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Sun’s high in the sky by the time I leave Luca’s. Another dose of ISAAC floods my neural weave. Slow as apology, I can feel the fog of trauma retreat. I walk the couple of blocks to where I parked Mary, carving my way through the sea of twisting humans.

<< Ascot is going to be a headache. Albion are heavy-hitters with a reputation for stacking bodies. The ICE on that flex circuit was no joke either. Gonna need a decent runner. One that’s cheaper than Eggy.

Ah, fuck. All that time in the deli and I didn’t grab nothin’ to eat. I know just the place. >>

I open the door to Bodega Bacu’s and am greeted by a jangly voice that bleeds through low-fidelity speakers blaring tinny P-pop, telling me to enjoy a tall Falco's Choice Coco-not Piña Slush. Projected neon font jiggles center-aisle across a fat cloud of synthesized tropical fruits that puffs out of poorly hidden diffusers in the shelving. I drop olfac sensitivity by 10% to keep from coughing up a lime.

Stylistic slogans in English and Alpabetong shatter across the broad expanse of Sóse's scuffed and faded bronze Deflexion jacket as he reaches through the holographic projection for a couple cases of electro-lime H2.0. He turns to the register and lines up, partitioning a section of his faculties to review the relevant details to his case.

<< Missing girl. Missing scientist. Worried parents. Dead husband.

Corpo stink all over the place.

What the fuck has Froggy got me looking into? >>


"You. Again? Why don't you just b-b-buy in bulk, ah? You like coming in here or somethin'? Always wasting my t-t-time with small purchases." The question came from the bodega's second-gen AI cashier; a rough simulacrum of the shop's original owner, now dead some 15 years.

"Morning to you too, Bacu. Let me get the waters and two, nah three, yeah three chopped lechon with eggs. Real pork, too. None of that pakshet lab-grown swine you try to pass off to the assholes. Oh yea, extra onions too."

Digital brilliance flashed across the dull copper of Sóse's irises as he paid for his items. The register blared a sour note while the words INSUFFICIENT FUNDS manifested in mid-air as a crimson chyron that scrolled in front of the detective.

<< That ain’t right. Let me check somethi- Oh, that bacon-lipped son of a bitch. He froze my fucking accounts. >>

Digging through his pockets, Sóse produces a handful of colorful datashards that he considers for a moment before setting a pair of chips on the counter. Their edges glowed in alternating lilac and saffron as Bacu scanned the floral motif of their QR codes.

***

Tinted lenses slipped across Sóse’s eyes from zygomatic recesses as he sunk into the plush leather upholstery of the driver’s seat. Massive hands on the steering wheel, he breathed in relief. After a recuperative moment, the engine turned over with a thought from the cybernetic detective.

Ten minutes later I’m coasting along the Palisades Parkway going to town on one of Bacu's sandwiches when a holo-call comes in through Mary’s comm systems.

<< It's MeMe. Shit. >>

I disable the vis-feed before accepting the call.

"MeMe, theyby, sweetheart, I was just going to call you."

"That’s cute but cut the bullshit, hunty, because this is not your momma’s house. I know a growing boy has got to eat and I'm not the only game in town, but you’re treating me like a Flatbush glitchqueen and it’s got me reevaluating our relationship.”

I struggle to choke down the lechon while I wait for the bomb to drop.

“What's this I hear about you doing a job for Froggy Huang?"

<< Best to be honest with MeMe. Never know what they've got tucked away. >>

“It’s a missing persons gig. Real time sensitive. Froggy’s name doesn’t leave as many lips as it used to and I owed him big since that raw deal in Neo-Chinatown. Look, MeMe, I’m headed North out of the city. Froggy knows we’re done once I wrap this up. When I get back, I’ll do your next gig pro-bono.”

MeMe's response hits me at the same time as a notification from Mary’s on-board navigation system informing me of my ETA.

"Tsk. Don’t make it a habit of disappointing me or deals won’t be the only things raw around here. See you later, soldier-boy.”

<< ETA to KanienTek Megahab is approximately 2 hours. >>
<< Thanks, Mary. Take over for me, will ya? I’ve got a lot to think about. >>

The roar of radioactive static crackled through the cockpit’s sound system; a layer of audio snow that clung to Morgan’s distorted trumpet. Turtle’s hull rumbled in the aftermath of the 240mm rail-cannon’s blast. Cavitations abraded infinitesimal motes of emerald effulgence from the 200kg neobohrium shell with each causal collapse. These motes, suspended in segmentations of spacetime, slowly drifted apart from meandering quantum trajectories. Their size and shape warped in dissociative division, tightly knit together by extranoospheric mandelbrot sets.

Layers of high-density muons jostled one another in the turbulent wake of the neobohrium shell to reseal the gap in Turtle’s defensive barrier. The significant strain of incomprehensible mass placed on the bulwark of subatomic particles condensed the dome by a quarter. Through the cataclysmic conditions of the battleground, Turtle’s multiband sensor array tracked the neobohrium shell via the tachyonic discharge of the S-particles housed in its warhead. Beyond the reach of the Scranton reality anchors, anomalous transtemporal phenomenon momentarily manifested in a multitude of n-dimensional horrors from outside spacetime. Abstract forms twisted and writhed under the annihilatory yoke created by the volatile interaction between the amalgam of uprooted ideospheric energies, the mass-accelerated anti-matter, and the mass-accelerated fusion missiles that struck the multiversal ceiling of the toroidal arena.

Despite the near relativistic speeds of the carnage, the iridescent lens of the warp bubble that contained Turtle served as a decelerative filter for its visual feed. Between descending bands of antimemetic interference, the lambent monitors surrounding Sóse relayed an oneiric battlefield devastated beyond measure. The grotesque image of a maladroit brute, nearly 100m tall and vaguely humanoid, dominated the feed while the malformed tendrils of its limbs thrashed about in a frenzy. Taut ebony flesh, made of corrupted and condensed dreamstuff, surrounded an enormous and prismatic briolette embedded in the center of the scaled stump of its head. The gem gleamed with eldritch enmity for a series of femtoseconds that stretched into eternity before total phase-space sub-Planck cessation as the 240mm warhead struck the gnarled ceiling immediately after Ivplec’s fusillade.

Monochromatic emissions of anti-matter and S-particles spread out from the point of impact at transluminal speeds. The toroid’s interior drained to grayscale in a series of hyperspeed pulses. Like cracks in a pane of glass, reality fractured. Complete causal collapse beyond Turtle’s warp bubble prompted a ZK-Class event alarm, alerting Sóse to the potential end of reality. The cybernetic operative considered the black-and-white strobe of existence outside his protective field.

No shit.

A recursive loop of exponentially multiplying intraversal wormholes manifest with each monochrome pulse. The portals, glutted on the incalculable power of noospheric substrata, fragments of the unreal and S-Particle reactions, tore through the omniversal plenum.

We either go through the looking glass or wait for the warp bubble to pop. Might as well roll the dice.

Turtle extricated its manipulators from the ravaged arena as the lenses of its hard light projector contracted. A series of photokinetic platforms manifest along the interior rim of the warp bubble. The experimental metals of its massive chassis groaned dully with each leg’s movement. The thrum of the zero-point reactor that powered the multiped tank reached a fever pitch. With one final step they were through the nearest wormhole.
Varied tones of Turtle's multiple systems synchronized; a resonant murmur of rumbles and whirrs beneath Morgan and company's masterful tune. The pleasant harmonization was dissolved by the dissonant blare of tocsins as gravitic and subspace sensors registered hazardous amounts of activity that spiked continuously with each cycle of mass-accelerated matter through the iridescent spheres. Through Owl's visual feed, Sóse watched on as images of holographic dreamstuff were uprooted from the toroid in the wake of the dark matter and fusion reaction missiles. A jagged fissure spread just beyond the muon barrier's perimeter; across the ruptured skein of ideospheric matter bled horrendous unreality.

