Cold wind ripped across the waves bringing with it a wall of rain. The sheet of rain smashed across the wooden deck of the ship and over the cloaked figure, but he did not move. A flash of lightning broke open the horizon of black clouds and black seas revealing intense blue eyes under the gray cloak of the stranger.
Loral Ciriclight, priest of Tunare, stood on the ship's deck, ignoring the tearing wind and cold rain. He was an elf transformed. His hair hung in thick strands down the front of his shoulders from under his hood. He held his cloak tight around his body as the wind ripped through him. Lighting crashed again and the huge boat creaked sending a flood of rainwater across the deck. Loral's eyes never moved.
Two huge barbarians covered in spiked steel armor and carrying great-swords almost as tall as Loral stood guard over the focus of Loral's intense gaze. Between them was the Grozmok stone. For centuries the huge stone served demons and gods long dead. For centuries it lead to the twisting and destruction of countless beings across countless worlds. And now it was here on this boat in this storm.
Strange magic kept the huge slab afloat over its pedestal. Loral saw horrible glyphs and sigils carved on its surface from a dark language beyond the realms of Norrath. No word of this language ever spread across the lands. No mortal tongue could ever hope to articulate the impossible multi-voiced syllables of the ancient language. The guttural and deep words would hew into the minds of those who heard it, spreading like black poison and tearing away all moral and rational thought. Men pierced the throats of their families under the orders of such words, spilling the blood of their loved ones onto the insatiable stone. Lightning crashed again and Loral closed his eyes.
The two guards turned to the cloaked figure that stood in the storm and watched it stride forward. Time appeared to slow. The figure's hard boots thudded on the deck above the steady roar of the falling rain. The figure drew a hand from within its cloak and traced a sign of Tunare in the air with two fingers. His powerful decisive stride never stopped. A flash of light erupted from within the folds of the figure's gray cloak. The two barbarians placed their hands on the hilts of their huge swords.
The larger of the two guards began to draw his sword but before six inches of the steel blade left it sheath, a twisting cord wrapped around his wrist, waste, feet, and throat. It tore him into the railing of the ship's deck and he screamed against another crash of lightning. The other drew his own huge blade in a fast practiced draw. He took no chances.
The unhindered guard cut hard in a horizontal slash that should have severed the cloaked figure in half. The figure turned, putting his back against the blade's cut and although the blade cut into the figure's gray cloak, it shattered like glass against the shield the figure wore on his back. A deep and low roar swept across the ship's deck. Red flames leaped up from the cut in the figure's cloak.
The figure's cloak whipped back and revealed a shining hammer in his hand. The cloaked attacker smashed the head of the hammer into the guard's chest and with a crash of magical energy. The cloaked figure drew back and then threw his hand forward hard as if tossing a huge stone. Another deep thud sounded across the ship as blast of magical energy slammed into the guard, shattered the thick wooden railing, and sent him soaring onto lower deck below.
The figure leaped up onto the remaining railing holding his shining hammer high in one hand and a burning shield in the other. Below his feet the Grozmok stone whispered in a dark tongue. The figure smashed his hammer into the center of the stone. The Grozmok stone exploded in black and white fire, shattering into dust.
Lighting cut again across the gray storm clouds and the boat rocked again tearing Loral from the vision of his attack. How dearly he wished to destroy the accursed stone. How much pain should Norrath continue to suffer? The dark stone twisted the trolls of Grobb into unholy spiritcallers and destroyed the city of Guk. Rumors spoke to the stone's participation in the surfacing of the orcs of Rujarkian. The stone was a compass of death. It dragged its followers into the pits of hell and it would do so again attached to this massive ship.
Loral became aware of silence in his mind. Xuzl, demon imprisoned in Loral's burning shield, never missed such opportunities to torment the elven cleric.
"Why do you not speak, Demon," thought Loral. Xuzl's words returned like a thin hiss, far different from the mental roar of flame he normally spoke through.
There is nothing to say. Ware the stone, priest.
