The Second Great Maelstrom

haron provided to be a wise ruler. When the Black Plague struck, the Hierarchy was firmly in place. At first there was only a trickle of souls from the terrible sickness. Then the roar of the Second Maelstrom heralded the thousands of souls claimed by the Black Plague.

This time, Stygia held against the Maelstrom, and the roads stayed open. The soul trade was brisk. Accordingly, Charon sought to further the building of the Stygian Kingdom by increasing taxes against the Shining Ones. Especially did he tax the Fishers, who had grown powerful.

Finally, the Archbishop of Stygia, leader of the Fishers, presented himself to Charon and demanded that Charon reduce the fee placed on the souls his agents collected for the Fishers. Charon responded by disbanding the Crusaders and doubling the fee. For many months there was darkness on Fisher’s Hill as the temple stood deserted. Crusaders still retained their mounts and openly wore their crosses.

At the urging of the Archbishop of Stygia, and with the help of many Shining ones, several former Crusaders attacked Charon’s palace guard. Unfortunately for them, they had been betrayed by one of their fellows, and several Knights lay waiting in ambush. Defeating the Crusaders, Charon made an example out of them by hanging them on burning chains from the highest monument.

Nor did Charon stop there. He sacked the Fishers’ temple, in the process discovering great troves of relics and artifacts that had not been passed along to him. He sent his most trusted Knights to the Far Shores to speak with the Shining Ones there, and issued an order that all Shining Ones were to depart Stygia with the next tide.

As Stygia’s tide-gong struck, every single boat, skiff, and raft was employed in the great Evacuation. Clutching all that they had, the Shining Ones piled on this ramshackle fleet and took to the Sunless Sea. The only lights left on the banks of the Isle of Sorrow were the conflagrations of the temple, which Charon’s minions blasted with the fires of Outrage.

Even as the Shining Ones left, Charon’s emissaries returned from the Far Shores. They bore horrific reports of realms where the dead still waited for relief – where they were herded into great antechambers and forgotten – where petty dictators in the shapes of gods and devils bound souls in eternal torment or demanded unquestioning obedience. None had reached the promised lands. None had found Transcendence.

Charon appeared on his balcony and read aloud the Proclamations of Reason, highlighted by these words: “Because the Shining Ones have no love for the dead, I will not harbor them. Because they do not care for their protector Stygia, I will not care for them. Because they seek only to fool, cajole and proselytize, I will no longer listen to them. Because the do not truly believe, I brand them Heretics.”

Thereafter, the Heretics were prevented from entering Stygia and were constantly hunted by the Hierarchy wherever it stretched. Taking a cue from the Inquisition now taking place in the Sunlit Lands, Charon formed his own Inquisition to root out Heretic influences in Stygia. He even gave the Inquisition its own Equitaes (called “Grim Riders” by some, but officially designated “The Order of the Unlidded Eye”) to carry out this mission.

For several years Charon did not prevent the dead from leaving on their own to find the Far Shores. It was a fool’s voyage, however, as the Second Maelstrom had transformed the Sunless Sea into a place of strange currents, even stranger beasts, and chaotic weather.

The trade of souls began to suffer: there was no room in Stygia for more souls, and Charon was loathe to continue to send souls to the Far Shores after hearing the reports of his agents. Stygia became a refugee camp as souls of the dispo9ssessed and the abandoned swelled in number. Renegades walked among them, sowing seeds of rebellion and dissent. All grew quiet in the City of the Dead.

Meanwhile, some of the Heretics left Stygia altogether. By riding along with the explorers of the late Middle Ages, these Heretics found their way across the great area of Darkness in the Shadowlands corresponding to the Atlantic Ocean. Thus was the New World discovered and, soon after, colonized and explored.

During the 1500s, the Renegades made their move. They stormed the Onyx Tower and made off with many antiquities, including the legendary Spear of Longinius, said to be the spear that pierced the side of Jesus Christ as he hung on the cross. Only through the sacrifice of some of Charon’s favorite Knights were the Renegades pushed back.