Exalted

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.

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Trials of the Sun and Moon

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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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Spinning a Tale

Durandal surveys his city from on top his tower. He watches Felsic explore the wonders the city has to offer. Felsic is fascinated by the artifacts that help run the city. Durandal realizes something, and heads down to talk with Felsic.

Durandal invites Felsic home for dinner. There we are introduced to Durandal’s children Michael, Esteleah, and Gabriel. They are being watched over by their Pterok tutor Shree’ee and Kneah, the Lightbringer’s chief domestic.

They may or may not call him Uncle Feslic.

Durandal takes Felsic to the sitting room and tells him why he brought him into his home. “So Felsic, you asked me earlier, how did you put it? ‘Why are you the boss?’”

“I’ve been leading the Exalted since I was 12. One thing I learned is when you’re Exalted, no one is the boss of you.”

Durandal continues, “Everyone else was wrangled up by the Zion government. You stumbled across people in need, and literally leapt into action. Have you considered what you want out of all this?”

Esteleah sits down next to Felsic, peeling an orange.

Felsic ponders a moment, and then tells Durandal his origin story.

Felsic says, “I think what I want is someplace to have a grounding again. I do want a home. A place where I can get back to what I enjoy doing.”

Durandal gets to the point of why he brought Felsic here. “We have no chief artificer. My circle is the Circle of Unbroken Fate. I can recognize certain signs, and you’re the one who was drawn specifically and directly to me. The one who most exhibits the qualities my circle shares. You ask for no reward, leapt into action without thought. You continue to risk your life, continue to help. We consider ourselves the Vanguard of all of Creation.”

“There could be something here for you.”

Meanwhile, Rose is cooking like the wind. She has heard Caymlyn’s child is feeling unwell being away from Chaya. She wants to make sure everyone is well-fed and ready for the trip.

Durandal and Felsic get ready to head out. Durandal summons his FIrst Company’s sky-barge from underneath the mount, and it comes to rest in the lee of the tower, extending a wide. Two nacelles long the underside funnel essence to propel the craft. Captain Drederig orders the First Company of the Ordo Invictus to board.

Durandal, Caymlyn, Felsic Rose and her Golden Guardians board the Wind Chicken and set a course for Chaya.

Going back in time a bit, we find Byrrden sneaking aboard Felsic’s airship as it ferries Vox to Lookshy, instructed to watch Vox’s back. He stealths throughout the trip, catching sight of a man in a blue ninja outfit brewing tea behind some crates.

Once at Lookshy, he follows Vox and Dalia of the Chayan Guard but sticks to the shadow. He watches as Vox and Dalia get vetted, and follows them into the city as ox gets an invite to the funeral, and to stay at House Nefverin. He catches Vox’s attention and asks him for details on the funeral so he can scout ahead.

Vox talks up a servent girl and gets the deets: The funeral will be held underneath the city in the catacombs accessed via the parade grounds. The march will lead down below, where the remains of heroes are laid to rest.

Byrrden leaves Vox to explore the catacombs and “find an easy way in, and an easier way out.” The Night Caste easily lock picks his way into the underways of Lookshy. Inside are rows and rows of urns filled with ashes, heroic reliefs carved into the walls, votive fires burning.

He takes it slow and spots a single thread of spider silk, a very brilliant sort of silver. Golden runes skitter along the webline. Byrrden recognizes them as tripwires. He finds a few laid across the path of tomorrow’s procession. Byrdden clears the traps and examines them. He figures if Vox or any Lawgiver had walked through them, their Caste Mark would’ve lit up for all to see, in close quarters with dozens of Dragon Bloods.

Vox gets to know the family of Nefvarin Ranidos family: Rogro Yushuto, a military engineer and Ranidos’s stoic widow, Ranidos’s mortal father Lakaon — an irascible gossip — as well as her six children, two of them have been blessed by the dragons.

Vox talks to Lakaon and learns Ranidos died fighting a behemoth called the Borrowing Hillock beside his squad. The slain beast is currently being butchered for parts in the catacombs.

After a night of gathering intel and making nice, Vox heads to bed. He hears sobbing upstairs and investigates. In the armory is Lakaor, a middle son, clutching his father’s breastplate and weeping openly. There is a gaping wound painted on the white armor.

While soothing the young man’s pain, Vox learns Ranidos once executed three field officers for treason: His troop had captured three Abyssal Anathema. The Abyssals were trying to negotiate an alliance with Lookshy against the Mask of Winters, but a few of Ranidos’s officers became disgruntled with letting them live and went to eliminate them. Ranodos fought against them to protect the Anathema. He always said, “If Lookshy has no honor, then Lookshy is Anathema.”

The next day, Vox joins the who’s who of Lookshy to attend the funeral. It is very subdued, proper, and elegant. Afterwards, the socializing commences in the parade grounds.

Vox performs a poem, a tale of virtuous allies honoring an agreement. He gets a standing ovation.

