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Zepherai Thunderstorms (Planar / female air genasi / wizard 9 / Anarchists / NG)
As might be imagined by her name, so typical of those of her race, Zepherai's an air genasi. Now most cutters think of the genasi as physical beings not given much to philosophical debate, and for the most part, they're right. Zepherai herself ain't much of a thinker -- she'd be the first to point that out -- but as she says: "I know what I see, and I see what I know." You'd be forgiven if you thought she sounded a Signer, because that's also what she appears to be at first glance; she and Pristine of the Will of the One are two high-flying elemental-kin who've wormed their way high up in the Sign of One (there is a third, of course, but his is a story for another time).
Of course, it's never that simple. While Pristine's a legitimate Signer, at least according to most folk, Zepherai is really an anarchist. Contrary to most of the other mysterious sods, Zepherai really don't make much of a secret of it, yet nobody minds much, even the Hardheads! See, the anarchy she spreads doesn't actually harm the factions or the Cage at all...in fact, the Harmonium recognise that she's a valuable asset to have, just in case she's right.
But right about what? Well, I'll leave you wondering that just a few moments longer. It's important that we establish what she's doing in the Cage in the first place. Let's not run before we can walk, right?
Zepherai was born and raised on the Plane of Air, far from the hustle and thrust of the factions, the Blood War and even the Prime. Sure, the Elementals have their own brand of politics, but it's an Astral Plane away from "philosophy". There are elemental sneaks and traitors and liars with the best of them, but they're children compared with the double-handedness of the yugoloths, oh yes.
So when a smiling but injured yugoloth appeared near Zepherai's retreat in deepest Quasi-Elemental Lightning, who was she to turn the poor berk away? Believe it or not, Inner Planars haven't really heard about the rapaciousness of fiends, just as we Outer Planars know nothing of the complex social structure of elemental society. Think the earth elementals are just walking rocks? Better think again, clueless!
Zepherai won't say the name of this 'loth again (just in case), but from her description of the cutter it sounds like he's an ultroloth. So what in Hades was a 'loth as high up as that doing on Lightning? Interesting question, but Zepherai claims there's more. Of her circle of elemental friends, she ain't the only one to witness these beings on the Inner Planes. Apparently, a pech named Malachi reckons he's seen an ultroloth gathering silver in Mineral, and Friss-Frass, a water weird, saw a pair of them casting some spell in Salt.
Anyway, at the time, Zepherai thought little of it. The ultroloth seemed friendly enough, and the genasi tended the fiend's wounds -- apparently the Positive Plane engulfed the cutter and its radiant energies burned his flesh. However, just hours later, Zepherai's glass mansion was struck by a ferocious storm of ice lightning, and the ultroloth, in his weakened state, perished. Its corpse melted away, leaving only a small wand with a magical white crystal set into the end. Despite being tiny, it was incredibly heavy, and spitting electrical charge everywhere. Knowing that dying off your home plane does not necessarily mean death for many creatures, Zepherai kept hold of the item in case the ultroloth should return in a few decades to reclaim it.
He never got the chance.
Shortly after the fiend incident, Zepherai heard from a storm of lightning mephit friends that a great rift had opened up in the Lightning near the border with Positive. It was almost as if a great chunk of the plane had been ripped away...the plane was healing itself slowly, but the fabric of the plane and its border with the Ethereal seemed irreparably damaged, and a family of volts which had lived in the area were missing.
Convinced that this strange occurrence had something to do with the ultroloth, Zepherai sought confirmation from her sources. The wand, it turned out, was highly magical, and changed with the power of a thousand normal wands of lightning. The water weird and pech confirmed that great holes had appeared in their respective planes after their sightings of the fiends too.
Zepherai was worried. As any cutter knows, elemental-kin are rightly protective of their planes; the purity and sanctity of the elements is as important to them as Sigil is to us. Determined to learn why the yugoloths were apparently stealing chunks of the elements, Zepherai set off for the fabled Cage (for even the Inner Planars have heard of the Lady's ministrations) with her aerial servant and three invisible stalker guards to try and reason with the yugoloths and get them to stop their plot. (I never said Inner Planars weren't a little naive!)
Of course, it didn't take her long to realise that she'd sorely underestimated the might of the yugoloths and their important in the scheme of things. But then, she thought, so had most Cagers. See, Zepherai reckons it's a common misconception of cutters that the 'loths are just mercenaries and servants, the summoning stock of the Lower Planes, while the real movers and shakers amongst the fiends are the baatezu and tanar'ri.
It always happens -- ask the right questions, and the right answers will eventually come your way. But how does this occur? Chance? No! There are bashers who's job it is to direct the right people to the right places. Some of them are touts, but others take far less of an active role in things. It was one of these bloods that first put Zepherai in touch with like minds. The 'loths were a growing fear of certain circles of the Revolutionary League at the time, who had a hunch that something big was brewing, but lacked the evidence to prove it. Zepherai proved to be just that missing link. She joined the faction and gained allies and confidants, the Anarchists gained a visionary with the right darks, and the strength of convictions to follow them up. Zepherai is nothing if not headstrong.