Within the aberrant abyss roiled amorphous abominations that surpassed the ultramundane. Their baneful presence, drawn like bacteria to a wound, pierced the chasm with pseudometric mouths of squamous flesh. Puckered lips gleamed with atramentous toxicants. Teeth, rotted with protonic decay, gnawed at the edge of existence. Thick bands of interference cut across the visual feed as memetic firewalls battled against endless cognitohazards.

Unexpectedly, a ray of golden light radiated from the xenoform's skull and projected a countdown against the barrier high above that separated them from the Nexus observers. Viridian arcs pulsed along the 17' barrel of Turtle's rail-cannon as the emerald-swathed cybernetic operative bio-force into its weapons systems.

13.509645072952

Comic sans? That's worse than all those fuckin' mouths.

Turtle, fire up the Scrantons.


The massive zero-point reactor that powered Turtle audibly warbled in response to the command. Humes rippled outwards from the multiped tank in phase waves of visual distortion that reinforced Sóse's baseline reality. The existential wound beyond the muon barrier's limits sutured into a tremulous cicatrix.

5.107508634194

Meanwhile, the viridian arcs of bio-force condensed into a scintillating nimbus around the 200kg neobohrium shell. Columns of crimson smoke rose towards the toroid's ceiling when a partition, 8m across, yawned open in anticipation of the upcoming blast. Owl's impulse thrusters struggled against the swelling gravitic forces as it took advantage of the opening to enter the divided muon dome and descend to the anchoring bay beneath Turtle's central platform.

0.000000100000

Using the psycho-thaumic coordinates relayed to Owl by the xenoform in conjunction with its multiband sensor array, Turtle's advanced aiming system kept track of the dark matter salvo as it traveled from sphere to sphere, mass exponentially increased with each recurrence. Brawny cybernetic digits gripped the control stick. A bead of synthetic sweat trickled like molasses down Sóse's broad cheek. The reticle designating his target settled onto the digital overlay of luminal cubes.

0.000000000000

In an emerald flash of apocalyptic magnitudes, the 200kg neobohrium shell propelled to .50c in a coruscating corona. The anti-matter/S-particle warhead created causal cavitation along its sub-relativistic trajectory towards its terminus; the salvo of fusion reaction missiles.
Coils of dense, red-tinged smoke unfurled across the battlefield: extensions of the aeriform mantle that unrelentingly billowed and writhed around Turtle’s massive chassis. Sóse observed the xenoform's anthropoidal snout bob in comprehension to his wideband communique through obscurant tendrils that turbulently twisted against the innermost layer of high-density muons. Kaleidoscopic particles of technopolymer and copper nanowire shimmered within the drone and cybernetic operative's shared field of vision until visibility dropped to zero.

Man that's one funny lookin' gorilla.

The avian simulacrum of Owl’s sunken eyes flushed abnormally bright with digital brilliance as it interpreted the psycho-thaumic data presented as glyphs seared upon a helical representation of the arena. Coordinates were instantly relayed while threat-zones were tagged in Sóse and Turtle's advanced targeting systems.

Millions of permutations cycled through the cybernetic operative’s mind as he relayed another series of orders. Monitors surrounding the gunner’s seat partially withdrew, only to be replaced with the flickering materialization of an augmented-reality recreation of the arena. The xenoform’s momentary reflection coincided with the full band’s raucous strains supporting Morgan’s trumpet playing. In an instant, gravitic sensors along Turtle’s multiband array flagged increasing activity. As a result of the xenoform’s barrage, the luminal simulation of the battleground filled with hundreds of erratic motes that shifted between various shades of red while enhanced targeting algorithms calculated their position.

Vantablack contours of Owl’s predatory form streaked along the toroid’s edge as the drone shed its refractive electromagnetic field. Its chassis thrummed with the output of its impulse thrusters. Within three revolutions of deftly avoiding missiles of the xenoform’s fusion-reaction volley, Owl’s velocity reached Mach 600. Mechanical wings spread wide and cast an ominous shadow upon the battlefield. Interlinked electromagnetic launchers along both wings are activated. The frangible diffusion matrixes of ten dozen liquid crystal elastomer beads catalyzed upon being simultaneously launched. The spin-stabilized projectiles (each filled with pentaerythritol tetranitrate and a gram of antimatter) of Owl’s aerial strafe zoomed towards the iridescent spheres scattered across the arena.

Meanwhile, through the now crimson smokescreen arose the shrill whirr of fourteen 120mm barrels that whirled to life. Trypophobic apertures blink across the 20m wide ablative muon barrier as fusillades of superheated violet plasma bolts strike the liquid crystal elastomer beads at 250,000 m/s before they penetrate the iridescent spheres. Trails of obscurant smoke, caught in the wake of the plasma bolts, crept beyond the barrier’s extremity. The apocalyptic energy generated by the collision would eject 120g of highly unstable antimatter. These particles would tunnel directly into the sphere via quantum effects and become subject to their mass-accelerating factor.

Spirals of cascading dreamstuff, ripped from the toroid, followed Owl as it silently hovered above the muon field. A console rose from the floor panels in front of the gunner’s seat within Turtle’s cockpit. Sóse gripped the control stick in one massive hand. A patina of viridescent light suffused the dark, aramid-weave fabric of the cybernetic operative’s turtleneck. Gravitic readings steadily climbed while the lenses of the hard light projector’s geodesic dome contort. The image of the winking emoji crumbled into a scrolling series of mathematical and chemical equations that scrolled across the crimson smokescreen. These equations persisted for several seconds then shifted to a sprawling fractal of screaming skulls in the shape of a mushroom cloud. This secondary depiction coincided with a sinister rumble of Turtle’s main cannon priming.

Odds are pretty high we wipe out everything. Now that’s some high-stakes entertainment.

The sigh of exasperation from Owl echoed through Sóse’s digital mindscape as the effulgent emerald energy surged through his hand and into Turtle’s weapons systems. Within the murk, the digits of the multi-pedal Tank/Walker hybrid’s manipulators exerted 100,000 tons of force upon the disc of the toroid. Memetic fallout rippled through the noosphere as Turtle anchored itself to the arena.
The hiss of pressurized oxygen. The lingering scent of blood and sweat. The glow of the monitors. Nostalgia threatened to drown Sóse in the enclosed cockpit when a chyron flashed across his field of vision. Turtle’s broadband electronic countermeasures picked up an incoming acoustic signal and sourced it back to the arena’s other occupant. The cybernetic operative screened the signal through hundreds of cycles of memetic kill-agents. Thoroughly satisfied, he accessed the message. The soft, low chime of the xenoform’s exoskeleton was an odd accompaniment to the warmth of Morgan’s trumpet as it broke out over the nimble patterns of Higgins’ drumming.

"Enough of their games. Let's forge our own path home.”

Turtle, any ideas on how to respond? We got a way to Close Encounters this?

Meanwhile Owl’s distinctive impulse thrusters silently accelerated its concealed form to Mach 6 while collapsing wavefronts of the resultant shockwaves. The covert aerial drone’s flight path traveled along the toroid’s curved walls as its EM field interpreter analyzed the unique structure of the battlefield. Thoughtforms, chromatic and crystallized, fluctuate underneath the scrutiny of Owl’s sophisticated instrumentation. The aspirations of children watching satellites streak across the night sky from conapt balconies. The determination of a blind Sub-Saharan woman adrift in an endless void. The despair of a husband seeing a gun held to his wife’s head as he chokes to death on his own blood.

This measurement of millions across the noosphere is suddenly thrown off when the bipedal xenoform’s talons plunged into the battlefield. The interference created by the memetic backlash formed a Hermitian matrix, visualized as a coruscating sphere of ideospheric energy to Owl’s EM field interpreter. The drone addressed Sóse in its profound and reserved cadence a moment after the operative posed his question to Turtle.

