Our story began with Varys being briefed in the shadows by The Elf Queen. He was given a mission to observe and report the whereabouts of the recently discovered offspring of The Diabolist, a part time cleric and full time trouble maker, Dianne. To do this, Varys would travel to an unremarkable village and lie low, posing as a shoe cobbler.
In a glade not far from Dianne’s village, the monster hunter Red of Direwood. along with a mercenary leader and esteemed trapper, Barry tracked a menacing foe to its mountainside home. Livestock all around the region was being devoured by some unseen beast and the pair had been contracted by local authorities to intervene. After days of following the things trail of broken earth they believe they have it cornered. Unfortunately the creature, a Giant Wurm, turned out to be far larger and deadly than anticipated and nearly killed Red and Barry.
The Crusader has a New Quarry
Fortunately for Red there was a village close by able to give him medical attention, Barry staggering in dragging Red behind him. Diana, practicing as a healer between performing on the streets or the stage, tended to Red's injuries over the course of a week. Just as Red began to feel well again trouble arrived wearing the signalling red plate armor of The Crusader. Two Crusade thugs had got wind of Diana's heritage and had come to get a closer look. Things escalated quickly, forcing Varys to abandon his passive mission and draw steel with Red rising from his bed to feel the familiar weight of a sword in his hand.
All in all two Crusader thugs and Diana's employer were killed and it would not be long before repercussions came upon them. Barry arrived shortly thereafter and whisked the party away to a minuscule encampment known as Murk. Barry had family in Murk, his great-great Nana Halloway, the village elder. He assured the party they’d be safe from the crusaders’ retribution here and he left to seek an armed escort for the group back to civilization.
A Book of Death
Murk was an average, minuscule village on the edge of the dense forest. Nana housed the three, taking particular liking to Dianne who did not return the favor. A celebration was planned for the evening and Nana invited Dianne to take a sneak peak at the finale; a tome of immense power, bound in human skin, known as the Book of Fleshcrafting. It was not disclosed exactly what the tome would be used for but nothing good could come from it.
Out in the forest where eyes could not pry, Varys sat contemplating. Seemingly from thin air, a high elf addresses Varys announcing himself as Zoltan, The Archmage’s personal assistant. He wastes little time and warns Varys that the village is not safe, that there is a strong magical barrier fueled by black magics all around it. The mysterious elf reasoned that a lost book of terrible evils must have turned up here and been activated. Zoltan pleaded with Varys to retrieve the book by whatever means necessary and return it to him so that it may be sealed away by the Archmage. To assist him, Zoltan provided several runes of power and flasks of magical oils, as well as a peculiar stone that, when spoken into, would relay messages directly to the high elf. Varys was skeptical at best but promised to look into it, leaving the high elf to vanish into a shimmering portal.
As a loyal subject is want to do, Varys relays the information he’d just learned to the Elf Queen via telepathic channels shared by all elves. The Queen denounced Zoltan as a charlatan and ordered Varys to retrieve the book for her instead, promising to dispatch additional soldiers from her personal guard. The plan to recover the book had been set in motion.
Since their meeting, the three adventurers had not been the most trustworthy of one another. Taking a chance in divulging information, Varys explained the situation to Red while Dianne was away. The monster hunter could scarcely believe it but agreed to do what he could to pull off the heist. Right outside the small shack the two schemed in stood a furious and red-faced Dianne, understanding that they meant to keep her in the dark. Barging in, she told them what Nana had shown her out of simple spite, hoping to make them feel foolish for underestimating her. She provided details on the book’s location and it’s defenses, polishing off the final details of the caper.
When evening fell the village was whipped into a singing, dancing frenzy. All the people wore colorful masks and streamers and drank until their speech was slurred. When the opportunity arose, Red approached the large hut housing the tome with a stumbling gait and sloshing bottle. The guards became agitated at the (as far as they knew) drunk party goer and eventually carried him off, back to the festival. While the guards were occupied, Varys made short work of the heavy padlock holding the door, stuffed the satanic book into a sack, and made a speedy escape.
Dianne had the job of keeping Nana busy which she did excellently until things escalated beyond her control. When the moon was high in the nigh sky the villagers rolled out a stone altar, stained a dark crimson from it’s previous uses..In Nana’s rants hereafter, the village was revealed to be a haven of barren men and women who were ready to sacrifice everything to bring about a living creature. The tome would be their key to doing just that, with Nana being the mid-wife and Dianne being the surrogate. It would not be so this night, however, with Red, Varys, and two highly capable elven honor guard descending upon the village with martial fury. Once freed Dianne also brought down retribution upon the fanatic villagers. The Queen’s guards accepted the book and made haste to their home, giving their thanks to Varys and his party.
Barry returned having accomplished his mission. He had rode only a day before a squadron of Imperial Soldiers would cross his path. He camped and drank with them, mentioning the predicament the party was in. When Red of Direwood was mentioned a few ranking soldiers ears perked up; they’d fought with the now monster hunter in previous campaigns and had known him to be an honorable and honest man. The captains agreed to alter their route to escort Red and his accomplices to the nearest civilized city, The Forge.
The Demon Awakens
When the threat of Crusade zealots was felt to be sufficiently distant, the three were graced with a mystical audience with the Elf Queen. Before them stood a glimmering visage of the Queen who spoke first to Varys, congratulating him on his quick thinking and defense of Dianne in her time of need. She addressed Red, revealing to the other two their history of working together, and similarly thanked him, requesting that he assist her agent and the young woman on their mission to which he graciously agreed. Lastly she spoke to Dianne, being quick to the point but compassionate, informing the woman of the raw power she possessed, granted by her heritage. The Queen explained that the undisciplined fire in Dianne’s veins could bring about vast death and pain, whether by accident or intentionally should the wrong interests gain control of her, mainly her own mother, the Diabolist.
The final decree was this; seek out the Queen’s contact in Anvil, a peculiar raconteur named Sammy, and let him lead you to a reclusive cleric of great power. The healer would perform an ancient ritual to quell the aspects of Dianne’s blood that sought to burst forth, bringing misery and pain. To reach Anvil the party would need to traverse The Undermarch, a massive subterranean passage from The Forge to the Dwarf King’s secondary stronghold across the channel.