Heya Red Rubber Band! I'll answer your post after this one. I'd like to get the second part of the session posted first.

Session 20, Part 2- Mid Campaign Interlude: Lessons and trials of Paradox, Night of The Purge

At this point the session took a different feel, and a different pace. I shall explain:
I agreed with Julian that her search for ascension to demi-godhood should be a bit more special than just taking a mythical power. We decided to make it a sort of a philosophical challenge: The paradox will teach her, test her, and poses an open ended riddle/ dilemma to her. Now, while I knew this would appeal to Julian and Sena's player, I also knew it would most likely bore Andera and Mad Dog's player.

So... I decided to split the party, sort of. I gave a sort of a rolling combat challenge to Md Dog and Andera, while I gave the other two some "philosophy" to deal with.

Julian, with Sena as a spiritual guide, came upon two excerpts within Paradox, that dealt with the basics of divinity. I sent the two players the excerpts by mail, and let them ponder them, while I went to the other two.

Night of The Purge, Temple of Shadowy Exchanges
The Queen summoned Mad Dog and Andera. "We have deciphered most of the content of the notes from the Sanctum, and they reveal the entirety of the demonic infiltration into our ranks! No wonder we were routed at each turn, they have gone deep, deep into our forces. But now we have the advantage! We know where they are! Andera, I will task you and Mad Dog to lead the assault on the prime targets. Our forces shall all strike in one night, one swift strike, to purge our ranks! Your takes will be to deal with the tougher cells, and hopefully find the one crucial piece of information which we have not deciphered- Which demon lord do Deskari and Baphomet wish to ally with?"

And so, after a bit of preparation, Andera spoke to assembled forces in Nerossyan, some of them belonged to his order, the Black Flame, but this time he spoke as the leader of the strike. "Well friends, this is a test of our performance and efficiency. What we do today might change what will come later, how much innocent blood will be spilt later. Just remember why you are here. Remember this and what you have learned. You know what to do, give no mercy! Let the Purge begin!"


They were given two targets: A wondering priest with a group of followers, going between camps and giving encouragement. The files called him "The Embedder", and apparently he was responsible for gettign soem key information from the fronts. A demon under disguise, but they knew not what demon. The second target was a small temple of Shellyn, mostly visited by the nobility of Nerossyan, Apparently this was a center of operation, but also where "exchanges were made".

But Mad Dog and Andera would not go alone. With them came a dwarf couple, a mage and cleric called Harkun and Hilda (9th level both, not mythic), as support and transportation. The players got emails with their short character lists. I thought it might be fun to let them have simple casters for this run.

Andera decided to hit the temple first. Knowing they need information, not just corpses, Andera thought to try out some subterfuge first. They came close to the door, and listened "They will strike at us soon! You heard what happened to Jerribeth! We must move fast!" A second voice answered "Only 4 left. We make the last exchanges and bolt away!"

Andera disables the lock, vanishes and goes inside. He sees two priests in a very dark church. He doesn't see the 4 shadow demons lurking. He comes close to the priests, when Mad Dog loses patience, and gets inside. They see him, call for an attack! The Shadow demon emerge, and one of them possesses Mad Dog! (Sena's player: "What? You didn't use protection from evil? Have I taught you NOTHING?")

Harkun and Hilda (AKA "Red shirts" by the party ) try to dispel and block the influence with a circle of protection, While Andera goes to town on some shadow demons (Good thing he upgraded with ghost touch!) The two priests start shooting spells, but together the red shirts and andera free Mad Dog, and from there it's short work. A shadow demon hisses "I will alert the Rune!" and teleports away. One of the priests is grappled, restrained and tied. It's interrogation time! And Mad Dog seems to take great pleasure from this interrogation, who quickly yields that there is a small library of a noble that acts as a center for the information the spy network gathers in Nerossyan. There is some sort of a magical thingy there- A special Rune... The party thinks it's the nickname of the wizard, and teleports there.

