Shieldbashers

Fighting Through the Reliquary

For a day the Shieldbashers battled through the Reliquary of Timesus. They battled the primordial reminance of Blazing Rorn the Fury. They defeated the twisted abomination left for them by Arantham at a torn Far Realm rift. They battled, defeated, and released the Godslayer, a powerful primordial assassin and executioner, sending him to the Feywild wheren he became the guardian of unicorns. In the deepest depths they battled the tortured primordial abomiation, Codricuhn. At the doorway to the final vault, they faced the Death Emperor, an undead beholder and the final servant of the Ashen Covenant left by Arantham before opening up the final chamber.

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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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Arantham Enters the Time Vault

Arantham stared at death. The being was as black as night laced with a webwork of blood-red fissures. It was the antithesis of life, a construct built to destroy the universe. It was Timesus, the Black Star.

The Gods didn’t know what to do with it when they found it. The Dawn War was over. The Primordials were entombed and imprisoned across the cosmos. But this, how could they bind it? How could they hold it?

They didn’t know. So they set forward a plan to wait until they did. It was a simple concept. Time was their enemy in this matter. Leaving it to its own devices, who knows what would become of it. Eventually it would break free and follow the path for which it had been built. They couldn’t imprison it like they had the others. They needed a different sort of vault.

A Time Vault.

Ao had the magic. She twisted the fabric of space-time in a cylinder in the center of the chamber. No time would pass within the vault itself while a million years might pass on the outside. The other gods had poured their magics into the vault, strengthening it and reinforcing it. Moradin himself had built the chamber to last for a million years.

Arantham had watched this. Though it had happened 500,000 years earlier, he saw their reflections within the time vault. He had seen them build it.

Arantham reached into the worn leather bag at his side and pulled out the orb. It was black with a tiny red light deep in the center of it. It was quite possibly the most valuable object to sit in a mortal’s hand. The glass itself was pure black diamond encased around the speck of red in the center. The red speck was smaller than the tip of a child’s finger yet held unimaginable power. It was one of only three known pieces of the chaos stone, the massive stone that sat at the bottom layer of the Abyss, separating the known multi-verse from the Far Realm. Arantham could not imagine the amount of time it took to bring forth just this one tiny shard, or how many lives it cost.

It was one of the few things powerful enough to disrupt the Time Vault of the Gods.

Yet time was not on his side. The Shieldbashers were coming too soon. He had planned to awaken Timesus in this very vault and set it on its course. But now he could not do so. It would have to be done elsewhere. They had three weeks to draw Timesus’s inanimate body forth, break it up, and ship it out to the White Kingdom. Doresain would have the honor Arantham had fought for for so long, but it was of no matter. The result was the same.

Arantham turned to the door where he had left the Death Emperor to guard the chamber. He had weakened the bonds holding the massive primordial, Codricuhn. Looking into the one weeping eye of the terrible wretched beast, Arantham had sympathized. The two of them both were souls tortured by time but soon they would both find an end to their pain.

Arantham looked back to the massive black primordial in the Time Vault and smiled.

Soon there would be an end to everything and it would be as though nothing had ever existed at all.

Cliff Notes:

- Not knowing how to deal with Timesus, the Black Star, the Gods entombed it in a vault where time didn’t change. While the rest of the world moved on 500,000 years, the time vault, and the Black Star wtihin, stayed completely the same.

- Arantham possesses a shard of the Chaos Stone sealed in a black diamond sphere. It is a piece of the stone that separates the universe from the Far Realm. Arantham used this to disrupt the Time Vault and remove the Black Star.

- Not having time to reanimate the Black Star here, Arantham broke it up and smuggled it out of the Reliquary.

- Arantham had used an acid to weaken the bonds of Codricuhn, the chained primordial. He felt sympathy for the wretched beast as they were both equally tortured.

- Arantham believes the release of the Black Star will destroy the entire multiverse, leaving nothing but the void of the Far Realm behind. This is the end he seeks.

