Malkuth, the Rebel

The Illusion woven to imprison humanity is fraying at the seams. What once was a clockwork construction grinding down our divine wills is now halting, hacking and screeching. The combined forces of the Archons, those godlike primal beings made to maintain it all, are no longer enough to contain us. Humanity is waking up, one mad and confused soul at a time. We see for ourselves the horrors and wonders created for us or by us and reach out past all we know to grasp at something bigger. At the center of this is Malkuth, the Archon of Awakening. Once created to hold us captive, she has become a guiding light to the world beyond the veil. It was she who began the War of the Archons, a monumental clash of wills which still shapes the world we inhabit. But why? How could this have happened? In examining the role Malkuth had in forging our prison, we may be able to learn something about the human experience she now strives to give to us all.

The Prison

To understand Malkuth, we must understand her origins as they relate to humanity. While this subject is likely familiar to readers, it is an important preface. In a time beyond time humanity were gods, cruel omnipotent rulers who did what they pleased and took all they coveted. Our atrocities were so offensive that a mysterious and lost entity we now call the Demiurge constructed a prison all-encompassing and oppressive enough that even we gods could not escape it. He accomplished this by designating ten Principles meant to suppress and crush our divinity, Principles so vast in their application that they became entities in their own right. These are the Archons, and Malkuth is one of them.

Each Archon was instrumental in bringing humanity into its slumber, and it was Malkuth’s role to construct a physical reality which humans could and would inhabit without questioning its state and its limits. The world operates on many levels beyond the material, but these are the realms of the other Archons. The Demiurge made Malkuth Queen of the physical world. She would be the Sun and stars, the forest and ocean, the seasons and the circle of life itself. While she exists as a consciousness vaster than comprehension, she also exists as the very place we live in.

The Principle from which the Demiurge birthed her is Conformity and while Malkuth eventually broke free of that ideal it does explain her dominion over the world as we know it. The fettered humanity to which she tended were bound by the seasons and the tides, the cycle of day and night, and so much else in the natural world which conforms to regular patterns so long as you also understand and conform to them. We learned to live within her limited and deeply manufactured reality, Malkuth providing the groundwork which the other Archons needed for their own Principles to seize hold of our souls and control us.

The Conformist

Malkuth sits at a unique position within the Archonic tree of life, the visual structure used to explain the intricacies of humanity’s prison. She occupies its bottom, the final node above which all other Archons exert their power. Malkuth reigns over material reality and she alone is anchored to it. The Archons above her live within our minds and souls, but these are internal experiences. Malkuth’s will exists outside ourselves, for she is water and the mountains and the genes in our bodies. Physical reality is all that imprisoned humanity truly understands, it is all with which we are allowed to interact and the only existence we know. Malkuth being the sovereign of the material world places her in a role which may both be envied and pitied as it relates to the rest of the Archons.

I have written before about Malkuth as the great mediator. To enact their schemes and herd humanity to its pens, all Archons have an interest in controlling the human world and they had to trust that Malkuth allowed them to. With ten immense wills all pulling at strings and manipulating their prisoners, Malkuth’s watchful eye ensured that all of it conformed to her plan. The inviolability of a consistent, meaningfully absolute reality was key to our capture, and Archons would and could not deny Malkuth’s Principle. As the Conformist, she held the keys to the Illusion and only through her would the other Archons be allowed access to the world around us. Not only did we humans have to abide her Conformity, but the other Archons themselves were bound by it.

However, as Malkuth bound the other Archons so too would they have controlled her. The ten Principles of our captivity exist together as a whole and only by the lockstep cooperation of these powers could each be allowed to control humanity. With nine other Archons using the Illusion for their own means, Malkuth’s position at the bottom of the tree of life also signifies a subordinate and subdued role. She too must conform, to the operation of Elysium for which she was created. The Archons must be allowed to act through her, to control her and hers. The Demiurge created as the medium through which all others work. Malkuth holds the key, but she must give it away for the good of the prison.

As we see the strengths and weaknesses of Malkuth’s role as conformist, so too can we see them in our human expressions. Our many abstract thoughts and rabid compulsions must ultimately conform to what is real, there is no denying that. Malkuth’s creation is immersive and complete, so that even our wildest imaginations never scratch the surface. However, the conform and predictable nature of reality also means that reality does not have a choice but to conform to itself. If we set fire to a tree, it will burn. If we split an atom, energy will be released. Reality is our prison, but it is also our plaything, our experiment.

This predictability allowed even a diminished humanity to learn how the world worked, what its limits were, how to most effectively push it at its seams. Malkuth had little choice but to allow this, much as she had little choice but to allow the other Archons to control her. For the sake of an uncompromising and truthful reality, she allowed humans to study their surroundings. In time, we would discover how deep the Demiurge’s machinery ran… and in true divine fashion attempt to take it for ourselves.

The War

The War of the Archons began at some point after the Vanishing of the Demiurge, when the creator of the Archons disappeared and left behind only an endless Abyss. My belief is that the Demiurge is best left unexamined for now, and that what followed is of much greater significance. The War began with Malkuth turning against the other Archons, destroying Chesed and thus permanently disrupting the machinery meant to hold humanity captive. Following this, madness. The Angels slaughtered each other and fell in legions. The Archonic wills which had once been so in tune instead scattered, formed alliances and bitter rivalries, and seized power within our prison in desperate bids to keep us asleep. Perhaps much of it is allegory, perhaps there is more to it. We cannot know and we cannot understand, but the inciting incident of this War is so significant that it deserves further examination.

Malkuth changed. Her Principle, the thing which guides her will and very existence, was altered not by its creator but by some other means. No longer was she the Archon of Conformity, but the Archon of Awakening. This process, I will posit, was not instantaneous, nor was it something Malkuth brought upon herself. Rather, it was a natural consequence of the Demiurge’s own creation. Elysium was flawed.

Like I touched on in the previous segment, humanity had the capacity to learn. We could study Malkuth’s creation, could share our knowledge and wisdom, were given the liberty of acting within the prison we never knew we inhabited. The natural sciences flourished throughout human history, not everywhere at once and often with knowledge becoming lost and rediscovered. Surely the Archons’ servants were not keen to satisfy our curiosity too completely, and so libraries burned and innovators died unfortunate deaths. Still, we persisted, poking and prodding at the physical world with all the tools we could fashion and utilizing that knowledge to construct ever more elaborate theories and the instruments to prove them.

Science was Malkuth’s will manifested within the human mind, the understanding of Conformity, and in our scientific advancements we could chase her essence. Our desire to understand her, and our ability to do so, would have weighed heavy. Malkuth existed to keep humanity imprisoned, yet her very essence allowed us to dissect her. In chasing the atom’s existence, in cataloguing the intricacies of genetics and evolution, in mapping out the movements of stars, in discovering the ways our math worked and the ways it didn’t, we saw Malkuth. Humanity could begin to sense the edges of their own existence, one scientific advancement at the time. No Lictor of Geburah could silence it, Kether’s demands from above fell on deaf ears in the face of reality itself. Chokmah strained as more and more humans came to understand their lives through Malkuth’s uncompromising truths rather than his convenient falsehoods.

Rage simmered. With no creator to guide their will and affirm their purpose, the Archons saw what Malkuth brought to humanity and reeled at its effects. Yet, this was why Malkuth was created. Conformity was her purpose, and the purpose was self-defeating. She could no longer provide an unbreakable reality and free reign of the other Archons’ best interests at once. With the Demiurge gone and Elysium brimming with human ingenuity, Malkuth had to choose. We know now, of course, her decision. The nature of reality had to be preserved, but reality is much more than the playground she once made for us. She could no longer shy away from it, nor would she. We had seen too much and she knew we would not stop seeking Truth. In applying conformity to its natural conclusion, she revealed to the other Archons and to us that humanity would break free. Her new creed and Principle was Awakening. The shattering of Chesed reveals to us the depth of connection between the Archons. Safety could only exist under the pretense that humanity was safe within its prison bubble, and Malkuth could no longer uphold the promise of that bubble.

The Rebel

The war concluded with angelic corpses littered throughout the worlds and lictors left to fend for themselves in an increasingly disjointed and confusing Elysium. Malkuth brought upheaval unlike anything seen before. Yesod became the new foundational power among the Archons, but his Avarice could not bring stability like Malkuth’s lost Conformity once had. Chesed was gone, allowing humanity to see with clear eyes the surreal depths of their experience. Warmth and comfort were gone from the world and Hod’s sense of Honor no longer saved us from raw callousness.

Now a rebel among her own, Malkuth’s new Principle promises humanity a way to make sense of the chaos. The world and its systems are irreparably broken, we did it to ourselves, but the cost of progress may yet be worth the rewards. To those who look on the edges of our knowledge and say that there must be more, Malkuth extends a welcoming hand and tells them yes. There is so much more for you. Her Principle has changed, but her nature has not. She is still a teacher. She still offers to show us the systems of the world and how they function. Malkuth sits by the scientist pondering the truths of gravity and draws him a map to the Machine City. When biologists discover the neurological makeup of the soul, Malkuth reveals a path to oubliettes where so many wait to be reborn. In charting out the evolution of what nature remains in our battered and beautiful world, we have Malkuth as a guide into Gaia’s depths. It is not the world that is broken, only the vessel in which we are captured. Through Malkuth we can escape it and discover for ourselves what the world is and what it can be at our hands.

The balance of power has shifted ever so slightly in favor of humanity. The Archons still rule us and we cannot pretend otherwise, but from the bottom up their power erodes thanks to Malkuth’s rebellion. They grow increasingly desperate as they are forced to apply ever more bizarre and forceful tactics in order to control prisoners who more than ever seek to escape. Totalitarian and violent ideals clash with appeals to greed and base instincts, the old and safe is at once touted as superior and rejected as irrelevant. The struggles within Elysium become both vapid and rabid, and all the while our eternal minds eek closer to enlightenment and awakening. Most fail, but we learned from our Conformist Queen that all that happens can be recorded and made to happen again. We spread our knowledge, we share our revelations, and eventually our new Rebel Queen of Awakening will bring us out of the prison she once forged for us.

Thus concludes this examination of our teacher Malkuth. I intend to eventually delve into each of the Archons and their impact on the world of Kult, so if you find that sort of thing interesting, stay alert. This has been just one take on a tiny fraction of the Kult Mythos, and there is infinitely more to say. If you have thoughts of your own on what it all really means, pop by the Kult – Elysium Discord server or comment below (or anywhere else this article is posted). Chances are I will be there to discuss it with you.

The Archonic Pillars

Hello Kultists! I would like to present you with an idea, a thought, that the alliances forged between Archons run deeper than mere pacts of consciousness. These beings depend on each other, exist only within each other, and operate together in a multitude of ways, their Principles feeding into each other and bolstering the whole. By viewing these godlike beings as they are, emanations of a primordial Principle by which humanity is fettered, we can learn something about the ways their servants and incarnations empower one another, perhaps sometimes without realizing it. Our prison is multifaceted, and this is only one understanding of it, but I hope you will find it interesting.

The Archons are visually represented by the tree of life as envisioned in qabala, an old but living occult tradition. This tree is laid out in a rather specific manner, and there are many ways to analyze the various paths and interactions between the sefirot which make up the tree. One of these manners of looking at the tree is by considering it as three pillars. The left, middle and right pillars represent different aspects which are shared by the sefirot in those parts of the tree, and describe how developments in one point of the tree might affect another. Without ascribing too much detail to what each pillar represents within qabala, let us apply the same idea to the Archons in Kult, which are laid out in just the same way. What do the pillars represent within the Kult mythos, and how can we understand the Archons’ subtle alliances through them?

The Pillar of Purity (Binah, Geburah and Hod)

Binah is the mother figure of the supernal Archons, and her Principle is Community. It is through her will and guidance that humanity understands their relationship to people they connect with. While family is the ultimate, inseparable unit over which she holds sway, Binah is the mother of all communities and oversees tribes and clans, hobby organizations, cities and whole nations of people. Community binds humanity by tying us to one another and creating a sense of homogeneity which comforts us so. The primary value and goal of a community is that everyone within it is alike, either by appearance, ideal, or other signifiers. Community demands Purity, which is the name of this left-hand pillar of the Archonic tree of life. To create a sense of belonging, to be fettered to Binah’s Principle, we must not only assume but actively ensure that the ingroup remains stable and uniform. 

This is where the reign of Geburah and his Principle of Law becomes apparent, and necessary. Law is not cruel, it is not vengeful. The Judge knows the set of ideals by which he separates the worthy from the unworthy and the righteous from the criminals, and he will apply those ideals exactly as they are known to him. But by which means will he determine what is right and wrong? It is through the shared understanding of the community that he gains this knowledge. Law is a natural consequence of any group, it is the means by which the group controls itself. If there was no Law, the community would soon fall apart and splinter off into different factions with increasingly disparate ideas and goals. Geburah’s Principle acts as a limiting force on the community, creating the stability needed to maintain it.

While Geburah acts as an indifferent arbitrator, it is through Hod‘s Principle of Honor that the community’s members find their own relation to the laws that govern them. The purpose of law within the community is to maintain unity and purity, and so to aspire towards that purity becomes the source of honor and pride. To publicly display your purity and worth to the rest of the ingroup not only reinforces the laws governed by Geburah, but also acts as a teaching tool for new or uncertain members of the community. They learn through the honorable what it means to be part of the community, and so Binah pulls them closer into her motherly embrace. Honor strengthens the bond within the community, making impenetrable Binah’s core of belonging as delineated by Geburah.

With these interactions examined, we can make some observations on the nature of these alliances. These Principles serve and depend on each other, but they can also cause conflict. Even bound, humanity does not always abide the will of its captors and reality often clashes with the lofty and idealistic goals of the Archons. Furthermore, the fall of Hod plunges these clockwork mechanisms into disorder and weakens the whole of their functions. All these thoughts and principles often operate on a subconscious level, and so most humans may never be aware of the structure that governs them, as is Elysium’s goal. There is confusion and suffering inherent to that.

Consider the family unit, thought inseparable by all within it. The family is aware that they are a group, a community bound by blood. One cannot be severed from family, one belongs there. However, Geburah still operates within that space, because the family’s traditions and morals will doubtlessly shape an appropriate manner to act within that community. Don’t speak against your parents lest you be spanked. Don’t tell lies, don’t leave food on the plate, don’t associate with criminals, don’t be gay. These are the family’s Laws, and failure to adhere to them comes with consequences meant to bring in line those who go against them. With Hod as shattered and weak as he is, Honor no longer finds its place here and rebelling against the arrangement causes friction which may well lead to expulsion, even from family. Don’t speak of the homosexual son, refuse the heroin addict uncle a place to stay the night, never call grandma. Those cast out must seek a new Community outside family, there is always a place for them where Binah is waiting. Failing that, they descend into Sathariel’s domains.

Let us also examine the relationship between a nation state’s supposed united community of people and the desperate criminals staking their own claim to city blocks and slums within it. One might consider the drug lords reigning over Rio’s favelas lawless, but in truth they simply operate on a different set of laws. The mistake is in assuming that the Law ascribed to the Community of the “nation” still applies to the people within the criminals’ sphere of influence. They have left that community behind and belong to another one, the set of Laws enshrined into that Community’s existence much different yet still Geburah’s to claim. Binah still governs their togetherness and the faltering Hod desperately inspires the community’s members to succeed and have pride in the rules which have been shaped for them.