Spoiler: The Temple of Shadowy Exchanges
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For this encounter I put 4 shadow demons, and 2 "Mother of Beasts" clerics (By this I mean the entry in the PFSRD) upgraded to 11th level each. I aimed at a quick fun encounter, with possibilities for subterfuge as well as combat. They opted for combat. It wasn't supposed to be that hard. Part of the idea of the Purge, is to have Andera and Mad Dog have some fun and feel great. Also, it ws quite hard for me to adjuciate approximate power level, with their two casters gone replaced by two lesser casters, which they didn't fully know how to operate. So I tended towards the lower scale.
Went quite easy though.


First two excerpts of Paradox, and the first vision


1st Excerpt: Elements of Divinity
Spoiler
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Elements of Divinity
(From the words of "Wyvern" Crass, researcher of the Forbidden arts.)
Sarkorian fools! Imprison me?! Don't they understand! Bah! Of course they don't! They don't want to understand! What with the Green Faith and all, all we do is belief, we do not THINK! We do not Understand! But follow like sheep. But I try to, and I hope that my work here will prove useful to someone, somehow, out of this damned tree tower of Threshold! Arrest me for my experiments? But how can we understand if we do not test?! Fools!
My life work has been trying to understand the nature of Divinity. For I wish not to be a servant to masters who's agenda I cannot fathom. You reader, I hope will understand this…

….

What differs the arcane from the divine? What are the "core elements of the divine?" It is a bit hard to decide, as there are many theories, but the main components, though more complex than this simple naming, are three:
1. Positive energy: This elusive and strange energy, named so by stupid priests who do not fully understand it's meaning or it's opposite- Negative energy, is one of the primal forces of the universe, and it is tied directly to the gods power. See the priests, oracles, druids and such, all have a connection to it, and it's most well known form- Healing. A power that the arcane was not able to mimic, other than by the power of Wish or similar, which manipulate the very basics of the universe- the energies themselves.
Positive energy is not just healing, for it is a power that binds together ideas. (Which will lead me to the next point, soon enough). In it's purest form, it binds LIFE. That's a central element of divine magic, most of it focuses on aspects of living beings. It deals less with affecting matter (Though it can do that as well, nothing is as simple as we'd like to believe!) But in it's focus and prime there is life. Life is a complex culmination of multiple ideas, including Materia (Body), Anima (Spirit), and Consciousness (Soul). Positive energy can bind and rebuild all, which is a feat we haven't yet been able to accomplish.
We have been able to tap Undeath or negative energy. Most undead are stripped of one or more of the three elements of being, and have the others "transformed" by negative energy. This easier to access usually, and is more limited to destructive energies. Unfortunately, Undeath becomes fueled by desire for positive energy, as that is a distressful existence, and that help sate it. I guess the druids may be right about that… But still, we must learn! Sacrifices must be made!
So the gods have a tie to the primal energy of life or undeath, making and unmaking. That is elemental to their power. Life is at it's core…
2. Ideation: Unlike proper wizards, those damned heathen worshipers come by their powers by "faith". But not just that- it's a faith in some ideal, some concept, some IDEATION which gives them power. For you see, the gods, and all the power that come from them rely on an idea, and it's interpretation.

A cleric, a paladin, a druid, an oracle and even witches who do not follow the core ideas of their faith… lose power. The idea itself has power, and it flows from the universe or god (Not sure about that yet. Needs more research), unto priests, followers and such. It's the idea trying to take shape and spread itself through the world! Kinda like those mangy disease those tree huggers are all about! Godly indeed! Huh!
Yet some gods die, and sometime more than one god share the same power, which means that there are different approaches to different powers. Even that damned Iomedae doesn't follow the exact same ideas of Sarenrae, Torag or the rest. Nor do demon lords…

An important thing about the core ideas of divine beings is that they are inexplicably tied to soul/ consciousness/ morals… Each deity has a link to such an idea in his or her portfolio. Some great bloody cosmic war of ethics or such? A battle for our souls? Who bloody cares! I do not wish to be a soldier in this war!

