The Whorl

Game 18 - The Vizier
2,800 XP = Total: 34,300 XP - Level 8

(In Private Cipher)

To my esteemed colleague Fenster Stone, Minister of War:

I think you'll agree after today's session that my rising stars are resourceful indeed. In addition to the intelligence they gathered from the jungles of the Empire's Bastion they managed, in a single day and through disparate sources, to compile additional information casting some light on the intentions and motivations of Ayodhya's emperor.

Saatvik's indiscretion is one of two, regrettable, character flaws in evidence in the group. I'm impressed by the facility with which you guided our colleague the Archmage to conclude that Saatvik's loose lips may, indeed, sink ships if this intelligence is not acted upon imminently. She gets to look the hothead while we all benefit from considering the possibility that we do not have the luxury of time in this matter.

The other flaw, of course, is our gnome's tendency to swear pacts to dark powers on a whim. Of all the beings she could have sworn to, The Risen Son is perhaps the worst, politically. It's a shame she crumbled under the subsequent interrogation. I think she could have made the case for infiltrating the enemy if our colleagues of Agriculture and Civics has given her space to breathe. Fortunately, she has forsaken that pact for one with a much more politically beneficial patron for our purposes. Thank you for changing the direction of discourse before she was forced to say too much about it in that forum.

It seems that our deliberations are moving toward permitting the Emperor's plan to proceed, and perhaps, even, to clandestinely aid its speedy progress. It falls to us, therefore, to find the loose threads of his design and foil those aspects that do not favor us or the Kingdom. I admit that I am of two minds as to how best to use the assets under discussion should things go the direction they appear to be going.

While I agree with your assessment that the Emperor's invitation to our agents to ride along with the Titan of the Sea during its assault on Ayodhya is intended to contain them and place them where he can account for them, the temptation (as with all the Emperor's blandishments) is that the offer is almost too good to refuse. Our agents may not have the operational flexibility they'd enjoy on the ground, but they would be in a position to neutralize the biggest and most dangerous piece on the board. I know your preference in the matter, but I think I'll need to wait for the next round of reports from my agents in Ayodhya before I can recommend one course of action over the other. Also, we should not forget our agents' preferences on the matter. We do, after all, have multiple teams. We can afford to give them a certain degree of leeway in how to pursue the course of action they've been so instrumental in setting in motion.

Although Saatvik and  Xedris did most of the talking, I imagine you noticed that the monk Vinihata was assiduously reading the room and quietly communicating his observations. His personal philosophy may be eccentric, but he has a piercing eye. I could see the effect of his insight on the words Saatvik used to sway our Minister of Religion. And let's not forget our rough druid who, notwithstanding his lack of formal etiquette, bears a powerful token of the favor of Kali.

I think these agents will rise far in the Ministry of Culture, unless you or someone else poaches them from me. To partially pre-empt such a notion, consider me interested in any joint operations you may have in mind for their talents, and we can have our people discuss whose budgets will suffer the brunt of them.

I remain, as always, your humble colleague and friend,

Ms. Jasmine, Minister of Culture

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Game 17 - The Merchant
2,660 XP = Total: 31,500 XP

To Aranyani, Queen of the Fae, Mistress of the Feywild and First Among Elves,

I send you this letter in our cipher and by the hand of my most trusted servant. The Accursed Emperor moves, at last, and I fear I have not your wisdom to anticipate him or plan for his subtleties.

A druid of our drow cousins came before me in my palace escorting mortal visitors to my realm. One of them was a druid of your people, another a Cleric of Sarasvati, another bore the marks of the Twins of Fate, another stayed silent and wide-eyed, while the last bore a strange mark upon her soul I did not at first recognize.

They spoke to me of a plan, long in its creation, that would imminently elevate my accursed captor and rapist to true immortality among the godrealms. I spilled the blood of the child of the River and through it saw, for the first time in thousands of years, his loathsome face in the child's memories.

It seems that the Emperor tires of his life. He builds in secret a Titan akin to the bastions of the Old Empire but dedicated now to Varuna. With it he seeks to conquer his own Empire, enabling a successful insurrection to slay him. In so doing, these messengers believe he will ascend to something greater than merely another dead soul, but rather something that can rival you or me. 

These messengers from the mortal world have encountered him more than once. I watched the Cleric's recollections from the first encounter in the ruins of a Titan of the Sun, through a brief appearance at the Dawn Forge. I witnessed him regaling them with a version of his and my mutual history shocking for how accurate it was, and for the details he lavished on his abuse of me, the years I spent with my mind and body magically enslaved. I saw their most recent conversation, engaged in mere hours before they sought me out wherein he spoke of his plans for apotheosis, his face nearly orgasmic at the mention of seeing me once more. 

