"Do you not see what I see?
Do you not hear death approaching?"
--Final words of Jarl Grimr II, last ruler of Nordhelm
Once upon a time, Nordhelm was a thriving city. Skalds still remember Nordhelm's best may-fairs and scribes can recount the celebrated lives of the Jarls, back many generations into history, who helped turn the farmlands into a village into a town into a city. Skilled craftsmen of all sorts populated the Nordhelm economy with works of such intense mastery that merchants would embark on pilgrimages to be the first one of the season.
It was the first of these merchants, last spring, who happened upon a different Nordhelm. The Jarl of that time, Jarl Grimr II, had taken ill and half of the population of Nordhelm had disappeared. Livestock were few and far between and the work of the remaining craftsmen was mediocre at best. Though troubling, the merchants were more annoyed than worried. They left and made sure to tell those they passed in the wilds of what they found. Most merchants turned back, but a faithful few stayed the course. A month after the first merchants of the season had arrived, the last people to see Nordhelm and live to tell of it arrived.
No male survived between the ages of ten and sixty. Women were bruised, malnourished, pale, and pregnant. Jarl Grimr the II had gone mad and locked himself in the highest tower of his fortress. Stray animals meandered the streets, rife with disease and fleas.
Still, it was after the sun set that the merchants truly experienced the new horror of Nordhelm. Only two of the original five merchants ever made it out of Nordhelm and of those two, only one survived with any recognizable portion of his wits. Unfortunately, the man chewed off his own tongue.
So what horror lay in Nordhelm? What eldritch myth arose from the lands to consume the shining beacon of art? The two merchants who survived can only hint at the depraved terrors they experienced while any who have gone back have never been seen again. What about you, stranger? Will you brave the dreaded wilds? Will you survive the bitter voyage? Will you discover Nordhelm's fate?
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