The Whorl

Game 40 - The Spice Market
6,240 XP = Total: 126,240 XP

It seems like an eternity ago that I was the head of a Resistance cell in Ayodhya, never expecting that I would actually live to see the end of the Emperor's reign. When a team of spies from the neighboring Kingdom of Mithila brought cascading disillusion to those notions I did my utmost to protect the people of this city from the devastation the Emperor had brought against his own people hoping that, in the aftermath, I could help build a better, more equitable polity.

I knew rebuilding Ayodhya would be hard. But I admit I began to despair as factional gridlock persisted, even entrenched itself, during the last six months. Then, again on the heels of that very same team of former spies, sudden cascading change has rippled through this ancient city. Both times, that team was a catalyst if not a direct cause of vast societal flux. The first time, Emperor Rama was more rightly blamed, but the Mithilans rode the cresting wave of his sociopathic schemes doing what good they could. This time, it was the Emperor's supposed "heir", the Princess Draupadi, who was the most overt catalyst of change, but again, the Mithilans were not far from events as they happened, and indeed, this time, one of their number was in a position to force massive political re-alignment.

My agents had reported they were back in the city. It's an open secret that Tavi the Terrible is a "councilor" in name only, her name and reputation keeping a sprawling criminal organization in line. Her stand-in, Salvatore, was generally a solid guy, an ally these last six months, if not particularly creative. He had his focus, and was good in that arena, but he was not going to be the one to break the gridlock. Her arrival, though, and full-blown embrace of the "hero of the people" reputation her organization has assiduously built, made a sufficient enough splash that I started tracking their movements immediately, and was unsurprised to find they made the short list to see the newly-announced Princess. Even I hadn't yet met her. I sent an agent to invite them back to my office as soon as their meeting with the Princess was concluded.

And from that meeting, from my perspective at least, everything else fell into place like a complex lock. They dropped the bomb on me that the Princess was not, in truth, the Imperial ruler the Imperialist faction wanted. Instead, she sought to be the pivot upon which stagnant political alliances could reinvent themselves. She was offering an alliance with my Republicans, offering to disclaim the throne if she could be pivotal to the conversations that would bring about a new Ayodhyan government. I never imagined that our two factions would ever see eye-to-eye, but I suppose that's one downside to putting all your political ambitions behind the divine right to rule… your chosen Royal might have other plans. Heh. 

The Mithilans also made it clear that they knew something about Draupadi, had some sort of leverage over her, so I could reasonably rely on her promises because they would be enforcing those promises. Considering who they are, and the sorts of things they're said to have done already, I had no trouble believing they had something on a Princess nobody knew existed three days before.

Things were looking to realign with our two factions pushing for multilateral council rule, supported by Tavi's "common people" faction. The tricky business would be working out the rivalry between the Pantheon Council and the Traditionalists. The Council, as invaders, couldn't step aside from power for fear that they'd be purged, violently, from the city. The Traditionalists, harboring the Priesthood of Surya, could not accommodate the priests of the pantheon that imprisoned their deity. 

Enter Saatvik and a strange paladin of Ratri named Nyx. The newly ascendant churches of Ratri and Ravana were holding a Conclave to determine which faction to support. This was, according to my agents, a more fraught discussion than one might think. On the one hand, allying with the Pantheon Council would give legitimacy to their churches in the eyes of the other gods. On the other hand, they have always been a part of Ayodhyan society, and rely on the traditional culture of the city for their strength. Saatvik and Nyx appeared to reframe the debate away from "joining" the Pantheon Council to… well… taking it over, putting a local face to all worship. It's true that Ratri and Ravana's churches far outnumber the worshipers of all other gods (aside from Surya) combined, but then the same problem arose… how can Varuna's high priest Kalyan trust that, once in charge, the triumvirate churches of Surya, Ratri, and Ravana wouldn't just purge them?

Nyx was part of the answer. She's not Ayodhyan, she comes from some other secret Ratri cult, and has no vested interest in local politics. She could mediate the religious factions as a more neutral party. They just needed to bargain with Kalyan from a position of strength.

Enter Tavi, and another of her companions, a Yuan-Ti named Black Fang. Tavi and Black Fang, through a truly enormous act of large-scale generosity, effectively stole the invading Yuan-Ti army away from Kalyan and the Pantheonists. Thus far, the Yuan-Ti have been their muscle out of invader-solidarity, and indeed, local displeasure has kept that segregation alive. But they've been living in dilapidated slums, the wreckage of their own Titan of the Sea's attack. Tavi emptied the emergency supply storehouses maintained by her people to provide food, clean water, and shelter to the Yuan-Ti, along with the promise of jobs (albeit menial ones) to get them started on integrating into Ayodhyan society. Having been given a path to Civilization that their previous masters had thus far failed to provide, the Yuan-Ti abandoned the Pantheonists in droves.

But Kalyan still could not agree to step aside for Nyx, and ultimately for a new government, until something could be done about the Priesthood of Surya. That's where I came in.

The Mithilans wanted to talk to me about how best to approach Surya's high priest, Vishvamitra. I decided to turn it into something akin to political theater. In short order, the "councilors" for every faction except Kalyan were present, a tacit display of force intended to make it clear to Vishvamitra that there would be no return to the old system where his church had unfettered power and influence. I must say, the Princess Draupadi is a… charismatic force in person. I suspect she could have easily derailed my pageantry if she'd wished to, but she held to our bargain, and Vishvamitra was brow-beaten by Xedris Thrannis into accepting a compromise. Clearly neither he, nor Kalyan, could be in charge. We "councilors" stood united in the proposition that Ayodhya would not be a theocracy. Kalyan would step aside for Nyx if Vishvamitra would reorganize his own church into a civic institution concerned with preserving history and culture. 

Surya is imprisoned. Like it or not, he is not a part of the pantheon. Pretending otherwise is to go back to the decadent past. But that's no reason why we cannot value our culture and heritage.

