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The Quest of The Ritual of Ashes

Centuries ago, the Ikarthian People, who worshipped light and goodness, strove to become perfectly pure. In doing so, they created their own nemesis that would come to plague the peoples of Orin Rakatha many years later. Unleashed by the failure of the Ritual of Ashes, a beast that became known as Ikarus’s Shadow walked the land, and the Plane of Shadows remained here, severing our planar connection to white mana.

For years, the former Ikarthian Tower – Ikarus’s Keep – has lain dormant as a ruin. For a while, it was thought that the mystics may have destroyed it as punishment for the creation of the Ikarthian Triangle (a place where the Laws of Orin Rakatha are violated). However, it transpired that the destruction of the Tower was triggered by the death of Ikarus at the hands of Ravanon, and all those chained by status to Ikarus.

Four years ago, an Alliance group assumed responsibility for the yearly performance of the Ritual of Ashes. At the time, little was known about the origin or reason for this Ritual. For two years, the Ritual was completed successfully. Two years ago, the Ritual was disrupted, with many of those who journeyed to enact it never returning. Last year, the ceremony proceeded only for a huge winged creature of shadow – Ikarus’s Shadow – and its Shadow Apprentices to materialise on our plane almost instants later. We drove them off with the use of an arcane scroll of light, but they continued to trouble Orin Rakatha with their presence, with many whom they met falling also to Shadow.

In Wind Moon this year, two Shadowsfall Adjudicators and Judge Helm Brighthand closed the Tower of the Hold of the Azad-An, over status irregularities. They then announced to all present that should the Ritual of Ashes not be completed by this Burning Night, they would journey to the Kern Valley and judge that status could not be held by Wolfhold – i.e., they would seek to close the Tower.

And so it was, that a group quested forth from the Alliance to seek the resolution of this matter: the completion of the Ritual of Ashes, the removal of the Shadow Plane, the restoration of lost essence to those struck by the Shadow Disease, and ultimately the preservation of the strong Tower of Wolfhold and our Alliance.

Those who journeyed forth are named as follows:

 

Wolfhold Kevralyn Soulfire, 15th Sorcerer of House Tumdurgul
Rasc, Red Sorcerer
White Retreat Cirith, High Priest of Humact and Master Seeker (Party Leader)
Djimm Daggoreth, High Priest of the White Path
Paladin Verrick, Spiritual Warrior of the Order of King Michel
Gilrehyan, Red Wizard
Zephyr Starlight, Blue Wizard
Woolf, Crusader
Owajawar, Crusader
Pod, Crusader
Beren, Crusader
Montague deCapulet, Scribe from the Red School
Valley Alliance Shard Farsight, High Priest of the Grey Wardens
BloodBark, Knight Defender of the Order of Knights Martial and Grey Gauntlet Priest
Lupus, Grey Gauntlet Priest, holder of the Order of Merit
Rancor, Grey Sorcerer

The group assembled en-route to the nearest waystation to Wolfhold, where we were expected. The area was riddled with hordelings, trolls and the like, due to the presence of great status outside the Wolfhold Tower. We were soon met by some esteemed figures from Wolfhold: the Patriarch of the Church of Lloth, and Dreadlord Araikas, Assistant Guildleader of the Dark Path. Dreadlord Araikas announced that control for the Ritual had once again been assumed by himself on behalf of Wolfhold, he of course had led the first and successful mission in this regard. Throughout the mission he subsequently ensured that our group was supplied with vital resources and it should be noted that thanks to his generosity many Alliance lives were saved.

Later, Geran sal Beridan, Guildleader of the Dark Path, arrived. She brought with her the 7 dagger components required for the Ritual and a Shadow Disk that had been received by Derlin, who was otherwise engaged.


The Shadowsfall

We were later visited by a small group of Shadowsfall led by Judge Chi Chen Lau Ham, who seemed somewhat aggrieved by the zealous and watchful groups that had been surrounding Wolfhold in recent days. Some half-orc diplomacy from our group led to Lupus requiring an elixir, before talking once again resumed. The Shadowsfall indicated that they were unhappy that the Alliance comes to Orin Rakatha and flouts the Laws, and in their view they ARE the Law, thus by their reckoning if we do not do what they say then we should be punished.

