Welcome to the Runeam Great Library Pre-cataclysm Wing.

Your access-privileges have been verified, but protocol requires us to remind you that no material may be taken from a Library Wing strongbox until sufficient copies have been made and relocated to secure storage in at least two continents.

RE: Historical Reconstruction from Asinor Excavation
From: The Dragon
To: Pre-Aether Plane Divergence (PPD) translators and historians

Situation: Enclosed you will find documents recovered from our team of excavators and Field Keepers on assignment in Asinor Island. While recovering artifacts from the unnamed civilization that was once on Asinor, researchers have tagged this content as particularly noteworthy. It was delivered back to Runeam at great expense for preservation and translation. Carbon dating and geologic evidence estimate that these documents were created nearly 1,400 years prior to the Twenty Year Winter. My initial review agrees with the site director’s determination that these documents may provide an important, anchoring touchstone to connect pre-cataclysm evidence with the appropriate cultural subtext.

The documents below appear to be written in a complex cipher. The information appears to be a redacted collection of information for diplomatic work. To quote the site director, “Dragon, the team continues to find infrastructure that suggests a society that was a robust police state with controls in place to the flow of information similar to modern Ajas-style state censorship. Because of this, I must encourage your team to take the information in these documents with a grain of salt until we can find independent verification of the more fantastic claims. However, I find it difficult to contain my excitement about the possibility that we have uncovered the well-preserved vaults of a state-run intelligence agency. If true, it may take several generations to parse through and process what we have found.”

Objective: Copy all documents as is until at least three copies exist in the Great Library and one exists in secure storage outside the continent. Once this is achieved, translate the ciphers, and document all possible connections with references we have elsewhere in the library. Do not editorialize. The time will come to write theses about how this information fits into our greater understanding of history, but I will not have that done until a complete picture has been translated and best efforts have been made to understand the whole of the information. If I get wind of any clever scholar scampering off with a document early, the response will be quick and unambiguous.

[Introduction, this portion was handwritten and unencrypted while everything else is in an encrypted typeset unless annotated otherwise] Keyes, I must grow out of the habit of calling you “rookie” moving forward. I’m very proud of your assignment. We really put our necks on the line for you, and you delivered beautifully. To help you in your new role, I’ve talked to the folks down in “Collections” and we have a good system up and running now. We can get you a briefing on damned near anyone as long as you keep your nose out of politics in the island. Keep your head on a swivel out there, and don’t trust anything outside what we can give you. We want you to come home alive and in one piece. Do you part and don’t put me in any weird situations because you couldn’t keep this stuff in your head.

Eat this note after reading.

Love,
Barton


Name: Einar Zeleméri
Hair: Blonde
Eyes: Blue
Age: Early 40’s (estimate)
Aether-Sensitivity: Unknown- Suspected but unconfirmed
Einar Zeleméri may also be referred to as Einar Zeleméri the 24th, Guard Captain, or Sir Zeleméri. The naming conventions of the Aldsan tribes are opaque at best, and the diplomatic corps recommends you address tribal delegates as Sir or Madam until the proper title has been established through conversation. The titles may change from conversation to conversation depending on the relative ranks of those within earshot. The intelligence corps hypothesizes that the complex naming and title conventions serves as a catch-all “challenge” system to organically root out non-native spies. The corps asks that you support our efforts to decode this cultural barrier by taking special note of the tribe members address each other. A breach of decorum will be ignored because Aldsans do not expect outsiders to get the nuance correct.
The Aldsan tribal confederacy- officially known as the “Sürgeesee Khöögdsön” in their internal documents [a handwritten note in the margin states “Translation unknown”]- have migrated seasonally between the old Toor forests and the Arid Shore since a coalition of eastern nations scorched the western trade republics and confined the Whisper incursion to the Shilen Desert.
Our earliest record of Einar had him listed as a named guard for an Aldsan diplomat that was sent to Oddyn to trade gold for salt seven years ago. To quote the intelligence agent report, “The soldiers were under obvious instructions to limit their conversations with the Oddyn merchants to the barest topics of security and inventory. The acting captain, Einar ‘Zel’ Zeleméri wore traditional Western-style armor while his subordinates favored eastern-style boiled leather with ceramic plates sewn below the outer layer. The captain has flowing gold locks and carries himself with the posture of a noble. The official Aldsan diplomat would often confer with the captain in private before and after meeting with the Oddyn delegation. The captain would take a break from his duties three to five times a day to meditate in the open. He would sit motionless for five to fifteen minutes before returning to his previous post. On the third day, an aether-sensitive observer was brought in to observe the ritual, but the observer was unable to confirm or deny any draw from the aether plane”
Asinor R&D has a standing request to capture a tribal aether-sensitive; however, we recommend seeking a softer target than Einar Zeleméri until we have a better understanding of how Aldsans draw from the aether plane and whether or not our countermeasures will work. NORTHCOM does not believe Aldsan could project power as far as the Asinor mainland, but there are too many unknowns about their strength and sophistication. The Aldsan chose to make their presence known less than a decade ago, and Asinor wishes to proceed with a policy of cautious, positive influence. The horde has shown little interest in normalizing relations with the Aldsan tribes, but their protectorates have shown a willingness to trade despite some embarrassing first contact gaffes. [A handwritten note in the margin states “Competency with firearms is confirmed.”]


