Common wisdom suggests that it is best to tell a tale from the beginning, but as will become clear throughout the course of this story, that is simply impossible in this case.
Instead, we begin some three generations after the first Emperor, Ashemon, slew the Dragon god Eas and convinced the remaining gods to withdraw from the physical realm. Our protagonists, drawn together by fate or fortune, traveled together as a unit of the Quiet Men- a special branch of the military charged with quietly dealing with threats to the stability of the fledgling Erathin Empire.
They solved an unusual murder in the town of Abdera, in the process discovering the existence of the Fluid, an artificial race given to the god Sin’s service by Argent the Panegyric, a hidden egg filled with divine energy, and news that the glass dagger used to carve a home for the Fluid from the Feywild had been stolen by agents of Kor Haleen, a Dragonborn from the southern Kingdom of Morne.
Full to bursting with strange discoveries and signs of larger plots at work, the Quiet Men traveled north to Seshat’s Rest, where Valentine knew a clerical scholar, Lady Kore. After dealing with vicious lizard men, and transforming a powerful swamp spirit into a conduit for the god Sokar’s influence, they arranged for the Fluid to be bound into the service of the church of Seshat, goddess of magic, mystery, and revelation.
Under orders from Lt. Sasumon, the Quiet Men then headed further North to investigate reports of spontaneous combustion, strange figures of fire, and other oddities. They found a mine that had been sealed, trapping a ‘star beast’ that had fallen to earth within it. Recent earthquakes had weakened the seals, and so they removed them to deal with the beast once and for all. In the end, Ozmian suffered a dire wound, but the beast was defeated and its essence dedicated to Adonia’s mystical patron.
The Quiet Men were given leave to attend the Erathin Exposition and Worlds’ Fair, in the city of Garshen. Wonders from around the world were on display, along with the greatest scientific and magical advancements of the Empire. In the shadows, the Quiet Men found much to disturb their ‘vacation’. A powerful hallucinogen infused with Abyssal energies, a woman seeking to steal Valentine’s destiny, and Drow pirates seeking to assassinate the Emperor all thwarted against this backdrop of mortal ingenuity. The team even had time to make deals between the Dynamic Dirigible Company of Nantyr and wealthy industrialist Rego Trysain (who they would later learn was a member of the Devotees of the Hour conspiracy, and the husband of Adonia).
Perhaps the most notable of their activites took place at the Exposition’s massive zoo. While viewing the ‘Impossibility Beast’ that flickered from one shape to another as if it could not properly find its place in the world, the Quiet Men were transported to a world that shouldn’t exist. Each inhabited a body much like their own, though with faded memories of a wholly different life. Adonia was the decidedly un-estranged wife of Rego Trysain, Valentine a savage barbarian, Argent a rural student of magic, Oz a red crystal infected monster, and Grouse the powerful (and Human) General Goran.
They came to realize this was what the world would be like if the First Emperor had failed to slay Eas and the gods had never withdrawn. It was on the brink of destruction, and a tenuous alliance of mortals and gods planned to attack Eas on multiple fronts. The Quiet Men took up the task of infiltrating the Temple of Change in Morne, to rescue the captive Satet, goddess of healing, fertility, and birth from its volcanic heart. They succeeded, and were each granted boons before being sent back to the real world.
On their return they were given a task to get them clear of the Empire for a while, so they traveled by rented airship to the island nation of Ikurli to recover the wizard Gerard Gamble, who had been captured by natives being transformed by the psychic power of massive stone heads on their forbidden island. In gratitude for his release, Gerard revealed that he had lost a duel to Argent when last they met, and that the price for his failure was to direct Argent toward Peron’s nail, a divine relic said to point the bearer toward their heart’s desire.
Packing up one of the stone heads, the Quiet Men spent the next few months traveling in search of potent components that they could trade to the Dynamic Dirigible Company for a custom airship. From glacial battles for a Remhorraz’s heart to an underground expedition for Ankheg Royal Jelly, they acquired everything they needed. Working in concert with Burwil and Levilor Richten, Argent infused the ship with the divine energy within Sin’s egg to create a sentient ship of tremendous capability, bound to each of the Quiet Men. With an airship at their disposal, the Quiet Men are able to move more swiftly across the Empire, and to move closer to answers about the threats arrayed around them.
