Choice of Rebels: Stormwright (XoR2 WIP)

Hypothesis: Vigil is where a large meteor of metallic Aether impacted and the streels are cracks in the ground caused by the impact.

As a side note, I feel like an option to talk to M’kyar about Vigil if you visited might be nice - the Seracca seem to live long enough that she might’ve heard a first hand account of what happened when the storms started.

Has any major cross-ocean exploration occurred to find other continents?

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It is stated, if you go to Vigil, that the streels are slowly expanding, so it seems as if they are an effect of the humongous Xaos Storm at Vigil, rather than an impact.

But I do think that it is highly likely that Vigil is built on top of a large meteor, which so far is the only explanation for how a phenomenon that consumes an absolutely shocking amount of Aether every second can manifest continuously for over a century.

A city was built over it, and there are towers around it, so I doubt that the impact was recent. My theory is that it was found out there, a city grew up to exploit it, and then someone tried to tap the whole thing for themselves and caused the Xaos storms.

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I agree with the idea of Vigil being created on the site of (or from) a meteor; back when the demo first released, I wrote up a post beginning with this idea, in connection to Kylik’s tale of Cunning-Quick and the cracking of the Dream-spring, ultimately positing that Vigil is now a collective, (mostly) unconscious dream (nightmare) of its former people manifested into reality through the Xaos-storms.

I haven’t found a personally satisfying answer for the streels. At the time, I wrote:

I have ideas, just nothing that seems to fit just right. Aether, for instance, tends to ascend: if a vast sea of it was imprisoned deep underground, and all of it were to suddenly break free through cracks in some structure of earth (a Dream-spring and “boulder”), what might the aftermath of that eruption look like? That doesn’t explain the seemingly endless depths of the streels, though. Conversely, I toyed with the idea of if the nature of aether itself could be mirrored such that it descends: that could explain the depth but lacked a narrative foundation, and the June update gave Cerlota one such question and answer suggesting that wouldn’t be viable. Streels are also broadly shielded against Xaos-storms: we shelter on the side of one because it’s protected like a normal ravine would.

What makes the most sense to me right now is if the streels are paths where aether flowed through the earth to form the entity within Vigil, tearing the earth apart along the way: as if they were roots of the stone tree, now empty and gone.

For all this, you get just a few minutes’ hazy view of Vigil. As Ulbern predicted, you still can’t tell whether the great sacred heart of the Brauracha lands was built or grew. You think you see a section whose elaborate seams and lines resemble the stonework of the black towers; but when you squint a second time, all you see is the natural-seeming cone-on-cone pattern that you’ve also noticed in the face of the streel. You’re simply too far away to be sure.


That all said, there was one crucial aesthetic my initial account of Vigil missed that links it to our story of rebellion. The perspective of Kylik’s story of Cunning-Quick is that of the survivor amidst ruins. We should not be surprised that the Whiskered Hawk remember those who are said to have destroyed the glory of Vigil and brought Kargash (Xaos) into the world as jealous of that glory.

And yet people would say the same of the Thaumatarchy if we allow the world to collapse alongside it.

「 Once upon a time, the Thaumatarchy fed the world. They raised great wards to shield their people from the horrors beyond. They made mountains fly and mastered the wind. They built machines to do the work of a thousand men. Once, they might have ruled all the world. 」

「 It’s all gone. Chaos reigns. The heart of the world is a smoking crater. All because some fools wanted more. They couldn’t bear to live beneath such glory. 」

To the Thaumatarchy, the rebel is called the Xaos-lover. And we’re the ones about to wield Kargash — the Xaos-storms — against them. Who’s to say that it’s not the same for Cunning-Quick’s “family”: meaning her entire people, perhaps, given that they exile her out into the inhabitable desert. Suddenly, the fall of Vigil begins to look like a far more familiar story: brave rebels slipping past defenses to strike at the heart of a glorious kingdom, destroying the realm and casting it into chaos. And whatever happened there in Vigil to create the incandescent power and Xaos maelstrom we see today: it would’ve happened in a decisive moment, when all the people would find is suffering, ruin, monstrosity, and chaos — with glimmers of hope and beauty hidden amidst it all: a reflection of what Xaos-storms bring today.

