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Authors: Joe Dever

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

The Plague Lords of Ruel

BOOK: The Plague Lords of Ruel
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The Plague Lords of Ruel

You are the warrior Lone Wolf — Kai Grand Master of Sommerlund. You have defeated the Darklords of Helgedad and avenged your murdered ancestors, but now you are challenged by a sinister evil which threatens to destroy all life on your home world of Magnamund.

In
The Plague Lords of Ruel
, your mission is to prevent the malevolent Cener Druids of Ruel from releasing a deadly plague virus that will destroy all but their own kind. Of all the warriors of Magnamund only you can thwart their wicked plans — for only you possess the disciplines of a Kai Grand Master.

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 © 1990 Joe Dever.
Illustrations copyright © 1990 Brian Williams.
Distribution of this Internet Edition is restricted under the terms of the
Project Aon License
.

Dedication

To Mel

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
Matthew Reynolds
Illustration Transcription
Jonathan Blake
XML
Jonathan Blake
Jeff Dougan
Simon Osborne
Action Charts
JC Alvarez
Jonathan Blake
Proofreading
Daniel Nash (Sections 71–105)
Simon Osborne (Frontmatter and Sections 1–70, 106–140, and 176–350)
Tony Wrigley (Sections 141–175)
Editing
Jeff Dougan
Christopher Lundgren
Ingo Klöcker
LeRoy McSwain
Simon Osborne
Thomas Wolmer
Coordination
Jonathan Blake
Special Thanks
Boris Basic, Dan Carter, David Davis, Benjamin Krefetz, David Kubecka, Ben Libert, Neil McGrory, Chris Neilson, Stelio Passaris, Timothy Pederick, Martin Ryland, Peter Smyth, Jason Thomas, Christopher Turner, Jaime Wawra, Arthur Yin
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 5075 and twenty-five 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 core of their cancerous 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 five 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 you have begun the task of training a Second Order of Kai warriors so that the skills and proud traditions of your ancestors will be carried forward in the centuries to come. The new generation of Kai recruits, all of whom were born during the era of war against the Darklords, possess latent Kai skills and 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 recovered 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 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 also 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, although they had had notable successes in these regions, generally 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 Nyras had been reclaimed by the armies of King Sarnac, the Lencian commander, and his flag now flew over a land 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, and Kaag. Within each of these hellish strongholds there exists now a state of frenzied civil war as remnants of the Xaghash (lesser Darklords) and the Nadziranim (evil practitioners of Right-handed magic who once aided individual Darklord masters) fight for control. By virtue of their geographic locations, and the struggles taking place within them, each of these city-fortresses is isolated from the next and poses no immediate threat to the peoples of the Free Kingdoms. It is widely believed that by the time the Elder Magi and the Herbalish reach the walls of these strongholds 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.

Often, over the past two years, Lord Rimoah has warned you to be wary of one such group. They are known as the Cener Druids and they occupy a small forested realm to the south of the Stornlands called Ruel, which they have made virtually impregnable to invasion through the use of evil herbcraft. Once, long ago, after the defeat of Naar's greatest champion — Agarash the Damned — they were used by Naar as agents of revenge. Then they formulated and released a plague that decimated the Elder Magi and left the way open for their conquest of Magnamund. Now the Elder Magi fear that, as before, Naar will use them again to enact revenge for the defeat of his champions. They fear that they will seek to destroy the Second Order of the Kai before it becomes too strong, for your quest for mastery of the Grand Master Disciplines has opened a door to such goodly power that even Naar himself may be unable to counter it. Unless he closes that door, others of your kind could soon be following in your footsteps.

