July 17, 2019 20 min read
Today we wanted to showcase our incredible community that we've been able to cultivate over these past 4 years. It really is hard to explain the feeling that we get when we see other people genuinely enjoying something that we've created.
Our Facebook group is an active community of backers who are playing through the game, asking each other questions, and showing off their miniature painting skills.
Here is just a glimpse of what you'll find there.
We've also got an Instagram page where will we showcase our backers' hard work and post artwork and such!
Feel free to give us a follow if this interests you!
...To the unlock!
The Subjugated Oblation
Oh god… where do I begin? I hope you aren’t mad at me. In fact, I hope you never find out what happened to me at all. But if you’re reading this, please forgive me. I’m wracked with guilt. I couldn’t enjoy my new life here on Middara knowing that I could’ve done something to save Oliver.
They don’t have the same diseases here on Middara, and the advancement can save him. Oliver doesn’t have to suffer. I just had to find a way to bring him here, to get him out of that damn hospital he’s been stuck in. It’s dangerous though, not just for me, but for both of you, too. If you were here though, I know what you would do. I know what you would say.
You wouldn’t be afraid. You were never afraid.
The Black Hand has told me that there’s a way. They’ve also told me over and over again about the consequences. They say that I’ll lose myself, that the creature they’re going to put inside of me will absorb my psyche until we are one. I don't know how it all works, or what it even really means, but a man within the organization has promised to bring you and Oliver to Middara if I… volunteer myself.
I’m going to do it. I should’ve done it a year ago when I was first approached with the offer, but I was too afraid. Now I pray every night that I didn’t wait too long, that Oliver isn’t already… god, I can’t even write it.
Please, Scarlett, he’s everything to me. I know we’ve had our differences in the past, but you’re like a sister to me. I hope saving Oliver from his illness and saving you from that hell hole of a home will make up for leaving you, for leaving both of you.
They're waiting for me now. I fear my sacrifice will go unnoticed, and it scares me. I’m such a coward. I guess that’s why I’m even writing this. Deep down, I hope someone reads it and thinks that I did the right thing. I hope that you think that I did the right thing.
We're getting down to the wire! And many of you have figured out what unlocks are next through deductive reasoning!
For our Day 25 unlock, we will be adding another figure to the KS2 Promo Box for the Melody Standee, featured in Unintentional Malum: Act 1.
To be clear, this miniature is part of the KS2 Promo Box and is being given away for free as part of every pledge level at the "Through the Portal" level or higher.
The cardboard standee version that is already a part of the contents of Unintentional Malum: Act 1 will remain a standee.
Ludus Magnus Studio has our back! These creative fellows have bounced ideas off of us for a couple months now and we've appreciated their dedication to games in a similar vein as us. The grimdark look of Black Rose Wars and the cartoony style of Dungeonology: The Expedition captured us immediately! We found many of our own friends had already backed their games so we had to ourselves!
For these reasons we decided to work together on a cross promotion and provide the seductive and mysterious Circe as a miniature in Middara. Again, with our Witch theme in the story it only made sense.
With over 6 Kickstarters under their belts, we always look up to those with experience in this industry as a guiding light for ourselves as we navigate this strange and ever-evolving industry.
Both Black Rose Wars and Dungeonology are still currently available for late pledges. So don't miss out on more miniature tactic madness!
The High Priestess Circe kit comes with a beautiful Resin miniature (that will require assembly), an Initiative Card, two Item cards, and an Adventurer Card and an Intelligent Combatant Card.
This kit comes in all "With Swag" Pledge levels and can be added as an individual add-on for $20.
Giving over the lockbox was probably a mistake, and Nyx knew it. But letting Ai’s dog volunteer to die like that—it broke her heart.
Nyx looked back, searching for the outline of the blind wolf. Lymn was still there, watching with that ethereal eye. Was she upset that Nyx had disobeyed her, or was that approval on her face? She didn't give Nyx a chance to ask, as her illusion dissolved. Nyx sighed, then lifted the lockbox by its worn metal handle.
“Girtiya!” NYx yelled, her voice echoing off the ruined ceiling. She twisted the box around, letting the witch see what she had. “Release the dog, and it’s yours.”
