Ascension

Interlude - Year One
Moving on

An instant. That’s all it takes to change a life forever. A boy sees his parents slaughtered and grows up in the time it takes their bodies to hit the floor. A young man sees his everything go up in flames and sheds his life without a second thought. A grifter takes his first life in cold blood. And that, well, that’s a path you can’t walk back. A man, older than his years, steps onto an airship and leaves his world forever.

Once again I am an orphan, more now than ever before. For now even Terra itself is beyond my reach. My pleas, while recognized by the council, were not enough to convince them to abandon their plan. We won our war, but our victory cannot exonerate the crimes we have committed. And yet, despite my earlier panic at the thought of the sealing, I find myself oddly at peace with the proceedings. After all, the world I am abandoning bares little resemblance to the one I remember, one which steadily removed everything that could tie me to it. If I believed in fate, I might say that it was preparing me for this very moment, preparing me to leave it behind. No, I do not mourn my latest loss—for once I am not an exile. This time my home is the one being exiled. I am what is left standing.


After the sealing I remained at Tu’narath for a time. As the sentry of the dead gods, they have amassed a considerable library, with a special focus on religions and religious lore. “Amassed” being the key word, as it was immediately clear that nobody ever bothered to organize the collection. I doubt most of the tomes had ever even been looked at before. These people are more hoarders than scholars. As such, I didn’t actually learn much during my stay, reading only enough to sort and catalog the material. It was not particularly interesting work, so when a distraction eventually arose, I was quick to take it.

A jumper, they called him. An old friend of mine once claimed such a name, which is why it caught my attention at all. If his abilities were anything like hers, however, he must have been doing it far longer, for his jumps spanned worlds. He had come, it turns out, seeking me. The sealing of our plane had attracted his attention. Suddenly, a world that had never really struck his interest was inaccessible to him. So naturally he wanted to know everything he could about it. I strung him along for a bit, honestly preferring not to think about it. But my curiosity was starting to grow. The number of other worlds out there is staggering. Surely somewhere out there would be answers to my questions. And even if I turned up nothing, would it not better to turn up nothing out there, where I could maybe do something useful in the process, rather than here among stuffy old books?

If I’m being honest, I was getting restless. I’ve spent more of my life than I’d like confined in one way or another. As terrible as the road is, as adventures can be, at least they’ve always made me aware how alive I am. Sitting here in the library, day in and day out, was becoming nothing but a prison of my own making. So I made a deal with the jumper—show me the universe, and I will tell you about mine. Which is, loosely, how I ended up here. Stranded on an alien world, the lone human, from a sealed plane that has already become more myth than fact. My life, yet again, changed in an instant. And I’m rather looking forward to whatever happens next.

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Decisions
Thorman

Again, we find ourselves at the end of our hope. A normal man, reaches a point in his life where he must choose to live or die, choose to fight or fail, choose to to change the world..or to live in it. I have reached this precipices one too many times and stared ahead into the unknown. As I stand in this room and listen to friends, companions and allies bicker, strategize and plot..I remember we all have seen and done more in our lifetimes than should be asked of anyone. Two great evils have surfaced and must be destroyed. We have access to a power we once tried to stop but that might be used to our advantage..or our doom. We have too many questions and not enough answers. The enemy is infinite in number, and even sits among our own ranks. We know of possible places and people we could use, could seek out, but none are certain. This is the knowledge that is shared, scoffed at and thrown around by all of us..but no one really knows what we should do..no one really knows if anything will work..if their decision is the right one..including me.

In the end..I know that even the god is not what will end the world..at least not how we’ve seen it. I know the monster that lurks in the dark..the unknown..the unseen is what will end it all. Doran…is always one step ahead. We tried to locate pieces of the new amulate..thinking..hoping it would lead us to a location to cast the storm..both leads..the minotaur and the vampire..had already been payed a visit. We returned to the inn where we started..with nothing new..no advancement..no progress. We decide to let everyone rest..hoping to follow the minotaur to our next mistep. I took a walk out to the monument..Hedar follows. After piecing together two pieces of the amulet..his condition has worsened. I still see him..but Doran is far more plain to see. He tells me he no longer can see the real me..that the monster is all that’s left to him. I wonder if that’s how he has started to see himself. He tells me we can’t let him win..and what must be done should we activate the storm. After seeing Heuburt..what’s left of him..I can’t blame him for not wanting to leave his fate to chance. It’s the same reason I’ve grown to respect Balidor’s decision. Only in my millennium have I come to accept that at any moment I may no longer exist. I have already lived far longer than anyone should be deemed worthy to…and I have to remember that not everyone is afforded that comfort in death. Hedar leaves and I make for the waters below.

