The Guardian of Groundswell

"The Guardian of Groundswell"
Candela Obscura episode
"The Guardian of Groundswell" (CO3x02) thumbnail featuring Gina Darling, Sam Riegel, and Aabria Iyengar.
Episode no.Chapter 3, Episode 2
AirdateJanuary 4, 2024 19:00 PT
Running time3:49:05
Links and related articles
Episode chronology
Previous
"The Antiquarian" (CO3x01)
Next
"Candles in the Dark" (CO3x03)
Candela Obscura

"The Guardian of Groundswell" (CO3x02) is the second episode of the second chapter of Candela Obscura. The Circle of Tide and Bone confront an aqueous phenomenon, as the Periphery’s fist looms over the district of Groundswell.

Synopsis[edit | edit source]

Part I[edit | edit source]

Officer Eunice Park walks through Groundswell, enforcing the curfew that has been set to quiet the unrest surrounding the well in Calinus Market. She sees a girl of about 13 years old coughing, and tells her to obey the curfew. Rivulets of water begin to come from the girl's mouth. They form a creature of seawater that pursues Officer Park. She shoots at it after it overtakes her and tackles her, but the bullets do nothing. It enters her mouth and nose, drowning her, after which the girl approaches.

The Circle of Tide & Bone have been staying at the Glass Cat Casino while The Serious Man is tended to by Candela Obscura at The Antiquarian. Rajan has developed, as his scar, a compound eye in place of his left one. After some time to rest, Cosmo convenes everyone to debrief from the previous mission. After several other members of the circle ask about Oscar's condition, he relates it, with considerable assistance from Cosmo to fill in the gaps in his memory: He had been a circus performer and had changed his name from something else to be more marketable. 87 years ago, there was a ritual performed by the Serious Man on the ship that destroyed it, killing his wife, Cora; his daughter Iris; and his brother Quentin. Cosmo needs to assist Oscar in recalling the names. Oscar had fallen into the center of this ritual and had been undying ever since. Rajan mentions he had encountered the Serious Man when he brought Oldfairen artifacts to heal his mother, but also was the undoing of his twin sister, and had attempted to open a portal. Cosmo notes that he has heard of immortals in his research as well. Oscar admits that part of why he had not told anyone else, particularly Madam Glask, is that he's given up. He has forgotten most of his family and doesn't expect to ever be fixed at this point, and feels as though he has been a burden on his son. Rajan expresses concern about the Ascendancy and Periphery learning of Oscar or of him or Elsie, after he admits to not being able to broach his own condition to Elsie. Madam Glask suggests Oscar try to make the most of life, but he tells her he's tried to no avail. She mentions that she made a deal with the gods of the sea, having unintentionally given up her own family in exchange for her success, and believes it to be fair or at least unassailable, telling him "Who am I to question a god?"[1] Rajan is less sure, and Cosmo remarks that the circle is bound together.

Queenie, one of the women who works for Madam Glask, then enters with a note from Lightkeeper Nokari, telling them the Serious Man, whose actual name is Toren Gevni, is awake. The circle can have an hour to ask him any questions or have what closure they need before he is sent to the Fourth Pharos. Oscar hopes that, should he get a solution, it will provide him with a quick death so Cosmo can live for some time without him. Meanwhile, Elsie and Cosmo have looked at the papers Elsie had taken from Greenvale's desk. One is a magickal letter that evokes false memories of a secret affair with Sister Iovar. The rest concern a shipment of "Nighthawk" to keep the director vigilant. Madam Glask is unsure what Nighthawk is.

Upon returning to the Antiquarian, Rajan asks Nokari about immortal entities. Nokari tells him that Candela is aware of the Unabridged, immortals who have used magick to extend their lives, but who can be killed. Nokari also remarks there are other cases of immortality, but does not provide more information, seemingly aware of Oscar's condition but unsure if that had been shared with the rest of the circle. They then ask the circle not to kill Gevni, but permit them to interrogate him, and leave the circle to do so. Elsie first asks Gevni, who appears to have been compelled to answer truthfully, how he has prolonged his life. He answers that he has done so via a series of rituals known to those who know the "old ways." When Elsie asks for clarification, he grudgingly tells her that they are from Oldfairen alchemists and had been perfected by Empress Iomene the Everlasting. He had learned them from a book. When Madam Glask asks him a question, he does not appear to recognize her. Cosmo's abilities show him that Gevni is at least 500 years old and has been involved in multiple wars including the Last Great War and the Halen Civil War. Gevni is compelled by his binding to tell the circle that he hopes to learn more of Iomene so that he can establish an empire again, noting that Oldfaire only fell when Calinus locked her away somewhere secret. He believes that she is still alive, either as an Unabridged like himself or as someone like Oscar, and that she was able to absorb the Bleed of Oldfaire, keeping it from collapse. Gevni thinks that a new empire is even more feasible with electricity. When Cosmo asks him if he remembers him, Gevni does not, but he does recognize Oscar and believes him to have wasted the gift unintentionally bestowed upon him.

