CHAPTER 8

1 NEW QUEST UNLOCKED

WAR COUNCIL

Welcome to the Nethersea! Almost no one in Azuhl ever sees it, and those who survive it live their lives marked, inside or out, and sometimes both. Now it is up to you to decide which of your ideas for a new Quest will come into reality! Vote for your favorite:

This poll has ended (since 17 days).
"Release the Kraken!" | Let this ancient monster - or god - put Curses to work for you.
37.09%
"Kra'Kos, the Forgotten Demigod" | Gain this quest, which turns into a powerful item.
25.12%
"Rising Island" | Add a new, explored hex to the map, and get the benefits immediately.
17.37%
"Run the Imperial Blockade" | Move your hero to a Sea Tower and explore it - without producing garrisons.
8.22%
"Volcanic Eruption" | Destroy 1 Hex. KABOOM!
6.34%
"Midnight Trade Guild" | Draw treasure from the deep, and get some items.
5.87%

*Please note that we have to playtest these thoroughly, so they might change a bit.

Below are the stories written by fellow rebels, to continue the tale of Kha’al, Syndra, Baranth and Ronja. Click on the name to read their contribution to the Lore of Azuhl. Please keep writing this story with us!

Once protector of the Seas and worshipped by the sailers, Kra’Kos was proclamed a demigod by his worshipers. The Old Gods did not see it that way and banished him. He was condemn to roam the NetherSeas for eternity. For ages, Kra’Kos, with all his fury and rage, started to become mad and slowing changed into more of an animal than anything else, wrecking havoc any ships that came into his path, angry at his worshipers who forgot about him and left him to die.

Kha’al, with sword in hand pulled himself up to his full height and walked towards Hallgrim. If he had even a slight command over his balance he would have looked quite intimidating. But instead as the Black Moon crested another unmoving wave and cut into the next Kha’al, still without his Nethersea legs, stumbled. Instead of the threatening attempt to gain information from Hallgrim it became comical as the stumbling and tripping started a deep laughter within Hallgrim.

“Water you doing lad? Shell we dance?” Hallgrim joked. “You need to just, seas the day. Haha. Or night who knows in this blasted Nethersea!”

All joined in the merriment and Kha’al’s curses of blood and fire could be heard between bursts of laughter.

I’m sure if Kha’al had made it to Hallgrim the goodhearted jokes and banter would have died on the sharp end of his sword but as the Black Moon crested yet another motionless wave Xinxiu with the Third Eye called out directions to the Kap’lan. In this never ending black sea, navigating seemed unfeasible to Kha’al and his distrust and suspicions grew. The black sea seemed to hide in its inconceivable depths a horde of lurking monsters. However Xinxinu exclaimed excitedly that they were at their destination as the Third Eye directed.

Hallgrim’s good-humored mood quickly changed as the Black Moon sailed into what he and the rest of the crew believed to be an island. Well most of the crew, the Prophet knew better.

The first sign that something was wrong was the gurgling bubbles within the unmoving waves. This was something that even the old Kap’lan had never seen.

Rising out of the Nethersea was an abnormal aquatic monster towering well above the ship sail but also resting in the depths of the Nethersea. The appearance sending chills down our mariner’s spines, gigantic eyes and tentacles creeping up the sides of the Black Moon. The sight evoking images within their minds of being dragged ship and crew, down into the watery depths.

Kha’al cursed again, blood and fire and readied himself to die fighting. He distrusted everyone and in this case barely believing his own eyes. However today was not his day to die and the Prophet stepped forward and placed a calming hand on his shoulder. Kha’al could hear her in his mind,they all could, as she called to the beast. The two communicated with words inside of their minds with out moving their mouths.

Only catching snippets of the conversation Kha’al learned little. But he did learn that the beast was an evolved ancient and was responsible for protection the Needle, tethered to the bottom of the Nethersea. It was always believed that the Nethersea gates were built by the ancients which was true but those that became God touched like this creature powered the magic that allowed the gates to stay open. As the Prophet continues to evolve she to will be responsible for powering magic within the world as she develops into some kind of world tree.

The conversation between the two God touched became private and the crew was left awed by the wonders they had seen and heard.

The Needle was raised from the depths and given to the Prophet of Thorns and the creature lowered itself back into the black waters.

