A World Asunder

Chapter 82: "Get that damn thing open!"

You hear a loud, thuddy smashing sound from behind you and the walls of the sanctum shake off gravel and dust. Reilly taps the ironwood door with her pommel.

“That will hold them for a few minutes. Find the eye. I’ll set up a defense line here. Robyn, Harxen, see if you can find another way out.” Most of you are still spattered with Arkali blood and two Fusiliers, Gremson and Barlowe, have been left dead in the swamp outside.

(To Lorraine) You’re still clutching Barlowe’s last letters.

Robyn and Harxen leave the room

Chapter 81- "We sentence you to exile"

You enter the courtoom and seat yourselves next to Gareth. Enfys and Reilly are with you.

Gareth introduces you:

“Adjudicators Delgrim, Evellios and Barloa. I present the members of the Paragon expedition into the grey wastes. Their reports of the incident have been provided and they stand ready to answer any questions you might need clarified.”

Delgrim is the first to speak: “Your report says that the Heptusian monarch agreed to grant you safe passage through their territory in exchange for a non-aggression pact extending to both the Heptusian navy and any slaver’s vessels you encountered. You were also approached by a group of runaway slaves who offered to smuggle you to the grey wastes by sea in exchange for a supply of arms and use of Polaris and Freeharbor as sanctuary. It says here you, Enfys Gwalchine, Robyn Niles, Harxen Jethrali and Reilly McTeague, along with a small squad of Fusiliers, arrived in the Grey Wastes without us intercepting you. How exactly did you manage that?”

Players Answer

Evellios adjusts his spectacles. “That would explain some of the activity our inquisitors have been reporting from Heptus.”

Barloa addresses you next: “You made your way through the bloodmire and eventually ended up at what you refer to as ‘The Sanctum of Bahamut’. Gareth issued us a report of his findings with you at the time, but I would like to hear it from you directly.”

Chapter 80- "It would seem we've little choice"

The courtroom is quiet. Delgrim furrows his brow and strokes his beard:
“This might explain the reports we’ve been receiving from Ash Ranger units in the grey wastes. Ash Rangers do have a tendency to go mad down there, but this might warrant further investigation, though we lack the time and resources to train a new ranger unit.”

Gareth speaks to the elf: “Evellios, pardon my impertinence, but I’ve known you long enough to tell when you’re holding back. What is it?”

“This is what I get for training you to be observant. Gareth, your report makes mention of an artifact that Niirithani informed you of. The eye of Bahamut, right?”

“Yes, Bahamut was an elder Wyrm, first of the gods and the one who performed the first planelink. According to legend, he was responsible for bringing the first dawn and giving the gift of literacy. It’s believed that he left his eye behind when he traveled to the Plane of Light so he could keep watch over the mundane world. Some scholars believed his eye was a necessary component of further planelinks. The Paragons brought a Journal with them that was successfully translated a week prior to retrieving the Last Arrow. The Journal described a ritual that would sever the link between our world and the Hell of War, effectively ending the Scourge. It requires the Eye of Bahamut, which we believe to be in the grey wastes, deep inside the bloodmire.”

The tribunal whispers among themselves, then Evellios speaks up:
“Gareth, please inform the Paragons that we have a few more questions for them before we deliver a verdict.”

Chapter 79- "Entropy or Chaos"

Niirithani takes the arrow, draws her blood to the tip, and snaps it in two.

She smiles slightly and says “I remember.”

“The planes of existence were once seperate from each-other, with naught but a void in between. There was no afterlife, no magic, and no life gifted with sapient intelligence. My kind, dragons, were but beasts of the skies. Over millenia, a stagnation began to spread into our world, affecting material, life and light. We called it entropy It would have been the doom of our world, but for my kind discovering the means to link the planes of existence. The first connection was with the plane of light, which drove away both darkness and ignorance, allowing the races of humanity to develop language, literature and eventually civilization. The second was darkness, providing respite and challenge to drive the world forward. And water which gave us the rain and sea, fire which gave us warmth and chaos, Air which gave us wind and seasons, and Earth which gave us the woods and metals to forge nations. One after another, the planes connected and those who brought about those connections ascended into divinity as gods. But some planes, the hells, could never be connected without great strife, and so the gods erased the knowledge of the rituals required to bridge the void.”