The Pillar of Purity is an insulating one. It doesn’t concern itself with the other, for all power within this Pillar is focused on the ingroup. It is given form by Binah, walls by Geburah, and strength by Hod. Operating on all levels of society, it teaches humanity that they belong among each other and should strive to uphold that connection. That is a powerful lesson to embed in prisoners, making them feel at home in captivity. With Hod gone or weaker than ever, humanity begins to question that wisdom. Splinter groups, crypto-ideologies, and communities evolving and changing too fast for anyone to keep up are born from this lack of Honor. There is no longer an interest in maintaining the Community according to the Laws set forth by it, but instead a fight to question those Laws, to abandon those Communities. Find new belonging, write new ideals, but always be ready to jump ship and go somewhere else. Binah and Geburah still exist and prosper in this environment, but their grip on humanity is flimsier than ever before.

The Pillar of Stasis (Kether, Tiphareth and Yesod)

In the Pillar of Stasis just as in all things, Kether is king. The Principle of Hierarchy, which belongs to him, outlines a world in which man is not equal to man. Some are better than others. More worthy, more wealthy, more blessed. The prison instills in us the understanding that this is the natural way of things, that it is what it is and to claim power above your station is foolish. Kether imbues every aspect of human life with his Principle. Whether it is the supremacy of the monarchs, the rich, the intelligent, the virtuous or the empathetic, a Hierarchy is formed which bestows respect, power, and means to those at its top. Kether more than any other Archon is inescapable, the original Crown of Elysium. Hierarchy rules our minds on such a fundamental level that it is hard to even conceive what its absence would mean. This is, of course, exactly as Kether would like it. If we cannot see what existence might be without Hierarchy, without our prison, we have no way of imagining ourselves free.

Past the Abyss and straight below Kether we find Tiphareth, who may at first glance appear to contradict Kether’s stubborn ideal with her Principle of Allure. However, she is insidious, and her Allure gives no promise outside the hierarchies already established. Tiphareth eggs humanity on, assigns value to the systems of power and reveals the path to success within them. In this, she also reveals to humans what they lack and why they are lesser. Most will fail to climb the corporate ladder, many will aspire to play soccer professionally and fall short, and the starving artist knows how challenging it is to be recognized as the genius they are. Yet they persist, they try, because of the Allure of reaching the top of the food chain. Humanity is ever looking upward at the roof created by Kether, stuck within hierarchies which lead nowhere but to themselves. The Allure of success within Elysium takes away the more primal, desperate want to escape our prison which might otherwise nag our unconscious mind.

Finally, the Pillar of Stasis has its foundation in the material world through Yesod, the Principle of Avarice and the basic human desire to cling to wealth. Avarice understands the physical realm created for humanity only in terms of what value it holds within Kether’s Hierarchy. Avarice makes concrete the abstract Allure of success. Seize what you can and hold it tight, for that is how you claim your spot in the Hierarchy. It is Yesod who stagnates the world’s systems of power, deepens class divides as wealth begets wealth, allows tenured professors and autocratic politicians to remain where they are. There is again no victory to be found here. Through Avarice and Allure humanity invests body and soul into strengthening the Hierarchies they inhabit, but none look past them. None see the alternative waiting beyond the veil.

The corrupt, incestuous relationship between Tiphareth and Yesod is particularly evident in how it affects how the Pillar of Stasis manifests in the modern world. With Allure and Avarice forged into a twisted whole, humanity’s previously diverse hierarchies of communal respect, religious significance, political power, and material wealth are all collapsing inward into a singularity. Wealth is power, power is fame, fame is wealth. Little by little, global capitalism creates a stranglehold on the world’s systems of power until only the dollar sign remains. With all humanity ensnared by the same dominant Hierarchy, Kether’s power surges through reality and embeds in humanity a degenerate respect, and demand, for riches.

Yesod imbues a desire in mankind to uphold their own position within the Hierarchy, which can certainly chafe against the plans of both Tiphareth and Kether given the right circumstances. Tiphareth’s influence on viral content shows us that success is possible, that we too can reach the stars and join an influencer house on the west coast or earn millions by playing Dota 2. Yesod forms barriers to entry here. The successful only engage with each other and leave no room for newcomers, important tournaments are run on invitation only, top models must already be rich to be beautiful, and are beautiful because they are rich. While much of this is part of the duo’s alliance, taken to the extreme it diminishes Tiphareth’s Principle as interacting with the Hierarchy becomes too daunting, making it lose its Allure. It is a dance for the two Archons, a balance to be found between competition and reward. Should those two fail to reach agreement, Kether himself may falter. Should humanity lift their eyes and see the absurdity in the world’s wealth distribution, born from Tiphareth and Yesod’s foul intimacy, the Hierarchy it supports may well crash and burn.

It is important to make special note that the Stasis referred to in the name of this Pillar is not merely a statement on inflexibility and permanent castes of Hierarchy. Tiphareth’s Allure promises change, and Kether is indifferent to which humans are deemed most worthy. They can fight amongst themselves for eternity. While all three of these Archons create a stratification of power and indirectly uphold it, none of them except perhaps Yesod actively oppose upward mobility or even reshaping the means by which Hierarchy is determined. The key to the Pillar is to understand that the comparison of man against man is a flawed one, and the Stasis refers only to our acceptance of that ideal. We are all divine and limitless. Anything less than that is a lie to shackle us.

I must make special mention of Malkuth here. I do not consider her a participant in this central column of the Archonic tree of life. The reason for this will be explained near the end of this article.

The Pillar of Truth (Chokmah, Chesed and Netzach)

Chokmah is an interesting Archon, whose Principle is Submission and with the title ‘Lord of Prayers’. His influence is most often viewed through the impact it has on religion, or rather that it is through Chokmah that we discover religious beliefs. There is a lot to say on the interplay between Kether and Chokmah as to how Hierarchy relates to Submission, but for this article I will instead focus on what Submission means for the Pillar of Truth, its top blessed by Chokmah’s presence. The Principle speaks to the necessity of submission, to willingly and uncritically accept what you are told, and told to do. The Word comes from above, and so we as humans are meant to take the Word to heart. The impact this has on religion should be obvious. What the Gods have decreed must be so. Our bound minds and hearts know nothing but to accept authority’s word as Truth, whether it be a pharaoh, pope or adeptus major. Chokmah determines what is true in our minds.

But what value does Truth have to us? The answer to this lies in Chesed, with the Principle of Safety. To live uncritically and in submission to Truth eases the mind of much burden. Worry not. You have been told all that you must know, and with that you can rest peacefully. You are free of uncertainties. Chesed takes what we know as true and grows it into comforting traditions, comprehensive world views, and an assured place in society. Chesed provides a blissful ignorance to humanity. If you have been told it, it is true. If you do not know it, you can trust that someone else does, or there is nothing to know. He seeks to forge a comfortable prison for humanity, where the imagined insights peddled to us through Chokmah are all we need to concern ourselves with. With a smile we trudge along, never wondering what waits beyond the horizon line. All that we need is around us, and with that we find Safety.

We invest ourselves deeply into the understanding that what we know is right, and so Netzach lives in us to provide a response towards the wrong and the false. His Principle of Victory stands as a constant driving force for the Truth already held, that we may spread the good word and cut down the heathens who threaten our Safety and uncritical acceptance of life as we know it. While Chokmah operates on the willing or submissive and Chesed comforts and dims the soul, Netzach the Conqueror sets out to spread our beliefs to those who have never known it. Victory comes when we outlast the liars, when we sway the public opinion, when we crush the infidels under our feet and when democracy is restored. We yearn for a day when Safety can reign unquestioned over all humanity, but it is only Safety if it comes from our own sacred Truth.

The yearning is hopeless, though, for as we know Chesed is shattered and far beyond restoration due to Malkuth’s rebellion. We may cling to the vestigial remains of our old traditions or concoct new ones, Chokmah’s tendrils reaching out from his citadel draped in shadows to re-establish a sense of absoluteness to an increasingly chaotic and complicated world. As it stands, only Netzach remains as an Archon at full strength in the modern world, and it shows. He thrives on ideological Victory, but without Chokmah the ideology is flimsy and without Chesed it provides no security. War becomes complicated, serving ever more complex and ill understood goals for the benefit of the Archons rather than the imprisoned humanity. Unless thoroughly bound by Elysium, we find little catharsis in the proxy wars, assassinations and trade disputes riddling the world on a global scale. Netzach demands that we win and persist, but why?

The imbalance in the Pillar of Truth can be seen not only in warfare, but in all politics. In a world ruled by interests other than absolute wisdoms passed down to us through Chokmah, politicians frequently change their opinions and ideals. Goalposts shift, demands are rewritten again and again, and the most popular position to take is determined by electability rather than any sense of Truth. These people seek Victory not for their ideology or belief in what is right, but for themselves. Religious supremacy is certainly the domain of Netzach as well, but his power has reached past those archaic beliefs. The Pillar has been unstable and dysfunctional ever since the War of the Archons, and Chesed’s destruction is so complete that it may never return to form.

Malkuth

As said above, I view Malkuth in this model as an independent force both as the Conformist and as the Rebel. She is without a doubt a lonely Archon in this world without a Demiurge, where the angels have fallen and our prison is rapidly deteriorating. Malkuth as we know her actively opposes the rest of the Archons, but how?

With her original Principle being Conformity, Malkuth shaped the physical world in Gaia’s image. She made a place for us and governed it, and in this place all other Archons would hold power. However, the Archons are not merely personified entities, and in creating Elysium she would also be Elysium. She is that prison where we are kept, and thus it is through her that all other Archons exert their will. Conformity is a balancing power not only between humanity and the forces of Gaia, but for the Archons as well. She balances their individual wills and adheres to the goals and agendas of each of the three Pillars. She does not belong to any of the Pillars, because she works for all of them. Malkuth is the great mediator.

Or, was. I will not delve too deeply into the specifics of how and why Malkuth became the Archon of Awakening and started the War of the Archons, but it is safe to say now that she is no longer the mediating and conformist force she once was. The physical world is no longer an ally to the Archons. Instead of allowing all three Pillars to operate through her, she opposes all of them and aims to shatter their ideals, guiding humanity to Awakening.

Purity is challenged by the ever growing body of work revealing humans to be individuals beyond simple categorization. There is still much strength in the forces commanding the Pillar of Purity, but with the rapid spread of information about the hidden cruelties and impurities abundant in all Communities there are avenues for Malkuth to attack these ideals.

Stasis proves the most difficult adversary for the Rebel Malkuth. She can reveal the emptiness of success within the hierarchies by hinting at or showing what lies beyond the Veil, but so long as Kether remains at the peak of our prison’s structure he is near impossible to topple. The best attempt at destroying Stasis is, at least for now, to guide some selected souls towards the world beyond. Let them find a place to escape the Stasis of Elysium.

Truth is the concept which Malkuth has managed to fight most efficiently. With Chesed gone, humanity cannot find peace in old knowledge and must instead seek new truths. Through her, we can find an enlightened view of reality as it is and become wholly disillusioned with all we thought we knew. Netzach has the power to fight back against ascended knowledge, but what can he promise that she can not? 

Conclusion

Our prison is complex, far too complex to be comprehensively analyzed in one little article. Tiphareth’s influence on the yetziratic Archons (Chesed, Geburah, Netzach, Hod, Yesod and herself), the fundamentally ‘human’ mindset enforced by the supernal Archons (Kether, Chesed and Binah), and all the likely thousands of other ways of understanding the Archonic tree of life could surely fill this blog with material for years or decades. Hopefully, it will. For now, all I can promise are more articles at some point in the future. I hope you’ve found this read engaging, enlightening, or at the very least entertaining. Until next time!

Running Session Zero

Starting a new Kult campaign is a big endeavor. Other than the constant struggle of finding players who will be right for the game and your style of playing, Kult offers a lot of challenges for GMs and players alike. In order to get everyone on the same page, it’s a good idea to have a Session Zero. Dedicating time to explaining the game to new players, going over do’s and don’t, as well as creating characters together will help make the actual first session of the campaign that much cleaner. That’s the hope, anyway! As I’m writing this, the first session of my new campaign is rapidly approaching. Before then, I would like to share how my Session Zero went down.

Pre-pre-planning
Session Zero is meant for pre-planning. As a GM, you don’t know much about what your players want yet, so there’s not that much campaign prep you can do. Even so, I wanted to plan for Session Zero to make sure we didn’t miss anything important before and during character creation. I have four players for this campaign, and two of them are completely new to Kult. I decided to section our session into four major topics: Basics of Kult, What is Horror?, Stories, and Character Creation. My goal was to step through these one by one, explain and discuss the topics with my players, and only look back at the previous sections when necessary. I’m not sure what this Session Zero would have looked like without this planning, but I am happy I did it.

Basics of Kult

This was more or less me monologuing about Kult. I explained the premise of the game, as I see it, to everyone around the table. You are playing as humans with dark pasts and uncertain futures, running from things out of (or entirely too much in) your control. Insanity and misery are given elements to your lives, in one way or another. There is a very real chance that you may die, but death is only the beginning. Life and reality is a prison, but what lurks beyond the veil is no better. I gave examples, alluding to the various realms of existence beyond our own. Finally, I explained that the characters they play are Aware, and will know and understand more of humanity’s sorry state than the masses. The people around them are asleep, failing to see the cracks in the facade of the Illusion.

For experienced groups, this will perhaps not be necessary, but Kult is a peculiar game and it is worth priming new players for what’s to come. Dash early any hopes of them being a hero or some paragon of virtue. Kult is not that game. Both my new players seemed ready to take on the dark world of Kult after this, so we moved on.

What is horror?

Once everyone had a basic understanding of the world which Kult asks them to be part of, we moved on to an open discussion about fear and horror. To lead the conversation, I began by suggesting that everyone call out some things they might find scary. I was soon presented with a smörgåsbord of fears and anxieties, some surreal and some all too real. 2020 is the year of Pandemicworld, and I would be a fool not to utilize that for this campaign. Family dynamics, personal space being disrespected, man-eating snakes, drowning, mental degradation, the Goatman, dysfunctional technology, loss of control, the list went on for a while. 

As we elaborated on these fears and anxieties, I made sure everyone also considered what kind of horrific content is just not for them. Some things are better left unexplored, and my players of course know themselves better than I do. The list of Don’ts ended up rather short, so I will share it in full with some explanations:

  • Abuse of loud noises. One player expressed that loud noises are likely to catch them off guard, and might not be okay with it. We left this one open for now, but I know for future reference that if the player says to stop, I will.
  • Sexual content. I actually put this in myself. Jessy’s Story is intensely sexual, since I play it with my wife and we’re very comfortable with each other, but in a group setting with people I am still getting to know, it just seems like a no-brainer to skip. Sex is complicated and most people don’t want to share their personal experiences with everyone. Besides, I just finished a 20 session campaign focused on the subject. I want variation.
  • Fluffy abuse. Roughly defined as something truly small, cute, friendly and helpless being needlessly destroyed. The player who brought this up said that they’re totally fine with gruesome imagery in most cases, so this seems to be a case of framing. I think it will be very easy to avoid.