"What do you know of this thing?" The voice of the demon prince flowed through Loral's mind much smoother and lower than it ever had. It was a powerful contrast from the demon's normally overpowering voice.
Only a handful of such items exist across the known worlds. Their power is endless, eviscerating worlds and spilling their entrails upon the open vastness that lies in between. None know where such things are created. They outgrow even those who build them. Some say they are built from within the ethereal voids where not even the demon-princes dare to look. Leave this place, priest.
Xuzl's words surprised Loral. Even in his defeat at the hands of the adventurers of Lotus Cult, Xuzl never showed fear until now.
Loral turned and looked back across the crashing seas. The clouds themselves seemed alien to Loral, as though the great ship of the Wayfarers had itself traveled across the rifts of Norrath and into unknown worlds. Whatever awaited him on the shores to the west, Loral could only hope he would be ready.
The howling winds of the storm brought a cry to Loral's ears. The ship's watchman sighted land. A cold shiver flowed through Loral's veins as a whispered prayer to Tunare left his lips. The gates of discord had opened, and chaos reigned within.
Dauleroun Alines walked slowly down the streets of Felwithe in the darkness of the late night. The elven councilman's hard-soled boots echoed off of the stone pavement, the only sound in the deep night. His pale skin sagged at his cheeks and neck; many in the council noted that the conservative voice of the council looked far older these last few days. It was due to stress, no doubt, after the recent news and omens of war.
Shadows bent and twisted across the blue stone walkway and across the alleys of the closed shops. The shadows flanked and followed the councilman as he made his way to his posh apartment in North Felwithe.
The councilman waved a hand past a red glyph on the stone door of his apartments. The rune shifted to green and magical forces pushed the rumbling stone into a hidden compartment. When the councilman entered, the door closed behind him. The shadows, however, followed him inside.
Alines waved his hand again, and spoke a single word in elder Elvish. A fire burst into life in his hearth, illuminating the room. A low voice from the shadows of the room whispered in a much older and darker voice. The fire died low in the hearth. Alines turned and faced the dark corner.
All of the shadows of the small room twisted and turned, shifting and drawing in. Chilled wind flowed through the room blowing papers off of Aline's old desk and whipping the room's drapes and table cloths like the wings of bats. The shadows came together in one spot and filled out a tall humanoid shape. Red eyes blazed from the shadows and the vampire lord stepped into the light.
"Speak." The vampire's voice was low and smooth. The red eyes shifted through the full spectrum of light from red to violet and back, finally settling on a burning green.
"Lord Varlow." Alines's confident voice broke apart as he spoke the name of the vampire lord who had taken him. "I did as you asked. The emissaries, scouts, and adventurers head west across the Abysmal Seas following the agents of the Wayfarers. We sent word to all of our field agents."
"And the priest?" Varlow's hands slid from within his pitch black robes. The long fingers ended in sharp thick nails.
"He travels west as well."
"Excellent." The vampire lord's green eyes looked behind Councilman Alines. "Glave, You know what to do."
"Yes, my master." The hissing voice sent bolts of electricity through the elven councilman. Alines whipped around to behold a shadowed figure less than two feet from his exposed back.
Like Varlow, the figure had white skin but unlike the other vampire, tiny sigils, glyphs, and runes covered nearly every inch of this figure's skin . His eyes were pure black orbs that shone in the dim flashes of the firelight. He wore a flat black tunic and black trousers tucked into tall heavily creased boots. A cloak draped over his sholders and a low hood covered the shade's bald tattooed head. A pair of daggers, hilted in silver and adorned with black pearls, hung on the creature's wide black belt. The pitch black eyes focused on the shaken councilman and the vampire shade smiled revealing horrible pointed teeth.
The vampire shade, Glave, smiled again at the councilman and stepped toward the door. Glave turned sideways and seemed to fold into a thin line before floating through the crack of the door.
The shocking site of something so unnatural faded and the councilman turned back to the elder vampire.
"What of me now?"
"One day you may serve me as well as Glave. It took him five centuries to earn my trust and enter my inner circle." The vampire smiled, his long teeth glistening. "For now, you serve me here."