he Four Horns are commissioned by the Society of Lost Relics to track down a lost Tome entitled The Chronicles of the Dwarves, thought to have been buried with its author somewhere in the ruins of of Ondur. The Horns travel to Ondur, cutting through the Valley of Lost Souls. They slay many undead, discover more about the cult that Thivran belonged to, and save a Dwarve named Dringol from the captivity of cultists. The Four Horns learn that the ruins of Ondur have recently become inhabited by a cult of Thyrn dedicated to a fallen Lich-Lord named Genocron. The cultists have been kidnapping, converting and sacrificing local villagers. The Horns confront Father Durrand, a former devotee of Ilendriol from Hidroth Lea who betrayed and murdered several of his brethren for the sake of Genocron. They slay him and release several prisoners of the cult. They then manage to locate Mier’elithog’s sarcophagus and discover his lost Tome. Afterward they confront Erusha, the Gnoll High Priestess of the cult. Erusha in defeated, but before she dies, she tells the Horns that Genocron is about to be reborn. The Horns return to Hidroth Lea to deliver The Chronicles of the Dwarves to the Society of Lost Relics and tell the clergy of the threat of Genocron’s rising, which if true, they discover, would be a very bad thing.
After their encounter with the nightmare specter of Thivran and the mysterious red cloaked figures in the village of Silverwheat, the Four Horns returned to Hidroth Lea. A week earlier they had joined a fraternity of scholars and adventurers called the The Society of Lost Relics, and the day of their return the Horns were summoned by the fraternity to receive their first mission: to recover the lost Tome of Mier’Elithog.
The Downs of Edigroth had been home to several thriving Dwarven civilizations over a millennia ago which were destroyed in the demon wars. A Dwarven scholar by the name of Thorung Mier’Elithog was rumored to have been buried in one such stronghold. Prior to his death Mier’Elithog had published many important historical records of the dwarves that have survived to the present, yet his most valuable academic contribution, The Chronicles of the Dwarves, has never surfaced, and some (including ranking members of the SLR) believe that this tome was buried with him somewhere within the ruins of the city of Ondur.
Attempts at recovering the Tome had been made before; none succeeded. This was due in large part to the fact that Ondur is located within the heart of the Valley of Lost souls, a patch of earth haunted by undead. Genocron, a powerful Lich-Lord, had besieged and conquered Ondur over a millennium ago. In his short reign the city was used as a center to spawn undead to be used in the war effort. Dwinovan later defeated the Lich-Lord; destroying his rotting body, yet the land remained unhallowed. In fact, recently an expedition consisting of a few clerics and paladins lead by Father Durand, a senior cleric, journeyed to the valley in search of the Tome. They were never heard from again. So it was that the mantle fell to the Four Horns, who accepted the challenge without hesitation.
On the eve of their first day journeying, the Horns encountered the ghostly silhouette of a mounted figure lingering in the distance. Later that night when the Horns had made camp they were assailed by a group of red cloaked figures escorted by several undead skeletons. After slaying them, the group once again encountered the ghostly apparition. This time the figure spoke to them and informed them that he had had been one of the paladins sent to Ondur in search of the Tome of Mier’Elithog. The expedition however had been attacked by a group of cloaked figures such as these. The attackers would have been routed but for the treachery of Father Durrand, who had turned against the clergy in the heat of battle and slain them all. Since this time the specter of the Paladin has wandered the valley alone and learned the ways of the cloaked ones. The spirit warned the Horns to be cautious, for the cloaked ones were Thyrn Cultists who were kidnapping travelers in order to convert them to their cause. The cult had also been busy digging up the remains of ancient warriors and raising them to undeath. Having thus spoken, the apparitions vanished.
The following day the Horns encountered another band of cultists and undead dragging several bodies. The group quickly dispatched the undead, and found that one of the bodies belonged to a spit-fire Dwarf who was still very much alive. He and his companions had also been waylaid by the cultists, yet he was the only member lucky enough to survive the encounter. The Dwarf, whose name was Dringol, agreed to accompany the Horns to Ondur. Several more run-ins with the cultists occurred over the following two days before the Horns finally reached the ruins of Ondur.
