To Fly on Metal Wings

The Gunmage's Return
Naked, ordained, and armed only with Miranda, Ephraim Jacob Riley proves his power survives

A record of E. Jacob Riley.

Awoken before dawn by Shaan monks and told to bring Miranda but nothing else. When Riley agreed, a number of lesser acolytes moved into his room and began to collect his belongings.

Brought to an old, unused room within the monastery where Abbot Shoukou, Kyou Songen, and another elder monk await. The unnamed monk holds a large flat bowl. Songen asked Riley to remove his clothing; a fairly odd request, but Riley acquiesced. Shoukou then tells Riley that the time has come, and that the Shaan have been watching and testing him all these years. They begin to draw arcane symbols and glyphs about his body with the golden contents of the bowl. When they have finished, Shoukou hands Miranda back to Riley, who takes the pistol and examines his hands. He remembers this image from a dream long ago. A small hidden door is opened, and Riley crawls through.

He stumbles through dark and rocky tunnels and caverns, compelled to keep going no matter what. Some have water, trickles and streams like those of the monastery’s water source. He collects numerous cuts and bruises, but these do not stall him nor dissuade his journey. At last he comes to a large cavern lined by green crystals. They illuminate upon his entrance, casting light upon an alter covered in white cloth. A small mechanical gargoyle leaps off and attacks Riley with claws and lightning. The struggle was brief and one-sided; Riley’s magic, both spark and flame, have fully returned.

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On a Hawk's Wings
In the middle of the desert, a strange meeting

The Ant-men had attacked in numbers too great for Serran alone to repel. Forced to abandon the scholars he was in some part responsible for protecting, he retreated into the desert, where his unique abilities made it easy to evade the marauders. From a distance, he followed them back to an old abandoned fort, where the ants were industriously repairing. He contemplated infiltrating, but doubted what good it would do- he could slip in and out of the building without notice with ease, but getting the scholars out in one piece was at the present impossible. He retreated back into the desert, and meditated till nightfall.

He broke from his meditation after he sensed the approach of others. Finding them moving through the canyon, he tailed them, and, when the stopped to make camp, dropped down to say hello. Though initially unfriendly, when it became clear that they had a common goal, they agreed to press onward towards the fort together.

Ever polite, Serran insisted on formal introductions that the others seemed a bit odd. Little did they know that Serran himself is now very interested in them, particularly the goblin, the arcanist, and the girl with a strange presence around her…

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With a Flash of Light...
A page out of Georgie's journal.

What have I done to these people? Companions lost, or separated from us. And now this place. Or time, rather. That’s going to take some getting used to. Would they have been involved in all of this, if it hadn’t been for me? The events of the past… well, it only feels like a few days, were trying enough. Then my powers seemed to have left me. I’m not entirely sure what I’d have done. The only way in which I ever seemed to counteract the trouble I brought on everyone was by being able to patch them up afterwards, and if it had all been truly gone, I’d just have been so much dead weight.

If things in the cave hadn’t gone as they did, I probably would have stayed at the monastery. The old woman who makes salves and balms had taken a shine to me; i could have learned a trade and been of use.

But I’ve managed to tap into the source of my power more easily each time. It was strange, when I attempted to repel that undead in the cave, I could feel that it wasn’t my brooch that channeled the energies that destroyed the creature. I always used to need it, but for whatever reason those energies emanate directly from me, now. At the very least, the fight in the cave showed me that I can still take care of myself when the need arises.

Finally, there she was. Her Ladyship. And written beneath this title, another which I had to use my powers to decipher. Our Lady of Life and Death. She was there when I held the dreamshard, and she has since been in my dreams. She is me, but different somehow. Who sculpted her, and left her in such a place?

It is time I rested. There is much more to say, but the days are hot and I find myself fighting off sleep.

