Ygvard spends his first few days back in Alucard continuing to read the Tome of The Shadow. He still doesn't know if it's fact, fiction, or a combination of the two, but it makes some intriguing arguments that lead him to believe that Izrador could *possibly* be a god worthy of worship. Could it be that Izrador is truly fighting for the survival of this world and knows that the suffering he causes now is for the greater good of breaking the veil that separates Aryth from the heavens? Is he truly doing all he can to prevent the situation from getting even worse while genuinely sorrowful that it's gotten this bad? The Tome makes a convincing argument that the answer to both of these questions is, indeed, yes.
It's not long before Lord Krogan calls Ygvard into his temple to have a discussion. Ygvard gets this invitation and his mind immediately brings up the worst case scenario, Krogan is trying to separate him from the rest of his family so he can sacrifice him and his magical powers Izrador. Ygvard, filled with trepidation, decides he cannot refuse and makes his way to the temple, though he's still not sure *how* Krogan knew of his magical abilities.
As Ygvard steps inside, he sees Krogan waiting for him in the sanctuary, but also notices something else. A falcon, eyeing him warily from the corner of the sanctuary by the door leading to the lower level and Krogan's quarters. A falcon... a falcon... just like the one that was swooping around overhead back when Deirik, Eirik, Boldulf, and Ygvard were fighting the dire wolverine. That must be Krogan's astirax! It sensed Ygvard casting spells to heal Deirik during the fight and reported back to Krogan. He has known for that long!
Ygvard comes back to the moment after searching his memory to find that Krogan has already started speaking to him. He quickly catches up and realizes that Krogan is interested in taking Ygvard on as an apprentice Legate. Ygvard had been wondering about this path, but couldn't rightly bring himself to take it. Every Legate he's known, besides Krogan, has been oppressive, demonic, and murderous. Ygvard stammers out that he doesn't really think it's the right fit for him, but Krogan stops him there.
Krogan goes on to Ygvard, telling him of the immense power that Izrador can offer, the freedom to cast spells whenever and wherever desired, and authority to make real change in this world. Ygvard didn't really consider these aspects of being a Legate, and doesn't immediately reiterate his refusal, so Krogan tells Ygvard he has an idea.
There's a place of power off to the West. A place dangerously close to the undead city of Cale. This place is called The Shrouded Tree. Krogan tells Ygvard that he wants him to go there and meditate beside the trunk of the tree and consider their discussion. If Ygvard comes back and reiterates that he does not want to be a Legate, then Krogan will respect that. However, if he does wish to become an apprentice, then they will spend the rest of the Winter together in training. While Cale is nearby, Krogan's forces protect The Shrouded Tree and should be able to keep Ygvard safe while he meditates.
Ygvard considers this for only a moment before agreeing to the terms. Krogan tells him that he will have 5 orcs accompany him so he doesn't encounter any trouble along the way, and they will be given horses to ensure a swift journey. They will leave as soon as Ygvard is ready.
Ygvard goes back to the warehouse in which the Men of Mjarn currently reside, gathers the items he'll need for his journey, and reports back to Krogan. Krogan has already gathered both the orcs and the horses. One of the orcs is capable of speaking pidgin Norther, the language of the Dorns (including Ygvard), and will act as translator. Ygvard greets this orc, whose name is Murk, and informs him that he appreciates their accompanying him on this mission. Murk shrugs and nods at Ygvard, who infers that these orcs didn't necessarily volunteer for the mission. Krogan, however, assures Ygvard that Murk and the others will not disappoint him.
With that assurance, Ygvard, Murk, and the other four orcs ride off to the West.
A couple days into the journey, Ygvard spots a group of five Dorns, four of which were weilding swords while the fifth was holding a bow. They jumped off to the side of the road as soon as they spotted Ygvard and the orcs and appeared to be readying for a fight. Rather than risk falling into an ambush, if that was their intent, Ygvard called out to the Dorns and asked them to lay down their arms. When they didn't immediately do so, the orcs quickly dismounted and charged the Dorns! Ygvard sighed, hoping to avoid a fight, especially one that could lead to the deaths of Dorns OR the deaths of Krogan's orcs, but dismounted and moved towards the fray. One of the Dorns got a lucky opening on one of the orcs and mightily swung his sword, decapitating the orc in a single blow! The other orcs saw this and entered a frenzy, and thrashed the Dorns until there was nothing left but corpses. Ygvard told the orcs to get back on their horses so they can continue on their way, as there was nothing left for them to do here.
