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  1. It had been hours since Samarkand lost sight of the Black Spire forces tracking him. Night was descending on the swamp and Samarkand was desperately lost. The wound in his leg throbbed, blood still dripping from the badages. He had to stop. Those clumsy fools have about as much luck finding me as I do of getting out of this swamp alive, Samarkand thought to himself. Besides, there are worse things roaming about when night falls in Nocturnus. Samarkand stopped his horse in a small clearing a good ways off the path. He needed rest. He tried not to think about Hexana, her lifeless body no doubt desecrated by the Black Hand soldiers. Hexana had been one of Nocturnus' best spies. Her death would be a serious blow to the Resistance. More poignantly, she and Samarkand were lovers. Their love grew even when they found themselves on opposite sides of the Civil War - that is, before Samarkand followed Anfaulglir into rebellion. None of that mattered now. Suppressing his hatred and torment, Samarkand knew what he had to do: get the map to Shadowmere and the leaders of the Nocturnian Resistance. He did not know what the map pointed to, but he knew Anfauglir would. Whatever it was, it must be very important to Raavage - it seemed as if half the Black Spires's army was looking for him. Samarkand took a step and the pain from the arrow wound in his leg shot through him like a thunderbolt. I've got to get out of this swamp, he thought. But how? It was then that a faint glow caught Samarkand's eye. As his eyes adjusted to the falling light, Samarkand could see the shape of a small house in the darkness. The light must be from a fireplace, he thought. There are a few who call this swamp home. Surely they can point me towards the road to Shadowmere. Samarkand noticed a small path nearby that seemed to lead towards the house. He followed it until it reached the edge of a vast bog. The house appeared to be on a patch of land in the middle of the water. He found a small boat just off the path. This must be how they travel back and forth, he thought. Though Samarkand questioned its stability, the little boat stayed afloat as it ferried him across the bog. He slid the boat onto the bank and walked up the stone stairs leading to the door. Samarkand knocked on the door. A moment later the door opened, just enough for Samarkand to see a small woman peering at him. She was an Orc and looked very old. "A visitor? I hope you're not here for trouble. I'll have you know a powerful sorceress lives here and she does not take kindly to troublemakers!" Samarkand put his hands out to gesture his peaceful intentions. "I am just a weary traveller, wounded by a bandit and lost in these woods. I hoped you could point me towards the road to Shadowmere." The little old woman looked him up and down. She muttered something and opened the door to let Samarkand in. "Come in, come in. These lands are treacherous, it is wise of you to stop here." Samarkand entered the home. It was small and smelled dank but a fire in the chimney looked as inviting as any he had seen in Nocturnus. "I thank you greatly. The powerful sorceress who resides here, will she mind my presence?" The little old woman laughed. "Oh, I made that bit up to scare off troublemakers. It's all this old woman can do to defend herself." She pulled a chair up to the fireplace. "These are dangerous times and you cannot trust everyone you meet. But I can see in your face that you do not seek trouble. Come sit down and enjoy the fire. It is too dangerous to travel now, I will show you the way in the morning." Samarkand wanted to waste no time but he knew the old woman was right. He needed rest and to treat the wound left by the Black Spire arrow. The old woman disappeared into another room and left Samarkand by the fire. He took out the map and studied it. The strange markings were unrecognizable to him. What could this point to, he thought. Hexana, you died for something I cannot even understand... After a time the little old woman reappeared and shuffled to the kitchen, returning with a loaf of bread. "Here, you should eat something. You will need your strength for the journey ahead!" A strange comment, Samarkand thought. He cocked his head towards the old woman. "The road to Shadowmere, is it perilous?" The old woman's mouth twisted into a grin, showing her stained and cracked teeth. He looked down at the loaf and began to cut off a piece. "All roads from this place are, but yours will be particularly difficult. For you have something that does not belong