Spotlight on ...
Spotlight on Order of the Ebon Skull
Upon entering a shop in Skara Brae, I came in range of a whispered conversation between a merchant and his customer. They spoke with such gravity, I could not help but approach them. As I moved in closer, the customer made mention of "the Order.." At that, the merchant scanned the room with concern. Seeing me he turned to his customer with a look of reproach.

He hissed through his teeth, "Damnation man! What are you thinking? Silence, do you wish us dead?!"

Talk of ‘an Order’ partnered with such a reaction can only mean one thing, they were speaking of the Order of the Ebon Skull (OES). My curiosity was piqued, I had heard much about OES, but then what citizen has not? Always on the watch for a story to share with our readers, I decided to explore this conversation and see where it lead.

"Greetings!" I said.

The Shopkeep shot a look of disdain towards the customer. Quickly composing himself he flashed me the wide and friendly smile of a merchant.

"Why, Aleph Aeirs, what can I do for ye friend?" He said, maintaining the smile.

"I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation..." I said.

At this the customer, (who for his sake shall remain anonymous) seemed to choke on his breath. Visibly shaken he said "Aye, ah..I am placing..ahh..an order! Yes, that is it, an order with my good merchant here..." The merchant bobbed his head in response, his smile waxen.

And the game was on. "Oh? Placing an order you say? For a moment I thought you were speaking of something altogether different, say perhaps...the Order of the Ebon Skull?"

The merchant dropped his smile, eyes turning to slits.

The customer began to stammer, "The wha?..orda...aba...ebe..ska..ah, who!?" A bead of sweat rolled down his temple.

The Merchant, having dropped the facade, turned three shades of red. He looked at the customer, teeth clenched and eyes narrowed and said in a measured tone "[name witheld], I think it is high time you were on your way..."

The customer looked on the verge of tears. "Aye, leave..must go now, when did it get so late? I must be off..." and he hurried out the door as if pursued by demons. I watched him through the door as he shoved through the crowded streets in hasty exodus.

I began to say "Seems your customer suffers a disorder, perhaps he should loo.."

The Merchant interrupted "Aeirs, I know your game...there is no story here, merely a customer and a merchant discussing an order..and that is that!"

It appeared that witty discourse was innapropriate just now, a change in tactics was in order. I reached into my pack. Removing a pouch, I tossed it on the counter.

"The gold in that pouch tells me something different merchant..." I said.

The merchant eyed the bag. He then looked at me and said "Do I have your word that you will not mention my name in connection with this?"

I was nearly giddy, but I kept my composure. "Aye, you know me friend, my word is as good as the gold in that pouch, I do not wish to cause ye any anguish, I am merely...collecting information."

He wavered for a moment, then snatched the pouch of gold. "Here, let me tell thee all I know of this..."

I followed the merchant to a private room in the back of his shop. It is there he gave me the name of a man in Moonglow.

"Their dark priest, Bal-Anon Dak, frequents the Lycaeum in Moonglow, go there and talk to Ramsay the Scribe, he will point you in the right direction."

"The information is appreciated merchant. I thank thee." I said.

"Thanks indeed!" he said with scorn. "We shall see how ye feel after all is done. Far be it from me to refuse a man’s gold, but the OES is not an organization to trifle with. In the end, ye may find ye pay for this story with more than gold."

A chill wound its way up my spine. Trying to act nonchalant I said "Bah, I do not fear the OES, superstition the lot of it!"

I made my way to the door. The merchant called after me. "Remember your word! Make no mention of me in this, MAKE NO MENTION!"

"You have my word." I said without looking back.

And with that, I left. It was time to do some research on the Order of the Ebon Skull..

I spent the better part of the day gathering as much information as I could on the Order of the Ebon Skull. I found that people were not inclined to discuss the OES. I broached the subject with my trusted friends. They were incredulous that I would wish to contact them. Each tried to convince me not to continue this research, not to write this story. But I would hear none of it. There was a story here, and I intended to find it.

After gathering as much information possible, I arrived in Moonglow without Incident and quickly made my way to the Lycaeum. A sense of dread pooled in my stomach as I reach the entrance. An inner voice began to reason with me. Should I follow through with this? Ignoring my fear, I hardened my resolve and entered the Lycaeum.

Knowing that information purchased from a merchant can yield varying results, I set to finding Ramsay the Scribe. I searched the nearly empty Lycaeum, finding Monks wandering throughout, but alas, no Ramsay. I entered the library in the northeast corner, and decided I would ask if any of these scribes knew of a Ramsay in their order. My query was cut short when a voice addressed me.

"I know you Aleph Aeirs, I know what you seek." it said.

