The Maw of the Void
The following is a transcript of the final battle fought by Heroes Guild to destroy the Void Gate and end the War for the Tindermoot, originally played out on December 6th, 2015.
High overhead, the unnatural darkness summoned forth by the Herald of the Void continued to blot out the sun. What little light remained in the ruined remains of the town square seemed to be absorbed with every flash of shadow charged lightning that blasted forth from the Void Gate. Its swirling energies cracked and shifted uncontrollably, and with each blast some new batch of horrific void creatures appeared in the square.
Though chaos raged all around him, Brodash surveyed the battlefield with the detached eye of a seasoned field commander. While he and his companions had been more than a match for the Lord of the Black Dragon Flight, for all their might, were losing this battle. The creatures died easily enough, that wasn’t the problem, but it seemed that for every one that was slain, several more appeared to take its place. OF course this was to say nothing of the Herald of the Void himself. The diminutive creature, his body covered in Void Tattoos, continued to flash in and out of existence as he took form for just long enough to plunge his Void blades into their flesh and then disappearing again. How could anyone fight such a being?
The Iron Turret. the nickname Brodash had been given by his peers, for he had always seemed an indestructible fortress in his heavy enchanted armor. But against the Herald’s otherworldly knives, forged out of pure void energy, he might as well have been clothed in parchment paper. His back was a wet blanket of blood and searing pain from a half a dozen puncture wounds from the troublesome former Halfling. Any lesser warrior would have long since fallen, but the veteran Orc had sworn an oath; to guard his friends and allies until his body could bleed no more. Though in truth he would have bled out long ago if not for Creedon.
The wayward Shaolin, following a religion even he did not fully understand, had proved to be an invaluable ally in this fight, and so many before it. Creedon had used his Hemomancy countless times now to coagulate the vicious puncture wounds inflicted across the backs of both Brodash and Basmoric, even transfusing them with his own blood when their strength began to wane. Brodash placed a high priority on ensuring Creedon’s survival, for without his powers supporting them they would have already fallen.
But now even Creedon was forced to defend himself, striking a Void spider with his bare fists, his uncanny strength exploding the wretched creature in a shower of shadowy ichor. In the same breath Creedon touched his hand to a jagged wound on his own leg, causing it to almost instantly scab over.
Commander Brodash’s keen eyes caught a blur of movement out of the corner of his eye, something was heading straight towards Creedon. It was difficult to discern one creature from the next in the darkness that hung like a veil over the battlefield, but Brodash had instincts finely honed from a life lived on the front lines of countless battlefields. With an agile motion that belied his bulky Orcish form, he plucked an arrow from the massive quiver slung across his shoulders, drew back his bow, and let fly an arrow in the direction of whatever was rushing towards his friend. As the arrow flew across the square it began to glow brightly, shedding light and casting back the darkness like the break of day after an endless night. The arrow found its mark, plunging into the side of a Shadow Beast, charging headlong towards an unsuspecting Creedon. The creature stumbled and rolled, shrieking with pain as the bright arrow dissolved its dark flesh.
The flash of light was brief, but it lit up the battlefield enough for Brodash to see that the beast he had just slain was only one of a large pack, all of which would be upon Creedon in moments. Never one to panic however, Brodash took aim and let loose a volley of arrows, each one landing a fatal strike against one of the shadow beasts with a flash of light. Like so many times before in this desperate battle his enchanted bow had proved to be the death of entire packs of Shadow Beasts.
Unfortunately this pack had been too large, and the time too short. For one beast remained, launching itself forwards to pounce upon Creedon. However, the flashing light and horrific screams of the dying pack of beasts must have drawn Creedon’s attention, for at the last moment he turned and calmly projected the blood from numerous open wounds upon his own body, up through his outstretched hand. A jet of thick crimson struck the Shadow Beast in mid-air, tearing through its flesh as if it were a torrent of liquid metal. With a nod of thanks at Brodash, Creedon dodged to the side as the lifeless body of the beast crashed past him.