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the Trials and Tribulations of Virtuous Knight
Dear Michael -

I know that you cannot read this in Person, though I do like to think, that though your Remains remain in some Hellish Dragon’s Stomach, that you hear my Thoughts nonetheless. What a week I have had. I stopped off at the Abbey, which is generally a Matter of Course these days, for Provisions, and since then Things have begun to… well, perhaps you ought to judge for yourself: I have discovered that the Hell-Raven’s Name is Gary (what a Fiendish Name!) I have also discovered that Ephraim, the Gunman at the Abbey, is also a Fiend in League with the Hell-Raven (he began speaking in that Hellish Devil-Tongue, to a Group of Travellers who also speak the Fiend-Speech, and I would have Killed him had the Abbot not stopped me. The Abbot assures me that my Virtuous Presence may yet sway these Demons from their Evil Ways, and so I am travelling with them so that I may set an Example!)

Ahh. Well, it seems that I have explained All in that rather long Parenthetical. It seems that the Fiends are already Improving under my Watch, because just the other Day I heard the Continental-Shaped one trying to speak the TrueSpeech.

Well, on our Travels, we came to the Fort in the Pass in the Mountains on the Way to Satyeva. It seems that a minor Rebellion of Ant-Folk had taken the Pass, and were Barring the Way to Innocent Travellers. It being my Duty to serve Chukos, I persuaded my (Fiendish!) Companions to assist me in Routing this Revolt. We did so quite Successfully, though in the process I witnessed the Fiend in the Shape of Young Lady do something rather… disturbing. She Touched one of the Ant-Folk, and all across his Body Vicious Wounds sprang up, and bled profusely, until the beast was felled. It may be that she is skilled in the way that the Abbot is in Legerdemain, and merely cut him quickly, but I Fear more that it is some Fiendish Devil Magic that allows her to Harm people by Mere Touch. It was a most Frightful Scene. Though I did not have the time to pay it attention, for there was a large Ant-Man, who presented a rather Great Challenge, and deserved my Full Attention. I performed my Aerial-Dragon-Slayers-Charge, and he was barely harmed! A truly Worthy Adversary!

Oh! And we met a rather Pleasantly Polite (though a bit Strange) man on our way into the Battle with the Ant-Folk. He kept disappearing in the middle of Battle. I worry that he may be a Less than Honorable Fighter…

Ahh, well, I must go and tend to Hilda Garde!

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Progress
An excerpt from the technical journal of Llewellyn Danielson

Substantial progress since last entry. Apparatus’s capacity increased both horizontally and vertically. Fourth Function tier added. Functions 4.01 and 4.02 field tested; v. satisfied with results. 4.01 created a reasonably sized field of impediments that grasped the formic humanoids most adeptly, although must confess am somewhat discomfited by the impediments’ manifestation. Could not have predicted Function would take that form. Function 4.02 (an obvious expansion on Function 1.01, of which the Vitriolic Projector is an Externalization) did satisfactory damage to bodily structure of formic leader.

Looking into expanding fourth Function tier further. Combination of 2.06’s substance with 3.01’s spread (3.01 itself being a derivative of 1.01 and 1.03) could yield v. pleasing results. Even possible that substance of Theoretical Function /4.03/ would have 3.01’s mundane nature rather than 2.06’s less practical extranatural makeup.

Progress on Supersystems no less satisfactory, but slightly more worrying. After butting against this new Aetheria’s unusual (and exhausting) Resonance pattern, was forced to make alterations to the Apparatus’s interface with own body. Was successful (and now Apparatus cannot be removed from arm), but two new metafunction-tier Supersystems have manifested selves almost autonomically. Potentially useful, but v. frightening. M03 could potentially save life, but only if uncomfortably close to death, and at cost of portion of Apparatus’s stored potential. Have no conscious control over M03. M04 seems to have opposite purpose: can greatly augment one instance of one Function, but only by causing v. grievous harm to body. Honestly hope never to use either Supersystem.

Reunited with Riley (or “Ephraim”). V. pleased to be with him again. Claims to have aged sixty years since last meeting. V. curious, but so is much else in this new world.

Have been joined by loud man and quiet man. Both extremely dangerous, but could be v. valuable allies.

