Even a city that is always daylight has a night cycle. It was deep into this night that Hania sleeping in her room in the Drowned Rat woke in pain. The day had been filled with searching for, finding, then fighting, a fierce deadly beast. Deadly yes, very deadly, Hania had died. Hania was a Deva Paladin of Pelor. Her death would be noticed by her god. Her death would be noticed by the Raven Queen. Her immortal body should have been reformed in some distant place and this life only a memory. None of that happened. She had cheated. There is a price to pay for cheating on this scale. Pain and more.
She had to get out away from here. Away from this city away from that damnable light. Away from Pelor. She staggered from the Drowned Rat. Blinded by pain she felt each and every wound again. The claws of the beast dug deep into her flesh, ripping apart the muscle holding her fast. Felt the burning as those filthy claws spread sickness into her. Saw the jaw hyper extend as the beast bent to bite her. The mouth closed over half of her body, blotting out the light, slimy spit covered her, its tongue lapping after blood. Then the mouth closed. The top teeth dug deep into her back ripping muscle almost severing her spine. The lower jaw came in below her breast plate bending and ripping the plate into jagged saw teeth which caught under her ribs. The teeth themselves eviscerated her. Entrails sliding down her legs warm and almost comforting. What was left of her bowels let go. Then hands driven by panic grasped her legs and tried to pull Hania free. The lower jaw caught the saw teeth of the ripped plate caught under her ribs. The hands pulled harder. Hania’s ribcage gave way, folded up, shredded her heart and lungs as Hania fell to the ground. Her still intact spine dutifully fired each pain impulse into her brain. The only thing she did not feel was hitting the ground, she was dead before that.
Nothing that lives was meant to survive injuries as severe as these. No brain was capable of processing pain on the scale Hania had felt. The mind simply refused to feel the pain at the time it happens, and after your dead and not feeling it anyway. Your body still felt each injury your mind recorded each pain impulse. But since injuries as these killed you, well they did not really matter. Even the immortal body of a Deva being reformed whole had only memories of the past life and no real memories of their death.
The memory of those injuries washed over Hania and for the first time she actually felt each and every injury as it had happened. Then because her mind was attempting to process all this input for the first time, she felt it all again in slow motion. She screamed, it started low and guttural then rose to a pitch higher the humanoid ear could hear. Living things that heard these screams fled in terror. They did not think about fleeing a part of their mind so primal just caused them to run. The cursed damned souls of hell could have taken lessons from those screams. Demons would have bowed their heads in shame knowing they could never cause those they tormented to howl like this.
Hania fell rolled into a ball tried to hold her body together. Her arms were rapped around herself holding her rib cage in. Her legs kicked and kicked pushing her across the paving stones towards the canal. The skin on her head was ripped open on the pavement and bloody clumps of hair littered the sidewalk. Once more her bowels let go and she was covered in her own filth. Then in a moment of mercy Hania went mad, completely bat shit crazy. In her madness they came, the dead came to Hania.
Did I not tell you there was a price to pay for cheating death on this scale.
Visions of the dead came to Hania. She saw how they died. Crushed by falling rubble, burned by dragon fire, drown in the canals unable to reach air. Others she saw cut down by slashing cruel blades, these were older deaths, before the battle for the city. They happened in alleys by bandits robbing the corpses, they happened in homes as jealous lovers attacked those they loved over imagined wrongs. She saw poor lost souls end their own life to escape the hell they lived, not knowing the hell they would find in death. And always their silent open mouths screaming at her for justice, for retribution, and for mercy.
Hania’s kicking body fell into a canal and sank. Hania’s mind fell into a cold almost frozen ocean and sank. The dead followed her down. Sinking deeper Hania saw the remains of a ship. Beside the ship, standing on the ocean floor was a large draft drake hitched to a cart. She sank down into the cart and in her crazed mind she laughed. The most primitive part of Hania’s brain, the part which fights to keep you alive even when you don’t want it to, forced the breath to remain in her lungs. It made her kick and try to reach the surface. It kept her alive until her mind could decide to live too. The dead crowded around her in the cart. The drake turned to look at then as if to say: “in life I ate rats; in death, you all look like rats too me. Come closer rats, I hunger.” The dead fled.
