Shadowscape

What happens in the dark.
A blog of shadowscape

A single hero finds himself wandering a small outpost. He is unsure how he got here from his warm temperate home, for it is a strange place: everyone on the street is cloaked and hooded, and none spare a friendly glance for the dragonborn warrior.

As he enters a tavern, a beautiful snake woman approaches, a friendly greeting on her lips. A couple drinks later, she informs him that the town is often raided by flying monkeys, and a heroic intervention would be more than welcome. She is not disappointed, and the monkeys are soon driven away.

After this strange encounter with the odd beasts, he sets back to the strange village only to encounter the snake woman again. This time she has a more specific request: “There is an evil gaze upon this place. Through the mountains, there is a cathedral to forgotten heathen gods. In this place a Caster of shadows resides, willing to do innocent victims harm, he must be stopped.”

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Neutrality is the Key

There is a run down cathedral across the mountains and past the forest. It is a short flight for our hero. There is a tall dark building. The rafters are visible through the collapsing roof. Rotting beams belay poor upkeep and little concern to the welfare of those who enter. About the arched doorway are several statues to a heathen god, but inside there is nothing but dark and a thin ray of light peeking tentatively through to the alter. A lone figure kneels before a single candle. His hooded eyes bore into you.

Upon charging the dark mage the entire cathedral is smothered in unnatural darkness and an all too audible chuckle rebounds off the ceiling, seeming to come from everywhere at once. “I see Aralanda has found a new pawn! The chase is on!”

With that the malignant presence lifts, light filters feebly through the old tarnished windows, but the caster is gone.

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Darkness breeds cowardice?

Upon stumbling outside through the magically enhanced darkness, our draconic hero finds himself before the stream.From behind him, the voice of the yuan-ti woman cries out in disgust. “You haven’t found the bastard?!” She is livid with rage and her fangs are bared in a feral snarl. “That one must be stopped! Come, I see I must track him for you, what a pitiful druid you are!” Bashing her way through the trees, you tentatively follow.

Soon, before you lies a solid sheet of mist. The woman states: “the nest of angels; this is not good. He intends to retreat to the city of shadows. We must hasten!”

Upon the vast solid cloud terrain there is a single peak barely visible before you. “He will hide in the shadows. Even a shadow caster must rest in this cursed hallow place. Let us slay him now while he is weak!” She sprints around the peak and you follow and… There appears to be nothing there. The woman curses in a very unladylike fassion. Before she can impose any more violent intonations upon your ears, you cast detect magic. There, near the edge of the enormous shadow of the mountain, is the silhouette of the caster. He hefts a dark great sword challengingly. You attack!

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Sun, Moon, and Shadow

He swings his sword to intercept you, but quickly drops before Feathersong‘s ceaseless rain of blows. Then he dissolves into shadow. "YOU OAF, YOU FOOL! YOU MEANDERING LOON! You let him escape again while you were buisy wrestling with shadows! If he enters the city of shadows before we catch him it’ll be your head!" With that pleasant note the woman sets off at a brisk pace without answering any questions. She is seeming less attractive by the minute, yet you have no choice but to follow.

After a short interval of walking, the city of shadows comes into sight and, luckily, so does the caster. He is standing calmly outside the gate. His arms are by his sides, but there’s no telling what dark magic he could call on in a moment’s notice. You and the woman move in silent consent to surround him so he cannot run.


“Found yourself a new pawn, have you Aralanda?” With a swish of his cloak he’s behind her. Feathersong charge to protect his moody reptilian maiden, but stops dead in his tracks at the sight before him. The caster waved his hand across the yuan-ti’s body and a darkness wafts upward from her breast before absorbing into his hand. All that remains of her is a horrible translucent blue human torso with an enormous bloodshot eye and a blue eel’s tail for legs. It shrieks and flees back the way you came from.


The caster claps his hands and four other casters appear around you. “You have much to learn if you fall for a pretty snake woman that easily. You are my charge now and I shall take you to my guild hall.”


He and his men escort you into the city past high black stone walls and around countless turns before you arrive at a tall black building. Over the lintel board of the main doors there is a symbol similar to the one all over the city. “I am Baron Reilan, guildmaster of third light and this is my guild hall.”


He leads you to a private room and begins a long explanation. “I am master of one of the six guilds of shadow casters within this city. There are two each devoted to good, evil, and lawful. The shadow casters as a whole are never completely good or evil, but a fulcrum from which both sides swing. If one side becomes more weighted we must move towards the other in order to maintain balance.”