Vox speaks with various high ranking individuals, trying to get them to honor their pledge to the Republic of Chaya. He speaks with Yushuto Utrax, brother to Rogro and Randisos’s lieutenant, who tells him of their last battle together. He also mentions the drama in his love life, about how his former lover Nerigus Dilioc has turned his gens against the Yushuto.

Utrax brings Vox to meet his Uncle Habo. Yushuto Habo wants Chaya to break off its association with the Anathema in Zion in trade for Looksy’s help. With a bit of persuasian (and charms), Vox is able to convince him it’s better to stop the horde before they rape and pillage the whole countryside and get closer to Lookshy. Habo agrees to vote for Chaya.

Vox next speaks with the most senior officer at the funeral, Strategos Karal Linwei. She is alone at the food table, having been ostracized due to rumors her daughter Fire Orchid has become Anathema. Linwei is not convinced that Lookshy should help Chaya, but Vox, using her daughter as leverage, convinces her anyone who fights Lunar Anathema is obviously not allied with Solar Anathema.

Having talked to the right people, and hoping he turned the vote in favor of Chaya, Vox prepares to depart. He waits for Byrdden to make himself known.

Speaking of, Byrdden had been dealing with his own problems. Keeping up with Vox via rooftops during the funeral, Byrdden spots a black widow spider, floating on the wind. He follows as it shifts into a woman, who starts taking aim at Vox with a blowdart.

Byrdden attacks the spider woman, who counter attacks with vicious jabs, trying to poison the Night Caste.

Byrdden focuses on the lunar’s blow dart. He knocks the weapon out of her hand, pushing it away from her. She back flips, slicking at Byrdden with moonsilver heels. She grabs the blow dart, grows additional arms covered in barbs, and takes aim.

Byrdden dodges and trades blows with her. He rushes her as she sprays him with a poison cloud of barbs. As he does so, a volley of blue Chakram comes out of nowhere, displacing the cloud. The Blue Ninja appears and stands at Byrddens side.

The Lunar shifts into a spider and flies off, carried by the wind and her silk, leaving a small token of red marble carved with a rose webbed to the nearby wall.

Byrdden meets up with Vox, who is casually socializing and enjoying the delicacies of Lookshy. Vox says, “Ah, Byrdden. Time to go. Let us get a cookbook for Rose and head back to the ship. I am so glad this all went off without any problems arising.”

Byrdden glares at him, walks off and mutters, “You’re welcome.”

The Wind Chicken rides the river toward Chaya. A storm marches towards them, intensifying quickly. The crew batten down the hatches and brace themselves. The wind seems to blow in a circle, surrounding the ship, very unnaturally.

Rose stands on the bow and looks out. She sees many pairs of slitted eyes glowing in the surrounding forest. She summons her golden bow and lets loose an arrow, and hears a screech of pain as it hits her target.

The wind intensifies and begins to lift the Wind Chicken into the sky! The wind becomes purple, and the crew can see the laughing heads of a beautiful woman repeated in the tornado.

Caymlyn recognizes sorcery and begins to enact a counterspell. The rest of the team realize they have to protect her.

Rose commands her troops to spread out and align themselves to the walls of the wind chicken.

From out of the forest spring dozens of winged men with the heads of bats, flying up above the tornado and diving for the ship. A giant bat with Moonsilver tattoos is in the lead. They hit the Wind Chicken en mass, shrieking and grabbing at anyone they can. The lead bat grabs onto Rose and carries her from the deck!

Felsic takes a defensive stance against the creatures, keeping Caymlyn protected while she casts her spell.

Durandal unleashes his solar essence, increasing the strength of Rose’s army. He summons Retribution and swings to and fro, reducing the size of the attacking army.

The wind intensifies and starts to spin the ship in the air. Rose’s archers let loose, sending beastmen raining down from the sky with each shot.

Carried away by the giant bat, Rose whips out her fire cannon and lets loose into its breast. So it releases her to fallto her doom.

Rose has other plans.

She cackles loudly, so loud her voice is heard over the beating wings and whirling storm. She summons her golden bow, pulls back the drawstring with her foot, spinning in the air, and lets loose an arrow of golden light. She channels the very essence of Creation and somehow leaps ONTO THE PHANTOM ARROW and rides it past the bat and back onto the Wind Chicken, slashing at the man bats, tearing their wings as they try to dodge this madwoman.

The giant bat chases Rose back to the ship only to be met with a leaping slash from Durandal. It blocks his attacks with moonsilver wings, or at least tries to. Retribution overpowers this defense, causing an explosion of blood and essence.

The Lunar flies off, leaving a trail of blood.

Caymlyn by this time has created golden runes that swirl around her. She cries out in an arcane tongue and the eldritch symbols explode in glass butterflies, shattering against the winds, breaking the spell and causing the Wind Chicken to plummet.

