Otherworld Refugees

Only a day had passed since the fantastical conclusion of the Creators’ Monomachy that marked the ending of the Midnight Age before a new mystery revealed itself to the people of Sapience. Those adventurers attuned to the Plane of Death first started perceiving a string of strange killings, the nature of the victim’s demise foreign to common martial styles in Aetolia. The first occurred deep within the heartland of Albedos, under the dominion of Drakkenmont Empire, near Paddlecreek Village – a place known to Sapients through the spatial dislocation anomalies prevalent during the final days of the Worldeater Saga. Here, a Vierkathi officer from Drakkenmont’s army met an untimely demise, a victim of a lethal pommel strike to the skull by an unknown assailant.

More deaths followed soon after, the second of which was a Wayfarer traversing the salt plains of the Vakimal Waste, who collapsed after taking an acrobatic kick to the chin. Another day later saw the third victim, this time a would-be poacher, bleed out from wounds suffered while fleeing from their masked assailant. This third death occurred at a trail in the Dramedo Crags, in the liberated lands of Albedos that adventurers could safely traverse and reach for further investigation. It did not take long for curious people to converge at the scene shortly after to investigate, and several key details were observed: throwing daggers protruded from the corpse’s back, each one hurled with lethal accuracy; the attacker’s trail went cold only a short distance from the site, suggesting wilderness expertise; and a nearby mountain lynx corpse had several prominent bones extracted from it. Whatever conclusions were taken away from these clues, there could be no doubt the strange killers were drawing ever closer to Sapience with each kill.

As expected, the mysterious deaths soon reached Sapience upon the next day, where an errant knight met his end on the Praelatorian Highway. Investigations quickly revealed the method: ambush with darts used to deliver a potent venom. Merely two days later, another life was lost in the Three Widows region. A hapless adventurer, daring to confront a masked assailant, was swiftly overpowered and met their end with a slit throat from ear to ear.

At this latest scene, investigators uncovered another diverse array of clues still different from the past deaths, underscoring the assailants’ myriad techniques. A broken bone knife was callously discarded nearby, and more chilling yet was the discovery that a rib bone had been extracted from the corpse – likely to become its grim replacement for the discarded murder weapon. The body also bore deep lacerations, presumably from the original weapon, and an animal bite mark on the leg, adding another layer of complexity to the enigmatic circumstances surrounding these continued incidents.

On the 24th of Chakros 513 MA, an auspicious date marked by the Grand Library as the final day of the Midnight Age, the series of strange deaths took an unexpected turn. Under the frigid boughs of the Augerweald, one of the assailants themselves met an unexpected end, succumbing to the ferocity of a local direwolf in a shocking reversal of forture. This development swiftly attracted adventurers to the scene, where an unusual auditory clue piqued their curiosity: the distinct sound of bone being whittled.

Near the site, they discovered a small, newly erected hut. Here, they encountered a group of foreign figures who were seemingly indifferent to the death of one of their own. Some bore a passing resemblance to known races of Aetolia, while others were entirely alien in their appearance. Among them were Sigurd Brynja and Seravan of the Blue Sitara, who exchanged quick words with each other in a harsh, unfamiliar tongue, incomprehensible even to the most knowledgeable polyglots among the Sapient onlookers.

If the all too familiar chaos of a multitude of adventurers converged in one spot didn’t confuse the exotic strangers, their attempts at communication certainly did. The linguists among the adventurers tried various languages in a bid to find a common tongue, but to no avail. Amidst the growing speculation that these individuals might be otherworlders possibly drawn into Aetolia through Varian Celestine’s multiversal rift, Sigurd Brynja closely observed the conversations happening around him, watching lips with a fierce, unerring focus.

Breakthrough finally came in the form of Esani, a young Templar Knight. Demonstrating a simple yet effective approach, she pointed to herself and her companion Meleah Bravewish, announcing their names, and then gestured towards Sigurd, posing the question, “You?”. With a strained effort marked by the roughness of his outlandish accent, Siguard repeated aloud what had been said, testing the unfamiliar names on his tongue before finally, blessedly, offering up his own in return.

With progress now made, other adventurers eagerly introduced themselves, each offering their names. Sigurd, with caution and curiosity, tried to articulate some of these new names. His primary focus, however, remained on observing and listening intently to the interactions around him. Seravan in turn also spoke aloud his name, snarling the words through his wolfish snout which drew some attention between the similarity of his appearance and the more familiar shapeshifter lycanthropes.

