Onwards to Cladachòrail

Caladh District, Port City of Lotharne,
High Kingdom of the Verian Isles
June 3rd, 1467

Cladachòrail, the Golden Citadel, City of the Gods, and the final destination for every mortal soul. That is the first truth of the Adrah-Sình, the ancient runic holy text of the Verian people, and the very foundation for the Sinhàdranh religion itself. The God-Bastion is viewed as a literal city—an eternal presence in the endless aetheric ocean of the afterlife, and the one place where the souls of the dead can truly be safe. In the Sinhàdranhic faith, it is the ancestors who are worshipped, and the ascended ancestor gods that are prayed to. They, the eternally gleaming souls of once-mortals proven worthy of godhood in life, are the immortal regents of Cladachòrail, the City of a Thousand Names.

With a whispered prayer to the Wayfinder Iomaidhr, Calum Mèirann stood and regarded the small wooden effigy that passed for a shrine aboard the Turasùr. He smiled, his mind conjuring the image of the goddess from which the ship derived its name. Austere, fair-haired, swathed in scholarly robes that didn’t quite conceal the polished lamellar plate beneath. Turasùr the Mage-Queen was renowned for her wisdom, but one does not earn the title “Mage-Queen” merely by reading a few books. Since her death over a thousand years ago, the ancestor goddess of knowledge had gained a fierce reputation, and as her ethereal power grew so did that of her temples and followers on the mortal plane. Her eternal quest for the discovery of arcane lore in the plane beyond had extended to the mundane world as a drive to venture out and explore within those who followed her creed. Calum was a Navigator-Priest of Iomaidhr, not one of Turasùr’s folk, but he supposed that was why the colony ship bore her name—that and the exceedingly generous donations the expedition had received from the High Temple of Turasùr in Lotharne.

He cut an impressive figure, the elaborate blue and white robes of his station fluttering in the wind aboard the raised deck of the Turasùr, outlined by the dawn’s fire as the sun rose in the east. All he could think of now was how much he wished he felt as confident as he looked. Turning away from the altar, he looked up and across the docks to the temple of his own god, the imposing stone brick edifice that served as both a place of worship and the regulatory body of the Lotharne docks. As the patron god of mapmakers and all those at sea, Iomaidhr’s followers were the natural choice for such a position, as had been recognized by High King Feradach thirty years prior. Calum’s inclusion in the voyage was not simply a formality; he was the ship’s head navigator as well as their conduit to the patron of the seas.

A hand clapped down on his shoulder, quickly followed by a grinning bearded face. Clad in padded gambeson, mixed plate armor, and too much tartan for any sane person, Matain mac Lulach was one of the fianna, an elite caste of warrior nobles who had spearheaded the earliest exploratory efforts from the Verian Isles and continued to accompany the new colonial ventures in more recent years. The big fian—for Matain was a truly massive man, almost as broad as he was tall—was a friendly, easygoing sort, and the closest thing to an actual friend Calum had in the ship’s crew.

“Laddie, you don’t have to trot about looking like it’s the last time you’ll ever see her.” he said, free hand outstretched towards the city at large, “Not that seeing Lotharne again is a likely prospect, mind, but there’s no need to be so glum about it.”

Smiling despite himself, Calum gave the fian a noncommittal shrug. “We’ll see Matain. If prospects aren’t good at that new port settlement, then the Captain says she’ll turn us around.”

“Lotharne Ùr.”

Calum blinked, unable to hide his surprise, “What?”

“The new settlement is called Lotharne Ùr. It was founded by Lord Dùghlas Escharn almost a year back, he owns that fortified manor by the western gate.” said Matain, a wide grin still plastered across his face. “The last message from the new land came back by trade ship only a week ago. They say there’s a new venture to be had, a new prospect. His explorers claim to have found the richest land in Galemòr, along the bank of its greatest river.”

“That’s our destination? We sail to Lotharne Ùr, and then what, head inland to blaze a trail to this purported promised land?”

“You’ve hit the nail right on the head, lad.” said Matain, his throaty laughter causing nearby dockworkers to glance up at the ship in confusion and curiosity. “Welcome to the quest for Cladachòrail.”

Speechless, Calum could only raise his eyebrows in response, mind reeling at the prospect of the journey ahead. He’d hardly left the calm waters of the Verian Gulf in his life, and here he was on a ship destined for lands across the great ocean, heading to a settlement they were already calling the Cladachòrail, the holy first name of the Golden Citadel itself. Despite the fear, despite the dread, and despite the very real chance he would never see his home again, the young priest felt a flutter of excitement in his heart. This was a true adventure, an expedition worthy of the fianna, reminiscent even of the ancient tales of the Adrah-Sinh, and by Iomaidhr he would be there to see the story play out.


