Welcome, gentlemen…

You stand in a small room. The cold stone walls are insulated by rich tapestries depicting landscapes of stark beauty from a dozen planes, and underfoot is a blurry mosaic that has yet to resolve into a coherent tableau. You feel comfortable and energetic, ready for anything, and your attire reflects this – you are equipped with the best of your battle gear from your fighting life, and are physically in peak condition. One hand holds your favored weapon – the weight of it is familiar and reassuring, like an old friend. There is a persistent tugging at your waist, and looking down, you notice a thick chain with no visible break or lock encircling you. You follow it with your eyes as it hangs off your hip, tight but not restrictive, and stretches across the space between you and… another. It circles his waist too, and still you see no break or join. Just as you begin to examine your companion, a voice breaks in.

“Welcome, gentlemen. My name is Path.”

The man addressing you seems to be a githzerai of great height and lithe build. His delicately arched eyebrows are charcoal black and appear drawn on his grey-brown skin, which has a wrinkled texture. He is dressed in simple blue robes, and his head is bare. He steeples his fingers as he speaks. From one rippling wrist hangs a silver trinket. It spins lazily and its particulars are hard to discern at this range.

“Don’t feel called upon to grant me your names. I will likely forget them as soon as you’ve gone to your eternal reward. You are not the first to pass through this room, and you will surely not be the last. Only listen, heroes.”

Your companion bristles at this form of address. Path’s weathered face crinkles with a grin.

“I’m not concerned with your stories either. What has brought you here, what has entwined your fates… that is beyond the scope of my interest. Perhaps you will find time to bore one another with such things in the days ahead.

I will be overseeing your progress through the trials ahead. You will need to work together to survive, and you must both survive, or you will both be consigned to this empty, tedious plane for the remainder of eternity. You may find your natures in conflict – I advise you find some way to tolerate it. You will also discover that in the tasks ahead there is a righteous and a profane way to complete each objective. It may at times be perfectly obvious which is which. At others it may be a question for philosophers…” He laughs – “Which, by the end, you may become! At any rate, I suggest you attempt to act as your nature indicates to you, for he who, at the end of these games, has most managed to advance his own agenda will be allowed to leave. Permanently.” The githzerai nods.

“Aye. To Heaven or the Hells, whichever is your fancy. You have both already shown a tendency to waver, or you would not be here. I suggest you resolve those shaky foundations and find yourself a cause to champion, or you will stay here with me and the rest of the fence-sitting dross.”

Path steps aside. “That is all. Your first task is through that door. I will see you again whether your fail or succeed. Good fortune, gentlemen, and fair play.”

Ten Feet Up or Down