Phoenix Dawn Command – Journal Entry #9 – Varya

**Editor’s Note: We will be featuring some character backstories & recaps from our Phoenix Dawn Command actual play series. Be sure to watch the adventure LIVE every Saturday night at 5p PDT/8p EDT on twitch.tv/savingthrowshow!**

by Mac Beauvais

The fighting had become tedious to Varya.

The Wing had been sent to clear out the township of Mardenford and they’d come up against a new foe: Wailers. The Wailers it seemed were powered by their Dawn essence. Bodies that should have remained dead after the Chant had worn through them could be reanimated by the very Phoenixes sent to make the town safe again. What did that say about them?

And then there were the human companions. Varya was built for taking damage, and in comparison humans were so delicate. It was difficult for her not to become frustrated when she had to reign in her attacks to shield them from damage. Humans were a hinderance.

Of course, there were also the Phoenix companions. She was connected to them, but simultaneously felt apart. The cycle of death and rebirth was quickly becoming numbing.

Then there were the shards they had been collecting, a seeming source of power for the Chant. The Marshals thought they were closing in on something, but Varya questioned this silently.

They made way for a smaller township outside of Mardenford where it seemed another piece of the puzzle might lie. Varya tried to keep at the back of the group as they negotiated entry beyond the guarded gate. A handful of people were all the known survivors of this Chant outbreak. The rest of the population was likely inside the fortress carved into a mountain at its back, and the likelihood is that they had all succumbed to the Chant.

The Wing entered and went to work in their usual manner wading through a few scuffles with Wailers. It was all quite routine until Varya noticed Ink heading towards a chamber at the end of a corridor. She sighed and trailed after him.

Without warning, four doors of slammed closed behind them, sealing them in the room. The doors could be manually broken, but it wouldn’t be easy and it would take time.

Ink cleared his throat behind Varya. She turned to him and she could see that look again, the one of curiousity and worry he had whenever he really looked at her. He seemed to be collecting his thoughts. Inopportune time or not, it appeared he’d kept things bottled up long enough.

“I know,” he began, “in the time we’ve been together it has made you very uncomfortable for the time we spent when I was in your head. And I understand that.”

He began to tell her that he believed they all had a greater purpose and did not understand why she could not see that she had a great destiny before her.

“I don’t know about destiny,” she snarled. “I died and was supposed to go somewhere else but instead woke up as a fucking monster!”

She could feel the rage boiling within her.

He continued to tell her there was a part of him that could not deny that she might be a manifestation of the Dread, but that he believed in her and forcefully added, “do not succumb to the monster.”

He thought he knew, he thought he really knew. He continued on and quoted some forgotten volume of text that Varya could not have cared less about. But he didn’t know. He wasn’t the one having to fight it and not be sure if it was really an “it” and not just her.

And then, he blinked momentarily out of existence. Simply disappeared. Something was wrong with him, but she was so mad she didn’t care. Not until he blinked back in and reached for her hands. In that moment, she gasped, he was seeing into her. It was like the time he’d spent in her head, but more intrusive. He could see her memories, her thoughts. He could see “it” or her or whatever it was, and as he receded, it followed.

Whatever he had done had drawn it out of her.

“What have you done?!” She snarled, her head swimming and the words having trouble forming.

Again she’d felt that snap, like the snap of anger when she’d been fighting the fear and the Dreadknights. Her body contorted, becoming more wolf than human. The beast had her in its grasp, or maybe it was her true self in control. Whatever it was, it was angry.

She leapt at Ink, claws outstretched, trying to restrain herself but barely curbing the blow. He blinked out again before she could land another. When he returned he said something about flooding the chambers and indicated the pipes above. She leapt and damaged them, but a part of her wondered if what she really hoped for was that she could drown the beast.

As the room began to fill, she sensed that the other members of the Wing were also in trouble. However, they had been successful in unlocking the cell doors and so she tore out of it, trying to direct her bestial rage somewhere more useful.

Her blows were savage as she plowed through the enemy. Chanter after Chanter and Wailer after Wailer, she struck with fury beyond her comprehension. All were nearly destroyed, but the rage wasn’t ebbing like it had the first time. Ink had tapped into too deep, and it would not be quieted without putting the others in danger. She knew of only one place that could contain it.

She bolted past her companions for the terrible shard fragment that had been giving the Chant its power, and as she clutched it, she let everything burn out to ash.

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Phoenix Dawn Command – Journal Entry #8 – Varya

**Editor’s Note: We will be featuring some character backstories & recaps from our Phoenix Dawn Command actual play series. Be sure to watch the adventure LIVE every Saturday night at 5p PDT/8p EDT on twitch.tv/savingthrowshow!**

by Mac Beauvais

Varya was back in the Crucible. She was back in the fucking Crucible!