I turned about, looking for the source of the voice. You can imagine my surprise upon seeing Azazel, Daemon Knight of the Order of the Ebon Skull. Azazel stood just inside the shadows, wearing full black platemail beneath a flaming red skull of a head. Seemed that in my search for the OES, the OES found me. Here is the recounting of our conversation.

"The Lich Lord will be be in attendance, ye may have bitten off more than ye can handle, mortal...what is it ye wished to consult us about?" said Azazel.

He then cackled madly. I looked about the room nervously, as scribes with worried expressions made their way for the exit.

I mustered my will to speak "I have prepared some questions about the general nature of the OES, and ask for opinions on matters concerning our realm."

"Ah. And with mine answers, you will do what, breather?" said Azazel.

The conversation was interrupted when the Lich Lord Azalin walked into the room. With skin as white as bone and gaunt facial features, he was every bit the lich. Except for the dry rustle of his black and purple robes, he made no sound as he crossed the room . Azazel bowed, and fearing for my safety, I bowed as well. In the presence of one such as Azalin, respect for his position is the first order of business.

"I had ah… intended on… well... publishing the conversation at UO Stratics." I said.

"A reporter then. One who would make our views known to the... populace." said Azazel with a sneer.

"Yes… We have kept abreast of the workings of UO Stratics," said Azalin.

Azazel looked my way, motioned with his gauntleted hand and said "Ask away then, mortal, but be prepared for the answers."

"Aye… but only that which you wish to share...I have no desire to bring your wrath upon me or my organization." I said.

"Wise for a mortal… very wise." Said Azalin.

Azazel looked at me, the fire where his eyes should have been intensifying. "Perhaps this one has Oblivion in him, yes?"

I thought it wise to ignore the comment, and asked my first question "To begin, tell me dark ones, what is your station within the ranks of OES?"

"We are Azalin, the Lich Lord of the Order of the Ebon Skull" Azalin said.

"I am the Daemon Knight, Sect Leader of the Death Knights." Said Azazel.

"I must comment on the OES Crypts. I found the information quite chilling. In particular, I found the Convergence of the Unmaking and the description of OES Sects to be disturbing, to say the least." I said.

"We performed much work on the material found in our Crypts." said Azazel.

"We trust you found it… enlightening, so to speak."Azalin said.

"Aye, so to speak...Would you care to elaborate on some of the philosophies?" I asked.

Azalin smiled darkly as Azazel began to describe The Convergence. "The Convergence of Unmaking, we have found, is the easiest way to explain the powers of Entropy and Oblivion to mortals. Oblivion is, quite simply, the end of all that is. Entropy is the force that feeds Oblivion. In concert, they form a never-ending cycle of annihilation."

"A 'yin and yang' of destruction. One can not exist without the other driving it." Azalin added.

"We of the Order have learned that the only way to abide within this cycle is to embrace it. Of course you realize that these are mere terms. You breathers delight in labeling those forces which you do not understand... but I digress," said Azazel.

Having a good many questions to ask, I continued on "I feel this relates to the current state of things, tell me your thoughts on the balance in our realm. Many fear that evil grows by leaps and bounds, while the forces of good sit idle or dwindle away."

"We have sponsored and allied with several other like minded organizations, The Temple of Evil, Holy Disciples of the Guardian, Cult of Infernal Necromancy and Clan Giovanni. They are on a rise, and we promote their growth any way we can. Once the Sanctum of the Damned is complete, evil shall truly descend on the land in a crushing wave of darkness," Azalin said.

"It amuses me to think that your very society is based on the virtues of the puppet, yet, as you speak, 'evil' continues to gain power." Azazel said.

"The puppet king is more evil than they know... so corrupt are the false virtues," added Azalin.

Azazel found this statement to be quite entertaining, and broke into a blood chilling cackle. Uncomfortable to say the least, I decided to change the subject.

"What do you think of organizations created to fight the forces of evil, organizations like Britannian War Council?" I said.

"We think them a farce. The BWC has no real power and has accomplished nothing to hinder us. The Councils of Virtue are more effective than they… if only barely," said Azalin.

"Aye, their goals are too ill-determined and widespread for them to have any effect." added Azazel.

"While they may be effective against some riff-raff and ruffians of the realm that dwell in Buccaneer’s Den, they do nothing against the true evil forces behind the scenes." said Azalin.

"They do not even accomplish enough to hold our attention, in fact." Azazel said.

"Nay... we have not looked their way since their creation. But we will be in attendance of their destruction. Ye can count on that," said Azalin.

"If we even need to be. I see Entropy working within their ranks without our conscious effort," said Azazel.

Fighting to keep the indignation from my voice, I said, "While it is true that the BWC has found some difficulty in organizing, there is a resurgence in commitment and energy of late. You do not see this group as a threat or a concern for the Order of the Ebon Skull?"