So divine power comes in the form of adherence to an ideal, concept or such, which somehow revolves around living beings as well. You need to somehow connect these to the greater ideas of the universe. But how? Well… that brings us to:

3. POWER: Face it, those damned super beings are just way too powerful for us to tackle. (yet… Give us some time…) It seems there need to be a great source of power that enables a divine being, be it a deity, semi deity or quasity deity to act as a link to the positive energy as a source, through the link of an idea.
This has been the most vexing point yet. Access to divine power has so far only been through the Absalom Starstone, which few have dread, fewer yet have survived. All the other gods exist from time immemorial, and have their power ingrained in the origins of the universe.
The 3 elements, to my understanding so far, are interlinked with each other: Power enables to access the positive energy, but it itself grants power, all formed by ideation and so on. Quite a mess so far, but as far as I've been able to get
My bet is that if we ever try to gain great power, we need to somehow incorporate these 3 elements: A link/ emulation/ contact with primal positive (Or negative) energy, an ideation strong enough to spread and link to the universal powers, and power, a whole big bunch of it!
Depressing really…



2nd Excerpt: Beings of the universe
Spoiler
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Beings of the universe

(From the writings of Opon, God caller)
Strange, that people call us heretics. For we are truly spiritual! That we summon small gods, reflection of the divine source within us, is to defy godhood? I say it is the opposite- it is to express your unique soul, give it form, life, enrich the world and all that's in it! That the souls of many are tainted by the dark teachings is not to say that this cannot be used for good. I have thought, learned and prayed much about this. I have also spoken many times with the witch Vorlesh, and she is wise and keen of mind. But I digress.
Divinity… What is this unfathomable and otherworldly idea? Who are these beings? What differ them from us? Who are we? What are we? And what is the connection. I shall try to answer these, in short, with hopes that if I perish here at Threshold, that my work will remain and enlighten others.
Every child will see that there are different classes of beings- there is the earth, the plants, the animals, us mortals, the outsiders of the outer planes, and the truly powerful beings that exist seemingly as part of the very fabric of existence itself- gods and their like.
Are we so different? In a way yes we are, but in another way, we have much similar. No, please, do not consider this as heresy, but read on. If my words do not make sense, feel free to seek your own understanding.
(Long and detailed observations of various beings)
All of these show that in essence, all beings are comprised in a way out of 3 components, or parts there of:
1. Materia/ Body: These are the "physical elements" that build us, and the world. The earth and air and such are built from it, but so are we. Yet, without the other elements we are not alive, but just bodies. We are alive by positive energy, while the undead are by negative energies (I've had some conversation with a mage called Wyvern. Interesting fellow, if a bit odd to deal with). I know some mages have been able to motivate beings made entirely out of Materia, or have they found ways to bind Anima to them? I'm not sure. Plants are an excellent example of beings made mostly out of Materia.
2. Anima/ Spirit: This is at its basest the element of energy, motion, life. It is the DRIVE of life. It is instinct, primal thinking, primal being. Animals are excellent examples of beings made primarily our Materia and Anima, but with little mind.
3. Mind/ Soul/ Consciousness: The element of choice, morality, and going even against the basic principles of life, of survival. It is this that enables not merely living, but BUILDING, and creating greater ideas, concepts, and things that transcends the mere individual's existence. It is this component that ties us mostly with divinity. Mortals are comprised of all 3 components, but their soul is not fixed, not rigid, unlike the outsiders such as demons, devils and celestials, who are comprised primarily of soul, which defines them far more sternly than it does it does us.
It is for this reason that the gods seek to shape the world's soul through us- mortals. It is for this reason I think, that religions exist- to shape the souls of mortals, and thus shape the souls of the world. I do not fully understand the connection between mortal soul to that of the divine beings, but I do have a theory.