The 'Loth Resistance
As Zepherai asked more questions about the 'loths, and gathered more answers, a terrifying picture began to form in her head: Everything led back to the 'loths. It was something that her cell of anarchists had suspected for a long time. Using faction money, the cell paid some high up mage on their books to analyse the wand, and were amazed to learn it was at least as powerful as an artifact, but wasn't more than a few months old!
The 'Loth Resistance, as they have come to be called, work to find the real extent of the yugoloths' powers and plots, strengths and weaknesses, territory and history. They make use of libraries and laboratories of many sympathisers from both inside and outside the faction, and even of other factions who're concerned about the possibility of yugoloth domination.
They've published several books and pamphlets, anonymously (though it ain't hard to guess who paid Harys Hatchis to distribute them). The best known of these is "Things You Never Even Knew You Didn't Know About The Yugoloths", which contained to following screams:
You Didn't Know About The Yugoloths
Ever wondered why the baatezu erinyes and tanar'ri succubus are so similar? Wonder no more, because we have proof that these creatures are actually one and the same; polymorphed yugoloth agents both! That's right, cutter, the same creature. In their true form they're called bioloths, look like giant leeches with humanoid hands and faces sticking from their slimy flesh, and their mission in the planes to gather up passion and list from mortal bashers. Why? Because yugoloths cannot feel love. They lost their emotions to the draining effect of the Grey Waste thousands of years ago, and crave any kind of feeling at all. Now they drink distilled pleasure of mortals as an expensive tonic, which the bioloths brew and sell for trapped souls!
Ever wondered why human women are weaker than human men, while drowish females are stronger than drow males? We have proof that the yugoloths have chosen one sex from every race from which they drain the strength at birth. This energy is then used to enhance the strength of yugoloth warriors and the intelligence of their high-ups. They need this energy because yugoloths rise in rank by shedding their skins and entering magical cocoons. We have seen them! They alternate the choice of sexes between different races to throw the scent off their foul doings!
Ever wondered why entropy occurs? Our Sinker friends are convincing in the argument that everything decays, but they do not understand why. We have proof that it is the yugoloths' doing -- they drain the energy from all things to expand in numbers, and this causes rusting and decay, weathering and erosion. They have already drained the Waste to dust, and now they are starting on Gehenna! Whenever a 'loth has a wicked thought, a mortal catches a disease! When the multiverse is turned to dust then they will be all-powerful!"
Ever wondered why there is so much grey in the multiverse? The colour grey is a 'loth plot! We have proof that the yugoloths are using the leaching effects of the Grey Waste (the centre of which is where their plot was hatched) to drain the colour from the whole multiverse and render it all evil! Grey is the true colour of evil -- the 'loths spread around that black was the colour of evil and we all fell for their screed! Beware grey objects, for the 'loths can use anything grey to see through or cast their spells from! We have proof!
They Are More Powerful Than You Think!
The leaflets caused a cross between amusement and panic when they were dumped on an unsuspecting Cage and splashed all over the centre pages of S.I.G.I.S. Primes were naturally terrified, but most planars laughed it all off as barmy screed. The wise ones, however, looked just that little bit worried...as implausible as it may sound, a real blood knows that on the planes, anything is possible, and doubly so when the 'loths are concerned. Shemeshka the Marauder's reaction is unrecorded, but A'kin shut up shop in protest at the anti-'loth bigotry that ensued for the following few weeks.
Criticism was levelled at the authors for scaremongering screamer tactics, but a follow-up letter to S.I.G.I.S. stated calmly that if readers couldn't bear the truth, they might want to end their lives immediately before the 'loth plot grew further.
"With Baatezu you know
they'll peel you,
With Tanar'ri you know they'll bash you,
But with Yugoloths you NEVER know what they'll do
And that's what why I'm peery of 'em"
- Arnach "The Fatebringer", an anarchist (?)
As for the holes in the Inner Planes, the cell believe that the yugoloths are stockpiling magical items filled with elements specifically detrimental to the other planar races in case their grip of power is challenged; lightning to use against baatezu, acid formed from quasi-elemental salt for the tanar'ri, salt itself to rust modrons, fire to combat rilmani, aasimon and guardinal alike, iron from mineral to use against the eladrin. From the numbers of sightings of 'loth and rifts in the Inner Planes of late (and considering the sheer size of the Inner Planes), the 'Loth Resistance are very concerned indeed that the 'loths are massing magic for something very soon indeed...
While it's something of an open secret that these cutters are anarchists, it still ain't something that should be bandied about. Only trusted factols and touts know the dark, and they don't just let it slip to anyone, just in case the worst might be true. If the 'loths control all, then it won't do anyone any good except them, so even the greediest spy wouldn't be so leatherheaded as to pass on the truth.
See, nobody knows if the yugoloths themselves know of the group. If they do, they ain't exactly sending assassins to slay them all, which is worrying. If they don't, then nobody wants to see what happens when they do catch the chant. And the third possibility is too horrible to contemplate, but it's one the cell knows only too well: If the 'loths really do run the show as the anarchists claim, surely they set up the 'Loth Resistance themselves...?
Copyright 1998 text by Jon Winter