Eight Eyes Ending, Deathlord

Background

A man comes home and finds his favorite jewelry missing. A sultan’s vault is emptied in a night. A child is born without a voice. A circle of the Chosen come to a manse famed for its treasures and discovers it to be empty. A First Age war machine disappears from its silo. Eight Eyes Ending has been here.

Beyond the veil of years, the dead primordals dream and wait for Creation to fall into agony and empty disrepair. When that happens they will finally devour it and retreat to the nothingness of oblivion, and their wretched existence will end. Some of their servants, however, are not content with mere waiting. Eight Eyes Ending takes. She reaches into Creation with her Chosen and her schemes, finds the things that mortals value the most, and drags them through the shadows into her patchwork citadel in the underworld. Her least supplicants might be called thieves; Eight Eyes Ending herself is a plunderer who seeks out the most treasured stocks of valuables and artifacts ever known.

Eyes’ citadel is an artfully arranged collection of the many things she has taken from Creation. A tower from an ancient castle. A gate from the edges of the world. A wall made of silver bullion. A room with a thousand orbs that sing with a thousand stolen voices. A garden of beautiful bonsai, none of which will grow again. And deep beneath, a dragon-shaped war machine that forms a hole where a manse used to be. Eight Eyes Ending loves to behold that which was once someone else’s. She has recruited a handful of deathknights who strike her as good agents and sent them far and wide to bring her more treasures.

Yet, even the things that one loves can become tiresome, and even a deathlord can find a lack of opposition boring. Eight Eyes Ending has hatched a plot that may bring her not only a new deathknight, but many powerful ghosts and great material reward. There is risk, yes – but the potential gain is tremendous. Let the games begin.

Appearance

Eight Eyes Ending 500

Eight Eyes Ending appears as a light-skinned, well-tanned woman with red lips and dark eyes. Her long black hair is in dreadlocks down her back. She wears a brown spider mask on her head, which she pulls down over her face when entering battle or beginning serious works. Her voice is beautiful, taken from a singer hundreds of years ago.

Demeanor

Smiling, enigmatic, languid, and predatory. Eight Eyes Ending enjoys what she does and who she is. Sometimes she’s bored, sometimes she’s intrigued, and she doesn’t take much effort to hide her emotions. When her attention is focused, her eyes never leave her target. She enjoys showmanship when she’s the one putting on the show, and is generally bored by it otherwise.

Eight Eyes Ending knows that there is a great risk inherent in bringing together this many Chosen. In fact, she thrills at it. The possibility that she might actually get to stretch her power is one of the few things that has excited her in the last fifty years.

Intimacies: “All of Creation will be mine before the end” (Defining), “People are just things” (Major), “I need warriors in my battle for dominance” (Major), “My fellow deathlords” (Negative), “Anything interesting” (Positive)

Capabilities

As a deathlord, Eight Eyes Ending is one of the most powerful beings in the underworld. Her authority is recognized by all creatures of death, and while some may deny her, none dare insult her. She has a confidence and a presence born of fifteen hundred years of experience. Her mind is quick and clever. When there are places where her intelligence balks, she is not too proud to command ghostly experts to inform her. Her eight eyes are more than just a figure of speech, as she seems to take in every detail from her surroundings.

Eight Eyes Ending controls a nameless criminal organization that spans the underworld, Creation, and more. She allows her Chosen and the nephwracks who are her tributaries to run the operation. The deathlord herself skims the things that money cannot buy. Mere wealth is plowed back into the organization, or used to upset economies in subtle ways. Investments are made, and then suddenly withdrawn without explanation – ventures fail. Mercenaries are paid, and then the pay is withheld – the mercenaries become bandits. Her nephwracks profit on the chaos.

As with most deathlords, she is a necromancer, and the essence of death serves her in a myriad of ways. Her every breath pulls essence from the living, who find themselves weak in her presence. She can pass through walls, reach into locked containers, take a stone from beneath a house of cards without disturbing it. She can take even things that are ephemeral, for a time: strength, grace, wisdom, sense of self, voices, and more. The stronger someone is in such a thing, the better they are able to resist her. Those trying to steal from her find themselves losing their own belongings quickly, cursed to wander naked with their one stolen treasure.

