The Letters Page: Episode 28
Let's talk about NINE villains! Nine times the goodness!
Run Time: 72:47
There's a lot of rambling nonsense and nonsensical rambling in this episode, but there's also a lot of good story!
Just before the ten minute mark, Adam divulges his scale of animal evilness, from most evil to least evil. So, that's probably a useful thing for all of you out there in internet land.
Then, a bit after the fifteen minute mark, The Ennead start taking over Egypt, and we talk for the next 5-10 minutes about how locked down that whole situation was.
Right after the 26 minute mark, we tell a few but very minor story about Set after The Ennead event. I'm calling it out here because I really like the story. It's not an important story, but it's fun.
Just how many times do we say "reservoir" in this episode?
Right before 34 minutes in, we do a "and then they all died" bit THAT IS TOTALLY TRUE. They all died. Period.
The next thing we do is answer a question - our first question of the episode - in which we reveal a retcon that happened within the pages of Sentinel Comics.
SPOILERS! Starting at the 60:50 mark through 68:25, we talk about spoilers for the Sentinel Tactics timeline, so if you want to wait until it's released to play through the story content yourself, skip this spoilers segment.
Thanks for listening, everyone! Thursday is the longest interlude ever! Talk to you then!
- As a recap, in the real world the Ennead were a group of nine gods (the word "ennead" being simply derived from the Greek word for "nine" - ἐννέα) who represented the major cult of worship in ancient Egypt for a long time after a period of unification (preceded by the cult of Ra and followed by the cult of Horus - as mimicked by the card game story).
- Roderick Ward and twelve other "treasure hunters" (read that as "grave robbers") were investigating this newly-uncovered shrine in the desert. It's full of traps (so many traps) and mummies - very similar to the Tomb of Anubis, but it's a separate place. Four members of the group die from the various hazards there, but the remaining nine make it to the central chamber easily after that (funny how it seemed to stop trying to kill them off once there were exactly nine of them left - that's probably a coincidence).
- In that central chamber there are nine statues present, each holding an impressive Relic. Like with Blake Washington Jr. and the Staff of Ra, each of the remaining people is drawn to pick up one of them. [Insert transformation sequence here.] They now have this great power, a desire for more, and a sense of entitlement. They have more power as a group, together, and that's what they wish to enhance.
- Atum - Roderick Ward, the leader of the thieves, but also now the leader of the Ennead. Relic - a jeweled bracer. As Atum he is accompanied by two golden scarabs - he's also a sun/fire god but it takes the form more directed beams ("sun lasers") than Ra's general fire everywhere approach.
- Geb - Charles Philips. Relic - a golden sickle. Giant serpent man, the largest physically of them. A god of the earth - creating earthquakes and whatnot.
- Isis - Jessica Douglas. Relic - a sun disk (associated more with the goddess Hathor, but also seen on depictions of Isis). She wears it on her forehead. She sprouts some big bat wings (even though historical depictions show her with falcon wings - that's odd).
- Nephthys - Anna Rochester. Relic - an obsidian ankh, which allows her to tap into funerary powers.
- Nuit - Diane Lawson. Relic - the Magic Orb of Nuit which allows her to control and be the sky itself.
- Osiris - Logan Brown. Relic - the crook and flail (a matched set of relics that always go together).
- Set - Steve Karr - the Typhonic Rod (Set being conflated with the Greek Typhon) - this is a large scepter/small staff with the head of the Set Animal/Typhonic Beast on it. He can control storms.
- Shu - Francis Li. Relic - a bronze khopesh (the type of curved sword that Mdjai wields in the Tomb of Anubis deck). He becomes the air itself.
- Tefnut - Winona Ross - a votive shield (kind of a mid-sized round buckler). She becomes a furred cat creature.
- There's not really backstory for any of these people as individuals. It's kind of a miracle that they even all have "real" names beyond their identities as members of the Ennead. There's never any flashbacks or anything about their previous lives.
- They immediately start their program of "We're in charge now" world domination and Ra shows up pretty quickly since he could sense their awakening. Since they're all together, and therefore augmenting one another, (oh and even without that there are nine of them to one of him) this goes poorly for Ra. He wanders off into the desert after his defeat - see last week's episode for more of what happens with him.
