Filling in for this week’s Analogue Ruins

Hey, readers and listeners dear! I’ve needed to take a reality check on my bold claims from the 25th.

I’ve been trying to overcome my difficulties with drawing and visual art for a while now. Yesterday I stirred up some passion and went all in to complete a piece… which, as it turns out, meant that after crashing for the night, I was too fatigued to do this week’s Analogue Ruins.

I’m starting to get a pretty clear idea why most episodic stories have things like “seasons” and “multiple writers” and “doing the work in advance.” But I’m an indie creator, I work with the conditions I’ve got, you know how it goes.

So, if you’ve been looking to get into Analogue Ruins, now’s a great time to start listening! You’ve got a week to catch up. Each episode’s about 30-40 minutes, you can get through seven of ’em pretty quick, and Episode 7 marks the first big plot climax, so you’ll be looking at a very bearable cliffhanger in the meantime instead of the agonizing one I dropped at the end of Episode 6. You can find the complete Episode list here:

If you haven’t seen the post, please take a look at my Recitations in both English and Vulshiir, as well as the comprehensive document I’ve shared detailing how Vulshiir works–the demonic language of my species, the Carag. My Recitations are both a glimpse into what Lambent Way mysticism looks like at the personal level, and into Graesh Saelvur’s specific form of Carag philosophy.

As for that art I was working on? Have a look! It’s less polished than my best, but I still like how it feels and I’m really happy with the designs. These are all for my Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous tabletop PC, Cavanna Amelis. I also did a retrospective on her in a Twitter thread, which was supposed to be my warm-up for Analogue Ruins, but which will instead be my only writing today. A lot easier to write new words encapsulating old material than come up with new, yes?

So, here’s Cavanna’s first design from back in April. This remains my current best, and you might just recognize it from the side-panels of this blog’s background!

Cavanna as she first appeared the day she arrived in Kenabres: an armored, collected, if inexperienced paladin of Iomedae.

And here are the designs from yesterday–the ones that ate up all the energy I was going to use for Analogue Ruins, heh.

Cavanna’s up-to-date appearance. Embracing her abyssal heritage has made her A: chaotic evil, B: A Tiefling, C: Much happier and more affectionate.
Cavanna’s planned, eventual succubus form. I actually drew this one first, then edited and adjusted it to create her Tiefling appearance, which is why that image has cell-shading and this one doesn’t.

Now, if Cav interests you–I hope so, she’s one of my favorite OCs–here’s that retrospective I mentioned. We just finished the first campaign book in Wrath of the Righteous, so she has her mythic powers, and this felt like the perfect time to take a look back on how Cavanna got where she is. Enjoy!

***

Cavanna Amelis was born to a merchant couple. Her father Navin sold cutlery, tools, grooming supplies, and knicknacks. Her mother Liocal ran a bakery.

Out of the same building.

She grew up seeing how the resulting chaos undermined her parents’ success in their trade. She told herself that was the reason she gravitated towards order and discipline. She told herself that was why she joined the Order of the Thrice-Mendicant Sword, a religious order sworn to the service of Iomedae the Inheritor: to make something of herself. To find purpose.

In truth, at the age of 15, she listened to a bard singing at the Faster’s Flagon, the inn nearest her family’s home. The bard sang about the valor of Iomedae’s paladins, those righteous heroes with their shining swords, striving to hold back the horrors of the Worldwound from overrunning all Golarion. Small wonder that, her own self-knowing distorted by her need for rebellion against her parents, Cavanna attributed the stirring in her heart to the idea of the paladins, and not to the song itself–or indeed, the one who sang it.

So for six years she swore off worldly things, sealed away in halls full of chanting and the clash of arms. Every day, gritting her teeth, snarling, gouging herself for her failures whenever she was alone in her room, Cavanna pushed herself to the limits of body and spirit in pursuit of martial skill and the self-discipline needed to uphold the Affirmations of Iomedae.

The completion of her training coincided closely with the festival of Armasse. First, the trainees were ordered to stop by a medical ward in Mendev, where Cavanna was, to put it lightly, shaken by the appalling injuries and sicknesses the wounded received from demons. This witnessing, this inflicted vigil of helpless horror, was meant to ‘temper them, as a sword is tempered in scathing oil.’

Cavanna, torn between grisly fascination and utter horror, would call her emotions many things in retrospect, but she’d never say that the experience strengthened her. Witnessing such suffering was acutely disempowering.

