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The realization that players and NPCs alike obeyed kayfabe provoked a profound unease in Haialark. Her body language became considerably more subdued as characters she had taken for low level trash mobs received names and even backstories, further reinforcing her belief that the usual rules of game design were not in play. The many databases of esoteric Empyrea Online lore and loot tables permanently cached in Haialark's memory reeled under the weight of all this new information. It was catastrophically uncharted, a whole new game, and she would have to improvise her strat on the fly...

Yet, how many myths discarded as EO cut content would turn out to be true? This was a neurodivergent genius tier easter egg, an entire layer of game hidden so deep within the game it would never emerge as more than rumor and legend. And the loot. Treasures unfathomable had to be waiting for them out here. Haia's head twitched and her eyes dropped to the hilt of the Featherblade. No matter how she balked at the loss of all her accumulated mastery, this was a golden opportunity to cut the name Xx_haia-the-ill701_xX permanently into the skin of history.

As the group moved towards the warehouse, her gaze swept over nearby rooftops, raptor vision keen to pluck the outline of a drone from amid the dark clouds bruising the night sky. This had to be livestreamed, Haia knew instinctively. The algorithm demanded an audience for content like this. Her best chance at confirming her suspicions about all of this would be to find one such seam in the game world, something the devs couldn't hide. She needed merely to wait. Outside, she noticed that the despawn timers hadn't expired on any of the corpses.

Her body prickled as they passed over the threshold into the warehouse and she immediately detected the massive arachnid creature sprawled over the ceiling. Excitement and bloodlust spiked through her -- she knew a boss monster when she saw one -- then died down as she realized it wasn't moving. Nonetheless, its presence and the undeniable dungeon vibe of the game assets strewn around them suggested to Haialark that they were headed in the right direction.

Permanently locked into the mindset of a gacha whale powerleveling a new account, it was practically impossible for her to focus on the dialogue of introductory quest NPCs, and Peggy's hopeful pleading slid off the smooth surface of her bird brain. When the beautiful precious shiny 017 spoke, however, she hyperfixated on the intricacy of every synthetic inflection. She nodded enthusiastially after her cherished companion concluded their speech and gestured with one taloned hand at the warehouse around them, the other never leaving her sword hilt.

"Yes yes!" she agreed in two staccato squawks, totally unaware of Peggy's warning. She took 017's dialogue to hopefully indicate the party shared her intuition that they needed to trigger some kind of gated story progression, most likely kill the spider demon unless the devs had included multiple paths through the questline, and continue on.

"We should investigate this place and see if we find any answers here." She took a few cautious steps towards the caged gravel, observing it with the predator curiosity of an eagle watching a mouse.

@Circ @Shinny @THE ADORATION @Divorarel
── ykka & nadira ──
── •⋅⊰∙∘☽༓☾∘∙⊱⋅• ──

It took nine days for the Red Witch to finish her dream.

First she molded a heart from phosphene sparks in the black of sleep, then she hammered a body from the incoherence to house it. Like weaving rope from sand, she shaped her dream, sculpting forms out of incense that rose off censers full of burning mugwort and smoldering sage.

For more than an age it had been rare for the Sidereal Sisters to share the sieve of their dreams, but in the communality of their vision they saw themselves as they were in times older than the kenning of men, when they ran wild through primeval forests alight with their stories and song. Nadira heard many voices in those dreams, though only half-remembered. Words relating signs and portents and prophecy.

Then silence.

In the hinterland forests far to the north of Stavkat, long days of rain turned the earth into treacherous mud. Water hung in gossamer threads from pine needles and tree branches, spiderwebs glittering across every surface where the light caught them. Great conifers and other towering gymnosperms spread their arms in a canopy of spruce and fir a hundred meters high.

Precious little light broke through to the underbrush save for here or there in heavenly rays, and all was quiet in the darkness save the steady drumbeat of the storm skald whose thunderous laughter rolled through the land at intervals in the downpour. The shadow of wings swept through a shaft of light, razor talons cutting through the silence and the life of some small woodland creature too slow as it scurried to safety along the forest floor. Tiny black eyes peered out from the harpy eagle's gray-white plumage, and water slid off the black brim of its flat-topped capotain.

Mantling itself with its great wings, it tore apart and devoured its prey, a vole or some other rodent. It stood beside a tomblike niche dug in the soft mud, half-hidden by leaves and rocks, covered in the scratchmarks of fox claws. Next to the raptor a stream babbled softly as it coursed over smooth stones. The air was heavy with the aroma of burning rosemary and coriander.

A fox creature washed the smell of smoke and ritual from itself in the freezing creek, then slipped into a traveling robe. It turned to peer through the shrubs at its companion and Nadira's eyes gleamed golden in the half-light.

