As The Mighty Nein head towards the Lucid Bastion to tell the Bright Queen what they’ve learned about the Dwendalian Empire’s plans for the war, we’re here to provide an update on what we know about the situation with the Empire, the Dynasty, and the person placing Abyssal Anchors. We’d also encourage you to take a look at some of our past articles in our What We Know About series as well as our relevant compiled quotation compendiums.
Empire’s War with Dynasty
We’ve talked at length about the history of the Dwendalian Empire and the Kryn Dynasty’s mistrust-turned-war with each other, so we won’t rehash all of that here. From Jester’s spells, we gained some new insight into what’s going on over on the Empire’s side, since the Nein haven’t been around since they left Felderwin 25 days ago.
We know that the Empire is continuing to call for the Clovis Concord’s aid to shore up their defenses both on the Menagerie Coast and in the Empire. Fjord spoke with a sailor on Bisaft Isle that mentioned they were being brought over to Nicodranas to help, and that trend has apparently continued since. The Empire has also brought in the Gold Chain Mercenary Company and are planning to call for more mercenaries. In his response to Jester’s Sending message, Luke mentioned that there were coastal folks as far inland as Alfield.
The Empire’s plan right now seems to be to increase their army size with all of these mercenaries so that they can hold against the Dynasty armies long enough to serve as a distraction for the real devastating force: The Scourgers.
The Scourgers are a colloquial name for royal assassins that work directly for the Crown. They’re so good at working from the shadows that most people know them only as legends and ghost stories, but thanks to Beau’s Natural 20, Caleb was able to make the connection between the Scourgers and his early training as a Vollstrecker. Trent Ikithon hand-picked Caleb and his friends Astrid and Eodwulf to be Scourgers, specifically executioners. Their training involved torturing and murdering supposed dissidents and traitors to the Empire.
While Caleb failed his final exam (murdering his parents based on a false memory Trent implanted of his parents speaking against the Empire), had a mental breakdown, and was sent to live in an asylum, it seems Astrid and Eodwulf succeeded. It’s entirely possible Astrid and Eodwulf will be among the Scourgers that King Dwendal ordered to be released during the upcoming battle, though we do not know their current location, orders, or if they’re even alive. We also don’t know if there are other Scourgers currently active in the world, or what their orders are.
Dynasty’s War with Empire
Again, we’ve talked at-length about the long-running mistrust between the Dwendalian Empire and the Kryn Dynasty, but the straw that broke the camel’s back in this particular case seems to have been the Cerberus Assembly’s theft of two Luxon Beacons. This deprived the Dynasty of not only two of their religious icons, but also major sources of power and rebirth of powerful citizens. The Bright Queen described the upcoming bloodshed as “retribution” for all the crimes of the Empire against Xhorhasian citizens. This desire of vengeance might prove to be a greater motivator for Xhorhasian soldiers than simply trying to maintain the status quo or earn a paycheck, as the Righteous Brand and the mercenary companies will be doing for the Empire.
Despite this potentially greater motivation, King Dwendal said that the Empire had larger numbers of soldiers. The Dynasty’s main advantage is the network of tunnels under Wildemount: they can pop up anywhere in the Empire at any time, as shown by the attack on Felderwin. Like the Empire, they’ve also been building war machines, courtesy of Professor Waccoh. We have yet to see any of these machines, so we don’t know if they’re on par with those being churned out by the gnomes and dwarves of Hupperdook. Production was delayed thanks to the giants’ attack on the mine and steelworks, but thanks to the Mighty Nein, they’ll be back on track soon.
The Blonde Guy and Torog
What we know from Scrying
In Jester’s first scry on the still unnamed blonde man, she noticed that he was wearing clothes that were of a higher quality than one might expect for someone his age, and now we know why: he is in some kind of official position in King Bertrand Dwendal’s court. He’s not high enough ranking to merit getting to wear one of the anti-scrying/tracking medallions like the ones worn by whoever walked by him and accidentally cancelled Jester’s scry. Caleb also has one of these medallions: he took it off of the person Trent Ikithon had assigned to keep an eye on him while he was in the asylum after he killed them.
The Empire controls the religious worship of its citizens very strictly, limiting their selection of deities to the Allhammer, Platinum Dragon, Matron of Ravens, Knowing Mistress, Lawbearer, and Dawnfather. Noticeably absent is the Crawling King, one of the Betrayer Gods. which makes the man’s reading and writing about him absolutely illegal, and would likely put his job in jeopardy if King Dwendal knew about it… assuming he isn’t in on it in the first place and skirting his own laws. However, the man in the scry took careful measures to hide his book on the King Who Crawls, and was visibly paranoid the entire time he had the book out. We’re inclined to think that his operation isn’t above board, even though the placement of the anchors seems to indicate he’s working for the Empire.
Torog, The Crawling King
The last time we heard anything about The Crawling King was in Siff Duthar’s laboratory under Zadash, though that information seemed to be restricted to his movements immediately before and during The Calamity. As Matt confirmed to Caleb and Fjord, Torog is the favored god of torturers, slavers, and jailers. He tends to be depicted as a large worm with a screaming human head and three arms burrowing through the many tunnels and caverns of the world. This depiction is definitely different from the worm shown in the mural on Urukayxl. During the Calamity, Torog was defeated by The Dawnfather and The Everlight, and his followers fled to the tunnels to escape their holy light.
