Shepherds of Haven (WIP) (DEMO UPDATE: 3 Aug 2021)

On another note, I’m wondering if anyone can help me decide if the aforementioned Hal sequence is too graphic? I think it’s fairly off-screen but my own sense of these things can be admittedly skewed.

This excerpt will really only make sense for anyone who’s played the demo/remembers it, but for anyone needing context: Once the MC joins the Shepherds, Blade (the commander) leaves the city and leaves his second-in-command, Trouble, in charge. While on patrol with Trouble one day, the MC is approached by either Caine (if alive) or Trouble’s mother’s friend, Arta, saying that their friend/son Hal recently disappeared, but has now mysteriously come back. Hal is essentially catatonic, but Trouble believes that he was recently kidnapped by the Equalists–a group of rogue Mages obsessed with kidnapping human children and experimenting on them to turn them into Mages. In a warped way the Equalists believe that this will make everyone “equal” and lessen political and racial tensions between the Autarchy and Diminished. Ya can’t persecute Mages if everyone’s a Mage!

Trouble himself was once kidnapped by the Equalists as a child and experimented on, but thought they were all dead. An argument breaks out between him and the Shepherds’ third-in-command, Tallys, who argues that he has no proof that the Equalists are involved and that even if they were, the Shepherds should be focusing on demonic attacks anyway. Trouble believes the Shepherds, being the only ones authorized to use their arcane abilities and supernatural gifts, should use their powers for good–regardless if the case falls officially under their domain or not. He decides to keep investigating on his own while Tallys goes her own way, and the MC has to choose between them. If they go with Trouble, they go back to Hal and can figure out the truth through several actions–one of which is invading his memories forcefully and reliving what happened to him. That’s this sequence below.

Do not read if you don’t want the next chapter to be partially spoiled.

Hal's memories

When you open your eyes again, you know immediately that your body is no longer your own. It’s lighter, smaller, springier-feeling—you’re in Hal’s body. You are Hal.

What’re you doing? A small voice speaks to you from some distant corner of your—no, Hal’s—mind. Get out. You’re not supposed to be here…

I just need to see something, you tell him. I’m not here to hurt you. I just have to know.

Know what?

You direct him to what you want to see, firm and unrelenting. His fragile resistance gives way to you in an instant, crumbling like a wall of sand before the tide. In a moment you’re looking out through his eyes, the vision already hazy with pain and time, but with enough detail that you’re able to surmise what’s going on.


It’s the evening of Hal’s kidnapping. He—you—are walking down the street on the way home from work, the chatter of other boys from the workshop fading away behind you as they go their separate ways. As you pass an alleyway, someone speaks to you from the shadows within. You look, wary; there’s an old beggar with an eyepatch, reaching out with a liver-spotted hand. He looks dirty and frail, and not very dangerous, so you stop.

“Boy,” he croaks. “Please, boy. Spare a coin? Or a bit of food?”

You are filled with pity for the old man. He reminds you of your grandfather, who is also missing an eye, though he is warm and jovial and cared-for by you and your mother and your aunts and uncles. Is this where Pap would be if he were left all alone?

Hal’s voice leaves your mouth, without any input from you: you are, of course, viewing a memory that has already happened. “What happened to you?”

“I got sick, lad,” the old man says, mournful. “No money to pay a Healer, or any of those fancy physicks from the West. I can only wait here to die. But I’m so hungry…”

Automatically your hand moves to take a copper coin from your pouch, strung around your neck and well-hidden from cutpurses. You can hardly afford it—you were saving up the money for a cake for your mother’s birthday—but you figure she’ll be proud to hear that the money was spent with good intentions. You move closer to drop the coin into the beggar’s outstretched palm, and that’s when he grabs your arm.

“Thank you, my lad,” he says, grinning, and when you look into his face, you see that it’s utterly transformed: instead of the visage of a weary old man, you’re looking into the mad, glowing eye of a Mage with a short, pointed beard. That’s all you see before he mutters something under his breath and sleep descends upon you like a storm cloud.


The next memories are blurred by whatever sedative they gave Hal to keep him calm. When you next wake up, you find yourself in a small, dark, windowless room with a dozen other children, some your age, others much younger. All cowering. A girl, stocky and tousle-headed and fierce-looking, is watching you stir from where you’ve been dumped on the floor. She hisses, “Oi! You got a family?”

It takes you a long time to get your bearings. “Yeah, I’ve got one,” you mutter finally. Your head throbs, and you feel as if your skull has been stuffed with cotton. “Why?”

“That means they’re getting desperate,” the girl says triumphantly. She points to a few other children in the corner, more silent and subdued than the rest. “Them, they’ve been here longer than the others. And they’re orphans—got snatched up 'cause no one would go looking for them, see?” She indicates herself and you. “But us, we got people looking. That means they don’t care anymore. They’re desperate. They’re getting anybody they can take.”

