The Sea of Stars
Year 1 - All Notes
“Do not think of the world that was. Our lives are now between the stars”
“In all the cosmos, no place is more unnatural than Star Tower”
“They say the cosmologica is the biggest archive in all the stars. Of course, it’s mostly said by scholars from the cosmologica”
‘Gruumin-bone blades are better than steel. It’s a shame only those who slay the beasts of the shard can claim one’
“Prisons are a sign of a sick society. If a criminal can be put to work, then make them work. If they cannot, then execute them.” – The high priest of Orzhova on punishment for law-breaking.
Items of power are often called remnants. These new energy weapons pale in comparison.
“All be warned. Tomorrow evening from 5pm, all elevators and magical transportation will be temporarily disabled. The arrival of several powerful fey presences may affect standard operations.” – pinned in the main courtyard.
Astral skiffs are not true airships, and are unable to traverse the true void, even if they can pass between most of the kingdoms. For reliable transport, larger ships are required.
As you depart Star Tower, you can see the massive crack in the top, with fault lines extending down. Every person on every shard must be able to see this destruction.
‘What haunts the nights of Alnwick is nothing more than ruffians and rumours. I shall cast light into the mystery and prove there is nothing for a person to fear’ – last words of Saint Parithine, the blemished.
‘In Summary, this Kuwat translates so poorly that the only meaningful contribution from this work are the accurate inscriptions. One wonders if Kuwat has even been to Kali.
Take for example the below seal, written in ancient Kimbirra. Kuwat would have you believe it is translated as ’all depths are one’. Were it not for this phrase I might have looked no further in to it, but the absolute lack of clarity begged further investigation.
The original text is far more mundane. It simply states that all depths are ‘alike’, and is phrased so that nobody could ever confuse the concept of the depths being in any way magically connected. It is a grave error in a scholar to be unclear in their meaning.’
- From a literary review by Sir Loras Brittik
The beliefs of Alnwick
While their god is The Green Man, the beliefs and worship structure of Alnwick does not completely revolve around him. They have always had a reverence for their land and for the fey, which often borders on animism, taking even simple wisps and building shrines to them. The land is littered with waystones, and while these serve a practical purpose of warding off the night’s dangers, they are often given mystical significance.
A considerable refocusing on animism and spirit worship has occurred after The Green Man’s assault on Star Tower, and retreat into the fey following it. The Green Man is still worshipped as a saviour of the land, however most prayers are directed towards lords or ladies of the fey.
- Brotick Wisebeard
Bear’s strength, Owl’s wisdom, Spring’s luck and Winter’s patience.
Oak’s strength, Willow’s grace, Rose’s beauty, Tulip’s colour.
Cat’s lives, raven’s wit, Autumn’s cunning, Summer’s peace.
- Common Alnwick prayer
Genetic tracers within the 13 Kingdoms:
While genetic tracers affect height, it rarely pushes it from the bounds of the specimen’s dominant species. As such, height has not been used in making these comparisons.
Thick hair, almost bristles
mottled skin (ranging from light to incredibly pronounced)
Thicker, longer arms
Bleed less freely, clot faster
note: Human traits appear extremely recessive in expression.
Broadness of shoulders
Short legs compared to body
Pupil and iris covers more of their eyeball
The Dro’Daen cannot successfully interbreed with the other races of the kingdoms.
Curly hair, particularly when blonde
Curly hair, particularly when brown
Heaviness disproportionate to size
Lack of canines
Tinted skin, reflective of light
Breath is often affected; hot, cold, electrically charged, foul-smelling, or a few other oddities.
Accentuation of point of ears
Lack of body hair
Lightness disproportionate to size
Scrawny limbs, go wiry instead of gaining muscle
Green-tinged skin, particularly around extremities.
Human and Elvish genetics balance impressively neatly together, and the resulting offspring are the most obviously mongrel race. These half-elf-half-humans can pass on either set of genetic tracers to offspring.
Drow are genetically too dissimilar to interbreed.
‘species’ that will not leave genetic tracers:
Elvish, Halfling and human tracers are the most common to find in people of other races.
