Tales of Lost Omens: Seeds of Hope

Thursday, September 12, 2019

The horns were blowing in her dreams again.

In her dreams, they all sounded together: the alarm and the battle march and the frenzied call to retreat. The calls overlapped into chaos, yet Veldrienne heard them all distinctly, and she understood with the perfect, crazed, crystal logic of dreams that of course the battle march was wild with panic, and of course the first call to alarm was a dolorous cry played over the bloody field of a lost battle, and of course it all began and ended with a weak, wounded note that broke on the thrust of a dead man’s spear.

Because this was Lastwall, where the knights of her order had trained for nearly a thousand years to meet the Whispering Tyrant’s threat, and where the Tyrant had destroyed them effortlessly. Every battle worthy of the name had been lost before the Watcher-Lord’s armies had mustered. They’d been defeated before they’d begun.

That hurt the worst of all. All their pride, all their valor, and they’d never had a chance.

And so Veldrienne dreamed, again and again, of a call to arms that was a call to mourning, and of battlefields she would never see.

A group of beleagured-looking knights try valiantly to hold the battlefield against a shambling undead army, while a massive worm-like creature studded with armor, weapons and impaled corpses looms in the background.

Illustration by Tomasz Chistowski

She kicked off the blanket covering her legs. Watery gray sunlight, the only light that shone on the Gravelands anymore, filtered through the burned rafters of the farmhouse they’d sheltered in overnight.

Yeran held up a battered kettle. He’d been up for a while, long enough to have warmed water and made an attempt at shaving. “Porridge?”

“Thank you.” Veldrienne spooned the stale mush out of the kettle. They didn’t have any bowls left. “Save any of that wash water for me?”

Yeran nodded. He’d missed a few patches, shaving with just that dented kettle for a mirror. The stubble was white in the weak light. It made him look old, and almost as worn down as Veldrienne felt. “Plenty to go around, now that there are only two of us left.”

Two. Out of a full company. Veldrienne shook her head. They were the last two left, and yet they still pretended to uphold the niceties of their order. Yeran still tried to keep clean-shaven. Veldrienne still polished the pins of rank on the filthy rags of her uniform.

She wasn’t sure why they bothered. Habits died harder than people, evidently.

Veldrienne paused, the spoon halfway to her mouth. There was smoke on the wind. Wood smoke. The Tyrant’s rotting minions had no need to cook, and certainly never washed. They didn’t light campfires.

“People.”

Yeran was already buckling on his sword. He’d smelled it too. “East?”

“East.”

Together they walked through the weed-choked fields and abandoned hovels to the last intact farmhouse in town. It was where Veldrienne would have sheltered, if she’d had to shelter here. If she hadn’t known that ghouls, and worse, hunted these grounds.

She knocked at the door. “Veldrienne of Vigil and Yeran Dhoskan, Knights of Lastwall.” It almost didn’t hurt to say that last part anymore. “Is anyone living here? Can we aid you?”

Scurrying inside. Hushed voices, fear and hope warring between them. Then a woman’s voice: “Can you… can you get us somewhere safe?”

Veldrienne closed her eyes so she wouldn’t have to see Yeran’s look. “Yes. If you trust us.”

They came out. A man, a woman, six young children. Plainly the children were not all theirs by blood. Just as plainly, they were by necessity. Veldrienne’s determination hardened, looking at the family that the Tyrant’s menace had driven together. If these people had managed to protect their children this far, she wouldn’t see them fail now.

“We can get you to the camp at Kassen,” she told them, “and from there you can take a boat to Vellumis. The Tyrant’s creatures don’t hold the water as fiercely as they do the land.”

“Thank you,” the woman said.

The man hesitated, then drew out a pendant he’d hidden inside the seam of his coat sleeve. He offered it to Veldrienne, who shook her head. “I can’t take your money.”

“It isn’t money. It’s… I was a jeweler. Before all this.” He laughed bleakly. “I thought I’d use some of my pieces to bribe our way out of the Gravelands, but there’s no bribing the dead. I want you to have it, instead. I can’t buy safety. None of us can. But I can, at least, offer this. Please. Take it and tell me that—that you understand.”

Veldrienne took the pendant. It was an octagon of rose gold, holding a pressed flower under glass in a ring of white seed pearls. The flower was familiar. Star alyssum. It had bloomed around the Watcher-Lord’s palace and spilled from the window boxes of Vigil’s tidy whitewashed homes, perfuming the city in summer. If she closed her eyes, she could almost breathe its delicate, honeyed sweetness again.

“I made them for crusaders traveling up to the Worldwound,” the man explained. “For them to remember the homes and loved ones they left behind. I never thought that crusade would be won, or that I’d need to preserve the memory of Vigil on its own ground instead. But — look. The back.”

