The Whorl

Game 33 - The Underworld
4,400 XP = Total: 91,420 XP

Recipient: Engineer-General Tishana, Fortress-City Central, Mailstop Theta-Zero-Zero-Nine
Sender: Chief Priestess-Technician Lucia, Outpost C895, On Assignment
Re: Progress Report

With the return of the Goddess of Heat Regulation to the pantheon, I've noticed a larger number of derelict machines than previously thought returning to baseline functionality. I brought with me only three decades of my soldiers on what I thought would be a straightforward mission to address power-regulation and repair in the Somdet sinkhole, but the more changes I see, the more I realize I should have brought a whole century to engage in widespread take-and-hold operations for critical junctions. I have, of course, sent messages back to the Outpost instructing my Second to begin preparations, but we cannot permit the Enemy to get an advance march on us. Battlemaster Len agrees with me. We're pressing on to secure critical junctures newly freed from millenia of flooding.

Fortunately, we have unlooked-for allies in this, and they have already proven… surprisingly capable. When Yama sent me a vision of the Broodmother of the sinkhole being attacked by a squad of inner-surfacers with the implication that I should take my three decades there to see if we could finish the Broodmother off after she was weakened by their assault, I did not actually expect that they would succeed in killing the beast, but succeed they did, although not without some cost. One of their number, some surface-variety of gnome named Tavi, was afflicted with the Broodmother's peculiar curse requiring powerful healing their own cleric could not yet provide. To this end, Lieutenant Samanya persuaded them to come to our forward camp. I admit, I wanted to meet these inner-surfacers. Tavi, in particular, has been of great help to our efforts, creating an extensive network of trade on the inner-surface that our own operatives have used to funnel war materiel down below. 

The rest of them were no less impressive. I have spent my life making a number of assumptions about the soft, weak, pampered and protected people who live up above utterly unaware of the threat that we constantly keep at bay, but it would seem that even amongst the spoiled children of The Whorl there are those blessed enough by the gods and skilled enough in magic or combat to warrant inclusion in our ranks. I asked them to join our expedition for the greater good, and also for whatever reward they may request that we can grant. They acquiesced, some motivated by the former, others by the latter.

Traveling with them was intriguing. They were wide-eyed the entire time. Clearly things that are fundamentally ordinary to us are marvelous to their eyes, and similarly they spoke of things that are only dim concepts to us, like the "sun", or a "river", or "trees." Fabricator Fizzik, in particular, seemed enamoured of Tavi, and she seemed suitably flattered by his attentions. Bonds of camaraderie are strengthening despite our disparate cultures and different languages. 

My decision to press on and not wait for the remaining seven decades of my century to catch up to us was proven wise. The partial maps granted to us by Yama enabled us to find a major junction, and it was already infested. Had we delayed even a day, I fear we would have faced an established hive complete with a larva-mage. As it stood, we only faced an elder oblex and a handful of intellect devourers. Under normal circumstances, such an engagement would probably have cost me a small number of casualties, but the newcomers more than pulled their weight. Notable successes included tactical use of terrain and control magic, as well as an unexpected expertise in ancient technology that permitted them to remove the larva-mage's gestation sac from the power junction before it could fully gestate. As a result of these successes, I can report no losses from that engagement.

We are fortified in the junction room at present. Yama has re-established control functions over these systems with the help of my spiders. Once we receive the all-clear we'll proceed to the secondary relay. If we act quickly enough, we can re-establish firm control over newly-active systems before the Enemy can leech power from them and increase in strength. Thus far, no sign of any illithid colonies or the sorts of creatures they spawn. It would appear that they have not yet realized that the systems that previously kept them at bay have returned to their original functions. We may yet have sufficient breathing room to accomplish our sweep-and-clear without significant further obstruction.

P-T L 

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Game 9 - The Vizier
2,375 XP = Total: 13,020 XP

Auntie,

When Giniro Toshiko approached the court to sponsor two half-drow siblings as citizens I knew I had to figure out why. Her tale of rescued orphans was laughable. What could have prompted someone of… her reputation… to dip a claw into this sort of politics once more? I gave the official who had the duty of delivering the invitations the day off, threw on an anonymous cloak, and went to meet them myself.

The first one, the woman, Laith Sidana, was actually in an orphanage. The one run by Konsho Takashi, no less. Quiet inquiries led me to believe that she volunteered her time there frequently. This only deepened the mystery. Lady Toshiko likes bleeding-heart types even less than she likes politics. Still, there was something… odd about her. And as I left, I thought I heard faint, sinister, hissing laughter from somewhere above me.

