Our story opened with our band of decidedly former Council Operatives standing in the street moments after Atala made her escape. Briefly, Tarsus was able to make contact with her through the cloak he had been given. She told him he had maybe a week to live, as Sparrow herself handled operatives that went off the reservation, and there was no coming back from that. After filling him in on a little more of what the armor made them vulnerable to, Atala signed off by warning Tarsus to seek more information from Oxyr about his family ties, hinting that they had put themselves in the middle of a family feud, not a crusade for justice.
Carmeno as his people arrived moments later, giving Tarsus only a moment to fill the rest of the part in on what she had said. The entire group was escorted back to the administrative hall through an increasingly unruly crowd by several town guards that worked for General Ghomesh. After a while, Oxyr and the general resurfaced, having gone to a secured hiding spot after the assassination attempt. After some discussion, everyone arrived at the conclusion that not much had changed from their original intentions, and so the original plan stood. The only significant change was a dire need to shed all of their council-issued equipment, now rather than later.
The residents of the settlement stepped in to help where they could, eager both to help the people that had saved their leader, and to move them along so the less rational elements of the settlement did not start trouble without thinking it through. An old armorer named Hershel (a rare Riyaqan slave that kept his imperial name after being freed and returning home) offered to rally his compatriots to fit existing stock armor quickly for the party, in exchange for the suits they had to leave behind. The party explained to Hershel that the armor was potentially dangerous to anyone near it, but he only seemed to become more excited as they described what might be done to anyone wearing it. Hershel, it seemed, had a plan. Nevertheless, the exchange was completed, and by mid morning the next day, a staff of armorers had fitted out the party in nice new gear, though it was not magical in nature. Hershel gave them the name of a friend in Port Miller who might give them a discount on enchantments. Preparations complete, the party and Carmeno’s group boarded the desert trimaran “Seachild” and headed north.
With some winding around to avoid known problem spots, Seachild needed about four days to reach Port Miller. Periodic stops were required to change out depleted alchemical cells for new ones, as Seachild depended on hot gas discharges to help it cut a path through the rough sand without destroying the hull. On such a stop a few days in to the journey, the party heard one of the crew scream out in pain. Rushing to see what happened, they found two of crew backed against the hull of the trimaran by a large, heavily armored scorpion. Acting quickly, the party leapt to their aid. Teegan and reptile-Reece took the brunt of attack from the scorpion, learning that the sting wasn’t that bad, but the poison that came with it was moderately terrible. Without too much trouble, the scorpion was dispatched. But before the injured crewman could be healed and the process of changing cells finished, more scorpions joined the attack.
Now with a real threat on their hands, the Mongrels rallied as blades and bullets rained on the scorpions. The beasts responded in kind with flurries of relatively minor attacks, but the pain of that poison withering the damage that Teegan could inflict. A bit of maneuvering allowed the group to get the scorpions surrounded, and the battle ended as the last beast was slain. Up on deck, the captain spotted more scorpions emerging from the nearby rocks and winding their way across the sand toward the fresh corpses of their fallen. Finn quickly healed the injured crewman as Sindar and Emi rushed to help the crew finish the cell change-out. With mere moments to spare, the last of the crew and company climbed aboard and the Seachild began sliding forward as the kite sail was deployed, crushing more than a few of the incoming dog-sized scorpions.
The trimaran sped forward without incident through the night and into the next day. With the crew going about normal work and the two groups of adventurers aboard discussing plans in Port Miller, everyone on deck was suddenly thrown forward as the vessel came to a halt, rising up a bit before slamming down into the sand. Some people on board managed to brace themselves in time to avoid injury, while others were less fortunate. Looking to the front of the ship, they saw several large tendrils of sand wrapping themselves into the rigging at the bow as a larger one secured its grip on the hull. A moment later, a flat piece of rock the size of a table whizzed through the lines that still held tension on the large kite that served as a sail, snapping three of the four and allowing the massive canvas to flutter to the ground. In the distance, their assailant revealed himself. This was the first time they’d seen one of these things up close, and this was a moment they had been dreading. Travel in the desert enough, and eventually you will have to deal with a dune giant. It seemed this one had laid a trap for them.
