The Chronicles of Caledain

Epilogue

Maskim, Byron and Agglack, having defeated Gwydrethlaestion and witnessed the downfall of the High Elves, headed back through the now-peaceful hills to find the Duke of Ironstone. After 2 days of travel, they came across the Duke’s army marching homewards. The Duke welcomed the news of the High Elves’ defeat. Byron informed him of what he had discovered regarding the identity of Kurdesh, but was advised to keep it secret.

The adventurers returned to Ironstone with the Duke and his army, and the next days were spent in feasting and celebration of the victory. Emmissaries from many of the nobles of Freymont arrived and spoke with the Duke. With the Mad King dead, and with no clear heirs, they offered the crown to him. The Duke retreated into a private conference with his chief nobles and advisors, and after some hours emerged and announced that he would accept.

News came from Arborland, that the army of the godswar had returned victorious. The High Council continued to rule in Highwatch until the king comes of age. Magelland Di Maggio was once again ordered under arrest on suspicion of his involvement in the assasination of the former king, but the wizard had escaped, and fled back to his homeland of Cinqueada.

Maskim and Byron also found themselves constantly being approached by minstrels and poets who wished to write songs and epics about their questing and journeying.

Plans for the coronation were set in motion, and the festivities continued. Maskim, Byron and even Agglack were invited to the ceremony in the temple of Auric, and witnessed the new King Balan the First make his oaths to protect the kingdom, and govern it justly and well. The nobles and knights of the kingdom then came forwards to swear their oaths of fealty, after which many of them were rewarded with new lands and titles for their parts in the battle.

Maskim, Byron and Agglack were then summoned one at a time, before the great and good of the kingdom, and offered rewards. Byron and Maskim had little to ask for, while Agglack demanded shiny things and food. Byron and Maskim were then both knighted for their services to the kingdom, and for the sacrifices they had made. It was also announced that Maskim’s cousin, the former bandit Hobb Dryden had been granted a pardon for his work in fighting the Mad King and sheltering the peole of Freymont, and had been named Warden of the Weirwood.

At the feast afterwards, they were given places of honour at the king’s table. During the feast, Byron was reunited with his lord, Sir Carlyn of Elmarsh, and told him what he had discovered about Sir Cyrden, Sir Carlyn’s father. The knight grew angry, insisting that Byron was mistaken, and that his father had died years before. Byron tried to persuade him of the truth, but eventually relented and agreed that he must have been mistaken.

After many more days of celebration, Agglack was gifted with treasure and food, and escorted south to the edge of the Deepwood, where he left the Young Kingdoms to return home. Byron and Maskim were offered positions in the king’s household. Byron was made Swordmaster to the King, and tasked with teaching his youngest son swordplay, which he gratefully accepted. Maskim was eager for a post that would keep him away from the boredom and bureaucracy of court, and was made a special agent of the king. With many of the northern Freyish lords refusing to acknowledge the new king’s rule, and much of the country depopulated and roamed by bandits and unempliyed mercenaries, there was a great deal for him to do. Added to this were rumours of orcs and goblins infesting the tunnels deep below the Hollow Hills, setting up their own subterranean kingdoms in the halls and palaces of the High Elves.

Many had died, including many heroes and comrades, but at last peace was largely restored, and slowly the ravaged and war-torn Young Kingdoms could begin to rebuild and heal. Thus were the machinations of the Shining Empire thwarted, and the Young Kingdoms saved, by the work of men and the grace of the gods.

Here end these Chronicles of Caledain.

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8th of Rainsfall (Final)

The unhinged elvish prince advanced, but Maskim charged forwardswith astounding speed,attack furiously. The elf skilfully parried and dodged and remained unhurt. He then gestured at Maskim, casting a spell of befuddlement that left him confused and unable to act.

Vanator attacked, but Gwydreth held him off easily. Agglack and Byron also entered the fray, but the elf’s inhuman speed and skill, and his excellently made armour, protected him. With Maskim still befuddled, Gwydreath attacked Vanator, wounding him. Vanator counter-attacked, but with devilish speed, the elf prince parried and riposted. Taken completely off-guard, Vanator was unable to avoid the blow, and Gwydreath rammed his blade deep into Vanator’s body. The elvish adventurer collapsed, bleeding heavily.

With Maskim ensorcelled, Vanator down and the elf prince as yet uninjured, things looked bleak. However, Byron and Agglack continued to attack, and the goblin succeeded in inflicting a shallow wound on the elf. Furious, Gwydreath turned on the goblin, blinding him with his magic. Terrified and helpless, Agglack retreated, groping his way into a corner where he lay unable to fight on.

