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Day 28: Limited Realities, an Undead Lord, and the Time for Blood!

July 20, 2019 18 min read

The world is an evil place. Order is the only path to peace, while chaos is the bane of all good creatures. Many have a warped worldview with misguided concepts of right and wrong. They base their opinions on their own limited realities. As if they are the only important creatures in existence and any truth outside of their perception has no bearing on their actions or how they might affect others. 

My personal revelations have taught me of things which they don’t even know exist. 

I must act on my own accord. Many will criticize me, and many will hate me. But I will not falter, nor will I relent. The cold truth is that those who are unwilling to help will only hurt. They must be banished from our realms for the sake of order, and all those who are good.

I don’t write these things out of malice, or some misguided principle based upon the words I’ve been told during my upbringing. Instead, I write this from a place of higher knowledge. I’ve seen things which many cannot comprehend. I’ve seen people die, families murdered, cities burned, kingdoms forgotten, countries sink, planets decay, and solar systems go cold. I’ve seen a universe that contains infinite wonders, and infinite horrors. 

Humans, and those like them, can only dream of a reality in which their moral code still has any sort of meaning. They lack the context required to understand even the simplest ideas of morality. They're minds are clouded with meaningless details created by their limited perceptions of reality.  

 I’m told that the world isn’t so black and white, that shades of grey line the spectrum of experience. This is an argument many use to take comfort in their lives of sin and filth. They obviously don’t know the truth of their existences. They haven’t seen the things I’ve seen. I take pity on them. Their fragile concepts of good and evil will shatter when the veil that covers their worldviews lifts, revealing the meaning of their lives. And In that moment, all living creatures will inevitably understand what I do. 

Their lives have meaning, and reality is indeed black and white.


For our Day 28 unlock, we will be adding a massive 2x2 miniature to the KS2 Promo Box for the Judas 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 are already a part of the contents of Unintentional Malum: Act 1 will remain a standee. 

He Rises!
He Rises!

Count Dalv was an exceptional man during his past "human" life, trained since it was young to become the most valiant knight of the Dragon Order, Dalv was the hand of king Rastan for a while, but then… the death of his loved wife changed everything, he embraces the night by accepting the Dark Gift, becoming a creature of the darkness... a bloodthirsty Vampire! Following the dark plans of his puppeteer… the dreadful Undead Lord!

The rest of his tragic story is written in the chronicled of the Sword & Sorcery saga, starting from Immortal Souls to finish with Darkness Falls…

And is here that his story continues in the Middara Universe!

In fact, the powerful witch called Salma, with a promise to give to Dalv anything he wishes for (and if you know Count Dalv, you know what he might be going to ask...) brings him into the realm of Middara to defeat her enemies... but the dark gift of our Vampire Lord is stronger than ever, and he is not going to be just a witch's puppet! Which price will Sandra pay for the foolishness of her actions?

Check out the cards: Adventurer Card | Cape of the Undying (Accessory) | Cape of the Undying (Relic) | Void Sword (1-Handed)  | Void Sword (2-Handed)

Brooklynn here!

Hot damn! As a Day 28 unlock we're excited and humbled to have the opportunity to cross promote with Sword & Sorcery!

The folks over at Ares Games have been slamming out successful Kickstarters since 2013. However, they were in the publishing scene before that. I used to work at game stores toiling away long and fun hours pushing their product and teaching families how to play their games.

Now, with Gremlin Project playing in their field, we’ve been graced with the wonderful world of  Sword & Sorcery.

I personally can't get enough Dungeon Crawls in my life. So that makes me one of those Kickstarter suckers that buys everything on day 1 from any Dungeon Crawl that shows the kind of love and passion I see from Gremlin Project.