to you, and it must be returned to its rightful master." Samarkand recoiled - maggots poured out of the loaf he had just cut. Though the fire still burned, a chill hit Samarkand and darkness began to consume the room. He looked up and the old woman had disappeared. A deep voice revealed the presence of another in the room. "You pathetic thief. You thought you could steal from ME! Do you even realize the power you wield with that map? You are a fool like all the others who oppose my will." A dense shadow rose before Samarkand, out of which appeared Lord Raavage himself. Samarkand reached for his sword but a force immediately lifted him and threw him across the room. "A mere mortal against the rightful ruler of Historica? Ha! The stupidity of your kind never ceases!" Raavage loomed over Samarkand, who tried but failed to stand up. "With the map in my hands, Nocturnus is mine for the taking. After that, all of Historica." Samarkand glared at Raavage. Still he could not move. "Raavage, you worm, you will fail. The resistance will banish you back to the hole you crawled out of!" "You must be more ignorant than I thought. Wretched mortal, you have no idea what this map leads to, do you?" Samarkand managed to lean himself against the wall. He knew Raavage would not let him leave the room alive. "Raavage, your cheap conjurer tricks are running low. The resistance grows stronger every day while your alliance crumbles to pieces." Raavage's face snarled with fury. He placed his right boot against Samarkand's chest. Samarkand grimaced as several of his ribs broke from the weight. "I should cut off your head right now for such insolent talk. But first I will tell you what this map leads to, so that the last thought which runs through your head is that of the destruction of your land and people. Even you have heard of the Helm of Elemental Magic. Victor Revolwood, a mere puppet in my service, nearly conquered Historica through use of the Helm. What you may not know is that the Helm was one of two vastly powerful artifacts crafted in ancient times. The Elemental Helm controlled the forces of water, earth, fire and air. The second, much more powerful helm controlled the forces of life and death. It is this artifact, the Necromancer's Helm, to which this map will lead me." Samarkand could not believe it. The Necromancer's Helm was a story told to frighten unruly children. Rumors said its wearer possessed the ability to resurrect and command the dead. Such black magic was not unknown in Nocturnus - Necromancers had the power to raise the dead, but only temporarily and in limited numbers. The Necromancer's Helm, it was said, could raise permanent legions of the undead. "Lies! The Necromancer's Helm is the substance of ancient stories, nothing more. Raavage, your thirst for power has rotted your mind." Raavage laughed. He was tiring of this episode. "The Helm is real and will soon be mine, thanks to you. With its power I will bring Historica to its knees. It's a shame you will not see what I am capable of once I'm in possession of the Helm. But you have already wasted too much of my time." Raavage withdrew a dagger from his belt and plunged it into Samarkand's chest. Raavage closed in, just inches from Samarkand's face. "Die knowing that all you treasure will be consumed by the Black Spire." Samarkand tried to speak but the words would not leave his mouth. Blood oozed from the dagger wound and his eyes began to fade. As darkness enveloped him, Samarkand managed to feel at peace for the first time in ages. His thoughts escaped from Raavage and turned to the one thing he had ever truly loved. The word slipped from his mouth when no others would - "Hexana." ---------------------------------------------------- For those who might need a refresher on Samarkand and how he acquired the map, see here! Extra pics of the hut, with fog!
  2. No one spoke as they entered Lord Vladivus' throne room. Each of the six men raced through thoughts of the tremendous task that lay before them. To the outsider, this meeting would have appeared unexceptional, perhaps no different than one of the usual economic or political conferences held here. But to the trained eye, the identity of the men in this meeting place indicated something more serious was underway. Besides Lord Vladivus, the leaders of most of Free Nocturnus were present: Anzar of the Dragon Masters; Lord Jorrith, the vampiric warlord; Osric the Rat, fresh from his victories fighting for the Desert King in Kaliphlin; Gal-Turok, Lord of the Reach; and the Black Spire defector Anfauglir. Getting these