The Dim Wastes

Session 32
When injustice becomes law...

Our story opened with the damaged frigate slipping past the Anarchy, both ships having fired their bearing guns just before the pass in old sea tradition. Onboard, the party came to grips with the message Arndt had just sent, and wondered at the identity of the shrouded figure they could see on his weatherdeck through the spyglass. In short order, as the frigate and its escorts retreated, the Vengeance came alongside the Anarchy, bringing the party aboard by small boat.

Once there, the group greeted Arndt and caught up for a bit with him and his crew before turning their attention to the shrouded figure waiting in the captain’s cabin. She introduced herself as Talia Carsindan, former paladin and descendant of Arturo Ducet, now fallen from grace and among the most powerful of Ducet’s followers- and the namesake of Talia’s Vengeance. Though her very presence put some of the party on edge, they group found her more agreeable and forthcoming with information than Ducet had ever been. In their conversation, she told them a bit about her history and her work alongside Ducet (whom she somewhat creepily refers to as “Father”). She informed the party that her interest was piqued with Finn’s communication to Arndt about their plans- she had been aboard several days at that point, seeking a way through the Black Fleet perimeter and get enough information about the commander in Haralin to target and remove him, per “Father’s” wishes. And thus, she offered a partnership. They breach the shore together, then go their separate ways. She would help the party as it suited her plans, but her goal was only to kill the commander of forces ashore in Haralin, and make it messy and terrifying. Once the party agreed, Talia hired Thuli and the Anarchy on temporarily to help with the plan, and they waited for darkness.

Having moved along the shore a good distance from the scene of the battle, their ship made for a wide cove as the last vestiges of sunlight slipped from the sky. A rowboat transferred them a short way before they moved farther on their own. Moving closer, they spotted two watchposts close enough to have a chance to make them out as they moved through the surf. Using a series of spells, the party slipped undetected between the watchposts and up the short, rocky cliff that formed a natural barrier between the beach and the island beyond. As they made their way farther inland, they spotted a disturbance at one of the posts as what could only be Talia attacked the guard there and disappeared into the night. Discretion being the better part of valor, they moved quickly to put distance between themselves and the confused sentry or possibly dead body that would soon be discovered there. Consulting their rudimentary map, the party decided to head for the road on the far side of the island and use that to proceed south toward the city. After a safe distance had been covered and they were thoroughly embedded in the wild spaces of the island, the group settled in to camp for the night.

During the night, whistling sounds from far away in the south could be heard on the air, but were not easily assignable to any particular source. As day broke, Zayn summoned horses to speed the party’s advance across the island. Much of the first day of travel, both overland and on the road, was uneventful. At one point, Tarsus inadvertently sprang a trap left in the road, taking bad cuts along with a little bruising to his ego, but nothing life-threatening. The trap consisted of a smattering of small blades and used a drawn sapling to provide spring energy- it seemed to have been set quickly with few materials, but was nonetheless effective at convincing the group to travel more carefully. Camp that night went peacefully, all things considered, with only more mysterious noises in the night from far away south.

On the second day, travel along the road was going smoothly until the group came upon a small marine scout patrol. Trying to assert their way past the patrol, the group’s efforts were firmly rebuffed by the leader. He barely got out a direct ultimatum when Sindar and Tarsus both attacked him. The patrol’s two archers were ready for the attack, and returned fire immediately. A lot of blood was spilled in a short time, but the group came out decidedly on top, with only the patrol’s leader left alive. The group questioned him, and he remained uncooperative, but professional. Deciding against more of a body trail, the party knocked him out and left him as they proceeded south. Moving off the road slightly, they traded some movement speed for increased safety from other patrols. It took several more hours to reach their first goal, the village of Sado, where they hoped to check on the locals and perhaps gain some intel on the marines. Instead, they found only death.

It seemed the entire village had been massacred. A shallow mass grave was filled with the bodies of the former inhabitants, covered over with lime chalk. The village had been pillaged and stripped of valuables, as well. Swallowing their disgust, the party took what time they could to deal with proper funeral rights before moving on. Two hours later, they came upon the nearby village of Berin. There, the scene in Sado was repeated with stark efficiency. It seemed that the Black Fleet took their motto very seriously- “Clear the way”, indeed. The only difference in Berin was that the mass grave was slightly outside of town, near a scene that looked like the villagers had tried to form a defensive line with whatever they had for weapons. After the same routine as they had taken in Sado, the party moved on again.

After several more hours, they came to Hoppis, a small hamlet carved into the rock of the low hilly range that marked the island’s west shore at this latitude. And again, they were greeted only by a long, shallow ditch full of dead bodies covered in lime to mask the smell. After doing what they could for the lost souls of this village, the group decided to bunker up in one of the stone slab buildings and rest for the night. Setting out the next morning, they made quickly for Haralin. Part way through the day, the group came upon a strange patch of road, only to discover immediately that it concealed a fire trap that was lit by a nearby archer. As soon as the searing arrow was away from his bow, he ran into the woods. Pushing through the mediocre damage of the trap, the party gave chase. Seconds later, the real trap was sprung as more archers revealed themselves from elevated positions when the party chased their prey into a gully. Scout marines with swords rushed the party at the same time, and the fight was on.

These soldiers were not looking for prisoners, opening up with a flurry of slaying arrows meant to kill lesser foes outright. The party responded in kind, but the superior position of the archers began taking its toll in a hurry. Finn did his level best to keep everyone on their feet, but some members of the party came very close to collapsing. Tarsus left an impressive trail of dead melee fights as he worked his way across the battlefield, but only stayed standing due to a last-second heroic intervention from Finn. This perceived weakness baited some of the remaining archers to abandon advantageous positions for better killshots, and Sindar and Zayn capitalized on the mistake, wiping out the remaining marines. Searching corpses, they found written orders to kill Sindar and capture Tarsus. It seemed they party had probably not found everyone from that earlier scout patrol, after all. Someone had make it back ahead of them to report in, and it was unlikely to be the nearly crippled sergeant they left behind.

Deciding they were a little too light on intel to proceed safely, Finn used a Speak with Dead spell on one of the dead soldiers to try an glean some information. He learned the names of the overall commander of Imperial forces in Haralin, as well as the scout commander that penned the orders they had found. Finn further discovered a few key tidbits about the details of the wall defenses of the inland sides of Haralin.

Our story closed as the group removed what useful things they could find before burying the soldiers’ bodies and moving on.

The Vote

The vote has been tabled in the Asad while missing delegates are searched for and rescued. An automatic procedural clock of 60 days started when they went missing, with 12 days now remaining before the delegates are declared dead and replaced.

The Black Fleet has been spotted in Riyaqan waters, moving east along the southern coast.

Quote of the Day

“I have only visceral objections to consensual polymorphed bestiality.” -Tarsus

Session 30.5 & 31
Each of us is born twice

Our story opened with the party aboard the Anarchy as it transported them north through the Straits of Haralin, under the command of Thuli Black. Picking their way slowly to avoid being sighted, it looked like they were making good progress. Soon, things took a turn for the worse as a flotilla of small ships came into view from the north. At first traveling in a line, they quickly began to spread out as they spotted the Anarchy. A look through the spyglass confirmed the party’s fears. This was an interceptor squadron from the Black Fleet.

Anarchy had time to prepare, but with a half-strength crew, there would be no escape without at least crippling the lead corvettes. As the first pair closed within range, Thuli Black and his crew surprised them with some unusual maneuvers and skilled firing, sinking both ships quickly while taking only minor damage in return. All the while, several members of the party pulled out every trick they could think of to confound and disrupt the tactics of the interceptor flotilla. Alerted to the danger of their quarry, the remaining ships redeployed to bracket the Anarchy and deny it the use of an entire gun battery. She simply could not fire fast enough to keep the smaller ships from swarming her, and the party could only lock down so many of the vessels at one time. Within a few minutes, the first corvette slammed alongside to deliver boarders to the Anarchy’s decks.

The fleet marines storming over the rail were tough, but would prove to be no match for the party if they could not muster more numbers on deck, and quickly. Another corvette risked closing quickly to aid the marines storming the Anarchy, and made it through, shredding wood from the surface of both vessels as they scrubbed alongside and disgorged more men to the deck. Now, with enough people on the Anarchy to completely consume the party’s attention, the remaining corvettes began to close more quickly. The next two groups of boarders split their compliment between storming the weatherdeck and climbing through gunports onto the Anarchy’s gundeck, prompting the battery officers to close the gunports and fight at close quarters inside the ship.

Now completely unopposed, the remaining corvettes dove in at the Anarchy. Within another minute, the deck of the ship was littered with bodies being trampled by more marines vaulting aboard. In the distance, a large frigate grew in size as it bore down on the swarmed Anarchy. As it closed, its most potent weapon entered the fray. Just as the party seemed to be getting the upper hand and started thinning out the marines on deck, the weather-mage from the frigate teleported himself into the fray and attacked the party directly- and he was not to be taken lightly. Ice storms and lightning bolts ripped across the deck of the ship as the man floated leisurely on the wind gusting across the deck. In short order, he overwhelmed the already exhausted group trying to defend Anarchy’s deck. One by one, the party succumbed to oblivion until only Tarsus remained. Most of the marines were out of action, as well. The weather-mage suffered many of his defenses to be stripped away, but still had a large pool of magical power left to draw upon before he lost his strength. Eschewing direct confrontation with the armored behemoth before him, he began to summon bearded devils to finish the job for him. Tarsus lost consciousness as a final strike of lightning descended upon him at the same time as the devil pounced.

Strangely, he did not fall, though he felt his soul being whisked from his body. All around him, Tarsus saw the world continue to go by in painfully slow motion, with seconds stretched into minutes. A radiant figure strode across the deck toward him, taking his hand and pulling him free of the last vestige of corporeality. He watched as the man did the same to Finn, and brought the two of them closer together. He introduced himself as a herald of heroes, all but confirming that he was some agent of rustum. Shimmering wings trailed behind him as he surveyed the carnage on deck. The angelic figure told them both that he was there to take them to the hall of heroes, if that was their wish- they had certainly earned their place there for loyal service and unending heroism. “Of course,” he said, “I am permitted to intervene occasionally, in the interests of a champion of my liege.”

