|08_EbonscaleReach_Body_01_01||ACT I SCENE II - THE EMPRESS' JOURNEY|
(The darkened stage is set with a lone throne and the Empress sitting upon it.)
The Taiying Empress: Half-brother of mine! What brings you to the throne room at such an hour?
Shang Wu: I should be asking the same of you, sweet sister. Your coronation is set for tomorrow and yet you've already taken your perch.
The Taiying Empress: Tomorrow, it will not matter. Tomorrow, I shall be Empress.
Shang Wu: We shall see about that...
(The stage lights up fully to reveal Shang Wu's forces in hiding ready to strike.)
Shang Wu (to the audience): My long-despised enemy shall be forced to flee, and I shall be the Emperor of China!
|08_EbonscaleReach_Body_01_02||ACT II SCENE III - THE EMPRESS' JOURNEY|
(Half of the stage is covered in sand to represent the beach the Empress and her forces washed up upon.)
Retainer 1: Your Highness, this island was not on any of our maps, and as for that red, collapsed mountain in the distance...
The Taiying Empress: We will make camp here. There is a power in this place, an old power... It may be the key to returning home and retaking my throne.
Retainer 2: I do not trust it, your Grace.
The Taiying Empress: Do you not trust me, your paragon, who led you from persecution from the forces of Shang Wu?
Retainer 2: I apologize tenfold, your Grace. We of course trust our beloved leader.
The Taiying Empress: Then all is not lost. We will investigate this shattered mountain, and we will harness the energies it holds. So, I might sail home one day to take back what is rightfully mine.
|08_EbonscaleReach_Body_01_03||ACT III SCENE I - THE EMPRESS' JOURNEY|
(The stage is lit in red tones.)
The Taiying Empress: And with this Dragon's Pearl I shall convert our band of refugees into my mighty empire!
Guard 1: Yes, your highness. I would follow you anywhere.
(The Empress presses the Dragon Pearl to Guard 1's forehead and he begins to scream.)
Guard 1: I can feel it, the Corruption tearing apart my mortal soul, twisting it! Oh, the agony!
(A mask with rubies where the eyes are is placed upon Guard 1's head from the prop trapdoor.)
Guard 2: I cannot fall to the same fate, I must flee!
The Taiying Empress: As my loyal subject you will submit to the Corruption. It will make you strong where you are now weak, and afraid.
(Guards 3 and 4 hold down Guard 2 so the Empress can press the Dragon Pearl to Guard 2's forehead as he begins to scream.)
The Taiying Empress: Rise, rise my champions! You will all have the gift of Corruption soon enough!
|08_EbonscaleReach_Body_01_04||ACT IV SCENE V - THE EMPRESS' JOURNEY|
(The Empress is surrounded by the full cast in the ruby-eyed masks.)
The Taiying Empress: Where is Zeng Lingyun? Has my most loyal handmaiden truly abandoned her post when she is most needed? No matter. I shall continue on without her, with my new army. First Aeternum, and then the world shall be mine!
Full Corrupted Cast: All hail The Empress, Dragon of Aeternum, destined ruler of the worlds old and new!
The Taiying Empress: Enough sentimentality. Begin construction on my fleet of ships. The ranks of my legion swell like a mighty red wave preparing to crash onto distant, familiar shores and wash away the pathetic weakness of the old ways. To arms!
Full Corrupted Cast: To arms!
(The Empress smiles and takes her seat on her Corrupted throne.)
|08_EbonscaleReach_Body_02_01||I have served the Empress since she was a girl hiding behind her mother's skirts, playing with her dragon dolls.|
I cannot serve the Empress through this. If Taiying ever leaves Aeternum, if Corruption ever gets off of this island, the whole world will be forfeit, not just Shang Wu's forces.
She wields supernatural power over the minds and bodies of her followers as if they were her childhood dolls. I shudder to think how she views her own people, as mere fodder for her smoldering revenge.
Now that we are on Aeternum, I see there is no going back home. Now, I must help cage the dragon that has been born here.
|08_EbonscaleReach_Body_02_02||The shrines that the Empress ordered to be built around Ebonscale Reach each correspond to a different element important in dragon lore.|
It is said by our people that the Old World was shaped by dragons. Long serpents lay down to form the rivers, while mountains were made by great leviathans hunkering down to rest. Even the air we breathe in was first breathed out by the dragons. Their gift of fire is the most obvious elemental connection of all. Dragons are all around us; one only has to know where to look.