It more less lands in the water.

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Three Paths, One Destination -- War.

Kantyn Town, if it could be called that at this point, was in an absolute mess after the battle we’d fought on its grounds. From here we could still hear the sounds of Mahasuchi’s war band as it marched (shambled?) away. I watched as each of The Chosen took the actions of those familiar with conflict. Burning bodies, taking stock of our remaining resources, planning our next steps. All but Kaemlin, the poor girl looked right conflicted. Clearly this was her first rodeo. And my Uncle Hinglebotter had taught us quite a lot about rodeos growing up.

At any rate, I managed to throw together a hastily made supper in one of the nearly destroyed homes. I brought Kaemlin and the rest of group… (Circle? Hm.) to dinner and we unwind a bit from the days fight. Over the course of dinner we discussed a great many things. The Lightbringer shared with us some of the history of Creation. The Dragonblooded’s place in the world, their betrayal. The Lunar’s and their exile, their relationship to us.

We also planned. Durandal seemed reluctant to give us his advice, but helped none the less. Kaemlin and Felsic would go to the Chayan capital to alert them to the oncoming danger, and to plead with their leaders to hold back on their Fire Tree Festivies until the defense of the nation could be secured. Byrrden and Vox would travel to Lookshy, a military society, defenders of the Threshold, and primarily run by a host of Dragon-Blooded. Once there, they would seek out political aid to combat Mahasuchi’s horde. The Lightbringer and I would travel back to Zion, to make ready for war.

A productive, and wonderful dinner… if it hadn’t been for the … unusual company that The Lightbringer kept. The large Fair folk at the far end of the table continued smoking from its comically large herbal intoxicant. It seemed to be enjoying the steamed rice I’d served it. I nearly jumped from my seat when Felsic partook of the foul smelling weeds.

Vox, the dear, spoke with me about my … attitude towards that certain… individual. If it had been any of the others I would have just brushed off the question, but I could hardly resist the young man’s charms. I told him about the fall of Relics Altar, and it doesn’t need further repeating. I left him an extra special treat in his care package for the trip.

It turned out, Chaya would send one of their Lieutenants to travel with Vox and Byrrden. I believe the sweet dears name was Daelaa. Her purpose would be as a functionary or some such as a full Chayan representative for the party.

Felsic and Kaemlin, transported to the Chayan capital by the Skyship that would carry the others to Lookshy, arrive to a hero’s welcome. Kaemlin was shocked by the show of adoration, the people of Chaya weren’t usually a society of celebrators — with the one exception of course. From what I’m told it was kind of more like a city wide dinner party. I’m sorry to have missed it, that’s for sure.

Han Shihan, A Fire Tree Monk, greeted Kaemlin and Felsic thanking them for saving the nation. Kaemlin urges the monk to gather the elder monks as she has further misfortune to share with them. They travel to the Temple of the Firetree, a large temple of pink marble. The monks gather before the duo of Twilights who relay the threat of Mahasuchi and his war-band, prepared to strike when every last Chayan would be caught in the thrall of the Fire-Tree Festival. But none of the monks seemed particularly concerned with these particular details. They seemed, convinced that they’d be fine. Mahasuchi is just a Myth.

I think the fire of the Unconquered Sun itself was burning in Kaemlins belly right then because she began to tell those foolish monks what was what. Felsic confirmed the three monks looked beyond perplexed that one of their citizens would, or could go off at them. But, the bigger shock for them it would seem, was when she produced the fist sized, stony, and prickly Fire Tree Seed. She tried to warn them, tried to ask them to even just reschedule, but it all fell on deaf ears. They’d need to speak to their Gods, their guidance would be the final say all.

Leaving the monks, the two plotted a course out of town, a magical cloud summoned by Kaemlin would take them for the first time towards Rathess and Zion. But not without stopping off and getting me a Chayan cookbook, the dears.

The world rolled by below them as the flew on through the night, and after some time the Fire Tree Seed began stabbing it’s way through Kaemlin’s bag. It was moving and trying to escape! Felsic, being ever handy, managed to keep the thing contained. Their trip was uneventful aside from the seed thing. Kaemlin seemed to have … a very strong reaction to Felsic’s singing. I haven’t heard it myself, but I’m sure he’s got an absolutely lovely singing voice.

Days later they arrived in Zion for the first time, and Felsic nearly falls in love with the whole of the place, it’s architecture, technologies, and strange inhabitants all part of the spectacle of the Deliberatives city. They are greeted by Slesk, on of the cities many Dragon-King dwellers. He shows them to the Wind Chicken, where the pair begins to work on finding out just what was going on with that seed.

