War of the Scaled Horde

The Gift

The Ancients allied with Dramar had saved the worst for last. They channeled their powers one more time into the ritual, this time using a final component to permanently empower it. The forming mass of dark energy suddenly began sucking power from them uncontrollably. Before it could completely drain the Ancients of their power, they desperately unleashed it upon their intended victim. With its full power unleashed, it streaked hungrily toward Jhuntara as she knelt over Graminyre's weak form.

The entity struck her with a violent, otherworldly howl. Considerably weakened by her efforts to save Granimyre's life, she could not fend off the attack, and its dark swirling mass enveloped her quickly. To her own horror, she found it was much more than energy. There was a powerful, malevolent consciousness within it - a living, eternal hunger determined to consume the lifeforce of anyone and anything it was unleashed upon. It attacked relentlessly, invading upon her mind as it continued to feed on her energy.

With the dark energy quickly devouring her powers and life force, she fought it off just long enough to retreat to her sanctuary, a mountain lake deep in an untouched forest - a physical reproduction of her home in the spiritual realm. There, she drew upon the residual energies of the sanctuary, which she had stored during her exile from the spiritual realm. As she began focusing the energy to regain her strength, the entity found her and attacked. With a sudden surge of power, she struck out at the dark entity, her holy desperation and fury manifested in a bolt of blindingly bright energy. The bolt struck at the heart of the dark entity, exploding in a brilliant display of light seen for miles. The explosion tore the entity to shreds down to its core, destroying every trace of the dark magic that had created it.

Jhuntara had won, but the battle had taken its toll. She had used up the last of the stored energy in her sanctuary, and had lost nearly all her own power in the process. Exhausted and near death, she plunged to the bottom of the deep lake from which she drew her power, and withdrew herself into a type of hibernation. There, she remained with the hope that she could eventually heal herself, and that Tarias would not be lost now that she was powerless to help. She was so weakened, that in her hibernation, even the Ancients could no longer sense her presence. Everyone was convinced she had died that day. Her loss would eventually become the wake up call that the Ancients so desperately needed.

The ritual had left the dark Ancients severely drained, having consumed most of their power in defeating Jhuntara. They quickly retreated from the battles to return to their own realms, and concentrated solely on regaining their lost powers. Granimyre, his spirit broken from witnessing Jhuntara's apparent death, retreated to his secluded cave and hid there in remorse and guilt. However, Dramar and his minions remained, and they quickly overcame the Guardian army, ushering in the first Dark Age of the realm. Over the next few years, the elder dragons would be reduced to defending small pockets of civilization from the sporadic attacks of the Overlords' minions.

[Ronan Pic]

During the time before her demise, a young knight-in-training named Ronan rose in rank and reputation among the embattled Guardian armies. Possessed of great skill and power, he became known for his keen tactical mind, as well as for his reverence to the religious teachings of the goddess Jhuntara.

That reverance turned to unending devotion on the day of Jhuntara's death. As the armies of the Guardians and the Horde battled, the anguished roar of a mighty dragon tore across the sky, and the fighting stopped momentarily as Granimyre fell from the sky and crashed into the battlefield. Ronan bore witness to Jhuntara's demise only moments later as she tended to the injured elder dragon. As Jhuntara vanished, locked in a fatal battle with the dark entity that had assailed Granimyre, the Horde resumed their assault. Ronan charged headlong into the fray, and though the battle would be lost, Ronan's valor shined. While the rest of the Guardian army was forced to retreat, he remained behind long enough to rescue his injured unit commander from the battlefield, an act which nearly cost him his own life.

He was officially granted his Knighthood later that same month, and dedicated his service in Jhuntara's name. He had been so moved by her sacrifice that he set out on a holy quest to find her sanctuary, and discover what had become of her. He spent months searching for it, guided only by fragments of lore, and his own steadfast determination. When he finally reached the sanctuary months later, he knelt reverently before the crystal blue water, and vowed before its tranquil spendor, to forever preerve her legacy and champion her cause. As long as he drew breath, he would ensure that the people of Tarias would never forget the sacrifice she made, or the hope she had inspired within him.

After spending a week's vigil there, he returned to home with a renewed sense of strength and purpose. during his vigil, the trees surrounding the sanctuary began silently repeating his words, in a manner only Jhuntara could hear. Through her slumber, his prayers washed over her, and lit a new spark of courage and strength within her. His indominible spirit blazed bright with conviction and faith, even as others had given in to despair. It was the most precious gift she had ever received. For that she would be forever grateful.

In the last of his prayers, he made a solemn vow that he would one day return. Until that fateful day, she would silently wait for his return...