Ascension

1.1 Breaking Through
...the hell!?

Shit.

Things are worse than I could ever have hoped. I had expected him to be waiting for me, but I didn’t think he would be so prepared. I should have suspected when I saw his servant, the osyluth, but I was thrown by the children. Once again, my weakness for others was my undoing. I should have known when we found his temple. That book of his taunted me with its promise of answers, but I didn’t dare touch it. I was afraid to get close to anything of his, and yet I barely hesitated from walking right into his final solution. I should have turned around right then and there. I should have left those kids to die.

Now the god of death is risen in full, in a world ill-equipped to handle him. The last god who awoke on Terra very nearly conquered it. I’m sure the final one believes there is no one who can stop him now. But if so, he is mistaken. Because he left me alive. And he has something that belongs to me. And I will see it burn before I allow him to claim it in full.

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1.0 - The Return
Return to the Tragedy

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

Map – Offshore Cave

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.

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Interlude - Year 11
Growing Deadlier

I look in the mirror and I no longer see myself. This isn’t metaphor—my face is truly no longer my own. He is trying to claim my body for himself. I do not know how he can do this—I had hoped that the binding of Terra would have severed, or at least blocked, our connection, but somehow it persists. If sealing his world cannot break this bond, I fear there is nothing that will allow me escape. My only option is to persist in my original mission. I must kill the final god. I do not know how I can do this now—we are on opposite sides of an unbreakable wall, but somehow I must find a way. I have seen so much of the worlds that are out there—I cannot allow Him to ruin them all. I need to find a way to return home, to return to His hell. Either He will die at my hand or we will languish in His prison together for all eternity.

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Interlude - Year 7
Moonfall

Following the leads I found led me to the plane known as Minor where I met a group of adventurers known as The Savior’s Hand. The end result of that encounter has become known across the planes as the Moonfall Incident. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. What you’ve heard is very far from the truth.

It is not a story I ever intend to tell.

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Interlude - Year Three
Survival Mode

The next world I landed on was uninhabited. At least what I saw of it was. The portal opened to the middle of a damn forest. At least I figured out what Soni’s bracelet did pretty quick—it seemed to be some sort of traveler’s aid, reducing the need for food and rest, and protecting from all but the most extreme weather conditions. Figures—all those times she needled me for shivering when we were stuck in the mountains with no supplies—she was cheating.

The bracelet wasn’t perfect, however, at least not on this world. I still needed to eat, which meant I got plenty of chances to practice a skill I’d never really bothered to work on—hunting. Stealthily killing things, seems like I’d be a natural, right? Well, it turns out stalking animals is different from stalking people, and I’m only really talented at one of those. Still I managed to get good enough to survive, and managed to cobble together a halfway decent shelter as well. But I couldn’t stay in one place too long. I had no intention on spending the rest of my days stranded in a forest. Sonitri was certain that the portal wasn’t random. It led here specifically, and there had to be a reason.

I spent several months looking for that reason. There’s not much to tell about it, really. Eventually the forest gave way to plains, which gave way to a desert, which led to an ocean. It was an at-times beautiful and wildly diverse world, it just had nothing going on. There were monsters, at night, sometimes, but nothing I wasn’t capable of defending myself against. In all likelihood, I’d still be there if it weren’t for more dumb luck, the one-and-only sign of intelligent life I discovered there. Or rather, death. The corpse of some explorer. I was certain he or she was from off-world, as the few intact rations in her pack contained several magical scrolls, most of them depleted, but one still intact, with the spell for planar travel. It took me weeks to decipher the scroll—drawing on ancient memories and deciphering runes from context in the would-be explorer’s spellbook. But somehow I managed to pull it off. And with no outside interference from horrible gods, I successfully transported myself to the one world I knew with any certainty—the closest thing I have now to a home. The Astral plane.

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Interlude - Year Two
In Case of Trouble

This world is, in many ways, unlike anything I have ever seen before. Blue men and women who bleed water and claim to be reborn upon death, in an endless cycle. Rivers of thick molten silver that slowly poison any who dare enter. Creatures that turn to stone when startled or threatened. And yet, for all that is different, there is so much that remains the same. People with power lording over those without. Good men and women punished for the actions of bad. Senseless violence, carried out for the pettiest of reasons. Injustice of all sorts, both natural and man-made, carried out against those who cannot resist it. And that’s where I come in. I am a stranger to your world, yet I care for it as though it were my own. I am a refugee, a survivor, the only human known to this realm. My name is Kestral, and I am here to help.


