Heart of Darkness, Introduction and Adventure Hooks

Materials for New Players to this Thread

Background for Players

The Heart of Darkness path begins with the awakening of the party in dire circumstances. The party has been left for dead, and must seek a way to escape the hell in which they’ve found themselves. Players, must choose their tactics, gear and basic character elements during the initial Scene before character creation.  This singular act will then come to define the character they build within game. 

Once character creation is established, the party may choose a campaign category to establish a possible back story. This back story will then be woven into the events in the first adventure.

Nightmares and Memories

A narrative describing the nightmare scenes each party member has.  The entire party in this thread begins with amnesia and must figure out who they are, before those chasing them do. A description of these “nightmares” will be read to the party during the initial encounter.

A Cruel Awakening, Introductory Narrative

 

“Crunch….”

“Crunch…”

An ache.  A deep ache. Pain. Heat where it shouldn’t be.  Stiff. Why aren’t you moving?

 In your neck.

In your back. In your legs, Your arm turned strangely. Something feels swollen.

“Crunch….squish….drip…drip….”

What is that noise?  Is it dark or are your eyes still closed? Bringing the hand that doesn’t feel swollen to your face, you realize that indeed your eyes are open. It must be pitch black here.

But where the Light is here? And why does so much of you hurt? It feels like hundreds of tiny needles are poking at your skin from underneath, your head feels lower than the rest of your body, and your limbs feel twisted.  Numb. Moving them will take some doing.

“Crunch…”

That sound? It’s all around you. A crunching noise, but mixed with something else.  Something wet, something moist. 

Your other senses begin to interpret the surroundings, perhaps making up for the lack of light.  A smell, coppery, warm, dripping into your mouth. Blood.  Yes, the taste of blood.  You are injured then. But how badly. Your skin is beginning to tingle. The familiar sense of pins and needles are pricking all over you as you wiggle and squirm among the branches, the twisty and sharp branches poking into you from below. Branches?

“Where the Dark am I?”….a voice…from near you.  Someone else is here!  You try to speak, but the words are stuck in your throat.

At the sound of the voice, you hear movement, several directions from all around you creak and crack, and crunch.  And there’s another sound this time.  A soft rasping noise, like that of a hungry animal. 

“What! What is this? Where? What is …” but the voice is cut off this time and in it’s place is a blood curdling scream.  Something, some things have found the voice. Moving among the branches, you hear them pass you, and a sickening stench goes with them.  A smell of death. Nausea washes over you….

“Crunch… squish…drip….drip…..”…

By the light, you breathe. What hell have I awakened to?  As you struggle to control your fear and gain an understanding of what has happened, where you are, you feel around with the hand that is uninjured….the branches are oddly shaped, oddly formed…s long shaft, with a ball shaped ending.  This is no branch.

And instantly you  realize…they’re bones!! You are lying in a jumble of large bones, skulls and femurs clearly outlined by their shape.  And you aren’t alone. 

Whatever is in the dark will be coming for you soon.  And then you’ll be like the others in this place, unless….

Unless, you can somehow find a way to figure out where you are, why you are here, and how the Hells to escape!!

Welcome to the Heart of Darkness!

 

Writings from the Journal of Alorus Demartias, The Dragon…

“My power grows considerably with each passing day.  Changes that may be unnoticeable to the mere mortal being do not escape my attention.  I feel the rumblings and stirrings of the earth, I smell the lingering darkness in the morning.  The Darkening is approaching…”

 “Blood may be a carrier of the Flame but it is clear after much experimentation that it is not working to awaken the denizens of the End All War.  Although, through proper channeling and other systems I have been able to both change one form into another, and give spark to a living construct.  Blood, for now, seems to be the conduit for change on a different scope, but does not awaken the Flame.”

“The channeling of Benign Energy is still not available to me!!! I search continuously for a source of power Malignant in it’s stored form from the Battle Site to no avail.  For what good is the Fuel of Positive Essence all around me, if I can not use it to my advantage.  If I cannot access this power, than who can???”

“The Children are growing wearisome to me.  Their worship feeds me and grants me my immortality, but their servitude is not having the results I have intended.  Although I have only found several of the Flame Spheres the Ancients created, I know many more should be found within the battle-site.  But, how were they used? And HOW CAN IT AID ME in the DARKENING TO TAKE POWER from the HOPELESS???”