The second one, the man, Rajeev Two Notes, was a bit more the sort I would expect, but he proved enigmatic in his own right, nearly instantly recognizing me even in my disguise. Not even other Dragonborn look at me twice dressed like that, but he knew exactly who I was the moment I approached him. This suggested a deeper involvement in politics, or at least a greater awareness of the players, than one might expect from someone sponsored by Lady Toshiko.

I delivered their invitations to become citizens and left with the mystery unresolved in my mind. I had so many other things to concern myself with, however, that I was unable to really return to it. You already know about the report my father received about the movements of the Monster army approaching us from duskward, along with news of its leader, the Warlord Whisper. That a tiefling spy from faraway Mithila should risk her life to deliver that news provided me with precisely the political statement I was looking for. She was hardly in a position to refuse my request to present her at the ceremony to "recognize her contributions" despite the fact that her very presence is illegal.

My statement went off about as I expected it to. My father was, I think, shaken that not a single one of his nine Daimyo attended, a clear snub. He didn't show it of course, for he could find no reasonable grounds to refuse me my request short of denying the value of the information Tomasa brought to us, something his honor would not allow. And so he formally recognized a tiefling's contributions. 

In this manner, the House of Gold did me an unexpected and, doubtless for them, unintended favor. That insufferable blowhard Tamoki managed to buy himself out of jail long enough to spin a tale of heroism even more laughably unlikely than Toshiko's on behalf of a full-blooded high elf named Kai Thrannis. The juxtaposition was beautiful. That our city should forbid someone like Tomasa yet grant citizenship to someone whose family surname is literally the name of an archdevil was such an obvious injustice that few present could miss it. And Kai was hardly in a position to object to my pointing that out. She's taking an interesting approach. She's obviously here on behalf of her family in Trimurti, and her intentions are clearly subversive, yet unlike her predecessor she's taking the open and obvious route. Perhaps her predecessor's fate was instructive. It's harder for one of us to assassinate her if she's surrounded by the public eye at all times.

The ceremony was not entirely packed with obvious political ploys. The two naval individuals, Varla Fonn and Tink, were sponsored by Commodore Mashiro Kyoko to make an entirely different statement, one I certainly approve of, encouraging respect for civilian life amongst the military. I was a little surprised to see a child, who looked even younger by being a gnome, in naval service, but apparently her history is something of an anomaly. Now that she's a citizen she may well find more opportunities in the city than life on a ship could offer. 

Among our new citizens, only one of them appeared to be sponsored because of actual heroism during the events of the First Night. A nobody-merchant of the House of Green relayed a tale too bizarre not to be true of the dwarf named Sindoor's seemingly prescient ability to foretell disaster and the many lives saved thereby. Sindoor herself seemed entirely uninterested in the proceedings, or even the prospect of citizenship. She spent the entire time staring holes in Rajeev. So intense was her gaze, and so niggling were my continued suspicions of Toshiko's motives, that I had spies set on them. The siblings were present with two associates, a Forged cleric and another half-elf affiliated with the Temple of Yama. Apparently the Forged cleric knew Tink from her own naval service, and took the gnome girl under her wing. Rajeev did not seem to know Sindoor, but Sindoor seemed very familiar with him, handing him a gift wrapped in cloth I could not clearly see. Propriety prevented much eavesdropping at the reception, but after they all departed as one group, my agents trailed them with some success.

What they reported has provided some answers, but even more questions. It seems that Sindoor suffers from some medical condition that the siblings and their friends were familiar with, and deeply concerned by. Nonetheless, they reacted by keeping the dwarf closer to them than quarantining her. They brought her along on their own errand which seemed to be tracking down a particular Blackcloak lieutenant and delivering a letter to that lieutenant's sister. One of my spies presented enough snippets of lip-read conversation to surmise that the siblings and their associates had been deep beneath Lankha, in the Labyrinth, during the events preceding the First Night, and that they may have some greater knowledge of what the Priesthood of Yama and their Blackcloaks were engaged with down there. This explains Toshiko's interest. She has always poked in places she shouldn't. The fact that she sponsored them for citizenship implies they succeeded beyond her every expectation.

These half-drow siblings and their associates, then, deserve a closer eye kept on them I think. Are they entirely Toshiko's agents? Matters seem rather more complicated than that. The matter warrants more consideration, and I ask once more for your generosity in providing what I need to ensure it.

