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The Journey to Taelosia
Morden Rasp and his Wayfarers Brotherhood have been collecting, trading and selling items discovered recently in dark places under Norrath. Unlike the other types of wealth that they have managed to gather, these stones displayed some unusual properties when brought together in large volume. A large enough mass of the material acts much like a loadstone, pointing – even pulling – toward a distant point.
As the Wayfarers explore this new magic, Calliav Giniuar, a troubled mage, begins to gain control over the visions that have been crippling him for months. He keeps much of what he has seen to himself, dropping only hints of a terror that he does not wish to discuss. He bends his mind to the power of the stones with a frightening focus. Morden Rasp and his Wayfarers Brotherhood companions fear for his state of mind nearly as much as they did when he was forced to withdraw from reality because of the terrible things he had seen.
Calliav is rewarded for his efforts with more pain. He manages to fuse several chunks of the new magical material unearthed in the lost dungeons together, hoping that a larger mass will allow him a better chance to discover its properties. But, when he touches the combined mass a painful surge of magical energy courses through him, knocking him unconscious. The last thing he was heard to say was to Morden, insisting that he build a ship, a very large ship.
During brief moments of lucidity, Calliav manages to express that he has seen the “Heart of the Currents.” This is a legendary place beyond the reach of any mariner, thought to be a simple legend to frighten novice sailors. But that is not all Calliav has seen. He also sees frightening visages, things so evil and powerful that he fears the end of Norrath is near.
The ravings of a mage called Calliav Giniuar who has foreseen a great and dark land across the turbulent waters of the Abysmal Sea have been recorded. His ramblings were refined and his descriptions were sketched. What resulted were outlandish stories and creatures that no Norrathian could believe or conceive. Calliav believes there is an army called the Legion of Mata Muram waiting for Norrath to greet it. As a result of Calliav's rants, he was labeled a madman once again for spouting such terrifying untruths.
For your entertainment, we'll show you a few of the mage's descriptions of strange beasts with accompanying drawings that he had a painter make under the light of a torch on a dark night when he awoke from one of his strange visions...
1. The Aneuk -- Priests of the Legion of Mata Muram The Aneuk originate from a world of pure magic. These priests are the most powerful of their world, having channeled the strength of a god of darkness unlike anything Norrathians have seen. They have the unique ability to cause as much harm as they can heal.
While the Aneuk excel with magic, they are physically weak. Over the centuries, what used to be legs that carried them as bipedal creatures have become nothing but dangling, atrophied bone and flesh, since levitation is now used for travel. To protect their fragile bodies, they wear armor inscribed heavily with glyphs that give added protection and strength. The glyphs associated with their god also aid them in focusing and channeling their magic across realms and planes.
The race is extremely ancient, having seen many battles won and lost on many worlds. They are highly intelligent, and proudly display on their armor the skulls of kings and leaders they have conquered over the courses of their long lives. When the Legion of Mata Muram arrived to decimate the home of the Aneuk, they were given a choice -- die or join. As the Aneuk thrive on power, torture, and conquering, several believed they would find a suitable home among the dark creatures of the legion.
The Aneuk are not only on the fields of battle. There are several levels of the Aneuk that not only have unique magic, but also serve special functions for leaders within the Legion of Mata Muram. They are adept at organizing and strategizing.
2. The Kyv -- Hunters of the Legion of Mata Muram The kyv come from a land of complete darkness which has made them ideal hunters for the Legion of Mata Muram. They hunt using their senses and can track heat signatures and ultrasonic waves. They are incredibly stealthy, and have unequalled skill with bows and arrows.
Their origins are mired in sadism. In their youth, the skin covering most of their body is branded with a white-hot blade. The markings on their skin indicate their ancestry and rank in the social order of the kyv. These tribal burn patterns made of scar tissue, with little or no blood flow, also act as camouflage in worlds where creatures hunt by heat signatures. The kyv have a rich heritage of gladiators and hunters. Their entertainment was not presented in coliseums, but in the dark, dangerous wilds of their home world. The hunter was the hunted -- kyv against kyv. It was a brutal and dangerous game that brought death to the loser.
The kyv do have the ability to use magic, but it's used almost exclusively to charge their arrows. The type and nature of arrows displayed protruding from their armor are not just symbols of status, but ability. The higher the rank and status, the more powerful the devastation capability of the arrows in the back slots in their armor.
While the kyv are master archers, they can also hold their own using daggers and short swords.
The recruiters of the Legion of Mata Muram convinced many kyv to sign up. In fact, it was seen as an honor to be recruited. Even as one of the lowest ranks in the legion, the kyv are proud and pleased to wreak havoc on all who oppose them...
The one drawback of joining the legion was the inevitabile: contact with worlds of light. As a result, all of the kyv that were in the legion, and bred for the legion, stitched their eyes in a great ceremony. The stitching of the eyes prevents them from the pain and distraction of light in other worlds and indicates ascension on the path to becoming the ultimate hunter. Upon a victory in battle, most will remove the eyes from their victims and hold them as trophies.
3. The Ukun -- War Hounds of the Legion of Mata Muram A captive ukun is virtually untamable, even on its home world. Captivity quickly leads an ukun to a violent and volatile mental state. They can only be taught simple commands, like "kill," or "find."
