I should notate that this story takes place in my homebrew campaign of The Hidden Heavens. In my world, it is very high fantasy and mortals and gods interact far more often than in traditional D&D.
My general philosophy as a DM is to find a way to say yes if the players want to do something. Unless something is completely impossible I generally allow them a fair attempt at it. If it’s something that should be impossible, a nat 20 would only spare them from the consequences instead of allowing them to succeed at something they shouldn’t have been able to. That being said, I’m very much a “rule of cool” when it comes to DM, within reason.
And as an additional preface, I make sure all my players can have cool moments like these, as well as items that are of considerable power due to the high magic setting. The combination of powerful abilities and artifacts, while earned, allows my party to take on uniquely difficult challenges they otherwise would not be capable of.
My players at the time this story takes place were a Half-Ogre-Half-Human-Half Vampire (long story) named Zion, Azazel, a kobold wild magic sorcerer, Saelig, an Aarakocra (bird person) Ranger, Vonnie, A female barbarian/fighter, and an alcoholic druid named Steve who got drunk and shapechanged into a bear and now can’t figure out how to change back, and is now chronically depressed because he can’t drink alcohol anymore because of his bear paws so he got a job at the bank, and Theldi, a female Aasimar Cleric of Death, who this story is primarily about.
The Clerics god was basically Anubis, whose entire purpose and force was to make sure that souls from the material plane ended up where they should in the afterlife, and to prevent the perversions that are the undead from happening to the innocent.
In the session before, the party had received a message from a local noble, who it had turned out they had inadvertently saved in a previous adventure, to handle a request from the local monarch. An insidious cult had been on the rise and was kidnapping civilians and military members alike and were using them for some profane purpose, by using a special power of mind control.
The party after a few encounters and some struggles arrived at the Recruiting Station, the name of the dungeon. They encountered some priests and through some less than tactful negotiation, ended up in combat with them.
The priests were slaughtered of course, but not before they had summoned spiritual guardians that looked like embodiment of light and merciless justice. In other words, their attacks did radiant damage. It meant that the alignment of these priests were actually Good. One of my players contested this, but I was firm. The cultists believed that what they were doing was the right thing.
The party proceeded further down the dungeon and realized that this was actually a mine – not for minerals, but for a strange blue substance that the workers and overseers became mutually scared of. It is crystallized magic, and could be used to empower spells. It also tasted sweet and if consumed became incredibly addictive.
I’ll be vague on that particular point in case my players read this, but suffice it to say that it’s important for later sessions.
The party eventually crosses paths with the boss of the dungeon, an archmage, and two lesser mages on a stone platform. As my party arrived into the dungeon, the archmage seemed to have been expecting them. All of the mages said in unison, “We do what must be done!” and then my players heard the magic words: Roll Initiative.
Throughout the battle I had the archmage continually speak in condescending boss tones, things like:
“Fools! You will doom the earth. You sow the seeds of your own destruction!”
“Demons, vampires, knights, I have destroyed greater blights than you!”
But as the boss hit 50% HP, which only took a few rounds, I had something special planned! I write this just as I spoke to my players, so you get the full experience:
The arch mage looks to his disciples and chants in a barely audible, wispy voice, as if singing to comfort a small child.
“The sun shall fade in a red haze,
For foreigners shall start the end of days.
In time their plight shall be known to all,
And The red flight will rise and heed the call,
To help an acolyte within their ranks fall.
In blood, and in justice, darkness will rise
To consume all of the light, even that which hides,
To strip from evil its terrible disguise.
Fear not my children, for while you shall rest well,
We will part knowing that you bid us peace,
To summon our emissary with our sacred spell,
The first seal we release and now be set free.”
As the last line was spoken, the accompanying mages drew daggers and buried them in their chest, stabbing their hearts. As blood spurts from their bodies, their last breath becomes wisps of air in the cold chamber. The blood starts flowing unnaturally towards the base of the platform, to form intricate lines – a summoning circle. The wisps of breath start to circle and spin. A black and purple light flashes and in the center of the circle stands a man, in black and red armor, wielding a wicked runed blade.
