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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
Below is the journal of Olca Sankara, a bonuwat buccaneer and member of the Freemen's Brotherhood.






21 Abadius

I am unsure of what the days to come will bring. A fortnight ago I was on Motaku, having a drink at Fat Jessup's after a job when I was approached by a Bonuwat sailor, with a message from Kwame: come to Eleder. A year of running messages for the Freemen, never has one been for me. This should be interesting.

It was noon when I hit the cramped slums that have sprung up along the Diomar Wall. The smell of bodies & pineapples was overwhelming. The indignities the Chelish have visited upon us will be avenged.

Time has not been kind to the wary Ombo. We met in the home of a local fisherman. I found him hunched over a bevy of maps. Beads of sweat pooled in ravines gouged into his brow through decades of concern.

A man of few words, he cut straight to the heart of the matter. A group, fresh from Smuggler's Shiv, had attracted the attention of several important parties across Desperation Bay. Amongst those coming to meet with the strangers was First Mate Xi Four-Eyes.

"Rarely does the eel slither out of its hole," Kwame said to me. He then offered me a chance at serving the Freemen as more than an envoy.

How could I say no?
O


*A few equations are scribbled in a rushed hand, along with a crude drawing of an exploding iron pot.*

24 Abadius

Yesterday was the first time I killed a man.

Spent the last three days hanging around Portside, learning what I can until the meeting. The mgenis arrival dominated every conversation in the district. Rumors swirled they had a map with them that led to untold riches. I wonder how much of this is true.

The day of the meeting came & I put my plan into motion: I scaled the Sargava Club's back wall & snuck in through a second story window. There was too much commotion to bother listening in & I wasn't there for information.

I packed a few doses of black powder into an iron pot & cut enough fuse to buy me time to climb to the rooftop. In position, I readied my musket & prepared to fire at Xi as he escaped the Club. I had not planned for the coward to take one of the mgeni as hostage; a pale woman with crimson hair. I took the shot & missed.

With no other option, I joined the woman's comrades as they gave chase. We drew near to the warehouse district when a panicked mob pushed past us. Nipping at their heels was a pack of rabid dogs we were forced to put down.

We saw black smoke rising above the rooftops some blocks away & moved in that direction only to find some of my own comrades turn & attack us as they burned down several warehouses. Were these Freemen defending Xi or merely taking advantage of the situation to strike at the Chelish? I would not open fire on them; the others had no qualms.

We pushed them back to the gates of the South Arcadian Whaling Company. High above us, atop a warehouse roof, was Umagro Twin-Blades; a champion of the Freemen. He held one of his famed blades to the pale woman's throat & yelled his demands. Umagro & Xi were allies? I could not believe this.

To attack a heavily fortified position held by superior numbers was foolish. They are lucky I was with them, or so I thought.

The details of the battle are a blur of gore & smoke but I will never forget the violent spasm of that young Zenj as my bullet punched a hole through his chest. He died with Umagro's name on his lips.

At some point a decomposing whale exploded & covered every available inch of the courtyard in a grisly layer of charred flesh. The horrors were not yet over.

Another drink.

*His writing begins to slant & cramp together.*

The worst came as we cornered Umagro, hostage still in tow. Recognizing the inevitable, he took his blade, yanked her head back & slit her throat open for us to witness. The golden lizard man rushed forward when an anger I'd long kept dormant took over me.

It was fucking murder. I did what must be done & do not regret my decision.

The mgeni have asked me to join their expedition. They seek the fabled city Saventh-Yhi. With Eleder's purging of Umagro & his fanatics, perhaps it would be in the Brotherhood's best interests to join the expedition. With the treasure from Saventh-Yhi, a thousand revolutions could be funded.

With my new identity I shall bring a storm to this land & sweep it of injustice.
O


26 Abadius

Not much sleep the last two nights.

This morning I convinced some local Mba'ijo to ferry us in their rafts. We sailed along Desperation Bay in search of an old hermit rumored to live in a grotto near the Pallid Bluffs. We arrived at high tide & waded to shore as the fishermen cast their nets.

After a short search we discovered the hermit arguing with himself in his grotto. He calls himself Nkechi the Tempest. I recognize the wild stare of a man long addled by the sun. He was gnarled like flotsam & scrambled around his cave on all fours before thrusting a rusty trident at us & demanding we return with black pearls in order to gain his favor.

