July 22, 2019 14 min read
A Special Thanks to Backers!
Hey everyone! Me and Alex want to thank everyone who helped make this campaign special! Our small community is growing, but that's a good thing. We love seeing all the new faces and conversations. We can't wait to get this game into your hands!
At this point we're excited to get to work on our massive project and to double-down on our promises to get this behemoth delivered in a timely fashion.
We'll make sure to keep up our constant contact and to keep everyone in the loop as things move forward.
We love working with different artists all around the world. Writing is an art like any other, and we appreciate the hard work that our writers have put into Middara. As you know, this project contains a monolithic amount of writing when compared to other board games. Without our writers we wouldn't be where we are today.
While Middara has always been a collaboration of many different minds and writers, we felt that it was appropriate to give a shout out to the very talented Kristopher Miles.
I met Kristopher Miles through Brandon Sanderson's recommendation, and it's been a pleasure working with him. He has really put in work for our world and vision. Since writing the first draft for Unintentional Malum Act 1 he's written over 800,000 words and has grown considerably in his craft.
Aspiring to write full time isn't easy. In fact, it's the opposite of easy. It's a long arduous uphill battle fraught with looming light bills and numerous nights of ramen and energy drinks. So we applaud anyone who willingly takes this path up the mountain of life and sticks with it even after the glamour wears away.
If you're interested in checking out his accolades or reaching out yourself, go ahead and check out his website here. Kristopher has built himself a strong niche of readers and we know that he'll scale that mountain.
All Hail Toast!
As another thank you to backers, we couldn't leave you hanging in regards to Nyx's trusty pal Toast.
As an additonal free unlock for today we're throwing Toast into the KS2 Promo Box!
...And who knows, there may be an Adventure for Toast to go on sometime in the future.
Backers have spoken!
For our Day 30 unlock, we will be adding a miniature to the KS2 Promo Box for Ai Chen.
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.
Nyx had an impossible choice. But if she didn’t choose, then all three of them would die. Ai isn’t as badly hurt. She’ll survive to make it off this island. I’m not sure my wings are strong enough to carry you, Spaniard. “I’m sorry, Christopher.” She hurried over to Ai, catching her by the shoulder and dragging her towards the door.
“I’m not.” He turned for her, tossing something glittering through the air. Nyx caught it with one hand—his locket. “Make sure my sister gets that back,” he said, drawing his sword in both hands. Then he lifted his sword, facing down the growing monstrosity in the air. It wasn’t just a few tentacles now, but a hideous torso came through next, swollen and putrescent and and hard to look at. As another tentacle leapt out for them, Christopher caught it against his sword, severing it with a single strike.
That was a mistake. The Dark Mother, or whatever part of her had made it into this realm, roared, and the Ziggurat itself shook with the force of its rage. It tore through a chunk of the ceiling with a single tentacle, and half a dozen others lurched out towards Christopher. Silvia herself vanished into its pulpy mass, one last insane laugh lost in the Dark Mother’s roar. It came from many mouths, each one at a different pitch.
Nyx didn’t watch, she ran. She passed through the opening in the wall, clutching Ai tightly, spreading her wings into a glide. Yet she had to watch—maybe the avatar of this demon would be satisfied taking her and leave the rest of the world alone.
Apparently not. Christopher swung once more, twice—but it made no difference. Once the demon focused on him, his sword might as well be plastic. A dozen tentacles wrapped around him. Nyx could hear the crunching sound that followed. There was no mystery in her mind about what had happened to him. I’m sorry I couldn’t save you.
She should’ve been more worried about herself. Another moment later and the Dark Mother’s avatar appeared in the opening, shoving the stone away and lurching down towards them with another tentacle. Could she fly? Would she jump?
REMEMBER, the Dark Mother’s voice was surprisingly gentle, like the recording of someone’s mom nursing a child’s scraped knee. Except the volume had been boosted to incredible levels, echoing through her mind and shaking the building with its incredible force. I WILL REMEMBER YOU. I WILL BE WAITING.
Nyx was momentarily dazed. She stopped flapping, her grip on Ai loosened.
Tentacles lashed out, then caught short, a hundred feet from the tower.
“Nyx, are you alright?” Ai was alert enough to hold to her arms, stopping them from getting separated in the air. “We’re tumbling, Nyx! Are you going to fly, or…?”
The pressure against her skull relaxed. Nyx felt warm blood dribbling down her nose, whipped away by the air blasting around them. Air roared in her ears, and the distant ground was now approaching much too quickly. Nyx spread her wings to catch them, angling them over the island towards the distant stony beach. There just wasn’t enough space.
