dungeons & dragons

AVO: The Divine Wrath

This is an ongoing series of posts within the world of my D&D campaign setting, Avo. Peruse the wiki.

The Divine Wrath, also known as the Wrath, was an multiverse-spanning event which occurred at some point in the distant past, often colloquially described as “1,000 years ago,” though no one knows how many years for certain.1This is akin to ancient Jewish tradition of saying “a thousand years ago” to mean “a very very long time ago.” It is called the An-Çevelt’a Sorus Kama, or the Seven Day War of the Gods, by the elves2An referring to the number seven, connected to cevelt’a, which comes from cevelt, which is “day” as it refers to an amorphous concept of time. (This is opposed to ceve, a common elf word used by mariners and merchants which still means Day but refers to the strict 24 hours encapsulating a day. Thus, cevelt would be used to describe a passage of time in a mythological or abstract sense, whereas ceve would be used to describe how long it would get from Point A to Point B.) The hyphen connecting the first two words means that the number an is quantifying or acting as an adjective to the word cevelt (to not confuse it with being separate from cevelt). The ‘a afterward is an honorific; specifically, it honors the word kama, which means Gods in this case. (Kama refers to a god, singular, in an informal case. Kamao means gods in an informal sense; c.f. Sen kamao! a common elven phrase that means “By the gods!”. Kama, when coupled with an honorific, often means Gods plural.) The honorific is in effect letting the listener know that the next part of the phrase is referring to someone or something very important. Lastly, sorus simply means War, as in a very long or very important war; sorusi means War or Battle of a smaller scale or importance–the -i suffix is used as a diminutive by the elves. though, again, the actual time scale is unknown. The time after the Wrath has been called the Dawn Era, while the time before the Wrath is usually called the Times Before or the Gray Era.

Not much is known about the Wrath other than that it was a war, perhaps seven days long (though that may be a more symbolic reference to time), which pitted the gods of the Outer Planes against the primordials of the Inner Planes. Prior to the Wrath, the primordials were chained or otherwise imprisoned by the gods inside the roiling Elemental Chaos which manifests at the outer edges of the Inner Planes. The titans, created of the primordials and who lived in and were bound to the Material Plane, found a way to escape and, in turn, unchained their progenitors. The war began shortly after, as the primordials ripped through the planar boundaries like they were paper, advancing on the Outer Planes to enact their revenge. The gods retaliated, and the so-called seven day battle ensued across the multiverse.

The Wrath decimated life on Avo and likely on most of the worlds of the Material Plane; an estimated 90% of the population on Avo was killed collaterally by the battles between the celestial and primordial forces, with more perishing in the chaotic Sovereign Wars afterward. In addition, either during or shortly after the war, all historical record of Avo prior to the Wrath was destroyed or erased from existence. A vast majority of scrolls and tomes from the era were found to be blank, and the elder elves of Avo were cursed (and then reverse cursed) with ossification by an unknown force, thus unable to hand down the elven oral tradition.

The Wrath fundamentally altered aspects of Avo, though the extent of these alterations is unknown, aside from obvious ones such as the Ashlands, which is the result of a massive volcanic explosion from the Kalemva Mountains. The multiverse in general, too, was changed in radical ways. It is known that, in times past, the Material Plane was a separate entity from the other planes. However, after the Wrath, somehow the Material Plane commingled with the Astral Sea, or vice versa, and now the Space Between Worlds, once a lifeless vacuum, became filled with the Astral Sea and the strange denizens therein.

Likewise, it is believed that, prior to the Wrath, the echo planes of the Feywild and the Shadowfell were connected somehow, but the Wrath split these planes into two sovereign entities. Also, a divine gate known as the Prism, which once prevented the deities from entering the Inner Planes, was destroyed, and then reconstructed around the Outer Planes, to act as a barrier against the Far Realm.

The world of Avo saw a rise in the levels of the seas, enormous mountain ranges rise and fall, and the land devastated by volcanic explosion and long, deadly storms. In addition, numerous “divine orbs” exist in Avo which are thought to be the remnants of gods who were killed in battle. Much of these tidbits of information are known only by the most dedicated of scholars, who spent their entire lives trying to dig up or insinuate scraps of historical information.

The history of Avo following the Wrath is hazy at best, but it is known that for a period of time (around 100 years or so), the remaining population of the world fought for dominion over the remaining lands. This is known as the Sovereign Wars, which further eradicated the people of Avo before settling down and ultimately ending. The outcome of the Sovereign Wars is not fully understood, though it seems that the wars simply fizzled out due to the sheer lack of populace to engage in them.

The world post-Wrath has changed in significant and insignificant ways. Some of these ways are detailed below.