Ukun are often used as hunting animals by dominant races. The biggest problem with the ukun when used as a hunting animal is that they do not retrieve much. The ukun handler is invariably left with only bones from a catch.
Each time an ukun enters a world with light, they violently react to it by clawing at their eyes until the pain, and for that matter, their eyes, are gone. Fortunately, the ukun can regenerate their eyes, but only in the total absence of light. They can easily hunt without sight as they are sensitive to heat, sound, and the movement of air across their sensitive skin.
When the legion herded up several of the ukun for its use, they adorned the beasts with a leash and armor that would serve as control mechanism with pins that dig into the flesh. The pale skin of the ukun was then branded with the markings of an unknown magic that provided their fragile skin with some protection.
The ukun are savage creatures that can hunt in packs, eating their enemies alive.
Visions of Chaos
Under the flickering torchlight in the tunnel in the Commonlands, Calliav set his weary eyes upon his three new friends, Morden Rasp, Nedaria Debeian, and Tondal Di'Xevar. Several days earlier, he sent word asking for them all to meet. He had something to tell them. Something important.
"Thank you for meeting with me. It's wonderful to see us all together again," Calliav said with as much cheer as he could muster. "First, I want to thank all of you for taking me in, especially in the raving and maddened state I seemed to be in." "Aye, it weren't nothin' dear friend. Ye've set me and me friends on a course we wouldn't dare dreamed of. And ye are lookin' a might better, Calliav," Morden said.
"Indeed. With time and Nedaria's help, I've been able to conquer my thoughts again. But, there is one vision that I can't seem to suppress in any way," Calliav said with a worried expression.
Nedaria put a hand on his shoulder.
"Don't be afraid to tell us what is on your mind Calliav," she said. "We are well aware by now that you are not the madman you appeared to be. I believe all you say is true and I can convince these other two of the same, no matter how much they may try to taunt you with their poor humor."
Morden and Tondal looked at each other and shrugged, feigning ignorance. They both turned to Calliav and smiled, encouraging him to continue.
"Well, as you know, in our search for the Grozmok Stone, adventurers all over Norrath are turning up strange minerals and gems that appear to be imbued with varying powers," Calliav said. "I took it upon myself to start collecting them to see if they were perhaps shattered pieces of the Grozmok Stone."
As Calliav mentioned the Grozmok Stone, Morden's eyes became stern and Nedaria looked uncomfortable, shifting on her feet where she stood. Tondal looked to Morden and Nedaria with a strange expression. Calliav didn't seem to notice any of the tension as he continued.
"I noticed there is some kind of force that is created as more of these materials are put close together, much like a magnetic force," Calliav looked at his friends, his face set in a sheepish expression. "The stones seem to be acting like a compass of some sort."
"Sounds reasonable to me. What else? I can see there is more ye are wantin' to say, friend. Of all the strange things we've discovered, I'd say this one is a wee bit mild so far, eh?" Morden said reassuringly.
"Well, that vision I mentioned? The one that won't go away? Well, I . . .," Calliav's voice trailed off and he stood silent, his eyes cast to the floor.
"Please Calliav! You can't just leave us in suspense. We trusted all you said before even though we were nearly certain it couldn't be true. Trust us now else I go mad on you!" Tondal said, a dark-skinned smile spreading across his sharp features.
"The truth is that we have barely scratched the surface I fear. While the Grozmok Stone is still very important somehow, there is something else, something dark on the horizon. I fear for Norrath. I really do fear for us all," he said.
"What is it, Calliav?" Nedaria asked. "In our time together and all the times I've sensed what runs through your mind, I've not seen anything that threatens all of us."
"There is nothing to see, Nedaria. No one has ever laid eyes on this threat, this evil. I can sense it more than see it," Calliav said. "Zebuxoruk gave me this knowledge for a reason and I believe he intended for all of us to prepare."
"Prepare for what?" Morden asked.
"A war of the likes we have never seen. All of Norrath, good and evil, must band together if we wish to survive."
Eyes to the Sea
The leaders of the Wayfarers Brotherhood -- Morden Rasp, Nedaria Debeian, and Tondal Di'Xevar -- stood together in the East Commonlands tunnel, looking over the heads of jolly Wayfarers Brotherhood initiates to where Calliav sat quietly in a darkened corner with his back to the commotion. For days, Calliav had been fiddling with a stockpile of mystical gems and stones that brotherhood members were turning up. For the past few hours he had been arranging the gems and stones in runic patterns all about him and mumbling incantations like none had ever heard. "Calliav sure 'as been quiet of late, ain't 'e? I wonder what's goin' on in that wild mind of 'is, hm?" Morden said as he glanced from Calliav to his closest friends who stood facing him.
"He is greatly troubled Morden, but he's also doing his best to find us answers...even though we already know some answers he seeks," Nedaria's eyes turned to the floor as she uttered the words.
"Now Nedaria, chin up, eh? The time will come for us to tell Calliav more about ourselves, but for now we must focus on these tales and visions of peril that 'e keeps spoutin', hm?" Morden suggested as he rested his scarred right hand on Nedaria's gently sloping shoulder.
