Previously, in The Prophecy:
Having been lured to the grand annual black market gathering at the settlement of Borstown in the duchy of Nemhim, agents in service of various organizations of good and evil alike, among these being those destined to be the first members of the Companions, went in search of an alleged cure for the Withering that was supposed to be auctioned off this day. When the "cure" was finally revealed, however, it turned out that the auction was in fact an elaborate trap by the Crusader's Guild with the purpose of eliminating competition in search for the cure to increase the odds of them ultimately having monopoly on said cure if it was ever discovered.
Unfortunately for the scheming crusaders their plot was foiled when several knowledgeable individuals in the crowd recognized the "cure" as actually being the highly volatile alchemical substance known as Liquid Fire, and the auctioneer's plans to sacrifice himself to catch the seekers of the cure in an explosion were thwarted, the auctioneer killed and the Liquid Fire recovered safely. Many died in the ensuing struggle between the gathered seekers of the cure and the remaining crusader forces in Borstown, but thanks mainly to the efforts of the future Companions the crusader forces were wiped out and most of the seekers survived the encounter.
In the aftermath of the battle the first Companions finally gathered to meet for the first time and, united by their common desire to see an end to the Withering, they agreed to combine forces for the sake of ending the plague. Under leadership of Squire Jaelnec of the Will, the Companions uncovered information from the vanquished crusaders that information on the Withering could be found in the village of Shrubnest, and so their quest began.
In Shrubnest, the Companions found both new allies and new enemies, for as was soon discovered the grand manor overlooking the village had been besieged by even more cultists of the Crusader's Guild, as they, too, sought to claim the holder of information there. Luckily the crusaders were weakened in the wake of a goblin assault, and after a precarious battle, the Companions were ultimately triumphant, and with the crusader-threat gone from the forest-settlement, the Companions entered the manor to claim what they had come for.
The master of the manor turned out to be one Gerald Glass, an arcane sorcerer and scholar who was exiled from Zerul for the practice of necromancy. From him, the Companions learned much of the Withering, including that it is not a disease of the body, but of the soul, gradually draining the energy of those inflicted with the dread plague until they eventually succumbed, leaving little doubt that the Withering is truly of magical nature and inflicted upon the world intentionally. Even more worrisome was the fact that Gerald, as a necromancer, had observed that the Withering appeared to devour every last shred of the soul, making it very likely that those claimed by the Withering were not only killed by it, but were eventually completely erased from existence and denied even the possibility of an afterlife.
Luckily they also found hope in Shrubnest, for Gerald knew of several locations throughout Rodoria where those afflicted with the plague had supposedly recovered inexplicably, and one of the Companions - a free deigan by the name of Meila - turned out to have a father that was apparently one of the lucky few that had experienced such a miraculous recovery. After some discussion, the Companions eventually decided to seek out Meila's father in Zerul City, and Gerald agreed to follow them, albeit only as far as to the Anaxim Forest, another site of recurring inexplicable recoveries.
As the Companions rested at the Shrubnest manor, however, an unknown force of darkness in their midst began to awaken in one Paladin of Liya, which was in fact an abomination in disguise: the result of a union between a demonspawn and its own Dread Mother, a True Child of Himyth, known among demonspawn as their True Sister. While most were ignorant or at least unsuspicious of this, the Sekalyn warrior and follower of Koraakan, Aemoten, grew wary of the deceiver and beseeched his deity to learn the truth of her. Armed with this new knowledge Aemoten went to Jaelnec to recommend that they slew this vile fiend before it could do more harm. Young, naïve and feeling a debt towards the True Child, however, Jaelnec refused, opting instead to keep the true nature of their dark passenger a secret from the rest of the Companions, and their knowledge thereof a secret from the True Child herself.
The Companions set out the next day and began the journey towards Zerul City, but as it turned out, the road to their destination was fraught with perils. The ephemeral peace that settled over the Companions from the monotony of the road came to an abrupt end when the Companions set up camp for the night in the forest of Schaxathris, the site of the ruins of an ancient Grand Church of Reina built by the Gazzeral when they still ruled the land. Here the Companions encountered other travelers, but none more fateful than Thaler the Daywalker, who was unfortunate enough to encounter the True Child alone in the ruined church. Thaler used a mysterious power upon the True Child which disoriented the fiend and caused her to stumble further into the ruins.
When the other Companions arrived in search of the True Child, they found only Thaler, ambushed by vampires that made the church their lair. Combat ensued, and although the vampires proved formidable foes they were slain as any others that had stood before the Companions, but not before the True Child - cut off from the others as she was - had been terribly wounded, and a deep-seated distrust had been sown between her and Thaler, who joined the Companions. Or so it would seem, but in reality, her condition was due to her almost regaining her true form as a three-quarter demon.
But even with the vampires gone, the Companions' trials in Schaxathris were not yet over. For reasons unknown - perhaps as retribution for his vampire followers, perhaps for a design beyond mortal comprehension or perhaps just for his own amusement - Rilon's meddling hand came to rest upon the shoulder of a Companion called Immanuel, and by Rilon's will, Immanuel became a soulless being known as a Harvester. The Companions fought the Harvester briefly, but although it appeared they could ward off the nightmarish monster Immanuel had become it was clear that they had no means to destroy him. Luckily Immanuel, perhaps drawing upon the last remnants of his rapidly fading humanity, decided to leave rather than persist attacking the Companions, and went to the west. The remaining Companions, while shaken, survived, and the next day continued their journey.
