“Hello. Welcome. Be not afraid.”
Joseph McMickelson hears the monotone voice before he opens his eyes. The Cleric of Pelor finds himself face-down on cold, polished marble floor. This chamber is clean and silver-white, radiant with the glow of impossibly vibrant colors pouring in the windows from outside. Definitely not where he was a moment ago.
The voice belongs to a young man in purple robes, slouched at a table opposite the windows. He barely holds back a yawn. “You are in the Blessed Fields of Elysium. Yes, you are dead. And no, I don’t know why you’re lying on the ground. Everyone arrives here that way.”
Joseph rubs his eyes as he gets up off the brutally hard floor. The otherworldly quality of this place is very disorienting. The Cleric is vaguely aware that he has no weapons or armor. Instead, he is in clean white robes. “How did I get here ?”
“You died,” the attendant shrugs. “Or came by portal. But I’d guess something killed you. Believe me, I’ve seen this enough times to know.” Now he does yawn.
McMickelson shakes his head. “No, that’s not right. I’m not dead. I’m fighting an Angel of Decay with my friends. One of those idiot Clerics of…something Light, what the Hells were they called ?…must have clipped me with a spell and sent me here.” He considers the chamber. “Or, this is an illusion.” He pats his waistline, and looks at the floor around him. “Where’s my gear?”
The youth barely lifts an eyebrow. “Angel of Decay, huh ? Wow. Who in their right mind would put you up against one of those ?”
Joseph sighs. “Look, kid. Great chatting with you, but I have serious business elsewhere. So let’s make all this vanish in a puff of magic fairy dust so I can wake up back in that temple or cave or wherever I just was. I have friends who need me for something. Enough of this, already. And I want my gear back.”
“Settle down, old man,” the attendant snaps. “This isn’t a spell and it’s not a dream. You are exactly as dead as I just said you are. You died, then you showed up here. I don’t control the process. And I don’t know where dead peoples’ stuff goes. Apparently it gets replaced.”
Cleric McMickelson storms over to a window, sure this illusion must have limits. There is no glass – it is open to the world beyond these walls, and it is a garden world of a beauty beyond Joseph’s ability to comprehend. The level of detail, and the emotions it stirs in him, are too profound to Disbelieve.
“I can’t stay here,” Joseph insists. His thoughts turn to his friends: Jacob, Jere, the fire-wizard, and that insect-guy. “You have to send me back. This is a neat place you have here, would love to look around, but like I said, we’re in the middle of a tough fight, I think, and I’m pretty sure I should be there to help.”
“Why, why, WHY ALWAYS the SAME gods-damned conversation, EVERY single time,” the attendant rages, seemingly at the graceful, indifferent, domed ceiling. He glares at the newcomer. “Aren’t Clerics of Pelor supposed to be bright ? What’s so hard to understand ? ‘Take 20’ on this : you died, you’re here forever, there’s the door to outside, go away.” The young man in purple defiantly crosses his arms, muttering to himself.
Joseph feels the truth sink in. He sits on the window-ledge, harshly rebuked, unsure what to say or do. Outside, birds sing notes beyond compare, but McMickelson ignores them. A breeze, perfectly warm and scented, brushes past him. He does not care. All he knew is gone, ended, without a sense of accomplishment. In the end, what was the point of any of it ?
The long quiet breaks. “You, at least, probably had a good run of things on the Prime Material,” the attendant scowls, apropos of nothing Joseph McMickelson was just doing or thinking.
“I’m sorry ?” Lost in his musings, Joseph fears he missed something. He is not in direct sunlight, yet he senses the warmth of the colors of this world – the greens of the meadows and the rich blue of the sky have a palpable quality. Quite distracting, the sensation.
“You went out and did stuff. Adventured. Turned demons and fought Orcs and casts spells,” the young man huffs. “Actual clerical work.”
McMickelson raises a finger. “Well, I mean, you don’t ‘Turn’ demons, per se, unless you have a special Domain, which…” For the first time, Joseph notices a symbol on the attendant’s magenta robe. “Hey, are you a priest of Fharlanghan ?”
The attendant glances down at it. “Was.”
“So how…” Joseph gestures at the chamber.
The attendant’s face screws up in a sour grimace. “Bad karma, bad beat, who knows ? My lot in life, my lot in afterlife. Three friends and I set out on our very first quest ever. We’re in the woods, I cast Know Direction, get hit with an arrow out of nowhere, then wind up here. Add insult to injury, for some reason I still remember all of it.”
McMickelson ponders it, slowly shaking his head. “That’s…pretty weak, if you don’t mind my saying. Awful luck, really.” The Cleric of Pelor lets out a long breath. “That kind of thing would haunt me a long time, too.” Joseph thought he had a comparable slip-up to share, but the memory wasn’t there. A lot of memories seem not to be there.
“Nothing will haunt you,” the attendant sighs. “Soon you’ll forget your old life on the Prime, and just…exist here, out in all that.” He looks past the Cleric of Pelor, at a world in full riot of color, “Like the others do. As I should try to, I guess.”
“A fresh start, then,” Joseph beams. “Have to tell you, it’s kind of funny – I don’t exactly know what I was doing before today, that kept me from coming here sooner. This place seems really…” McMickelson draws in a deep breath of fresh Elysian air, a deep draught of a billion flowers’ mild sweetness, “…real.”
The young man notices the shine in this newcomer Cleric’s eyes. He has seen it countless times before, but never appreciated its significance until today. A rebirth and re-imagining of the self, he thinks. Where the old ends and the new simply is.
“I’m going to go out there and…look around,” the Cleric of Pelor decides. He is fixated on the wild palette beyond the windows, unconsciously drifting towards the door.
“Do that,” the attendant agrees. “Go anywhere. See everything.”
“I will,” the Cleric replies, almost dreamy with lazy anticipation. “I’m Joseph, by the way. I think I’ve been here a while. Was good to meet you.”
“Probably see you around,” the attendant answers with a smile, as Joseph wanders out. He still has that smile, later, when a new arrival appears on his floor.