"Morden, my logic tells me that Calliav must be going mad again. That side of my mind just can't fathom that we are in any great danger," Tondal paused a moment before he caught Morden with the intensity of glowing violet eyes. "But, I confess, my heart tells me that all he says is true. It also tells me that Calliav and this unseen foe he speaks of are what brought us together in the first place."
"Aye Tondal. I know ye are a big believer in fate. I won't dismiss what ye say, but I think we're best of friends because we have like hearts, not because of grand design...but then, perhaps I'm more salty than I ought to be, eh? I been thinkin' there's a brambly path ahead of us, me friends, but I 'ave no doubts that we'll find our way if we stay true to each other, hm?" Morden grinned in his usual optimistic fashion.
It was then that a blinding flash of blue light filled the tunnel. A shockwave of magic followed it and blew everyone off their feet. In an instant, Morden, Nedaria, and Tondal found themselves tangled together on the tunnel floor next to a wall.
In the aftermath, an eerie quiet saturated the tunnel. Soon after, groans echoed throughout the caverns as everyone gathered their wits and stood up, all eyes reflecting confusion and concern.
Suddenly an agonized cry broke the stillness. It was a familiar voice.
Morden was on his feet and moving before anyone could discern the source of the pained wailing. He was running toward a faint glow at the back of the tunnel. It was Calliav.
As Morden approached, his jaw dropped in surprise and horror. An eerie light pulsed out of Calliav's skin as he lay writhing on the tunnel floor.
"NEDARIA! Get over here please, NOW!" Morden yelled. It was seconds before Nedaria forced her way through the growing crowd of onlookers.
Nedaria stopped still when she saw him.
"I've never seen anything like this Morden. Ever," she said, as she started to kneel next to Calliav, afraid to touch him. Calliav shuddered and choked out some words.
"What is it sprite? Are ye alright? Ye look a darned mess mage," Morden said, trying to lessen the biting mood of fear in all of them.
"I've seen... ahh... our... path. You... mu... must... build... great... sh... ship... bigger... biggest... all of Nor... Norrath must... make a journey," Calliav curled up and coughed. The magical light from his flesh began to ebb some. "A ship? What is this? We've already got the Thorn of the White Rose, me friend. Why would I need another?"
"Trust in...me. I have seen what we... must... do. We are making... a... journey... as one... west... one purpose... all must come together. Please... we must... be... quick... doom... death..." Calliav's voice trailed off and his eyes rolled back. His body went still.
Nedaria forgot her reservations and bent over Calliav, resting her hand on his forehead trying to read or sense what happened to him. As she focused her mind, her eyes shut so tightly that deep wrinkles carved into her weathered face. Tondal pushed his way to where Nedaria and Morden stood, his eyes settling on them both, flickering with worry.
Nedaria's voice was muddled and trembling as she spoke from under her robe's hood, still crouched next to Calliav.
"He's gone. He's drawn within his mind, I believe. I can't reach him and I doubt anyone can. I must say, I do not know what to make of this at all, except one thing Morden," she stood up and faced Morden and Tondal. "We must do as he asked."
"I won't question ye Nedaria. Not now. I've not seen anything like this meself," Morden stated firmly. Tondal nodded as he rubbed his aching shoulder that had slammed into the tunnel wall with the blast of magic.
Just hours after Morden put his adventurers to task, Wayfarers Brotherhood scouts returned to him with a perfect location to build a ship. Morden had made it clear that the Wayfarers Brotherhood wouldn't be building just any ship, but one as big and as beautiful as any of Norrath's cities.
Not fully understanding the purpose of his new ship, Morden felt he should spare no expense. He put out a call for the best and brightest of Norrath's engineers and shipwrights to be ready.
A Common Course
Morden Rasp groaned as he gently lowered Calliav Giniuar from over his shoulders to soft grass under a tent, his arm and back muscles quivering under the strain.
It had been over a day traveling through the deserts, Karanas, and Qeynos Hills to bring Calliav and Nedaria Debeian to their next camp in Nedaria's Landing. For much of the distance, Morden and Tondal Di'Xevar shared the burden of carrying the comatose mage by making a hammock from bear hides. The bear-hide tore in the West Karanas and rather than wait to repair it, Morden wanted to press on. Much work had to be done, he told them.
Nedaria walked along side them with her hand resting on Calliav's shoulder. For many days, she tried to reach Calliav who was lost in his own mind. Several times, for a few fleeting moments, she felt a glimmer of Calliav's consciousness and kept losing him. She believed that if they took Calliav to the place where the boat was to be built, he might wake. The boat was his idea after all. Nedaria didn't hold too much hope, though, but thought it couldn't hurt to try it.
With Calliav restlessly continuing his sleep under the tent, Nedaria sat next to him and shook her head dejectedly.
"I'm going to give it another try while I have the energy," Nedaria said, her eyes dull with the hopelessness of the task. "Don't go far. With you here, it may help draw him out."
"What? Ye want me to whisper in 'is ear? Tell me what ye're wantin' me to do," Morden grinned, trying to lighten the grave mood.
"Both of you...sit down near me and hold his hands, one on either side," she said.
Tondal kneeled to the ground, his armor lightly ringing as plates shifted. He looked indifferent about the whole affair. Morden looked at him, his left eyebrow raised to reveal an inquiring steely eye. Tondal felt Morden's curiosity boring into him.
