The party arrived to find the lands around Brightbanner Keep in a state of disarray as soldiers were hastily training. When they reached the keep proper they were stopped by a man in full plate armor wearing the crimson tabard of the Scarlet Crusade. “Hail travelers. My name is Jaren Morgraine; I am in charge of your company now. Please follow me.” He led them away from the keep to a large command tent pitched with several others near the training grounds. Inside the tent was a small table, some chairs and a cot. Morgrain stood beside the table and addressed the party.
“I am sorry for the haste and lack of information; you must have many questions. I will attempt to fill in the spaces now for you. When you left , we sent a detachment of two hundred soldiers to the city of Stratholme to attempt to press our way in. They were slaughtered in a half-day’s time. The undead were more numerous than we anticipated and they overwhelmed the company from all sides. The next day, the undead attacked the wall with a huge force, breaking their way through. We took heavy casualties, but we pushed the undead back. The High inquisitor retreated with several clerics to pray for a sign from Mormekar, for our defenses were failing.”
Taking a seat the commander continued. “She was visited by a vision, which has left her in a trance. The vision showed a crypt and seven holy warriors in red holding aloft seven sacred swords. These swords were known as the fabled Alarahai , the Holy swords of Shadow. Blades forged by Mormekar for his chosen knights. We believe that these swords could bring back the Shan’Krai – The Holy Knights of Shadow. They are knights who could face the lichking and end this war once and for all. The Highlord is busy dealing with the wall and has placed you in my charge. Together we shall find these blades and bring about the end of this war.”
The commander paused, noticing the locket around Locke’s neck. He stood. “I have something for you my friend. The High Inquisitor asked me to give this to you with these basic instructions. Mix in the regent and immediately drink. I guess you know what that means.” The commander returned to his seat after handing Locke the flask.
Locke took the flask from Morgraine. It was half full of a clear yellow fluid. He reached into a belt pouch and extracted a small parcel, which he unwrapped to reveal several bunches of sorrow moss. He took a couple and dropped them into the flask, then gave it a swirl.
The moss immediately stained the liquid a deep purple-green color, and the viscosity seemed to increase to a syrupy consistency. Locke waited a few moments for the dregs of sorrow moss to settle to the bottom of the flask, then raised it as if for a toast.
“To my health”, he smiled, then chugged the contents of the flask straight down. He gasped and choked for a moment, then stood upright, waiting to see what would happen.
The potion other than its foul taste did exactly as promised. The necklace chain shattered, sending the locket flying across the room with a horrible female scream.
Locke walked over to the locket and looked down at it silently for a few moments. He then reached down and picked it up, tucking it into one of his many belt pouches.
Kothal picked up the conversation. “A lot of questions indeed. What lore is there for the swords, do we know where to find them? Is obtaining the swords enough to summon the Holy Knights of Shadow? As for you losses, we have obtained samples of some of the poisons the undead have that are causing decay and paralysis. Should Alimar and myself have time, we would be happy to attempt to create an antidote if that’s possible.”
As she listened to Kothal rattle off his questions, Phaedra scanned her surroundings, searching the tent and Jaren’s jacket for any sign or insignia designating a rank or title.
“Master Morgraine sir, is there a title we should address you by?”
Jaren nodded to Phaedra ," You may address me as Commander Morgraine, m’ lady."
Phaedra continued. “We found information on our most recent foray that we believe may be helpful to the cause. If you could please deliver this message to Lord Fordring.” She pulled a paper from her pack with the message from the walls of the haunted mansion transcribed on it. “We were unable to puzzle out what it means, and were hoping someone higher in the ranks could find a clue to its meaning. Please, if you would be so kind, look it over yourself.” She handed the message to Commander Morgraine and stood at attention awaiting his response.
Morgraine took the note and placed it to the side with a nod to her. He turned to Kothal. "The swords are said to be given to seven knights of Mormekar, these knights were known as the Shadow Knights the Shan’Krai. These knights sole purpose was to destroy undead wherever they may lay. Not much is known about the knights, only that once they were finished their souls were absorbed into the blades and their bodies laid to rest in a mass crypt hidden from the eyes of the world. The Inquisitor wrote a cryptic message which I think needs to be decoded, we think it is the location to the crypt itself. There is a linguist in Durnholde who might be able to decipher this message. His name is Barnald Hossrim. An antidote would be useful once we have pushed the advancing undead back. Put your minds to that as you travel.”
Kothal looked intrigued. “Commander, would you please share with us the cryptic message?”
“We have started to decode it, however we are not sure if this is the right code. Good luck. " Morgraine handed them a rough piece of parchment with the strange message written on it, as well as some other markings.
Norkel looked at the parchment. “This script it is familiar to me!” he said with excitement. “I remember learning it as a young boy. Please give me a few moments and I should be able to translate it.” Norkel began studying the writing. “To find the tomb of the shadows embrace…” Norkel took a deep breath. “…One must go to a sacred place”. He looked at his friends. “The next line is more difficult, but I will try.” Norkel scratched his head a moment before speaking. “Nestled deep within a mountains care, the tomb of the Shan’Krai lay bare.” He took another deep breath and mumbled something to himself as he deciphered the last lines. “Seek the Mount of Dethranend, into the darkness you must descend.” He looked up from the parchment. “I believe that is what it says; now we must determine what that means.”