The Thyrn cultists appeared to have taken up residence within some of the more-or-less intact halls remaining to Ondur. After spending the better part of a day scaling a cliff, the Horns managed to penetrate one such tower. In the days that followed, they slew dozens of cultists and undead within Ondur. During this period, the Horns rescued another prisoner of the cult named Limnus, yet tragically Dringol was slain by ghouls during the battle to save him. Limnus informed the band that those prisoners not willing to convert to the cult of Thyrn were sacrificed. The activity of the Horns did not, of course, go unnoticed by the Thyrn cultists and a trap was soon sprung on the adventurers. Father Durand, and several cultists escorted by zombies cornered the Horns within one of the hallways of Ondur and attempted to capture them. Prior to the battle, Father Durand spoke to the group as follows.
“So, you are the cause of all our trouble. Many faithful brethren have been denied the Promise of eternal life do to the Recklessness of your blades and your spells; Why have you come to disturb This hallowed place?”
When the Horns mentioned the Cult’s innovative, though controversial methods of proselytism, the fatherly Cultist responded in the following way.
“What you say is true. In the pursuit of our Cause the lives of the Edanai must sometimes be spent. Such a loss is regrettable, but necessary. Yet their sacrifice is not vain. For as a seed must fall to the earth and perish In order to bring about new life, So too must a few perish In order to bring about life everlasting To the souls of many.”
The Horns didn’t care much for the good father’s explanation so Romen called forth a hail of stones that all but destroyed the cultists. Durrand and a few others survived, but the father was soon forced to flee to a lower level of the dungeon where he was aided by a Gnoll Cultists and a Hellhound. A nasty battle ensued in which both the father and several members of the Horns nearly lost their lives. Durrand was eventually taken captive, and several of the prisoners of the cult set free (one of which was a Fighter named Thelend who offered to aid the Horns in dispatching the Thyrn cultists if they would help to find the soldiers under his command that had also been taken captive). The Horns retreated to the safety of a nearby cave and then proceeded to question Durand on the nature of the cult, and its employment of human sacrifice. Durand gave the following impassioned (albeit winded) monologue:
“I was once much like yourselves, a blind follower of Andunai. Yet Erusha, the leader of our Sect opened my eyes. She is here still—you will meet her soon; perhaps she shall do the same for you.”
“As it is written within the Scriptures of the Thyrn, ‘After Elucion had opened the eyes of the second-born races to behold the chains that they bore owing To Andunai’s deception; the children of men and Dwarves Flocked to Elucion’s side and took shelter in His infinite wisdom. Together they waged war Against the oppressor, and his craven followers, the elves. Elucion restored to those that would listen, Their freedom; but in his wrath and jealousy Andunai Forged new chains of tyranny with which to bind them. The first he named old age, And the second he called death. So have all that dwell Upon Eriond, both the cowardly and the courageous, Become ensnared a second time by The great oppressor.”
“So it is written, and so it is. Yet there remains hope of freedom for Those willing and brave enough to seize it. For you see, the gods are not subject to Andunai’s chains, Nor are those that they favor. Genocron was one such man. He served the gods faithfully and boldly defied the throne Of Andunai. For his honor and courage, the God’s freed him from Andunai’s chains. He roamed the earth godlike and terrible and severely Punished the children of Andunai for their folly. Yet sadly His earthly vessel was destroyed in the war—yet his spirit lives on. For a thousand years Genocron has wandered these ruins Sustaining his soul with the life-force of birds and rats. Yet in these latter days his spirit has become renewed. Genocron is rising!”
“Genocron has called us here, the faithful brethren Of the Thyrn, to minister to him and to witness his glorious rebirth! Yet in order for this miracle to occur, Genocron’s spirit must be nourished and strengthened Through drinking the souls of the second-born. Hence, we have harvested such from among The weak—that is, the followers of Andunai. Once Genocron is reborn, he will reward those of us who have so ministered to him by freeing us from the chains Of death and old age!”
