Our story finds the world of Kenafiir entering a troubled time. The Kretzera Empire’s constant expansion awakens a fifth god from his slumber. Rhamas feeds off the hatred and resentment that the Empire’s enemies feel and converts a number of priests and paladins from the other gods. These new paladins sweep eastward, wiping out Imperial Legions and raising them from the dead as Fireborn zombies. The Empire falls back to the fortress of Held and holds the paladins there, a scant twenty miles south of the Imperial capitol of Endyreat.
The Imperial archmage Mortavius Firebrand and the paladin of Maithus, Korris Tallin, lead several hundred Imperial legionnaires in secret through the broken canyons of Vogat. Striking behind enemy lines, Korris manages to kill one of leading paladins on the invading army, but the act kills him as well. Paladins and fireborn converge and the last survivors of the attack dive into the Shieldrun.
Dinesh (a Kemerai drafted from Endyreat’s criminal society), Torvus Ferius (a standard bearer for the decimated 55th Legion), Fishbone (a sly and charming Quixix), and Sergeant Behram Gage (a career military man from Kulumihi find themselves caught behind enemy lines. In line with Legion protocol, Behram leads his men to gather intelligence on the situation in Vogat while trying to return to the Empire. At the town of Redtree the group evades the paladin of Rhamas, Calaira Moreweft, drives off the insane mage Keffel Eloway, and rescues a strange cartographer named Kefferik. They then manage to cross back over the Kopace River, though not without considerable trouble trying to get past the infamous brigand, Jeg the Bloodrock.
After much travel, the group finds its way back to the Imperial province of Nunegar, which has been ravaged by the war. The encounter the 6th Legion, led by Akarian Thousand Fangs, which has apparently gone rogue and is striking behind enemy lines. Torvus Ferius stays with the 6th while Behram, Dinesh, and Fishbone continue on to the city of Nunegar. There they find that the paladins of Rhamas have moved on, but a cult of Necromancers have taken advantage of the chaos and taken control of the city. Our heroes find the city’s survivors being defended by legionnaires in the sewers while the city’s mages try to evacuate them to Endyreat using a magical portal. In the meantime, the mage in charge, Sevenel, asks Behram to retrieve a mysterious orb from Nunegar’s royal palace before the necromancers find it. An envoy from Kerizatz named Nazz offers to help them.
In the palace they encounter Nunegar’s prince, Gaeus Jains, and a paladin of Rhamas captured by the necromancers. The paladin reveals that this crusade began when an Imperial assassin murdered the high priestess of Attli in Menadora. The heroes retrieve the orb and find Gaeus’ younger sister, but are unable to rescue her before being driven from the palace.
Upon returning to the survivors, a fight breaks out between Nunegar’s mages and thieves and our heroes barely manage to make it through the fading portal. On the other side, they find that they have not reached Endyreat. Instead, they are stranded in the merciless badlands pf the Folahn Reaches. Fortunately, the find a caravan and manage to get work as an escort. During the trip to Konovas, Behram becomes suspicious that the caravan is an arms shipment of finely crafted weapons that are going to be used by desert raiders to pillage the western border of the Empire while the Legions are tied up defending Endyreat. Behram stages a revolt against the caravan leader, Rayeb, killing him. The merchant’s lieutenant, a kemerai named Kinim, proves to be no small obstacle however. After a drawn out fight with the mounted archer, the group discovers that Kinim was actually planning on destroying the caravan as well. It turns out that he is an Imperial deserter that despite his new life as a bandit wouldn’t let such a major assault against the Empire take place. Differences solved, the group enter Konovas.
Less than a day after entering the bandit stronghold, the group starts a fight with Huther, the bandit king responsible for planning the attack on the Empire. Huther is killed and the group encounters a strange cloaked figure who attacks them before escaping. In Huther’s room they find disturbing notes that indicate that Huther somehow knew to start planning this raid well in advance of Rhamas’ awakening. While studying these notes, three other bandit leaders arrive: Aldara, Bitch of the Bandit Isles, Beser, Lord of the Wastes, and Essen. A fight breaks out and our heroes prove no match for these experienced thugs. Nazz is killed and Behram taken prisoner, while Dinesh and Fishbone escape. The defeat is not without a small victory though. Aldara is severely wounded and shamed and Beser is shown to be a fool. It becomes unlikely that the majority of desert raiders will follow them on Huther’s raid.