Girtiya's eyes snapped suddenly towards the box, barely even seeing the dog anymore. For a moment she made no sound. Nyx ignored Christopher’s swearing, ignored Ai’s pleading. She just walked closer with the box held carefully out in front of her.
“The mark…” Girtiya muttered, awed. But she didn’t let go of Pocky, and her chains didn’t release the others. Only Nyx was free to approach. “Where did you find it?”
“In the Room of a new arrival,” she said flatly. “They’re marked too, same symbol. We couldn’t get rid of it with the best healing magic in Elenia.”
Girtiya extended her other hand, the same one she’d used to summon the chains. “Mine.”
“You can’t do it!” Christopher yelled, dropping impotently to the ground. His sword must have been enchanted itself to survive the battering he’d just given it, but the chains were stronger. “You don’t know what she’ll do. Whatever’s in there… might be what they need to call their demon!”
“It isn’t,” Nyx whispered, though she knew Girtiya would overhear anyway. “That ritual already started. We’re not ending the world by giving this up.” We don’t have a clue what we’re giving up. We can’t even open the damn thing.
“What she’ll do?” Girtiya repeated, her voice mocking. “Show it to the ones who brought me back. Buy my freedom! Pay the debt. That’s what I will do.”
“But we get safe passage?” Nyx prompted. “You swore you’d let us go. Including the Warp Hound.”
“Oh yes! Even the dog.” She leaned forward, her voice becoming desperate. “Free to enter as honored guests. So long as you don’t interfere with the sacred rites, you’ll be safe. Heroes, even. Welcomed into our most sacred places. Even that…” She trailed off, glaring sidelong at Christopher. “Man.”
Nyx gave her the lockbox. Girtiya quickly released her dagger, tossing it aside and cradling the box up against her chest like a lover. She retreated, humming something to it. A spell, maybe? The chains around them dissolved, and Nyx was there to catch Christopher by the shoulder, whispering dangerously into his ear. “Don’t even think about it.”
He shoved her away, rising to his feet again and slamming his sword contemptuously into its sheath. “I know it isn’t strange for you, Elenian. But civilized people don’t make deals with demons.” He turned, glaring after the witch. She hadn’t gone far, just far enough that Nyx couldn’t see whatever she was doing with the chest. A combination maybe, one she didn’t want them to find out. It seemed to be responding to her, glowing brighter and brighter by the second.
Ai made her way over, holding a little patch of cloth to her neck. She seemed mostly intact otherwise, just a little bruised. She had her other hand on Pocky for support, and her voice still shook. “It’s good to have principles, Christopher. But my partner doesn’t have to die because of your morality.”
She reached Nyx a second later and embraced her without hesitation. “You did the right thing,” she whispered. “I knew there were some good Elenians.”
I should let that be a compliment. Nyx stiffened a little but sighed and returned the hug. “Anytime,” she said, smiling down at the dog.
Christopher didn’t keep arguing. He still looked sour when they broke apart, one hand still on the pommel of his sword. “You made a promise, witch. Don’t forget the other half.”
Girtiya stared into the lockbox, utterly transfixed by what she saw there. Nyx could see light reflected in those eyes, the same shade as the glowing marks. Whatever was in there had the magical afterglow to feel from a dozen meters away.
As soon as she’d opened it, Girtiya snapped it shut again. The box lifted into the air, following her across the room as she’d moved so many other things so far. “Eager, eager! Eager to enter the Ziggurat. Be eager to join our revel, not so easy to die. The Mother will not forgive violence against us inside her sacred place, and neither will her daughters.”
Did she even care about her servants? Nyx was certain several of them still stirred, despite their wounds. But Girtiya didn’t even look back. She floated purposefully past them, gesturing at the ruined structure as she’d done several times before. Chunks of broken white stone lifted from where they’d fallen, tearing up weeds and dirt. There weren’t nearly enough to actually be connected, but that didn’t seem to matter. As soon as the last chunk settled into place, the space inside the gate changed. It no longer led to desolate jungle.
Through the gateway was a vast marble space, with a spectacular statue of colored glass in the center. “I told you the rules,” Girtiya said, taking the box again and holding it tightly in both arms. “You have leave of the gatekeeper. All within will allow you to pass. If you violate that respect…”
“We get it,” Ai said, finally taking her hand away from her injured neck. “We’ll die horribly. That’s the threat, right?”
