Coming of the Shadow
Adventure » Coming of the Shadow
The Coming of the Shadow
A plan for an epic Birthright Campaign
Note: I am still cleaning up the editing on this... it will take a while
This document sketches out the briefest outline of a campaign that can be run in any of the regions of Cerilia: the Return of Azrai (in the form of the Cold Rider). This document details an alternative timeline of Cerilian history centered around a centuries-long struggle between the forces of the Shadow and (primarily) the followers of Rournil. In general it remains true to the canon (no dates have been changed), it only places those events in a context and fills out the details. The second section details each of the two factions (those of Darkness and of Light), in particular focusing upon the strategies of the Cold Rider and how they can fit into a campaign in any part of Cerilia. The final section includes a list of potential adventures for the first and second periods of the struggle (before and after the public emergence of the forces of the Shadow).
The necessary documents to run this campaign include: an appropriate edition of Dungeons and Dragons rules, a Birthright Rulebook, Blood Spawn (available free online) and regional books for Cerilia. A Book of Priestcraft and a Book of Magecraft are useful, as are particular Player's Secrets books (especially Medoere and perhaps Hogunmark).
Timeline of the Fall and Return of the Shadow
The Battle of Deismaar: Azrai’s form is shattered by the self-sacrifice of the Old Gods. Much of the power of Azrai and the other gods is scattered amongst the survivors of the struggle, though certain individuals are imbued with the lion’s share, becoming gods themselves. Haelyn, Nesirie, Erik, Sera, Rournil, Kriesha, Belinik and Avani rise to godhood. However, Azrai is not completely destroyed and the majority of his power is drawn into the Shadow World, along with his most dedicated followers: The Lost.
0 HC-250 HC
-973 - -723 MR
Rournilite scholars believe that during this period the Lost are greatly weakened in the wake of Deismaar and hide themselves away in fastnesses within the Shadow World to lick their wounds.
0 HC-326 HC
-973 – -647 MR
In the chaos of post-Deismaar Cerilia and the rise of the Roeles, only Rournil and his followers pay attention to affairs in the Shadow World.
- 923 MR
Rournil, inheritor of the mantle of Vorynn, becomes aware that the Fey Realm is becoming polluted and begins to organize his followers to close and protect portals connecting the two.
The Temple of Rilni in Mairada becomes the foremost center of Rournil’s worship. The priests there found a great repository of knowledge on magic and the Shadow World.
The Usurper rises in the Shadow World, fully tainting the Fey Realm and devastating halfling society. Rournil, aware of their plight, moves among them, bringing many over from the Shadow World into Cerilia. Many halflings come to view Rournil as their patron.
250 HC- 500 HC
-720s- -473 MR
One by one, the Lost reappear in the Shadow World, carving out small empires and enslaving the inhabitants of the region.
The Imperial Temple of Haelyn formally recognizes the threat of the Shadow World and the Iron Throne charges the Church of Rournil with the mission of finding and sealing breaks between the worlds. Monies are set aside in the Imperial Budget every year to assist the Church in its cause, greatly aiding them.
The first recorded appearance of the creature known as the Cold Rider in Rournilite lore. It is unknown whether it is an Awnsegh, a tainted Fey creature, a post-Deismaar demigod or something else. Rournilite and halfling attempts to learn more lead to no result.
The death of Michael Roele
In the Imperial City, the Council of Wizards battles for control of the powerful source under the Royal College. In the ensuing battle, the source is shattered, destroying the College and creating a great rift to the Shadow World. Undead and Shadow creatures stalk the City. Eventually the threat is contained, but the rift is never fully healed.
Around this time the Cold Rider gains consciousness and realizes that it is the true Heir of Azrai. It begins to study the Shadow World, its own powers and limitations and how Aebrynis has changed since its departure. This is hindered by its inability to travel or see into Cerilia. It takes to capturing travelers.
The Sideath Disaster: In order to repel the Gorgon from Tuarhievel, Siebharrinn the Lich opens a portal to the Shadow World, causing incredible devastation.