For those who don’t know, Sword & Sorcery has been acclaimed by many players as one of the very best Dungeon Crawlers out there (dastardly competition!). It's a fully cooperative fantasy board game with beautiful miniatures and rich components. Sword & Sorcery was a hit both on Kickstarter and in stores. After the success of the first season of Sword & Sorcery (now available at retail), Gremlin Project and Ares have been hard at work on a new cycle of product, Ancient Chronicles. 

Ancient Chronicles was on Kickstarter at the end of 2018, but if you missed it, late pledges are still open here!

The Count Dalv kit comes with a beautiful Resin miniature (that will require assembly), an Initiative Card, two Item Cards, and an Adventurer Card. This kit comes in all "With Swag" Pledge levels and can be added as an individual add-on for $20. 

Don’t hesitate to go check out more by Ares Games or take a look at Gremlin Project's passionate worlds.

They climbed.

Nyx could sense the magic of the ritual now, in the same instinctive way she had always been able to sense when one of her students was performing a summoning. How long will this last? Nyx no longer bounced and flew from step to step, but dragged herself along at the back, with Christopher and his rescued hostage leading. She remained quiet, except to answer which fork to take or what set of steps would lead further up. 

There were no more mazes now, just further up. Here the tower was more a ruin than the temple of a cult, with ancient stone walls and metal implements and sculptures rusted beyond recognition. I hope I have the energy left to fight when we get to the top. If I still want to.

Nyx leaned on her heavy staff for a second, before realizing that someone was following her. Not an army of cultists angry at Tomoe’s rescue, but the familiar dark purple wolf, her single spectral eye unblinking in the gloom. She looked away, tensing in preparation for the scolding she expected.

Lymn
Lymn

“You seem pained. Was the price demanded worth the reward you received?” Lymn didn’t sound judgmental, or even disapproving. Only curious.

Nyx felt her face grow hot at the thought of unseen eyes watching the rite. She glanced forward at the others, then slowed, where she could whisper in relative privacy. “The worst part isn’t anything we saw—just knowing what I could’ve had. Leaving this place is going to be… hard.”

Lymn remained silent for a long time, as they struggled up a set of precarious metal steps. These wrapped up and down the wall in a strange spiral, bending slightly with each step. The wolf calmly plodded along behind her, not physical enough to trip like Nyx almost did. “Perhaps. But remember that what you saw was only one trail up the mountain of happiness. There are others, paths less precarious and destinations more enduring. The illusion will fade. Your feelings will pass as time dulls their potency.”

What if I don’t want it to. Nyx knew if she’d come just for herself, she would’ve never left the tower. She could see why so many had decided to stay, even surrounded by things that had once seemed horrifying to her. Have I been fighting for the wrong side all along? Her memories of the rites were impossible to reconcile with the realities of what happened. 

Her memory turned foggy, and time seemed to stop. It felt like months passed in that room, though maybe it was only seconds. Nyx would never know. All she knew for certain was that it contained far more than a pool and a high priestess.

I’ll never feel like that again.

Lymn was suddenly in front of her, her blind eyes wrapped in cloth and her massive jaws spread. “Remember what the servants of the Dark Mother have done. Silvia murdered her parents, and her ritual will kill another innocent child. Does any pleasure wash away their blood?”

Her world came back into focus. Nyx shook her head, banishing the memories. She could still see the recent human arrivals, barely alive from an angelic attack. This order had done that. It had tried to murder her only the night before.

From Lymn’s other side, she caught Ai looking back at her, concerned. She wore the same haunted look—Ai Chen had seen everything. She knew exactly how Nyx felt right now. Ai had traveled with her to that timeless eternity, where every action had meaning and desire itself was sacred. Her memory of that place seemed far more real than any tower could be.

Lymn might promise healing, but Nyx didn’t believe her for a second. How could the memory of something so perfect ever fade? The Dark Mother was real, and she was wonderful. Maybe the world would be better with her ruling it?

Humans were hunted on Middara, dwelling in a world that sometimes didn’t seem to want them. Every new cave brought another creature bent on killing them in some creative way. Maybe instead of fighting, Nyx should join the revel. 

