The Flame of Time

Giliforde Cursed

In the waning summer days of 3517 of the Age of Peace great storms had left Dragonsmouth, the infamous port on the Northern coast of Valerius, enveloped in impenetrable fog. It had been countless years since the summer storms had been this fierce and destructive. The churning waves and fearsome squalls had claimed many poor souls that summer, leaving the normally bustling docks of Dragonsmouth barren and silent. One night, as darkness fell, a lone ship cut through the mist, docking without a sound. Five pale, robed figures swiftly disembarked, heading into the city and vanishing in the fog like ghosts.

Nestled deep within one of Dragonsmouth’s innumerable back-alleys stood The Shadow of the Sun. From the outside the small inn seemed much like any other in the city, but ever since it came under the ownership of the Darkeyes, it had gained a considerable reputation for its exotic potables and rambunctious atmosphere. In those days it was managed by the young Darkeyes twins, who’d completely turned the inn’s fortunes around after the tragedy of their parents mysterious disappearance.

Unfortunately the recent storms had left the inn as empty as the docks. Having closed up early the twins were left with the only two regulars they couldn’t get rid of even if they tried: Sneed Katzroy and Leomourn Stalkingwolf.

Leomourn Stalkingwolf carried fish. He carried other things at the docks, too, but it was only the fish people ever talked to him about — it was the smell. Leomourn hated fish. He and his guardian, the disreputable Sneed, had found their way to the famous port a handful of years ago after being run out of every other civilized settlement in Valerius.

Soon after arriving they won a sizable amount of money thanks to the Darkeyes twins and, thanks to Leomourn and Amarella Darkeyes’s budding romance, found themselves continually crossing paths with the sisters.

Darella Darkeyes descended the well-hidden back stairway which led to her private quarters, intent on silencing whatever was making such a racket downstairs. When she saw the source was none other than the two familiar scoundrels along with her own sister, who had tapped an entire cask to share between them, she silently cursed and resigned herself to merely complaining.

“I thought we closed early,” she said as she approached the trio, who all turned toward her and welcomed her with a raucous cheer. Darella sighed and and looked towards the nearly empty cask, “They paid for that, right?”

“Sister, how could I charge them? There’s been no work to be found at the docks for a week.”

“That’s right, Dearie,” Sneed chimed in, drunkenly draping his arm over Darella’s shoulders, “Jus’ consider it a bit o’ customer appreciation!”

“You need to pay for things to be a customer,” Darella grumbled, not even turning to look at Sneed, “You told me you were going to close up, but look at this place. The floors are unswept and the the flagons are unwashed! I bet you didn’t even lock the door.”

Amarella gasped, she was so angry at her sister that she downed the rest of her drink before speaking, “I know you like to think that you’re in charge and this place would fall apart without you, but for your information I am quite capable of locking the door.”

“You’re sure?” Darella asked, folding her arms and narrowing her eyes at her defiant sister.

“I’m positive,” Amarella replied, mimicking her sister’s pose.

At that moment the unlocked door flew open with a frigid gust, extinguishing the welcoming warmth of the inn’s candles. Through the doorway the white mist eagerly seeped inside, spreading in wispy, pale tendrils, followed closely by five imposing figures, draped in pale robes.

“Okay, maybe I forgot.”

Four of the figures parted, allowing the fifth that stood in their center to step forward. He was slightly shorter than the others, but even with his identity concealed he carried himself with the bearing and confidence of nobility. From within the figure’s robe two hands darted out and reached upwards, lowering the hood of the cloak and revealing the man underneath. He was a young man, not much older than Leomourn himself, his flowing blonde locks, piercing blue eyes, and sharp nose singled him out as a Man of the North — probably from the mountains of Rienland.

Before the others even knew how to react he spoke, “I am Hrothgar, Prince of Giliforde , and I have come seeking Leomourn Stalkingwolf.”

Leomourn and Sneed nervously eyed one another before quickly conferring in a surreptitious huddle.