Thus, Vigil becomes not just a self-destructive tragedy, but also a warning of what the world could become.

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Played the first game a long time ago.I have a special history with the first game of this series bcz I kept messing up with everything even when following the guides(tbh the problem maybe was that I didn’t follow the guides fully).I was just doing rinse and repeat for a few months.I was at last able to reach my satisfactory ending after a year after doing countless rinse and repeat.I played a bit of the demo but I forgot some things from the first game.So I am gonna replay the first game and then come back and play this demo.

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We’ve got a big ADAT today, folks. It’s been ten years since both @Sneaks and @cascat07 joined the original WIP thread.

On a succession of threads prone to long essays and Q&A sessions, Sneaks has always been a brilliant example of the power of conciseness. For ten years now he’s been dropping in two-line comments or questions that pretty much invariably show he gets it – that he’s taken the time to absorb the gameworld dynamics, and is here to either drop some wisdom or ask for the next piece of the puzzle. And he usually somehow threads in humor too. His superpower is one I admire while completely and utterly lacking it myself.

Cascat is one of the people who’s engaged most thoughtfully with the worldbuilding and story. His feedback on Game 1 substantially improved the winter survival chapter, with rabbit- and bear-hunting options and the Owlscap protection racket. His skeptical but friendly challenges on the idea of a nonviolent path, and his consistent expert advice on matters military, have immensely improved my own thinking. It wouldn’t be the same game without his contributions, and our little community certainly wouldn’t be the same.

Thanks, gents. Here’s to the next ten years. :slight_smile:

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@Havenstone

Is this also the vibe you’re offering?

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Thanks for the shoutout. While I don’t participate much in the forums these days I still follow your progress and XoR has always been close to my heart ever since the days when chapter 4 of book 1 felt like a distant goal. Along with Sabres of Infinity XoR was my first love and favorite among CoG games and nothing has dethroned it yet in my eyes.

Cheers to you, and here’s to book 2 :saluting_face:

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Popping up briefly to answer questions that have come in since December. Thanks for your patience…being mostly off-forum has somewhat increased my productivity, and means that big Ch 2 update will be on its way sooner. :slight_smile: If you want a taster, I just posted one over on the writers’ support thread.

I’ve got a couple of ideas for that, but won’t pin it down with confidence until I’m writing Ch 3.

Interesting idea. For now, I’ll say: possibly. We’ll see when the game gets to that scale.

It would have very low credibility (given the MC’s reputation) so I’m not sure the bluff would succeed.

Different things–I think we’ll see some attempts at theocracy and some at elevating righteous leaders (perhaps as puppets… but some priests will be happy not to have to play puppetmaster as long as the ruler is keeping to Canon, and as @Azthyme suggests, in many areas there won’t be puppets who have any more legitimacy than the priesthood itself can openly bestow).

An MC whose trauma response is dissociation will by definition feel that they’re losing track of who they are – but making heavy use of alibis and false identities will be even more disorienting.

I wouldn’t say it’s an exception. The tension is unresolved, even if the softness of the Leaguers’ nationalism results in a much softer “threat level” to the classical cosmpolitan vision. @Azthyme capably sketches the ways those tensions could play out in future.

You’d think! :slight_smile: But as Freud rightly observed, that’s not how it tends to work in practice.

For most Shayardene nationalists, a Shayard-Erezza empire isn’t desirable–except for the ones who’d like to set up Shayard as an imperial power controlling its neighbors and eventually subsuming them into its superior culture. Mingling Shayard with Erezza on an equal basis (which is what moving the capital to Aveche would signify) would water down what’s special about Shayard.

Fun idea. :slight_smile: I’m not sure if it’ll fit with the direction of G5, but we’ll see.

Stezyc is much more heavily dependent on the Shayard grain trade than Aveche, and so would have a lot more of its residents arguing pragmatically that it needs to be an integral part of any rising Shayardene empire. There’s also substantially less sense of a unifying Wiendish national identity than there is in Erezza (even though the latter is also still nascent at best).

