Tales of Wyre


Originally posted by Sepulchrave II on 05-15-05

A shorter update. I'm trying to keep things to 1000 words or so.
Mostly backstory.



Some millennia before – at a time when most of Wyre sat beneath hundreds of feet of ice – a sidhe-cambion named Suoninguhol had ruled the demiplane of Afqithan.

His succession had been swift and brutal, and accompanied by all manner of atrocious acts – as was common in the history of the place. The previous tyrant – the Loquai sorceress Mileze – escaped to Azzagrat where, in Graz'zt's court, she plotted revenge. Mileze had enjoyed several powerful Abyssal sponsors – a fact which, in itself, testified to her ability – but was, at that time, sworn to Zelatar.

When Graz'zt inevitably moved demons into Afqithan – the Prince was notoriously possessive of worlds he had annexed – most observers were shocked by the fact that Suoninguhol resisted all attempts to displace him from his fortress. Over the course of a year, Graz'zt attempted in various ways to wrest the castle – which contained a strategically vital gate to Azzagrat* – from Suoninguhol's grasp. Balors and mariliths were thrown against the stronghold, teams of kelvezu were dispatched to eliminate Suoninguhol, and powerful magics were invoked: the Prince even went so far as to manifest a body within Afqithan in an effort to directly assail the barrier which the cambion had erected. Nothing was effective. To make matters worse, Mileze was ambushed and slain by Suoninguhol's sister, Koilimilou, forcing Graz'zt to identify a new instrument of his will.

Frustrated, Graz'zt retreated his spirit to the Argent Palace, and contrived a spell which would peel Suoninguhol's fortress away from Afqithan and fling it into some nameless Abyssal plane wracked by negative energy. Despite his prognostications to the contrary, Graz'zt's spell failed, sending the Prince into a violent rage.

When he finally emerged from his tirade, Graz'zt swallowed his immense pride and negotiated a settlement with Suoninguhol – content to wait and extract his revenge at a more opportune time. He occupied himself with attempting to learn the identity the cambion's sponsor (the Prince had no doubt that Suoninguhol possessed one), and to groom his own chosen candidate – a Loquai named Irknaan – in the duties expected of a loyal subject of Azzagrat.

Time passed. Graz'zt became distracted in wars with Orcus, Soneillon and Fraz Urb'luu. Suoninguhol entrenched himself yet further, tightening his grip on Afqithan and compacting hundreds of fiends from a variety of interested demonic parties. His ascendancy seemed assured until, abruptly and without warning, Suoninguhol vanished. News quickly found its way to Zelatar, prompting Graz'zt to again invest the demiplane and, this time, successfully install Irknaan as king. Koilimilou was captured, but Irknaan chose to humiliate rather than eliminate her.

The gate was reopened and, for a while, Graz'zt was content. Afqithan's status was monitored by the Prince's demons, and Irknaan paid a hefty tribute for which he gained recognition in Azzagrat. Graz'zt's minions became favoured compactees of Loquai sorcerers; Loquai mercenaries found themselves fighting in wars from Yutuf to Throile. Suoninguhol's abode became known as Irknaan's Fortress, and the new king was left to explore and expand the nineteen sub-levels below it.


When Irknaan's Fortress passed into Ortwine's possession, the Sidhe inherited something of a mixed fortune.

The castle was established upon a precipitous bastion of rock, unscalable from three sides, and reached by a narrow path cut into the sheer wall of the fourth; although assault from the ground was as an afterthought to its real defense. Its highest towers, which soared many hundreds of feet into the purple skies, were linked with bridges less than a foot wide: each hung like a strand of silk which glistened in the dusk. All of the fortress – except for a reception chamber to which a previous queen had pactbonded a dozen of the largest jariliths – was dimensionally locked against unwanted intrusion, but demons could still be conjured and bound within. Its interior could not be scried. The outcrop itself was reinforced by a spell of tremendous power, wrought long before by a goddess named Shuae.

The art of the Loquai suffused the place, with moving murals and columns of shadow, fashioned by magic over long centuries. The air whispered as one walked through the lofty and insubstantial upper halls, but the deep chambers seemed to have walls of impossible density: here all sound was muted, and light subdued. Carven reliefs, which displayed scenes of glorious hunts – or grotesque tortures – writhed as their stories unfolded to the observer. Broad stairs led to a wide platform upon which were roosted the four remaining tenebrous griffons, and the evil specimen once owned by Duke Ytryn – a chimaeric monster of unique form and singular foul disposition. Ortwine had tried, without success, to subdue the beast; it remained tethered by a two-hundred pound chain of adamant to a plinth of unbreakable marble.

At its deepest point, in a cleft which had been hewn into the bedrock by some unknown force, lay the now-sealed gate to Azzagrat; above it lay the summoning rooms, with a jackal-headed arcanadaemon confined in a circle of binding by Mileze long before. There was a cavern in which eerie shades moved across still waters; a repository of tomes written in dead and forgotten languages; a forge, where Ainhorr had maintained a team of Azer smiths; quickling warrens, and chambers filled with torture devices. An armory of Faerie weapons, in a vault which was guarded by a symbol of insanity placed by Mostin, now housed the ten-foot vorpal sword Heedless.

Gnome thralls moved silently and efficiently throughout the castle, and a handful of quicklings – enchanted to obey Ortwine's desires – were still retained by the Queen. Gaggles of minor sprites hovered and chattered continually, and bearded feys with cudgels and pipes sang and caroused with nymphs and sylphs in the many small courtyards. Walled gardens, once home to bloodthorns and viper trees, now also contained more benign shrubbery – although Ortwine had allowed a few demonic saplings to remain, mainly as a curiosity.

The Queen knew that Irknaan's Fortress sat upon a crossroad of realities, and for her, the World of Men was never more than a step away. Yet if one rode beyond the limit of burgeoning Faerie, the umbral taint of Afqithan still clung.** Invoked at the climax of the incident, as Mostin had wrily dubbed it, the planar rift was a growing at an exceptional rate: it would take a mere two millennia for Afqithan to be entirely subsumed by Faerie. Understanding the cartography of the place had been Ortwine's first task to herself: mentally cataloging every gate and portal (there were many); identifying areas where other worlds were closest; understanding each nuance in Afqithan's planar symmetry. Knowing which paths which led to sylvan glades, and which led to haunted copses.

Her hegemony stretched into Faerie, across wide tracts of forest and heath-covered moorlands, within which were hidden deep, wooded ravines. Beyond them lay mountains, a wide river, and the courts of noble sidhe in realms which stretched through space and time. In Afqithan itself – where the remnants of the Loquai numbered a few hundred – her rule was uncontested. Menicau, three times a turncoat, still dwelt in her citadel, but even she presented no threat, and had bowed her head in deference. A dozen other families retained estates with Ortwine's permission. But the Queen herself kept no Loquai, demon or cambion in her train.

Ortwine surveyed the land south of her walls. Trees which had sprung over the heaped corpses of fiends; the great contusions in the ground – caused when Azazel smote Irzho from the sky, and the balor had fallen like a black comet – now covered with green creepers. The chasm, caused by Soneillon's final realization of nonexistence, become a deep pool to which mist clung, with an air only of deep sorrow. Nwm's hand, at work.

The Sidhe-Queen pulled a pair of leather gloves over her hands, shifted her scimitar, and tied her hair back. Her perception changed momentarily as she walked between worlds: from Afqithan, to an area of grassy knolls in Methelhar, near the borders of Nizkur Forest. She retrieved a small, ornate box from her belt pouch, performed a complex manual operation, and whispered nine syllables of power.

A shadow avenue opened to Deorham. There, she would meet with Nwm, who would bear her to Sisperi: the Goddess Lai had requested an audience with her, and Ortwine had grudgingly agreed.

*The gate to Azzagrat is of ancient origin. It is constructed, not natural: the result of an immensely potent spell. It cannot be freely disjoined, and the ward protecting it would require a large and powerful cabal to penetrate. It can be sealed – presumably the intention is to allow it to function as a door which can be locked from either side.

**The initial bubble of Faerie invoked by Teppu was four virtual miles in diameter, with Irknaan's Fortress at the dead centre.
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Originally posted by Sepulchrave II on 01-29-06, 12:51 AM



The name echoed in his mind, and caused his stomach to turn.

The Ahma stood alone upon the porch of Mostin's manse in the cold pre-dawn, mist rising from his mouth and nostrils. A waning moon, riding high in the West, illuminated the grassy hills of Scir Cellod on the borders of Wyre with a silver-blue sheen, and cast long, violet shadows.

Eadric brooded: he had dreamed of her again. Her shadow clung to him like an insubstantial mist, gnawing at the corners of his awareness. For the hundredth time, he reenacted the events in Afqithan in his mind, searching for clues which may have eluded him, attempting to gain new perspectives.

“Her vestige remains in Dream,” Teppu had assured him in the aftermath of the Confrontation. “She will fade, if you allow it. If you permit her echo to intrude upon your consciousness, it will lend her memory substance. A semblance of ens will crystallize. Remember – Nothing Becomes. And you are the Ahma: your thought will become manifest before most others. Let her go. Let her remain cradled in the bosom of the Ancient.”

Eadric's throat and chest tightened with the memory of what had gone before. A single, tiny, corner of reality, subject to the strain of so many competing Infinities. Graz'zt's main force crumpling under the assault of Soneillon and her horde of augmented monsters. The Horror, unleashed by Mostin, and its frenzy of destruction in the West, abruptly ended by a swift stroke of Kostchtchie's hammer. The untimely evaporation of the Quiescence of the Spheres, and the onslaught of devils which had followed, sweeping everything before them. Gates opening, and rifts appearing, space buckling as demons fled to Azzagrat at their master's behest: Graz'zt working desperate magic in his sanctum as the greater threat of Orcus overrode all other concerns.

Eadric had sought relentlessly for Ainhorr within Irknaan's Fortress, and as Chaya had invoked gruesome necromancies, Shomei had hurled compacted devils at their foes and burned the lesser demons away with a celestial fire which had caused him to gape in wonder. The Ahma had hewn his way through Nalfeshnee bodyguards to reach the Balor. But even in his moment of triumph, as he had struck Ainhorr down, an ecstatic scream of extinction had echoed in his mind, rushing in a wave across the battlefield. Soneillon had fallen.

His mind had darkened as a spell of terrific force settled upon them. Impotent, Eadric had watched as the Akesoli had descended upon Shomei, and, in a trice, flayed her body – stripping her essence away and binding it in a subtle net of Amaimon's devising. Infernal justice – for her numerous misdemeanours – swiftly served upon she who had broken compacts, and flouted the iron law of Dis. The Ahma, burned and bloody, with armour rent and shield shivered, his strength all but spent, had nonetheless brandished Lukarn defiantly. But the devil Nahuzihis had raised a clawed hand.

“Stay,” the word had issued like a foul breeze. “You have no authority here.”

Despite his wards, their power had washed over him, and Lukarn had fallen limp at his side. The devils vanished, and as the glamour lifted, he had turned to face Chaya. She stood naked and scarred, her black gem smoking with the spirits of the fiends it had consumed. Her mistress vanquished, her hatred for him had suddenly become palpable.

Still, she was no match for him. She had withdrawn.

Briefly, the Ahma had stood alone in the wreck of the throne room, the mangled corpses of demons – and Shomei's diabolic servitors – all about him. He had made his way uncertainly to a balcony, and gazed upon the blasted landscape below. Narzugon cavalry thundered through the glades, slaying at will, their stained pennants bearing flies and mantises. Legions of bearded devils bearing hooked glaives followed. Ahead of them, unassailable, the standard of Hell had moved with ruthless purpose.

And then, suddenly and without warning, the declamation issued by Nwm, within whose titanic mental voice were overlaid the soft tones of Nehael – Nehael – and Teppu, and Hlioth, and Mesikämmi, and Lai and her handmaidens. The voice which penetrated into every corner of Afqithan, stirring sprites in their tumps; buckawns and quicklings in dark places; and the genii of trees, pools, rocks and glades from their languor. Within the awareness of every woodland spirit in Afqithan, was conjured a vision of what could be. The Druid had forged an empathic continuum, embracing everything which contained a vestige of Green, allowing energy to flow freely like water. Consciousness had unified and Goddess manifested.

If you be Fae, lend us now your strength.

It was both a command and a plea. The ancient inhabitants of the demiplane had answered. Teppu had gathered their power into himself, and a viridescent nova had purged Afqithan of interlopers, sealing every rip and fracture in the fabric of space.

As uncounted varieties of fiend and monster were expelled, so too were Eadric and Mostin: forced violently and abruptly away from Afqithan and into the sphere of Man. A nightmare was suddenly replaced with a cold, sick, wakefulness.

Alone, in the neatly tended fields of Hethio in Wyre, anger and frustration had utterly consumed the Ahma. He had screamed, and cursed Graz'zt, and Rhyxali, and the Adversary, and Soneillon.

“You are bewildered,” the voice, soft and familiar, had spoken to him from the very soil.

The blood had hammered in his temples. “Show yourself,” he had said, trembling.

A sapling had broken through the earth nearby, and quickly gained height and girth: it grew into a young ash, with black buds cracking with fresh, delicate leaves. She had stepped out of the tree, and stood before him. There had been a lightness and ease about her that he did not remember; and a confidence rooted in some other power which he could not know. No vestige of angel or demon remained, and an aura of deep jade surrounded her. Her eroticism – free and guiltless and profound – had somehow shamed him with its purity.

Madness had threatened to seize him.

“You teeter uncertainly,” she had said softly.

He had nodded, and hung his head.

Gently, she had embraced him, caressing hair caked with venom, blood and ichor. As he wept, she had sung quietly.

But the voice – the voice of the other demoness – had stayed in his mind. Soft, seductive syllables which repeated in a circle without end.

Exult in your memory, Eadric. Because Nothing will ever again compare to me.


Eadric turned to see Orolde patiently standing close by, mindful to avoid intrusion upon his reverie. The sprite, aware of the other's sudden perception of him, offered Eadric a goblet of mulled firewine. The Ahma nodded briefly and quickly drained it. In the East, the sky was brightening.

“Is Mostin abroad yet?” Eadric inquired.

“Yes,” Orolde replied. “But he is in his study. He finds the mornings most conducive to work. I will inform him, if you wish to speak?”

“It can wait.” They can wait. Titivilus and Murmuur were still bound with magic below, as the painful process of extracting information from the – now former – Nuncio of Dis continued.

