Kothac Lightbringer

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Translated from old dwarven by Brac'ar Fireface Kilring, 1378 It was in my 250th year, shortly before I left behind the church and all its political maneuvering. In fact, it is only in looking back on my life, where it occurs to me that this chapter of my life may have very well been the catalyst for my leaving. I had just seen off one of the few elves I have ever met onto a ship to follow his kind to Voltrex. It was a very strange relationship we had had, but for my part I must confess to having considered him friend.

Shortly before his departure, we had paid one last visit to what had been his home upon Mistone, deep within the White Horn Forest. Having spent the previous 200 years of my life taking the axe of righteousness to the vile unliving of Corath, I had become rather attuned to the signs of unliving activity. Though the signs were very faint, they were present nonetheless. So after I saw Fëanfir off, I returned to the White Horn Forest to investigate. Upon first arriving, the signs I had previously noticed were no longer to be found. But after nearly a year of slow, methodical, searching and wandering, I eventually came upon a lead again.

I found myself before a place I had, up to this point, thought relatively isolated in the spreading of its evil taint'the Broken Halls. It was well known that this fallen elven city was haven to some otherwise unsavory unliving, but the cleansing and purging process never seemed to take, and since the taint seemed contained within, it was simply watched from afar. Yet no word had reached my ears or those of any of the Church about new activity there. Upon initially entering the ruined city I immediately became aware that something was amiss. The unliving worked with coordination and forethought. Because of this I immediately retreated and sent word to the Church for support. While I awaited aid, I stood vigil over the ruins; waiting for any sign of what within could be causing such happenings.

In only my seventh night of watch, I received word from the Church; there was indeed a new, powerful threat of the unliving arising, but not from the Broken Halls. My expertise in combating the unliving was requested to the south in the remnants of Silkwood known as the Hallowlight Forest. I was assured that a new watch would be kept over Broken Halls as my concerns on such matters were taken with great respect.

I departed immediately for the Hallowlight Forest. I traveled day and night, stopping only once to aid a woman and child. Their cart had thrown a wheel, and they were struggling mightily to get it back on. They were traveling from Kheldell to a small town called Hlint after the passing of the man of the family. Never in all my life have I regretted a good deed done, but nonetheless, this one deed may have brought a darkness upon the land unlike any previously known. May Vorax forgive my charitable weakness.

I arrived rather spent and mighty hungry in the village of Krandor. There I would take food and drink, and rest from the forced trek. Or so I thought. I had only been in the village for barely eight hours when brethren from the church arrived from the Hallowlight Forest. There were seven of them, four dead, being cared for by the other three to be returned to clanholds. They would find no shelter or safety in Krandor though. For that night, the visible moon was totally eclipsed and then clouds moved to obscure the stars. From these clouds a rain of blood fell. From the crypts within Krandor a red mist began to roll. The three brethren were in the inn doing what little they could to tend their wounds. But the four fallen rested on a litter behind the building. If only I had arrived sooner, I could have assisted these fine dwarves in their battle, preventing the death of those four. If only I had arrived sooner those four would surely have still been alive. But that was not the case. They indeed lay dead. All the living consumed within the fog perished, having felt all life drain from their bodies. But the dead, the dead were not safe either. This fog took life from the living, and gave it to the dead. The four dwarves, still in full battle regalia, were brought back from the dead, but twisted and perverse. They began to raid and sack the helpless town of Krandor, and every body they hewed was raised up if touched by the fog. The battle raged all through the night as the fog spread farther and farther. The three who had so diligently done their duty to bring back their comrades were paid for their thoughtfulness by eventually joining them. In the end I was forced to destroy them all. Only by the will of Vorax did I survive that night to see the rays of sun break through the clouds. The fog though did not disperse. Instead, the fog merely began to slowly roll back down into the crypts.

