This is the very end of the campaign, long after the events in the Dead Swamp. Thought you’d like to know how it all turned out 🙂
The Undoing, The Master of the Void, the Scourge of Drexlor, Master of the Eld, once-Archwizard of the Veiled Tower of Gandahar, once-Elder Mage of the Regan Kingdom, once keyholder of the Shrouded Cloister, Okotarg Øk, and oft-called Okotarg-the-Deformed, the Dread Unmaking, was gripped in the throes of a howling roar of laughter, though his throne room rumbled and the walls of his citadel shook and the bellows of bloodthirsty fiends howled at his empire’s door. Tears streamed from his ancient eyes and he was doubled over, hands-on-knees, cackling and sniggering in a desperate struggle with the situation at hand. He was losing the fight and the stress of being trapped for so long had started to disintegrate his mental faculties and he could not help but laugh at the absurdity of the whole sorry mess.
The massive granite room shook again and a crack appeared in a nearby column, showering dust and small debris down onto the Void Master’s head. He suddenly sobered, and pulled himself up to his full stature, and shook his fists at the air, bellowing, “Howl, you fiends! Howl and harrow the earth! You’ll not have me!” He began to pace, a long purple-silver threaded carpet marked his steps, and the tower shook again, harder this time.
The ancient elf’s face was creased in rage. He was so close! Out of spite he considered the seven unfinished sigils on the wall of the Temple, below. He was supposed to be leading the damn army, not trapped here, and accepted that finishing the seven keys and beginning the invasion without him there was preferable to nearly eight-hundred years of work spoiled, and all for a fool dwarf! Pah! One-armed, and one-bloody-minded as well!
He spat, the black spittle landing on the decorative carpeting, where it lay for a moment or two, before beginning to twitch. In a minute the black glob had quadrupled in size, and was taking on a definite shape.
Okotarg rubbed his ancient hands and spoke aloud, invoking the ancient rules and protections of the necromancer’s trade, and spun lines of mathematical invocations to bind and energize the proxy. The lyrical drone of divinatory magic followed next, and the package was sealed with The Void’s personal sigil and the glob suddenly took the form on a tiny humanoid. It took a few small steps, leapt into flight and vanished from the visible spectrum.
The ancient arch-wizard cackled again. “Find the Key. Fly true!”
Outside, the fury of the Key and his army were beginning to take their toll on the colossal alien black slabs that made up the dizzying wall of the Citadel of the Void, which were three spikes ringed around a thick finger of stone, mottled with a luminescent purple mineral. The heights were incalculable here in the Void. This was Okotarg’s personal domain, a sub-harmonic of the Prime Drexlor, and its laws were mutable.
But the Army of the Key would not be assuaged. They did not fear the swirling purple and black vortex that dominated the “sky” here. They did not whisper in alarm at the endless grey plains of nothingness that seemed to comprise this entire plane. When the first swarms of rotting ghouls, some winged, came boiling out of the unearthly fortress, they did not run or cry aloud.
They were the Returned, 10000 spirits-of-warriors, bound by an ancient compact to serve the Key, a leader they called Moham-of-the-Rock. They would not be stopped. Not when the horrors of the ghouls’ paralytic bites dropped hundreds in the first minutes of battle. They would not be driven away. Not when the ghouls were stinking meat and the air was thick with the silent terror of shadow-fiends, and not when the last of the Citadel’s defenders; howling hordes of running zombies came like a sea of death.
They would not be broken.
The Key howled for victory and threw his dwindling army again at the endless walls of the Spires of Ur. There could be no victory without death. The Screaming Lands themselves would fall if it was commanded by the Dawn Arrow. Moham-the-Key, distracted as he was by the insanity of battle here in this unnatural place, could feel the dread power of the trapped Necromancer, leaching through his will, crumbling the edges, mixed with sharp stabbing pains to relent, submit, yield and find peace, and it was getting harder and harder to resist the constant barrage of psychic probing. He shifted his mental armor again, a desperate bid to keep out the onslaught from the Unmaking, and sent in his reserves, which were now only in the scant hundreds. They needed to clear the field, now, before the Unmaking decided to sally onto the field himself, and really make things interesting.