"Everything will be okay. I know it will. He will come back to us," Tondal said.
"Ye know, I get a wee bit skeptical of ye're comfort with all these strange events we've been privy too, eh? Aren't ye a dark elf? Shouldn't ye be all death and misery?" Morden nudged Tondal with his elbow.
Tondal sighed and smiled at Morden.
"I'm as different to the dark elves as you are to the Rogues of the White Rose, Morden," Tondal said.
Morden's expression went dark for a moment at the remark before he turned to Nedaria.
"Let's get on with it then," he said.
Nedaria closed her eyes and rocked back and forth slightly, whispering words that neither Morden nor Tondal could understand.
With a scarred and rough hand, Morden squeezed Calliav's wrist. In an instant, Calliav's eyes opened, looking wild and frightened. He looked to see the three leaders of the Wayfarers Brotherhood looking down at him.
"Have I been gone long? I'm so glad you're safe. I could hear the explosion..." Calliav coughed uncontrollably, his throat dry and unaccustomed to use. Tondal opened a flask of water and tilted it to Calliav's lips. Calliav sipped some water, sat up, and looked around him in disbelief.
"Oh my. You're building it. Why you have faith in me is beyond my comprehension...as are many things it seems. I have been less than stable and reliable since we've met," Calliav said.
"Aye, true, but ye've never been wrong, friend," Morden reassured.
"You must continue to build this ship that will be as grand as any city on Norrath. Do not underestimate the scale," Calliav urged Morden, his face lengthening. "It was me that caused that explosion in the tunnel. I'm so glad you're alright...but, I did learn that these stones and materials we find with magical properties are very powerful when gathered in quantities. Above all, I found they pull my mind in one direction...west. We must find the Grozmok Stone. It is pivotal to this journey and this magical ore somehow. Have you found..."
Calliav's eyelids began to flutter and his chin dropped to his chest. Nedaria, having been listening to Calliav, let her mind's grip on Calliav slide. Before she should enter his mind to hold him awake, he was gone again.
Nedaria's face wrinkled with frustration, first at Calliav and then she shot an icy look to Morden.
"We need to talk, now! Let's move from him. I do not want him to hear this," she said strictly.
Morden looked at Tondal with surprise. Tondal, always wise and keeping out of tiffs between Morden and Nedaria, just shrugged back. All three moved beyond earshot of Calliav at the water's edge where the sea tickled the shore.
"I know exactly what Calliav is talking about Morden," Nedaria said with detectable frost.
"What exactly do ye mean?" Morden said cheekily, trying to bring a smile to Nedaria's face.
"Stop it. This is no time for jokes," Nedaria scolded him. "That feeling Calliav had of having his mind pulled in a direction..."
"What of it, Nedaria. Spit it out, hm?" Morden said.
"I had that very same feeling myself once," she continued. "It happened when I was in the presence of the Grozmok Stone."
The Stone Unturned
Under a tent at the Wayfarers Brotherhood camp on the shores of Nedaria's Landing, a groan escaped from Calliav Giniuar's lips and his eyelids quivered.
"Morden, I think he's finally waking up," said Nedaria Debeian. She had been watching over Calliav for days, trying to guide him back to consciousness and out of his coma in any way she could. She tried potions offered by various shamans in the brotherhood as well as using her gift to see into and guide minds.
"I guess we need to chat before 'e comes to, eh?" Morden Rasp replied, walking over to Nedaria, lending her a hand to get her to her feet. She winced as she stood, putting her hands on her lower back and stretching.
"I've been sitting for so long. I hadn't realized. I suppose I'm getting old," Nedaria said.
"Ye're as young as the day I found ye hidin' with them bloody Kerran in Erud's Crossin', me dear," Morden smiled crookedly. "Good thing Erudites age slowly, eh?"
"Your flattery won't work with me, Morden. I'm not as easily won over as most," she replied with a hint of a smile.
"Aye, I do know that. Always a tough one. I suppose that's one reason I'm so fond of ye' always keeping me on me toes," Morden said. With a sideward nod, Morden motioned to Tondal Di'Xevar to head to the shore. Tondal walked with the grace and silence of a panther, despite his heavy plate armor. He didn't want to disturb Calliav.
A soft breeze from the sea wove between the three friends as they looked at each other, knowing the time had come to reveal the truth to Calliav.
"This 'as been coming for some time and we must be prepared to lose a friend over this, ye understand? I will handle the task of tellin' 'im," Morden said. "We might 'as well be ready for anythin'. I'm still not sure what that mage is capable of."
"You better believe you will be the one to tell him, Morden," Nedaria said sharply. "It was your idea to keep it from him." Tondal just looked between the two of them. He had little to say about the matter.
Morden felt Tondal's indifference and eyed him.
"I suppose ye're not gonna say anythin', because ye think this was all meant to 'appen this way, eh?" Morden suggested.
"Aye," Tondal said with a shrug. Morden looked at both of them, sighed, and turned away. He walked up the grassy slope.
The mage had woken and was trying to sit up. When Morden reached the tent, he helped Calliav keep his balance by supporting the weak mage's back with his left hand. With a scarred right hand, Morden worked a flask out of his satchel and handed it to Calliav so he could drink some water. Calliav took a few sips before looking into Morden's eyes. "What is troubling you, Morden?" Calliav asked in a raspy voice.