Dinesh and Fishbone are contacted by Essen, who is willing to help them rescue Behram from Aldara in exchange for them delivering a message to Endyreat that he wants to help bring Konovas into the Empire. Working with a Kormin bodygaurd and a necromancer named Acar, they assault a cultish stronghold under Konovas where a mage is using a magical gate to transport Aldara and her pirates back to the Bandit Isles. The rescue is successful, though not without complications. Dinesh is fatally wounded and Acar returns him to life. Aldara and most of her men escape, but Behram is rescued and tells the other about a strange encounter he had with Dirge, the robed figure who attacked at Huther’s. Fishbone also had a strange encounter with this man with horns and angry red eyes. He apparently believes that the heroes are Kuela spies who were tracking him.
While all of this is being sorted out, Dinesh is drawn to the magical gate. It’s an ancient artifact, from the Age of Ash. Dinesh finds that he can hear it calling to him. He tries to talk to it and discovers a face inside the magic. It asks him why his slaves are armed. After a somewhat long discussion Dinesh understands that the mind controlling the gate is from an ancient race called the Kairnalla and that the Kairnalla are the non-human half of the Kemerai’s ancestry. Apparently, this Kairnalla considers the other races to be slave races and finds it objectionable that Dinesh’s companions are armed. Dinesh convinces the gate that these slaves as bodyguards and to send them all back to Endyreat. On the way through the gate, the Kairnalla gifts each of them with particular powers, including enhancing Dinesh’s perception and giving Behram Soulfire Javelins.
Upon arriving outside the Imperial capitol, our heroes find themselves in the middle of an endless march of Legion wounded, returning to Endyreat for healing and refitting. Apparently, the paladins finally made an all-out assault against Held. The Legions prevailed, but at a terrible cost. The magical arrival of Behram and his men sparks some confusion, but it’s cleared up by the arrival of Joyen Horseclub.
Acar is taken prisoner and Behram and his men are taken to be debriefed by none other than Grand Marshal Daltas. Behram showing up allive is a huge surprise, and Behram is surprised that people know who he is. Apparently Gaeus Jains made it through the portal from Nunegar in one piece with stories of the legionnaires who rescued him. Having survived the mission in Vogat and now apparently having undone a bandit raid in the west has lent considerable air to his growing legend. Daltas makes Behram a knight and asks him and his men to travel into the Gamora Pass. Although the main bandit raid was stopped, Nabat, the Maneater is leading a host of Iroshai across the Trebernum Wilds. The Emperor intends to stop them in the Motheri Heights. Daltas wants Behram to clear out any criminal elements in the mountains and gain the support of a Quixix hermit called M’Kathra, the Goat Mage.
Finding M’Kathra is easy, but while in the mountains they discover a group of Fireborn and other followers of Rhamas, survivors of the battle at Held. They also meet a strange traveler named Haiden who had an interesting conversation with Fishbone concerning the world and the nature of slavery. Behram took his men into a cave system to hunt down the followers of Rhamas. Having them causing trouble when the Legions came into the mountains to fortify the area just wouldn’t do. At the cave entrance they find a tribe of human barbarians, slaughtered and raised as Fireborn, indicating the presence of a paladin. After dispatching the undead, they find several surviving children being cared for by a young Quixix girl named Clear Skies with apparently prophetic abilities. Clear Skies and the children are safely stored in Dinesh’s magical sleeping bag. Further into the cave system they discover the last surviving remnants of the 69th Legion, led by Sergeant Isim Fa’Kolinar. The 69th was caught between the retreating paladins and the mountains and was decimated. Isim is persuing the paladins and expects to exact righteous vengeance. Behram and Isim continue their persuit and ambushed a group of Menadoran soldiers traveling with two priests of Rhamas.
Moving past the Menadoran group, the 69th helped Behram and his men past a nest of Night Threshers. On the other end, they ran into a paladin. Previously, Dinesh had tried to fight a paladin of Rhamas and survived only by her good graces. Now the group was truly being forced to fight one. After a long and intense battle, their combined might finally destroyed him. In the next chamber they found a young, confused human boy of about 18 who claimed that his name was Rhamas.