“Who’s they?” You feel as if panic should be rising within you, but for some reason you feel an odd lack of emotion. Is it an aftereffect of the spell that was cast on you? A potion they fed you to dampen your thoughts?

“Who’s they? Them crazy Mages, of course!” the girl exclaims. “The Catchers! The ones who put us here!”

“What do they want with us?”

“They want to give us magic,” another girl butts in sagely. Beside her, a little boy no older than six sobs into his hands. “I heard 'em talking. They do stuff to us—stuff that hurts, from the screams—and try to put the magic in us. I saw one kid come out of The Room with his hair sticking straight up like it was full of lightning! But he died right after. They all do. It makes the Catchers mad. That’s why they’re getting more and more kids—'cause the first ones die too fast.”

The little boy sobs harder, though the noise never rises above a dry, shuddering gasp. “Shush, Yonny,” the older girl tells him.

“What’s The Room?” you ask her.

Her face is grave and smudged with what looks like wet clay. “That’s where they do their things to the kids,” she whispers, clearly trying not to upset the young crying boy. “Their spells and whatnot.”

You still feel no fear. You just feel hollowed out and stuffed, like a doll. “But where is it? What’s in it? What does it look like?”

She shakes her head. “Dunno. I ain’t ever seen it. Those kids in the corner have, but they don’t talk. Whatever they do to you in there makes you not want to talk.”

“Well, that ain’t going to happen to me,” the first girl butts in fiercely. “I won’t let 'em. I’m going to escape.”

The second girl shakes her head. “You’ll get yourself killed.”

“Better that than let them put their hands on me!”

“Wait,” you interrupt. “How are you going to escape?”

She turns to you, a little wary, but it’s clear that you can’t do anything to her that’s worse than what the “Catchers” will do. “They need us whole, see,” she says, lowering her voice conspiratorially. “Healthy, so they can do their 'speriments. So if we fight each other, pretend to argue—”

“They’ll have to separate us,” you say, seeing her plan instantly.

The girl nods. “And I memorized the layout of this place,” she whispers. “I wasn’t asleep the whole time they brought me here, like they thought. If they take you out of this room and you can make a break for it, you’ve got to go left around the corner, then left again, down a very long tunnel, then right to this little wooden door. It doesn’t look like it goes anywhere, but it goes outside.”

You’re impressed by her resourcefulness. “Left, left, right,” you say aloud.

The girl nods. “Let’s leave, Rika,” she says. “That’s how I remember.”

“What’s Rika?”

“That’s my name, stupid.”

You’re about to tell her that a better acronym would be let’s leave right away, but before you can, the only door to the room suddenly swings open, eliciting little cries and whimpers from the other children. Standing in the doorway is a man—the same man who masqueraded as a beggar and brought you here. He’s still wearing an eyepatch, so you presume that he actually is missing an eye—but now, in his true form, he seems young and strong. His face is stony as he sweeps the room with a critical eye. Then his finger lifts and points in your direction like a terrible weathervane.


The stocky girl flinches. The man’s finger crooks upward. “Come.”

After a moment of hesitation, she rises. You want to say something to her—try to stop the man from taking her, even—but you’ve found that you’re frozen in place: not by fear, but by some other invisible force. The other children also stand stock-still. The man has cast a spell on you!

Rika pauses at the threshold. “What’re you gonna do to me?” she asks, raising her chin. “You gonna hurt me?”

The man looks down at her with cold dispassion. “Hurt you,” he echoes, and he sounds barely human. “No, child. I’m going to give you a great gift.”

The door swings shut behind them. You strain to listen, but you can’t hear any sounds of Rika running away.

Later, the other girl turns to you grimly in the dark. “You asked what The Room is like,” she says. “I guess Rika’s about to find out.”


But Rika never returns to the cell—whether because she was killed or because she has escaped, you don’t know. What you do know is that the sennight that follows is filled with more pain and terror than you’ve ever experienced in your life. Hal’s memories become fractured here—the boy’s endeavors to block out what has happened to him—but you catch glimpses of strange instruments, Mages hovering over your paralyzed body with glowing hands and runes to be seared into your flesh, only to vanish hours later. No matter how much you cry and beg, your captors are merciless. Worse, they grow impatient with you: it seems whatever they’re doing doesn’t seem to be having its intended effect.

With time, you feel yourself withdrawing more and more into the sanctity of your own mind. The spells that they use to keep you tame and quiet—it must mean we’re somewhere where we could be heard if we scream, you think—are slowly rendering you mute, disconnected from yourself. It’s an effort just to open your eyes, knowing what the day has waiting for you.