- Meanwhile, the Ennead take over Egypt and between the efforts of Nuit and Isis they create a magical shield over the whole country (more like a big hemispherical dome over most of the important parts of the country - it's not like it's following the modern borders exactly). Once their hold there is solidified, some members of the group will venture out to try to take over more parts of the world.
- The other heroes won't take this laying down. The Freedom Five head to the area, but they can't even get through the shield. Even as they get close things like giant statues will come up out of the sand or swarms of scarabs will fly in. Just all sorts of nasty precautions set up by the Ennead to keep interlopers away from their territory. They do manage to keep the members that leave the bubble from making any headway in the larger world-conquering plan, but that's the extent of their success - they can't make any assault on the Ennead's home base and the heroes see this as a major failure on their part seeing as a whole country is beyond their help.
- Nearby Ethiopia doesn't take this well. The country denounces the Ennead and what they're doing to Egypt and mobilize military forces to combat them. Atum makes an example of them, destroying the city of Isati Shelek'o (see the card "Sun's Fury"). The heroes show up afterwards, and Atum is drained from the effort, but Shu shuttles him back to Egypt. Isati Shelek'o (is Amharic, one of the predominant languages in Ethiopia - እሳት ሸለቆ) translates to "Valley of Fire".
- When Ra returns, newly empowered after his deal with Ammit, he uses the bulk of the new power he's acquired to destroy the magic shield (this happens in a crossover event between his book and the Prime Wardens, and other heroes - primarily magic-aligned ones). The trick to this fight is the heroes' ability to isolate individual members of the Ennead to take them on individually.
- Shu's last ditch effort is to whip up a giant sandstorm to draw everybody together. Nephthys uses the last of her power to teleport them all out, but it's largely undirected and scatters them all over the world. Now that they're all separated and weakened they can't readily refill their "reservoirs" of power.
- Set has the most remaining power after all of this. He winds up in Tuscon, Arizona (where Nephthys drops him) and goes back to living as Steve Karr. He uses his power to get the things he needs to live, but is really trying to lay low. There's a comic issue that's a "day in the life" of a guy named Steve Karr (some observant comics fans might have recognized the name before the reveal) - he picks up his dry cleaning, gets a coffee, trying to order food at a drive through, and there's just nothing going right. He has enough, turns to Set, and starts wrecking the city. Then the Southwest Sentinels show up to stop him, and they succeed (go team!). F.I.L.T.E.R. shows up and locks him up in the Block. While (an even weaker) Set is there, outside of time and space, he can't recover power at all (and neither can the other members of the Ennead). During a "Prison Riot", he manages to escape back into reality and everybody perks up as they can feel their power returning again.
- The Ennead start to congregate again, meeting up back at the Shrine of the Ennead in Egypt. So, what's the plan now? Set tells them about what he learned in the Block, which includes the end of all realities/multiverse stuff. This is right around the time that Ra and Anubis show up to recruit them for the whole OblivAeon thing that's going down. There's a big, knock-down drag-out fight between them (because nemeses), but Set understands that this is the same stuff that he's been talking about. Eventually Ra manifests the full extent of his power in his Setting Sun aspect, Anubis recognizes this as the real deal "We need to do this thing" moment, and the others are overawed by this and now everybody's on board. They go to fight OblivAeon and they all die as discussed previously.
- Previously it was mentioned that the Ennead really only show up for their main story arc, but Nightmist was involved in a Vengeance arc before fighting Isis and Ra was involved in Vengeance and then fought the Ennead - what's the actual timeline going on here? The major plot (finding Relics, fighting Ra who then goes off into the desert, Atum going to Ethiopia) was the second time this story was actually told in Sentinel Comics (and was told by much better writers that time). The first time (decidedly pre-Vengeance), these 9 gods just show up and fight Ra, defeat him, and just go around being villains (no "taking over Egypt" plot). Eventually Ra regroups, teams up with other heroes, and they defeat the 9. The end. There was no gravitas given to the proceedings and not a lot of thought put into the implications of 9 other gods showing up - it just kind of fell flat. After Vengeance, somebody wanted to take this old story and rework it to make it better. This second telling is now retconned into the "canonical" version of the Ennead story and is the one that we deal with in the card game and whatnot - the other one is kind of ignored.
- What happened to the 4 members of Ward's group who died before the rest became the Ennead? They died for real due to the hazards of the Shrine explicitly so that there were 9 remaining. There have to be 9 to enter the chamber - a smaller group would never make it that far.