Confused by this strange whelp, the group met back with the 69th and left the cave system where then again met Haiden. This time Haiden was not so cordial and insists that Behram kill this Rhamas boy. Behram refused and Haiden responded by coaxing the dragon Father of Rivers out of the caves. Fleeing the dragon, the legionnaires took shelter in an ancient structure hidden behind a frozen waterfall. Cracking the seal of the subterranean hideaway revealed truly ancient-smelling air and an infestation of some sort of shadowy humanoids. After dealing with the infestation they found the hideaway to be some sort of religious military base. Along with an armory they found a large painting showing the five gods (including Rhamas) battling sorcerous foes. Behram, Dinesh, and Fishbone then each discovered a secret room hidden underneath a statue of Maithus. That room transported them to the Imperial audience chamber in Endyreat, where the Emperor’s guards promptly restrained them. After briefly explain what had happened to Grand Marshal Daltas the room was attacked by a truly massive elemental of shadow and fire. Daltas and the guards rushed to engage while the Emperor was escorted from the room. In the midst of all of this, Dinesh noticed a beautiful young courtesan sneak into the room through a side entrance. She climbed the Imperial dais and began casting some sort of spell on the grand map of Kenafiir. When the group confronted her, she summoned a pair of Kell’Vin. That battle was hard-fought, but the tides turned against the young woman when Joyen Horseclub entered the room to help. The Kell’Vin were slain, but not before the woman finished her spell, which highlighted several places on the map before fading. Dinesh got a look at the ten or so places that lit up, but only remembers Endyreat, Menadora, O’Serar, and a point within the Red Peaks. After that, the woman teleported away. By that point, Daltas and his men had been defeated, but the elemental was destroyed by the shocking appearance of a Kuela mage and several magically enhanced Kormin. After the battle, she resurrected Daltas and his men and questioned the heroes about what had happened with the woman. After her departure, there were many unanswered questions.
Daltas conferred with Behram and his men and admitted that although the Empire had barely survived the conflict with the paladins of Rhamas, there was talk that even greater forces were moving in the world. The Kuela intervention in the throne room was proof of such things and Daltas tasked Behram with uncovering what was truly going on. After resupplying, the heroes were teleported by Imperial mages to Vogat to begin their investigation.
They found the city of Vogat in a state of turmoil. Although the Empire was vulnerable, domestic discord had effectively prevented the Vogati military from taking advantage of the opportunity to strike back at their rivals. Apparently a botched raid by a gang called the Blood Eagles had resulted in an explosion which decimated a key Vogati armory. Additionally, with Rhamas’ forces scattered, he followers of the other gods were rising out to kill or drive out the remaining dark paladins and priests. Paladins of Rhamas being enemies of the Empire, our heroes (now disguised as traveling mercenaries) joined a mob preparing to attack a ruined house holding a paladin of Rhamas. That paladin turned out to be none other than Calaira Moreweft and Dinesh was finally given his chance at revenge. Calaira seemed strangely hesitant to fight them, but eventually was forced to and ended up dead. A following celebration by the mob was interrupted by the enraged arrival of Garrish, the Unrelenting. He proceeded to lay waste to the area and the heroes rightly fled while the Vogati military, aided by Asriela, went to confront him.
While recovering from that spectacle, the group passed a traveling caravan of the extraordinary, offering to show viewers unbelievable sights for a mere gold piece. More impressed by the owner’s performance than intrigued by the actual exhibit, Fishbone decided to take a look. What he found inside was a collection of restrained Kell’Vin, but also Dirge, shackled and heavily drugged. What happened then remains a mystery, but Dirge and Fishbone emerged shortly thereafter with Dirge holding a knife to Fishbone’s throat. Fishbone communicated to Behram and Dinesh that they should help him and Dirge escape, which went off without a hitch.
