Anima - Into the Shadows

Poof, whatta you need?
The Butterflies Reunited

One moment Viktor Teophilus was standing in the Council of Gaea’s new headquarters, before Seline, and the next — poof — he was half-way across Creation, standing next to VIII and his glowing chest. And four dead Dragonsword. And a ton of rampaging civilians, who were, as best as Viktor could tell, a little miffed about the dragons strafing the once peaceful port city of Brudge, spewing lightning, flame, acid, and sleet upon the city.

It looked as though his comrades had once again managed to kick over an ants nest — rather large, scaly, element-barfing ants, at that. “Welcome to Brudge, Citizen Viktor,” Madu spouted. “Time to go!” The new Butterflies sprinted back to the Angel of Vengeance, still docked at the air docks of the city. As the ship pulled away, with clear skies ahead, a vicious brute of a lizard — a hatchling, barely 500 years old, Ferrox piped in — eyed the Nox Family compound hungrily. Its serpentine neck reared back, air filling its lungs as it prepared to unleash its draconic fury, as VIII unleashed a devastating salvo from his wrist-mounted bolters into the beast.

The sapphire dragon turned, focusing its attention on the Angel of Vengeance rather than the Nox home. Great. Mission accomplished, VIII.

As the creature writhed in the air, Viktor unbuckled the Fangs of Ferrox and hefted them in each hand, and moved to the prow, bellowing at the creature to dare approach — channeling Ferrox’s own challenge to the younger dragon.

Aeval, like Viktor moments before, performed her own disappearing act. Vanishing from the deck of the ship, she appeared nearly 300 meters away, clinging to Sapphire with muscular legs as her crystalline sword bit deeply into the creature, shredding scales and flesh alike. Moments later, as the dragon closed with the Angel, Viktor leapt from the airship and onto the dragon, hacking viciously with his axes and inflicting grievous, if not lethal, harm to the beast.

The dragon did not go quietly, however, as his jaws closed on the prow of the Angel and crushed it to splinters, scattering the forward 5 meters of the vessel over the bazaar of Brudge.

Viktor, channeling Ferrox’s anger, savagely tore at Sapphire’s neck again, ripping tendons and sinew and using the axes as climbing tools to move around the creature. Finally ripping the axes free in a shower of gore, he leapt back to the comrade’s airship before the dragon moved too far away. His neck free, Sapphire’s serpentine neck twisted, and his mouth opened wide to belch forth sleet and cold. The _Angel_’s new prow, of the glacier variety, caused the vessel to start to list, bucking forward. The captain pulled at the controls wildly, attempting to maintain control of the damaged craft.

Maru, meanwhile, ducked behind Ichiro, hoping to use the mage’s arcane shields for protection…only to have Maru turn incorporeal before his eyes. The dragon’s hoarfrost coated Maru’s hands and face, covering them in a thin layer of ice.

As the dragon regained his breath and readied for a second assault, Ichiro re-incorporated and, gathering the winds of magic to him, unleashed a vortex of energy, ripping scales and flesh, re-opening closed wounds, and devastating the dragon. Sensing both its death and that of his sword, Sapphire fled to the city streets and into the sewers. Shameful, though Viktor…such a noble beast driven to ground, to filth. He spat. Such was the fate of those young who sided with the Dominion.

“We can barely fly, I’m afraid,” Captain James said. “We’ve got to head for repairs.”

“Try…here,” Maru said, pointing to the nearby cathedral at St. Barnaby. “They may be in Azure Alliance territory, but the Council has dealt with them before. We can make repairs, at least, and potentially gather information and supplies.”

As the airship landed at the St. Barnaby, home of Father Alexias and his exterminator angels, the paladin Illyana approached them. She was missing an eye, and possessed the sword of Father Alexias — his Lawgiver. “Who are you?” she inquired. The words carried a quiet menace — answer wrong, and you might not live to clarfiy your words.

“We’re with the Council,” Maru said. “I am VIII. VIII am I,” said VIII.

