The Darkness Between Stars
The Oracle's Questions
The message comes to each in their own place, whether within the inner walls of the great cities, in a no-name hovel best forgotten, deep in the wilds where few tread, or the many places in between.
A speaker of the Drifting Feather, clad in purple robes bearing the icon of the open mouth, finds them where prying eyes cannot see, enters a trance, and speaks the words entrusted to it, “I have a task for you. You have a belief about the way and the order of the world. I will show you how this world truly is. If you wish to see the truth of this world, dissolve all relations to your community, renounce all titles, sever all ties, and come to me at the Temple of the Amber Oracle.”
Those that accept are handed a pouch containing sufficient coin for travel, a small amber pebble, and instructions to seek out a vessel docked in Kantan. The many travelers set out to find their way to the lawless city that rings the walled enclave of the followers of Lir and Sa-Nah-Gig. Along the way, the amber stones seem to grow slightly warm at times, and occasionally turn painfully cold.
The outer circle of Kantan proves to be an ideal place for those seeking an escape from their past to disappear. Its multitude of lawless slums and districts ruled by the dispossessed enable those gathered to lay low while the appointed date draws near. On the date given, a large, well worn, but seaworthy fishing boat, guided by a beastman shaman, arrives at the dock. Those that have taken the oracle’s offer arrive at the docks throughout the day.
The gnarled beastman shaman, asks the questions to each as they approach the gangplank, “You’ve come to journey to the Oracle? Do you have the token the speaker gave you?”
Each is secreted aboard, feeling their amber tokens growing comfortably warm. The gathered come along many paths, and from many backgrounds. There is Glysh, who has been in seclusion since Lir’s rebirth, one of the last disciples of the Initiates of the Dawn, a student of the martyr Menser. Next is Bulwark, an Ancient arcane forged guardian, who has wandered the lands with his companion, chronicling its history. The dragonborn, Atlas, who has relinquished his title in servitude to Lir, and now heads the oracles call. From the inner circle of Kantan come Taranis and Lo Shun. The first is an immortal servant created by Lir herself, while the later is a one of the bloodline of Pa Dir from within the church of Sa-Nah-Gig. Ophelia Pain, a cast-out entertainer from Benn, arrives decked in an array of shiny baubles and costume gems. Later in the day, a tall robed woman with her hood drawn low over her brow and a massive bow slung over her shoulders; the Ancient ranger, Nuerinim, silently slips aboard. Close behind her comes Myllandra, mistress of rituals and navigator of Lir’s seas. INSERT BIT ABOUT JIM"S CHARACTER
Until the vessel sets sail at midnight, the gathered are mostly silent, unsure of who each other are, and why they have been called to the temple of the Amber Oracle. Once the vessel is underway, the shaman navigator discerns the course with aid of his familiar and numerous other spirits of the sea, and then sends word below deck that the voyage will take at least thirty days. The accommodations are meager, the food is adequate, and the conversation is strained at best.
A few of the companions recognize one another. The legend of Glysh, one of the original Keepers of Lir, is know to many of Lir’s followers or those studying the history of the Goddess’s rebirth. Taranis and Lo Shun, being members of the inner circle of their respective religions, are also recognized by some. Bulwark takes the most interest in the trio, spending his time having brief conversations, that seem more like friendly interrogations. All of this happens against the backdrop of musty fishing gear and Ophelia Pain’s full repertoire of raucous show tunes and tales of her lurid escapades.
The voyage is uneventful, and the vessel docks at a small hamlet deep in the Amber Isles. The hamlet is nearly deserted, and consists mostly of a tavern moonlighting as a small shop, a few dilapidated hovels, and a string of barely functioning docs; a gathering of beastmen warriors stand at-ease with heavy packs slung over their shoulders. Mist shrouds the mountains rising in the background.
The shaman bids everyone to take shelter withing the tavern, and as the boat’s occupants debark, Taranis stops to talk with one of the beastmen who are preparing to board. The man has a soldier’s stature, and based on the smell of his breath, a soldier’s appetite for cheap liquor.
