Exalted

Dust in the Wind
The Void V

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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Versus an Army of Darkness

Caemlyn is asked to speak with the Committee of the Interior Yan Farsin, about the rising of the undead and underworld activity within the bounds of the city & nation. Farsin hopes that Caemlyn is able to work with a local sorcerous to create a way to prevent further incursions. Caemlyn agrees and goes to seek out the one called Ariana.

Caemlyn reaches a looming tower known as the Needle Ethenium, very long tapering cylinder that disappears into its own cloud. Made up of pristine white marble and no windows, it is daunting. Over the entrance, written in old realm “Knowledge is Power. Through Wisdom, Exaltation”

She walks up the vast steps and realizes she is being scanned. A ramp appears before her and carries her up the rest of the way. She sees various tomes and texts galore. When she reaches her destination, she sees several humanoid entities covered in porcupine quills, pouring salt into arcane pattern to form a circle, where the powerful sorcerous stands, Ariana overlooking the work.

WIthout glancing at Caemlyn, she gestures for her to come over, and asks “Tell me if this is a perfect circle of Abjuration.”

Caemlyn answers correctly, which causes Ariana to finally look at her. “I very rarely look at a woman taller than me.”

Caemlyn says, “I received a message from Farsin, I am willing to help with a proper circle.”
Ariana gives her access to her library, and Caemlyn gets to work

She researches for a long time. She discovers that if a solar circle level spell of abjuration is performed once a year by the exalted, that should prevent further incursions by Shadowlands.

A sorcerous working to seal Rathess against the rise of further shadowlands.

Caemlyn and Ariana begin their casting. Channeling vast amounts of essence, including those that came from various demons in the tower, they succeed in fortifying Rathess.

Ariana gives Caemlyn a book, one borrowed from her past incarnations. They are notes from the 11th Doctor. These notes include information on the Labyrinth. A rubbing, in very unpleasant writing, says “The Black Cycle will spiral into the void from the gift I have made from the malaise of your soul.”

Arianna tells Camelyn that Byrrden is in a Shadowland and will be in the Labyrinth soon. She conjures a small creature made of fire for Caemlyn to follow so she can reunite with him.

Speaking of Byrrden…

Earlier, Byrrden overheard the conversation between Caemlyn & Yan Farsin. He goes a-skulkin, checking in on the homeless and disenfranchised of the city. There are not many. He wanders into an old Dragon King home, and chats with the current occupying residents. They mention that an old friend of theirs came to visit…even though he was already dead. They tore him apart with shovels.

“It was nice of Lord Octavian to visit us like that.

Byrrden continues his journey and ends up in an abandoned scrapyard. He sees a ragamuffin child, sneaking their way between scrap piles. In their hands is a cluster of scrolls. Byrrden realizes that he can see through the pale child. A ghost. Byrrden follows.

Byrrden is led to old town Rathess. As soon as the child steps into the old town, he stops being transparent and solidifies. He seems much more at ease, at home. Byrrden doesn’t recognize this part of the city but continues following.

The child walks up Egyptian style robbed ghost and is about to hand scrolls. “This is what our spies could find of their troop movements, security info, etc.”

Byrrden distracts the ghosts and steals the scrolls from their grasp. He takes off into the darkness, but then sees a small creature made of fire coming towards him, followed by Caemlyn.

As they reunite, Byrrden is about to lead them out when the ghost child catches up to them. “Those are mine.” “

Byrrden goes, “No, they are mine.”

“No, they were yours. Now they’re mine.”

Caemlyn asks why she stole them.

“That git with black skin, and his gits, they work for a deathlord, when a git tells you to do something, you do it, or else, you end up as a face in soul steel.”

They say that they’ll protect her from becoming soul steel if she helps them. She agrees and tells them her name, Wentworth. Wentworth leads them deeper into the Shadowland, saying their friends are already in there.

Back in the Shadowland…

We go through the exit that Gengar led us to. Behind us is a giant sprawling castle. Swarming out from behind us look to be skeletal warriors and ghostly creatures all heavily armed. All are decorated with hangman’s nooses, with victims pulling off nooses to do battle.

Dace’s army is before us, charging. We realize that they’re after the undead, and not us!

A giant hunched figure moves along the ramparts. The pale skinned hunchback creature with a hangman’s gibbet rising from back, hanging wailing spectres with long robes on it.

THE FRICKIN HANGMAN leaps from the belltower and begins swinging from the bell and rings it, sending the various undead towards the team.

Dace charges at Durandal. Shoulder checks him, and slashes at him. T Force of the blow knocks his feet into furrows in the ground.

The Beacon arrives, summoning a skeletal dragon that takes flight firing necrotic breath at the skeletons. Beacon looks over at Durandel, “Is that you? Are you sure you’re not a ghost? Dace thinks you’re a ghost.”

Vox attempts to shine his light on Dace, to break his thinking we’re an illusion. His anima flares as he yells “By the light of Unconquered Sun, let his power pierce the illusions clouding your mind!”

Dace shakes his head a bit, taking a step back. He still seems to not recognize Durandel, but is no longer attacking him.

Durandel asks Nougat what’s going on with Dace. The Nougat says he’s been like this for a while, but it could be the whole being stuck in The Labyrinth.

Vox tells him to tell Durandel to tell Dace something only they would know

“Okay boy, gotta make sure your footwork is correct, if you’re feet ain’t right, nothing is right.”

Dace looks at Durandal. He shouldered him aside, “If you try to fool me, i’ll still kill you.” He begins to bark out orders to his army.

Byrrden opens up trapdoor, finds himself crawling out of a hole dug in where the castle meets the ground, appears to be in some spiraling labyrinth heading towards black void in center filled with mountains, castles, and other landscapes.

