Stone Hearts

Main Plot Arc

This is the story of a handful of strangers on a quest to the stars. This is the story of a handful of strangers that must become friends, a handful of friends that must learn to love, and a handful of lovers that must choose between duty and honor, life and death, love and loss. Hearts of stone do not feel pain, but those that allow themselves to feel, those that allow themselves to love, have a power that the unfeeling do not. Some say that nothing done of love has ever come to evil. Yet love can lead to loss, death, and dishonor. Is it better to have a stone heart, a heart that can keep to honor and duty without conflict but cannot feel, or is it worth it to face the complications and pain that the joy of love can bring?

Assembling on Icon, Ruiz, Ricardo, and Fizz meet Tien who has had a vision that his light must protect them in the dark between the stars. En route to Aragon, Ruiz and Obelia begin their relationship after he is attacked by unknown assailants. In the home city of Ricardo's father, a man is killed for what he knows about the current mission, a ranking engineer that has worked on the project. His widow must carry on his work. Theoretically dead from a selchaka overdose, the woman that he was apparently cheating with turns out to be a spy, and the group cannot stop her due to her overpowering pheremones. The mission begins with a time limit, as the group must find a gargoyle for the Hazat before the rival group can beat them to the prize.

On Byzantium Secondus the group, with the addition of the widowed engineer Elena, the Reeve An-hetep-f, and his retainer Gustav, fight through the desert, chased by flesh-eating Changed. Tien takes on Hubris as he attempts and fails to summon the Pancreator's light with a fusion torch easily to hand. An is revealed to all as a Changed as his cloak is revealed to be wings in the sandstorm. Gustav turns out to be Ricardo's younger sister Maria, who has stowed away on the mission. The group finally makes it to the Lovers, gargoyles of the desert, and all receive visions, some with clues as to where to go next.

On Pentateuch the group searches and finds a hidden cache of Doramos the world-architect. This leads them to the plaza in the central city where he has secreted the Pegasus, a gargoyle of some potency. The genelock opens, revealing An to be in some way descended from Doramos. In the midst of frozen time, the gargoyle is removed from the city and taken offworld.

At the New Year's festival for the year 5000, the group grows closer together, Ricardo bests a rival at swordplay and then discovers his bastard son, Tien makes a move on Elena, and spies are about. Rushing to beat these interlopers, the group learns that their gargoyle was retrieved to put on the prow of a ship bound for the dark between the stars beyond the jumpgate of Vera Cruz. Doramos had a hidden world far out that he was trying to terraform as a challenge to himself that might still contain ancient tech. The Hazat must get these secrets before their enemies do.

On the ship, An discovers his relationship to Elena and part of his past. At Tacean Frigorea they are too late, and pursue a band of terrorists across the frigid landscape. Obliterating their foes with plasma, they are nonetheless too late to stop them from seeding a terraforming generator with explosives and setting it up to cause a chain reaction that will destroy all the generators of the planet, killing all the people that eke out their miserable existence there and potentially destroying Doramos' secrets. The terrorists escape, leaving Obelia behind, and she leads Elena and An to disable the chain reaction. All the rest look on sadly as the generator explodes, taking An, Elena, and Obelia away but the rest of the planet unharmed.

Racing back to Vera Cruz, the group must stop the terrorists before they destroy the generators on the extensively terraformed world as an example of their power to the rest of the known worlds. Joined by Aerilyn Decados, the group finds their path disrupted by capture in a fighting pit. Obelia is still alive and so, it turns out, is An (masquerading as Aerilyn). Both Obelia and An are amnesiac, and Eldritch taunts the group before fleeing to join her comrades. Pursuing them, the group finds Elena terrorizing the starport, and manages to calm her and restore her sanity and An's memories.

Following Ruiz's memory of an old rhyme, the group tracks their enemies to an island. Using An and Elena's ability to combine their psi powers when in contact with one another, the group leaps from the plane (almost losing Tien as he jumps too soon) and begins to make short work of the terrorists outside. Ricardo, Ruiz, and Tien descend into the caves on the island. Restoring Obelia's memories, they are able to stop Eldritch, and Tien keeps Alaris occupied long enough for the others to help disable him.