Brodash had little time to savor the small victory for a bolt of dark lightning surged out of the Void Gate and stuck the ground a few short paces in front of him. The force of the explosion sent him reeling backwards, barely able to keep his feet under him. From the void scorched ground where the lightning had struck a mass of black tentacles suddenly erupted. In but an instant, a Void Terror stood towering over Brodash, its many tentacled form rushing forwards with surprising speed despite its awkward and haphazard movements.
Unperturbed by its revolting and fear inspiring presence, Brodash calmly reached back for another arrow. However his fingers closed around nothing but air. This battle had raged on longer than anticipated, his quiver was empty. With no time left for any other reaction, Brodash raised his shield and braced himself for impact as the Void Terror swung with one of its horrific appendages. The tentacles struck the shield with a savage might, sending tremors of pain up Brodash arm, nearly dislocating his shoulder. A second tentacle struck his right thigh, sitting exposed to the side of his shield as he braced himself for the first attack. Brodash’s heavy armor absorbed most of the blow, but it set his balance off and he was unable to dodge a third blow aimed right at his head, only ducking his head slightly at the last moment to take the hit on the thick brow-plate of his helm. The impact made his ears ring, but still his armor seemed to protect him.
Thinking the creatures initial assault was at an end Brodash reached back to pull his lance from the sheath on his back, intent upon driving his weapon right through the foul creature. To his dismay, Brodash watched as the Void Horror grew a new tentacle to take advantage of the weak spot Brodash had just exposed. Before he could even react, the newly grown appendage struck with rapid force at the gap in his armor just below his armpit. The wind was instantly knocked out of him, and he heard the sickening crack of his own ribs.
Seemingly satisfied with the blow it had just landed, the Void Terror repositioned itself for another round of attacks, growing yet another appendage with which to strike down the orc. Yet, before it could do so the mass of tentacles suddenly stuck out at all angles, going rigid for a brief moment and then collapsing in upon themselves as they went limp. From behind the creature a pair of axes sliced through its body in a scissor like motion, cutting it to two writhing halves before it crashed to the ground in a pool of thick oily blackness. There, looking up through the carnage, was the grinning face of Basmoric, covered in the Void Terror’s vital fluids.
“Well Brodash, looks like you’ll owe me one if we ever get out of this alive,” Basmoric joked, even now seeming to be in good spirits despite the futility of the battle.
Brodash simply grunted in reply.
“How fairs the others?” Basmoric asked.
As if in answer to his question the square was suddenly lit up by a series of brilliant flashes, violet arcane energy erupted and pure white lightning crackled through the air, accompanied by the roar of thunder. A moment later the sky suddenly opened up and torrents of arcane energy began to pour down upon the battlefield as elemental winds raged. At the center of it all was two figures; a tiny Gnomish mage, riding above a sea of churning darkness upon her magic carpet, and a white wizard, seated upon a majestic hippogriff whose wings kept it suspended over the chaos below. The powerful magic of Pippy and Avner spelled certain death for any of the dark creatures it touched, and the dark tide of Void creatures seemed to fall back for a brief moment in the face of their combined might. But the Void seemed intent upon challenging that might.
Dark lightning flashed, and suddenly a pair of seven-headed shadow hydras lifted their hideous necks up above the battlefield and belched forth a swarm of shadow bolts towards the mage and wizard. Though Avner’s loyal hippogriff turned its wing to attempt to block the worst of the attack, both he and his mount suffered numerous wounds, their bodies scorched by the shadow magic. Worse yet, the hydras deadly missiles seemed to have the additional effect of nullifying spirit energy, for even as Avner raised his wand to form a counter spell, he found his delicate spell work unravelling harmlessly before him.
Pippy fared better than her counterpart. The dark missiles struck the anti-magic shell she had cast around herself at the outset of the battle. Totally invisible to the senses until the shadow bolts collided with it, the shell now shimmered as it absorbed the void energy. Pippy’s magic had saved her from any true harm, but the shell now flickered feebly. Another barrage from the Shadow hydras would destroy the shell and leave her vulnerable to the spirit nullifying effects of the hydras attacks.