leaders together had been no easy task. These six men stood as the bulwark between Raavage and the complete enslavement of Nocturnus. As host to these disparate commanders, the task of creating a unified resistance fell on Lord Vladivus' shoulders. Vladivus surveyed the group and spoke. "Gentlemen, you have all heard the rumors: the forces of the Black Spire are again marching to war. But these are more than rumors. Reports from the frontier suggest the Black Spire is raiding our lands, enslaving our people and killing any who resist. They seek to crush the last holdouts of resistance to Raavage's domination. Unless the forces of Free Nocturnus unite, I'm afraid we are doomed." Several figures in the room shifted and mumbled. Although they could all agree that Raavage was the biggest threat facing Nocturnus, they shared little else in common. Trust was a hard thing to come by these days, when betrayal and treachery were everywhere. Gal-Turok was the first to speak up. "Aye, on this point I won't disagree. But how do you expect us to stop Raavage when you invite the enemy into our planning?" He turned and glared at Anfauglir. Vladivus held up his right hand. "I will attest to Lord Anfauglir, a guest invited freely into my home, just like yourself, Gal-Turok. He no longer shares fealty to the Black Spire." Anzar stepped forward. "Gal-Turok, let me also attempt to ease your doubt. It was Anfauglir who saved me at Lagash-Ur, and he took great risk in doing so. He seeks to topple the Obsidian Spike, as we all do." Another voice rose up. "Ha! It was only recently that your mouth no longer tasted Raavage's largesse." It was Osric, who had remained silent until now. He wore a golden shied and sword given to him by the Desert King for his victories in Kaliphlin. "Word I've heard suggests members of your family - your brother, Tanzar, in fact - still fight for the Black Spire. What say you to this?" Anzar turned to glare at Osric. "To think I journeyed this far to explain myself to a rat! But to address your allegations, I would say what you hear is wrong. The truth is, our relationship deteriorated after the death of our father. It has been many months since we have spoken, but I know he would never pledge allegiance to that dog Raavage. The Dragon Masters will never forget Raavage's trickery. Nor we will stop fighting until his head is on a pike outside my father's castle." Vladivus shook his head. The resistance was threatening to crumble before it even formed. "The fight is out there, not in here! If we do not stop the Black Spire, the other Guilds will invade Nocturnus and attempt to do so themselves. We cannot let that happen." The room fell silent as Vladivus spoke. "Perhaps there is one thing that will help you make up your minds. It is why I asked you to temporarily leave your lands and meet here in person. Anfauglir has shared with me some grave news that you must all know." Vladivus motioned for Anfauglir to address the others. Anfauglir scanned the room before speaking. "Even before the events of Lagash Ur, I had learned that Raavage was seeking an immensely powerful artifact. After defecting I received information no the location of the map. My lieutenant, Samarkand, left some weeks ago to retrieve it. During his absence Lord Vladivus and I believe we have discovered the nature of this artifact. The revelation is most concerning." Everyone had their eyes locked on Anfauglir. Raavage sought any vile creation he could use to his advantage. What had he found now? "We believe he is looking for the Necromancer's Helm." Gal-Turok threw his head back and laughed. "Now you've really gone mad, believing in bedtime stories!" Anfauglir continued. "I wish it was true, but this is no wild guess. You all know the stories: the Elemental Helm was found and nearly brought all of Historica under Raavage's rule. Now he seeks the Necromancer's Helm, which potentially wields much greater power… the power to raise a legion of undead soldiers." Again Gal-Turok objected. "Although I trust Lord Vladivus' judgement and I accept this alliance, I have trouble believing such fancies. I for one cannot waste time here talking any longer when we must bring battle to Raavage. He can raise his undead army if he wants to, it will be more foes for my men to crush!" Vladivus spoke before Anfauglir could respond. "You are right, Gal-Turok, the time to wait is over. We must retaliate now and everywhere we can. If Raavage thinks he has found the Necromancer's Helm, we must stop him before he gets to it. The most important thing is that we fight together, a resistance united against Raavage." Osric turned to the group. "My sword fights with Lord Vladivus and you, leaders of Free Nocturnus. Together we shall drive Raavage back to the netherworld!" Vladivus looked at Anfauglir. "You must find out what happened to Samarkand and the status of the map." He then turned towards the others. "And you, leaders of Free Nocturnus, you must leave here and continue to build the resistance. The people of Nocturnus must know they do not fight alone."
