Crashing his shoulder into the wall of the dark, cobblestone-ridden alleyway, the teenage boy shook his head as his hope began to leak away.

It’s not much further, he thought as he pushed one foot in front of the other. Keep going.

Looking over his shoulder he couldn’t see his pursuers, but all he needed to do was glance down at the over-sized egg cradled in his arms to know that they were still coming.

It’s right around the corner, they’re counting on me.

Underneath the Rotted Anchor Inn, the other couriers and even a guardian would be waiting for him. The boy knew exactly where the hidden stone door was, and he began reciting in his head the incantation needed to unlock it.

Courier, Shepherd, Guardian, I be, open now and grant me safety. Over and over again he said those words in his head, preparing himself to lose those who were chasing him.

He ran along the outer walls of Abel’s Herbs, then fast approached a T-intersection which would lead him past an old man’s book bindery and right to the the backside of the Rotted Anchor Inn.

As he rounded the corner he was greeted by the sound of clashing steel. Ahead of him in the alleyway behind the inn was Edris tangled in a sword fight with what appeared to be two armored and armed corpses. At her feet was the motionless body of Findir.

The boy froze. What’s happening?

He glanced over his shoulder, but saw nobody. He heard the cry of his remaining partner, and his head snapped back to the alley ahead of him. His eyes focused on her just in time to see one of the undead men before him drag a sword across Edris’s back, opening her flesh and allowing a ribbon of blood to flow out and over her leather jerkin.

From the secret room just to the right of Edris, his group’s guardian burst forth. His dark gray tattered clothes made him look like a shadow in the night’s darkness. With uncanny speed, the boy saw the movement of his steel only when it caught the light from the full moon above. Within seconds, both corpses slumped to the floor in pieces, but not before Edris’s joined them. The guardian turned to boy, and from behind the black scarf concealing his mouth, he yelled in a deep, strained voice, “To me, Aldir!”

Aldir turned to look back over his shoulder, and directly behind him was one of the robed man he’d been running from. His pursuer’s black garb lit up with dark crimson arcane runes as a wrinkled hand shot out from one of its over-sized sleeves to seize Aldir by the throat. A sensation unlike anything he had ever experienced coursed through his body in pulses emanating from his neck. He felt the decay and necrosis first in his toes, then through his calves and into his thighs. As his sense of touch tracked the movement of the magic rippling through his body, his sense of hearing, dull as it was becoming, heard the scraping of metal on metal just before his guardian ripped into view and pushed hard into Aldir’s attacker.

The teenage boy fell to the floor, his legs limp and weak. He struggled to lift himself up as the two figures in front of him exchanged blows: one using steel as his weapon and the other using a phantom black and green blade of dark magic.

Just as Aldir caught his footing, the robed man lifted his free hand in the air, his long sharpened fingernails dragging what looked to be a red and wispy mist. Countless skeletal hands shot upward through the cobblestone alleyway floor, grabbing and clawing at the the air above. Aldir’s already-weakened legs buckled under the ghastly hands’ grips, and he watched helplessly as his guardian too was pulled to the floor.

The boy saw no other option. With all of his might he slammed the egg into the wall by his side. Gelatinous liquid exploded around him as a tiny underdeveloped dragon fetus fell to the floor, quickly becoming lost in the tearing, writhing hands.

==

Haranoth is an ancient land, filled with magic, teeming with danger, and riddled with adventure. Said to be forged by the fire of dragons, it may be more accurate to say forged by the blood of their kind. A perpetual war has plagued the realm, though not one led by hordes of men, dwarves, elves, or orcs. This war has been darker and more subtle — composed of small bands and lone soldiers instead of legions and armies. The goal of this battle has always been dragons, but the sides of this war have differed on what they want of the mighty beasts.

The Bloodsworn, a group dedicated to the the rescue, nurture, wellbeing, and protection of dragons, have walked the land for millennia. Legend claims that the original Bloodsworn were a small band Elves who first recognized the power, dignity, and ferocity of the dragons. Over time, the group expanded, never being one to discriminate, but instead allowing anybody of any race to fill their ranks so long as they shared the same uniting vision of honoring and respecting the most ancient race of the land.

The Blackwind, however, serves as the Bloodsworn’s antithesis. If the legends be true, the Blackwind rose from the vision of one of the Bloodsworn’s Archguardians, Dumah Lichbane.

The bards of present still tell tales about Dumah’s obsession with the power of the creatures he spent his entire early adulthood protecting. The first signs of Dumah’s fall, in the Bloodsworn’s eyes, was when he convinced himself that a dragon’s power could be harnessed — that he could domesticate them.

Dumah was the first of the Bloodsworn to ride dragons. A few of his contemporaries were captivated by his work, and thus began the Bloodsworn’s Order of the Dragondancers. But when the upper echelons of the Bloodsworn sensed distress and dissatisfaction in the dragon’s Dumah and his followers trained, they forbade the practice and abolished the Order.

Dumah left the Bloodsworn, vowing to carry the Dragondancer’s legacy on in the form of a prestigious guild. It wasn’t long, however, that the newly-formed Dragondancer’s Guild began to metastasize into something all together different. The power that the dragons lent the Guild corrupted the former archguardian, and very quickly nearby townships began to succumb to dragon fire if they refused to pay fealty to the Dragondancers .

Worse still, the Dragondancers began competing directly with the Bloodsworn’s mission to retrieve dragon eggs. The Bloodsworn, for their part, sought to save the unborn dragons and bring them to a sanctuary where they could grow and live in peace. The Dragondancers needed new steeds to carry their swelling ranks to battle.

To compete with the unmatched prowess of the Bloodsworn’s guardians, Dumah enlisted the help of dark magic users. Wizards known to meddle with necromancy began flocking in droves to the Dragondancers. Their talents became so adopted by the Dragondancers, that outsiders looking in began to associate the Guild more with dark magic than with dragons.

Grandparents would warn their children of the Blackwind, an army of death sitting atop the backs of dragons. That colloquial term soon replaced the official moniker, and it wasn’t long before the Dragondancers Guild became known as The Blackwind.

==

Today, The Bloodsworn and The Blackwind have both adopted the strategy of subtlety over brute force. While both organizations have numbers to make any kingdom green with envy, their members keep low profiles. The Bloodsworn actively tries to retrieve dragon eggs before The Blackwind can corrupt the beasts within. If retrieval is impossible, The Bloodsworn do the unborn a final favor and slay them before they hatch, thus saving them from a life of enslavement and pain under The Blackwind’s rule.

With your arrival to Haranoth, will either of these organizations gain a new member? Will you instead choose to unite these two estranged factions? Will they be challenged as you create an organization of your own? Will they be damaged by your political dealings? Or will they be ignored as you live a life as a peaceful merchant, a story telling entertainer, or an independent dungeon delver?

Whatever your choice, welcome. Welcome to Haranoth.

Haranoth

DjGMory