In battle Eight Eyes Ending is not the most fearsome of the deathlords, yet she is not to be underestimated. She carries a brace of artifact knives, each one different and unique, and they seek the heart unerringly. She can throw them nearly a kilometer. They return in a flash of darkness. The gossamer clothing she wears absorbs blows like the heaviest armor, and her helm makes her proof against magic that might control her mind. On her death, every object she holds will vanish to elsewhere, awaiting her next incarnation.

Eight Eyes Ending brought two creatures from the Labyrinth with her to seal her competitors into their arena. The first is the creature called Unwanted, which watches the combatants and tries to lure them into ambushes together. The second is a stranger thing, a vortex of stale fate and dead stars, which covers the entire island and the nearby sea. It is this spirit that shifts the winds, pulls in the Chosen, and directs their ships onto the jagged reefs.

Supporting Characters

  • Unearned Deception, the deathknight who advised Eight Eyes Ending not to do this. Wary, stealthy, loyal.
  • Jhelam Vir’dan, Eight Eyes Ending’s witless servant at this event. Slow, obedient, strong.
  • Iceheart, one of the nephwracks who runs Eye’s criminal cartel. Subtle, plotting, joyless.

Questions

  • Who does Eight Eyes Ending want to win?
  • Why did she bring Pain here?
  • Is she trespassing on another Deathlord’s territory here, or does she claim this archipelago for her own?
  • How long will it be before Yu-Shan brings greater force against her than just Keymaker?
  • What will she do if the remaining contestants stall or unify rather than killing one another?

Keymaker, Chosen of Secrets

Background

Of all his lives, Keymaker remembers his most recent one the best. He died at fourteen, just a year after being Chosen, as a victim of the Great Contagion. He remembers his final day with perfect, painful clarity.

Reincarnated into the chaos after the Fair Folk invasion, the Keymaster was forced into service by one of the many groups of Raksha who were late to leave Creation. They were not kind to him. His family was stretched into impossible, distressing shapes before his eyes. The Fair Folk fed on his emotions as well as theirs. They told him to build them a massive ziggurat to their majesty. He was beaten when he could not shape the loose sand of the Western shores into stone for them.

Then he was rescued and Chosen in one moment. A riding of the Dragon-Blooded arrived and forced the Fair Folk out, with one other along for the ride: Wekaho, Chosen of Journeys, the woman who would become Keymaker’s mentor. In that one moment the weave of fate opened to him and he saw. He understood the carefully orchestrated, years-long plan that had led to his freedom and the death of his oppressors. It was as if a needle had been threaded with destiny itself. He pledged his life to the cause of the Fivescore Fellowship before he even knew what they were.

Many years later, no longer an apprentice, Keymaker became a mentor to new Sidereals, and occasionally to the few Solars who still reincarnated. The West is his ancestral home. He has concentrated his efforts there (with the blessing of the Bureau of Destiny, of course). His subtle manipulations have encouraged order-reinforcing trade routes to form on the outskirts of the archipelagos, sacrificing a few sailors each year to wind and chaos in order to safeguard the islands themselves. Such plans are the way he works: always a tradeoff, always the greater good, risks amortized over years. His methods were time-consuming and sophisticated. If he lost as many as he saved, still a few were saved, and he was content. A measured retreat is preferable to a mad rush forward – one can always gain ground later.

Still, sometimes he is inspired to step into the maelstrom himself. Not every child can be saved by a plan begun ten years earlier; some need help now. As a case in point, consider Athanor Isle.

The lesser gods of fate reported to him a great and fearsome disturbance in the Tapestry. He came to investigate, and saw, in a manner that is not truly sight, a dark vortex drawing in the light of the Chosen to extinguish them. With little time to weigh his options, he turned to another group of Chosen. They were nearby, but not quite in the storm. A little nudge, a little misdirection, and they were sent into the vortex. Will it prove to be more light than the darkness can consume? He wishes he knew. For now, he stands back, beyond the vortex’s border, and peers inward at what he can only dimly see: the lives of the Chosen locked in battle.

Appearance

Keymaker 500

Keymaker has light skin and brown hair, including a goatee and moustache. Dramatic eyebrows shade eyes that are a vivid green. Cracks run across his face, scars from a battle some four hundred years ago that will carry over even to his next life. In his official capacity he wears charcoal robes with green trim, and a black necklace forged from the heart of a raksha.