They head to the village of Jorvik where Trapper, an agent of the Quiet Men, is being manipulated by threats to his family to expose the secrets of the group. They save his family, and after a short trip through the lands of the dead they return in time to prevent Trapper from being assassinated by an unwilling agent of Namoi Trysain.
Trapper is freed, and taken to Tillith, where they encounter Naomi Trysain as she steals the entire Grand Library into the Age of Strife, with them inside, using help from that world’s version of Argent. A bargain with that Argent get’s them home again.
Oz realizes that he can no longer delay dealing with the Star Beast’s infection of his arm. The team flies to Ilshofen, where politics and religion cause tense delays, but after closing an abyssal gate in the heart of Ilshofen they are allowed to amputate Oz’s infected arm and dispose of the Star Beast’s influence for good. Oz’s brother provides him with a silver and adamantium replacement.
During Oz’s recover, they enter and win a race to uncover the forge of the dead Dragon god Anu. They ultimately destroy the forge by releasing the siphoned magical energy the god once used for his creations back into the world via volcano.
The next morning the team are surprised to awaken in a strange rocket hurtling toward the moon known as the Maiden (which no longer exists in the real world). As they fight their way through warring tribes of the mantis-like Kreen, they come upon the Dragon god Eas. Wounded, it is digging towards the heart of the moon in order to consume its power. They piece together the fact that their minds are somehow piloting clones created by the Age of Strife’s Argent, in hopes that they will eliminate his enemy. Unable to defeat the Dragon in direct conflict, they trigger the explosion of the moon itself to destroy Eas.
Awakening again in the real world, the Quiet Men head south to deal with problems along the border of the Shifter lands. The conflict with the Shifters proves more tangled than expected. They learn that the totemic animal gods of the Shifters were once powerful druids, but the artifacts they used to retain their mortal minds had long ago been shattered. Now, some sort of Abyssal influence had taken over one of their number (already poisoned by something within the Silk Forest) and begun to spread, driving the Shifters out of their land and into conflict with the Empire. To purge the problem they are forced to follow the Spider Queen into the Feywild to slay her (and also to create a conflict with a Fey prince in passing).
On return to the mortal world they find that several years have passed. The tentative peace they left behind was destroyed by Rego’s manipulations, allowing him to increase the production of his Forged soldiers with little oversight. Valentine, who is eventually revealed as the Honey-Wolf’s own son, chooses to remain with the remnants of his people while the rest of the Quiet Men return to the Empire to see if they can counter Rego’s growing influence.
War with the Shifters, as well as with the Goblin’s to the South, has left the Empire open to Rego’s influence, as his Forged provide protection for the Empire’s citizens. Sasumon was promoted, but now has Rego’s agents watching her actions closely. They communicate with her in secret, recovering their ship and taking on a new teammate- the converted Eas cultist Tiran Suveran. Following up on his intelligence about a terrible necromantic ritual in the Shifting Desert, they manage to stop the rite before it raises the spirits of all the dead to fight against the Empire. Rego’s forces arrive at the tail end of the battle, and the Quiet Men are forced to slip into the Brightlands to escape.
In the lands of the dead they discover the source of the ‘souls’ for the Forged…a massive foundry that processes the souls of the dead into programmable composite spirits to be anchored into the mechanical bodies. After sabotaging the foundry they are able to carve a way back to the real world using the glass dagger, and they arrive just outside the capitol city of Ashera, in one of the factories that produce the physical bodies of the Forged.
They are able to verify that their sabotage has greatly slowed production, and also learn that someone (Petros Denn) has been assassinating Devotees. They make contact with Petros and between the two of them have enough evidence to bring the conspiracy to light. They set their sites on a public ceremony to induct new members of the Devotees.