She could still hear the music.

“Listen.” Lymn’s voice, stern and commanding. So jarring that Nyx was startled from her reverie. “You see Her memories. But think of your own. You must care for the newcomers to your world, or else why would you dedicate your life to teaching them? Remember the one who is dying. The one you saw is torturing her. She will do far worse than kill her, if you do not stop it.”

Nyx hesitated another moment, and the world seemed to come back into focus. She couldn’t share the hatred she heard from Lymn, she could never hate something as wonderful as what she had experienced. But she could still fight.

I can work out the details later. I don’t have to hate the Mother to stop her from killing Enoch. 

One glance to the side told her all she needed to know about Ai. She stopped her, meeting her eyes for a moment. She couldn’t lie and say it would all be okay, Nyx knew better than that. They could never go back. “We’re here to stop the witches,” she said. “If anything, we’re helping by getting rid of Silvia. The Mother wouldn’t want people killing their parents and torturing children. We have to stop her, and let the memory fade.”

Ai looked away, focusing on the stairs beneath her with each step. “We can stop Silvia. Save your kid.”

Christopher and Tomoe were waiting for them at the top of the stairs. 

“Is that what the dog told you?” Tomoe asked.

Ai laughed, patting her Warp Hound on the head. “You mean Pocky? He doesn’t really ‘talk’.

Pocky barked enthusiastically, just once.

“No.” Tomoe pointed behind her, behind Nyx, directly at where Lymn was standing. She seemed to be staring right at her, where her eyes should be if they weren’t bandaged and covered.

“You can see her?”

The strange girl nodded. “Dreamwalkers are wise, but not infallible. Don’t obey without understanding them.”

Then she turned away, following Christopher to the door.

“Our desires coincide,” Lymn said, once the stranger didn’t seem to be listening. “Unity in all desires is not required. You want to prevent a dangerous creature from manifesting in your world—so do I.”

Nyx turned to look at her, but she had already faded. 

“You sure you haven’t lost your minds?” Christopher asked. “You’re talking to the wall. Is that a thing witches do?”

No one dignified his question with a response.

Ai stopped Christopher at the door, resting one hand on his. “They’re inside,” she whispered. “This is it.”

“How do you know?” he asked. “I don’t hear any evil rituals coming through here.

“What does an evil ritual sound like?” Ai asked. “What if it’s just, like, an ethically dubious ritual?”

Nyx couldn’t hear anything either, only the sound of terrible wind blowing outside. A single window on the far side of the room filled the space with crimson sunset light.

But once she closed her eyes, Nyx could feel it too. Silent music, a constant beat that never stopped, but far louder through this door. “All three of them are in there,” Nyx said. “Like… different instruments. Part of the spell.” Whether they want to be or not.

Locket of Lucia Amaya
Locket of Lucia Amaya

Christopher took one last look at his sister’s picture before snapping the locket closed. Then he drew his sword in both hands. “If Silvia murdered her own parents, I’ll have her head. Time to be heroes.”

Nyx nodded her reluctant agreement. Together, they shoved the double doors open, passing through into the chamber beyond.

The space was vast, with thick carpets and fine plush furniture. They’d finally reached the end of the stairs—the ceiling above was vaulted and echoing, with one window facing each of the four directions. Each was made of thick glass, with bars on the outside to stop any potential escape.

Nyx took in the other tactical details of the space as quickly as she could, searching for dangers. The room was broken by a velvet curtain, hiding most of the space. Comfortable furniture, a large bookshelf of oversized books. 

Torn pages from the Book of Hadrum
Torn pages from the Book of Hadrum

The table beside it had a wide scroll open on a stand, with intricately carved wooden rods holding it open. Nyx’s eyes went instantly to the incense burning in a tiny metal bowl beside it, and the vial of something dark red set just before the scroll.