- How do the members of Ward's team feel about the 4 who died in the Shrine? Do they worry that Roderick will give them up for dead too? They're all shady people and don't really trust one another. There's no love lost between them, but a larger share for me! After getting the power, this stuff pretty much becomes of negligible importance.
- Are the gods always jerks? Do Discworld rules apply where gods have less power if fewer people believe in them? They're not really gods, just people with a lot of power - worshipers don't matter in terms of power (although in the distant past some incarnations certainly cared about their worshipers). They might be more or less benevolent, but as a group they've always opposed Ra and so in a world where Ra is a hero, they will by necessity be villains.
- In "Death's Grasp" we see Tempest in a bad situation, who saved him? Initially, Tempest was acting weaker than he was to get Nephthys to chase him as part of the whole Operation "Don't Fight All Nine of them at Once, Guys". She does eventually get the drop on him and drains a bunch of his life force, but Tempest does eventually turn the tables by himself.
- How did the other nations in the area respond to the Ennead? Militarily? Views from a religious perspective? In this world there are people with powers, so they were just more of that. As mentioned, Ethiopia was the first nation to speak out and we see what happened there - that kind of shut everybody else up (nobody knew that he was really drained after that and couldn't do it again).
- What went down vs. OblivAeon? There's not really a turn-by-turn, blow-by-blow description. You can basically just look at the relevant ARG page.
- They don't seem to get along (they're all nemeses by the game rules), but in myth many of them are related/married to one another; does whoever currently is, say, Isis have an attachment to the current Osiris? Does the power behind the relics care which gender the person who claims a relic is and/or does the god-form alter the body to conform to the "original" bearer's gender? Could non-biological entities (like, say, Omnitron) become empowered by them? Certain people are drawn to certain artifacts and the Relics do call to people whose gender matches the original bearer's as they are trying to find people who match them as closely as possible. The marriages in ancient history don't really have an effect on the relationships of current hosts. Non-biological entities could not be empowered.
- What about the Egyptian gods who aren't represented in the game? All of the other Relics are locked beyond the gate of the Underworld that Anubis guards - even the Ennead's were out there until Anubis sent them back into the world as described last week.
- Who's the most powerful member of the Ennead? They are all very powerful but each individual's "power" is largely different from the others so it's hard to compare apples to apples. Atum has the most direct offensive power, but used up the majority of it in the Ethiopia incident. It's hard to pick out anybody else as stronger than the others given the diversity in their approach to what "power" even means.
- Would it be possible for somebody good to pick up one of the Ennead's Relics and become a hero? More segues...
- Tactics - Since this deals with a (confirmed) future expansion, Spoilers here in Tactics instead of RPG for once. The expansion is The Rise of the Ennead - the Relics are scattered all over the world after OblivAeon destroys them. Atum's is the first to be recovered, by Roderick Ward's son Alexander, who knew what his father had become. He set out to find the Relic and does. He becomes a villain right away, fighting the heroes, but he also knows that having more of them together will make him stronger. Geb and Shu are the next to show up as a duo of adventurers, Preston Hess and Bertrand Frye respectively - they're not 'bad guys' per se, but they still use their powers for personal gain. Yasmin Rassar, a native Egyptian, finds Nuit's orb and becomes a hero of Egypt, even fighting against Atum occasionally. Julia Salazar finds Tefnut's shield and is a hero in Brazil. Because there's only five of them, however, they don't get the increase in power that you'd expect. Then the Kincaid siblings, whose parents were collectors of antiquities, acquire the remaining four. Olivia becomes Isis, Charlotte becomes Nephthys, Isaac becomes Osiris, and Liam becomes Set. At this point everybody knows that the whole team is accounted for and are drawn together. There's a big fight, alliances are formed and broken etc., but eventually they all come to terms and decide they need a place to isolate themselves. They raise the Ruins of Atlantis and use it as a base, even if they're not all buddy-buddy yet. There are more of them interested in not being villains than otherwise, but Atum's position of authority plus access to magical goodies in Atlantis might be able to sway them.
- RPG - The Relics are scattered, some recovered by Ammit who hoards the power for her own purposes. The Staff of Ra is unaccounted for. Some other info is in last week's spoiler section.