Wyrmshadow: The Duskreign Prophecy
The Story of Haagen Castille
Nestled in the shadows south of the Kordothi Mountains is a region of coarse grassy fields dotted with thick, vibrant copses of tall, sun-drenched trees. Known for centuries as the West Freelands, a man named Sandrick Castille brought his family down to this region from the riverlands in the Ilrasi Forest. The Castille family were new to wealth, but they had substantial enough gold and influence to buy up large tracts of land and build a grand palace, l’Palais de Castille.
Ninety years later, the triplet great-grandchildren of Sandrick Castille were born of Vera Gaspar and her newly wedded husband, Elrick Castille, rightful heir to the Castille fortune. In the years leading up to the birth of his children, Elrick had solidified his rule over the region surrounding his palace, which had long ago ceased to be called the West Freelands and come to be known as the Castillands. Using the regions proximity to two large, rival nations, Quae Elfien in the east and Freel to the southwest, Elrick made overtures to the Emperor Koslov of Imperia to bring his lands under the rule of the Imperian throne, with Elrick as its royal baron.
Baron Castille’s first act was to drain much of his family coffers to erect a massive wall surrounding his palace and the neighboring villages of Easton and Weston. The Wall of Elrick is the longest such structure in the history of Wyrmshadow, surrounding a nearly 200 square mile area and stretching over seventy-five miles in length. It was a sign of the Baron’s commitment to the Emperor to allow his lands to serve as a staging area for any future military operations his majesty may decide to embark upon.
Moments after the birth of his daughters (Elucia and Desire) and his son (Haagen), Elrick was placed under arrest by the Emerald Knight of Imperia, his own uncle, Sir Weidrick Castille. Sir Weidrick, a Diocene Knight in service to Hyronius, the God of Justice, arrested his nephew on charges of collusion with enemies of the faith, witchcraft (consorting with demons), and under suspicion in the death of Faldrick Castille, Elrick’s father and Weidrick’s twin brother. Though unable to convict him of patricide, the other charges found Elrick a new home, in the Stormshore Prison in Kaselon, for the next thirteen years.
Free to raise her children away from the influence of their father, Lady Vera Castille conscripted three knights, Sir Morton Krauser, Sir Wendell Gates, and Sir Roderick Castille (Elrick’s disowned younger brother), to aid her in protecting her children from falling prey to whatever foul machinations he devised for them. It was known to them that these children represented the completion of some dark pact Elrick had made with a powerful demonic cult, so the knights were bade to watch over the children carefully, kept together in the safety of the Castille Citadel, but separate enough to prevent any foul ends for one child from bringing harm to the others.
On their ninth birthday, the Castille children were visited by three dragons, led by Lady Gildwyn the Gold. She came on behalf of a clandestine group known to work in defense of the natural order of the world, and against the very demonic cult to which Elrick Castille belonged. Calling themselves The Guardians, they took an interest in the children, wondering whether they would prove to be friend or foe to Wyrmshadow in the years ahead.
Escalating violence with the Weren Tribes of Y’lish Usuul south of the Castillands led to the deaths of Sir Roderick and Sir Krauser, with whom the children had grown very attached. Sir Roderick was more a father to young Haagen than any man could claim to be, and he took the news hard. When it was discovered that Roderick was once the lover of Vera Gaspar, before his older brother stole her away from him and conscripted him to serve in the Imperian Armored Forces (IAF), Haagen’s grief led him to take a spill down a long stairwell, badly fracturing his leg and causing a limp that would never truly resolve itself.
Weeks later, on their twelfth birthday, something truly unexpected and horrific happened. During their breakfast, and without warning, Desire Castille lurched from her chair and let out an ungodly roar of pain. Her body contorted as dark magics poured from within her, transforming her into a monstrous armored warrior, clad all in black with a helmet resembling the head of a female lion. She cut a path of destruction toward Easton Village, and not knowing what else to do, the shocked Haagen and Elucia gave chase.
The village burned, and though most of the villagers got away, many lay slaughtered or burning in the streets. Ahead of them, Haagen and Elucia heard the sounds of battle. As they approached the source of the battle sounds, they saw the monster that was their sister just as she was being cut down by a mysterious white-armored female warrior with a helmet that looked like the head of a lion.