Through the revulsion and the rage my mind could not help but wonder: Why was he going to such efforts to warn me of his plans? I know enough of his mind to realize that his mention of me, on multiple occasions, was very likely intended to lead these messengers to me, that they were acting in accordance with his desires and his plans. Why, though, would he seek to prepare me for his arrival? Surely he knows that the only greeting he will receive from me are my blades. 

One part of my mind suggested that this may be his twisted way of apologizing. That seems entirely impossible to me, but I am hardly an unbiased observer. This is why I write to you, who have become more than a mother to me. 

There were other things in the Cleric's memories of the Emperor. It would appear my wayward son Kusha exists, still, as a potent spirit of the dead. He has discovered a way to free himself from the Halls of the Dead and seeks to bring a plague of undeath upon the Whorl. That was when I realized what it was about the gnome. She bore my son's mark, his power and his resentment lived inside her, albeit weakly. It would appear that through the millenia he has found a way to tie himself to mortal objects and mortal servants and this gnome had sworn a pact with him.

This revelation was a surprise to some of her companions, not to others. She claimed she swore the pact in order to stay close to his counsel to ultimately defeat him. The druid among them appeared to have no tolerance for her reasons. His hatred for my son is pure. I offered, as recompense for the service they had done me, to sever my son's connection to their companion and tie her instead to my power. She agreed. I may now keep a closer eye on their movements and dealings with the Emperor, and will let you know of any further developments.

I do know that after they returned to the mortal realm they reported all they had learned to their political masters. It seems as if they plan to aid the Emperor in his scheme and thereby, through blood and revolution, drag our people out of decline. I cannot fault their ideals, even if I remain deeply concerned about what, precisely, the Emperor himself is getting out of this. They spoke to his representative in Xin, a tiefling creature bound to Surya, and she spoke of timelines and other mortal affairs. The details of their departure and return to Videha are unnecessary to recount to you.

You have greater sway among some of the gods than I do. I would entreat you to discover what you may of Varuna's part in all this. I cannot help but wonder how long Indra will remain ignorant, and what he may do once he learns of his brother/sister's collusion with an Empire that has spurned and insulted the gods for so long. You have always been better than me at such subtleties, I ask for your advice and your wisdom.

Yours,

Sita, Lady of Blades, Mistress of the Shadowfell

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Game 16 - The Mirror
2,800 XP = Total: 28,840

Boss, hey, it's me, Trout. I got some pretty crazy news for you today. You've probably already heard about that group of Civilized folks that came to Xin the other day claiming to be a scholar and his guards. The scholar seems legit, and the guy in full-plate mail couldn't be subtle if he tried, but the rest of the gang is all sorts of shifty, and one is actually pretty famous. I'll get to her in a bit.

So they obviously drew the eye, and pretty much everyone in town knew about them within the hour. They beelined for my establishment where they bartered some fine steel cookware for the top floor and all the security that entails. The gang and I went out of our way to make them feel welcome. 

After settling in, they made only one excursion out to Anathema's shop. Ann closed up shop to have a private chat, even sending that pretty daughter of hers out to keep an eye out. She doesn't do that for anyone, which makes me think whatever their real business is in town it has to do with the big secret project all the Yuan-Ti try not to talk about deep underground. Events later that evening bore this theory out.

So they came back to my place to confer. We figured they were being too watchful for us to be able to really spy on them, so I don't know what they talked about, but they seemed really jumpy for a few hours. Then, in the dead of night, there was the sound of combat. The security staff rushed up the stairs as fast as they could, but they arrived just in time to see the assailant dispatched by our badly-wounded guests. The assailant was… um… well… you know how some of the Yuan-Ti can look really freakish? This was the most freakish snake monster I've ever seen. It was enormous and had six heads. I have no idea how it got into the top floor, but one of our guests say it could shapeshift, so it probably flew in a window before turning into an enormous monstrosity. 

One of them, a high-elf male who had, previously, presented himself as a half-elf female, pulled me aside and indicated he suspected that the Imperial Representative Cinder may have sent the monster and they want me to repay our broken security guarantee by arranging an ambush for her lackey Shah Khan for interrogation. This confirmed that my guests are opposed in some way to the Yuan-ti's Project, as if the water-pattern on the monster's scales wasn't clue enough. 

