Beyond the High Forest, hidden in the dangerous valleys of the Nether Mountains, the Monastery in the Vale stands out among its natural surroundings. Many of its inhabitants live their entire lives protected within its boundaries. There are no walls to keep out the tribes of orcs that inhabit the mountain range, no magical barriers to fend off hungry young dragons; there are only the Masters and their subordinates. The members of the monastery are some of the fiercest fighters known throughout the land and are more than willing to lend a hand in conflicts, on whichever side provides the coin.
There are two passes in the Nether Mountains. The Moon Pass, which has become a major battleground for two warring tribes of orcs, and the Turnstone pass, which has been lost to time and the wilderness. It is no stroll when approaching these mountains and going around and avoiding the dangerous creatures, treacherous passes, and bloodthirsty orcs tends to be good for one’s health. In such dangerous territory, regular patrols are a must. Two students and one captain are sent out on a bi-hourly basis. These patrols are required to obtain food, water, or to eliminate potential threats to the monastery. There are many hidden caves and passes in the mountains. The labyrinth is nearly impossible to traverse without experience.
“Can you believe someone tried to make it through the Moon Pass?” A dwarf calls out, flanked by two men, all wearing monastic robes. The three are reporting back after a particularly eventful patrol. They apporoach with horses and a damaged, but operating, wagon.
“What is this, Adrik!?” Captain Ruric, the individual responsible for patrols, calls back to the three from the road at the entrance to the monastery.
“I don’t know, but I wasn’t gonna question it! Found it wrecked and…” Adrik hesitates, “poor souls, no survivors.”
Captain Ruric begins to inspect the wagon. “Moon pass?” Ruric inquires.
“That’s what I said! Looked to be 2 or 3 of them, based on the size of the wagon and the tracks. Orcs got ’em.” Adrik points to the poorly crafted arrows and bloodstains on the side of the wagon.
“Did you find anything useful?” Ruric begins to inspect the wagon’s contents.
“Nah, I assumed the orcs would’ve cleared out any food or valuables.” Adrik continues, “Besides, fighting them off was enough work for the day. I think I’ve earned my drink!” Adrik gestures and begins to walk away at a suspiciously brisk pace.
“But, captain!” One of the two men exclaims, “what about the…”
Adrik interrupts quickly, “NO! No, uhh…damn,” but Ruric discovers the secret.
“What the hell is this!? Babies? A-are they tieflings?” Ruric stumbles over his words.
All four men are struck speechless.
“You know, I hear those devil-skins die if they touch holy water.” A group of young men stands behind two tieflings, one in white dress and the other in black, at the bar in the tavern of the monastery.
“You think ale does the same, Bill?” One of the men pours his drink all over the one in dark robes.
“Huh, I guess not!” The group erupts in laughter.
The dry tiefling stands quickly.
“No!” the tiefling, still seated, places his hand upon the other’s shoulder to calm him.
The standing tiefling spits on the floor, “You’re lucky my brother’s here.”
“Oh, really! How generous! Let me show my gratitude.” Bill swings his fist at the tiefling hitting him square in the jaw.
He falls to the floor, “Let’s go,” the other tiefling calmly states.
“Fuck that!” the tiefling nimbly springs to his feet and rushes into the croud of men.
The two tieflings stand before the Grandmaster, one of them has clearly been beaten badly.
“Leave us,” upon this order, the uninjured tiefling leaves the room.
“This has to stop!” Grandmaster Ruric angrily shouts.
“Master, they…” the tiefling tries to defend himself, but is interrupted.
“They what!? They offended you? So you throw yourself into seven armed men?” Ruric stands and crosses the room, “If your brother hadn’t stopped them…”
Ruric walks right up to the tiefling, “You must learn discipline.”
“Can you believe it!? He’s gonna be trained by the Grandmaster himself!” Adrik shouts out at the bar, “ALE FOR EVERYONE!!!”
“It’s not like that…he’s…disciplining me,” the tiefling in white robes tries to stop the commotion, “sit down, Adrik!”
