Tiresias, The Sage
The Following is Secret Lore, Told by Tiresias, banished sage, and enemy of the Order of the Flame and the Lighted Races of Cellinor. Simply hearing this tale is considered High Treason by the Inquisition of the Crimson Order.
An oaken door on rusty iron hinges creaks open. The smell of a laboratory, the aroma of powders and potions, is masked by a fragrance of beautiful sweetness, something floral. All around the room spreads a vast collection of dusty things, and other oddities draped with linens. In other areas there are glass vials held on metal racks. White columns of stone rise from the floor to the ceiling, with stern images carved into them of both ghastly demons and creatures of soft beauty. The room is large, and the ceiling exaggeratedly tall. There is too much to take in, but your eyes fall upon a table placed nearly central to the odd shaped room, it’s top is orderly and clean, and it’s neatness is out of place in this giant bundle of scattered objects.
There is a faint but traceable wild and earthy smell masking the odors of the items held on innumerable shelves.
Seated at the table is a ragged old man in simple clothes, with his head bent low, a shaking quill in his hand. As you walk forward, his hand stops and he looks up through long, thick golden hair streaked with grey. His eyes are hidden through the strands, and when he speaks, he does so in a hoarse, yet elegantly fluid tone.
“Welcome. My name is Tiresias.” He then poignantly leans back over his scroll, and completes a line. Dropping his quill back into the ink bottle, he looks up and this time, you realize that he cannot see you. His eyes are milky white and although he looks in your direction, they are not focused on you.
“My friends tell me that you have come to learn more of the past, and perhaps of your future. Is that so?” He asks in an elegant voice. Confirming this is indeed why you’ve come, he continues. “Perhaps though, you will learn of your future and then you can understand your past.”
The old man seems to think this is funny a little and so he laughs to himself about it.
“Well then, we should get started! We never know when the Inquisition will beat down our doors, now do we?” Tiresias weathered face cracks a wry smile as he rolls up his parchment, and rises slowly and with great care. He makes his way with the help of a servant to a table covered in maps, and other parchments scribbled in various signs and other notes. What looks like bones still protruding from rough hewn slabs of earth removed from some hole and brought here rest atop the stacked sheets.
“Easy my Lord,” chides the servant as Tiresias “tssks” him away.
The old man’s hands glide gently along feeling what must be a familiar route, and they land on the edge of a stand where rests a pitcher. Among the fossils, Tiresias gingerly finds the pitcher with trembling fingertips outstretched and pours something to drink. “Please help yourself, as all good heroes must,” he says. He invites you to sit on pillows scattered on the floor spreading his hands out in their direction.
Gingerly, and refusing any care, he sits with you. “Well, then, where shall we begin, my friends….it’s so hard to know when so much of it is…well, what do they know?” Tiresias looks blankly around and finally his eyes navigate in the direction of your host with a patient expression.
“They know nothing, my Lord. They must hear it all.”
“All? Is that it?” Tiresias smiles, “Well, then, we better pour our drink slowly, and talk quickly! The wine of the Southern Valley’s best orchards is hard to come by these last few months and I fear we won’t have enough to complete a tale of ALL. If it’s all for you, then for the Sake of All, we best begin at the beginning.”
Tiresias leans back on a pillow embroidered with the image of a snakelike beast. A moth flutters up and disappears somewhere into his many dusty piles of ancient treasures.
“All in all, the world was not always as simple as it is now my goodly friends. It was once… complex. Complex and much more… misinformed, even than you are now. Long ago, long before Kasille, Mankind was all there was. The maker, the creator, the thinker, the dreamer. The user. The slave. Yes, but we were also the Slaver!”
“You see my goodly Celns, the Order is most correct about many things. Mankind is who made the elves, the dwarves, the Halfs as you most likely call them as well. Mankind was the manipulator of the world. He changed himself in order to live longer, to live heartier, to live with less. He changed the earth to give more to him. He was invincible, but not….to himself. He used the resources of the land, and then he overused them. He destroyed the world, and then he nearly destroyed himself. But that, was a very, very long time ago. And little of THAT time is known.”
“We do know that sometime after this ancient destruction, Mankind discovered two very important things, and they would change the world, their world, our world, forever. They were not more inventions, more toys to play with. You see, mankind discovered at last a part of his nature. At long last he discovered magic, and he discovered that in it, lay divinity.”
“What’s that you say? Different? Not so fast, children of Cellinor!”
