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While it’s said dwarven fortitude could forge steel, Torrum isn’t so sure about his. An all-consuming darkness is forming inside the gems, but the mages are still silent! Finally, the mages are sending help. “Wise old men are on their way! We prepared a generous gift for them as thanks for fighting the growing darkness.”
Torrum begins to worry, “The mages are late – I can sense that something is wrong. The mountains are still and quieter than usual with tension.”
Torrum never thought anything he could experience would cause the mix of vivid emotions he’s feeling right now. “A Fiery Redhead – a girl! Magrum says that a red-haired girl arrived! We requested a squad of seasoned battlemages, not some brash child. I have no words to express my anger about the girl that the mages sent! She says she’s a powerful artifact mage. Arrogant as well! Just what I need!”
Once the red-haired girl made her case, there was begrudging acceptance. “I barely talked by brother into allowing her into the heart of the mountain. I can almost hear his teeth grinding from here.”
Seems the girl turned out to be quite a good mage after all, “By my beard, the mage girl, Thalia, found a dark fissure deep in the caverns! My people have awakened something grim deep in the Diamond Mountain! I suspect that whatever escaped from the mountain is now troubling my old friend Lucas and his people. What bad luck! (Doesn’t that sound like the Elemental of the Abyss?)
Lucas the Minotaur, in Grim Mansion, says not to judge a book by its cover. He’s a good person who means you no harm and would like to believe you are as well. He believes you have a trustworthy face and wonders if you’ve ever considered having a minotaur friend could be useful? Lucas introduces himself as Lucas Rampant Stare of the Thunder Axe settlement.
He’s an educated minotaur, having “always had more interest in books and knowledge than combat. Are you surprised by my education? I suppose the stereotype is that minotaurs are warlike, but don’t get me wrong, I can still handle an axe!” Lucas jokes about making you his secretary before getting down to business.
“Here on the Dark Side, there’s a sacred town of minotaurs called Ariadne’s Labyrinth, but the way there is hidden to outsiders. You can’t imagine how beautiful our town is – few have even had the honor of visiting it.”
According to Lucas, something dark and horrible has appeared in the labyrinth. Something he believes is a Shadow Serpent! “The Shadow Serpent is one of the most ancient and horrible of this world’s restless shadows. It has long slumbered in the deep darkness, but something woke it, and now it’s hunting. The Shadow Serpent is small, but it grows each night as it hunts my people, growing bigger and bolder. Our town is in danger.”
Lucas remembers old tales from his youth that mention a Hidden Sword, a legendary weapon capable of destroying dark creatures. “Swords aren’t common weapons for a minotaur – we’re more comfortable with axes – but my hand won’t shake if I wield the Hidden Sword.” Lucas admits the tale of the sword “seemed clearer and more logical when I was a kid” but he vows to deal with the Shadow Serpent himself.
The legend contains a riddle, “The red stone near the rocks is hidden by the shadow of the forgotten tale.” Lucas wonders why riddles are always indirect, but finds his youth wasn’t wasted in those dusty old libraries after all. He knows where to find the sword! “I need to prepare for a journey. Jerky, clean water, my faithful axe. I don’t doubt you at all anymore. May your horns, er, your blade be ever sharp.”
Lucas casts aside thoughts of what could happen if he fails to defeat the Shadow Serpent and offers, “It’s tradition to bump horns with those close to you before you set off in my culture, but that could be dangerous for you, so let’s shake hands as the humans do. See you later, my friend.” Lucas the Minotaur disappears from Grim Mansion.
Torrum is concerned his friend Lucas is standing alone against the Shadow Serpent, but notes “his people were always a bit reckless. I guess we should trust that Lucas knows what he’s doing. In the meantime, my people are preparing for a new threat.”
As you are rewarded with the Unicorn Brush, Torrum leaves these parting words, “I hope to see you again...Hm? Oh, nothing – just the muttering of an old dwarf. Attend to your grand matters!”
