The Lost Seas
Eladrin seeker, Primal Guardian theme
Bracers of Archery
In the deepest part of the Crescent Forest there is a little-traveled area where the faded primeval forces of the natural world manifest themselves with some small reflection of their former power. Strange eyes watch from the undergrowth, and the trees seem aware – maybe even suspicious of intruders. Here in this wood, called the Witchgrove in the Athasian tongue by the Nibenese and Gulgan, the Lands Within the Wind lie near to Athas.
One set of eyes watching from the Witchgrove belonged to Vilsis, a member of an eladrin community tasked with preserving one of these few remaining places where the worlds overlap.
Member of this community come into adulthood facing two possible paths, learning either to harness primal energy into the martial talents and guard the Witchgrove from raiding parties, or to focus psionic practice into maintaining Athas’ lingering connection with the Lands Within the Wind. For centuries or more, the eladrin of the Witchgrove resisted against intrusions from both Nibenese loggers and Gulgan judagas rather than taking any side in the ongoing conflict between the two cities. Occasionally they offer aid and comfort to refugees and travellers who they judge to be free of malice and arcane magic.
Not long after the ceremony that inducted Vilsis as a full-fledged guardian of the Witchgrove, the community was attacked. Heavily armed soldiers, resplendent in green-and-purple Nibenese silks, closed in on the Witchgrove. From the rear of the Nibenese ranks, a woman directed the battle in a loud, clear voice, wearing only a silken dhoti draped around her waist. Defilers drained power from the forest to hurl potent spells and warriors met volleys of eladrin arrows with bone and chitin. The Nibenese were suffering tremendous losses but were in the process of overrunning the outnumbered defenders when Vilsis was gravely injured and lost consciousness.
When he awoke, he had no idea how much time had passed, and he was alone in a misty forest—he had been drawn into the Lands Within the Wind, and wondered if he was dead. He began to wander, and eventually the mists cleared and he found himself in the Crescent Forest again. But try as he might, he could find no trace of the Witchgrove—eladrin, soldiers, and grove alike had vanished, presumably into the Lands Within the Wind, and presumably forever, leaving only swaths of defiled land to mark where the Witchgrove once stood. The Witchgrove was gone, its connection with the world broken by defiling magic; Athas had lost another of its very few windows into the Lands Within the Wind.
Vilsis began to wander; he had no real idea where he was headed or how long he walked. After a time he was no longer in the forest, and after some more time he was in an area of foul, steaming pools and palm groves. Eventually, he collapsed from exhaustion, resigning himself to death.
Vilsis was too disoriented to notice that he was lying within view of a Monastery of the Exalted Path on the outskirts of Nibenay. The monks took him in and nursed him back to health, offering no sympathetic coddling but instead demanding that he find the desire to live and recover his strength himself. With nowhere else to go, Vilsis stayed on and eventually joined the faith. He was a broken man now, and the path of acceptance seemed as good a reason as any to continue living after the destruction of his home. Each day he got out of bed and accepted the tragedy he had undergone was a victory. He learned to read, joylessly, but all the monks ever read were philosophical texts.
Vilsis took to wandering Nibenay, dressed in the robes of the Exalted Path. He still felt like a zombie, unable to fully process what had happened. Time passed, and it seemed like each day the person he once was receded a little further into his past.
But then one day, while wandering in the Sky Singers market, he came upon a carved and ornate statue—a memorial of some sort, and fairly new. It depicted a topless woman, with harsh blade-like cheekbones, raising an obsidian rod. He stared closely at the carved text (which only templars and nobles could generally read):
IN HONOR OF
TEMPLAR CONSORT OF THE SHADOW KING
COMMANDER AND SOLE SURVIVOR OF THE OPERATION AGAINST DARK SPIRITS OF THE WITCHGROVE
2 GATHER, YEAR OF DESERT’S SLUMBER
Staring at the statue, thoughts which had been scattered around within him for the past year began to come together. The woman directing the battle. A templar. One of Nibenay’s wives. Nibenese soldiers. They destroyed his home. They defiled the Lands Within the Wind. They did this to him. He knew all this before, on some level, but only now was it coming together and evoking real emotion from deep within him.
He knew what the Exalted Path would say. Accept this, as you accepted it before. After all, there is no authority more complete than a sorcerer-king himself. And yet…
Shortly he was on the road, walking away from the monastery with his bare possessions, his monk’s robes folded in his cell. He had said goodbye to nobody. Was he on a path to find peace away from Nibenay, or a path to find allies and power so he could return and achieve vengeance? He wasn’t sure. Tyr was as good a destination as any—newly free from the sorcerer-kings, full of adventurers looking for adventure. He could find a job, but the money wasn’t important; either he would find the tools to enact his vengeance, or he would meet his death.
Arriving in Tyr at the height of Liberation Day festivities, Vilsis observed the state of the city—so different than a city under a sorcerer-king. He began to look around for adventure, and soon heard that House Shom was hiring adventurers for an important task. He let it be known that he was interested and, on the day after Liberation Day, was asked to come to the Golden Inix tavern (a part of the Anzo’s Pleasure Argosy complex in the Caravan District) to meet with House Shom’s representative.