“Entropy was kept at bay for a time by this great flux of chaotic magic, but such a parasite could not resist the allure of devouring this energy. The void once again began to creep into our world. The gods pushed back, as did we, to no avail. In the end, it was not wisdom, but ambition that saved us. A sorcerer from a long dead civilization found a way to connect our world with the Hell of Death, creating the first undead and ushering in the first collapse. The connection was violent and unstable, the dead rose and nearly annihilated the living before it was severed. The magic from this connection overwhelmed Entropy and pushed it out of reach for a very long time.”

“In a bid to stave off annihilation, humanity vowed never to connect with one of the Nine Hells again. It was simply too costly. Memory of the first collapse was ever present, and the threat of entropy was forgotten. As entropy crept forward again, the gods hoped that another human would make such a connection, beginning a second collapse and so staving off entropy for another time. It soon became clear that humanity would never do this of their own accord, having suffered too much from the first collapse. The gods decided to intervene, and gifted, or cursed, humanity with Hubris. Soon the right mix of ambition, intelligence and arrogance gave way to the second collapse, and countless others since.”

“Once a civilization reaches great enough magical capability, it is inevitable that a Thaumeturge will reach too far and usher in a collapse. The collapse, as well as the salvation from it, are both necessary to stave off Entropy. The Scourge, known among my kind as the Ninth Collapse, is an outlier. In the past, civilizations have either defeated that which threatens them, or been annihilated leaving their replacements to sever the link to hell. This may be the nature of the Hell of War, though no other collapse has been driven by that connection. When a stalemate began to develop, many of my kind believed that the solution was to hasten the victory of the Scourge and allow the cycle to begin anew, and so they allowed themselves to be cursed for what they thought was the good of the world. Others saw the tenacity of this generation of Humanity to be a potential asset to mitigating the effects of future crises or perhaps in finding a new way to drive off entropy.”

“It is our… My belief that staving off a collapse, rather than succumbing to it, may allow Humanity to develop their magic far enough to push back entropy without beginning a new collapse. It’s possible that hubris will bring about a new collapse from precisely that effort, but your generation has more than earned the chance to try.”

Chapter 78- "We daring few"

The courtroom is almost quiet enough that you can hear candles flicker.

The elf repeats: “What is it which convinced you to risk drawing Bastion into a war?”

Gareth clears his throat and looks the elf in the eye. He says with a flat tone: “The Paragons are right.”

The members of the tribunal erupt. The dwarf, Delgrim, retorts: “What you speak is near treason. The great wall has kept us safe from the Arkali hordes for seven centuries while every attack has failed.”

Gareth raises his voice loud enough to extinguish a candle. “Yes, and until now we have not had a means to succeed. Now we do, in spite of the best efforts of our order to prevent that.”

Delgrim is about to retort, but the gnome interrupts him: “We are not here to point fingers, but to reach the truth. Gareth, explain this means you believe might bring victory and tell us how you came upon it.”

Gareth straightens his collar and replies:

“Through my interview with the Paragons in the prison, I was informed that they had located a living Elder Wyrm named Niirithani in the underground city, suffering from amnesia. Dragons share much of their minds with others of their clutch, and it was learned that St. Laerta was among Niirithani’s siblings. The Paragons searched for her remains, but found only the artifact known as Laerta’s last arrow, an object that St. Laerta literally put her soul into at the end of her last stand.”

“The Paragons also informed me of the cycle of world-ending crises affecting our world. That the Scourge was not the first, nor would it be the last.”

The elf straightens his spectacles

“And this is why you aided them?”

“Yes”, Gareth continues, “I determined that it was important to find out what Niirithani knew about the impending crisis.”

“Tell us of that encounter”

Chapter 77 - "The accords may well have doomed us all"

The scribe looks up as if expecting to hear more. The Adjudication panel waits a few moments, then the adjudicator seated right, a middle aged dwarven man wearing the uniform of a General, speaks up:

“Your testimony has been… Illuminating. Though I fail to see the relevance it holds to this investigation. The Faskian military is not on trial for war crimes, though we can easily arrange such charges for you if..”

