Author Archives: Rules Director

March 2019 Prologue

PrologueRumors and News

[RUINS OF THE INTHIAN SPELL-TOWER; MARCH 04, 2019 WR]

The slaughter was such that even the sun shadowed its face from the crimsoned beach. The carrion-eaters feared even a single nibble upon the tempting feast before them — except the flies and the worms of course. The vermins’ incessant buzzing was a constant over the sound of crashing wave and the voices of the dying. Worst of all was the stench of opened wounds and ripped bowels– even the howling sea-wind couldn’t disperse its putrescence.

Troll and Gnome, Elf and Nightkin, lay sprawled, dismembered, or worse yet, alive but incapacitated as the insectoid Yao-Guai made their rounds. Whether basked in limpen sunlight or shadowed by boulder, shipwreck or monstrous cadaver, none escaped the demons’ gaze. They sought, they fed, and they slew. Most unfortunate were those that found themselves on the other side of a Spider-Wasp’s ovipositor — their suffering would be prolonged and more horrifying.

Years ago, Anubisath’s Arctic Star fell and reduced the Vicious City to a few rocks poking out of a corpse-ridden sea. Of that City, only the Inthian Spell-Tower survived the onslaught. Home and hive to the cult-magicians of the Qabbalim, it had been interwoven with defensive magics and runic energies so potent that even a falling boulder of ice could not shatter it.

Yet now it lay in ruins, as gnawed and shattered as a femur savaged by a ravenous hound. Its magics were undone with a grace and power that only one type of being could ever possess: the deific, horrific Immortal.

It is to the heart of these ruins, away from the buzzing coast, past warped flora and amidst broken brickwork, that the trio dragged their victim. The screams of the dying and the demon-fodder became distant.

Her bearded visage watching every side and every shadow, the First Daughter of the Yao-Guai led her comrades to the Seething Court. Behind her and dragging their gift with one monstrously large arm was a man once known as Terasu Shin, once revered as the King of Kenrei, now an infested corpse-puppet hopelessly in love with a horror beyond horrors. Trailing last was the Jack of Knives, formerly Qabbalim, formerly deceased, and now the greatest assassin-priest of the mistress they all served.

At their arrival, the Yao-guai Viziers parted to let them pass. Though thankfully rare on the battlefield, Yao-Guai Handmaidens were aplenty here, some veiled as a Sha-ir courtier, and a few even fanning their monarch with gigantic leaves. Spider-Wasps perched on ruined walls and broken pillars, buzzing songs to the Immortal that birthed them from quivering corpse-flesh.

“Mother”

“My Queen”

“My love”

Shin tossed their captive into the strange runic circle in front of the Immortal and they all knelt as one to her. Their monstrous minds were misted with pheromone and magics, thinking all three titles were one and the same. The three peered up to her and wept with despair — there would be nothing in the world that they loved more than she.

With all the pagentry of a ballroom host, Portia descended. She was as beautiful as she was terrifying, as graceful as she was mighty, and as vainglorious as she was deathless.

“Welcome,” she gestured to her Court. “Favored Son. I’ve been expecting you”

Their captive stood up, cloak and robes shredded and bloodied. He was gaunt and hollow, robbed of the dozen demonic parasites that armored him and gave him strength, wisdom, and spellpower aplenty.

“Portia.” he spat the name as a curse. “Or is it Ishri?”

“Ishri? Silly little Vallah, writing and gossiping about me. No, my sweet — it is Portia now. When you have power enough to kill a god and take their mantle, you too have power enough to change your true name. Moreover, you need not fear those who would know it — indeed, you need not fear me, my Son.”

“No! No! No!” he fought against the buzzing in his head and the toxins in his lungs. “You are not the Dark Mother! She…she…loves her Children.”

“Ah, my sweet, but I am! And I do! All my children love me and despair.

“Our mother is love,” spoke the First Daughter as she rose with the others. “Our mother is all.”

“My Queen is the Eternal Tide,” stated Terasu Shin, solemn as a mountain. “You cannot hope to stand against it and keep your feet.”

“Kneel before our Goddess, heretic.” The Jack of Knives snarled and drew plagued steel. “Your beachhead is gone, as is all of your sea-scorpions! Submit!”

The Favored Son, high-priest of the Dark Mother, screamed in defiance. He launched himself at Portia, if only to claw out one of her many eyes…if only to lay a single scratch upon her rune-carved carapace.

But swifter than sin itself, Terasu Shin caught him instead. The Favored Son was held fast and forced to kneel before the Immortal.

