BNN: The Nature of Shadows
September 3, 2009
Britannia lay under siege, both from forces without and within. Her borders marred by intrusions by daemonic horde and mortal traitor, her fields in ashes, homes empty, deserted. The great cities still moved on, unheeding the carnage consuming the countryside even as voices rose in protest, only to be cut down by the merciless enforcers stalking the streets.
The agents of the Shadowlords moved freely amongst the common people, subverting their will with insidious guile. Their earliest attacks had taken a toll on the will to fight, and now the very people of Britannia were becoming part of their own downfall. Every day the Shadowlords themselves grew stronger, preparing for the day they could convert the world into yet another dark jewel in their ever expanding collection of conquered shards.
Worlds without number had fallen thus far, and now, this shard too would be stained with the darkness eternal. A few, a precious few, strove to fight back against this dying of the light. Hope had returned in our future leader Dawn, a savior in times beyond saving, who began rallying the faithful for our final stand.
Unlikely allies appeared, and pieces moved across the great, unknowable battlefield of fate. Even then we were helped and hindered by forces beyond our reckoning.
Amongst the chaos one man had sought out the secrets of the Shadowlords, willing to sacrifice anything to discern their true nature: to learn how to defeat them once and for all.
I, Dexter, write the following account of the Elder Mage, Sutek, a man I was proud to call my mentor, and in those days in hiding, my only friend. These are his words, the words that taught us how to defeat the monstrosities by our own hand.
“A bargain has been struck… we shall know what must be known.”
Sutek’s eyes stared into the pool of liquid light, I remember his face, blank, serene, his eyes piercing through the very ether.
“There are three, as we have known, and they are Astaroth, Faulinei, and Nosfentor. They are creatures of Hate, of Falsehood, and Cowardice.”
“Yet they are not… creatures, they simply… are. Hate, Falsehood, and Cowardice.”
“They are the very embodiment of the Anti-Virtue, they are everything… that the Virtues are not.”
“They are… not eternal, they have been created, as an… archetype, a shadow of a greater… danger. One which has not yet turned towards us, not yet…”
“Their mortal hosts… live, and yet live no longer.”
“Slaves they shall become… these agents of chaos.”
“Beware them, for though pawns they are yet power…”
“The Murderer, the Betrayer, the Fool.”
“Beware their masters greater, their shadows of shadows.”
“Our world was shielded from… their influence, their power. The great rift, in Moonglow, allowed them to pierce the veil.”
“Yes, it was then that the Lord of Time attempted to thwart them…”
“And is now cut off from the ethereal void as are they. That is why they are weak, all of them! They are all trapped here, in our world, without…”
He sagged, yet kept speaking, possessed of a stranger’s will.
“They feed on us… they grow stronger while the Time Lord weakens.”
“ The rift must be re-opened so they can be cast out…”
“In another world there was One who was known, one, who, who fought them, and defeated them. For that world was saved.”
“It is at once another world, and our own world. My mind… cannot…”
“They are the antithesis of everything the Virtues are… and thus, they too have an opposite.”
“This… Avatar, he is destined to defeat the greater… power. While we in our worlds…”
“Yet we are aided, still.”
His eyes tightened, as through blinded by an unseen brilliance. After this, his voice changed, the meaning of his words shifted as though another were speaking through him, and no longer merely to him. They echoed in rhythm, filling my mind with images.
The dawn of hope comes; a light to fill the void, and with her ride legions forgotten. The cold of platinum against crimson fire, elder ones return to the world of men. She shall take in hand the icons of power, The Book, the Candle, and the Flame. She shall pledge herself to Virtue, She shall descend into the darkness, and with her, all the chosen kingdom, and there, end
At this point, Sutek collapsed, and struck his head against the table as he fell into a crumpled heap atop the dirty floor. The scrying pool went dark as I rushed to his side. Only time would tell if he had said all he had hoped to say…
He awoke some minutes after, barely remembering his ordeal, or his breakthrough. He seemed a bit muddled, but quickly took command, and soon enough we were on our way to meet up with the resistance movement.
It was with this message I had written that we met our new leader, Dawn. And as she meditated upon these words a strange thing occurred, something we have never forgotten. A beautiful light seemed to enshroud her, transfiguring her before us into the very embodiment of our hopes. It was as though, in that moment, we all had a moment of perfect clarity, of what must be done, and the assurance we would succeed.
And that’s when the Dragons came.
Elsewhere, a filthy figure clawed at scraps in the gutter of the street, clutching a chewed apple core greedily. Grime was combed through her hair, her fingernails black with the detritus of a hundred nights without a warm bed or shower. She was dressed in a ragged kimono, out of place in the Britannia city, but uncaring.
Inu the Crone’s eyes focused. She straightened, lifted her head slowly, and with a newly clear voice and unburdened eyes stared into the heavens. She had only two words, two words she had longed to say for many years, that now spilled out so humbly.