In my years of training..I often sought solitude even from the quiet of the monastery. I missed the long walks of my past..of seeing the stars above and knowing only them. As I float in the water and see every single glimmering light..I wonder if Doran ever looked up at this same sky. I know he has..but I have come to realize he was one who wanted to know every point of light..every single nuance in space and time. He is not one to let something unexpected..or unknown occur. Every move we make is one he has layed out for us. We continue to run down his path..blindly following the bread crumbs he’s left behind. We will do so in the morning..and we will find not but wisps of his trail and laughter. We cannot keep playing his game. There is no winning it…even if we chose not to play. Just like every pin hole in this vast canopy..there are options..efforts and actions we haven’t tried. We must exhaust every opportunity and use every angle…he is not a god…and I should know…no matter how old you may be…you cannot know…nor plan for every outcome.

I will tell them in the morning. Something burns inside me…and I know I will see it heard. We will fail if we try what is known to us…if we try what he has touched..what he knows. We have all come too far simply to fail together. I think we’ve all known..but just don’t want to accept..that at the end of all this..few will remain to rejoice. We all have powers and destiny’s that we don’t fully understand…nor does he. As I climb back up and face the inn where everyone rests…I know that come first light…things will change forever.

My name was Thorman Redfield, but today..I embrace the monster I’ve become.

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Paths of Power

Hedar
Upon our journey to Arkhen we spotted a dwarf sitting in the open tundra of Torin. Upon landing near him I immediately sensed Borsho’s necromancy. He assumed I had brought Thorman and Jhulaer as reinforcements to force the spell’s knowledge from him. While not entirely true, I did what I could to explain our situation to him without altering the course of history on his part. We questioned him on where he had come across knowledge of something so powerful. He said it was in an old spellbook in an abandoned house in the city of Spellscale. Though I cannot see facial expressions, I assumed Jhulaer and Thorman shared the same reaction as I. Once again everything points at him. Doran. All of this planned out from the beginning.
Borsho eventually handed me the papers for Cepasec (sp?), a thick document of a single spell in written form. Borsho didn’t need the papers anymore, for he had memorized the whole thing. We bid the dwarven necromancer farewell and headed into Arkhen for supplies and rest. Once we had found lodging and taken care of trivial tasks, Jhulaer mentioned a vision she had with Roz. She informed us that one last use of her time travel ability was available, but only for her and one of us. Thorman, or what I now see as the parasite, became very adamant that he should be left behind. He desired to retrain himself now that he had lost a part of his power in those two blades. If it were not for Doran’s strong corruption over me I would have thought to train with him. We had to leave him, but I suggested we use magic as a means to suspend him from the confines of time so that we may awaken him again when we return to the present. Where I belong. We bought scrolls of temporal stasis and freedom to freeze and unlock him, but he was responsible for finding a caster to freeze him. As for the location, we decided it must be near the sanctuary Balidor had created. Jhulaer suggested engraving a message that could only be seen from afar, a message very few could read. God killer. After all was said and done, Jhulaer used her last bit of power to transport her and I back to the present. She was able to take us to the sanctuary. We observed hundreds of dragons flying above us. Trevan and Terra greeted us, saying Finean had spoken of an extraordinary event to occur at this place on this day. Jhulaer took her dragon form and burrowed her way to where Thorman, the parasite, was sealed away. We greeted him and made our way to the inn of Da’Voreth to find Alton. There we began to discuss tactics as to what must be done to prevent the destruction that will come.
It was then that I began to question our intentions regarding this spell. In practice, it will have the capability to destroy Erythnul, but in turn we will likely destroy much more in that attempt. And if Erythnul possesses the ability to use Cepasec, this will, by common laws of magic, neutralize his use of the spell. Even if we prevent our own destruction in such a manner, we would need to cast it again, an entire day’s time, to finish the god off. In addition to all of this, everything that we have recently discovered, nearly everything we have ever seen or witnessed, has also been seen by the parasite lurking inside Thorman, now even stronger from dwelling within him for a longer duration. This parasite, its origins stem from Doran. For all I know, Doran may be seeing everything I see now, considering my current state. And though Cepasec is said to be a ‘god killer’ all of us have seen Doran’s power transcend the power of gods. Even Erythnul said Doran was the reason for his existence. I highly doubt Cepasec will destroy Doran, and if it does, it will have been his plan, benefiting him in the end. Balidor, or Pelor shall we say, witnessed Zassimick fall at the hands of Doran as well as himself. And then there is the amulet of Erythnul. Another path we could take, though putting the pieces together would likely make more of Doran’s plans fall into place. These paths of power… they all seem like answers to us because we have found nothing better to aid us to our desired end. We will cast Cepasec, we will repair the amulet of Erythnul, we will destroy the Orchard of Mines, we will kill Erythnul, we will confront Doran… but none of it will matter. We cannot control fate. It controls us, for it is me. I control fate. Doran controls fate. Like Doran, I too am beyond the gods. I will end this world. I will start this world. And so the raven bathed in blood shall signal the world’s freedom.