She looked at VIII for a moment, evaluating him both as a threat and for intelligence, and then said, “And what do you need?”

“Repairs…our ship has broken down. We’re going to rescue the Alphas. The original Obsidian Butterflies. They’re being held a few days flight from here — at The Pit, the Azure Alliance prison.”

“We can accomodate that — momentarily. Our resources are limited, but we have the resources to shelter you for a few days.”

As the group entered the cathedral, they passed through enormous crystalline walls, drawn from the earth with magic, and enormous dragon skulls mounted and skewered on their spires. Repairs began immediately on the Angel of Vengeance, and Illyana had one last shred of assistance to lend — a young earth mage named Jannic, a youth of 17 who was supremely gifted. He had crafted the crystalline defenses, and could open a tunnel of earth deep within The Pit, bypassing the most serious of the prison’s defenses.

After studying the maps, it was decided to land in the southern Kozal Forest, just south of Bendeck — a mere six hours north of New Americ and The Pit. As Jannic opened the tunnel to the pit, the group began their assault to recover the founders of the Council of Gaea.

The Obsidian Butterflies

The last 5 years
• 12 hours after the capture of the CoG, Project Ascension disappeared and the war turned
south for Abel
• The Order of the Dying Light now controls Lucrecio, Argos, the Dominion, and Kushistan
under the name, The Dominion of the Dragon
• The Day of 3 Suns- the day when 3 suns rose in the east and set in the west; also the
day when the Nephelum became “pure”
• The Night of Lucid Dreams- when Graven emerged in Moth putting most citizens in a coma;
also the day Nighmares were released
• The Sand Sea tear- tear in reality held by dancers
• The Battle of Shattered Bones- battle in which the Dominion was crushed but the Council
of Cardinals was saved
• Dragon Awakening- when dragons returned
• Renegade technocrat Sulan V-heads of states were being replaced by Nephelum

Mission for the Obsidian Butterflies
• CoG- Headquarters currently located on the island of Corvinus; Seline is able to protect
the island from a sea assault; orders come from Steward Jace, seems to have taken over
once the “Alpha’s” were captured
• The “Alpha’s”(Black Butterflies) are not dead they are being held in the “Pit” where
they were tortured by a man named Konrad
• CoG captured Konrad and were able to extract some intel
o Location of the Pit- in Canon
o It was built to hold the Alphas
o 5 sky-keeps that patrol the borders resupply at the Pit
• Seline believes that the Alphas can undo the damage that has been done to reality
• Ichiro, Madu, and the Dancer are each given a piece of a rod and are told not to let
them touch until we give them to Taro, “he will know what to do”
• We also receive a compass that detects demons and creatures of darkness and the Angel of

We arrive in Brudge and head to the Knox fortress to find the specific location of the Pit. Lady Knox tells us that the Pit lies somewhere north of the Ruins of Americh. While finding out this information a riot is started in the streets by Dragonsworn, blocking the way to the docks from the Knox fortress. The easy defeat of the Dragonsworn proves only to be the beginning …

Ascension and after...

After a career of nearly 27 years, the man simply known as Mr. Konrad thought that eventually he’d encounter a dungeon that didn’t smell so… damp. Alas, the Iron Pit, the creative name of the Azure Alliance’s premiere holding facility for keeping its undesirables locked away was not it. Mr. Konrad realized this as he, yet again, stepped over another puddle in the middle of the corridor. A grey man, still well built considering his age, Mr. Konrads definitive feature were his grey, uncaring eyes. At least, that seemed to be the part of him most remembered according to his associates and subjects alike.

As he turned at the corridor intersection and came into view of the large, black hooded Acolyte Caratacus standing before the interview chamber door, Mr. Konrad considered what he would do if it actually happened today. Perhaps a glass of wine? He did that from time to time if the subject, in this case subjects, were of particular import. What the other Interrogators and Acolytes did not understand was that their job, their duty, their purpose was an art, and as an artist Mr. Konrad took great pride in his works.

