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Suzerain's Legends Awaken: How they Fell

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  • Suzerain's Legends Awaken: How they Fell

    How they fell (in the shadow of giants):

    For the last five years, my players have gathered around the gaming table in an ongoing epic within Suzerain's Shaintar and beyond. Five years is a LONG time, and we have lost many of our best along the way. While my Rangers do die, they do not die easily. As part of my ongoing celebration of our 5 year anniversary, I offer these tributes to the last moments of the Ranger Legends of Echer'Naught's Alpha Team.
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    Lt. Grizhnak Olgor

    "The city burned. Smoke roiled down the hall, choking and stinging his eyes. Through the haze three slim figures slid noiselessly across the floor. Tor Mastak. They reeked of blood, hands sooty, eyes burning. Olgor stood alone. Behind him, a lifetime of knowledge and history, his precious library and the nerve center of the Rangers. Outnumbered, he stood no chance against the trio of assassins stalking toward him. But he had a duty, not just to the Rangers, but to knowledge. The old goblin reached down, pulling at the threads of the Aether, weaving a powerful spell, his last.
    Shadows fell over the diminutive scribe. He look up into the cold sneers, the demented eyes, and the blades dripping with his friend's blood...and Olgor let go.
    When they found his body hours later, he was surrounded by carnage and destruction...but the flame never reached his beloved Library."
    Sergeant Evoran Que'kasaars

    "Corpses littered the battlefield like a blanket, Kal, troglanesh, and Olarans all piled atop each other. Little remained of the Darkness army, and less of the Kal. Now, only the Olarans and the Tempest stood. But, this was not a battle the Southron knights could win. Outnumbered, they were backed against the rocks behind, and facing an entrenched Tempest force with elevation and cover. Against Stormlances even Olaran heavy plate offered little protection. Seeing the inevitable outcome, Captain Helt issued his last command, "Die with Honor," the familiar refrain of Olarans facing death.
    And then a single voice rose above the din, tired but determined. Evoran Que'kassars ordered the Olarans to withdraw...he would deal with Tempest. One man against an army. The Olaran commander hesitated but a moment, yet something in the elf's eyes brooked no argument. And so, in good order, the Olaran army and their Rangers allies retreated as Evoran strode out to face the most powerful foe in Shaintar...alone.
    Summoning power to into his hands, the elven sorcerer cracked with purple eldritch energy. From the ridge, Tempest fired a fusillade of stormfire which shattered harmlessly against the expanding purple field around the mage.
    Drawing more energy, Evoran's body began to hiss and steam, but still he closed on Tempest. There was no urgency to his movement, only inevitability. Desperately, the Tempest Magus summoned lightning which struck down from the spinning clouds overhead, but these too arced harmlessly aside.
    And still Evoran drew in more power. His eyes shone like violet stars, his hair burned away. Even his body began to vibrate like a bowstring ready to snap. Too late the Tempest commander saw it. Too late to avoid the supernova as Evoran unleashed a tidal wave of power and arcane energies into his men.
    Bolts of purple blacked the sky, the ground shook itself apart, and a blast wave picked up the Tempest lines and tossed them like a leaves in a gale. And then it was over. Nothing remained of the eldakar but a smoking staff and a blackened crater. But, not much more remained of the Tempest. Over half their men were simply gone, incinerated. The rest were badly wounded, the commander clinging to life. For the first time, the Tempest was forced into retreat, leaving the field to the Rangers and the Olarans."
    RFC Thorgram Ramshorn