The Temple of Rilni records the first instance of a Shade (1) in Cerilia. It was a human adventurer presumed lost in the Shadow World two centuries earlier that had returned as a twisted servant of some Shadow World power. Shades will become increasingly common as agents of the Lost and the Cold Rider itself.
The Cwn Annwn (2) (the Hounds of Azrai) stalk the Grovenkevic, especially within Tuar Anwnn.
Because of his inability to use magic to investigate the nature of the Cold Rider, Rournil comes to believe that it is of deity of some sort.
The Cold Rider presents himself to the Lost and bends them to his will. He teaches them secrets of the Shadow World that they did not know and prepares them for the coming conquest of Cerilia.
The first recorded instance since the War of Shadow of a Cwn Annwn (Hound of Azrai) in the realm of Tuarhievel. They will become increasingly common, especially around Sideath, as time passes.
Rournil, having long watched the Lost and the Cold Rider, comes to the conclusion that the Rider is the Heir of Azrai because of his ability to control the Lost. He begins preparations for war.
After a terrible battle of wills, the Cold Rider bends Lussina, Queen of the Unseelie Faeries (3), to his service. He is unable to dominate Maeve, the Seelie Queen and the last source of resistance in the Shadow World to his hegemony.
About this time, Rournil’s faithful notice that his Inspirations (visions of new magical items and spells sent to worshipers) begin to take a militant bent: magics dedicated to combat, especially against shadow creatures and the undead take precedence.
Brun Szareh, a Rournilite priest in Diemed, receives a vision to gather the “faithful of the Silver Prince” to eastern Diemed. The Silver Prince’s command was unprecedented amongst his faithful and caused great disquiet among them.
For centuries Uvna Farzeb, Rournil’s standard bearer at Deismaar, has studied and taught at the Temple of Rilni in Maraida. However, in this year he is ordered by his god to begin gathering a force of Vos Lirovka - worshipers and outfit them for a coming war. He departs the Temple immediately.
Much of Rournil’s Anuirean flock gathers in Medoere, though many disbelieve the preaching of Brun Szareh.
Eastern Diemed is civilized by Rournilites and Brun Szareh departs forever on a mysterious quest in the Spiderfell. Mourten Enlien is sent to bring order to Medoere from the court of Diemed.
Uvna Farzeb appears in Zoloskaya and attempts to conquer the land, beginning the Days of Fire.
The last pirate king of Zoloskaya, the ruler of Vaskulazen, is killed, ending the Days of Fire. Rournil’s faithful take control of Zoloskaya.
In the Adurian Empire of Lucitia, Azrai’s faithful receive prophetic dreams from the “Imprisoned Lord” and begin a revival in his worship.
Death of Mourten Enlien. His son Dalien is elevated to the position of count and begins to grind down the church of the Celestial Spell.
Destruction of Adlersburg and the Awakening of the Fae, who begins to use her influence to oppose the Gorgon and the Shadow.
The gnolls of the Black Spear Tribes organize under the influence of El-Sheighül, the Lord of Ghouls and one of the Lost. However, he cannot fully manifest himself in the mortal world and is hindered in his actions.
The Wild Hunt4 appears in the forests of Tuar Annwn.
The Cold Rider appears to selected awnseghlien: the White Witch, the Serpent, the Gorgon, the Hag and the Elf. The White Witch submits herself to his service in return for a promise of domination over the Rjurik Highlands. The Serpent and the Hag both strike deals, not yet fully submitting to his will, but willing to aid his cause for assistance. The Gorgon says neither yea or nay but begs for time to think. The Elf, wary of reports of the Wild Hunt and Cwn Annwn and of duplicity in the part of his old master, rejects the offer outright.
In Ust Atka, the Warlord Tusilov is possessed by the Raven, one of the Lost. This “Son of Azrai” begins to forge a mighty Vos empire.
The worship of Rournil is outlawed by Dalien Enlien.
The Temple of Rilni first reports the influence of the Society of the Serpent in Mairada.