The elf in the center cuts him off “Delgrim, the inquisitor would not have included it if he did not deem it relevent. I taught him that if nothing else.”

Gareth continues.
“The creature that attacked them was similar in nature to those they found in the ruined city under Mt. Maitheranas. I’m including not because it is relevent to my actions, but because we would do well to make it relevent to those of the inquisition.”

The gnome asks:
“And how did you come to arrive at Nortannis?”

Gareth answers:
“I came across a messenger on her way to inform the Inquisition of the captured Paragons. I was wearing my cloak and broach at the time so he informed me directly. I took the letter and went personally. I thought they would be from another raid on a local cell, but it turned out to be the same cohort that saved my life in Weslyth. I followed my standing orders. Seek out and eliminate threats to the scourge on my own initiative.”

“Yes,” The dwarf retorts “But in taking the course of action you did, you went against the latter part of those orders. Abide by and enforce the terms of the Bastion accords.”

“Sir,” Gareth has an urgent look on his face “I recognize that and I apologize for the position this puts Bastion in. However this is a situation where abiding by the accords may well have doomed us all.”

The elf leans back in his seat and cleans his spectacles.

“Explain,” he says “What could be so vital that you’d risk the collapse of the accords?”

Chapter 76 - "Rabbit-eared treefucker scum"

You wake up tired the next day after a cold night on a hard surface in your hut. Or rather, you’re woken up by the sound of a gunshot. A look between the logs in your drafty hut shows you that the sun is just starting to rise.

One of the people in your hut, a balding elf in his early 50’s, is already up and folding his blanket. He doesn’t seem fazed by the noise.

(players ask about the gunshot)
“Probably an execution. A partizan escaped yesterday. Not the first time.”

(players ask who the elf is)
“Thelenas. Horse thief. Life sentence hard labor. You?”

A guard approaches the reinforced wood door and unlocks it. He shouts: “Outside. NOW!”

The old elf gives an “after you” gesture to the door.

Players leave

The guard directs you and the other prisoners to line up.

(if players did not receive introduction)
The old elf lines up behind you and says in a hushed tone “My name is Thelenas. I’d rather be your friend than your enemy but if you get into trouble, leave me out of it. You want to survive here, do what the guards say and don’t let anyone steal your food or stand behind you. When they call hut number five, that’s us. We can talk more when we get our assignments”

The guard assigns work orders to huts. Your hut is assigned to work the mines as haulers. Thelenas curses under his breath.

The guard opens the gate to the mines and orders the assembled prisoners (nearly 50) to report to a foreman

players do not comply
“Alright, then.” The guard pulls out a whip and begins striking you with it
(1d4 subdual damage per strike, will save DC 10+damage received or players will comply)

Players comply
The foreman, a human man in somewhat better kept prisoner’s clothes with a coiled whip at his hip, addresses your hut:

“Okay, you’re hauling today. For those of you who are new or stupid, that means hauling crates of ore through the tunnels and sending it topside with the pulley. Any questions?”

“Good. Midday meal is in six hours. Your quota is ten crates each. If one of you fails to make that, none of you eat today.”

Players continue
You descend the ladder into the mines. Benavin and Thelenas are with you. The torchlit tunnel forks off at many points, with crude barricades barring entrances to old tunnels and signs leading to and from the current worksite.

Deeper in, you start to see smaller passages, some too small for a human to fit into. In other locations, the passage widens and the floor drops off into a chasm with primitive rope bridges erected to cross. You also see bodies of dead prisoners. Some fresh, some not, some reduced to skeletons. Occasionally, you’ll come across a pile of bones and bodies shoved into a dugout to make room to pass. Many of them are being eaten by rats, others have been eaten by things other than rats. It’s not immediately apparent how they died.

(DC 15 heal/knowledge (dungeoneering))
Some appear to have died of bite and/or claw wounds. Others show signs of death by disease. Presumably the others died of exhaustion, malnutrition or exposure.

(DC 16 Knowledge (religion))
You note lesions and bite marks on several of the bodies that indicate death by Ghoul Fever.

