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 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!