Tarsus told the man he was not yet finished with what he had been charged to accomplish, and could not happily go to the hall of heroes. Asked what he preferred, Finn agreed. In response, the shimmering man said he could return them, or at least something like them, to life. He commended Finn on his stalwart representation of Rustum’s tenets, calling him a rarity among priests. Turning to Tarsus, the man said that what Tarsus once was must die today, but that if Tarsus agreed to take a knee, a true champion of Rustum would be reborn. The pair asked after the rest of their party. Ordinarily, they would be excluded from such second chances, but the herald would consider extending the deal to them if a sacrifice were offered. He took special interest in the unconscious form of Nanda, and noted that whomever they offered would not be killed outright, but would have to journey through trials meant to redeem them in Rustum’s eyes. Reluctantly, the pair offered Nanda to the herald, and the bargain was sealed.

A moment later, they found themselves in painfully familiar surroundings as the second wave of marines leapt the gunwales of the Anarchy’s weather deck. The frigate still closed in the distance, but was further away than it had been. The weather-mage was nowhere to be seen. Nanda was gone, but the rest of the party was on their feet and fighting as if the last minute had never happened. Tarsus glanced down as Dervish seemed to vibrate in his hand now, responding to the power newly invested in him. Sindar felt mostly unchanged, but refreshed and newly focused on skills he’d always wished he’d spent more time on. Finn was in much the same shape as Sindar. Zayn fond herself nearly completely reborn- the subtle magic that had once allowed her to insinuate herself into the minds of others had been replaced by raw, surging power… and a powerful urge to unleash it.

Momentarily, the group realized the weather-mage was still on the Anarchy, but was hidden from view behind the fore mast. They leapt to the offensive as renewed marines streamed aboard. Their resources and energy restored to them, the party tore quickly through the encroaching marines. Zayn obliterated groups at a time as Tarsus left a trail of bodies in a line that pointed toward the attacking mage. Already, the mage was losing defensive measures to a combined assault from Sindar’s bombs and Finn’s spells. This time, the group was ready. This time, they had become sharpened instruments of divine purpose. This time, the mage died in less than 20 seconds.

The assault on Anarchy broken, the group rushed below to see what had held up the guns from firing on the corvettes, only then discovering that a few marines had entered the gun deck. Even that small number had done serious damage below decks, but only one remained alive by the time the party went below. As he set himself in a defensive stance in a doorway, ready to receive their attack, a long, thin blade slid through his belly from the back, then disappeared and reemerged in a different spot. Sputtering blood, the man fell and revealed a wide-eyed Kando behind him- a wild look in his eyes and bloody blade in his hands. Finn dealt first with triage and aid, saving those he could, and then with calming Kando. Calls from the deck sent the party running back upstairs.

Outside, the frigate and its remaining escorts moved to widen the gap back out to long gun range, where the frigate had the advantage. It found its flanks cut off just then, however, by an approaching ragtag fleet of ships, some of which struck imperial colors just before firing a devastating opening salvo at the frigate that stripped away entire sections of rigging. The ship leading the new fleet looked familiar, and a quick check through the spyglass confirmed it to be the Talia’s Vengeance, still under the command of Arndt Jungson- except now he had a fleet. Pressing the surprise, the fleet encouraged the frigate to escape rather than fight. After a wary close pass to slip by the Anarchy, it did just that.

Still within sight of the escaping frigate and its escort ships, our story closed as Arndt sent a coded flag message in an attempt to bring the group and their ship up to speed: “Haralin not taken by cult. False flag by Empire.”

The Vote

The vote has been tabled in the Asad while missing delegates are searched for and rescued. An automatic procedural clock of 60 days started when they went missing, with 14 days now remaining before the delegates are declared dead and replaced.

The Black Fleet has been spotted in Riyaqan waters, moving east along the southern coast.

Quote of the Day

“I’m going to put both of my balls on him.” -Zayn

Session 30
The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men...

The session opened with the party making cautious progress toward Gol Asad’s public markets for the more wealthy citizens- those that could afford enchanted goods made by master craftsmen. When they were nearly to the market, Finn spotted a woman following them at a distance. Contriving a circumstance to duck into a shop without raising their pursuer’s suspicions, the group discussed their options, and decided on a plan to take the woman alive and interrogate her. Upon leaving the shop to put their plan into action, the woman was nowhere to be found. The party moved on to their objective after a short search and a bit of a waiting game to see if she might resurface.

At the market, the group fairly easily found shops to purchase most of what they wanted to rid themselves of, and were able to procure most of what they sought. A particular dealer named Muslata drew their interest, and he took a liking to the party, even offering Finn an enchanted ring he sought for a deep discount as long as he promised to “put in a good word” with Rustum.

While most of the group conducted their business at market, Sindar decided to visit his guild office in the Imperial Consulate to check in and drop off reports. He then returned secretly to the Asad to delve deeper into what precisely Ducet was doing to people there. He discovered, and later related to the group, that Ducet was using very powerful spells to quickly, and legitimately, heal large numbers of victims. The value of the materials he was chewing through to do this was almost absurd, but there was little room to doubt the effectiveness of his work. In his conversation with Ducet, Sindar discovered that the thing they saw in their encounter with Sadeesh was likely Sayoni herself, or at least his vision of her. Something they did forced her to reassert her control over him, resulting in the apparition they saw. Ducet knows that Sayoni has essentially dominated Sadeesh, but warned against feeling sorry for him or trying to spare him. He was bloodthirsty and bent on punishing Riyaqans that worked with the Empire before he ever came across Sayoni. She has merely given him the tools to do what he already wanted to do, but won’t risk his disobedience. She had originally shown him a way to create a body she could inhabit that would not die, and he had misinterpreted her instructions as showing him a way to kill tens of thousands of people.

Back at the Lacy Death, some strategic discussions took place on what to do next, given all the information at their disposal. Finn communicated with Arndt via a Sending spell, who was underway at sea aboard Talia’s Vengeance. Telling Arndt that Blue was likely captured and held in Haralin’s harbor, he asked for Arndt’s help. Arndt replied that he was tailing the Black Fleet near Hansen, and had seen evidence of a small troop landing there. He would continue in their direction. After resting a bit, the group headed out in the darkness to make a meeting with a local smuggler that had been arranged by Dezil.

Some theatrics involving lightning left the group wondering if Dezil was a resourceful wizard, had simply played a trick on them, or could somehow see the future. Whatever the explanation, they found their meeting place, and so did the pirate meeting them: Thuli Black, known in these waters as the “Sargasso Devil”. After explaining to Thuli where they wanted to be taken, and what they were trying to accomplish, Thuli initially balked at the risk involved. Some quick words from the party convinced him to try, and he agreed to a deal in the end: if the party agreed to disable and open the harbor gates in Haralin to allow his men to get at the ships impounded there, he would transport them to a safe drop-off near the city and give them what help he could. With the deal made, the group returned to the city to rest for the night and wrap up loose ends.

Back at the Lacy Death, the Broker filled the party in on his progress tracking the materials they had identified. He had found no large-scale viridium market, but had learned that the only mine still in operation was within lands controlled by the Garonokka dune giants, who were mostly immune to its effects. No information at all had been found yet concerning wyroot. The remaining materials were being bought in easily tracked quantities from a number of locations, but a network of merchants had helped him track a number of proxy orders back to the Khasif city of Nadju. He was still in the process of learning more specifics.

Shortly after this brief meeting, Ugess arrived from Sevir’s Hill at the party’s request. She was able to shed more light on the specific nature of the cursed skull artifacts they party had recovered from the Tulesti estate. They were cursed in this plane because they were party of a blessed ossuary in the Shadowfell. She would need to research methods to dispose of them safely. Asked about the penchant the estate had for plane-shifting to the Shadowfell, Ugess discussed her collected knowledge of the lost engineers of Riyaqa and the guardian cores they had built, believing the Tulesti estate had one such core. The inter-planar nature of the cores made it exceedingly difficult to manipulate them, and much more research would be needed to determine if theirs could be “unhitched” from the Shadowfell. Finally, she revealed some new results on the page they had originally brought to her many weeks ago. She had deciphered the symbols in context, and now believed they had seemed odd to her because they were actually describing an enchanted prison, not a warded tomb. Whomever had annotated the page believed the prison contained the essence of Mahari, the desert goddess.

Resting for the night at the inn, the group was preparing to leave the following morning when a group of rough-looking gentlemen downstairs caught their attention. Questioning the men as to their intentions, the party found out they were thugs sent to rough up an employee of the inn, or collect the money he owed, “however he wants to handle this.” Unappreciative of someone waiting to beat up an employee of Tabina (who had so far been incredibly accommodating of the group), Tarsus decided to stick his dick into the proceedings and start a fight in the inn. The men sprang to their feet, drew weapons, and countered. Alas, the party significantly overmatched them, and within a few seconds one man was badly hurt and another dead- pulled back from the brink only by quick action from Finn. Dezil burst into the room from his upstairs office, bringing a halt to the confrontation as Finn channeled to heal everyone involved. Dispassionately, Dezil banned everyone from the premises for the next 24 hours, on pain of being used as his Baleful Polymorph practice dummy. The party was fine with this, as they had a boat to catch.

The trip out of town was uneventful, and the party met up quickly with Thuli and his gun cruiser, the Anarchy. They noted as they boarded that the ship was lightly crewed for its size, and Thuli explained he was a bit between full crews at the moment. As the rest of the day passed, the group sent messages to a few people to keep them abreast of events. They asked Arastea Gomesh to tell Willie to hurry with his modifications to SeaChild, as the ship might be needed very soon. They told Blue they were coming to get him, and to be ready. They informed Arndt of their plans to infiltrate Haralin, and asked him to find a way to help or stay clear of the place. Finally, recalling that Ambo Dubash in Herlish had had contact with Wils (the original courier of the book the mysterious page had come from), Finn sent a Sending message to him to inquire after the source of the book. Brother Dubash informed him that Wils admitted to stealing it from someone named Arastea, and that she had been a powerful warrior and a good tracker. Wils had been in a hurry to get it back to his employer, but Ambo knew no more than that.