She tried to shriek at the darkness but it came out more bestial howling than human cry.

How had she failed so badly again? Yes, she’d saved a few lives, but the creature had not been destroyed and it was possible that they now lay slain. And what of her Wing? Had they survived?

She prowled angrily through the darkness, screams of failure ringing her head so hard it seemed to be vibrating her skull. Once again, she came upon the mirror from her last trip, the only thing of substance in an unceasing oblivion.

She studied her reflection as it changed before her. Her bones shifted sickeningly. Her hair took on more grey. Her nails were more claw than before. She studied their edges protruding from the base of thick fingers and noticed a dull steel gleam like that of her axe. She looked at her weapon, but it seemed there was somehow less of it than before.

She tried to think. To remember when she’d last used her axe in battle. It seemed to her that whenever she was wounded and the beast sank its teeth into her that it had disappeared and that her claws had become more deadly in response. Perhaps in another time or two, it will completely transfer to be a piece of her.

She sank against the mirror. She had failed. Had any of it mattered at all?

Her thoughts drifted to Ink’s intrusion into her mind and what he saw there, of the looks from passengers on the ship when Beans was telling her story, of the fearful look in Talib’s eyes. What was she becoming? Was it possible she was no longer fit for true compassion? Perhaps not, but if she was fit for anything, it was to take as much of The Dread down with her as possible, even if it meant more failure.

With that resolved in her mind, flames sprang to life around the mirror and she stepped back into Pyre.

Marshall Winter wasted no time in dispatching the Wing to investigate an odd occurrence. So odd that she had no details to tell beyond that fact the sight of it had disturbed the soldiers who had come upon it.

The Wing set out and after many hours of walking, they came upon a strange sight. Over the crest of a hill was a village. Everything seemed in order at first glance, but none of the people there seemed to be moving. Varya sniffed at a current of air…no smell of people either.

They cautiously approached to find that what had seemed to be people at a distance were nothing more than some sort of perverse scarecrows made from bits and pieces of debris and equipment. A few branches for an arm. Perhaps a shovel for a leg. A flour sack head.

The whole place showed distinct signs of abandonment. What livestock had been present had since left their pens and wandered away into the surrounding fields and forests. The only clear trail led away into the woods, so that is where they went, traveling through the night only to approach another village in similar condition.

As they progressed through the town, following vague tracks to a mine nearby, they noticed that the figures seemed to be moving. It was imperceptible at first, tiny shifts of position. But as they approached the mine a swarm sprang to life and attacked.

Fortunately, the figures were relatively easy to dispatch, breaking apart into piles of their component parts. Yet it seemed given enough time that they would reform, so the team made haste for the mine and hopefully the source of the mystery.

In an attempt to move more quickly to the heart of the mine, Eerie and the others jumped into a mine cart to speed down the tracks leading deeper into the dank stone hallway. Varya followed on foot, surprising herself with how easily she was able to run on all fours as her legs had become more digitigrade in the Crucible. And it turned out to be a good thing that she was not in the cart as it went veering off course. She managed to help snag Idalia before she was thrown into a wall.

They had, however, reached the location from which the enchantment was emanating. A few errant pieces of metal at their feet were pulled by an unseen force into the adjoining room. They stepped into what appeared to be the most bizarre of displays. Dioramas lined the room, all made from the same bits and pieces of refuse and stolen parts. And in the center of it all was an orb, it’s blue glow highlighting the scenes around it.

Ink stepped forward and was able to ascertain that it was a memory contraption of some sort. But it had gone a bit mad during its time sealed away until the miners had reawakened it. To their great misfortune, it powered itself on their essence and that of the two now vacant villages. There was not a spirit left for even Idalia to save as it consumed the life forces utterly.

The memory orb did not care for being touched and caused the nearby constructs to spring to life and attack. Varya and Eerie worked to stem them as Ink and Idalia focused on the orb itself.

With each blow she took, Varya sank deeper into beast until at last in a rage she snatched up a stone altar and flung it into her opponents, sending their parts scattering. They were unable to reform before Idalia destroyed the orb.

Task completed, the Wing returned to Pyre, thoughts weighing heavy in their minds. It seemed as though old magics were waking up in response to The Dread. Just what else was out there waiting for them in the dark corners of the world?