This is an argument that, in other circumstances, would have never worked. I know Vishvamitra. He's proud and full of himself. But with Princess Draupadi casting her tangible power and support behind us, with me and Tavi standing unified with the Princess, with the deal already worked out with Kalyan and power shifting in unpredictable ways, Vishvamitra capitulated, but not without a face-saving "price." He mentioned visions Surya had granted him about immortal elves still somehow living in the Whorl. His price was a conversation with one of these pre-godswar relics. I had a brief moment of panic. How could we pay this impossible price? But of course the Mithilans just nodded and agreed and seemed to know exactly what Vishvamitra was talking about… of course they did.

So they arranged the whole thing. I don't know a lot of details, but Vishvamitra got his long talk with a living pre-war elf… somehow… and our factions have broken the six-month-long logjam.

Kalyan has given up the idea of theocracy. He sits as representative of Varuna on a new Pantheon Council that represent only the temples and religions of the gods, a Council headed by Nyx, and focused on building their respective religions rather than civic leadership. The Princess, alongside old Krishna Vimana, various other nobles, Tavi's second-in-command, and myself are engaged in the tedious but productive work of building a civil society from the ground up. We're also going with a multi-lateral "council" structure although we're still debating between a "role"-based council, like Mithila's, or a political-faction based council like Trimurti's. We all agree that there will be no King, no Emperor. 

There's still a lot of work ahead of us, but talks are finally progressing in a useful direction again. The Princess even made a speech on the steps of her father's palace. It's a credit to her charisma and pull that she got a crowd of thousands even after the mass-murdering stunt her father pulled in that very same public square. In her speech, she disclaimed her throne, publicly threw her support behind the work we're doing, and as her only "official suggestion," proposed that the golden paving tiles that killed so many people with arcane magic be pulled up, and that the public square of the city be paved in simple stone to symbolize the city's new direction. Damn she's good. She's told me privately that she plans to travel once things are stable enough here for her to leave. I'm actually going to miss her… whoever and whatever she really is.

I'm not entirely sure where the Mithilans have gone off to. Probably back to Videha, or who knows, maybe they plan on freeing Surya to rejoin the pantheon. I wouldn't put it past them. I'm sure I'll see them again if more dramatic social and political upheaval are necessary.

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Game 15 - The Blood Feud
2,685 XP = Total: 27,825 XP

Auntie,

Your continued faith in me is greatly appreciated. I know I've thanked you already for the additional funding for more and better spies, but I wanted to give you some preliminary idea of what your money is paying for. 

It would seem my instincts about those two new half-elf half-sibling citizens have proven to be well-founded. The brother, Rajeev Two Notes, recently made quite a splash by buying his way into a meeting with one of the highest-ranking lieutenants of the 893… and walking out alive. It seems this recent transplant from Trimurti is making friends in high places, although his precise agenda remains unknown at this time.

He and his sister do continue to meet regularly with the same handful of oddities that were seen at the citizenship ceremony, and they appear to be coordinating these associates toward some greater goal. All six of them spent some time meeting with the mysterious Akagane Tamiyo, the foreign copper dragonborn who seems to have whipped her House into political action, and all six are known associates of Giniro Toshiko.  

Separately and together these six confederates have, in the last three days, dramatically stepped up their involvement in the highest levels of intrigue in the city. The Forged cleric has somehow gone from little-considered acolyte to someone who can dictate terms to High Priest Midori Hitoshi of the Forge of the Four-Faced Lord. I do not yet know what leverage she has over him, but she has single-handedly convinced him to convene this announcement at the Pagoda of Civic Duty that he claims will sway the tide of this coming war.

I'm sure you're already well aware that this announcement, whatever it is, has rapidly escalated from a barely-noticed priestly antic to the event of the season. My noble father will be attending personally, as will most if not all of the daimyo. I can, perhaps, shed at least some light on why. 

First, there have been rumors spreading rapidly among the High Houses that anyone who is everyone will be there… rumors that began before anyone of note even committed to attending. My spies are fairly certain that most of these self-fulfilling rumors can be traced back to three distinct brothels run by the Beheaded and frequented by the priestess-prostitute “Nekumi”, one of the six associates I've been keeping tabs on. 

Second, the House of Gold went from dismissive to eager overnight when Tamoki heard a rumor that these six would be present. It seems his recent fall from grace had something to do with them. My best information indicates they played a significant part in exposing his illicit imports. Even more intriguing, one of my better agents has traced the rumor that Tamoki heard back to Kalki himself, who, it seems, spread that rumor precisely to draw Tamoki to the event. 

The priestly curiosity known as Vihaan Naraka seems to have single-handedly convinced old Captain Konsho Usagi to make attendance at this event a priority. The old man seems newly invigorated after he was forced to lose face by turning his House's position so quickly toward war at the pressure of his cousins and brother. He was convinced, I suspect, that whatever this announcement will be will help him reverse course.

Ballast, of course, played on notions of religious honor and obligation to ensure maximum attendance by the House of Green.

The two half-elf siblings have played a subtler game. Rajeev took the liberty of writing me a nice, personal note thanking me for delivering the invitation to his citizenship ceremony and none-too-subtly suggesting I attend. I was going to anyway, of course, but the note answered a number of other suspicions and raised even more.

As to what got my father, and the heads of the other houses to agree, it seems these six associates have contacts in all levels of our society because otherwise the coincidence would beggar believability. It seems more likely at this time that they are the more visible agents of a larger conspiracy. Whatever this announcement will entail, I strongly suspect it will not be boring.

I will keep you informed of events. I should go get dressed for the event.

Your devoted niece,

Seidou Niko

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Game 39 - The Laborer
5,300 XP = Total: 120,000 XP - Level 13 (Merry Christmas)

Event Journal of Ximon Thrannis
Entry 1

Before leaving Trimurti I committed to keeping a daily journal once I arrived here in Ayodhya. The purpose was to have a record of my thoughts, plans, and social/political connections that I could review at need to keep my memory of all the complex moving parts of my agenda fresh in my mind. I regret that I did not keep to that plan at first, but the initial week of my residence here has been mostly renovating and repairing the ancestral estate and passive observation and intelligence gathering on the factions at play. Of course, now, I'm reconsidering the wisdom of keeping a written record at all, considering the events of the past two days. Ah well. I shall have to trust in my personal cipher and my storage security methods.

