Dear Father Portas,
The war is over.
It was a confusing mess with too many lives lost, as wars often are. In the end, there were no victors, only losers. I feel it is important to give you a full account of my side of the story so that this war is not forgotten, its heroes are remembered and its mistakes never repeated.
I will start with our travels to Flagos as this is when we first learned that there is no single just side to this conflict. This was a few days before my wedding to Ruby. Everything had been set in motion to prepare for the festivities and we could not sit still as an army approached our homelands. We had learned that there had been a rebellion in Flagos. Its Magelord had been removed and been replaced with an organisation known as the Court of the Beasts. Several of the rebels had now joined up with the army of the Obligation, intent on purging Arcarost valley.
We used the upcoming wedding as an excuse to visit Flagos and its new rulers. We had access to teleportation magic and knew of the Flagos magical circle, so it was a quick stop for us. We dismissed any notation of attack or trickery prior to actually talking with the Court of the Beasts. Perhaps they could still be persuaded to withdraw their support, or at the very least we could acquire information on the troops they had committed.
When we arrived, we were immediately greeted by a non-descript human called Frederik. We told him that we were representatives from Mason’s Hall, as we had secured permission from the Mountain Dwarf king before departing. Frederik agreed to escort us to their rules, the Court of the Beasts. As the teleportation circle was in the palace, the throne room was just a short walk away. The palace itself seemed remarkably empty of possessions or many guards. We were taken to the throne room, where instead of a single throne, we found 7 seated masked individuals. Each wore a mask of a different animal. They each claimed to represent a prominent deity, but it was a secret which ones. Thus the beast masks hid not only their identity but also their servitude. This was the new government of Flagos. The one in the badger mask spoke to us and we introduced ourselves. We told them we had come with an offer to send a representative to the wedding. We were almost immediately corrected that Flagos was no longer to be referred to as a Jewel of Matt Mattonwy. The new Court of the Beasts seemed to despise the mages and no longer wished their city be associated with them. However they agreed to send a representative.
We next moved on to the real reason why we had come, and asked about their rebellion and association with the Obligation. The Court claimed to have been contacted by representatives of Pax after the promised gold shipment did not arrive in Flagos. They got support from the Obligation of Goodwill during their rebellion, and in return they allowed the Obligation army passage through Flagos territory. The Court considered this deal done, as the army had now moved on, and had no further association with the Obligation or Pax. Some volunteers joined the Obligation army, but they had no formal association with the Court of Beasts. With this information, we now knew that the Court itself wasn't our enemies, but simply desperate people who after long being oppressed rose up against tyranny. We bid them farewell, but as we traveled once more through the palace, we noticed executions taking place. Three mages were dragged out in chains and executed on the palace square.
Oppressors or not, everyone deserves a second chance. So we headed back to talk once more to the Court. We argued that their prisoners should be released, but the Court claimed it was out of their hands. They had set up a tribunal and this tribunal had sentenced the mages to death. Now it was the wolf who spoke up. We would be given permission to talk to the tribunal but had to promise not to attack the judges. We agreed to the condition. With that the wolf explained that they were lacking in resources and had made a contract with devils to oversee their judiciary. The tribunal therefore consisted of three devils who made pacts with the prisoners. The devils stuck to the law, almost literally, despite their evil tendencies, and thus made suitable judges.
We were escorted through the town to meet with the Tribunal. As we traveled through, we saw many temples being restored to new gods. The people themselves seemed happy and simply going about their lives. Despite the rebellion, the city had quickly recovered. We were led to an underground chamber and came face-to-face with the three fiends, an erinyes, a horned devil and an ice devil. We spoke on behalf of the prisoners. At first the devils said that their fates had already been sealed. However we (mostly Fierna) managed to convince them to change the sentence to a permanent banishment to Arcarost. The devils agreed as long as the banished would forfeit their souls should they step out of Arcarost. And so, the prisoners were released and we left Flagos.
