Thousand Dying Suns

Restraint! (Thorne's Journal)
How we didn't fuck things up, at all!

Heinrich was murdered by something? Something smushed him repeatedly with a log. He was stood by the tree as the Wooz did it’s work, and didn’t see what brought it about to kill him. He was certain it was not the Wooz. Worth investigating, but we haven’t got the time. Sorry Heinrich.

Our Goal: Determine if the Damainians are worth saving.
In the interest of this, we asked Athelstan a few questions:

1. How does one become a hawkwood if there is not marriage?

Marriage and sex are completely uncoupled here. One is expected to breed with whomever is eligible as your parent/sex overlord dictates. You can get married to someone independently of that and breed with them also. But regardless, when that breeding involves a Hawkwood, that’s another Hawkwood. We have to admit, apart from the compulsory breeding with partners that might not be worthwhile, the extremely open approach to sex is appealing.

2. How often does one have to breed if one is determined eligible to do so?

It depends. On your station in society, on the proclivities of your sex overlord, on the community in which you live, etc. Sounds mostly alright? The class component irks, but isn’t surprising or a reason not to save these people. If anything. Taking them beyond this world might end some of these breeding practices.

So we arrived at the Basilica. Which, Ramona tells us, is shaped like an American football. It’s staggeringly huge, and is quite clearly a crashed space ship, covered in vegetation. A cargo ship, according to Smythe. At ground level, a huge bay opens and inside it, they’ve built a church and a crypt. There’s a town built around as well. The vaulted space of the church is so big it’s got it’s own weather inside.

The Crypt: lots of glowy techno-whatsit surrounding the “coffin” itself. Inside the coffin is the preserved body of St. Timon himself. Perfectly preserved, like might-not-be-dead preserved. Also, he’s clearly an Aldameri Dwarf. In addition to the technology clearly present, there were wards placed upon the coffin. Preservative magic, but also an inwardly focused ward – the type of thing generally used to trap malevolent entities such as demons and evil spirits. Big time evil prevention. And we walked away from this astoundingly interesting situation – fuck, fuck, fuck – because we were being taken on a tour of the facility by father Romahn. A decent fellow, seemingly.

But was this crazy rocket-church done taunting us? Oh no, no it was not. We demand credit for the unbelievable restraint we showed in here. Chezza was climbing the walls with scientific curiosity, Erasmus wanted to interrogate every fucking body. But we didn’t, because discretion! The Nave was bedecked in the most astounding Woodcuts. Holy shit these things. Here, listing them:

1. The raising of Eleanor Hawkwood – A guy, who is supposedly St. Timon, is seen standing over a female warrior/priest type. She’s supposedly Eleanor Hawkwood – the “I survived the rain of fire” hawkwood. She’s like their savior. Except! Timon is clearly St. Latimer(who looks nothing like the guy in the coffin), and Eleanor is fucking Thesme. Adventuring party, ass-kicking Thesme.

2. The taming of the Giant Wooz – Again, St. Latimer. He’s depicted squaring off with what is clearly a depiction of the Lich King wearing a metal crown. They think it’s a giant Wooz.

3. They think this one depicts Timon hugging a king or something. What it actually depicts is Latimer – in full-blown Gandalf mode – wearing a broken half of the crown of the Lich king standing over the body of a fallen enemy.

4. Timon opening a star gate or something? Again, Latimer, this time with no crown. He’s opening a glowing, stylized door in the stars. The stars in the depiction seem very detailed. Maybe an actual star chart.

In a few of these images are hidden secret symbols that we think are some sort of code to be deciphered. The Wooz picture and the gate picture are being masked by illusion magic, so something is hidden within them! But again, restraint. We didn’t dispel or try to circumvent the illusion in any way.

So after the rain of fire, “Timon” brought the survivors to the Basilica, and it became the first seat of the Hawkwoods post rain of fire (PRF). It is unclear whether he was amongst the survivors or if he arrived post PRF. For all we know he was an offworlder who arrived to take charge. Why? From where? Apparently, he’s appeared multiple times over the intervening years – need more information about this, does he take different forms each time? Is he reincarnated as different people or is he always the same? Reincarnation would explain the present individual in the coffin. In the cellar, they have the crypts of these early Hawkwoods, including Eleanor, although the bodies have long since been burned. So, we check that and there’s a hidden… something inside the wooden bust of Eleanor/Thesme – behind her eye. It’s a puzzle, um, head. Again, we do not attempt to open it, although we most certainly could. Restraint!

Then there’s the records that are apparently upstairs. They’re in a format that they no longer know how to read/access, whatever. They’re willing to let us examine those records to see if we have a way to unravel them. This is incredibly important because it might tell us all kinds of useful stuff – what was going on pre rain of fire, who actually bombed the planet, what the Basilica ship actually was, any number of other useful things.