When they opened it’s sack, the damnable thing JUMPED right at Kaemlin’s face, and would have smacked its prickly hide into her if not for Felsic’s fast hands. Together they restrained it again and began operation. In a single perfectly placed slice of her scalpel the seed split open. Within, a labyrinth of hexagons became apparent immediately. Over the next several hours Kaemlin studied its every detail. It was endlessly deep, and there were trace amounts of Oricalcum and Adamant within it. It reminded Kaemlin of the Chayan slag heaps.
They decide it’s time to reconnect with Durandal on their findings, and travel to the Bastion Invictus. When they arrive they head towards the tower at it’s center hoping to find Durandal, which they do. Only moments before I show up with more than a little on my mind to aggressively share. But I get ahead of myself.

On the Skyship Vox, and Byrrden traveled towards Lookshy, at least we think he did? Vox spent much of the first day of travel with Daelaa learning about Lookshy and it’s people. The military class of citizens being known as Lookshys, and non-citizens being Heliots. Many smaller nations traded food and goods in exchange for the protection of the defenders of the east. Deciding he should fill in the other chosen he was traveling with, Vox scoured the ship looking for Byrrden. He finds instead a man in a blue ninja get up, did Byrrden pick a new fashion sense?

The next morning the sky ship arrives at a towering fortress that from a distance appeared to be more defense cannons than actual city. Some of which re-oriented to point directly at the approaching air-ship. Three of the cities defenders, riding gold and blue sky vehicles built for a single rider zipped toward the ship, a man covered in head to toe blue armor called out for their purpose. Political Aid, Vox told them from a distance, ever charming and polite.

They were granted a swift landing, which was promptly followed by about 8 or so hours of inspection of their persons and cargo. When all was said and done, and they were granted access, Byrrden was still missing. Suddenly the blue ninja reappeared, revealing himself to Vox as Tepet Mela, of Zion. He had several key pieces of information for Vox — Nethvaran Ranidos was a potent military ally… but he died last week unexpectedly. Today was the funeral. Mela recommended that Vox should try to get an invite to gain access to the war council. And since most folks are sympathetic to his cause there… it could work out pretty easily. Gentes Yushoto, or Karal – highly influential and more interested in intervention.

With all this information imparted, Mela left almost as suddenly as he appeared. Vox and Daelaa would travel into the city together, and find a city in mourning. The flag of Gentes Nefverens flew across the city, during the only time the citizens were allowed to express their emotions — for Death.

Quickly gathering up an offering of flowers they made their way to Nefverens house, a manor open to the public, with a line of mourners trailing out of the front gate each person taking their time to offer condolence to the 10 members of the house, gathered in it’s entry way. Vox, ever cordial, waits for his turn. He greets the family with the correct amount of deference, stating they traveled all the way to offer solace during this dark time for the family. Widow Nefverens almost smiles at his offering, almost. She does however offer Vox and Daelaa a place to stay within their house.

Vox finds their hall filled with status of the families heroes Ranidos’ included. He also apparently learned about Durandal’s past indirectly through the stories of Ranidos’ life.

And so, Vox realized, he’d have to stay in this city of Dragon-Blooded, a city which was filled with adherents of the Immaculate Faith.

As we traveled back on the crowded Wind-Chicken back towards Zion… we saw Mahasuchi’s horde, and it was expansive. We didn’t lose sight of it for some time as we were carried down a bend and out of sight towards the city of Solars. I expected that The Lightbringer and I would have some time to discuss our preparations, to figure out what our next steps would be. As another warrior I expected something. But he… he hardly cast a glance towards myself or my troops for the duration of the trip. I’d had half a mind to not serve him any of the desert I prepared… but I’m not a monster or anything. He did recommend that I get The Golden Guardians ready for the next deadly encounter with Mahasuchi.

When we arrive to Zion, we’re greeted by Nayeli from the department of new arrivals, such a sweet young woman. I wonder if she’s got a family or any children? I’ll have to ask her the next time I see her! I ask to be directed towards the armory, and catch a final glimpse of Durandal as he turned to whatever his next goal was. Somehow he seemed less… mythical in those moments.

He traveled into the Underways of Rathess, heading deep into the Shadowland that lay beneath the surface of the thriving metropolis. He navigated his way easily through dark hallways, filled with necro-fiends that all seemed to be unphased by his passing, familiar with it. Here in the lair of The Beacon Over Still Waters, he showed no fear. Not even as a hand of bone, sinew, and muscle burst down the hallway making arcane hand gestures. He was safe here in his friend, Nougat’s home.

Durandal caught The Beacon, his Circle Mate, up on current events. The new Solar Exalted who had suddenly come into his life. Gethamane’s disappearance, and Dace along with it. Mahasuchi’s war path.