We next traveled to Aurion to extend our invitation to its Magelord. The Magelord was not entirely pleased about the wedding as he feared a Dwarven empire that surrounded the Jewels, despite my assurances that he had nothing to fear from us. The former Magelord of Flagos, who had been staying in Aurion was not happy at all about the fact that we had not squashed the rebellion in Flagos. But we were not about to start another war for the pride of a single mage especially now that we knew that the Court of Beasts weren't allies of Pax.
We returned to Mason’s Hall for the wedding. The city had been redecorated in our absence. Everywhere stood great banners with our names. Flower paths had been placed for the procession. There was already a small party ongoing and a celebratory mood could be felt across the city. Iw as soon whisked away to get fitted with proper attire. I was soon intercepted by the ceremony master who gave me a bunch of texts to memorise.
The next day was the wedding proper. I was given a long white cape and told to walk ahead of the procession that contained my to-be-wife Princess Ruby. I was specifically instructed not to look back as it would break with Mountain Dwarf traditions. But I used a sending stone I had to send Ruby a message assuring her that everything would be ok and that we should try to enjoy this day. Even though I myself was stressed beyond belief. I had lived on edge for almost a month then and now saw enemies around every corner. There hadn’t been a day that went by or some kind of creature or undead (or both) was trying to kill me, my family or my friends. I don’t think I relaxed until we got to the Cathedral and I could finally see Ruby. She took my breath away and it dawned on me what was happening. In the midst of all of the chaos and the war, here I was, a dumb Hill Dwarf, marrying this amazing, kind, intelligent princess. The remainder of the ceremony just went by in a daze of exchanging objects, cloaks and words, as I just stared at Ruby.
By the end of the ceremony and the start of the evening festivities, the sorrows of the world seemed forgotten. Everything was luckily far less formal, and my friends and I celebrated until late in the evening with beer and song. While I was tasked with greeting and thanking attendees, it all seemed to pass in a pleasant atmosphere. At one point half way through the night, me and Ruby were led back to our quarters. As Ruby went to the adjacent room, the door to our quarters opened and Pax entered.
The dream-like state of the day quickly vanished as I stood face-to-face with the Demi-God who had sworn to make us suffer. I immediately sent a small message to Nissa imploring for help as Pax monologued at me. Pax called me a fool for marrying Ruby as this was just adding one more person that I would have to watch suffer and die. We had stolen and destroyed his means for killing Nuada, after his failures and banishment from the Celestial realm. He remained unrelenting in his anger and had focused his vengeance on us and our loved ones. But I would have died to save Ruby any harm. I reached out with my power and tangled up the room in thick vines, hoping to slow Pax down. But luckily Pax was only there to taunt me. Just to show us that he could. By the time my friends arrived, Pax had left once more.
A restless sleep followed. Pax had set us on edge, and we were expecting a strike at any moment any where. Tired from last evening’s festivities and attack, we dragged ourself to the breakfast table. We were startled by a sudden alarm and grasped our weapons. But saw no danger until we looked up. A wave of chromatic dragons passed over Mason’s Hall, heading East towards Arcarost. We knew this could happen, the followers of Sevalaxos were making their move. On the eve of the Obligation army’s attack, we were forced to first deal with dragon fanatics. If Sevalaxos would be released, he would have destroyed the Arcarost Valley, and who knows what else, in his mindless rage.
So we teleported straight to Arcarost tower, leaving my new wife Ruby in the care of Elanna, Welby and the others. But our teleport wasn’t fully successful as a ward shunted us out unto the plateau. We tried to contact the Arcarost Magelord but he only responded in panic in between dragon attacks. Arcarost itself was covered in a strange mist. We made our way through and found ourselves in the midst of a giant war between Chromatic dragons and Githyanki against the Dragon Riders. We saw 12 light points light in the sky that probably supported the ward. We immediately headed towards a central beam of light that we hoped would be the power source. The roads and buildings were devastated once more. Much of the restoration that had taken place over the past few years had been completely undone. As we rushed along, we were intercepted by two Black dragons, but managed to take them out.