I see no reason not to help them, even if it runs the risk of running afoul of the Green Hands. I figure I can arrange an ambush out of sight of the general public. I Yuan-ti and the Empire aren't our concern, so whatever, let them play their spy games and assassination games. I figure helping these guys out is worth it to cement our reputation as the premier hospitality establishment in this whole overgrown, ruined heap. Obviously if you have a preference or any orders let me know, otherwise I'll arrange their little ambush and generally stay informed for the sake of the Organization.

Oh, I was gonna say, "Tavi the Terrible" was with them. She totally slipped by unnoticed when they were checking in at first, but she came to warn us about the possibility of an attack prior to the actual attack. We had security on full alert, but sadly they were on lower floors. We didn't anticipate flying assault that we couldn't see from the ground. We'll fix that in the future. Anyway, Cinder's lackey Shah Khan has been spreading all sorts of shit about this Tavi for weeks now, so maybe they suspected she'd show up? Or maybe it's coincidence. Either way, for those of us who can't stand the insufferable bastard, she's something of a celebrity. I, for one, am looking forward to what she does to the guy once we spring their ambush.

 

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Game 15 - The Ancestor
2,940 XP = Total: 26,040

Oh Goddess, black-feathered serpent, Your blessings continue to afflict me, temper me, test me, and improve me. Your servant, Black Fang, thanks you for all the unforseen ways in which your quiet intervention has led me ever-closer to my goal of freeing my people, your children, from their false path, their indenture to an Empire that should by right of history and conquest be our enemy.

It is true that I am an abomination, that your pure design has been tainted by generations of foul breeding and magic into the nearly-human form I am currently cursed with. But despite the pain and weakness of my birth I aspire to the power and grace of the pure-bloods, your original creation, and I thank you for permitting me to meet so many of them living in pure service to your original design even after so many centuries.

When I was captured by those hobgoblins and their ilk I knew that this was another of your tribulations, but that if I could survive it, I would be strengthened. I had no reason to expect that your divine sister might also take an interest in my quest and send a powerful party of outlanders to free me. They apparently purchased me from the creatures with a sword forged in Civilized lands and when I looked upon the one they named Vinihata I knew him immediately as one who had experienced Your divine touch to a far greater degree than most. I am still contemplating the vision that briefly came over me when I laid eyes upon him. I thank you.

They were a strange group. Vinihata bore tattoos honoring you and your sister, and he was the one who held most of my attention, but the Traveler upon the Great River and the Devotee of the Dreamer were interesting as well. They had a druid among them as well as a strange man obsessed with monkeys who they called an "academic", a man seemingly useless, but who Vinihata assured me would be of aid in our journey. There was a diminutive woman who I at first overlooked but whose name I immediately recognized from the lips of the Empire's emissaries to Xin: Tavi the Terrible. The tales of her exploits are truly legendary, and I can see the wisdom of her companions in keeping her power cloaked until needed. Finally, there was a goblin guide and tracker who vanished utterly from the party and was never mentioned again after I was freed from the hobgoblins. I begin to suspect he was never quite real but rather an illusory construct of the high-elf's.

As strange and diverse as this group was, I knew them immediately as the instruments of your will, a source of great tribulation that, if I perservere, will lead me to my goal, and indeed, they confirmed that their task was also the destruction of the Great Work to which my people have been indentured for generations. I told them what I knew, as a favored son of Xin. I spoke of the Changer, the god who has stolen the prayers of your children. I spoke of the foul bargain struck between the Elders and the Emperor. I impressed upon them the value of my quest to find your avatar among those of your children who stay true to you. 

They agreed to divert their travel to accompany me on my quest. It was then that the strange man Vikram showed his worth, seeking to capture specific monkeys, he led us right into a patrol of the Pure. Vinihata and I triumphed in a Trial of Champions and we were welcomed into the village where your servant, Smiling Bite, spoke of the ancient ways of our people. Although she had nothing but disdain for the weak, human-like body I was born with, she acknowledged that Your ways will strengthen even one such as me, and I was heartened. 

She summoned forth the avatar, the black-feathered serpent, who spoke to us of our respective goals and gave to us a blessing of deception that will permit our infiltration into the Malison City and the Great Work beneath the Waves. She then graced me with a vision of her true form, a sinuous feathered and flying serpent, glorious, black feathers scintillating in the new dawn's sun. It was cause for tears of joy.

Your trials continue to guide us. Now we approach the ancient ruins of Xin where my companions seek initial infiltration. I must stay without, for I would be immediately recognized as an exile who has rejected the Compact. Based on their information, we will use the blessing your avatar has given us and bring ruin to those who would turn their faces from their goddess and creator.  