Where to begin. Before I discuss the fateful meeting with my cousin Xedris and his companions, I should probably outline in general the factional state of the city. When the Temple of Varuna, backed by numerous human-seeming Yuan-Ti and a Titan of the Sea made their attempt at unilateral conquest they probably did not anticipate the destruction of their centuries-in-the-making super weapon. As a result their ambitions collapsed and they clung to what power they could in a city that, over the last half-year or so, has devolved into five major factions / political philosophies. There's a distinction to be made here. In Trimurti there are dozens of "factions" but they all operate within an agreed governmental system. Here, there are five competing "governments" that have divided the city between them. Although each group sends a "Councilor" to sit on the "Ruling Council" of Ayodhya, that council doesn't so much run the city as argue about how the city should be run. It's a provisional government at best. This is the situation I'm here to help fix, and in the process ensure a strong power base for my family.

The first faction is the aforementioned would-be conquerers, now calling themselves the "Pantheon Council." They have consolidated around an agenda of coalition theocracy. For millenia Ayodhya banned the worship of the Pantheon in favor of their preferred disgraced and imprisoned gods. The Pantheon Council seeks to enfranchise the worship of ALL the gods, and moreso, to have that body govern the city in a model similar to Indraprastha but more multilateral. This faction is predominantly outsiders and invaders. The Yuan-Ti foot-soldiers that accompanied the invasion cling to this faction as they are also outsiders and invaders, providing the necessary muscle to keep the faction alive. It's led by the high-priest of Varuna, Kalyan, who formed the "Ruling Council" by sheer willpower in the failed aftermath of his conquest.

The second faction, arising in direct opposition to the Pantheon Council's abortive invasion, is the Traditionalists. The old noble houses of Ayodhya have (temporarily) set aside their millenial grudges to unify in the face of an existential threat. Although a small minority of the population, these houses have enormous wealth and social cachet. Their public-facing agenda is the defense of Ayodhya's traditional way of life. The old Priesthood of the Sun has sought refuge among the Traditionalists, knowing how poorly they'd fare if the Pantheon Council got their way. They send old Krishna Vimana as their Councilor, an obvious figurehead.

These two factions oppose each other based on fundamental differences going back millenia. The next two factions are organized around future-facing political agendas, and they both have a lot of overlap with one or more of the previous two factions.

The Republicans are a faction that arose out of many of the resistance organizations that existed prior to the Emperor's fall. They espouse an ideology of multi-factional representative government. They want to see Ayodhya ruled by a government that is more responsive to the people. They have a very loose alliance with the Pantheon Council, but despite both groups pushing a council-based government, the Republicans are not necessarily keen on theocratic rule. They seek to formalize the existing Ruling Council, or something similar to it, as the official government of the city. They are led by Councilor Sitara, who apparently led one of the more influential resistance cells back in the day.

The Imperialists are a faction that seeks to put an heir to Emperor Rama on the throne and resume imperial rule in his style. They have, until recently, been the weakest faction as most of the hardcore imperial loyalists were slain by Rama as part of his ascension. Their weakness also arose from the fact that the supposed "heir" they were supporting was a "secret" (or, as most assumed, entirely fictional). This has dramatically changed in the last three days as the faction has finally put a name to this supposed heir, the Princess Draupadi, supposedly a magically-created female clone of the Emperor kept in stasis in a hidden laboratory as a contingency against his death. More on her later. Their councilor is Leeta Naavi, but I suspect that will change rapidly to the Princess herself.

The final faction consists of everyone else in the city that gets conveniently overlooked by the power players, nobles, priests, and activists… the common people. It's perhaps not surprising that, being ignored, they turned to a rising criminal enterprise to protect them and see to their interests. The "Tavi Agarwal Mutual Aid Society", commonly referred to as the "Goldcloaks" are a commoner / peasant movement with little overt political ideology other than improving living conditions for the common people. It started with an outside criminal cartel run by the infamous "Tavi the Terrible" that capitalized on the chaos of the Emperor's fall by plundering countless priceless artifacts from his palace and from other parts of the city. The smuggled export and sale of these artifacts has bloated the coffers of Tavi's organization, which quite cunningly opted to "reinvest" that money into the people to create a political faction to protect their growing empire. It can no longer really be said that Tavi's organization is "criminal" in any sense, as they now make the laws in "Tavitown", the former slums and run-down parts of the city. Their councilor is, obviously, Tavi the Terrible, but since she's rarely actually in the city, her people are represented by Councilor Pro-Tem Salvatore.

So. I'd been learning all this, and making appointments to meet certain players, and attend certain parties, when much to my surprise, Councilor Tavi the Terrible and her entourage appeared at my doorstep. It's common knowledge that she's one of the ones who freed the exiled gods Ratri and Ravana, along with my own distant cousin Xedris, so it wasn't too surprising that she seemed to expect to find Xedris in residence at the Thrannis family estates. I assured her that he had not been by, and that we hadn't discussed the disposition of our ancestral manor, but she and her associates made it clear that they would be staying and awaiting him. I immediately saw the political benefits of having one of the Councilors as a guest in my home, and so I gladly extended my hospitality. I made some inquiries as to how secret she wanted her visit to be and otherwise left them to their own devices until, indeed, cousin Xedris made an appearance at my door riding the shoulders of an earth elemental. 

We spoke over a lovely five course meal. Xedris was, perhaps understandably, hesitant to trust me. His branch of the family and mine have… longstanding differences. Of course, his branch of the family is essentially extinct aside from him, so, I felt it best to deal with him as an individual rather than as a representative of old grudges. I explained my situation, coming from Trimurti to take advantage of the opportunities here, in our ancestral homeland, and it seemed to assuage his distrust somewhat, especially as I spoke openly of the Thrannis, and my disagreement with the part of our family that engaged in that summoning.

It became rapidly clear that Tavi the Terrible is… not at all interested in political considerations. In fact, I'm starting to suspect she's just an extremely competent assassin whose burgeoning reputation has developed very long coat-tails. It's fascinating, but I can work with that. 

The cleric Saatvik, their black-clad associate Nyx, and barbaric hanger-on Black Fang were all called away from dinner by a representative of Ratri's church. There was apparently a formal conclave being called to determine if Ratri and Ravana's churches should align with the Pantheon Council or the Traditionalists, and Saatvik's input was requested as a "saint" of the formerly-fallen gods' resurgent religions. This left religious-politics out of the conversation which left the Republican/Imperialist divide, and the newly risen "heir" to Rama.

