Xorvintaal, sometimes referred to as The Great Game or just The Game, was a game dragons used as a proxy for open warfare.
During the Time of Dragons, wyrms of the age feared that if dragons continued battling each other, as they had since their race was born, they would eventually face extinction. In time, they came up with a solution: Instead of battling each other, dominance among them would be established by status. To determine this, they developed the Xorvintaal. After the first Rage of Dragons, however, dragons lost knowledge of the game.
Over the centuries the various Churches of Tiamat and Bahamut changed 'The Game'. One side plotted and schemed to bring 'The Queen of Chaos', The Destroyer or Worlds', 'Her Dark Majesty', Tiamat, back from the Abyss and into the mortal realm so she may reign once again.
The massive jailor strode purposefully through the dungeon, its heavy axe dragging across the barred cell doors and causing the prisoners within to scurry back in terror. Not a prisoner dared to make a sound, else the black armor clad beast may choose them this night. It did not work that way, every prisoner was written in his leather bound tome, and each time one was chosen by the cultists to serve the ' Great Honor', it was for a reason.
The Dungeon was much like any other, black stone made up the walls and floor. The only light was from the few torches hung in the halls, or the crashes of lightning that flashes from the cells of those 'lucky' enough to actually have a window. The smell of rot, disease, and death, mixed with the palpable fear and sweat of those doomed to await their fate in their appointed cells, a sense of finality.
Some actually embraced when they were chosen, It was their way out, the only way out. Some tried to fight, or take their own lives, but that was rare. When it did happen, and that one fool was determined expendable, they were made a lesson of. Often that lesson involved their cell being filled with rats or Kobalds, to slowly feast on the still very much alive and coherent prisoner. As a reminder of this, the severed head would hang before the cell as some sort of grotesque trophy.
The jailer came to the end of a very long hall, and unlocked the cell. The prisoner within screamed in abject horror when the black metallic fist gripped its long greasy hair, and started to drag him away. As the others came to their barred doors, they watched in muted silence as the prisoner clawed futilely at the black stoned floor. Once the distant clash of metal slamming shut signaled they were now alone in the dungeon, some would begin to softly cry, some would throw up, most would just go back to sleep. They would survive this night, and while somewhere deep within themselves, they felt sorry for the one who's screams slowly faded away, that would be enough.
As it had been for nearly the past two decades, the Jailer returned to the ritual chamber with the next sacrifice.
The chamber itself was circular, lit with torches to either side of five immense statues. Each statue, nearly lifelike in detail, were of massive stone dragons. Each dragon, carved with such a stone to give them colors of Red, Black, Blue, Green and White, were posed so their heads looked down toward a golden object. An object, one may even say was egg shaped, if you could get past the amount of gold and fine gemstones that made up its design.
When the gathered cultists noted the jailors arrival, they stood aside so the huge beast could bring its screaming prisoner to the center of the room. On its arrival, a heavy overhead chain clacked as it began to rise, parting the golden centerpiece of the room and revealing its two halves.
The top half, hollow as it turned out, hung with various hooks and chains. These the jailor used to string up the prisoner, a prisoner who had gone oddly silent and still, as it seemed transfixed by the five sets of eyes staring down upon it. Each set of the dragon statues eyes, contained gems to match the stones color. With the firelight to either side of their 'heads', the gems seemed to glow....glow as if alive.
When the prisoner was secure, a cultist approached and drew out a fine dagger. The top of the 'shell', now blocked the prisoners view of the gemmed eyes, so it writhed and screamed again, but nobody seemed to care. The cultists were used to this by now, this ritual performed every full moon for the last seventeen years, was all they cared for. This rite, this ceremony, to them, was their reason for existing.
The screams grew louder as the fine edge cut a pattern into the man's chest, once finished, a pattern that resembled the side profile of a dragons head. Once completed, a different cultist approached. Each in robes the same color as one of the dragons, five different set of knives, drew five vertical lines above and below the dragon headed motif. Once finished, the top half of the egg was lifted further into the air.
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Below the bleeding prisoners feet, the bottom of the 'shell', hollow as well, formed a bowl shape and slowly collected the dripping blood of the howling prisoner. As the man bled, the cultists chanted, their words foreign to any outsider who would have witnessed this. They spoke in Draconic, the language of the Dragons. And had anyone looked up, the 'eyes' of the statues, started to shine brighter.
At first it was a haze, perhaps one could call it a fog that started to form in the lower bowl. It was slight, smoke like, but it grew more substantial as the chanting continued. The head of the bleeding prisoner slumped toward his chest, it was likely he was going to pass out, but when the prisoners eyes looked beyond his feet, he screamed again at the now swirling red vortex below him.
