End of the Melding Saga
Strangely enough, the Archive’s collection of information regarding the Melding Saga is very limited in its extent. That which is contained here is the total of all knowledge of that era, unfortunately.
But, with sad news comes a glimmer of hope. A new collection of tales may soon join the collection here at the Archives…
Echoes in the Deep
Having found their way out of the Nether, the party found themselves deep underground in an ancient city. The architecture was strange to all of them, and despite their best efforts they could not recall anything that looked like what they now found themselves exploring. After an hour of wandering, the group was caught off-guard by a strange group of reptilian people in front of them.
“Stop! How did you three find this place?”
The three stopped and turned to find a party of five Dragonborn eyeing them cautiously from a distance back. Wander jumped immediately behind a pillar, peaking his head out only far enough to keep seeing these new imposing figures, while Criòs pulled his hood over his head in an attempt to conceal himself from the explorers. Auric, who had dealt with the Dragonborn before, approaches them in the cultural manner by which they are accustomed. He then explains the events that led to their unusual location, which seemed to calm the group down.
“Well, you lot seem to mean no harm, would you like to come with us? I’d be surprised if you managed to find your way out of this place without our help.”
“Sure,” said Auric, “but could you spare something to help us patch ourselves back together? We’ve been through a bit of an ordeal.”
A female with the standard gear of a cleric approached from the rear of the group and gasped at the sight of them. “Oh my! I’m so sorry, we should have taken care of that first. Please, let me help.”
After a brief rest, the newly merged group worked their way out of the ruins to the surface. A hot, arid wind met the three, which caught them off-guard as the Kinsine Foothills offered much more hospitable conditions than this. Criòs beings panicking as this environment is the exact opposite of what he is accustomed to as an elf. This leads to him wrapping his cloak around his face even tighter, but for protection this time more than secrecy.
A day of traveling finds the group at one of the rumored nomadic fortresses of the Dragonborn. As they entered the gates, one of the Talons they traveled with said to them, “Don’t bother trying to come back here after you leave. We’ll be long gone before you make it back to this place.” The Talon sneered at them, begrudgingly watching them enter through the door of his home.
The party is taken to the elder of the band, who greets the three cautiously, holding himself defensively until the nature and method of their arrival is explained. At the revelation of this new information, the elder perks up and looks curiously at the group.
“So you have made your way here by means of a sub-city portal? I have so many questions to ask but no way to phrase them without a long discourse of history behind each, which neither you three nor I have time for. So instead, could I ask a favor of you? There is an expedition leaving tomorrow to examine a different portal we uncovered in a different sub-city, and I would like for you to accompany them to compare it to what you have traversed.”
The three agree, both indebted by the hospitality of the Dragonborn and intimidated by the nebulous consequences of denying the request.
“Wonderful!” the elder says, grinning from ear to ear. “We’ll begin preparations immediately. Now that we have cleared that out of the way, is there anything you would like to ask of us? We do not have much to offer beyond the riches of knowledge but we will try to accommodate you as best as we can.”
Criòs steps forward, reaching into his satchel to withdraw the vial of binding ink and the charcoal rubbing of the strange language from the drug den. “Could you help us with identifying either of these? Both are things we have run across in our adventures and we are interested in learning more about them.”
The elder reaches out and grabs the vial of ink first, pondering its appearance and fluidity, then uncorks the bottle and wafts the scent towards his nose. “Hmm.” ponders the elder, “I have encountered this substance only once before, in a ruin we found some distance away. It seemed to have properties that allow it to bind objects to a different plane of existence. But beyond that, I cannot recall anything else. You might consider…”
Before he could finish his thought, his gaze lands on the blackened paper. “Quickly, let me see that!” he says, nearly tearing the paper from Criòs’ hand. “Ahh, yes. I see that I was right to choose to send you with the expedition. Where did you find this set of characters?”
Criòs, still surprised by the vigor of the elder responds, “We came across it in a bandit’s den outside of Brightstone. Does it mean something to you? Can you read it?”
The elder sighs, a bit sullen. “Sadly no. But this script has been etched all over many of the sub-cities up here. We hope that it has some connection to the origins of the structures since the rest of the carvings are just bare stone with naught a story to be told. The portal we are investigating appears to be formed with this same script. Maybe your experiences can help us to unravel the mysteries there. If that is all, please feel free to go rest, tomorrow will be arduous travel for you and it will be the best sleep you will get for a week.”
The party excuses themselves and make their way to the makeshift quarters that had been set up for them. Bright and early the next morning, the three were awoken by their expedition companions: two Talons, two Achivists, and a Cleric. The delivers all loaded into the wagons carrying a week’s worth of supplies and archaeological equipment and headed out across the Steppes. The day of traveling in the searing sun wore heavily on the party, especially the ill-suited Criòs, while hardly seeming to affect the reptilian companions.
Eventually the caravan wound its way down into a crevasse and the damp cold of a subterranean environment. As the walls seemed to close in, the crew reaches an alcove in the side of the winding path that offers enough space to set up camp. While getting situated, the Cleric says to the group, “Just wait until you see this thing. It’s just a little further down the path. It’ll blow your mind.”
The expedition rests for the night, or what can only be assumed the night in the dank darkness of a hole in a cave wall a few thousand feet below the surface. The Archivists produced orbs of light that mimicked the day/night cycle of the surface as the group descended into the depths. So at the pseudo-sunrise, the party is roused from their sleep to continue on for the first day of analyzing this mystery structure.
As the delivers round the final bend of the path, the crack in the earth suddenly opens into a gigantic cavern littered with a few small buildings. However, towering over these structures stands an imposing 75-foot tall door frame, similar to the portal frame the three adventurers exited the Nether through. The sheer size of the structure was enough to stagger the senses, but the amount of sygaldry etched into it, ancient as it was, shocked the minds of the party. Such vast amounts of effort went into the construction and detailing of the structure that it seemed to be a shame that the world was denied access by the tons of dirt and rock above.
“Alright,” started one of the Archivists, “We’re here to get as much information about this gate as we can. It will be a long time before we’re able to access this place again.”
Wander stepped forward and asked, “Why don’t we try to start it? We’ll have to clean the sygaldry anyway to get anything useful, might as well try to get some data from the inside.”
“Well, I suppose it is worth a try. We’ll gather notes and writing along with doing the best we can to prep this structure for activation. Let’s get to it!”
The whole of the expedition begins working to refurbish the decayed structure, spending the next three days attempting to get it in an operable state again. The Archivists, though doubtful of the success potential, start the activation process as they understood it for the massive gateway. The rest of the crew stands back, watching as this massive construct begins to sizzle and groan, the air gap within the framework beginning to fill with a brilliantly multicolored fluid.
Then, with a loud crunch, the portal deactivates, returning the cavern to its dull tones and low light. Hurriedly, the Archivists begin scribbling notes and slowly make their way back to the group, detailing out a new set of tasks to help improve the structure’s performance. The crew gets back to work, fighting through another three days of back and forth debate of the meaning and use of certain symbols and gritty work cleaning and refining the writing carved in ages ago.
Standing clear again, the two Archivists start their refined activation process. The gate roars to life, quicker than anyone expected. As the gate stabilizes, a dominating low growl issues forth from the gate, shaking more than just a little dirt from the carvers ceiling. Everyone immediately covers their ears as a voice so low as to barely be audible begins slowly speaking in an unrecognizable language.
Expressing his curiosity as only a rogue can, Wander aims his crossbow into the middle of the portal and lets loose a bolt. Auric sees this from the corner of his eye and is unable to do anything but watch in horror as his companion enacts aggression against something that quite literally could be anything.
