(( I decided to have some fun with the recap and made a little story with it. If you want to skip to the recap, read the parts in italics. ))
Deep below Nexus, far in the future, a labyrinthine protecting an ancient tomb was outwitted. A lone truth seeker braved everything to uncover the secrets of the past contained within. Scaling down a rope with a torch in hand, the brave soul descended into main chamber of the crypt. As he touched down on the floor a small cloud of dust rose up from the floor. He thought to himself, “No one had been here for hundreds, maybe thousands of years” and he was correct. The room was incredibly dark, the torch’s solitary light reviled only vague outlines of what was ahead. As he walked forward, an object came into view.
In the middle of the room stood a pedestal on top of which rested a large tome covered in age. The man carefully approached, removed the scarf covering his mouth, took a deep breath, and blew the dust off of the cover of the old book. As the wind from his lungs removed the dust from the cover, the room came to life. Suddenly a gale of air assaulted the room, causing the dust to swirl around like a sandstorm. The man shielded his eyes and ducked to the ground, bracing himself against the torrent of wind and dust. As suddenly as the wind had come, it left. The man stood up slowly, his eyes darting around the room with caution, which slowly gave way to wonder.
Torches along the sides of the wall had become lit, the room was bright as day. All of the dust was gone, taken away by the mysterious wind. Lining the sides of the walls were all manner of strange trinkets and wonders the explorer had only ever dreamed of, each with its own story. Sword engraved with gold, bracelets, jewels, portraits of people long forgotten and much more. The room was rectangular, with the entrance back behind the man, and at the far end, laid a large stone sarcophagus with a curved top, with inlaid yellow gemstones that gleamed in the torchlight. On each side of the long walls, behind the trinkets in cut out sections of the wall, stood two tall stone statues of men in armor with rice hats and all manner of weapons. On the Far side, above the sarcophagus a fifth statue stood, with marvelous blue and gold painted rice hat and royal red robes covering armor underneath. After taking in the the view of the chamber, the man snapped back to his senses. Although this tomb contained great material wonder, he turned back to the tome upon the pedestal for what he really was seeking; the truth.
The book had a hard cover of brown with Kachina family crest on the front, a mountain obscured by the clouds in a circular seal. Underneath the crest was neatly printed;
Record of transactions for the Noble house Kachina,
For Ren Kachina, cherished son.
With barley suppressed excitement, the man flipped open the cover and began delving the pages for the truth he needed, even as he disregarded the caution at the back of his mind that told him to beware. After scrolling through several pages of normal transaction records of goods traded, prices and other notes, the seeker found the beginning of what he was looking for;
Its been some time since I have written in this book. my life as a merchant’s son is over, everything has changed. I have been given new responsibilities and great gifts, and I intend to change this world into what it should be, what it can be. The tyranny of the Realm must end, I will seek out allies, forge bonds and see creation brought to order, no matter the cost. This ledger was a gift from my father, so that I could be an orderly, honest merchant. But I intend to bring law to more than just business practice. This ledger will serve new purposes, a record of transactions, not just of the small material goods I posses now, but also transactions of diplomacy, records of events so that the past may remain clear, and the road forward less mysterious.
I arrived in a town called Farhold, inhabited by a devastated logging community. Some calamity has befallen this town, it may not be safe here. I met a strange woman who can’t remember her name, I decided to help her out, and to take a look at what misfortune has happened to Farhold. Traded cargo of furs for bushels of acorns at a good rate.
I’ve had numerous near death experiences, fought undead creatures that redefined evil in my mind, and have been caught up in the politics of a volatile region that are equally dangerous. Some time has passed since I last wrote. I’ll go into more detail later, time is limited and I wish to detail recent events while they are fresh in my mind.
After escaping Farhold with Toshiro’s family and my entourage, the Circle sat down with the leader of the local tribes, Joquim’s brother, Darkeyes. We discussed what could be done to stop the Death Knight’s occupation of Farhold, and Darkeye’s slavery to Queen Raxi.
Back in the tomb, the man let out a gasp, this was it, what he had been searching for all these long years, a record of the heroes who stood against the Demon Queen Raxi. He re focused on the book and dove back into his reading. He read so voraciously that he missed the forlorn sound of scraping, echoing from far back in the labyrinthine every so slowly growing louder and louder.