Kha’al hand on his sword started to approach Hallgrim. “Hey!” Kha’al shouted, “we need to set something straight.” Just then Kha’al started to hear a song and it caught him off guard. He could see that Hallgrim could also hear it. It was a melody that seemed so familiar yet Kha’al had never heard anything so beautiful. As he listened his fears seemed to melt away, where was this coming from? It was so dark on the Nethersea, so Kha’al started to approach the starboard side of the ship. He noticed that others were doing the same. When he got there still he could not locate the source of this beautiful sound he was hearing, suddenly he heard a loud splash. He looked behind him and noticed that a couple of crew members had jumped overboard, yet his first concern was not for the crew but if they were going to see the beauty that was creating this song and he would miss his chance. Kha’al then started at a quickened pace towards the port side. As he was walking he saw another crew member jump, he sped up pace….

 

Yvai woke, or did she? Either she had gone blind or the room she was in was very dark. “Where am I?” After the initial fright, she took a deep breath and centered herself. She had heard stories of old, passed down from other Oracle’s that beings of higher power would often reach out to the Tua Than through visions guardians of sorts to help guide and protect the innocence of the Tua Than and sometimes the people of Azuhl. That had not happened since the occurrence of the Curse. As Yvai began to meditate she started to feel this great power. Seeing that a vision like this has never happened to her she thought of her earliest training is calming and clearing her mind. The power seemed dormant, but there was definitely something there, wherever “there” was. Despite this all being new to Yvai, the power seemed familiar to her. Just then as if her eyes started to focus she could see a ship. On the ship was a mix of races from all around Azuhl and they appeared to be in the Nethersea, also was that Kyushi….

 

Dugpa’s dream started to fade, thinking she was going to wake up, she waited. Yet as she tried to wake herself up her vision was still black. Dugpa thought to herself, “what is going on, seems to me that it is just easier for me to stay awake then to risk sleeping these days.” Dugpa remembering what occurred about a fortnight ago with the large Warg creature showing her a vision. She closed her eyes and opened them, and when she did she could a ship. She also noticed that she was floating above the ship as if she was a bird overwatching it. Dupga immediately felt multiple strong auras. She looked around and saw nothing apparent. She then focused on the ship. She noticed there was a large man who dressed similar to Yanny and there was a Tua Than and then Dugpa could not believe her eyes. Was that Kha’al?? I thought he was dead! She watched closely as Kha’al started to approach a man with his hand on his sword. She could not hear what he was saying but he looked as if he was shouting. She had almost forgotten about the auras that alerted her at first. Focusing she reached out with her mind. She could tell that one of the strong auras was coming from the boat, possibly that strange looking woman with the blossoms on her skin. Then she tried focusing on the next aura but a song had started to resound in her head. It was one of the most horrific sounds she had ever heard. For some odd reason the people on the boat seemed mesmerized, and then she noticed it. The creature looked fish like with a fin on the top of its head, by the curves it appeared female. Webbing that attached from her torso stretching up to her arms and it was singing. She then noticed men jumping from the boat, and from what she could tell those men were falling to their deaths. Dugpa let out a scream, if this was ongoing she could not let Kha’al die for real this time….

 

Yvai, still in a partial state of meditation, noticed the giant creature in front of the ship and the strange behavior of the crew on the boat. For some reason the dormant power reached for her almost if asking for help and that is when she heard a woman shout. Yvai did not notice her at first but there was another that seemed to be in this vision of hers. She hurried over to comfort the woman, as she approached she heard the Krowh shout, “not again!” At that moment Dugpa noticed Yvai approaching. “What is going on here, and who are you, and how are you in my vision?”

 

“Your vision?” Yvai asked. “It honestly doesn’t matter who’s vision it is. A vision like this has not happened for my people since before I was appointed Oracle. We are here for a reason.” As if almost forgetting what Yvai was trying to reach out to previously she asked, “can you feel them too?” Dupga, realizing what she asked focused on the Wave Singer. “Yes in a way, I can sense their auras.”

 

“Well I think I need help, there is one that feel dormant and I think I need your help reaching out, I am not strong enough alone” Yvai reach out her hand, “would you help me as I feel it will help us both” Dugpa skeptical took her hand and asked, “how do you know that reaching out will help save that ship?” “Well it is more of a feeling, an instinct”, Yvai said hesitantly. Dugpa was going to argue but realized she wasn’t really in the position to do so. She was powerless to help the boat, and perhaps she was here to help the Wave Singer.

