkness spread throughout the city. The effect was palatable. There were whispers of concern among the warriors on the front line and signs of panic in the villagers. At this, Ice whispered a single word. It was soft, but it carried an intensity, and a command of others that I had never heard before.

“Prepare!” he said.

And with that word, the years of training that warriors go through came into focus. Swords were drawn without a sound. They took up their positions, and created a line that for the first time in days gave me some hope. At this all the other townsfolk also became ready. There was no sound in the town. But there was a readiness, a focus, a feeling of bravery that actually seemed to push back the darkness just a bit.

And then it happened. Without a sound the attacking forces hit the line. With warriors at the ready they were cut down without a word or cry. Ice let out a yell: “Defend!” At that several large fires were lit. As the light grew and spread we saw what the attacking army was.

It was gargoyles. And army of gargoyles. Hundreds of them, perhaps more. This was no random attack. This was an organized invasion against the people of this land. This was the work of Selain, the god of summoning. For some unknown reason he was stretching forth his hand to kill and to destroy.

But the plan was working. Instead of attacking from all sides and easily destroying us, they were all coming from one narrow direction. And the line was holding.

And then the next wave of the defense started. From the rooftops and upper story windows, those with magic skills started their own battle. The air started to glow and flicker with the power of harm spells being cast against the attackers. And at the same time, heal spells were being cast on our own forces who had been hit. And the gargoyle bodies were beginning to pile up.

And then I saw him. Antiroot moved out into the open a few paces behind the line of warriors. He carried no weapons, and just stood their motionless for a time. Then there was a blinding flash, and next to him stood a summoned chimerian wolf. Another flash and a second stood on his other side. And with a wave of his hand they leapt over the line and into the midst of the attackers. Their wrath was awesome, and their attack fearsome. For the first time, there were signs of confusion and uncertainty in the ranks of the gargoyles. Antiroot held his ground, directing his creatures by some unseen power and casting restores on them to keep them at their peak.

The battle raged on. I could tell scores of stories of the heroic actions I saw that night. Tales of warriors and villagers who gave their all in the defense of a city, which for some of them, wasn’t even their home. But now is not the time for such stories. That time will come later, as will the honor they earned that night.

As the night wore on, several warriors fell and the villagers braved the melee to pull them out. But for some, it was too late. One of the summoned chimerian wolves had also succumbed to the overwhelming odds. Antiroot gathered all his strength to create another, but the strain of battle was just too much. There was a faint flash of light, but no creature. Antiroot collapsed to the ground, and two villagers ran in to pull him away from danger. Tsunami moved quickly from location to location trying to cover the gaps in the line, his sword but a blur as he cut down enemy after enemy.

It was about an hour before dawn, and as suddenly as it had started, the attack stopped. The gargoyles retreated from the line to return to some place of darkness before the rising sun could turn them to stone.

We had not won the battle. You cannot win a battle of defense. But we had held. The city still stood as the sun began to rise. Some of the buildings on the side of the attack were damaged, but none were destroyed.

But it was not without cost. Many of the warriors had fallen, and a couple of them were missing. The magic casters were totally exhausted, and our master summoner had to be carried from where he ended up to a place to rest.

But we had held. And we had greatly reduced the numbers of attackers.

The day was spent healing those injured, mixing essence for the magic casters, and reinforcing the defenses. All were totally exhausted, but they pushed forward. There was great concern that should another attack come we might not be able to hold again. But no attack came that night. We had turned the tide. But to where? Trackers traced the gargoyle’s path to a cave in the foothills. But there was no knowing how deep the cave went, or where else it might come out.

The women and children were called back. New documents were prepared with all we knew and sent by runners throughout the land. We still did not know why they were attacking, but we had important news to share: they could be stopped. And that fact would spread hope throughout the land.

Several days passed with no news of attacks elsewhere. And then some trackers made a discovery at the coast. Signs of gargoyles were discovered exiting a cave and leading to the water’s edge. Whether by boat, or by simply traveling under the water, it looked like the army had left this land. But to where?

It was time to spread the warning to other lands. Ice, Antiroot, and Tsunami wished to return to their homeland, so I traveled with them to bring the warning here. And now my task is complete. The warning has been given. Three of your own have experienced it and can confirm all that I have said. And now it is up to you to decide how you shall prepare.

Tomorrow we shall meet again and develop that plan.

#5 bkc56

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Posted 10 March 2006 - 07:10 AM

Chapter 5
A final stand


Greetings. It is good to see so many of you back today as we prepare for the defense of this land. Three of our warriors are away working to enlist the help of additional warriors. Since I've already been talking with you for several days, they asked me to give you the information you need to prepare.

We know an attack is coming. We believe it will come tomorrow, but we don't know when or where. We also do not know what kind of final preparations we might need to make, or what sort of last-minute tasks may need to be done. With that in mind, you must prepare yourselves for anything that may come or anything that might be asked of you.

If you are a warrior, prepare your battle armor and appropriate weapons. One lesson learned from the last battle is that in the chaos of fighting it is often not possible to cast healing spells upon yourself. You would be very wise to bring a selection of Healing or Body-Restore potions with you. In addition, you should have one or two Mana or Spirit Restore potions in case the summoners or healers run low. That healer standing behind you in battle may be all that stands between your survival and a trip to the underworld.

If you are a healer or other non-warrior, prepare for your skill. Wear your armor in case the enemy is able to breach the line, but do not join the fight if you are not skilled as a warrior. If you can cast Healing or Harm spells, be prepared to aid in the battle as appropriate to your skills. If you are a skilled summoner, be prepared. While summoned rabbits will do little for our defense, some high level creatures could help turn the tide in battle.

While there is seldom any advantage to being the first one to complete a task, there may be times when speed is critical. If you are a user of teleport rings, having a few with you could prove important.

In all things, remember: we are different races, with different skills and goals in this land. But we are all of this land, and it is our desire and duty to protect it from whatever evil has purposed in its heart to do. Stand as brothers in arms. If a brother falls, try to collect his equipment so it may be given back upon his return. If a person who is your enemy is in trouble, surrounded by monsters intent on his destruction, go to his aid. He who was once an enemy may turn to be a friend. Set any differences aside that we may stand together against a common enemy.

At the appointed hour tomorrow we shall all meet in the great hall in White Stone City. Be listening for the call to assemble. From there any last minute instructions will be given and we shall start the preparations. Come fully equipped as there may not be time to return to storage again until the day is done.

We have the skills and abilities to overcome this shadow before it covers our land. Always remember what it is you fight to defend. And while fear may come, do not let it overcome you. Stand together and we shall prevail.

For our land, and for glory.




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