The Dim Wastes

Session 47
Face to face

Our story opened as the party sailed east aboard the Blue Beagle, forging their way along Riyaqa’s southern coast toward the city of Qisaga. With several days underway, Finn and Zayn used the time to catch up on Sendings to the party’s remaining allies, inviting several to come to Tulesa to take up residence and join their efforts to locate and defeat Sayoni. Teegan and Emi both seemed to be out of any serious trouble and were making their way there. Atala’s response seemed as if she may take a bit longer, saying she was still busy with other matters. The group spend their considerable free time either crafting consumables or training.

On the morning of the third day at sea, the Beagle caught sight of another sailing ship of Riyaqan coastal design. Not an unusual sight in these waters, but the ship seemed to be maneuvering to force a close pass- an aggressive act, considering the circumstances. Finn used his spyglass to take a close look at the vessel, quickly discovering that the crew aboard were disguised Imperials pretending to be a Riyaqan merchant vessel. Keeping their cool at Finn’s warning, the crew of the Beagle allowed the vessel to close after it fired a few warning shots. The ships raised flags to warn the Blue Beagle that Qisaga was under a disease quarantine, and should not be approached. The Beagle asked for an alternative port, and the ship told them to head to Mimmam, instead. As the ship sailed on and the sun set, Finn contacted Dezil Calish via Sending to tell him of the interception and new destination. Dezil was worried by the development, and asked that the group assess what they could about the truth behind this obvious lie.

Under the dark sky of early morning, the Blue Beagle slowed as it entered the mouth of the river that would eventually wind its way to Mimmam. As it slowed, a rowboat quietly descended to the water’s surface, and four people transited to shore. The rowboat was pulled back to the ship via rope. and the Beagle continued upriver. Climbing up the bank of the river the group proceeded overland toward Qisaga on the backs of magical steeds summoned by Zayn. Their only contact along the way was with Riyaqan men who were members of the city guard of Qisaga. When the party provided their cover story, the men just rolled their eyes and moved along, apparently assuming the group to be yet another mission of Imperial spies, for some reason pretending to be something else. Zayn contacted Ahti Ato shortly after, asking if any odd reports of Qisaga had made their way to the Asad. Ahti said the only thing she had heard was that a colleague has recently lost an agent there to unknown causes, but that wasn’t terribly out of sorts when spying on the Empire. Arriving at the gates of Qisaga, the party was accosted by the guards, intentionally escalating the encounter per Dezil’s plans. They were quickly taken into custody, stripped of their gear, and placed in holding room. Through it all, they played along, despite being able to at least fight through the guards near them at any given point.

Soon enough, interrogating officers arrived, intent to discover what trickery the party was up to. As the party provided excuses for the men to get angry, one finally took the bait and they dropped the name that would serve as the code phrase. The man calmed and asked his comrade to leave the room for a minute. Shortly after, the man began to tell the party how to get out of the gatehouse and on with their mission. Moments later, they got their cue and left the room. Making their way down the hall and into the basement, they found the drain access into the sewers and escaped. Their gear met them there, being dragged along in large sacks by a street urchin who quickly fled after making the delivery. Checking their gear, they found the scroll case containing directions to the al Farin estate and the ritual scroll they were to use there. Over the next few hours, they picked their way through the sewers beneath the city, crossing dozens of checkpoints and passing by entire divisions of Imperial troops stationed within the city. Eventually finding an access as close as possible to their destination, the group returned to the surface and used Sindar’s fly extracts to close the last distance to the estate house.