Analysis complete, Operative Hihnon. Beginning report.

Toroidal structure consists of unusually high levels of concentrated ideospheric energy. Memetic backlash between toroid and xenoform’s unique emission field detected.

Scans of examined xenomatter report a stibium-based lifeform with markers of Hume manipulation analogous to Scranton anchors or the null-effect of Operative Hihnon’s bio-force.

Calculations on prolonged exposure of ideospheric matter to Humes determine calcification of eigenvalues leading to an XK-Class event with 99.6% certainty.

Findings suggest immediate response. Shall I continue to observe and report my findings accordingly?


Sóse assents and begins to digest Owl’s report when Turtle’s drawl provides him with another morsel of information.

Think that thing can pick up wideband, Soz?

At the speed of hyper-accelerated thought, Sóse issues a series of commands; their effects immediately evident as several of Turtle’s systems engage. The majority of the monitors surrounding the cybernetic operative shift to relay the hexapedal tank’s visual feed. Through the glow of the screen, Sóse observed an array of tessellated neon cubes expand above a pale yellow murk that churned and crept along the battlefield. Reticles along Turtle’s many surveillance hubs dilate and contract, expanding Sóse’s field of vision while zeroing in on the xenoform that stood beneath a tetrad of malachite spheres. The subspace sensors of Turtle’s multiband array register n-dimensional activity, outlining the spheres in a white hot glow as a phantasmagoric forest of twisted trees, heavy boughs adorned with psychedelically plumaged birds.

Second message received and screened. Commencing playback.

"Let's get ready to RUMBLE!"

Interesting turn of events. Ping the ugly gonk back. Tell him the following: You set it up. I’ll knock it down.

Meanwhile, vents across Turtle’s central platform slid open and emitted thick plumes of obscurant smoke. The red-tinged fumes contained micropulverized graphite, copper nanowires, and technopolymer-coated microbeads. The smokescreen visually obscured the tank and prevented electromagnetic tracking. Simultaneously, the high-pitched whir of Turtle’s muon generator gave a nostalgic tug on the cybernetic operative’s heartstrings. Layer after layer of high-density muons surrounded the tank in a dome, separated by the breadth of Planck’s length. Lastly, the filmy kinetic lenses along the geodesic dome of Turtle’s hard light projector transitioned into translucent panels. A diode within the dome, synchronized with Sóse’s neural weave, transmitted a luminal lattice through the lenses that manifested as a winking emoji cast on the red-tinged smokescreen.
This thread is for the fight between Circ and I for the Nexus finals.
Bloop went the thick drop of condensation, shed from the leaky pipes suspended from the ceiling, against the scuffed linoleum of the corridor. The sound punctuated Sóse’s final moment in that fever dream of a conjoined setting. The detective watched on, tomahawk at the ready, for an opening to strike Tom down, when his surroundings shifted. A digital flood drilled through Sóse’s awareness as his augments simultaneously returned. Cybernetic consternation accompanied luminous bands of glimmering gold and pulsating purple that obscured most of the arena’s inhabitants from Sóse’s vision save for the greatest and most recent source of suffering in the detective’s life: Kynion.

Sóse barely acknowledged the alien presence contained within the scintillating halo with him as the woven roots of the Nexus faded away beneath them. He glared at Kynion with palpable contempt during his delicate descent into the depths beneath the Nexus. The cybernetic detective audibly scoffed when his eldritch host droned on about gods and peers.

Pfft, Glowboy’s self-aggrandizin’ megalomania is off the charts.

His feet reached interdimensional substrata. Sóse turned to survey his latest and, supposedly, greatest arena when his copper gaze abruptly stopped. The cybernetic detective stood, in stunned silence, before an imposing comrade he’d last seen 20 years ago. Sóse took a step forward when he caught a glimpse of his reflection in one of Turtle’s massive and polished legs. The mirror image that returned his glance was yet another facet of Sóse’s life this spectacle of a tournament had dredged from his memory banks.

Faint red LEDs twinkled on the set of HEX tech-gogs fastened around his forehead by a band of vitreous technopolymer. The dark aramid-weave fabric of a turtleneck clung to Sóse’s brawny torso and arms beneath his deflexion and spider-silk chest rig. A carbon-fiber battle belt secured black, durable, duoweave tacticloth and mycofiber cargo pants to his frame. The pants were tucked into a pair of gunmetal, knee high ultralight ceramic-layered combat exo-jacks. Tawiskaron was at his right hip, its speed-draw holster buckled to the belt, along with a magazine pouch and Sóse’s folded tomahawk, Atóken. The notched head of his war club, Kanàkare, grazed his lower back from the aramid-weave loop clipped to Sóse’s chest rig. His left hand held Karáhkwa’s grip. The weight of its 40” barrel, lined with ominous dials and superconducting magnets, comfortably rested against his shoulder, its muzzle pointed behind him.

Turtle, y’giant fuck! What are you doin’ here?

The hulking Tank/Walker hybrid canted its great central platform in a brief nod while its multiple reticles focused on the cyborg. Turtle’s familiar drawl, a virtual pastiche of the Kanienʼkehá꞉ka accent, filtered into Sóse’s mind.

Skennen, Soz! Nova to see you! Where’s here? Navigational telematics are all over the place.

Some assho-.

Greetings, Operative Hihnon. What have you gotten yourself into now?

The cybernetic detective began to respond when a third party joined the conversation. The texture of the new voice was steel-edged yet soft; almost unbearably wise in its rich, feminine timbre. Sóse stepped back and squinted in search of tell-tale perturbations. His gaze swept across the arena, noting a presence at the far end of the silent battlefield, then returned to the arachnoid mecha before him. An atramentous, avian silhouette appeared, perched atop Turtle’s colossal rail-cannon when Sóse’s eyes passed over the main gun. Owl stared silently at the cyborg, its vantablack exterior almost devouring the soft lighting that surrounded it. Another instant and it was gone from his sight.

Hey, Tsistí. We’ll catch up later. For now I’ll need a covert analysis of this place. I want to know everything.

Affirmative. Good to be back, Operative.

With a short jump, Sóse landed on top of Turtle’s central platform near its abdomen. Atop his 20’ platform, he turned his attention towards Kynion high above. Sóse’s voice carried across the arena as he yelled, accent set to 11.

”Hey, Glowboy! Yeah, the gonk with the blue hair! Ya got some real noive to pull me off’a case! Ya got even more noive to remind me of it by sendin’ me to a Mickey Mouse knockoff of my office! When I get outta here I’m gonna rip yer head off!”

During Sóse’s speech, segments of Turtle’s abdomen separated to allow the cybernetic operative access to its cockpit. He entered the spacious cabin, an array of monitors coming to life with his presence. Sóse settled into the gunner’s chair, securing Karáhkwa in a rack above a temperfoam bench along the way. A series of small monitors descended from the ceiling around the cyborg while he wirelessly patched himself into Turtle’s systems.

Let’s get some tunes going. What’d we do last time? Holiday? Of course, it was Owl’s pick. How ‘bout some Morgan? Somethin’ catchy.

The upbeat drums of Lee Morgan’s The Mercenary began to rattle through the cockpit. Turtle and Sóse fully synchronized as Owl imperceptibly launched off its perch.
OVERVIEW


This roleplay is oriented around an arcology known as the Nine Suns Tower, located in an alternate version of New York City. The overall feel we’re aiming for is an over-the-top action film with equal parts grit and camp, with an emphasis on cyberpunk aesthetics and vibe. While below is a list of Locations, Factions and possible Character Augmentations, you may submit your own or expand upon what is presented; however, all should involve entities that will be interacting within the Nine Suns Tower’s narrative.

Welcome to... Big Trouble in Neo-Chinatown!