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Times Like These
Jhulaer De-Ath

I find myself lying awake, tossing and turning in my bed. When sleep does finally come, it’s not as I expect. Instead I find myself back glassy dark shore where I once held Raz in his final moments. As I watch the black sea crash against the rocks, I hear a familiar voice. Is this really a dream? Raz stands behind me, the same worn down, exhausted Raz I held in my arms. As we spoke for the last time, he said that he had seen this happen, and knew I’d need the guidance. He confirmed my fears and told me that I had lost the power to control time for good, and that likely only a tiny remnant of that power remained, and even then, it would only be enough to get myself and one other back to our time. He also spoke of the storm and revealed that he had played a part in it’s creation. The storm is the only way to stop Eurythnal, and we desperately need to find a copy of it so that we can stop him once and for all. That would require Borsho, and a pure place that touches all other places. Raz confirmed that the Oasis was one such place, and that Thormin would know one other if he thought about it. Saying goodbye to Raz for the last time, I found myself once again in my bed.

Seeking Thorman and finding him absent, I sought out Hedar. Leaving the inn, we headed for the arena, in hopes of making some coin either by betting or competing. Upon hearing that the first bout would start in minutes, I quickly went to place a wager, but after hearing the first name I knew I didn’t need to hear any more, and it explained where Thorman had gone. Placing 50 grand on the counter for the chance at the 10-1 odds against " The Abandoned" I quickly hurried to my seat. However, it became quickly apparent that a fair fight, this was not. As Thorman entered the arena, and at the command of the King, some Emman from long ago, guards and warriors surrounded my friend, as well as two dragons springing from the portals created by Thorman’s would-be opponent. Sending Thorman a message I offered assistance, but he declined, demanding we do not get involved. I understood. This was Thorman’s fight. Thorman’s bloodlust. Thorman’s search for meaning. As Thorman raged on, attempting to fight off everyone, he showed his power well, pummeling his opponents and pinning one dragon by himself, yet it was clear that the odds were not in his favor. Sensing his own defeat, Thorman resigned to his loss. But since when is he one to go away quietly? In a flash Hedar appeared beside him, and in a second flash, they were gone.

After slipping out of the arena, and refusing to take any less than I had bet in the return of my funds, we met up outside the city. Explaining briefly the importance of gaining the power of the storm spell, we teleported near Borsho’s city, and upon flying the last leg of the journey in dragon form, I carried my companions one step closer to our goal.

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Bloodhaze
Thorman

It’s all a blur…a bloody, tearful, aching blur. I see nothing but the face of my old friend and wonder what it must be like, to be a part of something so much greater than yourself..to belong to a legion. How does it feel to have yourself slip away..to not be able to fight your way to the forefront of your own consciousness as you beat down your allies…to know that you are being controlled by a force you cannot match and at any point it might choose to put you away forever…….perhaps I have a small notion. My head aches from the very thought of all this…not a pounding pain…but an unfamiliar pressure.

I awake, slowly. Something very large has a vice-like grip on my head..enough so that I wager should whatever this was want me dead..I would be so already. Jhulaer speaks..good. Wherever we are at least she seems to have survived and is quickly putting her silver tongue to work on this…beast. This beast who, chained to a tree as I currently am, stands so tall I cannot see it’s head. It reeks of pestilence and decay..of slaughter and famine. What is…it speaks. A low rumble of a voice…the sound of rock collapsing in a tunnel…powerful but distant. Through my daze I am able to discern it’s..his identity. This is Totem, the minotaur the younger one spoke of…Doran’s one-time companion. He speaks ill of me..claiming he fought me recently..that he aims to finish what he started. Jhulaer begins to explain our predicament that I barely understand myself..time..I don’t even know if it means anything to me anymore…and I begin to heal. I focus and let my body regenerate..closing the wounds that had been reopened…each a reminder of what awaits us..and that we have no time. I do what I can..but I do little more than ease my own pain for a brief moment. Totem is hesitant to believe where..and when we are from. Minotaur may be beasts but not all are savages, and clearly Totem is no fool. Only then would he completely believe our story. I know we should leave…we shouldn’t even be speaking to him…but I do. Worse, i warn him. I tell him exactly what Doran is and what he will do. I don’t care if it jeopardizes everything we worked for up until now…in that moment..I felt no other option.