They’re behind the lines of well disciplined mortals. Women in green jade armor, attack flood of undead. A Necromancer stands on opposite rampart overseeing flight of child size bone dragon. A flash of gold catches his attention, and he hears Vox yelling at Dace. He sees his party, as well as a castle full of undead.

He casually walks over to an archer. “So um…what’s going on?”

The archer says, “Fighting undead. Are you with those idiots up front?”

He says, “Sure.”

“Then hit the undead with something.”

Caemlyn stands behind them. She sees the necromancer. “That must be Nougat.”
Nougat’s voice rings out. “THE BEACON!”

Caemlyn begins to charge up her spell. Rose activates her style. Vox readies his skycutter. He looks over at Gengar, and says, “Go. Play.” With a vicious smile, the creature disappears. Crunching bone can be heard coming from the undead army.

Caemlyn cuts a swath through the army of undead. The Solar army takes advantage and charges at the castle, invading it. The Hangman chucks a giant copper bell at the team, barely missing. He prepares another assault as the solars go inside.

The solars all leap, to and fro, on top of the falling structure and the various undead, to reach the top of the tower, where The Hangman waits.

Dace charges at The Hangman, swishing his sword with gold contrails, leaping up in the air with thunderclap rush attack thunderbolt attack prana and swarms down on The Hangman’s form. Hangman catches blow with wrist, and gets cut halfway into wrists.

Nougat summons his bone dragon, increases its size, calls Caemlyn to join him, and they ride into the sky.

Rose drops down between The Hangman & Dace. She shoots it square in the face as The Hangman attempts to grab Dace by the throat.

Durandel leaps into action, a corona of radiance surrounding him as pillar of golden flame, follows his slash at The Hangman, who roars in pain.

From ontop of the Skeleton Dragon, Camelyn launches a fiery raptor at The Hangman, the righteous fire burning him and those around.

Dace uses momentum to slash the giblet on its back, blood gushes from wood as he rips it away and hops down, blood steaming off armor as his anima becomes iconic, a massive crystal skull with smoke billowing from eyes and mouth

Nougat shoots off bolts of necrotic energy at The Hangman, cutting a hole of pure void in him.

Rose makes a shotgun cocking motion, leaps up into the air above The Hangman, spinning in the air and calls out the name of her weapon “Repentance Sigh” and launches a pure bolt of heat, an explosive ball that hangs in the air and then explodes in a pyre that shaped like a rose bush.

Everyone takes their turn, slashing at the giant beast, taking him down, one by one. Finally, Dace takes his daiklave, pierces The Hangman’s head, and causes the behemoth to finally collapse.

A moment passes before Dace simply says “Burn this abomination. SKULLS, we’re moving!”

“I see where you get it from, that charm of yours.” Rose says to Durandal, as she watches Dace leave.

When Dace is out of earshot, The Beacon comes over “He’s been strange the past few days. His spirits were already frayed when we arrived, and being here has weighed on him.”

Nougat has been trying to find ways out, but has been unable to locate a path out of The Labyrinth. Vox whistles and summons Gengar. Vox asks Gengar if he can lead them out. Gengar nods and Vox scratches the creature and begins to sniff his way out back into Creation.

“You’re creepy. I like you.” Nougat says with a smile.

Vox instinctively puts on the charm.

“OW! I’m gonna need a minute.” Nougat says, dabbing at his bleeding nose.

Felsic asks Durandal how he’s doing. Durandal just goes, “Let’s get out of here.”

The spiral is very slowly spiraling inwards, towards that void. Towers & Cathedrals start to hit the void and the unkindled spiral, breaking down and falling into the abyss.

Caemlyn asks Nougat about the etching from her notebook.

He says it’s written in The black speech, the language of underworld and void.

“Each portion of the labyrinth is dreamed up by the Neverborn, as they sleep between death & life. Each neverborn has it’s own personality and psyche. This unkindled spiral dreams of conquest, one of castles & cathedrals. There’s no tomb, just the void. This rubbing, was taken off the ways of the Neverborn’s tomb. I don’t know what it’s implying, or if it’s just sinister gibberish, that you just hear and encounter and work close to the void.

This could be gibberish, or it could mean something. I would hold onto this and if something recurs in the underworld, it has resonance. If it only happens once, it’s just nonsense.”

She nods, pockets the note, and everyone follows Gengar out of The Labyrinth.

View
The Creeping Dark
The Void and You

We all stood there, in the throne room of the Nameless Lair of Mahasuchi, whose body rested beautiful and extremely dead at our feet. We’d done something impossible and increadibly sad in our act of ending the ancient and mad tyrant. Its something I hope that we do not come to regret.

Outside his remaining beast-men were fleeing into the jungles. Could we have tracked them down and done the pragmatic thing and put an end to his line? Yes. But… it didn’t seem right. One by one the Lunars who had watched the whole show down take place begin to leave. The largest and most aptly named Leviathan paused before leaving. “I remember having you inside of my mouth.” He indicated to Durandle. In a flash I was at the Lunars side giving him a cookie. I hoped it would help him forget such a taste. He transformed into an orca colored trout and swam away upstream. Lunars are… an interesting group of people.

Winter Wolf, remained behind, stoic and strong. Felsic approached him, asking about the future of the Lunars now that their full cycle of Castes would be returned to them. He supposed some of the Pact might find this reason enough to change their Castes (is that a thing we can do too? I’ll need to ask the good Doctor about that). But, bare minimum it meant a far richer future of choices for the next generations of Lunars. Vox and Felsic offer that should the Silver Pact need any assistance with the research around the Castes that Kaemlin and the Sorcerrers of Zion would be happy to assist. Winter Wolf, the former gladiator, transformed into a hawk and flew away.

