The Dim Wastes

Session 43
Time to pay the fiddler

Our story opened as Zayn showed Ghomesh to Oxyr aboard the Seachild, having retrieved her from Tulesa shortly before. Ghomesh was able to confirm that Oxyr was lucid, at least for the time being, and did appear to be the genuine Oxyr that she had known and followed the Aridesa. She wasn’t able to get much more out of him, but that was enough information for the party to decide it was worth the risk to take him with them to hunt down Sadeesh within the Singed Halls, deep behind the borders of Khasif.

A short time later, the band of adventurers clasped hands and teleported to the bloodbath that Zayn had scried upon earlier. They found it much as she had seen it, but no living people were present. Footsteps in the adjoining hallway announced that was about to change. Bristling against impending attack, the party relaxed when they saw a soldier wearing the same garb Daso Enna had worn. He announced that he was with House Enna, and the party was expected. He quickly led them through the fortress to the planning room where his master waited. Along the way, he explained that this fortress was occupied by the Regent’s forces, taken at swordpoint years ago from the Enna family. Daso had just taken it back, and started an insurrection in the process. Even as they walked, the banners of Daso’s house were unfurling again above Ennavere Fortress for the first time in years. The party’s meeting with Daso Enna was relatively short, but he was open about his intentions to challenge the Regent and put the Khasif throne back in properly decided noble hands. He was able to supply the party with rudimentary maps of the nearby regions, outlining the best paths north to avoid most people in the intervening countryside. With that, the part headed out.

A short while later, spotting smoke rising in the distance, the party closed with the anomaly to discover a village being burned by troops wearing the Regent’s colors. Deciding that it was worth risking potentially catastrophic contact with army forces to save the village, the party made their presence known and called out the soldiers. As things turned out, the unit attacking the village was relatively small and poorly trained to engage such powerful heroes. About half their number died before their morale broke and they surrendered. The party allowed them to leave on foot, reasoning their mission in Khasif would be over one way or the other before the troops could report back to any garrison that might mobilize a truly dangerous number of troops. Turning over the balance of the soldiers’ equipment and mounts to the villagers, dousing the fires and providing healing where they could, the party mounted back up and moved on; taking only an improved and more current map of the countryside in payment for their services. The map guided them to the point along the northern shore that came the closest to the northern island of the kingdom. The gulf of ocean to cross was still massive, and no bridge or boat was in sight. The overlook did have a single statue built near the railing that guarded the steep drop over the seaside cliffs. Standing nearly nine feet in height, the statue looked familiar to the group. They quickly sorted that the garb and the not-so-subtle symbolism indicated this was a statue of Mithras. Still, something was off. Soon enough, Finn hit upon the source of the eerie feeling. The face on the statue was the face of his companion, Tarsus. A statue easily a thousand years old had the face of a living man standing next to him. The Mithras they had spoken to several times already had mentioned that he moved around the timeline the way they moved around a room.

Unsure of how one goes about revering a shrine to a man that will apparently one day be a demi-god, the group simply enjoyed some silence in the air of discomfort, before Zayn touched the statue and got to preparing a spell to get the group across the water. Power passed into her, energizing her spell casting and granting access to much more powerful versions of the spells she knew. Her communal phantom steed spell could last longer now, and access the ability to fly. If they hurried, and if Sindar could measure a map accurately, it might last long enough to get the whole group across the gap. The group took to the air, crossing the sea in a short while and finding themselves soon safely back over land. They were able to continue on to Zacat unmolested.

Arriving near the town, the party surveyed decent defensive walls and a relatively large guard contingent, compared to the other intact settlements they had visited recently. An evening of sneaking through orchards and fields outside the wall ensued as the party made use of Oxyr’s ability to roughly sense Sadeesh’s presence when nearby. After a couple of hours the group felt they had enough information to triangulate Sadeesh’s location to a compound in the south section of the city. Easily clearing the wall through the well-testing invisible floaty ball method, the group quietly set down near the building in question. The structure was a ruined church of some kind, now little more than a camp for urchins and the drug addled shiftless of Zacat’s streets. Moving quietly through the ruined building, they quickly found a way down to a cellar. Meeting only slight resistance along their way, the group eventually found a storeroom at the center of a small labyrinthine collection of twists and turns. Investigating, Finn located a hidden hatch and ladder, and the group descended once again.

The bottom of the ladder opened into what looked like an ancient and mostly unused storeroom, not terribly different from the one above. Outside, the room opened into a rough hallway interspersed with sublimely crafted stretches of finished stone wall. The craftsmanship and age pointed clearly to elves. Slowly, the gang started to explore the mysterious halls, moving from room to room. At every turn, they found more of the same- old rooms, some recently disturbed, some untouched for at least decades. Finally, in a small complex that resembled an inn of some sort, they made contact with the enemy. The combat was over quickly, such a small contingent unable to present a serious threat to the party. By now, Sindar was beginning to see a pattern in the various glyphs adorning the floor of the hallways near each door. They were markings intended to guide someone unfamiliar with the complex, at least in its original design. It seemed this might have been first intended to be a public area of some sort.

Continuing forward, the party inches through the complex over the next few hours. They discovered a number of interesting areas, and more than one trap that had been left- all of which proved far more lethal than any single cultist they encountered. After what felt like forever, the group happened into a large living area- a central cavern surrounded by a number of individual residences. Doors abounded around them, and Tarsus felt his pulse quicken at the exposure of this tactically terrible position with potential ingresses all around them. Sure enough, his instincts proved correct as cultists stormed the room, having laid in wait for the approaching armored behemoth and his companions.

Immediately, it was apparent these were the elite. They found harder and coordinated better than other cultists the group had seen. Of course, the trouble with elite troops is that there are always only a few available. Over the course of seconds, the party began to gain the upper hand, even though they had been hit hard in the ambush. Just as the party began to breathe easier, a new spellcaster joined the fray. The force of his magic revealed his identity- the party had found Sadeesh. Moments later, an orb floating through the room began to unleash hell, ripping through everyone nearby with blasts of energy. Recognizing the sphere for what it was before anyone else, Oxyr threw himself over the floating Skullsoul in an attempt to wrench it from Sadeesh’s control and render it inert. With his primary weapon now in jeopardy, Sadeesh stopped pulling punches and unleashed everything he had at the party. Swarms of insects poured into the room from his staff as he directly attacked the party with other magic. His troops maneuvered through the room, trying to get to Zayn and Finn and disrupt their spells. Tarsus put everything he had into keeping a meat wall between the bad guys and the cleric keeping him on his feet, while Sindar and Zayn went to work tearing down bad guys. As more cultists entered the combat, Sindar kept flinging a blistering barrage of bombs, keeping a nervous eye on his supplies as the fight wore on.

Suddenly, a cultist slipping around the edges of the fight found an open path to Finn and made good on it. Coupled with the wounds he had already suffered, it was enough to knock him off his feet and out of the fight, though still clinging to life. The rest of the party shifted instantly, clearing the area around Finn to get help to him. Sadeesh capitalized on the disruption, flinging up a force wall through the center of the room to split the party. The move sentenced his man trapped on the other side to near certain death, but it bought him precious moments to push back against the scrambling party. In the ensuing chaos, Zayn was knocked off her feet just as Finn was being helped up. While a confused Finn scrambled to get to Zayn, the gap in healing took its toll on Tarsus. One of the few remaining cultists drove home a well-aimed blade in a blow that would have instantly dropped any other man. While Tarsus kept his feet, it was nearly all he could do. As the rest of the party focused on bringing Sadeesh down, Zayn took a lethal blow just as she regained her feet. Finn watched in horror as the sovereign of Tulesa fell lifeless to the floor, and dug deep to find the energy for another spell. The Breath of Life and healing energy coursed through Zayn milliseconds before her corpse hit the floor, allowing her to awaken in time for the hard thump.

As this happened, Tarsus and Sindar had cornered Sadeesh, pushing through the ferocity of his attacks to wound him mortally. With his focus broken, Oxyr took control of Skullsoul from him, ending his struggle with the artifact. Coming forward as Tarsus scowled at a staggered Sadeesh, ready to end this at last, Oxyr reached out to his twisted inter-planar brother with a hand already darkening with necromantic magic. The defenseless Sadeesh, even now being abandoned by the gaze of Sayoni, offered no resistance to the spell as Oxyr tore his very soul from his body. In the room with the party, the possessive spirit attempted to take control of Zayn, still weak from her ordeal. Luckily, Zayn was yet strong enough to resist the corruption, and the spirit fled through the halls.

Wanting to pursue and destroy the evil thing, the party thought discretion the better part of valor just this once, and instead decided to consolidate their position and recover from this battle first. As they healed and rested briefly, Finn hit upon an idea for the cause of the hunger and discomfort that consumed him. Maybe the ring of sustenance was incompatible with his eleven biology. Attempting to remove the ring, he found he could not- a dead giveaway for an item inflicted with some sort of curse, unwilling to be torn from its host. Nevertheless, once identified, the group was able to suppress its effects through magic, long enough to remove and examine the ring. What had masqueraded as a ring of sustenance was actually a cannibal ring, slowly going about its work of convincing Finn to consume humanoid flesh. Well, that had almost been terrible.