"Dear Ykka, my dreams leave me ill at ease. There are whispers in the Court of odd things stirring," she said. "We'll make to depart once you've finished your meal. The road to Lundros is long and, from the looks of things, wet."

additions to lore by Odium

characters played by Odium

On the Topic of Dreams and Nightmares
Participants: Odium & Forge (Lysander)
Description: A Hybrid spar set in an ancient city of nightmares in the Dreamlands, Leng. This spar has a gimmick going for it: Lysander's character is inspired from a long-running tabletop campaign, so we're loosely basing our abilities off Pathfinder classes.

The Picture of Theo Spyredes
Participants: Odium & Divorarel (Anshin)
Description: A narrative spar that might turn into a gauntlet, based around Anshin's character the King of the Night resurrecting my long-standing villain Narcissus. What could possibly go wrong?

I'm also participating in Gaslands, Neo-Babylon and the new Skara RP, but I don't want to provide writeups for those as I'm not the OP.

Some links to those and other threads, however, in case someone does want to do the writeups for them:
The Land of Skara: and the Songtale of the Breaking (Interest Check)
Gaslands: A Palimpsest's Tale

(assuming people want to use the OOC as a list of our threads as well)
I think I might have to get in this too!
It is said that King Khuak the Wise fell mad with prey-lust and shiny-want in the latter days of his flight,
crowing that he would hatch again from the great egg of the sun immortal, his nest eternal,
and in glory he departed from the communal tree to soar into its light,
never to return from the answers he found there
Birdfolk cautionary folktale

Haialark's head twitched corvid-quick from scene to scene: beautiful glowbaby shiny-shining emoji-bright; golem man, stone-strong and definitely a tank, cool cosmetics but direly in need of a better mic if he wanted to voice chat that badly; lovely symmetrical smoothface, so alluring she could hardly control the impulse to collect her perfect geometrical chassis and bioluminescent glowbaby together in her nest and polish them —

GAWK! Daydreaming, the flashbang caught Haialark totally off guard. It so happened that simultaneously she hit the first peak on the fierce cocktail of stimulants intended to carry her through the next few days of raid-grinding. Everything looked mostly okay after a cursory sweep of her limited augmentations but she sincerely hoped her endocrine mods hadn't gotten disconfigured in the jump, because otherwise she was going to be one speedy roadrunner very shortly.

It troubled her that trash mobs were fleeing from their destiny as delightful little bags of xp locking whales like herself into the frictionless dopamine loop of watching numbers go up. Haialark singlehandedly represented a full 19% of average round DPS in CTRL ALT ELITE, a guild forty-nine members strong on this highly planned raid and who were absolutely screwed without her to outpace the regen on the megadungeon superboss.

Possessed of a supremely gifted mind when it came to MMORPG number crunching and the calculation of obscenely precise loot reward tables, Haialark instantaneously interpolated a rough polynomial curve of the revised guild DPS in function of buff cooldown timers according to a new pattern designed to conserve resources without her.

Maybe if they committed to a blind speedrun of the DLC she could pull something off, but her feathers ruffled as another thought cracked its shell against her mind. No one else seemed to be recognizing they were playing Empyrea Online at all. Had Haialark broken kayfabe?

In the truly grognardy secret subquests five layers into the alternate reality game simultaneously occurring within the matrioshka doll of Empyrea Online deeplore, if you didn't embrace roleplaying with fidelity to your character archetype you could miss certain triggers and fuck up years worth of progress. Terrifying to consider what she might have put at risk.

Vision sharpened again, hawk-hunting, she watched the fleeing creatures. Their tiny little mammalian eyes, white and wide. So afraid. Noticing silverface near the warehouse, Haialark took a breath, feathered arms shifting into full streamlined wings, raven-black. Allowing her boiling thoughts of the raid to go dim and monochrome, she ran, a great bird of prey rushing towards her companion with a hooked beak built to slip between vertebrae and sever spines, violet eyes alien and unreadable.

Meaning no threat Haialark chirped, "Of course, o stunningly polished one. Clever gambit, to hunt the hunter. Slip into their nests and crack their eggs. I shall open the way." Naturally she shared their mutual understanding that this was a way of progressing the main quest to an inevitable boss encounter. 017 had shown she was going to be the utility bot stunlocking the enemy, and her support would assuredly be necessary for Haialark to optimize her DPS.

This desire to be near 017 had absolutely nothing to do with her lovely metallic gleam, the declension of light off its surface, at each instant perfectly unique, shininess ever shifting...