“Many years ago, Aralanda became my apprentice. I was new to my rank then and innocent. I had been ordered to exterminate most of her nestmates. She was part of an ancient- though nonmagical by nature- race that was too smart and to longevitous for its own good. She was ambitious and once she started learning shadow magic she soaked up the secrets of our art ceaselessly. Yet even so, she bit the hand that fed her. The never forgot how I had slaughtered her family: in cold blood and without remorse. She tried to take revenge for her ‘murdered’ kin and I had to put her down. Yet even in death her will was so strong her soul remained. She has haunted the land since as a bloodthirsty specter. Her shadow magic was stripped from her, so she replaced it with arcane trickery.”


“She if crafty and devious. Every time a caster is sent to kill her they either don’t come back, or the never find her in the first place. Also, I suspect, every attempt simply renews her resolve for vengeance. This is where you come in. The more powerful figures within our guilds are much too buisy with a celestial uprising in the nest of angels to go out of their way to destroy her. We will provide you with magical items, new weapons, and perhaps later, an escape back to your plane of origin.”


Feathersong agrees readily enough and is introduced to nimian the un-holy (a strange creature that was the last victim of Aralanda’s treachery) Together they are given a local guide,Stonespirit , an initiate from the guild of Third Light to aid them in their exploit.

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Fitting for a Fight
The newly met group sets off from the city of shadows across the clouds and they fly on until a single lonely mountain comes into view to the southwest. “What are we doing here?” asks Feathersong, but as our heroes round the mountain a small opening becomes apparent. Presumably a large forge by the amber light it casts outward.

“This is Drona’s forge. He is the best weaponsmith this side of the endless sea. He makes most of the non-magically acquired weapons for the casters.” explains Stonespirit

As they walk in they are brought to a standstill by dozens of dwarves scurrying to and fro with hammers, ores, and bars of various metals. Just before Nimean asks one for Drona, a surly old azer enters from a storeroom in the back.

“Heave to, you slaggards” he half wheezes half roars. “We’ve seventy more spike traps to ready before sundown!” Then he spots the small party standing awkwardly amidst the rabble. “What’re you lot doin’ in ma workers’ way!?”

Stonesipirit answers timidly “Reilan told us we could pick out weapons from your stores…”

Drona grunts and leads them towards the room he had just vacated. They soon find themselves inside a wondrous armory filled with bundles of magic arrows, stacks of exotic swords and walls lined with racks of spears and assorted pole-arms. It’s an armorer’s paradise. Feathersong acquires a greatsword to his liking crafted of a local favorite: disrupting steel. When it strikes an opponent they are teleported onto an empty plain for a couple seconds.(disappear for one round). Stonespirit contents herself with a simple short sword, and Nimean abstains altogether, preferring his own bow.

“Now ‘at you lot’re properly equipped… Reilan’ll be wantin’ ta see tha whole lot ‘a you by the town outside. Says its important.” With that Drona takes a swig from a large flask and stomps off.

At the village A scene of chaos and pandemonium greets our stalwart adventurers. Bodies litter the streets; the buildings lie in heaps of burning rubble; bands of animated footwear of all sizes hop in formation through the ruined town. Reilan is nowhere in sight, so they hide amongst the trees.

A flicker of movement is all the warning they have of Reilan’s arrival. His cloaked form appears at the edge of town right as another large group of Aralanda’s minions arrive. He rends them to pieces with shadow magic and rushes another group without so much as a glance at the party.

They rush to help him as he engages a third group, but Reilan waves the back. “I’ll take care of these. My subbordinates are searching for survivors. You deal with Aralanda before she can create more minions!”

Through the woods to a misty lake they run before they see Aralanda’s translucent form slithering through the unnaturally calm water.

She shrieks, “You Cannot stop me now! If Reilan isn’t man enough to come himself, I’ll have to keep slaughtering and razing until he shows himself!” Two huge shoes erupt from the lake. They’re bright red stiletto heeles shoes.

“I AM A SEXY GODLESS SHOE OF WAR!” one cries and the other follows up, “I SHALL CRUSH YOU UNDER MY HIGH HEELS OF DEATH!”

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Edara's Entrance
The shoes’ bloodlust is tangible as they hop through the lake bed. Feathersong draws his disrupting great sword and keeps them at bay by alternating who he hits, while nimian the un-holy fires upon Aralanda with his bow, but to no avail. She casts protection from arrows and laughs. Stonespirit, upon seeing her master’s new friend in peril hacks at the shoes with her shadow short sword. It is a lengthy and arduous task, but finally the shoes float in the shallows: cut to piles of rough velvet ribbons.