The Veldrine Hills (not the city of Veldrin, which is still part of Shayard) are pretty thoroughly assimilated to Karagon at this point. Their widely-dispersed population wouldn’t welcome being annexed into the Shayard Reach.

No. Scarthe is 1500-ish square miles of highly valuable territory for anyone interested in naval domination of the Olossar. A condominium attempt over land that sizeable and strategic would never work out.

As a side note, while this is partly true, he’s better known for building Osterport and cementing Shayard’s control over its neighborhood–turning it from a city-state into a small state controlling the lower Serdre river valley. The point at which Shayard turned from a castle to a city is a little hazier. Have another taster of Draft Ch 2:

Summary

The fireside tales of the Irduin yeomanry are almost unintelligbly thick with old words that you don’t understand at all. Still, you recognize a few tales from their names and rhythms—like the legends of the Knights of the Gryphon.

Those tales are set more than seven centuries ago, in the age when wisards and monsters of Xaos freely roamed the land, no one yet knew to call on the Angels, and Shayard was just a small castle in the desert wastes. Listening to Aenor, you think she’s telling a story you heard many times growing up, in which the bold Knights do battle with the southern werebeasts and stop them from abducting Shayardene children. It was never clear to you if the Abhumans of the tale were supposed to be transforming the children or just eating them; you wonder wryly what M’kyar would say if you asked her.

Then Aenor reverently speaks the name of Charivert de Shayard: the earliest king whose name is known, the one who first took the Gryphon as his sigil and founded the Knights to bring order to the wild-lands. And all around the circle, the yeomanry murmur as one in their Mesnielic Shayarin: l’veru roye. The true king.

There’s a certain analogy to qualia in our normal experience, I think. How do I know that the telos you observe is subjectively the same as the telos I observe? I don’t–but whatever you observe, as long as you can change it using the same techniques I do, does it matter? It’s possible that we have totally different experiences of “red” and “yellow,” but as long as we agree that when we mix them it makes “orange,” we can still manage to paint the house.

Pretty much. :slight_smile: I’m about to start writing the war stories you can hear in Irduin from Aunt Agarie de Irde (or her yeoman equerry Quaelle Charbonnier) and I expect it’ll sound a bit like that. On a similar note, here’s a cheery snippet I’ve already written from a witness to the Great Scouring of the Westriding:

Summary

"A thousand Theurges rained down fire for days, until there wasn’t a house or barn or tree standing for three hundred miles. We all saw folk we loved burn. My father died trying to salvage a bit of bread from a neighbor’s house. My sister was caught in a ditch by the roadside, just a little shallower than the one I was hiding in. Such a little difference.

“And when the fire had left us nowhere to shelter, great black clouds spiralled in from all sides like the Angels’ own vengeance, and opened up with rain. They say the sun didn’t shine over Parrit Town for ninety days. We could see the Phalangites on the far side of the rivers, dragging anyone they caught off to be Harrowed, so most of us hid and hoped to survive until the rains stopped. Folk filled their stomachs on mud, ash, or…whatever they could find.”

“$!{sweetoath}.” You feel @{ravenblood sick, with visions of the sawn-teeth leaping unbidden to mind|sick}.

“My brother and I lived a month like that before we got desperate enough to swim the Aldyer. By then, it was barely a river—so thick with silt, it was like crawling through a swamp, and it didn’t truly have banks any more, just mud and water for miles. Even so, we came within a hair of being caught by the Phalangites. They were still hunting along the river. Treating anyone who hadn’t abandoned their homes before the Scouring as if they were Cabelites.” Valere exhales slowly.

“They must not tell these stories in the Rim,” her nephew says hollowly. “Or they’d know already how their Commotion was going to end.”

I’d originally thought this would be possible…but at this point, I think there’s more than enough variability in Ch 2 already, and I’d rather finish it than add a new raft of *if companion options.

Good point! I’ll see about adding that.

