The Fifth Child Has Returned

Recently in the Seven Realms, a significant event took place, an unusual phenomenon, which, while at first ominous, revealed itself to in fact be a portent of good and it became a day for celebration and rejoicing, not fear. The event was an eclipse. And though the world seemed briefly to have been drowned in darkness, when the warmth and brightness of the sun did again appear in the sky, it brought with it, too, the glorious arrival of the Shaman. A new era of hope and promise had begun.

Or so it seemed. There were some in the land, those well versed in old magics, who felt something shift, some imperceptible thing they could not name slip ever so slightly in those few moments of darkness brought on by the eclipse, as if the great force of the natural phenomenon had caused a fissure somewhere, a tearing of sorts, in the careful balance of the order of things. And in the days and weeks following the eclipse, though nothing precise could be articulated, strange occurrences began to take place around Ardent.

There were whispers of travelers on lonely roads who had mysteriously vanished. Or of loved ones who would go missing for days, only to reappear again much changed. Their minds, once sharp and clear, had grown muddled and terrified, they trembled in fear as if a great horror had descended upon their souls, as if they had witnessed unbearable sights which could not be unseen. Some would merely scream for hours at a time before falling into nightmare laden sleeps. Others would humm an eerie melody, a haunting tune, for days on end. And though there were some who did speak, their words, odd utterings, were cryptic and made little sense.

They spoke of a shimmering black triangle. Others whispered about a shadowy chasm, deep in the belly of the realm. Some made mention of a child, long absent, who had returned, yet had never left, they said. And still others would simply repeat a single word, over and over again, two syllables which struck fear into the hearts of all those who heard it: Mallok.

When the bizarre rumors reached Ardent Castle, the king sent out a group of his best heroes to determine the origin of these wild tales and to find out just what strange occurrence, if any, had been triggered by the eclipse. But none of the king’s heroes were ever seen or heard from again. Nor did the Black Thrush claim responsibility for the group’s disappearance as they usually did by leaving black feathers as tokens behind. The king’s group had last been seen on a rocky path, with a scenic view of the whole of the realm, and had seemingly vanished without a trace into the strange fog that day.

Another group of heroes was dispatched after them. Some weeks later, one of them, dying and badly beaten, a warrior, stumbled out of the fog. The lone survivor of his party, he had news for King Leo, and was desperate to deliver his message. The young man reached the castle, and collapsed in death, but not before his ominous words were heard by the king.

The warrior spoke of a secret entrance, an ancient door long hidden by dark magics which had been exposed by the eclipse. He whispered about a nightmarish nether region inside, a primordial chasm, which had been in existence among them all since as far back as the time of the Great Battle, when The Legendary Four and Mallok had all perished. But soon the young man’s words grew more jumbled as he tried to continue. He spoke of a vast dark triangle, pyramid-like in size, yet unending within, which housed horrors the likes of which he had never seen before.

At length, the dying warrior trailed off. His final murmured words were a warning: “The Fifth Child has returned, and must not be allowed to succeed...”



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