2,000 troops from Diemed march to help keep down eastern Diemed. Suris Enlien, Dalien’s daughter, is confirmed as a priestess. Her uncle Egris, also a priest, is killed by Dalien. Rournil descends to Suris and declares her his “Sacred Voice.” The Dieman army is destroyed at Moonstrike Keep by the power of Rournil and Medoere is founded.
Suris Enlien has a vision of the Champion of Medoere and begins her search for one to bear the Sword of Enlien.
The Magian, one of the Lost, and his band of followers, the Riders, crosses the Sea of Dragons and conquers Pipryet.
The Magian begins the corruption of blooded heroes that come to vanquish him, sending them out into the world as awnseghs. His most prominent victim to date is the Manticore.
Pilgrims traveling to the Temple of Rilni to take their oaths report a growing number of bandits and monsters along the trail.
The first recorded instance of the Wild Hunt in Tuarhievel, near the border of Sideath.
A caravan crossing the Mistmoor is assaulted by a “Mist Man” that seems to suck the life out of those it strikes. Only a handful survive the campaign.
The Raven’s troops prepare to conquer Yeninskiy and Zoloskaya. Desperate to hinder his progress, Rournil awakens the ancient sleeping evil that is Vore Lekiniskiy, the Dragon of Vstaive Peak. The Raven’s forces are devastated in the struggle.
The High Priest Jabil min Rilni, of the Temple of Rilni records formally that he believes the Society of the Serpent to have fully dominated Mairada and that the Temple is in a state of siege. No one enters or leaves the Temple without harassment from Society forces.
Tendrils of darkness are extending out of Tuar Annwn and absorbing surrounding provinces.
Suris Enlien is called by Rournil into seclusion and meditation. A new Sacred Voice is declared.
Powerful wizards are visited by incarnations of Rournil. One of them, Hermedhie, dedicates herself to the defense of Medoere.
Shades working for one of the Lost break into the Imperial Conservatory and steal the Book of Days to prevent its detailed astrological predictions from aiding the Chamberlain in the struggle.
The Forces of Darkness
The sacrifice of the Old Gods at Deismaar shattered the Dark Lord Azrai, in effect, his form was eliminated and his essence scattered. At the same time, the energy of the Gods’ sacrifice opened a mighty portal into the Fey Realm. The depleted spirit of Azrai along with the Lost, his mightiest followers, were drawn through the portal into the other side. At the same time, a goodly portion of his divine essence was dispersed and absorbed into Belinik, Kriesha and the soon-to-be blooded and awnseghlien.
“When Azrai's physical form was destroyed at Deismaar, some small part of his soul survived in the ethereal realm of spirit which the halflings inhabited. This was at first no more than an evil taint; Azrai was not conscious, and for all intents and purposes did not exist as a self-aware entity at this time. He was only the memory of evil, but that proved to be enough to corrupt the halfling's idyllic realm.
Over the course of the three or four centuries immediately after Deismaar, Azrai's spirit spread throughout the spirit world, much like a drop of oil spreading a corrupt sheen over the surface of a lake. This evil grew more and more powerful, until finally it gained the ability to manifest a physical form once again. This was the Usurper or the Cold Rider, a malign will given body and form in the spirit world. His increasing presence twisted the spirit world into the Shadow World, and the halflings left.
For the next few centuries, the halflings' migration continued as the Shadow World worsened. At this point, the Cold Rider was still a figure of mystery and ill will—not consciously malevolent, but more of a harbinger of evil to come. He became a "Flying Dutchman" of the Shadow World; appearing at random times, drawn to extremes of evil or good, leaving doom in his wake.
In the last four or five centuries, the Cold Rider has come to understand that he is the direct heir of Azrai's evil, and as he has grown stronger, more and more of Azrai's personality, powers, and memories are reappearing... He is the voice of darkness, the harbinger of doom, and the living incarnation of the perverse ironies and corruption of the Shadow World.” (5)
In effect, the Cold Rider is the Shadow World. The Shadow World has always had the ability to bend and be shaped by a powerful will. When the essence of the great god entered the world, it became permanently fused with that place. Today the Cold Rider/Azrai/The Shadow World is not so much a deity as a plane of existence that has gained a malevolent sentience. The only regions of the Shadow World where his power is lessened are the regions under the influence of the Maeve, the Faerie Queen. However, the Queen must struggle constantly to keep her region free from his power and her strength weakens with each passing year.