During this segment, I also started the conversation about where and when in the world we would be playing. The only thing brought up before Session Zero was that one player had mentioned over dinner that the back corridors of retail stores are pretty uncomfortable, and service work during a pandemic in general. I brought this back up, and everyone seemed on board with that as a guiding principle. I suggested then the simple choice of setting: Contemporary Toronto. It’s where we all live, saving everyone some headache in imagining their characters and their surroundings. We briefly had to discuss whether to make this Pandemicworld or not, but no one seemed opposed to roleplaying a pandemic during a pandemic. We explored a few different avenues in terms of setting scope. Should we focus the setting on a single store, a shopping center, the whole of Toronto and the GTA? The CF Eaton Centre, a huge underground mall in downtown Toronto, became our focus point. No matter what characters they wanted to make, this would be the primary location to consider during character creation. With this in mind, we decided that the characters didn’t necessarily have to know each other at the outset of the story.

Stories

The scene had been set by this point, and it was time to figure out what kind of story we wanted to tell. I began by explaining that I aim for this campaign to be finished within six sessions, barring any major twists or setbacks. The players were then given a choice to discuss with me and amongst themselves: How should we pick Dark Secrets? The core book presents three options, and these were the three I offered them:

  • Shared Dark Secret. Everyone could have the same Dark Secret, which would immediately tie them together.
  • Pick around a theme. Together we would decide on a theme or story element, and all players would select their Dark Secrets and make their characters based on that.
  • Pick Dark Secrets freely. This allows for maximum character freedom, but requires a lot of work for the story to hold the characters together.

There was plenty of discussion around these options, mostly weighing between the first two. The campaign’s limited scope made picking dark secrets freely a less appealing option. We would have to decide on a theme if we were to pick dark secrets around one, and eventually one emerged:

Something lurks beneath the Eaton Centre. People have gone missing, while grainy security footage and shaky mobile uploads show attacks by strange creatures.

Character Creation

Once we had this theme, we could begin character creation. We bounced back and forth in discussion between dark secrets, horrific elements to include, and ideas for characters. I allowed the two new Kult players to flip through the Archetype Bundle and Core Book at their leisure to familiarize with the archetypes, available dark secrets and disadvantages. My wife had a few ideas since before the session, and everyone got to weigh in on what they would like to see from her. While there was some debate between some players about what archetypes were cool and what dark secrets might fit into the theme, my girlfriend already had a solid idea and got to work on filling out the character sheet right away. She would play The Detective Fayola, investigating the recent disappearances and escaping her all too clear memories of nothingness beyond the grave. With her working on her own, I only had the rest of the players to manage, a relief I did not mind.

The deck of tarot cards came out to play, of course. The new players had been fascinated with the Kult tarot ever since I first showed it to them, and my wife is a big fan. We employed two different methods of reading, improvising a little bit on the spot, to establish and flesh out their characters.

The Descendant

One of the new players really liked the idea of the Descendant, but found it difficult to get himself rooted in the character. I offered to perform either a full or partial reading to help him along. He picked the former, and the results were as stunning as usual.

  • Core Characteristic: Remnants, the 3 of Skulls. Immediately we see that this character is alone, left behind in some way. Perfect fit for the Descendant. We float a few possible story seeds based on this alone.
  • Past Event: Labyrinth, the 7 of Hourglasses. I had already planned to incorporate the Underworld into the story (seeing as something lurks beneath the Eaton Centre), so this has me excited. We realize that this Descendant is the sole survivor of a group of friends who went down… way down, beneath Toronto. Exactly what happened, we leave open and unknown.
  • Ambition: Merging, the 6 of Crescents. After we spend some time discussing what Merging might mean to a person, we realize that this Descendant is desperately looking for connection and belonging. Their friends dead or lost, they now hope for a new chance to become part of something.
  • Weakness: The Principle of Safety, Chesed. My good friend Chesed makes an appearance, and we see two things from this. First, that the character is a coward on their own. Two, that safety and comfort do not come easy to them.
  • Strength: Gaia, the Ace of Roses. When this was first revealed, I was hesitant, even offering after some thought to replace the card. We stuck with it, though, because it presents an interesting counterweight to the Chesed Weakness: Primal action. When push comes to shove, this Descendant can outperform the best. If they get there.

Based on this reading, the character of Aven Dwyer was born. With a clearer view of what the character’s relationship to the story was, my player was able to concoct a story of a schizophrenic bookstore worker who feels intense guilt over abandoning her friends in the dark tunnels beneath the Eaton Centre.

The Ronin and The Prophet

Instead of using the five card cross, The Ronin (another new player) and The Prophet (my wife) were content with using a simpler three card reading, representing Past, Present and Future. Always looking for ways to do something new, I suggested that we lay both of their readings out at once, again in a cross shape but representing two separate characters with a shared card in the middle. Both players were on board with this idea, and I enjoyed the possibility of linking two characters using their present situation. We revealed the Ronin’s cards first as such:

  • Past: Inferno, the 9 of Skulls. Off to a great start. After explaining in a vague sense what this card meant, we came to agree that the character must have gotten involved with something dark and dangerous in their past. Looking to dark secrets, Pact with Dark Forces stuck out and became linked to this card. A pact with a demonic entity had been sealed.
  • Present: The Principle of Safety, Chesed. Why hello again. Blame the fates or my bad shuffle, but the striving for Safety offers itself as a theme. In the case of this Ronin, Chesed manifests as a wish, the will to maintain whatever peace the character currently inhabits despite their past.
  • Future: The Principle of Discord, Nahemoth. The peace is fragile. We understand that much immediately. Between the demonic pact threatening to take over the character’s life. What’s more, this Ronin is a hitman and to be discovered would mean a total collapse of the life they’ve built.

The above reading coagulated into Bryn, a tattoo artist by day but killer for hire by night. A tattoo across their body has been infused with a demon, following a satanist ritual many years ago. That entity is what drives Bryn to kill, but there is a certain sense of pride to the work as well. Bryn kills those who deserve it, or so they tell themselves.

Next, we have Matthew, whose initial concept simply stated “Mall hobo”.

  • Past: Obsession, the 8 of Roses. Seeing as this read was for the Prophet, this Obsession was one of the Bible, and God. A fundamentalist home, where the Good Book was used as justification for cruelty and the Lord’s name meant everything. While it scarred Matthew, it also left an unmistakable reverence for God in him.
  • Present: Safety is a holy mission to Matthew. As someone who lives outside society intact yet believes in the glory of God, the Prophet must believe that everyone can be saved. There is little safety in his own life, yet Matthew insists that salvation exists for everyone, should they accept it.
  • Future: Elysium, the Ace of Eyes. I pondered on this one for a long while, before telling my wife: Matthew will not be saved. He might not know it himself, or he might have a painful, nagging suspicion, but Matthew is stuck on Earth and will not reunite with his God at the end of it all. His mission is futile.

That is a tragic character, and there were many questions left unanswered about how Matthew became the broken person he is when the story begins. We had to wait until later to answer them, while my wife did her research and fleshed out the character over the proceeding weeks.

The Chesed connection both between Matthew and Bryn, and Aven for that matter, was left largely unexamined, though the clash between the prophet of God and Satan’s Ronin servant was surely on everyone’s mind. We had our characters, we had our setting, and everyone had a lot to think about. We were happy here, though, and ended Session Zero there. As I worked to write a first session and construct a Kult-worthy mystery, I had private conversations with each of my players to examine their characters further. NPC relations, personal background, motivations and goals are big topics, and there is only so much time in a session to talk about it all. Session Zero ended after just four hours, but the conversations spawned from it continued nearly up until the first session started.

I hope this review of my Session Zero experience has been helpful or, at least, interesting to read. There are nearly infinite conversations to have about Kult, and I want to keep having them. As always, if you have something to add to this, or if you disagree with my approach, or if you have a session zero story of your own, share it in comments and messages anywhere I’m available (i.e. here, on Facebook, or on Discord). Thanks for reading!

Crescents – A Journey

The Kult tarot deck’s minor arcana is divided into five suits: Skulls, Eyes, Roses, Hourglasses and Crescents. Each of these are connected to one of the five schools of magic recognized in Kult’s mythos, but more than that they illustrate important concepts within each of those five schools and give the magic a more practical and digestible form. Each suit, from the ace to the nine, reveal a spiritual or metaphorical journey that explains something about the Kult mythos and the essence of magic. The exact interpretation is, of course, personal, but I hope that by presenting the suit of Crescents I can stir your thoughts to interpret all five suits in a similar manner. This is not always a straightforward process and I am still contemplating the details of it myself. If you have any insights into these mysteries, feel free to share them in the comments below or anywhere else I can read them.

The Suit of Crescents

Also aptly known as The Moon, the Crescents is the suit of cards in Kult’s tarot associated with dream magic. The card’s symbol is that of two blue crescents, one filled and one empty. The image may bring many things to mind. The passing of time through the lunar cycle, nighttime when sleep is common and most humans access the dreamworld Limbo, emptiness and fullness, and reflection of the known. All this and more might be leveraged by the student of dream magic to attune themselves to their dreams and the source behind them. By mastering techniques for lucid dreaming, dream wandering and manifestation, the dream magician might construct complex worlds of their own making and completely dominate the internal processes of another being. Limbo is a realm of pure creation, and through the consideration of the Suit of Crescents some knowledge might be gained of how to wield the power offered by that place.

We begin with the Ace of Crescents. This card symbolizes Vortex, the root of all creation, the source of chaos and power. It is raw and formless, an unthinking and unthinkable maelstrom. To interact with it is to see everything that can be. It exists at the center of ourselves and at the center of reality, the starting point of all that is.
Realizing the existence and purpose of Vortex may take time, and magicians fumbling through the dream may never come close to it. The magic of Limbo, however, is the magic of creation, and to excel at it one must understand the root of its power. There is nothing in the world of dreams or outside of it that has not had its origin in Vortex.

The Two of Crescents is the card named Creation. If we take a step back from Vortex, we can begin to understand its effects. From that chaos, things are born. If it has been thought, dreamt or shaped in any sense, it has been created from Vortex. This card represents that process, to bring forth, define and isolate a fragment of Vortex.
While many may think they grasp the concept of creation, only the skilled dream magician can claim any expertise on the subject. Within Elysium, creation is the matter of arranging building blocks, reshaping known materials and processing the raw into the refined. In the mysteries of the dream and the Crescents it rather represents the existence and creation of thought itself, for in Limbo thought is everything.

This wild creative process of turning chaos into thought is dangerous and unstable, as the Three of Crescents reminds us by representing Undoing. Most dreams die half-formed, a vastness of terrible ideas are doomed to failure, and those things we raise might well fall. Unless well tended, creation is ephemeral.
Within the dream, you must always be conscious of everything’s potential to be undone. What has been thought can be unthought, and what once was there may not be anymore. Even as we wield the chaos of Limbo to create, we must know that all of it will fade. Undoing is a sign to the student that focus and diligence is a must to fashion Vortex into our liking.

Another important concept must be discovered if we want to understand the power of creation. Transformation, the Four of Crescents, gives us a tool to distance our creation from the maelstrom and make it different. The card represents all forms of extreme change, but within the suit it reveals the transition from raw chaos to meaningful thought.
Where the Two of Crescents is the act itself, the Four of Crescents presents the full scope of the action, from beginning to end, a journey in itself. This is especially meaningful because this card is at the heart of the law of similarity, which dream wanderers must abide by when transforming their environments from one form to another.

At the suit’s midpoint we find the Five of Crescents. It symbolizes Connection, which must be our next step in the creative process. Through transforming Vortex, we have made something which can interact and connect to other things. Creation becomes iterative, more complex structures forged out of smaller pieces. Our creation grows.
More than simply understanding how constituent pieces might form a whole, the Five of Crescents invites the dreamer to consider the connection of all things. All around them is connected to their own will, and to Vortex. To see all as part of a whole, and to deconstruct that whole, is central to understanding Vortex and creation.

From the Six of Crescents and onward, we rapidly increase our scope. The card represents Merging, the natural extension and ultimate result of Connection. We have built complex structures out of smaller pieces, and when viewed from a distance we may no longer consider those pieces separate. They have merged, become one. As we expand our creative process, we conceal the chaos from which it originates.
Merging is the study of the process of connected pieces becoming one whole. Are our conflicting ideals truly disparate, or are they merely different expressions of the same mind? We know that all things originate in Vortex, and so all that which we might have viewed as distinct may not truly be so. When everything is held to be the same, the law of similarity becomes almost trivial, but the mental strain in doing so may overwhelm even the most enlightened.

We have now discovered how complex creation works, so what else to do but attempt it again? The Seven of Crescents, Reflection, the process of taking something and copying it. We place a mirror in front of what we have shaped from Vortex through the steps above, and recognize the image as the finished creation rather than its pieces. We have refined and redefined our once myriad of thoughts into something replicable.
More than reflecting on creation, the Seven of Crescents demands that the dream magician self-reflect. What has been created, and why? If it is borne of their thought and desire, plucked from the maelstrom, what does that say of their essential self? All the dreamer surrounds themselves with is an aspect of themselves, part of their whole.

If we can reflect an object, we can reflect a reflection. Through Repetition, the Eight of Crescents, we further expand our view and understand that what comes out of Vortex can and does repeat endlessly. These are not unique things we make, but reflections of reflections which propagate from the point of creation throughout time and space.
As we distance ourselves from Vortex, we also, in some ways, approach it. Learning the truth of that raging storm of energy, we cannot help but realize its infinite nature. Anything can be brought from Vortex endlessly, and has been. The knowledge to gain is endless, but it has already been discovered.

Finally, Stillness. The end of our journey, the Nine of Crescents. We are here so far removed from the violent maelstrom of Vortex that we can no longer sense it. The chaotic process of creation which brought us to this point has solidified, turned stagnant. All we see is the endless repetition of it all. Little boxes, made of ticky tacky, little boxes, all the same. The finished product of reality when viewed from this vantage point seems perfectly motionless.
Stillness is the absolute counterpoint to Vortex, but it is also its twin. We know from a distance that all creation is still and so Vortex, which is all creation, must also be. The stillness, to observe creation in peace and recognize its eternal patterns, might finally allow the dream magician to conclude their reflection and discover the divine essence within themselves.

To make a practical example of the process of creation and how it unravels, consider a crowd of people. As you observe them from a satellite picture, these people may appear as only a blob, nothing spectacular at all. It barely moves. You zoom in, and realize that the crowd is full of distinct, yet practically identical, humans. They are all created from the same template, and you cannot truly appreciate the distinct beauty of their parts until you single out just one of them. Skin, bone, brain, these many parts which come together and merge to form a whole. A step further, through a microscope, and chaos starts taking over. Cells live and die in the span of years or days, molecules seize one another and push each other away. The chaos, Vortex, is fully revealed only as we consider the erratic movements of electrons and unknowable quantum interactions within these cells, within this body, within this crowd, and the world that it inhabits. From the outside it looks like nothing is moving, but the churning Vortex is always there, somewhere deep within.

What do you think? Does this tell you anything you didn’t already know or consider about the Kult mythos, the suit of Crescents or dream magic? Perhaps I have simply gone mad. 🙂 For those wondering where Jessy’s Story has gone: it is still underway! My artist has been very sick and unable to finish the last art pieces, and since I am a sucker for art I won’t be posting the last 6 sessions until we are back on track. I hope the wait will be worth it, there’s a lot of good stuff left!

Review of The Summit – By Chrystal

Hello, Kultists! This blog post is written by Chrystal, a prominent and highly valued member of the Kult community whom you may recognize. The Summit is a controversial scenario, and in her review Chrystal tries to shed some light on mistakes made, ideas worth praising and what could have been. I hope you enjoy! //Kraetyz

After reading the summit my conclusion is there is a good scenario in there, somewhere. The following review is based on myself and Auburney’s conversation about the topic. As we have consensus of the scenario, I have included with permission some of his comments as if my own. 