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Phoenix Dawn Command – Journal Entry #7 – Idalia

**Editor’s Note: We will be featuring some character backstories & recaps from our Phoenix Dawn Command actual play series. Be sure to watch the adventure LIVE every Saturday night at 5p PDT/8p EDT on twitch.tv/savingthrowshow!**

by Tara Strand

9f7c8ec1fc4c1a5a7d4c8e83d79bcf6fBeing in The Grimwald was energizing. I can understand why its people rarely care much for the outside. Observing Varya in this place moved me, and I wondered if some piece of her soul felt more settled returning to what was once home. The natural world holds you in its embrace here. For the first time since becoming a Phoenix I was able to completely surrender and connect to it; to listen to all it had to say. More vividly than ever before I recalled my other connection to this place. I had a loved one from here. Had he survived? Would he have made his way back here? This mission stirred up so many of the deep, hazy memories of my past.

To think I should encounter my own sister’s professor! To realize how little time must’ve passed since my first death. And to know that at least one member of my family was alive and well. It gave me hope for the others. Memories of them drifted and flashed through my mind like the fireflies I watched passing through the trees. I wondered at my lack of impatience for them to know that some version of me still existed in physical form. But soon there was no more time for such reflections. A new threat began to show itself, and many of our party would fall.

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Phoenix Dawn Command – Journal Entry #6 – Varya

**Editor’s Note: We will be featuring some character backstories & recaps from our Phoenix Dawn Command actual play series. Be sure to watch the adventure LIVE every Saturday night at 5p PDT/8p EDT on twitch.tv/savingthrowshow!**

by Mac Beauvais

When the wing boarded the ship bound for Pyre, Varya quickly moved to spend as much solitary time in her cabin as possible. She needed time to think, and time away from the looks from Ink which she now recognized as curiosity. As though he knew something she did not. It made her uneasy.

She was also more than just a little tired of Beans’ need to recount the story about how she saved babies from wolves and the side glances from others this story often provoked.

There was one disturbance during their time onboard the vessel, and the others were dispatched to investigate. Having handled it, they made it mercifully back to Pyre.

As is often the case, there was another mission to be sent on almost as soon as they arrived. Varya’s heart dropped to the pit of her stomach when they were told they were bound for the Deep Grimwald…her home.

They arrived by flame at an aerie situated on the outskirts of the Grimwald. A small team had been assembled to help them secure a forgotten aerie that had been discovered by a scout. As if returning to the scene of her mortal death were not traumatic enough, this scout was from her Tree, the Grimmiri.

Talib had been a big brother to her in their tribe. He looked older and more battle worn now, but it was most definitely him. She tried to catch his eyes to see if he recognized her, but if he did, he gave no hint of it. Did she really look so different? Was her mortal life as Atla that far gone from her?

They set out for the Deep Grimwald, a band of ten which included a new Flame Keeper, an Adept, a couple warriors, and three brothers named Bo, Jo, and Mo. (The latter three had strangely enchanted moustaches that twitched with their moods.)

Talib still made no mention of knowing Varya, and it gnawed at her spirit. She wanted so badly to talk with him, to find out if anyone else had survived the attack in which she died. It wasn’t until many miles later that he made to speed a little ahead of the group, subtly motioning for her to follow. When they were a safe distance to not be overheard, he studied her face.

“Lala?” He said.

He did remember! Varya took a step toward him and he recoiled, eye widening.

“I’ve always hated you calling me that,” she said softly.

“What happened to you?”

She recounted the Crucible and the Phoenixes, and he told her that he was the last surviving member of the Grimmiri. The sting of failure to protect her own that day cut her deeply.

Their discussion was interrupted by the others approaching, so they continued on, Talib still flinching if Varya got too near. Even when they had to scout ahead again and she snagged him from a bad fall, she could see some lingering fear in his eyes.

Camp was made and the non-Phoenixes rested. Varya sat to the outside of the camp, just outside of the sphere of firelight. She felt angry with herself, for what she was. With every death it seemed she was being consumed further by the wolf inside her. She feared someday there would be nothing of Atla left.

In the distance she could hear the sounds of the Grimwald; comforting and yet another reminder of what she had lost. Mingled with the familiar sounds was something wrong. There were howls, but not of natural wolves. She shuddered, recalling stories from her childhood that warned of the Eyes of the Forest. But they were just that: stories. Something to keep the children from wandering too far.

The next day they continued deeper into the trees. The normal humidity became oppressive, much more damp than it had ever been before. Another sign that something was not right.

Their group then came to a large river seemingly made of flowing, acidic goo. As though it were the trail of an unimaginably large slug.

Together Eerie and Kelvin felled a tree to get across. Almost all made it to the other side, but the acid began to eat at their makeshift bridge and Bo was lost to them.