I resumed my old practice as the Man Who Solves Problems. If I’m going to be stuck here for a while, I might as well find something to do. It took a while for business to pick up, of course—who’s going to seek out a strange-looking man who knows impossibly little about the world for help?—but I was sure a little freelance work would go a long way. My first case was simple, at least on paper. Bunch of kobolds, or their local counterpart, at any rate, been raiding a nearby city and the king’s guard refuses to do anything about it without some special compensation. Enter the hero. I’ve fought automatons, vampires, even helped defeat a god. Surely some overgrown lizards won’t be a problem. And all for a little free room and board at the local inn. Win-win.
Except, turns out there’s a law against vigilantism in this country. King doesn’t want his citizens getting hurt doing something outside their station. Or more likely is worried that if his subjects get too autonomous they’ll question what exactly all their taxes are funding, since it sure isn’t public works or national defense. And all those people who suddenly found their kobold problem neatly resolved sure were quiet when the guards decided it was suddenly time to start doing their job.

But I’ve wasted enough time in jail and if the kobolds’ witch-queen and her twin barbtongues weren’t a problem for me, some overpaid and underworked watchmen sure as hell wouldn’t be. So, strike one on the grand heroics then. But I did fix the problem, and I didn’t kill any of the guards, so when the story of a dangerous insurgent spread throughout the kingdom, it was followed by another story, quieter, yet somehow easier to hear. A story of roguish intrigue and swift action, with just a hint of rebellion. It was a popular story. And when a man turned up in a nearby city pub two weeks later with a fresh spin on the story a strong resemblance to the recently circulated wanted posters, no one left to find the night watch. But just about everyone volunteered their own stories when the man had finished, each one carrying a common theme—problems the king’s guard just didn’t seem to be concerned about.

A number of those stories were, more or less, the same story. Entire families, killed. No, not just killed, slaughtered. Used to be this sort of thing would happen from time to time. Isolated incidents going back years. Everyone typically just blamed it on wild dogs or something. But lately it had been happening more frequently. And with a common twist—in every family, one of the kids would be missing.

I got as much information about the killings as I could—locations, family backgrounds, parents’ occupations, anything that might connect them, but it all seemed to be random. So I tried following up on the missing children, but again, I turned up nothing. I might have had to give up were it not for one thing, sheer dumb luck. One thing I’ve noticed in my travels is that magic from my homeworld doesn’t always behave the same on other planes. On some they’re so weak they’re almost mundane. On others they simply behave differently. On this world, the Skin of the Vampire, the sheer cloaklike material given to me by the vampire lord, seemed to enhance my senses in addition to my physical capabilities—but only at night. So when I was skulking around a back alley one night, just wandering somewhat aimlessly, I was able to hear a faint struggle from several blocks away. Screams and an animal-like snarling.

I found the source of the commotion, too late to help. A large, vaguely wolfish creature was standing over the eviscerated corpses of the family that had, until moments earlier, lived there. Hearing me approach, the creature turned and fled the scene. I gave chase, endeavoring to stay out of sight. Eventually it led me to the entrance of an underground tunnel in an abandoned part of the city. Inside was rows of cages containing beastial-looking humanoids—some ferociously raging against their prisons, others laying listlessly, looking somewhat emaciated. The beast I had been chasing ran to the back of the room, too dark for even my heightened vision to see. I crept after it, hoping the other creatures’ reactions wouldn’t give my presence away. As I got closer, I realized the beast was no longer there, instead two humanoid figures were standing there—a man and a child. The child was naked and as my vision focused, I realized he was covered in blood, but not wounded in any way. The man was speaking to him, softly in a language I didn’t understand. After a moment he reached out to the child, who flinched in fear, not unlike a cornered dog, and ushered him into a cage like those of the beastoids.

Then it clicked. The children hadn’t simply been kidnapped. The children were the killers. Something was causing children in this town to turn into beasts and slaughter their families. And this man was responsible. He didn’t see me coming. He couldn’t have. In the darkness I am but a shadow myself. I could have simply stabbed him then and been done with it. But that would be sloppy. Unprofessional. I’m not here to avenge, I’m here to resolve the problem. I need to know what he’s doing, why. So instead I confronted him.

