The Whorl

Game 57 / Game 31 - The Architect
Game Concluded

If you had asked me a year ago if I, after nearly three millenia of endless war, wanted to keep living after that war was over, I would have calmly yet vehemently told you no. But today, as a new era dawns over the Whorl, as my endless war prepares to conclude, and having been granted by my daughter the option, I think I will choose to stay a little longer, to live out the rest of a normal, mortal life, grow old, and die. Because now I have a reason to live. She is my reason for living.

I had known, intellectually, that my dear, impossible, half-drow daughter had been chosen, along with 15 others spread in three groups across the Whorl, through some inscrutable process of the gods, to decide the fate of us all. But there was something visceral about being there, on Elemental Earth, in the presence of the dormant soul of long-dead Mahadeva, in the presence of all the gods save Varuna and Surya, witnessed by Aranyani and Sita, as my daughter and her fellow Chosen debated who would live or die, whether we would all be committed to war upon the Outsider itself or committed to leave it behind to find a new paradise, whether they would resurrect Mahadeva as he was or… change him to suit their mortal concerns.

It was clear that there was no consensus, at least at first. Strongly held moral, ethical, and practical views were aired and debated. Would they "fix" death? Would all of us who have been granted terrible immortality be permitted the peace of non-existence? Should all those living be condemned, without a choice, to archival oblivion or should they have the option to continue as they currently do, souls existing in one or another god-realm? What becomes of those who choose perpetual existence? Should they be cut off from the living?

In the end, they all agreed that we should not make war upon the Outsider, that we should instead restore the Whorl to its former master, Mahadeva, and allow him to take us onward to a new paradise, even though that journey should take nearly thirty thousand years. 

The gods, standing almost unified, promised the Chosen that they could, as a body, demand of a restored Mahadeva a boon for each one of them. In this way they could color the fate of the Whorl if they could not otherwise find agreement. This compromise seemed to break the philosophical detente as it essentially outsourced the need to find consensus to Mahadeva himself.

Their thoughts turned to restoring the dead King and Creator of all things. The Guardian was summoned. It explained that although Mahadeva's soul, in all its complexity and knowledge, was stored here on Elemental Earth, it could not so easily be resurrected to true life. The "data" that the soul consisted of needed to be combined with a "personality seed-matrix" and permitted, then, to blossom to full person-hood. The Guardian, as an ancient shard of Mahadeva, was willing to be that matrix, but it acknowledged that it didn't have much of a personality, and offered to integrate one or more of the Chosen into itself. This would effectively kill that person as an individual entity, but everything that person was would be combined, blended, and made a part of the Guardian, and ultimately the restored Mahadeva itself.

Four of their number chose this route. The high-elf wizard Xedris Thrannis committed himself swiftly and decisively, as did his companion, the human cleric of Sarasvati Saatvik. My daughter's quiet companion, the half-elf child of law and justice Vihaan Naraka also chose to add himself to the being who would rule us all. Finally Dermon, the storm-sorcerer descendant of Indra volunteered for this curious form of death-yet-immortality. They were each, in turn, enfolded in the Guardian's wings and in flashes of white light were consumed. 

The Guardian seemed different after all this. Perhaps it was my imagination. It then established a connection to the soul of Mahadeva, and began to grow and transform into the King of the Gods.

The process was fascinating. Something I never thought I would see. And soon enough we all stood in the presence of the Creator.

Fortunately, he was suitably grateful for his resurrection, and there was no dispute as to his desire to accommodate the wishes of those who had restored him. He acknowledged that the parts of him that were Xedris, Saatvik, Vihaan, and Dermon were all reinforcing beliefs and attitudes he already possessed, namely an aversion to genocide, and a desire to create equitable systems for the governance of society to ensure it's longterm stability. It would seem that Dermon's primary desire was for Mahadeva to find forgiveness in his heart for his errant god-children. And then began the individual requests. 

Ballast spoke first, for it was most concerned with the fate of its people. The Forged were never a part of Mahadeva's design. Ballast requested that it, along with anyone among its people who wished to join it, be permitted to take a "dropship", apparently some smaller vessel attached to the Whorl, and set sail into the infinite Void, free of all the rules and restrictions Mahadeva has placed upon the Whorl, free to find its own destiny. Mahadeva, seeming perhaps a little relieved at this solution to the problem of the Forged, acquiesced. Celia, the other Forged among the Chosen, opted in to this plan and had no further requests. 

Vinihata had, apparently, somehow given his soul to Tamra the Copper, who had also insinuated herself into the gathering. He deferred his wish to her, and she in his stead asked Mahadeva to spare the Ten Great Dragons from oblivion. As soul-less war machines built to end the godswar, they were no longer needed, and she feared they would simply cease to exist. After some discussion with Ballast, the solution presented itself that the Dragons would be "converted" into pure souls, stored, and when the time came for Ballast to depart, those souls would be transferred to the dropship to join Ballast on its journey.

Tavi the Terrible, having little concern for philosophical matters, or for a more stable and ordered society under Mahadeva, opted to join Ballast on its journey far from the Whorl and its restrictions.

