Tales of Atlium: A Dark Response to Failure

Within the humble beginnings of the party, before they were truly a party, Myana and Alraste had an adventure further within the goldenlands of Ivandria, specifically the smaller river town of Sarator. It was here that the first truly important narrative decision of the campaign began. And that’s where the first tale starts.

The cast, in order of relevance to the story:

  • Hannah as Myana, female Alswain rogue
  • Mitchell as Alraste, male Elsydian rogue
  • featuring Vik as Avish, male Alabastrian shifter
  • and Keith as Renz, male Zagashi kineticist
The Context

Before reaching Sarator, the merchant caravan that Myana rode with was besieged by bandits. The bandits held the caravan hostage, with the expectation that they would find useful fighters among them who would care enough about their family to do some bidding for the bandits. Myana was among the men and women who scouted the nearby settlement, though in most part devising her own way to escape. Unfortunately, it ended in many unexpected deaths, both from the settlement and the caravan. The chaos was enough for her to escape, but not without a pang of guilt for the way things happened.

Living up to expectations was something of a motto for much of Myana’s backstory from before the campaign began, as well. Without getting into too much detail, much of her life was marred in various activities that, when cast in the wrong light, could easily be construed as failure. So this was one more, added to the unending pile. But the straw that broke the camel’s back had not arrived quite yet.

The Story

At first glance, Sarator seemed a normal enough town. Myana met with a local contact in hopes of gaining more information about where to go next. During the time here, she heard stories of a mansion, owned by the Ingram family, that seemed to be haunted. An injured guard, stories of the fallout of the Great War– it all seemed a bit too strange. With time on her hands and a need to see some good in the world, she and her newly-met friend Avish – who she survived a bandit assault alongside just days ago – began to research the strange goings-on. What they found was demonic in nature, horrors otherworldly and almost inexplicable. The poltergeist-esque figure that haunted the manor was the least of their worries.

It was while searching the manor that a local elven man, already weary of what was happening, made his way inside to see who was crazy enough to risk their lives to investigate all of this. Though not obvious at the time, the all-too-similar elven rogues would become close friends, first bonding over the horrors that hid under the quaint town. But all of that is for later. Throughout the home, they found references to demonic rituals, sacrifices, and all matter of occult readings. A woman distraught over the loss of her son had driven her to take drastic measures to bring him back, speak to him– anything, if only for a moment. Though seated deep within the goldenlands, far from the frontlines and seasons after the war ended, the war’s impact seemed to still bear pressure on everything the party interacted with, in one way or another.

During the main inspection of the home, they met an inquisitor of the Cinderguard, sent from Brightfall, to investigate anything strange within the city. Of course, the stories pointed him quickly to the path of the party of three. So the four of them scouted the manor, top to bottom, and it was during this time that a strange entity calling itself Targoth took refuge within the mind of Renz. He had a belief that anything able to give them the upper hand in the ensuing days would be worth paying for later– an intuition that proved mostly correct. The small sacrifice of a voice seemed minute compared to the power that this being could unleash, using a willing body as a conduit for all manner of dark abilities.

A showdown with a strange, massive imp-like creature was the final punctuation of the investigation. The darkness bled far from the manor. A local caretaker and gardener of a temple, a single father named Steren, seemed hell-bent on doing anything and everything he could to save his daughter from whatever sickness ailed her. The party was unwilling to let him give himself up to save her, convinced that there would be another way– a better, safer way. Though they were able to save both Steren and his young daughter TEssa, it wasn’t without cost: The murder of the Ohm High Priest was tracked back to him, and the promise of a public, Ohm-style execution would take place.

By the time the investigation concluded, the party was mentally drained. Resigning themselves to a night of drinking and misery, they passed out, one by one. Come morning, the occult atrocities seemed to have gotten into the head of Avish, as he was nowhere to be seen, with only the assumption that a more mundane life was one he wished to live. Renz, meanwhile, with his job done, was to return to Brightfall to file a full report with the Cinderguard. But not before he gave the party, now only two, one last favor: A chance to speak with Steren before his inevitable trial and guilty verdict.

In his last conversation with the party, Steren begged them to give Tessa a better chance at life. Through tears, the father and daughter said their goodbyes, and Myana and Alraste took her, with intent to give her a chance at life in the big city, returning to Brightfall, eventually, on their own time. Whether morbid curiosity or a need to truly see if the trial would be presented fairly, the two stayed long enough to watch the city square from nearby.

The verdict, of course, was guilty. The punishment, of course, was an execution worthy of the Bringer of Tides: Drowning, for all the city to see. Seemingly the only ones with pity for the decisions this father had made, Alraste snuck onto a nearby roof and took a couple of quick arrow shots at Steren, hoping to put him out of his misery before the salted water filled his lungs. Did he? Neither of them ever found out.

Targoth, in need of a host more hungry for power, contacted and made an offer to Myana in much the same way as Renz, but with the hope (and intent) that it would be more permanent.

So yes, this is a story of strange happenings and dark dealings, but that is not what the story is about. The time that Myana spent in Sarator was bookended by failure, to those she was paid to protect, and those that she deemed deserving of it, innocent and young. Myana’s choices here– Hannah’s decision here, is one that had an impact that reverberated. The need to succeed, to prevent another failure, another Steren, was so strong in them both, that no price seemed to steep, no deal too sour.

The Aftermath

The relationship between Myana and Targoth was, at best, symbiotic. There were times when Targoth would grant her powers, but times when there was an expectation or yearning of expanded power. More often than not, Targoth was a point of contention, both for Myana and the party at large. At its worst, Myana turned to alcohol, drugs– anything that she could find to take her mind from Targoth and give her the absolute privacy of her own thoughts once more. It was her great secret, kept from all but her most trusted allies. Until one day, they parted ways, the woman and her demonic companion. Though that is for another story altogether.

As for the rest? Myana, Alraste, Horse (their mule), and Tessa reached Brightfall, met new allies, and began a new adventure. Those weeks of travel were among the most optimistic and carefree of Tessa’s life, only brought down by the constant reminder in the back of her head, the one she would never be able to shake, even after she left the mortal plane: Her father was dead, and it was her fault. For all the time that Myana tried to convince her, it never really stuck.

Mechanically, Hannah pivoted Myana into a warlock class at this point, giving her a more unique journey and separating her mechanics from those of her more-talented compatriot. Over time, what Myana knew of her roguish ways seemed to fall by the wayside in favor of the magical powers granted by a demon and her silver tongue and shrewd attitude.

Tessa’s final fate was to be lost, called to another horrible ritual, another dangerous attack, and driving Myana to an even lower place in her life. But without Tessa, without Targoth, without a few chance meetings, without a desperate father making the ultimate mistake– perhaps without that, Myana never would have found her true calling, and though spiraling slower, would never have met friends to pull her back into the light?

Thanks, Hannah. I know this isn’t much, but there was a time when you were doing all the heavy lifting. You told one hell of a story, one step at a time. So this is my tribute to Myana’s story. I think she deserves that, at the least. I know you do.

Posted by Robert Wall