The story drew to a close alongside the party’s first day aboard the Anarchy as it slipped north through the Haralin Straits.

The Vote

The vote has been tabled in the Asad while missing delegates are searched for and rescued. An automatic procedural clock of 60 days started when they went missing, with 15 days now remaining before the delegates are declared dead and replaced.

The Black Fleet has been spotted in Riyaqan waters, moving east along the southern coast.

Quote of the Day

Session 29
Fake it 'til you make it

Our story opened as the party wrapped up with what they could do to help survivors of the attack upstairs, eventually deciding that they had a moral imperative to check in on what Lord Ducet was up to in the remnants of the main dining hall. Upon arrival, they found themselves turned away by mages guarding his endeavors. The mages wore cloaks of varying design and color, but all emblazoned with the unmistakable 9-pointed star of the Grand Council. Firmly denied entry by the army of mages, the group decided to visit the Speaker’s office to get some answers. A later visit back to this hall would uncover that Ducet was using some complex chain of spells that began with infecting the afflicted with vampirism to render them immune to the toxin, then somehow removing the vampirism, en masse.

Sitting with Raha Delina, the party learned that the Gol Asad docks and a few other key areas of the city had been hit at the same time as the Asad with more of the gas bombs. Efforts were underway to isolate the contaminated people and help them, if possible. Then he told them about the attack on Haralin. It had been different in nature than the others. While there was strong evidence from escapees that the Children of Ahriman had led the attack, it was a military occupation, not a gas attack. With their successful surprise attack, the cult now held the most powerful and prolific shipyard and naval dock on the continent. While it was doubtful they could put it to full use for a while, it’s loss would be crippling over the long term, especially if Riyaqa found itself facing a war with the Empire. To worsen the news, there was now very good reason to go hat in hand to the Khasif delegation, as the Khasif Kingdom now held the most powerful shipyard ostensibly under Asad control. With a lot to process, the party found bunks for a few hours after Delina told them an emergency session had been called for that evening.

At the emergency session of the Asad, Delina wasted no time in getting to the point. Seated as his guests in the floor gallery, the party looked on as he made the case for unifying their respective militaries to declare war on the CoA, take back Haralin by force, and hunt down and exterminate the cult and their leaders. As members of the house expressed disbelief at some of Delina’s accounts of previous gas attacks, he asked a member of the party to step up and present evidence. Zayn approached the podium, and relayed a selective transcript of the party’s many run-ins with the cult and the results of their attacks. A clear first hand account from such an influential voice seemed to carry weight as quiet discussion broke out among known blocs of delegates.

A woman at the back rose from her seat, striding forward in a formal request for the floor, which the Speaker acquiesced. She introduced herself as Ahti Ato, representative of the disparate Mah Hari tribes of the desert, though mostly a figurehead. She publicly told the assembly of the many people in the desert flocking toward a new settlement that has sprung up, and that she now knows the purpose of that settlement and its leaders. Having learned that the woman speaking was representing the long-thought-dead House Tulesti, she wished finally to name the sovereign to which she would bind her representation. Recognizing the formality and seriousness of her announcement, Speaker Delina took up the script and asked her to enter her claim into the record. She claimed for House Tulesti. And just like that, the scam they had concocted with the Speaker to get access to the Asad became very real.

A recess was immediately called, there now being a representative on the floor that still needed to confer with her sovereign before casting a vote. Delina offered his office for their meeting, and left them alone. Ahti Ato convinced the party of her sincerity, then briefed Zayn and the others on the political maneuvering she expects to unfold shortly, and gained approval on her plans to deal with some of it. As a final order of business for their first meeting, she asked what the name of their new, yet tiny, capital should be. Preferring to harken to the older desert traditions, they chose the name “Tulesa.” A few hours later, the vote proceeded to the expected result: WAR.

Trying to get word of this development to allies abroad through the use of Sending spells, Finn discovered that Blue, and likely the entire Gyredancer, had been captured in the raid on Haralin and was now in chains. With the docks compromised, there was no other quick way available out of Gol Asad. Finn asked G121 to take him to the remains of the attackers, so that he might use some more disturbing magic to get some answers. Arriving in the morgue and locating the bodies, Finn applied Speak with Dead to learn what they might know about Sadeesh and his plans. The cryptic answers he received indicated a possibility that Sadeesh might be so hard to locate because he usually resided in the Shadowfell. Asked how to locate him there, the corpse responded with a wide grin, “die to a black blade.” Upon further discussion, the party decided they needed to know more about Sadeesh and the eerie shadow entity that briefly appeared during their encounter with him. They came up with only one name that might present significant insight without a heavy price attached- Ugess, the former Order of Alhena priest that had deciphered the original page for them when this all started. As Finn was not familiar with her, he could not reach her with Sending. They would need more mundane help. The party left the Asad, and headed for the Lacy Death.

Arriving, they found the former site of the inn burned to the ground, the rubble still mostly undisturbed. A few questions to passersby pointed them to the nearby, new location of the inn. It still ran under the direction of the same proprietress, Tabina Karouk. After getting seated in the main room, the party eventually gained as audience with Tabina, who took them to a private dining room. She greeted them, provided the party with accommodations, and caught up with them for a bit. Tabina explained that she had ordered the old location destroyed after learning what was beneath it, and they were starting over here, in a somewhat smaller building. The group asked if she could put them in touch with “the Broker” Dezil Calish. He arrived to speak with them a short time later, revealing that he had been waiting to meet them and a wealthy patron had already hired him to assist the party. They made a number of requests for information, which he dutifully noted. Dezil agreed to make contact with Ugess and attempt to provide passage for her into the city. He also agreed to set up a meeting with someone who could transport them quickly and quietly to wherever they needed to go, but didn’t have a habit of asking too many questions.

Dezil discussed with the group what they each knew about the toxin being used and its delivery method. They wanted to track the toxin’s origin to locate the CoA, but were at a dead end. He offered use of a laboratory for Sindar to analyze the compound and try to determine some components that Dezil might track through bookkeeping records. Sindar and Tarsus left for the Sourgrounds slums to take him up on the offer. Meanwhile, after discussing their new method to heal some people of the toxin’s affliction, Dezil gave Finn a lead on another healer working at the docks that was desperately in need of such things. Finn and the remainder of the group went to see him.

Arriving at the docks, Finn located Jano Vativa behind a wall of guards, tending to patients and barking orders for supplies. Explaining his method, Finn settled in to provide as much blood as possible, and heal himself through the ordeal, while the party watched over him and his surroundings. By late morning, Vativa had used samples of Finn’s blood to determine a good minimum dose needed and cure a number of people. Of course, some did die in the attempt, but Jano had some success at improving the odds of survival.

At the lab, Sindar managed to isolate a number of ingredients in the compounds of the toxin. After they returned this information to Dezil, the diminutive man got to work. He also discussed the impending danger of the Black Fleet with them, making the party aware that his information indicated the fleet had split weeks ago, sending a contingent to Khasif waters while the main fleet circled south toward Gol Asad. A number of potential outcomes arose from this development, and few of them were good. While Dezil was able to theorize as to supply sources to investigate for some of the compounds he was at a loss for some, as they were just too common. Hoping for some help, Zayn used a Sending spell to contact Robert Pinan, a primary designer of the compound who was now in hiding at Chamber Valley. He identified a compound in the accelerant as uliun. With a single rare component of the toxin identified as wyroot, and a rare component in the accelerant identified as uliun, Dezil felt it was now just a matter of checking records and greasing a few palms to find the place where requests for these items converged.

The story closed as a hopeful party turned in for some well-earned rest, and pondered a trip to the market in the morning.

The Vote

The vote has been tabled in the Asad while missing delegates are searched for and rescued. An automatic procedural clock of 60 days started when they went missing, with 18 days now remaining before the delegates are declared dead and replaced.

The Asad has just voted to go to war with the Children of Ahriman in an emergency session.

The Black Fleet has been spotted in Riyaqan waters, moving east along the southern coast.

Quote of the Day

Session 28
Desperate measures

The story opened with Sindar facing off alone with the reviled Sadeesh, both men slightly panicked at how long it might take their reinforcements to arrive. In the opening moments of the battle, Sindar struck quickly by shattering a vial of whatever filth was at hand across Sadeesh’s rather expensive robes. Sadeesh responded by encasing Sindar in a block of ice and retreating to invisibility somewhere in the room full of barrels. As seconds ticked by, the rest of the party arrived outside the room and were greeted by a mass of black tentacles wriggling out of the stone floor near the doorway. Braving and/or finding a way around the tentacles, the party eventually stole into the room.

Freeing Sindar as they went, the group posted up near the front of the room and waited for Sadeesh to make a move. Zayn began looking around the room for an invisible opponent, but could not locate the man. Had he seen what she had done, and simply hid, even though he was invisible? The answer to that question came in the form of a flame strike on the party, coinciding with Sadeesh’s backup arriving in the form of two cultists. The attack came in response to the party discovering that not all the barrels in this room had divination triggers- the massive bomb in this room could be relatively easily disarmed, now that it had been discovered. One of the cultists threw Chains of Perdition at Tarsus, trying to bind his defenses to allow the other to get stabbity with him. The rest of the party did their level best to make nuisances of themselves to disrupt this attack, and the pair eventually shifted their focus to Zayn in order to shut down her mental meddling. Nanda arrived in the room, having started off by covering the exits from the outside in case Sadeesh made a break for it. Briefed quickly by the party, she went to work trying to open and disarm barrels.

As the melee moved around the room, Zayn, Sindar, and Finn all found themselves in a tight spot with the two cultists, fighting a fast-moving battle of blood loss until someone went down. Sadeesh capitalized on the opportunity, demonstrating a willingness to attack his own men if it meant disposing of the party. A lighting bolt ripped through the room, severely wounding several of the combatants, including one of the cultists. With the blade-wielding cultist at their backs, things were looking bleak as Zayn died outright from her wounds. Moving quickly, Finn yanked her departing spirit back into the fight with a breath of life, then flooded the area with healing power to get his comrades back on their feet. Sindar managed a lucky grab at the unholy symbol one of the cultists used as a power focus right after he had released a burst of negative energy, and eventually downed the cleric with a well-placed vial of acid after being knocked to the floor himself. Moments after one cultist died, the other went down as well.