One night, lying on the cold stone floor as your feverish body tries to sweat out the foreign energies now inside you, the other girl—Yonny’s cousin, Tress—says, “They’re hurrying, with you. Usually they only take a kid to The Room once a day. With you they’re doing it lots.”

“You think they’re getting scared that help is coming for us?” you whisper, unable to summon the energy to hope.

Tress shakes her head. “I heard some of them talking again. I think they’re getting rushed by somebody—a boss, maybe. Someone named Blaphemel.”

“Blaphemel? What kind of name is that?”

“Dunno. But they’re real scared of him.”

And if monsters like these are scared of him, you think, what kind of monster is he?


One day a reckless impulse rises up in you, despite their spells, despite their cold and surgical torture-rituals. To Hael with this, you think, with the very last vestige of your old self. If things are going to continue like this, you might as well die trying to escape than submit to their experiments any longer.

So, one day, you run. One of the Mages takes you out of the cell, and you make a break for it, remembering Rika’s mantra: left, left, right. Let’s leave, Rika. Miraculously, the Mage doesn’t follow you; she only watches, arms at her sides, as you dart around the corner towards freedom.

You barely spare a glance at your surroundings: the walls are curved, and close, and seem clumsily-sculpted from some kind of clay. You might be underground, though the rooms where you were being kept and experimented on were made of stone. You run for several minutes, but the tunnels remain utterly silent, and no alarm is raised. Soon enough, you find the wooden door that Rika had once spoken about: a little thing, more like a hatch in the wall than an actual door, but you know instinctively it leads to your freedom.

You’re just reaching your hand towards the rusty iron ring set into the door when someone’s hand touches your shoulder.

You whirl. Then bite back a shout of joy. Standing there isn’t the terrifying one-eyed Mage, or any of the other Catchers. Instead, this figure is small and stocky, and smiling, as if pleased to see you. Her hair is combed back and slicked smartly against her head.


“I thought you were dead!” you blurt. You snatch at her hand. “Come—we can get help—let’s go—”

Rika laughs, and the sound seems odd to you; it’s dry and fricative, and somehow insect-like. “Oh, no,” she says. Instead of her urban burr, her voice is now sophisticated, purring—too adult. It’s not the one you remember. “I don’t think we’re going anywhere.”

And that’s when you notice it. Rika’s eyes are different—not ringed with gold, like some of the children in the cell, but pupil-less and beetle-black. And her hand is glowing red, sparking with furious energy…

She’s become a Mage?

That’s all you can register before Rika draws her hand back and blasts you with a gout of flame. You feel your clothes and flesh catch fire and you try to scream, but the fire rushes down your throat and snuffs the sound in your chest. Darkness consumes you in an instant. Rika’s laughter rains down on you like shards of falling glass as you go.

I’d very much appreciate any feedback on the graphicness of that bit, if anyone is willing! Thanks very much! :grin:


Eh I’ve seen worse. Not really graphic but more vague then anything.


Good stuff! Intriguing without being overly graphic, don’t see any problems with it!

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Not really that graphic to me its very vague but other than that not bad.

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Same opinion with three people above me.

It is not very graphic but I could imagine the scenario well enough. I give me gossebumps. =O

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Yay, thanks everyone! :grin: I did leave it vague because we really only need to learn the gist of it (you’ll see everything in more detail if you can find the Equalists’ compound obviously) but I just didn’t want anyone to be taken by surprise like “WHOA I did not sign up for this!” Thank you for your input! :relaxed:

Sorry I'm a bit late! I know everyone else has given you their thoughts, but I figure I could at least give reasons as to why the scene is acceptable.

Having read the excerpt, I’m reminded of the movie Changeling, and to a lesser extent, An American Crime.

The movies I mentioned are both rated R, both deal with the abuse of children, and both are based on true events. I believe Changeling’s R rating comes more from the subject matter regarding female disempowerment, the depiction of asylums, and emphatic use of the word ‘fuck’ (in the best way possible) rather than depiction of child abuse, as it is limited to one scene, and is more implied than depicted. Compare this to An American Crime where the abuse is the film, and I have no doubt that it was rated to reflect that.

The excerpt resembles Changeling more than An American Crime, and if I’m being perfectly honest, you could make things even more explicit if you really wanted to, mostly because it’s fictional and people are much better able to compartmentalize better when they know what they’re reading isn’t real.

That said, your excerpt is still still disturbing enough to feel horror and empathy for Hal, and I would be more than happy if you decided to keep things at this level.

Hopefully this gives a good idea by what people mean when they say they’ve seen worse. And I highly recommend Changeling because it actually does resemble the Equalists plot quite a bit. And even if you don’t gather any inspiration from it, it’s still a damn fine film.