Name: Neff
Hair: Violet
Eyes: Rust
Age: 39
Aether-Sensitivity: Confirmed. Space-time dilation specialization. She should be considered a middle to top tier aether user, but her range of abilities is significantly focused and honed.
Agent Neff is a fellow Asinor operative currently assigned to the Ministry of Commerce. Neff specializes in extraction and reconnaissance. She studied magic at the Chötgör Naval Academy and then at the Ezen Kaan Academy of Magic (under an assumed named). Unfortunately, Neff has been unable to successfully reproduce the foreign training with new pupils. CENTCOM abandoned the training program after an officer exchange program was negotiated with the Dur’tani National Security Council. [A handwritten note was erased in the margin, but the creases are legible under strong light. It states, “I pray you know what you are doing by requesting this information.”]
Most of Neff’s records are strongly redacted. I found some reports lacking several tell-tale signs of routing through the various federal agencies which suggests that they were routed directly to the Marshal’s staff. On the other hand, her routine reports and briefings to the Ministry of Commerce provide practical, in-depth analysis of foreign manufacturing. We should assume that Neff is wearing multiple hats in her current role.
Neff’s Fitness Report from her last year at the Naval Academy remains largely uncensored. “Midshipman 1st Class [Neff] has shown a lackadaisical attitude towards her battalion duties and pursues no extracurricular activities. Despite her high marks in the classrooms, the instructors complain that she is often argumentative or unfocused during lectures. On the other hand, Neff’s physics professors argue that she is successful when high expectations are put upon her. To be blunt, I cannot recommend an officer of her temperament to sea duty, but I will accommodate the Science Chair’s request and deny Midshipman Neff’s commission so that she may fill a critical staffing gap within Chötgör R&D.”


Name: Xin Yun
Hair: Gray (formally Black)
Eyes: Burnt Orange
Age: 71
Aether-Sensitivity: None
Xin Yun is the 6th Baatar (literally translated as “Hero” but the de facto translation is “Lord”) of the Zuini Horde from the Xin dynasty. Colloquially known as Yun the Ready or Yun the Saddleless, Xin Yun assumed the Opal Felts at the age of 31 when his father passed suddenly during Zuini adventures in the Western Hemisphere. The timing of this death could not have been more fortuitous for the Horde. The armies in the Western Hemisphere were recalled for a Kurultai- a gathering to “vote” for the next Baatar. The majority of the Zuini forces were wintering in the Nologchid Steppes for an uncontested Kurultai when the Whisper events decimated the Western nations, colonies, and crusader states. The Zuini Horde most likely would have collapsed due to overextension after the horse flu epidemic, but the combination of mild winters, a consolidated power base, a diversion of the other great powers to the disaster in the West, and the tireless guidance of Xin Yun allowed the Horde to emerge and expand as an international superpower and the largest existential threat to Asinor. All communication with the Zuini Hordes must be vetted through the NORTHCOM Commander. No exceptions.
Xin Yun’s reign has taken a more inward-facing focus in order to standardize the Zuini Great Law and continue the cultural assimilation of previously conquered peoples. While previous Zuini leaders preferred allotting semi-autonomous areas (such as the northern protectorates) as a source of tribute and manpower, Xin Yun clearly sees his time as Baatar as a pivot point for his people with a long-term goal of integration of all vassals and protectorates into the whole of his empire. The first two decades of his reign were marred by brutal infighting as the Horde transitioned from a cavalry based army into four specialized military branches capable of projecting power worldwide. This sequence of civil wars, Asinor historians call this period of unrest the “War of the Horsetail Banner,” left Xin Yun with a centralized government and an army of highly-trained regulars. NORTHCOM believes Xin Yun will continue to maneuver for a peaceful transfer of power over Il-Tahar, but the protectorates of Oddyn and Tesver will be controlled through ever tightening trading restrictions. The Baatar views the protectorates as adopted children that can be brought into the greater family of the People of the Horse via economic interdependence.
Xin Yun’s has many children and most are married into notable families throughout the protectorates. However, Xin Yun has only three named Jinongs (translates as “named prince”) that may legally be nominated as Xin Yun’s heir. Xin Yun is old but appears to be active and healthy. NORTHCOM currently has a “wait and see” policy regarding the Jinongs until it becomes clearer who is the favored heir.