“Oh sweet darling, you had me dangling above three webs!” Portia clucked her tongue and counted out her options finger by finger. “I was to make you birth more of my babies, I was to have you join me, or I was simply going to feed upon you.”

Her prey screamed once again, from frustration and from the Kenrei King’s poisonous talons.

Her smile widened darkly and her eyes glimmered with a spidery excitement. “But instead, I will make an example of you.”

The Jack of Knives laughed cruelly while the First Daughter remained quiet. The buzzing of the Spider-Wasps and the mock whisperings of the Handmaidens melted into a sudden silence. Even the sun seemed to dim in the sky as Portia gathered Power to herself.

“Let me ask you a question, my dearest, sweetest High-Priest: do you know how Lector killed all the followers of Woden in one fell swoop?

Out of Game Clarify: (everyone should read this)
Rumors (anyone may read this):

 

Rumormonger skill only

February 2019 Prologue

PrologueRumors and News

[RUINS OF THE FREEHOLD BROTHERHOOD CHAPTERHOUSE; FEBRUARY 1, 2019 (WR)]

The magics that made a ruin of the Chapterhouse had also turned that locale into a wasteland. Trees were flattened, streams pooled into the crater, and even the local elementals were warped into forms and visages both strange and perilous. Even the charred air, the very moonlight, in this place was fringed with a poisonous magic.

What was forsaken and maligned to mere mortals was simply inconvenient to those unfettered by such limitations. Tenebrous strode past fallen tree and shattered pillar, soundless, ethereal and fell as a demon’s smile.

Clothed in the body of the Kenrei princess and crowned in shadowy glory, Tenebrous was solitary as they entered the clearing. However, every Warp Elemental that dared approach the Immortal was bent and suborned to their indomitable will. What were to be assailants became slaves instead and they followed the Immortal mindlessly thereafter.

Yet for all of their power and all of their might, the Immortals were not immune to disappointment — no, it was not here. Moreover, there were others that were looking for it.

The Fang-zharan golems and their leader received the Warp Elementals’ attacks with sufficient temerity. Whatever strange augmentations the Golemics received was more than enough to withstand the magics of the ruined crater and they even proved proof to Tenebrous’ insidious domination. Minutes flew by as elementals clashed with constructs amid the ruins of a fortress. Slaves of energy and darkness battled titanic thralls of steel and spirit, as it did in the times of old. Thundering claws crashed into metallic frames even as iron blades bit into aethyric flesh. The Immortal smiled at the memories that this vista conjured.

Then, Tenebrous espied the Golems’ leader as she tried to escape. Oh, she was slight and spry and strong and stubborn — but she was not an Immortal.

She took thirty steps, then fifty, then a hundred — muscles and spirit augmented by Fang-zharan toys. But such machinations did not save her from being shackled by benighted magics and pulled taut against a nearby tree. Augmented or not, the shadows were quicker and easier than a courtier’s lies.

“Marlowe, was it?” Tenebrous appeared before her, stepping forth from beneath the shadows of a hundred moonlit leaves. Their eyes, all of them, narrowed. “Your husband still feels for you, as do the rest of your friends and allies in Freehold.”

“Kill me now, if you dare!” Her prey hissed fury and zealotry. “You cannot stop my mistress!”

“I thought that you had something of mine, but it seems that you don’t.” Sighing, they turned around and gestured to the air, but the underside of the tree’s leaves and of every pebble watched Marlowe all the same.

Marlowe screamed silently, a single eye suddenly glaring red. But she remained ensnared and enstilled within the Immortal’s web.

Tenebrous continued speaking, careless and confident as a philosopher before a forum. “That little tinker made it a little difficult for me to ‘take’ you. But I wonder what would happen if I started removing things? First from your flesh…and then we start on your soul if that doesn’t work.”

They looked up, alone in their soliloquy, but never truly apart. The night sky was only partially veiled by leaves and clouds. This part of the Hinterlands was not flattened by Brotherhood folly.

“I mean, it has never ever worked, of course. But I have time aplenty and Fang-zhara has an overabundance… of… toys…” Tenebrous’ voice trailed off as their gaze left Marlowe. They focused instead upon a point in the skyscape amidst stars and moon and stygian void.

There was only a moment of thinking before a decision was made by all of them, the entirety of the Crescent Council and all the rest. Marlowe was ripped in half during the last tenth of that thought, torso cast away and legs forgotten.

Interesting. 

No dwelling on old questions. It was time for a new toy, after all.

