- Even though these orders are from different temples and religions of the primary gods, their goal was to work together to subvert the aspirations of The Others and The Ancients and those who seek to pervert The Essence through the means of corruption.
- Even though they have different focuses and reasons why their followers worship specific gods, at the end of the day, they're all a Pantheon of good. So there's a reason for them to work together to subvert the goals and/or aspirations of the Others and the Ancients. And those who seek to pervert what the Essence is capable of through the means of Corruption. – Steven Sharif
- There are key individuals within the Lightpact and within the religions that have a longer objective that ties into the overarching metanarrative, in terms of the reason for the return to Verra.
- Standing against the heralds of corruption, the Lightpact once carried the hopes of all Verrans on their shoulders. Their flames would ultimately be dashed on the rocks of betrayal and destruction. Corruption, death, and evil now grasp and consume the light that once led the way. With the re-emergence of the Divine Gates, will the beacon of faith be set ablaze once more?
Order of the Steel Bloom
- When the divine gateways opened, the Queen ordered her protection to leave her side and make haste to the Brighthold to ensure the success of the Lightpact's crucial mission.
Formed by the wise Aelan queen as she foresaw the impending darkness, the Order of the Steel Bloom consisted of specially selected knights strong of heart and valor. The Order was essential in carrying out nigh impossible endeavors of critical import during the last days of Verra, under the direction of the beloved and revered Lady of the Rose. When the Divine Gates opened, at great personal risk to her own safety, the queen ordered her protection to leave her side and make haste to the Brighthold to ensure the success of the Lightpact’s crucial mission. The Order would not return from the command.
Histoire et traditions
Le monde dans Ashes est resté dépourvu de civilisation durant des siècles. Jusqu'à maintenant.
- Entry 1 - Cry Havoc
- The worst thing that the Harbingers brought was not the Others, but the corruption that they spread. It twists and distorts everything it touches. It whispers in the ears of men, and guides their hands toward terrible ends. There does not seem a means to stop it - our prayers do nothing, our spells are ineffectual. The awful truth is that the Others could simply watch as we burned Verra to ash ourselves.
- Entry 2 - Terrorwraith
- The Terrorwraith is a creature of nightmares, in the most literal sense. It takes form from those who sleep during a manastorm - essence made life through the incomprehensibly strong emotions present during these moments. Once it takes its first breath, the Terrorwraith seeks out more prey, desperately hungry for those emotions that created it. It can be killed, but it cannot be stopped, for it is born again the next night. Be as the Terrorwraith, and never stop in your hunt.
- Entry 3 - Cleric Training
- Avenita followed Creation devoutly, and took her charge seriously. When He-Who- Groveled snatched her dear friend up in one of those massive tentacles and ate him in one quick slurp, Avenita wasted no time. She pierced the beast's belly with a lance of golden light, shoved her hand into the entrails, and pulled out her friend's lifeless corpse. She then channeled the energy of Creation, bringing his spirit back to his body, and sent him back to the fight.
- Entry 4 - A Blunt Instrument
- Brother Balmo's mace was a special thing, having been crafted at the Godforge and blessed by the seven High Priests of Creation. It did the dirty work that was necessary in these times - the weapon seared the flesh of Others who merely glanced in its direction, and when one of his blows connected, well... the results were gruesome. It would not be enough, he knew, but the Lightpact had set him to his task, and he would do what he could to ensure Verra's survival.
- Entry 5 - A Treasured Find
- Deep in the Fallow Hold, a long abandoned keep in the western foothills, there is said to be ten priceless treasures sealed away from mortal eyes. They were left by the ancient wizard king Atrax, and include his staff, his sword, a golden chalice, and his crown. Each of these items, if the provenance is true, could earn a treasure hunter their own kingdom, several times over. The Fallow Hold keeps its secrets, however, and none who have ventured into its depths have ever returned.
- Entry 6 - Seeking Penance
- The Starchild stands atop a hill, her dark radiance turning day into night. She points at a small home in the village below her, from which a beam of silvery starlight erupts. A family of three dies in that moment, penance given, penance taken. The village does not ignore her whispers again.
- Entry 7 - War of Towers
- In the War of Towers, two great armies clashed in a final gambit on the misty fields of Lemlong. Equally matched, Kaelar against Kaelar, the battle raged on for hours, and then days. Neither gave quarter, and neither considered surrender, even in the face of massive losses. Fire rained down from the sky, as mages from each side sought to gain the upper hand. Friend and foe alike burned alive in their armor, and still the battle continued. In the end, only fifty survivors lived to tell the tale, and both sides were conquered shortly afterward by an Empyrean empire biding their time.
- Entry 1 - Let Us Remember
- The Lightpact was an alliance created by the four major races of Verra in order to solve the mystery of the Harbingers. Until that fateful day when the stars fell, chaos reigned, and corruption spread, the Lightpact worked together, and put aside all enmity. For the first time in a very long time, no wars were fought, and peace became a way of life. For a time at least. Let us remember.
- Entry 2 - Dragon Lines
- Eremus ran his fingers along the delicate dragon inlaid upon his favored implement. It was a symbol of power, of elements given form, and these types of symbols resonated along essence lines and channeled their violence. He sighed as he placed the wand in its sheath, and continued to pack his travel gear. The road would be a long one, and he might never return. Such is the price the Lightpact would demand.
- Entry 3 - Savagery
- Rikashi the Blackened Ember dashed inside the creature's reach, her two blades a flurry of motion. A thousand cuts in single breath, the beast did not realise it had died until much later, and only felt a peaceful rush of warmth as life spilled from it. Rikashi planted her foot on the chest of her opponent, and pushed hard, sending her through the air toward the second lumbering monster. The first blade cut deeply into what could charitably be called a neck, as the second pierced through one of its many eyes. As both horrors fell, she wiped clean her short swords, and proceeded down the cavern.
- Entry 4 - They Cannot Hide
- Gellchrist held a lantern in one hand, and a club in the other. His children were with his wife, in the cellar. The pounding on the door got louder, the unearthly gibbering grew in number, and then they were at the walls, the windows - scraping, clawing, throwing their bodies at the structure. The door shattered and splintered, the walls gave way, and Gellchrist threw his lantern at the floor, where it exploded into a great fireball, fueled by oil and pitch. Better ashes by his own hand than whatever the Others had in store for him.
- Entry 5 - Working Steel
- They worked tirelessly into the night. An army of smiths, deep in the heart of the mountain where the magma flowed and was captured by the Obsidian Forge. There was an endless parade of broken swords and damaged armor making their way down to the Forge, and just as many pristine, perfect specimens heading back up to the battlefields. The Others were relentless, but the Dunzenkell would do all they could to survive this last stand.
- Entry 6 - The Arrow's Mark
- He whispered a prayer to whatever gods were still listening and drew back the string of his bow. Creation had fallen, the portals were closed, and the End was here. Survival did not seem possible, but Phaedrim would not travel into that dark night willingly. He took a deep breath, held it for a moment, closed his eyes, and let loose. Even with his eyes closed, the light was blinding. His arrow became a giant beam of light, piercing one, then two, then three of the behemoths currently tearing the city apart. It seemed that someone still was listening.
- Entry 7 - In the Face of Inevitability
- Nothing is ever final, not with the gods watching over us. At least, that's how it felt before The Harbingers arrived. Now, it feels as if everything is final. That we are merely holding onto the edge until our strength gives out, our fingers slip, and we fall into the abyss. There are those who would fight and struggle, but the end remains inevitable. We will all die at the hands of the Others, better to make it quick At least, that's what the whispers say...
- Entry 1 - An Alchemical Answer
- Cashitan's fingers trembled as he added a fine blue powder to the alembic. Normally, he wouldn't do this by hand, and would just let the process complete on its own, but the potion was needed now, and it needed to be much stronger than his usual fare. It was a risky thing he was doing, and if his measurements were off, this simple potion of healing would level his entire workshop. A lesser alchemist might even take out the entire village.
- Entry 2 - An Evolution of Power
- The Dünzenkell are known to be masters of engineering. Their best artisans meld magic and metal seamlessly, and the best of those are lionized above everyone, even kings and queens. It was one such artisan, Kaelmuir, who invented what would later be known as the crossbow. His design was based on the great ballistae often used in sieges, but cleverly miniaturized with a mixture of exacting fabrication and the gentle touch of essence. Kaelmuir's likeness can be found near the hearths of many a Dünzenkell.
