Sagiro's Story Hour: The FINAL Adventures of Abernathy's Company (FINISHED 7/3/14)

Sagiro

Rodent of Uncertain Parentage
I imagine that, now that I’m done, a few readers will want to go back and read the entire thing from the beginning, to experience the tale with greater continuity. I think I will start a new thread, where readers can talk about the Story Hour generally, commenting as they re-read (or read the first time). I’ll try to check it regularly, to answer questions anyone has about the whole experience.

Also: now that I’m done writing the story hour, it’s time to return to my books! I have finished my second revision of my first novel, and now will get to work on the 3rd iteration of editing, as well as starting a first draft of the second book. Having finished the first one (titled “The Ventifact Colossus,”), it’s time to start on the second one, which I’ll probably title “The Crosser’s Maze.” I’ll keep you up-to-date on my progress. After all, I’m hoping some of you might buy the novels when I eventually release them. :)

Thanks, readers, for all of your time, encouragement and support! I never would have finished this story without you. And special thanks of course to StevenAC, for whose wonderful compilations I will always be in debt.

-Dorian Hart
a.k.a. Sagiro


Sagiro’s Story Hour, Part 396
One Last Circle To Come Full

Belshikun looks upon Dranko’s hovering soul, which he can see just as well as any of the survivors. “Well done,” he says. “Well done. I don’t know what’s going to become of you; I’m not the one in charge. But you have served the Gods well.”

“I’ll find my way,” says Dranko. He still holds Morningstar’s hand.

“Can you return the Shield and the Spear to Naslund?” asks Aravis. “That’s where they belong.”

“The Spear belongs in Naslund,” Belshikun agrees. “The Ward of Drosh as well. And I will take Ell’s Will. Morningstar, someday, in the far future, someone who aspires to your greatness will pick it up, and do their best to honor your Goddess. Aravis, you should keep the Bulwark of Leantha. It will serve you well.”

To all assembled, he says, “I have one more job for you. One more journey for you to make. Will you make it?”

All in the Company, living and dead, agree.

Belshikun turns to Aravis. “Your ally in the Crosser’s Maze stuck his nose in one too many places that he shouldn’t have, and has been imprisoned by an old Keeper. You should rescue him, because in less than two days’ time the Maze will collapse and be no more. All the Keepers, and those foolish enough to inhabit the Maze over the centuries, will vanish along with it. You have two days, but you won’t need them. This is an easy task, but you will be glad of it. When you are done, those of you still alive will find yourselves back here. You will not be able to cross Yulan’s Barrier, but I do not know if that will always be the case. Your destinies are your own. All of you may journey, spirits and living mortals alike. When your service is finished, the dead may move on. Perhaps you will bring them back someday, perhaps not. Certainly all of the dead here have earned honored places in the heavens.”

“I don’t want them to be gone yet,” says Ernie.

After a long silence, Aravis speaks. “No sense in waiting."

“Your benefactor is a prisoner of an old keeper named Esheq. By persuasion, coercion or violence, do what you must.”

The entire Company finds themselves in the Crosser’s Maze again. They are floating in its vast starfield, an echo of the multiverse. Aravis knows where to go. With a small effort of will he translates himself and his friends across great spans of reality to where Esheq makes his home. The old Keeper lives in a huge red metal pyramid with no obvious way in our out.

“We’ve had a very, very long day,” Aravis calls out. “We suggest you come out and make this easier for us.”

A voice sounds all around them. “Who’s there? Who is that?”

“Aravis.”

“Never heard of him.”

“He wants to do this the hard way,” says Grey Wolf.

“You have someone imprisoned,” says Aravis. “I want him.”

“I have lots of people imprisoned.”

“Then I want them all.”

“No. Why should I?” Esheq’s voice is petulant, annoyed.

“Because we killed a God today, and we’re still not out of spells,” says Ernie.

In the center of one of the pyramid’s sides, a small hatch flips open. A white-haired old fellow pokes his head out. Dranko leans over and licks the red metal.

“Stop that!” shouts Esheq. “Don’t lick my house! What’s wrong with you? And how did you rabble find me?”

“I am Aravis.”

“Why should I care about that?”

Aravis sighs. “Are you going to make this easy, or are we going to have to take your prisoners by force?”