Thanks for the thorough response, @rose-court! I haven’t seen either movie, but both sound gripping! :face_with_hand_over_mouth: Would you say Changeling is similar because it features a boy disappearing and then coming back? (Though this Hal is the same one, haha.) Or do they do something to him that’s similar to what the Equalists do? I’ll definitely have to check it out when I’m in the mood for a dark drama/thriller soon!

On another note, is anyone aware of how to potentially know if a player is on a second playthrough of a game? Is there a way to create a variable at the end that will stay switched on if the player decides to restart or replay? :slight_smile: I’m toying with the idea of adding a secret character to second playthroughs and onward. Guess I should focus on the first playthrough first though! :joy:


The quickest way would be to have an achievement that activates after you finish the game once, and then check for that when necessary.


Never seen it before but that would be really awesome if you could make it work. I really don’t know anything about coding… but maybe at the beginning just asking the player to select whether this is the first time playing.? Hopefully people would be honest and choose the correct option.

This is all very bittersweet because it’s on haitus. I’m excited to see the new stuff but at the same time I’m sad because I have to wait :cry:. Your teasing us @rinari!

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…Duh. That’s so simple, I feel dumb! :joy:

@PhilosoTor Sorry about that! :sweat_smile: I’m aiming to finish the manuscript by the end of summer/early fall, and then I plan on diving headfirst into this as my main project! I still add bits and pieces here and there and tweak a bunch of stuff, but I can stop teasing haha!


I highly recommend it, it’s just a great film overall.

Yes, pretty much just the premise is similar, but I imagine there might be overlapping themes involved in terms of marginalized groups being dismissed by the majority until absolutely everything backs up their claim, but by then it might be too late? I don’t know how heartbreaking this plot might turn out.

And there is one boy in the film, the killer’s nephew who is forced to help in the murders. His confession scene is so heartbreaking. I don’t know if Rika will ever come back to herself, but if she does, I can’t imagine she wouldn’t be filled with guilt. It might be nice inspiration, I think.

ikr? the answer blew my mind too when I read it in this thread.

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How do we feel about having the chance to get Prihine to fall in love with you or even sleep with you, if you play your cards right? It would not be as in-depth as any of the other main ROs by any means, but it’s something I’m considering since there’s one less female RO than male. It would be more of an optional encounter, though, than a relationship that got its own ending and all.

Are we repulsed by the idea? Indifferent? Or is it desirable? I know some people early on were hoping that Prihine would be an RO. :sweat_smile: It would have a definite effect on a later Lavinet romance…


Well, there was already some demand for it before, so I imagine it would go over well.

Besides, it would be entirely optional, and I imagine it require very specific flags to be triggered. Namely, that she ain’t dead, lol. So it’s not like people can just stumble into it.

Further, on the morality aspect of it, her marriage is arranged, and may or may mot be loveless, I have no idea. Either way, it’s less morally objectionable for me, and historically; as long as she doesn’t fall pregnant, there’s nothing really to complain about…beyond the fact that our character is a minority but that’s beside the point.

Also, also.
I’m not sure how this would work to begin with, but I imagine the idea of her being stuck in a loveless marriage would be the easiest explanation.

If I may offer an alternative path, for those who don’t want to sleep with/romance Prihine, what if we could help her marriage develop into a love match?
Instead of rejecting her and leaving her to herself (which, admittedly, should definitely be an option for those that hate her), helping her in a more roundabout way seems like it would provide a good counterbalance to the questionableness of romancing a married woman.

But that’s just suggestion. Ultimately, the answer lies in what best works for you, the writer, and what best serves the story and gameplay experience.


It would depend on how much depth you intend to do it… I’m one of those that want her as an RO but only if it has meaning, otherwise I’d rather not.

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Well, if people want it, and you want to write it, I say go for it. I mean, it wouldn’t affect me one way or the other (even if I was straight, and chose to save her, I’d probably still go for someone else :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: ), but if it makes people happy, that’s good, right? :man_shrugging:


I think it would make a lot of sense as she’s probably unhappy with her husband and if you save her she might fall for you or something. I think it would be cool if she initiated the romance and you had the option to either accept, reject and so on.

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Pretty indifferent towards her as a person, (and hence neutral on her being romancable), but would not object to her playing a further role in our story or us crossing paths with her life again.

We did expend one of our rare words to save her, after all. We would probably be motivated to occasionally check that she hasn’t gotten herself killed in some other way.


This. None of my mcs are interested in women and I always let her die anyways,I save Caine and I don’t want to waste a word by saving both of them.

For me, Prihine is an okay character. I will not go after her romantically though since I like males but to develop a friendship arc for her would be great.

Even if I play a male MC, I will not go after married individuals since I don’t fancy being the main cause of a marriage breakup, even if it was a loveless marriage.