The Last Garrison (Dungeons & Dragons Novel)

P
ain in the old man’s hands. An ache from knuckle to knuckle to knuckle. A weakness of his grip. He bundled his hands in the sleeves of his robe and rubbed them together to ease the hurt, but it rippled from knuckle to wrist, and then from wrist to the bones of his thin, wrinkled arms. His world was shrinking away from him, swirling into a vortex of dull, constant pain
.

The Old Stargazer had lived far longer than was natural, far longer than was safe. He felt it in his body and he felt it in his spirit, but he carried on. He had made his deals, and he had offered his sacrifices. Bits of him were gone for good—were in the hands of things both old and terrible. But to whom he had given so very much, he had gotten much in return: Longevity. Insight. Power. So much power. All to keep his home safe. All to keep generation after generation protected. All to let the village of Haven remain untouched through the rise and fall of an empire, and through the ebb and flow of evil. Through law and through chaos. Through prosperity and trial
.

There was pain in the old man’s hands. His eyes were dim and did not work as they once had. His fingertips were no longer quick and nimble. His neck was stiff and slightly curved. His body and spirit crept ever so slowly awake in the early morning, and failed to stay alert as the day progressed. He often slept on his feet—when he observed the stars in his scrying crystals and the eyepiece of his telescope, or stood on his balcony surveying Haven. He did not work the fine mechanisms that moved the mirrors and concave lenses of his apparatus with the accuracy he once had. The whispering spirits spoke to him more quietly than ever, and he could no longer make out much of what they were saying. But that was not the worst of it
.

Ioun bless me, I don’t know where my mind is going
.

Titles in the
D
UNGEONS
& D
RAGONS
®
novel line

The Mark of Nerath
Bill Slavicsek

The Seal of Karga Kul
Alex Irvine

The Temple of Yellow Skulls
Don Bassingthwaite

Oath of Vigilance
James Wyatt

The Last Garrison
Matthew Beard

Dungeons & Dragons
THE LAST GARRISON
©2011 Wizards of the Coast LLC

All characters in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.

This book is protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America. Any reproduction or unauthorized use of the material or artwork contained herein is prohibited without the express written permission of Wizards of the Coast LLC.

Published by Wizards of the Coast LLC.

Dungeons & Dragons, Wizards of the Coast, and their respective logos are trademarks of Wizards of the Coast LLC in the U.S.A. and other countries. Hasbro SA,
Represented by Hasbro Europe, Stockley Park, UB11 1AZ. UK
.

All Wizards of the Coast characters and their distinctive likenesses are property of Wizards of the Coast LLC.

Cover art by: Wayne Reynolds

eISBN: 978-0-7869-5942-6

U.S., Canada, Asia Pacific, & Latin America, Wizards of the Coast LLC, P.O. Box 707, Renton, WA 98057-0707, +1-800-324-6496,
www.wizards.com/customerservice

Europe, U.K., Eire & South Africa, Wizards of the Coast LLC, c/o Hasbro UK Ltd., P.O. Box 43, Newport, NP19 4YD, UK, Tel: +80457 12 55 99, Email:
[email protected]

Visit our websites at
www.wizards.com
www.DungeonsandDragons.com

v3.1

For my girlfriend Abby and my wife Jessica
.

Contents

In the shadow of empires, the past echoes in the legends of heroes. Civilizations rise and crumble, leaving few places that have not been touched by their grandeur. Ruin, time, and nature claim what the higher races leave behind, while chaos and darkness fill the void. Each new realm must make its mark anew on the world rather than build on the progress of its predecessors.

Numerous civilized races populate this wondrous and riotous world of Dungeons & Dragons. In the early days, the mightiest among them ruled. Empires based on the power of giants, dragons, and even devils rose, warred, and eventually fell, leaving ruin and a changed world in their wake. Later, kingdoms carved by mortals appeared like the glimmer of stars, only to be swallowed as if by clouds on a black night.