The Hegemony has flown far enough out to assure itself that it’s not about to be surprise-attacked by invaders from any unknown continents in easy Theurgy range, but has been too focused on the powers on its borders to put a lot of resource into exploration.

Right – back to the grindstone!

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Good choice. Scope screep can be a real bane.

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As ever, I look forward to seeing the results of your hard work!

Whoa, that’s a very vivid scene!

In a system of discrimination as deeply entrenched as the Karagond one, most people won’t go for a subaltern leader with questionable credentials unless they’ve got an incentive like “without him, the masses will clearly have our heads on spikes.”

And what if the compassionate MC in this scenario were the “good cop” (having already formed a flank movement alliance with a polar opposite violent rebellion), who’s telling his opponent, “I don’t know how much longer I can keep my ‘bad cop’ teammate at bay, so you better start changing your tune to agree with my suggested “give my allies (especially the lower orders) a meaningfully better quality of life” societal reforms before I start turning a blind eye to what the ‘bad cop’ does to you?”

K could well be the “bad rebel” to your “good rebel,” but it wouldn’t be an act, and they wouldn’t stop just because it was hurting your efforts to make some noble alliances.

Per our past conversations, I do remember (and painfully acknowledge) that K will not be a helpful ‘bad cop’ (at least in the context of what I hope for MC to achieve in the above mentioned scenario). If K is useless/noncooperative, will there be other ruthless NPCs (e.g. Teren) who would be willing to enable/comply with MC’s “bluffed genocide” stunt?

Could devout Eclect nationalist helot MC reasonably hold together/administrate all of historical Shayard (or merely the current archonty borders) as a theocracy with a sufficient amount of Theurges/blood/aether and the combined admin capacity of priests, merchants, and telones? (while deliberately excluding, purging, and marginalizing most (if not all) of the old guard aristos)

And if the answer is yes, is the answer still yes if Homelander Eclect Helot MC started shifting towards Cosmo in order to incorporate Xthonic Erezza and/or (hopefully still) Xthonic Wiendrj into his theocratic empire? (while reducing Karagon into a source of replacement helots and deliberately allowing atheistic Nyryal to be MC’s politically independent but economically allied neighbor)

How firmly stubborn are the (current membership) Laconniers in their “restored Olde Shayard should be an isolationist kingdom/autarky” mindset? (and compared to the Leaguers, how much persuasive effort (and/or violent repression) would be required to get the Laconniers on board with MC’s potential “Shayard should replace Karagon as the continent’s latest reigning imperialist power” agenda?)

:smiley: Holy crap, a concrete clue on the “deeper historical ties” modern-era Gryphon claimant! (Who will most likely become a huge competitor (or instead a marriage candidate?) of de Syrnon claimant MC)

Wiendrj: Religion (either as the Xthonic Eclect or as a prophet/druid of the resurgent Forgotten Gods) seems to be our best source of legitimacy here.

Nyryal: in the absence of religion, could evoking the mantle/title of the Nyrnakan Republic be the source of legitimacy for a modern-era Nyrish urban confederation?

If I had to guess, they’d most likely jump ship to the “(more aggressive) Shayardene imperialist” faction(s).

A past quote from @Ramidel comes to mind: “Conversely, @mshan95032 will also have to convince Shayard’s elites, whoever they may be post-revolution (he wants to keep the nobility more-or-less as-is, so the nobility) that Erezza is worth spending blood (both in the metaphorical and literal senses) and treasure defending instead of making peace with their friendly neighbors in Halassur, who just want lands that are theirs by right and were stolen by the illegitimate Thaumatarchy anyway.”

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Time to revisit some ancient history — and Vigil, again. I’ve been meaning to explore this topic further since the first week after the demo released, but these latest excerpts from Irduin have been spicy enough to make that into a reality. This aims to be a comprehensive collection of evidence for the collapse and destruction of an ancient civilization circa a thousand years before the game, the ashes of which formed ground where new cultures and peoples emerged from a wild, chaotic age.