They departed, and the night drew on, when we heard that Judge Helm Brighthand was to make an announcement to us nearby. It seems that this was the Shadowsfall idea of a trap, and that Brighthand had received orders from those above to draw the group who were to perform the Ritual of Ashes to a ‘dark place, surround them, and kill them, so that the Ritual will fail’. Combat ensued, with a number of our party vanishing from sight for a while. All of a sudden, the former Shadowsmeet Knight took us out of time in some fashion – we could not move, only observe, while he strode around and taunted as to who might be the first of us to be killed. Needless to say, he was somewhat surprised when High Priest Shard Farsight, who through the skills of the Soothsayer Isandeer Farsight not only engaged him in conversation, but impressed those around by declaring the Shadowsmeet Knight an ‘equal’. Shard then successfully negotiated a deal, whereby the Shadowsfall would delay any interference for the next four evenings, although each night four people must step forth to draw a bead from a bag of ten – if the one black bead was drawn, it would result in that person’s death. On this occasion, four blue beads were selected, and we returned to the waystation.


Klinemort Ironfist

It seems that someone in our Alliance had somehow convinced the towerless traitor Klinemort Ironfist, who resides in the Ikarthian Triangle, that he might wish to speak with and even assist us in our endeavours. I was not involved in these discussions, but never before have I heard someone insist so frequently ‘I’ll be straight with you’, only to follow up with so very little in return. In the end, he offered to capture an Ikarthian Ghost for us, so that it might answer our questions. It would involve both the use of the evil sphere and the expenditure of power, this was accepted by our leader the Humacti High Priest Cirith. Ironfist noted that the ghosts prefer to to think they are not dead, and that they are harder in the daylight – better to see them at night, as they are less solid then. With regards to the Mor Silvani, who have taken up residence nearby to him, he said that he would be feeling his way in that matter: indeed, all his efforts seem directed towards causing himself as little trouble as possible.


A Message

The next morn, we were met by Abadon Dreamweaver, now 11th Wizard of House Morfeaglin. He said that he had been sent to trail some Zarx who he knew to be bearing a message this direction, but did not have the resources to intercept the message himself. Whilst he was present, a number of drow wearing foreign colours – dark green, with a wolf’s head bearing a crown of thorns, found themselves outside our waystation, so obviously we butchered them. Returning to our conversation which had been so rudely interrupted, we decided that Wizard Dreamweaver would cast a dream vision upon Cirith, to show him the place at which we might find the messenger.

Departing the waystation for a while, we came across more similarly-attired Zarx and some spiders, we slew them all. We came across three more, one of whom had a strange cut of hair and seemed to be someone of importance, but after he loudly declared in front of a group of semi-hostile strangers (us) that ‘the message had been delivered successfully’, Cirith was sufficiently convinced to return to the waystation.


A Goodly Delegation

We were partaking of our evening meal when we were met by a Halmadonian named Drilrehyan of the Searing Flame, (in service to Earl Andros of the Pillars of Truth), who arrived with Arion, brother of Zephyr. They brought with them a ‘stay of execution’ from a Realm Lord of the Plane of the Sleepless Dead, such that a nominated soul could be rejected for a while from its final death, but apparently they find the idea of necromancy rather distasteful. Drilrehyan was also somewhat flummoxed by the nature of our Alliance, where those who are good co-operate with those who are evil.


Wizards Concillium

Cassius Velvet, of the Black College of the Wizards Concillium, visited us along with Bronte Cull, of the Blue College. He informed us that white magic is ‘not so eclipsed’ at this time, but the presence of Shadow is still in ascendancy, and if urgent action was not taken the Plane of Shadows may become permanent upon Orin Rakatha. It is the presence of the Shadow beasts that causes white magic to be repressed, and it is as if shadowmancy is trying to exert itself as a ‘sphere’ (not literally, although there is a school of wizardly thought that represents the elements as spheres in some way). There is always a narrow margin for error when dealing with shadowmancy, and with the components for the Ritual altered in an untried and permanent way, there is a further risk. Cassius said that the Shadow strength has a measurable quantity, localised in the Ikarthian Triangle, and that they were to take experts to the area (including himself) to calculate the parameters.


Dai-fah-Dyne Reliability

Before we had departed the World Window four days earlier, I had paid 5 Gests to the Dai-fah-Dyne there present to deliver a message to Kelnozz Hatch’nett, Soul Shriever of the Mor Silvani. That eve, a Dai-fah-Dyne scout arrived saying that a ranking member of the Mor Silvani was nearby and wished to talk with us; this was at the same time that a number of non-diseased members of our group were planning to speak with a significant Ikarthian Ghost so it was decided to split our party, and that I would lead this group.

We left with the scout who took us to a clearing where we were suddenly assaulted by a number of people wearing Dai-fah-Dyne colours, and a “Lord of Earth”. We had polished off most of this group when a mass entrapment from the Earth elemental put us in an awkward situation. Wenzel Harberforkington, the trader outcast from the Dai-fah-Dyne (and with a price upon his head), then demanded that we hand over our Shadow Disks in return for our lives. It seems that the Shadowlord Jaleppi of the Elserri had ‘the Book of Shadows’ which Harberforkington required to escape from Orin Rakatha. Harberforkington actually believed he might be able to obtain this book should he obtain our set of Shadow Disks. Obviously we had no plans to concede them and despite our awkward position we sallied forth once more and put paid to all but one Dai-fah-Dyne, who ran off with Harberforkington’s purse.

