Pretty sure this is a new record

Stories of lore 15

 

Faelyn says we can go poke around Lieksä if we want, though she’s keeping the artifacts she already collected. Given how old Lieksä is though, I don’t think they’re worth much. For all this jive about our ancient technology being so valuable, fact of the matter is that its all pretty outdated. However, she mentioned something odd. Apparently she finished construction of her new road and offered that it would be easy for us to reach her. She built a road straight to us without ever mentioning she was doing so apparently. It also runs through the drow castle. So…convenient but I’m a bit wary of her. Also she said we should send her an ambassador she would like to introduce to the Alosne.

So with your idea for the aniraces, I have an observation. The best contending teams are…well teams obviously. They tend to already have their sponsorships sorted out in order to form the team in the first place. Also the badland sponsors probably wouldn’t be happy if we snatched them up. So if you are so intent on building a field and entering into these silly games you will have to build it up from a bit of a lower point. Though we could ask the katara what is going on at the tournament to find some solid recruits. The official size of the teams is a minimum of fifty. Though a few more are recommended in case you need to swap players out between rounds.

For my own advice, there are a few routes to doing this. The first is prioritizing tourism and a tech showcase to maybe sell it to the existing teams. Doing this would be best done by specifically recruiting players from the badlands since they’re liable to go back and forth between here and home to incidentally ferry stories and goods back and forth. Good advertising basically.

The second route is if you want to win. The monks of Oda and the mercenaries of Eilsath are likely extremely talented in a game like this due to it already being aligned with a lot of their skillsets. Once they learn the whole riding part of it. Though the second reason they’re the best chance of winning is because if they aren’t playing in the tournament or registering their own teams you can get the best they have to offer instead of competing for players that are all being offered positions at the games. While they might not be as prepared and I wouldn’t expect a win in the very first season, I’d say this strategy would have the best potential. Also obviously take anyone who is actually good and tries to sign up regardless of origin, it is fifty people after all, but starting the hunt with those two would be profitable.

Third, if you want to just blow people’s minds with our arena and team. Get the manifesters and golems in there, its not illegal to use magic spells. Manifesters can summon things on the fly that would be wildly close to cheating, though I checked the rules and summons are actually allowed. They’ve just never seen a summoner like a manifester. It might be worth mentioning Nalky is a legal mount, and as a mount would not count as a player. But I do advise against that. Its a violent game and Nalky might not be quite tame enough to avoid taking that the wrong way.

As for the playing field designs, I have two options for you. The correct option is some basic mining and stadium setup, pretty solid playing field that is at least interesting to see. Shape some rocks as we’re mining, add some seating along one side, maybe a snack stand too. It would cost roughly 300g150m and take probably three cycles to get done.

Option two is the completely impractical showboat Essi designed that will essentially be slapping our collective dick on the table to the badlands. She wants enchanted obstacles, massive levitating stands with a long a rail to keep even with the game, mirrors all over the ceiling, illusion projectors to act as a close up shot of the action, lighting the whole place with magic runes along the cave walls, a modular system to alter the obstacles every game or season, etc. It would be 2200g1800m over the course of four cycles and be completely unnecessary. This is why we call Essi the leader of the “RFC” department and many of her ideas are completely impractical…you’re considering it aren’t you?

Also they already have a system for mass viewing of foreign events, the game is the only mass entertainment around really. All registered arenas have representatives from the king sent to set up enchantments to make high powered scrying possible from linked viewing pools around the badlands. I can make a better one though if you really want. They use the basic principles of scrying to make water reflect an image and then levitate the water upright as a sort of viewing pool that can be seen from a bit more of a distance. I can make it work via illusions for a more three dimensional projection that scales up and down as necessary. I should rephrase, I know how to tell a student to do it so I don’t have to waste my time with it.

We got around to doing some deep researching of the orcish artifact now that the katara quarantine is handled. As suspected its tied to primordial magic. The weird part though, is that its creation involves the primordial abyss, not the wilds. We already know from Melun that the orcs are shamans at heart and trust in the wild spirits. While the object itself looks like something they would make, the power within it is definitely not theirs.

So remember how the katara have a genetic exploit to the dark spirits? Ansa says the orcs we’ve been fighting have one to the abyss and this artifact as well, but the orcs we’re fighting might not be the same as the orcs in command. In essence, they’re a fabricated species to give the orcish horde its footsoldiers by the thousands. But they’re dumb as bricks and fight everything they aren’t directly told to leave alone by someone who holds one of these artifacts. So the artifact and the berserker orcs were made alongside each other for this purpose. However, it might be that the true orcs are just….well orcs.

The queen finally arrived here so we all had a chat with her. After her…abrupt arrival she spent the week just hanging out and asking people strange questions or surveying our brickwork. Though in regards to regular politics she has been a bit difficult to work with. Largely because her city is based on independent isolation with a stagnant undead population who want for nothing. The only thing she ever seems to want is historical information and documentation, that is also the only thing she seems to export as well. Ansa went over the history with her while she was here. For access to the library someone has to personally visit the city to gain access to it and its publicly available texts, but to access the rare collection one has to trade something to add to see anything from within it. This is what I meant by that is her only import and export she is interested in as you can see.

