Session #23

Star and Surf interrogate the miner who doesn’t quite seem to fit in, and finally, after some verbal back and forth, the encounter escalates.  He eventually identifies himself as the Hyaena and tries to escape.  He doesn’t seem to want to blow his cover and so rather than lashing out in a blur of soulsteel he evades and counters the attacks, with Star’s chakrams cutting off his escape and Surf in her war form wrestling him down.  After they trap him in the essence-stifling chains he surrenders and starts answering more questions.

Apparently the creature they had just fought was a Hekatonkhire that was under the Hyaena’s control.  They didn’t really kill it, but they forced it back into a quiescent state, and he has lost control of it (the hearthstone amulet is probably involved somehow but he doesn’t clarify).  Surf and Star walk him back to Gethamane, intent on getting more information from him, especially since he casually mentions that Golden Face tried to stop him so he used him as a decoy for the Infernals.  When Star and Surf share that the Infernals are trying to create a new Elemental Pole, this seems to concern the Hyaena greatly.  He shares that he was hired by the Great Dogg to deliver on a contract to destroy a set of glowing green pillars, but they were too well-defended in Creation and the Underworld version of Gethamane is swarming with something bad, so he had to prey on the crew of miners to help boost his Hekatonkhire’s strength.

Meanwhile, Voice and Orchid are trapped in the Underworld, so Orchid summons her grandfather’s ghost to help them navigate.  He appears and is troubled by being so close to the mountain, and leads them away, towards a small shadowland that they can use to get back into Creation.  Partway there, the group sees a slithering, silvery mass of evil crawling along the canyon, and Voice summons a Spectral Steed to outrun it.  They ask grandpa what it is, but all he knows is that they come from the mountain, dragging ghosts screaming into its depths.

Once they reach the shadowland, Orchid and Voice pass through and ride the Spectral Steed back to Gethamane in a hurry.  They catch up with Star and Surf and the Hyaena, and everyone exchanges information (and dirty looks with the Hyaena as well).  They finally get an inn for the night and sleep since there has been little chance to rest for a while.

The next order of business is to collect the information from the Elemental Courts about what could possibly have caused the earthquake that got everything started in the first place.  With some diligent research and collection of materials (including the correct minerals from the mine that the group visited), the ritual is prepared.  The group heads down into the underdark and finds a dead end tunnel to perform the ritual.  Soon a portal opens in the rock, and a Kri, a man/deer spirit of stone, arrives and welcomes them to the domain of the Gemlord he serves.  They pass into a large chamber covered entirely with glittering gems of varying size and quality.  The cave itself rumbles a greeting, for the cave itself is the Gemlord, an enormous spirit of stone with a body that stretches for miles deep underground.

The party shares what they know about the earthquake, the twin dooms of Gethamane, and ask for information.  The Gemlord hesitates deeply but finally admits that he and his two brothers were bested and coerced into cooperating to start that destructive earthquake.  With the party’s prodding, the Gemlord dares to speak the name of the one who bested them: “The Scarlet Phoenix Astride the World.”  The party is stunned.  This is almost certainly the “strange bird” that has been lurking all along.

Star asks about recharging the green pillars that are slowly failing and about to allow a great evil into Creation.  The Gemlord says only the Heart of the Gemlord would be enough, and even then it would probably take two, and it would be too risky to give his own Heart to them.  He wishes them well and they are escorted out, but soon another earthquake rocks them terribly.  As the party recovers, two other portals open and two other Kri arrive with Gemlord Hearts, saying they must avenge their fallen brother.  The Scarlet Phoenix Astride the World has struck, and will most likely not be satisfied now until the party has been destroyed.  The Hyaena seems particularly nervous, temporarily shedding his indifferent attitude.

Star takes the two Gemlord Hearts to a squad of the Mountain Folk, instructing them on how to power the pillars with these to keep the great evil of the Underworld at bay, and then the party prepares to go find Loyal and Lumaria, who are well overdue from trying to find the Infernals. 

Session #22

The party has now split into three groups:

  • The Abyssals, following up on a lead by Orchid’s family’s mining company about a haunted mine shaft outside of town.
  • Star and Surf go in search of the Abyssals, clued in by Star’s familiar staying with Orchid.
  • Loyal and Lumaria set out to find the elemental courts that could have destroyed the city of Rurk.

Voice and Orchid find the miners, ask a few routine questions, and conclude that something is probably down there, so they head down to potentially destroy and/or enslave it.  Star and Surf arrive later and follow them down the mineshaft.

Once deep in the mineshaft, Star’s 360 degree night vision catches glimpses of something that appears and disappears in an instant.  Humanoid but taller, with a face made exclusively of a huge toothed mouth, it seems to be stalking them.  As Surf and Star reach Voice and Orchid, the creature strikes: in an instant, its arms are wrapped around Orchid and then both she and the creature are gone.  Voice, Star and Surf spread out, panicked and defensive, but unable to figure out what happened as the beast appears and disappears around them.

