PREMISE For more than ten years, the Dark Strand has extended its dark hold over portions of the Darkshore and Ashenvale. This small sect of the Shadow Council was born in Darkshore and thought destroyed following the Shattering, but it has been spreading secretly across settlements throughout northern Kalimdor for the last several years. Beginning last summer, with the world's efforts turning on the Shadowlands and other threats, the cult’s death squads targeted isolated kaldorei refugee camps and small settlements for “cleansing” - the folk of the north given the choice of joining them or accepting salvation of death.
As the cult’s power grew, a martial order called the Light of the Moon rose to fight against it. A year before, the order sent a team deep across northern Kalimdor to strike the cult’s hidden heart - an ancient ruin known as the Shadow Hold. This group was led by a former sentinel named Emdreath Evereye, a noble warrior and veteran of countless cult campaigns.
The order never saw she and her compatriots again. Now, a chance meeting with Light of the Moon members sees agents of the Silver Circle recruited to retrace Emdreath’s journey across northern Kalimdor – and to uncover the secret of her dark fate.
Ilarii Farlight is a battle-priestess of Elune and the matron of her order. She and her grey-cloaked companions are members of a new order called the Light of the Moon, who have sworn to protect the various refugee camps across Northern Kalimdor from the external threats like the Cult of the Dark Strand.
[Missing] Emdreath Evereye
Emdreath is a stalwart warrior of Elune and a veteran of countless campaigns against the cult of the Dark Strand. She and a group loyal to her undertook a mission a year ago that would have struck a mortal blow at the heart of the Shadow Council. She went missing during that mission and has not been heard from for six months.
Captain Aleath Bladeseeker
Aleath is a widower and elder of Astranaar, and has been charged with the important work of safeguarding the refugee camps in the heart of the forest. He has served in the Sentinel Army for the last ten years, and was recently promoted to Captain.
Formerly known as Thomas, Emdreath Evereye's close comrade. The Hand is the lead ritualist of the Cult of the Dark Strand, and second-in-command to the primary leader, who was formerly believed to be a figure known as Lord Jaedralyn, the Voice of Ralazar. Recent information leads the Silversworn to believe that The Hand currently serves a new leader, called The Lady and the current Voice of Ralazar.
I: A TIMELY RESCUE During Council Glade on the 4th of Yseralla, Feyawen Nightfury confirmed rumors spreading around Val'sharah from the Temple of Elune, relating to the rise of Dark Strand Cultist activity in Darkshore. Feydren Nightfury and Telandros Greystorm set sail to Darkshore to investigate the rumors a few nights prior, where refugees living out of camps on the outskirts of Auberdine were able to verify the rumors.
The Darkshore is an untamed expanse of mountainous and coastal wilderness and hardscrabble villages far from the centers of civilization. Various Kaldorei leaders are attempting to resettle the shores of Darkshore, following the events of the War of the Thorns, and are working to rebuild Auberdine. However, a recent influx of refugees has swollen Auberdine's refugee population to the bursting point. It would not have taken long for Feydren and Telandros to gather more information from various refugees on the ground, but many of the refugees proved to be tight-lipped and unwilling to divulge their experiences with the cult.
Instead, the Silversworn organized a humanitarian effort, to bring relief to the refugees while they awaited homes to be built for them around Auberdine. As they dolled out the must-needed supplies to the refugees, they tried to garner more information about the cult.
Before long, however, the Silversworn and their allies were swept up in the wonder of giving. They aided children, the sick, the elderly, and the youths of the camp. They fed the hungry and mended old garments, and helped with brewing of remedies and expanding the camp. It was a long night of taxing work, that took both a physical and emotional toll.
As the night began winding down, a cultist death squad infiltrated the camp. They pursued some of the refugees across the wilderness of Darkshore on an unholy mission of execution. They had expected little resistance, knowing most of the local sentinel, which were already spread thin. The injured refugees scattered when the fight began, and the Silversworn were swift to respond, even when one of their own was taken momentarily hostage.
A brief but fierce battle ensued, resulting in two cultists fleeing the scene, two dead, and one being captured and detained by a rogue Watcher by the name of Zethras Greywinter, who happened to be in the area investigating the very same rumors.
In the wake of the battle, the Silversworn discovered that beneath their travel-stained cloaks, the cultists wore loose-fitting gray tunics with the symbol of the Dark Strand painted across the chest. And before long, a well-armed group of kaldorei fighters, all in grey cloaks set with the crescent of Elune, emerged from Auberdine to investigate the commotion.
Their leader introduced herself as Ilarii Farlight, and humbly requested the Silversworn linger in the region for seven days and nights, before reconvening to discuss the intelligence her operatives might uncover about the cult in that time.