Focusing on Sadeesh, the party began trying to strip away his many layers of magical defenses. Sindar ran himself dry of dispelling bombs whittling away spells one by one. At one point, Sadeesh stopped fighting when Sindar hit him with a dispelling bomb. He seemed disoriented for a moment, with no recognition in his eyes. A second later, a shadowy, demonic figure appeared in the room. It did not attack the party directly, nor respond to anything directed at it. It simply focused on Sadeesh, whispering to him. Moments later, Sadeesh was back to fighting, and the creature was simply gone.

Two of the guardian G units arrived presently at the room. The party pleaded with them not to sound the alarm, believing the remaining triggers to be linked to the sound of the bells far overhead in the towers. After all, why would the GM plop you down right beside them during your extradimensional escape if they weren’t going to be important later in the story? Bit of a Chekov’s Gun violation, I should think. The party asked the G units to use their control of dimensional pockets of Mechanus to help get rid of the trigger barrels, instead of going to sound the alarm. Unsure of which course of action to take, the G units elected to do both. One stayed with the PCs to follow their directions, while the other beat feet for the alarm rope.

As Nanda tore through barrels, flinging the lids outside the room where they could not trigger the explosive toxins inside, Sadeesh changed tactics and moved to protect the last barrel. Throwing up a wall of force between the barrel and the party, he sat down calmly, safe behind the wall as he awaited the eventual trigger. Moments later, ome unknown thing caught his attention as the group battered harmlessly on the outside of the force wall. Rising to his feet, he offered a dismissive salutation as he opened a portal to some other place and stepped through. The wall of force collapsed, and the party descended on the last barrel with a trigger. At the last moment, Nanda pulled the lid free, whipping it in a wide arc and tossing it through the door into the hallway beyond. Intent on securing the room, Sindar moved to the open door to close it, only to see Sadeesh standing in the hallway, trappen barrel lid in hand. He flung it at the door as the massive tower alarm bells started their rumbling gongs high overhead. Sindar had only enough time to slam the heavy doors shut as the lid sailed toward him, but not enough time to get away from the doors. Tarsus pulled shut the doors at the other end of the room to block the explosion of the one lid thrown out that exit. The doors rattled hard on their hinges, but held fast. At Sindar’s end of the room, the many lids thrown into the hallway there multiplied the force considerably. The doors buckled, then exploded into the room under the force of the blast. Standing right in the front of the doors to hold them closed, Sindar was caught fully in the explosion and flung backwards into the room, his unconscious and splinter-riddled body sliding to a stop a full twenty feet from the doorway.

Finn quickly brought Sindar back to consciousness, though maybe a bit more deaf than before. It was another full minute before guardians began to arrive en masse, securing the room and its contents. G121 arrived shortly, updating the party on what had happened elsewhere in the compound as he directed his fellows in safe disposal efforts. He informed the party of another massive explosion upstairs in a dining hall, and they asked him to take them to the scene. Shamblers could be rising already in the very center of the Asad! Upon arrival, they group saw many people injured or apparently killed in the initial blast. It seemed a trapped cask had been carted into the dining hall itself. Many more people were being held in the hall by guardians, and some of them already showed symptoms of infection. As the party was informing the guardians of the full measure of the danger here, Arturo Ducet arrived with a small retinue. He told the party they were needed elsewhere, and he would handle things here. Knowing what they did about Ducet, the party was more than a little reticent to leave vulnerable people in his “care”. After a bit of arguing, Finn secured agreement from the guardians present that they would safely store people not showing any symptoms in their pocket dimensional space as a quarantine method, vice allowing them to be butchered “just in case”. With that, they went to seek out Speaker Raha Delina.

They found the Speaker in his office, issuing emergency orders and sending runners every direction available from his crowded office. He took some relief in their arrival, informing the party that a few scattered devices went off throughout the complex, but the situation was controllable thanks in no small part to their efforts. One place that a device had been triggered was particularly sensitive- a caucus meeting of the Khasif Asadins and a few of their colleagues had been underway upstairs in a meeting room. Everyone in the room had come into contact with gas from a device that went off nearby them, including several serving staff. All of the Khasif delegation dying at the same time to something like this would be politically thorny at best, and a complete catastrophe at worst. The party asked to be allowed to see if they could formulate a way to save some of those exposed, and the Speaker agreed. A short time later, they were surveying a gruesome scene at the meeting rooms. A few people were killed immediately by the blast, but most were in varying states of exposure sickness, and all were contained in the room by guardians.

Getting to work quickly, the group tried several method, both magical and mundane, on a few test subjects with no changes to the progress of their illness. Triaging a few folks that were yet to show symptoms, Sindar and Finn asked several people to volunteer to have their blood drawn. They hoped that their blood could be compared to a sample of the toxin Sindar had, to determine if anyone was exposed from those who were asymptomatic. One of the Khasif delegation, Daso Enna, asked a lot of questions about what they were specifically looking for, but eventually allowed his blood to be taken. Curious about his curiosity, Sindar looked carefully at his blood and noted it was quite different-tasting from normal human blood, though it bore no signs of the toxin. The man bore some outward signs of half-elven heritage, but his blood was exotic even for a half-elf. Working on a hunch, Sindar asked Finn for a sample of his blood, now fully transformed by the change brought on by the Deck of Errant Destinies. The oddities matched in both samples. Daso Enna was a full-blooded elf, hiding in plain sight. His complete absence of any symptoms prompted another idea, which took a little convincing to get everyone to agree. Soon, Sindar was hard at work drawing blood from Finn, and injecting small amounts at a time into worsening victims. Over the next tense hours, most people began to recover, but a few died. Notably, those that died from the treatment stayed dead humans, not rising as shamblers. While it wasn’t perfect, it was better than the 100% death rate of the untreated toxin, and it was a good enough chance that everyone present wanted the treatment. The story closed as the party organized the sick by severity, Sindar counted how many jars he could fill with blood at once, and Finn did some mental math of how much of his own blood volume he could replace in the next few hours with what healing power he had left for the day. A dead elven cleric would do nobody any good at all.

The Vote

The vote has been tabled in the Asad while missing delegates are searched for and rescued. An automatic procedural clock of 60 days started when they went missing, with 20 days now remaining before the delegates are declared dead and replaced. The Black Fleet has been spotted in Riyaqan waters, moving south along the west coast.

Quote of the Day

Session 27
The last second

Our story opened with the party fleeing through extradimensional hallways beneath (?) the Asad, from pursuing clockwork soldiers. Ducking into a random room, they found that it was another chamber identical to the one they escaped earlier. Hoping to make the connection across planes, Finn cast Sending to commune with Nohan Lewala and ask for help. She told him there was little she could do from where she was, but that there was an escape room built in for diplomats that get trapped there. They had to pay attention to the markings at the intersections. Stepping back out into the hallway, the party spotted colored marks high at each intersection. Moving somewhat randomly through the halls, they began to deduce patterns through trial and error as the mechanical soldiers slowly closed in on them. Soon enough, they found themselves at a door with different markings from the rest. Plowing through, the group found a room with several pillars in it.

With the guards searching the hallways closing in by the second, the party searched the room, discovering clues to a puzzle designed into the escape mechanisms. Only re-arranging the fixtures in the room a certain way would open the way to escape. After losing precious time solving the puzzle, they completed the required steps and waited. Within a few seconds, the central pillar faded from view, revealing a chute in the floor beneath it. One by one, they dove through and escaped their pursuers. They immediately found themselves staring at a beautiful, large, and strikingly realistic map of the city of Gol Asad. THe rushing air and rapidly growing map forced the realization that this was no map. They were somehow falling through the sky, high above the Seconds later, with panic running through their heads, the party landed quite hard on the wooden platform at the top of one of the Asad’s bell towers. They were unhurt, aside from a few hairs out of place.

After descending the long ladder to the building below them, the group found themselves in a small room that used some sort of scrying effect to reveal the passers-by in the hallway outside. They deduced that it must be a safety measure to allow escapees to avoid running into trouble when leaving the room, and waited here a while to learn the rotation of the guardians patrolling the hallway and the normal dress of people in this part of the building. Working together, they arranged disguises for themselves that would at least hold up under passing inspection, and ventured out onto the upper library floor of the Asad. Stopping a low-ranking scribe for directions, the party learned the location of the offices of Asadin Lewala and set out.

Several floors below, the group came upon her offices and heard arguing inside. Breaking in on the argument, they discovered what appeared to be Lewala arguing with herself. Some very fast sleuthing identified the true Lewala, and the imposter attacked. The fight was short, but brutal. Not being prepared to take on an entire party of adventurers, the cultist fell. An uncomfortable conversation with Lewala yielded her suspicion that the guardians themselves may be compromised in a plot to replace members of the Asad and drive the upcoming historic vote a certain way. Finn decided to use a Speak with Dead spell to interrogate the corpse of the cultist. He discovered that the Children of Ahriman have been shipping gas bombs into the building for weeks, using a perceived weakness of the guardians to hide the plot from them. Although that seemed to exonerate the guardians, it was cold comfort in the face of the impending disaster. Lewala took the party with her to see Speaker Raha Delina, the leader of the voting body of the Asad.

Raha Delina’s office complex, just off the voting chamber itself, was protected not just by several pairs of clockwork guardians, but by an anti-magic field that spanned the entire entry hall. The group waited as Lewala brought him up to speed on everything that had happened, filling in details when asked. At something of a loss for what to do next in the face of such a dangerous enemy so close by, Delina asked for recommendations from the party, owing to their previous experience in dealing with the explosive gas barrels and the cult. They suggested he being vetting everyone remaining within the Asad by calling members to his office, forcing them to walk through the anti-magic field and lose any illusory disguises in the process. If anyone refused, the next course of action became obvious. Delina asked the party to begin a search for the explosives while he worked on figuring out who within the Asad could be trusted. Even if the guardians were not corrupted, they might still be monitored in some way by the cult.