Azrai has always been obsessed with power and domination and for some centuries now his goal has been to return to Aebrynis and destroy, once and for all his enemies. He is greatly hindered though in the fact that he is no longer a god and cannot leave the Shadow World (after all, he is the Shadow World). His current goal is to reverse the ancient split between the Shadow World and Aebrynis, to melt the veil between the worlds. He believes that if the Shadow World is joined with Aebrynis, his spirit will infuse the land, taint the magic of the land and come to dominate.
To achieve this goal, he believes that a tremendous act of realm magic will need to be done in Aebrynis at a weakened point between the worlds. Currently, he has four possible candidates: the realm of Tuar Annwn in Vosgaard, the province of Sideath in Tuarhievel, the ruins of the College of Sorcery in the Imperial City (6) and the site of Deismaar in the Straights of Aerele. Deismaar would probably be the most promising magically, though not practically. Tuar Annwn is also a strong magical candidate, but a difficult nut to crack. The Imperial City’s portal to the Shadow World is weak, as is Sideath’s and both are relatively well protected. As he cannot cast the spell himself, he has sent the Lost back into Cerilia to gather strength. Currently, he has several plans in the works to bring about his return and prevent the forces of Cerilia from undermining him:
1) Unite the Vos under the Raven and use them to smash the land of Tuar Annwn. The Raven, perhaps with help from the Magian and El-Sheighül will then cast the necessary spells.
2) Bind the Gorgon to his service. When Anuire tears itself apart in war in the near future, the Gorgon, with help from Azraen servants across Cerilia, will sweep across Anuire. When they capture the Imperial City, his servants will cast the necessary spells. Thus he is promoting the struggle for the Iron Throne in Anuire.
3) Destroy the magical power of the Khinasi. Their high concentration of true mages, the fact that all of these mages are bound by oaths and the peoples’ worship of the Light disturbs the Cold Rider, who sees them as one of the greatest threats to his schemes. To achieve this, he has El-Sheighül working to destroy Mesire, his servants in Aftane fighting against Ariya, the Serpent working to undermine the Temple of Rilni and the Magian preparing invasions of the eastern lands. He hopes to bring other local awnseghs to his service soon.
4) Take over Mieres, covertly or overtly, and use it as a staging ground for building a naval force that will occupy the Straights and summon him through the site of Deismaar.
5) He has found the Rjurik and their faith in Erik to be difficult opponents and so he works to undermine their kingly lines and turn the realms to infighting. The awnsegh known as the White Witch has devoted herself to his service after he promised that he would grant her title to the Highlands. This is a minor front for him.
6) In Brechtur he believes he will have more luck tainting the Brechts with their own greed. Eventually, he plans to close the Great Bay to traffic through ice, pirates and monsters and starve the Brechts. This is also a minor front for his plans.
7) Destroy the followers of Rournil wherever possible. In Mairada, the Serpent is besieging their temples. In Diemed, he will assist in preparations for the coming war. Zoloskaya he hopes will soon fall to the Raven and the Hjorig temples are being undermined by the madness of the Jarl.
8) Turn Tuarhievel to civil war and use the Gorgon to destroy it and the Lich in Sideath, then cast the spell from there. However, this is a last resort as the Cold Rider is not certain the portal in Sideath is strong enough as the Lich has worked hard to close it.
9) In general, the Cold Rider despises the elves, who he sees as the key to his downfall and one of his most powerful threats today. He will do whatever necessary to undermine elven states and help the destruction of their people. Cwmb Bheinn and Tuar Anwnn are targeted by the Raven. The Magian has orders to destroy Rhuannoch. The Gorgon will hopefully eliminate Tuarhievel, Coullabhie and the Sielwode. The White Witch has promised to bring Lluabraight to heel. El-Sheighül has standing orders against Rhuannach and Innishiere. He hopes to overcome the Manslayer’s will and send him on a suicidal mission against Anuire at the key moment.