The Written Record. As stated earlier, the vast majority of written texts and historical records from before to the Wrath were erased or destroyed. It is known that in ancient times, a group of historians called the Storybearers kept extensive records of history; all of these texts have been destroyed or erased, and most Storybearer libraries have been razed to the ground. In addition, around 500-600 years of post-Wrath history is also unknown to modern scholars; dedicated written records were not really seen again until 612 DE, with the Kalemva Accords, which helped established Oneotona as the cultural capital of Avo at the time. The few extant texts from before this time came from scholars who survived the Wrath, hastily writing down what information they could remember. These texts, funnily enough, are called the Hasty Texts. Some of these texts are dated to a point thought to be within the Sovereign Wars, which has led modern scholars to believe that the erasing of historical record was not a result of the Wrath, but of the Sovereign Wars themselves. This cannot be verified with 100% accuracy, however, as most of the Hasty texts are not dated (or are dated, but in a historical context; i.e., referring to the past).

The New Gods. The relationship between theology and the pre-Wrath beings of Avo is incredibly varied. Each land had their own set of gods, and some of those gods were not even considered real. Post-Wrath, the gods delivered unto Avo the pantheon of deities which would look over our world. This was part of a larger concept known as the Grand or Divine Division, in which the gods split themselves from the Divine Essence, becoming individual deities, rather than aspects of the Divine Essence. This was thought to be done to protect the Essence from Entropy by not allowing it to be completely tainted by it; rather, Entropy could (and did) corrupt several independent gods, forcing them to be reliant on worship in order to survive.

The new gods will be described another time.

The Final Curse of the Elves. It is known that elves pre-Wrath were effectively immortal until killed. However, at some point, either during the Wrath or shortly thereafter, all of the elder elves (or those older than 800 years) were turned to bone, in a process called ossification. In west-central Kalemva, the entire ancient elf civilization there was ossified, including the cities and the woods as well. No one, not even the ancient scholars, know why this occurred. What is known is that somehow that curse was lifted and even reversed (likely by the new gods), because elves now, when they reach their 7th or 8th centuries, begin to transform into what we call the estwyr, or “star elves.”3Wyr meaning “elf” and est being short for esteri, the elf word for “star.” This process is almost exactly like the transformation of larvae into butterflies or moths; the elf’s skin begins to harden, resembling bone, a process which takes around seven to ten days. The cocoon then remains motionless for around two to three years before it splits open, revealing the amorphous entity known as a star elf.

At this point, star elves are no longer humanoid, but celestial in nature. They shed all previous incarnations of their life, including their name, material goods, and relationships, and most then begin their journey out of the Material Plane to find their final purpose, which is unknown to us, as leaving the plane causes them to dissipate into nothingness (or perhaps shift into some other, unknown plane of existence). Some, however, remain in the world, such as Xevix the Keeper of Starlight. These star elves still dissipate, but at a much slower rate, and many (including Xevix) do not speak or interact with mortal beings.

Why this change occurred is unknown, even to the elves themselves. It is believed that, during the Wrath, the titans, primordialkin, cursed the elves with ossification as revenge for the gods creating elves in their own image. But who, or what, reversed this into the estwyr we know today is a mystery.

The Fear of Magic. One of the curious things about the centuries following the Wrath is that, while historical records perished, communal knowledge and oral tradition tended to remain in tact, though over the centuries, the information passed down became muddled and confused. A worldwide aversion to magic is one of these confusions; most of the people of Avo are afraid of magic, or downright hate it. It is seen as devilry or dangerous arcane greed by the spellcaster. As such, magic fell out of favor early on in the Dawn Era and is rarely seen today.

This is likely a response to the so-called “Magic Age” described in the Hasty texts, in which beings had access to powerful magics which ended up being their downfall. The texts indicate that the Magic Age occurred thousands of years before the Wrath, and that the oral narrative for events pre-Wrath merely compressed the timeline of ancient events. Regardless, many have tried to convince the populace that magic can be used for good, but agrarian revolts continue to bring down even the wisest of wizard. As such, magic study and use has become isolated to particular locations in Avo, such as the Floating Isle of Gharanhall.

The Villainous Adventurers. Another conflation was that of the adventuring lifestyle. The Hasty texts refers to the profession of adventuring, moreover that adventuring was common and that many guilds for adventurers existed all across Avo. A few texts relate stories of adventuring, including delving into dangerous dungeons, fighting dragons, and looting great hoards. It seems that after the Wrath, people began to conflate adventuring with danger, and with adventurers as being those who bring danger, rather than prevent it. “If adventurer ye see, then danger there’ll be,” goes one of the old sayings. Many even believe that adventurers are the reason the Wrath occurred in the first place. Thus, the adventuring lifestyle fell out of favor very quickly post-Wrath, and in modern times, being an adventurer is seen as akin to being a sinner. However, this has not stopped villages and people from hiring adventurers, as dangerous tasks still pop up. But the beings who take on these tasks are not viewed with admiration. Rather, they are seen as necessary tools to defeat evil, even if they are the cause of the evil as well.