"Not at present. Not in the least." said Azazel.

Azazel grinned wryly, if a skull could do as much. "If they grow to become a threat, they will be dealt with quickly and without mercy, you have my assurance."

Now was not the time to engage in a war of words, and as I was representing UO Stratics, I decided to leave it at that and continue with our interview.

"Azazel… you made reference to Lord British. In perusing OES documents, I find much discussion around our King. Understanding that your talk of our sovereign is less than flattering, do you have any comments about Lord British’s long standing absence?"

Azalin hissed, tensing hands to look more like claws. What they said next was quite disturbing.

"We’ve scared him off, it seems," said Azazel with a smile.

"He came and made reference to us as "the unseen enemy" a month or so ago in a public adress. He has not been seen since then within our realm," Azalin added.

"I have a personal opinion on British that differs somewhat from that of mine companions. Many point to parallels between our philosophy and Blackthorn’s, but I consider Blackthorn more of an enemy to our goals than British. British has, as his ultimate plan, the unification of the shards. This, of course, means the destruction of well nigh all of them. While we would rather see the shards crumble under the weight of their own corruption, we would rather see them be destroyed than to exist as they now are." Azazel said.

"And be sent spiraling towards Oblivion to become what is known as a Shadowlord." said Azalin.

Azazel, considering the Lich Lord’s words, said, "Aye, my lord speaks of what happens when shards are allowed to destroy themselves. When a shard of existence is allowed to destroy itself as a result of its own corruption, that shard is banished unto Oblivion. All the malevolent energy that was stored within the shard is then released in the form of a terrible being known to mortals as a Shadowlord... powerful servants of Oblivion. This is the fate we would prefer for all the shards," said Azazel.

I shuddered involuntarily. Staring off into the distance, I whispered to myself, "Frightening thought..."

Azalin grinned, obviously pleased at my reaction.

"To some shortsighted mortals, aye… to us ‘tis a fine goal to achieve. It only quickens the course of fate."

"But in regards to Blackthorn, his ends are to see the shards continue as they now are. He is a... humanitarian. Most reviling. One thing that we must make absolutely clear, if I may return to an earlier topic?" asked Azazel.

"Aye, as you wish." I said.

Azazel began with fervent zeal, "The way of Entropy is the only way. The shards will end. One way or another, all will be destroyed. Only those of us who have fully embraced Oblivion through Undeath will remain once this happens. The multiverse will be ours... it is not a matter of who will be victorious, it is merely a matter of time."

I paused at this. I was confounded. I found that even I, a man who attempts to live his life by the Virtues, could not argue this point. A feeling of malaise began to seep into my spirit. Being in the presence of the OES was beginning to take its toll.

"I find I have no argument for that, only to say I do not much like the idea of living life only for the anticipation of oblivion." I said. A lame attempt to suggest there was more to life than death.

"Ye need not anticipate it, breather. It will come about regardless." Azazel countered.

Azalin smiled, as though he could see the turmoil broiling inside me.

"Ye shall meet it one way or the other, mortal... ‘tis a matter of time. If ye anticipate it ye can understand it. If ye serve it, Oblivion shall serve ye in return... ‘tis a mutually beneficial arrangement."

I was nonplussed. "As you can well imagine, I find this all quite unnerving." I said.

Azazel regarded me with deadly seriousness "There is nothing to be unnerved about. These things we speak of are merely facts. Fate, if you prefer."

We sat in silence for a moment that seemed to stretch into infinity. It is then that a withered elderly man, hair and beard long and grey, appeared at the entry. It was the High Priest Bal-Anon Dak. He entered the library of the Lycaeum, surrounded by an aura of dark power . Friends, there are times in our lives when we are faced with personalites of such strength, it is a battle to not lose ourselves in their presence. Bal-Anon Dak was one of those men. He surveyed the room, and smiled darkly.

"The OES is widely known and feared...there is talk of a quest. I wish to hear of it… as much as you will allow." I said.

"Aye... the Codex" said Azalin.

"It is known as the Codex of Oblivion." Azazel added.

Azazel looked to Bal-Anon Dak "Perchance the High Priest can tell you of it."

Bal-Anon Dak smiled darkly, "All the prophecies as they pertain to the land with respect to Oblivion are contained in it.... but we will not tell ye what they are. It is the written word... the history... it contains the truth where no other written word does."

"And you search for this… Codex of Oblivion still?" I asked.

"This matter... is something of a secret," replied Bal-Anon Dak.

"Bal-Anon, would ye care to discuss the Masses with the breather?" asked Azazel.

Bal-Anon Dak smiled once again, turning to look at me, "Aye..." he said.

