War of the Scaled Horde

The Gathering Storm

Telaron silently moved from one large branch to another, as only his people were capable of. His god had spoken to him in his dreams, and asked him to investigate the recent events surrounding Jhuntara's old sanctuary. Telaron knew his god would have investigated personally, but there were strange energies surrounding the sanctuary that prevented even a god's eyes from prying.

When he finally arrived at the edge of the clearing which marked the sanctuary, he sat within the safety of the trees and listened to their silent song. Mental images flashed through his mind as the trees relayed what they had witnessed in the past few days. With an understanding of what happened, he turned his attention to the congregation at the edge of the spring water pond, and to the priestess that now shone with Jhuntara's residual aura.

Auriana pic She had hair the color of a golden fire, and eyes that could stir the coldest man's soul, or perhaps bore straight through it. Wrapped in a pale-blue satin dress with golden trim and bathed in Jhuntara's aura, she seemed almost a goddess herself. She and the other members of the congregation were busy preparing materials to build the beginnings of an outdoor temple, and their attention seemed totally devoted to this task. Telaron did note, however, a strange sadness about the priestess. He had learned from his "talk" with the trees that her husband, a paladin named Ronan, had just left on a quest to rally the Guardian armies. Though Ronan had promised her he would return, Telaron got the impression that she did not expect to ever see him again.

He began to ponder this for a moment, but something just on the edges of his senses snapped his attention to a dark cluster of trees at the edge of where the congregation worked. No, Telaron corrected himself, it wasn't that the trees were dark, rather it was something hiding within them. Whatever it was, it was cloaked with powerful magic, and Telaron's own magically enhanced senses barely allowed him to detect its presence.

The cloaked figure suddenly darted out of the cluster of trees straight toward where the priestess stood, her back turned toward her attacker. With only a split-second to react, Telaron summoned forth the quickest spell that came to mind. A shower of sparks instantly erupted directly in front of the cloaked figure, causing him to stagger backward in surprise from the blast. A moment later, and his cloak of magic dispelled around him, another piece of Telaron's handiwork. A member of the congregation grabbed a mallet from off the bench he was working on, and charged the now exposed Voluroff.

With assured quickness, Voluroff drew from the folds of his cloak a short sword with an aura even darker than the one Telaron detected around the assassin. Voluroff dodged the blow of his attacker, thrusting his blade into the unfortunate man's abdomen. The man writhed in pain for only a moment, before his skin turned black as coal, and disintegrated into a charred skeleton, as though consumed from within.

Voluroff quickly withdrew the sword and prepared to attack again. Though he was quick, he was not quick enough. Auriana had turned toward her attacker, and her usually warm eyes turned ice cold with fury. Before Voluroff had a chance to raise his sword again, a bright bolt of energy flew from her fingers and straight at his chest.

He was not prepared for the severity of the blast. Every nerve in his body screamed in agony, and his mind felt that it would explode from the pain. He had a strong tolerance to magic, but this was no mere mortal magic. Apparently, the priestess had more than just Jhuntara's aura. As the pain slowly subsided, he realized he could not win this battle.

With surge of magical power, he desperately teleported himself away. Where, he did not care, just so long as SHE didn't follow. Dramar would be furious at his failure, no doubt. But Voluroff had learned all he needed to know. From what he had learned, Jhuntara had given what was left of her power to at least one person, but even a dying goddess had more power than any single mortal could contain for very long. That meant there had to be another. If the priestess Auriana was one of them, it didn't take much to figure out who the other was...

Back at the sanctuary, Auriana scanned the surrounding forest for her mysterious benefactor. In the shadowy canopy at the edge of the forest, her gaze met that of a man with light-brown fur and the face of a cat, dressed in a dark green cloak. The felosian bowed slightly to her, then disappeared into the forest as silently as he had come...

Making sure Voluroff did not return to finish the job he had started, Telaron remained in the general location of the sanctuary for several days. When he departed, he began tracking down Ronan. Along the way, he picked up stories of a large dragon having been seen in the area, and a warrior that traveled with it. In their wake spread the news of Jhuntara's return, and a renewed sense of hope spread with it. Unfortunately for Telaron, he knew he could never share that sentiment. He knew that in the weeks to come, there were only two possible outcomes to the unfolding drama -- deliverance or oblivion.

In the weeks that followed, Ronan and Granimyre traveled hundreds of leagues in search of the scattered troops that once made up the Guardian army. At first, those Ronan spoke with refused to rally behind him, afraid they would suffer the same fate as those who had fought the Horde before. However, Granimyre was successful in convincing the remained elder dragons to take up the mantle of war once again. Soon, the stories of Ronan's plans and the support of the elder dragons reached the ears of the most respected veterans of the war. They rallied those troops that were loyal to them, and set off to join up with Ronan and the elder dragons.

In the lands controlled by the Scaled Horde, the minions were gathering strength, as well. Voluroff had carefully relayed his findings to Dramar and escaped the brunt of Dramar's fury, managing to come away with his life intact, though not his left ear. Furious, Dramar dropped the current "cease-fire" deal the other Ancients had brokered, and commanded the Horde to prepare for a full assault on all lands they did not yet control. His plan for now was simple, leave no one alive and no land unspoiled. Conquer whatever remained, no matter the cost.

Battles flared anew across the lands, both armies committing themselves once again to wiping out the other side. At the end of each battle, it did not matter who had won, for the lands they fought over were decimated in the process. Those Ancients who had until now stayed out of the conflicts, found their followers dead and their treasured lands and in ruins. The movement among the Ancients to confront Dramar once and for all was building strength, and they were ready to strike back with a renewed vigor and sense of purpose.

...And caught in the middle was Felosia, one of the few untouched lands left in the realm. Telaron watched the battles of the converging armies from afar, his heart tense and sorrowful. He knew what was to come -- he had been here before -- and now would have to witness it one last time. Both he and the land he loved were being caught up in the gathering storm that men mistakenly call Destiny, a storm that few have ever escaped...