Another Holy War

The Kraken's Wake
The Story so Far... (As Told by the High Priest and Vitae Bard Lucas in his report to the Vitakai)

My Noble Lord,

We, realizing that the danger to the Vitae Camp was very real and that there was no easy way to enter or exit Bentenvania, asked the ruler of Bentenvania, Lord Angus, for help. Upon our request, Lord Angus explained that Bentenvania could spare a single ship, but that it could only do so for a short period of time as there was an Imperial army from the Empire of Dunzelheit amassing near the southern border of Bentenvania’s ally, Calandia. This army posed an immediate threat to Calandia, but there was very little that we could do for the Bentenvanians or the Calandians given the current circumstances. As such, we acquired a Bentenvanian ship outfitted with an ice-cutter and began our journey back to the Vitae Camp with all haste.

While en route to the Desert of Gamandine, we encountered a disabled ship floating in the icy waters to the east of Bentenvania. The ship had no mast, and there were no obvious signs of battle or damage. Still, we feared that there might be people aboard the ship in need of aid, and we decided to board the vessel to conduct a thorough search. After an extended search, we discovered that the ship was actually a Vitae Flagship known as the Kraken’s Wake under the command of Prince Leon. The prince had originally set out with the ship on a quest to find information about Sekhemit’s brother, Mios, but the prince met an unfortunate fate at the hands of (read met an unfortunate fate at the hands of as “was turned to stone by”) a creature known as the Chessmaster long before we discovered the ship. Unfortunately, the woes of the ship’s crew did not end there as the crew was attacked by some sort of unseen force before they could return to the Vitae Camp and report the prince’s predicament. We still do not know exactly what this unseen force was, but we now believe that it may have been the Shadar’Kai for I was attacked by a small, but powerful force of Shadar’Kai under the leadership of a cursed Shadar’Kai witch as soon as I stepped upon the wooden planks of the ship’s lower deck. Fortunately, the rest of the group quickly came to my aid, and we were able to smite the foul creatures.

With the creatures smited, we continued our investigation and discovered that most of the crew was missing. As such, we looked high and low for any clue to their whereabouts, and from the runes and ritual circles that we discovered on the ship, we ascertained that the crew was most likely removed by some sort of foul ritual carried out by the Shadar’Kai. After a short examination, we were able to activate one of the foul portals that the Shadar’Kai had created, and we used the portal to enter the Shadowfell. Once there, we met a creature that we can only assume was the goddess of death herself…The Raven Queen…and a legion of Shadar’Kai advancing on the only surviving members of the crew save the 11 souls that were still aboard the ship. We readied our blades and prepared to save our comrades, but Scuff was able to use his more than intimidating demeanor to negotiate the safe return of the survivors without the need for any additional Vitae bloodshed (NOTE: Lucas has deliberately omitted the fact that the Raven Queen did not want to attack Scuff because she did want to offend his “mistress.” This is ultimately what allowed Scuff to negotiate the safe return of the survivors, but no one, including Scuff, knows why.)

We then made our way out of the Shadowfell back to the Bentenvanian ship with the suvivors in tow to purify the Kraken’s Wake (read purify the Kraken’s Wake as “ram the ship into the Kraken’s Wake in order to sink it.) With the Kraken’s Wake and the foul atrocities committed upon it lost forever, we were finally able to continue our journey home and return to the Desert of Gamandine. However, I’m afraid that none of us were truly prepared for the sight that we saw upon our return as the entire northern section of the Vitae Camp had mysteriously, or perhaps not so mysteriously, disappeared…

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Raina and the Secrets of the Orb
The Story so Far... (As Told by the High Priest and Vitae Bard Lucas in his report to the Vitakai)

My Noble Lord,

We waited patiently for over two weeks for our audience with the Overlord before we finally approached the castle to ascertain the status of our audience request. Upon our arrival in the castle, the Overlord’s master scribe, to my surprise, immediately granted us the audience that we had requested weeks ago. The Overlord, who I must admit was younger than I had expected, was far more concerned with the well-being of his people and the safety of Lady Raina than he was with staying on our good side (read staying on our good side as “telling us where the girl was.”) However, after a lengthy discussion, we finally convinced the Overlord that we meant Lady Raina no harm, and he informed us that Lady Raina was studying with the Archmage of Bentenvania, Zane. As such, we set out for Bentenvania without delay (NOTE: Lucas has deliberately omitted two key events that occurred during the group’s journey for fear that it may put Calandia or Malcolm at risk. Lady Sekhemit actually discovered that the Overlord was allowing the Kirakai’s son, Malcolm, to hide in Calandia, and the group agreed to help Malcolm become a Vitae. The Overlord also allowed the group to use some his dogsleds, which could be seen as a violation of Calandia’s neutrality in the War of Light and Dark.)