“The two are not as different as you may guess! Magic, as Man found, was the existent, the external will of his own being. The use of his conscious mind to do great works. Far superior to His muscles! Far superior to “machinery”. He had hintings of it, but ancient man could not recognize them. It wasn’t until his tinkerings with Himself that he discovered it’s raw power. It has always been thus, nothing more. Some can harness it. Some cannot.
“Divinity, though, as the Flame will surely tell you, is nothing more than that collected will, meant to do great works to better All. For those who can’t use It, others can. Divinity, my friends, is the distribution of that magic.” Tiresias’s words echo around the chamber. You find yourself leaning closer, Tiresias seems to sense the looks you share with your comrades.
“Well, then, I can ‘see’ we are getting somewhere with you lot at least….”
“Mankind once used both Magics and Divine Powers. And as that power became distributed, as He found the power in his will, and in his soul, he found a way to make himself more. Much more. Man found himself a way to make himself….godly. The Gods, that’s right! The gods did not create mankind. Yes, yes, noble Celn. Man created the Gods of course! In this the Order is most ardently correct as well. Or maybe mankind is the gods, or maybe the gods are mankind.”
The old man seems suddenly puzzled. “Oh, that’s neither here nor there though!”
After a slight prompting from your host, he continued.
“But Mankind was deceived! Yes, that’s it. And over eons, as the Liberation Texts tell, He forgot who had created who! His worship left him a slave to the will of powerful beings, beings that He himself once created. That he once helped to power! Beings which arose from the leaders of the time, as Lords of Man, Gods. The Immortal Ones!”
“And power breeds more power you see. So he then created those who could serve the will of these masters, to do the “dirty work” as we say. Other races who could harness this power did the same. Some for benign gain, and others for the taking of it. Mankind lived in harmony on the surface of Gaia, achieving great things, building incredible monuments, but not all were happy.”
The old sage pauses and asks for the bottle sitting on the table. He uncorks it once more. It’s a bottle of The King’s Grapery. Selling for 12 gp a bottle, you are sure to answer when he asks if you’d like a glass. “This is the finest vintage of the last several seasons. I enjoy it with leisure, yet somewhere, South of here, dozens of hands sweat and toil to bring it to me in this manner.” Passing around the bottle you pour the rich red liquid in your cups.
“To your health, Celns.” Mutters Tiresias, who after a long, slow pull, places his cup down upon the floor, wipes his stubbled chin, and resumes his tale. “And now to blasphemy of the most highest!”
“For as long as Mankind has been on this good earth, Gaia as it were, He has possessed slaves of one form or another. And in the ancient days of your race, it was no different. Mankind discovered the resources of the deep earth. And he needed slaves to bring him his ‘leisures’. But, no slave can be given the power of the master. No! As thus, slaves worked the great machines of the earth, deep and down into the very heart of this world, but they were not given the gifts of magic as man knew. Over millennia, they changed, they adapted. They lived without the surface light, and in fact they began to thrive without it. Unbenownst to Man, they worshipped their own Gods, not His. Beings who in the same likeness of power, grew into immortals themselves. Some developed their own sense of magic. Their gods were different. They were, like all gods, made in the image of the races that created them. In the dark, they were made in the image of KET, for that is the name they gave to their world. They were vengeful and industrious, nefarious and cruel. They were made in the image of the creatures that made Them, just as The Four were made in the image of you, goodly Celns…”
“I am sorry my Celn friends, but Ket is most real. And it is most nearer to you then it has been in four millennia.”
“But, let me complete my tale of ALL before you take your leave. For as below you now, mighty Erebus stirred then, the great Capital of the Underworld, land of Eternal Darkness, set to work against the lighted folk and her neighbor races. And as it so happened, fate struck and gave Ket darkness upon the surface of our world. The Darkness would have it’s way with the surface, and never again would Ket be the slaves.”
“And thus did Ket become lords of the dark, and ultimately Lords of the lighted races as well. The Lords of Ket destroyed the gods that had so enslaved them and turned your people into their vassals!! And for millenia did Ket rule over the lighted races my dear friends.”
But something happened that these “Ketians” had not expected. For Mankind in his constant invention made a discovery! In their hour of need, just as your Liberation Texts tells you friends, the slaves in the light learned of the nature of the Gods. And they set about to cast off their own chains. This part of the Liberation Text is most accurate! The Kasillians, as you now call them, re-discovered that the Gods harnessed Their power. And once Mankind knew this, He wanted it back! He needed it back!”