Beacon was keenly interested in the situation at Gethamane, convinced that the effect they’d discovered was comparable to the forming of The Void itself, as far as level of severity and process goes. If he had to guess, only a Deathlord (or many of them combined?), or one of the Neverborne could cause something like this. He also speculated that IF someone had survived the process, they would very likely find themselves within The Labyrinth. This was all the hope Durandal needed. Tasking Nougat with finding Dace and the cause for the cities disappearance, he said some rather nice things to his long time friend. This caused worms to spew from the Deathknights mouth, and blood to pour from his blackened eyes.
Before Durandal could depart, The Beacon asked just how long he’d expected it would be before Durandal let them into his circle. It was something The Lightbringer didn’t seem too keen on himself. Nougat laughed, calling Durandal out for being the “Great Golden Lumox” he was being. Durandal left, returning to the Bastion Invictus to make ready for War.

For my part, I traveled to the Armory where I met a lovely Anklok by the name of Krod, he’s something of a grumpy gus, but I could tell the large lizard man was more kind than he might let on. He was basically in charge of the armory and it’s upkeep. As he took me on a tour of the facility, I gasped loudly with realization and presented the Dragon King with a spicy tart I’d been working on perfecting. He seemed confused but confessed to liking it.
After a really long time telling him about our travels and plight he agreed to equip The Golden Guardians with longbows and reinforced buff jackets, a much needed upgrade to their armament. It reminded me of a time that a traveler to Relics Altar had been more than generous in their trade agreement with my father and I was telling him the particulars of that day when suddenly and unexpectedly several racks of weapons toppled and broke, directly behind him.

It was the strangest thing. He needed to deal with it and I excused myself. Noting a grand mosaic of Durandal and his Circle. I frowned, the time I’d spent with it nearly equalled that of time time I’d spent with the actual Durandal. With a sigh I made my way to find the citizenry of Relics Altar, and the Golden Guardians.

I did not expect to find them within a large mansion. A Manse. A Place of Power I was told. This was apparently my home now. It was hard to take it, and was about to force them to find some other accommodations for my people… and then I saw the kitchen. It would be an absolute wasted opportunity if I didn’t cook in it at least once…

And cook in it I did, my sisters and I gathered cooking with our family and friends. I should have been happy, as we planned expansions of The Golden Guardians and our roles together in making it the best mercenary company this side of Nexus. But I couldn’t find my … heart in it.

That night Fauve, my youngest sister, approached me. And being my baby sister she always could tell when there was something wrong. We talked about my becoming a Princess of the Earth. About my feelings towards the other Solars, and my mounting disappointment with the one Hero I’d expected to help me. To help all of us new Solars come to power. Thanking my sister for the talk, I marched off directly to get Charlie and get myself to the Bastion Invictus. I had a need to share my mind.

Arriving at the Bastion, it was an impressive sight. But that didn’t matter so much as I marched towards it, passing Kaemlin and Felsic, who I did of course pause to hug. I stood tall as I approached Durandal and gave him a piece of my mind. He was the leader we needed in these dark times. He was the Hero who slew the Mask of Winters. He was the only person I knew of who could have a chance at stopping Mahasuchi, and our only hope of survival. He needed to step up or we’d all be doomed.

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Episode 3

Durandal, Felsic, and Kaemlin arrive at Kantyn, a small farming community, in the mid-morning. Moku’s horde is on the march to sack the town. Estimated time of arrival is 6-8 hours.

Felsic concocts a plan to spring a wall-like trap around the horde once they invade the town. He sets to work immediately digging the trench and constructing his wall. He also instructs the crew of his airship to snipe any fleeing barbarians.

Kaemlin plots her position for the impending battle. After tending to the villagers she scales the water tower for the best vantage point.

Vox aids in the evacuation of the villagers.

Durandal ruminates on the fate of his mentor Dace.
Rose took the Wind Chicken back to retrieve her band of soldiers. On their way to Kantyn they stop at a riverbank in Plum Grove. Rose spots a trio of Chayan horsemen surveying the area. She signals them and they respond in kind. The horsemen warn of the horde making its way to Kantyn. They give Rose directions and she gives them tea and cake. With their course set the Wind Chicken sails on. From the river they spot Moku’s barbarians and begin to plot their own strategy to protect the town.

Amid the horde, Byrrden is stealthing his way back to the party. From within the frothing mass of barbarians he spies a massive shrine of jawbones tied together holding an idol of a massive Arazcheki Chieftain painted in dark blood reds.

The Wind Chicken arrives at Kantyn. Rose and her troops disembark. Rose encounters Felsic who relays his trap plan. Durandal discusses the best use of Rose’s squadron.

The horde crests into view and shift into a sprint upon seeing the town. To break their spirit Byrrden kicks the head of the statue, but it is no use. The horde is seeking a glorious death and will not be swayed. The battle is joined and is fierce, unforgiving.

The lawgivers tap into their essence and unleash the might of the Unconquered Sun. Durandal lays waste to legions with his mighty sword. Rose rains solar flares from her trusty sidearm. Kaemlin begins conjuring her swarm of butterflies spell. As the attacks rain down on the horde Byrrden sprints across the top of them to safety. Rose’s squadron begins taking injuries, so she calls in her yeddim to bound across the battle field infused with golden essence. Kaemlin unleashes her butterfly spell, cutting a swath through Moku’s band and knocking down the statue.