Fortunately, it was at this point that Maskim was able to shake off the elf’s spell, and attacked with renewed fury. Gwydreath was taken by surprise, but was still able to avoid Maskim’s attacks. However, Byron was able to rush in while the elf was distracted and inflict a severe wound.

Becoming desperate, and more and more unhinged, Gwydreath disarmed Maskim by making the hilt of his sword burningly hot, but Maskim was able to draw his spare and continue the attack. Even outnumbered and wounded, Gwydreath fought with astounding skill, parrying, dodging and using his armour to deflect blows for some time. He attempted to weaken Maskim with his magic, but the human relied more on finesse than strength to fight with, and so was unaffected.

Byron was wounded twice as the battle continued to rage, and Maskim escaped injury only barely. Gwydreath was becoming berserk, hacking and ranting at his opponents. He hammered his blade aganst Maskim’s shield, driving the human back before slashing him savagely across the face, blinding him in his right eye. However, this once more gave Byron the chance to slip in past the prince’s defences, driving his sword into Gwydreath’s side.

Still unable to believe that he had been defeated, and all his plans thwarted, Gwydreathlaestion of the House Faramaeril finally fell. Instantly, the spell of blindness was lifted from Agglack, but alas, it was too late for Vanator, who had finally succumbed to his wounds, the last of the original adventurers who had been there at the very start of the events that had overtaken the Young Kingdoms.

With Kurdesh and Gwydreath dead, there was nothing left but for Maskim, Agglack and Byron to do but return to the surface, where there were already signs on a thaw, and the very air seemed lighter and cleaner than before.

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8th of Rainsfall (Cont.)

Having taken a few moments to mourn Mirann’s death, they continued their search of the large, well-furnished sitting room in which they found themselves. While doing this, they heard hammering at one of the doors leading from the room, and shouting in Freyish. Cautiously opening the door, they found a human prisoner, a Freyish soldier by the name of Byron Lake, who had been captured by the elves whilst riding with a message from Ironstone to the Duke’s army.

He told them that he had been imprisoned in the room for maybe two days, and that recently he had heard a massive commotion, screams and the sound of fighting. Having searched the rooms and finding nothing of interest or value, they left, taking Byron with them.

Moving deeper into the palace, they found what appeared to be an armoury and training room. Here they found the body of a single armoured elf, surrounded by dead orcs and gnolls, his armour rent in multiple places. Byron took a longsword from the armoury, but there was nothing else here to investigate, so once more they moved on.

At the end of the corridor, they found a large set of double doors, broken open, and through them they entered into a huge banqueting hall. This was the scene of a massive and vicious battle, and dead elves, orcs, gnolls and goblins lay scattered everywhere. Many of the orcs and goblins showed signs of having been killed by magic. Searching the bodies, they found no-one left alive here.

However, Byron, moving through the carnage came across the body of a large, armoured human, lying in what had clearly been the thickest part of the fighting, grievously wounded and badly burnt. Despite this, and the length of time that had past since he last saw him, Byron identified him as Sir Cyrden of Elmarsh, father of his own lord, who had been thought lost during an expedition into the Deepwood to fight the orcs. The others came over, and realised that this was the body of Kurdesh, who had finally fallen in battle.

Moving through the banqueting hall, they entered another corridor, and presently came to what appeared to be a large library and study. Here they found an elf, armed and armoured, poring over a scroll on a desk. He turned to them as they came in, and Vanator recognised him as Gwydreathlaestion Faramaeril, the elvish prince who had sent himself, Fred, Keskiyo, Rib and Luthien on the quest to find the Crown of Hesketh. The elf’s sanity had clearly been affected by the collapse of his plans, the invasion of his home and the massacre of his people. He recognised Vanator, blaming him for everything that had happened. He then moved forwards to attack.

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8th of Rainsfall (Continued)

Stepping through the doors, they found themselves in a richly decorated, but thoroughly looted, entrance hall. Going left, they came to some rooms obviously intended for the entertainment of guests. They found more dead elves, these unarmed and unarmoured but richly dressed, and these rooms too had been pillaged. They also found an elf in a plain black tunic, the tips of whose ears had been cut off at some point in the past.