Durandle spoke separately with Eyes of the Canopy. They spoke of her joining him in the Unbroken Circle. It seemed like the kind of thing that she’d maybe asked about before. But, she confessed, toying with the false canisters gifted to her by Felsic, she didn’t want that now. Not … right now. In her past life she had been known as Seven Devils Clever, and they had been together for a time. Her Moon, paired to his Sun. She died by the hands of The Mask of Winters, who; Durandle would personally slay. She had no regrets about her death. But now, things were complicated. His Deathknight wife and all that. For now she’d go and work on the restoration of the Castes. But she would return, and with that she left.

Guided by Byrrden’s guidance Vox found his way to Onyx, who was being a very good boy and letting Bear Fist pet his massive scaley nose. There appears to be more than a little… er sexual tension in the air. Vox remained calm and betrayed none of his intentions, unlike Bear First. But Bear Fist was as direct as his name implies, did Vox truly mean to help him gather his people back together now that the conflict was done. He made a promise and meant to keep it.

As for me, it really is interesting the things my old eyes can see as I leapt and bound up the side of the Zigurat of Ma Ha Suchi. At the peak, Camazots, the Lunar I’d only ever seen as some giant form of Angry Animal form, greeted. Now, a handsome olive skinned main with bat -like ears, he thanked me for my help in showing him a path more virtuous than that of working under Ma Ha. Now he would set his sights for the lands of his people, with the noble goal of helping them flourish. We promised the next time we met it would be as friends, and he admitted, he might well be a new Caste by then.

We shared one last meal before setting off towards our new goals. Vox with Bear Fist. The rest of us to Zion our mission complete for now.

On the Wind Chicken, Durandle’s … Fair Folk… ally, brought us the tale of the final confrontation at Chaya. The people of Chaya had become docile, drugged it seemed, all at once. The Barbarian’s took their opportunity. And they would have laid waste to the nation had it not been for the arrival of The Seventh Legion. Lookshy had come through! But, and of course there was one, I mean why wouldn’t there be? Lookshy had proclaimed themselves the Protectors of the Chayan Republic, and had done so as part of their stead fast defiance of the Anathema. As such, all of Durandle’s men had captured and were being held in Lookshy itself. One of Durandle’s men had gotten a message out to the Fair Folk. “With friends like these who needs enemies. Don’t come for us, we’re being treated well, doing war here would not be a good thing. The Lookshyans assume after a time the mortal troops will no longer be under his influence. Love Dredrick.”

As we prepared to disembark the Wind Chicken, Felsic and I came to a business transaction. If he could help build some special weapons modifications, and create some special wands for me, I’d cook him anything he liked for dinner any night he was working on a project. I also mention to him the location of my good friend Krod’s foundry as a good place for building.

We were greated by our friends, and Tessie, the charming immigrations officer let us know we’d need to debrief back at Yuan Farsons office. When we arrive we a greeted with drinks to our success at saving the people of Chaya. He appologized that Tepet Mela could not be present, Durandle requested that one of Mela’s monks be sent for so he could send a message to his master. We also learned that for our efforts, those of us who had not been citizens of Zion were now, and that we as Solar’s were now part of the Deliberative. Also that housing of a fancy sort had been granted to many of us. Manses.

While the rest of us went off to make Zion our permanent homes, Durandle hung back spoke with the Monk he’d sent for. Nefverans Ranidos had been assasinated. Passing on the message, he set off for his home to be at last reunited with his family.

Felsic turned his attention to REBA next, he set out to forge her a … well I don’t rightly know what you would call it. A home I guess. Basically it would keep her alive until further measures could be taken to expand her to her former glory.

Before moving my family into our new home, Fauve took me asside and talked about the lovely meetings they’d had with Lizard Lords and the other locals of Zion. And I told her about my plans for us to set up our new home as a bakery, a source of income, and the nerve center for The Golden Guardians.

In the days that followed, we would learn of strange happenings around Zion. Ghosts. Shadowlands. The Labrynth.

Reports of Shadowlands forming in the Underways. Lizard Lords fighting Undead Lizard Lords in holes that formed between the land of the living and the dead. All happening in a rapid repetition. The Beacon Over Stillwaters should be keeping the Underways, but that appears to no longer be the case.

Durandle, in the market, is approached by shopkeeper whose friend has gone missing. Alena’s husband Corin suffered from depression and took his life. A few days later, Alena stopped coming into the shop. She wouldn’t have brought it to the Light Bringers attention if it hadn’t been for the concern that the dead husband might somehow be involved.

Minutes later, Durandle found himself looking into the doorway of a tired and disheveled looking woman. Alena. She was shocked, to say the least, that a Legendary God-King stood on her doorstep. He called into her house, demanding by right of his Caste that Corin manifest himself in his presence. Corin appeared, and admitted that he’d been with his wife a while after he realized he could manifest in Creation. Alena confirmed the presence of a shadowland she’d seen other ghosts through. Durandle put Corin’s soul to rest and advised Alena to move out for the time being until the proper measures could be taken.

Several nights later at the Foundry, Felsic was working on some special projects when three roiling boiling slag monsters make there way out of a transformed slagpit, covered in skulls and bones. Felsic leapt forth and smashed the opening of the pit closed, while Krod dispatched the three undead beasts. It turned out three men had recently fallen into the pits and somehow, that turned the pit into a mini-shadowland. Something that shouldn’t have been feasible to form off of such an event.

