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Blue Rose: Cat's Cradle (Actual Play)

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  • #61
    Ready for a new story? There are pirates. Everyone loves pirates, right?

    Session XXXVIII

    O Fortuna Part I

    Ashlin’s Reports

    Report from Ash, decoded by Kait, sent 2 Atholon

    You will be pleased to know, I am certain, that my planned weekend of mindless indulgence and decadent relaxation has been cancelled in favor of a quest of swashbuckling adventure far more suited to a person of action such as myself. It is so actionified that within a few hours of receiving our mission, I was the forward party to the boarding of not just a pirate ship, oh no, but one of Aisling's Death Hulks themselves. If that wasn’t enough, I now have an evil sorcerous treasure map.

    See, Devon Darling came to us with a delicate matter that needed some professional attention. As it turned out, it also had the potential for glorious combat, so Jadzia was immediately on board, and Tanith wasn’t about to let one of her loves go off alone, no matter how comfortable her lounge chair was. It seems there have been a plethora of odd artifacts winding up in the hands of various pirates about the islands. Not sorcerous artifacts, but rather what appeared to be tricksy Faenari ones. The problem seemed to center around a particular island, a hidden one, that could only be found if one possessed a specific artifact, a compass whose cardinal points were the four suits of the Royal Road that always pointed to the hidden island. The compass would lead someone there, but always had a way of getting lost after they left with their booty. Oh, and apparently the Cailleach is the one handing out the artifacts.

    So we have two aims: one, to recover as many of the artifacts from the local ne’er-do-wells and two, to visit the Cailleach’s island itself to try and get to the bottom of this. The rhy-fins are out in force looking for evidence of any of the scattered bits of magic, and had one good lead for us to start with: the famed Justine, everyone’s favorite (or least favorite) ex. Her ship had been sighted floating a few feet above the water, which seemed awful artifact-y. We weren’t travelling there with Devon – for one thing, she and Justine had quarreled recently, and she didn’t think Justine would be convinced she was just there to talk about the artifact. Captain Pearl Scabbard and her fiancée Morning Rain had a faster ship anyway, and a much less conspicuous one.

    Captain Pearl Scabbard and Morning Rain are a lovely couple. Darcy was taken with them immediately, and that is where I believe he is spending this evening. The captain is brave and loyal, with a most enviable hat. Morning Rain is kind and gentle, quite expressive even without a voice – she was born without a voicebox, so even Adept healers can do nothing to change things. Still, she communicates well with her fiancée, and is clearly adored by her crew, especially the first mate Coraline Bonewhite, a Kernish expatriate who is extremely competent when not thrown off her stride by her brother, a vampire who was trying to kill her. As it turns out, we had actually met him – Alil, from Lumina, is that very same brother. She was… disconcerted by Darcy’s description of his travails there. Apparently he had gotten turned when he made a last stand to help her escape, so she feels a good deal of guilt there. It is hard to accept that your brother is dead when a monster wears his face and taunts you with it.

    We had just contacted Justine and arranged a parley when a Death Hulk was spotted, making haste towards the same point as we were. We put on speed to intercept, and made plans for boarding. I was the advance party, as I mentioned, turning myself invisible and having Tanith telekinetically lift me over to the other ship, to get the lay of the land. Unluckily (Braniel help me, I’m beginning to sound like Jadzia), Aisling was not on the ship – she apparently has a small fleet of them. Luckily, there was a communication crystal, so I set myself up to make an emergency broadcast through it, copying the undead captain’s voice, announcing that not only did the dirty dog Yrtalian attack us brazenly on the open sea, but a second artifact had shown itself on our magical map, but was hidden by a shadowy mist that we couldn’t penetrate.

    Oh yeah, the magical map. Technically, that was the first thing I found on their ship. It’s probably not far from anyone’s first guess, that a sorcerously evil magical map is in fact printed on human skin, which it definitely is, though I might lay even odds on whether one would guess that that skin was still ticklish. And sweated. It was… unpleasant, to smuggle that away. It had a prominent pulsating welt, that corresponded to where we figured Justine’s ship to be, and further tests proved that the welt indicated the artifact. An icon in the center of the map indicated the current heading, and the welt moved in relation to it – a clever piece of magic, if it weren’t so evil. Thankfully, Darcy was willing to use it in our quest to find these artifacts, though he insisted we burn the thing after we were done, not that anyone had any objections. It seems someone was turned into that thing, so we’ll be trying to find the other 2 to 4 of them, so that we can completely free the poor soul and return it to the cycle.

    The others, naturally, handled the zombies, spectres, and weird, tentacle thing with the barest effort. I did get to throw a knife at a zombie at the very end, but the zombies were kinda pushovers anyway – it was only luck that Tanith’s blow hadn’t severed its head. Maria was a bit tired, at the end of it all, but magic does that – she spent the rest of the afternoon/evening napping.

    Justine wasn’t that big of a challenge either. She tried to play coy, asking ‘what artifact’ when we brought up that Aisling was coming after her for it. When we finally got her to leave off that tactic, she kept talking about how she was part Roamer and the artifact was her birthright. She had won the compass from Fortuna, a Roamer whose name had come up in conversation with Devon earlier. She climbed a staircase to find the Cailleach, a blonde woman who, naturally, found her irresistible, because if Justine isn’t a trustworthy narrator in such matters, then who is? I wonder how she’ll spin Jadzia’s rejection of her come ons… apparently, intimidating demands are her weakness. Luckily, obliviousness is one of Jadzia’s strengths, so Justine found no traction there.

    We did wind up with the silvery egg shaped artifact, as well as some good information. Not just what I mentioned earlier about the Cailleach and her island, but also that another pirate, Ava Longshadow, had acquired one as well (Justine was quite put out to think that what she and the Cailleach had wasn’t special, and was eager to out anyone who might had her favor). Hers apparently turns her entire ship invisible, which makes me happy to have a magical artifact detecting map, even if it is breathing in my inner coat pocket. However, lacking any leads on this Ava’s location, we decided to go to Rainward to see if we could find Fortuna, seeing as her name had come up twice already.

    Darcy has charge of the artifact, though it spends evenings in the Captain’s vault on the ship, which is where Darcy has spent his evening, so six in one, after all. In light of those plans, I had the arduous task of distracting Huong from his flirtations with our Roamer priest, and got to take advantage of drinks in the dashing pirate’s room while I caught him up to speed about the artifacts and the Cailleach. I also made sure he knew the details about the bait we’d set up for Aisling, though Tanith had already told him the basics about it via psychic communication.

    That seemed like a good day’s work, but as he left the bar, Darcy apparently did even more work. To be fair, by ‘did work’ I mean that he got accosted by a beautiful woman with a sword and really poor taste in romantic partners, but you know, that’s how work goes sometime. The woman in question was one Sasha the Dandy, and began the conversation with her sword out, something Captain Pearl Scabbard did not take kindly too. They eventually worked things out. Sasha had been hired by someone claiming to be an agent of the crown to find Fortuna and take her away somewhere safe, then defend her against people that this agent was certain would be after her. She had arrived on the island and not been able to find Fortuna at any of her usual spots, after looking for a few days, so when she heard Darcy had been asking after the Roamer woman, she came to check him out.

    Sasha has personal reasons to have been tapped for this as well, as she and Fortuna were old friends. It seems that Yrtalian is Fortuna’s brother, and also Sasha’s ex (as is Justine, but we should probably just take that for granted from now on). Darcy is going to be working with her for a bit, since it’s much easier for Tanith to contact him via Psychic communication, and while she has some telekinetic ability (she retrieved her sword from Pearl using it, once things had settled down. I don’t think those two are going to be great friends). Things are bound to get exciting!

    [Cloven hoof mark]


    Jadzia’s Horse Sense

    (Whispered in Rezean on a small plain on the Rainward Isles)

    “Infuriating woman!

    “What is that? No, Salkhi… things are fine between me and Tanith. Yes, I know she has been a bit out of sorts since the… unpleasantness with the Hyades siblings, but I cannot fault her for that. And yes, things are going well with Jana and Alexis as well. No, I was speaking of… another. She is unimportant.

    “Bah. We should not dwell upon such things in any case… is it not enough to enjoy these fleeting moments on dry land? By the Primordials, the Rainward Isles and Azure Paradise are pleasant enough, but I cannot comprehend why anyone would wish to live in a place which is absolutely inaccessible save by boat. It turns the stomach merely to think about it. Luckily my Sunflower has provided me with certain herbs which help to settle such nauseating feelings.

    “As you know, we originally came to these islands to mediate a minor matter, and we were able to settle it amicably in a matter of days. We were relaxing at the lavish home provided for us when Captain Devon Darling approached us about a matter of some importance. It seems that a number of Roamer artifacts have begun turning up in the hands of local pirate crews. While the items themselves are powerful, they are relatively innocuous taken on their own merits. However, some of them have hidden properties which could prove very dangerous to the area. Captain Darling mentioned one such artifact which recently summoned a great serpent from the depths to attack a nearby island.

    “Our course seemed clear… we need to track down as many of these artifacts as possible, trace them to their source, and put a stop to the whole business. Before that, however, Tanith felt it was necessary to seduce Captain Darling. I do not fault her for this; if it can help her to regain her customary self-assurance then I am willing to let her dalliances pass without comment. So long as my Sunflower returns to my arms when her trysts are done.

    “The source of these troublesome artifacts was a hidden island; one which could only be located through the use of a magical compass. This compass had a history of leading unscrupulous individuals to the island and then slipping their grasp and coming into the possession of another such pirate. On the island, a woman calling herself ‘the Cailleach’ gifted each pirate with a single artifact of ancient Faenar. After finding the island and claiming their reward, each sailor mysteriously ‘lost’ the compass, and it passed to another.

    “To make matters worse, these artifacts have caught the attention of several powerful and evil individuals in the area. We had word that both the lich Aisling and the pirate Yrtalian were actively seeking the compass and the treasures to which it leads. Their respective fleets – Death Hulks and all – were scouring the nearby seas for any signs of Faenarian relics.

    “Of course, it should have come as no surprise that the compass’ most recent owner was none other than Justine. Infuriating woman! We had information regarding her current location and course, and immediately set out to intercept her. Though Captain Darling would have been happy to escort us aboard her vessel, it was thought that the Queen’s Secret Crush would be too conspicuous for the work. Consequently, we were granted passage aboard the Roaring Sky, a smaller, lighter, faster vessel captained by one Pearl Scabbard.

    “Pearl Scabbard seems to be a fine and valiant comrade, though our initial meeting was a bit tense before she explained the reasons for her actions. Her fiancée, Morning Rain, is a mute young woman who nevertheless has little trouble communicating her thoughts to others. The cause of the strife between us came when Pearl Scabbard asked Captain Darling if she would vouch for not one but both of my lovers, as though she did not trust them.

    “After learning her reasoning, however, I was forced to admit that she had adequate cause for her caution. Her pilot, a young woman named Coraline Bonewhite, has been hunted by Kernish forces for some time, and the captain saw it as her duty to ensure that Tanith – who speaks with a Kernish accent – and Jana – who is actually from Kern itself – were not plotting against her friend and crewmate. Such dedication to the safety of one’s comrades is admirable.

    “Ms. Bonewhite’s story is more complicated than that, though. As her family was fleeing Kern, her brother sacrificed his life so that she could escape. In the process of this last act of heroism, her brother was corrupted and transformed into a vampire. Coraline is understandably wracked with guilt about this development, though everyone – myself included – has assured her that her brother’s sacrifice was his own choice, and that he would not wish her to blame herself for his fate.

    “Complicating matters even further is her brother’s identity… none other than the fiend Alil, whom we first encountered in the forests of Lumina. Ms. Bonewhite still harbors warm feelings for her brother, though she understands intellectually that the man she knew and loved is dead, and the beast wearing his form wants nothing more than to corrupt and destroy her. It is… not a situation I would wish upon anyone.

    “As we sailed toward Justine’s ship, we encountered a Death Hulk. The ensuing battle was glorious, if somewhat predictably one-sided. The ship was crewed by zombies and specters, and captained by some sort of tentacled darkfiend. Captain Pearl Scabbard fired upon the hulk itself while my companions and I boarded the ship and took the fight to the crew. I mostly used my bow, as Maria had enchanted my arrows with elemental magic so that they could hurt the incorporeal specters. The fight was brief.

    “Ashlin had crept aboard the Death Hulk invisibly before the battle began. Through expeditious use of disguise and deception, he was able to contact Aisling via mystical means, pretending to be one of her underlings. He convinced her that her minions had located another of the Faenarian artifacts, but that they could not approach it due to a mystical fog. He gave her the location of a secluded bay… the perfect place for an ambush at sea. I am absurdly proud of him for this act of subterfuge. We shall make a warrior of him yet.

    “He also obtained an item of obviously sorcerous nature… a map inked upon human skin. The contours of the map shift and change to depict the seas and islands nearby, and a welt appears when the map comes near to one of the Faenarian artifacts. The foul thing also still seems to live in some limited capacity… it shudders and shivers when touched. My companions have deduced that several of these maps must have been created from a single source, and that the only way to free the soul trapped within them is to destroy them all. We shall of course do what we can to effect this solution.

    “The confrontation with Justine was in some ways easier and in other ways much more frustrating than the battle with Aisling’s Death Hulk. The infuriating woman at first refused to admit that she had a Faenarian artifact, and when we pointed out that very few ships are capable of floating ten feet above the waves, she insisted upon dissembling even further.

    “I grew weary of her constant lies and attempts to distract us with witty repartee, and eventually ‘cracked the whip,’ as Tanith might put it. I growled and glowered at her, demanding that she produce the artifact and divulge all that she knew about the compass and the others who had possessed it. The look of shock and fear upon her features was… most gratifying.

    “I do not know if what followed was an attempt to save face in the wake of her unflattering fear, but it was most off-putting. Though I did not recognize it as such at first, Justine began flirting with me. The gall of that infuriating woman! She is not unattractive, but it was hardly the time or place for such assignations. And she is far too aggravating for me to even consider dallying with her in such a way.

    “With Justine’s artifact (which took the form of a silver egg) in hand, we made our way toward the Rainward Isles. While we had no idea where to find the compass’ current owner, we did know that the rogue from whom Justine had obtained it was known to frequent taverns in that area. Her name is Fortuna, and we decided that she might be able to reveal additional clues about the situation. We have yet to locate her, but we are following several other leads.

    “Darcy, for instance, has made the acquaintance of a bold adventuress named Sasha, who is connected to this case in a variety of ways. Sasha approached us because we were asking questions about Fortuna, who is a friend of hers. Fortuna is also Yrtalian’s sister, though she does not advertise this fact for obvious reasons. As for Sasha, she has at various points been romantically connected to both Yrtalian and Justine. Darcy thought it prudent to stay close to Sasha, as it seems likely that her path will intersect with this case on some level at some point.

    “As for me… I have decided to take the scant time we have here and spend it with you. On solid ground. That does not move. So that I can concentrate upon pleasant things, and not things that make me nauseous or angry.

    Infuriating woman!”


    Tanith’s Diary

    I am not well, really. Ever since my conflict with my poor Cassilda, I have been off. Needy. Jadzia was gone a few weeks after the last job, and I was probably smothering to Jana. Maybe not so bad, I think I had no interest in intimacy at all for the first week. Fortunately, she had Marcus, and I was there for her emotionally. I was just needy. Since then…I don’t know, I was off.

    So this last job on Azure Paradise went off without a hitch. Dull, but we did really well, and have been able to relax in Azure Paradise several days. A badly needed vacation. My issues cropped up, however, when my old flame Devon Darling came to us for help, to deal with mysterious treasures picked up by various pirates. However, I wanted to seduce Devon. I guess to…I don’t know…convince myself I still had my charm? While she did not really wish to, Devon was unable to resist my charm long, and I ravished her on her table, against her wall, and in her bed. I needed her to surrender to me, and she did.

    Afterwards was a little awkward. She was well satisfied, of course, but embarrassed she had given into my desires in front of her crew, the emissary Golden Slipper, and the captain she found to help us, Pearl Scabbard. Also we might have broken the table, it was wobbly which prompted us to move. Anyway, I talked a fair amount on my psychic connection, but I had to promise not to embarrass her in front of her crew again. I did, readily…that was not really how I do things. I just needed the validation. Needed to know she would drop everything for me, and she did.

    I wish I could get myself to contact Cassilda. I am sure she is waiting to hear from me.

    The mission went well. Pearl Scabbard and her Fiancée Morning Rain guided us through a battle with a death hulk and finding Justine (again) and talking her out of her treasure while she made an amusing attempt to seduce my dear Jadzia. It was amusing, and as always the whole team were excellent, from Ash’s stealth to Jana, Jadzia and Darcy’s power to Maria’s arcana.

    Pearl Scabbard’s first mate is Coraline Bonewhite, a Kernish girl who escaped Kern with the help of her brother Alil, who was transformed into a vampire and was now hunting her. We clashed with Alil in Lumina, but he survived. Coraline was jumpy at first about Jana and I, but after Peal Scabbard apologetically asked Darcy to vouch for us (which I understood after it was explained) she warmed to Jana quickly. She also bonded with me, perhaps to a lesser degree; she and Jana fought side by side on the death hulk we raided, and she proved to be a talented duelist. Anyway, that night in Rainward I decided the brave, if sometimes skittish, girl was adorable. Jadzia was really more in a barfight mood and Jana seemed tired, so I bought Coraline a drink to see if she wanted to spend the night. I was not disappointed. She was more than a little Vata curious.

    Last night went better, but as the morning light hit I wonder why I needed to seduce two women in the same day, neither of whom were my longtime companion Jana or Jadzia. I love them, truly. I could have just hooked up with Devon after the mission, she offered, which is still open. Coraline is adorable and is all giggly smiley and kissy. But do I feel better about myself? No. Did I enjoy myself? Gods yes Coraline was wonderful. Enthusiasm counts for a lot, and she has plenty.

    Hopefully I will cease to behave like a needy teen. At least Coraline is pleased with me.

    Now…what were we doing again?

    End Session XXXVIII

    Okay so connections. Alil came up in The Bard’s Tale set in Lumina. Devon, her crew, Huang and Slipper, and the villains Aisling and Yrtalian all came up in Black Sails, while Justine first appeared in Shadow Show, though that was far from her last. While in no way needed to follow what is going on, the Cradle is following on the work of the PCs of my other game, and the story On Stranger Tides, going up week by week at this writing.

    Jadzia is totally not repressing.

    So during the dramatic back and forth of Peal Scabbard and Darcy facing off with Sascha the Dandy, it was all hostile and posturing, with disarming and rearming, but at one point they mentioned Justine and Sascha was like “…wait, Justine? Is she okay?” and the entire group was all like OH MY GOD HAS EVERYONE DATED JUSTINE and it was funny.

    Okay I think that covers everything. Comments and Questions welcome.
    Last edited by Baroness Nerak; 18th July 2019, 07:58 PM.
    Running: Blue Rose AGE (Cat's Cradle) Blue Rose AGE (Big Damn Heroes)
    "That Queer Goth Chick." "You are going to have to be more specific"

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    • #62
      Ready for more Pirate action? The hunt for the artifacts continues.

      Darcy’s player had to miss, thus he is quiet. Note Jana’s letters covers the past two sessions

      Session XXXIX

      O Fortuna Part II

      Ashlin’'s Reports

      Report from Ash, decoded by Kait, sent 4 Atholon

      Well, at this rate, we are likely to break our streak of an artifact a day, since we are back at the pool, but, to be fair (as I always am, especially when fairness is in my favor), we did pick up two plus another map plus an evil blood compass yesterday, so that averages to at least 1.00000003 a day, if I do my math right. We have to wait for our scouts to scout something out anyway, so it’s not like we are lounging while there’s an actual lead to follow.

      The primary artifact we were after yesterday was the one Justine (infuriating woman… sorry, Jadzia has said it enough times after that name that it feels like a ‘call and response’ thing now) gave us a tip about. Ava Longshadow did in fact have an artifact, one that would turn her ship invisible, and according to Huong’s sources, she intended to use it to go after some particularly dangerous booty. No, not Justine’s. As it turns out, there is series of islands inside a perpetual fog bank, guarded by… “nightmarish creatures”. All of the sailors refused to be any more explicit than that. And so will I (at least for the moment – you know how I like my suspense). Anyways, she was clearly hoping to use the artifact to bypass the heavy defenses that had led many people to stash their loot in the shrouded islands.

      The mists cover a decent area, and she was an invisible ship in a heavily fogged area, but thankfully, we had a ticklish, breathing map to guide us! And the shrouded islands was plenty small enough to cover even with the range issue. We did run into night terrors, as Pearl Scabbard called them, and I understood why they didn’t describe them to us. I very well might not have believed them, but since I am never anything but straightforward and 100 percent accurate in every detail I relate to you in these reports, you will naturally never question for a moment when I tell you my friends fought a pack of 7 flying, oversized, glowing eyed sharks. And won, of course.

      So we talked to Ava…

      Just kidding. For starters, though, I will hold my hand to Braniel and say we actually did fight oversized, glowing eyed, flying sharks. And that there were 7 of them. And that and two different, separate, distinct points in the fight, the lovely, spectacular, entirely insane Jadzia rode on the back of one of these night terrors. The first time, she contented herself with using her blades to anchor herself to its head and fire her bow as it swam through the fog, using a knife I left in its head to somersault off its back the next time it swam close. The second time, it was the last one left alive, and, might I both point out and emphasize, WAS ABOUT TO FLY AWAY. Thankfully, Pearl Scabbard managed to finish it off before it was over the open sea. Not that I think Jadzia wouldn’t have absolutely managed it, but they swam pretty fast, and it was a foggy, flying shark infested sea, and Morning Rain’s magic that kept the surrounding night terrors from smelling the blood only worked so far out from the boat.

      In other words, it was epic, and we had so much shark meat (more on that later). By that time, the map had picked up on Ava’s location, and we flew a parley flag, which she ignored, reasonably, considering she had no reason to think we knew she was there. Pearl Scabbard playing ‘chicken’ with her gave her one though, and she revealed herself and eventually let us over to her ship to talk. She didn’t take much convincing, but she did ask if we would let her men gather some of the treasures, then escort her out of the fog, very reasonable requests. She also let us know that Red-handed Maggie Wraithshadow was the next to get the magic compass after her, having snaffled it from her bedside after a victory rendezvous once Ava had made her own pilgrimage to the Callieach’s island. Ava had gotten the compass in a similar way, after a rendezvous with Fortuna, though according to Ava, it was a gift, not a theft. Maggie and her brother Viktor had retrieved their own artifact since then.

      I am piecing together two conversations there, as ours was rudely interrupted by the arrival of one of Yrtalien’s fleet. Not the man himself, of course, but it’s never a shame to put one in his eye. I noticed it on the map first, so we got to sneak up on them, aided by the fact they were getting attacked by sharks. Jadzia helped the sharks along by putting an arrow through the pirate’s sorceror’s eye (which did attract one of the sharks to come after us, but we finished it off long before it go near). Then a shot from our ballista took out their ballista, and so after they finally fought off the sharks, they were easy pickings for Pearl Scabbard and her crew. The hardest part for them was convincing Jana and Jadzia to take the crew captive and hold them for ransom rather than just attacking and killing.

      More importantly, while they were fighting, Tanith and I performed our now trademark feat of slipping me invisibly onto the enemy ship. I found a compass-like object made of black metal and filled with a viscous sticky blood that pooled towards the sides in the direction of Ava’s ship. Touching it was a metal helmet, plain in shape but fancifully decorated with Roamer motifs, very similar in looks to the silver eye and egg that we had recovered so far. That, I promise, was the only reason I felt safe enough to go ahead and put it on. I do look quite dashing in it.

      Anyway, the blood in the compass immediately flowed over to strain towards the helmet, so the compass clearly points towards the closest artifact that is not touching it. The helm itself made ship’s hulls impervious, at least to natural forces. A ballista bolt or the like would still punch straight through, but one could bounce off reefs, outcroppings, or any other such obstacles without issue.

      After we escorted Ava out, we headed for Rainward. Apparently they have a prison explicitly for this sort of thing, which will hold folks for ransom in exchange for a cut, so we needed to drop them off. We also needed to see if we could wrinkle out some rumors about the Wraithshadow siblings. It didn’t hurt to check in on Huong either – the trap we’d set for Aisling had sprung, though it hadn’t caught her. We do now have a second skin map though, and Aisling has one less ship, so that’s good at least.

      See, I’ve become a lot less worried about the artifacts since my dreams two nights ago. I was visited by the Callieach herself, which, I am told, is not so odd – apparently it’s an omen that one’s career in the islands will be meaningful if one has been visited by Callieach in their dreams. Devon herself had been so visited. The setting of my dream matched what she described as well: I was on the beach of an island, just on the waterline, and she was standing high on a mountain that rose over it all, looking down at me. With that whole ‘dream logic’ thing, I knew she could hear me, and that I didn’t have a whole lot of time. That’s where things started to differ. Devon had been handed a prophecy, something the Callieach had seen on the Royal Road. I got to ask questions, which, you know, is not inappropriate my particular… joie de vivre. When I asked how I could help, she said to stop Aisling. When I asked if she would then stop seeding around these artifacts, she said that was beyond her control. Then, she asked me who I was, which is not usually the sort of thing you ask someone who you read about on the Royal Road and then used dream magic to get in contact with.

      That could be a couple of things though. The obvious, and probably scariest, one is that some power was exerted over me or both of us to get us in contact. Not necessarily negative, as there are all sorts of powers, but disconcerting. It could be that the Callieach cast her net out wider than usual, looking for a particular quality rather than a particular person. It could be that the Callieach knew who I was just fine, and the question itself was a clue, though that seems unlikely, as I definitely had that dream feel of her being confused – I might be projecting though. It could also be that I just happened to not look like who she was expecting at the moment. I wish I had Darcy to ask about these things, but he’s still working with Sasha. He’ll be back soon, hopefully.

      Regardless of that mystery, I respect the Callieach’s wisdom enough that my focus is on Aisling. To that end, I put a con by the others, and we put it into action at the aforementioned visit to Rainward. We threw a party - shark meat for everyone! - and I wore the silver helmet, and did sleight of hand magic tricks with the silver eye, telling everyone we met about all our adventures, and how many relics we have, and what boat we were on, etc, with the hope that Aisling would seize the opportunity to gather many relics at once. Being as we are a party of Sovereign’s Finest, who have bested her before, she would presumably have to come herself, or send enough of her forces that losing them would lose her a significant portion of her power.

      Understandably, neither Aisling nor Yrtalien took the bait immediately and rushed in for the kill. Unfortunately, we do need to sleep on the ship until we either make a different move – stashing the artifacts in a vault like Devon suggested being the most likely move there – or they make their move. Stealing the artifacts is too easy a route for them, if we are not on open water. We’ll see how things proceed though – I don’t mind getting rocked to sleep by the ocean, especially when we get to spend our afternoons lounging by the pool...

      [Cloven hoof mark]


      Jadzia'’s Horse Sense

      (Whispered in Rezean in the stables of the Azure Paradise guest house)

      “There… much better. It is nice to once more be in a place where the ground beneath our feet does not shift and writhe like a nest of serpents. Though I fear this reprieve will be short-lived as we must soon venture out onto the waves once more in pursuit of our quarry.

      “Ah, the battles we have fought here, Salkhi! I only regret that you have been unable to join me on the decks of these ships for the glorious combats I have experienced. Yesterday, for example, we set out in search of another of these mysterious Roamer artifacts. This one was in the hands of a captain by the name of Ava Longshadow, and was said to possess the ability to turn a ship invisible. She was known to be in the vicinity of a small archipelago, constantly shrouded in thick fog and said to be home to terrifying monsters.

      “Of course I was intrigued by this description. Who would not be?

      “We reasoned that we would be able to find Captain Longshadow with the sorcerous map once we got close enough to her ship, and so we set out. Along the way it became obvious that Captain Pearl Scabbard and her crew knew more of the creatures in the fog than they would reveal, but when pressed they would only say that we would not believe them if they told us the whole truth.

      “I do not know about that. The creatures in the fog were large flying fish with rows of razor-sharp teeth. As I stated when I first came to Aldis City, the fish will devour no portion of Jadzia of Clan Tenniral’s flesh. I stood by that assertion and comported myself with honor and discipline, dealing damage to many of the attacking creatures as they swooped in close to snap at us. On two occasions I managed to leap onto the back of one of the creatures so that I could continue attacking it as it sped away from the ship. It was a magnificent feeling, gripping the irate beast with my legs as I fired my bow at its companions!

      “We managed to dispatch the creatures without too many problems, and continued our pursuit of Captain Longshadow. We located her ship in short order, though she was cloaked by the artifact’s power. We hailed her and she ignored us, so Captain Pearl Scabbard ordered her ship to advance upon their position. This forced Captain Longshadow to reveal herself or risk being rammed by our vessel.

      “Captain Longshadow proved to be more cooperative than the infuriating woman, and agreed to release the artifact into our keeping so long as we allowed her time to seek out and retrieve any treasure which might be hidden in the vicinity first. She then requested that we escort her ship out of the fog banks, as she no longer had the advantage of invisibility with which to bypass the monsters which lived there. This seemed a reasonable request, and we granted it with a will.

      “Our egress from the archipelago was interrupted by one of Yrtalian’s vessels, which had also come seeking the artifact held by Captain Longshadow. We happened upon the ship as it was in the midst of its own battle against the great flying fish, and it seemed prudent to allow the monsters to soften Yrtalian’s crew up a bit before we joined the fray… with one exception. One member of the crew was obviously a sorcerer of some power, so I loosed an arrow from a borrowed longbow, striking true and piercing his eye.

      “Ashlin once again infiltrated their vessel in the confusion of the battle with Tanith’s help. This time, he was able to return to us with one of the artifacts… a metal helmet which renders a ship’s hull impervious to damage from its environment. I am given to understand that a ship protected in such a way would still be vulnerable to deliberate attacks from enemies, but would not be harmed by submerged rocks or the effects of inclement weather. He also found another sorcerous item… a compass containing spilt blood, which would gather along the edge of the compass, indicating the nearest Roamer artifact not already in direct contact with it.

      “After the battle we had to decide what to do with our surviving foes. Jana and I were all for giving them honorable deaths, but the others argued for taking them hostage and ransoming them to Yrtalian, as is the custom among buccaneers. I confess that this is not an altogether unfamiliar process to me; it was common practice after a successful raid among the clans to hold our clan’s enemies in exchange for herds, grazing lands, supplies, and the like. But rival clans were rarely actually evil, employing sorcerers and allying with the undead and the like, and it seems likely to me that we shall simply have to kill those we spared today at some later time.

      “We returned to the Rainward Isles, which apparently keeps a prison as neutral ground, specifically for the purpose of ransoming captured pirates to their captains. We had spoken more with Captain Longshadow, who was able to give us our next clue. The compass which leads to the Calleach was no longer in her possession; she had lost it following a night of passion with one ‘Red-Handed’ Maggie Wraithshadow. Rainward seemed as good a place as any to begin our hunt for her.

      “Unfortunately we found no trace of Miss Wraithshadow on the Rainward Isles, nor was there any word from Darcy or Sasha regarding the elusive Fortuna. Huang promised that he would let us know if he uncovered any information about any of them, and we contented ourselves with celebrating our various victories in a style befitting the occasion. This also served to make it known that we were in possession of several of the Roamer artifacts… information with which we hoped to draw out both Yrtalian and Aisling.

      “We slept aboard the Roaring Sky that night, a necessary if unpleasant measure. The ship was not attacked in the night, so we moved our base of operations back here, to Azure Paradise… where the ground does not constantly move beneath one’s feet, and it might be possible for right-thinking people to get a decent night’s sleep. Where I might once more be able to enjoy my lovers’ embraces without having to worry that my churning stomach will interfere with our intimacy. Tanith has been… particularly attentive of late, and I look forward to showing her the same consideration now that my stomach has settled a bit.

      “Still… I know that we must board one of those infernal vessels again shortly. We have begun this grand quest, and we shall not abandon it until we see it through to its conclusion.

      “…best to enjoy this solid ground while we can, eh Dear One?”


      Jana’'s Letters

      Dear Mother,

      Today seemed to be a reminder of the old days, the dead are bad and the living, for the most part, are good. We concluded negotiations in the islands again and decided after they were done to spend some time on Azure Paradise. It has been nice enough. There is a swimming pool with water deep enough to submerge oneself within it. It was a nice change to have so much water to safely swim in. Larger bodies of water at home tend to have unpleasant things living in them. Things that usually want to eat you. Tends to take the joy out of swimming. So, the pool was nice.

      As we were enjoying ourselves Devon Darling, Marza and Golden Slipper came by to talk to us. We also met some new people, Pearl Scabbard and her fiancée Morning Rain. They had a business proposition for us. They were having problems with some possible Roamer artifacts that were spreading throughout the islands. They wanted help in containing the artifacts and getting them out of the hands of minor pirates that were plying the local waters. We agreed readily enough, especially after we found out that Yrtallian and Aisling were also after the artifacts. They are not working together in this endeavor though. They are most assuredly working at cross purposes, but that’s still against us, so we agreed to help hunt down the artifacts and get them out of unsafe hands.

      The reminder of home came up when Pearl Scabbard, the captain of one of the ships, asked Darcy if he could verify that Tanith and I were really who we said we were. He said that we were, and she explained that her first mate Coraline is from Kern and is being hunted by her brother who was turned into a vampire. As it turns out her brother is none other than Alil! When we met her we expressed our condolences on her loss and told her what happened when we met him in Lumina. She did not seem pleased by what happened to him. Apparently, she is still feeling guilty for his death. He sacrificed himself so that she could escape Kern and now she feels like it is her fault that he is dead. Though she doesn’t see it as a death like she should. She still sees his face walking around and has sympathy for the body that was once her brother. She doesn’t seem to understand that he is dead and gone. I suppose I can understand. I would have been hard pressed to let go of you if you had still been walking around after your death. Thank the gods that you were not subjected to that indignity. We talked for a bit after I had been vetted. She wanted news from home and to commiserate with a fellow Kern about home and finally being free from it. She seems to be a steadfast and hard person when it comes to anything besides vampires. She doesn’t flinch from most things, having seen worse, but vampires still bother her because of their connection to her brother.