A well balanced mind yields a well balanced body. Those who master themselves can balance on a blade of grass without bending it. Those who never learn would trample what bounties we have left. – Teachings of Kuro
A mind unshackled from doubt can achieve anything. – The true self, by Shiro
‘Never was anyone finer than the old Emperor’s of Epnos, who held a kingdom unified beyond the ends of the world’ – Landoch’s ‘Songs for the Kingdoms’
‘The main reason research into the workings of Gith airships has been so slow is that their ’cores’, the presumed energy source, explodes upon even minor tampering. Indeed with such a light a touch can trigger this catastrophic event, it is a wonder the ships are not constantly exploding themselves in the sky.’
A year’s training with the Aki trackers is necessary training for all of Birin’s rangers.
REMINDER: We set an alternate rule for healing upon leaving Alnwick. Long rests now restore NO hit points but ALL hit dice.
As some are too boorish to engage in real art, I bring you this travesty, an abridging of Landoch’s grand stories into the kinds of dross that is read these days as literature.
In doing so, many will claim I renounce my position as Bard, since no Bard would dare sully those grand words with recording them on parchment, let alone trying to extract the substance from the beauty, as if the two were not inseparably intertwined. I reject such external damnation in favour of my own unending criticism.
To help this blasphemous act of creation, I shall be having one shot of Gruumin’s finest to punctuate each verse, and shall publish this unedited upon completion or upon the third time I pass out.
- Introduction to ’Noviny’s Abridged (and bastardised) Landoch’
(I decided to make myself a persona to tell the stories of Landoch, without having to try and be the best bard who ever lived)
Lael’Denarii’Shasseth was the only one brave enough to bring the decision of the Dro’Daen to Lolth. The spider-queen abhorred that her children would bend the knee, and made her own demands of the Dro’Daen. Each day, a subject of the kingdoms would be cast into her lair, for the spider queen to feast on the life blood of. While this condition was met, Lolth would not leave her lair, and when it is broken, she would not be so generous in curbing her thirsts.
- excerpt from Noviny’s abridged (and bastardised) Landoch.
(In answer to a question: Well they say they give up their own (usually criminals, but sometimes volunteers who are willing to risk it to meet/ask a favor of Lolth). How much you believe this is the case is really up to your own superstitions.)
That Birin and Zhent are often referred to as ‘the twin moons’ is a name likely derived from pre-Ragnarok society.
Star City laws state that the punishment for prying into the mind of another using magic is 5 lashes. Using magic to coerce another’s actions is being flogged to death. Most shards either follow this or have harsher punishments.
‘Too much we still allows ourselves to be defined by what we were made in to. You see it in our art, our words, our very names. We cannot change the past, but nor should we let it define the future of Gruumin. This land can be so much more than a god’s playground’
- From General Maker Gruumson’s first speech as Ambassador of Gruumin.
The only explanation of the scale and grandeur of both Ayopa and Komnos is that these were pre-ragnarok cities. The Emperors in Komnos can trace their heritage back to those first days.
When we look beyond our own star, Crux is the only star we know of with more than four shards, and Crux numbers only six
- The History of the Draconic War
Before the beginning of the war, the Dragon Tyrants collected tithes from 78 shards spread over a total of 60 stars. Each tyrant had a shard which they considered their home, save Sextus, who acted as emissary and vanguard for his elder siblings.
- The History of the Draconic War
Oligarch Benezia Rel’Nessath’Aran’Dei’Shasseth
Benezia is the first drow to be appointed as oligarch. Upon stepping up to the office 72 years ago, Benezia declared that to keep the situation fair, she would take her own life after 100 years, and so ‘vacate’ her position. Benezia has always been clear in her desires to help the kingdoms work even more closely together, and reach a point where they can extend their influence beyond the 13 shards, a vision she has declared has recently accepted may not be possible within her lifetime, but still that she wants to set the foundation for it. Among the drow, she has styled herself as an heir to Lael’Denarii’Shasseth, the drow who brought them in to the kingdoms.
Benezia has been in near constant conflict with the Cosmologica, as she has committed a huge chunk of her resources and influence as oligarch to establishing the Mechanica, a competing university which she declared on its foundation ‘would eclipse the Cosmologica in its contributions to society, aiming to bring practical applications to its research’. Benezia is also unpopular with the Gith, as her ambitions beyond the kingdoms will likely require use of airships.
