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A warm, dusty wind swept across the sun baked soil as the setting sun burned with orange-gold light. Wearing leather strapped bits of armor and a strange goggle mask set, to conceal his idetntity, Alyx watched as the heavily armored man cut down yet another two Ala Mhigan resistance fighters. The mission was supposed to be simple, recon the Garlean formation moving from the interior towards Baelar's wall, report back with numbers and logistics, including the supply train. Playing the part of a nameless strong arm had been easy for Alyx, as the resistance was hungry for recruits, particularly highlanders, as it was believed their loyalties would lay firmly with liberating their homeland.Thus far, Alyx had been on a dozen or so small sorties and recon missions while he was off searching occupied Ala Mhigo for hints of a Monk Soul Stone. Each time he had paid a visit, he had come home not only empty handed, but less any useful information regarding his true goal. Never the less, anything done to weaken the Garleans could be chalked up as time well spent, so he never felt his trips were a complete wash.The armored killer swept away the bodies of the resistance fighters with his unusual sword. It was massive, and looked like the curve of the blade faced the wrong direction, almost like an over-sized scythe blade with a hilt. Pulling the two large hand blades free, Alyx felt a well of shame at allowing his two pseudo comrades' lives to be wasted so emptily. "Yes... come to me, ye blade of grass, and be cut down like thine allies. Today is the day of your reckoning." His voice like gravel in a steel drum, hollow and grating. Without a reply, Alyx blitzed forward with a powerful shoulder strike to knock the armored knight back. Instead of the satisfying feeling of crashing into armor and stunning his opponent, it felt as though he ran full into a wall of unyielding ice. The knight, clad dark armor of unrecognizable make laughed and swept his blade over Alyx's midsection.Meeting the massive sword at the last moment, Alyx deflected the blow with his blades only to have one ripped free of his hands by the forward hook of the sword. The knight wasted no time hitting Alyx with a kick to the abdomen, causing him do stagger backward and then hit him with a blast of dark energy. Finding himself suddenly aerial, Alyx barely had time to roll before hitting the ground and skidding to a dusty halt. Coughing and wracked with pain, he took a cleansing breath and focused is Qi. Almost immediately he caught a second wind and scrambled to his feet only to find the knight arcing downward towards him with a massive chop. Alyx leaped backward and the hooked sword cleaved deeply into the earth, chunks of dried soil exploding outward.Wrenching the sword free of the wounded earth, the knight rumbled. "Ye be a slipper mite, but time is not on your side. Submit now and thy end shall be quick." Alyx stood still, his thoughts a blur as he realized this was not a typical Garlean, his life could be snuffed out if he did not take this being seriously. In a bid to buy himself a few precious moments, he asked. "Who are you?". A empty, mirthless laugh greeted him as the knight acquiesced to the request, holding his blade at the ready. "Ye have the pleasure of dying at the hands of the Smoke Jaguar. Let us conclude this contest with its inevitable end, parasite." While the dark being spoke, within his body, Alyx concentrated on several key aspects of his Qi, opening the first chakra gate, following it with the second and third in the short time he was allowed. Aether surged through his body, reinforcing his skin, swelling his muscles and speeding his aether enriched blood's flow. It was rare for Alyx to require so much Qi to overpower a foe, however, the feel of this knight's attacks were still immediate in his mind, and demanded high reprisal.Speeding forward on enhanced feet, Alyx moved with uncanny agility as the knight swung his evil looking sword to force a change in Alyx's approach. Side stepping the angular chop of the sword, Alyx's blade rang like bell as it moved to push the large sword, preventing it from being quickly turned for a sweeping strike. Caught off guard by the defensive minded attack, the knight had to sweep the sword free of Alyx's blade, creating an opening just wide enough for Alyx to strike true with his naked fist. The knights jaw was like granite, but his head snapped back as expected allowing Alyx to continue his assault with a powerful series of kicks and punches to soft points in the armor. Reeling, the knight staggered backward and swept the blade wildly, causing the aether enhanced monk to dance quickly out of the way. Rage burned in the eyes of Smoke Jaguar as he bellowed a haunting