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The Lost Journals 
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Evil Genius
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Post Re: The Lost Journals
(Excerpts from the journals of Alexander Dreamfire, Mordentshire, Mordent, Oct. 18, 736 BC)
I finally got back to Rudolph about his Guide to Ghosts. He was actually holding off the final publication before I gave my review. Were the Shining Force not pulling me in several directions at once I could have gotten back to him much earlier. Communications and travel seem to have been solved in one stroke but at a severe cost of time and money to implement. Both are things we don't have much of. Despite setting up methods of earning money at each base to fund things, we're constantly walking a razor's edge when it comes to funding. Besides the basic costs of living and additional "fees" required to avoid hassles by the "proper authorities" in several countries, our activities themselves require vast amounts of money. War is costly, but a shadow war is doubly so.

The idea is to use full-length mirrors as both a means of transmitting messages across all of our bases as well as acting as gates that can teleport people and goods over vast distances. Only the cost is astronomic! Some countries don't have enough in their treasuries to cover what it's going to cost in the end. And with spare money tight as it is, it's not viable right now. Not unless there's a way for the Archer Trading Company to start turning two or three times its current profit margin quickly. Which is where a new Mistway comes in. It's keyed to a particular item and provides one of the most reliable two-way travel between the Core and the lands of Sri Raji. Rajian goods and spices are worth their weight in gold in the Core--literally. Only there's always been two problems to trade. The first and most obvious is getting there; it's isolated in the Mists. This new Mistway leads straight into Lake Veda, near the city of Muladi, and the lake is just big enough for a cargo ship about fifty-feet in length to hold. One voyage could make ten or twenty times back what the cost this way.

The other, trickier obstacle that few traders in the Core care to overcome is the culture. Reading accounts of the Boritsi Trading Company's efforts I'm appalled at the egregious insults they made in their trading. Not that I like the caste system, or believe in the same tenets of physical and spiritual purity, but I respect such views. Even after establishing communication many of the traders ignored simple protocols until they were driven out. Subsequent attempts went better as far more diplomatic types made the trip, but trade remains sporadic at best and the Rajians feel no real qualms about gouging them on prices for their perceived lack of decorum. Hopefully I can help smooth things over for my own traders and obtain better prices by showing them that not all outlanders are uncouth brutes. But that necessitates traveling there myself--over water. Travel by barge or riverboat makes me seasick, let alone being on the open seas. I just pray it's not too far to reach the Mistway.

(Excerpts from the journals of Alexander Dreamfire, Muladi, Sri Raji, Nov. 12, 736 BC)
A new admiral of the small trade fleet of the ATC, a half-elf woman named Melanie Pritchard, took on the task of piloting the ship and leading the crew. If it weren't for the fact she's an old salt and kept the ship together I might have strangled her after all the "landlubber" jokes she made while I was bent over the side. So I'm not cut out for the water. That doesn't give her carte blanche to rib me about it. Especially since I'm the one who supplies her salary. And I'm the sole reason that the Relentless didn't--couldn't, really--get within three miles of us. I guess the stories are true; Pieter van Riese is the darklord of the Sea of Sorrows. Lately sightings of the Relentless have been at an all-time high, scaring off all but the craziest sailors.

That's the kind of motley crew that agreed to sail on this fool's journey. Luckily the voyage over water was quite calm and mostly uneventful. The only real item of note is when a lone sea hag got onboard in the night. She made the fatal mistake of choosing my quarters first. I was too sick to sleep but not to react by throwing a lit oil lamp at her and manifesting control flames. When the flames failed to damage the ship and instead stuck to her she ran out screaming. The ship hit a swell and I was knocked down, losing sight of her but not control of the conflagration. It wasn't until I saw her charred corpse still burning even in the water that I quit concentrating. Scared the crew seeing a fire that walked but didn't set anything else alight and that still burned even after it was overboard. Thank the goddess I trained to use fire-based powers even underwater.

After that the crew was more than a little leery of me. Not that I could blame them. No one told them I had powers like that.

