Year 2429 – Saranday, September 20 – The Ritual of Judges
A cliff side glows orange as the setting sun hits it, shining brightly on a colossal mark that appears to have been etched into the cliff wall. The mark appears to be a word written in ancient draconic tongue and has never been deciphered. At the edge of the cliff stands a human male with brown hair and a goatee, about 40 years of age, regal with his golden ceremonial robes.
Five soldiers clad in large, elaborate silver armor, Judges of Terra, march up to the man on the cliff, passing an old monument without care of it. Each step is in sync with one another, the armor making little noise as they approach the man. Behind them, the city seems empty. And once the five reach the man, they kneel before him.
“Osylith, do you believe in the afterlife?” His gruff voice speaks with understanding and confidence. The man clearly asks the question not looking for an answer.
One of the soldiers responds. “My Sovereign, over half a century ago a god appeared on our world and then vanished. He hasn’t been seen since. I most certainly believe in the afterlife.”
“I am not your Sovereign,” the man replies with regret, “but we will march together in heaven.” He takes out an old, rusted dagger presses it to the neck of the soldier who had spoke. “In heaven…” Blood spills out from the neck onto the dry rock below them.
One by one, he takes the dagger to their throats and cuts. Five bodies now lay before him, blood pooling underneath him and running off the cliff face down to the glyph. He closes his eyes to stop the tears from running down his cheek. “In heaven.”
Year 2440 – Winesday, April 27 – Norrund’s Dream
Norrund Isanæ wakes in a cold cabin. There isn’t much in here: an empty table, chairs, no fireplace or kitchen. There’s a ladder that leads to a walled-in loft with a door covered in old fabric. Outside is snow and lots of it. Fir trees line a path to the town that leads up a hill. It’s a quiet night with even more snow softly falling to the ground.
This certainly isn’t the ship the dwarf has been sailing on for the past two days.
“Hello there! Who might you—OH!! What have we here!?” delights a human peeking his head out from the fabric above. He grabs the ladder and slides down. His features are a sharp contrast to his tousled brown hair, and his face lights up with expressiveness when he approaches the bearded dwarf. “You’re unique, aren’t you?”
Norrund stares quizzically at the man, not responding. Before either can get a word in, Norrund blinks and finds himself lying in his hammock, warm with sweat dripping from his brow and into his beard. The tinge of saltwater hits his eyes as he blinks them awake. It all must have been a dream. A splash of water on the face and an early stretch should shake the feeling.
But that dream seemed very real…
Year Unknown – Running Out of Options
“You’re running out of options,” says the githzerai, Muu’var to Kestral. Muu’var has served as an advisor since Kestral abandoned the Material Plane upon it being locked away from Planar Travel. He would never take on communicating with a lowly human being, at least not normally, for those of the Astral Plane walk with the dead gods and are far superior to any other race. But his relationship with Kestral was built out of desperation, and now he needs to make sure that the remaining god does not awaken.
Kestral is the host to the remaining god, and with Muu’var’s help the two are looking for a way to prevent his return. But they’ve expended most options.
“There is one remaining lead, but you won’t like it.” Muu’var’s hesitation is clear; this isn’t a plan he wants to pursue. “Travel to the first level of Hell. By going to his home you may find something.”
Kestral had no argument. It was a place he never wanted to return to, but it had been a few years without any other leads. And with much hesitation, he prepared to journey back to hell.
Year 2440 – Winesday, April 27 – A Party’s Party
Vodarr Tallus’s sea sickness finally abated. Could the five day oceanic journey finally be looking up for the elf? He hoped so. Anything would be better than being holed away in the cabin patiently trying to ignore the rocking of the waves. He gingerly gathered his things and took to the main deck to feel the breeze on his face. This was the first time he really got to take a look at any of the crew and passengers on this ship aside from boarding, and then he was too worried about the possibility of getting seasick.
