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 Post subject: Re: Letters from Ambassador Tukufu
PostPosted: Fri May 02, 2014 6:13 am 
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Posts: 1995
Location: Portland OR
Cousins, Comrades in Arms and all Gentle Readers,

Is there a need to discuss Gin Ho Cove further with you? It seems clear my friend the Bounty Hunter would have me write about it. Yet unless you are a Khitani ship captain it is unlikely you know or care about this remote local; and even they avoid it when practicable. Gin Ho has a reputation as being dangerous and mysterious. Stiil, I am intrigued by mysteries and would appreciate further exploration. So, to borrow words from the elorii Vaise, “if you lack for diversions” perhaps you might be motivated to go take a look if the chance arises.

The cove is located well to the west of the plateau of Dagda and the First City. The area in general is referred to as the Ghunlud by the Chauni nomads and the Floodplain by just about everyone else. During winter months this area between the Khitau and Ataqu Mountains floods deeply enough that ships can sail almost to the very doorstep of the First City. During the summer it is dry like the rest of the badlands that surround the First City.

It is an inhospitable place. When covered with water there are the odd hazards from submerged rocks that can hull a ship. In the summer fresh water is hard to find except in the odd brackish mangrove oases that dot the land. These floods are seasonal and described as being caused by the moons. I myself am doubtful since the moons cycle through many different phases each year. Yet the tides operate on a predictable yearly schedule. What truly synchronizes the tides is, at least in my mind, an open question.

The area has a certain reputation to the superstitious. I can understand this. Occasionally Khitani ships sink en route to the First City. Imagine the next summer crossing a barren land of bleached stones and finding a shipwreck in the middle of the dessert? Or consider instead some of the strange fossils that are said to stick out from the eroded cliff walls. Or strange lightning storms in winter as the Tide begins to come in.

For the faint of heart these things might be disturbing.

Far better that travelers focus on the real dangers. There are the usual suspects. Bandits. Pirates. Gar. Voie. The Kurenthe cursed weather. Then there are the giant amphibians.

The more numerous of these are the Gillicar. These monsters are roughly horse sized carnivorous “toads” that can swallow a man whole. Worse they are covered in thick camouflaging plates that turn swords and allow them to strike from ambush. I have never seen one of these things, which is not uncommon! Many only see them briefly before being eaten, and if traveling a group too dangerous to be targeted, I’m told it’s possible to pass within 30 feet of one without seeing it.

The other amphibians of note are the Cyclopes. These degenerate offshoots of the ancient Eladru primarily dwell underwater and are perhaps taller than their land bound kin. At least this is the impression I receive from reading the accounts of Sir Armind Gerhard Tildighast. Sir Armind left to us a rather enjoyable book called, “Investigations of Onara” that detail this and other adventures. In part, my own Letters are modeled on the records he has left us. Sir Armind reports that the cyclopes venture out in sufficiently foggy or humid weather. They are also reported to be carnivorous and willing to eat people if they can spear them with their giant tridents.

In the summer, if you can survive these hazards, then you might reach the cliffs at the end of the Floodplains. This is where you will find Gin Ho Cove and the Sea of Lanterns. In the winter this area is presumably submerged. When the cliffs are visible it is said to be clear that they have many caves and “balconies” set with ancient foundation stones. The most common source of these reports comes from Khitani sailors. These hardy mariners are known to use Gin Ho and the lee of Lanzhou Island as shelter from storms.

This area is suspected to have been the site of Saamurkond, the Eladru’s ancient capitol. Saamurkond was eventually cast down into the sea by some calamity. In some versions of the ancient tales the city was razed by angry Gods. In others it is ancient Ssethrics who destroy the location. I personally favor the Ssethric hypothesis.

There are stairs carved into the cliffs, and into the caves on Lanzhou Island. Where do the caves go? No one has made an accurate assessment. But I would not be surprised to discover some connection to the pervasive “Endless Dark.” Perhaps these caves even lead into the feared section of the Endless Dark known as the Lavender Way.

That concludes the facts I know about Gin Ho Cove.

Now, is this site really the ancient Capitol of the Cyclopes? It should not take a magical Third Eye to see that there are many other ways this conjecture could have its foundation resting on sand. Lacking first hand experienced I am not in a position to offer an expert opinion. Nor do I know exactly why a certain gnome is convinced the Celestial Giants are connected to this site. Much less his fantastical claims of a Chamber of Immortality or Godhood.

In the gnome’s defense, and I offer this very reluctantly, there is some evidence that there could be a significant connection between the Eladru and the Celestial Giants. Some of the journals left by the Heroes of Light make mention of murals or mosaics that contain Eladru and the Celestial Giants together. The mural most commonly described has these figures around a so called “World Gate.” This is from the quest to recover the Spike of Eternity that ultimately took them to the elorii enclave of Ravan Tindal. In my own travels to the dwarven enclave of Nol Dappa I have also seen a badly degraded mural showing the Cyclopes in battle against a gargantuan foe that might be a Celestial Giant. Or not. It was badly degraded. King Leoducis generously granted me a later audience but could offer no insight on interpreting what I had seen in the outer mines of his city.

How the gnome has made his “intuitive leap” from this scant scintilla of knowledge is not a topic I am losing sleep over. Honestly I just assume its all part of his paranoid fantasy. Nor am I particularly concerned that Ymandragore sets its agenda based on one crank's guesswork. Or any one writer's scribbles. Still, who knows what might be learned from a serious exploration of the site? It has mysteries yet to be plumbed.

