The Monster Horde
As part of the reward for recovering priceless laboratory machinery from the Temple-Laboratory of Ravana, Lady Toshiko of the House of Silver sponsored the half-elf half-siblings Rajeev and Laith for full citizenship of Lankha for heroism during the riots that accompanied the First Night. The story of orphan rescuing was fabricated, but it seems such things are common among the nobility.
At the citizenship ceremony, the two new citizens and their friends heard from the Shogun's heir herself of the intelligence gained by a tiefling foreign agent on the movements of a vast horde of Monsters approaching Lankha. While the heir was clearly using this tiefling to make a political statement about racism to her father, the intelligence was interesting in its own right. It would seem that the recent panic over the possible loss of the sun had spurred the unification of many disparate Monster tribes into a "horde" for the first time in centuries. The military powers of Lankha were mostly unconcerned, having beat back such invasions multiple times in their history, but some things about this invasion were different, as Jade and others realized.
The return of Ratri and Ravana means that the Monster races have their ancient patrons back. The horde is now supported by clerical magic not just savage force-of-arms. Furthermore, the horde traveled across the duskward edges of the Dusk Sea, mitigating the sparse forage of the Siachen Icelands through regular seagoing supply orchestrated by Ten-Vipers and her fleet of corsairs. This horde clearly had logistical and organizational savvy beyond what the generals of Lankha expect.
Still, a horde moves slowly. The Agents were contacted by a mysterious figure calling himself Tatterdemalion who offered a contract. If they would journey duskward to the wild-lands just in advance of the horde to collect a "person", and then smuggle that person into the holiest-of-holies of the Grand Temple of Yama, and preserve that person's privacy while he does… something, they would be paid a vast sum.
- Vihaan Naraka – Acolyte and Divine Descendant of Yama
- Ballast – Former Naval Officer and Cleric of Brahma
- “Nekumi” – Vice-Peddling Cleric of Chinnamasta
- Kalki – Smuggler and Ranger
- Laith Sidana – Former Street Rat, Warlock of Aranyani
- Rajeev Two Notes – Itinerant Bard
The agents were smart enough to realize that they would effectively be smuggling a Monster cleric of Ravana into Ravana's old temple. With some reservations, and with the assurance of the god Ravana himself that he did not truly seek the destruction of the Dragonborn of Lankha, they accepted the contract and traveled into the muddy tundra. With the return of night, and the new regulation of the sun's trajectory and energy flow, the duskward parts of the whorl were slowly warming, and the trip showed signs of thaw in places that hadn't thawed in millenia. They made their way past peasants fleeing their farms and military patrols and found the mysterious "person", who appeared to be a halfling but was probably a goblin. With some cunning and effort they arranged to smuggle the goblin into the most-holy chamber of the Temple of Yama where he found a hidden portal, the "front door" leading into the portal-connected network of Ravana's subterranean temple-laboratories.
This one contained, in ancient Wizard Glass cannisters, a slumbering Monster Race never before seen in the whorl. Apparently Ravana had left this race in stasis as a contingency at the end of the godswar millenia ago. The Agents, alongside the goblin spy, awakened this race, known as Kenku, and taught them what they needed to know to survive the surface, thus unleashing hundreds of monstrous clerics and paladins of Ravana into the Whorl.
Afterwards, they completed a task set for them by Jade by delivering the goblin to her as a "diplomat", someone the more progressive factions of Lankha could speak to about the coming Monster threat. Tatterdemalion, meanwhile, introduced them to his mysterious sponsor, one of the rare human nobles of Lankha, Lady Sangheeta Devi, who was the nexus of the hidden cultists of Ravana who had flourished in Lankha for thousands of years, and who were suddenly in a position to start forming an actual church, notwithstanding the fact that worship of Ravana is punishable by death.
Since they had already spoken to the god himself and agreed to work with him, joining his cell-based organization in Lankha was relatively straightforward. Having been brought fully onboard, they began to grapple with the problem of the Monster horde. The god Ravana clearly supported the integration of his children into Civilization, and was clearly opposed to slaughtering the Dragonborn in the process, and so the unlikely option of a diplomatic solution was explored. The Agents began to assess for the first time the high-level political factions of Lankha, and began to strategize ways of putting pressure on those factions. In so doing they found an unlikely ally in the form of Tamra the Copper, who for reasons of her own wished not to destroy the Horde even though, as a Great Dragon, she fully possessed the power to do so.