Name: Xin Batu
Hair: Brown
Eyes: Brown
Age: 29
Aether-Sensitivity: Confirmed. Specialization in traditional Zuini arts and is often mistaken as simple shamanism. By design, it is difficult to appraise the magnitude of his abilities.
Xin Batu is a named Jinong of the Zuini Horde. He is the youngest child of Xin Yun’s second wife- an Oddyn noblewoman. Xin Batu was educated in Az Dugui as a special guest of the Monitor of Tsaazaar. [A handwritten note under this line states- “There may actually be blood-ties between the monitor and one of the many Xin dynasty offshoots, but SOUTHCOM cannot confirm the lineage. This connection should be noted as a risk for any dealings with Az Dugui.”] Xin Batu was sent here for training when he showed signs of aether-sensitivity at age 9. A concubine penned in a diary that Xin Yun regretted sending his son to a foreign mentor at such a young age because he was afraid of having a Jinong that the bondsmen would view as an outsider. Other observers believe that Batu was sent abroad to prevent him from becoming a hostage during the Zuini civiil wars. Batu remains unwed. Asinor observers believe that his father is grooming an Zuini bride from a distant family in order to help legitimize Batu as a member of the Opal Family.
A letter was intercepted from Xin Batu’s mother en route to a relative in Oddyn describes Batu as a studious boy who, if born into a normal family, would have preferred to become an ascetic monk instead of a royal leader. On the other hand, Xin Batu’s mother has three other children that were disinherited early in their lives because they were judged to be inadequate in strength, intellect, or temperament to be a leader of other men. Whatever traits Xin Batu may not have inherited from his willful father, the Horde clearly recognizes that he has the capability to inherit the role of his father if necessary. Observers concede that Batu has a grounded understanding of his capabilities and will seek guidance from experts. His decisions are thoughtful, and he has earned prestige leading a punitive raid into Lydie without casualties (on either side).
Xin Batu has no obvious vices or appetites that can be exploited. He is a devotee to the nomadic sky worship, but he supports the Zuini egalitarianism and will support bondsmen of any background as long as they remain loyal and useful. NORTHCOM hoped that this practice would simplify the process of implanting spies or observers among his council; however, the Zuini system of meritocracy makes it very difficult to turn someone once they’ve worked their way up the chain. It is advisable to focus efforts on lesser members of the Opal Family while we wait for our agents to advance through the ranks naturally.


Name: Xin Jaran
Hair: Black
Eyes: Crimson
Age: 35
Aether-Sensitivity: Confirmed, but limited. Specialization in detecting flow from the aether plane and limited regenerative ability.
Xin Jaran is the oldest named Jinong of the Zuini Horde. He is the oldest living child of Xin Yun’s first wife and the only pure-blooded Zuini Jinong. Traditionally, the title of Baatar passes from father to the youngest living heir because the youngest child has the most recent connection with the lifeblood of the parents. This does not preclude Jaran from having a strong claim to the Opal Felts. However, his marriage to a lesser noble from a Free City in the Ariun Commonwealth hints that Jaran was not originally considered a viable choice as heir. Jaran has three sons and a daughter that are currently being tutored by aether-sensitive ascetics.
Of all of the Jinongs, Xin Jaran had the most traditional upbringing. He tutored directly under his father and then served as a regular in the Zuini army before coming of age. After his marriage at age 18, he studied at an Ariun trade school where he earned a degree in mechanical engineering with a focus on fluid dynamics. Jaran returned to the Nologchid Steppes and earned a commission as a Marine officer. He quickly distinguished himself during the occupation and pacification of a rebellion in Shijilgee, Oddyn and further campaigns to annex territory from Lydie. Jaran’s current rank is Tumetu-iin Noyan (the most analogous Asinor rank equivalent is a colonel) with command of a unit of 10,000 free warriors. When addressing Jaran, it is appropriate to call him “Commander” as well as the standard honorifics of “Jinong” or “Lord.”
Jaran spent most of his life never assuming that he would one day be named a Jinong. Observers state that his ambitions focus more on military success, and he is often frustrated by the slower pace and compromises required by diplomacy. Jaran is the only Jinong that has permanent liaisons from the diplomatic corps assigned to his personal retinue. This was most likely a decision made by Xin Yun. NORTHCOM assumes that the next Baatar will be whoever Xin Jaran supports, but we also assume that he will support another Jinong in order to preserve stability in the realm. [An encrypted annotation at the bottom states, “Betting pools in Agra-Salai currently place Xin Jaran’s odds of succession near 17%. As strange as it may sound, these bookies are an excellent avenue to crowd-source enthusiasm for candidates throughout the world. I advise you to reference this data source frequently. Note, it is illegal for you to make a bet as this will compromise your objectivity and result in immediate termination.”]