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Game 14 - The Patriarch
2,520 XP = Total: 23,100 XP - Level 7

Adaptive Archive Opened
Data NodeSaatvik identified
Associative Heuristics Applied:
Keywords: //Eternal Solar Empire //Rama I //Dasaratha //Sita //Lakshmana //Surya //Ramayana //Kusha

Alternative narrative to disseminated epic poem "Ramayana" provided to identified data-node by subject: Rama I, Emperor, Ayodhya. Alternative narrative contains unusual degree of negatively-aspected social behaviors expunged from official narrative. Intentions of Rama I in revealing unflattering details about his own past are unknown. Speculation suggests ennui mixed with a desire to cultivate data-node:Saatvik and his companions for future socio-political purposes.

Speculation based on recent confrontation in micro-fabrication facility A1 between data-node:Saatvik, along with his companions, and anomalous subject Kusha, known colloquially as "The Risen Son." Association with Rama I confirmed. 

Data-node:Saatvik arranged for rehabilitation and return of subject currently designated Sanjaya Pandava through methods inhibiting Rama I's capacity to observe, and therefore affect, subject:Sanjaya-Pandava.

Data-node:Saatvik was granted top-level access for one query as a result of efforts to prevent sabotage of micro-fabrication facility A1. He inquired into anchor-point object for subject:Kusha. Methodology by which subject:Kusha violates operating procedure for neurological mapping/upload and transfer of program upon termination of life remains unclear. Speculation suggests mapped/uploaded matrix prevented from transfer to intended sector by anomalous code artificially connecting matrix to physical body-analogue. Initiated query to partner:Soma for speculation heuristics and intuition routines. Tentative connection established with artificially-stimulated dream states initiated by subject:Kusha for subject:Tavi Agarwal. Provided what data was available to data-node:Saatvik.

Routine data-sharing systems from top-level entity Parvati reveals subject:Panja, affiliated with data-node:Saatvik, will pursue resolution of anomalous subject:Kusha and has been granted the means to facilitate that outcome.

Data-node:Saatvik tasked by socio-political superiors on mission to jungle area designated Empire's Bastion to follow up on data provided on his first top-level query. Analytics set to adjust for input of new data.

 

 

 

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Game 13 - The Sun
2,880 XP = Total 20,580 XP

The Whorl is so different than when I began my slumber. Three thousand-odd years ago the smoke of war still choked Indra's skies, the poisonous rubble of vast war-machines polluted the ground and Civilization teetered, guttering, in small pockets.

They've done fairly well for themselves, but even after so many centuries they remain so far from what they were. I find I do not want to return to my slumber, and thanks to a particularly unusual mortal, I may not need to for some time to come.

This mortal, Vinihata, is a devotee of Lakshmi and Jyestha and so considers me divine. I suppose I am, after a fashion… at least insofar as anything embodied in the Whorl can be. He woke me from my long sleep because an abomination had found my sleeping form and found a way to draw large quantities of my blood in slow drips and dribbles over the centuries to power a thaumaturgical device that could blind the very gods to his machinations. This creature, a potent spirit of the dead who has somehow severed himself from the Halls of the Dead, bound to a mechanical body in the stylings of Brahma's children, managed to crack open the Dawn Forge itself and was seeking to construct an army of such quasi-undead.

I had no interest, obviously, in this creature succeeding, but I was newly awakened to this age and unsure if my intercession was needed, and so I fell upon old codes. Since Vinihata had, arguably, saved my slumbering form from great pain and inconvenience, I was permitted by the terms of my existence to offer him a boon, and until he should call it in I was free to remain awake within the world. 

I shortly realized that I very much enjoy being awake in the world. I especially very much enjoy being the ONLY one of my siblings awake in the world. I found myself hoping that Vinihata would not call in his boon. I watched as the accursed son of Dasaratha manifested himself and gave to the Elf wizard the means to summon a demon from Surya’s Prison. I hoped it would be enough. And indeed, at first, it seemed these stout mortals would pull it off. But in their final confrontation with the "Risen Son", sitting upon the very Throne of Brahma at the heart of the Dawnforge, one of their number, the diminutive creature, turned on her companions, rendering the priest of Sarasvati unconscious, and nearly doing the same to the wood-elf.

It was then, in anger, that Vinihata called upon me. I changed my form to something less… cumbersome… and sought to assure the wizard that the accursed Prince was not, in this matter, betraying him. I then sought to dissuade the small creature from further betrayal while influencing probability subtly in Vinihata's favor. He was able to destroy the physical form of the Risen Son and I was able to reclaim my stolen blood. I departed before Brahma should find me in his temple.