Unfortunately, our ship was not equipped with the appropriate hull to make the dangerous journey through the frozen waters of Bentenvania, and we were forced to make our way through the Icy mountains of Northern Calandia instead. As we traveled through the mountains, we discovered a group of Kira, but we were unable to ascertain the reason for their presence in the mountains. We were, however, able to purify a young purple worm (read purify a young purple worm as “obliterate a big disgusting worm thing”) that was living in the caves.

With the threat of the worm eliminated (read the threat of the worm eliminated as “the worm beaten to a bloody pulp”), we made our way out of the cave and onto the other side of the mountain where we used the scales from the worm to fashion a series of sleds (read sleds as “sleds and snowboards.”) This allowed us to greatly increase the speed of our descent down the mountain, but we greatly underestimated the speed at which some of our allies would travel and our two-headed ogre friend was thrown into a snow bank. Fortunately, we were able to free our comrade from the snow and we began our journey towards the Bentenvanian Keep. However, as we continued into the snow-covered lands of Bentenvania, we quickly realized that we had underestimated the unnatural cold that surrounds the lands and we were eventually forced to take refuge in a camp (read take refuge in a camp as “just barely stagger into a camp dragging out frostbitten allies behind us”) under the command of Duke Kazyr Stjeune of the Harsgalt Clan, Captain of the Bentenvanian Royal Guard.

His Lordship, Duke Kazyr, offered us a place by his fire, blankets, warmer attire, and was even kind enough to offer us his services as a guide. We, of course, gracially accepted his offer as we were a little disoriented by the snow (read were a little disoriented by the snow as “nearly froze to death in the snow.”) After a short rest, Kazyr led us north over a frozen river into the city-state of Bentenvania proper where we met with the ruler of Bentenvania, Lord Angus. Lord Angus is not a man of many words, but instead a man of strength and he had no great interest in preventing us from seeing Lady Raina (Read this sentence as "Lord Angus is a barbarian to the core and, as such, it took longer to explain why we wanted to see Raina than it did to actually convince him to let us see her.) With Lord Angus’ permission, we made our way to the Mage’s tower and requested an audience with Raina. The Archmage Zane, was reluctant to grant our audience at first, but we eventually convinced him to allow us into the tower (read to allow us into the tower as “that he really didn’t have a whole lot of choice in the matter because Lord Angus gave us permission to enter.”)

We then made our way up a long spiraling staircase, past a series of doors, and into the Wizard’s Laboratory where Raina studied. Once inside, we explained the situation and asked her to help us learn the mysteries of the orb. Raina agreed to tell us everything that she knew about the orb, but she warned us that the orb was damaged and that there was no way that she could repair it. To make matters worse, Raina quickly revealed that the orb was not only damaged, but was also causing the area around the orb to rift unexpectedly and, as such, was a great threat to anyone near it. Realizing the true extent of the chaos that the orb could cause, we quickly asked Raina and Zane if there was anyway we could send a message, and Archmage Zane, at Raina’s suggestion, reluctantly allowed us to use one of hiS Raven’s to send a simple message “Orb unstable. Get Orb out of camp!” With our message sent, we began to look for the fastest route back to the Vitae Camp…

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The Survivors of the Kira Massacre
The Story so Far... (As Told by the High Priest and Vitae Bard Lucas in his report to the Vitakai)

My Noble Lord,

We set out to Dunzelheit in search of the survivors of the Kira Massacre as you requested, but Lord Sheen graced us with his presence before we could leave. As such, I must regretfully inform you that we were slightly delayed in our departure, but we were able to continue our journey after Lord Sheen demonstrated a small portion of his absolute power by “encouraging” (read encouraging as “forcing”) the people of the Vitae camp to dance. Lord Sheen was kind enough to offer us some advice on the people of Dunzelheit before we left, but I have a feeling he may have been reading it from some sort of scroll (read scroll as “cue cards”.)