- Entry 3 - Rarefied Ingredient
- In the construction of the four great Divine Gateways, there were required exceedingly rare and powerful materials. In a different time, they would have been difficult and dangerous to acquire, but The Harbingers made this almost impossible. In spite of that, the Lightpact sent out teams of hardened veterans to find and retrieve these materials. Those who comprised these teams were specialists in their trade, with strong minds capable of resisting the call of corruption. Most didn't return. But enough of them did.
- Entry 4 - Here One Moment
- He raced toward the edge, leapt from the cliff, and spoke the words that carried him as a feather upon the wind. His foe, a hardened Knight of the Blue Rose, stopped short, surprised by this unexpected turn of events. Dyvek used his momentum to spin around, and let loose a spray of dark ribbons from his scepter. These ribbons were unanchored from reality, having been feytouched, and had a tendency to confuse the universe about where in space things ought to be. So when they wrapped around the Knight, Dyvek watched him fall to his doom from the safety of the cliffside.
- Entry 5 - Lion's Peace
- Theron was a Paladin of the Herald, sworn to take no life, to uphold the creed of his order, and to keep these lands safe. Even with the corruption whispering deep in his mind, he maintained these values with a strength of will girded by devotion to his god. When three of the Others began to terrorize a small village he happened to tarry at, he slew them with his mythical sword "Lion's Peace." He did this without hesitation, and without mercy. The Others did not live in the sense that he lived, and so Theron's vow remained unbroken in his estimation. The gods seemed to agree.
- Entry 6 - Going it Alone
- Deep inside one of The Harbingers, Rikashi was so incredibly still an observer might have thought her a carved piece of stone. No breath, no fibre of muscle twitching, no strand of hair shifting ever so slightly. Not even a heartbeat. She called this technique Not-Being, and it required both physical and mystical mastery. She was surrounded by hundreds of the Others, but none of those many eyes could see Rikashi, instead sliding over her presence as though it was a part of the landscape. She would wait them out.
- Entry 7 - A Champion Appears
- Most cities had at least one arena, and some larger cities had two or even three. Theater, symphonies, sports and more could entertain thousands of people on a given night, but the event that drew the largest crowds were the Celestial Games. This was a competition that took place every seven years, where the best of Verra would participate in seven different events, testing might, mettle, magic, and mind. The winner of these games would be crowned the Celestial Champion, and their name would become known the world over.
- Entry 1 - Divine Gifts
- A good chest is solid, sturdy, non-descript, and can be secured with a lock of your choice. Those left on Verra after the fall are somewhat different. For one, they glow and chime, as if they want to be found. As if they want to be opened. Nary a lock can be found, and there is always something inside. I'm not sure who left these caches of powerful weapons, but in the face of the Others, I'll call them god-sent.
- Entry 2 - Old Reliable
- Hrngnir thought to himself, "The nice thing about axes is that even when they're dull, they still kill really good." He wiped down the axe-head with a grimy rag that he kept for just such an occasion, pulled out a whetstone, and set about restoring the blade. It had cut through the first set of armored soldiers passably enough, but he felt his effort increasing on each opponent after that. He changed tactics with his changing weapon, aiming at heads, legs, and places where the crushing power of his axe was maximized. The axe did what was required - and while he was still alive, he was no closer to escaping the hell that Verra had become.
- Entry 3 - Cairon's Wing
- Mollee put the finishing touches on her current masterpiece - the Cairon's Wing. It was a set of super-heavy plate, imbued with mithril lines which channeled the ambient essence of the environment. This magical filagree could then flex and contract the dense alloyed plates in response to the motion of whomever was wearing it, giving them unparalleled strength and mobility. If she could find a way to fabricate Cairon's Wing en masse, it would change how war was waged forever.
- Entry 4 - Hand of Fate
- The signs and symbols of magic have a way of weaving themselves into the fabric of reality. They can make metaphor material, as they did in Ashlar's case. He was someone, who, even from a very young age could be described as "smoldering," or "fiery." He had no particular affinity for the elements, however, until deep in his second year at the Academy. What began as a simple elemental conjuring by a first year, turned into a blaze that threatened to consume the entire west wing of the school. Ashlar, in a moment of magickal inspiration, gathered the essence of the fire into himself. The incredible energies suffusing him lifted Ashlar into the air, and witnesses describe two great wings of flame emanating from his back as he ejected the fire harmlessly into the sky.
- Entry 5 - A Moment of Crisis
- Now, in this moment, they had to get up, or all was surely lost "Get...up..." she managed in a croaking whisper. She felt for their strands of essence, unable to see, unable to hear, all of it having gone wrong in this terrible place. "Get. Up." she said more forcefully, but still little more than a murmur. Avenita finally touched an essence strand that was familiar, warm, and she felt friendship, and love and all the things that let her know this was one of her compatriots. There was very little ambient essence in this area, so it had to come from hers. "GET UP" she yelled, as her fist closed on that strand, and a fifth of her life drained into it. Four more to go.
- Entry 6 - Stereotypical Mages
- A wizard's tome is a common trope in many bard tales. It's not without reason though -while many mages can cast their spells without one, the very act of reading a properly inscribed spell focuses and channels essence in a way that recalling from memory does not. While the symbols and signs in one's mind can be made sharp and precise, it takes concentration and attention that may be in short supply on a battlefield. The longer and more complex a spell is, the more likely you are to see a mage holding a tome which contains that spell.
- Entry 7 - The First and the Last
- They were gathered in the great hall, awash in the eerie glow of everlights. Those in their seats were silent, as the leaders of the Lightpact discussed amongst themselves which of those present would bear the mantle of the First Light. It was this group that the hopes and lives of every single living being on Verra were to be pinned. It would be the greatest honor ever given, and perhaps the greatest curse ever bestowed. Everyone and no-one wanted to be chosen. When the meeting adjourned, Verra's fate was sealed, and its champions crowned. They all hoped it would be enough.
- Entry 1 - The Water-Bearer
- Carrying water up the slopes to the small temple was an all-day chore. Though the path was steep, the days often hot, and the thorns a persistent annoyance, to be chosen as the Water-Bearer was viewed as an honor. Children who were of age often begged to be the one chosen for the next day, and it was believed that a child delivering the water was especially auspicious. In exchange for this daily sacrifice, those who were sick or hurt or even dying could make a pilgrimage to the little temple, drink from the water in the pool, and find themselves healed. At least until the Harbingers arrived.
- Entry 2 - The Better Part of Valor
- It wasn't often that Theron ran from an opponent, but he found himself fleeing towards the cavern's exit, away from the towering, bladed... thing that had just torn a hole in his armor. The armor that had been blessed by Creation and had taken many such blows before without so much as a chipped pauldron. Theron knew fear then, true fear, deep within his soul, and he was consumed utterly by it. But when the cavern began to shake, and stalactites crashed to the ground around him, and the cavern's exit collapsed, Theron found himself again. He turned slowly, readied his weapon in a defensive stance, and found faith in himself once more.
- Entry 3 - Facing Fear
- The panic, that was the worst. There were a hundred thousand people or more, stampeding through the streets, desperately trying to reach the Divine Gateway. So many would die on those streets, trampled by friends, family, neighbors. Staein was just a guard, one man - all his instincts were telling him to join the crowds, to give into that feeling in his throat, his stomach. He was on these streets to keep order, but the screams, the noise, the Others - there was simply too much to focus on anything. When he saw the man ripped from his daughter's hand and pulled into an alley by four thugs, he was finally jarred from inaction. This was something he could fix. He drew his weapon and followed them.
- Entry 4 - A Broken Mess
- His body barely held together, breathing ragged, blood trickling from what felt like a thousand wounds, Theron dragged himself to the edge of the town. The guards, having caught sight of him, rushed to Theron's side, and helped him the rest of the way. They called for help, and requisitioned a bed from the nearest freehold. They began the arduous process of removing his armor - it had been bent, and rent, and pieces of it seemed almost fused to his flesh. They had never seen armor so mistreated, so completely ruined, so apparently useless against whatever it had been that Theron faced. Yet somehow, this man was alive, and they would do what they could to keep him that way.