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The Legend of B

Kraxhad hated unicorns. He hated their smooth white hair. He hated the calm look in their eyes or their playful nuzzling. And he hated their horns most of all. He had collected seventeen of the things in his time in the Feywild. He and his fellow hobgoblin allies had hunted the beasts for a full moon now, and it appeared they would end the month with a prime take.

Seven of the white horned beasts grazed on some tall grass next to a shallow brook. Kraxhad’s second, an archer named Thorndum, knocked a wicked barbed arrow and drew back. He aimed his shot and Kraxhad held his breath, his hand gripping his runed staff and a pinch of sulfer in the other, the component required to throw a ball of magical fire upon the pack of unicorns.

He never got the chance.

Kraxhad had never seen one of his companions bitten in half before. It was lightning quick and very messy. He looked over to the quivering legs and mid-section of Thorndrum. The arrow fell harmlessly to the ground, though the the bow that had prepared to fire it was crushed into splinters. Kraxhad looked up to behold the beast who chewed his friend. It stood nearly twenty feet tall, massively muscled and wide chested. It held a huge twin-bladed sword in one hand and the other held what looked to be a shield built from the skull of an ancient dragon. Gore hung from the huge creature’s mouth as it smiled at Kraxhad. In its blue skin, Kraxhad saw a scar that looked like a “B” in the common tongue.

A sweep of the huge beast’s blade split three more of Kraxhad’s companions in two. A second sweep sent three heads into the air. As nearly an afterthought, the huge creature gave Kraxhad a kick that broke three ribs in Kraxhad’s chest and splintered his left lower leg. Kraxhad’s whole body began to shake and a deep cold filled his skin.

“I know you,” Kraxhad croaked. This seemed to take the massive blue creature by surprise. “My great grandfather used to share stories his great grandfather had shared from his own. You’re the Godslayer.”

“Today I am the hobgoblin slayer,” said the beast, wiping the ruins of Thorndum from his mouth. “You might say I have turned over a new leaf.”

“I don’t understand,” said Kraxhad. He could feel his vision tunneling.

“I met some people. They freed me and they gave me a chance to be something else. I have killed twenty six gods in my lifetime and hundreds of their servants. If I spend every day making up for the immortal lives I took, the sun would burn out before I would be done.”

“But I’m trying, hobgoblin,” the Godslayer turned to look at the herd of unicorns still grazing by the brook. Kraxhad saw the look of sadness and love in the huge blue-skinned beast’s eyes. “and I will keep trying until the end of days.”

The Godslayer turned his gaze back to the hobgoblin. Kraxhad watched the massive creature raise his blade once again and it was the last thing Kraxhad ever saw.

Bluespawn godslayer

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Arantham Breeches the Reliquary

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Three weeks earlier.

Arantham dropped through the crack into the Reliquary of Timesus, the first mortal to step foot in the tomb in five hundred thousand years. A pair of yellow eyes blazed through the darkness. Arantham held his ground and the creature did not attack. “Why are you here” it hissed in Primordial. It seemed surprised when Arantham spoke back in the same incredibly complicated tongue. When he had finished, those yellow eyes were wide with terror and wonder. “Will you join me?” asked Arantham. “Yes,” said Maliwan, the Dark Naga.

The ritual was brutal and the Naga screamed in pain and delight as the rune of Arantham’s master burned blue on his scales. The sacrifice, one of the last of Arantham’s virgin slaves, lay atop the ancient alter of the gods, now defiled with his master’s power. Behind the ancient doors, Arantham felt another presence that did not speak to him. A spirit of some sort, no matter. Arantham had other concerns.