It would appear that the god was grateful to the mortals. Vinihata contacted me again from the ancient city of Videha where we discussed the terms of the boon I owed him. Since my intercession was not wholly necessary before, I left the boon in his hands as I did not yet wish to return to slumber. He quite cunningly called in the boon obligating me to actively seek the secret to becoming mortal and, upon discovering it, to decide whether or not to follow through. This permits me an unknown period of wakefulness and obligates me either to return to slumber or live a mortal life at the end of it. Very clever. I decided to join his monastic order and engage in courtship rituals and sex with him. I think I'll enjoy my new lease on existence very much. 

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Game 12 - The Son
2,440 XP = Total: 17,700 XP

Transcript of Interrogation Session 17

Screaming stops, whimpers.

The Thrannis: Now, son, have I stripped away your flippancy for at least a few moments? Can you bring yourself to be honest with me at last?

Carmine: y-y-y-yes… of-of course Father. I'm al-always honest with you. I'm sorry if my sense of humor offended.

Th: I am unoffended. Start again from the point after your party destroyed the scarab-factory.

C: Yes, of course. We ventured deeper into the ruined Titan. It became increasingly clear that these ruins had been long-inhabited, and that there were many alterations to the power systems and other ancient functions to serve new, mysterious ends. We eventually entered a room where progress was halted by some walls of lightning. Uncle Xedris studied the…

sudden screams

Th: You are being disrespectful again.

C: y-y-yes… s-s-sorry. The Noble Xedris of the House Thrannis, forever may he live, studied the wall and determined it could be de-activated, but doing so would route power to some other effect. After some debate they chose to risk it. As soon as the wall of lightning fell, however, a… strange heaviness afflicted us, a sensation of a malevolence bearing down on us, and six of the seven Forged in our party dropped dead. Only the Cleric of Brahma remained standing. Then two of the slain stood back up, blue fires burning in their eyes and red energy leaking from their joints. By their first few words, it became clear that they were the "siblings" we fought at the Archive, incorporeal spirits somehow prevented from passing through the Halls of the Dead, capable of possessing and puppetting constructs of flesh… and, well, apparently also constructs of other materials. As we engaged them in combat, they began animating the other slain by pulling spirits into the, um, corpses? I'm not sure if constructs of metal, wood, and wizard-glass count as corpses? They were alive, so I'll call them corpses.

Th: Fascinating. The Risen Son has learned how to undo the imperfect gifts of the Slain Tyrant. A shame you fled in cowardice and shame before you could learn how he accomplished this.

C: y-y-yes father. You have my abject apologies. We dispatched the newly undead, and the Cleric of Sarasvati managed to restore three of them to life once more. He's much more powerful than I at first thought. Lord Xedris realized, then, that the Risen Son had developed the means to specifically separate the imperfect souls of the Forged from their bodies, and that this made their otherwise-inanimate forms similar enough to "corpses" for other spirits to assume control. He theorized, then, that the party of undead seen heading for the Wall of Dawn may be seeking to breach the Dawn Forge, and possibly create thousands of bodies for his wraiths to inhabit… an endless army of shock troops. It also explained the interest in the Forged village of Coil. The four living Forged realized that progressing any further to face a foe who could slay them with a whim and possess their bodies was folly. They turned to escape and warn their village while our group retreated to a defensible position to rest and recover from the fight.

Th: And nothing assailed you as you rested?

C: No, the place was pretty much empty. The only fight was using bodies we brought with us… although the sensation of being watched by invisible, perhaps intangible presences never went away.

Th: Continue.

C: Yes sir. We continued into the wreck and we finally found the Heart chamber… and it was really strange. Instead of the "heart" I was vaguely briefed about there was an enormous clockwork sarcophagus attached by dozens of tubes and pipes to various conduits on the walls and ceiling. The sarcophagus was open and empty. The inhabitant was… a big guy, but not around when we got there. The druid noticed that one of the pipes led into some particularly strange shadows and discovered… uh…

sudden screaming

Th: You're prevaricating again. Don't lie to me.

C: I-I-I w-w-wasn't sir! I swear! But the truth is so strange I wasn't sure how to express it. It was a Dragon sir, Tamra the Copper, it was asleep, curled around the immense corpse of the buried Titan.

panting, whimpering

C: y-y-you're not… you believe me?

Th: I do not believe that even you are foolish enough to fabricate a story invoking the accursed Tamra to my face. You uncovered its resting place then… excellent.