Hailed as the heroes of Vera Cruz, An and Elena stay behind to learn from the Favyana psychics they met there. The others attend the trial, and Ricardo saves Eldritch on his honor to try to redeem her and himself. Tien goes with Alaris' escort to see him executed by the Brother Battle, and then to continue his journey. Ruiz is made a knight, and goes to be with Obelia and her mentor. And Maria returns to her family with Ricardo and Eldritch.

An-hetep-f Plot Arcs

An-hetep-f Griffen, Reeve banker to the the Eduardo Hazats, was sent on the mission to manage the group's funds. Unknown to his companions at the time, An had been raised by the Reeves after his father had died and his mother gone insane. Both had been Engineers, but had suffered some unknown trauma before An's birth. An himself was a Changed, his black cloak actually his wings, and all of his various health and genetic flaws had long caused An to be sullen and withdrawn when not manipulating others.

An initially smuggled Maria Eduardo aboard the ship because he was trying to hook her up with the Charioteer pilot, Fizz. Yet after Fizz left the ship, An began to see Maria as something more than a pawn to be manipulated. Both of them were successful in their own way but not appreciated for what they really could accomplish. An could never tell others the truth about himself for fear of the Inquisition. Maria had long trained to be a competent knight, and excellent fighter, and decent tactician in the way of her family, only to find herself consistently used as little more than assistant diplomat and window dressing, destined to be married off to a minor noble that her father meant to curry favor with. Their mutual feelings of the world's unfairness served to draw them together, and the fact that they were both 18 and the most attractive people on a small ship only helped the budding attraction. An's low birth was an obstacle, but not one so big as his own sense of self-importance, forwardness, and tendency towards black moods. For every two steps forward in pursuit of Maria, An would take at least one step back as he managed to royally piss her off. Gradually, a number of traumatic experiences and visions wore down An's shell of hatred at the world, and loathing of himself, such that he was much closer to being worthy of love. When An left to pursue his psychic training, it was with the understanding that the two of them might not truly be in love, but there was definate potential for it to grow once he returned.

What An did not know about his family was that he had an older sister. An's mother had given birth to her daughter as a badly-shielded ship was going through a jumpgate. The crash of the Sathra dampeners was the traumatic experience that had forced An's parents onto experimental psychotropic drugs to keep them stable, but Elena was raised completely by the Engineers. Too young for drugs, she was subjected to an extensive degree of psychiatric care during her formative years, causing her to repress and encapsulate a growing psychic talent within herself. An eventually learned their relationship, and followed her to help shut down the cascade destruction of Tacean Frigorea's terraforming generators. A powerful surge of Sathra-path psychic energy from Elena jaunted An and Obelia with her to the nearest other planet, Vera Cruz, temporarily taking An's memories but permanently awakening his own psychic powers. After the events of the story, An and Elena stayed behind with a cult of friendly psychics to help train and control their powers.

An's mutations as a Changed seem to have stemmed from his parents' experimental psychotropic drug treatments. Initially he had large black feathered wings, trust pheremones, and a genetic disposition to poor health as his cells periodically fought the mutations (resulting in his habitual coughing fits). After the explosion on Tacean Frigorea, An's wings were burned off but his mutation progressed so that he could control his appearance. This new change heralded greater instability in his cell-structure, and may be detrimental in the long term. After encountering the feral, violent changed of the Byzantium Secondus deserts, An realized that he could easily become such a wretched creature. This vision was one of the factors in An's eventual change of personality.

Ricardo Plot Arcs

Scoundrel, vagabond, lover of a hundred women, father of a dozen bastards, cardshark, and jet-setter, Ricardo Valentin Eduardo Hazat found himself a black sheep amongst his house. A second son would normally find himself in the priesthood, but Ricardo instead decided to live the life of a knave, aggravating his father to no end and estranging the two of them. Thus, it was surprising that he should be asked to return home for a mission from his father.