Later, however, the caravan master returned to exact revenge on Behram and Dinesh for letting his prized captive escape. This Kemerai, Oniago, managed to use his mastery of poisons and Arcane Blink to capture both Behram and Dinesh and transport them to the secret dungeon of the Blood Eagles. When they awoke, Oniago cruelly gave them over to the tender mercies of the Blood Eagle’s leader, a man named Mace with a reputation as a villain of the worst kind. Mace, however, turned out to be Gunther, a fellow legionnaire who had served under Behram during the raid into Vogat. He and Daxis had survived the diversionary attack on Vogat. Daxis had been crippled by a Vogati warmage, but they had found refuge with a cleric-in-hiding named Cyrus. Since then, Daxis had masterminded the creation of the Blood Eagles. Gunther had built himself a reputation as a powerful gang leader who would except the worst scum of Vogat. Having assembled his army of murderers and rapists, Daxis then had Gunther lead them in a raid against a military storehouse, intentionally creating an explosion which wiped out the gang and a considerable amount of Vogati supplies at once. Their gang now gone, (aside from Oniago, who appears considerably more powerful than Gunther and creeps him out) Daxis and Gunther were planning one last mission. They had heard rumors that Mortavius Firebrand was being held in the Vagati dungeons, which can only be accessed magically by high-ranking Vogati officers. Having found a Vogati general with dark secrets, Goalen Fah, they were intending to bribe him into letting them in for a rescue attempt. Daxis stays behind due to being crippled, but Behram, Dinesh, Cyrus, Gunther, and Oniago go on this rescue mission.
Upon arriving in the dungeon Oniago uses more Arcane Blink trickery to murder General Fah, despite the heroes’ attempts to prevent it. He then teleports through a few more doors and is gone. The heroes and Gunther fight their way through the gaolers and then past a pair of young ice dragons. Dinesh figures out how to use his innate Kemerai perception to “hear” the magical locks on the doors and then hums the key. They free Mortavius and after holding off Vogati reinforcements for a few minutes, manage to teleport back to Kulumihi. After a well-earned day and night of relaxing (Behram with his wife and family), Mortavius sends Gunther back to Endyreat and then sends Behram, Cyrus, and Dinesh to Ratas. They are hoping to approach the Kuela and find out what the hell is going on.
While traveling across the Godless Strand into the Stillwood, the group encountered Kefferik again. He was evasive, but told them that they had gotten the Kuela’s attention and that the Kuela would very much like to work with them towards common goals. The Kuela sensed something dark taking place in the capitol of Menadora and would be extremely grateful if Behram and his people would look into the matter. During this conversation, Kefferik told them many new things about Kenafiir, including that it was isolated world in a largely multiverse, sitting directly between the Abyss and the Nine Hells. The Kuela, he claimed, worked to ensure that Kenafiir stayed hidden from the Blood War and intervened only when that was threatened.
Disgruntled and concerned, the group headed south. On the way, they found a caravan of Fireborn hunting refugees loyal to the other gods. Dinesh managed to assassinate the priest in charge, after which the Fireborn were quickly dispatched. The heroes freed the refugees and acquired for themselves a very nice carriage, which they took all the way back to Menadora. Cyrus learned that he can use Turn Undead to control Fireborn beasts.
They found Menadora in the grip of civil war. The clergy and paladins of the four original gods were fighting the followers of Rhamas for control of the city. The military was trying to serve as an impartial police force, protecting the citizens. They allowed the heroes through, but only after confiscating their weapons. Believing that the puppeteer Giselle was somewhere in Menadora, they began searching for her and met Azeriah, a Disciple of Attli who had been informed by followers of Hajak to expect this group. Azeriah learned of their search and suggested that he had heard rumors of a very strange young woman being held at the estate of Ermond Cassis. Unfortunately, Ermond’s estate was under the control of Gamair Holar, a paladin of Rhamas. If the heroes would but help Azeriah drive the paladin out then perhaps they would find Gisselle. Getting into the estate would probably be made easier with the help of Verina Cassis, the estranged niece of Ermond. Before Verina returned their request for an audience, however, events propelled the group to assault Ermond’s estate. The initial attack did little other than severely endanger Dinesh. It did, however, cause Gamair to leave for reinforcements, providing a narrow window of opportunity. The heroes lead a second, successful assault, killed the defenders and managing to rescue Sonata. They then escaped just as Gamair returned.
Unsure of who Sonata was, they forcibly kept her unconscious until they could secure her in a temple of Attli. They then learned that Sonata had been held captive by Ermond Cassis for some time and also that she had worked with Giselle in the past. She was generally unhelpful and unkind, but also apparently suffering grief at learning of the death of her brother, Dirge. The heroes’ belief that Dirge was still alive lifted her spirits somewhat and she agreed to lend some help.