Our story closed as Oxyr fought himself over a decision. He stared for an uncomfortably long time into the empty eye sockets of the Skullsoul before finally summoning the will to hand it over to Tarsus for safekeeping in the bag of holding.

The Asad

The legislative delay while searching for missing Asad delegates has elapsed. A vote to officially declare the missing delegates dead has been called and passed, and the Asad has requested new delegates from their sovereigns before moving to a final vote on the future of the Empire in Riyaqa. The Khasif bloc has left the Asad, as civil war ignites within the Khasif Kingdom.

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Session 42
Sputtering spark

Our story opened as Finn arranged Sendings to various allies, including a message to Teegan to ask for his aid in Tulesa. Teegan’s reply was terse, but seemed to be an agreement to help. In short order, Zayn returned from her business in Tulesa via teleport, and the Seachild got underway again across the sands. During an evening stop to change fuel cells, Sindar was sure he saw something glint in the sky to the east, but could not make out anything when he looked there directly. Staying alert, he cautiously completed the operation and told the others what he saw as the ship got moving again, but nothing more seemed to come of it.

A few hours later, with Finn piloting and the rest of the group milling about with all the new free time the rings of sustenance granted them, a loud crack disturbed the relative calm of the constant desert winds. Bright pulses of purple and blue reflected off the sands ahead of them as the sky seemed to open up. Tacking the Seachild hard to one side, Finn brought the ship up short as a familiar figure came tumbling out of the void. Selkirk hit the sand with a hard thud, rolling off of someone he had with him. As the figure stood, the party recognized Oxyr. There was no time for questions, however. Moments behind the pair, monstrous humanoids made of shifting, inky shapes tumbled out of the portal and onto the sand, and made straight for the pair of men still getting their bearings. Jumping the gunwales of the Seachild as it skidded to a halt, the party literally leapt into the action.

Though fearsome to look at, the oversized shadow beasts were no match for the party, by now gaining some proficiency in inter-planar combat with beings of the Shadowfell. While Tarsus kept the attention of the things as best he could manage, Zayn did all she could to minimize their effectiveness. With Finn bolstering the party and effecting a rescue from the rear, Sindar began flinging glassy globes of death with wild abandon, ending the fight before their opponents could really organize an offense. As Finn loosed a final channel to halt the progress of any grievous injuries, Selkirk related his journey to complete the task the party had set for him. While Oxyr was still delirious and recovering, Finn quietly removed the Blazing Sun from his neck, and put it safely away.

Selkirk’s investigations had led him first to Aridesa, which he found as mostly a smoking crater. He found one cultists digging through ruins there, and eventually followed him back to a nearby camp, which Selkirk levelled and then sifted for clues. These led him to artifact digs dotted across the desert, and eventually caught up to Oxyr himself. Oxyr seemed to be out of it, trailing some scrolls behind him as he wandered around. Oxyr eventually focused and asked Selkirk who he was, and Selkirk told him. Then Oxyr asked him, “will you come with me?” When Selkirk agreed, thinking to learn more of the mystery the man was looking for, he suddenly found himself plane-shifted to the Shadowfell and almost instantly beset by its denizens. Oxyr ran off jabbering about “find the lens,” while Selkirk burned through spells, scrolls, and wands to keep them both alive. Finding a temple (or being led to it by Oxyr), Selkirk became aware of a voice telling him how to use a reflecting pool in the temple to scry across planes and find the party. He did so, and once he had the proper focus, he used the pool to open a temporary portal back to the Material Plane. Only then, momentarily relieved of his panic, did he realize that whatever had told him how to use the pool was really using him to help find the party.

Oxyr told the party he fled after Sadeesh’s attack on Aridesa, realizing at last the responsibility he bore for Sadeesh. He described to the party the warped nature of the mirror that connects the Material to the Shadowfell, and how much of what is here is also there, in one form or another. Not originally evil, but warped. Now, with the near total takeover of the plane by a single entity, much of what it is has become evil, and many of its denizens have become evil reflections of those that live here. Thus, the party learned that Sadeesh was actually the shae version of Oxyr, retrieved from the Shadowfell years ago by way of a poorly understood ritual. Oxyr’s attempts to control and restrain him have slowly failed in increasingly destructive ways ever since, until Sadeesh finally fractured their cult and struck out on his own to begin an apocalypse in Riyaqa.

Finn made a Sending to Arastea Ghomesh to inform her that they found Oxyr alive. He had initially worried about her reaction, but took comfort in her recommendation to keep him away from the people at Tulesa. Communing with Ahti Ato in Gol Asad, Zayn learned of dire development in the Asad, with the entire Khasif block absenting themselves from the chamber as important votes on the future of the continent loomed. Uncomfortable with the results of that conversation, and needing to conduct other business there anyway, the party left Selkirk and Oxyr to mind the Seachild for a short time while they Zayn teleported them to Gol Asad. After a quick stop by the pricier markets to exchange some items for more useful equipment, the group headed to the consulate on Sindar’s coattails, who was determined to get some answers to a few questions from the Imperial Consul.

In audience with Ducet, while revealing as little as they could get away with regarding the tome Sindar had in his possession, the party learned a few relevant pieces of information. Ducet told the party how the War of Passage was truly started, and that it was denizens of this world that first earned the attention of Xazat with their dabbling in shadow magic and the resultant “theft” of his power. Tarsus also learned that he had indeed been chosen as a champion to wield the mighty Dervish, but it was Xazat who had chosen him, not Mithras or Rustum. The choice had been an indirect one, with Xazat choosing a Shae male as a champion long ago, who was now on a collision course to participate in the rise of Ahriman’s power here, and the eventual full awakening of Sayoni. If the further implications of why this had to be done this way had not been lost on the party, no one gave the secret away.

Offering a way to disrupt Xazat’s hunt for the book he now knew was found again by mortals, Ducet spoke of an ancient and altogether banned material: hellstone. Able to sap magic from the life-force of any spell-wielder that touches it, the material had the ability to absorb, and therefore block, radiant magical energy. Though outlawed by the council and nearly all other civilized governments, there was still some to be found if one looked in the right places. After Sindar asked about his recent communications with the Guild, Ducet told him bluntly to look more carefully at Rinn and Ignus the next time they crossed paths. The two were not what they appeared to be. Parting ways, Ducet told the party to check in with the Broker before leaving town. He had arrangements to make and would have the man fetch something for them before they left.

Beginning to formulate a plan to strike the CoA using new information as it came to light, the party asked Finn to Send a message to Daso Enna, one of the missing Khasif delegates and a recent ally. Finn asked permission to scry on him for use as a teleport target into the heart of Khasif, in order to hunt down a CoA hideout there. Daso told him to wait until midnight.

In the meantime, the party headed to the dock district, searching out the warehouses and holding areas of the Mueller Trading Company to see if they might be able to access the stores of Anton, their former companion who lost a bard battle after being rapped too hard by a musical arachnid. After some administrative runaround, they finally gained access to the stall. Within, the group found several barrels containing thousands of gold value of rare ores and rough gems- all things the goblins at the nearby quarry had promised to send to Anton as they dug out more tunnels for their expanding tribe. Among the barrels, one seemed to be seeping some filthy liquid into the dirt. A bad feeling crept over the group as they carefully checked the barrel and confirmed their suspicions. It was a barrel of the CoA’s toxin, left here. The party assumed it must be a leftover from the recent assault on Gol Asad, and Sindar set about disarming it. Having a bad dexterity day, he instead flung the lid away from the barrel a split second before it erupted in flame, drawing the attention of nearby staff. One happened to be the same man Finn had worked with on these docks to save people during the attack, and the two quickly reconnected. After Finn explained what was going on, the man agreed to search the rest of the warehouse and take care of any problems he found.

Putting space between themselves and the warehouses, the group headed to meet with Dezil Calish, the Broker, at the Lacy Death inn. They found Dezil waiting for them, with a helper unloading a large object from the back of a wagon that arrived minutes earlier. Investigation revealed the object to be a coffin made of ebony wood inlaid with a gold pattern of vines and leaves. The heavy coffin opened to reveal a liner made entirely of pitch black rock that reflected no light at all. The slightest touch seemed to sap vitality. Dezil reasoned that it was a hellstone liner, meaning this coffin must have been used to transport a truly dangerous individual at some point in the past. For now, it was to be given to the party for some secret task Dezil was not privy to. The party asked if he would help determine the best way to move it as they finished up one more appointment.

The group went to the Asad compound, where they were directed to meeting rooms and finally taken to see the Speaker and their delegate in Raha Delina’s office. After catching each other up on their recent intelligence, the party revealed much of their intended plan to Delina. Having no agents to offer that were usefully placed at the moment, Delina instead offer a few items that might be of value in their endeavors, including his personal prayer beads.

When the party met back up with Dezil, he had determined that the coffin could be teleported as long as it was closed. Saying their goodbyes, the party teleported back to the Seachild with the coffin slung over Tarsus’ back like a massive chunk of timber. Finn caught up with a few more Sendings while Zayn began her efforts to scry on Daso Enna. Finding him after a short time, she saw a scene of bloody battle. Dead bodies lay around him in sloppy circles on a dark stone floor slick with blood. The sound of drops falling away from the twin blades he held echoes off the stone walls of the room until he broke the silence.

