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Islands in the Sky - Aftermath

Islands in the Sky - Aftermath

Postby suntiger745 » Sat Nov 21, 2015 9:56 pm

Had hoped to squeeze the Aftermath page in before the recent Zala X Quain page since the RH script was ready before the DD script, but the daydream page was chosen to go in between so it wouldn't be a longer gap for Daydream instead. Oh well.


I wasn't quite sure how to approach the end of the mission.
From what I saw when looking at earlier end mission pages there was a tally of what the squads had found, the money they earned as well as a R&R panel where the squads got to relax and have fun.

Since I (stupidly) hadn't kept track of exactly what each squad had found I started to go back from the beginning and writing down what they had acquired. It was a bit frustrating because it took longer than I had thought it would and several of the things the squads had found would not be easily quantifiable in ready cash right away.
About a third of the way through the listings my foot got ran over at work, putting a sizable delay into the writing on top of it.

When returning home from the hospital I decided I would skip the tally and ada earnings bit entirely. Both to win back some time and to better focus on the more significant effects the squads' finds had in a larger picture.

That in itself shows an issue with this type of game/story I have. I'm just not good at it.
Had some of the same issues when I took over writing Path to Power and Relic Hunter turned out to be worse.
I can write a good story, or at least a coherent one, most of the time, but I'm really bad at incorporating and keeping track of the game aspect. It's not something I enjoy much and it's frustrating and I fear it makes for a worse end result for the players.
Looking back I can see how I pretty quickly lost the game aspect of the mission and wrote it as basically a story for each squad, sometimes crossing each others path.
In and of itself I don't think that's bad, but at the same time it's not what Relic Hunter was meant to be and it's not why you as players paid for. I wish I could have done a better job of mixing the game and story aspects.

Anyway, done was done and I did want to show the effects the finds of the squads would have.
Some would have more impact than others, but every squad that had been on the island would be impacted, if nothing else because they were there.
(Every squad member not actively in combat got recruited as scholar escorts for one. That's what the panel with the dragon elder and ambassador Lua'nar refers to.)


The basic premise of the islands is that the dragons that the Tei'kaliath met in Path to Power had found more islands.
Looking to expand their territory and get more areas to grow food about half of them settled on the islands, discovering the ruins on them but only partially exploring them (because their focus was on growing food and building homes, not finding relics).
The islands, unbeknowst to them, were once the domain of the Queendom of the Sun.
It was founded by a vanir noblewoman, Hildalar Disakvir of the Liodis nation, using airships to escape the rampaging demons on the surface.
Though only a noble in the nation she was born in, she became the first queen of the new nation formed by the refugees.
Though mostly vanir, there were a fair number of dokkalfar among the refugees too, including Rayeshka and her family.
On the insistence of the new queen, the refugees built with an eye to preserve knowledge, plants and animals, in the hopes that they one day could return to the surface.

About 200 years later however, the Queendom of the Sun came into conflict with the Rassitika empire, another nation formed by the remnants of a vanir empire and the refugees they took in.
The Rassitika were more warlike and more numerous and defeated the Queendom, but at a terrible cost.
As a result, the Rassitika tore down most of the buildings on the island but didn't have the troops left to find and/or destroy all the living areas inside the cliffs.

The few survivors from the Queendom of the Sun left the islands, fearing the Rassitika would return.
However, they were also afraid of returning to the surface, not knowing exactly how many demons remained down there.
Some of their brightest scholars suggested they transform themselves using the shaping arts that were sometimes used to preserve the life of gravely wounded warriors.
If they could fly without needing the aid of an airship, they could stay away from the surface and would have a mobility no airship could match.
The shaping formed extra arms, elongating the fingers greatly and giving them skin membranes in between, as well as adding strong flight muscles to the chest.
However, many shaped ones were not fertile and of those that were, not all passed on the wings. Many new children ended up with stunted wings, or a second pair of arms with vestigial wings that disappeared when they grew into maturity.

At first the shapers shaped wings onto those unfortunate ones, but as those with a second pair of arms rapidly became the majority and mana had become much scarcer as demon gods consumed all in their path on the surface it was not a sustainable solution.
One of their engineers suggested they construct golems instead. Great wings, attached to the upper arms. Since almost everyone without wings still retained their flight muscles it would only require some jewels attuned to air sorcery to make both maneuverable and mana-efficient flight possible.
Over the course of the years the dragons forgot much of their old identity as a new culture grew around their new bodies and the limits and opportunities they presented.
Thus, they didn't recognize that the “new” floating islands they had found centuries later were their ancient homeland.