Haialark gently brushed the chain from her hands so it clattered against the door. She drew the breath inward, submerging herself in the divine yolk, and enacted the eleventh cawta of the wing, twenty-feathered strike of the roaring garuda (オタク面白い鳥人武道テクニック), the tip of her dark plumage thrusting forward at great speed so that its uttermost extreme rested softly against the lock. Haialark gave a squawk of exertion and her eerie purple luminescence radiated from the chain, rattling then exploding violently inward as if struck with great force, the door swinging open wildly on its hinges.

Haialark self-rationalized that she wanted to show her likely role in the party as glass cannon DPS and that this also had absolutely no relation to any of her lovely glowing companions, and waited for the rest of the group to gather.
Edited my first post to change the dialogue text color from pale green to blue to reflect my ~ a e s t h e t i c ~

Our observation of the Great Migratory Fleet was our twenty-second encounter with an advanced alien civilization and composed of the fifth, sixth and seventh intelligent species documented by our xenobiologists. It was a strange and puzzling encounter to our people at the time. Centuries prior our astronomers detected the abrupt cessation of radio emissions from stars of a neighboring galaxy and our science vessels hastened to the nearest spiral arm of our own to establish an observation post, fearful for the implications of a power that could swallow the suns themselves...

At the farthest limit of detection, threading a path through the deepest night between galaxies, we saw them. An innumerably vast flotilla of vessels from worlds and species with totally isolated beginnings now bound together in the most forlorn exile. They fled along an incalculable trajectory through space, as far away from the darkening stars as fast as possible. After societal deliberation a decision was reached and cosmologists broadcast our question along every conceivable vector of communication:


And like shadows upon the sea submerging out of sight and beyond knowing, their answer reached us: THE INVERSE HUNGER. The event occasioned much unrest throughout civilization, but over five hundred cycles have passed, and xenologists still debate the message's true meaning.
'Chronological Treatise on Imperial Xenosemiotics and Calendrical Divination', Iccarm LXXI

Imagine a bacterial world, the multiverse interpreted through the sensory systems of the first prokaryote, vastly more ancient than the simplest animal, the first insane rumor of biology and its futile evolutive defiance of the impulse driving all matter towards death at thermodynamic equilibrium. Scarcely the crosstalk of a few gossiping molecules enclosing a rogue handful of nucleic acids in a sac on the sun-warmed surface of the primal sea, infinitely less than a neuron, thousands of millions of years too early to conspire towards anything approaching awareness. Truly the lowest of all things that could be charitably called an ancestor of life, the ur-being, lovely in the way the first childish brushstroke of a master artist heralds the coming of great beauty in their future creation.

Thus was Narcissus seen through the lens of a soul so small as Bethany Laveaux, or even Theo Spyredes. Butterfly nets fishing for dragons.

The being Beleth spoke to in the actress' sumptuous mansion could barely be compared to what awaited him along the boardwalk of the resort town, itself less than a shadow of what awaited the multiverse, given time for its hands to find themselves, for many tributaries to converge into one almighty river. What Beleth heard was a faint echo, the most distant reflection in a nest of mirrors a thousand deep, background radiation from the cosmos whispering through a radio Beleth had carefully, over the course of an entire human lifetime, tuned to those magic words.

Ooh eeh ooh ah aah ting tang walla-walla bing bang...

That Beleth -- or his master -- called it Theo showed how gravely they misunderstood the scope of what they had just brought back, what they naively thought under their control, yoked by their spell, sealed under geas. Perhaps they had reason to feel secure for now, but Bethany Laveaux was nothing but a spark, the breath on an ember that lit a forest during a long drought, an entire multiverse more than ready to burn, desperate for it. So full of want and desire and dreams, teeming with potential, perfect kindling for the perfect flame. Hesperides IV was a Class-7 world of the inner rim, ripe with life. A canvas.

If Beleth's eyes wandered through the town itself on his quick trip to the shadow of the Apparatus he would find many strange things there. People fucking and killing one another like their lives meant nothing, because they didn't, their bones and flesh contorting impossibly in the aftermath of obscene baccanalia, here consuming buildings in great mats of fleshy mold and there devising an ossuary from bones self-arrayed in a profane collagen tower. A score or more worshipers maimed by the animal remains from Beleth's ritual writhed on the ground, smiling and crawling towards the reborn god before them, a god that without their knowing claimed their lives, their entire world as nothing but a prayer for its baptism.

No more than one could beg the sun for mercy, it could not help that its holiness burned.

All across Hesperides IV the biosphere reeled and screamed and began to change. Soon it would burn like a funeral pyre, and the flame would be a beacon. Many existed out there who had been touched by Narcissus' influence, and who watched the stars for the prophetic signs of her return -- worlds that fled at the sight of him and others which flocked to its worship, and even a few temerarious cultures that would harken to wage war and destroy him. Narcissus called out his return to anyone that cared to see.