So now, the conundrum, still. Are they worth saving, or are they religious fuckbags who breed women to death? We had dinner with the Canon, and she seemed groovy. She seemed remarkably tolerant for a high-up in a church. So did father Romahn, so does Athelstan. In fact, everyone who we’ve met that’s been in power here seems very approachable and adaptable to new information. Even when it comes to their religion.

So now, we’re faced with a choice. After we have a look at the archives, we’re going to need to decide what to do about all the amazingly fascinating mysteries contained in the Basilica. We have two choices, essentially.

1. Sneak into the church at night and subdue/befuddle any priests or guards we encounter, and get at all the good shit. Drawback are lying and sneaking around could lead to us getting caught and burning our bridges with the only society sympathetic to us on this world. Arguably the people who need our help. Also, we’re not certain we can crack all the mysteries in one night.

2. Tell Athelstan and the church folk that their Basilica is full of amazing mysteries and we want to solve them. To do this, we’d probably need to hint at our ability to free them from their planet-locked condition. Obvious drawbacks are that if they’re not onboard, we cannot un-ring that bell. So we might never get to unravel the mysteries of the Church or would have to do so covertly.

We think we want option one. Be honest and forthright with these people who are treating us as honored guests. How’s that for a change? But prudently, we should see the archives first.

We look forward to everything yet to be discovered.

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That's no Saint Timon
Recording of Olis, Basilica of St Timon

This is Olis. Things got a little hazy. I think I might have been out of phase again. I rejoined the group just as we arrived at the Basilica of St Timon. The thing is, the basilica is impossibly huge and leaning. We can even see clouds near the top… on the inside. Carter says that it is a crashed cargo ship. I may be a landlubber but I’ve seen ships before and this is no ship.

We are greeted by Deacon Ramon. As we are in the company of Sir Hawkwood, we are well received and given a tour. The Saint is perfectly preserved and by my eyes is no man but a dwarf. I don’t understand. I look over at Gabriel and Thorne and they too recognize the dwarf.

We are shown several pictures. I say pictures because they call it tapestries but it looks like woodcuts to me. And these pictures make no sense. I think the first one was called The Restoration of Eleanor Hawkwood. It looks like Thesme to me. The second one was called The Taming of the Giant Woose. That is no tree creature. That was the Lich King himself, with crown and all. Gabriel and Thorne see what I see. They are whispering to each other in obvious excitement. The third one was called The Saintly Blessing of House Hawkwood. The one giving the blessing? Yeah, that’s Saint Latimer. The fourth one was The Saint at the Gate. Yup, Latimer again opening a star gate. The picture is really detailed.

None of these pictures depict what they say they depict. It’s like they see but choose not to see, I mean the Saint Timon people. What is going on here? Why are there pictures from Aladamere on this world? The people of Damaina came from elsewhere in their Phoenix Empire. So was that somewhere Aldamere? How could that be?
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Devana, Blessed of Podaga

Delia’s children have been fostered out to families around the village – the kinship lines in this village are deep and tangled. Delia’s own line was rather “weedy”, she is survived by a single sister. Delia’s last child was fostered to a particularly prolific family of woodsfolk. The steading is a ramshackle affair, added to over generations it dominates a small valley and creeps up the side of the valley walls to weave among the leafy boles of the surrounding forest. In Hamadryad’s pre-dawn light it takes on a dark green cast. Work has already begun. Smoke curls out from the chimney of what is probably the main hearth – it brings with it the scent of breakfast: baked tubers, frying meats, and other less recognizable aromas. The things folk eat on Damaina are strange to the palate – ranging from slightly familiar to wholly unrecognizable. None of it has killed anyone in the party yet – but everyone’s system acclimates differently and often unpredictably; sometimes unpleasantly. Men are busy in the axe-yard – trimming and shaping trees by hand. As you approach you can make out a familiar figure leaving the steading, leading a large gnarled wose bearing a harness – it is Heinrick. He seems surprised to see you, but inclined to be about his tasks rather than stopping to chat unless pressed. He waves you toward the main doors of the steading with a laugh.

“Breakfast on the table, you are welcome.”

Despite his gruff manner, he seems generally pleased to see you.

Olis and Thorne enter Heinrick’s steading. It would be readily evident that Heinrick isn’t the only male in residence, isn’t in charge, and isn’t the eldest. Holding court at a massive wooden table in the main hall is an enormous woman that looks to have been hewn out of gnarled brown wood — she almost looks more wose than human, complete with a tangled crown of steel-grey hair bedecked with braids and interwoven with oddments that clack when she shifts. She is surrounded by four men ranging in age from late thirties to early 60’s. They could be brothers. They could be her sons. All are eating breakfast. The smells that had drifted on the smoky breeze permeate the hall. Other members of the “clan” scurry about with serving platters and bowls and wooden mugs of something spicy, hot, and aromatic.