Acolyte Caratacus opened the steel door to let him into the small rectangular chamber adorned with a simple chair and table on one end and a more elaborate metal chair bolted to the chamber floor in front of a second steel door at the other. As he sat at the table he opened his document case to find the dossier on his subject for today, the war-criminal Soren Morseth.

Mr. Soren… interesting to say the least thought Mr. Kondrad. Although, in his case interesting usually meant difficult, obnoxious, and frustrating. It mattered little. He will break, eventually. They all do.

At a signal to Caratacus, Soren was brought in through the second door and was strapped into the metal chair. When the last straps were tightened Mr. Konrad reached into his document case to retrieve the red gem and place it on the table in front of him. A curious little device, upon activation it would record the session as well as allow others, most likely Mr. Black, to view the session from another room elsewhere in the Pit.

Mr. Black… someone else who was interesting to say the least. Although in his case interesting meant frightening, disquieting, and just plain scary. Where he came from Mr. Konrad did not know, but since the “Butterfly 5” began their stay in the Pitt he had taken a very serious interest in them.

Mr. Konrad pushed those thoughts away and with a slight exertion of power activated the gem. A soft red glow emanated from it indicating that it was on. After glancing at his notes one last time, Mr. Konrad finally focused on Soren. Despicable wretch, the Acolytes had obviously worked on him in between sessions. He was breathing heavily and leaning to his left even with the straps tightened around him. He always leaned left, onto the null device encased around his left arm. The runes on the apparatus glowed an ominous green that even after all this time still unsettled Mr. Konrad.

“So Mr. Soren, we meet again”, Mr. Konrad said, beginning the session. “I see those fingers are healing nicely and-”

“Didn’t much like those fingernails anyway”, Soren hoarsely retorted just before Caratacus’ fist impacted his jaw. Soren grimaced and coughed before a tooth was spit out with a good amount of blood.

“I’m sure you didn’t like that tooth either. Don’t interrupt me Mr. Soren, we’ve gone over this. You only speak when I present to you a question.” Mr. Konrad calmly replied. “Now, Mr. Soren, I know we have developed quite the routine, but I’m afraid you will have to bear with me as we have a bit of book-keeping to attend to before we can get to the session proper. I just need to clarify a few items dealing with your participation with the Ascension project.”

Mr. Konrad took a deep, seemingly bored breath before he continued. “As you approached the project you came across a group, I believe you called them an army, of creatures, constructs really who, when Ascension was revealed by the final demolitions assisted you in your attack upon it. While they assaulted the Alliance soldiers manning the project, which we will have to alter in the official report to ‘surrendering Alliance archeologists’, you and your insurgent cell attempted to make your way to the command center, following lights that triggered as you progressed. On your way there you came across more Alliance soldiers, which we again will need to change to something appropriately innocent surrendering, who you and your cohorts engaged and defeated to a man. After this you entered Ascension and followed the arch-traitor Vito who, as you put it, ‘seemed to know where to go’. You eventually came across a chamber with a large crystal dome in its center that was accumulating a massive amount of magical energy. Your companion Raphael… let’s see, we’ll put ‘monstrous construct designated as Raphael’, detected with an arcane device a being you referred to as a ‘Dancer’ after the more magically inclined of your group found what they called a ‘tear in reality’ which was siphoning the magical energy from the dome. I see the surprise in your eyes Mr. Soren, yes they talked as well. Now –“

“You lie!” Soren screamed right before Caratacus again pummeled him for interrupting.

“Do I, Mr. Soren?” Mr. Konrad replied, “You sang like a bird after only a few sessions, what makes you think they did not do the same? Now, you engaged this being in combat and after much hardship were able to vanquish it. The arch-traitor was then able to disable Ascension and put in place blocks to prevent its future use. At the approach of further Alliance soldiers you and yours cowardly fled Ascension in the life pods located on that particular level. After a travel of some time and distance the life pods landed, whereupon you encountered a group of Alliance Arbiters and Mr. Black who you said appeared to be waiting for you. At this point you saw the futility of resisting and you surrendered. We will have to change Arbiters to something else… let’s see, I like field kitchen unit of the Alliance Army, what do you think? Who am I kidding? It doesn’t matter what you thing Mr. Soren. So, it appears that is everything. Do you have anything to add Mr. Soren? I’m going to take your silence as affirmation that this is all.”