The preparations took another three hours, the majority of their time occupied by checking and double-checking lists upon lists of supplies and provisions. They would be able to take on new food and water when they docked for a day at the island fort of Dùn Mhor, but even the mighty Turasùr had only so much cargo space, and the crew would need to be frugal to avoid running out of stock before they arrived at Lotharne Ùr. After all, though it was hard to determine just how long the trip across the ocean would take, it was estimated to be anywhere between one and three months, a thought Calum preferred not to dwell on. He watched from the stern as the dock laborers dropped the mooring lines, sending the slightest shake through the timbers of the great ship as it drifted free in the calm, unbothered waters of the Lothe Estuary. A cry rose up from the deckhands, and with a great heaving of ropes the sails unfurled, catching the westerly wind one at a time. The sky, a heavenly reflection of the azure sea below, shone bright with the rising sun as the ship slipped out onto the bay. Sparing his home one lingering glance, Calum turned to the endless expanse of the blue horizon. The journey had begun.

Verian Expeditionary Vessel Turasùr,
Northern Concordian Ocean
June 7th, 1467

The Sior-Choille. The Everwood. The boundless dark. For Cladachòrail to be a fortress, there must be something it defends against. Every mortal soul, no matter their caliber, must make the pilgrimage to the Eternal City through a twisted world, the unfathomable domain of thirsting horrors and their unknowable masters. Not all make it to the gleaming walls of the God-Bastion, and the lucky few among them may come to reside in one of the lesser cities, distant holds of order in the realm of pandemonium. The unlucky are not spoken of, for they become the creatures known as the Anam-Dris, bramble-souls, twisted ones, once-mortal abominations that retain only the smallest fraction of themselves, just enough to bear witness to their spirit’s terrible legacy. None are safe from the predations of the endless weald, not even the gods.

Like an ant in a snowdrift, a lonesome soul lost in the depths of the Sior-Choille, the Turasùr crashed down upon the slate-gray sea like the fist of a vengeful god. Three nights and three days of calm seas and blue skies had not prepared Calum for the fury of the deep ocean, and he clung to the starboard railing, knuckles white from the force of his grip. With a muttered prayer for deliverance, he released the rain-slick wood of the handrail, nearly tipping overboard into the violently churning ocean below. A burly hand caught the back of his robes and stayed his fall, and he spun around to face Matain as the big fian righted him.

“By the Wayfinder…” Calum muttered breathlessly, shaken by the brush with death, “I owe you my life, Matain.”

With a slap on the back that nearly sent him back over the railing again, Matain pulled the priest along with him across the deck, dodging the other sailors as they rushed to secure various items to the railing, lashing crates down with rope to stop them from spilling into the ocean.

“Don’t bother with that—you’ll come to resent it soon enough.” said Matain, giving Calum a wink and a shrug, “It’s the captain that told me to find you, I think she wants a word over the current situation.” Matain waved one hand up towards the roiling clouds as explanation, pulling him into the doorway of the rear cabin. “You don’t suppose you can give Iomaidhr the old tap on the shoulder and ask the bloke to blow this here storm away, can you?”

“Maybe if the ship was named after him.” Calum said, managing a weak smile of his own. “Might be worth asking the captain to put a word in with Turasùr instead.”

With that, the door besides them opened, and Calum turned to the more than mildly annoyed face within, rainwater dripping off his nose as he blinked dumbly at the ship’s commander. Captain Iysenda Cèras was a Warrior-Priest of Turasùr, both Fian and preacher, and wore the same polished steel lamellar as Matain, albeit shrouded with a significantly more exquisite cloak and girdled by a sash of heraldic tartan. She was tall, imposing of stature, and wore her black hair loose at a length that didn’t quite brush her shoulders. A thin scar ran across the bridge of the nose she now regarded Calum over.

“This is unexpectedly harsh weather, Mèirann. Our charts indicate we should have just entered a sheltered region of ocean off of the southern coast of the Iaruigidh Isles. I need you to perform your function and divine whether or not we’re still on course for Caladhùr. Can you do that, Mèirann?” she said, tone clipped and formal but not quite hiding her frustration.”

Calum nodded nervously, absentmindedly pulling at the sleeve of his robe, “I can certainly try to get our bearing on the stars. If the Wayfinder is willing, I may be able to, well, find our way.”

Iysenda paused, glancing up at the sky with almost theatrical slowness. “Not to question the ways of Iomaidhr’s folk, but not to put too fine a point on it, the heavens appear both as gray and as impenetrable as a fortress wall.”