Luther, a cleric of Radha that I knew little of, made the fairly selfish wish to regain the capacity to love at least once more before he died. Mahadeva promised he would do what he could within the limits of free will.

Panja requested that Mahadeva set aside a portion of the Whorl wherein the usual rules and regulations governing life and death would be withheld, where Civilization did not exist and where those brave or foolish enough to risk it might live outside of Civilization and the sight of the gods. Mahadeva seemed to consider this request for a moment before ultimately permitting it, indicating that he would set aside the Viridian Plateau as this "reserve" where the light of Civilization would not touch.

The other druid present, the gnome Felicity, elaborated on Panja's request, asking that the plants and animals of this new preserve also be free to grow, thrive, or go extinct based on fate and strength, a preserve where flora and fauna could be as wild and free as possible. This, too, was granted.

My daughter's half-sibling, Rajeev Two Notes, requested that Mahadeva form a link to him whereby he might experience life through the sensorium of one of his mortal creations, to be advised by Rajeev's perspective, and in this way not lose touch with his "cargo" during the long voyage to our new destination. Mahadeva readily conceded that his error before the godswar had been too much delegation to the gods as he contemplated other matters outside the Whorl. He agreed to make of Rajeev something of an oracle, or high priest.

My daughter's wish was for me, and all the Technicians of the great war in the Underworld, be granted either the peace of death, or the option to live out the remainder of a mortal lifespan. I was touched, and blessed, to have her use her boon in this way, giving us the remainder of our lives to forge a bond of family that has thus far been so cruelly denied us. In this way she also spared us the somewhat abrupt fate of the Fae and the Devils once Hekate got her boon.

This Hekate, a human assassin and devotee of Kali, spoke on the side with the cleric of Chinnamasta “Nekumi” and with Kalki who had, in the previous discussion, indicated some strong opinions about the workings of death. There was surprisingly little argument. Hekate's boon of Mahadeva, then, was to repair death, return its function to how it was prior to the godswar, no caveats, no immortal souls. The only voice who spoke in opposition was The Viloba, the arch-devil summoned to this meeting because of a promise. Nobody heeded the devil's words and Mahadeva unified Parvati and Kali once more. In a trembling and wavering of light, Elemental Earth and the Halls of the Dead were joined. In that very moment, the countless souls of all who have died these last three millenia were archived. Every warrior in Kurukshetra, every hedonist in Kamadhatu, every spirit-servant in every god-realm, vanished into the archive. All the devils and demons, including the Viloba and my daughter's familiar, Gob, vanished into the archive. All the fae, including Aranyani and Ravana's consort Sita, vanished into the archive. All the Technicians who chose to do so vanished into the archive. I chose to stay with my daughter.

Nekumi was satisfied with how things were going and had no boon of her own, she eventually asked Mahadeva for a favor in the future.

Kalki spoke briefly of the fact that he had become contaminated by the Outsider. Mahadeva indicated this could be fixed without killing him, although the process may be more complicated than originally thought. The King of the Gods also offered to do this as a free service, and also as a practice run on possibly cleansing that taint from the souls of those who had been similarly contaminated over the centuries, souls that had apparently been left in Kali's quarantine despite having repaired death. Kalki's boon, therefore, was to be permitted to violate one of the core laws of the Whorl and copy his soul so that he could both journey with Ballast, and stay in the Whorl to live out the rest of his life and complete what outstanding tasks he had. This was, grudgingly, granted.

With these boons and desires fulfilled, Mahadeva made it clear that he intended to "re-program" a number of the gods, "tweaking" them to take into account the changed nature of society during the last few millenia. He indicated a significant re-design for Surya, indicating that the Archfiend would be freed, after a fashion. As he re-established control over all aspects of the Whorl, he indicated that Elemental Earth would shortly be inhospitable. He sent all of us who were still (or newly) mortal away. 

I emerged into the city of Lankha, a city I have not seen in decades, newly mortal, with a new life with my daughter under a new sun. The people around us seemed subdued, and I learned that Mahadeva's return had not been subtle. Clerics, paladins, and others touched by the divine had received theophanies. Warlocks of all stripes had found their patrons suddenly absent. The sun was burning with a whiter light than before. Flocks of Mahadeva's angels had been seen in flight headed to the Wall of Dusk. 

But I don't care. The future is unknown, a new journey has begun for the entire Whorl, and I am content. 

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Game 30 - The Marriage Bed
4,200 XP = Total: 85,440 XP - Level 11

Shogun Seidou Niko

This is my preliminary report on Lankha's ad-hoc joint-diplomatic mission to Elemental Earth. More details will be forthcoming in our personal audience, but I know how devoted the Shogunate is to record-keeping. 