We know that various souls, after death, can be attracted to the planes, perhaps even become outsiders. But we also know there are stronger beings- the divine beings. I have so far been able to identify 3 "steps" of divinity:
1. Quasi deities: These are immensely powerful beings, yet still fully themselves, though they exert the power of their linked deity's portfolio and influence. They can channel their powers through followers (Usually priests and the like), but in themselves they are still themselves. The gods' heralds, Champions of deities and the like fall into this category.
2. Semi-deities: Most known here are the numerous Demon lords (Only Lamashtu was able to become a full goddess, no one knows how). These beings are more powerfully linked to the outer planes, and their power usually ties closely to their own plane. They have a physical existence, but also a metaphysical one, one of an idea, a concept, a theme, a portfolio. Unfortunately I do not understand this duality fully, but the demon lords seem more withdrawn from Golarion itself.
3. Full deities: Mostly the gods. These beings seem to have transcended mere physicality, and have joined their soul with the soul of… the universe? An outer plane? The positive and negative energies that Wyvern is talking about? Though at times it is recorded that they have taken physical form, for the most part I believe they have none. I believe they are, indeed, a force of nature… This Starstone, which might enable the rise of new gods, with mortal origins is an interesting concept, which I haven't explored fully.
My point? I guess my point is that the beings rise/ fall/ transcend or descend. Between mere Materia, through Anima, and to Soul. To become more divine, one must become more… "Soulful", though I do not fully understand how. As the gods seem to focus on the core concept of morality and powers of the universe, perhaps such a pursuit is most fulfilling. Yet I do not think this must come from direct worship of a god. If we have soul within us, do we not also have divinity within us? Are we not, in some small way, divine ourselves? Are we not glorious?



Now, Julian's player was bit sick, and it was starting to get late. He didn't quite like trying to wrap his head around all of this, and what does it mean for her quest of divinity. Sena's player also seemed troubled. After the first duo reached a good stopping point, I returned to Julian, as after seeing this, she was absorbed to a vision by Paradox.

Julian was inside a huge room, only the walls conferred it was not exactly a regular room- she was inside an enormous tree, hollowed out to fit for living spaces. And there were two othervfigures in the room- one looked like an old man, in ragged clothes, ragged hair, but very sharp and keen eyes. This was Wyvern, the necromancer. The other was a tall man, fairly lean, quite clean, with the tattoo of a spiral on his forehead, and a look of contemplation about his face. This was Opon, the God Caller (Sarkori Summoner). These were the two writers of the articles, and also the ones who first helped Areelu in her efforts, and then tried to stop her, when they realized their mistakes.