"I need to talk to ye, but I was goin' to wait until ye're fully awake, friend," Morden said. "And let me say, it's nice to 'ave ye back."
"No need to wait. Speak now. You have me curious. Remember too that you just never know how long I'm going to be awake," Calliav grinned.
Morden crouched down, sitting on his heels. His face was blank and cold. His eyes turned to the ground as he drew in a breath to speak.
"See, this is 'ow it is. Well...um...when ye first came to us to find that silly stone -- the Grozmok Stone -- we didn't know what to make of ye -- ranting and crazy and all that," Morden spoke slowly, carefully searching through his words. "We agreed to 'elp ye, knowing we could. In fact, we already 'ad."
Morden started picking blades of grass from the ground and rubbing them between his fingers, avoiding Calliav's eyes.
"Look at me Morden. What are you saying?" Calliav asked, his face masked with a cloud of disbelief. Morden lifted his eyes to Calliav.
"We 'ave the Grozmok Stone. We got our 'ands on it long before we met. We nicked it off them trolls at Broken Skull Rock," Morden said in a low voice.
Calliav's mouth dropped and he clutched his heart as though he felt it breaking apart. He looked to the shore, his glistening eyes pleading with Nedaria and Tondal to indicate it wasn't true. Both Nedaria and Tondal shamefully looked away from Calliav and turned to face the sea.
"Don't blame 'em. I told 'em to keep their traps shut, friend," Morden said. "If ye just give me ye're ear for a short spell, I'll tell ye 'ow we 'appened upon that stone and why I didn't tell ye sooner."
Calliav was frozen with a mix of emotions, but managed to nod. Morden moved to sit cross-legged in front of Calliav and began recounting the tale that brought the Grozmok Stone into Nedaria and Morden's hands.
Fulfilling a Promise
As the waves gently caressed the shores of Nedaria's Landing, the calm, rushing breeze was shattered by the hammering and clanging of the Wayfarers Brotherhood building the grand ship that would take them across the turbulent Abysmal Sea.
Under a tent at the brotherhood's camp up on the grass, Morden Rasp explained to Calliav Giniuar how he and Nedaria came across the Grozmok Stone. He hoped his mage friend would understand and forgive him for not telling him he had the very thing that Calliav had been seeking all of these months.
The tale Morden told was a lengthy one, beginning long ago.
In the Elder Age, a troll named Zraxth had a vision that saw the coming of one great and powerful troll, called the Grozmok, who would unite all of the trolls in Norrath with the aid of the power in the Grozmok Stone. The Grozmok would unleash terror across Norrath.
Over a period of years, the stone changed hands many times. First, the stone was stolen from the trolls in the Innothule Swamp by the Rallosian ogres, and then stolen by the Ykesha Clan of trolls. Another faction of trolls, Clan Broken Skull, did not believe the Ykesha Clan were destined to produce a troll strong enough to become the Grozmok and overpowered the Ykesha Clan, killing their leader and taking the Grozmok Stone.
Some time later, when the trolls in the swamps of Antonica reestablished themselves in Grobb, they robbed Clan Broken Skull of the stone once more. Then, the Broken Skull Clan returned again and took the Grozmok Stone -- its last known resting place.
Morden and Nedaria Debeian had been sailing the fog-suffocated seas near the Gulf of Gunthak on the Thorn of the White Rose when they heard that Clan Broken Skull invaded Grobb and took the Grozmok Stone.
In all of their adventures over the years, the story of the Grozmok Stone surfaced several times. Both of the seafaring friends were well aware of what the stone represented and that it might be capable of shifting the weight of power in Norrath. Morden vowed to find the Grozmok Stone and hide it forever to keep all of Norrath safe from the rule of evil gods.
Morden and Nedaria and a small crew of seven trusted adventurers sailed into the Gulf of Gunthak hidden by a thick veil of fog. Nedaria sat up on the bow with her mind keenly focused, eyes closed. It wasn't long before she opened her eyes and nodded to Morden.
"They are close. Everyone should be at the ready," Nedaria whispered, her words gliding on the heavy, still air. "They have it -- they have the Grozmok Stone."
In minutes, the crew of the Thorn of the White Rose heard the unmistakable creak of a strained hull rolling lazily through the water. Morden crouched, ready to spring as soon as the approaching boat crossed the bow of his ship. Two crewmates waited behind Morden, waiting for his commands.
The figure of a rickety ship with tattered sails emerged from the fog, eerily outlined like smudged charcoal on a gray canvas. Shadowy hulking figures moved about the boat -- clearly trolls -- who did not notice the ship coming into view on their starboard side.
Morden turned to the two behind him and nodded, pointing to the midship rail on the troll's boat. His crew nodded and waited for Morden's first move.
The decrepit boat inched past the bow of the Thorn of the White Rose. When the boat was in position, Morden silently leapt from the bow of his boat onto the railing, staying perfectly balanced on the three-inch rod of rusted iron. His crew followed. They all kept low and moved silently until they were close enough to smell the rotting reek of trolls' breath. Morden's crew flanked him.