Your grateful niece,

Saidou Niko

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Game 32 - The Harvest
4,400 XP = Total: 87,020 XP - Level 11

Grandmother Viridian, I have returned from the Black Lake with troubling news. The ones who freed the goddess descended, making use of our swamp Titan, but did not emerge.

No, I do not believe that your grand-daughter had anything to do with it. True, she openly expressed her discontent at the deaths of her coven-sisters at their hands, but at no point did she stray from your instructions to us to guide them safely to your home and then onwards to their destination. Indeed, she was most forthcoming about various aspects of our culture and the magic practiced by our females to the high-elf wizard. I think their civil behavior in your home and participation in the ritual hospitality rituals did a great deal to assuage her.

Still, the cleric among them clings to his antipathy. If not for the others, I suspect he would gladly continue a campaign of slaughter against all our kind. Your grand-daughter noticed this as readily as you did when he refused ritual hospitality. But I do not believe that either of them had anything to do with the events deep beneath the Black Lake. They took your advice on the Broodmother to heart, it seems, and were on their best behavior when we permitted them to enter one of our most holy relics. The swamp Titan descended into the black waters and delivered them to the maze-like lair of the Broodmother. They used their various magics to scout, and then to emerge and enter the lair. The Titan's sensors detected a combat with enormous energies unleashed, but suddenly the shattered walls of the flooded Underworld into which they had ventured began to shift and move in a way entirely unexpected. Both your grand-daughter and the Titan's pilot were forced to disengage from the jagged walls of the Black Lake or risk damage to the Titan. These changes were extending all the way up and down the sinkhole. It looked very much like the shattered walls and levels of the Underworld were… repairing themselves.

Your grand-daughter and the pilot learned what they could before fleeing. It may well be that the outsiders succeeded, and by slaying the Broodmother the ancient god of the Underworld stirred himself. It is true that the statues of the Lizard God were glowing with faint phosphorescence as we returned from that place. We can do nothing but hope that the god is suitably magnanimous towards those who entered his realm and slew the creature, for they are beyond us now, sealed behind walls of strange metal.

What your grand-daughter reported was of great interest however. It would not surprise me if, in a few years, the Black Lake ceased to exist as anything more than another stretch of swamp.

If you have any more commands for me, your dutiful grand-son, please let me know. Otherwise I will see to feeding your newest catoblepas. It looked a bit more sickly than usual.

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Game 8 - The Bride Price
1,920 XP = Total: 10,645 XP

So, Mistress Sangheeta, convinced yet?

I know you don't trust me. You've spent your whole (very very long) life dealing with mommy issues, but I assure you, mommy and daddy are getting along just fine, and therefore so should we.

I dangled the job in front of the whisper bard just like you asked. I'm pretty sure he was reading my mind or something because damn can that guy drive a hard bargain. Whatever. You're the one supplying the money, I was hardly invested in getting a good deal. It seems he's been looking for genuine holy books to our recently-returned deities, not the Dragonborn propaganda usually on offer. He's probably getting it for one of his halfling friends. This makes sense. My sources tell me that the Shrouded are enthusiastically setting up some underground shrines and temples notwithstanding the decree that worship of these particular gods is punishable by death. I guess profit really does trump survival instinct in some people… not that I'm complaining.

Anyway, the bard asked the sort of smart questions that I would expect someone I would want to hire would ask. He and his friends debated it, probably, but then rather than come back to me with more questions they jumped straight to the big bosses. That takes some metaphysical balls, but I guess when you've already come face to face with a returning "demon god" illegally praying to him for insight isn't quite so intimidating. My Lady and your Lord put their worries at ease, I guess, because they came and took the job.

Now, I'm not a cleric or anything. My relationship with my Lady is more… transactional than that. Still, I do find myself perversely curious about what impact smuggling a cleric of Ravana into Yama's holiest of holies will do… especially if they're caught and there's a confrontation. I suppose we're paying these guys a lot of money to try to ensure there isn't one, but I'm still curious. Ah well, never mind me. I'm sure the fireworks will be obvious when the time comes.

So. We work together so well. Can you please stop sending the "welcome-assassins" after me? I know it's you doing it, don't be coy. That resource is probably going to run dry in a little bit anyway, what with one thing or another. Shake on it and make up? Oh, right, didn't mean to be insensitive about your hands. Well, duty calls and waits for no one. I do so love these chats. Ta ta.

