After 500 years of peace and prosperity, Lustra the Temptress returned to the world.
Hell bent on world domination.
Creating a super race of orcs, ogres and goblins, beckoning at Lustra's every call.
Groveling at her feet, begging for their worthless lives.
Returning immediately to her stronghold, Castle Dundarg, where her plans were quickly put into effect.
Fields and fields of orcs being produced, tunnels and tunnels of goblins gathering in their masses. Preparing for war. Only one side will be the victor.
The men of New Aberdour saw the approaching mystic force headed for the last of the Nine Castles of Knuckle, signaling her return. They feared for their lives, knowing this was just the beginning of the end.
There had been word of trolls coming down from the hills at night, making their way to Lustra's castle, sneakily. The word coming to the village by mounted Rangers, who had been set to keep order in this once great land of Outworld. From the northern badlands, The Wasted Plains, to the southern beaches of the Enchanted Isles, to far out west reaching the Mountains of Muldoon. And finally to the east, nestled under the Muldova Plateau, lies Aberdeenshire. An entire village, the last known to exist, comprised entirely of halflings.
The halflings were in fear most of all, for at their small size, they were no match up against any of these great dangers.
Down in Glengorm Forest, nearing the Enchanted Isles, lived the Fairy Village of Baldoon, where they thrived. Though their evil cousins were always showing up from time to time to ruin their good fun. The nasty little gremlins.
They used to be fairies, but became so curious with mischief they eventually were shunned from Baldoon. Quickly turning a pale shade of green and their ears doubling in size in the time it took to reach the gremlin town of Galdenoch, where all gremlins wind up and all constantly plot against the fairies.
Out west, nearing the Mountains of Muldoon, lying in its shadow are the Lochwood Plains where the only herds of wild unicorns roam free, gathering in great numbers.
Heading up the mountainside, coming first to the Cessnock Tunnels - home to many families of trolls - while at the deepest ends of the tunnels were the ancient Torwood Mines which led down deep, where light is scarce, to the goblin keep of Helmsdale.
Traveling back up the mountainside, after leaving the Cessnock Tunnels, you eventually come to a small community, a constellation, of Pegasi who looked over the entire land always looking down their snouts to their much more common wingless cousins. The unicorns. However, the small herd of flying horses were not without threir own predators.
For high above them, at the very tip of the mountain's peak, lies Draconia.
Draconia was the only thriving, striving, dragon city left, in all of Outworld. And not housing near as many dragons as it once had. Many were killed, some were starved when food sources became scarce, but few ever just died. For they were nearly eternal.
The eldest, Trango, the Lord of the Dragons, sits perched upon his golden throne in his royal keep. Which to us humans, was actually just a massive heap of gold, gemstones and many other treasures, piled in the back corner of the rear most section of the cave system city known as Draconia.
Trango never much left from guarding his pile of treasures anymore. He didn't have to. Other younger drakes brought him everything he needed and called for. Including more treasures to add to his "throne".
But alas, even the dragons have noticed a great change and are beginning to fear the worst.
Atop the great Muldova Plateau, that had the halfling town of Aberdeenshire nestled to its backside - hiding in its shadow - was the White Palace. Once ran and owned by the great Maerlin himself. Though long gone, was he, and the stongest wizard in all the land was now in his stead.
Selsior the Magnificent. At one time only known as Selsior the Light, though, but that is a story for another day.
The White Palace was home to all wizards and races of good magic. Mages, paladins, clerics, sorcerers, shamans, conjurers, enchanters, even a few witches and warlocks.
West of Lustra's castle, Castle Dundarg, and northwest of the largest remaining village of men, New Aberdour, was the mostly deserted Castle of Darkness. Once holding all the dark sorcerers and wizards, witches and warlocks.
The only one's left are the Necromancers, all others have been summoned to Lustra to help aid in her plight. And only because the Necromancers were beyond her callings. Somewhere between living and dead, able to talk and manipulate both the breathing and non.
A few roam the halls and dungeons in the Castle of Darkness, biding their time, waiting for their moment and chance. Though time means nothing to them, their moment may just be sooner than expected.
To the southwest, deep into the wilderness, far from all the others, lived the elves. The elven people were a peaceful and prosperous group of merrymakers.
Always drinking and singing and feasting. Now, though, in the land of Elphinstone, the singing and merrymaking has but ceased. Gloom fills the faces of the once cheerful, musical, festive bunch. There was no more reason to continue on with the endless celebration.
The elven master, Zinphintal, had some very important issues weighing heavily on his mind.
