Zeitgeist

The Words of Ashima-Shimtu

"When Triegenes, founder of the Clergy, defeated the Demonocracy, most of the fiend rulers were slain. Because their souls could not return to the hellish planes that spawned them, the corruption drained into this world. Ashima-Shimtu, however, bargained for her life, offering to be a prisoner, and in exchange she would provide guidance on how to find and trap the trace essences of the other high fiends.

“The Clergy chained her above this well that leads to the sea, and ringed the wall of the pit with blessings. Now she hangs above a massive font of holy water. The vapor forever stings her, and should she ever wriggle free she will fall and be dissolved. She upheld her end of the bargain for centuries, and learned to meditate and ignore her physical existence so she would not go mad from solitude. Eventually the Clergy captured every fiend’s essence it could find, and they locked them into the same vault with Ashima-Shimtu.
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“And so the Lady of the Forked Tongue would have been forgotten, if not for the holy war between the eladrin and the Clergy.

"Five hundred years ago two people came to the Isle of Odiem and received from Ashima-Shimtu a ritual that could give physical form to a belief. The ritual was used to conjure forth an avatar of the eladrin goddess Srasama, and when she was slain the eladrin race was nearly annihilated.

“The surviving heads of the Clergy learned that Ashima-Shimtu had been involved, but she refused to give them the secret of the ritual unless they released her. They threatened to kill her, but she knew the temptation to wield such power made her too valuable to kill. And so she remains, the Keeper of the Secret That Must Not Be Lost, waiting for the day the hierarch of the Clergy releases her.

“Today is not that day. The visitors to her prison could never break her chains. But she sees value in them.

“The mage of three worlds, whose trivial indulgences can do little to lighten the burden of her quest;

“The soldier, whose desire for honor and justice war with her fury and thirst for blood;

“The scholar, who seeks to discover and impose order on a world whose laws can shift like the sands of a beach;

“The druid of a stone forest, whose faith in his soothsaying legacy waxes and wanes, even as the stars are poised to turn the fate of this world;

“And the executioner of the Vekeshi, who works within law and without it, whose will would have brought the visitors to this place, even if their pursuit of the oracle had not.

“Ashima-Shimtu has meditated, and being the guest of priests this past millennium has given her time to consider matters of morality. She could condemn these intruders to a slow death of starvation, or amuse herself by testing the resourcefulness of her vistors. However, she already knows something of their worth, and choose instead to offer their freedom, since she cannot have such herself.

“This is no devil’s bargain, nor a gift that must be repaid by force of infernal contract. The visitors to her prison desire to leave. They need only step to the lip of this well, speak the name of where they would travel, and dive in. Ashima-Shimtu will see them safely there. More, she will conceal them for a time, so that the divinations of their enemies will think them dead. She thinks this is the least she can do to thank her visitors for removing the unpleasant man who had bothered her.”

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