The rest of the journey to the West was uneventful, which was good for Ygvard as his mind was preoccupied with how to explain the death of the orc to Krogan. After a few more days of riding, the orcs lead Ygvard off the road and over a hill, at which point Ygvard saw it: The Shrouded Tree. It was a great oak, or at least had the shape of an oak. However, the bark was a dark black, so dark it seemed to absorb the light around it. The leaves were a unique silvery purple. It was unlike anything Ygvard had ever seen. As they approached, they were greeted by the orcish sentries around the tree. Murk explained their presence to the sentries, who then allowed Ygvard and his orcish guards through.
Due to orcish sensitivities to daylight, it was the middle of the night when they reached the tree but Ygvard was already well awake and decided to move forward with his meditation. He approached the tree while Murk and his other 3 escorts set up a defensive perimeter. Ygvard decided it was time, and began to sit down and closed his eyes. As soon as he sat, before he'd even gotten the chance to focus, a resounding thunderclap coming from the sky directly above snapped him out of his efforts. When he opened his eyes and looked around, Murk and the others, the sentries... they were all gone! What happened?!
Ygvard scanned the area around him. The Shrouded Tree still looked the same, he was in a valley amongst hills so he couldn't see very far but they had no time to even run that distance. He then caught some movement coming down the hill to the West, they looked like humans running in his direction, but were moving more awkwardly than they should. Fell! It must be! Being so close to the undead city of Cale, they've found him and are attacking! Ygvard circled around behind the tree from their approach and cast a Silent Image spell, creating an illusion of enough of a protrusion of the trunk of the tree to hide him from onlookers. The five Fell approached the tree then began searching... slowly, methodically, they searched. One of them came up against the tree and started dragging its sharp, protruding fingerbones against the trunk while quietly growling. Ygvard knew that this one would find him, even with his illusion in place.
Ygvard then dropped the illusion and called attention to himself! If he couldn't avoid them, he would obliterate them! Once they'd all gathered together, he summoned up the Faith he held in his heart and channeled the power of his ancestors toward the Fell. Three of the five of them instantly fell apart and became nothing more than dust, but two of them still remained! He could only summon his Faith once, so now he was in trouble. He scrambled up the tree as quickly as he could, while the remaining two Fell clawed and scratched after him. What to do? Where to go? How can he get out of this? The Fell were circling the tree, clawing at its bark trying to find their own way up to continue their assault but having more difficulty than Ygvard at doing so.
Minutes passed while Ygvard wracked his brain to conjure a way out of his predicament, 10 minutes since that first thunderclap to be exact, when another BOOM of thunder resounded through the area. Ygvard looked up to find the source and still couldn't figure it out, but when he blinked again he was standing at the base of the trunk where he started and the Fell that were hunting him were gone! His heart still racing from aderenaline, he knew that there may be others around, so he stayed on guard. Several minutes passed as Ygvard searched the area, looked for evidence of those previous Fell, the orcish sentries and escort, anyone or anything that might help. However, he was sure to never drop his guard and always keep an eye to the West.
Good thing too, because it wasn't long before an even larger group of human-shaped, awkwardly moving figures appeared at the top of the Western hill and started racing towards him! As best he could tell, there were 15 of them this time around! He was in real trouble! He cast Entangle to slow them down and buy some time, Mage Armor to better protect himself from harm, and grabbed his spear. He then sighed, practically resigned to his fate, but wanting to go out fighting, and moved toward the Fell. He made short work of the first two, but not without taking some hits of his own and there were 13 more remaining. He began to wonder if there was someone, or something, organizing these attacks and took his eyes off the fight to do a quick scan of the area from where they came. He was right! There was a shadowy figure with a green glow in its chest, standing atop the Western hill watching over the fight. Perhaps killing that one is the key to ending this?! Only one way to find out!
Ygvard left the Entangled Fell behind him as they struggled to free themselves from the writhing, grasping plants, and raced towards the figure atop the hill! As he approached, he saw the figure moving his hands in a deliberate, mystical way and could barely make out chanting... it was casting a spell! This can't be good! A small pea-sized ball of that same green glow appeared between the figure's hands, then rapidly flew towards Ygvard! Ygvard dove and rolled off to the side as the ball exploded into a large blast of green fire! He did not go unscathed though, that blast really hurt! He looked back at the Fell he'd left behind and saw they were breaking free, he looked forward to the shadowy figure who was casting again, and shook his head in despair. Then... BOOM! Another thunderclap!
Ygvard blinked and he was once again at the base of the Shrouded Tree. His injuries weren't gone, but the Fell and the figure certainly were. Ygvard took a few minutes to assess his injuries and cast some spells of healing on himself, all the while watching the West. After casting the last of his healing, he took a moment to rest... but he couldn't rest for long. A group of Fell just as large as the previous crested the hill to the West, with another group pacing the first. 30 Fell? Why bother even standing up, this will be his end.