The drake started pulling Hania and the cart towards the surface. Hania’s body floated to the surface of the canal at the same time the drake pulled the cart to shore. Her lungs pulled in a great breath of air and in her mind she put her arms around the drake and made cooing noises too it. “Oh nice kitty kitty kitty.” In this manner, she floated down the canal and into the harbor.
Captain Thruvian Redwater had not spent a life adventuring without knowing a few things about how to enter a closed port. Besides, damn it, this city probably should be named for him as he discovered it and all the land around here. ‘No,’ he thought, ‘I did not adventure for fame glory or to have things named for me. I did it for the adventure itself. Those other things just happened on their own.’ Anyway the port was now open and he and his new first mate had brought the Highspire to dock. The docks in any port city are twenty four hour a day places and the eternal light of the city made these docks especially active during the “night time”. The Highspire had been provisioned and a few very hardy souls had been recruited as permanent crew. They cost double the going rate but they were good and they were willing to serve a Captain who was a ghost. Redwater looked out upon the harbor and his eyes caught a strange sight. Floating into the harbor was a person, no a woman, no looking even closer, it was Lady Highspire. Redwater’s voice boomed “get her bring her to my cabin” he exclaimed pointing. Three crewmen moved as one bringing the Lowspire out and about and headed for Hania. Moments later they had her on board wrapped in blankets and met Redwater at the door to his cabin.
“Careful Captain,” they warned, “She ain’t right.”
Then straightening herself Hania said in a normal voice: “Captain Redwater, prepare the Highspire for sea and get me away from Everlasting Dawn.” After which Hania collapsed.
Hania awoke the next night to blissful darkness. She was in Redwater’s cabin and he soon appeared. “Lady Highspire,” he inquired. “Are you alright?”
“No,” Hania replied. “I most certainly am not.” She then began to tell Captain Redwater the whole story beginning with her death and acceptance of a new God Nerull. She finished as the sun rose.
Captain Thruvian Redwater looked shocked, he had never heard of such as this. “What, my Lady,” he inquired, “Would you have me do?”
Hania thought. “First,” she said, “I need time. The memories of my death keep coming back and with them the pain. Each time the pain lessened and my body seems to be making adaptations to it. I think that instead of being reborn whole in a new place my body is slowly changing to a form more suited to the god Nerull. There are also the visions that come to me. At first it seemed as if all the dead were coming at me. That coupled with the pain drove me a bit well crazy. This too seems to be settling down as my mind grows to accept Nerull. He is the true God of the Dying and the Dead, perhaps the visions are one of his ways of directing me along the path. Also I think going crazy helped hide me from both Pelor and from the usurper, otherwise known as The Raven Queen. Now the usurper doesn’t bother me. She has never had me and would have only noticed my death as I passed through to being reborn. Not really her concern and anyway she is sloppy in the administration of death. Look at all those undead she allows to run about. Now hiding from Pelor bothers me. I want to face him and loudly exclaim my joy and love of serving my new god Nerull. Nerull however wishes to work from the shadows for now and he is correct in this, so I will do my best to remain hidden from Pelor’s sight. For now that is. Buy me time Captain. I need as much as you can give me and we must be able to return to the city within a day when the time comes.”
Redwater nodded his head. “We shall await your decision to return to Everlasting Dawn.”
The following five days were hell for Hania. First were the changes her body went through. Her hair fell out. Next the coloration on her body changed. Most noted was her face. The patches of color had rearranged themselves. This along with being bald gave her the look of a skull. Finishing the skull mask look, her eyes had gone pure black and they seemed to reflect everything right back. Anyone seeing her would be taken aback at first. Next as if to more firmly bind her to the land of Highspire instead of a new tabard, she found one tattooed on her chest and back. Lastly she seemed to have different strengths and weaknesses than before. These would take some getting used to.