The bolt sails through the air and silently passes through the portal. A moment later, a violent scream blasts into all of the expedition’s minds, which instantly liquifies one Archivist’s brain, reduces both Talons to sniveling children hiding in corners around the cavern, knocks the wind out of the three adventurers and physically maims the Cleric through biochemical reactions. The remaining Archivist manages to steel himself against the psychic onslaught long enough to deactivate the portal before more damage could be done. But as the portal collapses, a single crossbow bolt, iridescent with a crimson glow, launches back through the gateway and lodges itself in Wander’s chest, pausing only for a moment before the bolt integrates with his body.
Bloodied, the group tries to recover from the onslaught. Auric heals the Cleric, who in turn helps him patch up the others and restore the sanity of the two Talons. Criòs, furious at Wander for doing what he did, shoots him in the knee with a blunted arrow, dropping the cleric to the ground in deep agony.
“Do something stupid like that again and it won’t be such a friendly response.” Criòs adds as the Cleric comes over to help patch up Wander.
With a vast new collection of both wanted and unwanted knowledge, the expedition decides it’s time to head back. The expedition makes their way solemnly out of the cavern, back into the arid landscape of the Steppes, and back to the fortress to report their findings and losses. Though saddened by the loss of a member of the band, the elder was exhilarated by the new information and the encounter that the group had illicited.
“Thank you for accompanying the expedition, despite the results.” said the elder. “You did help a lot with the work there and we wouldn’t know what we do now if it wasn’t for you. There’s a caravan taking some trade goods down to the Kinsine Foothills here in a few weeks. I would be honored if you would work with us during the time, and perhaps you can learn some new skills as well.”
For the next two weeks, the party works alongside the Dragonborne, assisting them in their tasks. Wander and Criòs both help with hunting, learning new methods of stalking prey without being noticed, while Auric helps to fill the role of the lost Archivist, learning a new perspective of some of the arcana in the world.
When the time comes to leave for the Foothills, the elder wishes them safe travels and a deeper understanding in the endeavors they pursue. The trip is long, lasting a two months as the caravan lazily drifted from settlement to settlement. Criòs and Wander spend the time being mocked in Draconic by the merchants until they finally pick up a functional knowledge of the language. Days come and go with ease and discussions until the party finally makes it to Brightstone. A bittersweet goodbye is exchanged in the same manner as was given to them by the elder as the merchants continue on their path without their new friends.
The party enters the town to banners and signs, with the typical festivities of an election. Out of nowhere, the man Wander hugged in the drug den runs up to Wander and says, “What perfect timing! You just have won the election for mayor! I hope you don’t mind that I ran your campaign while you’ve been gone these last five months.”
Confused, Wander asks about the date, finding that they have been gone for 2 months longer than they originally thought. Wander shrugs as he is rushed off to celebrate his new victory.
Another man, a bit more sullen, approaches Auric. “Sorry, sir, we failed to take the mayorship, but the campaign staff and I decided we should give you and Criòs the remainder of the funds from the campaign. Maybe next time!” he says as he hands off a rather heavy lockbox to Auric.
Before settling back into their old room, Auric finds his way to Sven to sit and recall the story of the last few months. Sven is ecstatic to see Auric and sheds a single tear at the sight of the armor, but the two have a wonderful evening discussing old stories. Criòs picks up the cut from the inn and joins Wander in a post campaign party that lasts most of the night.
Into the Void
Having completed their engagement with Chardis, the party set to enjoying the evening, seeing as it was such a violent encounter. After a night of revelry, the party decide to turn in for the night, tired from a long day of work and danger.
However, their rest was abruptly interrupted when the trio are roused by a strange noise from downstairs. Gearing up, the party prepare for something foul to make itself known. When nothing immediately bursts through the door, Criòs decides to venture out in search of the clamor.
As the door opens, a this black smoke billows into the room, engulfing the party in absolute darkness. Coughing and wheezing, the smoke finally disappates, revealing to the three that they no longer are in the inn but rather now find themselves on a cliff over a unfathomingly deep abyss in a dark realm that none of them recognize.
The group begins assessing the situation, attempting to determine where they are, how they got there, and how they are going to escape. All of the sudden, Auric realizes that they are in the Nether, the plane bridged to allow colonization of Erelandis. Criòs and Wander look on in horror as Auric describes the location in which they find themselves. The rogues bring up their guard as Auric calls again on his divine senses to see if he can find a way for them to escape. The faint scent of untainted air barely fights through the acrid odor of the evil of the Nether, giving Auric a direction for them to head towards.
As the party sets off toward what they hoped was their salvation from this plane, they take notice of the terrain around them. The rough edges of the cliff give way to carved, flat stone lined with ancient, corroded torch stands that trace along the route Auric is leading them on. After traveling for a while, the party’s decides they must be on the road cut by the Forerunners as the terrain around this oddly clean-cut path lacks any sort of order or sense to it that would indicate otherwise.
A few hours into traveling, the trace of clean air is overwhelmed by something pungent with malevolence. The space around them is dark, and even the dark vision of the elf-blooded members isn’t enough to see much of anything. The floor has leveled out in a wide, flat expanse, and Wander notices that the ground has suffered etched grooves in places, as if something chewed into the road after it was carved.
Suddenly, Auric stops. He motions to the other two that the source of the horrible stench that overwhelmed his senses was directly above them now. With some silent planning, Auric mutters an evocation that ignites one of Wander’s crossbow bolts with an amber light, which Wander then fires directly up. The sound of the bolt being launched echoes, and a slimy, slurping sound begins eminating from above them, although quite some distance above them.
The bolt arcs up, and up, and up. Finally, it lodges itself into some material that obscures the light partially, and then the bolt seems to just disintegrate. Criòs draws an arrow and aims, a thorny vine wrapping itself around the arrow shaft, and looses it upwards. The sound of wood creaking and chemical bubbling echoes from the arrow impact as the sloshing sound intensifies.
Auric, concerned about what they might have just stirred, signals to the other two to quickly start moving the direction they had been going. Trying to remain quiet, the group moves further into the cave. Both Criòs and Wander launch missiles toward their previous target, connecting with their hits.
The sloshing noise stops abruptly, forcing the party to increase their distance from where they first launched their attacks so as to try to gain some advantage against the unknown foe. Criòs and Wander attempt to strike the target again, with Auric igniting one of his bolts with an evocation, but the missiles fail to hit. The light from the flame does however reflect off of something dripping from the ceiling.
Before anything can be said, a thunderous splatter sound echoes the the cave, indicating whatever was above them now is on their level. The impact illicits a new reaction, though. As the splatter sounds through the cavern, a piercing scream echoes through the party’s minds. The three clasp their heads, trying to keep the psychic shriek from getting in, but it proves to be overwhelming for Auric and Criòs, leaving them stunned.
Wander, still holding together, decides to rush the mass in an attempt to buy recovery time for his friends. As he approaches the impact site, he in confronted by a massive wall of black, sizzling, animated slime. With a gulp, he charges forward, thrusting his blade into the mass. As he retracts his blade, though, the blade’s normal gleam is dimmed by corrosion covering all that pierced into the mass, with the dying sound of chemical etching resonating from the blade. Angered that his weapon was damaged, he levels his crossbow at the mass and fires a bolt, which shudders the blob before rapidly dissolving.
The slime responds by lurching at Wander, attempting to slam its massive weight against him, but he deftly dodges out of the way before harm could befall him. This fails to phase the mass, as it flows through the motion and moves toward the two stunned members of the group.
With a curse under his breath, Wander rushes toward the blob, leaping in the air with a roar and slamming into the ground, sending forth a shockwave with the boom of thunder. The wave slams into the mass, which resists most of the forces, but chunks of the ooze harden and crumble as the main body jiggles from the impact.