Morden jumped down from the upper deck into the cockpit at the stern of the vessel and let loose a mighty bellow. The shock of his yell stunned the ten trolls that milled about the boat long enough for the blades of Morden and his crew to reduce them all to heaps of blood and gore.
"Ye stay 'ere, hm? Keep an eye on things while I go take a look in 'er hold," Morden said to his crew. "Yell if ye see something odd."
In less than a minute, Morden returned with a grin.
"How blasted stupid do ye have to be to 'ide a big bloody slab o' stone in burlap?" Morden grinned to his curious crewmates. "There it were, standing right in front me. Gonna need some 'elp luggin' it o'er to me boat."
After the Grozmok Stone was safely hidden on the Thorn of the White Rose, Morden made his crew promise never to speak of it again. The stone was never to be sold or uncovered lest it unleash a power that could bring Norrath into the hands of the evil gods and races.
As Ro, the Norrathian sun, began to set in Nedaria's Landing, Morden uttered the last words of his tale to Calliav and gave him a few moments to consider it all.
"Ye 'ave to understand Calliav... I 'ad no idea who ye were or what ye were about," Morden said, looking up into Calliav's eyes. "I didn't want to put the lives and fates of many Norrathians in your 'ands."
"It's okay, Morden. I understand your reasons now," Calliav said, pausing to think before he spoke again. "There is more to the Grozmok Stone prophecy, though. While the legend says that stone could bring power to the trolls, Zebuxoruk showed me it will do much more. That stone may very well change the face of Norrath. Just look around... we have trolls working with halflings and light elves working with dark ones."
"Aye, true," Morden said with pride. "But what of the Grozmok -- the one troll that would unite all trolls and unleash havoc across the lands?"
"I believe the stone could give the Grozmok power, but now is not that time," Calliav said. ""The stone has changed over the years somehow and has an even greater purpose than everyone originally thought. I believe the stone will lead us to the evil power I've seen in my visions that could topple all of Norrath -- troll and all races alike. But, I need to study it."
Just then, two of Morden's most trusted friends laid the Grozmok Stone next to Calliav.
The Pantheon Displeased
Kizrak the Tyrant, a champion of Rallos Zek, settled down for the night on a bed of concrete in Oggok, shunning creature comforts. In the damp cold he lay, surrounded by dark stone walls with no blanket, no light. His only solace came from the pinching plates of armor under his back.
As he did every night, Kizrak closed his eyes and relaxed his mind so he could properly focus on his prayers. Having had an affinity for his god for hundreds of years, he found it easy to sense Rallos Zek as he prayed. He fancied that, on occasion, he would have dialogues with his god.
As the clammy world around him faded from awareness, he felt himself fall into a state of ethereal openness. He freed his mind's voice and began his prayer, asking Rallos Zek for the strength to continue to help any chosen warriors find their way to the Realm of Heroes through worship and war.
As he recited the prayer, he felt something out of the ordinary. In his mind, the vast universe that Kizrak prayed into began to close in on itself. He felt a strong presence. A booming voice crashed through his subconscious. It was Rallos Zek himself.
"There is no longer a place for mortals in the hearts or minds of the gods! The insolence! The arrogance of those that prayed to us and then dared to enter our homes and attempt to kill us!" the God of War bellowed. "We turn our backs on you foul mortals. We gave life. We imbued our children with our own powers and we answered prayers. Well, no more!"
"My almighty Warlord, what is your will? What would you have me do?" Kizrak asked through his thoughts.
"There is nothing to be done. We have chosen to ignore the prayers, the sniveling, the begging," Rallos Zek roared. "Mortals believe themselves powerful as gods, so much so that they challenge us. Us! So be it. If they are so powerful, they have no need of us! Henceforward, the prayers of our despicable children on Norrath will be ignored!"
As quickly as Rallos Zek's presence came, it left. Kizrak's mind was immediately silent.
Kizrak sat up with a start and opened his eyes. He knew all too well what the ire of the gods could bring upon mortals. He had watched his own brethren, the ogres, reduced to slovenliness and ignorance for daring to attempt to usurp the power of gods.
The pantheon of Norrath had finally come to agreement on an issue -- that the arrogance of mortals, their own children, must be punished.
Kizrak, a devout warrior, wanted to let all of the foul mortals of Norrath know what they had done. He left Oggok that night and wandered into the Feerrott toward someone he had all but forgotten.
"Drizda Tunesinger, I have a message for you and the Antonican bards to pass along to all Norrathians," Kizrak said.
Drizda, a messenger for the League of Antonican Bards for years, was extremely taken aback. She had been dodging ogre bouncers for years in the Feerrott while delivering messages. Now cornered by Kizrak, she was not about to argue.
"What words would you have me spread across the lands?" she said.
"You tell the arrogant and proud of Norrath that the pantheon is angry. Mortals have become too bold in entering the planes of our gods. The prayers of all Norrathians will no longer be answered. Mortals will be punished for their arrogance," Kizrak bellowed.
"This cannot be true! What of those who pray and give offerings to their gods? What of the devout and loyal?" Drizda wept.
"Rallos Zek himself told me. The actions of the many have outweighed the efforts of the few. Tell them -- tell them all! The children of the pantheon must walk alone," Kizrak said, abruptly turning and walking away.