Dropping silently onto a second floor balcony, they made their way past the lone guard and into the house. The house had been converted to serve as a headquarters for high ranking Imperial military officers, but only a handful of troops were on the upper floor. The group avoided them with little difficultly using an Invisibility Sphere, and made their way to the room they needed- one of Arkeles al Farin’s ritual chambers. Realizing that the ritual would take time and the patrolling guards may present a problem, Finn used magic to create stone walls and floors in the chamber to confound efforts to get into the room. The group commenced the ritual, under Zayn’s guidance, but it proved too difficult to master on the first try. It met with limited success, pulling Sindar and Zayn away from their bodies and through the twisting ether while leaving Finn and Tarsus behind. At first, Sindar and Zayn were very confused. They could still see a washed-out version of the room they had just been standing in. After messing about for a few minutes, they realized the ritual also summoned help from someone else: a poorly tempered shinigami that was less than impressed to be taken away from his pass-times to help lost planar travelers. Nevertheless, he did help, finding their request to help find a soul such as Arkeles al Farin far too tempting to pass up.

Leading them to the edges of the Boneyard, the shinigami issued a summons for al Farin. After a long while, it remained unanswered, indicating that his soul was not present. He must have long since moved on to the afterlife. The pair wracked their brains to think of the name of any of al Farin’s compatriots, coming up with Sanget Denatro, a barbarian that accompanied the mage on their historic campaign. When the shinigami summoned Denatro, he came out of the mist in answer, hoping to meet his judgement at last and move on. He was greatly disappointed when he learned his judgement day had not arrived, but agreed to help anyway. Zayn and Sindar listened as he recounted the story of their party meeting Sayoni in her lair, and the events that followed.

Meanwhile, in the former al Farin estate, Finn and Tarsus listened as a patrolling guard broke his pattern of patrol, spotting something amiss. Very soon, the sounds of alarm passed through the house as the first guard came face to face with Finn and Tarsus. Finn threw an emergency stone wall over the doors to the room to buy a few seconds of preparation as boots thumped across the floorboards downstairs. Seconds later, the first blows began hammering against the stone from the other side, and the soldiers began to break through. Tarsus and Dervish met them, and the fight was on. The soldiers delivered solid strikes, obviously trained well to aim for vulnerable areas on an opponent. Finn harried their efforts as more soldiers and guards arrived. As the seconds passed, the situation became more dire. A handful of Imperials were easy enough to handle, but several handfuls were on their way up the stairs.

Denatro completed his story, walking Sindar and Zayn through the memory of the events from his perspective. In this place, the experience was far more literal than elsewhere, and they watched as the events of the ritual unfolded before them. As it completed, they saw the connection form between the body of Arkeles al Farin and some faraway place. Willing themselves to move, they followed it out of the house and into the air. As they moved, they picked up speed,eventually unaware at all of how fast they were skimming over an ethereal Riyaqa below them. Minutes later, they arrived at the point where the thread disappeared into the ground beneath them. Slowly, they drifted down into the ground alongside the luminous red thread. After some distance, they came into a monstrous cave that was nearly filled by an entirely subterranean ziggurat. A soft, feminine voice called out to them, simply saying, “I see you, there.” Reasoning that Sayoni could somehow detect them across both planes and time, they fled. Sindar had enough information to determine the location in the real world. Willing themselves to return, they began to fly faster and faster back along the thread.

Our story closed as a fresh squad of Imperial Regiment soldiers descended on the beleaguered Finn and Tarsus, who were considering their escape options under the pressure, and how they might get the still-unconscious bodies of Zayn and Sindar out with them.

The Asad

New delegates begin to arrive the Asad, with a final vote on the future of the Empire in Riyaqa scheduled to take place once enough members are present. The Khasif bloc has left the Asad, as civil war rages within the Khasif Kingdom.

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Session 46
Here comes the Sun...