With his senses back about him, Auric draws his glaive, whispering the prayer that lights his blade aflame. With a great heave, he brings the glaive down on the monster with a furious overhead strike, cleaving the beast in two and corroding the blade of his weapon. Two more psychic shrieks, one after another, rip through the group’s minds, stunning everyone and breaking Auric’s psyche, forcing him to the ground in a semi-catatonic state.
The now separated ooze does not rejoin. Rather, one mass moves towards Wander while the other rolls over Auric’s chest. The splash of acid and crushing weight of the viscous fluid winds Auric, knocking him completely unconscious as the acid eats at his armor and exposed skin.
The second ooze, flowing clumsily across the floor, rears up to strike Wander but suddenly freezes as if stopped by some external force. The pudding shudders and crumbles to a fraction of its original size.
Now recovered from the psychological trauma, Wander sees Auric laying on the ground, unstable and damaged by acid burns. He whispers a prayer and with a faint yellow glow, the erratic breathing and caustic sizzling cease as the downed warrior stabilizes. Following this, Wander draws his crossbow and fires a bolt into the remainer of the nearest ooze, destroying what remained in a cloud of fine dust.
Sliding off of Auric and along the floor, the second ooze lashes out with its body like a whip, striking at Criòs but missing barely. The advance of the slime brings it too close to strike, so Criòs jumps back, trying to gain some ground between him and the mass. As he flees, a second tentacle-like protrusion whips around and winds around Criòs’ ankle, melting parts of his boot and skin. In pain, he turns and fires at the mass, tearing through it as it hardens completely and crumbles into dust.
The monstrous slime now slain, Wander helps Auric up and the party regroups after the encounter. Auric begins searching for the scent of less evil things in the devilish realm again while Criòs and Wander attempt to gather some of the dust from the monster to no avail. Eventually, Auric is able to discern the path they had lost earlier and the group heads out.
After a few hours of travel, the party notices that they have diverged from the flattened, torch-lined road they were on earlier. Wander asks Auric if they are still going the right direction, to which he responds that there are no other paths that lead toward anything that could be considered “good” in this plane. While arguing about the proper definition of good, Criòs sees a large stone structure, made of granite in an otherwise unrecognizable geological environment. The structure resembled a door frame, but one that was about 15 feet tall and missing any sort of door construction. Recognizing this as a planar portal, the trio run towards it as fast as possible.
Upon inspection, the sygaldry of the structure is saddenly aged and worn. The style of work is noticeably different from the standard techniques seen commonly around the world, but the three are able to clean up the work a respectable amount. With crossed fingers, the three activate the portal, which sputters and groans as a orangish fluid fills the frame. The three rush in, excited to get back home and to escape this fiendish realm.
The scenery opposite the portal catches the group off-guard. Instead of the beautiful green hills and blue sky of the Kinsine Foothills, the three are met with stone and dark corners and the carved halls of some subterranean civilization. Light trickles in through faint gaps high in the ceiling and diffuses the the point of almost uselessness.
After looking around, the three agree that they have no idea where they are and that the architecture of this place is something none of them have seen. Looking into the distance in the large cavern, the remains of some ancient city sprawl out into the darkness and deep recesses of the cave. The group wanders through the ruins, and eventually crosses a bridge after an hour of exploration and is confronted by a group of reptilian people who draw back and reach for their weapons with shocked looks on their faces.
“Stop! How are you three find this place?”
The Misty Flight
After a week of mayoral training, Wander meets up with his teacher Trevor, a diplomat from Priodym. Trevor, after indicating that Wander had completed as much of the training as he could while remaining in Brightwell, started explaining the plans to bring Wander into the capital to fully inaugurate him into the new political position. Wander takes this command rather well until Trevor mentions that Criòs and Auric need to come with as well so that they can get their permissions to operate with Wander, to which his mood deflates noticeably.
“We’ve been here in this gutterwater excuse of a town for too long. We need to get you to Priodym as soon as possible.” says Trevor haughtily. “This place is beneath me and so are you for wishing to claim responsibility of it. We’re leaving first thing in the morning; I’ve already made the preparations.”
With the meeting concluded, Wander meets up with the other two members of the group in the town square. While Wander explains the new plans, Criòs spots Sven across the square and politely smiles and waves. Sven sees the gesture and excitedly runs over to the trio.
“Hello friends! Come by my shop later, I’ve finished the last set of modifications on your gear!” says Sven, cheerful as always before running off to continue his business.
With pleasantries exchanged, Wander finishes explaining the current plans for the trip to Priodym and the group makes their way over to Sven’s workshop. Somehow, despite his running off in the opposite direction, Sven has beaten him back to his shop and meets them with a warm smile and three bundles of gear. “Make sure you look it over carefully,” Sven adds, “I want you to be sure I did everything as according to your requests.” After some passing small talk, the group parts ways and heads back to the inn.
Each person examines their gear, admiring and complimenting the quality of the work to each other, when Auric notices a note attached to the hilt of his glaive. He opens it and reads it, finding it to be a message from Ryalt.
Auric begins reading the note aloud to the other two, detailing out how Ryalt has acquired intelligence stating that a very prominent diplomat will be leaving from Brightstone the next day and how he would like to ask the three of them to help in the capture of the diplomat. Upon completing the note, Auric looks up with a morbid expression on his face.
“We can’t kill the rebels, and we can’t hand over the diplomat. What are we going to do?”
Criòs and Wander look at each other, then back to Auric. “Well we might as well kill the rebels. It’s not like they’re important and if we want to do something major in this region, we need to get access to Priodym.”
An argument breaks out, both sides struggling to push their point forward. Finally, Wander starts mixing something up with the poison kit he keeps with him.
“What are you doing?” Asks Auric, slightly indignant.
“I’m going to spike his drink with this knockout potion. Should put him down for half a day while we get him out of here.” Wander replies as he strides out of the door. Criòs, a bit confused, jumps up and follows after him.
Grabbing a few drinks from the bar downstairs, Wander mixes the potion in with one of the drinks and hands another one to Criòs. Auric catches up to them and tries to stop them but fails to convince them to stop their plan.
Bursting into Trevor’s room, Wander wakes him up energetically. “We need to head out now. We can’t wait till morning.”
Confused and angered, Trevor looks up at them and says, “Why? What could possibly be so important that we need to leave in the middle of the bloody night?”
Not anticipating the question, Wander hesitantly replies “Well, uh…Criòs here is deathly afraid of sunrises. If we leave now, he’ll sleep right through the sunrise.” Criòs covers his head with his cloak and Wander puts on his most convincing smile.
“I’m not buying it.” Trevor responds, even more furious than before. “He’s a wood elf for Torm’s sake!”
At this, Wander and Criòs look at each other and start giggling as they start acting incredibly drunk. They push the spiked drink into his hands, nodding at him to take a drink.
At this moment, Auric bursts into the room and says urgently, “Trevor, we received some information that says you’re going to be attacked on the way back to Priodym and that the assailants are expecting you to leave tomorrow. If we don’t leave tonight, you might be in danger.”
“How did you come across this information?” Trevor asked, skeptical of the chaotic intrusion into his privacy.
“The people from the drug den that we cleared out caught wind of this plot and passed the information on” replies Auric, choosing his words and inflection carefully.
“Well, scum like that would know. Let me get dressed and we’ll head out.” Trevor sighs as he throws back the drink in his hand in one gulp.
By the time the group loads up the cart and is ready to head out, Trevor is feeling the effects of the potion. As Auric starts the wagon towards the gate, Trevor lies down in the back of the cart laden with some of the rogues’ ale. After he fell asleep, Wander and Criòs dress him in a large burlap sack and hide him under some hay in the back of the cart.