These are just a few of the repercussions of the Divine Wrath. The world of Avo changed drastically after the gods and primordials fought, and no matter how hard we try, it is unlikely that we will ever get to truly understand our past.

  • 1
    This is akin to ancient Jewish tradition of saying “a thousand years ago” to mean “a very very long time ago.”
  • 2
    An referring to the number seven, connected to cevelt’a, which comes from cevelt, which is “day” as it refers to an amorphous concept of time. (This is opposed to ceve, a common elf word used by mariners and merchants which still means Day but refers to the strict 24 hours encapsulating a day. Thus, cevelt would be used to describe a passage of time in a mythological or abstract sense, whereas ceve would be used to describe how long it would get from Point A to Point B.) The hyphen connecting the first two words means that the number an is quantifying or acting as an adjective to the word cevelt (to not confuse it with being separate from cevelt). The ‘a afterward is an honorific; specifically, it honors the word kama, which means Gods in this case. (Kama refers to a god, singular, in an informal case. Kamao means gods in an informal sense; c.f. Sen kamao! a common elven phrase that means “By the gods!”. Kama, when coupled with an honorific, often means Gods plural.) The honorific is in effect letting the listener know that the next part of the phrase is referring to someone or something very important. Lastly, sorus simply means War, as in a very long or very important war; sorusi means War or Battle of a smaller scale or importance–the -i suffix is used as a diminutive by the elves.
  • 3
    Wyr meaning “elf” and est being short for esteri, the elf word for “star.”
dungeons & dragons fiction

Explaining the Karmic Balance of the Wish Spell

This is (hopefully) an ongoing series of posts within the world of my D&D campaign setting, Avo. Peruse the wiki.

From a lecture by Professor Cerapham di Lien at the Conjuric Academy in Valwyria, 13 Midspring 3308. Transcribed by Lenna Whirk, St.B.Est.

We’ve all heard it before: word your wishes carefully. We know that the more powerful the thing wished, the worse it will backfire. There are many, many stories out there of your local country bumpkin discovering a monkey’s paw in the fields, making a wish to become rich, only to discover that the treasury in Neven has been completely emptied of its gold. Or the chance meeting between a prince and a dao, or a djinni, and making a wish to marry the most beautiful princess in the world, only to find out that the princess’s father is a tyrant warlord, and the marriage has incited his anger, leading to a decades long war that ends up getting both the prince and princess killed.

If the latter example sounds like a joke to you, you need to revisit your Letoran history books.

So, why does wish come with some sort of cost? It is the only spell in our canon that does so, and the cost is exponential; the larger the wish, the more the cost. In addition, there’s a roughly one-third chance that if you cast wish, you may never be able to cast it again! Why is that? You’d think that after thousands of years, we would have been able to come up with some way of circumventing such an issue, yes?

Well, the answer to this is somewhat fascinating because, in essence, wish is the only arcane spell bound to divine reaction. Note that I did not say it is a divine spell. This is surprisingly rare; most spells of a divine nature do not cross into arcane territory unless the caster has specialized in such weaving; spells of healing, for example, are simply untouchable by plain wizards, no matter their skill with magic. And while wish, intrinsically, is strictly arcane in nature (and, in truth, is unknowable by divine spellcasters unless they specialize in arcana), extrinsically, wish, and spellcasting in general Post-Catastrophe, is bound by the divine law. To cast it is to dip into the divine karmic balance which was codified during the Catastrophe. It is, in essence, a request to the divine will.

Before the Catastrophe, spellcasting was at its height of power, and many of those spells beyond our ken today, of the renowned tenth through thirteenth grade, were sufficiently powerful that the only way they could be cast successfully was if sacrifice was woven into the spell itself, whether intended or not. One such spell, reality warp, was a twelfth grade spell which, when cast, fundamentally changed the nature of reality within a certain range. One could, for instance, exchange up for down, left for right. One could make rocks edible, or make a tree turn a body into thin strands the closer one approached it. And these are the things we are able to comprehend! In truth, reality warp was capable of changing reality into something so fundamentally and completely foreign to our minds that it could make the viewer–or taster, or smeller, et cetera–go mad, instantly, with no recourse. One story goes that a wizard who cast this spell went so mad that her brain literally melted and seeped out of her own nostrils. In short, the sacrifice was one’s own mind, and the chance of this happening was roughly equal to 25%! Imagine, casting the fireball spell and having a one in four chance of it exploding in your face instead. The Age of Magic was extraordinary.