Elsewhere Bear Fist and Vox traveled, gathering the Ar’cheki people for a bit over a week. Bear Fist again didn’t try to hide the fact that he was still interested in Vox. But Vox insisted he was more interested in becoming friends right now. During their travels one band of the horde evaded detection. The Dreaming Tree Band, so named for their habit of impailing Dreamers, a habit carried from the tribes time in the Wyld, where dreamers could be a liability.

A day later the found the band, in a forest filled with ghosts impaled and hung from the trees all around. At the center of this, area the tribe marched forwards towards a nightmare of ghosts, that swarmed and consumed the flesh of those who entered in an instance. Vox jumped into action, letting himself give in to his power. Glowing he called out to the tribe, calling them back from the dream, the nightmare that had them under its sway. His words reached their hearts, and they were pulled from whatever sway the ghosts calling to them head. They knew Vox to be real. The most real of anyone they’d ever known according to the dreaming tree band.

Winter Wolf turned to Vox then, and warned that he should return to Zion and tell them of what has happened here. This newly formed, and rather deadly shadowland was right on it’s borders. In agreement Vox and Onyx took back off towards Zion to warn the people of the danger already well in progress.

Upon his return Vox finds out just how true this is. He see’s Bog’wa’i beating up several ghosts in a park. Exorcists and salt-slingers all a flurry of activity. Myself flying from building to building to support those in need. Our Circle convenes at a restaraunt called simply “Black” the decor, the plates, the staffs clothing… all black. The Food… mostly black. As we passed through I took note of several ingredients hanging around. It smelled … good? I’ll have to come back an investigate at another time.

Through Black we reach our goal lead by Durandle, the underways of Zion. We’re eventually greeted by one of The Beacon Over Still Waters servants, Sera. She’s a pretty girl, and also a ghost or zombie? Something unnatural. Nexus Grey is out of town, she tells Durandle, but she’s got someone to introduce us to that can help us get to the Beacon. Kimba. The Shark-Lion-Monster-Ghost. He will be our guide through the Labrynth and to Beacon… and potentially Dace, Durandle’s mentor, and chosen of the Sun.

With no delay we step through a gateway to the Labrythn… is it okay that we have that under the city? At any rate, it feels like we’re drowning inside our hearts as we step through the portal. Our connection to Creation severed, we no longer respire the power of the Unconquered Sun here. Only a faint trickle of energy comes to some of us, any one holding a Hearthstone. It’s a shock to say the least, and for the first time since I’d arrived at Zion I felt particularly stressed about a situation.

The Labrynth… surprisingly is a lot of life…er activity going on down here. A non-stop, end of the world type party. The Void is coming, for whatever that’s worth. Traveling under the pale lanterns hanging above us, we come to a square filled with Ghosts. As we enter the square we notice our footfalls leave behind bloody hoof prints. Vox, notices a face that looks like Durandles watching him from a side path, but a horrific ghost version of him. Vox waves at it before it disappears.

At the center of the Square, is the most vile and terrifying Ghost I’d ever laid eyes on, and that’s including Kimba. A Nephrack they called him, he beckoned to us, from a well of The Void. This Nephrack serves The Lover Clad in a rainemnt of Tears, and is known as the Dread Neffy… the Nephrack? A name it emparts, that it gained from The Beacon some years before. Vox and Durandle do most of the talking. Finding out that the ghosts chained here are to become part of the Lovers Armies, and that Neffy wants us to find The Beacon as this will somehow further his mistresses goals.

Vox, lovely sweet Voxy, inquires of the ghosts joining the army. Did they want to do that? Not all of them it seemed did. And so, through his usual way with words six of the ghosts join us in our travels to finding Dace. Neffy gives us one last bit of parting advice, look for a place of marked by spears and swords, and we will find Dace.

We travel for several days… though it never does get sunny down here, and one night during our rest Vox had a strange dream. A dream of sitting in an opulent garden, sketching a mouth over and over again, filled with sharp teeth. When he awakens, it’s there in his face, that smile. A Ghost, Gengar, looks at him expectantly. I call for alarm, seeing the ghost bite down on Vox’s arm that he extends to the creature. Vox reassures us all is well, and that having drank of his blood that Gengar is now… his friend. Vox and I do need to have a talk on how friendship works.

Another day or two pass in this horrible place, before we find what we are looking for. A fallen city and castle, that we approach its porticulous open, but veiled. This, we reason, has to be the place. Steeling ourselves we pass through the archway hoping to find Dace and any of the survivors from the City he had been protecting.

And find him we do. He, his army, and a woman in green jade armor face us from a distance. And the army begins to charge at us on his command, no recognition for any of us that have suddenly appeared. A handsome General of the Sun sending his army against us? I guess this is just our lucky day.

View
Trials of the Sun and Moon

Adventure_Log_-_Felsic.jpg
The powers available to Durandal are nothing short of incredible. I confess that I did not know how we were going to be able to flee the ancient manse to avoid what would likely be a very unpleasant death by Raksi’s poisonous mist, but a gateway directly connecting two discrete points of Creation was an excellent solution. I wonder if it is something I could replicate, perhaps with Caemlyn’s help, but I had little time to devote to this puzzle as we the exit of the gateway was the top of Ma Ha Suchi’s ziggurat. And an alarm had been raised.

We were greeted by Byrrden and Effulgent Petal, a young woman he seemed to know who clearly had seen harrowing trials but retained a cheerful disposition. She also had eyes full of stars, which I took an immediate disliking to, but Byrrden clearly trusted her greatly and that is enough for me for now.