Never have I seen such miserable fucking swimmers. What should have been a few minutes worth of diving became an exercise in futility as two of the mgeni turned on one another. I do not know what happened on the Shiv, but it seems animosities run deep between them.

No matter. The pearls were gathered.
O


27 Abadius

Many new faces at the Sargava Club this morning, while some familiar ones failed to arrive. Only the elf witch, halfling druid & pale woman were there that I recognized. We met with a Red Mantis; an elf woman by the name of Chivane.

I am unaware of what associations the Freemen may have the Red Mantis, but allies & resources are needed to fight the Chelish.

With a preliminary budget agreed upon, I left the Club to meet with Nkechi for his second trial. Stole a donkey from a dumpy Chelish merchant and rode to an overgrown trail I discovered after the pearl dive. Spent some time working on my quick draw while waiting for the others to arrive. With a shorter barrel and filing down the stock into a grip, I can wield this musket like a pistol. It needs a name.

Nkechi has requested a feather from the Chirok of Gozreh's Crest. Perhaps the Dutu intends to kill us before we make it inland.

The climb up Gozreh's Crest was formidable. A storm rolled in during our ascent. After some quick thinking & plenty of rope (remember to ask the rat-man how he did that) we were able to reach the stormbird's nest no worse for wear.

Our good fortune did not last. Upon the Chirok's arrival it let loose an awful screech. My ears are still ringing.

Calypso, the witch, subdued the beast with her magic and we left with our prize. Upon reaching the ground, we were surrounded by a group of Mba'ijo who demanded to know why we trespassed on their sacred grounds. Our intrusion was visible from their village & their insulted elders sent a war party to investigate. We explained our situation & though we had not harmed the stormbird, we had trespassed & they demanded justice.

Insults were hurled and a not-so-friendly competition broke out between the vanara monk & half-orc barbarian as to who would wrestle their champion in trial by combat. The barbarian made quick work of the monk and champion.

We spent the night beneath the stars with the Mba'ijo at a small outpost near the bluffs.
O


28 Abadius

This morning we returned to the hermitage. With a gleeful shake of his old bones, Nkechi scuttled away with our tokens. We gathered around his feeble fire as he spoke of wind & waves while drawing on our faces with red paste.

He told us we were to speak with Gozreh & gave us each a portion of dried dromotu root. Familiar with its effects, I happily accepted. This was nothing like that night in the Kaavanyika beneath a tapestry of melting stars.

I felt myself floating, then shrinking as I took to the heavens. I could feel my flesh shift into a coat of fur as I connected to something deep within my soul. I danced through the cosmos with the others, also changed, when we were challenged by a mighty cobra.

I can't make much sense of what happened that night, but we triumphed against the snake & this convinced the old hermit to join the expedition as our field guide. What have I signed up for?
O


29 Abadius

After a short meeting and some silver-tongued diplomacy, I convinced Kwame and Captain Mindarre of the Eagle Knights to assist the expedition.

I'll deliver the news to the party at the Sargava Club then spend the night fashioning a raft sturdy enough to carry us down shore to Port Freedom.

Before departing, Kwame warned me to maintain the Freemen's standing with the Rivermen's Guild. Why the opinion of thugs matters to him is beyond me.
O


*Several lines of scrawled gibberish where only the words FUCKIN' GREAT and MASTERPIECE are legible along with a drawing of a raft fill a page stained with thick drops.*

30 Abadius

Woke up to a splitting headache. Barely had time to relieve myself before the others arrived, having spent their last night in Eleder at the Club. I'll be glad to be back on the water.

Morale's a touch low tonight after some rough sailing. If it hadn't been for a family of giant squid, the raft would have held and we'd be in Port Freedom by now. Guess I'll hold off on drinking until after the planning stage.

No matter; we made it to shore and spent a pleasant night beneath the stars after making great progress along the coast. We'll arrive before next day's end where the promise of drink and shelter will soothe their tempers.
O


31 Abadius

Awoke to Vam screeching in my face. Can’t say it’s the worst way I’ve been woken up. Despite my best efforts the monk seems bereft of chirk; I doubt a life on the sea is meant for my holy acquaintance.