Veldrienne turned the pendant around. In the back, under a panel of rose gold inscribed “Vigil’s blessing,” was a compartment full of tiny black seeds.

Mendev and the Sarkoris Scar were dotted with battlefield graves where star alyssum bloomed. Veldrienne knew those marked the final rest of knights from Lastwall, but she had never considered who carried the seeds there, or what it meant for a knight to lie beneath a bier of flowers on ground so grimly sanctified.

Now, holding the pendant, she understood. “Thank you.”

The man started to say something else, but Veldrienne held up a hand. “Quiet.” She’d smelled something on the wind. Not the remembered fragrance of alyssum.

Ghouls. The stench was unmistakable. The Tyrant’s minions didn’t breathe, and thus had no sense of smell — that was why Veldrienne had scented the family’s woodsmoke first, and why the ghouls’ foulness didn’t incapacitate their fellow undead — but they could see well enough, and the weak sun in the Gravelands didn’t cow them. They must have seen the smoke rising from the chimney once the family was too distracted to fan it away.

“Get inside,” Veldrienne ordered, drawing her sword. She could see the ghouls coming now, loping feral and hideous through the crumbling town. Yeran fell in beside her, and she was glad to have him at her side. There was no better feeling than standing beside a fellow knight, true and trustworthy, against a clear-cut foe.

She’d been wrong earlier. There were still battles worth fighting in the Gravelands. The knights of Lastwall hadn’t been utterly defeated. They hadn’t lost everything yet.

Not yet.

About the Author

Liane Merciel is the author of the Pathfinder Tales novels Nightglass, Nightblade, and Hellknight, and a contributor to other books including Nidal: Land of Shadows, Faiths of Golarion, and the Lost Omens World Guide. She has also written for Dungeons & Dragons, Warhammer: Age of Sigmar, and Bioware’s Dragon Age franchise. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband, two dogs, and an adventure toddler who is extremely into Spider-Man.

About Tales of Lost Omens

The Tales of Lost Omens series of web-based flash fiction provides an exciting glimpse into Pathfinder’s Age of Lost Omens setting. Written by some of the most celebrated authors in tie-in gaming fiction, including Paizo’s Pathfinder Tales line of novels and short fiction, the Tales of Lost Omens series promises to explore the characters, deities, history, locations, and organizations of the Pathfinder setting with engaging stories to inspire Game Masters and players alike.

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Tags: Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Tales of Lost Omens Web Fiction

So a cheery bedtime story, then? :P

Nicely written. Always good to have a little flavor from the Gravelands.


7 people marked this as a favorite.

these are the kinds of stories that i really like. undead are my favorite bad guys, the atmosphere in the gravelands is great, and ive always been a sucker for that determination in the face of absolute desperation feeling that the knights have. id read a whole series about these two running missions in the gravelands.


9 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Liane is fast becoming my favorite Pathfinder author.


10 people marked this as a favorite.

WTF even is Liane Merciel. Her Tales are so good.

Silver Crusade

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Not yet.

F%+* yeah.


9 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

And just like that, the Knights of Lastwall have become vastly more interesting to me.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

“Not yet.”

I don’t know why but when I read that Yorktown started playing in my head.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
VerBeeker wrote:

“Not yet.”

I don’t know why but when I read that Yorktown started playing in my head.

For me it was Sabaton's The Last Stand, despite the historical context of the song not applying in the slightest...


A nice piece of short fiction.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Cole Deschain wrote:
VerBeeker wrote:

“Not yet.”

I don’t know why but when I read that Yorktown started playing in my head.

For me it was Sabaton's The Last Stand, despite the historical context of the song not applying in the slightest...

Oh I got a couple, but let's go with Blue Stahli's Give Me Everything You Got.

Contributor

6 people marked this as a favorite.

This continues the recent run of super engaging web fiction! I really appreciate these street level in-world depictions.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Andrew Mullen wrote:
This continues the recent run of super engaging web fiction! I really appreciate these street level in-world depictions.

Ye!


6 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

Love the idea of the seeds in the pendant. Amazingly poignant.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

A beautiful idea with the seeds. Something I will pick up for my running Wrath of the Righteous campaign.

Dark Archive

4 people marked this as a favorite.

It would be nice to read a full-lenght novel taking place on Golarion again.

I really liked the novel series, but it seems to stay dead, unlike Thar-Baphon.

Silver Crusade

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber

I have goosebumps, but I have no words to describe how great that story is.


4 people marked this as a favorite.

Fantastic. I love the feelings of resignation and desperation and the rising of their call to duty and sacrifice against that backdrop. I also like very much how the sentences are short and go straight to the point, they have a stark, militaristic style, like words are at a premium too.

Great job, Liane, supremely evocative.

Edit - Btw, the art is crazy good.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Cole Deschain wrote:
VerBeeker wrote:

“Not yet.”