Ever the tactician, Durandal recommended we meet the inevitable oncoming horde in a more defensible position, and thus we made our way to the throne room, a place once opulent but now ravaged and foul, reeking of a primal madness. There was little time to wait before legions of Ma Ha Suchi’s goatmen were upon us. For half an hour their assault crumbled on our effortless defense, bodies stacking high and clogging the doorways, until some beast in a panic ordered the expelling of the rutting pens, the vile pits where Ma Ha Suchi kept unfortunate captives for breeding purposes.

We had no time to clear the bodies, but from somewhere within me came a massive surge of power, and with my shield deployed to act as a fender I plowed a path through the dead goatmen with no more effort than to knock over a child’s snow fort.

In the pens, Rose flew into the fray scarcely ahead of the Lightbringer, both blazing with righteous fury, as our Circle felled the remaining goatmen. We were not able to save all of the captives, but we were the saviors for most. But what to do with them? Rose, Petal, and Caemlyn saw to various physical and mental wounds as best as they could. Vox, assured by Petal of the freed captive’s capabilities, roused their will to give them the strength to leave. He has an impressive presence for one so slight.

As we made our preparations to leave, a sound that can only be described as the cracking of a gigantic egg came from outside. We did not expect to see that the source, once we stepped outside, was exactly that: a giant ivory and moonsilver egg, spinning in midair for a moment before its shell exploded in all directions, depositing Rose’s Golden Guardians in a heap, topped by one stunned tyrant lizard.

Her people filled us in quickly on what had transpired: a Lunar named Errol Polishes Bones Flies Over Dunes disapproves of the ways in which Ma Ha Suchi and Raksi have engaged in conquest; thus he is temporarily an ally; he suspects Ma Ha Suchi is hiding something from the Silver Pact; he trusts Durandal and his Circle to ultimately deal with him and provided a means for the Golden Guardians to rapidly rejoin Durandal, which I presume was the egg, a much less elegant mode of transport than the gateway.

Byrrden chimes in with what he believes Ma Ha Suchi had been hiding: vials of moonsilver that seem to hold some power over the Lunars that he found in a hidden location in Ma Ha Suchi’s quarters. If they are what Byrrden suspects, then the ancient Lunar will be furious with us, indeed, and we had little time to discuss tactics.

The best move would be to peel off Ma Ha Suchi’s Lunar companions as widely as possible to leave him alone and unprotected. Petal would take most of the freed slaves to the jungles to hide, though one named Green Hair – speaking for herself and a decent contingent of others – stood up to be a part of the fighting.

Durandal wouldn’t have it, and expressed his condemnation for fighting for vengeance. I could see that he was trying to protect them, these people who had been through so much, and the thought of further suffering coming to them pained him greatly. It hurt my soul to go against him, but I had to point out that they needed this and would fight with our without our leave. Our only option, our only way of helping in the time we had, was to prepare them as best as possible.

Preparations were made all around. Durandal grudgingly trained his new “fighters”; Rose took her people to hide in ambush; Byrrden walked me through creating decoys of the vials – some of my finest work to date, and were nigh indistinguishable from genuine First Age artifacts – that he used as part of a false trail he set up in the jungle; and Vox changed, somehow, to be more appealing to the Lunar Bearfist, whom he felt he could reason with.

When twilight fell and the sun and moon both hung in the sky, Ma Ha Suchi and his army descended on a bridge of moonlight and began to fan out into the city with orders to leave none alive. Our plans began to unfold.

Sheoldred the spider began stalking Durandal, oblivious to Byrrden stalking right behind her, while in the catacombs Durandal stalked – the other kind of stalk – after Deatruma the terror bird. Sudden attacks from the shadows, and surprise deflections from unseen sources ensued, with Durandal standing steadfast in the middle of it all. There is something both amusing and mystifying in the image of a shining golden point at the center of three swirling shadows, as if it were the beginning of a joke or a prophecy, though I am unsure which.

Rose, Caemlyn, and I were involved in scenarios more in keeping with high adventure stories for the common people. Rose tangled with Camezots the bat in a battle of flight and flame, her guns streaking fire through the air, finally engulfing the Lunar with 1000 Caresses of Hell, a charm so tortuous that he willingly formed a tie with Rose just to make it end. Meanwhile, I distracted Shardik the brown bear with a chase through the streets, harassing and frustrating the brute to allow Caemlyn the time to summon a falcon of fire. The elemental lit the beast ablaze while a well timed elbow drop from me rattled whatever he had for brains.

Off in the jungles, Vox awaited Bearfist the black bear, who was stunned momentarily by our Eclipse’s appearance, enough so that the two were intimate in their conversing rather than adversarial; or at least that is how it seemed to me upon the retelling. It seemed that Bearfist wants to resume leadership of the Arzecki, something he cannot do with Ma Ha Suchi still in control.

At this point, Ma Ha Suchi, annoyed that we are all still alive, bellows that the vials have been recovered and that we should step forth. No sooner does he do so when a large white-haired Northerner – who was not me – appeared next to the mad Lunar: Winter Wolf of the Silver Pact. Ma Ha Suchi would not be murdering Solars today; instead, Winter Wolf had arrived to bring Ma Ha Suchi to trial by the Silver Pact. They verbally sparred very briefly until a man of black and white skin – not wholly unlike that of the Southern Djala, but patterned differently and perpetually wet – and twice the size of Ma Ha Suchi himself appeared. Leviathan. The mad Lunar ultimately submits to a Silver Pact trial.