I remain your obedient scribe,

Tukufu, Ambassador of Altheria

_________________
Eric Gorman

AKA Ambassador Tukufu, man of letters, tomb raider and Master Sword Sage
. . . and Sir Szymon val'Holryn, Order of the Phoenix
Formerly Sir Jaeger val'Holryn. Weilder of the Holy Avenger: Thonanos. Gave his soul to help free King Noen


Last edited by val Holryn on Wed Jun 04, 2014 11:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Letters from Ambassador Tukufu
PostPosted: Wed Jun 04, 2014 10:14 pm 
Ambassador,
Circumstances recently insisted I pass an evening in a southwestern Coryani border town in search of the enigmatic "Sand Apophics." Therein came an evening of drinking and songs -particularly with a sandy-maned Coryani Val'Ossan.
Or so he intimated.
Are val'Ossan not most found in Milandir, and are they not typically possessed of darker plumage? He was far, far from the sea and heading towards the utmost wastes, not the typical interests of the Yarris-blooded Val families.

Regards,
Vaize,
Disciple of Anaphylaxia, servant of Belisarda.


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 Post subject: Re: Letters from Ambassador Tukufu
PostPosted: Sun Jun 08, 2014 11:06 pm 
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Joined: Fri Sep 27, 2013 1:06 am
Posts: 1995
Location: Portland OR
Comrades at Arms and all Gentle Readers,

Now this is an interesting inquiry! Vaise brings us two different questions for consideration. They are: What would a val’Ossan be doing in the desert? And do val’Ossan have blonde hair? Happily I have more to offer on these points than her last question. So let me essay explanations.

The first query is the shorter. While I can’t really know what this individual was doing, I would guess some variation of the quest for Yarris’ Pearls. These sacred objects were gifted to humanity at the dawn of the First Imperium, much as Anshar made a gift of the Gates and Altheris gifted man with a common language. History and legend give us a list a total of nine Pearls, each with a potent and unique power. Unlike the larger Gates, the Pearls are portable. I am sorry to report consequently that in this day and age they are mostly been stolen. The 3rd and 5th Pearls alone reside here in the First City. I have seen one of them and it was roughly the size of my head. I do not exaggerate. If you are lucky enough to attend service in the main Temple to the Pantheon during a major holiday, perhaps like Unavocce then you might see them and verify this for yourself. It is well known that the Sea Lords of Yarris quest constantly to seek out the seven Pearls that are lost to us.

I concede this is all speculation on my part. But it’s an educated guess. I suppose that it’s also possible that the individual in question was also seeking the Ssethric line known as the Sand Apothics. Or simply lost. Still I like the odds of a Sea Lord questing after the Pearls. On a wager I know how I would bet.

A more difficult question is if the val’Ossan family really has a bifurcated phenotype?
The shortest answer is to just to say yes. The val’Ossan family does indeed exhibit two different phenotypes. The val’Ossan of Milandir have black hair. The val’Ossan of Coryan, mostly in the southern province of Salantis, have blonde hair.

But how can this be? I feel sure all my readers know that members of the major families have very similar appearances. The val Virdan and val Emman invariably have red hair. The val’Holryn run to brown with waves or curls. The val Assante are blond. Barring disguises, one can reliably identify most vals’ bloodline at a glance. And in my experience most cousins within a val family look as if they could be brothers.

But the val’Ossan bloodline proves to be an exception to that rule. To my knowledge this duality is unique. So one might ask why they are different.

One possibility is that the val’Ossan’s appearance has diverged as a result of differences in the surrounding populations. For example many Coryani run toward blonde. On the surface this seems possible. But look more closely and the answer is not very satisfying. In Milandir there isn’t a preponderance of people with inky black hair. So why are the val’Ossan’ of Milandir raven haired? And the red hair of the val’Virdan does not change between Canceri, Erduk and the Coryani populations. Neither does the typical appearance of the val’Dellenov family despite the distances between Panari and Lustia.

So I assume something else is at work.

There is the old Yaricte heresy of Salantis. One might suggest that somehow the Coryani branch has been influenced by outside forces. But I wouldn’t say such things loudly in Salantis! I dislike this as an explanation. On the one hand it seems a slur against val’Ossan who are, to all appearances, perfectly upstanding. And on the other hand it is hard to perceive how the Yaricite Heresy could possibly lead to blonde hair.

So again, I assume something else is at work.

I can think of one other possibility, but I would almost prefer not to speak of it. Last fall as Shadowfast approached, I wrote of the ancient First Imperium and the event known as the Bloodwar. What a dark chapter of history! One can easily understand why it is mostly forgotten. This civil war in the First Imperium pitted the val families against each other.

If one knows where to do research there are still documents of this time. They suggest that there were once many more val families than exist today. These documents also tell how rituals were discovered that let all the bloodline families from a specific god steal bloodline powers from each other. The grim story devolved even further into cannibalism, when it was discovered that two who partook of such an atrocity could use the ritual to pass on the stolen bloodline powers to their descendants. In the war for supremacy a terrible winnowing took place. If a family did not flee to the most remote parts of the Imperium they either “won” or were destroyed.

Yuck. I do not need a third eye to grasp the horror of such a war must have been unimaginable.

Though an event of the far past, I believe echoes of it reverberate to this day. Consider the children of Nier. We know that the val’Virdan and val’Emman have been rivals since the dawn of the Imperium. In the Bloodwar they were unable to triumph over each other. Still I believe the impact of the Bloodwar can be seen in their bloodline powers. Uniquely among the val families, the val’Virdan and val’Emman share many of the same powers! Despite their different lineages. You do not find this among the val’Dellenov and the val’Haupt. One can only assume that their bloodlines were comingled during the Bloodwar.

What if this process were taken further?