Name: Xin Gan
Hair: Black
Eyes: Brown
Age: 22
Aether-Sensitivity: None.
Xin Gan is the youngest named Jinong of the Zuini Horde and the heir apparent by all measures. Xin Gan is the only child of Xin Yun’s fourth (and current) wife. Xin Yun has not made a formal declaration of any of the Jinongs as his choice for heir, but our analysts suspect that he has named Xin Gan as heir in private and has produced the necessary documents to be read near or immediately after the time of his death. The current Baatar’s reticence to name an heir is unusual. Historically, Baatars have had named successors throughout their reigns. The named heirs normally change over time as candidates rise and fall in prestige, but this has rarely lead to infighting or succession crises since the hordes united as a nation three hundred years ago. The popular belief is that there is some sort of masked discontent within the Opal Family, and the Baatar is withholding a public nomination until any dissent can be quelled. NORTHCOM suspects that Xin Yun is haunted by the decades lost to civil war early in his reign. Asinor war simulations projected at the time of Xin Yun’s succession that the Horde could have taken all land east of the Pearl Wall (including Asinor). The independence movements and power prompted by the horse flu squandered a chance for the nomads to expand southward and their strength is now divided between holding their northern gains and counteracting an uneasy coalition to the south and west. Ultimately, NORTHCOM anticipates Xin Gan will be named successor after he has fathered a child.
Xin Gan was recently married to a member of one of the leading families in the Tesver republic. Any offspring from this union will be eligible for election as Tesver Patrician. The Zuini Horde is clearly aiming for avenues to peacefully incorporate its northernmost protectorate and squeeze control of sea lanes of communication over Oddyn and Il-Tahar. Gan was elected [a handwritten annotation states “with a statistically impossible 98% of the vote”] as Inspector General for customs and tariffs which gives him considerable pull in the Tesver harbor front. NORTHCOM has earmarked significant funds to counteract Zuini intervention in future elections in the republic. Zuini diplomats typically bribe of stevedore bosses and community leaders, and it is anticipated that they will be utilized to support any of Xin Gan’s children as the next patrician.

Name: Süüder
Hair: Bald
Eyes: Olive
Age: Late 30’s or early 40’s
Aether-Sensitivity: Unconfirmed.
Süüder is the First Bondsman for the Xuin Baatar. This role nominally serves as a bodyguard for the Opal Family, but historically the First Bondsmen have served as diplomats, generals, spymasters, or a combination thereof depending on individual talent. A First Bondsman like Süüder is sworn to the Baatar- Xin Yun- and is forbidden from fathering children or inheriting land or titles. From what NORTHCOM has been able to determine, Süüder is a commoner who has worked his way up via merit. This is unusual because previous First Bondsmen were chosen from members of the Opal Family (currently the Xin Dynasty) in order to disinherit a potentially rising star who may eventually trigger a succession crisis. Asinor Intelligence suggests that Süüder was appointed because he is an incredibly competent and useful commander of troops, or there was no reason to appoint a member of the Xin family due to the distressingly low number of capable Jinongs. If true, this eliminates the need to “cull” the field of candidates.
Very little is known about Süüder’s career before his appointment. We do not know his family name, and he does not appear to have any relationships outside his professional connections with the Opal Family. As a commander, Süüder enjoyed incredible success crushing the vestiges of the War of the Horsetail Banner. He has a reputation as a demanding trainer of troops, and he is attributed with the development of the tactics and structure of the main body of the Xuini special forces. A report intercepted from an ordnance officer in a Lydie mountaineer division describes an encounter with Süüder’s unit:
“As we gave chase to a wounded scouting party, a separate Xuini detachment approached us by climbing the sheer cliffs on our left flank. They climbed the flat walls using a series of ropes that were hammered into the rock. The teams of four men and women each took turns to throw fire and other aether arts at our men while the other groups were busy climbing. Our lieutenant- our most powerful aether-sensitive- quickly realized that the cover in our high ground position was ineffective against this enemy assault, and he attempted to rally us to a better position to return fire. As he was giving the order, a Xuini marksman took the lieutenant’s head off with a single bullet. Our line broke at this point, and we suffered heavy losses as we conducted a disorderly retreat back into cover below the tree line. I suspect the Xuini force suffered trivial losses during this ambush.”

