To Professor Flibbelius Amerdin, Head of the Registrar’s Office of the Most Illustrious Bardic College of Elaitra
From Chronicler Alder Loom of the Haunt
On the matter of the quite outrageous attempt to withdraw my Master in the Fine Heiligian Arts from approval.
Esteemed Professor Amerdin:
A month ago as per the writing of this letter, the Registrar’s Office started a motion to withdraw my Master’s application from consideration by the Bardic College, despite my qualifying on all requirements for graduation in absentia.
The cause of this outrageous attempt against academic fairness is, I am told, an argument that my being a high-ranking officer of a rebellion against the Kingdom of Heiliges, as well as minion of the Dungeon Lord Edward Wright, makes me ineligible as a representative of the Elaitran Bardic traditions.
Despite the failure of the College to deliver a timely notice of the process so I can better defend myself, I have sent this letter intending to clear up any misunderstandings—instead of allowing Vaines & Wright’s law clerks to handle the issue in their terrifying and expedite ways.
As your Eminence should be aware as Head of Office, the Bardic College of Elaitra has statutes to protect a traveling Bard in the case he gets himself accidentally involved in an event that ends up putting his employers in direct or indirect conflict with Heiligian interests.
The Shaggy Dog Clause has been invoked unsurprisingly often since its implementation, given the tendency of Bardic students to stick their noses where they don’t belong, hoping to catch some juicy bit of “history in the making.” There isn’t a reason my particular situation should be any different.
For your consideration, I have provided a timeline of the events that led to my involvement in the Starevosi conflict, so my qualification for the Shaggy Dog clause is without doubt:
It all started with my trip to the southern Starevosi coasts as part of my graduate project to study ancient fertility rites in civilizations developed away from the Light’s guidance.
Before my ship could even arrive at its destination, pirates led by a self-proclaimed descendant of King Stefan, waylaid us. Stefan was an ancestor of King Anatoly IV, the monarch murdered during the Heiligian invasion of Starevos.
His Royal Majesty took me, along with the surviving crew of my vessel, into slavery in his ship, the Ghostcrown. It was there that I made two important acquaintances. First was the Pirate King’s daughter, Pallia, who held strong opinions about her father’s way of doing business.
The second was the Witch Lavina Odessa Trevil, a surviving minion of the Dungeon Lords Heines and Vaines. Lavina was captured midway through her attempt to escape the destruction of her dungeon by the Heiligian Heroes.
Despite our clashing upbringings, the three of us became fast allies. The young women were, without a doubt, smitten by my sheer charisma and skill in improvised poetry.
Pallia’s father sensed this blooming relationship, however, and sold Lavy and I to a Dungeon Lord named Kael Arpadel before we could convince Pallia to cast off the influence of the slaver with pretensions of royalty.
This Dungeon Lord was interested in Lavy’s skills as a Dark-aligned spellcaster, and most of all, in my expertise in documenting what he considered to be “the last moments of the great Lordship.”
You see, Lord Kael Arpadel was himself a refugee from the ongoing ravage of his kingdom, Dark-aligned Lotia, by the Heroes of Heiliges, which were at the moment kicking the unholy ass of every fiend and Dungeon Lord all over Ivalis, without the Dark being able to do a thing about it.
Golden years for the Light-aligned, no doubt, although at the time I did wish the Heroes were better able to police the seas.
Lord Arpadel took residence near Constantina, also known as Undercity by the locals, where he survived for a couple of years, performing small raids in the countryside.
This is when my friend Edward Wright enters the picture, right in the middle of the story.
As it turns out, the Heroes were secretly automatons capable of earning experience points at a much faster rate than us mere flesh-and-blood mortals. In order to bypass the limits dictated by Objectivity, the Heroes were controlled by people from a world called Earth. These Earthlings were tricked into compliance by believing they were merely playing a “massively multiplayer online roleplaying game.”
I am told that these “gamers” were also simply far more skilled at controlling the interface of the Heroes than the Inquisitors of the Militant Church.
Ed Wright was one such “gamer.” It was Ed’s Hero team that finally caught Lord Kael Arpadel inside his last dungeon, with Ed’s Hero delivering the killing blow during Lord Arpadel’s gallant last stand.
As one of his last actions before his soul was delivered to the Dungeon Dimension, Lord Arpadel sent his younger minions away, Lavy and myself included, which is why I’m here today, writing this letter.