The traitor was now in our grasp and pleading for his life (and items). It transpired that without his dagger (which we determined had 3 rank 9 invocations stored within it) he would pass to Shadow, possibly through some curse of the Elserri, which he seemed to fear greater than death itself. He also mentioned that his rogues had intercepted my correspondence to the Soul Shriever. For some reason, he thought he could tempt me to spare his life with promises of information on interesting people from various towers, but he was very wrong. His life force ebbed away, and it seemed he died not only most excruciatingly, but also terrified of his fate beyond death. Seeing as he passed away to Shadow, we could not recover his head to give to the Bey Nazier Kahn, but know that revenge was had.


Shadow Assault

While back in the waystation, we were suddenly beseiged by a group of Shadow figures who were testing us on behalf of Ikarus. This was then followed up by the irritating afore-mentioned Shadowlord shifting in, and taking three of our number hostage. Djimm’s aura of ‘repel evil’ was keeping the Shadowlord out of the waystation, but as there were none present who could command black magic at the time, Verrick agreed to hand over four Shadow Disks in exchange for the safe return of our comrades. After he departed, a number of shades kept us busy, before yet more powerful mana-draining creatures assailed us. In the mean time, the Shadowsfall arrived with the bag of beads and unfortunately Rasc – who was the first to draw – picked out a black bead. Adjudicator Flindar then said that Rasc was marked for death, before leaving.


Humactis and the Ikarthian Ghosts

The Humacti-oriented group led by Cirith then returned; apparently the Humacti High Priest had not only been slain by the Ghost form of King Ikarus, but had been resurrected by it as well. Despite this, the group had learned more of the Ikarthian People and the nature of their nemesis, and had taken steps towards the final slaying of the undead.

Mark this lesson, and mark it well:

It seems that the Ikarthian People had once asked their finest minds to create Ikarus, who routed out bad people, cleansed them, and aided those in need. Their people always strove towards goodness and purity, but there was always still a taint, which they strove to remove, and the shadows. Although Ikarus was the pinnacle of their purity, he was created from imperfect men, forged from their status and life essence. And thus he was also flawed.

However, Ikarus believed he could remove his own taint, and therefore that of his people. He laboured with his seven finest apprentices to this end. Using the Shadow Disks, he believed that they could banish the shadow from them all. They failed.

In completing this ritual, he created the Shadow which was all that they strove against. Using the Disks, the apprentices and Ikarus saw that they could contain the Shadow and place it beyond the ability to harm those whom he loved, and those from Orin Rakatha. As it was a creature of darkness, the Plane of Shadows was chosen; and the Ritual of Ashes was created with help from the Labyrinth of Xenos. This yearly ritual was performed to strengthen the bond, and to show the Ikarthians how far they had fallen.

It was not known how long Ikarus would live, so the responsibility of the Ritual of Ashes was given to another group with a philosophy similar to that of the Ikarthians – the Valdemar – with the aid of the Shadowsmeet.


Morgothian Assistance

While on our diplomatic mission to the Labyrinth of Xenos earlier this year, we had been then visited by a Morgothian named Molag Hai, a wizard whom we knew could track the locations of Shadow Disks, who had said that he would make himself available to us at this time. As we needed to gain at least five further Shadow Disks, I requested that he assist us, and Dreadlord Araikas duly arranged this in very short order.

Molag Hai arrived with three orcish creatures, and we negotiated a deal whereby he would arrange our travel to the area where the Elserri and Shadow Disks would be, in exchange for all the disks beyond the seven that we required, and a further favour from our majority present within the next year (that would not violate any of our Laws).

He then set up a portal which we were guided to by one of his orcs. Zephyr dispelled the protection upon the portal and we travelled through, prepared and invoked. We caught his mercenary guards by surprise, I bolted the Elserri out of his casting and Woolf used two charges of darkbolt 8 before climbing up a very large rock to finish him off. In the mean time, his guards and a red creature which fed on red mana, were dispatched. We were slightly surprised that the Shadowlord had accumulated quite so many Disks, which numbered in their teens. Returning to the portal, we gave the required amount to the orc in attendance, which asked us to swear upon our honour that we had done so before leaving.