As the statue falls away Moku materializes in its place. Moku stands 15 feet tall and wields two jawbone weapons. Upon materializing he joins battle with Durandal.
Felsic picks his moment, seeing the horde completely within the scope of his wall, and springs the trap. The wall shoots up around the city and pens in the barbarians. The enemy has been dwindled from a thousand to a couple hundred. Seeing the horde being picked off Felsic turns his attention to Moku.

Durandal strikes a mighty blow sending Moku to one knee. Felsic lays him out with a chop block to the standing leg. Moku rises and lashes out striking at the two Solars. Felsic is sent reeling. Durandal responds, driving his sword into Moku, spilling torrents of blood. Byrrden materializes behind the giant driving his tiger claws into Moku’s back.

With his dying breath Moku thanks the circle for a glorious death. He gloats that Mahasuchi is coming and then dematerializes. Runes escape his body, the words of his being swirl and break down. His final words “the sins of civilization will be washed…” and he vanishes.
Rose’s troops run down the remaining horde. Kantyn lays in ruin, just 30% of the structures still stand. The impact of slaughtering an entire tribe begins to set in.

Byrrden relays the information he was gathering while away from the circle. Mahasuchi is coming. Just then Bogwai burrows up from the earth. He would have fought, but then he got high.

Kaemlin summons a flame elemental to burn the dead. Byrrden loots the bodies. Felsic retrieves the decapitated head of Moku’s statue and retains it for artifact crafting.

After much debate on how to approach Mahasuchi the circle chooses to retreat. Before they can leave an older tall woman clad in black and red appears. She has sleek black hair, four eyes and a tracery of silver tattoos. She questions the circles decision and encourages them to meet with Mahasuchi. Vox agrees to parlay.

An hour later the horizon fills with Archeki and Bear Fist’s beast man army. A floating dais covered in skulls carries Mahasuchi on his throne. Part goat, part wolf, part man, Mahasuchi leans against his throne, dire lance at his side.

After exchanging pleasantries Vox questions Mahasuchi’s intentions. Mahasuchi states that Bear Fist inspired him to conquer the land. He claims he has the Silver Pact’s support. Durandal has Kaemlin send a mystical message to Winter Wolf. Mahasuchi states that he is planning on assaulting Chaya during the Fire Tree Festival. They will be helpless to fight back amid their annual orgy. Mahasuchi will withdraw to the borders for 3 weeks until the festival begins.

The horde about faces. Mahasuchi sizes up the circle then marches off.

Kaemlin decides to return to Chaya to warn her people.

Durandal will return to Xion.

And someone needs to go to Lookshy to beseech support.

3 weeks…

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Bear Fist

The six Exalted stand in the plum trees and take in the aftermath of the battle. Felzik tells Durandel what he found at Gethemane, or more accurately its remains. He hands over a note and the sigil that comes with it is recognized by Durandel and he probes for more information. Vox hears his tyrant lizard from up in the Sky Chicken and goes to calm him down and meets Bogwai, the stoner troll, who’s been resting and smoking in one of the large stalls.

Caymlyn is focused on returning to the capital of Chaya, Larjyn, to get back to her daughter. In the aftermath of what happened she meets Felzik and Vox. They explain that she is a Solar Exalt. The wild hunt will be looking for her and Felzik. Durandel contacts Medli about the letter from Dayce, asking if he can be contacted if he is actually in the under world. Medli tells Durandel to see to his Circle and to trust Dayce to take care of himself. A group of Chayan riders approach led by a monk named Xan Xouhan. Durandel explains to Caemlyn that she actually won’t be hunted automatically and eases her mind a bit. She goes back outside to greet the monk. The group is impressed and bow to her, much to her surprise. She also feels alone around them, as if her connection to her people has been severed.

The group is introduced to Laialyara, general of the Chayan forces. Her camp of soldiers have a calm but dutiful demeanor. She shows them an ornate map with displays the movements of the Archeki forces around the Chayan Empire. One set of enemy forces has bear symbolism and one has the profile of a broken jawbone. The jawbone is a symbol of Mokuu, who was an Archeki warlord in the vein of Genghis Khan who was only stopped by the Scarlett Empress. He was literally elevated to god status after his death. This group that flies his banner is known as Mokuu’s Band. To get the Archeki to parlay we will have to allow them to surround us and not attack.

The Circle find and are swallowed up by the Archeki horde. They surround then and then stare them down. Vox demands to speak to Bear Fist. He emerges from the horde and after acknowledging us he orders the horde to make camp. During negotiations, Bear Fist tells us that Mahasuchi is coming along with his army and wants to wipe out the Chayans decadent and weak way of life. They want to find a new home. We must hurry their way there. If Mahasuchi catches up to them, Bear Fist must fight. Keep the Chayans from attacking and he won’t attack.