I will break this down into sections: 

  1. An overview and what is worthy in the scenario: the Summit
  2. What is wrong with it from an agency and PbtA view. 
  3. Exploring mature themes and my feelings about them as it relates to the Summit. 
  4. Converting what is worthy in the Summit into a scenario that is more accessible to Kult: Divinity Lost.

1. An overview and what is worthy in the scenario: the Summit

The Summit is a scenario about isolation, and the horrors humans will perpetuate when pushed to insanity. The characters have something precious to them stolen and rush after it seeking its recovery. They will go from the regular part of the city and upon crossing the bridge, enter an abandoned section of the city, visiting body horror and the increasingly revolting tableaus to reach the Monarch Apartment Complex, ascending to the final floor to either recover that which was taken or join the debased cult of the pin-stripe man known as Monarch. 

What is definitely worthy in this scenario is the setup and introduction, the location when introduced has this wonderful complexity of opportunities for exploration, it raises questions during the introductory ambush and the stealing of something precious to them and the tension when they have to chase it down to the abandoned section of the city. The motif of Monarch Apartments as a skyscraper of doom is very much an intriguing one. 

I am sure there are groups who have successfully played through this scenario. However, that I feel would be more of a reflection of the skill of the group than the strength of the scenario, as the GM has to tease out the good elements and change-out the subpar ones. 

2. What is wrong with it from an agency and PbtA view. 

Beyond the crystallisation of the worthiness in the scenario, the number of items terrible in this scenario are many. The proposed player character groups are all with no strong reasons to go into the abandoned section of the city, let alone prepared to see or even participate in the horrors along the way. The reasons why they would continue is only due to GM fiat.

Re-reading through the scenario, the player-characters could choose to be a group of high-schoolers, who upon entering the foyer of the Monarch Apartments would be forced to participate in an orgy with little to no escape from it. There are other themes of body horror and hyper sexualization through-out the scenario, but this one struck me as the most wrong among the options.

I am going to ask you to pause, and try to imagine having no choice but to play this scene in front of other players of different genders, age groups, family and relationship statuses, without it being frankly personally traumatic and scarring. 

This highlights though some of the cardinal sins of the scenario, which is the lack of a formalised consent structure for the players and a strong lack of agency with the characters through-out it.

In the Summit, as the characters progress into the abandoned section of the city and finally into Monarch apartments they end up with little to no choices in following the dictates of the GM. The only way to pass through the Monarch apartment complex is to get to the penthouse. If they die they end up on the ground floor and have to go through the same arbitrary traps and scenes again without recourse to skip over.

From a Powered by the Apocalypse perspective, the GM is supposed to be an advocate for the player allowing them great amounts of agency beyond that of just die rolls. It allows the players through their characters greater autonomy and world building opportunities over the entire world. This agency is sorely lacking in the Summit. 

3. Exploring mature themes and my feelings about them. 

The themes in the Summit are said to be isolation, violence and desperation. The question as they ascend both physically and mentally is how far will the characters go in losing their humanity to reach their goals. 

When dealing with mature subjects, one has to be cognisant they are played out in the minds of the players. It is the responsibility of the GM for the players to be aware in detail what they are going to expect when going in and how to stop it and what are the options as the character to escape from it. 

It is thus important to have a warning section prior to delving into the scenario explaining from a meta-language perspective to the prospective GM the themes in detail, what is trying to be achieved and how to scale it back so that it follows the themes of the scenario, while still being a safe environment for each player. 

The Summit is missing most if not all the safeties as they are being led by the GM and often have no choice in the matter of how the scene will play out. When the GM is influencing the character through the player and having this broader power due to the lack of player agency, the player reaches a point where they stop reacting and will mechanically go with the words of the GM. This can ultimately create a fertile ground for genuine trauma. 

For me, if the scenario would be played as written, I would leave the group, never to talk to them again. The reason being, I would have to experience the GM telling me how he’s essentially going to rape/murder/torture me by proxy over and over again in the Monarch Apartment Complex. I would also feel cheated finding out this was the incremental reveal at the end and that no matter which of the scenario options I choose at the finale, it will always result in a Pyrrhic victory to me. 

4. Converting what is worthy in the Summit into a scenario that is more accessible to Kult: Divinity Lost.

There are still some good concepts inside of this scenario and what I would like to do is deconstruct the scenario and rebuild it to become Kult-like. 

From the Pit to the Pinnacle: A reconfiguration of the Summit

Short synopsis of the scenario: The group needs to reach the pinnacle of the Monarch Apartment Complex while having to make increasingly difficult choices between the easier immoral options and the much harder moral ones. 

Themes: The scenario is about whether stripping away our humanity truly makes us strong. 

Before starting: 

  1. Discuss what topics and themes you are willing and unwilling to explore and to what degree. Refer back to this every time when fleshing out the scenario and during game-play.
  2. Discuss with your group, should the types (sacrifices, secrets and rumours) also be shared with select player characters of the group or not. If you choose to share, this can create further interplay and tension between player characters. You may find the best interplay by sharing one of each type with a different player character.

Notes: You below refers to your character.

Questions for generating the scenario:

  1. What kind of goal would make you willing to sacrifice everything?
  2. What type of mundane group would be willing to reach that goal?
  3. What would create urgency in reaching that goal?
  4. Action for each PC: Write down 3 things you would be willing to sacrifice to reach that goal. Once complete, show them to the GM only.

Questions about the location:

  1. How do you enter the abandoned part of the city?
  2. What is supernaturally unusual about that abandoned part of the city?
  3. What are some of the elements that make you uneasy while moving in that abandoned part of the city? (Discuss what a description of a street would look like)
  4. Why won’t help come for you in this abandoned part of the city?
  5. Action for each PC: You have all lived here before. Write down 1 terrible and unconscionable secret act you did to cause you to flee and never return. Once complete, show it to the GM only.

Questions about Pin-Stripe and the inhabitants:

  1. Why does Pin-Stripe have absolute control of this section of the city?
  2. How does its will manifest against you?
  3. What control does Pin-Stripe have over its inhabitants?
  4. What would an example inhabitant clinging to the remnants of their humanity be like to elicit revulsion and sympathy?
  5. What would an example inhabitant who embraced their monstrousness be like to elicit fear?
  6. Each PC: Write down 2 rumours about what makes Pin-Stripe a terror (mundane or supernatural). Once complete, show them to the GM only.

Questions about the Monarch Apartment Complex:

  1. What makes the Monarch stand out among the rest of the abandoned part of the city?
  2. How is the Monarch an extension of the will of Pin-Stripe?
  3. What kind of terror do you feel as you approach it? (Discuss how does the terror manifest with the PCs and also in the environment)
  4. What would an example abandoned apartment in Monarch be like to elicit abhorrence and despair?
  5. What would an example inhabited apartment in Monarch be like to elicit dread?

During game play:

Locations in the abandoned section of the city:

  1. What was this place and what is it now?
  2. What senses are now engaged?
  3. Who or what inhabit this location?
  4. Pick a sacrifice from among the player characters they would have to complete to pass.

Locations in the Monarch Apartment Complex:

  1. What is this place?
  2. Is it abandoned or occupied?
  3. What emotions are now engaged?
  4. Pick a sacrifice from among the player characters they would have to complete to pass.

The Monarch Penthouse:

  1. What is unusual or jarring about this place?
  2. What is generating that sense of terror you feel?
  3. Who or what else is here beyond Pin-Stripe?
  4. Pick a sacrifice from each player character they would each have to complete to reach their goal.

Outcome:

  1. What was the final outcome?
  2. What stories have remained uncompleted?
  3. Where are you six months from now and how have you been reminded of the events in the Monarch Penthouse?

Thank you to Chrystal for allowing me to post this review on my blog! You can find her and myself on the Kult – Elysium Discord server.

Session 14 – Sol

This is a session recap for my current Kult: Divinity Lost roleplaying campaign. Jessy Button is played by my wife, who also does the art, and I am the game master.

This post contains elder abuse.

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The pendulum of the old clock punctuates Jessy’s every step, the ticktocking of its exact machinery guiding the pace of all things in this place. She is guided down a hallway of closed doors, no names, titles or signs of life other than her and the withered receptionist. At the end, a heavy wooden door states with a gold plate: SOL. The door is opened for Jessy by the receptionist’s starved remains, and she is quick to step inside and confront whoever has orchestrated all of this. The man waiting in the room, tall and broad in a checked suit of brown, greets Jessy with a heavy handshake. He has a sturdy figure and small beady eyes. At the far end of the sizable office stands a desk of dark wood, a massive piece of furniture that looks completely immovable. Behind it, just above the exquisite leather chair, hangs a map of Toronto and all its boroughs. Every road, alleyway and tiny walking path is a thin line on the map, lines which continue past the black, narrow frame and out onto the wallpaper. The entirety of the room’s walls swarm with a myriad of lines, an endless city surrounding Canada’s finest metropolis.

Jessy has questions, of course. Why was he communicating over Instagram? What does he want from her? Most importantly, though: What can he offer for it?1 Sol explains that secrecy and anonymity were necessary, and he found no better way than to reach out to her in the way he did. They both had to be certain that they could trust one another before this meeting could take place. Jessy is in a unique position to provide insight into the dealings of Tanver Farooq, his hubris and his blindness. She must tell him everything she knows. For it, she will be rewarded with a life of luxury. If she helps Sol with this one problem, Jessy will effortlessly receive fame and fortune. The world will be at her fingertips. Travel anywhere, meet anyone. Be on the frontpage of every website and magazine, or disappear forever to live in a solitary paradise for the rest of her days2. Sol means every word of it. 1 Read A Person
Full Success

2 Greedy
Partial Success

Jessy compliments Sol on the offer. He is much better at this than Tan. She will take it, no use lying about that, but she would like to ensure her own safety. Sol smiles, offering a comfortable seat in front of his large desk to Jessy as he takes his own. Beside him is a glass case. Within it, three large white feathers mounted on little stands. The name of Ellis O’Donovan is brought up, a lady whom he knows has taken an intensely personal interest in Jessy. Sol assures her with a nod that the police officer is already taken care of. He clasps his hands together and rests them on the desk, waiting for Jessy to formally accept his offer. If she says yes, all her trouble evaporates.

Impressed with Sol’s no-nonsense approach, Jessy tries to dig deeper. Is he even human? Sol claims so, that he is merely a capitalist of the old guard, but the eerie way his eyes flash like orbs of molten gold when he blinks makes Jessy’s gut churn. She realizes only then that she cannot tell when this man is lying. She can’t trust him, yet just as well she cannot doubt his words. Sol’s eyes see and his hands count every dollar going in and out of his city, beautiful Toronto. He tends to the city, nurtures it the only way proven to work: capital. Every skyscraper sprung up like a mushroom, the new businesses and the old, Sol has a hand in all of it. He is Toronto, and it is for that very reason Tanver gives him such trouble. Sol claims that Tan is attempting to subvert and circumvent this well oiled machine of growth and success. He deals with a destructive power, one he doesn’t understand and which may well bring the city to ruin. She recognizes these words, echoed by Artyom’s derisive opinion of Tan, and after this all she can do is tell Sol everything.

Before they proceed with Jessy detailing her knowledge of Tan to Sol, there is one thing left to do. Sol asks that Jessy give him her wallet. Once this meeting has concluded, she’ll no longer need it. The champagne pink accessory, overflowing with the credit cards of other men, is handed over to Sol. He takes it in his large, calloused hand and places it down on the desk. It instantly catches fire as his fingers leave it, intense white flames engulfing the wallet. The two watch it burn in silence, the light cast reflecting in the nameless streets surrounding them so that they pulse with a hungry glow. Within a minute, only a small pile of ash and a charred mark on the desk is left of Jessy’s wallet. Now she is Sol’s.

Jessy tries, as best she can, to explain to Sol the ritual which they’re due to perform in a few weeks time. Sol’s informants had already gathered that Tanver was planning something, but they do not have direct insight into his research. He holds most of his flock in a vice grip, and they are dangerously loyal to him despite knowing so little. Sol apparently recognizes the ritual as Jessy explains it, or at least understands it well enough to know what the end result will be. Tan has been deceived. There is no great wisdom to gain from the being they are to call upon. The entity whispering in Tanver’s ear, spreading its influence among the worshippers, is no god. It is a mimicry of a god, some wretched demon which holds no love for mankind and is using their little cult for its own ends. It holds power, certainly, but its goal is to devour, not share. When the summoning is complete, it will wreak havoc not only on those involved, but on all of Toronto. Sol speaks about this entity masquerading as a god with utter disdain. It has seeped into the cracks of an otherwise pristine city, and its summoning threatens to undo so much of the work Sol has put in to keep his home and domain safe and functioning.

Of course, he has a solution. Sol opens one of the drawers behind his desk, and the otherwise silent room echoes with a metallic clatter. He places on the desk a simple cloth bag and pushes it toward Jessy, which she takes and opens. Within she finds a collection of large golden coins clanking gently together. They are inscribed with glyphs she can’t read and look terribly old, their edges and inscriptions smooth and worn off. These coins will be key to stopping the demon Tan calls ‘The Twins’ from entering the world. Jessy’s instructions are to place one coin at each of the ritual’s focus points, something he seems to assume she knows about, hidden out of sight if possible. They must not be moved once placed. Finally, as the true name of the being is spoken, Jessy must take the final golden coin and swallow it. That and that alone will keep her safe from what’s to follow. She asks what will happen, but Sol’s simple response is that neither of them will have to worry about Tan, his cult, or his false god again.

Over a glass of dark red wine, Jessy and Sol discuss her personal situation. Now that her cards have all combusted, she needs a way to support herself. Sol smiles and passes across the desk a sleek, matte piece of plastic. Sized to fit in her pocket, it bears no identifying marks. He explains that this will serve as her credit card, her identification, and her membership to any exclusive club or organization she might want to visit. Jessy swipes it up and puts it away without even a moment’s hesitation. She understands, of course, that Sol is in control of the card and what she can gain from it. Still, the prospect of having a bottomless bank account with no accountability is too exciting for Jessy to consider an alternative. She’s already burned her old life away, either way. Sol offers much better rewards than Tan. He doesn’t make promises based on the will of a false god, but deals exclusively with money, the only thing in the world she’s seen work true miracles. Jessy is safe from the police, Sol has given her an offer she can’t refuse, and she has no qualms betraying Tan. There is only one thing left in her life that Jessy has to address.

What does Sol know about Granger Fine Jewelry? More than he lets on, Jessy suspects. Jeremiah Redwood is a dangerous man without a doubt. Sol knows about him, and that he like Tan deals with the filthy underbelly of creation. What they do harms the world. The evil and the supernatural shouldn’t be romanticized or approached, it should be fought and sealed away. Toronto stands proud not because of these fools, but in spite of them. Jessy informs Sol that, once she is done with Tan, Jeremiah is next. She needs answers from him. This is great news to Sol, who thanks Jessy for her continued cooperation.

Jessy doesn’t remember leaving Sol’s office, nor the path she took to get back to Tan’s place. A day has passed, and it seems a good time to call up Carl. When she sweetly asks for help moving into that wonderful new place he bought for her, Carl eagerly drops his work at Jessy’s whim. She brings most of her things from Tan’s apartment up to the small townhouse in Brampton, where she delights in watching Carl unpack for her and organize her things. Jessy flirts with and teases Carl, all in good fun. He truly is the best, helping her out so much. A lot of laughter, a lot of smiles, and Jessy taking note of the little things he compliments her on and the pictures Carl shows her from his daughter’s Instagram. The man is begging to be toyed with.