She specifically has little interest in increasing her population’s numbers by acquiring new undead, as she feels that could disrupt her stance of neutrality and get her involved in a war. A lot of cultures get a bit uppity if you raise their soldiers as zombies and take them back with you as it were. This is also related to why she has refused to use the airship to help in the war with the orcs, noting that they have visited her before and she is not going to get involved in a war with them.

Essentially she’s so neutral that its almost painful. Though in line with all this and your other question, we could probably trade the tax book for at least one useful thing from her. Spend that option wisely.

Alright fine you wanna know the badland politics? Here we go. ((GDI mezzy))

The King of the badlands, also known as “the shaman” for reasons we cannot comprehend. Seriously he’s not a shaman he’s an engineer, we have no idea why they call him that. He can be described as an eccentric, energetic and happy person. Given how grim most people in powerful positions are, the fact that he’s just a ball of optimism and good times actually stands out enough for me to mention it. His brilliance as an inventor is unrivaled, though he doesn’t always take time to explain his ideas. Just throws them at his underlings and tells them to replicate it. He tends to stay out of everyone’s business and spend most of his time in the western citadel of Maji where he has made his home. He came to power through economic strength, when you get paid by every city in the kingdom to build their roads, street lights, aqueducts, transportation, doors, wells and so on – you tend to make a lot of money. One day he just started calling himself the king as an eccentric joke, the warlord who previously owned his citadel got offended and picked a fight. After they were blown to pieces The Shaman took over the citadel and everyone just said ‘yep he’s king’ and it stuck. A large factor in this was everyone liked him. He had been dealt with extensively as a merchant of technology and no one had ever had a problem with him. Once he took over the citadel it became clear that fighting him was suicide just by the nature of the fact that all of the peasants liked him. If some guy advances your quality of life by centuries within a decade, you tend to like that guy. I get the impression he just blunders his way through life by pure accident and keeps getting really lucky with it.

As a trivia fact, people find it hard to give gifts to the king. Because he seems so happy about everything that no one can tell if he actually likes their gift of if he is just super polite. This became a problem to some because the gifts he gives out are apparently the kinds of gifts people would have traded a city to acquire and its very hard to show appreciation to someone who seems to just love everything. Its a weird culture thing over there.

Abasi is a tiefling, though a very peculiar one. Instead of being the usual maximum of half demon and half something else, he’s 87.5% demon. That is how demonic his family line is. The remaining fraction is apparently, I am not making this up, Vaslochar. However, his family has lived in the badlands for centuries so he is very removed from them by now. He is one of the three lords of Maji and rules the southern citadel. Abasi is also the leader of Maji’s demonology cult on the grand scale at least. A cult which is the dominant source of power in Maji, with a few outlying exceptions. Abasi holds a hereditary position because no one has dethroned any of the three citadels in centuries with the exception of the recent takeover of the Shaman. However, it is interesting to note that the cult is tied directly to the primordial abyss, not a demon patron. Abasi is possibly the most talented demonologist in the world if you don’t count Euthar’s actual demon king.

Abasi himself is very relaxed, a little evangelical but otherwise minds his own business due to being well situated in his power as one of the three lords of Maji. However, he has seen to the rise and fall of other warlords from afar utilizing the influence of his cult. He was thought of as the superpower of the badlands until The Shaman rose to power. To his credit though, Abasi just shrugged and moved on with his day despite losing the #1 slot.

As a trivia fact, people have tried to assassinate Abasi a total of two hundred and sixty eight times. No one knows why its so hard to do. But if you’re going to try and take sabotage actions against Maji, do not target him.

Kaylen is an elf and she is also apparently the only one among them who believes in formal attire. Seriously the recurring fashion of the badlands is to be half naked and covered in jewelry. Kaylen is the military backbone of the entire badlands, holding the title of Grand Marshall. She lives in the northeastern citadel of Maji. It is the most fortified of all three citadels consequently. Her house sees to the training of soldiers and often deploys them around the badlands as she sees fit. Apparently her house, along with house Kjama, are two of the three founding forces of the badlands. She is descended from exiles of the elven lands, and her family has been the element of stability within the badlands that keeps it from going completely crazy with banditry.

So basically, she does military stuff. Makes weapons, trains mercenaries, and employs a massive army that does its best to curb the banditry and keep the other houses in line. She also has regular investments and taxes as well. While its true that the inner circles and officers of each warlord will likely be people they recruited on their own, most footsoldiers and town guards are coming from Kaylen’s house.

Okay now trivia facts time gets really…interesting. Like this might be worth a whole section if I wasn’t in the middle of briefing about the badlands. Kaylen is actually kiiind of an Oda. Before Oda became Oda they were just wandering people trying not to get eaten by monsters, their tribe split in multiple directions. Kaylen is from the group that took a right instead of a left. I’m just…going to send a letter to Oda for Kurisu to look over this went a lot deeper then I expected it to and I have the rest of the badlands to get to.

So those three are the major pillars of the badlands government and control the three citadels of Maji. Now to the regional lords.