Going through a narrow door which had been hidden behind a tapestry before it had been torn down, they entered a corridor leading to a kitchen, and on to what appeared to be servant quarters. As before these rooms had been looted, and more dead elves were scattered about. Like the other, these were dressed in plain tunics, and had clipped ears, and the adventurers surmised that these were slaves or servants. One of the bodies found was wearing slightly better, but still plain, clothing and Vanator recognised him as the head servant in the palace.

Finding nothing else, they returned to the entrance hall and went right, following the corridor to a set of rooms that Vanator recognised as being the guest rooms that he, Keskiyo, Fred and Rib had stayed in. Passing through a sitting room, they entered a dining room, but here they encountered a small group of orcs, still looting and smashing. Agglack and Mirann leapt to the attack, but stumbled over a fallen chair. The orcs counter attacked, and a brief but vicious fight ensued. The first orc also tripped on the chair, unluckily impaling himself on Maskim’s outstretched sword. Maskim then easily dispatched the orc leader, but Mirann, vulnerable after having tripped, was badly wounded by an axe blow and fell to the ground bleeding heavily.

Agglack was wounded, but managed to defeat his opponent, while Maskim slew the orc that had felled Mirann. They then moved to help Mirann, but found that she had succumbed to her wounds and died of blood loss in the short time since she’d fallen. The adventurers paused for a moment to mourn their loss before continuing.

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4th-8th of Rainsfall

After several days of dreary but uneventful travelling, they reached the village of Creely. As before it was abandoned, and had been thoroughly looted. However, the adventurers were still able to find some well-concealed torches that they used to light their way as they entered the mine.

They headed downwards, with Vanator leading the way. He took them down the side-tunnel which he knew ended in an illusory wall. However, when they got to the end of the passage, they found that the illusion had failed, leaving the hidden entrance to the tunnels below revealed.

Heading down the narrow, steeply-sloping passage, they eventually came to the bottom. Here Mirann noticed a few spent crossbow quarrels lying on the ground. Moving forwards, they came to the entrance into the broad main tunnel that had served the elves as a highway. Here they found a number of dead orcs, goblins and gnolls, many shot with elvish crossbows. A few albino elves were also among the dead.

Vanator turned right, leading the party towards the subterranean palace that they had been taken to a long time before. As they travelled along the ‘road’, they came across frequent signs of battle; spent arrows, fallen weapons and dead bodies, mostly of orcs and gnolls, but with the occasional elf as well.

They came to a side-tunnel which Vanator believed led to the palace, but could hear orcish voices. Peering down the corridor, they saw a small group of orcs busy looting the bodies of the fallen. They attacked the orcs, and after a brief skirmish defeated them. They then pressed on until they reached the entrance to the palace.

The great metal doors had been smashed inwards, and hung buckled and open on their hinges. Within was a large courtyard area, which had obviously been the site of a savage battle. The area was littered with bodies; orc, gnoll, goblin and elf. Across the courtyard were a second set of metal doors, and these too had been smashed in. Here a large number of orcs showed signs of having been burnt, possibly by magic.

Summoning up their courage, the adventurers prepared to enter.

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3rd of Rainsfall

The next day, the Duke’s army slept late, but eventually roused themselves, somewhat refreshed. The party were a little recovered, but found that Agglack had disappeared during the night. Much of the remnants of the Royal Army had melted away during the night, leaving only a small force in the bottom of the valley. This sent out a party of emissaries to negotiate with the Duke, and they agreed to lay down their arms and return to their homes.

Shortly after this was agreed, drums were heard to the north, and a new army appeared. However, this turned out to be the army of the Arborish godswar which had marched south from the Freyish capital to try and intercept the Royal Army. The leaders of this army also came to talk with the Duke of Ironstone. Arldis Carribannus was also accompanying the army of the godswar, and he took the adventurers aside to learn what had happened.

He was pleased with the news that the Freyish king had been slain, and agreed that the Crown needed to be kept somewhere secure. He warned that destroying it would mere release the very powerful demon trapped inside, and slightly reluctantly agreed to take the Crown with him and find somewhere safe to keep it.

He then asked the adventurers what their next move would be. Mirann was happy to return home, but Vanator and Maskim wanted to find out what had happened to Kurdesh and the High Elves, and Carribannus agreed that this was probably a good idea. He bustled off to arrange for equipment for them, and sent them a healer who tended to their injuries, including Maskim’s broken arm. Once they’d been re-armed and resupplied, they found the Duke’s chancellor, who agreed to lend them horses.