En route to Dunzelheit, we encountered a strange individual by the name of Papete Harativo who appeared out of a shimmering vortex hovering above the middle of the ocean. He demanded that we swear our allegiance to the Void Wolf and the Void Wolf’s mistress, the Beauty in Black…We of course met this demand with the appropriate and justified response (read with the appropriate and justified response as “by trying to kill him”), but he summoned some sort of spider, a creature from the Void made of lightning, that allowed him to make his escape. We slayed the spider and continued to Dunzelheit as commanded.

Once in Dunzelheit, we were greeted by General Hans of the Wolf Clan. He was kind enough to escort us to the Slave Market, a horrid place filled with squalor, where we were able, with the aid of our ally from Dunzelheit Ragan, to locate a woman by the name of Sandra. Sandra informed us that our Vitae comrades had been sold into slavery, but the woman that purchased them, Lady Piper, freed them as soon as they were purchased. Our comrades, however, realized that they would find no aid in Dunzelheit, and fled into the woods to rearm, regroup, and plan. As such, we made our way into the woods in search of the survivors, and quickly found the ruins of a fortress near the center of the wood where our allies were attempting to hold off a legion of nearly 200 undead skeletons led by Lich known as Dr. Katz. We, of course, intervened and the swift and decisive strikes of Lady Odara, Lord Thotham, the Noble Warrior Child Marcin, the Deadly Assassin Ragan, and myself were able to quickly put down the threat from the Lich and his minions. Unfortunately, the Lich was not utterly destroyed, and he swore that he would return to seek his vengeance as his dust blew into the winds.

With the survivors safely in hand, we began tending to the wounded, only to discover that Captain Peter of the 1st Vitae Regiment had been severely wounded by a skeletal creature with tainted claws dripping with some foul, purple liquid from the void. We were able to stem the damage caused by the wounds, but it required a larger amount of purification than I would have liked (read a larger amount of purification than I would have liked as “chopping off his arm and some of his fingers.) Once Captain Peter was stable enough to move, we made for our ship and headed back to the Vitae Camp.

The return trip was uneventful and we arrived in the Vitae Camp without incident (NOTE: Lucas has deliberately omitted a key event that occurred during the group’s journey here for fear that it would bring down the wrath of the Vitakai. The group actually discovered the true reason that Eva had been acting strangely on the return trip. As it turns out, she is in a relationship with a Kira, Malcolm, who is also the son of the Kirakai. This relationship would be considered an extreme taboo by the Vitae as it is a violation of the Treaty of Azarith and, therefore, a violation of the rules of engagement passed down by Avalon himself. As such, the punishment is typically death, but the party made a deal with Sheen and the demon mistress, Lady Shyleia (pronounced Shy-la) to turn back the clock so the ship’s crew never actually discovered the existence of the relationship.)

We then, upon your order, proceeded back to Dunzelheit in search of a mysterious bandit, believed to be a survivor of Azarith, that might have information about the rift orb and the appropriate manner in which to activate it. The bandit, who we later found out was a member of the Azarithian Masked Guard by the name of Z, was actually a survivor of Azarith, but he didn’t know how to use the orb. He did, however, know that the Grand Wizard Azarith (the Wizard for which the city is named) did have an apprentice, Raina, who might know how to use the orb. In fact, the reason that Z had taken on the role of a bandit, was so that he could commandeer (read commandeer as “steal”) documents from the Empire of Dunzelheit to determine Raina’s whereabouts and, as luck would have it, he found information to indicate that Raina might be somewhere in the Kingdom of Calandia.

With this information in hand, we set out for Calandia immediately and, upon our arrival, requested an audience with the ruler of Calandia, Overlord Lucius III, to see if he knew anything about Raina and her whereabouts. Unfortunately, the Overlord is quite busy, and there is a two-week waiting period for an audience. As such, we now wait…

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The Orb, the Wolf, and the Crimson Coalition
The Story so far (as told by the Vitae Bard Atura Tolin)

Vitakai Angelos, upon Eva’s safe return to the camp, summoned the brave band of adventurers to the Grand Cathedral of the Vitae to offer his thanks for the services that they had performed in the name of the Vitae. In honor of their achievements, the Vitakai offered the services of one of his finest bards, the High Priest Lucas, and offered each and every member of the band a gift that would take the form of any boon that was within the Vitakai’s power to give. The band’s travels in the Crimson Coalition camp, however, were far from done, as it quickly became apparent that the Vitakai was concerned about the true intentions of the Crimson Coalition and the sinister purpose that they had in mind for his daughter and the artifact for which they searched. The brave band, as a result, set out once more for the Crimson Coalition’s camp to search for the answers that the Vitakai had asked them to seek.