      Once it was verified that we were who we said that we were, and we were not vampires we could really get down to business. It was suggested that we take Pearl Scabbard’s ship since it was smaller and faster than the Queen’s Secret Crush. It was also relatively unknown to Yrtallian and Aisling so we might sail under their notice if we were not in such a big ship that they had already fought in the past. As it turns out we came across a Deathhulk sailing the waters we were passing through. We were not sure if Aisling was on board or not but decided that it didn’t matter. We engaged the ship. Ashlin turned invisible and then Tanith levitated him over to the other ship. We then came up alongside them and began our attack. There was a minimum of ship to ship fighting. It was mostly us boarding the Deathhulk and fighting her crew, which turned out to be several Specters and a darkfiend with tentacles. It did not take long for Coralline and I to take down a few of the Specters. Maria had enchanted everyone’s weapons so they did mystical damage as well as physical damage. It made it possible for us to hurt the specters, and it came in very handy. Darcy and Jadzia engaged the bosun (the tentacled darkfiend) though it was Maria that landed the killing blow on the fiend.

      As it turns out just as Darcy was landing the killing blow on the Captain, who was one of the specters, Ashlin sent a final and desperate message to Aisling via a communication Shas crystal he found in the Captain’s quarters. He implied that he was under attack by Yrtallian and they had taken the artifact that they had in their possession. After that was done we left the ship and set it alight. We let it burn in our wake.

      Ashlin showed us the map that he had found. It was disturbing to say the least. It was made of human skin and seemed somehow to be somewhat alive. It seemed to shiver when touched and sweated when confined in Ashlin’s pocket. We talked about this map and finally came to the conclusion that there were likely three or four more of these maps out there, given its size. We all agreed that we needed to find the other maps and burn them all together and free the soul of whatever poor person has been caught up in these horrendous artifacts. It can only be of Kernish origin. Something so horrible would not come out of Aldis or Aldis City. I doubt the Jarzoni would come up with something like this and the Rezeans would find it disgusting.

      After that we met with Justine and talked about the artifact that she has. She has something that will allow her ship to fly. We eventually convinced her to talk about how she won a compass from someone named Fortuna in a card game that allowed her to find the artifact that she had. She then promptly lost the compass. She was vague about how she lost it, but I believe it was someone stole it from her after having slept with her one evening. Who knows?

      That evening after leaving the bar to go back to the ship, Darcy was confronted by an unknown woman. They talked and he found out that the woman is looking for Fortuna. Apparently the seeming source of the compass has gone missing and this woman is looking for her. It also turns out that Fortuna is Yrtallian’s sister. So, we weren’t sure if Yrtallian had managed to find his sister or if she was hiding from him because of his interest in the Roamer artifacts. Darcy said he explained all about the artifacts to this strange woman. I don’t know if I would have done so. Actually, I do know. I would not have done so. Regardless of who she was looking for. I would not have given up our only advantage to a stranger without proof that she was trustworthy. Darcy seems to be a more trusting soul. Sometimes I despair that my allies will trust the wrong people and we will find ourselves betrayed. I do not understand why they assume that every friendly person is a good person. Just because someone is nice to you does not mean that they have your best interest at heart. They could very well have the opposite in mind. I’m not sure how to teach them this lesson though. They seem so set in their ways and without actually betraying them to prove a point I’m not sure how to show them that trusting people willy-nilly is a bad thing.

      Love always,

      Jana


      Dear Mother,

      Today was a day that I will likely never forget. We decided to go after Ava Longshadow, a minor pirate who had acquired a Roamer artifact that can turn her ship invisible. The problem lay in her location. She had fled to an extremely foggy area littered with small islands and dangerous creatures. The others would not tell us what the creatures were, just that we would find out for ourselves. That sounded ominous to me. Between our two wind shapers we parted the fog in front of the ship to some extent so we would at least have some warning before we hit something, and we created a wind to propel us where we wanted to go. We followed the tainted map to Ava’s location. Well, we had almost reached Ava’s location when we ran into some of the dangerous creatures that the locals had warned us about. It turns out that these creatures were sharks. Not ordinary sharks though. Their eyes glowed and they flew around in the air like some sort of demented bird. It was an intimidating sight. There were seven of those creatures the first time. We managed to kill them, but not before they did some damage of their own. I was not wearing my armor since we were on a ship. I had not wanted to see if I would sink all the way to the bottom of the sea if I was wearing full plate, so I fought in nothing but my traveling clothes for protection. We managed to pay them back for the injuries that they inflicted on us. Jadzia even went so far as to jump on to the back of one of the sharks, ride it through the air like a stallion and even shoot some of its friends with her bow. It was a truly incredible sight to behold. Gods I love that woman.

      After we were done with the sharks, we made our way to Ava’s location. She was invisible so she didn’t think we could see her. We had run up the flag that indicated that we wanted to talk but she ignored it. So, we set our sails and headed straight for her side. She believed that we would actually ram her and quickly made her ship visible again so we would see her and know to stop. We knew anyway, but she didn’t know that. So we convinced her to allow us to board her ship, and we started talking. She denied having an artifact at all, but we eventually got her to admit it. While we were all talking Jadzia noticed another ship headed in our direction, but it suddenly stopped. We all took a look and found that the other ship, one of Yrtallian’s, was engaged in fighting some of the flying sharks. Jadzia took advantage of the chaos on the deck of the other ship and fired an arrow at Yrtallian’s sorcerer. She killed him in one shot. It was a very impressive shot. Meanwhile our crew began firing our own ship’s weapons at the pirate ship. We managed to completely destroy their ballista in just a few shots.

      As we got close to Yrtallian’s ship… well technically it was just one of his fleet. It was not his private ship. I doubt we would have fared so well against it if it had been him in person. Anyway, as we pulled up alongside his ship Ashlin turned himself invisible again and Tanith levitated him over to the other ship surreptitiously. He snuck aboard and began searching the Captain’s quarters. He found a compass that appeared to be filled with blood and a Roamer artifact. The artifact this time was a helmet. The compass seemed to point in the direction of the nearest magical artifact that it was not touching directly. So that’s how Yrtallian’s crew was tracking Ava. Disturbing but effective. Ashlin took the helmet and the compass and signaled Tanith to bring him back to our ship. We also took captive the survivors from Yrtallian’s ship. It was explained that we could ransom them back to their crewmates and make a tidy sum. I argued that it was a bad idea because we would just be letting our enemies back out into the world to try and kill us again. Jadzia argued on my side, but we were out voted. I know that this is going to come back and bite us in the ass, but no one listened to my arguments for killing them. They had embraced corruption. I’m sure the others thought that they were being nice and giving them a second chance to turn their lives around. I suppose it was a nice thing to do, but I maintain that it wasn’t the right thing to do. We should have killed them.

      Once back on our ship Ashlin told our group what he had found out and showed us the helmet and compass. We continued our talk with Ava and convinced her to give us her artifact. We explained that it was in her best interests since the enemy had their own artifacts that could pinpoint her location whether she was visible or not. She handed over the artifact, which was a silvery egg. It turns out that she also got her artifact courtesy of Fortuna and her compass. Ava then told us about a brother and sister pair named Victor and Red-Handed Maggie Wraithshadow that also have an artifact. Theirs it seems can call a wind to help in sailing the ship. I guess that means we need to go after them next.

      Once we were done talking we agreed to lead Ava and her ship back out of the fog bank and into safer waters. There we went our separate ways. We went back to the island and proceeded to have a big celebration for everyone on that island. We provided all the shark meat that we had acquired in our fight with the creatures. Ashlin then proceeded to try and lure out those who want to steal the artifacts by wearing the helmet and bragging about the other artifacts that we had in our possession. Everyone was suitably impressed and I’m sure the word that we had three artifacts circulated through the entire island, if not beyond. We are going to sleep on Pearl Scabbard’s ship tonight to be on the safe side. The accommodations that we have on the island are too easy to break in to. Someone would be able to get in and steal something before we had a chance to stop them. Especially if they played it smart and had friends to delay us while they got away with the artifacts. So, we’re going to sleep on the ship and keep it out of the port for the night. I know Jadzia is not fond of the idea of sleeping on the ship, considering that she doesn’t like ships and the way that they move. She agreed to the plan though and Tanith provided her with herbs to help settle her stomach. I don’t know why I don’t get seasick. I’m assuming it’s because I got used to riding a wyvern and they move in strange ways. Not like a horse at all. They rise and fall and sometimes dive to get to prey faster. One has to have a strong stomach not to get sick after diving on a wyvern for the first time. Or the twentieth time for that matter.

      And now I should sleep. Tomorrow promises to be a busy day.

      Love always,

      Jana


      Tanith'’s Diary

      We are making headway in our mission, but our task seems never-ending. We got information as to where Ava Longshadow was headed. It was a long, dangerous trip that involved fighting Night Terrors, which I won’t describe so that I won’t begin doubting my sanity when I reread this. We caught up with Ava, who was flushed out by Pearl Scabbard doing a particularly bold maneuver charging right for her. While negotiating, we discovered one of Prince Yrtalian’s ships approaching. We found that ship also fighting Night Terrors and intervened after Ashlin snuck aboard and stole everything of value. Pearl Scabbard decided to keep the pirates hostage, and I didn’t object so as not to rock the boat.

      Ugh I just reread that.

      The whole area was foggy, which the Night Terrors used to their advantage. We used it to ours as well when ambushing Yrtalian’s men. I am not accustomed to the lack of vision, spoiled perhaps by my heritage, I am used to colors being a bit washed out in the dark, but being unable to see was disconcerting. And Jadzia and Cassilda deal with this anytime they enter a dark room? And no wonder Coraline gets so jittery. Reminds me of the only thing I don’t like about Lumina, honestly.

      Anyway, get Ava’s relic was easier than Justine’s to get, and we lead her out of the fog. We now knew to look for Red-Handed Maggie and Viktor Wraithshadow (seriously?) who were pirate siblings. We returned to Rainward to get intelligence and found the Wraithshadows (seriously?) current whereabouts were not known, and Fortuna had not been found. In better news, Aisling had lost a death hulk. Oh, Ash had warned us Aisling needed to be stopped…urgently, apparently. They got a dream-vision from the Cailleach. Apparently, that is not unusual for heroes like ourselves, but Ash’s was different because she seemed confused, as if their fates had linked them.

      Ash had bragged we had the treasures, which is useful, because it makes us a target, and we are prepared. It does also mean for certain Aisling knows about us. To be fair she must by now. That night was uneventful, we slept on the boat at sea (which is the most restful time for poor Coraline, apparently) but we saild the next day to Azure Paradise to meet with Devon Darling and see if she had had any luck. She had also caught some small fish but not our main foes.

      We are taking some time off here, which is good as we have been traveling by ship almost constantly and spent one night on a ship, and all this ship time is not good for my poor sweet Jadzia. Honestly, it has not been easy on my Jana either, as she has had to not wear her heavy armor for practical reasons (lest she be doomed if she falls in the water). She still boldly tries to draw enemy attention, so I have been healing her a fair amount. Oh, I would be remiss in not noting Jadzia rode a Night Terror, twice, which was absolutely amazing, and I am going to take advantage of the shore leave to show my heroines some affection.

      It’s not a bad mission, but I wish I knew how close we were to success…and could see the endgame.

      End Session XXXIX

      I could not resist fielding Night Terrors against the Cat’s Cradle group after how much fun the Big Damn Heroes group had such fun fighting them. They are in the Fantasy Age Bestiary.

      Had fun having them deal with the various pirates and privateers. Ah battle, romance, zombies, what more can you ask for?

      More to come. Comments and Questions welcome
      Last edited by Baroness Nerak; 18th July 2019, 08:01 PM.
      Running: Blue Rose AGE (Cat's Cradle) Blue Rose AGE (Big Damn Heroes)
      "That Queer Goth Chick." "You are going to have to be more specific"

      Comment


      • #63
        Let’s return to Southern Aldis, as the Cradle hits the high seas. They hobnob with the elite, hunt pirates, and project to meet a demigod.

        Session XL

        O Fortuna Part III

        Ashlin'’s Reports

        So, when I abandon my post to become the most feared pirate thief on the sea, I think I’ll have to leave behind the name Ashlin. It’s just way to close to Aisling. I mean, I could go for a (the name thing) – Ashlin the Magnificent, Ashlin the Dexterous, Ashlin Definitely Not the Sorceress Lich who had that Weird Evil Baby Thing… nah, it just doesn’t pop. I had put together a pirate persona before, but it was more of a visual persona, less a social one, so I didn’'t think of anything more than a throwaway name. It’s something I will have to give some serious thought.

        Obviously, things have gone well. I stole another artifact, and a marvelous hat. I made out with a rakish pirate in a crow’s nest (and she called me ‘the cute one’ like, 7 times (not while we were making out, that would be weird)). I threatened a smug royal after playing with his toys. I got to hear awesomely told stories about Faernian legends. My friends even got to talk to one! All in all, a good couple of days. I hope things are well in Aldis City.

        Oh, you want to actually know what we did and accomplished since my last report. So demanding. But if you insist… yesterday was a fairly lazy day, to begin with. Darcy got back to us after checking all of Fortuna’'s usual haunts with Sasha. I pestered him into telling us stories about the Callieach. She was an infamous Adept who left the Faernian Empire in its waning days, with a number of its artifacts, and went south, warning others not to follow her. She was said to guard over places and people, occasionally making her presence known from afar with her image showing up in various places, like cloud formations, or mossy patterns, or the way a handful of sticks fell (put a pin in that, we’ll revisit).

        Excitement, however, was not to be found until that evening, when all of us but Maria went out for a few drinks. I think we all noticed him at the same time, but it was Jadzia who made a move towards Pisha’s brother, the estimable Lar’tyan asshole himself, Arjun of the Lar Caste. Our Rezean friend had clear intentions, starting strong right off the bat by accusing him, in front of Golden Slipper, not to mention the rest of the bar, of sending assassins after the wrong people, conveniently not clarifying whether she meant ‘wrong’ as in targets who had someone to back them up, or ‘wrong’ as in mistaken identity. The arrogant princeling tried to have Golden Slipper removed us, putting her in a difficult position. Darcy defused things, talking Jadzia down before she explicitly mentioned Pisha, and explaining to Golden Slipper that while we did not have proof, yet, they were quite sure of his guilt. This left things at a draw, as she could scarcely arrest him on that, nor did we ask her to, but she also couldn'’t have them thrown out. Since Jadzia left him be, content to glare at him over her beer at Tanith’'s side, everyone was satisfied.

        Especially me, as I was making my way carefully to where I assumed a guest of his stature would be staying. It was pretty easy to identify his rooms, and to let myself in. I did not, I’ll have you know, go through his things (at least, nothing interesting, which is really the only things that count, right?), but it did look as if someone had touched and moved, with zero disregard for order, every single thing in them. The only island of calm was around his bed, where a knife pinned a short note to his pillow. Hopefully, he will get the message. At the very least, it should leave him with less of a mystery as to who it is his mysterious assailant is upset about – apparently there was some Lar’tyan muttering after a left wondering who it was Jadzia was so upset about.

        While I was out and about, the others made the next discovery in the chain of ‘what the hell is happening here’. A message arrived… well, two messages arrived, technically, one for Tanith, the other for Devon, but they were, in content, the same message, down to the fact that both were addressed to both of them, as well as Yrtalien and Aisling. It was from one Admiral Timera, the head of the naval force of a small island nation 6 days sail south of the Shatterstar Isles. The gist of the message was that she had the compass, and the girl, and that was about it. Nothing about a meeting place, no threats, not even specifying who ‘the girl’ was, but it was pretty clearly Fortuna. Yrtalien definitely agreed, as it was mere hours before he put up posters in the common area for such things containing a screed of threats, including one to kill every man, woman, and child on the islands if a hair on his sister’s head was harmed.

        The message (the one from Timera, not Yrtalien) started a scurry of activity, so that we could be prepared whenever we got word of… whatever there was to do. Back up was called in, Marina and her Meebo II, Justine and Her Ex, Sasha, and anyone else folks could think of. Rhyfins were sent out, and planning got under way. Sasha was pretty sure it was a trick. Devon was pretty sure Fortuna was working with Timera, rather than a captive. The only consensus was that we should not go haring off towards the islands she worked for.

        We had more information to play around with the next morning, when word from the rhyfins got back. They found Timera in a fleet of 8 ships, sailing under the water, ballistae pointed up, surrounded by tiger sharks, which I presume are not fuzzy sharks with orange and black coloring, though after the flying sharks of the treasure archipelago, I refuse to make assumptions. Those on the ships seem to be able to breath, even on the open deck, and as best the dolphins could tell, Devon was right – Fortuna seemed to have free reign. Though, to be fair, if there is some kind of arcane power specifically effecting the boats that is letting them breath, and stay standing on the deck, she’s not precisely a flight risk that needs to be restrained.

        And so our preliminary plan was formed – we would use the relics on the Meebo II (the fastest of our available ships) to get us to the ships. Then I would swim down, invisibly, and hope that light and/or sound plays the primary role in how tiger sharks perceive their surroundings, and see if the whatever it is that lets them breath is for anyone who sets foot on/near the boat, or if it is just for them. If it is just for them, then we, well, hope? If it’s for anyone, we attack, as is (some of) our want. We’ve changed it up a bit since then, but you’ll simply have to wait for that.

        First though, we got word on the Wraithshadows, and immediately struck out to intercept them, so we’d be more ready when we got word on the end game. We travelled on the Meebo II, going with speed over weapons, given, well, everything. On the way, Tamika’s monkey sighted three ships from the Black Fleet, including the Ebon Prince. We were well able to outrun them, and we were sailing invisibly, so that wasn'’t an immediate problem, though it did put a timer on the negotiations.

        We had a certain tactic that we had begun perfecting, so I went invisible and Tanith lobbed me over to the Wraithshadow’s ship, as soon as we got there, which was right at the tail end of their fight with a Death Hulk. It was incredibly on fire, and sinking quickly, so we didn’t even get the fun of being the cavalry riding in with the save. Jadzia was disappointed. Very approving of Maggie, and her intense desire to burn any and all ships that she was allowed to. Yeah, something, yet again, that we were not told. Maggie likes burning things, and has the Shaping powers to make it happen.

        Anyways, while the others talked with the Wraithshadows, I explored their ship. Viktor had just set down one of the flesh maps they had retrieved from the Death Hulk, so I was able to snaffle that up. The Roamer relic was well hidden, down below decks, which smelled disturbingly like burnt hair. The relic itself was a silvery belt, and they had stashed it in a hat vault, or at least in the place where they stored their magnificent collections of hats. There was one that had my name on it, well, the name of at least one of my covers. I’m sure they would be fine with donating one of their many hats to my new career of piratry.

        It was a bit of a negotiation, as Maggie just really wanted to turn on Yrtalien’s forces and burn them all, and Viktor was of the opinion that getting a relic from the Callieach meant he was chosen to have it, and thus was reluctant to let it go. Tanith (especially once armed with exact knowledge of the relic and what it looked like) was able to convince him that retrieving the relic did mean he was chosen, but not to wield the relic, but rather to help with… whatever was going to happen at the meeting. He agreed, and so we got another ship added to our side.

        Since they no longer had a relic, they were able to just continue on for a bit before heading back towards Rainward Isle. We led Yrtalien’s forces on a bit of a chase, but were well able to leave them behind. It was a pleasant ride, for me (see above re: crow’s nest, and adorable pirates). Tanith and the others had an interesting time of their own – Devon called while we were still a bit away to let us know that the Callieach’s face was showing up in a giant mass of storm clouds above Rainward (I told you to put a pin in it). It was, understandably, causing a bit of panic, despite Darcy’s assurances that she was just watching over them, with concern. So they decided to try and talk to the Callieach, Tanith using her visionary powers to trigger a connection, then pulling Darcy along for the ride.

        They got a lot of information, though suitably vague for coming from a discussion with an ancient being of near god like power. As it turns out, Aisling is the Callieach’s former love, and it was something the Callieach did that gave Aisling her power. The sorceress was supposed to be trapped, when whatever is going down now went down, but the Callieach couldn’t clarify what that was, as it was Fortuna’s plan, a plan that was supposed to result in the Callieach being freed so she could deal with Aisling herself. It seems that Yrtalien’s claim of royal blood was more than just hot air, as Fortuna is the ‘eldest royal daughter with the purest blood’, which means she serves as something as an in-between for the Callieach and the mortal world. She’s a little out of touch, as one might imagine.

        So, the Callieach (initially) trusted Fortuna with this plan, but had no real comprehension of what it was, and the more it played out, the less she trusted Fortuna. To add to the pressure, the relics were cursed, and the Callieach was straining herself to nullify that effect. So, we needed to work fast. We still haven’t gotten word of where the Admiral and Fortuna are, but once we do, our plan is on, though with a small change – I’m going to be trying to kidnap I mean, free, Fortuna from the underwater fleet. That way, we can ask her to clarify. There still remains a chance that she is in fact working to free the Callieach and put Aisling down. Or she could be trying to get her brother more power, though Sasha finds that unlikely. But we’d really like to talk to her before we engage in this whole thing, if at all possible.

        Their discussion also had the effect of getting the Callieach to realize that a giant head made of thunderstorms freaked out us mortal folks, and got her to pull back a bit. So there was much less panic going on when we got back to Rainward Isle. Everyone was gathered and waiting (and taking advantage of the waiting for some fun times in a grain silo, which, considering one of said couple was Maggie, was possibly not the best choice of location). Golden Slipper still had work to do, being the head of tourism of the island, and having to deal with the fact that a high ranking Lar’tyan had been the victim of the horrible crime of not using an appropriately strength lock. Devon got pulled into that eventually, as the embassy demanded satisfaction, but I have confidence she will have no problem bringing the perpetrator to any necessary justice...

        [Cloven hoof mark]

        Letter to Arjun, in Lar’tyan:

        “My dear little bird,
        Do not think you are the falcon in this
        place. Aisha is dead. Another assassination
        attempt will be taken poorly.
        [Crow head]”


        Jadzia’'s Horse Sense

        (Whispered in Rezean in the stables of the Azure Paradise guest house)

        “And now, Dear One, I feel that our time in this place is coming to an end at last. Our true foe has revealed herself, and all that remains is to confront her directly and put an end to her evil exploits. Our allies scheme endlessly in an attempt to maneuver her into a battle of our choosing… yet whether we have the advantage or not, the final confrontation draws near.

        “What? Oh, yes, of course… the bracelet was a gift from my Sunflower, Salkhi. You see these markings here? They spell out my name, and Tanith'’s, and Jana’'s, entwined together and sharing letters. It is a symbol that we are bound together… that we three shall never be parted. It is not quite the same as a marriage in Aldis – there is a formal ceremony for such things, I understand – but it is a step toward such a commitment. I am… honored and humbled by this sign that she cares as much about our love as I do. Though my Starlight was typically reserved, I gather that she feels the same.

        “Stop that at once. I am not blushing. I do not blush.

        “…I apologize, Dear One. Though I am as happy as I have ever been, other recent events have me out of sorts. To begin with, we encountered none other than Arjun of Lar’tya in the tavern the other night. You remember him, do you not? He was the dog who hired assassins to kill our friend Pisha. I decided that it would be best if I had words with him… he had bodyguards with him, but they were clearly no match for one of my prowess. Unfortunately, the others believed it would be imprudent for me to slaughter him in public. Something about how the nation of Lar’tya might take it amiss.

        “And so I was forced to withdraw from the tavern, fuming and frustrated that the villain was to go unpunished for his audacity. I am not a fool; I understand why my compatriots believe that Arjun was not worth the trouble killing him would bring down upon us. But I will not pretend that it does not rankle to allow him to believe that he has gotten the better of us. At least Ashlin divested him of that idea later that evening… I am led to believe that my friend visited Arjun’s bedchamber and left him a token of our esteem.

        “It is pleasant to know that he is unable to sleep soundly, knowing that we can get to him wherever he might scurry to. If nothing else, it ensures that we shall meet again, at a time and a place where we can finish this once and for all.

        “As we were preparing to take our leave of the tavern, a pair of messages arrived… one for my Sunflower and another for Captain Darling. These messages had the same content, and the wording implied that duplicates had also been sent to Aisling and Yrtalian. They were from a person known as Admiral Timera, who is apparently a pirate of some importance in the area. The messages were infuriatingly vague, stating that Timera had both ‘the compass’ and ‘the girl,’ without stating who this girl might be or specifying any demands.

        “My friends quickly came to the conclusion that ‘the girl’ in question must be Fortuna. Apparently Yrtalian also came to this conclusion, because his own message quickly followed, stating that he would murder everyone in the area slowly and painfully if his sister was harmed in any way. His dedication to his family’s safety is… admirable, I suppose, though the murder of innocents seems a poor way to answer for her mistreatment.

        “As Timera is known to have a mighty fleet at her command, there was little we could do to thwart her at that moment. We retired to the guest house to rest while Captain Darling organized a search among the area’s rhy-fin population, hoping that they could give us some information about both the Wraithshadows and Timera herself.

        “When they returned, the news was not good. Timera was not far away, but she sailed with a fleet of five ships… and she sailed beneath the waves rather than across or above them. It seems likely that she holds one of the Faernian artifacts herself, though if so it has greater powers than those we have collected ourselves, as it can affect more than one ship at a time. In addition to the fleet itself, Timera seems to command the loyalty of large fish… like the ones we fought in the mists, but unable to fly and without glowing eyes, and therefore inferior.

        “It seemed ill-advised to seek her out without a plan; such would be playing into her hands. Luckily, we had another lead to pursue… the rhy-fins had also located the Wraithshadows. We decided that speed was more important than power, so we boarded the Meebo II under the command of Captain Marina Seaspray and set out to intercept them.

        “As we made our way to their ship, it became evident that we were not the only ones seeking them. Several Death Hulks converged upon their position, though the Meebo II was easily able to outrun them. We found the Wraithshadows already engaged with one such ship, though the battle was nearly over by the time we reached it. Maggie Wraithshadow is a skilled fire shaper, and obviously fond of making use of those abilities in battle. The Death Hulk had very nearly been reduced to a smoldering ruin by the time we joined the fight.

        “Tanith and the others pled our case to Maggie and her brother Viktor. Meanwhile, Ashlin slipped onto their ship invisibly and began searching for the artifact in their possession. He did find it, apparently concealed in a room entirely devoted to hat storage, which frankly baffles me. The artifact was a silver belt which renders a ship impervious to environmental damage from water, such as rot and rust. I do not claim to know much of the shipwright’s trade, Salkhi, but learning that such vessels are not already impervious to such damage does nothing to improve my opinion of this form of travel.

        “In any case, this theft turned out to be unnecessary, as my Sunflower was able to convince Viktor to join our fight against Yrtalian, Aisling, and Timera… though in part this was because she possessed ‘preternatural knowledge’ of their artifact (provided by Ashlin). He believed that he had been chosen by the Callieach to bear the artifact, you see, but Tanith persuaded him that he had been chosen for another destiny… to stand with us against a mighty foe.

        “As we turned back toward the Rainward Isles – urging the Wraithshadows to use a circuitous route to avoid the Death Hulks – Captain Darling contacted us to let us know that the Callieach’s face had appeared in a storm cloud above the Isles, setting off something of a panic. I was inclined to rush back to the islands to deal with this new menace… I have killed a storm before, and know how it is done after all. But Darcy and Ashlin seemed certain that the Callieach was merely reaching out psychically to gather information, and that the people of the Isles were overreacting.

        “My Sunflower took it upon herself to gather more information for the impending battle. She attempted to invoke a vision to guide us… and found herself facing the Callieach herself. Feeling that she might be more comfortable speaking with another Roamer, Tanith quickly reached out with her mind and contacted Darcy, including him in her astral conversation. Though she was unable to keep the connection active for long, my best friend and my love were able to obtain substantial information from her.

        “It seems that Fortuna is the eldest surviving daughter of the Faernian royal family, and the Callieach reached out to her for assistance with a matter of some import. She wishes to put an end to Aisling, who was once her lover and owes her apparent immortality to the Callieach. Fortuna agreed to help her with this plan, which had something to do with releasing the Faernian artifacts into the population… but it seems that Fortuna has betrayed her for reasons of her own.

        “And so we returned to this island to regroup for the final battle. Ashlin plans to slip aboard Timera’s ship and ‘rescue’ Fortuna… which I take to be a euphemism for kidnapping her, as we believe she is there of her own free will. If he can also obtain whatever artifact allows her to sail her ship beneath the waves, we should have a true battle on our hands. And I cannot wait…”


        Jana’s Letters

        Dear Mother,

        Today was a beautiful day in more ways than one. Okay, it was mostly beautiful in one way. My love Tanith gave Jadzia and me a bracelet each that had all of our names engraved in it but intertwined. Some of the letters from her name made up my name and so on. It was a beautiful gift. I was speechless when my love gave it to me. I think I just stayed silent and gave her a hug. I may have said thank you. I don’t know. My brain was kind of fuzzy at that point. Jadzia was more vocal in her appreciation of the gift. I hope my love knows how much it means to me. I will treasure it always. If at all possible I will wear it always.

        That same afternoon when we were all lounging around the pool Darcy was telling us stories about the Callieach. As it turns out the Callieach left the Faernian empire when everyone else did. They were fleeing the end times. Only she fled with some artifacts in tow. It is not said how many artifacts she had in her possession but she seems to be handing them out now. It was told that she travelled south, which matches up to what we have found out so far.

        Later in the evening we went bar hopping and ran into a bit of excitement. Or at least almost excitement. We came across Arjun in the tavern. If you don’t remember, he is Pisha’s brother. The one that sent an assassin after her to try and kill her. We convinced the assassin to leave because Pisha, as she was now known, was an Aldian citizen. Jadzia confronted this man with his crimes and he demanded that Golden Slipper have us removed. That was quite impossible since we were Sovereign’s Finest, but she did say that she would talk to us privately. She asked what our problem was and we explained. She agreed that he was not a nice person but that there was nothing that she could do to him at this time because we did not have any definite proof of his crimes. So instead Ashlin slipped off to find his abode and leave him a message. He left a note pinned to his pillow with a message stating that Ayisha was dead and that sending any further assassins would not go well. It was implied that it would not go well for him. Ashlin also completely tossed Arjun’s room, making it look like someone had gone through everything, when in truth it was just a cursory look through.

        Eventually Darcy and Tanith talked Jadzia down and she stepped away from that murdering asshole. We went back to talking about what was going on when suddenly a messenger came up to us and delivered a message for Tanith and Devon. The message was the same for both of them. It was from Admiral Timera. The message addressed Tanith, Devon, Yrtallian and Aisling. It said that she had “the girl” and the compass. It was obvious what she meant by compass. There was only one that we might all want. The girl probably referred to Fortuna, since so many people where invested in her whereabouts and she was currently missing. She had been the one ensuring that the compass fell into different people’s hands so they could come into possession of some of the artifacts. As it turns out she had her own agenda, but that is a story for later.

        Within an hour of the message going out Yrtallian replied by having messages posted all over the islands that if anyone harmed a hair on his sister’s head he would kill every man woman and child in retribution. We obviously did not have any ill intention towards Fortuna so only paid so much attention to the notices that went up across town. We were keenly aware that we might need to rescue Fortuna from whatever fate she found herself in however.

        In an effort to find Timera we sent Rhy-Dolphins out to look for her ship/ships and report back whatever they could find out. We didn’t really have a better way to find out where she was and the Rhy-Dolphins were more than willing to search for the woman’s ship, or fleet, whatever the case might be. I still think it is interesting to so casually work with Rhy animals. In Kern they are all but wiped out if found. I think I can count on one hand how many times I have come across Rhy animals when I was a Skull Knight. Most times I was there as a witness to someone getting killed. One time I spotted a Rhy fox but pretended that I had not seen anything when I was asked. I spotted it in the wilds one day when we were looking for a fugitive. It had a pack that was floating along with it, but it fled and ditched the pack when it spotted me. I just “forgot” to tell my fellow Knights about the fox later when we met up. There was no way for anyone to have known about it and I didn’t feel the need to tell anyone else. I don’t even think I told Marcus about that. There wasn’t really a safe way for me to tell him what happened without being overheard, so I just didn’t mention it. We have begun to tell each other stories of things like that. Things that we never mentioned because we were afraid of being found out by the others. It’s amazing how much Marcus has seen and never told anyone about. I guess the same could be said of me. I have seen a lot of things that I was not happy with or just didn’t report. Most times the people involved didn’t even know that I’d seen anything because my helmet restricted my view so much. I could just pretend not to see something in my periphery. If pretending not to see a “crime” was the only way I could help someone then I was more than happy to do so.

        Here’s hoping that my “blindness” actually helped people.

        Love always,

        Jana

        Dear Mother,

        Today has been an interesting day so far. We got word from the Rhy-Dolphins that they had spotted Timera and a fleet of seven to eight more ships sailing beneath the waves. They are surrounded by a group of tiger sharks that are swimming around the fleet in a protective circle. It also appears that the people on board the ships can walk about on the decks as if they were not under water. Or at least like they could breathe water. We are not sure what is allowing them to do such a thing. All of the artifacts that we have found so far have only affected one ship at a time. We don’t know of anything that will affect multiple ships concurrently.