After a short walk we arrived at Port Freedom. The Korir is the lifeblood of this port town and I could hear it pumping from miles away. Quick to separate after a tense night, we made our way along narrow streets to the harbor in search of this "Tristram" to deliver Captain Mindarre's letter.

The Andorans make a fine vessel. A crew of a dozen men would be plenty to work its sails and man its ballistas. But a dozen men we lack; what we do have is a motley band. Tristram was another Andoran, sunburnt redder than a baboon's ass. He asked that we find an able helmsman to lead us upriver to Kalabuto. Other than that, our voyage was assured.

The rat-man, Zigmund, has kept me company since my meeting with Mindarre. His easy-going nature is welcome company. Together, we made our way to the Golden Fang to meet the others.

Upon our arrival we were met with the strangest sight; an enormous cage was erected in the center of the tavern. The mere sight of those bars put me in a foul mood. As two raptors were placed in the cage to fight for our amusement, I made contact with a member of the Rivermen's Guild: a Jabulani Mastour.

I made up some story about escorting a group of mgeni to the Bandu Hills for a mining company. Despite his ridiculous terms, I accepted on the grounds that the voyage should be simple enough. A little over a week and we'd be there.

Not quite sure what happened while the Riverman and I came to terms, but Ned, the barbarian, was at the center of a lethal brawl. Violence comes easy to some in our party. Watching a man writhe in pain as he burns was too fucking much. I had to put him out of his misery.

What's happening to me?
O
i have two possible concepts for this setting.

the first is bane serving as a cuban commando returning from mexico following the tlateloco massacre before being sent further into lat-am to train militias.

the second would be a deep-dive 'nam story from the perspective of kgbeast and the nva.
i'll throw in my hat as a misthios from the distant land of serica.
18-8-2039
New Xanathan City (formerly Cape Town, South Africa)


The bend of a subterranean hallway stretched into harsh halogen infinity as Operator Brighton muttered internally, eyes drawn to narrow slits. It’s been two fucking weeks since I put in my request for a tinted visor. Nothing better than standing guard for an asshole egomaniac while these lamps roast my fucking retinas. A gnashed wad of up-gum sank against his cheek and flooded his system with a cocktail of stimulants. He pulled up the time on his HUD and audibly groaned. Another hour til midnight and Edwards showed up to replace him.

<< Howzit, gomgat? All ready to tuck in and skommel in your bunk? >> Van Wyk's brogue rumbled in Brighton's earpiece. The gruff Afrikaaner at the helm of the sector's surveillance hub cast the hallway's feed on the main screen and gave a hearty chuckle as a solitary armored figure gave him the middle finger. The austere grey of the Xanathan Defense Suit complemented the corridor’s aseptic atmosphere. << You’d love that, you cheeky poes. >> With a leaden hand Van Wyk smashed the console’s keys. A white glare filled the surveillance hub’s cramped interior as the hushed roar of static dominated the main screen. Wat die… << Brighton, take a looksie at our guest. His room’s feed is stukkend. >>

The room returned to its previous gloominess as Van Wyk pulled up the corridor camera. He watched as Brighton turned, powering on the stun baton clenched in his fist. The Operator pulled open the cell’s preliminary observation panel then stopped dead in his tracks.

<< Copy. Alright gollum, it’s time to wake up. You know the rou-- >>

Moments earlier…

The withering husk of Bharata Rendenvauld barely made an impression on the mnem-plas mattress. Through a false window in the cell’s far wall trickled in a beam of synthesized moonlight. Each artificial mote was like a fresh lash for light itself had become tortuous in his current state. Bharata laid there, gaze cast towards a darkened corner when a voice unknown to him arose from the void. It slithered through the cell’s honeycombed panels; softer and colder than any synthetic lunarcy.

And the sky above my head became
Like a casque of scorching steel;
And, though I was a soul in pain,
My pain I could not feel.


“Not… fucking… poetry…” Bharata mustered through ragged breaths. His tongue hung slack and swollen from an open mouth. The wall and ceiling closest to him were pulled into one another as a spatial distortion tore through the cell’s defenses. With a shudder, reality stabilized as an amorphous entity stepped into the chamber. Bharata’s head swung sickeningly as sallow grey eyes rolled back into his skull. Death was coming, if not here already.

Not yet, Mr. Rendenvauld.