Psychic conversation between Vilsis and Zindriel:
“What is this, Vilsis? Why do your defiler friends still walk my hallways under their own power? Are you so fickle as to put a little temporary loyalty to those who effected the ruin of Athas…before loyalty to your origins?”
“Your claim that you were seeking a return to the Land Within the Winds – a journey I haven’t thought possible since I was a child. But I also know that my people spent ages in the Witchgrove seeking the path back to our home and never found it. I need more than blind faith in a stranger to believe again. As a sign of good faith, I sacrificed the dwarf merchant – a money-worshiping slaver who cares nothing for the fate of our world. My loyalty to the Feywild is my first priority, but I need more than a vague promise to convince me that giving up my companions will help bring about our return. How can I know you aren’t just maintaining an army of slaves for your own gain? If you truly seek the Land Within the Winds, then share your plan with me.”
Your Insight reveals that Zindriel’s psionic voice is dripping with disdain.
“Each grain of sand I pile up here in the Mahindrazal increases my power. Each defiler life that becomes my servant increases it even more. I am building power, grain by grain, life by life. When I have enough, I will consume this corrupted world and wipe it free of arcanism, of defiling, and of those who support it. And I see my circle of allies grow smaller and smaller each passing year, as they throw their lot in with the defilers. Once the elves were protectors of the Lands Within the Wind, but when Albeorn of Brunswich wielded arcane powers against them in the Cleansing War, they were all too eager to learn it and turn it back against him. Even you eladrin, when faced with the forces of Tectuktitlay** the Eladrin Annihilator, chose to withdraw into your paltry little pockets of the Lands Within the Wind instead of fighting back. The Hill of Dancing Lights…the Witchgrove…Sorrow’s Glen***…and more…all tolerated the existence of defilers, even helping travellers from time to time instead of taking the fight into the cities of the sorcerer-kings. All rejected my way, and all were eventually destroyed. Yes, your folk in the Witchgrove spurned me! You called me Unseelie, called me Destroyer*, and drove me away. And where are your folk now?
“There is no rest, no peace, no redemption. Only when the defilers and their supporters are destroyed or enslaved can the Lands Within the Wind return to Athas. Once there were no boundaries between the Lands and this world; I can make this time come again.
“You claim to be interested in return to the LWW, but your actions belie your words. You travel with four defilers, and when I asked you to claim them for me as a test, you did not. You are a typical eladrin—unwilling to go as far as necessary.”
Given your History skill:
* You have vaguely heard of Tectuktitlay, who is the sorcerer-king of Draj.
** You remember hearing stories of how, hundreds of years ago, a dark fey spirit attacked the Witchgrove with an army of servitors. The eladrin called her Shivandrazal (“Destroyer” in Elven) and repelled her, though not without losses. You do not know much more; it is a story from the Witchgrove’s history, and one of many stories of attacks and adventures.
* Eladrin holdfasts you’ve heard of; the Hill of Dancing Lights was destroyed by defilers many years ago; you don’t know much about Sorrow’s Glen and have really just heard the name.
Dreams in the Dragon-House
You are in the red-clay mountains of Altaruk, looking upward at the empty sky. And there, in the distance, the monstrous winged form of the Dragon, gliding eastward.
Your heart stops as the Dragon swings its head around and looks directly at you, fixing you with its horrifying gaze. You notice that one whole side of its face is terrible mutilated and scarred, and it is missing an eye.
You are in Nibenay, dressed in the robes of the Exalted Path. You are wandering, but why? Then you realize you are in the Sky Singers market, standing beneath a statue of Sovannary, the templar-wife who led the assault on the Witchgrove. As you watch, the statue’s stone head moves, and it is looking at you. Like the Dragon, the side of its face is mutilated and scarred, and it is missing an eye.
There is a grinding noise, and you see that the statue’s stony fingers have shifted. In its stone hand is a beautiful brown chestnut. Your eyes travel further down and you see that there is movement beneath the statue’s stony feet. An enormous centipede writhes on the pedestal as one bare-carved stone foot daintily crushes it into the rock, its purple blood dripping across the rock.
You look up again and the statue’s face has changed. It is no longer Sovannary. It is Zindriel. She smiles. You turn and flee from that awful smile, and suddenly you are dressed in simple, comfortable clothing. You’re holding a small bone blade on the end of a long stick and pruning a beautiful tree with spreading branches. There are many such trees around you as you look about, and a small garden. You feel at home here on this small patch of land, and you realize that not since the destruction of the Witchgrove have you felt like you belonged to a place. In the distance, beyond the hills, you can see the city of Tyr.
Then you are nowhere again, and you see an ocean of frothing water. It smells fresh and salty, and it is so loud—birds scream overhead, and in the churning waters you can see brilliantly-colored animals and plants in a thousand bizarre forms. The ocean swells, and it begins to flood over plains, mountains, deserts, and cities, rushing through the streets and subsuming the buildings and people.
Then it dries up, leaving a salt crust behind on everything. Nothing moves, nothing is alive, just white salt-covered structures. The drying and withering continues, and the mountains and trees and buildings crumble to grey ash, blowing away in the wind, until there is nothing left but black defiled plains as far as the eyes can see.