C: It's not there anymore… 

Th: What?!

C: It… woke up. I'm getting ahead of myself. Lord Xedris began investigating the sarcophagus. It was a masterwork of thaumaturgy, powered by the magically-rich blood carefully siphoned from the sleeping Tamra. It became clear that the Risen Son slumbered in that construct for… centuries, maybe millenia, carefully absorbing power and understanding before arising.

Th: That is… ingenious. The daring of it… tapping the power of our most implacable enemy for his own purposes… using the enforced slumber of the gods to drain the life from one of their most powerful weapons. I find myself almost admiring the audacity of it even if I recognize the insanity of the Son's ultimate aims.

C: Yes sir. The druid was offended, though, and sliced through the conduit. Dragon blood poured into the room which was disorienting enough, but then the sarcophagus started to melt down and… the Risen Son appeared before us as a illusion. He was… a large Forged of incredible elaboration and detail. It seems he created a custom, bespoke body out of a dead Forged, heavily augmented over the centuries and powered by Dragon blood and a thaumaturgical mixture of arcane magic and the power of the Great Lord Surya as generated by the Titan's heart… and that's when I… blacked out.

Th: Yes. Your blackout. 

C: I came to a few minutes later and the image of the Risen Son was ranting at me, practically screaming at me, calling me "father" … I… was I being possessed by someone?

Th: That is none of your concern. Be certain I do not hold you responsible for whatever you may have done or said during this… moment of disorientation.

C: Thank you father. He stopped ranting pretty quickly once he saw how confused I was, and pretty much admitted he had left his sarcophagus behind as something of a trap, and he wished us unpleasant deaths before vanishing. The system was melting down, and Lord Xedris clearly feared a… significant explosion. I… um… volunteered the fact that I could get them out, but without… telling them exactly where I'd be taking them. They opted to try to stop the meltdown and to take advantage of my offer if they should fail. Fortunately, they worked together as a team pretty effectively. Tavi uh, the gnome… climbed up into the sarcophagus while Lord Xedris and the Cleric of Sarasvati desperately tried to figure out the mechanism. It seems the Cleric had a control orb! One of the orbs used to control the Titan's Heart from back in the war! The guy was full of surprises. Vin seemed fixated on the dragon… he's a worshiper of Lakshmi and Jyestha and I guess he felt responsible for the Dragon and worried that the explosion would hurt or kill it, so he woke it up.

Th: … And how… did he do that?

C: Please, Sir, I don't know… he just touched the scaled flesh we could see and meditated… Fortunately the rest of them managed to stabilize and shut down the system as the Dragon roused. They seemed to have things in hand, and the place was coming down as the Dragon tore itself loose from the earth all around us, and I had no confidence that I would survive much longer considering how many of them wanted me dead, so I came here. That's all, I swear.

Th: …

C: …

Th: You have done well my son. You may rest and recover. I will have food and refreshment brought for you. Spend as much time here as you like. I will send you back when you are well. 

C: Thank you Father. You are very generous.

Th: One more question… if they survived the collapse of the ruins, where do you think they would go?

C: They were… very worried about the possibility that the Risen Son might somehow be able to access the Dawn Forge. If I were to guess, I'd say they'd head there as soon as possible.

Th: The Dawn Forge has been sealed for three millenia… then again, with the power of Dragon blood at his disposal, the Risen Son could theoretically accomplish anything. Have no fear, my son. The Emperor will be immediately informed.  Your role in gaining this information will be relayed in glowing terms. I am sure His Eternal Majesty will wish to reward you personally when you return to the material world. 

C: I-I-I'm … I'm honored Sir. 

Th: No need to look so terrified. His Eternal Majesty's attention will not stay upon you for long I imagine. You're… not his type.

C: muttered Thank the Chained One for that…

Th: What was that?

C: Nothing Sir! Nothing. I look forward to my audience.

Th: That's what I thought.

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Game 11 - The Gladiator
2,400 XP = Total 15,260 XP (Level 6)

Father, I don't know if you can hear me down here… I don't know if you can hear me at all, frankly, but what the hell. I'm in some pretty deep shit at the moment. I told you that I'd fallen in with some adventurer-types from Videha, and that they were apparently looking into the same ancient machine-ruins that the Emperor's people sent me and my team to explore. I told you how I joined their team to try to make good on my failed mission. After all, it wouldn't do to return to Ayodhya empty handed.