From the dead Elserri, we had also retrieved a scrolltube which contained the following message (addressed to Huzar Dayblight, Legion Commander of the Kalid Shadowlords):

Huzar

I have completed an inspection of the old tower of Ikarus’ Keep and find that its regrowth is now complete and ready for our occupation following the Time of Reckoning. It will prove to be a most worthy accommodation for our forces and will hold a strategic position for us. I have mused for some time regarding the naming of our new home and given the background to our ascension suggest that we name Ikarus’ Keep to the Shadow Keep. A most fitting name I feel. All our business should be concluded early in Turning Moon and I would hope to meet with you as soon as possible to conclude the business of status.

The last of our negotiations remain to be concluded with Klinemort Ironfist, but I do not expect that this will pose any significant difficulty. I myself must journey to the edge of the Magenor Swamp on other business but will remain there only briefly, if the opportunity presents itself I will intercept your group and journey with you for a while.

By Snow Moon our next phase will be ready for commencement.

As the shadows grow long at the end of each day may the Elves of Night and Day prosper once more.

Kanac-nar von Shadowedblood
Patriarch of House Drannath
Free from lineage


Book of Shadows

I had re-memorised half of my spellbook when I was broken out, the dead Elserri was now pacing around the waystation claiming that we did not understand the power of the Shadows, or something similar. He would dark engulf and engage people one at a time, was rattled by Shard’s immunity to weakness and ensorcelled staff, and was finished off commendably by Rasc, who did not give him the opportunity to cast a weakness. The dead Shadowlord – whatever it was (nobody discerned it, to my knowledge) – disappeared, and in its place was left the Book of Shadows. When the engulfment upon Rasc was ended, the Book was also brought back to this Plane and Shard was broken out from identifying it three times. Upon the fourth, he vanished and did not re-appear – this caused us some concern, particularly as he was wearing one of the components of the Ritual of Ashes itself.


Journeying to Haden’s Hall

We went to a site at which the confluences of mana presented a favourable location for teleport; Zephyr began to cast before we were attacked by creatures of air and lightning, one of whom named himself akin to ‘Jamal, Master of your Dreams’. Zephyr successfully recast the long distance teleport spell, which took us close to Haden’s Hall – the preferred site for the Ritual of Ashes.

We first encountered a group of Mor Silvani led by an Elite Guard, or so I presume he was from his pallor. Their instructions were to prevent anyone from proceeding down the path, and although they thought arrangements could be made by the next day, we had urgent business to attend to that night.

After they had been slain, we next met a Shadowsfall who warned us that the legitimate founding of a Tower was taking place in the area. Cirith explained that we did not have a problem with this, nor the Shadowsfall, which was accepted. During this time, we could hear distant screams and maniacal laughter that distinctly reminded us of our missing comrade. We pressed on, with the Shadowsfall warning us to stick to the path, lest we fall to madness by that which was within the woods.

Ignoring this advice, we headed towards the disturbance, where we found a number of venomous creatures, and a huge many-legged creature – not a Spider – which had trapped Shard in its web. After killing these beasts, we burnt the webs that bound Shard, who himself had been driven to insanity by his time on the Plane of Shadows. A place of darkness upon darkness, where no light may shine, so terrible that he would rather tear out his own eyes (which he had done) than see nothing other than the darkness. He also no longer possessed the Book of Shadows.

I had already been informed that Haden’s Hall no longer looked as it once did: with a different building in place of the waystation. This proved correct, as we found a stately manor house there rather than the rather shabby waystation which we had visited in High Sun this year. At the door, we were ushered in by the Housekeeper, who did not interact with us as one of this time might. He was dressed in a strange grey garb, and did not comprehend talk of Towers and such like. Rasc expressed his annoyance that we had entered so quickly, for Cassius Velvet of the Concillium was outside, and had warned that not only was this a place of Shadow, but that some of his group had also entered this building and not returned.


Inside the Hall

The Housekeeper announced that the Lord was expecting us, and bids us welcome, but was inconvenienced at this time. He also said that the Reformation will not stand for disorder, and by current reckoning the year was 1641. We were ushered into a dining room wherein were two flags, one as depicted below.

 

Ravanon Flag

We were then served a warm meal which Djimm diligently checked for poison, but found none; and were alternately surprised and amused when one of the servants transpired to be Wenzel Harberforkington himself! He hissed: “I told you it was a mistake” and also “get me out of here”, as he laid the dinner upon the table.

After dinner, we witnessed two servants complaining to the Housekeeper about the ‘new master’. The Housekeeper replied “the house needs you”, but that it would go on; nevertheless, they still asked to leave to which he said he was disappointed in them both.