I had, of course, made requests to meet the Princess Draupadi, but as a relatively unknown player, my entreaties had yet to receive a response. I saw an opportunity in my houseguests and asked them if they might meet with the Princess and give me their impressions. Councilor Tavi could readily gain such an audience, I was certain. Judging by their facial expressions, they each had various suspicions about this Princess, none of which were good, and so their swift acceptance of my suggestion was not at all a surprise. 

That's when the monk Vinihata dropped a bombshell. He told me "just so I would know" that the Archdevil known as The Viloba is manifested and loose in the Whorl, having been unleashed in just the last few days. This news seemed to shock Xedris, but everyone else at the table acted unsurprised. It took a few moments for my mind to make some connections, but I saw what he was getting at, and what some of them suspected to be the case… that this Archdevil may, in fact, be masquerading as the heir to Rama. My stomach sank at the implications. I left Trimurti to avoid getting embroiled in an Archdevil's plans, and now here I am in Ayodhya running that very risk. After my low-grade panic subsided, we all discussed the implications of this suspicion, if true, and departed the dinner table to make our respective preparations.

The next morning, after a light breakfast, they departed to speak to Princess Draupadi while I left to employ more spies and socialites to look for specific political or cultural shifts. When my houseguests returned near the noon-hour they confirmed immediately that the Princess is, in fact, the Archdevil in question. I immediately began formulating a plan to neutralize the threat by neutralizing her summoner, whoever that was. They made it clear, without saying so, that the summoner was either one of them, or a close associate, and that this option was off the table. They then mollified me somewhat by making it clear that they had leverage over her, and that they could remove her as a threat if necessary, but that I should consider the benefits of using her to unify the city.

It seems that notwithstanding her facade she is well aware that she's not really in a position to be Empress. At any moment she might be cast back into Surya's Prison. She's apparently using the Imperialists as a springboard to shake up the detente among the factions, to re-align the factions, and to be a catalyst to create a new government in Ayodhya that would be beholden to her efforts, but would permit her to fade from public view at a certain point. My house-guests had, after their talk with the Archdevil, spoken to Councilor Sitara, who they apparently knew from her previous role as resistance-cell leader, and it seems that, against all expectation, there might soon be an alliance between the Republicans and the Imperialists, backed by Tavi's faction of commoners. Indeed, it seems "Draupadi" wishes to unify all the factions except the Pantheon Council, using the city's resentment of outsiders as a catalyst. 

Based just on the second-hand information relayed to me by my guests it's pretty clear that having The Viloba playing politics in Ayodhya will shake things up. They dropped my name to both her and Councilor Sitara, so it seems my star is rising faster than anticipated. I need to go buy some scrolls of protection against fiends and maybe some scrolls of protection against evil before meeting with "Princess Draupadi". Apparently she's… incredibly persuasive.

My political career in Ayodhya has rocketed to a terrifying start. Time to begin.

 

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Game 38 - The Saddhu
4,800 XP = Total: 114,700 XP

My Lady, would it be an insult to Indra to call the events of the last few days a "whirlwind?" If so, I'll definitely use the term. 

Not long after I finished my previous prayer to you we began to explore Sathish's demi-plane in earnest. It rapidly became apparent that the whole thing was built to trap souls for study. Unfortunately, that definition included us, and there was no obvious method of exit. Similarly, attempts by Saatvik to communicate with Brahma failed, which means my prior prayer probably didn't actually make it to you. Sorry. 

Xedris and I started looking at the two imprisoned "soul canisters" remaining while the others discovered what appeared to be panels of wizard-glass that were opaque from our side, but perhaps transparent from the other. Both Xedris and I noticed that the two soul-canisters held a strange fog of glowing glyphs that, when looked at just right, appeared to be in the forms of high elves, one male and one female. The male one was obviously the soul of the Risen Son we had come to retrieve. I noticed from the barely seen chain fragment of red smoke that the other was probably a demon of some sort. But no sooner had we made these observations than Xedris got a surprised look in his eye and vanished utterly! I'm not a wizard, but I DO know a thing or two about souls and necromancy, and it seemed pretty clear to those of us remaining that his spirit had been summoned and bound, presumably by Sathish. This put our own efforts on a timetable.

Panja knew some summoning and binding of his own, and opted to use that ritual to pull the soul of the demon out of the soul canister under the theory it might know some information. When it manifested in the circle it bore little resemblance to the high-elf it once was, instead manifesting as a somewhat female-seeming monstrosity with gossamer wings and a… tongue… I don't know how she talked with that thing, frankly. She seemed… curious and a bit amused at us. It rapidly became apparent that Panja's attempt to actually bind her to his will had failed. It became apparent even more rapidly that she was The Viloba, one of the Ten Archdevils. 

Since Vin and the others had found nothing behind the one-way windows than observation rooms and a lecture hall, we realized this devil might be our best way out. Indeed, she seemed most willing to not only transform the Risen Son's soul into something more… transportable… but also to crack the demiplane open so we might escape. All she asked in return is that once we were back in the physical world, Panja was to re-cast the ritual to summon her, and then let her do as she wished. He agreed rather more quickly than I was altogether comfortable with.

But, Archdevil or no, she was good for her word. She bound the soul of the Risen Son in chains of red smoke, handed him over, and cracked open Sathish's demiplane like an egg. Our silver cords reappeared and we journeyed back to the Dawnforge.

The god Brahma was grateful for our efforts. After taking custody of our captive, and awakening our physical selves once more, he confirmed that Xedris's soul was still trapped somewhere. He offered each of us a favor or a gift. I asked that he work with you and with your burgeoning church to ensure a successful reintegration into the pantheon. He grudgingly accepted. 