 

We’re familiar with Faelyn but from a political standpoint lets go over this again. She is the ruler of Lieksä in the northern badlands and acts as a trade conduit between the badlands and northern settlements. She also has access to northern mana supplies, she apparently owns a mana harvesting town by a lake near her. Given mana is the currency of the badlands, that is a pretty significant source of income. The Damaia clan is particularly known for its work as traders and occasional loan sharks. While she doesn’t pick fights directly, she is known for being one of the more dangerous warlords. Upon investigating that, its largely because people don’t know her real race and as such every assassination attempt has failed due to underestimating her. Her military is also quite powerful, Gideon never really saw it because apparently they’re often deployed in the north hunting monsters but according to local hearsay she has the second largest army in the badlands cutting close to the actual largest.

I’m out of useful trivia facts for her given how familiar we are with her already. So a pointless trivia fact, her hair takes the labor of three servants every morning to get done.

Salahe is the lord of Ahedama, the land closest to the Oda. Family tree wise, he comes from Alosne, though is multiple generations removed. He is rather feared in the badlands due to a known history of being rather dastardly towards business partners that were not amicable enough to his demands. Odds are if the Oda tried to disagree with his deal for the village he would have attempted to ruin Okushiri. He doesn’t like people saying ‘no’ to him. While his business deals are never terribly unfair or anything, he is of a mindset that he gets what he wants. Militarily he would rank near the middle, but he uses his forces as marauders for extra income. Despite how problematic he can be to deal with, he is otherwise a perfectly nice guy until you aggravate him in some manner or another.

Salahe came to power by straight up murdering a dozen important people until everyone got the point and stopped saying ‘no’ to him. He declared himself the new lord of Ahedama and everyone just nodded quietly and shuffled along.

Interesting trivia fact I discovered. He has katara and oda women as slaves in his harem collection, he owns the bandit party that has raided into the forest several times over the years. To which note, he is also the most prolific of the warlords in human trafficking. I also learned he could sell us members of almost any race.

Zahur is fairly laid back, unlike most of the warlords he was hand chosen by the king to take his position after his predecessor died. His job is essentially a field general and is directly associated with Kaylen. I believe he’s actually her suboordinate. He serves a specific role for the badlands as an enforcer and border guardian along the south. He is the reason the orcs were trying to flank through the forest in the first place, because coming in through the south puts you up against him immediately at his fortress and main city, which are heavily defended. This would also be tied to why he is the one building that giant cannon at his outpost near the western border. Foreign invaders are his responsibility to deal with.

He is the lord of Dhame and its two military establishments. Because he has a specific role not based on economical power or fighting for territory, he tends to not be too difficult to work with. He knows his duty and carries it out. I’d say he is the most trustworthy of the regional lords. You don’t mess with him, he doesn’t mess with you. It is interesting he is considered a regional lord despite being under Kaylen’s direct command. He does technically manage the finances of his holdings independently from her, though he also accepts troops and orders from her. It sounds like an arrangement that came about from the fact that their hierarchy is all kinds of weird and this was just an easier solution to a problem then having a revolution in the hierarchy.

Trivia time, he has a foreign orc for his right hand man. It seems he recruited one from the horde a long time ago and this might be further related to why the orcs really didn’t want to fight him head on.

Esperanza is an Aasimar who rules over the port city of Gisenwe. Despite the “disarming angelic appearance” she’s one of the more cutthroat ones. Exploiting trade taxes and fees heavily to sustain her wealth. Odds are she marked up that dreadnought Katara bought by fifty percent or something to that effect. While she has the only navy of the badlands, she is not too significant militarily and has to rely on diplomacy. She could afford a powerful army but refuses to pay the upkeep on that if she doesn’t have an active war to fight with it. So she is very money obsessed you could say. She is also one of the more diplomatically talented and has contact with more external nations then any other warlord, likely due to her navy. However, she is very secretive in these arrangements so its unknown just how many people she is connected with. But strangers from foreign lands tend to show up in her city a lot, and sometimes problems for her just coincidentally disappear around the times of these visits. It is suspected she is quiet about her foreign contacts to avoid any other warlords disrupting her deals or getting in on her trade routes. I’m fairly certain any of the other lords who are interested have been able to find out by now, but we’re a bit behind the game on that one so I have no idea who else she’s trading with.

Trivia: Her grandfather was from Cayetano, she has never been there herself. Also her headpiece of choice looks stupid.

Laura Cecada, lady of Bito and the actual most feared warlord purely based on personality. We found out Laura is actually a katara descendant, three generations removed. She is also a witch to rival Vasia back when Vasia still had powers. Though without the support of a coven the spirits in her head have made her a little unstable and that is why everyone is so nervous around her. Her brutality is only unimpressive to us because we met Ankathi. While Laura isn’t one to initiate genocides as a first response, she is still quite a monster in her own right. She came to power by practically holding a city hostage against itself using her magic, eventually convincing the guards that anything was better then it continuing and being allowed to just walk in and murder the previous lord. Bito owns the town of Kitaza to the northeast which helps her finances due to it having a mana lake she can harvest from. While she is not too high up on the totem pole for her military strength, her personal abilities and erratic behavior make people unwilling to mess with her.