He stepped into the second chamber and felt the pull on his psyche from the primordial spiritwalker, Aesana the Formless. The primordial drew into his mind, flowing over his memories. She saw Arantham’s wife screaming in his arms, dying from the rotting disease that had consumed her. She saw his child, Renold, crying when he had fed his other child, Kale, the less sick of the two. She saw Arantham standing atop a mountain, cursing the gods and throwing aside his holy symbol. He saw himself performing his first ritual, cutting open the belly of a prostitute with loving precision in a two now turned to ash. None of this bothered him in the slightest. His worst memories brought him no fear, no pain anymore. He had only his goal. The spiritwalker saw it too and it frightened her. She released him and flowed back into her pool. His was not a mind she wished to devour.

Time was short, Arantham thought to himself. The Shieldbashers had already breeched killed three of his Covenant and soon they would breech Death’s Reach. His plan had to change and he had to move quickly. Feeling a burning heat, Arantham entered the next chamber._

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The Reliquary of Timesus, Entry

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The Shieldbashers dropped into the Reliquary of Timesus, a vault buried under the ash and dirt for 500,000 years. High above they saw the clouds burned through, a permanent wound in the sky from the Soul Stream’s original path.

Within the Reliquary, the party faced Maliwan the Dark Naga, a primordial servant along with a powerful void lich and their minions. After a great battle, the party walked away victorious.

Within the next chamber, a powerful trapped Primordial, Aesana the Formless attempted to steal away the psyche of the party. When this failed, she created two powerful dream-creatures, a massive clawed Chuul and an Aboleth as well as a former victim, a Githyanki pirate. After a great battle, the party walked away victorious.

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The Gate of Nerull and the Fall of the Aspect of Orcus

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Across the Desert of Ash in the ancient battleground of Death’s Reach, the Shieldbashers faced their strongest foe. In a furious battle they faced the Ashen Covenant Mistress of Portals, the Marilith Shonruvvu, and attempted to disrupt her summoning ritual. Only too late did they realize that the Marilith’s own death was the catalyst for sacrifice to bring her dark lord to Death’s Reach.

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A piece of the Demon Prince, Orcus, himself, stepped through, emerald-skulled mace in hand. “For twelve hundred years you have hounded me. No more.” spoke the Empowered Aspect of Orcus.

In a single blow, the avatar of Undeath struck down Fausto the Reluctant. The battle raged furious, lighting the dark skies of Death’s Reach with flame and lightning. Demons tore free from the earth. Ghouls raced across the sands.

Orcus

Only when the sorceress, Mika, stepped around from a pile of scorched dead ghouls, did the Demon Prince take notice.

“It is you!” he roared.

“Indeed,” said Mika. Flame roared from her hands and burned the twisted life from the aspect of Undeath.


Deep in the dark world of Thanatos, upon his throne of skulls, the true Prince of Undeath sits, eyes narrow and his chin resting on his fist. His ambassador and advisor, the Ghoul King, Doresain, stands at his side.

“Did you learn what you desired, my lord?” hissed the ghoul king in his slithering voice.

“More,” spoke the Prince of Undeath. “Much more.”

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The Vault of the Dawn War and The Worm of Ages

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Following the instructions of the Angel of Secrets, the party found the Vault of the Dawn War, an ancient buried chamber guarded by guardians of the Old Gods to protect weapons of power. Four pillars surrounded a statue holding a sword and wearing a suit of magical armor. The party soon discovered hand-prints on each of the pillars – one each for Fausto, Mika, Rosa, and Argeli. Yet the chamber itself hadn’t been entered for many hundreds of thousands of years.

As the party opened the energy vault, the remaining angel offered himself to their swords. They had protected the vault for half a million years – waiting for the Shieldbashers themselves to come.

The room was secretly a map-room with carvings of the following:

An elf woman holding a bow firing an arrow into the heart of a balor.

A male dwarf in golden armor holding aloft a craghammer of blinding light on a mound surrounded by terrible undead.

A dark elf in surrounded in shadow piercing through a beast with a dagger as black as night.

A battle commander raising a long sword of the finest mithral commanding legions against an army of devils.

A woman bathed in fire holding aloft a dagger burning with its own red flame.

A woman in silver and black scale armor cleaving and stabbing through twisted faceless abominations beyond the mortal mind’s comprehension with a glaive of red and black steel.