“You can’t get in,” says Esheq.

“Oh, really.”

Dranko activates his sash, turns invisible, and starts to climb the wall of the pyramid, up toward the hatch.

“I see you there! You expect that to fool a Keeper? You haven’t been the in the Maze very long, have you…” He leans out a little more. “…Miss Charagan? You have more facial hair than I’d expect. Aravis, you’ve brought me a freak show.”

Aravis teleports up to him.

“Hm. Okay, you can teleport.”

Aravis then turns into a beholder, and shines his Anti-magic ray; Dranko lashes Esheq’s arm with his whip before he can close the hatch again, and starts to pull the old man out.

The whip vanishes. “I was a keeper of the Maze, you know,” says Esheq crossly. “What, you’d think I’d be a pushover? Now get off my pyramid before I turn you into something unpleasant.”

Aravis turns and returns the whip to Dranko. “I was also a Keeper of the Maze,” says Aravis.

“Fine, fine. Who do you want again?”

“I want everyone you have imprisoned.”

“No. That’s a ridiculous bargain. But if you swear upon the Maze to go away afterward, I’ll let you look through the cells and take one person out.”

Dranko again lashes Esheq’s arm, and this time yanks him all the way out. Aravis immediately polymorphs him into a garter snake.

“You could have been nice about it,” says Dranko.

Esheq turns into a cobra and tries to bite Dranko’s arm, but Dranko has the snake by the neck. The cobra then vanishes, and the hatch slams closed.

Enough is enough. Esheq is good, but no match for Aravis. Aravis exerts his will and removes the door altogether, along with a large section of the pyramid. Esheq is revealed, cringing.

“Fine, fine, fine! The cells are that way.” The old man points.

“Show me the way,” says Aravis.

The interior of the pyramid is a series of tilted, angled hallways, but gravity works in an Escherian fashion such that the floor always feels like it’s down. Esheq leads the Company to a long corridor with fifteen cell doors. “These are it. I have sixteen prisoners at the moment; got two in one cell.”

“Why do you keep prisoners?” asks Dranko.

“Because they trespassed. And they might be useful someday.”

Morningstar casts detect thoughts. Aravis augments it. Esheq isn’t lying.

Aravis removes the doors to all the cells with a simple thought. “Now,” he says sternly to Esheq, “I suggest you leave.”

“Do what you want!” Esheq throws up his arms. He has figured out how badly he is outclassed.

Aravis teleports all the prisoners out of the pyramid, where they float in the void. There are indeed sixteen. Some are extremely alien-looking, some are no more than coherent thoughts. A few are even stranger. But one, the Company knows very well.

It’s Abernathy. He is sleeping, snoring evenly.

Ernie wakes him with a gentle nudge. “Abernathy? Sorry to interrupt your nap, sir…”

Abernathy’s eyes pop open. “Ernest! So nice to see you again!”

“We killed the Adversary,” says Ernie.

“I’m so pleased!”

Morningstar is confused. “We thought you were dead…”

“Morningstar my dear, I am dead. You were present when I passed away, I recall.”

The Company looks at the old wizard expectantly.

“I was following your exploits quite closely you know, after I passed on. You can do that from the afterlife. I had an interest in how things would turn out. And just look at you!”

“How’d you end up in the Maze?” asks Dranko.

Abernathy gets that old gleam in his eye. “Ah! The Maze has a strange relationship to the Universe. When I was watching you, and saw you go into it, I petitioned certain higher powers to be allowed to pay you a quick visit. There’s some overlap between the afterlife and the Maze. I’m still not certainly exactly how that works.”

“You visited us in the Maze?” asks Flicker. “When was that?”

“You were about to fight some large battle the next day, and I thought you could use a comfortable place to stay, so I popped in, and figured out how things worked, and tried to rebuild the Greenhouse as best I could. A little sanctuary to rest in. I wasn’t very good at it. Solomea had to help me. Nice old chap, when he was sane. But when you had moved on from there, I couldn’t figure out how to get out! The Maze is very confusing, you know.”

“Yes, I know,” says Aravis, smiling.

“So I spent some time trying to contact you,” Abernathy continues. “Occasionally I could catch glimpses of you in the real world. I saw that that rascally Parthol Runecarver was after you, and tried to send you warnings. Did you get them?”