The Ikarthian Ghosts

Ikarthian Symbol After Cirith had previously entered into dialogue with the ghostly Ikarus, they had agreed that they wished to be laid to rest and that this could be achieved by summoning them forth at the appointed hour. It would also cause the Shadow Ikarus to be drawn to the area exactly one day later. Thus, Cirith performed the ceremony and we waited. A spell duration later, the main Ikarthian ghosts appeared in a blinding flash of light. Notably, the ghost of Ikarus shone with a radiance such that none could see him clearly. A long and hard fight ensued, with people oft finding themselves entombed in ice or frozen.

The ghosts seemed distressed, crying “Ravanon – we are betrayed!” and “stand firm against the cult, we must resist!” Eventually, we had whittled the ghosts down to one who stood within a warded circle, opening and shutting a box and oft-saying “box of tricks, do thy work”; he seemed scornful of the claim that one of us cast the good sphere. Eventually, he left the circle and ran towards our group of bodies and those tending the elixired. Unfortunately we could not prevent him from triggering a large firestorm over this area and two further people died; at this point the ghost disappeared.

Djimm resurrected the fallen, while we kept watch over the area. During this time, the Housekeeper came out onto the lawn and complained that – as he ‘had told us before’ – we were bringing loyalist forces to the area, and disturbing the order.

The Shadowsfall arrived, and Montague drew a black bead. As before with Rasc, he died in his sleep that night.


More Visions and Shadows

When we returned within the stately residence, a scuffle ensued with the servants believing Owajawar to be their master, and ushering into the smoking room. We overheard various conversations between those acting out their part in some long-forgotten past: “we keep an orderly house”… “do not know if the sickness has returned”… “do not want to invite loyalist forces into the area”. Then another brought the banner depicted above, and pinned it on the wall in front of the ‘master’ (Owajawar): this other seemed sceptical of the claim that the House was orderly.

Time passed. “The Lord is ill”: a doctor in a black cap watched over the sickly master (Owajawar again), who was weak, had been suffering convulsions and a fever. Others within the house had also been suffering from sickness, and the doctor was baffled. Returning to the master’s bedroom, they watched the master pass away. The Housekeeper then said, “I see no need to tell the loyalists of this situation” to which the doctor replied that he was “ever sympathetic to Lord Ravanon’s wishes”; the Housekeeper then stated: “there will be a new master, the house will continue”.

The next day, some others spoke with the deceased Wenzel Harberforkington. He said that those who stay in the building turn to Shadows. It had cost him six people to identify the Book of Shadows: four of them were turned to Shadow, two were driven insane, and that every night he spends inside the house they come back and plague him. For this reason, he wished to break the anchorage of Shadow to the building, so that his torment might be ended: to do this, we needed to leave the house to move it onto the next stage, and go to the other side of the house that was not in Shadow thus we might progress.

Whilst outside the building, we were attacked by a host of the Mor Silvani Elite who believed we were on their territory. After finishing them off, we returned our attention to the door over which a sense of Shadow was present. Rasc ingeneously then cast a heat metal meltdown on the ensorcelled metal door hinges, which after a good deal of smoke sent the door crashing to the floor. A group of us entered and made our way into a trapped room: the floor was ensorcelled, and to step upon it caused some mana-draining shadow creatures to attack. Eventually we extinguished the candles at the end of the room, which signalled the end of this trap. The door to the room slammed shut, and Beren volunteered to open it despite that we knew it would entail some risks. He did so, and immediately suffered a fear pertaining to the Shadows and the darkness. Moving on, we made our way to the next room, which turned out to be the dining area of the hall. Within that corridor was a room filled with hundreds of strings humming with electricity. Beyond the strings we could see the Book of Shadows itself. Lupus was able to negotiate the awkward traps and retrieve the Book.

Upon many doors within the House would be a page with words written in some foreign language that I do not speak. We understood from Harberforkington that to copy these words onto one page from the Book of Shadows, and then to recite it back, would consume the Shadow bindings upon that door, and thus lessen the hold of the Shadows upon the house. It was recommended that one without the Shadow Disease performed this task, so Rancor was the main instigator of these efforts. We were able to remove 9 of the 13 Shadow wards in this way - all that we could find, at the time.


The Elemental Tribes

We had worked our way back to the back of the house, wherein was a Shadowsfall who engaged some in conversation. During this time, a strange multi-coloured creature was seen outside the building. Returning to our newly-created entrance, we found the creature to be “firstborn” of the tribes, and sent to fetch us. It was created from all four elements of fire, stone, air and water, and mentioned a sense of dislike for this place of Shadow. We all followed it to an area nearby, where we were met by representatives of all four elemental construct types, who said that they had indeed danced this year – as they would next year – that the dance had brought them joy; they provided us with the candle essences required for the Ritual of Ashes, which we would be performing later that evening.