Trivia time: She has a strange phobia of other witches. We’re not sure why but she has specific defenses in her city just for dealing with other witches…she has never in her life met one. I suspect there is something strange going on with the dark spirit that inhabits her and its association with Katara. I also suspect this is an old broken plot hook because it was meant to be found earlier then Katara having that whole mess happen.

Usian Sefu is the lord of Mache, tiefling. Originally from the land of Euthar he found his home here and acquired power through his sheer charisma. People liked him, people did things for him, and tah dah – new warlord. A technical historical account is that he was a regular bandit at first. Then he was drafted to play aniraces and became a star player, gaining him great popularity. Then he went back to banditry on the side and rose to power bit by bit. He isn’t much of a military threat but he’s an incredible businessman who owns large numbers of raiders. As well as one of the top contenders for the anirace seasons every year. However, the bulk of his city’s defenses are actually under the employ of Zahur since Mache is near to the southern border. Usian is a recurring wild card in the political field because its hard to tell if he’s a malicious schemer or just a regular businessman. He is very popular with the people though.

As another bit of trivia, Usian is not a demonologist at all. Actually he seems to have a distate for them and keeps his distance from Abasi and the cult. Notably he prefers the wild spirits, even if he cannot be blessed with their magic because of his heritage his city has been pushing others to pursue shamanism and druidism while he sticks to just using conventional weaponry.

Okay so now that you know all the players. We’ll start with our friend Faelyn. She seems to have the most enemies brought on by the fact that she is the most successful of the non-central lords. Basically they all want her territory. She has a standalone citadel with access to Alosne, and now us, as well as the mana harvesting of the frozen north. She gets along fine with the King and Zahur. However, Abasi doesn’t like her…at all. Its suspected she and Abasi are at war with each other in the shadows.

She has a sort of puppet lord in the form of Laura, which I’ll get into in a moment. Given her sheer military power and control of the northern border, Zahur seems to keep in close touch with her as one of the main wardens of the badlands. Despite Zahur’s liking to her, Kaylen seems especially wary of her. It is worth noting that Faelyn’s army, despite its strength, did not hire any of its people from Kaylen. It is the only house in the entirety of the badlands not to do so.

Kaylen takes this as an indicator of just how powerful Faelyn can be as an independent and singles Faelyn out to be the riskiest factor in the land if she were to try something fishy. This has become more apparent as of recent because Faelyn suddenly has an army of Eilsath in her fortress, alongside members of Alosne, bandits from the badlands, and tribal warriors from the north as well. Also, as a special mention because I only noticed this upon going into an in depth investigation per your request…she has nalkas. Some of ours went with her scouts that came to visit and took up a job working for her. She beat us to arcane knights by several cycles, except hers are on the badlands hover bikes instead of horses. She has an elite warrior from every land she has contacted as her personal retinue right now. So…I should say its a good thing we started investigating her because she apparently knows fucking everybody.

The access to the north has made Faelyn very capable as an independent and it threatens to destabilize the badlands if she decides to stop being a trader and start being an empress. Oh not to mention Areti was with her at the tournament. Making everything just a bit more tense because Areti beat up half the guards in the palace lobby single handed then showed up the next day wearing Damaia’s emblem at the tournament.

Salahe is allied with Esperanza. Apparently their business dealings align with one another’s interest quite often so they tend to work together. They both especially don’t like Faelyn and seem to be a bit more jealous of her then most. However, neither of them are militarily her match even combined so they remain scheming from the distance.

Esperanza has a secondary ally in the form of Usian, though Usian doesn’t really talk much to Salahe nor want to get close to the man. Though it is rumored that all three are part of a larger conspiracy together but Usian wants to keep a distance from Salahe as not to marr his public image.

Laura is kind of Faelyn’s puppet and understudy. They’re both katara and Laura’s family left Sybaris three generations ago…during the cleansing. Both had a mutual hatred and healthy fear of Ankathi and apparently that led to them talking easier. Though Laura is too young to actually know Ankathi, she knows the legends her family passed down as well as the first hand account of Faelyn. Faelyn helped Laura start her mana harvesting town to the northeast, though claims some of the tribute. Because Laura has a hard time making allies with the others she is forced to hide behind Faelyn for protection from Esperanza’s schemes for the most part.

Zahur only really deals with other lords on major border areas. The others seem to be people he deals with out of pure necessity of his job. Though they are often actually drains on his resources due to him having to offer help with fortifications and manpower quite often. Because Faelyn is the only border force with enough military power to not need his help he seems to like her more since she doesn’t make his job any harder. Though there’s that whole thing going on between his boss and Faelyn as I mentioned earlier.

 

Did you get all that? Here I made a quick graphic to help.

 

 

 

 

 

Greetings keeper! It is a glorious day for the Oda people. So to get administration out of your hair first, we’ve agreed to the arrangement with Salahe, and the road into the badlands has been constructed.

Iwanagi made contact with the coastal town he came across, and took a closer look. The town as quite a sizeable population though spread over a huge expanse in the jungles of the island. They are somewhat primitive though have hints of advanced technology, particularly in their weapons. They have weapons of properly forged steel, but they otherwise have huts and loincloths. He suspects there is a more advanced civilization trading with them for something in particular.