    "It was suicide. The team knew it. But the orders were to enter Shivak Novos and rescue, or kill, Sergeant Major Stormhammer. Against all odds they had rescued the dwarf from the dark mirror of the city of Echer'Naught. But, their luck was running out. Thorgram could smell the corruption closing. Troglanesh, undead, and worse were approaching from all side. Leading the pursuit...packs of werewolves, dozens...maybe a hundred.
    The portal was just outside the city; through the north gate, up the rotten scramble and into the pit. Two hundred yards? Less. Still, too far.
    Unless someone delayed the corrupted horde, everyone would die. So, Thorgram chose. Taking a belt of arcfire detonators from Volstagg, he slowed and stopped beneath the stone arch of dark Echer'Naught's north gate.
    For one long moment, Thorgram watched his team running for the Ebonway that would take them home. He watched his family escape. Live.
    And then he turned to face the onrushing horde. They flowed into the street like a black tide, howling, snarling and growling. There was no turning back. Calling up on the Silver Unicorn, Thorgram felt his body growing, filling the gate; blocking it.
    He waited...
    The werewolves reached him first, snapping and howling with bloodlust. Thorgram crushed the first with his shield, cutting the second, third, and fourth in half with a single axe swing. But more piled on. He felt them biting and clawing, ripping out chunks of flesh.
    Blood pooled as wolves died. But each grain of sand pouring down the hourglass was a second of life for his team.
    With his strength failing, and his limbs weakening from blood loss, Thorgram dropped his axe and grabbed an arcfire grenade. Closing his eyes, Thorgram let the wolves drag him down. As the Wolf Lord's teeth closed on his neck, Thorgram triggered the blast.
    From a hundred yards away, Alpha Team turned toward the blast, watching dark Echer'Naughts north gate collapse in an arcfire explosion. Thorgram was gone, but something slammed smoldering into the snow not far away.
    His shield.
    Indestructible. Emblazoned with the white Ramshorn. The last part of the team's greatest defender."
    Rysak Ironblood

    “The Legion Keep burned around Rysak, smoke filled the air. Bodies littered the small courtyard, dead and dying lying in tangle heaps. More hideously deformed wildings pour through the shattered remains of the fortress gates.
    For each eldtrich horror Rysak cut down, two more swarmed him. When the had fallen and the outer defenses collapsed, Rysak and Thomas fell back, rallying what remained of their unit. They managed to reach the keep’s smithy, though they had lost over half their number. Cut off and surrounded, even there small bastion would not last long.
    And then, he felt it. The familiar high pitched whine causing him to wince in pain. Blood tricked from his eyes, ears, and nose as the pressure built in his head till he feared it might explode…
    Wolfhaven had taken the field.
    Power washed over Rysak along with the blinding light like an exploding star. The wild army recoiled before the sheer magnitude of the Wolf. Half Rysak’s men stopped fighting to stare in shock and awe. The surly dwarf roared at them to push forward, jolting the dolts to action.
    Then something caught his eye. High above, a figure emerged from the smoky haze, a massive glowing spear clutched in his draconic claws. For a heartbeat, Rysak hesitated, confused. What was…
    …then he saw it.
    The attack, the slaughter, all of it was merely a trap to lure Colonel Wolfhaven into the open. And now, surrounded on all sides, the Commander could not see death looming above him. Rysak bellowed till he was hoarse, but Wolfhaven could not hear him over the din.
    Rysak cast about desperately for a weapon to take out the assassin. A crossbow would never reach, and there were no sorcerers close enough to arrive in time…if any still lived. The dragon kin general cocked his arm, the terrible spear shining in the gloom.
    Time seemed to slow as the creature hurled the missile at Wolfhaven’s unprotected flank. Rysak surged forward on short legs. Wild tainted men fell around him, as Thomas shouted orders to cover his brother.
    Only then Wolfhaven seemed to sense it. Rysak saw him turn…too slowly. With one last burst of effort, Rysak hurled himself in front of Wolfhaven.
    The spear punched through flesh and steel, exploding out of Rysak’s back. He lived only long enough to see the surprise, anguish, and respect in Wolfhaven’s eyes before reality went white…and Rysak was no more.
    In rage, Commander Wolfhaven led the Legion in victory. The Wild army was scattered, and the Realm saved. All through the sacrifice of a criminal…and a hero.”
    RFC Mugin Von Dietrich