Already the Elder Magi have petitioned the courts of all the Freeland rulers, beseeching them to act immediately and destroy the Cenerese before it is too late. Many of the kingdoms they have visited unwittingly harboured secret sects of Cener Druids who practised their vile herbcraft, often in remote areas. Sommerlund was one such land. Only a year ago, a sect of Cenerese was found in the foothills of the Durncrags engaging in blood rituals at a site less than a day's ride from the Kai Monastery. News of this prompted action which brought about a scourge of the Lastlands and forced many Cenerese sects to flee to the safety of Ruel. The regular armies of three nations — Palmyrion, Lourden, and Slovia — are now encamped around its border in an attempt to contain the Cener threat. They remain watchful, but that is all they can hope to do. The Cenerese are too powerful within their own domain for the Freeland armies to dare launch an invasion. One such attempt has already ended in disaster. Six months ago an allied force numbering seven thousand men entered the Forest of Ruel, intent on storming the Cenerese fortress of Mogaruith and razing it to the ground. Seven thousand men went into the forest; only seventy returned alive.

Despite the vigilance of the three Freeland armies, the containment of the Cenerese threat within Ruel has not been entirely successful. To the south, the Cenerese can enter and leave their realm by means of tunnels which honeycomb the Skardos Mountains. These secret passages emerge in the free state of Caron, at the northern edge of the Rootstrangle Swamp which, in due course, drains into the Tentarias (the great waterway which divides the northern and southern continents of Magnamund). Once access to the Tentarias has been achieved, the Cenerese are virtually free to sail to any port or country of their choosing. Caron is helpless to prevent the Cenerese from using this route through their land. They are a poor nation with few resources, and the Rootstrangle Swamp is one of the most difficult places to patrol. It comprises a constantly shifting morass of mud flats and rotting vegetation, inhabited only by Tzargs — a carnivorous race of frog-like animals originally bred by the Cenerese for the sole purpose of guiding them through the swamp's ever-shifting channels.

On midsummer's day, Lord Rimoah arrived at the monastery without, as was customary on such occasions, any forewarning of his visit. His unexpected appearance surprised the other Kai and caused them to speculate in whispers about the reasons for his journey. Yet his coming was of no surprise to you. For days you had experienced a feeling of unease, a presentiment that your orderly life at the monastery was about to undergo a dramatic change. Rimoah brought with him a glass phial of pale green liquid, a liquid that was proof-positive that the Cenerese were indeed preparing to enact Naar's revenge upon the Free Kingdoms of Magnamund.

The phial had been found among the possessions of a Cener Druid who had been caught in the city of Ragadorn after having been followed there by a watchful Herbwarden from Bautar. Under interrogation, the Cener revealed that he had been sent to Ragadorn by Arch Druid Cadak, the ruler of Ruel, to distribute the phials of this liquid to agents sympathetic to the Cenerese cause. The Herbwarden had sent the phial to Dessi where the Elder Magi, upon analysing the liquid, discovered it to be a powerful vaccine against a new and complex plague virus. Judging by the composition of the vaccine, this plague virus would prove to be several times more lethal than the Great Plague which had so devastated their race thousands of years ago. The Cener succeeded in taking his own life before he revealed further details, but, judging from the evidence in their possession, the Elder Magi were convinced that the Cenerese are getting ready to unleash an airborne plague virus that could kill all the living creatures of Magnamund, save those that had ingested the vaccine.

Rimoah informs you that the Elder Magi are unable to replicate the vaccine in huge quantities, and even if they were so able, to distribute it to every living creature on Magnamund would be an impossible task.

‘The Herbwardens are sure that the Cener they found in Ragadorn was one of the first of those sent out of Mogaruith to distribute this vaccine,’ said Rimoah, his voice uncharacteristically sombre. ‘Therefore we must act quickly if we are to destroy the virus before Cadak is ready to release it into the atmosphere. Someone must enter Mogaruith. They must find and destroy the plague virus, and they must ensure that this evil work can never again be resumed.’

For a long moment you stood in silence staring into Rimoah's unblinking eyes. Then, with a nod of your head, you acknowledged what had to be done. Only a Kai Grand Master possesses the skills and experience that would be essential to the success of this vital mission … and there is only one Kai Grand Master.

BOOK: The Plague Lords of Ruel
13.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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