We return to the val’Ossan families. Could it be possible that during the Bloodwar two lineages descending from Yarris might completely merge their set of bloodline powers? As a hypothesis I find it intriguing. Once the bloodline powers had merged there might not be any reason to continue their portion of the larger conflict beyond matters of personal revenge or feuds. In the eventual peace that came they might have consolidated under one name even as their hair remained different.

This of course is speculation on my part. Perhaps wild speculation. But I know of no other satisfying answers at present. So I offer this you with humility and acknowledge that it could very likely be wrong.

Should any of you find further information on this subject I would be grateful to hear of it. In the mean time I wish you all safe travels. I remain your obedient scribe,

Tukufu, Ambassador of Altheria

_________________
Eric Gorman

AKA Ambassador Tukufu, man of letters, tomb raider and Master Sword Sage
. . . and Sir Szymon val'Holryn, Order of the Phoenix
Formerly Sir Jaeger val'Holryn. Weilder of the Holy Avenger: Thonanos. Gave his soul to help free King Noen


Last edited by val Holryn on Tue Jun 24, 2014 1:34 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Letters from Ambassador Tukufu
PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2014 4:03 am 
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Posts: 1995
Location: Portland OR
A small coda.

Two readers have sent in a query asking about val'Ossans with bright blue eyes. Blue eyes? I'll believe it when I see it. Or to be fair I should say I have never seen or heard of such a thing. To my knowledge val, all val, have grey eyes. Which we are told match those of the Valinor. The sole exception are those who, like me, become awakened. Those eyes become clear.

And not blue.

I have no idea where rumors of blue eyed vals might have come from. I suspect someone somewhere is playing tricks on people. Perhaps with the arcanum.

Tukufu

_________________
Eric Gorman

AKA Ambassador Tukufu, man of letters, tomb raider and Master Sword Sage
. . . and Sir Szymon val'Holryn, Order of the Phoenix
Formerly Sir Jaeger val'Holryn. Weilder of the Holy Avenger: Thonanos. Gave his soul to help free King Noen


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 Post subject: Re: Letters from Ambassador Tukufu
PostPosted: Tue Jun 24, 2014 1:41 am 
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Joined: Fri Sep 27, 2013 1:06 am
Posts: 1995
Location: Portland OR
Friends, Cousins, Comrades at Arms and all Gentle Readers,

How quickly your fate can change.

It was not long ago that I was celebrating my good fortune. I joined what seemed to be a minor throng of “adventurers” who laid down their swords long enough to tie knots. In a veritable whirlwind I courted and married the lovely Belinay, one of the Tormal Khan’s nieces. People I barely knew came out in drove to congratulate my good fortune. At the ceremonies in the Great Cathedral the crowd was almost absurdly large and they all but showered us with their good will and often extravagant gifts. As an only child, whose parent had died fighting the elorii invaders, I found it all rather overwhelming. Still one should never to object to song, drink and dancing! It may be that I was happier in those endless moments than at any other time in my life.

I continue to count my blessings. But as day follows night, bliss turns back to concern. This is the first of several letters that concern my most recent travels.

Let me tell you of Ymandragore.

Fool that I allowed myself to become a pawn in the schemes of the more powerful. I received an invitation to meet agents of the Sanctorum in Milandir. We met near a port which I found somewhat brazen. I thought, “Why make it easier for agents of the Sorcerer King to sail us away to the Isle of Tears?” Ah, but that was exactly the point. The Master who spoke with us had a “daring plan.” Which is to say he would be staying behind and we would be doing the daring. And of course as it should now be obvious it involved an infiltration of the Isle of Tears. There was a tight timeline and we’d be sailing immediately if we accepted on a captured Black Ship.

You might ask why I didn’t politely excuse myself at that point in time and return to my wife. It certainly would have been the smart thing to do! The thought crossed my mind. But at the end of the day I am an explorer and a scholar. I might never get another opportunity to see the Isle of Tears first hand.

I don’t know why everyone else signed on. To my immediate right was Marcus Tullus val’Mehan, the younger. A mouthful to say but actually a close friend of mine. We fought our way through most of the Crusade together. Sneaky Patracian that he is, I trusted him completely to have my back. Past him was Ceres val’Dellenov. I had previously fought besides Ceres as well. In fact I teased Ceres when I first met her that the very first thing she did after getting married was to abandon her husband and ride hard for Jappa. Now I was in similar straits. Past her was an agent of Cadic who I believe will wish to remain unnamed. To my left was Vincent of Ven’s Brood. From scholarly correspondence I knew Vincent a little too. And finally there was Belthazor val’Mehan who claimed to be a lot older than he looked. I was ready at first to put it down to bragging on his part, but he did have an archaic and outrageous suit of armor scribed all over with the symbols of Sarish. So I reserved judgment.

Our Sanctorum hosts had captured Illak Laurol. He was one of the leaders of the finger known as the Twin Whispers. I had never heard of this organization. None of us had. It became clear that the first whisper was into the finger’s ears and then the second was them manipulating events by whispering in the ear of someone else. I suppose they were the Sorcerer Kings spies and influence peddlers. Illak certainly presented himself as such, imperious as any monarch, even in chains. I admit I found him somewhat intimidating and was horrified to learn he was familiar with my letters. I did my best to retreat into the guise of a dilettante. I hope to achieve some level of fame as the greatest researcher of this generation, but really I don’t need such people thinking of me. At least Retsev Rah isn’t sending me correspondence.

It seems that the leader of this finger, one Syriah, tried to blackmail the wrong person on the Isle of Tears. Ouch. The results of her intrigue were brutal and as a result the Twin Whispers was all but destroyed. There would be a Fete where the mansion and headquarters were officially transferred to a new finger with the ritual death of Syriah. The beneficiaries? A new finger called the Chorus of the Venerable Word. During the Fete where this transfer would take place it might be possible to sneak into the manse and liberate an item called the Oculus. A relic of some power. Of course no one in the known lands, including Illak, was exactly sure where the Oculus was hidden … besides Syriah.