I freely admit that I was inspired by Lois McMaster Bujold and her Vorkosigan saga in some of the background stuff, in particular the quote “all true wealth is biological”.
It is partly the reason why the dragons cared more about trade deals involving seeds, plants and animals, as well as the most important impact of the squads' finds being the collection of preserved seeds (and to a lesser degree the lindir and Tsaria).
It's also part of the reason I had a hard time coming up with a good way to judge the value of the finds in ada.
In some ways the seeds found were literally priceless, but on the other hand it would be decades before the full impact of the find would come to fruition.
And how do you judge the knowledge an ancient vanir general possess in ada?
Even the old texts and memory jewels were a bit tricky to judge.
Some of them have fairly detailed description of air ship parts, specific gem matrix programming and summoning techniques, but it's buried as part of a detailed inventory involving hundreds of other entries and written in an ancient vanir dialect.
It would take a scholar years to find the relevant information. The knowledge is valuable, just not with an immediate payoff.
And sure, there's gold and jewels, but the underworld is rich in such things and the dragons aren't very interested in them either.


Some tidbits you might find interesting:
The spell used to preserved the first queen's soul in the huge gem was directly inspired by the daydream story about Sharess and Vel'Cahal, were Sharess is nearly taken over by the ancient empress' spirit inside the jewel.
This crystal was attuned to a bloodline as well, so yes, Valenka was a direct descendant to the first queen.
Hildalar, who now is alive again, at the cost of Valenka.

The five women bodies the Cloud Piercers found in the deepest crypt chamber, where the floor was made of the island's floating crystal, were the four queens who had been turned into spirit summons and were found by the Marauders.
The preserved state is a side effect of their souls still being alive combined with their bodies lying directly on the floating crystal.
Even if they had brought the spirit summons down to their old bodies, they would not have been able to go back though.

The huge ballista-shaped cannons fount in the great cliff fortress on the smaller island were very powerful, but primitive.
The 'bow' wasn't used to power the shot, it had grooves carved into it to help with aiming.
The art for the wasn't entirely consistent, but the core used for firing the cannon was not loose like in modern golems, where an empty core is taken out and replaced with a fresh, charged one.
Since mana was more abundant (albeit growing scarcer) when they were used the core was fused to the back section and the gunner drew mana from her surroundings to charge the core between each shot.

The child skeleton with a tiara beside her that the Basilisk squad found was the reigning queens' daughter.
She was hidden there by her servants during the war with the Rassitika.
Unfortunately all her protectors were killed and she was unable to undo the wards protecting her from inside and starved to death.

The smaller airships the Moon-touched Seekers found in the hangar are meant to be equivalent to smaller river boats compared to the Tei'kaliath and Snadhya's seafaring ships.
They hold about 8 people and 2-5 tonnes of cargo.

The lindir from the smaller island and the hibernating lizards from the tower island were the last animals who survived from the ones the old kingdom had tried to preserve.
Unfortunately the dragons saw the lindirs as pests and almost exterminated them.
The lindir are pretty much a direct ripoff of Quetzalcoatl, but since I based the ancient vanir loosely on the old Norse I renamed them based on the word 'lindorm' (a snakelike dragon. The midgård serpent is the largest lindorm there is, for example).
The hibernating lizards have fared better. All the birds now nesting in the ruined tower and across the rest of the island gives them a fair amount of food (usually the eggs and chicks, sometimes smaller or sick/injured birds).

The Basilisk squad quite literally saved the large dragon island. Possibly the continent.
The leaf-bugs were an experiment gone wrong. They were meant to be seeds from a mana plant, enhanced so they could move (by rolling, no legs then) to a patch of fertile ground, preferably around other mana plants.
Not all experiments are successful though. The modified seeds mutated and developed an initial hyper-growth phase. The first victims were the plant shapers that had made them.
Their sole purpose is to find organic matter and plant the seeds they carry on the underside of their abdomen.
It doesn't matter if the organic matter is earth, poop, flesh or (living) wood, although they don't grow quite as well when fusing with wood.
The fastest growth is when they can embed themselves into organic matter that also has an aura, like a fae or a mana plant.
(In many ways they are an organic version of nanites that are stuck in 'multiply endlessly' mode.)
Before they were consumed the last botanists were able to seal their facility and for a few centuries the modified plants consumed everything organic inside the facility.
When that was done they fed on themselves. They have a natural lifespan and when they die the seeds they carry grow into a new plant, making their numbers fluctuate between 400-500 depending on how many are dead or dying at the moment.
If they had gotten loose on the island they would have multiplied explosively until all organic matter was consumed.
And if some of them had fallen off the island (or been blown off) they would start to do the same thing on the surface. The fall wouldn't kill them, they are too light, and even if it had their seeds could still take root.
Dodged a bullet there. ;)

The spear with with a jewel head with a groove around the edge that activates an edge of pure mana that the Ust'mafzal found is meant to be the primitive ancestor of the energy blades Viper and some of the agents have used in Space Age.