“Those were my favorite shoes, you half-wit buffoons! Can’t you tell I’ll just make more!? ANIMATE OB…”

Aralanda pauses and her monstrous eye bulges in fright as a very feminine form stalks out of the trees. She has maroon hair and high heeled shoes the same color as her dark blue evening gown. There is a shiny gold and onyx bauble hung from her neck and several large spikes affixed to her elegant frame under her black cloak. And yet, most noticable thing about her, even more so than the glossy black fur covering her entire body, is her unnerving predatory gaze from her silver eyes that gives a sense of ruthless purpose.

She strides forward and, without pause, showers Aralanda with an enchantment eating acid to lay waste to her wards. Then, entraps her in the bauble around her neck.

“I am Baroness Edara.” she proclaims, “You will address me as baroness, or guildmistress. I came at the request of Baron Reilan. You will now make your way back to the city of shadows to receive further briefing. I have other work to do.”

With that, she disappears in a flap of her cloak.

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Reilan's Revelations

Baron Reilan clears his throat from the branch of a nearby tree. He’s sitting there, utterly relaxed, and eating chunks of white flesh from a hard, brown fruit that looks suspiciously like it’s from one of the trees on the endless beach.

“Let’s be off then! We have preparations to make!” He then leaps down from the tree and alights lightly on the lake shore. “We have things to discuss and little time to act. Besides, we wouldn’t want to disobey Edara, now would we?” He sets off at a brisk pace back toward the City of Shadows.


Our heroes follow, but this time he takes an alternate route through the city. He leads them not to his guild hall, but rather through a twisting maze of dark alleys riddled with dark hooded forms. The labyrinth opens up to a single, tall, golden spire with a relief sculpture of an enormous dragon on it. Edara is waiting outside, but her gaze is not so scornful upon Reilan.


“Hurry, the seneschal wishes to speak with you and does not enjoy waiting.” she walks back into past into the veritable maze of streets without further explanation.


“I have a prior appointment, so we’ll have to be brief and speak as I work.” Reilan leads them into the building and up several flights of ornate golden stairs inlaid with onyx. Then end in a circular room like a small, shallow colosseum. There are four other casters spread out and chanting.


“Our patron deity, Paulsalto, was once a man like any other. But he saw the truth of things through his many adventurous exploits. He saw the truth of things: that good and evil must always circle in an endless struggle. One never to overwhelm the other lest they both teeter over the edges of reality into the brink of madness.”


A fine mist has slowly been filling the room while the shadow casters continue to chant.


“By will alone, he harnesed the power that separates the true light from true dark and with it he manifested a device that transcends planes of existence indefinitely. It even transfers minute amounts of his power over shadow to his followers he chose from the most intelligent and trustworthy beings. Those untainted by good or evil for the last 10 centuries as well as their progeny by blood or by vows.”


By this time they can barely make out Reilan’s form even a couple feet away. The chanting is reverberating around the small room and threatens to drown out reilan’s voice, but still he speaks.


“And so we, Paulsalto’s chosen, are divided into six guilds. Two each of good, lawful, and evil. We are assasins; icons; heroes; villains: whatever we believe is needed to plant a hope where none exists, or cut down pride where good is too strong. We rule the universes through subtlety. Nothing escapes our grasp… except the two of you.” He indicates nimian the un-holy and Feathersong


“The two of you somehow appeared into our realm without our consent and tracked me down. You’ve created waves in the fabric of our perfect, balanced world. Your small feats of heroism started the gears of hope turning once more. The celestials are on a warpath and the devils, seeing opportunity, are also on the move! Normally we would have killed you as we would any demonic or angelic usurper, but as of yet you show no allegiance to either side. Not only that, you are proving to be immensely useful.”


With a flash, the mist finally disappears, but in its place are rows upon rows of men clad tightly in black garments and carrying two handed curved swords. Them take no notice of the party or the casters and march in an unending line from a portal in the far side of the room out the doorways towards the already crowded city streets.


“Over the past nine centuries, we have done our duties, recruited allies, and refined our magic. Even so, the celestials approaching may prove too potent for us. Our deity has rested for the last 9 centuries, leaving us in the care of his consort: the Seneschal of Neutrality. We need our lord to prevail in this endeavor, but she is strictly opposed. She must be convinced before he can be awakened. We will plead your coming as a sign of our instability, but then it must fall on you to awaken Paulsalto. For now, though, we must fight. Allow my subordinate to lead you to a suitably defendable position for the fight ahead.”


Reilan yells something in a strange language and the dark clad men stop marching. They raise their weapons and release a deafening battle cry, then pad silently after Reilan as he runs out the door.