Well, after defeating the undead at this cool Archive of ancient high elves frozen in stone, we all headed into the deep desert. Our guide, Panja, took us a bit duskward of the Fist to check on the only settlement in the area known to accept guests, a village of the Forged called Coil. We arrived to find five Forged corpses and no sign of anyone else. Panja found an undead monstrosity of some sort buried at the botton of the weird sand pit at the center of the village. Uncle Xedris proved his worth again by pulling up some really obscure knowledge about an arcane experiment done some two and a half thousand years ago by a crazy wizard named Sathish, some sort of living abomination known as a "beholder", and how they were used as living weapons in Mithila's war against the Cult of the Risen Son way back then.

Gotta say, these guys work pretty well together. Uncle Xedris filled the pit with fog forcing the undead "beholder" to pop up where it could be seen by everyone. Damn, what an ugly thing. Panja summoned a storm and started blasting it with lightning. Saatvik rapidly identified the Forged corpses as Forged zombies which kept us from being surprised… in all, the fight went pretty well. I certainly did my part to help. When the undead beholder was finally killed, though, something really awful popped out of it… some sort of… not-quite-real undead spirit thing burning with blue fire. I risked revealing my true parentage with a bit of fire magic, but they didn't seem to notice, fortunately, and the thing was eventually dissipated. 

The Coil activated… apparently the pit was some sort of… portal? We were all too polite to inquire. Apparently most of the Forged had fled into it when the beholder and a swarm of undead scarabs attacked, but the beholder had some sort of magic-deadening ability that sealed the Coil and kept them trapped. Killing it released them. They were kinda pissed, of course, and seven of them joined our quest.

So far so good, right? Now we were 13 badasses heading to the Fist to take on the undead. We arrived and we scoped it out all patient and sneaky-like. I got to spend nearly two days in the company of Tavi Agarwal. I can't say I've ever really met a gnome before. She's really neat. We saw a party of six of the undead construct-things like we saw at the Archive leave with a big swarm of undead bugs. The next night we saw one of them leave with another swarm due dawn-ward. I have no idea what's in that direction. We figured now was the time to make our push, and in we went.

It was really creepy. Last time I was here undead poured out of the gaps in the plating on the Fist, but this time we clambered down the Arm and into the buried Titan without encountering anything… until we found the source of all those damn bugs. Apparently whoever is in charge around here captured one of the Suryan scarabs, like the one I saw at the Archive. It was bound to some elaborate machinery that forced it to lay eggs constantly while killing the baby scarabs with overdoses of necrotic energy. The big scarab was pretty fucked up looking. Panja tried to talk to it, but it was apparently a lost cause. We had to put it down… and then put it down again when it rose into undeath.

That's when we all started smashing the elaborate machinery, and waves of random magical energy started blasting around, and one of the waves hit me, and… um… my usual disguise fell, and everyone saw my red skin and my horns and my wings. I tried to play it off like "Oh no, that magical energy balefully polymorphed me into a demon-thing!" but apparently they weren't buying it. 

Jeez, you'd think these guys had never seen a Cambion before… well, maybe they haven't. I guess things are different in Videha. They freaked the fuck out, started threatening to kill me… I had lost my protection against necrotic and I was slowly dying while they interrogated me, which was frustrating, I mean, how could they possibly know if I was telling the truth or lying? Well, that is, until Saatvik cast a zone of truth. 

I told them I hadn't lied to them. I really was part of an expedition to find treasure in the Titan, I just hadn't mentioned who my boss's BOSS was. Yes, my expedition was hired by a guy who worked for a guy who worked for a guy who worked for the Emperor. I was actually pretty surprised at how negatively they viewed the Emperor. I mean, I get why Pandava was upset, but what did His Highness ever do to these guys? They seemed to think he was their personal enemy or something ridiculous like that. They sure spread a lot of anti-Ayodhyan propaganda around Mithila if these guys' reaction is anything to go by. I was seriously tempted to do another bug-out like I had to do when I lost my first team, but I was SO CLOSE. Eventually they agreed not to murder me, that my help might come in handy, that I genuinely want to find the source of these undead and destroy it, etc. etc.

But I gotta say, once we finish that, I'm not sure that these guys aren't going to just try to take me out. I might be seeing you sooner rather than later. Sigh. I hope I at least get SOMETHING I can tell the boss's boss. 

Anyway, I know there's not a lot you can do to influence Empire politics at the moment, but hey, I figure a kid can ask right?

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Game 10 - The Broken Alliance
2,300 XP = Total 12,860 XP

Great Mother,

I commune with you in this hour of darkness. Many of my stone charges have been shattered, my Archive assaulted and damaged, yet I live and my task remains before me. 