II: AN IMPASSIONED PLEA Some nights following the cultist ambush in the refugee camp, Battle-Priestess Ilarii Farlight summoned the Silversworn for a private meeting to make an impassioned plea for the Silver Circle’s aid.
Farlight revealed that the Light of the Moon's greatest warrior, Emdreath Evereye, and her party of four, had gone missing six months prior, on their own mission to find the heart of the cult and destroy its leaders.
After much back and forth, Farlight provided the Circle with the answers to many questions:
Who is Emdreath?
“Emdreath is a stalwart of our faith and a veteran of countless campaigns against the cult. She and a group loyal to her undertook a mission a year ago that would have struck a mortal blow at the heart of the Shadow Council.”
What was Emdreath's mission?
“While our order defends the villages of Darkshore, Emdreath and four companions sought to take the battle to the heart of the cult. The Shadow Council’s faithful are based in a great ruin high in the Fel Wood Mountains. The Shadow Hold, they call it. Emdreath swore to break the cult by destroying its leaders.”
What happened to Emdreath and her group?
“Our last contact with Emdreath was a sending ritual six months ago that placed her deep in the forests of Ashenvale at the head of a trail she referred to as the Shadow March. We have had no further word.”
Who else was in Emdreath's party?
“Four faithful of Elune – Ga’lyn, Sariia, battle-priestesses of our order; the warrior Galaliath; and Thomas, a human sworn to Elune’s cause.”
Who are the Dark Strand? What is the Shadow Council?
“The Dark Strand was sect of the Shadow Council thought destroyed following the Shattering several years ago. The Shadow Council is a cult of mortal warlocks that serve the demons of the Burning Legion.”
What activities does the cult engage in?
“They prey on the most isolated villages for converts and spoils. Townsfolk are given the choice of joining or accepting the salvation of death.”
Why do you need our help?
“Our own operatives are too well-known among the cultists. Two groups have tried already to follow Emdreath’s path. Neither returned. A capable party unknown to the cult might succeed where others have failed.”
By midnight, the Silversworn had been swayed and agreed to accept the mission; not only would they follow Emdreath's route, with the map of her path provided by Farlight's order, but they would attempt to pick up Evereye's mission where it left off, and see the Dark Strand destroyed.
#14946020 Mar 23, 2022 at 03:13 AM · Edited 3 months ago
III: BEYOND BORDERS Having accepted Ilarii's quest the circle ventured forth from Auberdeen toward the time-honored lands of Ashenvale, before long they had stopped to question an unfamiliar Furbolg tribe, the Thistlefur had been attempting to establish a new colony in the remnants of the desolate furbolg camps in Darkshore. Though traditionally the Thistlefur were not the easiest to approach a fresh faced druid to the circle Larele managed to convince the reticent bear-folk to indulge in their quest for the Dark Strand and the hunt for the warrior Emdreath.
The Thistlefur spoke of news that their stronghold had been attacked, their kin had been pushed back by a warmongering group that brought with them dark and foreboding magic, some time down the road the Silver Circle reached Orendil Broadleaf's retreat, filled with a refugee camp of their own with more rumors and clues as to Emdreath's location. Wading through rumors the party discovered few details of Emdreath, but much of the Dark Strand and their sudden and viscous expansion and conquest of Ashenvale with many in the retreat considering if Ashenvale safe to live in, even this far west.
As the party pried Orendil for more information, the old once-hermit gave up the location of a family that was said to have met Emdreath, pushing the Circle deeper into Ashenvale they discovered a home being set ablaze, and two cultish thugs escaping.
Thankfully the cadre of Kaldorei managed to quiet the flames and rescue the family inside, though their chase of the culprits left much to be desired, the Watcher among them Zethras put his skills to the test, capturing a cultist alive, that the circle would question later. With minimal harm from the flames the mother pointed the circle toward Astranaar, where they had last seen the warrior priestess with their holy party aiding the refugees.
After recuperating from the long journey and giving their mounts due rest, the Circle prepared their venture deeper into Ashenvale, however the cultist came first, a wirey human man that barked the name of it's master the Warlord Jaedralyn, going as far as to bite off his own tongue than to divulge information to the enemy the Cultist did not survive long after his usefulness met it's end.
The party proceeded toward Astranaar with haste, before they could arrive a distant warhorn blew, leading the curious party off toward the Thistlefur stronghold they arrived to see the Furbolgs locked in a losing battle against the faithless Dark Strand. The Circle seeking to aid the Furbolg and weaken an enemy flanked the cultists from behind, wreaking havoc in their ranks and managing to dispatch the enemy before they could finish off the Thistlefur defenders.