He gathered his papers together and in an indifferent manner placed them back into his document case. “Well, now that we have that taken care of we can get back to the fundamental question that we have been discussing since the beginning of your incarceration here, Mr. Soren”, Mr. Kondrad said as the snapped the case closed.

As Mr. Konrad said this Caratacus picked up his favorite mechanism from the wall and with a wave activated it, throwing sparks around as the electrical energies coursed through it. At the sound of its activation Soren began breathing quickly.

At a wave from Mr. Konrad, four lanterns hanging behind him illuminated with bright yellow light. Soren grimaced and tried to turn way, but to no avail.

“Now, Mr. Soren, there are three lanterns behind me, are there not?” Mr. Konrad asked matter-of-factly.

“No… there’s four”, Soren replied through his quick heavy breaths. Upon hearing this Acolyte Caratacus touched the device to Soren’s right arm, causing Soren violent spasms before expelling an animal howl of pain.

“Mr. Soren, please do not try my patience today. There are three lanterns, are there not?” Mr. Konrad asked again.

“No… there’s… four”, Soren again replied, anticipating the pain.

Well, Mr. Konrad thought as the small chamber was yet again filled with the screams of his subject, perhaps no wine tonight after all…

The Ascent

As the ground gave way beneath the adventurers, they rapidly fell to their doom, smashed on the rocks below Ascension. The End.

You’re not buying that it happened that way? No? Okay, here’s what really happened…

Plummeting to their certain deaths, an enormous runic ring, inscribed on the ground below, sprang to life, slowing their fall and gently landing them on the icy cavern floor below. Vito inquisitively nudged the edge of the fading, drained circle, sending a burst of dust into the air…and swarming around him, sent him into a short-lived coma.

As Raphael effortlessly dragged Vito back within the safety of the circle, Tsura examined the runes inscribed into the solid stone. “An enormous focus for a massive slowfall spell,” she murmured. “Ancient….two thousand…three thousand years old.”

As Vito regained consciousness, a voice laden with a heavy Lannet accent, cried out in the chamber, “Finish up the damnable thing, it’s now or never!” Those with quick eyes saw the spectral speaker, just before he crumbled to dust at the exit from the chamber.

Meanwhile, Vito heard his own new voice: “Greetings, esteemed senator! Reactive protocol exaltation online!”

Soren scouted ahead, looking for an exit from the cavern…and found a gruesome scene of carnage. Azure Alliance soldiers and techs, entombed within icy webbing, hung suspended overhead. Moving quietly, he reported his findings to the Circle, and quietly led the group along the safest route to their destination.

Glowing blue runes emblazoned the walls of the tunnels… “A wizard’s mark,” Vito mumbled. Annnnd that’s when the spiders attacked — not from the front, but from the sides — the three ice spiders they didn’t even know were there. Six feet in length and two hundred pounds, they dislodged themselves from the walls with a cracking and shattering of ice, lashing out with scything fangs and talons. Vito was the first to fall victim to the icy, numbing poison as a fang pierced his armor. He wasn’t without retort, however, as he planted a bolt through the creature’s skull. The beasts started screaming — a high pitched keening that we heard not with our ears, but with our minds. Attracted by the wails of their brethren spiders, three more webbed sisters show up… One of the new arrivals, bloated with thick hairs protruding from it’s thorax, fixed its lifeless eyes on Tsura, and she, in turn, turned her glazed eyes to Raphael. Unleashing her arcane energies, she blasted him repeatedly with lances of heat, wounding him gravely. Meanwhile, Soren, propelled to action, hacked at the vile creatures, slaying two before any one could stand before him. The last spider clacked its way down the hall, only to be mortally wounded by a shot from the sluggish Vito.