Arrival was a welcome sight for me. We had to berth in the middle of Lake Veda and send dinghies to shore, much to the astonishment of the guards of Muladi who had come out to investigate. For an additional shock I spoke to them in Rajian and removed my hat of alteration to show my true form. Immediately they knelt down, calling me a deva. The word literally means "god," but is looser in meaning and really refers to any benevolent supernatural being. I'd forgotten that my people are considered devas thanks to regular contact with cultures like the Rajians on other worlds.

Getting off the water and on to solid ground never felt so good. The captain was willing to take in the hospitality of the people but the rest of the crew didn't feel comfortable. It was just as well; it was hard enough convincing the locals to instruct Melanie on the nuances of the culture without at least two-dozen more who possessed far less skill at adapting to new places. And of course there is the problem of the caste system. As a deva I'm considered Varnatita ("beyond all Varnas") but she is mortal and therefore technically outside the caste, an untouchable. By virtue of her association with me, though, she was accorded honorary rank of Kshatriya (the caste of cattle herders, farmers, merchants, and artisans). It's fitting, given that she's a bard as well as a trader.

Within the walls of the city, however, I reeled at both the sight and smell. Buffalo and cow dung was piled in the streets alongside beggars who pleaded for the simplest kindness. I couldn't ignore them and used much of my psionic energy healing the injured and curing the sick as well as using coin to buy food and clothing. The people began to call me mahatma ("Great Soul," or saint) for it. It's an honorary I don't feel comfortable accepting. Giving what I can to help those in need is simply who I am. There are others far more worthy of being called a "saint." Besides, I couldn't help everyone.

For tonight the priests and priestesses of Shiva are housing us in their temple. Shiva's benevolent aspects as omniscient yogi and counter to Kali, goddess of death, destruction, and time, are what predominate here. I suspect this is because of who--really, what--they call Maharaja Arijani. If it's the same Arijani I've heard of, then housing us here is a good idea. A Rakshasa ("demon"), even one not of divine blood, is a fearsome foe. Most appear as humanoids with the heads of tigers and palms that are upside-down. They're also powerful sorcerers without formal training. If this is the son of their god, Ravana, I have put Melanie and the crew in greater danger than I anticipated.

Such will have to wait until tomorrow. It's been a long voyage and even longer day. My work with the poor caused me to miss meeting with the merchants today to setup trade. Oh well, better to aid those in need then to enrich oneself.
(End transcript)

_________________
"Money is the root of all evil...I think I need more money."


Fri Oct 03, 2014 9:19 pm
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Evil Genius
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Post Re: The Lost Journals
(Excerpts from the journals of Alexander Dreamfire, Muladi, Sri Raji, Nov. 13, 736 BC)
Rain was falling outside when I woke up this morning. I forgot this is the monsoon season in Sri Raji. Roads inside and outside of the cities would be sucking mud unless the sun came out long enough to dry things out. That meant not much could be done unless that happens or we brave a disgusting slog of mud, dung, and other waste. For a society as advanced as Sri Raji, they haven't really bothered with sewers or even waste pits. Perhaps they can't keep up, given how populated all the cities are.

In the main area one of the priestesses was already up, engaging in a form of yoga (exercise of body, mind, and spirit) traditionally done as a form of spiritual cleansing. What struck me is that this form could take hours to complete and was usually reserved for the most sacred rituals, holidays, or other events. As far as I knew this wasn't a holy day on the Rajian calendar, nor was the temple planning any kind of major ritual. Plus it seemed familiar but I couldn't put my finger on it. So I left her be and sat cross-legged, arms extended on my knees (lotus position) to begin my psychic meditations.

The temple's chief cleric, a man simply called Rao, came in after about an hour. Though I was still deep in meditation I heard him approaching. He just watched me for a while before calling out to me. With a nod of his head he led me away and explained that the priestess, Amaya, was to be given as a sacrifice to Kali. At once that struck me as outlandish even for the practices of a goddess as bloodthirsty as her. Not so much because her clergy demanded blood sacrifice--as vile as that is--but because the sacrifice was ordained of Shiva! That was a blatant disruption of the balance of the cosmos the gods enforced.

