We arrived just as the white sun was falling on the western horizon. Castle Light Wolf had been a two day’s travel and our men were worn from the blistering winds and steep terrain.
Castle Light Wolf is the last Alliance post in the great Northwest. It’s occupied by a family of Barbarians that had ties to those traveling with us. The Castle sits on the south side of an impassible mountain face in the snow-covered forests of the Northern Wilderness. To the east of the hold there are deadly goblins with their assassins and soothsayers ready to rip out your guts with a jab of their knives. To the south, once great trees had become prisoners to the greedy folk. After boon was granted to the common folk, greedy people set up camp outside these trees and raped them night and day for their savory roots. It’s a rare occurrence to see a long-standing forest keeper among these parts.
About a mile west of the Castle entrance is the Northern Pass that will lead all who dare into the lands of Permafrost. Ice giants, warlords, and even dragons live up in those parts. While it takes a crazy man to adventure into the Permafrost region, it takes a purely evil man to lead an army into it. Well, a small battalion at this point.
In its prime, Tunaria might have seen as many as 25,000 men, women, and trolls exploring her endless mountain ranges and swamps. Yet, today the number is just under four hundred active souls. A couple of years back a plague struck our community, ravaging it to its core. Dedicated men, who had spent years building themselves into the best warriors in the lands were taken hostage by the disease and swept away. We believe that these fallen soldiers are in the afterlife, or as we call it, the World of Wonder. On the other hand, many of the citizens that still remain claim to have contacted with those outside our world. From the gossip it sounded as if those who have left us are in some world called “real life” and it’s supposedly a better one.
There were only three families willing to send their men to support our cause. Truth be told, there aren’t many families left at all. Most hail from the Houses of Freeport and the House of Fayspires. Yet we are so fortunate to have the House of Qeynos and the House of Tethelin, brothers of the previously mentioned from generations ago. Additionally, the House of Halas has granted us some of the finest warriors and shaman on this side of Highpass. In total, we have thirty-eight members.
Our healers consist of six Teth druids, four Qeynos clerics, and four Great shamen. The front line warriors include three Barbarian warriors, two Qeynos warriors, and two paladins. For our cavalry, the House of Teth was also able to lend us eight of its best rangers while my house contributed three alchemists, four wizards, a magician, and two monks. Three spies were also sent along, one from Teth, one from Halas, and one from Qeynos. For the final member of the group, I am the only bard and of course the most fitting storyteller of all.
My name is Sir Keegan Q. Quicksteed. I’m the son of the renowned Coachmen Quicksteed. My mother passed away when I was young. It had been during the birth of my younger brother, Hank. Most of the Qeynos folk just call him the stable boy since all he has amounted to is keeping the coach horses brushed and fed. He’s more or less a waste of space that spends most of his time picking fights with much stronger travelers outside the Inn. I have yet to see that boy win a fight without the help of some roaming town guard trying to break up the violence before my brother gets his head beat into a pulp.
At the age of 8 I learned how to play most instruments and by 12, I could play march hymns to rally the troops. Most of my classmates growing up wandered off or picked up new professions. It seems like most migrated to Freeport or the trees and chose to become some sort of necromancer or alchemist. They said the life was easier, but what do they know?
As far as bards go, I am the last human left. There are several Teth bards that roam Tunaria but they are far too busy with their miniature entertainment empires. I, on the other hand, am the last warrior. I have fought in hundreds of battles, including every dragon known to our elders. Unfortunately our next foe, or rather, foes, are something a bit more interesting.
In times pass, we have used the experiences of warriors before us to win our battles against dragons like the Queen or the Twins. Those dragons have long since been solved. It’s these new ones that are completely unknown. The story of these creatures’ discovery was passed down to me through the trade markets in Qeynos. From what I have heard, a Halfling by the name of Deeppockets was spying on some goblins outside the gates of Highpass when he saw in the distance a shining creature. It was floating a few feet off the ground and looked as if it was patiently waiting.
Since the Halfling was a rogue, he quickly pulled his cape over his head and stealthily snuck up on the unknown being. As he approached he realized that this creature looked like a Barbarian, possibly a warrior, but in white plate armor with gold trim. The helmet covered his face but the little Halfling could definitely tell there was something alive inside. The glow of the creature’s eyes radiated through the slot in his helmet. He carried an enormous shield the size of an elf and a sword the width of a Freeporter. The most shocking feature of all was his wings that were many times longer than the creature itself. They extended in both directions and slowly flapped to keep him hovering.
As the Halfling tip-toed around behind the floating creature it turned its head and glared down upon the rogue. The rogue shivered the way man does when he knows he has been caught by someone much more powerful than him. The Halfling took down his cloak and began to speak with the creature.
