Pathfinder: Shadow of Chernobyl
Although you could all feel the Monolith weighing heavily on you, the load shared between all eight was manageable and the health of the original four members gradually recovered. The expansion of the Zone and the encroachment of proteans ceased. The blowouts occurring in the Zone stopped almost immediately after the collective was restored to full strength, with just another small one occurring due to the frequent teleportation used in the raid on the Institute. Despite this, new anomalies and artefacts were created each time the Monolith was tapped for energy, allowing for a consistent replenishment and rejuvenation of the Zone as long as its use continued.
In the months it took to acquire the materials and to craft another control device, Sakharov was convinced to join the eight of you. The goals of the Collective were tempered by the influx of new ideas and ethics, and their work slowly changed towards more scholarly pursuits. Among their accomplishments in the rest of the 1360s were:
1364 – The founding of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków.
1365 – The founding of the University of Vienna.
1365 – Putting down a revolt against the Venetian rulers in Crete.
1367 – The founding of a university in Pecs.
1368 – The founding of the Royal Library at the Louvre Palace in Paris.
1368 – Completing the overthrowing of the Mongol Yuan dynasty in China, allowing the Hongwu Emperor to establish the Ming dynasty. The new Emperor ordered county magistrates across the land to set up Granaries, end the taxation of books and set up Confucian schools of learning, as well as beginning work on the building of the Great Wall.
1369 – Assisting Venice in repelling a Hungarian invasion.
1369 – The assassination of the vicious King Pedro of Castile. A faithless coward, liar, adulterer and murderer.
Sakharov continued to study the Zone in detail and in his old age wrote a substantial manuscript full of illustrations and diagrams about the flora and fauna of the Zone, as well as information regarding the artefacts and anomalies found there. Unfortunately for any scholars that might come across it after his death, it was written entirely under the influence of the Codespeak spell and would prove to be indecipherable.
The disruption to the military delayed them from taking the centre of the Zone long enough for a new Amplifier to be grown and installed in the tower at the red forest. At first this had the same effect as the Brain Scorcher, swelling the ranks of the Monolithians once more, but at the behest of Magda other methods of dissuasion were explored. Eventually a way of creating a magical barrier to prevent unwanted intrusion by sentient creatures was devised, and powered by the Monolith’s energies this was sufficient to keep the Collective safe.
Unexpectedly, as rumours of the Monolith spread far and wide and apocryphal tales of Pathfinders reaching Chernobyl became legend, a religious sect sprang up around the Zone. In a stroke of irony they called themselves Monolithians also, worshipped the Zone as a symbol of divine power and took on the wearing of red robes. Eventually a monastery was established in the ruins of Pripyat and willing followers gradually replaced the brainwashed soldiers that previously served the Collective.
The Lithuanians never gained full control over the Zone. As the Golden Horde was pushed out from the North, more groups of bandits and scavengers moved in. Not only that but outlaws still flocked to the warlord Emmanuel’s banner in Limansk creating the first truly organised bandit empire. They continued to be well equipped by the Teutonic Order in return for smuggling artefacts out of the Zone and posed a constant threat to the military and Pathfinders alike.
Hermann eventually took over as the head-researcher at the Institute, never having forgiven Sakharov for his betrayal. He devoted his time to recovering what scant research notes had been left behind and to rebuilding Sakharov’s experiments. He also continued producing artefact-fused weapons and perfected his technique, in addition to training apprentices in the art. Many of the swords in particular would become heirlooms, passed down through families for generations.
Kruglov was demoted after the raid on the institute for his inability to keep Sakharov secure, to protect the supply of potions or to capture those responsible. Captain Kedves was promoted in his place and you suspect that his respect for you meant that he didn’t pursue the Collective as eagerly as his predecessor might have done.
Rostok would eventually be rebuilt, although there was a definite chill in relations between the army and the Pathfinders following the raid on the Institute. A crackdown on trade and barter between the two groups led to a vast increase in the price of Cleansing Potions for several months until the knowledge of how to brew them efficiently was leaked by the Collective with a goal of further weakening the military’s grip on the region.
Artefacts continued to be exported from the Zone ending up in the hands of the wealthy and powerful, although their use was constrained by their relative scarcity, the inability to re-use them and the lifelong dependency they created on Cleansing Potions. This is without even mentioning the physical deformities they caused – although some of the more stylised effects would become quite fashionable for a time.
The red dragon was eventually driven out of Pripyat by a concerted military effort which allowed its hoard to be recovered. Among the coins, jewellery and wondrous items it had collected was a masterfully crafted, magical longsword and suit of armour that had been forged as a gift for Prince Vladimir Olgerdovych of Lithuania. They were eventually presented to his son Ivan at a ceremony in Kiev over a decade after being forged.
Rusev the Lion died whilst leading a group of mercenaries in an attempt to retake the Matonis Estate, his family home, in the Backwater.
Of the young couple travelling to the Institute to sell their Thorn artefacts nothing was found and Sakharov had no knowledge of them ever arriving.
The pathfinder who you acquired honey for never managed to recover his sword-arm, but he survived the attack on Rostok, despite being heavily burned, due to the honey’s exceptional healing properties.
You found the time to travel to York and deliver the gnome’s will to his family. They were immensely grateful for the news, even if they did find it hard to believe at first, and in return shared some of their knowledge of creating mechanical constructs. You were able to visit the plot were his house once stood and although it was now overgrown with weeds you could make out where the foundations and the gardens would have been.
Jadhak finally had the chance to return to his home on the Spindle and would frequently visit when he wanted a bit of order and quiet, although strangely he always found he missed the chaos of the dirt realm. He scoured the Zone for the most powerful artefacts with which to enhance the Messenger and had many opportunities to practice with both spell and blade whilst making the necessary ‘adjustments’ to the world.
Magda put her all into realising the vision she had for the Collective, pushing the group towards creating a more egalitarian society, and it was largely her that was responsible for the founding of so many institutes of learning in the following years. No longer needing to worry about gaining acceptance and with a family supporting her, she took every opportunity to do good when she could. Folk tales sprang up around the world of a green-skinned woman donating coins, saving crops and healing the sick.
Faeli was able to explore the Zone to her heart’s content and made frequent visits to the colony of green pygmies, although was always careful not to bring any spores back with her. Ever keen to spend time outside she and Bertie would frequently roam the wilderness to find things of interest for Sakharov, and so she was the reason that many of the rarest artefacts were found and catalogued.
Volk continued his own journey of self-improvement under the tutelage of Orina and would become a powerful magic user in his own right. Although they never located Nimassa, their shared dragon ancestor, they were able to piece together their family tree and meet with many forgotten relations.
In time, Theodor, Sakharov, Ebris and Catarina would become too old to continue their work in maintaining the Monolith and would retire from the Collective. It would now be up to the Pathfinders, the Champions of the Zone, to work out to do with its power. They would have to choose whether to find their own successors and decide how best to bend and shape the world around them, or if it was time to end the Monolith’s influence and let the world continue unguided once more.
What they eventually chose to do is another story for another time.