He laughed, told me I had no right to stop his experiments. They were sanctioned. I told him I didn’t care. Then I cut off his left hand. Which I was hoping would be intimidating, but he didn’t terribly bothered by it. It did convince him, though, that wasn’t willing to leave quietly, so we skipped right to the fighting. He almost gained the upper hand when he opened the cages and set the starving beast-children on me. But then he blew it by boasting that his serums were irreversible, which removed any compunctions I had about killing them. He also revealed that he was working alone, on a grant from the palace itself, on a way to increase the strength of their soldiers. Which removed any compunctions I had about killing him. Losing a hand may not have bothered him, but losing a head was a different matter.

Looking through his supplies, I found detailed notes of his experiments. So detailed, I was pretty sure anyone in the city, regardless of their loyalties, would take issue with them. I also found a number of concoctions, most of which I destroyed, but two, labeled “tissue regeneration” that I decided to hang onto. I also dealt with the final child, the one I had followed. He looked fully human, but moved and reacted like a sick animal. I did what I could for him.

After delivering the alchemist’s notes to the city guard, I moved on, not wanting to gamble on their continued goodwill. As I visited other cities, I started to notice a trend of particularly awful behavior, all allegedly sanctioned by the palace itself. As I journeyed, I worked my way closer to the capital city. The closer I got, the more heavily guarded the cities became, but the word of my exploits traveled faster than I did, so as the cities became less accessible, the citizens became more helpful.

Eventually, I made it to the capital. There was a big confrontation with the king, in his own palace. His traitorous advisers were exposed and their complex villainous plots defeated, and the king swore to abandon his plans for war and instead spend his money to improve his kingdom, and he gave me his blessing to travel freely within his kingdom as a friend of the court. It was all very boring and not at all worth expanding on in any way.

With unrestricted travel and no more need for anonymity, I finally set up shop like I had planned to, at least in a sense. At this point, my reputation was already taking on the shape of a local legend, so it made more sense for me to play to that and take a more nomadic approach. I seem to be drawn to trouble these days.

At one point, I even thought I might have had a lead on my own quest. A samsarin cleric named Sonitri, who claimed to have been bestowed great power by her god Ramna. Her lead seemed promising—as she had access to powerful magic she had no way of learning, and claimed knowledge of events long forgotten, much of which we were able to verify in time. But typically, it led nowhere useful. Ramna was no god, merely an extraordinarily powerful sorcerer with absolute control over the writers of his day. He was also a past life of Sonitri, whose magic and memories had persisted across nearly a dozen rebirths with an unprecedented degree of strength. Were it not for my experiences, and the existence of the astral plane, my travels among the planes of reality would do much to convince me that the gods themselves never even existed. I am the closest a god has come to these parts in untold lifetimes.

Despite our findings, Sonitri remained an ally—she valued the truth above the fulfillment of her desires, and for that she will always have my respect. Together, we leveraged everything we had discovered together to become semi-official fact-finders, or debunkers, as she liked to call us. Our work wasn’t always appreciated—the truth so often unappealing and undervalued—but I like to believe that our efforts made this world a better place.

So when we discovered the portal, I actually considered staying. I don’t think I would ever feel at home on that plane, but I had found a purpose in it all the same. Was that something to so casually abandon for the complete unknown? Sonitri didn’t want me to go. She enjoyed being seen with the strange pale man, the local hero for hire in case of trouble. Telling people about all the incredible alien things I’d shared with her about my world (many of them even true). She’d never admit, but she’d miss me—I could see it in her face, as she urged me to leave. She knew little about my true quest, but she knew I had one, and she knew no answers to it lay on her world. The only way for me was forward.

I left her my Boots of Escape as a parting gift. Their range on this world was significantly farther than usual, and I was sure she’d be able to use them better than I. She wrinkled her nose at that—deriding either the apparent sign of affection or smell of my feet—but I noticed she wasted no time in donning them. In return, she gave me her bracelet—a relic of Ramna, from our first adventure together. She’d always refused to tell me what it did. We said our heartfelt goodbyes—a combined total of nine words—and without further hesitation, she activated the portal and I stepped forward, toward my fate.

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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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