“If Iomaidhr wills it, even the heavens may part.” Calum recited simply, clinging to the mantra to mask his own uncertainty. The Wayfinder god spoke true to his disciples, but his attention could not be everywhere at once, and Calum doubted any prayer would part the storm. He clasped the symbol of the compass rose hanging from his neck nonetheless, watching the ship’s masts flash under the lightning as if they had been set alight. He blinked, then blinked again. The masts were ablaze, but not with hungry flames. Rather, they were wreathed in writhing corposant, light flaring from the mast tips in a series of glimmering halos. It was Iomaidhr’s Fire—a rare phenomenon sometimes observed by sailors lost in the storm, and an omen of good portent. The Wayfinder was with them.

At last, the clouds parted, a single moment of respite, the eye of the storm. The north star gleaming proudly overhead, true to Calum’s readings, throwing silver starlight upon the slate gray sea around them. As soon as it had come, the moment was gone, and the Turasùr was crashing through another wave. It needn’t have continued, for the truth was plain for any to see. The Wayfinder spoke true.

Dùn Gùgh, Caladhùr,
Verian Overseas Territories
June 21st, 1467

Far from the rune-shielded walls of Cladachòrail lesser cities fly through the twisted skies of the etheric plane. Among them is Caladhneòil, the cloud-port, home to the great air fleets of the godly realm. Conventional ships are a rarity here, for no seafaring vessel can dock at a flying city. Instead, the reborn souls of the Verian afterlife sail upon enchanted airships, held aloft by the arcane will of their helmsmen. The mage-pilots that command these vessels are granted their strength by Turasùr, Goddess of Knowledge, their craft by Caraìth, Smith-Lord, and their insight by Iomaidhr, Wayfinder. This triarchy of the ancestor-gods gives flight to their devotees, allowing passage between cities over a realm of endless forest.

Dùn Gùgh was a blocky stone edifice at the heart of the unorganized urban sprawl that was the colonial city of Caladhùr, the New Port. It was the first settlement established by early Verian colonial efforts under the sponsorship of High King Talan II, and the cobbled square before the Dùn that Calum now stood in bore his family’s noble name. It was called the Ceàrnag Sàrmidir, for the now-dead Talan II was a descendant of the first High King of Veria, Midir I, deified as the ancestor-god Midiràs. Calum may have been a priest devoted only to the Wayfinder, but as a man of the clergy he could not help but feel overwhelmed by the significance of such a place. It was as if the divinity of the royal dynasty had been imparted to every rain-worn stone in the plaza.

“You see the banners flying from the walls?” asked Matain, dropping a hand on Calum’s shoulder as he appeared behind the priest, “That’s the insignia of the Cannborgh Guild, the company that led the first colonial efforts out of Lotharne. We dinnae ken exactly what hand they have in our expedition ahead, but the settlement of Lotharne Ùr was established under their effort, so it’s not exactly a stretch to presume they’re preparing to fund a settlement in the land we’re being sent to clear.”

The banners in question were long fork-ended rectangles of fabric hanging from the upper battlements of Dùn Gùgh, a vertical white stripe cutting down between two halves of a rich wine red. In the center lay the tripartite emblem of the Cannborgh Guild, the stylized characters C and G run through by a quill. Though he’d never personally worked for the guild, Calum had heard of their contributions to the Verian colonial effort, and rumor had it that their guildmaster had the ear of the High King himself.

“Are they the ones furnishing us with our supplies then?” he said, glancing over at Matain.

“Aye, that they are. For a not-insignificant sum, mind you. Most of the foodstuffs we’re receiving are shipped directly from Galemòr to be sold in the ports of the home isles, we’d be cutting into their profit margins if they didn’t upcharge us.”

Matain paused, seemingly considering the fact, and snorted derisively.

“Greedy bastards that they are.” he added.

With that said, the fian shouldered his way through the hustle and bustle of the square, clearing a path as only a very large man in armor can. Calum followed close behind, chasing Matain through the rapidly closing path he left in his wake. He reached the heavy outer gates of the Dùn as Matain passed under the stone arch, and hurried to catch up with his companion. The outer walls of the fort must have been at least ten feet thick, but the gates were swung wide open to admit a steady flow of foot traffic, mostly merchants or guilders by the look of them.

The interior of Dùn Gùgh was a fortress, marketplace, and officiary all rolled into one. Guards in the uniform of the Caladhùr Watch patrolled alongside Cannborgh Guild officials, overseeing the transfer of goods between merchants from across the Verian colonial domain. Matain pushed through it all without sparing the chaos around him a second glance, and came to a halt in front of the Dùn’s central keep. A guard in guild uniform approached him, holding out a hand to bar his entry.

“Credentials?” he asked, seemingly having second thoughts about stopping Matain as he took in the fian’s armored bulk.