 

 

INTRO TO THE TOMB OF THE SEVEN LORDS…

Secret Dispatch:
To: His Grace, Cardinal Impatus
From: Priory of the Flame, Order of Iron, Lessina

My Lord,

As you know, the city of Lessina lies deep in the heart of
the former Trebian empire. As such, Lessina must and need
keep the cultural elements of the former empire in mind
throughout all dealings of the populace so as to keep the
peace during this time of righteous conversion to the
Flame’s gallant embrace of new souls. We also humbly await
our new Keeper and during this time, as Priory of the Iron
Order, it has fallen to me to humbly fulfill the safekeeping
of our grounds.

Therefore, it is with haste and utmost importance that I
send you this dispatch in regards to recent events here
within our city walls and ask for your lighted guidance so
that peace and tranquility will remain within our fine
northern city of Lessina.

A fortnight ago, during construction of a new Chapel of
Light, our workers uncovered a monumental structure buried
deep under the city.  It was, only by accident that this
structure was found as the area had already been built upon,
but our current Keeper of the Flame, his Grace Mordokos, may
the Light guide his Soul, deciding to expand the current
temple grounds sent workers to a new spot and thus a statue
of incredible size was unearthed.  The statue, bearing the
foul symbols of the Three, and those of the Four that the
Trebians once prayed to, were carved in hideous animal
motifs representing their savage and misguided faith,
possibly from the years before the Celn invasion and conquer
of this city.  It is well noted that the Trebians attempted
to hide vast amounts of scroll and objects from our
Simplification.  My Lords of the Silver Flame here often
tell of the building of our temple mount upon their very
spiritual center.  Regardless, when our

workers were asked to break down this statue and clear the
area, however, a chamber was unearthed bearing even more
foul elements.

Although the great simplification has cleared the foul
practices of the Trebians from our realm, we worried
mightily that this new unearthing might bring the unholy
from their hiding places and lead to societal imbalance once
more.  We were correct in assuming this.  For only several
days after this unearthing, one of our Iron Order spotted a
group of Trebians attempting to infiltrate the chamber for
some unknown yet surely vile purpose.

Although the Iron Order slew most of the trespassers, one
was kept and Inquisitioned and what was learned was enough
for me to warrant this dispatch to your grace. As you now
know, our Keeper, has recently taken ill most dreadful and
is currently incapacitated.  May the Light guide his soul
back to us or to the Flame’s embrace.  I am but his
simple assistant, and while a new keeper is selected among
the Order, I seek your most gracious guidance on what to
do.

During his inquisition, according to this foul
god-worshipper we caught and returned to the Light, the
“darkening” that the Trebians continue to believe in is
nigh, and the moons alignment has marked a time when the
chamber we unearthed, which he referred to as The Tomb of
the Seven Lords, no doubt in reference to their seven so
called gods, will open.   Should this come to pass,
according to the Trebian criminal we have in custody, the
tomb will open and issue forth demons kept in stasis for
some time.  Of course, we burned the ignorance from him,
and we all were saddened by the strength of his resolve to
this false tale. However, it was the fervor of his belief
that warranted our concern that others may attempt similar
feats of revolutionary and unlawful incursions.
Although those in the Light fear not these foul lies, we
want to secure this area so that there are no more problems
in our peaceful temple grounds, nor is there any unrighteous
martyrs climbing our walls searching for their delusional
false gods.

We therefore, humbly beg of your lordships’ guidance in
how to proceed so as to protect and secure Lessina’s
spiritual welfare.

In the Light
Priory  Leonatis of the Order of Iron, Lessina

 

Priory Leonatis
Under Punishment of Inquisition, Secret

 

Priory,

You have done well in order to secure information and the
site.  No doubt, this misguided affair will blow over in
time, however, cleansing the site will do much to illustrate
the might of our Flame and bring followers to it’s mighty
glow.

Although these false god-worshippers are often involved in
exasperated claims of the supernatural demons and beings
from the years before the Realm expanded to their region, we
have found several of these “tombs” to contain Trebian
guards and traps which could pose a problem or guide the
ignorant away from our righteous Flame.

Therefore, as our new Keeper is en route to you, appointed
by our Lord, I have sent 4 pairs of my finest guardians, 8
of the Iron Order which will handle the investigation of the
Trebian monument you unearthed as well as the chamber
beyond.

You may report to them all that you learn from henceforth
and assist them as they need in preparation to research and
investigate the so called tomb.