It seems the great Taiying Empress' desire to see dragons allows her to conjure them with this strange new power she has acquired. Does she shape the power or does the power shape her?
|08_EbonscaleReach_Body_02_03||Order ruled the Old World, but this New World is chaos. The five elements (wood, metal, fire, water, and earth) infuse Aeternum, but they exist out of balance. Spirit and air forge nature around us, as does life and death itself. Air replaces the principles of metal and wood in our four shrines. How can this be? |
I know the heavenly force that ordained my once-beloved Taiying Empress, but there are strange forces at play here. I lose sight of the truth I once knew. My memory becomes mist. The crimson of Corruption terrifies me. In my chambers, I hear my Empress weeping, lamenting her tie to this unnatural power.
I know doubts plague her mind. She regrets the hellish bargain she made. I pray there is a way to save her without destroying her.
|08_EbonscaleReach_Body_02_04||Heaven and Hell were natural consequences of life on earth before Aeternum. Heaven is the divine ruler of the skies who gifts their eminence to the royal bloodline. Hell, in its ten courts, is the darkness pervading the earthly prison it traps human souls in.|
But there are no courts or judges here, only untamed and uncaring wilderness. This cannot be Hell, it is far too disorganized in its tortures. Seeing Taiying take on the mantle of Corruption is far worse than any Hell of iron beds or oil cauldrons.
I heard her weeping again, for herself or for her people I could not say.
|08_EbonscaleReach_Body_03_01||A thousand curses upon the head of Shang Wu, usurper of our Empress' throne!|
A thousand curses upon all the men who backed this betrayer, driving our true ruler from the throne room and into hiding!
A thousand curses upon this island, where our ships crashed in our flight from our homeland!
Curse its 'mysteries' and 'secrets' and all this bloody irritating sand. Nothing good will come of staying here long. I can feel a stale evil in the air around this place, and at night it is almost as if I can feel that broken mountain in the distance turn its red gaze upon me. Tomorrow I am summoned to the Empress' chambers, and I will explain my concerns to her then.
|08_EbonscaleReach_Body_03_02||Today, I witnessed something disturbing.|
A petitioner came to the Empress, in her makeshift palanquin on the beach, and decried this land of Aeternum. He claimed it would only lead to our doom. I found myself nodding in agreement; I, too, hate this place.
But in a flash of anger quite unlike her, the Empress set her royal guard upon him. They beat him bloody and dragged him to the crude cells we had only just erected yesterday. He is to be held there without food or water for as long as she deems necessary.
I'm very lucky that the Empress didn't see me nodding, or I fear I'd be dying of thirst in a cell, too.
I would expect this behavior of the treacherous Shang Wu, but now even our beloved Empress has become hard and warlike. Her brown eyes have turned redder and redder. What has become of the upstanding woman we followed out of our homeland?
|08_EbonscaleReach_Body_04_01||The water levels around the house have been slowly but steadily rising. I see the dark, pregnant clouds in the distance, ready to release their rain on us again. I fear the house will not survive it. We've taken everything off of the floor and stacked the furniture, but now the water completely encircles our little hovel. Is this our punishment for following the Empress? We stand together and pray the stagnant water stops rising, for it is all we can do.|
|08_EbonscaleReach_Body_04_02||Waves crash where my house used to be. I never considered it a home, not after having to flee our true homes in the Old World, but it was a place to hang my hat and rest my feet. I will miss it sorely.|
But our misfortune is nothing compared to that of our neighbors, the Chens. The flash floods came so quickly I saw the father of the family swept away in a rush of water. The body hasn't yet been found.
The Empress promises we will recover, that she has a plan to restore us to an even greater glory than we had in the Old World. Standing at the edge of the dirty, treacherous water, I cannot see how that is possible.
|08_EbonscaleReach_Body_05_01||What do you call an Alligator Detective?|
What did one Alligator say to the other who was in the way?
Please move, I need to get Bayou!
What do you call a scaled creature who's excellent with directions?