However, this means they’re quite open to trade! We could easily trade some of our modern conveniences with them for raw supplies they have in abundance. These tribal folk appear to be hunters by trade, and thanks to the nalkas woman…Ansa I think it was? we know about the value of such materials from monsters that these people hunt for a living. It should be noted, they made a civilization based around teams of monster hunters which is their primary source of food. For having so little in the way of technology, I can’t help but mark that as quite impressive! They are most interested in tools and fabrics. They don’t have the technological know how to refine iron so they don’t have so much as a proper hammer and have to use machetes…which aren’t quite felling axes. So that should be easy enough to arrange.

It may be worth noting…while Iwanagi can only see so far the island seems to be big. Really big. Judging by talks with the natives, there’s a lot going on down there. Perhaps such a place should be further ventured.

Also Serizawa has returned home as well.

As for setting up a lake in Tonarooka, the problem with that is the island is volcanic. Its central point is at a higher elevation and water is liable to flow out of it more then into it, which wouldn’t really help with mana collection. However, building a settlement on the far side of the island would put it closer to deep waters so that might yield some results. I also suspect that lake in the forest near the mountains would be ripe with mana were not for the orcs in our way at the moment.

We’ll have to wait for Eliana to come visit to really ask her any furhter questions as she is now busy visiting the nalkas, though I know she plans to come here next.

As for the omni elemental cannon, they can technically make it work but it is of little value as it is right now since its just four cannons strapped together, which is not good for weight in particular. Though at least refining the idea is coming along.

I should mention the orcs have reached Haven, and we might want to keep ourselves alert to their movements. While Haven currently stands empty, thus preventing them from destroying it. We do have a road leading from it to us.

Now, onto other affairs. Shime recently returned, albeit somewhat tired. Reportedly she got into a fight with Serizawa at the monastery. Afterwards she went to visit Haven, and revealed she learned a new trick called KInesis…hehe good one. Her time with the druids taught her to tap into the wilds. So…okay we didn’t quite get druids out of Haven but we did get wild monks. She can now perform hydro, geo, pyro, and aerokinesis feats with just her ki to augment her abilities. This is an astounding achievement! I would have discussed it at length with her to help inform you better but as you know she doesn’t talk. She also didn’t stay here in Okushiri very long. Yuzuki is currently away so we’ll have to exhibit some patience on that one. Might want to let some people go train with her.

I received a letter from Heseli of the nalkas recently regarding his investigations into the badlands and I felt perhaps you might like to hear what he has uncovered.

This is Kaylen Yuriko, an elven warlord in the badlands who occupies the northeastern citadel of Maji. She came to his attention when he discovered she knew how to use ki. Quite proficiently I might add, she’s at the grandmaster level. Remember that kinesis trick I told you Shime had learned how to do? Kaylen has been able to do it for decades apparently.

Now, the more interesting part. Kaylen is apparently a descendant of our founders. Here have some tea, this is going to be a long one. I had to look up some history scrolls and speak with the elders to piece together this story for you.

Many years ago, before we decided to settle down in Okushiri, the Oda were a wandering tribe looking for a place to call home. Preferably a place where monsters didn’t try to eat us all the time. We had picked up an eclectic assembly of various people after the events of the dying night. One of these splinters included a group of elven exiles we must have met in the south before moving on. The story is murky but apparently we didn’t like the elves much, they had some sort of dark secret involving cannibalism. I feel we should maybe ask someone to look into that…but some of their people were exiled and traveled with us. Some of our ancestors wanted to settle down in the first convenient place they came across, some others wanted to search for better prospects. There are ruins in the forest of villages our forefathers must have tried to build only for the monsters to inevitably come. However, those of us who were hopeful of a promised land eventually went on to find this valley we call home today.

But before we found this valley, our people were beset by tragedy in the form of a powerful beast. Many of ours fell, and the tribe that remained scattered, never to see each other again. From this accidental schism we found Okushiri, but those who went the other way would reach the Badlands. Almost as if guided by fate to find the home of all exiles. This splinter of our tribe would take hold in the safety of the Badlands, and it is from this splinter that Kaylen descends. Her people were stragglers, exiles of their homeland that we took in, but they traveled with us. They fought with us, they struggled and prevailed alongside our ancestors. She wields a blade, an accent, a name, and the ki of our ancestors. I should say, she is one of our lost children. Given she is an elf, I would not be surprised if she is only one generation removed from those times, if not an actual survivor who may have known our elders in person. Okushiri is not even a century old after all.

It is no coincidence her family name is Yuriko. We named Shime that because of the elves our ancestors knew, it seemed properly fitting to give to her. I don’t think they are actually related, we just sort of named Shime that because she couldn’t talk. Though who knows, maybe the day she wandered into our city was after a lifelong journey alone in the forests separated from the others.

 

It’s only my third week! Don’t I get a breaking in period? Ugh, alright well lets run down the list.