He draws his sword and flourishes expertly. He speaks, and his voice sounds as if an echo from the void:
“I am summoned to destroy the opposition. The sacrifice has been paid. Two souls for two minutes, and more than I shall ever need. Black is blood, and blood is black. Death to the Usurpers.”
He has summoned Ivote, the Soul Breaker, Champion of Chaos.
In my world, Ivote is one of four legendary Death knights. Similar to the idea of the four horsemen. They each wield blades of incredible power and their overall goal is to save and prevent the world from collapsing, through any means necessary. Ultimately, they are the embodiment of the “do what must be done” caricatures.
The players, albeit with great difficulty, end up winning the fight. One player, the half-ogre vampire, ends up dying. However, instead of recovering at his coffin, instead his soul was sucked into the blade to be bound there forever. When the knight lay broken on the ground, his face a gaunt skull, Theldi picked up his sword to kill him.
As she does so, she heard a faint whisper,
“He is weak. He is not worthy to wield the blade of chaos. Strike him down.”
She failed her wisdom save and the blade felt very right in her hands. No one else heard the sword’s whispers. After killing the death knight, she turned to the archmage, who was lying incapacitated but very much alive.
He revealed that his base was merely a distraction, albeit one with use. Its true purpose was to lure the heroes far from Spalding, the local major city and also the parties base, while it was attacked and conquered by a powerful force. The party was essentially told that it was too late, and that their city was doomed. The party understood this to be true, as they would not have enough time to make it back, as it had taken several in-game days to travel to their current location.
The sword whispered to theldi, “If you wield me, I will save your people. Feed me, and our strength shall grow.”
She stabbed the crippled archmage in the chest. Before his final blow, he says, “You know not what we do for humanity.”
As the archmage dies, his soul gets absorbed by the sword.
The sword whispered, “We do what must be done” and directed her to the surface of the mine.
After the party surfaces, Theldi begins to hear more and more whispers and goes off to the side to converse with the sword while the party discusses what to do next.
Before I go onto the next section, the sword that Theldi acquired is and isn’t evil. It’s something else. By definitions of humanity you could consider it evil, but in the grand scheme of things the sword is merely an agent to do what the powers behind it determine need to be done. By wielding the blade you would become an agent of the force that it serves, in this case, Chaos and Balance.
This next section I write what I sent her exactly. Her and I went into a private channel where this was read to her.
You hear a faint echo of whispers surrounding you, “If you wield me, I can save your people..
Do you have the strength to do what must be done?”
(Theldi, in an anxious but determined voice, “Yes.”)
You feel the sword shift slightly in your hands, as if correcting your stance. You can.. feel it nod.
“Very well. We must go to a sacred place, deep within the rotting forest. I was summoned from afar, but it can be very close.”
You see a vision in your mind of an ancient decaying forest, past the Spines of the Dragon. Within it is a sacred dilapidated grove. The grove is a mockery of death, a place of grim destiny. You can feel the unease the place emanates even through the wispy vision.
”We must go north through the Mire of Epmere. My brothers await their sibling.”
The sword begins to glow as you see another section of reforming mist. In the fog you see a vision of three knights, kneeling with runeblades impaled into the ground. Above them, a large dead oak sways slightly from the wind. From its branches hang heads, like rotting fruit.
They are kneeling in a half circle around a black pond, as still as death itself. On a raised, tilted plinth is an inscription of a dead language you have never seen before. Yet to you, it is as familiar as freshly cut grass. It reads, “What is done is done, in the name of a forgotten destiny we weave destruction for growth. We kill some, so that others must live. We do what must be done.”
The sword whispers, ”Fate has heard your name. Are you ready for your destiny?”
“I am ready,” Theldi replies inside her own mind.
“Excellent. Now, do as I do. Do as you do.”
You see an illusory version of yourself, as if created by a blue mist, before you. Your misty doppelganger turns around and begins to take their right hand, slowly, and draws a circle in the air with two fingers. And then a door. Then, she raises her blade and inserts it in the illusory door, as if it were a key. Then the illusory image ends.