“Can you feel it, Orolde?” Eadric asked the Sprite.

“What would that be, Ahma?”


“Ah. Yes." Orolde nodded.

“What is it like?”

“For me? I suppose it is like jumping into a lake, and then suddenly remembering that I can breathe underwater.”
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Originally posted by Sepulchrave II on 02-01-06, 03:53 PM

She is magnificent, Nwm observed as the goddess rode down the babau. Drengh was a bloody blur, flashing red about her head. The Druid was in a state of perfect, dynamic meditation: they had honed their rapport to the point of a wordless, instinctive knowledge of intent, where Nwm had become the agent of her thought.

Their quarry were diminishing in numbers: their leaders, and the most war-hardened among them, had been redeployed to another arena – a distant, violent conflict between two old enemies. Those that remained were diminished, and lacking the discipline enforced by the direct agents of Graz'zt's will, they had disintegrated into a violent rabble of clans, ruled by the most ruthless and cunning amongst them. They became easy prey for the bands of godlings and ancestors who rode forth to engage them.

Of the Nireem, Ninit had proven the most difficult to relate to. She seemed oblivious to the needs of Mulhuk, and countenanced no argument which conflicted with her desire. She was utterly impervious to reason. Her passion was only to ride, and to hunt.

Immediately, Nwm had adored her.

He had allowed himself to become subsumed in her, and relinquished himself utterly. An act of devotion inevitable, he wrily observed, when any aspect of Goddess presented itself to him. But the communion which Ninit provided for Nwm led to a reciprocity which The Rider had not anticipated. She needed him in order to slay more effectively, and now she guarded and protected him. Ninit had grown accustomed to a lack of worship – her cult had been extinct for centuries. Nwm's adoration – when directed towards her – had stirred certain deific needs which had been suppressed for too long. Ninit craved worship, once again. And the details of Nwm's broader henotheism were irrelevant to the goddess.

Nwm's mind reached out, connecting with the soil of Sisperi, and energy coursed through him. A profound agony – familiar and reassuring – fired every nerve in his body. His skin cracked like the bark of an ancient tree and began to bleed, green fire coursed over him, and a necromantic impulse of terrible potency exploded outwards from him in all directions. Demons dropped like flies.

In his thoughts, Ninit smiled savagely.

As the few remaining monsters winked out, Nwm healed himself of his self-inflicted trauma and mustered his strength again.

You are weary, Ninit's voice echoed in his mind. Return to Mulhuk.

Nwm bowed. He might have continued, but one did not gainsay The Rider. He would return to Mulhuk, and then make his way to Wyre and his appointed meeting with Ortwine.


When not hunting, Nwm would spend long hours instructing Lai and her handmaidens in the arts he had mastered. His favoured location was a courtyard graced with crystal trees, where a warm sun always shone in the afternoon; demonstration was his preferred method. And the knowledge with which Nehael had imbued him, he eagely disseminated. His role was paradoxical: both mentor and worshipper; teacher and priest.

At other times, he and Lai would leave Mulhuk, and walk beneath the trees in the region of Sisperi which had been called Soan, where the Werud – a confederation of tribes who had venerated the Nireem – had once dwelt. The desolation was absolute, as all sapience had been extinguished by the tide of demons which had ravaged the world.

One cold morning, not far from where Eadric had slain the babau Uort,* Druid and Goddess had come across the remains of a settlement, its inhabitants driven off or butchered a century before. The stench of death and decay still clung to the place; a pall of Abyssal misery, which might take millennia to clear. Nwm sat upon a moss-covered outcrop – all that remained of an ancient granary.

“What of Saes?” He had sighed. “Little can proceed without her.”

“I have tried. She will not respond. The gate to Ruk is closed. She is mad. Bloated on Death.**”

“You must persist. She may, in time, be persuaded,”

Lai laughed drily. “You do not know her as I do. Another way must be found. But somrthing else has occurred to you.”

“There may be alternatives,” Nwm said carefully. “There are tribes in the North of my world. Some may be willing to undertake the journey here. To begin afresh. But I will not decieve them: demons lurk around every corner, and I suspect Sisperi will never be rid of them entirely. How would they even understand an entreaty made by you or Rhul? And they would bring their own gods with them, Lai. It might serve only to speed your demise.”

“A chance I am willing to take.”

Nwm shrugged. “Others can come, and when they die, Saes will claim them. Trees can be awakened, and when they die, Saes will claim them too. Saes is the key – all other solutions are merely temporary.”

“If another could be persuaded to go and speak with her. Eadric perhaps?”

Nwm shook his head. “It is unlikely. He has discharged his vow, and other matters concern him. And Saes might entrap him: Graz'zt would trade a whole world for the Ahma. I lack the necessary tact – or guile. No, I think Ortwine might be the answer.”

Lai's lip curled, and the sky darkened momentarily. “I will return to Afqithan, if I must. But I mistrust her.”

“And she, you. But her mendacity may be your ally.” He smiled grimly, and became serious. “She is no pawn, Lai. If she condescends to aid you, it will be on her terms.”

“I will send her a dream. It will be neutral territory.”

“It might be preferable if I speak to her,” Nwm suggested. “We have a bond that endures across four lifetimes, and she knows I will not decieve her.”

“If you deem it best,” the Goddess reluctantly agreed.


“I would like to extend my gratitude to the Assembly for allowing me to speak,” the Alienist began. “My particular thanks to Daunton, for acting as my sponsor in this matter.”

They had convened at Mostin's – formerly Shomei's – estate outside of Morne: thirty-one mages gathered in an audience hall around a great, oval table, carved from ebony and inlayed with scenes from Irrenite myth. Some sat. Some stood, or leaned on staves. Most were human. Rimilin of the Skin was there: he sat alone, shunned by all others.

Even Waide remained silent, aware that an untimely display of sarcasm might earn the ire of many of those present. Mostin – it was rumoured – was about to make some grand philanthropic gesture, and most were concerned that the Alienist was sufficiently eccentric to change his mind for no other reason than mild annoyance. Nothing should jeopardize this improbable event.

Mostin's lidless eyes scanned those present as he fondled Mogus, the obscene, fist-sized pseudonatural which lived in a nondimensional space within his tunic. In sympathy, the orbs on his robe of eyes rotated in a disturbing fashion, fixing first one, and then another of those present.

“Mulissu and Shomei are gone,” Mostin continued. “Two great lights have left us – to whichever fates they have chosen for themselves. We are diminished. I am left with the burden of being the greatest living Wizard in Wyre, although perhaps not on this plane - something I will come to in due course. Many of you consider me both aloof and deranged, and I will deny neither. I am, however, indisputably, a genius.”

Waide sighed.

Mostin ignored him. “Jovol's legacy remains with us, and if we dwell within the borders of Wyre, we must abide by it. For those of us with the resources – and I count myself fortunate in this regard – the option of continuing our conjurations is open, if we have another base from which to operate. I have erected my portable manse outside of Wyre's borders in order to facilitate this. This has proven controversial amongst some of you gathered here, as it might be claimed that it circumvents the spirit – if not the letter – of the Second Injunction. I am not alone in this regard, however.”

Mostin stared pointedly at the Hag Jalael, Rimilin, and Wigdryt – a smoke mephit.

“This is a testing time for us,” Mostin continued, “but we must not waver in our faith in Jovol's wisdom. His vision was more complete than we can appreciate, and he had access to methods which are now lost to us.”

A murmur rippled through the gathered mages. Rumour of the web of motes had been heard by all, although only a few knew of its true significance.

“I am about to make several assertions which may, on the surface, appear contradictory or paradoxical. Let me posit a scenario,” Mostin sighed. “As one who has experienced the power of the web of motes first-hand, this is not as improbable as it might sound. Jovol knew of the explosion of religious power which Tramst – the so-called Sela – exemplifies. He knew of an impending conflict with the Cult of Cheshne. Furthermore, he chose death – in violation of his own Injunction – as a course preferable to allowing a second conjuration of Graz'zt. He knew that a renaissance in Uediian power would act as the best balance on all other concerns. The entity who was Fillein, then Jovol, has self-incarnated again, in the guise of a fey named Teppu.”

The revelation left all of those present – except for Rimilin – dumbstruck. The brief silence was quickly replaced by thirty chattering voices.

Mostin held up his hand, and a gong sounded.

“Please allow me to continue,” he smirked despite himself. An uneasy silence returned to the room. “There will be time for questions after I have spoken, but there are a number of other issues I would like to address first.

“Most importantly, Teppu is not Jovol, at least in any meaningful sense, any more than Jovol was Fillein. I am unsure of the extent to which even his memories are retained. Teppu's agenda is not Jovol's agenda. He is driven by a different set of desires and philosophies, although there is, somehow – perhaps hyperconsciously – a commonality of purpose. This higher purpose is related somehow to Dream, and was partially illuminated by the oblique references that Jovol made to his understanding of the dialectical process.

“If we deal with Teppu – and I suspect we must – we should not expect to enjoy any kind of special rapport. Teppu is Green. His concern is a complex of energies involving feys, nature spirits, the goddess Uedii, and the natural world – something which he refers to as the Viridity: a burgeoning node of elemental power centered around these principles. The Viridity may be arising as some kind of mediating effect to resolve the polarization of Oronthonian belief and the Cult of Nihilism from Shûth.

“Its effect in Afqithan superseded the designs of Oronthon's Adversary. Accordingly, I have designated it a Greater Infinity. Its relationship with Oronthon himself is unclear, as is the relationship between the two foci – the Sela on one hand, and Nehael on the other. When I inspected the web of motes the sympathetic energy between the two was astounding, which leads me to suspect that a higher order of Intelligence is at work – perhaps the same order which drives Teppu, perhaps not. In any event, the final turn of the wheel in Afqithan revealed the Adversary as nothing more than a cog in some transcendental purpose. He had no inkling of the Viridity, and knowledge of it was – or is still – shrouded from him.”

Waide could no longer contain himself. “Nehael is the succubus who started all this mess in the first place, am I correct?”

“Not exactly,” Mostin said smugly. “Nehael is no longer what she was. In fact, she may have never been what she formerly was – the Viridity is concerned primarily with the Now, the Moment. As such, what is past, and what is yet to come are in large measure irrelevant. According to that paradigm, all history is vacuous – and mutable.”

“This is mystical babble,” Jalael interjected. “I had expected more from you, Mostin.”

“Indulge me!” Mostin snapped. “And Waide, kindly allow me to speak without further interruption. I am trying to contextualize my actions, not justify current trends in religious thought.”

Daunton coughed. “Perhaps you might be a little more succinct, Mostin.”

“Oh very well,” the Alienist grumbled. He inhaled deeply, and thought for a moment.

“Let me speak of artifacts,” Mostin clearly enunciated the last word, and was not disappointed by the effect that it had on all of those present. “You have, doubtless, heard rumours regarding the web of motes. Its whereabouts is currently undetermined: its last known guardian was the demon Surab, who possessed Mulissu's daughter, Iua, and was responsible for the death of the Savant. The web of motes itself is unlocatable by any means available to me. Surab is mind blanked by some device. It is of paramount importance that we retrieve this object. There is hope: I have made a metagnostic inquiry of a Pseudonatural entity named Ghom which dwells beyond the middle region. I believe that Surab is unaware of the true nature of the web of motes. I also believe that Iua is still alive – her form, which is young and nubile, may be pleasing to the demon. Surab may be unwilling – or unable – to reenter Azzagrat, and has retreated to the unnamed regions between Hell and the Abyss.

“Also, the chthonic demoness Soneillon spoke of something named Pharamne's Urn – an object of which she claimed ownership, but which had been appropriated by Prince Graz'zt at some point in the past. This item is of Aeonic potency: one in full possession of its powers – something which the Prince of Azzagrat is not – can create universes. Naturally, Graz'zt guards it jealously. Queen Soneillon could unlock it to a greater degree although, I suspect, she could not manifest its ultimate power: she was unusual for a demon in her command of ritual magic, something which is antithetical to the Abyssal mindset. She was also unique in many other ways.” An ironic smile crossed the Alienist's face.

Mostin paused to take a sip of tea, and was mildly surprised – and gratified – to find his audience utterly enrapt.

“We are delicately poised,” Mostin continued. “Currently, as I am sure even the most politically ignorant of you are aware, the Sela, Oronthon's proxy, is on the field of battle, south of Wyre's borders. Whilst Prince Tagur attempts to rally support for the campaign in secular circles, the Temple – and I trust we all recall that particular monolith – has effectively reformed, albeit with a more thoughtful perspective and without the stigma attached to the name Temple. I'll say the name again, for those of you who didn't hear me: Temple. It is the same band of lance-waving zealots as it was three years ago, and we must trust that Tramst has inculcated some measure of insight and tolerance in those involved.

This war is magical. The initial skirmishes – which have proven inconclusive – have demonstrated that the Sela is fallible in this arena. His purview is enlightenment – whatever that means to an Oronthonian – and not conflict. We must decide – collectively – a policy in this matter. We are, of course, bound by the Injunction, although we can act beyond Wyre's borders. But of the three main sects within the Cult of Cheshne, only one is technically subject to the law of the Claviger, and this has yet to be tested in practice.

“A friend once described such a conflict as arcanoreligious and I scoffed at the term. I am, however, beginning to think he – now she – was correct. It is fraught with legalistic complexity, which the Injunction must adapt to – although I have no doubt that the Claviger itself can anticipate many of the vagaries. If I am a theurge, and I conjure a demon within Wyre's borders using arcane power, am I subject to the same set of laws as I would be if I used a divinely granted boon to do the same? And we should not doubt that the devotees of Cheshne are both willing and able to do these things. Their vision is apocalyptic, in the extreme.

“This rather circuitous speech – and I apologize, Daunton, if I was less succinct than you had hoped, brings me to the main thrust of my argument today: there are mages and hierophants within the Order of Cheshne who wield considerable power. Possibly more than me, even. Their exact names, numbers and dispositions are hidden from us, but there are undoubtedly transvalent casters amongst them. We know only Anumid, who is their mouthpiece, and with whom Daunton was granted a brief audience.

“Their veneration of Cheshne is absolute. They regard demons – even demonic nobility – in an entirely different light to those of us exposed to Oronthonian dogma. Ugras – fierce protectors – of ancient methods and teachings. This is their Truth, and who are we to gainsay it?

