Epilogue- The Forgotten Future
“So, it has begun anew.” A voice speaks out into nothing, with no one to hear. As it’s words echo through an infinite eternity, somewhere else, in a castle as large as a city with spires stretching to the sky and a storm casting darkness in every corner, a pale visage of life opens a scrolled letter.
In a deep deep cavern, a strange smoking creature floats above an underground moat of magma, its eyes stalks constantly turning as it receives a message from its servants mind.
Far beneath the waves of the ocean, in a cold, dark sanctuary a white creature moves its way through the caverns, carefully plotting when it gathers a psionic wave with word from above the water.
In a densely forest bog, a wrinkles hand with long, dirty nails slices open the stomach of a rabbit and pulls out the intestines, reading over them with beady eyes a divination of what is happening.
Atop a pyramid, a creature hisses as it sacrifices a screaming man to its god, and as his blood pools words begin to form.
A man walk from his throne and snatches a letter form a servant hand, breaking the seal and opening the paper. As he reads it, he smile wide. As do many other mouths as they all receive the same message.
The ritual has failed. Kinus is dead. The Cenosure is missing.
“The Pieces begin to move.” The voice whispers again. As its rasp moves through the void a shriveled hand, skeletal and dried, closes it’s possessive fingers around the cinosure of Chaos.
Far away, deep beneath the tallest mountain, a man in runescribed robes and belts carrying memories looks up at his illusory sky, the moon looking down at him with a dull red glow.
“Then I suppose, I should make my move as well.” He says to nothing.
“I have already made mine.” The nothing whispers back.
Deep in the fog covered mountains, under tons of hard granite and stone, an old Dwarf shakily puts down his tankard. While his age does show in the long white beard and braided hair, it had yet to reach his muscles, so when the High King Rurik slowly sat into his silvered high throne, encrusted with only a few jewels and many scripts, the kings of the other five clans grew worried. The Stone Lord Orsik watched without surprise, for it was he who delivered the terrible news. The Great Carve, hall of the High King, continued with its boisterous and rambunctious antics, oblivious to the rules new state. Only the kings could see the color drain from Ruriks face.
“By the Great Smiths hammer, tell me this is a trick Orsik. By all the stone in the world and his Holy forge, tell me this is another one of your ill humored jokes.” He pleaded to the stone lord. Orsik’s eyes frowned apologetically.
“I swear by my stone Tourmilated Quartz that what I have told you is true.” He says with confidence. The High King sits, his brow furrowing as he tries to think. The Sky Crystal up above the hall continues to cast it bright yellow orange light, leaving only a few shadows, yet some still seem to find themselves across the lords face. Finally, he stands.
“OUT!” He shouts, his dwarven voice echoing through the Carved hall like a clap of thunder. All of the dwarves drinking, eating, singing, and dancing suddenly stop, looking back at the High King.
“I SAID OUT!” He yells one more time. Immediately the sounds of hundreds of chairs scraping the stone and boots clopping to rush out of the hall fills the grand room. Soon, only the five kings of the clans Balserk, Dankil, Gorunn, Loderr, Lutgehr, and Torunn, the Stone Lord Orsik, and the High King Rurik are left. The grand pike of the mountains stands, strengthened by his determination for his people.
“My king, what has happened?” Taklinn Torunn asks carefully. While the hall was warm from the large stone fountains that rolled smelted precious metals from their tops, the High King could make it cold in an instant. The ruler turns on the King of the Torunn clan, then slowly faces each lord in turn.
“My friends, gather your warriors.” He says gravely.
“How many?” Kathra, king of the Gorunn clan, asks immediately. Regularly quiet, she never hesitates to step forward when the clans have need. The High King looks her in the eyes, past her vibrant and wild red hair. “All of them.” He replies. Flint of the proud Dankil clan, youngest of the kings, stands.
“My lord, we will bring our forces to bear for you, but I demand to know why.” Kathra stands immediately.
“You have no place to demand anything from the High King.” She growls. Flint glowers over the table at her when Rurik raises his hand.
“It is alright Kathra. If I were offended by every stubborn dwarf our whole race would be executed.” He stares at each of the clans kings for a hard moment. “The gate has opened once more.” He says. Most of the kings look to one another, seeing equal confusion. One, UIlfgar, king of the Balserk clan and oldest friend of Orsik, stands, muttering a few words. After a moment, it becomes clear the words are order, and that the Dwarf had cast Message.
