The Eternal Brotherhood
Most people do not remember the first moments of their life. Sunny is not like most people. Her first moments of life were spent not surrounded by family and midwives, nor was it as hectic and frenzied as usual. Sunny simply awoke in a field, surrounded by sunlight and grass, fully grown and self-aware. Then again, this was not her first birth, but her second.
Running in the shadow of the tower, she sees the guard on his patrol. He stops to urinate in the corner, turning his back on the shadow. Her shortsword slips between his plated armor and he falls.
Flashbacks are all Sunny has from her previous life.
The drow matriarch lifts her goblet in a toast to her dinner guests. Unseen by all, a shuriken flies past her throat, leaving the faintest of cuts. The poison takes effect, and the matriarch falls.
While in the town nearest to her “birthplace,” Sunny learned that she resembled a young drow female, and that she likely lived in the Underdark.
The foolish soldier rushes at her with his sword. She dodges and sweeps her kusari-gama, knocking him to the ground. Using the momentum from the swing, she throws the weighted end down towards her prey. He screams for a brief second before his face implodes.
Sunny made her way towards the nearest city, Fallcrest, to speak with a wizard there, who goes by the name of Nimozeran. He turned out to be a kindly old fellow, and introduced her to a visiting scholar, who studies death in all its aspects. This wizard, Gorstag, taught her all about the Raven Queen, and how she guides the souls of the dead to the Far Realm. However, every so often a soul is returned to the world to fulfill some purpose of the Raven Queen. Encouraged by this new yet still extremely vague sense of purpose, Sunny decided to accompany this Gorstag on his travels, hoping that his studies might lead her to some answers.
After defeating the Fallcrest Falcons, Sunny experienced a nightmare:
The jewelry box was full of gems and silver jewelry. Sunny took what she could, though she could not leave behind the feeling of guilt. As she turned to leave, a strong hand grabbed her by the scruff of her ragged and dirty shirt.
“Who are you?” asked a mature, intimidating drow woman. “How did you get past my guards?”
“Please, my brother made me come. I am good at hiding and he needs me so we can eat. It was his plan, please…”
A smile slowly stretched across the woman’s face. “I would like to meet this brother of yours…”
Later, on the road to Winterhaven…
A young drow male, who looks very similar to Sunny, stands in rich clothing, although he seems awkward wearing it, as though he had only ever worn rags.
“Sunny, I’m not comfortable with this. Drusilla is a powerful matriarch. If we stay here too long, we will end up being used and thrown away in her political struggles. She wants me to be trained as a gentleman so that I can handle her business. That world is not what Ma and Pa wanted for us. I know things are tough on the streets for orphans, but I refuse to simply stand back and watch that witch turn my sister into a killer.”
“We have no other choice, Sejanus.”
In the Keep on the Shadowfell:
Sejanus stands at the other end of a luxurious drawing room. He looks older, more comfortable in his clothes. He turns toward Sunny as she approaches.
“I can always sense when you are near, you know. Even though I cannot hear nor see you. I suppose Selana did not have such an advantage? You still have blood on your armor.”
“Sorry, Sejanus. I know what I do makes you uncomfortable, but I prefer outright killing someone to ruining them with a smile and a handshake.”
“I know, sister. We each have our sins. Speaking of which, Drusilla wants us to meet her privately.”
The siblings walk through a regal home to the bedroom where Sunny was caught, all those years ago. Standing near a large desk is Drusilla, a formidable matriarch of Umber.
“Welcome, both of you. I have been meaning to show you something for a long time now. I know that neither of you are very religious, but I have a feeling that it is because of your feelings towards Lolth that this is the case. Is that true?”
Sejanus and Sunny look at each other, extremely nervous about the turn of the conversation.
“Do not worry. I am also not fond of the Demon Queen of Spiders. I prefer another deity. Come.”
Drusilla leads the pair to her bed. She lifts an ornament on the frame, and the bed glides, soundlessly, toward the ceiling. Reveled below the bed is a stairwell leading to a small chamber. The trio walk into the chamber, in which there is naught but a small statue on an altar. The statue is a woman wearing a white and blue cloak with the image of a raven.
“Tell me, Sejanus, Sunny. What do you know of the Raven Queen?”
Further into the Keep, Sunny experienced another nightmare:
Sunny and Sejanus kneel before the hidden altar of the Raven Queen, while Drusilla offers prayers to the goddess of death, fate, and winter. She turns toward the siblings who have become so dear to her.
“Sunny, Sejanus, the enemies of the Raven Queen amass in our city. These cultists desire to overthrow her throne and eliminate death. They would unleash chaos upon the world, as they destroy the balance of life and death. They seek eternal bliss, but will only reap eternal suffering. These people, this Eternal Brotherhood, are enemies to the Raven Queen, to Umber, and to the whole of existence. Will you join me in the fight against such fools?”
“We will,” Sunny and Sejanus say simultaneously.
