Cool water surged up the black sand and lapped at her toes as Amerra Hutta, now at the end of her journey, shut her eyes for a precious moment and drew in a deep breath. The ocean’s familiar scent reminded her of the beginning. All the way back when she’d first stepped back from the water a continent away and a lifetime ago. It had been the dream of another person, to be here. She hadn’t had any idea what it would take then. The cost in years, her countless brushes with death. Even death itself. It disturbed her, that she knew what it was to die.
That things existed in the world which could bring you back from that with nothing more than a word. She had been saved by a Skywalker. The very beings she’d been told had created the world, and then abandoned it. Creatures of vanity and power that regarded her and her people as little more than clever insects whose antics had the potential to amuse. So the stories went.
Those words felt hollow now. Her father had dedicated himself to appeasing them, to staving off their wrath with offering and prayer, and now she wondered. The Skywalkers were powerful. She did believe they had created the world, but the rest? The one who’d saved Amerra had told her that it had only just been born, and what sort of perpetual evil could be brought into the world only to save someone that it named as family?
The truth was she’d lost faith in her people's beliefs a long time ago. How could the beauty of that shining temple at the heart of the great plain be the work of a fickle, wicked creature? There was pain in life, but that did not make it the product of evil or a game to amuse the world's architects. There were cheaper, better amusements.
Now a continent away from her people, from her lost faith, the Eastern Ocean undulated before her and with eyes wide she marvelled at the sight. She remembered her home. She remembered the waves that had greeted her every morning. A silly little grin bloomed on her face as she recalled that the girl she’d been had never even taken the time to watch them.
It was the same water, she thought, but not the same person. Without pomp, or fanfare, or even recognition, Amerra allowed herself to collapse on the beach. The damp sand met her with all the softness it could, but whatever pain the fall caused was nothing compared to the satisfaction she felt as she let out the weight of her journey in one, penultimate, sigh.
She’d made it. Every night she’d gone hungry, every day she’d run from thieves and worse, it all brought her here. Exactly where she’d wanted to be. As far as her feet could take her. There was tremendous freedom in it; the accomplishment of all her dreams. Behind her was everything, and ahead? Nothing to worry about.
Not anymore. The hard part was over. Now she had the cool sand, the sound of the water, the heat of the sun. For a brief moment in time these were her only companions and, though Amerra cherished each one, it was a stray thought as to the reason she’d lived to come this far that wrenched her from them. After all she’d forgotten that, while it was a good presumption in general, it was not always the case that her thoughts were entirely her own business.
“You know I did more than just save you right?”
The familiar voice made Amerra jump, even from her reclined state. As she got her feet under her she was shocked, yet again, to see a woman made entirely from mist rising from the nearby water and eyeing her expectantly. Given the circumstances she managed a choked, “Uh- Yeah. Yes.”
It was not every day that you had to defend your own thoughts, let alone to apparitions in the fog, after all. As for the mist woman herself, she visibly struggled to suppress a laugh at Amerra’s fumbled reply before launching into an explanation for the human woman, “Well, at least you noticed something. It’s more fun if you figure it out, but you’ve made it all the way here so I suppose you deserve to know. I couldn’t have anything else sneaking up on you after going to the effort of saving you once, so I made it so you can sense what the critters around you can. And tada! You’re here, having avoided supplying the local animal population an exotic treat.”
The ability was more valuable than words could express, and Amerra appreciated it. It had paid off time and time again. It was her friendly Skywalker’s self congratulatory tone, though, that was enough to force the human woman to blurt out, “It took a week for the vertigo to go away! I was throwing up twice. A . Day.”
“Huh,” The woman in the mist paused and bit her lip contemplatively. After a pregnant pause the Skywalker’s representation pointed at Amerra and apologized, “Fair. I should probably have thought about that. Well, it’s not like I made you. I’m winging this and it can't all be wins you know?”
“You’d never... Done that before? You didn’t know how?” Amerra stumbled over her words as a little seed of horror blossomed in her imagination. The woman in the fog reached out and waved in front of eyes as she turned pale.
The apparition retorted, “Hey! Hey! You weren’t in danger. I’m pretty sure. Very sure ok. I didn’t make you but it’s not like you’re that complicated! Not that that’s an, look ok you’re fine, you’re here, back to happy thoughts.”
Amerra could only stare blankly at the Skywalker’s representation. She pursed her lips meaningfully and changed the subject before she had any untoward thoughts regarding divinity and the respect one should show to it, “It worked, though. So thank you, honestly. You did save me, and you helped me get here.”
The misty woman gave Amerra a happy little smile and an embellished bow before speaking, “I did, and you’re welcome! Though, I wouldn’t say we’re even quite yet. After all, you are the reason I exist.”
It was a blunt admission, but the Skywalker hadn’t tried to conceal it from Amerra before. Perhaps a Skywalker could be young, and still be a Skywalker. Amerra thought telling people that Skywalkers can be born, and presumably die, wasn’t necessarily the greatest idea. She said as much, “You don’t owe me anything, but if I can make a request, perhaps don’t share that you’re a newborn. Even with... Family.”
“Well, I could be lying,” The apparition of a woman swirled around Amerra, leaving a thick blanket of fog behind her. Once it looked to Amerra as if the whole of the world had vanished but for her and her companion in the fog, that companion went on eagerly, “Or maybe you’re just special. A first, even among family. All explorers might be mine, but it could be it’s only you who has a little of me to yourself. So! I’ll abide by your request, and I’ll show a little nepotism besides.”
With a little wink from the fog suddenly collapsed on the Skywalker’s misty figure. What had been an ethereal figure in the fog manifested itself as a milky white representation of a woman clad in what looked like little clouds. It would have been an unearthly sight, if not for what was above it.
Looming above the vaporous woman was a vast white serpent. No less than five wings protruded from each side of its sinuous body, each one gently oscillating to hold the creature aloft. Every time a wing beat Amerra was buffeted by wind, terrified and mesmerized in equal measure. Two perfect circles, each one home to a great emerald eye, held her attention as the Skywalker explained, redundantly, “I’m sure you’ve seen the wetland people riding similar, if rather pathetic, creatures. I thought you’d appreciate the chance to go whenever you want, from now on. Besides, it beats the ability to walk on water, believe me. Massively overrated, that.”
Amerra's eyes widened and shock and she stuttered, “It... It belongs to me?”
“Yup,” The Skywalker said as she waved her translucent hand in front of Amerra’s face, “Maybe say ‘him’ though. And don’t worry about training, I’ve done all that for you already. Whatever you name him here already knows you, even if you need to take a moment to know him.”
The misty woman hesitated for a second and, somewhat abashed, added, “Though, I can’t say he’s all reward. Your little arrival here marked the start of a... Competition. I’m sure you’ll meet explorers everywhere you go soon, but I feel I ought to warn you ahead of time. Whatever they’re looking for, isn’t for you. If you want something from me, just shoot a prayer my direction alright?”
Amerra nodded at the vague absurdity of the statement. She had mixed feelings about the Skywalker, about her ‘reward’, and about whatever carrot her ‘friend’ was about to go swinging in front of the world. Of course, she was sure the Skywalker was already aware of her reservations. There was no point putting them to words.
