Campaign of the Month: March 2009

Denizens of the Nentir Vale

Disturbing the Peace

The bed was made of rough-hewn logs. It had clearly been crafted by someone who was not an expert woodworker, yet there was still an elegance to it. Each log had been carefully chosen to be the exact right size, and the bark and branches had been hacked off with a sharp blade that removed only what was necessary but not a single ounce more. The rest of the room reflected the bed’s construction. The floor was lightly sanded oak, rough but even. The walls were pale birch, directing the sunlight cleverly around the room so that the entire space seemed to glow with a pale yellow. In the corner of the room a huge tree trunk came through the floor and went out through the ceiling.

A small table stood near the bed. On the table were two items – a decanter filled with a pale red fluid, and a large grimoire, blackened around the edges with age and perhaps traces of a fire.

There were only two decorations in the room. Hanging above the bed was a tiny bow made of ash and a beech quiver, containing a few small arrows. The bow was even more crudely made than the bed, yet on closer examination, the same spartan economy had been used in crafting the bow – it was clearly a child’s toy, yet had been constructed to be fully functional. It seemed easily capable of delivering one of its arrows with deadly force and precision.

On the other side of the room, directly visible from the bed, was the other decoration. It was a large scroll, held in place by four daggers driven deep into the wall. The scroll was covered with writing, written in a sharp hand in black ink. The language was unfamiliar, gutteral, with sharp lines. In the center of the scroll was a name, set apart from the rest of the text: "Illidan eth Stormrage”. The only other recognizable word was near the bottom, written this time in red ink, “Excommunicado”. At the bottom were the signatures of numerous people, perhaps twenty in all. All were written in black ink except one in red: “Malfurian”.

Illidan’s eyes flicked open. His transition from asleep to awake was instantaneous. He scanned the room, quickly assessing what had disturbed his peace. A bird perched on the windowsill, it’s eyes adjusting to the light. Just as the bird opened its beak to let out a warble, Illidan fixed it with his gaze. His left hand made the tiniest pinching gesture. The bird seemed to shimmer for an instant and then faded from sight, leaving only a trace of dust motes floating in the disturbed air.

Illidan sighed. Either his defenses were growing weaker, or the forest was again closing in on his haven. He would have to patrol the grounds carefully today, checking all of his traps and wards.

He sighed again, taking a sip from the red liquid in the decanter. He had had another disturbing dream. This time it seemed to take place in the future. His future? He could not tell. There had been a Archmage, who seemed to perhaps be himself. Sometimes he had been in the Archmage’s body, and other times, he had floated above. The Archmage was older and dressed in flowing robes covered with silver and red sigils.

The Archmage was in a huge room, divided into five areas, separated from each other by voids on unknown depth. The main area had strange markings on the floor and a large dais, raised a few steps above the remainder. The other areas had similar strange markings. The name “The Room of Creation” floated unbidden into Illidan’s dreaming mind.

The Archmage was clearly fighting a desperate battle against seemingly impossible odds. Five heroes were arrayed against him: A half-elf Cleric, an eladrin Wizard, a half-elf Sorcerer, a human Ranger, and a stout dwarf Fighter.

Illidan sensed another presence in the room, perhaps aiding the Archmage, or perhaps there to further its own ends. Again, a name floated into Illidan’s mind: “Jaraxxus”. Illidan shuddered in his sleep.

Illidan saw the Archmage raise his robed arms. Tendrils of force and acid shot forth, striking against the Cleric and the Wizard. “Good!” though the dreaming Illidan, target the spellcasters first, especially the Wizard. Illidan could sense that the Archmage recognized the threat of another magic user, a rival, a pretender to the true power! The Wizard must be eliminated first, obliterated. Then the others could be dealt with piecemeal. The Sorcerer was a threat, true enough, but her own chaotic nature would give the Archmage time to deal with her later. The Ranger was a pesky annoyance. His arrows could sting surely enough, and given enough time could cause serious damage, but he was weak to a full frontal assault of magic. The Fighter was easy enough. He could wield mighty blows, but in the end, what could might do against magic? Ha! The Cleric complicated things. He would have to be carefully watched. He could delay the battle indefinitely, with his meddling gods.

In the dream, Illidan peered more closely at the Cleric. Which god did this one pretend to follow? Bahamut? Ha! No wait, there was another. Tiamat? Ah, now that was more interesting. Perhaps this one could be made to change allegiance. Illidan urged the Archmage to notice, willing him to follow his dream advice, but the Archmage ignored him.