“Not a threat,” Girtiya said. “You stand in the presence of a goddess. The Dark Mother Divine has changed us, the way she will change all when she finally arrives to reign. But most who choose to enter never wish to leave. Listen, hear her voice. Forget whatever fears brought you and find endless joy.”
Christopher laughed, but at least he didn’t promise to murder everyone they found. Nyx would take what she could get.
Together, the four of them passed through the archway and into the Ziggurat.
Nyx couldn’t say how a doorway in the middle of the jungle could connect to a tower some distance away. For all she knew, the structure on the island with them was an empty shell, and the real Ziggurat could be a hundred miles further out to sea.
They walked across a floor of black marble, polished so clean that Pocky’s paws slipped and skidded under him at first. He grumbled unhappily, then vanished.
They walked together towards the center of the massive vaulted space, where a sculpture of white marble stood on a golden plinth, at least twenty feet tall. It depicted a nude female figure, with seven arms outstretched. Each hand clasped something different, as though offering the objects to any supplicant who approached. A long-stemmed rose, a sweet roll, a set of handcuffs. It seemed as though the sculptor had carved everything from a single block, capturing the delicate detail of each petal. It might have been beautiful in its own strange way, if her eyes weren’t so large, and her teeth pointed like a shark’s.
Couches and cushions of soft pink fabric surrounded the statue. Many were occupied—all by young witches, wearing little more than their goddess. They were surrounded with servants in simple white frocks, wingless men with serving trays or massage oil or more carnal things. Smoke of a dozen different kinds filled the air, along with sensual music from three musicians performing near the wall.
The Red Aces perform for a cult? For a moment she stopped walking completely, staring in utter stupefaction at a band she’d seen half a dozen times in Elenia. Yet here they were, as though they weren’t surrounded by murderous witches in a weird sex-cult.
“I know, it’s disgusting.” Christopher nudged her forward, pointing past the statute to a wide stairwell leading up. “We need to get past them, come on. Pocky’s waiting for us there, I assume he figured out the way.”
“You should relax, Christopher,” Ai whispered. With the discordant bass shaking their feet and the crowd already distracted, she didn’t seem too worried. “Maybe so many people are strange. Unsafe, sure. But for a hedonistic demon cult, this is pretty vanilla. It could be worse.”
“I think these are just their initiates,” he said, sounding unconvinced. “They don’t feel as rotten to me. Probably here for the ritual Nyx said they started.” Then he turned, meeting her eyes. “You never said how you know about that.”
Nyx glanced behind her, to where they’d entered through the portal. But Lymn wasn’t still standing there—there wasn’t even a gate to look through anymore, just a massive steel door, shut. “I said it before, even powerful demons have enemies.” A week ago, Nyx might’ve suggested that all of them were equally amoral, helping humans only when their goals happened to align. But Lymn made her less confident in that conclusion. “Sometimes they’re willing to help.”
“Oh.” His face hardened, and he turned back to the stairs. “One of your espers then.”
Nyx didn’t correct him. If Lymn hadn’t shown herself to the others, then it wasn’t for Nyx to share anything about her, unless she had to.
At least Girtiya had been right about their safety—not one of the initiates rose to attack them or ordered their army of slaves to do the same. Instead, their group reached the stairs, and hurried away as quickly as they could.
“Pocky still has those memories,” Ai said. “You know where you’re going, don’t you boy?”
The dog nodded—the gesture was so distinct, even Christopher saw. And you wanted to trade him for a box. Not a chance.
The next floor of the tower was far smaller than the first. At least the central passage was lined with intricate paintings. If the downstairs gallery was shocking, some of what proudly hung here didn’t even seem possible.
“So how do you explain this?” Christopher asked, gesturing at a gigantic mural ringing the center of the chamber. As Pocky led them around it, its images only grew more shocking, more lifelike.”
“I, uh…” Nyx raised an eyebrow. “They worship the Dark Mother Divine. What else would they do?”