Our story opened as the party finished their exploration of the Singed Halls, recovering valuable intelligence on the intentions of the cult. Completing their ransacking, the party made for the Lacy Death to speak with Dezil before their impending meeting with Talia. A teleport trap caught them at the front door of the well-travelled inn, so they made their way inside by more conventional means. Inside, neither Tabina nor Dezil were anywhere to be seen, so the party settled into rented rooms for the evening and purchased the King’s Feast package for the attached private dining hall. At the stroke of midnight, Talia arrived, flanked by a pair of women that were obviously armed, and could obviously handle themselves in a fight. Sitting down to their table with the party, but not partaking of any food herself, Talia answered their questions about the Sun Council, explaining that they were a small, but world-spanning group dedicated to keeping tabs on the creeping power emanating from the Shadowfel. She admitted that she is occasionally employed by them, though she did not know directly for whom she worked. She agreed to contact her handler, and see about arranging a meeting.

While Talia worked on that, the party headed to the nearby Imperial Consulate to answer the summons they received through Dezil Calish and Ahti Ato. Arriving, they were ushered up to the airie that Ducet frequents. Once there, he asked them why they had come. In the brief confusion, the party discovered that Ducet had not sent for them, and Calish had some explaining to do. The group left and headed back for the Lacy Death, not wanting to grace Ducet with their presence any longer than necessary. On the way, Finn realized someone was shadowing them from the rooftops nearby. Finn cast a Daylight spell at a piece of rooftop near their stalker, just to screw them up a bit as the party made haste away.

Arriving back at the Lacy Death, the party found a new occupant at the inn, waiting to meet them. A large, spotted feline waited in the dining hall they had used earlier, alongside Talia. She introduced the cat as Nasreen Kopala, a powerful druid, and member of the Sun Council. Kopala offered that she was very impressed with all the party had accomplished thus far with only a few pushes here and there from the Council, tipping her hand that it was the Sun Council Calish had been referring to as his “employer”, not Ducet. She offered continued assistance, though some on the Council would look down on such direct measures, feeling it was too early to interfere in “the cycle”. In exchange for an explanation of how to find Sayoni’s prison, she asked that the party sequester any information they uncover, and turn it over to the Council if they succeed. The knowledge, and its secrecy, might one day prove crucial. Reluctantly, the party agreed to her terms, and she explained:

Gain entry to the former estate of Arkeles al Farin, the man who imprisoned Sayoni’s spirit when she nearly escaped. There, find his ritual chambers and carry out the ritual Kopala provided on a scroll. This would catapult the party into the astral nether, allowing them to travel and view events tied closely with that location. Mastery of the travel might allow them to directly view the ritual that Arkeles and his people performed long ago, and trace the link between Arkeles and Sayoni to her physical location. Assuming it had remained unchanged since that time, they would then have her location. All that would be left is to escape a well-monied estate likely to be in use as some high-ranking officer’s headquarters, in a city held by the Empire.

Accepting that this was probably as good a chance as they would get, the party set about developing a cover to get inside the city of Qisaga, where the al Farin estate resided. Dezil instructed them on how to make contact with his man in the city guard of Qisaga. Their cover would be Finn traveling as a religious figure attempting to bridge cultures through faith. Zayn would be his local guide, Tarsus his security, and Sindar the chronicler. Concluding this meeting, the group settled down for the night before heading to the Asad in the morning.

Arriving at the Asad early the next day, the party made their way through the varied security layers before finally meeting with speaker Raha Delina. Their arrival interrupted an argument between the Speaker and Horace Mueller, but the details were too difficult to overhear down the hallway. The group exchanged information with Delina, informing him of their progress. Finally asking about the exchange with Mueller, Delina informed them that Mueller came as a representative of the Empire, who were upset that the Asad were not doing more to support the Khasif Regent in his civil war. Concluding their meeting, the group returned to the Lacy Death. There, Dezil informed the group he had received word that Horace Mueller had put a minor price on their heads. Not enough to attract any real talent, but meant to harry their way.

Finn stepped out to visit the local temple of Rustum, where the local priest accosted him for a donation. He asked that pilgrims looking for service be sent to the Lacy Death to get directions to Tulesa from a trusted source, and then returned to tell Dezil what he did. Dezil assigned dealing with the pilgrims to Cassandra, a bar maid who seemed to ask a lot about Finn and was somewhat taken with him.