As the panel with Tsaria hints, the descendants of her people are still alive.
There is a huge city in that mountain valley. Most of it is ruined but a portion is still inhabited and kept in good repair. The Rassitika symbol is and eagle, hence Tsaria's comment in the panel.
(Yes, 'Tasria' is based on 'tsar' and it's actually her title, though here it means 'general'. Her real name is Nelaady Kelevskaya. When Saph'ala and the squads found it out everyone was so used to calling her Tsaria they didn't bother to switch.)

I had in mind that two or three missions down the line there would be a Relic Hunter mission where everyone goes to Tsaria's old homeland, but there's a change of plans so I included it in the aftermath instead.
The reason Basilisk isn't coming along is that Saph'ala wants to keep it Sharen only.
Purely my own interpretation of the events in the main archive (and since this doesn't count as canon anyway) but I ran with the idea that having to surrender to and then ally with the Sarghress really rankled her.
She won't do anything obvious to rock the boat, but if she can set up a power base outside Sarghress control and knowledge... That's not a bad thing.

The four people who have bought lindirs are:
Zala'ess (a clan leader),
Kel'noz (a prominent scholar),
Lien the Orchid (one of the most prominent courtesans in the Guild of Flowers),
Asira'malika (another clan leader, and, true to Jaal'darya tradition, modifying her lindir to have three heads).


If you have any questions you'd like to ask, just post it below. :)
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Re: Islands in the Sky - Aftermath

Postby Dalvyserran » Sat Nov 21, 2015 10:33 pm

Hmm that's why we (Basilisk) didn't go with Tsaria--that is understandable, since we are majority a Nuqrah'shareh team.
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Re: Islands in the Sky - Aftermath

Postby Basileus_Ioannis » Sun Nov 22, 2015 4:24 am

So the hibernating fourth lizard had a spirit living in it, and that spirit took over Ma'lessi? I assume that is her, it looks like her, and she's wearing the red cloak of a squad leader. That makes an interesting segue for her departure (poor Ma'lessi...and poor lizard), but I take it if the Chel situation wasn't so messed up, the Raiders wouldn't have just let the possessed Ma'lessi go, regardless of the note...

Also poor Valenka, I guess she never got better, and is now the incarnation of the first Sun Elf queen?

Very nicely wrapped up, suntiger. Although, the foreshadowing of things to come in the future made me worry that it was the end of our tale! *eek* It's an interesting glimpse into the future that we don't usually see. In my story Bad Blood Runs Black, I only used this technique in passing, when the bad guys' hideout in the mountains got erased by Meteor Swarm spells, leaving a bare blackened spot. In one sentence I just said that years in the future, people would call the visible smudge the "bad blood of the traitors" or something like that, tying in the title of the story to the landscape feature B)
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Re: Islands in the Sky - Aftermath

Postby suntiger745 » Sun Nov 22, 2015 5:16 am

Not just any spirit, a vel'akar. The lizards' ability to hibernate is what enabled it to survive all those years.
It didn't possess any squad member though, but a raider stationed at the commander's fort on the mainland.

And yes, Valenka is gone. Hildalar's soul has superseded Valenkas and more or less erased her.
There might be some instinctive habits/tics left, or a taste for a certain food, but nothing remains of Valenkas personality.
It's a pretty serious thing to do, and on the 'forbidden techniques' list for a reason.
Hildalar wasn't exaggerating when she called it a desperate measure.
It was a fail safe, in case Rayeshka would be unable to hold their peoples together - Hildalar would sacrifice one of her daughters and return via the jewel.
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Re: Islands in the Sky - Aftermath

Postby Talancir » Sun Nov 22, 2015 6:51 am

You know, suntiger, in the past the squads had to keep track of their own findings and if we didn't report correctly, we got penalized. I don't know if this knowledge would make record keeping easier.
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Re: Islands in the Sky - Aftermath

Postby Disestablish » Sun Nov 22, 2015 5:27 pm

What became of the traditional summons Stormfront found on the small islands. We braved violent murder birds to get them, so I'm curious if they turned out to be worth the trouble, especially the dragon one.
Also. Liiiiiiiindiiiiiiiiiir! Precious babehs.
Last edited by Disestablish on Mon Nov 23, 2015 3:14 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Islands in the Sky - Aftermath

Postby Dalvyserran » Sun Nov 22, 2015 7:26 pm

I wish we could have done more about that child skeleton.

Also, what was in the scrolls Basilisk found? We figured those would be the most important, culturally
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Re: Islands in the Sky - Aftermath

Postby goblin6 » Sat Nov 28, 2015 10:59 pm

Wow, Basilisk squad saving an entire species/floating island? Woohoo, go team! We may not found as much of a boon compare to the others, but at least we can go home with the knowledge that we save an entire civilization and its future generations.
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