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Yuri Molotov - Death Knightby John Calvin from Threshold Magazine issue 1
Once held up as the shining paragon of Traladaran culture, the name Yuri Molotov now serves to send frightened children under their bed covers at night, and evokes signs against evil from all adults who hear it.
"How can you be sure it was him?" Gregor asked his sister.
"It was him," Mila replied. "A fortnight ago someone attacked the caravan from Hattia, and none of the soldiers sent from Halag ever returned. And," Mila continued before her brother could interrupt her, "you heard the fisherman as well as I. He saw the white drake in the sky."
"Tales told by fisherfolk... that's what we're risking our necks over?" Gregor did little to hide the contempt from his voice, but still he followed his sister into the dark woods.
"Bargle thinks it's him as well..." Mila said into the dark. The moon was new and little light shown through forest canopy to begin with. "I've overheard him twice now cursing Yuri's name."
The two continued their journey in silence for most of the night. There was no turning back now however, since Mila had stolen several of their supplies from her erstwhile master. "Stop. We're near now," she said and found a patch of leaves to sit down on. Reaching into a black pouch at her side the Traladaran woman took out several rune covered bones and threw them to the ground.
Gregor could hear his own breathing. The forest was still. Too still. It was an unnatural silence. He tried to calm himself, tried to control the heavy breaths that escaped his mouth, but the burning in his lungs made that impossible.
Then they were there, standing in front of them, almost as if they materialised just as the first rays of the morning sun penetrated the shadows. Two figures, their armour chipped and dented, their mail rusty, and bones clearly visible underneath their helms. Mila continued to sit in the leaves, her legs crossed, and chanted softly under her breath. The two figures advanced. In unison they drew swords. Mila continued her chanting.
Suddenly she stopped and lurched to her feet. The two figures halted and lowered their swords. "Take me to Yuri," Mila commanded.
All of those years of seething hatred had led Mila and her brother to this place. At last the means to avenge their parents was within their grasp. Dozens of men, or at least what appeared to have been men at one time, mulled silently around the camp site. Mila ignored them as they looked up revealing dead eyes and yellowing bones. She focused her attention on the figure seated in the makeshift throne in the centre of the camp.
Mia dropped to one knee. "My lord, we have travelled far to seek your guidance. We pledge ourselves to you and your cause," she declared. "All we ask is the chance to avenge ourselves upon the hated Thyatians."
The thing that was Yuri stood up. Red flares of light flickered in the darkness that once held his eyes. "I will grant your wish," his hollow voice rang out.
Mila cringed, nearly screaming out in pain as cold hands gripped her shoulders. Behind her Gregor did let out a gasp. Their former guides seized them and forced them to the ground on their knees. Yuri's sword rasped as he drew it from its rusty scabbard.
"No my lord!" Mila gasped. "We offer ourselves freely to your cause. We pledge our lives to you." The sweat was beading down her face. "We will serve you!"
"Yes," Yuri's hollow voice echoed through the camp as he brought down his sword. "... I know you will..."
Death Knight Yuri Molotov astride Bruhminghet
by I. Calvin
Yuri grew up in a small nameless village under the shadows of Dymrak Forest in eastern Traladara. Working on his father’s farm from a very young age, he mucked out stables and tended fields of stunted grains. Yuri spent his free time with the animals, which he considered more his friends than any of his peers. He could do little but silently seethe when the Thyatians came to collect their taxes, and found himself watching helplessly as they slowly but steadily siphoned away what little vitality was left of their small community. Not wanting to see his father’s farm wither away into nothingness, Yuri decided to leave. At twelve years of age he snuck off, determined to make a better life for himself, and followed the coast westward until arriving at Specularum.
Yet, the city proved a disappointment to Yuri, who found little more to support himself than the same type of stable work he had left behind on the farm. Still, his affinity for animals served him well when happenstance favored him with the care of Sir Valdri Tescu’s hunting falcon. Impressed with the boy’s skills, Tescu took him on as a squire and began teaching Yuri the art of knighthood.
Valdri was a member of the Order of the White Drake – elite soldiers trained in the Thyatian arts of aerial combat, each swearing a personal oath of service to the Emperor of Thyatis himself. Despite his misgivings of the Thyatian order, Yuri accepted Tescu’s tutelage and prospered, quickly attaining knighthood alongside his mentor. He was inducted into the Order of the White Drake in AC 937, at the age of 18. During his time as a knight he repulsed humanoid raiders from Radlebb, hunted rogue wyverns over Kelvin, and even led several strikes against the frost giants of the Altan Tepes. On one such raid Yuri returned with the white dragon Bruhminghet (Hoarfrost) in tow, subdued and submissive to Yuri's commands.