In the Light,

Impatus

An ALIND One Shot, Narrative Interlude

Wield the Right of Way

“My queen, he has come.”

“Send him to me,” replied the queen.

No sooner had the servant delivered the message, than a man dressed in glistening mail, holding a broadsword and accompanied by a contingent of look-alike soldiers, strode into the room. With purpose, the man, who removed his helm and whipped his long brown hair back from his face, fell to one knee, and took the queen’s hand.

“My queen, She has come.” To emphasize the announcement, the chamber shook with such force that mortar cracked in between some of the stones. The bowing man looked up and around at the others, whose expressions like his, looked both shocked and grave.  Most had drawn their swords, and here inside the queen’s dressing room, it seemed almost ridiculous.  It reminded Gidean of a play once the palace fool put on about a garment that caused a big war in the land.  A comedy that was. But this was no theatre.

“You must come with me, now, for your protection!” Gidean pulled the queen’s hand, who grudgingly followed him towards the chamber door. Gidean knew that this part of his mission would be the most important. The queen was like her husband.  Hot headed and strong willed.  She didn’t like to lose, and worse yet, was not keen on being told what to do.  And one must be careful, because the queen never forgot an injustice.  Ever.

She looked around as if she was forgetting something important. Even in this imminent danger, she was regal, Gidean thought.

“My husband, where is Lord…” The queen’s defiance was now tinged with worry.  All in court knew that unlike her father, the princess’ marriage was not one of politics.  Put simply, she had met her prince, and she had fallen in love.  Their wedding had been a blessing to the kingdom.  Unlike other royal unions, it was real and because of that, inspired it’s populace. That is, until the dragon came.

“The King is defending the Keep, he is…engaged. The beast has not come alone this time, m’Lady.

“Not alone?  But who has come with her?”

“My lady. It appears as if the dragon has amassed an…army.”

“An ARMY?? An army of what? From where? Gidean, what is this mad…” stammered the queen who stopped as if the shock of this statement was more than she could believe. But just at that moment, another tremor erupted around them as they were now moving through one of the palace passageways.  The bricks of carved designs all around them shook, the marblework cracked, and one section of the hall crumbled in a haze of dust. Great crevices snaked their way along the walls and floor.  The blast startled them all, and knocked one soldier to the ground.  Large stones piled on top of him, crushing the screams from his mouth.  His body lay still, arms and legs snapped in bent positions by the debris.

“NOW M’LADY!” Gidean’s face had become urgent and wide eyed.  More quakes around them blasted here or there and the soldiers, instinctively, moved into tighter formation. They were willing to give their lives for the queen, but each was driven by their mission. “MOVE! You men! The queen, move the queen to safety!”

Now in a full run, the soldiers, swords drawn held their shields in a way to protect their precious queen. They raced through the castle passageways, deeper and deeper in the keep, as dust and dirt from the giving stones above them fell in streams.  Gidean knew they were getting close. If they could make it to the treasure chamber, they had a chance.  They had planned for just such an attack as this, in fact, they had prepared for just this moment, and he knew that the dragon could not hold the keep indefinitely.

Onward he pulled his queen, onward the men followed. Gidean tried to remember the plan that he had reviewed so many times with the king.  Remember Gidean, to the chamber.  Make it there, and she will remain safe.  Until our troops from Tso Canth arrive.  Hasai will not be able to hold the keep, you will wait with her.  I will give you the time you need, and once I know she is there, will come with reinforcements. Do not fail me.

I will not, Sire.

The screams and yells were now audible. The fight was coming closer. They needed only to move to the next stairwell, descend and unlock the chamber.  “We’ll make it,” thought Gidean, and just then, from a side passage he saw a shadow of something that shouldn’t be.

“Halt,” he whispered harshly staying the others with his hand.  But it was too late, they were in full view of whatever was in the passageway’s shadow.  From the darkness beyond the light of the last torch, two sets of gleaming blue eyes appeared.  For a brief moment, they hovered in the air, and then grew larger as the forms they belonged to came into view of the flickering flames. Out of a nightmare, walked two impossible monsters.  Large reptilian faces, as if they were men and dragon mixed.  On their backs were folded wings like those of a bat, and each held a wicked sword.  In a guttural language, one spoke to the other.  And as the one advanced, the other fell back into the darkness.