Their business in Gol Asad concluded, the party made for the ship that Dezil told them to catch, boarding the Blue Beagle in the dock district just a few minutes before it cast off to get underway. Once aboard, Zayn communed with Ahti Ato to ask her to locate a comptroller of some sort for Tulesa. Ahti agreed to get to the task, saying she had someone in mind.

Our story closed aboard the Blue Beagle, underway for Qisaga, as Finn sent Blue a message to pass on information about the war front near Ghabi that they had learned from Speaker Delina. The waters near Ghabi were about to get a lot more profitable, if one were okay with preying on Imperial shipping.

The Asad

New delegates begin to arrive the Asad, with a final vote on the future of the Empire in Riyaqa scheduled to take place once enough members are present. The Khasif bloc has left the Asad, as civil war rages within the Khasif Kingdom.

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Session 45
The Knight arrives, and Haigo dies

Our story opened as Sindar worked through a few books he had brought with him from Tulesa, learning all he could as quickly as he could about the Shadowfel and its denizens. Working in his notes as he did so, he took some time to review the many challenges they had faced in the last several weeks. Clarity rang in him mind as he came to a decision, and decided to Send a message to Willie Burton, who had briefly been his ward. He offered Willie a home at Tulesa, if things did not work out for him at the IGG. Willie said he was fine for the moment, but appreciated the offer. He told Sindar he had come across some interesting things in the boxes of documents evacuated from Port Miller College, and was posting them back to Sindar. He had no idea when they might arrive. Shortly after, Sindar penned a letter to the leadership of the IGG, sending it off via bird token before returning to his studies.

Having made their preparations and rested up, the group steered Seachild to a rocky crag and stowed the ship before Teleporting back to Tulesa. Once in town, Finn retrieved a number of holy symbols of Rustum from Kando, whom he learned has been ordering large numbers of them to nail them into “sinners”. They only had time for a short talk about that, and maybe easing of the inquisition “just a bit” before Finn had to meet the rest of the party back at the Tulesti Estate. Tarsus had consulted with Falat in the meantime, selecting a dozen of the best house troops to help the party with their plan. Everyone else was quickly evacuated from the house, and the party triggered the “defensive” system that planeshifted the entire estate to the Shadowfel. The sky outside quickly dimmed to darkness as glowing eyes lit up in the distance, one after another. Massive, winged blots of utter blackness swam low on the distant horizon. As the party got their bearings, figures came running across the dimmed wasteland toward them. Soon, an assault would be at their doorstep.

Finn first set down the twinned skulls, seeing a wave of odd energy pulse outward from them as they created hallowed ground where they touched. He felt ill in his stomach, but was mostly unaffected. The rest of the party moved downstairs to meet the incoming attackers and keep them away from Finn. Carefully placing Skullsoul in the center of the sanctified earth at his feet, Finn drew the vorpal blade and lined up his attack. The blade crashed down, but failed to shatter the skull. In the main hall below, the front doors buckled, but held against a mighty crash as the first wave of shae reached them. A moment later, their efforts pay off as the doors shatter and shae spill into the room. A mix of martial attackers and spellcasters fell upon the party and their soldiers. Their assault was fierce, but manageable as the party moved to block their advance. For every shae that fell ,two seemed to take its place. Before long, Tulesti soldiers began to fall as the attack intensified. Trying to deflect attention from their troops, Sindar and Zayn both got into serious trouble briefly as more vicious attackers joined the fray. Upstairs, panic crept into the back of Finn’s mind as his repeated attempts to destroy SkullSoul failed.