What do Alligators call artistic Turkeys?
Poultry in motion.
|08_EbonscaleReach_Body_05_02||Two Alligators walk into a settlement bar. One orders and says, "I would like a water... but it CANNOT have ice in it."|
The barkeep asks, "Why the big clause?"
The Alligator replies, "I don't know, I've had them my whole life!"
|08_EbonscaleReach_Body_05_03||What's the difference between a hiding leopard and a hiding tiger?|
A tiger can't be spotted.
What did the tiger tell her kids before dinner?
Let us prey.
Why was the tiger angry after the race?
Because the winner was a cheetah.
Why can you trust what a tiger says?
They ain't lion!
|08_EbonscaleReach_Body_05_04||What do you get with the eyes of a tiger, the paws of a monkey, the tail of an alligator, and the heart of a turkey?|
A lifetime ban from the Aeternum Zoo.
Note: Workshop on this one with Redridge, it'd be more effective if there actually was an Aeternum Zoo.
|08_EbonscaleReach_Body_06_01||Note from Long:|
The Dragon Shrines are now completed. Please refer to this note on their maintenance.
Nightly: Clean ash from incense offerings, respectfully distribute food and herbal offerings.
Weekly: A complete cleansing of the Shrine by dancing with incense. More notes to come on cleansing.
|08_EbonscaleReach_Body_06_02||Listen, Zhang. No one said your dancing had to be any good. You just need to dance with the incense to properly cleanse impurities from the Shrine. I don't care how stupid you think you look.|
I can tell if you do it without dancing, we all can! Suck it up and start moving those hips, this is for the safety and piety of our Empress!
|08_EbonscaleReach_Body_07_01||Corruption is a source of despicable evil, but how much do we really know about it? I know a Dynasty Corrupted Heavy could bring me down in one swing, but why are they so powerful? Does the Corruption affect muscle growth, or how hot the blood runs in combat?|
Also, what on earth is with that brimstone Corrupted smell? Can they smell each other? I can't imagine it's pleasant.
|08_EbonscaleReach_Body_07_02||Trees come to life on two legs, or so Artificer Long tells me. She calls them Dryads. I can't imagine she's right, though. With the rate trees are cut down and regrown on Aeternum, you'd think they'd all turn into screaming monsters seeking revenge on the lumberjacks of the land. So if they're not trees, and they're not people, what are they?|
|08_EbonscaleReach_Body_08_01||The elemental dragon shrines are my finest work yet! The Empress was most impressed, and offered me a place of honor to dine at her side tonight. That's a rare gift for a common-born woman like me. I will have to brush up on my table manners. As the final descendent of the Long family, I'd hate to embarrass my ancestors by using the wrong spoon.|
I wish Lian was here, she was always the graceful sister. Her death at sea was a huge loss for all of us.
|08_EbonscaleReach_Body_08_02||I can barely believe what I just saw. My hands shake as I write this.|
Our beloved Taiying Empress, the great dragon of our time, has become a monstrosity.
Gone is her legendary beauty, her face cracked with veins of red that oozed down her neck and arms. She held out a red orb that appeared to be some kind of pearl, and tried to do something terrible to me with it. I ran past the guards, out of her fortress, and I did not stop running until I reached the Skysong Lagoon. Whatever our Empress has dabbled in here, whatever terrible power now animates her, will destroy us all.
|08_EbonscaleReach_Body_08_03||I found a small gathering of settlers in Moss Mire, the leaders among them named Redridge and Danya. Redridge seems kind enough, but I highly doubt I can trust Danya to stick his neck out for anyone besides himself. I wonder what his true motive is in founding this small smattering of buildings we are calling a settlement.|
At least we are far enough from the Empress's forces that they won't come raiding us any time soon. We are in talks to construct a fort to the north for that very purpose, to fight off invaders. Until then, I will tell Redridge everything I know about our new common enemy. This knowledge is the only reason I don't regret serving under her for so long.
|08_EbonscaleReach_Body_08_04||The fort is finally complete. With the steady stream of castaways, we might even be able to put up a fight against Corruption invasions. |
Unfortunately, its completion also means those three factions will begin warring for control of the territory. I am not looking forward to that carnage. We should all be uniting against the Corruption, not fighting each other over petty land squabbles.