Julian knew where she was, or t least, what place this vision was supposed to represent- Threshold, the prison that held the Sarkori mages, where these two and Areelu Vorlesh wee imprisoned more than a century ago, and where she tore open the rift to the Abyss. This is where it all started. Sena too was drawn to the vision, but as a sort of a partial ghost, an adviser. Julian was at the center.
W+O: "We are here to help you, clarify your teaching. "
J: "Who are you? Wyvrn and Opon died long ago..."
W+O: "We are their impressions, their representations, we are them in the Paradox. We are your teachers, at least for this part. What is the question that stands before you?"
J: "What is power? True power, enough power to enable the transformation. That is the main obstacle you posed Wyvern, was it not?"
Wyvern smiled a half maddened smile, but a very perceptive and inquiring one: "Did you find such power? What source will you draw from?"
J: "I found myself in these travels, and through that ,I found my power."
Wyvern seemed disappointed, Opon intrigued. Wyvern responded. "You try to circumvent the answer with religious nonsense. Don't mangle words with me. I'm asking about TRUE power!"
Opon interjected. "And what of values, principles, core beliefs? If one seeks to become more spiritual, one must have deeply ingrained beliefs. If you do not believe in yourself, if you do not have conviction, this will not be..."
Julian answered, with a clear and resolute voice: "I have already learned my lesson, came to my convictions, at the age of seven. You are ideas, as we all re- we are all built of ideas. I have very strong beliefs- I wish to teach others, help others, to learn how to help themselves. Not to wait for others to help you- not the gods, not other people, rely on yourself. Only in this way, all would be free."
O: "These values have at times, though not often, been stated by others, by other powers, some of them already divine. What makes YOU so different?"
J: "Only I can make the needed change. They will not rely on me. I will empower them."
Wyvern laughed sarcastically "Well, at least she has the nerve and audacity of the gods! But enough with this! The key here is power! Without power, all of this jumble of fancy word is nothing!"
J:"Ideas themselves are power, as is life, they all intermingle, is it not?"
Wyvern was disappointing again. "You're dodging the question..."
Julian thought. "In the Wardstone fragment, when I touched it, I got real power. The power to wield any spell, with the quickness of thought, at my disposal. Something no other mage before me could, the only one who can do the same is Senatef, but my sources aren't divine."
Wyvern finally smiled, but it was Opon who asked the next question: "Have you asked yourself of the source of this power?"
This seemed to catch Julian a bit by surprise (Or it might be that the player was tired), but the vision changed. Julian was now in a silvery-bluish-white space. There were multitudes of small lights all around them, thousands of them, in the space all around. Julian could hear the whispered prayers "Protect us from...", "Guard us from...", "Lend us strength to overcome..." and so on. She was inside of the Wardstone, and these were the prayers of thousands, who kept it's power alive before, who gave her her mythic power.
Prayers: "We are the belief that is the source of your power. We gave it to you, as an instrument to defy and oppose the demons. Yet now you seek to defy the gods themselves, the gods for which we are offered, which we serve. Why should we grant the power to you?"
Julian greeted her teeth, and answered: "I do not defy the gods, ignore them. They are meaningless- with all their power, and yet there is so much suffering. They do not truly care, and so I will forge a new path.
Pr: "Why should we trust you? Can we trust you?"
Julian didn't rise for the bait. "Judge for yourself. What I have lived through, what I have done so far, what I am willing to do. I wish to better life on this world."
Pr: "So do the gods we are offered to, the powers that invested your power. Why are you different?"
Julian stepped towards the prayers at this, as if challenging them: "How long has the Wardstone been there? Has it advanced the war? No, it only postponed it. It stopped the demons, but did not push them back, did not stop the atrocities, did not solved this situation. We'll end it! I'll end it! And in all of this, in the worry for "the grand scheme of things, the greater good", a lot of people were neglected, forgotten, lost. Bad things were allowed to happen to them. This will not happen- I will teach everyone to fend for themselves, care for themselves. Only when we care for the unnoticed person, shall we win this war!
The prayers shifted their interests to the ghost of Sena. "And yet your adviser here, your dearest friend, is a messenger of the gods. Does he defy the gods as well?"
Sena answered: "I did not say that. I believe that our efforts help the ones of the gods, and in her way, Julian helps the war effort."
Pr: "And yet you no longer worship one of the 5 gods, and you are... detached?"
Sena tried to avert attention: "That may be, but our goals, our hearts, are still the same. Julian has the power, and the purpose."
The prayers turned to Julian again: "If we give you the power, you might destroy the world."
J: "I cannot for see the fate of the world. But... as I see it, the issue is not just the world, but everything in it- from the child of the street, the forsaken refugees of the invasion, everyone that was forgotten. The issue is to CARE. You need to take action, I do not defy the gods, I ignore the gods. I just need the power."
Some of the prayers rattled: "You speak in such a hot rage! This is foolish!"
J: "Not foolish. I have a strong willful soul. Actions speak louder than words."
Sena intervened: "Although I am the servant of the gods, the gods are not free of that. The gods also make mistakes acting… not wisely, acting rashly at times..."
Julian finished with the following: "You have misjudged one thing- gaining this power is not a gift, not a blessing, it's a responsibility. When I gain this divine power, the idea will become bigger than me- the major issue of me, and the road I will represent. This is the core of my soul, and that will spread. Is that not worthy enough?"
(One excellent diplomacy roll later, adjusted for good arguments) The Prayers were silent for a short while, before answering. "Julian Bearstorm. You have our trust. When the need comes, we will grant you the power to make the transition." And with that, the vision faded...

Spoiler: First vision- Basics of Divinity
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First of all, I'd like The Evil DM who helped me in one of my "requesting assistance" threads, and sent me the first chapter of his campaign world, from which I took quite heavily to draw the main concepts expressed in the excerpts. He did some fabulous work! If you're reading this, thanks a lot!

