The Ascension Gate

The Brigand's Road
17th of Hamas, 2022 AG

As I watch the radiant glow of Gadar’s gift fade from the sky, I wish to reflect on today’s events. The Creed states that each day is a new blessing, and that we, the crusader-missionaries of his blessed Truth, must strive to remember each one for both its good and ill. In this way, we grow and improve, and thus improve the world in which we live.

So, I have started this journal, to better aid me in such remembrances. It has been some time since I have felt such contentment as I do now, looking across the river at the fading sun, as it dips below the buildings of the simple village to which we travel. These companions of mine, although strange to some by their appearance, have become a comfort to me in recent days. Vilig, the strangely exuberant elf, with his japes and wit brought me to smile for the first time in what seems like years. Bartok, short of stature but long in prowess, reminds me of the days working the Kukri with Solemn, my childhood friend. He purposefully picked a name against his nature, and was often anything but. Daba, a strange bird-like creature called a Tengu, is solemn and wise, kind but dangerous. She reminds me of Sonia, in many ways.

I started travelling with this seemingly motley crew a scant few months ago, when I found Daba bloody and bruised on the outskirts of a small village that had cast her out for her strange appearance. Using the arts of my Order, I mended her wounds and learned more of her and her travelling companions. I decided in short order that these people needed my help. I have found no evidence of Sonia in over a year now, and so my search and devolved to directionless wandering. Their direction may as well be mine, I thought at the time.

So, we have grown somewhat closer, and I would call them my friends. We have had a few adventures together, we four, and I can only think that more is to come.

A little more than a week ago, a merchant called Gordrenn approached us. Our dress marks us apart, I suppose. He sought the recovery of a box of his goods, to be delivered post-haste to a hamlet on the outskirts of civilization called Thurmaster. After some small negotiation, we signed a contract that would see us paid for the deed.

Tracking the thieves proved easier than I expected. A small group of highwaymen, they had taken up residence in a small cave near the road. Gadar blessed our feet with silence and his shining light confused their minds upon our surprise appearance in their underground abode. I shan’t write the details of that conflict here, but suffice to say, we recovered the stolen goods.

We continued to travel east along the highway, which became thinner and rougher the further we traveled. Then, early today, we encountered a group of men posing as farmers. Vilig’s insight gave away these men’s true intention. They sought to steal the box we had recovered and to take Daba for some unknown purpose.

Our battle with the fiends was fierce, but brief. Summoning the light of Gadar to heal my companions, they withstood the onslaught of clearly trained and competant warriors. We took a single prisoner, but darkness stained his soul and drowned his words in lies. The One Truth speaks to such cowardice and filth, and deems it not be tolerated. The man rests now in the Twilight, with his comrades in arms.

So we have come to this place to rest. A small village just on the other side of the river, three or four days walk from Thurmaster. I can hear raucous laughter from an inn, smell the smoke of the chimney fires as night closes in.

Truth and Light shine upon them.

“Shaped like a butt plug...that’s not canon”
Notes for Game Session Monday 7/27

We begin with our adventurers in deep debate over the nature and fate of a chest they had been contracted to liberate from a band of robbers.

A contract for 150 gold pieces. Gordrenn, a portly merchant concerned with a ticking clock. Tauster, a powerful wizard waiting on receipt of the chest. A magic lock. A choice is made, a contract will be fulfilled.

70 miles to go along a friendly dirt road. Destination Thurmaster. Orchards and farmland, pleasant greetings from fellow travelers. And then Lyrchwood.

The party was set upon by archers from forest (2) and disguised brigands approaching on the road (3). Vilig saved the party from a second sneak attack when he identified the disguised brigands immediately as a threat and the party entered battle.

Bartok played Whack-a-Goblin with much of the opposing force, splitting many heads right down the middle. He also continuously smeared himself with the blood of the fallen, laughing gleefully. This did not prove inspiring to our foes.

Illios had to withdraw from battle after Vilig and Daba were repeatedly downed by the archers who came out of the woods, shifting his attentions to ministering to party wounds.

Between Illios’ faith and Bartok’s cavalier attitude toward the accepted placement of heads on shoulders, the party overwhelmed their attackers. A well placed sleep spell from Daba even guaranteed a hostage for interrogation.

The party decapitated the corpses, lined them up in front of the sleeping bandit (Torrig) and when he woke, Vilig (with the over enthusiastic help of Bartok) questioned the prisoner.
Vilig: “We’re gonna play the 2 strikes game. You have 2 feet…and 2 strikes”

Illios: “For the record I hate the 2 strikes game."

Daba/Bartok: (hoisting their weapons) “RIGHT or LEFT?! RIGHT or LEFT?!”
Bartok: “Should I throw this head at him?”

