Exalted

Apes, & Worms & Zombies...oh My!

Traveling via high speed Tram on rays of golden essence, the circle are on their way to The Lost City. Felsic determines that there are potentially other stations, that if “unlocked” could be accessed via the tram.

We soon see the lost city of Ming-Ye. It is carved from a sandstone mountain, built on a giant pillar axis. Each section of the city looks like a wedge, flat, rounded on the outside, each is the same size, staggered, on top of the other.

A sign we pass states that it is a “Convention & Resort City.”

We are flying towards the central third level. The two bottom layers are stacked and off to the side, overgrown with jungle. We can see the fourth level is stacked on top of the third, and the fifth level is ensconced in the mountain itself. We can see what appears to be thick vines growing from the fifth level down to the fourth, slithering through the third, and then getting lost at the bottom.

The 5th level, jammed into the stone by vegetation. The outer walls are decorated with intricate murals & mosaics. A beautiful woman is portrayed, the gateway is her bust, right below that are her arms outstretched & welcoming.

There are large holes in the boulevard, with hunting spiders making their way down. This is a standard First Age resort town.

We see a plaza labeled “information” and we head towards it. A statue of the same queen in the same pose as the mural is there. Beautiful woman of middle eastern, aquiline features, almond eyes. Hair worked into ornate spikes held in place by spiked clips. Revealing clothing, but classy. Still floating in front of her brow held by magic is the full crown sun of the zenith cast.

In the plaza we find Stained glass flower beds that look and feel like real flowers. There’s a holographic display table with flickering images and garbled audio recording. Felsic begins to press buttons.

We get bits and pieces of the history of the city. We see a slight but very attractive young man, next to queen. She has her hand on his shoulder. A stately aqualine man stands next to her, with canine intensity features. Ma-Ha Suchi is here in first age form. Hierophant is also here.

There is a map in mosaic on the wall. The wall has been overgrown by vines, not all that readable. It is a map of the Chiaran Protectorate. A Legend on the left reads – Regions of Chiaran – Ape, Bull, Lion, Scorpion, & Crocodile. The only ones that are still intact – Ape & Bull. Ape appears to be this mountainous region of the jungle, and the Bull region is the northern belt/heartland of Harbor Head.
Byrrden goes scouting ahead. He finds human corpses throughout the level, flowers sprouting from their bodies. It appears they died from the flowers bursting through them. He leaves them undisturbed and continues on.

Bastu approaches me, informing me that their transaction is complete. I thank him for his service.

Rose & Caemlyn stay behind, incase rebels decide to show up. Ivanki decides to come along with the rest of us.

Felsic attempts to fix the lift, hoping to get us access to the upper levels.

Byrrden runs into a pack of what look to be orangutans, half as large as normal ones, with scalpels for fingers! They skulk in the shadows, keeping an eye on his circle.

As Felsic pries open the door to the lift, revealing large vines within, the apes attack! The circle prepares for battle.

I am loathe to hurt any animal unless necessary. After dodging their attempts to get their paws on me, I walk into the middle of their pack, raise my arms, and let them know we mean them no harm, and we merely wish to pass by. They stop their attacks, skulk back into the shadows, but continue to watch us.

We climb up the vines, joined by Rose, and enter the convention floor area. “Healing arts and Sciences” was the convention in progress.

We investigate. Byrrden goes to the executive suits. He finds various meeting rooms and lounges, some with playback capabilities of the meetings held within. He finds a recording of the 10th Doctor, explaining their theory about the behavioral anomaly. They appear frustrated when the person they’re talking to doesn’t hear what they want to say. They walk out calmly, and The Doctor throws something at the door.

He finds a recording of Chiara & The Psychopomp. She appreciates his use of “The Art of Stone” to help bring about the prosperity of her empire. He seems very guarded of his secrets, and in fact is not enthusiastic about using them. As he says, “They belong to the dead, and the dead should be honored, and their arts should be allowed to rest. I am not in love with the dead. I am in love with keeping the dead in the land of the dead, and the living in the land of the living.”

Byrdn notes that there is no enmity in their conversation. In fact, he seems to view her as a big sister, or mother figure.

In another room, The Psychopomp meets with an exalt, a tall lean man with canine features, dressed as a desert nomad. His name is Tamuz, and he tells the Psychopomp he has concerns about the gateway he put up in the arts of the dead display. The Psychopomp says ”If we are going to use the arts of the dead, we have to understand what they entail.”

He explains the gateway is a DUAT and will allow the living and dead communicate directly, and the souls of the dead can be deposited directly into Lethe, and not potentially go into the underworld. A dying person can be placed in the gateway, where they will be suspended between life and death, will be judged, and then thrown into Lethe – any tethers they may develop do not come into play. They are simply shepherded off into Lethe without any chance of ghostification. The first hundred users need to be placed physically into the gate, but eventually they can be hundreds of yards away.

Theoretically a person can be held between life and death indefinitely, in rare cases where a person’s life can be saved, but time is of the essence.

Tamuz states his concerns. He doesn’t like that kind of meddling. He believes the underworld is part of Creation, and it will get its due some other way. His mate and he are concerned the Psychopomp is becoming obsessed with death, and they worry for him. The Psychopomp says, “You’re not my mother or father. You’re perhaps two centuries older then me. I know what I am doing. The dead are important and must be respected. The Void must be respected.”

Tamuz still has a look of concern, but leaves to go back to his work.

Back in the convention floor area, I stumble across an exhibition entitled “The Little Doctors.” These miraculous “little doctors” are actually flesh worms. These worms are first age sutures, and can be used to open up holes for surgery. They eat their way into you, painlessly, create a cross section so that doctors can get into hard to reach areas, and then they can seal off the wounds. Miraculous, if not a bit…creepy. I take note that “Attraction to open wounds have been noted to specimens who have not been fed.”

A more interesting display talks about surgical assistant primates. They seem to be the ancestors of the apes that originally attacked us. These trainable autobeasts (animals that if trained correctly can be fully sentient) are capable of precise and swift decisions. They are capable of being fully trained to memorize a great deal of medical information, and can provide emergency care to people in many situations.

Very interesting indeed. This intrigues me for some reason, and I spend some time learning about these wondrous creatures.

Byrrden reports back to Durandal. Durandal believes that this machine, The Gate of Duat, can help him remove the device that is blocking his access to his essence. They must get to the fifth level.
The vines are thicker up here, and impenetrable. Even Rose’s fire can’t break through. However, the others discover an exhibit talking about “eliminating harmful bodily flora.” Rose believes she can whip up a toxic brew, while Felsic creates a giant syringe in which to administer the toxin.

Rose sprays the toxin and the vines wither and shriek. Disturbing to say the least. Felsic, after spending time at a control console, is able to maneuver the fifth tier from the mountainside to our location. He turns on the lift, and we head up.

There is one exhibit on this floor “The Arts of the Five Part Soul.” Everything is in pristine condition. The gardens have somehow survived, perhaps because they are made of stain glass. The Gate of Duat is in a corner, while along the wall facing left is the Manse of Queen Kiara. The Gate of Duat is closed, guarded by two sphinxes.

Caemlyn, who has joined us by now, believes that “The Little Doctors” could help with the surgery, so I am sent out to catch a giant worm. Sigh.

As I do so, the sky overhead turns overcast. A cooling sensation circulates through the convention center. One by one, ghost lights blaze up on the flowery dead on the floors below. They pull themselves up and stand in their hundreds, on the 3rd and 4th tier.

The Psychopomp, chosen of the Eclipse, creator of the Gate of Duat, is here. The viceroy or Pharaoh of the Scorpion Region. Lord of Iren.

We continue to read the exhibition, while Caemlyn preps Durandal for the surgery. We learn that in the Great Obviation many things that were in Creation no longer are. Five parts of the soul were reduced in numbers. In theory, all living creatures have aspects of these five part, but the portions were subsumed into others. But the magic that fuels these different powers of the five fold souls still exist in the two part soul. One can harness parts of their soul to power the magic. It won’t be nearly as efficient though.

The exhibit showcases these magics, Amulets, Alchemy, Holy Texts (scrolls), Stone & Corpus (for the body). Each display shows examples of how these different things can be used, from the creation of magical amulets, to being able to inscribe benedictions of health, charms, sorcerous works, which are used later. It shows much more powerful Alchemy than human sorcerers can do.

Stone – a small amount of essence used on a console will allow anyone present to create a pathway to someplace down the mountain called “intake station 4” a piece is missing from it.