Like Valdri Tescu before him, Yuri actively sought out others disenfranchised by the Thyatians to fill out the membership of the Order, slowly replacing the aging Thyatian elite. The local Traladrarn populace nearly worshipped him, proclaiming that he was one of the Traldar heroes of old, returned to free their people. With all of his skills and charisma, it was little wonder that Yuri quickly ascended to be Master of the Order.
Yuri’s Downfall and Fate
When the Alphatians began their Spike Assault in AC 960, Yuri saw his chance. He deployed those of his order still loyal to Thyatis to the far corners of Traladara. The rest – those loyal to Yuri – he held back in reserve, and watched as skyships bombarded Thyatian cities. When Thincol Torion’s rebellion succeeded however, Yuri’s hopes were dashed. The new Emperor of Thyatis branded Yuri and his followers as traitors, and sent the legions back in to Traladara to quell all unrest and reinstate Thyatian law.
Those who once extolled Yuri as a hero, now shunned him for fear of Thyatian retribution. Emperor Thincol sent the court wizard Demetrion and his pet dragon Hytiliaph to bring Yuri to justice, but Yuri would not go down without a fight. High over the dark pines of Dymrak the pair battled atop their dragon mounts, but Bruhminghet was no match for the gold dragon. The pair fell to their deaths in a blaze of flame and ice… and blood.
Yuri’s spirit however, would not slumber in peace.
Yuri Molotov (Death Knight)
Yuri’s skin is stretched thin across his face, every inch of it desiccated and blackened by frost. The bronze armor he wears permeates with magic from another age. His sword Unifier, gifted to him by Valdri Tescu, is an heirloom of Traladaran heroes passed down throughout the ages.
Yuri Molotov (Death Knight): AC 1; HD 14; hp 80; MV 60’ (20’); #AT 1; D 1-4 cold touch, or by weapon; Save as F14; ML 10; AL C. Yuri also wears magical armor (banded +2, protection from cold, and a shield), and carries Unifier (short sword +2, +3 vs. gnolls).
Bruhminghet (Undead Dragon)
Once a powerful and vibrant large white dragon, Bruhminghet’s rotting remains are animated by the same malignant force that brought Yuri back from the dead. She serves Yuri in death, even as she did in life, acting as his mount and closest ally. Despite being imbued with a dark intelligence all her own, the once white dragon is completely devoted to her master.
Bruhminghet (Undead White Dragon): AC 1; HD 9; hp 65; MV 120’ (40’), Fly 300’ (100’); #AT 2 claws/1 bite; Airborne up to 6; D 2d8+4 (bite or crush), 1d6+1 (claws, kicks, wings, tail), ; Save as F18; ML 12; AL C.
Frost giants both fear and hate him, remembering the time he once hunted them. Many of their dead have joined his ranks. In addition to the undead foot soldiers who serve him, former members of the order have also joined his ranks – most riding undead versions of the white wyverns they rode in life. Despite this, Yuri’s own allegiances have changed since he was living. As a Death Knight he no longer cares about the petty politics of the world. Instead his wrath drives Yuri to bring pain and anguish to the living… and to extinguish such life when he can. He may be courted by other dark organization in the world, and on occasion even see fit to lend them support, but ultimately Yuri owes allegiance to himself alone.
Yuri’s camp moves constantly and ranges throughout the Dymrak from the Barony of Vorloi to the peaks of the Altan Tepes. Wherever he goes freezing winds follows him, and locals curse his name during every early frost or late winter.
Even in death Yuri is drawn toward his childhood home, and camps often near Rugalov Keep. His true goal is to retake the keep with his undead army and unleash the power locked deep inside the former Aerodrome where a secret portal to the Plane of Air awaits. Once used by the Order of the White Drake to control the winds of Traladara, Yuri plans to corrupt the portal for his own ends. He will unleash an endless freezing zephyr that will cover his former homeland in a deep and everlasting ice.
The armor Yuri wears once belonged to the First King of Traladara, Ithron Ivanov, crafted for the king shortly before he unified the Traladaran clans in BC 171, and the Seers say he desecrates it with his presence. They have put a call out to end Yuri’s evil and return his sword and armor to the Traladaran church.
Undead giants infused with the cold of winter have begun pouring out of the Altan Tepes Mountains and threatening nearby settlements. Hushed whispers name Yuri Molotov as the power behind these horrors. Despite the peril, these attacks in the north are mere feints designed to draw his opponents astray, as Yuri’s attention lies further south.
Rugalov Keep, once the famed Aerodrome of the Order of the White Drake, has fallen on dark times. Sentries disappear, silent creatures roam the countryside, and a frost laden wind blows down from the north. Yuri knows the secret passageways within the keep and plans to take it from within. He will then use it as a base of operations to spread his cold death both into Thyatis and Karameikos.
Yuri Molotov - Death Knight
by John Calvin
by John Calvin
The Order of the White Drake - A History
by Geoff Gander, special thanks to James Ruhland, Tharquil, and Jamuga Khan]
History of Traladara
by Francesco Defferrari]