So when we got there it was obviously going to be an interesting night: trying not to get caught, finding where Syriah was held, and getting her to tell us where the Oculus was hidden…and escaping off the Isle.

It was clear to me that Illak wanted to poke the new owners in the eye and deny them the Oculus out of spite. It was less clear why the Sanctorum was involved until it was revealed that they thought the Oculus could be used to locate their absent founder Nurion the Undying. I was surprised to learn that Nurion had not been in contact with the Sanctorum for centuries. I had always assumed he was somewhere four or five layers back in the shadows monitoring and manipulating things. A very interesting tidbit of information.

Well, we hemmed and hawed a little bit. We talked about contingencies. Linguistic challenges. Assets we could lay our hands on. But I don’t think we ever seriously debated the merits of not going. I know, it sounds foolish in the extreme. I know I wanted to see the Isle and perhaps reveal some of its secrets here in these letters. I wonder in retrospect if perhaps the Sanctorum managed to subtly manipulate our minds?

No matter. We agreed to go. Our cover would be as the very lowest of the Fingers: The Hunters of the Black Night, also known as the Demon Hunters. The Hunters of the Black Night by and large are not Eldritch spell casters. As such, while technically a Finger, they are looked down upon and barely ever are spoken too. Apparently the most “economical” way to secure new infernals for the Black Ships is currently to “harvest” them too. One wonders what they did before the fall of the Gods Wall? I suspect they must have summoned them all.

An agent of the Hawk & Shield waited outside to take us to the ship for a three day sail.

The Black Ship. I could write a monograph to you about the Ship alone. It is said that the Black Ships are made from basalt mined in the interior of the Isle of Tears but I suspect this is untrue. Beyond the fact that basalt does not float this material is far stronger than ordinary stone. I tried repeatedly to get a sample of the stone for alchemical testing. But all I achieved was a bent dagger. I failed to free even the smallest of “stone” chips. Whatever the Black Ships are made of, it is not a simple matter of something from a quarry.

This Black Ship was essentially a schooner with two masts, modified with 10 large oars on each side. I have heard wildly different tales concerning the vessels from Ymandragore. Some describe them as juggernauts up to three hundred feet in length. Others describe them as humble affairs, no more than 30 long and 10 to 15 feet across. This was maybe 90 feet long and 25 across. In a fog it might not have seemed remarkable.

In the hold of the Black I found the infernal rowers just as rumors say. Each oar had two Inferni devils working it. They did not even look up as I passed through the room on my first inspection. All somehow bound. But not a mark of Sarish among them. . I would guess that the binding of Ymandragore must originate from a unique Tradition they’ve researched over the long years. Given the existence of the Hunters of the Night I would guess it is less efficient than the style of binding magic practiced by the Sarishians. Is this guess true? Alas, I discovered many new pieces of information but I was unable to delve deeply into any of them. If you ever go to the Isle maybe you can ask for me.

The first day on the vessel was largely uneventful except for the captain politely asking me to stop trying to chip off a piece from the hull. I smiled, said yes and shamelessly came back that night. I was attacking the stern with a crowbar in another futile attempt to gain a "stone" fragment for testing when I realized I was not alone on the deck of the ship. Up at the prow in the night mist stood an individual in a wide brimmed hat. The crew was nowhere to be seen. Having read several of the journals of the Heroes of Light and their adventures involving the Chalice of Midnight I immediately had my suspicions. I woke my Sarishian companions before approaching.

Almost I would leave this part of the tale out. But a few of my companions have already mentioned that Loshnek himself deigned to put in an appearance. I would be exaggerating if I wrote that my pen shakes as I write his name. But I still. Loshnek. I do not know what, if anything, he would wish me to say of his conversation with us since it touched upon his own goals and agendas. But I have no wish to give offense. So I ask your forgiveness if I am less forthcoming than usual in my reporting. Suffice it to say that Loshnek has long shown an interest in the Isle of Tears and was sufficiently interested in our captured Black Ship to take note of us. He did not disapprove of our mission and provided logistical support of his own. He granted us improved credentials, which would say whatever we wanted them to. In a back handed way, provided other support since as Demon Hunters we would be expected to arrive with a hull full of infernals.

Just as Loshnek explained this he faded away. And another ship loomed out of the fog and rammed us broadside. Even as we caught our balance and shred a look of confusion infernals stormed over the hull promising to rend our bodies and free their bound brethren...

Bear with me. More will be explained soon.

Tukufu

_________________
Eric Gorman

AKA Ambassador Tukufu, man of letters, tomb raider and Master Sword Sage
. . . and Sir Szymon val'Holryn, Order of the Phoenix
Formerly Sir Jaeger val'Holryn. Weilder of the Holy Avenger: Thonanos. Gave his soul to help free King Noen


Last edited by val Holryn on Wed Jul 09, 2014 1:30 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Letters from Ambassador Tukufu
PostPosted: Sat Jun 28, 2014 2:56 am 
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My Gentle Readers,

I almost feel guilty ending my last letter at such a cliffhanger. Black ships. Infernals. Midnight visits from Loshnek. I ask your indulgence. It may be cheap theater but if I can’t indulge it here, infiltrating the Isle of Tears, then where?