“This is the old throne room of a fortress that once belonged to my family, but no longer. You have three days before anyone comes looking for these men. For now, the way is clear.”

Whatever else she was looking at, one thing was abundantly obvious to Zayn as she gazed on: Daso Enna was starting a war with someone. After a quick discussion with the group, Zayn teleported back to Tulesa, taking Selkirk with her. He had upheld his part of the bargain, after all.

Our story closed as Zayn sought out Falat. She had earlier given him permission to begin forming an army, but now upgraded her permission to a decree: raise an army- now.

The Asad

The legislative delay while searching for missing Asad delegates has elapsed. A vote to officially declare the missing delegates dead has been called and passed, and the Asad has requested new delegates from their sovereigns before moving to a final vote on the future of the Empire in Riyaqa. The Khasif bloc has left the Asad, en masse.

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Session 41
Deepening Shadows

Our story opened on Sindar passing the time by trying to ascertain exactly how a baby mimic might learn a language, and experimenting with strategies to defeat its innate tendency to just eat the textbook instead. Zayn, meanwhile, returned to Tulesa to check in with the house staff and Falat. After speaking with her, Falat recommended that the House begin to raise a proper army to deal with the potential strife ahead, and Zayn approved.

As they prepared to leave the infested remains of Latpasa, Sindar gave Tarsus a fly extract to use in conjunction with an Ant Haul spell in order to slowly float the rest of the party back to the ship, bypassing the throngs of sand shamblers below. Returning to the group, Zayn used her bracelet to commune with Ahti Ato and inform her of their plans to head to Kaleska. While not telling Ahti exactly what they were looking for in Kaleska, Zayn did ask her for any help she could provide with a contact there. Ahti was able to provide little help, as the city’s leadership was in flux with their delegate at the Asad missing and presumed dead.

As morning broke, the party decided to make a stop at Chamber Valley to return the insanely dangerous Orb of Golden Dragonkind they had found to the only gold dragon they knew. Zaun gathered the group up and teleported them to the valley, only to be violently yanked out of the teleport before reaching their destination as they hit the magical barrier protecting the valley floor. They found themselves partway down the slope that held the shack from the original expedition by the Pelt family. Venturing to it, they found Robert Pinan in pretty bad shape. Looking closer when initial attempts to heal him failed, the group determined he must be under the influence of some sort of curse. Erring with caution, Finn used an exceptionally powerful version of his Remove Curse spell to push the evil from Robert. The man collapsed onto his hands and knees, retching violently for several seconds before puking up a live black serpent in a pool of dark bile. With a speed only panic can induce, Sindar loosed a bomb on the thing as everyone else was just beginning to register what they were seeing. The bomb, unfortunately, was poorly aimed and a bit too powerful for the shack to contain, blowing one wall completely clear of the structure. Nevertheless, even the incidental damage from the bomb was enough to destroy the vile creature. After a bit more healing magic, Robert seemed to be on his way to recovery from what must have been some remnant of his close contact with Sadeesh and Sayoni’s influence.

As the party moved farther along the slope, Guardian showed himself in greeting. After he learned that the party had cured Robert of what ailed him, Guardian deemed that he would remain outside the valley for a little longer, before being allowed to return and continue his work. Robert had shortly before been exiled to the cabin when he fell ill of the curse, and the keepers had been planning to kill him when the Watcher awakened again, rather than risk meddling with the magic and possibly contaminating a valley denizen. Over the course of their discussion, Guardian took the party to the Watcher’s grove. Tense minutes later, the Watcher made a grand entrance on the wing, shedding her dragon form as she landed for the graceful beauty of the elven features Finn had been dreaming of a bit too much lately.

As soon became apparent, the Watcher had taken a liking to Finn, returning his curiosity and interest. She mused that she might make him her consort, once the work ahead was finished. The party turned over the orb as they brought her up to date on their findings. She could not add much to what they already knew, but the Watcher did tell them that Skullsoul’s creation was tied to the same incident that bound Arkeles al Farrin to the endless dream to bind Sayoni in turn. If either Skullsoul or Sadeesh were threatened, Sayoni now had enough power to back them up considerably. As such, the Watcher recommended finding a way to threaten both at once. Force Sayoni to split her attention, and weaken her hold on both. Then one might be vulnerable long enough to score a victory. Once they recover Skullsoul, the Watcher counselled that their priority must be destroying it quickly. Sayoni will focus everything she has on finding an securing it again. Before the party left to teleport back to their ship, she gave one final warning: keep all of this from Arturo. If he is tempted to help, or tempted to enter the Shadowfell to rescue them, he will fail to resist the force Xazat can bring to bear in there. It would catastrophic for the entire world if Arturo Ducet finally became the leader of Xazat’s legions he was created to be.

Teleporting back to the ship, a loud crack caught their attention as a hurtling boulder the size of a goat carried away part of the deck railing. Out in the distance, a dune was engaged in a fight with Kando’s new party, having cornered them on the rock where they were to rendezvous with the group. The party leapt into action immediately, seriously worsening the odds for the giant as it began to gain the upper hand against the junior party. Seeing the fight turn against him, the dune giant called out. Seconds later, he was joined by a juvenile roc as the monstrous bird swooped in from a fast dive to snatch Tarsus off the sand and carry him high into the air. Tarsus manage to wriggle around in the grip of the massive talons enough to get his arm free, and summoned Dervish to his hand to strike a skyreaving blow against the underside of the roc. The pair tumbled out of the air and the bird crashed hard into the desert floor. Temporarily unable to fly, it charged back into the battle on foot.

Meanwhile, the giant began resorting to magic to win the contest, summoning a minor earthquake to even the field a bit. Both Tarsus and Kando fell into rifts as they yawned open, finding great trouble in climbing back to the surface. Finn’s summoned earth elemental went after Kando first, reasoning he had less chance of surviving on his own when the spell inevitably ended. Kando was quickly tossed back up to the surface from below, landing a bit hard and getting the wind knocked out of him, but still alive. As the elemental turned toward Tarsus, the spell ended and the rifts in the ground began to rumble closed. As the elemental struggled to free Tarsus, the rest of the combined parties concentrated on taking down the roc and then the giant, in turn. At last, the battle was finished as the earth elemental, nearing the limits of its endurance, finally managed to drag Tarsus to the surface.

In the aftermath, Kando explained that they had been ambushed near the Seachild, while waiting for the party to return. Finn asked Kando to return to Tulesa and take up work for the town guard hunting down infiltrators, closing the deal with a bit of negotiation with Kando’s party to ensure they could bear the loss of their inquisitor. Zayn teleported Kando’s party back to Tulesa, where she was accosted by Dingo with news from his “interviews” with the captured cultists. It seemed the Singed Halls, assumed to be Sadeesh and the Children of Ahriman’s headquarters, were likely not in Nadju. Their involuntary informants suggested the compound was further behind Khasifi borders, in Zacat.

Our story closed as, back on the Seachild, Finn began to wonder if his new ring of sustenance was functioning correctly with his new elven biology. It had been days since he had donned it, but the hunger in his belly just kept getting stronger. Was this the curse that did in the original elves?

The Vote

The legislative delay while searching for missing Asad delegates has elapsed. A vote to officially declare the missing delegates dead has been called and passed, and the Asad has requested new delegates from their sovereigns before moving to a final vote on the future of the Empire in Riyaqa.

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Session 40
Now I'll show you what I already know

Our story opened as the party gathered and secured the cultists that had barely survived their battle inside the core complex. When the efforts of Finn and Sindar set to interrogate them came up mostly empty, Zayn and Tarsus returned to Tulesa via teleport to retrieve the engineering staff and deliver the prisoners to the custody of Falat and Dingo, leaving them to get to the bottom of things.

Finn delved into the darker end of his divine powers, summoning the incantations to speak with one of the dead cultist corpses. Asking a series of careful questions, he learned the the cultists had not been able to gain access to the core, but they knew that the item currently powering it was an evil item intended to allow priests to utterly destroy one another. Sadeesh had been looking for a specific item, and seemed to have found it before he left. The cultist only knew it as “the key to the one who knows the way”. The remnant spirit knew that arcane cores in An Fallu and Jaleraba had already been searched and looted, and that the next planned target had been Kaleska. Sadeesh was most likely to be found in a place called the “Singed Halls”.

While in Tulesa, Tarsus bartered with Balasar to discover what the Singed Halls were, and discover anything he could about the artifacts taken. Balasar knew only that the Singed Halls were a profane temple to Ahriman, and were once the remains of a temple to Goyetra called the Flaming Halls, which were in turn a repurposed subterranean complex built by an earlier civilization. He did not know much about the artifacts that the party did not already know.

