Monstrous Compendium Ch1 bit – Politics

“The next ten years are critical.” Stheno kept her voice steady, even when she wanted to weep. “Karrnath must be distracted before their undead army grows enough to threaten Aundair. For now, their necromancers only use the bodies the Karrnathi give them. Once the warmongers around the court unleash those hordes, and gain even a city’s worth of corpses to add to them….”

“So? Let the humans war with each other again.” Euryale shrugged. “It will only profit us.”

“It will not.” Stheno clenched her fists, claws digging at skin. “The paths have not changed! If Karrnath wins, the undead hordes come for us next. If Breland is the victor, the battle with us weakens them so Cyran survivors fracture the nation, and the Mournland spreads. If Aundair triumphs, they will tear Flamekeep from its foundations, and the demons prisoned there will bring darkness to us all. And if Thrane wins – the Church of the Silver Flame spreads, and is corrupted, and comes for us. We need another way!”

Euryale let out a hissing breath. “And you think these humans will be your unseen path? Sister….”

“If you find another alternative, tell me.” Crystal chimed in the sleeve of her dress, signaling that a player approached Stheno’s Cave. “I must do what I can.”

“Tread carefully, sister.” Euryale stepped away. “I am not the only Lord who doubts Beniryuu.”

Elegant as a steel blade, she stalked out of sight.

Stheno sighed, and found her comfortable carved-boulder chair. Took the crystalline diadem from her sleeve, and settled it on her brow. “Link start!”

She opened her eyes to another garden, and listened.

“They didn’t read it?” An unfamiliar young woman’s voice, incredulous and accusing.

“Everyone was nerved up for the boss fight.” Kirito’s reply was quiet, and maybe a little rueful. “Ten pages. You need to break it into smaller chunks.”

“Shorter’s always harder than longer, Ki-bou. I can’t believe they didn’t read it!”

“They did. After the boss fight.” From the echoes, Kirito had paused in the tunnel exit. “Stay here. And don’t make any sudden moves. The cockatrices aren’t aggressive, but the chicks are curious.”



25 thoughts on “Monstrous Compendium Ch1 bit – Politics

    1. From whom?

      He’s leaving Argo outside of the danger range while he gets permission from Stheno, or asks her to come out. He and Stheno are going to explain things to Argo and get permission before Stheno does anything.

      At a minimum, Argo needs this source of lore.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Oh this is going to be fun. If this works out, Stheno has a direct link into the greater player community.

    I suspect that there are some limitations that Beniryuu set in place as part of the agreement but I can see Argo getting all kinds of info from this.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Of course the downside to all this is that when Stheno is found out to be a ‘real person’ by the players the reaction is going to be even worse.

        Because this is an individual that has been helping them as I suspect the ‘background info’ will lead to a lot of useful materials, spells and quests. They will come to rely on her and her information as time goes on.

        So when the truth breaks, very messy for both sides. After all, I doubt she’s going to feel that good about manipulating/tricking children like this.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. And just what the rat will learn from the encounter-from what will be spoken and what will be left unsaid.
    After all Kirito isn’t the only observant and clever one.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Mm, I’d tread cautiously if I were Stheno. On the one hand, this is an excellent opportunity to talk to the players. On the other… well, if anyone will beat Kirito to figuring out that she’s more than an AI, it’ll be Argo and, well, that will make her look like she’s in league with Kayaba… which, to be fair, she is. She may have been mislead about some ‘minor technicalities’ such as the risks, and the types of recruits she’s be getting and what Kayaba considers to be consent, but she still thinks this was a necessary idea, if not necessarily a good one. People are not going to be happy when they find that out
    Also, has Stheno figured out that Kayaba is actually killing people when they lose the game? She doesn’t seem like the type to be okay with that to me… not to mention the potential fallout if the other youkai lords find out about that. While I don’t think they’d be horribly broken up about that, especially for the players that are actually of age, someone’s going to get their fur/feathers ruffled when they figure out children are dying for this, deliberately. (Or at least capitalize on this wonderful opportunity to make Stheno look bad)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Stheno probably has not figured out exactly what is going on in the player facing portion of events. See previous snippet where she raises concerns about players being unwilling. Some of the rest of why this approach is a problem would be harder to guess, because it would be based on elements of a society that should be very alien to her.

      Exactly how alien societies in D&D settings are varies due to differences between tables. Some groups project more of the assumptions of non-violent first world cultures onto them than others. See below link for a recent argument I’ve seen for an alien historical culture being alien.

      There are a lot of historical alien societies and some modern alien societies that might serve better as models for dungeons and dragons societies than modern nonviolent first world cultures.