From that charnel house for flesh and hope, they marched to Kenabres, fighting skirmishes with bandits along the way in which Cavanna fought on foot with her greatsword. While a longsword would’ve been the proper companion for a paladin of Iomedae, she was allowed this one leeway for its battlefield utility.

In the end, while she witnessed killing, she drew no blood. Her sole opponent fled and was shot down by archers after refusing to halt.

Then, Kenabres, Armasse… and a reunion in the fortress-inn known as the Defender’s Heart. In that castle-sized tumult of clanking tankards, bold songs, and raucous laughter, she met with a childhood friend, Ritsuki Kuromiya, whose father ran the smithy nearest the Amelis store.

When he set off for the open road, a few months before Cavanna consigned herself to the Order of the Thrice-Mendicant Sword, Ritsuki was an awkward young man and Cavanna was a gangly mess of a girl torn between what amounted to two different personalities: on one side, the sprightly maiden who sprang for joy at all life’s little pleasures. On the other, a serious, rigidly-controlled follower of Iomedae whose frowns increasingly eclipsed the maiden’s smiles.

When they reunited at the Defender’s Heart, Ritsuki was an experienced wandering swordsman with a rather compelling air of mystery, and Cavanna was a grown woman with a woman’s curves padding the tone muscle under her splint mail, and a soft beauty wholly at odds with her status as a paladin.

Three new companions joined them:
Fyerah, a red-headed priestess of Calistria with a whip as deft as her tongue.
Belagrimm, a towering half-orc.
And Emiko, an odd, childlike kitsune in a kimono so old, ragged, and filthy it could hardly be said to exist at all.

These friends–three soon-to-be, one found anew–were the beings Cavanna would stand beside during the debacle at Armasse, when the forces of the Abyss invaded the city and shattered much of its surface.

A fall into the tunnels below changed much of Cavanna’s perspective.She found that her tendency to take center stage made her something of an effective leader in the chaos immediately after the collapse. She enjoyed battle well enough–perhaps a little too well, though, or in the wrong way, turning raging and feral upon a kill. And other patterns, wholly unbecoming of Iomedae and her Affirmations, began to emerge.

A negotiation with the merchant Horgus Gwerm brought out the silken-tongued manipulator in Cavanna.

And in a dream at a reconsecrated shrine that night, Cavanna experienced, well… omens.

First, she saw herself again on that night in the Faster’s Flagon six years prior. Listening to the bard sing of Iomedae’s paladins, inspiring her to valor.

Again, she watched the bard finish her last song, stand, accept her applause and her coin, and depart into the night. Yet in the dream the door remained open, and Cavanna stood to follow the bard, and when she passed from the Flagon’s door, she was wearing the bard’s clothing and carried her instruments. She walked off humming. Into the night.

Into the second half of her dream.

She moved in heated shadow, sensing many others around her but seeing none. Though she saw only darkness, though she sensed deadly plummets to all sides, her steps were sure. She knew her way, and followed it with ease born of the deepest instinct. She spread her wings, she flew, and on raw thoughtless impulse, gave herself to unions in the dark that could only be called carnal.

Then she walked into something unexpected: something hard and faintly chill. The skies tore open, illuminating the craggy realm around her. A vast sword of Iomedae loomed before her, sundering the rocks.

For the instant before she was obliterated by a scalding column of golden radiance, Cavanna saw horns upon the reflection in its flats.

The next morning, she confided in Ritsuki–about about her realization that the path of a bard was her true calling, and, after she could no longer bear the guilt of the lie she attempted to tell, about the terrible message of the dream’s second half.

Ritsuki reassured her, also uttering certain fateful words: “You’re not going to turn into a- a- demon just because you found your true calling wasn’t with the church.”

After a little more talking, Cavanna calmed, and vowed to be, rather than a paladin, a bard of Iomedae.

The next day saw their fight to escape the caverns and return to the surface of Kenabres. Cavanna’s commitments were further tested. She took advantage of her bardic magic–which had come to her with astonishing swiftness, as though dormant all along–to madden a foe’s mind. And here Cavanna found that warping the perceptions of others thrilled her in the deepest, most instinctive way. That it was fun to sever the ties between their perceptions and reality.

Then, as if a sign, one of the weapons they recovered was the sacred sword Radiance: a relic-longsword of Iomedae itself that awakened at Cavanna’s touch, glowing and enlarging to become the weapon she trained to wield: a greatsword, and bane of demons.

Surely, to revere it for its power was simply to revere Iomedae herself?