Voice tries threatening the creature but has no luck.  Desperate to find Orchid, he finally kneels in a submissive position, his arms spread wide and his head bowed.  True to its invitation, the creature appears around him and then in an instant he is in the Underworld, clearly recognizable from its pallor and his ability to respire essence.  Though the beast has a hold on him, Charon eventually frees Orchid’s arm, allowing her to throw her chain to distract the beast enough for Voice (who Calls his grand daiklave) to get free.

Meanwhile, Star and Surf continue to be confused and defensive, but then when Voice attacks the monster in the Underworld and does damage, it suddenly materializes in Creation (disappearing from the Underworld again), so Star and Surf attack it.  They wound it further, causing the creature to ping-pong between Creation and the Underworld to escape Surf’s grapple and Voice’s sword, finally succumbing to Voice’s hyper combo.

Now trapped in the Underworld, Voice frees Orchid and they debate their next move.  Meanwhile, Star and Surf head back up, hearing the curses under someone’s breath.  A miner has apparently followed them down or been trapped here, and Star’s eye tells her that this miner is no ordinary worker, with Archery 5 (sniper +3) and Melee 5 (backstabbing +3) among his abilities.  She follows this man up, confronting him as he joins the other miners and challenging him with Surf close on their heels.

Session #21

Orchid and Voice head outside the city, with Star’s familiar Charon following them.  They take a major road for over a mile, at which point Charon reaches the limit of her connection and returns to Star.  Charon cannot get through the entrance, however, and loiters on the wall observing Katrin Jadehand and the other soldiers still waiting anxiously.  Star, who has now felt more purpose from her prayer to Autochthon, snaps back to reality more and heads back out with Loyal, Lumaria and Surf to update Katrin.

The group decides to try and find the other entrances from the inside, after Lumaria’s charm and Star’s calculations have shown there are three other entrances at the cardinal directions, two within the city limits and one outside.  The two in city limits are in abandoned hallways, and the last one leads into darkness filled with monsters with glowing eyes, which is kind of scary.

After some discussion, the destruction of the activation key for the reality engines has put that as a less serious threat, but the group still wants to find the Infernals (especially in Surf’s case since they appear to be torturing Golden Mask for information).  They decide to explore the underdark near the evil entrance since that may be where the Infernals are holed up.  Lumaria buys some meat at the market, poisons it, and throws it out the door, then the party can roam around the underdark unmolested at least for a little while.

It is perfect darkness so Star’s night vision and Surf’s echolocation keep them mobile while Lumaria’s heightened smell doesn’t really help her move but does give her an ability to track someone who came by recently.  As they follow the trail, they encounter another trail, which turns out to belong to a squad of Mountain Folk.  They meet the Mountain Folk gathered around one of the green pillars, and they recognize Star since they are from the city of Rurk, the Mountain Folk citadel that holds the portal to Autochthonia.  They report bad news, however: the earthquake some months back that destroyed their train and sent the group plummeting into the underground lake also destroyed the portal to Autochthonia and much of the city.  This is the first group that has been afforded to be sent outside the city to check up on the pillars that contain a “great evil from olden times”, and unfortunately they’re being drained and will be vulnerable to destruction within a few short weeks.

Star’s Isolate Intersection reveals that something dangerous will soon come to smash these pillars, unleashing a tidal wave of death that will sweep across the entirety of Creation.  She isn’t sure what to do about it, but she gives the Golden Compass to the Mountain Folk as a sign that Autochthon has not abandoned them, and she mentions she will need their help with another great project once they have saved these pillars.  One of the Mountain Folk also suggests that the earthquake was probably deliberate (the party expects that the “Strange Bird” was behind it as well), but the only thing that could cause it would be three or more Earth Elementals working together, except that these elementals hate each other normally.  Still, the party gets info from one of the Mountain Folk about how to find these elementals, and then the groups part ways.  Lumaria is gifted a visor that allows her to see in the dark.

Session #20

Star, Loyal and Surf (and Fluffy) snoop around through the underbelly of the Gethamane tunnels, studying the strange green magitech pillar for a while and eventually decide to come back up to the city.  They run into some guards, only one of whom vaguely speaks Old Realm, so they call for backup, including an officer who speaks Old Realm better.  Loyal is now stuck explaining why he (apparently still the Pandit from Varangia) and his bull and robot are here in the tunnels, and he starts to sweat.  Surf, still in cat form, slips by the guards and then uses her anima to take on the appearance of a southern noblewoman to persuade the guards to let the others pass, pacifying that particular encounter.