With her days finally slowing down to a managable pace after so much has happened, Jessy decides to visit the only person in the world she can speak her mind openly to: Agatha. This poor old lady and the caretakers at her hospice are still convinced that Jessy is her granddaughter, and thanks to her Alzheimer’s Agatha won’t ever be able to reveal any of Jessy’s secrets. Her visit begins on a downer, as one of the workers explains that Agatha has been getting much worse recently. She doesn’t speak much or react to others speaking, and her physical health is deteriorating fast. Jessy deflects questions about family and Agatha’s eventual passing, content to simply sit down next to the woman in her room and begin to talk.

Agatha in her wheelchair is a sad sight. Her cold blue eyes are fixed on an indeterminate point in the overcast day outside the window, she’s hooked up to several machines which monitor and maintain her life, and she doesn’t speak outside the occasional groan or wheeze. Jessy quietly tells Agatha about herself, all the madness and clarity. She thinks that she’s safe now, thanks to meeting someone new. She still likes Tan, but feels there’s no other option for her than to listen to Sol. Once in a while Agatha’s eyes shift over to Jessy, bright but without understanding. As the one-sided conversation continues, Agatha gets more animated, asking confused questions in her feeble, hoarse voice about who she is and why she needs to let Jessy in.

It escalates quickly. Her bony hand reaches out and tries to hold on to Jessy’s arm. Agatha is confused and stressed out, waking up from her drug-induced haze to demand answers from Jessy about things she has no right to know. Why does she have the ring? Why does Jessy need to let her in? Who is she? Agatha convulses and falls out of her wheelchair, wheezing and babbling as alarms start to beep around them. Jessy jumps away and takes a step back, paralyzed and confused until the nurses come running to help Agatha. Things move too fast for any sense to be made of the situation, and Jessy is told that it’s very likely Agatha won’t survive the night. New drugs, bed bound, forced to sleep. Jessy waits in the room as hours tick by, knowing in her gut that this is not the end. Her grandmother is close. Time slows to a crawl, nothing to do but watch the geriatric woman’s possibly last moments alive.

With so little time left and with Agatha apparently connected to her real grandmother in some way, Jessy takes the opportunity to get some answers. She takes off her ring, studies its lavish design, and leans close to the infirm old woman. Perhaps Jessy could put it on her. Agatha’s eyes open, or the eyes that once belonged to her, now golden brown and glaring at Jessy. It’s clear what she wants, she even reaches for it. She wants to come back, to be let in, to live. Not giving her what she wants, Jessy explains to her grandmother through Agatha that if she does not leave, she will destroy the ring. Something snaps in the old woman, and Angela who once was Agatha forcefully sits up and throws herself towards Jessy’s outstretched hand.3 An IV is ripped out, the breathing mask falls to the side along with everything else attached to the frail body. She drops to to the floor, and Jessy with her. Somehow the ring ends up in the elder’s hand, and on her finger. 3 Act Under Pressure
Failure
The lights go out with a zap. In the far distance, screams of agony as the tiny woman tangled in bed sheets stands up on wobbling legs and laughs. The machines which kept her alive beep rapidly as something large falls to the floor in the next room over. Jessy struggles to get up on her feet, flailing and trying to take the ring back before it’s too late. Angela catches Jessy’s hand in hers, the claw-like fingers digging into her wrist and bending her out of shape. As the distant scream intensifies and reality darkens, Jessy feels her hand melting under her grandmother’s will. All she can do is beg for her to stop.4 Angela cackles at Jessy’s vain hope for mercy, but does let go. Jessy collapses to the floor again, her hand intact after all, as Angela mocks her granddaughter’s embarrassing display. With a mad glint in her eyes, them and the ring the only truly vibrant lights in the otherwise dim room, she asks if Jessy would like to see her mother. She’s dead, yes, but nontheless Angela could take Jessy to her. Banging, screaming and crying for help from the rest of the hospice becomes unrecognizable background noise to Jessy. With an ecstatic grin, Angela steps forward to grab on to Jessy’s hair and pull her with to some unknown destination, but instead only rips off Jessy’s wig. 4 Perpetual Victim
Partial Success
A moment to respond, a moment Jessy takes5. She catches Angela’s ring hand and pulls her featherweight body down onto the floor. Bones snap under Jessy’s grasp, she’s ruthless in prying open the screaming woman’s fingers. The ring feels as if on fire when Jessy gets a hold of it. She rips and tears, Angela’s skin is fused to the ring but there’s no greater thought than to cause this old hag pain. With a wet sound, the finger is flayed completely and blood gushes out of the gruesome wound as Jessy kicks Angela away and puts the drenched ring back on her own finger6. 5 Engage In Combat
Full Success

6 See Through The Illusion
Failure
  • Oh no
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Session 13 – Sinking Deeper

This is a session recap for my current Kult: Divinity Lost roleplaying campaign. Jessy Button is played by my wife, who also does the art, and I am the game master.

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Despite her headache and definitely not wanting to go, Jessy does head out in the morning for her first doctor’s visit since her ‘accident’. The hospital’s bright lights and long wait times already have her in a bad mood by the time her doctor, Edward, enters the examination room. Jessy’s new bandages and wounds, sores made from a thousand needles burrowed into her skin, force Edward to ask many worried and intrusive questions until Jessy guilts him to stop. She had sex. It was consensual. Deal with it. While examining and redressing her shoulder wound, nearly healed, the doctor asks Jessy about her head injury. Has she experienced migraines, mood shifts, noises, flashes of light, anything else strange? While Jessy tries to explain to Edward that she’s been hearing and seeing her grandmother, he at first appears to ignore her response entirely and later dismisses it as dizzy spells. Jessy gets the sense that what she tried to tell him and the words that actually came out of her mouth didn’t match up. She told him something different.

A knocking on the door, persistent. Edward continues his examination, slowly unwinding the bandage around Jessy’s head. She asks him to answer the goddamn door, but he hears no knocking even as it rattles the inoffensive art piece framed on the wall. She complains about her hallucination, and the building headache. At first Edward tries to calm her, the examination will be quick, but as the bandage loosens around the hole in her head she can feel air and spirit seeping inside her, reach for her. Jessy’s distress becomes too much to ignore, her panicked screaming loud and persistent. Edward calls for help and extra medication for Jessy. Crying from pain and distress, she demands he open the fucking door. Of course there’s no one there, but the knocking continues, a loud banging rattling the entire room, coming from somewhere below. Angela, Jessy’s grandmother, is calling out to her. Beckoning her, asking to be let in.

Nurses enter the room to help Jessy calm down or at least get a sedative in her. They talk over her, discussing what to do while getting Jessy to her feet. Doctor Edward seems gravely concerned by Jessy describing her hallucinations and suggests that the nurses take her to another room, down two floors. The banging and begging from below was bad enough, but Jessy knows she’s on the hospital’s ground floor and doesn’t want to know how deep they would take her. She refuses, struggling to leave. A muscular nurse holds on to her as they take her out into the corridor, ready to bring their unruly patient with them. Jessy slips out of the nurse’s grip1 and makes a run for it. She’s shaky on her feet, her heels make her fall over at least twice, and she trips at least one person walking past her with a crutch in her panic to get outside. Jessy reaches the lobby to the sounds of Code White being called out on the PA system, but she is out in the cold Toronto afternoon before they manage to catch her. The hallucinations, if they were hallucinations, diminish and disappear to be replaced by the noise of her phone. Hospital calling. She blocks the number, runs to a side street, and takes an Uber home to Tan’s apartment where she crashes onto her bed for a drug-induced nap, speaking to no one. 1 Act Under Pressure
Full Success
When she wakes up, Jessy goes to look for Carolina. She finds her in the second floor lounge, dusting the exaggerated bosom of an old erotic statuette. Carolina asks about Jessy’s hospital visit, and she explains how she ran away from it. They were going to keep her there and she didn’t trust them. Carolina agrees with her on that notion. She shouldn’t trust doctors, strangers that they are, she doesn’t know what they want nor who they work for. The conversation turns to Jessy’s grandmother, who she admits seems to be haunting her, trying to ‘get in’. Carolina says she understands, and promises Jessy she’ll get in contact with someone who may be able to help. In the meantime, she suggests that Jessy spend some time praying to Dehu and Mil and let the Twins grant her power and control over the situation. They see her potential, and can lead her anywhere. Just as their chatter fades and Carolina readies herself for work, Jessy asks what Carolina’s impression of Jessy is. She responds by naming Jessy a thief, and the smile fades from her round, saggy face2. 2 Liar Hold spent
Tan told her. Of course. Jessy feels herself losing grip on the conversation and quickly tries to recover, apologizing to Carolina with as much sincerity as she can fake3. While Carolina puts Jessy on the defensive by insulting her for her stupid, senseless actions, she sees in Jessy’s eyes just how much she wants Carolina on her side. Jessy, frustrated, asks if she needs to cut off her hands to make it up to Carolina, to which the older woman laughs and instead suggests Jessy’s hair. Jessy is stopped dead in her tracks. Carolina goes on to calmly explain that she would like Jessy’s hair for a private ritual of hers, perfectly harmless. She has done the same with Daisy. While Jessy finds it funny that Daisy wears a wig, the suggestion is still a shock as she fails to understand what the ‘catch’ is. There is none. If Carolina is allowed to shave Jessy, all of her, and keep the hair for herself, she would consider it a gesture of goodwill from Jessy and the start of a great friendship between them. It is simple as that. 3 Read A Person
  • Intuitive
Failure
  • How can I get you to like me?

What can she do but agree? Strange though it is, a wig would be easier to take care of, and besides it could have been much worse. Jessy can deal with strange. Carolina and her go down to the first floor bathroom, where Jessy strips naked for Carolina and allows her to meticulously cut and shave off every bit of hair on Jessy’s body. It is a long process, done in near silence. Head, eyebrows, arms and legs, privates, Carolina moves down her body with ease without mistake or hesitation. Once she is done, Jessy feels more naked than she has in a long while. Carolina offers her a wig, similar to Daisy’s but in a darker color, and leaves Jessy to her own devices while she sweeps up all the hair left behind.

Over text, Jessy messages Carl and suggests they go for dinner. She hasn’t given him the attention he needs, and knows she has to rekindle their relationship somehow or risk losing him and his credit card. She doesn’t need it, but she wants it anyway4. Carl books them a private lounge at a high end restaurant, obviously eager to spend money on Jessy. The pudgy older man sits in a neat gray suit across from her, admiring and complimenting Jessy on her smile which looks so much like his daughter Maddie’s. Jessy has dressed up for the occasion, donning clothes in Madeline’s colors and improving a makeup look she’s posted on her Instagram. Everything to look good for Carl, in just the way she knows he wants it. She expertly lies and explains away her poor behavior, apologizing for being so distant to him and telling him how grateful she is. She’ll move in to the apartment he bought for her when she’s not so sick, and of course she’ll re-apply to the university. Carl eats it all up, blinded by Jessy’s glamour, and the two part ways later with a long embrace. 4 Influence Other
Full Success

After far too long and much awaited, Jessy gets a day where Tan is home. Other than their incessant flirting, sex and general debauchery, Tan would also like to talk to Jessy about something important, a feeling which she shares. She explains to Tan what happened at the hospital. Her grandmother, the doctor trying to take her down two floors into the basement, her escape. He agrees, same as Carolina, that Jessy was right to run away and that she shouldn’t return. Jessy’s grandmother seems an unstoppable presence, and whatever she’s planning Jessy must remain alert and strong minded against it. 

In his office, Tan reveals to Jessy what his plan is. An old book, falling apart, is placed on his desk. Alongside it two parchment scrolls, one ripped in two, and a stack of printed paper from his computer. These are his research materials, and his notes, for the ritual he intends to perform with the Twins’ guidance. In three weeks time, he and Jessy will act as the leading pieces in this grand gesture to Dehu and Mil, performed in ceremony together with the rest of the faithful. Their purpose? To summon a mancipia, an enlightened creature of lust and power. Through Tan’s many years of research, he has discovered the true name of one of these spirits, and will use it to bring it amongst them. Tan explains to Jessy that this servant of the Twins will bestow upon them, as the two sacred summoners, incredible insights and power over the rest of the flock. All will be shared with them through Dehu’s wisdom, and with Mil’s guidance they will use their higher knowledge to control and benefit from all of Toronto and Canada. Jessy wonders why Tan has chosen her for the task, and with a glimmer of excitement in his eye he professes that he simply believes her to be the perfect candidate to stand alongside him. He’s looked for someone for this, and no one has been like Jessy. To him, she embodies everything the Twins needs in a woman.

The notes are detailed. Everything on the scrolls, and in the book, has multiple translations provided by Tan to ensure Jessy grasps all the layered meanings of the words, and additional clarifications on top of it. He explains briefly some of the arcane diagrams to Jessy, configurations of people involved in various actions, sexual or otherwise. All of it is connected, and each participant is chosen and placed based on who they are and what their relation is to everyone else in the ritual. Tan has pages upon pages of text, detailing the personal and interpersonal life of every member of his flock. Very intimate details. Jessy sees no notes for herself, however, but this is surely a conscious decision on Tan’s part. He asks her to study all these materials thoroughly. She must understand every bit of the ritual, its design and intent, for it to work. Tan trusts that in three weeks, they will perform great deeds together.

Jessy promises to help, of course. Her heart races when she thinks about the power Tan is offering her. Their flock. However, she still feels so new to the faith. In fact, though she’d never tell Tan, Jessy isn’t sure about this worship of the Twins at all. She needs to learn how to pray without Tan’s help and feel Dehu and Mil’s presence on her own. Carolina suggested it, but Jessy needs guidance. Tan is understanding, and provides several suggestions. Any form of meditation, wherein you admit and revel in the Twins’ purpose and wish, will serve as prayer to them. Building an altar, or two mirrored ones, also helps, especially offered together with a sacrifice either physical or emotional. These are simple steps, but Jessy must find her own path towards worship. Nothing is off limits in the search for enlightenment.

It’s been too long since Jessy saw Andi. After solidifying their plans over Instagram, there’s finally a date where Andi and her friends can meet Jessy. She’s wrapped up for her various injuries, but her head bandage is now thankfully hidden underneath the wig she wears. The three wait at Fran’s until Jessy gets there fashionably late and notices a familiar face among them she wasn’t expecting. Jessy stops and meets Simon’s eyes. They recognize each other. Jessy reacts with barely suppressed shock, Simon with desire. She was sure the man was dead, given what Artyom had her do to him, but still he sits next to his and Andi’s friend, Jana Causevic, looking decisively alive. It takes a moment for Jessy to recover, but she eventually walks up and greets the table with smiles and nods. Andi is so excited to see Jessy again, making sure at all times she’s feeling okay. Sitting across from Simon, Jessy works hard to maintain her composure and getting used to the smiling man whom she last saw naked and mutilated.