Darkeyes is forced by magic compulsion to report to a demon that serves Raxi and discuss his operation of the tribes on her behalf. In reality, Darkeyes resents his servitude to Raxi and works against her as he can, which makes him our ally, as Raxi is our enemy. After discussing options of how to keep Raxi from directly intervening, Darkeyes decided it would be best to tell Raxi’s demon he could handle the Death Knight and return Farhold to her rule. He told the demon as much, but it seemed that Raxi wasn’t confident in Darkeyes ability to get the job done. Darkeyes suspects that Raxi has sent powerful demon servants to oust the Death Knight on her behalf. At first I wanted swift revenge on the Death Knight, and advocated for the circle to ride to Farhold and face him again in combat. Darkeyes and the rest of the Circle thought that instead, we should seek power before confronting him again, after some small convincing, I agreed and made their path my own.
Raxi’s demon interference fit perfectly into our plans, as we need to gather strength before attempting to confront the Death Knight, and the demons may hamper the Death Knight’s efforts to gather his own power and extend the shadowlands. Considering how to gain power to thwart the Death Knight, Darkeyes told us that Toshio’s manse was part of a network of hidden manses, that when all attuned to, would unlock a mysterious power that would aid us in defeating the Death Knight. This seemed like the best opportunity, so we decided to set off for to manse, but not before a strange visitor arrived. A richly dressed man named Duran Long arrived and began talk of fate, heaven and other things quite casually, I wonder who he really is? He explained that fate has no hold in the shadowlands, and that our victory, and future is uncertain. Duran Long also used a power of his to transfer my skill at playing the lyre to the pilgrim; fascinating. More mysteries from Duran Long, but we have to stay focused on what we can do, not how bleak things look.
After resting for the night, I bid farewell to the Wretched Hand and Kaida and met the Circle, Toshiro used his wind sorcery to take us to the first manse at blazing speed. We arrived in an empty open field where the manse sat, invisible. Toshiro found the entrance and we went inside. A snake guardian greeted us hesitantly, and told us we were welcome if we could brave the spike traps. The temptation to misrepresent myself in this situation is considerable, but the truth is, that I was thankful that day for deciding to don armor… the spike traps tasted my blood on the way in. The rest of the Circle avoided the sting of the traps easily, and The Veil took some satisfaction in ‘showing me how it was done’, good for her, but I doubt she could manage to translate the combined works of Zao The Green Sage into High Tongue in less than an hour, like I can, Hrmph. The main chamber inside the manse was beautiful symmetry, this would be a perfect place to find solace. The Circle meditated as we attuned ourselves to the essence flows of the manse.
We questioned the Serpent guardian and he reviled that he know stories about a powerful hag called Baba Yaga who would trade boons in exchange for magical blue roses… and children. We discussed the morality of sacrificing a child for power. Toshiro offered the option of trading one of his own grandchildren to the hag for power. The notion disgusted me, trading away ones family for riches is beyond reprehensible, I don’t understand his disregard for his family, it is unsettling. We decided at that point that in order to lure the hag out, we would acquire a child from the friendly tribe called the Ivory Branches- just to lure the hag, not as a bargain. Since the child was from a friendly tribe, we would not resort to sacrificing the child for power. On the way out, I decided to not hold back, infusing my blade with essence to block the traps. The crafty old man Toshiro thought to hitch a ride with me through the gauntlet, and it worked out just fine for him… lucky.
We arrived to a warm welcome with the Ivory Branches. An audience with the chief showed that they were willing to lend us a child, but they also requested our aid in fighting off a rival tribe called the Red Axes, who had started murdering Ivory Branches indiscriminately. At that point we decided to change our plan; we would acquire a child from the Red Axes and trade with the hag, instead of risking a child of the Ivory Branches. Summoning his traveling tornado had left Toshiro exhausted, so we decided to camp with the Ivory Branches for the night. They threw a feast in our honor, to everyone’s delight and we had an afternoon of quiet before heading out the next day. At the feast, I asked the Ivory branches to let me fight on their behalf, to outfit me in their tribe’s way. They seemed happy to do so, painted my face and body in white with tribal designs, and bestowed a bone bracelet, bow and bandoleer that they thought would offer special protection.
Out of the corner of his eye the truth seeker spotted the bone armaments, laying next to each other on a mat of gleaming fabric at the feet of one of the statues on the left side. He eyed them over, then returned to the reading. Again his focus betrayed him, and he missed the fact that one of the statues on the right side of the room was now gone. The torches flickered briefly and began to extinguish, slowly growing dimmer and dimmer. He didn’t notice, his attention was firmly on the book before him, still readable in the fading light.