A ringed digit, long and pale, pressed upon Bharata’s forehead and drew him back from the void. His vision swam with delirium as the entity before him congealed into the mostly humanoid form of a lithe gentleman dressed in a finely tailored suit. The figure leaned forward, nearly driving the jagged bill of their Ibis-mask into Bharata’s chest. He studied the masterful leatherwork of the mask when a twinge of horror gripped the base of his skull: that’s no mask.

I only knew what hunted thought
Quickened his step, and why
He looked upon the garish day
With such a wistful eye.


“Hey, Bird-Face! Just kill me… if you’re going to... bring me back for poetry.”

Very amusing, Mr. Rendenvauld. Would you like to continue being so particularly amusing?

The finger pressed against Bharata’s forehead withdrew slightly as its bezel rotated along a non-euclidean axis. The ring opened to reveal an abyssal seal; the profane sigil roiled as the object of Bharata’s desires grew closer to material reality.
Motes of darkness congealed, clinging to Ayanda’s astral form as she traversed the membranous mist at the edge of material reality. A cinnabar effulgence arose from footprints that faded into numinous oblivion. Their fleeting warmth bolstered her fragmenting spirit as she pushed through the tide of psychic trauma that threatened to consume her.

Mind and soul alike nearly drowned in galactic wickedness when the footsteps returned. Dazzling outlines repeat themselves frenetically when through the haze Ayanda is spirit-touched by a pulse. Its beat throbs to life within her sꜥḥ. A tangle of ethereal vines erupted from her spectral form and tore through the corruptive barrier. Unhindered, she entered a realm she’d only seen flashes of during moments of deepest meditation.

An enormous baobab reached towards the heavens and dominated a savanna of prismatic plains, dappled with vitreous lakes. Wide branches sprawled across the fantastic vista. Their feather-laden branches swayed softly above teeming grasslands where chrysanthemum mandalas hummed melodies that conjured nth-dimensional toys. Fractal sprites batted them playfully, laughter like running water. Wavy sheets of aubergine filled a twilight sky, acting as a backdrop for ten suns and moons. The celestial bodies acted as scintillating nodes along a cosmic nexus. Totems stretched across the plenum of space, granting boons to champions across all planes of existence.

Surrounding the savanna, Ayanda witnessed dozens of déblé that dwarfed Kilimanjaro in scale and majesty. Their appearance crossed all the cultures she knew and many she’d never seen; the citrine Nemes of long-lost Pharaohs, wide-brimmed eburnean Fulanis and lofty jacinthe Isicholos dazzled the eye. The primordial glory they exuded was nearly as magnificent as the auroras that enveloped them. Variegated bands of aether erupt with each strike of their ancient staves against the Earth. Their percussion created the pulse that pulled Ayanda through the fog. It was a rhythm she’d danced to since birth.

An impenetrable darkness loomed far to the North, where a déblé’s massive figure was impaled by a sapphire beam from the cosmos that slashed through bands of quintessence. Its final note was a tormented cry, held until nihility. Ayanda recoiled in horror, recalling the vile nature of the beam her mind had momentarily connected to. At that moment, the pygmy appeared before her. No longer obscured by the fog of psychic anguish, she became aware of its peculiar appearance as it noisily beckoned her closer.

The psychopomp’s frame was shrouded in a stramineous cloak of crimson. Sewn to each tattered strand were cowrie shells that clattered with its exaggerated motions while Ayanda drew closer. Its craned neck was adorned in dzilla of burnished brass, with countless rings disappearing into the depths of its raffia mantle. What Ayanda found most intriguing though, was the pygmy’s avian visage. Perched atop its coiled halse was a bleached corvid’s skull. Faintly glowing cosmograms adorned its surface, depicting its allegiance to the Orishas. Deep cracks ran along its beak and interrupted an intricate vèvè of infinitely subdividing triangles. It regarded her for a moment, head moving in sharp, stereotyped saccades, before speaking through its closed beak.

“DOOM!” the pygmy cawed at Ayanda, its voice somewhere between a growl and a hiss.

“I… What?” She began, unsure of what exactly the spirit meant, when a series of omens flooded her thoughtscape.