“Come on, we never have a reason to celebrate, and that’s his way of trainin’! You’re in for quite the punishment, heh heh, you’d better enjoy yourself before tomorrow comes.”
“Have you seen my brother?” the tiefling inquires.
“Nope, he’s been disappearing a lot. Ever since Master Cestii began his training,” Adrik replies, “You don’t need to worry about him, though! He’s always been so damn talented! That boy knows his way around a blade.”
“I just…I never get to see him anymore.”
Each year, just after winter, the journeyman monks return to the monastery.
“Brother!” A tiefling in white robes drops his pack runs towards a tiefling in black and throws his arms around him.
Uncomfortably, the tiefling returns the gesture.
“I’ve learned so much! I’ve seen things you wouldn’t believe! I fought in a war!” The tiefling in white can barely contain his excitement.
“HEY! HORNS!” Adrik rushes up to greet the newly returned tiefling and embraces his waist, “TO THE TAVERN!!!” Adrik releases him and starts forcing him in a new direction.
“I-I’ll see you later!” the tiefling calls back to his brother, but he’s already gone.
A group of men sits around a table in the monastery’s tavern. A great event has happened recently, with the Grandmaster falling ill, a successor is due to be named.
“Can you believe that Ruric is really considering a demon!?”
“Well, he’s not a demon…plus, he’s a war-hero!”
“I suppose, but that doesn’t change who he is.”
“I don’t doubt he’s capable of becoming Grandmaster, but what about our business?”
“Negotiations could be difficult…but at least he looks intimidating.”
“I’ve met him! He’s a careless idiot!”
“A careless, idiot, tiefling, war-hero…what’s the world coming to?”
“Well, maybe the Grand Journey will whip him into a leader?”
“Don’t get your hopes up…he’s still a fuckin’ tiefling…”
The walls of the cavern are barely visible in the dim light of a single candle. Two individuals stand, one kneeling before the other.
“You must go to Waterdeep. Await my instruction.” Cestii’s back is turned to the tiefling in black, kneeling behind her.
The roar of a distant crowd rises.
“What of him?”
Cestii turns to look at the tiefling, “You have nothing but the shadow, he is of no concern to you.”
The tiefling longingly looks in the direction of the commotion.
“Only hate may endure. You must deny yourself.” Cestii motions to dismiss, and the tiefling rises and walks out of the mouth of the dark cave.
Back in the sunlight, the tiefling looks out over the monastery.
“My brother…earn the respect of your new people, but you’ll have none from me.”
“The brother of your blood is close. The mirror is almost broken, sever the link.”
I dreamt of her again. The mother of shadow has spoken to me. I know what I must do.
I’m unsure of where to begin. However, I’ll try my best to explain. We went through the portal but Donovan and I were sent…somewhere else. I’m unsure of the fate of our comrades, but during the travel, something happened. We wound up being tossed onto a road in a countryside dominated by the presence of a massive black tree. It dwarfed everything in its surroundings, but we were able to spot a village nearby.
We wandered into the small town after being accosted by some strange old hobo. We attempted to gain knowledge of the tree from the townsfolk, but this proved fruitless. We proceeded to the local inn and enjoyed a drink at the bar. The folk here are very strange. Likely due to the tree, but I digress.
I managed to obtain information that a tiefling had appeared nearby and was being taken care of at Honey Hollow, some local halfling residence. I decided that this would be a great opportunity to challenge myself with my new abilities and to finally fulfill my destiny.
“Twin red stars.
One light, one dark.
When the shadow plays its part,
Vengeance for Queen Shar.”
It would also allow me a chance to “catch up” with my brother. I could not pass up this opportunity.
I proceeded to Honey Hollow cloaked in shadow. Entry was easy enough, no guards, barely a lock, and no animals. I proceeded to search the residence and found him, Voice, my twin brother it’s been so long. I could barely believe that it really was him.
He was unconscious, but it mattered, not. His fate was there to greet him with nothing but Silence and a sharpened sword.
The monastery will have to find another to replace the Grandmaster. This potential’s journey of training has ended.
Fitting that he leaves the world in the same manner he left on the Grand Journey: without saying goodbye.