At last, the first explorer to traverse Toraan, said the only thing that felt appropriate, “His name is Huern, then. Thank you. Again.”
An unnervingly huge grin bloomed on the Skywalkers facsimile of a face and she all but shouted, “He’s yours! Get to know your new friend! I have a game to kick off!”
She burst, and soon the beach was shrouded in mist with the great serpent as Amerra's only companion. She looked up at Huern and the flying beast met her gaze.
Amerra didn't say a word, but she was still processing it.
That night and for six nights after, the world over, men and women who dreamed of more than their petty lives received a vision in their sleep. Grand vistas of distant lands dominated their dreams, and without word or explanation they each understood the images to be true. Thousands of places, big and small, forgotten and remembered. Countless men and women dreamed of a varied and beautiful world, and all came to understand that their efforts in going to see what the gods had made for them would not be in vain. There would be reward, equal not to the destination but rather to the journey taken to get there.
A Goddess was watching, and she couldn’t wait to see what came next.
Amerra finally reaches the eastern coast of Toraan. She reflects upon everything that brought her here, and what it means. Eventually the Patron appears before her and they have a cool chat, before the Patron gives her a dope flying snake. The Patron then sends visions to everyone who thinks their lives could be more than they are, which is pretty much everyone.
-2 MP Created a legendary beast, the Sky Viper Huern: Huern the Sky Viper is capable of flying at incredible speeds while protecting his rider from the dangers inherent in such an action. Moreover, he is capable of breathing freezing mist and fog when threatened.
-3 MP Sent visions to the discontent for a week. These visions are vivid and will clearly impart the knowledge that there is a great competition commencing, one sanctioned by the divine. Those who seek the places shown in their visions will be rewarded upon the end of their journey, in a manner proportional to the nature and difficulty of their journey.
Government Type: Its inhabitants would call The State of Plenty an enlightened, egalitarian, society. A direct democracy made possible with the height of technology and a universal dedication to averting the errors of old Humanity. Outsiders might have a different opinion. The State has long been denounced as little more than a vast, empowered, viscous mob. One which assures its own prosperity and security by making the majority opinion the only opinion.
Of course, dissent isn’t illegal. Usually. Direct democracy means that anyone can propose new laws, and as the elites of the Core Worlds like to say, people can’t be trusted to rule themselves. While advanced, semi organic, supercomputers determine the subject of daily votes that all citizens of The State undertake, they are little more than reflections of the popular consensus, prioritizing motions that appear likely to succeed. Should there be enough chatter, and apparent enthusiasm, about any subject it isn’t unthinkable that it would end up on the docket.
As votes are global, so too are the bills and measures voted on. There exists no local representation in the State of Plenty. Only the will of the whole.
Demographics: Per vote 1222-68DHY-M3, which forbid any census in perpetuity, there is no clear data to support any real assumption on The State’s major populations. What can be seen is that, for all it might be a place of apparent ‘mob-rule’, The State is remarkably diverse. There are many, and perhaps a majority of, Humans, but they hardly make up more than the thinnest of majorities, if even that. In truth, any and every species can be found in the State.
Economy: The State of Plenty is, to the surprise of some, not a misnomer. There exists no poverty, strife, or even struggle. In fact, conventional work is almost unpracticed by the population. Rather, the citizens of The State partake exclusively in their passions and shun the very notion of working for some tangible material gain. This has resulted in the state being a massive exporter of art, video media, and music. The State of Plenty is an undeniable cultural powerhouse, but everyone knows a world cannot sustain itself on art and passion alone. Nor can its people.
Thus, here exists the devil's bargain. While a sizable share of menial labor in The State is automated it is an open secret that ‘tasks of necessity’ eschewed by the citizenry are handled by the world's vast prison industrial complex. This is sustained by there being a single punishment for all crimes in The State: Service to The State. Specifically, blissful service. Any prisoner, serving any sentence, for any length of time, is implanted with an electrochemical reward system intended to increase a prisoners quality of life.
Or that was how it was sold, generations ago. The reality is that undesirable tasks in The State are handled by addicts, controlled by an addiction hard wired into their skulls. While it is true that the implant can be harmlessly removed, its initial installation is no choice. After all, who would work tirelessly for nothing? The majority of The State’s population has long considered their wicked practice, by and large, ethical. After all, what’s better? To suffer in service and penance for your crimes, or to enact your penance with a spacey, but genuine smile.
Maybe that would be true, if it wasn’t for the ‘choice’ offered to convicts upon the end of their sentence. That is, whether to leave at all. It is no secret that the vast majority of the prisoners working in The State have long since earned their release.
She passed through the portal flippantly, entering the misty realm of the dead with all the famous circumspection of the incorrigibly curious. That is to say, none whatsoever. Her head swung this way and that as she surveyed the limitless towers that played final resting place to the uncountable throng of departed souls that Aquibeophate’s warden had claimed. A warden who, ultimately, she made little effort to summon.
It was a predictable outcome when the Patron Goddess of Explorers set off towards the nearest pillar without even trying to realize her goal in coming here. She strode across the stoney field, light bending at her whim so it seemed she’d donned a long dress made from the very world around her, and soon found herself standing directly before the portal she’d come from.
She grinned hugely at the development. Without much of a plan, beyond the vague notion of fun, she closed her eyes and started to step sideways. As she moved she felt the changes, even moving blind as she was. Every step a mile. Every mile a league. She moved faster, then slower. Even as she kept the length of her awkward sideways gait the same. It went on like that for a while, and by the time she finally opened her eyes, she was looking at nothing at all.
Staring into the mist was like trying to see through a rock. The ethereal fog had become so thick it may as well have been total darkness, for all the difference in the way it impacted her ability to see her surroundings. Luckily, the Goddess had senses other than sight. It was what those were telling her that made her almost giddy. Somehow, in the process of moving ‘sideways’ she’d found herself no longer standing on an infinite stone field, but the curve of what felt like a tiny moon. Or an enormous ball. It held her its surface just as the world below clung to its inhabitants.
”Oh, She remarked, “Now that’s a fun trick. I should use that.”
Her thoughts were interrupted by a sense of vibration, even as she could not see even a bare spec in front of her, she could feel on the ground beneath her. Getting closer a thousand quick taps, so soft that most mortals would never be able to tell of the approach. Suddenly the taps stopped just as they seemed to draw ever so near, one could not see any such thing even there was something close by. But then a voice came from the mists in front of her.
"Forgive this one for asking, but could you step quieter? You are disturbing the curvature."
The Goddess affected a puzzled look and scratched her head before answering ambivalently, “I could.”
"I would then request further that you step quieter in any further movement in the third deep mist."
“Will do. Well, if I remember. You know I can’t quite recall if I’m the forgetful sort or not. You might have to keep me company if you want me to quiet down. As a reminder, you know?”
There was a brief moment of silence before the reply came, "This one will accompany you."
The Goddess grinned and started walking backwards without bothering to turn around. Her feet felt out behind her and met the ground in cautious and delicate motions that didn’t so much as make a sound. Even as she moved faster doing it than anyone had a right to. She spoke up, her voice carrying just to her new traveling partner and no further, “So how many deep mists are there? I haven’t stopped by, before.”