“No, no.” He looked like he was about to start hacking lewd tapestries apart, then sighed and just slammed the sword awkwardly back into its sheath. “Doesn’t it seem important that every demon and evil spirit is interested in moral corruption? To me it’s obvious—God’s enemies want to steal His children from Him, send their souls to Hell. But how do you explain it? If not demons, then…”
“Not all of them, Christopher,” Ai interrupted. “There are stranger beings. I think it’s more that the monsters who care about…” She gestured at a nearby sculpture. Even in their art, the Incubi were depicted as nothing but worshipful slaves. “She leaves survivors. She attracts worshipers. The weird stuff, the alien stuff, they just kill you.”
He waved a dismissive hand. “Different roads leading to the same Hell.” But then he trailed off, as someone rounded the pillar going the other way.
A single witch wandered through the hall—dressed this time, unlike the supplicants below. She wore a white frock, with an opening for her light blue bat-wings. The stranger wandered between the paintings like any visitor to a gallery. She stopped as they approached, her grin exposing a pair of fangs. "Great time to visit. Come to learn with us when She arrives?”
Nyx nodded. “We’ve learned a lot so far. More than we ever thought we would. By the way, uh… are we going the right way? If we’re trying to find, like… maybe the High Priestess? You have one of those?”
“Of course.” The witch nodded, pointing after Pocky. “I’ve never seen an animal in here. Let me know if you want anyone else to join you.” She looked between the three of them. “Two floors up, if that’s why you’re here. But you won’t want to leave. I didn’t.” She walked away, without so much as giving her name.
“Of course, she didn’t,” Christopher said darkly, as soon as she was out of earshot. “Come to the tower, exchange your soul for an army of slaves who fight and die for you.”
They climbed several more floors, with more of the same. They passed through vast kitchens of strange food, with endless wells of alcohol and scarcely-clad Incubi to serve it.
The next floor was worse, with a construction of dark metal and numerous restraints scattered from one end to the other. It seemed like this might be where the Incubi were trained, or maybe disciplined, though they didn’t stay long enough to find out. “They seem desperate,” Christopher said, as soon as they’d left the floor behind. “I wish we could help them. But we don’t know how long that ritual will take. We might already be too late.”
“How much longer? Can’t keep waiting here. Must be some reason…” a female voice spoke quietly from just ahead, echoing strangely in the confined space. Nyx slowed to a stop as they passed a row of cells, each one barely tall enough to stand up in. They were all empty except this one, which showed the first sign of a female witch being mistreated in the whole tower.
She wore more clothes than several witches on the lower floors combined, an intricate dress with belts covered in metal charms.
Christopher stopped in front of the door, marching up to it and settling one hand on his sword. He leaning in. “Hey, do you need help? We could… probably do something about this cage.”
Even as he said it, several Incubi approached from an open doorway. They wore only simple wraps, but each one had weapons. Guards, then. “Hey, what was that about not having enough time to interfere? Let’s save her after we stop the ritual,” Nyx hissed.
The Spaniard ignored her, and so did the one inside.
“Do I know you?” the woman asked, her voice so strangely accented that Nyx couldn’t place it.
He froze, shaking his head once. “I do not… no, I’m sure I don’t. I would remember someone like you.”
“What about you?” she pointed out at the cage, this time at Ai. “I must know… you, perhaps? No. Not you.” She reached up, resting one frustrated hand on the side of her head. “Maybe it hasn’t happened yet?”
For an instant, Nyx almost thought she recognized her. That black hair, those strange looping braids. Had she seen those before? No, had to be her imagination. She was getting distracted.
“I’m Ai Chen,” Ai said. “And this is Pocky. Have you seen us before?”
“Maybe not…” The girl frowned, settling back onto the rough wooden bench inside her cell. “I am Tomoe. My memory is… suspect. But I think I’m here to save one of you. Unless I already did…”
They were running out of time. The Incubi stopped on one edge of the cage, raising weapons. None of them spoke, just looked as imposing as they could. Because they aren’t allowed to harm us. Until we interfere. Can we reach the ritual before this whole tower tries to kill us?
“Come on,” Nyx said, gesturing away. “We’ll come back for you if we can.” Assuming you aren’t a witch trying to tempt us into breaking our promise.
Her companions seemed reluctant, particularly the Spaniard. Eventually Nyx just yanked on his arm, dragging him away.
“We’re saving her by stopping the ritual,” she whispered, voice dark. “Saving everyone. Now that we know the way into this place, Elenia can send an army if it must. But not if we never get out of here.”