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Amidst A Newfound Glory
In which certain facts become known, lost acquaintances reappear, old debts are collected, and new directions are chosen

How do I begin to chronicle this journey? The Scholars and Shaan call the year 892 in the Era of Small Gods, but I no longer find this descriptive enough. Instead, this entry marks the 20th day of my Reunion with Llewellyn, Diggel, and Georgie, and the beginning of the next phase of our lives. Though Felrun and Russ (or rather, Raphael, so Llewellyn tells me) no longer accompany us their influence remains. Whispers of the winged-elf still survive in the annals of the Scholars, though I never made the connection until now, and his legacy for both elf and man endures. Russ battled bravely until the end, and though I’ve been told his tainted soul shall find no rest the survival of the others is a testament to his skill and courage. They are missed.

Though I may have outlived Llewellyn, I have certainly not outgrown him. His practicality mixed with equal parts humanity reminds me why he led us those tortuous months. There is, though, a crack I do not remember, a fissure forming in his heart. I do not know if it arises from his pain of loss or from his fear of change. Perhaps it is simply my imagination or memory mixed with idle fantasy. His new powers are great, but alien, and meeting him again reminds me of how different I have become. Gods around us, I was so impetuous! To think I could rescue Becky alone, or that it was my duty to do so in such a reckless manner – what foolishness. I have grown, it is true, but have I simply grown into a new manner of fool?

Diggel is as I remember him to be, but without the Elf to banter with he seems at a loss for words. Still, he is a survivor, and I’ve noticed his ears and eyes darting about constantly, learning what must be learned to live in this new world. He never seemed particularly close to any of us, but without others to turn to, what shall his choice become? Distance or friendship? I like to imagine that he misses Felrun as much as I do.

In the wake of Loki’s death Georgina has fallen the hardest, and not without cause, for I think she believed our mortal well-being her responsibility. But despite the death of her God the power within her grows – we all can sense the change. Her quiet confidence is growing daily, and her alien nature becoming more smooth and natural, at least until she unleashes the talents she possesses. I stand in awe of her potential, for it is clear that she has received part of the gift as well. If nothing else, let my longevity aid me in defending the Lady, whatever her path may be. I cannot risk being any more open, but my suspicions are all but confirmed, and I suspect the Abbot intended this all along.

Sir Johannes von Sonnen of the Knighthood has joined us for the time being, despite insisting that we are devils, or demons, or somesuch. He has made his desire to “redeem” us well known, and as amusing as his antics may be, they may grow tiresome. Regardless, I appreciate his behemoth on my side of conflict. I begin to wonder, but my remembrance of the passages are vague and ill-defined. All I can safely say is – please no. If there is a will or plan behind it all, please, reconsider. He is mad.

Lastly, there is Serran. An odd fellow, claims to be a courier for the Guild. There’s little reason to doubt his work, but his abilities as a warrior are far beyond the normal bounds of a letter carrier. He can vanish, perhaps even shift into another existence, from which he strikes with deadly precision. His manner is stiff and not altogether genuine to my tastes, but I don’t believe he is attempting any elaborate deception. Still, his quick inclusion into our band has seemed altogether convenient and unexplained. Though I imagine it makes more sense considering his employer.

Speaking of the devil, he still lives, and what’s more, he’s one of Them, to be sure. He all but confirmed it in front of the others, but when asked directly, he answered me. It is strange, though, that a man of his power, longevity, and foresight claims to have not had a hand in either my return or my companions’. He answered many questions, and surprisingly even paid us a vast sum for the final delivery of the Dreamshard he originally hired us to obtain. “Hazard Pay”, he called it. He claims also to know the Lady of Gears, but insists she does not want to be named openly. Llewellyn and the others seem to have an inkling, but it seems strange to me that they would know much of the Small Gods – perhaps someone they met after my departure?

He answered my questions about Becky. She lived, rescued by him and the other powerful players who boarded that accursed Wraith ship. He claims that she led a strong life, toppling an empire and accomplishing much, but in the end, she was mortal. Perhaps I may find her tomb, if the years have not weathered it beyond recognition. I’ve apologies to make, and one last drink to share with my dear Captain Becky.