warcry. Sickly crimson aether poured out from his body, some flitting around his body, the rest staining the earth a brackish red. Thinking to press the advantage, Alyx rushed forward again to strike at the knight only to find his Qi being syphoned as he stood on the aether scorched ground.Pain shot up Alyx's legs at the same time his Qi was being sapped, slowing him enough that the dark knight's next attack nearly clove him in twain. Instead, ducking low and raising his remaining blade, the hook of the sword sank deep in Alyx's left shoulder, driving him to his knees, his blade falling listlessly away. A wicked grin of satisfaction split Smoke Jaguar's features as he held is prey down on its knees. "Though he have sting, gnat, ye still be but an insect to such as myself. Perish now, and begone." The knight's voice was laced with contempt as he applied killing pressure sword, seeking to tear the monk open from the top down.For a moment, all was white with pain as the sword sought to push through Alyx's broken collar bone and begin is descent through his ribs. Cold ice filling is soul, Alyx knew that he had less than a moment to live. Opening the fourth chakra gate, aether redoubled its rush into his body and despite the ripping pain, Alyx's hands rose to clap on the blade, lifting it upward as a gout of blood rushed out of the suddenly vacated shoulder. A bellow of frustration broke free of the knight as Alyx's enhanced strength held the blade high as he then kicked the sword free with a furious dragon kick. Throwing himself bodily into the blood soaked monk, the knight sought to take him to the ground. Unable to stop the assault due to his injuries, Alyx sought to turn the hook of the sword as the toppled to the ground. A sick groan followed by a crash as the knight found himself run through the chest by his own sword, landing atop the wounded monk.A look of shock on Smoke Jaguar's face as Alyx breathed a sigh of pain filled relief. Not even a being as dangerous as this knight could survive being run through so completely. But before Alyx could push the knight off his battered body, a resurgent look of unholy hatred wracked the knights face, his dead should-be dead limbs suddenly finding purchase round Alyx's naked throat, choking him of life. Stunned beyond belief at this wicked twist of fate, Alyx barely had the wherewithal to summon the willpower to open his fifth and final chakra gate. Fist pounded at the sides of the knight, but he seemed oblivious to the potent strikes. Though Aether surged within him like never before, for Alyx had never been required to open the Fifth gate outisde of training, the edges of his vision began to darken as his body was robbed of necessary oxygen. At this point there was but one recourse left to Alyx, a technique he had never tried, but read about from the journal of his former master. Focusing all the remaining Chakra he had to a singular point, in the palm of his hands, he opened the forbidden chakra gates in his palms and pushed every single bit of his well of aether outward. A beam of unmitigated power exploded outward, completely disintegrating the lower portion of the knight. Completely spent, Alyx's body fell limp as the knight continued to choke the man, despite losing the lower half of his body. Suddenly, inexplicably, the knight froze in place, a hollow "No...." escaping his lips as what remained of his body also fell limp, dead.Hour later, Alyx awoke weakly. The stench of death filling his nostrils, he laid for a time struggling to find the energy to get up. Eventually, he pushed the body of his opponent off, and fought to sit up. The knight seemed to somehow already be in some form of advanced decay, which scared Alyx into thinking he may have been here for far too long, and perhaps dead himself, but a quick inspection of his body revealed the deep wound in his shoulder was still oozing blood. The sun had set, however, and Alyx needed to get back to the Resistance base if he wanted any hope of survival. As he rose to his feet, something caught his eye... a small, dark stone, unnaturally dark, seemed to almost spark on the ground little spits of shadow. Not sure what to make of it, but remembering something he had seen a month or so back, Alyx scooped the stone up with a pouch and tied it away. Whats more, something about the armor caught his eye, and Alyx found himself field stripping off the breastplate and tethering it into something he could strap across his back to carry home. Lastly, he picked up the wicked looking sword and hefted it over his shoulder. If he made it back, and for some reason, he was fully confident he would do so, this would make a mighty trophy. Under the starry sky, Alyx began his walk home, neglecting the fact he was leaving behind the bodies of his allies.