Tarsus and Zayn returned to the Latpasa core complex with the Engineers from Tulesa, led by Graja. After catching up a bit to the work already completed by Sindar and Finn, the engineers sorted out how to access the hidden control room, and in turn, the core. Buried in the access door to the core chamber, they found a large, ancient-looking metal spike wrapped in decorative wire and ringed with mysterious glyphs. It pulsed slowly in the metal of the door. Attempting to remove the spike so they could operate the door latch, engineer Hilo grabbed the spike and was instantly obliterated. A bright beam of light from the spike reduced him to a greasy dust, scattering it across the room and its remaining occupants. Always interested in organic remnants produced in interesting ways, Sindar took a sample of the residue and determined that it was organic, but not human. Attempts at identification from Finn and Zayn, assisted by Graja, revealed the item to be a maleficus spike, which reacts rather violently to the touch of evil outsiders. Hilo had not been what he seemed, but was apparently yet another enemy agent in their midst.

The inevitable result came to pass, with the party and engineers all glaring threateningly at each other until everyone touched the spike one at a time. No further incinerations taking place, they finally removed the spike and opened the core access right after shutting it down from the control room. Quickly making their way to the core bottom, they opened the storage compartment meant to hold the magic item powering the core. The talisman inside at once reached out to Zayn to take it up and wield its power, it so longed to be free of this place. She could sense the pure evil oozing off the artifact, and managed to resist its lure. Quickly closing the compartment, they began to retreat from the room. It seemed everything was in order here, and the power source for the core was in the best place they could imagine for it. Already, deep rumbling from the earth below them was beginning to make normal speech difficult to interpret.

As the last person exited the core compartment, they closed and sealed the door and Finn led the effort to restart the core. A few minutes later, it was again bathed in a maelstrom of heat, sinking it in an ice storm it continuously generated inside the small chamber. Realizing the spike had been placed in the door to stop intruders- likely during the first hours of the city’s fall- the party hammered it back where they found it. Deciding to rest after returning the engineers to Tulesa and before deciding their next move, the party bedded down for the night in relative safety. Before turning in, Finn decided to complete a Sending to the Watcher of Chamber Valley, hoping she might have insight to some of the more troubling artifacts they had uncovered. She told him to dream that night, and they could talk then.

True to her word, that night Finn found his dreaming self in the Watcher’s Grove, with her standing nearby. She confirmed his suspicions about a strange, spherical jewel found among the other artifacts- it was an orb of golden dragonkind, allowing the wielder near absolute control over a golden dragon nearby. She told him that it was the last of such artifacts that remained unrecovered, showing him the vault where the others were secreted away. He swore to return it to her as soon as he was able. She took an obvious liking to the young elf, and told him about the artifact he described Sadeesh fleeing with. It was Skullsoul, an already damnable invention that could trap a soul and turn it to a demi-lich in undying service to the artifact’s wielder. But the soul this particular artifact happened to contain was special, in that it was very likely to be the trapped soul of one of Sayoni’s original consort priests, imprisoned in an attack on their collective tomb hundreds of years ago. While her consort would be a powerful ally for anyone that could control him, that was not his greatest danger. His most potent contribution to the cause of Sayoni (and in turn, Ahriman) was that he still likely knew the exact location of her tomb.

Our story ended as Finn’s dream communication ended, and he instead drifted into less guided dreams of the beautiful feminine elven form of Dyphonaira, the Watcher.

The Vote

The legislative delay while searching for missing Asad delegates has elapsed. Presumably, a vote has been called on the issue of naming new delegates and moving forward with a resolution for the Empire’s offer, but the results are, as yet, unknown.

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Session 39
Queen's bishop advances to center board

Our story opened as the party made their way through the keep dominating what remained of the central district of Latpasa. They had come to the city, now overrun with shamblers, in search of the fate of the arcane core beneath the city. They found the keep mostly abandoned, save for the occasional sand shambler left trapped inside as a revenant of the guard corps that once manned the keep. Making their way to the former governor’s chambers, they discovered the well-hidden relics of his office- the sword, robes, and badged amulet- along with a note of congratulations from Raha Delina, Speaker of the Asad.

Moving deeper into the keep in search of an access or information on the reactor complex, the group began to find dead soldier who had not been turned into shamblers. All bore tattoos on their shoulders of a hawk’s head with the script “first of many”, identifying them as members of Latpasa’s elite guard corps. These guards had survived the initial assault on the city by the poisoned gas, and died later to something else while defending these barracks. The party went over the barracks with a fine-toothed comb, soon locating a secret door, but unable to force it open. Further search revealed the control mechanism in the next room, granting the party access to a large staircase leading down into warm, damp air below.

The reactor complex was far more sophisticated than any they had come across before, with multiple chambers of swirling, heated water connected by channels and unseen pumps. Open pools wafted steam into the air under the dim light of glowing channels along the vaulted ceilings. Searching room to room, the party quickly heard voices in a nearby chamber. Investigating, they found a man and woman arguing with each other. Confronted by the party, the man attacked and was put down relatively quickly, but not before he drew blood. Backing her into a corner, the party offered leniency to the woman in exchange for information on who they were, why they were in the complex, and how many more there were. Reluctantly, she told the party they were with the CoA, and were sweeping this complex (and others like it) for powerful and useful artifacts. She had specifically been looking in the complex library for links to nearby sites that could be plundered. The party found documents in the library that explained why the complex here was so… complex. Rather than powering defensive systems like other arcane cores, this reactor was being used entirely to keep a volcanic eruption at bay, the city having been built atop ancient magma chambers inadvertently, which became active again centuries later. Keeping their word, the party allowed her to escape as they moved deeper into the complex.

Soon, the party came upon another pair of cultists in another room. Zayn baited the pair into following her back to the waiting party in order to ambush them. The plan went well, and the two were overwhelmed quickly. In a desperate effort to call for help, one of the cultists threw a thunderstone hard into the main (and final) chamber of the reactor complex, releasing a shockwave of sound. Soon, more cultists poured forth from the rooms surrounding the main reactor chamber. 2 men armed with menacing blades moved forward against the party, backed up by two others slinging spells and brandishing the holy symbol of Ahriman. Tarsus successfully drew the attention of swordsmen, engaging them in a protracted battle as the two clerics were split up by the rest of the party. The combined assault from the rest of the party finally disrupted the support the cultist clerics were providing to the swordsmen, and they found themselves on the defensive against Tarsus and the rest of party. A fireball rocketed out of the darkness, announcing the presence of a new assailant. Following the trail back to its source, the party saw Sadeesh standing only a few yards away.

Sadeesh and the party volleyed spells back and forth for a few moments as they finished off the remainder of his cultists. Once he was left alone, Sadeesh disengaged with a cryptic statement about losing the battle but winning the war with what he recovered here. As he began to teleport away, Finn attempted to stop him with a Dimensional Anchor, but the spell failed. Sadeesh had prepared a number of defensive spells, including a barrier granting him immunity to such attempts. In a rush of collapsing air, he was gone. Concerned about the state of the core and whether Sadeesh and his followers had disabled it, the party rushed through the remainder of the complex trying to find an access to the core or its controls.

Unable to find access to the core, they did locate viewports that allowed them to see the still-functioning reactor. It seemed stable for now, at least. Sadeesh and his people had not succeeded in accessing it. They had cleaned out a trove of artifacts stored in the complex, however, ostensibly as future fuel sources for the core. The party found logs indicating what had been stored there, and went through the remnants to determine what was missing. A few minor items had been taken, several items had been left behind. The most concerning object that was missing was an evil artifact called Skullsoul. A repository for a powerful evil soul, it was believed to contain the remnants of one of Sayoni’s original consorts, and would spell real trouble if it were to return to her hands.

Our story closed with Sindar eventually locating an access to the core, as Zayn left to bring back engineers from Tulesa to help evaluate the systems and their stability.

The Vote

The legislative delay while searching for missing Asad delegates has elapsed. Presumably, a vote has been called on the issue of naming new delegates and moving forward with a resolution for the Empire’s offer, but the results are, as yet, unknown.

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Session 38
Statesmen and Criminals, Revolutionaries All

Our story opened as the party consolidated their position on the small island in Port Miller’s harbor, preparing for imminent attack from their unseen and unwanted guest. Dirt shuffled near the spot where the book lay closed on the ground, and Finn responded with Invisibility Purge. As the sphere of shimmering power expanded around him, it blasted away the shroud of magic obscuring the 9 foot tall beastial shadow looming over them, and the nightmarish thing attacked. War joined in the effort with the party to vanquish this foe. His skills were considerable, though he had trouble integrating with the tactics and timing of the rest of the group. Unable to retreat for fear of losing the book to the interloper, the party pressed forward. Tarsus did his best to stay front and center, absorbing everything he could from the beast. Tremendous injuries were heaped upon him as the thing tore into him with fervor, severing tendons and cracking bones, bleeding the man’s very strength from him. Just as it seemed the thing would be able to hold its position long enough to steal away the tome, the group managed to turn the tide, doing enough damage to distract and enrage the thing. But trading blows with the party of heroes proved an error in judgement, soon costing the nightshade its life on this plane.