Early on, the group was plagued by an identity shifting spy that seemed to be always one step ahead. When she left behind a young boy, Caradoc, during the new millenium festival, he tracked down Ricardo as his father. The revelation that he had been leaving bastards in his wake was a bit of a surprise to Ricardo, and a great disappointment to his father. Further investigation revealed that the group's enemy, Caradoc's mother, was once a minor noble from house Xanthippe. She had fallen completely in love with Ricardo, fully expected him to marry her, and had been devistated when he cast her aside and moved on. Her anger at him had twisted her deeply, and was responsible for her descent into terrorism and espionage rather than more acceptable mercenary pursuits. At some point it had also gotten her hooked up with the wrong group, one that had put her through a process of genetic mutation to give her advantages as a spy. All of these revelations drove Ricardo deep into self-doubt and left him somewhat unhinged. Yet he was able to convince Eldritch of the wrongness of both his actions and her own before she could assist in the destruction of Vera Cruz. When she was put on trial, Ricardo rescued her from the death sentence by guarding her on his honor. He retired with her and their son to his father's estate to attempt to get his life's priorities back in order, and to figure out how to proceed with his newfound responsibility.

Ruiz Plot Arcs

Isfahan Ruiza de los Santos lived his life according to duty and honor, a dervish raised and trained by the Hazat for their use in battle. Haunted by the massacre of women and children in a remote village by his superiors and pursued by those that wished to kill him for his knowledge, Ruiz found himself under the command of the Eduardo Hazats, granted the position of bodyguard to the Baron Jaime's black sheep son.

Early on in his journey, Ruiz met a woman named Obelia Xanthippe. Put off by the posturing of Ricardo and Fizz, she began a romance with Ruiz to spite them. Yet soon they learned that they had much in common: mercenary honor, skill in battle, and conflicting commitments to doing what was right and doing what was necessary. After a brief romance, they found one another twice more, yet on opposite sides. Obelia was loyal to her sister Eldritch, and despite his finger-chopping stunt, Ruiz was still under oath of fealty to the Hazat. Yet he convinced her that she was wrong in her actions, only to seemingly lose her as she helped An and Elena prevent the destruction of Tacean Frigorea. When he found her again, amnesiac and being manipulated by her sister on Vera Cruz, Ruiz was deeply hurt. After curing Elena, he brought Obelia's memories with him to the final confrontation, and had his love once again. For his role in saving Vera Cruz, Ruiz was named to house Estancia, becoming a knight and noble, and married Obelia as he entered into the school of Shaidan with her.

Eventually, Ruiz learned what caused the massacre of the village. The oral traditions of the Kurgans there carried with them a rhyme that explained how to disable Doramos' terraforming engines, and the Hazat had attempted to wipe it out once and for all. Yet when the terrorists of Brother Alaris learned the secrets themselves on Tacean Frigorea, only the dying whispers of a young boy served to allow Ruiz to lead his friends to stop the destruction of the planet.

Tien Plot Arcs

Tien was an orphan taken in by the monks of a heretical sect in Li Halen space. Believing that the light of the Pancreator could be absorbed and stored for later, the order took care to awaken both psi and theurgy in many of its disciples. Young Tien, before he could truly become a priest of the order, decided to take his pilgrimmage across known space to learn of the Pancreator's worlds.

From the beginning of his journey, Tien was having visions. Cryptic and full of symbolism, they rarely made sense until afterwards, especially when Tien took liberties in adding his own commentary to what others thought was pure description. They did, however, get him into the company of a group that was headed to Hazat space. Believing that these were visions from the Pancreator, Tien felt truly blessed. Yet the source of the visions was not the creator, or at least not directly. Elena, still repressing her psychic abilities, was subconsciously projecting her visions on a receptive subject. Tien's beliefs, his psychic and theurgic awareness, and his role in the visions made him the ideal receiver for these psychic visions. When Elena took control of her own powers, it left Tien to search for omens and signs on his own, without the aid of visions he believed came directly from the Pancreator.

Tien was not truly an orphan, but was one of many abandoned bastards of the infamous Brother Battle turncoat Alaris. When defeating the terrorist, Tien was not just overcoming an enemy, but removing his chance to know his father or learn the identity of his mother. Now the church truly is Tien's only family.