Upon reaching the gate, the group is stopped by a pair of soldiers of Paladic Guard. With it being as late as it is, the guards approach the cart cautiously, unsure of how to address the situation. Recognizing Wander, one asks, “Sir, what are you doing traveling this late at night? Shouldn’t you be resting for the trip tomorrow?”
“Well,” Wander replies, “We’ve got a major order of alcohol due to go to Priodym since the new market there has opened up. We just decided to leave early. Besides, this fool next to me is afraid of sunrises.”
The dubious response prompts the guards to concern. “Sir, we’re going to have to search the cart, just to be sure.” The closer guard moves to the back of the cart and begins moving things around, quickly finding a sleeping Trevor in an odd sack. Both guards draw their weapons, while the searcher asks indignantly, “What is the meaning of this?”
Wander shrugs, smiles coyly and says, “He was tired. He fell asleep in the back and I thought he looked cold so I covered him with what we had.”
Cautiously rushes thing their weapons as they shrug at each other, the two guards stand down. “Well,” one starts, “we’re not allowed to leave our post without direct command from him, so I guess we will wait here. Just be careful out there.”
The group leaves the town with a collective sigh of relief at avoiding a conflict by just a few words. The crew continues off into the night, beginning their week-long journey.
About halfway through the next day, Trevor rouses himself from his sleep. After waking up completely, a very angry expression crawls across his face. “There was something in that drink you gave me right before telling me about an attempt in my life. Explain yourself right this instant.”
Panicked, Wander responds. “We grabbed the drink off the bar on the way up. I guess someone spiked it before we got it?”
This answer settles better with Trevor than expected. “That makes sense. I’m glad you three were around to help me get out of that situation.” The resolution of the situation visibly relaxes the diplomat. “I tell you, the only time that I get to unwind is while I’m on the road. Pass me some of that ale good sir.”
Over the next few days, the four travelers start to get to know each other. One day, while Trevor is feeling the effects of the alcohol and enjoying the shade of the tree canopy over the road, Auric asks, “So, honestly, how are things in the capital?”
“Well, it’s all that beaurocratic nonsense.”, mumbled Trevor. “No one on the Patriarchal body seems to be able to get any of their pet projects going, so all that happens is what they all can agree on. Which, to be honest, isn’t much. They can override single dissent, so at least they can get some stuff done.”
Wander looks over, “Is all this expansion effort the result of some unanimous decision? It seems like it might not be the best idea for diplomatic relations.”
Trevor slowly changes his gaze from Auric to Wander. “No, it’s not s plan everyone likes. Patriarch Chamberlain is opposed to it but he has been overruled. Honestly I think he might be the only sane person leading the country.”
Auric chimes back in. “Well isn’t there some way that the system could be changed so that it is run better for everyone?”
Sighing, Trevor sits up, closing his eyes and shrugging. “I don’t know. I think the only way to fix the system is to get rid of it. You’d have to kill off all the Patriarchs and just restart the government.”
Before anyone can respond, a loop of rope drops right in front of Trevor and yanks him out of the wagon by the neck, left dangling and surprised above the road. Wander reacts, jumping from the cart onto the rope while drawing his rapier to cut the rope. In a single motion, he frees Trevor from the snare and lands on the ground, muttering a prayer and throwing a small light orb at the ground. Suddenly a huge , dense cloud condenses around him and the cart, obscuring the trees and cart from view. Realigning his sensory ring to enhance his hearing, Wander moves to Trevor to help him up. In the process though, he hears the rustling of leaves as people run above him, the footfalls of people on both sides of the road, and the breathing and charging of horses from the road behind them.
Auric reacts to stop the vehicle, coming to a halt a short distance away while Criòs draws his bow, whispering to the vine entanglement as he fires an arrow into the fog, which responds with the sound of rapid growth of plant life. Wander carries Trevor quickly to the cart and throws both himself and Trevor on the back. The sound of people in the trees and beside the road have disappeared ahead of the wagon beyond his hearing range.
Auric gets the horses moving again, but before they cover much ground a net drops from the trees in front of the cart, catching the horses up in a tangle of rope. The cart violently comes to a stop until Criòs jumps to the horses and cuts the net away enough to let the horses get free. As the horses begin to move forward again, Wander hears the sound of bourses in pain as they collide with the vine hedge Criòs formed behind them.
Criòs, unsure of where the assailants are located, draws an arrow, aiming toward the back of the wagon in preparation of any attacks. Auric struggles against the horses to get them under control after the spook they endured. Wander, still attempting to locate the rebels, looks up to see if he can spot one. At that moment, one drop from the trees directly behind him. On instinct, Criòs fires an arrow at the falling person, landing a solid hit that sprouts vines that envelop the target, binding him. The now-bound body slams into Wander, knocking him to the floor.
Wander kicks the bound soldier off the wagon and throws a fiery hand toward the ground behind them, casting a blue flame that streaks out and ignites the net behind them. Auric looks back, feeling helpless to assist in the defense beyond just steering the chaotic wagon until he gets an idea. He hums a quiet tune that summons a ghostly hand, which flies back and lifts up cut up and burning net, moving it slower to try to distract the attackers. As the fog begins to thin out, Criòs turns his attention forward to ready a shot for anything that can come up in front of them as they leave the fog.
As the cart breaks free of the fog, six pikemen can be seen readied across the road, weapons lowered to strike. Criòs reacts, firing his shot into one of the middle pikemen. The blow lands with a small puff of purple gas, which causes the pikeman to swing his polearm away from the center of the road, knocking his comrade to the ground. Wander turns and fires a crossbow bolt, clipping the same man with his bolt, which drops him prone. As the cart draws closer, Criòs draws one more arrow and fires it at the other central pikeman, knocking the man to the ground. At the last second, Auric pulls the reigns to avoid running over the bodies, hoping that he can keep control over the wild horses.
The horses breeze past the line of rebels with little room for error. As the cart speeds past the line, the wagon exits the canopied section and enters a pasture. With no places left for ambush, the group lowers their guard and sheathes their weapons. Trevor, who has finally recovered from the shock of the situation, cannot stop thanking the three for their protection.
The rest of the travel is calm, and the party tops a hill to see the large city of Priodym in the distance. As soon as the walls of the capital come into view, Trevor sits up and dons his haughty diplomatic air. As the cart approaches the gate, Trevor flashes a diplomatic badge at the guards who immediately open the gate for them. Before anything else, the party sees horseless carts driving along the road beyond the entry gate, and the three wonder what they have gotten themselves into.
In the Business of Corruption
The day starts off with Auric, Criòs, and Wander finding their way to the notice board in the town square. With no new postings, the party pulls the notice from the infirmary down to take with them. Criòs and Wander, though, remember that they have a tab to settle with the inn regarding the use of their still, so they leave Auric to find out the details of the task at hand.
Auric makes his way to the infirmary, where he meets Chardis, the local doctor. Chardis, a nervous and twitchy Dwarf, is caught off guard as Auric enters the building. “Oh dear, what can I do for you? It must be bad if I can’t see what’s wrong.”
“Oh no, I’m just here about the notification you posted on the notice board in the center of town. Something about investigating a disease?” Auric replied curtly.
“Oh good, you had me worried there for a moment.” Chardis replied, visibly relieved. “Well, you see, it’s not so much a disease. Or at least not anything like any disease I’ve seen. I would like to think that I know my way around diseases, but this just doesn’t seem to be one. The man was left on the doorstep of the infirmary the other day, and has been mumbling in and out of consciousness. He seems healthy but his mind is a bit damaged I believe. He’s in the back if you’d like to see him.”