With some thanks, the defenders divulged that they had been helped by Emdreath and her cadre against the cult, and that they had last been seen heading for Astranaar, the Circle seeking to lick their wounds and pick up on Emdreath's trail arrived in the refugee camps of once great Astranaar.
IV: SECRETS AND SHOWDOWNS After more than a week of following scant leads in the Astranaar Refugee camps, the Silversworn's hopes of finding Emdreath's trail began to dwindle. Keeper Nightfury assembled available Silversworn in the heart of the camp and it was decided they would proceed into the small city of Astranaar, collectively, to ask further questions of refugees they had yet to speak with.
The party split into small groups to speak with the many locals. Keeper Tana Rosedancer of the Shadow Guard, Elder Celassa Kal'nor and Sister Cayldiais Moonfang approached what appeared to be a traveling caravan that was bound for Forestsong. Though the night elf and sabers were leery of the Silversworn, the draenei matron was warm and welcoming, quick to offer the party food while she answered Cayldiais' polite questions. From this camp, Cayldiais, Celassa and Tana discovered that Captain Aleath Bladeseeker may know more information regarding Emdreath's whereabouts.
Warden Mythanil Briarblade moved independently into the heart of the city, where new shrines had been erected to accommodate Astranaar's influx of refugees. In the large gazebo at the center of this area, Mythanil stumbled across a familiar garment, folded and left before a shrine as a sort of offering. The garment was a grey cloak, belonging to one of the members of Ilarii Farlight's <Light of the Moon> order, and strung upon the collar of the cloak was a necklace of humanoid teeth, each etched with crude, tiny demonic glyphs. Believing the cloak to be Emdreaths, but also not wishing to disturb the shrine, Mythanil took mental note of the clue and shared it with the rest of the party when they gathered again.
A young, enthusiastic night elf engineer by the name of Jymy Starblower was approached by Silver Circle's affiliate Zethras Greywinter and Sister Glynindra Breezebend. Starblower was unable to provide any significant clues, but did reveal some key details in exchange for one of Zethras' Watcher daggers. Starblower indicated that most refugees seldom speak of the cult's activities around the camps because of Captain Aleath Bladeseeker.
Sensing something was not quite right, Elder Celassa Ka'nor led the party to Astranaar's newly repaired Hunter's Hall, where they confronted Captain Aleath Bladeseeker. The captain was a widower and elder of Astranaar, and a newly appointed Captain in the Sentinel Army. He revealed that, while Sentinel Thenysil and the veteran troops are away hunting Horde holdouts in the east, he has been charged with the defense and fortification of Astranaar. When the party begins to pepper him with questions about the cult and Emdreath Evereye, he shuts them down, stating:
“This is not the first time I’ve heard such questions from outsiders,” Aleath says. “And I’ll tell you straight what I told them – this town doesn’t need any would-be heroes making trouble. Best you take your questions and head back to your precious cities at first light.”
But before the conversation could devolve into a tense argument, a thunderous charge came from outside the Hunter's Hall and arrows pierced the cool night air from the exposed balcony, embedding in the walls, narrowly missing their targets.
Chaos broke out. The guards positioned outside the Hunter's Hall sealed the great double doors, trapping the Silversworn and their Captain inside, with the intent of protecting them from the Cultist Death Squad that had marched into the center of Astranaar. The guards were quickly felled, Captain Bladeseeker sustained a Black Arrow to the shoulder, and the party indoors was forced to take cover behind the narrow pillars inside the Hunter's Hall. Cult archers rained poisonous arrows into the hall from their elevated positions on the ruins over Astranaar's Lake. Watcher Zethras Greywinter worked to unlock the double doors while Mythanil, Glynindra, Cayldiais, Aythir and Celassa fended off the archers. Keeper Tana Rosedancer climbed up onto the open roof, in an attempt to reach the refugees on the other side, who, from the sound of it, were being herded to the heart of the settlement by the cult Death Squad. Unfortunately for Tana, she was quickly descended upon by a cult assassin who had already been strategically positioned on the roof of the Hunter's Hall.
The first few frightening minutes of the battle, the Silversworn were hopelessly outmatched. It was not until Zethras and Aythir managed, together, to unlock the double doors and expose the other cult forces that the tides turned. The Silversworn summoned forth their strength, leaning on each other and their faith to ensure the night was won and Astranaar was made safe again.
In the wake of the battle, Watcher Zethras Greywinter discovered an encrypted missive on the leader of the cultist death squad, that revealed Captain Aleath Bladeseeker had struck a bargain with the Dark Strand in order to secure the safety of Astranaar settlement and the surrounding refugee camps. Under Keeper Nightfury and Warden Briarblade's consent, Zethras detained Captain Bladeseeker and assured he would deliver the Captain into the custody of the Ashenvale's Council of the Forest.