Drizda quickly journeyed to Freeport to tell Felisity Starbright about Kizrak's news. Felisity considered the information for a moment and then set to work to spread the news. She had already heard rumors that week that some paladins in the Hall of Truth who called upon Mithaniel Marr for strength and guidance were getting nothing but silence in return.
With great sadness and worry in her heart, Felisity could not deny the validity of the tale. With the help of her students in the Marsheart's Chords, over one thousand letters were crafted and put in satchels to be delivered to every city in Norrath by her network of bards.
Evil Beyond the Currents
As the bevy of shipwrights and Wayfarers Brotherhood crew readied to take the hulls of the enormous ship in Nedaria's Landing out into deeper waters to finish the final details, Morden Rasp stood at the bow of one of the hulls. He looked proud. Wisps of chestnut hair, free of his leather hair tie, wafted around his coarse face.
Nedaria Debeian was warmed by watching Morden stand there, knowing he was lost in great memories of adventures -- ones she had shared with him.
"I been thinkin' lass," Morden said to Nedaria without turning to see she was standing behind him. "I've got me an idea for a name o' this 'ere boat. What do ye think o' Queen of Thorns, eh?"
"I'm supposing you believe that everyone in our brotherhood is somehow a thorn in someone's side, hm?" she said smiling.
"Aye, mostly mine. I love 'em, but . . . I'm just not a leader -- not like they expect me to be. I'm just an adventurer findin' 'is way in this world, ye know?" Morden said thoughtfully. "I don't know 'ow we ended up 'ere . . . life used to be so simple when we 'ad no one else. I 'ave no regrets, as ye know, but I'm not sure I'm ready for what Calliav says might be down the road."
"The time for your selfishness has passed, so has the era of you proving yourself to those who doubted you. Face it, friend. You may have grown up," Nedaria said, with a grin. "We should embrace this opportunity and guide those who want to join us. We have a lot to offer as a result of our experience in this world."
"Don't ye go trying to be funny now," Morden jibed. "But I suppose ye're right. Bein' selfish was a lot easier, though. Ha."
Slowly, the smile he wore peeled from his face, the glint wore from his eyes.
"I don't think I can do it, Nedaria. I don't think I can be the hero these folk think I am. I'm just an ole barbarian lookin' for adventure 'ere and there. I don't want to disappoint 'em," Morden said, his eyes passing over freshly glossed planks.
"They love and follow you for who you are now, Morden," Nedaria said. "They expect no more from you than you've already given -- your charm, confidence, friendship, and love of exploration. They idolize you only because they can see that being outcast is not the end of the world, that they can make it on their own and do great and wonderful things."
"Bah, enough of the flattery," Morden interrupted, the glimmer returning to his gaze. "You'll make me too soft-hearted, darned, meddlin' Erudite. Ye sure are pretty though."
Nedaria shook her head and smiled.
"Just keep your wits about you, Morden," she said as she turned to leave and inspect the ship.
Morden stayed on the bow to consider their conversation. He turned in time to see Calliav Giniuar walking toward him.
"'Ello mage. Always grand to see ye up an' about," Morden said.
"Thank you, Morden. Do you have a moment?" Calliav asked.
"Certainly. Why don't ye come up 'ere and 'ave a look at this view and we'll chat a while," Morden said.
Calliav walked up to Morden and stood next to him, both of them watching the whitecaps foam and fade as the waves churned on the Abysmal Sea.
"I know where we're going and no one has been there, Morden," Calliav spoke suddenly. Morden put his left elbow on the rail and faced Calliav, staying silent.
"We're going to be going to a part of the Abysmal Sea that has never been navigated. It's never even been breached. That's part of the Grozmok Stone's secret and why I needed to find it. It turns out it's . . . well, in rudimentary terms, it's a compass," Calliav said, waiting for Morden to grow a look of a surprise, but it didn't come.
"Aye, go on," Morden said, his eyes fixed on Calliav's.
"We must discuss the possible route across the sea. Please, Morden, only invite your most trusted brothers or sisters," he added. "This is an adventure that is not to be treated lightly . . . all of our lives may be at risk."
"So ye keep saying. I've not seen a trifle of danger 'round 'ere," Morden said.
"It's not here . . . it's in a place yet undiscovered, a new land we've never seen," Calliav said, slowly. "Morden, hear me. Look at me . . . we will see things and creatures none could dream of -- and I know you have seen a lot -- but not this . . . not this at all."
"I really 'ate it when ye talk in riddles, Calliav. I don't want to say, but, truth be told, it's startin' to rub me the wrong way," Morden smiled.
"I want to tell you everything, but some things will have to be seen to be believed, even for me," Calliav said. "I know I've sounded crazy, and said many a strange thing, but what we will find will be stranger still."
"So, what do we do now?" Morden asked.
"Collect your best navigators and shipwrights," Calliav said. "We need to start plotting a course that will take us deep into the Abysmal Sea. The time for our journey is nearly upon us."
Journey to Taelosia
In the dead of night, the crew of the Queen of Thorns let loose the lines of the mighty ship. It crept out from Nedaria's Landing and into the Abysmal Sea.
Morden Rasp, Nedaria Debeian, Tondal Di'Xevar, and Calliav Giniuar stood at the helm, watching the Grozmok Stone float on a magical axis. When the stone turned, the crew steered the boat in the same direction.