One of the cultists approached the now cauldron looking lower half, and in the tongue of the Dragons, she communed with the vortex. This was when, and how, the Queen of all Chromatic Dragons, would be able to speak through the abyss and give her orders to this sect of devout followers.
Once done, the speaker would bow reverently, then step back from the boiling red vortex. There, all eyes would fall upon the now lowering form of the prisoner, the offering, the sacrifice. Their chanting began anew, and rose in volume to rise above the terrified screams of the prisoner, as the vortex erupted in dark shapes to wrap around the flailing prisoner, then pulling the man down and closing the 'egg' with him.
The room went deathly quiet, then as one, the cultists all looked toward the one still in the middle of the room. She, lifted her hands to pull the cowl back off her head, her scale covered head. Looking more reptile than human, she hissed as she addressed the room.
"Find an Island called, Thain. A priestess to the Queen Mother named Pariah, leads an army of Kin who brings the pleasure of Chaos to our Dark Majesty. We are to help her."
As the many Churches and Cults of the Queen Mother worked on their own tasks to bring the Goddess Tiamat to the mortal realm, others sought this mysterious island named Thain. This island had been searched for before, ten years ago when a God has been destroyed, an Ancient Red once commanded dominance over this island. Other Ancient Dragons were also rumored to call this strange Island home as well. Why? Nobody knew.
During this time, Pariah and the Dragonkin army sought to take advantage of the the Great Reds rule. Failing that, they just claimed the island their own home. Pariah and the Kin even offered a ceasefire , but as countless times before, when Dragons and their smaller Kin were involved, Mortals only knew fear.
So Mortals did, what Mortals always do, they fought. Justified to some degree, Kin were much like their larger ancestors. They needed to spread their wings, to expand, and destroy what got in their way. So while some gathered upon the island to aid Pariah and the others, eventually the forces of Good won. Pariah was destroyed, and the others moved on.
This was not the first, nor the last occupation of the Kin on the island. One Kin was even rumored to be determined to spread its offspring across the entire island at one point. But that may have just been a rumor. The fact is, something about this one island, that for some reason could not be charted on any official map, lured the Chromatic Dragonkin.
And where the Tiathar gathered, so did the Ux Bahamuti, the Dragonborn of Bahamut.
The flaming blade was beyond exceptional. Its pommel shaped to that of a dragons head, the guard two flared wings, and its length that of a dragons tail, was placed into the towering man's hand by the cleric.
"The first of the five you are to find. Once you collect them all, we will be unstoppable."
It was "The Lorsvek", the prophecy of the 'one blade' to bring Tiamats power to the mortal realm. In ages past, the cult of the Chaos Queen created five swords, each with the power of the five heads of the Dark Majesty, then given to five separate warriors to champion the demands of the Queen. The Lorsvek, said when the time had come, the five were to be joined as one. On that day, the Cult of the Queen, may finally have the means to return their goddess to the realm of the mortals.
It was with this sword in hand, that the Taaldarax, the player of the 'Great Game', finally found his way to the island called Thain.
Pariah had been defeated, the Talons had scattered, and any chance to learn of what power the Chaos Queen had been growing on the island was gone. A setback, to put it mildly. He was not convinced Pariah perished, but was just defeated, so the Taaldarax was not going to give up. The island had something, and he was sure the Chaos Blades were here. He would just have to be patient, search, and find more of the followers of the Dark Majesty.
He found another Red, and the two spoke often. Damos was his name, and Vaurin had met few who held such power. They spoke of Pariah, the island, they even dabbled in Mercenary work, for those who could pay. He was sure with the aid of the imposing Red, he would unlock the secrets of the Island, and why the Chaos Queen was so prominent.
Those secrets would continue to remain hidden from him, and after years of searching with little to no avail, he found his faith tested. He needed something to distract him, to give him purpose and not be content with just selling his sword to bide time in his search.
Little did he expect he would find that, in a Tiefling.
Red, was the Tieflings name. It was clearly something longer than that, but Red worked for him.
Like most of that kind, he was a charismatic thing. And they instantly hit it off, for Red it was likely more having a warrior of Vaurin's caliber to utilize. For the Red Kin, it was the connection to the Abyss, the resources, the Tieflings power...hell, it was having a purpose and a friend. It did not hurt that this Tiefling had a 'cousin' like Sorrath. Powerful much like Red, she was also, well, a female deamon. Enough said.
They worked as a unit, rather well really. Add the White Kin, Halla, to the group. And they really were nigh impossible to stop. Which suited all involved rather well, especially when 'Red' spoke of his plans. The teifling was going to raise a Demon Lord from the Abyss. Considering how Vaurin's own goddess was entrapped there as well, he would help this plan, and in doing so he would learn how it was to be done.
Much was gained from this, partnership. The 'cousins' supplied him with one of the Blades he required, and they taught him much more of the island than he was able to on his own. In return he destroyed and he captured souls, until he no longer could.