Ludwig Milton, Skeleton Knight appears in Ancient Cemetery and wonders what brings you to such a grim place at such a grim hour? He apologizes for his unusual appearance and hopes you’ll learn to look past it once you get to know him better.
Ludwig Milton calls himself a true knight and begins to relate a little about his life. “When I was alive – a long time ago – I was brave but very foolish. It’s my fault I ended up here. I used to live in a castle myself! I was a threat to foes, a protector of friends...and a magnet for ladies. Oh, those were happy times!”
One day, Ludwig caught a glimpse of what he thought was a simple village girl in the forest. She stole his heart, figuratively and literally. She turned out to be a witch. “I became obsessed with her, and every day I plunged deeper and deeper into blind love. I saw her eyes at night and heard her voice call to me from the darkness.”
One night, Ludwig succumbed to her song and went to her as a meek lamb. “She greeted me happily and asked me for a favor. She asked me to help her defeat the Lord of Darkness himself. I’d barely heard her request before I found myself agreeing.” The witch led Ludwig to an old portal and started whispering spells and waving her staff. “I approached the portal as if hypnotized. A reflection of a terrible world appeared in the portal. I stepped inside and heard the wretched witch call the Lord of Darkness ‘master’!” (Okay, I’ll bite...just who is this witch?)
“The veil of love fell from my eyes, and I found myself on the Dark Side. I could barely move, but with the last of my strength, I stabbed the portal’s base with my dagger, destroying it. But the Lord’s revenge was elegant. Here I stand now, neither alive nor dead, unable to leave this place.”
After hundreds of years in solitude, Ludwig is so happy to have someone to talk to. It’s a miracle! Ludwig knows why you came to him and how to help. “It’s as if the wind whispered your goals to me. But it doesn’t matter. What matters is getting the Sky Stones for your artifact.”
While it’s true Ludwig can’t leave the Dark Side, the descendants of those who once swore their allegiance to him now exist in the land of the living. “My faithful raven will deliver a message for one who once swore allegiance to me. He might be dead, but sometimes the sons must pay the debts of the fathers.”
Curious for more of the story, Ludwig continues “Unfortunately, the story isn’t as exciting as you’d think. I once saved a noble knight from a terrible death in harpy’s claws during a hunt. That’s all. If it weren’t for me, his descendants wouldn’t even exist. Anyway, my raven is a reliable means of communication. Help will come soon.”
Ludwig reiterates help is on the way and continues, “The descendant of the one indebted to me is an honorable person who understands our mission’s importance. It’s good to know that even after my death, rebirth, and years of silence, I still have allies.” (Again, who is this descendant paying the debt of his father?)
Then he says, “It’s hard to see from your perspective, but many people are working together to help our mission. Isn’t that a reason to be proud?” (Sounds like a message from the developers)
Ludwig hasn’t felt so alive in a long time and while the only thing holding his bones together is magic, he’s still able to put plans into action. Patience is a virtue and Ludwig can’t believe the Lord of Darkness’s reign is coming to an end. “The Lord of Darkness isn’t trying to stop us. It’s as if he doesn’t believe we can stop him. Centuries of doing as he pleased made the Lord less vigilant. We should take advantage of that, or we may as well only dream of defeating him. It’s time to take action! You are rewarded with the Sky Stones.
Pinfeathers says “We’re moments from triumph, yet the grasping claws of impending doom keep me in terror. One last effort and we can return all of our residents to our world! The Lord of Darkness won’t be able to withstand the power of the ancient artifact, but I still don’t know how it will affect him.
The Genie may be an ethereal being, but on the Dark Side, even he feels disconnected from this world. “I feel a connection to the Lord of Darkness. He seems to want to take control of my spirit. I’m fighting back, but I need your help.” The Genie seems to see through the Lord’s eyes, and he through the Genie’s, so the Genie tries to place a magical barrier, a mental wall, to block the Lord of Darkness from his mind. “I finally seem to be alone in my mind, so we should discuss our plans while we have a chance. I know where Ariadne’s Thread is, but I can’t get it without you.”