Obviously, since it was the gods who hold dominion over reality, a spell capable of fundamentally changing it was not ideal, in their eyes. So it was that during the Catastrophe the gods suddenly and irrevocably revoked our jurisdiction over these grades of spells. Gone were the days of wizards holding the ultimate power over the worlds in which they lived. Spells were since curated, so to speak, by the gods, to ensure that mortal beings could not devastate the world on their own.

However, within the upper echelon of spell grades lies the only outlier to potential world devastation: wish, and with it, the potential for danger. Why the gods left this spell within our grasp is unknown. Based on my own research, there are two rising and competing theories: one is that wish was granted to mortals by the trickster gods, such as Asmodeus, Cyric, or Tymora, but in doing so, they warped the spell into its current incarnation for the express purpose of their own pleasure; that they, in short, enjoy seeing mortals bite off more than they can chew. The other theory is that the truth may lie within the primordials, whose kin, the genie, are sometimes capable of granting wishes outside of the purview of the gods, which may mean that the wish spell itself is beyond the purview of the gods, and instead is something that they are beholden to as much as you or I. This is a dangerous thread of thought to tread, however, for if the gods hold no dominion over wishes … who does? Surely not the forever-chained primordials!

I trust the answer will never be laid cleanly before us by the gods, as distant and unseemly as they are. All we know about wishes is that the larger the scope, the worse off it will be for you in the long run. So please, students, should you ever be able to grasp the upper echelon of spell grades, remember the words, tried and true: word your wishes carefully.


229: megan (norvair, the weaver)

i keep to myself, for obvious reasons. inside my pocket dimension are so many souls, i’ve lost count. but there are enough to give rise to a city, a beautiful walled fortress called ebonarch. this city is shaped by my thoughts, which are informed by the people inside. i remember the first, a girl, emilia … she … she never left. some people get pulled out. i don’t know why. the only thing that is constant is that whenever i’m in danger, people will be pulled out to help. emilia was my childhood friend, the first victim. she and i were playing in the orphanage and i touched her arm and she disappeared. for weeks i didn’t know where she went, none of us did, until one day, i heard her voice in my thoughts. she was alone in this void of a dimension i had created simply by being born of the weave. she spoke to me, telling me that she was alone, scared, drifting in inky blackness for what seemed like eons. all she wanted was to see the sun again. and so i gave that to her, i gave her the sun, and grass, and trees and water. and as i got older i began stealing others into my little world, and they asked for things to help them feel at home, and i gave them walls and houses and ore to mine and the freshest air to breathe. i tried to give them paradise. the time in my world is different, it moves faster than in norvair. people aged, emilia grew older, married a man, had children. died. that was nine years ago. i had to stop it, i had to slow it. i almost died, spending all of a darkwinter meditating, trying to slow ebonarch down. i think i’ve succeeded. but it is a city now, with its own populace, it’s own people. and now you see i wear gloves and stay away from people, because i’ve taken enough people into this land. i don’t need to take any more. that is why i’m alone, sir, and why i plan to stay alone.


201: prestyr, villager of doren

ollie and i got a keg of beer from a wandering merchant yesterday. you saw him, didn’t you? halfling … when’s the last time you saw a halfling? gods, it must’ve been years for me. anyway we traded two quarters of tozha beaks for the keg, and we’re thinking of drinking it tonight. you want in? you don’t have to pay us for your fill, this is just a celebration of the end of darkwinter. ollie says it’s ending soon, says he saw the corona, but i think he’s full of shit. everyone sees the corona when it happens, right? old grovens would have seen it at least.

oh, you know what else? the halfling enchanted the keg, or it came enchanted, something like that. the beer isn’t frozen. i could keep it on the top of korelle and it wouldn’t freeze! can you believe that? listen, i’ll take it outside and roll it around, you’ll hear it sloshing inside.

look, i know it’s been a rough darkwinter for you, fross, losing your parents and all that. ollie and i, we just want to cheer you up. hell, i’ve even got ollie asking folgeir if he’ll come! i think he’ll do it too, if he knows you’ll be there. folgeir likes you. he likes all of us, really, but i know he sees potential in you.

well … think about it, will you? tomorrow at last light, we’ll be at throdwen’s farm. we’re going to have a grand old time! we won’t be upset if you don’t come but … we’d love if if you did. okay? okay. have a good sleep fross. we’ll see you tomorrow, hopefully.