With a heavy heart I made my prayers to Vorax and descended into the crypts, my duty clear. Upon entering, though, I was immediately disturbed. There was that feeling, that sense again. This was unmistakably the same taint I had encountered in Broken Halls. Warily I pressed forward. I know not how long I fought, or how many unliving I was forced to hew and re-hew. Long after my body had lost the strength to channel the powerful energies of Vorax's blessing, long after my arms had gone numb from unceasing combat, and long after exhaustion had made my legs lumps of lead I found myself finally standing alone, deep, deep within the dark crypts. So exhausted was I that I was not even sure I actually heard the voice. But I did. And the voice sent shivers down even my spine.

Without even so much as the strength to call upon Vorax for more light I tread forward holding my radiant axe before me for light. I came then to a door behind which the voice came from. As I stood before the door, I whispered a small prayer to Vorax that he might give me strength to see this task finished. Before I could reach for the door though, it flew open seemingly of its own accord.

You have destroyed my army, and for that you shall now lead the new one.

The dark shape of a man stepped forth through the doorway. The short sword in his hand fell repeatedly upon my axe and shield. This man possessed the strength of a seasoned fighter, but the battle cunning like that I had seen only in the most devious of opponents. I know not how long I managed to hold him off, but eventually the exhaustion I was feeling became my undoing. In my exhaustion I had failed to notice another in the room or that I was being driven. Without even realizing it, I stepped to dodge a thrust and found myself suddenly engulfed within red fog. The exhaustion I had felt before was nothing compared to this as I felt the very life being drained from my very bones. The figure gave a mighty swing and knocked my axe from my hand and sent it flying across the room. Another blow was rained down towards my skull with such force that my shield arm broke in the blocking of it. The fog continued to take me. I crumpled to the ground a defeated dwarf, motionless and prepared for my final judgment. It is perhaps that resolution to my fate which saved me from it. Instead of the killing blow that I was sure was to follow, I instead heard that voice again.

Come Arkanor. We now have a new general to lead our armies when the ritual is complete.

Through the blood in my eyes and the mist I saw a second pair of legs emerge from the shadows near my fallen axe and follow the dark figure from the room. I lay there for several heartbeats feeling the life drain from me further and further. But despite my condition, the light of my axe transfixed me. To this day I cannot say that I know how or that I remember doing so, but I crawled my way, dragging my nearly dead body with only one arm that was beyond spent, to my axe. There I grasped a hold of it and curled my fingers around the handle. Then, to my astonishment, I realized that I had crawled from the fog. Somehow I used the axe to lever myself up. I remember my vision clouded with blood. I remember the ache in my broken arm. I remember the sunlight blinding me as I stepped forth from the crypt. I remember a woman, or was it a child, screaming as I fell face first into the ground in front of the crypts.

I awoke to find my arm set rather expertly in a splint, and my other wounds neatly bandaged. I was thirsty and my stomach seemed tied in knots. Shortly after I awoke, an elven girl came to the room where I lay. She looked familiar, but my head was still swimming and weakness still had a solid grip on me. I know not what all took lace, but she ministered to me, always praying to Katia. Though I found Katia's influence very unnecessary, the elven girl would not relent, and I had not the strength to argue.

Three days later I was finally strong enough to care for myself. It is then that I learned that I had been a fortnight below in the crypts, and that it was feared I was unliving come to destroy Krandor, just as my brethren had tried when taken by the red mist.

If it had not been for the insistence of the Priestess of Katia, I would have been destroyed. It is then that I went to find this priestess and to pay my respects and give my thanks for her aid, but she had that very morning left Krandor without so much as a word to investigate the taint of the Hallowlight Forest herself. It would be months later before I learned that this elven woman was the daughter of my trusted friend Fëanfir.

It took some time to piece together what had transpired over the previous month but eventually I learned that I emerged from the crypt not but a day after my assailant had. I learned that I had lain almost a week in the care of Katia's priestess. That meant to me that my assailant only had a 10 day lead on me. I sent word by dispatch to the Church of what had thus transpired, then I took up my axe, strapped my shield to my back, and headed out, looking to follow signs of this evil one's passing. It was almost an afterthought, but I also included my feelings of how this incident and those in Broken Halls felt related. For nearly a month I continued to follow the trail and clues. As I got closer to my quarry the trail became more pronounced. I could identify my two assailants by the taints they left behind when not together. Though both abysmally evil, it was clear that the taint I had felt first in Broken Halls and then later within the deep of Krandor's crypts belonged to the lesser of the two evils. It belonged to the one addressed as Arkanor.