As they rode out of the camp, they were met by Agglack, who’d spent the night away from the camp. They then rode eastwards towards the village of Creely, where Vanator knew there was a route down into the tunnels below.

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2nd of Rainsfall (Continued Further)

Vanator attacked, but was parried with contemptuous ease. Maskim rushed in, but his blow merely glanced off the king’s armour. The king then lashed out, breaking Maskim’s elbow with a single blow and wounding Vanator with a cut from the sword in his other hand. Mirann charged in, but the king avoided her with startling speed.

Vanator attacked again, and again his blows failed to land. Maskim staggered back in agony, his right arm hanging useless at his side. The king hacked again at Vanator who managed to parry one blow, but was sorely wounded by the next. Mirann darted in again aiming a mighty slash at the king’s face. It should have been a grievous wound, the keenly honed blade merely glanced off the possessed monarch’s face, leaving not even a mark.

Vanator kept up his attack but was fended off easily. Maskim tried sorcery, casting a magical dart at the king, but the runes on his armour glowed briefly and the spell was dissipated. The king turned his attention to Mirann. She dodged his first blow but was unable to avid the second, and the king’s blade plunged deep into her, inflicting horrific damage. She attempted to counter, but hampered by her injuries was unable to do so.

The situation seemed bleak, when they heard a high-pitched battle-cry, and to their astonishment saw Agglack the Goblin charge at the king, armed with the Sword of Ashcaelil! Agglack managed to wound the king with his blow, the ancient elvish sword glowing with power.

Vanator attacked again, this time seeking to attack the Crown of Hesketh and knock it from the king’s head, but slowed by his wounds, failed to do so. Maskim rushed in with his shield, smashing it into the King who, although undamaged, nonetheless was sent staggering back. Agglack attacked again with the Sword of Ashcaelil, once more wounding the possessed monarch.

Now Vanator and Mirann tried to knock the Crown from the king’s head while Maskim continuously battered the king with his shield, knocking him to the ground and keeping him off-balance. This allowed Agglack to close with the enchanted sword. Even off-balance and reeling under this multi-sided attack, the king fought furiously, inflicting several more savage wounds. Weakened by their injuries, Mirann and Vanator were unable to get past the King’s defences and strike the Crown, while Maskim’s blows, mighty as they were, were nonetheless unable to inflict any actual damage. Even Agglack struggled to get past the king’s defence, and even then had to contend with the heavy plate armour that he wore.

Eventually, Mirann succeeded in knocking the Crown from the king’s head, and Vanator kicked it away down the slope of the ridge. The king seemed undiminished by the loss of his crown, and continued to fight ferociously. Vanator was wounded again, and fell unconscious to the ground, bleeding heavily from his many injuries. Mirann was also on the verge of collapsing, but with Maskim keeping the king distracted and off balance with continuous strikes of his shield, Agglack was finally able to land a lethal blow. The king screamed horribly, his body arching and convulsing. A cloud of shadowy black smoke flowed from his mouth, curling ion the air before flowing down the hill and into the Crown of Hesketh, where it lay beside a fallen soldier. The king of Freymont was no more, and Baelshannurpal had been banished back into the ancient Elvish crown.

News of the king’s death rippled across the battlefield, disheartening his followers and spurring the Duke’s forces to fresh efforts. The royal army swiftly collapsed, retreating back down the slope. Meanwhile, the companions secured the Crown.

Agglack demanded it as his rightful due for slaying the king, but Maskim explained to him that it was possessed, so the goblin contented himself with looting the king’s corpse of other valuables.

Barely able to believe that they had won, the Duke’s forces returned wearily to their camp, to exhausted even to celebrate. The adventurers, along with Agglack, also returned to the camp, and slumped down to sleep.

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2nd of Rainsfall (Continued)

The full might of the Freyish army now crashed into the Duke’s forces, driving them back from their makeshift defences and inflicting serious losses.

This time it wasn’t conscripts and mercenaries, but the flower of Freyish chivalry, accompanied by their retinues of professional troops. The adventurers fought heroically, felling a number of opponents, even Mirann, armed only with a dagger, giving a good account of herself.

Having defeated all the enemy soldiers nearby, they saw the Duke and his retinue being hard-pressed by the Freyish king and his bodyguard, which both Vanator and Maskim recognised as being members of the Red Hands of Ouroch, a military order with a ferocious reputation. Nonetheless they attacked, and even succeeded in killing two of the Ourochians, although not without injury.