We finally found the strange device projecting the beam of light. But it was well guarded by Githyanki. Cedric hatched a plan, he would sneak around back while we caused a distraction. Sevento kicked off the surprise with a massive spell and immediately got the guards attention. I was also placed under the effect of a new arcane spell, granting me the ability to see a few seconds into the future. While normally not such a big deal, in combat it made a huge difference. Although I am somewhat inflexible, I found myself dodging many attacks with ease simply by stepping out of the way. I could hit hard as I swung my sword simply to where my opponent was going to be. A massive fight continued between us and the Githyanki with their wyverns. Finally Cedric got close to the power source. Alas he only managed to tip it over with little effect. This was clearly an artefact of massive power, not easily dispelled. Finally we brought them down to two wyverns, who we let escape as they had fought well. We then solved the instructions on the artefact, which was tied to star constellations, and disabled the ward. With that, the battle of Arcarost started turning.
We teleported to the tower to try to find the leaders of the invasion. Luckily for us, they were right above us. The Queen Githyanki and Sevalaxos’ mate stood on top of the Magelord Tower, overseeing the battlefield. We climbed the tower once more, and fought off any Githyanki guards that had been placed there. We emerged unto a balcony, just a stone’s throw away from the Queen and the ancient Red Dragon. We used our magic to fly or skip over and engaged them in battle. Sevento immediately placed the dragon in a magical maze, allowing us the time to take out the Queen first. Which was a good idea, as half of us were thrown from the tower by magic. We took down the Queen swiftly and focused on saving our friends. But then the Dragon returned, and it was angry. Sevento used his wish to place it back into a maze, but it got out quicker this time. She pursued down those that she saw was weakest, until Cedric taunted it to draw her attention. It was looking bad as many of us had been knocked out in the battle. But with one spell from Fierna, we were brought back into the fray. I stood up against the Dragon and she was close to defeat when she grabbed me and lept off the tower. She intended us to die together as a last act of vengeance for killing her son. But I managed to get to safety just in time and she crashed into the ground.
The dragon and queen defeated, the Githyanki leadership was in shambles. But then we heard a large crash as a part of the Skypillar collapsed. We headed over and found the Sandworm Queen digging deep into the mountain. We tried our best to take it out quickly, but not before it had eaten me, Thorin and Cedric. Even after our allies managed to kill the worm, its stomach acid kept dissolving us. So we were forced to bite through the pain and cut our way out. We managed to escape but not before Cedric had succumbed to his wounds. My brother managed to place his soul back into his body before it had fully left, revivifying Cedric once more.
The battle for Arcarost was over. The Dragon Riders picked off any last combatants and claimed victory. Sevalaxos would not be released that day. So some of us returned to Mason’s Hall to regroup with the Mountain Dwarfs. But it wasn’t long before, we got a message from Woodsong that a representative from the Obligation of Goodwill had arrived. We used our teleportation magic to return to the Arcarost Valley, and found the representative camped outside of Woodsong.
He introduced himself as Grandmaster Waymar, Lord Commander of Dianecht. He had come to demand our surrender or to sort out our differences without a clash between the armies. He was far more reasonable than we expected, and he seemed a loyal servant of Dianecht. His terms of surrender were almost tempting. His army would simply pass through the valley to cleanse all of The Morrigan’s taint. As we were only reluctant allies of the forces of The Morrigan in face of our common enemy in Pax, I was almost tempted to agree to the surrender. But we couldn’t risk simply turning over the Valley to Pax. The Grandmaster seemed to genuinely not understand to true reason behind Pax’ invasion and it was surprising that Pax had placed him in command of the army. So we could not agree to our surrender, however we did agree to a proposed duel. The fight would decide the fate of the Valley without further bloodshed. This was something that I could agree to as it would not risk any other lives, except my own and even then it was not to the death.