A young woman sat in the center of the sofa, watching them with a cheerful smile on her face. The table before her was a little taller than normal, with a bright red tablecloth and a single teacup resting incongruously in front of the girl.

Nyx had never known this sister, but she could at least recognize her from the painting. “You’re Silvia Ortiz,” Nyx said, feigning politeness. She kept her movements slow, not wanting to provoke hostile magic before they even got through the door. She was so unafraid that she didn’t even stand as they entered. 

Silvia Ortiz
Silvia Ortiz

Silvia ignored her, watching Christopher as he approached. There was recognition there, maybe even friendship. Or what was left of it. “I wondered if you would find your way here eventually. Father’s side of the family was always so… tenacious.”

Christopher’s discipline evaporated, and his face went red with rage. He stalked up to the sofa, his sword ready in both hands. Please don’t attack her yet we have no idea what’s going on please don’t…

He didn’t attack. Instead he screamed, “Is that an admission, witch? Your father provided you with the best Middara could offer. Your mother was a woman of honor and gentleness. I want to hear from your lips, Silvia. Are you a kinslayer? God may hate witches, but there’s a special place in hell waiting for traitors.”

While he yelled, Ai and Pocky inspected the curtain, nudging it nervously. Nothing happened to them, though it seemed like something large might’ve moved on the other side.

Even Silvia reacted calmly to the screaming, reaching forward to the table in front of her and sipping her tea. She didn’t even look at the sword. “Kill my own parents? What happened between us was… unfortunate. But I didn’t kill them. I saved them. Would you like to see? They’re here right now, very close.”

“Yes,” he said. His sword dropped an inch or so, though he didn’t lower his voice. “Very much. The further up this tower I climbed, the more certain I was of your guilt. Please show me I’m wrong. We can leave this unhallowed place, burn this tower. Together.”

Silvia set down her cup, lifting a little silver bell from the table and ringing it three times. “Mommy, Daddy! We have visitors. Bring the tea.”

Something shuffled behind the curtain, something meaty and heavy. Nyx smelled it before she saw it—a heady mix of formaldehyde and unburied dead. She backed away from the curtain as something heavy shoved through it. She leaned on her staff, overwhelmed by what she saw.

It had been human once—two humans, actually. A pulpy mass of pale flesh shambled into the room, making a sound from two sets of lips that might’ve been a grunt, or might’ve been a scream of agony. It had four legs, four arms, two heads. The thing was unevenly decayed—its heads were yellowed slightly from the preservative. Silvia had not been so attentive with the rest of it. 

Bile rose in her throat, and Nyx turned away, covering her mouth with her arm.

Christopher backed away, crossing himself and muttering something in Spanish. “Saints protect us…” he finally stammered, no longer swinging the sword. He backed away from the creature, his eyes more pity than disgust. Maybe he could see something familiar in those alien features.

Silvia had dressed the corpse-thing, in shreds of white cloth. It only made the parody of life seem worse, as it shuffled between its four unsteady feet. “I saved them,” she said, somehow not disgusted by the monstrosity in front of her. “They would’ve died, but now they can be with us forever.”

“How can you have done this?” Ai asked, gagging with disgust at what she saw. “You went through the same Rites—you must have, if you’re leading the coven here. How is this beautiful?” She gestured at the undead-monster. “This isn’t what we saw.”

“Beauty is subjective,” Silvia said. “You think we all see it the same way? The Dark Mother teaches that our desires are our own. Weren’t you paying attention?”

But whatever anger Nyx had for these innocents, there were two others who she’d known whose fate gnawed at her. Had Silvia murdered her sisters like her parents? What about Salma and Sandra?” Nyx asked, gripping her staff so tightly that the wood started to creak. Already her mind raced, searching her memory of Arkalla’s darkest pits for some horror appropriate to the evil Silvia had committed. “Did you murder them too?”

“I only have one sister now. Salma?” She tapped her foot, suddenly impatient. 

