The party has become embroiled in a world and dimension-spanning competition for a dangerous artifact that could cause the destruction of the world of Mystara. Below is a synopsis of what they have learned so far. Of course, they could always throw in the towel and sail across the Sea of Dread in search of treasure.
The Radiance – A source of dangerous power that has the ability to bend space, time and magic. The glowing, many-legged creatures of Corran Keep and withered limbs of members of the Brotherhood of the Radiance suggests it also can cause mutations in living creatures. It seems to cause repeated space-time rifts and portals and its presence can cause spells to go awry with bizarre consequences – Arcanists have come to refer to these side effects of the Radiance as "the Wyrd." Experienced Arcanists can manipulate it to empower their castings. However, Rheddrian warns using its power to do so actually drains magic from the fabric of Mystara and, if abused on a large enough scale, could drain magic almost entirely from Mystara killing its many magical races and causing unknown havoc. Its abuse could also unbalance the Spheres of Power causing untold destruction. The party witnessed both of these dangers in Prince Stephen d' Amberville's mausoleum – Niko successfully manipulated the Radiance via the Mirror Shield to drain magical life force from Rathanos and the unleashed forces of the Spheres of Power violently tore the tomb and its pocket dimension apart.
To date, the party has not located the Radiance, but, in ancient Blackmoor, they discovered that its presence was associated with the black, twinkling stone scattered across that land. They learned those stones were most concentrated near ruined, elvin Uvaeren and the Valley of the Ancients – home to the City of the Gods. A falling star both destroyed Uvaeren and carved out the Valley of the Ancients centuries before the founding of Blackmoor.
Four thousand years later, in their own time, the party experienced the Wyrd in an around The Broken Lands. Shadow Elves also attempted to use its power to destroy Alfheim utilizing "Soul Crystals," which are of the same black, twinkling stone as encountered in Blackmoor. King Doriath of Alfheim reported Shadow Elf prisoners divulged they mined their richest veins of Soul Crystals somewhere under Glantri.
Arwan suspects that placing the modern location of the Valley of the Ancients will lead the party to the Radiance and thinks it may be under Glantri.
Rheddrian has asked the party to find out whatever they can about the Radiance and its location and has expressed that he fears the growing global war on Mystara may be a result of Immortal competition to obtain it.
Rheddrian – A benefactor of the party, they originally discovered Rheddrian in Corran Keep trapped in the Mirror Shield – an effect caused by the Radiance. Upon being released, he grew large, green and disappeared. They then encountered him again in Blackmoor (normal-sized, but with a slightly greenish tint), a captive in the Temple of the Frog (a place filled with strange technological magics). Returning to their own time, Rheddrian sought out their aid with Mystara's growing troubles.
His memory fuzzy from his thousands of years trapped in the Mirror Shield, Rheddrian and the party pieced together that he arrived to Mystara from across the stars. His ship malfunctioned and crashed into the planet. He was awoken from a long sleep by mutineers and ended up their prisoner in the Temple of the Frog. The mutineers were intent on using the Frog cult to build an army to capture further magics from the City of the Gods before the party disrupted their plans and rescued Rheddrian and his shipmate Rafiel. When he learned of this, King Uther of Blackmoor offered the party great reward to lead an expedition to the City of the Gods, but they turned him down in favor of returning to their own time.
In a bid to gain their loyalty, Rathanos told the party that the "man in the shield" had been made immortal by his sojourn there and his exposure to the Radiance.
Blackmoor - In spite of their unwillingness to assist King Uther of Blackmoor in recovering the magic of the gods, the party, called the "Far Travelers" in Blackmoor's legends, learned from the elders of Rovaeren that they inspired the men of Blackmoor to quest for it themselves. The discovery of the "magic" of the gods in the Valley of the Ancients drove Blackmoor's civilization to new heights of technology, power and conquest. Blackmoor grew into an empire and, before its collapse, it's civilization had even reached the stars.
Corruption took hold in Blackmoor's society and its death was sudden, violent and it came from the sky. Millions died in this "Great Rain of Fire," which was followed by a "Long Winter" and starvation. Some chaos-tainted survivors of Blackmoor even made war on the elves of Rovaeren. One fleeing tribe of those elves detonated an ancient, terrible weapon of Blackmoor creating The Broken Lands. This calamity drove underground to become the Shadow Elves.