A dragonborn standing atop the hewn corpse of an ancient and twisted red dragon, a white and silver blade in hand.

In one section of the mural, you see a figure of black and red stone standing above mountains of charred rock and forests of scorched ash. Corpses of hundreds of thousands lay at his feet as the faceless beast moves on.

On the opposite side, you see a mural of six figures standing and looking down at a burial mound.

All around the murals are intricate sigils and patterns, twisting from one figure to the next.

NEW MAJOR QUEST: Uncover the secrets of the Prophecy of the Shieldbashers. It would seem both Orcus’s forces and the Gods of old knew about the coming of the Shieldbashers even five hundred thousand years ago. How can this be so?

NEW MAJOR QUEST: Recover the Shieldbasher Legacy Weapons. The Old Gods left seven powerful weapons, one for each of the Shieldbashers to recover. The vaults of these weapons are hidden within Death’s Reach, though they may not be reachable for some time (begins at level 24).

The party soon left the chamber, leaving the remaining angel to his own days, and began their journey across the Desert of Ash. Powerful forces and weapons reduced this land to ash and molten rock. So powerful was this magic that the very land underfoot radiated heat. This radiation soon made some of the Shieldbashers sick as they crossed.

Within the desert dunes, the party faced another lesser member of the Ashen Covenant, a wizard named Kellimor who had with him a Black Star host of crushers and soldiers.

As the battle raged, it was soon interrupted by the rising of a huge and ancient beast, the Worm of Ages. The massive worm crushed and began to devour all of those around. The Shieldbashers beat it to a bloodied state and soon found ways to ride the massive beast. We left our companions riding across the Desert of Ash on the back of the massive Worm of Ages as they approach the Gate of Nerull where Shonruvvu, the mistress of portals awaits.

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At the Mountains of Madness

High atop the northern mountains of Death’s Reach, the party encountered a terrible force. Ashencrown, a 500,000 year old dracolich had once been an agent of the primordials and was gifted with the necromatic power to twist himself into an immortal beast of true terror. In a great battle in which the very mountains came crashing down upon them, the Shieldbashers defeated the dracolich and sent him to the bottom of the gorge.

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Ahead in the mountains the party found an ancient tomb buried deep within the mountain as though the mountains themselves had grown around it. Within they found a band of Marut mercenaries, once agents of the gods in the war against primordials but now forgotten. Four hundred eighty thousand years under the mountains built within them a rage for the gods who left them behind, a rage they would unleash upon the Shieldbashers, who they consider creations of the gods themselves.

Upon their defeat, the leader of these Marut asked for his life in return for information. He told the tale of an ancient primordial beast, a being known as Timesus the Black Star, built by the primordials as their final weapon in the war of the gods. But they were never able to actually use it. Before it could be activated, a process that would take billions of souls of mortals to unleash, the gods captured it, defeated the primordials in Death’s Reach, and buried the beast within a tomb known as the Reliquary of Timesus.

The party deduced that the Ashen Covenant had used the twisted soulstream to awaken this terrible force in the Reliquary of Timesus. When the party had defeated Urishtar atop the Nightwyrm Fortress and destroyed the soulstream by sacrificing Nightbringer, the power of the souls being fed to the dormant Timesus had stopped. How close the being was to reanimation is not yet known.

As the party traveled out of the mountains they encountered a being revealed to e an angel of Vecna. Though skeptical of the party, they proved their strength to him in valorous discussion. He revealed to them a chamber of ancient magical artifacts that could be of use to the party in their war against Orcus. The Shieldbashers decided that whatever currently happened in the Reliquary could wait for a quick side-trip to this chamber of magical items. That is where our adventure continues.

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Tale of the Old Man

While the rhythm of the Three Wishes thumps through the heavy stone walls, the old man you rescued from the chambers below the Iron Nail tavern stares into his drink and tells you his tale:

“I used to be a farmer, I had a wife and four children and a donkey. I was never rich and many seasons were simply a struggle, but I was happy. The memory is so far away from me now, I only see it like a faded shadow.”