Through the broken doors, Tarsus spotted something landing among the amassing shae that he could only describe as a “shadow dragon”. A figure leapt to the ground from its back before the thing lofted again, and he knew instantly who this was: The Elder Knight had arrived. Continuing to barely hold their ground against the shae incursion into the main hall, the party could only watch as he strode closer, a new contingent of shae falling in behind him. Sooner than they would have liked, the Elder Knight entered the main hall and went straight for Tarsus. Upstairs, Finn focused his mind and the power of Rustum that flowed through him. Raising the sword one final time, he struck true and SkullSoul exploded in a wreathe of blue flames. The blade shattered in his hands. As he rushed down the stairs to aid Tarsus and the others, Zayn rushed up. In the main hall, the Elder Knight was proving too much for Tarsus to handle, at least in this place. Using every trick in his arsenal, Tarsus was holding his feet for the time being, as the alchemist behind him flung ordinance like a madman. Through the doors, they could all see the new wave of shae approaching. With the Elder Knight here, it would easily overwhelm them. As Finn made it to the bottom of the stairs, Zayn slammed the control crystal home in its sheath, and the world outside dissolved into light. The bright, mid-morning sun over Riyaqa blasted light across the main hall of the estate, bathing dead shae and dying Tulesti soldiers in its glow. As the shae bodies began to wither away, the Elder Knight ceased his assault on Tarsus and looked at the scene around him. Driving his massive blade into the stone tile of the floor, his staccato, otherworldly voice said, “I submit,” before he faded from view.

Quickly summoning help, the group stabilized the soldiers they could as small fires were put out and the injured were carried to the hospital. Their mission was accomplished, and now the clean-up began. Balasar was summoned to examine the blade left driven into the floor. He determined it to be a powerful artifact blade, but more a remnant than the blade itself. He said the owner of the blade knows it as “Arugal’s Kiss,” but the name held no special meaning to Balasar, himself. Out of an abundance of caution, Tarsus swung Dervish at the weapon, which transformed mid-swing as it smashed through the embedded blade. Only a piece was left protruding from the floor, which faded from view. Balasar said the piece could be used as a dimensional anchor with the proper rituals, allowing them to locate the holder of the real blade at will. The Elder Knight had surrendered initiative for their next encounter to Tarsus. The group convened to discuss next steps, and continue with sendings from the day before.

A message to Daso Enna revealed that it was not safe to return to Zacat, as the civil war in Khasif is now near that town. A message to the Watch revealed that she could provide no direct help in locating Sayoni’s tomb, but she believed an organization called the Sun Council was their best chance of finding a lead. Zayn contacted Ahti Ato, getting an update on the war inside Khasif. It seemed the war was precipitated by the Regency attempting to undermine and ignore the great houses of Khasif nobility, though who initiated the attack on the Regent was still unknown. Ato also had a message for Zayn: Dezil Calish was trying to reach her. Shortly after, she sent a message to Dezil, who informed her that his employer had requested a meeting as soon as possible. Finally, a message was sent to Talia, who agreed to meet the party at the Lacy Death in Gol Asad on the next evening.

From there, the party broke up to complete various tasks in Tulesa, including state visits to the families of soldiers they had lost in the Shadowfel incursion. Sindar visited Graja in the reactor complex to inquire about developing a special weapon for him. Following that, the party decided to teleport back to the Singed Halls directly, seeking evidence of where they might be able to next root out the remnants of the Children of Ahriman. Within the halls, they found evidence of the blasts the Sindar had arranged before the last departure. What areas remained relatively untouched were now guarded by hasty barricades of furniture and shattered doors. Behind the barricades, they found the place abandoned. It seemed the remaining cultists had been unsure if the party still lurked in their halls and tried to protect their flanks while they evacuated what was left. Exploring the rest of the compound, they found a few items of interest, along with some intel in the form of maps and ledgers. The materials had been soaked in oil as if to be lit of fire, but the fire was never struck.

Our story closed as the group too stock of the information they recovered, learning that more attacks had been planned by the cult, and one was supposed to be executed today.

The Asad

New delegates have been assigned to the Asad, with the old missing members declared dead as the body schedules a final vote on the future of the Empire in Riyaqa. The Khasif bloc has left the Asad, as civil war rages within the Khasif Kingdom.