Paying no heed to the guard’s worried expression, Matain reached into his satchel, pulling out a bound sheaf of papers stamped with the seal of the Verian crown.

The guard nodded, relieved, and gestured for the two of them to enter, his comrades pulling the heavy doors open for them. Calum kept close behind Matain as they walked into the keep, glancing around at elaborately wrought swords and intricate tapestries hanging from either wall. They proceeded on, passing a hall bustling with guild officials, and turned into a high-vaulted room well furnished with polished mahogany and green silk curtains. A wide, curving desk dominated the center of the room, behind it an empty chair.

“And now we wait.” said Matain, taking a seat on a bench against the closest wall. Calum nodded, sitting down beside him.

“Matain, if I may ask,” he said after a moment had passed, turning to look up at the big man, “What’s it like in the land to the west?”

Matain sat in thought, but as he opened his mouth to reply, the door swung open once more, admitting a tall, gray-haired gentleman in high clerical robes. He nodded respectfully to the two of them, and strode over to the far side of the desk.

“I will be brief.” he said, perching a pair of silver spectacles on the bridge of his nose, “The colony—and by extent your expedition—is no longer uncontested. A rival colonial company has emerged near our Galemòr territory, led by a band of warriors calling themselves the ‘Heralds of Lucera’.”

The elderly guilder sighed, staring at Matain and Calum over his desk.

“They pledge their loyalty to a state they call the ‘Imperium Celanorum’. I’m sorry gentlemen, but the Cannborgh Guild can no longer pledge itself to support your expedition.”

Nuovo Porto, La Città della Via del Sole,
Province of Solevera, Celanoran Empire,
June 21st, 1467

The Prophet-Emperor Luciano is indisputably the holiest man to have ever lived, and is justly revered alongside his patron, the Goddess Lucera. Thus speak the missionaries of the Luceric Church, whose divinely ordained duty is to bring Her holy light against the darkness of this world, to spread Her enlightened teachings, and to strike down all evil that would seek to oppose the totality of Her justice and Her rule. They are Her paladins, Her warriors against the dark, and they hold no mercy in their hearts.

The Heralds stood shoulder to shoulder on the docks of the Nuovo Porto, gleaming under the midday sun. They were arrayed in full panoply of war, their polished steel and gold-shot cloaks drinking in the light of Her-whom-they-served. Above their ranks flew the banners of their order, a scarlet sun blazing atop a golden field. Sailors and soldiers alike bustled past, hefting crates and loading cargo onto the fleet that the Heralds of Lucera had been given the honor of commanding. From their very inception as the personal army of the Luceran Ecclesiarchy, it had been the duty of the Heralds to bring Her light to those parts of the world not yet blessed by the sanctified rule of the Celanoran Empire. Grandmaster Iacomo Oderigo surveyed the ranks of paladins arranged before him, pride entering his heart as he saw the solemn expressions on the faces of the men and women who had entrusted their lives to him. He halted at the center of their ranks, bringing his closed fist against the outturned palm of his left hand in the sign of the sunburst.

“Paladins! Heralds of Lucera!” he shouted, his voice booming over the clang of returning salutes, “We sail for a promised land, an endarkened country that may still be able to see Her light! Stand with me now and look upon our great works, this holy city from which we are soon to depart. I swear to you now, to each and every one of you, that you shall see this city again. Whether you return a hero or a martyred saint, I will ensure that your names grace the stones of the Via del Sole, wrought in bronze under the feet of the faithful so that you may continue to uplift them even in death!”

He paced before them as he spoke, projecting his voice with the practiced assurance of an experienced commander.

“I speak of death for a reason, my Heralds, for an enemy awaits us on the shores of the Goddess’ destined dominion.” cried Oderigo, clenching a gauntleted fist in emphasis, “They are barbarians from across the seas, reavers and raiders that seek only to pillage and despoil our blessed continent. Listen now and listen well, for I will say this only once. Our duty is to drive them out, to strike them down, to tear down every unholy edifice they build, and to banish them to the far eastern wastes from whence they came!”

Cheers rose from the knights assembled before him, armored fits thrust into the air as his speech neared its crescendo. Oderigo grinned, spreading his arms wide to cast the folds of his cloak to either side.

“Burn them; it is the will of Lucera!”

Shouts of fervor erupted from the assembled Heralds, fists thrust in the air as the Grandmaster stoked the fires of their hatred. He raised his own fist in turn, shouting the war cry of his order over the cheers of the truly devout.

“Ad Gloriam!”

They responded in kind, voices mingling as they shouted the salute back to him. Oderigo nodded his approval, dropping his hand in a sign of dismissal. The Heralds dispersed at once, seeing to the duties that remained before their departure. They would seize this land the invaders called Calemora, and they would give them no quarter.