- Entry 5 - Walls Come Tumbling Down
- The walls of the city were strong in the way that the ancient's work generally was. They had held for many hundreds of years, against sappers, against trebuchets, against magical agents. Now, they were crumbling at the hands of the Others. Hundreds of towering shadows, looming over the parapets, crashing through each layer, making holes that the smaller ones could steal through. It was only a matter of time before thousands of them were in the streets, able to bring the fight to their doorsteps. They could only hope that the last of them made it through the Divine Gateway before that happened.
- Entry 6 - What's in a Name?
- This space was strange - the sound otherworldy. As if his footsteps were not his own. As if his boots were far, far away, in a dream somewhere, barely remembered. He could not recall his name, or his family, or his wife. This fact did not seem important to him however, for he knew his true purpose, and he could see what it was he came to find. His hand reached out, and touched the intricately carved bow. In that moment, he felt one with everything, with all of Creation, and he knew the names of the fauna, and the flora, and the fowl. Not just what they were called by men, but their true names, as they were known by the gods.
- Entry 7 - The Bonds of Corruption
- The First Light ranged long and far. Their charge was impossible, but their friendship ran deep and held the center. It was one of the reasons the Lightpact had chosen their particular group. Those who had come together by circumstance, or by creed, or by purpose would not be able to do what was needed. They would fracture and then fail -the corruption was too strong for it to be any other way. Only those who had bonds forged by something more could hope to face the Others, deep within the red mists. Those bonds would be tested in ways which no mortal could conceive, and even then, would likely not be enough. But it was enough for hope, and so it was.
- Entry 1 - A Learning Experience
- Chasing this group of Ancient down, it felt like the first time they had the upper hand. Each encounter with the Ancients thus far had been a fight for their lives, their sanity, their souls. But each battle had taught them something, and the First Light took each lesson to heart. And it was that understanding, more than their weapons, or their armor, or their spells, which gave them the power to fight the Ancients on their own territory. To not only scrape out another day at life, but to put fear in the hearts of the Ancients.
- Entry 2 - Deft Hands
- Lysandre poked his head around the corner, to confirm what his ears heard, which was nothing. The coast was clear. He padded down the hallway, past a number of doors, until he reached the end. It was a wall much the same as the others in this hallway, non-descript and seamless. He removed the glove from his left hand, and felt at the wall, up and down, side to side, with his eyes closed and one ear pointed toward the hallway behind him. And there it was. He pressed the button he could not see, but could feel, and a panel in the wall slid down, giving him access to the treasures behind it.
- Entry 3 - Rallying Cry
- Theron charged at their front lines, head down, behind his shield, and felt the bone shaking impacts of their missiles, and the heat of their sick green flames. And yet he did not lose his footing, and did not falter. Soon his shield made contact, exploding in a white divine light that threw his first opponent a hundred yards into the air. His longsword, glowing in hallowed spirit, struck out at two more of the Others, cutting deeply and setting them afire. He heard their otherworldly screams, and knew that they felt the anger of Creation.
- Entry 4 - Vermillion Light
- Roanold was relaxing at his post, in the calm light of the day. The pastoral environment and its distance from the capital meant that the dark rumors coming from that direction felt far away, in some other land, and not relevant to the people who called Grimsale home. His thoughts were interrupted by a faint red glow at the horizon. He squinted, unable to make out what was causing it. Slowly, it rose like another sun, casting the whole vale in a vermilion light. His thoughts became confused, his heart beat another step, and he grabbed his halberd and rushed back into the town, frothing at the mouth, his eyes unseeing.
- Entry 5 - Tower Over Your Enemies
- The tower was safe, at least for now. The corruption seemed to grow from under the earth, and so the very height of her tower provided some protection against any... changes... to her mind. From her balcony she could see the armies of the Others making their way toward the capital, marching only as fast as the corruption grew. A few words and a moment of singular concentration later, she felt the lines of essence burst from the tips of her fingers, through the air, across the plains, until they reached two of the Others at the vanguard. She severed those lines of essence with a sharp expenditure of will, and they fell to the ground. A pebble in the ocean.
- Entry 6 - Pure Corruption
- It was madness. It had to be. It's the only way he could describe what was happening outside the town's walls. Hundreds of people, maybe even a thousand or so. They were attacking their fortifications, not with weapons, but with their bare hands and bodies. Their eyes were empty, and some of them... well some of them had strange red crystalline... growths. It felt wrong, what he was being asked to do - these were his countrymen - but there seemed to be no other answer. Their mayor had gone out to talk to the crowd before this frenzy started, but they rushed him, and tore at him, and killed him. So Annoch drew his bow, asked for forgiveness, and fired into the mass of people.
- Entry 7 - To Live Is To Die
- He had been hiding in the darkness, in this little secret closet, for days now. The world was burning, people were going mad, and there was nowhere to go. And so he hid. As the world burned, he was silent, quiet, like a mouse, moving as little as possible, lest a creak or a crack give him away. He was hungry now, and thirsty, and exhausted, and sore. But he did not leave, such was the fear of what he had seen. This was not the way he had pictured the end of his life. Instead he dreamed of a peaceful passing, surrounded by loved ones, and in his bed. But there were no loved ones left, and he was truly, utterly alone.
- Entry 1 - We Create Our Luck
- He scrambled for anything he could use as a weapon, a bench, a chair, anything. Saelin's hand closed around a bottle, and he rolled to his feet, straining with his ears to locate the enemy he could not see. He swung the bottle wildly at the darkness that enveloped him, hoping against hope that it would connect. The bottle was nothing compared to a sword or a club, but it would have to do, and if he got lucky, then...
- Entry 2 - Overwhelming Odds
- As Cay's weapon struck true, she touched the essence flowing about her, and pulled lightning from the sky into the tip of her spear. The noise of the air being torn asunder knocked the Ancients circling her away, and the lightning chained from the body of the one she had just pierced to the bodies of all those who threatened her. She slammed the butt of her spear to the ground and the resulting thunderclap launched her into the air, where she observed her enemies and planned her next move.
- Entry 3 - Perfect Practice
- Day, after day, after day. It was much the same Theron rose above his other classmates that he treated each day as its own challenge. Each day he rose with the fire of competition in his belly, willing himself to be stronger, faster, smarter than all the rest. It was in his determination to overcome the day, rather than simply face it, that he learned the lessons that each day brought, however similar those days had been.
- Entry 4 - Timeshifting
- It felt like the endgame - they were brused, battered, and cornered. It didn't appear likely that any of them would make it out of here alive, but they were determined that as they lived together, the First Light would fall together. And so it was Eremus, clever, clever Eremus unclasped his necklace, said a few words of magic, and threw it to the ground at their feet. Suddenly the whole world shifted and melted together, and then reformed itself. Their wounds were gone and the grime and dirt of the day went missing from their clothes. Eremus smiled the only way he knew how, and said, "Shall we try this again?"
- Entry 5 - What Is a Champion?
- Champions are all too common creatures these days. When a champion is bested, they cede their title to the one who bested them, and so on and so on. Too many of these so called 'champions' take their place atop a pedestal one day, only to be knocked off the next. What is the source of this phenomenon? In the old days, a champion was truly a champion, and held off all comers for years, decades, and sometimes centuries! That, to me, is the mark of a true champion, the feat that ought to go into our history books. What we see these days is the mark of a societal failure that will surely come to haunt us.
- Entry 6 - Willis' Wonderous Widgets
- "When the chips are down and you've been left for dead, make sure that you have a restorative potion from Willis' Wonderous Widgets and General Store in your back pocket. It will close those wounds, get you back on your feet, and keep that pesky Death at the doorstep for a little while longer. Need a cleric? Don't go to the temple, come on down to Willis' Wonderous Widgets and General Store! We have restoratives of all shapes and sizes, perfect for any mishaps, mistakes, or missteps! Remember, when you can't count on your friends to help you up, count on Willis' Wonderous Widgets and General Store."
- Entry 7 - A Simple Device
- This was new, though in hindsight, it was a wonder no one had come up with the idea sooner. The fundamentals were simple, instead of throwing a glass container full of dragonfire (which was dangerous even in the best of circumstances), launch it safely from a hardened tube that could take an errant explosion or two. The extra functionality of mixing the alchemical components only after a successful launch, and the incorporation of some low level enchantments that gave the vial some extra 'oomph,' suddenly resulted in a devastating weapon that even the lowliest of conscripts could use effectively.
- Entry 1 - The Touch of Life
- The town had been devastated, bodies left strewn about, decaying in the open air. The touch of corruption seemed to be responsible for the most of the ruin, but as Kallista made her way from one corpse to another, she found the five that fell to the hands of the Ancients. These were the ones she was looking for, and it was these five that Creation needed to touch. She said the prayers required to find their souls, heal their bodies and bring them back to life. There was much to be done when they woke.
