The Whorl

Game 2 - The Slave
+520 XP = 980 XP

The Journals of Xedris Thrannis Somabhakta
Entry 527, Decrypted and Translated

The last two days have been a wealth of information. Although I could spend decades here speaking with Vinyasa, the curse of his immortality begins to toll and I should not leave my companions without my guidance and talents for much longer. Sadly, I must depart the Archive and make all due haste to Sarya. Fortunately, the Archivist has promised some aid in that regard.

I suppose, for posterity, I should record some simple facts about the Archive and its wonders. The Parvati-worshiping mystics of Broken Spring led us here, a simple monastery carved into a sandstone cliff face, believing its keeper to be an "oracle." Based on this representation, Professor Sanjaya Pandava dismissed  the Archivist as a fortune-teller, focused as he was on the geographical information provided, and on his goals. Nevertheless, I, along with Panja and Saatvik, ascended via bucket-and-pulley to consult with her.

How to describe the Archivist… she is clearly non-human, although she is certainly humanoid. She is swathed entirely in layered black silks and veils, although occasionally the head of a small emerald-scaled serpent can be seen poking its head out of her layered clothing. The Archive is carved into a cliff face, its hall lined with niches containing immaculate statues of high-Elves in various poses and states. The hall leads to a grotto open to the sky via a light-well carved upward through the rock. There is a circular pool with some plant life growing in it, and dozens more statues in various positions. 

I won't belabor things. The statues are all living beings turned to stone by some art or quality of the Archivist. Each one of them is a high-elf who survived the Godswar nearly three thousand years ago. Each one of them chose not to join Surya in his prison, nor to join Aranyani in the Feywild, nor to give up their immortality. Each one, by so refusing, has been cursed by the gods to waste away in agony. Each one sought out the first Archivist who turned them to stone to preserve their knowledge against future need, and each one is occasionally returned to flesh to add to their knowledge before being frozen in stone once more.

I'm not entirely sure what manner of Monster the current Archivist (she says she's the Ninth) might be, but she has certainly found an excellent way to utilize whatever unnatural talents she possesses for the good of Civilization and the edification of future generations. I wouldn't have expected such dedication from a Druid, but perhaps I have misjudged them. Panja certainly treated her with elaborate respect, and they spent much of the first day we were here together discussing the secret lore of their order. I was more interested in Vinyasa.

To elaborate: the three of us inquired into the supposed "great evil" that had arisen once more, sending agents throughout the land poisoning springs with arcane artifacts imbued with necrotic energy. The Archivist indicated that the last time this sort of thing occurred it was the work of the Risen Son, and that she would thaw the one most able to tell us more about him. She selected one of her statues and re-animated him. After a moment of initial disorientation, he locked eyes with me and called me by my true family name. Clearly he saw some ancestor in my features. I pretended not to know what he spoke of and he shook off his confusion, but I decided then that I would seek private conversation with him if at all possible.

He told us that the Risen Son was a child during the Godswar, and when Surya fell he was just a teenager. He fled into the war-torn wastes that are now the Thar Desert refusing to give up his immortality and seeking a way to defy the gods. He found inspiration in Surya's example. Apparently during the war, Mahadeva would simply resurrect those of his faithful who would fall in battle, ensuring his army stayed ever-strong. Surya, seeking to emulate his father, attempted to imbue his fallen with esoteric fires and energies and successfully animated them once more, although they were souls trapped in dead flesh. The Risen Son, somewhere in the ruins of the ancient magical war machines of the Empire, discovered the arts whereby he could convert himself into a powerful undead, finding through this loophole a path to the immortality he sought to keep.

About a thousand years after the Godswar, the Risen Son led a cult of undead followers preaching the immortality of Surya through undeath. This cult dominated the Thar Desert, but was eventually suppressed and destroyed by a concerted military campaign led by the Kingdom of Mithila, and it hasn't been a known threat since.  I created an illusion of the strange shard we found in the spring, and Vinyasa indicated that it looked very much like the blade of one of the swords wielded by the Risen Son's most faithful knights, weapons that could instantly re-animate the bodies of those they slew into loyal undead servants. There is some evidence, therefore, that at least some elements of the old Cult are still around even if we have no direct evidence that the Risen Son himself is still a threat. 

While Panja and Saatvik returned to the expedition intended to head to Sarya to rendezvous with the other teams, I spent an additional day deep in study with Vinyasa. His knowledge of the arcane arts, while archaic, is dramatically more advanced than anything I've seen at the Wizard’s College of Mithila. He even gave me a spellbook in honor of his friendship with my ancestor who fought beside him in the war. I'll need to return someday to speak with him again, but he can only stay in flesh for so long before the gods' curse begins to fray at his life. The Archivist returned him to stone and arranged transport to Sarya via methods she has asked I not record.

I arrived in this desert caravansary and market-hub built into the ruins of an ancient city to hear of a disturbance. Asking around, it seems that Team Dvi ran into some difficulties. My own companions rescued one of their number from a line of slaves being sold by slavers who were, it turns out, Monsters known as "jackalweres", cursed and ensorcelled beasts who can take on the forms of men. They are remarkably resilient to weapons, but my companions managed to slay them anyway rescuing Sindoor. I'm resting in this tent, putting my thoughts to page, waiting for the ruckus to subside before I seek them out to learn the specifics. Perhaps I'll try this local delicacy of fermented camel's milk.