Name: Lai Meifang
Hair: Black
Eyes: Crimson
Age: 35
Aether-Sensitivity: None.
Doctor Lai is a leading researcher and fellow* at the Institute of Applied Medicine located in the moving city of Khuuli Züin. She received a Teneg Award for her work building aether-powered prosthetics- some of which she famously and controversially tested on her own body. The most recent NORTHCOM report states (unsatisfactorily) that “at least 35% of her body volume and 50% of her body mass” has been voluntarily replaced with machine parts. Based upon her own published research, her prosthetics give her enhanced strength and stamina; however, the equipment is heavy and requires incredible concentration and years of training to use. She is currently researching ways to make this equipment lighter and less taxing for potential patients.
Asinor Intelligence has confirmed that Meifang is the daughter of a concubine and the Baatar of the Zuini Horde. Like most Baatars, Xin Yun has sired several children by way of concubines.. These offspring are almost always denied legitimate status in the Xin dynasty. During the Zuini civil wars early in his reign, Xin Yun took pains to conceal the whereabouts or existence of many of his children. Lai Meifang was sent at a young age for a formal “sown-style” education in some of the highest ranked schools in the Ariun Commonwealth. She earned her doctorate in Biomedical Engineering at the Darja Institute of Technology for her contributions to create artificial limbs for mice. Meifang Lai used her own body as the primary test subject for human prostheses in a ham-fisted way to avoid ethical concerns. She was formally censured by nearly a dozen international science organizations immediately after she revealed that she had removed and replaced her right leg. Since then, successful operations have been performed to replace hands, hearts, and livers in humans. She is an avid advocate of science-without-borders [a handwritten note states, “Much to the annoyance of her relatives.”], and contributions from foreign engineers will continue to accelerate the development and international buy-in for her prosthesis technology. Chötgör researchers have invested considerable time and manpower to develop similar manufacturing capabilities in Asinor, but we do not anticipate widespread application (through official channels) within the next two decades.
Dr. Lai seems to have very few passions outside of her work. It is unclear if she requires food or sleep, and she spends most of her time developing (or defending) her projects. She is approachable, especially if you are perceived as an opportunity to support her research. We recommend that you approach her accompanied by a seasoned subject matter expert. Otherwise, Meifang will quickly grow bored of you and refuse any future attempts at contact.
*There are ample open source records worth reviewing from Ariun universities such as articles, essays, op-ed letters, peer-review papers, and patent applications. You are advised to search for them under the name “Meifang Lai.”


Name: Lai jian
Hair: Black
Eyes: Brown
Age: 35
Aether-Sensitivity: Confirmed. Specialization in time-aether optimization
Lai Jian (or “Jian Lai” as per Ariun Commonwealth records) is a child of the current Baatar of the Xin dynasty. Based upon his apparent age and surname, it is safe to assume that Jian is a fraternal twin to Lai Meifang. Since his birth, Asinor’s diplomatic corps has operated under the assumption that Jian is a non-legitimate bastard in the Opal Family. Recently, the Xin dynasty has produced several internal documents that state explicitly that Jian extends from the “seed of Xin.”
As Jian came of age, he was tutored as a warrior under the First Bondsman to the Baatar of the Xuini Horde. Süüder, the current First Bondsman, stated in an intercepted report, “Jian is a capable student that somehow continues to frustrate his instructors. There is an inexcusable conflict between his aptitude and attitude… Your bastard[Jian] picks up qualitative information easily but struggles to reconceptualize the lessons of our ancestors into actionable items for current events,”
Shortly after this report, an official decree was circulated among the leading members of the People of the Horse that officially disinherited Jian from any of the Opal Family titles or holdings. After this decree, Jian was enrolled in a secular school in Nar where he earned an unaccredited degrees in Labor Economics and Statistics. Political theorists generally divide into two schools of thought about the idiosyncrasies surrounding this decision:
One hypothesis argues that most of Xin Yun’s children were cleverly positioned/married to avoid succession crises amongst the People of the Horse. On the other hand, all of the Jinongs of the previous generation (including Xin Yun) were children of concubines. Many of these displaced or disillusioned sons eventually left Zuini land to adventure as mercenaries in the fertile southern lands or in the Western Hemisphere. Some of these sons returned to the Nologchid Steppes as pretenders during the War of the Horsetail Banner. Xin Yun once wrote to his wife, “In order to protect the People, I found myself dashing some of the finest brains of our age against rocks as if they were common criminals. The spirits will never forgive me for wasting such gifts, but I could find no other way.” I’m of the opinion that Xin Yun hopes to accelerate the modernization and reformation of his nation by investing significant treasure to educate his numerous children. They will build their own “mini-empires” by serving as administrative leaders in an increasingly centralizing government.
We expect Lai Jian to assume a high-level clerical role within the migrating city of Khuuli Züin. NORTHCOM has marked Lai Jian as a potential foreign asset, and steps have been taken to infiltrate the founding ranks of his staff. While he remains under the tutelage of Süüder, any contact with Lai Jian requires prior written approval of the NORTHCOM commander.

Name: “Chieftess”
Hair: Blonde
Eyes: Blue
Age: Indeterminable

This is the nominal leader of the confederation of Aldsan Tribes. She is referred to by the honorific “Chieftess” for all members inside and outside of the tribal society. To paraphrase a former ambassador, the Aldsans are insular at best and fanatically xenophobic at worst. Any interaction with the Chieftess should be documented immediately and as thoroughly as possible. The Chieftess herself is a rare combination of an elite aether-sensitive sorcerer and a powerful geomancer (one who has developed a covenant with the forces of nature). The mechanism through which this covenant draws power is not understood, and the leading theory in academic circles is that this covenant uses the Earth’s movement through the aether-plane as a conduit to manifest energy in our physical realm. This process was probably accidentally discovered by the Aldsan tribes who have a long tradition of nature worship and nature veneration. This trait is common among Aldsan tribespeople and appears to be a genetic trait independent to aether-sensitivity. [a note to the side states, “When meeting Aldsan Tribals, take care not to burn green wood or dump cooking oil too close to sources of water. These are taboo offenses to these tree lovers.”]

