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But Strong in Will

Story Emits

There's been attempts to educate, lately.

The Compact has been slumbering for a great long time, its skepticism wrought by a great force that long concealed any hint of the magical, of the fantastic, of anything outside the mundane. It was a suppression enforced by a singular viciousness, a brutality that vanished anyone who delved too deep, and created a great mask over the populace wrought by a dark god of secrets. The Despite of Fable, concealing all, and then with a rise of a blood moon it was over. Not fully, not quite, but enough of a crack that stories came to life, and skepticism gave way to ardent terror that legends were entirely all too true, and threats that could be dismissed were very real.

But that's not to say that many were prepared to recognize what the threat around Harrow Hall represented.

To the northeast of Arx is an old ruin, a place called Harrow Hall, a place built long before the Compact existed on Arvum. It's at that place that an old enemy of the Compact calling himself the Horned God has determined to finish what he attempted with the Blood Moon. There's been plays and stories, songs and journals in Arx and around attempting to explain his madness to the population, still wrestling to understand this new world. It is claimed that the Horned God wishes to resurrect the dead god Destiny, so that all the stories of everyone that lives can be rewritten as he chooses, and no choice at all will remain for anyone else. A final stroke. An end.

And he's drawing close now. He's created a huge wall of thorns around his fortress, hundreds of feet high and miles thick, to block any access to his fortress as he works his great ritual. He'll end the world if he succeeds, it is said.

And it's not clear there's any way to reach him.

Before the Blood Moon, stories about villages simply vanishing in the Northlands have largely been ignored as fanciful tales or (most often) the work of raiding shavs. After all, people might vanish, but buildings don't generally up and walk away, and certainly forests that are old one day were obviously old the day before.

That was then.

Five villagers, and only five villagers, from the modestly sized town of Helmfirth turn up in Stonedeep, nearly incoherent with terror, with wild tales of being woken up by strange sounds in the night and emerging from their homes just in time to see, in the words of one horrified man, "trees swallowing everything and everyone." This time, people pay attention. This time, when the Knights of Solace go to see if it's true and find a silent forest instead of a village, they stay back. This time, when the road to what was once Helmfirth is closed, when the guards warn them away, when a strangely familiar phrase begins popping up in hushed murmurs among the older residents of Stonedeep and the children of newly knelt prodigals, *everyone* listens to the warning.

"Don't go into the Witchwood."

Word comes down from the North that the guards set to watch the strange forest that seemingly consumed Helmsfirth returned to Stonesdeep in a frantic hurry, reporting that the entire wood was on fire. The blaze is visible as far north as Aviaron's Peak, and the entire region is caught up in a single, sleepless night, fearing that the massive fire that seems to have sprung from nowhere will spread even farther. By morning, however, the fire is gone as quickly and as inexplicably as it came. Helmsfirth is nowhere to be found, but neither are the trees. For that matter, neither is evidence of the fire. The land where the fire burned is seemingly untouched, and it takes several days hiking for scouts to discover anything differently. When they do, however, they find miles and miles of hills and valleys scorched through, the fire having burned so hot there's little evidence of anything that may have once been there, though there are reports of a broken, fire darkened old keep that seems to have been long, long abandoned. In the very center of this destruction, they find what might be the strangest thing of all. There's a plum tree, a tall, tall plum tree growing up out of the ashes, with a trunk that, according to at least one scout, looks remarkably like two lovers embracing.

Unlike all the blackened land for miles around it, the tree is in full bloom.

There's a stomping, a rumble, a thrumming in the air around the war camp set outside Harrow Hall. Sentries raise the alarm as several scouts dash into camp babbling frantically about *giants* and *monsters*, and *giant monsters* and *coming this way right now*, but they're not coming from the direction of the Hall itself; quite the opposite, and another scout arrives shortly after to breathlessly report, completely baffled, that Marquis Cahal Lyonesse, Lady Jan Malespero, Lord Charlemagne Bellervie, and Lord Ian Kennex are in front and leading the way.

Stomp, stomp, stomp and then the entire camp can see them, nearly two dozen giants of varying sizes and shapes, each distinct, bearing weapons of all kinds and wearing old, battered armor, marching behind the group of humans that they're following, and singing what sounds like several songs all at once, every note seemingly terribly off-key, every word incomprehensible, but every now and then they lift their weapons as one and shout.