The Ziggurat grew stranger the further up they climbed, and Nyx found herself losing confidence in her internal map. It wasn’t just a simple matter of climbing every stairwell they could find. There were dozens of different paths to take, far more space than the tower seemed to contain. At one point Nyx realized the stairwell had transitioned onto a wall without her realizing.
Then she saw what a nameless witch was doing to several initiates nearby, and she wished she hadn’t looked.
But they weren’t left free to climb the tower all the way to the ritual—eventually they came to a shut door. Markings even Nyx couldn’t read lined the round archway, with only a single glyph she recognized. The one burned onto Enoch’s chest. Alright, so maybe we’re on the right track after all.
Pocky stopped them from continuing past the door, pointing emphatically at it with a paw.
“What is it, boy?” Ai asked nervously. “We made it this far. Why are we stopping now?”
The door swung open. A figure stood blocking the path, stranger than any they’d encountered. For one terrible second, Nyx thought they were too late, that the Dark Mother herself had already arrived.
The woman was like some ancient Hindu god, summoned all the way from distant Earth. She was taller than Christopher, with six arms each protected by a different bracer. For clothing she had little, except for a ritual sash and various bits of silvery jewelry.
But where every other worshiper they’d encountered so far seemed madly focused on some carnal task or another, this one was the picture of serenity. One arm adjusted her hair briefly, another settled a bracelet into place, one held the door open. At least she hadn’t brought any slaves.
“I received word you would be coming,” she said. “The three of you have done a wonderful thing in bringing us our Mother’s gift. Considering this auspicious occasion, even your, uh…” Her eyes settled on Christopher, though only for a moment. “Even he will be remembered with honor when the Mother arrives to reign over her daughters in glory.”
For once, even the Spaniard didn’t have something to say. Instead of drawing his sword, he clutched the rosary about his neck with his spare hand, whispering a prayer.
“We’ve come to see the ritual,” Nyx declared. “We, uh… we’re entitled to, aren’t we? On account of being heroes or whatever?”
The witch nodded once. “I am Circe, high priestess. On the Mother’s behalf, I invite you to join our sacred celebration. Please, follow me.” Then she turned, letting them follow through the open door. Her dark hair lifted and trailed behind her as she walked, almost glowing in the low light from narrow windows along the floor.
They followed. Circe led them into a wide hallway lined with fragments of mirror on both sides, each one reflecting a different distorted caricature. Steam billowed about their feet, condensing on the glass and distorting the images it reflected.
They had only traveled a few steps before she realized another figure was walking along beside her. Lymn appeared only in the reflections, but she was the only image that wasn’t distorted.
“Continue to follow,” she ordered. “Do not speak to me, or she will realize I am here.” Nyx didn’t even nod, just kept following. She slowed a little, letting Ai and Pocky pass her.
“The threads of your destiny fray and unravel,” Lymn said, her single red eye fixed on Circe’s retreating back. “Your companion is already planning to attack this being, as though she were some common witch. If he succeeds, your mission will be undone.”
I don’t need you to tell me that. Nyx glanced over her shoulder, and sure enough Christopher already had one hand wrapped around the hilt of his sword, while the other was on his necklace. Nyx glared intensely at him, shaking her head. The message was clear enough, and he didn’t draw the sword.
“Decide in this moment what matters more to you: the life of the child, or your freedom from whatever this High Priestess will demand of you. I do not believe your victory against her is likely to be achieved. Her powers cast your own beneath the eclipse. But if you do not fight, you will be forced to live with what she causes you to see.”
Nyx turned reflexively to argue—and Circe stopped dead. She turned her head gently around, her eyes snapping to the mirror. But there was suddenly nothing there.
Nyx grinned innocently. “So this ritual thing—we won’t miss it, will we? We really want to see it for ourselves.”
“That depends on you,” she answered, turning away and stopping in front of a second door. It looked the same as the first—a round metal door, surrounded by symbols and enchanted writing. Circe hummed quietly, touching a few of the symbols with each hand, and it clicked, swinging open.
A wave of steam hit them like a slow-moving wall, drifting through the doorway behind them and adding to the cloud. The floor within was made entirely of stone, surrounding a metal basin as unnerving as anything else they’d seen in the Ziggurat so far.