Where civilization failed, traces remain. Ruins dot the world, hidden by an ever-encroaching wilderness that shelters unnamed horrors. Lost knowledge lingers in these places. Ancient magic set in motion by forgotten hands still flows in them. Cities and towns still stand, where inhabitants live, work, and seek shelter from the dangers of the wider world. New communities spring up where the bold have seized territory from rough country, but few common folk ever wander far afield. Trade and travel are the purview of the ambitious, the brave, and the desperate. They are wizards and warriors who carry on traditions that date to ancient times. Still others innovate, or simply learn to fight as necessity dictates, forging a unique path.

Truly special individuals are rare. An extraordinary few master their arts in ways beyond what is required for mere survival or protection. For good or ill, such people rise up to take on more than any mundane person dares. Some even become legends.

These are the stories of those select few …

P
ain
in the old man’s hands. An ache from knuckle to knuckle to knuckle. A weakness of his grip. He bundled his hands in the sleeves of his robe and rubbed them together to ease the hurt, but it rippled from knuckle to wrist, and then from wrist to the bones of his thin, wrinkled arms. His world was shrinking away from him, swirling into a vortex of dull, constant pain
.

The Old Stargazer had lived far longer than was natural, far longer than was safe. He felt it in his body and he felt it in his spirit, but he carried on. He had made his deals, and he had offered his sacrifices. Bits of him were gone for good—were in the hands of things both old and terrible. But to whom he had given so very much, he had gotten much in return: Longevity. Insight. Power. So much power. All to keep his home safe. All to keep generation after generation protected. All to let the village of Haven remain untouched through the rise and fall of an empire, and through the ebb and
flow of evil. Through law and through chaos. Through prosperity and trial
.

There was pain in the old man’s hands. His eyes were dim and did not work as they once had. His fingertips were no longer quick and nimble. His neck was stiff and slightly curved. His body and spirit crept ever so slowly awake in the early morning, and failed to stay alert as the day progressed. He often slept on his feet—when he observed the stars in his scrying crystals and the eyepiece of his telescope, or stood on his balcony surveying Haven. He did not work the fine mechanisms that moved the mirrors and concave lenses of his apparatus with the accuracy he once had. The whispering spirits spoke to him more quietly than ever, and he could no longer make out much of what they were saying. But that was not the worst of it
.

Ioun bless me, I don’t know where my mind is going
.

The thought made him smile, but without joy. Now I turn to the gods, he thought. After all this time spent in communion with a very different kind of power. Now that it is far too late to request their attention, I turn to them. Kolber, his dear friend from many, many decades back, would laugh to know the Old Stargazer entertained any such longing for the favor of the gods—Ioun especially
.

Kolber. The Axe of Ioun. His gleaming shield. His silver eyes. Indomitable. His axe aloft and bloody. His cry rattling the bones of his enemies. Crowned with silver
light, abyssal blood marking his fists. A crack in his smile. A vortex at his feet. Crooked, sharpened teeth. A shadow covers him over. A howl. Kolber triumphant over dozens. Kolber striking down the darkness, bringing secrets to light for Ioun. Shouting his thanks to his god, and laughing at his luck. Kolber, his dear friend, lost to the years
.

Or Galsey, the archer, always by their side. Fey trickster. Cocksure shot who would, it seemed, melt away when a battle commenced. Not out of cowardice, though. After a victory, a pile of bodies, arrows in their chests. Galsey and his shining eyes. Galsey and his missing finger. Galsey cackling at his own terrible jokes
.

The Old Stargazer howled in his study; startled back out of the daydream of his friends. He sat in his chair. Where is my mind? he wondered. Where is it going? There was a time when even the most fleeting ponder, the simplest musing, was—in a voice that was not his own—answered in some manner or another. No more, though. The allies—the creatures beyond the stars who spoke to him, who granted him power, who loaned him wisdom, who extended his life—were still with him. He could feel them. Though now they were speaking a new language. They were whispering to one another. They were letting his body fail him. There had always been a barrier between himself and them—by virtue of the strength of his will, he was his own man regardless of his pacts. This barrier was breaking down. He suspected
that it was them pounding away at it, breaking stones from the wall. They were planning something. They had designs. They were looking through him. Looking past to the world around him. He worked hard to keep them at bay, but he knew they were gaining ground. And something else: it seemed that they were laughing at him. His skull entombed their laughter. How long would they be contained?

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