Kali's Journal (a Jade Regent Campaign)

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Sarenith 23, 4713 (morning, Well of Demons)

Our second run at the well was considerably more successful than our first. This time we could prepare our defenses and devise a strategy before finding ourselves dodging blobs of acid, resisting telekinetic shoves, and worrying about who was suffocating. This is the sort of pertinent combat advice that I like to share here, as your time is valuable and you should get value for it in return.

This was about the perfect setup for omoxes: water everywhere, a one-hundred-and-fifty-foot drop to get to it, and a waterfall so loud you can't think with no way to turn it off. Whoever put them here knew what they were doing. We generally deal with oni, so that's not something we see a lot of.

So far, the Well of Demons has not disappointed when it comes to names but that is about all it has going for it. Unless your tastes for interior decorating run towards dark and dank. According to Onoko, this is where the less savory emperors of Minkai are allowed to manifest, just in case some future degenerate feels the need to commune with them. Though, personally, I think allowing that is an extraordinarily bad idea. It should really be the acid test for claiming the throne. Like, if you feel the need to come down here for advice, maybe you shouldn't be on it. But no one asked me for input when they set this whole thing up.

Onoko wasn't exaggerating when she said something is amiss down here; the omoxes were not mere manifestations, and neither were their hezrou buddies. The obvious question is, how did they get here? Followed closely by, who are "they"? Last time I checked, demons and devils don't have a strong working relationship. If Maemi is in here, and she's one of the latter, then who brought the former?

(slightly later morning, Well of Demons)

I have to write quickly as we are moving soon.

The answer to at least one of my questions is "Teikoku Sokai". According to Dasi he was one of the first and worst autocrats of Minkai, who preferred the title "shogun" over "emperor". I am sure that says quite a lot about his management style. It's certainly in line with his charming personality. He had enough ego for all of us.

We've allied with him temporarily because his narcissism is exceeded only by his hatred of Maemi. Why does he hate Maemi? Who knows? Who cares?

The situation is this: she holds the north end of the cavern, and he holds the south. Gods, it's the damned House of Withered Blossoms all over again, only this time the warring sides are fire-retardant.

The idiot thinks we're here because his family has finally risen to power and we're here to pay deference to him. Sometimes it's like we don't even have to try. When we told him we were here to kill Maemi, he naturally assumed that was the whole truth. We conveniently left out the part where he's next on the list.

He's lending us three hezrou for the assault. I am sure they'll turn on us as soon as Maemi and her erinyes are evicted, so it's in our best interest to ensure they die for the cause.

It's time to go.

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Sarenith 23, 4713 (morning, Well of Demons)

Sokai had warned us that Maemi's handmaiden—that would make her the handmaiden's handmaiden, a level of recursion that I can appreciate—was a trained assassin when she was alive. Now that she's dead, and trapped in here along with Maemi and everyone else, she had little to do but hone her skills. Quoting Sokai again, "Death gives her time to practice."

Most of that practice seems to be done on hezrous. I base that on how quickly the first two of them died. While this does make our job easier long-term, we were hoping they would contribute more directly to the proceedings.

Not that I should be complaining too much. The erinyes could see those of us who were hiding behind invisibility (which was inconvenient, to say the least), but the handmaiden could not. So, the hezrou were her only obvious targets when the assault began. Sometimes, things just go your way. After she killed the second one with a single blow, we figured out where she was hiding—which was, astonishingly, in plain sight—and I lit her up with some magical glitter. It was an appalling fashion statement, but sometimes you have to go with what works.

The key to defeating an opponent is to play your strengths against their weaknesses. In the assassin's case, she bet it all on not being seen, and once we deprived her of that advantage her options were limited to who would kill her. She had a few tricks left, sure, but none of them played well against a barrage of arrows. By the time Ivan was done with her she looked like a hawthorn tree.

The third of our hezrou "allies" had administered a severe beating to the remaining erinyes so their defensive line, if you want to call it that, shattered as soon as we hit it. Maemi, herself, seemed to realize early on that she was in trouble, and she tried in vain to strike some bargain that would keep her alive. Sorry, lady. Not interested. Are there any scenarios where making a deal with a literal devil works out in your favor?