- Entry 2 - A Break in Reality
- The First Light found themselves in a strange realm - a place where the rules of reality were bent and twisted. A step forward and the world shifted and pulsed, and one step became a step much too far. Eremus looked behind, and then down, and then up, and found that either his party was stranded on the veiling of the cavern somehow, or he was. The vertigo was palpable, and suddenly his body could not fathom up or down. As confusion turned to panic, he felt a hand on his shoulder, and Cay was there. With a simple nod from her, his fear melted away.
- Entry 3 - Fires From the Sky
- The battlefield was awash in noise, their trebuchets firing great firey boulders that smashed against the towering city walls. One after another shattered against those massive walls, raining down stone, wood and debris on those fighting below. Even when the walls were finally breached, the trebuchets did not stop firing, and hundreds of flaming missiles filled the air above their heads, giving no quarter to the besiged. This city was meant to be razed to the ground, removed from memories, erased from history.
- Entry 4 - Strange Motivation
- One by one, he fastened each piece of his armor in its place. His hands were slow, his pace grudging. It wasn't that he didn't like a good fight, or that he was afraid, it was more that the reason for this particular battle didn't seem just. He was loyal to his liege, but being here, seeing his foe, none of it quite sat right. This place could barely be called a town, it's guardsmen woefully underequipped for the forces Saelin had brought to bear. They would win this day, but it wouldn't be a battle, it would be a bloodbath. As he pulled down on the last strap of his armor and strode out of his tent into the light, the only thought in his head was, "Why?"
- Entry 5 - A Mage's Companion
- While there is nothing inherently magical about a staff, it is difficult to imagine a mage without one. In fact, a staff is often synonymous with the idea of magical power. The reason for this is a trick of history, along with the efficiency of artisans long past. You see, essence can be crystalized with the right equipment and proper knowledge. The form of this crystal is difficult to manage, because it is both incredibly hard and very brittle. The easiest shape to craft happens to be a cylinder, and one which contains the maximal power that a mage can effectively carry and wield looks very much like a staff. In order to protect this crystal from shattering, it is often cocooned within a shaft of wood, or, less often, a metal like mithril or adamantite. And thus the mage's staff was born. 
- Entry 6 - Duskbringer
- Dharbin ran his thumb across the blade of his greataxe before putting it in the place of honor above his mantle. "Duskbringer" was its name, and it had felled many foes in Dharbin's hands. It was said that it could cleave a mountain in half, and though the reality was much less epic, it could still cut through one of the Ancients as if it were firewood. But the time had passed for that, and it was proper that Duskbringer came home before the end of all things. The Ancients were at the door, and there was nothing, not even Duskbringer, that could stop them. 
- Entry 7 - The End's Shadow
- Rikashi dashed around the edges of the darkness that threatened to swallow her. This monstrosity cast a shadow that seemed to consume everything it touched, hundreds of soldiers had fallen into it as the Ancient strode across the battlefield. The Ancient's arrival turned what could have been a triumph of Verra into a nightmarish rout, and so Rikashi's thoughts turned from combat to survival. As she tried to find her way back to the city, the shadow loomed large in the sunset's light, and she could hear the screams of horror from those she was leaving behind. 
- Entry 1 - Ring-Out
- Ending a match like that was unsatisfying, to say the least. Qent's heel ever so slightly brushed the painted line at the edge of the arena, which counted as a 'down', and because he'd been downed twice already, he was out. It stung particularly bad because he had his opponent on the ropes, the third down was in his grasp, but alas, it was not to be. Ten tournaments, ten losses. What was one more? 
- Entry 2 - Mind Over Body
- Comrades-in-arms. That's what they were. They had to remember that. In the face of corruption, the training of the Grimguard had adapted to mitigate its effects. This meant a focus on teamwork, the value of others in their squad, and the unbreakable bonds forged through combat. Though physical training was important, this mental training was the only thing that truly mattered when venturing into the red mists. Being able to swing a greatsword meant worse than nothing when the one wielding it had turned on their fellows. 
- Entry 3 - The Scale of Water
- Kallista found her way up a small hill, to better see the battlefield, and get a sense of its scale. The dead numbered in the tens of thousands, and the ground beneath them was churned and roiled. An impossible number of crows and corvids circled abovehead, apparently being picky about which corpse to try for dinner. It was such a waste, but she would pick through the fallen, and find the best of them to return to the fight. 
- Entry 4 - Cenotaph of Po
- Treasure Hunters love to tell stories about the Cenotaph of Po. These stories always start with how the Hunter knows someone who knows someone who has found it. Often, they finish the story by offering a map to the Cenotaph for some incredibly low price, given what is said to be stored there. The map inevitably leads to a placed that is not the Cenotaph, which may for the best. The Cenotaph doesn't just hold the bodies and the treasure that belonged to the Cohort of Po, but it also is a seal, which prevents darker things from entering this world. 
- Entry 5 - Group Project
- The group tests were designed to be difficult, and the groups seemed to be organized so as to maximize that difficulty. Ashlar's group was comprised of three others who, like him, specialized in conjuring and controlling the elements. Their project, however, was to create a new spell that could tell the future in some form, and none of them had experience in the oracular arts. After many months of agonizing study, experimentation and failure, they were able to pull a small amount of their favored element from a few moments in the future, and then examine the strands of essence suffusing it to glean information about what was about to happen. 
- Entry 6 - Mists of Madness
- Theron was alone here. The town had been completely enveloped in the red mists, and those townsfolk who were still alive were paranoid, manic, and bloodthirsty. He had only recently recovered, and his right leg was still incredibly stiff. He needed to leave, before they found him, and overwhelmed him. His faith gave him strength against the corruption whispering in his mind, but his body was what had to deal with the threat outside the door. He steeled himself, before flinging it open and rushing into the square. He left behind the corpse of the cleric who had spent so much time carefully tending to his wounds before he attempted to cave Theron's head in with a mace. The red mists had no mercy. 
- Entry 7 - Elixir of Life
- The red elixir slid down his throat, and a moment passed before it kicked in. Once it did though... a warm, pleasant wave spread throughout his body, anesthetizing the pain, and giving him a feeling that he was floating somewhere above himself. That feeling abruptly ended a few seconds later, as his consciousness snapped back to clarity. He was energized, his broken leg was whole again, and it felt like the last 45 minutes of combat had never happened. He got to his feet, lifted his greatsword, and charged back into the battlefield. 
- Entry 1 - Truth Eternal
- Bodies of the corrupted piled up around the barricaded home; all efforts of a man with a bow determined to live. There were more targets than his arrows could find, however - they came through the windows, they shattered the door, and however many he felled, there were always more. A seamstress from down the street. A butcher from across the way. The innkeeper. All of them with eyes full of hate and madness. Before their anxious blades could cut into their target, a gentle breeze caressed his face, carrying words from another time and another place. The Elderwood bow, so powerful, so ancient, fell unceremoniously to the floor - the only evidence left that the archer had ever existed. Two humanoids of horrifying beauty floated delicately across the threshold. They went room by room, Two-in-One, touching this, and peering at that. They whispered in voices like ethereal chimes, an incomprehensible tongue that begged one to get closer, to hear, to understand. However, their perfect composure was not to last. It cracked, and then finally shattered as they failed to find that which they searched for. A frustrated cacophony of discordant bells broke through the silence. All they could find was the freshly made corpse of a carpenter. And it was not enough.
- Entry 2 - Far from Home
- Now, so far removed from Grimsale, the chaos seemed so small and distant to Ishmira. Her fingers fidgeted anxiously as she kept an eye on the starchild, who looked so small and far too young, standing beneath that quiet elm. Time passed slowly, and patience, which Ishmira considered one of her best qualities, grew thin. Finally, the girl turned, made her way back to Ishmira, and then continued down the path, ready to lead the way. Ishmira intoned, "Are you okay with leaving this all behind, then?" The girl looked back, first at Ishmira, and then at her distant home that shone like a beacon fire now. With a simple nod from the girl, the mysterious fae unsheathed her wand and peeled back the veil between this realm and the next. In the presence of the abyss, they hesitated. "The three heralds of fate no longer guide us along this path... Is this the thread you seek Adena?" The child smiled, she was ready. Adena took Ishmira's hand in her small grip and together they stepped into the darkness.