“We cannot hide from this. We must adopt a position – even if it is one of noninvolvement: something, incidentally, which I most emphatically discourage. I am not asking you to submit to my whim in this matter, but I do request that my counsel is acknowledged, if nothing else. Waide distrusts and despises me – and the feeling is entirely mutual. But we have agreed to go to the Claviger for direction in our antipathy for one another, because both of us realize that our personal feelings for one another cannot be allowed to interfere with the larger picture.

“My appeal today is complex. First, I ask for help in recovering the web of motes. It is a tool which we can use to great effect – let me finish, Waide. Furthermore – as unlikely as this might seem – I owe it to Mulissu to see her daughter returned safely: I am rather fond of Iua.

“Second – and I will preempt cries of 'foul' before they are issued – I believe, for a variety of reasons, that it is within our mutual interest to confine the Demon Prince Graz'zt. He is one of the chief Ugras and we run the risk of him being conjured by our enemies and sent against us. The prize, if we can accomplish this, is Pharamne's Urn – if we can get to it before anyone else. I am in the possession of a transvalent spell bequeathed to me by Jovol which I believe can accomplish this infallibly if I have the unqualified support of the Assembly in this matter. The spell – which is outmoded, and I suspect against which Graz'zt has developed defenses – can be modified. Even a demon of Graz'zt's stature cannot withstand our combined power.

“Third, we must develop a coherent strategy to counter the threat from the Cult of Cheshne. We cannot be sidelined in this matter; neither can we allow ourselves to be overcome piecemeal, one-by-one. We must unite to address this danger. This runs counter to a thousand years of tradition, I know, but change is upon us. We live in a new world. We must adapt, or we will be broken. I have considered various possibilities as to how this can be accomplished, and I am willing to discuss them at length when the debate begins.”

Mostin took another sip of tea – which had gone cold – before continuing, He swallowed reflexively, as if in great doubt, and closed his eyes.

“Word has probably already spread that I am willing to make Shomei's library available to the arcane community. This is so. But, in case any of you have doubts as to my earnestness in regard to the matters of which I have spoken – and my sense of urgency – I would like to go further. I have a well-deserved reputation for miserliness, I know, and this may come as something of a shock. So consider this as a display of enlightened self-interest.

“I would like to turn over Shomei's entire estate in perpetuity to the Wizards of Wyre, as the starting point of a collective endeavour. I will donate my own library to the enterprise, and urge you all to do the same. I propose a repository of learning, and a testing ground for intellects as yet undiscovered. An Academy, if you will. We should embrace the Injunction, and display it above our gates as our Law, but also recognize it as our guiding principle. And I should like to nominate Daunton to be elected as our first President.”

Thirty-one jaws, including that of Rimilin of the Skin, dropped.

When Waide had recovered his composure, he smiled bitterly. He knew that Mostin had finally won, and left his indelible mark on history.

* This story may have to wait for some time.

** Saes, the Nireem goddess concerned with death, had allied herself with Graz'zt when the demon invested the plane, seeing an opportunity to augment her own power when the inevitable tide of slaughter followed. She gathered the spirits of all dead things to herself, swelling her strength, and guarded her prizes jealously. When Graz'zt withdrew his main force to defend Azzagrat, Saes sealed the entrance to Ruk, the underworld. Nwm's efforts to use remains he had discovered to reincarnate some of those who had died in the conflict, in order to repopulate Sisperi, were foiled: Saes refused to relinquish their souls.
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Originally posted by Sepulchrave II on 05-09-06


In the aftermath of the Confrontation in Afqithan, Nwm the Preceptor assumed the form of a great raven and took to the skies. He surveyed the scene below: had it been any ordinary battle, a glut of flesh would have been his for the taking. But amongst the heaped corpses of demons and monsters, all carrion was foul. Ichor, not blood, stained the glades beneath the towering trees.

Purposefully, he winged his way to where I lay dead upon the field: foes whom I had felled were scattered around. His pinions cracked once, and his talons came to rest upon a heap of varrangoin. I beheld him through lifeless eyes as he approached: my spirit lingered, unwilling to abandon my body.

"A third time will I restore you," he cawed. "And a fourth and a fifth, if need be. We are in need of every ally which we can find. The seed must sprout. The shoot must be tended."

Gently, he lifted me upwards, and screeched, invoking ancient goddesses who had slumbered for millennia, and whose names he alone knew. With a violent passion, life returned to me again.

"How was death?" He asked.

"Cold," I replied. I smiled, and exulted in my new form, relishing its power and subtlety. I cast my sight about, perceiving the interwoven lattice of life and magic which suffused the place. "This is your doing?" I asked.

"In part," he answered, winging his way toward Irknaan's Fortress. "What now?"

"I will remain here," I answered. "Afqithan is mine, now."

He cocked his head. "That is a bold claim. How will you enforce it?"

"With ruthless charm," I replied.


Nwm stood beneath the sagging boughs of a great deodar, a tree not native to Trempa, but rather one of a dozen imported generations earlier, by an aristocrat with a taste for the exotic; some forebear of Eadric of Deorham, whose name the Druid could not recollect. The late afternoon sun shone warm through the deep green of its canopy. He watched her approach, studying her carefully.

Her poise and grace were effortless, and her natural footfall, silent. She wore the same, tattered cloak and stained jerkin that she always had, but bore a buckler of sidhe metal strapped to her arm, won in Afqithan from one of the thousands who had perished there. Her face – breathtaking in its beauty – displayed only the slightest hint of contempt.

"Will this take long?" She asked as she drew near.

"It may," Nwm replied. "Lai has a favour to ask you."

Ortwine's eyes narrowed. "And what does your deific protégé require of me?"

"To embark upon a series of negotiations, with a goddess named Saes." Nwm replied. He attempted to sound casual. "It is better if I say nothing else. I am merely the courier."

"Somehow, I doubt that," Ortwine replied. "Perhaps you think I might be less apt to view an old friend with suspicion?"

"There is no joy left in you, Ortwine."

"Let's just get this over with," Ortwine sighed.


As Nwm and Ortwine travelled to Sisperi, and Mostin addressed the largest gathering of mages for a century, Eadric sat confined with the devils Titivilus and Murmuur in the summoning room. It was the third day of the interrogation.

Mostin had been irked by the fact that Ortwine and the Ahma had caused Titivilus to crumple so quickly: the Alienist had expected a more protracted negotiation. He had attempted for months to wheedle information from the confined Dukes, but had had neither the time nor the resources to develop a spell which would reliably subdue them: if an unprepared magick were to have failed, and a Duke were to break free, things would have become very messy, very quickly. One free would have become three free, and three of them together would have overwhelmed him. But the Wizard was relieved that he could – for a while, at least – avoid the two remaining Devils. He was implicated in the assassination of an Infernal magnate, and would enjoy the enmity of Dis until the end of his days.

The Ahma and Titivilus had spoken of the Adversary's role in Afqithan, of the deployment of Devils under Azazel, of Murmuur's Tower – now abandoned on the demiplane and, apparently, inert. Titivilus had speculated at length regarding the Infernal decision made to support Azzagrat – a subtle balancing act, to prevent Orcus gaining supremacy in his war with Graz'zt in the Abyss itself.

Many of Graz'zt's champions had perished, nonetheless, either in the Confrontation or shortly thereafter. Ainhorr, Cemdrei, Uort and a slew of others were no more. Melihaen had abandoned her master and fled to Throile, throwing in her lot with Adyell and the battered remnants of Soneillon's horde. Others had joined with Rhyxali, or Kostchtchie, or slunk away to Yutuf or Terkunuteng to lick their wounds, as their individual whim or interest dictated.

In Zelatar itself, Ilistet had rallied Graz'zt's army and led a savage counterattack against the undead host of Orcus. The war ebbed and flowed, but a stagnant impasse – which suited Hell's designs – seemed inevitable. The Prince of Azzagrat was fighting a defensive war which might last for millennia. His power had been curbed, and his ambition thwarted. Nehael was no longer captive. The Ahma had won, though the victory was bitter and empty.

Throughout the exchange with Titivilus, Murmuur had remained silent. Eadric regarded him with a mixed feeling, which included a grudging admiration. Here was a soldier, pure and simple. Loyal, steadfast, unwavering in his devotion to his beliefs, and utterly, irredeemably evil.

The Ahma sat, and laid Lukarn unsheathed across his knees.

"We have a few loose ends to tie up," Eadric sighed. "You may use surmise, but I will be alert to any attempted falsehood. If you try to mislead or prevaricate, I will annihilate you. Am I clear?"

"Yes," Titivilus grinned.

Eadric raised an eyebrow. The Devil already seemed cooperative. Did he think that Mostin's absence would make the Ahma more pliable, or was the prospect of his freedom causing him to be less opaque than normal? He grunted, and shifted his position.

"Tell me of Shomei. From your skewed perspective."

"Her soul is in a self-induced state of perdition. By rejecting Saizhan she made a conscious decision to consign herself to Hell. You have no authority in acts of individual volition."

"I have as much authority as I choose to assume," Eadric grimaced, "but I agree that it would be pointless to try to rectify the situation." He remembered his own conversation with Shomei too well, as well as the words and actions of the Akesoli.

"If you say so, Ahma."

"Is she in Dis?" Eadric asked, irritated.

"In Cania. Astaroth purchased her from the Akesoli. Perhaps neither Dispater nor Belial could meet their price: that is surmise, for the record."

"For what purpose?"

"She is a valuable prize," Titivilus smirked. "And the Grand Duke has an eye for the spirits of powerful mages."

"As currency?"

"To gloat over. Perhaps he will offer her unlife, for her immortal service. Pacts can extend beyond death, Ahma. Before you smite me, I should tell you that that is also surmise."

Eadric suppressed a shiver.

The Infernal Duke smiled. "The inducements offered by a Devil such as Astaroth are hard to resist," he persisted.

"And the web of motes, Titivilus?" Eadric asked, ignoring the goad. "Where might that be?"

"Frankly, I'm disappointed that Mostin has not contrived a spell to locate it. Find Surab, and you'll find the web. I do not know its location."

Eadric thought for a moment.

Titivilus spoke. "There is other information that I would like to impart to you. It is freely given."

"Or rather, the price is invisible," Eadric said stonily.

"Quite. Do you wish to hear it or no?" Titivilus gloated.

"I suppose I must."

"My mandate as your tempter was revoked some time ago. Before my embassy to Azzagrat, in fact."

"Why?" Eadric was suspicious.

"I do not know."

"Surmise!" Eadric snapped.
"To make way for one whom my superiors felt more suited, I assume. Or perhaps it was an abandonment of the task altogether."

"You failed, then?"

"I thought I was doing rather well. No matter. Are we finished, now? Will you kindly release me?"

"I regret not. I fear that I have mislead you."

The Ahma prayed briefly, buoying himself with Oronthon's power. Unholy auras flickered in response within the thaumaturgic diagrams as the devils anticipated Eadric's intention. Lukarn gained a silver sheen, and then the Ahma spoke a holy word. The devils' confining circles were shattered under the assault. Titivilus screamed silently, transfixed, as light overwhelmed him, but Murmuur withstood the barrage.

Incoherently, Titivilus struck Eadric with a quickened feeblemind and attempted to dispel the dimensional lock placed by Mostin on the chamber, but failed. Murmuur lashed out with a rapid meteor swarm and leapt at Eadric, smiting him with as much vile power as he could muster.

Titivilus, paralyzed, fell quickly to a series of brutal strokes from Lukarn.

Eadric stared at Murmuur, who remained defiant. Unexpectedly, compassion welled up within the Ahma. He had no choice but to act upon it.

"Yield!" Eadric's voice thundered in the confines of the summoning room. "Submit to my mercy. You are no match for me."

More blows were exchanged, and each hewed through the armour of the other. Murmuur staggered uncertainly.

"Yield!" Eadric demanded.

"I cannot," Murmuur smiled sadly. "We are forever lost, Ahma. Do you not yet understand?"

Lukarn fell three times, and the duke dropped to the floor.

Eadric closed his eyes as his mind contained the magnitude of his deed. The line had finally been drawn. There would be no more negotiation.


Lai sat cross-legged before a fire pit, in which a ruddy flame flickered. Runes lay cast about her, and her handmaidens fussed nearby, pouring nectar into bowls of exquisitely carved wood. She regarded Ortwine carefully, anxious to avoid a conflict.

Nwm, who stood nearby, was clad only in a simple green robe tied about his waist with a length of rough hemp. He scratched the dirt at his feet with slender staff cut from a young hornbeam, and avoided Ortwine's glare. His beard and hair seemed inordinately long to the sidhe, as though their cultivation might somehow hold the key to the mysteries into which the Druid had been initiated. A faint aura of Green surrounded Nwm – the dwimmerhame which protected him from hostile magicks. His hands and forearms were scarred from the massive backlash energies he routinely employed.

"You are welcome here as an honoured guest," Lai said smoothly, "and what is ours, is yours. Please sit."

Ortwine scowled, and lounged casually, resting on her left arm. Nwm coughed, and kneeled next to the goddess.

"Let's get straight to the point," Ortwine smiled coldly. "Nwm tells me that you wish me to act as your messenger. You wish me to enter the abode of the Goddess of Death – I have not forgotten who Saes is, Nwm – in order to strike some kind of bargain."

"Yes," Lai nodded. "To secure the release of the spirits which she has hoarded."

"This is no small task."

"Indeed," Lai admitted.

"If I were to agree, it would require sizeable recompense. What do you think that such an endeavour – if successful – is worth, Nwm?"

"I am gratified that you retain your mercenary tendencies," Nwm said drily.

"Do you have a price in mind?" Lai inquired.

"Divinity is acceptable to me."

Nwm guffawed. His expression changed to one of incredulity, when he saw that Ortwine was serious.

"You are a sidhe-queen, Ortwine! What more can you require?"

"Homage is pleasant, Nwm, but I think you'd agree that worship would be preferable."

"It is not within the power of the Nireem to grant you what you seek…" Lai began.

"Then you'd better find a way, goddess, because until you do, there will be no deal."


Eadric felt edgy. He looked from the highest window of the Steeple, casting his gaze south and east in the direction of the Sela's forces – although they were two hundred leagues beyond the limit of his vision. Below, lights and campfires were kindling amid a sea of tents – not warriors and soldiers, but pilgrims who had made their way to Deorham in the hope of catching a glimpse of the Ahma, and to walk in holy places. He turned to Mostin, who sat preoccupied in thought. They had touched briefly upon the topic of the Cult of Cheshne, towards whom both now earnestly bent their will.