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Battle for Balance

Stonespirit leads Feathersong and nimian the un-holy throuth the narrow alleys away from the golden spire-like building known as the seneschal’s perch. The adjacent streets are lined with barricades and traps. The men that were until now standing complacently in the shadows are now setting up ambushes and drilling defensive strategies. Constructs of shadow and magic loom over the scenes of wartime preparation ominously.

When our large heroes reach an alley in a market district wide enough to swing great swords and aim bows, they stop and ready themselves for a prolonged melee. Over the top of the distant outer wall, a mass of paladins in sparkling plate maile being hassled by groups of shadow caster guerrilla fighters shifting into and out of the seething mas of combatants only to reform offensive formations and charge again.

Nimian breaks the silence. “Why are we forming up so? It looks like we’re winning!”

“But look up!” Stonespirit interjects.

Over the cloudy horizon, a shimmering mass slowly comes into view. Thousands of angels blot out the sky as they move in for the kill. With in minutes, spell blasts and seige weapons tare down the main walls and fighting breaks out nearby in the remnants of the maze-like streets.

Two gaels and a few paladins make their way to the fearsome party, but are dispatched easily. (Feathersong gains a new sword, as he is wont to do.) A large force of good fighters can be heard approaching them, but before they show up a young caster sprints in.

“You must go to Baroness Edara now! Reilan has convinced the seneschal to meet you, but she isn’t known for her patience.” The boy leads them through the rubble and around dozens of heavy skirmishes into the onyx courtyard that was formerly full of granite sculptures. Now, all that remains are the large shadow golems that were encased in the magical artwork. Two such guardians are guarding Edara’s flank as her bloody claw protrudes from the back of a large paladin foolish enough to get in her way. He’s limp now.

With a feral snarl she unsheathes her arm from the corpse using a swift side kick, though spattering her elegant shoes and several apoplectic paladins in gore.The celestials scream in outrage and begin to work their way toward her, but Edara clicks her fingers and several of her subbordinates block their path and begin hacking mercilessly into the fray. She then strides calmly and gracefully over the the stunned party.

At that moment, a sudden commotion from the cesestials’ ranks draws their attention. “Jorthen! What are you doing!?” One of the youths had drawn his dagger, grabbed a small girl with purple hair, and was backing away from his comrades, laughing.

“Put her down, boy” an angel roars, but he is ignored. The angel looses an arrow that strikes the man in the shoulder, letting the girl make her escape.

The man only lets loose a bone chilling laugh as he bursts into flames and quickly doubles in size. In moments a pit fiend is loosing fireballs into celestial and shadow forces alike. The courtyard dissolves into a scene of chaos.

The girl runs by extroardinarily fast and shoves Feathersong out of her way. She is gone quickly, but not before spitting back the words “Watch it, half-mutt!” in draconic.

“We must away to Melindra’s Bastion. Take wing before more devils appear!” she takes out her bauble and cries “SUMMON SHADOW DRAKE”.

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Mad Melindra

As the band of heroes wing over the city, the implications of the fight in the onyx courtyard become immensely apparent. The city has been completely ravaged almost all the way to the seneschal’s perch. The remaining buildings and upright walls are few and far between and all the way is paved with bodies.

Luckily no angels spot the fleeing party. Off in the distance, a speck appears high above the cloudy landscape. It quickly becomes a white-stoned palace with tall black-topped spires floating with no visible means of support. You land at the gates to find Baron Reilan waiting, but Baroness Edara keeps flying over the outer wall on her huge shadow beast she had summoned.


“Welcome to Melindra’s Bastion, my friends. She is throwing a masquerade ball, so you’ll each need a mask… or one of ”/campaigns/shadowscape/items/mask-of-madness" class=“wiki-content-link”>these." He holds out what at first glance appears an ordinary mask, but the longer you look at it, the more sinister it seems. “It is known by our artificers as a ‘mask of madness’. It has strange chaotic powers that may be of use to you.”


Feathersong quickly produces gold to procure one such mask, but the others haven’t enough. “Edara has gone ahead to alert the seneschal of your presence. I must go report to her, but in the meantime please feel free to partake of the festivities. The food will clear the fog of battle from your war torn minds and heal you of any injuries you’ve accumulated.”


They walk through the sparkling gateway into a grand courtyard of flawless alabaster brimming with richly dressed cloaked figures. In the center an enormous fountain of champagne has been enchanted to bubble and sparkle endlessly. Surrounding it are tables heavily laden with exotic foods. This is the nobility of Shadowscape.