After questions, accusations, and information is exchanged between us and this towering behemoth..little of which I really hear or take in..too lost..too tired, Jhulaer tries to find Hedar. She also mentions Melron, a name Totem recognizes. As I stroll through this empty battlefield we’ve found ourselves in, I look for fallen weaponry. I feel too light..too weak..naked without the blades that were just as much a part of me as the scars I bare. Out of desperation, I ask if Melron still resides in the north, but in this time it seems, my old friend is still in the underdark making a name for himself. Jhulaer succeeds in locating Hedar and gives me the choice..of seeking Melron or our companion. I feel…I know how useless I am at the moment..and every fiber of me screams to arm myself..but this cannot wait. The longer we are separated the worse things could get..and we need to ensure the others are safe. After watching this mountainous minotaur strode away across this barren dead-zone, Jhulaer takes us to Hedar.

I almost laugh as we appear yet again in the same arena. Not out of coincidence mind you, nor irony, but terror..sheer terror. The thought that we have gone back in time again and I have no idea if we are at the start or the end..who I am..where I am..what is real. I laugh at the sheer lunacy that has become my life. Hedar appears to have some company as I finally take notice of him. An all too familiar gnome..and an orc with superb manners..yes I recognize him too. The brigade begins to lead us out of here..but I can’t take my eyes off the arena..of the men staving off death from a huge, blue dragon. Something compels me..tells me..maybe I’ll find my new blades here…forged in combat rather than a furnace. I will rip the very weapons from my opponents grasp and make them my own..I will find them again. I’m falling behind..so I shake myself out of my own head and continue to follow. We are lead to a farm house outside the city..where we meet another member of the brigade..another ghost from my past..Harken. He and Hedar speak of Borsho..the dwarf in the cave..the king who didn’t know he was just a pawn..they speak of powerful spells..the storm..when it will be made..hidden secrets..stolen information..a place of innocence untouched by the corruption..a focus..a caster. All I hear is the clash of steel still ringing in my ears…then..as if from a distance, I hear Harken claim that Borsho found this spell..that he knows of it’s origin. That’s it. A place of such power..ancient and seldom seen. Doran will be there. I feel it in my bones. I tell the others what I know we must do..confront Borsho..and pull the information from him at any cost. I’ve no patience for caution or careful planning.

I leave the others behind and make for the arena..but I’m too late. Nothing will be done today..and I meet Hedar and Jhulaer at an inn. We..they discuss a plan of action. Borsho..time..rest..words I gleam as I agree to sleep..but there will be no rest for me. Come day break I will make for the arena. I will return to wear it all started to find my strength. I will give the crowd a show the likes of which they’ve never seen. I will throw caution to the wind and out of the wounds of innocent men will flow my glory. I will find Hope and Faith again even if I must stain every last grain of sand red. Then I will know…if I am even worthy of returning.

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Counsel for the Defense

I am a fraud. I live my life as the man who makes the hard choices. The one who does what is necessary, so others don’t have to. Willing to be seen as the bad guy by the very people I help. But here I am faced by a group of people, doing exactly what I do, making the impossible decision. Doing something terrible but necessary for the greater good. And I am fighting them with every breath I take.

These people want to quarantine Terra. Lock an entire world away from the others. Permanently. They say we’re too powerful for them. We’ve invaded them, threatened them, and they’re too weak to stop us. And now we’ve raised a god, a complete, living god, one who is not content to merely watch and meddle from afar. We have no power to stop him, they have no power to stop us. So what choice do they have but to seal us away? If I were them, I would have made the same choice. Then why do I oppose this now?

I’ve been thinking about this since the trial, trying to understand the words that came to me there. I’ve always believed that cowardice is just a term fools use to describe the actions a rational man, and yet I employed it then, repeatedly. I pleaded with them to forget our crimes and join us in an almost undoubtedly futile fight against a threat bigger than any of us. Am I now a fool?

I tell myself that my life ended over 200 years ago, that I fight out of respect for the nobility of my companions… well, just companion now. That I feel nothing more than a sense of obligation to protect them from the dangers of their better nature. It’s a lie I’m all too willing to believe. But I belied myself today—for all my stony facade, the truth is, I do care. Perhaps it’s for our broken world with its broken people. Perhaps, deep down, I still believe we can be better than we are, despite all evidence to the contrary. Is it hope I fight for? Or is it simply hatred?

I’ve all but convinced myself that I fight against oppression wherever it may appear, and that may even be truth, but only by proxy. I’m no hero, just a contrarian. Gods, kings, councils, it’s all the same, merely authorities I seek to depose. These men aren’t seeking to punish us, to judge us, only to protect themselves. It’s a cause I should celebrate, not condemn. But they have the power, so I stand defiant. Is that what I truly amount to, when you strip away the excuses, a rebel for any cause?