The day passed into night and the strange sounds from the previous evening were more present here. Varya could feel eyes all around her. Predators observing prey. The sleeping beast within her woke, instinctually knowing the best course of action was to present the bigger, scarier predator. She let loose a series of howls and snarls, varying them to give the impression that it was more than just her making them. The things in the trees distanced themselves.

It seemed her display was enough to stem some of the attack, but a few of the braver creatures descended, blurs of amorphous motion. A couple dived at Talib and Varya threw herself in front of him taking their drilling beaks of either side of her chest. Together she and Eerie made quick work of the monsters, but not before the warrior, Tash, was slain.

Their number was now eight, and all seemed tired. Even the Phoenixes felt that a dawn had come and gone without the usual renewing burst of energy.

They came to the aerie which had been built underground to avoid the eventual creep of the jungle which engulfed all structures eventually. They barricaded the entrance behind them and made their way down into the flame chamber. In its center was a still green pool, filled with a substance not unlike the liquid of the river they had encountered.

Their Flame Keeper began the ritual. Varya paced at the pool’s edge, it’s acrid smell leaving a bad taste at the back of her throat, curdling her saliva.

Something was wrong. The Flame Keeper had lit the flame, but he continued chanting as he pulled out a dagger and stabbed it deep into his own stomach.

The pool before them sprang to life. Animals of all shapes and sizes emerged at the ends of slimy tendrils, and some tendrils bore only claws and thorns.

Kelvin made a strong blow against it. Varya followed suit, hefting up a great block of broken statue as a shield. She brought the stone and her talon down upon it, shattering the creature.

She held her breath, eyeing the pool. Waiting.

Another gush of slime exploded from the bottom, heading for Talib and Jo. Time slowed. Varya felt as though she were suddenly thrown back many years, to when she was Atla, to when the Dread attacked her Tree and left her dead. To when she had failed. She knew she was going to fail again, but not until she knew Talib would be safe once more. Shoving Talib and Jo aside, she stood facing the wave of burbling green. She closed her eyes as it tore her apart, the shreds of what she was returning to The Crucible.

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Phoenix Dawn Command – Journal Entry #5 – Ink

Letters from Pyre, from the Phoenix known as “Ink.”

I have been chided by the other Shrouded for not keeping as accurate a written account of my adventures in the field as I should. While I often find it hard to commit words to parchment, I am not shirking my duty as a chronicler. The Talon that has been bestowed to me whispers to me. It tells me its name is Dreamshadow, and that it writes the words I think whether I know it or not. It says we shall become quite close before my flame burns out for good. An ominous statement, yet one that intrigues me.

All this said, I find that I have the most time to chronicle what has befallen my comrades and me when I have freshly returned to Pyre, be it by ship or by Imperial Flame after another trial in The Crucible.

This message comes, unfortunately, after an experience with the latter.

After successfully defending our refugee brethren from a vicious outbreak of The Chant and returning the colony ship to its rightful owners, my wingmate Beans and I caught wind of an infestation of Bones just off the coast of Ilona. We discussed it with the other members of The Reborn, and it was determined that my plucky comrade and I were more than capable to dispatch the servants of The Dread, and we took a small boat out to the coast.  A signal would be sent to inform them of our mission’s outcome: a bright blue flare for success, a red one for failure.

We were, perhaps, a bit more confident in our abilities than was warranted.

I shan’t bore the reader with all the minutiae of our encounter, but suffice to say: it was harrowing. A small village had been overrun by the undead and we were significantly outnumbered. Beans waded deep in to the fray with her unique martial art style I believe she calls “carrady,” while I weaved a powerful web of words to keep them at bay as best I could. Their greater numbers overwhelmed me as I defended a number of villagers, and as I felt my embers smolder, I loosed the Red flare. I only hope Beans made it back to Pyre unscathed.

I found myself again in the ancient repository with the infinitely high ceilings and oil lamps. The elusive keeper of the texts seemed to guide me in a direction towards a book of fables that told the tale of a mundane scholar who uncovered a dark secret that consumed him, and he eventually faded from our world to BECOME the secret he sought. The irony was not lost on me, as another flicker form my former life came to me: ancient feuds had never been resolved in Ilona, and the repercussions played havoc in ways most citizens were unaware. The details continue to escape me, and I only hope that my death was not in vain.

When again I emerged from the Imperial Flame, I found that my physical body had become almost entirely translucent; a living ghost. The words that swim across the fabric of my cloak glint with a golden light before fading in to darkness, and Dreamshadow tells me to be unafraid. I shall try to head its words.

Dear reader, I hope that my next dispatch finds me abroad, and that my next passing through the flame is quite some time coming.

I make no promises, however. Such is the life of a Phoenix.

May you reach your destination swiftly and safely, and may The Dread leave you be.

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