More Mor Silvani

While returning to the building, we saw a group of Mor Silvani making their way towards us. Normally we would have been unperturbed, but they had with them a will-o’-the-wisp and either a hariad or shambling mound, and we were without our Humacti High Priest. After a brief fight which saw many paralysed by the undead, Rasc negotiated with them: it seems that they were not partial to the Shadow building in which we were staying, and thus they promised to return on the morrow to settle the territorial matter.


Wizards Concillium Results

While back at the building, I was pondering who would be most appropriate to perform the Ritual of Ashes that evening, as I had been appointed in charge of the ceremony itself, when we were visited again by Cassius Velvet and Bronte Cull. The Black Sorcerer told us that there was a massive build-up of mana keyed to the four traditional elements (fire, stone, water and air), and that a trigger would release the mana. The candles, which we had recovered from the elemental constructs, re-engineered the trigger mechanism. The tribes perform many rituals and casting of spells, and the manner in which they perform their rituals stores a large amount of mana, this for us would be then channelled or directed by the Ritual of Ashes.

Last year the mana store was missing, that would provide the momentum for the completion of the ceremony. The Ritual is symbolic of pulling all the tribes together, and lighting the candles would release the mana. He recommended that those who would perform the ceremony would be those who do not possess the Shadow Disks: there would be a great surge in the movement of Shadow, that would pass through the vortex; this would be likely to affect the Disks which might well absorb some amount of Shadow.

He had also noted great movements in terms of Shadow essence drawn to this place: this we deduced was the Shadow Ikarus and Apprentices, who had been bound to return by our destruction of the Ghost Ikarus the day before. The Ritual was to be performed at midnight, but the final movement of Shadow essence would arrive several hours earlier.

The house is linked to the Plane of Shadows, and is an anchor to such, although not central to the Ritual of Ashes. The Ritual would seek to push away the congruence of Planes, but the house itself would not. The Sorcerers had brought with them some flares, as the area of the Ritual should be well illuminated.


Final Preparations

As expected, a member of Wolfhold arrived bringing with him the ashes of the dead Ikarthians required for the ceremony. In the intervening hours, Pod had also accidentally broken his Shadow Disk – strange for an ensorcelled and empowered object, but presumably weakened by the Shadow substance within. Fortunately, Dreadlord Araikas had once again delivered, sending to us one further Disk, so that we possessed the required set of seven.

We rehearsed the ceremony and dined, before heading outside to the lawn upon which we were expecting Ikarus’s Shadow to appear. We knew that the presence of Shadow Disks would drive him away: this it did, and we chased the Shadow creatures – the Shadow reflections of the Ghosts from the previous evening – down through many fields in a long battle. Our fight was observed by one lone Ikarthian Ghost, who had come to bear witness to the final ending of the Ikarthian People. Eventually, we were left with the ‘box-of-tricks’ Shadow Apprentice who stood within his ward, calling for Sendin (Hope Giver to the Ikarthian People). But our time was upon us, and the eight of us who were to perform the Ritual left him to be dealt with by the others.


The Ritual of Ashes

There were just seven of our group who were without the Shadow Disease: these seven assembled in a circle around the element of fire, with the dagger components, mana candles, and the auxiliary components (Robes of Eternal Flame, Amulet of FlameFriend, Book of Fire). These seven were: Rancor, Djimm, Cirith, Beren, Zephyr, Gilrehyan and Lupus. As with last year, I enclosed the circle in an unbroken line of ash. After the echoes of the final chant had died away, the components were consumed, and the last Ikarthian Ghost informed us that the Ritual had been performed successfully.

After the Ritual had taken place, we observed that our seven Shadow Disks were now just normal objects. Disappointingly, the Shadow Disease was still in effect, but on the wane.


Another Vision

Upon returning to the house, which still stood in place of Haden’s Hall, a further vision was seen. A group of people were gathered around a wolf head with glowing eyes. They were speaking of a plan to kill Lord Ravanon, by poisoning his servants (those whom they could not convert to their cause), and reserving a stronger venom for Ravanon himself. They then wished to assume his place, bring the Housekeeper in on the scheme, and use the respectability of the house to allay any outside suspicions. These people were from the Isles of Angle and Gwynneth, and said that thereafter they would be known as Ravanon and the Wolf Cult.

We deduced that these were the guests which we had seen some of the servants complaining earlier that they did not like. Shard Farsight sought to commune with the wolf head, only to receive horrific visions of being pursued by a pack of wolves.