After a brief break to collect themselves and figure out how to make Tarsus combat-effective again, the group set out for Port Miller College to rendezvous with Willie and officially send him to his next assignment. The had expected to find the college in the midst of preparations to withdraw from Riyaqa, following an update from the IGG office in Gol Asad. What they found was a campus completely abandoned, except for a bewildered Willie that they found wandering the darkened halls. Spreading out a bit to search the place more effectively, the group eventually came across some puzzling conditions in the Rector’s office. A bit of checking around revealed a message left in a not very obvious place. Reading it carefully, Sindar realized it had been written using the same code he often used in his own messages to the guild. It pointed the way to a group of researchers still hiding on the campus. Finding them in the special projects lab, the party got an update from Autumn, Sindar’s supervisor within the IGG. The rest of the campus personnel had already gone, including Rinn. Only a small team was left behind to finish tying up loose ends, including making contact with Sindar. Facing his refusal to leave the continent until his tasks were complete, Autumn placed Sindar on administrative leave from the guild, to expire upon his return to Farwater. She took supervisory custody of Willie, and sent Sindar on his way after taking his reports and updates. With their business in Port Miller complete, the group teleported back to Tulesa to rest for the night.

The next morning, Finn and Zayn spent considerable effort working on Finn’s non-denominational chapel. Zayn had a conversation with Falat to order that house troops refrain from public worship that might be divisive to other worshippers in the fledgling city. While talking with the newly resurrected Hana Daea, Finn discovered that things weren’t going that well between her and her son, Kando. No longer adventuring with Finn, Kando had decided to sign up for work at the new explorers’ guild in town, worrying Hana about the path her son was taking in life. Going after him, Finn discovered that Kando had signed up for work using Finn’s last name, Dennison, instead of his own. He discovered Kando’s group had headed out north the day before to escort some researchers to a remote site., on a job funded by Mehra Rabadi of Herlish. After that, they were due to head to Latpasa to try and recover arms and armor from the abandoned garrisons there. Learning this, Sindar spent the rest of the day preparing fuel for the SeaChild as the rest of the group made final preparations to depart that evening. A Sending spell between Finn and Kando gave them a rough bearing north of Tulesa, and they were off.

Late in the morning the next day, SeaChild was stopped for a fuel cell change when the party spotted a humanoid form floating along far in the distance. On impulse, they used a mirror to signal to the figure, which responded in kind and approached. Upon his arrival, the man introduced himself as Alexander Selkirk, Imperial wizard at large and non-active member of the Grand Council. He claimed to be on a search for various kinds of information about rumored devices of great power hidden throughout Riyaqa, and was on the trail of a “hidden city” in the desert. After some questioning back and forth, they group came to the realization that the hidden city he searched for was their own Tulesa, and the devices he sought were the arcane cores they had encountered themselves. Not wanting to hand the keys to the shop to a stranger, but intrigued at the possibilities of Selkirk’s assistance, the group struck a deal with him. They offered the location of Aridesa and it’s hidden crypt, asking him to explore and investigate the premises. If he could determine what had happened there that flushed most of its populace in the direction of Tulesa, and help determine the whereabouts of Oxyr and the Blazing Sun artifact, they would help him find Tulesa. Selkirk thanked them for the information and departed in the direction of Aridesa.

As the SeaChild continued on, Finn completed another Sending with Kando, learning that his party’s first mission was scrubbed after losing the researchers to a sand devil ambush. They were now on their way directly to Latpasa. SeaChild turned toward Latpasa itself, intending to meet them there. The remaining journey took them another two and a half days. Somewhere far to the south, Speaker Raha Delina was summoning the Asad this morning to an historic vote that, one way or another, would change the course of many thousands of lives.

Arriving at the edge of Latpasa, the group encountered its legendary gatehouses on the plains of scrubgrass surrounding the city. The wall and gatehouses looked serene in their abandonment. Using Dimension Door to hop atop the wall, the party found a different story within the walls. The streets were alternately empty and littered with swarms of sand shamblers as their gaze passed across the city. A half dozen such swarms lay between them and the likely location of the access to Latpasa’s core- the Queen’s Keep near the center of the city. A nervous run through the street accompanied by liberal use of Dimension Door quickly saw the group to the roof of the keep. Using a grapnel to cover the last of the distance to the tower roof, the party was briefly engaged by a few straggler shamblers- likely the remnants of keep guards.

The story closed as the party slowly and cautiously made their way down through the tower floors. Individual shamblers were very nearly trivial encounters for any one of the heroes by now, but getting caught by surprise could still be dangerous.

The Vote

The legislative delay while searching for missing Asad delegates has elapsed. Presumably, a vote has been called on the issue of naming new delegates and moving forward with a resolution for the Empire’s offer, but the results are unknown.

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Session 37
The Revelation of Brother Xazat

Our story opened as SeaChild arrived a few leagues west of where the party waited. They looked on in muted astonishment as its crew brazenly drove the desert-dwelling trimaran into the surf, and then a short distance out to sea. It seemed the Willie’s modifications actually worked. Upon their boarding, Willie reported to the party that Plainsrunner had caught up to him, and were waiting about an hour away. Arndt, the Vengeance, and company headed back out to open water, intending to sail for Farwater, back in Collosa. Before parting ways, Zayn and Tarsus signed an agreement with Blue, making the Gyredancer an official privateer in the service of Tulesa.

Upon their return to Tulesa, the party went their separate ways for a short while to attend to various bits of delayed business. Sindar set to work on his mysterious plant creature, finally discovering its true nature: an immature mimic. Just the revelation that there were such things was sure to raise hackles around the IGG- potentially the most exciting part of the discovery for young Mr. Pelt. Processing this discovery for a while, Sindar took a break to present Tulesa’s hidden arcane core to the new engineers from Haralin. Inquiring after the treatment and results of the imprisoned cultists in Dingo’s care, Zayn and Tarsus met Goffa: one of Dingo’s newly appointed “special police”. Meanwhile, Finn ordered preparations for Hana Daea’s body, intending to attempt his first resurrection and fulfill a promise to her son, Kando.

Individual business attended to for the moment, the party reconvened to meet with the ruling council they had established to rule Tulesa in their absence. After each member provided updates on their particular areas of responsibility, Zayn and her compatriots tasked them with figuring out ways for the small town’s economy to begin to flourish and become self-sustaining. The contents of the Tulesti citadel’s vault would not last forever. Meeting with Squeaks, apparently now Tulesa’s resident druid, Zayn gave her custody of the powerful item that had been used to temporarily strand their ship- the weather control stone. Squeaks was asked to make use of it as often as possible to help the town develop arable land quickly.

Meeting privately with Arastea Ghomesh, Tarsus came clean about some potential bad blood between her and the original group from just a precious few weeks ago: They had acquired the book that Wils had stolen from her, and turned it over to the Empire before they really had a handle on what was happening in Riyaqa. Ghomesh was bothered, but generally peaceful with the revelation. After some discussion, she revealed that she had been on her way to meet a contact in Port Miller when the book was taken by Imperial agents. She knew only that she was to go to the Tarred Crow and ask about “the war”. With that, Tarsus knew exactly who she was intended to meet, and carried that information back to the rest of the group. If he knew something about that first book, then War might know something about the one they carried now. Needing a night to rest before pressing further, the group settled in in Tulesa. Finn used some of his remaining time to hire the Asad engineers (in town to oversee the construction of the sovereign spire representing the source of power behind an Asad seat) to design a chapel for him, and he took the first steps toward construction. After about a day and a half in town, the group was ready to leave for Port Miller.

Zayn carried the group to Port Miller with a Teleport spell, heading nearly directly to the Tarred Crow tavern. Moments later, they had their audience with War and presented him with the page they still carried from the original book that was supposed to be delivered to him. After some analysis and referring to a couple of tomes he had brought to him, War announced that previous information they had was close, but not entirely accurate. The wards the page described were confusing because they were designed to contain an evil entity on the inside, and ward it from other evil entities. It was a collection of spells meant to contain and conceal. When the group moved on to asking about the cursed skulls and the prayer book they currently had, War stopped the discussion and gave them a more remote meeting location off shore. Before breaking of the meeting, the group gave War some of the crested Black Fleet armor they had collected in Haralin, asking him to put it to good use.

Hours later, the group rowed up to the island War had indicated far out in the bay of Port Miller. War had brought a gift for the party as thanks for the armor they had presented.
Under the more controlled circumstances of the island, War directed Sindar to again open the book and demonstrate what had happened before. Opening it plunged Sindar into a nightmarish recollection of events from the life of the book’s author, living through his induction into the clergy of the Church of Fen somewhere in the Shadowfell. As the vision paralyzed Sindar, the rest of the group saw the portal open to the Shadowfell, just like last time. Only this time, there was an army waiting. Hundreds of shae charged the portal, though thankfully, from a distance. Finn grabbed the book to force it closed before they came though, but found something strong resisting his efforts- something too strong. Seeing his friend’s struggle, Tarsus jumped in. Together, they overcame whatever unseen thing had tried to stop them. The portal collapsed and Sindar snapped out of his trancelike state.

The story closed as the relative peace of the sea-washed island was broken by a low growl from an unseen source. The thing that held the book open was still here. Something had gotten through from the Shadowfell, and would need to be sent home.

The Vote

The vote has been tabled in the Asad while missing delegates are searched for and rescued. An automatic procedural clock of 60 days started when they went missing, with 4 days now remaining before the delegates are declared dead and replaced.

The Black Fleet has been spotted in Riyaqan waters, now heading south out to open sea.

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Session 36
There's been a murder, I do declare...