However, they suddenly found themselves face to face with the Freyish king himself, heavily armoured and wielding 2 swords. He seemed to recognise Vanator, and revealed that there was no trace left of the personality of the real king. He told them that his name was Baelshannurpal, demonlord of the Void, and informed them that their world would be drowned in blood and fire, and that every soul upon it would be dragged into the Void for the entertainment and sustenance of its denizens.

Weary and wounded, and without the benefit of their lost magical weapons, the companions moved to attack, the king moved to meet them, and the fate of Caledain hung in the balance.

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1st-2nd of Rainsfall

The Freyish army emerged from the pass, filling the bottom of the valley. The Duke’s forces quickly took up position behind their hastily-constructed defences and prepared to fight, with the adventurers taking their places amongst them.

A herald was sent from the King to parley with the Duke, but the adventurers were too far away to hear what was said. However, they saw the herald leave, and upon returning to his own lines, part of the royal army advanced.

A wave of soldiers was sent up the slope towards the Duke’s forces who prepared to meet their charge. As they closed, Maskim created a magical wall of flame in front of him that shielded the companions and the soldiers close to them from the full force of the attack. A savage melee ensued, and the royal forces started to push back the Duke’s men by sheer force of numbers. However, this wave was made up of mercenaries and poorly-armed conscripts, and although the fighting was fierce, the Duke’s casualties were minimal, while the royal troops were cut down in vast numbers. Unable to make further headway, and with their casualties mounting, the King’s army retreated.

While the battle had been raging the royal army has set up camp in the valley below, and night fell with the two opposing armies watching each other warily as they rested.

The next morning, it was barely light before the royal army made its next assault. Again it sent a wave of mercenaries and conscripts, and again Maskim created a wall of flame to protect himself and his companions. This time though, he found himself being countered by an elvish mercenary sorcerer. While Mirann and Vanator protected him, Maskim cast an illusion spell instead, spreading confusion through the enemies nearby. After some savage fighting, the Royal Army was again driven into retreat with heavy losses.

The next wave of soldiers consisted of the professional troops, knights and their entourages, and again battle was joined. The companions fought heroically, and once more the royal army took heavy losses as they attempted to storm the makeshift barricades and shallow ditches. The Royal Army was again on the point of retreating, when the royal banner advanced, and the adventurers saw the Freyish king himself, wearing silver armour and a tall silver crown, marching up the slope towards them. He was surrounded by a bodyguard of bulky, ferocious-looking men in red plate armour, armed with huge axes, and was heading straight for the Duke’s position.

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32nd of Thawing-1st of Rainsfall

Vanator explained the situation as well as he was able, telling Kurdesh of the Duke of Ironstone’s desire for an alliance against the Freyish king.

Although Kurdesh didn’t refuse outright, he stated that his scouts had now found ways into the tunnels of the high elves, and that he would be leading his army down to take his revenge on the subterranean race for attempting to manipulate him. Only after that would he move to take on the Freyish forces. He bid the adventurers tell the Duke that he would need to keep the Freyish army from attacking Kurdesh’s rear while he invaded the underground kingdom.

With this, he commanded the adventurers to leave, and disappointed, they were escorted from the camp by a goblin servant. As they left, they realised that their weapons and belongings had not been returned to them, including the Sword of Ashcaelil. They tried to ask the goblin to have them returned, but weren’t able to make the goblin understand them.

Eventually they gave up and left, facing a long march through the hills without food or weapons. They walked for two days, growing increasingly weak and exhausted, sheltering as best they could in shallow caves.

On the third day from Kurdesh’s camp, they ran into Sir Jarth Neeright, leading a patrol that was searching for them. They explained the situation, and he brought them back to the Duke’s army as it pushed through the hills. Here they were fed, and their injuries healed, including Vanator’s broken leg. They learnt that the Duke had left a rear-guard to delay the swiftly approaching Freyish army. When he heard about Kurdesh’s decision, he began to search for somewhere defensible to make a stand. Brought up in the region, Maskim was able to direct the Duke to a more easily defended place further up the valley, at the top of a rise in the valley floor.

Here the army began to make preparations, attempting to fortify the place as much as they could. They had not been at this work long when the battered and depleted remnants of the rearguard came into view.

Drums could now be heard in the distance, and the tramp of thousands of feet, and the Freyish army marched into view, banners waving and trumpets blaring. As the Duke’s army hurried to form up behind their make-shift defences, the King’s army began to advance and The Battle of The Hollow Hills was begun.

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