"It changes as needed," this voice came from behind her as she felt the taps of her companion receding further away from her as best she could tell from the vibrations. "As of now there are five, a sixth one will form and then we will go back to three beyond then."
”You know that’s probably the better solution. Back home it’s all pines and creeks and then, poof, you’re stranded in the desert no matter where you are or where you’re going. I thought it’d be fun, but I’m thinking this feels more polished. It keeps you guessing. That make sense?” The Goddess mused aloud as she looked up at nothing and strode backwards like it was the natural way people walked.
"I know not, this is how it has been here in the realm of the Master. There are places which change all the quicker than the curvatures, they are far from here."
The mists subtly shifted, the pattern of their coiling and roiling swirls changed with each quickened step.
"We approach an archway. You will be able to see better there if you have such opportunities."
She didn't bother turning her head to look back. Nor did her pace falter as she asked, “Do you?”
With that she was out of the mists, or more precisely it had suddenly thinned to be mostly visible again. Stone curved around her, quite literally as suddenly gravity seemed absent. As any of her body moved the stone flowed differently to avoid her, the air shifted and her course changed. It was only a few brief moments before the stone flowed fully away and she drifted free. Looking forward was the slow formation of two distant arches of stone.
“Want to?” The Goddess asked as her head lolled back and her body followed. She kept floating back until her conversation partner and her were both liable to think the other was upside down.
"I am content as the Master made me, I am like my siblings among the servants of the Master."
Her partner became apparently visible standing on a curving arch. Of their legs, there were many, it was hard to tell as they were so spindly and of such great number that they almost seemed to form a solid mass beneath of the hard looking carapace of their body. Five tendrils floated out freely in the air, occasionally pulsing in a different direction.
Their body was turned to where she was when she last spoke, there were no apparent eyes upon them and it became rather clear that sight in regards to as most understood it was not among their abilities.
"Are such opportunities truly great? I like myself as I am, the other servants may see things I do not, but they cannot hear as well as I do, among other abilities."
“They can be,” She gave her new friend a little smile and answered honestly, “Sometimes things can be so beautiful you have to stop and stare. Sometimes so horrible you can’t help it. But the same could be said of any other sense. Me? I can’t imagine missing out on any of it. The offer stands.”
"Thank you, the offer is held in appreciation," They had turned to 'face' the Goddess as she floated along to where she had last spoken. "I will stick to what I have for now nonetheless, I am used to this."
They turned to another topic, "This is an archway, we can reach many places from here. You can even travel to the corporealists, although most I find altogether too fond of such means."
“It does feel like cheating,” She agreed, “Why go to the effort of making this place so much fun to explore, and then put a shortcut in it? A waste.”
"It is admittedly true that not all regions would be accessible without it. Less a shortcut, more an anchor allowing all to be traversed. I believe only some of the corporealists have not tried to explore all there is here, it shifts too often to truly know all I must admit."
The Goddess gave the arch in question a disapproving glance before concluding, “Well, room for improvement. Better to have a path from anywhere to everywhere. But if it’s the only way it’s the only way. Anywhere worth taking a look?”
"This one and You could always visit the corporealists, there are many interesting characters, even the New Servant is among them, or the Ones Without Purpose. There is the Locked Room, or the Void, or if You would wish to see the work of the Servants of the Master we could arrive at the New Compendium, it has been a place of great excitement as it is New Work To Be Done."
They lightly pushed themselves off the arch, only barely reaching off the ground where they began to float, gently twisting around as their legs folded on one another.
"There is much more to see, but these I think are the most interesting sites that you have not traveled to yet."
“I’m always interested in interesting people. Why don’t we go visit these Corporealists of yours?” She decided happily, “We might even find ourselves a third!”
"Such is the way of things. I know the way there."
With that they extended a few dozen legs to press against the Archway setting them spinning off to the right weightlessly.
Grinning and laughing aloud the Goddess set off to join her newly met pal, spinning off to the right in the weightless atmosphere of the Archway. It did soon grow apparent however as both twirled through the air that the room was spinning, not as a matter of perspective, but rather it seemed that the archway and the walls of stone had joined them, spinning up faster and faster the further they went along twirling off to the right of the Arch.
To her divine sense she could tell that more than just spinning the stone was beginning to meld and melt together almost, as though they were surrounded by a ball of stone around them, the mists grew ever so slightly thicker moment by moment.
And then they were on the ground, as though they had just landed perfectly. The mists were thicker and in the distance towers leaned over the horizon. Their friend spoke. "We have landed near the New Servant, look up."
And then they were gone from sight.
Upon seeing her companion vanish the Goddess gave an appreciative ‘Oo’ before turning her eyes skyward. As she looked skyward it seemed all the ground and towers of far on the horizon were pulled up with her view, as though keeping in sight. However after a brief moment it became apparent that it had only seemed as such, as she had looked up, she had traveled. The ground and far off towers only seemed to be moving when it was in fact that she was.
Further complicating this was that she wasn't physically looking skyward anymore, rather her head position as it had before she turned it. As well it appeared her friend was back again as well, their voice came from behind speaking to another.
"-uld-Exterminate-Life, my friend is merely exploring, and we would wish to speak and converse with the New Servant."
She did a quick spin on her heel so that she faced them and added, “And anyone else you think might be worth a conversation, really!”
Two things first stood out, a great form standing and that it was next to one of the great towering structures she had frequently seen on the horizon in this realm.
The great one stood, not straight but hunched over, his great head towered over them so many times over. His body was of muscular form, bipedal in all manners and degrees. Each arm came to hands with four digits ending in sharpened claws. His flesh was pale and greyed, a startling distinct among the great colors and forms of life that spread across all the lands. Veins bulge along the contours of his limbs, each colored in a sickly bluish hue as they distended from his body. All across his flesh flames flared out of whole in his body, any divinity could tell they were not of hot fire but pure energy of death, mortals would just see the abnormal green coloration if that. The holes concentrated most in his upper torso, near where the flesh gave way at the neck. Flames spewed upwards towards a skeletal skull, horns and fangs jutted out from the flesh-less surface.
The Goddess's friend spoke, "This one is Kaalaxinasbasonat, They-Who-Would-Exterminate-Life. They are a friend of the New Servant and one of the Servant Corporealists."
The giant Death Demon merely nodded to the Goddess, a voice came from inside the tower, there were Three doors to this one oddly enough, each marked with a sign. 'Guests' 'Dead' 'Re-Dead'.
"Kaala? How many Guests do we have now?"
Before the giant creature could reply to their unseen fellow, the Goddess cupped her hands around her mouth and, loudly, shouted back, “Just me, I think!”
A horned head poked out of the door marked 'Guests', "Hi there!"
"Would you like to come in or would you prefer outside? I baked some sweet bread if you would like any."
“I’ll come in!” With those words the 'Guest' door swung open as the figure retreated inside, swinging open a stall gate to get past a booth. There were three booths and a desk behind them. Beyond that was a staircase that seemed mostly ordinary, the Hostess disappeared up those stairs.
Calling back to the Goddess, "I'll be right back, just need to grab a plate or two!"