Eventually, after all the gifts and favors, we left the Dawnforge and spoke briefly with The Apostate, after which Panja found a secluded spot in the desert and re-summoned The Viloba. He was true to his own word and let her do as she wished. She assumed the guise of a high elf and with a smile and a wave walked off. I'm sure that won't return to haunt us…

The Heroes then set their mind to freeing their companion Xedris. They knew that Sathish probably had him somewhere, and Saatvik prayed to Soma for guidance. Soma showed him a vision confirming Xedris's location beneath the Wizard's College of Mithila, and so we prepared to head to Videha. Panja had the ability to turn us to wind and fly us there, but apparently that spell had been… problematic before. Saatvik once again showed his proclivity for all-pantheon prayer and confirmed that Indra, despite his ongoing ire, would not seek to kidnap them again. That was a relief, but it was still a bit nerve-wracking submitting to that spell knowing that Your old foe could steal us into his realm at any time. 

Long story short, we went to the Wizard's College where the Heroes, what with being Heroes and all, got an immediate audience with Archmage Lorelei Qualm, as well as another very strange wizard called “Alia”. They were up front with both these wizards and some things became pretty clear watching the social interplay. First, the Archmage isn't really in charge so much as the political face of the College. Second, she's afraid of Sathish, but isn't one of his followers within the College, who apparently call themselves "The Blinded." Third, she deferred to Alia in a way that makes me think the latter is the real power around here.

Alia took us aside and filled us in on Sathish and his faction inside the College. Apparently he's super helpful to have around, having an enormous brain and functional immortality, so they've never got rid of him. Still, keeping his enormous, insane ego in check can be occasionally difficult. She couldn't come with us to face off against him because he knows secrets about her that would get out, but she did give us everything we needed to know to reach his chambers and catacombs beneath the College. We found the secret doors, avoided the traps, and finally met three of the Blinded who were negotiating on Sathish's behalf.

As we guessed, he was holding Xedris as a bargaining chip. He promised to return our companion in exchange for two gallons of dragon blood (which Vin talked down to one gallon) and a specific set of three books held in the library of one of the old noble houses of Ayodhya. My companions considered the violent approach, but figured buying Xedris back would risk less. Sure, they beat Sathish in his demi-plane, but this time he had allies and an entrenched position and knew they were coming. It seemed a wise decision to me, at least at first. I had no idea how we'd get dragon blood, but apparently Vinihata is pals with a dragon (of course). That said, he had no interest in giving HER blood to Sathish, so we figured we'd start with the easier task. Off to Ayodhya with us!

Let me tell you, traveling with storied heroes of this caliber is amazing. Everyone knows and defers to us! Even the wizard manning Ayodhya's teleportation circle (and his marilith servant…) knew them on sight! I mean, I know Ayodhya's kind of the exception to the rule when it comes to opinions on You, and so of course they would be treated well here, but still. They figured Tavi's people might know enough to get started, so we headed to the part of the city that she (apparently) controls? She's on the ruling council! In absentia or something. Still, it was something of a surprise to see crowds of people celebrating her return and practically making a parade out of it. And, of course, the traditional "welcome assassins" made a poor attempt, easily fought off. 

The guy who sits on her big chair at the council meetings seemed nice enough. Apparently the "gold cloaks" keep order in "Tavi-town", the nickname for the part of the city her faction controls. They're big among the poor, downtrodden, menial, and tradesmen classes. Her people run a fifth of the city, but about a fourth of the overall population, making her (by people-count) the biggest Councilor on the Council. Of course, the head Priest of Varuna has outsized clout, as does the councilor for the Old Families. There's apparently even a faction dedicated to restoring the Imperial monarchy. Anyway, we learned that the books in question belonged to the Sharma family, and preparations were started for a heist.

While that was going on, Saatvik figured he could try to get the books legitimately, so we headed to the center of the city. While Saatvik and Tavi went to talk to some old university professor they knew, Vinihata and I went to the old Temple of the Sun, now the Temple of the Pantheon. Vin wanted to placate Agni, but I wanted to talk to my fellow priests and paladins of You. Needless to say, I made quite a splash showing up in the company of one of the Heroes who freed you from your long imprisonment. Vinihata gave them some really outstanding words of wisdom, and I regaled them with my tales. They in turn gave me some names of contacts in parts of the Whorl where your worship isn't yet openly permitted. My holy quest continues.

Saatvik showed up which made an even bigger splash with Your clerics. He was clearly a bit uncomfortable, but took the attention well enough. His talk with the professor, however, convinced him that we can't actually give Sathish what he wants. Apparently those particular books were on the theory of blood magic. Saatvik figured that blood magic, coupled with dragon blood, in the hands of Sathish was a bad recipe. Fortunately, his professor friend had an alternative idea: use blood magic to free Xedris.

And so, once again, I found myself whooshing through the skies as a gust of wind.

We found ourselves at a well-kept manor house on well-tended lands right up against the Wall of Dawn. Apparently Xedris's half-sister lives there, someone Saatvik REALLY hates. I mean, really. He has a thing against Your hags, but that's nothing compared to the disgust he clearly felt at having to interact with Elena Thrannis. And, I mean, I started to see his point as I met her. She's pretty… uh… creepy. The cages full of people with tentacles growing out of them while they begged for death didn't do much to improve my opinion. Once she heard Xedris was in trouble, she invited us into her forbidden laboratory where she, along with Tavi, engaged in a blood-magic ritual to summon Xedris. Apparently the chains of blood are stronger than whatever magic Sathish was using because eventually Xedris's soul appeared in the circle, and Elena sent it back to his body.

As she walked us out, she expressed how weary all that ritual use had made her. I kinda got the impression Saatvik was seriously considering killing her. I mean, she was alone with us. None of her people are allowed into the lab. She was tired. We were all fresh except for Tavi. It was probably the best chance we would have. But Saatvik, perhaps predictably, did the good and honorable thing and didn't kill the woman he loathes most right after she helped us free our companion from bondage. What a guy.

So, now we prepare to windwalk back to Ayhodhya. Saatvik got a sending through to Xedris who will meet us there. In just a few days I've journeyed across half the circumference of the Whorl in the company of some its most famous Heroes. I can't wait to see what we get up to next.

Yours in Darkness,

Nyx

 

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Game 14 - The Desert
2,900 XP = Total: 25,140 - Level 7

My Lady of Misfortune, please convey my thanks to your sister for the randomly fortuitous team of mortals who, apparently, couldn't stop poking the Dragon.  They're all aflutter about this horde of Monsters marching on Lankha and are trying to be very helpful. Obviously it's not in our interests to let a full-blown war break out, and so I've been doing what I can encourage them, but I just couldn't resist throwing them at a side-quest for my own personal benefit. 