In the end, none of it really matters. I don’t know what decision they may have reached, but I have a guess, and I doubt my words held much weight. I spoke as would a drowning man, flailing about in a desperate bid to save my own life, even at the likely expense of others. Would any reasonable man extend a hand to such as that? Would I? Regardless of my motivations, I fought once again to defend a world full of people I so often disdain, and I am likely to be sealed away with them for the rest of my time. If that is to be my fate, then perhaps the time has come to truly believe in something. I just have to decide what it’s going to be.

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The Fallen Mighty

I awaken on a mossy field, exhausted. My head is pounding and my body aching. Good, I clearly suffered no damage from the fall, or whatever this was. A figure is standing over me. Locklear, offering his hand. Good, at least we weren’t all separated. No sign of any others, though, Jhulaer or Pav. Hopefully they’re here somewhere, looking for us as we look for them.

Locklear tells me he’s uncertain where we are, other than somewhere far away from our own world. This place is made up of land masses, but rather than air separating them, it is a substance upon which solid material can float. I spent some time a lifetime ago studying other worlds, back when travel between them was still readily possible and those able to do so were taking refuge in them. This seems like what I’ve heard of the plane of magic itself, the one the mages called Astral.

Looking at the land masses, something about them strikes me as familiar. On a hunch I start digging at the ground below me, quickly hitting an unexpected barrier—leather. Locklear cuts away a piece and below it we find flesh. This isn’t land, it’s a man.

Barely had we resumed discussing our plan of action when we’re set upon by a band of… well here they’re just as well “men” although on our world we’d scarcely recognize them as such. A scouting troop, by the look of it, and they’re none too pleased to see us. They confer in a language I don’t understand, and then what I believe is their leader speaks to us directly.

We tell him where we’re from and a very loose explanation of how we came to be here. He and his men don’t like our presence here—they were happy to have the link between our world and theirs closed, after the exodus of old. We manage to convince him, I think, that we’re harmless and mostly just want to go home. He calls our world dead, and says it will not be mourned. Maybe he’s right, but even so, I’m inclined to let someone desecrate its corpse.

The troop escorts us to their city, Tu’narath, clearly holding us in guard, but not aggressively. As we go, Muu’vaar, as their leader is called, explains to us the bodies that we travel on. They are dead gods. As I gaze down upon them, I spot a familiar face, and feel, if only for a moment, a bit of sadness. I don’t know what lies beyond the reaches of life, but something about this seems lonely. I have no love for gods, but for a being of such power and great works to be given such an empty end seems, disproportionate. Neither praised, nor condemned, simply left to be forgotten. If such a fate is what awaits these titans, what could there possibly be for the rest of us.

To be continued…

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Into the Blue

The Arena.
I’d heard Thormin mention it in passing, the place where all of this started. The arena in a battle to the death, for his freedom. There were others there. Some of the names familiar, but others I don’t recall. But that was lifetimes ago, when I was a mere child, and when the surface wasn’t so hopeless. There was magic then, but when it left, hope left with it. Say what the surface dwellers may about the harsh realities and brutality of the underdark, it has no illusion’s about the key role magic plays in the health of the universe.
Today is the best chance to reverse some of what’s been done. Today is the day to fight and die if needed. Dying seems more likey. After assessing the situation, we began to make our move. I scryed for Pov, and after prompting, Locklear, he gave his appraisal of the situation, and explained that he had separated Pav from the rest of the group at Hedar’s reccomendation. Smart call. As we discuss what needs to be done, we’re struck with uncertainty, and no clear direction to head in. In typical Locklear fashion, I see him through my scry dismissing our indecision with undeserved superiority. He’s done everything in he world possible to face me to hate him, and I do, but despite what he’s done and what we’ve managed to undo, I can’t help but accept the fact that he deserves to know what today truly means as muc as anyone. “Today is the day the world ends. Maybe you don’t understand that, but today will determine the fate of millions. And your life is one of them.” I see a moment of atypical seriousness fall across the bowman’s face. After telling Pav to remain hidden, he left the dilapidated building with a sense of determination. As we moved nearer the center of the arena where the elves stood pontificating. I watched as Locklear swept through the city and scaled the wall of the colluseum. Meanwhile our dear blind Hedar has begun sprinting across the expanse, Thorman in tow.
Reaching a vantage point and nocking an arrow Locklear asks for a target. Seeing Tetronys charging towards Thorman, I call out his name, and without a moment’s hesitation, a massive arrow erupts from the center of his back. In succession he asks each target next. Sensing the opportunity, I name King Danden, but there’s no time to confirm the result as the massive “chosen” Europa, following where Tetronys had lead, also charging at the two who seem to believe that they’ll be able to survive the twins. However, each projectile our uneasy compatriot seems to be flinging at him is being easily batted away by the towering man as though it were nothing. I’m so engrossed in the battle that I almost miss the scene unfolding in the air where the two elves have begun to merge, and in a flash of violent red light only one elf remains, though looking strangely different, and without the mechanical additions. the remaining elf, Hedar and Thormin seem locked in an embrace, and spending more time talking than fighting. Before I have a chance to react, the three of them are gone, and Europa is heading straight for Locklear. A few quick teleportations and I’ve gathered up him and Alton into what is definitely the strangest turn of events yet. As we and the ever hidden Kestral arrive at he abandoned house where Pav resides, kestral and I share a vision of the new elf torturing both Hedar and Thorman. Something about the vision clues me in to his location. They’re on Raz’s plane. I don’t waste any time before saying that we need to help. I take the entire group and use my orb of planar travel for the first time. However, in transit, the elf appears. In the blink of an eye, in the space between spaces, I watch helplessly as each of my companions is flung out of the slipstream and to where I don’t know.