Just as I was arriving in Melar on the trail of these evil beings, I was approached by a courier who had been dispatched from [Haven] to await me. I had been recalled. The General Superior of the Order of War Priests had himself led a cleansing of the Broken Halls given what word I had sent. He came out the only survivor of his party. Further, he had contracted some affliction that no divine healings were able to counter. He would soon be dead, but had insisted on speaking with me.

When I arrived at his resting place in Haven the petty jealousies there were only thinly veiled. It was quite clear that many who had gathered were expecting me to be named successor by the General Superior despite the fact that I had never officially joined the Order of War Priests. It did little good on my part to try to dissuade the jealous ones of the notion, nor did it seem to matter that I did not desire the position.

I was brought in private meeting to sit with the frail and failing General Superior. At only a brief glance one could tell he had little time left in the world. A closer look though showed the mighty dwarf for who he really was. Even in such a weakened state, there was no doubt who was master and who was the lesser in his presence. It was then that I was told of the expedition into Broken Halls. The unliving had grown strong there because of one who had taken residence there. A vampire of great power named Saproprias had taken to dwelling in the depths of the halls. Having been unprepared for a being of such immense power, the expedition was destroyed. Something had granted to Saproprias great strength beyond that of any vampire previously known. The General Superior was careful to relate the details of how each member of the party had fallen, and indeed what they managed to learn at every turn. After his tale he looked upon me as a father would upon a gifted son.

It will take a General Superior of great knowledge in the ways of these kinds if we are to win this war against the unliving. That is why the task will fall upon you.

With that I was dismissed and told to have his council attend him so that he might speak his mind. However, no sooner had I stepped outside to get some fresh air than I noticed it. By now the taint was unmistakable. Arkanor had been near, and recently. The taint headed north of the town towards the ruins of the dungeon of Arindor the fallen adventurer. Just as I noticed it, the town alarm was sounded; the ogres had decided to venture from the mines and raid again. In the melee I saw him. He was quick and sneaky, and sticking to the shadows, but his passing was unmistakable. Arkanor was slipping out in the confusion. This was the closest I had ever been since that fateful encounter in the crypts. I could not allow him to escape now. I left a brief word with a healer as to the wishes of the General Superior, and with my newly healed arm, and refreshed body gave pursuit.

I caught up with him near Lake Allun, only to have him summon forth a small horde of unliving to slow my progress. It was not until Melar when I yet again thought I would finally have him. However, it turned out I had repeated the mistake of the General Superior and run in unprepared for the might arrayed against me. Arkanor was no longer alone. The whole of Melar was under assault by a small legion of the unliving. It was nearly three days before the forces there and I could break the lines and find the source.

The trail led us to a remote and unmentionably small hamlet known as Gundbarg, near Beirun. There, upon a small cliff, was the entrance to an underground fortress previously undocumented. The defenders of Melar fought bravely, but only a short distance into this fortress all had fallen. As I moved in, something became perfectly clear: Arkanor had rejoined with his dark master. I knew that alone, if I was not careful, I would repeat the events of the crypts in Krandor'likely to not escape alive this time. As it turned out though, luck seemed to be on my side. After I passed my way down to the fourth floor, the unliving stopped roaming. In fact, the place was entirely dead and quiet and empty. The fifth level was the same. Then I arrived at the sixth level, and there I found something familiar: the red fog. It is there that I used the mightiest of prayers I could muster and opened myself fully to the divine blessings of Vorax's wrath. Though I could feel the red mist pull and tug upon my being, it could not penetrate the holy protection of the Father of Battle. I continued until I reached a seventh level. It was in there that I heard stirrings once again. Among the things I heard was a voice that was hauntingly familiar.