The white-armored warrior turned her attention toward Elucia and Haagen, who threw themselves between her and their dying sister. Elucia attempted to use a magical spell against the White Lion, but the magical fires reflected away from the warrior’s shield and set Elucia’s left arm ablaze.
It was at that moment that the black magical armor faded from Desire, leaving only her tiny, broken body in the final throes of death. Realizing that she had just slaughtered a mere child, the White Lion woman fled, disappearing into the sky riding a bolt of white lightning. Unable to save their sister, Haagen and Elucia sat in the burning village of Easton, embracing one another in fear, confusion, and the madness of loss.
At the funeral for Desire, one of the mourners revealed himself to be Sir Weidrick, the Emerald Knight. He had come at once on hearing of the loss of his nephew, Roderick, but was crushed by the news of his grandniece, Desire. Driven by a desire to unravel the reasons behind her transformation and the identity of the white-armored woman with the lion helmet that slew her, Weidrick took Haagen and Elucia on a mission for the truth.
Their first stop was at Easton Village, which was the last place anyone had seen the White Lion. When no pertinent information was discovered, Weidrick thought to seek the counsel of Vicar Dodd of Westport. It was a long ride south, and treacherous, but Haagen and Elucia insisted upon accompanying Weidrick nonetheless. It was their first time away from the Castille Citadel. Weidrick brought along Sir Rukke Forster and Sir Damon D’Zell as well, and the five of them left in earnest.
Along the way south, the party bonded over campfire meals by telling tales both old and new. However, On the third day of their journey, they were ambushed by a group of Amphibite Weren (Were-Crocodiles) led by a half-crazed warrior named Croatanis. The Weren marched their captives southwest and into the heart of their tribal lands, eventually leading them into the great encampment of Ylish Usuul.
Within the grand tent at the center of the encampment, the party managed to make a daring escape, finding their way north of the Weren tents, but still very much in the heart of their territory. Relief found them in the form of Sir Aigen and his two squires, Alen Wilder and Nathan Gellar, who had come the long way south to the Castillands after hearing tell of Sir Weidrick’s disappearance.
However, even with their added strength, they were horribly outnumbered and deep in enemy territory. Sir D’Zell died in their defense, but the rest were re-taken by the Weren and returned to Ylish Usuul with more substantial safeguards taken to ensure they could not so easily escape again. After days of torture and interrogation, the leader of the Usuul Tribes, an Avite Weren (Were-Falcon) named Kraleesh made his presence known. He tempted Haagen with an opportunity to save his friends and, of course, his sister Elucia.
To prove his willingness to kill the captives for Haagen’s acts of defiance, Kraleesh slew Sir Rukke by running him through with a sharpened bone spear and spilling his insides onto the floor. To prove he would stay true to his word, that if Haagen cooperated with his demands, he and his friends would go free and unharmed, he spoke the words into the eyes of Sir Weidrick. As a Diocene Knight, Weidrick was able to tell truth from lie in the eyes of man and beast, and he confirmed that Kraleesh was speaking true.
Finally, to prevent Haagen further delaying his assent to obey, he had Elucia poisoned, offering to give her the antidote only once Haagen had completed his task. Seeing no other alternative, Haagen relented to do whatever was asked of him. Kraleesh told Haagen to ride north to his home, where by now, his father Elrick was back in his throne in the Castille Citadel, and slay his father. In the act, he was to declare the death in the name of the Weren of Freel.
It was meant to be an act of war, the assassination of an Imperian baron at the hands of his own turncoat son, in service to a nation already teeming with animosity toward Imperia. Weidrick worried what the weight of patricide might do to Haagen, but the boy seemed not to have much of a choice. He left at once, was given a fresh horse and four days to complete his task. Even if he did not return, if news reached Ylish Usuul of his success, his sister would be given the antidote and his friends would be freed and allowed to leave unharmed.
On the second day, within six hours of reaching home, Haagen stopped to rest and clean himself up at the shore of a small pond. He did not dawdle overlong, though, and soon found himself heading closer to the wall of the Castille Citadel. Even before he reached the Weston Gate, he realized how very much had changed since his father’s return. However, before he could get too close a look, he noticed a shape in the sky on the southern horizon, large and shimmering as it flew in his direction. The men on the wall began to shout, “DRAGON!”