For those records, then, some brief background: former-shogun Seidou Tamsin, in his role as diplomate to the Horde, reported that the Hordemaster Whisper had come into some intelligence that caused him to mobilize an elite military force. Honored Tamsin had thought hostilities at a stalemate and was concerned for our fragile peace and so inquired, but the target of Whisper's ire was not Lankha, but rather the somewhat incredible possibility that Mahadeva, the King of Gods, thought long-dead, might shortly be resurrected. Whisper had reason to believe that the King of the Gods might not remember the Monster races kindly, and Whisper considered his resurrection an existential threat. His intention was to lead a strike force into Elemental Earth to find the corpse of Mahadeva and destroy it.

All of this came as something of a sudden surprise to Honored Tamsin, not to mention everyone here in Lankha's court. Shogun Nico ordered a complementary party to accompany Whisper to see if a diplomatic solution might be possible. She ordered me, Inquisitor Jade, to lead this party. I selected Giniro Toshiko to transport us, as she is, perhaps, the only wizard in Lankha with both the requisite magic and esoteric knowledge to lead us safely to a godrealm that has, until apparently recently, been inaccessible. I also brought a representative of the other 9 Dragonborn houses so nobody felt left out. 

So. My report. We arrived in Elemental Earth with our party at about the same time that Whisper's gate opened as well. We were met, much to our surprise, by a mixed force of drow elves and other Underworld denizens who have apparently occupied Elemental Earth. The place was also buzzing with fae from the Feywild. The place was far more populated than I had anticipated, and apparently this was the case for Whisper as well, who immediately started playing for time so more of his forces could come through the gate.

Rapidly responding to our arrival was a collection of individuals I had certainly not expected to encounter here. You might recall the ad hoc group of Inquisition agents I recruited just before the return of Night. Five of them came to treat with us. I do not know what became of Rajeev Two Notes, but the others seemed to be in charge of this joint Underworld / Feywild activity, as both parties deferred to them. As Whisper and I started to negotiate, however, more visitors appeared.

Three horrific monstrosities taking the form of immense, floating, fleshy eyeballs with smaller eyeballs on stalks appeared in the company of a pair of giants and a dozen mean, fey-looking creatures. The floating eyes spoke Common well enough, and exuded a strangely insufferable pomposity despite their horrific appearance. Their speech reminded me, actually, of Tamoki the Gold's preferred oratory style. In any event, Lady Toshiko clearly knew of them. They introduced themselves as "Sathish", apparently speaking and behaving as one. They indicated a desire to take part in these negotiations. I noted that Whisper seemed surprised to see the giants, so they were not a part of his horde, nor a part of his plans. 

After the brief alarm their appearance caused, negotiations continued. Whisper laid out his concerns for existential annihilation based on his understanding of Mahadeva's opinions before his demise. He noted that none of the negotiators were human, and even included our own party in the "monster" category. In fact, it was pointed out, I was the sole human in the entire room. Under Whisper's understanding, Mahadeva would have good cause to kill or forcibly convert to human everyone in the room other than me. He was not going to allow that to happen.

The negotiators countered, saying that they had consulted the corpse of Mahadeva, which apparently contained all of his vast knowledge, and had come to the conclusion that extermination was not likely (although there were side-eyes toward the three Sathish's). Whisper was, unsurprisingly, unwilling to take their word for it. 

At that point, Ballast did something incredible. It claimed that it could tap into Mahadeva's dead mind right then and there and answer whatever questions Whisper had for the King of the Gods. It cautioned us to keep our questions specific lest the flow of knowledge burn out it's mind. It then cast a potent spell and the power that radiated from it was palpable. Nobody could realistically deny that it spoke with the voice of a god.

In the subsequent question-and-answer session the god-speaking-through-Ballast used a number of terms that edged on secrets I've only heard whispers of. It seems the amount of variation between the races is, in the eyes of the King of the Gods, insufficient to consider them "inhuman" with the exception of the Forged. Again, there was a pointed look toward the Sathish's but nothing was said. Apparently resurrection is necessary because the world needs to set a "new course" for a new paradise and it needs its "Captain." There was the strong inferrence that the relatively low population of the Whorl was also a factor in leaving the various non-human races alone, and Mahadeva indicated that over tens of thousands of years "genetic drift" could be managed toward "convergence" which I take to mean the various races slowly becoming more human over time. 

This didn't please Whisper, but it did placate him. He grudgingly agreed to leave Mahadeva's resurrection to the forces currently working toward that goal and led his army away. We followed shortly thereafter, but I immediately asked Toshiko if she could plane-shift with me elsewhere in Elemental Earth. I wanted to know what the monstrous eyeballs would do.

It seems they were set on destroying Mahadeva's corpse. What ensued was a short but very violent fight which Toshiko and I observed from afar. The Sathish's clearly believed they could dissolve Mahadeva's corpse with some sort of anti-magic effect of their central eyes, notwithstanding the significant force of drow and fey opposing them. This was cut short, however, when Aranyani called upon Parvati to "revoke her gift." It seems these monstrous eye-creatures were created a long time ago with the collaboration of at least one god. Parvati revoked her gift of "Endless Birth" preventing the slain Sathish's from reforming immediately upon death, and the three were put down with overwhelming force. Mahadeva's corpse was left mostly intact. Toshiko and I left before we were noticed by the fey. 

