Shieldbashers

The Retriever Holocaust

624,000 years ago

From the matter of all the Primordials forged themselves. Fire, rock, air, all of the materials crashed together forming the most powerful beings to ever travel the multi-verse. Only when the Gods found them did they meet their match. Yet there was a substance they seldom touched.

Deep in the bowels of the Abyss, they formed a beast of malice and horror. It was a hunter, an ultimate assassin able to travel through worlds to find what it sought. It was a weapon of terrible power.

Like many weapons of the Dawn War, it could not so easily be destroyed by the prevailing Gods. They buried it in the tombs of Death’s Reach, where it would sit eternal in vaults none could ever reach.

But reach it they did.

72 years ago

The dust of ages covered Arantham’s boots as he stood on top of the hills of Death’s Reach, the pocket dimensional vault of the Primordials. The carcass of a massive beast lay behind him. Shonruvvu, the marilyth keybearer stood at his side.

“We will find the vault soon,” she whispered.

“I know,” said Arantham. His blue eyes gazed over the wasteland. Out there lay the Primordial’s greatest weapon, he thought. The weapon that would end his suffering and end the suffering of everyone and everything else. They would find it soon and begin to awaken it.

“Elder Arantham!” shouted the dwarf black knight, Uganan. “We have found something!”

“Is it the Reliquary of Timesus?” Arantham shouted back. The massive Goristro, Thax, stood behind the dwarf.

“It is not, but it is certainly something you will want to see.”

The dwarf was right for once. It was marvelous. Black onyx body, razor sharped talons, and those eyes, like pinpoints of black suns. It was a truly marvelous weapon fit for his lord, Orcus.

“Open a gateway, Shonruvvu. We have a gift for our master.”

Now

Orcus’s hand itched yet every time he went to scratch it he felt nothing but air. Annoying though it was, it still made him laugh. None if would matter in just a short few days. So long had this been orchestrated, so long had he planned. It was all coming together, everything in its place. It was time for another piece.

“Harthoon,” called the prince of undeath. From the shadows floated the lich Harthoon, the castellan of Everlost and Orcus’s longtime advisor. Orcus smiled when he saw the lich’s pinpoint eyes focusing on his stump.

“It’s time to the Holocaust.”

“Are you sure, my master? Once it is released, it can never be called back. It would walk through worlds to find them.”

“I am the one who found it, lich. Do not forget to whom you speak.”

“Of course, my master. Consider it done.”

The Prince of Undeath smiled; what a surprise they had in store. His hand itched again.

“And Harthoon,” said Orcus. The lich turned around once again. “Fetch the dwarf.”

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Orcus and General Glyphimhor

Glyphimhor, the Balor General of Orcusgate, stepped outside of his capital city and took flight over the Plains of Hunger. All around demons and undead cowered in his shadow, hoping to avoid the wrath of Orcus’s champion. Glyphimhor loved the feeling of the cold air soaring under his wings. He looked to his right at the four pillars of streaming souls that twisted out of the city of Lash Embarer and the snaking river Styx that led north.

Soaring over Lachrymosa and the Final Hills, he saw Orcus’s citadel, Everlost, towering in front of him, piercing out of the desolation of Thanatos’s northern wastes.

The Balor General slammed onto the ground, cracking the ancient stone of packed bone dust under his powerful hooves. The two Molydeus that guarded Everlost’s front door stepped back.

He walked through Everlost, listening to the screaming from below and hearing the whispers of Orcus’s personal servants as he entered the throne room. On the floor lay the massive primordial construct, Timesus the Black Star. Just looking at it made Glyphimhor nervous.

“Marvelous, isn’t he,” spoke the Prince of Undeath. Glyphimhor wasn’t sure he agreed with his lord.

“Elder Etharix is dead,” said Glyphimhor. “Killed during a ritual in Lash Embarer by the Shieldbashers. They apparently disrupted the Soulgrinder as well. We lost track of them after that.”

“I know,” said Orcus. “Gavix told me.” Glyphimhor hated the Glabrezou, Orcus’s ambassador and pet. He had hoped the Shieldbashers would have cut off his dog head in Lash Embarer. Orcus stood and walked over to Glpyhimhor. As massive as the Balor General was, his master still towered over him.

