The Dim Wastes

Session 2
In the Service of the Council

The story opened with the group of new acquaintances pulling into the harbor of Gol Asad on an imperial skiff that had seen better days. The harbor was crowded with ships, but was quiet at this time of morning. They could see the markets on shore-side streets beginning to open, and decided to disembark after a brief discussion about the safety of the civilians on board. Arndt parted company with the party, taking his skiff to see about repairs and boarding a proper crew.

A young Riyaqan boy that had befriended Emi aboard the skiff gave the party what directions he could about the city before departing for his aunt’s home, and the group headed for the Citadel district in search of the Grand Council Consulate.

About two thirds of the way there, Anton spotted what he believed to be someone tailing them through the streets, and the party ducked into a local arms shop to go over their options. Watching from the shadows of the shop entry, Teegan confirmed that a tough-looking guy had posted himself up across the street from the shop, and appeared to be waiting for them. They hatched a collective plan, where most of the party would act as bait and lead the man into an alley, where Teegan would cut off his escape from behind.

As they departed, their tail seemed to go for the bait, and Teegan fell in behind. The party selected an alley that would give them room to fight and ducked in, rapidly getting into defensive positions. Teegan closed in the spring the trap, and they knew they’d been had when he came face-to-face with Tarsus still waiting for the man that was following them. Quickly deducing that their quarry might have gone invisible while briefly out of sight, Sindar made an educated guess about where the man might be and hurled a bag of chalk dust into the nearby wall. As the cloud settled, it revealed their invisible attacker before he could spring a sneak attack on Tarsus.

The battle was brief, but loud – including a musket shot, several firebombs, and some melodious singing before spilling into the street as the man tried to make his escape. The party sealed off his exit and subdued him, with Imperial Regiment soldiers closing in on the fracas. After a brief exchange with the soldiers to explain that they were attacked first, the party found themselves and their captive being taken to the closest garrison, which turned out to be the consulate they had been looking for in the first place.

After a brief runaround at the consulate while their story and identities were checked over, the group was sent before the Consul-in-Residence Arturo Ducet, the Headmaster of Necromancy of the Grand Council of Alhena. His presence and is attendants were… unsettling, to say the least. It was easy to understand why he was reputed to be the most reclusive member of the Council. The headmaster informed the party that the man who had attacked them was known locally as The Hand, and was a wanted fugitive assassin and thief for hire. He expressed surprise and more than a little admiration that this lot had managed to capture such an elusive target. That the Hand had been hired to track the party and recover that book they carried meant that the enemy, whoever they were, were already several steps ahead.

Ducet’s initial investigation of the artifact the party brought to him unleashed a psychic attack that he quickly brought under control. Realizing that although he could discern the general purpose of the book, he could not translate much of its text, Ducet asked the party to continue the mission of the agents they had come across at Sutif. Time was of the essence, and if they could get the book this far on their own, they were his best bet to stay ahead of the people looking to get it back.

Formally inducting the group into the Council service, Ducet named them Council Operatives. After a brief (and generous) resupply, he arranged for short-lived simulacrums of the party to leave the compound by the front entrance while the real party made their escape from the rear courtyard with a page from the book that had been rendered inert. They were to make best speed for the nearby settlement of Sevir’s Hill – a small Riyaqan farming community that was home to a cleric named Ugess. She was retired from the Order of Alhena, and lived among the locals now, but was still the foremost authority Ducet could think of on the ancient Mahari language used to write this book.

Before they left the compound, Anton and Teegan took a few minutes to interrogate The Hand in a holding room deep within the compound. Though the interrogation was not terribly productive, he did eventually give up that he’d been meeting his contacts for the latest round of jobs at a tavern in the city called The Lacy Death. After he’d made some ill-advised threats about recovering his equipment, Teegan stabbed him enough with his own sword that healing intervention was required to preserve him for further interrogation, and the team’s access to the prisoner was revoked.

A day and a half of uneventful travel saw the party arrive at Sevir’s Hill with the community in turmoil. The leader of the community was trying to organize a mob to go after his eldest daughter, who had been kidnapped by nearby goblins two days ago. As the party debated whether they should even get involved (given the urgency of Ducet’s orders), they realized the gods of the realm might have pre-ordained their involvement when they were told that Ugess had gone looking for the girl yesterday, and not returned.

Talking their way into the loan of a dog from the farms, the party pressed the dog into tracking the girl by way of Teegan’s skillful handling of the decrepit beast. Within an hour, they found themselves before the diminutive entrance of an obvious goblin warren. Descending carefully, they made it not five feet before the first trap was found and avoided. Only a little ways farther, they found a pair of goblins passed out drunk. Not the best guards for the goblin stronghold hidden beyond.

Having gotten the drop on the two goblins, the party quickly subdued them and then tried to press them to reveal the location of the missing girl and cleric. The two cried and struggled and repeatedly denied all knowledge, until Tarsus finally had enough. Dragging one of the goblins back to the sunlit entrance of the cave, Tarsus began beating him. And beat him. And beat him. The goblin’s cries fell on deaf ears—

“Hey, that’s not what happened at all. Teegan was going to kill them just to be safe. That guy’s pretty vicious. I decided to knock them out so he wouldn’t see them as a threat. Bad idea, and after I hit him once I decided I didn’t really have the stomach for it.”