With a nod from Auric, Chardis quickly leads him into the back of the building to the patient area. Skittishly, Chardis motioned towards a drawn curtain and said, “Uh, he’s back there. I’d come with you but, uh, I’ve got some things to take care of. His name is Grehm, just so you know. You won’t likely even get that much out of him though.” Auric steps out of the way as the dwarf scurries past him back towards the front of the infirmary.
Meanwhile, back at the inn, Criòs and Wander had collected their earnings from the week and were enjoying a drink while waiting for Auric to finish up at the infirmary as a new, beautiful barmaid walked past their table. With a glance brimming with nothing but the fiercest competition, both the elf and the cleric begin chugging their drinks to finish first. As was the unspoken rule between them, Wander got the first shot at the fresh face as he finished his drink first. Criòs just sat back and dipped at the remainder of his drink as Wander moved to the girl and began slinging his charm and displaying his acrobatic prowess. Visibly impressed, the girl giggles as Wander balances himself on a upright broomstick, which triggers Criòs to action.
Stepping over to the girl, he leans in close, catching her off-guard and causing a bit of frustration. However, with a few words, the girl’s look shifts from anger to intrigue to excitement as she grabs Criòs’ hand and pulls him frantically toward the stairs to the rooms. With a smirk, Criòs disappears up the stairs as Wander makes his way back to the table, sullen from the defeat.
Back at the infirmary, Auric approaches the curtain that Chardis pointed him towards. Grunts and strained breathing issue forth as he approaches, which are accompanied by a grotesquely grey-skinned man tied by leather restraints to his bed. Upon entering, he thrashes once more before locking bloodshot eyes on Auric.
“Grehm, my name is Auric, and I’m here to help you out. Can you tell me about what’s going on?” Auric says softly, attempting to calm the afflicted man. “Grrrh…urg…I just need another infusion…” strains Grehm through bared teeth.
Auric asks, “An infusion? Infusion of what?” Grehm hisses at him and replies, “I would even take an unrefined one…I just need something…” Pausing for a moment, Auric starts examining Grehm for diseases or poisons, but after a fruitless hour of examination and fighting against the resistance that Grehm put up, Auric is unable to recognize the contaminant in Grehm. In frustration, Auric asks “Well, Grehm, can you tell me what an infusion is so I can get you some?”
Eyes darting around the room, Grehm spots the glimmer of the moonstone fitted into the hilt of Auric’s glaive. “There…That…grr.” Auric realizes the intent behind the comment and asks, “Well where can I get you another infusion?”
“Argh…down a few miles from the gate…mmmmmmrh…there’s a cave. Tell them I need another infusion.”
With this last statement, Grehm begins seizing and falls unconscious. Auric heads back to the front of the infirmary, where Chardis is startled by Auric’s return as if he had forgotten that he was ever there. “Oh. Did you manage to get anything out of him?” Chardis inquires. “I did, it’s not an actual disease, but rather some kind of infusion of mana stones. He told me where he gets them, so I’m going to go get my friends and go investigate a bit more.” Surprised, Chardis replies, “Oh? Well that makes me fell better about my…uh…skills as a medic. Let me know if you need anything I guess.”
About the same time that Auric finds his way into the inn, a disheveled Criòs makes his way back down the stairs, reuniting the party. Auric relays the details of the events in the infirmary and, to Wander’s distaste, Criòs recalls the details of his excursion as well. The group decides that, even with the sun setting, they should head out immediately. As they approach the gates though, Auric hears Chardis calling out to him. “Here, before you go, take these three healing potions. I figured you might, uh, need them.” The party graciously accepts and heads out to find the cave.
Lead by a very confident Auric, the party searches for the cave for hours before Auric realizes he has completely led the group the wrong way. Late into the night, the party starts making their way back, getting lost severs, times along the way. By the time they reach the cave, beams of light are peaking out over the Orthoclast Parapets. Auric leads the group into the cave, following a winding path down into the cold earth until the party finds themselves in a large cave with small beams of the morning light making their way through small cracks in the ceiling. The party looks around and sees nine people in the room in varying states of health; two are unconscious, three are having panic attacks and seizures in the corners, and four others walk aimlessly about the room, muttering softly to themselves.
Criòs immediately attempts to hide himself in the shadows while Wander runs forward into the room. The rough ground, however, trips him up and he ends up catching himself on one of the ambling men in the room. Rolling with the action, he shifts his stumbling attempt to catch himself into a warm embrace of the shocked man, whispering softly to him.
“Everything is going to be ok. I’ll take care of you.”
With a burst of tears, the man snaps out of his surprise and embraces Wander tightly. “Thank you, that is exactly what I needed to hear. You won’t regret this kindness you’ve shown me.” The scene is so poignant that everyone stops and looks, a common warmth flowing into each heart in the room. While hidden, Criòs even sheds a single tear when he knows no one is looking. At the point where the tear splashes, a small rose begins to grow, unbeknownst to anyone present.
After this moving display, Auric walks over to another lucid man and says “Hey, Grehm needs another infusion.” The man looks up and responds, “Tell him to come get his own. But I can give you one if you want.” Auric hesitantly agrees, to which the man says, “Hold out your arm.”
Auric recoils at the request, no longer willing to partake. But Wander manages to jump in and tell the man, “Give it to me then!” with his arm outstretched. The man shrugs and produces a large syringe and jams it into Wander’s arm before hammering down on the plunger. Some unknown substance then flowed into Wander’s as he becomes invigorated by the substance. As the newly energized Wander decides to rush the wooden door at the far end of the room, both Criòs and Auric notice that there’s now a faint green glow growing around Wander. Shrugging, they follow their companion towards the door.
Without hesitation, Wander slams straight into the wooden door in an effort to break it down. However, the door is more resilient than he estimated, and while he manages to breach through, the impact staggers him and he tumbles forward into the room, landing finally in a seated position. Recovering from the shock, the other two join Wander in the room, which they see to be an intricately carved out office within the cave. A massive fireplace roars with a billowing flame behind the desk of a seated man sporting a look of confusion at the intrusion while still maintaining his posture of writing something on his desk. The man at the desk was dressed in merchant garb with a clawed and red paw embroidered onto the left chest of his tunic and a hat with a distinct red feather, and after a moment of awkward silence, the man whistles, calling forth four men from doors on the sides of the room.
“Well, that was a bit unnecessary, but who can expect any better from couriers from the Hadrin brothers.” the man says. “Now listen, I know there’s a shipment due, but you three need to tell your boss that things are going to be a bit late this time around. There’s been some delays.”
Auric casts a brief look to the other two. “Yeah, we can tell them that. Do you know when the next shipment will be ready?” With a bit of delay, Wander adds “Yeah we’re basically best friends with them.”
The man looks suspicious at this comment and nods to his four men around his desk. Each man slowly moves a hand behind their backs. “Oh really? I’m sorry, I haven’t gotten your names yet. And pardon me for not introducing myself to new faces. I’m Devlin.”
With this, Criòs begins setting himself up in the doorway while reaching for his bow. Auric responds curtly, “Just ignore him, he’s new and doesn’t know his place.” Wander smiles and shrugs his shoulders. “My name is Auric, the seated man is Wander, and the elf by the door is Criòs.” Looking to Wander, he continues “We’re not actually best friends with the Hadrin brothers, right?”
“No, of course we are!” Wander replies. A feeling of danger settles into the room as Devlin asks Wander, “What are their names then?”
After a moment of thinking, eyes turned skyward, Wander locks eyes with Devlin, smiles coyly and shrugs again. At this moment, Criòs looses an arrow at one of the guards as Wander jumps to his feet, then onto the desk. With a grand flourish, he utters an encantation and drives his rapier into the table. A thundous boom erupts from the desk, sending papers flying along with syringes that each of the guards were reaching for. Three of the guards are flung to the walls of the room and knocked to the ground while Devlin stumbles a few feet backwards toward the fireplace. The sonic blast catches Criòs off-guard, causing his ears to ring badly enough to blur out other sounds.
