The desolate Far North has been an inhospitable place since time immemorial. The vast wasteland has never been a place for civilized folk. But for some centuries, the North has been more than just hostile terrain; it is where the dead walk and where the spirits of the once-living haunt those few who dare to enter.
Most surviving myth and legend depict the land of the dead — Hades, the Underworld, the Shadowfell, or whatever name man might have for it — as an otherworldly place that only a few living mortals are unfortunate enough to reach by accident or by design. The Breach stands in plain defiance of these long-held truths, a line between the worlds of the living and of the dead. To enter the land of the dead, one must simply put one foot in front of the other, if one indeed has the courage to do so.
What exact chain of events led to the creation of the Breach has been lost to history, but theories abound. Regardless of its origins, the fact remains that the line advances further south every year, blighting acres of fertile farmland and pristine wilderness. The Five Nations of Amnos banded together to form the Covenant, a territorial force dedicated to driving back the hordes of despicable creatures that ravage the countryside, and to finding the root cause of the Blight and to stopping or reversing it.
Orcus, the demon prince of the undead, and Vecna, the lich turned deity of secrets, both seek to usurp control of the Shadowfell from the Raven Queen, the rightful goddess of death. Both Orcus and Vecna have conquered large swaths of territory just beyond the Breach, and use it as a staging area for attacks upon the natural world. Orcus’s legions favor brute force, sending wave after wave of zombies, ghouls, and other mindless creatures to attack living settlements. Vecna instead favors subterfuge and intrigue, corrupting and controlling those in positions of power with more intelligent undead, such as vampires and liches. Agents of the Raven Queen do what they can against the combined forces of Orcus and Vecna, and, fortunately, there is no love lost between the two villains. In fact, the only reason that Amnos is not yet overrun with the undead is that Orcus and Vecna refuse to work with one another, and frequently war amongst themselves.
The leadership of the Covenant has learned very little about its enemies in the past hundred years.
Ya’az, one of Orcus’s most favored shadow demons, runs the show for the demon prince. His current strategy is to wear down the legions of the living with overwhelming numbers of expendable undead troops. He enjoys experimenting with zombies and ghouls, coming up with new, more fearsome varieties to surprise and horrify his enemies. Rumor has it that he has also begun experiments on blending living beings with the undead.
Kaldrath is an ancient lich who was once a powerful sorcerer, and has been in Vecna’s service for centuries. He is as cold and calculating as Ya’az is brash and bold, preferring to conquer territory through the use of bribery, corruption, and subterfuge rather than force.
Both Ya’az and Kaldrath have learned the secrets behind the ever-advancing Breach and how to effect its expansion. A horrific ritual requiring the sacrifice of countless souls is performed upon a relic, which is then infused with the essence of the Shadowfell. As long as the relic remains stationary, it causes the Breach to expand farther and farther into the natural world. For this reason, such reliquaries are fiercely guarded by Ya’az or Kaldrath. The nature of the relics themselves has only recently been discovered by the Covenant.
Decorated heroes from across Amnos have been called to gather in Covenant territory to embark on a perilous quest. The Covenant is slowly losing its war of attrition with the forces of the undead, and so, instead of losing rank upon rank of good soldiers to the attacking hordes, small strike forces will take the fight to the undead and attempt to destroy the dread relics and prevent the creation of new ones.
Your characters are among the select few volunteers to be chosen for one of a half-dozen strike forces. It would be called a suicide mission, but it’s worse than simple suicide; it’s highly likely that your animated corpse will return to do battle against your former comrades. Are you up to the task?