Knowing I was alone, I chose to proceed with caution and to get close without bringing attention to myself. As I approached the voices and made my way through the fog I could see an elaborate altar was set up and that the mist seemed to flow forth from the base. Arkanor stood near a man stripped naked in front of the altar. In some guttural language unknown to me, an unholy rite was being performed. The naked man held before him an athame, pointed toward his chest.

Lord Corath, we complete this sacrifice that you might fill this vessel with you essence.

It was then that Arkanor committed his great betrayal. A vampire and a shade appeared next to Arkanor as the naked man impaled his heart with the blade. In his dying moment, the naked man looked confused and enraged all at once.

"You will not get away with this! The Preto Sangue shall rise and your blood shall serve as sacrifice!"? Those words still give me pause to this day, but it seemed at the time that Arkanor was indeed the victor. The vampire, the shade, and Arkanor cast some spell upon the now dying,but not yet dead,body of the naked man. I stood frozen, unable to move, but I witnessed it all as the soul of the man could be seen in the red mist as it was pulled into a small box held by the vampire. While the vampire extracted the soul, Arkanor took from his sleeve a small dagger and impaled himself upon it and fell dead over the naked man. Then a great burst of energy fell upon the altar that bore the sacrifice of Arkanor. From it, the animated remains of the naked man began to rise and attack the form of Arkanor, only to be torn apart by the shade. Slowly, the form of Arkanor began to rise from the altar.

The pact is fulfilled. Remember your duties or we all perish for this night.

With that the shade disappeared with the remains of the body somewhere in the shadows while the vampire took the box and became a dark smoke that I lost in the red mist emanating still from the altar. But now my limbs had returned to me; I charged forward, brandishing my axe high. I approached Arkanor through wave after wave of death magics directed at me. They did him little good, as my faith in Vorax was as strong as Arkanor's unholy union with Corath. When I reached him, I cleaved him wholly in two from top to bottom. A great wail exploded from the fallen body and then there was nothing.

The fog stopped rolling forth from the altar and dissipated, and the remains of the body were consumed in a black fire. I destroyed the altar and left. On my way out, nothing stood before me and it was not until I stepped from the unholy place that I became aware that not all was yet done.
As I finally stepped fully out of the foreboding underground temple, a chill wind like the breath of death rushed out and around me bearing on it a chill chuckle of laughter.

The wind slammed the door shut and nothing I could do would reopen it.

I returned to Haven to report on what had happened, where I learned that the General Superior had passed away. Having left no successor, the debate now raged as to which of three generals of equal seniority might succeed. None were terribly interested in my report. Nor were they interested in the presence of one whom many expected to be named successor over them. I was dismissed to follow any leads I chose, so long as I left quickly,something I was more than happy to do.

It was only three months before word reached me that strong members of Vorax's faith were needed in the Brechs teaching at Ulgrid's. I never made it that far though. As I reached the dwarven town of Brenuth, I found it beset by shades and shadows. It was little effort to route these unclean spirits, but one thing was very certain about them: they possessed Arkanor's taint. It was clear that Arkanor was sending word to me that he had returned. My actions in that battle did earn me a temporary stay in Brenuth, though. My skill with crafting armors, and my careful teaching of others that would follow the faith of Vorax earned me a home. The Church no longer held true to the faith in my eyes. And I had done my service as best as could be expected. I would teach a new generation of loyal worshipers and I would settle in and wait. When next Arkanor struck I would be prepared, and I would have my own army.

Note from the translator:
There were several more passages about how different events led Kothac to finally settle in for good. Towards the end, there were signs that he suspected that Arkanor was finally making another move. There is even some indication that Kothac knew the unliving would be striking very soon, but no indication as to what form the assault would take. It is likely that these last few entries were made just before the unliving giant attack of legend from which Kothac single-handedly saved the town.

The only other piece of information that seems somewhat startling is that Kothac saved the village from the unliving giants at the advanced age of 447 years old, long after he should have been either dead (though some dwarves live past 400 but not by much) or at least should have been too weak to wield his mighty dwarven war axe. And yet, it was neither age nor the unliving that took Kothac, but a fluke avalanche, broken loose by the mighty battle he waged.