Demeanor

Serious, perceptive, and calculating. Keymaker doesn’t joke around. His work long ago consumed his life. He’s used to a phenomenal amount of bureaucracy, and to hiding his work from others so that he can operate without red tape. (He realizes, with a touch of ironic humor, that the rest of the Fellowship does so as well.) He loves the feeling of a plan coming to fruition. On the rare occasion when he losing his grip on the threads of a particular plot, his heart sinks and panic creeps upward from his chest to his eyes.

Keymaker is a member of the Gold Faction, though cautiously so.

Intimacies: “The Good of the Many” (Defining) “Uncover secrets” (Defining), “Don’t give a straight answer” (Major), “The Silver Barbarians” (Negative), “Adolescents” (Positive)

Capabilities

Keymaker’s age makes his expertise wide indeed, but it is only deep in a few specific areas. Wekaho taught Keymaker well – taught him to hide his old name, to predict and prophecize, to wield geometry and iteration as weapons through technique and meditation. He knows how to navigate bureaucracies, analyze trade routes and plans, and see the hidden ambitions in treaties. He speaks all the major languages of Creation, as well as Old Realm. His calligraphy is perfect. He can sail most vessels, and navigate anywhere in Creation, but never learned to ride a horse. His eyes and ears are sharp, as is his mind. When circumstances require he can be quiet as a mouse, evading even the most alert sentries. At some point he stopped being able to make a good cup of tea – he suspects that it may be some petty bit of vengeance from the pattern spiders.

As with many Sidereals, Keymaker is a master of the martial arts. He is the lineage-keeper of Cerulean Mirror of Shapes Style. Practitioners of this style learn to see the patterns in their opponents’ movements, both in space and in time. The longer they observe an opponent, and the more the battle shifts across the terrain, the more certain their victory. They also take advantage of the crystalline nature of reality to reflect themselves across rooms and chasms, striking their foes from impossible angles. Those who try to escape them find themselves back in the fight. Those whose armor covers every inch find the masters of this style striking them from within. Cerulean Mirror of Shapes Form reflects the master back in on himself, resulting in a many-armed, many-legged, many-headed creature that looks in all directions and redirects attacks to nearby targets.

Supporting Characters

  • Fen Thanh, the current incarnation of his old mentor Wekaho. Energetic, outgoing, admonishing.
  • Unending Wave, his opponent in the Silver Pact, who seeks to find his younglings before him. Vicious, clever, unforgiving.
  • Kahaka Mahanu, his servant while he watches the events at Athanor unfold. Graceful, erudite, compassionate.
  • Yellow Flame, an old student whom he has asked to watch his usual duties. Attentive, businesslike, suspicious.

Questions

  • What would make Keymaker join in this fight?
  • Does Keymaker realize that a deathlord is the cause of the events on Athanor? Does he know which one?
  • Is Keymaker doing more harm than good overall?

Unwanted, Creature of the Labyrinth

Background

The Labyrinth is the madhouse of the dead. It lies beneath and around the Underworld, as the Wyld surrounds Creation. It shifts and changes to confuse those within it, and like the Wyld it has natives that are hostile to all living creatures – and to the dead as well.

One of these creatures is called Unwanted. Long ago it was born as the impossible child of ghostly parents, and left outside for the spectres in fear and disgust. Strange, animalistic gods from the Labyrinth found it, took it in, and raised it as one of their own. This may be the truth, or it may be one of a dozen lies that it tells to gain sympathy. Regardless of its accuracy, this tale suits Unwanted. It has all the morals of a vicious child.

Unwanted plays cruel games with its prey. It leads them in circles with its childlike voice, laughing or crying as it thinks will work best. And the end of this path? Pits in the darkness, dangerous animals, ghosts mad with the pain of a thousand years. Its favorite game is to pit mortal enemies against one another, helping first one side, then the other, until both are bleeding to death on the ground.

Some time ago, Eight Eyes Ending fooled Unwanted at its own game. It was furiously embarrassed. Unwanted believes that if any word of this failure were to spread, its fun would be ruined for decades to come. Eight Eyes Ending promised to keep the secret if Unwanted would serve it from time to time. Its tasks here are to keep the battle moving, to ensure that the competitors find one another, and to pick off stragglers before they have the chance to regain their feet.