“Yes, we did.”

“It was hard to get anything specific through, but I did try to leave an impression that a powerful and dangerous wizard was coming for you. Once you cleverly left a little piece of yourself in the Maze, it became much easier. I could just talk to you directly.”

“That was very helpful,” says Aravis.

“So I roamed about the Maze, trying to find anything, bits of the past, present and future than might be useful to you. Then I would sit down and have a pleasant chat with the bit of you you left behind. He’s a lot like you, but very single minded. I did eventually figure out how to return to the afterlife, but once I had worked that out, there didn’t seem any hurry. So I kept on helping you, until one day I had an inkling that this bozo might know something, but he was wily in his way. I was lurking around, thinking he might have some old memories from his time as Keeper that might be relevant, but he caught me and popped me in a cell. I was good at escaping from things before they caught me, but I wasn’t much good after I was caught. And now, here I am. It was nice of you to rescue me.”

The Company spends some time telling the old wizard all about their adventures, and he listens raptly. His favorite bit is hearing that Dranko and Morningstar were married. When he hears about Dranko’s interactions with the Cleaners, he shudders.

“Ah yes. Terrible place. I sent Aravis one vision from near the Far Realms and swore I’d never go back there.”

He sighs, then smiles broadly. “Would you like to make a quick trip to the Endless Shore? I really ought to get back there, but I don’t see a reason you couldn’t be my guests for a little while. Spend a day or two on the beach.”

They happily agree. To the few other prisoners still lurking around, Aravis gives warning that the Maze will soon cease to be, and they should leave it if they can. Aravis would like to send out a more general broadcast, but even with his advanced powers in the Maze, he’s not that strong.

But he knows someone who is. Before going to the Endless Shore, he takes the group on a quick side-trip to visit King Vhadish XXIII.

“Ah, Aravis!” exclaims Vhadish when they arrive.

“I owe you a service,” says Aravis. “And my service is to tell you, if you don’t already know, that…”

“Yes, I know. You wrecked it. Careless, but not very surprising.”

“I’m sorry,” says Aravis. “I am, after all, just a shadow of what you are.”

Vhadish inclines his head in agreement. Aravis requests that Vhadish let as many Maze denizens as possible know that their home will soon be collapsing.

“Your goals are noble, young Aravis, and I will do as you request. You were… a respectable pupil in most regards.”

Vhadish vanishes. With no errands left, Abernathy leads them on a circuitous route, arriving at last on the Endless Shore, the Heaven of the Sea God Brechen. A pristine beach of pure white sand stretches as far as the eye can see, and in their ears is the steady sound of rolling blue waves making landfall.

“You’re not really here,” says Abernathy. "This is the Maze’s reflection of the Endless Shore. But I am here, and that is sufficient, since we’re all here together. You can stay as long as the Maze survives, and then you’ll return to your bodies, or move onto the afterlife. I suppose you might end up stuck down there forever… but forever is a long time.”

Abernathy reaches out a finger, and in the changeable sea he traces the word “forever.” It is quickly erased, as are all things written upon water.

“After all,” says Abernathy. “Nothing in this life is certain. The future, least of all.”


/*/


And that is nearly the end, but there is one final postscript to the story of Abernathy’s Company. While the others bask in the glorious warm sunshine, Abernathy speaks briefly to Kibi, alone.

"Kibi, now you are Abernia, and to you, all times are the same. The ordering of events is no longer any impediment to your actions or understanding. Before you become one with all the world and lose your focus, you need to find me, years ago, and speak to me a list of names. Don’t forget, Kibilhathur. Whisper them to me. I will hear them. I will hear them.”

…The End.
 

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Kaodi

Adventurer
Oh my God(s). After all these years the story has finally ended. A substantial portion of my life it has been, even as just a reader. Thank you, Sagiro, PirateCat, and everyone else in the group. It has been very enjoyable, and a great learning experience in gaming too.
 

radich

Villager
Long time lurker, first time poster...

