Linaras, 16th day of Holmswelth, 432 AC
Afterwatch Hour rising 5
New Arrivals Claim to be Refugees from Town of the Damned
by Zarvox, Staff Writer
Three men arrived in Palanthas yesterday, claiming to be refugees from the town of Godnest in Coastlund. This raised some eyebrows, since there is no record of such a town existing since about 1,100 PC, at the end of the Age of Dreams. The men are hideous and corpulent, bearing festering wounds and horrific scars. They claim to be almost 1,500 years old. This is the story they tell, presented without comment.
Atop the small island of Godnest sits a blocky cathedral. On the seaward side, a fierce wind cuts through the tough grass of mossy heaths. On the landward side huddles a town, surrounded by a stout stone wall, and connected to the mainland by a broad causeway. When the tide is in, well-repaired fishing boats scull the gray waters, crewed by hollow-eyed men. When the tide is out, featureless mud flats stretch out to the misty horizon.
Godnest was once one of the brightest places in Solamnia. A well-defended, prosperous fishing town, it was governed by a direct democracy of all adult residents, male and female alike. The black-robed wizard Essere resided in Godnest for many years, before offering to perform a ritual that would make all residents immortal, if only they would first declare him their lord, so that he could manage the town's resources in preparation. The assembly of residents, in their greed, ceded control to Essere. Instead of the ritual he promised, Essere used the town's resources to cast a spell extracting the souls of all the inhabitants, binding them to the wizard. When the ritual was over, the town, its greedy populace, and its faithless 'leader' were pulled out of the world.
In Godnest's new place in the cosmos, it experiences perpetual twilight; the only means of marking time is the tide. When the tide is in, the residents go about their lives. When the tide recedes, they fall to the floor, their souls return to the site of the ritual, and Essere takes control of the island, ceding it only when the tide returns.
The ritual Essere sought to complete would have granted him the obedience of all creatures that dwell in salt water. Thus, in an appropriate twist, when the tide is in, he and his minions dwell under the sea, hiding from the townspeople. His minions are the souls of those Godnest fishermen who drowned in the decades before the ritual. They and Essere have been given the bodies of selkies: a race of seal/human shapeshifters. When the mudflats have been exposed from the causeway to the midpoint of the island, the inhabitants of Godnest collapse, and several dozen fat grey seals clutching weapons in their mouths crawl ashore on a thin, seaweed-strewn beach. The animals shed their sealskins like a man disrobing, revealing handsome human bodies. In his hours on land, Essere conducts magical experiments, trying to learn about the nature of the domain so he can escape. These details on Essere and his minions are the unanimous opinion of the townsfolk, though no one is quite sure how they figured it out. Essere wears black robes, with a long white beard draped over them, and clutches a staff topped by the paw of a gold dragon wyrmling.
When the tide comes in, Essere and his minions return to the sea, and the souls of Godnest's inhabitants pour out of the cathedral. The freed souls enter whatever empty bodies they can, such that no person keeps the same body from day to day; all people are finally equal. Furthermore, the bodies never die. In a perverse twist, the townspeople attained immortality after all. Since no one 'owns' their own body anymore, there is no incentive to look after it. The highly-durable bodies of residents tend to be corpulent, and bear the stitches and scars from where limbs were hastily reattached and careless wounds were closed. Many of the townsfolk are fishermen, and go to sea in sturdy boats, unafraid of the selkies beneath them. Some are tradesmen or homemakers (though there are no children), some are soldiers who man the city walls against threats that never come, and most of the rest go to the assembly. There, they argue endlessly about what should be done regarding their current situation. The townspeople have a powerful compulsion to avoid the cathedral.
The Caretaker is the being who ensures no one leaves Godnest, and she holds her vigil on the causeway. She resembles a beautiful young redhead in a black cloak. Beneath the cloak, though, her body is as that of a skeleton, and bats roost in her ribcage. Behind her, land can be seen through the mists, but she stops anyone from making it to the mainland. Anytime someone tries to penetrate the mists ringing Godnest, even by boat, she is always there, blocking the way. She will fight if she has to, and in battle she is unstoppable, though she always gives her opponents every opportunity to flee. The most popular story told about the caretaker is that she was once a nymph associated with shallow seas. Centuries ago, she was imprisoned in a lightless pool in a cavern in the heart of the island. Separated from the ocean, she was powerless. When Essere came to the pool to conduct his ritual, she could not stop him. Instead, her innate magical nature made his spell all the more powerful; in essence, she unwillingly helped him enslave her and all other beings that dwelled in salt water. There is another story that she is a devil, and that it is her subtle influence that sees to it Essere's experiments never come to fruition, that townspeople avoid the cathedral, and that the assembly never comes to a consensus. This opinion is less common, but is very popular among the fishermen.
The men left Godnest by planning a distraction; they slipped through the fog while some friends of theirs attacked the Caretaker on the causeway. When they reached the other side of the mists, they were shocked to see not both sides of heavily wooded Hylo Bay, but the grassy shore of Coastlund, and Hylo nowhere to be seen. They had no previous knowledge of the Cataclysm. They were picked up by a vessel of the Solamnic Navy traveling from Tidesafe to Palanthas. They are currently under the watchful eyes of the Kingfishers, and it is not yet known what will happen to these professed refugees.