“Very well,” Drusilla says, rubbing oil mixed with blood on their foreheads. “You are anointed as agents of the Raven Queen, whose duty is to stop all threats to her throne, to bring down the haughty and hubris of any form, and to defend the natural order of life and death. Join me as we seek an end to necromancy in our great city beneath the world above.”
In the hobgoblin barracks, more dreams came to Sunny:
Sunny sees the rooftop guards. They do not see her. She runs from behind her cover, silently leaps between ornamental structures and attacks her first target. He fails to see her until her sword is between his ribs. His body slides off the roof to the ground below. The second guard stands a story higher, taking aim. Sunny runs up the wall to meet him and sends him, screaming, over the edge. The final guard…vanished. Sunny takes a deep breath, waits patiently, and faster than the eye can see throws a shuriken, which arcs around a chimney. It flies around the other side, bloody, and a body slumps from behind cover. Sunny quietly utters a prayer that the Raven Queen protect their souls and hops down a chimney to her destination.
After rescuing Winterhaven, Sunny dreamed of her past life:
“They’ve taken the city. We’ve lost.”
Sejanus hastily begins packing some essentials while Sunny stands calmly and watches. He is frenzied, agitated, and raving about the end of the world.
“We can’t just pack our belongings and leave, Sejanus. We owe it to the people of the city to stay and fight. Not everyone is loyal to Orcus. Most are simply too scared to say so.”
“Sunny, undead legions patrol our streets. A lich sits at the head of the Council, and his lieutenants have all but enslaved the people. We have to go before they come for us. The Brotherhood has no need of us, and they will soon feel threatened by Drusilla’s power. It is only a matter of time before the life we have created is destroyed, and we along with it.”
“We have to stop them.”
“How?!” Sejanus becomes angry, and stops packing to confront his sister. “How do you intend to end the chaos and the bloodshed? You are an impressive assassin, but you cannot stand alone against an army of undead. These are not mercenaries paid by the highest bidder. They are ever vigilant, ever loyal, remorseless undead creatures. What can we hope to do?”
“We can let them destroy each other, and when the time is right, land the final blow.” Drusilla had entered the room unnoticed. She stood watching the pair, sadness in her eyes. “I know things look grim, but cults like this have a nasty habit of developing internal power struggles. We will learn them, exploit them, and create a war within the Brotherhood. When the victor stands among the bodies, reveling in his triumph, our precious Sunny will send him back to the Shadowfell, where he should have stayed.”
After the fight with The Hunter, Sunny’s dreams revealed more of her past:
Sunny approaches Drusilla and Sejanus, who are deep in conversation. Drusilla laughs. How odd, Sunny had never seen her laugh. Drusilla notices Sunny and greets her.
“Sunny, hello. Sejanus has determined how to sow the seeds of distrust among our enemies.”
“Indeed I have. Apparently, they believe that I, being male, felt oppressed under a matriarchy, and have reached out to me as a potential source of information. I played my part, and sacrificed some minor secrets of ours as well as a few major ones of our enemies. They felt that they could use me enough that I was able to learn about the different factions in power.
“There are three major philosophies driving the Brotherhood. The first holds that, in order to eliminate death, undeath must reign supreme. As such, this faction supports putting Orcus on the Raven Queen’s throne. The second believes that the only way to truly eliminate death would be to eliminate anyone with the power to control it. They want to eliminate the gods, all of them. This is particularly ambitious, to say the least. They plan to do so by supporting Vecna and his cultists. If Vecna truly eliminates all of the gods, then they would only have to defeat him. The third and final faction wants to literally unmake death by allying themselves with its original creators, the Primordials. This group is by far the most bellicose, and our most likely target.
“My spies have manages to procure a uniform of the Vecna faction. We need you, Sunny, to assassinate a high-ranking member of the Primordial faction while wearing it. These cultists like to use a ritual to relive the final moments of their fallen allies’ lives. When they do, they will see a member of the Vecna faction killing their ally, and will either accuse that faction and start a war, or assume the killing to be a setup and attack the Orcus faction. Either way, a war starts.”
“I will return by morning. Have the uniform sent to my room.”
On the Revenge en route to the tomb:
Her target retires to his bedroom, high in a tower of a conquered palace. Sunny finds a corner of the tower which is out of sight from all angles. She begins her climb, moving quickly. Within moments, she reaches the window which leads to the suite of rooms belonging to the target. She peers inside, and notices a single guard. She silently unlocks the window and slides into the tower. She draws her blade, creeps toward the guard, and stabs him as she grabs his mouth. He tries to scream, but she stabs him a second time, and this time succeeds in piercing his heart. The guard turns to a pile of dust on the floor behind her as Sunny enters the bedroom.