    “In the end, it was inevitable…
    So long, Von D tormented himself over the death of this family, the horror that his brother had become. It was a curse. A family of Slayers doomed to become what they hunted. And now…
    Von D felt the gaze of his brother’s “court” upon him. Vampires and necromancers, abominations played at nobles, corrupting his house, defiling his family name! It was unthinkable.
    Worse, he knew Mortis was right. Without Vainar’s dark power he would never defeat his brother. Mortis would win, his family library would be denied to the Rangers, and his team’s life would be forfeit.
    He could see them, standing in the crowd of horrors. Would they understand why? Could they? No. This was his choice. It was better this way. Either way, there was always Wolfhaven’s contingency.
    With a sneer, Mortis whispered, inky black shadows wreathing his hands as another Wraith Lord materialized in the courtyard. How many had Von D slain so far? Two? Three?
    His body ached, blood dripped from a dozen slashes. His skin burned with cold where the last Wraith’s fingers had grasped his arm. Von D was dying. No, he was already dead. Only will alone kept him upright. But was it his own, or was it the dark lords?
    When was the last time he could tell the difference?
    For years he bore the curse, the taint of corruption. He had been “chosen.” Whatever that meant?
    No, he knew what it meant. It meant that he was doomed to this fate, this moment. He knew the moment he challenged Mortis to a duel he would die. He knew that in death, he would finally succumb to the rot spreading though his mind, his body…his soul.
    But, not yet. If he was doomed to fall, it would be on his terms. The Wright loomed close, Von D could feel its icy aura suck what little heat remained within him.
    Von D closed his eyes, shutting out his brother’s mocking laughter, the pleading eyes of his friends, and the specter of death wrapping deathly cold fingers around his neck…
    I accept.
    Two words barely whispered. But it was enough. Power flooded through him, filing him with dark energy. Vainar’s power.
    The Wraith wailed in surprise as Von D rose to his feet, bushing the horror aside with a gesture. Mortis’ mirth died in his throat as Von D charged, wreathed in cold, black energy. Too late Mortis called upon his master to save him. Too late he realized that of the brothers, Mugin Von Dietrich was the TRUE chosen of Vainar.
    Von D’s ancestral sword ripped through Mortis like a sheer through silk. Betrayed, Mortis’ power failed him. He died, eyes wide with shock and confusion.
    His death tasted sweet to Von D. He could feel his brother’s life energy flowing into him, strengthening. Then, everything came into cold clear focus. All of his concerns seemed suddenly distant and meaningless. Friends, oaths, even death…all utterly without meaning.
    Von D never heard the arrow which slammed though the back of his neck, severing his spine. He was dead before he hit the ground. From the crowd, Sarin Silverfeather, Priest of Light, offered a prayer to Archanon for his friend’s soul as he lowered his bow.
    The Nightguard honored the deal and the Rangers left with the knowledge they desperately needed. Von D had won. It only cost him his soul.”
    Danica

    “Everyone was shouting. Slaves spilled into the street. Behind them, the Blood Pits were in an uproar.
    Across the city, warning bells rung. Guards rushed in to suppress the slave revolt. It was utter chaos.
    Nearby, cloaked men held the reigns of panicked horses. The other Rangers were already sprinting for the mounts. Danica was one of the last, keeping an eye on their rear. Guards were coming soon.
    She pulled herself into the saddle, as the frightened horse bucked and pranced. It took a moment, but she wrestled the beast under control. The rest of Alpha Team were spurring their horses hard, already galloping away from the growing riot.
    Sergeant Amaroth’s horse spooked, nearly throwing the man. Grendel grabbed for it, nearly dragging the poor beast to the ground. That when Danica felt the heat spreading across her back.
    Years with the Golden Gryphons had granted Danica a sixth sense when it came to Flame and Darkness. She was not priest or paladin, but she knew evil. And evil had arrived.
    Danica shouted for the others to run as she dug her heels into her horse. The terrified beast lurched and surged forward. Too late.
    Burning coils whipped around Danica, yanking her off the horse, and melting flesh and bone. The pain was excruciating. She screamed in agony till her voice gave out.
    The coils tightened, lifting her into the air. She fought against the waves of pain to remain conscious. He vision dimmed, but through the haze of smoke and agony she saw her, the Scorched Priestess.
    In some dim part of Danica’s mind not given over wholly to the pain, the Gryphon understood the Acolyte was furious. But why?
    And then she understood. The Rangers had escaped. Her team lived. They won. The Kal had been denied their sacrificed. And there was nothing this monster could do.
    As the burning coils began pull her Danica’s body apart, she smiled.”
    Serysvarya “Serys”