The Forces of Light
For Rournil and his followers, the war against the Shadow has never ended. While the Anuireans and others turned to Empire, conquest and trade in the years following Deismaar, they never forgot that the Darkness was scattered, but not destroyed. While others have joined the struggle at times, only the Rournilites have been tireless in their protection of the border between the worlds. The first temple of Rournil, the Temple of Rilni in Mairada, today houses the world’s foremost collection of works on the Shadow World and its denizens. In this stronghold, generations of magicians, rangers and true wizards have been trained for the conflict.
Much of the Moon Lord's attentions were put towards containment and study of the Shadow World. After the magical disaster that trapped the realm of Tuar Annwn between Aebrynis and the Shadow World, Rournil’s faithful began to concentrate their efforts in the Overlook, building militant societies in the forests. His temples in Grevesmuhl and Hjorig were established for their easy access to the Grovenkevic. At the other end of the continent, priests of Rournil were instrumental in setting up the Society of the Rook to protect the ruins of the Royal College of Sorcery in the Imperial City of Anuire.
Other forces besides the Rournilites were also arrayed in this struggle. Individual wizards have long made the Shadow World a priority, those that stand out include the High Mage Aelies and the Swan Mage. The Chamberlain of the Imperial City of Anuire has a long-standing Council on the Shadow—an organization that once advised Emperors—and keeps track of Shadow World incursions; it is a mere echo of its former strength. Also in Anuire, members of the awnsegh-hunting brotherhood the Swords of Anuire have become concerned about the increasing number of abominations and are beginning to collaborate with the Rournilites. The Elven and dwarven states are also deeply concerned about the growing power of the Shadow World, but tend to be too threatened by more immediate foes to be able to do much. The Fae in particular seeks to oppose the growing power of the Shadow World. Many halflings, including the government of the Burrows, are actively involved in opposing the Shadow. Beyond Aebrynis, the Seelie Court and the halfling rebels fight in the Shadow World against the Usuper.
Adventures during the Coming of the Shadow
Ideally, the campaign begins in 551 MR as the Shadow forces are amassing, but are not known publicly. This gives PCs a chance to build up their forces and learn of the threat slowly. Various campaigns can be run within this timeline, including: re-uniting the Anuirean Empire (just in time for an apocalyptic battle), the Defense of Medoere (involving the still-mysterious Champion), the Siege of the Temple of Rilni (with perhaps aid sent to Zoloskaya), the Prophecies of Hogunmark (and the use of Shadowstrike, the Sword of King Wulf), the Elven Campaign (involving the Lich of Sideath, Maeve and the Seelie Court or the Fae) or even a Halfling Campaign (involving battles in the Shadow World).
Finding Viikmer (7)
This metal is strong against the Shadow World (steel alloy: +1 v. undead and creatures born of the Shadow World; unalloyed: +2; purified: +3), used to create Shadowstrike, the sword of King Wjulf of Hogunmark. Heroes journey to Lurech (8) (in Aduria) to find the metal and outfit a unit of Silver Guards with viikmer weapons or perhaps use it to reforge the Sword of Enlien.
Champion of Medoere
The Champion (perhaps using a special prestige class) defeats the Swamp Beast of Caerwil and defends the borders from Diemed and the Spider.
Temple of Rilni
Search for knowledge and to assist against (or break) the siege. Journey to the mountains, raid nearby strongholds of the Society of the Serpent.
Royal College of Sorcery
The Society of the Rook is divided upon itself. Battle in the ruins. Journey under the College to close the connection. One of the Council is allied with Azrai. Find the Book of Days.
The Society of the Serpent, the Brotherhood of Khet, a Shade or other groups attempt to kill the characters.
Bring information and aid to Uvna Farzeb (perhaps from the Temple of Rilni)
Region: Khinasi, Vos or Brecht
The prophetic visions of the Queen. Battle in the snow against the White Witch. Stop her agents in Jankaping. Kill the Ice Fiend. Use Shadowstrike, the intelligent Sword of Wulf (Dragon 241 pg 30).