Next came those visions. Each time they would drive her a bit mad again. She would curl up on the bunk in a fetal position and hug Redwater’s skull to her stomach. Thruvian would appear as the madness took Hania. Almost as if her crazed mind called to him as she cradled the skull. She would bid him to come closer and closer. Finally convincing him to cover her with his incorporeal body. She did these things without thought. She did them in an effort to hide from both Pelor and the usurper. Her mind ranged far and wide during these episodes, she never knew whose attention she might attract. As a child might Hania used Thruvian like a blanket to hide under.
The visions finally settled down also. Each began with a ride in the cart. Dwarves filled the dreams. First a Battle Cleric fighting vampires? Not sure on this but at the end a curse against his whole family, clan? Later his death drowning in a ship wreck trying to save a friend, or a draft drake?
Next another Dwarf, a Shield Maiden, no Cleric of Pelor? Surrounded by Sisters? of Battle? And a rod forever floating around her head. Not dead this one so why was she part of Hania’s dreams? Well not dead and dead both. Where she lived the child died. Where she died the child lived, and then it got interesting. When Hania saw this vision she also saw the vision of a flower. It lived it’s life, grew and flowered, and at the end produced a seed. The promise of new life.
The third and fourth were mother and daughter. They died and not died during the attack on the city. The mother heavy with child was buried when the building fell. Her legs crushed, one arm broken. There in the dark and ruin was the daughter born. There in the dark did she cradle her child, nurse her, and sing. She sang to her of the glory of the dwarves, so Moradin would know her. She sang of her clan giving her daughter the history of her home. She sang of the sun so her daughter would know the light. At the end she sang a prophecy. It was a dark prophecy one filled with death and fire and only at the end did her daughter and husband King lead the remains of her people to safety and a new home. This song she sang to tell her daughter her life would have meaning. She would not die here in the dark. Her life had purpose. She sang this last song and died. Hania saw the child and saw her both alive and fulfilling the prophecy and dead as in infant dying in a hospital in the city of Light. Days after the mother had died, crews had found them both. The child was in the hospital, growing weaker by the day. All this Hania saw and layered over each vision was a name. Gemhammer. Why show her these visions? Why, if not to act upon them. After all Nerull had brought her back from death. Surely the reason she had these dreams was to give the prophecy a chance, and that required that the child lived. In order for one to live the other must die and that death, no sacrifice would produce the seed allowing the other to live. Nerull guide me.
Hania came on deck for the first time in days. Redwater looked over at her. “Time to return to Everlasting Dawn.”
“It will be late in the “night cycle” when we arrive,” Redwater informed her.
“That will be just fine,” Hania replied.
Hania thought about what she had to do. She was going to need help, and the kind of help she needed could come from only one person she knew. Courtland. The man had a way to get anywhere he needed to go. All Hania had to do was convince him to assist her. Hania arrived at the Drowned Rat, the common room was empty at this hour. She made her way as silently as she could to Courtland’s room. She opened the door as quietly as she could. This was to keep from waking anyone else in the inn, Courtland she expected to have been awakened by her actions. He looked to be sleeping but the blackout curtain was allowing a thin beam of light to hit the door while keeping the bed in the dark. The light hit her face as she walked in. She might have heard an intake of breath as he saw her face. Walking toward the bed Hania whispered, “Courtland. I need your help.” Reaching down to shake him, he sat up pushing her back. One hand had a hold of the front of her tunic; the other pressed steel to her neck. As his eyes met hers, she felt the vision begin to take her and this time it took Courtland too. As his mind fell into her eyes, she heard the crazed voice of her madness cry out. " Her name is Kitty, she likes rats.”