Loshnek had informed us as Demon Hunters we would be expected to bring in a hold full of infernals. Illak Laurol and our Sanctorum hosts somehow missed this point. Loshnek faded out from our ship with a promise that he had taken care of things. We had just enough time to look at each other, and I am sure I was not the only one who thought, "What does that mean?" Suddenly another ship loomed out of the fog and rammed us broadside. Even as we caught our balance infernals stormed over the hull promising to rend our bodies and free their bound brethren. We were attacked by a ship full of devils!

Of course most of us fought through the Crusade. Devils. We knew how to deal with them.

Like many of you I still have the Sarishian Steel weapon I received from Sir Hansdel val’Ossan. I put it to swift use. Two waves of minor infernals such as inferi and kazorlith went down fairly easily. But they were led by an infernal captain. I had never seen his kind before. Maybe eight feet tall. Upper body like a bull. Lower body like a goat. And he had a huge “mace” with eight axe heads encircling the business end . I would have liked to have taken a closer look but it went overboard in the enthusiasm to subdue him.

So strong is the hull of these Black Ships that it was not damaged in the collision. But the attackers ship was wrecked and began to take on water. Their discipline began to break even as they all but threw themselves at us. Mostly we clubbed them unconscious.

After stowing the Brute down below we unleashed our Sarishians to communicate and negotiate with him. Someone had the thought that we might be able to use him as a distraction. This was not an easy endeavor despite the verbal communication skills of Marcus and Belthazor. I know the infernal language and thus listened to far too much talk of threats. “Throw yourself on my claws and I will feast on your bones,” he raved at us. Throw yourself on my claws? I wondered if he had ever been so lucky. I am sure few will be surprised when I admit these negotiations failed. Still we learned four interesting pieces of information:

First and least important, he claimed his kind is called an Ebon Horn. My conclusions are that they are powerful, arrogant and dim. Second and perhaps most important, the infernals beyond the wall are regrouping under a new leader he called “Hyaman.” Third and saddest, Bastion is reportedly fallen. And finally, with access to the coast, the infernals are hunting Black Ships to free their bound kin on board.

I am afraid the waters off Milandir and the Hinterlands have suddenly become much more “interesting.” In time this Hyaman will undoubtedly become a grave problem. It may take decades to consolidate his, hers, or its power. But eventually the infernals have the potential to remass, build transport ships and circumvent the Tir Betoqi by sea. The 6th Crusade of Light is over. The infernal threat is not.

So I encourage you all to add pirate devils to your lists of ongoing concerns.

Well. That was all very interesting. But we had more immediate concerns to occupy our minds.

Eventually the Isle of Tears came into sight. The city of Ymandragore sits in a small bay on the southern side of the Island. There can be no doubt about where to sail for. The city of the “Dragon Reborn” needs no lighthouse for it is well illuminated. Even amid the rain and the damp, an arcane fire burns amid the cobblestones of its streets.

“The rain never stops, and the city continues to burn.”

We left our captain to deal with the paperwork as we pulled into port. We largely bypassed and ignored the creepy dock keepers. Something about them is decidedly off. I wondered at the time if they were undead. Certainly the one that spoke to us did not move right to my eye. Or maybe it was just nerves as I stepped off the boat. A mystery we did not have time to explore.

From the docks the land slopes upward so we started climbing stairs. We passed warehouses and the infamous “stage” where the people who are harvested are sold and bought. “Prisons” would be more honest as a description for those buildings of despair. I saw little in the way of non-human cargo. The Isle of Tears must be largely self-sufficient.

Then it was further up and we were moving into the city proper.

I was not prepared for it to be beautiful. Ymandragore is well designed and is laid out on a grid. Not a piece of trash to be seen anywhere. No stink of bodies living too close together. That reminded me of lost Bastion which I had twice visited. Such a strange comparison. And yet both cities are or were run by an immortal of inhuman power. I wonder, is the capitol of Khitan the same?

The people of Ymandragore dressed in flamboyant clothes even as they moved through the evening drizzle. They ignored the fire that sprang up between the cobblestones, and I found it to be heatless. In my brief look around the streets I saw cloth in most colors of the rainbow. Stylish and presumably expensive, if alien in cut to mainland fashions. Every once and a while I saw people with terrible burns or deformities. At first I thought these were the so called “Scabbers.” One of the Pillars of Nier is located on the Isle and a Finger officially called the Emerald Flame taps and perhaps perverts its power. But someone else in our merry band realized that they were victims of the Spell Plague. Apparently the handiwork of Lucius Orata continues to live on. The plague he unleashed against the Gifted here nearly 50 years ago still causes terrible scars or outright mutations.

None of us had the Gift. So at least in theory we were safe from that.

I was chastised for gawking like it was my first time on the Isle. I tried to be more discrete as we reached street level. There were a series of coaches available to take us wherever we wished to go. As with the dock keepers, there was something “wrong” with the horses. Again I did not have a chance to make a close inspection. The coachman was not normal either, but as an Altherian I identified its nature easy enough. It was a clockwork automaton. Such wealth that they could build automatons for simple convenience! The coach had other minor wonders. Once inside we immediately began drying out. No more than a minor manipulation of the Arcanum. But to integrate such magic into a permanent item. Repeatedly. For mundane comfort. There is nothing like that on the mainland.

The ride took us to the edge of the city and was short, all things considered. Space for building on the edge of the Isle must be precious. They seem to build upwards as much as they build outwards. Even with a simple grid, night and rain conspired to thwart me from making a good estimation of the population of the city. At a guess I would rank Ymandragore as a metropolis, with at least 100,000 residents. But that’s just a guess. I have no idea what agricultural limits they face. Perhaps my guestimate is too high. Or perhaps with the rain and multi-storied buildings I failed to appreciate its full size and 100,000 is too low.