The Lunar trial was a rather straightforward affair: charges, evidence, conviction. He was accused of abusing the conquered, and cruelty for cruelty’s sake, with Bearfist himself laying those charges at his feet. Ma Ha Suchi called the accusations lies and that his actions were within his rights. I honestly believe that Ma Ha Suchi was telling the truth; that his, that he truly believed he had done nothing wrong. But then it was revealed what was in those vials: the castes themselves of the Lunars. Still claiming his innocence, Ma Ha Suchi demanded a trial by combat in what seemed like an attempt to force Durandal to drop his own charges (which, naturally, he did not). But no, he would fight our entire Circle. And so it would be.

As preparations were made, Rose spoke with Ma Ha Suchi, asking why he hid the Lunar castes. He found them on a vision quest in the Wyld, and to his thinking the reclaimed castes would make the Lunars weak, that there is only strength in the ferocity to seize what is yours. The two briefly debated the merits of strength, with obvious disagreements, but in a distorted form of compliment the mad Lunar told Rose he would enjoy killing her the least.

Durandal and Winter Wolf met as old friends to decide on the venue of the trial; Durandal felt that the throne room would be the most appropriate. Winter Wolf wished him to fight well, and pragmatically laid claim to the Lightbringer’s belongings should he die. The Lunars are a strange folk.

All assembled in the throne room, the formalities were observed while Lunars lined the walls to watch. Winter Wolf bid the battle begin and thus was I thrust into a fight like none I had ever experienced. Caemlyn, Durandal, and Byrrden were flurries of blades, with our Chayan Twilight being unexpectedly devastating with her scalpels. Vox and I were quite effective with simply our fists, while Rose couldn’t seem to decide if her guns worked better as melee weapons or firearms and was determined to try a variety of attacks.

Ma Ha Suchi was every bit as formidable as one would expect of a Lunar so aged. He removed knives and shrugged off slashes as one would splinters, disguising Rose as a copy of himself, and launching into a liquid fury of spear thrusts and moonsilver flames that even set the Lightbringer on his back foot.

For all his ferocity, however, even an ancient such as he was the lesser against a full Solar Circle, and Durandal, his daiklave blazing with essence, delivered the killing blow. With a burst of silver light, a beautiful young man stood at the end of Durandal’s blade, and in Ma Ha Suchi’s voice sighed his exhaustion, and fell down dead.

“May his essence go to one as worthy as he,” said Winter Wolf, as the Lunars left the throne room to let our Circle recover. Durandal set the body alight with essence to leave no corpse and let the spirit rest. Rest that we were not yet to have, for though we saved the Chayans and removed the blight of Ma Ha Suchi, we still had to contend with the threat of Raksi as well as the mystery of the disappearance of Gethamane.

I later learned that at this very moment, a grotesque creature of bile sacs and spider legs that was ancient in the First Age was clawing its way out of the utter destruction of the Void. As it topped the ridge, however, it was unprepared for and unable to stand against the armored boots and forceful imploring to “GIT! DOWN! THUR!”

When down thur it got, Dace was approached by Beacon, who informed him, “I thought you’d be difficult to find. Then I remembered it was you and just followed the bodies.”

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Mending the past

We arrived at the central manse, named “Earthzeal”, to the sound of REBA warning us that the gravity therein was not fixed but dependent open ones location. It turned out to be a large geometric shape where all the walls were floors, the center housed a matching observation chamber, and “up” actually meant “center.” After prodding REBA a bit, we were able to discern that the central observation platform was, of course, the hearthroom. The manse’s hearthstone had been forgone in order to power its many features, as I suspect is true for every manse within The Doctor’s network. However, essence architecture is based on geomancy, which tends to demand that master controls be in the hearth room regardless, as the heart of the manse and focus of the local essence flows.

Byrrden was resting aboard Felsic’s borrowed skyship when two of the passengers, Xandrel and the Chayan Captain both were overtaken with the Chayan blood frenzy. Byrrden held them still as Mela appeared from the shadows, calmly placed his tea down, and put both Chayans to sleep with a simple nerve pinch. As the two were being taken below to presumably be restrained, a bat Lunar appeared on the bow of the ship. She introduced herself as “Eyes of the Canopy”, and part of Winter Wolf’s group. She informed him that though they had indeed arrived to aid us in the fight against Ma Ha Suchi, and though the elders of the Silver Pact would rather be without his faction’s extremism, the mad Lunar had something which prevented intra-pact reprisal. She offered him an opportunity to change that before all the fighting started, and he agreed. They took flight aloft buoying squirrel wings, and headed towards the Nameless Lair of Ma Ha Suchi.

We discerned that whatever surface one is closest in proximity to here would take over as the gravitational anchor point. It was simply a matter of getting close enough to the central chamber for that to occur. And so, cradling Felsic like the world’s largest infant, Rose performed a dramatic and graceful leap to the chamber. I followed suit, with Vox and Dr. Caemlyn holding my shoulder plates for stability.

The doors to the chamber were all constructed from Adamant, ruling out any breaching attempts. After staring blankly at each other for some time, Caemlyn finally said aloud “Recurring entropic behavioral anomaly” the acronym forming REBA’s namesake. The doors opened and we indeed found a master control console. Many functions were either useless or in malfunction. However, we were able to restore essence flow to the manse by physically aligning the main conduit with the central chamber.

We asked REBA for an estimate of how long we had before the viridian corruption broke through the barrier into Earthzeal, and were given a handful of hours. Pressed for time, the group split into several functions. As a whole, the group was concerned with extracting and preserving REBA for future use, and given that the corruption was likely to decimate the manse, that became an immediate concern. Rose went off to find parts for a storage device.