Ushered inside by his father’s men, who wore strange armors and bore odd sigils on their waistcoats, Haagen hastened his way into the village and tried to move as quickly as possible into the Citadel proper. He was almost there, he knew. If he slew his father, Elucia and the others might be saved. He prayed that his mother had left the Citadel before her husband’s return, but he knew that those prayers were likely to go unanswered.
Then, a dragon landed with a crash in the village behind him, spilling its rider out from atop it’s back. As he stood, Haagen recognized the boy almost at once. it was Nathan Gellar! The whys and hows would wait, though, as Elrick’s men had them surrounded. Nathan was trussed up and dragged toward the palace, with Haagen receiving only marginally better treatment.
Nathan informed Haagen in a whisper that he no longer had to go through with the murder of his father. The dragon, Electria, was an ally of Sir Weidrick’s and had come to the rescue. Weidrick, Aigen, and Elucia were already away from Ylish Usuul, and would await them in Westport, if they managed to find a way out of this mess.
Once in the palace, Haagen and Nathan were separated. Nathan was brought into the subbasement to endure torture at the hands of a woman wearing a skin-tight black armor that resembled an evening gown as much as it did a form of protection. Her hair was white as a cloud and spiked back away from her face, which would have been beautiful if not for the furrowed brow and ever-present, thin-lipped sneer.
Haagen was brought to meet his father, at last, and it was a truly upsetting affair for the boy. Try as he might, he could not see his way free to kill his father, which despite the fact that it was no longer necessary, Haagen still longed to do. There was no sign of his mother, but he knew that she was somewhere within the palace. Haagen noticed that Sir Wendell was still alive, but he was badly injured and in grave distress to see Haagen returned under these circumstances.
While Wendell was dragged below to endure further tortures at the hands of the white-haired woman, Haagen was brought to his suite and locked within, a pair of guards stationed outside the door, and another pair within. A noise from outside, a gentle knock at the door, and a halfling named Rivven Cates came into the room. He killed one of Haagen’s guards while Haagen took the initiative, stole the dead guard’s sword, and dealt with the other.
Rivven revealed that he was the personal assistant of Graham Cray, the enigmatic proprietor of the Graham Cray Trading Company. He said that Cray had some accounts to settle with Haagen’s father, and that he had owed much to Haagen’s mother, Vera. During her rule, the Castille coffers recovered from the losses they suffered after Elrick’s expensive wall was built, and that Mr. Cray made a tidy profit from her quick repayment of his loans to the Citadel. Mr. Cray was going to get Haagen out of there, so he told the boy to sit tight and wait until they came for him.
Soon, they came to take Haagen downstairs, where he heard his father’s furious bellowing and the white-haired woman arguing back at him. Standing next to Nathan, who looked far worse for wear after being briefly tortured in the subbasement, was Graham Cray himself. An impressive looking man with short-cropped blonde hair and a wild intellect swimming deep within his slate gray eyes.
Several of his father’s men, who turned out to me mercenaries he hired from Kaselon when he left the Stormshore Prison weeks earlier, had been hired away from the Baron’s service by Graham Cray. The man informed Haagen that he did all he could and secured his release, and that of Nathan, but that no amount of posturing on his part would make the Baron give up his wife. He promised Haagen that once they were safely away and en route south to Westport, he would devote all his resources to wresting Vera Castille from the clutches of her mad husband.
Driven south in a carriage by the halfling Rivven Cates, Haagen and Nathan collapsed, exhausted, in the comfort of the Cray coach. However, before reaching Westport, the carriage was attacked by highwaymen, spurring the boys to action once more. Haagen got separated from Nathan and Rivven, the horse he escaped on taking an arrow in the leg and spilling him hard to the ground. Somehow, Haagen’s prayers led him to manifest divine magics to heal the horse’s wounds and get him on his feet once more.
Proceeding south, following the tracks left behind by Rivven and Nathan, Haagen recognized signs that the rest of the highwaymen were dispatched by arrows fired from a deftly wielded bow. Suddenly, his horse was spooked by the presence of a Dire Coyote and its master, a man bathed in an obscuring field of windblown leaves that distorted his image to look like it was everywhere other than where he truly stood. That man was Brother Roben Gaspar of Westport, Paladin of the God of Nature, Ehlon.
