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The Coming of the Astar Uln, Part 5

“And if you lose em, don’t bother coming back. Bunch of damned fools that should know better. Who the hell would leave paradise? Everything you need, and you all run off to some demon spawned shit hole”

Drugar looked over his creations, pride showing on his face despite his bluster. The gods had gathered on the edge of the storm and had split off into two groups: those that would go and those that would stay. For those that would leave, Drugar had crafted a gift to help them on their way. He presented them, one by one.

To Mishtil, he gave a bag of seeds so that she may spread the healing herbs of Yurilda where ever she went. As she excitedly accepted the pouch, he produced a helm he had hidden behind his back, sized for her small head. It would allow her to hear the thoughts of those she gazed upon, so that she may diagnose diseases of the mind as easily as those of the body. Mishtil accepted it with a squeel of delight.

To Silwyn, he gave shoes made of the softest leather. They would be comfortable across one million miles,  yet never would she feel a single stone beneath her feet. She would be able to stride long and fast for all of her days. She accepted it with her head bowed down, her cheeks flushed.

To Druhaus, he gave a pouch, tanned and seamless. That which went in it would never be that which came out. She accepted it and immediately begun to inspect the small sack. She turned it over and over in her hands, occasionally bringing it to her nose to sniff the tanned leather.

To Venul, he gave a perfectly round sphere of lapis. When it caught the light, it appeared to hold all of the night sky in its infinite reach. When anyone gazed upon the bearer of the stone, they would be filled with such vulnerability that they would never be able to raise a hand in anger. She accepted it from Drugar as he knelt before her in subjugation despite himself. He shed a tear when her soft hands brushed against his.

To Tadis, he gave a mask and a spear carved from the very wood of the Tadilisus tree itself. The mask would allow Tadis to become any beast they lay eyes on in this new world. They would be able to speak as the animals spoke and understand their words. The spear was that of the hunt. It would never miss its mark when thrown, providing the company with food for their journey. Tadis lay down their  sickle and basket before Druhaus so that they may accept the new items. They seemed to shed age as they did, their feral aspect seeming more animal than plant now.

Markkesh strode in front of them and crossed his arms, standing proud. His gaze was stern, though not unkind. He looked from one to the next, as if taking their measure. His eyes lingered on Tadis. He spoke to those assembled, his voice unwavering.

“I do not agree with what it is you do. Samsarras already has part of us in it’s seas and forests, in its black smiths and lovers. It also has death and disease. It has war and apathy. There are dark thing there that will want to hurt you, children of Yurilda. Know that I am in every drop of water. I will see you. I am master of the storm and wave and they are master of me. I will keep you safe, if I can. When you understand the nature of your folly, you will return home to us. I look forward to that day.”

Markkesh embraced them each in turn. His arms were cold and strong. When he reached Tadis, he hesitated for a moment. The nature god pulled him close, holding the back of his head with surprising tenderness.

“To you, I wish love, Nature god. If Venul deems you find such amongst these elves, I bid you stay in that strange place forever. May the beasts and trees sing of your coming.”

The gods broke off into groups of twos and threes. Each said good byes in their own fashion. The gods of Yurilda were close before they ever came to Samsarras. There were tears and gruff words, handshakes and embraces. Though many thought it foolish to go, they still loved their fellows.

“Remember the agreement, sister. Bring them magic, but do not impede upon their choice. They can use it to lift themselves up and instill order, or to break things apart. I know that which you desire.”

Druhaus stared back and Mugan, nodding her head incessantly.

“Yes, yes, yes, yes. That is it, Mugan. If they have choice, it is already chaos. We are twins, but I am still older by moments. Remember that.”

Mugan sighed in reply and embraced his sister. She stiffened up at first before relaxing into his arms.

“I can’t exist without you, Druhaus. Be careful.”

“You are a small part of me, brother. You’re always with me.”

A series of quick claps got everyone’s attention. All eyes turned to Brenisch, the source of the noise.

“It is time now, I think. Yes, I feel the song in me. This will be my best performance. You will all weep with its sound, to be certain. It bubbles up warmly in my heart into my throat.”