You see, one of them has a soul-pact with Aranyani and yet has formed an emotional attachment to some horrid little demon that, apparently, was attached to the second-hand rod she purchased. I casually mentioned that despite his promises, the creature wasn't truly bound to her, and that he might betray her should she ever lose her attunement to the rod. I also may have casually mentioned I could fix the problem. I then let that percolate in her brain for a while. Sure enough, she came to me for help, bringing her entire crew with her.

You can't really blame me. It's like they handed me the opportunity on a golden platter. So of COURSE I sent them to Elemental Earth to dig up the demon's old backups. The ostensible reason was to see if his corrupted soul could be repaired somewhat, but in truth it was an olive branch to that asshole of an Emperor whose secrets I've been plundering and pondering for the past few months. It was just a theory, but one apparently borne out, that bringing a soul to Elemental Earth can actually unlock that soul's backups. Of course, since all the soul-archives in Elemental Earth belong to people long dead, the theory can only really be tested with demons or, I guess, fae. So I gave him the knowledge he needs to get moving on his project, and I've conveyed my own desire for his aid in my project.

All very tidy.

Oh, and the demon is apparently a bit more powerful, and I actually completed the bond, so he's a true familiar. I still don't know why one of Aranyani's warlocks would be so attached to someone like that, but hey, a promise is a promise, and I AM a child of misfortune after all…

 

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Game 37 - The Monk
4,800 XP = Total: 109,900 XP

Goddess,

I can't help but feel a bit of Lakshmi's pull in events of late… although, if my hunky traveling companion has anything to say about it, things could go Jyestha at any moment. Still, I don't regret my decision to retrace the steps of the Heroes who freed you from your unjust imprisonment for in so doing I have not only come into their very company, but have learned the secret reason for your imprisonment in the first place. 

Black Fang assured me that he was close personal friends with Vinihata and the rest, and that if I should travel with him long enough I'd likely meet them in person. He was not mistaken. I'm glad I saved him from dying in the desert. After the Heroes came to our aid at the Ochre hive I ingratiated my way into their company despite the clear suspicion in which I was held, most especially by Saatvik. It took me a while to understand why the Hero whose very hand and intention freed you would resent me on sight. I have come to realize in our travels together that Saatvik is a very conflicted person. He agrees that freeing you was for the wider betterment of all the Whorl, but he cannot reconcile this with the evils he perceives that you have done. I think he finally has accepted that I'm not a hag in disguise, but clearly his encounters with the children of your exile have soured him on you personally even if he sees the wider need for your freedom.

The others are, more or less, as Black Fang described them. A motley group indeed. Panja isn't the talkative sort, but of all of them I suspect his philosophy accords most closely with my own (and yours). He seems to have his eyes on a goal far beyond this world and has little patience for the vagaries and complications of Civilization. Much like you threatened to do, I think he would gladly destroy the whorl if it meant victory in his greater war… a war I did not comprehend until my journeys in their company brought me to the Dawn Forge. 

It seems the Dawn Forge was defended by a small tribe of Forged led by one who called himself "The Apostate" … a rather grand title, but it suited him. Apparently once he was a cleric of Brahma, brought back from death by Saatvik himself nearly a year ago. In that time, his faith in his god crumbled based on visions he did not have the context to fully appreciate. Now a cleric of Kali, he sought to prevent the Heroes (and by extension me and Black Fang) from entering to do Brahma's bidding, which he believed would lead to the demise of his race as he knew it. To my surprise, the wizard Xedris, normally incredibly off-putting and condescending, managed, with the help of Saatvik, to convince the Apostate to stand aside, and indeed, to accompany us to learn the truth of his visions… to be fair, he managed to do that while STILL being incredibly condescending, but I suppose it works if wielded right.

And so, I found myself in one of Brahma's holiest places. It was… not what I expected. Very alien. I didn't see any "forges" in the classic sense, but all was metal and magical energy and strange lights. Blue windows of illusory fire lit up next to each of us outlining, in the Celestial tongue, the details of who we were. Vinihata translated as best he could in the few moments before it became clear that the Apostate, Black Fang, and myself were not welcome. Saatvik, much to my surprise, interceded with the god to grant us permission to continue, and the god himself manifested upon his throne.

It seems there is a secret that Yama will kill to keep. Brahma wished to spare the three of us that secret, although apparently the Heroes already know it. The Apostate chose to learn for he felt (accurately) that it would explain his vision. Black Fang chose to learn it because he believes in confronting the "crucible of fate" head on. As for me, well… I've always been curious.

So. Planetfall. I get it now. I see why the godswar was really fought. I see why you created the hags and other monsters. I see why you risked destroying the sun. It's… a lot to take in, but I think we handled it pretty well (with some magical aid from Saatvik, again showing his compassion). 

So, if Yama's assassins kill me in the next few weeks, know that I chose to learn these things of my own will. Brahma promised to try to get us clearance, but who knows.

Brahma revealed to us that one of his worshipers elsewhere in the whorl brought to him tomes of necromancy that purported to explain how he might bypass the Law of Death and begin mass-production of Forged once more. Essentially, Forged bodies, empty of souls, would become vessels for the spirits who live in Kurukshetra, the realm of Durga, to create at speed a vast army of hardened warriors to face the Planetfall war. It's… ingenious actually, and put The Apostate's mind at ease. He had not known of any war beyond the Whorl, and had assumed that mass-production would effectively remove the gifts given to his people in the godswar. Although he has not returned to the worship of Brahma, I believe he was mollified, and he departed to spread a… modified lesson among his people.

As for the Heroes and Black Fang and me, Brahma had a task for us. Apparently when the Heroes killed The Risen Son in the fall of Ayodhya his soul did not go to the Halls of the Dead but got lost amidst the ritual the Emperor performed specifically to bar the doors to the Halls. Our task was to travel the astral plane and seek that soul and return it to Brahma, who will learn the necessary secrets of necromancy to accomplish this task. One last concession given to The Apostate was that once he's done with it, the soul will go to Kali. Seemed fair to me. So we entered some strange glass coffins, breathed strange fumes, and found ourselves in the astral plane.