The curve of a Chthonian gas giant hung still against the brilliant backdrop of its parent star. Megaannums trickled past it like the crystalline Ikralz showers that enrich its exposed molten core, fulminating in aphotic azoth. Swarms of omnivorous Tzijhuan sail through the nimbus sea of Tunara-6. They metastasize through the allophane exterior of the Murzid; within a svident the city is lost. Slurries of translucent protoplasma exude from vents along the K’isti chain, ready to consume verminous stellar worms when an oscillating glome is shunted through the yoke of entropy. A skiv skitters across a gulch of bubbling selenium when silica pyroclasts erupt through Ganaxavori’s mantle and choke the planet.

“The gluttonous Void has awoken. It has consumed. It shall consume. The stars wither in its presence.” The Initiation pummeled her sꜥḥ. Comprehension came at a heavy price as the pygmy imparted its wisdom. Time lost all meaning as causality collapsed upon itself.

Through the void Ayanda followed an extension of the cosmological horror, enemy beyond enemies. Her mind-form pulls the vision into focus. Cocooned in a warped corona of spacetime, the galactic lance ravaged existence with its passing. The lustrous quantum interlinks of the Bahá-cizr surged, rupturing as konul:sankul harmonics desynced with disastrous effect.

"The Betrayer has returned. It has branded. It shall brand.”

In the aftermath of atmospheric entry, the beam’s corrupt nature was disseminated across the planet, with large concentrations blanketing Europe and Asia. The repercussions of this were beyond her ken. Like a moth to the flame, Nuberu marched towards the lance’s wound while a monstrous horde of nightmares stirred deep beneath the ruins of the Sahara, dormant for decades. They shambled across the Glasslands, consuming all in their path with little resistance. Her perception shifted to just beyond Venus as a flotilla flashed into existence. Through the membranous hide of an enormous cetacean Ayanda witnessed a Flood that dwarfed the invasion that changed her planet forever.

“The key is broken.”

Despite her astral form, Ayanda instinctually recognized her return to Marange. Geomantic awareness spread through its comforting honeycomb of well-lit tunnels and vibrant chambers. This place, her home, had been created through years of patience and diligence; swelling as rapidly as the ranks of her extended family. But now, the well-lit tunnels were plunged in darkness and the vibrant chambers were dominated by kenopsic silence. Something dreadful had happened. Ayanda’s sꜥḥ was yanked across the aether to the searing pain of her dearest child, Najwa. The young Lioness crashed through a heavy basalt fortification along the training colosseum’s perimeter. A heavy plume of dust rises from the crater. With a wave of telekinetic might, the smoke is cast away. A howl of pure rage erupted from Mshale’s corrupted form that scoured his surroundings. In its final throes atop the basalt wreckage was a massive, leathery wing that oozed with each spasm.

Perception twisted beyond her mastery and into the realm of cosmic awareness. She tried to close her eyes to shield herself and found she had none. The Pygmy’s ultimate revelations threatened to consume her when she recalled Faizah’s first lesson: Breathe, child. A calm spread through Ayanda’s consciousness. The universe stretched out before her as she passed through fields of galaxies before ultimately transcending the multiverse.

Beyond the comfort of Time and Space she saw a Crown, adrift in a sea of protonic decay. Its dread domain surrounded the lustrous jewel of all Creation. Billowing masses pulsed from one vague shape to another within the encroaching oblivion when waves propagated through the Crown, folding its structure into a tight curl as parallel axes unfolded through the gamut of spatial dimensions until manifesting as an eye, horrendous to behold, that peered directly at Ayanda. Her sꜥḥ reeled and she retreated, through billions of light-years, along a tether of familiarity towards her body.

13-8-2039
Mzinda wa Mitengo
Lake Malawi, Free Territories


She felt the prison of corporeality once more. Sensation trickled in through a dissociative fog; the first being the healing percussion of an odondo. The warm rhythm filled the ritual chamber as Nkosiyabo’s chants came to her next. His voice had gone hoarse days ago but he dared not end the ceremony lest harm befall Ayanda while her spirit roamed astral wilds beyond his ability to comprehend.

A week had passed since he’d last rested, during that horrid night of terrors. Exhaustion surpassed the shaman’s willpower. The odondo fell with a muffled clatter atop the pile of enchanted pelts that littered the cramped hut’s floor. Cool moonlight poured through the thatched roof and danced along the emerald accents of Nkosiyabo’s nganga mask as it shifted during his collapse. Several kola nuts rattled against the opon ifá he’d been using to divine Ayanda’s location as the altar bearing her body rocked gently in the commotion.