The old woman eyes you as you enter, “Strangers come to breakfast at Malog’stead. We have heard tales of yur doing in the village and the savin’ of our boy Heinrick. For that you have our gratitude. What need you with Malogs’kin?”

I’m assuming at this point you explain your vision — even if you don’t and just state you want to see the babe before you depart — she (and those assembled) are fine with this.
They won’t leave Olis alone with the baby though — when that becomes evident you give the blessing of Padoga.

Olis cradles the baby in one hand and speaks, faintly glowing spear in his other hand, Thorne at his side.
“Little one, listen to me. I bring you the Blessing of Podaga. Your name, your true name is Devana. You are the moon. You are the huntress. You are the virgin. You are the first to be blessed on this world, but you will not be the last. You are the storm that is to come. Be brave, and know that you are the Blessed of Podaga.”

Upon placing the blessing upon the babe — her eyes seem to glow with a green flame. Neither of you recall what color her eyes were before…but they are a brilliant emerald green now. The glow of the spear fades, the green fire dims like a dying candle, and is snuffed out.

They seem pleased. And ask more about this spirit that now watches over the babe. The baby was called, Nifta, but calling it Devana seems a small thing to them. They ask what the name means. Malogs’kin really want to know more about what this all means.

Thorne speaks.
“We hail from a distant world, alike this one in many ways, but different too. On Aldamere, in many towns and villages such as these, the people would be protected by a spirit of the hearth. Podaga was such a spirit, grown strong and proud in the centuries of caring for her people. However, a great calamity eventually befell the village of Podaga, an army of demon worshiping fiends fell upon them and laid the village to waste. And though Podaga couldn’t save the village, she made the diabolists pay dearly, cursing them. She did one more thing, too. She left behind a great artifact, her spear. Olis has carried that spear through many miles and years in remembrance of what befell the villagers, in the hopes that someday, Podaga’s blessing might be passed on to a deserving folk.
I think that day has come. Devanna is the spring, she is renewal, she heralds a new chapter for your town and this world.”

Olis speaks.
“I leave this spear in your care, for one day there may come a day where you will need it to defend Devana. Or she may have need to defend herself. Or she may choose to wield it for her people.”

Malogs’kin appears pleased. To them Damaina is a rough and often unforgiving place — the blessing of any spirit is welcome.

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Discussion in the middle of the night
Best laid plans of Olis and Podaga...

Olis:
Thorne, listen, I need your help. I must do something but I can’t do it alone without causing a lot of trouble.
Well, I need to speak with Emerald’s siblings.
Yes, right now, with all of them.
Yes, including the baby girl. You see my problem?
No, I haven’t gone mad. Podaga spoke to me.
Don’t look at me like that.
I had a vision and I saw Podaga and the spear.
I don’t know why. I just need to do it.
Well, three things. I’m sure their guardians aren’t going to cooperate. Actually, I don’t want them to know at all. So you do your mind thing and they won’t remember, right?
So we get the baby first, then the kids, and we have a chat. You watch my back for weird things. I mean, it’s Podaga so who knows.
What’s that? Oh, the third thing. Well, you can help me convince the kids to listen to me.
You’ll be fine. You’ll be the Prophet. Speak some wise words or something.
Oh, after? We return them, the villagers none the wiser.
Well, are you going to help me or not?

- – -
Thorne scowls at Olis, rubbing sleep from their eyes. “You want us to help you kidnap babies? Why? We’re not adopting them Olis. So your plan is for me to slag the brain of their minders while you have a silent conversation with 8 kids in the middle of the night? You know that’s how people get hanged, right?”

“Listen, I’m not one to deny the will of Podaga, but if you’re going to do it, we need to try and do one at a time. Speaking to them all at once would be worse than herding cats. It could get the whole village going, and every one you talk to is going to have to feel great after or that’ll be the end. What do you want from these kids, Olis? What could we possibly do for them?”
- – -

Olis rubs his chin. He had always been good with small children. They would flock to him and climb all over him. They would laugh and giggle while he tossed them about. He would find strange presents in his pockets, acorns, beetles, pebbles, that the kids would leave him. Once the kids started to grow, then they began to fear him. Maybe it was his size and bulk, maybe it was his warrior’s stance, but something let the older kids know he was dangerous. Thinking back to his last interaction with kids, in that small mountain village on the way to the silo, brought a frown to his face. The adults sure didn’t like him talking to the kids but how were the kids with him? Was Thorne right?