“Cover your head,” Nyx yelled.
They rolled. Perhaps if Nyx had chosen more protective armor, the landing might’ve been softer. As it happened, the Frock’s magical abilities were altogether useless when gravity was the only enemy. Ai was ripped right out of her arms, and Nyx could do nothing but tuck her head and hope. She felt terrible pain in one arm as she rolled, her wing bending the wrong way. She screamed, heard Ai do the same. Then she came to a bloody stop, feet away from where the rocky shore ended.
A wave crashed in front of her, spraying dark water over them from above. Nyx moaned, too hurt to call out for help. Not that she had any magic left to summon any, even if she could’ve.
Had Ai made it? Where was Pocky? Nyx tried to scan the shore and find out, but she couldn’t even sit up. It hurt everywhere, though at least her frock had kept her from being completely scraped raw.
Something moved from nearby, dark forms stirring through jungle foliage. Nyx’s warning shout turned into a moan of pain.
Captain Salvador emerged from the jungle, a huge blunderbuss in both arms. Half a dozen well-armed privateers were at his back, weapons at the ready. “Thought you’d need rescue,” he said, gesturing towards them with two fingers. “Get the stretchers,” he barked. “And careful for neck injuries. Nice and gentle.”
We made it. Nyx slumped back to the stone, letting the merciful relief of unconsciousness finally take her.
“How is that?” Captain Salazar asked, putting aside the thick roll of bandage.
Nyx groaned, flexing her wings. Well, her good wing moved. The left was now so heavily bandaged and splinted that her back felt completely lopsided. “Like I’m constantly falling in one direction.”
“Perfect!” Captain Salazar rose, turning away. “You’re lucky as hell that break was so clean. Wings are fragile, and if it had been a nasty compound fracture… you probably know better than I do.”
Nyx nodded weakly, though she couldn’t muster any annoyance for Salazar or his crew. If it wasn’t for them, Nyx probably would’ve bled to death on the shore.
“Your friend is up with the dog,” Salazar said, pointing at the wooden ceiling above them. “And the, uh…” He shuddered, looking away. “Girl. She’ll live, but there’s nothing more I could do for her. No balm or salve I know of can regrow a missing tongue.”
Nyx nodded. “Thank you, Captain. And for agreeing to take us all the way to Elenia.”
He adjusted his cap, looking away awkwardly. “No need to thank me. We’re just doing what we were paid for.” He left, vanishing down the hall to the captain’s quarters.
Liar. You could’ve left us on the island to die. But you came for us. Nyx didn’t call him on it, she was just happy to be alive.
She found Ai Chen out near the bowsprit, resting beside a cannon with Pocky’s head in her lap. She was bruised and broken just like Nyx, with thick bandages on her face and chest. Like Nyx, one of her arms was in a cast. At least she didn’t have any broken wings.
As Nyx approached, Pocky looked up, bounding over to her in a few goofy strides. He knocked into her legs, apparently a little unbalanced on the airship, but Nyx caught him anyway. “Hi boy,” she whispered, petting him the way Ai had been doing. Was it weird? Pocky didn’t seem to think so. After a few seconds the Warp Hound seemed satisfied, and he hurried back to Ai Chen.
Nyx perched on the railing beside her. Even with her wing broken and unable to fly, Nyx just wasn’t afraid of heights anymore. Grassy farmland was far below, meaning they were probably only hours away from Elenia.
“Hey,” Ai repeated. Silence settled between them. Not as awkward as it had been a few days ago, when they first met. The suspicion and the anger were gone.
“What are you going to do for the girl?” Ai asked, after a few minutes just sitting there. She pointed across the deck, to where Sandra sat. She was sitting near the stairs leading to the lower deck, wearing a sailor’s cloak. Her tortured face still poked out from beneath the hood, giving Nyx her first unobstructed look.
Sandra had uncovered one eye, which constantly scanned the space around her for dangers. The other socket was sunken, and covered with a fresh length of bandage.
“Does Elenia have magic to treat injuries like that?”
Ai shook her head curtly. “Nothing I know of.”
“There might be something,” Nyx said. “Arkalla is vast. Maybe there’s an esper willing to help someone like her.”
Ai reached up, squeezing her leg and fixing her with an intense glare. “Don’t you think Assemblage has done enough harm already?”
“Any tool can be misused.” She didn’t want to argue the point. They’d shared something, escaping from the Ziggurat together. She just couldn’t muster the energy to be upset about Ai’s biases.
“What about that other girl, Tomoe. Did you see if she got out?”