  3. War is a funny thing. It makes you question just about everything you thought you knew - your purpose, your friends and yourself. The world around you can change in an instant without you ever seeing it coming. Old memories were on Anfauglir's mind as he passed Shadowmere's gates. Two years ago, he was in Lagash Ur enjoying the status and benefits of a Covenant lord. As a high officer in the Covenant army he commanded an elite company for the Covenant leader, Lord Senurhem Nogad. Anfauglir's position had been an easy one. Senurhem, caught up with his many experiments into the dark arts, paid little attention to much else. Back then, the Covenant had few enemies. Conflict was confined mostly to small border disputes with Shadowmere and other Resistance forces - though Senurhem still remained neutral in the ongoing Civil War. Then everything changed. Lured by promises of land and magical artifacts, Senurhem announced his plans to join the Black Spire. He purged anyone who opposed the alliance. Entire companies, thought by Raavage's minions to be unfaithful to the cause, were disbanded or sent to work Raavage's mines. Fearing his men would be next, he defected with as many loyal men as he could. Everything else he left behind. Now, his men fight a desperate battle against the army they once fought for, holding out among the peaks of the Rakarths, hungry, cold and constantly hunted by Raavage. Yet they continue to strike back, even liberating several Covenant villages under Black Spire occupation. Anfauglir's men weighed heavily on his mind as he continued his midnight stroll, which had become a regular occurrence since his arrival in Shadowmere months ago. The thought of his men battling the enemy, hundreds of leagues from Shadowmere and their leader, was agonizing. Anfauglir hoped the Resistance meeting in Shadowmere would be worth his absence. The Resistance needed desparately to form the basis for a renewed and strengthened front against the Black Spire. Otherwise Raavage would crush them, one by one. The snap of a breaking tree limb woke Anfauglir from his thoughts. He hadn't noticed the fog thickening, or the lack of sounds from the usual night creatures. By the time he saw the huge, writhing shape materialize in front of him, it was too late. A large tentacle struck Anfauglir in the chest, throwing him off his feet and into a tree. The creature approached, eyes glaring ferociously, its dozens of tentacles failing wildly at Anfauglir. He stood up just in time to avoid another swing. Several other tentacles shot out but Anfauglir's sword was quicker. They continued coming but always Anfauglir was faster, until the creature screeched in pain and lurched backwards. Seeing his opportunity, Anfauglir leaped at the wounded beast, and, with several deft swings of his sword, it lay dead upon the ground. Anfauglir started at the creature, no doubt some foul and horrific servant of Lord Raavage. Anfauglir removed his hood and ran his fingers through his hair. His back was aching badly. Figuring he was too tired to head back to Shadowmere, he set up camp just off the road. His stomach growled. Anfauglir looked at the fallen creature and thought of the hunter's creed: you eat what you kill. He quickly got a fire started. Staring into the fire, Anfauglir thought of the battles ahead. He pondered what other nasty tricks Raavage had hidden away, what he was prepared to do to win his war. He grabbed his aching back. "I'm definitely getting too old for this." (A bonus, Halloween-themed shot!) The effects were done with a fog machine and Lifelites. No photoshop here! Hope you're not getting tired of my fog-themed builds, I'm really trying to get my money's worth out of that machine. Good thing is, the neighbors finally stopped calling the fire department when I use it!