I wanted to do a few things with the first two excerpts:
- Give some structure, some feel of the main concepts of divinity, and divine beings. I thought this was essential, because none of us realy dealt with these questions, and for a person who seeks to become a divine being, well... it seemed important.
- I wanted to show a bit more of the Areelu- Wyvern- Opon triangle. It didn't come out so well, but it was nice. Also, linking again to Threshold, another little piece of a build up for the end of the campaign.
- I also wanted to remind them of the origins of their power, and the campaign. Julian's player suggested in our email conversation to be confronted by the gods themselves. I felt that might be a bit too problematic, since she DID try to "steal" power from them, so the prayers were a good enough substitute. Plus, in the Midnight Isles they meet a demon lord, and in Herald of the Ivory Labyrinth they meet a god. Both events are supposed to be important, so I thought not to jump the gun before then.


Wards and runes
Harkun and Hilda knew the mage and his library, and were surprised. I agreed to let them teleport inside the building, to what appeared to be a scrying room. They startle a young scribe woman. She bursts into tears, saying an awful lot of frightening things were happening here. Andera vanishes and tries to go in the corridor towards the big library room in the back, but on the way he triggers a greater ward spell, with a phantasmal killer. Andera barely makes the first save thanks to a mythic surge. The scribe reveals herself as a succubus, and tries to dominate Mad Dog, but he succeeds on his save, rages and cuts her down. Battle is joined!


Andera uses master disguise to make himself look like the succubus, and continues to the room ,triggering two more greater wards, one of an electrical discharge (10d8), the other of disintegrate. Andera manages to save, but stops, weary of other runes on the way. Meanwhile the red shirts put some buffs on Mad Dog (with the all important protection from evil), and Mad dog rushes past Andera to the room.

Or at least he tries, just upon entering, shimmering lines rise from the floor in front of him, and a big glowing rune, a living one, tries to cast slow on him. It moves incredibly fast- Mythical creature! Other than that there is another succubus inside, the shadow demon that escaped and... "Hey, where is the mage?" Mad Dog focuses his attacks on the strange living rune, finding it quite hard to hit it because of it's two-dimensional amorphous state, making it impervious to criticals, sneak attacks and quite a lot of damage...

The shadow demon and succubus start throwing spell like abilities, and the red shirts try to negate these, as well as heal Mad Dog which is zapped continuously by the Rune. Andera has an idea, and ghost steps through the wall into the room at a different angle, gets up to the shadow demon, and gives it one final, terminal surprise...

More powerful spells (Cone of cold and the like) emerge from a point above them in the room- the invisible mage! Mad dog continues to focus on the rune, and Chandi teleports Andera next to the succubus (In order to bypass the many wards in the room, which he suspected, and rightfully so) who suffers the same fate as the shadow demon. The mage spells prove... quite ineffective unfortunately.

Andera finishes the mage with a quick spider climb up the shelves and a jump unto the mage, for a critical hit and a sneak. The mage falls, as Mad Dog finishes the rune, which twinks out of existence, disabling the wards at the same time (Sort of it's "babies" ). it damaged Mad Nicely, but Hilda was able to keep him going.

"We were supposed to take him alive!" Andera regrets, but they have another idea- Speak with The Dead. We jump back to Julian and Sena in the meantime.

Spoiler: Wards and runes
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I used the Living Rune, but made it Mythic (Mythic initiative, enabled it to cause more damage, and a few other minor stuff). The mage was an upgraded Cypher Mage, though he was quite a disappointment. Other than that- 2 succubi as aids. The rune proved a nice challenge, but the DCs of its powers weren't enough to hamper the group enough. (Mad Dog has great saves while in rage), so it ended up a bash contest between Mad Dog and it.

I quite liked Andera's masterful maneuvering in the battlefield. The Big room had about 12 greater Wards in it!

I quite liked the Living Rune Idea, as a sort of a magical constructs that aids the spy network. It was nice in Theory, though they only interacted with it battle wise. Oh well, some things work better, some less.


Third excerpt of Paradox, and the second vision

While the other two were having their battle, Julian and Sena's player were trying to ponder the following.