The artifact is with the harpies of the Dark Moon. They are reasonable, civilized creatures – as developed as humans. That’s the good news. The bad news is that harpies are generally rather unfriendly. It’s hard to establish and maintain communication with them. The Genie took a calculated risk and used magic to leave his body and scout out the lands of the harpies.
He found a strange disease plaguing the harpies and believes the Lord of Darkness is behind it. “If we offer them a cure, they may give us the artifact.” Magical diseases are difficult to cure and require a delicate mixture of herbs, magic and the Genie’s knowledge. “I’ve come up with a recipe to cure the harpies. None of the flock have died yet, but many are sick. We need to hurry.”
The Genie decides to “ask the witches of Darkwater Moors for some ingredients.” While his connections may be surprising, you make a lot of them when you exist for as long as he has.
The Genie finds it difficult to mix the unmixable, “Some of the ingredients are nearly incompatible with each other, but I am a Genie, after all. I can make miracles. I don’t believe a human mind could have come up with such a recipe. No offense intended. At any rate, I’ve started developing the cure.”
Needing several special magic stones necessitates having tedious negotiations with the goblins of the Ringing Wasteland. “It seems goblins can drive even ethereal creatures mad.”
The Genie begins experiencing terrible, unspeakable pain. “The Lord of Darkness is attempting to learn our plans, but he won’t be able to break through my mental defenses.”
The Genie puts the final touches on the cure, admitting this is the peak of his medical knowledge. “The harpies already know that I have an offer for them, and they suspect it’s related to the disease. Tah’Raa Golden Wing, matriarch and chief of the harpies, wants our cure but refused the exchange. The fate of their tribe is in our hands. They believe that we are incapable of empathy, so I intend to prove them wrong. The cure is ready, it must go to those in need, no matter what.
***END OF UPDATE*** (Genie says “I have nothing for you right now. Take your wishes elsewhere!”)
UPDATE***AUGUST 3, 2021
Tah’Raa acted very mysteriously when the Genie handed her the cure for the harpies, “The harpies were testing us. Our cure helped, and she is ready to hand over Ariadne’s Thread. The winged messengers are on their way and, despite what the Genie said before, he believes they are trustworthy. “The harpies didn’t let us down. As always, it’s been good to work with you, and I hope we’ll see each other again.” (You are rewarded with Ariadne’s Thread)
Professor Pinfeathers is jubilant, “That’s it! You’ve collected everything! The Lord of Darkness is sure we won’t succeed, but it’s time to prove him wrong! We must not underestimate the final step. We’ve assembled the Glove of Deliverance, so use its power against the Lord of Darkness and return everyone to life!
Glove of Deliverance goes to the Lord of Darkness in the Hall of Suffering, “The Lord of Darkness is imprisoned in stone for his dark designs.” Pinfeathers says the Lord of Darkness will remain on the Other Side forever and rewards you with the Recollection Crown. “This crown can break the strongest memory curse. Whoever wears it will surely remember their true feelings.”
Professor Pinfeathers senses Shadow is plotting something, having “lost his mind along with his memory” and there’s only one person who might be able to reason with him.
A while ago, Shadow came up with a plan to keep Lilith safe from the Lord of Darkness. He planned to use an artifact to keep all his memories safe until he could restore them. According to Lilith, however, “the artifact to remove memories broke and erased Shadow’s memories. Now it seems he’s fallen back into his evil ways.” Lilith knows “evil has always been a part of Shadow, but there’s kindness as well. We must make sure the kindness takes over.” Perhaps talking to Shadow might help but it’s hard to awaken kindness in an evil person.
Shadow wants to finish what the Lord of Darkness started (turning all Midnight Castle residents into shadows) and he doesn’t even remember the time he saved Lilith’s life. Lilith once “fell into a shadow sinkhole during a hunt. Shadow almost passed by, but something about me moved him to pity and he saved me. I still don’t know why.”