More specters appeared from the shadows: “They have betrayed us. They shall be damned.” Another larger shadow materialized behind him, shaking the earth and speaking of scripture.

The group entered another large chamber, where more wizard’s marks marked another large circle. Hesitantly stepping into the circle, the group suffers its unleashed energies, magically reknitting torn flesh, restoring expended reserves, and generally raising the group’s morale.

More specters… “Doors guard the path to ascension and serve as a monument to great battle…” When the specters evaporate, the group is left in a room filled with a bas-relief of an enormous battle involving the floating fortress of Ascension. A poem is the key to the door, asking the intrepid companions to select from a number of symbols inscribed on the floor of the room. Considering for many minutes, the group realizes the poem is the story of their adventures since they were brought together on the fateful airship journey many months earlier. The symbol — the wheel representing the Council of Gaea — served as a key to unlock the door.

Rolling aside, the door revealed a green mist enveloping an upward path. A second wizard symbol joins the original — and Tsura and Vito recognize, at the core of the complex, interwoven symbols — their own wizard’s runes, crude by comparison to these masterpieces.

Loping down the hill, apparently set on escaping the hellish glow of the mists, two malformed, rotting, giant creatures come wading through the mist, accompanied by their loving man-sized hounds of hell. Dispatching their foes, the group climbs until they see an enormous army of the undead creatures. The cryptic specters re-appear, commiserating with one another: “The time has come to begin a second assault on Ascension, for our allies have not been faithful.”

The Wookie Gambit

The fight with the Dancer over, the Ghost and the Vengeance pick us up. We head north to the Iron Finger Tower on the White Plateau. After three days we land to the east of the Vercelis Marsh. It is a good place to hide the ships as we head out on foot. Our mission is to capture Arbiter Akeed and wrest information about Project Ascension from his traitorous mind.

Black rust streaks run down the outside of the tower. It seems to be made out of iron, hence its name. A crude picket line of guards watches the approach to the tower, but they are not very vigilant. Vito drops two of the guards with nary a sound. Soren and Vito quickly dress in their uniforms. The plan is to escort Raphael into the tower as a “prisoner” to allow us to surprise the other guards. The ruse works perfectly and we make short work of the scum. Tetsuro the Foo Dog was very brutal in dispatching several of the guards. He is getting more aggressive and bears watching.

A magic elevator takes us up to the throne room and Arbiter Akeed. It is not what we expect. He is bolted to the wall with wires running out of his open skull. His eyes are glowing green. Foul witchcraft! Before we can interrogate him two mercenaries step out of the shadows, one male, and one female. Soren tries to reason with them, but I have had enough talking and attack – focusing my Ki into a devastating distance attack. The wily witch dodges aside, foul magiks must be at work as she jumps into the air wires shooting out of her and attaching to the ceiling. More wires lash out at me inflicting a grievous wound. Her companion pulls out two strange devices and points them at Raphael and Soren. They make a loud noise and inflict wounds from a distance. They are very hard to dodge. As Raphael advances to strike at them an angel appears at his back, its fat cherub arms deflecting attacks sent against him. Strange one him, must be more of that strange church magik. The fight is evenly matched and after trading several blows the man calls a truce. His mercenary ways come forth and they agree to leave, claiming that they were not paid enough to die protecting the Arbiter.

Soren approaches the Arbiter and gets the information we need. Project Ascension is in the peaks of the Mountains of Scars. The Circle of Yahuda has been realigned to take us there. The Arbiter must mean the magical circle that brought us here. We also learn that the leader of the Azure Alliance, Mathew Gaul is at Project Ascension. Perfect timing on our part.
We step into the circle and it activates. Bright white light and then we are standing in the mountains, cold rain and snow whipping around us. A great Keep, floating in the air, can be seen in the distance. Project Ascension. Mighty chains run from the keep into the clouds. We wonder what they are attached to. The Keep has a dull sheen as if the walls are made of metal. It must be a relic from the Kingdom of Solomon.