“Alright lad,” Sneed whispered, “Two things — One: What did you do to get royalty mad at ya’, and Two: Why didn’t you bloody cut me in on it?”

“Nothing Sneed, I’ve never even been to Giliforde,” Leomourn stammered, “Not that I remember at least.”

“Don’t you worry your simple head now, lad. I’ve got an idea, just follow my lead,” Sneed said.

He then quickly spun around to find the Prince’s cold eyes intently staring at him. Taken aback, he croaked out the first thing that popped into his head, “He….went that way. Your Majesty.”

The Prince’s eyes did not leave Sneed’s. Seconds passed in tense silence as Sneed fervently hoped his ploy would pay off and Darella tried to think of the most tactful way to say “I told you so”.

Finally Hrothgar gave a solemn nod. “Very well,” he said before turning to the figures behind him, “We made a mistake men, but we must press on. My long-lost cousin must be found.”

“Long-lost?!” cried Sneed.

“Cousin?!” followed Leomourn.

“So you do know of him?” Hrothgar asked, signalling his men to halt. “Please, the fate of our kingdom rests on his return.”

Leomourn barreled towards his new-found cousin, not noticing the fearsome spears the four robed figures were suddenly pointing in his direction. Fortunately for all involved, Hrothgar signaled his men to stand down, allowing Leomourn to envelop him in a drunken, but loving, embrace. Sneed followed behind, suddenly overwhelmed with immense respect for the nobleman standing before him.

“My Lord, My Majesty,” Sneed mumbled between kisses on Hrothgar’s royal ring, “For years, sire, have I humbly raised your lost cousin, your highness. Raised him like my own son, well, instead of my own son would be more accurate.”

“I finally have a family,” Leomourn shouted, “And a royal family at that!”

“Er, yes, family,” Hrothgar replied, gingerly removing himself from Leomourn’s hold, “I should have recognized you earlier but…you take after your mother.”

Leomourn’s eyes went wide, suddenly forgetting the vaults of royal riches he had been fantasizing of. “You knew my mother?” he asked.

Hrothgar cast his eyes downward for a brief moment before looking back at Leomourn , “Yes…and your father is Haradon Stalkingwolf, my Father’s Brother. He left us many years ago before you were born. My father, King Tyric, and I have only just learned of your survival, so I have been sent to find you, for our kingdom of Giliforde stands upon the verge of destruction, cousin Leomourn, and you may be the only one that can save it.”

Leomourn’s face went pale and he looked towards Sneed, who now backed away from him cautiously, afraid of being associated with someone with so much responsibility. When he saw the closest thing he had to a father backing away from him at a moment like this, Leomourn’s heart sank. But then he looked over to see Amarella smiling at him. In that instant he knew he could save an entire kingdom. He knew he could do anything as long as he had her by his side.

“Cousin, you have my vow, I will save the treasure of Giliforde!” Leomourn proclaimed.

“The what?” Hrothgar asked.

“The Kingdom of Giliforde! What’d I say?”

Whatever touching moment that might have been in the works was ruined as three more mysterious figures jumped through the front window’s of the inn.

“Oh come on, the door was already open! Do you know how expensive those windows were?” Darella shouted.

The three were clad in black cowls and leather armor. The two largest intruders stood, drawing battle axes wrought of black iron, and flanked the third intuder, a small, stout female who chanted a diabolical language in a husky voice.

Hrothgar’s bodyguards cast off their robes and charged the intruders without hesitation. The two axe-men only lowered their guard and laughed at them as their diminutive partner finished her incantation, sending a wave of energy cascading over the charging bodyguards whose suddenly napping bodies tumbled head over heels into a pile at the feet of the waiting axe-men.

As their axes fell, their partner stepped forward and drew back her cowl. She was a dwarf, silver hair ornately braided, her strong, angular features pitted and scarred from a lifetime of toil and battle. “Give up the Heir to the Throne and the rest of you get to walk out of here. A few survivors’re usually good for publicity anyway.”

