As these reality-bending rifts stabilized, so too did the assassinations subside, and by 443 it would appear that the crisis had been averted. But the repercussions of the murders were indisputably clear: political activity in all the cities came crashing to a halt for several years, with the interim responsibility of day-to-day governing falling to the various guard forces.
This would go on until late 448, when the world's leaders began to feel safe enough to appear in public again, starting with the senators of Andris, who managed to put together an election. Within a year, all normal government functions had been restored in the various cities, with the exception of Mirith, whose king remains absent for unrelated reasons. Still, the trauma of the Black Shadow is felt heavily in the world, most of all in Andris, where Senator Morgans is still listed as missing as of Year 451. She is presumably lost somewhere inside the Void Realm, if she managed to survive at all.
A Harbinger of DoomEditThe first indications that something was amiss came long before the assassinations, during the earliest stages of King N'eroth's reign in Mirith. In those days, the Royal Seer Kherasija began seeing terrible portents of great tragedies to come. Her visions all involved a great “darkness” circling in, so horrific that she was either unwilling or unable to go into detail.
At the time, most people assumed that this darkness was a reference to the Black Plague. Others thought that the augury could be referring to Black Magic in general. Whatever the case, no great calamity occurred for some time, and the prophecy was largely forgotten. But as the tragic events of 441 unfolded, it became abundantly clear that what Kherasija saw was the sweeping blackness of the Void itself, and the indistinct outlines of the Black Shadow assassin.
A.R.D.E.N.T. and the Void RealmEditA thorough discussion of the Black Shadow disaster must first be contextualized against the advent of A.R.D.E.N.T. and the Void Realm. A.R.D.E.N.T. (or the Arcane Research Development Enchanting and Tinkering group) is a secretive group of expert enchanters and tinkerers that came to Oberin in the year 439. Not long after they arrived, various interdimensional rifts began to appear across the landscape, of small size at first, but increasingly larger as time went on.
Adventurers who dared venture into these rifts found themselves in an entirely new realm full of darkness and mystery. Eventually, they discovered that some elements of A.R.D.E.N.T. were inhabiting this Void Realm, and that they resided in a fortress by the name of Bastion.
One day, at one of the rift sites, adventurers discovered an A.R.D.E.N.T. journal with a prophecy concerning the “darkness”, and the crossing of some “great threshold”. While the prophecy is extremely ambiguous, one interpretation is that the crossing of the threshold refers to the colliding of the two dimensions, Oberin and the Void. And it was only after this collision had begun did the tragedies begin.
Under the waning Blue Moon of year 441, a swift and shadowy figure descended upon the castle of Mirith, slaying Captain Voltan, Royal Scout Serath, and the longtime Royal Cleric, Nafets. On all three of their bodies, there was a single stab wound, faintly glowing black.A few days later, Mayor Palmer was found dead in the inn of Lerilin, with the same glowing stab wound in the back. At that very moment, the large rift off the eastern shore of town opened up, and legions of bats and phase serpents and other dark creatures came pouring out. The creatures were eliminated and the rift stabilized, but the connection between the assassination and the rift event could not be denied.
Next, it was reported that Senator Morgans had gone missing from Andris, not long after she was seen talking to a black-clad figure by the stables. The guards of the Red City’s western gate, who were the last to see her, remember her running at a breakneck pace in the direction of the rift by the Andris Vanguard hall. So great was her hurry, that one of her shoes fell off and she did not stop to reclaim them. The same day, a parcel containing her gingerbread turned up inexplicably in Lerilin.
But this was only the beginning of Andris’s troubles. Some days later, Senators Ellychas and Anderson were found dead in the Keep, with the same black markings. Also found on the scene of the crime were several crumbs of Morgans’ gingerbread. An unsuspecting guard that came to investigate tried some of the gingerbread as well, but it was poisoned, and he crumpled down and died. Before anything more could be done, an agent of A.R.D.E.N.T. appeared on the scene, confiscating both the gingerbread and the bodies. The agent offered little in explanation, saying only that he had seen this type of killing before.
The next assassination took place in the woods of Marali, and the victim was someone not affiliated with any of the city’s governments: the artificer Arathis, from the Division of Diabolical Devices. The reasons for his being targeted are unclear, especially considering that he had been on the run ever since the end of the Diabolical Infiltration. But in any event, the murder was connected, as the stab wounds on his corpse glowed the same deep black as all the others.
This would be the last assassination of the year, but one more piece of the puzzle remained. The expert enchanter Ezranth, an agent of A.R.D.E.N.T., came to Mirith to investigate the killings, and was taken into the vaults of the city by the Royal Guard Amere. Upon being questioned, Ezranth said that his organization’s leader – Lord Edgard IV – had been on the verge of discovering something important before his untimely disappearance. This is all the new information he was willing to give, however, and he ended up stealing some unknown item from the vaults before teleporting away.
The Black Shadow has not been seen since that spate of attacks, but it was to leave its mark one final time in the Blue Moon Festival of 442, when Senator Muqities was found dead with stab wounds glowing black.
Currently, the most pressing question facing investigators is the whereabouts of Morgans and Edgard. Both are believed to be trapped somewhere within the Void Realm. For this reason, A.R.D.E.N.T. began to conduct research into the possibility of constructing a portal that could safely convey people to the Void. They found that this Void Gate would need to take the form of a Temple, which itself would need to be built out of many small fragments of the moon.
A.R.D.E.N.T. succeeded in this endeavor late in the year 443, with the new Void Gate being built just outside Foehan. Two agents, Ezranth and Fefe, managed to establish a brief connection to the Void, but they were forced to return after a short visit as the portal was too unstable. They decided to deactivate the portal until they could come up with a solution.
Apparently a solution was found, as at some point the portal was turned back on. Its only recorded use occurred in year 446, when a small group accidentally fell into the Void Realm, and used small moon fragments to return. But they did not find any signs of Edgard, Morgans, or the Black Shadow during their brief visit, and so the search continues...
- 439 Waking Moon Day 191 Into the Sky, Into the Underworld
- 441 Bleeding Moon Day 230 A Most Mysterious Return (6th post)
- 441 Red Moon Day 216 ARDENT, Page 2 (2nd post)
- 441 Harvest Moon Day 69 Empty Spaces (5th post)
- 441 Harvest Moon Day 116 More Shadows (6th post)
- 441 Harvest Moon Day 166 Trip to Bastion (8th post)
- 441 Blue Moon Day 240 The Black Shadow – a chronicle of recent atrocities
- 441 Blue Moon Day 240 To speak that word… All slain, all dead.
- 441 Fighting Moon Day ~2 A Mayor lost, a Rift gained
- 441 Fighting Moon Day 38 The Rifts Deepen
- 441 Fighting Moon Day 39 The Departure of Arathis (2nd post)
- 441 Fighting Moon Day ~140 A message in an Arrow
- 442 Lucky Moon Day 135 ARDENT, Page 3 (Void Gate reports)
- 442 Blue Moon Day 102 Death on a sunny day
- 443 Blue Moon Day ~134 The Void Awaits
- 446 Red Moon Day 143 The Other Side