All Stories Inned

Grasp the feather tight my dear, and wish the world away
You need hope or answers, so close your eyes and pray
Though destiny might beckon like an old familiar friend
Legends in time fade away, and dear, All Stories Inned

On the far outskirts of the Astral Plane lies a tiny island rising from the Sea of Souls. One side of the island holds rocky cobblestone steps that stand, timeless, marching out of the Sea regardless of wind or tides. At the top of the steps stands a building, hewn out of the deep black lumber of a Ghost Pomagranate tree and roofed in the glowing white branches of [Forgotten Oranges]. This is the All Stories Inned, a landmark that sits outside of the constraints of time and space, life and death, where the souls of heroes celebrate the tales that made them into legends.

Here is where one can find the souls of those brave adventurers that fell in battle, and the souls of their companions who made it through to their version of a happily ever after, merrily reminiscing over their adventures, and describing climactic battles and peaceful resolutions to those who did not live to see them. There are countless half-full tables where parties with still-living members wait, ordering another round of pomegranate wine and setting up another game of cards or chess while they wait for their erstwile friends to pass on. And at the bar, countless familiar faces from legend sit, heroes so ancient that even their world-shattering deeds have been lost to the passage of time, memories turning to history turning to legend turning to silence.   As a resting place for those whose tale is complete it is rare that a living being ever enters the All Stories Inned. Indeed, even those few mortals who have braved the dangers of the Astral plane alive may not know of it's existence, for the only way for those who yet draw breath to enter the All Stories Inned is by invitation. But sometimes, in the darkest hour, when hope has fled and vital information is lost, a brillant green feather is given to someone, and they are told to hold it tight, close their eyes, and ask their query. And when they open their eyes again, they will find themselves in the All Stories Inned, at just the right time to meet the soul or souls that can help them.


Though most anyone would say that the All Stories Inned has existed since the [Raven Queen] and the [Demon King] stabilized the Sea of Souls and the Astral Plane, those few souls who ask the barkeeper his tale, instead of simply regaling him with their own, may learn the true origins of the building.  When Qwolia died, he knew that the rest of his party still lingered in the material plane.  As an orc, he knew that it would be decades or even centuries before his other party members passed over to the Astral Plane and that if he joined the Sea of Souls he would likely be ready for reincarnation long before the last of his friends even died.  But the bond that he had formed with them was so strong, he could not bear to be reincarnated without them.  So he mustered all his will to keep from joining the Sea of Souls and managed to hold himself together long enough to make it to the Raven Queen's Palace.  There, he petitioned her majesty to grant him time outside the Sea, time to wait the long centuries until the last of his friend had died, so they could take on the next great adventure together.     After long consideration, the Raven Queen granted his wish, drawing an island out of the sea on the far edge of her domain.  There, she placed Qwolia's soul, and gifted him a handful of Ghost Pomegranate seeds to while his time away and help him stay separate from the Sea.  Instead of eating them, though, Qwolia planted the seeds in a ring around the island, and relied on his own memories and willpower to keep him out of the sea for the six long decades it took them to begin bearing fruit.  In that time, another two members of his party had died, and as each arrived in the Astral Plane they had found themselves on the island with Qwolia. They joined him in his long vigil, and, once the initial trees had born fruit, helped Qwolia plant even more.   And as the years passed, the companions waited for the rest of their friends to die.  To pass the time, they hewed chess sets and dice out of the branches of the tree, and Qwolia pressed some of the pomegranates that fell from the trees into wine, testing out various combinations to see how it impacted the memories that kept the spirits of him and his friends separate from the Sea of Souls.  A century or so in, one of Qwolia's friends suggested that if they were going to be drinking wine, they wished they could do it in a tavern.  The group, now missing only a few members of the original party, thought this was a splendid idea, and began to craft beams and planks and walls from the older Ghost Pomegranate trees, which had ceased to bear fruit.   And so the decades spun by, with Qwolia and his friends constructing an elaborate tavern large enough to hold whole towns.  And then, as the building neared completion, with only one member of the party still alive, the island was visited by the Demon King.  He had finally come to see the curiosities that the Raven Queen had permitted, to check why their souls were delaying entering the cycle of rebirth.  Marveling at the building that was now rising out of the Sea of Souls, the Demon King gifted the spirits a dozen Forgotten Oranges hoping to convince them that their time in the Astral Plane was at its end.  Instead, however, the party planted the oranges and finished their tavern off by roofing it with interwoven branches from the young orange trees.   Shortly after the tavern was finished, the final member of Qwolia's adventuring party died, and the friends celebrated, downing the last reserves of their pomegranate wine.  Then the whole party entered the Sea of Souls together and began the long forgetting process that would allow them to one day be reincarnated back onto the Material Plane, ready to start the next adventure.  And so the tavern sat empty for decades, untouched by any in the Astral Plane.     And then Qwolia died again, a member of another adventuring party, and though he did not remember his first life or his first death, he once again held himself out of the Sea of Souls for long enough to beg the boon of time from the Raven Queen. And when she again granted it, she deposited him on the island, in front of the tavern that he and his past friends had built so long ago.  And as Qwolia ate the pomegranates on the isle, he began to recall those past friends and that past death, for the pomegranates had absorbed the memories that had been worn away by the Sea of Souls.  This time around, it took merely decades for Qwolia's whole party to die, and again they joined the Sea of Souls together after a long party.   And so it went, life after life, with Qwolia rising to beg the Raven Queen for more time to wait for his party each time he died.  And, as stories are wont to do, the tale spread from the Astral Plane, out to the others, not the details, but the vague idea that adventuring parties could reunite to reminisce of their adventures after death.  And so other adventurers, upon dying began to beg the same boon of the Raven Queen, and she sent them too to the island with the tavern.  Soon even that became unwieldy, and the Raven Queen worked with the Demon King to restructure their realm so that any soul who wished to wait outside the Sea could get to the tavern, now called All Stories Inned, without their direct intervention.   And one time, after reuniting, Qwolia and his friends decided to simply stop reincarnating, to stay in the All Stories Inned and keep it running.  Through their many lives together they had lost the weariness that clings to mortal souls and had ascended.  And so they settled there in the Astral Plane and listened through all the ages to the stories that found their end through the doors of the tavern.