During the course of conversation, Delina learned from the party that one of them was the heir apparent of the ancient Tulesti house, now rising from obscurity once again at its ancient estate. To assuage their doubt concerning Delina’s sincerity in asserting the importance of that resurgence, Delina privately revealed that the man they know as a politician was once a powerful priest of Rustum. He showed Finn the holy symbol he still keeps- it had undergone the same transformation into celestial crystal that had transformed Finn’s own holy symbol. To cement their partnership, and give the party the authority needed to wander the Asad alone, Delina summoned several courtiers and a handful of Asadins to his office, announcing a prospectus committee to admit a new voting member to the Asad to represent the newly reformed House Tulesti and the unclaimed desert territories it once held. The gathered members held a quick but formal vote, accepting the validity of the prospectus committee for House Tulesti. Delina made clear that this did not get them a vote on the floor just yet, but formally opened the process of inducting them, which would eventuate a vote on before the full assembly to accept House Tulesti as a ruling faction representing a population that deserved representation at the Asad. More immediately, it granted their retinue unfettered access to most non-private areas of the complex, allowing them to carry out their part of the plan.

As the room cleared, the party revealed that they had further complicating information about efforts to “adjust” the impending historic vote. They related to Delina their evidence that one of the currently missing delegates was someone they knew Arturo Ducet’s agents had “rescued” from an attack weeks ago. Incensed at this development, Delina took the party to a nearby chamber dotted with assemblies intended to facilitate communication. In moments, they were staring at the misty visage of the back of Ducet’s head as he addressed the Speaker. In a demanding tone, Delina informed Ducet his presence was required immediately to answer some disturbing allegations. When Ducet attempted to politely decline, Delina grew more upset, informing him that refusing the summons would jeopardize the Empire’s standing with the Riyaqan government. Ducet agreed to meet within the hour, and Delina sent the party on their way to find those bombs.

Delina sent one of his personal guards with the party, known as G121. As G121 led them to various locations around the complex, the party asked questions about stores and asked to see the wine storage, knowing that the cult had a practiced proficiency at using casks and wine butts to hide its necrotic concoction. While Sindar negotiated a sommelier showdown with the head butler of the kitchens, the rest of the party began searching barrels. Very quickly they began discovering the hidden bombs. Once the real mission was explained to it, G121 proved very helpful in disposing of the bombs, as it had the ability to move the discovered barrels into what it called an “intercog space” of Mechanus, where they would be held inert until they could be dealt with. Moving quickly between storage areas, the party found and removed barrel after barrel. Then they saw him- a man dressed in cook’s clothing that was paying a bit too much attention to what they were doing, and following them at a distance from area to area. Once he realized he had been seen, the man made a dash for it, triggering a chase through the halls of the complex. Through hallways and stairwells, both crowded and empty in various places, the man ran in desperation to reach some unknown goal.

Pushing hard, a couple of the party members managed to catch up and even push ahead of their quarry, culminating in Sindar tackling the slight man into a door he had been trying to get open. They tumbled into the room, and the cook came to his feet as Sindar realized the room was piled high with barrels that probably should not be here. The story closed as the cook shed his illusory disguise, revealing the familiar face of the man that had taunted them while they sat in jail cells in Herlish. It seemed they were getting their chance at Sadeesh, himself- leader of the Children of Ahriman.

The Vote

The vote has been tabled in the Asad while missing delegates are searched for and rescued. An automatic procedural clock of 60 days started when they went missing, with 21 days now remaining before the delegates are declared dead and replaced. The Black Fleet has been spotted in Riyaqan waters.

Quote of the Day

“It keeps getting bigger.” -Zayn, referring to Tarsus’ most prized possession.

Session 26
Going counterclockwise

Our story opened as the group helped oversee elections in the settlement that had sprung up around the Tulesti Citadel. A day-long process, the elections came to a close with Avendi Volok (head priestess of Anahita from Latpasa), Badri Nasha (a labor leader from Aridesa), Sedina Kaza (a senior Mahari priestess from Aridesa), and Kaso Dern (Latpasa minor noble) elected to seats on the ruling council, and Falat Hennin designated to a seat representing House Tulesti.

Continuing his research into the complex engineering systems that shored up the citadel’s defenses, Sindar came to the startling discovery that the citadel must actually reside in the shadow plane, and is actively held in the material plane by the power of the system. The potential ramifications of this (should they have completely discharged all the system’s power while fighting the shambler hordes before figuring out how to recharge the core) left him with a cold chill in his spine and a new resolve to unravel that particular mystery and undo whatever Ghadir did.

Meanwhile, Finn set about communicating with Julian Carmeno through a series of Sendings, hoping to find a way to dispose of the cursed skulls safely. While Julian was no direct help in the matter, he recommended getting in touch with a man named Jerrod Aliston, a priest of Mishikal in Isamon. As the party prepared to get underway to their next destination, Finn communed with Blue, the captain of their ship at sea, and asked him to meet them at the shore safely west of Hansen in 18 hours. They left Willie behind to carry out his modifications to SeaChild. Instead, the party made use of one of the other skimmers brought by the Aridesa work camp refugees- the Plainsrunner. Kando Daea and a minimal crew accompanied them as the set out to meet Blue on their way to Gol Asad.

Their trip across the dunes was fairly uneventful, save for a brief encounter with a dune giant clan calling themselves the Kannak. The encounter ended without violence, if not entirely without tension. Stopping in the deep desert to bury the twin skulls, the party moved on to their rendezvous with Blue. Along the way, Finn attempted to hire Barqueem to return to the vault room in Aridesa to remove anything remaining before the cultists got to it. Barqueem returned after a while, obviously having been in a battle, to report that the vault room had been opened, and the area was patrolled by beastly sentries that presented him… some challenge. As the Plainsrunner traveled on, they encountered a lone raven high overhead, and summarily executed it before it could report to its assumed master. On a whim, they fed the corpse to a poorly understood organism that Sindar toted about on his voyages like a fashionable handbag.

Reaching the rendezvous early the next day, the ship they found waiting for them was not the small, open-decked barque they had left Blue to command. Awaiting them was a frigate-sized warship called the Gyredancer. Blue now commanded an appreciably larger crew, and quickly brought the party up to speed on his experiences of the past few weeks, giving as precise an estimate as he could of exactly how much piracy and pillaging of Imperial assets had been necessary to acquire their new flagship. Sending the Plainsrunner and its two-man crew back to Tulesti Citadel, the group departed for Nassira to obtain a somewhat less conspicuous transport before heading on to Gol Asad.

Nearly three days later, they pulled within sight of the docks of Nassira. The city was a burning wreck, with shamblers in full command of what remained of the streets. Near the docks, hasty walls had been erected. A quick check through the spyglass revealed 80 or 90 people still holding out on the docks, using the walls they had built to keep the shamblers at bay. A couple of good ships remained close enough for the people to use to escape, but even the cursory inspection of the rigging possible at this distance revealed that these people likely did not have a sailor left among them, and had probably tried and failed to get the ships underway already. Whomever had been the last to leave with an able-bodied seaman aboard had abandoned them.

Slipping close with the Gyredancer, the crew sent over rowboats to start evacuating people from the docks as the party transferred ashore. Asking around about what had happened here, the party soon had their suspicions confirmed- Nassira had been hit some time ago, and was likely one of the early cities to fall. Finding a small sloop that they could operate themselves, the party offered passage to anyone heading to Gol Asad. Their offer was accepted by one middle-aged Riyaqan woman, who said only that it was urgent she get back to the city at once. A quick interrogation and Detect Magic search revealed that she was carrying nothing of ill intent, so the party decided to allow her along. Once they were safely underway, the party started rifling through the flag locker of the Imperial coastal vessel, discovering an assortment of livery. One flag in particular caught their attention- the Empire Pennant. It’s presence indicated that their sloop, the Allesto, had been used to carry either very high ranking members of the Imperial Court, or actual members of the Emperor’s family. Well, whatever… they were on their way now, at least.

The better part of the day later, as Allesto navigated the Haralin Straits, they came upon an Imperial Navy brigantine, which signalled them immediately. Using their burgeoning skills at sailoring, the group deduced that the navy vessel was inquiring what had happened to them with the string of flags it raised, and realized there was probably a hidden challenge in the message. Responding incorrectly might see them boarded, or worse. Chancing it, they responded only that they had taken the ship from an overrun Nassira, and were on route to Gol Asad. The party had discovered the true identity of their travelling companion, a member of the Asad known as Nohan Lewala, but elected not to reveal that to the navy vessel. In response, the vessel took up position with them, announcing its intention to escort them the rest of the way and take possession of the ship at dock.

Upon reaching the docks at Gol Asad the next day, Asadin Nohan Lewala announced her presence and requested immediate passage to the Asad from the dockmaster and the troops present. Taking the party with her as her “retinue”, Lewala and her cohort made their way quickly to the center of the city aboard a coach summoned for them. Lewala explained, as they arrived, about the somewhat unique nature of the guardians of the Asad. Crafted long ago by unknown hands, they were comprised of varied types of clockwork humanoids that drew their essence from the orderly plane of Mechanus. They had steadfastly guarded the proceedings of the original temples on this site, and later the Asad, for centuries. No sooner had she completed her explanation, than they came face to face with their first clockwork guardian. They were escorted to a series of waiting areas while Lewala went her own way, seeking to get to the bottom of troublesome reports from the guardians that she had been present at her post for the entire month she was missing.

After finding themselves waiting in a relatively comfortable suite, the party received a visitor that wasn’t entirely unexpected. Imperial Consul Arturo Ducet greeted them as he entered the room, seating himself for a somewhat tense conversation. Once again, he had come with an offer of work that the party was less than interested in, as a whole. At last accepting that the party was not willfully going to become his agency within the Asad, Ducet left then to find their own way out of the holding room. On his way out, he casually informed them that it might be more difficult than they realized, being that they were in a demi-plane controlled by the guardians. After a lively discussion and a few failed attempts to talk their way past their guard, the party elected to use the protective nature of the guardians against them by setting fire to the room they were in. Sure enough, their guard allowed them out of the room, but immediately attempted to force them into an identical room a bit further down the hall. Rather than allowing that to happen, the party attacked.