Ayanda’s whispered thanks came to Nkosiyabo as he was pulled into a dreamless void. The following morning he awoke with a start. The lanky shaman scrambled to his feet and took Ayanda’s hand in his. Nkosiyabo broke into a croaking laugh when a geologic pulse spread through his body. He looked to the divination board near the altar’s edge and understood what he must do.
LSD horror extravaganza
Sóse Oakes/Tekaronhióken

Operative Hihnon




Age: 51
Height: 6'9
Weight: 470 lbs.

A man burdened by the past.

His face consists of broad planes cut by the sharp angles of his cybernetics, and could have been considered handsome if his expression weren’t so naturally dour. Utilitarian to the point of self-neglect, Sóse surrounds himself with very few luxuries. He lives out of his small office, located on the 10th floor of a Pre-FC tenement in the shadow of the Udica arco-tower.

He favors heavy clothes to mask his augmented form, leaving Sóse’s fashion obstinately out of touch. Eschewing vogue aborform and chromorphic materials for reliable mycofibers, he models himself after action heroes of the past. A hydrophobic Deflexion jacket (providing additional protection against impact weaponry) over a gunmetal mycofiber shirt and jeans are his go-to outfit.

BACKGROUND

A cybernetic giant, Sóse is a veteran of the First Contact War, retired operative with the NYDD and current private investigator. He operates out of Udica, North Capital City, formerly known as the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn. Following the decimation of the American Interior and collapse of municipal governments across the country, Discorporate Productions began to liquidate its newly acquired assets to the highest bidder.

One of the assets liquidated by Discorporate Productions was the NYPD. After joining on with the fledling NYDD for a few years, his career in law enforcement was jeopardized after the 9 Suns Tower incident. Disgraced, unemployed and all too familiar with the seizing of everything he called home, Sóse decided to set up shop and do what he can to keep his neighborhood afloat.

Notorious for taking any case, he navigates through the ghost of a city left to fend for itself.

POWER RANKING


Intelligence - Sóse possesses a gifted and inquisitive mind, honed through years of experience as a detective and private investigator. These innate talents (coupled with the OPHIUCUS) have lent themselves well to his less legal ventures in cyberspace. He is a skilled tactician capable of quickly formulating strategies according to the demands of the moment.

Strength - While his uppermost strength level has never been properly documented, Sóse has displayed enough strength to lift a four ton utility vehicle (loaded with a squad of enhanced sicarios) with some discernible effort and toss it 100 yards.

Speed - Despite his size, the ceramsteel myomers in Sóse's legs enable him to reach speeds well beyond the capabilities of even the finest human athlete. This lends to explosive bursts of speed to cover ground quickly, or to pursue targets fleeing in vehicles. Sóse can reach a top speed approaching 200 mph, but requires time and distance to attain such a velocity.

Durability - Sóse is very durable, capable of withstanding tremendous amounts of punishment. High caliber bullets and fragmentation grenades cause negligible damage, while explosives, AT rockets and high-powered lasers can be defended against if given adequate time to respond. His cybernetic arms can withstand almost unlimited kinetic and thermal impact, due to the neobohrium used. Fine tuning of his augmentations have decreased the drain on his power supply, allowing him to engage in full combat for several hours before needing to supplement his energy stores. Before cyberization, his ability to tap into and absorb bio-force on a level similar to the invading Val'Gara kept Sóse alive and capable of fighting high-end Cataclysm with his organic form. This ability was burnt out during the process of his cyberization.

Martial Abilities - Sóse is an extremely formidable unarmed combatant, as well as a proficient armed fighter. As a youth much of his time was spent in the gym with his brother, Tawit. After years of training, they would become golden glove winning fighters before enlisting. Nearly two decades of military service has expanded his martial knowledge to other systems, first as a Private during the First Contact War; then as a Cybernetic Operative during the Years of Blood. He favors employing combat styles that make full use of his strength, endurance and durability such as Judo, Sambo and Muay Thai. He is a lethally accurate marksman with all variety of firearms, and is also proficient in projectile throwing, favoring knifes and tomahawks.