Immortal Conflict – Rheddrian is deeply concerned that the world war breaking out across Mystara, pitting Glantri and Thyatis against Alphatia, runs deeper than typical political turmoil. He thinks it represents a war being fought among the Immortals, particularly because of the suspicious way in which it started. Adding credence to this theory, whilst in the tent city of Sayr Ulan on the hunt for The Master, the party encountered his Vizier Ikol – whom they later realized was in fact Loki – an Immortal of the Entropic Sphere! They learned from Loki that three factions of Immortals are warring among themselves – Star, Fire and Shadow. So far, they know that Shadow, a collection of Entropic Immortals seeks only to prolong and exacerbate the burgeoning world war for the benefit of their own sphere (hence, the Second War of the Desert Nomads). It appears to be led by some demonic face that appeared to the party out of a whirling sandstorm and who is making trouble in Norwold. Loki seemed satisfied with simply causing trouble for each of these factions.
Having the tracked the Mirror Shield to the hidden tomb of Prince Stephen d'Amberville, the party learned that the Fellowship of the Star is led by the Immortal Rad. Its members include Rathanos, whom they fought for control of the Shield, a "lion woman," whom Arwan believes is Vanya and the "man wearing spectacles," whom Arwan concluded may be Rafiel, patron of the Shadow elves and possible shipmate of Rheddrian.
According to Rathanos, the Fellowship seeks to use the Radiance and sensitive objects to create Immortals and overturn the existing Immortal hierarchy. Their proxies, the Brotherhood of the Radiance (below) also indicated they sought to turn the Radiance into a weapon for Glantri to use against Alphatia.
Rathanos charged the Ring of Fire and its leader Ixion with seeking to enforce old fashioned traditions and hierarchy, which ultimately enslaves mortals to the wills of the gods. It appeared that Ilsundal, patron of elves and Alfheim, is also a member of the Ring of Fire.
It is likely the party's thwarting of Rathanos, recovery of the Mirror Shield, exposure of the mortal disguise of Rad, killing of members of the Brotherood, and saving of Alfheim have earned them the enmity of the Fellowship of the Star and possibly the attention of the Ring of Fire.
Chaos – In addition to the battling gods of Mystara, it appears the cultists of malevolent extra-planar interstellar beings are also seeking the Radiance. Rheddrian surmises they seek to use it open an inter-dimensional rift that would allow them to land an unstoppable, horrific invasion force that would consume all of Mystara. Currently, their warbands appear to be gathering atop a large plateau in The Broken Lands.
The forces of Chaos, called by many names, such as Warp Demons, the Elder Gods, the Great Old Ones or the Other Gods, are always lurking at the edges of civilization. They seduce vulnerable minds prone to evil and corrupt them with offers of power. Ultimately, however, few mortal minds can handle the aberrant horror of these beings and their sanity and bodies succumb to madness and deformity. Typically, such cults pop up only to come to an end in orgiastic bloodshed. What makes corruption most dangerous is that, once its taint takes hold in a civilization, it can spread through it like wildfire. Therefore, the taint of chaos must be stamped out at all costs. As the party recently learned, chaos' pull was powerful enough to bring down the mighty empire of Blackmoor.
The Elder Gods themselves exist apart from the structure of the universe and the Spheres of Power, but are often associated with the corruption of a specific sphere. For example, the Nithian followers of Amon-Gorlath became fire worshipping fanatics, as that being is connected to the Sphere of Energy, the sphere associated with magic and fire.
Followers of the forces of chaos can often be spotted by the signs of corruption their bodies bear or their lack of sanity. Devoted cultists often also sport a blackened sun as a symbol of their allegiance.
Brotherhood of the Radiance - A secretive group of wizards seeking after objects associated with the Radiance, such as the fabled Mirror Shield, which they stole from under the party's nose. Rheddrian was concerned what they might learn from it and hoped for its return – which the party accomplished. In pursuit of the Shield the party traveled to Glantri City (where some of the initiates of the Brotherhood attend the Great School of Magic). Little was known of the Brotherhood before the party ventured to Glantri City, except that some of it members wore a particular Pendant.
However, the party ultimately learned a number of startling facts about the Brotherhood in Glantri, an alternate reality Averoigne and the hidden pocket dimension of Prince Stephen d'Amberville's tomb. Most surprising, they learned that not only was Prince Stephen d' Amberville, Prince of Glantri and Grandmaster of the Great School, the head of the Brotherhood of the Radiance, but he was also the mortal disguise of the Immortal Rad. Rad had been using this mortal disguise to manipulate the Brotherhood and the Shepherds of Rad to further the aims of the Fellowship of the Star. Before his demise, Pennar revealed to the party that the Brotherhood hoped to learn how to use the Radiance as a weapon in Glantri's war against Alphatia.
Naturally, these revelations delighted Prince Malapietra – Prince Amberville's chief political rival – who encouraged the party to carry on their investigation and campaign of murder and intimidation against the Brotherhood.