"What are they doing? Why do they not act?"

"The Hierophants are devising and casting spells," Mostin grimaced. "Very potent spells. This takes time."

"And then?"

"They unleash the storm."

"Could you perhaps be a little more specific?" Eadric inquired.

"Opening a gate is child's play to these mages, Eadric. They compact demonic nobility. Bhítis and Ugras."

"How long do we have? Who will they send?"

"I don't know. If it were me, I'd start with a few balors. Just to get things warmed up – pardon the pun. When that happens, you'll know that the big spells are ready – they won't begin before they're prepared. I think we have a month or two, at least."

"Can we counter it?"

"If we pool our resources. A grand alliance, so to speak."

"And the Injunction?" Eadric looked sceptical.

"Only applies within Wyre's borders." Mostin's eyes suddenly narrowed. "Which is why the Assembly – which is demonstrating as much inertia as I expected – needs to come up with some solid offensive strategies. Fast. I would like to speak with your Sela. Can you arrange it?

"Er…yes," the Ahma looked surprised. "I had intended to leave for the South in two days. Can you wait?

"No," Mostin shook his head vigorously. "How about now?"

"There is áuda tonight and tomorrow – blessings which I am duty-bound to bestow, when I can. And I'd like to speak to the thaumaturge, Sineig – Canec informed me earlier that he has made the journey here from Gibilrazen on foot."

"The Irrenite? He is rather controversial, I hear." Mostin seemed amused.

"And becoming increasingly popular. He has quite the following."

"People like sex," Mostin shrugged. "If you include it in your praxis, it's bound to generate a lot of interest. And if you make intercourse with demons a central tenet, you will attract a certain kind of devotee."

"He is treading a dangerous path," Eadric sighed.

"But one not without precedent," Mostin replied drily.

"My religion has been transformed beyond all recognition," Eadric groaned. "And I am responsible for much of it. Most cannot grasp the teachings which Sineig presents. Many of those who follow his example will be broken."

"But a few will shine," Mostin insisted. "They choose, Eadric."

"Choice is overrated," Eadric sighed.

"It is preferable to spiritual despotism."

"Is that an ethical stance I detect, Mostin?"

"Only insofar as it applies to me. Now, can we leave?" Mostin nagged. "I'll have you back within an hour."

Eadric nodded.


"I require celestial sponsorship," Mostin sniffed, looking at Tramst. "My pseudonatural servitors are not suited for routine defense, and require a great deal of effort to summon and control. I have alienated many fiendish allies, and lack a versatile pool of potential compactees. I also suspect that Dispater may have placed a sizeable contract on my head, or will shortly. Can you help?

Eadric gaped. The Sela seemed amused.

"How do you propose that I might do that?"

Mostin sighed. "Obviously, to sanction my gating of celestials and to waive any normal fees that I would otherwise incur for planar bindings. I don't see what the problem is. We're on the same side, here. I would stipulate only that celestials who serve me refrain from displaying their wings, or change them to something less offensive – those of bats or insects are acceptable."

"It is not within my remit to make compacts."

"That's absurd," Mostin waved a hand. "You're Oronthon as well as Tramst, aren't you? Just expand your remit."

Eadric groaned. "Sela…"

Tramst held up a hand. "I know." He turned to Mostin. "I appreciate any agency that you might provide, Mostin, despite your motivation. But you need to adopt a more conventional approach in this. I cannot ease your path to power, can I? How would that be of benefit to you? Perhaps you should speak to a celestial?"

"It is precisely in order to avoid their blinkered perspective that I am talking to you," Mostin groaned. "I do not require moral instruction."

The Ahma coughed politely.

"Oh shut up, Eadric. So the answer is 'no,' then? Must I look to another source because the Sela is unwilling to help me help him?"

Eadric turned beet red, and opened his mouth to deliver an angry admonishment. Once again, the Sela raised his hand, staying his words.

We teach according to the wisdom of those who hear.

"I do not deal with the conventional, Mostin," the Sela was imperturbable. "But allow me to speak for Enitharmon: if you demonstrate your commitment, I have no doubt that it will be regarded favourably by those high in the celestial host. I believe that Jovol and Rintrah enjoyed good relations."

"Commitment?" Mostin asked suspiciously.

"You would need to refrain from routinely invoking fiends."

"And their pseudonatural analogues?"

"The host would not recognize such a distinction," Tramst smiled.

"And other pseudonaturals?"

"They would make no distinction there, either. As such, these entities would be acceptable."

"I will abide by these terms for the nonce," Mostin said grudgingly, "although giving up the daemons will be a wrench."

"They are not terms, Mostin, and I am in no means acting as guarantor. But if you are seeking to curry celestial support, it is traditional that one show willing in certain areas. You might also aid the Ahma in his coming task."

Eadric cocked his head. "I have a task? That will be a refreshing change to determining my own fate. What is it?"

"On Nehael's initiative there will be a nonpartisan embassy which represents all Wyrish interests, spiritual and secular. You must parley with Anumid: we must attempt to resolve this peaceably, even if is doomed to fail. Both Prince Tagur and Daunton have agreed to the effort."

The Ahma swallowed reflexively. "And is my role to be religious or mundane?"

"Both. You are the Ahma and the Earl of Deorham."

"One high in the Order – a former Templar – would be of aid to me. Sercion or Brey."

"I can spare neither," the Sela said simply. "Nor would I, if I could. They are too unformed for such a task."

"There are no others," Eadric grimaced.

"Amongst the living."

Eadric was dumbstruck. Must I break every rule?

You are the Ahma. You do what needs to be done. If you cling to outdated dogma, then what hope do we have?

Must I slay you, as well?

Time will tell. The Sela smiled.

"And you also expect me to embark on this futile mission?" Mostin asked.

"Your presence would demonstrate a degree of cohesion; a unity of purpose."

"Which we do not possess," Mostin snapped.

"Yet," Tramst replied. "I remain optimistic, however. I think it is fair to suggest that all desire it, but none are quite sure about how to realize it."


The tomb and reliquary of Saint Tahl the Incorruptible were situated in a small chapel adjoining the Great Temple of Morne, and were reached from the main transept through a wrought iron gate which always remained open: the faithful, who sought Tahl's intercession, could at any time offer prayer to him.

When Eadric arrived, only a single petitioner kneeled in quiet contemplation. By her ascetic appearance – she wore little more than rags, and her hair and nails were long and filthy – the Ahma judged her to be an Urgic pilgrim from eastern Trempa or Ardan. Or rather, she would have been one, before such distinctions had become irrelevant. The air of the chapel was thick with incense, and slender candles burned steadily upon a small altar.

She gaped as Eadric lit a taper and kneeled next to her. "Ahma, I…" she began to whisper.

"I'm sorry for disturbing you," Eadric bowed. "What is your name?"

"Beka, Ahma."

"I would have you be a witness, Beka. If the later interpretation of events becomes fraught with untruths and idle speculation, you will remember what happened here. You are charged with preserving an accurate account. Will you accept this responsibility?"

"Ahma, I…"

"If you wish to leave, you may. I would prefer that you stayed, however. Will you indulge me?"

The pilgrim nodded dumbly.

Eadric stood, and removed his gauntlets. Reaching out, he ran his hand over the face of the marble effigy of Tahl: a figure lying in quiet repose, hands clasped upon the quillons of a greatsword, upon the lid of a sarcophagus. He mustered as much strength as he could.

Eadric hefted the lid, pushed it sideways, and lowered it carefully, so that it rested against the side of the tomb. Inside were a scourge, a sword, and a wooden casket, almost pristine. Eadric prised it open, gagging at the stench which rose up to greet him.

Beka turned her head away, aghast, and held her breath.

"In these days, even the dead will have no rest," he intoned.

There was a momentary flash, and Tahl's decayed form changed abruptly. His eyes opened.


"My apologies for interrupting your bliss, Tahl. There is much to be done, and I need your help."

"Of course," Tahl smiled. "Where is my armour?"

"Sercion wears it," Eadric laughed. Tears streamed down his face.

"Is the Sela here?"

"No. That meeting will have to wait."

"I am the first?"

"You will not be the last." Eadric nodded.

"Who is next?"

"Rede," the Ahma looked pained.

"He has become wrathful. A spirit of vengeance."

"So much the better," Eadric smiled grimly.


She was waiting quietly for the Alienist when he returned to his manse. When he saw her, blood hammered in his temples, and he briefly contemplated whether or not to flee. His arcane sight revealed no detail about her, impenetrable as she was to divination. Nonetheless, he knew her. Power radiated from her. The Claviger had magnified her.

"Am I to be arraigned?" He asked. "Eliminated?"

"You will make some tea," Gihaahia said with a wicked smile. "And then we will discuss the finer points of the Injunction."

"Do you take milk?" Mostin breathed a sigh of relief.

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Originally posted by Sepulchrave II on 05-23-06 at 2:25 am.



Untitled Update

Iua paced back and forth. Violent impulses crowded within her mind, and the recollection of fell deeds felt sweet in her mouth. But huge gaps remained in her memory.

She touched the pommel of her rapier lightly, feeling reassured by its presence. Through her gloved hand, a frisson of power from the weapon made her head spin, as though she had consumed too much kschiff.

Egress from the chamber was impossible. As opulent as it might be, she was a prisoner there. The door to the place – if it was a door – showed no sign of lock or handle, and was constructed of some kind of adamant. She had attempted to plane shift without success, and even in a gaseous form she had been unable to pass through the embrasure – a spell prevented passage, and Iua lacked the means to counter it. Looking out, all she saw was a smoking slope which extended below her as far as she could see. At irregular intervals, the ground was wracked by convulsions and liquid fire erupted.

I am Iua. I am in some Hell or other. I have had an enchantment laid on me: my memory has been selectively erased. I am not dead. I don't think I am.

She knew that there were significant people and places in her life – Mulissu, Ortwin, Ulao, Fumaril, Magathei, Trempa – but she could not clearly remember any events connected with them. When she tried to construct any memory associated with them, it would elude her, and remain tantalizingly beyond her grasp.

She sat upon the bed and waited. She opened her bag – which contained a number of apparently potent items – and laid the contents before her again, as if they might hold the key to her past. A sapphire, rings, amulets, a tiny boat, a lump of dark stone, a sphere, a flat panel of curious design. She gazed at them for a long while, but became frustrated. She replaced them in her bag.

Time passed.

A sound – a low click – finally reached her ears. Iua leapt silently to the side of the portal, drawing her blade. As the door slid open, she dashed forth, intent on escape and slaying any in her way.

None stood there, but as her foot passed over the threshold to the chamber, her memory was suddenly restored to her in full.

She screamed.


It was the first time that the Ahma and Nehael had met since their brief exchange during the aftermath of Afqithan. Eadric had not so much purposefully shunned her, he told himself as he walked to meet her, as been occupied with other, more pressing duties. As had she.

That must be why I feel like vomiting, he sighed.

She was sitting in a wicker chair in the same spot which Cynric had favoured; the place where Feezuu had blasted the Prelate into oblivion. The same place where Graz'zt himself had stood and spoken the dreadful syllables which had resulted in the greatest carnage in Morne's long history. Her presence seemed like a potent salve applied to an open wound.

She smiled when she saw him, causing his head to spin yet further. He sat shakily next to her, and noticed that she smelled like summer rain. He thought briefly.

"Do you retain a sense of irony?" He asked.

She raised an eyebrow.

"That's a good sign," he breathed tensely. "I'm sorry for avoiding you. Too much has passed. I didn't know where to begin. We are not what we were. Other clichés to that effect. I'm now being facetious to cover my discomfort."


He relaxed a little.

"I would learn everything that has passed for you," Nehael said softly. "The totality of your experience. It will help me understand better."

"That may take some time."

"You need not speak. You need not even articulate thoughts and memories that are too uncomfortable for you. First, I would share myself with you in the same manner. It is the only way to heal the trauma. A perfect communion."

"Nehael, I…"

"Do not reject me now, Ahma."

He clenched his jaw, and nodded. "How?"

"Consider Saizhan, and what it teaches. Can you adopt a Sophist perspective for a moment? Allow that truth to assert itself?"

"How will that help?"

"It will contextualize your perceptions. Place them within a framework which is familiar."

Eadric groaned. "Others seem to alternate between religious truths far easier than I. My transitions are more fraught. But I will do as you ask."

"Are you ready?"


"Exactly," she smiled. "NOW."

A soft hand reached out, and gently touched his face. His eyelids became heavy.

"Do not close your eyes!" Nehael laughed.

Reality shattered into a billion fragments, and was replaced by Itself.


Eadric was possessed of a piercing clarity, in which the world astounded him with its vibrancy and beauty. He looked at Nehael. She was perfect. The oranges hanging nearby – yet to come to full ripeness – were perfect. He listened to the conversation of Temple guards by the gates of the compound, smelled the incense which burned upon the high altar, felt the breeze upon his face on the roof of the Great Fane. He tasted the salt on his lips which blew on the wind from the marshes to the south of Morne. He beheld an ant climbing a rose-bush in a garden in the Bevel. All was perfect.

Beyond all – or beneath all – was a vibration which was inaudible, invisible, and without form. Infinite, yet apprehended in its entirety.

Viridity, he knew. His breath was quick and shallow.

Nehael smiled. "Know me."

The Ahma turned his consciousness – which had become all-encompassing – towards her.

In the space of a fleeting moment, he realized everything about her. Every thought, every memory, every feeling she had ever experienced within her life since her rebirth through the Tree, and a myriad of other lives in cycles within cycles. But stretching back uncounted aeons to the beginning of time itself were another set of memories: impressions which were like dreams, and belonged to one who was no more. Past the Fall, until the Nehael who never was existed only as an unmanifest thought within the Mind of Oronthon. A gnostic ecstasy swept over him.

Abruptly, it ended as she withdrew her power from him. He quaked at the separation from the source. As his ego emerged from the reverie and his persona recrystallized, his breathing slowed again. He focused his mind.

"Saizho," he bowed.

He looked at her as her mind absorbed his own experience in its fullness. A single tear ran down her cheek: he watched, and as it fell and struck the floor of the orangery, a thousand tiny flowers erupted from the flagstones.

"You loved her," she smiled.

"Very much," he nodded.

"I am sorry for your loss."

He sighed. "She was my kius. The shadow which brought the Good into sharp relief."

"And now?"

"I see the light with clear eyes. Much doubt has passed."