192: folgeir, paladin of doren, explains how he got his facial scar

it was the middle of darkwinter and the migration was underway. the air was so cold it frosted our warm breaths and they collapsed to the ground like little light puff balls. a man couldn’t spit for fear it would stick to their face. if you had to pee–wait until we reached shelter, or suffer the loss of your dick. this is darkwinter across the frozen sea, men and women trudging in thick hobnailed boots and layers upon layers of furs, trudging over ice and packed snow with lit torches or legal light nested on walking sticks or on body parts. pinpoints of light dotting the otherwise black landscape. it’s a very surreal experience if you haven’t been, as the tozha are unafraid of humans–unafraid of anything, really–and they just lope along so effortlessly along the ice, and you’ll see a few of them with their giant beaks slamming into the ocean ice, chipping at it until they get into the ocean. the tozha are such smart creatures, they’ll have one of the females break open a hole with its beak and then open the hole up until it’s wide enough for the male’s more slender beak. then they all huddle around the hole and keep the spot warm so the hole doesn’t refreeze, while the male takes a bit of food, or chum, or whatever they have–sometimes they strip meat from each other, in fact–and clutch it in their beaks which they dip into the water, waiting for fish to come and bite. when they do, SNAP, they grab the fish and throw it onto the ice, where it’s devoured quickly. the female who broke the ice gets the first fish, then all the others, and the male gets the last fish.

padrage and i were tasked with finding these fishing holes and driving the tozha away from them so we could fish ourselves. see, cracking the ocean ice is not easy, even for the tozha, who can spend upwards of eight hours breaking through to the water, depending on the ice thickness. i feel like a bastard for doing it but a lot of times we just shout and wave our light at the tozha and they run off scared. i try to make sure they fill their bellies but it’s colder than cold on the frozen seas and spending a lot of time there is just deadly. now, you’ve seen tozha, yes? at least in your history tomes. giant birds, basically, so big that their wings can’t keep ’em aloft at all. they run on these enormous bird legs, thicker than the width of your body, and at the end of these legs is talons, talons as long as your arm and sharp as a freshly honed seax. the tsosodoi people, they train tozha so as to ride ’em into battle and such, and a domesticated war tozha is a terrifying thing to see in battle.

fortunately for padrage and myself, most tozha are easily frightened, especially by bright lights. i had a torch because i don’t trust magic, but padrage had some legal light and we set about scaring off a group of tozha who had burrowed a nice broad hole into the ocean. we had a group of six men, the other four carrying the various parts of the fishing contraption they use to bring up the real big deep sea stuff. and one of them had fire to keep the hole from refreezing. big operation, been done for hundreds of years. biggest problem is slipping on the ice and falling into the hole. you do that and you’re dead, cause either you freeze, or you get eaten by whatever is still swimming around under all that ice.

well, i don’t know what it was about tonight, but all those tozha ran off into the darkness, except for one. a mama bird, a big one, had to be ten, twelve feet tall. she had a wingspan unlike anything i’d ever seen on tozha before, and when pad raised his light up, her feathers were black and her beak was a dullish bronze and she reared up and spread her wings and they had to be twenty feet long, just full of these beautiful shimmering purple-black feathers. we were in awe, amazed, astounded. i had never seen a tozha like her and i don’t think i ever will again. she cawed at us, a loud, thunderous sound reverberating from her breastbone, and then she cocked her head to the side, sizing us up with one of her enormous black eyeballs.

on the frozen sea the wind whips incessantly, bringing about a deathly cold to anyone save the hardiest people like myself and padrage. it’s loud, like a thousand banshees screaming at you and tossing you about from all angles. the snow falling like a blizzard all around you, the heavy fog, it was all disorienting, all of it, and we were both enraptured by this mama bird’s awesomeness … so we staggered a bit when she charged us. pad was shouting, and i couldn’t hear him until he turned around. he was shouting “run,” and i took a step back, instinctively felt my hobnails grip into the slippery ice, twisted my feetaway from the tozha. but i was still looking at her, and at pad, and i watched as her giant talons gripped into the ice, watched pad as he tried to push off from the ice but he slipped and she slammed her foot into his back. heard the air escape from pad’s lungs with such a whoosh that i swear to this day i could see his spirit get forced out of his body, a will-o-the-wisp finding itself forever trapped in the cold winds of darkwinter.

naturally i was upset, and in my rage i made the mistake of attacking this beast, unsheathing my seax and praying to enfyenda to grant my boots the grip they desperately needed. i ran and leaped at the tozha, striking it hard against the beak, which only caused my whole body to shudder, my hammer to ricochet off. a glancing blow to a beast like that. the tozha, annoyed, flicked its beak at me as i fell, striking me hard against the breast and knocking me to the ground. with a swift motion its other foot was on my chest, pressing hard the air out of me. one of its talons was inches from my forehead and as in instinctively struggled out of its grip, it just tightened it more, and the talon slowly sliced down my face. that’s how i got this scar. i’m surprised i still have my eye.