    “Serys tasted blood. He was hurt, bad. There was no walking away from this one.
    Jagged rocks dug into the back of his head, and his arms felt like lead, but there was very little pain. Shock? That was part of it. But his chest felt tight. Something was very wrong.
    Serys quickly ran his mental checklist.
    Vision? Dim. Concussion?
    Hearing? Other than a high pitched ringing…clear.
    Off to his left, metal clashed and men grunted. Audric was still up. There was still hope.
    Head? Serys tried to turn to look toward the sounds of battle, but something popped and his vision swam for a moment, then settled to a liquid haze.
    Arms? Fighting back unconsciousness, Serys tried to move his arms. It took concentrations, but he managed to drag his right arm through the rubble…
    Rubble?
    Memories flooded back. They were trying to stop something…someone…
    …the Scorched Priestess and her pet!
    Memories. Flashes.
    Audric charging the Tor Sadais, the hulking Kal warrior. Serys leaping off a building firing an arrow at the crimson robed horror.
    Thoughts came thickly, like syrup, confused and jumbled. He tried to focus. What was he doing? It was important…
    Another flash.
    Babies crying…
    The children! I must protect the children…
    Serys tried to leverage himself up, but his legs wouldn’t move. In the haze he realized he was trapped under a pile of timber and stone. From the collapsed building….
    Flash.
    He had attacked the Acolyte, but his arrows never struck home. They burned to ash before reaching her. Then she blasted him backwards slamming him through the wall. The ruined building had fallen on top of him.
    Serys lay back. He couldn’t fight. Couldn’t run. He had heartbeats left. Had it been enough?
    How long had he and Audric held the line…five minutes, six? The escape tunnel was seventy yards…maybe eighty. How fast can an ogre crawl? It was so hard to think straight.
    A shadow fell over Serys and heat warmed his face. Blinking up at the brightness of the flame, he made out a hazy silhouette of a woman, the Priestess. The smoldering woman hovered above him, studying the dying elf like an academic would a peculiar insect.
    This…woman had tortured Zathlan. Killed Danica. And now she was going to kill Serys, but not before tearing out his soul and feeding it to one of her hungry demons.
    Never allow capture. His old instructor’s final lesson pierced the haze clouding his thoughts steel spike. Never allow…
    With the last of his strength, Serys felt for a weapon…a sharp stone. His finger brushed something cold and hard. Serys clutched it with every ounce of force he could still muster.
    Slowly, ever so slowly he dragged the familiar weight onto his stomach. Painstakingly inch by inch, he willed the knife higher, images flashing in his oxygen deprived mind.
    Audric hugging Grace. The beautiful faces of Zathlan kissing her newborn children. His sister, Sys…
    With shaking hand he brought the knife up to his neck. How many times had he done this? One swift thrust, under the chin…
    The knife pricked his throat. He felt a warm tear slide down his face.
    They were all gone. His father, his sister… He was the last. Now his mother was alone. Serys had never thought about children, but in the last moment of his life, after a lifetime of violence, he found it was his only regret.
    The Scorched Priestess reached down, hands wreathed in infernal flames. The heat burned. With a defiant sneer Serys thrust upward hard, felt a sharp pain… and then…nothing.
    “I’m sorry mother,” he thought and then his vision went black.”
    Benjamin Toma