        While that was interesting, we didn’t really have any answers. We did find out however that Marina had found the Wraithshadows. We decided to go after them since we knew that they had an artifact and that Yrtallian and/or Aisling was bound to go after them. We used our unholy map to find them and sailed as quickly in their direction as we could. We spotted them fighting a Death hulk and came up alongside. We were going to help them engage the Death hulk, but discovered that they already had things well in hand. Maggie it appeared was on fire while Victor was attacking enemies the old-fashioned way, with a sword. Maggie was throwing fire at the enemy ship and doing a good job of burning it to a hulk. Pardon the pun. Maggie was drunk on the power and convinced that she could take on Yrtallian’s ship and all of his allies by herself. Tanith eventually convinced Victor, and by proxy his sister, that his fate was not necessarily to hold an artifact by himself, but in fact to help us defeat Yrtallian and prevent him from getting his hands on all of the artifacts. Meanwhile Ashlin snuck aboard the siblings’ ship and found the artifact. We had no way of knowing if they would capitulate or not, so as insurance he went aboard to grab their artifact and make sure it was safe in our hands. It turns out that their object was a silvery belt that protected the ship from the water itself. It prevented barnacles from growing and wood from rotting from exposure to water all the time. He also apparently acquired a nice pirate hat. It was not a magical hat, just a nice-looking article of clothing. Ashlin also found another one of those skin maps, which he also took into his possession.

        We then suggested to Victor and Maggie that they take a winding path back to the islands so as to stay out of sight of the death hulks. We were going to head back ourselves when we found out that the Callieach’s face appeared in a cloud bank over the islands. It freaked out a lot of people, but we determined that it was just her trying to make contact. With that idea in mind my love decided to try and invoke a vision in an effort to talk to the Callieach. She succeeded relatively quickly, and just as quickly decided to bring Darcy in on the meeting. She figured that the Callieach might want to talk to a fellow Roamer. Together they found out that Fortuna is the last surviving daughter of the Faernian royal family. The Callieach reached out to Fortuna to help her with something that needed doing, namely putting an end to Aisling. Apparently Aisling can attribute her immortality to the Callieach. Obviously a mistake on her part. Either that or the power she was given corrupted Aisling so she became what she is today. In any case Fortuna was supposed to help dispose of the lich by releasing some of the artifacts, but ended up betraying the Callieach for some reason. We don’t know why.

        Our plan is to sail above the waters that Timera is sailing under and drop Ashlin into the water where he will sneak aboard the Admiral’s ship. It is likely that whatever is making the ships habitable under water for them will work for him. If it doesn’t then he will come right back to us and we will pick him up. If he is able to breathe, and walk around, on the ship’s deck he will extract Fortuna and bring her back to us. Given that she appears to be working with Admiral Timera of her own free will this may be akin to kidnapping her, but it is far from the worst thing that I’ve done. I have no qualms about removing her from a bad woman’s influence. That and she should be held accountable for betraying the Cailleach.

        I guess we’ll see how our plans work out soon enough. Wish us luck.

        Love always,

        Jana


        Tanith’'s Diary

        I have just spent a very lovely time with Devon. We are not in love; after the whole Cassilda thing I asked this time. But she is fond of me, and I of her, and we have some good chemistry. I owed her after the shabby way I treated her last time we spoke. This time was fun, sexy, and empowering to us both. I hope it is far from my last romantic interlude with Captain Devon Darling.

        More importantly, we spent a couple days on Azure Paradise before this, and I spent a lot of time with two women who do have my heart, Jadzia and Jana. I had bracelets made for each of us, which has our names, the letters crisscrossing to make a beautiful artwork of the three of us. I owed both some TLC, and I spoke to them of how happy they make me, and how I value our time together. It was…really nice honestly.

        I really cannot express just how much having those two in my life has helped me

        We all had a good couple days, but were not too upset when Devon and I received challenges from an Admiral Timera. She noted to us (And Aisling and Yrtalian) that she had Fortuna and the compass. To his credit, Yrtalian responded with demands to free his sister. Not at all to his credit, he also threatened every man, woman and child from her homeland. According to the Rhy-Fen, they were actually traveling underwater. Dash cunning of them.

        We got word the Wraithshadows (Seriously?) had been sited, and traveled that way, this time on the Meebo II with Captain Marina Seaspray as her boat was faster than the Roaring Sky, and as we could approach invisibly, being armed was unnecessary. En route, we saw three ships of Yrtalian'’s, including The Ebon Prince. Some started to follow, detecting our relics, but they probably saw the Meebo II was too fast for them. We left them behind, planning to use it as impetus with the Wraithshadows to get the show moving.

        We arrived in time to see a flaming death hulk sinking. Apparently Red-Handed Maggie is something of a pyromaniac, and had a flaming aura of some sort. She was…excitable, but not hostile when she saw Marina, who apparently had “romantic history” with her. While they flirted, we negotiated with Viktor. He believed the Cailleach had chosen them for a reason, but I managed to convince him he needed to join our flotilla.

        Of course, I had already used Arcana to send an invisible Ash over there and bring them back. They were, of course, successful, having taken both the item and a map the Wraithshadows had taken from the death hulk.

        The third significant thing, besides my time with Devon and my time when my beloveds, was here. We got word the Cailleach’s face had formed from storm clouds, staring at Azure Paradise causing panic. I tried to have a vision to tell us how to deal with her, when I found myself projected on her island. I quickly psychically grabbed Darcy’s mind and brought him over. As I gambled, she was more comfortable with the Roamer than with me.

        With Darcy’s lead, we learned a good bit. She was once the lover of Aisling when she was alive, and she felt responsible for her. This was Fortuna’s plan, though to her credit Aisling was trapped. The remnants of Roamer royalty, specifically eldest daughter of purest bloodline, could communicate with her, and that was Yrtalian’s sister. The Cailleach was beginning to fear she had been tricked. She might be right. Regardless Aisling’s escape has thrown a wrench in things for everyone apparently.

        We eventually separated, after she quizzed Darcy on what manner of creature he was. It was, honestly, a majestic experience. She is apparently Vata’'An, and looked Vata’'An, but I almost wonder if she could be Vatazin? Is it possible? I have never met a Vatazin. Either way, we were clearly in the presence of a potent creature.

        We returned, the clouds having dissipated after our discussion. After being sure all was well with Jadzia and Jana, I honored an offer from Devon. Soon we do battle with evil. Soon we face multiple dark forces on the sea.

        But for now, I will have the faces of these beautiful women dance behind my closed eyes a little longer.

        End Session XL

        So the meeting with the Cailleach was a result of Visionary. When the meeting happened, Tanith Psychic Connected to Darcy and opened their perceptions. Thus the convo took place.

        Red-Handed Maggie is actually a Pirate. She just has Fire Shaping.

        The Arjun story harkens back to the whole thing Pisha, obviously. Don’t worry you will see him again.

        Once more to set out on the sea. Join us in two weeks. Comments and Questions welcome
        Last edited by Baroness Nerak; 2nd August 2019, 11:59 PM.
        Running: Blue Rose AGE (Cat's Cradle) Blue Rose AGE (Big Damn Heroes)
        "That Queer Goth Chick." "You are going to have to be more specific"

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        • #64
          It’s time to face Aisling Windshear in direct battle once again. But first, there are missing captains to find.

          Session XLI

          O Fortuna Part IV

          Ashlin’s Reports

          Report from Ash, decoded by Kait, sent 7 Atholon

          How life changes in these islands resorts. One second you are watching your ice-Shaping friend wow a large crowd with her intricate sculptures, then next, you’re married to a pirate captain in a whirlwind ceremony taking approximately 5 minutes on the top of a magically infused tower next to a pile of drugged friends. Then the next you are fighting a shark-lobster-scorpion skeleton creature as it tries to tear apart your boat, which is, for the record, somehow managing to keep its position in the middle of a giant whirlpool, probably by magic, while your friends cling to its ribs so they can punch lich babies. What I’m saying is that it will be good to get home soon.

          The first catalyst was Darcy discovering that Morning Rain had been drugged, and that Pearl Scabbard was missing. It soon became clear after that that Marina was also missing, though Devon was safe. Tanith did some Scrying, and found Marina, Pearl Scabbard, and Viktor, lying unconscious in some kind of tower, watched over by Dulcinea and Callisto. Dulcinea was standing at the door, blocking Sasha’s entry. That changed quickly when Dulcinea caught sight of Maria, who had begun Airwalking as soon as Tanith told us what she’d seen. Maria started Airwalking over to the tower, and Jadzia mounted up, while the rest of us hurried as quickly as our non-magical 2 legs could take us.

          Maria got there first, and was greeted with a poisoned knife, and promptly took a nap along with the ship captains, though she was able to warp the door frame so the tower couldn’t be locked against us. Jadzia was second, and much more prepared, considering Maria had time to tell Tanith what happened to her over the psychic line. I was impressed with her diplomacy, as she managed to talk them down and get most of the story out of them before we got there.

          Thankfully, Dulcinea and Callisto were working for Fortuna, so we did not actually have to, um, rescue her to get answers. According to them (which was corroborated by the lady herself later), her plans were in fact to free the Cailleach, though she was more interested in pointing the Cailleach at modern mystical problems and using her powers, for good admittedly, but I still worry. There was surely a reason she stepped aside and relying on ancient mystical powers to actively move and solve our problems can become dangerous. But that’s not my issue, as the problems Fortuna wishes to point her at is in the Pirate Isles, tied to the cursed armor her brother wears. Though I should say wore, as we did succeed in getting him out of it.

          Anyway, at the time, all Callisto and Dulcinea knew was that the timing of things had been thrown off, between the mistake of having trapped Aisling in a cavern with a sea monster buried beneath it (which, naturally she raised and used to break free) and us showing up and being entirely too awesome, and so they were ordered to kidnap all the captains, to slow us down. See, Yrtalien was supposed to win and get all the artifacts – then, once they were all together, the Cailleach would be able to forge some sort of connection and break the hold Yrtalien’s armor had on him. Unfortunately for the duo on Rainward Isles, however, they hadn’t heard from Fortuna recently, not even for their usual check ins, much less for any further steps.

          So, after we dealt with a rampaging Maggie who was after her brother’s kidnappers (by tackling her and magically putting her to sleep – really glad that worked first time, by the way), Callisto read the Royal Road, and found out where to go, and that we needed to get there quickly. So we set out on the Meebo II (Marina explained her absence by telling her crew we had eloped – Jadzia was very confused as to when that had happened, and by whose authority. Turns out that asking who other than Darcy would she want to conduct her own wedding is a good way to get her to stop asking questions…).

          Callisto led us to a pair of tall rock pillars, with a whirlpool raging between them. Seemingly impervious to the whirlpool’s movement, Admiral Timera’s ship was engaged with a giant skeletal creature, with the head of a shark, lobster-like pincers, and tail reminiscent of a scorpion’s, all bone and chitin and evil. Aisling stood in its rib cage, dipping in and out of the water with its thrashing movements. A wall of skeleton sailors stood around her, and a row of spectres stood on the creature’s shoulders.

          Tanith moved me over to Admiral Timera’s ship so I could talk to Fortuna, seeing as we still didn’t know how the Cailleach was supposed to be freed and all. We had our plans for getting Yrtalien the artifacts, to get him freed – Darcy was going to turn rogue and follow his Roamer heritage to try and get all these Roamer artifacts into the hands of proper royalty – but it turns out that Fortuna had her own ideas, and that plan needed to dovetail with the summoning of the Cailleach anyway. The cards she was laying out introduced us. The wind blew in the Fool card, replacing a Hanged Man that blew into the ocean, right as I walked up invisibly. I didn’t do her and me the dishonor of making her look for, and probably find, me, so I dropped the illusion for a chat.

          Her whole deal with getting her brother out of the armor wasn’t just manipulative use of the Cailleach’s trust for her own plans. The process of doing so would provide some kind of arcane charge to the area, boosting the summoning ritual she intended to enact. Of course, the other major ingredient to the ritual was copious amounts of Roamer blood. With an ideal situation, she would have been able to take a little blood from a number of Roamers. With the situation as it was… she needed Tanith’s help to make sure she came back. Darcy, hero that he is, volunteered to provide the blood himself, so that she could be conscious to make sure the ritual went smoothly, but as it turns out, they both bled, just to make sure.

          Anyway, her whole plan was 1) we beat Aisling back into wherever liches go for a bit after they die, 2) she and I make a serious illusion of a losing fight against the undead for her brother to see as soon as he sails in 3) Darcy bleeds on the relics and tosses them overboard ‘so the undead don’t get their hands on them’ 4) Yrtalien picks them up and the magic happens to get him out of his armor simultaneously with 5) there’s a Roamer murder/suicide to fuel a ritual that summons the Cailleach bodily from the island and lastly, 6) Tanith raises Darcy and Fortuna, with a last minute addition of 6.5) the Cailleach smashes Yrtalien’s former fleet with a display of damned impressive water-spout summoning.

          All of that went off without a hitch. Jana bulled a path through the skeletal defenders and they gave Aisling a good what-for. Darcy almost moved on to the next step in the cycle before his scheduled bloodletting, but it was all ice magic, so his blood was intact, at least. Apparently Aisling didn’t like him punching Donovan. The giant lobster claws almost tipped over the boat Fortuna and I were on, but Maria managed to degrade its structural integrity to the point it couldn’t get the leverage (I helped a little). They even managed to grab the final flesh map, so that poor soul has been returned to the cycle.

          Our illusion was fantastic, if I do say so myself. Yrtalien certainly bought it, and snapped the artifacts right up. Fortuna didn’t even have to add the detail of showing herself falling into the ocean. The ritual and the raisings went off just fine, with our first piece of evidence being an inhuman screeching coming from the Ebon Prince, prompting Fortuna to order Tanith to pull him away from his boat. We divested him of his armor, and, well, I think he’s alright? He was passed right out at the time. Fortuna doused the armor in the blood she had collected, and lightning flashed between the pillars of rock to strike the armor. When our eyes cleared, the Cailleach stood before us.

          As mentioned above, Fortuna asked her to deal with the Ebon Prince, and she did so by summoning storm clouds, then pulling the ocean up to meet it in a giant waterspout, crushing the ship. She seemed a bit dazed, and we quickly made for Azure Paradise, to go back to that whole resting thing we were had been in the middle of. The Cailleach looked like she could use it, and she had a lot to get accustomed to, besides.

          But that ends our part in that tale, at least for now. We’re set to head home very soon, and I won’t say that I dislike the pirate life. But I am looking forward to the comforts of home. Maybe I’ll even get to follow up this report in person...

          [Cloven hoof mark]


          Jadzia’s Horse Sense

          (Whispered in Rezean in the stables of the Azure Paradise guest house)

          “At last our work in Azure Paradise has reached its end, Dear One. Oh, I grant you that the island is pleasant enough in and of itself, but the fact that one cannot ride for more than a few miles in any direction without having to resort to travel by boat irks me to no end. It will be nice to have our feet and hooves on the solid ground of Aldis once more, will it not? Thank you Salkhi, I knew that you would agree with me on that count.

          “The beginning of the end came yesterday morning, when we discovered that several of our allies had gone missing, and their associates had been drugged with some form of soporific. Both Pearl Scabbard and Marina were missing, though it was noteworthy that no one had been hurt during these abductions, only put to sleep. My Sunflower attempted to scry upon the missing women but learned only that they were in a tower somewhere upon the island. Oh, and that Viktor Wraithshadow had been kidnapped as well.

          “Maria offered to fly high above the city streets to try to locate our allies while the rest of us prepared to mount a rescue. She communicated with us after a short time that she had located the tower, but her mental missives were cut short almost as soon as she had given us the location. Knowing that time would be of the essence, I left Jana and Tanith with a kiss each, mounted you, and the two of us rode off into battle.

          “Unfortunately I could not practically ride you up the tower’s exterior stairs, so once again you were forced to wait idly while I charged into peril alone. If it is any consolation, Dear One, there was to be no battle. Callisto waited inside the door atop the tower for me, but it was immediately and painfully obvious that she and Dulcinea had set a trap for me; the other woman waited just inside the doorway, off to one side, prepared to drug me as she had the others (including Maria, as it turned out).

          “Callisto called out that she did not wish to fight me. I replied that this was wise of her, though if it was true she should not have poisoned my friends. She countered that they never intended to hurt anyone, just to delay us until Fortuna could see her plans through to completion. She claimed that we should all be on the same side of this conflict. As much as it galled me to do so, I lowered my bow. I did not trust myself to judge the situation fairly and accurately. However, I warned her that if Dulcinea poisoned me, it would take some time for me to succumb to the drug… time that neither of them would enjoy very much.

          “I entered the tower and was not attacked. I relayed the situation to the others through our psychic link and waited uneasily for them to arrive. When they did arrive, I allowed myself to relax slightly; my friends have always been better than me at sorting through situations of that type. It turns out that the two of them were working with Fortuna, who was attempting to free the Cailleach in the hopes that she could liberate her brother Yrtallian from the cursed armor he wears. The Cailleach herself was more focused upon ridding the world of Aisling, so Fortuna felt it necessary to manipulate her into achieving her goals.

          “Both seem like worthy aspirations to me, actually.

          “Callisto was uncertain of how to proceed because she had been unable to contact Fortuna for updates on her situation for some time. Fortuna’s plan involved having Yrtallian obtain as many of the Roamer artifacts as possible; naturally our actions had interfered with these plans. We were discussing how best to proceed when Red-Handed Maggie Wraithshadow entered, flinging arcane fire about and shouting that we would all pay for kidnapping her brother.

          “Ashlin tackled her and put her to sleep temporarily with his arcana, and we bound her hands and blindfolded her before she awoke. Once we had calmed her down and awakened the other captives, we resolved to find Fortuna and Timera, work out the whole truth of the situation, and do what we could to put an end to the sad state of affairs in the islands once and for all.

          “Since we had no clear idea where we could find Timera’s ship, and Fortuna was still psychically uncommunicative, Callisto consulted her magical Roamer cards and gave us our heading. We boarded the Meebo II again and sailed for the better part of a day until we reached a maelstrom flanked by two large pillars of rocks. Timera’s ship was there, holding its own against the whirlpool’s pull, but fighting a desperate pitched battle against Aisling’s forces, which assaulted the ship from the carcass of a gigantic monstrosity unlike anything I have seen before. It was the size of a sailing vessel itself, composed of bones and chitinous plates, and had huge claws and a viciously barbed tail.

          “Thanks to the Roamer artifacts in our possession, the Meebo II was able to approach invisibly, and Tanith used her arcana to get Ashlin onto Timera’s ship (equally invisibly) so that we could form a plan of action. They spoke for some time about the best way to implement Fortuna’s plans, but in the long run it was decided that nothing could be done at all until Aisling had been at least temporarily defeated. I could have told them that.

          “My Starlight, Darcy and I leaped to the massive beast and pressed the attack. We ignored the bevy of specters which rode upon the creature’s back in favor of entering its ribcage to assault Aisling directly. She was defended by a number of undead sailors who immediately closed ranks to protect her, but Jana was having none of it. She charged forward and used her shield to push through their ranks, creating an opening for Darcy and myself. I drew both of my swords and likewise charged forward.

          “We fell upon Aisling, largely ignoring the skeletal pirates who swatted at us ineffectually. Aisling herself summoned up sorcerous waves of cold, focusing most of her attention upon Darcy but occasionally turning to my love. The lich ignored me as unimportant, and I was all too happy to teach her how mistaken she was in that regard. In addition to Aisling and her crew, we also had to contend with the thrashing of the beast itself, which every few seconds would drag us beneath the chilly waves, but never lingered there long enough to drown us.

          “Of course we relieved Aisling of the burden of her cursed half-life in short order, however temporarily. I only hope that the time will soon come when we can effect a more permanent solution to the problem she presents. With Aisling out of action, the creature and her crew collapsed and troubled us no more.

          “We returned to the Meebo II after Aisling fell and nursed our wounds. I had suffered only a few shallow cuts from the undead pirates, but Jana was hurt badly, and poor Darcy seemed to be on his last legs. Healing both magical and mundane was offered and accepted, and further plans were made… plans with which I vocally disagreed, but which in the end I must admit were effective.

          “When we detected Yrtallian’s approach, our adepts summoned up an illusion of Timera’s ship still locked in battle with Aisling’s forces. Darcy adorned each of the artifacts he carried with a modicum of his own blood, which Fortuna assured us would render them impervious to sinking, and we cast the artifacts overboard… ostensibly to keep them out of the illusory Aisling’s hands. Of course, Yrtallian recovered them with ease, and was quick to claim their power for himself. Once he had all of the artifacts on his person, both Darcy and Fortuna voluntarily shed their own blood. Enough of it that my Sunflower was forced to bring them both back from the brink of death. I was not pleased.

          “The ritual bloodletting was enough to free the Cailleach from her bonds, and to free Yrtallian from the cursed armor. Tanith pulled Yrtallian from the Ebon Prince and we pried the armor away from his body, while the Cailleach summoned up a localized storm to sink his ship. And so it ended…

          “Things should settle down in the islands. Our work in this place is done… both the work we set out to do and the work we did not expect. We are preparing to leave these islands and return home… or return to Aldis City, I should say. Is that place our home now, Dear One? That strange city of stone… a city in which there are many people who have never sat a horse in their lives? A city in which the grass and trees are fenced in on all sides by flagstones and citadels of glass and cut wood? I have been thinking long about such things…

          “Ashlin made a joke when we reached the Meebo II on our way to find Fortuna; he and Marina told the crew that they had eloped. Confused by the subterfuge, I asked when they had found the time, and who had performed the ceremony. Ashlin cheerfully lied to me, telling me that Darcy had officiated. This was at least plausible, as Darcy’s martial order has a religious aspect to it, but I refused to believe their jesting claims. Ashlin then asked me if I would not allow Darcy to officiate at my own wedding. Tanith caught my eye and smiled, and I found myself quite unable to speak for some time.

          “I love her, Salkhi, with all of my heart and soul. I proudly wear her gift on my wrist, you see? Jana feels the same about both of us, I am certain, and I love her no less. The bracelet is a promise, a commitment between the three of us, but not a marriage. And yet…

          “And yet, if she did ask me, so long as Jana was also included in the proposal and Alexis was not forced out of my life, I believe that I would say yes. And as long as those three live in Aldis City, it shall be my home.”


          Jana’s Letters

          Dear Mother,

          So it seems that we had some missing Captains this morning. Darcy discovered through contacts that Pearl Scabbard had gone missing. He went to investigate and found Morning Rain sleeping on a couch. She was able to be roused but was really drowsy like she’d been drugged. Worried, Darcy got Tanith to scry on Pearl Scabbard to see where she had gone to. It turns out that she, Marina and Victor Wraithshadow had been kidnapped and drugged and were in a tower. She was not sure what tower they were in, so Maria volunteered to go looking. Within a few minutes she had discovered what tower they were being held in and approached. We lost connection with her shortly after she had told us exactly where to go. Jadzia, sensing the urgency, jumped on her horse’s back and rode as fast as she could for the tower. The rest of us made our way to the tower as fast as we could. Jadzia arrived before we did and discovered Callisto and Dulcinea arguing in Roamer. She confronted them before rushing into the room and found out what they were up to. It seems that they had been working with Fortuna and needed more time to try and find her before we found all of the artifacts. Fortuna was trying to free the Cailleach and to do that she needed the artifacts. It seems that they are fighting a dark power that Fortuna has seen in her cards. I’m not a stranger to dark powers so I was concerned when I heard this. I wasn’t sure what power could be bad enough to get that many people worried about it. There was also the added objective that they were trying to help free Yrtallian from the cursed armor that he wore. They said that the only way to do that was to make sure that all or most of the Roamer artifacts ended up in his hands. I’m not sure how giving him that many powerful artifacts was a good thing, but they all seemed convinced that this was the best way to go. It was proposed that Yrtallian was still a good man and was being influenced by the evil armor that he wore. I suppose that is feasible. There are a great many objects in this world that are cursed, and his armor could very well be one of those items.

          As we were all talking Callisto suddenly burst into flames. Red-Handed Maggie Wraithshadow had arrived. She burst into the room and Ashlin had her asleep within moments. As he was putting Maggie to sleep the rest of us were putting Callisto out. Then we restrained Maggie with metal bindings and blindfolded her so she could not set fire to anyone else besides herself. The idea was to calm her down before she hurt anyone else. While this was going on Darcy put forward the idea that as a Roamer it might be feasible for him to want to turn over the Roamer artifacts to Yrtallian since he is the last of the Royal House. That idea was pretty much shot down as we discussed it. It was obvious from past activities that Darcy was keen on collecting the artifacts not distributing them to someone else.
          When Maggie woke up we tried reasoning with her. Seeing if she’d be willing to set certain people on fire at a later date. Maggie argued that everyone over a certain age deserved to be set on fire. I seriously doubt this could come as a compliment to the ardent pirate, but her mentality would be looked at with admiration among some of the more messed up Nobles in Kern. Not that they’d turn down the chance to have another undead servant, but there are several out there that prefer to just plain torture their victims to death. Having your throat cut is quick and is over in seconds. Getting stabbed, maybe a minute. But getting set on fire would take a while to kill you and that is what some of the more fucked up Nobles in Kern go for. Jadzia might appreciate the woman’s tenacity and willingness to take care of the problem, but I am more concerned about her reckless disregard for life.

          We woke up those that had been drugged and Pearl Scabbard immediately left to go check on Morning Rain. The rest of us watched Callisto as she read the cards. She said that the tides were turning and if we wanted to fulfill our goal then we would need to leave immediately. So, like reckless youths we did. We took the Meebo II with the Roaring Sky right after us. Within a short time we came across two stone pillars with a whirlpool between the two. Timera’s ship was in the middle of the whirlpool sailing straight. We came up along side invisibly and floating several feet above the water. We decided to intervene and sailed up alongside Timera’s ship. Tanith sent an invisible Ashlin over to talk to Fortuna, which he did. We also had to deal with Aisling “sailing” the skeleton of a long dead sea monster into the fray. She seemed to be animating the creature into attacking Timera’s ship. Once Ashlin was safely aboard the pirate’s ship and in communication with Fortuna Jadzia, Darcy and I leapt over to the sea monster and landed inside its ribcage. We bypassed the specters standing on top of the skeleton and instead focused our attack on Aisling and her direct subordinates. We could not reach Aisling at first so I plowed through her initial defense to give my friends the opportunity to attack her directly. It worked. It worked too well if you ask me. Aisling used cold shaping to attack Darcy and myself. It hurts. It hurts a lot and I will never call any of Maria’s targets weak for succumbing to her attacks. The ice was so cold that it almost felt like it was burning. I have felt that before, but this was so much worse. I could feel the cold in my joints and it felt like they would pop. It seemed to last forever, but then in moments we were able to break free. We still moved slow and sluggish from the cold but we managed to keep fighting the undead bitch.

          Meanwhile the undead monstrosity that we rode was attacking Timera’s ship. We did our best to fight Aisling so that her and her constructs would all collapse at the same time. Darcy focused his attacks on the lich’s “baby,” and eventually killed it. This did not make Aisling happy in the least. She stepped up the attacks against us, including Jadzia in the mix. The ship was attacking the monster as well, shooting ballistae against it. Together Jadzia, Darcy and I managed to take out the lich Aisling. Jadzia landed the killing blow with her twin swords. It was a sight to behold. My love is always a sight when fighting and looked no less magnificent in that instance. As the monster sank beneath the waves Darcy retrieved the last piece of the flesh map that Aisling had in her possession.

          After we had swum back to the ship Darcy dabbed each of the artifacts in his blood and someone threw them overboard like they were trying to keep them out of Aisling’s hands, but they floated. I think it was due to the Roamer blood covering them. At the time we had an illusion of undead attacking our ship so he would think we were still under siege. Then came the difficult part. Fortuna and Darcy had to die. I’m not sure who did what, but they both ended up with their throats cut and their blood running into a glass jar. Fortuna had been unsure if just one of them would be a sufficient sacrifice for what she was planning so she cut her own throat as well to make sure. It was then up to Tanith to bring them both back to life. Not as undead, but proper life. They were actually returned to us as they had left. Nothing missing, nothing wrong, just them. I will admit that I have grown fond of Darcy in the past several months that I have known him and would be aggrieved if he were to be killed for good. I am just happy that my love was able to bring them both back to life. Such an act is unknown in Kern. I’m not sure if the sorcerers know how to bring someone back to true life or if they just prefer to bring them back in the most perverted way they can. Either way, I am glad to be free of my homeland and its horrible ways.

          Shortly after Yrtallian got all of the artifacts we heard an inhuman cry come from his ship. Tanith then yanked Yrtallian off of his ship and onto the deck of ours. While he was still in shock, presumably from all of the artifacts being in his possession, Jadzia and Darcy quickly pulled the cursed armor off of him. Fortuna then poured the lifeblood from the jar onto the armor. Lightning built up between the pillars and suddenly struck the armor on the deck, destroying it. Then suddenly the Cailleach was summoned to the deck of our ship. She seemed disoriented but complied when Fortuna ask that she destroy the Black Fleet. After that we took the Cailleach back to port so that she could rest properly and get accustomed to being with mortal folk again. On our way there we burned the pieces of the map so that the soul attached could be free at last. I don’t know where the map came from, but my guess is that it is somehow connected to my homeland. Somehow all of the most messed up things like that come from Kern. I am not proud of this fact, but it is just that, a fact. My homeland is well known for its atrocities and this is probably one of the most minor things it has done, relatively speaking.

          I don’t know what comes next, but hopefully it will make up for all the bad things that we have endured lately. There was talk of a greater evil. I can only hope that Aisling was it.

          Wish me luck.

          Love always,

          Jana


          Tanith’s Diary
          Little Heart

          A warm sun shone on the table where Tanith Nocturna and Devon Darling were talking. The women both sat directly into the warming light, and both were sipping from tall glasses. A pool was nearby, and they could hear laughing and splashing, the overall atmosphere was warm and friendly. Both women had been in the pool earlier, and wore bathing suit bottoms, though the only other thing worn besides was Devon wearing her captain’s jacket, largely to titillate her companion. Truthfully, it was a bit warm.

          “I never know how it is going to end when I call you guys in,” the Travelling Noble started, “But I can rest assured it will end spectacularly. Undead sea monster for a boat? And my hero going in?”

          Tanith chuckled, a low, flowing sound, smiling at her. “I, personally, did not go inside. I otherwise influenced the battle from the Meebo II. I had no doubt that Jadzia and Jana had the battle well in hand, especially with Darcy helping them. Darcy did get pretty chewed up, though.” She pauses, and her eyes darkened a moment. It was less visible in the bright, warm like than usual; even in the room the gold glowing gems of Tanith’s eyes would be obvious. Devon caught the look, however.

          Devon reaches across and puts her hand over Tanith’s. “I am sorry you saw what you saw, my Topaz. You are a strong woman. Even so, you might want to get that few seconds removed. Just don’t lose your restoring life to them. You’ll need that self-assurance at a dark time.” Yes. The jacket was definitely a bit too warm.

          Tanith nods. “Thank you, Devon. You are sweet.”

          The Captain leans back, stretching and showing off her dark skin as it shone in the light. Less obviously, she tried to let a convenient wind cool her. “I am. And you are too. You have two happy girls there.” She laughs as she lets air out and returns to her earlier position. “I mean Jana and Jadzia. Naturally.”

          Tanith nods. “I have been thinking about them. I have been involved with them…known them really…for a bit over a year. Nothing has made me question my relationship; Jadzia is impulsive but she is brave. Jana is staid but deep. They are very different, but both strong, tough women. It’s what I like. Badass heroes like you.” She gives a winning grin. Devon felt a little weak, but that could have been the heat. She sort of hoped Tanith would seem to grow bored of the look so she could take the jacket off.

          “That…ah…is the issue with Cassilda?” Her brown eyes were kind, concerned.

          Tanith’s demeanor changed immediately. Devon immediately decided she had done something wrong. “I do love Cassilda. And I am attracted to Cassilda. We have great chemistry. “

          “But..”

          “She is not what I feel like I want in a partner. I don’t know. She should be safe in Aldis City. Safe and happy with a family.” The Vata sighed.

          “I wonder if she is safe in Aldis City.”

          Tanith shot her a look. “Don’t do that Devon.” The Captain sighed.

          “Tanith have you ever fallen for someone and not managed to get them to love you? Ever?” Okay things were more serious. Time to just give up and take the jacket off. She did so.

          The Vata looked taken aback. “Everyone has.”

          Devon cocked an eyebrow. “Are you sure? I don’t think you realize the effect you have on women. You live in a bit of a different world than we mere mortals. “

          Tanith shifted uncomfortably and scratched the back of her neck. “I don’t…know how to respond to that. I liked a girl…as a child….who liked a boy. It’s been so long I don’t remember either of their names.”

          “My point is…” The Lar’tyen woman tapped her finger on the table. “You need to be careful with how you handle hearts. You have a feeling of charisma and danger that is easily enticing. I don’t foresee it ceasing to cause you trouble anytime soon. Don’t assume anyone you get involved with is not madly in love with you.”

          Tanith’s gold eyes widened. “Are you..?”

          Devon looked away, and back. “I got over it. We don’t exactly have compatible schedules. And Jadzia and Jana seem to be handling you just fine. Be kind to them. Treasure them. I’ll be fine. I am not a demigoddess like you, but I don’t exactly have difficulty in the romance department.” A wicked grin.

          “Speaking of which…we have a little time left, don’t we?” Tanith shot her a wicked grin, her gold eyes looking her over.

          “You…ever fail to seduce anyone?” Devon blushed.

          A wolfish grin. “Not today.”

          End Session XLI

          O Fortuna Completed

          Callisto and Dulcinea first appeared in Shadow Show, and appeared in Black Sails.