Something else emerged from the far side of the room. Nyx was ready this time, angry enough that fear and discomfort were fading. Maybe Christopher had been right after all: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.

Salma was still alive, at least. Beneath her thin robes, her body was covered with horrifying scars, tracing zigzag patterns up and down her skin. One hand had been replaced with a monstrous claw, tearing up the carpet as she dragged it forward. When she smiled, it was with a row of needle teeth, like some horror of the deep ocean. Her face was carved and torn wider than it should be, but more teeth had grown to fill the void. 

“Professor Nyx!” she said, her strange teeth giving her voice an unnatural lisp. But beneath all that, she was still the same Salma that she remembered. “You’re here! It’s been years!”

Nyx backed away, retreating out of reach. Maybe she should’ve been ashamed of her disgust. “What did she… do to you?”

“No one did anything to me,” Salma said. She twisted and bent, her skin briefly tearing along the hideous scars. Somewhere underneath was a mass of swollen red flesh, not unlike Katya. But then the moment passed, and Salma looked like herself again. Charming, innocent, and human. “Silvia said it already. Our Mother doesn’t ask us to be what we aren’t. She wants us to be free to experience beauty and joy as we find it. Lust, vanity, greed… you saw for yourself. The Dark Mother accepts you regardless.” The illusion broke, and she melted back into the monstrous thing with claws and pointed teeth.

“We’re very thankful for your gift,” Silvia began. “It fills me with regret to lose a servant as skilled as Girtiya. First we freed her from death, and thanks to what she brought, she is free from us as well. Maybe you’ll decide to stay in her place. But what we have received in compensation… that is truly remarkable. The lockbox, its contents have proved what we have waited years to know. The Marked One has finally arrived.”

She settled her teacup back into place, smiling sickly-sweet up at Christopher. “But as I said—my sister is fine. My family is fine. You can leave this tower and tell Brahma all about it, if you wish.”

Christopher brandished his sword, inches from Silvia’s table. He swung it inches in front of her face, yet she didn’t even blink. When he spoke, he sounded drained. “What about Sandra? I’m not leaving this tower until I see that she’s okay.” 

“Don’t say her name,” Silvia whispered, her voice suddenly low and dangerous. The monstrous undead thing, content to shuffle about near the bookshelf, stirred suddenly, turning four sets of rotten eyes on Christopher. It doesn’t have any free will anymore. We’ll have to fight them.

Nyx would be ready for that when it came. She didn’t turn people into demons, but she was one of the best summoners in Elenia.

“Sandra couldn’t see the paradise we were bringing,” Silvia said. “She didn’t think it was right to help prophecy along.”

“Now she can’t see anything,” Salma squeaked, her toothy voice mixed with laughter. She yanked on the red tablecloth, pulling it away to expose the greatest horror of all.

There was nothing demonic about the look of this girl, no alien flesh and strange magic. She lay scrunched into a cage barely large enough for her, wearing only rags and covered with dirt and slime. Her face was scarred horribly, with yellowed bandages wrapped around her eyes. Her ears were covered with half-melted pitch, sealing them shut and leaving horrible burns around her bare scalp. Yet somehow the poor girl seemed to sense something had changed, because she turned her head up. Her mouth opened, but only a throaty rattle emerged. She had no tongue.

“And now you see,” Silvia said. “She refused Her help. The Mother would already be here, if it wasn’t for her. Because of her, we’re still waiting for the Marked One. Though not for much longer.”

A low growl rumbled through the room, and Nyx looked up. None of the others moved—if any of the witches saw Lymn, they were very good actors.

The wolf ignored all the horrors around them, standing beside the open scroll. “This object is the key,” she said, her voice urgent. “Their ritual is complete, but power builds. You must disrupt it.”

Nyx took one step towards the scroll, stumbling away from the cage. She didn’t have to act to seem disgusted and horrified, anyway. “Because you caused it,” Nyx supplied. “Your ritual marked a boy on Earth, changed him.”