Corpus imbues the body, living or dead, with power (essentially the art of Necromancy). This can be used to heal the body, or control the dead. This magic was incredibly powerful, could be used by humans, but no longer. It’s possible the creation of the underworld creates a vacuum that sucks up the necessary energy.

“Less evil necromancy. Used to be usable by all, now only the Exalted.”

There is a smaller replica of the central prototype in Iren. Other prototypes in the protectorate of Kiera.

While we investigate the findings here, Byrrden goes uptop, so he can see what is happening below. He sees that The Walking Dead have formed a ladder that is four zombies wide bridge, from the outer edge of tier three to tier four. Standing on top of the wall by the zombie bridge is an armored figure in Egyptian style armor, with a sarcophagus mask and headdress, with a large…very large…daiklave, all made of soulsteel. He is covered with ragged desert robes and watches the zombies clamber up the ladder made up of their brothers.

Felsic discovers that a piece is missing from The Gate, so he and Byrrden go into the manse to find it. They find a piece that needs to be repaired, while Byrrden finds a holo play. They seem Tamuz sitting, looking dejected, stroking his cheek. “Kiara has been distant, more then usual. She leaves me to my own devices and does not meddle, which allows me to spend more time with Inghosh, and does not require my presence in the boudoir. That is fine by me. She is concerned for the Psychopomp, who is delving further into the arts of the dead. It has made him more distant from us and her circle. But she now spends more time in her garden and chiaroscuro. Even the slightest noise seems to disturb her now. But at least she is not like “little brother.” Obsessed with the ways of the dead, the worst silence yet. I am concerned for our continued endeavours if he retracts his support, but the five souls are only one way, other mages who can make this happen. I return to my work and my beloved ingosh.”

Byrrden & Felsic take the piece back the Gate.

Back at the gate, Caemlyn has lovingly disinfected Durandal. As soon as a cut is made, the Gateway itself spins around a full 180 degrees and then another 45, and then all the way around, and starts to slowly to open unto a black sky. The bleak sky of the underworld. She sets the worm around the mouth, starts to spiral its way in, bit by bit, all while he’s bleeding out.

“I’d do it all again. What are we without honor, just shadows” Durandal says, as he falls unconscious. I pray to The Unconquered Sun that those will not be his last words.

Felsic carries Durandal to the Gate. He leans him in there, feeling a burning chill that goes straight to his bones. As soon as he places Durandal in, he moves into a T-pose. Once he’s in the Gate fully, he stops bleeding.

Rose shoots at the zombies, who are making their way up to our level. The Deathlord summons the corpses of the rebels he took down, and commands them to unite. They fuse into a giant amorphous blob of the dead. The merged body of 200 corpses begin to wildly rampage through the show floor.

Lightbringer, we need you.

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The Mighty Jungle

Felsic and I headed to Gorilla Bride’s home, still posing as officers of a mercenary group, to attempt to convince her to trust us with her her granddaughter’s life. I had hoped Vox would be with us, as he set up the meeting and is more adept at delicate negotiations than myself. However, he had informed me he would be taking someone or other to “pound town” and I decided I’d rather stop listening and walk off. So there we were, Felsic, and myself now effectively mortal knocking on the woman’s door, about to wing a scenario we both knew good and well we shouldn’t wing.

Gorilla Bride was a kind, and gentle soul, who seemed to understand we were more than just a group of mercs out for some coin. She agreed to lend us her granddaughter, Ivalki’s services providing that we help smuggle she and her brother out of the region. We happily agreed to her terms, and I promised that we would keep Ivalki safe, despite the treacherous jungle.

The next morning we embarked on our journey to Mingye, with Ivalki’s aid. Negotiating the jungles went about as expected. The place is frighteningly deadly for mortals, and I was concerned with not only the well-being of our guide, but of Rose’s soldiers as well. We set up camp for the night in some ruins that would offer modest cover, while Rose and her new charge hunted a massive snake for us to eat. I’d have to say it tasted rather like chicken. Ivalki sat next to me and revealed to me some of her recent history, how she’d gotten caught up in the local rebellion, and had been hiding out for fear of being reported by her people. Meanwhile, Bastu confided in rose how he suspected our guide was still in league with the guerrillas.

Treacherous as it was, we eventually found our way to a river that was flowing upwards and into the mountain, which would bring us to our goal in the most expedient fashion. We took to making rafts, and with Felsic’s talents, we were able to put together several craft in no time flat. Up the river we went, when we were soon in the path of rampaging hippo. No doubt frightened by a Razor Ape, or some such deadly, uncontrolled first age age monstrosity. Rather than risk the ships, Rose quickly took aim and sniped the pod’s alpha out of Creation and into it’s next life. We anchored the rafts not far from the incident, as Rose, Byrrden, and Ivalki went to scout out the source of the disturbance. The rest of us stayed behind to watch over our retainers, and of course Vox had constructed something he coined “The Fuck Tent” which seemed to keep him occupied.

Rose, Ivalki, and Byrrden made their way to a clearing where there were clear signs of a Razor Ape having been through moments ago but the ape itself had already left the area. As Rose and Byrrden went about their investigation, [snake liminal] appeared from the shadows and tapped Ivalki on the shoulder, causing her to disclose that it was she who was responsible for the bombing on her town’s aqueduct. Rose unshouldered her large firewand, and hit Ivalki with a technique which, as I understand it, is meant to cause the victim to repent one’s sins and seek a different path, or to be scalded by sunfire. In light of our current situation, it is fortunate that Ivalki opted for repentance.

Back at the rafts, Bastu slithered out of the shadows to reclaim his seat. He immediately confessed what he had just done, and what Ivalki had divulged, as a pyre of flame erupted in the field where they stood. I bore in to [snake liminal], chastising him for his actions, for manipulating one of my circle’s most passionate members at a delicate time, possibly sabotaging our mission for the benefit of his would-be Deathlord, and for risking the life of a mortal I had sworn to protect. I promised him that if he ever tried to manipulate my circle like that again, he would regret it.

Rose arrived shortly, followed by Byrrden, and Ivalki, singed at the edges but still thankfully alive. Rose was upset with Bastu for her own reasons, and proceeded to lay into him as well. I tried to intercede, and asked Rose to come and speak with me an-dinh. She would not comply, and so I walked away. Since the world was young, and before time was even something measured and tracked, Ka has always been a wheel, and so to is the circle. I am the center, and all the members are bound to me, but each spoke is just as important, if we do not all turn together then integrity is lost and the wheel tears itself apart. I do not wish to be at odds with Rose, but I have done all I can to get her in rhythm with the circle, perhaps it’s best to let her find her own way.

Ivalki confessed to the circle that she was intentionally leading us into an guerrilla ambush, in the hopes that we might slay the War Aurochs commanding the resistance, believing that her people were being manipulated and used strengthen Ahlat’s purview. However, the base the rebels were garrisoned at was sitting directly next to a transit hub that could take us into Mingye. With that in mind, we agreed to allow Ivalki to lead us into the ambush and be captured.

That night, approached me to finally palaver, now that she’d calmed down. I, exhausted from trying to keep a willful Dawn on the path, questioned whether she even wanted to be part of Unbroken Fate, or if she would be happier seeking her own legend. We had a long talk, and finally aired out the things that had been bothering us each, pretty much since we’d met. I think, we each had expectations we felt the other was failing to meet, and had been frustrated by that. Rose felt stymied by the long view we’d been forced to take recently, under the shadow of the First and Forsaken Lion. I explained that whatever difference we make today will be wiped clean by the march of the dead if that is not the battle we are fighting, every minute of every day, until Creation is safe once more. That being said, I am just as pained at all the small indiscretions, and suffering we have to let slip in favor of the larger goal. I promised that whenever possible, we would stop to help however we can. Rose assured me that she was Unbroken Fate, and that her Ka was ours. And so, now that we are all turning as one, we are finally whole.

As we approached the mountainside stronghold things progressed quickly. We were captured by the rebel forces, only to discover that these War Auroch spirits were actually bull aspected Liminal Exalted, and thus the rebellion was already a tool of the Pharoah. The rebels threw us into a cell, and toted Ivalki off to be interrogated. It was only a matter of time. Bastu volunteered to accompany Byrrden to challenge Fentu, our liminal captor, and free Ivalki as the rest of the circle made good our escape, along with the Golden Guardians

Seemingly with a snap of his fingers, Byrrden freed us from our cell and ran off into the darkened corridor with Bastu. We freed all of the other prisoners, and headed toward the transit hub, which would be our choke point. Therein we discovered a magitech monorail system which was so complex, I walked into the control room, and immediately spun around to leave. Even had I my powers, I would be of no use in there. I left Felsic and Caemlyn to decipher that relic of Byzantium, and took up post with the Golden Guardians. Sounds of an ancient machine god roaring out of it’s slumber echoed behind me as the rest of our group made good their escape. The last to appear was Bastu who was true to his word, honoring our pact, and risking his life to do so. I would be a fool to let my guard down about him, but his actions so far have been true. Soon, he will be free from Heaven’s sanction, and we will see who he truly stands with.

