Sword of Ruin

Catching the Scent
The Hounds arrive in Callimaco and begin their search for the illusive thief.

Scene One : On the Road
The travelers arrive on the outskirts of Callimaco at dusk, where they are briefly accosted by an enterprising gremlin who charges a toll for passage. To everyone’s surprise, Janus pays the creature’s fee [concealing the two party members inside the wagon] and the gremlin departs with it’s ill-gotten gil.

Arriving in Callimaco, they are briefly interrogated by a guard, Sally Crumble. She gives them directions to the Boarding House and the Pancake, the only two establishments open at night – and instructs Doctor Pendle-Bay that he will need Ephraim Mining certification to trade in the town.

The boarding house is un-exciting but clean, and the frazzled host Talley Gorightly makes them feel welcome. A pleasant trip to the boisterous tavern, the Pancake results in two new contacts, the proprieter Brian Cactus and a local miner, Vick Libra. The hounds learn that a very ‘friendly human’ matching Zed’s description was in town several days past, and showed a great deal of interest in the miner’s emotional health — as well as their knowledge of the Adamant Mine and a specific, near-abandoned tunnel known as the Blue Mile.

Scene Two: First Morning in Calico
The next morning, the other guests of the Boarding House are briefly seen. A half-orc scholar and a very reserved human wizard, Felice Randall. Janus approached her briefly, but was quickly rebuffed.

Later that morning, a visit was paid to the Temple of Jocasta. Three acolytes were being thoroughly whipped for slipping out the previous evening without permission by the stern and cruel, Davan Marlowe. Varvara requested admittance to the temple of her goddess and was forced to display her divine connection before the cleric begrudgingly allowed her entrance.

A short visit to the EM Facility allowed the party to trade in some of their gil for the local currency, Ephraim Mining Tokens — as well as speak with the foreman, Pegwin Bottle about Doc’s market plans.

The rest of the afternoon was split between a quick visit to the Market — and a proposition from Wizard Randall. She has discovered a sealed vault or crypt, belonging to the Maygrim family — that requires the touch of a ‘true servant of Jocasta’ to open. She implores the aid of Varvara and plans are made for the party to accompany her after dark to explore the vault.

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The Truce through the First Imperial Age

And so we burned. We fought. We bled.

We danced to the dark flute of the gods. A thousand years of war.

All blamed on us, all laid at the feet of every human that survived.

The armies of the gods fought endlessly — the worst devastation of all when one of the Four would walk the fields of slaughter themselves. What mortal can stand against Sun, against Stone? The planet would have burned to a cinder, all of the People and every beast eradicated if not for the gods’ ‘mercy’. They kept us alive, each sheltered their own — their power kept us alive to continue the fight, to keep the fires burning.

That is when this planet found a name. Cynus. In the old tongue, it means ‘ashes.’

And in every army, we were the footsoldiers — the first to bleed. Humans were to blame, so each army saved a special ration of pain for our race. If not for our cunning, our adaptability, our will — there last drop of human blood would long since have been spilled on the dry ground.

But we are cunning. We can change. Our will is strong. And after a thousand years, at long last, one of our race arose to save us all. Us, and all the People of this world.

Her name was Bex. The most gifted wizard of the age, she rose through the ranks due to her wisdom and great power. Even in those days, the People would put aside their hatred if the need was great. After many years of battle, she finally found her way to the ear of Marrus, God of the Sky. Our Lord of Winds is the most clever and cunning of his siblings, then as now, and he listened eagerly to the wizard’s words when she spoke of a grand trick. A ruse that would bring his enemies to heel, at a place of his choosing, totally defenseless.

And so it came to pass. The word went out to the armies of the Four, a great meeting would be held at the Cloud-King’s behest. A truce! A chance to speak in safety for the first time in long centuries. Perhaps, the People dared to hope, an end to the endless war.

Each of the Four came to the agreed upon place, the Vale of Maranth. They each were suspicious, but also eager to turn this meeting to their advantage. The Four arrived in the Vale, and took their seats in four stone chairs prepared for the purpose.

Marrus and his servant, Bex, were the last to arrive. The God of Sky tittered slightly as he slid into his seat. “Welcome, sisters and brother! I am so glad to see you here, at this place of peace.”

“Is is good to see you,” Lady Sun agreed. “Good to see you all.”

“Yes, it has been lonely so long apart,” Sea smiled.

Stone said nothing.

