Darkness. A steady thrum grows in your ears along with a heavy sense of foreboding, and you open your eyes, feeling something warm trickle down your face. Drums pounding, or is it your heart racing? Opening eyes wide, you strain against the darkness, motes of red and green light dance before your eyes, but you see nothing. An oppressive heat and a wave of humidity assaults your lungs. The warm liquid touches your lips, warm and ferric. Blood. A pain both sharp and dull clouds your mind and a trickle down your throat. It’s your blood. The last memories flit through your mind like evasive whisps, and you moan, trying to lift your hand to your temple, attempting to cradle your boulder-head, but everything feels heavy. It’s far easier to succumb to the agony, and you drift into a pained doze.
Before you arises a hazy, vast, shadowy jungle. Behind you, the sound of wolves, wargs, drakes, or some other blood-crazed tracking creatures, goaded on by the hiss and roar of their humanoid masters. With only thoughts of survival in mind, you flee to the shadows of the jungle. Running or flying, you aren’t sure, but you move with preternatural speed, putting distance between yourself and your pursuers. With every passing moment, the jungle grows darker until you can barely see. As you wander through the shadows, a cold, yet comforting aura of verdant darkness envelopes you: refreshing relief from the sweltering heat of the muggy rainforest. Feeling through the shadow, the forest gives way to vast caverns of black crystal, emitting, in places, an eerie violet flame that is equal parts cool, refreshing, and disconcerting. A dark figure moves before you, kneeling before a vast crystalline shallow cauldron within which a violet flame swirls in a vortex. The figure notices you, and its glowing green eyes spark fear and curiosity in you. Upon making eye contact, your senses meld into the surrounding labyrinth of mysterious dark crystal, and the figure beckons you. Compelled onward toward the flame, the figure stands, hand outstretched, offering you a bright glowing object. As you examine the figure’s hands, you see a green vine, coiling and writhing like and serpent. You take the vine in your hands, and vast warmth spreads over your arm. The shade gestures toward the swirling flame, and you toss the vine in. Suddenly the vine grows and writhes, breaking off crystalline shards from the surrounding cavern as though taking root until it forms a giant hulk, some sort of ferocious magical beast, and it lets loose an otherworldly roar, challenging you. A mysterious bond with the creature tells you that the aberration does not wish to kill you. Though if you fail, it might. Power pervades your body, and you ready yourself for its test.
An arc of thunderous pain jolts you awake! The ionized char of ozone and burned flesh assaults your nostrils, and the stench of death knocks you lucid. Hearing the snarl of some creature, you look around to find the soft amber glow of a lightstick, powered by a sol elemental. Another jolt, and a flash of blue light, searing agony flows through your body, and though you fight it, a pained howl escapes your lips. You see a large tusked creature cackle in glee at your suffering, hunched, and odiferous as a herd of wild boar. The troll grabs the oppressively undersized cage, your new home, and shakes the entire thing, rattling you about like a rag doll and reigniting the aches from so much blunt trauma and the stiffness in your joints from the awkward position in which you had been unconscious in your cramped confinement. Your tormentor, satisfied with your dissatisfaction, moves on to its next victim.
You wait until the troll leaves and call out, quietly, to the darkness. As you wait for the guard to leave, your eyes adjust to the darkness punctuated by twilight shining through a lone portcullis. You are in a large wooden room, surrounded by similar cages filled with other humanoids, though in another room, you hear the snarl of beasts. The air is dank with heat, moisture, and a schmorgasboard of vile smells. “Is anyone else here alive?” you ask. After a few moments, hear a response. At least you are not alone…