My summary: My former agents have risen far in the world, and it would seem that, for better or for worse, the fate of us all rests in their hands. 

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Game 56 - The Laborer
7,500 XP = Total: 225,090 XP - Level 17

I just KNEW that stalking my new favorite mortal and his friends would pay off with something dramatically fun! I've lured countless mortals into my clutches for a year and a day over the millenia and very few of them were nearly as entertaining as Vinihata… and the secrets I got in my bargains with his friends led to the most anger I've been able to feel in ages! My fight with Queen Aranyani was epic! Or at least it was for a little while.

So, when she told me that they had asked her to send an envoy to some obscure demiplane to talk, I jumped at the chance. Sure, we had no idea what they wanted to talk about, but Queen Aranyani has been… really twitchy of late… something one of her warlocks has stumbled into which she's being uncharacteristically quiet about… whatever. I was certain that whatever dear, sweet Vinihata wanted to discuss would be amazing.

First of all, the demiplane where we met was really nice! White marble steam baths in the old Bharatan style. It must have been floating there in the Astral for thousands of years, unused. Good on them for finding it. They then asked me if we could help them kill The Vimana! Head Archdevil of all the Archdevils! And they apparently had a way to make it stick, permanent soul-death! wow!

So we got down to the hard bargaining. Turns out their initial idea of having the faeries harass the Vimana's allies in the mortal world wouldn't work so well seeing as there's a lack of summoners and anchors. But if there's one thing we're really good at it's breaking the rules of spirit realms. The ultimate deal ended up being this: I would go to a demiplane freshly conjured by Xedris and mess with the settings such that, at my signal, the time ratio would accelerate allowing the whole fight to be over in mortal moments, and also harden the walls so that nobody could plane-shift OUT, and anyone who tried to plane-shift IN would be diverted to the Feywild to be playthings for my compatriots.

So, a trap. They seemed to think they had a way to force the Vimana to answer a summons (and wow did they). So it seems that Tamra the Copper had been sitting on a giant battery of magical power. She installed it in the floor out of sight to help power the summoning ritual, as well as their magical assaults on their target. I was REALLY looking forward to playing with THAT once the fight was over… I was also looking forward to playing the game of "what will you give me to let you out of this trap I created for you…" hee.

It all went pretty much according to plan. They thugged some young descendants of the Vimana and used their blood in a blood-magic-augmented summoning that siphoned Tamra's battery to force the Vimana to respond despite his legendary resistance to being manipulated in such a way. At that point I snapped my fingers, trapping everyone inside, and watched the fight!

You know, I mostly expected them to all die messily, but they really did good on the planning. The magical feast they ate beforehand kept the Vimana's poisonous attacks from rendering them blind and deaf, and Xedris drew a LOT of power from Tamra's battery to power some really potent magic to make everyone immune to the Vimana's mind-control. Without those tools, he just had an enormous acid-scythe and a really fiery gaze. Oh, and some spells, but they didn't work so well either.

Also, Panja summoned up Kali's handmaiden. She's creepy. I like her.

So, my playthings… er, pets… er, allies won, and Tavi the Terrible proved how terrible she could be by sucking up the Vimana's soul into a REALLY fascinating dagger, and then EATING IT. Nice! She practically radiated menace after that. She's truly earned her epithet I think. The most impressive bit, though, was how they won my special game. Tavi gave me some smutty romance books I haven't read before as a diversion, but MOSTLY it was the giant battery AND the three unconscious high-elf kids they left behind that proved most diverting… at least until Tamra showed up and called in the favor I owe her to get the battery back. I think it still had about half the power left in it.

I'm a little surprised that Xedris didn't go after his own ancestor, the Thrannis, but I guess with blood-magic in play he opted to be safe. Rumor has it, though, that right after leaving here they went back to their Bharatan baths and met up with allies who let Tavi eat the Thrannis as well. I wonder if she's getting a taste for arch-devils? Wouldn't THAT be fun…

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Game 29 - The Nawab
5,000 XP = Total: 81,240 XP

Journal of General Kaya, Last Entry

I remember when Mahadeva was killed, those interminable millenia ago. It's hard to put into words the horror that filled us as the sun stopped it's movement, birth and death ceased to function, life itself turned against us and horror walked the land. I wasn't a general back then, but my family connection to The Vimana ensured an officer's rank. I was young and proud and I scornfully spurned those who questioned Surya's plan. But it became rapidly apparent that our Sun-god could not replace his slain creator, and panic filled the ranks. In this environment did Priestess Aranyani's remorse ensnare many hearts, mine included. She claimed to have a plan to save us all and I followed her, turning on my uncle and my empire and my god.

But no fool was I. I would not replace one blind loyalty with another. I was highly-enough ranked to know of Aranyani's last mission. I knew her rebellion for what it was… guilt. After the war was over and the remaining Surya-loyalists were put to the sword, their souls to join their god in torment, I hesitated to cling to her banner. Yama's alternative seemed to me a far more practical way to help rebuild the shattered Whorl. And so it proved for so very long. But even the greatest soldier tires of war, and so once more I listened to the words of a charismatic priestess, this one preaching the solace of true death.