Only a few more things of note this trip to Satyeva – we’ve aided the Eagle Clan in apprehending egg-thieves who were selling the young to be eaten by the populace. Unwitting infanticide, the mere thought repulses me, and it was good to be out of doors after that blasted Ant Clan poison kept me bedside. We are now Egg Guardians & Friends of the Birds of Satyeva – merely words, really, but as Llewellyn said, Word have Power. They do, indeed, but rather than think of the power I will remember the favor – I want no title I haven’t earned. I lived at Omoeia for 5 years after Sher’ah’s death before they accepted me as a resident, and another 2 before asking me to study their ways. It took nearly 20 years of my presence for the monks to consider calling me a guard, never mind “Guardian”.

As for our new paths… Diggel wants to see the ruins of Dalover, to the East. I suspect he needs closure he can see with his eyes and feel with his hands. D’Caeli told us that there is an excavation underway, and they may have use of us while we are there. Llewellyn mentioned traveling to the City of Gears to find Sapphire, whom he claims still functions. I’ve doubts, but Llewellyn’s sense of the Resonance is more refined than my own. Georgina has mentioned buying a house, though I will urge her to travel with us for safety. The Shaan may know of her, but I’ll feel better if she keeps moving, at least until she knows this new Aetheria.

It’s been a long day, but now my days are filled not with contemplation, but with purpose again. The Shaan taught me much – enough to recognize when I’ve meet Two in so many weeks. I should have realized it sooner. We call him the Manipulator. Perhaps it is not flattering, but I for one would call him nothing else.

They walk among us, known and unknown, hidden and revealed; only through faith and enlightenment may we know their intentions, and through this, our purpose. – Third Recitation of the Shaan Acolytes

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Serran's Report #0

Encountered band of travelers upon return to [Redacted] on business for [Redacted]. Aided in rescue mission against marauding ants. Have since received orders from [Redacted] to infiltrate and observe them. They claim to be from another time. Have since confirmed their story; life-force readings were unprecedented. Further analysis below.

Subject: GAUNTLET- A mekanic of some skill, also trained in the arcane arts. Seems affable, picking up language quickly; having similar success picking up [Redacted], hence communication is becoming easier. Appears to be de facto leader of party based upon age and experience, though these are of course relative terms, having confirmed their actual time of origin. Seems interested in traveling to [Redacted]- such movement will need to be monitored closely.

GREEN- Not much known yet. Seems to be out of place in new surroundings. Has some skill in stealth and trickery, admirable considering lack of own talents. Seems distrustful- further efforts needed to convince. Interest in poisons perhaps a trait to exploit to this effect.

GUNFIRE- Has been in [Redacted] for some time, staying at the monastery of [Redacted]- received quite the gift, now apparently 80 years of age without noticeable physical change. Has considerable skill with pistols and magic- dangerous. Also seems suspicious. Has picked up [Redacted], and recalled how to speak [Redacted]. Will need to make extra efforts to impress.

IRONHEAD- Is the local representative of the [Redacted]. Responsible for monitoring [Redacted]activities in the area. Seems a bit eccentric, to put it mildly. Trying not to judge based solely on past…associations. Claims a talking raven named [Redacted] is speaking to him in “The Devil-Tongue” [Redacted]. Will be useful for connections and effectiveness in combat.

HEALER- Most extraordinary. Have own suspicions, but will stay silent on them for the moment. More observation necessary. Otherwise, very nice and pleasant. Not going to get on bad side.