Unfortunately, the guardian assigned to their room turned out to be a very tough opponent, and extremely skilled with the weapon attached to it. Zayn’s attempts to disrupt its functions fell somewhat flat as it counter-attacked. While the party was definitely doing damage to the clockwork humanoid, it was coming uncomfortably close to overwhelming Finn’s heroic efforts to keep the front line of the party on their feet. Seeing the writing on the wall and refusing to return to a cell, Sindar dropped a smoke bomb in the hallway to obscure their escape as Finn used one of his precious remaining spells to throw a stone wall up in the path of the guardian. The story closed as the wounded party took flight down a hallway that looked identical to every hallway around it, intersections springing up endlessly as they ran. If they were going to find a way out of this, they were going to need help.

The Vote

The vote has been tabled in the Asad while missing delegates are searched for and rescued. An automatic procedural clock of 60 days started when they went missing, with 21 days now remaining before the delegates are declared dead and replaced. The Black Fleet has been spotted in Riyaqan waters.

Quote of the Day

“If you guys don’t stop, I’m going to wet myself.” -Tarsus, being a little too adept with the code phrase.

Session 25
... and yet, the wind fans the flames.

Several days prior, Nanda’s fateful draw from the Deck of Errant Destinies announced the early return of the Malazephyr, a deadly sandstorm that normally scoured the desert and its people once every two years. It’s sudden return was seven months early, and none would be prepared for it. The party made heroic efforts to get word to everyone they could that would be in its path, and as our story opened, they were at the end of several days spent preparing their fragile new settlement for its arrival.

The question of what to do with the deadly cursed skulls weighed heavily on the party. They could not remain and continue to curse the land so many were beginning to depend on, but where could they be safely sent? Looking for more ideas, the group asked Ghomesh if she might know of any experts among the Aridesa refugees. After all, had they not been searching for powerful artifacts before they fled? Ghomesh knew of a few people, but one in particular was her first choice. After searching tents a while, he was located and brought to the main house. His name was Balasar. He was a blind man, old and somewhat infirm, but still mobile and quite bright of spirit. Asking to see the skulls, he examined them closely and then announced that he knew what they were and could speak at length on them, once he was properly compensated with a better tent and living conditions. The party agreed, and he told them of the Twin Skulls. They had belonged to the last living heirs of House Tulesti that Ghadir was aware of, and were offered on the Shadow Plane as a sacrifice to its master. Ghadir had found a way to travel there with these two living people. Three Shadelords of the plane had attended the sacrifice, demanding days of torture for the two before they finally died. In return, Ghadir was granted further power and the skulls were blessed by the lord of the Shadow Plane himself to become holy artifacts there. When Ghadir brought them back to the material plane, they bore horrendous curses in place of the shadow blessings.

Balasar’s counsel to destroy the skulls was straightforward. Take the skulls to the Shadow Plane, locate the Shadelords that demanded and witnessed the ritual, and destroy them. Once they were all dead, the skulls could simply be smashed to destroy the curse. Until then, they were nigh invulnerable to anything a mortal could do to them. Unwilling to spend the time with so many other matters pressing, the group squirreled the skulls away in the bag of holding until later. In the process of analyzing the skulls, Balasar revealed that even though his natural sight is long gone (by his own hand, no less), he is sensitive to the auras of magic, and can see enchantments clearly in his mind’s eye, even at a distance. The group was quick to hire him to work with the settlement’s security forces, asking him to patrol periodically with a town guard and look for any noteworthy or dangerous magic.

Meanwhile, the trader offering to establish a trade route to nearby Herlish was overjoyed when the group accepted his offer. Finn even sent extra funds with him as a donation for the Church of Rustum there. Once the man and his crew were loaded up, they beat a hasty path out of the settlement, hoping to reach Herlish before the storm’s arrival. As the sandstorm drew closer, the air to the west turned from light blue to gray, and then to a hazy beige color. The wind steadily picked up throughout the day, but it blew toward the sandstorm, instead of away from it. Finn and Dingo worked together to coordinate warning messages for the populace arrayed around them, and to set up a method for Dingo to send messages to Finn at a distance once the group departs the settlement.

With the leading edge of the storm mere hours away, people began to move inside the shield wall and take up shelter in smaller tents. By now, over 1400 people had gathered near the estate, and it was no easy task packing everyone beneath the dome that would protect them from the worst of the Malazephyr. As the move was finishing up, kites appeared on the horizon, racing ahead of the stormfront. Soon, it became clear these were three more of the trimaran ships like the SeaChild. All three flew Aridesa peacetime colors. A quick rally of troops and town watch met the approaching ships at the base of the rocky hill, with Arastea Ghomesh in the lead. She quickly vouched that she was familiar with all of these people. They had been assigned to several dig sites and work camps scattered within a couple of days’ sailing from here, and had received messages her people had dispatched to them. While she knew who they were, Ghomesh made clear that she could not guarantee allegiances after all that had happened at Aridesa. Under orders from the party, Tulesti soldiers and town guards separated and patted down people coming off the ships. Finn and Nanda searched the vessels one by one in the now painful wind as everyone else retreated inside the shield. The rest of the party quickly zeroed in on one individual in the new group. When she realized she was caught, the woman drew and knife and attacked, but the suspicious Tarsus was ready for her. He easily disarmed her, flung her to the ground, and pinned her. She was no assassin, or even a soldier. Knowing little more than that she was to meet someone here and hand off the implements of assassination in her possession, she was not of much value. However, the group noted that she wore another of the prisoner’s rings the cultists were fond of using to track members. A quick check of the ring against their revelation cloth, and the group was off up the hill in pursuit of the linked jailer’s ring. They quickly zeroed in on it, only to find it stuck to the door of the main house by a poisoned dart. Their quarry was aware they were being hunted, and how. At least they now knew for sure there were assassins in their midst.

Now in possession of the jailer’s ring, it was a race against the clock to locate the wearers of the remaining linked rings. One immediately showed up in the infirmary, but checking there revealed a young girl who had found it on the cot. Questioning a cleric in the tent indicated a man named Romi had been on the cot before her. He had been assisting Tarsus with cistern repairs earlier, and had injured his hand. A second lead wound up in a chase through refugee tents on the lower slope of the hill, very near the shield interior. As the man threatened to get away from Tarsus, a town guardsman named Pashar Agosto took careful aim on the fleeing man with his heavy crossbow, firing a shot worthy of an accomplished sniper across 40 paces at a moving target. The bolt lodged squarely in the man’s eye socket, penetrating deeply enough that he likely never knew what killed him. Unfortunately, that turned a potentially useful prisoner into a literal dead end for General Thornbane, who had the body collected and brought back to the house.

The sky had darkened to alternating stripes of black and brown as the first hard lashes of the storm tore at the shield. With the powerful artifact in place driving the arcane core, the shield held strong, humming softly against the strikes from outside. Gathered at the house to quickly surveil the settlement from above, the party spotted trouble at the infirmary below, with people rushing toward the tent. They moved to intervene, but were intercepted in their main hall by a pair of assassins that moved freely between the shadows of the room. The pair moved quickly, striking hard and retreating before the party could reposition. The attackers showed skill not just with blades, but also with rudimentary spells, defending themselves with magic when cornered. Sindar and Zayn focused their efforts on disrupting the magical abilities of the attackers while Tarsus and Nanda tried to pin one down and finish him off. Finn bolstered the the rest of the party, allowing them to push themselves harder than normal while healing wounds to his allies almost as fast as they were inflicted. As the first of the attackers was struck a mortal blow, he triggered a ring he was wearing and immolated several yards around himself in a blast of fire. The fire took his life, and nearly took a couple of heroes with him. With the first assassin down, the second quickly grew desperate. He threw his ring as he fled, but was slammed off his feet by a last-second attack from Nanda. The explosion did more damage still, but no one was out of the fight yet. Cornering him in the sitting parlor, the party soon ended that threat, as well. Unfortunately, the attackers here had delayed them too long to assist with whatever was happening at the field hospital.

Down the slope, a similar attacker made a sudden move against Avendi Volok, attempting to end her life in one motion. Though nearly successful, the strike was not quite enough against the now desert-hardened priestess, and she immediately put distance between herself and her attacker and pushed healing magic into her wounds. Several people nearby came quickly to her aid, including Warden Ghomesh and her ward, a town guard, and Brigadier Hennin. The four warriors descended on the would-be assassin like a pack of dogs, slashing quickly from several directions. The man twisted away from many of the blows, but the sheer volume meant a few got past his agile defenses. He made another play at Avendi, clearly focused on ending her life. The group defending her had to reposition several times to finally corner her attacker away from her, and she was able to turn her attention toward assisting them. Seeing he had missed his chance and was, at worst, about to be captured, the man whispered a word and raised high a ring on his left hand. It glowed brightly for a moment before erupting in flame that torn through the field hospital with explosive force. Although Avendi and her defenders survived, several of her patients perished instantly in the blast, and the hospital was all but destroyed.

In the aftermath, Finn wondered aloud where the rest of the attackers had been. Assuming he had correctly identified the specialists that attacked the settlement, they should have access to additional powers they did not use, not least of which was a murderous familiar made of solidified shadow energy. But if that was the case, then where had those been? Almost on cue, news arrived from the Aridesa camp: Hana Daea, high priestess of Mahari, had been killed minutes earlier by shadowy demons than quickly vanished after the act. She had been the real target all along, with the rest of this being a diversion against targets of opportunity. Of course the Children of Ahriman, worshiping the demon lord himself, would put a high price on the head of the most revered and loved worldly representative of Mahari. Break the will of Mahari’s worshipers, and maybe get a less effective opposition as a reward.

With full honors, Hana Daea’s body was brought to the house, where Finn administered rights in concert with the remaining priestesses of Mahari. After applying spells to ensure her preservation, Finn led a procession to inter her remains in the Tulesti crypts below. At the conclusion of the ceremonies, a teenage boy with a lost look on his face introduced himself to Finn. He was the now orphaned son of the departed, Kando Daea. He asked Finn some mildly troubling questions, clearly needing guidance and bearing the burden of a heart soaked with a volatile need for vengeance. He asked a fateful question of Finn, “How do I learn to do what you do? How do I learn to stand up for people?” In response, Finn handed the boy is personal copy of the Hymn of Heroes, the holy book of Rustum’s faith. “Read this, and then we’ll talk.”