While the party aided in the clean up of the battle, Warden Mythanil Briarblade discovered a piece of a map marked with a nameless track running through the hills of Ashenvale and Felwood... Presumably, the Shadow March.
V: BLADES IN THE NIGHT While the party recovered in the Astranaar refugee camps, the townsfolk converged at the tent of Keeper Nightfury, and offered her a route through the forests that should lead the Circle to the Shadow March.
A night elf woman by the name of Shandra came forward and told the tale of her first encounter with the cult of the Dark Strand, and how they had slain her father as they travelled on the road. In her grief, Shandra said she tracked the cultists in a gambit to take revenge, and though she was unable to locate them fully, she did discover the entrance to the Shadow March.
Shandra produced a map, and after a day of rest and gathering supplies, the Silversworn set out to find the Shadow March.
The lands east of Astranaar turned to hilled forest. A few hours out, the party stumbled across the Moonwell of Purity, where they restocked their supply of Moonwell Waters before continuing on.
While wandering the wilderness along the route provided, the Silversworn arrived at an old ruined shrine known as the Howling Vale that lay hidden on the margin between Ashenvale's northern woodlands and the dismal mountains of the Felwood. Located at the shrine was none other than the woman they had been seeking: Emdreath Evereye.
The warrior of Elune stood at the heart of the shrine, with the crescent of Elune on her cloak and dark forest green hair hanging ragged. As the party approached, the warrior's mouth widened into a leer, and she whipped out her great sword to attack the Elder of the Wild, Kelanthos Ivyfang.
The magical ruse of the warrior of Elune dissolved to shadowy vapors, revealing a satyr trickster in her place. Still worse, it was not the only satyr inhabiting the shrine. Five more satyrs appeared to assail the Silversworn, each retreating back to the trees so another assassin could attack from a different location.
The battle raged on for many long and gruesome minutes, and though the Silversworn managed to retain the upper-hand throughout the battle, one of their own eventually succumbed to defeat.
Blademaster and blacksmith of the Circle, Thinius Shadowfern, was brought to his knees by two ruthless attacks. Menders were able to staunch the flow of blood and stabilize Shadowfern, but not until the battle was won. Mythanil Briarblade and Feyawen Nightfury advised the party to set a watch and erect camp within the Howling Vale, where they could tend to their wounded for a few short nights before continuing the journey to the Shadow March.
VI: THE SHADOW MARCH After one night of rest and recuperation, the Silversworn made the decision to begin their journey along the Shadow March. True to its name, the road was a dark scar through densely forested hills, the gloom of the trees broken only by a few scant rays of moonlight.
They walked on for several hours, their path climbing slowly through the hills. The track offered glimpses of the Fel Wood Mountains ahead. Eventually, they reached a checkpoint on the fringe of ancient ruins, where a body was discovered: a warning to travelers foolish - or daring - enough to traverse the March.
Through their grey-green surroundings, the Silversworn spotted a source of light ahead. Snug amid the ruins was a camp, marked with flowing violet and green banners that marked the tenants out as members of the Dark Strand.
Without the need for words, the Silversworn dispersed to surround the cultists from the relative safety of the forest's shadows. The signal was given, and within moments the hush and the comforting crackle of the cultists' campfire was disturbed by the whistling song of arrows piercing the night air.
These cultists were well-equipped and organized, and surprisingly capable of holding their own in a well-executed ambush. The Silversworn's opposition was comprised of a powerful orc warrior, a troll dark shaman, a forsaken shadowweaver, a human rogue and a night elf brawler.
The battle was long and drawn out, and at one point in the battle Tralaia Heartreaver's beloved feline, Luna, was rendered unconscious. But the battle was eventually won, with each Silversworn doing their essential part to protect their allies and vanquish the enemies of Elune.
Yet, there was something amiss. In the wake of combat, Keeper Nightfury remarked on the familiarity of the ruins, and indicated that the Silversworn had been to this place once before, some years prior. Nightfury claimed that a place of safety and refuge lie in the mountains nearby, and that passage to it could be unlocked if they managed to reopen the secret waygate that lay dormant to the north of the ruins. Alas, the waygate could only be held open by suffusing the central moonwell with the divine energy of Elune, or in the case of the Silversworn, the Flame of Elune.
While Nightfury and Keeper Tana Rosedancer, along with Tralaia Heartreaver worked to suffuse the moonwell with the power of Elune’s Flame, the rest of the party took notice of another cultist patrol advancing on their location. Suddenly, the means of escape had become an imperative to survive. If another well-armed party of cultists descended on the Silversworn, they would be undone.
