The Quick Spiel
In Judgement, players assume the role of one of the five 'Everlasting', demigods who live on the Shadow Plane known as Between. Each of the five were once champions of their race, before transcending from mortals to demigods whilst on a quest to destroy the gods of old.
Their quest was bestowed upon them at The Gathering, a time when the primary races of Athien came together to select five among them, so they could travel to the plane of shadow and stop the meddling of the old gods. The Orcs and Dwarves nominated their most respected spiritual leaders, Krognar and Bruell to guide the five. The Elves and Minotaurs nominated their most powerful mage, Ista, and warrior Grul, to challenge the gods. By consensus the humans provided their greatest knight, Tomas, to provide leadership for the company.
As one of the Everlasting, you summon heroes from the mortal world of Athien, to the shadow plane (Between), so they can harvest souls at your behest. Souls that give you power and sustain your immortality. This is the game of Judgement.
The Detailed Spiel
There is a darkness, within that darkness entities that are, were, have yet to be, and may never be, reside. Within that darkness there is no time, so there is no story.
Time is bound up in beginnings and existence is bound in time. The four entities that were the essence of the creation that would be, desired to exist, desired to become. They bound, through means unknown, time between them, and in that binding, the three planes of existence were spawned.
First, the plane of mortals, the plane of life. Third, the plane of the immortals, of the gods that would be. Second, the Between, the plane that is the source and the return point for all energy on the planes. Time itself was spread across the realms, binding and driving them all, but the soul of time, if it could be called such, dwelt in the immortal realm.
Between was a plane of energy, materializing in the forms it was willed to by those within it. Initially this was the playground of the four entities that had spawned the realms. Within it they contested, sported, created and destroyed at will.
Time though, time desires story. Time drives change. And so the beings created by the four were not all destroyed, and the energies of Between began to leach outwards, to the other planes. Entering the mortal planes entails acceptance of mortality, and the entities could never bring themselves to that, so they remained on Between, glutting themselves on the energies there. Slowly they found that the mortal realm shaped Between, altering it’s appearance and shaping their abilities, limiting them and imposing form upon them.
The beliefs of the mortals on Athien, as they had named their plane, began to shape Between, shaping the entities themselves. They fought back against the shaping, but the very nature of Between made their fight futile, for to dwell there is to be subject to both the workings of time (from above) and the beliefs of mortals (from below).
The mortals were, at this stage, primitive in nature, concerned primarily with the four major elements of their world, air, water, earth and fire. So their thoughts and prayers, their conscious willing of the world around them, and through it Between, focused on these four elements……and found receptacles in the four entities.
This belief simultaneously empowered and limited the entities, forming them, forcing them to take on more and more mortal characteristics, shaping them into something that mortals could recognize, worship, love and hate. Shaping their very thoughts. In this manner the four took on names in the mortal world, Forin for fire, Wellin for water, Eldir for earth and Arden for the air.
Terrified of being forced to become something other than themselves, and thus ended, the entities sought escape. Unwilling to flee into the mortal realm they instead turned their attention to the realm in which time itself dwelt, the realm of the immortal, the realm of the gods.
Breaching time's sanctum cost the entities heavily, stripping their aspects further and leaving them weakened. To their horror they found that their link to the mortal realm, though tempered, was not at all broken. Furthermore, stranded with insufficient energy at their disposal to break back into Between, they found that within time’s realm was emptiness. For time itself was in all realms and had no reason to manipulate the immortal realm or turn it to a playground for itself.
So the four were forced to scavenge what power they could, leeching energy from the mortal realm through worship and belief, while drawing still some energy from their remaining tether to Between, for they were originally beings of that realm and that contact remained with them still.
During this period, the realms came the closest they had ever been to unravelling. The strength of the four was all that bound Time to the realms, and Time was all that held the realms together. Had Time truly fought then, perhaps the story would have ended.
At the moment of their ascension, in the mortal realm four stars arose. The four hung, motionless in the empty sky of Athien, providing the directions for navigation and a tangible symbol of the gods, inspiring religious fervor across the realm. No matter where the mortals stood on Athien, the four elemental stars were always visible on the horizon, providing the four cardinal directions of firewards, waterward, airward and earthward. The sun, the embodiment of times progression, crossed the sky, marking out the days and nights. These five celestial bodies empowered belief as never before, a sudden surge of energy along the link between the gods and their mortal followers that, unbeknownst to the mortals, sustained their gods in a time of need.
On Between, the four stars blazed into being even more brightly and there they moved, drifting seemingly randomly across the sky. The sun does not show itself there however, for Time itself needs no marker in that plane.
With a brief burst of belief to sustain them in their weakness, the four soon (at least in the timeline of immortals), recovered a portion of their strength, enough to allow them to contemplate more than mere survival. Enough to experiment with reaching out to touch the other realms. They found that while direct interference with Athien was very difficult, even small manifestations there could result in dramatic increases in worship and the associated flow of energy to them in the immortal realm. Though the consistent flow of energy from Between was enough to sustain, these bursts of energy from Athien, these could allow growth.