While preparing for the arrest, the Quiet Men find evidence of another Abyssal rip, this time in the hidden hospital where Adonia and her husband were ‘born’. They successfully navigate the warped and torn reality around the Abyssal brood mother, but now realize that each of these tears in reality are connected to the place of their births. They also stymie a ‘preacher’ who proved to be one of the bearers of divine water from Draji, and learn that Marduk Trysain has plans to hire adventurers to help him break into Argent’s Tower.
The arrest is successful, but not without cost. Rego, realizing that his plans have been revealed, triggers a device that tears open holes to the Age of Strife. Vast numbers of Kreen, having fallen to their planet after the moon was destroyed by the cloned Quiet Men, swarm through the breaches. Argent and Grouse are able to find ways to seal the breaches, and even teach a simpler version to the College mages present even as Oz shattered the mind controlling prow of Rego’s ship to allow him to be safely taken into custody. During his arrest, Tiran beheads Rego using a specially prepared garrote to prevent necromancy from being able to restore him. He reveals himself to be the child of Adonia and Rego, sold to the Dragonborn of Morne when he did not prove to be their messiah.
In the aftermath of the ceremony, Adonia arranges for legal assistance for her son, and her patron grants her a boon that allows her to watch over him from afar. Argent takes a short break to impregnate a woman named Genevieve, in hopes that the connection to a human child would make it more likely for him to retain his sense of self should the ‘real’ Argent attempt to take him over. Oz receives a sacred text from his brother. Valentine returns to them, after years of marriage and leadership among the Shifter tribes. They then head to Argent’s tower, after evidence surfaces that it is under assault by Abyss-tainted villagers.
The Quiet Men are able to enter the Tower with only moderate difficulty, and slowly exert their control of the defenses. They find ancient treasures- including the 2nd relic needed to purify the Goblin race, a captive & eyeless god, a Fluid with a name who serves as a doctor, a scrying chamber, a book on Argen’ts Observation of the Stars, and Eliza- who grew up with Benjamin/Argent. They quickly track down and seal the rift in Benjamin’s village, and then head for the final rift near Grouse’s birthplace in the Shifting Desert.
They arrive to find a battle already in progress, with forces from the Age of Strife being led by their version of Oz and Grouse seeking a foothold here to allow survivors from their world a place to retreat from the Kreen. They form a tentative alliance with the forces from the Age of Strife, and the battle extends to both sides of the portal between worlds. They fight with and against gods, kill the other version of Argent, and seal the breach with several gods in the real world. Sokar is able to convince or force them all to agree to the pact, and leave the mortal world behind.
As the Quiet Men prepare to enact the rite that could free the Goblin race from the curse of atavism, Adonia comes to understand some of her patron’s goals, including the complete subjugation of their world using a ‘twin’ of Argent’s child. The ritual is enacted, and after a furious battle they are successful. The boon Grouse received from Satet is enough to prevent his or Oxiginia’s death, and they manage to cure nearly every Goblin on the continent. The Empire and the Celestial Church, with assistance from Eliza, begin a massive effort to peacefully integrate the refugees from the Age of Strife and the newly humanized goblins into the Empire.
In the wake of the purification of the Goblins, and requests for alliance from Naomi and the Age of Strife’s Rego Trysain, the Quiet Men head to the Kingdom of Draji, both to solve why strange balloons filled with explosives are drifting into the Empire from their country, as well as to follow Argent’s trail and determine his true fate. They navigate the twisting landscape and treacherous power structure, eventually coming to the sacred island where the god of trickery intends to be reborn (once its followers winnow themselves down to a single worthy vessel). They entered to find themselves drawn into the same trap Argent was, a zone where time literally stands still with Peron’s Nail at the center. Combining the old and new Argent’s power with that of his companions, they unravel time enough to move back to before the trap was built.
Arriving to the world before the Emperor slew Eas and convinced the other gods to withdraw, and realizing that the very act of moving back in time created the Age of Strife (or perhaps the Age of Man?), they find themselves in the company of a much less antagonistic Argent. He now believes himself capable of breaking the eternal cycle that prevents him from ever being with is true love, but insuring that she will always be reborn and taken from him again. They remain in Argent’s Tower, deciding how to approach their problems from 100 years in the past.