AUGMENTATIONS

IZO Series-8 OPHIUCUS is a modular hacking device implemented into Sóse’s Raweno Industries neural weave, allowing him complete control over hacking operations without the need for any tactile device or virtual interface. Coupled with the neural weave's 30 teraflop quantum processor is a polymorphic rootkit, quantum VPN, military-grade IC (intrusion countermeasures), a growing library of goblins (powerful hacking programs) and environmental dominator subroutines.

Raweno Industries AUGUR is a cranial implant that oversees a combination of audio, visual, thermal, and motion detection systems housed across Sóse's body, each updated once per millisecond. Topographic information is compiled and accurately rendered in Sóse's HUD through enhanced sensory processing algorithms.

HEX RetPros serves as a chassis for Sóse's optical augmentations, installed with an optoelectronic HUD by default that syncs with the rest of his systems, relaying real-time data.

HEX Aperture Mk. 3 allows Sóse to locate and reveal persons and objects beyond low-density walls and obstacles by emitting frequency-modulated carrier waves from his pupils. Sensors from Sóse's AUGUR implant collaborate with the carrier waves to assemble a two-dimensional representation of the target's silhouette which is then projected as an overlay onto Sóse's HUD. Overproduction of the carrier waves can quickly drain his core power supply.

n0 sc0p3 is a motion-dampening, stability-inducing subsystem which narrows the fire zone, allowing the user to aim at targets with greater efficiency while moving at speed or during extreme motion. Originating in the AUGUR implant, n0 sc0p3 is decentralized, with elements embedded in the user's nerve-brain connections, inner ear structure, and optic nerves. From millisecond to millisecond, the augmentation reads and processes inputs from the user's innate senses for balance and orientation, and modifies them accordingly based on current circumstances.

Flash Suppressant via the manipulation of the prostheses inherent self-preservation parameters, severely limiting the damage to sight incurred through the use of concussion and flash grenades.

Combat Analytics Augmented Reflex Engine or CAARE is an optic nerve implant that jolts the user's parasympathetic nervous system for a brief time to increase response time and reaction speed, allowing him to make split-second decisions. CAARE also synchronizes with the enhanced functions of the SiMart Combat Prostheses, allowing for the acquisition of fast-moving targets during combat situations. Overuse does pose the potential to overclock Sóse’s systems.

SiMart Cochlear Module is an infolink device capable of receiving and transmitting wireless communications and accessing networks, implanted directly into Sóse’s inner ear. Sensitivity to minute vibrations in the larynx allows for subvocalized communication when necessary. Sóse is capable of interfacing with electronic devices within range via the module. By manipulating the module's parameters, Sóse is able to either amplify or dampen his hearing.

IZO Aegis is a supple, layered, micro-thin anti-corrosive material replacing Sóse’s epidermis. Rated as Class XI armor, the base is a microfiber lattice weave made from ceramsteel bio-organic nanotubes above a dilatant fluid. When kinetic energy from a physical blow or a weapon discharge strikes the plating, the fluid becomes rigid, deflecting the impact shock. Heat and electromagnetically-conductive elements in the armor matrix serve to dissipate damage from heat, magnetic or energized trauma. Sóse’s skull and torso are the most heavily fortified zones, giving him a rather hulking physique.

IZO Z-RO CHASSIS is the total overhaul of Sóse’s skeletal and muscular systems. His sim-bones are made from a proprietary alloy that was infused into Sóse’s original organic skeletal system during initial cyberization. This alloy enriched his marrow and increased its density while encasing then eventually replacing his bones, hardening them to rods of titanium-vanadium composite of similar proportions. Sóse’s tissues and joints have been replaced with ceramsteel myomers and microrotors function similarly to their organic counterparts, though with exponentially superior strength, speed and endurance.

AKONWARA Health System is an elegant collection of augments distributed throughout the body, meant to keep Sóse alive, protected by the layers of spacecraft grade ceramsteel housing.

The main unit tracks Sóse's medical condition and triggers secondary modules when it registers critical damage through internal or external trauma. Modules implanted in his heart tissue, lymphatic system, and adrenal glands utilize micro-electric charges and phase-released chemicals to stimulate the human body's healing reaction.

While the majority of Sóse’s body is artificial, he still retains 70% of his brain and nervous system as well as heart, lungs and kidneys. An artificial liver with bioware sensors allow Sóse to drink inhuman amounts of alcohol with little ill-effect.