Southwest from New Aberdour, between the southern Enchanted Isles and the Mountains of Muldoon of the west - erected at the end of the mountain range - was the monolithic Towers of Glengarnock, erected long ago by dwarven rulers of old. For the craftsmanship of a dwarf, there is none other matched. Three large splendiferous obelisks, along with many smaller minarets and spires, made up the breathtaking citadel located at the base of the mountain range.
The Dwarf King, extremely old, by the name of Dunadin, was about ready to kneel down and let his heir to the throne take over his royal duties. This was his only son, who he also had appointed as the one warrior to send to the meeting in New Aberdour to join the crusade against Dunadin's old nemesis; but also his old love (oh so long ago). That harlot, Lustra, the Temptress. Pure she-devil.
And the one to take over the throne of the dwarven king, barring his safe return from his battle in the crusades, was the captivating and always charming, young Prince Cavershin. Young compared to his father, anyway.
So as each community sensed Lustra's return to Outworld, and word got around - mostly by the Rangers - for them each to select one member of their like to represent themselves and to fight in the crusade against Lustra. For their people.
Everyone was to meet at the last village of men, New Aberdour, summoned by their king, King William the Lionhearted. Set to be, the second day after next, in the great meeting hall (one of many) of the enormous and vastly wealthy, Castle Alcazar, located at the southern border of the prodigious village.
Every village and township gathered word that each was to select one great warrior, or whoever would be the most useful to represent their people in the fight.
The fairies of Baldoon had elected their most powerful fairy, the high-priestess, Starry Moondust as their messenger to the City of Humans and the great meeting.
Out on the Lochwood Plains, came running for New Aberdour a single-horned equine, galloping swiftly. Stormcloud was the fastest of all unicorns, by far, indeed.
From above the plains, sent from the Mountains of Muldoon, the Pegasi so few in numbers that they were forced to send their leader, Exodus. Leaving only their matriarch, Ethereal, to rule the remaining few that were left.
Lord Trango, Dragon King, had decided to send his only heir to the throne of, the highest of all kingdoms, Draconia. His only begotten son, Tenebrious, was spreading his wings preparing for flight and departure.
The elven ruler, Zinphintal, had finally chosen after many long debates and great pondering. It was decided that his eldest daughter would be sent to battle, representing the brave elven folk. For bravery, elves are at the top of the list. Their heart is rock-solid and their nerves, even more so. His daughter, Zathena, was no exception. Possessing the strongest magic of all the elves, save for her father, she also has the speed and power, matching most males of her genotype.
Selsior sits inside the White Castle, trying to decide which of the great wizards that reside there, to select and send off. There were so many living in his magical castle. It was a tough decision for him.
He eventually landed on his trusted advisor, possibly the wisest in all the land, Radamus the Red. He had advanced levels of sorcery, as well. Obtaining his powers from the far off volcano, St. Kilda, out past the central lowlands. For Radamus was a fire wizard. A rarity, these days.
That brings us to the pleasantly, peaceful people of Aberdeenshire. The halflings.
The ruler of Aberdeenshire, for many long years, was Mayor Garis Mindgrass. All the halflings respected him dearly, with utmost admiration. This was also true with his most favorite of all his kinsfolk, Gappy Hillwild, his great grandson. Very mischievous and, albeit, adventurous; especially for a halfling. For most don't usually care or go for such things.
Those were things much better left to the bigger folk. The long-leggards.
Once Mayor Mindgrass heard word, he spared it not another thought. He needent have to.
Already knowing in his heart that Gappy was the right man for the job. Well, right citizen for the job anyway.
He was quickly shoved off, far beyond the borders of his home town.
And lastly, that brings us to the small, dirty, cramped confines of the gremlin town, Galdenock. Where the gremlins also heard word of a darkness entering the land. Which normally would make the gremlins cheer with glee, but they sensed this great power would not rest until all who inhabit Outworld were completely under its control.
The gremlins were able to hear and sense these things, with much thanks, do to their extra sensitive and powerful ears. They hear many things others cannot.
The Gremlin Chief also chose one resident to send but they didn't do it in the same manner as all the rest. No, gremlins are just a little different from most. They decide, not to send their most brave - or skilled - but instead to send the one that they would most like to see gone. The most bothersome. The most annoying gremlin in all of Galdenock.
For he was an all-around good guy, considering, and the rest of the gremlins hated that about him.
So, suddenly and unexpectedly, off he was. Thrown out of his house and his town, bannished to the City of Men.
These nine electives - consisting of warriors, fighters, rogues, thieves and outcasts - all walked alone through the wilderness. In search of their destination.