When you perform the action, you can feel a sizzling, as if an excitement at fulfilling your purpose gives you an inner thrill. The circle feels as if you are carving sand, instead of air. When you place the blade in the door, you can feel it slide as if into a latch. When you twist the blade, sound utters from your mouth simultaneously as you whisper without thought,
“We turn the key to open the door,
To enter swiftly a realm of lore,
Where destiny awaits my willing fate,
Let us through this sacred Gate.”
A door materializes, already open. On the other side you can see in the distance the tree and the kneeling knights, just like in your vision, on a miniature island. The waters are green and blue, and undulate softly as if in a gentle river.
There are at least three islands between your door and the knights.
At this point, Theldi and her companions go through the door, though they, in character, don’t understand all that is going on, they trust her at this point and follow her lead, island to island.
”Your companions may come, but not to the final island. They would not be allowed to leave. Soon, we will be at Spalding. Have faith in the plan, for our cause is just.”
“Will I be allowed to leave?” Theldi asks, concerned.
“Once you pass your final test,” came the reply.
As the party travels on the small islands, you see small flickering lights dance in the distance. The murky green waters are hard to see through, but every now and then you can make out the shape of a rotting corpse or a bright white skull.
Theldi, you hear the blade whisper, ”Warn your companions.. If they wander into the marsh, they will never come back. Their souls will wander this place forever.”
The whispers held no contempt, nor concern. It just stated a fact. If the party wondered, they would not survive.
It took several minutes for the party to traverse the islands. As they approached the furthest one, it becomes increasingly blurry to all those except Theldi. A quet understanding arose between the party, and Theldi moved forward.
The final bridge had a wave of force protecting it, yet Theldi passed easily. The party was uncomfortable at the unusual separation, but in the end their trust won out.
”Come, we are expected,” the sword cooed.
As Theldi entered the final island, the rest of the party turned more and more blurry, as if they are hard to see. Once she set foot on the island, you are effectively invisible to all those outside.
The last island is small, but it had an air of ritual about it. Theldi approached the small pond in the center, its waters black and still, in contrary to the lapping shore surrounding the island. Three knights lay kneeling, sword implanted into the earth, in a ritualistic position.
The swords voice seemed to come from nowhere.. and everywhere at once. “We have waited for you. Take your destiny into your hands.”
Theldi sees an illusory image of the death knight she slew, now drawing his sword.
Theldi begrungingly drew her own, unusual blade. As she did so, in a flash of ghostly mist a man appeared tied to the dias, covering the inscription.
Suddenly on cue, the knights start rotating their deathly whispers.
The man is old and weak. But he looks at you with anger and defiance in his eyes.
All three knights whisper in unison with the sword, “Kill him.” You can hear a faint echoing cacophony of voices, “Punish him. Evildoer. Thief.”
Theldi, without hestiation, took up her weapon in her hand, and summarily plunged it into his chest, right through his still-beating heart.
The old man disappears in a huff of mist, and in a blue wisp of fog he is taken in by your sword, an inner thrill, an ultimate satisfaction, begun to tickle at the mind of Theldi.
The ghost of the knight you slew stands before Theldi, his feet planted firm on the black pond. His voice is much deeper than the others, like a firm grandfather.
“Kneel, chosen one,” he commands.
The ghost of the knight draws an illusory image of Theldi’s own blade. He places it at her right and then left shoulder.
“Arise, my daughter.”
The three knights in the background, still kneeling, whisper, “Arise, Sister.”
The ghost knight crooks his hand above her head, and moves upward as if maneuvering a puppet.
“Arise, Acolyte of Chaos.”
The three knights whisper, “Arise, Champion.”
Theldi’s body moves of its own volition to rise up.
“Now, we begin your training.”
The ghost knight turns into an illusory image of you.
It starts to move gracefully, wielding its shiny silver blade with skill and elegance. As he starts performing intricate sword forms, he begins to speak.