Auric then rushes over to one of the men prone on the ground, heaving his glaive down on him. As the blade cuts through the sir, it glows with a brilliant intensity which bursts forth upon impact. The man has hardly a chance to scream before Auric follows through with a blow from the hilt of his glaive, collapsing his skull inward and ending the guard’s life.
Still dazed from the thunderclap, Criòs takes aim at the one standing guard and fires, but misses just barely over the shoulder of the man. With this, the same guard begins charging toward Criòs, but the motion alerts Auric to danger and he reels around and catches the guard in the chest with his glaive. Angered by this, he changes target to Auric and swings a shortsword at Auric, but the blow only glances off his armor. Meanwhile, the two remaining guards get to their feet and run to the corners, grabbing the syringes and immediately injecting themselves with them. A bright red glow issues forth from both men and a billowing flame of fury builds in their eyes.
Auric squares himself to the man who just swung at him and brings his blade around, connecting with a solid hit against the guards side. The blow winds the bandit, causing him to drop to his knees. Auric then swings his weapon around to follow through with the hilt of his glaive but catches the blade against the ground, forcing him to drop his weapon.
While this is occurring, Wander leaps from the desk at Devlin with his rapid extended. He scores a deep hit into Devlin’s abdomen, piercing deep enough to start some deep bleeding. While piercing his foe, Wander lands feet first against Devlin and pushes off in a backflip that sends Devlin into the fireplace. While midair, Wander draws a bead on Devlin and fires a bolt as he lands his feet square back on the desk where he started. The bolt lodges squarely in the center of Devlin’s chest with great force.
With an enraged yell, Devlin jumps out of the fire and pats his clothes down briefly before drawing his scimitar and boot knife. He then lashes out at Wander, missing his first blow but catching Wander off-guard for his second scimitar cut followed by a lunge wih the boot knife that connects against Wander’s armor, piecing slightly through it.
Criòs, determined not to miss a second time, levels his bow against the guard on his knees. With the reverb of the recoiling bow, his arrow pierces the neck of the injured guard and fells him. However, while this is happening, Criòs is jumped by one of the men in the previous room who injects him with one of the syringes. The material now flowing in his veins, Criòs feels slightly nauseous but otherwise unchanged as a sickly blue glow begins softly shining around him.
With their comrade fallen, the two remaining guards roar and charge, one at Auric and the other at Criòs. Still disarmed, Auric attempts to brace himself against the blow, but the bandit hits with more force than he expected. The sword strike breaks Auric’s guard and cuts him badly, knocking him to the ground. The other guard raises his sword while charging but misjudged the distance to Criòs and swings too early, missing his target.
Auric, staggered a bit by the blow, slowly stands up, muttering under his breath. The guard takes this to be a sign of weakness and lowers his guard a bit. What he failed to notice was the glaive now in Auric’s hands again and the growing glow of a white flame along the blade. Auric’s muttering becomes more clear and he hoists his weapon high and come down with a furious blow. The blade emits a blinding flash, and when the light in the room returns to normal, the only remnant of the guard is the charred shadow on the stone floor.
Wander, reeling from the flurry of strikes, composes himself and strikes Devlin again, piercing him deeply in the shoulder, loosing another torrent of blood from the bandit captain.
With this blow, Devlin raises his hand and says weakly, “Can we just, like, stop for a second and discuss things? Everything just escalated real fast and I think we can come to an agreement that satisfies both parties here.”
“Drop your weapons and we’ll consider talking to you.” Wander says sternly as he points his rapier at Devlin’s throat and his crossbow at Devlin’s knee.
“If someone will come patch me up, I’ll agree to that. Otherwise I won’t be much use to you guys here very shortly.” Devlin replies, his eyelids starting to droop more and more.
The three look at each other and nod in agreement, so Auric walks over and starts patching up Devlin as Auric begins interrogating him. Criòs begins tying up the remaining guard.
“So tell me about the Hadrin brothers. Should we know anything about their strengths or possible weaknesses?” Wander asks, maintaining his aim with his crossbow.
“Well,” Devlin starts, searching for a starting place, “no one knows their real names. But there’s three of them: The Butcher, The Baker, and The Candlestickmaker. They’re the most imposing men I know, and they tend to keep to themselves and just manage the clan. Th Butcher is known for his brutal handling of external relations and his two huge cleavers he carries with him. The Baker is in charge of production within the clan, and only seems to wear some special gloves. As for the Candlestickmaker, no one knows what he does, just that he’s very greasy-looking and hides in his workshop. People just try to avoid him typically.”
Decently appeased with this answer, Wander prods further, both in question and with his crossbow. “How about you draw us a map and let us know any other information we might need, like passwords?”
Devlin grabbed one of the scattered papers and begins scribbling out a crude map. “It’d be easier to show you myself but if you insist I’ll give you a map.” Pausing briefly, he adds, “Just tell them I sent you, that should get you in.”
As he finishes, Criòs approaches Devlin and says, “Of course you know we must take you to the authorities now. You’re not doing the most legal of activities.”
At this, Devlin’s face flushes, he reaches slowly for a sword but winces from the pain of his severe wounds. Desperation flashes across his face, and Criòs and Wander only catch a glimpse of the morbid resolve that relaxes Devlin’s face as he slams his hand down on his hip, shattering a glass flask on his hip that engulfs him in a bright, searing flame. The immolated body falls back into the roaring fireplace, sending forth a shower of cinders into the room.
Shocked, the party stands there watching the body turn to ash. After a brief moment, Auric moves to the other guard and asks him, “Do you know where the infusions are stored?”
The guard begrudgingly nods towards one of the doors that all the guards issued forth from before the battle. Auric makes his way into the back room and finds a large stash of infusions along with a lockbox. After grabbing the lockbox, Auric whispers a prayer that lights the blade of his glade with a holy fire. With one fell swoop, the glaive destroys the stash of infusions, vaporizing the materials within. Before he can react, Auric inhales some of the mist, which makes him feel more powerful than before.
While this is going on, Criòs and Wander stand at the fireplace, pondering the events that just occurred. The guards, while the two rogues are distracted, manages to free himself and reach for a flask on his hip. With a roar, the guard rushes the two, smashing the vial against his chest which explodes in a violent fireball, burning and knocking the two rogues to the ground.
Auric returns to the front room, curios of what cause the explosion. Seeing the mess, he helps bandage the two other party members while they recover their senses. After patching the others up, Auric takes a moment to draw upon his divine senses as a paladin to see if there’s anything amiss in the room. At first, he can’t detect anything over the myriad of elements around the room, but as he focuses more, he picks up the signs of something tainted with some malificent touch. He makes his way to the fireplace and determines the source is from the back wall of the fireplace. Using his mage hand, he moves the firewood and charred remains from the rieplace and scatters them so they don’t set the room ablaze.
The three look at the back of the fireplace and find a circle of sygaldry written in a script that none of the party recognizes. After pondering the writing for a moment, Criòs snatches up a piece of blank paper from the room and a chunk of charcoal from the scattered firewood and makes a charcoal rubbing of the sygaldry in the paper. He then folds up the paper, pockets it, and the three decide to head back into town. Returning to the antechamber, the party finds the cavern vacant. With a shrug, Auric leads the party back out of the caves.
Upon returning to Brightstone, the party returns to Chardis to discuss the results of their investigation. After describing the events as they occurred, the doctor sighs in relief. “Well, at least it wasn’t something I should have recognized. Uhh, as long as it’s not something that will trace back to me. I mean…at least we know what we’re dealing with.” With that, Chardis excuses himself quickly to the back room of the infirmary and the party returns to their room at the inn.