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Game 31 - The Heir
4,000 XP = Total: 82,620 XP

Ms. Jasmine:

Our official story, that our former agents "escaped custody", is being generally accepted among the populace. Most of them have no trouble believing that a group of people capable of freeing two demon-gods from millenia of exile would be capable of freeing themselves from arrest. No-one on the Council believes a word of it, of course, but I leave handling them in your capable hands.

This, then, is my report of their activities after they departed your office. Thanks to the disguise/tracking spells they permitted me to cast on them, I have a reasonably complete idea of their movements and decisions.

It will please you to know that they took your words to heart and began immediately seeking ways to placate those gods upset with them for their recent actions. Some gods were easier to placate than others. Once they realized that Lakshmi was upset, they initiated a ritual that involved the sacrifice of some thousands of charges, and upon its completion, Lakshmi's paladins gave up the hunt. Saatvik engaged in an elaborate rite involving a hearthfire to propitiate Agni which resulted in a pledge to better consider the impact of their actions on the common people of the Whorl, a pledge that Vin in particular seemed to take to heart. Brahma, of course, was already willing to forgive thanks to the services they rendered him recently at the Dawnforge. That just left the big three.

Panja went to the cremation grounds to seek contact with Kali. These attempts resulted in a manifestation of an avatar who looked very likely to end Panja's life right then and there. He bought his life with a binding pledge to prevent another godswar (or, as was implicit, die trying). They all rightly, in my opinion, decided that propitiating Indra would be fruitless at this juncture. That left only Yama.

It will please you to know that our models and predictions surrounding Tavi Agarwal's criminal enterprises were correct. We knew that a vast amount of money, materials, and the most powerful artifacts looted from Ayodhya were unaccounted for, and we theorized they were being diverted by people high up in her organization, but we did not know where or to what end. We know now. It seems that Tavi's chief lieutenant, a drow named Violet, has been diverting vast resources into the Underworld to aid his people in some clandestine war deep beneath the earth. Indeed, it is thanks to this large amount of war materiel that Yama was less upset with our former agents than he might otherwise have been. The god, through the agency of Violet, proposed that if our agents returned to the Black Lake sinkhole where they confronted Ratri and hunted down a particularly large and dangerous aberration that had taken up residence there, Yama would consider any debts paid and would, furthermore, seek to intercede with Indra on their behalf.

They accepted the commission and proceeded to gather information and material for this mission. Xedris took them to the Wizard’s College of Mithila where they met with the Minister of Magic who, as I'm sure you're well aware, was most happy to help them with whatever they needed. Xedris provided a shopping list of spells and magic items. Once Archmage Qualm realized they were hunting aberrations, she took them into the heart of the College to consult an information source that, I must regretfully admit, I am unable to discuss with you due to prior, binding promises. 

Upon emerging from their consultation, they determined to leave town by way of teleportation to the circle in Ayodhya, intent on consulting Xedris's half-sister, a wizard living in the rural parts of the former Eternal Solar Empire, en route to the swamp once more.

The tracking spells expired shortly thereafter, so I don't know how that consultation went. From what I've been able to gleam about that particular branch of the Thrannis family, they are still quite-active demonologists, at least judging by the recent activities of the members in Trimurti. That said, perhaps Elena Thrannis's wizardly obsessions have taken her down a different path. I'll put some agents on it.

Until my next report,

“Alia”

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Game 7 - The Spider
2,085 XP = Total: 8,725 XP

Lady Sangheeta,

You were right to remain confident despite my fears. I had thought that sending my team down to one of the temple-laboratories of Ravana had inadvertently become a death sentence for them all. Who could have anticipated that the infamous god of shadows and his mother, the goddess of night, would suddenly and most unexpectedly be freed from millenia of exile? I was certain that a returning Lord Ravana would descend upon thieves and looters with legendary fury. It would seem I was entirely wrong.

They returned with the information we sought. I admit to some pique that they stopped first to report to Giniro Toshiko, delivering not only the information, but also a complete, salvaged laboratory's worth of exotic, pre-war magical artifacts. I suppose I can't be too annoyed, as the Lady Toshiko is one of the few people on this island I could have consulted with in any event. From that perspective, my team was simply being efficient. Still, it does highlight the perils of working with more… mercenary elements. You never know who else is paying your agents.