We take an airship to Larjen to meet the council. We tell them what we have learned from Bear Fist. They need to discuss the proposal but it may take days. Caymlyn retrieves her daughter and the Circle heads out again.

On their return to the war camp they learn that the broken jaw are headed to the town of Kantyn.The Circle heads there to prepare for battle. Felzik goes to work building traps and other structural improvements. The attack will begin soon.

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A New Dawn
(And Twilight, Night, Eclipse, and Twilight...)

After years of silence on the subject, I decided today that I would finally come clean to my captains about my seemingly fallen status as the Lightbringer. The peace that the intervening ten years has afforded me space to not be questioned about it. No conflict has arisen requiring enough exertion to make my Anima flare. For the most part, nobody seems to have noticed; however I had been waiting to see if another would arise to take my place, and none have. For the first time in my life, I find myself in a position with all questions and no answers. I have repeatedly asked Medli for guidance, only to be waved off, saying “If it is not you, then I do not know who is.” When I approached Dace on the matter, he barely managed to restrain an eye roll and said “Yeah, Boy. Cause all the shit you done is cause-a yer stupid-ass, girly wings!”

So I am left with no choice but to assume that I am being punished for my actions when I faced the Mask of Winters. With that in mind, I summoned all available captains to the war room for a mission briefing. After a brief explanation, my offer to leave the Ordo was soundly ignored, and I dispatched Third Company to deal with a potential threat in Ahn Teng. After dismissing them, I stood out upon the balcony, which years ago is how I would always enter the tower, and pondered how quickly things seem to change. It feels like only yesterday I was running through the Scavenger Lands with Mela and the circle. Little did I know what awaited me this day.

Down in Rathess sat Byrrden of the Night Caste, in a small tea house close to the Rim. It had been a long, and no doubt arduous journey from his homelands, and now he sat contemplating his next move. He overheard talk of a newly arrived group of refugees resting in a camp not far down the road. Of particular interest, rumors held that a newly chosen was amongst their number. He set off to investigate.

At one of the Rimside gates, Rose of the Dawn Caste (called “Rebel Rose” by her followers) had approached with her entire village in tow and sought aid from Zion. Her village had been attacked and destroyed by the Fair Folk, it would seem. A governmental representative was dispatched to discuss details with Rose and her group. Meanwhile, as the refugees were offered rations, Rose cooked up a gift of baked goods and offered them to the gatehouse watchmen. A camp was made available as short term shelter for her group, and after a short discussion, it was determined that a functionary from the office of exaltation should be involved in the proceedings. Rose’s grandchild was escorted to the nearest clinic to have her broken arm treated.

Haslanti_Airship_01.JPG

In the north, Felslic Ashlar of the Twilight boarded an air skiff to make his way from Grieve to Gethemane. As partial payment for his voyage, the crew asked him to make repairs to the ship, which had fallen into disrepair. Looking over the vessel, Felsic was able to immediately determine that not only could he repair the ship, but he could also upgrade its functionality. He could do all this mid-flight. So it was that the crew offered the Twilight the best accommodations they could manage, as well as a full refund of his boarding fee. A makeshift harness was constructed to suspend Felsic’s considerable bulk upside down as he worked on the hull. With a slight twist of essence, the ship was repaired and new modifications already turned the six day journey into four.

Back in the east, a young Eclipse by the name of a Vox Mallux brachiate through the dense jungle foliage and ascended the tallest tree he could to spy on an encampment of Arczeckhi, a group of Wyld barbarians and raiders. There he found their entire territory had been emptied out, and tracks indicating a march towards the Chayans, a peaceful people who had no standing army to speak of. Young Vox had been trying to broker diplomatic ties between his people and Chaya, and decided he needed to seek aid immediately. Of Chaya’s known allies, Zion was the only one in a position to help. Summoning his familiar, and companion Onyx the Tyrant Lizard, Vox made haste towards Rathess.

In Chaya, Dr Caemlyn, a respected and well known physician, specializing in reproductive medicine, was hard at work trying to discover the source of the annual fever that overcomes her people. Using mortal Thaumaturgy, she managed to glean that the source of the fire tree pollen present in her people’s blood was from the fire tree seeds themselves. She needed to find a way to collect a specimen, but the Chayan people have a religious devotion to their fire trees, and only entrust the handling of seeds to their [fire tree monks]. Calmly, the good doctor went to have breakfast with her daughter Xandrel as she considered her options. There she overheard a guardsman of the Chayan defense force speak of raids being conducted recently by the Arczeckhi, and she had her plan. Dr Caemlyn gathered her things and ventured off.