With all accompaniment inside the the cabin, I threw the door shut as Felsic opened the throttle, and I, new to such physics, flew “ass over tea kettle” as Dace would say, into the back window. Onward to Mingye, onward towards our quarry.

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Tombs and Plains

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An’afkh’s sarcophagus was a truly wonderful find. It was some exquisite First Age design, both lovingly carved and intricate in its mechanics. Rose and Durandal insist on complaining that Caemlyn and I opening it was a dangerous gamble to have taken, but they do not seem to understand that it was a decision made after investigating it for probable danger. It’s when one tries to open itself that bad things may be in store. Like the one in front of us in an underground tomb, holding a hypnotized boy in its thrall. THIS is when dangerous things can happen.

Mortal, but still as sharp as ever, Durandal wasted no time in delegating who should tackle what challenge, and mine was to stop that sarcophagus from opening. I was only too glad to oblige, leaping forward to try and slam the lid shut.

I have always been strong, and become even more so since exalting, but the desiccated hand that caught the lid was a strength I was wholly unprepared for, and it ripped the lid open as if I weren’t even trying, exposing an eyeless walking corpse – as in, there were not even sockets – with desert snakes for hair. No, this would not do. Channeling essence through my fist, I slammed it in the face to try and shove it back in to its coffin.

I have always been good at fighting. I don’t much like it as it often creates more problems than it solves, but I can always hold my own. Punching the awoken Liminal was as effective as hammering hot iron with a tea kettle.

Utterly stunned, I didn’t even hear the sounds of Durandal and Vox taking out the army of skeletons that had come to life, or Byrrden playing hopscotch on their heads while the Golden Gate Guardians carried the limp Oji to the exit. Thus, I was not ready to dodge the sand snake that lunged out and bit me. I expected to start feeling sick, or for the venom to light my veins on fire, but instead I felt utterly compelled to announce to Creation a wrong I had committed and gotten away with.

In a moment of supreme embarrassment, I shouted out how I had cheated Dragon Blooded out of their money in the past. I thank the Sun that everyone seemed to be too preoccupied to hear or even care, but the Liminal, Bastu, vanished from my sight, and when I spun around I saw Rose aiming Burning Repentance at me. It would seem that she took my crime very seriously. Before I could protest, she fired…at the shadow behind me that was Bastu, who was using me as a shield.

She missed, but her attack set him up. As she retreated to defend her Guardians, Byrrden was able to land a devastating blow that knocked Bastu from behind me into the perfect position for me grab him and slam him back into his sarcophagus. Before I could seal him back inside, he went immaterial and streaked towards the unconscious Oji, unprepared for Rose’s fierce protectiveness as she repelled his immaterial form with her firewand.

“Stand down!” shouted Vox. And amazingly, the Liminal complied. The skeleton army retreated, and our Eclipse and Zenith attempted diplomacy in the place of combat. It would seem that Bastu interpreted our intrusion as an assault on him instead of the investigation that we had engaged upon. The three of them discussed further, and both Vox and Durandal seemed content with the Liminal’s rationale. Rose, in her usual fashion, immediately extended a hand in friendship, as Durandal brought the First Age Exalt up to speed on what had happened while he slumbered, particularly in regards to the Underworld and the Deathlords.

He made it clear that he will not move against the Psychopomp without evidence, but he was willing to tell us about him, about the Nameless City in which he lived, to accompany us to Ming-Yi to meet An’afkh, and to stay in our company until he discovers the truth of the Psychopomp’s circumstances. Vox sanctified an oath with him, that in exchange for his help and absence of betrayal, we would protect him.

As his visage became more and more human, much in the way An’afkh’s had, his absence of eyes became a notable aberrant feature on his face. He simply proposed posing as a Wyld mutant. “Like you,” he said, directly to me.

He said that he feeds on guilt, but compelling me to divulge private thoughts and then insulting me – calling me a Wyld mutant, as if I were one of those cannibal barbarians and not as human as anyone else gathered – it would seem that he means humiliation.

I do not much like this man.

As we prepared to return to Lake Point, a new problem presented itself: Oji, it seems, regained his wits in time to see us reveal ourselves as Solars. Fortune favored us, however, as his motivation for seeking out Bastu in the first place was to find a way to drive out the Dragon Blooded; as far as he cares, we are his allies. Just to be certain, Vox sanctified an oath with the boy to keep our secret. Rose could not be happier to have the boy join our company and adopted him on the spot, ready to train him as another of her Guardians.

She took to him so quickly that she was ready to hunt down the man who sent Oji to Bastu’s tomb. Much to her consternation, Durandal and I disagreed with that course of action. We had little time to spare, and with Oji already having been sent, it was unlikely that the hooded man would return, what with his mission likely being accomplished. Immensely displeased, she promised to decide before morning.

True to her word, she grudgingly agreed to join us instead of waiting, though she left Biffle to keep watch. Bastu also joined us, looking now fully human with a bandage across his eyeless gaze, and thick dreadlocks not wholly unlike Bo’g’wai’s piled upon his head.

Finding the aqueduct that connected Lake Point to our destination of Ima, we set out to follow it across the plains. Along the way, we found where it had been sabotaged, a giant pile of rubble in the middle of what should have been an uninterrupted flow of water. The fix was simple, but time-consuming. I took a moment to survey the damage, and then began drawing up schematics for repairs as we journeyed.

When we reached Ima, we noticed that it seemed underpopulated for its size, most likely due to the lack of water. A group of lean youths bearing the sigil of Ahlat met us at the gates, so “Warenthal” stepped forward with our cover story: we’re mercenaries passing through to search the jungle. When asking for a guide, the man in charge of the group, River Stone, said he could find someone, and when Durandal asked, he agreed to take us to the chieftain.

Meanwhile, Vox set up a trading post, Rose and Oji went foraging, and Byrrden went looking for shinies.

Durandal and I spoke with the chieftain, who was River Stone’s brother, Lake Stone. The two of them discussed current issues, which seemed to involve an especially brutal and bloodthirsty Dragon Blooded overlord, Nellens Corporval, and some particularly violent rebels from the village. When the topic of the aqueduct came up, I handed over the repair schematics I had made as a gift for their hospitality. In return, he offered to find guides to Ming Yi for us, though he regretted that his best tracker has not been seen for some time.

Byrrden, doing his sneak-thieving, found shinies, and more. After pilfering a jade animal mask, he landed in a basement that was hiding a trio of what seemed to be squatters, looking hunted and harried and desperate to stay hidden until rebels in the jungle quit looking for deserters, and villagers quit looking for rebels.

Sneaking back out of the basement, Byrrden shared his discovery of the squatters with Vox. He was unsure if they were redeemable or responsible, but they were in some way involved with Ima’s current woes. The two of them found Durandal and I and pointed out where they were hiding. Of two things Byrrden seemed very certain: that they could help us in the jungle, and that he could absolutely sneak them out.

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Journey to Harborhead; Family Bonds, Seeking truth, and Grave findings.
Recipes for Coffee Cake and Fish Pies.

Good morning journal! I hope you are having a good day, because we’ve been busy and have quite the story to tell.

It all began on the airship ride to Harbor Head, we’d been traveling to meet Ahnofk, looking for information of her fellow Judges. The unrenamed ship travels quickly away from Zion and Rathess, having recently received a special touch of improvements by Felsic. Knowing full well we’d take 3 weeks to get there.

Durandle recalls a time just days before our departure with his Knights Invictis. He spoke to them of much deliberating, and decisions he’s made. Brother Drederig is raised to Master of the Company, a rank just below the Light Bringers. The rank of Commander will also be added below each of the Lieutenants, each of his men able to choose those who would serve under them. Bringing in a new command structure and creating a clearer line of succession. Also letting them know that any Solar who reincarnates from his essence shard is not to be automatically given command of the company.

My thoughts are weighed down with the day we departed. Theodora planning on taking the bulk of the Golden Guardians to survey areas around Rathess and the old Mahasuchi’s lair. Fauve sharing her concern over Theodora’s malaise. How can I help my sister who has lost everything she ever knew?