Appearance

Unwanted 500

Unwanted hides in walls and buildings. It is audible as a child’s voice, always slightly distant, as if just beyond the next corner. It is only visible in the dark, where it peers out from the walls as a pale-skinned child’s face with green eyes. It is most terrifying when in a closed darkened room, where it can appear with a dozen faces on every wall, spread monstrously huge across several walls, or peer in through a window like a giant. This is all illusion. Its true form is, indeed, a small and pale child, with dirty hands and a permanent maniac grin.

Demeanor

Patient, clever, and sadistic. it will build up intricate stories about being a lost child or a trapped ghost – anything that might need rescue. If its victims survive the first trap, it will laugh at them and taunt them onward into the second trap. Unwanted is very good at being shrill and aggravating. At its heart, though, it is a coward, and it wants nothing to do with a fair fight. If forced into material form it will run.

Unwanted would like nothing better than to escape from underneath Eight Eyes Ending’s blackmail. However, the plan will have to be pretty good. Unwanted knows just how powerful a deathlord can be.

Intimacies: “Bright light” (Defining, Negative), “The Joy of Treachery” (Defining, Positive), “Being found out” (Major, Negative), “Those whom my master hates” (Major, Negative), “Messing with people” (Major, Positive), “I wish to be free of Eight Eyes Ending”

Capabilities

Unwanted is naturally immaterial. It can appear during the day in Creation, but only by possessing buildings. It can cast its voice from anywhere within the building, and see everything happening within. It can project its face on the interior walls. It can leap from one structure to another if they are touching, or travel easily through the air at night. Destroying a wall or a door has no effect. Destroying the entire building would force it out in material form.

In the end, Unwanted is just a voice and a spiteful intellect. It has no real skills or talents beyond that. When material, it looks like a child of six or seven years.

Supporting Characters

  • Intaveloa, a spectre who ran across Unwanted years ago in the Labyrinth. Curious, talkative, oh so very hungry.

Questions

  • Would Unwanted bow to necromantic control in order to escape Eight Eyes Ending?
  • Is Unwanted’s story about its origins true? If not, what is it?

Kai and Koa, Ancient Automata

Background

Deep in the midst of the last age, a clever smith designed a series of automata to protect and rebuild the cities and castles of the Chosen. Over the years most of them drifted into madness, and were destroyed. The remainder were traded for favors, forgotten in ancient manses, or given as “presents” to unwanted allies.

Kai and Koa have been protecting the city of Athanor since before the end of the last age. They stand together in conspicuous locations, speaking seemingly random phrases in the tongue of the old realm, startling the few visitors who made it to the island alive.

The binding on these automata is to the ever-changing city of Athanor. The lack of steady walls and fixed streets has slowly driven them mad – which was the original plan, foolish and incredible as that may seem. They have defended the city against the Fair Folk who would reclaim the island, and have been a rude surprise for would-be treasure hunters. Once they were considered the least of the city’s defenses, nothing more than glorified maintenance workers. Now, unknown and unloved, they are all that remains. They have had little need to show their prowess in the past few decades. Eight Eyes Ending has left them active during her “little event,” knowing that their formidable strength will keep the contestants from escaping the city.

Appearance

Kai and Koa 500

These small metal people have burnished silver and gold metal “skin”, with gold and silver domino “masks” over their eyes. Their faces are immobile, forever smiling, with tiny scars to mark their battles with the Fair Folk. Their voices are like dented bells and broken glass.

Demeanor

They’re clearly mad. If one is careful with the city and destroys nothing, they are quiet, save for the occasional Old Realm haiku. They can even be compassionate to those who repair parts of the city, but not more than once. They speak in rhyme, poorly. They giggle at inappropriate times. They ask for jokes and are silent in response. They have seen nothing but the meaningless drift of the elements and the predations of chaos for over a thousand years. Their minds are attuned to the world they know.

Each of the automata identifies under both names, switching as the mood strikes them.