“Yes, good to see you here, all comfortable in your stone chairs. The stone chairs my servant has prepared for you. The stone chairs that now hold you bound and trapped forevermore!” Sky laughed with glee, slapping his hands on arms of his chair.

Sun, Stone, and Sea seethed with rage and bellowed. The mountains and plains of the entire globe rang with their furor. Sky continued to laugh at his siblings ire.

He laughed until he tried to get out of his chair.

“Yes,” Bex said stepping calmly into the center of her trap. “You are trapped too, Cloud-King.”

“How dare you?” the Zephyr Trickster laughed ruefully. “Really, how did you do this?”

“Yes, speak quickly before we tear you apart, worm,” Jocasta murmured. “Speak quickly.”

“You cannot harm me,” the wizard said. “You are bound to my power. Of your own free will you came, of your own will you sat in my chairs of stone. Your might is caught. You cannot move, you cannot strike. If it is my wish, I will leave you here until the Unwinding of Time. Bitter, impotent, and bound.”

“I will swallow you for this,” Banu of the Black Water howled. “I will drown you and your race, your bones will waft in my waves. I sleep in your blood and will pull you down —”

“Enough,” Bex said, and the gods fell silent. “It is not my wish to bind you here. You are necessary to this world, to lock you away would only bring a slow ruin. I have brought you here to talk of Truce. You must withdraw from the fields of this world, you must agree to a Code to govern your endless game. You do not feel as the firstborn creatures of Cynus, you know nothing of heartache or sorrow. But I plead with you to hear me now, to feel one tenth of the pain you have husbanded in the creatures that fill your armies. Look upon what you have wrought and relent.”

And the gods heard her prayer. They looked one to the other, and one by one they each dropped their head in assent.

The gods and their captor spoke for many days. A careful Truce was laid, and the laws inscribed in the very fabric of reality. All of the the People waited and hoped. At last, Bex came from the Vale, alone but with a weary smile.

And then, what a time of celebration there was! That the hated blood of humanity should be the one to broker the peace was a marvel. Despised soldiers and battered slaves were welcomed into every hall, all of the People hailed the cleverness and wit of the Human.

And so it was that Bex united the great armies and lead the new Council in all matters. She taught the People of the laws that even the gods must follow, and how it could all lead to a true Balance in their world. The gods’ followers now found their deities more remote, more difficult to contact — but no less powerful when their might was brought to bear.

There followed a great time of peace, where our race, humanity, could finally take their place in pride with all of the others. We were counselors, advisors, knights, merchants, nobles. The wizard Bex had paid our debt and we were eager to move forward.

We meant so well.

But we are cunning. We can change. Our will is strong. And as we tasted the first sips of power, we found it sweet on our tongues. And so with slow patience and eager wit we found our way to it.

Was it any surprise that our cunning would again betray? That in the wake of peace and emancipation we would walk with careful step toward dominion, toward Empire?

Ah me. What fools we humans are!

- Galad Voss, Cleric of Marrus

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The Coupling through the Ash Eon

Silence, child. It would serve you well to heed my tale. This is not some idle tale shared at a campfire or doused in taphouse ale. This is the Story, and you will tell it back to me word for word tonight when we take our evening meal, or you shall feel my hand.

Heed. Mark. And remember.

And so the Century of Storm wore on, and the People were afraid. Afraid that Father Order would triumph and they would be wiped from the face of existence. Or that the Argument itself would consume their tiny hovels and they would be lost to the wind. They prayed to their Creators, but their words could not reach the Two, they were utterly consumed by battle. The People waited for the end.

But then, one day, a Human child got lost chasing his family’s herd. A ewe, with fur as black as night, climbed a steep cliff into a hidden mountain pass. The child knew that he would be beaten if he returned home without the full flock, and in desperation climbed after the ram. His hands were cut by the sharp rocks and his knees were scraped and torn by the cruel stone. The winds began to pick up and his breath steamed against the blank mountainside. A storm was nigh, a storm was always nigh in those times. But his desperation drove him on and he climbed higher and higher chasing the beast.

The child did not know that he and his sheep were climbing the Forbidden, the secret mountain where Father and Mother made us all.

At last the child found his quarry, bleating and crying on the edge of a cliff, a knife-edge of stone. He laid his hands on her black wool and wept with relief, but he quickly realized that the pain of birthing was upon her. She could not be moved in her condition, the child had to help bring forth her lamb or flee empty-handed. The child looked up at the sky and saw the rain, saw the fire, but could not bring himself to leave his charge.