Lavy and I escaped into the woods of Hoia Forest, dodging ravenous horned spiders and Heroic raids, but finally ran out of luck—and spell slots—when we were cornered by a tribe of local batblins.
Perhaps our tale would have ended in this anticlimactic way, were it not for an apparently fortuitous encounter right before disaster struck:
A freshly invested Dungeon Lord named Edward Wright emerged out of a nearby cave and, despite only having a hundred experience points to his name, he managed to bluff the batblins into believing he was more dangerous than them.
The three of us made fast acquaintances and set to work together on the urgent matter of our immediate survival inside a horned spider-infested forest.
This Edward Wright turned out to be the very same young man responsible for the demise of the last of the Arpadels. He had fallen into the Dark’s notice because of this action, and Kharon himself, the Boatman, Murmur’s emissary between worlds, had contacted this young man from Earth.
Kharon and Ed had made a wager: Ed accepted the black heart of a Dungeon Lord, but remained free to make his own decisions and cast his allegiance wherever he decided was best. Kharon argued that no matter what Ed did, it would advance the cause of the Dark—all that Ed had to do was to survive, and that alone would upturn the sad state of affairs for the Dark-aligned.
The outcome of this bet is yet to be determined. I’ll just say that, although Ed has no intention of serving the Dark, the constant attempts of the Militant Church to destroy the Dungeon Lord from Earth have, no doubt, done more damage to the cause of the Light than Ed himself ever has.
Together, Ed, Lavy, the batblin Klek, myself, and later the avian Kessih of Greene, thrived in Hoia, despite immediately running into a far more worrisome danger than the Inquisition itself… which is already dangerous enough, I assure you.
In the village of Burrova, a Ranger by the name of Ioan unleashed a mindbrood, a worm-like parasite that steals the memories of its host, devours his brain, and then emerges as a terrifying monster. These mindbroods are also known as Sephar’s Bane, as these were the same sort of creatures that Lord Sephar used in a desperate attempt to survive the Order of the Silver Knights—the precursors of the modern Heroes.
Ed joined forces with an Inquisitor named Gallio, and together defeated Ranger Ioan and the mindbrood of Burrova. Despite being natural enemies, the Dungeon Lord and the Inquisitor made a truce, and each went their separate ways, unaware that fate was not yet done with either of them.
The fight for Burrova marked the start of Lord Edward Wright’s adventures in the world of Ivalis.
In the years to come, Ed and us, his brave friends, transformed the dungeon of Hoia into a comfortable home. We made friends and enemies in Undercity and recruited the Thieves Guild to our cause. There was a splash of romance when Ed met Katelyn Locksmith in the middle of a zombie-slaying adventure.
Katelyn was the daughter of the infamous Torst Locksmith, Prince of Thieves, the man responsible for the international incident that had led to the war between Starevos and Heiliges.
Together, Katelyn and Ed faced another of Ioan’s allies, the Ranger Nicolai, who had a plan to raise Torst Locksmith as a self-aware wraith, destroy Ed’s dungeon, and use mindbrood infestations in a crazed plan to free Starevos from Heiligian rule.
Ed and Katelyn defeated Torst’s wraith, although Ed caught a bit of divine fallout in the process, which turned his left arm into a cursed skeletal extremity. We also defended our dungeon from Nicolai himself, and Klek the batblin earned the title Adventurer-Slayer for his bravery during the battle.
After the fight was over, Katelyn departed in search of new horizons, and Ed became Lord Wraith, master of the Haunt, as his dungeon was known among the locals.
It was at this point that the Inquisition noticed our presence near Undercity and threatened to destroy the Haunt. Their actions left us no choice but to research a way to deactivate the Heroes—the Scrambler—and launch a counterattack against Undercity itself, where the Inquisition had their staging area.
Ed led an army of horned spiders into the city, assisted by the Thieves Guild and the Haga’Anashi clan, and forced the Inquisition out of the city, although he almost died when confronting his old Hero team, led by his friends from Earth, who were unaware that this new Lord Wraith was, in reality, their old friend Edward Wright.
During this fight, we captured a deactivated Hero and a device known as a “laptop” that confirmed Ed’s suspicions that the Heroes had been created using a mixture of Earth’s technology and Ivalian magic. Furthermore, we discovered that the Heroes themselves used fragments of Dungeon Lord’s hearts as a core for their great strength!