Haagen found himself trusting in the man, who led him south to take shelter in Westport. There, he discovered that Nathan was already in the humble log and chink Temple of Westport, the Vicar Dodd nursing his wounds with divine healing magics. Rivven Cates insisted on leaving at once to rejoin his employer, saying he’d not trust his medical care to a backwoods priest whose beard was still wet with spilt mead. He left just as Haagen arrived, and then Haagen fell unconscious in exhaustion.
Later that night, Elucia burst into the temple, Sir Weidrick, limp and bleeding, leaning over her shoulder. She said that after their escape, there was a dreadful attack of some sort, but she took a blow to the head, and she didn’t remember much. Sir Aigen was lost in the confusion, and Weidrick suffered a devastating laceration to his chest and abdomen. Elucia fainted from exhaustion and concussion. Haagen brought her into the back room of the temple, where he was resting earlier. As Roben and Nathan braced Weidrick to the surface of the temple’s wooden table, Dodd sliced into the wound and removed a four-inch-long broken fang that was lodged between the aging paladin’s ribcage.
After a long and intense effort, they seemed to have stabilized Weidrick for the moment. Roben, realizing that he was bitten by a Weren, drew open the drapery that covered the front window of the temple, gazing up at the moon, full in the sky. He then cursed aloud and drew his scimitar from its scabbard, telling them that if Weidrick’s life was not ended by the edge of his silvered blade, he would rise soon, accursed, as a weren thirsty for blood and carnage.
Nathan deflected his strike with his own sword, Crucible, demanding that there must be a way to save Weidrick such a fate. Sir Aigen was a weren, and he still served honorably as a knight of Imperia. Roben relented to Nathan’s willfullness after the boy clutched the very blade of Roben’s sword in his bare hands. Haagen was grateful for Nathan’s resolve, but the change had already begun to take Weidrick.
Weidrick revealed the truth of what happened in the throes of pain as he began to transform into a weren. As they were safely away by almost a day, they thought it safe to stop and rest for a moment in the bright glow of the moon by the edge of a shallow pond. Sir Aigen was catching a fish from the pond for a quick meal when it happened. Elucia began to change into a savage, snarling beast, killing the unsuspecting Aigen in an instant.
Weidrick barely got a sword into his hand before Elucia bit into his chest. He smashed her in the head with the butt of his sword and knocked her down, and she was just as suddenly restored to her true form. Weidrick knew it to be a part of Kraleesh’s plan. The cure to the poison, which Alan gave Elucia prior to his escape, made the girl an unwitting time bomb.
He had heard of such a potion before, that would temporarily cause a person to become a mindless, froth-mouthed monster long enough to wreak havoc and sow death, only to be returned to their humanity too late to save the lives of those unsuspecting folk that knew not of the danger they were in. Weidrick called upon his Diocene gifts to scour her body and soul of the remaining poison, but he soon after collapsed, his injuries too great. Elucia did not remember what happened, and in his final throes of pain, he begged them never to tell her.
Using holy water poured from a silvered vessel and intense prayer from Roben, Dodd, and even Haagen and Nathan, the changing abated, and Weidrick reverted to his human form. Somehow, miraculously, they had staved off the Weren curse. However, the damage to the old man’s body was too great, and despite preventing him from becoming a monster, it seemed certain he would fall prey to fate nonetheless, taken by death before the morning would come.
However, it would not be so. Weidrick grew stronger by the hour, and soon, Alen Wilder found his way to Westport as well. As Nathan and Alen took refuge at the Inn across the road from the temple, Haagen shared a few words with Sir Weidrick. The man told him that he wanted Haagen to take his sister and head north, by boat, to Freeport. From there, he should head to Imperia and deliver a letter recommending that he, Nathan, and Alen be allowed to enroll as students at the Emerald Academy.
Haagen learned for the first time that Weidrick was his grand-uncle, and Roben revealed that he, too, was kin; his father was the brother of Haagen’s mother, making them cousins. Weidrick expressed a desire to retire and serve out the remainder of his years in Westport, and he implored Roben to accompany Nathan, Haagen, Elucia, and Alen north as well. Roben accepted, handing the protection of this small temple over to Weidrick.