Commander Morgraine smiled in amazement. “It seems we have chosen the correct people for the job! The Mount Dethranend is a mountain located in the area of Darkshire. It is rumored that the mountain has a hidden valley deep within, though again that is a rumor. There is a cartographer in Durnholde; perhaps he can guide you as you head to find the resting place of the Shan’Krai.”
Kothal nodded. “Thank you for the information Commander. It appears as though we have taken enough of your time and need to depart to Durnholde presently.”
Thanking Alimar for his help in selecting the perfect crossbow, Phaedra followed him out into the sunlit streets. “Alimar, you had mentioned stopping at the poison shop next.” Phaedra wrinkled her nose. “Isn’t it better to meet your foe evenly matched? It seems so underhanded to weaken them before battle, almost…" she shrugged, “…dishonorable.”
Holding her hands up to stop Alimar before he could respond, she continued. “I don’t mean to imply that you have been anything less than honorable. Or that your intentions have not been true and loyal to our cause. I just have always been raised and taught that the use of poison is for the weak and for those seeking an unfair advantage. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I am conflicted. That what I know about you, and what I have always been taught about people who do what you are doing are at odds with each other. Can you explain that to me?” She looked down at the high-elf questioningly, and blushing slightly.
“Phaedra while I do appreciate your concern, I have noticed that the undead we fight seem to have an unfair advantage over us especially in their lands. The gods did not seem to bless me as they saw fit to bless others with super-natural ability or even holy might but what they did grant me was intellect. If I can use my knowledge of herbs and other reagents to aid us in our quest to defeat the undead it would seem almost a sin not to. Would you not bless your weapon before battle or sprinkle holy water upon an undead foe? Does this not give you the same type of advantage?
“As for my conviction and dedication let me tell you why I joined the crusade and then you can decide for yourself about me. You may not know this but some years back near the beginning of war my village was over-run. When the call to arms came my father gave me his spell book and told me to protect my mother, sister, and three of my friends before locking us in the house and rushing head first into battle. The dead raged against the door and the walls of the house but my friends and I were able to fend them off.” Alimar’s normally even tone and speaking pace started to become quicker and louder as tears started to form on his face.
“Outside I could hear men, women, and children screaming as the almost joyous grunts and groans of the undead pierced the night. When the night ended and dawn broke I looked out my door to a ruined and broken village. Blood ran in the streets like water after a heavy storm. Bodies lay everywhere ripped apart, torn from head to toe, covered in bite marks.” Alimar looked away now sobbing while he spoke, his face devoid of color as the tears were now streaming down his cheeks.
“My poor father! His body was desecrated, clothes torn from him, face down in the mud. We burned them all; none could be buried as custom called for in fear that they would rise. We did this at the suggestion of one of the Knights of Scarlet Crusade. That day I left my mother, sister, and my inheritance and vowed to join the crusade. For years now I have trained and studied every way possible to defeat my sworn enemy. If making poisons allows me to perform this duty and uphold my oath then so be it. I will know that when I meet the gods I can tell them that I have done everything, with every ability, they saw fit to bestow upon me.” Alimar wiped the tears from his eyes.
“I’m sorry for this emotional display. I know it should be beneath someone of our standing. I just can’t help myself when I look back on that day.”
Phaedra shook her head in agreement at Alimar’s words. “Please Alimar, it is beneath no one’s standing to show such emotion. Tears are cleansing for our souls and should never be frowned upon. I would question your humanity were you to exhibit any less emotion than you had, after hearing your story. Ande and I were not in our village when it was attacked, much the same as yours was. Ande was very young, we both were, and Exarch Melius and the rest of the clergy were our role models growing up. Of course, I was trained in the ways of a paladin of Naaru, my lessons were hard but fair,” she paused, “and always they held the moral teachings of Naaru in the highest regard.”
She chewed her lip as she thought. “As I said, your character, your loyalty, your commitment. I question none of them. I trust you with my, and more importantly, my brother’s life.” She laid a hand on his shoulder, looking into his eyes, “I would just be cautious. The more we utilize the enemy’s tactics, however well-intentioned we may be, the more we open ourselves up to becoming like them.” Noticing they were standing outside the regents shop, Phaedra stopped walking. “Thank you for sharing your story with me Alimar. I appreciate being able to know you that much better,” she smiled. “I will be sure to include you and your father in my daily prayers.”
Having been reading on a bench, Kothal noticed Alimar and Phaedra walking and approached them from behind. “Was a successful shopping experience had my comrades? Alimar, as I had suggested in our meeting with the commander I think we should study the poison samples we retrieved. I think we may be able to discover an antidote and hopefully a way to manufacture the paralysis properties so that we may stop our enemies in their tracks. I’m not sure of the efficacy of such things on the undead, but any living beings who share an evil disposition may be affected greatly.”
Alimar looks over and smiled. “We haven’t gone into the shop yet. Phaedra and I were just having a little chat.” Alimar turned to Phaedra. “I will think on your concerns and I appreciate your sagely advice. In this day and age though, knowledge is a power that we cannot be without.” Alimar paused, smiling at Phaedra as though a small weight has been lifted from his shoulders. “In we go Kothal! We’ll we will never find what we need to combat this poison out in the street!”
“Well met Kothal! I was just heading to the temple.” She smiled at both gentlemen. “Enjoy the rest of your day.”