Intimacies: “Those who would harm Athanor” (Defining, Negative), “Those who would leave Vello’s Folly” (Defining, Negative), “Those who protect Athanor” (Major, Positive), “Answer questions other than those asked”, “Those who bring turmoil to the world” (Positive)

Capabilities

Kai and Koa are intelligent automata. They are self-maintaining, to a certain extent – their minds have deteriorated, but in this highly magical environment they as powerful as they ever were. They are strong. They are tireless. They are fast and durable. Their stare can stun a whale or deflect a wave. They can hear a moth’s flutter from across the city. Kai and Koa might be stunned by brute force alone, but it would take a mountain falling on them to truly destroy them.

They speak every language in Creation, and give impossibly bad directions in all of them. They never forget a face, but they do need to be reminded of names. They are nearsighted and cannot see color. They have no concept of tactics or strategy, and assume that everyone else is as durable and powerful as they.

Kai and Koa gain a major negative intimacy against each individual person who seeks to harm the grounds that they protect. They use these to reinforce their refusal to work with or listen to those who struck against them. This can sometimes be used to manipulate them in and of itself.

Supporting Characters

  • Groundskeepeer, a spirit that watches over Athanor’s park. Respectful, resourceful, prissy.

Questions

  • Can Kai and Koa be repaired? If so, is it a matter of forge-work or therapy?
  • If there’s a chance that Kai and Koa would kill a promising candidate, would Eight Eyes Ending disable them, or would she let them do it?

Pain, Chosen of Oblivion

Background

Vengeance is a powerful draw. The deathknight known as Pain surrendered herself to it three years ago. This is the story of what happened after she achieved it.

Pain went to her master, the Bodhisattva. He commended her on achieving her goals, despite her loss at the Nellens plantation. She asked to be released, and he laughed. He refused to even explain. She left immediately. She knew that she had been a servant, but refused to be a slave. She defeated a few meager opponents that he sent after her, and then she was free.

Except, of course, that oblivion does not give up its servants so easily. Pain had no direction in her life after exacting her revenge. Without it she found herself doing the will of the Neverborn unconsciously. Murders occurred in her wake, and she was blamed, drawing attention from the true killers. The symbols of the gods were defaced and burned, and innocents in dark clothing were blamed because Pain had been there. Guards found Pain suspicious – tried to imprison her – well, perhaps some of the deaths were her fault after all. She tried to avoid the cities of the living, but found isolation unbearable as well. She still exists in this uncertain state, not sure of how she might break free.

There are pieces of Pain’s servitude that still come to mind from time to time. These flashes of memory serve primarily to remind her of how much better things are now. Her interactions with the Bodhisattva’s other deathknights, most of whom she found repugnant. The day she humiliated Ghula M’shala when they fought in Onyx. The long week when Claws Lock Deep defeated her in some nameless island south of Skullstone. The constant paranoia of being in the Bodhisattva’s service, never knowing whether his next words would be praise or punishment. Pain considered returning, once or twice. Then she laughed, threw away her drink, and kept moving.

Pain was aware of Athanor’s presence. It was a navigational hazard on the Bodhisattva’s maps; something best avoided for its reefs and the dangerous automata there. She once saw its towers from afar. Now, she sees them all too closely. A week ago she had booked passage on a ship passing south from Skullstone. When the dark clouds and red lightning filled the sky, the sailors looked at her in fear. They threw her overboard in the middle of the night, and she struggled to the beach.

Appearance

Pain 500

Pain is a heavyset woman with red lips and skin the color of pale marble. Her hair shades from brown to red. She wears a filigree mask that looks like tarnished silver, and a reversible cape with red on one side and black on the other. Her clothing involves black fabric, black lace, and black leather.

Demeanor

Pain has no earthly idea why she is here. Ordinarily she would hide her emotions behind false amusement, but the idea of being a deathknight offered (in vague terms) the chance to become a deathknight strikes her as incomprehensible at best. She finds it more likely that this is a bitter irony forced upon her by her old masters.

Intimacies: “I will not serve” (Defining), “Ghula has no honor and deserves no mercy” (Major, Negative), “I will not lose to Claws Lock Deep a second time” (Major, Negative), “Freedom” (Positive)

Capabilities

As a member of the Midnight caste, Pain’s duties included preaching the word of her master and instilling fear and respect in his underlings, a job at which she excelled. She can back down confident warriors with a stare. She deflates egos with a single dismissive sniff. She reads social situations well, and her memory for names and faces helps her puzzle out secret alliances. She is also trained at resisting hazards both physical and spiritual. Her essence enhances all of these, flowing through her natural abilities rather than providing any explicit supernatural enhancement. She is particularly effective against those who are touched by death in some way, either by their nature or with an Intimacy.