Now the party must decide what to do next…
Potential leads the party has are:
- Their demonic nemesis of the Shadow faction poisoning Norwold
- A mad duke in Vestland whose madness may be a sign of the corruption of Chaos
- The forces of Chaos mustering in The Broken Lands
- Fanatical Ylari raiders scourging western Darokin
- A potential Radiance sensitive object, the Star of Vanya, stored within the walls of Freiburg
- A map to an unknown shore that promises treasure
- A deep pit and tunnel under the ruined Chateau d'Amberville leading who knows where
Upon returning to their time, well, close anyway, from Blackmoor, the party found that their world was sliding rapidly into war. Arriving home in 1005 AC, they find that the previous year's events (occurring while they sojourned in Blackmoor) had taken a dark turn. Here is a timeline of the events of the war so far:
Spring 1004: Thyatian Revolts – The Isle of Dawn is divided between Thyatis and Alphatia in a very cold peace and has been for some time. During the Spring of 1004, Thyatian soldiers and sailors in an around the Isle become more confrontational than usual. This flexing of muscle and national pride is accompanied by an increase in the lavishness and frequency of Thyatis City's gladiatorial games. The crowds seem to love it, but see a steady decline in their ration of bread. Eventually, an enormous riot breaks out. The legions within Thyatis City turn out to be too poorly-trained and fed to quell it. Legions from outside the city must be brought to bear to end the rebellion. This results in scandal and the exposure of widespread corruption and decadence among the empire's leadership. A number of hardliners point the finger at the fashionable, like Helena Larameides, nicknamed Helena "Agapi" or Helena "Love" by her detractors, for declining Thyatian backbone and weakness. Others blame addiction to the zzonga fruit. Many heads in the political and military establishment roll and Emporer Thincol I declares Thyatis will return to its days of martial glory – some say at the urging of his lover and advisor Anya Liontari, a self-made Kerendian warrior.
Spring 1004: Alphatia's Pride – At the same time, many of Alphatia's eccentric wizards have been boasting of their own prowess. They have been particularly disparaging of Glantrian wizard's abilities. Usually placid, some prominent priests of Alphatia have been accused of contributing to this nationalist fervor.
Spring 1004: A Spy Perishes – The body of a popular elf named Troikithus is found floating dead in a Glantri City canal. After a brief investigation, it is revealed he was a Alphatian spy.
Summer 1004: Alphatian Proclamation – The Alphatian Council of Wizards issues a document countersigned by Empress Eriadna accusing the Glantrian Great School of Magic of harboring followers of dangerous, forbidden magic and Entropic Immortals. Prince Etienne d'Ambreville, Grandmaster of the Great School, bemusedly responds that there are no followers of Entropic Immortals because all Immortal worship is outlawed in Glantri and no magic is forbidden.
Summer 1004: Death of Torenal – A party of Glantrian adventurers travel to the Alphatian capital, Sundsvall, with a message for the Empress. They are last seen chatting with one of her elite generals, Torenal, before he ends up dead. The adventurers are found drunk in an Alphatian tenement with his ashes. They proclaim their innocence and strange, conflicting memories of the event are revealed under questioning.
Summer 1004: Assassins Escape – The Glantrians accused of murdering General Torenal escape from the Alphatian Imperial Palace's dungeons.
Fall 1004: Glantrians Assassinated – A group of Glantrian nobles are obliterated by an onslaught of magical attacks during a dinner. The perpetrators escape, but the sole survivor Prince Innocenti di'Malapietra testifies they were dressed as Alphatians.
Fall 1004: Thyatis Intrudes – The Glantrian princes send a message to Alphatian Empress Eriadna demanding the assassins be turned over to their justice. Emperor Thincol I of Thyatis sends Empress Eriadna of Alphatia a stern warning that the attack on Glantrian nobles was an obvious assassination and that Thyatis will not allow Alphatia to extend its territory through treachery. Some Senators protest the move arguing that Thincol I's belligerence is a result of Anya's whispering in his ear.
Fall 1004: Heldanners Attack – Heldanners send punitive raids into Ethengar territory, reputedly slaughtering men, women and children.
Fall 1004: Asterius' Temples Burned – In Alphatia, dozens of temples of Asterius are burned. Authorities capture a group of Glantrian elves of Erewan. They claim they were envoys from Glantri to Darokin when they fell asleep and woke up in a burning temple. Magical probing reveals they too have conflicting sets of memories about the event. Peaceful Asterius' clergy actually advocate on behalf of the imprisoned Glantrian elves.