He continued, "The Black Mass, a ritual like no other... systematically held each and every week. There ye will find the spoken word of Oblivion. The Black Mass is now public. It is a ritual of Darkness. There the nature of death is exposed and the truths we wish to awaken the land to exposed. A warning: it is not for the faint of heart. We have had people leave the ritual screaming in terror."

Once again, I found myself unable to contain my dismay. "I can only imagine..." I said.

"Bal-Anon and the other members of the Clergy see Oblivion as a god, and worship it as such." added Azazel.

The dark priest smiled once again "Ye may come if ye wish it." He said.

"Aye... we often have well known guests.. Ra of AMT was there not too long ago and was rather impressed with our works... ye should attend too. Ye are invited to join us in our revelry." said Azalin.

I sat in silence, the very idea! Me, attending this 'Mass'. It sounded horrifying, but I had come this far and many would benefit in knowing what goes on at the Black Mass.

I looked to Azazel "Were I to attend, would I be assured safety?"

"Aye, all guests of the Black Mass are granted amnesty. The Black Mass is held every Sunday night at 10:00 PM Eastern." Azazel said.

This was it, the culmination of this quest. I would go to this Black Mass, I would witness evil in action, and expose them to the world.

I looked Bal-Anon Dak eye to eye and said, "I will join you then."

Azazel cackled once again "Aye, very well then, we shall adjourn this meeting until then."Below you will find the finale, the last insallment of my Expose on the Order of the Ebon Skull. Beware, this is by far the most sinister installment. And although this signals the end of my work on this story, I am certain this will not be the last we shall see of the OES. Read on friend, read on and know evil.

- Aleph Aeirs

What I have written are events as I have witnessed them. The Black Mass is now a publicly advertised event on our shard, open to all. But I warn you, think twice before attending. As I reflect upon the dark rituals I witnessed during this story, I find I am no better a man for experiencing it. I hope now to find redemption through the education of my fellow citizens. As a result of this experience, I search desperately for men and women of a holy order. An antithesis to this plague of evil. Surely there must be an organization for spiritual redemption! In any case, I shall keep you posted as to the results of my search. As always, your questions and comments are welcomed. Until next time friends, fare thee well.

Special thanks to Ce'Nedra Willow, without her support during this dark time, I do not think I could have completed this.

 

Spotlight on Jordan Cromwell

While in Nujel'm the other day looking to see the famous ChessBoard, I ran into an interesting man. We began to talk and I learned his name was Jordan Cromwell and an archeologist by trade. He asked why I was in Nujel'm and I told him I'd heard of the ChessBoard, which he offered to show me. We talked some more as he showed it to me and eventually it came out that I was a tailor by trade. He then hired me to make him some clothes. I agreed and we went to the tailor's shoppe to pick out some cloth. After finding some starter cloth he asked if I'd join him for a meal at the Tavern next door and I accepted. After dining he invited me to come see his home. We walked a short bit toward the Northwestern coast along the way we ran into the Mayor of Nujel'm. Mayor Cornelius seemed a bit preoccupied and not in the mood for a chat so we continued to Jordan's home. We walked up his long, steep walkway and he then unlocked the gates and invited me in.

His home was quite lavish and it was obvious he had spared no gold to make it so. He showed me his Displayroom, his Workarea, and his Diningroom. He had a display case in his Dining room with three rare artifacts. I forgot to ask him about them and shall do that in the future. I told him of the Atlantic Museum, an OSD creation supported by the player-ran city of Eldanor. He seemed quite interested so we agreed to travel to Ice Isle where I could show it to him. He insisted we sail, being a Dryad I'm a bit shakey on the sea, but he had me take hold of his shoulder to keep me steady during the voyage. I must say, that despite a few quick turns he was quite the expert sailor and we were there swiftly and safely. We were met by Xanthar the Guild Master of OSD and the Museum Curator, OSD. The two took great pleasure in giving Jordan an in depth personal tour of the Museum. He seemed quite impressed with the Museum and its collections and even was interested in purchasing some of the most unique pieces such as the Skull Lord and my own prized-addition Crystaline Blackrock recovered from the Obsidian chests that the FoA were guarding. After a brief tour of the rest of the Museum facilities and a small introduction per Jordan's request to the well-known hero, Dayel Stormcrow, we once again set sail and returned to Nujel'm. We then parted ways after saying our goodbyes. I found Mr. Jordan Cromwell to be quite a fascinating man. He was obviously bred with good manners though a bit arrogant at times. His main concern of research right now was of a sea-faring community he had once read of during his studies at the Lyceaum. I shall need to get to work now on the rest of his tailoring order.

- Ce'Nedra Willow