2030: The Big Apple has rot to the core. 22 years after the First Contact War, New York City has yet to recover. Long gone are the days of the ball drop in Times Square or enjoying a glizzy at Coney Island. The luminous coastal sprawl has been condensed to a towering nexus of LED-brilliance; maglev transit systems and ten-lane skyways snake through miles of kenopsic cityscape.

Nine Suns Tower is a 200+story monstrosity built over the former Citi-Stadium and its surrounding neighborhoods. Meant as a replacement for the destroyed Chinatowns in Manhattan and Queens, Nine Suns Tower was conceived as one of several arcologies meant to address the irreparable damage done to NYC's boroughs following the First Contact War and its fallout; economic collapse; the rapid national privatization of public services; and remnant xenoforms that still roam the United States decades after the Sahara Incident. Desperate for financiers, a bidding war began to see the SKYRISE INITIATIVE realized. The result being much of the Nine Suns Tower's funding coming from the Ghost Shadows Triad through various shell companies and front organizations.

Four years after officially opening its doors, the Nine Suns Tower is a hotbed for criminal activity. Due to the insular nature of the arcology, tight-knit communities have developed across each Terrace (five story housing blocks). Overpopulation and mass unemployment following the diaspora of the American Interior coupled with volatile reactionary elements have seen living conditions plummet within the lower Terraces. Meanwhile the upper Terraces retain the splendor of the tower’s original design and host thriving criminal economies.

The Hook


Every single subnet in the Nine Suns Tower buzzed with the news: a 黑人社会 (Black Society) Comac VTOL had just landed on the penthouse’s cantilever helipad. Rumors swirled for weeks that a 草鞋 (Straw Sandal) from the Mainland would be sent following months of bloody Terrace wars between the Ghost Shadows and the Yinglong.

This news has reached the NYDD through a series of intercepted transmissions. With only days to scrape together an operation, the Department has assigned one of their top task forces to the case. Their goal? To move in on the Nine Suns Tower and arrest the Ghost Shadows leadership during their meeting with the overseas emissary (with the seizure of their assets an added bonus for the NYDD's coffers).

Nine Suns Tower

A marvel of design, the Nine Suns Tower is a sino-wonderland that dominates the Flushing Bay in Queens. When approaching via Inter-Arc train the mind is dazzled by its exterior; a postmodernist amalgamation of a resplendent pagoda and the latest in bionic architecture. A photovoltaic layer of silicon-based solar cells gives the tower an eerie glow at night that’s accentuated by neon hanzi along its utility decks, cleverly disguised as the pagoda’s extended eaves that separate each Terrace. This solar energy provides power for much of the arcology’s infrastructure. Water is taken from the nearby bay, cleansed and desalinated through a unique polypyrrole mesh to meet the strain placed on an aging public works system. Several vertical turbines are designed into the penthouse atrium as a secondary energy source.

The interior of each Terrace is designed around verdant central courtyards where sunlight is channeled through transparent alumina columns running the length of the arcology. The courtyards originally served as a public square where denizens of the Terrace could congregate freely while also providing access to health-care facilities and other essential services. While this holds true for the upper Terraces, where life is a high-tech utopia filled with designer narcotics, endless diversion and red light districts; the lower Terraces are a different matter entirely.

These Terraces can be best defined by the pungent fragrance of densely packed bodies and old cooking oil suspended in humidity bordering oppressive; darkened hallways illuminated with luminescent graffiti; and the ubiquitous presence of MÜD: a powerful psychoactive that is most commonly sold in glimmering orange tablets.

Factions

☰ Ghost Shadows - Following the RICO crackdowns on organized crime in NYC during the 90s, the Ghost Shadows leadership went underground, waiting until they could return to prominence. During this time they were formally inducted into the Triad through the Wo Group after several high-profile massacres that were pinned on the competing 14K Group. Illegal gambling, prostitution, human trafficking and murder for hire are the pillars of their criminal empire while also being majority shareholders in prominent area property developers and transportation multinationals through front organizations.

☰ The Yinglong - A confederation formed by a variety of tongs and gangs across the lower 20th Terraces. Their illicit activities run the gamut from illicit data havens to old-fashioned extortion. While having no true leadership, the strongest voices in the organization would be the 荆棘 (Thorns), the 8th Terrace Tong and the 红色公会 (Red Guild).

☰ Holy Knights of Terra - An unclassified anti-alien hate organization based in the old subway system, the Honorable Knights of Terra try to influence politics to keep NYC free from any deviations in humanity and, albeit less openly, engage in more direct means of combating what they view as an alien infestation of their planet.

☰ Discorporate Productions - By far the largest for-profit organization on the planet, with a net worth measured in the trillions, this corporation is on the fast-track to owning much of the western world. Apollo Amon is Discorporate’s shady CEO.

☰ New York Defense Division - Once the city’s primary law enforcement agency, the NYDD (formerly the NYPD) has seen itself consolidated into one precinct following over a decade of disbandment after the FCW. Now a quasi-nationalized police force suffering from low recruitment numbers and high mortality rates, the NYDD may be on the chopping block as more corporate entities begin to fill their role as “peacekeepers”. Dwindling budgets see the NYDD engage in civil asset forfeiture to stay afloat.

☰ Tribe:Barrio - The Tribe are at the forefront of street crime in a Post-Contact world. With an elevated hood mentatily, their members are notorious for utilizing cybernetic and genetic enhancements to mimic the beneficial traits of apex species. With the mindset of survival of the fittest and a power vacuum following the FCW, the Tribe have proliferated and are your go-to for a good time outside the arcologies.

SPECIFICS

☰ Technology - In the aftermath of the First Contact War and with help from The Red Technocracy, Earth underwent leaps and bounds in the advancement of technology, with teleportation, space travel, energy barriers, and antimatter missiles all augmenting global arsenals. While these high-end utilities are not available to the public, society still benefits in the forms of pollution-free energy, limited space tourism, and an almost unlimited assortment of body augmentations—all compliments of the mega corporations and cartels that effectively run modern Earth’s society.

☰ Magic - On Earth, real magic, historically, is incredibly rare and almost always stems from mortals forming contracts with spiritual beings, such as demons, in order to obtain power; seldom is this to their ultimate benefit. However, recent interaction with alien species have reinvigorated research into this area and, as a consequence, the line between magic and technology considerably blurs with respect to psionics research and the application of bioforce.

☰ Bioforce - This fundamental force has been known under many names throughout human history. The Ancient Greeks knew it as aether; the alchemists as quintessence; the Chinese harnessed it as qi; while Polynesian cultures conceptualized it as mana. Bioforce is the spiritual energy that permeates the universe, fostering life in its myriad forms. Practitioners usually begin by harnessing their own personal pools of bioforce through rigorous training of their mind, soul or body.

CHARACTERS


☰ Guidelines

» The character sheet is intended as a guide and is not a mandatory format.
» Characters must have a corresponding aesthetic to or, if not, explanation for being in the Nine Suns Tower or NYC.
» You aren't required to select from the Factions list.
» You are welcome to create your own faction, or even location from which your character hails as long as it fits the established lore.
» While characters may have powers, they cannot be game breaking, limitless, nor elevate the character beyond the setting.

☰ C | I | M | P | T

Characters in this setting should not be omnipotent, omniscient, nor omnipresent, so we enforce a scale where the more of one type of power a character possesses the less they have of another. Thus, along five manifestations of power (clout, intellect, magic, physical, and technological) scaled from 0, indicative of an average person, to 5, indicative of a superhuman, we allow the allocation of 5 points for player characters, with no ability surpassing 3 without GM approval.

As an example, someone with a great deal of money (i.e.: clout) might buy an advanced machine, but they won't necessarily know how to use it: such is true of Apollo Amon, the CEO of Discorporate Productions; he is reasonably smart but also the richest and most well-connected individual on the planet, thus he would rate a clout of 5 and an intellect of 2.