Byrrden had a lunch with his mentor, a lady I think, I can’t recall her name right now. But she warned him of the tribulations of being Solar in a Dragonblooded Satrapy. Tell your team to maybe not get all Lawgivery and glowy in town. That would be a bad call. Also she sent some of his more useful contacts Ahead to start creating useful ins into the criminal world.

Vox thinks back to the clean up day after the grand opening of his club. Green Hair and he discuss the intricacies of the business that need be taken care of while he’s out adventuring.

Caemlin and her daughter said their goodbyes on the day we took off. Durandle children tagging along in her shadow. Each of them a smiling face of behavior… and not cantankerous trouble makers.

Felsic’s pungent tenant, Bog’wai, had to remind him about our departure. His interest in building the Hammer of Dawn nearly caused him to be late to our voyage. In the interest of keeping the work goinging Bog’wai introduced Felsic to new build team, Krod and the Ankloks. I have to remember to stop in and see Krod once we get back from Harbor Head.

Durandles son had come to say goodbye at his fathers request. Durandle had a moment with him, letting him know of his roles as man of the house and his required strength in the world as his son. As a man of war.

We have a briefing a week into our travels. The Captain of the ship, and a southern woman by the name of Last Calf. She’s a former Harbor Head citizen, and wants to get us prepared for what we’ll find there.

Flat Plains to the North. Marshes near the Coast, and Teeming with Dragon Blooded Dynasts. The 5 people populate the land. The people worship Alaht, the god of war and cattle. Once yearly a sacrifice must be made of 100 cattle. In order to provide this sacrifice, the five peoples war over cattle. The tribe that provides the sacrifice receives fertility boons, and sharper focus in their troops.

At one time, they’d been untied by an individual by the name of “Blood on the Horn”. But that was prior to the Dynasty taking over.

Recently a smaller village had discovered a vein of Jade, increasing the number of Dynasts trying to get more resources back to the Realm. Modern day, the people of Harbor Head rebel against the Realm, but any time they do Garrisons of the Dynasty move against the people. But the cycle of violence builds upon itself.

Lastly the Brides of Alhat, the elite warriors of the royal, are some of the big players on the table.

She tells of a judge, who dispensed lesser Judges across the lands to resolve the cycles of the dead. Perhaps the Psychopomp.

Konayaziwa (Lakepoint) is where she recommends we begin our search for the lost city the Psychopomp held council. Though to find the city, we’d need to go through the jungle, which is known for being extremely dangerous.

A final warning, the slave trade is alive and well, we should always carry weapons as the mark of a slave is a lack of weapons. We need a cover story and land on Mercenary troop. Which is fairly easy given the number of Guardians I brought with us.

The remainder of time passes as we make our way to the sea of lakes, but planning as we go. I spend a lot of the time baking coffee and red bean paste treats should we need any bartering meals.

We find the country far cooler and more comfortable than Zion tends to be in the jungle. Offboarding we head toward Lakepoint, a days march from our landing place. From time to time we are seen by the citizens of Harbor Head who pay us little mind but are both curious and wary. Stopping in a small fishing village we ask a local fisher woman to describe any troubles around the jungles. And after plying her with many pies we were on our way again to Lakepoint, with a barrel of Fish given to us from the lovely woman.

We arrive, to a moderate sized town, much larger than the village that I’d been expecting. Without taking much effort to look we are able to both identify the building belonging to The Guild, and the fort belonging to the Dynasty.

Caemlins first stop is a private book repository. She knows that books hold the answers to many of life’s mysteries.

I set up shop at a nearby square with Vox’s help getting a license to run a booth, selling pastry and Fish pies. Because I’d love to get to know the locals as they might be a great source of knowledge.

Found out the Realm 16th Legion was traveling back from the city of Ima, where they had suppressed rebels. The people of Ima will likely have to abandon their home, given the rebel’s destroyed the local aqueduct.

Talks of Politics and The Leopard of Khirighasf.

Durandle and Felsic go off in search of tea, hoping they can find an in with some locals there. Durandle inquires of the locals if they know of any rumors of the Murder Ape in the Jungle. One story talks about how Murder Apes City is on the move. Never in the same place twice.

Felsic listens in on a political conversation about the high turn over in the Dynast representation here. There was a Nellens commander that was of a huge fan of like torture and murder for rebels. Then a Tepet commander who tried to make things better… but he lost his fool mind and a new Nellens was sent and things are back to normal.

Vox looks for a more upscale establishment. He finds himself at a Banana Wine bar. He orders some sherbet and makes small talk with the locals. A local woman recommends finding a guide from Ima, which is six days by foot.

Byrrden does his usual skulking around the city. He over hears a few discussions related to religion, including some mentions of the bull god sending messangers to Harborhead.

Two youths offhanded mention a tomb that they’re acquaintance found just outside the city and they’re meeting later to wake it up.

Caemlyn’s research leads her to a section on the history of Harborhead. A book called The Green Peaks if Harborhead has a sleekly laminate pamphlet titles the Poppy City of Mingye. On the cover is a stylized poppy flower. The city itself apparently takes the form of a poppy and from the top down the districts look almost like an octad built into the side of a mountain. It’s oddly reminiscent of a spiral staircase. Mingye exported fruit and spices and had a security force of intelligent apes.

The circle reconvenes and shares what they’ve learned individually. They want to fix the aqueduct in Ima but Felzik is worried that he would draw to much attention to himself. Byrrden stresses the urgency of stopping the kids he overheard earlier from awakening another Liminal.

The West Pillar is 100 feet in diameter and is adorned like a Dorian column. It has been heavily graffitied in chalk with various writings and drawings. Byrrden approaches first and finds a group of adolescents waiting to go to the tomb. He follows them up into the hills and along a narrow path until they come to the entrance of what looks like a tomb.

When the rest of the circle arrives, Vox sends Gengar to scare the kids away so that everyone can approach. The kids had said they could hear voices from within, and sent in a boy named Oji to scout ahead, but he has not returned. The circle can hear the voice as well.
With we find various writings that indicate that the person buried is named Bastu the Stare, who is associated with the snake.

A Shan’iatu is definitely buried here. Bastu judged those who had cheated justice or eaten their own heart. Bastu was also a judge of Ren – the true name. This judge is stealthy, highly perceptive, and can read souls.
There are traps everywhere but they all seem to have been tripped – however we don’t see any bodies. The circle continues into the tomb and see more snake motifs along the way. Finally they enter into a large domed room with several skeletons in fetal positions, looking inwards.

In the center is a sarcophagus similar to the one which contained An’ahfk. A relief carved into the top depicts a beautiful, ungendered figure with an adornment of outstretched snakes around their neck. Oji, the boy, is kneeling before the sarcophagus and as the circle enters he pushes the final lever to open the grave.

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A Night to Remember

After the battle, the warrior woman An-Afkh kneels by her husband’s coffin. A flesh and blood version of the alabaster statue anima. Tall, for a human, with a sleek, Amazonian build. Her classic Egyptian features shine, with large almond eyes.

She’s beautiful.

Rose kneels next to her, trying to lend some comfort. The warrior asks who is our “Dinh.” The Circle looks at Durandal. She says the Lawbringers made her kind. She asks to be be brought somewhere more appropriate, where she will tell us her tale.

The Circle decides to bring her to my humble manse.

Speaking of, I am in the middle of getting Haven ready for opening night. As I give out orders, a familiar face shows up at the entrance. The woman called Green Hair we rescued from Ma-Ha-Suchi’s rutting pens asks for a job. After a short interview, I give her a chance to work as keeper of the funds. I’ll keep her away from the second floor.

My Circle arrives, with our new guest. I have snacks and beverages on hand, seat them on my oh so comfortable furniture, and listen to her tale.

Her name is An-Afkh the Bringer of his Arm. She claims to be one of the Liminal Exalted. Her creator was a Solar known as the Psychopomp, who spent his Exaltation curtailing the growth of The Void and the potential misery of ghosts that have not gone into Lethe.

The Psychopomp discovered a force, an ability to kill mortals in a way that would transcend death, and have them arise as a Liminal Exalt. Liminals are on par with Terrestrial Exalted, but the number that could be created is limited, supposedly.

The Circle wonders if the Psychopomp became the Deathlord Pharaoh Who Dreams of Endless Silence.

The Psychopomp worked with living embalming. If there are Deathlords who have power of An-Afkh’s sect of Liminals, the Shan-Iatu, her brothers and sisters could become corrupted. Strangely, this Deathlord has some way to compel and control the Liminals, something that the Psychopomp could not.