"But the dreams persist, Ahma. Her vestige has not abandoned you, and clings yet to your memories. She exists in you most of all."


Mostin fidgeted nervously, waiting for the tea to steep. He glanced sidelong at the Enforcer, who was examining a collection of infernal curios upon one of the shelves in his study. She had assumed a black-clad humanoid shape, approximately female, with impossibly red hair. She turned to face him, and her eyes bored into him. Mostin quickly looked away, jerked his hand spasmodically, and promptly spilled the sugar.

"Sh*t," he muttered.

"I relish the rare moments in which I am permitted to manifest a body," Gihaahia said, smiling.

Gods, don't smile. It's too unnerving.

"And a discrete consciousness," the Enforcer added, almost as an afterthought. She sat. "Two sugars, please."

Mostin poured the tea shakily. Most of it found its way into the cup.

"You purport to champion the philosophical tenets which underpin the Injunction," Gihaahia took the cup from the Alienist's uncertain grasp. "Yet you evince a grudging literalism in your approach. As though it were a matter of convenience – or inconvenience – for you. I refer specifically, of course, to the fact that you have chosen to erect your abode here – less than a bowshot from the bounds of Wyre as defined in the nineteenth article. Some might view such a decision as purposely defiant and inflammatory."

"I think…"

"Shut up, Mostin. I haven't finished, yet. You are forgiven for this quasi-infraction. The Claviger loves all of her children, even the wayward ones."

Her? Children? Uedii's teats. She's deranged.

"You remain embroiled in political maneuvering – shut your mouth, Mostin. I'm still talking. Before you accuse me of arbitrariness, I have already determined to visit Daunton with the same warning. He's as bad as you are. Your Académie will sink before it has a chance to establish itself if you persist in this attitude. You are inciting other mages to violence. You are conspiring to conjure a demon prince – yes, I know you don't plan to bind him in Wyre. You are a rabble-rouser, and a danger to the body magickal. And as for Astaroth…"

Mostin gaped. Only hours before, a fleeting thought had passed through his mind regarding the Lord of Caina. The Alienist had mused – for all of two seconds – upon the possibility of binding the archdevil and forcing him to relinquish Shomei to him.

She has made her choice, Mostin.

Mostin scowled.

"I am sadistic and vindictive, Mostin," Gihaahia's eyes narrowed to burning slits. "And nothing would give me greater pleasure than to rend your body and hurl it into the Phlegethon. The Claviger is more reasonable, however – which is fortunate for you. You will desist forthwith from all political activity when you are within Wyre's confines. This includes plotting to assault the Cult of Cheshne; associating in councils of war with the Ahma, the Sela or any other representative of Oronthon; offering advice to any of Wyre's temporal leaders; or conspiring with other mages to summon demons. If you choose to engage in any of these activities, let it be outside of Wyre. If you violate these terms, you will be exiled for a period of one hundred years upon pain of obliteration if you re-enter the proscribed area. Am I clear?"

Mostin nodded dumbly.

"You would be well advised to reflect upon the spirit of the Injunction when making choices regarding these matters. Conjuring Graz'zt ten yards from Wyre's borders will be regarded as insolent, at the very least. Continuing your plots and machinations in a magnificent mansion which abuts Shomei's estate would be considered scandalous. Whilst neither would draw direct retribution, they would predispose the Claviger to a less lenient position if you were arraigned in the future. You may now speak. Be swift. Do you have any questions?"

"Many. Does the Injunction apply to arcanists from Shûth?"

"Of course."

"If I am assailed by a hierophant within Wyre, may I defend myself with impunity?"

"Defend, yes," Gihaahia sighed.

"If I open a permanent portal from Shomei's earthly demesne to her astral retreat and convene a council whose agenda is at odds with the Injunction, will it be held against me in the future?"

The threat of the Enforcer's titanic mental grip loomed over Mostin. He knew that she could squash his psyche with a passing thought.

"These are practical considerations," Mostin wailed. "Our existence is threatened."

"Adhere to the Injunction, Mostin. In letter and spirit. The Claviger looks after her own. You will not be abandoned."

"What do you mean?" Mostin asked.

"Precisely that," Gihaahia smiled her evil smile.

"I need to…" Mostin began.

But the Enforcer had vanished, without warning. The Alienist cursed, and hurled the teapot against a bookcase in a fury. What was happening? What was this talk of gender and maternity in relation to the Claviger? It was grossly inappropriate.

Still, somehow, he felt oddly reassured.

He issued a sending to Daunton: We need to talk. Where are you?

The reply was laden with fear and apprehension: Later, Mostin. I have an unexpected guest.

Mostin frowned. His hands were still shaking. He stood, walked to a small cabinet, retrieved an antique bottle, and poured himself a generous draught of vintage firewine. The liquor burned his throat and made him sneeze.

He fondled the stone of sendings briefly, swallowed, and then sent a message to Rimilin.


"Will she not compromise?" Lai asked, her voice evincing as much irritation as Nwm had ever before heard.

"Perhaps," the Druid replied. "She may have stated an unreasonably high bargaining position to begin with, with the intention of accepting other terms. But I think that she is genuine. Although it's impossible to tell."

"One of us could relinquish our power," Rhul suggested. "Although she would be bound to Mulhuk, much as we are."

"Would you make such a concession?" Jaliere asked. Smoke bellowed from his nostrils.

"To ensure our survival? Certainly."

"I suspect that Ortwine would find such a proposal unacceptable," Nwm smiled drily. "She wishes to take her divinity with her. Back to Afqithan.*"

"I find this entire conversation absurd," Jaliere grunted. "There must be another way."

"There is not," Lai sighed emphatically. "We cannot assault Saes. We cannot coerce her. This fey – who is unknown to her – may be able to achieve what we are incapable of."

"I don't see how." The God of the Forge was becoming agitated, and his beard began to kindle.

"Please remain calm," Lai's tone changed as she tried to placate Jaliere. "Ortwine is a greater liar than any I have met. She is conniving and duplicitous to an extreme degree. Moreover, if she is motivated sufficiently – if the prize is great enough – she will find a way."

"What of the Ahma?" Jaliere asked.

"His debt is paid to you," Nwm shook his head. "Three times over. And he is preoccupied with other matters – which I am neglecting in order to be here."

"But you had intended to accompany Ortwine?"

"Yes," Nwm nodded.

Lai looked shocked. "Why have you said nothing of this to me?"

Nwm shrugged. "I cannot let Ortwine do this alone. I thought you understood that."

"But this is…"

"Madness? Suicide?" Nwm suddenly became angry. "Then perhaps you should ask yourselves whether it is reasonable to ask this of her at all! Decide which this is Lai, because it was my impression that there was a possibility of success."

"Watch your tone, mortal," Jaliere threatened.

"Peace!" Lai raised her hand.

"All of this is moot," Rhul observed, "if we cannot find a way to grant Ortwine what she demands."

"Ngaarh!" Jaliere slammed a gauntleted fist upon the stone table. He barked at two spectral warriors – ancestral spirits who guarded the doors to the hallway.

"Bring in the Fey. This discussion is pointless without her presence."


The island – which rose from the ocean west of Pandicule like a jagged tooth – had been chosen by the mage Kothchori for its isolation and its peculiar aesthetic. Mostin wondered whether, at some time in the distant past, some wind-sorcerer had raised it from the sea bed in order to serve as a base – although the Alienist had no evidence to support such a theory. It was too eccentric, he observed, to be altogether natural.

Rimilin had claimed it as his own and – with a characteristic panache which Mostin grudgingly acknowledged – replaced the crumbling remains of Kothchori's abode with a three-hundred foot tall tower of red iron which pierced the sky like a great, bloody spearhead. The Alienist turned to Orolde.

"He has a certain style," Mostin admitted. "Don't you think?"

"I preferred it as it was," Orolde replied sadly. "Kothchori felt no need for such phallic ostentation."

"An interesting observation," Mostin nodded. "Which may have some merit. The Ritual of Bonding requires certain sacrifices which most would be unable to endure. Come, Orolde! We shall see whether Rimilin observes those niceties of conduct which transcend even the forced peace of the Claviger. It would be wise to omit any references to genitalia, however. Even after so long, that may still be a sensitive subject."

The duo ascended a hundred or so stone steps to arrive at the base of the tower, and stood before an intricate portal of black adamant, inlayed with precious metals and carved with dire warnings. It ground open to reveal a narrow staircase, lit by lurid green smokeless flambeaux. Mostin sighed, and strode in. Orolde scuttled in nervously behind. There was a brief sensation of dimension at once both stretching and contracting, and Mostin found himself in an echoing hall of great height. He glanced behind quickly to observe Orolde, who still followed him.

The chamber was circular, and was illuminated by a firepit which sat in its dead centre, as well as by seven immense bronze sconces which jutted out of its walls at regular intervals in its periphery. It tapered to an apex perhaps thirty fathoms above, and around the walls a staircase wound, reaching balconies and doors beyond which, presumably, other chambers lay.

"Welcome," a foul voice issued from above the Alienist. Rimilin stood upon a wide mezzanine which extended for three quarters of the chamber's circumference.

Mostin cleared his throat. "Thank-you. Should I come up, or will you come down?" His voice was louder than he had anticipated, as though some enchantment magnified the sound in the tower's interior.

"Ascend if you dare," Rimilin's voice taunted him. "I promise to be good."

Mostin scowled, and slowly climbed the staircase.

"Ahh, the hero of the hour," Rimilin said acidly as Mostin gained the balcony. The walls were lined with bookcases crammed with thousands of ancient tomes. "Your coup with the Assembly will merit discussion ten generations hence – if it survives at all."

Mostin stared hard at him. His hairless head and naked torso glistened with an oily black secretion, and he smelled rank.

"I have come to take counsel," Mostin said simply. "Aside from Daunton and Jalael, you are the only mage who openly advocates a proactive stance in our dealings with Shûth."

"The inertia of Wyre's wizards will be their undoing," Rimilin spat. "They all deserve to perish."

"It is incumbent upon us that we convince them to act in concert," Mostin sighed.

Rimilin snorted, and sat in a siege of wrought Abyssal bronze. He motioned to Mostin to do the same. Orolde fumbled nervously and produced a ledger and a quill pen – from which the feathers had been judiciously removed.

"Why did you insist to bring your scribe with you?" Rimilin's brow furrowed. "Did you think that it would cause me to moderate my tone?"

"Not at all," Mostin sat stiffly. He wasn't even sure himself why he had commanded Orolde to attend him. Perhaps he needed the unqualified moral support. Perhaps he felt that it was high time that the Sprite was exposed to the inner counsels of Wyre's most accomplished mages: Orolde's aptitude for magic was beginning to assert itself, and soon he would be faced with the choice of whether or not to remain with the Alienist. Mostin grimaced. Such was the way of things.

"Has the Enforcer paid you a visit, yet?" Mostin inquired.

Rimilin's eyes narrowed. "Why?"

"There are those among us, myself and Daunton included, who tread close to the legal boundaries – both physically and metaphorically – of the Injunction. Gihaahia was kind enough to point out the fact that sometimes my actions are questionable."

"I have received no such warning. Perhaps you are more controversial than I," Rimilin smiled.

Perhaps physical proximity to Wyre is more important than I suspected, Mostin thought.

"I have recently succoured the Sela for celestial aid," Mostin tapped his fingers on the arm of his chair.

"You? An Enochian?" Rimilin's voice oozed with contempt. "You have been reduced to a lowly estate, Mostin!"

"I am exploring every option!" Mostin hissed. "And I preclude nothing at this stage. I need reliable allies, not fickle compactees. Devils are out of the question."

"I heard of Furcas," Rimilin smiled. "That may prove a costly mistake."

"I take it then that word has not yet reached you of Titivilus and Murmuur? They are also destroyed."

"Three Infernal Dukes?" Rimilin was visibly impressed. "That must be some kind of record."

"It was Eadric, not I, who slew them."

"I doubt that Dispater – or the Fly-Lords – will differentiate your complicity."

"Indeed," Mostin acknowledged.

"You might petition Belial for aid," Rimilin suggested. "If you care to walk Shomei's path."

"I do not. And I do not have the resources to pursue pseudonatural servitors at this stage. I am in danger of further exhausting my reservoir if I do. My options are limited. And in the field of rapidly polarizing allegiances, I must side against Cheshne. That is the biggest threat to me, and to Wyre."

"You risk a great deal in telling me this," Rimilin was suspicious. "Why?"

"Because, despite your depravity, you are no nihilist, and you understand necessity."

"You seek to act as the catalyst for a Cascade," Rimilin realized. "You think that you can force the hand of the celestial host, if Enitharmon perceives a large enough threat? Those days are over, Mostin. The demise of the Temple ended that paradigm, and both the Ahma and the Sela sealed that door when they chose mysticism over Orthodoxy."

"For themselves, maybe. Personally, I will use whatever tools I need to. Think on that."


Ortwine strode slowly into the council chamber in Mulhuk. Rhul gazed at her in wonder as she approached: her beauty was undeniable, though cold, and her very presence seemed more profound than any there – who bore the title of god or goddess – could claim.

"Have you found a way?" She asked calmly.

"No," Lai admitted.

The Sidhe turned, and began to walk away.

"Ortwine, please," Rhul implored. "We are at a loss. If we could grant this freely, we would. We are but little gods," his voice was ironic. "You know this. You ask the impossible."

She turned to face them, and thought for a long moment.

"Very well," she finally said. "The payment can wait. As it depends upon my success in any event, here are the terms that I propose: Upon release of the spirits of the dead – assuming that such a deed can be accomplished – you will admit me nominally to your ranks. When Lai and Nwm reincarnate the disembodied en masse, my worship will be actively encouraged by your agents. As your power begins to wax again, as surely it will; you will, after all, have a monopoly on religion," sarcasm dripped from Ortwine's tongue, "then I will claim my divinity along with an equal – which is to say twenty percent – share of the veneration from Sisperi's burgeoning population. Which brings me to my portfolio."

Nwm gaped. Ortwine had some truly outrageous ideas.

"I choose lies and trickery. I have observed that you lack a suitable exemplar in these areas. But – and here is where you make a concession to me now, before we begin – Jaliere must first perform a task for me."

"Must he indeed?" Jaliere thundered.

Ortwine drew Githla, and handed it to the God of the Forge. "This blade was forged by the Azer Jodrumu, before he went mad."

Jaliere brandished it, feeling its balance and judging its temper with his mind's eye. "This is a fine weapon. Jodrumu – whoever he was – was a gifted smith."