☰ SHEET

Name
> real name, nicknames, or call-signs.

Physical Description
> gender, age, height, weight, coloration, tattoos, markings, clothes, items typically in their possession; essentially anything another person would notice when they see your character.

Purpose
> trade skills, political alliances, personal associations or overall reason for being involved in the story.

History
> a brief rundown of your character’s background at the very least.

Out of the Ordinary
> # C | # I | # M | # P | # T
> skills, powers, abilities, pull, wealth, education, augmentations, and anything else the character can do or possesses that sets them apart from the average human.
*Olca’s handwriting has regained its full flair. In the margin above the entry the following notation is circled.* Calypso's sister/Crown's End. Who best to investigate?

2 Pharast

Finally, I feel like my old self again. It’s been too long.

Good thing, too. Last night I was attacked in my sleep after a long day spent curing diseases and covering ground. By what? A saber-toothed tiger the length of a sailboat with fangs the length of my forearm. This mithral shirt kept my innards intact but the bruises are phenomenal.

In return for saving my life, I gathered its hide, claws and fangs and distributed them amongst the group with my share of the claws going towards Calypso for hexing the carnivore in the first place.

During our watch she came to me with a request: should she die, would I investigate what happened to her sister in Crown’s End. I have given my word I would look into the affair.

We’ve made camp along the river tonight. Whiskers has made friends with a young hippo that seems adamant to follow him. I am wary of the river horse’s disposition, but I trust the druid. It’s slowed our pace somewhat, but we’re still making good progress towards Tazion.
O


7 Pharast

The last few days have been quite uneventful. Sasha and I continue her training. I’ve learned some of what has brought her wild heart to the Expanse. It appears her ties to the Mantis are familial in nature and she joined the expedition under duress.

Pierce seems to be capable with the bow himself. Killed a kakapu overnight during his watch. Along with the tiger steaks, we have enough food to last us two months.
O


10 Pharast

This Toilday has been very peculiar and I believe the consequences of our actions may impact more than our journey. I am getting ahead of myself- let me backtrack.

After some hours into our daily ride, Vam and I picked up on a strange pair of tracks that crossed our path leading west. I had my suspicions about the non-human prints and Calypso was quick to confirm them: a troll. Most unsettling was that the tracks were side by side and less than half a day old.

With some assistance from Sasha, we convinced the group it would be best to follow the tracks to their source and deal with the troll before it dealt with us. Pierce, Vam and T.U.M. scouted ahead while we prepared for battle.

Pierce would return shortly with news of what he saw: signs of foul juju with a boar splayed open in a divination ritual.

We reconvened with Vam outside of a second clearing; this one dominated by an overgrown barrow encircled by termite mounds. Standing at the ring’s edge was a massive troll, entrails hanging from a fatal gash along its abdomen.

As we began to position ourselves to best combat the monstrosity, it took note of our presence and charged. Never have I seen something so clearly dead move so quickly. It was upon us in an instant. The troll snapped its jaws at Sasha and severely wounded her.

Vam, Maedra and myself did our best to keep the troll away from the others. After a particularly devastating series of blows from the monk gave the troll pause, I steadied my aim and Chimurenga took its head clean off.

Good thing, too. As we fought, a spindly figure with a wooden mask in the guise of a frog crawled out from the barrow. The man’s frail form was covered in a horde of severed hands that leapt to life at his command and attacked us.

What followed next was a nightmare as Pierce and Sasha ran off into the dark when the figure’s mask sprang to life. The eerie crimson glow of its eyes haunts me yet but I did not give in to my fear.

Emboldened, I dealt with some of the severed hands then fired at the figure as he took flight. The damn wendifa always kept just out of range! Luckily for us, Calypso took to the air after him and the two proceeded to test their mystical might while Zig called down bolt after bolt of lightning until one struck true and the figure crashed to the barrow, still smoking.

The spear and mask are the prized treasures of Amghawe, the legendary Bas’o hero. The necromancer must have had something nefarious planned to require these items. Calypso has taken the mask, while I have claimed Amghawe’s spear. This could be a powerful tool in uniting the Bas’o Zenj with the Freemen.

We reunited with Nkechi and after a short ride came across a hut surrounded by a gruesome camp. I believe it belonged to the slain wendifa, given the chimes made from human rib cages and mwangi skin stretched across a rack.

The others have decided to explore the hut in the morning after Vam discovered there was an alarm spell along its perimeter.That gave me enough time to complete this entry after admiring Amghawe’s spear. Its leaf-shaped blade is razor-sharp and glimmers with inner magic. I was a child the last time I held a spear: this is no crude toy made by Kerubo.

A peculiar Toilday indeed.
O


11 Pharast

Curiosity, and more than a touch of bad luck, has graced us with a strange yet familiar novelty. Within the peculiarly barren hut we found a prisoner of the necromancer. At first Sasha was in complete disbelief as it appeared to be Ned but Calypso, seeing through the illusion, demanded he reveal his true form. The prisoner was another foreigner- this one calls himself Vors and claims to be a wizard whose quest for power brought him to the Mwangi where he was quickly taken advantage of by Jigeke the Exile. It appears the wendifa we killed was the owner of the journal we found in that cave the night of the flash flood weeks ago.

By the stench and sunken eyes, it’s obvious he had been a prisoner for some time. After some deliberation with the others, we released Vors and will grant him safe passage to Tazion where he can find his way back to Kalabuto with the main expedition.

I’m exhausted after clearing gorao for hours and training with Sasha but her skills as an archer have come a long way. Hopefully we can get a few nights of peace.
O


15 Pharast

I dreamt of Oubingakiji last night. Of Kesi and Taji, Saka and Panya. Of Baba…

It was summer. Early morning, when the sky was a rich blue. We sang songs and followed his broad figure along the river’s edge in search of kikwata sap, bushy grey leaves of machungu, and other compounds Baba required in his duties as village mganga.

The jungle melted around me. Suddenly I found myself sitting silently on a straw mat. I was next to Baba while he patiently ground herbs into a pulp. I remember his voice, deep and strong. But his face… Even in dreams, it escapes me.

I awoke this morning feeling inspired and decided to use the alchemist’s kit I purchased back in Kalabuto. My time in the Expanse sees my thoughts drifting back towards home. This is a luxury our movement cannot afford, even if it stirs something deep within me.

We shall be passing the ruins of Liclac in the days to come. Vors has proven knowledgeable in ancient histories and offered his insight on the matter. Nkechi has warned against exploring the razed city. The others seem less concerned.
O
3 Calistril

Little to report in the first days after our departure from Port Freedom. The voyage has been easy going with the druids keeping the winds in our favor. If we're lucky these clear skies will accompany us all the way to Kalabuto.

In the predawn hours our vessel struck something massive that launched our group overboard. Zig and I were swept away in a flash flood as we struggled to keep his boar companion afloat. My memory dims as to what came next in those dark waters.

What I do recall is that hungry rush of air as I woke up along a rocky bank inside some hidden grotto. Slowly more of our expedition splashed to shore; most under their own power.

We explored the cavern and after some minutes discovered an entrance carved into the cave wall. With no other way forward, we opened the peculiar wooden door and entered a softly lit chamber. There was little to the room other than surging aqueducts around a central platform surrounded by four glowing braziers crafted to appear like skulls.

Vam approached the platform and discovered a journal in Polyglot. Calypso took the book from him and told us of its owner Jigeke, and his battle with a "Bewaarder'' as he sought out Amghawe's spear and mask. Every Mwangi with half a stomach full of mbege has called themselves the heir to Amghawe's spirit. They should stick to chasing antelope.

After some further inspection we came upon a second door. Beyond it was a series of twisted corridors filled with horrors beyond my understanding.