They reported to me their harrowing travails. It seems they encountered some of the horrors that Lord Yama keeps bottled up in the Underworld. They succeeded at breaching a temple-laboratory where Ravana spoke with them. It seems the Lord of Shadows was in a recruiting mood. At least one of my team has already informed me that he intends to work with Ravana where the god's interests do not directly conflict with Lord Yama's. I confide this in you as I am aware that you are a person of great … cosmopolitan sentiment. The notion that an otherwise upstanding citizen of Lankha would knowingly serve the demon-god of Monsters would infuriate and terrify most nobles in this city.

We certainly live in interesting times. Monsters march on our borders, their creator-god walks the heavens once more, and we sit in their city ruled by a hidebound military nobility that sees all challenges as nails to be hammered. 

When you proposed the idea of reversing the process whereby the Monster races were originally created I considered the idea somewhat… naively ambitious. Now that I realize it might be possible I see other problems with it. My team informs me that Lord Ravana himself also believes that after nearly three millenia the Monster races have their own cultures, their own pride, and may not wish to transform themselves in the name of social acceptance. Still, I suppose the thought that such a thing might theoretically be done could be a useful lever in future back-room diplomacy should the opportunity to talk arise before the fighting starts.

I am, of course, avoiding the proverbial lion in the room… the return of night. It will take the city some time, I think, to become used to the idea that there will now be an hours-long period of darkness every day. It will take people some time to become confident that the sun will always return. I am an educated woman. I know that the return of Ratri and Ravana is not entirely an evil event. I know that they have their places in the pantheon, and their return may bring with it some positive change, but that point of view is very much a minority one. I think our society is going to be on edge for a while, and I don't know that reasonable heads will prevail when Monsters show up on our doorstep.

I do, of course, always value your advice on these matters. Your wide travels in the Whorl have given you a unique perspective. I look forward to your response, and remain as always your true friend:

Kirin Singh

 

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Game 30 - The Unclean
4,600 XP = Total: 78,620 XP

Father,

After nearly three millenia you stand restored to the pantheon. I stand vindicated in my selection of agents, doubtless much to my little sister's annoyance. Ever since my spies in Xin reported their unusually broad-minded approach to dispute resolution I suspected they would be flexible enough to pull this off. The fact that Rama took a particular interest in them confirmed my suspicions. That crafty old man rarely makes mistakes about things like this. 

I can hardly take all the credit, of course. Soma pointed them in the right direction, all I did was tag along and try to nudge them as best I could. Ultimately they themselves deserve the lion's share of any acclaim or blame for making a hard choice while in a tough spot. This, then, is a brief account of the last stages of the plan as implemented and improvised by all of us, mere moving pieces, set in motion once you realized Rama's audacious plan for his Empire.

The five Mithilan agents, alongside myself, a warlock of Rama, and a new-minted paladin of the crocodile goddess rode that goddess's beasts deep into the watery sinkhole that was once the capitol city of Somdet. The black water flowed about us as we, protected by various magics, descended into the shattered levels of the flooded Underworld whereupon we saw Ratri and her hags manipulating the Heart. This is when all our plans very nearly fell to pieces. Unknown to me, or anyone else aside from, apparently, Vinihata, the crocodile he had been riding was, in fact, Tamra the Copper. She emerged into her full dragon form intent on consuming the Heart and all its power. Fortunately, Ratri was able to release the necessary pulse to toggle our awarenesses to our astral bodies and we found ourselves, as you suspected we might, within the outer layers of the Citadel.

This was, as you might imagine, quite disorienting for my companions. Even I, who have traveled astrally many times, found the blank white halls of the Citadel (or, as the Citadel's Voice called it, "partition 002") a bit of a shock. The defensive measures began activating and I cast the spell that you and I formulated for this purpose to introduce confusion and static to the orderly systems of the Citadel. It seemed to work. The Voice reported "data corruption" and those of us capable of magic were able, with effort, to access our spells despite the oppressive reality surrounding us. We still had to fight our way through the Githzerai monks guarding the halls, but with some effort we made it to the two cells at the heart of the Citadel.

Forgive my hesitation. I know it was always part of the plan to seek Ratri's release before yours, but I was momentarily tempted to enter your cell first. I stayed true to the plan and led them into Ratri's prison where I revealed the plan that my companions had been unwitting partners to.

Even though I had spent weeks in their company, learning their personalities, their minds, their motives, even though I had crafted a "pitch" designed to appeal to their hearts, I admit I still had no idea how they would react to learning that although Ratri's plan to destroy the sun was imminent and viable, and indeed necessarily so in order to fool the other gods, the real plan was not to destroy the Whorl but to restore it to greater functionality, to restore to their rightful places in the pantheon two gods whose imprisonment has left the entire world out of balance. 