Brodash wasted no time, leveling his lance he charged headlong at the Hydras, swearing vengeance under his breath and at the same time finding himself sorely missing the presence of his trusted wyvern mount. Intent upon permanently silencing the two spell casters, the shadow hydras did not see Brodash coming and his lance skewered through their thick necks in succession, quickly dispatching the foul creatures before they could attack again.
On que, the heroes regrouped around their commander, once again assessing the situation. They had done well, defeated many of the void creatures while still not suffering any casualties of their own.
The Void seemed ill content with this outcome, and the dark lightning redoubled its efforts, summoning ever more creatures from the Void into this world. Even the Herald of the Void seemed to take notice, pausing briefly from his merciless assaults and appearing in plain view for a moment to turn his gaze upon the Void Gate.
The dark obsidian ring that formed the structure of the Void Gate seemed to suddenly stretch to an impossible width. A hulking mass of shadow began to coalesce within it, gaping wide like a giant maw stretching across the horizon, eager to devour everything in its path. As if recognizing its master, the Herald quickly bowed and then disappeared again, his assaults beginning anew.
If the battle had seemed desperate before, it now appeared utterly hopeless. The heroes, standing almost back to back now, steeled themselves for the end as the sea of darkness began to spill back in towards them.
“Well stupid orc,” Pippy’s voice squeaked as she looked up at Brodash with just a hint of her characteristic giggle, “I guess this is it then. It’s been honor to fight by your side.”
The gruff orc couldn’t help but smile in reply. Even now, nothing could break the spirit of his ever sarcastic but cheerful companion. “Indeed little Gnome, there is no greater honor than to die in defence of a friend,” Brodash answered.
“I guess we’ll be needing these,” Avner said as he opened the saddle bags on his mount and tossed potions to his allies, “may they serve you well, as I have ever endeavoured to do so.”
“I will do everything I can to aid you my friends,” now it was Creedon’s turn to speak, “and when I can do no more, I will unleash the blood plague that I have kept contained within my body for all these long years. Perhaps in death I can yet strike back against the Void.
At this last cryptic statement from the already mysterious Shaolin, Basmoric simply raised an eyebrow. Unable to think of anything to add to the somber mood, the fearless berserker simply adjusted the grip on his axes and turned to face the onslaught of the Void army arrayed against them.
“Here they come…” he whispered.
And with that the armies of the Void surged forward, like a tidal wave of the blackest ocean set to crash upon the shoreline of a land unable to stand against it, but standing none the less. Hope, light, life; this would be their final resting place, consumed by the maw of the Void.
From the debris strewn street on the opposite side of the square, where the Archons Holy relic lay surrounded by the bodies of its slain defenders, there arose a sudden commotion.
“The day is not lost! The Archons have almost arrived to activate the Casket of Reformation. Ready yourselves and prepare to charge!” Lolinder’s voice called out clear and loud across the battlefield, “for Heroes Guild!”
“FOR HEROES GUILD!!!”
The battle cry was bellowed from a dozen voices as all of Heroes Guild and the Stoneguard charged into the fray. Brodash and the others soon found that they were not even on the front lines as the swiftest among their allies hurtled past them towards the enemy.
Sir Falathrin lead the charge and was among the first to reach the foe. The brave Knight upon his steed was an iron-bound battering ram that smashed through the enemies ranks. But he was only the tip of the spear for he was flanked on both sides by Haieruf the Ronin, with the Sword of the High-Dragon shining amidst the darkness, and the Centaur cleric Githroy healing his allies even as he charging fearlessly forward. Together this trio drove an unstoppable wedge into the foe, striking deep into their ranks and dividing the Void’s forces in two.
Following shortly behind, the bulk of Heroes Guild crashed into the divided Void forces. Gilliad, whom they call the Giant, cleaved a void spider in two with one fluid motion of his blade, using his momentum to then strike down a shadow beast and at the same time dodging the flaying tentacles of a Void Horror. The towering monstrosity never had another chance to strike as it was set upon by bear, wolf, and saber-tooth. The unlikely trio of animals were all under the command of Turgon the beast caller, who prowled nearby wearing a bestial form himself. The animals tore the void horror to shreds and moved further into the fray without a second thought.