Oligarch Friel Tanner, the bold
Friel is a halfling from Zhent, and has been Oligarch from fourty years now. He is approaching 90.
Friel rose to the position through a campaign of very deliberate politicking and campaigning, and since appointment has treated the position as an opportunity for personal delight. As he has gotten older, Friel’s delights have been stranger and stranger, indulging his brilliant mind in finding humour in any situations. He is often irreverent, and has been known to tell those who dislike him to ‘get better assassins’, taking full advantage that he is appointed for life.
His history with Benezia is complex. Benezia supported him to the position, however the two do not always agree, and since Maker’s appointment, he has been a more reliable ally to Benezia. Friel has very blatantly allowed those who are his friends, or who have paid him enough, to take actions which an oligarch would be allowed to step in and prevent.
Some commentary notes that Friel is the first Oligarch for several hundred years who has been a detriment to his own kingdom, as he has shown no favouratism to his home, while also often being used as an argument to push back against the encroachment of zhentish power.
General Maker Gruumson
Maker was elected to be ambassador for Gruumin when he was 45, after a distinguished military career fighting in the most recent batch of independence wars, and helped keep the shard together as a single nation. The appointment to ambassador was likely intended as a reward, while also stopping him from becoming a rallying point for a potential military dictatorship.
As an Ambassador, Maker distinguished himself by personally taking part in a hunt for a demon prince who had been amassing an army on Epnos when the Epnosi government turned to Star Tower for help.
He was appointed oligarch at 49, although he did not personally campaign for the position. It is likely Maker was viewed as the least divisive possible new oligarch. As oligarch, Maker has tried to limit the exercising of his power, and generally not intervene unless his presence is requested. He takes a keen interest in the various military campaigns around the kingdoms, and is the oligarch most active in the civics projects of Star tower. In general, he gets along with Benezia, and has a distaste for Friel.
No creature is less welcome to our seas than dragons. A captain who deals with their kind is to be exiled, and any star they claim given up as lost to us.
- The Githzerai Commandment
Landoch’s ‘Words from Athena’ seems to take place around 512 BKE, a rousing speech to the men and women of Sharaza, before a battle between the Sharazan’s and the Epnosi Imperium, and has made a historical monument out of what may otherwise have been a forgettable battle among the battles that occurred during the Astral Wars. It is still one of the songs that bards most often sing before a battle, and any soldier in the kingdoms knows the words, or at least can ‘um’ and ‘ah’ their way through the tune.
A rather less talented, but perhaps more inspired bard whose name was alas lost to history wrote his own explanation of the battle, titled ’I’d follow that arse anywhere’. While few bards have bothered to learn the song, the armies of the kingdoms have kept this alive with perhaps even more enthusiasm.
While I avoid quoting Landoch through this book, to save me having to explain ‘Words from Athena’ further, here are the lyrics to ’I’d follow that arse anywhere’ rendered for you, which I suspect to be more appropriate literature for anyone who would like to see Landoch abridged anyway.
- The Abridged (and bastardised) Landoch
Dragons believe they are heirs to the world that was, and that all remnants are their birthright.
‘Darum was not just destroyed, but annihilated. The land it stood on now exists as a lake of glass, even now impossible to resettle.’
- the draconian war (proper title)
Darum was the capital of gruumin.
Stories from before the ragnarok suggest mortals could be resurrected back then.
‘Tie the shards together so tightly it is unthinkable to harm them’ – teachings of Orzhova
As a note: Limited use magic items can still be made (from residuum) but they always take more energy to create than give out. pre-ragnarok items can have persistent effects, or effects that restore themselves.