Suddenly the ledge we are standing on crumbles and we are plunged into the valley below!

Dirty Dancing

We had our next mission. Track down, question, and dispose of Baron Bercello. Taro needed to get some information on Project Ascension from him, Tsura needed to return his ring to the Black Lantern, and for me there’s not much better than a dead Azur Arbiter.

Tsura quickly manages to track down his home, some well defended complex near the waterfront. A four story building means we have yet another opportunity to put the Ghost to work. So we head off to the docks and sail off into the sunset.

As soon as we’re out of sight of the city, the soldiers quickly bring out the balloon and convert us back to the airship. As the sunlight wanes, the moon rises. A full moon, of course. Taro quickly adjusts our route to bring us in away from the moon, so as to not risk silhouetting ourselves against its brightness.

5 guards were on watch on the roof, as we sidled the Ghost up to the roof. We jumped on to the roof and opened up on the guards. Something was off on my crossbow as bolt after bolt missed the guards. Thankfully the soldiers and the rest of the team took up the slack. A few brief seconds later and we were headed down into the building.

Soren quickly blends into the shadows and moves silently down the hall. Stopping outside the only lit door, he quickly identifies it as the right place with a glance through the keyhole. Inside the Baron is sending orders using a box that looks eerily similar to the one that landed on our ship a few days ago.

Soren reaches into his pack and carefully extracts a small crossbow bolt. Keeping his fingers clear of the tip, he steps into the room and pricks Bercello on the arm with the bolt. Almost immediately Bercello slumps to the floor, unconscious. We quickly search the room and find a wealth of information on Project Ascension. Packing the information into a chest, we move to carry it back to the Ghost when Tsura leans over Bercello and finishes the job.

We quickly head back to Bastille to resupply. Upon arrival we find the supply cache, but nothing else. That is, until a Dancer appears. It only takes a moment to decide it is time to stop this Dancer from following us. Almost immediately the Dancer launches a flurry of attacks on Soren, knocking him to the ground, bleeding from the leg and unconscious. The next thing I know, the air around me disappears. Struggling doesn’t seem to help, but suddenly the air returns and I can rejoin the fight. By then, Taro, Tsura, and that massive beast of a dog have torn the Dancer to shreds. A few more well-placed strikes and the air around the Dancer seems to warp, then swallow it. It seems creation is on our side in the fight against the Dancers.

Tear in Reality

As we board the airship, a Dancer appears and slices Nicholas to tiny bits. It says “ I will be back in a week for the next one.”
During our journey to Albino, we decide to solidify our allegiance to one another by forming t he Council of Gia.
On day 3 of our travel, flying over the forest of Remo, we receive a “package” from above. The “package” is a 2 tiered slopped pyramid that opens when Soren touches it. Inside is a circular disc made of metal and glass and a scroll. Apparently only the person using it can see the disc working.

“You have taken a very important step today. Know you are not alone in your goals and you have allies. The disc next to the scroll will help you locate insurgent reality deviants. We will be in touch.”

We have decided to approach Albino by sea and when we arrive Raphael and his newly acquired voice, secures us an entire dock for our personal use. While walking around Albino, I notice an unusual alleyway that Raphael confirms that there is a tear in reality in the entry. When we cross into the alley we see the Dark Lantern and enter to meet Nocturn a Dark Lord. He tells us to sign our names in a book for his mistress, Nozomi Kurayini, a dainty Asian women who calls us back one at a time to ask our hears desire.

Pass o' Death

After our foray into the city we still had business to take care of at the Pass. We determined it would be best to capture the Colonel commanding the Azure garrison since he supposedly knew things on Ascension. So, when night fell we did just that. Raphael, made invisible by magics, was able to slip in and seize him. He apparently encounted beings inside the Colonels tent, but I’ll get to that later.