At this, Oscar, having removed a large length of chain from his coat, asks the Serious Man how he can be fixed. When Gevni says he doesn't know, Oscar begins to strangle him with the chain. Gevni willingly throws himself forward to snap his neck and die, and the circle realizes that this is the difference between Oscar and the Unabridged. While the circle is somewhat upset with Oscar, they discuss finding the tome Gevni had mentioned, and notice his personal effects on a separate table: a dagger similar to the one Cosmo carries, a syringe-like Bleed containment vial, and a solid gold doorknob with runic markings. Elsie is able to determine that these have nothing to do with Gevni's considerable age, but all are magickal. Oscar notes that the dagger has not just a blade, but a second, stylus-like edge meant to cut into something like wax to form writing. The syringe seems to be able to not just contain Bleed, but pull it from someone. Rajan realizes the doorknob looks like those from Oldfairen alchemy labs, and that it may lead somewhere where Gevni's true possessions are.

At this point, Nokari enters, and while initially frustrated, they are understanding and provides the Circle with a cover story, that the bindings failed and they had to act in self-defense. They also say that they will not tell the organization about Gevni's artifacts—the circle can keep them. They then provide the circle with their next assignment: Groundswell has been asking for a source of clean water. They have been using a historic well in Calinus Market as their other source has become contaminated and is believed to be a vector for cullet transmission. Because the historic well is a tourist attraction and an ancient relic of Oldfaire, some authorities have tried to keep the people from the well, which has led to riots and protests and the setting of a curfew. Several officers of the Periphery have been found drowned with seawater, despite being some distance from the ocean, with the letters "AMC", standing for "Any Mother's Child," carved into them; this was a rallying phrase during peace protests during the Last Great War as well.

Rajan suggests they go after curfew, when these attacks appear to be happening, which Cosmo dislikes but agrees is likely the most effective. Elsie then asks Nokari how long before she and Oscar will be taken to the Fourth Pharos as curiosities much like Gevni. Nokari tells them that they don't know; they don't wish it, but cannot speak for the whole organization and know that Cosmo has shielded them. The duties of a Lightkeeper mean that one's time is not one's own. The circle returns to planning their investigation: Oscar offers to be bait. Madam Glask is able to obtain something that can pass for a Periphery officer's uniform, at which point Oscar begins to pretend to patrol the market. Elsie and Cosmo wait in the market, which is open to the upper classes but not the poorer citizens of Groundswell. Rajan settles on a roof, and upon removing the eyepatch he has put over his scarred eye, finds his eyelid has fallen off. Madam Glask hides in the back of her car. Oscar does not notice the girl in her early teens approach him, though Rajan, Elsie, and Cosmo do. When Oscar turns around, he initially offers the girl candy before realizing that comes off as strange. Rajan begins to prepare a candle and a vial of oil for a ritual, and Madam Glask exits her car as the girl, who had been standing somewhat oddly but speaking normally with Oscar, begins coughing violently and notices Oscar is not wearing a Periphery officer's shoes.

Part II[edit | edit source]

The girl tries to stop coughing and asks Oscar who he is. Oscar continues his ruse despite her seeing through it at which point the girl allows the phenomena to take over, and the seawater begins to flow out of her into a humanoid-shaped monster. Oscar is affected by Bleed, which feels good to him, over all of his many scars, though he feels ashamed for it. Madam Glask approaches and pulls a stone from her pocket to try to control the water magickally, but is unable to control someone else's water. Elsie meanwhile recognizes that somewhat like her own beast, this is a symbiotic relationship: the girl is a human, and the creature works with her to protect her. Cosmo addresses the creature in Oldfairen, asking it who it is and what they do. The seawater creature introduces itself in a way all the circle can comprehend and hear, telling them it's name is Arterax, and says it serves the girl. It asks Cosmo who he is in exchange and Cosmo introduces the Circle of Tide and Bone. Arterax seemingly recognizes Candela Obscura and asks the circle what they want, repeating that it protects the girl and she feels threatened by Oscar. Oscar admits he is not Periphery. The creature continues to hold off. The circle asks the girl to explain more. She tells them that her mother is dead, and her brother had been killed for protesting at the well. She had gone to the seashore after her brother's death, and asked for a miracle, and was answered. When she asked for revenge, it took a price. Madam Glask identifies that the price was a family member, and the girl admits that her mother had been dying of cullet for years and finally succumbed immediately after she had made this bargain. Throughout the conversation, Rajan keeps an eye on the situation and assesses it from his rooftop position.