We arrived at the Manse. Predominantly it was made of white marble with gold leaf covering exterior ornamentation. Perhaps not as tasteful as an aesthete would like, but it all but screamed wealth and power. The extensive grounds around it had impressive gardens. I assume they integrate magic in some way keep the gold leaf from washing away in the rain or the garden from flooding.

I knew a flutter of fear as we presented Loshnek’s apparently blank papers for inspection as we entered through a grand foyer. I remembered Loshnek had said that his power essentially ended at the shores of the Isle and I had a moment of panic that somehow the papers would not work. But I need not have worried. Some guard dressed as an elaborate footman briefly scanned them and heralded us as Hunters of the Black Night. A very few eyes in the crowd flicked in our direction in surprise and I could almost sense their noses rising in disdain. Discretely or indiscreetly people deliberately turned away from us as we entered.

One more letter on Ymandragore to come.

Tukufu

_________________
Eric Gorman

AKA Ambassador Tukufu, man of letters, tomb raider and Master Sword Sage
. . . and Sir Szymon val'Holryn, Order of the Phoenix
Formerly Sir Jaeger val'Holryn. Weilder of the Holy Avenger: Thonanos. Gave his soul to help free King Noen


Last edited by val Holryn on Sat Jun 28, 2014 12:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Letters from Ambassador Tukufu
PostPosted: Sat Jun 28, 2014 9:13 am 

Joined: Fri Sep 27, 2013 12:08 am
Posts: 1385
Hello Eric,

Very enjoyable as always!

Good job!

_________________
Best,

Henry Lopez
President
PCI


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 Post subject: Re: Letters from Ambassador Tukufu
PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2014 1:29 pm 
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Joined: Fri Sep 27, 2013 1:06 am
Posts: 1995
Location: Portland OR
Gentle Readers,

Imagine me there at the Fete. The settings: opulent. The food: magnificent. Try the shrimp! But the people around me? Predators, zealots and monsters for all their finery. They all lived for their Sorcerous Majesty and had all come to celebrate a bloody execution. And if I know anything of human nature, then they were also politicking in every corner of the gathering.

Each way I turned there was a different cluster of potential enemies. I had to assume they would kill or enslave your humble author just for being there. And every one of them was a dedicated master of some esoteric field of the Arcanum. I resolved to shoot myself if a fight broke out and I couldn’t immediately jump out a window.

Somewhere in here was the Oculus. The prize we had been sent to retrieve. Only Syriah knew exactly where it was. Illak and the Sanctorum had thought that Syriah would be held in the basement. Under heavy guard until the moment of her execution. So we walked a slow circle of the first floor. Sure enough we found a guarded stairway down. I had fatalistic suspicion we would have to "test" the new management.

The incredibly stupid things one does to learn secrets.

Every Finger under the sun filled that damned manse halfway to the rafters. I saw the “lost” Deneki dwarfs - Wine Drinkers. I saw horribly scared members of the Emerald Flame. I saw a few awakened vals walking the grounds. I assumed they were part of the Handless, the Finger of Ymandragore dedicated to combining psionics with eldritch might. I gave them a particularly wide berth.

Then there were the Fingers I knew almost nothing about. The Chaos Mages, were obvious as they bore the mutations of the Spell Plague. I saw that members of the Chorus of the Venerable Word were all bald women in blue gowns. Which I found odd since I thought it was mentioned that their leader was named Edik Oriad. I presume that's a man’s name.

Finally there were Fingers I couldn’t immediately recognize or place. I realized in both delight and horror that there more organizations I had never heard of. Only through eavesdropping and guile was I able to figure out who they were. One group was called the Protean Covenant. It appeared they were in a heated exchange with the Cult of the Hollow Vessel. I earned a glare for wandering too close and had to leave without finding out what point they were contesting. There were also representatives of the Sect of the Ascendant Star and the Night Dance.

How I wished for feckless nobles or fat merchants instead.

Did I omit the Ordainers? They were there too. As I understand it the Ordainers are nominally the first Finger among equals. Perhaps they felt they were above expected conventions. It was just as I was heading back for more shrimp that I saw one of them approach Ceres, “What is this vision of beauty I see! And what are you doing with these people…” his voiced dripped with disdain for us, “…when you could join me!” So it was we had the dubious pleasure of meeting Malik of the 5th Circle, apparently a powerful rank within the Ordainers.

Since we’ve all alive to tell about it, I guess I can try to enjoy the humor of the moment. Ceres stood there dumbstruck. But at the time, my blood froze. The val’Dellenov have a reputation for forcefully dealing with unwanted suitors. A vision flashed before my eyes where I saw Ceres braining Malik with an axe - followed shortly by a frenzied crescendo of arcane fireworks, and your correspondent’s untimely death.

I had just enough time to look share a look of growing panic with Vincent when the servant of Cadic spoke silken words, “Honey, come here you just have to see the view from the balcony!” Clever! Malik looked aghast. “You, are with him?” Ceres faked a sheepish shrug and smile as she calmly turned her back on him. Malik, of the 5th bloody Circle, clearly didn’t handle rejection well. His face turned purple. A vein throbbed. I thought violence might break out and looked for a window.

“All kneel before the representative of his Sorcerous Majesty, Gemmalus!” cried a herald.

Gemmalus?!? That got my attention! As everyone else turned to the door and smoothly knelt, I felt like somebody had goosed me. I stood there like an idiot waiting to be cooked. Gemmalus! Once I wrote a letter pondering immortality. I speculated what it must be like for the children of Emprerss Shar. Like his brother Nurion, Gemmalus is undying and has seen more than 500 years. He is also the right hand of the Sorcerer King himself. How I desperately wished to avoid an interview!