The Siblings came, leading a pack of gnolls who had given over their flesh as hives for undead scarabs. The Siblings wore different bodies than the ones you showed me in your memories, but it was unmistakeably them. The craft of their dread carcasses has improved, but not so much that they could not be defeated by a daring and dedicated assault by a small force familiar to the both of us.

It would seem that Sanjaya Pandava's companions returned rather sooner than anticipated, much to my good fortune. I will dedicate a drop of blood to Jyestha in recompense for her sister's favor. They slew the scarab infestation with the aid of Pandava's odd familiar then slew the remaining gnolls and the animate flesh constructs worn by the Siblings. They will return, of course… they always do. But hopefully this will inconvenience them somewhat.

They stayed with me for some time. Saatvik and Panja in particular were of great help in repairing the broken, although some will doubtless be unrecoverable… tiny fractures, flaws, breaks in vital parts too immediate to heal upon thawing. Still, much more could have been lost if not for them.

Their goal, however, was the Professor. They had questions, but feared the possession of the Emperor. After a good deal of care and elaborate precautions, it was deemed suitably safe for me to thaw him for a conversation. I commune with you now to convey what was learned, for it may prove vital to all enemies of the Eternal Solar Empire.

All know that the Emperor Rama I rules with immortal life beside a golden statue of his estranged wife Sita. All know that he claims immortality and refuses to bear an heir. Few believe he truly is immortal, for have not the gods forbidden such things? Are not the subjects of my very archive proof of the impossibility of true, living immortality? But Pandava claims otherwise. He tells a tale of a tribute granted once every century by one of the high noble families of Ayodhya consisting of a single handsome young high-elven man. They are told that they are being added to the Emperor's harem, for the Emperor refuses heirs, and so will only lie with men. They are told they will have a life of luxury, but will never again be part of the outside world. Indeed, they are never seen again. Pandava claims that he was such a tribute, and that his initiation into the harem, which he described in exquisite detail, was a highly ritualized arcane act of sex that seemed to bind his soul in some way to that of the Emperor. Pandava believes, although he hasn't the arcane knowledge to prove it, that the Emperor extends his life in this fashion, consuming the souls of his lovers. Pandava himself plotted and executed an escape from the harem that he had, until recently, believed was genuine.

It appears now that the Emperor let him go, a spy bound to his soul that he could possess at will across any distance. For more than a century the Emperor has been watching through his eyes, manipulating his deeds. Who knows how many more former lovers are unwitting spies throughout the Whorl.

I returned Pandava to stone. His companions rested and then set out into the deep desert to investigate the resurgent Cult of the Risen Son, the source of the attack upon the Archive. None of us know why the undead targeted me, nor why they seemed so interested in Pandava. We speculate a multi-faction power play in process, but the specifics remain occluded. I will update you should I learn more.

I Remain your devoted Daughter of the Sands

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Game 9 - The Forest
2000 XP = Total 10,560 XP

Great Mother of Night, Queen of Claws, Mother of us All, I beseech you!

Gnarl has led us astray! I see that now. He accepted the bargain with the scabrous twins from the Fist. He permitted them to use us as hives for their undead insects. I could feel them burrowing in my flesh, feeding on my life force, but the strength they gave us! It seemed so good at first, but you have shown me my error. 

Gnarl's lieutenant, Grazzit, kept me and seven of my brothers behind to guard the rear as Gnarl himself accompanied the scabrous twins to assault the Archive. I do not know what became of them inside, nor do I care. Your anger and fury has been made clear. Your sudden appearance amongst us caused confusion and consternation. Grazzit tried to convince us that your manifestation was some sort of trick, that the band of humans and elves that attacked us with ice and lightning and uncommon fury were playing on our loyalties with illusions, but your manifestation was so real, and spoke so directly to my heart that I could see only your wrath at our tribe's betrayal. 

As I fled, barely alive, feeling the black scarabs gnaw my flesh, I saw Grazzit burst into insects, along with others of my fallen brothers. I knew, then, absolutely, that the attacking band of humans and elves were your wrath made manifest, our punishment for making common cause with the Cursed Ones from the Fist. Even though I saw the young human they left behind with their camels, I feared even him, harmless though he appeared. Your wrath can hide in many guises and there was… something about him… that raised my hackles.

Please, Mother of Monsters, take these insects from my flesh, cut them from me and spare me the fate of my pack-brothers! I am the only one to survive. The attackers are doubtless even now preparing to cleanse the cliffside monastery. May Gnarl and the Twins find your justice at their cruel hands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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