Before the end, before the ultimate success, the Red Kin disappeared. It was not his choice, nor his plan. He may have swayed a battle or two, but they made do without him. He was needed else ware, it was just unfortunate timing.
When he returned he learned that the Deamon Prince walked the land. They did it, they broke the barrier and Gorrath stood upon the mortal plane. It could be repeated, it would be repeated. This just proved he was at the right place, this Island was some sort of key to everything.
Before the Teifling left to sit upon his Throne in the Abyss, he would give the Red Kin one last thing. A blade, but not just a simple one. Fashioned after the greater Demon Marilith, or knowing how resourceful the Tiefling was, a blade created by the Great Demoness herself.
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The blade could very well be the key that bound all five of the Chaos Blades together. How the Teifling knew Vaurin sought such a thing, he did not know. But then it was 'Red', those who knew the man were never quite surprised what that one ever did, or knew.
What was certain, was Vaurin, the Taaldarax of the Xorvintaal, was on the right track. Pariah and her Talons began the great work. The Demon 'Cousins' with the aid of Halla, and the Darkscales, proved without a doubt, that this island could tap directly to the Abyss.
It was now up to him to begin the final chapter. To begin the Throtominarr, to improve, to build upon what had been done before him. To honor the sacrifices, the deaths, to improve their work, and in the end, to bring the Mother of Chromatic Dragons back to the plane of the mortals.
There comes a time when things change in our lives. Often they are, from the outside, insignificant. Perhaps one finds love, makes a family, they find fortune, or they suffer loss. Whatever the cause, the reason , life as one knows it, is rocked to their very core. And they see the world, differently.
Such a time came, during the Red Kin's life upon the island. He went on as he always did before it, he fought, he sought treasure, he met and he lost, it was life as he knew it. His one purpose was to find the Chaos Blades, to fulfil his haurach, his fate. Then they came.
He was used to the munthrek (human) soldiers trying to slay him, really they had reason too. They feared him, for good reason. But this was different, they were better trained than normal, and they came in numbers. Six, to be exact.
Perhaps his pride kept him from running, or he basked in the idea of a true test. As the fight continued however, it was coming rather clear he may not survive this one. Then, the others came. Lead by a Kin the size he had never seen before, a Kin whose Red wings literally dripped blood. A force of Red Kin warriors dropped upon the munthrek soldiers, and tore them apart.
The gargantuan Red leader congratulated him for lasting as long as he did, and told him he was no longer alone. That a force of Red's had come, more than Red's, an entire legion of those who followed the Queen of Chaos, were now on the island. And they called upon his aid.
He was humbled, and more than a little awestruck, he would have to admit. They had come, the Council of the Dark Majesty, was here. This was exciting news, his purpose had even more meaning now. But it is not what changed him, what almost broke him.
That, would come later.
The Battle of the Wastes.
The Council of the Queen of Chaos, did not waste time in beginning their 'collection'.
With the island still relatively unaware of this gathered army, they came to him to gather supporters. To take them to the wastes, and there they would claim the first 'piece'. No, he was not told what it was for, it did not matter. These were his Kin, his faith, he was needed, and it was enough. In the encampment of the Red army, the beast, Bloodwinged, explained the target.
He, Halla the White Kin. General Dwent Chambers and his personal bodyguard, Beta. Mounted their supplied Nightmare steeds, and followed the Bloodwinged atop his grotesque mount, to the desert to meet with the defenders now gathered upon hearing of the amassed army.
They did not meet to discuss terms. The Bloodwinged simply informed the defenders, that the skeletal remains of the Dracolich would be collected from the Asabi tribe who worshiped it. Any who stood in their way, would be destroyed.
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The defenders, did not listen. They looked upon the four horsemen and the mounted red beast, and refused to submit. Likely they did not fully appreciate what was coming, perhaps they thought these five would be all that would come.
They were painfully wrong.
A wave of Red soldiers swarmed the Asabi camp, each time the defenders thought they would gain a respite, another would crash like a red wave against their ranks. Still they resisted, they held their ground, they wasted resources and spells.
The four horsemen charged, and with them they brought death. Already battered, the defenders just could not resist the charge. They fought to the last, but it was not enough. The Council had won the day, the remains was theirs.
Back in the encampment, the Red army and their guests feasted in celebration. All but one. That one slipped off from the group. And there he prepared his shrine where he prayed, he thanked the Mother of Chromatic Dragons, he felt alive, he felt hope, he was whole.
(Warning, this post references mutilation and torture)
What does not kill you, may break you.
Some time had passed after the success in the wastes. And during it, the Red Kin had wondered if that was it. Perhaps Bloodwinged meant it was a Council of Reds. And that encampment, was the whole of this army. It was fine with him if that were the case, he just hoped for a bit...more.