As I was saying, the goblin’s cries fell on deaf ears as Tarsus administered a mercenary’s brand of interrogation until the mewling lump of pity—

“Drop it or I’ll demonstrate some mercenary diplomacy for you firsthand.”

Ahem. Well. Mistakes were made, and there’s no sense dwelling on it. So. About the same time, the remainder of the party finally located the latch for the secret entrance to the warren.

Entering the twisty passages below, the party found themselves in a standoff at a hastily erected barricade. Electing to try to reason with the goblins instead of resorting to extermination, the party eventually won an audience with Gok, their leader. Eventually, Gok allowed them to speak with the missing girl, and explained they had taken her to spare her from her father’s rage. The girl confirmed this, and announced her intention not to return home. Gok claimed that the attacks on the town were limited to the holdings of Salia’s father, because he was a terrible person.

Shortly after, Ugess appeared and confirmed what she could of Salia life at home and her father’s temper. She made vague reference that led the party to conclude that she is not actually retired, but serves some hidden purpose here, and said she intended to find a way to see Salia safely away from there. Tabling that discussion for the time being, the party inquired about the page they had been given and their instructions from Ducet.

Ugess explained that she could tell that the page diagrammed a barrier of some kind, but needed to translate the notes around it to discern more, as it had been transcribed from another source by someone who did not understand the spells they were copying. Unfortunately, all her notes and journals needed to perform such work were back at her home in town, and any appearance there by her or the party members would raise questions concerning the whereabouts of Salia, and possibly precipitate an attack on the warren.

The story closed as the party pondered possible solutions to this problem, with Salia’s father inching closer to a bad decision every moment.

XP for the session

Combat: The Hand – 5.000XP
RP: Arturo Ducet – 1,800XP
Combat/RP: Gok’s Warren – 3,300XP

Total for session – 10,100XP: 2,020XP each

XP total to date: 3,900XP each (5,000XP needed for lvl 3)

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Session 1
Encounter at Sutif

The story opened on a line of hundreds of people waiting to enter the coastal town of Sutif. The Imperial Navy was providing free passage to Gol Asad aboard their ships for Imperial citizens needing transit to arrive in time for the most important vote in the Asad since the empire arrived in Riyaqa decades ago. City guards and regimental soldiers shared the duties of inspecting the many arrivals, searching for insurgents and saboteurs.

A brief commotion announced the beginning of a coordinated assault on both the town and the many people waiting to gain entrance. Attackers flung globes of poisonous gas into the crowds, killing many instantly. In just a few seconds, the dead began to rise again as enraged, mutated creatures that seemed to be more sand than flesh. Most people ran for their lives. A few stood their ground and tried to halt the attack before more people died. At first, the battle was chaotic as everyone fighting back tried to tell friend from foe. The attack was eventually halted, but not without heavy civilian casualties.

After a far-too-brief respite, the true scale of the attack revealed itself as entire blocks of Sutif erupted in massive clouds of the poisonous and mutagenic gas. His partner fallen, Wils Jenil and a handful of adventurers bolted for the nearby skiff docks, well outside the town walls.

Reaching the docks just ahead of a crashing wave of civilians-turned-sand-monsters, Wils shoved a heavy package into the hands of a young alchemist named Sindar, and handed his Seal of Imperial Service to Anton, a bard. He instructed them to stick with their new found friends and get themselves to Gol Asad as quickly as possible. There, they were to find the Grand Council Consulate at contact Magister Ducet. He alone could be trusted with the contents of the pack.

Sindar and Anton boarded a waiting skiff, along with Emine (Anton’s gunslinger bodyguard), Teegan (a wandering ranger), and Tarsus (a soldier turned mercenary). A few other civilians boarded with them, and the skiff departed. After a brief bit of convincing, the commander of the skiff agreed to take the group the Gol Asad despite his own desire to meet up with the Imperial Fleet.

En route, a pair of saboteurs were forced into revealing themselves earlier than planned, and were quickly subdued by the party, now coalescing into a formidable team. Unfortunately, they had already planted a pair of fairly advanced alchemical bombs on the deck of the ship that were thoroughly tangled into the framing. The party’s struggle to work the bombs loose lasted for a few tense minutes before they succeeded – if you count hacking away significant parts of the the decking as a success.

With a few minor repairs, the skiff was underway again. Twice along the voyage, the skiff dipped in close to shore to check on coastal settlements, hoping for a safe place to set ashore the civilians left on board. Both settlements were found in disarray – the results of separate attacks on each. Whoever was behind this plot, it was wide-spread and well-timed. Thus far, the only clue uncovered by the party pointed toward a fringe cult called the Children of Ahriman.

The story closed on the morning of the skiff’s fourth day of sailing, as the tall spires of Gol Asad crested the horizon.

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