Wading through the political quagmire of Lankha and trying to push through social and political change on swift notice was a daunting task, but they ultimately settled on a multi-pronged assault on the complacency of the nobility, who took their military victory over the Monsters as a given, even though that was definitely not the case. Ballast revealed to the high priest of her temple the favor in which their god held her, leveraging her piety into his cooperation. He made it known that he would be making a big announcement to representatives of all the nobility at the Pagoda of Civic Duty concerning the Monster horde and the war. The rest of the agents set about ensuring maximum attendance.
By tapping into their wide and varied contacts and favors, the agents ultimately ensured that not only the Shogun, but his entire Daimyo council would be present to hear this mysterious announcement. They then conspired with their new allies among the Kenku to make a shocking statement to the assembly. The plan was to make a demonstration of Monster power by having a previously unknown race reveal themselves publicly, and demonstrate divine magic, as well as a deep knowledge of Lankha's secrets, in order to pressure the nobility into seriously considering a diplomatic resolution.
This plan, of course, could go terribly awry. Dragonborn nobles are known to dig their heels in and react with stubbornness and violence when faced with cognitive dissonance, but time was of the essence, and the agents were running out of it.
At the pagoda of civic duty, the plan went off as anticipated. The Kenku appeared, demonstrated their power and their knowledge, made their announcement and plea for a diplomatic solution (spoken in Vihaan's voice, as composed and prepared by him in advance) and vanished in a theatrical display. The reactions among the nobles houses were varied, with many seeking the immediate arrest of Vihaan (whose voice had been recognized) and all his co-conspirators. That was when another faction made a different dramatic statement. The cult of The Outsider that had previously made itself known in small ways made itself known in a big way, attacking the gathering and seeking to sow chaos and violence. At first, the nobles believed the Monsters to be attacking them, but when the Kenku came to their defense, and the illusions wrought by the cultists were dispelled, the truth gradually became apparent. Rajeev saved the Shogun himself from being slain while summoning the illusion of a frost giant which seemed quite realistic to the nobles who had heard rumors that the Horde had access to such beings.
Ultimately the Outsider cultist threat was destroyed, its worm-wriggling manifestations cleansed, and the nobles took their dead and retreated from the field.
The agents, no longer particularly secret, were summoned before the Daimyo council to explain themselves. Jade spoke in their defense, acknowledging their efforts as her agents, but it was their own impassioned statements about a greater enemy, the aberrant beasts of the Underworld who seek to consume all of Civilization, and the need to ally with the Monsters against a larger threat that swayed the council the most. While not all were convinced that peace with Monsters was possible, they were convinced, at least, to try.
That was when Shogun Tamsin finally spoke. He revealed that his goddess, Durga, has always been a mystery to him. She is the goddess of war in a whorl where war is outlawed by the gods, where only skirmishes with monsters give warriors a sense of purpose. He revealed that his goddess had confirmed a true war, deep beneath them, and to support that war he was willing to walk a battlefield of words. To the surprise of all he immediately abdicated his position as Shogun of Lankha and appointed himself ambassador to the Monsters, charging the agents to safely deliver him to the Warlord Whisper.
The meeting ended in shock and whispers. The agents spent some days working with Tamsin on their itinerary, arranging clandestine communication with Ten-Vipers to arrange transport. They left by sea, appropriating the private yacht of Tamoki the Gold, who took his political defeat relatively well. Knowing that they were leaving behind a Lankha cast into political turmoil, the agents allowed their ship to be captured by Ten Vipers, who escorted them in style to the edges of the Monster Horde.
They delivered Tamsin into the care of the mysterious Warlord Whisper, an orc cleric of Ratri with a penchant for the spooky and terrifying. His methods were clearly keeping a horde of disparate monsters together, though, and he seemed reasonably capable of keeping his new guest alive. Having accomplished their task, they returned to Ten Vipers and, rather than return to Lankha, set off, instead, to pursue Ballast's long-held private goal of visiting the Duskforge, one of the two most sacred sites of her god. The others, not wanting to face the turmoil of Lankha again so soon, chose to accompany her.