for a while it felt like an eternity, but in truth is was mere moments, me trapped under her foot, her beak so close to my face, the occasional darting glance from her eyes perched on the sides of her head. i tell you, i’ve been an adventurer all my life and it never gets easy, it never stops being terrifying. ever. and this was no exception to that rule. anyway. i don’t know what caused the tozha to let go, but she decided to lift her foot from my body and take padrage’s body in her massive beak. then she turned and was off, running in the darkness toward her flock. i laid there for a moment, collecting myself. the hole cut into the water had already frozen over. i was alone. i picked myself up and grabbed the light padrage had been holding, and trudged slowly back to camp, feeling the bruising on my ribs, the frozen blood on my face, fearing frostbite on my nose.

when i got to camp the warren was full of men like me, men who were battered, bruised, cut, sliced, frostbitten. and some were dead. preyster gahrain chided me for allowing the tozha to take padrage’s body. “now they’ll have a taste for human!” he cried. i just crawled into my hole and wept.


189: tryvell antaleus, padoran exhaler

the wisdom of padora is one that can never be overstated. her grace and mercy are the ultimate power in our world. she who is cosmic flesh sought to breathe in the breath of life so that we may live and take part in the grand revelry that is life. for this we are eternally grateful. you, child, are a skeptic, an asker of important questions, one who sees cracks in the logic of the universe and seeks to pry those cracks open until the foundations are split in two. this is good, this is a part of padora’s wisdom, bestowed upon you: you are given the task of proving the truth of the world to the nonbelievers and believers alike. do not tread these boards lightly. many before you and many after will spend their waking hours studying the scrolls given to us by padora’s trusted angels, trying to find a slip in her words, an error in translation, or any other issue that can be used against her. this is not the true skeptic’s path. the skeptic uses questions to help define the presence of padora, not her absence. those that pursue the absence of the goddess are doomed to destitute failure, cast out of padora’s light and exiled to the barbarian lands to the north. please understand, initiate, that there are skeptics outside of padoran skepticism, those whose fundamental premise is that padora herself does not exist. those skeptics die alone, and hungry, in caves and on plains, or are murdered by the ravenous hordes in the north. they are your enemies and are not to be trusted. do not ally with the dark skeptics. they will be your downfall.


182: folgeir, paladin of doren (pt 2)

i have traveled the world and back and still will never find a stew made as delicious as that samantha terwin. she must put some kind of faerie magic in there, no matter where i am i crave it. ah, so very delicious…

so, where was i? oh yes! betrayal. the worst kind of betrayal, the kind that comes from your best friend. the wizard had become the sorceress, the descendant of a long line of sorcerers bound by the ancient green dragon’s blood pact. the sorceress explained how she had been in search of the dragon for centuries (she was an elf, i suppose i should mention that), and that when the tremor split the land in kostor in twain, she was certain that the dragon that crawled out from the fracture was indeed her ancestor. she had been using us all this time as vessels to help her in this search! every night she pretended to study her spellbook, she had all this knowledge of the different schools of wizardry, she was nearly pedantic in her knowledge. but she looked and played the part perfectly. her spellbook, we later found out, was filled with random notes, drawings, and scribbles.

the dragon ordered us killed right then and there. she was not one for gabbing about her plans for world domination. as the sorceress raised her arms to deliver a killing blow of magic, her eyes caught mine, and even though she was a dragonborn now and no longer an elf, i could see in her eyes a pang of regret, small as it may be. we had traveled together for nearly ten years, and we all but friends. i had told her my darkest secrets and she told me hers, or at least all but one. i would even go so far as to say, at one point in our travels, i loved her … for a brief moment, maybe a year at most. adventuring is a lonely business, little ones, so it’s nice to have some companionship. she didn’t feel the same way. about us, i mean. anyway.

the moment our eyes met felt like an eternity. her spell kept me and my associates from moving. i could feel the air sizzle as her magic began to manipulate the air around us. i prayed to enfyenda for guidance, for help, for anything that could get us out of this mess. and then, out of seemingly thin air, came out help–tully, the little rogue halfling, leapt onto the sorceress’ back and put a dagger blade against her throat. he must have been hiding the entire time! he whispered something to her, something i’ll never know, before he cut her throat. the dragon was furious and spit hot acid at tully, which hit him and the sorceress. i watched them both dissolve away as the bonds of her spell disappeared and allowed me movement. the next few moments were a blur: gojen sprinted at the dragon while i unleashed a spell to keep him protected. then i attacked as well. leyva kept us inspired while she weaved her special bardic magic, and the three of us fought that dragon with all of our might, so much so that i was afraid we would cause another earthquake. in the end, i was the only one to make it out alive, barely. my friends, that i had been traveling with for so long, all dead. the dragon was dead too, and i helped the people of kostor haul its body and its treasure hoard. took us nearly six months to excavate it all and get it out from the depths.