As Rao explained it, Maharaja Arijani demanded the sacrifice of one person daily to Kali. Those so chosen would be mounted on a white elephant and led to the Maharaja's palace where no one knew what really happened. No one even saw him without full costume. Keeping his appearance a total secret seemed to be of the utmost importance. What's worse is that he confirmed he fears: this was the son of Ravana, a half-human half-Rakshasa demigod. According to the lore I'd studied he was cursed for killing his father with a blessed silver bolt, cast into the deepest hell. So this is where he ended up.

Only Rao didn't want Amaya to be sacrificed. He wouldn't say why but I did gather that there was more to his feelings than he admitted even to himself. In fact I would dare say he loved her. While her time was still a week away she seemed resigned to her fate. He wanted my help to save her. If she felt the same way about him then I would be bound by religious oaths to aid them. That was the wrinkle in his plan; in order for me to help, he had to overcome his own fears and admit his feelings. Without knowing she loved him back I wouldn't risk crossing a being that was both a demigod and a darklord. It was terrifying and I freely admitted that. Plus my purpose there wasn't go around causing trouble. If Arijani was denied what he wanted his tantrums could be truly destructive. Not to mention the long-term consequences for others.

All I could really do at that point was wait for him to do his part and see where it led. Until then I still had to establish trade relations. So that's what I spent most of my day doing. Even as a deva it still took every trick I'd learned to get the best prices for trade contracts. By the end of the day it was a bidding war pitting who could reliably provide what they offered at the best price. When the merchants I selected deliver the promised goods I'll freely trade what I offered in return and see how it goes. Hopefully I won't have to come back here any time soon.

At the temple I had a talk with Rao and Amaya. He had worked up the courage to confess and she had--not surprisingly--reciprocated. Truthfully it wasn't hard to see. They were obviously in love with each other but had tried to deny their feelings. Now I had to protect that love under the oath I took to my own deity. And it meant opposing the son of the Rakshasa god. I wish I knew more about Arijani than mere legends and rumors. More to the point, opposing him means opposing the church of Kali itself. A very powerful, ruthless group. And one that threatens anyone that deals with me, especially the two lovers.

Unless I somehow strike the fear the gods into them. Arijani might not be so easily cowed, but his mortal servants can be. If they truly believe the wrath of the gods will strike them down for trying to harm anyone just to spite me, it might work. I don't look forward to what I must do both before and after I face Arijani. But it wouldn't be the first time I've had to stain my hands with blood.
(End transcript)

_________________
"Money is the root of all evil...I think I need more money."


Tue Feb 24, 2015 9:37 pm
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Evil Genius
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Post Re: The Lost Journals
(Excerpts from the journals of Alexander Dreamfire, Muladi, Sri Raji, Nov. 16, 736 BC)
It feels like a lifetime since I last wrote, but in reality it's only been three days. At this point I've lost track of everything I've done in that brief time. One thing I haven't done is sleep. That's a pretty obvious reason for feeling like this. But it's hardly the only one.

One of my first targets were the Thuggee. Simply put, they're professional assassins who claim an origin from Kali's sweat in a battle against the god Raktabija. What little I know of them from other worlds indicates their stories deviate from traditional lore enough to mean they were not part of the original religion. Particularly the point about created from "sweat," a fluid considered impure in Rajian beliefs. They are a distinctly criminal underclass using religion to justify what they do. Unfortunately this also means they're servants of Arijani because they're taught to believe they do the goddess's work. Namely, they espouse the idea they're saving human lives by killing merchants, travelers, and particularly those they feel are a threat to their homeland and its culture, lest Kali destroy everything.

My own experiences have revealed just as many simply hide behind such beliefs to justify cold-blooded murder, plunder, and worse.

It sickens me that local authorities refuse to act against them, even when they are clearly guilty of heinous crimes. Fear is their most effective weapon and prevents retaliation since those who try to punish them for their crimes would have their families and friends killed before they were killed as well. Perhaps more disgusting is that many of Kali's clergy know of and condone their activities behind closed doors. Many even brazenly take a portion of their stolen items or, and I've seen it no less than six times now, take pleasure from unwilling captives brought to them. That isn't part of Kali's rituals, it's for themselves.