As the voices of the cultists drew ever-closer, the Flame of Elune at last lit the surface of the central moonwell and the waygate in the north opened. The Silversworn retreated, but the moment the trio of Silversworn Flame summoners relented their focus, the waygate faltered. Under Keeper Nightfury’s orders, she bid the Silversworn to flee; but a silent exchange was had between Keeper Rosedancer, Master Shadowfern and Mythanil Briarblade. Nightfury’s command was taken out of the equation, as Shadowfern picked her up bodily and carried her to safety with the others.
Briarblade and Rosedancer lingered as long as they could to ensure the way for their allies remained open. Mythanil Briarblade, long regarded as the Silver Circle’s Herald of the Flame, let her true colors shine and by a miracle she was able to summon forth enough of Elune’s Flame to provide Tana with a boon before she, too, made her retreat.
Sensing something wrong with the central moonwell, Rosedancer elected to remain behind, a sacrifice she deemed necessary to help the Silversworn escape an ill-fate.
From high in the mountains, on the safe side of the waygate, the Silversworn watched as Tana Rosedancer was taken in chains by the Dark Strand. From their new vantage, they were given an expansive view of the Shadow March. A half-dozen times, they saw cult patrols on foot, their fiery torches marking out their routes on the dark trail below.
When Rosedancer and the cultists were gone from sight, the Silversworn navigated the vaguely familiar terrace upon which they found themselves. It was a silent and sparsely wooded area, with a single solitary hovel carved out of the earth and the roots of one particularly large and healthy oak.
Here, they would rest and devise a strategy to locate Tana Rosedancer, rescue her, and continue their journey through the Shadow March.
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The Silver Circle would be greeted by those of the Shadow Guard, a twice-born kaldorei by the name of Aria Fallenblade, and the plucky youngster Miko. Talking to those of the Circle and having Tralia Heartreaver leading the group they would exit the safety of their resting place and continue on foot to a small camp where the Shadow Guard had set up. The groups' mission is to help save the captured Keeper Tana Rosedancer.
The group was greeted by Icilicy Cranewing, one of the excerpt scouts of the Shadow guard and a felbat rider named Haldion. The group would be presented with two options, either a stealth mission or an infiltration mission to get through the pass. According to the scouts the pass was blocked by a major encampment to get to the rest of the area.
The Circle then chose to infiltrate, dressing up as cultists and prisoners. The bat rider Haldion uses a communication device to keep an eye on them from the air and communicate through a stone on Fallenblade’s belt. Making their way through the first encampment without much of a problem the Circle was making good time. They then came to a crossroads where they heard a scream to their left. Being the good hearted samaritans the circle went to check it out, only to find themselves in the cultists secondary base. Realizing there was no way out except for the door they had come through, the Circle turned around and retreated, but not before getting stopped and questioned by a guard.
With some superb acting on Zethras and Kelanthos’s part and assisted by Mythanil and Thinius the group managed to persuade the guards they were taking the prisoners to Jaedralyn. The group then continued onward managing to get out of the secondary encampment. Traveling still onward the group kept their charaid on until they reached a safe place that the Shadow Guard had scouted beforehand. Making sure the base was safe the group met two other Shadowsworn, Sentinel Kalith Greenleaf and Priestess Jydirn Starmoon. Both individuals welcomed the Circle to come and rest before continuing through the Shadow March. They also held information that the Keeper Tana Rosedancer had been taken further into the March and the Guard had lost track of where she was.
The Ancient One: We harness energy... drawn from other dimensions of the Multiverse... to cast spells... to conjure shields... and weapons... to make magic. Through the mystic arts, we harness energy and shape reality.
VII: THE SHADOW HOLD For the better part of a day, the Silversworn hiked from their last camp toward their goal, finally slipping through a screen of scrub trees and up a low rise. Winding its way through the forest a mile or two off, they saw the Shadow March end where it met the base of the mountain and a settlement spread beneath it.
The cult of the Dark Strand had set up their primary base of operations among the shadowy ruins of an ancient elven city, known as the Shadow Hold. Many of the structures had collapsed, but the inhabited core of the ruined grounds had the appearance of an ancient northern settlement. In this place, groups of cultists trained with sword and shield.
Small camps were spelled off from the main camp at the entrance to the hold filled with cultists chanting dark rites. At the fires, people took their meals with the same stoic intensity they apply to the labors of the day - the same intensity the Silversworn saw in the killers they met along the road that led them here.
For this leg of their mission, the Silversworn donned the cultist disguises they had acquired on their journey and infiltrated the grounds in search of their missing comrade: Tana Rosedancer.