          Darcy literally came within 2 hp of going down, as Aisling kept hammering him with Frost Shaping. He and Fortuna were both restored to life after the sacrifice by Tanith with her Healer Specialization.

          If you have a lot of questions, you are not the only one. Just be patient now.

          Comments and Questions are welcome.
          Last edited by Baroness Nerak; 15th August 2019, 10:13 PM.
          Running: Blue Rose AGE (Cat's Cradle) Blue Rose AGE (Big Damn Heroes)
          "That Queer Goth Chick." "You are going to have to be more specific"

          Comment


          • #65
            The Cradle returns to Lumina, where their presence was requested by the Rose Knight Alexis Winter. Old Allies need help, and new threats loom in the darkness and fog.

            Session XLII

            The Dark Crystal Part I

            Ashlin’s Reports

            Report from Ash, decoded by Kait, sent 4 Leonar

            If I ever find it necessary to ‘retire’ somewhere in the country, it will definitely be in Lumina. Even when we are sent there to deal with 1) a super intelligent pack of fomoiri working with the local mongrels, 2) an arrogant Rezean mage getting everyone’s shoulders up, 3) a warrior being regularly possessed by a sorceror, and 4) the vagaries of the fae and their odds way of looking at the world, not to mention 6) the way all these problems intersect, it is still an incredibly soothing place to be in. The dim mists, the soft glow of the sha crystals, the general air of magic about the place… it is lovely.

            But we do have all the aforementioned jobs to do. We just arrived last night, touching base with everything as best we could, talking with Alexis and Morgan Sturbridge about the situation. The mongrel we knew about from our last visit. The fomoiri were new, odd lizard-like people whose usual modus operandi is to invite dark spirits into themselves, becoming powerful chaos monsters. They usually hang out more around the Rezea/Drunoc area but had shown up about 8 months ago. A couple months ago, they abandoned their usual practice in favor of clever tactics and planning.

            The big tipping point was when they set up a decoy camp, allowing it to be found, and when the Sentinels attacked in force, countering attack the mostly defenseless town. Now, when I say mostly defenseless, I mean in terms of numbers. It did have considerable magic defenses, which apparently exhibits as a bright spotlight that, after a warning, burns flesh. However, those defenses are now recharging, and if the current progress is anything to go by, it will be quite awhile before they are recharged.

            This was especially confusing to the folks of Lumina because they had, not too long before that, nearly wiped out the fomoiri they knew about. The only things that happened in the meantime was the Wei twins showing up. Somehow, this got mixed up with some vague knowledge of Rezean twins being bad luck, and, to put things bluntly, neither of them are going to win ‘Lumina’s Favorite Guest’ award anytime soon. Shang, to be fair, has won some friends, especially Vera, the woman she was staying with, in spite of her nearly setting Vera’s house on fire. Lao is arrogant and tends to get pissy at anything and everything that doesn’t go her way, so she has… fewer ardent defenders.

            See, Shang is still having problems with the sorcerer who found his way into her head and won’t leave her be. She heard a… twisted-by-rumors version of Tavia getting her red crystal, and thought to come here to see if she could petition for one. The fae have said, in their indeterminable way, that they had “made enough exceptions this century; try again in one hundred years”. Lao did not take this well, and I was not happy to hear she had threatened Aiobhell about it. She is trying to take care of her sister, and I don’t blame her for being frustrated – extending her psychic shield only works so far - but still, I doubt it was Aiobhell’s call.

            It doesn’t help that only Lao can tell when Shang is possessed. I’ve set up a system of code words and phrases that should hopefully slide into normal speech decently, and managed to whisper them into Shang’s ear after confirming it was definitely her, so here’s hoping for that. She’s staying with us now, and Darcy said there was a bit of an incident last night during his watch. Nothing physical (other than a malicious strip tease), just some good old fashioned psychological abuse.

            I hinted at the intersection of issues above. The coincidence of the timing of the twins arriving and the fomoiri wising up has some townsfolk on edge. It occurred to me at some point, and I passed it along to Alexis, as she’s more likely to get a rumor going in a town as insular as Lumina that I am, that Lao was sent here by her mentor Opal, who is a seer. So it might very well not be a coincidence, but merely the other way around than the scared townsfolk are assuming – perhaps Opal sent them here not just to torment Lao into shedding her darkness with meditation and enforced stillness, two of her absolute most favorite things, but to help out with the whole fomoiri/mongrel problem.

            At least that’s what I’m hoping we can get the townsfolk to believe, both because it would be beneficial for the twins’, whether they care (Shang) or not (Lao), and because it might give the townsfolk some hope, as they are pretty freaked out. Well, Vera seemed to be taking things pretty stoutly, and offered to help, and Morgan had stepped up to help Maggie, another solid support pillar there. And Lucifer is here! It was great to see him again – he’s been resting up, trying to shed some of the corruption. Romaine even slipped over to visit, though he couldn’t convince her to stay.

            He’s offered to help out as well, and might come with us today for our scouting mission. It’s a little more dangerous here in these woods specifically, as there is nary another crow for him to be mistaken for (I dunno what I’d do if I was infiltrating a no-human zone!), but he’s willing to give it go. As he says, it feels weird for him to not be in some sort of danger, and we’ll be around. Our plan is to check out their old camp, and see what can be gleaned from it, and jump off from there.

            I’m personally eager to have a chat with Aiobhell, and see how things stand on that front for real, but I suppose time is slightly more of the essence in looking over tracks. For the fomoiri in general, probably, though if we can get Shang some protection, that’s slightly less effort we’ll have to put into watching our back. All I gotta say, though, is that if the misty-teleporting fomoiri ruin my happy feelings in the Lumina fog, I will have strong words for them.

            [Cloven hoof mark]


            Jadzia’s Horse Sense

            (Whispered in Rezean in the stables of the Winter household in Lumina)

            “Good morning, Dear One! Did you have a lovely rest? I am glad to hear it! Yes, the canopy of Lumina is remarkably conducive to relaxation, is it not? Even when we have come on such undeniably dire business, I find that I am more at peace here than anywhere else. I have come to love Aldis City; the Nocturna Estate has become my home, and that has not changed. But this city, with its darkness and its trees and its peaceful luminescence… the allure is undeniable.

            “Yes, Salkhi, once again it was Alexis who called us to this place in the hopes that we could aid the town in its current troubles. I confess that I have not involved myself in the investigation much as of yet… I have instead been lost in my Snowfall’s embrace. Things between us continue to go well… though the love that we share runs deep and true, we are also very… comfortable with each other. Even in my native tongue I have never been particularly good with words, and yet with Alexis I find myself speaking animatedly about the least things, and joining in with her jokes and teasing without the slightest trace of self-consciousness.

            “She reminds me of the young braves with whom I shared a lodge prior to my family’s… before I lost them. Though my feelings for Tanith and Jana are no less intense, things are different with them. They are the most important people in my life; I will die for them and will go to any lengths to please them. They lighten the burdens on my soul and bring out such exquisite joy within me, deep within my heart… and yet that joy is private; shared only between us three. With Alexis, the joy runs closer to the surface, and is plain for all to see. I am so fortunate to have all three of them.

            “Leona’s opinion of me continues to improve, I think. She was much warmer to me when we arrived, insisting that I call her ‘Leona’ rather than ‘Madame Winter.’ She continued to speak hopefully of Alexis rekindling her old relationship with Pwyll… but now she speaks of him as someone she might wish to court in addition to me, rather than as an alternative partner. I have never met this Pwyll, and certainly have nothing against him, but from the way my Snowfall speaks of him it seems unlikely that they will reignite the spark they once had. She obviously cares for him still, but believes that it is a part of her life that has passed.

            “We came here because the mongrel-folk have once again begun attacking this peaceful town. This time, they are joined by fomoiri; the reptile-folk of Drunac. I have fought their kind before on the plains of Rezea, but they are rarely seen this far afield. Their typical tactics involve inviting the spirits of their foul deities to inhabit their bodies. This grants them great strength and unpredictable powers, but renders them incapable of rational thought, making their tactics simplistic and unsophisticated. Until recently, their attacks upon Lumina had followed a similar pattern… and then something changed.

            “The fomoiri and mongrel-folk have changed their behavior of late. Recently, when the town guard sent a patrol out to strike at their camp, they found the site deserted… and returned to Lumina only to find that their enemies had taken advantage of their absence to attack the town itself. This act displayed not only uncommon strategy for the fomoiri, but indicated that they had sent scouts to learn their quarry’s movements. This is troubling to me, as it suggests an outside influence upon the fomoiri.

            “Perhaps even more troubling is the coincidence of the Wei twins’ arrival in Lumina. Shang had heard rumors of the crystal Tavia acquired from the fae here; a crystal which could protect her mind from outside influence. She had journeyed here in the hopes of receiving a similar crystal to keep the Kernish sorcerer out of her mind, but to date her efforts had been met with cold refusals from the mercurial beings. Lao, for her part, had been ordered to Lumina by Opal, who believed that her student could benefit by meditating in the ever-present tranquility beneath the canopy. Perhaps ironically, she had experienced even less success in her endeavor than her sister.

            “What makes their presence unfortunate is the timing… the people of Lumina have heard tales from my homeland, including the superstition among the clans that twins carry ill fortune with them wherever they go. Some of the more gullible townsfolk are now convinced that the twins are in some way – whether wittingly or not – responsible for the increasing intensity of the fomoiri attacks. By the Primordials, if I can get past that silly Rezean superstition, you would think that the more ‘cultured’ denizens of Aldis would be able to. Ashlin has suggested we surreptitiously hint to the people of the town that this coincidence might have more meaning if examined in the other direction… rather than suspecting the twins of causing the attacks, why not assume that Opal has sent them here to help end them? It is a good plan, and this supposition might even be true. Who can fathom the ways of witches?

            “Most of the group is quartered in the same guest house where we stayed on the occasion of our first visit to Lumina. Alexis offered to allow me lodgings at her mother’s house, looking questioningly at Tanith and Jana as she extended the offer. My Sunflower and my Starlight conferred wordlessly for a moment, and then smiled and told Alexis that it would be fine with them if I stayed with her, and that they would contact us via telepathy if my presence was required. Alexis’ face lit up, and she gave Tanith a chaste kiss upon the cheek in gratitude. It warmed my heart to see it.

            “Shang and Lao were quartered separately, as they both recognized that they would only grate upon each other’s nerves were they to cohabitate for any appreciable period. This had caused a bit of trouble, as Shang had on several occasions succumbed to the sorcerer’s control, and had endangered her host, a friendly Night Person woman named Vera. As only Lao seems able to discern when Shang is possessed, it has become very difficult to protect against the sorcerer’s depredations. My companions offered to keep Shang at the guest house as they would presumably be better able to curtail the villain’s mischief. Vera was very understanding of Shang’s circumstances, and even offered to bring her a home-cooked breakfast the following morning. I wonder if there might be a romantic spark between those two…

            “It matters little in the long run, I suppose. We shall find a way to protect Shang’s mind, and then we shall hunt down this sorcerer and ensure that he never has the opportunity to do this to anyone else, and then Shang will be able to reclaim her life. I swear it.

            “The group of us decided to spend a portion of last evening at one of the local taverns. It is a fine establishment, and they seem to have forgotten about the last time I was in town. Do not snort so, Salkhi… hardly any of the furniture was broken on that occasion, and I bought the losers a round of drinks. It was all in good fun!

            “In any case, we met Darcy and Lao at the tavern. He had sought her out in a futile attempt to help her with her meditations, and after a few moments of conversation it became obvious to him that a break from her studies would be of more help than continued frustration. And who do you suppose we should find in the bar but our old friend Lucifer!

            “The rhy-raven was in good spirits, though he too obviously misses his ward Romaine. He wishes that she would join him in Aldis, but understands that she feels she can do more good by remaining in Kern. His pride in her warms the heart. He has come to Lumina to recover from his wounds and to purge the corruption he had accrued during his life in Kern, and seemed to be doing well. He has offered to assist us in scouting for the mongrel-folk and the fomoiri, though he cautioned us that there are no other ravens in these woods so he might stand out as he flew through the branches. When we protested that we did not wish to endanger him, he merely laughed and told us that he likely would not recognize his life if it did not include a bit of danger. He is a brave soul.

            “But the evening waned, and we knew that we had much to do the following day. The others returned to the guest house while Alexis and I retired to her family’s home. Leona had already retired by the time that we arrived, so the two of us spent some time in the kitchen talking softly… and then kissing. And then we retired to the bedroom, and much of the night was quite restful.

            “Now we prepare to join the others at the guest house so that we can begin scouting the forest. Alexis begged a moment to speak with Leona privately, so I have this time to speak with you, Dear One. My Sunflower contacted us a few minutes ago to let us know that there had been some minor disturbance during the night… the sorcerer asserted his control over Shang for a bit, but Darcy managed to deal with the situation without serious incident. Lucifer believes that the sorcerer is more interested in frustrating and angering Shang and her companions at this point; the less we allow his antics to distress us, the better.

            “And now I hear my Snowfall’s approach, Dear One. Are you prepared to face the day? Good. I am certain that a grand adventure awaits us!”


            Jana’s Letters

            Dear Mother,

            So it’s been a while since we were on the islands. We find ourselves back in Lumina at the moment. Apparently the mongrels are causing problems again along with another enemy called the fomoiri. The fomoiri usually let chaos spirits inhabit their body and then they attack like berserkers. Recently though they have been using tactics and guerilla warfare to attack the town of Lumina. It’s almost like someone else is organizing them and calling the shots. We just don’t know why yet. Our guess is that it’s because of the tomb in the forest. There is a Sorcerer Queen buried out there and I’m sure she’s radiating all kinds of power to those that can feel it. The Vatazin cave keeps her contained, and is a marvel to witness, put it probably puts out power of its own.

            We also found out that the crystals in town protect the people that live there in their own way. Apparently if an enemy gets inside the town limits the crystals glow brightly and start to produce heat. Enough heat to burn the invaders. They seem to be recharging at the moment though, so any further attacks by the mongrels or formoiri will likely not be repelled the same way. What is disturbing about the fomoiri is that Jadzia said that they are usually found on the plains of Rezea near Drunac. They don’t usually come this far afield. And we only have guesses as to why they’re here. I mean, they’re pretty good guesses if you ask me. The tomb.

            Around the time the fomoiri and mongrels started attacking the town again Shang and Lao arrived in town. Shang had heard about the crystal that Tavia acquired to protect her mind from Melisandre and wanted one of her own to protect her mind from the sorcerer that started attacking her in Kern. She has apparently already asked the Fae and they have turned her down. They said that they have made enough exceptions for outsiders this century, and to come back in one hundred years and ask again. It must be strange to be able to think of time like that. Counting it in centuries rather than individual years at a time. Lao on the other hand was sent by her mentor Opal, the seer that we met before, to learn more about meditation and calming herself. I don’t know how much the latter has worked. She seems to be trying a bit too hard to relax and meditate. Darcy talked to her at some length about the subject and let the rest of us explore on our own. Hopefully Darcy will be able to help Lao with the whole calming one’s mind thing. I know that I’m not great at doing that myself, I can only imagine the trouble that Lao must be having. She is definitely the active sort. She’s not used to waiting for things and certainly not used to doing nothing.

            The trouble comes up when you consider the timing of everything. Shang and Lao happened to arrive around the same time that the mongrels and formoiri started making their concerted efforts. It might appear on the outside that the legend of twins in Rezean culture is happening here. It is said that twins are bad luck in Rezean society. They are thought to bring bad fortune and invite trouble as it were. It would appear that the very same thing was happening in Lumina. Ashlin suggested that we spread the rumor that Lao was sent here by a seer who perhaps realized that the town was going to need help from the coming invasion. It is not a lie that she was sent by a seer and it is not a lie that she could help with the current troubles, so I don’t have any problems encouraging such talk. I don’t have anything against the twins, nor do I believe that the whole “twin thing” is relevant. I think it is just superstition. As it is Lao has tried protecting her sister from being controlled, but to her knowledge Shang has been possessed twice since their arrival. Her protection only works for a limited time. It is possible to extend one’s own mental shields to another person but the action only lasts for a short time and is not the strongest defense that there is.

            Later in the evening Lao and Darcy decided to go to the tavern. The rest of us independently came up with the same idea. I think Jadzia liked her last visit to the place and wanted to see familiar faces. While we were there I actually saw Jadzia with Alexis, and she was giggling like an innocent child. I don’t think that I’ve ever seen her so carefree. It was nice to see. It made me wish for long ago when I was so innocent that I didn’t see what was going on around me. When I didn’t see the people being taken in the night and empty places where friends should be. I learned from a young age what life was really like. I don’t know how to act any other way anymore. I suppose that I should be jealous of her seeming naivete, but it is a lie. Innocence is fleeting, and it’s best to learn the truth of what life is really like early on so you are prepared to deal with it.

            On a happier note we got to see Lucifer at the tavern. He was spending some time in Lumina getting over his previous illnesses and injuries as well as the corrupting influence of Kern. He seems to be doing much better than the last time we saw him, which is good. He still intends on going back to Kern to help his adopted daughter Romaine. I can admire that. He wants to keep her safe and that is I guess the most important thing that you can do in your life, is to keep your loved ones safe. Or at least try to. It isn’t always possible, but it’s important to try. To do otherwise is to give in to the darkness.

            That night Jadzia spent the evening with Alexis at the white-haired woman’s house. Or should I say her mother’s house. It seems that Alexis lives with her mother when she is in town since she spends so much time away. Jadzia elected to spend the night with her other lover. It is good to see her so happy, and I’m glad that she has found it with Alexis. I on the other hand spent a blissful evening with my love Tanith. It is rare that I have my blond headed beauty to myself. Usually Jadzia and I share her affections, but last night they were all for me. It was nice to feel so loved. It is like the time that I spend with Marcus, but different. I don’t think Tanith would appreciate the comparison. I love them both, but Marcus will always hold a special place in my heart. He has kept my secrets. He knows the things that I have done and accepts me as I am. Tanith accepts that I have not been perfect, but she doesn’t truly know what kind of person I have been in my life. She doesn’t know the corruption that I’ve had to overcome and shed. It has taken me a long time to come back to myself in that way. I don’t know if Tanith would have counted herself so lucky to have meet me just a few short years ago.

            Anyway, we set up watches that night to keep an eye out for Shang’s attacker. As it turns out Darcy was the one awake when the sorcerer reared his ugly head. Darcy started hearing Shang talking to herself in the next room and went in to investigate. After determining that it was in fact not Shang, using some secret code phrases that Ashlin devised, Darcy confronted the intruder. The sorcerer taunted Darcy and my friend told the invader to leave his friend alone. The sorcerer continued to try to shock Darcy by having Shang undress herself in front of him. Darcy for his part simply told the sorcerer to put the nightgown back on and leave his friend alone. It took a little bit more time from what I gathered, but the sorcerer finally left Shang and Darcy alone.

            After that the night was more peaceful, but perhaps not completely restful. We will find the sorcerer and make him pay for what he has done to Shang in the intervening months since we left that accursed country. I will personally take Irena’s sword and separate his head from his shoulders. I don’t know who he serves, but they will be deprived of a follower soon enough.


            Tanith’s Diary

            We are back in Lumina. I had no idea how much I missed it.

            Maybe it is something in my Vata soul this place calls to? This is, after all, one of the lasting contributions of the Vatazin. I am not kidding when I say that the acceptance of my Vata ancestry in the laboratory really helped me move though one my deep dark bits of uncertainty that plagued my innermost thoughts. Though I continue to wonder why there are no Vata here. No Vata’An, no Vata’Sha. Yet I do not feel unwelcome here, nor does my Jana. We are not common by any means, but I feel like some of us should have settled here. I honestly would were I not a child of the city. I’d get a house if they let non residents have houses. Even Alexis and Zane took advantage of their relatives living in the city. They don’t have their own homes, and can’t.

            I wonder if we brought the Cailleach here if we could figure out of she is Vatazin.

            Of course, we are not here to relax in the crepuscular beauty of the enchanted forest. Fomoiri are intruding and getting more organized, and we need to stop them from menacing Lumina. I have absolutely no doubt we will crush them. My team is among the best of the Finest. Even if we are better put to diplomat use. My Jadzia is a force of nature. So very strong and so very deadly. Mmmm.

            If only I was just here to do that and chase my girls around. There are more sinister things afoot.

            Shang and Lao are here, both friends of Jadzia. The sisters are mostly not trying to kill each other anymore, but have their own reasons. Shang is trying to purge the Sorcerer Darvag Grozney from her mind. She wants one of the gems Tavia the Mad acquired, and the Fey are not feeling accommodating, in part I suppose due to the trickery last time we got one.

            Lao is trying to purge her inner darkness under Opal’s command. She believes the tranquil darkness of Lumina is a good place for it. I would normally agree. Lao has unfortunately exacerbated a number of situations, including the townspeople’s distrust of the twins and the Fey’s dislike of her sister. We are not sure they understand Lao and Shang are two different people. The townspeople do, though they are distrusting the sisters more and more and beginning to blame them for the more dangerous nature of the Fomoiri’s assaults. They are both from the same general part of the world, I guess.

            Lucifer is also here, shedding his corruption. It was a nice thing to meet him. He is okay with helping us and not causing any trouble.

            We took in Shang, and fortunately she had spent enough time in Aldis to be kind to her host, a Night woman named Vera. She seems sweet. Apparently overnight Darcy found her arguing with Darvag, who forced her to talk aloud. Davag eventually withdrew. Darcy was upset though. I tried to sooth him best I could. I want to choke Darcy sometimes, but he is a good man.

            I myself had a lovely night with my violet eyed love. I love her so much. Between her and Jadzia, I am the luckiest woman in Aldis.

            End Session XLII

            This session was mostly set up. The situation is somewhat more complex in Lumina than simply there being lizard men to kill. We also got some good RP.

            Formoiri are in the Fantasy Age Bestiary, and I am using their suggestions for them being mostly from Drunac. The other team actually encountered them here in Into the Woods, though they were a secondary part of that story.

            Alright, that is enough for now, Comments and Questions welcome.
            Running: Blue Rose AGE (Cat's Cradle) Blue Rose AGE (Big Damn Heroes)
            "That Queer Goth Chick." "You are going to have to be more specific"

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            • #66
              The Cradle sets out to hunt the Fomoiri. Meanwhile Ashlin sets to work with dealing with the Fey.

              Session XLIII

              The Dark Crystal Part II

              Ashlin’s Reports

              Report from Ash, decoded by Kait, sent 5 Leonar

              Our work has gotten off to an excellent start, and I’m not just saying that cause my part of it was to walk through a magical forest and talk to my favorite liminal flower fairy. To be fair, it is partially because my part of it was to walk through a magical forest etc. I certainly don’t envy the others their adventures, though I think at least Jadzia enjoyed them more than she would have mine.

              To start at the beginning, Maria arrived here shortly after breakfast, and we filled her in on what had happened in the day she’d missed. She had an excellent idea, that when it came time for a final showdown, rather than letting the Fomoiri have the run of the mists, she could call up a storm to block the sun over the lake, which would stop the mist from forming over said lake, and then rolling over the forests as fog. It won’t be a surprise for them, but still, their teleporting shenanigans was not something I was looking forward to.

              After that, we split up. The others went scouting, with Lucifer, Alexis, and Lao. Shang stayed with Vera. I wonder if we didn’t really do her a favor by offering to have Shang stay with us. Vera seems to have a little bit of a thing for the Rezean warrior – I came across them gearing up for a gentle horse ride around town when I got back. Shang seems oblivious, and we all agreed not to clue her in, as that would be prime material for her long distance tormentor.

              I went off to the forest, as previously mentioned. I met Aoibhell at our usual spot and she brought up Lao right away. Some gentle probing revealed she absolutely was not aware that Lao and Shang were different people (she didn’t seem to have heard of the idea of twins before) but I was able to work it in without making her feel bad about that. Between the fact that Shang was not the one threatening to burn the forest down, and the fact that I was talking her up, Aoibhell got on board with getting her a crystal.

              She had an excellent idea as well. Nicnevin, apparently, is inclined to meet this human queen that has been brought up in her presence. There’s a bit of a difficulty in that Nicnevin can’t really leave the forest, definitely not for as long as it would take to travel to Aldis City. I suggested summoning, hoping it wouldn’t be so bad if it was understood to be more of an invitation, but apparently not. Aoibhell is willing to be summoned though, and really wants to visit the city, so we might work on that next break from work.

              I wish I could do more for her than arrange a visit. She’s been feeling the weight of fitting in more with humans than with many of her fellow fae, but then dealing with the fact that she will long outlive any human friends she makes. She used to mark the days, for memorial, until it got so every day was someone’s death day, or nearly so. She called herself a failed experiment, sure that the vata that made her surely didn’t intend her to be a misfit everywhere. I don’t know much of what I can say to help. I at least know that I won’t have to mourn the loss of the few connections I make for centuries. But unless something pressing calls us away, I might stay behind a bit to see if I can find anything to say to help.

              So, we have a plan for negotiations with Nicnevin – according to Aoibhell, if we can arrange such an audience between the queens, Nicnevin will owe us a boon that she cannot deny. Which means one more red stone for our Rezean friend. To pull that off, the other half of our job here becomes even more important, as the Queen (reasonably) will not visit if there are ongoing difficulties with Fomoiri. Thankfully, the others made good headway in that direction.

              They headed for the mines, as the mongrels were known to hole up in the abandoned ones, or in the nearby caves. They found one of the mines where the boards blocking it off had been moved and loosely renailed. Following their ears, they travelled down the pitch dark tunnels, and found a camp of about 20 mongrels, one of them a fire Shaper that could make himself invisible, so I’m sure that was fun. The others wiped the mongrels out, of course, so at least the Fomoiri won’t have their large pack of shock troops.

              No sign of the Fomoiri themselves however, or their dark crystal. Aoibhell told me about it towards the end of our conversation. It seems that the trees have noticed (and told Redlin about) a large, light absorbing crystal that the Fomoiri talk to sometimes and possibly has something to do with how they were summoned here, though Aoibhell felt like they needed a certain number to summon more. All that is information coming through a few hands, so Aoibhell promised to ask Redlin to speak with the trees again, and then to talk to us. His idea of time is apparently a bit vague and very different from a humans, but we do have at least one anchor – the woman who brings forth fire from her hands. The folks from Lumina are not allowed to pursue that kind of magic, so Lao is pretty standoutish here.

              So things are proceeding apace, love is in the air, negotiations have begun, and soon I’ll get to talk to a tree! What could be better, in this forest of light?

              [Cloven hoof mark]


              Jadzia’s Horse Sense

              (Whispered in Rezean in the stables of the Winter household in Lumina)

              “Hmm? Yes, I suppose I am happy, Salkhi. Glorious battle, a safe haven in a beautiful, peaceful town like Lumina, and the romantic attentions of three valiant, heroic, and gorgeous women… what more could one wish for?

              “After Maria joined us in Lumina – and had been brought up to date on the situation – we began plotting our next moves. Ashlin wished to speak with Aoibhell in regards to Shang’s situation, which seemed a worthwhile pursuit, as Aoibhell seems more reasonable than most of the area’s fey inhabitants. The rest of us – including Alexis and Lao – headed into the forest proper to attempt to gain some intelligence regarding our quarry’s current whereabouts.

              “As you well know, our scouting mission proved most fruitful. I did not expect to meet our foes so quickly… particularly not in the mines, where the mongrel-folk had been known to hole up previously. Some of the abandoned mines had been boarded up while others were left open to the elements. We examined a few of the latter, but I felt that it might be more productive to look at mines which appeared to be shut up tight, but were in fact easy to access. On our second attempt, we found one such mine… one where only a few loose nails held the boards across the entrance.

              “I regret that once more I was forced to leave you behind when entering the battlefield, Dear One… but at least on this occasion you had Squall to keep you company. You would not have enjoyed the experience in the mines in any case; there was not much room in there, and it was pitch-dark. I was forced to rely upon the others to lead me through the darkness… Jana, Tanith, and Darcy all have excellent dark-vision. Were it not for the fact that I trust the three of them beyond all doubt, I would have found the situation humiliating. I hate being useless. Though I confess that I was somewhat mollified to learn that Alexis was in a similar situation… she has trained herself to fight an opponent while blind, but that skill relies upon listening to her foe’s movements. In the quiet of the mines she was forced to rely upon others as well.

              “The mongrel-folk had set a few simple traps along the main passageway of the mine; mostly tripwires designed to drop rocks on the heads of intruders. These traps would not have killed us, but triggering them would likely have alerted our foes to our presence. We easily detected and bypassed them.

              “The first sign of true resistance came from a pair of mongrel-folk sentries. They had detected our approach, but it seems as though they had greatly underestimated our numbers. Lao quickly summoned a small fire in the shape of a horse’s head to light our way, and so that those of us who cannot see in the dark could contribute to the fight. It was over very quickly.

              “Not long after that we came across what we believe must have been the mongrel-folk’s main hideaway. Close to a score of them were there, defending a low barricade made from disused mining equipment and old timbers. The barricade was barely chest-high, and archers began firing from behind it immediately. Darcy, Jana and I charged forward and vaulted the low wall immediately, of course.

              “It may not have been prudent, but it was glorious! I will say this for the mongrel-folk; they work well as a pack. When a large number of them concentrate upon a single foe, they gain confidence and power from their teamwork. In the first few seconds of the fight, several of them managed to land telling blows upon me, and I felt my strength flag a bit. But for almost every strike that they landed, I managed to kill one of them. Jana and Darcy were having similar experiences, though the beasts had a more difficult time hitting Darcy, and Jana’s armor allowed her to shrug off all but the mightiest blows. Maria and Lao used their arcana to great effect, remaining on the other side of the barricade and striking mostly at the archers.

              “After a moment or so of combat, I felt my strength returning, and glanced over my shoulder to see my Sunflower’s golden eyes smiling at me. She and Alexis had joined the fray! It felt as though the tide was turning… but the mongrel-folk had one hidden weapon left to deploy. One of their kind had mastered the basics of arcana, and had concealed himself with a spell of invisibility. He managed to light Darcy and Tanith on fire at one point, but Lao was quick to extinguish the flames before they could seriously damage my friend or my lover.

              “Once the mongrel-folk arcanist had been revealed and summarily dealt with, there was little left for us to do. We fully explored the abandoned mine to make certain that we had cleared it, but it now seems likely that we have either eradicated or significantly thinned the mongrel-folk population in the vicinity of Lumina. We did not encounter any of the dreaded Fomoiri… but when we do find them, they shall have to make do without their accursed shock-troops.

              “Ashlin’s conversation with Aoibhell was profitable, though doubtless frustrating. He managed to learn from her that the Fomoiri seem to communicate with a crystal of some sort… Tanith posited that it might be a dark shas crystal. It seems to allow them both to increase their own power and to summon more Fomoiri in some way. Obviously we shall have to deal with this dark artifact at some point.

              “He also managed to convey the nature of Shang’s predicament to Aoibhell – it turns out that the fey had not previously comprehended that they were dealing with two separate people in Lao and Shang – and the helpful sprite has offered her support in our efforts to deal with the issue. She maintains that Nicnevin and the other fey will not help Shang out of pure altruism, but opined that there was something we could do for Nicnevin which would place her in our debt, and the laws of fey society would require her to offer us a boon… such as a red shas crystal which could be used to safeguard Shang’s mind.

              “The favor in question will not be easy to arrange… nor will it be particularly quick, unfortunately. But we should be able to make it happen. Nicnevin has heard rumors of the human queen of Aldis, Jaelin, and is curious about her. As a fey creature, Nicnevin cannot simply leave her forest for long periods of time, and it would be unspeakably rude to summon such a puissant personage as a fey queen. However, if her desire for a meeting was communicated to Queen Jaelin, the young monarch might consent to journey to Lumina herself.

              “Of course, one cannot expect the Queen to travel to Lumina until the present threat of the Fomoiri has been resolved. Our path then is clear… we must redouble our efforts to track and defeat the Fomoiri, and then return to Aldis post haste so that we might convince Queen Jaelin to meet with Nicnevin (I… shall probably leave this particular task to Tanith). Once this has been arranged, we can request the shas crystal which will free Shang from the Kernish sorcerer’s control.

              “I know, Salkhi… it seems that nothing can be simple anymore. And yet I still relish the time I spend here in Lumina, whether I am relaxing beneath the soft glow of the trees with my Snowfall or riding down foes with her in some secluded glade. And I find the notion that I must return here once more at some future point is not so irksome as all that…”


              Jana’s Journal

              Dear Mother,

              Today was a hard day. Good but hard. It made a nice change from my days in Kern, which tended to be hard and bad. Today we caught Maria up on what was going on. She arrived today after having been caught up in Tanith’s library. After we talked about what happened since we arrived in Lumina we planned for what we were going to do next. We all agreed that going after the mongrels would be a good idea. Ashlin, who is superbly talented in subterfuge, decided to stay in town and the surrounding area and see what he could learn from Aoibhell. The rest of us went to the mines to see what we could find. We passed the lake that produces much of the fog for the evenings and made plans should the need arise to have Maria and/or Tanith manipulate the weather so we don’t get fog one night. It would let the mongrels and Fomoiri know that we were planning something, but could be useful once we have a solid idea of what to do that night.

              So, we investigated the mines in the side of the mountain. Some were open and we gave a cursory look inside. We figured that they were likely not hiding in the open mines. We thought that they might be hiding in mines that appeared to be boarded up but were in fact accessible. We found one mine that fit the description and went inside. Darcy and I took point and we made our way into the mine shaft. Fairly early on we came across a trap that the mongrels had set. It looked like the ones we’d see in Kern so I was familiar with how they were set up and how to disarm them. I went ahead and took care of that trap and we continued forward. After a little while we found another similar trap, which I also disarmed. Shortly after that we came across a pair of mongrels. They seemed surprised to see so many of us. I believe that they might have heard us coming, or at least a few of us, but were not expecting so many to be there. We made short work of them but it was not quiet. They screamed as we fought and killed them and it gave our position away to their friends further on in the cave.