Upon searching the lockbox, the lot find a sum of money and a pair of golden bracers, which Wander claims due to his affinity for shiny things.
Ethnographies of Erelandis: The Shadowtouched
Not all the inhabitants of Erelandis originate from either Erelandis or Sheolan. In fact, there are four distinct groups that find their beginnings in the shadowy void between the two worlds. Collectively, these races are referred to as the Shadowtouched.
While traversing the planes to reach Erelandis, some settlers fell victim to the dark horrors of the void. Many of these died from the trauma, but a small group from each of the main races proved resilient enough to survive contact with the dark beings of the nether. These select few, the Shadowtouched, became twisted facsimiles of their former selves, becoming dark in complexion and mentality. Each subrace of the Shadowtouched are referred to by names based on their original race: Dark Elves, or Drow come from Elven ancestry, Tieflings are corrupted Humans, Shadow Dwarves originate from the Dwarven clans, and Blackskale are the befouled of the Dragonborn.
While the four races differ in source, all share similar transformations. Through the contact they suffered, each Shadowtouched’s mind was broken in one way or another. The severity of the damage varied from individual to individual, but the race as a whole suffers from a high degree of mental instability and volatility in personality and emotion. This has led to a full spectrum of mental states across members and also the development of transmuted forms of their original languages which allow for more efficient communication between Shadowtouched while retaining the format of the source language.
Physical malady caused by contact is less widespread throughout the race, but all Shadowtouched bear blackened pigmentation and complexions with black, red, or purple eyes. The majority of physical alterations from void contact came in the form of forced speciation, which pushed the Shadowtouched to form a fledgling and fragmented society in the midst and following wake of planewalking between realms.
One oddity of the physiology of the Shadowtouched is the guaranteed transmission of abnormalities from the source races to offspring. Transmission of some form of physical deviation is certain, but the form of pathologies cannot be predicted based on genetics or any other biological processes or indicators. Each individual is a unique mix of complications distinct from any observable force.
Due to the shared origin, the majority of the source races maintain only a cautious distance from their Shadowtouched kindred rather than outright hostility. It is common for members of one race to draw weapons in a defensive manner when encountering Shadowtouched of a different source species than their own. The vast array of mental afflictions however makes for dangerous encounters despite shared origins, which has been cause for concern and conflict throughout the history of Erelandis. Typically, Shadowtouched are given a wide berth and are left to their own, but occasional interaction gives way to job offers as mercenaries and messengers in dangerous missions.
As violent pariahs in a new world, Shadowtouched are met usually in small clusters of members with similar, if misguided, objectives. These groups function primarily as a survival mechanism in their nomadic, stuporous travels rather than a family unit or societal system; many times, members will come and go based on whims and differences in priorities. Such desertions cause little effect on group morale or decisions as they are expected by all the members of a traveling group.
A common reason for departure from one group in favor of another is clear indications of acceptance. Being tormented beings, the major goal of all Shadowtouched is peace of mind, which can be difficult to find in a world hesitant of contact. This, coupled with systematic oppression and even destruction at the hands of Priodym, causes a loss of sense of self in many members of the race. There is a common saying that states “A will-broken Shadowtouched can’t help but bleed themselves and others.”, because without hope of peace, madness solidifies its hold on the mind of a Shadowtouched and the creature loses all parts of its personality and becalmed a beast of the darkness.
Ethnographies of Erelandis: The Dragonborn
Where there is knowledge, there are always numerous endeavors to expand it. Typically this is seen in innovation and technology, but there also exists the backbone of society: its history. The Dragonborn are the curators of the history of both Sheolan and Erelandis, with the role stretching back long before the foundations of Sheolan began to crumble.
The oldest race of Sheolan from a biological standpoint, the Dragonborn have long suffered poor luck in dealings with other races. Despite a general attitude of neutrality in the vast majority of Sheolan conflicts, the race has suffered collateral damage, both intended and accidental, on numerous accounts with several notable near-extinction events pushing the race to the limits of its endurance. This repeated destruction is the main driving force behind the thirst for knowledge of the past, as Dragonborn culture and history is a weatlh of knowledge to be fought for. The race in general has an interest and love for archaeology because of this pressing cultural defense. In the process of preserving their own culture, however, they became adept at discovering and maintaining the cultural lineage of all races, not just their own.
The looming threat of destruction also has been a critical factor in the development of the Dragonborn society as a whole. By being forced to constantly flee death, the race developed the skill of building temporary but formidable fortresses that are repackagable for movement to conserve precious resources in times of escape.
Along with constructed defenses, the Dragonborn adapted to survive in harsh environments, using natural phenomena as a means of defense. Frequently this means that bands would set up residence in deserts and other arid, harsh biomes. The tough environments taught the Dragonborn to live on what little they could find, so food typically was not stored for long, also making escape an easier task.
Society has also banded into close-knit, familial clusters that utilize every member’s talents in a highly optimized work structure. Young Dragonborn are tested for aptitudes through means that are unique to each band. These aptitudes are then nurtured and promoted, leading to highly specialized members of society. This specialization and subsistence style of life created a great sense of respect for nature and the balances found within. With study, the Dragonborn became adept at camouflage and blending in with their environments, making it harder to detect entire bands. This also enforced the political isolationism of the race, but allowed different bands the ability to still interact with subtle signals and signs left throughout the operation area of a band’s fortress.
As much of the destruction that has befallen the numerous clans of Dragonborn was of magical origin, the use of such abilities is typically frowned upon in society. Normally, such a cultural taboo would significantly reduce the survivability of a race, but the fear of conflict pushed the specialization of all workers to involve deep martial combat training, making Dragonborn fierce opponents and specialized Razorscale warriors indomitable in many combat situations. Complimentary to this, the specialized craftsmen of the bands are talented weaponsmiths who ingeniously design components of the fortresses as masterwork quality weapons so that in case of attack, a Dragonborn is never far from a form of defense.
Following the theme of destruction as a key motivator in the history of the Dragonborn, the general sentiment towards all other races is highly cautious, on the brink of paranoia. With countless wars in Sheolan instigated by the various Human civilizations, there is a smoldering flame of hatred that burns in the hearts of all Dragonborn. Despite this ire that flows freely among the bands, outsider contact is still approached in a neutral, if not courteous manner as the hopes of peace still shine in each Dragonborn’s heart. Provocation is met with a rapid defense response, but never a preemptive strike.
During the Age of Cooperation, the Dragonborn chose to look to the past to search for anything that could help the efforts at resurrecting the land or at the very least to endure the massive ecological changes. Many expeditions were sent out, each one bringing back only small aspects of information. The knowledge was slow to gather and only had noticeable applications as time continued to run out, so the majority of their efforts were considered wasted and, through a lack of understanding, the other races developed a bitter attitude toward the Dragonborn for not contributing as much at the beginning of Cooperation efforts.
This lack of beneficial efforts was changed once sygaldry was developed. Throughout many of the expeditions, there had been common traces of influences and effects that could not have originated on Sheolan. Evidences of multiple planes of existence were prevalent throughout the historical strata of Sheolan, and while the Church of the Loyal Fury believed on faith that there were extradimensional planes, the Dragonborn were able to conclusively prove that they did in fact exist and could be accessed and traversed to different lands. With this information, efforts of all the races became focused on means by which to open a gate.
Due to the negative attitudes towards the Dragonborn, the race was denied access to Erelandis until the other three major races had set up settlements. Rather than attempting to stake a claim in the fertile Kinsine Foothills, the Dragonborn decided to stick to the tradition of isolationism and move north into the harsher climate of the Goshen Steppes. The Steppes were also littered with caverns and other interesting natural phenomenon that piqued the curiosity of the race too, giving more reason for the race to suffer the unrelenting elements.