“Thorne, I don’t know. Maybe you’re right. Maybe we should speak with them one at a time. But that’s going to take too long… I think. Podaga saw Emerald. Podaga knew Emerald. You know how we came into possession of this spear. That fury, that vengeance, is the same that was in Emerald. Now she is dead but her line need not die out. Podaga has given me a name, a gift for the baby. It will be her real name. The name is Devana. She is the moon. She is the huntress. She is the virgin. She is the change, or has the potential to be the change. I’m not sure, but I think that’s what Podaga is implying. The other kids must know the true name, one that they will know her by but keep secret from others. It will bond them together, protect them, and perhaps bring about change to this world. That is what Podaga is offering. I don’t know if I can tell it right, but I must try.”

Thorne looks at Olis’ determined face and sighs. “All right, I understand, but there is a problem. I overheard that the kids were being split up now that the ‘Forest Witch Problem’ has been resolved. They are now all over the village. I’m good, but I’m not that good. We can’t possibly gather them in one place without the villagers noticing.”

“Damn it, damn it, damn it!” Olis grits his teeth. What was most important to Podaga? What did she actually want? What should he do? “The baby. We get to the baby and giver her the name. The villagers, they follow space Thesme, so they might not like it but screw them. We need someone other than the baby to know. We’ll go in the morning. Go back to sleep. And, thank you.”

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Dreams and portents
Podaga's vision

Olis was a soldier. He had seem many deaths before. He had seen men die. He had seen women die. He had seen children die. He had seen senseless deaths. He had seen needless deaths. He himself had caused many deaths. There always were and there always will be deaths, unfortunate and unavoidable deaths.

Yet something about Emerald’s death bothered him tremendously. She was no innocent. Rage had filled her. She had killed and maimed men. She had slit her own grandmother’s throat. Still, she didn’t deserve this. Trussed up, unconscious, they deemed her guilty and lopped her head off. He didn’t blame Hawkwood, but it was not right.

Seeing the blade descending, hearing the sickening sound of bone parting before metal, that was not what had gotten to him. It was the wailing of the children, Emerald’s siblings. Olis had gripped his spear so tight he felt he would crush the haft or his own hand.

Olis had asked after the children. The nanny would barely tolerate his presence, muttering “off-worlder” under her breath. The children recognized him from earlier in the day. The older ones looked upon him with suspicion. They had come, they had asked about their sister, their sister was captured, their sister was dead. Even a child could follow that cold logic.

Olis had knelt down to speak to them. He hadn’t known what exactly to say to them, but the words came out. “Your sister was brave. You must be brave. You must look out for each other. She would have wanted that.” He felt like an idiot but that was the best he could do.

The party was in a somber mood. They all went to sleep early. Olis slept in the common room.

Olis dreamed.

A buck runs through the woods, antlers full grown. It scrapes and rubs, marking his territory. The rut is upon him. The buck finds a doe and approaches. She runs, he runs, the chase is upon them. She is pleased, she slows, allows him to catch her. He mounts her, time and time again. He stays with her, fending off younger bucks who would dare approach. Time passes. The doe is alone. She walks through snow, nibbling away at greens, belly swollen. Time passes. The doe is ready. She walks through green meadows to returns to her place with the large rock. The doe drops her first, then her second fawn. She is licking them, helping them stand, when her belly stirs again. The third one drops after a long struggle. It has taken too long. There are growls. The wolves are upon them. But the third fawn stands, and in doing so, changes. Flesh and bone stretch and contract, transforming the fawn into something far more. It bellows a challenge and the first wolf charging in is impaled upon its sharp antlers. The second wolf snapping at its legs is grabbed by an enormous hand around its throat, followed by the dull sound of its neck breaking. The third wolf turns to flee, much too late, as a green spearhead is driven through its chest. Podaga bellows.

Olis bolted upright. His hands shook. His heart pounded as if he had just fought a battle. He looked over at the spear. It glowed. It pulsed. It beckoned him. Olis stood, then making up his mind, he went to wake Thorne.

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The Forest Witch
Recordings of Olis, Emerald

I feel sick to my stomach. I just watched a young girl executed for crimes of murder. Yet… her anger… no her rage at the injustice suffered by her mother was not without cause. I’m told the folks of this world, Damaina, do not sire children well. I’m not certain how many are unable to or should not have children. But those who can are not treated like people but like cattle at best, at worst, something else

We started our travels to the Basilica of St Timon in the company of Sir Hawkwood and his entourage: Adriana, Sister Bernice, and Sergeant Pi. We had to content with a malaise fog that could greatly harm us. As we came closer to the village of Swingford, we saw a man who had been crucified, flayed, and gelded, and not necessarily in that order. Thorne was able to speak with the screaming spirit. Apparently the man was killed by the Forest Witch. We saw two other men on the road in similar ways of death, and one older woman whose throat had been slit wide open. In the village, it is clear that Sir Hawkwood is welcome but we are not. By we, I mean those of us not from this world. The village petitioned Sir Hawkwood to do something about the murders. The man is a little simple, or ignorant, or both. However he does know how to listen so I grant you he’s not a complete idiot. He heeded our advice and tasked us with making it so.