The Wild Age

Let’s begin with Sojourn, the City: again and again, from the Whiskered Hawk to the Red Kestrel, we are told that the Brauracha did not build the City, and that it predates their arrival in the plains over eight centuries ago.

Cited Texts

“Do any of your tales explain this City?” You point to the walls of Sojourn.

Garab shakes his head. “We have never been city-dwellers or city-builders. Whoever raised these walls did so before the earliest memories of our ancestors.”

“So there’s no trade by sea?” You’ve never been anywhere near Shayard’s coast, but you’ve heard from Carles that there’s thriving overseas exchange with Erezza, the Abhumans, and lands on the far side of the Olossar Ocean.

“None to trade with. The Brauracha built no cities in the western Lands; and the Ebon Ocean only ends where the sun is swallowed up by night.”

(Jevahir, on the origins of Nyryal)

"Around nine hundred years ago, a group of nomad tribes found their way straight across from Halassur, and started roving the plains north of Karagon. That’s us.”

ca. 500-400 XE: Halassurq pastoralists cross the isthmus of Erezza and populate the lands of Nyryal and Braurach.

And our most crucial hint comes offhandedly from Herne Alderway, once of Corlune, as he introduces himself to us:

“Do you know who built it?”

“Swive me, no. Always been here, the nomads say. Corlune has some old buildings that look like these, and they’re older than the Hegemony.”

Similarities in architectural style are not hard evidence of a common origin or culture — yet this is a constructed, fictional world, and the game here loudly declares that there may be a pre-Hegemonic link between Corlune (the third-largest city in the Hegemony and capital of the Westriding) and the City, an ancient place built by an unknown people. Corlune stands almost directly east of Sojourn, with the whole of the Southriding and much of the old Forest of Laconne in between: Grand Shayard included.

It seems more likely than not that the City was already abandoned and empty by the time the Brauracha discovered it; there’s no mention in the stories and legends of any living remnants of its people, or of any other people of the plains. That has perpetually been the cycle of the City, after all: abandoned, discovered, settled, abandoned. The Blood Raven tried; now it’s Sojourn’s turn.

With both the emptiness and Shayardene connection in mind, let’s turn our attention to the latest snippet from Irduin:

When wisards and monsters freely roamed the land, more than seven centuries ago: a single castle in the desert waste bringing order to the wild-lands. This describes a world of unbridled, monstrous magic — in a setting where magic is rooted in a deep, intuitive understanding of the mechanisms of the world. Our 2 INT MCs did not discover Theurgy all on their own: their ease of perceiving the four elements is rooted in studying and truly grasping the work of an in-universe natural philosopher; the first intuitive leap to Theurgy proper came from the First Exercise, a standard text. A wild-land full of wisards does not come about through pure luck: it builds on a societal foundation that it may well simultaneously tear down.

The story of Charivert de Shayard and the Knights of the Gryphon evokes post-apocalypse in its imagery, not the dawn of civilizations.

The name “Charivert” itself might be a clue: he is “the earliest king whose name is known”, not the first king. This is likely a reference to Charibert I, King of Paris — whose father Chlothar briefly ruled as King of the Franks after the deaths of his brothers reunited the kingdom, and whose father before him Clovis is often considered the first King of the Franks. Charibert represents the first generation of Frankish kings where the kingdom would not once again reunite within a generation.

Which brings us to Shayard itself, the castle, already in existence at the time of the legends, to which Shayard the city and Shayard the nation can trace their roots. There is little so far to suggest a connection between it and the ancients: but one interpretation of certain vague authorial comments upthread offers a spicy link. These mention something that might happen in Game 2, Ch. 4, so will be spoiled below:

On Grand Shayard

Vigil is ringed by black towers made of pure elemental stone, which can survive in the heart of the Xaos-lands to the point that the earth below would give way before they fall.

This, again, does not prove a connection between the ancients and Grand Shayard. If anybody alive in the present day has this technology, it would probably be the highest echelons of the Thaumatarchy — they could have brought it to Shayard. Nor can we rule out the possibility that the interaction between Xaos-storm and Ward could be part of this.

