Excerpt from “Random: An Autobiography”
Now this is where it gets good. There they were, my own kin, following the strange rituals required to become an Archknight of The Church of Athos Dominus. After they told me what happened, really I think it was all just excessive. But I’ll leave the good part to the end, first let me explain what I was doing during their time in the Cathedral.
My brother Marik and I spent this time at the construction of our stronghold. Ensuring the proper use of materials and that everyone spent their time working. We received reports of strange storms brewing over the The Elysian Mountains and a complete stop of merchants travelling through them. Reports also included tales of a monstrous dragon flying over the land, resting in the mountain caves. Confident that we could deal with the dragon problem, Marik and I headed out to see what we could find. Any dragon we could find should be no problem for a powerful combination such as ourselves.
We spent several weeks exploring the local caves, with no luck. Locals in small towns told us tales of a monstrous beast flying across the ground leaving havoc in its wake, but we could find no trail of destruction nor learn of any specific deaths the dragon had caused. After over a month of a fruitless searching, we finally came upon charred cattle, killed from local livestock. A dragon’s fire had done this, no mistaking it. With this clue, we quickly located the only cave nearby that could house such a beast. We went during the day, blades in our hands and our eyes and ears alert for any sign of danger. Quite understandably, after a few moments of this I became bored and began to shout. “If there’s a dragon in here, come on out and let us get this over with!” Marik smacked me in the back of the head for the comment, but when we heard the footsteps of what could only be the dragon, it proved my tactics were quite good. We moved towards the sound, ready for battle. A sharp breath, and for a moment I felt my own mortality. Death for a demigod is not a rare instance as it once was, and I remembered my fallen brothers and those gone missing. To be slaughtered in their own home… An atrocity we would not allow Nox to get away with.
Before I could focus once more, I heard an voice that could only belong to a dragon’s tongue. “This could not be random.” It came from behind us, and we spun around to see a large creature, silhouetted in the cave. Two large dragon feet stepped forward, green scales covering the creature’s feet. He echoed his former comment, but this time there was unmistakable glee in his voice. “This could not be Random!” The dragon stepped forward into the light of our torches, and I calmed Marik. For the dragon before us was none other than Gorbash! He and I ran and embraced, much to Marik’s confusion until I filled him in. Together, the three of us left the cave and returned to the stronghold, with Gorbash explaining his story on the way.
You see, after our brother Vondal was captured by Vinsanthius, Gorbash flew off. My petrified body was left where Gorbash had last seen The Party, and he left to find his brothers and inform them of what had occurred. He spent many months trying to locate them, and eventually became disillusioned with his tracking abilities and settled in the mountain caves of The Frozen Coast. During his time, he did his best to learn the location of the demigods, as he had sworn a hundred years of servitude. However, since he lacked the ability to speak in the common tongue, he spent months flying above the cities of man and learning how to speak their language. He lived off of wild creatures of the land as well as rarely turning to cattle when hunting became too sparse. Finally after many months, Marik and I met him in his cave and we returned to the stronghold.
Now, I apologize for my lengthy explanation of my own adventures during this time. But to be fair, I think they were more exciting. That twist at the end? Masterful. Anyway, back to my brothers and sister in the Cathedral. Having just defeated the challenge of the spiders, they moved deeper down the cathedral’s chambers. Each set of stairs seemed longer than the last, bringing them far beneath the city above. As they descended onto the third trial, the party was filled with confidence. And on the third level, another puzzle faced them. Three specters stood in the room before them, A knight stood in one corner, his armor dented and rusted, but in his eyes his spirit still shined through. A beautiful maiden stood in a second corner, her long blonde hair flowing down past her lower back. Her green dress matched her eyes, filled with sorrow from deeds long past. And in the third corner stood a great bear, with blood sticking his hair in patches around his body and ferocity in his face. After some discussion with the knight and the maiden as well as Oberon using his instinctive Pixie nature to speak with the bear. It became clear that if left alone together, the knight would kill the bear, and the bear would do likewise to the maiden. The Padros appeared and told them that with seven moves, they needed to bring all three to the final door. With some quick thinking, the party was easily able to surpass the third challenge of the Padros. Onward they moved, down further into the Cathedral.
In the fourth room, a great golem stood. The creature’s stone body stood still, with a glowing key floating in the center of his chest in a great gap. The golem braced itself behind its great claymore, and spoke a riddle to the party. “You have but one word to solve. I have a riddle. Greater than Athos, Nox’s failure. This controls the luck of the dice and weakens slavers. A gnome’s love and fear, inside lies a ring. Do you know the answer to my riddle?” My brothers and sister stood stumped. They took a seat and began to discuss the possibilities. Freedom was mentioned as a possibility, as well as death. However, after quite some time, Simon Bloom’s eyes lit up. “Of course! It’s so obvious!” Standing before the golem, Simon spoke his answer. “Yes.” The golem clutched his claymore in one hand, and forced his other arm through his chest, removing the key and dropping it before Simon. With this last act, he collapsed and the party moved evermore forwards, descending deeper into the tasks of the Archknights.