The report is written in flowing, graceful penmanship, and seems to be summed up as much as possible.
"Before the mission started, I sent Dayiir and Sophiane on missions of information gathering, to which Dayiir produced maps of the layout from raiders, and Sophiane gave insight to what we might face. Lockheart disappeared after the mission was given, and so I was unable to direct her to do any preparation. Upon the day of the excursion, we gathered outside of the library, and Lockheart took point into the library. Inside, we fought a multitude of smaller creatures, voidsent, I believe, and throughout our mission we gathered various tomes to bring back. We encountered three major threats. The first was a building sized book, with two arms and a head. During this fight, myself, Dayiir and Lockheart sustained minor injuries, all of which were healed by Sophiane. The second was a large voidsent, heavily muscled and with large horns, that would periodically retreat into a large book for protection. During this fight, I sustained a minor injury, but Lockheart was impaled upon one of the horns, though she recovered via healing. The final creature was a large cabinet with legs, arms and a face. This fight was especially interesting due to the fact that it would summon voidsent to aid it. None of us sustained injury during this fight, and we recovered a particularly interesting item from within the fallen foe.
In Summation, the performance of each participant can be gauged thusly: Sophiane performed wonderfully, with no issues whatsoever. Dayiir proved his worth, though he second guessed commands throughout the entirety of the mission. Lockheart did her duty, though her reservation beforehand and her apparent injuries hint to me that she did not have her mind fully set to the task, though this is speculation, of course.
Here follows a list or items recovered:
Over The Horizon, two books on Garlean Hierarchy, a diary on Lady Amandine (Of Haukke Manor fame), and a book that radiates dark feeling, and seems to be on some topic pertaining to voidsent (This has been relinquished into Kataani's care). Over The Horizon is in the Arbiter's possession, and the rest have been placed in appropriate places within the Vault.
I've been mulling over the necessity of this post for the last few days. It's no great secret that there have been a couple of removals recently, and while the individuals themselves were of no great consequence (no one should have that kind of power over us), it has come to my attention that the circumstances surrounding those removals may have left some people uneasy. Nobody should feel uncomfortable or at-risk, so let's drag this elephant out into the middle of the room, carve it up, and sell its parts on the black market as aphrodisiacs.
1. Getting Kicked from the Company
We don't kick people at random. If someone has been kicked, they've either a. been offline long enough that we needed to clean house or b. did something in violation of our rules. You might not always be aware of the circumstances surrounding a removal; sometimes they are the result of private investigations and confidential leadership discussions. Just because your friend seems kosher to you doesn't mean we haven't been dealing with a whole lot of bullshit from them between other parties.
We also don't have to warn people prior to their removal. They are entitled to an explanation as to why they were removed; they're not entitled to a grace period to cause further grief or drama before receiving that explanation.
We respect the privacy of our members, even those who we ultimately choose to part ways with. That being said, in those cases where individuals feel obligated to take their disagreement with our decision into the open, we will discuss the facts that led to our decision honestly and objectively. Ultimately however, we prefer to cut ties professionally and - to the best of our ability - amicably. In even the most heated of disagreements, our expectation is that members and officers both will refrain from personal attacks, slandering, or shit-stirring with regards to any of these individuals.
2. Are You Regarded as Replaceable?
During a recent incident, a member was called out by an officer as being 'replaceable'. While the officer in question has since acknowledged their fault and I have made it clear that I disagree with the message delivery, I won't pussyfoot around this: the message itself was true. That being said, it was true in the case of that individual. Now from a certain perspective sure, everyone is replaceable. I consider that a healthy thing; after all, if the company were so intrinsically tied to any singular person - myself included - that would not bode well for the inevitable attrition that affects all gaming groups.