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Session 44
The dying Children

Our story opened as the party caught their breath following a fierce battle with Sadeesh, deep in the subterranean complex known as the Singed Halls. A brief search of the nearby rooms turned up little of true consequence, save for a scroll that seemed to detail a ritual involving the SkullSoul artifact they had just recovered. Careful study over the next few minutes revealed that the ritual concerned retrieving the soul (or at least its power) stored within, and its various steps were profane beyond belief. When further searches of the area turned up no more cultists or traps, the group decided to bed down for a while in a secured room to rest and recover some measure of their power.

Some hours later, Tarsus heard a scream echo through the passages. Roused from their rest, the party geared up and started stalking the source of the scream. Moving through the complex, the group became aware one by one that they were being shadowed by something. Deciding the dim light was hindering their ability to see whatever was following them, Finn lit of the hallway with the brilliance of Daylight cast on Tarsus’ armor, and the aggressors finally showed themselves. One of the three ashen-skinned humanoids attacked immediately, while the other two took a few seconds to blink away the blinding light of Finn’s spell. Going immediately for the heaviest threat he could see, the attacker laid into Tarsus with sharp blades. The extra tingly sting of the rather small weapons announced the presence of poison as the energy was sapped from his limbs with each hit.

As the other attackers recovered, Zayn and Oxyr were pushed onto the defensive at the rear of the fight while Sindar and Finn hammered the first man, eventually reducing him to a fine mist against the far wall. Seeing their comrade go down, the remaining two retreated momentarily and lobbed their own bombs into the group. Purple gas violently flooded the hallway, to no apparent effect for most of the party. Tarsus, however, suddenly realized an enemy stood where Sindar had been a moment ago, and lashed out. The lucky blow from an unexpected aggressor put Sindar out of the fight. Ever the man ready to rescue the situation, Finn went to work with his spells, clearing the various poisons from Tarsus and aiding Sindar to his feet. Able to focus again on their aggressors, the party dispatched another of the trio. The last of the three attackers found himself cornered in the narrow hallway and lashed out, doing considerable damage before dying in a hail of blasts and blades. In the confusion, Zayn momentarily did her best to barbeque Tarsus before the last of the purple gas faded from the air. Searching the rapidly decaying bodies, the group came away with a compass that had been stolen from Sindar, an assortment of poisons, and a long knife with a strange black blade.

Oxyr instantly recognized the weapon, confirming the identity of their attackers. These people were part of a shae assassin clan, which had apparently accepted a contract on the party. Unfortunately, clans accepted contracts as a whole, meaning the party would need to find a way to cancel the contract or expect to have the kill the entire clan to put an end to this for good. It would be a while til they struck again, but they would be back. Deciding it would be better to not be here if the clan went for another attempt quickly, the group prepared to leave the Singed Halls. As a parting gift, Sindar rigged every stash of barrels he could find of the noxious compound that Robert Pinan had unwittingly helped to make. The party winked out of the caverns as the first of many explosions ripped through the stockpiles.

A moment later, they were standing on the southern entry slope to the lush valley marked in Sindar’s notes as SR-7, called Chamber Valley by the few that knew it existed. Again meeting Guardian at the boundary, they led a procession of curious denizens to the Watcher’s Grove, waiting patiently for the Watcher to arrive. After a short while Dyphonaira was with them, listening intently as they relayed all that had happened. With SkullSoul safely in their custody, the Watcher told them the name of the man trapped within: Haigo. He was one of the two consort priests originally interred with Sayoni many centuries ago. He would be a powerful lich, if released from his prison. Released on Sayoni’s terms, he would be instantly absorbed into her own pool of fel power, making her even more dangerous. She advised disposing of it quickly, and explained the ritual needed to destroy it. Summoning the armory master from among her followers, Dyphonaira presented the party with a powerfully enchanted longsword and explained: “With ordinary weapons, this charged skull is invulnerable to any damage that might be inflicted on it. This sword, though, is special. It is made to claim the heads of the most powerful evils that walk the land. With a perfectly struck blow, it will overcome the protective magic of the skull and claim that head, too. It is likely to destroy both the skull and the sword in the process, but it’s a worthy sacrifice.” As with most artifacts originating in the shadow realms, it would need to be destroyed there, on hallowed ground. Destroying it here would only return it home.