|08_EbonscaleReach_Body_09_01||Life at the Royal Menagerie is a good one. I feed the animals, watch them grow, clean up after their messes, but not once do they talk back to me like my children do. I have always preferred animals to people in that respect.|
In a few days time it will be Empress Zhou Taiying's coronation, and she has always been a great patron of the menagerie. I am proud to pledge my allegiance to this new Empress, and continue working this job until I pass and can bequeath the title to my ungrateful brats. Maybe one day they'll see why I like this job, and how it's preferable to any other number of court positions.
|08_EbonscaleReach_Body_09_02||When we were tossed over the side of the boat, the first thing that came to my mind were my animals. Not my Empress, not my children, but my animals. They are mine, or they were mine, moreso than they belonged to any noble who came to give the menagerie a curious glance. I spent every day with the animals, especially the monkeys, and the last thing I was able to do before a blow to the head knocked me unconscious was unlock the paddocks in the lower part of the ship.|
I washed up on shore a few days ago, and I met with the main forces that survived, but there's no sign of the animals. I can only hope they fled inland, and are able to make a better home of this land than we have.
|08_EbonscaleReach_Body_10_01||Magistrate Redridge - No outstanding balances.|
Survivalist Hopkins - Copy of The Epic of Gilgamesh lent.
Artificer Long - Three units of classics owed, when will she get back to me?
Trader Xian - Still obsessed with Commentaries of Zuo, I almost can't bring myself to take it away.
Commander Hartford - Still refuses to speak to me after the Bear Incident.
Alchemist Lane - All favors paid off, steady requests for poetry about fishing.
Adjudicator Wen - No outstanding balances.
Barkeep Bao - The rotten git won't return Tristan and Iseult. Deny all his building requests.
It is in your best interest to return my copy of Tristan and Iseult.
It would sure be a shame if your request for a new expansion to the bar got denied. Or if it burned down.
All the best,
|08_EbonscaleReach_Body_11_01||From the library of Chang's fishing scrolls:|
Should you ever see a spout of water emerge from the sea of Ebonscale Reach, know you have seen the Aquanaja. This rotund, flesh-like serpent dwarfs all other serpents, for it is at least the length of a galleon. It shoots spouts of water out into the air for reasons unknown. Perhaps it is playing, toying with onlookers? Either way I dream of capturing it one day, and feeding the settlement with its bounty.
|08_EbonscaleReach_Body_11_02||From the library of Chang's fishing scrolls:|
The people of Ebonscale Reach have been through so much. Flooding, starvation, a mad Empress breathing down the backs of their necks...
I just want to make things easier for them. I once had a dream, a dream that there could be a grand competition between fisher folk whose results would determine prizes. The fish collected during this tournament would go towards feeding the settlement in the end, and it would be a great chance to get the fishers of Aeternum together.
The last time I tried establishing one, though, the Empress sent her guards down upon me and I was killed most brutally. One day, one day...
|08_EbonscaleReach_Body_12_01||The Empress met with a strange man today, one hooded and reeking of death. The floods have taken a great deal from us all, most notably in the Empress’ spirits, but I warned her right away this man was not to be trusted.|
Still they had a meeting in her palace, my treasured ruler ignoring my counsel.
When the two emerged from their meeting the stink of death was on my Empress too, and no matter how many times I bathed her it would not come off.
I asked her what the man offered, to which she replied: “Everything we lost.”
I asked her what she was to give in return and she paused before whispering: “Everything we are to gain.”
|08_EbonscaleReach_Body_12_02||We are to receive a special guest today. It is unlike my auspicious Empress to be so full of nerves. Her usual grace holds us all together as a court as we are reminded by our shining example of how we are to conduct ourselves. |
This guest is referred to in whispers as The Tempest, and the other servants say she leaves scarlet death in her path. If the Taiying Empress is to make a deal with her, I fear she will lose herself even more than she already has in her flight to Aeternum and all the troubles that came with it.
But I cannot say this. She has becoming increasingly unreachable, pulling away from even myself as The Tempest draws nearer. Each day brings new violence in her heart, and all I can do is pray this Tempest does not besmirch my lady’s mind further.