Fortunately, the brave band of adventurers were not alone, as the Vitakai sent out a large group of his best warriors to distract the Crimson Coalition as the band made its way through the desert tunnels of the slave camp. With the skilled hands of the group’s trapmaster, Eravan, the ferocious strength and “smash now!” attitude of the two-headed ogre (one of the slaves that the band had rescued from their first journey into the camp), and the swift swords of the group’s rangers and bards, the group made their way deep into the Crimson Coalition’s camp. Inside, they not only found the treasury (and several small groups of Skaven to slaughter), but also found the truth for which they had been searching. The members of the Crimson Coalition were actually the servants of some dark master, a creature known as the Void Wolf, that were on a mission to find a magical artifact known as a rift orb to carry out the foul creature’s plans. The band also discovered that Eva had originally come to the Crimson Coalition camp to free her friend Myka, and that Myka was being held in the compound’s laboratory to be used as a test subject. The brave band of adventurers, with this knowledge in hand, immediately set out to rescue Myka and acquire the orb.

After a series of wrong turns, dangerous traps, and one really strange Skaven Alchemist, the band rescued Eva’s friend Myka, freed a group of slaves that the Crimson Coalition had been using as test subjects for some bizarre experiment (involving void crystals and torture), and made their way to the area in which they believed the orb might be located. Unfortunately, that area was located beneath the Library of Bunkai, and only Neutralis were allowed to enter. The snarky warrior from Dunzelheit that Lady Thorn had previously offered to the group, however, simply looked towards one of the windows and announced that the band meant no harm and, as such, they requested permission to enter. The Grand Librarian, upon hearing the warrior’s request, allowed the band to enter the library.

Once inside, the band made their way into the tunnels beneath the library to continue their search for the orb, and quickly found a secret passage leading into the ruins of an ancient tower. The band moved down the tower’s disintegrating steps, past a series of doors that seemed to be blocked by sand and rubble, to the bottom of the tower where they found the rift orb. As the party lifted the orb from the strange mechanical device on which it sat, the entire tower began to shift, causing rocks and sand to rain down from above. The band attempted to make their way back up the stairs, but it quickly became apparent that the stairs were no longer stable, and the party was forced to climb the wall back up into the tunnels below the Library.

The party, back in the safety of the Library, gathered their gear, and began their journey home to report their findings to the Vitakai. Once home, the band reported their exploits, and the Vitakai demonstrated his gratitude for the band’s services by offering them the right to establish a new Vitae settlement outside of the main camp and a ship to track down Ritz and the survivors of the assault on the Kira Cathedral. It was, however, more than obvious that the Vitakai was more concerned about the role that the creature known as the Void Wolf would play in the War of Light and Dark than he was about the settlement or the ship…

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Eva and the Assault on the Crimson Coalition's Camp
The Story so far... (as told by the Vitae Bard Atura Tolin)

Our brave band of adventurers, back in the confines of the Vitae camp, tended to their wounds and prepared their weapons for battle. The band, however, was forced to cut their preparations short as a young woman clad in a black uniform with a golden raven insignia rode into the camp followed by an entourage of black-clad soldiers. The Holy Knight, Sir Gabriel, moved quickly to halt her advance with two Vitae Knights standing by, but the young woman simply dismounted, raised her hand, and informed the Holy Knight that she meant no harm and that she was simply here to speak with Baroness Odara. The Vitae baroness, Vitari Odara, approached the woman without hesitation (much to the chagrin of the knights sworn to protect her), and allowed the young woman to speak. The young woman introduced herself as Lady Thorn and explained that she was actually a baroness herself from the Empire of Dunzelheit. She had traveled across the ocean to thank Baroness Odara for freeing one of her clansmen and, in recognition of this deed, offered Odara the services of some of her men and mercenaries. After some discussion (and some reservations), Odara decided to accept their services under the belief that any man or woman willing to hold a sword against the Kira was actually an asset to the cause.