Many millennia after the All Stories Inned was built, after Qwolia and his friends had ceased their cycle of rebirth, a living adventurer cried out in despair so deep it echoed across the Material Plane.  The last surviving member of a party that had been questing to reverse a widespread wizard's curse, her last hope for finding the knowledge she needed had just been destroyed.  The necromantic ritual which was designed to call upon one of the souls who had witnessed the curse being cast had just fizzled out, a clear sign that the soul was no longer in the Astral Plane's Sea of Souls and had instead been reborn into a new life, with no memories of their past experience.   Her desperate sobs cut through the very fabric of the world, and in a great heave of cosmic folly she tapped deeper into the source of her clerical power, drawing on far more than her body could ordinarily withstand.  Her patron, the god of brewers and bakers, tried to hold his power back, to keep her from burning herself up, but she dug deeper and deeper, the iridescent hummingbird plume on her head flushing a deep green as she tried to drive the ritual beyond the boundary of rebirth.  The power arched up around her, glowing a blue so bright she was forced to shut her eyes as it overwhelmed her.   And then the light died down, and she opened her eyes to the sight of a strange tavern filled to the brim with people of every shape and size.  But unlike a normal tavern, filled primarily with local workers and the occasional adventurer, this tavern appeared to be full to bursting with high-level wizards and warlocks, rouges so skilled they seemed to vanish into the shadows and every manner of renowned bard and paladin.  All that quickly faded into the background, though, as she spotted someone at one of the tables on the other end of the tavern. There, rolling out a dice game and sipping at a deep red wine, was the person she had been trying to raise through necromancy.  She shoved her way over to him, uncaring who she passed, and stood before him, tears pouring down her face.  She tried, mostly successfully, to wrest her emotions back under control, and only then did she realize that everyone in the tavern was staring at her.     As she looked around, she noticed that not only were the patron all clearly high-level adventurers, they also seemed to be not quite there, almost translucent and wavery, instead of solid, physical beings.  With a start, she realized that she had made it to a place only spoken of in legends; the All Stories Inned.  She swallowed down her fears and her grief, and turned to the man she had sought out, ignoring the rest of the tavern as they slowly went back to what they were doing before.  She managed, after one or two false starts, to get answers on how to undo the wizard's curse, scribbling the answers down onto a piece of parchment with a feather tugged from her own plume.   It was only once she had the answers she needed that she realized she had no way to get back to the Material Plane.  She had defied time and space to get to where she needed to be, and channeling the amount of divine power that had gotten her here had nearly burned her out, and using it a second time would almost certainly kill her.  Still, she had no other options to get the information back to the Material Plane, so she steeled herself and once again reached for that wellspring of power.  And then, with a blaze of blue light, she vanished once more.   The adventurer never made it back to the Material Plane.  The divine power, in the end, was too much for her mortal body to handle, but the parchment where she had written the cure for the curse made it back, and was picked up by an adventurer who went on to lift it.  And to this day, when times are dark and answers lost to time, an adventurer will sometimes find a brilliant green hummingbird feather, that with a wish and a prayer will take them to the All Stories Inned, exactly when they need to be there.
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Cover image: by Elli Howard via