“It matters not. All is in hand.” Orcus laughed. Glyphimhor didn’t like the ease with which Orcus spoke of these matters. The slaying of his highest priest should not come so easily. Orcus seemed to see this in Glyphimhor’s eyes. “The human gamblers have an expression,” said Orcus. “When their money grows thin but they have a good hand of cards. They call it going ‘All In’. We’re going all in on this, Glyphimhor. We cannot turn back and what happens from here on out cannot stop what we have put in motion. In just a few days, Etharix’s death will not matter at all.”

“Nor will mine, I suppose,” said Glyphimhor. Orcus smiled at him.

“Now you begin to understand. Let me show you what commitment looks like.”

“I called you here to do something,” said Orcus as e walked over to a massive stone stained a deep red from centuries of bloodletting. “Something none of the others dare to do. Only you have the strength and the will to do it.” Orcus pointed down to Glyphimhor’s vorpal blade. Orcus placed his left forearm on the altar. For the first time in his long life, Glyphimhor understood what fear felt like.

“Do it.”

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Lash Embarer

Summary: The party travels to Lash Embarer, stops a sacrifice in the crumbling city’s center, kills Orcus’s latest high priest, and faces the Soulgrinder; a dragon wraith.

The Doorway

The ruins of the city of Lash Embarer rise up ahead of you. For centuries, the city housed Orcus’s most devout mortals, the Skull Lords. Massive buildings of twisted rock lay crumbled to the ground. High overhead, a swirling storm seems fixed over the city. Tendrils of light snake up from the city to the storm above. On the cold air you can overhear the sound of chanting coming from further in the city.

At the broken gates ahead, you see two massive green-skinned demons and four lurking humanoids guarding the entryway to the city. Eight pillars flank a stone walkway that leads into the ruined city of the Skull Lords.

The Sacrifice

Though you keep to the shadows, it would appear most of the city of Lash Embarer is empty. Crumbling buildings line the cracked earth streets. A noxious gas seems to permeate the city, the smell of rotted meat and ancient dust. Strange lights lead you to the city’s center where the white tendrils of light pierce up into the storm above. As you get closer, the chanting you heard gets louder.

When you step into the square you witness the full horror. A man dressed in black armor and cloaked in red oversees another who has a dagger held above the prostrate form of a unicorn. Black lines of necrotic energy surround the beast. You see its muscles straining as it attempts to fight back. Ritualistic cuts in the fey beast leak bright red blood into rivlets cut into the altar upon which it lays. These rivers of blood feed into a deep hole in front of the altar. Above the unicorn, a sharp black sword hangs tip down over the unicorn’s heart.

To your right you see a high platform with a strange glowing light. A robed skeletal form floats above the platform, red pinpoints of light deep within its black eye sockets.

To your left you see a massive stone throne. Upon it sits a Glabrezou, its huge pincers resting on the throne’s arms while its human hands are clasped in front of it. It swings its massive dog head in your direction, sniffing.

Dozens of cultists stand in front of the altar, all of them chanting prayers to the Prince of Undeath as the ritualistic sacrifice continues.

The Soulgrinder

Electricity and a deep chill seems to flow across the surface of your skin. Your feet crunch upon the bones of previous sacrifices. Streams of white energy twist out from four pools of black liquid. Four piles of bones bound together in bands of black energy surround the center of the room. Ahead of you, white mists swirl around a raised platform rests above piles of gold, jewels, platinum, and other treasure.

An ancient deep voice whispers out from the edges of the cavern, eventually centering on the platform ahead.

“Such powerful heroes they feed me this night. I shall feast upon your souls for the next ten thousand years.”

The white mists twist and form into the massive shape of a dragon.

Black shadows swirl out of the bone piles forming into humanoid shapes, black ghostly blades in their hands.

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The Dustmen

“If you wish to travel safely across Thanatos, you’ll need to resemble the natives. Unfortunately there are only two ways to do it. One, you can die here and return as one of the shambling dead. Two, you can twist the emanations of your souls. There is a pool here, the first of the soul wells used by Orcus’s Skull Lords to capture and twist souls. Bathing in this pool may cause you great harm but it won’t kill you. For the remainder of your journey in Thanatos, it will cloak your life force from the undead all around you.”

“This pool isn’t easy to reach, however. In the center of Lash Embarer is a sacrificial altar over a great pit. Within the pit lurks the Soulgrinder who survives off of the twisted souls emanating from the the original Soul Well. I hear the most recent Elder of Orcus, Elder Etharix – the successor to Elder Arantham, is holding a sacrifice this very night.”