Dear Sagiro

I came upon your story some years ago, while rummaging through ENworld. Quickly and surely I determined that here was a story worth reading and over the years I have never come to regret it. It has been about 25 years since I picked up my first fantasy novel - and in turn got hooked on the whole reading thing. Having a that time been a boy of 10, and hated everything related to reading. Fantasy has never abandoned me since, and I still take great pleasure in stories about dragons and wizards and what-not.

But I must take my hat off to you sir - for you have enlightened me and taken the concept of fantasy to a whole new level. The immersion that you provide to us as readers in breathtaking, the visualization that your descriptions spring to mind are amazing. Add to this the depth of character development, and the ability to include and encourage your players in astounding. As pure icing on the cake, I am taken back by the plot-turns and villains you create and the level of complexity that you end up achieving (despite your responses over the years, that you only develop them as needed).

I stand in awe of you and salute you for your work. You have inspired me as a GM to do more for my players. You have kept me on the edge of my seat, hoping for another update - and eventhough I am already underway with my third re-read of the material available so far, it hasn't gotten the least bit tiresome yet.

It's one thing to be a good GM and have a lot of fancy work laid out for the taking - it's another to be blessed with players such as yours. For all the hard work, that you have put into orchestrating this campaign - you players have been there to back you the entire time. And were it not for their deeply commited involvement and drive, everything might have turned out differently. So my hat as well, goes off to every single player with the greatest of respect. You make me strive to be better as a player, with the examples that you set!

With my final dying words, I just want to surmise everything that I have written above into a small easy to understand metaphor. I am not a religious man - I do not believe in a higher power in any way. But if given the oppotunity to sit at your table, and play with this group of people - I would be willing to leave my wife, my kids and travel the 3600 miles needed to be there.

That is my level of respect and admiration for what you have given onto us, your humble and thankfull readers.

Sincerly Mads Radich
 


LightPhoenix

First Post
Obviously, the next campaign is when someone discovers a name long forgotten from the ears and minds of all across the land... the very whisper of it drives men mad as they try desperately to hold on to it, certain that it has meaning. Dranko...
 






Sagiro

Rodent of Uncertain Parentage
radich, I really appreciate you taking the time to write all of that. I always feel a bit sheepish when someone says such nice things. You're certainly right about my players; I know I've said this before, but they were incredibly supportive and engaged... for fifteen years! I couldn't have run the game for so long (and probably wouldn't have bothered, even if I could) had I not had such a wonderful group of players. Not to mention that everything I learned about DM-ing, I learned from one my players -- Piratecat -- in whose own D&D games I have been so fortunate to play.

But don't leave your wife! :)

Long time lurker, first time poster...

Dear Sagiro

I came upon your story some years ago, while rummaging through ENworld. Quickly and surely I determined that here was a story worth reading and over the years I have never come to regret it. It has been about 25 years since I picked up my first fantasy novel - and in turn got hooked on the whole reading thing. Having a that time been a boy of 10, and hated everything related to reading. Fantasy has never abandoned me since, and I still take great pleasure in stories about dragons and wizards and what-not.

But I must take my hat off to you sir - for you have enlightened me and taken the concept of fantasy to a whole new level. The immersion that you provide to us as readers in breathtaking, the visualization that your descriptions spring to mind are amazing. Add to this the depth of character development, and the ability to include and encourage your players in astounding. As pure icing on the cake, I am taken back by the plot-turns and villains you create and the level of complexity that you end up achieving (despite your responses over the years, that you only develop them as needed).

I stand in awe of you and salute you for your work. You have inspired me as a GM to do more for my players. You have kept me on the edge of my seat, hoping for another update - and eventhough I am already underway with my third re-read of the material available so far, it hasn't gotten the least bit tiresome yet.

It's one thing to be a good GM and have a lot of fancy work laid out for the taking - it's another to be blessed with players such as yours. For all the hard work, that you have put into orchestrating this campaign - you players have been there to back you the entire time. And were it not for their deeply commited involvement and drive, everything might have turned out differently. So my hat as well, goes off to every single player with the greatest of respect. You make me strive to be better as a player, with the examples that you set!

With my final dying words, I just want to surmise everything that I have written above into a small easy to understand metaphor. I am not a religious man - I do not believe in a higher power in any way. But if given the oppotunity to sit at your table, and play with this group of people - I would be willing to leave my wife, my kids and travel the 3600 miles needed to be there.