Just then, Ygvard heard a familiar voice, "Don't worry, we've got you!". He looked up and saw his family: Deirik, Eirik, and Boldulf, standing before him! Invigorated by their presence, Ygvard stood up and rallied himself. However, he was still genuinely concerned that this may be too much even for the four of them. This is far more than they've ever taken on before, and that's before the shadowy figure even involves himself in the fight. Just as that thought crosses his mind, he looks up to the top of the Western hill and once again the green glow of the figure appears. Ygvard casts a Blessing on his kin, who wade into the fight with the oncoming Fell, but has expended most of his magical energy in his previous encounters. He has nothing left to offer.
It is at that point that Ygvard hears another voice, also familiar but eerily so, saying "Join with me and we will turn the tide." He turns, and sees himself! However, this other Ygvard is wearing black Full Plated armor, holds an shield and mace in his hands, and wears a holy symbol of Izrador around his neck. He's a Legate. Feeling powerless to save himself and his family, Ygvard agrees and grasps the other's hand. A moment of darkness envelopes then passes. When he looks down, he sees he is now wearing the armor, shield, and holy symbol himself.
Ygvard then feels a surge of power within him! He looks to see his kin struggling to hold back the tide of Fell, and raises his hand toward them, channeling the divine might of Izrador. He feels the power flow through him and grasp the Fell closest to him and his family, which he is now capable of commanding! He orders them to turn and fight! The Fell in the front lines then turn around and begin fighting FOR Ygvard! Ygvard knows he's not through though, he channels Izrador again, who once again answers the call and provides even more Fell under his sway! Ygvard once again commands them fight for him! These Fell also turn and begin fighting, swinging the odds in Ygvard and his family's favor!
The threat is still there though! Deirik breaks off from the Fell and starts racing towards the shadowy figure atop the hill! Ygvard runs that way too, as does Boldulf! Eirik stays behind to take out the remaining hostile Fell alongside his new allies.
Ygvard sees the shadowy figure once again begin an incantation, with another pea-sized ball of green glow appearing between his hands. Deirik is the closest to the figure, so Ygvard shouts a warning to him. Deirik dives and rolls to the side as the glowing ball races towards him and once again explodes in a necromantic fireball! Even with the warning, though, Deirik has taken some damage and he takes a few moments to recover while Ygvard and Boldulf continue their charge towards the figure. As they continue forward, the figure begins another chant and Boldulf is blasted backwards! He lands, a bit shaken, further down the hill and resumes his charge. Meanwhile, Ygvard reaches the shadowy figure.
Finally, face to face with this villain, the green glow of his heart illuminates his undead face enough for Ygvard to recognize this is the remnants of his old mentor, Vidar! The man who took the time, earlier in Ygvard's life, to teach him the ways of the Channeler and how to survive in this magic-hunting world. Vidar takes a step back while beginning yet another incantation, this one undoubtedly meant to impact Ygvard himself. Ygvard feels a rush of power as Izrador draws his attention away from Vidar's face and back down to the green, glowing heart, as if guiding him on what to do. Ygvard listens to this guidance, and reaches his black, armored hand out and grasps the heart! Vidar's undead visage morphs from a devious grin to a mask of pain! With it firmly in his grasp, Ygvard pulls the heart from out of Vidar's open chest cavity, causing Vidar to fall lifeless to the ground and all the remaining Fell to fall to pieces!
Ygvard holds the green heart aloft and cries out in victory, overwhelmed with joy at the power he possesses! The heart begins pulsing faster and faster until it explodes! At the exact same moment, a third thunderclap resounds from above! As Ygvard reels from the explosion, he again opens his eyes to find himself standing at the base of The Shrouded Tree. This time, however, Murk and the rest of the escort, as well as the other orcish sentries, are standing in the exact same places and poses as when Ygvard first approached the tree as if no time had passed. Looking down upon himself, Ygvard realizes that the cuts, bruises and burns he'd taken while dealing with the Fell and Vidar are still there. It must've been the effect of The Shrouded Tree. He didn't realize it was so dangerous! Luckily, his Legate self in the third vision certainly empowered him to survive the trials.
These thoughts would weigh upon him as he, Murk, and the rest of his escort packed up and headed back to Alucard. When they all arrived after a few nights of travel, they went straight to Lord Krogan. Ygvard informed Krogan of what happened to the one orc who died on the way, the details of what he saw in the trials of The Shrouded Tree, and, finally, that he wishes to become Krogan's apprentice and join the ranks of Izrador's Legates.
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