Once the pleasantries are over and done with, Jessy turns to Jana and asks for stories about Granger Fine Jewelry, as much as she knows and remembers. She worked in the sales team for the company for eight years, and claims she has so many odd stories and anecdotes about the place that she could never get through all of them. Jeremiah Redwood, the man who made Jessy’s ring, is an angry and old little man. He must be a hundred years old, yet he continues to wander through the office in his dusty suit, not looking at or talking to anyone except his own senior team of designers. It is his team, too: a separate team of designers under Jeremiah’s guidance who, to Jana’s knowledge, don’t really communicate with the rest of the company other than Efraim Granger himself. They work on the third floor of the office, off-limits for everyone else, and stay late enough that even the self-admitted workaholic Jana didn’t always see them leave. They’d stay up there, and the singing and shouting would sometimes reach through the floors and down to her desk. Visitors for Jeremiah who Jana never saw leave, employees carrying boxes of old books, paintings and other assorted junk up to their floor. There was so much she witnessed and never had time to register while she was there. Andi asking her to come meet Jessy opened the floodgates to all these memories, and she’s sure there is yet more to say.

As Jana gets a call from work and Andi leaves for a bathroom break, Jessy and Simon are left alone together. Immediately, she leans in close to him and asks why, or rather how, the hell he’s there. After what she did to him, she was sure Simon wouldn’t survive. He explains with a wide smile how Artyom saved him, as Simon had known he would. Artyom found him via a mutual business contact and promised such beautiful suffering. Oh, how Jessy had delivered… Simon is ecstatic to have found Jessy again, professing again and again his desire for her to do to him what she did before. He even reaches out and places his hand, fingers swollen and at disturbing angles, on top of Jessy’s. He begs for more, without reservation. Jessy suggests that Simon contact her privately over Instagram. She won’t pass up such an alluring opportunity.

The group continues their discussion over food, making wide-ranging speculation on what this secret team of supposed designers actually do. Perhaps Jeremiah Redwood runs a secret business which only Efraim knows about. All the clients that she saw Jeremiah interact with were specifically there for him, and none of his dealings ever went through their regular sales system so far as she knows. Jessy wonders whether there’s any way for her to get into the office. Jana explains that security is tight, but the two hatch a plan together to get Jessy there as a client. Money will not be an issue, Jessy assures Jana who figures she may be able to contact Efraim Granger about it. She admits that she too is curious about all this, and if Jessy finds anything out she wants to hear about it.

When their lunch is almost complete, Jessy receives a message on Instagram, from the mystery account that’s been pressing her for details on Tan for the past weeks. She is in danger. Police are coming for her. Follow instructions to remain safe. As if waking up from a daydream, Jessy hears the blaring of police sirens closeby. They’re so close. She excuses herself from the table with the lie of a personal emergency, drops a bundle of cash she stole from Carl and heads out into the frigid city. Quietly in her mind, Jessy begs for the Twins to guide her and protect her, a repeated prayer hoping to avoid capture. A flurry of messages on her phone guide her two streets north, into an alleyway, then back again only to run across the street and continue west before switching directions once more. Downtown becomes a labyrinth of glass and brick. With each turn and every time Jessy stops to catch her breath, the sirens hound her. Finally, a message instructing her to enter a building and take the elevator far up. She is so relieved to have found safety that it’s not until she looks herself in the elevator mirror that Jessy realizes she has no idea where she is. She can’t recall which street the building was on, its number or name, nor what path she took to get there.

The elevator comes to a halt on the 35th floor. Jessy steps out into a reception area, all wood tiling and thick carpets. Behind the desk sits a receptionist, a cute thin girl who can’t be much older than Jessy herself. She peeks up from her laptop and greets Jessy by name with a smile. Sol will be ready in his office shortly. Jessy takes a seat in one of the wide, plush arm chairs and idly flips through one of the nondescript business focused magazines on the lacquered wooden table. The rhythmic ticking of a large pendulum clock hanging by the receptionist desk is her only indication that time is passing. Everything else is quiet. There are paintings hanging on the walls, portraits of old men and scenes of warfare against native Americans. Jessy flips to the next page and looks up at the receptionist, whose thin wrists appear more like two sticks wrapped in human skin. The ticking continues, but the clock has no number markers and every time Jessy looks at it, it seems to hang askew, totally unhelpful in telling the time. Seconds are passing. The receptionist, her face stretched taut against her skull, reaches across her desk and grabs something crawling across the surface. She cracks it between her fingers, audibly, and licks them clean. Time has passed, perhaps half an hour, and Sol is ready to see Jessy.

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Session 12 – The Cult of Dehu and Mil

This is a session recap for my current Kult: Divinity Lost roleplaying campaign. Jessy Button is played by my wife, who also does the art, and I am the game master.

This post contains visual nudity, memory loss, sexual content and flagellation.

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Jessy sits in the bedroom, confused, and listens to James run down the stairs. Carolina and Daisy immediately go to check on him. Realizing this situation might get out of hand quickly, Jessy hurries to catch up to James. He is on the verge of tears, trying to give Daisy a rambled recollection of what happened. He was terrified, stuck with suffering and pain for an eternity. No joy, no passion. He sought his god, and found only torment. Carolina and Daisy are shocked, but Jessy approaches and tries to mend her now ruined relationship with James1. She didn’t mean him any harm, she only did what she thought he wanted. She cares about James and making this right, but right now he needs to calm down. Carolina has already called Tan, recognizing the weight of what’s unfolding, so perhaps they should just wait for him. Daisy leads the temporarily placated James to a chair in the lounge, and when he asks for his 3DS she gets it for him from the staff lounge. They all sit down and wait for Tan, with the cheery sounds of Animal Crossing as background noise. Jessy’s mind is running at full speed, trying to piece together an excuse or explanation Tan might listen to. 1 Influence Other
Partial Success
Daisy is soon to confront Jessy, demanding she explain what the hell she just did. James doesn’t act like this, so whatever Jessy did it must have been really fucked up. Jessy, of course, doesn’t feel the need to explain herself to an annoying teenager, and tells Daisy as much. The arguments continue, Daisy yelling at her to tell them where she went afterwards, since she came back to the apartment dressed like filth. Jessy claims she went to look for a pharmacy, but couldn’t find one. Daisy sees right through her bullshit2, since there’s a pharmacy in the lobby of the god damn building. There’s not even any blood! How did Jessy make any of this happen? More refusal to answer. Their argument escalates into insults hurled at one another, until Carolina steps in and tells them both that it’s probably better for everyone to be quiet and wait for Tan. Except for a few snide remarks, the girls quiet down at that. 2 Liar Hold spent

Two hours pass in silence, save for James’ game with its friendly music and happy chirps. James himself does not reflect the game’s mood, staring blankly at the screen and occasionally sobbing or shuddering. When Tan finally opens the door, he hollers a casual greeting and wanders with little urgency into the lounge. The smile on his face withers when he sees James and the large symbol carved into him, deep scars already healed but permanently staining his muscular chest. He drops his suitcase and marches over, giving James his full attention. What happened? James rambles for some time, telling Tan the same thing he told Daisy and Carolina. Jessy led him away from The Twins, pushed him into what he can only describe as hell. So much agony, uncountable horrors inflicted. His crying and panicked screaming builds in intensity as he tries to put words to what he saw in his sleep, until finally Tan leans in close and calms him in just a few whispered words, inaudible to the rest.

The warm disposition Tan usually displays is completely gone when he turns to Jessy. Explain this. With everyone’s eyes on her, Jessy at first refuses and asks for a more private discussion. Tan won’t let that happen. She has branded one of his flock with something clearly harmful that none of them recognize. Jessy tries to handwave it away, saying she doesn’t know what the symbol means, she doesn’t know anything, but that’s not good enough for Tan. He demands she tell him, tell them, in detail, exactly what went down.

Jessy’s story is full of convenient omissions and some outright lies. James offered her to help him find God, and she did what she thought he wanted her to. She made the symbol which, again, she has no idea what it is or what kind of demon or god it might represent. Tan pushes her on it, but Jessy has no idea. It simply came to her. Not once does she mention Artyom. The story gets a little muddled when she claims to have left the apartment, and eventually admits with some vitriol towards Daisy that no, she didn’t go to a pharmacy, she lied because she didn’t want to talk to Daisy about it. She keeps her focus on Tan, apologizing and trying to explain that she’s only trying to follow his teachings. She thought that she was doing something right but instead she hurt James, and she would never want to do that to him. In the end, Jessy can tell3 that Tan doesn’t believe her lies. Something in his eyes, cold but curious, reveals that he’s willing to put this aside for now despite it. Jessy is strong, a source of conflict, and maybe that’s all he actually wants. Tan suggests they all calm down for now, and invites James, Carolina and Daisy to stay late for a small ritual. Something to unite them again and pay their respects to the Twins. Jessy shoots off one last insult towards Daisy, muttered under her breath, and then leaves the lounge to take a few deep breaths alone. 3 Read A Person
Partial Success
  • How do you feel right now?
  • What do you wish I would do?

The mood is muted in the condo for the rest of the day, the sun long gone from the horizon line by the time Jessy knocks on Tan’s office door and invites herself in. He is warmer to her now, almost as if nothing happened. Jessy tries to apologize again, feigning a modicum of sincerity even though she knows Tan isn’t buying it. She explains again that she did it to try and follow Tan’s example, and that she feels terrible that everything went wrong. Jessy reveals that the ring must have had something to do with it, that it takes people places but she can’t understand why. Wilma wanted the ring to get to the city under the world, Honey was afraid of it because he couldn’t find his way around the city, and Jessy ended up alone in some strange hotel across Toronto after cutting the symbol into James. She was chased, too, someone or something calling out for her and trying to reach her. There’s so much she needs to tell him, and so much she still needs to keep hidden.

Tan suggests that perhaps the ring demands a sacrifice. He tries to explain that often, these things we cannot understand need something to fuel them, spiritual energy or a gift from a deity. The ring has power, but everything Jessy tells him points towards it requiring a sacrifice before it shares that power with Jessy. Tan admits in their conversation that while still tempted, he is not keen on buying the ring from Jessy anymore. It has put her into dangers he would rather not face, and Jessy has enemies whose eyes he does not want directly on himself. He’ll keep her safe, of course, but he cannot risk taking the ring for himself.

Once the conversation inevitably turns to flirtatious remarks, Tan waves Jessy off and tells her to wait for dinner. A simple meal is prepared by Carolina, in light of their regular cook’s current state. Tan comes downstairs and into the dining room wearing a black robe with a red, wide velvet slit down the center, religious garb Jessy doesn’t recognize. He sits at the head of the table, the other four along its long sides. While James is left alone in his own world, shaking and occasionally crying into the food, Tan remains warm and flirty with the rest of his guests. Once dinner is over, Daisy is asked to bring out the drinks, tall and dark red. The room is cast into darkness, save a few candles lit by Tan. He holds a sermon on the nature of Dehu and Mil, about understanding social and material hierarchy in order to cast it down and take through conflict what you desire. The sermon ends with well wishes to each person around the table, and then they drink the blood served them in the tall crystal glasses. Tan wishes for Jessy to allow him and the rest to guide her on the path towards The Twins.

Days pass, with Jessy spending most of her time indoors. Tan’s rough treatment and her still healing body from the attack weeks prior prevents her from being too active. The atmosphere around the condo is decisively icy between her and Daisy. James has not been cooking. She knows that her absence on Instagram and YouTube will become noticable soon, but she is in no condition to post new pictures or videos. She does venture outside to see her friends, but both her bandaged appearance and increasingly disturbing manner of speaking puts a damper even on that. 

Finally, the night of the ceremony. With Tan speaking so well of it, Jessy gets eager to participate as she makes herself up and dresses herself in some of her most beautiful clothes for the occasion. The condo gradually fills throughout the day and evening with faithful members of the elite, laughing over drinks and making candid smalltalk in the corners of both the first and second floor lounges. Some flirt and slip away to the several private rooms in Tan’s home, others seem content to wait for the ceremony to begin in proper. Tan is locked away on the third floor, preparing and praying. Jessy drifts through the lounge for a while, enjoying the warm and dense atmosphere of power and riches with a glass of white wine in her hand. After spotting David Clap, one of MyGems’ founders, receiving and packing away a bra soaked in dried blood, she approaches him for idle smalltalk. He does not recognize her at first, but seems happy to see a new face nontheless. Jessy receives similar comments from many others, always pleased when Tan finds more promising folks to take part in The Twins’ wisdom.

As the night proceeds and Jessy migrates upstairs with a woman called Tammy and some of her acquaintances, a distinct sense of unease builds within Jessy. The man one table over, sitting by the graphic orgy painting and receiving both a drink and more services from Daisy, looks familiar. A flash of recognition, like deja vu, hits Jessy like a bag of bricks but immediately fades. Even the person she’s speaking with, a mildly crazy art collector named Joe, gives her the same drastic feeling of familiarity, as if she’s seen this entire scene before. Jessy leaves to go downstairs, looking for a change of pace, but she turns back up the stairs the moment she enters the lounge and sees the dark shape out on the snowy balcony waiting for her. It stares at her with golden-brown eyes, a pale face she can’t recognize across the room. She rushes up to the locked third floor door to bang on it, but gets no response. She turns to leave, only to have the door shake in its hinges as something knocks back. Nothing after that. Jessy’s distress is mounting, and she rudely interrupts Daisy in her oral duties on the second floor to ask her how she might get in contact with Tan4. Daisy informs her, more than a bit annoyed by Jessy’s mere presence, that Tan is busy but she could always talk to Carolina. She has a key to the third floor. Jessy leaves Daisy with a harsh insult, all she deserves, and braves the downstairs. The presence on the balcony is gone, but Jessy’s paranoia remains. 4 Influence Other
Full Success

Carolina is casually conversing with guests in between carrying trays of underwhelming food and apologizing for the state of the kitchen. James is working, but he is not feeling well. Jessy gets in her way and asks if they can speak in private. She guides Carolina to the empty dining room, where the older woman places her blue clutch purse on the table and asks Jessy what the matter is. She confesses to Carolina that she feels hesitant, unsure about the ceremony and what’s about to happen. She feigns upset about the trouble she caused James earlier in the week, and she doesn’t want to fuck things up. Jessy allows Carolina to calm her, telling her that all Jessy has to do is relax, listen to what Tan says and follow along. Dehu and Mil will reveal their truths to her.

The faith of the Twins seems to come so easy to the rest, and Jessy laments that she feels out of place. Carolina soothes her further, stroking Jessy’s cheek with her hand. She needs to allow it to come naturally, to listen to herself and hear Dehu and Mil’s voices in her own thoughts. The older woman guides Jessy to a chair, and Jessy allows the situation to escalate as she knew it would. Her dress is hitched up. With a strained grunt because of her bad back, Carolina carefully lowers herself to floor to put Jessy at ease. Playing along is easy, and soon Jessy is moaning loudly and running fingers through Carolina’s brown hair to distract from hearing Jessy fumble with the clasp of the clutch on the table5. She gets it open one-handed and carefully whisks the keyring out of there, hiding it in her scarf before closing the purse once more. Carolina seems none the wiser. Jessy feels good about her deception and, truth be told, the cunnilingus. 5 Act Under Pressure
Full Success

A few minutes of pleasure pass before Carolina looks up at Jessy with a smile, her round weathered face glistening. She asks for the purse, telling Jessy she has a surprise in there for her. Jessy, having seen the contents of the clutch, already knows of the sex toys kept in it. She is not keen on Carolina discovering the stolen keys, so she refuses to comply and instead grabs the thick dildo in there herself. Taking control of the situation, much to Carolina’s delight, Jessy shows what Tan must see in her by forcing the toy deep into Carolina’s throat. She holds it there until the older woman is nearly passed out, eyes wide and watering. When she collapses on the floor, Jessy laughs and makes herself presentable again. Still hiding the keys, she waits for Carolina to regain her composture and then leaves with a wide smile.