I woke up early and meditated upon the upcoming battle with the Red Axes. Toshiro summoned his whirlwind and spend us off in the location of their camp. On the way, we drew arms and prepared for battle. To my surprise, as we neared the camp, Toshiro asked me to talk to the Red Axes as we landed, to see if they would surrender peacefully. I agreed, and moments later we landed in the camp of the surprised Red Axes. I channeled essence into my voice and commanded the Rex Axes in the name of the Unconquered Sun to lay down their arms and surrender, lest we eradicate them. As I looked around I could see the glint of fear in their eyes, like caged animals they warily eyed us, unsure what to do.
The Red Axe Chieftain then broke the tense quiet and talked to us. He explained that his tribe was visited by the evil Death Knight, and the Red Axes were being forced to murder other tribes at his behest. This changed things considerably, the Red Axes weren’t just murdering to slate their blood-lusts, but under the direction of a great evil. As we talked, one of the Red Axes lost control and almost lashed out at us while we were talking terms. Luckily Joquim spotted it in time, and moved with blinding speed to thwart the attack. We decided to offer terms to the Red Axes- They would minimize their activities and give us a child to take to the hag. In return, we would not slaughter them then and there. For the first time that year, I sanctified the oath under heaven, and brought a peaceful conclusion to what I initially expected to be a slaughter. I am glad that the Red Axes decided to surrender, but I can’t help but feel I’ve let down the Ivory Branches by letting them continue their murders, even if the Red Axes are minimizing them as much as possible. I will make it up to them.
The Red Axe Chieftain agreed to minimize his murders the Death Knight is forcing his tribe to do. Additionally, he will surrender a child to the Circle.
The Circle Agreed not to destroy the Red Axes then and there.
We departed as we came, on the wind, heading north with the Red Axe child in search of Baba Yaga, the hag. A bright flare lit up the sky, we followed and found the crone flying around on a giant alchemy mortar. She seemed intent of the child until Joquim displayed his blue rose and began talking about a deal. Baba Yaga is a shrewd one, she offered to regrow Joquim’s lost arm, power, treasure and more, but only once choice seemed practical. Joqium decided to trade his blue rose to help us gain information on the location and secrets behind the hidden manses connected to Toshiro’s, which in turn would lead us to the greater power Darkeyes had mentioned.
The hag next made her move to acquire the Red Axe child. She offered Joquim’s arm and other advantages in return for the life of the boy. The Veil and The Pilgrim would not hear it, and the Circle discussed the morality of bargaining away the child’s life. For me it was a simple choice. The Red Axe child had his father’s blood in him, blood that has committed murder and other evils and is a menace to others, their tribe was infamous. Being of noble birth, I understand the importance of good lineage, and knew that the child would grow up to be a menace, bandit or worse. Of course sometimes people can rise above their station, but that hardly ever happens, and I was not willing to spare an enemies child when the thousands of lives in Farhold and the surrounding civilizations were being devastated. It was a grim decision, but the Death Knight’s demise needed to be farther from chance, and closer to an eventuality. There is a sick feeling as a noble human and merchant, weighing a human life like a sack of grain… but the ends justify the means. After some convincing, the Circle accepted the hag’s offer, though reluctantly, the child in exchange for the location of a weapon to fight the Death Knight with. Joquim stepped forward as our representative, and I sealed the Oaths under heaven as my anima flared.
Baba Yaga will reveal the location of each of the hidden manses, and provide what information she can about each.
Joquim offers a blue rose in exchange for the information.
Baba Yaga will reveal the location of a weapon and what information she knows the weapon.
The Circle offers the Red Axe child in return for the information.
With the deals sealed, there has been a brief lull in the action, enough time to catch up since writing in Farhold. We are discussing what to do next, the Circle seems to want to go for the weapon first. Toshiro has a strange look in his eye.
He’d been greedy. The truth seeker could have skipped ahead, to get to the crux of the conflict and find out what had really happened. But he refused to settle for part of the truth, he wanted everything, start to finish of the entire event, the conflict that had changed creation. But the torches in the tomb had other ideas. Thick blackness blanketed the room again as the seeker replaced the book on the pedestal and fumbled with his flint to relight his torch. In tiny moments of vision afforded by the sparks from the flint, the seeker finally realized the statue was gone. His body froze with terror, and he made a turn for the escape rope. But it was gone, and it was far too late for escape now. Out of the darkness two bright red orbs glowed out of something’s skull as it approached closer and closer. The seeker stood transfixed on the red light, unable to move, to breath, to think, until all he could see was red from every corner of his vision. Shortly after, he saw nothing, truth or falsehoods, ever again.
P.S.; Freaky picture.