- Entry 3 - The Feud
- "Shh, there there Mary my dear. Just a few steps more love," the stubborn old ram refused the frustrated and equally old dwarf. Back and forth, from Crystal Canyon to Brighthold, Dilgus had expanded his humble stone empire with relative ease. This trip however, was different. With weary eyes set upon the setting sun, Dilgus swung an infirm leg to the ground and dismounted. With a curse and a cry, he picked up his boot to inspect the shards that pierced it. A red crystal of some kind? And more, on the path ahead of him. He scrambled to the top of the hill, and on the other side those red crystals stretched for as far as the eye could see. Some were as big as a dwarf! Bigger, even! He was awestruck - never had he seen such beauty in all his years, and he fancied himself an expert on the matter. Hesitantly, he touched one of the bigger stones, and a ripple pulsed through his skin in response. It felt wrong in all the wrong ways, and he backed away from them, as they seemed to beat with life. As he was weighing his purse against his well being, he heard a click, and then a voice, "Come for me trade again ya stout bastard?" Dilgus spun around, looking for voice's owner, and then found it, with a crossbow pointed at his head.
- Entry 4 - Hurting to Help
- Staein's blind rage had distorted his vision - it was a blessing, to get through such brutality without having to remember it. As his eyes regained focus, he considered the crimson pool at his feet, and then the trail of blood leading to it, and finally to the blank stare of the girl he set out to save. Staein could swear that he could hear the sound of the girl's pounding heart, and her face and her fear broke him completely out of his trance. The guard slowly reached his hand out for her in a show of goodwill, "Please.. I- I mean you no harm child, it's not safe here, we-" Her screech pierced his heart. On bruised hands and knees the girl scrambled out of his reach, to her feet, and ran into the panicked crowd. He sprinted after her, determined to follow this white rabbit even if she shunned the safety he offered. A barrage of faces and fabrics flew past and obstructed his view of her. She threw herself against a cottage door, and frantically pounded upon it as she begged for whomever was inside to open. Her knocks would go unanswered. Staein pushed through the crowd and grabbed her by the shoulders. "It isn't safe girl! Come we must-" the guards eyes widened. The red mist was already creeping down the street, and they were out of time.
- Entry 5 - Never Surrender
- If nothing else, Theron could say he made it far. His faith unshaken, his sword unbroken, he could meet his creator with honor. His steps became more strained as he neared the exit of the cavern. He could see it now, the Walls of Alerynn and the salvation they would bring. One more step was a step too far for Theron, however, as he heard a crunch from his right leg, followed by a searing pain that brought him to tears and his knees. Gritting his teeth so hard they just might break, he held in a scream. With a white knuckle grip he clung to the terrain for support. He found a rock to rest against, to catch his breath, to make peace with the world. But the world had other plans. Stirring from the depths of those eerie harbinger caves came first one, then three, then five corrupted. Staring at death's door the man swallowed his fear and raised his sword - he would only pass through that door on his own terms. With the beasts lunging at him, it took all Theron's strength to parry what he could, though he knew it would not be enough. One tore into his arm, another his leg, yet he would not dignify these monsters with a scream. The gushing sound of blood being ripped from a body surely signaled the final, killing strike. Theron closed his eyes in acceptance, but the pain never arrived, death never came.
- Entry 6 - Dust to Dust
- Nestled inside the watchtower above Fort Ryll, well above the fray, Phaedrim fufilled his duty as best he could. Arrow after blinding arrow found their way into the horde, though they did little to stop its chaotic march of madness and death. A towering warrior with red crystals piercing through his armor at odd angles charged up the stairs of the watchtower, intent on ending the sniper's rain of arrows. Upon reaching the landing, Roanold swung his halberd towards the boy's head. In a panic, Phaedrim pushed back and blocked with his bow, which shattered it in two. Back and forth the two tumbled, then down the stairs they fell, into the muddy soil and slaughter. With a pounding heart, Phaerdrim had unsheathed his dagger amidst their descent and dug it deep into the corrupted guard Roanolds skull. He at last fell limp atop the frail archer. The young boy's breath became shallow under the guard's weight, his panic rising as he used all his strength to push it off him, to no avail. A heavy stampede only caused him to sink further into the muddy grounds, sapping what little energy he had left. Screams of the Fort's slaughter ate away at Phaedrim's mind and soul as he lay helpless beneath the corrupted guard's corpse.
- Entry 7 - Gone In a Day
- Brother Balmo snapped the reins harder. Faster. He needed to go faster. Encased in his caravan was all of their hopes for survival. Screams of many noble men and women meeting their end surrounded him, their numbers were dwindling and dwindling fast. As they neared the Mayfly and its armada at last, the desperate crew rallied to secure the gangway ramp. Balmo's eyes squinted, he would have only one chance to align this cart to safety. Choppy waves tossed the ramp up and down, and side to side. Crew members dove into the ocean and waded towards the shorelines that washed over them angrily. Ropes of the panicked sailors tried to wrangle the wood to minimal effect. Then, with a loud thud, Balmo's heart sank along with the wheel that gave out from under him. The caravan lurched, then dug deep into the ground, his large horses pulled up violently short. The ship's crew ran towards his aid, hunched over men pulled and pushed at the heavy caravan with strained grunts, and absolute terror of what was about to run them down. "Leave it! Take all that you can carry and leave it behind!" Balmo stood, his godforged mace in hand for what would come down that hill. "Ready the ballistae, men! For all Verra's sake we survive!"
- Entry 1 - Feed the Birds
- Fog rolled over the many fallen souls who littered the landscape. A snout combed through the still battlefield of Fort Ryll; a bridled prowler wailed like a wounded animal as it searched for its master among all the rubble. Phaedrim twitched with life from beneath the dead - his strength all but gone, and the weight of the bodies above him immense. Even so, he was determined not to die here, not now. His strained movements shifted the pile of corpses, which grabbed the attention of the prowler. It sprinted over, and then dug furiously in hopes of a reunion. The creature tilted its head in disappointment when Phaedrim, and not its master, came up with a gasp for air. As he spat out the dirt and retched from the smell, Phaedrim eyed the beast as a sign that the gods had not abandoned him. He had to get back to the council, so Phaedrim withdrew some bread from his pouch, and dangled it before the creature's salivating face. As its beak snapped at the morsel aggressively, Phaedrim said to the beast, "There, there, friend. Half now, half later if you behave." The intelligent creature ignored him, as it tried instead for his pouch. Between coaxing and bribes, they set forth towards Alerynn.
- Entry 2 - A Fond Farewell
- "You stubborn old goat, why didn't you listen.." Dilgus cradled the corpse of Angus. For the first time in decades, the folds of the old dwarfs face were wet with grief. A frustrated scream of anger bubbled in his throat. Dilgus stood, unsheathed his hammer and swung at the red crystals that started this fight. As they shattered into a thousand reflective shards, he winced. He pressed his hand upon his side; Blood. Angus' crossbow bolt had ripped a hole in his side - it looked bad, and felt so much worse. "... Damn fool, damn crystals..." He laughed, in helplessness, as he felt his life ebbing away. He stumbled like a drunk sailor towards his place of rest at the side of Mary, while the wails of his loyal ram filled the canyons. The dwarf stared in wonder as the crystals he had shattered slowly regrew, and were then made whole. Disappointment and consternation were the last things Dilgus Derrybew felt before the twinkle in his eye went out.
- Entry 3 - What Matters Most
- Warpaint and sweat drenched Qent's body. Cheers carried far afield for the new champion as his opponent ducked under the ropes and tried to disappear from the world and his embarrassment. "Your cut..." A shifty Kaivek approached Qent with cloth and some coins "Don't get that paint everywhere, clean yourself off." The orc was curt, as he continued on his way to the next contender. Eager, the athlete counted his earnings, and re-counted again before falling to silence. Qent's face grew steadily more red. He shouted after the orc, "This is half of what was promised!" The Kaivek was quick to snap back, "Well that fight was half of what was expected, wasn't it?" Qent raised a tightened fist, as if to ready a charge, when he felt a tug on his sash. "Not worth it mate, c'mon let's get some supper. It'll be my treat." A burly dwarf, in equally flamboyant warpaint grinned at the towering man. The rain leaked through the open sky canopies and soaked up the silence. At last, gents fists loosened. With a strained sigh, the man ran a towel across his face and spat blood to the ground. "As long as you're paying..." Barick howled a laugh. Tine, fine... But you best put in a good word with your sister for me if you'll be ordering off the finer menu."