Journey to the Shadow World
Alliance with Queen Maeve or the halfling rebels (Blood Spawn pg 23)
Talking to the Lich
Enter Sideath (and face attacks by cwn annwn) to talk to the Lord of Lichgate (PS Taurhievel). What information does he have? How can he close the portal? Return later to bring information from High Mage Aelies/The Temple of Rilni/The Royal College of Sorcery/The Fae. The Cold Rider has tainted his mind with visions of his lost people… can he be brought back before he allows Azrai in?
The forest is dying, being polluted from the Shadow World. HMA may be a possible ally in the struggle against the Shadow. He is working against it, but might not join a group effort. The ancient evil known as the Lich, actually the Lost known as Maccius (Ilien, pg 10), rises from Storm Tower in Abbatuor and will transform the forest if not stopped. Maccius is served by monkey-halfling servants. Link Erebannien and Spiderfell. Perhaps finding the Unicorn of the Erebannien is necessary (Ilien pg 28).
Find the Fae
Can she aid the struggle?
On the Front
Struggles between: Ariya/Aftane, Mesire/The Black Spear Tribes, Min Dhousai/The Magian, Ghamoura/the Serpent, Cwmb Bhienn/The Raven, Zoloskaya/The Raven
The Viper’s Eye
Azrai’s gift to Atar the Lost reappears to curse a powerful realm. (BOP pg 121)
Brecht characters loot Adlersburg to obtain magic for the coming struggle, including Alieren’s Orb (BOP 116).
Adventurers travel to Torova Temylatin to recover the sielsehegh known as the Sielehr to battle the enemies of Khinasi
Return to Sideath
Close the portal with powerful magic. Even more dangerous than first visit.
The wars for the Iron Throne rage in Anuire
The Raven and Magian’s Vos troops are ferried by the Serpent to Osoerde, where they are met, put on pirate ships and sent to the Erebannien. They wage a quiet war against the Rangers and are attempting to open a portal to allow Maccius into the forest.
Type: War/ Character
The Second War of the Shadow
After the set-up, this section of the campaign details what happens after the Shadow has revealed himself. All of Aebrynis is placed under a deep curse (The Taint), the Gods begin assembling armies and the forces of the Shadow march on one of the portals (most likely Deismaar itself or the City of Anuire).
A good way to start the War is with a Aebrynis-wide curse: The Year of the Accursed Births or The Year Without Summer. There is a taint on magic sources, encroaching Shadow World, the Gods are weakened. This can have huge implications: riots, famines, plagues, uprisings, apocalyptic religious movements, etc.
Creation of Champions
The new gods begin imbuing champions with new bloodlines for the struggle. A chance for non-blooded characters to pick up some new powers.
The Call of the Shadow
Those with Azrai’s blood have trouble resisting his “call,” especially if they are strong in the blood. Bloodtheft of Scions of Azrai more often leads to dominance of the Azraen bloodline.
The Reappearance of Haelyn’s Rampart
If an Anuirean is uniting the Empire to fight the War, Haelyn’s Rampart (BOP pg 119) will appear to aid him or her. Perhaps, though, in an underling (since it decreases Charisma) with an important task.
Arrival of the Shadow Hordes
Azrai’s armies emerge from the portal: Minions of the Lost, Shades, undead of all types and mighty undead awnseghlien. Other allies include: the Vos under the Raven, the forces of the Magian and El-Shieghul, the forces of the Serpent, the Gorgon’s troops, the troops of the White Witch and any other land that has fallen to the Shadow. The head of the armies is Atar the Lost.
The Second Battle of Deismaar
A heroic conclusion: the Straights of Aerele are frozen by Kriesha. The final armed struggle to stop Azrai is fought on the Straights.
The Fall of a Portal
A campaign-concluding event: what happens if the Shadow forces conquer Tuar Anwnn, Sideath or the Imperial City?
Vos or Anuire
Written by Satchkep for BR.net.
, 10-24-2011 at 04:17 AM|
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