The Ranger loosed an arrow which struck a glancing blow off the Archmage. The Cleric quickly followed with a curse that made the Archmage reel. His defenses were down. Illidan cursed against his own impotence, wanting to join the battle and help his brother Archmage. Strange how much kinship he felt towards the nameless necromancer. Suddenly the Archmage lifted his arms and dropped them. The entire room shifted, and a new realm was entered. All magical effects ended. Illidan was stunned. This was what he had been looking for. He must find out who this Archmage was, and where he had gained such power.

The Archmage blasted the Wizard again and again. The Wizard raised her arms feebly, trying spell after spell, only to see them fizzle and fail. Her arms fell limply to her sides, she sighed, then collapsed in a heap of robes, her staff clattering to the ground. The other heroes stood, shocked. Apparently, Illidan thought wryly, they were not used to defeat. Illidan saw satisfaction gleaming in the eyes of the Archmage, echoing his own satisfaction. That had been a well-fought battle, with little wasted power and only minor inconvenience to the spell caster.

But of course, as heroes must, they continued to fight on, oblivious to their impending, obvious, defeat. The Sorcerer spun a whirlwind of dust and debris, a thunderclap pushing the Archmage away from the fallen Wizard. The Ranger ran to the eladrin’s aid, administering a potion of life. The Cleric added his own ministrations, and the Wizard’s eyes flickered open. Too bad. At least, thought Illidan, if she somehow survives the battle, she will have some scars to show for it and to teach her some humility.

The dwarf fighter now added his strength, with a blinding flash of steel blades that struck the Archmage. Illidan saw the Archmage grow angry. His arms were raised in a mighty incantation that would sweep all away. Illidan saw his lips muttering the spell, and even though it was a dream, Illidan realized that he recognized the words. Shocked, he stared at the Archmage. Was this indeed the same spell, the spell that he himself had created, years ago, and had been perfecting? If only he could see more clearly in his dream. Yes, he could almost make it out. Just a few more moments and he would be sure.

Suddenly, there was a flash of red, as a wing shot in front of Illidan’s face. Illidan caught a glimpse of the Sorcerer, her red hair flying in the breeze, whooping with chaotic joy as she swept by on a red dragon. Annoyed, both Illidan and the Archmage glared at the Sorcerer as she flew over to one of the glowing sigils etched on the floor. Illidan’s gaze swept back to the Archmage. “Finish the spell!” he shouted frantically in his dream. The Archmage lifted his hands, poised to shout the final Word of Power that would confirm Illidan’s suspicions.

The dream ended.

It was morning. The bird had been dismissed whence it came. Illidan sighed again. Was he never to discover the answer? Illidan put on his finest pale blue robes and strode outside, blinking in the warm sunlight as he climbed down from his tree abode. Something wasn’t right. Another wild animal to disturb his peace and order? He stared across the stream that divided his small clearing in the forest. There were several humanoid creatures standing on the other side, waving their arms in confusion and gesticulating wildly to each other. Well, this at least was more interesting, he though to himself. They might still need to be destroyed, but at least he could perhaps learn something useful from other “intelligent” beings, even if they could never hope to reach his level.

“Greetings!” called Illidan across the water. “Well met!” called back one of the people, a tall half-elf wearing clerical robes. Strange, thought Illidan, why do these people seem familiar to me? A half-elf Cleric, an eladrin Wizard, a half-elf Sorcerer, a human Ranger, and a stout dwarf Fighter. Yes, somehow that seemed correct. Had he had dealings with this party in the past? They did not seem threatening, but seemed somehow wary of him, as if they somehow knew something about him that even he didn’t know. Disturbing, indeed. He would need to be very careful, only revealing what was truly necessary.

Somehow Illidan sensed that in this meeting, his life was going to change. He strongly believed in the currents of time. You followed a current down one tributary or another, and events shaped themselves accordingly. This was a new current that he had never sensed before.

Two months later…

Good friends? No, but neither were they enemies. Illidan had indeed learned much from the travellers. Z’alden, Rift, Tira, Erik, and Barrick were strong warriors. They had travelled together for many years and had formed bonds that Illidan envied. Yet that was also their weakness. Now, at last, they had brought Illidan to the Temple of the Arcane. Here, they promised, the Archmage Calizar would instruct Illidan in the deeper mysteries of the arcane. He yearned for the knowledge. With it, he could finally put an end to his life of excommunication and punish those who had thought so little of him. Yes, the time was fast approaching when all would know the name of Illidan Stormrage, and, love him? Illidan smiled for the first time in many years.

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