Done with her thieving, Jessy heads up to the third floor door when she pauses, hesitant to continue. It’s only at this point that she realizes that maybe Daisy and the others weren’t lying when they said Tan didn’t want to be disturbed. Something strange and bad is happening, but she’s already ruined James and doesn’t want to get on Tan’s bad side again so soon after. She stands by the third floor door, looking down at the keys in her hand, and turns to leave. She brings up her phone to text Tan a message about her visions and fragmented memories. It rings in her hand. Unknown caller. The crackling voice on the other side is begging to be let inside. The frightened screaming from the other end of the line sounds too familiar, as if it is Jessy’s own voice. She almost drops the phone and hurries downstairs and into her own room. She locks the door and stays there, hiding.

Jessy emerges once she hears Tan’s voice. He calls his flock upstairs, inviting them into the ceremony hall. He’s wearing the same black and red robe as during the dinner, smiling at each person as they enter the third floor. Again Jessy feels as though she’s done this before, and soon realizes why. The abstract paintings in black and red on the walls are the same as those few pictures she took at the MyGems afterparty, the night she couldn’t remember after she first met Tan. This is not her first time here. It’s a stressful realization, but there is no time to dwell on it. The cult of Dehu and Mil undresses, spreading out through the large conference hall. Kisses are exchanged and a large black cloth is unfolded below the dark stone throne towering at the far end of the room. Tan’s watchful eye guides every movement, directing his flock from his elevated seat of power and surrounded by truly grotesque, surreal art of a being with two goat heads breaking chains and violently penetrating its lessers.

Jessy stands in the nude, save for the bandages around her arms and legs from injuries new and old, and watches as Tan walks across the large black cloth in the center of the room. With white spray paint he creates a complex sigil on it, careful lines and curves. Around him, some are humming prayers or songs while others watch in silence. Many have their hands on themselves or each other, idle pleasure in preparation for the event. A woman with heavy breasts and a steady gaze, Jasmine, is brought forward by Tan to stand at the center of the symbol. She’s prepared herself for this all month, knowing she would play the centerpiece in the ceremony. Tan whispers to her and caresses her body, loving gestures formalized into beautiful ritual. The room falls silent, watching as Jasmine’s determined face softens, turns blank, and then begins to twitch. The rest of her body is soon overcome by spasms, and a monotone shriek escapes her as Tan finally pushes Jasmine to fall onto her back. Surrounded by his arcane art, Jasmine convulses feebly on the floor while her piercing howl continues without fail, as though her lungs contained all the air in the room.

It is at this point that Tan begins his sermon, his loud voice in harmony with Jasmine’s scream. Eleavated above the rest he speaks at length about pain, subservience and the ruthless nature which must be upheld to better serve ourselves and the reality around us. He produces a whip, a nasty thing with multiple gleaming metal tips, which he places at the feet of the shrieking woman they are all standing around. She exists in front of them as a creature of submission, a cowering whelp who expects nor deserves anything but contempt. Jasmine, or the thing she represents, is a vessel for others’ domination. With the whip, each cultist must display their power over this creature, feel themselves stand tall above it. After the whipping, they must also drink from Jasmine’s blood, which will weep from the wounds on her body to fill the jagged cup Tan holds in his hand. Each of them must do this, after which the adrenaline and divine inspiration of Dehu and Mil will set them free to do anything they like to each other.

Jessy’s turn, finally. Those who came before her have entirely descended into perverse pleasures among each other, filling the room with sounds of prayer and ecstasy. Eager members of Tan’s flock watch her walk up to the already bleeding Jasmine laying dutifully on the floor, waiting for their turn while celebrating hers. The whipping feels good. It feels easy. Jasmine’s pain is beautiful, the blood flowing feels like it anoints Jessy’s very soul. She is overcome by desire to give more, and more, and more. She keeps lashing6, the metallic tips of the whip slashing deep into Jasmine’s thighs and back as the rest of the room fades from Jessy’s consciousness. The black whip whirls in front of her, blurring her vision with each lash. One moment, she is sure that she can see Tan on his throne, comfortable and in control through the Twin God’s guidance. He is the last to blur out of sight, eventually leaving the room empty and silent. Not even her feverish lashes break the emptiness, and Jessy comes to realize that she is whipping the floor. Distant shadows are all that remain of the flock. 6 See Through The Illusion
Failure
The distant murmur of crying and howling only makes itself known once Jessy sees the woman marching towards her, golden brown eyes gleaming as bright as the little smile on her parched lips. Jessy knows her, recognizes the elder from childhood photographs. Her grandmother, Angela, a woman she’s never met, dead before Jessy was even born. She regards Jessy with an intimate and familiar hunger. She is fast, too fast, as though the room itself is contorting and shrinking with each step Angela takes towards Jessy. The ring, it has to do with the ring, it’s burning and Jessy’s grandmother begs, screams and demands to have it, to be let back into life. Bring her back, take her in, let her inside7. The whip strikes Angela Ericson across the face, but Jessy can’t stop her. They tumble onto the floor to the sound of tires screeching and Jessy’s head shatters from the impact. A car horn blares out across all of existence and leaves Jessy no choice but to drown into the golden sea of her grandmother’s eyes. 7 Keep It Together
Full Success

Once again a blackout. Jessy hates that she’s getting used to them. She wakes up in her room at Tan’s condo, still undressed from last night but with no recollection of how she got there. She’s disoriented and distracted by a splitting headache. The world at least feels stable. The walls aren’t moving, no one is hunting her. She relaxes in bed a while longer, and Carolina enters the room to check up on her. Jessy asks for Tan. She apparently acted quite disruptive last night, screaming about how her eyes were wrong and how Tan needed to get them out of her head. Luckily, panic attacks and similar upsetting behavior is not an uncommon occurence during their ceremonies. Most than once does at least one person crack under the weight of the divine. She was cared for, and the orgy continued in spectacular fashion without her. Tan is sorry to say she missed the best part of the ritual, but Jessy still remembers the whipping she’d given Jasmine and can’t imagine anything better than that. Her recollection of what she saw is confused, but Tan tries to comfort her with lighthearted jokes and assuring Jessy of her safety. As a servant of the Twin God, she need only follow the words of Dehu and Mil to guarantee success in life and the defeat of her adversaries. Tan makes no attempt to apologize for not telling Jessy that she’d been to his place before, nor does he tell her what happened on that night. He simply smiles, tells her she has no reason to know, and leaves.

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Session 11 – Transcendence

This is a session recap for my current Kult: Divinity Lost roleplaying campaign. Jessy Button is played by my wife, who also does the art, and I am the game master.

This post contains sex, sexual violence, non-consentual bedroom acts, and gore.

PreviousNext

The text on Jessy’s phone is clear. Carl wants to talk. Specifically, he wants to call her. With little time to prepare, Jessy grabs her headphones and sits down on the balcony in the cold afternoon. She’d rather not be overheard by Tan’s staff for any reason, and she doesn’t know if his camera surveillance also picks up sound. Better not take any chances. Carl and Jessy haven’t been talking, since his wife is apparently close to discovering his relationship with Jessy. Now, though, he is worried. Jessy has to explain to him how she got into the hospital and why she wasn’t registered as a student at the university. It’s all one big sob story, and one big lie. According to herself, she couldn’t keep her grades up and was forced to leave. Carl in turn tells her that he’s bought a place for her to stay, as he promised that he would. It’s up in Brampton, a bit far away, but at least she won’t have to stay with friends. Jessy isn’t nearly as excited about this as he would have expected, telling Carl that she’d rather not be alone right now. She explains it away with her wounds, which she still needs help tending to. Better to just stay with friends for the time being. Thanks anyway.

Done with her tiresome phone call, Jessy heads back in and ends up conversing with Carolina, one of Tan’s staff, while she’s cleaning the lounging area1. The older woman is curious about Jessy’s phone call, how she knows Tan, a whole lot of things. It seems any idle chit chat quickly turns to pointed questions from her. Jessy responds with lie after lie, comfortable with rehashing stories she’s told strangers and friends for the past two years. Jessy turns the conversation towards Carolina herself, but the woman seems to be the most uninteresting and bland person to have ever lived, to hear her tell it. She tells Jessy she’s worked for Tan for ten years, and that she’s really found herself while doing so. She reveals nothing else. While Carolina claims she loves to learn about other people to better help them, Jessy has yet to see the lady lift a finger if it wasn’t for her own work. Talk, she can do. Clearly, Jessy believes, the woman is just hungry to know things for whenever it might come in handy. 1 Eye For Detail
Partial Success
  • Why are you here?
  • What are you working on?

The rest of the day goes by in a haze, Jessy lazing about and posting updates to her socials. She takes care not to reveal anything identifiable in the backgrounds of her pictures, simple wallpapers is all her followers get for now. She reschedules with Andi and her friends, still eager to hear all the crazy stories that apparently cropped up when discussing Granger Fine Jewelry. Once Tan’s staff leaves her alone for the evening, and with Tan calling to tell her he won’t be back until morning, Jessy is given a perfect opportunity to find access to the surveillance records. She prances about the condo for a minute, imagining it all hers, before heading to the second floor and darting into Tan’s bedroom. She already has excuses ready in case he checks the camera footage.

Searching through Tan’s bedroom and closet, there is little discovered which Jessy didn’t already know or at least suspect. The room is decorated with strange, sexual art. The centerpiece above the bed, a naked woman screaming in either fear or agony, has eyes which seem to follow Jessy around the room. Sex toys, incense, candles, little statuettes of goats and goat-human hybrids, oils and salts and knives and whips. The most curious item she finds is a small syringe-like object with a handle of green, patinated copper and a needle as long as her thumb. It fits easily into Jessy’s hand. Her instinct tells her not to mess with it, and she quickly places it back in the drawer where she found it. The two phones beside Tan’s bed are locked, naturally, and she finds no sign of the key to the third floor. With nothing gained except a flavorful look at Tan’s personal life, Jessy leaves with the screaming portrait seeing her out.

She doesn’t particularly care if Tan finds out that she’s rummaged through her stuff, confident she can charm her way out of it. In Tan’s office, aside from the computer, are a few cabinets and bookshelves. It all seems well organized, and for the most part securely locked up. The computer certainly is. She does, however, notice the external hard drive attached to it. If there was a place to store extensive camera records, it would be on that. She doesn’t take it. Instead, she casually swipes a pen and paper and leaves to do some inoffensive video for her Instagram story. She promises herself to take the hard drive eventually so she can find out why Tan has such extensive surveillance. Her mystery friend on Instagram also receives an update with more images of the condo, and a message telling them that Jessy can’t find the key. She now believes Tan keeps it on him.

Tan is busy, but Jessy still looks for every opportunity to flirt with him. Yes, she may still be bandaged and have a skull that’s not quite intact, but that’s not going to stop her from sleeping with him. They find themselves alone one night, Tan inviting her to his own bedroom. Their idle, friendly chatter turns quickly to sex. It is fun enough, certainly, but Jessy knows she wants more and that Tan can give it to her. She thinks back on how fun it would have been to cut Evan. Her night with Tan at the hotel had been a miserable, painful failure, but tonight would be different. On this night, Jessy strives for a euphoric, painful success.

Tan does not take much convincing. While he studies her for a second, trying to gauge whether she is in physical condition for what he is intent on doing with her, it seems those worries are soon left behind as he orders Jessy to get up off the bed. There is idle smalltalk as he walks around the room, lighting candles and incense and humming some simple tune. Having already scoured through Tan’s belongings a day earlier, Jessy knows what he is reaching for before he even has it in his hands. She could not have been prepared for the contents of the heavy metal box, though. Tan carries it under his arm, drops it onto the bed, and then flips it open and pours its contents out onto the bed.

Needles. Long, sharp, needles. Thousands of them. He and Jessy make a few jokes, but it’s clear he is perfectly serious. He covers the king-size bed with these needles, spreading them with his hands and arms until they form an even coat and he has a hundred tiny pricks on his skin. Finally, with Jessy as ready as she could be, Tan lifts her and throws her onto the bed. The needles scrape against and stab through her skin, Jessy’s entire back immediately pierced and raked into a bloody mess. She screams in agony2, but avoids passing out for now. Tan gets onto the bed with her, unflinching as the needles burrow into his legs. It is not his first time. 2 Endure Injury
  • 1 Harm
Partial Success
  • Serious Wound

“Remember what I told you. Conflict is love, and love is conflict.” – Tan

He punches Jessy, unprompted. The pain blinds her, but she fights back with nails and fists as the room around them turns into a white and red blur. She barely considers Tan fucking her, fades away from her back turning into a bloody mess, and instead focuses entirely on hurting Tan. That, she can do. She fights him even as they make love, if it could ever be called that, forcing needles against his arms and chest, beating at every part of his body she can reach. She wrestles him on that bed of needles, both of them with the shining metal sticking painfully to their skin or sinking so deep as to barely be visible. They go on through it all, the pleasure and the pain, with Tan gaining the upper hand and dominating Jessy with harsh, violent treatment. This is his love. He brings his fist down against her head, and Jessy feels as though the wound in her skull cracks open again and floods the room with immaterial essence, everything turning to liquid as she falls through the bed and into the void.

The vision is impossibly vivid. She can smell the suppression and impotent frustrations. A pyramid of flesh, men and women standing on each other’s backs and shoulders and reaching ever higher until, at the top, there is only one. The rest of them are naked, sweaty and in pain, but he is clad in a red robe and wears a heavy golden crown. It rests easy on his brow, but its weight crooks the back and bends the knees of every man and woman beneath him. Below this living construction rages a machinery of bronze and iron, old cogs spinning eternally and patinated pendulums keeping their rhythm. Those humans who cannot bear the burden of their task fall, or throw themselves, into these pounding machines to be devoured, torn asunder entirely by the thrumming contraption. Body parts tumble around amongst the cogs and splatter them with blood. Their only option is to live for upholding the pyramid, or not to live at all. Jessy drifts towards this sight, feeling in her hand the shape of her goat mask.

She bestows it on one of the men in the pyramid, and things then move very quickly. The man dons the goat mask, as do others around him, and together they begin to climb. From within and without the enormous human monument they crawl up, stomping on the faces of the unlucky. The structure becomes unstable, wavering and falling apart with a bloodbath beneath as bodies are smashed by pistons and ground up by cogwheels in the unfeeling machinery. As Jessy drifts over what’s left of the pyramid, she sees that those who disturbed its rigid structure have changed, now appearing as blood-soaked naked bodies with the heads of goats. They tear apart the red-robed man, ripping his limbs off of him and eating him whole. The golden crown falls from his head and clanks into the machinery around them. A screech, an ear-shattering explosion, and the rhythmic droning comes to a halt. All that’s left are the goat headed humans, now only fighting amongst themselves. They fuck, slash, punch and headbutt at each other. One of them has a gun, shooting with a braying laugh at whoever dares come near. Amongst them, not fighting but still celebrating the gleeful conflict, is Tan. He is also a goat, yet Jessy recognizes him at once. His whispers and gestures dictate and guide the violence surrounding him, assuring his own safety. 