Housed in Sóse's chest cavity is an implanted T0 Membrane chemical air filter to prevent acute injury from inhaled toxins or biological agents.

Meanwhile his digestive system has been bypassed by the AKONWARA Energy Converter to convert nutrients into a bio-electric charge that is then stored in Sóse’s core graphene supercapacitors within the ceramsteel housing.

There is a cardioverter defibrillator capable of restarting Sóse's heart; it is implanted directly in the sinoatrial node, and is specially tuned not to interfere with Sóse’s other implants.

SiMart Combat Prostheses has seen the replacement of Sóse's organic limbs with enhanced-function cybernetic substitutes.

Unique modifications to Sóse’s cybernetic arm's shock buffers and sim-bone frames in conjunction with the use of an experimental neobohrium underlay enable Operative Hihnon to effortlessly punch through 6" thick vanadium steel plating at default parameters.

Neobohrium is capable of absorbing impacts into potential energy that is then dispersed via dimorphic magnetorheological waves in concentrated blasts. The unique nature of the neobohrium underlay causes the tensile strength of Sóse's arms to increase exponentially through applied force until returning to its default after discharge.

By modifying myomer density and activating a shock-gel matrix in his legs, Sóse can neutralize damage incurred from high falls or perform standing long jumps upwards of 40' or running leaps quadrupling that.

STEADFAST Recoil Negation System allows for precision shooting of high-caliber weaponry via reaction management buffers working in conjunction with bioplastic shock compressors that run along Sóse's arms.

IZO Experimental Nanoshield is an attachment housed within Sóse's left thigh and knee, meant to be concealed until deployed. When activated, a high-energy molecular assembler uses a relevant silicon-carbide cartridge in order to create a lamellar graphene shield that is then deployed in either a fixed-plate to be used as cover or can be detached to serve as an offensive barrier. The shield is rated a Class XV refractory armor, capable of deflecting high-powered lasers and negating the impact of high-yield explosives.

EQUIPMENT & RESOURCES

Tawiskaron is Sóse’s custom creation; a Red Technocracy railgun modified into a 4-shot revolver. Named after the Mohawk god of destruction, Tawiskaron lives up to its sobriquet. Equipped with a SiMart Holographic Sight and Wetware Bio-Lock safety system (synchronized to sensors built into his palms), Tawiskaron is capable of firing .223 caliber osmium alloy projectiles at 4,500 mph. Sóse usually keeps Tawiskaron holstered beneath his jacket in a 4D printed speed-rig based on TANIGAWA DYNAMICS schematics he’d been given as payment for a kidnapping case.

Uktena PDW-23 is a hybrid weapon platform with an overall length of 23". The Uktena consists of a fully automatic, magazine-fed bullpup 08g shotgun and a top-loading, bottom ejecting 12.7mm large caliber SMG. Sóse favors a mixed load in the 10 round 08g magazines; thunderflash shells, thermite-core sabot slugs, titanium flechette shells and bionic brass buckshot rounds. Meanwhile the 50 round box magazine is loaded with armor piercing ammunition. Unique design specifications include a Wetware Bio-Lock safety system; selective fire modes (including both barrels at once); and a rapid load/ejection chamber, synchronized to his neural weave, to cycle through 08g rounds if necessary.

Atóken is Sóse’s folding combat tomahawk housed within a compartment along the posterior of his right thigh. When activated, the blade vibrates at an extremely high frequency, increasing its sharpness to the point where it can cut through the target at a molecular level. The haft measures nearly 3' with a 1' bladed head and is made from the same silicon carbide material as the cartridges used in his micro-assembler.

2025 Cadillac Escalade ESV - Sóse’s pride and joy, as well as his home away from the office. Fitted with high-end surveillance equipment; armored windshield, windows and body; EMP countermeasures across the cabin's interior and engine compartment; and VFI run flat system. Its V12 Reactivity Controlled Compression Ignition Combustion (RCCI) engine delivers a stupendous 900hp, allowing the vehicle to achieve a top speed of 250 mph and accelerate to 60 mph in 2.4 seconds while its Magnetic Ride Control automatically adjusts its finely-tuned suspension system to extreme road conditions and prevents the vehicle from flipping over during sharp turns at high speeds.
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