Their fifth task was their most complex. I remember that this moment stuck out in my brother Anatolius’ mind. His fury lasted for weeks afterwards. In the fifth chamber stood an elderly man in the gear of an Archknight, a long white beard growing down from his face. A pile of nails and screws covered in rust sat in one pile, and a well with a small bucket a few steps away and a pile of sand sitting by its own end. The man approached the party, “You must be archknights like myself. I have been lost in this mad tunnel for so long, I can no longer keep track of time. Please help me. In order to pass, we must separate all the screws from the nails, drain the well of water using only this small bucket, and move the pile of sand grain by grain across the room. In this way, together we will pass on to the final two challenges.” With looks of disdain in their eyes, the party slowly set themselves to these menial tasks. Time ticked by, with barely any progress being made. After some time wasted, tempers flared. My brother Anatolius’ temper got the best of him, and he attacked the Archknight. Empowered by their attempts to triumph at his tasks, the Archknight took the form of a ferocious beast, and a great battle ensued. Fueled with fury and fervor, the once Archknight stood no chance, and was quickly eliminated. Two chambers remained, and each seemed to pose a greater challenge than the last.
In the sixth chamber down, three statues of great devils stood. The Padros’ illusion appeared once more, telling my siblings that this room was designed to test an Archknight’s capabilities to battle devils should they ever arise on the Realm of Athos. With that he disappeared, and a devil stepped forth from each of the statues. As every minute passed, another devil would step forward from the statues. When their spawn was slain, the statues became vulnerable and eventually were destroyed. In this way the sixth challenge fell to my brethern. And only one more barrier stood between them and the power source below them, their hopes of finding the fourth of The Great Urns grew stronger every minute. They descended down the final flight of stairs, ready for anything.
The final descent was the longest. At least three stories worth of stairs if not more. By now, the party reckoned they were deep below the Realm of Athos. When they reached the final room at last, three doors faced them rather than one. The illusion of the Padros appeared once more and spoke to them. “Enter through the center door, and Athos awaits you,” And with that, he faded away. The three doors slowly opened themselves, with distinct rooms behind them. The door further to the left held a horde of treasure. Piles of gold coins laid amist gems and armor glowing with enchantment. The door to the far right was filled with men and women in a variety of seductive clothing, and quite a few without. Each with a body that would drive a mortal wild, they stood beckoning to the party. And within the center door, spinning blades. Five layers, each spread just over a foot away from one another. “What is this? What does the Padros want from us?” Anatolius was furious. How could they have come so far just to have the illusion of the leader of a false religion tell them to kill themselves? If it was going to happen, it would not be at the whim of such a lowly thing, Debate ensued. What could this be? Had they failed the past trick of the Archknight and were being punished with death? The Padros’ words of ‘Athos awaits’ were just as likely to mean in death as anything else. But as time wound onwards, my brother Oberon showed his faith in our father. “I will attempt to sneak beneath the blades, I am easily small enough to do so. When I return, I’ll let you know what lays behind this cursed door.” And with that, Oberon flew to the door and landed, and began his slow crawl beneath the blades. Hearts began to beat faster and faster, and a were met by a cry of anguish. Just a few inches within the door, great flames erupted, engulfing the small Pixie body of Oberon. The flames raged, and when they settled nothing but the spinning blades remained, the body of Oberon far out of sight.
Despair. Disbelief. Taken from them before their own eyes, Oberon’s light was extinguished. That Oberon could be lost so easily, unbearable. The party discussed what could have happened to him, that our brother has been lost. Simon Bloom took the next step. “Whatever happened to Oberon, I will seek to test these blades and flames. Powerful magic is all over this Cathedral, maybe this is nothing more.” And with that, my brother Simon reached his hand towards the blades, attempting to get a sense of them. Anatolius’ eyes flashed, for as Simon’s finger reached out for the serrated blade it caught, and his entire body was pulled in. Blood and flesh splattered across the room, chunks of body hitting Anatolius and Valenae. “That’s it! Athos be damned, I have no other choice.” And with that, Anatolius walked through the blades, and Valenae shortly after. As his eyes met the blades head on, Anatolius felt his body being pulled forwards, and stumbled for a moment, as he fell through the illusionary blades. On the other side sat Oberon and Simon, patiently having been waiting. “It seems this was an illusion. One last test of faith for the would-be Archknights.” Anatolius nodded, his eyes understanding. “And so this last door is what awaits us.” Past the hallway where they sat stood a final door. Engraved was the marking of The Great Urns, seen before on the floor of Golagoraraxx. The party gathered themselves and prepared, and pulled open the door to reveal the great secret of The Church of Athos Dominus.
