Read The Darke Crusade Online

Authors: Joe Dever

Tags: #Fiction, #Fantasy, #Lone Wolf, #Magnamund

The Darke Crusade

The Darke Crusade

You are the warrior Lone Wolf — Kai Grand Master of Sommerlund. In the distant realm of Nyras a bitter war is waging between the brave knights of Lencia and the evil Drakkarim. The Lencians have won many battles, but now the Drakkarim leader — Warlord Magnaarn — is near to finding the Doomstone of Darke. If he should succeed he will be capable of destroying the Lencians once and for all.

In
The Darke Crusade
, you must journey through the infernal Hellswamp, trek deep into the forests of northern Nyras and brave the heat of battle. Will you succeed and save your allies? Or will you fall victim to Warlord Magnaarn?

Joe Dever
, the creator of the bestselling Lone Wolf adventure books and novels, has achieved world-wide recognition in three creative fields — as an award-winning author of international renown, as an acclaimed musician and composer, and as a games designer specialising in role-playing games.

On graduating from college in 1974, Joe Dever became a professional musician, and for several years, he worked in the music industry in Europe and the United States.

While working in Los Angeles in 1977 he discovered a then little-known game called ‘Dungeons & Dragons’. Although the game was in its infancy, Joe at once realised its huge potential and began designing his own role-playing games along similar conceptual lines. These first games were to form the basis of a fantasy world called Magnamund, which later became the setting for the Lone Wolf books.

Five years later, in 1982 at the Origins Game Fair, Joe won the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons World Championships in Baltimore, an event held before 16,000 people. Inspired and encouraged by his success at Origins, Joe decided to quit the music business and devote his time to writing and games design.

In 1983, after a brief spell at Games Workshop in London, he wrote
Flight from the Dark
 — the first Lone Wolf interactive gamebook. His manuscript immediately attracted a frenzy of interest from three major London publishing companies, all of whom bid for world rights. Joe accepted an offer of publication from Hutchinson's (later to become Century Hutchinson Ltd; now Random House UK) and
Flight from the Dark
was first published in 1984.

This first book sold more than 100,000 copies within its first month of publication, and overseas rights were snapped up by twelve countries (including the United States, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, and Sweden). The success of Joe's first book laid the foundations for the future of the Lone Wolf series, which has sold millions of copies around the world.

The Lone Wolf series ended after 28 books and 14 years. Joe has continued to work in the games industry as script writer and games design consultant.

Brian Williams
was first noticed by Joe Dever for his work in
White Dwarf
magazine (circa issue 50) and the
Real Life Gamebooks
series by Jon Sutherland and Simon Farrell. Brian Williams was Joe's first choice of illustrators to replace Gary Chalk. Jon, being an old friend of Joe's, introduced the two. Brian was excited to work with Joe on the
Lone Wolf
series. He illustrated
The Cauldron of Fear
and almost every book about Magnamund since that time.

Internet Edition published by
Project Aon
. This edition is intended to reflect the complete text of the original version. Where we have made minor corrections, they will be noted in the
Errata
.

Publication Date: 28 October 2012

Text copyright © 1991 Joe Dever.
Illustrations copyright © 1991 Brian Williams.
Distribution of this Internet Edition is restricted under the terms of the
Project Aon License
.

Dedication

To the spirit of San Diego — America's Finest City.

Acknowledgements

‘I would be especially pleased if my granting of the rights to distribute my books in this way was seen as my “millennium gift” to all those devoted readers who have kept the Kai flag flying high, through all the good times, and the not-so-good. It would make me very proud indeed if this enterprise laid the foundations of a lasting legacy, securing the longevity of Lone Wolf by making my creation freely and readily accessible to current and future online generations. For them, for us, for Sommerlund and the Kai. … ’
Joe Dever

Project Aon would first like to thank Joe Dever for making this generous offering of the books that we have all loved from the beginning. We are also grateful for the generosity of Rob Adams, Paul Bonner, Gary Chalk, Melvyn Grant, Richard Hook, Peter Andrew Jones, Cyril Julien, Peter Lyon, Ian Page, Graham Round, and Brian Williams for contributing their portions of the world of Magnamund to Project Aon. We would also like to acknowledge the following members of Project Aon for their diligent work:

