(Minor SPOILERS for Curse of the Crimson Throne)
Early on in my Curse of the Crimson Throne campaign, the random treasure generator spit up a +3 Holy, Axiomatic, Icy Burst, Cleaving, Keen Trident. It was treasure in the lair of a cult of undeath worshippers. What would a passel of Chaotic Evil Urgathoans be doing carrying a weapon that is terribly deadly to them while they infiltrated a city? What were they doing with a weapon that had so many carrier effects as to render it off the scale of costs for magic items? Clearly, it must be a paladin’s weapon. And why did they also find a Rod of Cancellation in the same hoard?
This gave me a chance to do some really fun meta world building.
The party eventually learned its name and spoke to some druids of Gozreh, who indicated that, of course, their True Neutral deity would never call paladins… well… there were some ancient rumors that he had called a few back in Azlant to fight against the aboleths.
And, meanwhile, the intellect within the trident was waking up, and sharing dreams with the wielder…
Gozreh’s Oath, Dream 1
A very attractive woman (in a gothy, evil way), dressed in well-made but nondescript traveling clothes, gestures toward you with the rod of cancellation, using it as a prop to accent her conversation. You see her against the walls of what you know to be her (and then Rolth’s) bedroom, talking to several of the Urgathoan priests that were tending the disease pit. Her voice is cultured and pleasantly forceful, breathy but with an undercurrent of menace. You expect she spent years practicing to get the sexy evil death cultist tones just right.
“The ritual is working. It’s quiescent. But I’m not convinced that it’s completely asleep yet, and I doubt this rod will actually work while it wakes. I can’t risk taking it with me by ship, obviously. So I’m trusting you to keep enacting the ritual until it’s finally completely suppressed. Get Rolth to check it every few days. As soon as it’s asleep, use this on it. Whether or not it works, find the deepest part of the undercity you can reach and bury the foul thing deep enough that no one will ever find it.”
Once the cultists indicate that they’ve understood the instructions, she sets the Rod on the dresser, gives you one last, wary glance, and then heads out of the room, the cultists picking up several bags and trunks and wandering out behind her.
Gozreh’s Oath, Dream 2
Light spills upon you. It’s been forever since even this simple caress of torchlight. You have no idea how long you’ve been in darkness.
The torch is wielded by a cruel-looking man, followed by a small and mean-looking one. They wear black adorned with sigils of undeath.
“It’s probably high time this thing was out of here,” the torchbearer explains. “See if we can finally destroy it, or at least put it to rest somewhere much further away. It’s still dangerous, but it’s not got any divine eye upon it any longer. Hasn’t in some time.”
“What about Gozreh?” asks the other.
“Best to keep it away from the sea and out of storms, you’re right, keep the temptation away from Him to meddle. But He can’t take any direct actions regarding it outside His domain, if the histories are correct. After all, He made an oath…”
A different place. Light. Memories of bright colors. The sound of the sea.
“You’ve taken your oaths and put your soul in the hands of Gozreh, today. But I’d be honored to put this in your own hands,” says the handsome, dark haired and bronze-skinned man, offering you a silk-swathed bundle. Long, thin, and bulky at one end. You stifle a remark about phallic gifts and another about forced metaphors. He’s always been much better at battlefield speeches than at talking to family.
And as you unwrap the magnificently worked trident, all thoughts of sibling rivalry evaporate. This will truly make you the envy of the other novitiates. On first touching it you feel a bond begin to form between you and the foundational spells on the weapon. This isn’t just a work of art, but an enchanter’s masterpiece. You can already tell that it will grow as your own power does, working in harmony with your training.
With no words, you simply embrace your big brother in thanks for the princely gift…
And feel hands muffled by cloth tight around you, not silks this time but spellwoven corpse blankets.
“I think we’ll drop it off with the Urgathoans. Destroying this thing would be something to crow about for them, most like, so they’ll be keen to do it. I expect they’ll set it up as a challenge for their up and comers. You might not be able to trust their motives, but you can certainly trust their power lust.