  4. The following events take place at Shadowmere's north gate: DSC00395 by J H, on Flickr The summer months have made the swamp surrounding Shadowmere florish. Lots of plantlife, and other life that eats alive things... The road to shadowmere's north gate has been a safe route for years, and many travelers and the local populace make use of it. DSC00398 by J H, on Flickr The guard troll is standing outside the gate, watching over the people that come and go... Some lumberjacks are going out to cut some firewood in the swamp, while hunters return... DSC00402 by J H, on Flickr And other hunters hunt for the local fauna in the city's moat... DSC00406 by J H, on Flickr A tradesman is bringing in a supply of fine wine and ales from Avalonia... DSC00403 by J H, on Flickr While one of his customers allready has been hitting the bottle quite hard this morning... DSC00407 by J H, on Flickr The streets are busy and lively, though some travelers are a bit startled by the local quisine... Or is it because of the large teeth of the kazzar walking in front of him? DSC00408 by J H, on Flickr The kids in the street are playing knights, with sticks as swords.... DSC00412 by J H, on Flickr When they become older, they might buy a real sword from the local arms dealer... DSC00422 by J H, on Flickr Suddenly, a person is entering shadowmere in quite a haste... The guard troll does not like, but before he can say anything, the figure has past the gate. It is a messenger, with a letter.. Shortly there after, in the living quarters of shadowmere's main castle.... DSC00424 by J H, on Flickr While his stay at shadowmere is pleasant, Lord Mortis likes to relax in his quarters, reading alot of old lore and maps from the shadowmere library. His study of an old map is suddenly interupted by a knock on the door. Lord Mortis: "Enter" DSC00427 by J H, on Flickr The guard in the hallway enters the room.. Guard: M'lord, there is a messenger here to see you. Lord Mortis: Very well, send him in, will you? Guard: Yes M'lord! DSC00430 by J H, on Flickr The messenger enters the room.. Messenger: Lord Mortis, i bring word from Lady Sonja. She sent me in advance to inform you that she and the army will arrive in shadowmere within two days. Also she has given me this letter to give to you. Lord Mortis: Excellent, i was expecting the army to arrive sooner, but Sonja will probably have a good reason for that. DSC00433 by J H, on Flickr The messenger hands over the letter to Lord Mortis... Lord Mortis: Good man, you must be tired from bringing this message in such a hastely matter... Please ask the guard outside for the shadowmere quartermaster. Tell him you are one of my servants and that you require some quarters to rest. Messenger: Thank you M'lord! DSC00434 by J H, on Flickr While reading Sonja's letter, the look on Lord Mortis his face is turning from grim to even more grim... Encountered Raavage's forces? Been skirmishing? Local populace is forced into service by Raavage's troops? Minimal losses? I must inform Vladivus! Lord Mortis: Guard! Please summon Lord Vladivus! I have some important matters to discuss with him! DSC00436 by J H, on Flickr After a while, Vladivus enters the room. Lord mortis is standing on the balcony watching over shadowmere, pondering about the contents of the letter Sonja has sent him.... DSC00437 by J H, on Flickr Lord Vladivus: Mortis, you have word from lady Sonja? Lord Mortis passes the letter from Sonja to Lord Vladivus... Lord Mortis: Yes, and the reason why her arrival was late, is very dire. She has been fighting her way to shadowmere. Raavage's troops are everywhere rounding up entire villages! The men are given a choice, join his army, or be killed, have their village burned and their women and children enslaved. From what Sonja is reporting, alot of villages have been hit along the route she took to shadowmere, imagine if this is happening all across of nocturnus, then Raavage must be assembeling a huge army! Lord Vladivus: If what she has written in that letter is correct, we might be facing a army the world has never seen... This sure is a problem... Lord Mortis: I agree, and for me the time to just sit idle has past. Maybe rash on my part, but i cannot stand sitting here doing nothing else but reading, though i must say you do have a exquisite library here in shadowmere.. But my army will arrive within two days, and it's time to shed some blood! Please understand my lust for action, i fear if we do not act against these recruitment methods of the enemy, we might be severely outnumbered. Lord Vladivus: Well friend, if you must ride to battle, then so be it. I'll summon the royal blacksmith to take your measurements... If you are going to battle, you will need a suit of armor! Lord Mortis: Why thank you, my dearest Vladivus! DSC00444 by J H, on Flickr After two days, a large mass of men is approaching the north gate. Clad