The so-called Forest Witch is a young girl named Emerald. Her mother Deliah died in childbirth. She blamed her death upon the midwife and those who might have been the father of the child. Deliah had mated with several men to beget her last child at the urging of the midwife despite not being hale. Oh, and the midwife was Emerald’s grandmother. Talk about a family feud. And so anyone who might have been involved with the pregnancy was the target of Emerald’s wrath.

We visited Deliah’s home. There were eight children running around the place. Emerald had visited them since the first murder. She was watching over her siblings. She clearly loves and cares for her siblings. Poor girl.

We asked who else might have lain with Deliah. We found Heinrich the Carpenter. For a man under fog of death, he seems remarkably uncaring. He was going into the forest to fell trees, you know, where the Forest Witch hunts. We followed him, discretely. Gabriel and Carter moved closer to watch him unobserved. The rest of us stayed a ways away. It took some time but Heinrich felled a tree. We thought the attack might not happen today but we were wrong. Our scouts indicated trouble so we rushed forward through a portal that Thorne created. Heinrich had been impaled upon a spring spear trap. Carter was trying to help the man. And a girl was holding a knife to Gabriel’s throat. Remarkable that she got the drop on Gabriel. I was able to surprise her and get her off of him. She was mighty quick, springing abound like a wild animal. I told her to stand down but she would not. In the end, we had to subdue her. And taking her back to the village was a death sentence. Sir Hawkwood summary executed her. She could have been so much more.

What else could we have done? I don’t’ know, but this is not right. What was done to Deliah was not right. What Emerald did was not right. This village, this world, this way of thinking is not right. I think about Tamara and Lizbeth. Is this their future? Endless breeding until death? Will their children, my children become like Deliah, subservient and choiceless? Or will they become like Emerald, a threat to their society, someone to be eliminated? Is there another way? Is there a third path? There must be. There must be.

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Failing Emerald
Maybe a little less mating?

So lets dig in to these Hawkwoods for a moment. In every sense, they are Medieval liege-lords akin to our own Aldameri lords. Up to and including being completely unprepared for the types of situations they might have to resolve amongst the peasantry. Having been exposed to democracy, even fractured, half-assed, misguided notions thereof, feudalism appalls. Combine ridiculously small gene pools (to be fair, we don’t know that this is true of the Hawkwoods, maybe they fuck everyone, just like their vassals? But then how do they determine that one is or isn’t a Hawkwood? These people seem to have no concept of marriage. Interesting, we’ll have to ask Athelstan) with inadequate training in topics necessary for legal disputes and conflict resolution and you arrive at the situation we found ourselves in upon our arrival at Swingford village.

To be fair to Athelstan, he was happy to take advice. Which is good when you’re greeted by flayed, hanged, dead men before ever entering town. So the first mostly flayed man we found was called Edward. He did a fair bit of screaming. Once he stopped he kept going on about how “she” cut of his “ghoulies” and popped them in his mouth. So flayed, hung up, gelded, killed, by a young woman called “the Forest Witch.” Always a witch, innit? So as we make our way to the village we keep seeing more of these poor souls. The last was an old woman.

Questioning them a picture starts to form: Emerald, daughter of Delia, is filled up with wrath about the death of her mum. Turns out mum was exceptionally fertile. The most fertile of the village ladies. So she’s turned into a baby factory from the day she’s eligible for mating (what age is that anyway? Another question for Athelstan). Loads of babies happen, 8 we believe, although probably many more – 8 is the number that survived. After that, she’s poorly. Her health isn’t what it once was because she’s been fucked like a bitch in heat her whole life. We feel awful for ever making light of the “mating” program here. Thank goodness for this fucking bracelet. Also we are very masculine, so goddamn manly. Anyway, clearly she’s made enough people.

So as it happens, it falls to a person’s mother to determine whether or not they are healthy enough to continue to breed. Delia’s mother probably should have taken her out of rotation, at least temporarily, but she didn’t. Emerald is aware of all of this. So Delia gets fucked again, gets pregnant again, and the pregnancy killed her. Emerald is very cross. She decided it’s all those who mated with Delia’s fault, also Delia’s mum, her grandmother. So she goes to live in the woods and starts murdering those who she blames for Delia’s death. Flaying them and hanging them up as a warning to the rest of the townfolk. We can’t say for certain what her message was, but if it were us, we’d be saying “Hey, here’s what happens when you ignore life threatening baby-making related illness and fuck a woman literally to death.” Maybe?