They also discovered that the energies flowing from Between to Athien were the driving force of life there. Mortal lives were imbued with that energy, which they dubbed ‘souls’ and that furthermore, those souls were enriched by life on Athien, seemingly creating more energy once they flowed back to Between once the mortals died. Crucially, when they died, that energy could be redirected to the gods themselves with the correct intervention on Between. That intervention was most easily accomplished through the mortal’s own belief or faith in a god.
So they established, through roundabout influence of mortals (and direct where necessary) the four churches for themselves. They established themselves as gods in the budding civilisations of Athien, driving belief through imbuing specific people with fractions of their power, an aura of command or authority, an unmatched prowess at arms…….a touch of fate.
The fate-touched on Athien led sections of society, established cultural norms, drove off outsiders, defended the weak (or, at times, exploited them) and most importantly, gathered followers. For the soul of a believer was more easily diverted to feed their god upon death than to feed another.
The Rise and Fall of Edarr
The nature of time is that of a story, and the nature of any story, is to seek an ending. Time itself, weary of its bondage, and knowing now that the four would not dissolve of their own accord, sought other means of escape. Firstly it joined the contest for the souls of mortals, advantaged by it’s inherent involvement in all of the realms, but disadvantaged by it’s lack of association, in the minds of mortals, with the four key elements. Secondly, it began to seek. It didn’t take long (in the eyes of an immortal) to find the being it sought, such a being always exists in potential, one who could bring the story to an end.
Time raised this mortal woman, named Edarr, in the manner in which the four had been raised, and placed her beside them…..and a fifth star rose in the heavens of Athien, this one a small, black orb that trailed the sun in it’s travels. It quickly spawned a sixth church. The church of death.
Eventually, these six old gods noted another change, that Between was becoming …. thinner….less energetic. It seemed that as life thrived on Athien, and the old gods grew powerful through glutting on the souls of the dying, there was less energy returning to feed Between. At first this was of little concern, fed as they were by the powerful faiths of Athien…..but soon it shriveled their connection to Between, making them increasingly reliant on just the faithful to maintain and feed their power.
Their first solution was to drive more conflict on Athien, pushing greater and greater loss of life to feed energy back to Between and themselves. Their influence became less subtle, and the fate blessed were more and more often leaders of revolution and bloodshed, driving religious wars across the lands and seas of Athien. But one of the gods was even more ambitious, she sought death on a much grander scale, sought to harvest souls directly, and feed as none of them had ever dared to do. She thought to breach Athien herself and lead her followers in the slaughter. She sought to slay the soul of Athien itself and feast on the power within.
She was time’s beloved, the one with the ability to bring an end. The four though, they had no desire to see an end, no willingness to risk their own immortality to join the feast…..but no way to stop it.
Edarr breached the mortal realm on the back of a massive blood-fueled ritual that resulted in the devestation of the city of Palatheum. She once gain took mortal form, a body created of pure fate, with an entire church of fanatics at her back.
In the end, the means by which it happened is unknown. The four conspired, outside of Time’s gaze, to ensure that Death herself would die. She was slain, by mortal hands and on that day the black star fell from the heavens, carving a path of destruction across the land that killed millions and left a scar across the land that became known as Edarr's Folly or Death's Fall.
The death of a god, coupled with the death of a million souls, flooded Between with energy, glutting the other gods.
The shrine formed was the largest known, a mountain of fate and a return of souls in such volume that the first voidgate ever seen on Between was formed.
The damage on Athien was immense, Death’s fall, as it became known, was a site of apocalypse. A furrow was ploughed by the falling body, hundreds of miles long, raising waves where it crossed ocean, and raising mountain ranges and volcanoes where it tore through the landscape.
This very clear display of the destruction that the gods were capable of, and the indications that it was in fact what they desired shook the peoples of Athien, and drove them to action. In the wake of the world-spanning wars that Death had driven, a coalition of the races formed, a pact based on a desire for peace and a sickness of war. The mortals could now see clearly that peace would be nigh on impossible with the old gods actively interfering and driving them towards war. A council of the five races was formed, with the ultimate goal to reduce the influence of the old gods on Athien however they could, and if possible to remove that influence completely.
They determined that doing so would require insinuation of their own agents into the churches and governments of the races across the plane. To then drive a new age of understanding and peace throughout Athien. In the more immediate term though they felt a pressing need to attempt to strike back. To show the old gods that the mortal plane was not their playground, that mortals would not be trifled with.
Though they did not realise it, the fall of Death had provided a unique opportunity. The planes were flooded with energy that enhanced their magical prowess, allowed mortals to, for a time, influence the planes as never before. The decision was made to send five mortal champions directly to the plane of the gods, to challenge and, if possible (for hopes were high) defeat the old gods in their own home.