“When you fight, I am with you. As will be everyone who has ever wielded this blade. Whenever you draw it, so too you will draw upon others. You will draw upon the spirits who inhabit your blade. You will draw upon those who wielded it before you. And most importantly, you will draw upon yourself as well. You will feel the lifeblood and knowledge of this sword enter you whenever you wield it.”
“As you wield it, you will learn. As you learn, the sword will also learn from you. As it has always been, and always shall be. Eventually, you will teach others.”
“Come, and perform the sword forms with me. It will take time, but you will teach your mind as well as your body to instinctively use what you have been given. What you have taken, without mercy or regret. As it always was, and always shall ever be.”
Theldi begins to feel her body compulsively moving, to mirror him, albeit clumsily.
“If you struggle to lift the blade, you need only to realize that it is an extension of yourself. As are all of the souls within it. You do not need to possess the strength to wield such a weapon, for they already do. Use their strength, not yours.”
Theldi begins to feel her body moving a bit more smoothly now. It’s slow, but it is there. Potential, and power.
“Your purpose is to move with lethal grace. Your purpose is to overcome any obstacle. Your purpose is to heed the whispers that guide you to your cause. Your iron will shall be needed to wield your sword.”
“Know that when you wield it, it is also wielding you. You are an instrument of your blade to perform its great mission. And when one instrument is worn out, it will be chosen by another, and it will be your duty to teach the next instrument to wield the awesome power it has been given.”
Theldi’s body begins to start moving smoothly. With deadly grace. The forms are coming instinctively now. Right, left. Weave, dodge, parry, riposte. These moves are of second nature now.
“But until that day, you will wield such a power as you cannot imagine, for a purpose greater than a mortal’s understanding. You will fear neither pain, nor death, only failure to the cause.”
Theldi begins performing the forms rapidly, with power and quickness.
“You will not die from hunger, or sickness. Old age will no longer affect you. Your light will remain radiant forever. You will forever be bonded to your purpose.”
Theldi no longer has to think about the moves. They are instinctual. They are just another part of her, like a finger, or the cool air pressed into her skin.
“You will slaughter guilty and innocent alike. There is a purpose to what we do. You will find that purpose in time. As you become one with your sword, so shall it become one with you.”
Theldi begins to see herself performing the forms a thousand times, in a thousand different ways, against a million enemies. A thousand armies have fallen towards this blade. All of that knowledge, that experience, is now at her fingertips. She no longer need to see the enemy to know what they are doing. Their stance, the slightest twitch of their muscle, and she knows what they are going to do before they do. She is no longer a mere cleric of a god of death. She is a spectre of death itself. Delivering it, in person. Left, and right.
“And you will fulfill that purpose. And when the time comes, gift the blade of destiny to its next beholder. This is the fate you have taken upon yourself. This is your destiny. Now rise.”
Theldi lies on the ground, but does not remember kneeling. Her armor is now black and red. She does not know how long they were doing forms. A year? A hundred years? Time in this place seems odd, as if understanding of when and where lies just beyond the perephrial view.
“You were made a promise when you took this blade. It is time we fulfilled that promise. You are ready to leave this place once more. Perform the ritual of the sacred door once more when you reach the rest of your party. To them, you will have been gone but moments. Return, after you have fed the blade, and you yet may learn more of its secrets.”
As Theldi exits the last island, she notices one of six runes on the sword begins to glow, a taste of power yet to come.
The blade whispers comfortingly, “This is but the first step to greatness.”
And so the Cleric become a spectre of death itself, and would feed countless souls to the sword in pursuit of her cause. She would open a portal in much the same way, to bring her party to Spalding where they would face death and destruction. Ultimately, using divine right she would summon an army more deadly and more pervasive than any plague that has swept the world. An army made by the souls of the evil and good creatures that were absorbed by the sword.. both past, and future. An army, mixed with everything from ancient blademasters, arcane wizards, and even gunslingers, wielding strange weapons, in pursuit of a great cause.
She would accomplish a great many feats and a great many evils in pursuit of the greater good. Fear and chaos arose wherever she tread, and both the innocent and the guilty feared her legendary blade, until she finally came across her worthy successor. That, however, is another story.
Thank you so much for reading! I hope you enjoyed!