His concerns were soon proved unfounded, as tall powerful Greens approached the outer fire of Ravens watch. These were clear fighters, and judging by their belts of severed heads, trophy hunters. He and the others present followed these Green hunters to the south, where they quickly lost them. Confusion and interest grew among the small gathering, many looking to Him, for answers.
He had none, he'd never seen these Kin before. And before he could voice it, the attack came. Elves, a score of them, leapt from shadows and concealment to throw themselves upon the Red Kin. Those who utilized melee skill, he could handle. But behind him, the archers let loose their volley's of arrows, and if this could not be stopped, they may actually defeat the Red.
The others who had followed him, all stood there watching. Munthreks (humans) for the majority of them, and he was not surprised they lacked the desire to help him, nor was he when the two female vaecaesin's (elves) stood back and watched their fellow kin press the attack. It was the Teifling, Rhan, that supported him, he'd remember that. And the two of them quickly dispatched the attackers, losing only one who fled.
Anger filled the Red Kin, and while the gathered all stood there stupefied, he and the Teifling turned to stalk the one who escaped. The trail was easy to follow, for blood dripped a trail north toward the cursed forest. There they found the camp of the Green Dragonkin, and the reason why the elves attacked.
Around a bonfire, the Green Dragonkin fed upon the remains of a score of elves. The elven assassins were apparently seeking vengeance. Instead they chose to attack him. That was their mistake, and they paid with their lives.
An attempt to converse with the feasting Greens was interrupted by another elven attack, one which ended with the previously unmoved elven mage, unleashing her power against him. The other vaecaesin, Rita he would later know the name of, vouched for him. Spoke of his only reacting to the attack against him, and not a part of the Greens. He was allowed to leave the forest, and he would remember this Rita because of it.
More time had passed, and nothing more was seen of the Greens, nor the Reds. All he ever did see, were more of these red cloaked soldiers, Kinhunters, he learned was their names. They hounded him near daily, following him even as far as the tower of the Archmage Khalador. It became more than a little annoying.
One day. he went to witness the appearance of the Devils from the Iron city at the claimed Crater Fortress. Apparently claimed by Lord Krel, just weeks before the appearance of this Kin army. He had to wonder if there was a connection. He found no answers there, and departing he found himself near the mines. The mines had received a contingent of these Kinhunters, and it was a form of release to pay back their attacks with his one of his own now and then.
Except this time, he was in for a surprise.
As if over night, a new Keep had been raised, and from it swarmed the Kinhunters. He had made a mistake coming here, and as blades pressed at him from all sides, it proved to be a grave one. They had him, no matter how many fell to the attack, they would not stop until the Red was fallen.
What he did not know, was they would not just kill him and be done with it. These Munthreks were vile, vicious, and bloodthirsty. They took him to their keep, there they pierced his scaled skin with barbed hooks and hung him suspended from overhead chains.
They kept him alive, they wanted him to be able to feel it, to feel not blades slicing scaled skin with surgical precision, but curved hooks that dug, that pulled, that slowly tore out his magnificent wings.
As the Torturer worked, it spoke and taunted him during his screams. It found great pleasure revealing how the Kins wings would make such a fine cloak. Amidst the excruciating pain, Vaurin learned the horror, the truth, of the Kinhunters red cloaks. And he was sure that as he finally passed out to the pain, it was to be the last thing, he ever knew.
When the butcher finished with him, they threw his nearly lifeless corpse into cart. They never bothered to dress the inflicted wounds, nor did it seem they ever cleaned their instruments. So as the cart descended the hills toward Hamley, they propped him up so all could see the gaping infected hole in the Kins back.
The guards that surrounded the cart all spoke of taking their time getting to Steinkriess, to show off their prize, their victory. To give all those who supported the Kin army, an example of what will happen to them next.
The two elven females, Rita and Narade, followed the ghastly procession, either taking delight in the scene, or seeing what would happen. If the latter, their instincts were right, for as the cart bounced between the surrounding hills, there soon came a growl.
Not just one, but many from all directions. The guards wielded swords, some their crossbows, but not one could find the source. Before they could even consider retreat, four huge feline abominations leaped from cover and upon the soldiers.
The pair of elves leaped to assist, but even their quick response was not enough. Whoever, whatever created these creatures, knew what they were doing, and within moments the elves were alone and surrounded. No, not quite alone, for at the limits of sight stood another.
The figure was massive, reptilian, and Green.
It watched the elves battle the beasts, but it did not join, it watched, it learned. The elves had dispatched all but one of its 'pets', and before it too could fall, the Green Kin leapt to the cart to grab a hold of the bloodied Red.
Large Green wings unfurled, and with surprising ease, took off into the air with its new passenger, or was it it's prey?