              The friends in question had a barrier that they were hiding behind. It had arrow slits in it and covered them at least to chest height. Darcy, Jadzia and I rushed forward and vaulted over the barrier and engaged the enemy firsthand. Tanith, Lao, Alexis and Maria stayed back and dealt with the archers that they had. We fought the melee fighters. At first we were a bit overwhelmed and they got some lucky shots in. Jadzia got hit hard and I was worried for my love, but she is made of stern stuff and I knew that she would prevail. I was hit pretty hard too. It was not so bad, at least not as bad as I’ve been hurt in the past, but it was worse than I’ve had since I arrived in Aldis. When she realized that Jadzia and I were taking wounds Tanith jumped over the barricade and came forward to heal us with her arcana. Alexis also joined her lover at the front lines and aided Jadzia.

              While we were fighting the mongrels we discovered that one of their number was invisible and a sorcerer. They set Darcy aflame before we even knew they existed. Lao used her abilities to put him out. Later in the fight the same individual set my love Tanith on fire. I was not happy. Lao also put out the fire on her. I was not happy that my love had been set on fire, but I was inordinately glad that we had a fire shaper with us that could put the flames out before too much harm was done to my companions. Before too long Lao figured out where our mystery attacker was and set them on fire in return. I think it was only fair.

              Towards the end of the fight the remaining mongrels started ganging up on me. I was fine with that. I have good armor and I knew that my friends would aid me should I fall. I have been fortunate with my friends in my life. My partner turned out to be a decent man who was keenly interested in keeping me safe. Marcus is a good man and I strove to keep him safe as well. We could not prevent the other from getting hurt on occasion but we did out best to keep each other alive. With my current group of friends I know that they will put themselves in harms way if it means keeping me safe. It is a humbling experience. I knew that Marcus would do that for me, but the other Knights were perhaps not as passionate in their duty to keep me from harm. They defended me because I was one of them, but if I fell they let me lie and focused on taking out the targets. I am not used to someone like Tanith putting my welfare ahead of her own. It is still new to me. I will not take it for granted though. I love my Tanith and will keep her safe. She may not want me to get hurt, but I would much rather be the one that bleeds. I do not want her to suffer the pain of sword wounds, or any wounds for that matter. I am used to the pain. I can take it, and I will if it keeps my lover safe.

              While we were dealing with mongrels Ashlin had his own hands full finding and talking to Aoibhell. He managed to find her and they discussed Shang’s request for a crystal to keep her safe from the Kernish sorcerer. It seems that the fae did not realize that Lao and Shang were different people and had been attributing Lao’s fiery disposition to Shang. So, Ashlin explained in such a way as to let Aoibhell keep face that they were in fact different people and Shang, who is not fire aspected, needs a crystal to keep her mind safe. Aoibhell said that Nicnevin was about at her wits’ end when it came to dealing with humans. She apparently told Aoibhell that she had had enough of us for this century and that we should come back in a hundred years to plead our case. I don’t know if Nicnevin realizes that we will not be around in another century or not. Either way it is inconvenient for us. Ashlin did find out however that Aoibhell might like to visit Aldis city. We might be able to summon her there for a short time so she can see what the place is like. The idea was brought up that maybe Nicnevin could be summoned to Aldis city to meet the Queen. It was determined that Nicnevin might not like the idea of being summoned, even if it was willingly, to a place far away. So, it was then discussed that maybe if the Queen of Aldis could come to Lumina and meet with Nicnevin then perhaps something could be worked out. I was given the impression that if our Queen were to visit the fae Queen then Nicnevin would be obligated to give us a boon. This boon could be a red crystal to keep Shang safe.

              Something else that Aoibhell mentioned is that Redlin, the tree fae, might be able to talk to the trees in the forest and see if they “saw” anything recently. They might be able to provide us with intelligence on what the enemy is doing and how they are doing it. We don’t know just yet though, so I will not count that possible information as an asset just yet.

              Ashlin also found out that the Fomoiri have a giant crystal that they talk to frequently. No one has heard the crystal talk back to them but it seems that this may be the way in which they are receiving their orders. It is probably a large corrupted shas crystal that they have perverted for their own use. I would not be surprised if some sorcerer somewhere had done such a thing. It would be commonplace in Kern. I do not know if the person or people behind the Fomoiri attacks are from Kern though. It could be someone from elsewhere that is just as corrupt.

              Regardless of where they are from though we still need to deal with the Fomoiri. I believe we have already taken care of most if not all of the mongrels that were in the area. Now we just need to focus our attention on the next threat. It will be a more organized opponent than what we fought in the mine, but we are more than ready for it. I believe that the people of Lumina will also rise to the occasion if the need should arise. If not, they have us to defend them.


              Tanith’s Diary

              I have time to pen a short note.

              Maria arrived to back us up this morning. It was good to see her. I was wondering if she got lost in my house’s library again. We brought her up to speed and came up with a plan.

              Ashlin would go to consult Aoibhell, the half-fey who was part of the fey court here. She tends to be sympathetic to human causes, and she and Ash have a good bond. Shang would remain in Lumina under Vera’s watchful eye, and we would take Alexis Winter and Lao with us to hunt the Fomoiri. Lao was notably excited for “Some action.”

              We made our way to the Ulkan Mines. The forest around Lumina is beautiful as we took the walking path to mines, especially near Lake Kilma where the sun shines through the trees. Some old traps, but no sign of any foes.

              When we got to the mines, we looked through the tapped out ones that had been boarded up, and found that one had had the boards replaced. The Gods must have been looking out for us, as that was the one the Mongrels were hiding in

              When we heard movement deep in the mine, we began sneaking. Unfortunately, I am not as quiet as some, and a pair of guards seemed to hear me. Rather than alerting the rest, they tried to sneak up on us. We wound up surprising each other, but they went down quickly.

              The jig was up, so we prepped and assaulted the main chamber they were camped in. Jana and Jadzia jumped in bravely, but both sustained horrible injuries. Alexis and I leapt in behind them as Darcy and Maria took out the archers. I managed to keep them up, and while the battle was hard at first as they fell the Mongrels weakened quickly. We managed to take them out without too much more injury, and I managed to heal them.

              Darcy and I were set on fire by an invisible adept they had, which Lao put out. I really dislike being aflame.

              We got in touch with Ash, and they and Aoibhell had come up with a plan to have Queen Jaelin visit Queen Nicnevin, and get access to the lab that way…once the Fomoiri were dead, of course. It was a good plan. They also told us Aoibhell had discovered the Fomoiri were using a dark crystal, possibly a large corrupt Shas crystal, to summon more and energize themselves. We are unsure where they got it, if they found it here, brought it, or if it is organizing them.

              We have done some planning ourselves that way. Maria is an accomplished Shaper, and I have developed some Talents that way myself. We can both control the weather, Maria with particular panache. The idea is we get Maria to keep the sun from shining on Lake Kilma and generating the mist that becomes fog as the air cools at night. The Fomoiri are much weaker without their fog. This happens naturally on days with little sun, so there should be minimal issues. While the Fomoiri will know they will have fewer options, there is little that they could do about it. This seems a good idea for when we make our move.

              So now I am plotting to blot out the sun. I have reached peak Vata’Sha.

              End Session XLIII

              Okay, lets break this down. The two guards tried to sneak up alone without fetching help as they heard Tanith, but only Tanith. As a result, they were unprepared for a large party but those in the room were well prepared.

              So to jack up the danger, I gave the Mongrels +1 to hit and -1 to Stunt costs, minimum 1, per 3 Mongrels, rather than only applying it once. There were about 20 total, 18 with the guards dead earlier, so they started with +6 to hit and -6 to Stunt Costs, minimum 1, but hit bonuses for numbers normally. Thus as a horde they were difficult, but as they fell they rapidly weakened. It worked pretty well. Terrifying when they got stunt points tho.

              At this point the Fomoiri have 3 Mongrels, so they won’t be this dangerous when the PCs confront them.

              But that is next time. Comments and Questions are welcome.
              Running: Blue Rose AGE (Cat's Cradle) Blue Rose AGE (Big Damn Heroes)
              "That Queer Goth Chick." "You are going to have to be more specific"

              Comment


              • #67
                After the battle with the Mongrels, the heroes prepare for the battle with the Fomoiri. They gather information about their foes and make an unusual deal.

                Session XLIV

                The Dark Crystal Part III

                Ashlin’s Reports

                Report from Ash, decoded by Kait, sent 6 Leonar

                Well, it’s that time again. My favorite time. Jadzia’s least favorite, the poor girl. That’s right, it’s time to get into a stand up fight against an opponent that’s bigger than me. Just the best. I will get to be an Adept this time though, basically, so, yay? It is interesting to Shape light that way, honestly. The beasties were nice enough to let me try it out last night…

                So, yesterday while I was writing my report, after the mines, the others headed to the last known fomoiri camp. Other than a black and blasted spot roughly the size of a campfire, though clearly not where they had lit theirs, there wasn’t much physical evidence. Jadzia was able to determine there had been roughly a dozen fomoiri camped there and followed the tracks towards the lake a little ways before they disappeared entirely. Tanith had more luck, using Object Reading to get eyes on the camp at a more informative time.

                The first thing she noticed was that the fomoiri were occasionally possessed by someone with a Kernish accent, who had fed them some information about the town. The fomoiri listened to them, but didn’t seem to be under their command, excepting the possessed one, of course. Our best guess is that it’s the bastard that has a backdoor into Shang’s head. They seemed to assume it was one of their chaotic god-things, just one with smarter ideas than usual. Since those ideas worked, they went along with it, though they refused to tell him about the crystal, though he was clearly curious about it. Even when possessed, they would only tell him it was from Drunoc.

                Tanith saw the dark crystal itself, roughly 2 meters tall and pretty thin. It floated above the ground, and Tanith was able to see some of them doing something to draw power from it, though the leader of them was jumpy about overloading it. She and Maria consulted over it, figuring that they were likely passing along their mental strain to the crystal, though that was a corrupting act. It would explode if that was done too frequently, and if it was damaged significantly enough. It was magically bulwarked against physical attacks, and most magical attacks, but light itself could be used to bypass those defenses.

                They also figured that while it could be used to summon things – more fomoiri as well as… other things. They weren’t very specific about those, but we got a taste of at least one thing that night. I was on watch when an explosion of bird calls sounded from outside, and flights of arrows twanged through the air. Everyone but Maria woke up at the sound, and we all dashed outside to find the sentinels fighting against a shadowy amorphous shape with tentacles. It was hard to see in the mist and the dark, but it helped by being even darker than the darkness around it.

                The sentinels seemed to be having some difficulty, but only because their arrows didn’t seem to be hurting it. Light magic, psychic swords, and Darcy’s Lightning Bolt worked just fine however, and the resounding thunder claps from Darcy’s resounding hits even woke Maria, though the thing was dead by the time she got out there. Jadzia was very annoyed that it didn’t wake her. I even made her an illusion of the thing for her to fight, though she wasn’t very grateful. I only teased her a little. I mean, sure, the dramatic death scene after she bonked it on the head with her lance was almost entirely uncalled for, but only almost.

                Apparently that thing was supposed to sneak around and mess with people’s dreams, leaving them exhausted the next day. But the sentinels are damn good at their jobs, so after the brief diversion of the fight, we finished up our sleep. Maria got up before dawn, to raise enough weather to stop the mists, Tanith and Jana going with her for safety. The rest of us weren’t too far after them, cause we had a meeting with Redlin at dawn. Aoibhell made sure that “the next sunrise” wasn’t misinterpreted somehow, with the trees’… different ideas about time, which was apparently needed. She was, according to Redlin, very persistent, which I will have to thank her for.

                It took a lot of words – I think Jadzia had to sit on her hands for awhile there – but Redlin eventually told us the last place the trees had seen the fomoiri. They are broad enough to not feel comfortable in any kind of underbrush, so they had set up in a clearing. They were at a high point in the mountains, entrenched behind an engineered rockfall. He gave us plenty of details, everyone stretching out for minutes somehow. If we didn’t have such a focused goal, it would have been interesting, the range of topics and ponderance of tone. I did promise to listen to his stories when we were not in such a rush, hopefully distancing us from ‘maybe the puny humans that tricked him that one time’.

                Aoibhell is a good resource for that too – she was in fact the one to use his shaky connection to the mortal world to deflect his annoyance at us for tricking him. She really is fun to talk to. I ran by Dana’s to see if they had some stamina potions (and that they did, as well as healing potions, in plenty) and found Aiobhell there, getting a lesson in herbalism. They let me stick around for the lesson, which was interesting on its own, and also for dinner, which was very well spiced. It was very nice. And to be fair, that first paragraph is a lot less sarcastic when I think about the fact that I’ll be working to protect them.

                [Cloven hoof mark]


                Jadzia’s Horse Sense

                (Whispered in Rezean in the stables of the Winter household in Lumina)

                “Make haste, Salkhi! At last, glorious battle lies before us, and I shall not miss the opportunity for glory because we took overlong in the preparation phase!

                “Cease your complaining, Salkhi. I am not ‘in a mood.’ I am not! Oh, very well… perhaps I am at that. Can you blame me? A very nearly fruitless search yesterday, a fight last night which I slept through, and an interminable conversation with a tree this morning. It is enough to put any warrior in such a ‘mood.’

                “As you well know, our search of the fomoiri’s main camp yesterday proved fruitless. I might have known that it would, as our quarry possesses the ability to teleport through the ever-present mists of this forest. It makes sense that they would use this ability to obscure their trail, but we had to try to track them regardless. At the very least, their leavings told us a bit about their numbers – there are close to a dozen of them in all – and that the mysterious crystal Aiobhell mentioned is indeed tainted.

                “Of somewhat more use were my Sunflower’s various arcana. She used her magical skills to spy upon past events at the campsite, and learned much that was of use to us. First, and perhaps most importantly, the fomoiri have made contact with a new ally… a Kernish sorcerer who possesses one of them and offers them advice as to strategy and tactics. We all believe that this must be the same sorcerer who torments poor Shang, as the fomoiri’s tactical improvements began at roughly the same time that the twins arrived in Lumina.

                “Tanith also learned more about the tainted crystal; the fomoiri use it to ease their fatigue when casting spells, but it has its limits. Too much power poured into it will cause it to burst asunder. It also seems to be resistant to most forms of damage, but vulnerable to attacks made of pure light. With Darcy, Ashlin, Maria and Tanith on our side, we are perhaps uniquely suited to effect its destruction. However, as the crystal is likely to explode upon its final destruction, it might be best if Tanith and Maria – who rely upon their light-swords to deal such damage – were to remain well clear of that portion of the fight. I am assured that there shall be enough foes that none of us will want for something to do.

                “We conducted an unsuccessful search of the land around the lake, but found scant trace of our foes. As the sun began to lower and the area’s fisher-folk gathered up their supplies to make the short journey back to Lumina, we concluded that our best option for finding the fomoiri was to speak with Redlin and so gather intelligence from the trees themselves. Ashlin and Aiobhell had arranged such a meeting for the following morning, though Aiobhell warned us that conversations between humans and a sentient tree such as Redlin might prove… trying.

                “And then – indignity of indignities! – my friends and lovers were attacked in the middle of the night, and I was not even there to assist them! I slept through the battle, Salkhi! Can you credit such a thing? As I lay slumbering in Alexis’ arms, a sort of shadow-creature summoned by the fomoiri’s crystal slunk into town, intent upon attacking my friends in their dreams. Luckily, this fine town’s sentries spotted it, and their alerts roused my companions, who were able to make short work of the creature.

                “Ashlin could not resist taunting me about sleeping through the battle, of course. He used his light-shaping arcana to conjure up an image of the foul beast so that I might ‘strike it down’ as compensation. I was in no mood for his jests, and dissipated the illusion with a single swat from my club.

                “The meeting with Redlin proved to be just as infuriating as Aiobhell had predicted, and did little to improve my disposition. Though I know it was not truly the case, it often seemed that Redlin was deliberately being obtuse or obscuring the meaning of his words. Eventually, however, we were able to prize the location of our enemies’ camp from him. As Maria and Tanith have already worked their arcana to obscure the sun behind a thick net of clouds, this seems an opportune time to strike at our enemies. So we mount up, and we ride out, and we strike our enemies with no mercy… and this time I shall not be caught unawares…”


                Tanith’s Diary

                We are preparing for a raid on the Fomoiri now. We have been gathering information with some success. We stopped at the camp, and Jadzia’s expert tracking revealed that roughly a dozen Fomoiri has been there, that it was a full on camp in the lee of the hill, and where the crystal had been. I used Object Reading and found the crystal was around two meters and levitated, and they had been dealing with a possessing Kernish Sorcerer…no doubt it was Grozny. However, the crystal was not from Grozny…and I think he wants it. So uneasy allies at best. The Fomoiri are uncharacteristically closed mouthed about the crystal. Mysteries within mysteries.

                I attempted to scry on them using the connection I got from the vision, but no luck. I am a much better Healer than Seer.

                The Fomoiri are able to shunt their fatigue to the crystal, thus use Arcana indefinitely. However, too much can cause it to explode. Anyone in its presence actually can do so, but tapping into it is corrupting. Blasting it with pure light can also damage it. Ashlin can use their light shaping to do this, Darcy his holy light, and Maria and I our psychic weapons. This apparently makes a smaller boom though. There were issues, Darcy pointed out trying to overload the crystal would be too corrupting, and Maria and I would be at ground zero if the crystal exploded, meaning it is most ideal for Ashlin and Darcy to destroy it. I doubt the rest of us will be bored when the time comes. Anyway, Maria and I figured out they can summon more beings, either their own or extradimensional entities. This takes time, and they are helpless while doing so.

                We met back at town. Ashlin found out from Aoibhell that she had arranged for us to meet with Redlin the next morning. Darcy and I talked to Shang, and she was fortunately herself. Darvag Grozny had been quiescent. We bedded down for the night, so Maria could blot out the sun the next morning. Mwa ha ha ha ha!

                Except we were interrupted. Some form of awful creature attempted to infiltrate the town to attack us. The Sentinels spotted it, and made enough sound to wake us, well except Maria who popped up after the fight and Jadzia, who stayed with Alexis again. We test ran our use of light attacks, well apart from Darcy who fought with his Thunderbolt. The good news is my sword worked well. The bad news is this tentacle monster really hated me. The Sentinels gave some support. By the time Maria got there it was dead.

                Even the Thunderbolt was not enough to wake Jadzia. She may have been the only one in town. Thing is loud.

                The next morning I went with Maria as she used weather magic to draw clouds over lake Kilma. It worked after about ten minutes. We arrived back to find Ashlin had been teasing Jadzia with an illusion of the beast. Ah well.

                The meeting with Redlin went…as well as it would be likely to. Aoibhell helped us deal with the ancient fey. Redlin thinks, and speaks, very slowly. He seems wise…just slow. After long enough to try even my patience, he talked about a rocky series of paths on the upper area of the mines. It makes sense they would try to avoid the trees…as weather mages, perhaps we should try to drive them back there.

                It’s time to prepare. The bloodshed, then we deal with the nobility. Something for everyone and hey, that is what I am all about.

                Ahem. Mwa ha ha ha!

                End Session XLIV

                Sorry about the delay. We had no game two weeks ago as I was out of state. It’s actually been a bit rough on both Blue Rose games, but hopefully that is behind us.

                The fact that Tanith or Maria could just “call” Aldis City with little effort is always interesting in a fantasy game.

                That said, this was a month ago and I have nothing to add. Comments and Questions are welcome, however.
                Running: Blue Rose AGE (Cat's Cradle) Blue Rose AGE (Big Damn Heroes)
                "That Queer Goth Chick." "You are going to have to be more specific"

                Comment


                • #68
                  The Fomoiri, having lost their army, dig in to defend their power source. The Sovereign’s Finest travel to face them. And Darvag Gozney sets his plan into motion to scatter the board.

                  Session XLV

                  The Dark Crystal Part IV

                  Ashlin’s Reports

                  Kait looked carefully around the square as she neared the building she was working out of at the moment. Ashlin was due back in town soon – not that she would admit to herself that she was looking for them, but it just seemed pertinent to check around. It was the usual hustle and bustle alone the street, people hurrying about on business, more casual tourists wandering past, and a scattering of street vendors. One of the latter noticed her attention and offered her a purple snapdragon – Ashlin’s favorite. “Buy a flower, marm? A pretty flower for a pretty lady? Or maybe someone even luckier?”

                  Kait smiled wryly, digging into her pouch. “Sure, why not?” She traded a coin for a flower. “Goia’s blessings on you.”

                  “And on you marm!” The flower seller grinned broadly and waved at her back.

                  She achieved the solitude of her office without running into Ashlin, or any other ne’er-do-well who owed her a report. However, she only just had a chance to settle in when Ashlin’s mischievous face popped around the doorframe, a snapdragon tucked behind their ear.

                  “Ah, so you found the flower seller too...” She trailed off as Ashlin grinned their most puckish grin at her.

                  “Why, were you hoping to give yours to someone even luckier?” They took on the flower seller’s voice for the alst three words.

                  Kait scowled at them. “Sit down.” Ashlin took a seat while Kait shuffled papers around to find their last report. She made a show of re-reading it.

                  Ashlin waited a moment before breaking the silence. “You wanted to see me?”

                  She looked up at them and back down. “So.” She peered at the paper. “You took on a Skull Knight and defeated him single-handedly?”

                  “Well, Jadzia, Darcy, and Alexis helped.” Ashlin shrugged modestly.

                  “Was that before or after Jadzia told you that you were the most beautiful, handsome, attractive and powerful person she’d ever met?”

                  “Oh, before that, of course.”

                  Kait nodded seriously. “Of course. And the emergency surgery you performed on Alexis and Lucifer simultaneously to miraculously bring them both back from the brink of death?”

                  Ashlin smiled contentedly. “That was after the single handed defeat, but before the ‘beautiful, handsome, attractive and powerful’ part.”

                  “Ashlin...” Kait sighed and rapped the papers in front of her with the back of her hand. “These reports go on record. They are official.”

                  They pushed their chair onto its back legs. “Sure, reports from Her Majesty’s spies are.” They rocked back down and leaned forward, craning around to point at the signature, a hoof cloven into three pieces. “That’s clearly not my cloven hoof mark.” Kait took in a breath to protest, but before she could, Ashlin brought out a pack of papers with a flourish. “These definitely do have my cloven hoof mark on them.”

                  Kait looked at the papers with suspicion. “So what do they say?”

                  “Well, the overall facts are largely the same. We did go to attack the fomoiri and their crystal, ambushed their poor ‘alarm’ mongrels without them even being aware of what was going on, and put paid to the fomoiri sorcerer – that was mostly the others, Darcy and I focused on the crystal at first.” Ashlin rested their elbows on Kait’s desk.

                  “Then the wyverns showed up?” Kait asked dubiously.

                  Ashlin nodded. “Then two wyverns showed up. We finished off one wyvern before it even got close to the fomoiri pikemen surrounding the crystal, but the other grabbed the crystal and made off with it. It was badly hurt though, between us and the aforementioned pikemen, so Maria killed it before it got more than a few miles away.

                  “That’s when we split up, like that other report said. Tanith, Jana, and Maria stayed behind to deal with the fomoroi and the first fallen Skull Knight, while Darcy and I rode double with Jadzia and Alexis to chase down the second one. Lucifer gave us eyes on him. The other did well – the fomoiri were pretty focused on the Skull Knight, and he on them at first, and apparently by the time Maria’s magic caught the Skull Knight’s attention, it was too late.”

                  “So no midsummer blizzard of rage and power that crushed the lot of them at a single gesture?” Kait raised an eyebrow.

                  Ashlin shrugged. “I mean, it could have been that way. I wasn’t there, after all.”

                  Kait rubbed her forehead. “Right. And the bit you were there for? Don’t tell me – you hit your head on a branch and dreamed the rest?”

                  Ashlin gave her what passed for a penitent grin, for them. “Does it make it better to point out that I was still hyped up on Dana’s stamina potion? It’s a hell of a thing. I mean, usually there;s sort of a rush as the power runs through you, but then it wanes and leaves you enervated. With a stamina potion, it’s just a rush, then another, and another...” They had a look of fond remembrance on their face.

                  “No.” Kait’s response was short, and Ashlin looked at her, confused at its incongruity to their description. She clarified that she was answering their first question. “No, it doesn’t make it better.”

                  “Oh.” They shrugged again. “Well, let’s see. The Skull Knight did stab the crystal with his red glowing sword, and the crystal did explode, and did almost kill Lucifer. My sound knives did decent work against the Skull Knight’s heavy armor, but ut was a team effort to actually get him down. Darvag tried to butt in once, but Darcy fought him off… oh, and I did patch up Alexis a little – Darcy helped Lucifer – but Jadzia was too busy fussing over her lady to call me beautiful, handsome, attractive, or powerful.” Ashlin sighed.

                  Kait rolled her eyes. “And how was your heart able to stand it?”

                  Ashlin nodded sadly. “It was a struggle. I’m not sure the wound will ever heal.” Their sadness took a turn for the less affected. They put a hand in their pocket idly.

                  “Ashlin?” Kait raised an eyebrow. They looked away. “Something not in the report?”

                  Ashlin pulled an acorn from their pocket, spinning it in their fingers. “We got to go into the Vata’sin lab, to get Shang her crystal. I found a book – in old Vatazin, but I could read it, once.”

                  Kait’s brow furrowed. “What do you mean, you could read it once?”

                  “It was weird. It didn’t look like Vatazin the first time I read through, but when I looked back over it, it did. It was about a fey who fell in love with a human. She wanted to become human, to move into the Cycle with her love, and the vata granted her that request but… it failed, whatever they did to grant it. She became someone more human than she had been, but still fey, still immortal. It also removed her memory. All of it. They tried to fix it but the records just… stopped. Suddenly.” Kait looked curiously at the acorn and Ashlin noticed. “Aoibhell will be visiting shortly. This will help her stay here longer and more comfortably.” They tilted their head. “I don’t know this came from the lab or the forest – the lab was feeling awfully generous.”

                  Kait could tell Ashlin was masking, pushing away the difficult subject with easier conversation. She also could tell that they were going to share what they had learned with Aoibhell, even though they hadn’t yet. She couldn’t imagine them doing anything else. She smiled wryly and played along “Oh?”

                  Ashlin gave her a quick grin, seeing the understanding on her face. “Yeah. Just as we left it put out a full suit of wooden armor that can shift between different types of wood, and has spikes to give you an advantage in tussling – well, in non-fun tussling. And this guy.” Ashlin drew a wooden dagger, a trio of gnarled branches twining around each other, coming to a sharp point, its hilt smoothed and perfectly fit for their hand. They handed it over hilt first and Kait took it, the hilt shifting to fit itself to her hand. “it can detect poison, and draw it out too. Since I am the only one dastardly enough to regularly deal with poison, I’m carrying it, for now.”

                  Kait handed it back. “Generous indeed.” She watched Ashlin’s smile eventually make it up to their eyes. She land a hand on theirs. “I’m sure it will work out.”

                  Ashlin smirked. “Of course it will.” They stuck the knife back in their belt with a flourish. “Whether it does or not, it always does.” They turned their hand over under hers, and squeezed. “Thanks.”


                  Jadzia’s Horse Sense

                  (Whispered in Rezean in the stables of the Winter household in Lumina)

                  “Yes, Salkhi… you are correct. I have been packing, for tomorrow at long last we begin our long journey home… that is to say, our ride back to Aldis City. What is that? Yes, I too shall be sorry to leave this beautiful town once more… and yet it will be good to see our adopted home again, will it not? And I am certain that my Snowfall and I shall venture to this place again before too much time has passed. Alexis’ mother still resides in Lumina, after all, and I am now a part of her life… a situation which I have no intention of altering in any way.

                  “What? Well, yes… I suppose we did get the glorious battle we sought in the end, Dear One. Remember how swiftly the mongrel-folk sentries fell before our charge? Ashlin’s mastery of sound arcana served us well once again; the fomoiri had no warning of our impending assault even as their faithful watchdogs died upon our lances.

                  “It seemed likely at first that the lizard-men would fare no better than had their curs. A baker’s dozen of them stood before us… what? Oh, yes. When we by buns and rolls from Pisha by the dozen, she always includes a thirteenth at no charge. I can only assume that the number means something different to those in her profession. In any case, five of the fomoiri immediately took up positions around the crystal itself, setting their spears in the ground to defend against our charges. Another began to chant, and black fire sprung from its hands. I concentrated my attacks upon this one, as did several of my friends. Thankfully, we were able to destroy the sorcerer before it could unleash its foul magic upon us.

                  “As the fomoiri began to fall before us, the air was suddenly rent by a foul shriek. Two wyverns soared over the horizon, each bearing a Skull Knight of Kern upon its back. They have learned from their past encounters with us; each knight was bound into its saddle by heavy leather thongs. They dove toward the crystal, and we unleashed our strongest attacks against them. The fomoiri were no less diligent in their defense; they did not wish the Skull Knights to gain their treasure any more than we did.

                  “Between our combined attacks and the spears of our foes, one of the wyverns fell to the ground within the first few moments. The other, however, swept down and grasped the crystal in its claws, wheeling about and making for the horizon at a pace we could never match. Again we concentrated all of our attacks upon our fleeing foe, and between arrow, bolt and spell we managed to fell the beast. It plummeted to the ground, but so swift had been its flight that it landed some miles from where we stood.

                  “We quickly decided that we could not allow the Skull Knight to escape the area or meet up with reinforcements. Calling out for Tanith and Jana to take care of each other, you and I rode as swiftly as we could for the forest, following the path of the wyvern’s fall. Ashlin leapt up to ride behind me, and Alexis and Darcy followed us on Squall. We found the Skull Knight a few minutes later, struggling to drag the large crystal away from the remains of its mount. Upon our approach, he turned to face us… at least he chose an honorable death.

                  “Ashlin leaped once more from your back and took refuge in a low tree branch, firing his sonic daggers into the fray and nimbly remaining beyond the Skull Knight’s reach. Alexis and I darted in and out, striking as we could, while Darcy chose to engage our foe more directly. While you will never hear me express true admiration for the Skull Knights of Kern… I will concede that their prowess in battle has earned my respect. This one was able to unseat my Snowfall, knocking her from Squall’s back and injuring her quite severely with two vicious slashes of his massive sword.

                  “I rode in and screamed a Rezean battle cry at the Knight, challenging him to attack me if he dared. As he had no way of matching your grace and speed, Dear One, he struck at me in the only way that he could… he turned his sword upon the Dark Crystal itself. It made sense, in a fatalistic way… knowing that he could not prevail against us, he chose to destroy his prize and unleash the unholy energy stored within it. A massive wave of dark power swept through the grove, damaging and weakening us all… but killing none of us.

                  “A short time later it was done. The Skull Knight fell before us, and he had done us the favor of achieving our true goal in our stead. Tanith, Jana and the others approached some minutes later and saw to our wounds. Alexis was badly hurt but in no danger of death. Once we had traded tales of our glorious victories and regained our breath, we rode back to Lumina at a leisurely pace.

                  “The rest of our time here made for a pleasant stay, if not an exciting tale. Alexis suffered through my clumsy attempts to play the nursemaid until she had fully recovered. We sent a message back to Aldis City requesting an audience between Queen Jaellin and Nicnevin and received a positive reply. In return for this favor, the local fae granted us a boon.

                  “Many of the others were quite excited at the prospect of visiting the Vatazin ruins beneath Lumina, though I found the experience rather dull and tiresome myself. I suppose if I had the passion for study that Maria has, I might have felt otherwise. We were able to acquire another red gem; this should keep that foul sorcerer out of Shang’s mind once and for all. I know that she is relieved about that!

                  “The ruins themselves seemed oddly solicitous, directing us to helpful things and even presenting us with several gifts. Ashlin swears that one of the books – written in Old Vatazin – was suddenly comprehensible to him, though when I looked at it I could make no sense of the markings. I suspect that he was once again having fun at my expense… he does so enjoy his odd little jokes. I fear I may never understand his sense of humor…

                  “He also acquired a dagger set with shas crystals. It is of exceptionally fine make, and upon studying it, he discovered that it has the ability to detect and neutralize poisons! Truly a kingly gift, and I am certain that it will prove useful in the future.

                  “Finally, the ruins presented us with a set of wooden armor. It is obviously magical in nature, as it resizes itself to fit whomever dons it. With a thought, one can change the nature of the armor so that it is as heavy and hard as tempered steel, as soft and sinuous as thick cloth, or as tough and supple as cured leather. Its fibers curved and stretched to fill any gaps one might find in a normal set of armor, and as such it provides exceptional protection. My Starlight and I have discussed taking turns using this item, as she already has a very fine set of plate mail… but such an outfit would undeniably be of use to her the next time one of our adventures takes us to the sea!

                  “And now the days pass in idle pleasure, and the time draws nigh for us to return to Aldis City. Alexis rides with us, returning to her post with the Rose Knights. I know not what the future might hold for us, but I am certain that we can meet it if we stand together.”