The ship was a large cargo vessel sailing from Torin to Lilinith’ri. Vodarr found his way on to pursue his studies in a land he had not yet visited. It helped that he didn’t have much tying him to a specific place, which seemed to be the case for many of the other passengers and crew members. Up on deck, Vodarr caught the attention of a gnome scientist who introduced himself as Chadwick Songbreeze with an iguana companion Lazlo. The two seemed to make quick friends after the two realized a shared passion, and thus they planned to have drinks in the evening below deck.
Vodarr and Chadwick enjoyed each other’s company at dinner rather well. Both were so used to the lonely journey filled with solitary meals in their cabins. After their meal, Chadwick requested that they find a couple more people for their drink-filled party. Chadwick would seek out the company of the only human on-board, a young guard that had been stationed on deck throughout the trip. Vodarr would ask a dwarf who isolated himself from others to focus on his trinkets. Niether Chadwick or Vodarr were very persuasive in their invitations, but both of their guests accepted and met the two at their table.
The dwarf, Norrund Isanæ, slammed a coin pouch on the table. “First round is on me,” he insisted. The human guard, Finnian Alastar, let on that he would drink but not too excess. He still had a job to do the next morning and a hungover state would not suit him, though his reservations to alcohol seemed to be much more than just work-related. The four swapped stories over drinks, with Chadwick convincing everyone to keep the conversation away from work.
“I’ve been lost in my work all my life, and it’s kept me away from making any friends,” spoke Chadwick as the group departed for the night. “I just want you all to know, even if we don’t see each other after reaching Lilinith’ri, that I’ll remember this evening. Today has been one of the best days I can remember because of all of you.”
Year 2440 – Firesday, April 29 – Sinking Ships
Two mornings after the great evening, the ship is expecting to arrive in Lilinith’ri by the evening. Finnian takes his post early in the morning to the greeting of a thick fog over the ocean water with very little wind. He waits patiently, watching as the crew rises to take their posts. Soon, his new friends arrive on deck. The gnome, Chadwick, seems particularly tired; something about hearing women screaming in his dreams.
Finnian and Vodarr both notice the Captain and a crew member pensively looking out behind the ship. Finnian heads over to the railing to look, Vodarr follows, and the elf hears a hum off in the distance. It isn’t long after he hears this that the Captain announces to everyone on deck that passengers must return to their cabins. Confused, Vodarr, Norrund, and Chadwick head down as Finnian prepares for trouble.
Pirates are coming.
Two ships outfitted with Osylith-created steam engines race to the cargo ship, weapons at the ready. Finnian raises his shield and gets behind it when a few bullets from a rifle pass right by his head. The warrior quickly retreats to an entry way to protect the passengers and to stop the pirates from making their way to the cargo deck.
Meanwhile, Norrund accompanies Vodarr and Chadwick as they go to their rooms to fetch their things. Chadwick has some supplies down in the cargo deck though that he desperately wants to procure. The three hurry through the passenger deck and down to the cargo hold. Amidst all of the rumbling from cannon fire hitting their ship, and a few tumbles, they find their way to Chadwick’s locked storage room. While he gathers his supplies, Vodarr and Norrund hear crying at the end of the hall. Upon checking the door, Vodarr finds out there are 200 people locked in the cargo hold and water is starting to rush in. Vodarr reaches into his Heward’s Handy Haversack of Life and pulls out a saw and a crowbar and attempts to break down the locks or break through the door. Norrund and Chadwick do not want to stay below deck in case the ship begins to sink, but Vodarr won’t leave without saving the people. They finally decide to leave Vodarr for now, hoping that he’ll come to his senses before it is too late.
The pirate ships continue to circle around the cargo ship, not making any effort to board. Finnian is confused by this, but has to get back even further as an airship flies in and fires on the cargo ship. Norrund, running up and being presented with the issue, has a sudden realization. The people locked in the cargo hold are human slaves, and these pirates are anti-human activists looking to kill them all. Finnian curses loudly and runs down below deck to attempt to save them before the humans don’t have any chance of survival by being pulled under with the sinking ship.
