A Royal proclamation – Enkilot the first, 151 AV
- By the Black Dragon, King Virduk of Calastia:
Priests, clerics, unholy knights and other soldiers of the faith: By royal decree I, King Virduk, charge thee to undergo a pilgrimage most devout and patriotic; Ye shall travel to a Calastian seat of ducal power, whereupon Charday the twenty-second day of Belot, ye shall present thyself and thine arms and might to the largest house of servitude to our Glorious General, Chardun. Here ye shall receive divine blessings and guidance and find sanction by the church and by myself, your King, to participate in a quest of the most substantial magnitude.
The greater might and expansion of thine kingdom may well lie within your trusted hands.
By my command, ye shall hear and obey.
The Black Dragon, King Virduk of Calastia
The day approaches…
For weeks now there has been a buzz among the people of Drehl, a quiet curiosity on the lips of peasants and nobles alike that has slowly been building into a rising clamor. Soldiers are coming! Men of war, ladies of battle, mercenaries, soldiers, champions of the divine, knights of the realm and most of these will say little as to their business in Drehl, though rumors are taking shape.
A column, almost twenty strong, of the faith’s Raven knights have recently arrived, and like the others, their focus seems to be upon Fiendsthrone, the great temple to Chardun found within the ducal seat’s very heart. The awe-inspiring, General’s Square, which spreads out before the temple in authoritarian grandeur, has received its fair share of visitors as though soldiers were making a pilgrimage to this holy site that sits in the shadow of the imposing temple itself. Great plinths of polished white granite dominate the square, each one as big as a house and each topped with statuary of dark iron figures denoting the greatness of Chardun’s mortal servants. Beside an armored statue of a knight mounted and alert, stands an ever-present vigil of at least two Raven knights, looking over the square at all times, their dark, shadowy dread ravens perched upon the blade of the statue’s up-raised sword.
Opposite this mounted statue, upon an identical plinth of granite crouches a Calastian scout, his knee pinned to the back of a prone and shackled slave who had failed in a bid for escape; great fiendish hunting hounds, carved from the same black iron as soldier and slave, stand guard over the stalwart scout. In the shadow of this honorary statue can be seen an occasional manacle-carrying and scepter wielding member of Chardun’s Order of the Blackthorn, these dedicated trackers and hunters often accompanied by a wolf or hound. More than any others, these hooded bounty hunters of the faith avoid others and speak little to those who seek answers as to why they are here.
At the base of a third plinth stands a pavilion of black and gray silk, its stout support posts, unable to be secured in the square’s stone floor, are held aloft in the bone hands of a skeletal host; each armored skeleton gripping its post with both hands with a hold firm enough that the pavilion’s only movement is caused by the rippling of wind or rain over the drawn silk. No mortal person or entity has yet to take residence beneath this pavilion, but whispers abound that speak of an aged and twisted battle-mage who situated the skeletal guardians and claimed the location beneath this statue that depicts a robed and hooded figure standing over the courtyard gazing down, a skeletal hand hewed from cold, black iron, emerges from the billowing robe’s sleeve to point in judgement down at the mortals who walk below.
The final plinth depicts a a bare-chested and hairless male, his sinewy arms raised aloft as in victory, his hands closed in iron fists, his head lifted to the sky while thick manacles grasp those wrists and barbed chains connect from manacle to manacle and twine over the shoulders and down the back of this monk like vines upon a tree. At the base of this plinth sits two lone souls, each manacled and chained like the massive statue towering over them. These two have sat in silence, through weather fair or foul for almost six days now, without speaking, without taking nourishment and without acknowledging that another soul exists in this world – they sit facing the great temple of Fiendsthrone as if awaiting a sign from within that unholy building.
As the days pass and the 22nd day of Belot approaches, the local citizenry of Drehl has had their curiosity peaked and crowds begin teeming and amassing around the great General’s Square, their stink and squalor sullying the polished white stone that dominates the unholy site. Unable to be chased away by an insufficient number of city guards, the masses crowd the square and within days an almost festive atmosphere seems to grow. Street musicians, artists, peddlers, beggars and food vendors move in to make coin off of the curious crowd. In short time however, Duke Jandalorus puts a stop to this loitering, calling in a regiment of elite Dragon-knights who ride in, resplendent in their dark armor but almost overlooked due to the formidable appearance of their black-scaled, reptilian mounts. A venomous and acrid odor follows these bestial cavalry units and on more than one occasion a dragon has bellowed forth a cloud of misty venom leaving peasantry and onlookers unwilling to disperse blinded and wracked with pain so severe that they lay blinded and screaming until dragged away by city guard squads.
In short order General’s Square is cleared of the teeming masses, with only a select few individuals, generally soldiery or clergy, allowed passage through the ring of dragon knights and onto the temple grounds. This of course does not kill the rumors on the lips of the entire city; some claim that the king himself is coming to address his adoring citizens, others suggest that a divine ordinance will be revealed and a new war will be given birth here at Fiendsthrone, other, more paranoid voices are already preparing to flee the city, vowing that Chardun has found the people of Drehl unfit and has summoned forth His soldiers to sweep through the city and rain a culling of blood down upon the unfaithful and the blasphemous.
What the common citizen does not realize is that similar scenes are unfolding in every great Calastian city – soldiers, fighting men and adventuring clergy are being summoned and only those summoned and a few of the more well-connected nobility have an inkling as to the reasons why.
What even the nobility does not realize is that beyond the kingdom’s borders, in nations where the Overlord is revered and worshiped, men of action and faith are gathering before unholy sites, sharpening their swords, preparing their minds and souls to answer the bidding of their God and their sovereign.
Beyond the wall of bones in the great Temple-city of Dun in Dunahnae to the far reaches of Termana in the Land of Chains where the Charduni’s dark rule reigns supreme the arm of Chardun’s mortal might comes together on one day throughout the world, none knowing what they will hear, none knowing what they will see – only knowing that they will serve and obey.