Looking for the city of New Aberdour, the last great royal city, for most or all were expected to be there.
Of course the guests able to fly or ride were the first attendees.
Exodus was the first to arrive - followed soon after by the son of Lord Trango, Tenebrious - in New Aberdour, the Land of Men. Making their way swiftly to the Castle Alcazar, where King William sat patiently for all to arrive.
His servants informed him that the first two guests had arrived, were already in the Great Hall and awaiting his council, just as the next two guests were beginning to arrive.
The stunningly beautiful unicorn, Stromcloud, and the horse-driven halfling, Gappy Hillwild, came into town nearly simultaneoulsy. The halfling following the one-horned wonder, the likes of which he had never seen, up to the gates of the castle.
The king's staff shuffled them into the meeting hall bringing the total now to four guests, so far.
It took a little while before the next were to arrive. First the Dwarf Prince Cavershin, atop his trusty steed, finest in all the kingdom - the gelding dressed in gilded bridles and jewel-encrusted saddle. Then, even a bit later, the elven daughter of Zinphintal - Zathena - came riding bareback on her long-time friend, the silver-coated and amply named, Silver Phoenix.
The next three were all able to appear, or sneak in without being noticed, such being the case.
First the high priestess of the fairies, Starry Moondust, appeared out of nowhere instantly mingling with the other guests.
Starry, though chipper as fairies always are, was still long-faced and downtrodden, obviously over the business now at hand.
Just then an evil, yet bubbly, laugh erupted through the great old halls, as Clumpkin the Gremlin somersaulted into the room. Though equally small stature to Mrs. Moondust, Clumpkin's tiny lungs echoed and bounced mischievous laughter throughout the castle wing.
Just as someone burst out: "Bothersome little..."
A flash went off in the middle of the meeting hall, causing the rest to shield their eyes for a moment.
As the smoke cleared, Radamus the Red stepped out of it and joined the others. Wizards almost always the last to arrive as well as can never but help make a flashy entrance.
"I've come at last," Radamus bellowed as the rest snorted and snickered, covering their faces.
"Finally, you think we have time to wait for you, wizard," Prince Cavershin announced snidely.
"Perhaps not. But you will," Radamus said with a chuckle and a gleam in his eye, almost directed towards the prince.
"You may have great power, but I often wonder if you have any common sense. Also the likes of you, certainly, does nothing to intimidate me."
And that's just when King William walked in, with his brother at his heels, and said:
"Now, children... Do I have to seperate you two, already?"
King William glared all the attendants into their seats, including the great and powerful Radamus the Red, for they didn't call him William the Lionhearted for nothing.
His brohter sat as well, in the seat closest to William's empty one. The meeting hall fell deathly silent, all waiting for William to speak again. After a moment, he did.
"You've all been called here, as you know, to join forces against our world's greatest enemy, Lustra, the wicked she-devil, has returned!
"You have all been chosen by your own people, as the best and last hope to be sent out and defeat her," as he nods and points going around the room.
"Exodus, Tenebrious, Gappy Hillwild... Stormcloud, Zathena, Clumpkin... Starry Moondust, Radamus, and Prince Cavershin...
"Also to be joining you will be my brother, Lord Jonathon, the best swordsman in all of New Aberdour as well as our representative, from the City of Men."
The meeting continued on for a little while longer, most given a chance to speak their peace. For the most part though, the smaller folks rarely chimed in with their two cents and answered, mostly, only when asked.
However the dragon, hard to start to get them to talk, once they start is near impossible to shut them up.
Which is why they love and are experts at most all games and riddles. Perhaps it will be of some use.
They set off the next morning, after all were properly rested, headed north towards Castle Dundarg.
A dragon, a dwarf, a fairy, an elf, a unicorn, a pegasus, a wizard, a halfling, a gremlin and a human - all astride horses who weren't already better equipped - marching to their battle and possible demise against their sworn enemy. The villainous temptress, Lustra, the bringer of necrosis upon the lands.
Perilous their journey was, for her helpers were under every stone. Unable to escape their watchful eyes and amplifying ears. Luckily, most were nocturnal.
On the nights of their three-day-long quest many a disturbing noise was heard about the camp, so it was thought best to have a lookout for trouble, just in case some arrived. So a watch was set.
The first night was Lord Jonathon's post. His sensitive ears, tuned from many years of hunting, surveyed the lands attempting to hear something, anything, unusual.
Nothing came that night.
The second night was Radamus' turn to hold down the fort. He relying more so on his sixth sense then either vision or sound. He simply could feel when something was coming or not. Could just tell when there was a disturbance in the force.