“Let’s get a trunk. I don’t like it this close to me. I can feel it thinking…
“But we’ll soon put a stop to that.”
Gozreh’s Oath, Dream 3
“It’s not a star… it’s a weapon.” Your brother’s face is lined with the days of work it took him to discover this horrifying fact. “They pulled it from the outer realms. Possibly beyond even this reality. It’s aimed at the heart of Azlant.”
“Do they hate us that much?” you ask, spinning your trident in a years-old nervous tic.
“Hate us and fear us. It was inevitable, but they’ve never had much in the way of foresight. For all their great powers and intelligence, they just don’t see the possibilities the way we do. Case in point… as far as I can tell, the coming cataclysm will be almost as bad for them as for us. They’ll shatter our land with enough force to drive it under the sea, and the force will warp the rest of the world under water and above.”
“Can we stop it?”
He gives you a look you’ve seen only a few times, but enough to know what it means: he’s thinking about giving you a comforting lie. But it’s not in his nature. “Not even the gods can stop it. I think they’ll be using all their powers to protect the Vault. To keep the impact from freeing the great beast.”
“And how sure are you that the aboleths will fall with us?”
“They’ve at least tried to protect themselves, as much as planning makes sense to them. They’ve made a few places that might be safe, to let them hide and rebuild.”
“Then I know what I’m doing with my last days. The Church has been preparing to take the fight to them for years, we just didn’t expect such an overwhelming attack. But, if we’re already doomed, there’s no reason not to give everything we have. If we can destroy these sanctuaries, maybe we can keep them from working their evil on whatever comes next.” The fear is big, but vague. Your resolve is a plan right in front of you, and that keeps the fear at bay. You stop spinning the trident and grip it firmly.
He thinks about trying to stop you. You can see it passing across his face. But you’ve also learned to tell when he already knew what you were going to do, and has resigned himself. You’ve always enjoyed making your own decisions, even if your big brother is enough of a genius that he could tell you what they’ll be. Instead, he just nods and holds out his hand in farewell.
And you surprise him, for the first time in your life, when you give him the trident instead of your hand. “Keep this. I’ve had it long enough, imprinted it well enough, that I think it’s on the verge of waking up. If anyone can survive this, it’ll be you. And it’s enough of me to keep you honest.”
Your biggest regret is always not getting to see your own raids on the aboleth sanctuaries.
Instead, you spend the last days of Azlant as an inanimate weapon in the lab, your brother working furiously, racing against time. Literally. You remember snippets of research, curses at the Runelords of Thassilon for their foolishness, and a simple-looking boat hiding equations meaningful only to the greatest scientist of the empire. If he’d had a young child or other loved one, he might have given his seat away. And the world would have been much poorer for it.
On the last day of Azlant, the Starstone brighter than the sun, he places you and a few other useful and cherished possessions in his ark and climbs aboard. He activates the device and you simply…
…skip the cataclysm. He cries a little the first few days, drifting on the roiling sea above his home. But then he gets down to business.
They’ll come to regard him as an immortal, but that’s not technically true. While he does manage much more than the brief human span common after the fall of the empire, for he is a master of many arts, few suspect that he is simply spending his days where they will do the most good. He sees a plan in the future, and uses his ark to save his mortal span for eras where he can make the best use of his time.
You’re never privy to the whole plan, but you never were in life either. Suffice it to say that five thousand years actually amount to a few busy decades. And then you get a front-row seat to the Starstone, the death of Azlant, being raised from the ocean floor. He makes it seem inevitable, almost effortless. Though it’s covered with the rocky remains of its impact, you can easily sense the powerful, otherworldly crystal hidden within. He wastes no time cutting a hole big enough to enter.
You float on the ark for hours until he walks out a god.
His first act with his newfound power surprises you. It’s been decades of time for him and millennia for Golarion. He has just made himself a god with the weapon that destroyed his race. Surely, there is a time-sensitive next step in a grand plan to fix everything that will be pivotal for the world.