The rain began to fall. The fire began to fall. Still the child kept his hands on the weary ewe and did his best to cover her with his own. The ewe bleated and strained and struggled to bring a new life into a world. The child wept in despair and felt the fire hot on his back.

Now, there are some that say the child’s tears were what caught the attention of Father and Mother. And there are some that say it was merely that he trespassed the Forbidden. And other still claim that it was some sort of Human trick. But suffice it to say, Order and Chaos stood and looked at the child and his beast, and stopped their struggle long enough that the young lamb could be born.

“Look,” said Mother. “The Things We Made can make themselves. How strange! Was that your idea or mine?”

“I…am not sure,” Father Order said. “Another accident, surely it was your doing.”

“My doing?” Chaos raised her hand to strike her mate. “Why does everything have to be –”

“Please,” said the child. “Please, no more.”

And Order and Chaos turned from their argument to listen to the child, who approached with a newborn lamb held securely in his arms.

“My ewe is dead. She died giving birth. She gave everything that her child could live. How is it that a rude beast on the edge of a cliff has more care for her children than the creators of us all?” The child blinked away tears and stared unafraid at the two gods.

The gods were not ashamed.

“How dare you question us?” Order demanded.

“We are the Beginning and End, the Eye of the Storm.” Chaos declared.

“We do as we wish. We are as we wish. You are a child and your judgement is limited and small, a pebble next to a mountain,” the Two said together. “We have filled this world with wonder and life. All that walk and breathe and fly and swim are here at our will.”

“I see,” the child said. “You have filled the world with many creatures and many People. But you have put no part of yourself into it. You have no true children. This is why you care not for our plight.”

The child gently placed the lamb down and watched it totter about on tender legs. Then an idea came to him and he turned his face again to the Creators, Human cunning and guile as natural to him as breathing.

“Perhaps if you had True Children, you would understand. You could still your endless battle and let your creations grow and multiply. A shame it is that you continue to wage war, when your greatest Making is yet to be.”

Father looked at Mother and Mother smiled.

Chaos leaned down and kissed the child on his brow, and ruffled the newborn wool of the lamb.

“Go child. Tell the People that we do care for their plight, and your sly words have stilled our rage. You have given us an Idea, and in return the People shall have a time of peace while we consider it.”

And so the child took his lamb and climbed back down the fountain as fast as his legs would carry him. He bore the tale of his meeting to all the People, and they watched the Forbidden with hope and fear. For the storms at last fell still, but many were not sure that they had seen the end of the time of ruin.

Years passed, and still the people waited. Crops were planted, and cities began to rise. Children and lambs were born, and after a time the People began to dream that the gods had forgotten them, and would leave them in a time of forever peace.

But it was not to be. At last their came a Time. The sun and the moon stopped still in the air, and shared the sky like two empty eyes. The People and the beasts of the world felt a strange compulsion, and all began to walk – to journey until they all stood arrayed around the feet of the Forbidden. The first moment since the Time of Making when all of the Created stood together in one place.

And they waited. For a year and a day they waited.

Then all at once, a breath.

The Four came down from the mountain, strange of visage but somehow familiar to all who saw. Sun and Sky and Stone and Sea, the Four stood together at the foot of the mountain with all of Creation waiting for their words.

“We are the Four,” Sun said.

“The true children of Father and Mother,” Stone said.

“They are gone, withdrawn from this world,” Sky said.

“Their power and might bequeathed to us,” Sea said.

“Now come forth,” the Four spoke together. “Come forth and choose. For we have decided upon our first Game. One of us is greater than the others, one of us must reign. You will be our army, you will be our pawns. Choose a master, that the Game may begin.”

And the child, who was now a man, opened his mouth to speak — but found himself struck dumb. His words, his Idea had brought this to pass. And all that would follow after was to be laid at his feet, and the feet of his children’s children down the long unwinding of Time. He looked down at the trusty black ram that lead his flock, the same lamb that he had carried from the Forbidden all those years ago. With a sigh he took a knife and opened the ram’s throat, to spare him the horror that was just beginning.

And so began the Ash Eon. The time of endless battle, of cataclysm and pain. The suffering and sorrow of the Storm Century multiplied and compounded. The ceaseless, tireless clash of the Sun against Stone, the Sea against Sky, and each against the other. Generations of the people were born and died, knowing only the endless war, the endless smell of burning in the air, the tireless rain of ash.