The Day of Reckoning

Cassius Velvet arrived the next morning, informing us that the Plane of Shadows was still present upon Orin Rakatha and that the house was inextricably linked to the Ritual of Ashes in some way. Whilst he was with us, we experienced another of the visions: with a group of well-dressed humans entering the building on the King’s business, with the intention of routing out the Morgwar (or Maegwee(?)) Cultists, bringing with them a dog and searching for those of disrepute. They did not interact with us until one cried: “For the King!” – this caused them all to halt for a few seconds, after which they could see us. Sorcerer Cassius then decided to cast an empathetic wizardry spell upon the building. It transpired that these were loyalists led by Lord Llewellyn, and they engaged us in some combat before departing.

Speaking with Cassius later, there seemed to be three factions involved: the Loyalists (who supported the King of Angle), the Reformists (who did not – and this was a reformist household), and the Cultists.

Day and Night Symbol Further exploration of the building located some more Shadow wards, in the room which the ‘Lord’ never wished opened, connected in some way to his wife’s death. Entry to this place revealed some revenants who wore the sign of a star and moon, crying “death to the Cultists!” Cassius suggested that this was the symbol of the olden Tower of Day and Night, not to be confused with the Kalid Tower that currently goes by the same name.


The Shadow Keep

The Wizards Abadon Dreamweaver of Annach Morannonil and Molag Hai of the Morgothian Tower visited us that day, to inform us that they had tracked the location at which Huzar Dayblight would be pledging status to another high-ranked member of the aspirant Tower named the Shadow Keep. For whatever reasons, Cirith decided that we would concentrate on our business with this house and not interfere with the formation of this new Tower in the usual Valley Way. The wizards left somewhat disappointed, having expressed concern that the Kalid were not interfering with the set-up of this Tower, and that its positioning could well give the Kalid a central spine of Towers down Orin Rakatha, should they be affiliated. It should be noted that not just the Shadowlord families but their human mercenaries were also taking up places with this Tower.

We were hustled out of the building by the Mor Silvani who had returned from yesterday, this time they had a Shriever who turned three of our four front-line warriors into trees with little apparent effort. As we debated what to do, the effect (which recognised as rank 6 power) eventually wore off, so we resumed our occupancy of the building, the Mor Silvani having left by that time.

While I was casting, a Shadowsfall delegation arrived led by Helm Brighthand, who had with him an Adjudicator. The Time of Reckoning had passed. Wolfhold was standing. The Saldorians had gained a second Tower. The Dymwan Chancellery had lost their Tower. And nearby, there was a new Tower known as the Shadow Keep. This had been formed from the host of the Mor Silvani, the former House Dranath, and the former Kalid Shadowlord Legion (who had left the Kalid to do so).

Judge Brighthand then made further threats to us. The Adjudicator had decided that the spirit of the contract was to ensure the removal of the Plane of Shadows from Orin Rakatha, and this had not been fulfilled, although the ceremony of the Ritual of Ashes had been completed. They agreed to give us one further day to work on detaching the Shadow Plane, but that the Ritual of Ashes would become an empty Ritual, which they would seek to cause us to fail in future. They threatened to escalate the threat against the Alliance to more than just the Wolfhold Tower in future, that his superiors were angry with us, and that we would find it harder and harder to journey to Haden’s Hall to carry out “a pointless Ritual”.


Visions from the House

We observed a conversation between the Cultist leader, who we determined was named Owen Reece, and a servant. He said that he had a number of items that he needed to keep in a safe place, where the Loyalists would not be able to find them. The servant said that he knew of such a place, where they had hidden priests during the Reformist Wars, and that he would guide the Cultist to this place after the Housekeeper had gone to sleep.

Not much later, we discovered the location of this priest-hole under the floorboards on the first landing. Within it, there was a wolf head, a serpent, and what may have been a dark elf (his hood obscured his ears and hair).

All of a sudden, there was a cry from the front door – the “Serbitar” had arrived. His dark-hooded cultists were slain, the Serbitar himself fought his way through into the building (he could channel lay evil power invocations through his weapon, as well as call upon ki) but his proficiency with this weapon became notably diminished after I blinded him. We now had the upper hand in this fight, but most irritatingly time then stopped, and replayed itself backwards to the point where I had previously been invoking.


The Soul Shriever

The next morning, the Soul Shriever Kelnozz Hatch’nett arrived with a host of the Elite Guards of the Mor Silvani. He wished to thank us formally for our help given to his people in the past, for which he is most grateful. As he had once written to me: “When we achieve our rightful place, you will be the first to be offered the hand of alliance”, and as the Shadow Keep had now been formed and were looking for strong allies, so it was that he then expressed an interest in an alliance with – particularly – Wolfhold. I look forward to hearing of continued good relations between our Towers.