“In your ignorance you slew many brethren, And so deprived them of Genocron’s reward. Now they Serve merely as undead chattel to be used in Genocron’s impending war. Ignorant or not you must atone for your sins through Service to the gods. You may either render your service freely By renouncing Andunai and joining the brethren of the Thyrn, Or you may render your service through sacrifice, allowing Genocron to drink of your soul. Therefore choose now your form of service Life-everlasting or eternal death. Our Lord is pleased with either.”
After this spooky little gloss on the Cult’s theology, the Horns decided to bump preventing the rebirth of Genoncron up to the top of their “to-do” list. Hence they set out once more through the halls of Ondur. A few cultists tried to free their Thyrn father from the Horns and were summarily cut down for their trouble. In the midst of the chaos Durrand ran off. The Horns gave pursuit, caught him, and slew him as well—just for good measure.
Through a bit of exploration the Horns discovered a secret passageway behind a stone statue that led down to a burial room containing the statue of a Dwarven warrior and a stone sarcophagus. The Horns did what anybody, who, finding themselves within a dungeon swarming with evil cultists and undead creatures would do when confronted with a creepy sarcophagus—they flipped the lid. Therein lay the reason the horns had journeyed to Ondur in the first place: the Tome of Mier’Elithog! Of course when Romen used a spell to try and lift the book, the Dwarven Statue came alive and raised his axe to slay the party. Thankfully, some quick thinking on the part of the Horns saved their skins. “Here” said Romen as he used the spell to launch the book at the stone construct. It merely placed the book back inside the sarcophagus. It was then that Luca noticed the inscription on the inside lid:
After several minutes of questioning glances and shoulder shrugs, the Horns noticed the two unlit torches on the wall where the statue had been. Mara busted out the ol’ flint and steel and moments later each torch was lit. The construct lumbered toward the wall and mounted the steps of his base, and was a lifeless statue once more. The Horns took the oversize book and split.
They wandered through the lower regions of Ondur searching for signs of Thelend’s soldiers. However, the prisons were now empty, and there was but a single faint trail of footsteps leading from one of the cells to a main hallway. The Horns followed the footsteps to a set of large double doors beyond which radiated a choking haze of concentrated hatred. After a moment’s hesitation Phadran thrust wide the doors and strode through the portal.
The doors opened to an expansive room with vaulted ceilings and four long antechambers lining the east and west sides of the room. At the far south end of the room stood a massive shrine atop of which was a life size stone statue of a grotesquely decomposed human figure garbed in a long robe and bearing a large sickle. Blood dripped from the mouth of the statue, and ran along the hem of its robe to form slick pools at the base. The scarlet drenched alter kneeling before the figure left no question as to what had become of Thelend’s men. A giant heap of humanoid skeletons was piled at either side of the alter, and standing erect and menacing before the alter was a creature part man, part beast. The she-beast raised her snout in the air and gave a shrill cackle.
“So. You have come to render your service to the gods,” said she. “Which is it to be? Shall you serve as a disciple, or as a sacrifice?”
As if in answer Thenlend drew his massive Dwarven-forged Bastard sword from its scabbard and rushed forward. He was followed close behind by Phadran.
In a voice or rust and gunpowder Erusha commanded the western pile of bones to arise. In moments the South end of the room was filled with a mass of writhing; clattering bone. Thelend and Phadran were caught in the onslaught and the rest of the party became quickly entangled. The battle raged on for what seemed an eternity, the Horns hacking down zombie after zombie in an endless dance while Erusha continued to draw upon the dark powers of Sorraddadun to unleash still more undead upon the heroes. When at last the final skeleton was broken asunder, the last zombie rent in two, the Horns turned their blades upon the evil cleric. Erusha proved a difficult foe to kill, but at last she succumbed to the collective efforts of the Horns. With her dying breath Erusha sniggered darkly and said:
“You are too Late, Genocron is Rising— My death shall but hasten his return. Genocron, my lord; Into your hands I commit my soul.”