Now, you know I've been to the astral plane a couple of times, but this time we got instruction  from the Lady of Blades herself, who came at the call of Tavi. She gave us a bit of an instructional on navigating the plane and we set off to find the Risen Son's soul.

There were some false starts, but the Heroes were able to construct a conceptual model sufficient to bring us as close to him as we could get before we were stymied by a white room with white windows. After some contemplation, we determined that the Risen Son's soul wasn't actually free-floating in the Astral but was probably inside a demi-plane and the windows represented the barrier separating us from that demi-plane. The Heroes assumed that the Risen Son himself had created this place, and so sought entry through building conceptual frameworks that were in harmony with what they knew of him. This resulted in some… violent restraints seeking to entrap them. 

A new theory emerged: the demi-plane is a prison constructed by someone else to contain the soul of the Risen Son. With this theory in mind, Xedris and the others formulated a conceptual key that gained us entry.

That's when we entered the extra-planar laboratory of a monstrous creature. I had heard legends of Beholders before, but had not considered them real. This one seemed to know the Heroes, although by now I've ceased to be surprised at the various creatures and gods they know. It waxed megalomaniacally about how it had an even better solution to Planetfall… BECOME the enemy, but better, and out-"evolve" them, whatever that means. He refused to relinquish the soul until he could study it for another century or so. 

Despite their polite words, and clear prior positive relationship with this monster, Saatvik and I had a bit of a bonding moment as we started doing the murder-math. The thing was clearly crazy and we had a job to do. The fight was on.

A note: Vinihata was wielding power over light… something very similar to the Solar Order monks of Ayodhya but… purer, cleaner somehow. Judging by the glares that Tavi and the Lady of Blades gave him, I suspect he might be channeling power somehow from Rama… although not exactly in a warlocky kinda way. Anyway, thought you'd find that interesting.

So the giant ball of eyes and death couldn't stop talking the entire fight, bemoaning how annoying and tedious we all were. We were so annoying and tedious that we eventually drove him from his own demiplane, and now here we are resting for a bit while the big brains look at the souls the creature had trapped here and we decide our next move.

Anyway, Night be Praised. By the time I'm done traveling with these guys, if I'm not dead first, I'll have the knowledge and power I need to build you a proper cathedral. Your worship has been forbidden for too long. It's time you had a proper church again.

Yours in Faith,

Nyx

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Game 13 - The Whispered Word
2,900 XP = Total: 22,240 XP

Honored Daimyo Geniro Suzuki, brother, thank you for agreeing to meet with me on short notice. I have come to urge you in no uncertain terms to support the position of the Blue, White, and Copper Houses that a diplomatic solution to the threat of the Monster horde is the proper and honorable one.

Yes, yes, don't look so shocked. I'm under no illusions that this mouth-gaping expression arises more from the fact that I'm bothering to express a political opinion in the first place rather than the substance of that opinion, nevertheless I have an excellent reason for doing so that you will not wish to believe…

sigh As you wish. I will explain my reasons as succinctly as I can. Do you remember those two half-drow I sponsored for citizenship recently? They are part of a team of resourceful individuals that I sent into the Labyrinth to procure some rare and dangerous items. They had, previously, exhibited no particular interest in the higher politics of Lankha, so I was most surprised when they arrived on my doorstep unannounced while I was in the midst of a delightful conversation with the Lady Tamiyo of the House of Copper. No, you probably haven't heard of her yet… she has only recently arrived in the city, but is, I now believe, at the heart of the House of Copper's surprisingly newfound political influence and unusual ideological unity. 

As you are well aware, I have little use for the normal codes of etiquette which would have had my agents cooling their heels until my luncheon with the Lady Tamiyo was concluded. Also, when my nephew brought word they had arrived, the Lady expressed a mild curiosity that I now believe was feigned. And so, I invited them all to join us.

They almost immediately began interrogating both myself and the Lady Tamiyo about our respective attitudes toward the advancing Horde. I maintained my usual disinterest, confident that whatever Lankha's rulership decided, I was in no particular danger. Also, the Lady Tamiyo was nearly vibrating with magical power so immense that I was beginning to believe her claims that she possessed a secret weapon that could effectively destroy the entire Horde. Why should I care how the city chose to deal with something I considered a non-threat?

But as these supposed agents of mine shifted the brunt of their questioning to the Lady Tamiyo, and as the Lady began to speak more and more candidly about the power she possessed and why she very much wished NOT to unleash it upon the Monsters, I put together this and that hint and clue and came to the stunning realization that the Lady Tamiyo is, in fact, Tamra the Copper herself.

Yes, I'll wait.

No, I assure you, I'm not mad. Everyone has heard the rumors that she was seen at the fall of the Eternal Solar Empire at the other end of the whorl. HOW she is awake, and WHY she is awake is anyone's guess, and she refuses to answer questions on that subject. But one of the Ten Great Dragons is awake and active in Lankha, and I have every reason to believe that the political position to which she is pushing her descendants is a genuine desire that we would be enormous fools to oppose.

Yes, I'm well aware of her ancient reputation, but let us just assume that we can't trust anything we might guess about her motivations and therefore simply take her at whatever face value she wishes to show us.

After some frenzied research while my agents kept her busy, I returned to her company after they had left and confirmed a few things, among them her stated desires:

First, she does not wish the destruction of the Monster races. I know, her kind were created specifically to fight them, but still… she insists that things have changed. Second, she will not permit the destruction of Lankha at the hands of the Monster races. Third, she will destroy the horde if she absolutely has to in order to preserve Lankha, but will be… enormously upset at having to do so. 

With these desires plainly stated, our own position is clear. You've always been the politician, brother. You are good at it, and I trust you to play this game just as you trust me in my own researches. Do with this information what you will, but know that a great deal hangs in the balance.

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Game 36 - The Matriarch
5,280 XP = Total: 105,100 XP - Level 12

My Viridian Sister, the memories you shared of the Five who came before you a year ago seeking the buried Titans showed their potential. These memories I share with you now show how well that potential has blossomed within them. 