Her target lies sleeping. From his appearance, he used to be a duergar, or perhaps an aboveworld dwarf. Sunny had never met a dwarf, but she always pictured them as friendly version of duergar. Regardless of what he was, now the creature lying on the bed appears to be rotting. Sunny slides her blade into his chest, but avoids killing him instantly. His eyes pop open, etched with fear and pain. She stabs him again and again as he stares in horror, dying for a second time. He finally expires, and Sunny drops an amulet on the floor on her way out as guards rush towards the commotion.
After fighting the decoy Acererak within the Tomb, Sunny dreamed on.
Sunny walks down the street which she and her brother had spent so many nights. She can barely recognize it. It is covered in blood, corpses, and signs of battle. The war had caused so much damage, but most of the casualties had been Brotherhood soldiers. Now the lich, Kal’igueghla, remains the only leader of the Brotherhood. Sunny reflects on her life as she walks, preparing for the battle to come.
The main courtyard of the Forum stretches beneath Sunny as she watches from her rooftop. Kal’igueghla proceeds on an undead horse as a part of his triumph. Sunny glides along the rooftops until she is close enough to see the veins in his skin. She takes a deep breath, whispers a prayer to the Raven Queen, and descends upon her prey, tossing handfuls of shurikens into the procession of undead. Sunny lands on her feet and faces the lich. Before the crowd has a chance to react, she throws herself at her target. He rises to his feet and roars to the sky, sending waves of decay in every direction.
Sunny relentlessly presses the attack. Once they realize what is happening, the spectators begin rioting and distract the soldiers from defending their host. Sunny and Kal’igueghla duel through the Forum, and eventually they arrive at the top of the raised entrance to the former temple of Lolth. The lich wears away at Sunny’s defenses, and sends rays of rotting decay from his fingertips. Sunny manages to close the gap and drops him to the ground with her kusari-gama. The lich blasts her back and sends her tumbling over the edge. Sunny says a prayer as she falls to her death. The ground approaches more and more quickly.
Suddenly a portal opens in the ground, and a black angel rises from it and catches Sunny. He drops her near the lich and turns to defend her against the swarm of soldiers who broke through the crowd. Sunny returns to her fight with Kal’igueghla, and slowly edges him towards the portal. The lich focuses to summon unholy powers. Desperate, Sunny charges at him. She jumps and kicks him in the chest with both feet. Kal’igueghla falls over the edge, and, screaming, enters the portal. The undead army breaks and the angel follows the lich. Sunny stands and watches the people celebrate their freedom.
Outside the Tomb of Horrors, one final nightmare came to Sunny:
Sejanus waits for Sunny in her bedroom. She enters, still weary and bloody from her battle.
“Sejanus, we did it. The people are rebelling. We have won.”
“I wish that were so, my sister.”
The sadness in his voice struck Sunny. They had just won a major victory. The people of Umber would finally reclaim their home. Who is he to say that the Brotherhood were all but expelled.
“The people can only defeat the Brotherhood if they remain united. Although the Brotherhood are without leadership, there are enough soldiers to swarm the citizens of Umber and overwhelm them through sheer numbers.”
“Why would they be divided now? The revolution is happening, brother. The people have united to end the tyranny of undead.”
“They are united under the banner of Lolth. It seems that tradition dies hard. During your fight with the lich, Kal’igueghla, an angel of the Raven Queen appeared to aid you, correct? The people are afraid that a cult dedicated to the Raven Queen is trying to usurp the Brotherhood’s hold over the city, and that concept terrifies them just as much as the current reign. They are dividing because of the suspicion that there are Raven Queen worshipers in their midst.”
“Sejanus, there are Raven Queen worshipers in their midst.”
“I know that, but the mere suspicion is already driving a wedge in the resistance, a wedge we cannot afford. If this city is to be saved, we must quell all such fears.
Sejanus walks over and holds Sunny in his arms.
“I am so sorry, sister, but we have to choose between your life or the salvation of thousands of survivors. Our long road has come to this, and I hate myself for what I have to do.”
“Sejanus, what do you mean?”
Sunny did not notice the blade until Sejanus removed it from her chest. She bled on her brother, her murderer. He held her in his arms as she died. Everything grew cold. The only warmth came from the tears that fell from her brother’s face.
_“Please forgive me, Sunny. There is no other way. I will see you again soon. I love you, Sunny.”
The world descends into darkness. Then images begin to form and solidify. Sunny stands in a grand hall. Everything is made of gray stone, and blue banners hang from the walls. Sunny turns and sees a throne behind her, upon which sits a female wearing a cloak. She stands and walks over to Sunny. Sunny can sense the power flowing from this mysterious woman. The woman embraces Sunny, who feels maternal warmth enclose her.
“Welcome, Sunny. I wish that you could have stayed longer, but it is time that you come here, to my home. I am the Raven Queen. You have been an exceptional disciple of mine, and you deserve to be rewarded. You may finally rest. Your fight is over, for now. There may come a time when I need you again, so please make yourself comfortable here. When the time comes, we will discuss your future.”