You weren’t watching? Nyx shrugged in response. “She got her hands on the scroll, then… vanished. Not a warp, but… maybe similar. I don’t know. It didn’t feel like any kind of magic I’ve seen before.”
“Professor Nyx is stumped,” Ai said. “Impressive.”
Maybe before last week it would’ve been. She couldn’t get that voice out of her head. The Dark Mother had been so vast—even her speech had left a mark on Nyx’s mind. Remember. She would remember.
“It’s not a mystery I really care to solve,” Ai went on. “There’s one more thing we need to talk about.” She put out her hand, expectant. “I should probably give that locket to Lucia. It’s the least I could do, since I couldn’t actually save him.”
Nyx removed the metal locket from a pocket, holding it out. But before Ai could take it, she pulled back. “No. I’m the one who got him involved with this in the first place. His death was my responsibility.”
Ai raised an eyebrow. “You do remember what Lucia does, right?”
“She’s a Grim Deacon, I know. But I still think it’s my responsibility. I can take care of the bureaucracy.”
Ai shrugged, then lowered her hand. “I am grateful you saved me. Us. It’s… good to know there are good people down here. All the insane things you hear about happening in Elenia… well, saw some of that too. Calling on dark gods, using Assemblage as casually as you do… well. It was good.”
“You too,” Nyx said. “I’d invite you on a tour around Elenia, but I’m guessing you’ll have places to be.”
Ai nodded. “If I’m around, I’ll look you up.”
Nyx didn’t take Ai Chen back with her to the White Spires. She had been eager to get home with their bad news, and the legal complexities of bringing a foreign diplomat/spy into one of the most secure places in all of Elenia had given her a headache. Nyx stayed with her long enough to arrange an airship home, then caught a carriage to the Spires.
Nyx found Yun in a vast upper chamber, surrounded by ledgers and minor functionaries. Still, the current de facto ruler of Elenia wasn’t spending his days hung over from the outrageous parties he threw at night, the way he’d done when he was just an important scion of the kingdom’s second royal family. It was an improvement.
Yun rose the instant he saw her, waving away a swarm of diplomats and clerks with visible relief on his face. They parted around him, and he met Nyx on the far side of the room. “Glad you made it back, professor! You, uh…” he winced. “Rough mission, huh?”
She folded her arms. “I could’ve used a few Demiurge to back me up, if that’s what you mean.” Maybe Christopher would still be alive. Then again, maybe having more people would’ve only made it harder to escape.
“Not here,” Yun said. He led her around to a secluded bookshelf, then pushed hard on one corner. A compartment opened in the wall, leading to a concealed stairwell down. “We can talk on the way to the infirmary.”
She did. Nyx explained everything she’d learned, in as much detail as she thought Yun would care about. The important part—that a terrible summoned monstrosity might still be lurking in the Ziggurat—was particularly notable, along with the map Ai Chen had made with Pocky’s help. She was a little light on details with her companions, particularly when it came to Ai Chen. There were probably rules about working so closely with representatives from an enemy nation, rules Nyx didn’t care to know and would’ve ignored anyway. What Yun didn’t know would be easier for all involved.
Yun led them through hidden passages of the White Vaults, areas Nyx had never seen marked on any map. Many were overcome with dust, lit only with failing glow stones resting on metal brackets. Rather than pass out of these secure sections of the vaults, Yun took her to a secluded sitting room, where they could speak without fear of being overheard.
Yun puffed on his vape, one hand shaking. A cloud of multicolored smoke emerged from the end, shimmering briefly from blue to gold before vanishing back into mist. He spun it around in his fingers, then slipped it back into a pocket. “Damn.”
“Damn,” she repeated. “That about covers it.”
He glanced over the map, tracing the charcoal line with one finger. “I was hoping you’d completely stop the thing, not just leave it in some tower. Did you at least kill the witch who summoned it?”
Nyx opened her mouth to answer, then hesitated. “I… I hope so. I’m not sure how anyone could live through what she did.”
Yun grumbled, pulling out his vape again and clicking his fingernail against the metal casing. “Sounds like loose ends. Loose ends give me a headache.” He took another puff, exhaling the blue-gold vapor towards her.
Nyx looked away awkwardly, not wanting to stay silent long enough for him to ask her to go back. “Letting me raid the armory was awesome, by the way. I got a frock that saved my ass more than once. I really did need the Demiurge, though. Why train secret police if you’re not going to put them to use?”
“They’re not…” Yun puffed on the crystal again, sighing with relief. “You did everything we could expect from you. More, even. You saved Enoch. And that other one, the… girl upstairs.”
“What can we do for her?” Nyx asked. “There are a few espers that might be able to help her, if she can make the right pacts.”