Not to be out down as a master of beasts, Lolinder charged as one with his wild assortment of pets. The battle hymn on his lips reached a crescendo as he plunged his blade into another Void Terror while his raptor pounced upon the creature, eviscerating it with its cruel curved talons.
Only a few paces from Lolinder runes flared to life as chains of fire snaked out across the battlefield trapping several shadow beasts in their burning embrace. While his left hand held the magical chains, Theomir the Runeweaver formed a fist with his right hand that quickly ruptured the heart of another shadow beast.
Throwing his own chains, not of not flame but of ice, Wapakalypse also entrapped several foes. Distracted by the effort he did not see the razor sharp mandibles of a Void Spider close around his shoulder. But as sharp as they were, they could not fully pierce the frost armor that he had encased himself in. Even as the icy sheets fractured there was a sudden blast of icy air in all directions around the Minotaur battlemage, freezing a trio of Void Spiders that were attempting to circle in for the kill.
An instant later the spiders where shattered into thousands of pieces, as an axe smashed first into one of them, then a hunting knife into another. The final spider was then obliterated by a vicious head butt from a well-muscled green skin in the depths of a battle frenzy. The unrestrained violence of it all was punctuated by the guttural battle cry of “ABOLISH!”
Even as they fought in hand to hand combat, Heroes Guild rained death from their own back ranks, with Kyiden and Dander firing arrow after arrow, fingers bleeding from the effort. Many a shadow beast fell from their deadly ranged assault before ever reaching the front lines.
Through it all, wounds that should have been fatal were closed and broken bones were instantly mended as Hebro called out to the One God to heal his allies time and again, even as they stood at the precipice of death.
But for all their renewed vigor and the brief glimpse of hope brought about by this last heroic charge, once again the tide of battle began to swing back in favor of the Void. For each void creature the Heroes cut down it seemed ten more rose up to take its place, all the while the enormous maw of the Void seemed to draw ever nearer.
Without warning, divine light suddenly bathed the battlefield. Brodash hazarded a quick glimpse over his shoulder, wondering if this was some new threat, but instinctively sensing that it was not. A battle force of Archons had made their way into the square, taking up position around the Casket of Reformation, standing over the bodies of their fallen comrades. A High Templar had thrown back the lid on Casket, the obvious source of the divine light.
Across the square dark lightning flashed in reply, but rather than striking the ground and summoning more void creatures the lightning was instead directed towards the Casket of Reformation, like some divine lightning rod. More dark lightning flashed in succession, but each bolt was drawn to the Casket, and rather than dissipating the jagged arcs of Void energy persisted. As the Archons had claimed, the Casket seemed to be able to drain the spirit energy from the Void Gate. More and more dark Void lightning flared and was snatched up by the Caskets irresistible pull. The maw of the Void began to shrink in upon itself.
Too late, the Herald of the Void seemed to realize what was happening. His tattoos flashed to live and in an instant he appeared behind the High Templar, swinging his void blades down for a deadly blow, but the blades were turned aside as a divine shield flashed to life around the High Templar. The Herald was not to be denied, he began to wildly thrash against the shield, using his blades and dark magic. The shield began to falter, but around the High Templar his allies began to chant a prayer of protection, bolstering the strength of the Shield.
“Destroy the Archons,” shrieked the Herald of the Void in a voice tinged with madness, “the Void demands it!”
Hearing his call, the Void creatures rushed forward to crush the Archons, as Shadow Hydras belched forth an unending stream of void magic towards the Casket of Reformation.
With the keen tactical wisdom of one who has commanded troops in many a battle, Brodash reacted quickly, bellowing new orders.
“Heroes Guild, defend the Archons with your very lives, they are our only hope now,” the Commander declared, “Today we are no longer rivals. As one we must stand against the Void.”