The session opened with the party escaping the Haralin dockyards into the open sea aboard a skiff piloted by Ganet Godo, a trial pilot who had worked in the yards. They managed to get underway with two of Haralin’s civil engineers that had focused on researching and using the arcane core beneath the city, now on a slow buildup to overheat and destroy itself in case the Empire reneged on its promise to leave. Once they had a good distance from shore with no Black Fleet vessels in pursuit, Zayn contacted Ahti Ato with her Communion Band and updated her on the last day’s events. Ahti promised to take the news straight to the Speaker, and to contact her tomorrow with an update and the Speaker’s plan. Finn completed Sendings with many of the party’s allies, discovering a variety of information.

Happily, Willie had the SeaChild on a test cruise after completion of his modifications, and could make his way to them within a couple of days, though it would stretch his food and water thin since he had not planned for such a long voyage. Arndt was still covering the escape of other ships with the Vengeance, but would catch up to them directly. Blue was his usual rambling self, but seemed to be in his element and not in immediate danger. A lack of response from Emi worried Finn, but not much could be done at present. After Willie told him to check up on Dingo, Finn checked the goblin glass Dingo had given him to find the little spymaster prodding some prisoners with a sharp stick. Zayn used a Sending to speak with him, discovering that the prisoners were spies for the Children had been discovered. He claimed to be acting on Falat’s orders, so Zayn left him to it.

As their small vessel made it’s way east, the party went through identifying acquired magical items, destroying a marker gem they discovered belonged to a shade lord from the Shadowfell. Removing the damaged enchanted bookmark from the tome it protected, a chill went through some of the party members as they saw not a book revealed, but a book-shaped lockbox very similar to the one they had received from Wils many weeks ago. Even through the enchantments on the box, Finn could detect powerful evil within. The party made plans to find a safe place to open the box and determine the exact nature of what it held. Just then, a small bird fluttered to the ship, alighting nearby with a message on its leg. As it was taken in hand, the bird shimmered out of existence, leaving only the note behind. The note was from Arndt. Vengeance was coming to meet them, and had several refugees from Haralin aboard. He provided a list of names. The party checked them with the engineers aboard their own ship, and Graja identified several of the names as being well-known smiths from the southern reaches of the city. The party completed a Sending with Arndt in response, establishing a place and time to meet.

Two days later under the beating sun, the skiff rendezvoused with the Vengeance, Gyredancer, and two smaller vessels in company. After transferring to the Vengeance, they sank the skiff and headed back out to sea. Zayn had communed with Ahti Ato again, and learned that the Speaker was sending a ship to meet them at sea to retrieve the evidence they had from Haralin. For many reasons, it was dangerous to approach Gol Asad without dire need, and even more dangerous to bring such valuable information near the city without careful preparations. She told Zayn the ship meeting them was the Town Crier, and that it would be bringing mysterious security measures with it. Ahti had also told Zayn that the death of the governor of Haralin presented a political opportunity for Tulesa. If the governor could not be resurrected for some reason, then the independent cities would need to vote for a new governor for their sister satrapy. That would be a vote Tulesa could influence heavily. Zayn rebuffed the offer, refusing to delay righting the wrong of the governor’s murder for political gain. Closing the conversation, Zayn informed Ahti of the declaration of war from the Empire that had been intercepted. Ahti said she would pass the information along, but lack of a formal delivery to the assembly would make action on such information difficult.

As the ships traveled north to drop the party off and meet Willie, Finn and Zayn worked hard to convince the Haralin refugees to resettle in Tulesa, where their skills would be invaluable. When most had agreed, Finn did a Sending with Arastea Ghomesh to send another trimaran with supplies and a minimal crew. They would resupply the SeaChild and pick up refugees to return them to Tulesa. Ghomesh agreed, and dispatched the Plainsrunner under the command of Zedin Alasan, a veteran commander of the trimarans. Arriving in the vicinity of their rendezvous point, the party decided to take a boat to shore for a hew hours to safely investigate the contents of the book container. Vengeance came in close and dropped their launch into the water, allowing them to row to shore as the Vengeance moved back out to a good distance.

The two engineers came along to assist in opening the complex mechanism, which gave way quickly under the combined efforts of Sindar and his two new assistants. Carefully, Sindar flipped the cover open with everyone else standing a good ways back. A wave of vile energy pulsed through the assembled adventurers as a darkened doorway emerged nearby. Beyond, the terrain was unchanged, but was plunged into the darkness of midnight. Figures could be seen standing in the distance, vaguely humanoid and shimmering with fluid darkness. As one, the members of the party all turned to look at the small black-bound volume within as it pleaded to be taken through the portal, offering limitless power for whomever complied. All but one of them resisted the call, and Zayn dove forward for the book. Reacting faster than he thought he could, Tarsus tackled her before she could reach it, absorbing a blast of energy from her before Sindar slammed the cover closed, collapsing the portal and ending the book’s influence. In the time he gazed on the thing, the book had spoken directly into his mind, describing its contents to him in its offering of power. He knew it was a book of rituals, collected millennia ago by a Shade Hierophant of the Church of Fen (though the book did not describe precisely what that was). The rituals grew in power as the hierophant went along, collecting more and more information and moving toward his ultimate goal- learning rituals that could kill gods and take their power. Disturbing as that concept was, even more disturbing was the name of the priest that had owned the book: Arugal Xazat. Realization crashed over Sindar like a breaking wave- that priest had succeeded. He had killed the gods of the Shadowfell and taken their power for his own. Sindar re-locked all the mechanisms guarding the tome, and packed it away in the bag of holding. Quietly, the group returned to the Vengeance.

Back aboard, as the rest of the party worked out the geometry of densely packing treasure onto tapestries for magical storage, Tarsus ran across a man named Kasik who was frantically searching the ship. He discovered a valuable custom-made sword had been taken from the merchant (or was misplaced) and agreed to help him look. Outside, the ship slowed as the wind died off- doldrums were unfortunate, but not unheard of, and should pass within the day. Joining the search, Finn dispatched Kando to help. A while later, Kando sought out his teacher, asking him to come to the ship’s bilge deck. Down there, they found what Kando had found- the sword and its scabbard were lying in the damp bilge. Retrieving it, they found blood smeared heavily on the blade. They wiped a small amount of the blood onto a bit of cloth, and placed that on the revelation cloth they carried in the hope of locating the source of the blood. The cloth glowed, but indicated no particular direction. Moving around bore no real change in the indication. They alerted Arndt, who assembled everyone on deck for a head count and determined a man named Fenno Qurat was missing.

Arndt asked the party to look into the matter, but keep it as quiet as possible to avoid a panic. People were already talking ghosts and curses with the doldrums imprisoning the ship as it was. After asking a few questions, they determined that Fenno had been an apprentice with Arlat Dovesh, a blacksmith in Haralin. Interviewing Arlat and his wife under the cover of a Zone of Truth spell, a complicated web of relationships among the refugees began to unfold, and it became clear they would need to sort this and root out the killer before they sent the lot on to Tulesa. The web started with Arlat, whom his wife (Anda) suspected was having an affair, probably with the hussy that ran the local tavern, Denna Herla. Kasik Vey, the man who’s sword had been used for the crime, owed money for the sword to Arlat, and was convinced that Veno Ardina ( a smithing rival of Arlat) was out to get him because he had started buying from Arlat instead of him. In all of this Fenno seemed to be a more or less neutral party until the group uncovered that Denna had tried to get him laid with a local whore one night to celebrate a victory in his life, only to find that he had no interest. He preferred men, and she had kept her friend’s secret. With this discovery, the truth began to unravel quickly. Anda’s suspicions had been correct, but she had been wrong about the identity of Arlat’s lover.

Confronting Arlat with their discovery, he confessed that Fenno had threatened to tell their secret to everyone if Arlat did not follow through on his various bedside promises, and Arlat had killed him for it shortly after coming aboard, weighing him down and throwing him overboard. The ship’s purser was able to corroborate that several pieces of chain shot ammunition for the swivel guns were missing- handy weights to make sure a body does not resurface. The revelation cloth had been trying to tell the party that the body was not in a specific compass direction because it was, by now, far beneath their feet. In a last ditch attempt to save himself, Arlat pointed out that he could bring master-crafted weaponry to their settlement if they simply let this go, and revealed that he had brought on the doldrums around the ship. He promised to give up the item that had done it in exchange for a promise of commuting any charge against him. The party locked him in a stateroom to confer with Arndt. Arndt laughed and offered up the bag of items he had already found while everyone searched for the missing man aboard the ship. Within, the party found a weatherstone which was active, and shut it off. After recovering various other powerful items from the bag, they discussed how to deal with Arlat. Arndt informed them that if the man were turned over to him, he would be tried according to the ships’ charter, as such fairness of laws at sea were the only thing that held crews like his together with no national flag to sail under anymore. That meant a gruesome and public death for Arlat- murder at sea was not taken lightly. A second option was available, since the refugees had officially accepted status as residents of Tulesa. Zayn could designate the man a prisoner of her government, and take responsibility for him until he could be disembarked.