Silvia shrugged, though Nyx was sure her eyes darted briefly to the oversized scroll. “Her return was always known. My… this one here, may’ve slowed Her. But Her arrival can’t be prevented. We’re manifesting destiny. You’ve seen the world She will bring. When you brought the lockbox to us, you proved that the Marked One has arrived in Middara at least. When we are finished here, I will be sure to pay her a visit.”

I thought I did. Nyx had seen the world that the Dark Mother Divine would bring. But it wasn't this. It was... beautiful. Her own version of happiness made manifest. But no matter how much some part of Nyx still wanted to return to what she'd seen during the Rites. “If the Dark Mother would allow this, then she was just as evil as Christopher had been saying from the beginning. “No one is manifesting anything today,” she said. “We’re taking that scroll, ending the ritual, and no one is going to be tortured in this tower ever again.”

Silvia was barely listening. Either that, or she didn’t care that all three of her visitors were now brandishing weapons. “You don’t even know what it is? This scroll is made from the torn pages of the Book of Hadrum. It isn't summoning the Mother. It only shows you your past. Or Her past. She’s been speaking to me since I was a child. Do you really think others haven’t tried to stop me before? You’re going to swing bits of metal and throw around some shitty spells, and stop the will of a god?”

Silvia jerked to her feet, kicking a staff up into her hands that had been concealed under the edge of the sofa. As she rose, something moved from just behind it—a gigantic, horrifying rat, with sharp teeth and hideous open sores covering most of its hairless body.

Silvia's Pet
Silvia's Pet

Something moved from the corner of the room, and Nyx watched as the rescued Tomoe began closing on the scroll. Her listless confusion was gone, replaced with resolute determination. You don’t even know what we’re doing here, and you’re willing to risk yourself to help us. I was wrong not to rescue you. Either that, or Tomoe was actually one of the Coven all along, and she was about to do something terrible with their artifact. Nyx could only hope it was the former.

“The Dark Mother gives us life,” Salma said. “We can share it with others. We could’ve shared it with you. But now we’ll share it with someone else.”

Nyx felt a sudden twisting in her gut, recognizing the Assemblage magic before Salma even finished casting. Nyx had probably taught her the spell she used. 

The carpet in front of Salma was suddenly stained red, with thick blood sprawling in a profane recreation of Solomon’s Seal. The ground cracked, and a pale hand emerged, dripping red with blood.

Salma reached down, yanking hard with her still-human hand. The creature seemed to be taking shape as she pulled, bones and tissues coming together from primordial clay and settling into the shape of a man. A man all cloaked in purple and red, with long white hair and a high collar. Nyx couldn’t see much of his face, beyond the yellow eyes that seemed to glow. She quickly looked away.

Salma's Summon of Choice...
Salma's Summon of Choice...

“I need you to kill,” Salma said. “These four and the dog.”

Nyx’s eyes widened in horror as she finally realized what Salma had done. This was no simple esper—it was another undead horror, worse by far than what Silvia had done to her parents. His will was unbroken even seconds after the ritual was complete. Salma had reached beyond the furthest corners of Arkalla and every other realm a sane summoner could call, down into Erebus.

There were no ‘good’ creatures in Erebus, and the only souls that dwelt there were evil in a way that scarcely had any meaning to a mortal human.

“What will you give me in return?”

“Anything you want,” she said, her insane grin splitting her face wider and wider.

“You need me to shed blood now,” the creature said. “Pay me after. I will know what I want by then.”

“Done,” Salma said.

“No more!” Christopher roared, lifting his sword high over his head. Golden light broke through the tower window, settling around him as the same set of armor he had summoned before. “Elenia is a scourge on our world for permitting this. But if I must be the one to correct it, then I will.” He glanced sidelong at Nyx, his eyes dark inside the summoned helmet.

It was time for blood.

Alex Hansen
Alex Hansen



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