Having thus spoken Erusha fell forever silent. A tremor rocked the ancient Dwarven halls as the horns watched the gnoll die. Suddenly the aura of hatred that hung about the room grew noticeably more thick. The shadows cast by the four great torches in the center of the hall wavered violently for a moment, grew still, and began to creep closer to the Horns. Tiny creatures scuttled about where the shadows met.
After hastily searching the desecrated hall, the Horns decided that the better part of courage lay with discretion and so made a speedy getaway.
On the trip back to Hidroth Lea the Horns returned to the spot where they had left their horses, and there learned a valuable lesson about caring for one’s steed from the school of hard knocks. Of the four horses two were dead and the other two dying of dehydration. Luca did what he could to restore them to health, and within a day’s time the animals were full of vigor once more.
Aside from a brief skirmish with a troll, the rest of the journey was remarkably unremarkable. The Horns reached Hidroth Lea at midday, stabled their two remaining horses and said goodbye to Thelend who departed for his home town of Derulund Lane in the south to report to his commanding knight.
The Horns wasted no time in seeking out the charter members of the Society of Lost Relics who had commissioned them. The only ranking member of the fraternity present at the wizard’s guild upon the Horns arrival however was Etilwin Vass, the absent minded Gnome Tinker. Vass was pleased to see that the Horns had returned home safely, and elated to hear that they had found the Tome of Mier’Egrith. Yet unsurprisingly his joy turned sour upon hearing Romen’s explication of the other events which had transpired within the dungeon.
“Did you actually see Genicron rise?” inquired the apprehensive Gnome.
“No,” explained Romen, “but we certainly did experience his presence.”
“These are grave tidings indeed,” remarked Vass, “for if in fact Genicron has risen, it shall mean the ruin of us all…my-oh-my, did you actually see his form dear man.” The Gnome rushed on without waiting for an answer, “It took the united efforts of men and Dwarves, and the blessed blade of Dwinovan to destroy Genocron the first time, yet there is not now an army in the north capable of standing before him. Lord help us all.”
After discussing this matter, Romen inquired as to whether he might have an opportunity to study the Tome which he had risked his life to obtain (having noted earlier that the volume contained some references to a northern gate). Yet Vass was unwilling to part with the Tome until after he had thoroughly studied the work for himself; he did however assure the warmage that he would have the opportunity to satisfy his curiosity at a later time.
Their mission complete the Horns returned a tenth of their earnings to the SLR and then divided the loot evenly amongst themselves.
The Horns then reported to Captain Teradith, and told him of the danger that lie in wait at Ondur. “This news could not have come at a worse time,” Teradith began after a time of reflection. He then continued:
“The tide is once again turning in the southern war. Karn has ascended the throne in Escalatharn, and Endrathador and Tulgal have united together under his banner. Together these nations have stayed the forces of Dwinovar. Under Karn’s reign, a new breed of dragon riders have emerged to threaten the eastern lands. To the West there is rumor that Jarl Gorlosh is attempting to unite the Orc tribes of the Atrowan Heights.”
“Of course this comes as no surprise given the increase we’ve seen in orc attacks over the past few lunar cycles, not to mention the recent escape of Orc Shaman that you helped to capture. If the Orcs unite they shall possess numbers sufficient to overwhelm the Western Baronies.”
With these dark omens weighing heavily upon them, the Horns returned to The Cloven Hoof for the night, though sleep was far from their minds.
“In answer to the southern threat, Igladan is readying an army to march against Escalatharn. For our own part, Caldoranth has committed a large contingent of our army to protecting the Western Baronies. In fact I myself have had to detach all of the knights at Hidroth Lea save Orend to defend the Baronies. So you see if Genecron were to return now to Ondur, he could march through the Downs of Edigroth along the east, slay all the living, and build his army with their corpses. By the time he reached the poorly defended Gates of Caldoranth he would have gathered enough strength to overwhelm the city. With the resources of Caldoranth at his disposal, well…who knows, he might even have a shot at defeating Igladan.”