We traveled to a small island, the location of our duel. The Grandmaster seemed a formidable opponent and he obviously had the blessing of Dianecht behind him. While I managed to get the first hit in, he unleashed all his holy power on me in a barrage of blows. It was more than enough to bring me to my knees far faster than I thought possible. As the injuries piled up, I held part of my own divine power in reserve. It might have been enough to end the battle in my favor. But I was stunned by the suddenness of the Grandmaster’s strikes and it was left unused. The doubts also festered in my mind; if were we truly on the right side. The Morrigan was obviously also evil. It still wasn’t clear who was really to blame for this whole situation. The Morrigan simply wished to provoke conflict and caused Pax’ downfall. But Pax had fallen so easily into her trap and had done truly unforgivable things. We were simply caught in between these great powers as little play things. We have also not done everything right. And here I was fighting a chosen of the God of Peace, claiming to also want to save people. Was my cause truly more righteous than that of the Obligation? Once we had been allies. I truly believed, thanks to Waymar and you, father Portas, that the Obligation was made of good people. But we were all caught in the web spun by The Morrigan and Pax. So with a peace of mind that I hadn’t felt in months, I dropped unconscious. At the end, it was Waymar who brought me back. He is by far the most honourable opponent I have had, and I had no doubts accepting my surrender to him.
We began immediately calling for the removal of all traces of The Morrigan from Arcarost Valley. The Obligation army was also given permission to cleanse the valley, as long as they did not harm its inhabitants. Nissa escorted Grandmaster Waymar back to his army so that he could tell them the good news. But we were somewhat distracted by a red glow to the west and a smaller one to the east. I suddenly got a message from Thora. Trollsbane Keep was under attack.
We immediately teleported to the Keep and found it under assault by a Troll army. They had brought a large magical siege weapon that was annihilating the fortifications. We hatched a quick plan and launched ourselves with the Keep’s catapults towards the enemy, relying on magic to land us safely. We fought the Trolls away from the giant cannon as Cedric sabotaged its wheels. I was glad to have forced him along on our trip through the sky, as the cannon soon fell to the ground and exploded. Once the ringing in my ears stopped, I heard a screech from above. We looked up just as Akira, our dragon ally, crashed into the ground. The shadow dragon, the undead spawn of Sevalaxos, intended to finish the job. So we rushed in and managed to save Akira, and finally put down the Shadow Dragon for good.
The main threats against Trollsbane Keep had been disabled so we could leave it to the Hill Dwarf soldiers to clear up the remainder of the Trolls. Nissa had returned to us following her escort mission, and told us that there were fiends under orders of Pax burning down the forest in Arcarost Valley. We resolved to head to the closest red glow near Khan Hall. Unfortunately we had a teleportation mishap and ended up in Darovius. We were forced to return to Woodsong through divine means, from Arcarost we got the Magelord to teleport us to Khan Hall. Exhausted after that day’s battles, we came upon my family home ablaze.
We soon set about dowsing the flames. Nissa used magic to summon great waves of water seemingly out of nowhere. Fierna stood at the centre of the injured and waves of magic resolved wounds among many Dwarfs. The fire somewhat suppressed, a voice called out from deep below Khan Hall. It was Pax and he stood in the forge of Dianecht. He told us to come forward for our final confrontation. We walked through the burned buildings and all of the dead. We climbed into the underground tunnel system, with anger in our hearts. Near the temple of Dianecht stood an Abishai and two angels. The Abishai told us that this was a our last chance for a quick death, if we surrendered Pax would grant us this mercy. We refused and told the fiend that it better not be there when we had dealt with Pax. We entered the temple and were confronted with Pax in his now true form. Gone was the celestial aura, and it had been replaced with dark red skin, horns and tattered bat wings. His transformation to a fiend had been completed.
I gave Pax one last chance to give up and return to the light. But in response he stabbed my father, who he had imprisoned. I quickly rushed in and used my magic to heal my parents to prevent their deaths. Nissa meanwhile turned into a mammoth and crashed into Pax. My brother and I fought side by side as we blocked attack after attack from Pax. Meanwhile Cedric got ready. We had secured the only thing that could kill a powerful creature such as Pax, a god-slaying arrow. And while we distracted Pax, Cedric shot it right at his heart. We watched as the arrow sped through the air, with all our thoughts and prayers hoping it would soon be all over. But a bright light blinded us and the arrow stopped in the air. Dianecht herself had come and saved her son.