And now here I stand, guarding over an intact, archived copy of Mahadeva buried deep in Elemental Earth. I am old enough and tired enough to know that this is not my responsibility to decide what to do with it. I aided my new priestess and her youthful companions in slaying the soul-spliced abomination Rama left behind to guard it and I stood, mostly silent, while they interrogated Mahadeva's archived knowledge. It was clear that it was a struggle for them to grapple with so much, but it was equally clear that many conflicts that have plagued them were smoothed out by what they learned. For me, I experienced a strange sense of destiny, having seen the beginning of a millennial interregnum and now, listening to them plan, having seen the beginning of its end.

It is still merely a storehouse of knowledge. There is no personality, no true soul, contained therein. There is work yet to be done. But the necessary pieces exist. How Nekumi and her companions will put them together, and how their plans will change when contacted with the other two teams of god-chosen, remain to be seen. But I will do my duty and guard this place against those who would stop the Great Work. 

I'm not entirely sure why I resisted the honeyed words of Rama. I resisted the temptation of my dreamt-of true death, one which he, it seems, truly granted in his last moments. But where he could grant death, so too can others once the secrets of this place are discerned. Perhaps it's the habits of military discipline. See to your men then see to yourself. Whatever the reason, I have one last duty to complete before I can rest. Nekumi gave it to me and the others, and I will see it through. 

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Game 55 - The Sea
8,000 XP = Total: 217,590 XP

Brother, thank you for seeing me on such short notice. I didn't know who else to turn to, and ironically, since you rejected my appeals to join the Movement, I now consider you a safer choice to discuss my dilemma than all those who have sworn to me their loyalty.

In essence, you were right. I'm not sure I'm myself any longer. Word reached me just yesterday that Saatvik and his companions were returned to Videha and the news was accompanied by instructions to gather the most powerful of my people and lay a trap to slay them. I see your reaction, and I understand it. Did I not reach an accommodation with Saatvik? Do I not like and respect him? What reason might the Movement have to kill him and his companions?

In the moment, it all made so much sense. After all, our friend in the Wizard's College Arenvald himself gave the order, and as you most critically pointed out, I've become somewhat enamored of him of late. But his reasons seemed good at the time. After all, Saatvik continues to consort with Tavi the Terrible, a criminal kingpin who has STILL not been brought to anything resembling justice, not to mention the various crimes against a fair and equal society committed by his other companions. I didn't blink. I gathered my best people, and when Saatvik contacted me by sending, I told him where to walk into the trap.

I waited there, at the Scarlet Market, but right before he was due to show up Arenvald sent word that we were to stand down, that Saatvik and his friends were to be given another chance. When they arrived to speak with me I was relieved that I wouldn't have to kill them and yet I never questioned WHY I had so readily determined to do so in the first place.

Do you recall, brother, when I told you that the Princess Draupadi was an Archdevil in disguise? I was most relieved when she departed the city in Saatvik's company some weeks ago and thought little else of it. It would seem, in truth, she never left, but through a variety of guises has spread her mind-influencing charm over all of Videha. I have been in her thrall, all unknowing, and the Movement has been her pawn in some contest against the King. 

I was floored, and for the first time cast my mind back over my past actions with a critical eye. I could not gainsay what I was being told. I have no interest in being the pawn of a demon, and yet I also cannot give up my genuine belief in the rightness of the Movement's cause. Fortunately Saatvik and his companions had some advice for me. Vinihata suggested I procure for myself a… bodyguard? companion? from his monastery as the monks there develop the sort of mental focus that makes it harder for them to be controlled. I was also directed to Videha's nascent Temple of Ravana in hopes that the god might provide aid against demonic influence. These things I have done. Most importantly, though, they arranged a private conversation with the King himself.

I see your surprise. You'd think I would have trumpeted such a coup from every street corner, that the King has finally deigned to treat with the Movement, but the meeting wasn't about that. It was about two people setting aside the public personas for a frank and candid conversation.

I'm… still processing what he told me. But between the meeting with the King and what I picked up in the company of Saatvik and his companions I begin to think that changes are coming to the Whorl far greater than a more fair and equitable political system in the Kingdom of Mithila. If an Archdevil ordered Saatvik's death, and then changed her mind, what hope have I of untangling what's really going on?

Very little, I fear, and yet I can continue doing what I believe is right. I would value your input, brother. And I apologize for the harsh words I gave you when last we spoke.

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Game 28 - The Date Palm
5,000 XP = Total: 76,240 XP

Well, we just returned from the Duskward Outpost to speak to the third team. I think they'll be a bit more of a challenge to get on board, but there's some common ground.

The sticking points appear to be the Forged cleric Ballast and the halfling Kalki. Both seem heavily invested in immortality. For Ballast, it appears to be a need for personal apotheosis. For Kalki it's all wrapped up in a personal sense of justice. I tried giving my point of view on the subject but I either didn't get through to them due to a personal failure to eloquently explain why immortality is a far worse injustice than the current system or because our points of view are just fundamentally incompatible. 