“Destroy the Soulgrinder and submerse yourself in his Soul Well. When you return, you will be given passage to along the River Styx to the city of Lachrymosa. There you may journey around the city and through the Vally of the Crypt Things or battle your way through Lachrymosa itself to find the portal to Everlost in Oblivion’s End.”

“It is within Everlost that you will find the Prince of Undeath.”

“That will be one Toothlust mace, please.”

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Welcome to Thanatos, Bitches

Summary: The party returns to Thanatos where their Chaos Ship is under repair. They begin their trek across Thanatos only to get assaulted by legions of undead atop a sacrificial altar where a divine creature was once killed. After a powerful battle, the party meets the Dustmen, a band of humanoids who live in Thanatos and sell their tracking skills for a high price.

our journey across the Plains of Hunter lead you to a strange mound. Yourselves drawn to its peak. All around you, piles of bones stand eight feet high. Strange totems and a platform holding aloft a column inscribed in dark runes sits at the top of the hill. Swirling mists surround the platform and an ominous set of steps lead to the top.

As you place your hand on the pillar, your mind fades…

Jaxia screamed. It was hard for an immortal to face mortality, but she faced it now. Her mistress had waged war on the dark forces of the Demon Prince – had even defeated him – but it would appear one such as he is hard to kill. The Glabrezou had her by her wrists in its massive pincers and pulled until her left arm came out of its socket with a horrible pop. Behind her, a slash from one of the Marilyth’s blades severed one of her wings in half. Jaxia stared down at the silvery blood pooled at her bare feet. She felt herself slammed against the hard stone pillar, arms pulled painfully back by the Glabrezou now behind her. A man walked up to her, a mortal. His face was kind but the jagged black blade in his hand was not. Elder Arantham – Jaxia had heard of him. “I can feel your pain,” said Jaxia. “You know nothing of my pain,” said Arantham. His blade pierced into her belly. He turned the blade and cut upwards. “In the name of our lord, Orcus, Prince of Undeath, we sacrifice this being of light, spreading her blood on your soil. May your dark hand wash over all who whisper in the night,” The blade’s tip touched her heart and Jaxia knew no more.

Your hand jerks away from the pillar. The cold eternal night of Thanatos seems to sink in further into your soul. At your feet you see the dried pool of silvery blood. In the pillar you can see the scrapes of the angel’s throes.

The swirling mists close in. Within them you see a face. It grins at you as you feel your soul slipping from your body.

On the first radiant attack: Your radiant energy flows around you, it arcs to the pillar behind you, filling the runes with white light. A beam of pure energy arcs up into the sky, piercing through the black clouds hanging overhead.

Two miles away, a ghoul tears into the dried meat of a dead beast unknown in any mortal world. The piercing light reflects in its black eye. It turns at the light, hisses, and sprints on all fours – mortals walk in Thanatos, it thinks. Or more precisely – food.

All around you you see the shifting forms of the dead. A skeletal hand tears up from the dead earth. The bone walls begin to shift and move, you see a skull buried within the wall open its jaws and reveal sharp shattered teeth. Huge massive shadows further out begin to lumber forward. All around you Thanatos has come alive and seeks those that reside within the beacon of white light.


Just when you think the onslaught of undead will not stop – when you begin to wonder if your sword arm will tire or if your spell will fizzle, you see a piercing white light beam up into the sky from far off to the north. The undead hordes around you turn towards the beam; white light reflecting into their eyes. At once they begin to shamble away. As your own radiant energies start to fade, the hilltop once again grows dark and quiet. In the distance you can see the undead running or crawling to the other light.

“A radiant beacon in the middle of the night. I never thought I’d see such a thing here,” a man sits on a nearby pile of bones, one boot promptly pressing down on the gnashing jaw of an animated skull. Black leather armor dons his body, heavily scraped and scarred from war. A pair of daggers hangs on his belt. A brown hood covers his head and a gray cloth covers his mouth. You realize he is not alone. A dozen others stand around the hill, some watching to ensure the undead horde keeps its path towards the other radiant beacon.

“I’m Javis. We’re the Dustmen and we’re here to help you get to Lash Embarer – for a price,” he smiles. “Welcome to Thanatos, Bitches.”

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Nightbringer

(Summary: The party travels to acquire Fausto’s Dawn War weapon only to find it shattered at the feet of a mortally wounded aspect of Bahamut. They then battle Fausto’s nemesis, Nightbringer, and tame it. Fausto takes back the dark blade and, empowered, turns it into a +6 Holy Avenger)

The acrid smell of death fills the air. You have entered a chamber (where?) surrounded in twisted rock slick with an oily substance. Across the chamber, the rock has been ripped away revealing a chamber of carefully and beautifully sculpted white stone. Shadows dance around the far edges of the room. A river of black liquid flows through the center of the chamber splitting the two sections in half. At the far side, two stone staircases lead to a platform. Upon the platform stands a statue, arms held out.