Before departing from Westport, Haagen was visited by Graham Cray once more, who delivered unfortunate news to the boy and his sister. In the aftermath of their departure from the Castille Citadel, Baron Elrick demanded that his wife give him another child, as he would no longer have either Haagen or Elucia to fulfill his dark machinations with the demon cult he belonged to. According to Cray, rather than bear him further children to exploit, Vera Castille killed herself.
However, the Baron had spun her death to be a heroic sacrifice to save her beloved husband from an assassination attempt by the Weren of Ylish Usuul, in hopes that the attempted assassination of an Imperian baron would incite enough outrage in Imperia to cause the Emperor to send his troops south, thus giving Elrick even more influence and military strength in that region of the world. Having promised to get his mother out of there, Graham Cray told Haagen that he owed him a debt he could be assured would one day be repaid.
Leaving north on the Seastar were Haagen, Elucia, Alen, Nathan, Roben, and his Dire Coyote companion, Dust. A week into the journey, a series of hard squalls hit the ship, and the captain revealed that a massive typhoon would threaten to capsize the ship unless he dropped a lot of the excess weight the added passengers and crew represented. Together with five of the ship’s heartier crew members, the party left on lifeboats to take shelter on an island where there were cabins built for that purpose.
During their stay on the island, as the weather intensified, a threat of pirates loomed as other ships looked to follow their lead and take shelter on the island. As the weather began to wane, the pirates made their presence known, and there was a bloody battle in the high winds and driving rain following the passing of the eye of the storm. Haagen and Nathan both handled themselves admirably, earning the respect of the crew as they soon returned to the Seastar and continued on their way north.
On arrival at Freeport, they discovered that the local Baron had closed all roads heading east and south due to increased threat of bandit activity. The roads would be reopened in three days, according to the town criers. In the mean time, they decided to make the best of their time in the city, which was by far the largest, and filthiest, Haagen had ever laid eyes upon. The sudden murder of a curio shop owner led Haagen to intercept a pair of small packages that were part of an illicit exchange for which the shop was being used as a front.
On opening the packages, Roben realized that the contents were evidence that the Baron of Freeport was complicit in the pirate activities off the Storm Coast. Contained therein were two stacks of Imperian currency and two lists that included the names of ships and their captains, dates and nautical coordinates where those ships would be found on said dates. It was, to Roben’s best guess, a hit list to be given over to pirate captains so that certain ships would be attacked by the pirates while others (who likely paid the Baron protection money) would be spared.
However, it soon became apparent that the entire operation was meant to steal ships with which Weren troops could be smuggled north and deposited along the Storm Coast. Roben declared his intention to arrest the Baron of Freeport and bring him to the Emperor’s Justice himself, as Sir Weidrick would in his shoes. He asked Haagen to take Elucia and go on to Imperia with a letter written by him, explaining the charges to the Emperor’s court.
A man who worked for the Baron of Freeport as a bodyguard for his twin daughters, Myrenn Kaustaag, came after Haagen in an effort to get back the blood money and ship lists. However, when Graham Cray arrived, Myrenn changed his tune entirely. Apparently, Myrenn once worked as a “bill collector” for Mr. Cray, but quit because he didn’t like how the work made him feel as a person. He only worked for the Baron out of necessity, due to a drunken resignation letter he wrote that surely made him an enemy of the Graham Cray Trading Company.
Graham offered to hire him back as a bodyguard for Haagen in forgiveness of his previous slander, and Myrenn gladly accepted. He helped get Haagen and his sister, Elucia, safely out of Freeport, and headed east with them toward Imperia by way of Frauss Ferry. After making the crossing at the Wyrmtear River, the three travelers chose to rest at the Bywater Inn. While entering the inn, Haagen noticed a man sitting in silence at a table in the center of the building, reading a book that he almost immediately recognized.
The man sprung into action, revealing himself to be a bounty hunter working for Haagen’s father, Baron Elrick Castille. He stabbed Myrenn in the abdomen with a poisoned blade, but the much stronger bodyguard quickly dispatched the bounty hunter shortly thereafter. In the aftermath of the fight, a Diocene Knight called Sir Kelvan Oakburne came to investigate. He suspected Myrenn of being a troublemaker, and he was immediately dismissive of Haagen as he tried to enlist the man’s help.
