Dawn’s first rays broke through the window as Ja’Deir’s consciousness reached its first tendrils out toward the 28 humans around him. As the light shone through his furry eyelids, he counted the presences within the limits of the small hamlet he’d appeared in during the night: 13 females, 11 over lunar age; 15 males, 10 adults; No supernatural beings; all good.
Ja’Deir couldn’t remember for the life of him what happened during the last day, but from what he could tell, he was taken from CrIsis when the one whose place he held returned from his studies in the middle of the ocean, and woke up this morning, the 9th day of the 6th month, in his old familiar hamlet in the north of Ophid’s Grasslands.
This cozy little hamlet whose name Ja’Deir intentionally removed from his memory sits nestled comfortably between the open Orphid’s Grasslands and the Northern Forests. The region is littered with villages like it. Hundreds of villages each with a small handful of cottages, a smithy, a marketplace for the local farmers and assorted craftsmen to sell their wares, and one main road, each so isolated as to create a paradise for one such as Ja’Deir. Everyone knows everyone, and has helped raise each other’s children, fix broken wagons, repair leaky roofs, and consoled each other when one of their number leaves them forever.
Such a place would be perfect, too, for refugees. Ja’Deir has thought this dozens of times, but is afraid that simply sending hundreds of people to a formerly uncharted and virgin land would sound the drums of war and call the hordes of the Dark down upon the simple peoples. Such a thing would crush Ja’Deir. Mr. and Mrs Hawthorne, the Inkeepers, and those like them, have never seen anything like open conflict. The closest they come is a family feud, like the one between the warring farmers’ families McHats and Coyfields.
Though, a dozen or so refugees, entrusted to a single person sworn with the secrecy of the location, might be worth the safety of key allies of the War.
The cock crowed outside the window and Ja’Deir was jolted to full consciousness. He opened his eyes, and looked around the dimly lit and sparsely appointed Inn Room that had been appropriated to him by Mr. Hawthorne. Golden light bathed a single thick bar from the base of the window, across the top of the large chest for his belongings, across the weathered wooden floor whose cracks and knots were perfectly visible in such scrutinizing light, and spilling onto the wall next to the door. Motes of dust played through it, and the warped wash stand with its crooked and cracked mirror were illuminated by its sheer force of will, reflecting even off of the dark wood. Ja’Deir got up, yawned squeakily, and walked to the mirror to wash his face.
He still warred within himself to scrub his face dozens of times till he scraped his fur off – A compulsion bestowed upon him due to the unfortunate scrying experience he had several months back. He succeeded in only washing his fur six times, that’s 3 less than the day before… or two days before?… but 1 more than the day before that. He sighed to himself and walked back to the center of the room, in the center of the golden ray of dawn, and started his Daily Mudras and Mantras, his form of prayer to the gods. While he did this, he cleared his head of all thought and his body of all worry and injury.
His hands clasped together like the “chapel with all the people inside” he’d seen some of the children do, fore fingers together and pointed up, fingers interlocked and hidden between the hands, and thumbs parallel to the fore fingers. His feet were planted perpendicular to each other, left foot pointed forward, left knee slightly bowed, and his hands moved forward and out – If it were faster anyone seeing it would recognize it as a fighting form of a Jab or Thrust. ‘’ Rin! o’ṃ baishira mantaya sowaka. All hail the Vajra – the diamond thunderbolt of glory and sacrifice, o’ṃ’’ Ja’Deir intoned, almost as if speaking from far off, the sound barely reaching the window.
His hands moved, changed shape, as did his arms, legs, torso, tail, and head, preparing to enter the second Mudra. They took their form, and he intoned, ‘’Pyo o’ṃ ishanaya intaraya sowaka. All hail the instrument of divine righteousness, o’ṃ’’
Ja’Deir spent the next few days catching up with his beloved friends in the Hamlet. They threw a celebration, complete with a slaughtered pig and a Maypole. They begged him to play his Guitar, a skill he hadn’t had the last time he refuged there, and even though there were more sour chords than harmonious ones they all clapped and danced. It was a celebration of Friendship, but also a farewell. Ja’Deir had to leave within a few days for the Library of Bletherad.
He set off on foot through the Northern Forests, and barely made it through, despite his expertise. The dark places in the world have gotten wilder, more feral. Ja’Deir could almost hear the earth’s essence crying to him about the conflict between the Pantheons of Ra and Taut, and of the Rift in the Lands of the Damned, causing all things to spiral out of balance.
It took nearly two months to reach Sinza, home of Duke Minischmee, and cousin to Overkill. Only a day could be stolen to reminisce with him and his wife, the High Priestess . They were able, though, to bargain his passage on a merchant vessel bound for Haven.
The next three months were grueling, ‘’as a life of a scurvy-ridden swab’s should be,’’ or so said Captain Morgana on more than one occasion. She was a Changeling, in the form of a beautiful woman, and made up for her form’s stigmas with a heavy hand on the Cat o’ Nine Tails. Ja’Deir survived the trip with only a few new scars. She deserved the crabs he left her in her drawers, though. She needed a smile on her face – the scarring around her eyes and mouth were less noticeable that way.
Finally, on the fourteenth day of the eleventh month of the One Hundred and Twelfth year of the reign, Ja’Deir arrived at his destination –
The Library of Bletherad!
Ja’Deir spent a week trying to convince the inestimable Malkin Falimede that the only way to be a powerhouse is to be able to bend. A great oak that cannot bend to the wind, like the willow, will be torn asunder by the great storms. So, too, the river bends and flows around the rigid rocks in its bed. The rocks lose the battle in time, and the water is unaffected by its passing.