If I'm being honest here—and what's the point of writing in this thing if I'm not being honest—I have to admit I don't understand the whole tizzy around Maemi's presence in the Well. Amatatsu Onoko played her up as this horrible figure, but really, what did she do? According to Dasi, she struck a bargain with Hell to extend her life. Big f$@~ing deal. Yeah, okay, back when she was on the throne maybe those 200 years were something of a bummer, but even the worst Suishen had to say about her was that she put herself ahead of throne and empire. So what? That just makes her a crappy leader. Compare that to her next-door neighbor, Teikoku Sokai, who instituted a eugenics program and forced the lesser nobles of Minkai into slavery. On that scale, Maemi doesn't even register.

(later morning, Well of Demons)

There's this spell that impairs your mental functioning to the point where you're not capable of rational thought or reasoning. That spell is basically my worst nightmare since rational thought and reasoning is pretty much all I do, and it's why I've been wearing this ring for the past several months. It has that spell inside of it, and if that same spell is cast on me then the one in stored in the ring immediately counters it.

Today it finally happened, and I have never been so grateful to have planned ahead.

From that, you might gather that Sokai was less than thrilled with our betrayal. And you would be correct. My only regret is that he didn't survive long enough to really bask in it.

We've searched the caverns and there's no sign of Shigure's body, and that tells us that it probably washed downstream into the caverns below. What's down there? No idea. We can see an underground lake and not much else. I'm taking bets though. Our experience up here was almost literally going through Hell and the Abyss, so I am putting my money on Abaddon to round out the set. Though that does leave us one or two royal families short, assuming that the Well is a whole thing.


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(late morning)

Instead of daemons we got undead, though there’s still more to do here so my theory may yet pan out. And undead does seem to fit the theme of “things that happen to vile people after they die.”

And speaking of vile, allow me to introduce Shojinawa Ito. According to Dasi, as emperor he bolstered Minkai’s army by creating undead from the soldiers who died in battle, and then disguised them behind illusions so that they looked like normal people. Eventually, his military commanders noticed that something was off, and he addressed their concerns by giving them the same treatment. The only thing he couldn’t hide was his unnaturally long life, courtesy of becoming a lich. His reign was finally ended by a sovereign dragon who had apparently had enough of his antics.

If that charming personality wasn’t enough, he was also holding on to Shigure’s corpse because why not. I guess that obsession with death and bodies has really stuck.

We didn’t even bother talking to him. I mean, what would have been the point? It was already a long morning and there was no reason to drag it out.

He also seemed unconcerned about his eventual destruction, going so far as to announce to us that he’d be back. That’s not how this works, ghost or not. But, on the other hand, he did seem pretty sure of himself so I don’t think we can rule it out. Assuming the lich story is true, his phylactery must have been destroyed or he wouldn’t be here at all, but maybe he has something else that ties his spirit to the Well, or to the shrine or island in general.

Of course, that is easy to say. The real trick would be finding it.

(even later morning)

I am lucky to be alive. Extraordinarily lucky.

There was this moment in Nobinuro’s cave where he did something, and I saw a flash of light through the cloud of fog around me. There was this sudden chill, and…I am not sure how to describe this, but it felt like tug at my soul. As if it were being ripped from my body.

I didn’t even have time to panic. Out of sheer instinct, I held on to it with…I don’t even know what. My will? My sense of being? Whatever it is that anchors us to this existence, it held. But only just.

Later, we deduced that Nobinoru was a thanadaemon. They trap the souls of others in gemstones, which they can crush to restore their life force. This is when I felt the bottom drop out, and a horrible wave of sickness washed over me. There are some deaths that cannot be undone.

In life, Nobinoru was the last emperor from the Sugimatu family. So great was his ego that he ordered the end of his family line so that his achievements would never be surpassed. His most loyal samurai set out on this task, exterminating each and every descendant and relative until almost none remained. Only the intervention of the other four families stopped this senseless slaughter, but so many had been killed that the family line never recovered. And, of course, the Five Storms later finished what he had started.

But it’s done. We have scoured the Well of every trace of demon, devil, daemon, and undead, and in the process have prevented the worst of the royal families from offering their counsel or blessing to future emperors. Something that the world simply does not need.

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