Vilig: “No, don’t throw it (turns to prisoner) You know why I don’t want him to throw away that head? It’s so he has something to eat later.”
It was discovered that the goal of the attack was to subdue and spirit away Daba as well as the chest. The leader of the bandits, Carlanis, had promised 25 gold pieces per bandit if successful. There was no sign of any seal or insiginia to indicate the power behind Carlanis, though an unreadable scroll written in bardic magical script was recovered from the bodies. The prisoner did admit to being from Thurmaster.

Another discussion by the group determined the fate of the prisoner. He was too dangerous to the party, both physically and as an information leak, to live. After a respectful dismissal by Illios and Bartok, Vilig did not wish to participate, the bodies were taken to the forest for a blessing from Illios, then hidden. The party then moved on again.

When faced with the decision to camp or press on deep into the night in order to reach the town of Milborne, the group decided to face the dangers brought about by a town rather than the isolation of the wild.

Profile: Daba Ruk and the Tengu Race
A short history of the Tengu Peoples on Calagos and a description of Daba Ruk's character

To say that something is a little over two thousand years old would not make the listener think of it as “new”; nevertheless, the Tengu Race which owns that age is relatively new, when compared to some of the other races that inhabit Calagos (such as elves, who’ve been there for around three million years).

The emergence of these creatures is shrouded in mystery but coincides with the Gate Wars, so it is presumed that they were created either as a result of some spillover celestial or demonic magic or perhaps even as an abhorrent experimentation in the long search to find weapons that could combat these forces. No one knows if they were humans who were altered to be more crowish or crows who were changed to be more human; either way, since their appearance, they have been shunned, fought, and fiercely disliked by their fully human counterparts, relegated almost to the level of lepers. They tend to attract more of this ire as they build larger communities, so, to avoid this, Tengu are more likely to splinter into smaller family clans that slink and wander like feathered gypsies, seeking out the less-desirable corners of Calagos where they can thrive in peace (or something close to it). Though, being bird-like, they are delicate, they are also fast and highly intelligent – trained in varying types of swordplay from birth and often incredibly gifted as linguists – and are still trying to scratch out their place in a world that doesn’t quite know what to think of them yet.

Though Tengu are often associated (sometimes fairly, sometimes unfairly) with vanity, greed, impulsivity, and a mad desire for competition, Daba stood out – or, rather, receded – amongst the members of Clan Ruk at an early age due to her reserved nature. She was the last of seven offspring of her immediate family, and the only female; as the other six boys seemed rash, cunning, and irrepressible enough to supply the Clan with wild stories for a lifetime, she felt no wish to compete with them and withdrew more into herself and her own studies, fervently learning history, nature, languages, and magical lore (the last of which her parents thought too dangerous and discouraged her from). She was tall – unusually so, and her father’s eyebrow seemed to slant higher with each inch she gained – but in all other ways she attempted to be as unremarkable as possible.

Thus she would have remained if not for the appearance of the raven on her fifteenth birthday – the date that signifies adulthood for the Tengu – flying in out of nowhere and landing on the ramshackle windowsill of her little curtained room in the straw hut. She did not think much of this at first, as ravens often flew around Tengu huts, looking for sympathy crumbs, until this one opened his beak and spoke to her with the voice of a man: “Let me tell you a story.”

It happened about 400 years ago, when the tension between human and Tengu was at its peak. The reason is lost to time, and perhaps there never really was one; bolstered by ale and bravado, a human raiding party from a little no-name village massacred an entire clan that had recently moved close to their borders, leaving no hut unburned, no living thing unslaughtered. But there is always detritus, little pieces of dust you miss in the cleaning – in this case, one Tengu girl, just turned fifteen, who had snuck out to night-fish and returned to the smell of singed feather and bone. What this girl did next, we do not exactly know, but we do know she asked for help, with a ritual both ill-advised and bloody – asked to have the power to avenge her Clan, no matter the cost. She was answered by my master, who would become her patron – and who, now, is your patron, too.

The village has no name because it no longer exists. Soon after the raid, it was gone – obliterated. No one knows precisely how, not even me.

But the Tengu got what she asked for. Satisfied, she grew older, married into another Tengu clan, and became a witch of great legend and power. In return, she had accepted that a curse be put upon her and her descendants – that, at various and sundry points throughout her bloodline, once every century, a girl of fifteen would be chosen to be a guardian of death – to help keep balance on this planet – and would be followed by a creature like myself, as a companion and spell-holder. This deathwitch will be feared, always, but will have power beyond imagining.

By now you know the clan was Ruk – and surely you know the girl is you.

Daba, shivering, turned to run, only to see her father holding up her curtain dejectedly, standing there but averting his eyes, unable to bear the shame.

He had known the story, of course – they all had – but none had told her. No sense scaring a child for such a slim possibility. But he had started to suspect, first with her odd hobbies and then, more worryingly, with the growth. Daba found out later that the accelerated height – most Tengu were around four talons, but she had just topped out at five talon seven – was an indicator of the curse.