 

Yvai looked at Dugpa, “you will need to focus. The power that I am trying to reach is quiet compared to the other two that are also present. Focus, search for it” Listening to Yvai, Dugpa focused. It did not take long and she was able to sense the third power… Ice filled the veins of Dugpa once again. THe power she sensed was similar to that of the Warg creature that reached out to her. Dugpa nervous, “I have located it, now what?” Yvai said in the most calm voice Dugpa has ever heard, “lend your power to it, give it the strength to release it from its dormant state.” Yvai and Dugpa stood there in the strange dark mist, one an Oracle of the Tua Than, the other a Seer of the Krowh, holding hands and combining their powers trying to awaken this ancient power. A tingling sensation went down both backs as a deep reverberating bellow was let loose.

Kha’al halfway over the ship’s railing was startled out of his walking sleep, and what awoke him could not be good. The most ferocious roar just sounded from the stern of the ship and was so loud it seemed to drown out that song for just long enough. Kha’al coming to his senses realized the roar had roused the whole ship out of the state of the song, and that is when call could see it now.

 

To the bow was this large fish like creature that as best he could tell had already consumed some of the men that had jumped overboard and to the stern was a huge crustacean like creature with almost natural looking armor for its skin covering most of its body. The creature had four legs and two arms with huge claw-like hands and in the best form Kha’al could only describe its face as one a mother could love. Tentacle dropped down almost to form the creature a beard with more tentacles rising up behind it from a location that Kha’al could not see. Kha’al rushed back to where his party had regrouped, as he saw the large thing charge.

 

The Siren, upset that her fun had been ruined was now in a foul mood, saw the large creature rise from the Nethersea and was going to teach it a lesson. The Prophet of Thorns unaffected by the Sirens song started to organize the ship’s crew recognizing this opportunity. Hallgrim still disoriented heard her shout, “Hallgrim, get to the helm. We need you to get us out of here! The Kraken will give us the window needed to escape from the Siren, but we need to MOVE!” Just then to Kha’al’s amazement the large creature, the Prophet called the Kraken threw its huge body not into the ship but rather into the Siren. Giving the Black Moon its opportunity to get to the needle.

 

Dugpa sat with Yvai and watched, as the ship got away. The creature they released, had done good this day, saving the life of Kha’al and whatever mess of a group he has gotten himself into. This was enough for Dugpa, knowing that somewhere he was alive as her vision began to fade. She heard in that calm voice once again. “My name is Yvai and I hope we meet again.” All Dugpa could do was say her name, hoping that Yvai heard before she found herself in a cold sweat lying in her bed.

 

The first vision Dugpa was able to shake off and ignore for the most part, but now she needed to address whatever was going on. First the Warg and now the Kraken and to Dugpa both in a way felt connected. They say that lightning never strikes in the same place twice, but Dugpa felt as if it just had.

“The Needle”. It finally made sense. Everyone knew there was nothing in the Nethersea but motionless waves and endless water, at least on the surface. But even though this was common knowledge there had been some doubt. What limited information the party could gather seemed to point to an inexplicable island or fortress within the Nethersea. Some speck of land lost to all knowledge except to the handful of people over the years that had possessed this particular Third Eye. But, as is so often the case, the simplest answer was the correct one.

“There she is, the Needle!” shouts Kap’lan Hallgrim pointing just as the prow of the Black Moon starts to dip down the latest ‘water hill’.

Kha’al squints. “What needle? That’s just another wall of water. …a very TALL wall that’s sheer. We won’t be able to climb it! Blood and fire you blasted pirate, you’ve killed us all!” The Krowh tries to throw himself at the Kap’lan, thoughts of getting answers replaced by a single desire to kill the traitor before his own death by drowning. But his lunge is brought up short as he slams into the deck of the bladeship, now nearly vertical as the boat flies down the steep slope of the final wave, the trough much lower than the previous ones. Over the howl of rushing wind Kha’al hears Hallgrim yell “Grab hold of something Krowh! We won’t be turning back to fish you out if you go overboard!” It was sage advice as the deck didn’t provide much purchase and was slick with spray, causing him to slide along as though it was made of ice. Scrabble as he might his hands couldn’t find anything to wrap around and within moments he slammed against the hull head first. His last sensation before blacking out, weightlessness as his trunk slipped over the aft railing.

