The minotaur staggered slightly as his next footstep plunged into muck that went up to his knees. With a force that made his legs burn in agony, he forced himself out of the soupy mixture and back onto the path weaving between the pools.
“Cordus…hurry up.” A tense metallic voice rang from a warforge that was running quickly along beside him. Three others were in the party: a half-elf, human and dark elf and all were moving as if their very lives depended on it…and it did.
Up ahead they could see a white light. An opening perhaps? No one was sure, but the sound of their pursuers hot on their heels was enough motivation to keep on going regardless of where the path led.
Cordus, a Runepriest by profession, couldn’t help but wonder how he ever got himself into this position and as he ran he couldn’t help but look at his companions and consider what set of circumstances lead this seemingly random group of five together.
Images burst into his head…memories of those first defining moments. The ones that brought them all together on a day that could never be forgotten despite almost 10 years separating them from it…
The Day of Mourning.
The group were members of House Deneith, the House of the Sentinel, or to everyone else…the House of Mercenaries sold to the highest bidder. They each provided support in their own way to various contractual clients through the House, joining towards the latter part of the Last War. Directed to provide support for a combined Breland-Thrane assault against Cyre, they each had made their way to to Cyre’s western border to confront what they discovered was a combined Karnnath-Cyre force that had massed just on the east side of the Cyran border. A few days after the attack began. The House Deneith forces were assigned as a reserve force to plug holes in the line or to provide support to the front lines, but these five would have a different task. A commanding officer requested volunteers to support a Brelish officer, Bren ir’Gadden, at his headquarters located on the very border of the two countries. Five random volunteers who had never met before were joined together for the first time and together made their way to the field HQ.
They were a “unique” group. A half-elf ardent that went by Erdan, a warforged known that had named itself Bastion, a female dark elf, a minotaur runepriest known as Cordun, and a silent human monk who called himself Ire.
Arriving at the tower they could hear the sounds of battle emanating from the Saerun road located not far away. Bren’s task was to oversee the forces in this sector and the Saerun road in particular. The tower offered a vantage point both due to its height and its position on a small hill overlooking the road, but still far enough away to not put the commanding officer in too much harm’s way…or so he thought.
The five mercenaries could see that something was unsettling about the place. For one, no guards stood outside the tower and its interior seemed pretty dark. Certainly not what you would expect from a field HQ in the middle of a battle. Nearing the tower’s entrance, Bastion noticed movement just inside the tower near the ruins of what used to be the front door. In the middle of raising his hand and turning to notify his comrades, three oversized bugs raised out at him…Kruthik Hatchlings! Calling upon the power of nature, Bastion quickly responded to the situation and in a matter of seconds two of the hatchlings lay dead. Moments later four more Hatchlings burst from the ground at the very feet of Erdan and Cordun.
Then Ire stood up.
In a fury that resembled five storms pounding together, the monk went into a frenzy lashing out with his bare hands and feet and knocking the very life out of three of the Hatchlings. In short order most of the Hatchlings lay dead about the feet of the party, but this was not the end. A small squat humanoid that resembled a goblin came to the doorway, but there was something very different about this creature. Four arms protruded from his chest and two mouths, one literally on top of the other, gave his face an angular feature.
Bastion had heard of these before…creatures of the mountains notorious for their ferocity sure, but more impressive because of its two brains that gave it reactions times beyond the normal capacity of its kind.
“Look out! It’s a Dolgrim Warrior!”, he said as the Dolgrim moved towards Ire and raised up his club. It came down upon Ire’s shoulder who winced at the sharp pain that followed. Calling once again upon the power of storms, Ire became a whirlwind dropping one of the last Hatchlings and barely missing the Dolgrim’s head.
Mocking him, the Dolgrim looked at Ire and used one of his free hands to point at the monk and another to make a slicing motion against his throat. Ire stared at him and summoning years of discipline yelled with all his might. “Suck it!”
Bastion landed a quick blow against the Dolgrim followed quickly by Cordus charging into the fray and using the horns of his people to try and impale the creature on his very skull. Unfortunately, the Dolgrim dodged and Cordus had to right himself quickly to get back into a defensive posture while the Dolgrim whirled quickly into a new position..taking advantage of the brief moment to reposition himself in the battle.
It didn’t’ matter. Calling upon the very weight of the Earth, Bastion slammed into the Dolgrim who staggered back at the massive blow. Ire finished the job in typical monk style: an open palm fist to the face that jammed the creature’s nose right into its brain. The dilapidated tower stood before the party. Placing his flail back in its holster, Erdan looked at the rest of the party. “I say we investigate.”
They went into the tower and quickly noticed the havoc that had been caused the Dolgrim and Hatchlings. About the room in which they stood were the bodies of Brelish rangers. A quick inspection identified them as guards that were typically found in the retinue of Brelish nobles. Fearing the worst they proceeded into the next room to find still more bodies and, lying up against the far side of the chamber’s wall, a half elf dressed for war, but clearly bearing the signs of a nobleman. This was clearly Bren Ir’Gadden, the man they were supposed to report to. Cordus knelt down beside the comatose half-elf, checked his vital signs and used the knowledge he gained among his tribe to revive the man.