It quickly became clear, however, that one of the mercenaries, Thotham, was actually a Vitae count with some unusual ideas about the true role of magic items in the world, and concerns began to arise as to how the group should protect their own magical equipment. The group, however, had little time to discuss these concerns as Vicar Thotham (Vicar is the title for a Vitae count) approached the Holy Knight Gabriel and asked him about the purpose of the assault on the Kira Cathedral. The Holy Knight explained that the cathedral was actually the Grand Cathedral of the Kira, and it was the hope of the Vitae forces that they would be able to locate and capture the legendary tainted artifact from which all Kira gain their power, the Shadow Chalice. Unfortunately, the Chalice was well-hidden and the Kira were able to drive the Vitae forces out of the Cathedral before the Chalice’s secret chamber could be discovered. The Kirakai, now aware of the Vitae’s intentions, would have certainly bolstered the Grand Cathedral’s defenses making another attack impossible (or at least well-over the line into insanity.) To make matters worse still, Holy Knight Gabriel had other problems that were more pressing than the failed attack on the Cathedral for the Vitakai’s daughter, Eva, had disappeared somewhere near the Crimson Coalition’s camp.

Hearing this (and knowing that there was a treasure trove of magnificent items that they could commandeer from the Coalition), the band set out immediately for the Crimson’s Coalition’s desert camp. Upon their arrival, the band was attacked by a Skaven Warband that appeared to be guarding the camp. After a seemingly never-ending battle between the party and the Skaven, the brave band made their way into the tunnels of the mining camp, navigated their way through a series of deadly traps, and found Eva strapped to a table with a sharp, bladed pendulum rapidly descending towards her. The band moved quickly to rip the straps that bound Eva off the table before the pendulum ensured her messy end. With several great feats of desperate strength, the band managed to tear the straps from the table to free Eva just in the nick of time and, with Eva rescued, made their back to the Vitae Camp to tend to their wounds.

Meanwhile, Marcin and his mentor, Sir Seraphis the Compassionate, continued their search for the missing survivors of the assault on the Grand Cathedral of the Kira. There was little to indicate where the survivors might have ended up, but Marcin and Sir Seraphis began to hear rumors that Master Ritz and his “merchant” band may have known more about the survivors whereabouts than they originally let on.

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The Journey Begins
The Story so far (as told by the Vitae Bard Atura Tolin)

Our story begins just as an epic battle between the foul forces of the Kira and the noble forces of the Vitae ends. A young boy named Marcin, covered in blood, rushes into the Vitae camp screaming for help. The boy is one of a handful of survivors of a massacre in which many brave Vitae lost their lives defending a Kira Cathedral that our forces had captured. With the cathedral retaken by the Kira, our brave band of adventurers, after a lengthy discussion of the merits of such an undertaking, set out into the harsh desert to aid their comrade Marcin in his search for survivors. This led the band to the outskirts of a Kira Camp where they met a group of less than reputable merchants under the leadership of one Master Ritz.

After a series of discussions and negotiations, the brave band managed to convince Ritz to loan them some of his men and the group made their way to the foul Kira’s den. Once inside, the band discovered the noble warrior and Marcin’s master, Sir Seraphis the Compassionate, single-handedly holding back an entire Kira brigade. The band immediately leapt into the fray to aid their horribly outnumbered comrade, but the battle came to an abrupt end as Kirakai Stephanus, the hated leader of all Kira, appeared before the band and demanded an explanation for the Vitae’s actions. The band, in response, explained that they had come in search of survivors that had been taken prisoner by the Kira, and the Kirakai, in turn, informed them that were none. With this information in mind, the band decided to take the only reasonable course of action available and made a tactical retreat.

However, as the band headed back, they came across a statue that the Kirakai had mentioned. This statue was dedicated to a noble warrior named Ashtar who challenged the Kirakai to an honor duel many many years ago. In the statue’s hands was a sword that seemed to glow in the dim evening light, but the sword was metal not stone. This led the Vitae Knight, Sir Clodington, to draw the sword from the statue’s stone awakening the spirit of Ashtar trapped inside it. After a brief exchange of blows, Sir Clodington demonstrated the true extent of his honor and offered the sword back to the ghost. The spirit of Ashtar, realizing the Vitae Knight’s noble intentions to destroy evil wherever it may lay, granted Sir Clodington permission to keep the sword. With the sword in hand, our brave band of adventurers headed back to the Vitae camp to rest, tend to the wounded, and inform the Vitakai of the events that had transpired.

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