I began to question REBA as to the solution to our actual mission. Having previously stated we could stop the distributor process in Earthzeal, I was distressed to find the AI seemingly backtracking on me. It explained that the REBA we’d encountered in the wood aspected manse had not been up to date. Meaning, that each manse somehow had a unique instance of REBA, and that conditions in Earthzeal had somehow changed since the 10th Doctor died. It also informed us that shutting down the distributor system would result in every host’s sudden demise. But not to worry! Because the distributor system was independent from the function of the manse, and therefore would continue in perpetuity. With that, we’d taxed the limit of REBA’s knowledge regarding the manipulation of the distributors, and so we had to seek our answers elsewhere. I accompanied Caemlyn to the library, where Felsic was already heading to seek knowledge of a storage device for the AI. Meanwhile, Vox decided to explore the rest of the manse for anything interesting or useful.

Byrrden and Eyes skulked through the Nameless Lair, overrun with jungle foliage, and long since scourged of any of its beauty, natural or man made. There they witnessed first hand the heartless cruelty of Ma Ha Suchi, and his disregard for humanity. Here, only beastmen walked freely, all others were hoarded in crude cells, wallowing in filth and misery, awaiting another turn in the aptly named “Rutting Pens.” In the central pyramid, they found the chambers where the more attractive subjects were kept, and there chained up was a young woman with red hair and star flecked, violet eyes, who recognized Byrrden. She called herself “Effulgent Petal” and said she was the reincarnation of his sensei. Byrrden did not know his master had been slain. However, she knew where Ma Ha Suchi might be keeping his valuable items, and so he freed her and they made haste farther up the pyramid.

In the library, both parties found the information they were seeking with relative ease. Felsic dove into researching schemata for his storage device while Caemlyn discovered the process for reprogramming the distributors. All she needed was a functioning fire tree. Meanwhile, Vox had been exploring the other chambers of the manse and encountered a medical room filled with various grotesque and failed experiments. Amongst one of the rows of cabinets was mounted a curious green Jade compartment, inside rested what appeared to be a severed hand, the back of which had a hairline crack similar to repairs made on fine porcelain.

Vox and Caemlyn met up in the arboretum, where the Dr. had gone in search of a fire tree. There they found an artifact planter which, according to REBA, was made for the purpose of rapid photo-genesis. Putting two and two together, Vox suggested that they take Caemlyn’s dissected fire tree seed to the jade box in the med lab. With the seed restored and fully functional, the two returned to the arboretum and buried it in the artifact planter which immediately spun up a fresh fire tree. Caemlyn began her reprogramming ritual.

In the storage warehouse, Rose had found enough parts to construct a rudimentary storage system for REBA and hurried back to the library where Felsic was putting the finishing touches on his design.

In the Nameless Lair, Byrrden and Petal (with Eyes of the Canopy hidden in his pocket) made their way into what appeared to be a large trophy room, filled with various artworks the mad Lunar had torn to shreds over the years. Byrrden’s watchmen’s eyes flared to life, and the chamber began to disclose its secrets. He moved the tattered shreds of one of the paintings into alignment, as it shimmered with a magical aura. The painting became ethereal for a moment, revealing that the hidden storage space was inside the painting itself. He reached inside to pull out two large flasks, filled with a shimmering moonlight colored liquid that continuously churned within its confinements. The tops were sealed and branded with what looked like strange Lunar Caste marks. An alarm began to sound throughout the Lair, a combination of a Wolf’s howl and Goat’s bray. Eyes of the Canopy darted out of Byrrden’s pocket and excitedly began pacing back and forth in front of the flasks. She pleaded with Byrrden to take the flasks with her immediately.

“Will this get us the support we need?” he asked
“Oh yes!” she bubbled with excitement

He handed her the flasks and she opened what appeared to be a spatial rift or portal between herself and another location, simply by tapping her White Rose Brotherhood medallion, which she had clasped to her belt and that nobody had noticed until just now. As she scampered through the portal she threw another medallion at Byrrden, saying he could use it to contact me.

Back in Earthzeal, I’d been sitting around in the library, watching Felsic work, when my own White Rose Brotherhood medallion went off. It was Nougat. He informed me that he had located Dace, or more specifically, Dace’s soul trapped in the Labyrinth. He could not determine whether the soul was attached to a still living Dace, or just his severed spirit, floating aimlessly, perilously close to the actual void. He offered to go investigate it himself whilst I’m otherwise preoccupied. When I asked him how I could find my way down there without him he reminded me that my wife is, in fact, Abyssal, and apparently they can all just go there like it’s a vacation spot or something. (How am I supposed to know these things?) Also that a void circle necromantic spell had been cast on Gethemane to teleport the entire city into the Labyrinth directly, and that likely the majority of the population had been slain as a result. When I asked who had the power to do such a thing, he speculated that it was likely a Deathlord, or possibly multiple in tandem. I told him to be careful, and he said some such smart alec thing before cutting the line.

Winter Wolf, who apparently also is also part of the Brotherhood, then contacted me to let me know he had responded to my plea for aid. “Um.. you..got guys?” I stammered, still surprised to be called by him. He informed me that he had brought his soldiers to bear, however the Silver Pact’s elders were holding them back, for fear of retaliation by Ma Ha Suchi. However, Byrrden and one of Winter Wolf’s agents were on mission to try and correct that. Before closing the line, he informed me that he had intel that Ma Ha Suchi had dispatched a team of assassins to our location, set to ambush us as we emerged from the manse. I thanked him for his aid, and wished him luck.

It was then that I got a frantic beeping sound on my end, as though someone who didn’t know how to use the medallions were mashing it erratically in the hopes some magic would happen. As it turned out “Hello?” I asked. It was Byrrden, who revealed that he was in the Nameless Lair, and soon to be besieged by Ma Ha Suchi’s remaining guard. He told me that he had just seen a Lunar with one of the medallions teleport away, leaving him in the hot seat. I was perplexed “I don’t think mine can do that” I told him. Medli’s voice shot back a response “Yes it can! You just don’t know how to use it right!” In that moment I wondered how many had been given these, and if everyone was privy to all communications. Byrrden, however, was already out of time, so I told him to do whatever the new voice told him to.