From what I have heard, Mr. Deeppockets wasn’t attacked at all. But he did learn that the creature is named the Angel of Death and is the final enemy in all of Tunaria. His existence, if not destroyed, will eventually end Tunaria as we know it. He did not come alone, though. Due to a spell cast on him by those who sent him, he is not able to be attacked until his four horsemen are slain. These horsemen live on the four corners of Tunaria and are each unique in their expertise. The Angel’s last words of wisdom to Mr. Deeppockets were that the horsemen weren’t to be taken lightly. They were small, the size of a human, but deadly in a manner that Tunaria or the neighboring planes had ever seen.
As you can imagine, convincing just thirty-eight people to come with us to slay the first horsemen is a victory in itself. The story that Mr. Deeppockets retold and it was retold and then retold again and again has long since been distorted. Small villagers in particular are eating the story up like fruit cakes. Many on the coasts by Merry-By-Water and Wyndhaven are claiming that the Angel of Death is everything from a myth to a giant. The four horsemen might have armies of their own! For goodness sake, thirty-eight men to embark on this type of journey is a miracle, if I’ve ever heard of one.
The men were sleeping in their barracks. Some had headed down to the Inn for a quick drink. The officers gathered in the center house of Castle Light Wolf to discuss the next day’s events.
Captain Volgo, the Halas Captain and seasoned warrior sent with our group sat at the end of the table. To his left was Captain Drailis, a Qeynos warrior that spent most of his career guarding Forkwatch. I sat on the other side of Drailis and beside me was also the Teth Ranger, Lythen Trueshot.
On the right side of Captain Volgo was the Teth Druid Dawnseer Mistwielder, the only female among the commanders. She was highly respected and thought to be the strongest druid to walk the lands of Tunaria. Beside her was the great Qeynos wizard, Gadenon Flamefist and beside him was the Sensei master, Mu Nan. Lastly, in the back corner of the room, sitting on a barrel of old whiskey and eating an apple with his dagger was the head rogue, Snyde Cragsmear. In total there were nine leaders that were responsible for success of the campaign.
Captain Drailis stood, his silver armor glimmering off the candlelight filling the room. He had spent the last 8 years of his life protecting Fayspires and teaching young adventurers about a Qeynos legacy. He was a well-spoken man and highly respected. He began the meeting with an update on the day’s progress and then fell into new details on how far they would travel the next day. It was eventually agreed upon that they would leave at dawn and set up camp just outside the gates of Vox’s Castle.
Lady Vox, of course, was no match for this kind of army. They had all seen her fallen and if they truly felt bored, they wouldn’t think twice about burning the entire fortress to the ground. I personally hated the mazes and the wicked goblins that seemed to have eyes in the back of their damn heads.
Once Captain Drailis was done speaking a silence crept into the room. The question on everyone’s mind was what then? What happens once they do come face to face with the First Horseman? Captain Volgo spoke up.
“We’ll have to see what we’re dealing with first. If the details are correct from the Deeppockets report, he’s an ice caster much like Lady Vox. As to whether or not he has any weaknesses, we cannot be sure,” he said.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the Teth Ranger Lythen nod slowly in agreement. What I didn’t see is that he was nodding at the druid, Dawnseer Mistwielder.
“We always have Snyde,” she said.
Snyde kept eating his apple, acting not to care that his name was thrown into the ring about approaching the most deadly creatures in the Permafrost region.
“Of course we do,” said Volgo. “I wouldn’t hesitate to send those bastards in to steal everything they can so they can just go and disappear like the burglarizing pricks that they are!” Volgo’s voice had risen in half sarcasm and the other half anger. I wasn’t sure if he had recently been pick-pocketed by a rogue or he simply just hated the idea of working with professional assassins. Needless to say, he wasn’t a fan of the idea. Yet, when I looked at Snyde, he was still cutting his apple but now he was staring at Lythen. The corners of his mouth slowly curled up.
When times are tense, or difficult, or boring, or whatever, a good bard can ease everything.
I stood up. My gaze swayed from Volgo to Snyde in a slow sweeping motion as I spoke. I told a joke that got a good laugh out of Flamefist, Mu Nan and Drailis. Up until then, Flamefist and Mu Nan hadn’t said a word.
“What a pleasure to hear something from you three,” I said.
“I guess the wisest are the least wordy,” quipped Mu Nan.
“Well that demeans my entire lifestyle.”
Everyone laughed except Snyde.
Captain Volgo took the reins of the meeting again.
“Men, I believe we have discussed enough tonight. We’ll meet tomorrow at dawn.”
I headed straight to bed and didn’t wake up the next morning until half the army had eaten their breakfast and was suited for travel.