Or maybe I'm wrong. Who knows.

Anyway, it's not like we don't have our own internal disagreements. We've learned to work together despite them, and it appears that the duskward team has done much the same. From what little he said, Vihaan Naraka might be the most sympathetic to our position. Laith Sidana expressed a… strangely optimistic nihilism I didn't expect, but suddenly makes a lot more sense in light of her warlock patron. Nekumi seemed to side with Kalki when it comes to a philosophy of individual agency, but disagreed with Ballast in what seemed more like reflex at this point. 

Well, there's little point in obsessing over our disagreements until we have a viable plan of action. The gods are repairing the physical structures. We need to get on with our current efforts to reconstruct Mahadeva, which means removing the biggest obstacle currently in our way. It's time to talk about our assault on the Thrannis. I'll open the floor to ideas… 

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Game 54 - The Sun
7,360 XP = Total: 209,590 XP

I don't know how I feel.

I've long known how unhealthy it is to let vengeance be such a core facet of my personality, but it's true what Aranyani says… there's only so much we can change once we're dead. Now that the object of my long vendetta is destroyed—the first soul to be permanently extinguished from the Whorl in… all of history—I feel like I need a new target for my ire or I'll… cease to be who I have always been.

It's been so long. I've lost so much. I barely remember being that young, black-haired blade dancer in an idyllic, war-free age, whose blades were for performance not bloodshed. That long-ago woman who was ensorceled by the Emperor's dead-eyed son hasn't really been me in a long time. I don't recall if it was months or years that I doted on Rama, my mind enthralled to his magic. For centuries my rage hasn't been rooted in the sex he compelled out of me so much as it has risen from my own self-disgust at my memories of willful and enthusiastic participation. Self-hatred has always been at the root of my hatred of Rama, as irrational as it might be. Intellectually I know that he compelled me with mind-control magic. But emotionally I remember "loving" him, and that part of me feels complicit in what he did.

Perhaps that's why, after the Transformation, after I fled, found Ravana, gave birth to my twins, I took up my blades and became an instrument of bloody death. Again, my memory fails me, but I know in my grief and rage I slew a great many high elves, many of whom were utterly innocent, and were even completely ignorant of what Rama had done to me. But by then war was raging, and what's one more pile of bodies amidst the carnage?

 It was the death of Shatrugna, and the compassion of Bharata that brought me out of that fugue. Rama's brothers were not Rama, and I still grieve the fact that it took so many deaths to bring me to that conclusion. That's when my rage turned from hot to cold, and it has remained so ever since.

For centuries, millenia, I've watched from the Feywild and the Shadowfell. I painstakingly learned how to bind myself to warlocks to have agents in the world specifically to foil Rama's ever-inscrutable plans. Despite my cold fury and my cunning Rama was always, ever, outmaneuvering me. Even when he allowed me to slay him there by his throne in Ayodhya it furthered HIS plans, not mine. I am not an idiot, but I know my strengths and I know my weaknesses. This culmination of my vendetta would never have been possible without the aid and cunning of Ravana and the sheer god-touched power of Tavi and her companions who, out of anyone, could truly understand what it's like to be pawns to Rama's diabolical genius.

The soul-knife I gifted to Tavi, in particular, is a work of genius I can take very little credit for. I was aware, to some extent, of the strange spell that my dear child "Lankeshvar" cast to neutralize the defenses of Sector 002 in the Astral Plane during his bid to free Ravana and Ratri. Indeed, I was aware that he had developed it carefully over centuries with the aid of mortal-entrapped Ravana. It operated by creating a vast number of tiny, meaningless soul-pieces to confuse the magicks of the Astral Plane, disguising the presence of true souls. After his freedom, it was Ravana who suggested to me that a soul might be permanently destroyed if the soul itself was bombarded with such fragments, shredding any coherence, any meaning, that once it might have possessed. We worked long and hard to create a magical engine disguised as a blade that could, first, entrap a soul, using magic already well-known in the Whorl, but secondly, to shred it in the aforementioned manner, directing any residual energies into a couple of minor effects.

That I gave this unique artifact to Tavi should come as no surprise. She and her companions had become wrapped up in Rama's schemes, one of her companions had even forged a personal and magical connection with him. Of all my warlocks, Tavi was the one most likely to be in a position to someday use the knife on my millenial foe.

And eventually, finally, after constant efforts to advocate his destruction, her companions agreed that he needed to die. They took a thousand drow, duergar, and other Underworld dwellers who had already been tasked with retaking Elemental Earth and they used Aranyani's cubic gate in an invasion unwittingly similar to the one Aranyani herself led against Mahadeva so long ago. 