Her people had free will. Many served, some rebelled, and others went down their own path. But always the Psychopomp let them go. If he has become a Deathlord, he is very different then when he became a Solar.

I listen to her words, carefully studying her. I don’t believe she’s lying.

She speaks with a classical Old Realm accent. She explains that Shan-Iatu means retainer or magistrate. She feeds on the essence of innocence, but just the ambiance of it, like Bo’g’wai and other civilized Raksha who sip ambient emotion. Who she feeds on doesn’t feel anything but a passing sense of unease.

An-Afkh asks for a map, and Rose happens to have one. She points to Harborhead. That is where she came from, centuries ago. Mingye was where Harborhead is now. There may be structures there with information about the Pharaoh. She was buried there during the time of the Solar madness, right before the Usurpation it seems.

The Circle discusses options. We decide going to Harborhead to get information is our best bet. Durandal tells everyone to get some rest, that plans would be made.

Rose offers her place to An-Afkh. Durandal says that the next day An-Afkh can get her own place, via the Celestial Bureau of Housing. Rose offers to help her with that.

The following day we all tend to errands. Felsic takes Durandal to get fitted for armor, something the Lightbringer is not excited about. But Felsic has a point, our fearless leader is much more… squishy… then normal, and could use a bit of added protection. They go to Felsic’s manse.

Durandal finds Bo’g’wai, who has made himself at home. Felsic asks Bo’g’wai where Durandal tends to get stabbed the most. Bo’g’wai gestures to all of him.

Felsic sighs, and gets to work.

Rose takes An-Afkh to the Bureau. It gets… awkward, or so I’m told. Maybe Rose shouldn’t have asked for residence near children, causing the Bringer of His Armto say, “I don’t need to be so close to my sustenance.”

I go in search of Byrrden. Suffice it to say, I don’t find him. He finds me. I compliment him on his fighting prowess, and wonder if he can potentially teach me, or if he knows of someone who can teach me martial arts. I tell him, sometimes words fail me. Not often, but when they do, it would be nice to not have to solely rely on Onyx.

Byrrden takes me to meet his martial arts instructor, Effulgent Petal. I vaguely remember her, but don’t know from where. I ask her to teach me. She asks what? I ask if she has any suggestions.

After taking in my measure (I think…) she agrees. We are to begin in the morning.

I ask her to avoid punching my face. She says she won’t make any promises.

Caemlyn goes and does what she does best, become even more well-versed. She finds some interesting tidbits. The Judges or Shan-Iatu were powerful Liminal Exalts, made before Liminals required a link with someone called “the Dark Mother.” The last Judges reported disappeared soon after the Usurpation, well before the Great Contagion ravaged Creation.

The Duat, or Gates of Duat, was something the Judges were said to guard, and where they pronounced sentences. Duat was a gateway to Lethe, left over from when there was a five-part soul. Supposedly many Gateways to Duat exist, which Judges can find naturally.

Caemlyn discovers that somewhere in the Nameless Empire, unearthed pillars were discovered, with IR EM repeated on them.

When she goes home, her daughter Xandrel greets her. And then surprises her mother by asking how she feels about the fact that she will get old and die one day, while Camelyn will live thousands of years. They have a long, serious mother/daughter talk, well into the night. Caemlyn does not get much sleep that night.

The following day, Durandal calls a Circle meeting at Haven. I am pleased my friends are making use of my humble abode. Plus it saves me a trip.

We make plans to go to Harborhead, while keeping our heads down, and look for clues. An-Afkh wants to go look for other, non corrupt Judges. Durandal wishes her good journey.

Rose asks that we take some time to prepare. She wants to begin training her troops (as well as my employees) in the way of the Tiger Warrior. Durandal agrees and says we’ll leave once she’s done.

Thus, a month passes.

Caemlyn spends the time researching on how to take off the contraption keeping Durandal mortal, as well as learning some new spells. She believes that if Durandell is suspended between life and death, causing the device to “think” he was dead, it should come off. But any attempt to force it off could lead to an explosion. Which may be a bit too much light for the Lightbringer.

Byrrden spends time developing contacts. I’m glad he’s going out and making friends. Granted he twisted some arms, knocked some heads and did a few not-so-legal favors to make those connections. He asks his new network to research the symbols we’re looking into. His contacts suggest we ask around in Sijan or Nexus for potential tomb sites.

Rose spends the time training her soldiers (and my people) into fierce Tiger Warriors. She also makes some amazing scones, because of course she does.

During this time, she finds Theodora becoming listless. She finds out that Rose is going “back home.” She admits that she’s been having bad dreams as of late.

“I miss home. I don’t feel like I fit in here. We’re used to small town life, and this is sorta a big city.”

“Home isn’t there. And wherever the people of Relic’s Altar are is home.”

Theodora thinks, and asks if maybe… just maybe, they can make up their own home? Set up a village outside of Rathess, but inside of Zion? Rose pauses, then agrees that it’s maybe not a bad idea.

Felsic checks in on Caemlyn from time to time, offering his technical know-how. He stays busy working on the Hammer of Dawn, and gathering unique metals for it. He learns how to swim in Lake Octad, with a little help from his roomie Bo’g’wai.

They do make an adorable couple, don’t they?

As for myself, I spend my time getting Haven ready to open. I spread the word that the grand opening will be a two-day affair. I meet each of my Circle mates and tell them that they and their families attend as my special guests. The first night will be… family friendly. The second night won’t be for the faint of heart.

I make sure Haven’s opening night is one of the grandest affairs Rathess has seen since the First Age. I want the very air itself to be filled with joy, excitement, and entertainment. I want my friends, and all of Rathess to feel alive, to show them what we are constantly fighting for, and to feel at ease for once, rather then bracing for the next attack.

Live life to the fullest is the theme of the night, and with the help of my staff, Rose’s baked delicacies, and Bo’g’wai’s… Bogwai…I believe I succeed in my goals.

Not only does most of Rathess show up, we get some unexpected guests. Arianna has deigned to come down from her tower. I am honored, and our banter is worthy of Solars. I do hope she comes down to visit more often. I could always use a sparring partner.

We are soon joined by her Circle, Panther lifting up Durandal off the floor (my, he is quite the specimen), Harmonious Jade somewhere in the rafters (I wonder if she’s Byrrden’s type,) and finally Dace and Risa appear. Now there is a soap opera in the making. Will they or won’t they? I for one am anxious to find out.

Durandal, after being set down, asks Panther to stay and help watch over Rathess, while we go on our stealth mission. Panther, after trying to understand the concept of a “stealth mission” says he’s been hearing rumblings of the Pharaoh who Dreams of Endless Silence.

Panther agrees, and I take everyone’s minds off of the next big, important mission. Rose is quite the dancer. I am not surprised. I make sure everyone dances, drinks, and/or becomes merry. Tomorrow our sun may set, but tonight, we celebrate that which the Unconquered Sun has given us – freedom!

We end the night with some rather… educational tales of Durandal’s youth. It’s hard to imagine Durandal as anything but the Lightbringer, let alone a mortal child. But even as he turns shades of red, I can’t help but see him smile, surrounded by friends and family.

Soon enough, the party ends and life continues. We make our final preparations, meet at Felsic’s airship, which has yet to be properly named, and fly off towards the setting sun, the people of Rathess, plus Onyx & Charlie Jr, waving at us from the ground below.

Next stop, Harborhead.

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Dust in the Wind
The Void IV

Storm Tengu flies through the skies of Lookshy piloted by Nefvarin Cleo. Durandal, Vox, and Byrrden cling to the war strider. Skywolf Ashitaka comes up from behind. A dogfight results in the Skywolf’s cannons being taken out. The warstrider lands on the Skywolf. Byrrden and the two fugitives descend into the airship, knocking out the crew and landing the airship safely. Airship dispatches, the party flies on to Rathess.

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In Rathess, Felsic and Caemlyn open the sarcophagus releasing An Afkh. The mummy spews green smoke at them, filling them with the certainty of death. An Afkh then collects her whip, turns to dust, and blows out the door.

Felsic tells Rose of the encounter. Rose tells Theodora to rally the troops. Caemlyn informs Ariana of An Afkh’s abilities. Ariana suspects that the mummy is actually a Liminal Exalt.
Storm Tengu lands in the jungle just beyond Rathess. Cleo sends the warstrider back to Lookshy and requests asylum in Xion.