I don’t know why but when I read that Yorktown started playing in my head.

For me it was Sabaton's The Last Stand, despite the historical context of the song not applying in the slightest...

Lastwall could have really used some Winged Hussars.


Pathfinder Card Game, Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber

This is really good. Thank you Liane! Also, the artwork is awesome!


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Fumarole wrote:
Cole Deschain wrote:
VerBeeker wrote:

“Not yet.”

I don’t know why but when I read that Yorktown started playing in my head.

For me it was Sabaton's The Last Stand, despite the historical context of the song not applying in the slightest...
Lastwall could have really used some Winged Hussars.

I'd argue it had 'em- one of the best things about this piece is the fact that the Knights aren't just defeated and demoralized, they're crushed by the fact that they lost without even really getting to fight for Lastwall.

Shadow Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.

The story was beautiful, and even gave me a bit of much-needed encouragement today. Thank you for writing it.


5 people marked this as a favorite.

I love it. I am a sucker for this kind of stories, the ones that focus on keeping fighting after the crushing defeat. I love it how, even if they have utterly failed in their task, they still find things worth figting for and they give their everything to save them. Thank you for this story.


Zi Mishkal wrote:

So a cheery bedtime story, then? :P

Nicely written. Always good to have a little flavor from the Gravelands.

Flavor, eh? Well, that depends very much upon what kind of flavor, who's enjoying it, and how they're enjoying it . . . .


Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Society Subscriber

This was a nicely written piece.

Thank you

Sovereign Court

I don’t get it?

I thought Tar-Baphon had been defeated and trapped?

Liberty's Edge

1 person marked this as a favorite.
GeraintElberion wrote:

I don’t get it?

I thought Tar-Baphon had been defeated and trapped?

Defeated? Yes.

Trapped? Probably.

But regardless of what happened to him personally, his army is still wandering about, and most is probably still even obeying his commands (if trapped, he's trapped in a location, not actually imprisoned or incapable of communication). Not having to fight a level 26 god killer is an improvement, but thousands of undead wandering around is still a serious problem.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Well, I love it.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

So we 'upgraded' Golarion from having a couple of major planar breaches to having a Necropolis tacked on it?

The poor knights must have felt like the Sarkoris people must have, but even worse because they were so tightly-knit...

Liberty's Edge

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Pawns, Rulebook Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Wei Ji the Learner wrote:

So we 'upgraded' Golarion from having a couple of major planar breaches to having a Necropolis tacked on it?

The poor knights must have felt like the Sarkoris people must have, but even worse because they were so tightly-knit...

There's also the fact that the people of Sarkoris had no idea what was happening until it was already on them.

The Knights of Ozem and the rest of Lastwall's sworn defenders knew exactly what they were up against, were literally holding Vigil, thought themselves prepared...

...and it didn't make a damn bit of difference.

Silver Crusade

4 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

And now I'm sad I didn't read this before commissioning the art of my Worldwound crusader. That pendant is such a beautiful touch of lore.


4 people marked this as a favorite.

I've read Nightglass, Nightblade, and Hellknight. Liane is without a doubt my favorite Pathfinder author.

I need the rest of this story.I need a full novel of this.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Weylin Stormcrowe 798 wrote:

I've read Nightglass, Nightblade, and Hellknight. Liane is without a doubt my favorite Pathfinder author.

I need the rest of this story.I need a full novel of this.

Agreed.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

oh gods what is that worm thing in the back--
The walkers that worm.


^Oh. I thought it was a Nydus Worm.


UnArcaneElection wrote:
^Oh. I thought it was a Nydus Worm.

It's the good ol' warsworn, telekinetically picking up all unattended weapons within 100 feet, automatically making them major striking, and Striking with them at 100-ft. reach! You can check out its PF2 Bestiary entry here on the AoN PRD, complete with pretty artwork!


^Yowch. This site needs to be nuked from orbit -- it's the only way to be sure.

Interestingly, the 1st Edition www.d20fsrd.com entry for Warsworn has by far the most information on Warsworn, compared to the 2nd Edition entry for this and the Archives of Nethys both edition entries for this.

Liberty's Edge

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

The Night King is destroyed. Long unlives the Whispering Tyrant.

Undead is the new Fiend.

Dark Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.
UnArcaneElection wrote:

^Yowch. This site needs to be nuked from orbit -- it's the only way to be sure.

Interestingly, the 1st Edition www.d20fsrd.com entry for Warsworn has by far the most information on Warsworn, compared to the 2nd Edition entry for this and the Archives of Nethys both edition entries for this.

That is because d20psfrd includes for some reason Kingmaker AP's ecology article on warsworn(though since d20psfrd has habit of changing names, dunno how accurate it is) while nethys version is just bestiary version without including kingmaker's ecology article.

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