Pain learned the majority of Ebon Shadow Style from a fellow deathknight, and is puzzling out the final technique herself. She can strike through armor, fade into shadows and move through them, and slow her foes with hesitation and fear. A strike may seem to connect with her, only to have her body revealed as a mere shadow. Her ambushes are deadly. She gladly uses her social prowess while locked in close with an opponent, forcing her foes back with terror, or demoralizing them with a wink or a sneer.

Supporting Characters

  • Star of Despair, a deathknight still loyal to the Bodhisattva. Tenacious, clever, obedient.
  • Unearned Deception, another deathknight who encouraged Pain to leave her master. Wary, stealthy, loyal.
  • Porte Valitha, who knew Pain before she turned to the Bodhisattva. Shrewd, classy, upset.

Questions

  • For what revenge did Pain sell her name?
  • Does the Bodhisattva know about Pain’s presence on Athanor? How does he feel about Eight Eyes Ending?

Ghula M’shatha, Chosen of the Sun

Background

Ghula M’shatha is a martial scholar from the finest traditions of the Southern coast. He travels the world, masterless, seeking new styles to learn. He was chosen by the Sun several years ago for his peerless dedication to his art.

Unfortunately, the Unconquered was not the only sun to shine on Ghula that year. In Malfeas, there are rumors of a martial arts style that can kill any demon. Most consider the idea to be mere fiction, but apparently the demon world’s green sun sees a kernel of truth. Ghula was made a simple offer: learn that style and teach it to Ligier, and he would be remade as the perfect warrior. He accepted.

Ghula has traveled quietly and secretly throughout Creation, seeking those willing to pass on the knowledge of esoteric styles. He especially seeks out aged masters about to die, who may be unwilling to let their knowledge die with them. He presents himself as a humble and earnest student. That isn’t entirely wrong. He just doesn’t let them see the part of him that traded his soul to the demons for power.

Having exhausted his leads in the South, Ghula has been traveling through the West for the past year, planning to eventually chart a circuit around the Blessed Isle. There are only two individuals who have spotted him for what he truly is. Luckily, neither of them is likely to reveal his secret… yet.

The first time was in Onyx, where he sought a style manual said to have been taken from the Coral Archipelago years earlier. There he ran into a deathknight named Pain. She discovered him communing with the servants of Ligier, revealing himself as akuma. She ordered him to surrender in the name of her deathlord, the Bodhisattva. He initially laughed, but quickly learned better. He had not tested himself against such an opponent before, and was unprepared for the challenge. He retreated in humiliation.

The second time was in Wavecrest, where a demon cult on an isolated island led him to communion with one of the Green Sun’s souls. He learned important secrets to bring him farther along his quest, but paid quite literally in blood. In his weakness, he was caught by Sapadi Am’beta, who had witnessed the ceremony. She blackmailed him, stole his vessel, and stranded him on the island. He knows that a few whispers from her would make him anathema beyond anathema, hunted even by other Solars.

It was only luck that the cult rallied their courage and returned to check on him the next day. He escaped with them, and eventually came to a city where he could beg passage north. The ship came within sight of an ever-changing city, and he dove overboard and swam to shore. The hints Ghula received from his patron and other sources have led him here. Unlike most of the others trapped on the island, he came here knowingly. He didn’t expect to be caught in this vicious tournament, but now that he is, he’s not looking to escape. He believes that someone here knows of the style he seeks, and he’ll learn what he can from them… before he kills them all.

Appearance

Ghula M'shatha 500

Ghula is a young-looking monk. He is short but strong-bodied. His dark hair is close-shaved. His eyes are dark, with the typical shape of the Blessed Isle, and his skin is the color of light red clay. He wears orange robes and carries a set of prayer beads that help him focus when his urges become too strong.

Demeanor

Ghula has the calm, peaceful demeanor one expects from a martial arts master. He is amiable, happy to share his food and water with others on this deserted isle. He seems wise beyond his years. Even in battle, he retains a slight smile on his face and a look of relaxation.