Agreeing to take the man back to Tulesa to stand trial, Zayn chose the second option. Securing Arlat in the brig, the group settled in for the night to get some good rest. Early the next morning, a call went up as a line of ships was spotted fast approaching on the horizon. There were 10 in total, and they were bearing straight in for the Vengence and her fleet. Unsure of the intent of the ships, the Vengeance beat drums to quarters, preparing for battle. Hearing her signal, the Gyredancer and other ships followed suit and fell back from the Vengeance, gaining room to maneuver for battle. As the line of ships closed, one broke away and raised signal flags when the Vengeance signaled a challenge. It identified itself as the Town Crier, seeking news of Haralin. As the ships maneuvered around each other, the security measure Ahti had spoken of became clear. Each of the ten ships was marked identically- every detail from the name on the stern to the arrangements of gear on deck was the same. One came forward and sent a boat across to the Vengeance, and the party transferred the bodies of the governor and his wife, along with the Remembrance Orb and other paperwork. when the loaded boat was pulled back aboard its own ship, the party watched as ballast was jettisoned to correct for the new weight. These people were serious about their ruse.

The story closed as Finn completed a new Sending with Willie, finding that the SeaChild was only about 9 hours out, and the Vengeance turned toward the beach to deliver the party to their meeting point.

The Vote

The vote has been tabled in the Asad while missing delegates are searched for and rescued. An automatic procedural clock of 60 days started when they went missing, with 7 days now remaining before the delegates are declared dead and replaced.

The Black Fleet has been spotted in Riyaqan waters, now heading south out to open sea.

XP Gain

The party has advanced to level 10. The party remains at Mythic Tier 1.

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Session 35
Liberation in chaos

The session opened with the party looting bodies of the dead Imperial marines and consoling a somewhat shaken Graja Helin. Soft thumps through the walls betrayed the battle beginning to rage outside as ship crews fought to retake their vessels and escape the city. From several sources now, the party had information that important prisoners were being kept in the camps outside the city. With fighting getting underway within the walls, this seemed like their best opportunity to take the camps quickly. Seeing an opportunity, Graja interjected that if they wanted engineers for their project in the desert, the east camp was where they would find them. Some of her peers had been taken there, along with an imperial officer who had gone against orders. If the party would go after her fellow engineers, she would continue on her way to the core control bunker the Empire had not found yet, and do what she could to throw them into further disarray. As they parted ways, Graja gave them a question that only one of the actual core engineers could answer, as a way to identify them.

With that, the party was off, using Zayn’s Dimension Door spells to cover ground as quickly as possible when marine forces opened fire on the keep windows. Tarsus opted instead to use the fly and invisibility extracts Sindar had given him, since transporting everyone would overtax Zayn’s magic. Alerted to the movements of the party, Black Fleet archers were quick to adapt each time the group was spotted, changing positions to put arrows on them with urgency. As they moved, a great rumbling shook the entire city like an earthquake. All around them, the city walls themselves were sliding down in to the earth, leaving only the massive gate houses standing. The careful cordoning plan the Empire forces had crafted fell into chaos in a matter of minutes, as all control of the city streets passed into the ground, inch by inch. It seemed Graja had figured out what the party’s new control rod would do with Haralin’s core.

Eventually working their way near one of the inland spires of the city, the group got a few moments to rest while Tarsus got their position again and closed distance with them. Within seconds, a guard in the spire above spotted the party and raised the alarm. They looked on as squads that had been pursuing them closed through the streets. Zayn’s magic was being push to the limit, and if she did much more she might not be able to back up the party if a proper fight started. So they ran, flitting across the roofs of the close-packed buildings to try and throw off their pursuers. The most agile and lightly armored of the marines scaled stairs and ladders of nearby buildings, joining the chase.

As she began to fall behind her compatriots, Zayn chanced another spell to turn herself into elemental air and drift into the sky. Below, the chase across rooftops continued at a breakneck pace, leaping alleyways and dodging shoddy shingle-work with a handful of marines closing in. It did not take too long for the fastest of the marines to catch up, halting the chase as Finn and Kando found themselves hemmed in, Sindar turning to help as Tarsus and Zayn approached from the sky. A few hard blows were exchanged as the party consolidated their position. The marines did the same, but were disrupted by flights of black arrows skewering a couple of men closest to the party. Seemingly from thin air, a black-skinned humanoid in a dark cloak had materialized on a nearby rooftop and engaged the marines, providing an opportunity for the party to escape. Seizing their chance, Zayn and Tarsus came in close, helped the party move to the safety of a nearby rooftop, then lifted everyone away from the roof on the last of Sindar’s flight magic.

Floating gently and invisibly to the customs check office outside the east wall, the group set down near the building and explored the structure. Finding it recently abandoned (probably housing troops that were now rushing into the city), the group used the opportunity to catch their breath and surveil the camp further east across a wide field. They saw a few soldiers, but nothing they couldn’t handle. A fairly thorough search of the building turned up some interesting items, including documents alluding to local citizens that had conspired to help the invaders and some stamped platinum bars probably intended as payoffs. As they debated when to make their move on the camp, Finn saw that the soldiers there were dragging prisoners into a line outside the buildings. They were lining up prisoners- never a good thing when cannon shells are already flying. The party had to move right now.

Charging the camp, the party got close enough before breaking cover to legitimately surprise the distracted marines. The opening seconds of the fight went well for the party as the remaining marines fell back a bit to regroup. Two warbinders were with the troops, and would have to be a focus if the party wanted to end this quickly. As they figured out their tactics, a new wrench was thrown at the party when Imperial Admiral Jonathan Lamarck walked out of one of the buildings, gloves torn and soaked in red and fresh splatters of blood on his breastplate. It was immediately obvious he had been here “interrogating” one of the important prisoners this camp was meant to hold in a coincidence of spectacularly bad timing. He drew a sword crackling with energy from its scabbard and ordered his troops to slaughter the prisoners while he would “deal with this nuisance.” The marines immediately went to work on the manacled civilians present.

The next few seconds were bloody and intense. The two warbinders fell back from the party, making themselves difficult to get to through the layer of soldiers between. And then something happened. The two looked at each other, gave a nod, and attacked the other marines and the admiral. The party had wondered to themselves many times how priests aligned with good gods could participate in an invasion such as this. And here it was- the admiral had taken things a step too far, and the priests turned on him for it. Their betrayal of the admiral and the marines was the only opening the party needed, allowing them to quickly roll up the remaining marines as they worked their way across the camp to try and defend the clerics. Unfortunately, Lamarck’s vengeance got to them first, and both priests paid for their change of heart with their lives. Still many of the prisoners had survived, and now the party stood toe to toe with the commander of the Black Fleet. The air around them darkened, and Finn let out an exasperated sigh. He knew what that meant even before Arturo Ducet opened his mouth.

Sensing that this battle was over, since Ducet wasn’t ripping his throat out, Lamarck sheathed his own blade, prompting the party to relax just a touch, though not quite enough to let their own guard down completely. Ducet informed the admiral that he knew that this attack had been ordered based on false information deliberately provided to the Emperor, and he would see it undone. He advised Lamarck to distance himself from the endeavor before heads began to roll from the throne room in Isamon. Lamarck laughed, telling ducet that the war declaration had already arrived in Gol Asad, and nothing would be undone now, regardless of how it had come to pass. Ducet pulled a torn and somewhat blood-dampened parchment from his cloak and displayed it. It bore the Imperial royal seal. “You mean this?” he asked. “It seems it never made it to the Asad floor.” Doubt crept into Lamarck’s expression, and Ducet pressed his advantage. He informed Lamarck that this battle was already lost, but he would allow the man to pull back from Haralin peacefully. Lamarck begrudgingly agreed, and began the trek on foot back to the city.

Ducet then turned his attention to the party, asking if they had recovered the wayward officer in the camp. A search finally turned the man up hiding in a toilet. A bit a magic cleaning later, and he was ready to travel. The man’s name was Major Anax Amando, and he was a Black Fleet officer who had been given orders to round up and kill villagers, which he refused. He had later helped other important prisoners escape to the countryside once he was stripped of his unit and sent back to garrison- a move which had earned him a bed in this camp and the focused efforts of Lamarck to reveal “who had turned him.” Ducet revealed that the presence of this officer was why he had come personally. He had the spells needed to take Major Amando directly back to the Imperial Palace, and tell the Emperor first hand what had happened here in his name. Ducet could reveal the evidence he had that elements of a shadow government within the Empire had plotted to trick the Emperor into war before it was justified, and hopefully sway the throne to reverse course before it was too late. Hearing a brief from the party of what had transpired within the city, Ducet ordered Talia to locate the governor’s son and his entourage, and get them safely to the Asad. Then she was to assist the party with their next steps. With that, the vampire primarch opened a portal in the road before them. Through it, the immaculate tiled floors of the Grand Terrace were clearly visible. Ducet and Amando stepped through, and were gone.

The party scoured the remaining prisoners asking around about who was who, who was injured, and helping where they could. In due course, through the question Graja had given them, they identified only one surviving engineer, Hota Janelo. They fled with him to the nearby shipyard docks, where they found a man with a boat getting ready to depart. Brokering a deal for passage with him out to sea, they waited only a few minutes before Graja arrived, all the control rods for the Haralin core in hand. The story closed as the boat pulled away from the pier and rowed out to the sealanes, and Finn prepared a series of Sending spells to update their allies on what had transpired.