Shadow’s sickening delusions about immortality are alarming. According to Lilith, “I don’t know what changed his heart, or even what made me fall for him in the first place. When this is all over he’ll see himself clearly, but for now, we must make him change his views.” Lonelier than ever, Lilith is troubled by her past feelings. “How could he just forget our time together? One day he picked apples for me – real ones, not shadow apples! It was like a miracle. I wish I could perform a miracle for him now.”
Lilith is so desperate, “it feels like I’ll never feel the spark of determination again. Shadow was always so tenacious and sure around me. I must be like the Shadow I know and love. It’s the only way I can help him.”
Lilith hopes talking to Shadow will help and describes their past conversations as brief, but sincere. If talking doesn’t help, drastic actions is all that’s left. But Shadow is in a state of denial and Lilith doesn’t dare go to him herself, “There’s no denying it, words aren’t going to persuade him.” Lilith accepts the inevitable outcome, “Shadow doesn’t change his mind. One day we argued for so long about where to go for a walk that we ended up not going anywhere!” Left with no other options, Lilith asks you to speak with Shadow.
Shadow, still at Creepy Street, doesn’t remember you or Lilith, but he remembers something else. “I have a clear goal in mind, ingenious in its simplicity, and I’m ready to achieve it. Existence is finite and our lives are frail and pointless.” Shadow wishes to change that; “Imagine eternal life. Would you enjoy it? Death in all forms is despicable. But shadows...shadows are immortal.” Despite some opposition to defying death, he knows everyone will thank him in the end. Sure his actions won’t be in vain, Shadow vows to finish what the Lord of Darkness started. “I’m not merely bragging – I’ll do what he set out to do, only better!”
While claiming not to be a monster, Shadow needs “one small thing to turn everyone into immortal shadows. Eternal life requires a life. A sacrifice is my only option to ensure eternal life for all. After all, how can one life compare to immortality for all?” Shadow believes destiny will choose his sacrifice. “Ah! Ludwig Milton may die, but we’ll live forever! Our new world will be utopia!”
Lilith, greatly upset by Shadow’s plan, knows the only way out is the hard way. “There’s an artifact called the Recollection Crown. It’ll help collect the pieces of Shadow’s scattered memories.” Lilith knows part of the artifact, the Lucid Mind, is stuck in the space between this world and the shadow world. Lilith sets off for the place outside of time and space and returns with the Lucid Mind. “Now we must hope for the best – that the artifact brings clarity to Shadow’s mind.”
Pinfeathers knows that if Shadow cannot be reasoned with, he must be forced to remember his true self. Perhaps that will make him forget the atrocity of turning everyone in the castle immortal.
Ludwig Milton, Skeleton Knight has been cursed and is slowly fading away. Such a despicable deed, “the curse can only be undone by the one who cast it. Not only will I fade away, but others will suffer as well.” Ludwig describes Shadow as a madman, “his plan is eternal life for all, but my endless suffering means nothing to him. A madman like Shadow should never be able to toy with innocent lives.”
Ludwig recalls “A serenity seeker hid the artifact part you need up on the mountain. I can ask my faithful raven to fetch it for you.” But the raven travels far and wide, so patience is needed to wait for his return. Ludwig, growing concerned over the raven’s delayed arrival, tries summoning his faithful helper. The raven finally returns and gets ready for a new journey just as a blizzard starts brewing in the mountains. The blizzard ends and the raven is off, flying high in the mountains. Ludiwig Milton says “There are whispers on the wind. The artifact part should soon be ours.”
Ludwig Milton has his hands on the artifact part, but he won’t last much longer. “If my strength subsides, our work will be in vain. Luckily, I know someone that can help slow Shadow’s curse.”
Nala is thankful for the pleasant encounter, even though she wishes the circumstances of the visit were different. “Lifting the curse on the Skeleton Knight won’t be simple.” Nala knows “there are few mages who understand shadow curses. Luckily, I began studying them long ago.” She admits she can’t actually life the curse, but she can slow it with an Impediment Ritual. Since shadow curses can only be lifted by those who cast them, slowing the effect is the only hope. “Hopefully that’ll buy enough time to find the artifact to restore Shadow’s memory.”