Speaking from a place of greater empathy however, of course we don't regard our membership as replaceable. We value what people bring to the table and recognize that the strength of our company is as much in the engagement and creativity of our members as it is in the strength of our concept or leadership.
But not everyone who joins the company is as equally a part of it as others. For some, scheduling conflicts prevent them from engaging to the same degree as others, and that's perfectly fine. If you're still happy to be here and putting in what effort you can with what time you have, we're still happy to have you. For others, it might seem that we are little more than a backdrop. Engagement - if it even exists - may be limited to inconsequential encounters. This, too, is perfectly fine, if that is what makes you happy!
But as our rules make clear, activity is paramount and no one should expect to reap any more than they sow. So if someone is completely disengaged with us, but then decides to openly disagree with FC decisions or outright derides or belittles officers or other members? You can damn well bet they are replaceable.
3. Do We Blacklist / Force Retcons?
Blacklists are, by their definition, extreme. They are ultimatums. They are not happy things, and they are not enacted lightly. A blacklist limits the potential pool of roleplayers and, by extension, the scope of roleplay the Eldritch Collective can possibly engage in. This is in many ways at odds with our desire to promote organic, free-flowing roleplay. The fact that we even have to entertain one makes me sick to my stomach.
Whether someone is forcibly removed from the Collective or leaves of their own volition, we do not enact - nor do we expect - blacklisting. This is not a 'default'. I don't care if someone was the worst dramallama this side of Idyllshire. So long as there is respect for our story - past, present, and future - that story remains.
What we do not tolerate however is abuse of our story. If someone chooses to "rewrite history" in a way that changes the way our characters interacted, if someone chooses to metagame information gleaned from their time in the Collective, if someone continues to disregard the nature of consequence in roleplay for the sole purpose of 'egging us on', or any other such misuse of the time they spent with us, they are at risk to be blacklisted.
To date we have blacklisted a whole two individuals. In the event that we feel an individual does need to be blacklisted, we may reach out to them to discuss the issue ahead of time, but we are not beholden to do so.
Basically, I don't really care if someone thinks we're the worst group of people OOCly. So long as they don't fuck with our story, we're cool.
4. Our Social Atmosphere
The last thing I want to address is our social atmosphere. Not because it needs to be addressed, but because I feel that the most recent removals could have been wholly avoided had certain individuals been honest with themselves about the circumstances they found themselves in.
So let's talk a little bit about who we are, and who we aren't:
We are a bunch of gamers with a mutual interest in (villainous) roleplay. We're opinionated, elitist assholes who aren't afraid to call bullshit RP when we see it. We're adults with responsibilities to school, work, or family above all else. Some of us are prone to drinking. Some of us are prone to off-color humor. Some of us like to stay on the sidelines and engage only in thoughtful discussion about lore. Some of us post drawings of abhorrent Lovecraftian dickbeasts. We're human. We're beautifully diverse. We respect and celebrate that diversity, and yes, sometimes poke fun at it.
We are not therapists. We are not nuns. We are not beholden to some moralistic ideal that we can never make a joke at the expense of another, that we should avoid 'triggers', that we should sanitize ourselves for the sake of anothers' sensibilities. That isn't license for everyone to go around being complete unrelenting assholes - we still have expectations of decorum and respect. We do have clear rules about personal attacks and using some specific offensive terms, and of course hate speech or derogatory remarks will not be abided. But if drunken behavior on a late Friday night irks someone, or every off-color remark sets someone off, we're probably just not the right environment for them.
And that's okay. We know that we're not going to be right for everyone, and we don't hold any grudges against those individuals. But you need to be responsible for yourself. If you don't like what you're seeing/hearing, remove yourself from the situation or take it up privately and respectfully with the person in question, and escalate to an officer or myself if the issue persists. But don't fault us for being ourselves, and don't suffer quietly only to blow up one day because you somehow expected us to be anything other than ourselves.