The shambling remains of a buccaneer (is this the fortune that awaits me?);
a moving pile of eyes, mouths and shapeless flesh that momentarily devoured Ned (I can't believe I put Ujamaa inside that thing);
both a monstrous treasure chest and jellied cube Vam stumbled headlong into;
a knotted mass of venomous snakes that sprung up from the floor (I should keep an eye out for traps)

The worst came when we heard feeble whimpers off in the darkness. We followed them to their source: the last surviving member of the Golden Fang gang that Ned had intimidated into joining us. Our reunion was short-lived as an enormous shape passed through the wall and cleaved Howard's body in half with a swing of its enormous axe. Within the light of our torches, the figure was revealed to be a half-man, half-bull who nearly filled the corridor with its hulking frame.

This massive foe harried us as we moved from skirmish to skirmish, having appeared before Vam's interaction with the mimic. As relentless as this man-bull was, he was no match for Maedra's ferocity. The boar gored him with every appearance until we vanquished the monster.

Our rewards were many, but none was more satisfying than finding an exit from this underground nightmare. We emerged from behind a waterfall and, to our amazement, regrouped with Sasha, Nkechi and Jabulani. They'd established a camp just outside of the small lagoon near the cave.

Any feelings of celebration ceased when the greedy Riverman, seeing our various trinkets, immediately demanded his "fair share". Lofty demands for someone who managed to wreck a fine vessel. He struck the Vanara in a show of authority before Ned gave him a sapphire in amends. This Riverman is no better than those shit-breathed overseers. If Ujamaa hadn't jammed from all that damn gore I would have ended him that very moment.

I write this now as we rest outside of the maze. If I had a patron, I'd pray to them in hopes the ship isn't too damaged. Even with this setback we can still make it to Kalabuto in good time.
O


4 Calistril

*The top of the page is filled with several mathematical equations beside the rushed sketch of a pulley system and ship. Between the equations and sketches Olca has drawn a simple cartoon of George the Gorilla flexing.*

It's been over a week and sleep is still not easy to come by.

After breaking our fast, we traveled along a shady path for an hour towards the ship.

The Andoran struggled with the blued corpses of his comrades as he waded through the wreckage. We helped him bring them ashore and spent the morning felling trees to build three funeral pyres. The fourth is missing and presumed dead. Tristram is shaken with grief.

The damage done to the Skirmisher was grave. Her prow was aimed skyward. Much of the starboard hull was crushed. The mast was in splinters, the sail in tatters. Below deck, she'd taken on several feet of water. What the fuck happened?

We've done it! Noon came & went but the ship has been righted. We have begun fashioning a mast & pontoon from the tall sipos that surround the Skirmisher.

Some of the group has returned to the cave to explore it further. In this heat I prefer keeping close to the water and finishing this entry. After that, I don't know. Perhaps I'll boil down some bark to tar the mast in place.
O


P.S. I thought my entry for the day was done but the Laughing Jungle is generous with misfortune.

With a day's work done and the sun half-sunk, we were suddenly beset by two monstrous vultures that dove at us from high above. One pinned Zig beneath its leathery foot, talons the length of daggers caked in gore, & almost crushed him. Ujamaa finished off the bird; something Calypso identified as a geier.

Out here we are all prey.

I should think of something to do for Zig (Whiskers?).
O


5 Calistril

This morning Whiskers has convinced some of the others to join him into the undergrowth in search of fruits and mushrooms to bolster our supplies. I suspect he would prefer to spend the day away from camp given yesterday.

George's strength continues to prove invaluable. With him we've raised the new mast and as I write these words, the tar works to hold it steadfast.

There was a brief moment of excitement when Douglas was attacked by large mosquitos after going below deck but the group made quick work of the insects.

Our luck may be changing. Douglas found us a large canvas sail I've turned into a makeshift tent alongside the Skirmisher. We'll need it if I'm right about that storm.
O


P.S. Whiskers returned alone as the storm broke. He came in need of help, having left the others in a clearing with a boar as large as the Skirmisher.

Nothing we can do at the moment but save our strength. We'll begin our search once the storm abates.
O


6 Calistril

*Thick splotches of candle wax cover the page.*

Barely cockcrow and there's news already. Spent the night in the crow's nest to keep an eye out for the others and I was not disappointed.

Calypso arrived late last night, claiming that Ned refused to return with her and she left him to sulk alone when she grew tired of him.

Valtyra's arrival closely followed that of the witch's. She began to quarrel with the monk over the perceived abandoning of Ned. Things continued to escalate & culminated with her being restrained by Vam and some rope.

I thought that was the end of it but she slipped off in the dark in search of the barbarian. Why is beyond me. Had she waited until daybreak she would have been present when Ned crawled into the clearing just minutes ago.

I'll wake the others shortly to discuss our options. Things might be better with the barbarian unconscious.

We've settled on splitting our time between building a dam further upstream & final repairs on the Skirmisher. Much to do after breakfast. I'll finish this later.

*Streaks of dried blood stain the rest of the entry.*

The Riverman knows there is no mine. I should never have made a bargain with the scoundrel. What's done is done.

Must learn what happened the night of the shipwreck.

I owe Vam & Whiskers much; that tsvina hits, and smells, like a rhino
O


7 Calistril

In an effort to ease tensions, Whiskers has invited me to accompany him back into the jungle. He wishes to collect some rubber he'd found in a clearing while he had been out scouting for Valtyra the previous morning. We'll head out after finishing the dam.

Spoke to Sasha about the Rivermen while working on the dam site. She was tight-lipped about their dealings with the Red Mantis.

We're heading out soon. I'll see if I can get Tristram to tag along and answer some questions.
O


*Between the entries is a page covered in occult symbols.*

8 Calistril

This jungle is cursed.

Yesterday was a nightmare. Even now on the Skirmisher, beneath a beating sun, I can't shake the feeling something worse is coming.

The journey to the clearing proved difficult for some of the group, so we slowed our pace. This gave me plenty of time to probe Tristram for information. The Andoran is still mourning his comrades but from what he recalls, it was the flash floods that dashed the ship to shore.

We silently finished our trek & arrived at the clearing some hours later. It was immediately apparent why Whiskers did not wish to be alone there; the air felt heavy with an evil presence.

The glade was dominated by an enormous rock covered in strange symbols I took some time to transcribe. After this, I investigated the broken stumps that surrounded the boulder. Something about those hollowed out trunks, filled with nail marks unlocked a memory from my childhood: Auntie Ipaishe told us of children the Bekyar would sacrifice by stuffing them in trunks for demons to come for in the night.

We took our torches & set the glade alight in an attempt to cleanse the place of evil. What we did instead was cause Ned to be possessed by what we assume was the spirit of Howard, whose head the barbarian continued to tote around. Tristram & Vam worked together to knock Ned unconscious while I destroyed Howard's skull with a well-placed shot.

This was the least of our troubles as Calypso summoned horses & we fled. The darkness of the jungle came alive & gave chase. We rode for hours, nearly losing Tristram during a great fall after traipsing past the enormous boar Zig had tried to befriend.

I was almost left behind at the very end when high above in the canopy, I noticed pale figures in Chelish livery as they stalked us.

If it had not been for Nkechi we would have ridden headlong into a spike trap the pursuing darkness had directed us towards.

We returned to camp, subdued by the experience. Nkechi has offered assistance with my temper: perhaps the hermit has a point.

Calypso has renegotiated terms with the Riverman. The witch is shrewd and has a mind for coin.

With the Skirmisher back in the rising waters of the tributary, we are prepared to continue our voyage. Whiskers has predicted heavy rains tomorrow night.

Nothing left to do but wait.
O


P.S. This jungle is very fucking cursed.

Yesterday continued smoothly after the Skirmisher had settled into the water. Sunset loomed after spending some hours training with Sasha, so I went in search of Nkechi for my lesson. Curious of the hermit's ways, Vam accompanied me and together we participated in Nkechi's ritual to show us Gozreh's will. I'll be damned if that old man didn't make the river slow for a moment.