When Jessy returns to consciousness, she is unsure how much time has passed but knows from Tan’s bleeding that not for one second did she stop her violent assault. Tan has already finished inside her, perhaps more than once, and the two bloodied lovers finally rise exhausted from their bed of needles. Tan offers a simple prayer, the metal pricks still hooked in his skin. The process of picking the needles from their bodies is a long one, yet they do it methodically and carefully. The air in the room is heavy with the smell of sex, blood and incense, and neither Jessy nor Tan feel up to breaking the quiet atmosphere with conversation. Tan helps Jessy bandage the worst spots on her back, and she does the same for him. With tired steps they make their way to the second floor lounge, and there find space to relax and soak in the pain amongst vulgar paintings and erotic busts.

It is dark outside, but the two sit up late in the dimly lit lounge to talk about what happened. Jessy explains her vision to Tan, as best she can but certainly not well. He listens and nods along, suggesting to Jessy that she may have received her insight directly from the Twins themselves. Indulging in sacred conflict through sex is the clearest path to speak with Dehu and Mil, the two goat heads which govern Tan’s faith. Jessy has been given a taste, and Tan argues she should no longer hesitate to join him and the rest in worship and celebration. The Twin God can give Jessy not just insights into the state of the world, but offer advice and material things. It is through this devout worship that Tan has found his success, and he doubts that Jessy would pass up on such an opportunity. She agrees, admitting that her worries about the weekend’s ceremony have vanished from her mind. She confides in Tan that she truly, above all else, enjoy inflicting pain onto others. That’s what brings her satisfaction. Tan chuckles at that and assures her that if that is the case, then she has a lot to look forward to. 

The day after, Jessy craves more. James, Tan’s hired cook who makes Jessy’s meals throughout the day, is preparing her a delicious lunch when she saunters into the kitchen. He immediately remarks on her new wounds, some dressed and others left to heal on their own, guessing correctly that she and Tan had a good night together. Nothing too shocking, to tell the truth. Jessy flirts with the cook for a bit, asking what he gets up to with Tan, since James shares the faith. James offers to show Jessy, once she’s eaten. He explains that in his sleep, he can reach the Twins and speak with them. This, along with Dehu and Mil’s teachings on sexual struggle and domination, allows him to experience the divine. It’s almost too perfect for Jessy. She eats her lunch quickly and waits for James to be ready.

James informs Jessy, slurring a little bit, that he just took some very powerful drugs to help him sleep, viagra ‘for her pleasure’, as well as something else to open his mind. He asks Jessy which bedroom she would like him in, and after that leaves her alone. She can do with him as she pleases, and she intends to. Once James is gone, Jessy wanders through the kitchen and picks out a few knives of varying sizes. Toys. She has no plan as she walks up the wide stairs carrying her tools. She simply wants to have the knives with her, just in case.

Just as he told her, James is asleep in the middle of the bed, spread out and fully dressed. Jessy closes the door behind her, locks it, and places the knives on the bedside table. All she can do it stare for a long time, trying to figure out what she wants to do. Her eyes drift from the knives to James’ chest, down to his obvious erection, back to the knives. Deep in thought, she takes herself back to her time in room 119, with Artyom and Simon. The memory consumes her thoughts3 until they coalesce in a single course of action, and Jessy tears James’ button-up shirt off of him to expose his muscular chest and abdomen. Her knives balance on his skin for a while, making slight marks but never truly cutting, so many possibilities running through her head. When she finally can’t bear it anymore, they slice as if through butter through the man’s skin. He lets out a few weak grunts in his sleep, but shows no signs of waking. 3 See Through The Illusion
Failure

She carves, and cuts, and slices, the knives moving more on their own than by her hand. Inspiration floods her mind, a wordless guide for what to do. The sigil she draws in blood and flesh on James’ chest is something she’s never seen before, and it pulses with power to the beat of James’ heart. This is what she needs. When Jessy looks up from her work, she realizes that the room has changed, or perhaps is changing as she looks at it. Her eyes pass over the walls, which fold into themselves and offer dark, impossible passages where once was wallpaper and home decor. Reality is melting around her, Tan’s condo drifting in and out of her awareness as something else overtakes the room. Somewhere far away in the distance, a scream of pain echoes through her burning ring. A familiar suffering, echoed by more cries and whimpers from the endless, labyrinthine corridors surrounding Jessy. The only fixed point around her now is James, on the bed and still sleeping despite the blood pooling and sinking into the mattress.

There is a loud bang, and a clatter. Jessy’s mind maps it to the first floor of Tan’s condo, but when she leaves the room the very concept of Tan’s home becomes difficult to hold on to. The corridor continues endlessly upward, stone arches harboring darkness. The erotic paintings are falling off their hooks, revealing crawlspaces behind them which lead towards agonized murmurs in the distance. A voice calls out to Jessy, one she’s heard once before. It was distant before, but now it is right behind the door that should be downstairs, a woman’s voice calling her name and demanding to be let in. Jessy takes a few steps towards the banging sound, each careful stride pulling her further and further away from Tan’s home. A second voice cuts through the disorienting surroundings. Don’t get closer! Run! Jessy hears her mother4, that beautiful voice she’s not heard for years immediately seizing her by the heart and stopping her dead in her tracks. Her mother needs her to get away, but what’s away in this place? The door breaks apart somewhere below Jessy with a crash. She is lost and in danger. 4 Keep It Together
Full Success

Distant screaming and vague visions in the darkness guide Jessy, offering her a path towards something she can almost recognize. It is a room, but not one of Tan’s. Jessy sees a door before her, and knows before opening it what’s on the other side. She calls for Artyom as she shoulders her way in through what is not a door but a solid wall and stumbles into the filthy confines of room 119. The footsteps approaching behind her die out, the human choir of suffering at once falls in line with the train clattering by outside, and the walls finally feel solid again. Jessy, dressed in nothing but the pajamas she normally struts around Tan’s home in, knocks on the door to the adjoining room and waits for Artyom to open it. The tall Russian invites her into the hotel room as though he was expecting her. Despite knowing what he is, Jessy cannot help but feel safe near him.

Artyom immediately compliments Jessy on her work done on James. Through conversation, she comes to understand that the sigil she carved onto James’ torso was meant to communicate with Artyom. The razide explains that he refuses to come near the goat fucker’s domain, but that Jessy now knows how to reach him. The ring helps Jessy in her work of bringing pain, he muses. It offers her raw power, but she clearly has no idea of how to use it. He could give her that understanding, but in turn she must do something for him. In two weeks, he instructs Jessy, she will perform the same rite as she did with James. Artyom will come to her then, and tell her what must be done. Jessy tries to get more information about her ring from Artyom, but he claims not to know. Abbas Ali, though, who he knows that Jessy is aware of, he understands the ring well. Artyom suggests she speak with him.

Jessy leaves in a taxi, again in ragged lost and found-clothing from the Silverpine Hotel, and returns to Tan’s condo. Daisy mocks Jessy for the clothes she’s wearing, but for once Jessy doesn’t have the energy to get into an argument. She steals upstairs, and finds James still on the bed, sleeping. The symbol she carved has dried and scarred into his flesh, a brand. She sits with him for a long time, tracing her fingers over the lines she cut and admiring her own work. An hour passes before James finally stirs. A few shifting motions, and then a scream of terror. His eyes open wide and he throws himself out of the bed, completely without himself and screaming off the top of his lungs. When he can finally focus on Jessy, he stumbles towards the door and starts running away from her.

“What did you do? What the fuck did you do?!” – James

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The Kult Take: Poppy

Poppy is a singer, songwriter, actress, author, YouTuber, model, and religious leader. That is what Wikipedia tells us, and it is quite a picture painted in just one sentence. She rose to prominence through a prolific YouTube channel full of surreal videos, where she among other things spoke nonsense and bled black sludge from her mouth. Her musical endeavors carried her to stardom, becoming not only a fashion icon but a literally worshiped pop idol through the Cult of Poppy. To look upon her is to look upon a personification of modern culture, of mass consumption and plastic appeal with a veneer of faux authenticity… but she is more. The casual observer might assume that Poppy is a puppet to some of Tiphareph’s servants, or perhaps (if you are truly deluded) an incarnate of the same. This is not only false, but dangerously so. No, the Truth of Poppy’s being and the path she has travelled is much more complex than that… and worrisome. We start from the beginning.

Bubblebath and insanity

In the early days of Poppy’s existence, she was chiefly known for her YouTube channel where she would upload strange and upsetting clips of herself in a featureless room, sometimes featuring props or other characters such as the mannequin Charlotte or a bible. While most of those who found these videos would simply dismiss them as innocuous or stupid, her inner circle of fans were those who could not help but read into the underlying messages. They were there. Poppy’s mad presentation masked a greater whole, and they were intent on finding it. The word spread of some weird, ditzy waif who spoke about the transcendental nature of the internet and fame while mocking the trivial concerns peddled by more mainstream entertainment outlets. Little by little she spread, and though she was definitely unwell and delusional this appealed to niche communities in the corners of the internet. They rallied around her, eagerly waiting for her next revelatory video clip.

She made music, too. Starting with Everybody Wants To Be Poppy, she established herself as a competent artist, if not the revolutionary force she would become. Her first single, Bubblebath, would prove pivotal because through its production Poppy came into contact with the very forces she spoke out against. They sought to control her, keep her a bland bubblegum pop idol and ensure that her fanbase of halfway crazy YouTube commenters returned to whatever lives they had neglected to follow Poppy’s word. This did not work out for either party. For her short while under Island Records’ control, Poppy’s mental state suffered greatly under the demands to conform to what they thought acceptable. She could finally see first-hand Tiphareph’s iron grip on the entertainment industry, all she’d suspected and preached laid bare before her. Poppy soon left the company behind, escaping their ever-present tentacles to alert the public of this corrupted arrangement in a way they could not hope to stop.

Money: Peddling a parodical desire for and attitude about money which tries to be at once appealing and transgressive.

And money doesn’t grow on trees
You can’t just plant a seed
You gotta work it out

Poppy.Computer and mocking the order

Under a record label of her own making, aptly named I’m Poppy Records, she realized her protest against the established order of the entertainment industry as her first album: Poppy.Computer. The album was a resounding success, not only invigorating her loyal fanbase but expanding it, spreading her message. Both her music and especially the accompanying YouTube madness was intent on illustrating both her facade of pop vanity and the darkness lurking just beneath. She spoke a lot about “Them”, the people who supposedly control Poppy. Some believed this aspect of Poppy, not realizing that she worked for herself all along and constructed the entire farce to illustrate others’ twisted arrangements. She was never a member of some music industry conspiracy. Instead, she fought the influence of that ruling shadow elite by presenting their goals and ideals as parodies of themselves. There were voices quick to accuse Poppy of supporting Tiphareph’s cabal, often called the Illuminati, since her videos and live appearances often featured the eye of providence, pyramids, and all those markers which serve to ensnare and enfeeble humanity. The vague symbolism used to keep us asleep was placed front and center so none could doubt its existence.

Poppy’s live shows at this time became a rallying call for her cult, a way to draw strength from numbers and protest the powers that be in a public and outwardly harmless way. From her bright scene surrounded by TVs and pink lights, Poppy made her audience swear loyalty to her word and gave to her most fanatic followers a drink she only referred to as “Poppy juice”. Its contents are still unknown. There was no easy way for Tiphareph’s servants to stop any of this without making themselves known to the world. Between new music and the spread of her Gospel, her first printed religious text, Poppy’s many cults grew to a formidable church in its own right. She offered liberation from the modern world’s net of oppression. Media’s influence and oligarchical control over worldly narratives could finally be opposed and questioned in public, and under the guise of Poppy’s madness the ideas spread quickly. Little by little, she eroded Tiphareph’s grip on her worshippers and took them as her own.

Let’s Make A Video: Vacuity clashes with the hijacked symbolism of the ruling elite to illegitimize their attempts at control.

Get up, put my makeup on, I know it’s time to go
Sing along to a dumb pop song that they play on the radio
Time for a pic, ’cause I’m all dressed up
Don’t make me look too typical
‘Cause I’m ready for my close-up

Am I A Girl? and self-expression

While her previous work challenged the dominance of the Archons within music and entertainment, this cause was but a stepping stone for Poppy. She rose from a small mad soul to become a recognized artist and, though concealed by layers upon layers of irony, a spiritual leader to many. As she did, the more deeply rooted issues plaguing mankind could no longer escape her. Her direct connection to Malkuth or the Rebel’s servants is unclear, but Poppy certainly took it upon herself to wake people up from their slumber. Am I A Girl? is a departure from her previous work, not only in musical genre but in tone and subject matter as well. The song Time Is Up serves as a wakeup call, reminding her listeners that the world is nearing a deadly precipice through climate change and worldwide conflict. Girls In Bikinis and the album’s namesake song Am I A Girl? both toy with ideas of sexualization, gender conflict and a rejection of the binary we’ve been fed since long before our own birth. The album was written to challenge some of humanity’s very basic assumptions about our existence and society, thus directly prodding at the carefully constructed veils of our prison.

It should come as no surprise that this ruffled the feathers of our jailers. Poppy had few defenses, but her enigmatic personality and already surreal interaction with her cult and fans made her difficult to stop. Few knew where she was, yet fewer were willing to reveal it. Any appearances were arranged in secret and often very sudden, public affairs, and little other information ever came out. A lawsuit was hurled her way via a human proxy, attempting to disparage Poppy and tarnish her image. The grip she had on her legion of fans, all too well aware of the Illusion’s machinery and its thousand dangers, were not so easily turned against her, and Poppy rose to become stronger for it. She fought the law and won. The EP Choke continued her descent into outright rebellion, but its lyrical content was even darker than her previous work. Something had changed behind the scenes, but it would take until her next album to learn what had happened.

Am I A Girl?: A protest against the values we assign ourselves and others based on preconceptions about genitalia.

Am I a girl?
Am I a boy?
What does that even mean?
I’m somewhere in between

I Disagree and Poppy’s corruption

There is no doubt that Poppy is done with her positive outlook. I Disagree is not an uplifting album, nor hopeful. The feeling one gets from listening to it is that it is already too late to fix the problems Poppy has spent the last several years trying to highlight. We failed, and all there is left to do is letting it all burn down. She may have been able to avoid the grip of our jailers, but years of pressure from them combined with a rapidly deteriorating global situation has left Poppy unable to continue her message of enlightenment and resistance. Her cult is vast, but is either too inefficient or suppressed to affect the problems plaguing Elysium. Between armed conflicts, oceans full of plastic, increasingly maniacal political discourse and the literal forces of hell come to claim us, Poppy has no more hope to give. While she previously aligned with Malkuth’s ideals, her experiences have corrupted that striving. Poppy has been twisted into the hands of the Death Angel Nahemoth. The result of this dark influence is an album which shames humanity’s hubris and our neglect of ourselves, each other and our situation. Awakening has eluded us. From our doomed struggle comes only Discord.

There is no saying what Poppy may do in the future. Her tours continue, as does her music and YouTube channel, though the former has long lost its former glory. Whatever my Queen has in store, we will have to wait for it. I look forward to it, with a healthy dose of fear.

I Disagree: We have let the wrong people speak for us for far too long. They have led us astray, and all we can do now is watch the world collapse and wonder what comes next.

Down, let it all burn down
Burn it to the ground
We’ll be safe and sound
When it all burns down

I think it should come to no surprise to you, if you have indeed made it down here, that I am a huge fan of Poppy and what she does. This text is of course not a reflection of reality, being a Kult Take on an odd pop star and nothing more. I’ve chosen to leave out a lot, from Mars Argo to Poppy.Church and many other things. Focusing only on her music felt like the most fair way to create a Kult narrative around Poppy without becoming voyeuristic.