Finally I’m the last remaining, and I arrive. In a singsong voice the elf says hello to me and calls me Raz. I take the time to make myself clear, and inform him that I’m not Raz in the most calm collected way I can manage, and release a blast of electric energy. Without being fazed, he throws me to the ground leaving behind a blue aura where I stood. within a matter of moments I watch as Hedar is thrown into the blue aura, and disappears before being so merciful as he states that he’s going to let us live, just to see us suffer. Suddenly we’re alone. Thormin is on his hands and knees bleeding and sobbing with pain. I’m not leaving Hedar to wander through whatever point in time the elf sent him to, and without a word I grab Thorman and jump into the aura.

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The Day

We arrive immediately at the main event. Crowds of people cheering, celebrating, praising the God of Slaughter. It’s not surprising—people are easily led by anyone with the right words, particularly in trying times like these—but the lack of surprise does nothing to quell the disgust it stirs in my gut. A giant symbol of Erythnul himself lies on a platform as the focal point of the gathering, constructed, fittingly enough of dead bodies. Whenever you start to think well of the average person, it’s things like this that should be remembered—it’s the average person who so easily and enthusiastically embraces such horrific things. Perhaps this world deserves the doom it’s about to receive.

I look down at my defiled cloak and gloves, then in frustration cast them to the ground. That’s the second cloak of mine he’s ruined now. Saying nothing about it, I turn to the others and ask what our first move should be. Our endemic lack of planning once again creeps up as we waste valuable time deciding what we should do. Half the group resolves to take out the king and we start rushing off in that direction. While that’s certainly a notion I’m happy to embrace, I fail to see how that will in any way help stop the main problem at hand. We stop again to discuss other possible courses, and Jhulaer shows a worrying lack of discretion by initiating a magical conversation with the fourth Chosen, Pav, a friend of Hedar’s who he took care to keep away from the rest. Sure, the spell is mostly unnoticeable to the naked eye, but in this, of all places, I fear the use of magic itself might give us away. She talks briefly with Pav, then reaches out to his guardian of sorts, a man named Locklear.

The mage is quiet for a while, presumably holding conversation with him, then comes back to us with a question. She and Locklear want to know what happened last time, hoping that there will be some sort of clue to what to do this time. But it’s a waste of time. Nothing happened last time, except some good people died for no good reason. Prophecies are a crock—unless the goal is to waste time, resources, and people in seeking them.

Still, there are perhaps some things from the much more recent past that could be relevant. I think back to Balidor and the cleric of Pelor in vampire’s lair, speaking of the revival of Pelor. Blood of a follower, spilled in the name of the god. In mentioning this, they inform me that one of the new Chosen is, incredulously, a follower of Erythnul. Perhaps he’s the key. I decide we should go back and pursue that somehow. The two elves are grandstanding near the symbol, clearly gearing up to start whatever this is. Thorman informs us he saw one of them holding a vial of something, a dark red liquid. Blood. It seems the Chosen won’t be needed for this after all. Then the elves start making a speech and there’s no more time for consideration.

We strike immediately. Jhulaer and Hedar attempt to disrupt the sign of Erythnul—with any luck it’s more than just symbolic—but the elves hardly seem to care, even as the body parts are thrown directly at them. I wait and watch, unable to do anything useful until I know what’s going to happen. Then one of them pulls out a vial and invokes “the blood of the enemy”. Of course. Different god, different ritual. He wanted it to be over, but it still comes back to him in the end. It’s Balablood.

It’s a long shot, but it’s our only hope. The blood in that vial is likely the last blood of Balidor they can get. If we can stop them from spilling it for Erythnul, perhaps their ritual will be stalled. I throw a knife at his hand, hoping he’ll drop it, but only manage to hit him in the leg. And there’s no time for a second. He crushes the vial in his hand, and it begins.

