Vines of Strangling Ivy

The Crack in the Facade of Deliberative Security Policy

By Elevana Taer and Shining Forgotten Lily

A mere three hundred years after the destruction of Therembold, the Deliberative seems dead-set on forgetting the lessons of that tragic event. In this work, we aim to thoroughly deconstruct the counterproductive anti-cultic strategy utilized by the Deliberative, as well as to examine the legacy of the Strangling Ivy Revolt and see what lessons can be learned for our future attempts to suppress the Yozi-worshipper threat.


Therembold was on the small-to-medium side of Deliberative-territory cities at the time of the revolt: half a million total residents, including one thousand Exalts and a rulership council headed by the Lunar Kii Egara, reporting to Predanus' regional authority. Located in the far Southwest, Therembold served as a key station in the Deliberative's industrial metastructure: Therembold provided an ideal route for sea trade via Hesperi and Unglada, had access to three significant jade mines within its sphere of influence, and boasted an unusually harmonious geomantic alignment for purposes of gathering and intertwining of distant Elemental essences. This latter led to the building of an elaborate network of Elemental manses, located at key points throughout the city, which in turn produced the city's most notable product: an immense and unprecedented advancement in the study of Elemental Transmutation, especially the creation of the floratemperament process.

When Therembold was founded, it was a border town, founded in one of the last areas to be extracted from antiform control; as such, the initial population of the city (estimated in official records as 57,981) was composed primarily of settlers seeking a hard but potentially profitable excursion. After the geomantic discoveries, however, another class of settler arrived: Essence researchers, along with the immense academic support staffs they required, and shortly afterwards merchant classes seeking to profit from the city's new boom status.

These distinct elements did not integrate well together; the discovery of the geomantic properties significantly post-dated the city's settlement, resulting in drastic redistributions of the settled population by the incoming researchers and ending with a latticework population distribution where the seven primary Elemental Manses, as well as the corridors directly between them, were heavily developed and well-supported by Exalted engineering, while other portions retained their settler-era construction. This pattern was exacerbated by the application of the then-en vogue Jade Plum Blossom philosophy of governance, under which mortal subjects were encouraged to establish societal patterns with minimal direct interference from the Exalted leadership, in order to produce more geomantically auspicious societal structures that could be effectively tweaked when necessary.

At the city's height, this approach had produced an extremely effective, but thoroughly divided, city, with the academic caste heavily settled along the Manse latticework, settlers filling out the honeycombed central regions, and a mobile merchant class occupying the majority of the city's outskirts. This situation presented an excellent opportunity for an external force -- and the Strangling Ivy cult rose to take advantage of it.

Rise of the Cult

The initial vectors of Therembold's Yozi cult exposure are still not fully understood, but one prominent theory suggests that cult activity was brought to the city via sea trade, with members seagoing merchant class amongst the first to fall victim. By the time external forces detected the infestation, however, it had spread throughout the city's population.

From our reconstructed evidence, we have been able to draft a fairly thorough picture of the exact structure of the cult organization within the city. Abandoning any and all symbolic connection to Yozi activity elsewhere, the ringleaders of the Therembold cult established a new iconography -- the emblem of the Strangling Ivy -- to represent their activities. Due to the proliferation of floral-related guildmarks and societies related to the city's primary industry, this imagery was able to be used by followers without suspicion, and indeed several minor guildfronts were established in order to provide a patina of legitimacy to the organization.

Unbeknowst to its adherents, this symbology also held another, deeper meaning. The Strangling Ivy ringleaders inflamed class resentment in order to increase membership of their cult -- but they did so amongst all three resident classes in the city. The three vines, joined at the center, represented the cult organizations of the three classes joining together for a "greater" purpose.

Influence amongst the merchant class seems to have primarily focused on members who already flouted the law -- smugglers, dealers in illicit materials, and others whose established position in opposition to lawful rule predisposed them to accept offers of greater power in exchange for supporting the flow of contraband materials, Essence weaponry, and even antiform specimens into the city. The researcher class was tempted with advances in their research -- floral samples from Malfeas, secretive use of demons with helpful qualities for research -- in combination with false (but convincing) radical anti-researcher activities used to encourage this class to "take matters into their own hands." The settlers were perhaps the easiest to inflame to this cause, with resentment allowed to fester in support of the non-interference philosophy of the ruling Exalts and geographic isolation allowing the formation of a subculture amongst the settler population which could be easily infiltrated by agents who could emulate its unique language and customs. All three categories were built up over a long period, utilizing Essence mechanisms to overcome the structural biases introduced by the Solar rulership's mandate but avoiding explicit and outright Charm use in the process of winning over cultists (so as to avoid detection.)

By the time of the revolt, it is estimated there were no fewer than 500 cultists within the city, divided into at least 26 distinct cell structures, and with a stockpile of support including multiple wide-range Essence weaponry devices, five talents' worth of jade personal weaponry, the assistance of at least 30 mortal-born akumae, summoneed demonic support (with some reports indicating even the presence of Helicosatas, the Thrice-Burst Jagged Blossom), and an unknown (but high) quantity of antiform soldiers.

The Revolt

The actual revolt began after two weeks of dark omens indicating the presence of Yozi activity, but even investigatory forces ordered into place by Ci'Meru did not usefully detect the location of cells. Though the relevant records are sealed by the Chrysanthemum and the Shadows, off-the-record commentary suggests that this was a direct result of green-hat infiltration of the responding services directly: that responding agents were misled by their own fellows into chasing shadows until it was too late. Indications suggest that the security forces also misinterpreted the purpose of Yozi activity in the city, misreading it as intended for either material (gathering physical support material for activites elsewhere) or motonic (cultivating an ongoing underground prayer network intended to provide direct quintessential support to a Yozi patron) purposes.

The revolt began in earnest with action by the settler wing of the Cult: an antiform-assisted assault on the Unburdened Center of Auspicious Planning. Because this assault involved at least 5 Second Circle demons, it was widely identified by the responding forces as the primary thrust of the cult activity, and a proportionately large force was dispatched immediately to deal with the incursion.

Herein lies a key lesson of this response: the assault on Planning was purely and simply a diversion. By localizing the responding forces in a single, compact geographic area, the cult achieved two strategic goals: first, they almost completely eliminated close scrutiny of the outer rings of the city, allowing the other branches of the cult to use carefully gathered official credentials to gain illicit access to the Centers of Transmution and Elation that lay on the outskirts of the lattice network; and secondly, by gathering the responding force in a central location, they were perfectly positioned such that the sudden floratemperament (handled by skilled researchers who had assisted in the development of the process) of experimental plant subjects (placed in key locations by merchant-class cultists who had rented warehouses for this express purpose) could instantaneously wipe out a significant portion of the responding force, and isolate the remainder geographically so that the remaining cultist forces could easily pick them off.

From that point, the Deliberative forces attempted to mobilize greater resources, but the inherent time delay and lack of such forces readied for assault limited the viability of this reaction. With the forces already on the ground geographically divided and in a stance of defensive retreat, the cultists were free to pursue their true objective. With the city wreathed in vines and the population isolated and divided inside the now-closed-off buildings, the cultic forces could move methodically through these buildings, harvesting the population in order to provide antiform breeding stock, as well as to begin the enactment of a citywide sympathetic sigil ritual, intended to (eventually) create a perfect correspondence with an identically prepared mortejardin in Malfeas and thereby open an uncloseable pathway into Hell by which the inhabitants sealed there might escape.

Page last modified on March 24, 2009, at 07:03 PM