“Well come on, lets not keep her waiting!” The Goddess gestured to the door with her head and reached out to one of her companions' legs to tug them along after her. Gently, more or less.
The Goddess's friend promptly reached down with one of their tendrils and snapped off the held leg, which promptly regrew. They then proceeded towards the door leaving the Goddess holding their detached leg. She regarded it for only a moment before mouthing ‘ow’ and tossing it to the side. She followed with a shrug.
Soon enough their hostess bounded back, carrying four golden plates stacked on top of each other, the highest had several bread rolls as well. She spoke with a smile and much enthusiasm, "Sorry for not mentioning it earlier, I'm Zeraphsis by the way, but you can call me Zera!"
It was much easier to see the full form of the Hostess now. Appearing much like a mix of several mortal races, long horns jutted from her head that seemed human like, wings sprouted from her back, and her skin was extremely pale. Eyes were blue, not like that of a human but blue in their entirety, although they had started to shift in color as well. She wore a crown and a long dress, the crown itself was a bit of an odd thing, Twenty triangular spokes all leading into a central circlet that sat on her head.
Zeraphsis distributed the plates on the leftmost booth as they entered, two plates on their side, one on hers and the plate with the rolls in the middle. The Goddess grabbed a roll and spoke while she chewed, “G- Good to meet chu Zera! You can call me the Patron of Explorers, or just the Patron. Or anything you like, really.”
"May I call you Patty? Anyhow, it's really nice to meet you! You're actually my first visitor from beyond the realm as it were and well, that's very exciting!" She gave the goddess a full smile before continuing, "I've always wanted to go beyond the realm but well, haven't been able to as it stand. What is it like? What is Galbar like? Are the Divine realms as varied as Master Thaa says?"
As Zeraphsis talked and asked excitedly the Patron's friend had taken a roll and started carefully peeling the outer layer on their plate. The Goddess gave the meticulous activity a look, shrugged, and took another bite of her roll as she spoke, “If ya like! And Galbar is... Mmm. A lot of things, but interesting on the whole. I mostly pay attention to the people though. I haven’t gotten around to caring for the bigger picture, and y’know? I don’t think I will any time soon. The little stories are more interesting anyway.”
She finished off her pastry and snatched another with a wink before going on, “Can’t say much about the divine realms, though. I’ve been to a whole two now, and this is the most interesting one so far.”
"Oh that's fine anyway! Do you know many stories from Galbar that you've seen Patty?"
Zeraphsis took one of her rolls now too, the Patron's friend continued peeling his roll, Zeraphsis spoke to him as well. "Do you have a name too gentle servant?"
They continued peeling as they replied, "This one is the Caretaker-of-the-Curvature."
“The place with the really thick fog,” The Goddess said, nodding at her clarification. She went on, answering Zera’s question between bites with a food speckled grin, “And a few. I haven’t been around long enough to follow any of the really good ones from beginning to end, but the best part is always the middle when you get down to it.”
She paused as she finished off another roll, and added in a silly half hushed voice, “Actually, I’m here because I’m thinking of starting a few stories of my own. I came to speak to your Thaa, but might have gotten a little bit distracted. Not my fault this place is so fun to run around in. Anywho, I’m sure they’ll be around eventually, and I’m in no rush!”
Zeraphsis adjusted her wings as she spoke, leaning into a half whisper like the Patron, "Master Thaa is usually listening, I wouldn't be surprised if he was aware of all that you've done so far. I usually only have to ask for something and things will shift around as needed."
She leaned back, "I hope you get a good chance to start your stories then!"
Zeraphsis looked down picking up a roll, briefly pausing as if catching something in her sight. The mists in the room suddenly dissipated somewhat, and as she looked up her eyes were human-like, with a grey-green coloration.
As the Patron's friend was still peeling their roll, they spoke. "Zeraphsis has been to the third deep mist before, although her steps were too loud and my brother-servant They-Who-Watch-The-Curvature offered to take her to some less delicate places to explore."
Without commenting on her travelling partners thorough deconstruction of the pastry, the Patron gave a nod. “They do like it quiet there. Not the only place like that, though. At least in the mists nothing is waiting until you step on a stick to eat you.”
"May I ask, what did you want to speak to Master Thaa about?" Zeraphsis broke off a piece of a roll to eat it after asking, not too large so as to be chewing for long.
“Oh this and that,” The Patron prevaricated with a coy little smile, “I’ll be kicking off a competition soon, and I’m thinking everyone who gives it a go should get something for their effort, win or lose.”
"It sounds nice at least. May I also ask what where you're from is like?"
“You could,” The Goddess answered with a hint of well meaning sarcasm, “But it’s a bit of a work in progress. I’m afraid your Thaa and the rest got a bit of a head start, but only by about... Oh, two thousand years? I’ll be caught up in no time, really.”
"Oooh, you are a new Goddess? Master Thaa had told me of all those that he knew well enough when I asked but you being about is most interesting! Who have you met so far? I've wanted to meet Neiya and Celestine when Master Thaa told me about them but well, none have come to visit and I have my tasks for now. Master Thaa still says I'm not ready to leave."
[color=7070db]“You could just go anyway,”[color] The Patron cajoled with a smirk, “It’s what I’d do. This place is fun enough, don’t get me wrong, but it’s just one place. Hm. Well, as for the others I can’t say I know too much about them. Gibbou is good fun, but the rest I met didn’t bother with their names now that I think of it. Ah, it’s more fun that way.”
She paused and, for the briefest moment, her look turned bittersweet. She met Zera’s eyes and stressed her next words, “You could even go down to Galbar, you know. If you got one of us to send you. Any one of us could do it.”
Zera nodded but turned her gaze downward as she spoke, "I did try that once, when I was nervous and afraid first at my job. Then Master Thaa explained why I was not yet ready. I need the mists, death energies to well, exist and act, if I left before he could make me a 'generator' he called it I might not exist very long in this form, going 'catatonic', I wouldn't be able to do much he explained."
She looked up, giving an awkward little smile.
“Pah,” The Patron waved it off with a deepening frown, “Sounds like an excuse to me. Or a way for your Thaa to keep a hold on you. Boring either way.”
"It is true, she was not made like the rest of the Servants." They had advanced from peeling their roll to shaping the underlying bread exposed from the removed crust.
“Then she could have been made better,” The noticeably irritated Goddess complained, “What’s the point in being able to go down there if you can’t do it whenever you want? Some of us will never have the chance. You’d think letting the ones who can actually go, go, would be the least we could do.”
A voice came, echoing from the walls themselves, it was of a thousand whispers and the rustling of a million trees, forming into a singular sound, "She is young yet, experience can be gained before going out into the realms or the world of Galbar fully."
Without missing a beat the Patron answered the voice confidently, “And maybe going out is how that experience should be gained in the first place. What’s the point if you’re prepared for everything before you even start? Why even bother if nothing you do takes any real effort?”
"I do not have the power to do everything that is needed, some need wait for moral action."
“Then we’ll call it a difference of opinion,” The Goddess countered, “I don’t see the need to wait for what’s ‘necessary’, or dictate morality”
"Then a difference of opinion it shall be."