A thousand years of ruin, all from one human’s clever idea.

Now remember these words, little human. You will speak them true tonight, say them right and clear or you will feel my hand.

Heed. Mark. Remember.

- Prose Willow, Cleric of Banu, Yellowdale

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From the Beginning of Time through the Storm Century

But of course I can tell the Story, what do you take me for? Do you not see the mark of Brightnail on my chest, do you not hear the song on my lips? Ach, pass me that flagon and I will say the words. We are all travellers, and it is good to return to the beginning when we can. And push those sugared figs a bit closer, my dear. Now, let me see, let me see — ah, yes, I have it — just as it has been spoken by the members of my order, just as old Prago told me when I was small.

Before Time, we do not speak.

But then the first minutes washed up on the shores of the dark ocean, and a story blinked its eyes and brushed sand out of its hair. We can hear its voice even now, we listen carefully to the quiet groan of the earth, the sky, the jangle of stars in the black belly of night. We tell the Story as it tells us.

At first there were only Two. Father Order and Mother Chaos found themselves here, on tumblr_mwq90d4TZF1sppixgo1_500.jpgthis simple globe. The Story does not know if they were born here or if they came from the dark ocean, but suffice it to say that in the first minutes they were here and it was a Beginning.

And they danced.

Mother Chaos would break and tear as fast as her dark hands could move and Father Order would build and mend just as quickly. Father Order would raise tumblr_mwq90d4TZF1sppixgo1_500great towers and shining bridges with his bright hands and Mother Chaos would laugh and shatter and bring them all tumbling down.

And for a time, it was enough.

But then the Two grew bored.

“It is so lonely here,” Mother said. ” So flat and empty. I grow weary of breaking the same towers day after day.”

“As I grow weary of building the same towers,” Father grumbled. “I’m guessing that you have a suggestion.”

Mother grinned “Yes, of course I do. Let’s play a game.”

“A game?” Father mused. “What kind of game?”

“A Game of Making! Together we can fill this world with all sorts of interesting things. We’ll take turns! It requires both of us to create, but we can take turns and see who makes the most interesting thing.”

Father Order scratched his nose and grinned. He was certain that Mother wanted to trick him in some way, but it was a grand idea nonetheless. Chaos saw the excitement in his eyes and skipped in for a quick kiss before they began.

The Two joined their hands and began to make. Order and Chaos met and the first living things drew breath. The first plants and the first insects, lichen and moss, fish and fowl, claw and talon, feather and hide. Father and Mother took great delight in the making, growing ever more inventive in their competition, endless variety in the nature of their creations. And in the heart of everything that lives an equal measure of Chaos and Order, the gift of the Creators.

And for a time, it was enough.

But then Father and Mother created People.

They had many shapes and sizes, many bends and ways — different races and faces and gazes, but still all the same, all People. One strange accident made them different than all the breathing things that had come before — or one careful trick that Mother Chaos had laid carefully across the long Time of Making, a tiny tip of the scales. Where before their children had shared equal measure of Order and Chaos – People had a little more of one, and a little less of the other. They gravitated ever so slightly towards rhythm or ruin — and since they were created last, they were the most intelligent, the most elaborate — perfect pieces for a new game.

Mother Chaos crowed with delight and Father Order frowned.

Father freed his hands and sighed. “I’m afraid this last batch is no good, they will be nothing but trouble.”

“No, they are perfect,” Mother insisted. “See, some of them are building away — they are your children, just as mine are blithely breaking and shattering. New dancers, new pieces for the game, they are wonderful.”

“Yes, some of them are quite industrious, and I’ve already been surprised at some of the things they’ve built,” Father sighed with regret. “But they must be destroyed. They are ever-changing and mercurial, see! Those over there have have fallen to you and are setting fire to the tall grass — and those over there have stopped breaking rocks and started building houses. What good are pieces that change sides? No, no – they must be destroyed.”

And Father Order raised his hand to end the People, and found Mother Chaos’ hand raised to thwart him. They locked eyes and the First Argument began.

A century of storms, tireless, ceaseless battle. The first People did their best to weather it and provide shelter to all of the other creations — though many of them were lost, obliterated by the tireless wrath of Mother and Father.

And thus our world would have remained, if not for one clever child and one stupid goat.

Ah, this is my favorite part. Drown my flagon again if you please, I don’t want to pause when I continue. Oh no! Can my plate of figs already be empty?

Talespinner Marxo, Cleric of Seto, Idolobha

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