So, of course, Athelstan has got to deal with all of this. But as we said, he’s got no idea how. Thankfully he’s more than happy to listen to good advice. So we questioned the townfolk and figure out that there’s only one of Delia’s “lovers” left alive. A salty old fuck of a woodsman, Heinrich. We advise him to stay out of the woods for the time being, but he’s not about to shy away from his vocation just because some girly is out murdering people of his description. He’s much fucking manlier than all of those cunts. Asshole. We were about to try and convince him to stay in town when Arden brought up using him as bait, which was as good a plan as any. Arden put a tracking device on him and sent him on his way.

So we follow the brave and manly woodsman into a damned impressive trap. A springy branch fitted with sharpened stakes flew out and pierced him through his guts. We caught up quick with the clever application of a wormhole right behind Emerald. Turns out she’s got no magic to speak of, she’s just a hell of a ranger, with woodcraft to rival Gabriel’s. Olis started off by cracking her a good one and we were able to mostly keep her from attacking, apart from a failed attempt at throwing a knife into Heinrich. She changed her mind though, and fought like a demon until we subdued her.

As we went to turn our attention to the wounded Heinrich, a curious thing happened. Carter stepped in with some weirdness about probabilities and “making it so the wound never happened.” We lost our temper a bit, because he seemed uncertain of what he was about, but in the end we stepped aside to let him practice his “art.” To our surprise, we was as good as his word, and somehow wished the wound out of existence. There was a strange, disquieting sensation right before it happened – almost as if the wounded Heinrich was replaced with another, unwounded one. If he deals in dimensional probabilities, could that not be what actually happened? Just swapping one outcome for another and making the wounded man some other group’s problem? Hopefully not.

Oh, and despite our suggestion that she be gainfully employed as the best scout he’d ever want to hire. Lord Athelstan beheaded Emerald. Yeah, she’s dead. And yes, we know she’s a murderer. Yes, she shouldn’t have tortured and killed those villagers. But she was also a hurt and confused young woman with real talent who could have gone on to be something amazing, with the right help. Also, what was done to her mother was wrong and deserving of some form of justice. Not what she meted out, surely, but something. Reducing a person to a baby factory, even in the aftermath of catastrophe, is a terrible evil. It doesn’t seem like that’s how it was done in <name>. Maybe things are a bit more dire in the country, or maybe this town just takes things too far? We can’t help but feel we should have somehow prevented her death.

We attempted to assuage our guilt by freeing the spirits of the flayed. We were successful as they were all very relieved that the forest witch had been dealt with. In the spirit realm, at least, we did our best.

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On the road again
walking, walking, walking and murder!

a video playback begins

Alright Lawrence. Safari it is, replete with jokes about pith helmets and whatnot.

My name is Leftenant-Commander Carter Hamilton-Smythe of HMS Venture. This will be my vblog of events as I travel this strange new universe. It appears that our vessel is over 60 years past due to an accident with the Skip drive. According to one of my new companions, Thorne – whom somehow ended up on the Venture, I am partially dead. Or exist in between realities. Or something along those lines. An interesting proposition if nothing else. Further we are in an alternate universe – one in which the galactic Empire of Man is on the wane.

Since that discovery and the events that lead to my 60 year… hibernation? I have been experimenting with my newly discovered superhero abilities. It appears I can do two things – phase out of reality at opportune moments and… fudge probability. In the experiments I’ve conducted I can alter the local reality of objects within their overall meta context. In short, I can reshape things to lower probability items – a stick into a metal stick. Even more interestingly, If I focus long enough there are also transformative effects; a stick into a rubber ball. These processes simply take far more time. The first manifestation of this ability was when I changed the door to main engineering into a bulkhead. As far as I can tell, it is less of a ‘transformation’ and more of an expression of a lower probability reality that I… evoke?

In any event, I still need to work on these newfound abilities. I must say though that the phasing has been most useful this far (the reflex phase on explosion is one I’m going to have to get used to. Not to mention being able to… rearrange an objects covalent bonds with explosive results!).

Enough Introspection. We find ourselves on the ruined world of Damaina which orbits the sun Hamadryad (this name sounds familiar to me. I really should have paid attention during astronomy class). As I previously discussed, the Ventures Skip drive is not operating correctly and deposited us on this world with no warning. I will do a full diagnostic of the system when we get back, after I also take it completely offline. We still have the emergency wormhole generator which can take us 5ly hops, and then there are these stargates – which we are currently traveling to understand more about.

I was incorrect in my last entry as we are travelling to the Basilica of Saint Timon (more religion. Joyous). At first I thought the Venture could replace the missing lander, but her most recent updates clearly indicate that is not an option. So I am hoping this Basilica will have some clues about a suborbital craft we can find somewhere on this planet – or someway to start Crucifix Station and have it send us a lander.