She took a deep breath, and exhaled what was all but a gust of wind blowing a swathe of errant hair out of her eyes. The Goddess tamed her annoyed expression and seemed to brighten up before speaking, “Anywho, as you’ve decided to drop by, I have to compliment your realm. Wandering around has been a pleasure.”
"I am glad you have found much enjoyment in it, few who have visited had more than a degree of annoyance given its difference to the standard state of what you'd find on Galbar."
The Patron's friend finally finished what they had been doing with the roll, flipping it over it became clear that they made a small bread model of themselves, the peeled crust like their own tentacles and the mass of bread made as if it were a mass of legs beneath them. Zera did a soft rapid clap upon its completion, the other servant raised their many tentacles at half of their reach before lowering, doing this several times apparently in place of bowing.
“Oh wow,” The patron remarked with a genuine grin, “It’s a little you! Cute.”
She regarded the little bread statue fondly for a moment before, somewhat reluctantly, shooting her friend a thumbs up and switching back to her conversation with Thaa. “Well, maybe it’s different for the ones who had a part in making things how they are, down there. I can’t say I’m too attached. Up and down, forward and back, as long as it’s taking me somewhere I can’t complain can I?”
Thaa only dry remarked, "You could in fact complain all you wished about it."
His divine counterpart suppressed her snort of amusement at the comment as he moved on, "I do not like how it is down there, but up here I have mostly free reign within my realm to make things less undesirable."
“You know,” The Patron drummed her fingers against the table and spoke thoughtfully, “On the note of things being undesirable, might I ask what your realm is like for the dead, more or less?”
"Paradise." Clearly to get him to elaborate more might take some prodding. In any case, Zeraphsis excused herself from the room briefly, going up the stairs at the back once more.
“So, different for everyone then?” The Petron remarked with a knowing smile.
"In some sense yes. I am running an experiment with a small number of souls giving them a personalized afterlife, the majority have been under a system of blissful rest for the time being."
“But only a small number, and for the others... Rest.” The Patron pursed her lips and repressed a shiver, “And that’s why I’m here. I exist, Thaa. A Patron of Explorers. Of people who can’t stand rest, and who aren’t willing to stop. I’m going to announce a competition, soon, and I have a feeling it will attract a lot more of them. That, and put them in danger. Of course, neither I or they would have it without the danger.”
She took a deep breath, unnecessary as that might be, before making the request, “I’d like you to offer the ones I exist for, the ones who die in my competition or in my name, the chance to come to my realm instead of yours. I have no doubt rest is paradise, for some. I only want the ones that find your peace a punishment.”
"I propose an alternative then, given your concern, I will enroll such explorers in a personal paradise for each, one that fits their particular proclivities. You would be more than welcome to visit them, and I would allow such a connection between our realms at such a point to facilitate that."
She bit her lip for a time, seeming to consider the offer. When she spoke, it was utterly without her usual levity. There was deep caution in The Patron’s voice, “I would accept that, but there’s something you didn’t say. Even if I might visit them, what about the reverse? They must have the freedom. A cage is a cage, even if it’s a perfect one.”
"I am loathe to give up control over the souls I wish to protect. However, I shall let them travel to your realm through an appropriate connection if they should so choose, and to return as they see fit as well."
"I do expect that you will remember this however, I do not agree fully with your ideas, and I shall be most disappointed with appropriate results should such trust be ill-founded."
Almost immediately the Patron’s easygoing smile returned to her face. She clapped and declared, “Then it’s a deal! They’ll be as protected with me as they are with you.”
"Welcome news. In the case of our new found cooperation, and your evident approval of hands on experience. Would you aid me in the final preparations for Zeraphsis and her travels as she wishes?"
“Gladly,” The Patron agreed enthusiastically. At least, until she took a moment to look around and faltered, “...Assuming she’s coming back. She didn’t just run away, right? Even if I...”
"She will be back soon enough, however there is an artifact of great import for her to ensure usage of all of her abilities and maintain a good status. For that I would need your help in making it lock to her, I can handle the rest. And I'm sure you'd be fine preparing herself the rest of the way as needed before sending her out to get experience and explore among such things."
A golden locket appeared on the booth, radiating mists out from it before subsiding.
“Whew,” The Goddess exhaled a sigh of relief before turning her attention to the locket. She eyed it for a moment before reaching out and giving it a single, sharp, tap with her index finger. With a little smile he announced, “And done. The next person who touches that won’t find themselves losing it.”
A soft vibration went through the whole structure, shortly after that Zeraphsis came down the stairs, she spoke. "What is needed of me?"
Only after asking did she spot the golden locket on the booth, she looked to the Patron.
Thaa's voice replied from the walls and floor instead, "It shall allow you leave and explore safely at your whim. Giving you both energy for your ownself as well as keeping your form intact despite any harm that may come of it."
Zera jumped with joy before he had even stopped speaking, profusely thanking Thaa, and the Patron, and Thaa, and instead of the Patron again she effectively leapt over the booth in an effort to tackle the Patron into a hug. It was not, necessarily, a success.
Nor a total failure. The Goddess had grabbed Zera by the shoulders as she ran to hug her, and perhaps that qualified as a half hearted embrace. Once it was clear that the winged woman wouldn’t charge her again the Patron let go and lectured, “The dress is light Zera. Just bendy light. No touching!”
Zeraphsis immediately flushed in embarrassment, mumbling "sorry Patty..."
She kept her distance and awkwardly shifted her arms around before resolutely putting them by her side. "It won't happen again."
The Patron eyed her cautiously for a moment before giving an easygoing shrug and speaking, “Ok. Well, I’ve got what I wanted. Things are about to start happening and since I wouldn’t want to be late for my own shindig, I’ll be heading out. Hey Zera, you want to follow me out or get a portal down to Galbar? Up to you.”
She immediately perked up, "I would like to follow you out!" Beaming she readjusted her wings, stretching briefly before folding them behind her, she reached over and picked up the locket, turning back to the Patron.
“In that case,” The Patron grinned, “If we’re heading back to where we started, I’d guess we go sideways.”
Without checking to see if she was being followed the Goddess immediately shuffled out of the booth and, inevitably, off the tower itself. As she plummeted into the mists below her voice could be heard shouting, “Oh and by the way I fixed your wiinnngggggssssss.”
The fading shout was all there was for Zera to follow, and follow she did, leaping off after the Goddess, into the Mists wings extended.
We open on the Patron and her journey into Aquibeophates, after figuring out something be wack with the local spacetime continuum and general physics goes on a happy journey, picking up a pal and generally exploring some of the locales and peoples of Aquibeophates. She meets Zeraphsis and Kaala, the latter only briefly, as well as talks to Thaa about the souls of explorers and such things. Thaa in turn, after some manner of discussion on the nature of experience, gets the patron to assist in making the Golden Locket artifact for Zeraphsis. Zeraphsis and the Patron then leave Aquibeophates through the portal to Antiquity, the Patron to attend to her affairs, and Zeraphsis to finally see and explore beyond into the Divine realms. Zeraphsis is informed that her wings should work now as the gods grant her some of their divine energies.