    “Weak lamplight guttered and sparked. Drainar gurgled in the distance as he sank beneath the black water of the mine’s underground river. From the scaffolding red eyed Dwergs bellowed and fired massive ironbound crossbows as Alpha Team sprinted across collapsing bridges. Black Iron crossbow bolts whistled through the fetid air, punching through rotten wood and sparking of damp rocks.
    Kura’Kai roared in the darkness, but the rest of the team was scattered. Danica, Leaora, Steile…the party frantically searched for cover.
    From nearby, Sergeant Que’kasaars summoned purple eldritch energy, illuminating himself in the gloom. Crossbows zeroed. in and the Eldakar went down in a flurry of bolts. From the rocks, Benjamin Toma heard the familiar clicked clack of Hammerbolts being re-cocked for the killing blow.
    Toma concentrated, drawing power into his tired limbs. His eyes glowed a faint blue as energy flowed through him, sharpening the world in stark contrasts of light and dark. Time seemed to slow as he sprinted through the hail of bolts, each drifting lazily through the air to his Way enhanced reflexes.
    Heartbeats before the second volley finished off Sergeant Evoran, Toma was there, his glowing silver saber flashing in the darkness. The Adept managed to deflect most of the bolts. Most.
    Blood stained his robes where a few shots penetrated his defenses. Someone shouted retreat. The dwergs at the end of the cavern started cackling.
    A trap.
    This mine was to be their tomb. Heavy crossbowmen rained death upon them. The bridges were out. Drainer, their healer, was drowning, maybe already dead. They would never escape in time.
    Unless…
    Behind his white mask, Toma closed his eyes, offering a silent prayer to Archanon for strength. Power surged through him. The Jade Flame Adepts saber’s glow grew brighter, weaving a web of silver blue light around him like a shield. Ben became a shining star in the darkness.
    Every crossbow turned toward him unleashing a steady torrent of black tipped death….just as Ben knew. Power guided his hands, the blade flashing and weaving, cutting the corrupted bolts out of the air. But for each three he struck, another snuck through. In moments, he was riddled with stubby arrows.
    Still, Ben drew more and more power, glowing brighter. And as he did, the pain seemed to ease. No longer could he hear his team shouting, or the blood rushing in his ears. For the first time in a long time a sense of perfect calm settled over him.
    Benjamin embraced the silence. Closing his eyes, Toma let go. As the soft light embraced him, he saw the smiling eyes of his brother welcoming him home. The last thing Ben heard was his brother’s familiar voice saying, “Welcome home little brother…” And then Ben Toma was no more.
    Alpha Team survived…but not all. Ben could never know that Sergeant Evoran Que’kassars would fall the next day, but in his final act would save a thousand lives. Nor could Ben know that Thorgram Ramshorn would carry the burden of his death as a failure. And when HIS moment came, he too would fall to save his brothers.
    A lifetime before a masked man had asked Ben, ‘Some men are born and walk in the Light. Some choose the darkness. We serve The Light, even in darkness. We go, we do, we live, and we die by the will of Archanon alone. None elude his sight. Will you serve he, who has brought you here?’
    In that cold, damp crypt of Darkness and death…Ben walked in the Light.”
    Sergeant Grendel

