|Blood of Wintersbreath|
|The Power of a Word|
Rumors of a tomb belonging to a fallen hero from the Shining Crusade—a wizard named Kassen who succumbed to seductive powers of necromancy—led Iandra, Sloan, Durgan, and Mechiam to the foothills of northwestern Nirmathas in search of the fabled necromancer's tome. With only legends to go on, the group searched for days across the foothills until finally coming upon an ancient mass grave dating back to the final days of the Shining Crusade. Not far from this pit of bones and broken siege engines, Sloan and her companions found a frozen waterfall obscuring an ancient crypt that looked to be recently broken into.
Rather than risking Ashera scouting a potentially dangerous tomb of restless dead, Sloan had her team set up camp for the night in the foothills while she plunged into the Dimension of Dreams, seeking information about the Tomb of Kassen from those who may already be there. In dreams, Sloan was confronted with a nightmarish version of Kassen's Tomb drawn from the subconscious experiences of those who had ventured into its once sealed walls. In this nightmarescape, Sloan met another dreamer—one unaware of his dreaming state—named Rodere. Rodere claimed to be from the village of Skelt, one of many villages overrun by the orcs. According to his tale, Rodere and his sister Dimira escaped the orcs and hid in the foothills for weeks, foraging to survive before his sister was captured in the middle of the night by skeletal dead who dragged her into the Tomb of Kassen. Rodere, it became clear to Sloan, was actually trapped in the tomb in the waking world, and the place haunted his dreams.
In her scouting of the Tomb of Kassen, Sloan discovered that Kassen was more of a monster than history recalled; a self-righteous necromancer who was seeking immortality in the image of the Whispering Tyrant himself. Kassen was confronted by his former comrades fresh from the conclusion of the Shining Crusade. In undeath, Kassen had become indestructible, leaving the crusaders no choice but to seal him away in a crypt until such a time as they discovered a vulnerability he may possess.
On waking, Sloan relayed the information she discovered and ventured into the crypt, armed with foreknowledge of some of the perils to be faced if she could decipher their meaning from vague dream impressions. Sloan was able to rescue Rodere, but the skittish young man seemed to be hiding something, and as the group ventured deeper int the heavily trapped tomb they began to question his story, unaware of how his sister Dimira—and Kassen's animated dead—got past all of the still-armed traps. Only on entering the deepest parts of the crypt did they discover the truth, Kassen's immortality was a parasitic one. If slain Kassen would move to a new living host, replacing their soul with his own, forever revived by his accursed tome. Worse, the bindings on Kassen's tomb were weakening, and his consciousness was able to venture beyond the confines of his prison to seduce weak-minded men into attempting his release. The tomb-robbers who had broken in, and all subsequently died to the traps, were just one group of many Kassen was using to incrementally unlock his bindings. Dimira, however, was to become Kassen's new vessel upon his release.
Kassen had tormented Rodere in dreams, originally wanting the boy to become his vessel. But Rodere was cowardly and craven, offering his sister in his place. But Rodere's guilt was too strong, and he returned to the tomb to try and rescue her in vain. When Sloan and her team found Dimira near the gate to the deepest layer of Kassen's prison-tomb, she revealed that painful truth. But all was not bleak, for Sloan solved a puzzle left behind by the crusaders that included their research into how to destroy Kassen's tome. With the help of Iandra, Sloan devised a means by which the book—and Kassen—could be destroyed forever.
With a heavy burden laid on them, Sloan and her party broke the seal on Kassen's final resting place and ventured in to confront the ancient necromancer. There they discovered Kassen's wraith-like form and indestructible undead bound to his eternal form, a self-resurrecting army of foolish men who died trying to release the necromancer. Though the battle was ferocious, Sloan and her allies proved victorious and Kassen was dispersed. Before he could reform and take a host, Sloan performed the sanctified ritual to destroy the book and banished Kassen's soul to Hell for all time.
Though Kassen's tome was destroyed, Iandra was not left without reward. Among the bodies in Kassen's tomb were the crusaders who imprisoned him centuries prior. Among their possessions was a battlemage spellbook, suitable for Iandra to study and regain her ability to aid her daughter on the dangerous road ahead. With Kassen gone, Sloan turned to Rodere and gave him one promise: if he ran and never showed his face again, Sloan would let him live in spite of his crimes. So did Rodere flee the tomb, leaving his traumatized sister in Sloan's care.
Sloan and her group, along with Demiere, departed Kassen's tomb. As they exited the valley where the tomb lay, Sloan's stag pendant began to warm and the ground shook violently. Not a moment later, the earth swallowed up Kassen's tomb and sealed shut like the snapping jaws of some great beast. No one, ever, would suffer that wretched place again. No one could explain this miraculous event, however. In Demiere's eyes it solidified Sloan as a hero of incredible renown and prowess, a perspective she would share with everyone she met after returning to Marideth's Crossing with Sloan.
|Continued In||The Great Work I|