Surveying the city from atop the Golden Pyramid, Rose spots a swirl of activity at a park. There is a missing child, taken by a white wind. Rose tracks a dust trail, finding the boy swaddled in rags. The boy says a dead lady took him.

Scouting, Byrrden tracks an insect out of the city to find himself surround by ghosts. He speaks with Wentworth, who informs Byrrden that something is calling ghosts to the city. Byrrden sends Wentworth to find the source.

Rose continues investigating disappearances. She finds three women were accosted and drained of their enthusiasm. Rose heads to the waterways where she runs into Byrrden. The two follow a blood curdling scream to find more dead bodies.

Caemlyn takes Durandal to the Raptock Octad to attempt removing the essence blocking device from his chest. She finds that removing the device by force will cause the essence inside to explode. She spies a flood of scarabs in the hospital. Jack appears and aids the two in fending off the scarab swarm. Dace arrives and Jack flees. Caemlyn sends a message to Panther asking for aid.

Felsic and Bo’gwai investigate a series of suicide attempts. One victim mutters “eater of blood”.

Wentworth returns to Byrrden and tells him the source of the ghost beckoning is coming from the room with the Scarab on the wall.

Panther_10.JPG The party assembles and heads for the room. In the room An Afkh sits at the judges podium speaking with a scarab man and an eight limbed jackal god. The party confronts the two about the disappearances and suicides around the city. Durandal explains to An Afkh about Death Lords and what these two are really up to. A battle ensues. An Afkh aids the party in killing the scarab man and jackal god.

Caemlyn’s message reaches Panther…

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A Tale of Two Cities

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The Board of the Chosen had provided Caemlyn and her daughter with an apartment in the Octad. It was sparse, but spacious. Xandrell has not reacted well to the loss of the fire tree pollen. Her Mother found her lying in bed, staring vacantly across the room. Caemlyn wasn’t wrong to end the fire tree festival. She was never wrong. Never the less she recognized that her actions had had a dramatic effect on her child. She couldn’t just let her mope like this. The two Chayans went down into the shopping district, and Xandrell was able to pick up some books and a journal, then get signed up for school. Both Mother and Daughter also acquire new clothes more fitting for the arid climate. The woman turn heads as they make their way to Durandel’s home. Kneal, the major dojo of his household, mentions is that Durandel’s children’s matron has recently left and they arrange for Xandrell to be their new caretaker after her school finished for the day. After seeing her daughter back home safely, Caemlyn returns to Ariana’s tower to research death lords.

Meanwhile, Durandel gets stabbed. Yushito Utrax comes to get Vox and tell him something has happened and he should come with him immediately. He says that three off duty soldiers assaulted him. On the way, Utrax mentions the reopening of the case on the death of Utrax’s best friend, Nefvarin Leodan, who was supposedly killed in honorable combat. He doesn’t react as surprised as Vox expects. Vox is taken to the recovery room. Durandel lives but is currently unconscious after a repertory procedure. Vox explains to Yushito Habo, who arrives shortly after, that this incident tarnishes the honor of Look Shy.

Byrrden goes looking for the fire blooded, Kalvos Ral, first. He’s told she can be found in the barracks. It’s too crowded for stealth so he disguises himself as an off duty soldier. He inquires after the fire blooded and they say she’s likely drinking in the commissary. He finds her at the bar drawing weapon designs in a leather bound journal with a pint of beer. She calls one of the designs “Leodan”. This matches the rumors that she had unrequited feelings for the deceased Terrestrial.

Back in the city, Felsic is carrying a stone sarcophagus overhead, following Rose out of a death lord’s tomb. He realizes that the scarab with an ankh found on the door to the tomb was not necessarily sinister and nothing in the tomb seemed Necromantic. He brings it to his Mance to examine. Rose comments that he should go get Caemlyn. Ariana has agreed to make me her an apprentice. Caemlyn has been research the Pharaoh who dreams of endless silence, who was the most passive of the death lords and a lawgiver of the southeast. So passive, in fact, that many think he’s either not involved with the politics of the other death lords or he’s playing a very long game. The southeast has many buried temples. A sworn brotherhood of exalts went to explore one of these and never returned. The study of death and the dead was surprisingly common in the southeast in the first age. Sijan, the city of the dead, was located there. She learns of the Shan’iatu, the judges of the dead. The pharaoh may very well be one of these. They were considered noble, just, and fair and said that they had clear eyes for the fate of the dead. She learns of the sacred animals of the southeast – Lion, Jackal, Snake, Crocodile, and Bull, but to speak of the bull in this context is heresy. She finds a book called On the Study of the Dead by a Mosak Dragonlord. It lists the Arts of the Dead – Stone, Word, Gem, Draft, and Flesh. There is also a Diary of a Mosak death singer named Sswssh who went to a city called Mingye for a convention on the Threat of the Underworld. He worked with a young lawgiver who was concerned about the expansion of the underworld and thought the human soul was made up of five parts, based on the virtues and will. Caemlyn recognized this as what her previous incarnations had been trying to use the stop the REBA. After a few days of research there is a knock on the library door and Ariana answers. It’s Felsik looking for Caemlyn. He says she may want to look at the sarcophagus they found that happens to be related to the pharaoh she’s been researching.

Vox is alone with Durandel when he wakes up. He notes that one of the soldiers who attacked him definitely wasn’t drunk and they had a key to the cell somehow. Durandel laments that it’s come to this and tells Vox that he was hoping for a peace treaty. Leodan’s family would have been more amenable to this which is likely why he was assassinated. Wei the monk arrives to tell Durandel that his key was used to open the cell and that he is sorry. He never meant him harm. Vox goes to talk to the assailants. Two of the men look drunk but the third looks blank. He was also in no one’s service at the time of the attack. Vox manages to charm the other two into talking. The third man is named Stelan and they were all drinking and he was spouting hate for the Anathema. They made their way to the cells and stole the key from Wei. They were going to walk away but Stelan went on with it. He previously owed fealty to House Nerigus, but his commanding officer was the late Leodan. Vox tells them he will speak to Utrax on their behalf.

Byrrden notices heavily armed soldiers with detection power armor and makes his way cautiously along. The house at the end of the way is guarded by more heavily armed soldiers. It looks like someone here will be shipping out very soon. After watching for about three hours he seems a tall, handsome man with green hair step outside with an attractive woman in a kimono. It’s his mother, and they argue about him going off to fight in Thorns. He had only just decided to leave that day. On his side the soldier Dilioc he carries a flute-like weapon that Burden recognizes as a blow gun weapon, and that would explain the deep piecing fire based wound that killed Leodan. Dilioc was also the lover of Utrax. Byrrden goes to tell Vox.

Vox goes to tell Utrax what the prisoners said. He tells him everything and says that the lightbringer has a request of him. He asks that he spare his attackers their lives. Utrax comments that, for a demon, Durandel seems to be playing a long game of honorable deeds. He also says that honor is paramount in Look Shy and while he can arrange for a punishment that is not death, they will never be soldiers of Look Shy again. He then says perhaps he should be punished too. Vox inquiries as to why. He reveals that his commanding officer took a hit meant for him. He was taken away from the field and didn’t see him die, but he believes he should have been there to take the hit that killed him. Vox says his farewell and leaves. Byrrden finds then finds him and fills him in on what he’s discovered.

Byrrden then returns to the Nergus house and examines the luggage that Dilioc had prepared earlier. He walks over and vomits on the palate after climbing a fence in front of the armored guards, who are just dumbfounded at this point. Burden face plants but manages to steal a scarf, a pen knife, and a leather bound book. The book is Dilioc’s poetry journal and on the day before the murder he was very angry about his breakup with Utrax.

Vox returns to Utrax and tells him what he has discovered about Dilioc, couching it as a connection he just made based on what was said by Stelan. Utrax realizes that Dilioc meant to kill him because of a lovers quarrel but accidently killed Leodan instead. He finds Dilioc and places him under citizens arrest. Durandel will be required as a witness and so gets a stay of execution. The trial begins.

Durandel finds himself face to face with Executioner Wei. She reveals that her daughter is a Solar Exalt, and agrees to let him and the others escape as long as he finds her estranged child. Durandel tries to explain that he may not find her daughter if she does not want to be found and that Wei should be proud of her for being Chosen, but she doesn’t want to hear it. She blasts a hole in the ceiling and tells him they better get moving.

