“Get back!” Haber packed his fingers into a meaty fist at the end of each hairy arm. He swung wildly into the air – large arches around himself. It made him appear bigger, as did the hair standing on end all over his body.
“No!” His words, though written here in common english, were a guttural dialect of prehistoric human. His tribe had not yet developed language and – all other things being equal – the species wouldn’t for another several million years.
This was a violent time, little space for words.
“No!” Haber repeated. He slammed his fists into the ground. The thick thuds, like thunder of flesh, drummed the air.
This did little to deter the sabertooth cat as it stalked closer to him and Ahda.
“Help, save me!” he, Ahda, was a youngling of his tribe. He slapped at the limp meat of his side, as if to scare the blood back into two, deep gashes left by famously large fangs. He cursed himself for harvesting roots amongst the tall grass where he’d been alerted to the cat’s presence earlier in the day. He should’ve heeded his mother, he thought; obviously, now too late. The holes were shallow, but the blood was a deep red from the marrow in his ribs.
The cat exhaled a hissy threat, the kind that says ‘Not enough’ in a language spoken in adrenaline and sweat. Its feral paws raked the dirt and sand with every step.
So close was the cat, Haber smelled the breath of the hungry beast, rotten. Death, digested flesh of humans, dressed the air in front of those scythe-like teeth.
“Away, far away!” Haber beat his feet and threw his head. His wild dreads resembled a rippling bouquet of snakes.
Haber shuddered, a step back – weakness. An unfortunate blunder.
The cat lunged. Shards of keratin sliced the animals skins with which Haber was clothed.
Beads of blood blossomed in their wake.
Haber launched a frenzied punch. The cat dodged and, in one move, rebound a thin slice with its off paw. This one landed to a greater effect.
Haber howled. It broke the noise in his throat – a language still clearly understood to those humans even several million years away.
His leg became a filet of thigh meat, some of which hung in place only by skin. Blood had already pooled under him and mixed with the dirt into mud before he landed ass-first into it.
“Help!” Haber automatically mimicked his ward.
The cat strode closer, but moved slower. It was more confident now with two flailing meals and could not resist the impulse to play with its food.
Haber crawled away.
He and Ahda scrambled into each other's arms, the instinct of dying things to come together like stones falling into the bottom of a valley.
Another pointed hiss. Then, the cat took in a deep, quiet breath and with it seemed to inhale all the noise and chaos of the moment.
Haber heard nothing but the slapping of his heart. Soon, he imagined, he would see nothing as well.
His prehistoric mind, not thinking in words or stories, could conjure only the image of dead kin. The image of his dead mother stood the longest, the way she looked so calm when he’d found her, like she was sleeping a deep sleep, so deep that her chest did not rise with breath.
Then, another thought, his brain flashed life before his eyes and followed the memory of his mother to his youth. In this memory, she was a younger woman and in the process of rearing two young man cubs, Haber and his brother Desper. The two boys, only 10 cycles of the seasons old between them, were huddled scared under her legs from a slithering thing their descendants would call a snake but what they had called incorrectly -- even in their ancient language -- a 'sharp worm'.
The wise woman that she was, not frightened for having lived through many encounters with such creatures, bellied a warm chuckle before producing a stick from the ground next to her. She swatted the thing away and leaned in to embrace her cubs as it slid quickly away into the cool earth.
“No fear,” she communicated in her prehistoric way, though; somehow, no different than any mother has since. “Stick strong.” She gently placed the stick in her boys’ hands, both held it at the same time. She put one hand on each of them, each on the opposite arm than the other. “Stick stronger in good hands.”
Haber forced his mind back. It felt like he’d fallen out from under a dream. It was painful, disorienting, like having spun in place until he was dizzy, but he was back and that's what mattered.
The cat was close.
And so was a tree, a tree with many fallen branches.
“Strong,” Haber screamed. He cranked his hand to the nearest branch and with it pulled up a bundle of twigs and sticks.
A loud crack ripped the skin above the cat’s eye. Human blood was no longer the only thing that stained the ground red and the air with the smell of iron.
The cat horked, an angry sound. It whined and whimpered as it scuttled back, but not defeated.
It cradled its head and hung it low and inside itself, instinctively protecting its throat, and tried to paw the blood out of its eye.
“Strong,” Haber repeated and forced himself up on his feet, supporting his weight, for a moment, on the bundle of sticks. Then, he jumped.
Another crack, then a third, then a series of aggressive swings scared the cat away. A trail of blood spots like stars in the dirt formed behind it as it ran.
Haber struggled to exchange his breath for air. He fell. He curled like a fetus into himself and in his grasp held the sticks close to his heart. “No fear” he reminded himself with a return to the memory of his mother.