The Vote

The vote has been tabled in the Asad while missing delegates are searched for and rescued. An automatic procedural clock of 60 days started when they went missing, with 11 days now remaining before the delegates are declared dead and replaced.

The Black Fleet has been spotted in Riyaqan waters, moving east along the southern coast. A secret Imperial occupation of Riyaqan territory has ended!

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Session 34
It's not the size of the dog in the fight...

Our story opened with the party settling on accepting the less appealing aspects of Talia’s plan in favor of it being their best option to get deep into the city unmolested. They spent some time carefully preparing and coordinating what resources they might need to succeed once they were inside the city, realizing this might be the toughest fight they’ve encountered yet if things go awry. Satisfied with their planning, the group moved out from the remnants of the Imperial camp and rested. During the night, they spied a shadowy form observing them from the trees nearby, but were unable to learn more about it before it was gone. In the morning, Talia warned the party about the more capable priests backing up the Imperial forces- men called Warbinders. Even just happening nearby, one of these priests stood a good chance of feeling Talia’s presence and unraveling their ruse early, so they were to be avoided at all costs. With their cover story straightened out and disguises applied, the group headed for the city wall.

They met their first resistance at the farmer’s market along the road into the west wall of Haralin. Zayn took the lead in fast-talking their way through the soldiers there, and the group was led into the city by a marine officer named Cardiff. He took them to an inn inside the inner wall district of the city. The city’s original inhabitants had been entirely forced from this zone, and the only traffic on theo roads was occasion patrols and companies of marines moving here and there. Depositing the group in a room at the selected inn, currently in use as an officers’ barracks, Lt. Cardiff left to find the High Colonel commanding the garrison. As soon as they were alone, the group scoured the room for anything useful or magical, and then Finn connected with Blue via a Sending spell to tell him they were close, and to be ready. As usual, only part of what Blue had to tell them came back to Finn as his rambling response was cut off by the limitations of the magic. Zayn used her Communion Band to speak with her Asadin, Ahti Ato. She told Ahti that the occupation of Haralin was done by the Empire, not the Children of Ahriman, and that they were seeking evidence to return to the Asad. Zayn described the breadth of slaughter that had taken place on the island to hide the Imperial secret. Ahti carefully noted all her mistress said, and reported that there had been a little trouble at the Tulesti estate, but it was nothing the council there could not handle. In recognition of their status, a diplomatic spire was being erected there, identifying the estate and it’s town as the home of an Asad Sovereign.

Shortly after, Finn completed a Sending with Thuli Black, informing him of their progress and telling Thuli to move forward with his own plans. Thuli mentioned that the Blackjacks had reported much the same information that morning, but did not elaborate on who they were. He did mention they would be ready to assist when the time came. While all this was going on, Sindar set about forging a new set of orders to get the party through the inner city and into the courtyard of the Tidefall Fortress at the city center, copying much of the formatting of the orders drafted to get them this far. Collecting Talia’s unconscious form and disguising Zayn as an Imperial Lieutenant, the group slipped out of the inn and headed off.

Moving through the streets roughly in the direction of the fortress, the party crossed paths with several sets of soldiers without incident. Eventually, a pair of soldiers approaching them on the street caused alarm in the group as Finn realized one of them was a scout the group had encountered and subdued earlier on the island, but not killed. If he recognized them, the game was up in a very bad way. Thinking quickly, the group ducked into a large shop nearby, and ran headlong into a squad of marines busily looting the place. Feigning anger at such actions unbecoming of professional soldiers, Zayn played the part of a junior Imperial officer impressively. The squad dropped their loot and shuffled out quickly. Alone in the shop, the group re-arranged their disguises to match the original cover story and headed out to cover the last bit of ground to the fortress gates. They soon came across another pair of marines, but were challenged this time since they were in the streets without an escort. Presenting their forged paperwork, the group very nearly convinced the pair of their ruse. Instead, the soldiers decided to escort them the rest of the way personally, and ask the major commanding the gate guard about the unusual orders once they arrived.

At the gate they met Major Kendrick, the supposed author of the order that Sindar had forged. Luckily for the party, he had written many access orders that day and wasn’t entirely sure whether the order was genuine. Unluckily for them, he was a suspicious man by nature, and ordered the party placed in holding cells until he could sort the matter out. Finn talked the guards escorting them to the cells to allow him to respectfully store the body of the “diplomat” somewhere more suitable. They made a stop by the mausoleums on the fortress grounds, where the group respectfully placed the body before Finn snuck in a couple of sharp kicks on their way out, hoping to wake Talia from her torpor. From there, the party was taken to a small dungeon attached to the keep and left in two cells. The resident Imperial jailor was an excessively creepy and sadistic man named Junov Sinn, who seemed to take pleasure in tormenting his charges and made no exception for the diplomatic mission left in his care. After he wandered away to bother other inmates, the group made quick work of the shoddy door locks on their cages and commenced sneaking about the place to get stock of the prisoners.

The most interesting people they found were the son (Dunai Farindi) of the deposed governor of Haralin and his retinue (Rasia Farindi, his aunt; and Odesh Vliae, a favored stable hand and sometime playmate). Just as they were freeing these people, Junov Sinn happened around the corner with a start. Tarsus charged him to stop him from raising the alarm, but a stool flung from behind him nearly took the small man’s head clean off, ending his life in one blow. Odesh clearly did not like Junov Sinn. Guessing they had mere minutes before someone else might happen by, the party moved quickly to interview and free more important prisoners. They struck paydirt with Graja Helin- an engineer who had worked on the arcane core beneath the city and had been thrown in here until she became more cooperative in talking about it. Sindar was easily able to establish a rapport with her after showing her the transmutation control rod from the Tulesti estate arcane core. An idea occurred to Graja, and they developed a plan. There were functions of the city’s core that had never been deciphered because of missing pieces. Perhaps this rod would do something cool with Haralin’s core. The group agreed to let her take the rod and try, in exchange for information about how to deactivate the harbor defenses and release the ships being held in the interior waterways of the city. With that, Graja was off as the party ran for the harbor control console in the southwest tower of the keep.

Arriving at the console at the top of the tower, the party found a pair of guards that they quickly dispatched. Figuring out the controls took a bit longer, but they soon enough had them sorted. The loch gates and arch portcullis began to slowly grind out of the way at the same time that large spikes and the harbor boom retracted, clearing the way to the open ocean. Shots rang out below them as men on the deck of captured ship rose up together against their captors. In the distance, a short line of Imperial gunships closed on the harbor entrance, presuming the cut off any ships taking to opportunity to escape. The battle to liberate Haralin had begun.

The party did their best to smash the console and destroy its inner workings before heading to the keep’s interior. They hoped to see what they could recover, and see what they might destroy in order to further hamper Empire forces. Moving quickly through the keep, they found the lower floors deserted and not containing much of value. They came across the slaughtered corpses of house staff stuffed here and there in rooms that had been barricaded off, and eventually found the governor’s bedchamber. Within were the bodies of the governor and his wife, recognizable from the many painting and tapestries bearing their likenesses. They had been murdered in their sleep. The library produced a curious volume protected by an enchanted bookmark meant to hide it from scrutiny. Some damage had been done to the library during an earlier assault, and the bookmark was apparently malfunctioning. It hid the book well enough, but revealed its own magic, defeating the effort. The party decided to investigate more thoroughly later, and stuff the book and bookmark into the bag of holding for now. Noise from further upstairs drew their attention. A fight was going on somewhere.

Anyone fighting with Imperial soldiers was an ally in these circumstances, and the party got moving quickly to join the fray. They found none other than the engineer they parted ways with earlier, who had been cornered by a scout marine while sneaking through the keep. The group engaged and easily dispatched the single soldier, but reinforcements had already been on the way. In moments, they were surrounded and in a real fight. A few grenadiers, a warbinder, and another man cut off the party’s escape from the area. The grenadiers got in a few good opening shots against clusters of the party members before they spread out and took advantage of magical fire protection. Failing to adapt to that tactic, the grenadiers were all but ineffective after that, which turned out to be critical to the party’s success. The odd man out was soon identified as High Colonel Blackstone, commander of the Imperial garrison. Seconds later, the party learned at the point of his sword that he was a skilled magus as he forced the first of them to disengage temporarily with an electrical discharge from his weapon.The fight ebbed and flowed around the storeroom where Graja had initially been trapped, and into the hallway outside. At great cost to Finn’s healing reserves, the Black Fleet forces were eventually whittled down to just the Colonel, who fought to the death.

Though the party came out ahead in this encounter, it had cost them a lot and left their resources strained while still deep in enemy territory. The story closed as they rushed to pull bodies into the room and secure the scene, ensuring they would have the upper hand if another group came after them before they could figure out what to do next.

The Vote

The vote has been tabled in the Asad while missing delegates are searched for and rescued. An automatic procedural clock of 60 days started when they went missing, with 11 days now remaining before the delegates are declared dead and replaced.

The Black Fleet has been spotted in Riyaqan waters, moving east along the southern coast. A secret Imperial occupation of Riyaqan territory has been discovered!

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