On to the events! While on the road we found a village in the midst of a radioactive fog (so much for my hope that the planetary bombardment, which the locals called the Rain of Fire, was limited to kinetic impactors). The final mile to the village was made remarkable by 4 crucified individuals, whom Thorn was able to speak due to his connection with the afterlife. These specters revealed that they had been killed by the ‘Forest Witch’. This witch was angry because her mother had been forced, or convinced to continue to have children in spite of health problem. And as such she died during the birth of her ninth child.
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Evidently this place is under a mandate to repopulate the planet with anyone who is healthy. I am very glad there are no women in this group. Who knows what the locals would resort to given their ideological reproductive slavery nightmare.

The man we are traveling with, a Lord Hawkwood was compelled to resolve this murder issue by his vassals of the village (true medievalism! How horrifying!). Luckily Lord Hawkwood was intelligent enough to realize he had no idea how to approach this issue and listened to our suggestions on how to approach this issue. This led to a bit of armature forensics and questioning of the last few men who had sired children with the witches’ mother.

This lead us to a logger, who was determined to head out into the woods heedless of the danger. As such, Gabriel and I kept an eye on him throughout his endeavors. It turns out that the Witch is a master ranger, and set up a trap for him on the way back to the village, impaling him with multiple spikes. There was a fight in which the 15-year-old girl was captured, and a bit of an argument over how best to save the logger. Thorne is a trained surgeon, but I was able to convince the group to let me try to change…. Reality around his wounds. It worked, and now the logger has never been injured, but I’m concerned that Thorn felt…. eclipsed? Unnecessary? It was an experiment worth conducting, however the process was very taxing. I think I’ll refrain from taking on such tasks in emergency situations in the future.

Regardless. SAS teenager was put to death. Understandable I guess, but does seem a waste. Especially given in injustice that drove her to her extreme ideas of justice. It is too bad the locals don’t have a Marines to send her off to join.

Impressions of each member of the Group

Arden
A multi-dimensional traveler who uses science to manipulate space-time. I need to speak which him extensively. Several college bull-sessions seem in order.

Khiron
A master of ‘Aetheric Science’ which appears to be a medley of scientism and magic. It works so who am I to argue? He seems a highly competent engineer, always a must on any expedition. Just remind me to not let him go to nuts on the ship. I’m concerned what Aethericism would do to some of the… more finely tuned components of the vessel.

Olis
Solid. You could put him amongst any collection of Master Sergeants and he’d be at home. It is always good to have a dependable rock on any expedition.

Thorne
Our resident spiritualist and field medic. An out in out Tolkeinesque Gandalf. Speaks with the dead, uses ghosts to perform tasks, sets fire to things and highly excitable.

Gabriel
Some sort of Holy Huntsman, who can call upon saintly powers. I. What? How is this even possible? I’ll have to speak with him further to try to understand just what is going on here. Regardless. He is an expert scout. Although I could do without the bloody singing.

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Star Hearth and Home
Arden, Carter, Gabriel, Khiron, Olis, Thorne

It seems my role has the primary chronicler of our journey has faded somewhat as we have left Broken Earth behind. Thorne has always been jotting down notes like a mad… person… but this new fellow, Carter, can’t seem to stop speaking to himself and even Olis is in the on the act. Things change, and that is not always for ill. Arden, however, seems to be a man of as few words as Ser Marcel, so at least some things remain steadfast.

After retrieving the magical “key” and retreating to a place of relative safety, the party was initially unsure what to do. Carter was able to establish communication with the Venture, and could at least call a retrieval when needed. On the ship, however, it’s very difficult to learn much of the world below. So the question became should we parlay with the locals or not? Circumstances on the ground, however, decided for us when Arden overheard a call for help.

Carter scouted ahead as the rest of the party came behind, hindered by the terrain and undergrowth. Arriving upon the scene, some of the humans were being ambushed by a large group of beastfolks, so the company weighed in to rebalance the scales. In the aftermath of the battle, Gabriel and Thorne were able to help with wounded which in addition to our aid in the battle set us in good stead with Sir Athelstan Hawkwood.

We were lead back to their home beyond the dome, which was an impressive keep around an even more impressive cathedral—we later learned it was called Oathfire Keep. Within was the ‘star hearth’, one of those ‘atomic power’ sources the ship spotted from above. It was maintained by the priesthood, and venerated as a blessing of Thesme. It provided the locals with high-quality metal utensils, weapons, and armor as well as an endless source of heat.