Spoiler: Of Edges and Transformations
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Of edges and transformations
(From the writings of Areelu Vorlesh)
I don’t know what's worse! That they caged me here in Threshold, or that they caged me here with these… incompetent weak willed! They do not have what it takes to make a change, they all theorize, think, contemplate. They have long forgotten how to act. I will find a way.
And they are so caught up in definitions- Something is THIS, or THAT. Foolery! The first lesson of witch craft is that we are all BECOMING, In various degrees. Something becomes what it is if it is not willing to change, to move on, to transform. Like the bunch of mages and arcanists here. Fools! They hold soooooo much power! If they only had the nerve to act upon it!
For I know what it means to make a change. They condemned me for my own… transformation. It was necessary, and it was not as difficult as one would imagine. It is just finding the right edge, and then creating NEW definition, either by crossing it, taking what is on the other side, merging it, or creating something brand new, with it's own new… edges… This in essence, is how one creates a Paradox. They don't even understand this simple fact, for they fear coming close to the edge. If you want to change, you must risk. No playing it safe. On the verge is where you will find potentiality, possibility, choice, and innovation. They like to stay in their safe definitions, safe world, safe... "understanding" as Wyvern calls it. You must undo understanding, and proclaim a new one if you seek to make a real Paradox.
We witches live on the edges, we exploit them, and manipulate them. And the land of Sarkori is the ultimate edge- the edge between worlds, where they touch, intermingle, and are almost one with the other. No… It was not difficult to find the soul of the succubus, or the essence of what this meant, what defined it, and what were the edges of this definition. Where is one a succubus, and where is one mortal? Where do the two exists? Where is the definition made… unclear? And what will you risk for it? For there is always risk. This was my first lesson in… Becoming. I have learned much from it, from this new body, new soul. The lesson will help in the plans to come. For this is but the beginning…
And how does one become? One find a place were two situations touch. Opon says we have the divine, the soul within us, and in that we are like gods. I don't know, but I know where my soul was greatly like that of a succubus, where I became close to the idea of it, to the essence of it, I could find a new way to merge the two, into something new. No such deals with demon lords, for then they control it. I will make a deal on my own terms, if I can find the right candidate/s. I need this strength, this power, this soul… It grants me so much more understanding. Wyvern has theories about becoming a god. I have no interest in that! I have bigger plans, if I can make them… They will all pay, all of them! But if one could transcend close enough to "godliness", then maybe? Where do mortals and the divine have a common edge? What is divine about mortals? What is mortal in the gods? Where is the edge?... Maybe that's how the first demon lords came to be… Who knows…
I wonder what might be worthy of coming close to such an ideal though? Artists have been at times said to come close to the divine with their works, some priests as well with their spirituality… Various heroes of legends have moments of "edges" in their stories. Opon says we are all "godlings" in our way, if only our souls were close to divine ideals, divine doings, divine essence enough or some such nonsense… Still, he's a smart man. Hmmm….
Come close to the edge, where definitions are blurry, and have the power, determination and courge to reshape your own definition into something new- to change nd become different. Trickier said than done. But I think I'm nearly there…This tome, which speaks to my mind in such strange ideas, these people, for all of their foolery, have some interesting theories. Nearly there… Nearly there… Lets find the edge of this world…



Again Julian (and Sena) were drawn into the vision in Paradox. Again they were in Threshold, and one a singular chair sat Areelu Vorlesh, smiling wickedly at them.
Vorlesh quickly came challenging: "Many seek divinity, power, to change. What makes you so special?"
J: "I am willing to go on the edge."
Vorlesh eased into her chair. "So you've read what I wrote, but what does it mean... what does it mean to you- Willing to go on the edge?"
J: "It means I am willing to become something that is greater than myself."
Vorlesh seemed bored, testy. "You're just repeating the last conversation, we've been here before, this is not what I'm asking. What is the edge for you?"
Julian started to become confused. "To give up part of myself."
Vorlesh gave a dismissing wave "You give well repeated hollow slogans. Did you understand what an edge IS?"
Julian started to stammer a bit "I will make it better, I will..." But Vorlesh gave a disgusted sound, turning away.
Sen stepped in, on Julian's behalf: "Contrary to you Areelu Volesh, who stabbed the universe and twisted the knife, it is not the case of Julian, She will do it differently.
The figure laughed: "You think I am Areelu Vorlesh? I am an echo, a teacher of the paradox, of her own voice. But I am not the witch, I am her teachings."
She then turned to Julian, more seriously. "There will be a price. "
Julian did not flinch. "I understand I will lose myself in order to do what must be done."
But Vorlesh snarled and chided back. "Martyrdom is not a price. You claim the right because you feel you are worthy."
Julian shot back. "No, doing because no one will do it."
Vorlesh challenged: "You think you have the right?"
Sena intervened: "I will change the word "Have the right" to "Obligation"."
Vorlesh turned on them. "You dwell in the old lesson. I have taught you what I thought. It's up to you to find the edge, and transform." And with that, the vision faded. Julian's player cursed. He felt that he missed something here, but the party talked it over- She will have to CREATE a suitable edge for herself, a place where her definition blurs, and that she can cross. But what will it be?