Brenisch raised the wine skin to his lips and drank deeply. He let out a satisfied sigh as the burgundy liquid dripped through his short stubbly beard. He raised his arm to dab at it with the sleeve of his loose tunic and watched as the five of them prepared to go into the storm.

The first few notes were soft and slow, striking a somber tone. They were simple, but powerful, almost silencing the storm itself for a moment. There was a long moment of quiet as the last one settled in before he began building the melody in earnest. Brenisch sang of ancient times that had not yet come to pass and the last light of the sun. He sang of what would be when the first Tadilisus tree died and the seed it would leave to start again. His song was older than any whose ears it reached, yet it had never been sung before.

Many secrets were woven into its lyrics, though any who heard them understood them not, even he who recited them.

Mishtil jumped first with a slight squeal of glee. The companions watched as the wind caught her and threw her into the storm. Try as they might, she was soon lost from sight as the grayness of the maelstrom obscured her small body. All knew she was safe, however, for Brenisch’s song did not waver.

Venul was next. Perched on the edge of the void, she spread her arms wide, leaving herself completely open to it. It imbued all who saw her with a sense of loss and pain to know that she would soon be gone. Without looking back, she simply fell forward, her arms still spread like a bird who wanted to take flight. Then she too was out of view.

The somber mood was suddenly broken as Silwyn came running through the assembled gods. The Goddess of Travel pushed Drugar out of the way as the rest of the gods laughed in astonishment at the display. She never broke stride as she lept from the edge into the swirling winds and rain.

Tadis and Markkesh stared at each other for a lingering moment, their hands folded together. There was much the two gods had never said to each other, but this was not the moment for that. Silently, they both feared that perhaps it never would be. Without a word, they released the others hand. Tadis walked backwards, their eyes never leaving the assembled gods as they stepped off the edge of the cliff.

“This is it, sister. You are the last one.”

Druhaus stared at the storm, and uncharacteristic look of terror in her eyes. Her mouth moved up in down in time to the rhythm as she chewed her cheek. She ran her fingers through her short blue hair.

“It calls to me, Mugan. I can hear it’s whispers.”

A rye smile appeared on his lips.

“Come now, sister. I’ve never seen you afraid before! Brenisch can not waver. You watched the storm since we began. Go to it now. It is time.”

“Yes, brother. You are right about that. It is time. Good bye.”

The Goddess of Magic shuffled up the the storm, using her staff as support. She looked frail and old. The air suddenly hung thick with anxiety as a sense of dread pervaded the assembled mass. Brenisch sang now of stories half finished and journeys never completed. He was nearing the end of his song.

Suddenly, the God of Poetry’s voice wavered and produced a single jagged note. He struggled to regain the melody as Druhuas stepped from the ledge.

Mugan was already in motion, running to his sister as his fingers traced arcane symbols into the still air. His words clashed with the song, creating dry dissidence and unexpected harmonies. He reached her moments too late, his hand sweeping downwards to grab hers, but returning empty. He hesitated for less than a second before jumping after her, his spell never ceasing. The winds caught them both, ripping them every which way.

They would never reach Samsarras. ‘

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Digging in the Sand

Bones. So many bones. How many people have been buried here?

You find a rusty long sword and a small, golden vulture head worth 250 gp.

Red Sand

The sand here on the edge of the sacrificial ground is loose and looks recently churned.

Vulture Priest

The Vulture Priests are the enemy of knowledge and enlightenment. They seek to bring the eternal silence, the end of all things. Decay and obedience is their only god.

Armor Class 6 [13]
Hit Dice 1 (4hp)
Attacks 1 × Beak (1d4 or by weapon)
THAC0 19 [0]
Movement 120’ (40’)
Saving Throws D12 W13 P14 B15 S16 (1)
Morale 8 (11 when at their temple)
Alignment Lawful
XP 10 
Number Appearing 2d4 (1d6 × 10)
Treasure Type D
Immune to the Divine: The spells and powers of clerics and paladins have no effect on them.
Weapons: They frequently use wickedly curved daggers, which they use for sacrificial purposes.
Soul Clouders: There is a 10% chance that any Vulture Priest can use the sleep spell once per day. The targets are still awake, but they are beset by such a deep depression that it has the same effect as sleep. They may only watch what unfurls around them.