Myrenn’s dislike for paladins, and his lack of fear and reverence for their skill and power, became readily apparent. As they decided to move onward, a ten year old boy named Silas Vale introduced himself, revealing that he overheard the details of their plight. He said that he was waiting in Frauss Ferry for a friend to come, but that his patience was wearing thin, and that the time had come to move forward.
Silas’s father, Corbin Vale, was killed two years ago, and recent revelations have led Silas to believe that Baron Amael Ralidaire of Freeport was complicit in the innocent man’s murder. Silas desires justice for his father, but his master, Nath Valdoran, would not consent to aid him in confronting the Baron. As Haagen and his group were heading to Imperia, Silas offered to accompany them to the city, where he hoped to gain the might and authority to go back with him to Freeport and avenge his father’s death.
Displaying an uncanny amount of magical talent, Silas immediately gained the attention and respect of Elucia. Silas opened Elucia’s eyes to the fact that a dark moment in her past (the loss of Desire) was acting as a cork in the bottle of her talent, and that unless she found a way to unstop that emotional block, she would never be a great sorceress.
Arriving in Imperia, Haagen and Elucia were amazed by the sheer enormity of the place. As massive as Freeport had seemed, Imperia absolutely dwarfed that city. Silas informed them that more than a million people lived and thrived in Imperia. Myrenn loved the place, and revealed that it was his first time there as well.
The headmistress of the Farseer’s Tower, where Silas studied magic, seemed to lack any ability to assert her authority over the young sorceress. He knew well that her own master, Ozymaris Locke, had far more respect for him than for her, and that if given a choice, he would sooner keep the novice Vale than the revered headmistress on staff at the tower. She fumed, but was powerless to refute his claim.
Haagen liked Vale’s tenacity and had genuine fear of his power, but mostly he respected his intensity and confidence. For a child not yet ten, he seemed even older and more mature than Haagen, who, at 13 years of age, had already left his childhood days long behind him.
Later that day, before the sun set, Silas came to collect Haagen, Elucia, and Myrenn, as the friend he was awaiting in Frauss Ferry came to meet him at the Farseer’s Tower instead. He introduced them to a young knight-in-training, Drogyn Martok. Leaving Elucia behind in the safety of the Farseer’s Tower, Haagen and Myrenn accompanied Silas and Drogyn west from Imperia along the Freeport Road.
A few miles before reaching their destination, Myrenn spotted a commotion in the road ahead. A pair of Succubi, female demons that prey upon the lusts and desires of all men, were attacking a group of travelers on the road. Silas took it upon himself to enter the battle by launching a Magic Missile toward one Succubus. Once they were close enough to see the female demons up-close, Haagen recognized them as the two ‘daughters’ of Baron Amael Ralidaire, whom Myrenn had previously been in charge of protecting as their official bodyguard.
During the battle, Haagen saw that one of the Succubi had turned Drogyn’s horse into a Nightmare and was riding in in his direction. His own horse ran up to him, its mane, tail, and hooves surrounded by a pale blue magical flame, and for the briefest of moments, he could have sworn he heard the words “get on!” Obeying his overactive imagination, Haagen leapt onto his horse’s back, scooped up his sword, and when his steed clashed with the Nightmare, he used the momentum to dive forward, run across the front of his horse and down the neck of the Nightmare, and knock one of the Succubi from her mount.
After apparently slaying the Succubus, her twin exploded in a ball of hellfire, revealing the twin to have been a magical duplicate rather than a real, living being. Meanwhile, the Succubus Haagen just apparently killed dissolved into a swarm of beetles, scattering in all directions. Silas called for everyone to get clear, whereupon he unleashed a powerful Fireball spell to destroy as many of the beetles as he could, hoping to get them all so that the Succubus could not later be restored to life.
Six months later, in the throne room of Emperor Koslov himself, Haagen and the rest of his party are declared Heroes of the Empire and bestowed with medals of valor. Haagen is accepted into the Temple of Hyronius and the Emerald Academy, whereas Elucia was enrolled as a first-year initiate in the Farseer’s Tower. Haagen knew that a knight must name his weapons if he was to trust it to defend his honor when the time came, so he decided to name his parrying dagger Roderick and his cutlass Desire…