Ahda crawled to him and there they rested until together they could return to the comfort of their tribe – where Ahda would bind Haber’s sticks together with animal skins dyed blue like the sky and, Haber thought, like his mother's eyes.
Wonderous Artifact, Requires Attunement by a good aligned creature to whom Haber has gifted the staff
This bundle of old wood and animal skins is just as much a survivor of incredible odds as the sorcerer who wields it. Having been with Haber since before the events of the Spark Event, and instrumental to the Mentismal Mergence, this artifact is very dear to the master of oneironauts and, by virtue of its power, important to the history of Cognia. The staff is never seen beyond Haber’s grasp, but – though he’s never said it – he knows one day it will have to pass to another. He will have to gift this great weapon to the person who will defy Desper and finally rectify the grave misfortune Haber has wrought on Cognia for having raised the staff against Desper to begin with.
Ingots of Hope
Throughout Haber’s career as the leader of the Oneironauts, Haber has learned much about the power of hope. It is a source of great magic and one the Homunkulok had already mastered before the Arc People ever arrived. With their tutelage, Haber learned how to tap into the nodes of hope that can grow on the roots of Mind Trees. Like bulbs from garlic or chunks off a potato, ingots of Hope, if curated carefully, can be harvested from mind trees while still leaving enough for the tree to use in its way and grow more. Hope, it turns out, is an endless resource when tended to. Haber has adorned his staff with these magical ingots and uses their power to great effect, enhancing the magic of the staff by a degree he could never have imagined in his former life.
Once attuned, a creature wielding the staff glows with a powerful blue aura. This aura extends in a 30 ft. circle centered on you, and all attacks of any allies (including your own) within that range are magical if they are not already. Creature’s with resistance to magical damage take normal damage from these weapons that do not themselves already deal magical damage.
You can sense the location of any evil creature within a ten mile radius of yourself. You have advantage on all wisdom and intelligence checks regarding these creatures. Cognia variant rule: you can also determine to which court of magic (rage, fear, despair, etc.) the creature belongs and if it is wild or domesticated by an archetype.
Blue energy coalesces around the staff and can harden around it at your will. This energy can take the shape of any weapon type and, as an action, can be molded to any weapon’s shape. In this way, it can be used as if it were a +3 version of that weapon, benefiting from your proficiency with the weapon with which it shares its shape. This allows martial classes, for example, to use the staff as a sword, mace, or axe, etc. When the staff is used as a weapon in this way it has +3 to attack and damage rolls.
You gain a +2 bonus to your AC as long as the staff is equipped.
You feel the power of this great artifact and all the good it has done, and tried to do, over eons. To wield it alone is a legendary feat and the creature that does can tap into that legendary designation. Once per day, you may tap into this artifact's power and access a pool of three hope charges for 1 hour. For this hour, hope charges are restored at the start of your turn or once every 10 seconds. After this hour, the charges are spent and do not restore until the start of the next day, at which point all charges are restored at once. For this hour, you can spend hope charges to take one of the following reactions:
As a reaction when a creature you can see within 60 ft. of yourself that is targeted by an attack of any kind (spell, melee, ranged, etc), you can spend one hope charge. The target creature gains your +2 bonus to their AC for one minute (10 rounds of combat) in the form of a floating, blue shield that follows them, at which point you lose the bonus yourself until the minute is up or you spend a Hope Charge to return the +2 AC to yourself. You can spend one Hope Charge, as a reaction, to move this bonus from any creature that possesses it to another that is being targeted by an attack.
As a reaction when a creature you can see within 60 ft. of yourself is targeted by an attack of opportunity, you can grant disadvantage to the attack and grant the creature that is moving 15 ft. of fly speed in addition to their regular speed(s).
As a reaction when a creature you can see within 60 ft. of yourself makes a saving throw or a death save, you can spend one Hope Charge and make a survival check. Then, add the result to the target creature’s save.
As a reaction when a creature you can see within 90 ft. of yourself is targeted by a ranged attack of any kind, you can spend three Hope Charges and cast Greater Restoration but at a range of 60 feet. Cognia Variant Rule: you may use this spell to reduce the target’s suffering by one level instead of their exhaustion.
As a reaction when a creature you can see within 90 ft. of yourself is targeted by a ranged attack of any kind, you can spend three Hope Charges and cast Prismatic Wall. If you cast Prismatic Wall in this way, the staff’s pool of Hope Charges does not renew again until the start of the next day.
As a reaction when a creature you can see within 90 ft. of yourself is making a death saving throw, you can spend three Hope Charges and cast Plane Shift but at a range of 90 feet. Haber’s staff can only cast Plane Shift in this way twice ever, and upon doing so yourself you learn Haber has previously spent the other use.