The pleasant banter belays not ignorance of the strife and warfare below, but indifference. Any questions are met only with blank or affronted gazes before the questioned stalk away indignantly.There is an all-pervading aura of carelessness throughout the assembly. It comes as a relief when a black-clad page spirits the heroes into the keep. He leads them through a mass of spotless white hallways, then through a nondescript doorway into an enormous, yet equally nondescript room brightly lit with no visible light source. In the center of the room, on a large purple cushion is the same purple haired little girl that was threatened in the onyx courtyard.


“You!?” she exclaims, “You’re the mongrels that were in my way!” She turns back to Reilan, who is standing uncertainly by her side. “I can’t say I agree with you, Reilan. I’m opposed to anyone waking Paulsalto, let alone these ragtag wannabe do-gooders. Now, get them out of my sight. I don’t like wasting my time.”


Reilan appears next to the adventurers and introduces them to the girl as though he had not heard the girl. She, however, displays only impatience and derision as she taps her nails against a black heart-shaped pendant. “And this, my friends, is Melindra, the Seneschal of Neutrality. She has ruled over the shadow casters since Paulsalto was put to rest nine centuries ago.”


She cuts him off with a gesture. “Yes, yes, Reilan, everyone knows who I am. Now state your case… better!” She flops onto her stomach, puts her chin in her hands, and kicks her feet impatiently.


Unfortunately, Feathersong’s temper reached its peak with this last arrogant display. “And what, pray tell, would a pitiful little snot of a girl know of the worthiness of adventurers!?”


“…I have… I think I left my guild hall on fire!” Reilan stammers before disappearing with a swish of his cloak.


An unnaturally deep growl excapes Melindra and reverberates around the room. She grows in size, slowly as first, but then faster and faster. Her limbs stretch and thicken into bunches of muscle. Her skin and clothes lighten to white and shimmer as shiny scales pop out. Her hair silvers and stretches into shimmering wings that stretch easily across the enormous room and a crest over her scaly head. You now find yourselves facing a gargantuan silver dragon. She snarls and releases a jet of ice onto the ceiling, creating a thorny mat of dangerously sharp icicles strait overhead before rounding on the shocked party.


“Now, whelplings, who dares challenge me for the right to disturb my lord and love?”


Edara comes in, dragging a struggling Reilan behind her. “The fight goes badly for us down below. We cannot hold the city without the shadow keepers. Paulsalto must be awakened for us to prevail.”


Reilan straitens up, removes Edara’s hand from his lapel, and says in a firm voice “We declare right of a trial to test our heroes. If the pass, they awaken Paulsalto… if they fail, they die and are lost souls wandering the Shadowscape for all eternity.”


Melindra growls, then thinks better of it and utters an earthshaking chuckle. She shrinks and is a young human girl again before she strides up to Reilan. He kneels, but she lifts his chin so they are face to face. “Fine… they shall have a test, and when they are doomed for eternity it will be a stain on your soul. They shall have to… hmm, they already killed Aralanda… accumulate a total of three great feats on behalf of the shadow casters. They have already proven themselves by defeating Aralanda, so next they shall quell the devil uprising. They shall kill your dear cousin Gantrark. And after that, if they survive, they shall fight ME!… or I suppose they may slay Paulsalto’s guardian. Then and only then may they travel to the city of secrets and attempt to awaken Paulsalto with my blessing.”

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Melindra's Resolve
After her gleeful tirade, Melindra’s energy finally seems to decline. She slumps moodily back onto her oversized cushion. “Reilan, your bauble.”

He hurries forward and proffers an onyx bauble cased in gold and inset with a large ruby. Melindra touches her forefinger to a heart-shaped silver and black amulet before waving her hand over Reilan’s bauble. With a flash of darkness, Reilan cries out, but nothing seems to have changed visibly.

“I have laced this trinket with a shard of Reilan’s soul. It has a single use of the spell ‘third light’ stored in it. When used it will have the added benefit of summoning Reilan’s cousciousness to you. Use it wisely. Now, be off with you. I feel the weight of the centuries weighing down on me every time a new young gaggle of fools comes through demanding that which they will never receive…”

She waves her hand again while touching her amulet and a white mist fills the room. The party members feel themselves being guided downward as their surroundings dissolve to white. This time, however they feel Melindra’s reluctant presence guiding them unerringly toward their destination.

After a time, the mist thins into an eerie fog. Skeletal, leafless trees stand an eternal sigil ofer the dry, crunchy greenery underfoot sprouting from sandy blood soaked soil. A rotting mansion looms over the bare tree tops. This is the lair of the devil Gantrark.

By mutual consent, everyone readies their weapons and prepares to slay the fiend. Feathersong kicks in the old warped door and the heroes all rush in to search the main level. The dusty expanse yields nothing but decaying furniture, but a strange music screeches up from the cellars…

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