With their next task set before them, the party turned their attention to the fate of Oxyr. He explained all that he had done, seeking power in the name of Mahari, but falling prey to Sayoni’s whispers instead. He claimed responsibility for all the damage done by Sadeesh, and asked for a chance to continue to make things right. Dyphonaira, acting in her role as the majordomo of Mahari’s only remaining realm on Geosa, accepted Oxyr’s pleas. The clemency she granted him was perhaps not what he sought, as she breathed deep and bathed his kneeling form in a storm of fire that was blindingly bright. An instant later, only the scorched earth remained. She explained that his suffering was at an end now, and others would carry on the work of restoration. Looking to Finn, she asked that the Blazing Sun artifact be delivered to Hana Daea, as Mahari selects her to be the new head of her clergy. Dyphonaira would soon need to return to sleep for a short time to usher Oxyr’s soul home safely. As the group departed, Dyphonaira transformed to her elven form, and Finn gave her a beautiful necklace. She allowed him to place it around her neck as she smiled, and he thought to himself that it seemed a warm smile. Then he remembered that mouth had just incinerated a man into nothing but airborne ash. And then they left.

Arriving back in Tulesa by way of another Teleport, the party met with Falat, giving him some of the better equipment they had found to use himself or distribute among their troops. Falat reported his progress on the growing army- small still, but progressing. Finn spoke privately with Hana Daea, telling her what had transpired and what was coming next. Calling their council, the party took updates on the goings-on of Tulesa, and arranged a public address for that afternoon to officially name Hana Daea as the new leader of Mahari’s priesthood. After the address, the part consulted both Selkirk and Balasar on the task they had been given. They learned that the blade the Watcher gave them was the most powerful vorpal blade Balasar had ever even heard of, and he took some entertainment from the fact they had intended to use a vorpal weapon to destroy a skull in a ritual. Formalizing a plan, the party commandeered Plainsrunner and ordered it into the deep desert, toward coordinates Sindar gave the crew once they were underway.

Arriving at their destination, the group disembarked and ordered Plainsrunner to return home. They quickly started digging, finding the twin cursed skulls where they had left them. They knew the skulls were cursed here, but were holy relics on the shadow plane, sanctifying any ground there that they touched. From there, the party teleported to the rocky outcropping where they had left Seachild. They boarded the craft and got it ready to get underway, heading for Kaleska and hoping the constant movement would keep them far enough ahead of the assassins tailing them to prevent an attack that might disrupt their plans. While aboard that night, Finn and Zayn caught up on communications with their allies. After getting a status report from Blue and his fleet, they spoke with Emi, who seemed to be well, but busy. They offered her a place at Tulesa. Contacting Atala, they updated her on their progress against the Children of Ahriman, offering her a place at Tulesa, as well. A Sending with Daso Enna reported that they had accomplished their mission and were back outside of the Khasif nation. He congratulated Finn on their accomplishment, promising, “We’ll speak again soon, brother.” Finally, Zayn used her bracelet to commune with Ahti Ato at the Asad. She told Ato of the trouble within Khasif, and Ato told her that the replacement delegates had been selected. A vote would proceed soon.

Our story closed as the Seachild sped across open sand under a waning moon. Ghosts from the shadows would not catch them this night.

The Asad

New delegates have been assigned to the Asad, with the old missing members declared dead as the body schedules a final vote on the future of the Empire in Riyaqa. The Khasif bloc has left the Asad, as civil war rages within the Khasif Kingdom.

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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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