When the Colonel was securely… secure, we headed to Woden and the Abel army that was rabidly approaching the Pass. We reported to him and then went seperate ways. Vito, Nicholaas, and myself went with the army for the attack on the Pass. The battle went well… I think. I didn’t see the end of it. I’ll have to make a point to find that Azure bastard and pay him in kind for the headache with my blade in his belly.

As for the others, well, I don’t know where Raphael went, but when he came back he could speak, sort of. He has some kind of clockwork contraption for a throat now and it talks for him. Oddest thing. Tsura and Taro though, they went with the Colonel, to see what kind information they could squeeze out of him. I guess it didn’t go well. Apparently, something that we think is a creature called a “Dancer”, the same things Raphael met in the Colonels tent, somehow took the memories of anything dealing with Ascension out of him. They did find out that the Supreme Archon himself was giving the orders and how they’re keeping Ascension supplied by wagon. They also learned about a planned attack on the key Abel supply point at Alden. I guess these guys are also able to stay in contact with Ascension by some kind of magic boxes they found at Ascension, whatever it turns out to be. But that was pretty much it. With no new orders and with the Pass taken (so I guess it did go well), we decided to rest up and discuss our options the next day.

I’d like to tell you we slept peacefully and in the morning the war went on, but it wasn’t that easy. No, instead Taro decided we needed to consult with his favorite gal-pal, Seline. The next thing we knew we were back in the Tower of Corvenus. She didn’t really know what a Dancer was, but she thought they might live inbetween reality beyond creation. Creepy, I know, but it’s Seline, what did you expect? Those magic boxes, on the other hand, are probably some kind of Solomon Tech from way-back-when, which makes me nervous about what else the Azures are finding at Ascension. Than, as she’s apt to do, Seline did something really, really out there. She had, stored in her wall, like a knick-knack, a dream from the Supreme Archon himself, Matthew Gaul. She showed it to us. Well, it was more like we were in the dream seeing it happen. It was interesting to say the least. He was in Albino, capitol of Remo and he was walking down a street. Then, out of nowhere, Jace, that craszy Nephilim (as they all are) appeared. He told Gaul, “You don’t want to do this”, and “it’ll be the end of everything”. Gaul didn’t listen and instead went through a door with a sign above of a blacked out lantern. Then he came back through the door… with some of those Dancers with him. Fantastic. I guess we’re going to Remo.

Like a Shadow. Like a Shadow in the Night

Thunk. Thunk. Thunk. The giant rotors of the Seraphim-class war galleon Azure Ambassador spun slowly with a rythmic pulse that could be felt throughout the enormous craft. Vince Hawkins stood aboard the vessel in his tight blue knee-length uniform with polished silver trim and a small, pointed hat. He was on loan from the designers and creators of these fine Lucretian vessels — a tech advisor of sorts, here to evaluate their performance.

It had been a good year for The Company — both Abel and the newly formed Azure Alliance were clamoring for goods, and The Company had taken full advantage. Vince had already received two pay-bumps, plus hazardous duty pay… A good year. His goggles reflected the moon and stars but, most importantly, kept debris out of his eyes. He jotted a quick note down — Port stabilizer reinforcement flexing as craft approaches - he checked a nearby guage – 20 knots.

Peering out from beneath the bulbous frames, he looked at his sister ships. As he focused his attention on the smaller Cherub-class runner vessels, and hear their more rapid thwack thwack thwack of their tiny rotors rapidly spinning to try to keep the vessels afloat.

And that’s when the sister Seraphim, the Archon’s Fist, burst into a glowing flame. “No, no no no no no,” Vince cried, as the orange-yellow-red flames reflected from his goggles.

A soot covered document has been intercepted by Abel spies planted within the Lucretian technocracy. It is printed on a form with premade fields, but written in a hasty scrawl. Soot smears on the document indicate the author was likely covered in ash and had recently seen action.