Thaa Start: 2 MP 0 DP -2 MP contribution to Golden Locket -Adding 2 Free Titles to Zeraphsis End: 0 MP 0 DP
Patron Start: 5 MP 5 DP -2 MP contribution to Golden Locket -1MP granting Zera Flight I: The ability to actually use those wings. Turns out human shape isn't aerodynamic. End: 2 MP 5 DP
Greater Binding II: This locket is strongly bound to its owner. It will never find itself forgotten and will, through one way or another, always gravitate towards its owner if lost.
Death Energy Generator II: The locket is a source of Death Energies, those with the skill and ability may draw forth these energies for their own uses.
Undying II: The wearer of the locket can continue to function even after they've sustained injury that ordinarily would put them out of the fight. This does not heal the injury, nor does it prevent further damage. It instead keeps the soul of the wearer tied to their body and their body fighting, they may already be dead in effect, but as long as they wear the gauntlet they may finish the fight. This is a longer term effect, and may sustain the wearer till they can gain assistance to more permanently survive, although it is likely to be unable to keep the wearer alive through more severe injuries.
-1 MP for Flight I -2 Free titles for Soul Protection II
Zeraphsis Start: 4 +5 Prestige for 30k+ Characters End: 9
“Ah, there you are. You know they’ll be wanting you soon Prince Stavin.”
The young man glanced back to scowl at the gardener who’d found him. He stood up from his position, sat on an overturned vase in the courtyard garden, and turned to face the elderly groundskeeper. “I won't stand the humiliation of it,” He complained, “For them to accept him into their circle and ask me to stand there and watch? I won’t stand it. I’m not going and if they’re sending you then they know I can’t be made to.”
“Hah!” The old man chuckled, “They don’t send me to do anything but water the trees and bushes, my prince. I’d just thought to let you know the house servants are looking for you. They’ll check my garden sooner or later, even if you’ve never taken the time to visit before. Not everyone’s forgotten this place, you know.”
Stavin colored, his tan face flushing from the embarrassment. All of seventeen years old, the boy, or man as he insisted on being called of late, coughed into his hand and croaked out an apology, “I- Uh, sorry. I didn’t mean the offense. Thank you, for telling me they’re looking, but I stand by what I said. I won’t go.”
“Then don’t.” The old gardener shrugged and found his own vase to turn into an impromptu seat. He motioned for the prince to return to his seat and went on, “But be sure you know why you’re not going. When you’re as old as me, and your bones can’t even bear their own weight for long, you’ll begin to realize a lot of the things you did in life you did without much thought. You’ll wish you’d lived for a reason, acted with a purpose, instead of just reacting to everything that came your way.”
“I know why I’m not going!” The young prince retorted, irritable once more, “They’re giving a bastard a place in the circle of Patriarchs. A bastard.”
“Your brother.” The gardener observed.
“My nothing.” Stavin’s voice shook, “I have nothing to do with that worm. That parasite. How dare they elevate him, how dare he. My own father.”
“They say your parasite won a battle at sea. The circle has long honored those who’ve defended it.” The old man scratched at his head and paused before adding, “Or so I’ve heard.”
“A battle at sea? More like he butchered a gaggle of apostate fishermen!” Stavin spat, “Father is elevating him because he loves the reminder of his dead idiot mistress more than his own trueborn son. It’s beyond insulting.”
The old gardener nodded. He eyed Stavin carefully, and when he spoke it was with a seriousness that caught the prince off guard, “So you refuse to bear the insult and let everyone know what you think. Reacting, young prince. That’s all you’re doing, and you don’t even realize it.”
“Of course I’m reacting! What am I supposed to do, go and witness my own father put that scum before me? Like some sort of whipped animal?” Stavin said bitterly.
“If that’s what it takes to get what you want.” The old man met the young prince's eyes and held them with a cool intensity, “Because that’s what this is about, young prince. What you want. You’re furious because you were denied it, but instead of rededicating yourself to it you’ve given up. Decided to react.”
Stavin hesitated and looked at the groundskeeper meaningfully, “Why are you telling me this? What you're saying is dangerous old man.”
“Dangerous?” He questioned the young prince, “What’s dangerous about a rightful son claiming what’s his? Or do you mean to tell me you think your parasite should take everything from you without any effort beyond withstanding your temper tantrum?”
Stavin’s face reddened, but he held his tongue and his anger at the accusation. He wasn’t totally lacking in self awareness, and it was perilous business to deny throwing a tantrum while hiding in a garden with a commoner. He nodded slowly, but his resolve quickly faded and he spoke with no small measure of despondency, “It doesn't matter what I do. Father will elevate that worm, and I’ll lose everything to him. It doesn’t matter if I go or stay here.”
“Maybe.” The gardener agreed, “Or maybe you’ve blundered your way into an opportunity. Not everyone scorns this courtyard my Prince. The plants hear things. Their tenders remember.”
Stavin stood up suddenly, both furious and excited at the realization, “You’ve been spying on my father? My brother?””
With a chuckle the old man shook his head. He gestured to a creeping vine, covered in little black berries, that curled around the overturn vase he sat on as he spoke, “I wasn’t being metaphorical, Prince Stavin. It’s not a well known secret, but the plants can hear. Some of them. It’s a new magic, or maybe an old one. Were you to take the berries from that vine and boil them into, what I’ll admit is a rather acrid tea, you’ll come to understand what I mean. The plant remembers, and men can too. If they know how.”
“I didn’t know you were a mage.” Stavin said, looking dubious.
“Hah! A mage. No, just a curious gardener with a penchant for trying new things. You don’t need to believe me, my prince, but the truth remains.” The groundskeeper pulled a little sack off his waist and offered it up as he spoke, “You might find what these berries remember interesting. Do boil them, though. The fruit, I’ve found, has a deeply unpleasant effect without that step.”
The young prince eyed the sack for what seemed like an eternity. Only seconds passed. On some level the prince knew the old man's words were true, and it was there that he feared for what he might learn. Perhaps in another life, if he were a different person, an older or a wiser one, then he might have refused the offer.
Instead, he snatched the bag and hid it under his robes. He nodded, curtly, and spoke in a clipped tone, “The ceremony will be starting soon. They’ll be expecting me.”
“I imagine so,” The gardener fixed him with a little smile, “You mustn't be late, if you don’t wish for them to suspect anything.”
For a moment Stavin wondered what he’d done. What he would do. In the end, it didn’t matter. The gardener could have been anyone, in his heart Stavin knew he could not have lived with the embarrassment of doing nothing. Of not trying.
He would not resign himself to reaction.
Prince Stavin of Asa Marussa, Exile City of the North, is hiding from a ceremony honoring his bastard brother. Humiliated by the thought of being snubbed for a greater role in favor of a bastard, Stavin hides in the courtyard garden so that he needn't attend the ceremony for his brother. The Gardener finds him, and they speak. Eventually the Gardener reveals the Whispering Weeds to him.
-2DP: Whispering Weeds
These seemingly innocuous plants grow in the darkened corners of the world, thriving in shade but tolerating sun when needed. They come in a sundry of shapes and sizes, but all produce little black berries filled with a noxious smelling resin.
