The Crusaders

Abd al-Hazir

Diablo



In the eastern kingdom of Kehjistan, I heard rumors of Zakarum warriors called crusaders. While the natives were most reticent, I was able to deduce that this order was founded two hundred years ago, just as Rakkis took his army of paladins west. But these crusaders went east on a very different mission.

My studies indicate that a high level cleric of the Zakarum named Akkhan began to sense the corruption that was eating away at the heart of his faith. He knew this corruption would eventually destroy his beloved church and that he must take action. After much prayer, Akkhan hit upon the idea of an order of crusaders.

Akkhan gathered the most devout, driven and martial Zakarum adherents. He taught them to channel the power of Light, in the same way that the newly founded paladins were being trained. But these recruits, these crusaders, were given insight into the primal powers of Zakarum, in a way no paladin ever was.

When the crusaders had learned all they could, Akkhan sent them out into the world, seeking a way to cleanse the corruption that coiled at the heart of the Zakarum faith. There was no clear goal for them to pursue, and some clerics claimed it was a fool's errand, that they could never succeed. But these crusaders would not be deterred.

The Crusaders swore an oath to dedicate their lives to the search. None believed that they would be the one to end the crusade by finding and cleansing the corruption. They believed the search enabled them, that the discipline of their life and journey was the true goal. The crusader was meant to find meaning in the quest itself.

Each and every crusader was a warrior of rare strength. They had mastered the power of Light, of weapon and shield, and of self. Each was sworn to live as a crusader and to die as one. Two hundred years ago, they took their apprentices and set out into the eastern swamplands. They were never heard from again. Until now.

Rumors swirl that the crusaders have returned, and that they mean to go to the west. But who are these tall, blond warriors? They look nothing like the crusaders who set out from Travincal two hundred years ago, and those who inhabit the ruins of that ancient city suspect trickery!

I recently met a returning crusader, and now I understand. Each crusader took an apprentice. When a crusader fell, his apprentice would take up his armor, his place in the order, and even his very name! When the first generation of crusaders fell, their own apprentices took up their identities. And so it has continued for two hundred years.

Of the original four hundred and twenty seven crusaders who disappeared into the east, three hundred and forty one return. Do they still seek the redemption of their faith? How will they react to the destruction of the city that birthed their crusade? Will they continue west to the lands of Westmarch? What does their return portend?