No one could have been prepared for what came next. With the door pulled open, the party moved forward into a large square room. The walls shined a solid white marble, gleaming. But more than anything was the center of the room. No really, I do mean more than anything. Because in the center of the room was our father, Athos. The Creator of All, the One God. And they felt his presence, raw power that hadn’t been sensed in over six millennia. If I had been there I could hope that I would’ve seen him for what he was, but truth be told not even our Athosian brother Oberon could tell, and he knew our father better than I could. Stunned silence filled the room, and behind them the door faded away into nothingness, and they were left with nothing but our Father before them. “Hello again my children.” Oberon spoke first, “Father, what are you doing here? I don’t understand.” Our Father then made his aspirations quite clear. It seemed that his choice of Nox was a test, for the true ‘chosen one’ to rise to the challenge. Athos made it seem like Nox’s Reckoning was supposed to be stopped by one of us! That we should’ve known what was going to happen and stopped him. Athos called us all failures for our inability to stop our brother Nox. In a fiery rage, Oberon lashed out. Six thousand years without our father hurt him, he was the most devoted of all of us. Athos’ words cut him deep, and he spoke in a manner that I have never heard of from him before. His words blasphemous, he accused our Father of causing everything. “If we were supposed to defeat him why didn’t you tell us? You chose him and granted him a power we couldn’t hope to challenge. You cannot possibly think this our fault!” My brother’s words raged against our Father, and before he could say more, an unlikely addition stepped on to the scene. Vinsanthius. Our traitorous brother who declared war on us and revoked his divinity in the eyes of The Church. He stepped forward with his head bowed, unaware he was not alone. “Father, I have done as you asked. What is it you require next?” He looked up, and clearly was shocked by who he saw before him. The Party ignored Athos for a moment and moved their interrogation to Vinsanthius. What was he doing here? Why did he not reveal this secret if he had known before? How dare he believe this to be our father! As the party spoke with our brother, Athos spoke several injections but was abruptly shouted at by Oberon at every turn. Between chokes of anger, Oberon found the reason in Vinsanthius’ heart. “This could not be our Father. He was so much greater than this.” And Vinsanthius nodded. Without missing a beat, the second best humored of us all Simon Bloom, The Not-As-Good-At-Jokes-As-Random burst forward. “So long then Father. Let’s see how you like this.” A blast of dagger hurled forward at our Father, who raised his hand in protest. The daggers passed through and Athos’ image shattered as if it were on a breaking mirror. And in his place, stood a large Urn. The fourth seen by us, the Urn of Deception.
It pleaded with them for a few moments, called itself an Urn of Truth, but its ploy had already been defeated. They began to test it, to see what knowledge could be drawn. It pleaded with them, but when our brother Simon summoned Spirit Fuel before him, the Urn lashed out at it. The spark from Simon’s hands collided violently with the Urn, and the power of the Urn began to teeter on detonation. Our brother Simon spoke with haste, “Look. I can guess the answer already but Big Stormy can stop this. If I can promise your compliance in saving his two brothers, he will stop the Urn’s explosion and save the lives of all those in this city. I don’t know if we have another choice.” Anatolius spoke up next, “There is always a choice. Tell that damned storm that we can solve this on our own.” Quickly, a plan was forged to contain the power the Urn was about to unleash. Surrounding the Urn on all sides, my siblings held their hands against the Urn, bracing for its explosion. Vinsanthius stood with them as well, although he had no Spirit Fuel with which to enhance himself. And with one burst of energy, the Urn erupted and the party fell unconscious.
When they awoke, several things had changed. First, the once glorious marble room they stood in before was now pitch black stone. Once Oberon’s light illuminated the room, it was clear that Vinsanthius was no longer the same man he had been. The pulse of Spirit Fuel now pumped through his veins, and although his power did not equate ours, it was equal to how we began after the Urn of Power. Once reoriented, they began to leave from the depths of the Cathedral. Yet after one flight of stairs, they emerged to the basement. A second set of stairs brought them to what was once the Cathedral Proper,
yet now was much more bleak. Rather than lavish tapestries and works of art, the Cathedral was now an empty stone carcass, like a giant cave. As they walked outside, it became clear that the Urn had projected an illusion above the Cathedral for thousands of years, and was responsible for all of its lavishes. Yet the city outside remained unchanged, except for the myriad of Wanted posters with our faces on them. Each promised the huge reward the Padros had mentioned. And there they were, in the center of a city seeking them to no end. At first a few looks, then many. It seemed clear that the city was ready to overtake them and claim the reward.
But thankfully, this is where I come in. On the back of Gorbash I rode, with deliverance in my stride. We landed in the town square. “Come on then. What are you waiting for?” I shouted to my brothers and sister who gracefully thanked me and joined Gorbash and I. As we flew off into the sunset, they shared their stories with me and I did so with mine. Uncertainty lingered however, if Vinsanthius stands with us now, then what will happen on the 9th of Pix? Could Golagoraraxx have been mistaken? Or had we misinterpreted his words? Regardless we rode, and they set their eyes for the first time upon our new home, Titan’s Hold.