Credits
Transcription
Kenny Wong
Illustration Transcription
Jonathan Blake
XML
Jonathan Blake
Jeff Dougan
Simon Osborne
Action Charts
JC Alvarez
Jonathan Blake
Proofreading
Kenny Wong
Editing
Ingo Klöcker
Christopher Lundgren
Simon Osborne
Timothy Pederick
Thomas Wolmer
Jody Williams
Coordination
Jonathan Blake
Special Thanks
Jan Charvát, Sean Donald, Benjamin Krefetz, Christopher Turner, William Mobbs
The Story So Far …

You are Grand Master Lone Wolf, last of the Kai Lords of Sommerlund and sole survivor of a massacre that wiped out the First Order of your élite warrior caste.

It is the year MS 5076 and twenty-six years have passed since your brave kinsmen perished at the hands of the Darklords of Helgedad. These champions of evil, who were sent forth by Naar, the King of the Darkness, to destroy the fertile world of Magnamund, have themselves since been destroyed. You vowed to avenge the murder of the Kai and you kept your pledge, for it was you who brought about their downfall when alone you infiltrated their foul domain — the Darklands — and caused the destruction of their leader, Archlord Gnaag, and the seat of his power that was the infernal city of Helgedad.

In the wake of their destruction, chaos befell the Darkland armies who, until then, had been poised to conquer all of Northern Magnamund. Some factions which were part of this huge army, most notably the barbaric Drakkarim, began to fight with the others for control. This disorder quickly escalated into an all-out civil war, which allowed the Freeland armies of Magnamund time in which to recover and launch a counter-offensive. Skilfully their commanders exploited the chaos and secured a swift and total victory over an enemy far superior in numbers.

For six years now peace has reigned in Sommerlund. Under your direction, the once-ruined Monastery of the Kai has been thoroughly rebuilt and restored to its former glory, and the task of teaching a Second Order of Kai warriors the skills and proud traditions of your ancestors is also well under way. The new generation of Kai recruits, all of whom were born during the era of war against the Darklords, possess latent Kai skills and all show exceptional promise. These skills will be nurtured and honed to perfection during their time at the monastery so that they may teach and inspire future generations, thereby ensuring the continued security of your homeland in future years.

Your attainment of the rank of Kai Grand Master brought with it great rewards. Some, such as the restoration of the Kai and the undying gratitude of your fellow Sommlending, could have been anticipated. Yet there have also been rewards which you could not possibly have foreseen. The discovery that within you lay the potential to develop Kai Disciplines beyond those of the Magnakai, which, until now, were thought to be the ultimate that a Kai Master could aspire to, was truly a revelation. Your discovery has inspired you to set out upon a new and previously unknown path in search of the wisdom and power that no Kai Lord before you has ever possessed. In the name of your creator, the God Kai, and for the greater glory of Sommerlund and the Goddess Ishir, you have vowed to reach the very pinnacle of Kai perfection — to attain all of the Grand Master Disciplines and become the first Kai Supreme Master.

With diligence and determination you set about the restoration of the Kai Monastery and organized the training of the Second Order recruits. Your efforts were soon rewarded and, within the space of two short years, the first raw recruits had graduated to become a cadre of gifted Kai Masters who, in turn, were able to commence the teaching of their skills to subsequent intakes of Kai novices. Readily the Kai Masters rose to their newfound responsibilities, leaving you free to devote more of your time to the pursuit and perfection of the Grand Master Disciplines. During this period you also received expert tutelage in the ways of magic from two of your most trusted friends and advisors: Guildmaster Banedon, leader of the Brotherhood of the Crystal Star, and Lord Rimoah, speaker for the High Council of the Elder Magi.