Elsie offers the girl a place where she can stay, but due to Elsie's attempts to maintain an upper class presentation, the girl is suspicious, though she doesn't leave. Madam Glask then approaches. She shows Arterax the sea glass she carries, and identifies herself as someone who worships the sea gods, in the hopes of connecting to the girl. The girl is mistrustful and confused, and tells Madam Glask she was raised believing in the Ascendancy. Madam Glask continues: when she was the girl's age, she also made a deal with the sea, angry after her parents had died while immigrating to Hale from across the ocean. Her parents had wished for safe passage and wealth in the new world, and so she asked for the same thing for herself, and has become wealthy as a result. She tells the girl not to go down this path and continue this pact, and hugs her. Arterax cuts through her, but Madam Glask tells everyone to stay back and that she accepts it. She also asks the girl where the contamination is coming from. The girl tells her that it is believed to be Westwreck: the expansion of The Sidle and construction there is causing the groundwater of Westwreck to come into Groundswell and South Soffit. While the well in the market is a safe source of water, its protected nature has led the authorities to keep the people who need it from using it. Oscar, upon hearing the girl sought revenge, asks her if she'd like him to help with that, and asks if she finds that it feels good the way he finds it to feel. He also asks if there's a way to separate out the girl from Arterax. Elsie, with her knowledge of similar scenarios, and Madam Glask, with her knowledge of the gods, believe this is not possible. Oscar wonders if Rajan knows more, wishing he were here, at which point Rajan emerges from the rooftops and tells them that while they are safe for now, the root cause of the lack of water for those in Groundswell has not been addressed; this is dealing with the symptoms but not the actual problem. In the ensuing conversation, the girl is finally asked for her name, and gives it as Mina.

The circle asks Arterax if it will leave, and it tells them that Mina can release it. Madam Glask asks Mina to do so, but Mina asks her about her own deal: why should she give up Arterax and the power it gives her if Madam Glask would not return her wealth and status. Madam Glask points out her family was taken before she made the deal, and she tries to help people with her resources, but Mina insists Arterax is a protector for her and for Groundswell, and refuses to release her deal. However, after making it clear that she will kill anyone who tries to take Arterax from her or who leaves without helping those in Groundswell and South Soffit, she unsummons Arterax for now. Rajan offers to help bring clean water from Briar Green, where he has a home. The circle offers to bring Mina to the Antiquarian, and while Mina says she has a home, they point out that there is no one there to care for her. She eventually agrees to go along with them for now, and joins them all in Madam Glask's car. Cosmo is somewhat hesitant and tries to discern Mina's true intentions, and realizes that while she trusts them for now, part of that trust is built on the fact that if they were to betray her, she can use Arterax to drown them. He also recalls that before he purchased and renamed the Antiquarian, it had been called "Any Mother's Child." He offers to let her stay for a few days.

Elsie, meanwhile, considers that she had determined the link from contaminated water to cullet transmission but kept it quiet due to her position as a physician to the wealthy, and between that and the incident with Mina's distrust of her due to her appearance, feels guilty about what she has had to do to work for the upper class of Newfaire. As Cosmo readies himself for bed, Oscar asks him if he can tuck him in. He helps Cosmo and does so. As he goes to leave, Cosmo tells him he is very tired, to which Oscar responds that he knows, and wishes he were too. Madam Glask meanwhile watches Mina sleep and feels connected to her, as if she has family for the first time since her parents died in the crossing. She then returns to the Glass Cat with Oscar, both of them reflecting on deals and prices.

Rajan and Elsie speak. He asks Elsie if he thinks Candela Obscura will keep Mina safe, and when Elsie asks for clarification he asks if Candela, which tends to contain and neutralize threats, will do so to Mina and, by extension, to people like Elsie, Oscar, or himself. He hopes Mina will have a happy ending. When Elsie asks him what ending he hopes for himself, he tells her he is only concerned for the journey, and with that, takes his leave. The circle all consider that they have been successful with Mina without any violence, despite their own monstrous natures.

In the following days, Madam Glask attempts to turn Gevni's doorknob in the air but had no success. Cosmo, however, realizes that the dagger can add new nuances to the symbols in the doorknob, increasing the complexity of the magickal runes in a manner that has otherwise been lost to modern users of magick. He also realizes the doorknob must be used against the wall. In doing so he opens a door to Gevni's study. He finds a paper affixed to the center of the desk, seemingly empty. He uses the dagger and places a drop of his blood on it, and the desk returns notes on himself, Oscar, and their family, collected by Gevni upon his realization that the ritual had affected Oscar.

The circle also uses the remainder of their Stitch, Refresh, and Train resources.

Featured characters[edit | edit source]

Player characters[edit | edit source]

Returning[edit | edit source]

These characters previously appeared in the Candela Obscura actual play series.

New[edit | edit source]

These characters have not previously appeared in Candela Obscura, though they may have been previously mentioned.

  • Queenie

Mentioned[edit | edit source]

Quotations[edit | edit source]

Trivia[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "The Guardian of Groundswell" (CO3x02) at 30:45.