Although I think my speech was persuasive, I give more credit to Ratri's own words when her apparition met us in the swamp. She planted the seeds that led them to extort knowledge of the First Secret from Yama. These truths made their decision a more straightforward one than it otherwise might have been. Still, I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly they agreed to thwart Indra's ancient decree and free two gods from imprisonment.

The only obstacle was the paladin, Etama. She had sworn oaths of vengeance against Ratri both for the abduction of her own daughter, and thousands of years of similar abductions of children. I could say nothing. Her appeal was just. My grandmother has, from the perspective of the ordinary people of the Whorl, committed millenia of atrocities, even if she in her greater wisdom sees the need. I left the task of persuasion to my companions, and here I must begrudgingly thank the intercession of Rama. The former Emperor, during his manifestation to us in the swamp, offered to give us all a "secret" if we permitted his warlock to live. As with all things pertaining to Rama, this was a double-blind ruse intended to seed certain information into our midst. It would seem that the secret he whispered to Etama was that her daughter was still alive and uncorrupted.

It seems that Etama is the niece of the high-elf wizard Xedris Thrannis, and a product of some audacious genetic engineering, as the "Thrannis" name might suggest. Ratri was understandably interested in her daughter's biological design, and opted not to engage in the usual hag-transformation. Etama, recognizing that she stood alone in seeking Ratri's destruction, asked from my companions a boon, namely that they recover her daughter. They agreed.

What more is there to say? The cleric of Sarasvati, Saatvik, accessed the Citadel's master control and communed with Ratri, procuring her promise to release the child. He then released the restraints and freed her to rejoin the pantheon. I then took them to your cell where they did the same.

As the Citadel dissolved, our awarenesses returned to our physical bodies in time to witness Tamra consume the Heart and its remaining energy; to witness the dissolution of Ratri's physical form and the deaths of the hags bound to the Heart. The dragon flew us through the black water to the surface. 

My companions grappled with the drastic changes sweeping the Whorl. Night has returned, and anticipating a panic, they did what they could to notify officials in Mithila and Ayodhya that the coming darkness was not permanent, including sending Tamra herself to do what she could to spread the word. As night fell upon the Whorl for the first time in nearly three millenia I could see the fear in my companions' eyes. I could see the seeds of doubt. Had they been tricked? Had the sun in fact been destroyed? Many of them tried to hide it, but I could see the relief when the sun did, indeed, make its re-appearance. 

We traveled to Ratri's swamp Titan where Etama's child was, as promised, returned to her. We traveled back to the shrine of the crocodile goddess where Saatvik and Etama implored her to undo the bargain of vengeance. Etama wished to be a mother to her child, not a vengeful warrior, and with some persuasion, the crocodile goddess consented.

Here is where I took my leave. I had to return to this holy place to make my report, and to prepare for the changes that are coming. I am not so naive as to think your restoration to the pantheon will come without bloodshed and conflict, but I have faith that another godswar can be prevented.

As always, Father, my siblings and I stand ready to serve.

With love and respect,

Tri

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Game 6 - The Forest
1,670 XP = Total: 6,640 XP - Level 5

To: Commander Indigo
From: Adjutant Kolia Sidana

I tracked the spoor of the Illithid that slipped through our defenses higher into the labyrinth under Lankha. The abomination had at least one of its little mind-thieves with it. I didn't want to contemplate what even one of those things could do if it made the interior-surface. Fortunately, it seemed fixated on finding something within the labyrinth itself, something that the interior-priesthood of Our Lord seemed quite interested in protecting. I presumed this, mostly, because of the dead black Dragonborn I found in a crevasse, and the spoor of a second accompanying the abomination. It seems two of Lankha's city guards were posted down here to defend a particular passage. One had its mind eaten by the illithid, the other presumably had its body stolen by the mind-thief.

This is when I became aware of others traversing the labyrinth, a significant party of individuals, about a half-dozen, who seemed also to be tracking the abominations. Judging by their varied tracks and other signs I surmised they were probably interior-surface dwellers. I wasn't sure if they were hunting the illithid or seeking whatever it was the illithid was seeking, at least not until I came upon the Ward-wall.

Both sets of tracks ended at a blank wall just as rough-formed and normal-appearing as any other wall. Thanks to the insight granted me by Our Lord, however, I recognized it as one of his wards. It seems both the abomination and the party of explorers had found a way through. I called upon Our Lord who granted me passage whereupon I encountered the fresh aftermath of battle. 