So you’re shocked to find yourself, after a quick planar jaunt, standing in the halls of Gozreh’s fallen. It’s exactly like you were taught in seminary, presumably due to good descriptions from the resurrected.
Here, Gozreh needs no avatar, and exists in a state that you can barely perceive, much less comprehend. But you can make sense of your brother’s side of the conversation.
“You know who I’ve come for. I’m prepared to bargain.”
“Yes, a resurrection could have been obtained previously. It’s not enough. I want the rights to the soul, free and clear.”
“Of course. I’m well aware of the ‘glorious provenance.’ I’m also aware that paladins aren’t your usual style, and it was only to put the aboleths in their place that you called any. Look how well that turned out. Surely, a crusader in these halls is upsetting to the rest of your druids, fishermen, and pirates?”
“Just this: My patron cities shall all be built on the sea within your easy reach, and I pledge to never work specifically against you, or encourage my church to war with yours. All this for one soul. Do we have a bargain?”
“Excellent. Then I want your oath. You are ceding all rights to this soul to me. You are no longer the patron nor have any rights of destiny. You will trust that all events that proceed are according to my plan, and you will not interfere. Agreed?”
“So be it, and so witnessed by the item of power I carry.”
Strange though his requests are, you let them pass as you finally feel the arrival of yourself. Your soul, of which you have long been only a faint resonance in a magical weapon, is returning. With a negligent expenditure of power, you and he travel to what you can tell is the new core of his own divine realm, a perfect match to your childhood home. And when your soul returns, it appears as it did the day you took your oaths and were given the trident.
He smiles as he hands you back. “The trident was enough to keep me honest as a mortal, but I’m going to need a lot more help as a god. Will you let me share my powers with you, so you can serve as my herald?”
The shock of return is strange. You share what you can of the past aeons, and in turn get a sense of what that time was like for the rest of your soul. It only takes moments for you to understand what he is asking you. To understand what he has done for you. You hug your big brother for the first time in over five thousand years and whisper, “Of course.”
You can feel aeons of pain easing a little as he speaks the power of a god into you. “Then rise, Arazni, herald of Aroden.”
Gozreh’s Oath, Dream 4
The weight of your armor pulls against you, even here, the best that mortal smiths could forge suffused with divine essence. Your brother sits before you, his library overflowing with pages of figurings and charts, working methodically to trace the events of the world. To another he would seem engrossed, even dismissive, but you recognize that he is listening.
“I wish you’d reconsider. Tomorrow my knights will summon me forth to fight the Whispering Tyrant, and, on the surface, I could easily convince them to perform a similar summons for you. I’ve never understood the deal that prevents you from working directly at your whim, but surely that would satisfy it?”
He spares you a glance while he talks, “It’s not a deal with the other gods that prevents me from acting, though some of them may think it is such. What I do from here is like a chisel, sculpting a statue with care. Manifesting is like a sledgehammer: faster, but impossible to do detailed work.”
“Then should I refuse the summons?”
He stops writing and gives you his full attention, “You might choose not to, but not for the reason you think. Things are in motion. This crusade may require you to sacrifice yourself for a victory. But, if you do, your knights will triumph. Without you, they will certainly fail.”
“Are you expending me like a piece on your board? Shouldn’t this be more reason for you to help defeat this great evil yet again?”
He shakes his head sadly, “You are not a pawn. And it is your choice. It will be a terrible trial, but it may not be forever. And I will not be long behind you, in the grand scheme of things.”
“There will come a time where I, too, must sacrifice myself. The statue, you see, is being sculpted in ways I cannot control whenever I am not looking. The others think they’re being clever, twisting the civilization that I have cultivated toward their own ends. When I am gone, they will cease to fear my involvement and their machinations will become more obvious. And then the rot can be flensed from the soul of humanity. If I’ve done this correctly, you will be put back into play after my enemies have long discounted us both.”
He stands up and just hugs you, the rare sign of brotherly affection the only answer you need.
“I’ll do it. But I’d better find that you’ve left an escape for yourself in this as well. I can’t save the world without you.”