They then were invited to finally meet Verina Cassis, who pleaded that they undertake a most dangerous and offensive quest. The catacombs beneath Menadora are said to house ancient artifacts from the Age of Ash, but the truth is much more startling. An entire ancient city lies beneath the current center of religion on Kenafiir. To enter the catacombs is sacrilege of the worst kind and normally the punishment for braking that taboo is death. The paladins of Rhamas have no problem breaking taboos, however, and the paladin Messic of Samyl has lead a force of Fireborn down to the ancient city to recover a powerful weapon called Aos. The paladins of the other gods cannot give chase without betraying their oaths, so it falls to Behram and his men to defy the tenants of the gods just this once and prevent Messic from acquiring Aos.
The journey through the tunnels is long and hard (about two weeks) and along the way they find the corpse of the Imperial assassin whose mission triggered this war. They also found his journal, in which he appears to have gone mad upon understanding what he had done, and the sword he used to kill the high priestess. Shortly thereafter they entered Old Menadora through an orrery window. After collecting a small number of texts and staring at the depiction of the multiverse, they headed downstairs to Afael’s Academy, where they encountered a Kairnalla training golem. During a long conversation, they discovered a few things about the Kairnalla, the slave races, and Afael’s Academy. Unfortunately, they didn’t learn much about Old Menadora as the golem’s duties confined it mostly to the Academy. They also found a message crystal, apparently from Afael’s younger sister. Upon trying to leave the Academy, they accidentally reactivated security golems, which attacked.
Outside, they found themselves racing through the dead and broken city to reach Aos before Messic. Along the way then discovered many ancient wonders, all long dead. Estates, golem construction facilities, even an armory. But the magic from this place had faded away centuries ago. They sprung and ambush by Geneve and her Fireborn and then later encountered and killed Valair in the estate of Sh’Sias Sevella. While there, they figured out how to access several memory crystals, giving them more background on the Kairnalla and Kenafiir.
Dinesh discovers, much to his chagrin, that Calaira Moreweft’s soul is somehow trapped within him and forces him to help her resurrect Valair. Once resurrected, Valair seems free of Rhamas’ influence. He uses his tremendous agility to move across the rubble to delay Messic while the heroes get to Aos and find a way to return to the surface with it before Messic catches them.
In the ruined town square, the heroes encounter a forward party from Messic’s force. They use their divine link with Rhamas to channel uncontrollable anger into Behram, forcing him to lash out at his friends. In the end, however, our heroes prevail. In the square they find the body of a Kairnalla, which is desiccated, but in far better condition than the thousands of other skeletons they’ve encountered. It is pinned to the ground by an elegant longsword. After much hurried investigation they conclude that the longsword is in fact the longsword depicted in statues and paintings of Gorian and that Aos refers to the Kairnalla that Gorian’s sword has been run through. They endeavor to pull the sword free from the ground while still keeping the body impaled, but their first attempt fails and blood begins to run through the body’s veins again. With Messic bearing down on them and few options remaining, they decide to have Dinesh pull the sword free (being Kemerai) while Behram, Cyrus, Azeriah, and Sonata all bow in supplication in the hope that Aos won’t annihilate them. The plan works splendidly, with Dinesh negotiating the dangerous conversation with unusual grace. Aos comes fully back to life, his nearly divine radiance searing his presence onto the onlookers’ minds. Dinesh explains what has happened since his fight with Gorian and asks for help in stopping Giselle. Aos responds that the concerns of Kenafiir are not longer his. At this point, Messic arrives. Not being one for talk, Messic leaps forward and slams his warhammer into Aos’ face with enough force to knock the head clean from an elephant. Aos receives a bloody lip. He then reverts Messic from a Kormin to a human and then quickly ages him to death. He takes Gorian’s blade and, with a blessing of good luck upon his rescuers, vanishes. The magical shockwave from his departure re-energizes many of the magical components of Old Menadora, bringing the ruined Kairnalla city to life.