Beneath his friendly demeanor, Ghula has a singular focus in his life that makes everything else seem small and easily managed in comparison. He can still be driven by other wants and needs – he’d certainly like revenge on a few people – but he can easily put those aside to pursue the one thing that gives his life meaning. It’s when someone tries to get in the way of this urge that he becomes agitated. His eyes will start darting around; he’ll lick his lips and repeat himself. If he feels like someone is intentionally keeping him from a secret of Demon-Slaying Style, he won’t hesitate to kill them (though he’ll wait for the right moment rather than face overwhelming odds).

When Ghula sold his soul to the green sun, Ligier reshaped his body and mind. The other experiences of his life, and all the skills and joys there might have been, were trimmed away. These scraps were reforged in the viridian fires of the Malfean forges for the sole purpose of making Ghula a more potent martial artist. Only things since that event truly matter to him.

Intimacies: “I must learn Demon-Slaying Style and deliver it to the Green Sun” (Akuma Urge), “Attain enlightenment through perfection” (Defining), “Sapadi must not reveal my secret” (Major), “I will repay Pain for the way she humiliated me” (Major, Negative), “Small birds and animals” (Positive)

Capabilities

Ghula is a well-trained and widely-proficient martial artist. Most of his other skills are related to his training: meditation, running and leaping, balance and grace, enduring pain and the elements. He’s incredibly strong-minded – not a brilliant man, but a dedicated one. He also learned to sail as a child on the southern coast, and can handle small vessels even over large distances. He speaks Flametongue and High Realm.

Since his exaltation as one of the Dawn caste, Ghula’s power has been bent almost entirely toward awakening his martial training and enhancing it. He knows the entirety of Tiger Style, as well as the introductory levels of Black Claw Style and Dreaming Pearl Courtesan Style. His breath empowers his techniques, grounds him, and strengthens his skin and his muscles. The techniques of Tiger Style let him launch assaults with deadly speed and power. His foes find him so terrifying that they may be frozen in place, unable to run. Dreaming Pearl Courtesan Style provides him with graceful self-defense, and turns his robes into deadly weapons. Black Claw Style is perhaps his most potent asset in this contest, making him seem fragile and defenseless against his attackers while simultaneously counterattacking and poisoning them. All three of them combine to make his mobility in combat unparalleled.

Supporting Characters

  • Sixteen Claws, Ghula’s original martial arts master. Calm, wise, disappointed.
  • Paka Desi, who refused to keep teaching Ghula a hidden style. Stubborn, sweet, judgemental.

Questions

  • Why does Ghula want to win the tournament? Does he think that Eight Eyes Ending has the secret he desires? Is it somewhere else on the island? Does he want the immortality she promises in order to pursue martial perfection?
  • Does the Green Sun or any of his servants know that Ghula is here? Would they lift a finger to rescue him? If so, would it matter, or is Eight Eyes Ending’s grasp on the island too tight?

Sapadi Am’beta, Chosen of Soil

Background

Sapadi grew up in the lands east of Kirighast, known informally as the “Lakes Province.” She was trained as a sage, as was her mother before her, and they lived in a lakeside city that sprawled over twenty miles of coastland. As a loyal, peaceful, and productive tributary to the Realm, they saw the Dragon-Blooded only rarely.

When a sorcerer from the Realm came to her city, seeking inks from a creature that dwelt in the lake, she made the mistake of treating him as an equal. He, astonished by this hubris but captivated by her intelligence, brought her along with him. The two became traveling partners, and shared several adventures as they traveled the inland sea. Unfortunately, this was her perception rather than reality. In truth, he had paid her family a hefty sum to effectively purchase her, and they had acquiesced. She found this out only once he had been made an instructor at the Heptagram, and she was stuck there with him. He was not unkind to her, but neither would he let her leave.

When she met V’neef Ethaa, she saw someone who would help her escape. It didn’t work out exactly as she hoped. Ethaa fell in love with Sapadi, but rather than freeing her from the teacher’s bindings, purchased her again. The instructor actually lowered the price as a sort of graduation present – Sapadi suspects the exchange of other favors as well. Sapadi played the role, pretending to be Ethaa’s shy and quiet lover, hoping that one day she could speak with Ethaa as an equal – or perhaps just leave.

