80 Years Earlier, The Foundation of the Ashen Covenant

Arantham watched the girl die. He sat on an old chair of black oak blood dripping from the tip of his razor-sharp knife. streams of blood flowed from specially cut drains in the stone table upon which the girl lay. Her name was Molly. The serene look on her face was a stark contrast to the horror Arantham had inflicted upon her body. Her eyes were beautiful.

“Tell me what you’re thinking.” Doresain’s whisper was as quiet as the cold breeze of night. He had slipped in behind Arantham as he sat, completely soundless. “Do not lie to me. I will know.”

“I’m thinking that Molly is in a better place than I,” said Arantham. “I envy her.”

The Ghoul King touched his shoulder. Arantham would never get used to the cold touch, but he did not shrink away as he once had.

“That is why we have chosen you, my old friend. Come with me.”

Arantham felt the Ghoul King leave the room. Arantham took another look into Molly’s dead eyes, stood, and followed his master.

Doresain the Ghoul King opened the massive vault door with a single wave of his hand. Two of his rings shined as he did so.

The chamber was lined with wooden shelves and cubbies, each packed with ancient scrolls and tomes ravaged with age. A large desk sat in the center of the room, two heatless blue torches illuminated a large black-leather bound tome that sat alone in the center of the desk.

“It’s taken us nearly 500,000 years to gather the artifacts in this room. The effort’s costs are unimaginable. We’ve followed the lines of writings and oral histories for six hundred generations. We have separated myth and legends from what facts were there. The words of angels, high priests, even the gods themselves; all of it are within these walls and distilled down to the contents of that book.”

Arantham stepped forward and tentatively opened up the book.

“There is a reason we brought you here. There is no reason to belay your curiosity. Look towards the end.

Arantham did, and what an end did he read.

“We have known your desires since we first laid eyes upon you. We know what you want and now you have a path to reach it.”

Arantham’s voice cracked when he spoke. “And you want this? Our lord wants this?”

“He does.”

“You are to lead a small group of our strongest and most devout in this quest. It will take you most of your life to complete it. But you have the prophecies there in front of you. You know you will succeed.”

Arantham turned back the pages, skimming over hand-drawn images and text that made his head spin.

“And these heroes? These…” Arantham flipped back to the beginning of the book. “Shieldbashers?”

“They are but tellers of the tale. They cannot stop what will happen. You are now at the center of our longest and most secret plot, Arantham.”

“And you will succeed.”

Doresain handed Arantham the two rings he used to open the chamber and stepped outside. The door closed behind him.

Arantham sat down and read the first page of the text that held the plans to destroy the multiverse.

Cliff Notes:

- Eighty years before he entered the Reliquary of Timesus, Doresain the Ghoul King showed Arantham the distilled text of the prophecy of the Shieldbashers.

- The text’s contents had been drawn from 500,000 years of the prophecies, written texts, scrolls, and the oral histories of priests, angels, and even the gods themselves.

- Doresain the Ghoul King, second only to Orcus himself, put Arantham in charge of the party that would follow through with the quest outlined in the text. This group became known as the Ashen Covenant.

- The text gave Arantham the plans to release the Black Star and end the entire existence of the Multiverse, something Arantham has secretly sought since the deaths of his wife and children.



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