The keen eyes of Thinius Shadowfern and Zethras Greywinter picked out the prison camp with ease, and together the party of roughly ten advanced through the ruins as if they belonged. Eventually, after searching a handful of camps, they found Tana being led in chains. The Silversworn, cloaked in the dark colors of the Dark Strand, followed the procession to a ritualist camp, where the prisoners were delivered in preparation for a ritual simply referred to "The Cull".
After investigating the area, and locating a skeleton key to the overcrowded prisoner cages, Celassa Kal'nor, Cayldiais Moonfang and Mythanil Briarblade formulated a plan of action. Master Shadowfern was tasked with opening a portal back to the basecamp they had erected further down the Shadow March, away from the prying eyes of the Cult, while Ithil Snowywolf and Celassa worked to free the prisoners from the cages. The rest of the Silversworn would stand watch, for it was discovered that a party of ritualists were due to arrive at the camp any moment.
Led by Celassa and Mythanil, the Silversworn assumed their positions, with Cayldiais Moonfang electing to position herself with the cultists, as a plant. As Ithil opened the first prisoner cage, a commotion was heard at the base of the hill: the ritualists had arrived.
Cayldiais took swift action, advancing down the hill to secure her infiltration, and to create a momentary distraction. She was joined by Aythir Swiftspirit, and together they encountered The Hand of the Dark Strand: an ominous leader shrouded in a cloak of living shadows.
Unfortunately, the distraction did not last long, and before the second wave of prisoners could escape to freedom, the ritualists arrived on the sight and opened fire into the fleeing crowd; killing three defenseless prisoners instantly. The Silversworn snapped to action, and returned fire. A tense battle ensued, felling Keeper Nightfury and Celassa Kal'nor moments before Mythanil Briarblade called down the Flame of Elune to create a wall of silver fire between the party and the cultists just long enough to ensure everyone's escape.
The mission concluded with Cayldiais Moonfang staying behind, in the guise of a cultist, and the Silversworn camp filling to the brim with roughly three-dozen rescued prisoners - all in need of medical attention.
VIII: AMONG THE WOLVES Four nights had passed before the Silversworn heard word from their comrade, Cayldiais Moonfang, still within the Shadow Hold. A warning went up over the Circle's Whispering Runestones, indicating that Moonfang had urgent news to share. But only Elder of the Moon Celassa Kal'nor was able to respond in time, and received Moonfang's message. Something big was happening in the Shadow Hold, and if the Circle did not intervene then more innocent lives were likely to be lost.
Donning fresh disguises, the Circle made a return journey to the Shadow Hold, leaving Master Shadowfern behind at their camp to safeguard the rescued refugees.
Their long search had come to an end, Cayldiais informed them. Sister Emdreath Evereye, champion of Elune, was here. Not as rebel or spy or cult usurper, but as the leader of the cult itself. Cayldiais deduced that the Dark Strand's former leader, a man known as Jaedralyn, had been vanquished by none other than Emdreath and her comrade Thomas; who now served as Emdreath's second-in-command and as the cult's master of rituals: The Hand.
Worse, Cayldiais revealed that 'The Cull' that The Hand spoke of nights before was due to transpire tonight; and that the magic obtained from the ritual would be used to lay waste to Whisperwind Grove in the north. Under Keeper Nightfury's advice, Cayldiais took charge of the party of Silversworn and organized a plan, to interrupt the cult ritual, weaken the Dark Strand and, hopefully, save lives in the process.
Dozens upon dozens had gathered in the heart of the Shadow Hold, to bear witness to the dark ritual due to take place. A bevy of prisoners, bound in chains, were led to a sinister moonwell at the foot of the cult's greatest temple. There, ten ritualists of the Dark Strand activated a shadow orb to siphon the life energy from the prisoner sacrifices.
Dressed in the guise of simple cultists, the Silversworn moved into their positions around the grounds while The Hand (formerly known as Thomas) gave a speech to the followers of the Dark Strand that laid out the cult's grand plan to eradicate the Emerald Circle from Felwood and use Whisperwind Grove as a staging ground for Ralazar's armies. The Silversworn had to act fast. Their plan; interrupt the delicate ritual by injuring a ritualist and destroying the Shadow Orb. But, in order to succeed, the Silversworn had to prepare to endure wave after wave of hostile cultists.
The Hand's speech ended more abruptly than anticipated, and before the Silversworn were fully in position, the ritual had begun. Ranged operatives, led by Cayldiais Moonfang, took to higher ground amid a crumbling tower while Warden of the Hunt Mythanil Briarblade and Aythir Swiftspirit bravely held their ground amid the crowd of cultists.