It took some time for his memory to return, but in short order the full realization of the events came back to him. It seems that he hadn’t been at the field HQ long before his men were assaulted by the bloodthirsty Dolgrim and the Kruthik that had hid as the army arrived took this opportunity to venture out and feast upon the bodies of the dead rangers.
As Bren was being helped up, the ground rumbled and a dull boom could be heard from the east. It startled everyone, but more startling was a slight burning sensation that each party member felt on his chest.
Ire looked up at a hole within the ceiling that showed a steel grey sky.
“I have a bad feeling about this.”
As they reached the door they looked east and saw in horror a massive cloud of mist with orange lightning penetrating from it and each felt an unseasonably warm wind that came from the storm’s direction.
Ire, always the pragmatic one, wasn’t as nearly concerned about the storm as he was about the corpses that he noticed were shambling toward the group. “What in the nine hells?”, he said as 4 clearly undead soldiers, 2 live ones bearing armor that had the Order of the Emerald Claw on it, and one gaunt old woman dressed in green and black robes came towards them from the path leading up to the tower.
One of the men, a Sergeant within the Emerald Claw, looked back at the women, “Well Lady Mallora, it looks like someone tried to do our work for us from the looks of it.
“So it would seem”, replied the woman. “No matter. Finish the job and make sure the corpses are in good condition.”
Bren recognized the icon on the Sergeants chest. “Emerald Claw agents…they are probably from Karnnath.”
As weapons were raised, the sky overhead seemed to catch on fire and ignite in a terrible conflagration. Bastion looked up and frowned, “Clouds aren’t supposed to do that.”
Ire growled back at the distracted warforge. “Focus on the Zombies, tin man. One problem at a time.”
Erdan was the first to respond with a swing from his flail that obliterated one of the zombies leaving nothing left but a torso. Cordus followed this up with a blow of his own that felled another zombie. It was then that Mallora decided she had had enough. Chanting words that transcended temporal boundaries, the necromancer drew forth power from the Shadowfell itself and slammed her staff, an intricate thing made up of numerous small bones, upon the ground. A Death Burst of purplish necrotic energy bloomed out from a spot not far from Cordun and Erdan. Erdan took the hit full on and the zombies about them seemed to gain strength from the spell.
Bren quickly responded with a spell of his own as a magic missle flew from his hand and struck one of the Emerald Claw Sergeants. The fight bore on each sides trading blows with both Cordun and Erdan using what abilities they had to heal their comrades. Mallora saw opportunity and cast another spell that struck Ire who immediately felt weak and unstable and followed that up with yet another Death Burst exploded among the comrades. Both Bastion and Erdan taking the blows.
Erdan staggered and noticed a trickle of blood snaking down his arm. He was hurt and he knew it and he was angry. It was then that his training as an Ardent…training that allows one to transmit their emotions psionically to others…came forth. His anger and his pain became his parties advantage as his raw emotions entered the minds of his enemies and caused mental distractions giving an edge to the party.
This was the beginning of the end. In short order the zombies were truly dead, the Emerald Claw Sergeants lay dead at their, and the party was advancing on the necromancer. Once again it was the monk who landed the killing blow, this one straight into her neck which resounded with a strong crack. The necromancer dropped like a rock.
The battle over, the other eminent threat became omnipresent as a crack of orange lightning struck the nearby tower. Looking towards the road where previously the battle was clearly visible, the party noticed the gray mist had gotten noticeably closer and was completely covering the road. It was generally agreed that a return to the armies base to report these events was necessary.
They arrived back at a camp in complete disarray. It seemed that anyone who had the misfortune of being captured within the fog had perished instantly and the cloud was drawing closer, progressing rapidly to the camp. And then, just like that…it stopped. The Brelish army gaped at the massive storming cloud of Arcane energy that had stopped literally on the border of Cyre.
Bren brought the party to his tent. “I want to thank you for saving me. Please accept these gifts as a token of recognition. I will forever count you all as my friends.” Two servants brought two items to the party: a beautifully embroidered cloak and a magical set of Mithral armor from the noble’s own family.
Later that day, once the comrades were finally able to take a break was when the last surprise on a day full of surprises was identified. The burning sensation following shortly after the rumbling boom that brought the deadly cloud was a sign, but one that the party was unable to identify at the time. Etched across each of their chests was a mark…clearly a Dragonmark, but one that bore no relationship with those among the 12 houses…an aberrant mark.
Though it seemed like it never would, the day did eventually come to an end, but it would be one that would forever be remembered by all those in Khorvaire for it marked both the end of Cyre and the end of a war that had lasted a century and that had touched the lives of every creature on the continent. It would be known ever after as the Day of Mourning and its impact would resound not just on Khorvaire but across all of Eberron.
Years passed and the events of that day forever tugged not just on Cordus’ mind, but on the minds of all the party. They would meet annually at the house of Bren in Sharn to remember those events and the nobleman, true to his word, was forever thankful to them saving his life on that fateful day. Each of them ended up taking on mundane jobs following the war, but that day and the mark it literally left behind couldn’t leave them.
One day a message arrived. Bren had heard of a new venture being taken up by House Deneith…an adventuring gig that was bringing together old war vets to scour the land for various items of “interest” for the House. Bren passed along a name and a place: Davmorn in Arcanix.
Cordus received the message and thought perhaps this could help get his mind off that horrific day. Little would he know that this would be the start down a path that would lead to answers for questions he didn’t even realize he had.