- Entry 4 - What Matters Most
- With careful precision the blacksmith polished the metal until it glistened - and finally, after so much toil, it was ready. Perfect in every way, except... From a box, he lifted out a diamond with a pair of tweezers, and carefully affixed it in the setting. Now, it was perfect. Young Ralph smiled triumphantly, enthralled by his own craftsmanship. A knocking at the door startled him out of his reverie, and Ralph checked the time with a raised brow. The knocking came again, more insistent, demanding, even. "Yes! Yes! Coming!" He unlatched and had barely opened the door when Ralph met with the blunt end of a mace. From the floor, and with spotted vision, he watched as the men scavenged up all his life's work. "This should be enough for us to take the keep. We'll ride this out boys, you have my word." Armor, weapons, nothing was spared; not even his ring. "Please.. Take anything but leave that..." The blacksmith pointed at the ring with tear filled eyes, but his words fell on deaf ears. Ralph reached for a sword hanging nearby - he would make them listen, then. But before he could, the mace found him once more, and this time, his vision went black. They had been listening after all.
- Entry 5 - Live On
- Through the endless misty ocean the ship known as "The Mayfly" found a guiding light at last. Bells rang from the ship's nest as excited chatter picked up amongst the sailors. Flushed red from ale, Aventia and Brother Balmo emerged on deck to join the triumphant cheers of the crew. There it was in all its glory; Brighthold's lighthouse beckoning them home. Arm around one another, their happy sea shanties filled the salty air. For a brief moment, they had found hope once again in such a dark time. A thunderous screech arose from under the ship that silenced their celebration. Massive tentacles snapped at the ships haul, the wood moaned and broke apart as easily as a flimsy twig. Halberds dug into tentacles as the crew, like ants in comparison, did their best to fight back. Far above the chaos, the creature lifted Brother Balmo and Aventia high up into the sky. Water flooded the inner holds and pulled some of the panicked crew into the open ocean. Bells calling out for aid from the nearby shoreline were left unanswered. The priestess reached out her hand for Balmo. With her last breath, Aventia channeled all that remained of her life into his protection. "Live on," she commanded. Slamming their bodies into the jagged rocks below. He-Who-Groveled had found his revenge.
- Entry 6 - Dying Ash
- Night after night, with a growing obsession, Ashlar had gazed into the flames and saw all that could come to pass. Death, despair, the end of all existence; such paths terrified him, yet he could not look away. And then, very late one night, the answer. That night, the young mage stomped through the Academy, arms full of his research, towards the headmaster's study. He burst through its doors, "Malaki this can not wait, I bring news of-" Ashlar was caught aback by the sight of his headmaster weeping. Ashlar cleared his throat and attempted a graceful exit, "Perhaps now is not a goo-"Malaki struggled to regain his composure, "No, dear boy I... It's... Creations vessel is gone. We are alone in this struggle now." His words hung in the room, demanding silence from them both. Ashlar sunk into the chair before Malaki's desk. He dropped his prized papers with mouth agape. "No... No. That can't be right... I saw her." Ashlar's attempts to deny that which was true only broke Malaki's heart further. He thought for a moment, then spoke words which felt like sandpaper to his mouth. "... I'm afraid that this realm holds no trace of the young girl's essence now. She has made her choice."
- Entry 7 - Survivor
- Far along the outskirts of Gant, in a quaint and cozy farmhouse, a baker and his apprentice stood over the corpse of a man. "Can't be helped Emmett. Better him than us." Coldly, Jorlin stared at the lifeless body before them. Emmett, meanwhile, was hyperventilating and stammering, "Th-that was an actual man you just killed. A proper man with a... A wife? A couple kids... You can't... I..." Jorlin took a moment to assess his apprentice - could he continue to trust the boy? This world, the old rules didn't apply anymore, couldn't Emmett see that? "Now don't you go mad on me. Sort yourself out, boy, and grab whatever you can while I ready the horse." As the baker stormed outside, Emmett stumbled after him, continuing to babble his nonsense. His voice faded, however, when he came across a crate outside. The boy paused, as if in thought, then jumped inside and grabbed at the lid. Dumbstruck, Jorlin stared at his apprentice in disbelief upon mounted horse, "What in the gods names-" Emmett cut him off, "Go! Just... Go. I'll take care of myself." Jorlin circled the crate on horseback like a shark, "... For fu... You poor little dunce... I'll pray for you." Delivering his parting words Jorlin cracked the reigns and was off, unaware that Emmett would outlive most everyone.
- Entry 1 - Sanctuary
- Fort Ryll was a distant speck to Phaedrim, but he carried the stench of its death with him. Riding through Fionne Vale was chaos. Women held babes that wailed, men armed themselves for war with pitchforks and whatever else that could fend off the enemy. The screams of the Fort Ryll massacre echoed in Phaedrims mind; would that be the fate of these folk as well? If so, he had to keep moving. With the prowler's grudging help, Phadrim rode ahead and eventually reached the Walls of Alerynn. Never had he felt more small than at the feet of one of the architectural marvels of the world. He called out to the guards to open the gates. But as one amongst a collection of shell-shocked survivors, he was dismissed, just as they. "We cannot risk falling to the corruption. May the gods guide you all to safety." These words were enough to spark a riotous response, but the folk were small, and the guards remained unmoved. Phaedrim, ever one of the folk in his heart, summoned his strength and snapped at the reigns, goading the prowler into flight. As he soared close to the walls edge, and the elves readied their bows aim, the earth itself rumbled and called out like a beaten war drum. Darkness fell as the behemoth's shadow enveloped them all.
- Entry 2 - You Are Not Alone
- With exhausted steps, the lightpact stumbled through the shadowy space between realms for what felt like an eternity. Eventually, a shimmering radiance began to touch the edges of their vision as they drew close to the end of this in-between place. "Home at last, Eremus! ...Eremus?" Cay called out for her ally, and looked back at their retinue to find him. Much further behind than she expected, Eremus limped along, a grimace calcified across his face. Cay could also see a deeper darkness eating away at this place between places, reaching for Eremus, seeking to touch him, to grasp him. Cay turned and made to sprint toward her dear friend, only to be wrenched to a stop by her compatriots' hands. "This is his payment, Cay. We knew that once that necklace was shattered that a promise had been made. His soul is lost... Do not dishonor his sacrifice." She shook off the hands that held her, then took off in a sprint towards the darkness. If she could not be reborn with Eremus, then she was committed to spending her days in the abyss with him instead.
- Entry 3 - Necromancer
- Crouched over her collection of corpses, the necromancer Kallista eagerly awaited what came next. But the waiting was interminable, and in the meantime her nails had all been bitten to the quick. It would not be the first time - Kallista was not very good at waiting. The very thought of failing in this, that deranged child's demand, struck fear into her little black heart. She only hoped her patron would not seek vengeance for this betrayal. Was this a betrayal, anyway? What helped her, helped him. Such thoughts were packed away for later, as with a gasp and a moan, the dead had risen. All but the exception of two. Panic set in. This would not do. She poked and prodded her unwoken chosen with tendrils of unseen essence, but to no avail. The woman threw her hands up in defeat with a string of muttered curses. It was in that very moment that color finally flushed the corpses cheeks, then one slumped over and... wailed? Taken aback - in the very best of times Kallista was ill-equipped to handle human emotions, let alone those of the reanimated -she said, "Oh stop your blubbering. Adena wanted twelve of her champions and so twelve I must give her. It would have been my head in the basket, not yours."
- Entry 4 - Kingdoms Fall
- The scent of lavender and blood wafted through Theron's nose. It seemed Rikashi, despite her battle-hardened nature still had a delicate side to her somewhere. "Hey, you listening to me, handsome?" Her curt words snapped him out of his trance: they had arrived. Theron sheepishly climbed down from her back. "Woah now, not too far. Those legs aren't gonna get you anywhere by themselves." Rikashi flung her arm around his body, bearing much of his armored weight - she had become a stabilizing force in his life in more ways than one. As the trees gave way to a clearing, and the clearing gave way to the great Walls of Alerynn, Rikashi gave Theron a pat, and said, "You just might make it home yet..." But all was not well. They could see a huge crowd of people before the gates, and the noise they were making sounded incredibly angry. Then, there was a rumble, and another, and another... The energy of the crowd dissipated, anger slowly being replaced by confusion. Then the folk then went silent, and all anyone could hear or feel were the intermittent rumblings of the earth. Each time, the tremblors came with more intensity, as if something impossibly large were coming towards them. First came its shadow. Then the behemoth arrived.