Fortunately my companions were not frozen in some endless moment. They acted. No one was looking at us! Nor were they looking at the staircase. Marcus used one of the spheres he had taken off of the Bastion Strangler, and in in one corner all sounds were suppressed. Ceres and our Cadacian friend were already moving. The guard tried to shout a warning but to no avail. Silence!One of us rapped him smartly on the head and he dropped. Everyone else was still kneeling, not looking at us. I was sure we were going to be caught as I dragged the unconscious guard – silently! – down the stairs. Sweat dripped down the back of my neck as I expected to be hit with a lightning bolt from behind.

I should have been worried about what was in front of me.

I was near the back of our group as I came out of the stairwell, so trying to take in the basement was a little confusing. There was a wide counter or fire pit thing in front of me. Altheres knows what happened to the smoke – there was no chimney and we were underground. More embedded arcana in the comforts of Ymandragore. But fighting had already broken out so I didn’t get a chance to linger over the architecture. Ahead of us were four bald headed women in blue. Marcus and the Cadacian had vaulted the barrier and were closing. Vincent and maybe Ceres were drifting to the side. People were shouting.

I snapped off an enchantment to hasten my companions. Then in unison the opposition spoke a single word. Clearly the Chorus of the Venerable Word specializes in cooperative magic. They detonated a huge explosion in our midst that rattled my teeth. Others would later comment that it dispelled their wards as it struck. Given that Unravelling the Tread is already an advanced technique that can’t be melded to other spells I’m at a loss to explain how they did that.

No time to dither.

Their next move came almost as fast as they pulled out rods and used them to summon more aid. We originally outnumbered them 6 to 4. Now we were outnumbered 8 to 6. I recognized a Deneki Wine Drinker, an Ordainer and a Night Dancer. The fourth warrior stood there with “nails” driven into his face and arms. A Soldier of Oblivion.

“Tukufu," you ask, "what is a Soldier of Oblivion?”

I still don’t really know. I do know from Illak that others in the Twin Whispers had somehow engineered its capture. And had it locked up in the basement for either experimentation or maybe as a doomsday weapon. Supposedly the Soldiers of Oblivion have the ability to erase things from “reality.” Illak had no idea where they originally come from. I strongly suspect it’s something ancient and deadly along the lines of the "entropic" adversaries the Heroes of Light wrote about.

I think it was Belthazor who reached into the Soldier's mind. Whoever, they managed to set it against the nearest of the Chorus. The Soldier of Oblivion reached out with its right hand and the throat of the nearest Chorus unraveled and was gone.

Wow. I heard softly from my left, “I hope it can only pull that trick once.”

-Tukufu

_________________
Eric Gorman

AKA Ambassador Tukufu, man of letters, tomb raider and Master Sword Sage
. . . and Sir Szymon val'Holryn, Order of the Phoenix
Formerly Sir Jaeger val'Holryn. Weilder of the Holy Avenger: Thonanos. Gave his soul to help free King Noen


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 Post subject: Re: Letters from Ambassador Tukufu
PostPosted: Fri Jul 11, 2014 12:35 pm 

Joined: Thu Nov 07, 2013 9:37 pm
Posts: 810
Location: Michigan
Honored Ambassador,

I have recently come into some confusion about a creature called a "voiceless one." Can you share anything you might have found in your studies about such creatures? I sure I would find anything you can share highly enlightening. Though I would understand if this is a topic too sensitive for your usual dispatches, as rumor seemed to indicate they were rather dangerous.

Thank you,

Your graceless student,

Kavaris

_________________
AKA Kavaris, awakened "Human" from the Hinterlands, psionic transmutation specialist, adventurer, and no one important


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 Post subject: Re: Letters from Ambassador Tukufu
PostPosted: Wed Jul 23, 2014 5:39 pm 
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Joined: Fri Sep 27, 2013 1:06 am
Posts: 1995
Location: Portland OR
Gentle Readers,

I fear I have dwelt too long on my sojourn to Ymandragore. And your attention moves on to other topics. Correspondence builds up on my desk. I ask your forbearance. I promise you I will attempt to answer your questions in due course as soon as this tale is completed. There are a few last salient facts I wish to distribute that may serve you well if you find your selves facing off against Harvesters.

So.

As you will recall I was sweet talked into travelling to Ymandragore. The Sanctorum wanted a device called the Oculus. They believed it would lead to the rediscovery of Nurion their legendary missing founder. The Oculus was hidden in a manse belonging to a Finger known as the Twin Whispers and there was about to be a change of ownership. We needed to slip in during a Fete. Find Syriah who had led the order. And somehow we needed to persuade her to tell us where the Oculus was hidden before she was ritually executed by the new management.

Amazingly we infiltrated the Isle. We avoided immediate detection. We reached the manse and still avoided triggering any alarms. While everyone was bowing and scraping in anticipation of Gemmalus’ grand entrance, we reached the basement cells where Syriah] was being held. Then all hell broke loose as we fought for our lives against a veritable menagerie of exotic spell casters.
It was over within a minute or two. I doubt my ability to accurately record every cut, thrust and exchange of the Arcanum. For my part I was locked in battle with an Ordainer who attempted to dominate my mind after absorbing my psionic manifestations. And he would have succeeded in making me his puppet had not Belthazor provided me with timely assistance by unraveling the threads of his enchantment. I remain grateful!

Elsewhere I described the new and unique threats of the Chorus of the Venerable Word and the Soldier of Oblivion. I wish to warn you all of the Night Dance as well. This Finger of Ymandragore does not cast spells per se, but their movements manipulate the Arcanum to fascinate their targets. One barely registers them as a threat until they start carving you with their knives. Worse they reflect the damage they take in melee back against everyone who stands adjacent to them. We are still not clear if this was through clever blade work, an empathic field or a retributive ward. What is clear is that they should be shot from a safe distance to bring them down.