The Final Showdowns

Apparently more visions had been seen. It should be noted that each vision was taking a step back into the past, but Owajawar had been increasingly subsumed into the role of the ‘Lord’ (particularly noticeable in his attire) and was himself moving forward in time. On this occasion, it transpired that the Lord Ravanon had unwittingly helped the Cultist Owen Reece and his associates while out with his falcons (apparently some sort of hunting bird). The Cultists had been heard to comment that it was fortunate that he had not been there to witness that which had taken place half an hour earlier in the field. We determined to head to the field where the fateful meeting and ritual of Ravanon had taken place, so to prevent it from happening (whether in the past, present or future). Thus we might break the final binding of Shadow to the house.

Ravanon Symbol As anticipated, a large group of what is now known as the Ravanon Cultists arrived: many wore dark pointed hoods that covered their faces, with the symbol of a red-handed claw upon their chests. Another, with a red/black-split face and wolf head was present (a good use of the ‘vanish animate’ scroll by all accounts), and another with a huge animal skull upon his head – there were more, and BloodBark used our utter blight scroll most effectively upon one of the Serbitars. This fight lasted for an age, during which many fell from both sides. Eventually we prevailed, and it seems that a Knight of the Dark Lady observed the battle and expressed approval at our intentions.

The dead were carried back to the house, at which point the door opened and the Housekeeper announced “Lord Owajawar, your house awaits you”. He stepped through the door, there was a shimmering in the aether and the house disappeared. In its place, the waystation returned.

Djimm cast a mass resurrection, which brought back many who then faced the Shadowsfall, led by Judge Helm Brighthand once again. He was slain, as were his entourage, and the contract of the Ritual of Ashes claimed by us, and burned by Rasc. Thus we are no longer bound.


Delegation from the Towers

Shortly afterwards, we were most honoured to be visited by Dreadlord Araikas (accompanied by the Wolfhold Scribe Halve Oath-Tongue), Raucus (also with a Scribe), and Lord Sebastion (with a Scribe named Dairy).

We presented them with a brief summary of events, pertaining to the completion of the Ritual of Ashes, the destruction of the Ravanon Cult, the Shadowsfall hostilities and of course the creation of the Shadow Keep. In the spirit of the Alliance, Dreadlord Araikas offered to make an ambassadorial approach to this new Tower, and Lord Sebastion nominated Cirith to act as ambassador from the White Retreat.

Beren was awarded the Order of Merit for being slain while selflessly attempting to rescue two fallen comrades. Owajawar, who is no longer with us, was awarded the Sun Star, and his name will be recorded in the halls of the White Retreat.

For our actions, we were named as Heroes of the Alliance.


By my hand,


Eymeric’Dir Kevralyn Soulfire
Priestess of Lloth
15th Sorcerer of House Tumdurgul
4th in Line to the Throne of Annach Morannonil


The Story of Ravanon

Lord Ravanon lived the life of a gentleman in a stately manor house in the countryside. Although he secretly supported the Reformists, he did not appear to be greatly troubled by the Loyalists: those who backed the King of Angle, and his house was eminent in its respectability. Upon one day, he was out with his falcons when he found a group of people under attack. Taking them under his wing, he never suspected that they were the feared Maegwar Cultists, also opposed by the Loyalists. Indeed he went to much trouble for his unpleasant guests, even allowing them to take residence in a room of special emotional significance to himself, and allowing them the run of the place.

The Cultists, from the Isles of Angle and Gwynneth, worshipped the wolf, and sought to undermime the household from the inside. They converted the servants to their cause, or they poisoned them, leaving the doctor baffled as to the cause of the sickness. The Cultists reserved the most virulent of poisons for Lord Ravanon himself. When he died, their leader, Owen Reece, assumed Lord Ravanon's identity and position. He relied on the Housekeeper's support in maintaining an orderly house, and its exterior credibility to keep the game afoot.

Reece, or "Lord Ravanon" as he was now known, was able to use the former Lord Ravanon's excellent connections to place himself close to those in positions of power. One of these was with King Ikarus, with whom Ravanon had had many dealings. He was not of their Tower, but a trusted outsider. During the yearly ritual to affirm the Ikarthian Triangle, he stabbed Ikarus in the back many times. Ikarus had been forged from the Ikarthian People's very life essence and status, and his death triggered a catastrophe, where all those chained by status to Ikarus perished. And so the Ikarthian Tower fell, and the former Maegwar Cult became celebrated as the Cult of Ravanon and the Wolf.

Klinemort Ironfist described the ways of the Cult briefly. They will try to infiltrate from within, starting with the odd suggestion, then forming a small group, and the players become deeply involved very quickly, perhaps without even realising. Others, who are not afraid to get their hands dirty, can turn on those within easier, such that it gets to the point where none can trust any person.

By slaying the Serbitars as they came to perform a ritual that would in some way re-embody the Ravanon leader in this time, it is hoped that we have denied the Cult a further place in this world.

 

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