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Diggel's Journal

Day “What does it matter”

I leave this as a record to …, I used to be able to finish that sentence, but as long as I’m talking to you I’m saner than everyone who talks to themselves. I’ve managed to travel through time by falling from the sky. On the bright side, I’ve overcome my fear of flying and falling, but on the other hand I’ve lost everything else as well, save the other two survivors from our “mission”. We seemed to be in luck at first when we discovered Riley, who, it turns out, fell through the sky too and has been here for 80 years. But he’s changed. He’s no longer the dangerous, impulsive, and surprisingly deadly “cowboy” he used to be, and in fact has become boring, settled, and utterly too rational. Chalk another one off the list of humans I can stand. It remains to be seen if he can be changed back. Llewellyn is the same as always. Even without a group to lead he steps naturally into the role. That’s fine with me; bounty hunters always go for the leader. His nagging sense of righteousness still gets on my nerves, but it’s become apparent that he doesn’t just do things for free. Maybe I underestimated him. Georgie has recovered nicely from killing her God, but apparently we failed and she can still hear him. She’s as strong as ever, which is good because if she’d stopped being useful I might feel bad about abandoning her (Although I suppose Llewellyn wouldn’t allow it).

Then there are the new “recruits”, the valiant knight and the other guy. Johannes appears to be a foolish human with a big metal toy, and he knows how to use it. Obsessed and possibly insane, he’s pretty harmless if you pick your words carefully. He’ll be an invaluable resource in the future. His head is thicker than the average humans, it’s a mystery why he even wears the armor. Serran is our newest acquaintance. He strikes from the shadows, disappears at will, and seems quite pleasant. Obviously he can’t be trusted. Like most humans, he’s just another wolf pretending smile his white teeth when he’s actually just licking his lips in anticipating for the kill to come. Plus he knows Cameron D’Caelis, which only counts against him. My thoughts on Mr. D’caelis are not fit for light reading; suffice to say if I thought it possible for us to accomplish, he would be dead. His time is coming, however; time is all I have left.

And with my rag-tag group of buddies, it’s become clear how utterly alone I am in this world. Their sole virtue in the steaming pile of filth that is their inadequacy (to put it nicely) is that they are entertaining. Adventure seems to follow with them. Despite the fact that I’m growing used to them, I don’t know how long “Adventure” can hold me. I could do without most of the people I’ve left behind. Ortianamilliten and “Zippy” (who refused to be called by her true name) were the only ones I’d consider difficult to replace, and I’m surprised to say that ‘I truly miss them.’ I still am not over the loss of my parents. The only people who are irreplaceable. No amount of money or magic could give what they gave me. As I make the journey with everyone to Dalover and then to Ariale, I can only hope that Osgood Willicade delivered my last message to them, but you can never trust a human to do anything flawlessly. Jack would know what to do.

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Serran's Report #1

Only two days back and so much already has happened. It seems as if trouble follows these newcomers around- a welcome relief from the usual monotony since coming to this city. An ill-fated breakfast lead to uncovering a black market syndicate specializing in rare and exotic foods, of the kind that used to be alive and talking. The Eagle Tribe did not take kindly to this, and wrongly imprisoned a young cook. Met an Investigator named [Redacted] Edit: Subject PADFOOT- from one of the new feline races. Made a timely suggestion and ended up at bar where a certain [Redacted] Edit: Subject HORNHOOF was running black market operation. Thanks to the timely action with GAUNTLET, HEALER, GUNFIRE, managed to kill the leader and force other accomplices into submission. Another assailant appeared briefly, subject SQUALL. Was a fierce combatant; we hope we do not encounter again.

The egg-scandal resolved, now have some time to rest and recuperate. Have spoken to subject GAUNTLET about certain potential modifications to hat…will be most interesting what comes up with. Had pleasant drink with subject PADFOOT- may prove to be an invaluable contact within [Redacted], if events continue to unfold in the dramatic manner which they have recently.

Also of note, turns out the KAFFEMEISTER is in fact [Redacted], from their stories of the past. Upon visiting establishment with party, were granted an audience and they recognized immediately. A most unexpected turn of events. Apparently is now one of THEM. Attempted to Read, but similar effect occurred as with HEALER. Two in one city? Surely the [Redacted] must be aware. How could not, being so close? Bears further investigation and observation.

Have recently begun plans to travel back to [Redacted], but a visit to the [Redacted] seems in order first. Reports of missing persons- shouldn’t be anything too exciting, but will bide time until further course of action is determined.

Also,taken a liking to owl figure received from GAUNTLET. Wonder what it does?