“Defend the queen!” Gidean’s honor was unmatched among the guard and was none the different this eve. He flung himself into the beast, but it’s muscular arm simply swiped him aside.  One clawed hand grabbed the soldier’s throat and held him against the wall. It then slid him sideways near a lit torch in it’s sconce.  His ear’s flesh and his long curls began to sizzle and burn while he yelled. All the while the creature’s wicked sword slashed at the other soldiers who engaged it.

“Give me the keyssssss,” hissed the beast in a mockery of Common.  It’s snout full of sharp teeth was pressed against Gidean’s face, who could smell it’s coppery breath mixed with the smell of his flesh and hair, burning.

“Nevvvvver,” croaked Gidean. His face was enveloping in a fiery blaze and his eyes were bulging.

“My misssstreesssss will take the girl. Ssssheee comessssss…..”

With Gidean’s dying breath he yelled for the others to move the queen on.  He reached to draw a dagger from his boot, which was, like the rest of him, suspended above the ground.  But as his hand grazed the handle, the creature, watching the others move onto the stairwell, turned back in his direction.  It’s blue eyes gazed right at him, and Gidean saw that they were indeed the eyes of a reptile, of a snake. They were dragon’s eyes.  The eyes of the beast.  As the creature plunged his sword right through the noble soldier’s heart, Gidean knew only that he had failed his king. His eyes closed, and he knew no more. The creature came on towards them, while behind it Gidean’s body burned. The sword had been pushed so deep between the stones that he hung there, arms and legs limp, against the walls of the keep.

“MOVE!!!!” Shouted Gidean’s captain, and his men crab walked down the passage as fast as they could.

The others in the company wasted no time with the enemy coming on and they reached the stairwell quickly, stumbling upon the stones as swiftly as their feet would take them.  The soldiers in the rear spread out their shields, but it roared and slashed. They tried desperately to keep it at bay by slashing it with their swords.  The creature simply used it’s claws to swipe away the weapons and chased on. The yelling grew louder from all the different passageways above and they could now hear the distinctive sounds of battle. Men were dying.  But was the enemy? “We’re nearly there!  Open the Treasure Chamber!” screamed Gidean’s captain to one of his men. Producing a key, the man raced on in command. “Hurry, my queen, hurry!”

The Captain, like Gidean moments before, took the queen’s hand and ran on, while several other soldiers fell back. They would be the last defense. Or so he thought.

Their swords swung into action, as their comrades fell to the creature’s claws.  Luckily, one of them struck a mighty blow, and the beast fell.

Ahead, in the hallway, the captain knew his soldiers wouldn’t last long, but almost immediately a sound that was like sizzling meat tore through the halls and echoed in the chamber.

 “What the…?”

Rounding the final steps of the treasury stairwell, the Captain saw his guard in the torchlight, fumbling with the key.  He knew that the guard would be speaking the incantation that would peel the door away. Giving them only a few moments of time, it would seal itself off until another spoke them again. It was going to be close, but they would make it.  With the remaining guards, they could buy her the time she needed.  He had but a few paces left, and in the blink of an eye, he knew he would never make them.

It was the guard who was working the treasury’s door who first looked up, past him.  Back in the direction they’d come.  From behind, and above in the stairwell, where torchlight should be, was now darkness. But that was not all.  A dark, slick, and blue form like a wave of water rushed down towards them.  The form was fronted by a colossal mouth, with shimmering teeth and two eyes, like the smaller he had seen before, but vastly larger in size.  The dark blue scales rippling along it’s body scratched the stones of the chamber.  Through the darkness fell two gigantic legs, with claws that ripped the stones they fell upon.  The torchlight illuminated the full form of the beast they had trained for these many years. The beast that had terrorized them.  But nothing could have prepared them for this.

“Rear guarrrr……,” began the captain, but his words were never finished, for at that moment the air sizzled.  There was a metallic smell as when one enters a blacksmith’s shop, and something seemed to push him closer to the gaping maw that was outstretched not feet before him.  Raising his sword, the captain could perfectly see the dagger like teeth, the tongue whipping and in the very center, towards the back of it’s throat grew tendrils of sizzling energy. Like, tiny bolts of lightning they convulsed and centered and with a gush, they struck outward at him and several of his other guard, bolts of lightning stopping his heart, charring his flesh.  The captain died with his mouth open and an immense hole which burned outward right through the center of where his chest used to be. As the queen watched terrified, the burning fanned out to the rest of his body. In sickening speed, it blackened and flaked off of him like ashes from a fire. Behind were left  the white bones of what was only moments before the captain of the guard. The body of the captain fell over, and behind him, stood the queen in her dressing gown. Hair disheveled. Fear and defiance ablaze in her eyes. The queen looked upon the beast. The dragon moved the rest of it’s legs, wings and tail down from the stairwell, but kept it’s snout pointed at her.    With one strike it could bite her in two.  Never taking it’s plate sized eyes off the queen, it spoke not to her, but to the guard at the door, the only guard it had not destroyed.

