The Dim Wastes

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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