The god pleaded with Pax to stop this foolishness and come back to her. But Pax would not hear his mother and attacked her with his spear. Dianecht disappeared with great sorrow. Luckily Pax didn't understand the importance of the arrow, despite his mother's warnings. The precious godslaying arrow simply dropped to the ground. As we held him back, Fierna and Cedric retrieved the arrow once more. In position, Cedric fired the arrow once more. And he missed. Pax laughed at our plan failing and that this would be the end to us.
In a swift movement, Cedric grabbed the real godslaying arrow from his quiver and struck true. He hadn't wanted to use the real one on his first attempt this time, in case of another intervention. Pax was shocked as the arrow pierced him and darkness overtook him. The process was quick and seemed painless. He vanished in a pile of dark ash, forever gone.
We carried my parents out of the temple. The Abishai was long gone and the angels disappeared soon after. We walked out of the ruined Khan Hall. this is when we sent you the message that Pax had died. The war was finally over, and peace could once more come to the Arcarost Valley.
But then Skyreach exploded and Sevalaxos was released. The angels had been given orders by Pax to enact a final revenge in the unlikely event that he should fall. The angels had brutally slaughtered all those guarding the prison of Sevalaxos, allowing the dragon to escape. We teleported over there with the last of our magic, readying ourselves for a desperate fight for survival. But it turned out to be unnecessary. the Dragon Riders had already secured the great dragon in the collar given by Pax. But we soon noticed that something was off. Fierna still sensed a mind in Sevalaxos, something that should be impossible.
However we still needed to stop the fires that were raging in the Arcarost woods. Sevalaxos seemed momentarily subdued. So we rested and recovered our magic to go and fight fires and fiends the next day. However during the night, the mind that now inhabited Sevaxalos executed its plan and took control of the golem network in Arcarost. We were too late and could only watch as the former magelord of Arcarost, thought imprisoned in a lost tome, drove out of his enemies from Arcarost. We confronted the now Dragon Lord, but were wary of a direct confrontation against a powerful dragon with the full capacity of a mage lord and a golem army alone. We simply asked for time to evacuate our people from Arcarost and then let him claim the city.
We escorted everyone back to Woodsong and then still had to deal with the fires that threatened the valley. We teleported over Nissa's Druid Grove and found Leafert, the awakened tree, engulfed in a cocoon of silver light. The tree was clearly ongoing a transformation due to the influence of Irminsul, but we did not know what. The Grove was luckily protected against the forest fire, but we still had to be quick to save the other settlements. We summoned flying mounts and searched for the epicenter. There we found a Pit Fiend flanked by two mages from Flagos. We tried to tell them to simply leave as Pax was now dead, however they wanted something in return. So we descended upon them with great fury and vengeance. It didn't take long for the mages and the fiend to flee.
We spent the next few hours getting the fire under control, which was now much easier now that the source had been removed. We then traveled to the army camp of the Obligation of Goodwill to check on them and Grandmaster Waymar. We found a camp that had been mostly abandoned. The remaining soldiers said that most had started the trek back to the Three Priests. They seemed to think that the war was over and that we had won with the defeat of Pax. But they had heard nothing from Waymar or his victory over myself in the duel. The entire operation seemed to simply have descended into chaos with the loss of all of their leaders. We both seemed to regard the war as lost. While the Obligation had gotten their goal of forcing out the Morrigan from the valley, a result from the duel with Waymar, the loss of Pax meant nothing could come from that victory. We searched a bit around for Waymar, but found no traces of the Grandmaster. To this day, it remains a mystery what happened to him.
We returned to Mason's Hall and checked in with our allies. We confirmed that the war was over, even the Trolls near Trollsbane Keep had been driven back. We spent an evening resting, contemplating our next actions. I organized a group of Mountain Dwarf craftsmen to aid with the rebuilding of Arcarost Valley. When we traveled back to Khan Hall, we found it in a poor state. Most of the buildings had been destroyed or needed to be taken down as the damage was too severe. The brewery that had once produced the finest ale for generations was completely burned to the ground. Luckily the yeast cultures could still be recovered from remnants of Khan's Stoutrock so all was not lost. But it would take a long time to rebuild Khan Hall. And in the mean time, the Hill Dwarfs were sleeping in tents outside. We sought out to plan a Dwarvenmoot to organize a suitable refuge for the Khan clan.
