Chapter 29: The Godslayer

Since the dawn of Norrath, pain, torment, and horror all paid homage to the Plane of Fear. Dark demons and foul spellcrafters delighted in the terror of mortals, reveling in their power as servants to one of the most powerful gods of Norrath, Cazic Thule. The Faceless, as he was sometimes called, had the largest number of followers in all the lands and there had never been a threat to his reign as the Lord of Fear. This day, however, he faced the worst danger he ever knew.

The fiends watched in curiosity as the rifts opened. Large tears in the fabric of their world sucked foul air into Norrath on the other side of the rifts. The scouts came first, recognized as Iksar by the minions of Fear. One such demon, a bat-winged fiend known as Gamblazan, glided forward towards a scout, planning to tear open the small lizard for its intrusion. But the lean Iksar struck first, stabbing through the naturally armored chest of the red beast with his ethereal tipped spear. Gamblazan stared down at the mortal and fell dead to the tainted earth.

With a rhythmic rumble, five hundred Iksar poured through two dozen rifts into the Plane of Fear. Alraza Thule, the Bloodqueen, looked over to Dread, another of Thule's demi-gods, and shrugged in confusion. This confusion soon disappeared when behind the Iksar army slithered in the Shissar.

A war greater than one ever seen upon Norrath filled the Plane of Fear. Waves of roaring magma turned scores of screaming Iksar into ash. More were tossed into the air only to come crashing down, bursting into gore. The destruction of their slave army did little to discourage the Shissar Warmasters. While their well equipped fodder distracted the minions of Thule, the Shissar struck at Cazic Thule's children, the demi-gods of Fear.

Twelve great sorcerers hurled great beams of pure energy at the hulking wolf-headed beast, Gromhazik the Chaosfiend. His pitch black skin split and charred, burning down to the bone. Arunz the Amygdalan King carved through dozens of the Iksar soldiers when the telekinetic grasp of five Shissar channelers took hold. Arunz screamed loud enough to turn every head, mortal and immortal, until a power greater than the combined strength of every giant of Norrath ripped him to pieces.

Watching from a nearby hill, the Bloodqueen began a great incantation when a powerful blow from behind stole the words from her lips. She looked down to the golden-runed blade protruding from her chest. Twisting around she beheld her slayer, the Shissar King Ssraeshza. With a sneer, the Shissar lord pushed the dead demi-goddess off of his blade and wiped the black blood on her rotten mantle.

Seeing three of his children die in as many minutes told Cazic Thule of the danger he faced. Beckoning for one of his alchemists, he roared instructions to the quivering beast. They had only one chance, releasing the Greenmist.

A great cloud of green fog flowed out of the Amygdalan temple and wafted through the confused combatants, both demonic and Iksar alike. Not until he saw four of his generals fall over dead amidst healthy troops did the threat become clear to the Shissar King. Looking over at the great form of The Faceless, he cursed, and along with his remaining generals, the lord of the Shissar left the Plane of Fear through one of the remaining rifts back to Norrath.

But the Greenmist followed and five thousand years later the Emperor of the Shissar could still feel its weight on his shoulders. He felt too the sickening feeling that Cazic Thule must have felt when the Lord of Fear saw true danger at the hands of mortals. The lord of the Shissar, Emperor Ssraeshza, had seen his generals slain, his oldest and most trusted advisors cut down, and his personal guard neutralized. His greatest creation, the Blood Golem, a construct built from the lifeblood of five hundred generations of Iksar and protected under the greatest spells of protection his priests could provide, had been cut down in his own inner sanctum.

Now he stood and looked into the eyes of his slayer. The mortal adventurer stood in front of him, cutting deep with blades forged to pierce his impenetrable scales and bathed in a beam of energy fed by a dozen high priests of a dozen different gods. For each mortal cut the emperor inflicted on this warrior, the wound closed as soon as the ancient blade had finished the stroke. The air burst around him into fire, ice, and electricity. Four dozen other blades cut into his scaled skin but this avatar of a dozen gods took all of his attention. This warrior had become a vehicle of revenge for all the gods perverted by word and deed of the ancient Shissar emperor and could not die. With a final cut, the most devastating ruler to ever walk Norrath was killed."

It had been two weeks since Loral returned from the Temple of Ssraeshza. He sat at the end of the bar of the inn of Shadowhaven where he had spent many of his nights in luclin. At one table sat three trolls, one sharing the tale of the death of the Shissar emperor with his disbelieving companions. The golden-runed blade strapped to his back spoke a greater truth than the trolls loud voice. When Loral looked too long at the wicked blade he felt a hiss in his mind and was reminded of the treachery he felt under the terrible powers of the Shissar interrogator. What tales that blade could tell, he thought, and wondered whether it might ever find the chest of a mighty or terrible god again.

At the other side of the bar stood a young elven paladin. She looked with disdain upon the troll discussion, turning quickly into a table-breaking bar brawl. The bartender did nothing to intervene, knowing the purses of the trolls to be as large as their mighty ale-filled bellies. Loral watched the fiery-haired Paladin glare at the troll and turn away to finish her champagne cocktail. How much he was reminded of his early days after leaving Felwithe. The paladin had no idea of the horror that troll may have saved Norrath from. Possibly neither did the troll, thinking the Emperor was but another big game hunt. For the young knight of Tunare, the troll was but an annoying disturbance in a normally quiet bar.

The purple and red cross clasped to the paladin's cloak sent Loral's thoughts down a different stream. For eighty of his 100 years of adventure, Loral had been a member of Healers United. Unlike the highly political climate between Felwithe's rulership and the Church of Tunare, Loral found a network crossing many faiths, cities, races, and experiences. It was a large shift from the stereotypical views Felwithe had given the young priest. Loral was shocked to find the band led by a dark elf priestess of Innoruuk, but after one meeting with Dahlea, Loral saw the kindness behind her sharp gaze and knew he found the right group. Soon the barbarian oracle, Juror, led the group with his strict adherence to the balance of the Tribunal. Loral had countless adventures with the members of the Healers and assisted in the protection of young adventurers on their first hunts. While Loral had found a wonderful tool to help in his travels and a wonderful group of friends to share those travels with, learning of the small differences between the races of Norrath was the lesson that helped Loral the most. He was richer for the experiences and knowledge of his friends, whatever their race or beliefs. He suddenly realized just how much Ciric's teachings of balance had helped him. Without those insights he may never have accepted the Healers or many of the friends he met along his journeys.

Loral remembered stories of the Erudite's first adventures in Norrath. Travelers hardly ever left the safety of their cities. In those days, transportation was by foot or boat. The magic of teleportation had yet to be discovered. Beasts ruled the lands between the walled cities and much of the magic and artifacts were buried in hidden tombs of long forgotten empires. With the discovery of teleportation and of the Nexus, new gateways between far off lands became possible and and with the erosion of geographical boundaries, the separation of the races became thin as well.

The world had changed in the hundred years Loral had traveled in the service of Tunare. But in many ways he had changed while the world had not. Loral looked at the trolls, once sworn enemies of the elves. The troll storyteller returned his gaze. Loral raised his glass to the storyteller and smiled. The troll smiled a toothy grin and returned the toast. Many of these changes were good indeed.

Three weeks later, the Plane Wars began.