Chapter 1
Issuing the Challenge

AT 1077 (AZ 1449) - Early Summer
The Black Keep, the Darklands

The Monarch Lich, ruler of the Chaos Dominion, was not content with the Darklands alone. The cursed lands could fall no farther into darkness and decay and therefore offered nothing for him. He sought fresh lands, vibrant and green, to cast into shadow and choke of all life.
His will was fixed on claiming Zephyr, one of the great strongholds in the West, not only of the humans but the Children of the Forest as well. Three hundred years ago, Zephyr's power had overturned the Dominion's invasion and broken its might. Now that the Dominion was restored, he wanted to take that power and break it as it had once broken the old Dominion.
Though Lich blood grows in potency with age, the Monarch Lich was not yet free of the taint of his mother's human blood. He wanted to take his armies across the sea, following in the same folly as the last King, but this foolish scheme was checked by his chief advisor, the very creature who had delivered him from the world of light. Dox the Dark Eternal was inheritor of the ancient Black Lich's will and so guided the Dark Race in its quest for perfection.
There was no arguing with his sublime reason, he who carried the spirit of the one who came closest to achieving their goal. Pride was a human flaw. For all a Lich's power, it could not be sustained in a mortal shell, not for long. As a Lich grows in his ancestral power, so too does his mortal cage become more vulnerable. Why go to them in their strength when they could be lured here, where the cursed land afforded every advantage?
Before receiving the Dark Eternal's counsel, the Monarch Lich had already dispatched scouting parties months earlier to ascertain the strengths and weaknesses of Notos--the site of the former king's defeat--in anticipation of the invasion. Though the plan for an immediate invasion was cast aside, there was much to be learned from the expedition. More importantly, he had been given the instrument that would goad Zephyr to action.
Several humans were captured and brought back with the scouting parties. Only one survived to be presented to the Monarch Lich in the Black Keep. He had the victim flayed alive so that his skin could be prepared as a parchment. The human's blood was drained for ink and his fat melted down to be used as sealing wax. Such a technique was not unheard of in the dark arts, but it would shake the souls of the weak-hearted servant of the Light.
A scribe sat patiently with the hide of the slain human spread out before him with a bowl of the red ink and thin quill of bone in his hand. The Monarch Lich paced as he considered his words. These humans were not like the creatures of the Darklands he subdued to become King. He could not use the same approach. How do you strike fear into a mortal's heart and still entice him to run willingly to his own doom?
It took some time for the inspiration to strike, but final letter read:

To the pale king who clings to a dying Light:

For three hundred years the Chaos Dominion has slumbered, but now it is reborn more powerful than ever. The Darkness is coming for you. Soon you will see your land fall to my grand fell army.

I am not hasty, but neither am I idle. You will not know the day, but I will surely come. Fight and die or surrender and die. It is all the same. Your defeat is inevitable. A shade you will linger in this world, forever my servant. Remember that every time the sun sets, the Darkness reigns. Remember during that time, I am near.

Perhaps there is mote of courage in your breast and you wish to struggle futilely against the inevitable. Show me your resolve. I will be waiting, but do not keep me waiting long.

The Monarch Lich
Lord and Ruler of the Chaos Dominion
Scion of the Dark Race

That should have the desired effect. He infused the seal with a touch of his power. Hopefully it would be enough even for their weak mages to discern the authenticity of the letter.
The scribe then gave the letter to an attendant to send it off to its destination. Meanwhile, the Monarch Lich returned to the throne to await the rush of fools that was sure to come.