Under the effects of planar apotheosis I hunted both the Thugs and priests, revealed their actions, and let the people decide their punishments. And it's always been death. Most of the time the community carried out the punishments, but some of the more powerful villains have required me to execute them personally when they couldn't be subdued. Every time I was forced to take a life like that I felt sick to my stomach. Yet compared to some of the punishments suggested by those they'd victimized, it was a merciful way to die. I had to persuade them to make the deaths as quick and painless as possible. A lingering, painful execution isn't justice, it's revenge.

Bringing down the "wrath of the heavens" on the unhallowed temples of Kali, in contrast, was like a catharsis. Fire, lightning, sounds strong enough to shatter stone, few witnesses doubted that the worshippers of Kali had angered something powerful, if not divine.

Perhaps more important, and more influential, was the healing. Under the caste system one of a higher caste can mistreat those of a lower caste. Even denying them such important things as healing of the sick and injured or food for the hungry. Unlike when I first came here I showed the people how to use common plants and herbs to treat various illnesses and wounds, knowledge that certain Kshatriya and Brahmins had hoarded away. These individuals were not happy to lose some of their power, but public philosophical debates quickly convinced most that they had a duty to ensure those of lower castes had what they needed to survive. Doing otherwise was to accrue a karmic debt.

There were a few, hearts as black as coal, that grew angry and ordered enforcers to attack those I had aided. Once more I had to force the issue by showing everyone that, no matter their caste, no one was exempt from the wrath of an angered deva. A few were cowed by simple intimidation, but one was revealed to be a Rakshasa servant of Arijani. I don't think the creature was prepared for a foe that could see past its illusions. It created mirror images of itself in an attempt to confuse me about which one was real, but I still felled the real thing in seconds. The only thing left behind was a small jeweled amulet, it's phylactery.

Destroying the phylactery created what could only be described as a funnel of clouds in the sky as real lightning came down struck the ground three times before clearing up in seconds. At the same time we all heard a roar like a tiger echo. Deep in my heart I knew that Arijani had taken a notice of my actions. He himself couldn't detect me through any supernatural agent because of what I am, nor could his most powerful followers do so because of my cloak. However, he knew where I was just then.

From the crowd came someone dressed as a monk in black and dark gray clothes, covered in tattoos that marked his allegiance to Kali. All he did was hand me a scroll and point to Mount Yamatali, bow, and walk away. The scroll was a formal invitation to see Arijani in Bahru, the Accursed City. It indicated the Maharaja wished to discuss what it was I wanted in a civilized manner. It took all my self-control not to laugh; this was a trick I had fallen for once before and it wasn't about to work a second time. Certainly I plan on answering it, but not by going to the gate of Mahakala and announcing myself openly. That would be suicide. Rather, I will finish what it is I came here for, ensure Rao and Amaya are safely out of Sri Raji, and answer this summons when I can face my foe from an advantageous position.

The first step being to cleanse myself of illusions to face a being that thrives on deception.
(End transcript)

_________________
"Money is the root of all evil...I think I need more money."


Tue Sep 15, 2015 4:33 pm
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Evil Genius
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Post Re: The Lost Journals
(Excerpts from the journals of Alexander Dreamfire, Muladi, Sri Raji, Nov. 20, 736 BC)
From the moment I stepped inside Bahru things felt unclean. It's hard to describe precisely, a greasy, acrid tang in the air, architecture that induced headaches to look at, air that was cold but still made one sweat, I can't put it down to any particular. The place made me queasy just by being inside it. But I still had to head into Mahakala and determine what Arijani wanted. For all his claims of Brahmin honor and protocol, he's still a rakshasa and I couldn't bring myself to trust his intentions of an honorable passage. Not completely. So instead of announcing myself I infiltrated the temple and observed.

Few places outside the Lower Planes radiate the same kind of darkness I felt there. Flashes of the sometimes-frenzied worship, bloody sacrifices, the faces of those chosen to die, and other things too horrid to put down on paper assailed my senses until I figured out how to filter them out. Overshadowing it all, though, was anger. A feeling of such intense fury that it was easy to begin seething myself. There was also another pair of sensations warring for dominance. Lust for power and...fear? Doubt? It's hard to say. So much evil has been perpetrated there it was hard to make clear sense of anything.