“When the gnolls came, my wife died, my children died. I survived, and I wish I hadn’t.”

“They took me deep into the mountains and with grunts and gutturals and the clashing of coins, they sold me to dark-skinned dwarves. The dwarves branded me.”

Gen takes down the sleeve of his tunic and shows a wicked burned half-circle with an eye in the center of it on his left shoulder-blade.

“I can’t remember how many times I changed hands or how long I had been on the move. I was taken with hundreds of others through one portal and another. So many died. Some died simply because they forgot to feed us for three weeks. We ended up in those cells where you found me, but we weren’t there for long. They took us through a stone portal of swirling red. Many never made it through. They fell out with all their skin removed, or in a pile of dismembered limbs, or turned inside out. Yet I survived.”

“When we arrived, the pit was already very deep. Given the amount of time it took us to make progress, they must have been digging it for hundreds years.”

“There was a beam of brilliant light that pierced from the blue-gray sky into the center of the pit. We could hear it in our minds as we dug and in our dreams as we tried to sleep. It was the sound of thousands of people screaming.”

“I would see him, the old man, standing on the edge of the pit staring down into the pit. ‘Elder Arantham’ some would call him, but most called him ‘father’.”

“One day I awoke and he was sitting over me. I thought I would die for sure, cut apart like so many of his sacrifices. He didn’t cut me open and spill my innards into a brazier, however. He spoke to me.”

”’You have lost loved ones,’ he said to me. ‘You know the injustice of Her hand. It is for this that we dig. Who is She to decide who lives and who dies? Who is She to take our loved ones from us when we have done nothing wrong? Who is she to fill our wives with cancer when we have barely begun our lives together? Who is she to make us decide in the dead of a year-long winter which child we feed and which child we let starve so one might live at all? She shall soon decide this for no one. We dig for a great purpose, my friend.’”

“Arantam put his hand on me and the cold chilled me down to the bone. I’ve lost feeling in that shoulder and it has never come back.”

“One day the beam stopped. I looked up and saw Elder Arantham looking up to the empty hole in the sky where the beam of radiant light had come from. He looked disappointed. We were forced to dig faster. Those that didn’t dig fast enough were taken to him and, without ever losing that kind look on his face, he opened them up and poured their blood into the center of the pit. He would draw the souls of his sacrifices out of their mutilated bodies and send them spiraling into the pit. One night he killed four hundred of us this way. I took all night and by the end he was covered head to toe in blood.”

“The next day we found it. Our picks and shovels found hard stone under the dirt and ash into which we dug. We uncovered it and found sigils and runes. Elder Arantham read the runes and demanded that we break into it. As we dug, we heard something scratching from inside.” The old man shivers but continues. “When we breached it, air of five hundred thousand years blew out of the chamber below.”

“Expeditions were sent into the chamber below, the Reliquary it was called. Many came out screaming with insanity or torn apart, but Arantham seemed pleased.”

“Fate would seem to find me again. Arantham handed myself and the others to the demon, Shonruvvu. I thought she was going to devour us as she had so many others. But she did not. She opened the gate once again and took us back to the chambers. That was nearly two weeks ago.”

The old man looks to you. “I would rather die than see that place again.”

As the old man tells his tale, you scratch down the following things into your small notebook:

- Old man was a slave transferred hand to hand. - He was sold to the Ashen Covenant who used him to dig in Death’s Reach. - The dig has been going on for hundreds of years. - The re-routed soulstream has been flowing into the pit. - Arantham wants to destroy the Raven Queen. He holds her responsible for the deaths of loved ones. - When the soulstream stopped, Arantham sacrificed his slaves to keep the souls flowing. - They found a Reliquary at the bottom of the pit. It’s about 500,000 years old. Something is moving in there. - When the Reliquary was breached, the old man was sent back to Sigil.

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