That is my level of respect and admiration for what you have given onto us, your humble and thankfull readers.

Sincerly Mads Radich
 

Everett

First Post
Okay, my turn.

I first happened on the Story Hour in 2005, which is almost a decade ago. Since then I've moved from San Francisco to New York city; I've gone through dozens-on-hundreds of different work gigs, plays, relationships, creative projects. I played my last tabletop D&D game in 2008, and though I grew up immersed in fantasy literature I read very little of it these days. There is really nothing at all that I can point to as a constant through all of those transitions.

Except Abernathy's company.

I grew to know all of these characters intimately (as any reader does, when the imagined world becomes to them tangible and enduring and a thing beyond the author's control), and I can look back at the Company's exploits like milestones of my own. When Grey Wolf (nearly) died to prevent Naradawk's return, I was there; when they learned of Mokad's possession of Praska, I was there, and through the Ritual of Seven Stars to banish him from her body, and the Black Circle's discovery, and the 18-second battle to destroy them. I was there when Grey Wolf mysteriously chose a monkey as a familiar, and when Bostock began to speak, and when they met the boy wizard Wellington and his stupid spider familiar. I was watching when Farazil nonchalantly possessed Ernie's mom to make first friendly contact, and when Sagiro Emberleaf returned from the dead. I explored the Crosser's Maze. I was with them when they first met Cranchus; I pondered the tragic tale of Condor and grappled with Moirel. I watched Kibi sink into the ground for the very first time (he played tag with Scree). I was wary of Parthol Runecarver, and always enjoyed seeing the eyeless butler Eddings or the condescending genie, Al-Tarqohz. I witnessed the scene from somewhere behind the Heroes' Feast table when One Certain Step took his final step, and I still remember how magnificent it felt. I remember when Abernathy died.

Each of those is a moment, and there are many more, like pearls I happen across from time to time, and inspect, and find that they still shine.

It is strange to me that the story is done, that in the future I won't read new installments of it. And it's strange that we'll never know if Kay, Morningstar and Dranko chose to return to life, if they ever got out of the Underdark. They'll all always be finally lost, in some sense. Or so it seems to me. Writ in water...

...but like the Crosser's Maze, like the ocean, the story cannot be given. Only found.


--Everett
 

Sagiro

Rodent of Uncertain Parentage
Everett, you have long been one of my most perceptive and detail-attentive readers, and your comments over the years have always shown an accurate insight into my own thought processes. I'm glad you stuck with it through to the end, and I thank you for all of your thoughtful and encouraging commentary.

It is strange to me, too, that it's all over.

Okay, my turn.

I first happened on the Story Hour in 2005, which is almost a decade ago. Since then I've moved from San Francisco to New York city; I've gone through dozens-on-hundreds of different work gigs, plays, relationships, creative projects. I played my last tabletop D&D game in 2008, and though I grew up immersed in fantasy literature I read very little of it these days. There is really nothing at all that I can point to as a constant through all of those transitions.

Except Abernathy's company.

I grew to know all of these characters intimately (as any reader does, when the imagined world becomes to them tangible and enduring and a thing beyond the author's control), and I can look back at the Company's exploits like milestones of my own. When Grey Wolf (nearly) died to prevent Naradawk's return, I was there; when they learned of Mokad's possession of Praska, I was there, and through the Ritual of Seven Stars to banish him from her body, and the Black Circle's discovery, and the 18-second battle to destroy them. I was there when Grey Wolf mysteriously chose a monkey as a familiar, and when Bostock began to speak, and when they met the boy wizard Wellington and his stupid spider familiar. I was watching when Farazil nonchalantly possessed Ernie's mom to make first friendly contact, and when Sagiro Emberleaf returned from the dead. I explored the Crosser's Maze. I was with them when they first met Cranchus; I pondered the tragic tale of Condor and grappled with Moirel. I watched Kibi sink into the ground for the very first time (he played tag with Scree). I was wary of Parthol Runecarver, and always enjoyed seeing the eyeless butler Eddings or the condescending genie, Al-Tarqohz. I witnessed the scene from somewhere behind the Heroes' Feast table when One Certain Step took his final step, and I still remember how magnificent it felt. I remember when Abernathy died.