From the shadows I watched as three women, World Breakers of Kali, danced madly. One of them was referred to Mahiji, the name of Arijani's mother. At first I chalked it up to a coincidence but then a rakshasa covered in absolutely hideous illusions spoke to her. Called her mother! It honestly took a minute for me to comprehend that bit of strangeness. Why would she be imprisoned with her son? Unless those rumors of him slaying Ravana, his father and god of the rakshasa, were at least partially true. Honestly I hadn't thought about it much. Children usurping their parents seems to be an accepted and expected path to power among the denizens of the Lower Planes. In this case I'd be willing to bet that Mahiji played a role in things and so earned imprisonment along with her son. Or his tie to her brought her here against her will. Without knowing the truth I wasn't willing to gamble on her loyalty. Plus she was the leader of this little trio and as implicit in the crimes committed against the Rajian people as he was.

Eventually their conversation turned to me and where I was. Her "divinations" had said I would be there. At that I threw the scroll down from where I was hiding and moved to a different spot unseen. I even used sound control to throw my voice to the opposite side of the room, confusing them as to where I was. He was put out by my refusal to show myself, acting petulant like a spoiled child. I didn't need psionic power to tell he had every intention of killing me if I'd appeared as he expected. This resistance to his supposed sovereignty really seemed to rub him the wrong way and his mother had to talk him down. Despite how lethal and dangerous to my soul he was, it was still enough to make me laugh. It never ceases to amaze me how those who commit the greatest evils are themselves often the pettiest, most pathetic beings in existence when you get past the surface.

At hearing my laughter, still projected across the room, Arijani unleashed several spells at the same spot. Further I could sense him trying to detect my thoughts. My cloak was blocking him from even doing that and it seemed to infuriate him even further. By that point I was growing tired of fooling around and jumped down to face him and his cohorts. My measure of his abilities told me he was not to be taken lightly, but he could still be tripped up by playing on certain things. For one, his view of himself as a superior being. I immediately began to question how he ever thought he could oppose his father, Ravana. He was nothing, a spoiled child.

That hit a nerve. He began unleashing spells all over again and didn't stop until he realized I was nowhere in the vicinity of where was casting them. A portion of the temple had been scorched, shattered, and even melted by acid, though. As he was throwing a fit, though, I used psychic strikes to render the Mahiji insensate by winnowing away their resolve, including his mother. Without her he seemed unsure and nervous for the first time in this encounter. Still he came at me with a maddened look that betrayed a certain mania. It was actually rather simple to step aside and strike him with another psychic strike, shattering his force of personality and thus his ability to cast spells. He must have realized it because he actually stepped back from me in fear.

In warning him what I would do if I ever felt the need to return I minced no words. Deep down I wanted to destroy him then and there, but two things stopped me. First was that I honestly didn't know if I could. Weakened as he was, he was still partially divine and one of the darklords this world contained in prisons of their own making. Just destroying his physical body probably wouldn't stop his evil. Second was that if he died, Sri Raji might cease to exist and those within...it's something I try not to think about. Perhaps another would simply take his place, even more vicious to the people. Could I condemn the Rajian people to an even worse fate?

No.

Promising him his soul would return to his father's talons if I had to return, I left Mahakala and returned to Muladi to wait and see what would happen. It's been three days since our encounter and a messenger came today to say Amaya was not going to be sacrificed. I wish I could have stopped them all, but I have to pick my battles. Rao and Amaya were wed earlier and have asked to join us when we leave for the Core. That would be for the best. I've spotted several Thugs trying to hide among the people and spying on the temple. I wouldn't put it past Arijani to attack them simply for having sheltered me. Still, their decision to leave requires I do my best to prepare them for the changes they'll encounter. As much as those of us foreign to Sri Raji find its culture exotic and alien, they'll find the cultures of the Core to be the same.

Our trip back will also turn a tidy profit that will allow the Shining Force to implement the idea of mirrors as communication and teleportation devices. I've no doubt that the Boritsi Trading Company will eventually find a route here and begin trade in due time, but for now we're the only source and the prices we can demand will be substantial. Especially if coffee is as popular in the Core as it is on other worlds.
(End transcript)

_________________
"Money is the root of all evil...I think I need more money."


Fri Jan 08, 2016 7:08 pm
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