    “In the valley below, the Blood Witch’s forces massed for another assault. The last. For days the Rockbreaker dwarves had fought valiantly, but they would not survive the night. Grendel knew.
    Worse, he knew that every life lost was his fault. He brought his death upon the dwarves. Upon Alpha Team. Upon Ranna.
    Leaving the defenses, Grendel had found a quiet place to pray. He called upon the Silver Unicorn seeking her guidance. But her answers only confirmed what he knew in his heart.
    If he wanted to save the dwarves, the Rangers, and his love, then he must face his brother alone. He had to die.
    As the light died in the valley, and the black beast below roused to feast on blood again, Grendel walked alone to the out walls. Beside him, a small, young stonesinger waited for his signal. With a resigned nod from Grendel, the lad opened a hole in the wall for the towering Silver Paladin to step through.
    He could feel Ranna’s eyes on him. But, Grendel never turned back. He couldn’t risk his resolve wavering. And so, the ogre ducked through the hole, waiting until the stone closed behind him.
    Outside the walls, the wind was biting and chill. He could feel cold sapping his strength as he began striding across the open ground into the valley. From the far end, Darkness creatures massed. Seeing him, they surged forward, sweeping across the valley like a black shadow.
    Grendel continued walking, unhurried as the tide of evil swept ever closer. Offering a silent prayer to Celesia he braced as the first rank of werewolves loped straight at him. But then, at the last possible moment, they veered away, howling and snarling as they through themselves at the dwarven walls.
    From the ramparts behind him, the war horn sounded and the Rockbreaker dwarves joined battle. Somewhere behind him, he knew Ranna watched him be swallowed by Darkness, but Grendel pushed those thoughts away and kept walking.
    Ahead of him, a lone figure stood waiting. Wendel.
    Grendel passed unharmed through the horde, climbing the short rise to where his twin stood. Corrupted by the Witchmark, Wendel was his opposite in every way. Eyes red, teeth stained rust from blood…Wendel wreaked of corruption, death, and blood.
    Troglanesh circled the brothers, waiting. Grendel whispered a prayer, bursting into Silver light. Wendel snarled, his own mistress bathing him in blood drenched power. And then, Wendel charged.
    Wendel’s blows fell like hammers, crushing Grendel’s armor. But, the Silver Paladin gave as good as he got. Like two titans, the Champions raged, shaking the ground with sheer savagery. No quarter was given. None was asked.
    Though it seemed a lifetime, the battle last only minutes. Bruised and beaten, Grendel staggered. Blood filled his eyes and his body ached. Cracks spider webbed his armor plates where his evil twin’s hammer had smashed it flat. Fortunately for Grendel, Wendel looked just as bad.
    Gasping for breath, the brothers clashed together. A lucky blow from Wendel, very nearly decapitated Grendel, but he managed to stagger sideways at the last moment. Still, his ears rang from the blow and his vision tripled. The next blow would end the fight, and his life.
    So Grendel swung hard, aiming for the middle figure in his fractured vision. Grendel put the last of his rapidly ebbing strength into the blow, hoping to at least go down fighting. To his surprise, he felt his ogre club hit with a solid crunch. Stunned, Wendel went down…and so did Grendel.
    Blood coursed through the rents in his White Silver plate, staining the ground red. An arm’s length away his brother shuddered once, then lay still, half his head caved in by Grendel’s final blow. He had won. A ragged sobbing breath escaped his lips as he relaxed, letting fatigue wash over him.
    Then a shadow fell across him, large enough to blot out the stars overhead. Grendel strained to look up at the towering figure looming over both fallen brothers. Whatever twisted abomination carried his grandmare’s face.
    Gram Gram.
    The Witchmarked Troll glared down at them, disappointed write across her hideous features. Disgusted, she brought her blood drenched ogre siege maul down on Wendel’s body, crushing it flat. The unholy magic wreathing the foul weapon stripped his soul bare, leaving a desiccated husk.
    Then, she turned her baleful gaze on Grendel. His body was spent. And even could he stand, there was little he could do to hurt the Blood Witch’s champion. As the shadow of her maul rose above him, dripping with his brother’s blood, Grendel let out a breathe, accepting death with honor.
    As the horrific maul fell, a quiet voice whispered on the wind, calling to Grendel. His last sight was the beatific face of the Silver Unicorn, taking his gauntleted hand to lead him to the Hall of Heroes. His last though, his beloved, Ranna, and their unborn child.
    They entombed him there, where he fell, a grave worthy of a Silver Paladin under a blanket of silver flowers.”
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