It was easily as large as a small swimming pool, made entirely of polished brass. Its base depicted female figures, demonic and twisted as Katya had been after Nyx blasted her in Padric’s inn. They hefted the basin on their shoulders, while their twisted faces were frozen in an eclectic combination of extreme emotions. Ecstasy, terror, joy, loathing. Every extremity of emotion seemed to be reflected here, and no two faces were the same.
Christopher staggered back from the basin, crossing his chest with one hand. “What depravity is this? Saints preserve us…”
Circe ignored him. She didn’t even look annoyed when she finally stopped beside the metal stairs. “If you wish to proceed to the peak of the tower and witness the sacred Apotheosis of the Dark Mother—then you must be cleansed first. Remove your garments, and we will begin immediately.”
“¿Eres tonto o… no. I want nothing to do with your blasphemies.” He drew his sword in one smooth motion, brandishing it. “Take my life if you must, but my soul belongs to God.”
Nyx winced, tightening her grip on her staff. But Circe didn’t begin casting some terrible spell.
She only seemed amused. “Of course not, honored guest. You are a man, and would be unable to complete the rites. You will not be required to participate. Your companions, however…”
“You can’t!” He raised his voice, no longer even looking at Circe. “You can’t sacrifice your souls!”
“Is that what we’re doing?” Nyx asked, reaching out and putting one hand on Christopher’s arm. She pushed his sword down, until he wasn’t taking such a threatening position. We’re lucky she didn’t take that seriously. “Are we going to be, uh… mind-controlled? End up transformed into one of your witches?”
The high priestess laughed. It sounded genuine, not mad cackles or insane wailing as Nyx had heard from so many others in this place. “Sisters often receive gifts of the Mother, it is true. But not here. There is no transformation waiting in that pool, only truth. You may not wish to leave when the ritual is done—but some do, and some have. The choice will still be yours.”
“Liar,” Christopher spat. He didn’t raise the sword again, though he did still seem desperate. “Ai, you can’t seriously be considering this? You’re not Elenian. You would never take the word of a witch.”
Circe’s smile vanished. She blurred, crossing the room in an instant. Suddenly she loomed over Christopher, each of her arms poised for some arcane gesture. “The honored guest will not impugn my honesty again,” she said. “The Dark Mother Divine will tolerate only so much, even from those who have done her service.”
She turned her back on Christopher then, with utter contempt for the sword inches from her back. “Our Mother shows us only the truth. That is why so many choose to come and stay with us. Civilization shows them beautiful masks. Here, they see the truth of themselves. As your companions will do.”
“Give us a moment, please,” Nyx said, then yanked Christopher and Ai back to the doorway. Not like she expected it to make a difference. Circe just smiled and watched them, patient. Steam kept drifting down the strange font, though it seemed mundane enough, with the slightly salty smell of a natural spring. On the sixth floor of an impossible tower. No big deal.
“What do you think, Ai? Should we do it?”
Ai patted Pocky briefly on the head, then looked past the font. “It seems like the fastest way. If we cooperate, we can walk right into the ritual. That gives your kid the best chance, gives us the best chance of finding the Ortiz sisters. Pocky doesn’t know where to go past this place. If we fight, we’ll be on our own to find the ritual before they finish.”
“If we fight, we’ll probably die,” Nyx said, as quietly as she could. “I can…” She couldn’t risk mentioning Lymn now, not with a creature like Circe listening. “I’m almost positive we can’t handle this fight. We barely killed the first witch they sent after us. We only bought our way out of the second one. This one is stronger than them both by miles.”
“It’s your choice,” Christopher admitted. “But I beg you, please. Don’t risk your souls for this. We can defeat this witch as we have beaten others.”
Should Nyx decide to...
Ignore Lymn's advice and refuse to perform the Rites of the Dark Divine and fight Circe. knowing full well that this would risk both Enoch's life and the lives of those she fights with. Without knowing where to go, this massive ziggurat might even bar them entry to the ritual to confront the Ortiz sisters and save Enoch.
Heed Lymn's advice and participate in Circe's strange cleansing ritual. Keeping Enoch safe, and ensuring their continued climb to attend the ritual. Of course... Nyx and Ai Chen would suffer unknown consequences from being shown what the Dark Mother Divine had in mind for them.
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