                  Jana’s Journal

                  Dear Mother,

                  Once more I had to fight off my former compatriots and once more I succeeded. We went after the formoiri that had the crystal and found them in the hills as we expected. What we didn’t expect was the fight to be joined by two wyvern riding Skull Knights. And it seems that we were all after the same thing, the crystal. The sorcerer was manipulating the fomoiri through the crystal to some end and the Skull Knights wanted it for their own purposes, and we wanted to destroy it. It seems like we were the only ones that had altruistic motives. Big surprise there. The Skull Knights attacked the crystal as we were attacking the fomoiri. The fomoiri had pike men that defended their crystal pretty well. They also had us attacking the Skull Knights and themselves. We grounded one of the Skull Knights pretty quickly and the other continued its attack on the crystal. After a moment it started to fly off with the crystal in the wyvern’s talons. Many people attacked it on its way away, but Lucifer and Maria landed the most telling blows. Lucifer attacked the Skull Knight while Maria took out the wyvern. Lucifer came back to us badly wounded. Jadzia and Ashlin rode off after the Knight with Alexis and Darcy in hot pursuit. I’m not sure of the specifics but I know that they killed the Skull Knight and that the Knight had shattered the crystal in a last-ditch attempt to hurt my friends. It was a useless effort on his part, but I have to give him credit for trying. I could say that I would have done the same thing in his place, but that is not true. I would have let the good guys have whatever it was that they wanted and run away. At that point in my life I wasn’t a good guy but I still knew right from wrong. I would have let them have the crystal. The Knight did have dedication though, I suppose I should give him at least that.

                  Meanwhile the other Knight sought to get hold of the crystal even though his mount had been shot out from under him. I will give them a bit of credit though. They had both been strapped into their saddles as they attacked us. Maria tried to knock them off their mounts and when that didn’t work we started going after their mounts in particular. We figured that once the wyverns were dead we could take out the Knights without too much trouble. Given how many people we had allied against them it wasn’t too hard to figure out the end result of either fight. It also helped that we had the fomoiri attacking the Knights and wyverns too. They did their own amount of damage which was not insignificant. They didn’t really have much choice though. They defended against both attackers, us and the Skull Knights. They just couldn’t defend against the both of us. And neither enemy could withstand the group of us. I will admit the feeling of being on the winning side did have its pluses. I was exhilarating to be in the midst of the fight and know that I was on the winning side. I have felt that before when I was fighting with the Skull Knights. I will admit that. It is a heady feeling. I suppose in my early days I thought that what I was doing was right in some way. That I was protecting the people of Kern from threats. Sad as it is to say I think it took the death of innocent children to remind me of my humanity. I couldn’t see them as threats no matter what my superiors wanted me to think. They were just kids. In the beginning I followed orders and killed who they told me to, but as time went on I think I came back to my humanity and if possible let people go when I could. When the Aldins invaded Kern I was overjoyed but terrified to show it. I let the leader of the resistance go with the advice that the Skull Knights were not watching the skies that night. We weren’t. We were watching the ground given the number of people fighting. He nodded and I hoped with all of my heart that he and his friends made it out of the city. To this day I’m not positive if they did or not. The Queen does not speak of such things in public, and I wasn’t in Aldis City to hear it even if she did, and it’s not like I can just ask.

                  So, after we defeated our Skull Knight and all the fomoiri were dead we met up with our friends who had gone after the other Skull Knight. They were successful in their fight over the Knight and brought back good news on that front. Lucifer was badly hurt in the fighting but we were able to put him to rights pretty quickly. We were able to heal everyone that was hurt in the fight in pretty short order. With the number of us that can heal with arcana and those that can bandage wounds the normal way, we were fine. After that we were able to talk to the Fae and promise them a meeting with Queen Jaellin. With that done the Fae agreed to let us into the Vatazin cave as a boon. The cave itself was much as we remembered it, but we were careful to pretend that we’d never been there before. We managed, through talking out loud about what we wanted, to find a red crystal to help Shang keep the sorcerer our of her head. Ashlin also spent some time reading a book which seemed to make him sad, though I’m not sure how he read it in the first place since it was in Old Vatazin. On the way out the cave also saw fit to bestow upon us some gifts. It gave us a suit of wooden armor that can be any kind of armor the wearer wants it to be. So it can be light armor for Jadzia if she so wanted and it could be heavy armor if I desired it to be. We agreed to take it but share it between us. The cave also gave us a dagger that had the ability to detect and cure poison. None of us save Ashlin were proficient in the use of daggers so we let him have it.

                  After that we said our goodbyes and headed back to Aldis City. I was about to write “Home.” It almost seems like home to me now. I have such good friends in Aldis. I have found peace in Alis. We managed to bring Marcus out of Kern, and for that I am eternally grateful to my friends. Including him I have three wonderful lovers in Aldis. My Tanith and Jadzia who love me despite my past sins, and Marcus who loves me sins and all. He has been in the same situation as I have, only I found an earlier way out. He protected me as I fled and I could only hope and pray that he would be safe. Then come to find out that he was helping Aldis fight Kern in his own way. It made me so proud of him. I loved him anyway, but that made me love him even more. That said I have to admit that I am lucky that Tanith and Jadzia accept that I love Marcus as well. I know that Tanith has some reservations about me being with a man, but she accepts it and doesn’t say anything when I spend time with him. I hope that she knows that my love of Marcus will never stop me from loving her or Jadzia. They are my bright, bright suns, and Marcus is my tarnished yet beautiful moon. I pray to all the gods that I know of to let me keep them all. Please.

                  End Session XLV

                  The Dark Crystal Completed

                  Okay what needs clarifying?

                  Grozny was helping the Fomoiri not out of any loyalty to other evil sorts but to acquire their Drunac Dark Crystal. His goal, once he found out about it via spying through Shang, was to force a confrontation with the Finest so he could take advantage of the melee to have his agents steal the Crystal. The Fomoiri had no intention of giving up their crystal and fought all comers. Shang and Lao fought side by side, proving themselves to the locals and to each other, and further repairing their relationship.

                  This winds up the story with the Mongrels and Fomoiri driven from the woods, the Dark Crystal destroyed, and Aoibhell’s origins revealed. Join us for our next story in two weeks. Comments and Questions welcome.
                  Running: Blue Rose AGE (Cat's Cradle) Blue Rose AGE (Big Damn Heroes)
                  "That Queer Goth Chick." "You are going to have to be more specific"

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                  • #69
                    Old sins cast long shadows. When the past becomes the preset, only this light of hope can keep the past from repeating itself.

                    Session XLVI

                    Stir of Echoes Part I

                    Ashlin’s Reports

                    Report from Ash, decoded by Kait, sent 2 Auloreth

                    Well, the next few days have certainly set themselves up to be doozies. Just for the record, I fully expect backup if I get sent to jail. Your discretion as to how long to leave me cooling my heels, of course, but hopefully the thought of my beautiful baby face in whatever horrid jail cells that noble-adjacent folks who run afoul of noble quarrels get thrown in. They might feed me only a single course per meal and make me drink good wine… on second thought, don’t worry about the whole rescue thing.

                    But anyway, we were discussing the weirdness from Jarzon, with Amalia’s whole ‘turn night people human’ thing. It was her discussions with Darcy that got her mind thinking that maybe night people weren’t, you know, intrinsically evil, and they kept in touch, and while she mentioned her intentions along those lines to him in her letters, she had not mentioned anything about it succeeding like the Jarzoni church keeps saying it has. It fact, she hasn’t written in a bit, and Tanith wasn’t able to psychically contact her. She even tried talking to Zacchaeus, but he hadn’t seen her in at least as long as Darcy hadn’t heard from her.

                    That isn’t our current problem though, as it is far away, both geographically and politically advisably. More immediate was Pwyll, a handsome blonde fellow that had Jadzia grumping as soon as he walked in for some reason. He’s a Finest, and needed help from a group of us, as his team was somewhere… in the wilderness, which seems awful vague, but we didn’t need a reason to help out our fellow Finest. Especially since he was looking into Echo House, and a potential Trebutane cult.

                    Its location on a mostly abandoned street in the Lake Ward makes it ideal for clandestine meetings, but fairly safe, as most folks who know enough about it to use it for such also know that the psychic echoes that it is named after make it inadvisable to enact violence in there. There’s no corroboration for the stories of being trapped in nightmares after starting a fight there, but it’s enough to discourage people anyway. Pwyll had tracked a group of folks dressed in Trebutane garb, and was pretty sure that more had entered than left. Definitely something to check.

                    We headed out, but once we got close, Pwyll and I snuck in over the roofs. The place was in decent shape, being mostly stone. Everything seemed completely stable, and we were doing good, when I ran across Zane. She seemed to hear something, so I got Tanith to contact her real quick and let her know to keep quiet and not worry. Then I had to sorta steer Pwyll away, as it really wouldn’t do to let him know Zane was still about and probably doing some work for a criminal boss lady as we spoke, or didn’t speak, since we were sneaking. Annette has used the Echo House as a safe meeting spot in the past, so I was a bit worried about running into someone Zane was meeting. Still, I needed to get what info I could, and I didn’t have a non-suspicious reason to call the whole thing off anyway.

                    It was a good thing I didn’t, as downstairs we found some interesting artifacts. In two different bedrooms, we found sets of Trebutane garb on the floor as if they had been quickly removed. The inside of the sleeves was bloodstained – not quite as much as if they had slit their wrists while wearing them, but more than a once or twice bleeding occasion. It was very strange, picking up the fabric to look them over, like psychic cobwebs were clinging to them, keeping them close. Very creepy.

                    We left via the back door, ostensibly to have a good idea of the details of that exit, since we knew there wasn’t anyone around at the time. It was a fruitful visit, after all. Since ritualistic blood sacrifices were not really a Trebutane thing, I felt comfortable advising Pwyll that they were probably not actually of that religion. He bought my story about seeing some kind of symbol in the room upstairs, so when I get back to him with what Zane told us about why she was there, I have a reason for it. I was going to talk to Annette, but Zane beat me to it, showing up at Tanith’s later that night. She was watching the Echo House because a ‘shady looking’ group had met with the Shadow Broker there, and none of the shady looking group had been seen again. The shady folks were not the ‘Trebutane’, as that group came along later.

                    Zane seems to be doing better, as I was fairly certain would be the case. Annette might flirt with Jana, it’s true, but only some of us are certain that means she is an evil vixen. She (meaning Annette) also sent us a warning, about the guards and the Hyades. We had already had word of that, but it was good of her to pass it along, though I’m sure it didn’t improve the mood at Tanith’s.

                    See, the Hyades is the current assignment that might wind up with some of us in jail. Saffron had come to Darcy with news that something hinky was going at the Hyades house, probably tied to the upcoming ceremony promoting Cassilda to head of the family. There was a big deal made about having the ceremony before Tanith arrived back in town, but we got back too soon for that, since they couldn’t do it before her 22nd birthday. When Saffron said something to Cassilda about her weird feelings, she got kicked out of the house. Tanith tried to contact Cassilda psychically to set up a tea meeting, but Cassilda kicked her out of her mind immediately, a new development.

                    Cassilda’s further response was to contact the city guard and ask them to bar any of us from the area around her home, and us including Saffron as well – they apparently pulled her out of class to intimidate her about it. Tanith was… unhappy. I caught onto one particular thing she was upset about, which is that Cassilda should know that Tanith will do whatever she needs to in order to protect her friend. I think I helped, pointing out that if that is the case, then either Cassilda is being prevented from contacting us in a friendly way, and this calling of the guard is a way to subtly signal to Tanith that she needs help in a way that would fly under the radar of whoever is menacing her, or, alternatively, whoever is currently in control of Cassilda is ignorant and foolish.

                    So, we made our initial plan, which involved me keeping watch over the Hyades house, waiting until they left for a shopping trip, as surely they must, given that the big party/ceremony is in three days. I had the thought to even dress as a servant sent to help with the preparations, explaining my unfamiliarness, but they don’t seem to have hired any of those, just servants for the ceremony. Still, I managed to finagle a uniform for the temporary servants that will be working, in case I need to sneak in day of. The other aspect of the plan is that Darcy will roar on up to the door, demanding an answer as to why they were hassling his cousin, serving as a distraction for the guards to help me slip over the wall.

                    Saffron has been very helpful (having the key to all outer doors is damn handy). She wants to be more helpful (even offered to go so far as to sacrifice herself by seducing Cassilda, should it come to it, the absolute paragon). But of course Darcy is worried about her, especially since she wants to explore the area under the Nest, since that’s the last place we saw the vampire. I think I convinced her that at least she should take a buddy. Since Camilla isn’t speaking to her, I figured that might put a delay on things there. She did go ‘investigating’ the Rustling Cedars and found that Melpomene and Tariq were going to be at the celebration.

                    Of course that immediately meant my mind went to Llorona as a potential mastermind, but Tanith did have a good point that she is unlikely, as far as we know, to be ok with destroying the entire city, as a recreation of the ancient catastrophe likely would. I’m not fully convinced, as I have no idea what her endgame is, or what Nyassa might have to offer her, but she is not a primary suspect certainly. I don’t mean to doubt her rehabilitation, but to be fair, I was convinced of her untrustworthiness long before I learned of her past. Given how her stint as a sorceress’ concubine ended, she might be a bit leery about getting into bed with a similar character. Then again, she’s probably stronger now than she was then, with less of a power imbalance…

                    Regardless, that is a fruitless pursuit without more evidence that she has anything to do with it. Melpomene apparently got an invite initially as a kindness from Camilla to Saffron, as Darcy’s cousin might have something of a favorite. We have a much stronger lead, possibly because Tanith wanted me to change courses, but whatever the reason, she consciously called up her visionary powers and got a vision of our group fighting through a building that looked like the Hyades home, but super old-fashioned architecture. We were fighting ghosts with bleeding eyes and trying to get to the ballroom in a rush. She focused up some and managed to figure out that the place we were in was underneath the current Hyades home, and the vision was set tomorrow.

                    So, Maria’s gone to research ghosts with bleeding eyes, and Darcy and I are headed out to our stake out. Hopefully we don’t get arrested – the acorn arrived last night, and I neither want the city to be destroyed before Aoibhell gets to visit nor for Aoibhell to be in the city when it is destroyed. Admittedly, she could flit back to Lumina in a heartbeat if things got bad, but… I feel like that would make me a bad host. Also, I’m not sure if she has sneaking skills that would translate well to city life.

                    [Cloven hoof mark]

                    “Alright, I’m in.”

                    Ashlin dropped down into the gardens off the high back wall, letting Tanith, and thus the others, know over the psychic connection that they were safely on the grounds of the Hyades estate. Most of the guards were distracted by the confrontation between Alar, Camilla, and Thale – Darcy hadn’t even had to risk his own reputation to cause a fuss. It made it easy enough to slip by the few who remained focus on the area immediate around the house, and slip into something more servant-like.

                    They strode into the house as if they had just finished up a chore outside, and had an important one to get to. After a single confident stride, their steps faltered, they paused, and looked around. The building was empty. Entirely. The click of their boots echoed through the hallway and rattled around the foyer beyond it.

                    They continued forward, unconsciously beginning to sneak through the open corridors in exactly the way they tried to break their comrades of doing during an infiltration. All pretense of just being another servant, moving around the large house on a normal course of duties, was abandoned in favor of avoiding notice of everything that was just not there, because nothing was there. It was empty.

                    The first priority was to find a way to under the mansion, as even Tanith had no idea there was any such space. But Ash couldn’t help but sneak upstairs, driven by a morbid curiosity and a desire to not be the only living soul in the building.

                    Closer to the master bedroom, Ash heard singing. It was Cassilda’s voice, but the words were in Old Aldin, and there was a dreamy quality that was building in intensity. Every once in a while she would stumble over the tune, and start over. Ash moved closer.

                    Saffron had warned them that Cassilda’s bedroom was kept locked, but now the door lay open, the intricate lock hanging uselessly from the door frame. The woman inside the room sat on a chair, her back to the door. She was dressed in a long gown that draped over drawn skin. Cassilda, for it was definitely her, was dangerously thin, probably some 20-30 pounds lighter than she had been just a few days ago.

                    “Tanith?” Ash spoke over the psychic connection again, almost asking her to translate before thinking twice. “Can you get Maria to contact me?”

                    Tanith did so, and Maria answered with a distracted “Hm?” Ash sent along the images of the bedroom along with the sound of Cassilda’s singing. They could feel her recoil over the link, taking in the skeletally thin woman. However, she was quickly distracted by the puzzle of translating the lyrics in real time. “Oh! That’s… well, entropy is probably the best single word translation. It encompasses most of the intricacies even – change, transformations, particularly in the direction of the chaotic. There’s an idea of the decline of something there, decay – endings! In fact, there’s a lot of that word, ‘finis’. An end to… oh. Pain? Grief, I think. Suffering, definitely. And… everything. The dissolution of all things.” Maria was quiet a moment. “Now she’s repeating that.”

                    Ash sent a wan smile through the psychic link. “Thanks Maria. Are you at a stopping point?”

                    “I mean, there’s probably more I could learn, and I haven’t talked to Dr. Godfreed.” Maria sounded worried.

                    Ash backed away quietly from the bedroom, moving downstairs more quickly the further away they were. “If you can, I would suggest meeting up with the others – not Darcy, I think he’s occupied.” Darcy had managed to get the three antagonists to put swords away, at least, but was still trying to convince them to calm down. To be fair, he wasn’t trying for speed, but in fact the opposite, hoping to give Ash as much uninterrupted time as possible.

                    Maria sent a feeling of assent down the link, and Ash focused fully on their surroundings again. They set to finding the way into the below ground area. Finding nothing for some time, they resorted to moving anything that might be big enough to hide a small passage. When they moved a full length mirror in one room, they slip, bracing themselves on the mirrored glass, but when their hand hit it, it didn’t stop, but pushed forward through the mirror up to their wrist.

                    Ash drew their hand back slowly, eyes wide as they looked it over for defects, or even just changes. Nothing appeared to be out of the ordinary, so they tried it again, putting their hand through and back with no effect. Eventually, they climbed entirely through the mirror frame.

                    The first thing they noticed on the other side was that they definitely felt like they were underground. The room they were in was a reflection of the one they had just left, but dusty and covered in cobwebs. A translucent girl sat in the overstuffed chair, reading a book with her back to the interloper. As they watched, transfixed, the girl turned a page, the whisper of the page the only sound. The place had a dark feel to it, a tainted feel, but the ghost herself had only that, the same taint as the rest of the room. She wasn’t a spectre or some twisted bit of sorcery, but still a bound ghost in a Shadowed place.

                    Ash stepped back out of the underground, putting their back to the wall beside the mirror and sliding down it to sit. “We need to go down there now. Not tomorrow.”

                    “Is Cassilda OK?” Tanith asked.

                    “We need to go down there now, Tanith. There’s no one here – we won’t need to involve anyone to let us get in. Just let Aneshka know you’ll be coming in on Finest’s business, push your way through the handful of personal guards if you need to, or just charm them to stand aside, they are only on the walls – nowhere near the house. There’s no one here. But we need to go now.”

                    Spooked, Ash gave out the suggestions like orders. The ceremony might not be for two more days, but they weren’t sure there’d be anything left of Cassilda by then. Catching Ash’s urgency from their tone, the others began to make their way to the estate, waiting to enter as a group, to not to put anyone on their guard before they could all get in.

                    So Ash waited for them.

                    There was no one there.


                    Tanith’s Diary

                    This is a nightmare

                    My dear Cassilda, my best friend and, yes, my lover, is in great danger. She is about to ascend to the head of her family and I feel in my bones that her doom, and possibly more, is at hand.

                    We were investigating events at a strange house where one of the Finest, one Pwyll, was investigating strange behavior when Darcy’s cousin Saffron warned him that her best friend, Camilla, had had an escalation in her personal hatred for me, and while the ascension was to be next week, she had Cassilda push it ahead to this week, hoping to do so before we returned to town. It will actually be happening on Cassilda’s birthday. Saffron questioned this and was banished from their house. What’s more, I and my team are not only no invited, the city Watch has been told we are not to go near the Hyades house, as Aneshka was kind enough to inform me when we returned from Pwyll’s errand.

                    I got perhaps a bit mad at her, based on the thrumming objects nearby and dark clouds gathering in the sky.

                    Jadzia stepped in and Aneshka went scurrying off, and we were left to decide what to do. Ashlin assured me this was a good sign as she knew this would force my hand, or whoever is controlling her is dumb. It helped a bit. Darcy and Ash went off after that to talk to Saffron while I took Jana and Jadzia to dinner. We met back with Maria and returned home to find Zane Nazzari in my house, with some distracting stuff with the whole Pwyll thing. Something about the Shadow Broker I don’t even remember now. Jadzia and Jana took care of me that night, but even then I was hurting.

                    Tonight I have been almost in a daze. Plans are being made around me but I don’t know. Saffron was there talking about Inamorata and how one named Melpomene was to be at the party, but I was just trying to keep a panic attack away.

                    Eventually I used my ability to get Visions to force Visions, where I saw us fighting in some ancient reflection of the Hyades mansion, under it perhaps, against bleeding eyed ghosts. Darcy and Ashlin slipped out, with Darcy intending to cause a distraction to help Ash infiltrate the house. Apparently Thale Hali caused one first, ambushing Alar and Camilla as they left and threatening them over Cassilda’s “Snubbing” her wife Cordelia. After a point she took Camilla hostage! However, Darcy stepped in and cleared the issues up. Thankfully, there was no violence.

                    Meanwhile Ashlin had gone a bit quiet, moreso than I would like. We are waiting.

                    This is eating me up inside. It is bad enough that Cassilda is in danger. I swore I would always protect her. I swore it. I love her. She is my best friend. She is a mature, intelligent woman. So her behavior, now is bizarre. Camilla was always a hothead, sure, passionate and sometimes guilty of ill-considered behavior but passionate. I respect her. But Cassilda hating me is too much to bear.

                    I never wanted to hurt her. I didn’t know. She didn’t tell me.

                    We have not made tea or lunch in months. A lot of that was me out of the country, battling pirates or hunting Fomoiri. But this is insane. This is not like her. I would move mountains for her if she would let me. Jana and Jadzia are supporting me and that is good I don’t think

                    Ashlin just sent word. It is time to move. I go.

                    End Session XLVI

                    Jadzia’s player is not going to be able to journals for the foreseeable. Hopefully they will return at some point, but in the meantime there are plenty of journals

                    The whole thing with the Rustling Cedars, Nest, and Llorona, and Zane, was all from our last Aldis City story Pillow Fort. And things with Cassilda have been building up to this for awhile now.

                    Pwyll was Alexis Winter’s ex who dumped her, which is why Jadzia is so hostile. He basically looks like Link.

                    Okay, well I think that covers everything. Next time we step into a dark, dangerous place. Comments and Questions welcome.
                    Running: Blue Rose AGE (Cat's Cradle) Blue Rose AGE (Big Damn Heroes)
                    "That Queer Goth Chick." "You are going to have to be more specific"

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                    • #70
                      The team descends deep into a time-lost manse beneath Aldis. Cassilda’s time is running out. The heroes must prevent history from repeating itself.

                      Session XLVII

                      Stir of Echoes Part II

                      Ashlin’s Reports

                      Ash was startled awake as the objects they had balanced against the door came crashing to the ground. Someone had opened the door, and Ash felt around themselves, moving as little as possible, until their hand closed around something hard but throwable. They froze as a voice came from the other room. “Ash?”

                      They relaxed as they recognized Kait’s voice. “Ba-” they cleared their throat, “back here.”

                      A few strides and their handler was at the door of their bedroom, a relieved look on her face. “You’re o...kay?” The relieved look vanished and the statement became a question probably about the time she noticed the pile of bloodsoaked clothes at the side of the bed.

                      Ash gave her a wan grin. “I’m fine. None of,” they paused as running their fingers through their hair found a clump of dried blood. “Ugh. None of th’blood is mine.”

                      “What happened?” Kait took a step closer. “I got your report that you were going to be infiltrating the Hyades’ estate, and then the news that the Hyades’ estate sunk into the ground losing at least a floor, and didn’t hear from you...”

                      “And you were worried abou’ me?” Ash smiled up at her for a moment before grimacing as the expression had moved muscles that were not happy with any exercise and punished them with a spike of pain. “Sorry for not reportin’. I… may have overdone the magic a bit.”

                      One of Kait’s eyebrow raised. “Your knives just not good enough anymore?”

                      Ash almost began shaking their head, but managed to catch themselves. “Nah, they’re fine, it’s just, ghosts, right? And those vampire things, they moved so fast, with their whirling dances. And the shadows… then I had to stop the song.”

                      The other spy smiled sympathetically, looking around regretfully. “You clearly need more rest, but can I get an abbreviated report, so I can make sure those who should know do?” Ash made what they hoped was an affirmative sounding noise, and pulled themselves up, tucking the blankets around their legs. Kait disappeared into the bathroom for a moment, coming back with a wet cloth and a small bowl of warm water. “Let me do something about that hair while you tell me.”

                      Ash smiled an agreement and began their report. “The estate was really strange, when I got there. Cassilda was the only one there, singing in Old Aldin about everything ending and how awesome that would be. She looked half starved. I found the mirror, downstairs, that was actually a door, kinda, into a weird upside down place. I mean, it wasn’t actually upside down, but whenever the ghosts talked about going up, they actually took us down.”

                      “You talked with the ghosts?” Kait asked, running the wet cloth carefully over the clumps of hair spiked with dried blood.

                      “Yeah, but that was later. They were the bleeding eye ghosts, that Tanith had a vision about? I didn’t actually go in there by myself, I called for the others to show up and waited outside the mirror. They came and brought the Watch, to guard the mirror, and to guard Cassilda. I told Maria to tell Aneshka to not bother Cassilda though. We didn’t want to warn whoever was in the other place.

                      “Maria had been researching ghosts, and she said the ghosts had bleeding eyes because they had seen something but not done what they ought to about it. The first ghost was sad, or maybe just scared of Tanith – I had to scold her to make her put the ghost down. Maria got her to tell us where the ballroom was though – that’s where Tanith’s vision said we were looking for.

                      “The second ghost was even more helpful, a noble woman with a very large hat. She led us all the way to the ballroom, though we had to fight a couple of vampire actors in a theatre along the way.” Ash left out the flirting, oddly not wanting to tease Kait while she was gently stroking a warm cloth over their scalp in a way that definitely calmed their pounding headache. “Their life forces were tied together somehow, and to a pair of hanging tassels on the stage – I cut one, which seemed to make the lady vampire fall over dead, but then a wave of blood lifted her back up. But when we killed both of them at the same time, they stayed re-dead.

                      “But like I said, the noblewoman led us to the ballroom – she spoke Old Aldin, Maria had to translate,” Ash said reassuringly, though Kait was somewhat bemused as to what she was being reassured about “– she led us there, but the guards, who were ghosts whose eyes didn’t bleed, killed her, cut her in half. We had been talking about what to do, cause we figured that the fact their eyes weren’t bleeding meant they hadn’t just been an oblivious observer, but maybe helped? And so they could take us to Nyassa...”

                      Kait frowned, rinsing the cloth out in the bowl. “Did you have some reason to believe Nyassa was there?”

                      Ash blinked a few times. “Oh. Right. Yeah, the noble lady said that the old-timey Cassilda was taking over from her grandmother, even though old-timey Cassilda had been despondent since her twin old-timey Camilla had died, because her grandmother was frail and insisted she take over, and her grandmother was named Nyassa. The noble lady expected her to be there.”

                      “I see. Did the guards take you to her?”

                      “Oh no.” Ash shook their head, sprinkling water down onto their chest. “They tried to kill us. One of them almost got Tanith, but Jadzia hit it very hard. They could eat other ghosts and it made them stronger, but we were too good for that to work out for them. But we went into the ballroom and the majordomo told us where Nyassa was. But first, the blood shadows attacked.

                      “Blood shadows were another thing Maria learned about in her research. It’s a kinda ghost-sorta thing. You know how people leave behind their corruption when they rejoin the Cycle?” Ash waited for Kait’s nod as she focused on getting a particularly sticky clump dealt with. “Apparently when lots of people die at once, all that corruption collects together and manages to form a, a, a bad thing. They are sneaky and suck out people’s life, but we managed to notice them far enough away that we could double-ambush them. Tanith found a cryston too.”

                      “Double ambush?” Kait chuckled.

                      Ash grinned. “Yeah, where we ambush the ambushers. Anyway, we got to the back room where the majordomo said Nyassa was, and she was! She and a ghost of old-timey Cassilda, and of old-timey Alar – I don’t actually know if that was her name, but she was acting like Alar, being all protective – and four vampire shadowdancers, all in front of a bad red sha crystal.

                      “Nyassa was all ‘this is my home turf, you’re dumb’ or something stupid like that, and the vampires all attacked. Old-timey Cassilda didn’t do anything until I threw sound at Nyassa, then she started singing, so I had to put an end to that, cause that’s how the whole blood well thing happened the first time. Old-timey Alar didn’t do anything until we started bothering the two of them. I was kinda afraid of something like that and was gonna leave Nyassa alone until we’d dealt with the vampires, but she had some crazy blood magic going on, and when a giant wave of boiling blood started building in front of us, I figured disrupting her concentration would be a good thing. My sound didn’t work though, but Tanith threw her around with magic some, and then tore a giant chunk of the crystal out and hit Nyassa with it. That distracted her and the wave sorta splashed down.”

                      “Is that where all the mess came from?” Kait gestured to include Ash’s hair and discarded clothes.

                      Ash nodded slightly. “That and the bit of the song that Cassilda managed to get out before I silenced her. The blood was up to our shins just as a standing pool before we were done. Jadzia was even more covered. She finished Nyassa off with her swords, and apparently super old vampires explode into blood when they die. There wasn’t a whole lot after that. The vampires all ran away, and the Watch dealt with them. We killed old-timey Alar and then old-timey Cassilda, thankfully in that order, because when old-timey Cassilda disencorporated, the entire place started creaking and groaning like it was coming apart.

                      “That’s why the estate sank into the ground, I guess. We managed to get out of there with Jadzia carrying me...”

                      Kait snorted. “I bet you enjoyed that.”

                      Ash’s smile was at first half-hearted and almost embarrassed. They shrugged after a moment, their grin widening to more of a usual expression for them. “It’s not every day a beautiful, incredibly strong person throws you over their shoulder and hauls you out of a collapsing building like a sack of flour. It was actually very difficult to guide the others out of that place, slung over like that. I tried illusion directions, and that was a mistake for sure.”

                      “Of course. You almost kill yourself with magic, and so your first thought is to do some more.” Kait rolled her eyes at Ash.

                      “Not my first thought! First I tried to point the way, but like I said, slung over the shoulder… anyway, we all got out, Darcy got Cassilda out, who was unconscious, I think, but not any worse than I saw her earlier. Tanith took her home to help take care of her.”

                      Their report given, Ash relaxed, leaning into Kait’s hand as she ran it through their hair to check that all the dried blood was gone. Kait smiled, running her hand down their jawline before stiffening and pulling her hand back. “Ah, yes, thank you Ash. I’ll make sure everything is handled as it needs to be.”

                      Ash leaned back against the wall, almost back to sleep already. “Good. Do I still need to do paperwork?”

                      Kait looked at them sharply, but they sounded more pathetic than teasing, and their tired face was more open than usual, with no sign of any mock laziness. Ash’s eyes fluttered closed, and Kait softened. “No, Ash, no paperwork for this one.”

                      They pulled the blanket up to their shoulder, curling up underneath it. “’k. G’night, Kait.”

                      “Good night Ash.” Kait took a moment to set up the alarm that had been up when she entered, and left through a window, giving her charge one last look.


                      Tanith’s Diary

                      Dreams

                      The gaunt, dark haired human stirred in the bed, looking around a dark, unfamiliar room. She turned her gaze to her left where she saw a Vata’Sha sitting in the dim light. Her softly glowing golden eyes cut through the darkness, and for just a moment, Cassilda Hyades was back at the Academy waking near her roommate. Then 3 years passed in a moment, and she remembered to the present. She remembered a broken heart as she was abandoned, fighting with Tanith Nocturna, the argument at the restaurant, Tanith’s confusion …she gasped at the rush of emotions.

                      The golden eyes turned their gaze. “Cass, are you awake?” Tanith’s voice was one of a kind, unmistakable. It always echoed in her heart. She tried to speak, but her voice was raspy. Tanith passed her a glass of water, she drank deeply.

                      “Tanith I am sorry. I…”

                      “I know Cassie. I know. It’s over. The curse, the shame, the pain…all gone. We did it. We saved you.”

                      Cassilda struggled to focus. “No, I mean for being so mean to you.”

                      There was silence. “It was my fault Cassie. I did not see what was in front of me. That’s a mistake I won’t make again.” Ebon fingers entwine with pale ones. “I haven’t been good to you. I have a lot of making up to do.” Her voice was gentle, loving.

                      This was happening so fast Cassilda’s mind reeled. “Tanith…Tan-Tan…what are you saying?

                      “I’ve been thinking a lot Cassie. About what a good team we are. About how I don’t love everyone the same way, even people I love romantically. Jadzia and Jana are my type…the kind of women I am easily drawn to. You…you are not the sort that usually draws me but since we were fighting, I realize how much I really care about you. That I loved you because you are unusual, special, unique. That at really loved you for the woman you were. And I want to look at a future together with you and Jadzia and Jana.”

                      There was a pause. Eventually Cassilda spoke. “Am I dead?”

                      Tanith finally relaxed a bit as she laughed. “No dear, no you are not. You just have had a very difficult time. My whole team moved in and saved you, destroyed your tormentors and family enemies. We did it. Now you have a free future. Though your house has seen better days”

                      “Where is Camilla? Alar?” Her head spun.

                      “They are being helped by other healers. Camilla is still a bit salty with me. Alar is mostly okay from what I understand, just there watching over her. You actually were affected the worst. “

                      Cassilda nodded. “I feel like I have been asleep for maybe a week or so. I sort of remember a lot but it was a blur.” She looked at Tanith several long moments. “Why are you over there instead of next to me, Tan-Tan?”

                      Tanith removed her cape, her boots already off, and climbed in next to her. The Vata was overdressed for bed, but she gently pulled Cassilda’s lean body to her regardless. “Whatever you want.”