In the deepest subterranean level of the monastery, one hundred feet below the Tower of the Sun, you ordered the excavation and construction of a special vault. In this magnificent chamber wrought of granite and gold, you placed the seven Lorestones of Nyxator, the gems of Kai power that you had rediscovered during your quest for the Magnakai. It was here, bathed in the golden light of those radiant gems, that you spent countless hours in pursuit of perfection. Sometimes alone, sometimes in the company of your two most able advisors — Banedon and Rimoah — you worked hard to develop your innate Grand Master Disciplines, and grasp the fundamental secrets of Left-handed and Old Kingdom magic. During this time you noticed many remarkable changes taking place within your body: you became physically and mentally stronger, your five primary senses sharpened beyond all that you had experienced before, and, perhaps most remarkably, your body began to age at a much slower rate. Now for every five years that elapse you age but one year.

At this time many changes were occurring beyond the borders of Sommerlund. In the regions to the northeast of Magador and the Maakengorge, the Elder Magi of Dessi and the Herbwardens of Bautar were working together in an effort to restore the dusty volcanic wasteland to its former fertile state. It was the first tentative step towards the reclamation of all the Darklands. However, their progress was painfully slow, and both parties were resigned to the fact that their efforts to undo the damage caused by the Darklords would take not years but centuries to complete.

In the far west, the Drakkarim had retreated to their homelands and were engaged in a bloody war against the Lencians. Much of southern Nyras
1
had been reclaimed by the armies of King Sarnac, the Lencian commander, and his flag now flew over territory which, two thousand years ago, had once been part of Lencia.

Following the destruction of the Darklords of Helgedad, the Giaks, the most prolific in number of all of Gnaag's troops, fled into the Darklands and sought refuge in the gigantic city-fortresses of Nadgazad, Aarnak, Gournen, Akagazad, and Kaag. Within each of these hellish strongholds fierce fighting broke out as remnants of the Xaghash (lesser Darklords) and the Nadziranim (evil practitioners of Right-handed magic who once aided individual Darklord masters) fought for control. It is widely believed that by the time the Elder Magi and the Herbwardens reach the walls of these strongholds they will encounter no resistance; the occupants will have long since brought about their own extinction.

Elsewhere, throughout Northern Magnamund, peace reigns victorious and the peoples of the Free Kingdoms rejoice in the knowledge that the age of the Darklords has finally come to an end. Readily men have exchanged their swords for hoes and their shields for ploughs, and now the only marching they do is along the ruts of their freshly furrowed fields. Few are the watchful eyes that scan the distant horizon in fear of what may appear, although there are still those who maintain their vigilance, for the agents of Naar come in many guises and there are those upon Magnamund who wait quietly in the shadows for the chance to do his evil bidding.

Only a year ago the evil Cener Druids of Ruel attempted to enact Naar's revenge. Secretly, in the laboratories of their foul stronghold of Mogaruith, they had laboured to create a virulent plague virus capable of killing every living creature upon Magnamund, save their own kind. Word of their terrible plan reached Lord Rimoah who immediately urged the rulers of the Freelands to raise armies and invade Ruel. Hurriedly they complied, but the invasion ended in disaster. Seven thousand fighting men entered Ruel intent on storming the fortress of Mogaruith and razing it to the ground. Seven thousand marched into the dark realm; only seventy emerged alive. The Ceners were within days of perfecting their ultimate weapon when you took up the challenge and ventured alone into Mogaruith.

Despite overwhelming odds you thwarted their evil plan by destroying the virus and the means by which it was created.

After emerging from Ruel triumphant, your quest fulfilled, you returned home to Sommerlund and the Kai Monastery where you resumed your duties as Grand Master. Three months later, on the day that saw the first fall of winter snow, you were visited by Lord Rimoah. Once again he found himself the reluctant bearer of ill news. Your friend Guildmaster Banedon, whilst helping with the reclamation of wastelands close to the Maakengorge, had been abducted by a war-band of Giaks under the command of Nadziranim sorcerers. A rescue was attempted, but ruthlessly the Nadziranim obliterated those who tried to follow their escape into the Darklands. It was feared that the Nadziranim would try to extract from Banedon the secrets of Left-handed magic, so that they might marry it to their own foul sorcery. Such an outcome would have given them extraordinary power, power enough to revive the Darklands. A previous attempt to unite the two paths of magic had resulted in catastrophe for Sommerlund. In the year MS 5050, Vonotar the Traitor, a magician from the same guild as Banedon, had betrayed his homeland in exchange for the promise of Nadziranim power. It was his act of treachery which brought about the invasion of Sommerlund and the destruction of the First Order of the Kai.