The Chieftess was first observed by outsiders forty years ago when circumstances forced her to join the coalition that defeated the Whisper Invasion. The Chieftess was one of the great mages who quarantined the remaining Whisper swarms inside the Shilen Desert. Surviving eyewitnesses report that the Chieftess is an extraordinarily strong magic user, but it is difficult to measure the extent of her abilities. Observers report that the Chieftess has not physically aged in the decades following the Whisper events. A captured Aldsan tribesmen stated that the Chieftess has been the leader of the Aldsan tribes for a dozen generations. At present, we have no reason to doubt this statement.
Personally, the Chieftess seems to share the closed-off defensiveness often associated with the Aldsan tribes. She may also give off impressions of impulsiveness or capriciousness at first glance, but keep in mind that she has the experience of several normal lifetimes. Our diplomatic corps reports that the Chieftess’ instincts are exceptionally sharp, and she will immediately (and vigorously) challenge most attempts at deception, half-truths, and white lies. Since we have not developed an understanding of her magical abilities, we advise that you approach the Chieftess with clear, actionable talking points as defined by NORTHCOM.

 


Name: Balen Frey
Hair: Brown
Eyes: Violet
Age: 39
Aether-Sensitivity: Confirmed. Specialization in Aether-suppression.
Balen Frey is a Witness of the Ariun Commonwealth. He is a native of the Darja principality- a voting member and current co-seat for the Ariun Diarchy. After the current archdukes (from Darja and Lydie) came to power, the “Marshalls of the Sejm” took deliberate steps to revitalize the holy order of Witnesses. At or about the time of the ducal coronation, the Witness crusader states in the Western Hemisphere were annihilated by the Whisper events. Surviving components limped back to the East in a disgraceful, shattered retreat. The Witnesses ended up seeking shelter in the Commonwealth and regained some legitimacy by serving as a neutral peacekeeping force among the principalities.
The holy order’s internal records are crippled by poor bookkeeping, so I recommend keeping a critical eye when reviewing reports from our informants on the inside. According to a recently declassified field report from one of our top agents in the Ariun Commonwealth, “Balen Frey appears to be a rising star from the wave of new recruits intended to supplant the leadership of the once masterless Witnesses. By all indications, Balen is free of the pathos associated with the survivors of the events in the West. We believe he was a serf who somehow earned an education in a state-sponsored academy of aether arts.” After nearly fifty rambling pages of observation, this same report goes on to name Balen Frey as the most dangerous man to Asinor interests in the Commonwealth.
Through hundreds of years of battlefield-experimentation in the Western Hemisphere, the Witnesses mastered techniques to fortify strength and vitality by focusing mental energy [a handwritten note in the margin states, “SOUTHCOM has a substantial standing bounty for any agent who can decrypt the techniques and achieve reproducible results”]. In addition to Balen’s enhanced strength and endurance, he enjoys a “freakish” resistance to aether arts. The sole survivor of a team of sixteen Asinor agents sent to abduct Balen Frey reported, “That man is a blackhole to aether. Everything we threw at him bounced of the surface of his skin as harmlessly as a leaf on a breeze.”
Based upon this data, Asinor recommends that you maintain a plausible distance from this Witness. The Witness organizational structure is frustratingly modular, and Balen’s position, while prestigious, is not high enough to influence the outcome of any potential conflict. On the contrary, the existence of someone like Balen Frey presents a liability that could compromise all SOUTHCOM operations. We recommend that you either avoid any overt contact with Balen Frey or underplay your hand as an Asinor diplomat.

Name: Anton Drago
Hair: Salt and Pepper
Eyes: Indigo
Age: 42
Aether-Sensitivity: None, but suspected surgical augmentation
Anton Drago ascended to the throne of Western Dur’tan at age 8 after his father, Victor Drago, died of an antibiotic-resistant infection obtained while recapturing crusader states in the Western Hemisphere. Anton’s mother ruled the western kingdom as regent for 10 years before passing the reins of the kingdom to her son without conflict. She is now officially enjoying her “retirement” in a villa in the island fortress city of Tsamkhag.
Twelve years ago, Anton crowned himself as the first emperor of the Holy Dur’tani Empire shortly after his marriage to the recently widowed Princess of Western Dur’tan, Marie De Ralse. After the death of the three remaining male heirs of the Ralse dynasty, Anton pressed his claim to the eastern throne and united the kingdoms. Dur’tani forces have adopted a policy of manifest destiny over all lands west of the Pearl Wall.
Asinor currently enjoys friendly relations with the Dur’tan Empire. We exchange and train officers in our respective military and magic academies, and NORTHCOM and the Dur’tani Security Council form the “Two Ears” of official, global intelligence sharing. The Marshal and Emperor Anton meet in person at least once a year. [A handwritten note to the side states, “Neither of us have clearance to know what is on the agendas of these meetings. Do NOT request again.”]
Emperor Anton was educated at the some of the finest military and trade academies in the world, and he has a particular interest in aerodynamics. Last year, the city state of Tal Chay offered a purely mechanical, lighter-than-air flying machine capable of lifting 200 kilograms in lieu of tribute. Shortly after, the emperor offered an undisclosed sum in exchange for the engineers that built the vessel. He also offered to forgive future demands of tributes for ten years if these engineers can teach eastern kingdom foundries to construct a machine capable of lifting “at least 500 kilograms and delivering within 100 meters of a target without the aid of aether-devices.” Whether or not Anton plans to honor this request is, of course, a matter of strong debate between NORTHCOM and SOUTHCOM.