                      “I desperately wanted to wake up for days. Now I don’t ever want to wake. I want to keep you here next to me.” She touched Tanith’s face. Caring eyes looked back. “I’ll forgive you for everything, just say you love me.” Tanith’s smell was familiar. It smelled like home, like happiness.

                      Tanith smiled, her eyes so golden the glow made Cassilda’s skin look almost like a golden statue. “I love you Cassilda. I was foolish to not see it before. Be a part of my life with Jadzia and Jana.”

                      Cassilda hugged Tanith with all her strength. “If I were not halfway to passing out you would be in for a very vigorous time. Unfortunately…”

                      “It’s okay. Right now I just want to take care of you. Give you your rest. Get your strength back and we will have a private romantic getaway.”

                      “Thank you…Tan-Tan. Just please, be here when I wake…” The exhausted woman’s voice trailed off.

                      “Yes Cassie, I will.” Tanith slipped an arm around Cassilda as she, too, gave in to exhaustion. “I will.”

                      End Session XLVII

                      The story was designed to be as much combat as social, dealing with the ghosts. Getting the noblewoman’s help meant bypassing some difficulties and fights, but also opportunities for information or possibly minor special items, though they found the Cryston (Which Darcy ended up with, as he spent points for his blasts of holy light and it gives him a second ranged attack with those stats)

                      The first fight, with the two actors, I honestly based somewhat on Romulo and Julianne from Karazan way, way back in my WoW days. The PCs had to kill them in the same round, the tassils showing about how much health they had. The second were not linked in that way, but the two Guardians, who hit like trucks, could steal health by destroying random ghosts cringing in the room. The PCs could have attacked the (much weaker) ghosts around them but chose the more difficult, but more noble path. They succeeded, and it got easier after putting down one of the Guardians in the earlier part of the fight.

                      I think we set a record for relationship channels in that last fight. Ash pushed themselves to 3 levels of Fatigue in the battle as well. Tanith throwing Nyassa around and crushing her with a crystal did crazy amounts of damage, though Jadzia actually slew the vampire.

                      There was something else going on, right? Comments and Questions welcome.
                      Running: Blue Rose AGE (Cat's Cradle) Blue Rose AGE (Big Damn Heroes)
                      "That Queer Goth Chick." "You are going to have to be more specific"

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                      • #71
                        While the evil Nyassa has been slain, there remain a few unresolved threads. Unfortunately, not all will be tied up neatly.

                        Session XLVII

                        Stir of Echoes Part III

                        Ashlin’s Reports

                        Report from Ash, decoded by Kait, sent 3 Auloreth

                        I would say there’s no rest for the wicked, but rarely have you been in such a good position to call me on it immediately. That full night’s rest did however get me fully back up and running and fit enough to join the others at the agency. Still, I thought I’d be going in to summon Aoibhell and then go on a merry tour of the city with her and the others as a reward for our great derring do. I mean, not to give away the ending, but we did get to that, but first, Zane popped out of our back room.

                        Now, I want to be clear, I never mind a visit from our adorable former assassin friend (we have more of those than I realized before I wrote that phrase down just now), even and perhaps especially when she comes in from the back room. And it turns out that she came bearing exceedingly useful information, which is even better. She described a warrior woman with pale skin and dark hair, with a gray streak that framed her face. She had been poking around Echo House, making a detour to swing by the Arcanobotany Labs, then returning with flower petals. Certainly something worth looking into.

                        We started by contacting Pwyll, who confirmed that the woman Zane had seen was not one of his people back from the woods and agreed to meet us at Echo House. We found the warrior woman that Zane described, watching a small vine moving along the floor. She didn’t respond to us walking into the House or to us greeting her, and the fact that when she finally responded, it was to our shadows moving into her field of vision, combined with the heraldry of the Quiet Knights, made it clear she was deaf.

                        She read lips very well, and spoke using illusions, forming the words out of snowflakes drifting together into ice sculptures and melting into the next phrase. She was intriguing to watch and gave me several ideas for covers in the future – deafness puts many people afraid of being overheard at their ease. She introduced herself as Tori Dare, and once we explained our business, she told us that she was investigating for a friend. Someone she knew at the Arcanobotany Labs had discovered that some plant specimens, a flesh dissolving fungus from the Empire of Thorns, were missing and they had reason to check Echo House. It turned out to be a good reason too, as Tori had found evidence of the spores it puts out in two of the rooms, including the ones where we had found bloody robes. It certainly seemed to be able to explain the people who had come into the House, but not left nor left any bodies.

                        Some of that we discussed over drinks at Lady’s Last Choice, along with getting to know Tori. Eventually though, we split off – us to summon Aoibhell and her to meet us later at the Arcanobotany Labs. I thought Aoibhell might be both handy to ask question about plants to, and that she might enjoy getting to visit somewhere like the Labs. Both thoughts turned out to be true.

                        We had arranged to meet Tori in a couple of hours, so we had time to take a rambling tour of part of the city on the way there, going to anywhere else we wanted to show off on the way back. It took Aoibhell a few moments to adjust to the brightness, but we wound up having a fun time walking to the Arcanobotany Labs. We started slow with a visit to Pisha’s Bakery, of course, where we got a few extra sweet rolls added to our order for free with a flirty look for Aiobhell.

                        At the Labs, Tori introduced us to Circe. She told us that the Headmaster was not there, being out gathering samples for the past few weeks. She told us what she could about the theft, namely that there were three keys: the Headmaster’s, hers, and the spare key that any of the students could potentially access. It was a key that had been used, with no sign of forced entry.

                        Circe also told us more about the missing plants, corroborating what Aoibhell had been able to tell us about it. Aoibhell had offered to bring life back to the inert sample I had gathered to learn more about it, but it seemed dangerous. Circe was able to tell us that the plant formed a fragile fruit, that would release spores when it broke. Those spores would consume flesh and replicate themselves that way. Circe clarified that they were dangerous, and painful, but would not kill someone quickly, so it was unlikely to be used as a murder weapon. For body disposal or for torture, certainly, but not as a weapon.

                        Tanith used her magic to try and poke into what had happened. The person stealing the samples hid their face, and no one was feeling particularly emotional going after the key, so it seemed unlikely to be driven by blackmail, which was one hypothesis, given the Shadow Broker’s involvement. Our breakthrough came when Tanith realized that Circe had some missing memories. Circe did not take that well – she seemed to think it was an indictment of her character, with the irony being that it was that assumption and her whole general reaction that bumped her to the top of my suspect list, not the missing memories themselves.

                        She agreed to have Tanith return the memories, extracting a promise that Tanith wouldn’t look at them as she revealed them. It was clear immediately that Circe was embarrassed by her restored memory. She came clean about it once she had a moment to process it – she had stolen the plant herself, having been “talked into” giving them to an attractive seafolk woman, and then talked into having her memories removed. Apparently the seafolk woman claimed that a variety of the stolen plants had infected the lake she lived in, and she wanted to study the sample they had in order to combat it. She was supposed to return, though the fact the mystery woman removed all memories of herself from Circe’s mind was another knife in the back.

                        Circe had met the woman at Lady’s Last Choice, so we have something of a lead there. She was a bit distraught, and wanted to resign immediately. Jadzia and Jana tried to talk her around, pointing out that she should learn from her mistake and do what she could to bring good to the world. Aoibhell backed them up, pointing out that the plants liked and trusted her. Darcy gave her a good speech as well, and in the end we left her in the caring hands of Tori. They were clearly old friends, and Circe seemed to hold something of a torch for the handsome knight (I don’t think any of us blamed her). Hopefully Tori will get her all straightened out.

                        Tanith was able to scry on the mystery seductress, determining that she was most likely an inamorata. Apparently her first reaction to realizing she was being scryed upon was to begin a strip tease, and she was quite good at it. Tanith wasn’t able to determine where she was, other than perhaps an inn. So, no clear path forward at the moment, but it’s definitely something to keep an eye on. I need to let Annette know about the whole flesh dissolving plant thing. I’m sure she’ll be thrilled.

                        [Cloven hoof mark]

                        {Note attached to the second page of the report}

                        K -

                        I got to talk to Aoibhell about the whole history thing I learned in Lumina. I tried to ease into it, but she caught on quick. I mean, it is pretty clear – even if I hadn’t heard the story in a context so tied to her, I might very well have thought of her. It explains things, like the fact that she has no childhood memories, and in fact her first memories are around the time of the battle that wiped out the vata. And her feelings of liminality – she wasn’t born of two different worlds, but some strong magic had been employed to pull her from one world to another, leaving her suspended between.

                        She’s not really certain what to do with the information, and I couldn’t really help in that arena. She’s going to look into it in the vata library and see if she can find any further information. I promised we’d help out if she found anything that could be acted on, but we’ll have to see. Vata magic is something else sometimes, but hopefully we’ll be able to do something for her.

                        Yours -
                        A


                        Tanith’s Diary

                        We have reached a dead end.

                        The disappearances in the Echo house were tied to some sort of plant based attack. Flesh eating spores, specifically. We were clued in by Zane (who feels she owes us, but not enough to use the front door) and met a Quiet Knight named Tori Dare who finally brought us around to the right direction, specifically, the Academy of Arcanobotany. A weapon from the Empire of Thorns era was stolen from the Academy, which was discovered by a Arcanobotonist named Circe who called in her old friend Tori. Ironically.

                        I say ironically because Circe was the thief. While use of Object Reading did not prove all that helpful, I found with a quick scan she had magically erased memories. While she got very defensive when I brought it up, Darcy calmed her, and she let me in. She insisted I not see the memories, and I didn’t look. She was…upset. Turns out, she was seduced by a Sea Woman, who talked her into taking it for a transparent story about a lake needing a cure for it, or something like that. She also talked her into removing her memories. So Circe stole it, and allowed her memory to be removed to help cover it up.

                        Aoibhell was some help as well. She finally got the tour of the city, and conveniently was able to be summoned to use her connection to plant life to help confirm some of the theories Circe had. She was a lot of help. I like Aoibhell, and I am glad she and Ash are such good friends.

                        Cassilda is getting better by the day. I am trying to balance nursing her back to health with not neglecting Jana or Jadzia. Jadzia has been so tense the past few days. I know she disapproves of Cassilda, but she also cares too much to intervene. I think her feelings blind her to the fact it is as much my fault as Cassilda’s. Jana seems fine, which is good.

                        On the opposite side, Camilla has not warmed to my relationship with Cassilda either, from the other side. She has, at least, repaired her friendship with Saffron. Who is not getting herself in danger to be rescued from. For now.

                        I really want to achieve peace between Cassilda, Jana and Jadzia. At least jealousy is not the issue. I will try and see what I can do. Cassilda and Jadzia are not natural friends. One is a strong, bold heroic horsewoman, the other is a refined politico. They are rather opposites in their view of the world. But I have to try.

                        When Cassilda ascended to the head of the house, I stood in as her consort. I had Thale and Cordelia’s support, but Camilla did not say one word to me. Mostly I tried to keep Camilla and Jadzia separate, as I think either’s behavior would enrage the other and that would not end well for Camilla. She lacks her sister’s maturity.

                        Still, it has ended better than I feared. Perhaps we will have some time to relax now, and I can finish nursing Cassilda back to health. Maybe in time for the shapers to finish getting her home to ground level.

                        End Session XLVII

                        Stir of Echoes Completed

                        The Arcanobotony Academy is in Aldis: City of the Blue Rose.

                        Well that wraps things up for now, but a lot of threads are, as I say, left dangling. Don’t worry, I will return to it. In the meantime, a different thread will be tended to as our heroes head to Jarzon. See you then. Comments and Question welcome.
                        Running: Blue Rose AGE (Cat's Cradle) Blue Rose AGE (Big Damn Heroes)
                        "That Queer Goth Chick." "You are going to have to be more specific"

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                        • #72
                          Darcy’s old friend Amaiala Arrora has gone missing, with the claim that she can now turn Night People into humans. Concerned, the Cradle travel into the hostile land of Jarzon, starting with the inhospitable Veran Marsh.

                          Session XLIX

                          Shadow on the Sand Part I

                          Ashlin’s Reports

                          Report from Ash, decoded by Kait, sent 18 Auloreth

                          Infiltration successful, and easier than I expected at that. Not that we didn’t run into the odd gatorkin or giant frog-like basilisk, and some far off swamp gas wisps. But no more than you would expect in a place that was once a sorcerer’s battleground. I mean, we also met pirates, smugglers and a whole boatload (or two, we had horses) of thieves, and you don’t see me complaining about that, right?

                          We met Zacchaeus at a camp just ways down the Great Westerly Road. He’d been doing some looking into Amaiala’s whereabouts – her official ones are ‘at the Bright Cathedral, of course’! - but hadn’t had much luck there. He had his top people on it, a contact form his more disreputable days that he trusted and was skilled at such things. She was looking into a companion of Amaiala, someone who stayed close but was not as high profile, and thus society at large was a little less “sure” about where she was. We were to meet this friend of Zacchaeus’ just inside the border of Jarzon.

                          Therein lay the rub, of course. Jarzon keeps its border tight, and without consenting to allowing their priests to look for our intentions within our minds, we would not have been allowed in. Zacchaeus is more committed than he often lets on. Jarzon is a difficult place to live in – he told us a story about a village that had been overrun by a colony of Shadowbugs that would crawl inside their victims and wear their skin in order to infiltrate the village itself, and then beyond. They do have their reasons for paranoia, I will allow them. I do still prefer the more freewheeling ways of Aldis, and think that one could stand guard without being quite so… restrictive, but perhaps that way lies madness, though Zacchaeus seems to navigate it just fine. Though I’m sure there are plenty who would say he’d taken a step off the deep end.

                          Anyways, we couldn’t go in via Fiery Defense. Zacchaeus gave us options, and we went with the ‘minimal time in the swamp plus help from pirates’ route, though Darcy promised Maria we’d consider taking the path that goes by the old ruins on the way back. The big guy is worried. He had a lot of talks with Amaiala and is very worried about her. I hope we can get him some good news soon.

                          The path to the Serpent’s Haven went well, as evil swamps go. The basilisk was clearly intending to startle us into bolting, and while its poison was vile, when we didn’t bolt, we made short work of it. The gatorkin were a bigger problem (a bigger group, really), but after we took down three of the seven, the other four bolted.

                          Serpent’s Haven itself was not an issue either. They have an interesting signaling device, some kind of treated wood torches that, once lit, glow particular colors. I took note of the purple that Zacchaeus said meant “come pick me up, it’s safe”. Apparently, there’s a different shade of purple for “come pick me up, it’s maybe not safe?” I think I could recreate the shade, and the movements he made, should it come down to it, but I wasn’t able to figure out any more of the language. We didn’t stay long, just overnight after having arrived in the evening. Zacchaeus’… friendship with Miss Serpent-tongue served us well, and she (being the leader in town) got us boats for all of us and our horses. According to Zacchaeus, it took some tense and vigorous negotiation to work that out.

                          The boats were certainly the way to travel on the swamp. Quicker, less sticky (less sticky), and with the ogre going out ahead of us to announce with his big maul that a big group was coming through, much fewer monsters. The handful that we saw after Serpent’s Haven, we saw running away. They left us just outside the Jarzoni border. If we ever really need to get into Jarzon, we should definitely consider some contacts there.

                          Inside the border, we ran into a handful of patrols, but none of them gave us any trouble, likely because of Zacchaeus’ presence. I’m sure the shrouding cloaks Darcy and Jana wore helped as well. Tanith had a ring that made her appear to be a vata-an, just in case we needed her to smile pretty at somebody, though her Kernish accent might cause issues should she have to talk. Anyway, a short ride got us to Dawnhearth, and he led us directly to Leonath’s Rest, a good inn with a decent enough stable for Jadzia to be satisfied. Zacchaeus knocked on a particular room, and who greeted us but the lovely face that Tanith had so recently encountered via scrying!

                          As it turns out, Zacchaeus’ friend Vicious Whisper had very recently worked a job in Aldis City, where she was acquiring a bit of flesh eating spores for an unnamed client. She is precisely as personable as one would expect someone who seduced a quantity of sorcerous plants from a conscientious Adept with a fairly flimsy story to be. As I mentioned, she wouldn’t let on who she was working for, though she at least claimed to be fairly certain that her employer was not a sorcerer, and merely intended to use it to dispose of evidence. Not a stunning avowal of character, but such is the way of things. Even without letting on anything, knowing who the Shadow Broker uses for delicate jobs gives us more of a handle than we had.

                          Anyways, Vicious Whisper is good at her job, and while that doesn’t make me trust her per se, I do have to respect her skills. I am most uncomfortable with the way she used Arcana on Circe, though I didn’t see the need to let that on. She had a considerable amount of useful information – Nanea, the priestess companion of Amaiala, was being kept as a ‘guest’ at a small chapter of healing women, a collection of specialists in all manner of serious ailments. The healing women themselves weren’t her captors, and they did not care for her captors either, as they were not accustomed to having armed men in their chapterhouse.

                          The chapterhouse itself is up on a mesa, with high walls. Their patients come with recommendations from their local cleric, and are always escorted by them. Vicious Whisper offered to play that role, as she had already pilfered some appropriate attire, but she also has some leads to look into with regards to Amaiala herself. It is not unheard of for a Knight of Purity to take the place of a cleric in the aforementioned situation, especially if the disease one is afflicted by makes one dangerous to oneself or others. Like, say, an unfortunate case of lycanthropy. That is made even better by the fact that it will be Zacchaeus as the Knight of Purity, as he is immune to the condition, so would be the perfect person to serve as such an escort.

                          And so our current plan has us leaving for the chapterhouse in the morning. I will be the poor unfortunate that Zacchaeus dug up in the swamp and took pity on. That will get he and I inside, and Jadzia will attempt to get inside as well, more stealthily as opposed to deceptively, just in case, though she will be dressed as one of the healing women, which should be interesting to look at. Part of our approach will involve being distracting enough to help her out with the whole stealth angle, not that she isn’t perfectly capable on her own. However, it is a long climb, and a coverless approach, so every little bit helps. The others will be nearby protecting the horses, covering our retreat, and possibly serving as the cavalry, should we wind up needing backup.

                          Here’s hoping we don’t!

                          [Cloven hoof mark]


                          Jana’s Letters

                          Dear Mother,

                          I’ve never doubted my lineage and am not doing so now but I am conflicted. I grew up being told that being Vata’sha was good and that Vata’an were bad. Not that they were bad people per se but their race was not good. I only remember seeing a Vata’an once in my life and they were on the opposite end of a Skull Knight’s sword at the time. Not mine but one of my comrades-in-arms. I don’t know how they had managed to live to adulthood and not be found out but they had. I’m sure that the neighbors knew something, but they weren’t talking. I wish I could have left before the sorcerers started forcing their way into people’s minds to find out who had been disloyal. It was not pretty. The harder people fought against the invasion into their minds the harder the sorcerers pushed. The Vata’an and her parents were killed. There was never any question about that. It was just a matter of how many people in the neighborhood would join them in being punished. And now I’m in a place where Vata’an are good and being Vata’sha is bad. I don’t like having to hide what I am, but ever since we snuck into Jarzon I have been. There’s also the fact that my love Tanith is wearing a magic ring that makes her look like she’s a Vata’an. There’s no hiding her Kernish accent when she talks, but I suggested that she say that she fled Kern when she was found out. No one would doubt that story. It’s well known what happens to Vata’an in Kern. I guess that’s why I’m conflicted. I grew up knowing that Vata’an were bad and now my lover is disguised as one. I much prefer seeing her own beautiful face rather than the illusion that is created by the ring.

                          So, Jarzon. I’ve never been here before and I’m not sure that I want to come back. The country is paranoid about Shadowspawn. I suppose that they have good reason to be afraid, at least according to Zacchaeus they certainly do. Bugs that can take over a person’s body and continue to spawn more by laying eggs in that person’s family. And you can’t tell that it’s a bug in control unless you have someone read their mind to find out their intentions. If their intentions involve laying more eggs then obviously they need to be put down. I understand the need to read people’s minds but I’m still not keen on having someone root around in my brain. And if you don’t agree to let them read your mind you get locked up. Again, I see why they do it. I just don’t agree with it on a personal level. I suppose it’s mostly because I don’t want to get my mind read and if I refuse, I don’t want to get locked up. I have been afraid of being locked up since I left Kern. I know that I probably deserve to be locked up for the things that I did as a Skull Knight, but I’m selfish. I don’t want to be locked away from my friends and lovers. Hopefully if I’m ever found out they will look at my recent record and see that I have good intentions. I mean, they didn’t lock up Marcus when he defected. He helped get intel out of Kern so they knew that he was working on the side of Aldis City, which was good. They took his weapons from him, but allowed him his freedom at the fort. And now he’s a Rose Knight. Different kind of Knight altogether than what he had been. I know he’s been enjoying his new life in Aldis and I’m happy for him. I have also been enjoying my time here. It’s so laid back and the people are friendly. You don’t need to worry about other people’s intentions towards you for the most part. You would have liked it here. You could have pursued your love of art here and not had to worry about depicting the right things. Freedom in Aldis extends to all mediums and it is wonderful to see.

                          We made it to a smuggler’s haven in Jarzon with Zacchaeus’ help. He introduced us to his old comrade Shan Serpenttongue. He “negotiated” with her that night and in the morning she agreed to help us get into Jarzon by way of swamp boats and ogres. The ogres scared away anything that even thought about attacking us and we made good time. Our goal here is to locate Amaiala, Zacchaeus’ partner. She has apparently been in Jarzon working on a way to turn Shadowspawn into humans. The rumor said that she was able to turn Night People into humans. The whole idea is abhorrent to me… turning people into humans just because their actual race is not popular. I have learned in the time that I’ve been in Aldis that Night People are not all bad, and I know that not all Vata’sha are evil. My love and her father are both prime examples of virtuous people and they are Vata’sha. I don’t think it’s right to change something so fundamental about a person such as race just because someone else likes humans better. I have nothing against humans, but I’d rather be myself than a human. I look like you and you were a wonderful person. I’m so sorry that your light was extinguished too early. If I ever see father again I will break him. I know, you do not approve of that sentiment, but I hate him. He was such a good, loyal Kernish citizen, and such a terrible person.

                          We went to a new town in the morning called Dawn Hearth. Darcy and myself had to be disguised so that others could not see that we were Shadowspawn. We met up with a woman called Vicious Whisper at a place called Leonoth's Rest. Vicious Whisper is the same seafolk woman that “convinced” our herbalist friend to steal the flesh-eating spores from Aldis City. She said that she didn’t ask questions when it came to her client’s identity. The others didn’t press any further, though I’m pretty sure that Jadzia would have been happy to.

                          What we did find out is that Vicious Whisper did find a woman named Nanea Anzu, a cleric woman, that may know where Amaiala is. Nanea is currently being held at a small Chapter of Healing Women in the country. Our goal is to have Ash pretend to be someone afflicted by lycanthropy and have Zacchaeus be the guard escorting them to be treated at the chapter. Jadzia will sneak in along the back wall late at night and don the clothes of one of the healing women and find Nanea. The rest of us will wait outside of the village and wait for any indication that we are needed. Ash will be in mental communication with Tanith so we will know immediately if there is any trouble that we need to attend to. Gods be with us. I’m actually hoping that there won’t be a fight tonight.

                          Love,

                          Jana


                          Tanith’s Diary

                          So today I was not Vata enough for what we are doing. The Vata’An are called “True Vata” for a reason I suppose, being part of a Vata lineage not poisoned by Sorcery. I am a tainted creature, a Vata’Sha, dark Vata or Shadow Vata.

                          I am a Vata, child of two Vata, one of whom had a Vata parent as well, and she had two Vata parents. But at the same time I am less of a Vata than most other Vata. Even sinister Llorona is a true Vata, with no dark taint to her lineage. She is more Vata than I am.

                          Father tried to keep any taunts of being a Shadowspawn away from my ears as a child. I am sure Mom would have if she had lived. I did not even see a Vata’An, that I am aware of, until I was at least six. I thought it was so strange that this boy was similar to me yet looked so strangely different. Little did I know then that I was the freak. Father tried to just tell me he was a different sort of Vata than we were, and that that was okay, just as Humans come in different colors and sizes. But the boy, whose name I have long forgotten felt different to me. I knew there was a difference. I sensed Father was lying, but I did not challenge him.

                          I admit I had been feeling a bit better about it since Lumina, where the Vatazin laboratory simply responded to me as a Vata, without any hesitation over me being a Vata’Sha. Granted we Shadow Vata were not widespread just yet. They may not have known we existed to compensate their lab. I can’t know. I just know it simply responded to me as a Vata, as if I were Vata’An.

                          Today was my first trip to Jarzon, and as a precaution, I was given a ring so I would appear as a Vata’An, so that no onlooker would see me and know me as a Shadowspawn. I can hide the secret of my birth, that I am not quite the Vata other Vata are.

                          Anyway

                          We met Zacchaeus on the Great Westerly Road. He was his usual chatty self. A big quick with the Jarzoni apologia, but that’s not too surprising. He is still a Knight of Purity, however much he enjoys being “bad” at it. He wound up talking us into going to Serpent’s Haven, a smuggler town run by a Vata’Sha (of course, why wouldn’t a crime ridden hive be run by a Shadowspawn such as myself) to avoid the Confessors in Fiery Defense. The trip was eventful, involving a battle with a Basilisk and a bunch of Gatorkin, though we persevered without too much difficulty. Zacchaeus entertained us by discussing all the horrors awaiting in the swamp. So kind of him.

                          Serpent’s Haven was…different…from other towns and villages I have visited. Ashlin and Darcy did not seem too phased, and Jana and Jadzia did not look at it that much different from anywhere else in Aldis. I went with Zacchaeus and Maria to meet Shan Serpentongue. Apparently Zacchaeus is an old flame, and promptly charmed his way into her bed. We slept in a rickety hotel with thin walls.

                          But Zacchaeus managed to get us a ride into Jarzon, courtesy of two boats of archers and an Ogre who wades ahead smashing his (please let that be a him) maul into the water. Soon enough we were on the road to Dawnhearth.

                          And that is where we met Vicious Whisper. The woman who had betrayed Circe and seduced her into betraying her Academy. She recognized me even with the True Vata illusion on. Probably because she recognized my psychic impression. Vicious Whisper is charming. Really charming. She was teasing Jadzia a lot, laying the groundwork no doubt. Like a lot of women we have met she seemed very loyal to Zacchaeus. I was well aware she could be playing us, but I don’t think so. I honestly think she cares a lot about the Knight.

                          She says she was simply hired to acquire the spores, and given Circe’s name. She chose to, in her mind, do this in as pleasant a way as possible. In her mind, she guided Circe to do it in a way she would not be caught and talked her into erasing the memory to make sure she got in no trouble. In her mind she protected, not betrayed, Circe. My conscience is not quite so flexible. Admittedly, we only figured it out as I had the mind to check and see if she was being controlled or had memories changed. Still, not a shred of remorse.

                          So, on the subject of our meeting, she has turned up nothing on Amaiala. But she has found a Cleric she worked with who is currently kind of exiled to a cloister of healers. Apparently in Jarzon, Healers are mostly women. If I recall my lessons, the only female Priests in fact, and female Adepts are pushed toward being Healers. Great, now I feel like a stereotype.

                          Anyway we hatched a plan. Vicious Whisper would be dispatched to keep looking for clues. I would remain in contact with her. She and I have a slight bond from the scrying so it would be easier for me than Maria, and she “wants to get to know me better” anyway. Zacchaeus will escort Ashlin there, who will be feigning a struggle with Lycanthropy. Jadzia, my sleek panther, will be sneaking in. The rest of us will make camp nearby in case an escape was needed.

                          We parted ways, Vicious Whisper wanting to spend the night with Zacchaeus (though not before making me a promise with her eyes. Yes, even after being caught out as someone who had manipulated Circe). And we retired to our own rooms. I snuggled up with Jadzia and Jana. I love them both dearly. Such brave, dangerous adventuresses I have. Jadzia does not seem to care Jana and I are Vata’Sha. I’ve never spoken to either about it. I would not dare say a bad thing about Jana’s heritage. I don’t know. Jana seems to have enough issues about herself as is.

                          Jadzia told me to take the ring off though. I am so happy about that. So happy.

                          High stakes infiltration missions are not the place for existential angst. And Jadzia seems to be going out of her way to be there for me. I will probably be all right. Probably. I just hate pretending to be better than I am.

                          End Session XLIX

                          Gatorkin and the Basilisk are in the Fantasy AGE Bestiary. Werecreatures are there as well. On the subject of books, note A Guide to Shadowtide has a lot of extra Veran and Serpent’s Haven info.

                          I ruled as a Shapeshifter, Zacchaeus was immune to Lycanthropy. It made for a good plot point. If someone plays a Shapeshifter in a future game I will keep the rule…I doubt it would be a plot issue.

                          Quick note Jana referred to Amaiala as Zacchaeus’s partner. She has partnered with him several times, but it is non-Romantic. Just wanted to be 100% Clear.

                          We had some handouts come out I will see about putting some info from up in the off weeks.

                          I think that covers everything. Comments and Questions are always welcome.
                          Running: Blue Rose AGE (Cat's Cradle) Blue Rose AGE (Big Damn Heroes)
                          "That Queer Goth Chick." "You are going to have to be more specific"

                          Comment


                          • #73
                            In hostile territory, the heroes find themselves stalked and forced to hide in criminal areas. A more immediate rescue mission draws dark eyes to their activities as they try to rescue their heroic friend.

                            Session L

                            Shadow on the Sands Part II

                            Ashlin’s Reports

                            Report from Ash, decoded by Kait, sent 20 Auloreth

                            So as to get you off the edge of your seat, we did not wind up needing cavalry. In fact, it was a piece of cake. I should infiltrate monasteries full of charming young ladies more often and try to do it when there were not important doings at hand. Even Zacchaeus put aside his usual dalliances (though not his flirtatious manner, I’m pretty sure he’ll part with that on his death bed and never before and even then it’ll just be a momentary setting aside). None of the ladies did anything more than play with his sword, and I mean that in an entirely, one hundred percent literal way.

                            He was shaken by our encounter with the guarding Knights of Purity, I think. We ran into a charming fellow named Humboldt on the way in who has… history with Zacchaeus. It was our first inkling of who is behind Amiala’s disappearance, however, as the bitter Knight works for a member of the ruling Council, one Keeper Namon. He is a simply lovely sounding vata’an who has this crazy idea that it would be a good thing to excise all Shadowspawn from the Wheel entirely. Apparently this wonderful idea earned him a “censure” from the government, but his connections meant he still held a position of Keeper, so that’s something.

                            Jadzia is pretty into the idea of killing Namon. Zacchaeus pointed out that killing him would like provoke a bloody war, where many people without horribly awful ideas would get killed as well. She’s pinning her hopes on whatever we find being enough to finally get him kicked off the council. If she has her way, his stint as an ex-council member will be very short. As much as I’m not generally a plan of cold-blooded murder as a panacea, I gotta admit that his brand of evil is something that I would rather not have the time to bring itself to fruition.

                            Humboldt is a more complicated situation, and probably one we will run into again. He was a hero, at least at one point – he only has one eye, and a scarred up face from when he fought off an acid-spitting creature to protect a family. Since then though… the history he and Zacchaeus have is that Zacchaeus fought him to protect a ‘Shadowspawn’ child, after which Humboldt got in trouble with his ever-benevolent boss.

                            So Zacchaeus got a bit shirty, and Humboldt got all glarey, but he let us by with poor sick little me. That Humboldt didn’t like me even won us bonus points with the healing Adepts inside, though they did acknowledge that he was here to protect Lady Nanea. The Lady herself didn’t agree with that assessment, as Jadzia and I found when night had fallen and we were able to go out sneaking.

                            Jadzia didn’t have any troubles getting in either, and I met up with her near Nanea’s room. She did look pretty cute in the healer’s getup, and it was ideal for the little moments that needed to be done in the open, like knocking on the door and waiting on the response. The response was quick enough that it wouldn’t have been a big deal, but it was more comfortable having someone that was safe to linger in the hallway with a patrolling guard do the knocking. Nanea herself was pretty sure we were there to kill her, but we talked her around pretty quickly, though Jadzia’s disgust at even the more enlightened general Jarzoni attitude towards ‘Shadowspawn’ was a bit of a stumbling block for a moment.

                            Her story was that there was some question over the piety of she and Amaiala’s research, with only Namon being solicitous about their results. Nanea and Amaiala weren’t ignorant of his past desires, but he managed to convince him that if their research bore fruit, then it would satisfy his original goal of the eradication of the ‘Shadowspawn’ without any bloodshed. Something had begun to trouble Amaiala about their research however, and she sent Nanea away to rest. That was the last time Nanea saw her or heard from her at all. Namon had come for her, telling her that Amaiala had succeeded and that Nanea deserved a vacation, and there things stood.

                            She was willing to come with us, both because her visions had grown ominous (something about death, though they were beacons of clarity, as visions often aren’t) and because Humboldt gave her the creeps. That was more than good enough for our purposes, even if she didn’t have much for us to go on. She did remember that Humboldt had received a letter roughly two days before, so we worked the liberation of that in as well.

                            We went over a couple of plans but settled on getting her out in plain sight, since she didn’t seem particular skilled at the climbing over walls and down mesas side of things. So she was called down to help the poor soul suffering from lycanthropy, who managed to make a quick recovery under her skilled care. Then Nanea went back up to her room, clearly quite tuckered out after a strenuous healing.