References to limb regrowth:
Can regrow their own:
Trolls (investigate if their blood can be transfused)
Hydras (head regrowth. Blood is known to be poisonous)
Gruumin Artifabrial limbs (Draining to the user, normally clumsy, cannot do eyes)
Fey blessing of plant limb (referenced in Landoch’s tales, The Longest Midnight, a fey lord, not one of the monarchs grants it)
Found 19 historical incidences of gods regrowing limbs of their faithful
3 druids have been able to regrow the limbs of their companions (Chicance, Reln, Tarring – these are hard to verify)
Demons have replaced a person’s limbs (cost too high, negative returns)
Elixir of Regeneration (promising, but can no longer be made, have to find a new cache or purchase. Market value of 5 000 platinum, none known to be for sale)
- Study notes from a Cosmologica student
Funfact: Demons are mostly unkillable because everything that make’s up their body is from a single substance. Called ichor, the demon’s soul/mind binds ichor up and manipulates it, hardening parts to form bone and armor, using soft parts for dextrous tools and sensory organs.
Certain magics can attack a demon’s soul. They hate that. Also, binding the soul to places/objects is a decent way to stop them in the mid-term.
“The first use of ‘The Maw’ was to break the siege of Zelta. Captain Seras used it to crush the green dragon, Bryel, and bring the might of the black suns to Benezia’s aid.”
- A history of the Draconic Wars
“While the accounts of The Maw’s use as weapon are remembered in songs, its greatest boost to the Kingdoms was the ability to swiftly redeploy troops between shards”
The Birin rangers conduct a census of all 13 kingdoms in the 17th year of each century, which takes between one and five years to complete.
Several kingdoms do their own internal record-keeping, and provide this information to the cosmologica, to be combined with the Kingdoms Census.
It was from the cube that we gained the Tectons, which were used to shake apart multiple shards during the Draconic wars. All known tectons have been destroyed.
- Seras and Efre Black
The elven siblings were born on Arcadia, however spent most of their youth travelling with a Zhentish trade convoy alongside their parents, who were jewellers. Seras and Efre set off to loot the forgotten places of Epnos when they turned thirty and fourty respectively. They had just launched a mission to explore Kali with their newly formed mercenary group, The Black Suns, when the draconic wars began.
The Black Suns were one of a dozen mercenary groups who left the kingdoms looking for aid or weapons that could help defeat the tyrants, but are one of only two that returned successful. Seras and Efre came back in command of a ‘Living Ship’, a massive airship that would slowly grow over time. This ship had grown around the peak of the mountain, and so gained the name ‘The Maw’, for its shape.
Seras, Efre and the Black Suns contributed greatly to the war, helping ferry troops, and allowing the tyrants and their spawn to be met in the air. The Black Suns were gifted three smaller vessels after the war.
- A report on the DeathBringers
Orsik: The leader of the group, this is the same Orsik Stonehammer who caused the upheaval in the Zhentish church. He draws power from a new source, and has not only meddled in the shattering, but also in politics on Alnwick. The church of Orzhova have declared him apostate, and to be arrested on sight, a job I believe they may already be incapable of.
We already know Orsik, and what he is capable of, however his disdain for material wealth removes the most important lever we could hope to wield over an Orzhovan. It is uncertain if even the others realise where he is guiding them, as he is playing the role of doting elder expertly.
I am not ruling out that Orsik is still working for the Black Suns and has been since before he reached Star Tower, and recommend you investigating if his past dealings ever brought him into contact with them.
Demetos: The first of the three young deathbringers that is worth discussing. Demetos appears a typical Epnosi treasure hunter, out of his depth among the greater shards.
He resented what Maker forced upon him, however his own greed will likely yield an easy lever if we need to control him. Be careful as he has taken his new companions as his ‘family’, and I doubt even money will turn him against them, so don’t bother. The whole group has come across considerable wealth, and after the altercation with Serrael, Demetos has lost his fighting arm.
He holds an artifact of some kind that I would dearly like to get my hands on, one that I have not heard the like of.
With your leave, I will try and encourage him to lay off the adventuring life entirely, and simply learn to enjoy his wealth. It will make it easier to keep eyes on him.
Red: The second of the young people pulled up in Orsik’s wake. This citizen of the cube has, as you are no doubt aware, escaped. The cube’s ambassadors have made enquiries after him, although their interests seem mostly of the retrieve or possibly murder variety.
Red is a considerable sorcerous talent, who either needs the right kind of mentorship, or a snuffing out of his abilities to ensure his power does not fall into the wrong hands, if it hasn’t already.