Nkechi, moved by his connection with Gozreh, performed an augury that warned us of an incoming attack that night.

We prepared for the worst and were woefully unsuccessful.

A fog had settled over our camp with the setting of the sun and persisted until after the attack.

It all began with what I thought was a child at the time. It stepped out of the mist on to the upper deck just as I exited the cabin. Blue-gray flesh hung slack from its partially exposed skeleton. It reached out for me and I fired my guns. What ensued was mayhem obscured by mist.

Through the murk I could hear the others fighting and the occasional flash of Ujamaa brought the others to me. We were able to push the children back into the night through a unified effort, but not before one of them laid its claws upon me.

Its touch... did something to me. All these blankets and I still can’t get warm.

Things could have been much worse; apparently those things could take over the minds of simple beasts like Maedra and Jabulani.

We’ve decided to return to the rock when the sun rises.
O


9 Calistril

The mist children are dead and Zura's monolith has been destroyed. One less evil in the world.

We are making final preparations for our departure tonight. I've returned from the dam site with Vam. We plan on using some more of my black powder reserves to destroy the dam and ride the surge back on to the Korir proper.

What a sight that will be. I think I'll take a nap before tonight. I could use the rest.

*Olca's normally bold script is replaced with light, shaky lettering.*

Woke up. Head swimming. Body covered in bruises. Peel boots off and head above deck. Got to help.
O


10 Calistril

At first light Nkechi took me aside. He chanted & channeled soft blue light from out his hands & through my body. I could feel the swelling from my bruises subside immediately.

I hear Douglas stirring. It appears Nkechi was able to cure him as well.

Within a few days I should recover completely from my illness. But that diminished sensation…Nkechi says that shall remain until we can reach Kalabuto and find aid from a temple.

Here comes Whiskers now. After half a month in his company I think I'm starting to recognize when he's smiling. What is he up to?
O


13 Calistril

Vam is dead. He fought bravely, and he is still dead.

At this moment his remains are wrapped in the bedroll I bought in Eleder at the start of this expedition.

I watched it happen. I did everything I could, and he is still dead.

A chance encounter with some Zenj fishermen led us to a village a half-day's walk from the anchored Skirmisher. All talks of trade were brushed away as bowls of food were passed around. The strange combination of spiced peanut stew, wild tobacco and the nearby midden heap touched me deeply. For a brief moment, I recalled my childhood in Oubingakiji while we sat around the fire and ate.

Then came the truth from the lips of a squat nganga with a shock of gray hair as we settled in to sleep. The village was plagued nightly by terrifying apebears. The nganga claimed it was a curse and asked us to lift it. We agreed and made our first mistake: we separated.

The only solace I can find in Vam's death is saving that village from chemosits. With these tokens from the apebears, I shall never forget what happened.

The village nganga gave us a map and the shrunken head of a monkey. TUM is not pleased with the witch's new fetish.

A group of the villagers have joined us temporarily as rowers. Kalabuto is a week away.

Our sense of urgency has increased. Beyond the expectations of the Red Mantis, Nkechi's magic can only preserve Vam for so long before resurrection is no longer an option.

I have heard tales of others being brought back from death. Now I am entering a pact with the others to ensure none of us knows death too long.

Whiskers has made friends with an enormous bat. What's next?
O


15 Calistril

Today marks a great victory for the Freemen: the foul-breathed slaver Leadlegs has been slain!

After two days of double-shifts we'd made excellent progress despite the fog. The Lake of Vanished Armies lives up to its name. We can barely see more than twenty feet ahead of the prow.

Heavy winds and steady rains were our only company until midday when we espied another ship through the thinning mist. I recognized those colors immediately.

The battle was a blur of bodies and blood, steel and smoke, all atop the Lake's churning waters. Vam's death has proven a powerful motivator. We fell into formation naturally, with Ned, Maedra and the Riverman holding the frontline as Sasha, Tristram, Valtyra, and Whiskers held the flanks. I took to the rigging and rained volley after volley upon the Shackles.

After the battle we were reunited with Ras, the golden lizard man from the night of Umagro's death. He had been taken prisoner after the ship he'd attached himself to was attacked by Leadlegs.

Ned has taken his armor. The Riverman has taken the ship to settle all debts. I've taken the Captain's colors, as well as his magical cloak. With it I feel somewhat restored.

Apparently one of his crewmen was a Pathfinder. This trinket should prove most invaluable to me.

Tonight the captain's quarters of the Skirmisher are my own. I find the privacy the cabin affords strange, but I was able to finish this entry in peace.

I wonder, what shall Kalabuto hold for us? With our delays, have the Mantis abandoned us? I shall have to think hard on how best to make up for lost time.
O


20 Calistril

We shall be arriving at Kalabuto tomorrow. As such, Calypso called a meeting with the others to discuss how best to use our time. This came after she pulled me aside the night before to warn me of Kalabuto’s social conditions. I told her I am well aware of the Chelish stranglehold on the city but will do my best to control my temper while there. The others? That is another matter entirely.

Other than that, there is nothing to report other than nearly watching Ned be devoured by an enormous undead shark. Given what we've faced these past weeks, a shark attack on a cursed lake seems routine.

What has this journey done to me?

I'll be saddened to leave the Skirmisher; she's a fine vessel to get us here after the Hell we've been through. May the wind forever be at Tristram's sails. I'll send word to Eleder through our contact of our arrival and suggest further strengthening the Freemen's allegiances with the Eagle Knights.
O


*Olca’s handwriting has regained some of its flair.*

22 Calistril

Our first night in Kalabuto was an eventful one.

We arrived late yesterday morning after a final push by the rowers, the sweet tang of pineapple on the wind. What we thought was an overgrown hilltop surrounded by patches of swaying date palms revealed itself to be the ancient city as we grew closer.

Even the dingy plank and mortar establishments along the riverbank were a sight for sore eyes.

After some minor purchases and watching a treacherous child (and possible informant) be tormented, we took Vam’s remains and made our way to the local priest; a mutengesi by the name of Batulu, dressed in Chelish finery.

The trials of the past weeks (and Calypso’s warning) have prepared me well to swallow my anger when faced with matters of grave importance. Following brief negotiations, we paid the cleric of Abadar his coin, and Vam was resurrected. I am to return today for my partial restoration.

The Vanara was surprised at using our sparse resources on him. We informed him of our concord then made our way to Cheiton’s tavern, the Shrunken Head. Inside, Zenj women danced atop tables to a raucous group of sailors, workers and adventurers.

We’d just settled in to drinks at the bar when a man in crimson armor like Chivane’s called Sasha, Calypso and myself over to his table. The Mantis are disappointed with our late arrival. It seems Chivane and the main expedition departed the day before our arrival. It took some effort on Calypso and I’s behalf, but we convinced him we could still make good on our initial contract as the advance party.

The rest of the night was spent in conversation after we walked the block to Cheiton’s home. There we learned of possible dangers ahead of us: demon worshipping ape-men known as the Charau-Ka; the violent city-state of Mzali and its god-king Walkena; and the cannibalistic fey known as the Eloko.

After offering us his spacious home, Cheiton left to procure our supplies. After some days, I devised a way to slingshot past the main expedition and presented my idea to the group. They’re not too keen to return to the water, but it’s the only way.

Ras has offered his armor and a restorative scroll in exchange for winnings from Saventh-Yhi a year from now. I took the lizard’s offer; I doubt he’ll survive that long in Kalabuto with his behavior.

We settled in to the first night of comfortable sleep in weeks. The comfort would not last. In retrospect we were fools to not establish a watch. Thankfully Whiskers is a light sleeper and we’d decided on sharing a room. Without him, that ambush could have proven deadly.

I slipped my guns out of their holsters and snuck to the doorway where I watched two shadows slip into the master bedroom Ned had taken for himself. I picked up the scent of something noxious as Vam yelled a warning out to Ned and alerted our would-be assassins.