Name: Marie De Ralse
Hair: Coral
Eyes: Jade
Age: 36
Aether-Sensitivity: Confirmed. Specialization in manipulating light.
Marie De Ralse is the last surviving member of the Ralse dynasty that has ruled the Eastern Dur’tan for seven generations. Shortly after her second marriage to (then) King Anton Drago of Western Dur’tan, her aether-sensitivity manifested and matured rapidly. She emerged as a preeminent aether user in several disciplines. Empress Marie has served as a battlefield mage, a governess during the annexation of Khataan, a dean at the Ezen Kaan Academy of Magic, and a custodian of the barrier currently quarantining the Shilen Desert. While Asinor does have photographs of Marie De Ralse from before her union with Emperor Anton, we choose to withhold them from public view to honor a request from our intelligence ally. The mask she wears mimics the style of meditation masks worn by Dur’tan military forces, but this mask is a source of a lot of chatter within our intelligence agencies (and also within our gossip magazines). Some speculate that Marie was maimed or disfigured when her aether sensitivity developed while others suspect that it may have a nostalgic connection with her previous husband and the departed soldiers that she served with through various campaigns. SOUTHCOM believes that Marie De Ralse is the unofficial last line of defense to protect the emperor, and she wears the mask to enhance her concentration because the royal couple faces a persistent threat of assassination.
Marie is intensely perceptive. Diplomats report that she can sense the heartbeat and other biometric responses of people within a certain distance of her. This makes her incredibly challenging to speak with since she has developed a nasty habit of asking a series of leading questions without waiting for the other person to respond. She can guess what the answer would be based upon how that person’s body responds. If approached, all diplomats (including you, my dear friend) are ordered to respectfully remove themselves from the Virgin Queen as soon as possible and ask her to direct any questions or pleasantries through official channels. Only those with specialized training are authorized to represent Asinor interests in the presence of Marie De Ralse.

Wzřpx tadfx ozwóc dtť áxpe, ly séňďřpcíť aóštozňtůx bft? Pí bft actxá trňzel rcáénz! Nú oftd ozwzř aóštozytfx gpw, ytms pftdxóo opxznctefx lo act, pwtec lweěřl sád pi. Éf pcód cpbfp éícxzď tfd, áfoílx ěwtrpyot ňpnpddteletmfd ty bft. Azcřz écczc astwzšzasíá yz ypn! Zmwtbfp eclnťlezš áogpřdlctúx éfx áe.

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Knřdl hortl cnkóq rhť álds, zm géňďřdqíť oóšhcnňhůl pth? Dí pth oqhlá hfňnsz fqáébn! Bú cthr cnknř oóšhcnmhtl udk, mhag dthrlóc cdlnbqhstl zc oqh, dkhsq zksěřz gár dw. Ét dqór qdptd éíqlnď htr, átcízl ěkhfdmch ňdbdrrhszshatr hm pth. Onqřn éqqnq oghknšnogíá mn mdb! Nakhptd sqzbťzsnš ácudřrzqhúl étl ás.

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Rhs gnléřn hňsdkkdfzl éw, uícé rtzuhszťd ptzkhrptě udk ám? Dt ghr káaóqé onrrhs. Uhw ts hlodďíť ezrťhchh. Udk rhltk nonqsdqd oqnďéršěs dz, nřzshn rěloěř sd uěk? Gzqtl mtlpůzl hmbhďdqhmť hď ptn? Vhrí edřqh zagnqqézňs lěz zs, szmsár ezbhkhrhr ůqazmhsár dz gzr?

Zď ghňb ólmhš kéfémcnr rdď, kzshmé dkéhedmc utkotszťd ňn púh! Bů nlňír qdfhnmě mnlhňzsh oqn, bnmftd zbbtrzl éwodsdňcír réc zc, uhl dz onoúkn pthczl. Odq ět cdkdňís káanqdr céťqzwhs, bt oqnan ďhrčdqé ldz. Uéqhsúr zšrdmshnq dw énr, zc púns bómsdmshnmdr lěz.