The foreman yells at you to keep moving.

Players keep moving
You begin to hear the clattering of pickaxes down the tunnel and soon you come to a vein of ore that reaches from the floor to the ceiling of the tunnel. The vein, and tunnel, continue on for another 30 meters or so, with miners digging further to expose more of the iron. There are a number of crates on the ground ready to be moved.

Players start moving ore (DC 12 strength check)
The foreman takes a lash at you (+7 attack, 1d4 subdual damage, provokes will save): “Put your back into it, rot.”

The crates are enormous, but you manage to lift it high enough that you can carry it.

You carry the ore almost a quarter mile before you begin to hear footsteps behind you. The foreman from the mining site is following you. The foreman draws a knife from under his tunic.

“Get over here, you rabbit eared treefucker scum”

Combat, foreman and Displacer beast

Players notice displacer beast
(describe displacer beast)

Combat ends
You hear a loud clatter from the direction of the vein. You see Thelenas standing behind you, his crate spilled all over the floor.
“What the seventh hell did you just do?”

Chapter 75 - "State your name, rank and assignment"

The courtroom is large and pleasant to look at, despite its spartan furnishings. The emblem of the Bastion Inquisition hangs high on the back wall. There is seating on various benches for at least a hundred people, though currently the room is occupied by a mere five. A panel of adjudicators sits in the rear, just under the Inquisition sigil. To their right is a scribe with reams of paper and a large stock of quills and ink. On a desk across from them, in the dress uniform of a Bastion Inquisitor, sits Gareth.

The adjudicator in the center, an elven man with slicked back dark hair, speaks: “I call this hearing of the Inquisition Legis Alt to order. State your name, rank and current assignment for the record.”

Garth replies: “Gareth Norallis. Inquisitor Second Class. For the past six months I have been acting on my own initiative on standing orders to seek out and eliminate threats related to the Scourge and to enforce the terms of the Bastion Accords of 23 ATS.”

The elf nods to the scribe, who begins writing. The inquisitor on the left, a gnome woman with a thick Termali accent, gestures to Gareth:

“Resuming from yesterdays testimony. So, you were wounded on Mount Maitheranas while travelling with these Paragons. You returned with them to their base until your wound had healed. What happened next?”

Gareth leans forward and asks “You’re referring to my contact with them in the Prison Camp, correct? If I may, I’d like to enter into the record the Paragons’ Report of their experience prior to my arrival…”

Chapter 74- "As long as we're breathing, there's hope"

You reappear in the woods immediately outside the cave. You can see Falan on the other side of a blue-tinged wire mesh, shaking his head at you. He says “I think that’s enough, don’t you?” He nods to a blonde half-elf woman on your left in aristocrat’s field garb. “Do it, Meridat.”

Tilani taps the mesh, which flashes right before you go unconscious.

You wake up in an open air cage on the back of a cart in a military convoy, the four of you are all in the same cart, shackled to the cold iron bars along with a stranger who’s still unconscious with a bag over his head. Everything but your shirts and pants have been removed, exposing a chill in the air. The cart in front of you is identical, and you can see a number of Partizans, including Benavin, bound in a similar fashion.

The road widens and your cart pulls up alongside the other cage. Benavin puts her index finger over her mouth and whispers to you:

“We’re being taken to a hard labor camp in the far north, near the Kaptalis border. We should be there by nightfall. Used to be they’d just kill us, but with the war on, they can’t spare the labor.”

A different voice from the other side of your cage speaks: “Uncharacteristically pragmatic for Fask, wouldn’t you agree?”

Tilani is next to your cage, riding a barded white horse. “Do you remember the last time we met?”

(players say yes)
“Good. I want you to know that when an envoy was requested to help our Faskian allies intercept a unit of Paragons and take over their labor camp program, I volunteered. I was hoping to see you again. Failure isn’t in my nature and there are scores to be settled. I’m to take command of the prison in which you will spend the rest of your lives, lives which I intend to make long, productive and painful.”