Hrothgar stood defiant and drew forth his twin swords, pointing them at the intruders he smirked, “None of you shall lay a finger on Hrothgar Stalkingwolf.”

“What makes you think we want you, ignorant dog?” the dwarf sneered at him as she raised her hand. Bright blue bolts of arcane energy arced outwards from her fingertips, enveloping Hrothgar and sending his twitching body flying backwards past the others.

Nobody knew much about him, the only people he talked to in this metropolis were his love Amarella Darkeyes and her twin sister, Darella. The two sisters ran and owned an inn. This is how they lived, peacefully. Perhaps too peacefully, maybe even prosaic.

Until the flaxen, ghostlike warrior came to shore on a dragon-headed ship and told Leomournthat his uncle’s kingdom of Giliforde was suffering a curse that had no cure. King Tyric had asked the Elven Geomancers and the dwarven thaumaturgists, and everyone else on the continent of Rienland. There was no answer and when their ancient ties and oaths were spent, Tyric was hopeful that blood ties would prove best.

Leomourn, Amarellaand Darellaagreed to help King Tyric. They traveled the cold and wind to the northern continent of Rienland. When they arrived they came to a well fortified city built into the side of a great mountain range facing a beautiful view of the white plains. They came to realize that the cause of this curse was an evil plant called the Tree of Infersus.

Many centuries ago a nefarious vampire roamed the south side of Rienland until a party of adventurers entered his layer deep within the mountains and slew him, driving a stake through his heart and into the dark stone below. Thinking the evil was banished, the heros left the caves. What they did not know was that the evil within the vampire permeated into the stake itself.

The evil stake slowly grew in size and in power, slowly leeching life from the stone and water around, and then from rats and other cave things. The stake became a sapling and then a finally a tree of great size. The Tree called out for more food and then a thrall.

Malich, a young librarian who lived in Giliforde always thought he could be more than a book-keeper. He heard the call of the Tree. He fed the tree more and more blood, until the trees roots reached out far enough to dip into an underground water supply. This underground water river came out and flowed right through the center of Giliforde.

All of Giliforde grew weak and sick from the poison in the water, to the point of death or such deep apathy and weakness that they thought they were dead. Malich exhumed those buried alive and fed them to the Tree.

Leomourn, Amarellaand Darella; after much inquisition and searching found the Tree in the heart of the mountains and killed both the librarian and the Tree.

When they exited the caves, tired and bloody from the battle they were meet by King Tyric at the gates of the City. Tyric thanked them for their services and was glad that his nephew came to help a kingdom in need but all was in vain. An army of goblins and trolls and other savage beings was coming to sack the weakened city to keep as their own. The King was wearing his Royal Armour and drew his sword and said: “I will use my last breath to fight for my Kingdom.” Tyric raised his sword and ran towards the oncoming army.

Leomourn, Amarellaand Darellafought valiantly. Though four warriors were no match for an whole army of this savagery. Darellafell as a goblin’s sword went through her chest. Amarella, despite her rage; dropped with arrows puncturing her arms and side. Leomournknelt on the ground with a sword in his side as he watched his uncle fight goblin after goblin. Tyric took down gnolls and hobgoblins as well, though he was no match for the troll.

As they were all on the brink of death, beautiful arrows fell from the sky. Rocks smashed the skulls of goblins and the ground cracked beneath the feet of ogres. With blood in their eyes and arrows and blades in their lungs; the four sole humans witnessed an army of elves in the north, loosing their magical arrows upon the goblin army. Dwarven wizards using earth magic from the south.

As the last bits of life and blood were slowly leaving their bodies, the goblin army fell. Walking over the flotsam and jetsam were two figures, one stout and one lithe. They approached slowly and stood over the dying heroes. One was a female elf, the other a male dwarven cleric. The priest of Moradin knelt and healed the victims of war and asked: “Is this Giliforde?”



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