From the few glances we’ve seen, the blonde man doesn’t seem to be the usual follower of Torog, so his use of the book may be limited to a means to learn how to make and improve his abyssal anchors. It’s certainly possible he’s been corrupted by his study of The Crawling King and the Abyss, but his actions thus far have certainly been more directed than chaotic Abyssal influence would seem to indicate.
Lythir VaSuun, the mage that the Nein fought on the border then spoke to in Asarius, pointed out that the anchors, while old technology, are in much too new condition to have been in place since the Calamity. They’re also not terribly well-made, as demonstrated by how easily they were rendered useless by Lythir and Nott. We don’t know exactly how long the Asarius anchor was in place. Umadon mentioned that he first started having dreams where he was visited by the demons about 2 weeks prior, but we don’t know how long an anchor has to be in place before a rift opens. According to the goblin Caduceus spoke to, the second anchor was placed 16 days before the Mighty Nein destroyed it. The giants attacked the steelworks about a week before the Nein arrived there, so there does appear to be some delay between placement and the opening of rifts.
Both anchors seemed to be strategically placed to disrupt activity within the Kryn Dynasty. The first appeared to be meant to sow chaos in the closest city to the front of the war, while the second resulted in the disruption of a key mine and steelworks, slowing Xhorhasian production of war machines. They also both seemed to open to entirely different locations within the Abyss and attract completely different demon types, so it doesn’t seem like there’s any coordination between the blonde man and the demonic forces invading the Material Plane. Without knowing more about how the anchors work, however, it’s difficult to say for sure.
We know that the Overcrow seems to be a front for some kind of illegal activity, likely a smuggling operation given the suude and residuum the Mighty Nein found. However, it doesn’t seem to have any particular significance to the Dynasty itself, other than being in the middle of its capital city. Like the position of the first anchor in Asarius, it’s in what seems to be a goblinoid area rather than near drow citizens. Given the general views of Imperial citizens towards goblinoids, it’s possible that the blonde man (and whoever he’s working with) thinks goblins will be more susceptible to Abyssal influence, and therefore more likely to cause problems for the Dynasty. If there is an anchor to be placed at the Overcrow, it is likely meant to sow chaos and suspicion in the very heart of the Kryn Dynasty.
The Mighty Nein’s Role
Of the “Empire Kids,” Beau seems to be less sure of her footing here than Caleb is. She wants to help him bring down the Cerberus Assembly and stop this war, but she is less comfortable giving the information they’ve learned to the Dynasty and picking a side. She also doesn’t quite know how much information to tell Dairon about what the Mighty Nein have done/are doing. Fjord managed to convince her to trust Dairon, but that conversation will need to wait until after the Nein have spoken with the Bright Queen. Dairon herself should be close to Rosohna, if she’s not there already.
Caduceus has mostly served as a voice of calm in the Mighty Nein’s deliberations about what to tell to whom. He’s pointed out that some things are too big for them to control, and that might include this war. Like most of the Nein, he has no real stake in the war: he just wants to find the Kiln.
Caleb, as we now know, was trained by Trent Ikithon to be a Scourger, along with his friends Astrid and Eodwulf. This training (and the trauma it caused) has given him a direct stake in this war, and he seems to be committing whole hog to the Dynasty in an effort to learn more about Dunamancy and eventually destroy the Cerberus Assembly. Given that the Scourgers will very soon be acting directly in the war, it’s entirely likely the Nein’s current path will put him on a collision course with his past.
Fjord doesn’t have any real stake in either the Empire or Dynasty that we’re aware of. He seems to be more concerned with Uk’utoa’s recent threats and punishment. The many-eyed serpent was quiet during the Mighty Nein’s downtime thus far, but who knows how patient he’ll be if Fjord continues to ignore his “request” to return to the coast and free him.
Like Fjord, Jester doesn’t have any real stake in either the Empire or the Dynasty. Her prime worries right now are getting back to Zadash to get that package from Cali and letter from the Soltryce Academy, and eventually getting back to the Menagerie Coast to see her mother. Thankfully, Caleb’s recently-transcribed Teleportation Circle spell means she can do that second thing fairly easily, though movement around Nicodranas might prove difficult, since the Clovis Concord is an ally of the Empire and there are occasionally Crownsguard within the city. Zadash gets trickier, especially since it seems the Nein are about to choose a side. If the information gets back to the Empire that the Nein are helping the Dynasty, it will be difficult for them to cross any border into the Empire, and Caleb doesn’t currently know any teleportation sigils within the Empire.
Nott’s biggest concerns right now are the safety and reunification of her son and husband. The Nein put a plan in motion to get Luke to Nicodranas via Shakastë, so all they really need is a free day to have Caleb teleport them all there after Luke arrives. From there, it’s unclear if Nott will want to remain with the Nein or with Luke and Yeza in Nicodranas. With the Nein appearing to choose the Dynasty over the Empire, and Yeza’s connections with the Cerberus Assembly, it seems unlikely that they’ll be able to safely return to their home (or at least, what’s left of it) in Felderwin anytime soon. There could still be some risk in Nicodranas, since the ruling Clovis Concord is friendly with the Empire and there are Crownsguard within the city, though it’s likely to be safer than the Empire itself.
Yasha’s only real concern right now seems to be continuing to avoid her tribe, which, if the Nein are about to get more involved in the war between the Dynasty and the Empire, shouldn’t be too much of a problem.