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Third Revelation: To Fight Evil, The Dead Shall Rise

edited November 2016 in Series: Revelations
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  • edited November 2016
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    This letter will find you on the road to Ardoris.  Don't be surprised that I know your location and travel plans.  Everyone in this world is watched; few escape it.  I have, but I must fight to remain so.  These letters put me at risk of being rediscovered. 

    For now, let yourself be watched.  Seem unaffected as the mechanical bugs stare you down.  Annoyance with them will be registered, as will fear or any suspicious behavior.  Remain uninteresting.  At all costs, avoid adventuring.  Any hint that you are seeking anything but a mundane existence will alert enemies.  Believe me when I say you are not prepared to handle them.

    In Ardoris, the stakes for standing out grow much higher.  Even now it would be safer to return to Soltown and settle there as a simple tradesman.  Who knows why you chose to leave?  Perhaps boredom?  Perhaps to flee the danger I explained?  Perhaps to see the "big city" the village folk describe so glowingly?  It doesn't matter; there is no reason that justifies it. Yet I doubt this letter will stop you. Most of us outlanders want to get to the heart of the matter.  Just remember how cautious you must be to survive. The road to truth intersects the road to death.

    Therefore, before you come in sight of the twin palaces, I must do my best to prepare you.  The "City of Love" is the city of Min Liang Tan.  He is many things, but none of them love.  He rose to prominence as a low-level minister preaching the positive-sounding ideal of harmony.  Now everyone speaks of it, extolling the virtue as the city grows more fractured every day.  This is exactly how he wants it to be.  Min Liang is the master of shaping the thoughts of the mind and heart, a manipulator who knows what to say, and when and how to say it.  He is a conductor who only allows the orchestra to play music he himself has written.  This is no virtuous harmony, only a raw desire for control.

    Most in the populace see him as a savior, working for the betterment of all.  The ones who break his thrall usually disappear quietly.  Of these, there have been so many that Min Liang Tan had to face an unexpected consequence.  The virtuous he has killed retain a strong desire to undo his wrongs.  They have risen from death in such numbers that the Shogunate has barely been able to keep them at bay.  The undead you saw on Solace Bridge? Yes, they returned to fight his evil and restore peace.  They operate in an organized fashion, seeking him, only fighting in defense when they must.

    Make no mistake.  The rightful rulers of Ardoris split because of Min Liang Tan's machinations.  When Priestess Khasi expressed doubts about how best to deal with the first reports of the undead uprising, Min Liang realized he couldn't let her influence Siranto.  He needed Siranto to send the guard to defeat them.  It only took a few artful words to Khasi and a few whispers to Siranto.  They separated.  Even now, they only agree on one thing: Min Liang Tan has their best interests and the common good of the Shogunate at heart. 

    Even after his victory at Solace Bridge, Min Liang still has to worry that the undead might communicate their true purpose to the living.  So he has placed "spirit talkers" around the city to mislead those who get too curious.  They are charlatans.  Now no one in the city can see the undead with anything but fear. In reality, they are the city's greatest ally.

    Min Liang is so confident in his control that he betrays his true nature in one detail. He carries a staff adorned with three skulls, a hallmark of the practitioners of the dark arts.  Everyone overlooks it; no one questions it.  And yet there it is, always with him: a fly in the propriety and beauty of his seemingly unimpeachable character.  Min Liang delights in this.  No one knows that two of the skulls represent his enemies both living and dead.  The third is a symbol of all those yet to fall under his sway.

    One of our order was operating in Ardoris last year.  In his hideout deep under the city, he awoke to find Min Liang Tan seated by his bedside, watching him.

    "Min Lian Tan," the man stammered, "why are you here?"

    "For one of three reasons, Obsidian.  Do you know what they are?"

    Now this man was no novice.  He had been sent by the Order to watch the unfolding events in Ardoris.  He had done everything right to stay unnoticed and uninteresting.  Still, he had been discovered.

    He replied, "the first two are to fight you or to work for you.  I have no idea of the third."

    Min Liang brought forward his staff and lowered the skulls over the man's face.  "The first is not really an option, is it?  The second is truly an option should you so desire.  The third, perhaps, will be most to your liking."  He paused and brought the staff back to his side.  "I will send you with a message back to your Order."

    "What message?"

    "Ah, the third option is a fine choice for both of us.  Please tell your Order that they must remain unconcerned about the Perennial Coast.  There is no need for more operatives.  It is only a matter of time until harmony is restored. Future interference could harm the delicate work the citizenry and its leaders are dong to make this a place of peace once again."

    "That is all?"

    "You seem disappointed.  It is not my intent to be difficult.  Now please, gather your belongings and let my guards provide you safe escort back to your Order."

    Min Liang Tan called two guards outside the room.  With a bow, he departed. 

    The man had no choice but to bring Min Liang Tan's message back to the head of the Order.  As soon as he described their meeting and shared the message, he doubled over, screaming in pain.  With every muscles tensed, he writhed on the floor.  The head of our Order called for a healer, but there was no time.  The man's skin started to thin and stretch, muscles and bones drying, shrinking, cracking apart.  After an agony of minutes, it ended.  All that was left was the man's skull sitting on a pile of dust. 

    The Order has not sent anyone back to Ardoris.  So I can give you nothing more about what you will face.  Perhaps this is sufficient.  You may in turn learn things that could prove helpful.  However, do not see that as a request.  Heed my advice and stay unnoticed. 

    In all things, remain as hopeful as I do for you.  If the dead can be on our side, we have good reason to be.  Another letter will not be long in coming.
  • Intriguing, and very well written, I thought. A couple of typos:

    Know
    one knows that two skulls represent his enemies both living and dead.  The third is a symbol of all those have yet to fall under his sway. <-- No

    You may in turn learn things that could provide helpful. <-- prove

  • Thanks - can't trust myself to catch everything...
  • Loving the twist from the established lore, and as with the tales of Mark's and his trackless ( ;) ) journey, waiting to see more!
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