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The Dragon's Claw Canyon, it's called. Home. You've never seen the whole thing, of course, it's too big for that. But they say it's shaped like the footprint of a dragon, its massive foot and three clawed toes. A mile deep and four hundred miles at its longest, it's the only world you've ever known. It's home.

They say that Avamere was once a city of majestic beauty, its spires reaching high towards heaven, brightly-colored banners fluttering in the gentle breezes. The High King had his court there, and the Knights of the Chalice gathered there in fellowship and service. The first High King had founded the Knights to drive out the troglodytes of the Dragon's Claw, making room for humans and halflings to live in peace. This they did, in the year 907, the year of the founding of the Kingdom Avamere. Centuries of peace followed under the benevolent rule of a line of High Kings, each chosen by election from among the holy Knights of the Chalice.

Twelve hundred and seventy-two was the year it all ended. No one seems to know the true reason why. Stories abound—wizards meddling with powers beyond their control; the High King, corrupted, bargaining with forces of evil; elves tunneling too deep into the earth—no one knows the cause for certain, but the effect is clear, and its name is Night.

A foul demon prince or evil demigod, Night overthrew the High King, destroyed his castle at the heart of Avamere, and conjured in its place a magnificent palace of obsidian and black marble. With Night came hordes of loathsome evil minions—demons and other creatures from the pits of the Abyss. The Knights of the Chalice were scattered and banned. Practice of the old religion was outlawed. The once-proud kingdom dissolved into anarchy, with the minions of Night setting themselves up as the law. The strong rule, while the weak either cooperate or die.


Twenty-five years have come and gone since the arrival of Night, and its power has only grown. Those who fail to obey its rules are hunted down, sometimes torn to pieces in the streets. Night's rules are simple. Following the old religion is punishable by death. Mentioning the High King or the Knights of the Chalice brings death. Gathering in groups of 9 or more, in public or private, brings a severe beating at least. Burying the dead, instead of bringing them to a servant of Night, is punishable by death . . . or something worse than death.

With the High King long gone and the Knights of the Chalice dispersed, the humanoids are returning, and large regions near the tips of the canyons have fallen back under their control. The elves and dwarves withdraw ever deeper into their tunnels, fleeing the evil influence of Night. Gnomish merchants bring fewer and fewer of the subterranean goods to the surface world. The halflings of the forest and the humans with their towns and farms continue to struggle by under Night's fearsome rule. It is no longer possible to trust even a member of one's own family, let alone a neighbor, since informants and spies are well-paid by the agents of Night. Those who actively serve the demons are paid better still. It is possible to get ahead in this world—if you're strong, if you're willing to turn against everything you ever believed in, if you're ready to stab your best friend in the back should the need arise.

On the other hand, it is possible to resist. You have seen a glimmer of hope, however faint, a sign that the tide may yet turn back to good and Night somehow be banished from Dragon's Claw Canyon forever. The sign? A black unicorn—just like the one on the banners of Avamere—a live black unicorn that touched you just once and changed your life forever. There are others who have seen it, too, others who have been gifted with magical powers by the unicorn—others you can trust. Others who will join you to resist the power of Night.