Each of those is a moment, and there are many more, like pearls I happen across from time to time, and inspect, and find that they still shine.

It is strange to me that the story is done, that in the future I won't read new installments of it. And it's strange that we'll never know if Kay, Morningstar and Dranko chose to return to life, if they ever got out of the Underdark. They'll all always be finally lost, in some sense. Or so it seems to me. Writ in water...

...but like the Crosser's Maze, like the ocean, the story cannot be given. Only found.


--Everett
 

Everett

First Post
Everett, you have long been one of my most perceptive and detail-attentive readers, and your comments over the years have always shown an accurate insight into my own thought processes. I'm glad you stuck with it through to the end, and I thank you for all of your thoughtful and encouraging commentary.

Anytime. :)
 

Chronikoce

First Post
I cannot believe it is finally over. Thank you for continuing until the end and an even bigger thank you to your players for sticking with a game for so many years so that such an amazing story could unfold. I can't wait for some free time so that I can read through StevenAC's awesome compilation.

As for your books, I'll definitely keep lurking around the threads and hopefully one day see that you have one ready for us to buy!

My final thank you is for creating unique and terrifying creatures that I can use to torment my poor players with when I DM! :D
 

StevenAC

First Post
*standing ovation*

Congratulations, Sagiro, on providing this Story Hour with such an epic conclusion. I particularly like the fact that you didn't go for the "happily ever after" ending. The Company achieved everything they set out to do and saved the world, but the cost was high and even the survivors remain trapped (for the forseeable future, at least) beneath the Iron Barrier, meaning their journey through it really did turn out to be as irrevocable as advertised.

Thank you, as always, for the nice things you persist in saying about me... :) For your information and/or bogglement, the completed Story Hour will contain well over 900,000 words -- that's nearly twice the length of The Lord of the Rings! And given that Part One, which was initially written in a much more condensed fashion, contains more than half of the campaign's 266 sessions, my guess is a full-length telling of the tale would have ended up over 1.25 million... I'm eagerly looking forward to reading your novels based on the campaign, to flesh out the story of those early days.

I love rereading through the story -- there always seems to be more things to discover. It was literally just a week or so ago that it finally dawned on me just who Aravis's mysterious benefactor in the Crosser's Maze had to be, as I was flicking through the early chapters of Part Three. When I suddenly realised the significance of the line about how he "missed the ocean" (page 62), I'm surprised you didn't hear the forehead-slap all the way over there in Boston. Bringing back Abernathy for a final appearance to tie up the last loose ends was wonderfully well done.

The final(!!) part of the Collected Story Hour should be done soon, and I'll post in your new thread when it's ready. For the moment, let me just offer this little tribute in musical form (for anyone who wants to sing along, here's a karaoke version). I hope you enjoy it! :D

If you want to make a story...
(with apologies to Sir W.S. Gilbert)

If you want to make a story that will be a thing of glory
in the realm of RPGs,
You must start out with a world, to be gradually unfurled,
that's packed with mysteries.
You must find a bunch of players who will work with you and stay as
their PCs will learn and grow and change,
With all the complications and surprising revelations
that your cunning can arrange.

And ev'ryone will say, As you play your epic way,
"If this campaign builds multi-year plots with dreams and prophecy,
Why, what a very singularly deep campaign
this deep campaign must be!"

Have monsters great and small bringing menace unto all
that the Company hold dear,
And some villains to despise, each of whom's deserved demise
receives a hearty cheer.
Their triumphs will then send them onward to the end
that they're fated to decide;
From humble pawns, they'll become the fatal thorns
in the Adversary's side.

And ev'ryone will say, As you play your epic way,
"If this inventive group shows off all that's good in D&D,
Why, what a very wonderfully fun campaign
this fun campaign must be!"

Then with eloquent expression after every gaming session
you must write up what transpires,
Thus providing the redaction of the table interaction
that your readership admires.
We can relive every moment from their earliest opponent
to the final clash of power;
With the gripping storytelling and the characters compelling
it's a classic Story Hour.

And ev'ryone will say, As you play your well-told way,
"If this campaign has resulted in a tale that's as good as I've ever seen,
Why, what a most spectacularly great campaign
this great campaign has been!"
 




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