It seems the interior-surfacers actually managed to kill the illithid and its pet, although they looked quite shaken by the experience. Since they had accomplished my mission for me, I set about discovering why they were invading a place that Our Lord had quite deliberately sealed away. One of their number, a half-breed high Elf, claimed they were on a mission on behalf of Our Lord himself, although he qualified his statements enough that it seemed clear to me that he had received no direct divine guidance on the matter and was merely hoping that his wishes aligned with those of the god. I was preparing to kindly escort them from this place, or forcefully do so if necessary, when one of his companions, a half-drow, confronted me and called me "mother."

Yes, it seems that after nearly two decades of indirect searching I stumbled upon my daughter here deep in the bowels of the earth. I know how you feel about… that period of my past… but even you couldn't be so heartless as to attack your own blood, at least not without exploring every possible alternative.

Needless to say, it took a bit for me to recover my equilibrium. I did learn, however, that this eclectic band was seeking one of the Temple-Laboratories of Ravana. It seems Lankha faces a potential invasion from the Monster races and some faction of the Interior-Temple sent them on what I consider an ill-conceived mission to learn the secrets of how they were made, ostensibly to unmake them, reverting them to human form. Setting aside whether it would even be possible, I doubt that the members of the Monster races would even want to return at this point, their cultures have diverged so much from Civilization. Still, they seemed dedicated to this task. I warned them of the fabled living shadows that defends such places, but they were adamant. 

I decided that the least I could do was pray on it before deciding to oppose them. Fortunately, the spokesman also opted to consult the god on the matter. My assessment was correct, Yama has far too many things occupying him at the moment to concern himself overmuch with an ancient, mothballed temple. He grudgingly granted the team permission to proceed, but no particular aid. Their success, or more likely deaths, would be on them. I made the field-decision to accompany them, at least to ensure my daughter's survival.

The shadow-demons were real, but apparently fatigued with age or simply not as potent as legend makes them out to be. We dispatched them relatively quickly. Then came the challenge of actually opening the vault door. It seems the team of explorers was, once again, prepared. A halfling among them was a priestess of Chinnamasta. She had somehow come upon a key which, although it proved not to be the correct key for this specific temple, was close enough that the team, working together, was eventually able to convince the magical systems of the vault door to permit us entry.

The interior was… as you might expect… somewhat awe-inspiring, even for one such as me, living among the wonders and horrors of the Underworld. This, then, was one of the Temple-Laboratories of Ravana. Pillars stretched from floor to ceiling glowing with ancient runes of power, magical lights illuminated the open spaces. As we approached the pillars, an illusory being of shadow, holding many white masks in many black arms manifested before us. It was clearly a servitor of some sort as it possessed certain defensive capabilities that it used somewhat unsuccessfully upon us. It also seemed easily distracted. It did not appear to be functioning very well, and it spoke in terms somewhat alien to our ears. Still, it was clearly designed to be helpful, even if it didn't recognize certain races among us, and clearly considered Our Lord to be a hostile power.

With the aid of the illusory guardian, we navigated the complex to one of the laboratories. The mechanisms contained therein were beyond our grasp, but the guardian helpfully created, via magic, books outlining a theoretical process whereby Monsters could be returned to human form. The guardian claimed this had never been done, and the magical process is theoretical, based on reversing what was done in these labs. 

What ensued, then, was a debate among my companions about whether to leave with this information or whether they should seek to plunder some of the wondrous machines, granting them to some silver Dragonborn that some of them trusted and others did not. The Forged Cleric of Brahma was most adamant on the subject, ultimately overruling the rest by striking a potent magical artifact-chime summoning… entities… that began disassembling the laboratory with a technical expertise I found… troubling. 

I'm taking a few moments to compose this report, which I will send by the usual means once we leave this place. I do not wish to trust that my report would make it to you if I attempted to send it from here. I'll end it for now and will add addendums as necessary. 

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Game 5 - The Icelands
1,470 XP = Total: 4,970 XP

Apprentice, take dictation.

…because I'm busy operating the Lens, of course, don't be dense. Your pride is the biggest obstacle to your growth as a magical researcher. You can't afford to let your noble sentiments get in the way of the dirty and sometimes demeaning work necessary to get at the truth of things…

Don't interrupt me when I'm instructing you or I'll find a new apprentice.