It’s hard to tell what’s going on—near as I can tell the pair of them are being encased in some sort of orb—like an egg, or maybe a cocoon? I throw another knife in a vain attempt to break it, but to no avail. Thorman likewise attacks it and manages to break it momentarily, but that, too, does nothing to halt what is happening. And what is happening? I’m at a complete loss—I don’t know how these things work so I can’t even begin to come up with any ideas. I don’t see any other way, as loathe as I am to acknowledge the connection we now have, wanting nothing to do with it, in fact, it has recently become clear that simply ignoring it won’t be an option forever. And what was it I said earlier, “as long as our desires are in sync”? So I swallow my pride and straight up ask, “What now?” The answer, I almost didn’t expect to receive, comes shortly. “Let’s just see where this goes.” Strange attitude from one who wants the other gods eliminated. Surely the best chance for that to happen is before he rises? But nevertheless, waiting is the only option now and it’s not going to last long. Mere moments later, it’s over and where there were once two, there is now only one. A god has risen. And it still looks like Hubert‽

Meanwhile, our efforts have attracted attention, as several of the king’s agents, including a massive man, nearly 10 feet tall, start coming our way to intervene. I do my best to blend into the crowd, hoping to take at least one of them by surprise, but before they can act, one of them is impaled with a massive bolt. A sniper—it must be this Locklear Jhulaer was talking to. We scarcely have time to process his first shot when he looses a second, this time at the king’s box. He hits his mark and the king goes flying out of view.

The convention has turned to chaos, but suddenly I know what needs to be done. Thorman and Hedar are confronting Erythnul, if that’s indeed what this is. The sniper is handling crowd control. No one knows I’m here. If the king is to be assassinated, and this is the optimal time for it to be done, someone needs to confirm the kill. There are no half-measures in regicide. Making my way to the box is easy. Panicked crowds are perfect for concealment, perhaps even better than the darkness. Unfortunately, the crowds are avoiding the box itself, and at least a few guards are yet not. But I’m not entirely dependent on my environment for my stealth. A smoke bomb and a shadow are all I require to slip past these guards, although not before one manages to get a weak jab to my side.

Inside the box, I’m glad I’ve come. The king is wounded, badly I’d imagine. I’m no healer, but I’m fairly certain it’s tough to stay alive when you’re missing a chunk of your side. Still a healer is present—the king looks bad, possibly dead already, but I don’t doubt that he has the best on staff and I can’t leave anything to chance. The healer doesn’t see me, and I don’t intend to let him. I move quickly, fluidly, with a single long motion—he’ll see something, but never be able to say exactly what—running across the box and out the window, slitting the King’s throat as I go. And before he even has time to react, I’m gone, over the side, then over the wall, running vertically down, a magical trick I’ve used many times before but never fully gotten used to. Suddenly, a voice in my head—Jhulaer. She wants to know where I am. I tell her I’ve escaped the commotion for the time being. She tells me they’re preparing to escape the city altogether and where to meet her. A man I don’t recognize beckons me—it must be Locklear. He leads me to a non-descript house, and then further to a non-descript closet, where Jhulaer, Alton, and someone else I don’t recognize are all waiting. Wasting no time, Jhulaer transports us all back to the Oasis. I’m just about to ask where Thorman and Hedar are, when my question is pre-emptively answered by a vision in the sky. Somehow, despite the impossibility of it all, I don’t doubt its authenticity.

Thorman and Hedar are facing… Hubert. And for a time it truly does seem to be him, talking, moving just like him. Speaking to Thorman as an old friend. But then, something new, something different, even, from the two pretenders, creeps in. Something cruel and fierce and horrible. I can do nothing but stand and watch as the only man I call friend is tortured and taunted by a being whose very existence is an affront to us. And as I feel a hatred for this thing, a cold and long-abandoned, yet disturbingly comfortable and familiar sensation, coming over me, Jhulaer suddenly snaps into focus. “I’m taking us there.” And then we’re teleporting again, and I feel a familiar sensation of dread, one I haven’t felt for over 200 years, in that impossible moment between departure and destination, a certainty that things have gone wrong. But this time it’s more than that because suddenly he’s there and he speaks to me, somehow, in that timeless moment, his words chilling me to the bone. “All those times… When you didn’t go where you intended to…”

“…That was me!”