Finnian yells at Vodarr to move and he chops at the door with his halberd. The ship turns over onto its port-side just as Finnian breaks through the door, water rushing out of the cargo hold and into the hallway. Human bodies rush forth, forcing their way through the doors into other rooms. Wanting to save at least one human, Finnian grabs a child that surges forth from the doorway and into his arms. Chadwick and Norrund jump off the ship into the water, Vodarr and Finnian carrying the child right behind them.
The airship makes one run by the cargo ship, blasting it with its cannons, sending the ship up in flames and knocking out the survivors.
Year 2440 – Calistriaday, April 30 – Return to the Tragedy
Painful screams rang across the coast. It’s as if you fell asleep into a nightmare.
Finnian is foced awake to see the captain’s leg amputated by one of his subordinates. A large chunk of wood had impaled the leg and there was no hope of it being removed. The captain’s cries were both of incredible pain and immense relief that he may continue living. Finnian himself appears fine though, tightly gripping the child he saved. One of the crewmen takes watch of the boy as Finnian goes to assist other survivors.
Norrund comes up onshore and sees that Vodarr is resting by a large cave entrance. When Vodarr wakes, all he remembers is that Chadwick had pulled him up here. Other crewmen warn Finnian that the gnome had entered the cave, so Finnian takes the human child to take him up to a safe place at the cave and joins Norrund and Vodarr., who both worry for the gnome since there isn’t any sign of him.
Together, the three of them, Finnian carrying the child, venture into the dark cave. A trail of blood with small footprints imprinted sends them into worry, so they quicken their pace. The cave is narrow and goes deep. A quick battle with a set of cave fishers warns them of the dangers in here. The group slows their pace, but is nervous at the lack of any sign of Chadwick.
After a short hallway, they approach an empty room. Finnian plans to march on when he’s immediately intercepted by an Osyluth (bone devil) which appears before him. The osyluth lashes at Finnian only to disappear, nearly finishing the young warrior off, when a shadow appears and strikes the bone devil dead. “Kestral,” responds the shadow when asked his identity by Finnian. Kestral’s skill was immense compared to any of them, and on the chance they ran into another osyluth, the three thought it better to partner with this man to more quickly find their friend.
They continued through the cave with Kestral vanishing before them, but assuring he was there. The next room they came across was a man-made chapel; a few rows of pews sat before the pedestal holding a book. The room sends a shiver down their spines. Religion had been abolished for hundreds of years. What was a chapel like this doing so far down in a cave? Each adventurer approaches the pedestal to look at the book on display to see skull with a scythe adorn the front cover, and only one of them knew what it meant. Kestral warn the group not to touch it, and as they leave the room he stabs the book through with a dagger.
A long, winding hall takes them to a final room. An etching on the floor looks to be the same as the book, and a pile of twenty-to-thirty human bodies from the wreckage lay in a pile to the far left. Finnian sprints into the room, ignoring everything else to save Chadwick who is chained up to the wall. A form appears before him halfway, forcing him to come to a halt. Expecting to see another osyluth, he’s surprised when he sees Kestral come into view.
Kestral trips Finnian to the floor and looks to Chadwick. The rune on the floor begins to radiate a green light and a green aura comes forth from the gnome. The gnome falls limp. Lifeless.
“And now, I shall awaken!” Kestral yells out, emitting a similar green aura from his body that surges forth into Chadwick. Kestral’s dark cloak becomes a shadow that envelops the room in complete darkness, and when the light returns he is nowhere to be seen. Finnian chops Chadwick down only to be met with a very sour, out-of-character gnome.
The party having now rescued Chadwick leaves the cave as quickly as possible. Upon arrival to the entrance, they are met with congratulations as all of the survivors have met up at the cave mouth to avoid being seen by any pirates. They are happy that the gnome is safe, and it isn’t too long till a caravan bearing the sigils of Lilinith’ri ride forth to the party.
And out of the caravan steps forth a Judge.