A small platform rests in the middle of the chamber on the near side of the corrupt river. A skull rests on top of the platform. Bodies of armed and armored humanoids lay about, many of them turned to ash. Some form of magical field surrounds the platform, you can see it shimmering in the dim light. As you approach the statue, it seems more and more familiar. An old man, head raised up, an expression of pain and sadness on its face. Its hands are empty, though it would appear it once held something out. Under your feet, you hear the crunch of what sounds like glass. Looking down, you realize it is shards of steel. In the corner of the chamber you find a hilt of a sword, gems smashed and its gold and platinum hilt scraped and beaten. In the chest of the statue you see a deep crack – a deep stab wound in the statue’s chest.

With growing horror you realize the statue is no statue at all but a living being.

You realize this is no statue, this is an Aspect of Bahamut himself. For five hundred thousand years it has stood here holding your weapon for you. Now the weapon is sundered and the aspect mortally wounded.

“I knew you would come,” says a dark voice in the rear of the chamber. From the shadows steps a humanoid, as light splashes across him you see a Dragonborn. Armor scorched and dripping that same oily substance. In its hand is a sword, black-bladed. The blade is terribly familiar.

“You thought you could cast me aside. You thought you could abandon me; destroy me! You could no longer throw me away than to stop being yourself.”

Behind you you can feel the agony of the Aspect, the wound will soon take its life if you are to do nothing.

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Lament of the Forsaken

The otherworldly being lying on the deck of the Sheviathon is both wonderful and horrible to behold. Gray-skinned and eye-less, this humanoid appears absolutely ancient. All around you, the dust of his comrades blows through the abyssal air that wafts past. Though eye-less, he seems to behold you within his attention. His voice is a mere whisper but it’s divine touch compels you to listen.

“You cannot know what it feels like to hold the love of billions in your very being and then lose it,” he whispers. “We were a good God, a fair god. One that wanted a better existence for our subjects. That is so far away now, it is but a whisper in a dream. We were shattered into thousands of pieces. Each of us with a tiny spark of the being we once were.”

“We tried. We tried for hundreds of thousands of your years to regain what we lost. We traveled across all the known worlds. We even touched the Far Realm in hopes that we might find an answer, a way to soothe this pain in our beings – a pain you cannot ever imagine.”

“We found nothing. Instead, we found a prophecy. We found a children’s tale of a band of heroes who would save existence from a devastating plan and an ultimate weapon. We found the architect of that plan – the Demon Prince of Undeath – Orcus – and we allied ourselves with him. He told us where to find you. He gave us the one greatest chance we had to find the relief in non-existence. It was a small chance, but worth everything we have to try.”

“I suppose it was foolish to believe in such a thing – even the Prince of Undeath himself didn’t believe it.”

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Orcus and the Forsaken Mastermind

There were few creatures able to drive a shiver through Orcus’s skin, but the creature in front of him was one of these few. Humanoid, gray of skin, and no eyes at all; the creature stood, chin high, in front of the Prince of Undeath. The screaming of mortals all around him and the shifting of shadows seemed to affect the creature not at all.

“You know what comes,” said the Demon Prince. “We have in our possession the weapon to end everything. I know this is what you have sought for your limitless age.”

The humanoid, the Forsaken Mastermind, spoke two words. “It is.”

“I have this power but it will take time to begin. There are others out there who seek to end this course of events. They travel on a Chaos Ship called the Sheviathon. My telepaths will give you their psionic signature so you can find them. They travel through the Abyss as we speak.”

The creature did not speak. Only beheld the Prince of Undeath with its blind eyes.

“Do this and the eternity of the void awaits you. You will have the peace you have always sought. Fail, and your eternity of torment will continue.”

“We understand.”

Orcus raised his black hand laced with red veins and pointed to the massive doorway of his throne room. Orcus’s Molydeus guardian opened the door but the Forsaken Mastermind did not exit. He stood for another long moment before turning and leaving.

Orcus felt himself relax. To have a God, even pieces of a God, walking in his own halls was nearly too much.

But his time grew short and his options few. His plan drew quickly to conclusion.