Of course Rama had some surprises up his sleeve. It turns out he had been working on learning the ancient secrets of soul-splicing and soul-splitting, using the ancient stored souls in the Archive to create… new beings, beings akin to the Angels… or Mahadeva himself. He immediately turned a third of the drow invasion force against the rest by promising, and demonstrating his ability, to permit them to truly die. Apparently he could do this by conjuring up their own ancient souls from the Archive, souls from when they were mortal, and fusing those souls with the people they had become, stripping away Yama's questionable "gifts" and granting them the peace of true death.

Confronted by the very reason for their devotion to Chinnamasta, Tavi's army fell apart leaving Tavi and her companions to chase down Rama alone. They confronted him only to find he had been experimenting on himself as well. Apparently he had found an Angel somewhere in Elemental Earth, presumably bound or unconscious, for Rama had been busily splicing Mahadeva's power into himself. He unleashed some of his grotesque early experiments upon them before entering the fray himself, but despite all his power, Tavi and her companions fought him to the point where he felt he should flee. And in this did he demonstrate why he did not truly fear them, for his capacity to flee was far beyond their ability to follow.

It took a while for my words to reach Tavi through the disappointment of their seeming failure. They did not know how they might trap Rama in this realm he had stolen, and some even floated retreat, but I strongly advocated to Tavi that she press the attack and offered a way to neutralize Rama's mobility. My love has a lynx, a magical creature, an extension of his will in the manner of all gods and their symbolic creatures. Once Tavi heard my words, pick-pocketed the cubic gate from Saatvik, and opened a door to the Shadowfell, Ravana's lynx went hunting.

They cornered Rama once more, and although he was able to call on some of his warlocks, Tavi was ultimately able to plant the soul-knife I had given her deep into Rama's being, entrapping his spirit. She could have destroyed him then, but she did not. Much to my enduring gratitude it occurred to her, a person who so rarely considers the desires and needs of others, that I might prefer to destroy Rama's soul myself.

After seeing to their would-be army, and mollifying the survivors, they came to me and gave me that great gift. And now, after nearly three millenia, the cold-burning purpose to my existence has been concluded.

I admit to some trepidation. What will become of me now? Will I decay into madness like so many of the devils and the fae? Purposeless, will I allow myself to drift to the Halls of the Dead to slumber until the Archive might be fixed? Surely not soon, but maybe someday? I suppose we will see. I still have Ravana, and while I am full-aware of how strange and unnatural it is for one who was once mortal to love a god, I do love him, and I have reason be believe he returns the sentiment as much as a being such as he might be able. I still have my warlocks in the whorl. I think I may still have some part to play in these events that are currently spiraling to a head. My fate is bound to Ravana's, and to Tavi's, and to dear Vihaan and Tatterdemalion and the rest. I suppose I can take events as they come and seek to forge a new purpose.

But Rama is dead. Not even the Archive contains what he was. In this I do not begrudge his uniqueness. Wizards and scholars might mourn the loss of a great and brilliant mind, but I do not. The future of the Whorl is brighter for the fact that he will not be there to influence it.

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Game 53 - The Mirror
7,500 XP = Total: 202,230 XP - Level 16

Mistress Nyx,

We began surveillance of Saint Saatvik and his companions in prayer-room Aleph where you deposited them. It appeared at first as if the group was engaged in idle conversation about the source of the powers displayed by one of their number, the monk Vinihata, while Saint Saatvik himself engaged in prayer. Things… escalated.

It seems as if Sarasvati had a very detailed message to deliver. I was not, of course, privy to the contents of any theophanies that occurred in the room, but I DO know that the other four were rapidly caught up in it, apparently without their acquiescence. As they stared into space, emotions playing across their visages, Vinihata pulled out what appeared to be a palm-sized curved sheet of copper and began rubbing it intensely. 

That's when the being your sources reliably identify as Tamra the Copper walked into the prayer room and was swept up into whatever divine conversation was happening.

At one point Vinihata twitched as if experiencing existential pain. At another point, all the decorative plants in the room spontaneously died and the spine that Panja carries slung through his belt began to drip fresh gore on the carpet. We surmise Kali joined the conversation.

At one point Saatvik pulled out of his bag a small metal cube that practically radiated power and held it out as if offering it to an unseen person. We suspect he was showing one of the goddesses in his vision.

They finally emerged from their group vision and Tamra fled the room. I have no idea what might frighten a Great Dragon, but I imagine it has something to do with Kali's involvement. Then Nymea, a low-ranking cleric of Chinnamasta entered the room having, apparently, received a theophany of her own. Her message to the Saint and his companions was that "[[:nezumi | Nekumi]] has a cult of drow dedicated to your goals." Nymea herself seemed to have no idea what her message meant, and was merely conveying Chinnamasta's will to the Saint and his companions. She left as quickly as she arrived. The Saint and his companions seemed to understand the message's significance, as they rapidly gathered themselves and teleported away. I gathered from their comments that they were returning to Videha where an associate of theirs can get them into the Underworld.

On a personal note, I have to say this was perhaps the most terrifying surveillance operation of my career. Please advise.