All of Heroes Guild collapsed inward, quickly giving up ground to form a ring of steel around the vulnerable Archons. The Void threw itself upon them with a savagery such as none of them had ever witnessed, but shoulder to shoulder they held their ground.
With every moment that passed more shadow energy was drained from the gate. The Maw of the Void writhed and thrashed about as it shrank away, eventually disappearing all together. With its disappearance the Void gate returned to its original form, a simple ring of polished obsidian yet still crawling with dark energy. The Casket’s thirst for magic was not quenched and it continued to draw the void energy into itself.
With one last push the void creatures gained ground, forcing Heroes Guild back until they could feel the Archons standing back to back with them as they continued to defend their High Templar. And then suddenly the arcs of Void Lightning ceased and the lid of the Casket of Reformation slammed shut. All movement ceased and silence fell on the battlefield as heroes, Archons, and Void creatures alike seemed to draw in a single breath as one.
For an instant Brodash worried that the Casket had failed, that it could not possible contain the vast quantities of Void energy spewing out of the gate. But then it was as if a dark rushing wind began to blow, sucking every bit of shadow energy back inwards towards the gate. With so much of its power drained the Void gate was now drawing on the latent shadow energy of everything in the near vicinity. The wind grew to gale force, encompassing all of Pearl and even beyond. It was a peculiar feeling for the Heroes, as if being aware of a hurricane raging around you, yet being utterly unaffected by it.
The same could not be said for the void creatures, for being so close to the gate they were the first to be drawn in, their dark flesh tearing apart and their shadowy essence vaporizing even as they fought to remain in this world. Before long the square was wiped clean of any trace of their existence and only the Herald of the Void remained. Even his immense power could not resist the forces assailing him, his tattoos were flaring wildly in an attempt to protect him but only serving to pull him closer into the eye of this chaotic shadow storm raging around the Void gate. He seemed to know that his time was at an end, and it almost appeared as if he smiled.
“You have done well Heroes,” he shouted above the roar of the dark winds, “the void turns its gaze upon worlds more ripe for harvest… for now…”
His tattoos flared one final time and as his body became incorporeal, then he disappeared altogether, the tattoos hanging in the air in his absence for brief moment before they disappeared too.
With every shred of void energy scoured from the entirety of the town of Pearl, still the Void gate seemed to need more power, and so it began to tear itself apart, the polished obsidian breaking apart by the immense forces at work as the Void Gate imploded. With one last shudder of energy, the gate and the portal within it collapsed and the Void Gate vanished from existence. Daylight returned to the square as if it had never left, and even the birds began to chirp in innocent harmony.
Blinking his eyes against the sudden appearance of the sun, Commander Brodash surveyed the battlefield. Buildings lay in shattered ruins and the cobblestone street had been blasted clean apart in places, but other than that no trace of the battle remained, except for the weary but triumphant forces of Heroes Guild. They all seemed too stunned to speak or even let out a cry of victory. They just stared about in bewilderment.
Commander Brodash recovered quickly, turning to face the High Templar and raising his weapons as if expecting the Archons to attack at once. But the High Templar, his shoulders clearly sagging with exhaustion beneath his heavy plate armor, simply lifted the visor on his battered helm. The two commanders locked eyes, but it was the High Templar who made the first move, dipping his head ever so slightly in deference he then saluted Heroes Guild. It would be the only recognition that the Archons would grant them for the undeniable part they played in this astonishing victory. But it was enough.
Pivoting on his heel the Archon ordered his men to take up the Casket of Reformation and fall in. Without another word the Archons began to make their way back to the ships, still anchored in the harbour.
The Black Dragon Flight of Belsath canyon was no more, its eggs shattered, its allies defeated and its grip on the Tindermoot broken. More important still, the maw of the Void had been shut and this world had been gifted time to once again flourish in the light of the sun. The War for the Tindermoot, and indeed for all of Norlanin was over. For now, Heroes guild had won the day.
Note: Any minor shadow based enchant on a weapon, trinket or piece of armor, present at the implosion of the Void Gate has been removed.