The council of the races determined that a champion of each race would comprise the party that would be sent to seek mortal vengeance. The Orcs and Dwarfs nominated their most respected spiritual leaders, Krognar and Bruell to guide the five. The Elves and Minotaurs nominated their most powerful mage, Ista, and warrior, Grul, to challenge the gods. By consensus the humans provided their greatest knight, Tomas, to provide leadership for the company.
The five champions barely survived the journey to Between, and on their arrival they immediately met resistance from the old gods, but fought off the attack, even in their weakened condition. This victory gave them heart, but they knew they were vulnerable, and hence sought to hide themselves from the old gods while they recuperated.
One of the first things they noticed were spirits of the dead floating above the surface of Between. The Shadow Plane was the place where the souls of Athien's recently deceased returned, their energies being shed back to the plane.
Krognar was the first to discover the link between the souls of deceased mortals and the power of the old gods. Ista devised a plan to weaken the gods by denying them the souls they so relied on. Bruell and Krognar worked together to create an artifact that would attract souls like moths to a flame. Their plan worked better than expected.
The high concentration of souls caused by the device soon aroused the attention of the old gods and once discovered, the champions were thrust into a battle for survival they were unprepared for. Unable to defeat the old gods so soon the five champions fled for their lives, scattered to the far reaches of Between where they were left to lick their wounds. Time passed and whilst the fury of the old gods did not abate they were from that point forward far more cautious, recognising the power the five possessed and the real threat they posed. The discovery of the champions by the old gods meant their focus was no longer on Athien, so the meddling in the affairs of mortal men subsided. For the races of Athien, it seemed their plan to send their champions to the Shadow Plane had worked, for the time being at least.
The five slowly recovered their strength, however their extended existence on Between was altering them, at first subtly but over time in more profound ways. The nature of the plane consumed their energy and to replenish it they soon found that souls were the simplest source. They also came to understand that the old gods did not reside on Between, but on a third plane, inaccessbile to the champions. Their aim to destroy the old gods seemed almost laughable in the face of the huge amounts of power they would require simply to enter the third plane, let alone conflict with the gods themselves. They became paranoid of each other and their fear of the old gods reached new heights, driving them to work in ever increasing isolation. Over time each of them became reliant on souls for survival, at first without knowing, and later without caring. Soon the consumption of souls was all they craved.
To preserve their lives each champion carved out a domain on Between, built defenses and harvested what souls they could to sustain and grow their power. Indeed the five had become that which they were sent to destroy. Their fear of death continued to increase until eventually none of them dared venture too far from their domain, despite the fact vast numbers of souls floated tantalisingly out of their reach.
The old gods referred to the five as the Everlasting, through their churches on Athien they attempted to undermine the coalition of the races that had led to Everlasting being sent to Between.
The First Summoned
It was around this time that the orc shaman Krognar started to communicate with Zaron Bogdan, the Necromancer. Zaron sought immortality for himself and Krognar recognised an opportunity to use the necromancer to help him gain ascendancy over his rivals.
Together they devised a plan of using the same spell that transported the original five champions to Between, to open the conduit between Athien and the Shadow Plane once more. For years they worked together creating what would become the very first Effigy. An extension of the artifact Krognar had created with Ista and Bruell earlier.
They learned very quickly that a physical transference to Between, as had been performed for the Everlasting themselves, required extremely large quantities of energy, only made possible by the fall of Edarr, the death of a god. Krognar also quickly realized that any other being that was successfully bought to Between would very quickly become yet another rival, rather than an ally.
Instead, Krognar focussed on a lesser form of summoning, and after several failed attempts, he eventually succeeded in summoning Zaron's soul to the Shadow Plane. They found that while summoned, Zaron could not die, the spell that held him could be disrupted, but it could be simply reinstated in a matter of moments as long as Krognar had sufficient power to do so. Zaron was able to assist in gathering souls for Krognar in areas of Between that Krognar himself did not dare to enter.
Once they had gained a reliable understanding of the method, Krognar began to seek others that he could summon to assist, their reward for their service was an enhancement of their strength and abilities in the mortal realm, gained by such close connection to Between.
Soon after, the remaining Everlasting learned of Krognar's work and emulated his method of summoning, and it was not long before the appearance of a shrine on Between would herald the arrival of several summoned, fighting among themselves to harvest souls for their summoner, and therefore increase their own power.
Upon returning to Athien, the summoned heroes would tell tales of their experiences and the reputation of the Everlasting spread across the realm. Athien's inhabitants referred to them as the new gods and lamented that the plan of their forefathers, to rid them of the old gods, had backfired so spectacularly. Instead of destroying the old gods, their efforts had merely created a new pantheon, and the tyrannical hold the gods have over Athien mortals has grown...