(Players ask about mesh)
“Wraithsilver. Opposing how cold iron blocks magic, wraithsilver conducts it. Termalyn has been issuing it in crossbow bolts to their expert marksmen to tag our seige engines for bombardment. With a little Kaptalis ingenuity, we found out how they made it and started experimenting with applications. Thank you for the field test. Magic can be unpredictable and it’s difficult to know whether something will work in real encounter.”

(Players ask about her presence)
“Surprised? Is it because I’m a half-elf or because I’m a mage?”
players answer
“Even the most rigid nations are prone to fits of pragmatism in wartime. I’m good at what I do and they needed an expert. Jerath is smart and an expert tactician, but he’s used to putting down open revolts, not long-term guerilla campaigns. Gildenport was my first failure and I’m here to correct that.”

Tilani rides off to the front of the convoy.

As soon as she’s out of earshot, Benavin whispers to you:
“Do you know bitch?”

“Small world. Let’s find a place to talk when we arrive. I don’t plan on dying in prison and I doubt you do, either.”

Players await arrival

It takes about an hour before you crest the hill and see the prison camp. The holding block part of the camp is divided into four identical sections, each consists of a block of huts surrounding a four-story watchtower 20 feet wide on all sides. The huts are surrounded by a fence of wrought iron bars, which also divides the sections. The top of the fence is lined with jagged blades.

Behind the holding block are 3 other enclosed areas. The one in the center is a mining and smelting facility. The ground is littered with mine entrances, furnaces and prisoners carrying mining tools and massive crates of ore and ingots.

The one to the west has two large buildings, unlabeled. One is significantly more ornate than the other. The one to the east has two long buildings and two shorter ones with guards moving in and out of them. Every section is surrounded by watchtowers manned by snipers.

You arrive at the gatehouse and the prison carriages split off and carry you inside, flanked by armed escorts on foot.

One of the guards, a sergeant, opens the gate of your carriage and orders you to step down.

Players step out

The hooded stranger is still unconscious. The sergeant climbs in the carriage and kicks him awake. The sergeant removes his hood and kicks him into the cold mud. The man lifts his head up. He looks to be in his late ‘20s and disheveled. The tattered remains of a Faskian military uniform are showing under his cloak and a nasty scar is climbing up his neck that looks like it was from an infected wound that didn’t heal properly. His mud-stained black hair is forming a veil in front of grey eyes that look a decade older than the rest of him.

The sergeant clubs him in the shoulder with his musket and barks: “Get up, deserter! You get to work yourself to death with these degenerate subversives.”

Chapter 73 -"A revolt doomed to fail to keep the flame alive"

As the last of your weapons clatter to the floor, the door swings open to reveal a large chamber containing five statues and a banner in the center of a the room.

The banner is of a single black rose growing from a rock. Next to the rock is a hand, face up, with a broken sword in its open hand.

The statues on the sides are all warriors.
-One is a human woman in full-plate armor hefting a shield and a longsword, whose inscription reads: “Gwynad, The faithful defender”.
-One is a human man in Faskian uniform bearing an arquebus, whose inscription reads: “Stauben, The valiant betreyer”.
-One is a halfling woman in servant’s attire, ripped back to reveal a leather chestguard and a shortsword tucked in her waistband. Her inscription reads: “Marianne, the righteous thief.”
-One is an male elf in a field scholar’s outfit, stretching his hand to let fly a fireball. A gleaming amulet hangs around his neckHis inscription reads: “Athelan, the defiant scholar”.

To the very rear is a statue of an elven woman, kneeling and wounded, clutching a bow. Her hand is loosely formed around an antique arrow sticking out of her chest. The inscription reads:

“Laerta, the Martyr, who with one last arrow took her own life to repel the Faskian assault.”

There are further inscriptions on the pedestals of the statues and a story written on the wall.


At Gwynad
“Gwynad was raised in a house divided. A Weslythan father and Faskian mother birthed her shortly after the end of the War of Blood and Ash. She was raised as a knight, but grew to be a rebel. While her parents fought on opposing sides of a conflict, hoping to never see each-other, Gwynad ran south to join the Army of no Nation. As a childhood friend of Laerta the martyr, she was the first to join the Army of no Nation and an honored member of the Valiant Five.”