An epic battle ensued, in which the Silversworn fought tooth and claw to survive. Six prisoners perished before the end, and two Silversworn collapsed under attacks before the call to retreat was made. The only option, in this fast-losing battle, was to take the Inner Temple. Watcher Zethras Greywinter, who had seemingly vanished mid-battle reemerged as the Silversworn fled beyond the Inner Temple’s great double doors. Zethras, ever-focused on his own mission, managed to land the finishing blow upon the cult’s shadow orb before joining the Silversworn in their retreat.
Tralaia Heartreaver had been severely wounded during the battle, and was dragged to safety by Mythanil Briarblade. While Keeper Nightfury worked to staunch the flow of blood from Tralaia’s wounds, Aythir and Cayldiais managed to shut and seal the heavy double doors of the cult temple, barring enemies from entry.
But, the Silversworn were not out of harm’s way yet. Mythanil led Aythir and Zethras deeper into the temple, to the first chamber where a school of cult acolytes were busy in deep meditation. To secure a foothold, and ensure the safety of their party, the trio enacted a coup de grace attack, felling all of the acolytes in a matter of seconds.
In this shadowy corridor, illuminated by malign flames and candlelight, the Silversworn set up their foothold. After stabilizing Tralaia, and administering as much healing as she could, Keeper Nightfury made contact with Master Shadowfern and the rest of the Silversworn allies back at their base camp further down the mountain.
A new plan was set in place; in a few night’s time, Master Shadowfern would open a portal into the Shadow Hold’s Inner Temple, to reunite the rest of the Silversworn party with the infiltration group and siege the temple. For somewhere in the deep, winding passageways, the betrayer Emdreath Evereye resided.
IX: THE EYE OF RALAZAR For three long nights, the Silversworn held out in the labyrinthian corridors of the Shadow Hold's temple. When the last of them was finally recovered enough for the party to press onward, they did so.
Scouts had spent the days and nights, scouring the tunnel systems in the temple to find the path forward. Strangely, few members of the Dark Strand tenanted the Hold's inner temple. It was almost as if the cultists themselves feared something that dwelled deep in the shadows of this unholy place.
The winding passages led deep down. The walls here and there were carved with regular rows of oversized runes, an unknown alphabet etched in letters and symbols more than a foot high.
In another time, this terrible place had been a barrow den with a far more divine purpose. Judging from the unknown runes carved into the ancient stone walls, the temple was far older than the history of countless other races. It was a place of great power.
The historic corridors were lined with all manner of traps, cleverly constructed by the vile minds of the Dark Strand. The first trap the Silversworn encountered was a magical trap, set in the center of a wide chamber, with a gaping pit in the center, lined completely with candles. Aythir Swiftspirit and Thinius Shadowfern led the way ahead, but it was quickly discovered that the only way to cross the chamber safely was to move with excruciating caution, lest one of the myriad candles be snuffed out. Aythir snuffed more than a handful of candles, and by the time he and many others reached the opposite side of the room, a sinister curse had sapped them of energy and their lifeforce for each candle they winked out.
A brief rest was requested, in a small alcove off the trapped chamber, so those afflicted had a moment to collect themselves. After the brief respite, the Silversworn continued on, running into the next trap along the way: a river of living ooze. The chamber was wide, with river of ooze splitting the room in half and blocking the way forward. Tangles of felwood pine roots jutted into the chamber from the walls and ceiling, and druids Larele Leafsong and Aythir Swiftspirit capitalized on the opportunity to create safe passage across. Together, Larele and Aythir wove the pine roots together, forming a narrow but crossable root bridge. The Silversworn were able to advance across with ease.
But danger lurked close by. In the chamber ahead, two sayaad sisters lurked before grisly altar of thew and bone. Fortunately, the party had seen the sisters first and moved into striking positions. A swift execution took place, and within seconds the sayaad demons were slain; but at a cost. With their dying breath, the sayaads placed themselves on the sacrificial altar and activated a curse. The piles of skulls around the altar radiated with fel magic and exploded, sending piercing bone shrapnel into the Silversworn on the front line. A curse of fatigue overtook all who were punctured by the shrapnel.
Another brief rest was called for, and afterwards the Silversworn advanced through the final stretch of corridors and windings halls until Master Shadowfern walked directly into a pressure plate. Something in the wall of the narrow corridor opened up, and a massive but dull guillotine swung down, laying Shadowfern out in a bloodied heap.
It was thanks to Cayldiais Moonfang’s quick action that the trap was disabled, and Shadowfern recovered.
Though slowed by their fatigue and injuries, the Silversworn finally pressed down into the deepest bowels of the Shadow Hold’s inner temple. There, they walked into a massive chamber where they found three cult waygates. The high-ceiling above was lit by everburning braziers. To one side of the room stood a dilapidated gazebo, flanked by enchanted braziers. Emdreath waited in the confines of the gazebo while her personal guard stood by. As the Silversworn approached, Emdreath greeted them with a sad, knowing smile.