When the Companions reached the Anaxim Forest, and the time to part ways with Gerald finally came, they were faced with yet another emergency, for as they stood upon the fringe of the grand and ancient forest, a Melenian hunter called Natyr emerged from amongst the trees, hunted by more than two hundred savage goblins, which now counted the Companions as their prey, forcing them to defend themselves. The Companions fought valiantly, but the goblins were abundant and relentless in their assault, and although the Companions miraculously all survived the desperate struggle, none emerged unscathed. As the last goblin fell, Gerald was nowhere to be seen, having vanished into the forest and abandoned the rest to their own devices.
The blame for their bad fortune in the battle was blamed mostly on the True Child, who had charged the enemy when she had been instructed to stand her ground and thus broken formation. Jaelnec tried his best to keep the peace in their own ranks, but preventing enmity within the group proved impossible, and as the True Child descended further and further into darkness, her rivalry with Aemoten and Thaler intensified.
Sadly, this was not enough trials for one day, for as the Companions left the blood-soaked battlefield littered with goblin corpses, they ventured to a nearby pond to recuperate and set up camp for the night. Alas, when Jaelnec tried to restore peace to the group here, all he ultimately managed to do was to antagonize the True Child enough so that she lashed out at him emotionally, setting into motion a chain of events that lead to Jaelnec briefly becoming the avatar of an unknown primal entity before being pacified, and this, in turn, finally made the True Child reveal her true form. She and several of the other Companions fought a bloody battle, one which ended lives and left many scarred on body and soul alike, for in her real form, the True Child was powerful indeed. Jaelnec, upon recovering from his momentary possession, was so confused and in such emotional turmoil that he attacked Aemoten rather than the fiend, and although the attack was prevented, the deed could not be undone.
In the end, it would seem that this battle would end with the deaths of the True Child and Aemoten both, but in the last possible moment an enigmatic masked figure appeared out of nowhere to stop the fight. He seized the True Child, and the two vanished, leaving the Companions to lick their wounds before traveling onwards, significantly fewer in numbers and all bearing the marks of the betrayal upon if not their flesh then at least their minds.
Burdened by the consequences of his decision to keep the True Child alive and protect her as a comrade, Jaelnec found that he no longer found himself worthy of leadership and forfeited the position to Aemoten, who accepted and became the new leader of the Companions. Under his guidance, they ventured on.
Several days passed before the Companions reached a small ferry across the Sloth's River, where they found that Jillian, a witch - a practitioner of black magic who had fled Zerul City shortly before, leaving only the corpses of those who would stop her in her wake - had massacred everyone present at the site of the ferry with a spell gone out of control, and although Brand, a Cleric of Hazzergash, tried to protect her and cover up what had happened, Jillian's insolence eventually caused first Brand to turn against her, and then Hazzergash's flames to turn against Brand. Although Jaelnec tried to save the demon-worshipper, Brand perished from his injuries, his death ultimately inevitable.
The Wayward Witch, however, survived, and although they would not tolerate her company because of what she had done and the way she behaved, the Companions spared Jillian's life. After giving her a helping hand and some supplies for the road, the Companions parted ways with Jillian and headed across Sloth's River on their own, continuing their journey towards Zerul City and their destination. They would need supplies themselves to make this journey, though, and had one last stop before the city itself, in a small border-post of Zerul.
Meanwhile, Jillian has begun her own tale, forging southward with the intent of entering the Anaxim Forest in search of Gerald, purpose and power. But her tale does not look to have a gentle start, for as she enters she is addressed by Anaxim - an ancient Living Wood, the true nature of the Anaxim Forest - which reveals that the forest is under assault by the Crusader's Guild as the cultists seek to recover the Demon Prison of Hazzergash, which is revealed to have been hidden in the forest for millennia. Two thousand men are pitted against the forest, lead by Kevalorn the Holy himself, a man pretending to be a high priest but who is in fact an avatar hosting the disembodied spirit of Hazzergash himself. The forest is preparing a desperate defense to hold back the invaders, and as Jillian offered her assistance in this, she was taken to Gariel Downs deep within the forest by the green dragon Lailonsaire. There she and the other defenders of the forest now await the enemy approaching from the south.
Meanwhile, the rest of Rodoria remains all but oblivious to the these people's exploits, yet events are set in motion all over the country that are both fateful and unknown to them. As they travel onwards, Nemhim City is attacked by a yet-unidentified heart-devouring monster that has single-handedly destroyed the ducal seat of the Nemhim duchy, and two days later refugees begin to arrive at Zerul City and Seclyr City, reporting that that the entire duchy of Nemhim is being annihilated by this monstrosity.
Zerul City is severely undermanned, however, for many of their mages and soldiers have gone on an expedition to excavate Gazzeral ruins in Etlon, and even more of the forces of Zerul, both magi, soldiers and commanders, have gone with most of the noble families - Marcus Zerul included - to Pelgaid City to bear witness to the marriage between Frederick Pelgaid and Selene Zerul, Marcus' daughter. Although Zerul has learned much of what the Companions have discovered, they can do little to provide assistance... but outside the city gates, those thay may become Companions themselves gather, talking about the grim state of the kingdom all while being ignorant of the fate that may await them when the Companions reach the city.
What will happen next... is up to you.
Last updated April 8th, 2013.