By now you know that one of The Thrannis' ancient weapons has found new purchase in a cooler, moister desert, and that the Ochre Kreen are no more. The fungus grew in my children's carapaces and spread at speed, driving them mad and pushing them into the desert to spread the spores. I sealed my chamber with four breeding drones and prepared to wait out the death of my people. This process was dramatically accelerated by the Five, along with Two who arrived separately, yet whose path was set by the Five.

The Two arrived at my hive first, seeking to seal the entrance with steel and magic and blood, preventing those still in the early stages of fungal infection from leaving to spread their illness. These two were paladins of very different gods. One was a human with something of the serpent in him, serving the Twins of Fate. Another also appeared human and served the goddess of night. Although courageous, they were much beleaguered until the Five arrived, having carved their own path through my infected children.

These Seven, then, infiltrated my hive, established themselves near my chamber, and fought off waves and waves until all the remaining infected were slain. They then did what they could to cleanse the halls of spores sufficiently for me to permit them entrance.

I spoke to them of this fungus, its origins as an ancient weapon against our kind, and how the changing climate of the whorl, now that Night has returned, has permitted it to rise again from long dormant spores. I told them that I would begin again, breeding a different species of Kreen more adapted to a cooling land. I suspect you and our Vermillion Sister have already begun culling your own peoples and beginning this process in a more controlled fashion.

It seems the Five are on their way to the Dawnforge and the Two now seek to accompany them. The Paladin of the Twins knew the Five already, and seemed nearly to revere the teachings of Vinihata. The Paladin of Night was new to them, but seemed nearly to venerate Saatvik for his role in freeing her goddess. I have granted them rest and what wisdom and knowledge I possess. Soon they will journey dawnward to whatever fate the gods have in store for them.

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Game 12 - The Unclean
2,200 XP = Total: 19,340 XP

My Lord

The agents I've been using through the intermediation of “Jade” have, with some reservations, decided to work directly with me, as You seemed to desire. I admit to some reservations of my own. Certainly, they succeeded at the task for which they were hired, delivering the goblin cleric to the Temple of Renewal and initiating the Renewal Protocols. It would seem they even put in a day or two of effort helping to educate and acclimate Your new children, the Kenku, to the reality in which they now find themselves nearly three thousand years after they went to sleep, but they did not do so entirely without blunder, and I do question allowing clerics faithful to other gods who may or may not align with Your agenda so close to Your chosen agents.

My opinion of Your chosen consort and her followers is something I have already expressed, and will not belabor. I admit, it surprised me that Vihaan Naraka seems to have decided to join only after speaking with her. I fear betrayal, Lord, but I trust You to look after Your interests.

In any event, they have been brought into the fold. I will momentarily begin more detailed talks and initiation once the last member of their band, the bard, can be located. 

 

 

 

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Game 35 - The Scarab
4,400 XP = Total: 99,820 XP

Ms. Jasmine,

I've returned from my abortive attempt to transport our friends to the Fist. Now seems as good a time as any to write up a formal report of my surveillance during their time here in Videha.

I like them, but frankly, if it weren't for the King's direct interest I would counsel you to distance yourself and the Ministry from them. Their profiles are getting to be dangerously high, and when a god makes a direct attempt at kidnapping and assassination (a FAILED attempt at that…)  you have to run the risk-reward analysis, and in my opinion there's too high a risk of collateral damage.

But I don't get paid to make those decisions.

First, they arrived at the University teleportation circle in a flash of energy wholly atypical of standard teleportation. Experts from the university are puzzling over it, but without having seen it directly, they can draw no firm conclusions. I needn't report to you what happened in your own offices between you, them, and His Majesty, and so my real report begins in the days following.

For the most part, they seemed content to make contact with old friends and acquaintances. Some matters of note:

1) Xedris has informed Etama of their familial relationship. I don't know the details, but his sudden investment in her future and the future of her daughter is… significant. Not only has he poured significant personal wealth into a trust to benefit them, but he has convinced his companion Tavi "the Terrible" to invest significant manpower in their ongoing protection. 

2) Speaking of Tavi, despite the fact that she is a wanted criminal, the law enforcement personnel of the city seem to be… well… afraid to actually effectuate an arrest. I suppose when you have a reputation for bringing back Night, let alone the other tall-tales of her exploits, most officers of the law would rather live to see their children when they get off-shift. Also, word has trickled down that the King has granted a pardon, and so nobody is in any hurry to inconvenience her. Indeed, Minister of Trade, Aurum Dravya, invited her to a soiree, the entire point of which seemed to be getting the mercantile elites of the Kingdom to kiss Tavi's ass in hopes of improved trade terms with Ayodhya. I don't think Tavi even knew, until that evening, that she had a seat on Ayodhya's ruling council. It will be interesting to see what she does with that, if anything.

3) Saatvik appears to be miffed at the Grand Temple of Sarasvati's previous denouncement. Although he clearly knows it was entirely political, he made a point of snubbing them. This may prove to be problematic for the Temple in the long run, but I'm loathe to comment too much on internal temple politics. Of all of them, he seems to be the only one genuinely interested in paying some penance for the deaths they indirectly caused by returning Night to the whorl.

4) Panja got into a fight near the Desert Gate that resulted in a dead ranger. He appeared to by trying to make a point, or convey a prophecy, or something but his message got a bit lost amidst the reports of violent death. The ranger wasn't a citizen, but murder is still illegal. In his absence, I've put in motion a legal defense strategy, and arranged to pay to bring the deceased back to life. I'll talk to him once I'm done with this report, but I imagine he won't want to press charges or testify.

5) Vinihata seems… the same, although he did have a long, very private talk with Cinder, the warlock of Rama that we've been keeping an eye on. I was unable to determine what they discussed.

I was tasked with bringing them by wind-walk to the Fist where they planned to continue their efforts to reconcile with the gods. It seems, however, that my spell brought them close enough to the realm of Elemental Air that Indra was able to straight-up kidnap them away from me. By the time I was able to stop, I was kilometers away. They contacted me by sending a few minutes later, having apparently escaped Indra's trap, but indicating that they would walk the rest of the way. 

And so, that's my report. They're safely away from Videha once more, and any divine repercussions of their actions are unlikely to directly impact the city at this time, although one must always be wary of indirect consequences. 

Arvind

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