To: Research and Development
From: Field Tech 1st Class Vince Hawkins
Re: Seraphim-class Field Tests

The Supreme Archon’s force had just started moving out to meet at Passage at the End, with five (5) Seraphim s and two (2) Cherub s in support. As the force was underway, Observer Rawlins spotted nine (9) older _Cherub_s bearing Abel insignia heading for Reinhold. As our own _Cherub_s intercepted them, we began to zero our ballistae on them, taking longer than normal — very likely our gunners need better training in this new type of warfare.

As the battle commenced, I witnessed a malfunction in the helium-hydrazine regulator on the Archon’s Fist, as the dirigible erupted into flame — or so I thought. Shortly afterwards, another Seraphim erupted into flame, and it was soon clear we were under attack from an unseen force. Shortly thereafter, thanks to a fortuitous bump, we noticed a small airship, silent and invisible, above us — perhaps another of your projects? Finally spotting our enemy was an elation, dampened somewhat as jars of alchemists’ fire rained down on our balloon, successfully causing us to go into emergency salvation mode before the wretched fire could reach our fuel supply.

We managed to save the bulk of the ship, but we were quickly losing altitude and we crashed headlong into the merchant district of Reinhold, greatly damaging the hull of our ship and impacting the commerce of this town. We lost several crew-members, including the majority of our engineering staff who were below decks. The other Seraphim that crashed into the city was not as fortunate, as it erupted into a rain of fire that soaked the city with its incendiary gears and components.

The Cherub that went down outside the walls of the city — the Fox’s Wink — was lost with all hands and is beyond repair.

Our enemies withdrew shortly thereafter, with seemingly heavy losses, though I would hazard a guess that Abel has employed some form of sorcery to aid them. Regardless, it would appear that maneuverability and speed could play a much larger factor in this new form of warfare than size and weapon strength, as they do in previous naval battles.


Not the Recap, just for fun

The first thing I really remember is the sound of the pick-axes chipping away at the ice on our bow. It sounded like someone forging a sword from the clouds, beating out a pattern from water and setting it still. The wind dominated everything we did here, in and out of the cabins on the Ghost, orchestrating a drumline on the balloon, feathering the notes from the laborers’ tools.
I had made an educated guess regarding the enemy’s movements, thinking back on the book I studied while I was an advisor, while I was thrall, really, to a man who thought himself a king (and, by purely empirical standards, fit the bill). That I was right, that I had again found myself in position of (potential) advisor, thrilled me. They say the Duk’zarist were ambitious, narcissistic fucks, and I can’t say it’s a reputation undeserved. The sobriquets that label them more succinctly and less flatteringly are similarly deserved.
My swelling ego overcame my sense of self-preservation when I knew I could further ingratiate myself to my colleagues, leaders, and (dare I say) followers. I devised a plan to strike at Bernhold to distract the encroaching enemy forces, but, more importantly, to further satiate the burgeoning megalomaniac in my heart.
That Bernhold was part of my intellectualized ideal and then became concrete, it made me want to possess it, to know the city in the only way a true con-artist could- I would destroy it. I had become a trickster to more frightening lords, and if I could deservedly nudge an entire empire by my recent acquaintance…- who, who could resist?
It burned.
We ducked low enough in a dogfight for me to see a screaming woman, pregnant for many moons, fall out of her house and be peppered with shingles when we scraped the rooftop in our ship, when we gallantly dove, mirrored eight times over, to avoid another ballista bolt vomited forth from clockwork death woven into an airship’s contours. But in our fight from the Angel, we were the only men that killed.
The sins visited upon Bernhold were from people or what they had wrought.
And Soren signed it with that accursed stone star, that damn black butterfly chosen for its ill luck, for its ominous portents. And for that, we will surely win further accolades, have a higher bounty put on our heads, rise in price to both enemy and friend.
And a charlatan is supposed to ride the waves, isn’t he? A real Liar knows to juggle worth and raise the stakes.
So why do I feel guilt like I’m choking on pudding?
Why am I so eager to assail the pass, to prove that I’m worth the price on my head?


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