As we're experiencing some technical difficulties uploading images to Kickstarter, the update for the 22nd Quest Goal unlock for Bardsung has been shared here instead.
Heroes, you have done it. You have unleashed the vengeful Forsaken! Now, for better or worse, this rage-filled boss will be added to your pledge…
We are fast approaching the final hours, friends. We have achieved much here already. And your skill and bravery have not gone unnoticed.
But it is not over yet.
As we embark on this our last venture, the choices you make will matter more than ever. It is time for you to truly choose our path.
Return here when the clock strikes 21:00 UTC, hero. Then, our final quest begins.
For now, I will leave you with this story, and the wounded pride of a fallen lion…
Pride of the Lion
By Carl Danes
I need to leave this place.
Judgement still hangs in the air, thick like smoke, slow to dissipate.
It hurts like a fresh wound.
Faces in the crowd stare. I see some small measure of pity, but it is easily eclipsed by scorn and mockery. My only recourse is to spit the ashes of defeat from my mouth, turn on my heel, and head towards the heavy door.
The nauseating stink of spoiled food and spilled drink remains with me as I stalk into the night air, cat calls and laughter still audible above the wind. Slamming the door dispels the voices for the moment at least, until they wander into my mind as vicious echoes, nails driving a jagged pain into my heart.
I gave these people my devotion. My honour.
On feet suddenly uncertain, I make my way to the stable. A wedge of snow has piled against the doors by this late hour, but it is easily kicked aside to reveal the entrance. Cold fury has begun to replace pain now, lending my arm strength as I toss the weathered bar aside.
The stench is worse in the stable than the tavern, but the scent of dung feels twice as apt for these people. No doubt startled by my presence, the horses inside shuffle nervously, the closest, a dappled grey, neighing and clumsily bumping its stall. A fleeting smile forms under bristles already growing shaggy from long days protecting the caravans around this misbegotten village. Then it is gone. These creatures are pack animals, not hunters.
The mare snickers and tries to pull away as I saddle and lead her out into the night, but my arm is stronger. By the time I climb onto her back, she has submitted and ceases her struggles. The raucous celebration within the Five Corners rankles enough for me to drive a hard spur into my mount, and we race away at pace through the dirt streets.
The guards at the gates earn only my contempt as I pass. Most are either too young or old to raise their blades in any semblance of resistance to an intruder, and those that might are addled drunks.
These people did not deserve my fealty.
The final man looks up as I reach the threshold, seeing me through tired eyes dimmed by sand and age.
‘You leaving early?’ His voice is muffled behind a heavy scarf. ‘Scouting the way ahead of the others?’
His attempt at niceties earns a quick retort. ‘It seems these fools have decided I am not good enough!’ My words are thick with emotion. The old veteran gulps, and nods sombrely. If he has his own thoughts on the matter, he wisely chooses to keep his council, tugging open the rusted metal gate in silence.
As I ride under the arch, he apparently has a change of heart. ‘If it’s any consolation, they made a mistake!’
I don’t need your sympathy.
‘Yes, they have,’ I snarl. ‘One they will not forget!’
Any hint of revelry fast fading to faint whispers, I begin my journey into the mist swathed mountains above, the path ahead swallowed by darkness.
My steel parries the hobgoblin’s crude blade with ease, my riposte drawing a retaliatory red line across the creature’s throat. With a gurgle and a clatter of mismatched armour my assailant falls to the ground, another lifeless corpse beside its comrade, both now feed for the rats and other vermin.
I hadn't expected these two to be here, assuming this twisted trail a secret. Silence reigns and the darkness is stygian, leeching the light from my lantern as I descend. Meltwater forms pools beneath my boots, ominous creaks and booms beneath the earth reverberating through their soles.
My blood mingles with these puddles, ebbing from minor wounds suffered along the way. I almost lost an eye to the shaman. The beast clawed at my face as I throttled him with my bare hands, murdering his witchcraft before it might leave his tongue.
It matters little. The goblins and bugbears have learnt to fear me. Their guttural tongues whisper warning to one another as I pass through their territory, faint scratching at the edge of my hearing. Those that do dare to face me are quickly despatched.
My purpose cannot be swayed.
The unexpected foes I have encountered here, the sinister, sable armoured dwarves, allow me passage unmolested as they make war upon the goblinoids above. Do I detect fear in their cold eyes? Maybe. I have felled a handful of their number, my sword stained with their blood even now.
But I suspect their executioner, armed with his ceremonial axe, saw something else. The grudging respect I was denied above ground, perhaps, or acceptance that we are kindred spirits of sorts, the betrayal that led me here a pain he, too, has suffered. His words are emblazoned upon my mind, intoned as he ordered his guard to stand aside.
‘Seek your fate below then, hero. We will not stop you!’
His insane laughter still follows me, as I forge ever deeper.
Are we kindred spirits? I have no interest in the troubles of those who abandoned me to this path, nor quarrel with the duergar. Yet, our destinies seem bound to this place…
The blood of horrors and foes unimaginable stain my gauntlets. My blessed shield is a dented and shattered mess, long discarded somewhere above. My armour fares little better, hidden under a ragged cloak.
But I cannot, will not, stop. I will prove those who slighted me wrong. Their heroes are weak and pathetic sycophants, blindly following the folly of the bards. Their magics will fail, their bows snap, and their steel bend. I will be the one laughing, as I watch them crawl away with their tails between their legs, bloody and beaten.
I am a hunter, as I have always been. And all they shall ever be is prey.
They will never reach as far into the Ancient Forge as I have. Never discover the truth of this holy place.
For there is something here. A presence. Its very existence bleeds power into the air. The creatures here flee it. But not I. It whispers to me, beckons me onwards. Applauds my victories. Gives me strength. Nothing but praise from a worthy liege.
I have forged a kingdom here, deep within the earth, where the ancient people once toiled. I am their successor. I have taken up the mightiest artefacts from another age to replace what I once wielded and wore, blessed by my new patron, a powerful god of old.
I alone am worthy.
I have slain and broken the will of the things that sought to feast upon my heart, enslaved them to my cause. I have triumphed, I am the conqueror! Creatures feral, bestial, and mighty now bow to me.
So, I sit here upon my cracked throne of cold steel. Waiting. Waiting for my old comrades. My supposed betters. I am patient. Come and be judged, as I was judged. Let us see who will triumph, the chosen or the FORSAKEN!
For I have inspired no songs, as I lived my legend. And as I am regarded as no hero, I refuse the mockery of becoming Bardsung.