Winter 1004: Alphatian Armada Burns – The Glantrian adventurers who had previously escaped Alphatia's dungeons were hiding underground. But, in a daring raid, they free the elves accused of burning Asterius' temples and flee. They steal an Alphatian sky-ship from the city of Aasla. In their escape, they set fire to the Alphatian sky fleet and it burns almost entirely before it can brought under control.
Spring 1005: War is Declared – After the burning of its sky fleet, Alphatia declares war on Glantri. Glantri declares war in turn and so do its newfound allies the Empire of Thyatis and the Heldannic Knights.
Summer 1005: Empires Build Forces – Thyatis and Alphatia spend the summer mobilizing for war.
Summer 1005: Alphatia Sends Monsters – Unable to attack Glantri directly yet, Alphatia appears to settle for the tactic of summoning monsters to Glantri. Prince Etienne d'Amberville takes the lead in coordinating defensive efforts.
Fall 1005: West Portage Falls – The Thyatians are shocked when the citadels of West Portage on the Isle of Dawn fall to Alphatian troops. It stiffens their resolve to recapture their fighting spirit. Some militant Senators call for the confiscation of estates of socialites like Helena Agapi to put towards the war effort, since they accuse them of dissipating Thyatian resolve.
Fall 1005: Nomads Invade Darokin – In a surprise attack, The Master's forces invade western Darokin and quickly capture the city of Akesoli before marching on towards Akkoros. The Master claims he is the instrument of Bogdozan's will on Mystara.
Winter 1005: The Master Hammered – The Master falls at the hands of Darokin adventurers. In the aftermath, a vengeful meteor slams into southern Glantri and northern Darokin. The Principalities of Caurenze and Erewan in Glantri are devastated and the resulting ash cloud threatens the harvest in Darokin. Rumor has it that Darokin adventurers brought The Master down and the meteor may have been hurled by The Master's vengeful patron.
Spring 1006: The Master Retreats – With the loss of The Master, his forces retreat in the face of Darokin's army and their elvish, Traldaran and dwarven allies.
Spring 1006: Sabotage in Alphatia – Glantrian patriots make their way to Alphatia to conduct sabotage campaigns in the Alphatian capital of Sundsvall. The damage is negligible, but the Alphatians are troubled. Some of the Alphatian Council of Wizards accuse Etienne d'Amberville of organizing the attacks.
Spring 1006: Free Traldara Declares Neutrality – With their troops soon to return from the war against The Master, the revolutionary council of Free Traldara declares neutrality in the war between Glantri and Alphatia. No one is surprised given that the Traldarans recently gained their independence from Thyatis.
Fall 1006: Twisted Trees of Alfheim – With the coming of fall, the trees of the Canolbarth forest begin to darken, twist and mutate in sinister ways. The sickness afflicting the forest has spread beyond the Trees of Life. The elves are still at a loss to explain it, though some point to the meteor ash cloud, as the forest becomes increasingly inhospitable. Reportedly, adventurers discovered that a subterranean nation of Shadow Elves was trying to destroy Alfheim and replace those elves on the surface in the name of their immortal patron Rafiel. These "Raven's Companions," thwarted the Shadow Elve's designs and saved the forest of Alfheim.
Fall 1006: The Abandoned Nation – Following the the return of their troops from the Second War of the Desert Nomad, the dwarves of Rockhome disappear deep within their mountains and shut their vast iron gates tight behind themselves.
Winter 1006: Ethengar vs. Heldann – The hordes of the Golden Khan of Ethengar, driven by anger at the raids of "Vanya's Lions" and driven by hunger caused by the Glantri meteor ash cloud, launch of full-scale invasion of the Heldannic Territories. They lay seige to the capital of Freiburg, which houses the knights' fortress temple of Vanya.
Winter 1006: Redstone Besieged – On the Isle of Dawn, the Alphatian army attempts to secure the center of the island, turning its attention to Redstone Castle.
Winter 1006: Ylari Raid Darokin - Taking advantage of Darokin's weakness in the wake of The Master's war, a brazen Ylari emir has begun raiding into western Darokin. The emir's followers are whipped up by a zealous prophet of Al-Kalim calling himself the "Desert Rose" and their lightning raids catch the Daro completely off guard. Within a matter of days, they seize the nearly defenseless city of Akesoli when the civilian authorities surrender to avoid massacres. It is said one of the emir's followers, a cruel Sheik Ismail, has sent some prisoners back to Ylaruam in slaver's chains.
Spring 1007: Ethengarians Swarm – In the Heldannic Territories, the capital of Freiburg is still under siege. The armies of the Golden Horde continue to pour into the Heldann Territories, and some spill over into Soderfjord and Vestland, looking for more food and booty.
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