She would have to leave, of course. Not even her Clan would want Taicho’s heir around once the news got out (bad luck!), and her own brothers were already refusing to acknowledge her presence; however, it was also part of her role now, to wander, to do death’s bidding. Her mother wept silently as she packed what seemed like a month’s worth of rations into a rucksack, her beak streaked with tears; her father finally raised his eyes to her, apologetically, as he handed her a set of robes – mostly black, with nighttime blue, and festering purple.

They’d been in a chest, buried underneath the hut; his grandmother, he said, had been the last heir. He had known the chance, but had not prepared her.

With these last two gifts and the scimitar she’d trained with ever since she could remember, Daba traipsed across the continent with Declan (that was the raven’s name, he later told her). For the first couple of years she was nothing but bitter. As if it wasn’t hard enough to be a Tengu, she was now the outcast of the outcasts. No one wanted a death witch around, knowing what it meant, what she might be there for, and to make it worse she did not know – and might never know – the exact name or nature of the patron from whom her powers were emanating. Declan knew, but was prohibited from telling her, and as much as they grew closer over the many long days and months that followed he would never answer her enquiries. Declan himself was somewhat of a mystery, too: the same familiar who had served her great-grandmother, he was once an elf who had done something very bad, something to cross this shadowy patron in some way, and had been doing penance in the form of a raven ever since. That was all Daba knew, and still knows, about his pre-familial past.

But he remains with her today, always, his little talons digging into the fabric over her shoulder, his general knowledge and general snark as welcome to Daba as the magic he retains for her; he keeps her walking, keeps her laughing, and he is a every bit as much of a true friend to her as he is a spellbook with wings.

For a long time, he was the only friend she had – until she met Bartak and Vilig, who, luckily for her, don’t seem to be afraid of anything, much less her presence. Their journey together is yet to be fully told; her own journey, ten years after that evening, has been and will continue to be one of acceptance – both of everything she will never be and everything she is. Daba Ruk has begun to realize that “curse” is only one way of looking at it, and that even the powers of death can be used for good; she only wishes she knew the truth behind her spellcraft.

Profile: Bartak Beartooth
100 Years Lost

Bartak doesn’t remember much about his heritage. Maybe that’s why he joined this adventure party – to learn more about the people to whom he knows he belongs. For as long as he can remember, Bartak has been living with the bears he calls his kin. He was only in his early thirties at the time of the Great Separation. He lost connection with his dwarfen family that day, but after weeks of surviving in the canopied wilderness, he forged a bond with the bears with whom he shared the land. They took him in, taught him their language and their forest’s fruits, gave him a place to call home. The bears’ cave wasn’t anything like Bartak’s faded childhood memories of gilded halls echoing with hearty laughter and miner’s pick clangs, but it kept out the cold and the rain. Hardened by a life in the woods, Bartak learned to tap into the rage of a barbarian on his nightly hunts. He now carries the name Beartooth as a beacon of the beasts’ strength and companionship throughout the quests to come.

Profile: Vilig Sojet

Vilig’s parents are Shanta and Berion Sojet, cleric/missionaries of a particularly strict sect of Irori that demanded celibacy of its missionaries in the aim for perfection and purity. They helped found the trading post that became Purmeron at which point their sect of Irori granted permission for them to begin a family. The following Summer Vilig was born.

For the past 70 years Vilig has grown up in Purmeron, first as a very young child alongside the children of the first generation of settlers, then as a confused youth seeing his friends take on leadership roles in the blossoming settlement, while his parents kept him to the side, focusing on their family duty to cleanse the land of the undead and to protect the people of the trading post. As he finally ages into his early adulthood as an elf, it is as his childhood human friends pass or diminish around him. For Vilig, Pure Mourn (Purmeron) is less a successful experiment and more a slowly encroaching tomb. The humans and other shorter lived races see Purmeron as a light holding the darkness of death at bay, but he can’t help but see the death in the wilderness and the decline of his childhood friends as one in the same.

Vilig possessed a natural gift for agility, which came in handy as he trained with and later assisted his parents on their patrols and undead hunting parties. Advance scouting fell to him, staying out of direct combat, he grew quite adept at remaining undetected; perfect for patrols or luring a ghoul or zombie into a trap. Later his mother Shanta trained him to fight and defend himself. Vilig chose the rapier as he had formed some romantic notions based on the sailors that had always visited the port. Part of this training was the quick and immediate dispatch of foes; it is unwise to prolong any fight with the undead, give them any chance to strike back.

At the age of 70 Vilig took to the seas; striking a deal with Bracknell Storm, a sea captain who’s ship, The Clarion’s Call, frequently passed through Pure Mourn. He joined up as a crew member with a partial share, later earning his full share through his skill and fearlessness. He left without telling his parents, leaving only a note, knowing they would disapprove of a life not dedicated to the land or their god Irori. He has not been back for 2 years, catching up on life surrounded by the living rather than the dead.


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