The story closed as the young Kando Daea, by candlelight beside a bunk in the Tulesti Citadel, took his first steps into the Church of Rustum.

The Vote

The vote has been tabled in the Asad while missing delegates are searched for and rescued. An automatic procedural clock of 60 days started when they went missing, with 30 days now remaining before the delegates are declared dead and replaced. The Black Fleet has been spotted in Riyaqan waters.

Quote of the Day

“I should probably check her butt, too.” -Nanda, looking upon Tarsus’ new captive with rapt anticipation.

Assassins’ loot list

(1) medium-size +3 shadow leather armor
(2) +1 short swords
(2) +1 hand crossbow
(21) crossbow bolt
(1) belt of physical might +2 (DEX, CON)
(1) potion of invisibility
(3) potion of cure moderate wounds
(3) ring of retribution (1/day)
(1) cloak of resistance +2
(2) large CoA insignia (mithril with gold inlay) 175 gp value each
(2) handy haversack
850gp total value in rubies of various size
676gp total value in Khasif Nation gold coins (be careful spending this- it will draw attention)

Downtime activity between Sessions 24 & 25
The wind snuffs the candle...

The first day, 4 days until the Malazephyr arrives:

  • Sending results (assuming Finn has Sending x2 per day)
    • From Atala: “Trailing small group of ships on west coast. Think I have found the bombardiers, and think they are in contact with my target. Cannot leave.”
    • From Emi: “Captured by mercenaries from former employer. Mercenaries captured at sea by Black Fleet. In a brig for pirates. Fine. Waiting for opportunity.”
  • Cistern wall damage is 25% repaired. Cistern roof damage is 0% repaired. (Only the wall is needed to run systems, but roof is needed for long term safety and system integrity.)
  • Repairs to SeaChild are complete. Willie is working on plans for a modification to the ship (15% complete).
  • The first meeting of the local council occurred, deciding basic roles for key individuals:
    • Arastea Ghomesh has officially relinquished her military commission, and assumes the title of Town Warden, responsible for organizing a peacekeeping force among the refugees and enforcing order. She requests more formalized laws when practical, and the construction of a guard barracks with jail.
    • Avendi Volok has taken charge of medical care. Donated tent supplies and volunteers have established the Hospital Priory well within the shield boundary, and Avendi is named the prioress.
    • Falat Hennin, previously sworn to direct service of House Tulesti, takes official command of the house garrison as the House Tulesti Garrison Brigadier, reporting directly to General Tarsus Thornbane.
    • Brigadier Hennin and Warden Ghomesh held a special session, at the direction of Lady Zayn Tulesti, to reassign troops to their individual commands. They agreed on an even division of troops, such that the town could not overpower the House, and vice versa. They each exchanged some senior staff and half of their soldiers. The end result is that the Warden’s forces are composed of 43 watch officers, while the house garrison is composed of 42 soliders (not including General Thornbane).
  • Per player discussion in the previous session, a statement was issued to the populace by House Tulesti (statement given by Lady Tulesti), explaining that the dispatched POW was an immediate safety concern for the settlement. In general, the vast majority have accepted this at face value and do not question the decision. There are some grumblings, but they are minor for the time being.
    • To demonstrate future intent, Warden Ghomesh has privately requested that the remaining prisoner be transferred to her custody and prepared for public trial. Avendi Volok has privately expressed reservations about avoiding a show trial, and to ensure that the process is handled fairly- which she does not trust Ghomesh to do on her own.
  • In regards to laws in the settlement, there is some disagreement.
    • Badri Nasha (Aridesa labor leader) wants a set of laws enforced that closely mirror laws common to coastal villages, which rely on representative democratic processes for a variety of tasks, including selection of civic leaders. She has many followers that agree.
    • Opposition to this idea mainly comes from Avendi Volok and Hana Daea, who collectively argue that the reestablishment of House Tulesti is the only reason this settlement is springing up, and so it should follow Jamarrah Dynasty law, which is decidedly more feudal in nature.
  • Attempting to use the revelation cloth to find some source for the toxin vial reveals nothing.

3 days until the Malazephyr arrives:

  • Sending results:
    • Blue: Oi, boss-folk. We been busy bees, we ’ave. I reckon us three days out of Hansen, maybe two if Lady of the Feather has our-
    • Arndt: Nobody smart goes toward the Black Fleet. Tell her to make her way south to Emmet, on coast. I have a man there: Caleb Fisher.
    • Emi: If I can get away, I will. I found things. I know who Deacon and Bishop are, and I know what they are doing.
    • Tabina Karouk: I know someone in the consulate. I will deliver your message. Do tell Anton to drop by when you are in town again. Stay safe.
  • Cistern wall damage is 60% repaired. Cistern roof damage is 5% repaired.
  • Willie’s plans for modifications to SeaChild are 40% complete. He appears to be working on a way to expand its operating envelope (more usable terrain).
  • SeaChild approach lane: 8 minutes of Lesser Planar Ally gets you 10,000 square feet of solid earth converted to terrain granular enough and deep enough to pass the boat without damage. To safely transit to an area within the shield, SeaChild needs an approach lane from sandy terrain across relatively solid earth that is 10 feet wide and 250 feet long (25,000 square feet total). Don’t forget to account for any payments to the planar ally this work incurs.
    • Humans assisting the elemental use large stones that it displaces to mark the boundaries of the lane.
  • The troops of the Tulesti Garrison have begun building semi-permanent frame and canvas structures very near the house to act as barracks while a stone structure is planned.
  • Avendi Volok and several other clerics have a rudimentary hospital up and running, composed of a series of tents. Their main structure, much like the barracks structure, in in progress.
  • A small outdoor market sprung up today near the base of the hill. There are only a few merchants with little to offer, but it’s a start.
  • As your various ideas for governmental structure are discussed with the people who are finding themselves to be leaders in the settlement, the following idea seems to be taking hold most readily:
    • Collective rule is established for the settlement, composed of a council of 4 elected leaders and one representative of House Tulesti. On all civil matters, this council deliberates and votes. Its first order of business will be determining, for itself, what laws best represent the people here. Next, they will determine what level of support to offer the presiding House, in order to best equip it to serve its function in defending the settlement.
    • Warden Ghomesh and her staff of officers are ineligible to serve on the council, and will instead serve to enforce its decisions. Any member of the town guard or house garrison wishing to serve on the council must first resign their post, and may never resume it afterward. The sole exception is:
    • The settlement council defers military matters of defense to fiat of the House Tulesti representative. As such, the House Tulesti representative on the council should be a senior member of its garrison. They request that General Thornbane fill this role. Through his commission, and his fealty to the House, the Lady Tulesti will be able to exert her influence on the settlement.
  • If the above structure is adopted, you perceive a good chance that the populace will readily accept that the remaining POW should be remanded to custody of the house garrison as a military matter. For the time being, he remains in a more or less public stockade.

2 days until the Malazephyr arrives:

  • Sending results:
    • Teegan: no response
    • Emi: Will do what I can. Have to find the Lady first. I heard cannon fire today. A lot of it. Not sure what it means.
    • Julian: Many days from Miller, and well. Black Fleet only ever brings the end of days for someone. Must learn target, timeline, and evacuate innocents.
    • Shortly after the sending with Carmeno, Finn receives a sending spell initiated from someone else: This is Liz McCrae, with Carmeno. Who is in need of help? We are far from Miller, but have people there.
  • Cistern wall is 100% repaired. Cistern floor cleaning will be finished by the morning, and level control can be restored then. Cistern roof damage is 10% complete.
  • Willie’s plans for SeaChild modifications are complete. They are plans to make SeaChild watertight, and install additional alchemical engines. The ship could be rendered nearly weightless for up to 4 hours at a time, allowing transit over flat rock areas, and into the actual sea. There is a chance that attempting the modifications will fail and seriously damage the hull (craft check result dependent). If successful, high power operation to reduce weight will triple fuel depletion rate for that time period.
  • Sindar has made significant progress with the mystery plant. Results will be delivered next session.
  • The field hospital is fully up and running in its major tent complex.
  • House garrison troops began training today, and setting up permanent patrols. Falat is recommending that House Tulesti declare its estate to reach to the shield boundary, with specific permission from the house required to settle within that area.
  • With composition questions concerning the settlement council roughly settled, it only remains to announce the plan to the settlement and set a date to elect the members. The settlement leaders (Ghomesh, Falat, Avendi, etc) recommend these announcements come directly from Lady Tulesti to an assembled crowd.
  • Ghomesh and her officers are facing an increasing number of minor incidents within the settlement, mostly fighting between refugees. She insists it is not cause for concern as yet, and only represents some bumps being ironed out.
  • Zayn’s time among the people is well-received, helping to calm tensions. Troublesome rumors begin to surface that she is a living avatar of Mahari, come to lead her people to salvation. Hana Daea is very uncomfortable with this development, but the people in general are somewhat soothed.
  • Dingo has found a half-dozen goblins among arriving refugees, and has made fast friends with them. He has privately approached the group with an offer to remain in the settlement when they leave, and set up a guild of spies and thieves. He promises to keep the thieving to the minimum needed to keep his goblin buddies happy. In return for being left alone to run his shop, he will actively search for information of dissent among the people here, and stay on the lookout for infiltrators from the CoA.
  • The remaining CoA cultist was formally transferred to the custody of Falat Hennin today, and taken to the top of the hill. He is currently held in a private cell built in the greenhouse from scrap metal framing.