      Here, I think Stheno’s society should definitely be pretty alien. Note the discussion about human armies involving spearmen. 1800s Japan should have more in common with those human societies than 2000s Japan. Euryale’s expectations of humans come from those human societies, which have a shared history with the sisters’ society. 2022 Japan does not.

      Stheno probably carries some assumptions about adoption between cultures. Humans from societies that she is used to, who become Youkai sever their old connections to their previous society, and form new ones to Stheno’s. (This may be assumption on my part.) It is unclear what the modern Japanese will assume.

      There are reasons for Beniryuu to pick Japan, but it would be amusing if that specific choice backfires.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Stheno’s main worry is that setting stuff up the way Beniryuu has, he’s effectively made the whole game a curse with no escape clause. That’s the kind of thing that tends to draw serious divine attention. Which can get messy.

        Also, Kirito got to her personally, because he reminds her of someone she adopted, many years ago.

        (And yes, Beniryuu slanted the quest to try and pick someone like that.)

        At this point neither side knows how much they don’t know. But it’s likely Beniryuu planned to give Aincrad a win in the worst way – as in, create another faction inside the nation when they need unity the most….

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I like this comment, but my first thought after reading it? That it’s based on the assumption the any of the Yokai Lords would care about the deaths of human children.

      For alien perspectives and cultures Satoyama makes some good points. Beyond that though, it sounds like what Stheno foresees – and has informed a fractious Council of Yokai Lords of – is a future that results in massive planar incursion by the Daelkyr, demons, or both in the long term and in most cases the genocide of the Yokai in the (relatively) short term.

      Some of the dead are children, but not only does the concept of child vary from culture to culture, but the dead are of a race that has been primarily responsible for the loss of land and lives amongst the Yokai. Modern cultures have been a lot more callous towards each other over less, and we all at the very least share a species.

      While I think whether or not Stheno knows about the deaths is a good question, I agree that she also feels like the sort to regret the circumstance but accept the sacrifice. Sort of like how Hammond hates what happened but recognizes SGC don’t have any options but to use what Kayaba gave them in Waking to Another Sky. Even then, I’m actually not certain how much Stheno actually cares about humans. She may be the type to come to care for individual examples that she personally knows, but as a whole I wouldn’t blame her for having roughly the same regard for Humanity as her sister.

      Point is, some amongst the Yokai Lords may be horrified by the deaths of human children, but if Euryale is anything to go by I doubt any amongst Stheno’s rivals would actually find much in the way of political capital by bringing it up.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I meant to say something about ‘statesman facing an existential threat’, but forgot. Also, recently I’ve seen someone use an extremely wrong definition of ‘existential threat’, but am not sure where.

        Armies of spearmen has implications for agriculture and for security from wild animals. It implies that a lot of population is tied up in doing agriculture in ways hazardous to life and limb. Some, if not all, of these cultivated areas will have large wild animals. So, there is going to be a certain assumed cost of business in young human lives for the human societies.

        (Even ignoring the questions of infant mortality and family sizes.)

        Modern Japan is not like that. Kirito at fourteen is not even like the American fourteen year olds who volunteered and fought in WWI, who are on the same side of those very significant societal changes. Sure, Stheno is going to have some mystical reasons not to like what is going on. But even the Eberron humans will to need to be mentally flexible and stretch themselves to realize all the ways that Beniryuu transgressed against the norms of the original player culture.

        Liked by 2 people

    3. They actually have other options to consider than just “in league with Kayaba.” After all, most online games have admins – and if they got trapped too….

      Stheno is very much not okay with the killing – she’s more of a “leave me alone, I leave you alone” type. Other youkai lords… eh. Most of the players are actually older than what they’d consider “children”. (Silica probably still counts.)

      Liked by 1 person

    4. That’s assuming that the dying players aren’t being considered as a ritual sacrifice to further anchor the players. For something like this to work it needs an awesome amount of power, and like it or not, mystically death energies are powerful. And oh, wouldn’t that put a new spin on the red players?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Kayaba/Beniryuu may be in on that, but he/they need killin’. If the Youkai lords signed on for that, they need killin’ too. I don’t think Vathara is trying to write a story of the Youkai lords needing killin’, so until I hear otherwise I am going to assume that they don’t know, and haven’t signed on for that.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. In most medieval cultures, a teenager is a sort of provisional adult. You probably started your trade training at anywhere from seven to ten years old, and are now a journeyman who can do business under a master. Or you are a squire or midshipman, in pretty much the same position. Society restricts your contract-making until you are no longer young and stupid (21, 25, or your mastery), but you can certainly fight and die legally for your country.

    So it would be more like youkai lords exploiting twenty-year-olds rather than children.

    Liked by 2 people

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