Spoiler: DM notes- third excerpt and second vision
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This time a lot of the credit goes to NichG (again from the assistance threads) His idea formed most of Vorlesh' lesson- to find an edge where the border between mortal and divine gets obscured, and then pass it. This is the challenge Julian needs to solve in order to make the transition. However, I prepared no specific solution. It is intended as an entirely open ended riddle, up to the player's creativity and ingenuity. Together with gaining the sufficient power (From the prayers), this should suffice fro the transition.
It also enabled me to play a bit of Areelu Vorlesh (Or an impression of her). Again a bit of buildup.


But.... the hour was late, and the player was not feeling that well, and couldn't quite come up with a quick solution. He understood the basics of the riddle: Find a way to blur definitions, where the components of divinity is a connection to positive/negative energy (Or more simply- life/ creation or death/ destruction), ideation (Which she had quite strongly), and power (Which she gained). But the player was stumped...

As he thought of the matter, Andera and Mad Dog brought the head of the rune mage, and Sena cast Speak with Dead. Some questions and answers:
Q: Is the traveling priest (Of the second target, which they left, assuming they escaped) a spy?
A: Yes.
Q: Where is the portal that leads to the Midnight Isles, to the supply of the Crystals?
A: The Midnight Fane. (This later enabled them to locate it with scrying. I intended for the queen to reveal this, but they were smart enough about this).
Q: Is there a spy in the Queen's inner circle?
A: There was, Nurah Denidwher.
Q: Which demon lord do Deskari and Baphomet try to ally with?
A: Nocticula, ruler of the Midnight Isles. (Bingo!)
Q: Have they secured her alliance, or of any other demon lord?
A: Not yet, as far as I know.
Q: Who did you report to?
A: I reported to Jerribeth.
Q: Who do you report to now?
A: (This caught me a bit by surprise) Urasthella.

Last thoughts
The session by this time felt a bit like a loss. With the initial time spent on the loot and rebuilds, then Sena taking up a lot of solo time, some tension rising between Sena and Andera's players, the idea of dividing the group backfiring (At the end it just meant that 2 players were inactive for long periods of time), and Julian's block, meant feelings were a bit grumpy, and not all that high.

Sena's player, sensing this, called to continue the game, to try to come to a solution to Julian's dilemma, and come to a more satisfying session ending. They came up with some ideas: That Julian needs to die, or come very close to (Which she rejected), or maybe pregnancy (The player rejected this immediately, on grounds that that's a terrible reason to have a child, and that it sounds way too chauvinistic to him- that she can progress only by getting pregnant).

Sensing that people are tired, that we need a break mostly, I called the session to an end.
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So, the session did had it's moments, but quite a lot of it just didn't work right. I hope to learn from this. Julian's player later informed me by email that he liked the riddle, but needed some time to think it through, and not just on the spot, and especially not late t night after about 8 hours of continuous play. (Our sessions run long, if you didn't realize it yet. ). Tell the truth, when I planned this, I expected Julian's ascension to come LOT sooner in the session, but with the loot stuff and various things people wanted to roleplay (Mostly Sena), this got quite delayed.

Ok, So now i got one more session to write to get the log up to date. First I'll answer Red Rubber Band's post (I didn't forget) and a bit about how we dealt with the tension between players.