after that, i knew my adventuring days were over. i was getting older and wanted to rest and enjoy my life, and never see another friend dissolved by acid from a giant dragon. once we finished cutting up the dragon and selling the scales to smiths for armor, i was given a generous portion to take with me. but i gave most of it away to the poor on my journey back here, to doren, my home. i was born and raised here, did you know that? and one day i met a young paladin preaching the gospel of enfyenda, which is when i knew what i would be one day.

so that’s it, that’s my story. the last adventure i ever went on. the adventure that killed all my friends. i … guess i didn’t realize how morbid it would be, really.

[sighs softly] i’m tired. come help me up, sam’s stew is making me drowsy. i think it’s time for this old dwarf to head to bed. come on, let’s go kids. i’ll tell you a more upbeat story next time, i promise…


181: folgeir, paladin of doren (pt 1)

you never give it up. ever. your body becomes old, frail, you find aches and pains where once there were none, your eyes dim, your hearing is replaced by little annoying hairs, but despite all that, you never give it up. from the moment i was given the holy symbol of our goddess of the north, the beautiful enfyenda, until i exhale my last dying breath, i am a sworn paladin in the service of the gods. yes, now, i reside here in doren, retired, in a way. hobbling on this old cane, teaching youngsters like you the ways of adventuring. but if word were to come from on high requesting me to fight or defend, may the goddess have mercy on those who wronged her. for i am a paladin, and i am the defender of those without agency.

so yes, young ones, despite my frailty i am still imbued with divine ichor, which flows through my blood and gives me power when i seek it. but i do not seek it any longer, not actively. no, my days traveling the world are long gone. shall i tell you of my last valiant battle? of course, of course. this is a tale better spoken by my dear friend leyva the bard, who played so gracefully upon her harp as she sung this story into being, welling the eyes of everyone with tears as she performed. alas, she is gone, given the gift of human mortality by her god yalga the bowyer. i had lived twice as long as her before we had ever met. she … was a good human.

but i digress. the tale of the dragon! my colleagues and i had adventured for nearly a decade together, braving forests, mountains, oceans, rivers, jungles, and even a brief trip into another dimension. yes! i will tell that story another time. doren is very secluded from civilization; i’m sure many of you are chomping at the bit to leave this dusty old village and travel to a city like altavir, the crystal shield. i have been to altavir, and kostor, and hen, and the wailing spires. i have seen sirens bathing in the streams. i have defeated devil and demon alike. i have done all of this because adventuring is a dead man’s game, and thus my friends and i were a prized commodity, especially in our later years. and so it was on this particular hot summer day, during a period of downtime–unusual for us–that we were summoned to the briar queen’s chamber in kostor to alleviate a particularly nasty dragon problem the citizens there had been facing.

like i said, adventurers are few and far between, and those who choose the lifestyle are often dead before they even know it. for a span there i was convinced we were the only adventurers in the entire world! regardless, the briar queen required our services, and quickly–she had a wizard conjure up a gateway between where we were and her royal chambers in kostor. there, she and her council explained the situation, which i will condense for your young minds: there was a dragon. a big one, an ancient green dragon which had been awakened after decades of slumber by a severe tremor which caused much of the earth to rend asunder, destroying several buildings in kostor and even collapsing part of their legendary wall surrounding the city. the dragon was roused and began causing more havoc against the people of kostor, destroying their farmland and spitting vile acid which ate away at everything it touched.

we were tasked with bringing the dragon down. the briar queen told us that the dragon had finally returned to its underground nest to rest for bit, but that it would return shortly. so we gathered up our weapons and armor, and our wizard ruminated on her best spells. leyva tuned her harp, the monk gojen meditated, i honed my sword and prayed to enfyenda for guidance, and tully the rogue practiced his sleight of hand. by nightfall we were off, spelunking down this enormous cavern that had opened up because of the tremor. inside were all sorts of monsters–enormous bugs, beetles, and vile creatures from the underdark like drow, ghouls, goblins, and more. but at this point they were like child’s play to us, and we toyed with them like you might toy with a field mouse nibbling on your grain before you feed it to the cat.