Medli instructed Byrrden to go as high as he could, so he clambered with Petal to the pyramid’s summit. Then, Medli said, “Think Durandaly thoughts” and as he did, a spatial rift opened before my very eyes. I beckoned Byrrden to come through to our side, however Medli let us know that it was a one way channel, which would close when the person summoned closed the circuit. I got on the manse’s intercom “Everyone to me, we’re leaving now.”

In the arboretum, Caemlyn had finished her ritual to reprogram the behavioral inhibitor spores, and had done her level best to turn off any behavioral modification, thus returning free will back to the Chayan people. She and Vox hurried back to the library. Rose arrived, handed the parts to Felsic and dashed through the portal without hesitation. Vox and Caemlyn followed. Felsic snapped together his containment drive, but had to rush the download, reducing the efficacy of the unit by 40%. He stepped up to the portal “So… this is one way?” he asked.

“I think so” I said. “I’ve never done this before”

We both jumped through, and landed in the Nameless Lair of Ma Ha Suchi, his sickening alarm competing with the braying and clattering of his remaining personal guard readying for the coming tumult outside.

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Echoes of the First Age

We arrive at the Slag Pits. The inhabitants, the Slag Dwellers, keep to themselves and the Chayans generally leave them be. They’re often just referred to as Slags. The Slags recognize the symbol from inside the seed Caemlyn has. They say it is the Sign of Home. That it’s part of the rocks of this land. Rose gives them cookies and they lead us to the center of the pits. Vox notices that the whole area is filled with calming scents and that likely overtime this has warped the Slags into their docile appearance and personality. They tell us about the Naval, where they have their sacred place.

Caemlyn looks at the crater and deduces it was formed by Solar Sorcery, at what is now the center of the crater. This whole area was almost certainly geomantically landscaped and could be returned to that way if they weren’t let to grow over. It’s possible an Exalted of the First Age was responsible. He or she likely put up defenses before a battle and the are still active in some way.

As we get closer the euphoria gets stronger. We meet a beautiful woman wearing a belt of Orichalcum and Jade. Only an Exalted should have something like this but she is also mutated to look like a fire tree seed. She is a living font of compassion.
We reach the Naval and slide down to the center. At the center is a solid pentagram the size of two manholes. Caemlyn examines the pentagram and deduces that it can be opened by spending a Solar essence and completing a test of character.
Rose enters and finds herself leading her people and meeting with the leader of another tribe who has been raiding the south before being affected by a drought that has only just begun to hit them.

Durandal finds himself having just felled a great monstrosity. He knows he had to use poison, a cowards weapon, to even stop the creature. The creature pleads for mercy and asks to be given a quick death. Durandal does not hesitate and ends its suffering.
Caemlyn finds herself on a beach on an island to the wes, lying next to a man she loves. In order to cure a terrible blood disorder, she will need to take a blood sample from her love but it will kill him. She says thank you and takes the sample.

Felsic finds himself in his hometown in his home with his mentor. He leaves to see a man with violet eyes waiting for him. He is asked if anyone else was Exalted with him. He says no. He’s given a head start and starts to run.

Vox finds himself on the way to meet someone called the Hierophant. He is called by his concubine and told he has a few hours to spare and that Onyx misses him.

We all awaken into a long vaulted room with wooden walls carved to look like a forest canopy. We see three circular vault doors, the central one completely choked by vines. The other two are held open by the same vines but not completely blocked. We then find a room which contains a giant model of the inside of the fire tree seed. It seems to allow us to align various emotions to ultimately cause a general feeling of calm. It appears that the Chayan people may have actually been engineered, either purposefully or otherwise, by the Solar that created this place. We investigate the next few areas and find a console that allows us to remove the vines blocking the central doorway.

In the center of the main room we see what should be the Hearthstone pedestal of this place, a clear cylindrical adamant tube, dripping with wood essence which makes it glow slightly green. We meet Reba, an AI from the First Age. She greets Caemlyn.
We learn of Xo-xo-chi 001, and Xo-chi-chem 014, whom Caemlyn recognizes as the chief god of the Radiolari. Then Xochichem suddenly appears and calls Caemlyn an Apostate. It appears they are a regulatory spirit that has become a minor god through the belief of the Chayan people. Caemlyn convinces the Radiolari to stop by pleading her case for free will.
And then Raksi, Queen of Fangs shows up. She says she’s Ma Ha Suchi’s girlfriend. And then attacks us with Solar sorcery.

Rose blows a hole in the path forward and we flee. We hear a voice saying Pedestrians Detected and we enter a moving vehicle that suddenly appears. Upon entering, we’re suddenly subjected to the next test: Motivation.

Rose has trapped an enemy army in a ravine and gives orders to crush them.
Durandal finds himself in a ruined palace. He is approached by a man in a gi with violet eyes and tells him that he does not want to kill him, but the next world will be better.

Caemlyn is performing an experiment on an ancient Chayan known to her only as Number 615. The implant of regulatory pollen is 98% and he is the key to her success, but he begs her to let him go. She tells him she must continue, for the betterment of all, and pulls the lever.

Vox finds himself with a heavily modified version of Onyx and has him fighting with a tiger-striped lion with a flaming mane and tail. He orders it to strike the final blow.

Felsic gets “error” but sees us mentor again and all is well. His experience is not disturbing, but almost serene.

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