- Entry 5 - Whole Again
- Ripples pulsed through the star filled river as Ishmira dipped her oar. Along the distant shorelines an assortment of shadowy creatures lingered in seeming reverence of their arrival. The beauty of this realm left the young child bewildered, but she was able to manage in a slight, awe-struck whisper, "Is this your home?" Ishmira's oar stopped its rhythmic pursuit, and for a moment she was lost to contemplation. Steeling herself, Ishmira lifted back her shrouded veil, the first time she had done so in what had to be ages. Adena recoiled, in what Ishmira recognized all too well as disgust. Before Adena sat a Fae without eyes - the flesh melded over like some gaping wound. The girl's reaction was expected, but it did not break her heart any less. She quickly let the veil drop over her face once more. "This price I pay.... Is the one fate demands of all apostles who live in service of her great works... With my loss, I see. I see clearer than ever the greater tapestry she weaves with our threads." With tightened grip, the seer muttered her last words solemnly. "My home lives in every step I take now. So yes, for now, this is my home." 
- Entry 6 - Hope Floats
- Brother Balmo crashed upon the shore and spat up salt water. Hunched over, focused on finding his breath, he had little time to react when the tide brought in more of his broken ship's debris. He was pulled beneath the waves, buffetted by giant planks of wood and iron. When he finally found his feet again, blood was running down his face, and his world spun out of control. Bodies of his crew, and bodies of his friends swept past him, only to be pulled back in by the tide. One such face he recognized as Avenita's. His heart sank as he remembered her violent end. He searched the horizon for any sign of the leviathan that tore their ship asunder, but the sea gave him no answers. That was that then. He would have to mourn later, his heart would have to break later, lest all of this death be for naught. He frantically began searching through the debris that had come ashore, looking for the artifacts they had risked life and limb for. At long last, he found them. Some were damaged, but enough remained to give him hope. Perhaps the lightpact's efforts would endure this.
- Entry 7 - Sending Out an SoS
- Alerynn was being evacuated, but far from that chaos, Ashlar had descended into the library's archives, following his mentor deep into that hallowed place. In his worn hands, Malaki held a memory scroll intended to add to his life's collection - his last farewell account of the end of Verra. "Is this really necessary, sir?" Ashlar began, before being thrown to the ground as the entire room seemed to explode -the walls seemed to crumble around him, and blazing heat and smoke rushed through the room. Ashlar wheezed and coughed as he struggled to find his feet. He had to get out of here. Through the haze of smoke and dust and debris, he stumbled around until he found an opening. He climbed his way out of the Academy's depths, into the blinding light above. As he rubbed the smoke out of his eyes, he saw something out of his nightmares. Looming above the buildings of the city was something impossible. A behemoth straight out of the stories of his childhood. Panicked students stumbled and fled from the courtyard, and the impenetrable walls that had protected the Pyrian Empire for centuries, that had survived countless wars, had fallen.
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Tales of the Homecoming
Written by Kyrie Patrika Arisanna
"Know then that the unforgivable sin of Atrax was his unbridled hubris. In an attempt to unlock the secrets of immortality the Toren king began an obsessive study of ancient artifacts and profane magicks. This drew the attention of the Ancients, a fallen race banished into the Void in ages past. For the first time since their exile, the ancients became aware of the four races created by the Seven to replace them as the Stewards of Creation.
When the ancients saw that these races were growing, multiplying, and conquering the world that had been taken from them, they became envious and spiteful. In a fit of pique they unloosed the Harbingers -- great balls of ice, dust, and corruption from the heavens -- and hurled them upon the face of Verra.
As Verra fell, the Seven activated the divine gateways. These ancient portals transported the four races to safety on the tellurian, non-magical world of Sanctus, to await the day they could safely return to Verra."
-- Minerva Arisanna, Purian Emissary of the Lightpact THE BOOK OF THE VERRAN EXODUS
These words were put to parchment over four thousand years ago by my great,great grandmother, Minerva Arisanna. I know her only through her writing, and through stories told to me by her daughter, Kyrie Esmane Arisanna, my maternal grandmother, for whom I was named.
My name is Kyrie Patrika Arisanna, Chronologist and Scrivener for the Lightpact. I am eight hundred and sixty-three years old. By Elven reckoning, I am rapidly approaching mid-life, yet Sanctus is the only world I have ever known.
The Lightpact was originally an alliance created by the four races of Verra as we fled the Harbinger Apocalypse and settled on the mundane, non-magical world of Sanctus. In the intervening millennia, tales of our exodus and the legends of Verra have slipped into the realm of folklore and mythology for most of the races. Fortunately thanks to the protracted lifespans and long memories of the Elven races, those teachings have not been lost forever. The Lightpact has endured, and its members have been secretly preparing for the day the divine gateways would finally reopen.
That day has arrived. At long last the ancient pylons -- those enigmatic monuments of sculpted stone that pepper the surface of Sanctus have awakened and paved the pathway home. These living conduits of channeled Essence will transport us across the cosmos and return us to Verra, the mystical world of our ancestors.
This collection of essays is one humble scrivener's admittedly idealistic, but well-intentioned attempt to peacefully chronicle that Homecoming. Upon its completion, multiple copies of this manuscript will be created by Lightpact scribes and read aloud at our arrival encampments across Verra. It is our sincere hope that this might foster cooperation and goodwill between our disparate races, for we are one people in the eyes of the Seven, and Verra is our common birthright.
The Alchemist's Apprentice
I met the most astonishing individual today! Initially, I had set out to speak to Krelzenus Vagesh, the renowned Vek alchemist and inventor. I had heard that he had come through the divine gateway some time before, and I desired to pick his prodigious brain in regards to any discoveries oddities, or inspirations that had surfaced since hi arrival on Verra. I met up with Vagesh at his local market, which would be more aptly described as a makeshift campground. This bazaar featured an odd assortment of dead things, live things, and crude things to make live things dead things.
After making a proper greeting and introduction, I began to interview him from the list of questions I had prepared. At once he stopped me and bade me to follow him to his laboratory. He said he had someone there that was far more fascinating than his old self.
He lead me to his workshop at the edge of the settlement. I was somewhat disappointed to find that it was just another large tent given a wide berth by the other inhabitants of the area. Seeing my disheartened face as he lifted the front flap, he assured me that the facility was only temporary until a more suitable structure could be built.
Stepping in, my eyes had to adjust to the very low light of the interior, provided by only a few flickering candles. After a moment I could vaguely make out a shape moving about, here and there, sniffing and what sounded like an occasional licking and tasting of objects in the dark.
"Tish, we have a visitor," Krelzenus said in a gentle, calming voice to the creature.
The figure stopped momentarily, uttering a simple "Hejo" in what sounded like a purr, or perhaps a hiss, and then continuing on with its activity.
"Hejo?" I asked Vagesh curiously.
"Yes, it seems to mean 'hello' in the Tulnar Language. A combination of the Common 'hello' and the old Orcish greeting 'vajo.'"
"Ah yes, 'vajo' meaning 'no harm', correct?"
Krelzenus nodded cheerfully, obviously a little impressed with my limited knowledge of an old Orcish dialect.
Turning back toward the creature in the dark that I no knew as Tish, I called out my own little "Hejo!" I heard a slight wuffle of what I took as positive acceptance.
"Tish seems to have quite a talent for alchemy. Her knack for ingredient selection, measurement, mixing and brewing appears to be highly instinctual and productive! Without any instruction at all she whipped up quite an array of potions, poultices, and powders!"
"Simply marvelous!" I exclaimed. I leaned forward to get a better look through the obscuring darkness. As I wrapped my fingers around one of the two small candlesticks, an appendage shot out of the dark to slap my hand away.
"No touch!" I recoiled instantly from the reprimand, struggling to comprehend what had struck me. I could not deduce through the darkness and with the speed of the strike whether it was a hand, or paw, or claw, but I could tell that it was small, about half the size of my own.
"She doesn't like it when you touch her things while she is experimenting, and for a good reason. Some of the mixtures she has created have reacted quite explosively when touched with flame," Vagesh informed me apologetically.