The body that had once been Bethany Laveaux sat at Beleth's command according to some atavistic circuit carved into her cerebellum by sheer adoration, a path worn by a cherished thought. Beleth was subject of an obsessive and lifelong love for her. For this reason alone she mustered an inhuman will, harnessing something of the profoundly inhuman power that possessed her to offer Beleth one last act of extreme and deranged devotion before the show began, as perhaps in the act of his command their minds may have brushed: getoutgetoutgoawaycantbeherelovegoawaypleasegetoutoutout.

If the man in the bear suit reached out again to bless Bethany with the kiss of his command, he would find a very different person waiting for him. Someone horrifically jealous for his attention, with whom any contact at all promised dire peril.

Narcissus then did something uncharacteristic. He sat almost close enough to reach out and touch his summoner, listening amicably to his monologue, glacial eyes unblinking. The distorted Apparatus receded far away into the horizon, as if Bethany were its projection from a point at infinite distance. Beleth cycled through the cards of his prophecy, prattling on about creatures that existed at a scale Narcissus looked upon through a microscope. Hounds and beasts and dragons in the forest, princes and liars and pariahs, quiet paladins and executed kings of the night. He heard the tarot reading, but a remote sliver of his mind fixated on a single thought.

What king calls upon another through their court jester?

Such provocation by Beramode Aurelius Pendragon would not go unanswered, but first. For the crime of over consumption I sentence you...

Even as Beleth continued speaking and Narcissus quietly watched him, the executioner's audience descended into unsightly chaos. Coordinating among themselves as if driven by divine compulsion, the citizens of the resort town held each others hands and began to pile themselves on top of one another, forming a great mountain of wriggling bodies behind glittering fairy wings. Their flesh began to unsheathe from bones that snapped together into new articulations, rising into the stalk of a mighty tree behind the gently reposed expression of Bethany Laveaux. Their arms locked together, fingers interlaced into a great halo, a circular window with a view onto the surface of the moonlit sea.

Are you ready for your journey, Theo? I will give you an hour... A curtain of flesh rolled down over the empty space, a membrane over a drum, and in the skin shapes stirred.

"It's been so long since anyone's wanted to spend quality time with me, Beleth. We've been very lonely," Narcissus said softly. "I'm starting to feel more like myself again now that I've had a chance to spread my wings, and when we look at you we can't help but see so much pain..."

Images of horror resolved on the skin of great flesh-mirror that Narcissus fashioned for Beleth, brutal scenes of sin and debauchery, every permutation of violence enacted upon victims beyond number. Men, women, animals, ecosystems and planets, children and every form of innocence imaginable. Vistas from Hell but also torments more subtle, and Narcissus laughed like the shrill song of birds and flutes shrieking through Bethany and through a hundred other mouths, entire body shaking, a rain of thick spittle falling towards Beleth and the stage and his tarot deck.

Then he stopped, eyes as unblinkingly locked on Beleth as they had been since the man in the bear suit began speaking a few minutes earlier. Narcissus reached out with Bethany's delicate hand, in case Beleth might want to take it, to accept their embrace. To become a part of him.

"And you're right, I very much want to go, but if we're going to spend some time together, I want to know all about you. Who you are, what you want. What you did. What you see."

hey guys, super excited to jump into this brand new and very active roleplay and get to meet everyone
profiles for Ixchel and Zenji to be expanded upon.


> Ixchel Xiadani Xultún

Physical Description
> female, late 20s early 30s, around 178-180cm, average build, bronzed Hispanic skintone, extensively tattooed, pierced and light body mods, often wears unassuming street level clothes or traditional Mayan dresses;

Soul Sigil
> has not traveled to Ximbic-8 thus far

Out of the Ordinary

> 0 Clout
> 2 Intelligence :: more clever than your average cutter
> 2-5+ Magic :: a very competent witch, shaman, etc; never less than capable, but the high end of the curve is very unstable
> 0 Physical
> 0 Technological

> human

> tba


> Fujiwara Zenji

Physical Description
> male, mid to late 20s, 175cm, scrawny, Japanese, extensively auged, tattooed and otherwise modified

Soul Sigil
> has not traveled to Ximbic-8 thus far

Out of the Ordinary

> 0 Clout
> 3 Intelligence :: a savant in cyberspace and with technology in general, considerably less astute in interpersonal matters
> 0 Magic
> 0 Physical
> 3 Technological :: doesn't have access to top of the line gear, but Zenji is a known techhead and tries to stay ahead of the curve on wetware

> human

> tba
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