The four attackers upstairs posed little problem to us, especially after a new ally arrived (through the second-story window) and attacked one of the assassins. Beyond stealth and poison, they let vipers loose in Ned’s bed.

With our attackers secured, we moved to the first floor to check on Douglas. I wish I hadn’t. The manacles on Leadleg’s ship brought a chill to the pit of my stomach. Now I was in a dungeon, where hundreds hung from the ceiling, some swaying with exhausted mwangi. I heard the Ijo song the slaves in the pineapple fields sang back in Crown’s End.

Infuriated, I stepped past Sasha and the newcomer and opened fire on an armored figure in the center of the room. Whatever it was, it bled, and it was angry. It attacked me with a length of chain that erupted from the floor and lashed across my chest. My anger chilled and I was overcome with fear unlike anything I’ve felt before.

Sasha and I ran through the darkened streets for blocks until our pace slowed and our poise returned. We returned in time to find the armored figure slain. We stripped the attackers of their valuables and prepared to interrogate the survivors when a knock and shout at the door announced the arrival of the city guard.

I snuck upstairs and spent the rest of the night sleeping in Sasha’s room with Ujamaa at my side.

This morning Vam and I left the others resting and returned to Batulu. The cleric took the golden key that hung around his spindly neck, sprinkled the dust from several diamonds over our heads and touched us with the key.

The sensation was a strange one. Like a cold, cleansing rain after hours spent working in the mines. The dust flaked away and I could feel myself be partially restored.

In a week’s time I can have Nkechi use the scroll the lizard gave me.

This rejuvenated feeling has inspired much writing. After a meal at the Shrunken Head, I’ll be gathering my own supplies as the Hermit agrees the river route is our best option. If I’m right, these fan feather tokens will aid us considerably in this race to ruin.

The others have interrogated our attackers and learned of their involvement with Leadlegs and the Free Captain Kassata Lewynn.
O


23 Calistril

May have discovered a new ally in J. Must send word to Eleder and strengthen this coalition. A solid foothold in Kalabuto could do much for our struggle against the Chelish.

Chimurenga and these enchanted tokens shall face their first field tests later today as we plan to rent a raft and see if the nganga’s map is worth anything.

*A rough sketch of a long-necked aquatic dinosaur in mid-thrash separates the entry. There is a noose wrapped around the beast’s neck.*

Not even midday and we’ve returned to Kalabuto. These fans are amazing.

The map led us to an old Chelish barge wrecked along a shoal on the River of Lost Tears. After dealing with an enormous reptile that had taken up residence in its cracked remains we discovered a chest full of valuables. None more so to me than this machete that can cut through steel with ease.

The others have settled on using the remainder of the day to craft magical items for the upcoming journey into the Screaming Jungle.

I’ll use this time to speak with my contact in the city, perhaps purchase a horse and offer Whiskers something in exchange for converting it into a small token, like he does with Maedra, until needed.
O


26 Calistril

Kalabuto is nearly a week behind us thanks to the fan feather token.

After a precarious 200’ climb, we stumbled across the remains of a Shackles camp picked clean. It appears the Red Mantis have another forward party in play. They left one of their sawtooth blades skewered through a pirate as a message.

Our first night’s camp outside of crumbled ruins set us directly in the path of a Mzali war band and their putrid, undead minions. If it had not been for Vam’s keen eyes and Zig’s spell keeping our campsite hidden, things could have gone poorly.

We took three of the four Mzali alive and after checking them for further weapons, set about interrogating one after Calypso cursed him to speak only truths. With some theatrics on my behalf we learned much of Walkena’s punishments, and their nearby fortifications.

Our second night set us in the Screaming Jungle proper. We needed the rest after striking a hippo at maximum velocity and flying some fifty odd feet through the air. Things looked grim for a moment there with those enormous lizard men. After meeting Ras I assumed all lizard men were small. How wrong I was. Pierce, the newcomer, proved himself to be quite capable against them.

Today we’re deep into the canopy and managed to avoid crossing paths with anything other than endless rain. It’s almost a mist that has lingered for hours.

The insects have become more than mere annoyance. Set up the netting along with an extra smokey fire to protect us.

Calypso and Pierce have dedicated some time to analyzing Yarzoth’s notes and learned details of our fabled destination. Saventh-Yhi may be the tomb of a slain god and contains something called the Pillars of Light.
O


P.S. Damn Ned for throwing away my earplugs. I could have used them tonight with these howling monkeys. I understand the Screaming part of the name now.
O


28 Calistril

If I ever find that nganga, I’ll hug her so tight she might snap. Without that shrunken monkey fetish we all would have died last night.

By this point, our mornings had become routine. I would assist others in breaking down camp while Whiskers and Calypso prepared their magic for the day. We set off in good spirits, continuing to follow the Upper Korir as best we could while Whiskers used a spell to create a clear path for the horses. Barajika was a wise purchase: the young pinto is strong and heeds me well. “Many Thanks” is a strange name, though. I’ll have to think of something flashier.

This deep beneath the canopy, we were saved from the blazing midday sun but had to deal with humidity that weighed us down in our saddles. We paused for a moment to rest and hydrate when we became aware of a presence stalking us through the brush.

The tense silence was only broken by the nervous stamping of our mounts when we were charged by a lonely chemosit. The mere sight of the apebear sent Vam into a fury that did little to aid in his fight. Once again, the monk was almost killed when Pierce bound his shadow to the chemosit and rooted it in place long enough for me to blow its face away with Ujamaa.

Hoping to put distance between us and more chemosits, we continued on foot after Calypso’s summoned mounts disappeared. We marched for hours until we reached a bend in the Korir and discovered a gruesome scene.

Another demolished camp, only now the bodies were unrecognizable. Whoever they were, they had entered the territory of a dire ape. Just like us. We dismounted to see what we could learn from the corpses when the creature returned and grew furious at our company. It howled and something primal in me stirred.

I ran. I don’t know for how long, but I ran until I felt safe then took cover behind a tree and listened. Separated and with no other choice, I fired into the air to alert the others. It took some time but we were all reunited, save for Barajika. The horse bolted into the undergrowth.

Pierce and Whiskers informed us they’d slain the ape, but something worse rose from its carcass: a shadow being they were unfamiliar with. Calypso told us of powerful beings from other realms that made pacts with witches for power. If this being is from another realm, it can be banished there. We recalled the nganga’s fetish and devised a plan. Calypso assured us she was no such witch. I hope so.

The witch and her sister are also aware of Havelar’s benevolent nature. This is a curious development. The Ekujae would prove valuable allies. She claims they are difficult to deal with, at best.

We were able to sleep for a few hours before the shadow being found us.

The fight was brutal as the shadow seemed immune to everything we threw at it. It summoned a second demon and the two kept their distance across the water, while throwing destructive orbs of pitch into our ranks. Each of my regular killshots glanced off their inky flesh. A third orb nearly sent me to my grave and knocked Calypso unconscious.

Once more it attempted to terrorize us. This time we resisted its spell and finally the moment presented itself for Vam to use the fetish. The two of them were engulfed in a column of white light as the stitches that had held the shriveled head’s eyes and mouth shut snapped open.

The light subsided and the shadow was banished. We gathered around a wounded Sasha and unconscious Calypso and began tending to our wounds.

This morning we returned to the demolished camp and I set about tracking Barajika while the others gathered what they could. Vam accompanied me and after a few hours we returned atop my humbled steed. We found it in the river, nearly a mile downstream from where we’d been attacked the night before.

The others cleared the scene of bodies and have decided to make camp here as Whiskers has come down with something.

Poor little fellow, he is shaking terribly and can’t hold any food down. I saw him vomiting into the river when I returned to camp. I’ll keep watch over him until the morning when Nkechi can attempt to cure him.
O
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