On his watch, hundreds and hundreds of bats came terrorizing through the darkness. Screeching and squeaking as they made their way through the silent night.
Feeling them coming long before the flying blood-suckers actually did, Radamus was easily able to keep the camp hidden with one of his newer cloaking spells.
The others never even stirred or were aware, until told about it by the wizard, upon waking in the morning. With breakfast already waiting for them, coming from a quick snap of Radamus' fingers.
Heading off again, nearing the final leg of their journey. Having crossed swamp and marsh, hillside and hillock, plains and meadows, ravines and cavernous gulleys, even desert and a stretch of badlands. Finally just before that third night their destination became visible.
Off in the distance a huge, black, castle tower reached for the sky. Spiraling upwards nearing the clouds. The troop all shivering at the sight of it. Feeling the evilness and wretchedness undulate outwards from it.
This, the last night to camp, was a weary one. All spent looking over their shoulders and sleeping with one eye open, nervous from the foul shadow the dark castle spread across the land. There were many sounds heard and vile creatures bumping around in the night.
Even the likes of the watchman was scared, the dragon - Tenebrious - from all the treachery at foot. No easy task, scaring a dragon, either.
A few wandering orcs, scouts, crept into the camp that night. Tenebrious sounding the alarm, rearing back with a great screech, then falling back forward to light up the night sky with his magnificent blaze; igniting a couple of the foul-odored creatures. Then rushing to finish them as they rolled around in the grass.
By then all the others were up, weapons drawn, prepared to defend one another. A few other orcs rushed into the camp, but were quickly taken down by the larger more powerful folk with the greatest of ease.
"We had better move out, it is no longer safe to camp," Lord Jonathon announced.
"Agreed," said the Dwarf Prince, Cavershin, slightly out of breath.
"There are evils all about these lands," Radamus the Red bellowed, his eyes wild, "but it is true, it no longer seems safe here. We must flee!"
Packing up what they could in the light of the moon, they set off, luckily many windows lit up the sides of Castle Dundarg so there was no mistaking which direction to go.
Though they hadn't traveled long when they stopped in their tracks. All hearing peculiar howls and wails coming from all directions, the more powerful, wizard and dragon, actually feeling the presence - or disturbance - as well.
Just then a pair of Necromancers came hurtling through the night. Having escaped from the Castle of Darkness. Coming to serve their mistriss, on their own accord.
Then one Necromancer grabbed the Dwarf Prince and was dragging him away just as Radamus was blasting the other back to the pits of hell that it came from.
"Help! Let... me... go..." Cavershin grunted, attempting to break free. It was no use.
The wizard turned on them - seeming to move from his position, to theirs, in an instant - his eyes two glowing enormous embers.
"You'll release him, if you know what's good for you..." Radamus forced through clenched teeth.
Then, unexpectedly, the Necromancer turned and fled wailing into the night. With the wizard sending a few zaps and sparks on its trail.
"That was too close," Lord Jonathon gasped.
They traveled through the night, with the sun coming up, shedding new light on their surroundings:
The vile-black-castle monstrosity in the distance they were all headed for. Also the barren wasteland they had entered leading them the way there.
Not a desert. For even deserts have life.
This was just a badlands, nothing anywhere, no life, as far as the eye can see. Just barren, just emptiness. Only death.
They trudged on into the new day, their spirits battered but not broken.
Eventually they reached the gates of Dundarg and its gatekeeper. A giant minotaur.
At first only appearing as a monolithic statue.
Only coming to life as the group approached the gate. The minotaur, huge, dwarfing even the dragon Tenebrious, who was not small for a dragon, by any means.
With one great step, the enormous protector shook the ground and our heroes.
Just then Zathena sent a single arrow at the minotaur's face, nailing its target. The arrow piercing its giant eye, sending its great arms to cover its head for protection.
The earth rumbling and shaking with its every step.
Zathena bobbed and weaved, then...
The second eye was found, sending the huge beast falling to the earth, nearly splitting it open. The shaking felt for minutes after. No time for celebration, though.
They passed through the gates, and lumbered up the long walk to Lustra's front door. Walking in like they owned the place.
Finding their way through the dark, winding, Dundarg Castle corridors, ending at the great throne room and the Halls of Tortured Souls. Where the all powerful Temptress, opposer of Outworld - Lustra - rests in the darkened chamber.
The group of ten, one from each harboring city, stares longways down the great hall to see - sitting atop a blood-stained, bone-shaped, throne - an iron-clad woman with long black hair hanging limply in her face, gazing at the floor. She looked up at them, her eyes burning globes of fire, full of hatred...
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