The fomorians have come to Harrow Hall.

Throughout Arvum and the world entire, millions of people look up to the sky that now has black tendrils stretching towards a blood red moon. As they watch, the moon begins to resemble more and more of a skull, the empty eye sockets gazing down at the world with hate.

Above Harrow Hall, what looks like a book begins to rise into the sky, floating above the towers. The book grows and grows until its shadow casts itself over the landscape, with but the flicker of red moonlight giving illumination. In the Great Book of Endings, every individual can read the words of their current and recent actions, telling their story as letters begin to appear telling of a particularly terrible end.

The Great Book of Endings looms higher in the sky, and across the world everyone can see a page turn to what speaks of a terrible ending for them- and all too often, one of eternal humbled service to Orichalcum the Horned God. One page of the book speaks of another great fire in Arx, and perhaps in the most petty of actions from an eternal enemy, a great blaze begins to burn in multiple places throughout Arx. There's a scramble to fight it, though the blaze is obviously supernatural and attacks the Iron Guard with wanton cruelty.

The moon already blood and looking like a skull, looks wet, as if flesh is beginning to form over the skull of the moon.

Above the book in the sky, there's a flash of light- much like lightning in a stormcloud, though as the sun dipped it was a clear night. One by one, the stars flicker out, as if fleeing something, and even the skull-like moon's eyes seem to turn to look at something above the book. Above the book, there's the outline of three great winged figures, a radiant outline in the darkness, from which even the stars flee.
There's an earthly rumble as a great beast bursts from the earth near Harrow Hall's gate, a monstrous cross of a scorpion, centipede and bear several hundred feet tall with a hundred gibbering mouths with mandibles, screeching in hate at a small group near the gate. It starts to lumber forward while the Winged Figures look overhead, and there is the beating of wings of a number of flying things diving towards it.
The Great Book of Endings that has risen above the world suddenly slams shut. It floats in the sky for a long moment then bursts into flame as it shrinks, pages burning away into ash that litters in a falling rain all throughout the Compact.

Crisis Updates

The Horned God is attempting to end the world. With the faltering of the Despite of Fable, that once secret arcane hiding of dark truths from the people of Arvum, that much can now be made clear without forgetfulness, without forces trying to blot it away or conceal it. The great, ancient enemy of the Compact has gone to Harrow Hall, a ruined castle once inhabited by the first king of Arvum so many thousands of years ago, and surrounded it with a massive, miles long hedge of thorns while he begins a great arcane working to end the world, and bind it forever more under his control. A barrier to protect him from interference, to buy time for the simplest of reasons. So he can win.

Time the Compact will not grant him if it can help it.

Great hosts march on Harrow Hall. Highlord Liara Grayson calls forth the armies of the Crownlands, and Grandmaster of the Templars Sir Preston leads the armies of the Faith of the Pantheon, marching to Harrow Hall and surrounding it while many work on solutions to the hedge.

There's alchemical mixtures and Arvani fire. There's massive groups of armed men trying to cleave a tunnel through the hedge. There's attempts to dig under it. And there's no small number of those with unmistakably magical abilities, using their newfound talents to try to destroy it in a multitude of ways. These are all disappointments, with the hedge extending deeply underground, and though powerful effects do destroy chunks of it, it regrows all but immediately. And through it all, the dark whispers of the Horned God echo for miles, and his work continues, with precious time slipping away.

But then scouts of the Compact discover something. There's a small section of the hedge cast in darkness, where the tall towers of Harrow Hall block the moonlight from shining down upon it. And in that section, the Hedge is vulnerable. In that section, it does not regrow.

At that point, there's a massive attack upon it.

The hedge breaks and rends, and before long, a narrow path to the fortress is open. Gargantuans of the Nameless move down to block the way, and thousands of horned god minions are moving from the hedge and castle to form a defense. And the Horned God's work continues. Sometimes the options are complicated and all but impossible to decide. And sometimes there's painful simplicity. It's time to attack.

But sometimes the simplest things can be very, very difficult.