1 day remaining:

  • Sending:
    • War: Have no information on fleet. Were I them, would seek to cut off the head: Gol Asad. Possibly Haralin, too, as a base.
    • A new conversation with Liz: Is she Imperial? May be able to make contact with Order envoys within fleet and negotiate her release, if so. Proper name, more information?
  • The population seems to have taken well to Zayn’s address. Falat is stupendously unhappy that Zayn is taking such risks, even with a few guards in tow.
  • Conflicts within the people stem from high stress, mostly. The issues are varied and minor, but get blown out of proportion by high baseline tensions. There are surprisingly few issues revolving around Latpasa/Aridesa distinction. This is perhaps due to both towns being melting pots, in their own ways, to begin with.
  • Builders working with Tarsus indicate that they can put a much weaker, but much faster, roof on the cistern using lumber. Lumber is running scarce already. Cistern roof stands at 15% complete, and cannot progress until a decision is made. It is ready to be refilled.
    • Banut Ateji says he can take some animals and a few people south and see what can be traded for in Herlish, if some coin can be provided. With 1000 gp or so in coin or tradeables, he believes he can set up goods accounts with a couple of families there for small lumber harvested seasonally from their plantations.
  • Willie has calculated that he needs two weeks to modify SeaChild, and about 2500 gp in supplies.
Session 24
"Work together, or perish together." -desert proverb

The story opened as Avendi Volok negotiated for settlement area with Zayn, now Lady Tulesti. With the area for most domiciles established at the foot of the hill and outside the shield boundary, Avendi requested that she be allowed to erect the field hospital within the boundary, so that it would be available inside if things came to the worst. Zayn and her compatriots agreed, and Avendi’s people went to work on its construction. In the meantime, Tarsus and Falat were having a similar conversation about how to lay out barracks and soldiers’ tents, all of which they agreed should stay close to the main house and well inside the shield. Sindar busied himself catching up on some supervision and experimentation time with Willie, going over new discoveries on the mystery plant, among other things.

At the same time, Nanda and Finn worked on the issue of the massive demonic statue illusions in the house’s main hall. Close investigation revealed subtle differences in a few of floor tiles they sat upon. Gouging these up, they found ceremonial boxes that contained human remains beneath each statue. When the boxes were disturbed, the illusions failed. Powerful evil magic emanated from both corpses, and the party made a concerted effort to determine exactly what magic had been used upon them. Finally, it paid off, but not with good news. The skulls of both corpses had somehow been cursed with very powerful Cursed Earth spells, one causing famine, and the other threatening to revive any creature killed near it as an undead. The group thought back to all the deaths that had happened here recently, and terror struck them. These things had to go, and it had to be right now. Finn ran outside in a near panic, to discover what he feared- the gargantuan spider corpse they had slain a couple of days prior was missing, and a fresh patch of disturbed earth nearby indicated recent digging.

Nanda and Zayn checked on the black scorpion in the cistern, avoiding a trap laid by the beast only through their superior intellect. It was definitely still there, claiming their needed water tank as its own. Meanwhile, Finn and Tarsus had traveled down the hill to check on the new hole dug by the now undead ginormous spider, hoping they might be able to figure out which direction it had burrowed and whether or not it was safer to be inside or outside the shield right now. Looking closely, they backed away slowly upon the realization that the spider had gone nowhere. It was there, just below the surface, watching them.

Elsewhere, construction of tents and temporary shelters proceeded on schedule around the settlement. Falat’s men, in building their barracks and command tents, had discovered some strange items and returned them to the group. Sindar instantly recognized these as the missing command crystals for the house systems, and set about determining their proper use in the most effective manner his years of experience had yielded: wildly irresponsible and dangerous experimentation. While one of them yielded a somewhat boring remote viewing capability from the house tower, the other bodily teleported the entire house and its attached crypts to the Plane of Shadow- very much to the surprise of everyone standing nearby at the time. During his brief stay, Sindar watched from the tower roof in horror as hundreds of shadow beings, scattered across a landscape reminiscent of the desert, slowly took notice of his arrival. They did not advance on the house, but they did stare. He quickly reversed the process, knocking several people down in the burst of air pressure as the house returned to its place when the crystal was removed. As night fell, the group decided to move everyone inside the shield until the undead remnant of Gatha was somehow dealt with.

During the night, tensions mounted when the watch noted that Squeaks had slipped outside the shield at some point, and was sitting at the edge of Gatha’s hole. She stayed there the entire night. As dawn broke, bad news continued to mount in a seemingly endless stream when the last watch spotted a large black bird in the distance, most likely a raven. As they were not native to these parts, it seemed a safe assumption that the bird was likely a harbinger of Consul Ducet, and was likely looking for them. As moments slipped by, the bird managed a glancing collision with the house’s invisible force wall, but continued past, evidently headed elsewhere. At the bottom of the hill, Squeaks was awaiting re-entry to the shield and the house. When the party went down to meet her and ask after her actions, she delivered some interesting news. She had spent the night in conversation with Gatha, one druid to another.

Gatha was not an undead monstrosity, but was undergoing a natural process for an avatar of the sleeping nature goddess, Mahari. While the party had defeated her, it simply was not possible to kill her, and thus she was not vulnerable to the magic of the skulls. She was, however, ready to move on. The evil that Gatha had come here to contain had been vanquished, and the limited resources of Mahari were needed elsewhere now that House Tulesti was rising again in what was once the South Plains. She was apologetic about having to oppose them, but anyone getting past her risked releasing Ghadir, and so she had maintained her vigil even against the emissaries of Mithras. To right the scales, Gatha wished to provide them with a story that would become legend in time. They had a few minutes to prepare themselves to defend their people and their estate against her final assault. She would draw blood, but they would prevail in the end, and all the people here would see them as saviors, yet again. The group sprinted back to the house as seconds ticked by, sounding the alarm among the gathered people to get to shelter. The ground shook beneath them as Gatha tunneled at frightful speed.

Zayn ran for the tower as the rest of the party got themselves ready, remembering their last fight against the massive Gatha. As the rumbling of her digging quieted, they waited in silence for a few minutes before the creature struck. The group had not realized the scale of the favor she was planning to do for them until they heard a huge crash from the cistern, followed by several more, and punctuated by a high-pitched screaming noise. Gatha was going after the black scorpion in the cistern. In less than a minute, that fight ended in spectacular fashion when Gatha threw the monstrous scorpion into the roof of the cistern. Finn began mentally counting off Mending and Make Whole spells as the center of the roof collapsed into the cistern, and the hole slowly grew until most of the roof had fallen, nearly sweeping Nanda into the cavernous container. The silver lining to that particular cloud was that the scorpion’s body was stretched out and lying limply over the side of the cistern wall, unmoving. With the stage set, Gatha turned her attention to the party. Sindar tossed a serum to Nanda to allow her to rescue herself from her precarious perch, while Zayn used the lightning weapon from the tower to rain death into the open cistern. Gatha lashed out from the cistern bottom, doing more damage to the walls and nearly toppling several heroes into the abyss with her. Another strike from the weapon still did not finish her off. Finally overcoming his apprehension of the situation below, Tarsus jumped into the makeshift arena with the gigantic beast, much to the awe of the assembled citizens. As he squared off and traded his first blows with Gatha, she was laid low by a final strike from the house weapon, and a cheer went up across the estate. The cistern was nearly in ruins, but a major problem had been dealt with, without a loss of life. It was time to get to work on settlement issues.

But first, the group needed to finish up their dealings in Port Miller, so Finn summoned his faithful ally, the hound archon Barqueem. Another quick negotiation saw the stately dog-man off the pick up their goods, returning shortly with their bag of holding before departing for home. He would have to make up some stories for his fellow archons about epic battles if this delivery boy routine kept up. The day wore on as the party divided up their purchased supplies and worked with settlers and soldiers on issues as they arose to get the place more organized over the course of the next day. A somewhat regular guard rotation was developed to help carry the load of tower watches, heretofore borne by our heroes. It seemed this happened just in the nick of time, as one of the soldiers spotted a tell-tale cloud from the west that meant approaching people- a lot of them.

The people from the west drew near, and the familiar banners of Aridesa came into view. Shortly, the large contingent dispatched a few of their number on mounts to come forward, and the Lady Tulesti and her cohorts went out to meet them. In the lead was the familiar face of General Arastea Ghomesh, along with a few people that most of the party had met previously at Oxyr’s table in Aridesa. The general greeted the party, and asked if her people might make camp and rest here for a short while. The group agreed to this request, and the refugees of Aridesa set about making camp nearby those from Latpasa. Privately, Ghomesh told the party of Children of Ahriman followers that had dogged them since they escaped from Aridesa, picking off leaders and sowing fear until she and her fellow leaders had laid a trap for them and routed them. They had managed to capture two of the cultists, and still held them as prisoners. She agreed to turn them over to the party for questioning.

After the pair were sequestered within the main house, the party alternately tried soft and hard questioning techniques to extract information from the prisoners. Zayn discovered she actually knew one of the men from her days within the cult. His name was Azan Rasi, and she knew him to be a reconnaissance and spycraft expert, not exactly a soldier or assassin. He provided little information at first, and Zayn tried hard to convince him that her presence here was a ruse and she was still loyal to his cause. He seemed to believe her, and let a few tidbits slip that hinted at some strife within the organization and big plans in Gol Asad. The other man with him was quickly discovered to be hiding a vial of the shambler toxin in a rather inconvenient place. He was immobilized by the party as Nanda retrieved the vial with her animated hair, fueling the man’s future nightmares in the process. The party agonized over what to do with the men, particularly the dangerous Azan. He might be in constant contact with someone else within the cult, through any of a number of magical means they had already seen the cult employ, yet just killing him without some sort of due process would set a dangerous precedent that might put people on edge in the fledgling settlement. Growing tired of what seemed an obvious situation, Sindar had enough and went to see Azan. Quickly seeing this was no mere “bad cop” routine, Azan spilled some beans about a plot moving against the Asad assembly itself, but Sindar was unmoved. When he left the room, Azan was no more. When the rest of the party discovered what he had done, tensions mounted about how to spin this for the settlement leaders. General Ghomesh was summoned so that she would hear the news from them first. Her take was rather direct- if he posed a clear and present threat, then they had done the only thing they could do, acting in defense of their people.

The story closed as the party weighed the implications of their growing responsibilities to these misfits coming together at the foot of their new citadel. The political consequences of their actions could stack up quickly if not carefully controlled, but no one mourned the death of the cult member Azan Rasi.

The Vote

The vote has been tabled in the Asad while missing delegates are searched for and rescued. An automatic procedural clock of 60 days started when they went missing, with 35 days now remaining before the delegates are declared dead and replaced. The Black Fleet has been spotted in Riyaqan waters.

Quote of the Day

“I reach into his ass and pull this vial out. With my hair.” -Nanda, delicately recovering a dangerous weapon.


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