Banedon's survival depended upon a swift rescue from Kaag. Mindful of all that was at stake, courageously you volunteered to enter the city-fortress alone in an attempt to save your friend.

Despite fierce odds you gained entry to Kaag, located Banedon, and then snatched him from the foul denizens of that city by way of a daring aerial escape from the upper levels of their great citadel. Banedon was severely weakened by his ordeal at the hands of the Nadziranim and, had it not been for your timely intervention, he would certainly have perished in that grim city-fortress.

The rescue of Guildmaster Banedon and his safe return to Sommerlund was cause for much celebration, especially in the streets and guildhalls of his native city of Toran. For several days you allowed yourself to be fêted by the Brotherhood of the Crystal Star before returning to your monastery where, with a feeling of quiet satisfaction, you gladly resumed your duties as Kai Grand Master.

So the year ended and another began, yet even before the snows of winter had begun to thaw, once again your unique skills were being sought in the relentless struggle against Evil. This time the plea for help arrived by way of a foreign ambassador, a special envoy who had travelled thousands of miles from the court of King Sarnac of Lencia. Their war against the Drakkarim, who were under the command of Magnaarn, the High Warlord of Darke, had stagnated ever since the onset of winter and recently the whole campaign had taken a turn for the worse. The Lencians learned that Magnaarn had undertaken a quest for the Doomstone of Darke, an artefact of legendary evil. It was said that this gem was the most powerful of all the Doomstones created by Agarash the Damned during the Age of Eternal Night. Before the demise of the Darklords, this Doomstone had rested in the head of the Nyras Sceptre, a magical weapon wielded by Darklord Dakushna, Lord of Kagorst. In the chaos that followed the wake of Dakushna's destruction, the Nyras Sceptre was lost, though many secretly believed it to have been stolen by one of Dakushna's Nadziranim sorcerers. Some months later during the war in Nyras the sceptre reappeared, but the Doomstone was missing from its setting atop the sceptre's platinum haft.

‘We fear that Magnaarn is close to finding the Doomstone of Darke,’ said the Lencian envoy. ‘Already he possesses the sceptre's haft. My liege, King Sarnac, beseeches you, Grand Master Lone Wolf, to come to our aid. Help us find the Doomstone and thwart Magnaarn's plan, for if he successfully reunites the Doomstone and the Nyras sceptre he will command a power capable of our undoing.’

‘With respect, my lord, surely this one weapon, however evil it may be, is no match when pitted against all the armoured might of Lencia?’ you replied diplomatically, as yet unconvinced by the envoy's plea.

‘Perhaps so, Grand Master,’ he replied, ‘were the nature of the threat merely the weapon alone. Sadly this is not the only issue here. Until now, the Nadziranim sorcerers who control the strongholds of Kagorst and Akagazad have refused to aid Magnaarn in his war against us. Many times he has begged them for help, for within those fortress walls are thousands of Giaks and other breeds who sought sanctuary there after the defeat of the Darklords. They still possess their weapons and they would make a formidable enemy if ever they were mustered against us. Magnaarn's possession of the Doomstone of Darke will most certainly influence the Nadziranim. Its power is such that Magnaarn could simply force them to obey his every command. Their refusal would result in their immediate destruction.’

Politely you dismissed the envoy whilst you considered your response to his plea. In the solitude of your chamber you pondered the problem, weighing the plight of Lencia against your duties and responsibilities there at the Kai Monastery. At length, after careful deliberation, you reached your decision.

‘Well my lord?’ enquired the envoy, nervously, upon re-entering your chamber. ‘Will you help us thwart Magnaarn?’

‘Once, not so very long ago, your King and his army aided me during my quest for the Magnakai,’ you replied. ‘Perhaps now the time has come for me to repay my debt of gratitude. Yes, I shall help you. I shall return with you to Lencia and champion your cause. I vow that I shall do all in my power to thwart Magnaarn's quest.’

[1] The Drakkarim land of Nyras has been referred to as ‘Nyraz’ in previous publications. We have left it as it stands in this book due to its consistent use here and under the assumption that the author intended this name change.

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