Most laminae offer mortals the chance for eternal pursuit and perfection of their philosophical and spiritual ideals as reincarnated petitioners. Not the Ardence. This realm is but a way station on a one-way path to oblivion in the name of honor and benevolence. The champions who find themselves reborn among these dark, star-slicked highlands of altars and mausoleums are instilled with a single purpose: to find one last mission worthy of their abilities, a challenge so perfectly matched that it results in the hero’s success and destruction. Pilgrims journey to this lamina to appeal to these heroes for aid, and councils of native bookkeepers receive these pleas and assess the odds that it will be appropriately valiant and perilous before sending their champions forth for their final battles.
No songs are sung nor monuments erected to commemorate the deeds of those who pass through this place: all memories of the heroes that leave are erased from the minds of residents and supplicants alike. It is not a land of myth or renown, nor ledgers and historical tomes, only hard work and sacrifice for the greater good. Nothing is commemorated, and the fallen are forgotten.
[This chapter has not yet been translated. Please turn to the Inevitability, the Bloom, or the Unfolding for completed chapters.]
(some reversal on the prototypical myth of hero who ventures into the underworld - unlike the prototype, these heroes do not return, and are forgotten. it’s argued by fans that this is an authentic approach to heroism)
The landscape of the Ardence is otherworldly—hushed and soft and still. The sky is perpetual starry night, brilliant and twinkling, while the terrain is rolling and craggy and covered in rock, moss, heather, and occasional scrub, all in shades of deep gray and black, with occasional muted splashes of somber purple or dull gold. A steady cool breeze causes slight movement. Peaks and the occasional valley or cliffside are crowned by glittering pavilions, each ready to serve as the temporary resting place of a single champion.
Though known generically as pavilions, these structures range in size and style from small altars and follies to sprawling amphitheaters, and they cover the land: from any vantage point you are likely to see at least one pavilion in the distance, and often several. All are made from deep black stone with a subtly colorful iridescent surface and edges that glint in sharp gold. Each calls out to heroes who evince particular preferences: temples and barracks and libraries attracting clerics and warriors and mages, while the size and grandeur tend to match the valor of the champions who wait within them. Innumerable finer distinctions arise: while some pavilions and their champions are more general-purpose, others are dedicated to eternal struggle against ills as varied as necromancy, political tyranny, theft, misinformation, or elemental rampage. In all these cases, structural form echoes motivation and function.
Native outsiders known as ____ live here. They are a solemn, industrious, but gentle race of tall humanoids with graying flesh and slender, sharp, gaunt faces. They shroud themselves in a dark uniform of hooded, ornate robes, each unique and tumbling with metallic embroidery in complex, methodical patterns.
Each ____ resides at and tends to one of the pavilions. Sometimes they are the sole such resident but often they are one of a dozen or more. They are responsible for receiving visitors and assessing their needs in light of the rules of this place and the capabilities of their current champion, a complex process discussed in the following chapter.
Of all the TODO, with the possible exception of TODO, this lamina draws perhaps the fewest number of petitioners. Not only must ____s be of extraordinary capability (martial or otherwise), but they must be temperamentally suited to patience, altruism, anonymity, and total self-sacrifice and single-mindedness in the pursuit of their eventual cause.
Like all petitioners, ____s have little to no memory of their mortal life, but in this case their powers and passions burn brighter than before. This is a place where honorable vendettas are done justice. Newly arrived champions explore the landscape looking for a pavilion that suits their stature, capabilities, and passions, discussing expectations with the guardian bookkeepers who may accept them or refer them onwards. At the other end of this journey, each champion eventually departs from their temporary home to carry out their one and final mission, leaving it available for future heroes.
In both accepting a hero and accepting a supplicant’s plea for aid, the ____ are strict and thorough in their calculations. Their primary goals are that the hero matches the pavilion’s ethos, and that the hero’s mission both matches this too, and is uniquely suited to the strengths (and weaknesses) of the hero such that the hero will both succeed and perish. To aid the acceptance of a hero, it appears that these bookkeepers are able to recover information about a petitioner’s mortal life, or else in their lengthy discussions can accurately divine the essence of each hero. This acceptance process rarely takes an hour or more.
The Ardence’s ritual of forgetfulness is mediated by the bookkeeper’s robes. Once any being dons one of these intricate garments, their memories become wrapped up in the cloth, the symbols growing and warping as the wearer journeys through awareness. Once the robe is destroyed, all of the memories formed during wearing are erased from the wearer’s mind. Before a pavilion begins opens to accept a new hero, the bookkeepers each craft a robe for themselves and wear it. Once a hero journeys forth from the pavilion, they weave new robes and burn the old ones in a ritual that lights up the whole pavilion. Thus all their memories of every hero and supplicant that came their way is erased.
TODO(should this be under Visiting, but is context needed for the next section?)
Those who make the pilgrimage to _____ to seek aid are known as supplicants, and must go through a lengthy and TODO/somber process. First the supplicant must seek out an appropriate pavilion housing an appropriate hero. A handful of esoteric libraries and astral hermits have knowledge or maps of the realm that may aid a supplicant, but even with such guidance you may have to search for weeks, intuiting from a pavilion’s construction what glory it may house. Bookkeepers at each pavilion, who are able to quickly rule out many requests, will often offer direction to other pavilions near or far which may be more appropriate, or suggest, if necessary, that no pavilion is likely to aid their quest.
Supplicants must come alone, bringing any evidence or material regarding the challenge that they can bring. Once an initial review of a supplicant’s crisis has been passed, true deliberations begin. During this process this process the pavilion is sealed from the realm, and the supplicant must place aside all of their belongings and wear one of the bookkeeper’s robes while they remain there housed and cared for. Deliberation may last for days or much more, during which bookkeepers conduct extensive research, often traveling to the location of the challenge for further information. Urgent matters are rarely suited for this process, though the process has been expedited in rare cases where the crisis is sufficiently enormous and obviously suited to the hero.
TODO (more about interaction between supplicant and bookos and also what does hero do during this time?)
If a supplicant’s request is rejected, their belongings are returned to them and their robe burned. Newly ignorant of the deliberation they went through, the bookkeepers only inform them of the duration of deliberation, and that their request was not suited, and they are sent on their way, either to return in failure or to continue their search.
If a supplicant’s request is accepted, the hero is woken. The supplicant and bookkeepers inform the hero of all they know, and a TODO/ritual (describe it) is conducted, in which the robes are burned and the hero sent forth by TODO/teleportation to the appropriate location. The supplicant’s belongings are returned, and they are released to return the way they came, knowing only that their request was honored.
There are many reasons why bookkeepers work so hard to ensure that a challenge is sufficiently perilous to ensure a fatal victory for their hero. Firstly, any lesser challenge would be a waste of their hero’s prowess. TODO/reword Their valiance must be used to the last drop. The second reason is widely feared. A hero that has passed through this realm emerges blinded with vengeful purpose, with all intent boiled and distilled into their quest, and if they do not perish in the process, no consciousness remains: only force and might. These broken raving saviors know only destruction, and wreak it upon anything in their presence. Entire cities have been leveled in the misguided aftermath of such episodes, and the hero will not stop until slain or lost.
The source of this effect is TODO disputed, maybe necessary side effect of channeling all might into purpose, or perhaps place was cursed, is it done on purpose or just the fabric of the plane. Whether the effect is intentional on the part of the bookkeepers or whoever lay the foundation of ____, or whether it is simply infused into the logic this place
most successful, a few broken
one huge pavilion (what theme?) has been closed in deliberation for as long as anyone can remember