“It is the Age of the Golden Sun, centuries since the defeat of the Darklord Vashna at the battle of Maakengorge by King Ulnar and his allies from the land of Durenor. For generations, Sommerlund and the surrounding kingdoms have had peace, safe in the knowledge that evil was banished from the land beneath the gleaming edge of the legendary Sommerswerd. Though the forces of the Darklords swore vengeance as they retreated from the pass of Moytura, long years of silence have proven those words empty and the powers of good rest confident in their victory.
“But not everyone is so certain that peace will last. In the forested heart of Sommerlund, the Kai Monastery stands ever vigilant in their sacred task of protecting the world from the horrors of Vashna and his dark spawn. The Mage Guild of Toran continues to practice their battle magic, knowing that someday their mystical powers will be needed once more on the battlefield. And across the gulf of Durenor, legions of Durenese warriors train in the arts of war.
“There are others who feel the stirrings of darkness in the land. In the shadowy places of Magnamund, minions of the foul Darklords travel in secret and make their way into the most protected of places. No city is safe from their traffic; they move like a fetid wind and slip their way unseen where no creature should be able to go. They hide in abandoned buildings, in dying trees, and in the deepest places of the world. The dark forces of evil have once again returned to their ancient lairs, readying themselves for the tide of death that is sure to come.
“But Magnamund is a vast world and though the Darklords are a grave threat to all life, the many kingdoms and nations of the land have their own shadows to contend with. Sharnazim warriors keep their bitikali scimitars keen, ready at all times to drive back the advances of the united Nael-Aluvian nations. Though the unity of the alliance between Durenor and Sommerlund still holds from the last Crusade, many smaller nations in both kingdoms still battle each other in ceaseless border skirmishes over land and ancient disputes with no end in sight.
“The lands of men make war with each other while the eternal Darklords laugh in their blackened hall. Their lord and master Vashna may be gone and his power broken in centuries past, but the greatest part of their strength has returned with time. The world is nearly ready for their conquest, but for now they play with the hearts of those who dwell in brighter lands. A false word in the ear of one petty king drives his nation to war while a simple assassination drives another to close its borders permanently.
“These machinations go undetected because men believe the darkness is gone. The many nations of Magnamund are so eager to trust in their own power that they cannot see the dangers that lie beneath the surface of their supposed ‘peace’. The world shudders beneath the weight of the Darklord’s manipulations, and none can see this evil for what it truly is.
“Through puppets, spies, and quiet killers, the might of Helgedad reaches out to crush all the lands of light in its vile grasp. Magador’s king is a killer and a pretender, but he rules through the assurance of dark masters he is foolish enough to believe he can control. In Drodarin, the dwarven Gunners of Bor have developed terrible weapons of steel and flame but, at the whispered insistence of the Helghasts haunting their Tower Lords, they have these deadly guns pointed at their neighbors out of fear and paranoia. ‘All too easy,’ say the Masters of Helgedad. ‘All too easy.’
“In this year, 5000 years after the creation of the Moonstone, we need heroes, my friends. Heroes who can drive back the darkness and save us all from damnation.”
The patrons of the Barrel Bridge Tavern booed the storyteller. They had wanted an uplifting story, not a doom-and-gloom story.
Our heroes were enjoying a warm meal with Yasif. “That 'bard' could not tell a story if his life depended on it,” spat the merchant. He ordered another mug of jala. “Love the stuff,” he explained.
“Anyway, let me tell you a story. There is castle just west of here, called Castle Taunor. It was built around 600 years ago by a Prince named Lyden. But just a few years later it came under attack from a rival baron. The Prince broke the siege, but ten years later he was killed at the Battle of Tido. His body was buried in the chapel of the castle and, a year later, a fountain sprang up in the courtyard of the castle. What was remarkable was that the water was able to heal wounds and cure illness. Many battles have since been fought to gain control of the waters, but the water stopped flowing about 400 years ago. Since then the castle has fallen into ruin and is largely forgotten.
“But, my friends, I have heard a rumour about Castle Taunor. It seems that the healing property of the water is influenced by the presence of one of the Lorestones of Nyxator. Of course, this is only rumour, but it is intriguing isn’t it?”
Yasif drained the last of the jala from his mug and then stood up. “Well, I must be of to bed. I leave for Varetta in the morning. In fact, if you are not doing anything, meet me there in nine days. I will have more work for you.”
Our heroes looked at each other, everyone one of them thinking the same thing; tomorrow they were heading out to Castle Taunor!