The priesthood was also the keeper of another technology: something the science folk in the company refer to as ‘gene sequencing’. The population was small, and they were desperate for any infusion of ‘new blood’. Being complete strangers to their world, they were keen on securing our “contribution”—everyone except Thorne whose nature confounded their tests. Thorne was a bit put out, but the others were generally game. Gabriel thought of demurring, but it was clear that it was both a duty and a courtesy, and the woman Adriana was clearly not going to take no for an answer.

After some debate over the next week, it was decided to travel to the Basilica of Saint Timon in the company of Sir Athelstan, Adriana, Sister Bernice, and Sergeant Pi. The terrain and lack of roads meant that the trip was on foot, with the aid of what the locals call a ‘Woose’—a creature that bore an uncomfortable resemblance with a wood golem. Unfortunately, the local fauna had a particular taste for the local flora and our trip become entirely earthbound somewhat quickly.

Many days of travel through rough terrain lead to the village of Swingford. Upon arriving, we encountered a number of gruesome displays of murder most foul. It seemed a local girl on the village, Emerald—now referred to as ‘the forest witch’—was setting about a terrible revenge for the death of her mother in childbirth. As the local sheriff had not arrived, the village elders looked to Sir Athelstan to bring justice upon the girl. The company agreed to aid in the matter, hoping to bring some more measured response and thorough investigation that might be done otherwise.

Alas, it turned out that Emerald’s mother, Deliah, suffered the fate of many in this dying, isolated world. Emerald’s grandmother failed to stand up for Deliah’s health and the duty to bear children fell upon her too harshly and too often. Each man in the village who may have sired the final child was her target, and the grandmother was already dead at Emerald’s hand. With Sir Athelstan’s influence and the help of Sister Bernice knowledge, the company was able to find the next likely target and—to put it bluntly—use him as bait.

To be fair, the man did not take the threat of a 15 year old girl seriously which he ended up regretting as he fell to her trap. Through Thorne’s weird magic, Olis’ might of arms, and Gabriel’s momentary loss of focus the girl was captured. Carter was even able to undo the mortal wound from the trap through some method so strange even Throne was at a loss for words.

We had hoped that there was possibly some external influence, curse, spirit, or demon at work through the child but it was for naught. She merely had the means and a perhaps even justified rage that could not be quenched. Her woodscraft was impressive for one so young, but justice demanded her life and Sir Athelstan’s blade took it.

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Ashes of the Phoenix Empire
There seems to be a minor... malfunction.

The first voyage of the Venture testing the Skip drive was a resounding success! Well, in that the drive worked to specifications. Unfortunately there were other variables which were not accounted for resulting in two problems; the vessel did not remain within our home dimension, and we picked up a… thing.

Long Story short, everyone died or evacuated and I ended up taking a 60-year nap in a bulkhead. I really have no idea how such a thing is possible but now I am evidently a superhero with matter phasing and manipulation abilities. It would make for a lovely BBC program honestly.

Nonetheless. I was eventually rescued not by Her Majesties Marines, but rather a rag-tag group of multi-dimensional travelers. And just as we got our hands on things the bloody ship hopped universes again.

Right. So I then went about reversing the fact that I had erased my access as per standard boarding protocols when the bloody ship Skipped us to the surface of… I have no clue.

We spent a bit of time faffing about in the woods tracking down some magical falafel and whatnot when a bloody flagless wog tried to brain me with an axe. Superior firepower carried that day. More faffing about until a tree nearly stepped on some of the fellows, then off we went to rescue sir Ambleton Hawkwood (I believe, I need check the spelling Jeeves has provided here) and his company from a wog hoard.

Explosions, superior firepower and grit carried the day!

One interesting bit, the new fellow by the name of Gabriel manifested his deity, while Thorne did a credible impression of a Dark Lord of Morgoroth. The local ladies were duly impressed, but Thorne failed their genetic tests and so no wenches for him.

Right. Before that we walked(!) to their Medieval outpost. Where they also have a metal printer and atomic forge but no idea how to create new plans. It was there we found out they were former members of the Phoenix Empire of Man, thousands of years from our time – who destroyed them with orbital bombardment for their rebellion and shut down their jump gate (which we may now have the magical key. My interest is piqued).

So this just because a cautionary tale. I’ll make certain to record it all. I assume my 200 TB buffer should handle it.

We met Lord Hawkwood and his hearth and forge priests, had our genes tested and then had a roll in the hay. Because they are desperately short of genetic diversity. I’d mention CRISPERing some new unique sequences using MedLab on the Venture but I’m afraid they’d find that offensive somehow.

We later determined that Bastion Citadel has a better collection of information (other than genealogy of Sir Hawkwood) so I proposed we make for that location (on bloody foot again!) while the Venture prints up a new shuttle. Especially since the Skip peer to peer system is behaving… erratically (I’d really rather not be responsible for any of my companions getting spliced or splinched. That would just be awkward).

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