Yun waved a dismissive hand. “There’s magic for everything, Nyx. Fixing her body is easy. Whatever she went through… that won’t be so easy. But we can try. Maybe she’ll be able to help us repair our relationship with Kladavent. They won’t be happy their investigator won’t be going home.”
Nyx nodded gravely, her fist clenched tightly around the locket. She would still have to find a way to return that—somehow. But not right now. “What about Enoch? You said he was still here?”
“And the other one, yes.” Yun waved a hand. “They’re still in the portal infirmary—I figured if the worst happened, at least we could seal up the vault and wait for help. Tried to convince Jace to leave his friend behind, but… he wouldn’t hear of it. Guess he’s loyal.”
They weren’t far from the portal complex. They had to wait outside while security let them through the heavy vault and thick wards—wards that might’ve turned the Earth portal into a tomb, had Nyx failed. But I didn’t. Almost everybody lived.
“While you’re in there, I’d like you to explain the whole Academy thing to those kids. They didn’t get the usual lectures when they came through, for… obvious reasons.”
“I guess there’s no reason to be worried about Enoch anymore, with the ritual stopped. Did the changes reverse themselves?”
Yun coughed, looking away awkwardly. “You can see for yourself.”
Nyx followed him through the door.
The room had been transformed, though of course its occupants had been here for over a week. Abraxas cards were scattered on the floor around the hospital bed, along with a few handmade recreations of earth board games, and a pile of inoffensive books. As they came in, Jace had a book in his lap, reading aloud while a nurse changed Enoch’s bandages.
The physical changes hadn’t reversed, quite the opposite. As Nyx came in, Enoch grinned up at her, with a mouth full of needle-like teeth. His eyes were unnaturally large, and had changed to a green so bright it seemed to glow. As the nurse removed the last of Enoch’s bandages, Nyx could see the mark on his belly was still there, no longer torn like a wound. It had healed into something like a tattoo, glowing the same steady pink light of the lockbox.
“I told them that there could be, uh… some delayed changes, from the Advancement. Took some time to catch up with her. Him. Him, sorry.”
You mean you made up some bullshit so they wouldn’t freak out even more, Nyx thought.
Enoch shrugged one shoulder, adjusting the thin hospital gown he was wearing. “Just use whatever. I’m still figuring… everything out.” He looked distant, his wide eyes not looking at Nyx so much as past her. Towards the Ziggurat?
She sat down on the edge of the other hospital bed, grinning at them anyway. These kids hadn’t done anything wrong. Enoch was a victim of enemies he couldn’t even understand yet. Nyx wouldn’t hold any of this against him. How close was that ritual to finishing? You feel like a witch already. “Hey! You, uh… weren’t awake the last time I was here.”
“I told her,” Jace said. The haunted look was gone from his face, and he sounded almost casual. Relieved, even. “What you told me.”
Enoch reached over to Nyx, taking her hand with delicate fingers. His grip was feeble and shaking, but at least he still had hands instead of monstrous tentacles. “I saw you in the font,” he whispered. Enoch’s voice was high and musical, somehow cheerful as he said impossible things. “I saw you in the tower. You stopped that witch from finishing what she wanted. You saved me.”
“How?” It was the only thing she could think to ask. A stupid question—how would Enoch know? He didn’t even know magic yet.
He shrugged again, then caught the gown as it started to slip from his shoulder, frowning at it. “I think She saw it. She…” Enoch lowered his voice to a whisper, speaking into Nyx’s ear. Now he sounded afraid. “She wants me. Wants me to join the revel. She tells me things.”
Enoch shook his head and let go. “It will be worse if I say.”
“Well… you don’t have to listen to it,” Nyx said. “You don’t have to do anything it wants. You get to choose.”
“I know,” Enoch said. “Thanks to you.”
Yun cleared his throat. “I’m afraid Kirien hasn’t returned with your biological father, Enoch. And Jace, obviously you don’t have relatives on Middara. But don’t worry—Elenia has measures in place. There’s an institute, and Nyx is one of the professors there. She’ll be the one making sure some Pagan ritual doesn’t kill everyone.”
Jace’s eyes went wide. “W-what?”
Enoch only seemed more confused.
Yun laughed—he was the only one who did.
“He means that we’ve got a school to teach you things. Magic, self-defense, survival… Middara isn’t like Earth. It’s more dangerous here. The rules can be confusing. I loved the Institute so much I never left. I’m sure you’ll love it too.”
And while you’re there, I can keep an eye on you. And if she is still out there, I’ll make sure Silvia doesn’t get to finish what she started.
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