To those in the know, this resin is key to the truth of all Whispering Weeds. If the berries are boiled the resin within thins and sweetens, eventually becoming a slightly bitter but wholly palatable syrup. Brewing a tea with this syrup will induce auditory hallucinations, specially echos of secrets and confessions uttered in the Weeds presence.
Andrey, and that was the boy’s name, dragged the Runecrafter back to the village that morning. Just in time to stop the search party that’d been assembling to go look for the young man and the mad fool he’d been chasing. The welcome hadn’t been smooth, but Andrey was safe. More than that, the Runecrafter had proved the boy’s testimony, and Wizardry was not something an isolated village scoffed at.
In fact, it was something they’d never even seen. By the nature of his trade the Runecrafter hadn’t been able to conjure more than he’d prepared, but that had been enough. In the span of a morning he’d gone from nearly being strung up, to eating fresh stew beside the village chieftain, Andrey’s father. He was a large man, calloused and scarred beyond what might have been expected from someone in his position. was friendly, even kind.
“So, my new Wizard friend, was it you who brought the birds? The holy mans been ranting about omens, but he hasn’t stopped doing that ever since the last time the rain was warm. I’d be glad to put his superstition to bed.”
The Runecrafter put his wooden spoon aside, reluctantly, and coughed before speaking, “No. They brought me here, but not because I made them. Don’t dismiss your holy man, Chieftain, I don’t know how much news you get from afar, but the gods are stirring. They were stirring before I was forced from the great city.”
The big man frowned, and lowered his voice, “Andrey told me you’d come from Ketrefa. You should know there isn’t much love for the city out here Wizard. The last travelers that came this way were on their way to join some fool marching on the walls, Kamolon, they call him.”
“It has been tried before,” The Runecrafter paused to take another spoonful of stew, savoring the taste of seasoned food. He looked to the Chieftain seriously and continued, “More times than even I know. The walls were raised by Tekret as proof against the first Trolls, men cannot bring them down.”
“Hrm,” The Chieftain grumbled, “Well, they’ll try. Just be careful about who you tell your history to. You were lucky the birds brought you here. That Andrey found you. The city doesn’t send men into the woods, not this deep. Most here only know the stories.”
The Runecrafter nodded and added between spoonfuls, “I’ll keep it in mind.”
The simple thatch house they spoke in afforded the two some privacy, but every so often they heard the commotion outside. The gossip, shock, and Andrey’s occasional boasts that the Wizard had promised to teach him. One particularly loud declaration from outside focused the boy's father, who finally asked, “Will you? Teach Andrey? If he’s gotten the wrong impression I understand, but I wouldn’t be opposed to you staying. No, I want you to. We could use you here, and I’ve always wanted more for my son.”
The question froze the Runecrafter. The man hadn’t been considering more than the stew, and the conversation. The future was a foreign topic to him now. Still, he’d made a promise to Andrey. With some certainty he answered, “I will. Andrey and anyone else that wishes to learn, anyone who has time. I can’t go back to the city, and I won’t return to the woods. I’m not the practitioner that I was, though. I fear I’ll make a poor teacher.”
With a big grin the Chieftain brought a hand down on the Runecrafter’s shoulder and joked, “Andrey was the first in my family to witness magic in generations, you can’t be a worse teacher than the air my friend! Well, assuming you can get the lad to pay atten-”
A harsh rapping on the door cut the Chieftain short, and with some annoyance he excused himself and stomped over to the entrance. When he pulled the door aside his eyes widened, and she shouted before the woman sent to warn him could, “Wizard! Have you sent this fog!”
The Runecrafter looked up in alarm, and saw what lay beyond the door. A thick white grey fog had shrouded the village, even the woman at the doorway was nearly invisible as it began to roll into the house. He stepped forward and spoke with some trepidation, “No.”
A look of supreme concern passed over the Chieftain’s face before he steeled himself and nodded, “Then perhaps the holy man wasn’t such a fool. Come, whatever this is, it’s for you Wizard. The birds brought you here, not us.”
The Runecrafter’s eyes widened, but he knew there was nothing for it. He stepped towards the door as the Chieftain ushered the messenger into the house, and with a look from the big man walked out into the fog.
The first thing he noticed was that, whatever he stood in, it wasn’t fog. As the Chieftain joined him the Runecrafter could tell he knew it too. The air was dry, and unnaturally still. There was no wind, and more disconcertingly, no sound. As soon as the Runecrafter stepped out into the pall everything went quiet.
He couldn’t even hear his heartbeat. He brought a hand to his chest, just to feel the evidence he was alive. The Chieftain said something, but the words were stolen from his mouth. The Runecrafter’s blood ran cold. There were things beyond his understanding of magic, things that were the province of gods and witches alone.
He didn’t know which one was worse. He only knew it was something he couldn’t fight, and so as the Chieftain lofted a club he’d retrieved from the house, the Runecrafter motioned for him to drop it. Once the man did so, a distant laughter echoed from all around them.
It was followed by a disembodied voice, “I see you followed my little hint! And here I was, worried you’d run from it Dyros. Or should I call you Runecrafter?”
A figure materialized in the fog, a woman whose features were nothing but the shifting of mist. She floated through the fog towards him, and the Runecrafter was paralyzed as she ran an ethereal finger along his cheek. She smiled at him, and the slack jawed Chieftain, “You’ve finally found your way home. Or to a home. Mm, semantics, what matters is that you’re here, and that your long struggle wasn’t in vain!”
The Runecrafter opened his mouth, but against his words were stolen from his throat. The misty figure only chuckled at his effort, but not too unkindly. She wrapped her arms around him and spoke in his ear, to him alone, “There’s no need for a reply. You toiled, and you’ll be rewarded. Questions just make these things harder.”
Her figure drifted away from him, and suddenly the entire village was around the Runecrafter and the Chieftain, the mists having thinned just enough for them to be visible. The Chieftain tried to shout from them to go back to their houses, but he didn’t make a sound. The Runecrafter knew they hadn’t chosen to leave them, anyway. The village’s guest wanted an audience, and as she swirled in the remaining mists between them all there were a number of silent gasps and screams.
“You’ve chosen to teach these folk your magic, Runecrafter. So I’ll reward them too. For ten years you wandered the world alone, and so for ten years I’ll grant you the sight. Them too, if they take on the same challenge. This world is filled with magic, of a sort beyond what is known in Ketrefa and Acadia. It was hidden from you, and perhaps the Lord of Magic hasn’t deemed you ready for it, but consider it revealed.”
A glowing, acrid smelling thing began to blaze at the center of the village, but only the Runecrafter saw it. A spell hidden in plain fight. The illusory woman snapped her fingers, and for the barest moment the whole village saw it. She went on, “Magic. You can see it now, smell it, hear it, it will be as real to you as the dirt you tread on. For every moment you spend alone, for every day lost to the wilds, I grant you and this village that."
With a little smile the woman began to fade away, but before the mists retreated she snapped her fake fingers and added, “Oh, but one last thing. If you must teach those without the sight, or without the will to gain it, use this.”
Without a sound, or even a feeling, the Runecrafter found himself holding a thin black book. The woman in the mist explained, “Once you’ve found a spell, transcribe it to this to capture it. Any can read the book's pages, if you let them. Now then, I think I’ve overstayed my welcome! Ta-ta!”