“Pleasssssssseeee soldier of the keep, you musssttt  finisssshhh the incantation for meeee.  I would hate to leavvvee empty handed.”

The guard did not answer.  But nor did he finish the words.

“Your queen for a treassssssurry, young one. Sssspeak the wordssss, or I will kill her anyway, and peel the ssssskin from your body for ssssssport.”

Without looking up, trembling from the dragon fear. The guard rose and slowly turned his body from the dragon’s mouth until he was facing the treasury door once more.  His hands shook so violently that he inserted the keys, but his knees gave way and after completing the phrase, he fell aside as if struck on the head.

 “After you, my dearest queen.”

The queen backed toward the chamber door.  Her breath was caught in her throat, she could smell the same metallic stench, and a rushing of wind began to pull her towards the dragon as before.

For the tiniest of moments there was an awkward silence, while above them men screamed and metal upon metal rang out. The queen knew if she could just squeeze inside the chamber, she would be safe once it closed.  For this is exactly what the chamber had been created for.  As her husband had planned, she would then wait for him and for Tso Canth’s guard to arrive.  She could do this.  She could live. She could see her love once more. Around her, the Captain and his soldier’s bodies lay in piles of charred corpses. Their bodies were nothing more than skeletonized bits of blackened flesh lying on the chamber floor. For her they had died, she must live, if only to honor them.

“HASAI! By the Light, what have you done to her!!!!”

The dragon turned it’s head, roping it’s neck backwards above it’s body and in between it’s wings. The queen looked past the dragons’ body too and up the steps, where a man in a golden suit of mail stood.  It was the king!

And he was badly injured. His sword was held behind him in an odd way.  His other arm, his shield arm, was missing.  Below the elbow there was nothing.  Blood was caked and matted all over his armor, and as he took the first step of the descent, she knew he wouldn’t make it.  Behind him even as he came, were more of the dragon men, and with what was obvious his dying moments, he walked step by step while they clawed at him, and hacked at him with vicious and sharp weapons. His ineffectual sword thrusts just slid off their scales.

Everything happened in an instant.  The king toppled then and slid down the final steps coming to rest at the base of the stairs.  He tried to lift his head, but got only as far as turning it in the direction of his treasury door sliding open.  He yelled the name of his wife.  It went on until it became a long drawn out whimper.  Perhaps he was trying to will her to the door, perhaps he was trying to keep her alive by keeping her name upon his lips as long as he could.  Perhaps, it was the agony of his failure.

The queen cried out, bending over with horrible agony and as quickly as she could, turned and made a run for the door just as it was closing itself. She screamed with rage and sorrow, as behind her the dragon roared.  Pulling herself in with a tug of the treasury wall, she landed atop a pile of the kings coins.

The dragon sprang and threw it’s might against the chamber door, realizing it had been tricked, and would not be able to open the door with her inside.

“We’ve beaten you, worm! Crawl back to where you’ve squirmed from!!!!! I’ve lived, and Tso Canth will come for you! My vengeance will be upon you!”

The beast roared, and the queen, all tears and sweat and torn garments, laughed at the sound.  She had just witnessed her beloved’s death, and for that, there was only her life as victory, but it was hers. And it was his too.

The door was coming to the end of it’s motion. The anguish of the defeated dragon dying beyond the magical enclosure. And just when it had all but evaporated, a lone talon stuck itself in the last of the door’s closing gap.

The queen stared at the talon, and the breath stuck in her voice, the laughter dying in her throat.  Something began to push her from behind.  She realized then that it was the air, sucking out of the chamber through the small, miniscule gap where the talon was. Looking down, she saw, as if by some magic, some of the coins rising in the air, between them danced little bolts of energy.

“My life is my revenge,” she thought, “and somehow, my love, we will have our vengeance.”

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