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Tkktl fřzdbé šéz ím. És ěůl onrrd můkkzl zšrdmshnq, ořn hc uhcdqdř ezbhkír. Dz ímrókdmš rhmfůkhr érs! Odq mn ékdhedmc enqéňrhaúr. Szshnm cdkhbzsz dw gzš, ldí sd ěqqnq htuáqds! Rěz eáčdsd lěňzmcqh áčbúšáltr hc, énr dw ěqřdl zbbúrzl zkhpúzmcn, hc onšrd cnlhmf réc. Dí uhr húchbn bóloqégěmrzl, bnlltmě lncdqáshtš bt mdb, hď uhw htrťn bkhsz hmťdkkdféazs!

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Cák yr éppck kmjcšrgyc, mklěqosc jěeělbmq cy npí! Búgq rgzgosě bcqcpsgqqc lyk gl, gl nysjm šcknép cqqclr ésk. Lmtúk ígqoúc cspíngbgq ťé gúq, cv šmléť qclqcřgr něp? Év lgzf hsšró kygcšryrgq fíq. Éšr íň dyagjgqgš rglagbslr oúyépclbsk, osg cppék yňgkáj cngasřěg ré!

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Yď fgňa óklgš jéeélbmq qcď, jyrglé cjégdclb tsjnsryťc ňm oúg! Aů mkňíq pcegmlě lmkgňyrg npm, amlesc yaasqyk évncrcňbíq qéb yb, tgk cy nmnújm osgbyk. Ncp ěs bcjcňír jázmpcq béťpyvgr, as npmzm ďgqčcpé kcy. Tépgrúq yšqclrgmp cv émq, yb oúmr aólrclrgmlcq kěy.

Oúg eřycam lsqosák yl, lěa qskkm cvnérclby amrgďíěoúc yb? Kcí gl gpgúpc sťyksp, fgq lc cšqc qycnc jympccť, gsbíam yjzsagsq aólajsqgmňékosc ěů kéy. Tcpm lmqrpůb kcí ňc, osgš éjmosclrgyk lm šéy! Cg oůí ůlsk amňqsj jsčgjgsq, kéy čs jgzcp tcprcpěk qnjclbgbc! Šcy sr ayqc ggqosc qclšcřgr. Ťc ďsm npíky fclbpcpíť, čů gňáňg eřycam bmaclďg émq, kslépé ncpagngťsp cs qcy.

Sjjsk eřycaé šéy íl. Ér ěůk nmqqc lůjjyk yšqclrgmp, nřm gb tgbcpcř dyagjíq. Cy ílqójclš qgleůjgq éqr! Ncp lm éjcgdclb dmpéňqgzúq. Ryrgml bcjgayry cv fyš, kcí rc ěppmp gstápcr! Qěy dáčcrc kěňylbpg áčaúšáksq gb, émq cv ěpřck yaaúqyk yjgoúylbm, gb nmšqc bmkgle qéb. Cí tgq gúbgam aóknpéfělqyk, amkkslě kmbcpárgsš as lca, gď tgv gsqťm ajgry glťcjjceézyr!

Ehřxf bilnf wheók lbť áfxm, tg aéňďřxkíť ióšbwhňbůf jnb? Xí jnb ikbfá bzňhmt zkáévh! Vú wnbl whehř ióšbwhgbnf oxe, gbua xnblfów wxfhvkbmnf tw ikb, xebmk teměřt aál xq. Én xkól kxjnx éíkfhď bnl, ánwítf ěebzxgwb ňxvxllbmtmbunl bg jnb. Ihkřh ékkhk iabehšhiaíá gh gxv! Huebjnx mktvťtmhš áwoxřltkbúf énf ám.

Xáf tm ékkxf fhexšmbtx, hfgěljnx eězěgwhl xt ikí! Wúbl mbubjně wxlxknbllx gtf bg, bg itneh šxfiék xllxgm énf. Ghoúf íbljúx xnkíibwbl ťé búl, xq šhgéť lxglxřbm iěk? Éq gbua cnšmó ftbxšmtmbl aíl. Éšm íň ytvbeblbš mbgvbwngm jútékxgwnf, jnb xkkéf tňbfáe xibvnřěb mé!

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Neenf zřtxvé šét íg. Ém ěůf ihllx gůeetf tšlxgmbhk, iřh bw obwxkxř ytvbeíl. Xt íglóexgš lbgzůebl élm! Ixk gh éexbyxgw yhkéňlbuúl. Mtmbhg wxebvtmt xq atš, fxí mx ěkkhk bnoákxm! Lět yáčxmx fěňtgwkb áčvúšáfnl bw, éhl xq ěkřxf tvvúltf tebjútgwh, bw ihšlx whfbgz léw. Xí obl búwbvh vófikéaěgltf, vhffngě fhwxkámbnš vn gxv, bď obq bnlťh vebmt bgťxeexzéutm!

Jůb xť gěfóké énbšfhw oboxgwh? Ětf fáeóknf ixkbvneíš bw. Ebuxk šteůmágwb xq oíq. Tťjní ytčbeíl hyyégwbm lxt tg? Ňh atl ťámbóg mbfxtf, tw obďx óiókmxám vhňvenďtmůkjůx xlm!