In the North, Felsic arrived well ahead of time thanks to his adjustments to the airship. As they approached, the crew reeled in horror as they beheld that Gethemane was gone. There were no signs of struggle, no scars of battle upon the frigid ground. Instead, the entire city, and a portion of the mountain it was born into had completely disappeared, leaving a perfect cylindrical bore heading deep, deep into the ground, where no light could escape. The ship, having only planned for a one way trip, was nearly out of fuel. Luckily, the crew informed Felsic that they had a hidden refueling station not far from the city, as the war-torn north often demands such backup plans. They anchored the ship and began refueling, as Felsic went to inspect the quarters of the now missing attendant. There he found no sign of attack or struggle, no sign of search, or any other untoward activities. Instead he found what looked like a reasonably well kept bunk, and a pair of clothes missing that Felsic could only surmise was the attendants dress wear, based on what had been left behind.

It was then that the crew alerted Felsic to an approaching traveler. He went out to meet the man, and discovered it was a badly wounded soldier, still in his uniform. He carried a white rose clasp, torn from a great cloak, and wrapped in a crumpled flier for a celebration that was being held in Gethemane the night before. On the back, scrawled in thick, bold lettering, was a note to someone in the province of Zion, which Felsic only knew of apocryphally. Even so, without any better options, and a clear destination for the message he now held, Felsic answered the call of Fate, and had the ships crew to fly him south, to Zion.

In Rathess, I arrived with Vox to seek the advice of the Council Exterior. If anything involving troops were to happen, we would need their help. We rode hubward to the Great Pyramid, and were greeted by functionaries. As I requested an audience with the council, the good people of Rathess flocked to see the newly reborn Eclipse and ask for blessings. The functionary ushered us into the waiting room of the council where we were greeted by Rose and Byrrden.

Byrrden had been watching for evidence of Solar activity, and discovered Rose to indeed be a princess of the earth when she revealed her caste mark to Tessi, the functionary who had been helping her acclimate to Zion. So Byrrden followed the next day when Rose was summoned to the Great Pyramid to meet the councils request for aid. Seeing this as his opportunity, he revealed himself as chosen to the functionary, and followed Rose inside.

Upon seeing Vox, he and Rose erupted into a heartfelt embrace. It would seem those two have some history. Hmm… Fate is a wheel, and even the exalted can only do so much to fight it. I might have pressed further, but Mela appeared to usher us into the meeting.

For their part, the council was sympathetic to the Chayans plight, and wanted to intervene. However, their suspicion is that the Arczeckhi are being maneuvered by Bear Fist, a Lunar disciple of Ma Ha Suchi. The decade of calm since the fall of the Mask has afforded the ancient Lunar time to scheme, and the theory is that he is trying to goad Zion into violating its non-aggression pact. So if Zion were to send its army to stop the Arczeckhi invasion, Ma Ha Suchi would interpret that as an act of aggression against his ally and therefore him. Allowing him to freely send his beast man hordes against Zions exposed flank while the army is in Chaya. Therefore, the council resolved to enlist myself and our new arrivals to head out to Chaya and resolve the dispute as free agents.

As we approached Chaya aboard the upgraded Wind Chicken, we spied a Chayan woman under assault by an Arczeckhi raiding party, with Bear Fist himself in the wings. My fellows leapt into action to engage the raider’s advance. I summoned my panoply and began the long sojourn into closing distance. Rose and Byrrden took on the brunt of the Arczeckhi’s flanking attempt, while Vox harried them from the boat. I walked forward. The Chayan woman, meanwhile, erupted in Solar essence as she met with her second breath, and immediately blasted the main raiding force with a torrent of lethal spells.

As this was all happening, Felsic’s airship had apparently arrived at this very moment, and a very large, brick colored man swung about on a rope to scoop up the woman and bring her to safety. Meanwhile, I walked into range as Bear Fist signaled his forces to withdraw.

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Welcome to your campaign!
A blog for your campaign

Wondering how to get started? Here are a few tips:

1. Invite your players

Invite them with either their email address or their Obsidian Portal username.

2. Edit your home page

Make a few changes to the home page and give people an idea of what your campaign is about. That will let people know you’re serious and not just playing with the system.

3. Choose a theme

If you want to set a specific mood for your campaign, we have several backgrounds to choose from. Accentuate it by creating a top banner image.

4. Create some NPCs

Characters form the core of every campaign, so take a few minutes to list out the major NPCs in your campaign.

A quick tip: The “+” icon in the top right of every section is how to add a new item, whether it’s a new character or adventure log post, or anything else.

5. Write your first Adventure Log post

The adventure log is where you list the sessions and adventures your party has been on, but for now, we suggest doing a very light “story so far” post. Just give a brief overview of what the party has done up to this point. After each future session, create a new post detailing that night’s adventures.

One final tip: Don’t stress about making your Obsidian Portal campaign look perfect. Instead, just make it work for you and your group. If everyone is having fun, then you’re using Obsidian Portal exactly as it was designed, even if your adventure log isn’t always up to date or your characters don’t all have portrait pictures.

That’s it! The rest is up to your and your players.

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