We still need to get rid of the last of Pax' plagues, namely the staff of Dorchadas. It contained great evil and remained bound to a Troll imprisoned in Arcarost. With the Dragon Lord Arcarost now in power there, it seemed prudent to destroy the staff as quickly as possible. We traveled to Lucem through a temple to Dianecht. We were immediately confronted by Obligation priests, but told them that we held no ill will to your organisation. We had simply come to seek the aid of a priest of Belenus. We did ask about the collar and Pax' allies. Apparently the emissaries and the undead Herald had vanished into hellfire when Pax had died, which you might have already learned about. Whatever fiendish pact Pax had made, had obviously been dissolved when he died. We learned of little new with regards to Pax' final revenge. The collar did indeed hold the runes that were was inscribed on the old spellbook of Arcarost. But now that it was spent, the soul was bound permanently to its new body.
A priest of Belenus was summoned in the mean time. At first the priest did not believe that we actually had the staff of Dorchadas. However he was quickly convinced when we presented the mangled dark branch. We returned to the temple of Belenus, where the high priest contacted his god directly. Soon an eclipse took the day light and Belenus himself appeared in the temple. Unfortunately Belenus was unable to destroy the sword, but could only sever the bond so that it could be placed again in the Vault of Creation. But this required the body of the bounded creatures, the Troll. this troll was still imprisoned in Arcarost. Belenus tasked his high priest to secure the body and returned once more to lighting the world. We left Thorin behind to help guard the staff as we returned to Woodsong.
Woodsong was overrun with clansmen. The fires bad been devastating to their homes and they now sought refuge in the small town. There were plans to build a new settlement closer to the Grove, but that brought about tensions between the two tribes. Nissa set out to try to negotiate as we dealt with another development. Arcarost had sent an ambassador to Woodsong to negotiate the new status quo. We waited outside for the talks to be done. A giant golem appeared a few hours later, apparently the ambassador from Arcarost. The Dragon Lord had made some upgrades to the Arcarost golems. The golem only told us that we were invited to come and talk to the Dragon Lord, and then left. We checked in with the mayor of Woodsong. Apparently the talks had gone well. Woodsong would once more become a part of Arcarost, a stop for travellers going to the city of mages. The Tower Guard was to be reestablished and they had been asked to recruit Dwarfs to repair the roads. This was all far more reasonable then we had expected.
We traveled next to Arcarost to talk to the Dragon Lord. We found his huge form outside on a square in front of the Mage Lord Tower. He cut straight to the point. Arcarost had no interest in dominion over the Dwarfs or the clansmen. He only wished to restore what was once his, Arcarost, Woodsong and Chimera Valley. Only Matt Mathomwy-worshiping spellcasters were allowed to enter Arcarost however. We had also grown tired of war these past few days, and resolved to follow the example of Waymar and not The Morrigan. So we agreed to the terms as long as passage could be guaranteed for traders and lands held by the clansmen would remain so. We also pled on behalf of the priest of Belenus to hand over the corpse of the Troll. The Dragon Lord was very clear that we were not allowed to enter Arcarost anymore as we were too great of a threat. Anyone of our party entering the city would be seen as an act of war.
We said our farewells to Arcarost and then went to pick up Cedric, who had somehow managed to get into the city without anyone noticing. What he was planning there, is anyone's best guess. This could have been another half-thought-out act of heroism, theft, or both. We were however more surprised by the arrival of several hundreds of kobolds, who seemed to worship Nissa. These kobolds had lived for a long time in the ruins of Arcarost and had now been driven out. Nissa took charge and arranged a suitable location for them to live in Arcarost Valley.
Another eclipse darkened the sky, indicating that Belenus had left once more to destroy the staff. So Arcarost had given over the Troll prisoner and the staff of Dorchadas was now safe once more. We returned to our respective homes, hoping that there would now come a period of peace. No major threats remain to our family and our peoples. Though it might not have been the best outcome, it is more than we could have hoped for.