finally we reached the dragon’s lair. she was enormous, and her scales were embedded with so many jewels and gems that the wizard’s light made her entire body glint and glimmer. she was not asleep. rather, she was waiting for us. as i withdrew my sword to attack, she spoke. “i am lisandera,” she said, her voice low and gravelly. “i am the keeper of this land upon which you have built a great empire. that empire is mine, and i will rule it.” she hissed at us but did not move. despite our years of adventuring, we all knew not to head straight into battle. something was off about this. i tried to move closer to begin parleying but found that my body was rigid. “i can’t move!” i shouted, and the others announced the same. it was at this point that the wizard, whose vile name i dare not repeat ever again with this holy tongue, stepped in front of us. she walked to the dragon and turned to us. we had been betrayed! the wizard was a sorcerer, but had disguised herself as a wizard since the moment we met. now, she removed her guise, and we discovered that the ancient green dragon was in fact the progenitor of her ancestry! the sorceress laughed maniacally and we were certain of our doom.

[a loud clangy triangle sounds in the distance]

ah, is it supper time already? goodness. we shall have to pick up this story after i have eaten! [the children groan] oh, don’t worry, i shan’t forget you. now, somebody bring me my walking stick. and you, beatrice, help me up! i refuse to ever miss a good meal,not after being trapped in the ice caverns of north berteroy for nearly six months…


157: queen goswin (padora)

darling, come sit at the table, stop staring out the windows. i’m sure tyverion has shown you all you need to see. that land out there is yours, by divine right, but there are those who oppose divine right, and those who do not believe in padora’s grace. this is true of all civilizations–there are those who believe, and those who don’t. padora was wise to grant us the ability to question her existence, to give us the skeptic’s path toward enlightenment. for what good is a goddess if she cannot be held accountable for the things she does, or does not do? the exhalers would lead you to believe that padora does not even know of the world she has created, much like we sometimes forget that we are breathing, even while we do it. not knowing implies not caring, or rather, that she is not aware of our problems, nor does she try to fix them. this is justification for the wars with the outer lands; that because the unbelievers cannot be shaped by padora’s grace, we must shape it for them. but because padora strictly forbades violence, we direct the peacekeepers to fight in our stead. many of them do not return, and it is becoming difficult to replenish our forces of able-bodied men who willingly defy padora to protect tersus. it is difficult to defend your divine right, logos. but i will do whatever i can, whatever is within my power, to keep you safe until you are of age to reign. until then, please heed my words: tyverion is a good man, but easily swayed. he fought in the war of the ancients and has seen much death and destruction, and it hurts him, as he believes he is no longer connected to the breath. he is swayed in favor of the outliers and will protect them when the time comes, and he will use you to help him. you must not let that happen, for if you do, your lineage will come to an end. believe me, my love. i would never do anything to harm you. i love you and will protect you to my dying day.


155: tyverion, right-minder to the prince royale (padora)

glorious, isn’t it? take a look at it all, let it all sink into the depths of your eyes. this is your land, all of it, from the earth beneath your feet to the tops of those mountains in the distance, and beyond. smell the flowers blooming in the valley below, feel the wind against your cheek. this is yours. a river, about 70 miles past the mountains ahead of us, is the end of your reign, majesty. imagine, anywhere from here to there is yours to roam, to do whatever you wish in. and for this you only have two people to thank: your mother, and padora, the goddess herself, who has infused your body with her breath. the land of tersus is yours by right of divinity, yes, all of it, even beyond the river, but currently your mother the queen has suggested to the peacekeepers to wage war on the sinners of the other lands, who use the goddess’s breath to craft nefarious magics, which they use against us. she does this for you, young one, so that when you take over the throne you will have little to worry about. all she asks for is your patience and your unwavering loyalty to padora, your goddess-mother, whose breath was instilled inside of you and will be passed along to your offspring for a thousand generations, until mankind dissipates into the cosmos with the great exhalation.

it is important to remember, dear prince, that your ascendancy into royalty came from nothing, from the sheer will off the goddess, and only in the goddess will it continue. your mother, she … is a fine queen, a glorious queen, praise be her name, but her council … is worried. we are worried about her grand designs for tersus and the surrounding land. not about conquest, per se, but … her alignment with the peacekeepers. by law she should not be allowed to even speak to them, as they are the embodiment of war, chaos, destruction, the evils the goddess forbade. but we turn a blind eye, because she is afraid of what those in the other lands have devised to use against us. she is in a precarious place, and one wrong move could strip her of her divinity. we do not wish that for you, dear prince. i need you to promise to me that, no matter what happens with your mother, you will never speak with the peacekeepers, nor be a part of any of their dirty work. there are intermediaries–myself, for example–who are equipped to deal with them and their secular nature. there is dogma attached to all of this, tenants brought down from the angels. when you are older, you will understand. but for now, i need your promise. please promise me?