She died before she had the chance.

The two of them were on a ship in the Cinder Isles. There was an eruption. Her face and much of her body were covered in fiery debris. She drowned before the burns could kill her.

Then, unexpectedly, painfully, she was alive again, months later, on the final night of Calibration. Ethaa stood above her, her face frozen with pride and terror. She explained that she had repaired Sapadi’s body, and drawn her soul back from its next life. Now they could be together again.

Ethaa was clearly mad. Sapadi left the following night. She called on power that she never had before and didn’t understand, summoning up dead creatures of the sea and forcing them into service. They carried her north to Wavecrest. The next morning she could feel Ethaa pursuing her.

Since then Sapadi has traveled through many islands, seeking the truth about what she is or allies who can help her against Ethaa. She has met many other sages and Chosen in the islands of the West, including Ghula M’shatha. She discovered him in Wavecrest, in a cove where she was sheltering the night. Imagine her surprise at finding a cult chanting not ten meters from where she slept. At the peak of the ceremony, a spear of green and brass fell from the sky. It impaled the central cultist – M’shatha – through the leg and spoke to him in a voice of flame and despair while the rest fled in fear. Eventually it vanished. M’shatha fell into the sand gasping in joy and pain, bleeding slowly from his leg. Sapadi quickly took advantage of his weakness and blackmailed him at knifepoint for his boat. She took it and sailed off to the north.

She was able to stay ahead of Ethaa for an entire month. It was grueling and dangerous, ending when her stolen vessel crashed into the reefs off Athanor. It seemed to her that she was dying, and her last thought was that at least she had escaped… but she woke up on the beach. Sapadi is hiding in the city of Athanor. She knows that Ethaa is here somewhere, and is praying that they will not run into each other.

Appearance

Sapadi Am'beta 500

Sapadi has skin the color of drifting sand – or at least she did before she became what she is now. Now, parts of her body look as if they were taken from other people, some of them badly burned, others battered and bruised. Her eyes are two different colors. She wears purple robes that cover much of her body, including a veil across her mouth. She speaks with a slight accent from her homeland.

Demeanor

Quiet, contemplative, and shy – but with a growing ruthless streak that has helped her survive the last year. Sapadi hides in the shadows and corners of the city. Her plan is to wait out the contest and hope that she’s not part of the Deathlord’s plan – or kill the winner, if necessary.

Intimacies: “My freedom over all” (Defining), “V’neef Ethaa is mad with power” (Major, Negative), “Ghula is a demon-worshipping hypocrite” (Major, Negative), “My homeland” (Positive)

Capabilities

Sapadi was a well-trained young sage in her home city. She can read and write all the major languages of Creation, including Old Realm. Under her mother’s tutelage she gained an extensive knowledge of sea creatures and their uses, from shells to inks to teeth to poisonous spines.

Her time in the Heptagram taught her many things as well. She can recognize many spirits, elementals, and demons. She knows the principles behind sorcery, though she hasn’t had the time to put them into practice since her exaltation. She is also very good at hiding her emotions and motivations, and at having people not realize when she’s observing them. Both her experience and her essence have made her very, very good at remaining hidden and observing from a distance. The face that Ethaa can still tell she’s there, even if she can’t tell exactly where, is infuriating.

In a battle, Sapadi will strike out instinctively and powerfully, hurling dark soil at the eyes of her opponents to blind them, creating rolling waves of rotting earth to drive others away, and diving into shadows or even the ground itself to escape. She has an instinctive sense for the things that might cause harm in her environment and will maneuver others into them. In extreme situations she can reanimate massive dead creatures from the ground or sea to serve her, though she is left wounded and breathless afterward. She doesn’t realize yet that she can survive horrible injuries, nor that she can take body parts from the dead. Both of these realizations will probably come soon.

Supporting Characters

  • Cathak Ledash, instructor at the Heptagram. Snooty, brilliant, entitled.
  • Brev Mokalo, an old man who took Sapadi in for a night. Kindly, orderly, reclusive.

Questions

  • Will Sapadi pretend at submission again if Ethaa appears, if she thinks it will help her escape the island? How long would she be able to act that way?
  • How much does Sapadi know about the Deathlords and their servants? Does she know the truth of what is being offered here – and would she accept it?