His eyes snap open and then shut again almost instantly, stinging from the salt spray. His right shoulder muscle is straining and starting to burn and there is pressure on his wrist. “Rrrrr, wake up and help me!” he hears in a harsh growl. Shaking his head and opening his eyes again he sees Ronja, feet braced against the lower lip of the bulkhead and both hands wrapped around his wrist, straining with everything she has. It wasn’t enough; he was slipping from her grip fast. With a surge of adrenaline he thrusts out his other hand, grabbing onto her forearm and pulling himself back towards the rocketing boat. “C’mon you. Heavy. Sack of…” through gritted teeth Ronja tugs at Kha’al while he drags himself back to the boat, finally getting a hand on a baluster and then drawing himself through the opening. As they both brace themselves against the bulkhead, panting, Ronja weakly tosses the end of a rope to him and points to the one she has tied around her waist. “Old seaman’s trick…” As Kha’al wraps the cord around himself, she lets out a gruff laugh. “Now you owe me a life Krowh. That’s gotta burn you up inside.”

“Here she comes!” bellows Hallgrim. The ship levels off but doesn’t reduce any of its speed. The howl of the wind becomes a roar and within moments the open air on either side of the boat turns into solid sheets of water less than a handful of meters away. They scud through this valley of mountainous ocean for a minute or more before finally leaving it behind them. Kha’al stares in amazement at the cliff face of immovable sea they just rushed through. With a whoop and holler the Kap’lan dances a little jig. “Threadin’ the Needle never gets old!”

The voice of the Prophetess slashes through his revere. “Slow!”

Remembering himself, Hallgrim turns the rudder hard, slewing the ship into the wind and yells for his crew to up sail. Quickly bleeding speed he shouts to man oars. “Compass won’t help us now Lady, point us where you need to go.”

The Prophetess stands motionless and silent. The men on the oars start to murmur and fidget. “Patience you dogs!” hollers Hallgrim, watching for any sign from the God-Touched. Slowly her arm raises and she points.

“Row!” The oars dip and rise methodically, pushing the ship forward. Hallgrim’s eyes never leave the outstretched finger of the Prophetess of Thorns. Any slight movement of that finger and he adjusts the rudder accordingly, keeping the boat moving exactly towards the horizon she is indicating.

As the minutes pass the adventurers gather around the mast, Baranth not yet ready to unlash himself. Scanning the horizon the only remarkable thing Kha’al can see is that there are no longer any motionless waves. Every quarter of the compass, except the direction they came from, is completely flat. “I see nothing.” grumbles the Krowh.

“Do you even know what to look for?” asked Syndra.

“Yes.” he barks back. “Something that’s not endless leagues of still water!”

Suddenly the Prophetess raises her arm, her hand turning into a fist. “Check her down!” cries Hallgrim, telling the rowers to stop the ship. Oars are squared and the boat slows to a stop. Lowering her arm the Prophetess closes her eyes and again stands motionless. After a few moments all in the boat begin to hear her resonant voice in their heads, speaking a language none of them know. The conversation is brief but has breathtaking results.

A league ahead of the Black Moon the glassy surface of the Nethersea suddenly starts to rise as though a mound is forming just under its surface. It grows higher by the second until it bursts, roaring waters cascading down as something breaches. Before their eyes an island appears. At the apex a tower that appears to be made of polished coral. Down from this, steep slopes covered in a mixture of trees and reefs as though the forest and sea are mingled together. Higher and higher the island vaults until their vessel is dwarfed by it. Then, amazingly, it moved forward. Panic sets in and the crew of the Black Moon try to scatter, some willing to risk their lives to the vast Nethersea to escape the on-rushing island. With a commanding voice the Kap’lan restores a semblance of order to his ship, trusting in the Prophetess of Thorns to protect them.

The island stops just short of the boat, the waves of its wake rocking the vessel violently. Unperturbed, the Prophetess walks to the bow and stands at the head of the boat. “Hello, old friend.” More ripples in the water and the head of a massive turtle breaches the surface. Its eyes show no malice, even crinkling a bit as though it was smiling at the Prophet.

“Blood and fire…” whispers Baranth.

“You can say that again.” concurs Kha’al.