Meanwhile, Caemlyn goes into Felsic’s workshop to examine the sarcophagus. Bogwai is also here as is evident from the giant green cloud. The sarcophagus is made of jet stone. Caemlyn realizes that what she thought was a man inside the stone box is actually an armored woman and her head dress is made of feathers. She holds a flail with a golden handle covered in alabaster beads and a claw at the end. Jet and Alabaster are the materials used to ward against and trap ghosts. They also notice scroll work in pictographic old realm language. It’s name is An-afkh the bringer of his arm. She was the judge who oversaw the fates of those who destroyed purity. Listed many times is Bah, referred to as a pillar. She was a master of many skills, and could see into the land of the dead. She could also bestow health to the prematurely ill. She personally shepherded a group of ghosts to Letha and even broke up a ghost slavery ring. The phrase “and her eyes remained clear” is also repeated in the scroll work. We can see her staring up at us. Felsic is able to find a seam in the sarcophagus and cracks it open. Suddenly, a single hand reaches up out of the sarcophagus and crushes the edge of the stone as it lifts itself free. In the distance, Durandel face palms so hard.

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Deathlords, And Also Lookshy

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Never had I seen a stranger or more horrifying thing than when The Beacon used the waters of Lethe to open up a hole to the Void and began spewing forth a vile, corrosive, viscous silver fluid from his body that moved under its own power. It was a horror that only intensified when screaming faces took shape in the mass’s surface….faces I could recognize by their helms as members of Dace’s Smoking Skulls.

This….”mass” would eventually entirely fall into the Void. Of that there was no question. However, there was more of it than there was of the hole, and the overflow was dissolving the floor of the room, and reaching for us as well.

To make things improbably worse, the doors to the chamber vanished, replaced with glowing runes that encircled the room along the now blank walls. The main door had its frame left behind, with a First Age sigil above, three of the strange runes stacked within, and some strange switches along the sides.

Caemlyn had but a moment to translate the sigil before having to focus on her spellcasting to keep us from dying: “Gateway to Peace.” It became clear: the room was a giant cryptex that we had to solve before we could leave.

When we next see The Beacon, I plan to ask him his thinking behind the design of this room. His rationale will determine wether he gets one or both of my boots up his ass.

Caemlyn, Durandal, Rose, and Byrrden were magnificent at keeping the abomination at bay while Vox and I tried to solve the puzzle, me standing over the Eclipse and Bo’g’wai standing over us both.

It couldn’t have taken more than a minute or two, but the encroaching death and oblivion stretched everything into eternity before Vox and I snapped the correct runes into place, both of us simultaneously piecing together the solution was essentially a hieroglyph of a coffin.

Because Abyssals.

The doorway became a milky membrane that would allow us to exit the Void chamber, which was rapidly losing all of what remained of its floor. Bo’g’wai had to transform into a hurricane of plant life to fit, and Durandal took a ridiculous risk to use the waters of Lethe to free some of the trapped Smoking Skulls, but everyone tumbled out safely.

The thing, Sun be praised, could not follow through. The doorway did not stop us from hearing its maddening whispers slowly fade, however, as it slipped into the Void.
Not even on the ice in the depths of winter have I felt such a chill inside me as I did at that moment of silence.

But we were safe for now. Sort of. We were no longer in a shadowland; instead standing on a lip of black marble over a fissure that threw up the glow of molten rock from far, FAR below, but at least we were only on the edge of a metaphorical oblivion instead of actual oblivion.

Contrasting with the darkness all around, a white wall faced us from across the fissure, and on it two strange sigils.

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“It’s a tally,” said Durandal. “Of Deathlords.”

The sigils were of The Mask of Winters and The Walker in Darkness, two Deathlords who had already been obliviated, and it stood to reason that more would follow. But that was a worry for another day. Now, it was time to take the conveniently provided staircase back to the surface….with a largely immobile Bo’g’wai on my shoulders, who was remarkably easy to carry despite his size.

We emerged in Black, which was no longer Black but a noodle house called Nibbles Noodles. Something something glamours, realities…I did not care. It was time to eat, then sleep.
The next day, Rose busied herself checking in on Durandal first, and then later Dace, providing bacon for all of the above, and offering up her Guardians to the latter as auxillary troops for Zion.

Byrrden woke up to being kicked, an activity which wound up consuming most of his day. He did take a moment with his trainer to discuss a strange mirror he swiped from Beacon’s void room because of course there was a hidden treasure in there and of course Byrrden both spied it and took the time to swipe it. I think he’s mad sometimes, but I cannot deny he is good at what he does.

After determining that touching the sigils in the mirror would not result in being devoured by the Void, he touched the one that was the sigil we saw underground as belonging to the Mask of Winters. A full dossier of information presented itself. Byrrden had pinched an intelligence briefing on all of the Death Lords.

Meanwhile, I took time to visit Durandal myself. Though I was somewhat embarrassed by it, I explained to him my hesitation and fears in initially refusing the Circle. He seemed to understand, and now that I was ready, he welcomed me fully.

It was good to have a family again.

The day continued with everyone about their own business until Durandal summoned all of us to the Bastion Invictus to lay out our plans for the future, given the new information we received from the Beacon himself and what we discovered down below.

With the apparent movement being made by the Deathlords, we would need to preemptively start whittling them down. While not the weakest, the one known as Pharaoh Who Dreams of Endless Silence is the most immediate threat.

Byrrden presented his magic mirror to us and demonstrates its utility by bringing up as much information as possible on Pharaoh. Unfortunately, there was not as much as we would have preferred, but we knew three important facts: it focuses on the necromantic resurrection of singularly powerful dead and ghosts; it has servitors called Judges; and its agents are mostly active around Harborhead. This was at least enough to get started.

Unfortunately, getting started would have to wait as Durandal had a detour in mind first: a prisoner exchange with Lookshy, himself for the First Company.

Perhaps indelicately, I expressed that this proposal couldn’t be as stupid as it sounded, given that Lookshy now follows the Immaculate position, which includes the execution of Solars. The plan is for Vox to accompany him as a diplomat and secret Solar agent, while Byrrden would act as a hidden protector. In the interim, Rose would hold down Zion.

To keep me from losing my mind, I would begin research and construction on a Solar demesne that had recently been found outside of the city. It’s true that there is nothing like a large project to occupy a worried mind.

We had two weeks to prepare, whatever Lookshy’s response. Rose worked with Vox to get his new business up and running. Caemlyn studied, and Byrrden presumably got kicked a great deal.

For me, another enormous project presented itself. A former Twilight friend of Durandal’s had begun work on an airship that was never completed, The Hammer of Dawn. Taking me to the demesne where it was stored, I could see the skeleton of the beast hanging in dry dock.
It was majestic. There are Haslanti shipwrights I’ve known who would’ve traded all they own to work on a project such as the one hanging before me. What’s more, it needed an animating intelligence installed, and that process would provide the groundwork for creating a way to integrate REBA into the manse project. I would clearly have my hands full for some time.
Which would be good, because the diplomats returned from Lookshy with the response: they accept Durandal’s offer.

The night before his departure, Vox was visited by a strange dream: a slowly turning white rose, with the constant questions, “What’s behind the rose? What’s beneath the rose? What does the rose hide?”

The day of the departure, he brings it up to both Caemlyn, who points out Durandal’s white rose clasp, and Durandal himself. Neither are sure, but Durandal feels it’s nothing bad.

Goodbyes follow, with Rose being instructed to trust Medli on all issues, and Byrrden’s trainer affirming that he’ll be fine.

The ship leaves and in two days meets with the Lookshyan airship the SkyWolf, accompanied by airborne warstriders, and Durandal is taken while Vox and a hidden Byrrden fly behind.
When they land, a wood aspect Terrestrial by the name Yushito Habo greets Durandal, praises him for coming to his “proper reward”, and attaches some metal object on Durandal’s chest that burrows into the bone and completely separates him from his Solar essence, leaving him powerless and in agony.

Back in Rathess, Rose is greeted in her home by a strange visitor: a seven foot tall, painfully thin man all in black leather, with soulsteel claws, and a jack o lantern helmet with soulfire eyes.

“I am an emissary from your greatest ally from the dead. I am Autumn’s Bounty Crushed to Pulp, a deathknight to the Lover Clad in Raiment of Tears.”

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Fate Reformed

As the portal to the Underworld sealed behind us, we finally were able to catch our breath after what seemed like weeks. Already the memories of the Unkindled Spiral started fading to the back of my mind, as thoughts of the present, the situation with the now omnipresent Deathlord threat, and my brother knights stuck in old world purgatory over in Lookshy.