Now, Ed had done what no other Dungeon Lord had done before. He had faced Heroes in open warfare and won. This earned him—and the Haunt—the notice of the big players all across Ivalis. In response to the liberation of Undercity, Heiliges declared war on the Haunt, and the Inquisition designed Lord Wraith as the main enemy of the Heroes.
If we had any hopes of surviving the wrath of the Light, our only chance was to make fast allies with their ancestral enemies and gain access to their resources. Thus, Ed met the remaining Lotian Dungeon Lords, although he refused to share the Scrambling schematics with their evil asses.
In that meeting, Ed met an old acquaintance, his former employer Ryan Randall, who had been recruited by the Dark as Kharon’s Chosen, after Ed himself had refused the position. Ryan Randall, the Planeshifter, shared Kharon’s power to travel across dimensions without the need for a Portal or summoning circle and was currently under the service of Lady Vaines herself, the terror of Vros.
After this awkward meeting, Ed entered a competition known as the Endeavor, where several Dungeon Lords braved the dangers of the Factory of Nightmares in an attempt to reach the CEO office and earn control of both the Factory and its secrets.
The Factory of Nightmares turned out to be the least of Ed’s problems, however, when he discovered that the person behind the attacks by Ioan and Nicolai was, in fact, Lord Sephar himself, who had somehow survived his execution hundreds of years ago, and was now back as some sort of amalgamation between Dungeon Lord and mindbrood monster.
Oh, and never one to miss a good fight, Inquisitor Gallio was also there.
The reborn Lord Sephar announced he intended to use the resources of the Factory of Nightmares to build terrible weapons with which to end the eternal conflict between the Dark and the Light—by killing the gods themselves.
Working together with other participants of the Endeavor, including Lady Vaines herself and Ryan Randall, Ed repelled Lord Sephar in the nick of time and gained control of the Factory… although they were all gravely wounded, and the defense mechanism of the Factory against Sephar’s mindbrood infestation would finish Ed and the rest off as well.
The intelligent wraith of Evangeline Tillman, the former CEO of the Factory of Nightmares, decided that the best way to save the lives of the new management was to take control of the Planeshifter and use his powers to send Ed, Gallio, and Ryan to safety. However, the traumas suffered by Ryan during his time on Ivalis made him travel back to Earth instead, where he then promptly fell into a coma, leaving Ed and Gallio stranded in a world without magic, no easy means of coming back, and almost dead from their wounds.
As we wait for our Dungeon Lord to find his way back to us, the brave minions of the Haunt are now contending with a Militant Church that wants us gone, a Netherworld that desires our technology, and the looming threat of Lord Sephar and whatever awful designs he has for our beloved Ivalis.
Nevertheless, we persevere, for we know the Lord of the Haunt shall return when the moment is right, and in the meantime, we shall continue the fight for our freedom ourselves. Long are the days when we ran from batblins and horned spiders. Under the leadership of Lord Wraith, the Haunted have learned never to surrender, and to trust in their own strength. This is a lesson we are willing to share with Heiliges, Lotia, Lord Sephar, and everyone else.
If the entire world wants to take a bite at us, then the entire world is going to get their teeth broken.
So, Professor Amerdin, now you’re pretty much up to date. As you can see, neither Ed nor I ever harbored ill intentions toward Heiliges or the fair island of Elaitra. All the actions of the Haunt have been taken in self-defense or to protect our lives, so there’s no reason for the Bardic College of Elaitra to deny approval of my well-earned degree.
After all, despite the famous Bardic bad luck, I lucked right into history in the making. Whatever happens with Starevos in the following years, I know it will change the face of Ivalis forever. From my position as Chronicler of the Haunt, I am in a unique place to document it.
Surely, the chronicle of the Wraith’s Haunt deserves a place among the annals of the Bardic College of Elaitra, despite the current conflict between our kingdoms. Because of this, I humbly urge you to reconsider.
Chronicler Alder Loom of the Haunt.
PD: You may wonder about the sensitive information in this letter, especially concerning the return of Sephar, which is being heavily denied by the Militant Church.
Just in case that against your better judgment, you may turn to your local Inquisitor with this letter, let me point out that you found it lying atop your nightstand and smelling faintly of sulfur. I’ll also point out that plenty of students and members of the faculty of the Bardic College are known to “secretly” cajole with succubi from the Netherworld, trading favors for inspiration and fiendish cures against writer’s block.
Because of this, before taking any action, please note that Elaitra may be far away from Starevos, but there’s nowhere in Ivalis where the Haunt cannot reach you.