So we’ve been having issues tracking down the actual leader of the coven cult. Not to mention four town guards have gone missing during the investigation. Supporting evidence we had previously that a real witch is at the head of this cult, possibly multiple. I think they were Winter’s loyalists who were actually smart enough not to openly oppose Ankathi. So they are of above average intelligence and proving difficult. I have gone through the former members of the Coven to set up a list of those who would have the training to do this, I am currently working to eliminate suspects as I can. For example Layla is unlikely be behind it, because she’s not even in the city and has a consistently strong alibi of being busy with her own stuff. So that’s one down…a hundred and sixty suspects left to go.

The scout boat made its way to the island with the abandoned docks finally. So far there isn’t much risk of Cayetano finding out since they didn’t appear to leave much in the way of guards besides the door itself. Though, obviously that door just had to be a fucking problem. Its sealed with magic, probably their best lock spell they could come up with given what we figure is in it. It simply will not open without magic, we already hit it with every rock we could find and shot it with the small cannon that was on the scout boat. It’s not that we need a specific type of magic to unlock it, its just that we need some sort of  magic to break it the brute force style. Might be worth asking Amare to look into it. Either way, we’re not getting through that door with raw firepower. Though alternatively maybe we could get through the mountain its buried in with a mining team, might take a little while though. Also that was the last report we received, the team went crazy and have gone missing since then.

Speaking of away teams, the tournament has concluded. None of our players placed in the top twenty though so not much for prize money there. Some of the people there are reportedly quite impressive…plus have been training for these games longer. Our players managed to place in the top half of entrants though at least, with Chara placing highest among them at 42nd. For perspective, there were over ten thousand entrants. Though some were interested in maybe taking some of the girls onto their teams none the less. Obviously the best ones though so if you plan to host your own team might not wanna let them do that.

I asked Layla about the Sanctum. While they can manage the budget and any necessary repairs, with no demons its just a big building. While some of the blackguards have remained behind in Katara, actually most of them did, those that remained have just gone back to being our soldiers for the most part, if they didn’t join the demon cult at least. I think one of them is a high ranking member in that conspiracy though. Back to the main point, the blackguards will not return without a demon master to consort with. On the upside, it was largely a fortified training structure with some unique features to suit the blackguards but those rooms could be repurposed. We could just convert it to be for a different order. While our ‘knights’ were largely rich girls who could afford armor and had formal training they were few and kind of meh. Sure you got the likes of Ankathi and Petrina from the namesake but the culture of knights has never been particularly prominent for us. With some investment and perhaps government funding – particularly for the armory, we might be able to start something with that building at least.

So, Petrina and Cybele aren’t witches for the record so they have little idea of what to do about the spirits. I don’t either. Judging by how Ankathi explained it, we cannot replicate the conditions without resorting to schemes on the level of what Winter was doing. Someone has to suffer immensely and convert that into enough rage to lash out at the spirits, but that someone has to already have contact with the spirits. Which none of us do anymore. The next idea is to get a bigger meaner incorporeal being to pick a fight with them. So that does loop back to your idea with the wild spirits or the earlier mention of demonology.

Also Christina managed to make contact with the archdruid, who says she will agree to come help out with the rampaging spirits problem but she has no idea about the whole enslaving spirits thing. All she can do is sort of exorcise the area, and she can’t do that until she’s done fighting the orcs. However, that would still help us a lot and give us some breathing room on this running timer to our extinction.

Also yeah, calling Orias hasn’t been particularly doable lately. Even the demonology cult trying to rise against us, and the coven cult for that matter, hasn’t actually contacted Orias himself. They got some smaller demon lord. Orias on the other hand will take more effort to contact. I don’t think its entirely due to lack of response though, I think we just don’t have anyone who knows how to contact him. If we find his son we might have better luck on that front, alternatively the demonologists of Vaslochar to the north might have some useful ideas. I think there are quite a few demon cultists in the badlands too for that matter.

Now the quest for a dragonborn is technically easy. We know where two are, but they’re both females and don’t think the most highly of us I believe. Finding a male, or an actual dragon, is a much tougher challenge. I went about reading and found a potential lead though, there was a cult of dragon shamans before the dying night. They were nomadic and well traveled. We don’t know what happened to them afterwards as we all lost contact with all other civilizations equally. There is a chance their descendants are still out there, if not there is a chance their remains might provide some additional leads. Though here is the solid part, the tax book thing we got? Their tribe is listed on it when they traded with whatever empire this book came from. On the list of things they traded lines up to be something that Melun was once known to produce. So the short version is that Eliana might actually know who they are and where they were last seen or at least something more substantial then ‘they used to exist’. *sigh* alternatively…

Okay so we sent the letters to Areti and Faelyn as requested. Areti appears to have chosen to stay with her sister. Maybe we should have been pushier, but apparently since dragonborn can utilize draconic magic she has opted to stay in Lieksä to learn those abilities from Faelyn. Faelyn sent a response as well. However, it is practically dripping snark and scheme. She mentioned that the Nalkas were already free to visit, given Gideon had already passed through and such. Additionally she mentioned that if we need a new patron deity she can help. The problem is I have to mention this purely because she mentioned that she knows where to find a dragon. Not dragonborn, an actual full blooded dragon of the primordial chaos that could destroy Sybaris if it felt inclined to take a morning stroll here. Apparently it was her tutor that taught her the draconic magic she is now teaching Areti. Remember when I said dripping with scheme though? In order to procure her help she wants every witch who was alive during the cleansing to be sent to Lieksä as an offering of apology so she can personally kill them. Sort of a badlands gangster justice I assume. That would be about twenty eight of our former coven members, the others who were around back then died fighting Ankathi just recently. Atop of that she wants you to allow her to establish an embassy in Sybaris, she was very specific on what building it would be too. While its just an empty manor on the outskirts, I did some checking because I don’t trust her. That manor would give her access to the underground tunnels and an ability to move throughout the entire city with a great deal of subtlety specifically because its out on the outskirts. I almost forgot she knows the layout of our city until I had checked that.