Without a warning the mists evaporated, and the village was left in silence. Well, all but the Runecrafter. He still saw the spell at the village’s center, and heard its faint ringing. Ten years, and he already felt the time passing.
At least, until the holy man fainted and the village erupted into chaos.
The Runecrafter goes to the boys village, and learns his name is Andrey. He spends some time talking to Andrey’s father, but before long the village is engulfed in a supernatural mist. A woman appears in the mist and grants the Runecrafter and the villagers the power of the sight, but only for as long as they’ve spent in isolation. Oh, and she leaves them with a spellbook to record the spells they see.
1 MP - Consecrate the Runecrafter and village with the Sight. The Sight allows them to see, smell, and hear god forged spells. However, it only works for as long as they’ve spent in isolation.
2 MP - Create the Black Book. The Black Book is a spellbook that absorbs God Forged spells transcribed in it. However, rather than storing them the Book actually sucks them into the Patron’s realm. Anyone using the Black Book can see the essence of any god forged spell stored in the Patron’s realm. Notably the danger of understanding the spells remains the same. The book is more durable than the flesh in the case of an accident.
He ran screaming, or he slunk away in the night. They caught and beat him, or he escaped before they even knew to look. He lived it or he dreamed it, but which one was a question he’d long since abandoned. He dreamed it differently every night. Or maybe he remembered. Who was he to say what was real, if he couldn’t tell the difference.
After all, as he woke from another dream, he was still here. Alone. He’d been alone ever since it’d happened. It had been months, years, maybe longer. He couldn't be certain, but he did have a beard. So it hadn’t been recently, not that it made a difference. All that mattered was he couldn’t return to the great city, even if he knew where it was. Where he was. Who could have guessed how easy it was to lose yourself in the woods.
Who could have guessed he’d survive them. That was due to his skill, his magic. He could carve Runes, imbue stone with great magic. It had kept him warm and fed in the winter. The winters? That wasn’t certain, but he did know he was alive. Magic had made it so.
Magic that had become him, in a way. He wasn’t even sure he knew his name anymore, but he knew he tried not to recall it. Or any of his past, save that which lingered in his dreams. All that he was, was gone. Now he was the Runecrafter. The man who’d survived the depths of the forest, who’d journeyed long to find no one and nothing. Not one village, villager, or road. He wondered if that was normal.
People vanished, of course. He’d known that before he’d run to, or been left in, these woods. Most left it to Trolls, Vampires, the wicked things in the world. Few credited the forest, and why would they? It was just trees.
What they didn’t know was that the trees were worse. You didn’t have to go far off the road before they swallowed you. The world wasn’t tame. How easy that was to forget behind the safety of ancient walls. Walls that held back only the smallest fraction of nature.
Yes, it made sense. This was normal, expected even. He could wander for a thousand lifetimes, and never see another soul. Never even cross an old path. He was only alive because he was the Runecrafter. The forest had swallowed all the others who’d found their way into it. It would swallow him, eventually.
A somber start to any morning.
By afternoon he’d packed his camp and begun moving. He had stayed put during the winter, but by now the snow had melted and as life returned to the world, so did he. A man could accept he would die, but it rarely stopped him from trying to live. So the Runecrafter moved, week to week, day to day.
The heavy pelts he slept in were rolled up at his side, and as warm light filtered through the forest canopy in ethereal rays he couldn’t help but grumble. The thick bedding was hot, even to carry. He’d tried something else once, a hammock? He wasn’t sure, but he knew it hadn’t worked. He was carrying the pelts, after all.
The Runecrafter’s thoughts wandered as he trudged through the forest, ignoring beauty that few ever experienced. The wonders of nature had long grown familiar to him. His gaze didn’t wander to appreciate his surroundings, but to watch them for any sign of danger. Like, perhaps, every bird within miles taking off at once, and flying in a great stream towards the horizon.
That made the Runecrafter pause. It was something that, well, it was something that didn’t happen. He imagined he’d been out here long enough to know. With a mix of the greatest caution, and a curiosity he’d long since forgotten, the haggard man began to follow the birds on their peculiar migration.
He couldn’t have anticipated where they led him. As it was, he almost didn’t recognize that what he was looking at was a village. Nor did he truly see the people eyeing him. They looked agitated, and perhaps that wasn’t so odd. What did you say to a man who’d stumbled out of the woods covered in mismatched furs, whose arrival had been heralded by a tremendous flock that still circled overhead?
Evidently, nothing. As the Runecrafter started at a small group of men, women, and children who’d come out of their houses to see the birds, they stared back. He opened his mouth to speak, but words failed him. One of the villagers held up a primitive spear, and at once the Runecrafter’s senses returned to him.
He ran. Away from the thing which had consumed his every waking thought. Away from what he wanted most in the world. It was bitter, and glorious. He’d found people, alive, and he knew at once how difficult it would be to ever speak to them. How they’d mistrust him. How he’d misunderstand them.
When the sun began to set the Runecrafter sat against a tree, shaking. He knew where the village was. He’d not lost track, not this time. He knew he’d return. Even if he wasn’t the man who’d first gotten lost, even if he was more a wild thing than the craftsman he’d been. Even if he risked everything. The Runecrafter was willing to brave the village's ire.
Or he thought he was. He was here after all, not there. The thought was heavy, but the Runecrafter had little time to ruminate on it before a face poked out from a nearby tree and startled him. The face of a boy. One from the village. The Runecrafter’s muscles tensed, and he prepared to flee, but he held back. He wouldn’t willingly go back to hopelessness. Isolation. So he watched the boy, the boy watched him, and by the time the forest was engulfed in twilight the two sat face to face.
The boy, a hale looking boy on the verge of manhood, spoke first, “You know we need a fire wildman, before it’s dark.”
“Wildman,” The Runecrafter huffed in amusement before nodding slowly. In a moments awkwardness he pulled a metallic looking rock from his thick furs. Without a word, he dashed what was an intricately carved crystal against a rock between him and his guest. The crystal shattered, and then its shards exploded into sparks and flame.
The boy scrambled backwards, and the Runecrafter watched his little fires ignite the brush beneath them. They burned white hot, and their glow didn’t fade. It endured, burning long after the moss and twigs beneath had been turned to ash. With a smirk the Runecrafter gathered what sticks were nearby and heaped them onto the little fires. Within a few seconds there was a small, but respectable, fire. It’d cost the Runecrafter something he’d labored on for days, but he had spent enough time alone. There was no reason to waste this chance.
With a disused and croaking voice, one he hadn’t used in ages, the Runecrafter motioned towards the fire and asked, “A wildman’s work, village boy?”
The boy stared at the flames. They flickered in his wide brown eyes, and the Runecrafter saw something familiar in them. It was no surprise when the boy’s next words were one’s he’d spoken, and heard, in the past, “Teach me. Please?”
Of course, there was only one answer.
We follow a Ketrefan outcast, a runecrafter. He's wandered the wilds for a long time. Anyway he sees some birds, they're cool, and they lead him to a VILLAGE! Unfortunately he's not seen people in ages so, he runs away. Thankfully, he's followed.