"Just so," Ortwine agreed.

"You wish it reforged by Jaliere?" Lai asked.

"Not exactly," Ortwine smiled slowly. "I wish it married with another blade. If such a task is within his abilities."

Jaliere guffawed. "If not I, then who? Which is this other weapon?"

But Nwm already knew. Just as he knew that Ortwine alone was most likely to succeed in deceiving Saes, because the Sidhe had played him – and the Nireem – already.

The Druid grimaced. "The sword is named Heedless. And I strongly advise against this course of action, Ortwine."

"Your concern is duly noted," Ortwine nodded. "And ignored. If I am to be a goddess, Nwm, I must have a blade worthy of me."

* The Chiefs of the Nireem (except Ninit) retain a divine rank of 1 only when within Mulhuk, the minor heaven which abuts Sisperi. Outside of its confines, they are treated as DR0 quasi-deities.

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Bumped from page 3.

I was thinking about setting up a compiled thread for the Rogue's Gallery as well as this one. Maybe do some re-organizing- put the PCs in their various incarnations all on one page, give the fiends a few pages to themselves, and so on.

Or maybe keep them in the order that Sep posted them, but have a "master post" on the first page with links to them all.

Originally posted by Sepulchrave II at 12:25 pm on 06-25-06

Tahl was first, and Rede was second.

When the Ahma brought the former Master of the Temple back, he found that Tahl's assessment had been correct: a righteous wrath had been Oronthon's gift to Rede of Dramore, whose realization of the truth had come too late.

Eadric had descended together with Tahl into the catacombs, and they had smashed sarcophagi open. Saint Tahl prayed as the Ahma, who alone of Oronthon's mortal servants possessed the power,* had called them back, breathing life into them: Tuan Muat, an Inquisitor of singular determination; Kustus of Mord; Wurz, the founder of the Mission; Moda the Exorcist; Tarpion the Rash; Anaqiss Twice-Apostate, who had briefly supported both the Irrenites and the Sophics before recanting his heresies; Haubi of Thahan. Former grandees and luminaries in the Magistratum, some of whom had been dead for two centuries or more. All had perished violently: in war, or at the hands of demons or assassins, or through acts of betrayal by those who sought to supplant them. Unquiet spirits who – gifted with new life and vigour – pledged themselves both to Eadric and to the teachings of Saizhan, body and soul.

Tahl called steeds to serve them: a brood of ancient celestial griffons of prodigious size, whose names were buried in forgotten temple tomes.** Eadric took Hauthuts, hot-tempered and proud, whose feathered mane bore a silver sheen. He knew that before the Fall, Murmuur's steed had been kin to them, and mused how many had descended with their masters into damnation: their adherence to virtue seemed already precarious. Within a week, there were twenty of them. They consumed horses more quickly than Eadric could have imagined possible.

The date of the embassy drew near, and Eadric considered his possibilities. After agonizing over the choices, he opted to retain Rede and Tarpion, deploying the others – including Kustus, who possessed great strategic insight – to order the Sela's position south of Wyre. Tuan Muat, Wurz, Moda and Anaqiss were powerful spellcasters whose presence was sorely needed in the Temple camp; Tahl, he would not spare.

Nehael's initiative would be formally ratified by the Small Council in the august presence of King Tiuhan, a political move organized by Prince Tagur: Tiuhan approached his fourteenth birthday, and his majority. But Mostin and Daunton would join the party later, beyond Wyre's borders. Mostin had indicated that there were diplomatic considerations that should not be overlooked which prevented his official involvement.

Ugh. Politics, Eadric thought.

"Will you seize power, if a time comes where it seems necessary?" Tahl inquired archly of him. "There are rules you have yet to break."

The Ahma sighed. "Probably, knowing my luck."

"Do you think if they get us all in one place, they will try to overwhelm us with one, swift stroke?"

"Maybe," Eadric nodded. "But I think they'll fail if they do. They are not yet prepared. And we aren't so helpless. Now uncertainty vexes them, and it may be we can force their hand. Time is no longer on their side."

Tahl nodded. There were nine hundred sarcophagi in the Temple catacombs.


The fortress, which perched upon an island of matter, drifted in a haphazard fashion through a grey, featureless astral planescape.

Sho stood in the courtyard and gazed up at the expanses above her. She felt no desire. No fear. No joy. But neither did she feel nothing: oblivion was a state denied to her. She experienced only a perpetual, mild discomfort, as her incomplete psyche attempted to balance two irreconcilable commands:

Preserve what you are. Become other than what you are.

Her creator's gift to her – other than a semblance of life – had been a perpetual existential malaise. She sighed – because that is what she understood was appropriate – and entered the keep: a round bastion pierced with narrow windows, from which issued the bluish-green light of a dimensional lock. She made her way by a narrow staircase into a chamber in the bedrock, where the Alienist was closeted.

Potent wards protected the place. Mostin paced back and forth, irritated. Within a thaumaturgic diagram, a solar – Taruz – stood in glorious, radiant, blissful meditation. Captured by a superior planar binding – a spell developed by Shomei – the celestial had refused point-blank to deal with Mostin until it was released. Events were not transpiring as the Alienist had hoped.

Mostin glanced sidelong at Sho, but refused to meet her gaze. He would not look at her directly – something which Sho knew should make her feel upset. She decided to pout, but the expression was lost on Mostin.

Orolde – who sat on a low stool – smiled at her, and raised his stump. He hopped down, and scurried over.

"The celestial is being less than accommodating," the Sprite whispered. "Where is Mei?"

"She still reads," Sho answered. Orolde was kind to her. She felt that she should like him.

She coughed, in an effort to attract Mostin's attention.

The Alienist scowled.

"I should like to explore," Sho asserted. "May I leave the keep?"

Mostin raised an eyebrow. "I think you might find the landscape hereabouts rather dull – although I would advise caution nonetheless. But I am not your master. Do what you will. Perhaps Orolde will accompany you."

The Alienist watched as they departed. His clumsy efforts to nudge the simulacra towards self-realization had, thus far, had negligible results; they had demonstrated nothing which could be described as genuine individuation. It would take time, and magic of a magnitude he could barely begin to comprehend, to effect that change. And there was never enough time.

He dwelt briefly on the possibilities offered by Shomei's infinity of pseudoanalogues, before dismissing them from his mind.

After invoking powerful protections, Mostin turned to Taruz. "Don't try any funny business. Don't try to intimidate me – it won't work. And spare me your moralizing."

He waved his hand, and a little of the powdered silver which formed the protective circle around the celestial blew away. Taruz stepped forth.

"I know you have a very good reason for this, Mostin," the Solar's eyes bored into him.


The Arcanaloth, Tholhaluk, gazed into the scrying mirror, observing Iua's endless progress through the maze within his basalt fortress with an expression of malicious curiosity. At whiles, she would stop to regain her bearings; or, alternatively collapse for an hour in uncontrolled bursts of tears as memories cascaded through her mind. She was perched precariously on the edge of sanity. The Daemon smiled – it was important that she not be pushed too far if she were to be effectively harnessed, and not utterly broken.

Surab, who had moved into her rapier, prompted her as necessary. Always in proximity to Iua, he could reinhabit her at need – should her actions become too suspicious or threatening. He played masterfully on her wild, impulsive nature; the instinctual chaos which was her elemental self. She had taken to the corruption which he lavished on her, greedily absorbing the taint whilst simultaneously rejecting it in disgust. Angst raged through her: she was empowered and violated; stripped of her will, yet granted boons which no mortal could hope for. She found it increasingly difficult to separate her own identity from the evil which drove a dark desire to maim, rape and kill.

Sensing her own damnation, she wept spasmodically in despair, all the while exulting.

Within the shifting walls of the maze – from which, it was becoming apparent to Iua, there was no real exit – Tholhaluk had placed a number of conundrums. Perverse scenarios wrought of shadowstuff, in which Iua was forced to act as the protagonist in a play whose choices always dealt misery, pain and death – but, for her, granted an ecstatic release which left her calm and sated. But only for a little while.

Eadric – the Ahma – might have fared better, she mused as she watched fiendish trolls idly butcher children and gorge on their flesh. Her spirits soared as her body heaved in revulsion.

But I am not Eadric. What hope do I have? They are breaking me.

She laughed maniacally. She knew that the pain would finally end, when she could recall her own mother's murder with delicious satisfaction.


Even after abandoning Graz'zt – a decision which Tholhaluk wrily observed he might later come to regret – the daemon remained on favorable terms with a number of Azzagrat's proxies. The initial assault upon Zelatar by death knights, blood fiends and Abyssal ghouls had seemed, at first, overwhelming. Tholhaluk had panicked; bursting free from the sealed palace with a powerful disjunction which had ripped a hole through defenses erected by Graz'zt; for which, the Arcanaloth knew, he had gained the everlasting enmity of the Dark Prince. However, Tholhaluk believed – correctly – that he was low on the list of Graz'zt's priorities as far as potential targets for revenge were concerned. He would have a few centuries, at least, before his former sponsor's eye was turned towards him: if Azzagrat endured at all through the current crisis.

Yaugot – the fearsome king of Terkenutung – still paid for the services of thugs provided by Tholhaluk, and the daemon had seized upon the vacuum of opportunity left by the withdrawal Graz'zt's troops from that world. Mazikreen – one of the few succubi to have successfully disentangled herself from the webs of Queen Alrunes to forge a kingdom of her own – had graced him with a visit in his citadel soon after Orcus had invested Azzagrat. Suudjut – a balor who rivalled Ainhorr in his power – had also made overtures to Tholhaluk; apparently eager for trade in souls but, in fact, the daemon knew, anxious to procure the sword Heedless, which was reported to be still in Afqithan. Tholhaluk, who had lost a veritable host of mercenaries in the Confrontation, was understandably reluctant to pursue any enterprise there. And now the heart of Afqithan was in Faerie: woe betide any fiend who roused the Sidhe-Lords from their languor.

Tholhaluk was, as always, treading carefully. But Iua was an opportunity. He would work with Surab for as long as it took for one of them to destroy the other. With grim appreciation, Tholhaluk knew that he wouldn't be the corpse at the end of it.


"What would you require of me, in order to secure unqualified celestial aid?" Mostin asked bluntly. "If, for example, I needed a handful of cherubs to aid me in casting a spell?"

The solar's eyes went blank for a moment.

The bastard is communing with his superiors, Mostin knew. Don't they ever think for themselves?

"A genuine recantation of your prior crimes," Taruz smiled beatifically. "That you wholeheartedly embrace Oronthon, and demonstrate – through your deeds and words – a dedication to His cause. If you achieved such a state of grace, however, I suspect that the likelihood of you wanting to cast such a spell would be zero."

Mostin groaned. "Who are you speaking with? Enitharmon? You're certainly towing the Orthodox line, aren't you?"

"Your dealings with fiends have not endeared you to the celestial host."

Mostin held his tongue, as mentioning the name Soneillon would have merely elicited rhetoric from Taruz regarding the mission of the Ahma which the Alienist was in no mood to hear.

"The fact that I am in a position to defend Wyre – and the faithful – from an inevitable demonic assault, and that you show reluctance in aiding me in my efforts might be construed as rather short-sighted, don't you agree?"

"Your lack of faith in the vision of the Sela merely demonstrates your unworthiness in this area," Taruz observed.

"It was the Sela who suggested that I contact the host!" Mostin was becoming increasingly frustrated.

"That is known," Taruz nodded. "As is your participation in the coming mission to the Cheshnite sect. Hence, I am demonstrating a greater tolerance of your binding me than I might otherwise."

Oh, for Shomei's rod, Mostin lamented, and cursed the Akesoli. He thought deeply for a long while.

"I need allies, Taruz. Powerful, effective allies who can be trusted, and who will not bleed me dry in the coming months. Allies whose agendas are not entirely at odds with my own. But my spirit is mine, and you may not lay claim to it: I have transcended, and I am beyond your grasp. I will not recant my sins, for in my judgment – the only judgment to which I am beholden – I have committed none. I propose a mutually beneficial arrangement. Is that so hard to wrap your feathery head around?"

"The thought of looking to the obvious has come late to you."

"Don't be so damned smug!"

"There will be no cascade," Taruz said firmly, "unless Enitharmon so decrees it. Nor will the celestial host aid or in any way condone your efforts to bind Graz'zt – or any other fiend for that matter. You will not subject celestials to bindings: it is inappropriate."

"Inappropriate? And why no cascade? You were willing enough at Khu."

"Why does Oronthon choose to incarnate himself? Why does he not reorder creation so that it is more to his liking?"

"Trust me," Mostin scowled. "You do not want to have this conversation with me. Go on."

"If you open a gate to call archons or devas you will find them well-disposed towards you. Payment will be waived and reciprocal service will be considered rendered if they are deployed in a manner consonant with the will of the Ahma and the Sela. I should also point out that your options are running out."

"Thank-you for your keen observation. I accept the terms – with one caveat. Under no circumstances are celestials called by me to trespass within the borders of Wyre as defined under article nineteen-point-zero of the Injunction. The Enforcer would have my head on a stick for such an infringement."

"That is understood."

"I also reserve the right to summon any fiend, in the knowledge that our agreement will expire at the moment that I do. I expect no retribution if this occurs."

"I can make no such promise."

"I'll take my chances," Mostin said drily.


The sword Heedless was brought to Jaliere – the smith of the gods – with great pomp and ceremony, as befitted Ortwine's whimsy. Nwm had opened a doorway between two great trees – a banyan in Afqithan and a fir in Sisperi – through which a procession of gnomes bearing the weapon appeared with great solemnity. They were followed by dancing nymphs and flights of portunes – the tiniest of sprites, each no bigger than a thumbnail. Satyrs blew copper horns. Sundry minor feys capered and applauded.

Ortwine signalled for quiet, and an excited hush fell upon the assembled throng. As Heedless was rendered to Jaliere's apprentices, one satyr could restrain himself no longer, and began blowing a raucous note on his horn. Ortwine quickly silenced the offender, and smiled benignly. Her expression changed to a scowl as the doors to the smithy were closed and locked tight; Jaliere would admit his secrets to none.

As the feys cavorted through the roads and courtyards of Mulhuk, Nwm turned to Ortwine.

"How did you make the sword quiescent?"

"I charmed it, of course. I have utterly seduced it. It adores me."

"It may come to resent its bondage."

"I predict an uneasy relationship," Ortwine agreed. "Nonetheless, at present, Heedless and I are newlyweds. We should bask in the first flush of romance."