"How old is she?" I asked, fascinated.
"About five years old, or so. Truly a prodigy," Krelzenus beamed. "Also quite resilient, too. I've seen her ingest holly berry, mistletoe, oh, and nightshade without even the slightest signs of discomfort. She does much of her experimentation by smell and taste."
Still stunned by the revelation of her very young age, I inquired whether her dietary fortitude was part of her phenomenal talent, or a trait of her Tulnar biology.
"I do not have enough evidence to say one way or the other, but I have observed others off her family eating spoiled meat and a wide variety of wild mushrooms without so much as a belch. If not indicative of Tulnar as a species, at least I have theorized it runs in her family."
"Fascinating..." I hummed.
"You talk to much! You go now! Can't make with talking!" Tish hissed at us.
"Apologies, Tish!" Vagesh called as he ushered me out quickly.
"It is well to keep her happy. She can throw quite a tantrum when she's frustrated... or tired," he said as he instructed me outside. "Apart fromt hat, I am highly intrigued with the alchemical possibilities she could uncover, and upsetting her would likely cause her to depart."
"So much potential for the future of this new world," I nodded.
I said my goodbyes to the Vek, assuring him that I would return in the future to see what amazing creations Tish had conceived. He shook my hand enthusiastically and ducked back into the tent without so much as a backward glance.
When the sun sets behind the canopy of the Crystalbough forest, it becomes difficult to tell where the sky ends in the treelines begin. Under the branches, rustling with leaves of orange and yellow despite the seasons, motes of essence-charged pollen flutter through the air like fairies, flickering white. For three days, I rode the path that wove through diamond-white trees between Oleander Reach and Mariam amongst these woods and found myself captivated time and time again.
One unusual evening, while I updated my notes on the banks of an unmarked creek, I spied a peculiar, overlarge stag as it emerged from the golden brush. As it bowed its head to zip from the stream, its conutenance was reflected in the prismatic light from the essence-charged stone bed beneath the surface-- and I saw the face of something else entirely. It was angular, drawn into a point of the nose, with eyes set too far down the sides. A kirin. As it drank, its antlers-- thicker than a buck's and shaped more like branches-- crackled with the raw energy of its sustenance, and I could see the essence arcing between the prongs.
I stood, entranced by its otherworldliness and the grace of its motion. Drawn forward by some inexplicable urge, I'd only taken two steps before an unfortunate footfall cracked a crystalline twig. The beast raised its head, looking directly at me-- and in a blink it shattered into an ephemeral, shimmering mist that retreated across the water.
"Gods be damned!" A voice boomed and sent a flurry of small, white birds into the ochre clouds overhead. The gruffness of tone alerted me to look for a Dünir, and my instincts were true. She pushed through the copse out onto the bank just past where the creature drank, holding her thick arms out wide in a gesture of pure exasperation.
"Why'd you go and do that?" The arch in her brow conveyed her dismay, and as she approached, the water pooled on her eyelids, belied the depth of her frustration. She had golden hair, the color of the leaves of the trees here, though it was wild and in desperate need of a brush and oil. Her beard was neater and woven into short braids at her chin with flowers worked in, and though wayward strands poked out here or there, it seemed more from circumstance than negligence.
I had at first assumed she was a hunter and started to apologize for startling her quarry, but found that notion subverted as she lifted what looked to be a small golden orrery whirring in rapid circles. It shook her arm to the elbow as she held it in the direction that the mist-creature had retreated. The odd device slowed until it stopped, and she fell to her knees in consternation.
She interrupted my apology: "Months wasted. I'll have to start all over again." Carefully she packed the device into a satchel at her hip, and looked over at me with sagging shoulders.
I stood there for a while, unsure of what to say. I felt bad to have startled her prey, but something was strange about this turn of events. While it was true I'd never before seen a kirin, in all my readings of them I'd never encountered anything about them wielding essence with such intention. The hunter seemed to notice my confusion, and as she stood, she concealed the wiping of her eyes in part of the motion of dusting the forest's detritus off her knees.
"You didn't know. I understand." She drew in a long breath, and then exhaled, forcing much of the tension from her posture. "You didn't know, and most importantly, tlegi, you still don't, so i'm going to let you all look here."
I admit I winced at the word, reminded of my early misstep. "Twig"-- a reference to how easily the Empyrean Glitterwall formations broke in early conflict between our peoples during the initial struggles for resources on Sanctus. It's a tale for another time, but our military manuals were worthless after we lost access to magic, needing to be rebuilt from the ground up. This would have been more generations ago than even her eldest relative's great, great, grandparents would recall.
"That's you," I replied, making an effort not to sound so dry. I've readied my pen and notebook, asking if she cared to enlighten me further.
"How could you know? It's clear you're new to these parts, or you'd have come more prepared. You're lucky, in fact, you started the bastard the way you did. It could have killed you with a wink or a sneeze." She straightened herself up, which brought her to approximately half my height, and held out a calloused hand for me to grasp. As I did so, she introduced herself. "Aeri Goldmane. On account of my hair." She ran through it with a quick comb of her fingers.
I wondered how often she'd said that line as I returned my own introduction. "How is it that it takes months for a hunter to track a kirin in their native woods?" I asked perhaps, less kind with my tone here than I should have been, but Aeri seemed too distracted to take offense.
She pulled the device back out of her pouch and held it aloft in nearby pockets of air seemingly at random. "Not just a kirin, tlegi, but the kirin. One of the first ones, older than the apocalypse. A Bodabodaga. Most powerful being in these woods, it's true, though you wouldn't know from how flighty he is."
Never have I heard of it, I wrote it down to verify another time. I confirmed to her, somewhat wryly, that I had not understood the gravity of my mistake until just now. She continued as though I hadn't said a thing.
"The thing is, you can't just hunt a Bodabodaga. They survived by becoming essence itself. They break apart, you saw it. Bringing them back from that requires precise ritual, and I'll be honest, I tried a whole lot of things to make it happen before, and didn't take the best notes, so I have no idea how to recreate the feat."
"You spent months on this and have no idea how to force it back to corporeality?"
She snapped a sharp look at me but sent her braids wobbling. "Well, I'm not scientist or a mage! That's the business of your kind!" And my handwriting is too messy to bother with notes anystone."
"And the device you use?"
She glanced at it, then pulled it to her chest and wrapped her other arm around it. "Ah. I see now." Narrowing her eyes, she slowly backed up to the brush behind her. Though the creek passed between us, she seemed convinced I might lunge for it. "Just stay right there. And don't try to follow me. Now that you know the stakes, I won't be as forgiving if you ruin it again."
In bewilderment, I lowered my book as the dwarf picked her way back into the woods without taking her eyes off me, I returned to my perch beside the stream to record the events of the evening before night had fallen entirely.
- The Ancients and The Others used the Harbingers to travel to Verra, thus beginning the Apocalypse.
- Harbingers exist on Verra as dungeons that the Ancients use to push their influence into the material plane under the guise of the effects of corruption as it spreads.
- The worst thing the Harbingers bought to Verra was corruption, which twists and distorts everything it touches.
- The worst thing that the Harbingers brought was not the Others, but the corruption that they spread. It twists and distorts everything it touches. It whispers in the ears of men, and guides their hands toward terrible ends. There does not seem a means to stop it - our prayers do nothing, our spells are ineffectual. The awful truth is that the Others could simply watch as we burned Verra to ash ourselves.
- Ashes of Creation Store: Lightpact.
- Week 2, entry 1.
- Podcast, 2020-11-15 (25:27).
- Ashes of Creation Store: October cosmetics.
- Ashes of Creation Store: Order of the Steel Bloom.
- Ashes of Creation - A world with consequences.
- Week 1, entry 1.
- Week 1, entry 2.
- Week 1, entry 3.
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- Week 2, entry 2.
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- Week 10, entry 1.
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- Week 11, entry 1.
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- Week 12, entry 1.
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- Week 12, entry 5.
- Week 12, entry 6.
- Week 12, entry 7.
- Direct, 2021-11-6 (part 1) (0:0).
- Direct, 2021-11-6 (part 2) (0:0).
- Direct, 2021-11-6 (part 3) (0:0).
- Dillias diary.
- Direct, 2020-11-08 (0:00:00).
- Direct, 2020-11-08 (11:48).
- Vidéo, 2023-03-31 (7:41).
- Direct, 2020-11-08 (12:47).