In the interest of being a good advisor I came up with all the pros and cons of what she’s saying if she is telling the truth about the dragon at least. I don’t think she would lie about something that major just because that would be obviously the first thing we would notice was fishy if she didn’t deliver on that. She is also a trader, which I feel is the real risk.

However, okay – objective pros and cons. A chaos dragon is tied to the primordial chaos the dark spirits are from. It could actually enslave all the dark spirits. Just by showing up they would be inclined to obey it just because its a fucking dragon. Also it being a chaos dragon means we’d pretty much have all our powers back, I’d go back to being able to reverse the aging process!  The siege curses would work again, and we’d be a pretty legitimate kingdom with the backing of something like that. Not to mention if its true, and it is out there, it might be beneficial to be on its good side should it decide to fuck us all up someday. Here is the catch, if it really is Faelyn’s mentor then the odds that it decides to fuck us all up can increase dramatically. Simply saying no to her could result in this being a problem. For perspective on how powerful a pure dragon is, Orias is a being so powerful that he can destroy Sybaris merely by being summoned into the physical world – by accident. That fight is 50/50 odds on either of them winning. Atop of that, her having an embassy here would actually boost our economy and probably tourism. She is at her core just a very successful trader.

Downsides. We have no idea what that dragon’s personality is like and something that powerful is bound to also be very dangerous. It was Faelyn’s teacher, supposedly at least, and is liable to like her more then us. While we managed to rebel against the dark spirits…a dragon is another story. That thing could theoretically destroy our entire alliance on its own, there is no rebelling against that kind of creature. It is worth noting that Orias does not exist physically in our world, so we have some distance against people like him. Dragons on the other hand do. Next, the strange placement of Faelyn’s embassy is a wild card. I don’t think she would set the city on fire or anything, but I do think we’d see a mysterious increase in illegal activities. Also I hope you are fully aware just how dangerous Faelyn actually is. Dragonborn we screwed over aside, she’s a badlands warlord. All of those people are exceptionally clever, whatever nefarious schemes she might truely have are beyond me and I have tried very hard to predict her. It might be as benign as her wanting access to Sybaris for its port or the forest, or even just to sell us a ton of stuff so she can make more money. It could be as malicious as wanting to kidnap our children and sell them as slaves in the badlands labeled as ‘exotics’. Perhaps maybe even cause our extinction I don’t fucking know.

As your advisor, I personally say that we need to be very cautious regarding her no matter which way you might feel on this. She’s a badlands warlord known for being rather clever. We are built on strength, which we have a lot of, even if we’re not idiots we still (as a whole) have a significant vulnerability to someone as good at scheming as her. Hell look at the damage Ankathi caused just by being patient. Also ever since Ankathi… I’m wary of underestimating how well people can hold grudges.

That being said, I also think we need to find out as much about her as we possibly can right now. Because now she has Areti, now she knows -everything- about us. She didn’t come for us while holding onto a grudge for decades, but all of the sudden she just took an interest because we sent a letter? If this woman can really contact a pure dragon, she should be queen of an empire by now. Something is fishy.

On to other matters though, because apparently I just can’t have an easy first month. Anyways, interrogating Bagrak has been interesting. As is part of my job, I will mention that it was Petrina who got any answers out of her. Bagrak doesn’t really respect anyone who isn’t a warrior, and is practically immune to torture. According to her the orcs are probably looking for her artifact. Which means they might not be going to the badlands, they might be going to the Nalkas.

However, Petrina also learned something interesting. See the orcs just wanted to loop up through the Badlands but ran into the elves at the gate. So you remember how stubborn the elves were when we first met them? Yeaah…..yeaaaaaaah. So most of this war is the product of how stubborn the elves are combined with how inept the orcish berserkers are at accepting diplomatic envoys. The orcs are part of a larger horde that intends to assault the badlands from the south, they are also likely to be sending reinforcements to the western forest soon after we eliminated so many of their commanders.

Okay, angels, right that next. Wait did you want paladins or aasimar? I guess maybe both. Either way, we have no idea. Though we do have a lead once again! Cayetano specialize in this, we could send someone to them to see what they might be able to tell us about the entities of the primordial light. If nothing else at least visit some libraries there to see what we can learn about such creatures to get more leads on where to actually find one of our own.

Also we managed to rope together some people to send south and work on the new village.

We sent the letter to Ansa, along with the book – bulk delivery and all. Ansa responded with a fairly rude –

Hi.