Esani, with her intuitive approach, once again made the next step in finding out more about these strangers. She employed basic gestures and simple words, pointing towards the sky, attempting to inquire if they were drawn into this realm during the final moments of the Monomachy. Despite some initial confusion, her efforts eventually led to a moment of clarity for Sigurd, who nodded in understanding and agreement. This gesture affirmed the adventurers’ growing suspicion: Sigurd and his companions were indeed beings from a world far removed from their own. A conjured illusion from Voidwalker Evlentesh of the shattered moons witnessed by all mortals during Varian’s flight sent the hutbound survivalists reeling back and drawing their weapons at the sight of the magic, though a longing for an ephemeral home glowed in their eyes.

The exchange of words continued and Sigurd offered a term from his own language – he held up the bone knife he had been crafting, calling it a ‘sitara’. Latching onto this, Taj was unexpectedly first in naming the sitara a weapon and Sigurd mimicked the sentence back to him awkwardly. The adventurers continued teahcing Sigurd various words and concepts, with the young Illumine zealot called Sine performing an impressive hundred pushups on the spot – a vivid demonstration of the concept of strength, assuredly, and one that his comrades soon latched on to and expounded upon. Sir Pugsly Corey of the Templars aptly demonstrated the opposite concept, pointing to his own biceps proudly and remarking “Weak!”. Both exchanges were rewarded by growing joy and laughter from Sigurd.

Dialogue eventually reached an impasse as the gathered individuals found themselves at a loss for how to further evolve the exchange, despite Sigurd’s insistent gestures for them to keep talking. It was Ealric Cerlova, an elemancer of the Ascendril, who then proposed that Herolt, the famed decipherer known for his particularly lethal quizzes, should be persuaded to vacate his warm office for a trip to the frozen north. Someone reached out to the scholar, and he made the journey with an alacrity unexpected for a man more accustomed to the pen than the field.

Herolt’s initial irritation at being summoned swiftly turned to enthusiasm once he understood the situation. He quickly adapted to his role as a scholar in his element, intrigued by the unique challenge before him. Upon introducing himself to Sigurd, Herolt observed the latter’s keen focus on the way others spoke. He speculated that Sigurd must be a skilled linguist in his own right, and was rapidly assimilating the language at an impressive rate. Herolt further suggested that engaging in natural conversation would be the most effective way to aid Sigurd in mastering the common tongue of Sapience.

The group then embarked on this task with varying degrees of comfort. Some dove into the conversation with the ease of seasoned extroverts, while others approached it with the awkwardness of shy teenagers at a solstice dance. Grand Crusader Benedicto Silverain, embracing the opportunity, launched into an elaborate sermon about the Light. His passionate lecture continued unabated, even as Herolt tried to gently steer him towards more casual dialogue, pointing out the importance of natural, everyday conversation for language learning.

Sigurd Brynja remained an attentive observer throughout the unfolding conversations, his attention intent upon every movement of the lips and every shift in cadence. Mimicking the Sapients, he silently rehearsed their words, syncing his lips to theirs and quietly repeating the sounds. Then, in a moment that caught everyone off guard, he responded to a question about his origins with a halting but understandable, “Not know home.” This surprising revelation abruptly drew everyone’s attention back to him. He further informed the gathered crowd, “Know some,” in response to a query about his understanding of their language.

The discourse rapidly evolved soon after, with Sigurd engaging more actively and responding to questions. He expressed his bewilderment at the unfamiliarity of Sapience’s sun, yet intriguingly, he had no recollection of his own sun or homeland. Addressing this puzzling amnesia, Herolt theorised that the trauma of transference across universes might be the cause. He pointed out that even the comprehensive Grand Library lacked any references to such phenomena, suggesting that this might be a first-of-its-kind interaction with living beings from another universe, except for the noted case of Varian, the disgraced Creator and Invader.

Recognising the needs of his people in this unfamiliar world, Sigurd proposed a barter. In exchange for the necessary tools and provisions to establish a new home, he offered to impart the knowledge of wielding a sitara, a skill deeply ingrained in him through years of practice that shined through even when all else was consumed by the cloud of his amnesia.

The adventurers readily accepted this offer, generously providing an abundance of commodities, a substantial sum of gold, and ample food supplies. True to his promise, Sigurd began instructing them in the martial arts of his people, who came to be known as the Predators. The adventurers eagerly absorbed this new knowledge, matching the rapid pace at which Sigurd was learning their language.

Opting to stay in the chilly environs of the Augerweald, a climate that seemed to suit them well, the Predators started adapting to their new surroundings. With this burgeoning settlement, the extent of their future influence on the world of Sapience in this new Age remains an intriguing uncertainty.

Penned by my hand on Falsday, the 21st of Celes, in the year 0 AC.