At Stauben
“Stauben was a soldier who talked little of his past. All that is known is that he learned of a planned attack on the camp of the Army of no Nation and deserted his post to warn his former enemies. Laerta convinced her comrades to spare his life. During the preparations for evacuation, Stauben volunteered to stay behind and buy time for the escape. Though little is known of his motives, we can only hope that history will remember his example.”

At Marianne
“Marianne grew up in the slums of Caer Fathis and was employed as a servant from the age of eleven. When the Army of no Nation seized territory along the new border with Fask, Marianne left to join them. She never retired her servant’s uniform, instead wearing it as a reminder of where she came from and of those who still wore it by mandate. She stole funds and supplies for the army and for herself. By the time of the assault came, the Army was all the family she had and she volunteered for the rear guard.”

At Athelan
“Athelan often said they proud to be two things that were forbidden to exist in Fask. An elf and a Wizard. To willingly pursue magical talent as an elf is a death sentence. A sentence that time and again was put off until Athelan decided that it was time to stop running. It is said that their final words were: ‘Finally, I learn of what comes after’. Their wards and suppressing evocations made the last stand possible.”

At Laerta
“Laerta never revealed from whence she came. Perhaps it was to create a sense of awe, or to protect her loved ones. Laerta’s ability to inspire others not to follow, but to lead, was what made the revolt so initially successful. People came to her, not as individuals looking for a savior or a leader, but as participants in their own salvation. The truce of 21 ATS allowed Fask to focus their efforts on the rebels. Laerta took her own life with one last arrow and with her sacrifice brought down the wrath of the sun and sky on the armies of Fask. That final arrow now rests in the breast of her likeness.

Story on the Wall
“It was the third day of the 22nd year After the Scourge. The Settlement Wars were winding down and the Army of no Nation was at its peak. The armies of Fask were preparing to attack and crush the revolt. Faskian forces caught up with the retreating rebels in camp at Bulwark Bridge on the river Gerrian. A Faskian soldier named Stauben had deserted his unit the previous day to warn the Army of no Nation. The Valiant five; Laerta, Gwynad, Athelan, Stauben and Marianne; volunteered to stay at the bridge and hold off the Faskian army as long as they could. A gathering of Nationless soldiers watched the battle from a distance. Stauben was the first to fall, having sowed some measure of chaos by slaying officers from far off. Marianne’s traps and sabotage of equipment overnight had delayed progress and taken casualties of their own, but she fell to a bayonet in the first charge. Gwynad broke up five bayonet charges, felling untold scores. She fell in the 6th charge, weakened by exhaustion and shot in the throat at point blank range. Athelan made the defense possible with magic wards that held back projectiles and evocations which thinned the numbers of attacking troops. They were cut down at swordpoint on the seventh charge after expending the remainder of their evocations. Laerta was the last to fall. On the 8th charge, she emptied her quiver. She took her own life with the last arrow. As she fell, a great flash of light engulfed the bridge and the surrounding area, as though the sun itself had crashed down from the sky. The bridge had been scorched and the attacking forces incinerated. The scouts went down to retrieve their fallen comrades for burial, but their remains were nowhere to be found. All that remained was the forest, the weapons of the valiant five, and the last arrow of Laerta, undamaged by the burning light. The valiant five gave their life for a revolt doomed to fail, that the spark of desire for a free world might one day flare to life. The instruments of the great last stand have been interred here in the hopes that a new generation of heroes might take up the banner of the Army of No Nation.”

(Laerta’s last arrow, Laerta’s Bow, Stauben’s Arquebus, Gwynad’s sword, Athelan’s amulet, the banner of the Army of No Nation and Marianne’s knife can all be retrieved)

Players leave Temple

As you reach the top of the stairs, you can see sunlight coming in. A voice bellows down from outside:

“This is High Marshal Jerrath Falan! We have you surrounded by a full company of dragoons and and a squadron of Snipers. My Sappers have planted enough explosives to obliterate the temple. Come out one by one with your hands above your head and place your weapons on the ground! If you fail to comply, we will bury you alive! Surrender as my prisoners and you have my word and honor as an officer of the Faskian Army that your lives will be spared! Do you understand?”


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