Taranis pauses to talk to the man, “You must be servants of the Oracle. Is he sending you abroad in her service?”
He gets a hearty laugh in return, and a brief reply, “Nay, she has released us. We have fulfilled our clans’ obligations, and we are free to go.”
As the troop begins their ascent, Taranis gives a parting word, “If you’re looking for more soldiering work, call upon Lir’s faithful at Kantan. The goddess has need of strong arms and sharp swords.”
Inside the tavern, the tavern keeper is busy gutting, scaling, and filleting fish.
He pauses only briefly to serve Kryn a drink without washing his hands, saying, “Don’t worry. Ain’t nothing in a fish that this won’t kill.”
After Kryn has enough drink to banish any memory he may have had of the voyage, the party settles in to make small talk with the tavern keeper. He’s mostly tight lipped, but confesses that most of the guards have been released and it has been a very long time since anyone has called upon the Oracle. She has been forgotten. Shortly thereafter, as dusk sets in, a wizened Ko-Kree wearing faded and mud spattered robes of the Amber Beast Clan, enters.
“My apologies for keeping you waiting. I have come to escort you to the Oracle. Her temple is high in the mountains, and it is too dangerous to journey at night. We will leave at dawn.”, he states bluntly, before nodding to the inn-keeper and retiring to one of the many vacant and sparse rooms.
Everyone retires to shelter either in the tavern or among the remaining abandoned shacks, biding their time until tomorrow’s trek, and regaining their land legs. Taranis gathers a Bulwark, Myllandra and asks their assistance in a ritual he wishes to perform.
They agree, and he uses their arcane abilities to assist in listening to the rumors carried on the winds of the town and asks, “Why has the Oracle discharged her guards?”.
A few moment later, he mumbles “The Amber Oracle is dying.”.
As expected, the Ko-Kree envoy rouses everyone just before dawn and bids them to follow him along a muddy trail leading into the mist shrouded peaks. The trek is a full day of forced marching up into the fog covered peaks, concluding at a box canyon that holds the five story amber temple at its terminus. A single light shines from an upper story window.
The massive stone double doors of the temple swing outward and another Ko-Kree envoy comes forth, bowing deeply, and asking to see the amber tokens, before instructing those gathered to remain absolutely silent inside the Oracle’s temple, or she shall never speak again.
A silent procession is led inside by the new envoy, and upwards to the room housing an elaborate cabinet, which he reverently opens.
Inside the cabinet, the head of the oracle stares outward. She looks everyone over and then speaks, saying, “Thank you for coming and risking so much. My curse is coming to an end. For 7000 years I could only answer the questions of those that petitioned me. Tonight I will ask you each three questions, and then be released into the embrace of death. Taranis, if you would, please carry me aloft, so I might feel the tears of Lir before I pass.”.
Taranis acquiesces to her request and carries he out to the upper story balcony and holds her aloft, as the amber encasing her begins to crumble.
She speaks her final words, “Lir has not been truly resurrected. If Lir has been restored, why does she cry and remain silent? What power drives the edifices of Harzon?”, growing weak in voice as the amber crumbles, and concluding, “What is the truce between the three gods?”.
Bulwark meticulously records the words in his journal, as the oracles amber shell shatters, skin flaking off and skull disintegrating into dust. Myllandra invokes Last Sight on the skull to determine who, if anyone, was here before the party and then gathers the crumbling relic as ritual materials with Taranis’s assistance.
A impromptu camp is set in the entryway of the temple, and discussions begin about what the oracle’s words meant and how to proceed. The discussions are interrupted with a booming thud on the door. Bulwark shoulders the door open, revealing one of the Ko-Kree servants impaled on a massive spike, and begins marching forth into the night to confront the unknown assailants.
Far in the distance, beyond the envoy’s tent and cooking fire, four figures in leather robes stand ready. The center figure casts aside it’s leather robes, revealing a metal body, with green glyphs float around its head, and a sword of flame extending from its arm.
He calls out, “By the concordance of our contract, you have been marked for assassination.”
Into – “The Relentless”, the most feared assassins in all of the Lir cluster.
Johnny has combat notes.