The group began to disperse to check on their lives left on hold during our excursion to the deep Labyrinth. Dace took a breath of fresh air for the first time in a long time, at least momentarily unburdened by the ghosts of Gethemane. The Beacon let me know he would need to see me later. I nodded and rode off to the Bastion Invictus, anxious to get back to work.

Rose returned to her new Manse to check in with her family, and set up a large gathering for the following evening. Vox paid a visit to the small business bureau to start setting up an entertainment club in his Manse. Felsic arrived to inspect his own newly acquired Manse to find that B’o’gwai had taken up residence as a squatter and didn’t appear to have any intention of leaving. Byrrden, meanwhile, was once again patrolling the streets of Rathess and was approached again by the ghost friend that he’d made on his way into the Underworld the first time. He reported to Byrrden that a local watchpost had gone completely dark, and he was afraid to investigate further. As the outpost sat in what is the Underworld equivalent of Rathess, Byrrden decided to check it out.

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The outpost sat deathly silent, and though Byrrden telegraphed his arrival by knocking, nothing stirred within. Inside he found the building was completely empty, as though it had been abruptly abandoned. Using essence heightened senses, Byrrden was able to detect a faint scraping sound upstairs. In a wardrobe, he found a Deathknight crouching there, and carving a descending spiral into the back wall. Byrrden lunged forward with a surprise attack and drove his blades into the Deathknight’s back, who simply turned around and smiled silently. In a flash of deathly essence, the Deathknight withdrew into his own flesh and disappeared, leaving behind an empty husk.

The next day, Felsic had requested a tour of Rathess, and while my vigil is, in fact, unending, I figured a few hours away from the desk wouldn’t end all Creation. So, we saw all the sights, and afterwards convened at Black for a meal. There, Felsic asked me about my family and why I don’t make an effort to spend more time with them. I tried to assure him that they were in good hands, and that I legitimately had things to do which were categorically more important. He seemed upset, and likely thought I was being glib. Perhaps he will have a family of his own someday and see for himself.

It was then that we were interrupted by both Risa and the Beacon. Risa arrived to inform us Dace was putting on a barbecue hosted by the Skulls, and held over at Rose’s manse. I nodded, and told her I would be there shortly. She departed with Felsic, and the Beacon sat down to deliver some of the most devastating news I’ve ever received. Both he and Mela had withdrawn from the circle, in light of the new threat, and felt that they had to be perceived as free from my influence in order to make the necessary maneuvers in the coming conflict. I’ve no doubt that for Nougat this whole thing is a winding path that has only one navigable course and must be executed with precision. However, Mela leaving was not something I could have anticipated in a million years. The Motley Stone was returned to me, after a decade’s absence, I was once more dinh, but now in a circle of two. I placed my silvers down on the table, and left for Dace’s barbecue.

The following day I received a missive that my wife would be giving a speech at a symposium on defense in the great pyramid that night, and to bring the children. My understanding is that the rest of the group had also received invitations. It was a rather somber affair, with her speech in particular being a less than uplifting case for instilling fear and how fear is the fulcrum of battle. While I appreciate what she was trying to do, and perhaps that’s how she really sees things, that’s not how I view the world.

Afterwards, the Maiden and I stood in the foyer, with me awkwardly questioning her thesis, while people paid respects to the general. Rose came over and introduced herself to the children, after which everyone retired to their respective homes. Byrrden snuck into my house to deliver the news of the Deathknight he’d found carving that spiral symbol. Dace had told us of seeing the same spiral in Gethemane, in the week and days leading up to it’s sinking. I thanked him, and offered him one of our guest rooms for the time being.

In the morning, I awoke to the clattering of dishes downstairs, and assumed it was the housekeepers cooking. It was actually Rose cooking up a storm, with Byrrden, the children, and the housekeepers already up, waiting to be served. Dace made his way there as well, demanding a veritable mountain of bacon, as I assumed my wife was upstairs seething over all the warm togetherness essence that this had to be creating. There’s a reason she doesn’t live here.

Dace said he had something to show me after breakfast. So Dace, myself, and my youngest (at my wife’s bidding) went to go see what he had in store. Apparently the kingdom’s surveyors had found another incredibly strong Solar aspected demesne (no surprise there) and the councils had decided that it should to the Circle of Unbroken Fate, for use as a base of operations. It was supposed to be this great gift bestowed upon us as the founders of Zion, in acknowledgement of our position. It left a sour taste in my mouth, however, as all I could think about was losing Mela and Nougat. My foundation since I was a child had been ripped away, in a day, and I just wasn’t sure if there was anything left but rubble.

I thought and prayed on the subject for an entire day, and as has become common course, the Sun did not grace me with an answer. I thought of calling for Medli, but I knew what his answer would be. Just as the Beacon said, there must always be a Circle of Unbroken Fate. We are the vanguard and protectors of Creation. We have the mission, as decried by the Unconquered Sun, to return his glory to the world and bring about a lasting peace; an orderly world where virtue and kindness are rewarded and none need live in fear of the darkness. It is regrettable that Mela and Nougat must now follow their own paths, but that doesn’t change mine. I called Rose, Vox, Byrrden, Caemlyn, and Felsic to the Bastion. There, I asked them all to step up and take on the weight of mission, to join their fates with mine and become the protectors of all Creation. All but Felsic agreed, and added their colors to the Motley Stone.

The reinvigorated Circle of Unbroken Fate headed down into the Beacon’s manse to hear his briefing regarding the Deathlords campaign against all life. It was succinct, and without any tangible direction. The Deathlords are very powerful, it is possible that the strongest amongst them has gathered them all together for a single purpose. However, they are endlessly patient, so don’t panic. We are to follow our own path, and best judgment in trying to dismantle them, one by one. We may have to at time oppose the Beacon, as he will be leading a circle of Deathknights towards his own ends, and will need to appear at time as though we are enemies.

With that, the Beacon announced that he had a debt to fulfill, and fell to his knees, chromatic ooze bursting out of his mouth and butt at a high velocity, filling the room with a corrosive necrotic mass that began to take form.

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Prelude to the Void pt. 3

Marching toward the void the ground retreats as we go. Undead are everywhere. Lack of food has led to the party eating ghost flesh to keep going.

Dace marches ahead relentlessly, leaving Risa to lead the Skulls. Beacon has become concerned that Gengar has not been able to find an exit. The tomb of the Neverborn is also missing. It seems that the Neverborn’s dreams are keeping the exit obscured.

Rose meets with Risa to talk strategy. Rose suggests they seek out the Neverborn’s tomb instead of marching along the spiral. Risa says she will talk with Dace in the morning. Rose then approaches Durandal about her plan.

Durandal turns to Beacon and questions him about the tomb. Beacon proposes that the tomb itself is searching for the exit.

As the party is about to bed down for the night, Gengar appears with Water of Lethe. Gengar leads a scouting party to a two-tiered aquaduct. As the party nears the water they experience strange memory issues.

Beacon’s void gaze manifests and alerts him to the tomb approaching the aqueduct. It is poised to rip a hole between the labyrinth and the underworld. The Skulls mobilize to intercept it.

Back at the aqueduct Felsic crafts ladders for the Skulls to quickly ascend toward the exit. Then he creates a breaking point in the aqueduct to seal off the path behind them. Rose returns to Durandal and Risa to relay the exit strategy.

As Risa leads the Skulls toward the aqueduct, Durandal and Kaemlin fly to the tomb. Undead hordes begin spilling out of the tomb and swarm the aqueduct. When Durandal and Kaemlin reach the tomb a bone dragon crashes down into it. Dace slides down from its neck and enters the tomb.

Felsic, Rose, Vox, and Byrrden ward off the throngs of undead as the Skulls ascend the ladders. Beacon summons his bone dragon and aids the party.

Reaching deeper into the tomb, Durandal and Kaemlin come to a chamber with what appears to be a fetus with inverted limbs. Dace stands at the center of the room hacking away. Durandal joins him and drives his sword deep into its heart. From the wound insectile legs shoot out and wrap around Durandal. Dace finally recognizes Durandal and cuts him free.

The party continues to stave off the onslaught of undead. The tomb of the Neverborn edging ever closer to the exit. Beacon sends his bone dragon up to the tomb to save Durandal, Kaemlin, and Dace.

As the last of the Skulls filter into the exit the party holds the line. When the last are through Felsic hits the break point destroying the aqueduct.

The exit leads the party into the underworld. Now relatively safe, Durandal catches Dace up on the events of late. Rose shares with them the intel that Byrrden recovered. Beacon draws a door out of bone dust that brings the party to his underworld base. He informs Durandal that he has a plan. It’ll be fun he says…

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