Malkin was already planning on repairing the bridge… it was due to the work of all of CrIsis’ efforts, though Ja’Deir had his suspicions it was also in part due to the deliciously inventive aspirations of the young Alchemist, suing for help to create a… University? Though, he isn’t sure what a “study of all” would produce, other than a phenomenal waste of time.
The aged scholar agreed to help CrIsis again, and took Ja’Deir under his wing to teach him the impossible to perfect art of true research and scholarship.
During the next month, Ja’Deir met and became enamored with a mysterious Ashada Scholar Monk by the name of Vesuvia. Such a story deserves a journal entry all its own, and as such it won’t be featured here, but suffice to say he should have studied more diligently under Malkin’s tutelage.
A month later, with a true scholar like Malkin to teach him, Ja’Deir was able to be tentatively considered a fledgling scholar’s research aide.
The morning dawned like most on the Island, with a salty yet refreshing breeze coming up off the beach, magically cleaned by apprentice priests and wizards regularly as part of a payment plan Malkin worked out with a few local groups.
The night before, Malkin told Ja’Deir that he was finished with his tutorship, and that today he could start research on whatever he wished. Having heard of the Skull that was rumored to be in the hands of Modeus, the Lord of Hades, he wanted to prepare CrIsis for its harrowing foray into the Depths of the Abyss. He started by asking the Rambler where he should start, or which book would be the best option, and the wily bard merely reflected the question back on him. Isn’t the Teacher also a resource in the Student’s control? Wouldn’t that be using his time and resources wisely? No, of course not! The Student must waste his time skipping over the shortcuts.
Hours later, Ja’Deir finally found something – a book titled “To Hades and Back: A Traveler’s Tale.” Though, upon opening the book he encountered a visage of a demon’s gruesome mug, and it scared him to such a degree that he puts the book back and leaves the research for an entire week. During said week, he helped Vesuvia in her research.
Finally having built up the courage to return to his research, he went back to that book, and tried again, but he still couldn’t get past that damned devilish demon’s face. So, he moved on to another book, Hades: Home of the Demons; A comprehensive compendium of the Underworld and her denizens, by Cearl Glebba. This seemed to be exactly what ja’Deir was looking for. It detailed perfectly the geo-political, sociological, psychological, and cultural structures of Hades. It wasn’t just a black pit filled to bursting with mindless, drooling hordes. For instance, the caste system was set up as follows: Slave; slave master; sub demons; demon worshippers / witches / “mortals”; The Fallen; Minion/lesser demon; Demon task master; Master/Greater Demon; Duke/Marquis; Prince/Princess; Demon Lords. Modeus is the highest of the Demon Lords, but still only one of eighteen. The slavery has its own entire section in the book.
One harrowing thought passed Ja’Deir’s mind as he committed it to his perfect memory, if all demons are returned to Hades when they are ‘killed,’ do you kill them permanently if you kill them there, or are they invincible while there, impossible to kill? If so, how do you survive? Incapacitation would thereby be the answer, but how would we be able to tear some of the more bloodthirsty in the group from Demon murdering?
Reading the foreward, written by Rod Rambler, lauding it as the most complete book on Demons, Ja’Deir couldn’t help but utter an acidic “smarmy git” in his general direction, locked in his room inventing or some such.
The remainder of the month was dedicated to further research on Hades and Demons, and it nearly consumed the frail Ashada. Here is an excerpt from his notes he took as he researched the books he later committed to memory.
“Travelling Hades, the Forrest of Stone. Winzer Hadelbub
Trees are Petrified stone, Grwoing no more than 1k feet, trunks as thick as large house, branches are thicker than some bridges.
Gurgoyles, gargoyles, etc. are everywhere.
no solid ground, only stone branches.
light is only from rivers and streams of lavaa that cut through the forrest
Gas vents are identified by a discoloration of a nearby tree, or a pile of bones. Hidden
Fire Rain and Acid Rain are dangers as well.
“Stay under the Larger Branches… but don’t get crushed.”
Acid Monsoon season. During the months of Algor and Gryphon. Never try to travel through Stone Forest.
Demon’s Gate. Does not know where it leads. Armies of demons leaving through."
"Book- The Death Mire- Land of Modeus
Author- Winzer Hadelbub (Translated into Elven)
Capital of Hades. Huge swamp, rotting trees, orb-shaped Pod plants, and blood dripping trees called Blood Weepers. Lakes in the region burn, or are acidic, or are tar pits. The area is covered in fire jets. Quicksand is prevalent as well. Fire geysers and steam vents are also in many places. The weather, when “nice” is 100-120 degrees, but Fire Rain, Acid Rain, and Lightning Storms are all common. This is the area that has the largest population of Demon Locusts. Modeus lives in a castle in the only city in the Death MIre, Zaglore Bog. The city itself is surrounded by groves of Pod Plants and Blood Weeper trees.
The castle is in the center of the city, and is built within a husk of some Great Tree- 7 spires rise out of this ruined husk. "
“Book-Tartarus- A Study
Author- None given (Translated into Elven)
The southernmost continent in Hades, has 6 regions. Eastern Fire Planes, Sulfur Pits, Desert of Taut, Death Mire, Pit of the Damned, Thorn Forest. Mostly dry and hot, with average temp of 120. 150 is not unheard of in the Desert. This continent holds the majority of the Demon Lords and their minions. "