Emdreath’s guard, The Hand, and formerly Thomas of the Light of the Moon, struck immediately. A brutal melee ensued, leaving many wounded until Warden of the Hunt faced off against The Hand one on one, and eventually took his life.
Zethras Greywinter used the time to advance on Emdreath, but discovered that she was protected within the gazebo area by a shield of invulnerability. At length, after Thomas The Hand was defeated, the Silversworn surrounded Emdreath’s gazebo and confronted her. To their surprise, Emdreath urged the party to rest, to refresh themselves – before the end. Magical elixirs from Emdreath’s decanter was provided, and proved to be an ordinary elixir of healing. Many of the Silversworn seized the opportunity to rejuvenate themselves, while others peppered Emdreath with questions.
What is this place?
”It is a place of great power, and from it, great power will rise.”
Why did you let your guard die? What do you mean by a challenge?
“The Dark Strand faith of Ralazar allows no weakness. Only the strongest can lead the Council. I was made Voice of Ralazar the Soulkeeper by the blood of Jaedralyn, just he slew the master before him. You are here by Ralazar’s will to challenge me. Should you succeed, you are destined to take my place; to build on what I have built until you are challenged in turn.”
What happened to you to change your faith?
“My faith has not changed. It has simply been refocused. The fall of the gods of Light mark the end of this world. Elune is dead. The good, the moral, Her light - these things are no more.”
Why have you taken control of the cult?
“The kaldorei’s lot in this new world is struggle and death, but not all are suited to such hardship. Those who are strong will inherit the mantle of supremacy. Those who cannot embrace the darkness will suffer. My way ends the torment for them. My way is mercy.”
Emdreath went on to explain that only two could challenge her at any time, within the confines of the gazebo, and that only those who willingly accept the challenge of Ralazar may enter. Ever determined to see his mission through to the end, Watcher Zethras Greywinter volunteered himself alongside Silversworn Ivahra Autumnsong.
The pair entered the shield of invulnerability and the duel begun. Emdreath was driven by her twisted faith and the strength granted by Ralazar. She showed no mercy, staying in motion to prevent flanking and focusing her attacks on injuries.
Desperate to aid their allies in their duel, the Silversworn outside the shield searched the gazebo area for clues to break the shield down. Together, Mythanil Briarblade, Tana Rosedancer, Celassa Kal’nor, Tralaia Heartreaver and Thinius Shadowfern managed to decipher ancient runes inscribed into the gazebo and determined that the enchanted braziers that flanked the gazebo must be snuffed out.
Zethras Greywinter was felled by Emdreath’s blade, and Ivahra was in pains by the time the rest of the party managed to snuff out the enchanted braziers. Emdreath managed to land a final, felling blow on Ivahra just as the shield broke; and the rest of the party swiftly descended upon her, bringing her to her knees in seconds.
The everburning braziers around the chamber suddenly flickered dim. Then the gazebo erupted in flames, scouring the stone wall and ceiling above as a misshapen figure appeared. The hulking humanoid rose to full height, unfurling leathery bat-like wings that flared out from its back. The demon’s skin was pale as a corpse, and its claws and horns were displayed in wicked curves. It rolled its head, as if stretching after a long nap, ropes of twisted muscle rippled beneath its dusky wings. Its darkly handsome voice echoed from the stones of the chamber:
“You have slain my champion and have shown your worth. Who among you accepts the mantle of Voice of Ralazar the Soulkeeper?”
In the end, the Silversworn refused Ralazar’s boon and with a dark laugh the demon vowed he’d return to turn one of them – eventually. Then he vanished, returning to the darkness from whence he came. Following the unsettling battle and Ralazar’s display of power, the Silversworn sweeped the area. From the body of Emdreath, Mythanil Briarblade discovered a map of cult operations being carried out in southern Kalimdor, as well as a legendary Scaleshard Blade.
In the aftermath of their trial, the Silversworn readied their lavender gate and activated it, delivering the bodies of Thomas and Emdreath Evereye to Val’sharah, where they would be transported back to Darkshore and the Light of the Moon order.
In the nights following, word from Matron Ilarii Farlight reached the Silver Circle. Farlight issued her unending gratitude to the Silversworn, and notified them that the Sentinels of Ashenvale and Darkshore had returned from the east to fend off the few Dark Strand outposts that dotted the lands. Farlight explained that things were far from over, but assured the Circle that she and her order would do all they could to safeguard their homelands and ensure their people had the opportunity to resettle.