But the language of Grand Shayard having one such structure “at the heart of the Xaos” evokes the ancient heart of the city itself. There is perhaps no more fitting place to have that immovable ancient stone than the oldest known structure in the city, said to have existed in a wild age of magic and monsters.


I’ll leave this off with some enduring mysteries, and some more speculative takes about these mysterious ancients.

The bone-tokens of the nomad phyles could draw inspiration from this wild age of magic. The Red Kestrel mention that "there are few phyles now left who have borne the skull since before Kargash afflicted us" — this suggests that Xaos-storms are not the origin of this tradition, and that it has deeper historical roots in Brauracha culture, and uniquely Brauracha culture: not only is this not present in Halassurq and Nyrish culture as far as we’ve seen, but Jevahir explicitly views it as sad.

The Whiskered Hawk, Red Kestrel, and Blood Raven all draw on avian imagery altered by magic, and the Gryphon is a beast with the head of an eagle. Perhaps there’s a connection there; it’s difficult to say.

The Seracca are also notable in literally being an ancient magical civilization, albeit one that has persisted for over a thousand years. They represent the earliest point in our timeline, dating back 1,800 years, and where a millennium ago they fought a civil war such that:

“Every Yega’a came together to cast down a would-be tyrant. Since then, none has tried to impose a Hegemony on us.”

I would be remiss if I didn’t at least raise the possibility that this last civil war fought by the Seracca caused cities like Sojourn to be abandoned, and for Shayard to become a wild-land of wisards and monsters (the latter of which, frankly, are probably just how the proto-Shayardenes interpreted the Seracca). And the supposed span of this ancient magical civilization would’ve been the northern neighbor of the modern Seracca Federation.

“Learning and discourse, traditions of change and continuing, that go back eighteen hundred years. We have built cities, and abandoned them, and built them again.” M’kyar looks off to the southeast as if seeing something impossibly far away. “My own clan, the Gara’u Zerez, is one of the oldest, and the Range of Siet, where I was born, has a city on its margins that would make this Sojourn look like a village. But like Sojourn, much of Sietwall stands empty. Only at the great festivals do we come together there and play the game of city life. We are a free folk, and the Red Kestrel knows rightly that a city can become a prison.”

There is even a chance that “Seracca” itself is intended to mean something like “of the plains”: if Cerlota interrupts our duel with M’kyar, she says “Seracca sa’vewa! Peace, daughter of the plains!". If she merely repeated herself, once in Seracca and once in Koine, it could point towards the historical and cultural origins of the Seracca being in the plains: a geographic feature far more strongly associated with what would become the Xaos-lands than what we know of the modern Seracca Federation, with desert, mountain, and jungle.

And there’s a tiny detail that very well could be reading too much into things, that could link the Seracca to the Brauracha at a cultural level, not just an aesthetic:

The tip of M’kyar’s tail lashes the air. “Telling them they cannot themselves be controlled, that they are Powers beyond the capacity of any Theurge to measure or bind? Yes, ${sojname}, I deem that empowering.”

This is the only time “Powers” — proper noun and everything — is used outside the context of the Preserving/Protecting Powers or the Devouring Powers in the faith of the nomads. And crucially, M’kyar does not use the term in connection to the Seracca, but rather to all people: including the “udud”, the nomads among them. This, I think, is more of a reach than even the rest of what I’ve written, but I just wanted to note it down.

Lastly, while we’ve briefly touched on Vigil, this framework notably skips over everything about Cunning-Quick. But briefly, the story of Cunning-Quick fundamentally makes sense as a description of the origin of the Xaos-storms, which we know to be the year before Hera’s death. The Brauracha nomadic tendencies combined with the Towers around Vigil point towards ancients, and so this can be reconciled by Vigil (the place, not the entity) being created by ancients and discovered by the Brauracha.

The rabbit hole following from that, though, is my ongoing bias towards casting Cunning-Quick as Hera the Thaumatarch. But that’s something for its own entire post later, and not immediately relevant for discussion of an ancient civilization.

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@Havenstone What happened to the de Shayard? Are they extinct as a house?

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