Emerging to the surface was like leaving some strange mirror-realm behind. Cavanna walked once more among beings of the waking world, and vowed again to stand strong by her oaths, and to sing the Affirmations.

This lasted about as long as a confrontation with the Lord Inquisitor who replaced the Prelate Holrun after a champion among visitors from another world–a “Not-Angel” as his companions insisted on calling him–cut down Holrun in fury over his persecution of Tieflings.

As for the Inquisitor? Cavanna and her companions encountered him inside the estate of her uncle, Orven Amelis, who Cavanna knew of, but had never met. The bard turned her impassioned tongue to the crusaders alongside him, calling them to remember the true enemy.

Affected deeply by her words, they left. The Lord Inquisitor turned also to go.
“Fyerah,” Cavanna said at the last second, as a hungry light entered her eyes. “Be a dear and get the door, would you?”

As soon as it was shut, the bard set her companions on the Inquisitor.

Fyerah and Emiko tore him apart with special fury, enough so that Cavanna opted to stand back and let them take out their rage on his increasingly-savaged carcass.

After that, she spoke with her uncle, and began to internalize exactly what it meant that one of her blood relatives was a Tiefling. Orven revealed something especially telling: while he favored the devil side of their lineage, the Amelis family also had demonic heritage.

Of course, this retelling omits many things: the various powers, traumas, and personal histories of Cavanna’s companions. Many other moments they shared together along the way, moments which stoked Cavanna’s passion for life and for her companions, moments which reinforced or tested her increasingly-desperate attempts to remain true to the worship of Iomedae.

But it’s enough to set the stage for the final confrontation. After confessing her love to Ritsuki and, with him, having sex for the first time. After a last preparatory battle. The final confrontation to decide the fate of Kenabres: the siege of the Grey Garrison.

A scene on the razor’s edge between victory and disaster: on one side of the chamber where a Wardstone shard stood in its cage, Ritsuki held the key needed to render the shard inert and end the demonic threat to Kenabres. On the other, Emiko lay bleeding and motionless at the feet of a babau, a fearsome demon of the abyss.

And to her longbow, Cavanna Amelis nocked an arrow found just minutes earlier, one wrought to slay creatures just such as this, and whispered a simple, fervent prayer:

“Iomedae, if ever you favor me, favor me now!”

She loosed a single steadying breath, and a heartbeat later, loosed the arrow too. It soared fast and hard. It flew past the babau, several feet above its head, and clattered uselessly off the far wall. In that moment, the last of Cavanna Amelis’s faith died.

Then Ritsuki touched the key to the Wardstone shard. It shattered, unleashing strange visions and bathing the companions in a tide of power that awoke new, mythic power within them.

When five more babaus entered the chamber, Cavanna singled out one in particular to play with, lacing its front with gashes, chiding it for the “insult” it offered by refusing to fall dead, and making a special show of finishing it off: Cutting its legs off at the knees. Severing both its hands. Driving Radiance into its belly right to the hilt. She came to straddle the dying demon, and the spasm of its death-throes brushed against her thighs. It was, all told, an ecstatic moment.

Radiance immediately rejected her, losing its glow and shrinking: from the greatsword it had become for her hand, back to the longsword form it took in isolation.

Cavanna scoffed, mocking it, asserting that “Your days of purpose are over, pet.”

Exhausted and having no interest in playing to the public, the companions escaped back to Orven’s estate.

That night, her companions experienced some rather unasked-for dreams of gratitude from Iomedae. Cavanna dreamed simply of walking free in dark halls, of soaring on night winds.

She woke the next morning, eased out of bed with a self-indulgent sigh, and when she caught her reflection in the mirror, Cavanna Amelis burst into tears of joy.

Her humanity discarded, her abyssal heritage embraced, she was reborn a Tiefling.

Now, 22 years old, Cavanna Amelis faces the true start of her life’s great adventure. What, exactly, will she become?

Shedding her virtue has, surely, made Cavanna evil. She’s selfish, impulsive, she relishes the discomfort she causes strangers, and oh, yes~… she’s violent.

Yet she’s also capable of great tenderness to her companions. Whether or not what she feels for them is love in the conventional sense, it leads to the same affection, the same protectiveness, the same desire to see their needs met. Does the difference really matter?

So, shedding the ways of paladins entirely, Cavanna gives her whole being to the song of the Abyss: a bard of dark dreams, of joyous hedonism, and of course, of lust. Turns out, the only thing that ever angered her about chaos was that she felt left out.

Feels good to be home.

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