Moham looked again for the Archer, some clue or sign that he was watching, was protecting them all, but he saw nothing, just the endless grey plains of the Void’s dominion, the millions of undead who once waited here for a word from the Unmaking’s lips were long gone, hidden in five massive armies around the Realms, just waiting for the command to begin. If they failed here and if the Key breaks, and The Dawn Arrow fails, then everything that mattered to the Key and this army of men and women from Drexlor’s storied past would be lost to the machinations of the Void and his plans to destroy the world. “If only we could get inside”, the Key thought, “then the Arrow would fly true and I could stand by his side once again, and feel the old ways return, and find peace.” He almost let a smile touch his face, and in that moment his defense slipped just enough.
The phantasmal killer that was once a glob of spit, and who had been waiting, patiently, fulfilled its purpose, slipped past Mohab’s crumbling mental shields and the relentless painful strands of the Void’s will snaked inwards and the Key felt his mind crack and he knew that he was lost.
At that moment the relentless efforts of the Army of the Key overcame the stubborn, alien stone and the huge main gates of the Citadel of the Void broke into one-ton pieces and tumbled to the ground, to the roar of the ranks who now streamed into the unknown, songs of ancient kings on their lips and renewed vows of victory. Though they knew that the Key had fallen, and that their connection to this harmonic would quickly unravel, they vowed to honor the Key’s last request – to remove the head of Okotarg-the-Deformed before they were returned to the Flux, from which they were called so many years ago. How many years? None could say. The Army of the Key were not flesh and blood and had no concern with time. But Master Okotarg knew. Nearly 3 years these fiends had besieged his home and kept him here.
He heard the defenses fall and knew that it was time. Okotarg called upon the primal force of the universe that resided inside himself. It was not his. The All-father, Zendaya, lost it when he was forced to create the last of the gods, when his being shattered and Zendaya faded from the universe. The Force of Unmaking, the power to destroy…everything.
Used it to create an army so large even the dwarven juggernaut of the Feclan Empire could not stand up to its power. Used it to subvert and poison every standing circle used by the Canathane, and used it to create this very dimension where he now faced annihilation.
The Force of Unmaking answered one will. Its own. Okotarg had called on it again and again to destroy the besieging army but it would not answer him.
But now he felt the dread power swell within him, like poison into water, and the sick, horrible, wonderful, terrible feeling filled his essence and gave him the power to finish the final strokes of the seven Command sigils that would awaken the Army of the Dead Hand. He roared in Arcan, and felt the power flood from him, etching dweomer through time and space. The Command sigils flared into existence, and he felt the stored power of eight-hundred years gush out of him as water from a pipe, and he wept and cried and laughed aloud and felt the last of the Army of the Key winking out of existence and for a moment he considered the possibility of victory.
Then a tug at his inner mind. A reverberation in his core. He had felt it before.
Okotarg made a sound like an animal lost in a dark wood. A chundering, chuffing sound, short and curt, full of bass and growl.
Overhead, far above the silent grey plains and the colossal citadel, a spike of light appeared in the swirling vortex. It fractured, and grew, and fractured again and again, like a crack growing in ice. The brightening light started racing outwards at an ever quickening pace, and soon covered a quarter of the swirling skies.
It seemed to slow for a moment, and stop, momentarily.
Okotarg-the-Unmaking raced for his balcony window and looked up at the impossible scene. He howled in denial and he cast spell after dread spell at the splintering sky.
The scene held its breath for a moment longer, and then the sky split and fractured, like panes of glass falling, and the gloom was replaced with a blinding, dominating light, and the unearthly harmonics of the universal chord flooded the now-crumbling Unrealm, shouting power so loudly that Okotarg clapped his hands to his wrinkled ears and cried aloud in pain.
This was the Force of Making. There could be no doubt. The other half of Zendaya Allfather’s lost power, it had been found by Master Wei Chi and his adventuring group long in Drexlor’s turbulent past and had passed it, secretly, to the only surviving student of a massacre three decades gone.
The Force of Making had only one purpose. To reunite with its lost half and return Zendaya Allfather from oblivion. The sky was dominated by the shining, spreading, creation of the Force of Making. A single warrior appeared in the core of the light, one-armed, barefoot. He was grinning.
The Dawn Arrow had arrived.