"I suspect that it may harbor less good feeling towards you after its shape has been contorted and bound to another blade."

"Love is pain, Nwm."

"How long will you be remaining?" Nwm asked. "Jaliere may take a month to complete his work."

"How long does the gate remain open?"

"The portal is permanent," Nwm replied calmly.

"What?" Ortwine screamed. A fury crossed her face.

"It is not the first."

"How dare you!" She was still screaming. Evidently, Ortwine valued her isolation more than Nwm had anticipated.

"Not just to Afqithan, but to other areas in Faerie, to Nizkur, to places which you are not worthy to behold. I forge connections, Ortwine. It is my fee to you and the Nireem. Call it a finder's fee."

"Contact me in a month, or whenever the thing is ready," Ortwine hissed.

"Trust my foresight!" Nwm snapped. "I do what I must; that includes squeezing my friends for their debts: if you think you can unravel yourself from your past deeds, you may not find it so easy."

"I will have it dispelled."

"Afqithan is in Faerie now, and you do not own Faerie," Nwm sighed. "Your direct hegemony is limited, whatever title you choose to assume. Do not thwart me, Ortwine, but accept that my vision is sound. Return with me to Wyre. Events transpire in which we should be part."

"Wyre bores me."

"Annihilation threatens."

"So what? You tell me this when I have no weapon?"

"I'm sure Eadric has a spare."

Ortwine glowered.


Anumid, the mouthpiece of Cheshne, knelt in supplication before his eleven masters – hierophants, necromancers and blood magi. Some were living, some were dead. Some were human – or had once been. All were immortal. His voice sounded as a dirge, as he recounted the disposition of the Wyrish embassy.

"The Ahma, and three of those whom he has resurrected – Tahl the Incorruptible, Rede and Tarpion; also Nwm the Preceptor, Mesikammi the Shamaness and the witch Hlioth; Prince Tagur of Einir, and twelve of the finest knights in Wyre; Ortwine the Sidhe, usurper of the throne of Afqithan; Daunton and Mostin, champions of Wyre's fledgeling collegiate system of wizardry."

"Ahh, the heralds of the new order," Sibud spoke. His inflection was two thousand years old, but well-known to those there: Sibud was a primal vampire of ancient pedigree, the sire of many masters.

"Daunton insists upon a dimensional lock. Mostin has enough magical support to invoke his quiescence of the spheres, and will likely do so."

"So be it," Yeshe the Binder nodded. "Let them spend their strength thus. I will go: I should like to meet the Ahma."

"And I," Naatha purred.

"As would I," Sibud smiled. "Set the meeting for midnight."

"At Galda?" Anumid inquired.

"If Mostin requires that it be outside of Wyre's borders, we should indulge him," the lich Choach rasped. "I will also attend."

"Anumid will accompany us, and Visuit," Yeshe decreed. "Let the remainder of the company, to the number of two dozen, be chosen as each of we four see fit."

*Long ago I house-ruled raise dead to be a 7th-level spell and (true) resurrection to be 9th-level. In the Temple's history, raise dead has only been cast a handful of times. Before Eadric, no resurrection had ever been made. Prior to the advent of Saizhan, there was a necromantic taboo associated with both spells.

**The griffons are advanced (10 HD) celestial monsters of legend with the haste and spell-turning special abilities. I rule that when templated creatures are called with planar ally spells, each +1CR of a template counts as 2HD for purposes of determining whether a creature is subject to it.

N.B.: Contundor got smushed by Nalfeshnees in Afqithan, something which I neglected to mention previously.
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strawberryJAMM said:
Did you get around to doing this? I was trying to find Sep's Rogue's Gallery info and couldn't find it.... I would be most obliged if you could post the links that would comprise such a "master post" even if you haven't created a compilation thread.

I'm also interested in finding all the various character illustrations that have been done. You seem to have most of them included on this thread, but I haven't found Mostin's pic. It would be nice to know who the artists were too - the different illustrations don't always include the artist's name.


PS: Oh yeah, *BUMP*. :cool:

Here's a bit to get you started. I don't know where Mostin's Picture went to- I'll try reposting it and see what happens.


Lady Despina (by Dr. Midnight) (Tom Martin)

Despina and Eadric (By Dr. Midnight) (Tom Martin)

Ortwin and Rurunoth (Johnathan Fuller)

Shomei (A.K. Brown)

Crosod and Threxu (by Benjamin D. Richards)

Map of Wyre:

[post 107]
tleilaxu'x concordance

[Post 1]
PCs from Lady Despina's Virtue

[Post 6]
PCs, their animals and Nehael before the War of Secession

[post 215]
Description of Eadric

[Post 40]
Grace touches Eadric

[post 280]
Eadric of Deorham, the Ahma

[post 286]
Mostin (level 22)

[post 161]
Mostin's Spells

[post 339]
Mostin's Epic Buffs

[post 359]
Sep's thoughts about epic buffs

[Post 24]

[Post 30]

[post 298]
Nwm (level 22)

[Post 18]
The 'Official' new Ortwin...

[post 306]
Ortwin CR 25

[post 173]

[Post 46]

[post 101]
Sidhe (shee)

[post 193]
The Wyrm Crosod

[post 170]
Shupthul, King Irknaan, Lehurze, Nhura

[post 478]
Ninit (goddess), Instinct, Hunt and Nature Domains

[Post 92]

[post 93]
Celestial Dignities

[post 445]
Cosmological questions- fall of celestials

[post 312]
Gihaaia the Enforcer

[Post 84]
Astaroth (Grand Duke, Prince and Archdevil)

[post 491]
Azazel, Standard Bearer of Hell

[post 381]
Sobel, Lieutenant of Furcas

[Post 60]
Titivilus (Duke of Hell)

[post 398]
Kinds of demons and their DnD sourcebooks

[post 137]
Concerning the Ancient
Chthonic template

[post 477]
Carasch (Chthonic Balor)
The Horror (pseudonatural Ultraloth)
Arioth (erinyes bodyguard)
Megual (kelvezu assassin)
Rhyxali (demon queen of shadow)

[post 383]
Kostchtchie, Lord of the Ice Waste

[post 507]

[post 506]
The three bitches of Azzagrat: Ilistet, Cemdrei and Melihaen

[Post 20]

[post 310]
Ainhorr, 3.5

[post 391]
All about Graz'zt

[Post 8]
Graz'zt conversion

[Post 64]
Rethinking Graz'zt

[post 401]
Final Graz'zt

[Post 69]
Wave of Hate (epic spell)

[post 416]
Graz'zt's Epic Spells (a selection)

[Post 442]
Sep on concerns/suggestions re Graz'zt's Epic Spells

{Compiled Story Hour, post 18}
Church of Oronthon

[post 464]
Campaign setting questions

Not in the Rogue's Gallery, but an interesting thread about quasideities:

Epic House Rules


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Originally posted by Sepulchrave II on 12-24-06

The Letter

They are not nameless, Eadric thought, although the fact provided no measure of comfort to him.

He had requested that Tahl divine the information; a direct communion with the Source would reveal their purpose and number. There were ancient names amongst them, to which rumours in only the earliest of temple chronicles alluded. Tahl issued a sending to Mostin.

Unsurprisingly, the Alienist knew of their identities, and the myths associated with them. Orolde teleported to see Eadric in Morne; the Ahma was in temporary residence in the Temple compound, and it was uncharacteristically quiet: many of the devoted had taken up arms again, and accompanied the Sela to Wyre's Southern march.

Orolde appeared bearing a scroll: he was nervous, his head twitching and his eyes flickering restlessly, as though every shadow might prove a lurking place for the Enforcer or one of her agents. The sprite was sure that he was trespassing in an area of dubious legality regarding the Injunction, and Eadric smiled benignly, in a vain effort to assauge Orolde's paranoia. The fey quickly handed the letter over, teleported back to Mostin's manse, and breathed a sigh of relief when he realized that all of his faculties remained to him.

Eadric immediately broke the seal, and read the letter. Mostin had adopted an elegant script: evidently, the Alienist had been experimenting with a new calligraphic style.

To the Ahma in Morne, greetings:

The names with which you have furnished me are a source of some concern. I have arranged them in what I deem the most likely order of precedence, although I should make it clear that my information is likely outmoded: note, then, a certain amount of conjecture follows.

Temenun is a demonic spirit of primeval strain, native to the jungles of Utter Shuth. His form is feline. He was master of a wide dominion before the Sleeping Gods withdrew from the World of Men; a reign of sacrifice and terror, the memory of which still endures in the occult lore of nomadic wise-women. Wyre was still beneath two hundred feet of ice when Temenun was deposed and – purportedly – slain. I suspect Temenun may, in fact, have been subject to some form of
imprisonment – only to have been recently freed (the same may be true of others amongst the Cheshnite sect). Temenun's prophetic ability is said to be unrivalled.

Yeshe the Binder is at least five thousand years old; she is mentioned in cryptograms from the era of Shuth's First Empire, preserved in Siir Traag. Twenty-one centuries ago, Yeshe conjured Pazuzu at Khu and unleashed the demon upon the desert kingdom of Durjan, destroying it. Fifty years later, she razed the port of Triptah through the depredations of a demon named Narake – possibly a Chthonic. In times past, she built massive edifices – sites of profane power – the wrecks of which still litter the ancient erg. Her bloodline – or those who boast descent from her – still exercise power in Shuth. It is of note that both Kothchori and Feezuu were scions of her house, or at least made claim to be. The source of her immortality is unknown, but she lacks the pretensions typical of divinity, and has no cult.

Idyam exists now in mostly unmanifest form; his consciousness was transferred to his remains, which were preserved in the Temple of Tejobih – a somnolent Power who absented himself even before the rest of Shuth's gods entered hibernation. Idyam was held to have ascended to godhood, although his contempt for those who supplicated him was well-known. Idyam is no deity, I suggest, but a demilich. This may prove the worse for us.

Sibud is a vampire – a progenitor from outside the World of Man; an abomination, birthed in some other cycle of being – he arrived in Shuth two millennia ago. His countless spawn have infested the deep desert for centuries, and have visited ruin upon many tribes. Sibud's mastery of the necromantic arts was once usurpassed, and his bloodlust insatiable: his downfall is recorded in a document known as the
Kash-haya (Shomei possessed a copy; if you wish to inspect her library, I can arrange it). His command of ritual magic was legendary; for a while, Urm-Nahat was his apprentice. Together they devised a spell known as the storm of blood, which slew the armies of a rival warlord, Kumaari.
It is highly likely that Sibud can still convoke a respectable assembly of spellcasters; we can hope that he has not yet fully returned to his former power. If he can manifest his
storm of blood, then we may be in trouble: I would advise against deploying any temple troops en masse until we find out – a fragment recounts that 'sixty thousand warriors of renown perished' when it was last invoked.

Jahi is a demigoddess, who appears as a marasmic child. Little is known of her, save her
sparktheft – she is credited with stealing the divinity from a number of minor godlings in order to swell her own potency; some accounts refer to her as Jeshi's half-sister, who, unlike her sibling, 'suckled at Cheshne's teat'. The lack of other information is worrying; I advise utmost caution in any dealings with this entity. Although such advice is hardly necessary.

Naatha is a succubus of bestial mien, kin to Chaya and Chepez (but not Nathi). Ironically, she is likely to be one of our most direct antagonists. Naatha was once an
Ugra – a fierce protector – but she misliked any form of contractual obligation, preferring to bind rather than be bound. What else I can write on the subject of succubi which is not already known to you?

Dhatri was once human – she appears now in the form of a bloated mass of undead flesh. She is gluttonous, and rumoured to savour the corpses of those she has slain. Her title translates as 'nurse' or 'midwife' – it is safe to assume that her nurturing urge is not directed toward the living. She has mastery over ghouls, ghasts, and other necrophages. She is venerated by several death-cults in Analah in southern Shuth.

Prahar is a great warrior, an Ur-Priest, and a undead psychotic. He ruled in Danhaan before his elevation by Orcus to the stewardship of another world – a lush plane known as Veddekeh. After several centuries as the incumbent despot – a dark age overwhelmed Veddekeh, if accounts are correct – Prahar rebelled against Orcus and shrugged off his yoke. This part is important:

Prahar bound Orcus with a spell, and forced the Prince to meet his demands.

This is no small accomplishment. Knowledge of this event is obscure – Orcus made a great effort to eliminate any witnesses and records after his quick release. I believe Orcus made an immediate, absolute concession to Prahar's demands – whatever they were. Veddekeh became unreachable thereafter, and it's reasonable to assume the events are connected.

Rishih is a Theurge and a Thaumaturge. He specializes in compacting middle-ranking demonic nobility – powerful mariliths and balors, and lords such as Ahazu and Munkir have submitted to him in the past.

Guho Is an aberrant, festering heap of corruption – even by my liberal standards. She is a
worm that walks. This is such a grubby method of transcendence. She was a Blood-Mage of high credentials before seizing her immortality – I'm sure she's considerably more dangerous after a thousand years.

Choach – favoured by the dark gods – embraced unlife some eight centuries ago. He might be considered the 'junior member' of the sect's leadership, although doubtless none amongst Wyre's wizards – excepting possibly myself – can rival his power. Choach was renowned for his unbridled sadism, his perverse sense of humour, and, like Feezuu – according to the literature upon the subject – a preference for acid evocations.

These are the eleven leaders, according to Tahl's information. All equal or exceed me in their command of magic. Teppu may be more powerful than any of them, or he may not – the sprite's potency is hard to gauge, and focussed in a narrow area. His exact agenda is not known in any case, so he cannot be considered a reliable ally.

If my calculations are correct, a spell synergy by these eleven alone – not including the cabals and priesthood – could achieve a result in the region of the three-thousandth order. I appreciate that this number means little to you, but it might help if I tell you that the
wave of hate – from which Morne will likely never recover – was approximately a two-hundredth order effect.

I will expect you in two days.



The four of them – Eadric, Ortwine, Mostin and Nwm – finally met at the Alienist's retreat. Orolde had absented himself. Sho languished on the porch in a manner which made Eadric feel uncomfortable: some of her mannerisms were uncannily similar to her maker's.

Mostin immediately grabbed Nwm's arm, and drew him aside. The Alienist whispered in an agitated manner.

"So what exactly do you know about Hlioth. Is she safe? What's her agenda? Did she say anything about releasing Graz'zt after Fillein bound him?"

