Exalted: In A Mirror Darkly
The episode begins with the people of Arroyo called together by Barson, the town’s headman. In the last few weeks, several gruesome murders have been committed upon the people Arroyo, and he believes the culprit to be an Eidolon. Eidolons are shape changing monsters native to the Vaise region. Barson wishes to use some of the town’s coffers to hire a Black Rose Knight. The Knights are an order of female Eidolon slayers, known for their ferocity in battle. They aren’t cheap, but the alternative is to allow more lives to be claimed. Caldus, son of the former headman Anston, objects to the idea. He says that Arroyo should handle this ‘Eidolon’ problem themselves. This is to be expected of Caldus, not because he’s particularly brave, but he covets Barson’s position for himself, and exploits any opportunity to weaken the old man politically. Caldus’ supporters are still in the minority, but growing. However, after hearing testimony from Ghost of the Forest, Spear of the East, and Ku Pulu, the townspeople are convinced, and Barson sends a letter to the Black Rose Order.
Kiara, a young Black Rose Knight, is camping in the woods. In the dead of night, her Agent arrives with new marching orders. The farming town of Arroyo has reported an Eidolon. She is the closest, so she’s to go exterminate it. The Agent, Owl, notices Kiara’s reaction to the name of the town.
“Is something wrong? You seem like you recognize the name of this town.”, Owl asks. Kiara tells him that she grew up there.
“Is that going to be a problem? I can request another Knight if you like…” Kiara replies that it won’t be a problem.
“Good. A Knight doesn’t need a past. She just needs to follow orders.”
Three days later, the Black Rose Knight that Barson sent for arrives in town. Liao Tsien recognizes her as Kiara, his childhood friend. Kiara doesn’t receive a warm reception from the rest of the town, however. Many remember why she was banished in the first place, her suspected connection to the Eidolon that killed her father, and the suspicion that she was one herself. Then there was the strange business of how Anston, the old headman, died in his sleep the very night he ran her out of town. Now she’s back in town, and an Eidolon is killing people. Despite any feelings of guilt the people of Arroyo may have felt in the intervening years, their fear and suspicion over the new deaths leads them to be cautious, if not outright hostile to the Black Rose Knight. A gang of local thugs, led by a drunken Caldus, attempt to pick a fight with Kiara outside the Liao Inn. Liao resolves the conflict by turning to another new arrival, the self-styled mercenary Garland, and asks him to intervene. Garland does so with a flying kick to Caldus’ head, taking the consciousness from him, and the fight from his friends. He’s rewarded for his trouble with free beer.
As she prepares to begin her investigation into the Eidolon, Kiara explains to her gathered friends that an Eidolon can take the form of a human it kills. More than it’s form, it mimicry of the slain person is so complete that some have theorized an Eidolon traps the soul of it’s prey, and cloaks itself in that soul like a shroud. In it’s ‘demonic form’, an Eidolon is no more than a savage beast, but while wearing the form of one of it’s human victims it emulates the memories, personality, and drives of that person. Black Rose Knights have the ability to sense the Eidolon’s energy, although doing so is far more difficult when the Eidolon is wearing a human form. Conversely, they are much harder to kill when in their demonic form. The best course of action for any Black Rose Knight is to discover what form the Eidolon has taken, and kill it before it can fully convert to it’s stronger demonic form.
In an attempt to assist Kiara in her search, Ku Pulu consults with Gnaritas, a local god of lore worshipped by the Ona. Gnaritas confesses to having little knowledge of the more recent world, but recalls the presence of Eidolons in the region stretching as far back as the Contagion. He can say with confidence that no one knows the source of the Eidolon menace, and that they seem otherworldly, as if not bound to the rules of Creation. While that would seem to suggest a creature of the Wyld, Gnaritas assures Ku Pulu it is not so, further saying, “The Eidolon is a creature who does not obey the rules of this world. But it does obey a set of rules. We simply do not know of them.”
Back in town, Liao Tsien is calling upon his training in the Arts of the Dead to try to find a contradiction. He hopes to see the soul of a person walking the Underworld who is not yet known to be dead, thus revealing the Eidolon. He makes several discoveries, quite by accident.
First, the portion of the Underworld that corresponds to Arroyo is part of a sprawling metropolis of the dead, rather than farmland. The dead from multiple ages of history seem to reside in this city. What this could portend, he does not know.
Second, he sees the form of a little girl, her ghostly form torn to shreds. Her clothes seem to suggest she died recently. He cannot make out her face, but suspects she is one of the children of Arroyo. Since no children have been reported dead, he thinks this to be what he was looking for.
Lastly, he sees the former headman of Arroyo, Anston, walking the streets. This would be as expected, if not for the fact that Anston’s ghost appears as though it was badly wounded before it’s death. Everyone in town knows that Anston died quietly, in his sleep. The whole town came out and viewed the body. He was unmarked, even as they buried him. Initially, this discovery casts some suspicion on Kiara, since Anston died the very night he personally exiled Kiara from town. However, Kiara knew nothing of his death until she returned to Arroyo.
Following up on this potential lead, Liao Tsien, the brothers Aldeus and Danilus, and Kiara travel to Anston’s grave, thinking he might be their Eidolon. The dirt around the grave is undisturbed, and soft green grass grows over it. They exhume Anton’s coffin, hoping to solve the riddle of his wounds. They find the lid of the coffin shattered from within, but also note that this must have happened many years ago.
Returning to town confused, Kiara hears a scream in the distance. She runs to find the Eidolon, in full demon form, devouring one of the townspeople. With the assistance of her friends, she attacks the Eidolon. Outnumbered and sluggish from eating, the Eidolon attempts to flee, but is eventually cut down. Liao Tsien collects a sample of the Eidolons liquefying corpse, hoping to devise some alchemical defense against the beasts in the future.
Ku Pulu also collects a vial of the black substance, and in thanks to Gnaritas for his assistance with this matter, attempts to bring it to the God as a token of appreciation. He is surprised when Gnaritas rebuffs him for this gift, and commands him to take it away. Typically, any such tribute would be met with favor. For whatever reason, Gnaritas seems to find any dealings with the Eidolon very distasteful.
Barson thanks Kiara for her assistance, and arrangements for payment to the Order are made. Owl returns and informs Kiara that no further jobs have come up, so she is free to do as she wishes for the time being, so long as she continues to train. In the days that follow, the body of a young girl, Leiza, is found in the woods, the final, hidden victim of the Eidolon.
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