As the crew and most of Carmeno’s people recovered from the surprise attack, the Mongrels found themselves facing a decision. If they stayed with the ship, there might be more people to help face the giant, but the ship would likely be damaged heavily or destroyed, stranding them in the middle of nowhere. If they ran out to meet the giant, the ship might well survive, but they might not. Deciding it was better to die for the ship than on the ship, the group leapt the rail and ran headlong into trouble. Moving quickly, Teegan and Reece were the first to close with the dune giant. As the party crossed the threshold into the final 100 ft before melee, the giant unleashed an earthquake spell, knocking several of the group off their feet and nearly swallowing a couple of them in huge cracks that opened up in the desert floor. With that, the giant rushed for Teegan, out ahead of the party and making his way around a massive boulder, and brained him with a club the size of a ship mast. Teegan kept his feet under the terrifying force of that blow, but was under no misconceptions about his ability to take another one like it.
Hoping to hold the thing in place long enough for Emi and Sindar to draw a bead on it, Tarsus tried to close with the giant. After a brief exchange, the damage it took from the gunslinger convinced the giant to get moving again. It briefly took cover behind another cluster of boulders, flinging “small” rocks the size of wardrobe chests at the ranged combatants. Tarsus finally managed to engage the giant in melee as Finn took steps to get Teegan back into the fight. At the edge of the battle, Julian Carmeno and a cleric from his group had recovered, ran after the party, and now engaged the giant as well. Turning his full attention to Tarsus, the giant delivered a crushing series of attacks that would have outright killed any other member of the group. By all rights, he should have been an unconscious, bleeding mess, yet Tarsus stood his ground. In a panic, Finn pushed as much healing magic as he could into the battle. It was clear this giant was every bit the nightmare they had imagined it would be. Julian charged into melee, casting a spell as he ran that transformed him into a hulking, black-armored behemoth with dark wings trailing behind him. He delivered a smashing blow from his radiant greatsword, taking some pressure off the group for a moment. The giant turned its attention to the paladin as Teegan moved in behind it, and Emi and Sindar moved into good ranged positions.
Even with the terrifying damage it could deal, the giant was unable to overcome Finn’s healing and claim a life before the damage coming in was too much for it. Seconds later, the massive thing fell, much to the relief of a battered and strained collection of adventurers. After a few moments to patch themselves up a bit the group looked around for other obvious traps and impediments to getting underway again, and found the lair of their assailant. Though not much of value was inside, they did find a series of drawings of the ship they were riding on, with progressive details added over several drawings. It had most likely seen this ship or one like it many times before, and was aiming to catch one. The tendrils entrapping the ship had failed and collapsed when the giant died, and repairs took a few more hours, but they were underway for Port Miller again soon enough.
While stopped the next evening for another cell change (and now on high alert during such changes), the party saw a lone rider approach from the darkness. Apparently in a bad way and in need of water for himself and his horse, the man asked if they could spare any help. The party cautiously obliged him, asking how he came to be out here on his own without supplies. They recognized the man after a few moments as the same one they had seen outside Aridesa, full of dire and cryptic warnings. After asking him about the connection, the man apologized and told them he had difficulty sometimes remembering what happened when. With that, he asked them what they had learned, and what they thought they should do. The party laid everything out for him, with more than a few questions attached about what they were involved in. So the man told them that he could shed a great deal of light on the confusing morass of intrigue involving the various factions in play, but there were rules, and that information came with a cost. He could only intervene so directly a very limited number of times- if he told them what he knew, this was their problem to solve- if they failed, the world paid for it. Reluctantly, the party agreed. The man revealed that he was the source of the visions plaguing their dreams, and that their belief that the visions were related was quite true. As they listened, he filled in the gaps and told them the story of Sayoni of House Tanje.
As the party sat recovering from the gravity of the situation now before them, the man thanked them for the water for himself and his mount, arranged his goods, and headed into the night. As morning came, the ship made off once again for Port Miller, reaching the outskirts of the transition to its irrigated farmland a few hours later, where it could proceed no further. The session closed as the two groups crested the last rise along a trade trail into Port Miller and saw the city walls come into view a mile or so distant.
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 52 days now remaining before the delegates are declared dead and replaced.
Quote of the Day
“I hope he hits the black guy.” -Emi