Rumors (anyone may read this)
Lorekeeper skill only

January 2019 Prologue

PrologueRumors and News

[AT SEA, THE GOLDEN MASQUE; JANUARY 09, 2019 WR]

The masked figure in the corner of her shadowed quarters continued to babble, painting a grim picture of Midworld at a rate of a hundred words a minute. Only the King in Gold understood the maze of its words, but she had no doubt that the other regents and Kings would have their own methods of divining these current events, though they would likely be less efficient than the power of a World Lock.

“…Massacre at Graellengard…Slaughter of the Nemain…Shaerach, an Abbatoir…” The King in Gold translated as best as she could, plucking meaning from the gibbering chaos as it began to subside at last. For a moment, there was only the wooden creaking of ship hull and the rush of the sea against it.

Across the table from her, the King in Crystal frowned as he picked up runed-stone pieces from a pile to prepare for another game. The swaying of the waves beneath their ship bothered them little but they were disturbed enough by the news. He shook his head. “These Immortals have already dealt a blow to those Kingdoms deadlier than even any of us could, more than even the Solari or even you with your two World Locks. This Summit will hopefully provide us with some answers and some direction”

“The Immortals were defeated before by coalitions of entire armies, just as with Fang-zhara in the Stoneclaw Mountains”  From behind her mask, Gabriella peered at the runed tiles that were collected in her bandaged hands. The shifting of the seas beneath them made for the shifting of shadows as well.  “But what Tenebrous did to the Nemain Clanhold and what Lector did to Choir Shaerach are both unprecedented”

They played, though the game was far from their minds.

“Any news of this Nihilus, Iha*? They say that his very presence brings death to mortals for miles around”

“There have been clashes across Midworld, between him and them. But the result is the same, they flee from him and all mortals in the area die within the month, with only a handful spared. Only those with sufficient spiritual strength can withstand him, but it is not a privilege that everyone possesses”

“Doesn’t his Death Curse have a cure?”

The masked King nodded slightly. “The mineral is the only cure. But it is a resource that only comes from the mines near Freehold and not in quantities that would be remotely sufficient. Add to that, it would deteriorate within a month unless it underwent refinement”

He pushed his row of rune-stones forward and lay them so that their backs faced up, Water and Serpents –  a potent attack” Which would take more time and money, I presume? Surely the salvation of these people are far more than coin and hours, Iha?”

Nikolas was the oldest of the Riverfolk Kings and knew more tricks than all of them combined, but he was also predictable. Her row was of Turtles and Flame, a perfect counter to his bid. “Coin spent on these people is coin unspent on defending ourselves from the other Immortals and other evils of the world… like Kristoff and Kritek. It is an unfortunate arithmetic, but one I am tasked to account and to put forth. Your words will not sway me like they did the others”

The old man did not waver beneath her withering gaze. “We did what we needed to do: our Fleets saved the Labyrinthium from Portia’s –”

“We had the opportunity to end the Writhing Curse! We have a duty to save our people, our legacies, instead of that murderer and the rest of his red-handed killers!”

Her words hung in the air for only a moment before the knocking upon her door.

“My King!” the Golden Scribe’s voice was muffled by the wooden portal. “Port Dawson is in sight!”

“Thank you, Scribe” The King in Gold called to her aide while her companion and former mentor began to pack away the runed-stones. He took care not to touch her, extracting the stone tiles with a deftness beyond his age and putting them in the weathered box he usually carried.

She watched him wearily, eyes narrowed behind the golden mask that mirrored the dozen that now hung around the chamber. Minutes passed before she spoke. “Why did you even come with me? Are you tired of sailing on your own flagship?”

He smiled, knowingly and warmly. “I just thought you could use the company, Iha. Not many understand what you carry. Some think that a King must command but I’ve always thought that it was my task to listen”

Gabriella turned to the masked figure in the corner, mentally willing it to continue its report. “Listening is well and good, lolo**. But for this Summit, we will need more than that — we will need answers”

*Iha– a Tihluurani term of endearment, from elders to younger women

** Lolo — a Tihluurani word for “Grandfather”, sometimes used for elder close, non-filial acquaintances

Rumors (anyone may read this):

 

Callas Selvarion Kingdom or Rumormonger skill only

Fir’bolg Kingdom or Rumormonger skill only
Gotterdammerung Kingdom or Rumormonger skill only

Ixia Kingdom or Rumormonger skill only

Jotunbrud Kingdom or Rumormonger skill only

Kali-Ishtar Kingdom only
Labyrinthium Kingdom or Rumormonger skill only

Malak Travak Kingdom or Rumormonger skill only

Pendrakken Kingdom or Rumormonger skill only

Riverfolk Kingdom or Rumormonger skill only