As they got into the heart of the currents of the Abysmal Sea, the water churned and whirled around them. Waves crashed across the mighty bows of the ship, and eddies pulled at it from underneath. The ship creaked and groaned from the strain of the angry sea.
They sailed through the night and into the day. The sea did not let up, but got worse the farther they journeyed.
Morden consulted Nedaria and Calliav several times, fearing they may be leading the crew to its death. Without hesitation, they both told Morden they must press on -- that they had to weather the seas.
The Grozmok Stone led them west, then north, then west again, and then it guided the ship around to the south, and east again. Morden became more skeptical with each change in course, but commanded his crew to obey the will of the stone.
Morden, wet with sea spray at the helm, felt a frenzied tap on his shoulder. He turned to see Calliav, clutching his robes about him as the wind tore across the deck.
"We must stop here!" Calliav yelled over the wind's roar. "We must anchor here and send scouts out east. There is land there. I can feel it. We are here!"
"Ye want me to be sendin' me best people out into THAT?" Morden said as he pointed to the hectic chop of the sea.
"We have magic to protect them through the seas, Morden. We've been working on it for months. It does work and now is the time to use it. We also need to set up buoys around the ship to protect it from the currents," Calliav said. "We pieced together some of the ore we've been finding in such a way that it provides a protective barrier for us. The brotherhood is ready to set them up. It's all been planned."
Morden raised an eyebrow. He was skeptical, but he was not one to shy away from great challenges. He'd never had the advantage of so much help before or had so many scholars of magic at his disposal. He was starting to warm to the idea.
"Ye really are mad, Calliav. But, alright. I will let you lead this expedition into the abyss," Morden said.
It took several hours to anchor the ship and as each buoy was laid in the water -- thanks to the skill and ability of the iksar and froglok crew -- the waters around the ship calmed and a shimmering field of magic enveloped the Queen of Thorns.
Three crewmen were chosen to venture out in a small boat to find land. Morden quietly admired them for their fearlessness and loyalty as they pushed off from the docks in a hefty rowboat, their oars moving in unison until they disappeared into the dark sea.
It was a full day before a battered boat emerged back through the protective barrier around the Queen of Thorns. Only one crewman remained of the three. It was Ebbo Driblot, a bleeding troll struggling with one oar and wheezing with every breath. Several crewmembers dove into the sea to heave him aboard the ship. He was fatally injured, but his eyes were languid, almost pleased.
"We founds it. Dere is land dere. Not far. Dere a pretty peoples dere, but also sometin else. Dey attack me and crew. One stay on shore, one dead, and me come back to tell yous. Dey caught me before me gots in da boat," he said. "Dey beat me, laughed, and left Ebbo for dead, but me gots to boat."
Morden was standing next to Ebbo, his hand on his shoulder, while others tended to his gaping wounds.
"Who are 'they'?" Morden asked.
"Most evil tings. Dey most ugliest, dark, and deadly beasts," Ebbo said. "Dey hurt de pretty peoples and me. Don't go dere without lots of peoples. Won't survive," Ebbo coughed and started to choke on the blood that filled his lungs and throat. He lifted a great, green quivering hand and Morden grasped it with his own as Ebbo's life washed from his body.
Several days later, a wood elf ranger appeared in Nedaria's Landing -- the first to make a successful trip by the Farstone magic back to Antonica from the Queen of Thorns. There were others that tried, but they were not as lucky in reaching the intended destination. The magic around the great ship city was chaotic somehow.
Relieved, Dadein Shadowbow checked his arms, legs, toes, and slender, pointed ears to be sure he was all there.
Magus Wenla was startled. It had been some days since he'd last seen those who set sail on the Queen of Thorns to the Abysmal Sea. Slowly, others in the Wayfarers Brotherhood that were preoccupied by other tasks at the docks recognized Dadein and rushed over to hear any news he may have.
"Well, what of it? Where is everyone? Where did they go? What has happened? Come on! Tell us all! We've been in such a state wondering what has transpired on the seas!" Wenla urged.
"The news is mixed, my friends. It was a terrifying journey as we followed the will of the Grozmok Stone. The seas were rough and treacherous and there were moments we thought we may not survive, but then we found our way to some battered shores," Dadein said. "We stumbled onto a new continent, named Taelosia. There is a quiet race of Norrathian to be found there. You must know that we found much more than a land to find adventure and exploration."
"Gracious me! That is some news! How could we not see a whole continent? An entire race? That's preposterous!" Wenla added. The onlookers all murmured melodically with tones of surprise and doubt.
"There is so much more, friends. . .so much death and destruction," Dadein said, his eyes narrowing. "There is something else there. . .or rather some others. They are the foulest creatures. They cannot be of this world."
Everyone around moved in closer, not wanting to miss a pronounced breath of the wood elf.
"Something terrible has happened on Taelosia. We sent scouts out to learn more about what has happened there and have already lost most of them. So, now I've come to tell you and the rest of Norrath a very important message," Dadein said.
"What is it? Don't just stand there!" Wenla shouted above the crowd.
"Make ready, everyone. Gather all who are able and willing to fight," Dadein said. "Norrath is at war. . .”