Better.

You were just writing all of that down out of spite weren't you. Whatever. Where were we. Oh yes.

That mysterious Inquisitor certainly has an eye for talent. I would never have guessed such a disparate group of nobodies would complement each other so well and so effectively. I really didn't expect any of them to darken my doorstep what with all the other chaos going on in the city. It doesn't take someone of my resources to hear the rumors from the temples, of course. Well. Either the sun will go out or it won't. I'm far more interested in the unanticipated consequences of the various actions the gods are taking against that eventuality, most importantly the… things… crawling up through formerly-sealed passages to the Underworld. 

Nonetheless, Ballast and Laith showed up asking for my help and advice on locating one of the Temple-Laboratories of Ravana. How unexpectedly delightful! It seems these agents and their boss have a similarly pragmatic philosophy as I do, namely a desire to take advantage of the chaos under the assumption that the sun won't go out, because if it does none of our aspirations amount to much in any event. I couldn't help them much with their request, as I have never been able to outmaneuver the priests of Yama to find these legendary places, but I did give them the Chime of the Nischana to help them secure and recover any artifacts or equipment should they succeed…

Oh don't look at me like that. Some things are worth the risk. I'm sure they won't do anything too stupid with it.

Certainly, I'm ensuring that's the case by observing their progress through the Lens, don't be ridiculous.

Anyway, through watching their conversations it appears their disparate talents have been quite useful indeed. Between Vihaan's connections in the Grand Temple, and the criminal connections of Kalki, Rajeev Two Notes and “Nekumi”, they were able to narrow down at least one likely location. Hopefully with all the hubbub, the Temple will be too distracted with their evacuation plan to put resources into guarding ancient secrets.

Oh, hush, something interesting is happening in the Lens…

Hmmm… flooded tunnel, a flying carpet! How wonderful. I wonder where they got that…

Oh dear. I suppose that will teach them to plumb subterranean water without adequate scouting. If I'm not mistaken, that creature is classified as a "grell". Quite dangerous…

Oh, never mind. They seem to have dispatched…

Oh! Two "intellect devourers." I've never witnessed one using its ability to replace the brain of a person, maybe I'll get the chance!

Oh. Well, I suppose I shouldn't be too disappointed, their survival WILL theoretically be of far greater value than the momentary empirical interest in aberrant magical systems.

And now they're through, and it looks like they're finding a relatively safe place to rest after their exertions. I imagine nothing interesting will happen for at least six hours. I think I'll take a break and continue investigating the larger specimen in the dining room now. Please be a dear and clean up in here will you?

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Game 4 - The Patriarch
1,150 XP = Total: 3,500 - Level 4

Gah, Mistress still will not permit me to eat any eyes… delicious jelly, delectable twitching and screaming, wondrous eyes. She has given me a number of difficult orders over the past day. I am not to lie to her and I am not to hurt her feelings…

FEELINGS! How am I supposed to serve her effectively if I must constantly second guess her fragile emotional state? Bah. Mortals are weak and squishy and crunchable and delicious…

I'm getting sidetracked. Hmm. Well. It's not all bad. It seems like perhaps the world is going to end… at least the Temple of Yama thinks it's a real possibility. They haven't told anyone of course, but Mistress and her friends have noticed things, yes, and heard things from strange fungus creatures. 

All the Temple's high-judges went missing, recalling all their black-cloaked police. The military has stepped in to maintain order and priests of all stripes are out in the streets, mostly confused, not knowing why they're ordered to be there. Mistress and I were roped into a stupid errand for criminals deep below ground that proved most exciting after all. Lots of black tunnels, lots of disgusting distant prayer echoing through caverns, but we found where the Beheaded get some of their drugs from. Apparently a cavern full of fungus people… or at least it was full of fungus people. We saw slime-people instead. Slime people tried to trick us, eat the memories and identity of Mistress's awful brother, the one who mocks us and threatens us. Good riddance to him. Sadly it wasn't good riddance to him. Mistress and her companions killed the slime-mimic-monster, were almost killed by returning fungus people because Mistress killed one of their children. I knew I liked her… sometimes.

Sadly, brain-damaged brother convinced the fungus people not to kill us all. Told us that Yama was opening sealed ways, preparing for "evacuation" from the above-lands to the Underworld. Fungus people didn't know a lot of details, but it seems at least one god is expecting catastrophe… it will probably be really bad if the horror-filled Underworld is preferable. I can't wait to see what form it takes!

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