-———————————

Mistress Nekumi,

We leave this letter here, in your new temple, with all due apologies. You and your companions departed with Halberd on an errand of some significance, and we could not wait for your return. We are, nonetheless, heartened by the providence which placed into our hands the means by which to pursue the task to which you have bent us. 

To whit, one of the other two bands of Chosen came to us. They claimed that they had the means, now, to open a gate to Elemental Earth where they intended to slay the usurper Rama I. They had no knowledge of the forces arrayed against such an attempt and sought our aid. We rejoice in the opportunity to be the vanguard of a force that may, eventually, repair death itself and permit is to partake in Chinnamasta's grace. If you find this letter before we return, know that we shall do all in our power to fulfill the goals you have set for us.

In Chinnamasta's Glorious Name,

Hadrian

 

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Game 27 - The Daughter
4,170 XP = Total: 71,240 XP

Transcript of Private Comments from Halberd, High Priest-Technician of Brahma, to Delg, Magister First Class.

Thank you for coming to speak with me. I know you have concerns, but I think it's best, for now, that we keep these revelations to ourselves. It's hard to overstate the positive impact on morale that our inner-surface visitors have had. It would be catastrophic if the general populace was made aware that at least two of them had been… tainted… by their contact with the Elder Node.

It's true that my concerns have mostly been focused on Ballast. There's good reason for this. Although Illithids have managed to figure out how to stun and otherwise negatively affect the minds of Forged in a brute-force kind of way, the infection Ballast suffered is the first example, to my knowledge, of an enemy mind-shard crossing to the spiritual level to infect a Forged mind / soul. This of course brings up all sorts of metaphysical worries. Was the enemy able to do this because somehow infected souls are able to communicate to it still? That's a question for Kali that I'm not currently able to answer.

In any event, Brahma came up with a… novel solution, one that I didn't even realize was possible, but one that I would appreciate your opinion on as a learned metaphysical scholar. 

Since our souls are bound to Yama's void, we've had little cause to use the Astral Bridge devices in nearly three thousand years. But Brahma remembered we had them and gave me instructions in their repair and use. Brahma then copied Ballast's soul on the Astral plane and used it to create a custom spiritual Realm that was… how to describe it… a full-sensorium abstract representation of the contents of their mind. Then, using the Astral Bridges, Ballast and their companions were able to enter this custom construct-realm so that their talents at combat could translate into the discovery, defeat, and containment of the infection in Ballast's soul. 

Yes, I see the questions in your eyes. I'm afraid I'd only be of limited help in answering them. Most of that I didn't even realize was possible. In any case, they entered this construct-realm, found the Outsider infection and defeated it. I suppose there were a lot of hidden processes that translated their psychic analogue attacks and spells into astral editing to cut out the infected bits, but I don't really know. All I do know is that once they returned, the construct-realm was collapsed to form a newly-cleaned copy of Ballast's soul which got connected to their body, switching out with the old, corrupted copy to be contained or destroyed in some fashion. 

So, it would appear that the threat of Outsider contamination of the Astral plane through Ballast's soul was foiled. That just leaves our other concern. Sadly, because Kalki's soul is not connected to Yama's void, his infection isn't easily undone… Oh, yes, I see. You already offered to disintegrate and resurrect him and have already realized that this would be futile for an inner-surfacer. I don't envy him if he ever does die… Kali probably won't treat his soul kindly. But I suppose the threat he represents is no worse than any other warlock of the Outsider running around, and until he fully turns he might be a useful source of intel. It seems his dreams are quite vivid, and quite accurate.

I'll be doing what I can to make sure someone is keeping an eye on them going forward. I still don't know why the gods have chosen to employ them as they have, but I have faith that an answer will eventually come.

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Game 52 - The Daughter
5,400 XP = Total: 194,730

Aishwarya, cousin,

It's been some time since we've corresponded. I don't think it would be useful to recount the insults we exchanged at our last encounter a century or so ago so let me merely state that I have not suddenly forgotten our enmity. It would seem, however, that events propel me to reach out to you on behalf of a goal that is to our mutual good.

Considering his whorl-spanning travels of late, it would not surprise me to learn if you have recently encountered my darling little brother [[:xedris-somabhakta | Xedris]]. Even if you haven't had that pleasure, I'm certain you've heard of his recent god-bothering exploits. In addition to participating in the return of night, he has also, apparently, been engaged in some significant events deep below our idyllic surface, if you catch my meaning. 

It is no small thing, therefore, to tell you that he managed something I would once have thought impossible: he convinced me to give up my most promising line of research, abandoning the new "psychic" powers I had developed a method to acquire, and use my accumulated knowledge for a different purpose. That is why I am writing you.

It would seem that plans are moving forward for an offensive move against the aberrations. Xedris, along with whatever gods pull his strings, thinks that our mutual ancestor's storied talents with custom diseases, allied to my unmatched knowledge of aberrant biology, could make something particularly effective together. 

It is my intention to visit Trimurti to call upon him. I do hope that our past enmities can be set aside, at least temporarily, for this meeting. Do let me know.

Most Sincerely,

Elena Thrannis

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