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Game 1 - The Architect
+460 XP = 460 XP

(Written in cipher)

Report of Elenwe Two-Toes, Enlightened Knight of Videha

The expedition set out without a hitch. Professor Sanjaya Pandava leads our primary team while his two most advanced graduate students head the other teams. I am almost certain that all three of them have rudimentary magic enabling the exchange of messages, but I have thus far seen no evidence of regular collaboration across distance. 

The Professor briefed all three teams on his unusual theories on the origin of necrotic energies and his hypothesis that the particularly potent, stationary "hot spots" for that energy in the Thar Desert represented buried engines of the old pre-war Solar Empire that are damaged or otherwise bleeding corruption into the surrounding soil. The three teams were to split up to three different villages with the intention of gleaning local knowledge of these locations for further investigation and potential excavation. As you made clear to me, under no circumstances are Professor Pandava's scrolls to fall into hostile hands. His proprietary spell to ward against necrotic energy would be a boon to enemy militaries seeking to cross the desert against us. I took custody of his scrolls, which he relinquished readily and with no apparent suspicion.

The rest of the team seems competent enough. There's no cause for suspicion thus far for any of them. We set off for Broken Spring, an oasis-village of mystics devoted to Parvati. It is somewhat distant from the more traveled caravan routes, and Professor Pandava believed they would be a useful source of information about the energies of death in the desert. When we arrived, however, we discovered no signs of activity. The sharp-eyed among us noted corpses. 

Tavi Agarwal and Vin infiltrated the village while the rest of us prepared for trouble. The corpses animated and attacked. After a short exchange of violence, the five corpses and assorted animated severed limbs were rendered inanimate. Professor Pandava's contributions to the combat were minimal, mostly due to the insistence of multiple members of the team that he stay out of harm's way. While this was frustrating from the point of view of my own, particular mission it made tactical sense to preserve the only person capable of protecting us from necrotic energies. He did, however, note movement in the distance, which caused us to be alert to potential non-zombie dangers.

Sure enough, Sattvik detected subterranean motion and caused a localized earth tremor which resulted in the eruption from the ground of a… disturbingly large scarab beetle. It appeared in all ways to be an ordinary scarab beetle except for its unnatural size. It didn't attack, acting more like an ordinary insect, treating us warily, but clearly drawn to the zombie-corpses. Some experimentation by Sattvik and Panja showed that the creature seemed drawn to sources of necrotic energy. Professor Pandava cast a spell he claimed could detect such energies and made a beeline for the settlement's oasis pool where he indicated a source of necrotic energy was poisoning the water. Panja accepted the Professor's necrotic ward magic and went swimming, uncovering an unusual magic device that had clearly been planted there. This device was dangerous to touch and seemed capable of poisoning water sources. Sattvik used some of the budget of Charges to identify the device, discovering that it had been constructed specifically to curse water such that anyone drinking it would sicken and die and rise again as undead.

We secured the device, but it became clear that the enormous scarab was strongly attracted to it. The academics among us posited that the scarab was an example of a creature known to have been summoned by priests of Surya before and during the Godswar, and further guessed that this particular creature may, itself, have been alive that long ago. This excited the Professor, who wanted to determine a method to capture or keep the creature despite the obvious logistical difficulties of transporting a large, wild creature through the desert. Furthermore, the creature started glowing as it consumed necrotic energy. It seemed to be safely consuming it and transforming it into radiant energy. Needless to say, this excited the Professor, who took it as more evidence of his… unpopular theories.

Sattvik, Panja, and Xedris theorized that an ancient invocation to Surya might compel or otherwise manipulate the beast. Xedris advised strongly against invoking the Archfiend. Sattvik indicated he would not do so, but was comfortable enough transcribing such a prayer and handing it to others. Professor Pandava revealed he knew a number of old pre-war prayers, and decided to perform one.

This "prayer" was a ritual, and it resulted in the creature becoming something akin to the Professor's familiar. So. We now have a giant insect known to be a sacred symbol of the Archfiend (that can shoot beams of hot light and eats necrotic energy) accompanying us. I should take a moment to note that the Professor gave every indication of being befuddled at the incredible success of his ritual. This is fully in keeping with the persona he has presented for the last century.

Panja invoked the goddess Parvati to speed the healing of the oasis and we tracked the survivors of the village dawnward and anti-spinward into a region of the desert unmarked on our map. We eventually found them at the base of a monastery or other settlement carved into a cliff face. They were invoking the inhabitant, who eventually deigned to speak with their representative. We observed from a distance after making initial contact with them. After they consulted with the monastery inhabitant, they spoke with us. These survivors, the aforementioned mystics of Parvati, reported that a human male entered their village and partook of their hospitality before leaving the next morning. A day later, they started to fall ill, some of them succumbing and rising again. They were not equipped to combat the risen dead, and fled, seeking the advice of "the Oracle", hoping to gain information about the man who violated hospitality codes and brought death to a place dedicated to life.

We informed them that we had cleansed their village, and in return, their leader spent some time providing the information the Professor sought, as well as other useful notations on our map. She also conveyed what the Oracle told her, that in a deep ruin a "sleeping evil" has awakened once more, and through its agents, seeks to spread death wherever there is life. 

The Professor, ever-fixated on his own goals, wants to press on to Sarya where we're to rendezvous with the other two teams. I hope to learn more about this mysterious Oracle before we go, but the decision ultimately is not mine. 

I'll write more when I know more. Currently, Professor Pandava has been consistent in his self-portrayal as an obsessive academic with an unusually disparate set of talents. I have seen nothing actionable by the Knight-Provost at this time. I hope to send this entry, and subsequent ones, back to Videha with one of our agents once I reach Sarya.

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