I refit into the Silent Oracle, her codes still active in some quirky database of GalNet. Reports of Thargoid attacks were appearing all over civilized space and opportunity abounded for entrepreneurs such as myself. With the barest inkling of a plan I set off to see what kind of adventure I could find.
Cult of the Malformed Fork Posts
When the priest threw incense into the brazier, I was expecting a vision. A sight among sights, perhaps a shred of inner-peace.
Instead I was introduced to Gre’thor. Complete with Fek’lhr. A very vivid Fek’lhr.
Space is vast. Impossibly vast. With shades in every flavor of the rainbow.
The Errant Song had been patrolling nebulae in search of probable colony sites when we happened into system. Without a pressing schedule it was an opportune time to indulge in deep-system scans to further our research goals.
The casual rush of water coming in from overhead covered the noise of nearby conversations too well. While I tried to maintain a level of anonymity it was hard to do so and discern who I might be trapped with. A handful of Humans, a couple Elves and a scattering of the shorter folk all made this refuge our home for the moment.
Some of the braver folk had scouted ahead and reported patrols, Kobolds brandishing crude weapons and a scattering of goblins working a great pit. Nobody could tell what they were mining for which made some more nervous. The air was quiet and lacked any of the telltale markers of mystical pooling common in some caverns.
I disliked a stand-up fight. I was much more inclined to subterfuge and trickery but the circumstances looked worse the longer I sat there. Pulling about me a cloak of Invisibility I set to seeing for myself what these goblins were up to..
I awoke without much fanfare. The skull around my soundly ringing mind ached like I’d been on a three-day binge again. The looks from my companions in the dim cave gave the impression I wasn’t alone and their feeble groans confirmed it. One of them spoke of Kobolds while I looked to myself. A quick enchantment in the dark ensured none would know too much of me before I was ready to share.
As the pain subsided it came back to me, a fog peeling slowly away revealing truth. Kobolds had attacked a handful of refugees, myself included. Captured for slave labor we were drug through dark maze-like tunnels to a prison of sorts.
Not that any of this had worried me. I’d been in trickier predicaments and I’d yet to find a prison that could hold me for longer than a hand of Kelethin Folly.
..wait.. never heard of Kelethin Folly? Oh, remind me when we can taste fresh sea air again and I’ll show you how.
Time is never still. It flows, ebbs and wanes. In the depths lurk shadows of untold behemoths, ideologies that should have faded in ages dark. Phantoms that grew on the supple detritus what drifted away from stable shores.
Had you told me this, I would never have believed you. But I have seen them.
My steps in the timeline are not without guile, hubris my eternal foe. I tread paths I have followed a hundred times. Each step careful, measured. Each breath held until the perfect moment. My quest for a simple thread what could lead us back to salvation. Though I fear my own actions pushed us toward an inevitable fate worse than imagined.
I can’t tell you how many I watched fall in my endless pursuit. A meager blur on every iteration.
Everstone, Fragments of Eternity, circa 3031
When I awoke in Paragon City I was wracked by anger. Furious though I did not know who or what could have elicited such ire. In the aftermath of my recollection I like to think I understood. Though I’ll admit I probably am missing some cosmic needle in the stack, some full accounting of actions that resulted in my catastrophe.
With an unusual new power over Time I chased my legacy through the eons. From the vaunted halls of New Rome to the annals of the Precambrian Era. No shred of my beginning, nor my ultimate fate could be discovered. No birth records, no death certificates. I had ceased to exist as a member of any timeline. I had destroyed my own causality.
Within the depths of the Temporal Ocean I saw a force, a darkness so profound I have returned to the shores of Paragon City to rescue those who have fallen or been forgotten from the tempest of Time. To forge an alliance of those who could face this darkness and aide in it’s defeat.
Time has it’s permutations, the ghosts of our past haunt us even today. The legacy of the Roman Empire echoes for millennia with it’s accomplishments. How we regard those ghosts colors how we’re seen to future generations and sets the tone for the continued haunting.
Dark Astoria is talked about for generations though largely forgotten thanks to the efforts of early-21st Century heroes who fought the growing menace under it’s streets. I like to think I did my part, disrupting ritual sites. Not glamorous work, but necessary.
Melog lurched carefully behind me, my wife nestled in his massive rocky arms like a slumbering child. His thundering feet trod the path behind us as I lead the way to our ritual site. A small cairn deep in one of the parks that nestled between the towering heights of Paragon City.
The stars twinkled above, setting the stage for sorceries of a rare sort. A backdrop to my hubris manifest.
The Circle of Thorns number among some of the most dedicated and depraved practitioners you’ll ever read about. Readily known for kidnapping select bloodlines and robbing museums of antiquities, their antics have become so common it borders on comical were it not so dire. Possession of any part of the Malleus Mundi is prone to attract their attention and it did just that. As I slid into the third hour of my incantation they sprung to attack.
Energies had been coalescing around me for some time, the very essence of elemental forces seeping off the stone as it hung suspended in air above my prone wife. As the night moved into morning and the witching hours chimed, I could feel something slip free, the stone was releasing more than simple earthen motes, some inner nuance was coming loose. This revelation invigorated me and renewed my stamina for the last phase of the spell. Then they struck.
Melog was craft of one purpose, to serve me. His instincts mirrored my desire and as the hooded malcontents crawled up the hillside he rushed to meet them head on. He is but one servitor and the Circle never travel alone. As a handful of lessor acolyte were countered by Melog’s rigid girth, a more seasoned wizard circumvented his physique and snaked his way to my shrine.
This was all it took, my attention was pulled at a crucial moment and while for a time I thought I could hold the energies in suspension, I was proven wrong. The light released as my grip lessened was blinding, the roar deafening. I never know what happened next. The spell spiraled out of control and tendrils of unrestrained energy snaked around the hillside eradicating acolytes, Melog and finally.. me..
Time alone mended the wounds of my mind and a quiet moment of recall was all needed to understood my error. As a sorcerous master I was upon the verge of joining a cabal of others, whose vaunted ranks dedicated to help guide the mystically inclined within Paragon City. My tutelage garnished me with great power over stone and this mastery my qualifying token. The High Council was to be my opus were it not for darkness that descended upon me with such fury.
My wife was stuck by illness that few could identify and fewer could name. A wasting malady capable of terrifying haste. In my anguish I sought answers, a means to use my power and save one life. A path so foolish that even now I shudder at the consequences.
The Malleus Mundi is known in many circles arcane and otherwise. It’s pages rumored to hold secrets that would unmake reality or grant godhood, the very stuff of myth among legendary beings. On select days of the year the book appears in the city and the brave, daring and insane all clamor to find it, to hold it for just long enough that a single wish might be granted. Pages tear from it, scattered by some impish forces, and offer a tantalizing taste of the power the completed manuscript might hold.
A single page is all it took for my plan to unfold. The incantation seemed simple, though it would be dangerous. Power beyond the ken of many in my field for sure, but I had to try. I would steal a measure of time from a stone, a simple century of it’s rigid existence. A gift to my wife who lay with but a handful of days remaining..