If we wanted to control him, finding a way to grant him purpose would be the best idea, though I confess I am unsure what purpose would most persuade him.
Arata: Cast out by his companions immediately after the shattering, Arata has been kept much more firmly under Maker’s thumb. Arata appears to have Himetsu connections, as evidenced by Maker’s recent use in sending him to the winter temple. With the recent harm to the Himetsu, Arata’s exact loyalties may be easier to sway, and I ask permission to approach him about our cause if he passes again.
Illya: Recently separated from the others in a most spectacular display, Illya has demonstrated a loyalty to her ideals that is most admirable, risking and then bearing the wrath of her companions to hand over items of considerable power (see the incident report, and sorry again I was not able to retrieve these for you). This kind of moral conviction will be most valuable, if she can be convinced to join us. If we ever recruit any of the others though, she would need to be kept separate and secret.
Illya’s motivations are nice and simple, firstly, loyalty to the rangers, secondly, loyalty to Star Tower, and thirdly, her own sense of righteousness. Playing upon the second would be our best way to gain influence. Illya is also the easiest to interrogate, as she is likely to give information willingly.
Companions of the Deathbringers:
Murrin: Loyal to his family, but increasingly loyal to his companions as well. This may eventually drive a wedge between either.
Murrin is young and reckless, however the beliefs he already holds means it is less likely that he could be completely controlled by Orsik, if push came to shove. He has no head for politics, so don’t involve him in any complex games.
Iman Kuwat: The strangest of the group, Iman was spotted on Star Tower both before and after the shattering, however no contact was recorded between her and the deathbringers, in fact Iman was discovered asking about ‘the people involved in shattering the shard’. Despite this, Iman somehow managed to meet with them on Alnwick, despite no record of portal or airship travel. This suggests that the simpering exterior is in part a disguise.
Iman is obsessed with knowledge, and thanks to her backwater upbringing, almost all knowledge excites her. Somewhat fortunately, her obsession with the cosmologica will give us an edge accessing her, and without her companions being around. She appears gullible, but I still recommend some caution in getting people close to her.
If my understanding is correct, the right promise of knowledge could turn Iman against her current companions.
Aranea: Like most Githyanki, Aranea has proved famously mercurial, accepting money from her new companions to abandon her previous duties to Maker.
She is a boastful drunk, and a champion drinker. While I suspect she has a fondness for her companions, she is easy to get information out of thanks to these vices. I would not try to buy her loyalty, but I can attest the success of buying her some drinks to get her tongue moving.
Be aware that at least half of what she says will be wild exaggeration. She was found claiming that her and her companions had found a treasure undisturbed since the ragnarok, which does not match the kinds of items the group has recently gained.
- Flare Imsaho, god of the elements
Flare Imsaho does not come from the kingdoms, and is instead lord over the shard of pure elements, most commonly referred to as ‘the elemental chaos’. Imsaho saved no sentient creatures from the ragnarok, and when pressed on the issue, declared that what he saved was more important, beauty, purity and perfection
Among the kingdoms, Imsaho is likely most famous for his ongoing relationship with Athena, for which he once abandoned all other obligations to spend a century by her side. To say the relationship between the two has become complex is to brutally summarise millennia of complexity.
Despite his fondness for Athena, Imsaho has taken part in no major conflict in the kingdoms.
I was amused when my recent foray into kalimadu, I discovered that the man had made himself known there. There is a spirit or little god in that land’s complex mythology, Imase, Who Changes. The proud Madu held three songs of landoch’s of dubious origin but written in their own tongue. One dealt with Imase, Who Changes, and another lesser spirit, Tasik, true of arm.
While I leave the landochian origin to better scholars, the figure of Imase bears many of the same traits as Imsaho, and suggest he has spent considerable time on the shard. Upon inquiry I discovered Imase appears in several other stories.
The waves brushed against Athena’s toes, the pact broken. A god had stepped on another’s shard.
It was not in malice, but desperation that had drawn Athena. She had seen what was about to begin
- From the opening of Landoch’s spoken song ‘Hell Returned’, which details the start of the second Demonic Crusade.