Exalted

The Mighty Jungle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tombs and Plains

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I do not much like this man.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talks of Politics and The Leopard of Khirighasf.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Night to Remember

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

She’s beautiful.

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

The Circle decides to bring her to my humble manse.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Felsic sighs, and gets to work.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thus, a month passes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next stop, Harborhead.

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Dust in the Wind
The Void IV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Caemlyn’s message reaches Panther…

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A Tale of Two Cities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Deathlords, And Also Lookshy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because Abyssals.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was good to have a family again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fate Reformed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Prelude to the Void pt. 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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