Shortly after establishing themselves, Dragonborn expeditions began issuing forth into the region, probing at all the corners and shadows they could find. Reports began coming back from these groups of what appeared to be the ruins of a long-dead civilization buried deep underground. While the Dragonborn maintain an objective, historical stance on this evidence, no other races are willing to believe that there were previous inhabitants in Erelandis based on the unblemished lands that they see on the surface.
Ethnographies of Erelandis: The Wood Elves
Wood Elves, a derivative of the more generalized Elven race, have established themselves as the primary merchant group in Erelandis. Serving as the middleman between the High Elven and Dwarven producers and the Human consumers, Wood Elves have settled themselves in nicely as the primary means of sygaldry trade.
This role is not a new undertaking for the race; for ages, the Wood Elves of Sheolan worked as traders, often transporting goods across dangerous landscapes and battlegrouds. More commonly in that era, they were known as Ruinwalkers, as they claimed no home but the open road, which largely consisted of the decaying remains of the previous empire. This nomadic lifestyle afforded them the luxury of neutrality in many of the conflicts of Sheolan, and their chosen trade actually thrived during the more-and-more frequent wars fought over the lands.
Though capable of captaining naval vessels, Wood Elves prefer land-based transport to oceanic, despite reasonable arguments to the efficiency and speed of water-based transport. Much of this decision relies on the natural connection Wood Elves seem to have with wild nature. This trait was unknown to the vast majority of Pre-Sygaldric Era Wood Elves, as much of the natural flora and fauna of Sheolan had long since been buried deep below the surface.
The Age of Cooperation brought about a change in ideals for the Wood Elf race as a whole. A society, formerly driven by financial gain, turned their attention towards using their gains to help regenerate the land that they indirectly helped destroy. Through these efforts, the Wood Elves were successful in cultivating life despite the overwhelmingly-harsh conditions that continued to spread across Sheolan. Their efforts likely allowed enough time for the Patriarchal Body to finally complete the mission of the Forerunner Crusade, allowing exodus from their dying home.
Despite their innate ability to cultivate life, many of the Wood Elves died in the years leading up to the Sygaldric Age. Of the group that survived, four lineages survived: House Faelyn, House Celaena, House Kethryllia, and House Ruvyn. One member of each house was given the title of Master Cultivator, given their expertise and raw talent at cultivating life. Not knowing how life would continue after crossing the planes to Erelandis, each Master Cultivator made plans to set up a home for their respective lineage. They also knew that space would not be as freely available as it was to previous exiles, given that all the Humans had already traversed the planes before them.
Upon reaching Erelandis, many of the Wood Elves began weeping uncontrollably at the beauty of the lush, untouched land they had found. The Kinsine Foothills were a perfect match for the weary travelers, with far more life than they had ever known on Sheolan. Without even a word from the fledgling state of Priodym, the four lineages ventured into the Foothills, leaving the human settlements alone.
After a few weeks of exploration, the race decided it was time to settle down. However, the wanderlust in each of their hearts drove them to abandon their settlement in hopes of finding new, less fixed lodgings. With unrest and discomfort growing in the families, the four Master Cultivators came together to discuss a solution to their disparaging need for the comfort of the road and the comfort of home. Ramiel Kethryllia was the one to suggest the cultivation of a home for each of their families in the trees they loved so dearly. The Master Cultivators agreed unanimously to undertake this rather unwieldy and unprecedented use of their talents. To grow these ent-homes, the four Houses worked together to produce a massive tree for each of the Houses. Each tree was named after its respective House, and after numerous hours of practice, each Master Cultivator learned to control the ent-homes and steer them to wherever they pleased.
Once each House had a home of their own, the four Master Cultivators decided to part ways in order to start developing their trade networks. As they departed, concerns were raised about competition within the race, but after careful discussion, the Master Cultivators developed trade laws that would insure good relations among Houses while encouraging a semi-aggressive symbiosis that would promote prosperity in all the Houses of the Wood Elves of Erelandis.
A Promise of Hope: The History and Necessity of the Colonizing of Erelandis, Pt. 2
As mentioned earlier, the inhabitants of Erelandis are settlers, not indigenous to the land. The reason for this is multifaceted, but to understand the motive for moving, the birthworld of the races must be explained in detail.
All the travelers of the Sygaldric Era hail from the world of Sheolan, an old land of long histories and many strata of past glorious empires. Countless millenia have come and gone, bringing prosperity and famine, war and peace, grievous treason and glorious cooperation. No empire has withstood the unrelenting battering of the flow of time, and the civilizations there at the transition into the Sygaldric Era do not actually know the true face of Sheolan, as it is buried deep beneath the numerous layers of graves and debris.
The world is dying at this epochal shift; war and destruction and gluttony have ravaged Sheolan beyond regeneration, and the decay rate of the world is only accelerating. Though done with great distaste, the Sheolanites began working on finding any means to save the collective life of the planet. This gathering of minds and efforts is commonly referred to as the Age of Cooperation. Elves and dwarves began studying mana stones, the Dragonborn looked to the past to see if other civilizations suffered similar fates and survived, the Church of the Loyal Fury begins attempts at communing with other planes, and many traders and merchants begin work at attempting to revive the dead lands of Sheolan.
Minor successes with land regeneration allowed civilization to form on small, isolated oases among seas of putrid planetary decay, but the attempts only prove to slow the spread of the vast dead lands. Archaeology only provided cursory information on the survivability of previous civilizations and pure attempts at communing with alternate planes had null effect on the environmental situation.
For many years, the study of mana stones was stunted by the mining methods and a lack of sygaldry understanding. Because of this, approximately 90% of the Sheolan’s populace succumbed to the encroaching death of the planet. The major breakthrough in sygaldry of proper cutting methods brought with it the new Sygaldric Era, issuing forth a flood of discoveries and exchange of knowledge across the wastes. Within a year, the remaining living population has become aware of the basic methods of sygaldry, and research begins to deviate again from such concentrated efforts.
When Priodym managed to bridge the planes between Sheolan and Erelandis, only 10% of the remaining Sheolan populace chose to take that route to the new world. Rumors of other bridges are common, but as many of the residents of Erelandis are generations separated from the Forerunner Crusade, no one actually knows if the rumors are true.
A Discourse on the Origins of Sygaldry, Pt. 1
Throughout the known universe, it has been known that there are magical effects and auras that have physical and meaningful effects on objects around them. The study of the physical nature of magic, later termed sygaldry, became a major research endeavor in the years leading up to the colonization of Erelandis, mostly headed by the academies of the Dwarves and High Elves. Both sides vied for a domination of the craft, but no major advances were made till Throm Thoughthammer discovered the true secret of mana stones, thus ushering in the Sygaldric Era.
Mana stones are a concentrated form of magic, found in mineral veins deep within the ground. They resemble jewels and are thus named according to the gem that most closely resembles them, and they resonate with magic energy that seems to follow the color of the stone. Thoughthammer is attributed with the rise of sygaldry in the modern era as he was the first to discover techniques that would allow proper cutting of these mana stones. Attempting to fashion anything with a mana stone prior to this fundamental sygaldry technique would result in the stone shattering into a pile of useless dust, which prevented research into the further capacities of these stones.
While mana stones serve as a very strong reservoir of magical energy, sygaldry can be applied to any object. The strength of the effect depends on numerous things, such as material compatibility, complexity of the sygaldry, and skill of the artificer, or one who produces sygaldry.
Due to this universal nature, sygaldry rapidly became a major component of industry and everyday life. Teeing so such as rapid cookers and sygaldry engines soon became present in many of households and stores to greatly reduce the effort required to complete daily tasks.