7/25/2022 at 3:09
The Second War of Night, Part IV: The Shadowrot
Though they knew their efforts at forestalling Shadow's encroachment were temporary at best, none expected the situation to deterioriate quite as fast as it did. Beset with eerie visions of Vo'acha, the Shadow, Sibatti and Jhura hurried to the Guardian's totem at Sterion while the rest of the Council followed shortly after. Runemaster Olto met them beside Vo'acha's totem, having apparently received the same vision: of the great serpent coiling around his totem while black filth and rot bubbled up from below.
Heated discussion ensued about what the vision could mean while the Runemaster attempted to examine the area, in particular the water of the frozen lake which seemed to feature in what he had seen. Arguments broke out when Olto requested the aid of a scientist to analyse a water sample, and discussion threatened to boil over into full out conflict as Bloodloch arrived at the scene demanding to know what was taking place.
Finally, Sibatti called on Inkh's services and asked that he analyse the water sample. Taking it to the megasizer device, with the aid of Litrix they discerned that there were traces of excess shadow in the water, far beyond what could be considered normal parameters. The Xorali scientist accompanied the Chairman back to Sterion and conferred with the Runemaster to bring himself up to date on the situation.
Litrix quickly performed a survey of the area with a strange array of tools and instruments, concluding the likely existence of a cavern or crevice below the frozen lake. With his makeshift expedition crew in tow, he paced the lake and breathed fire into the largest sheet of ice, melting it away to reveal an opening below. Both within and adjacent, thick layers of rot presided, dominating the cavern network with shadowy filth.
As adventurers explored, Litrix called on Aisling dur Naya to perform psychometry, hoping for some insight into how the rot had formed so far from the rift and, as far as anyone was concerned, so deep below the ice and out of sight and mind. Aisling's mental inspection yielded only images in black and grey, impressions of death, dozens of expiring shadowspawn, and the taint growing more foul with each one.
This seemed to confirm some theory held by Litrix as he immediately made known his belief that the totem was not responsible, putting paid to some theories about the power of the Guardians. The Xorali posited that each shadowspawn killed at the arch by mundane means was congealing in this cave instead of having itself dispersed to harmless essence. According to Litrix, such a thing should not be possible unless the Shadow had outside help. This ominous declaration set in motion another slew of theories and accusations, none of which have yet bore any fruit.
He went on to theorise that the rot ran far deeper than this single layer, and responded to concerns about killing more shadowspawn with a reserved, bitter comment that the damage was almost certainly already done. It would spread, beyond the cave, perhaps even beyond Sterion, Litrix stated in bleak tones. And it did.
As midnight fell across the land, the rot emerged from the cave and claimed its first foothold in Sterion proper. Though its advance was slow, nothing survived contact with it, shrines and creatures and all other ephemera consumed into the black mass. All who stood within it felt sickened and weak, Duamvi far more than others. Large bells were brought forth by Enorian in an effort to repel the taint, but the pealing chimes served only to make it angry and more resolute.
Each subsequent night brought more of the same: the rot advancing further into Sterion and devouring all in its path. As the songline totems fell, followed by the totem of Vo'acha, the web of Dendaric energy and the labyrinth established by Duiran began to falter, bringing forth dozens of shadowspawn through the rift at once. And so it continued.
In the early days of Variach, after both Vo'acha and Kree-sa's totems had fallen to the rot and almost a full third of Sterion lay in the Shadow's grip, the Unbound Lord appeared beside the Shrine of Bells. Damariel's presence enraged the cloying darkness which twice tried to attack Him, lashing tendrils repelled by His brilliant aura of light. Visibly disgusted by the taint, Damariel spoke of Ohlsana's struggle against Her prison, and how the Shadow Mother was spending all Her will on driving the rot forward.
Infused with intelligence from Her, and bound so tightly to Her mind, there was little even the Gods could do against it, so-said the Unbound Lord, inwardly musing on a time where the Gods were far more powerful, and perhaps could have done more. As ever, Damariel counselled hope - He believed that as the rot spread, Ohlsana would not be able to maintain Her iron will over all of it at once, offering some scant relief as He insisted that She was not limitlessly powerful.
Upon hearing of someone - or Someone - lending aid to the Shadow, Damariel mused that He would not suspect any of His own kin of being responsible, troubled by the information. Still He projected hope, even while stating that the time of a united Pantheon had long passed and inwardly blaming Varian for the fact. As another assault by the darkness was rebuffed, Docent Eliadon asked of the Unbound God His thoughts on freeing Dejaani, Guardian of the First Flame, to combat Ohlsana. He offered no opinion on the idea, save to share that the Albedi Divine were entirely unlike the Sapience Pantheon, more akin to forces of nature than individual people.
As midnight drew nearer, Damariel assured those present that a weakness would present itself in time, and that when it did, they would fight back. Leaving the group with these final words, the Unbound Lord took His leave and was gone, the adventurers regrouping beside the arch in preparation for the midnight hour...
Penned by my hand on Kinsday, the 5th of Variach, in the year 504 MA.