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Further Trials of Mine Virtue
Dear Martin -

Well, dear Brother, I once again hope that You are well in the Life that comes After, and that this Letter reaches You in Good Spirits. Having successfully reached Satyeva, I have spent much Time tinkering with Hilda Garde. I had been Toying with the Thought of making Her more Powerful, and I have succeeded! She is Faster and Stronger, and Has Proven her new Improvements in Combat! She and I (and these… I know no longer if I can Truly call them Demons, but still, I am Wary) ventured out to the Crystal Palace to Investigate Reports of workers Disappearing in the Tunnels. And we Found Spiders! I had been Sure that it was the Work of some Nefarious Dragon, and had not lost Hope in such a Thought, as You well Know that Dragons are Insidious, and can coerce Many Creatures to do their Bidding, but it Seems that Rather than Dragons, the Spiders were in League with a Necromancer! I do not know which is Worse! The Short Continental wanted to leave Well enough alone after we were Nearly Vanquished in an Encounter with one of the Necromancer’s… servants, but as You Know, this could not have Been. As a Knight of the Order of Virtuous Knights (it has often occurred to me that Whoever was Responsible for this Name ought to Have a Stern talking to about the Nature of the Language. It is Curious that in the Devil-Tongue, the Name is not so Redundant. Certainly this is a Sign of the Fear we Strike in their Hearts), I am Sworn to Destroy the Undead and their Masters, and We Did so. It was a Lion Man, who’s Fur had become Matted and Dark with his Tainted practice. Had it not been for My Talents, the Lion would Certainly have Destroyed us – But, I forced him to Attack me Always, always being In His Way, and in so Doing, Saved Many Lives (I Wish, only, Dear Brother Matthew, that I could Have done so against that Accursed Dragon who Destroyed our Happy Family). Ahh! But, something Curious has Occurred. It is no long Only Gary who Claims that I have Lived Past Lives. I was Introduced to one Cameron D’Caeli – a Consummate Gentleman (and One Who seems Powerful as well) – by my new ‘Companions.’ As Soon as I Laid Eyes on Him, I Felt as If I had Seen Him Before, Almost as If I had Known Him. And yet, I am Most Certain that I have never been to his Kaffehouse before, nor Ever Met Such a Man. And Moreover, he Described an Adventure that He had many hundreds of Years ago (for my Companions claim to have Known Him Before the Small Gods Era!), in Search of Companions of my Companions, that I Felt that I had Been on. It was Most Strange indeed. I Feel that some Force is Working against Me, and Colluding with Hell-Gary to Corrupt me! And Yet… well. In a Moment I shall explain Further. AND! He Speaks the Devil-Tongue! This is Most Curious. Young Ephraim Stayed for a moment to Speak with Him, it was Revealed that this D’Caeli is none other than the Manipulator! To have Met one of Them! It was Most Strange! I stayed a Moment Longer, and inquired of the Manipulator as to Why I Recognized Him, and Why I Thought I had been involved in Events that Happened so Long ago. His Answer Was most Mysterious… (I wonder if the Manipulator is Involved with My Temptation? It is Most Certainly within His Capabilities and Functions, though that May mean that this is a Trial!). He Said to me that we were Old Friends, and that I have lived through much, and that In Time things shall be made clear. I did not have a Response, and Graciously Bid my Lord Adieu. The Strangest thing was that He, one of Them, returned my Politeness, and Called me ‘My Lord,’ And Claimed it to Have Been an Honor to have Met (Again

This is Most Curious. But, no Matter. I Must return to the Task of Maintaining Hilda Garde (for she maintains my Life so Faithfully). I have Other Modifications in Mind, but they Shall Have to Wait. There are Other Tasks to be Attended to for the Knighthood First. Raiders on the Highways, and Monsters by the Farms! The Work of a Virtuous Knight is Never Done!

Your Dear and Loving Brother, Johannes

PS – I am in Deep Wonder at the Capabilities of this Young Georgina. She displays abilities… that are beyond those I have Seen exhibited by Casters, and somewhat Akin to the Rumours of What the Great Wheel has Done. Most Curious.

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