                            Humboldt didn’t seem to notice that Zacchaeus’ patient looked more different than a cure for lycanthropy would account for, probably on account of my amazing Adeptry (and the fact he was too busy trying to kill Zacchaeus with his brain). Meanwhile, me and Jadzia slipped into the guard room with a bare minimum of trouble. She went for the lockbox that Zacchaeus advised us would probably have the letters in it, and I checked out the rest of the place, finding a small vial of poison, the kind that made it look like you died from severe food poisoning.

                            I didn’t care for the implication there, so I neutralized the poison using the dagger Lumina had given me, then poured it over the guards’ food stores, not only making sure it was clear I’d done so by sight, but also placing the empty bottle next to it. Jadzia looked through the lockbox quickly, making sure the letters were in it. She also found a worn picture of a young girl that she left on the desk, as we had no intention of being cruel with our thievery.

                            The climb down was easy – the mesa was less vertical than most buildings I got used to climbing – and we met up with the others before making tracks, fast. We didn’t have much a direction to head in, as the letters were in code, and Vicious Whisper hadn’t contacted Zacchaeus with any new information. We considered going for a town to the northeast that was friendly to Zacchaeus, and would have helped him and us lay low, but we were reluctant to involve any normal citizens. Our other option was to take hospitality at a local bandit fortress, one that Humboldt was unlikely to even know where to find, even if he did get word somehow that we were staying at such a place.

                            Bor, the bandit leader, is a jovial sort and clearly fond of Zacchaeus, though not fond enough to forgo some reimbursement. Luckily, we had a nice pile of coinage that just fell into our lap recently. Zacchaeus does have a wide variety of friends, not that I can complain. Speaking of his friends though, he did agree to talk with Vicious Whisper about continuing to support the Shadowbroker, after hearing the full story of things. He can’t promise anything, but he did say he’d discuss it with her. Anyway, since the bow-point greeting, it’s been all hospitality, so it’s time for me to start deciphering some letters...

                            [Cloven hoof mark]


                            Report from Ash, decoded by Kait, sent 22 Auloreth

                            Well, I’ve finally finished the decoding. It was a doozy – there was a moment I was fairly certain that the picture we left behind was the key somehow, and we’d blown it – but I got it in the end. It was a nice exercise for the old brain muscles.

                            Apparently the others had fun too, as we now have a new friend, a demon hunter name Slade the Grimlock, who is our friend despite Zacchaeus beginning the conversations by insinuating that he was having sex with Slade’s mother. Demon hunters are a big deal over here, a ‘friend to the little people’ kinda thing apparently – Bor really liked them as a whole thing, and Nanea was less sold on them. He seems pretty capable and solid. He followed us from the swamp to the Hospitallers’ place and then away again, worried we’d kidnapped Nanea. He didn’t seem to be particularly worried about the whole ‘Shadowspawn’ thing though, engaging with Darcy at least as a Dancer, not, you know, a probably evil abomination.

                            Anyway, he doesn’t like the idea of a potentially sorcerous Keeper anymore than any of us do, and is more than one willing to put one in the eye of any Keeper for whatever reason, so he agreed to help out, as long as it was understood he’s his own man, and not working under our orders.

                            The letters did give us some idea of a heading. There wasn’t anything particularly detailed, though it seemed clear Humboldt had orders to kill Nanea only if she seemed to be serious trouble. The implication was definitely that her life was being used as leverage against Amaiala, so that spoke positively to her being alive. She almost certainly wasn’t being kept at Namon’s manor in Leograth, though he was sending people and supplies to wherever she was. So that was our target.

                            We wanted to get Nanea to safety before we wandered directly into the lion’s den, so we made plans to settle her in a Temple of Light with a Keeper friendly to Zacchaeus. That changed quickly when Bor got us news, as we were leaving, that the word being bruited about was that Zacchaeus was a wanted man, and the claim was that he was being mind-controlled to kidnap Nanea from the Hospitallers. Thankfully the only other description they had was of my disguise. As it is, we bought a cart from the bandits to carry Zacchaeus’ armor, and he’s going to try and slum it like some kind of common person for a bit. I’m sure it will be hard for him.

                            But that did mean we hit upon an even better idea. We would take Nanea with us to Leograth, but she and I would be sneaking into the headquarters of the Knights of Purity. I was hoping I could convince them to not only protect Nanea (that seemed easy enough) but also to keep them from charging after Namon with all the force of a rubber mallet (seemed a bit more difficult, but doable). There wasn’t really anywhere else I really trusted to be able to keep her safe, and considering that it was at least in part to protect one of their own, they have ample motivation. And maybe we’ll even get some back up once the muscle (political or physical) becomes necessary.

                            Another consideration for our upcoming foray is that Darcy is a sore thumb, but the kinda sore thumb that you arrest on suspicion of existing. Unfortunately that means he’ll be sitting this one out, at least for so long as we are in the city. On the bright side, if Zacchaeus can sweet talk a friend of his, Darcy might spend the whole time handing out with inamoratas (Zacchaeus is really treading on thin ice with Tanith, not solely, but largely due to his frequent use of the words ‘whore’ and ‘whorehouse’).

                            We definitely are going to be splitting up, to make a smaller splash in the slightly more closed off ecosystem that is Leograth and to get eyes on a larger view of the city. For starters, we’re just keeping an eye on things, trying to see where he’s sending things and receiving people from. We may get lucky there, but most likely we’ll end up needing to sneak in. I should go ahead and start brainstorming interesting presents for our unknowing host.

                            [Cloven hoof mark]


                            Jana’s Letters

                            Dear Mother,

                            I have a feeling that before too much longer either me or Darcy is going to be accused of sorcery. I suppose that I should explain. A couple days ago Ashlin and Zacchaeus walked into the house of healing that Nanea, the healer we were looking for, was supposed to be. Jadzia snuck over the back wall and in through the roof gardens while Ashlin was disguised and pretending to be an unfortunate soul afflicted with lycanthropy. Zacchaeus was his guard/escort. They ran into a little bit of trouble near the gate, from what they said later. They ran into a thug/guard named Humboldt. He initially wouldn’t let them past, but Zacchaeus eventually talked their way past. It seems that this Humboldt, also a Knight of Purity, works for a man named Keeper Namon, who wants to purify shadowspawn. That would be me, my friend and my lover. It is said that Namon wants to remove shadowspawn from the wheel of reincarnation altogether. I’m not sure how he plans to go about doing that, but just the idea is chilling to me. If he makes any headway into this pursuit of his would it just affect those that are still living or would it affect those of you who have already passed on? Would it pull souls out of the wheel itself? I can’t abide by that. I will not let him pull you from the cycle of reincarnation. I will not let him deny my friends the ability to be reborn when the gods deem it their time. It also turns out that his man Humboldt is a shadowspawn slayer. In much the same way that I hunt down the undead he hunts down shadowspawn. Now granted, I’m sure that a lot of the shadowspawn that he has killed have been evil individuals. Not all of us are good or are even trying to be. But I would bet that he has killed a lot of innocent Vata’sha and Nightpeople just because of what they are. He does not seem to be the forgiving type from Ashlin and Zacchaeus’ descriptions of him. Him or his employer. Unfortunately it seems that Namon was the only one of the Keepers that would fund or help Amaiala’s work, so we need to seek him out in order to find out what has happened to Amaiala.

                            So, the others managed to rescue Nanea by disguising her and sneaking her out as a newly healed “Ashlin” or at least the character that he played on the way in. Meanwhile my love Jadzia and the true Ashlin made their way over the back wall and met up with us later. Nanea told us her story. She said that Namon started funding Amaiala’s work but that soon she went silent and stopped communicating with Nanea. Nanea lost touch with Amaiala altogether and Humboldt showed up to escort her to the healing house where she would be kept safe. Nanea was convinced that her life was in danger and apparently confronted my friends when they first introduced themselves asking if they were there to kill her. They assured her of their good intentions and now she is traveling with us. Nanea also told them that Humboldt had gotten a secret missive from Namon a couple days prior. So Jadzia and Ashlin snuck into the guard house and picked the lock on Humboldt’s lockbox. They confirmed that the letters were in there and took everything save an old picture of a young girl. That they left there for Humboldt. They also found a bottle of poison that mimics the symptoms of food poisoning. It would be fatal before the healer’s realized that it wasn’t food poisoning, if they figured it out at all. Ashlin decided to leave a message. He neutralized the poison with his magic dagger and proceeded to obviously spread the liquid all over the guard’s food. He then left the bottle with the cork beside it on a nearby table. I thought it was clever.

                            We are currently headed for Leogarth to look for Amaiala and possibly Namon. Zacchaeus is convinced that Namon is secretly a sorcerer and that his work has been corrupted over time to the point that he is just killing innocent shadowspawn people, or having his man Humboldt do it. I will not let them get away with killing the innocent. I was forced to do it when I was a Skull Knight and it made me feel sick every time. For a little while I tried to convince myself that me killing them and returning them to the cycle of reincarnation was a better fate than to have the sorcerers get their dirty hands on them and do experiments. I’ve heard of what happened to some of the people that ended up in the Tower and it’s not pretty. I have since changed my way of thinking. It was a hard road back, but I think I have dug myself out of the hole that I had found myself in. I think that I am on the right path now, though it may lead to my death.

                            Oh yeah, I need to explain that comment. We headed for a bandit camp that Zacchaeus knew about and trusted the inhabitants to keep us safe. They did just that. They warned us when a demon-hunter showed up near the gate looking for our group. We send out an envoy that consisted of Zacchaeus, Jadzia and Nanea to talk to him. They also brought food as a gesture of goodwill. They talked and came to an agreement once the man, Slade the Grimlock, realized that Nanea was traveling with us willingly. He came to the camp and Darcy filled him in on what has been going on and what we have found out so far. Slade took the revelation of some of our origins in stride and didn’t make any comments toward Darcy save for acknowledging him as a Spirit Dancer.

                            After Ashlin had decoded the letters, which took a couple of days, we packed up and left. We borrowed a cart from the bandits and hid Zacchaeus’ armor on it. We also had Darcy disguise himself as a sick person and bundled him up in his cloak and some blankets. Even if he was cloaked, he would have stood out as far too tall for a normal human. But curled up on the back of the cart he looks much smaller than his actual size. My height is not outside the human norm and I am covered in plate armor from head to toe. No one can see that I am Vata’sha. And Tanith of course currently looks like a Vata’an. It’s still strange to look at her in that guise, but at least her eyes are the same. That gives me comfort.

                            Just the other day, before we left the bandit’s hideout, we heard rumors and found flyers that stated that Zacchaeus was under the control of a sorcerer and that he had kidnapped Nanea. So we are all traveling in disguise to Leogarth with the hopes that we will get a lead to Amaiala from there. From the letters Humboldt had we know that she is not currently with Namon, but he or others in town may know where she is. So that is where we are headed. Our plan is to sneak Zacchaeus and Darcy into a pillow house that Zacchaeus knows of and the rest of us will split up into separate hotels. When we come up with a more detailed plan I will let you know. I just wanted to send this to you now so that if Darcy or myself is accused of being the sorcerer controlling Zacchaeus you’ll know what happened and why. In that instance it would likely be me that they accuse since Vata’sha are all born with some arcane abilities. Adepts don’t usually carry large swords though. Whatever happens I will not allow them to hurt my friends, if they should be the ones suspected. I will protect them with my dying breath.

                            Love Always,

                            Jana


                            Tanith’s Diary

                            We have been riding for days. I am glad I brought Shadow Runner with me.

                            We went to the Hospitallers, ah, Temple? Hospital? My Jadzia infiltrated it while Zacchaeus and Ashlin went in the front door, Ashlin feigning lycanthropy, and sparing us Zacchaeus’s “wit” for a while. The end result was they helped escape a Hospitaller Cleric, Nanea Anazu. She worked with Amaiala, and had some information, mainly that a Vata’An named Keeper Namon was trying to cut off Shadowspawn such as myself from the wheel of reincarnation. I am so hated just for being what I am. Zacchaeus suspects Keeper Namon may be a Sorcerer, corrupted his desire for purity and the eradication of Shadowspawn. I can only wonder. Anyway, he separated Nanea from Amaiala when the Knight discovered something concerning, and had his hatchet man, the Knight of Purity Humboldt, who “does not think [Zacchaeus] is funny.” Ashlin backed Zacchaeus up that he was a thug. Anyway, Nanea was afraid for her life, so Ashlin used their skill with Illusion to help get her out (disguised as themselves along with Zacchaeus) while they and Jadzia slipped back out the path Jadzia came in, but only after the two stole a strongbox full of letters, and made the food look poisoned.

                            There was some debate where to go next; Nanea would be noted as missing quickly. Zacchaeus suggested hiding in a small town again, but we decided to hide out at a fortified bandit camp. Apparently, Zacchaeus has a lot of friends on the shady side of the law, especially for a Knight of Purity. We traveled about two days, with no sign of any Knights or travelers being suspicious of us. The camp was run by a Bandit named Bor, a large bearded human who was pleased to see Zacchaeus, if less so than Shan was. We gave Bor the strongbox, sans letters, which Ashlin set themself to decoding.

                            Bor drew our attention to the fact we were being stalked by a Demon Hunter, a sort of non church sanctioned vigilante hunter of Darkfiends and Undead in Jarzon. This was “Slade the Grimlock” a Human crossbow wielding fellow in a wide hat. Grimlock is apparently the linage of trained Demon Hunters he is part of. Anyway, the bandits sent a couple people out (with food, apparently even they appreciate Demon Hunters). They found Slade was tracking us, so Jadzia, Nanea, and Zacchaeus went out to negotiate. Despite Zacchaeus insulting him, apparently, he turned around and gave all of our suspicions about Keeper Namon. Nanea convinced him she was traveling of her own free will. Slade decided to come join us, to keep an eye on us and because he was hoping to fight some Darkfiends if Keeper Namon is in fact a Sorcerer.

                            Ashlin finally cracked the code, and the next evening we looked it over. Keeper Namon wanted to keep Nanea alive for now to use to get Amaiala to cooperate. She was implied to not be where Keeper Namon was, which would be Leogarth. However, that is our best bet as Vicious Whisper has been traveling with little to report.

                            We planned to have Jadzia (with her faster steed) take Nanea to a friendly Cleric in a small town, but Bor warned us as we left the camp that leaflets were being distributed suggested Zacchaeus had fallen under the control of a Sorcerer, and kidnapped Nanea. Fortunately, the only other description was the disguise Ashlin was using at the time, nothing concerning.

                            The plan is to go to Leogarth, stay at different hotels, and possibly a Pillow House that Zacchaeus, ah, is on good terms with the madame of (though he uses a derogatory term). That might be the best bet with Darcy, who is not only a Night Person but is a half foot taller than even me and over a third again as wide. We will see when we arrive.

                            I did get to spend time with Jadzia and Jana at the bandit camp. That was nice. I am dealing with my issues about being Vata’Sha. Hearing about this Vata’An, and how all the Jarzoni just seem to call him a Vata as opposed to a “Shadowspawn cousin” was still upsetting. I heard Jadzia have a quiet conversation with Nanea, apologizing for being harsh when they met and she apologizing for phrasing things inartfully.

                            Nanea may be a bit attracted to me. It’s hard to say. She gets flustered when she talks to me and likes pretty men like Keeper Namon or Zacchaeus over more rugged sorts like Bor or Slade. Who knows? I like other Healers, so we will see. I don’t want her to end up having a huge complex though.

                            Right now, though, I want off this horse, though I will not lie, I worry about what Leogarth brings. I am loathe to think of the Jarzoni this way, but in a real sense at least Jana, Darcy and I are in enemy territory…

                            End Session L

                            I have not actually built a Demon Hunter Specialization. Slade is a Slayer with some Sharpshooter. Slade has your Vampire Hunter D hat and broodiness and your Diablo crossbow tricks.

                            Ashlin essentially had to decode as an extended task with their Cryptography Focus.

                            I will never get tired of RPing Zacchaeus and his smart ass mouth. I suspect some of my players, while finding him amusing, will nonetheless be happy to move on in a couple sessions.

                            Anyway, there we go, Comments and Questions welcome
                            Running: Blue Rose AGE (Cat's Cradle) Blue Rose AGE (Big Damn Heroes)
                            "That Queer Goth Chick." "You are going to have to be more specific"

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                            • #74
                              Still in hostile territory, in the very capital of Jarzon, pieces come together, and the Cradle prepares for the endgame.

                              Session LI

                              Shadow on the Sand Part III

                              Ashlin’s Reports

                              Report from Ash, decoded by Kait, sent 24 Auloreth

                              Well, things have certainly gotten more slippery since my last report. Not as far as the rescue goes – in fact we know, in a rough way, precisely where Amaiala is being kept, and we are riding at full tilt through the night to get there before our snooping is discovered and she is ordered moved. I mean, there is a troop of Knights of Purity on our tail, but between the false trail I left, and Slade’s good work hiding the real one, I’m hoping we have a bit of a buffer.

                              We didn’t have to linger long in Leogarth. They are, unfortunately, currently plagued by an outbreak of fire ogres. We’ve run into a couple, and while we had the two we faced well handled, there are apparently a lot of them out and about, and rampaging through civilians as well. And so, Namon and the rest of the city’s otherwise vigilant guardians were quite distracted. As soon as we had Nanae safely stashed away with her cousin, Knight of Purity Gustav, we were able to infiltrate Namon’s house with no problems.

                              One slippery things is that we have yet to find any evidence of sorcerous wrongdoing on Namon’s part. We have plenty of small things, things to indicate that his faith and adherence to the tenets of the same are not as strong as they could be. His wife’s body lies in a mausoleum – rather than being burned, as their practical-for-a-country-with-an-undead-problem custom demands – and is surrounded by his abandoned painting supplies. Reading between the lines of a letter Humboldt wrote to him, he was willing to learn the forbidden art of Fleshcrafting, in order to fix his man-at-arm’s face, though Humboldt urged him not to. Lastly, when he found out that Nanae had impure thoughts about another woman, he used it as blackmail, rather than rushing to make sure the priesthood was uncorrupted.

                              And hey, that segues into the second slippery thing! Nanae’s physical safety was not the only thing keeping Amaiala in check after she began having second thoughts about the morality of her plan. Namon had found Nanae’s diary which chronicled her impure thoughts – by the way, take whatever idea you had of ‘impure’ and dial it down about ten notches to somewhere around lovelorn adolescent – about Amaiala herself, and threatened to ruin Nanae’s life by releasing them if Amaiala did not continue her work. To be explicit, ‘ruin her life’ here means either to have her agree to be Mindshaped with the intent of removing any such feelings or to have her be executed in disgrace if she did not.

                              Tanith has not been taking it well. I can’t say I blame her – this country hates everything about who she is, and the excuse that it’s a harsh place where at any moment someone you love could be eaten by a bug so that it could wear their skin is rapidly growing thin. They don’t feel much better about laevvel, but I have a lot less of my Self tied up into one identity, even that one. And it hasn’t been shoved in my face either.

                              Still, that empathy doesn’t make it any less slippery. We immediately made plans as to how to smuggle Nanae out with us, because when Namon is brought up on charges, her feelings will come out. Even if the Mindreaders are being circumspect, her feelings are fairly integral to the whole kidnapping thing. The only way they won’t is if Namon dies, and if he happened to have not told Amaiala what they had on Nanae to ruin her with. Some of our party, whose names might rhyme with Madzia, and honestly maybe Banith at this point, would be perfectly happy to help with the former, but the latter still seems unlikely. And once her feelings do come out, her options are limited, though they are now up to three: Mindshaping, death, and fleeing the country.

                              If it’s what she wants, we can get her out. I have every faith in that. But I don’t think it’s inconceivable that she chooses the first option. Her diary had a lot of ‘I wish I didn’t feel this way’ in it and her convictions run deep – she had to physically restrain herself from joining the Hospitallers who were heading off to tend to the burn victims, even with the threat to herself and Amaiala. The fact that she hadn’t chosen Mindshaping already is promising, though that could be for the shame of it. If it is made known by forces outside her control, she might choose to rid herself of her desires.

                              We will attempt to talk her out of it. After all, there are plenty of people she can help even if she leaves, even her own people sometimes, if she stays on this side of Aldis. But it must – MUST – be her decision. I know what it is like to move against what you’ve been raised to be. My father wasn’t quite the type to inspire devotion the way religion does, and even still, it was difficult. But if we force her to it, we’re not a whole lot better than them.

                              The rest of our problems are for later. We’ll know how we can make sure Namon never has the resources to figure out how to remove people from the Cycle when we know what evidence lies with Amaiala. We’ll decide whether or not we tell Amaiala about Nanae’s feelings when we find out whether she already knows. We’ll make sure they are able to be together after we figure out whether they want to be. Amiala’s a hero – if she shares Nanae’s feelings, maybe they’ll make room for the world to change. Or maybe Amiala will deny love for duty’s sake.

                              After all, what hero wouldn’t?

                              [Cloven hoof mark]


                              Tanith’s Diary

                              This place gets worse and worse.

                              Okay, first I summarize. Here we go.

                              -Amaiala Arrora is in a castle in the Northeast. She is being held prisoner by Keeper Namon, as we knew.

                              -She is being blackmailed because Namon found out Nanea was Caria, or at least likes women (I knew that) and would ruin her unless Amaiala cooperated. Which to me implies she has some leanings herself.

                              -Amaiala has questioned the whole turning Shadowspawn into humans. I admit, I did not think she would. Darcy is more convincing then I gave him credit for. She thus has to be forced.

                              -Namon had a wife who passed away 30 years ago. This line up with some of his crazier evil schemes. He wound up burying her in a crypt, not burning her in accordance with the faith.

                              -Nanea is safely hidden by a Knight of Purity named Gustav.

                              We sent Jadzia and Ashlin to take Nanea to the Knights of Purity. Ashlin met with Gustav and made all the arrangements. Apparently Nanea is his cousin. Slade went to the main Cathedral, where he found Namon and searched his offices without success. Zacchaeus took Darcy and Jana to hide in a pillow house, where he and Darcy indulged. I set up a base in a hotel with Maria. Chaos due to an outbreak of Fire Ogres had the Knights distracted. I heard of Fire Ogres at the Academy, but they seemed a cautionary tale.

                              Bases set and Nanea safe, Maria, Ashlin, and Jadzia went and searched Namon’s house. They were successful, overcoming magical traps and not being stopped by the locks. Maria found the crypt and old Sorcerous research rooms while Jadzia found the office. The three got through the magic alarm and picked the locks, where they found the above evidence. Oh, also that he was willing to learn “evil” Flesh Shaping to fix Humboldt’s appearance.

                              I am sure Darcy hated not being able to assist in the search. He is just too conspicuous here.

                              We decided to travel northwest immediately while our presence was unnoticed. We traveled through the night, having only one encounter with Fire Ogres, in which my team comported themselves expertly. However, Slade noted we were being tracked by a team of 8 Knights. We have abandoned the wagon, concealing them in a copse of trees, and Ash left illusionary tracks while Slade worked to cover ours. Now we travel on to find Amaiala.

                              At the core of this, a woman is being blackmailed because her dearest friend (at least) is in love with her. Nanea apparently was a faithful assistant to Amaiala, a healer as I am to Jana or Jadzia. Zacchaeus even argued it would be better for Amaiala to stay, not flee to Aldis with Nanea. Anyone wrapped in Caria desires should be able to explore them. It is fine if some are Cepia (like Zacchaeus, apparently) but most people are not.

                              I don’t know. The weight on me from the belief I am not really Vata is bad enough. The targeting of Caria too is just overwhelming. I really need to know Amaiala’s reasoning on this. It’s even been suggested Nanea might choose to be “fixed” with Psychic magic. Consensual or not, it feels like Sorcery to me.

                              Everything about me my passions, my body, my soul is shameful here. It’s enough to drive a woman mad.

                              End Session LI

                              I let Maria benefit from some of her Deep Delver abilities in the basement of Naman’s house. They feel very limited compared to other Specializations, so I decided to make them a bit more expansive. Specifically, allowing the reroll finding any entrances, not just the way in; she used it to locate a secret door. This only in underground places, obviously. She used it to find a secret door in the cellar. Deep Delvers are from Aldis: City of the Blue Rose

                              I had the locks on the underground doors and the office door have stored Arcana in the crystals that acted as traps. I allowed Maria to, if she had the Arcana (she always did) overcome the effect if she rolled higher than the roll to set it. She then stored spells in them when opened to remove evidence she had been in there. This deviated a bit but like Maria shine outside combat well.

                              Fire Ogres are from The Fantasy Age Bestiary

                              I think that covers it. Comments and Questions welcome.

                              Running: Blue Rose AGE (Cat's Cradle) Blue Rose AGE (Big Damn Heroes)
                              "That Queer Goth Chick." "You are going to have to be more specific"

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                              • #75
                                The Endgame. For now.

                                Session LII

                                Shadow on the Sand Part IV

                                Ashlin’s Reports

                                Report from Ash, decoded by Kait, sent 28 Auloreth

                                And with that, we have achieved our goal. Now there only remains extraction, and we have good line on that as well. Sand caterpillars the size of fortresses aside, this just might be one of the better days we’ve had since arriving in this, and I beg pardon for my boldness, fairly inhospitable country. I certainly can’t say I’ll be recommending it as the next big vacation spot.

                                We rode hard to reach the fortress Amaiala was being kept in, and didn’t run into any more trouble. It sat on raised motte, though the sides were much less steep on our side of the fortress. With good reason as we eventually learned (the reason is that the monsters come from the other direction). Despite the late hour of our arrival, they seemed on high alert – there were no few patrols, even on the Jarzoni side. So I snuck on up, climbing the walls to at least get more information. Certainly this didn’t look to be a ride in-ride out sort of scenario.

                                It was a fairly easy climb, and as soon as I got to the top the reason for the state of high alert became clear, and I was very glad it happened when I reached a stopping point – I’m good at keeping my grip, but I think that echoing bellow might have startled me out of it. It was the aforementioned fortress sized sand caterpillar thing, full of teeth and those weird nubby bug leg things. It burst up out of the ground a ways from the fortress (I later learned the Shapers amongst the garrison there had hardened the ground as far as they could, to keep it from bursting up right nearby) and immediately was fired upon by a fusillade of siege machine fire.

                                As soon as the initial terror passed, I was very glad to be the one inside the fortress, as I could feel Jadzia vibrating with excitement at the idea of fighting that thing even without being in direct mental contact with her. Thankfully, that was not my problem. (They eventually talked her down. Eventually.) I just had to get to Amaiala, who was in conference with the commander of the garrison and another ranking knight. She was trying to convince them not to use the Night People they had imprisoned there as bait for the creature, luring it out of the ground for a longer period of time to allow the siege engines more time to do their thing.

                                I hoped some news from her research would draw her away, but all resources were being allocated towards defense against the creature, so there was nothing I could report on that would seem believable. I did manage to overhear a story about a pair of ogres that had been wandering around the countryside in a boat being carried by a crew of Night People, pretending to be pirates. (Those weren’t the ones in captivity, the pirates had floated off to plunder from other corners of the land-sea.) I also snaffled a uniform, so I could enact plan B.

                                Plan B was to make an illusion of a Skull Knight wyvern rider cross over the moon just in time to be noticed by eagle-eyed sentries. That did exactly what I wanted, drawing all three of the command team out to the battlements, though Amaiala was kind enough to stop for a polite requests from a humble cleric. She took my news well, once we were left alone. Ever dutiful, she didn’t want to leave while the fortress was being attacked. Really, it seemed like she had qualms about leaving at all. The prison she was kept in was of her own making, and her primary jailer was worry for Nanea, and an empty feeling of loss that she found hard to articulate. She did agree to speak with Darcy, once the sand caterpillar was dealt with.

                                After that conversation, she decided she wanted to speak with Nanea, so Slade rode off to gather her, telling us to meet him in a particular town to the southwest. The Knights at the fortress didn’t like her leaving, but they didn’t try to stop her when she said she needed to ride out to help a friend. So now we head out, and if all goes well, catch a ride with Marina on the Meebo II before too long. Even if I do wind up having to sit on Zacchaeus to keep him from infuriating Amaiala. I’ll just have to make sure to dress like a boy or he’d enjoy it too much...

                                [Cloven hoof mark]

                                Report from Ash, decoded by Kait, sent 1 Anwanar

                                A quick note, as we are back on the road again. We met up with Slade and Nanea at the arranged village. Amaiala and Nanea had a nice long talk, and Amaiala has cleverly put off having to make her decision by deciding to escort Nanea to the ship that would take her to safety.

                                Their discussion was almost interrupted by Humboldt and his fancy boys. I hung back to guard the ladies’ door, but there was plenty of badass swagger to turn them away long before that. Slade blocked the door to the inn itself, and once they’d gather Jadzia rode up behind them to loom over them. Zacchaeus and a becloaked Darcy were also in clear evidence. Not only was that a rough bunch to pick a fight with, but Slade and Zacchaeus were pretty beloved of the people. It wouldn’t be a good look - some might even say it would match his face, but that would be unkind.

                                So Humboldt and crew left, and we did too, with haste. Slade was pretty certain he’d fallen back to gather more Knights. We wanted to not be there, or anywhere in the remotely nearby environs, when he returned. So, back on the road for us!

                                [Cloven hoof mark]

                                Report from Ash, decoded by Kait, sent 6 Anwanar

                                Sorry for the delay – it’s mostly been hard riding, though it has certainly paid off, as I write this from inside the Meebo II. It was a largely uneventful ride as well, except for the 4 fire ogres we drove away from a small village along the way. As it turns out, we are very very good at killing ogres. Most of the injuries we sustained were from their death explosions.

                                Barring pirate on pirate action, we should be home soon, with two new lambs. Amaiala decided that she needed to make sure that Nanea adapted well to life in Aldis, for Nanea’s sake, of course. Despite how she might have played it off, she clearly understood that she was turning her back on what she had, and she took the opportunity to deck Zacchaeus, now that they weren’t both Knights of Purity in good standing. Poor guy. He had mostly recovered his dignity by the time we said goodbye.

                                It will be good to keep an eye on that situation in particular. Zacchaeus is fairly certain he’s accounted for everything. He is currently wanted, but Namon has a vested interest in making sure he’s not “questioned” too intensely about this matter. He intends on making sure Humboldt knows that. In addition, Zacchaeus left signed documents with Slade, detailing all that the Knight knows about the situation, as insurance, which seems wise, considering that Namon’s alternative to seeing him go free is to make sure he dies while “resisting arrest”, or some other such thing. Hopefully that will be enough to keep our friend safe.

                                [Cloven hoof mark]


                                Tanith’s Diary

                                We are finally out of that awful place. I’d sooner face the void than go back. It is a relief to be out. I am not one to feel the call of the open sea but surrounded by water is far superior to being on that cursed soil. I digress.

                                We found the fortress, which was being assaulted by a giant roaring worm. I hate this place. Ashlin went in alone while I reconsidered my decision to not drink on the mission. Eventually they reported back: Amaiala would come out to meet us when the Burrower had been killed. She knew what was going on but she had not had the chance to talk to Nanea. When the beast finally left (was not killed, of course) Amaiala met with Darcy, and the sad meeting lead Amaiala to decide to come with us to escort Nanea out of Jarzon. Slade went ahead to fetch Nanea and meet us at a small nameless village to the Southwest.

                                After traveling for days to get to the castle, we traveled two more days to the village. Amaiala and Nanea wound up alone in a room talking. I did not eavesdrop but there was a lot of crying. I was hoping for a more…romantic…reunion. This place really is awful.

                                Anyway, then Humboldt and 7 other Knights of Purity arrived. Most of us stayed in the hotel we were in, but Slade stepped out to face down Humboldt. Then my Jadzia, then Zacchaeus stepped out, then Darcy, hooded, loomed behind Slade in the doorway. The gruff Demon Hunter with back up got Humboldt to back down, if only to get more Knights (it was 10 vs. 8). We left quickly. We did fight some Fire Ogres, but the trip to the coast was about 3 quiet days across prairie.

                                I had contacted Marina Seaspray and her fast ship the Meebo II from the castle, so they met us at a Sea Folk village on the rocky coast. Amaiala decided to go with Nanea to Aldis. There was more weeping. As happy as we were to see Jarzon disappear behind us, they were crushed. Zacchaeus and Slade wound up heading back. Zacchaeus knew too much for Namon to go after conventionally, and Slade made it known if Zacchaeus had any sudden accidents, he had documentation and his own word. Besides, the Jarzoni have lost a hero in Amaiala Arrora. They will need Zacchaeus now.

                                That place was driving me crazy. It made out nearly everything I am to be a monster. That I am not a real Vata, but a horrid tainted cousin. That being Caria is bad. That being in a Star relationship is bad. That being an Adept without being a priest is bad. I am a Healer. I am Caria. I am Vata, Vata’Sha but Vata. I am a Nocturna, of a line of Vata, one of the few in general, much less of Vata’Sha.

                                I need to go home and spend time with my girls. Jana’s face has been hidden too long, and Jadzia’s frustration is almost as much as mine. I haven’t spoken to Cassilda much at all for security reasons. We will get these ladies somewhere secure then I am returning to Aldis City. Returning home. My spirits have begun to life already. When I walk the streets of the city, it will finally feel real that I am back to sanity, back to where I belong.

                                End Session LII

                                Shadow on the Sand Completed

                                The big monster was a Burrower, from Fantasy Age Bestiary.

                                The confrontation with Humboldt went down thus…I told them the village looked like a rural 19th Century Mexican town. They noted such places inevitably lead to showdowns. Well they got one.

                                Jarzon was emotionally tiring for everyone I think. I did this on purpose; not making it evil per se but making it extremely uncomfortable and unforgiving. I think I succeeded. Back to Aldis next time, for a bit of polite murder. Comments and Questions welcome.
                                Running: Blue Rose AGE (Cat's Cradle) Blue Rose AGE (Big Damn Heroes)
                                "That Queer Goth Chick." "You are going to have to be more specific"

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