The fight was scary. It took all three of my Flintlocks to put the Ordainer down. Though we prevailed, we emerged with varying states of wounds and contusions. There was little time to reload or heal up. We immediately started searching for Syriah. We knew we didn’t have much time before we attracted more attention than we could handle.

The Cadician found her and wisely left her gagged. Reputed to be an enchantress of unparalleled skill I have no doubt that Syriah could have persuaded us to do almost anything. Tense negotiations by mind-link followed. I had a great fear she was going to demand safe passage off the Island in exchange for helping us. I doubted our ability to control her and privately wondered if we might be compelled to double cross her. Certainly the temptation would be there. And what loyalty could we expect from her?

Those fears were unfounded. Syriah was resigned to her fate. But as a mother she feared for her daughter’s future. The many enemies she was leaving behind were a direct threat to the well-being of her child. Those in the mind-link swore a Sarishian Oath to get her daughter to the “Known World” in exchange for the Oculus.

It was just at this point that the missing guard was noticed and we heard a hue and cry from above.

Finding her daughter and the Oculus while escaping the attention of the “guests” was no easy task. Ultimately I have to confess it proved impossible. We dodged and evaded the rank and file as we climbed up to the second floor by back ways and a secret staircase. But once on the second floor we were discovered by someone whom I will simply refer to as an Important Personage. The jig really should have been up at that point. Instead we entered into another negotiation to be allowed to leave with our prize. One might think the Chorus of the Venerable Word are not all that popular with some of the more established Fingers of Ymandrake society. Our Important Personage was utterly indifferent, perhaps even pleased, at the thought of their embarrassment.

Here again the Cadician shone, for he remembered that Nurion was the twin brother of Gemmalus, who stands as his right hand man to His Sorcerous Majesty. Out of necessity we made a devil’s bargain. In exchange for being allowed to leave with the Oculus and Senmayia, Syriah’s daughter, we’d share Nurion’s location with our Important Personage. Information of Nurion no doubt being of value to Gemmalus. And the favor of Gemmalus no doubt influential in the internal politics between the Fingers. I fear that Nurion may not be best pleased. But I also trust that he can take care of himself. Since these letters may actually be read by Ymandrakes I am going to leave the matter here.

Well, almost. We also received a stern warning that someone powerful enough could potentially use the Oculus to reach the Empyrean Court and if that happened we could expect disaster to follow. Our Important Personage wouldn’t elaborate on where the court was located or who it consisted of. When I tried to press I was firmly told that I didn’t want to know. I don’t need the dictionaries of Litera Scripta Manet to know that refers to the highest of heavens, so literally I have visions of Illiir’s private Throne Room with attendant Valinor. But there is no reason to assume that the Oculus was ever made by mankind. Just who’s heavenly court the oculus potentially reaches is a matter of speculation.

We escaped to our ship handily with the aid of our well placed benefactor. That should have been the end of the adventures on Ymandragore. But there is one final problem and we were badly divided on how to resolve it.

Senmayia had the spell plague.

On our way to the ship she lapsed into unconsciousness. Her body twisted under our hands. I saw her sprout asymmetrical fangs only to see them subside a few minutes later. She temporarily grew some sort of red brown carapace. He bones melted and reformed. Pox marred her skin. And as she writhed it was clear she was in great pain. If we killed her outright, beyond the moral horrors of killing a twelve year girl, we would condemn those members of our group who had sworn the Sarishian Oath to her mother. If we returned her to our civilization then we would unleash the spell plague on the population of the mainland. I argued vociferously for a third option of exile. I know of a leper colony off of Altheria and I argued for her confinement there. Ultimately we settled on a closer abandoned Isle in the Serpent’s Teeth. I had agreed, along with the others, to watch over the girl until she passed or the Sanctorum could send us a ship to take us to a more remote and secure location.

This last part is hard to write. Though it seemed we had reached some level of consensus, Belthazor did not agree with our plan. Senmayia had regained consciousness while sailing and was amazed by the trees and lack of rain. We brought her ashore maybe two dozen steps onto the Island. Her last words were, “Are these the Known Lands? They’re beautiful.” While none of us were looking Belthazor knifed her at the base of her skull and she died instantly.

It would be easy to end this letter with a condemnation. I do believe cold blooded murder is a soulless act. But I honestly don’t know that Belthazor was wrong to do what he did. I certainly would not have done it, but I also cannot deny that the child’s existence was a threat to the mainland. The arcane casters who contract the spell plague often die and they can be a threat to everyone around them while their powers run amok. How does one weight lesser evils?

That leaves me ending these reports on a down note. I feel melancholy that even Belthazor’s ruthlessness may not keep the disease from the mainland. Given that it has been about 40 years since the introduction of the plague, I assume Ymandragore must impose strict quarantine protocols on their end. There is no sign of it on the mainland. Still, spell casters leave the Isle of Tears all the time to come to the mainland, usually to kidnap and “Harvest.” The eventual arrival on our shores of a Harvester who does not realize he or she is carrying the plague is probably inevitable.

Thank you for following me to the end of this tale. I promise more brevity in the reports to come. Until then I remain your obedient servant.

Tukufu, Ambassador of Altheria

_________________
Eric Gorman

AKA Ambassador Tukufu, man of letters, tomb raider and Master Sword Sage
. . . and Sir Szymon val'Holryn, Order of the Phoenix
Formerly Sir Jaeger val'Holryn. Weilder of the Holy Avenger: Thonanos. Gave his soul to help free King Noen


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