“Rurik, my men are gathering. We will protect the Grand Market tunnels, those of our clans territory, as well as the Mines.” He says.
Flint turns on him. “Now hold! The mines are for all the clans! The market as well!” Ulfgar glares at the young dwarf so heatedly, that he sits back down.
“Young Flint, do not make disagreement on matter you have no knowledge of. Allow the High King to speak, and you will realize just how old you must become in a short time.” As he finishes speaking he looks to the ruler of the great stones.
“Thank you Ulfgar. The gate is before many of you. I was still young when it opened last, not the first time, though we prayed it was final. We were clearly wrong.” He glances at the Stone Lord. “Ulfgar, Orsik, and I were still but boys, 30 years of age. My father, the High King, received word of a threat deep within the most ancient parts of the mountains. For months he sent scouts to discover what it was, but none ever returned. It was only after hiring a Blood Hunter and a small group of calling themselves the Stalkers that we finally discovered a gate to the shadowfell had been opened. The gate is old, and terrible. Many of the things that came through it, we could not kill. It was only the help of Bran and the Stalkers that we found a way to close the gate and banish the rest we could not defeat. Over 43,000 brave dwarves lost their live to join the Great Smith in Valu’gard.”
As the High king looks the faces of his closest and most trusted of advisers and fellow rulers, he sees the fear sink in.
“We will summon our armies and march upon the gate.” Flint says, his voice hard. Rurik shakes his head.
“The Shadowfell is a realm without death. Its monsters do not die and cannot be killed until the gate is close and it stops feeding them.”
“Then we close the gate again.” Kathra says defiantly. Again, the High king shakes his head.
“I will not allow this threat to continue. After we closed the gate we buried it and all the tunnels within a mile of it. If the creatures have returned, they have found, built, or made another way through. Perhaps even tunneled through the original passes. We need a permanent solution. We have to destroy the gate.”
“Very well, how do we do that?” Ulfgar inquires, agreeing whole heartedly. The High King places a hand on the table before him.
“I do not know.”
Ulfgar grunts. “Perhaps that Tiefling? The one who went into the Dark Lands to kill the necromancer and returned? Surely he is to know a way to close it?”
Rurik nods slowly. “Perhaps. That still leaves us with those to actually do the deed. Last time, whenever our dwarves got too close, many turned into undead monsters. Only Bran and a few form his group could get close. Either those with holy power within them, or those with the dark within them.”
“So we need a bearer of the Great Smith then? The Stone Lord?”
Orsik Shakes his massive head. “No, I will be needed here with those protecting the mountains. Only I can close the tunnels fast enough, or save them. We need a champion, elected from the Great Smith, wholly trusted by him to be incorruptible.”
Suddenly the hall shakes. A deep rumble from within the earth moves all the tables and knocked over torch sconces. The stone under the table cracks and the top splinters, throwing chucks of wood over the heads of the kings. As the dwarves watched with wide eyes a deep blue crystal slowly forms before them taking a steady shape. Small lines that become scales, hard eyes, a mouth with lips peeled back into a snarl, The Smiths paladin armor. Around two claw like hands the crystal begins to streak with sudden jolts of light. Within the blue crystal bolts of lightening moves back and forth with ferocity. As the room settles, the high king looks up at the depiction.
“We need a champion. Someone powerful and incorruptible enough to go into the tunnels, make it to the gate, destroy the linked opening in the shadowfell, and return to destroy the one on our side. The Great Smith has made himself clear.” The lord of the mountains points to the statue. “This is our champion.”
“He’s not even dwarven!” Flint exclaimed. Orsik glowers and step forward.
“You would contest the wisdom of the Great Smith!” His voice seems to echoe from the stone itself. Flint stares wide eyes at the Stone Lord.
“No, no Stone Lord, of course not. I just….” His voice trails off. The High King ignores them and stares at the statue.
“We need someone to bring him here, regardless of the cost. One of the ancient clans to show the importance of our need.” He turns to the Stone Lord. “Send Baern.” Orsik blinks and frowns deeply.
“Are you certain? He can be…. Hard headed.” The high King smiles and nods. “I’m counting on it. We shall see how this champion response to clan Rumenheim.”