“The Flame will tell you all of this. They will tell you that a great battle was waged against man and his gods, but not with his gods and KET itself!” Tiresias moves a hand towards a small pile of scattered parchment pieces. Many of their edges are burned as if they had been saved from a fire in some catastrophe long ago. An invisible force brushes the tubes aside as a skull emerges and sails into his outstretched yet shaking hand. Horns protrude from it, and enough of it’s skin clings to it’s bone to reveal that it was once the head of an orc.
“The Order will tell you that this creature is simply a figment of the land. That it simply is, as other creatures are a product of their world. But further investigation reveals this isn’t so, my friends.” The skull floats closer to you, willed by Tiresias’ magics and rotates so that you can see decaying and shriveled up cartilage of it’s ears. “This is an orc, cousin to the smaller goblin races. You see, goblins live to tunnel, they build grand highways in the shadowy places and are not suited to the light. In fact, they were created that way. They are much older than orcs. Mankind wanted goblins to slave in the deep, to bring them precious minerals, but a good slave should never enter the Master’s house and so He made them ill-suited to the surface world….But this orc, now this is far more robust isn’t it, and far more difficult to take down let me tell you. Look at it’s cranium! It is a creature of war. It hungers for war. It breeds to make war, and it waits to hunt in the night, to roam on the surface before the dawn comes. It was made to serve Mankind in a time of great need. It is now a bogeyman, but was once just a weapon. A weapon for mankind himself! But, by far and away it is not Mankind’s greatest weapon. No….”
Tiresias’ tale is interrupted by a bell that echoes in the chamber. Several plates of food are brought in. Tiresias reaches out and finding the dish, begins to eat as he continues on. As he begins again, he gestures for you to eat as well.
“And now you all know the rest, good Celns. Do you not? You’ve all sat at Riften Nacht and heard the Temple Mount’s sermon. How the Three rose and were struck down by the masses. How the women do suffer that eave? How the Flame harnessed the power, the power that had once been reserved for the Gods, now of the people, how they used it to cast down the Three?” Tiresias chuckles a bit to himself.
You nod, of course. Every Celn knows this part of the Liberation Text by heart.
“Well, of course they did. Except they didn’t give power to themselves as it is written, my lads. They gave it to the Three!”
‘What?” you hear yourself blurt out. “Why would the Lighted Races, the Kasilians, give power to the Enemy?” Nods all around. What an old fool this is. The rest of his story begins to waiver to you. What else has he told you that is false?
“To the enemy?” Tiresias laughs heartily, “My, my, we are good little Celns aren’t we ‘Heroes’? Well, of course they didn’t give it to the enemy!” Tiresias points to a suit of armor, a dazzling suit behind him on a stand, emblazoned with the Order’s Tree, The Tree of Awakening.
“Tell me, friends, what is engraved on the inside of every suit of armor worn by the Order of Inquisition, The Order of Crimson?”
“Know ye not? Well let me see if I can help you remember…:
Slowly he begins to chant the Order’s most well known verse. You find yourself following along. It’s your oldest known nursery rhyme.
“United Light, Mankind’s Might.
Darkened Flame, Mankind’s Shame.
For the Sake of All, We Cannot Fall
In our darkened hour, we grant (ourselves) power.”
“But ye know this verse, don’t you? Of course you do…” Tiresias pauses. “Will you please unhinge the breastplate and bring it here, friend.”
Stupid old fool you think. Conspiracy theorists are usually kept to the Inner Wilds, or Outer Wilds even. God worshipping lunatics. As the breastplate is brought to him, Tiresias holds it out with worn hands and shaking arms. “Will someone please take this armor and read me the inscription underneath?”
No harm in humoring the old man, one of your party takes the item. “Please, be careful with it, it is very old, and of course, quite magical. In fact, I believe it to be the last of it’s kind, the last of course that has not been destroyed by the Order or kept by them…”
Turning it around, you begin to read the unfamiliar words from the back. Tiresias mumbles something under his breath, and as you read the old script, you begin to understand it’s translation.
“Light of Me, The Might of Three.
Darkened Flame, Mankind’s Shame.
For the Sake of All, They* Cannot Fall
In our darkened hour, we grant our power.”
A silence fills the room as odd stirrings in your belly rumble. If what this man has shown you is true, than everything you thought you knew, is a lie.
“You do not believe me? No, no.” Tiresias waves a hand at your host. “It does not matter. They are not the first to doubt me, nor will they be the last.” His clouded eyes turn towards you once more.
“What does matter, is what you will do when the Darkness comes, for us all. Will you be a hero, or will you not? For you, as for us all, there will be only two choices to make.”
“Either may save you. But only one will save us all.”