HOW ARE YOU GETTING HERE SO QUICKLY?

Stagecoach plus road.

 

 

Why? Wouldn’t a letter suffice?

I’m going to be honest, I just like calling you names. No one else has made as many terrible life decisions as you, its just so easy. It’s sort of become a hobby miss-daddy-issues.

I’m katara. I barely knew my father.

 

 

I don’t know if you don’t see the problem there or if you are genuinely that mind numbingly stupid. Does your mind just go blank whenever you need to invent a comeback or are you always an imbecile?

Ow ow ow that hurts let me go! I feel like you’re being meaner then last time.

No more Ankathi, I don’t need to even pretend to tolerate you guys anymore to avoid saying something racist for the benefit of her feelings.

You are all an incredibly, stupendously, amazing cavalcade of human fuckups. Quite frankly I am astounded to actually encounter an entire civilization of people dumber then the barbarians we killed in the north for being too stupid to tolerate. The only reason I’m even here is because princess-of-darkness over here is just too cute when she tries to put together coherent thoughts.

Okay I get the point can you-

Alright alright I’ll get to the point. The only reason I’m so nice to you is because Ankathi liked you. I gotta be careful about spoiling you though.

 

She liked me? Wait this is your idea of nice?

Yeppers. If I wasn’t you’d be dead for interrupting me. Pet peeve of mine, killed one of my students for it too. You might not realize this, but I just got promoted recently!

 

. . . uhh…wait you could even be promoted? Promoted to what?

With winter dead and Ankathi gone, I’m the most powerful person in the whole alliance. I could kill you right here and now and your guards couldn’t do a damned thing to stop me. Wait your society says that if I just straight up kill the queen over there I’m the new queen?

Please don’t kill the queen.

Ha, don’t worry. I turned down becoming queen of the nalkas already, not going to suddenly lower myself to queen of the dick seekers. I’d have said suckers but lets be honest you girls could never waste a drop of that white gold, I bet your men aren’t even cursed. Just dying of boredom in the bedrooms they’re confined to.

Anyways, the plague. Definitely constantly perpetuated by the spirits. If they were to let it run it would still be a problem but the reason its increasing in its spread and symptoms so rapidly is they are actively afflicting it again and again. As for becoming immune, no idea. No one has survived it yet. By the way Magia died. Hood-is-totally-for-the-rain-not-to-look-edgy, what is the local death toll up to?

*sigh* Well it was a few hundred after it started, then a thousand…this week five thousand died.

 

 

Yeah, it is getting out of hand. It can’t be good for local politics that the offshoot cults popping up are immune to the plague since they have contracts already. So anyone who joins the coven copy or the discount demonologists gets immunity to to it and that is definitely part of their recruitment pitch.

Anyways, enslaving spirits. You guys can’t do anything, don’t even try. Your people will keep dying by the thousands until you find a prince to introduce some other genetics and your whole civilization will be reduced to their offspring alone within the decade. What Ankathi did was a first throughout all of known history. Before you ask the hows and the whys and the whats – you can’t do it. It’s that simple. That is all there is to it. I can explain how she did it in step by step detail, and you can’t do it. You can spend the next three centuries trying, and you will fail. You can ask Eliana to do it, and she will fail. You can ask the entire coven of Katara and the entire coven of Melun to get together and gang up on one poor juvenile spirit, and you will fail. Spectacularly I might add.

. . . okay by that look I guess you want more explanation. Basically, she was inhabited by the spirit she enslaved when she did it. You have all been cut off from them now, so you’d have to remake your contract with them to even have the opportunity. Problem number two, they were actively trying to kill her when she pulled it off. You have to engage something that has a direct link to you in mortal combat and just fucking hope you have whatever it was that enabled Ankathi to do it.

So here are your options, you can all rebind yourselves to the dark spirits then stage a mass backstab on them and see if literally any of you survive. Remember, once in all of history, which means that statistically you all die, orrr you can find a new patron. I believe all those options were already covered. But the important part is Orias, a dragon, the wilds, a new bigger dark entity, whatever the fuck you want – are capable of counteracting the spirits. The more powerful the better. However, the longer you take the more you decline. The introduction of primordial genetics might help you, but you can’t logistically produce two hundred thousand in time to prevent literally anyone from just walking up and taking over your city, and someone will if you decline that far. If not Faelyn, then maybe Ankathi, or maybe myself, or just some random bandits.

Oh don’t forget you only can pick one, otherwise they start fighting with each other. See the whole spirits vs orias debacle, and yes Ankathi did that part on purpose knowing it would start a war. She had literally told Orias it was going to happen and that she wanted him to be ready to escalate it as fast as possible. It just went faster then she expected.

Actually, the archdruid has agreed to help us remove the spirits so that we won’t really need another patron.

 

 

I suppose that works too actually, didn’t know druids could exorcise things. So ignore half of what I said then, pick the correct half. However, I do admit I am not an expert on this topic. I do more…real magic. You know, the kind where you have to be able to do it yourself instead of depending on something else like you parasites. Anyways, I’m headed out now. See you later.

I hate her. I hate her so much. Can we please stab that fucking woman. Ugh, I need my herbs.

 

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