Undead Horrors

A light in the shadow

The birth of Shadowbane

- Let me tell you son, he said with a raspy voice, pointing his pipe at the boy, about the story of the Crucible…
- What Crucible, Pa?
- Why, the Crucible of the Goddess my boy, the golden Crucible of Freya. It was the reason the town where I grew up was so bountiful.
- How come?
- Son, it was a magic crucible, not just an old one you may find in any temple. Our priestess used it to bring blessings to our fields and to our lives. Cows were making the fattest milk, grains were lasting from a year to the next, corn was growing tall as trees, apples were sweet and one sheep could grow wool for an entire family.
- And what’s the story about it, Pa?
- Well, when I was a young boy, about your age, I was there in Fairhill, earning my copper as a farmer’s helper and it was a good life. And it was mostly thanks to the blessings of Freya. But one night, the town was attacked!
- Attacked? By whom? Dragons?
- No… Not Dragons! Don’t joke about Dragons attacking towns, people are still terrified after the attack in the port! It wasn’t Dragons, they were Orcs! Green, slimy, dirty, savage, bloodthirsty orcs! And we’ve had attacks before. After the Savage Invasion, orcs were still in the forests. Even now, there are places south of the mountains that still have problems with savages. But this attack was different. They lit the roofs of the buildings with flaming arrows, they’ve murdered the guards, they didn’t come just for food or trinkets, they were after the Crucible.
- Were you there, Pa?
- Oh yes! I was right there in the middle of the action. It was the first night we didn’t spend out at the farm, for fear of something bad happening. We’ve heard that some farmers just down the road were killed by brigands, and the farm was too far from the town. So my master decided we should stay at the Drunken Cockatrice for a couple of weeks, until the days are longer.
- What happened?
- In the middle of the night the guard bells started ringing. I got out of bed as quickly as possible, and rushed down the stairs and out the door. It was horrifying. People swarmed the streets trying to put out the fires from the rooftops, orcs were fighting with the town guards, townsfolk were being chased everywhere. And right there, my son, right then and there I saw them first. Later they started calling themselves Shadowbane, but right then and there, they were just a group of wanderers, trying to make sense of life. It was the craziest gathering of common-folk I’ve ever seen. One of them was a demon of some kind, had a tail and horns and everything.
- Where they with the orcs, Pa?
- No, no, no, no, no… They were not allies of the orcs. Not at all. They all had something about them, they had a certain savagery within them, but they were not allies of the orcs in any way. No my boy, he said lighting his pipe and pondering his words with squinted eyes, as if looking in the past…
- Pa?
- There were six of them, the coarse voice pronounced with severity. The only human among them was a strange earth mage. He had a savage power in his eyes, as if nothing can destroy him. The demon wielded power like his kind. We were glad he was wielding it at the orcs and not at us. The gnome was savage in his desire to control. He would play with the battlefield, the way you play with your toys. The half-breed was the leader of the team, silver tongued and imposing. Then there were the two dwarves…
- There were two dwarves? Were they brothers?
- Oh no… I don’t know for sure, but if those two were brothers then at least one of them was adopted… One of them was a priest of some dwarven deity obsessed with hammers. He was the most driven of the group. The other though, was the closest a dwarf can get to an orc. He was a savage killing beast. He was cutting through orcs the way I’m cutting grass with my trusty scythe. Not even the one-eyed orc shaman could stop his dwarven fury.
- What about the gnome, dad? Was his name Bumble?
- No son, I’m not sure what he was called, but he was one helluva mage… Anyway, this night was not over yet, since the orcs were just using this as a diversion. Another group of orcs moved inside the Temple of Freya and stole the Crucible! But they were not far! With lightning speed our newest protectors ran after the orcs, followed them into the dark forest and slayed them all. Then, at the dawn of light, while townsfolk were still praying to Freya, the two dwarves, the half-breed, the earth mage, the gnome and the demon returned! They were wounded, dirty, tired and pushed to their limit. But above all, they were victorious! The crucible was returned and our community was saved…
- Dad?
- Yes?
- What’s a diversion?
- You’ll learn in time son, you’ll learn in time…
- Dad?
- Yes?
- What happened next?
- There are many stories about the Shadowbane son, but that’s the first time and the last time I’ve seen them. They’ve been to town that year, but eventually after a couple of days I left to try and make it on my own. Fairhill turned out to be too dangerous for me. Who knows what they’ve been up to ever since? One day, maybe we’ll cross paths again…

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