in black and red, just like the shadowmere troops.. Only these troops carry the symbol of the bat... DSC00446 by J H, on Flickr The army was expecting some relief from fighting, only to hear at their arrival that they will be leaving Shadowmere shortly for another campain against the spire... And then, there's the moment to say goodbye... DSC00451 by J H, on Flickr DSC00452 by J H, on Flickr Lord Mortis: Lord Anfauglir, it has been a pleasure meeting you and a pleasure being in your company! I sure do hope we will meet again! Lord Anfauglir: Lord Mortis, i have seen many a vampire, but very few were as pleasant company like yourself. We will meet again, i'm sure of it! DSC00453 by J H, on Flickr Lord Vladivus: The blacksmith has outdone itsself! I might have him ask to make me a suit of armor like that one too! Lord Mortis: Hahaha! And risk that i will lead your troops? Lord Vladivus, thank you so much for everything, i am endepted to you for quite some time! Lord Vladivus: Nothing of that! If you feel that you are endebted to me, than make up for it killing Raavage's troops! Lord Mortis: Lust for blood is what vampire's are good at! DSC00454 by J H, on Flickr Lord Mortis: Would'nt you agree Lady Sithanna? Lady Sithanna: I am so sad to not join you... I know the fire that drives you all to well! But my place is next to Vladivus. Maybe we will meet at the battlefield, and fight alongside eachother. Lord Mortis: And i will be waiting for that day, to have such beauty fighting alongside in battle.... DSC00456 by J H, on Flickr Lord Vladivus: It seems Mortis can be quite the charmer it seems... But before you go, i have one final parting gift. Even though we are always short on mounts, i cannot let you leave on those few tired mounts your army came with. I have ordered the stablemaster to ready our fittest mounts for you, and have them armored with what we can spare. Lady Sonja, it has come to my understanding that you love to ride a white warg... Well it just so happens we had one in the stables, and its yours now. Lady Sonja: ... My lord... That's a kingly gift! Lord Vladivus: Well if you say so.... Sorry Lord Mortis, you get the black steed with gold armor, haha! Lord Mortis: A fine beast too, maybe she wants to trade her warg for this magnifiscent steed after a while! Lord Vladivus: Well, whatever you do, be safe and i hope we will meet again soon. The party says goodbye and the vampire army marches... DSC00457 by J H, on Flickr On top of the tower... DSC00459 by J H, on Flickr OOC: Hey there! I hope you have enjoyed this story and i must appoligise for being out of GoH for a short bit! I've missed out on the kaliphlin civil war totally! But i'm back and i finally opened up a flickr account! (some more pics there too!) I will be building more for the pride of Nocturnus! C&C Welcomed!
  5. Meh'nak looked at the forces arrayed before the old fort. Lord Anfauglir of Nocturnus had promised to assist the Desert King in his campaign, but it was to Meh'nak's surprise when an entire company of soldiers arrived at the secret rendezvous point on Ulandus' northern shore. Furthermore, Anfauglir had also dispatched a squad of elite heavy infantrymen, the Scourge of Nocturnus as the unit was known. Ulandus had not anticipated an amphibious operation and had not detected the growing concentration of Desert King troops. In just a few days the soldiers had managed to transform the dilapidated fort into a secure center of operations - which the soldiers nicknamed Fort Pain. From here the Desert King could launch raids directly into the Ulandian heartland. The Scourge of Nocturnus is a crack unit under Lord Anfauglir's command. Its members are considered some of the most fearsome warriors in all of Nocturnus, and have never been known to back down from a fight. In fact, to reinforce its commitment to assisting the Desert King, Anfauglir's soldiers dismantled their transport ship and used the parts to rebuild the old fort. Anfauglir's troops prepare to raid Ulandian lands. Although Lord Anfauglir is not present to help lead his troops, they are under the command of some of his best officers. ------------------------------------------- Hello! Another GA for the Desert King! I wasn't able to use my standard photo setup so forgive the somewhat crappy quality of the photos. I'm gonna try to get a better one before the night's up. Anyways, I've been wanting to get Anfauglir into the Civil War somehow, but since he's currently visiting Shadowmere, I thought I'd send a group to represent his command. So, thanks for looking, feedback always welcomed!