Nwm groaned. "I know as much about her as you do, Mostin. She does what she does. At present, she is an ally. I don't know if that relationship will persist. And no, she made no comment regarding Graz'zt – although I am sympathetic to her action. It must have been a hard choice, but Fillein's behaviour was arrogant in the extreme."

"What have they been doing? Her and Teppu and Nehael? And you? What have you been doing?"

"It would take too long to explain," Nwm sighed.

"Then summarize," Mostin hissed.

"I making gates," Nwm smiled. "Teppu mysterious. Mesikammi rousing earth spirits. Hlioth weaving powerful magic in Nizkur. Nehael facilitates. Understand?"

Mostin twitched. "What magic?"

"I'm not entirely sure," Nwm confessed. "I suspect nothing too controversial. Hlioth is bound – at least in part – by the Injunction."

"Actually, Nizkur is beyond the Wyrish border – as far as the Claviger is concerned, at any rate. Besides, everything that Hlioth does is controversial. Tell me of the gates."

"I have opened a number of tree portals," Nwm nodded. "Connecting Afqithan, Sisperi, Nizkur, Groba, the receding Tunthi realm of spirit, the Shrine of Three Storrs in Ialde, Deorham, and several discrete regions of Faerie. They pass through the primordial Tree-ludja."

"You have been busy," Mostin remarked drily. He raised his eyebrows. "From Deorham to Sisperi? You don't seem afraid of stepping on your friends' toes. Aren't you concerned about unwanted traffic?"

"Any traffic is good. That is the purpose. To enable the movement of energy within the matrix of the Interwoven Green."

"Your concepts are curiously archaic." Mostin observed. "I predict that your gates will become bottlenecks. Petty lords will try to control them."

"These are feys and nature spirits we're talking about," Nwm sighed. "Not demons – or men for that matter. You can't ascribe such emotions as desire to rule to most of them."

"To most of them, maybe not. But to enough of them to cause a problem, I say yes. Ten thousand gold says that you have an incident within a month. Where something, maybe a wicked greedy fey – such things exist, you know – tries to take strategic control of one of your gates. It's a resource. Trust me."

"I have no money, Mostin. Alas, I cannot meet your wager."

"I'll take a reincarnation on credit."

Nwm laughed. "Really? I would think you already have some unspeakable contingency."

"That was my big plan," Mostin nodded. He sighed. "Unfortunately, it never seems to get any closer. I also had the notion to spellwarp myself. And bind Graz'zt. And locate the web of motes. And to evolve the consciousnesses of the simulacra. Frankly, there is too much to do, and too little time. I'm bogged down."

"If you were to look to a more natural solution to the simulacra, I might help…"

"Shomei directed me to her pseudoanalogues."

"For what? You think you can attempt some kind of synthesis? Why? Do you really want two pseudo-Shomeis running loose? Besides, you would need the most powerful cabal ever assembled in Wyre. You do not command that kind of respect – consider your efforts to gather even a half-dozen mages to aid you: they aren't interested in your desire to capture the Demon, and ascribe your idea to megalomania. Although I hardly blame them. Can you even honestly say that it's relevant to the current situation?"

Mostin stared hard at Nwm. "I don't know," he admitted. "It's mostly so that I can gloat. What do you suggest with regard to the simulacra?"

"A natural solution, naturally. Or Dream-vestiges. Shomei has echoes in other places. "

"I am no Dreamer," Mostin sniffed dismissively.

"Nor am I," Nwm smiled. "You would have to learn. Is that so abhorrent to you? Ask Teppu. He might advise you."

"And he might not," Mostin scowled.

Nwm sighed. "Whatever they become, the simulacra will not be Shomei, Mostin."

"I know that," Mostin snapped. "This is no adolescent fixation, Nwm. I am merely trying to find a solution within the terms Shomei asserted."

"Did she specify a pseudonatural synthesis?"

"Not exactly," Mostin said. "Or at least, I don't think so."

"What precisely did she say?"

"'Begin with the premise that all creatures have multiple pseudonatural analogues.'"

Nwm laughed loudly, causing Ortwine – who stood nearby in conversation with Eadric – to glare at him.

Mostin seemed mildly offended. "I fail to see what is funny."

"What other premise would Mostin the Metagnostic bring to bear upon any problem?"

"You may have a point," the Alienist shrugged. "But she said that it would be my magnum opus. I can't see what other direction it could take."

"Just reify them with a wish, and let them develop in whichever direction they choose to go, Mostin. Surely she would have wanted that? To have you determine their course of unfolding would surely be antithetical to everything she believed. Besides, Shomei never exhibited any particular aptitude in the prescient arts – what makes you think that she possessed any special insight into the subsequent evolution of her simulacra?"

"The web of motes, you dummy. She saw it in the web of motes."

"You are overanalyzing an off-hand comment made by someone you cared about and affording it too much significance," Nwm sighed.

"Shomei never made off-hand comments."

"And you are idealizing her in your memory," Nwm continued relentlessly. "She was no less fallible than you or I. Goddess, Mostin. How old was she? Twenty-five? How much wisdom and experience can one of her age really have acquired?"

"More than most," Mostin snapped, his nostrils flaring. "And more than I, certainly. I was still chasing sylphs when I was twenty-five, and Vhorzhe had only recently apprenticed me. Shomei was summoning glooms and compacting with Belial. We are talking orders of magnitude here, Nwm."

"Fine. Have it your way. But you can't break Hell open, Mostin. If you meet her again, she will likely be your enemy: I assume Eadric spoke to you of Titivilus's veiled threats? That Astaroth could offer her some kind of deal?"

"Titivilus was full of sh*t," Mostin snorted. "And if Ed hadn't killed him, I think I probably would have by now. I've had it with fiends. They're too much work to keep in line. I've gone Enochian – for a while, at least."

"Celestials are no better," Nwm grumbled.

"Agreed," Mostin smiled. "But they're cheaper. The Host cut me a special deal, based on my connections."


"Aid me in this," Ortwine pleaded. "I need you."

"There are other matters, far more pressing." Eadric was unyielding.

She seized him by his pauldrons, pushed him backwards, and stared him in the face. Eadric noticed that she was as tall as he was.

"I'm coming out of this a goddess, Eadric. I can bring a lot of weight to bear on a situation if that happens. In the idiom of my former self: when I get my newly divine ass on the battlefield and I've got a vorpal sword in my hand, who's gonna try it on, eh? Right – no-one."

"Gods are plentiful, these days." Eadric smiled.

"True. And they're not all on your side," Ortwine retorted. "I will be. If you help me. You know it makes sense." She flashed a smile.

"I think not," the Ahma sighed. "Your apotheosis is not my first concern. Did you just use a suggestion on me?"

"Certainly not. The defense of Wyre and the Temple is a complex strategy, Eadric," Ortwine changed tack. "Consider your moves carefully. At least hear me out."

"Go on," he grumbled. "Try to be quick."

"I have to convince an insane death-goddess to relinquish a million or so souls so that life can begin again in Sisperi. As lunatic an enterprise as this might sound, I think I have a good chance of doing it. If I can get to her. That's where you come in."

"I have no desire to fight my way through some pagan underworld at present."

"Gaining entrance will be the tricky part. The entrance – Saivo – is a double-bottomed lake. It's…upside-down on the other side…for want of a better description."

"I assume it's guarded?"


"A dragon? A huge dog?"

"No," Ortwine said brightly. "Neither of those. Demons left by Graz'zt, in fact. If you recall, Saes was allied with him for some time. His minions have…gone native…if you catch my meaning."

"I'm not sure that I do."

"Saes has changed them."

"How do you mean, changed?"

"Augmented. Infused."

"With what?"

"Well, with death of course. That is her portfolio, after all."

"Which means what, exactly?"

"The details are hazy," Ortwine admitted. "After we pass the vestibule, we enter Ruk proper. If the reports are correct."

"If." The Ahma said acidly. "Whose reports are these, Ortwine?"

"You know. Rumours. Speculation."

Eadric looked exasperated. "Is there any concrete information?"


"Why do you think that is, Ortwine? Perhaps because nobody has ever returned from this underworld alive?"

"That is the consensus amongst the Nireem. I plan to be the first, however."

"Let's assume that you get to Saes," Eadric sighed, "but your powers of persuasion fail to move her: I would deem this likely, if she is insane. What then? Do you plan to kill her?"

"I would prefer not to. Admittedly, she is a minor goddess in the grand scheme of things, but her role in the natural balance of Sisperi must be respected. Eadric we are talking about returning life to a world raped by Graz'zt. However selfish my interest is, yours should not be. Remember your vow to Rhul…"

"Aye," the Ahma glowered. "I remember it, and it is discharged. Uort is slain; the babau purged from Soan. I cannot leave Wyre at present."

"Rhul and Lai won't ask you. I am less reticent, however. In a month or so, when my weapon is complete. A queen begs you, Eadric. Forty-eight hours: that's all I ask of you."

"You are optimistic."

"I am motivated."

"If anything happens in my absence; if I get stuck there: by Oronthon I will make you pay, Ortwine."

Ortwine bowed her head. "I will take your oath as testament to your seriousness."

"I will consider the terms of service which I would require from you in return," Eadric gazed stonily at her.

Ortwine stepped back. "I am no man's vassal."

"You will do what is necessary, Ortwine. Like you said, you need me."

"I can shower you with gifts. Would you care for some gnomes?

"I do not want your slaves."

"They adore me!"

"Service in kind, Ortwine."


"Mostin mentioned the enemy using big spells," Eadric looked at Nwm. "He seemed reluctant to expand on the topic – other than make mention of an invocation known as the storm of blood, which seems worrying enough. And numbers which seemed distressingly large, if somewhat unfathomable."

"He was probably sparing you the stress that would ensue."

"You think he has an idea of what might be involved?"

"I'm sure he does. Or has at least speculated. I have. The names that Tahl divined, Eadric – suffice to say that Mostin is more concerned than I have seen him before."

"And you are not?"

"The names themselves mean little to me," Nwm shrugged. "But the fact that it has Mostin worried has me worried. 'Eleven transvalent casters,' he keeps mumbling."

"And what do you think they can do?"

"If they can bring a large group of spellcasters to bear in invoking a single spell, I'd say pretty much anything. They could waste a few hundred square miles with a single dweomer."

"Is that likely?"

"I don't know," Nwm admitted. "I'm hoping that enough distrust exists amongst the leadership that they wouldn't be willing to pool their resources thus."

"I think their unity of purpose is apparent," Eadric sighed.

"And it's only 'apparent.' We, in fact, know nothing of their purpose."

"It is malign," Eadric grunted. "Let me rephrase. What would you do if you were assaulting Wyre."

"Why is their pupose to assault Wyre?"

"Perhaps some kind of divine edict?"

"Let me posit another theory," Nwm grimaced. "What has arisen in Shuth, and subsequently established itself in the Thalassine, has done so in direct response to the principle of Annihilation being invoked in the World of Men. By the Ahma. In other words, your sin caused this. Understand that I am framing this concept within terms familiar to you: I do not personally subscribe to the notion of sin."

"Are you serious?"

"Why have you not fallen? Because you are the Ahma. The rules are different for you. But what you do – how you act – this is reflected in the world around you."

"That's something of a stretch," Eadric was dubious.

"I would think that it was manifestly true, from a certain point of view: such truth is the cause of your veneration by thousands of people. I am not the first to take this perspective."

Eadric raised an eyebrow.

Nwm smiled, and assumed a voice of mock piety. "'The Ahma has invoked the apocalypse. He has fornicated with demons, and betrayed us.'"

"They're saying that?"

"Some of them," Nwm nodded.

"I am the Breath of God, not the body of the world. It sounds like misunderstood Irrenite dogma."

"Even your flaws are perfect, Eadric. You need not worry."

"What an odd thing to say."

"Perhaps God can breathe darkness would suit better."

"That is brutal, Nwm."

"Are you the chief agent of the Adversary, Eadric?"

"Perhaps," the Ahma slowly exhaled. "The thought had occurred to me."


At midnight, Eadric received a sending from Tahl. He looked nervously at Mostin.

"What now?" The Alienist sighed.

"I will be invested as Earl Marshal by King Tiuhan tomorrow. All of the Small Council have ratified it. It will consolidate the Temple battalions and secular armies under my leadership. I fought a war in pursuit of disestablishment, and what do they do?"

"Can you refuse?" Nwm asked.

"No," Eadric said simply. "Nor would I, if I could. At least I won't step on any toes this way – Tahl intimated that I might have to take command at some point otherwise. I imagine that he leaned on Tagur."

"It's just a formality, then?"

"Right." The Ahma seemed unconvinced.

"Believe it," Mostin scoffed. "Ten thousand knights will do you about as much good as ten thousand monkeys with sticks at present."

"Every little helps," Nwm stroked his beard. "And don't knock the monkeys."

Eadric's face went blank as another sending reached him.

"What now?" Mostin sighed.

The Ahma was unsure whether to laugh.

"It was from Tahl: Sela informs Mostin that Mulissu has reincarnated."

"Is she Green?" Mostin looked horrified at the prospect.

Eadric shrugged.

Mostin fussed, and drew his robe of eyes about himself. Lids opened, and orbs rotated in woven sockets in a disconcerting manner. Mogus emerged briefly from a dimensional pocket.

"You still have that thing, then," Ortwine's expression was one of mild distaste.

Mostin ignored her, and unrolled a scroll.

"Mostin?" Eadric asked nervously.

Potent syllables rolled from the Alienist's lips. A gate opened. Madness flowed from it.

"I am journeying to the middle region of Uzzhin and beyond," Mostin announced. "to confer with the entity Ghom. If any of you wish to accompany me, you may; it might entail certain risks, for the…"

"Sane?" Ortwine offered. "No, thank-you."

Mostin stepped through the gate, and reappeared a split second later.

"Were you gone long?" Ortwine inquired. "I see you have a new hat."

But the length and colour of Mostin's beard – which seemed strangely animated – and the appendage which issued from his robe of eyes in place of an arm, testified to the duration of his stay Outside.

"Longer than I expected," he nodded.

"What did you uncover?" Eadric asked with trepidation.

"Many things," the Alienist evinced a sage madness. "Including the location of the web of motes – and Iua. We have to go immediately. There is no choice, and no time for preparation. Do you understand?"

"Mostin…" Eadric began.

Mostin opened another gate. "Follow me," he said, stepping through.

"But I want my vorpal sword," Ortwine complained.
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