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Re-Death of the Ghoul King

The massive crypt doors open into Doresain’s Mausoleum. The smell of death lays thick in this massive hall. Platforms rise up from a floor swirling in some strange pattern. You soon realize the terrible truth, the floor itself is a mass of ghouls, packed together, twisting and writhing in their pain and hunger. They snap with razor-sharp teeth as they smell your mortal blood.

Across the moat of ghouls sits a tiered platform topped by Doresain’s personal throne. Above it towers a massive statue of Orcus, it’s gemmed eyes gleaming in the violet light of the chamber. Green flames dance from the other platforms that surround the chamber.

“Again, we meet, Shieldbashers,” hisses the Ghoul King. “And again, you are too late. My master will soon take possession of the Black Star and in his keep in Thanatos, my master will awaken him and send him on his way.”

“As for you, you will die here and feed my flock.”

The air shimmers next to the Ghoul King as two massive red demons uncloak from their spells of invisibility. Flaming whips crackle with fire in one of their hands while a sword of lightning cuts through the air.

“Their hearts belong to me. Let my children feed on the rest of them.”


“You never knew what you held in that black orb, did you. It took us centuries to awaken and fuel Arantham’s anger. Such careful planning could not exist without insurances. The orb, his phylactery, is the key to harnessing that anger and using it to fuel the Black Star. His anger and sadness knows no limits. He has mourned for a hundred lifetimes. He just wants it all to end and soon he will have the power to do so.”


Doresain falls back, blood dripping from his wounds into spatters of black tainted blood upon the floor. He looks up, his eyes blazing with a terrible blue light. He begins whispering in a terrible ancient tongue. A formation begins to rise from the moat of ghouls, a massive beast formed by the intertwined bodies of hundreds of ghouls. Its arms reach out covered in the tearing claws and glass-like teeth of the ghouls that form this massive body. The mouths on Doresain’s cloak begin snapping and tearing even harder, as does the teeth of his terrible mace.

Black smoke flows from the shining ruby eyes of the statue of Orcus.

DC 31 religion or arcana, check every round. The eyes are connected to the terrible mass of ghouls, allowing it to bond and form into a single horrible entity.


A huge rumble fills the chamber, shaking the stone of the mausoleum.

“My master’s prize is on its way,” says Doresain, laughing. “It is all in motion!”


As you step through Doresain’s mausoleum and into the strange night air of the White Kingdom, your breath catches in your throat. A massive chaos ship, Orcus’s Black Skull, roars over the lake of blood. It rises into the air and then dives through the center of the huge whirlpool in the center of the lake, diving deep into the Abyssal planes below.

Soon the chaos ship will reach Thanatos and Orcus will release the ancient primordial weapon, a weapon powerful enough to destroy every conscious soul in every world known to God and man.

And all that stands between you and this weapon is the Prince of Undeath.

Another roar washes over you from overhead. Your ship, the Sheviathon, swings down from overhead and to balcony upon which you stand.

“The flying ghouls are in panic,” speaks Captain Vlaxx in the back of your mind, “We only have a few moments to flee this place before they attack the ship. Come quickly.”

As you leap to the ship, the psionic generators flare to life. The Sheviathon roars out into the empty night sky of the southern regions of the White Kingdom. As you stare across at the whirlpool that leads deeper into the Abyss, you see three choices in front of you.

You may chase after Orcus’s chaos ship. You may seek the remaining two Dawn War weapons. Or you may return to Sigil to rest, rearm, and research the enemy you face ahead.

What will you choose?

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The Ghoul King and the Black Star

The Ghoul King crawled over the surface of the Black Star. His long dead fingers brushed across the black stone and veins of red blood. He could feel the power within it, yet awoken but stirring in the depths. He touched the most powerful weapon ever built, thought Doresain, and he found the thought both thrilling and comforting.

A voice, deep and powerful, spoke from the shadows.

“They have killed your consort,” the voice spoke. Doresain was not concerned of her death but of the speed with which these Shieldbashers made progress. No wonder Arantham’s original plan failed. “They now travel through the Hunger in the Mountain. It is very possible they will be digested there as the others have.”

“If they make it through, show them our surprise,” said Doresain. A rush of wind blew the few strands of Doresain’s dead hair. His blue eyes blazed even more brightly. He held a black orb in his hand and stared into its depths.

“Too soon,” he whispered to it. He turned and looked at his massive scrying mirror, a plate of shining silver mounted in a frame of black twisted rock. “We must devise another plan.”

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