Eager to return to the surface, but curious about the Kairnalla, our heroes investigate some of the ruins. At Gimichi’s workshop they discover a bottomless chasm and a tremendous telescope. They then arrive at Melassi’s Biomancy workshop, where huge numbers of Kell’Vin have been spawned and spread throughout the city. They rescue biomanced war rhinos and a human slave named Gina, who was apparently locked outside of time as a practical joke. Leaving Gina for a time, they explore the Hesena family’s estate. There they find GiGi, the Hesena’s badly damaged nanny golem. GiGi is much more than he appears, however, and the heroes learn that he is actually an incredibly powerful golem commissioned by Hierarch Aos himself to keep an eye on the Hesenas and also to guard a secret entrance to an underground prison. GiGi, who Behram renamed Gerard (much to Gerard’s delight) is concerned that whatever has happened here may have set free a devil being held in the prison. Our heroes learn about the Annihilation Chamber. Gerard leads them through a long tunnel to the prison, where they find the spirit of the warden, Gellenen. He tells them that a number of other devils have broken in and are trying to free their compatriot. Gerard is displeased.
A truly epic and crafty fight ensued. In the end, most of the devil’s have been destroyed, but one has escaped down the tunnel and another, thought to be Giselle, disappeared. A chase down the tunnel ensues. Gerard ends up chasing the devil into the darkness. Giselle, who slipped into the tunnel in the midst of this, incapacitates Sonata and then beguiles Azeriah. After she has gotten the names of Behram and Dinesh she plans to kill him, but Behram, carrying Sonata, intervenes. Giselle escapes, but in the process loses her precious bag of devilish anchors.
The group goes back in to see about the devil that was being freed and finds him setting up shop in the prison and Gellenen gone. They try to kill the devil, but are wholly overwhelmed. The devil captures Dinesh and Azeriah and begins harvesting their blood to make swarms of devilish blood spiders. Behram is forced to trade their war rhinos to his friends’ safe return. Dejected, the heroes meet back up with Gerard and Valair and set about leaving Old Menadora. There’s a brief debate about the fate of the baby war rhinos, which Cyrus insists be left here as a) they are an offense against the gods and b) the Empire can’t have them.
Dinesh uses Gimichi’s Lens to see that Giselle is returning the surface through Afael’s Academy. They can’t catch her, but Gerard can use the Citygate to teleport them back to the surface where they can get reinforcements and ambush her at a choke point in the tunnels.
The surface, however, is not as they left it. The paladins of Rhamas had succeeded in a full-scale offensive and the followers of the other gods have been forced to fall back to three defensive positions, surrounded by legions of Fireborn. It seems that the Paladins are attempting to harvest and convert the entire city. Behram and his men successfully fight their way through several checkpoints and even manage to kill the paladin Asagale, although Asagale does manage to partially slay and Raise Behram and Sonata. Just past Asagale, however, is the stronghold of the remaining clergy of Maithus, who manage to save Behram and Sonatas’ bodies and souls.
Our heroes learn that Menadora’s Citadel has somehow erected a divine barrier which no one can breach. The city council is trapped inside, along with the Chains of Maithus. Rhamas’ followers are trying to breach the shield. In the meantime, Attli’s paladins are defending a park, Gorian’s paladins are trying to hold the Gate of Gorian in order to evacuate the civilian population, and the paladins of Maithus, though greatly outnumbered, are planning a rear assault on Rhamas’ forces, should they capture the Chains of Maithus. During this time, Cyrus and Azeriah learned the ritual Beacon of Hope.
While contemplating this problem, they call out to Kefferik, who they know is in the city and who they hope can hear them. As it turns out, he was already standing right next to them. He tells them that the shield is not divine, but is in fact an ancient Kairnalla safeguard. The Kuela can’t control is, but they can open the portal slightly. Kefferik and the heroes go through, although Valair gets rejected due to the remnants of his connection to Rhamas.
The heroes convince the council to hand over the Chains of Maithus so that they can use the catacombs to escape, although Kefferik has told them that then Kuela want the chains annihilated. After some debate, the Chains are handed over and two Menadoran royal guards, Galladin and Selena, are sent along as escorts. Once in the catacombs Kefferik is called away the group rushes to confront Giselle. They catch up to her and manage to capture her and drive off the devil traveling with her. They then head back down to Old Menadora, hoping to annihilate Giselle and figure out what to do with the chains. Upon reaching the orrery of Afael’s Academy they discover that the blood spiders and have overrun the city and are harvesting the Kell’Vin. After another brief conversation with the training golem, Sonata sings an opera from the window in order to get Gerard’s attention. Shortly thereafter a pair of collosal kairnalla war golems arrive to escort our heroes to Gerard’s encampment.