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Slaughter

Hedar

The sound of applause surrounds me. Voices chant the name of Erythnul, the god of slaughter. I haven’t the slightest clue where I currently am, but I soon hear my companions around me, speaking amidst the cheers and shouts. We have arrived in Syskillia for the day of Erythnul’s awakening. My eyes suddenly blink open. The sight does not move with my motions… this again. I can only guess I am seeing from some random audience member. I spot the two elves down at the arena’s center, standing before a symbol of Erythnul on the sand, shaped from limbs. Suffering begins to speak and give praise to their god. We quickly make our way to the king’s box, using Alton’s knowledge of his homeland, his kingdom, to lead us there.
At a certain point we stopped and discussed the various implications of what we decide to do. While we need to be quick, we also need to be certain of the correct decision, if there is one. Kestral mentioned that the vampire mentioned the blood of a true follower being spilled to resurrect a god. Therefore Edgar became a target for us, but then we ran across the concern of possibly performing what the elves wanted. Knowing that Pov was nowhere to be seen at the arena I told Jhulaer to scry for Locklear, believing that if the man was doing the job I’d asked, Pov would be with him. She could not reach him, so she tried for Pov. After a couple more tries she was able to connect with Locklear and found that Pov was safe, away from the ritual. My eyes blinked again and I began to see from Thorman’s perspective. Every time this happens I am stunned by the sudden sight I am given, like a light in one’s eyes after staying in the dark.
I finally voiced my stance in the conversation, stating my full intention to face the elves and prevent this ritual, despite the power I know they wield to stop me. The others agreed, also seeing Pain and Suffering as the greater threats. We fought our way through the crowd back outside. From Thorman’s eyes I saw the elves. Two halves of a companion Thorman and Kestral once knew. The audience became quiet. The elves moved forward to start their speech and we acted. I jumped into the arena and was able to roll my way to balance. Thorman jumped in as well while limps and bodies flew through the air from Jhulaer’s telekinesis. I cast fly on myself and ran as fast as I could to meet the elves, now each engulfed in a red aura far above the ground. Thorman followed closely behind me with his blades drawn, watching me run ahead of him. Before I could move fast enough the two auras merged, crystallized, and then shattered to reveal a single elf with curly blonde hair. I told Thorman to take my hand and I brought the two of us up to the elf. I touched his face with my corrupted hand, hoping it would have some instant effect. Nothing. Thorman spoke the name, “Hubert” and the elf responded, “Thorman, I’m scared.” This elf’s eyes… they were looking into Thorman’s, but at the same time the elf seemed to know I was there too. This fragile elf… the god of slaughter? I had no idea how to react. I had expected a great force of evil, or an endless void of Doran’s copies. Instead, this elf. I could hear some commotion stirring from the crowds and asked the elf if he could take us somewhere else. If we are to get answers, it is not here.
Thorman and I were transported to what I can only describe as, the clouds. My sight has returned and I witness the rest of my companions, along with Locklear and Pov, teleporting across the world, according to the elf. Since the teleport was moving slowly, I assume we are held in a place somewhat separated from time, or at least moving much faster than our time. We asked this god, this elf named Hubert, his intentions now that he has awakened. He said he had never intended to become a god, that he had originally been an elven bard. But he voiced his intention to spread the word of his name to everyone across the world. After that had been said, I finally became certain that this supposed god had no intention of helping us. Thorman walks over and embraces what he thought to be his old friend and states he is Erythnul’s abandoned to command. Erythnul then turns his gaze to me and asks me what I am to do. I tell him that as a fate I must protect existence and oversee the gods. If the god of slaughter intends to stand against existence, I shall do what is necessary to stop him. Erythnul commands Thorman to take care of me. Before I even draw my weapon against Thorman, I tell him to see the god for what he truly is. Whoever this Hubert was no longer exists in the shell now consumed and controlled by the god of slaughter. Thorman takes a moment and then turns to the god, asking where he stands in relation to Doran. Erythnul expresses Doran as the reason for his awakening. Without Doran he would be nothing. Doran, held in high regard by this god he has brought back. Thorman then walked over to my side and told the god that the Hubert he knew died long ago. The god chuckled and held Thorman with a spell, or possibly the raw power of a god. I moved to attack the god and was able to land a hit. But whatever injury it caused was instantly regenerated and I felt my head crushed to the invisible solid surface below me. While Thorman was held Erythnul consistently began bringing him to the brink of death and recovering him to his full capacity. The most extreme torture I’d witnessed. Before I knew how to react, Thorman was swept away in a flash and Jhulaer appeared across from me. Erythnul addressed Jhulaer as Roz and held his hand to the mage, extracting a blue aura from her… Roz’s power. In a blink he appears next to me, “Have fun!” and I am thrown into the blue aura without a chance to stop this god.

The fates protect existence and oversee the gods.
The past.
I am a fate. The other two fates are dead. They are me.
Who am I?
I will kill this god. The god of slaughter.
I am a fate.
Thorman… Jhulaer… Balidor… Kestral.
The gods.
Fate. The present.
Hope has failed.
The fates protect existence. Erythnul has risen. The gods are dead.
Doran… and Alice. I am a fate.
What are we left with? I am Doran.
Zassimick, the abhorrents. The future.
Gods. Fates. Doran.
The fates protect.
The fates prevail.
The fates have failed.
I am fate.
What are we left with?

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