Now in the lower reaches of the city, Star uses her knowledge of the city’s layout to plot out the most likely entrance to the hidden zone within the city that may be used to make a new Elemental Pole of Earth.  She identifies the most likely hallway, then uses her newly upgraded eye to see directly through three meters of stone and find the hidden entrance.  By studying the hidden door she is able to eventually project a golden essence aura that triggers the door to display a warning in Old Realm that the area is for authorized personnel only, then it evaporates and reveals a solid steel and jade door with a hallway behind.  The massive door has two jade keyholes that at Star’s inspection appear to be relatively ordinary keyholes but they are spooked by the door’s warning and believe there is a good chance that only a Solar (or former Solar) would be allowed through, so they decide to go fetch the Abyssals.

Meanwhile, the Abyssals (carring Charon along for fun) are headed to Katrin Jadehand and run into Lumaria on the way.  Lumaria is back in Gethamane because she has been sent on a quest by the Lunar Elders, bearing a warning about the green pillars underneath the city.  The three get to Katrin’s office and run headlong into one of Orchid’s uncles, apparently a survivor from her sordid past.  Orchid had removed her helmet to try and intimidate the secretary and so he recognizes her, but she silences him with some hideous threats.  The three head in to Katrin’s office, and though she is understandably upset to see them again she listens to what they have to say.  When they mention a secret locked-away area inside Gethamane, Katrin realizes something, and calls for them to follow her.

Katrin, the Abyssals and Lumaria, and a few guards head to one of the weathiest sections of town and arrive at a mansion which is the centerpiece of the wealthy Mindros family.  She asks to speak privately with Mindos Sahaki, the elderly patriarch of the family, and asks to see a very particular artifact that belongs to the family.  It turns out to be a large blue jade key.  When inspecting it, Lumaria uses Mirror Sight Dismay to invert his belief that it belongs to the Mindros family by referencing a clerical error that caused ownership of the key to revert to the city.

Katrin and the group step out and Katrin explains that several of these keys have been found before, and most of them belong to the great families.  Star, Loyal and Surf catch up, having been watching through Charon, and Star inspects the key and confirms it will fit in one of the locks.  Katrin leads the group to another family where Lumaria trades the key for a fork (using Any-Trinket Allure), and Star confirms this key will match the other lock.  Katrin decides for safety’s sake to acquire the other keys as well, but those have apparently been recently stolen.  One red jade key was on a velvet cushion in a box, which left an impression that Star can read to confirm it matched one of the keys in their possession, and another red jade key had gone missing from another family through similarly mysterious means.  The party surmises that whoever is planning on messing up Creation’s geomancy already has the keys they need to get through the door.  The other key is determined to be a fake.

The group returns to the locked door, and Star uses the essence projector tool on her bracers to once again project the essence needed to open the wall.  Lumaria touches the steel door and uses a lunar charm to sense the layout of the building beyond the door, grasping that it is several miles in diameter yet is a fully enclosed space consisting of several rings of hallway, one inside the other, and that somewhere inside is a set of powerful reality engines.

Orchid and Voice use the keys to open the door, and beyond is a short hallway of only 30 feet, with another door at the end.  This door is also steel but has many small holes instead of two large keyholes.  When Star takes a step forward to inspect the door, hundreds of small scarabs crawl out of the holes and form into a humanoid mass that roughly asks for the password.  Surf closes her eyes, wondering if her connection to her past lives might possibly hold the answer, and suddenly feels as though she is looking through his eyes, as he is being tortured for a password he knows but will not reveal.  His torturers include a man wrapped in bandages and another with an enormous sword with an eyeball in the middle.  Shaken, her eyes fly open and she whispers the password to the scarab guardian.  The scarabs crawl back into the holes and work the tiny gears and levers to open the door, allowing the party into the Habitation Ring.  Katrin and her guards keep watch while the party enters into the hidden area of Gethamane, left over from the First Age.

The Habitation Ring has houses, shops, magically growing food, and a lot of jade weaponry, apparently all for survival in case of Creation’s destruction.  The party at a large door with 25 symbols on it, and Star recognizes the symbols as the colleges of astrology.  With some educated guesswork, she pushes five buttons in a particular order and the door opens to a massive auditorium, intended to be used by the Solar Deliberative, adorned with decorations of the Solar caste marks.  At the back is another door, which Star has some more trouble with but eventually guesses the sequence to open as well.  This hallways is glowing brightly, and Voice and Orchid flinch when they try to go in, as it burns them (but not the others).  They hang back and wait while Star, Loyal, Surf and Lumaria explore the engineering room, which includes another hallway to a very central room with two orichalcum keys on a chain by a control panel to activate the Reality Engines.  There is a plaque with instructions written in Old Realm.

Star isn’t really sure what to do, so she decides to pray to Autochthon for guidance, sacrificing the orichalcum keys to boost her prayer.  Meanwhile, Orchid gets bored and leaves, and Voice eventually follows her out of jealousy.  Orchid snoops around the mining section of town, with various ores for processing and sale, and finds a house with one of her cousins (the daughter of the uncle she saw earlier) inside.  She meets her cousin and chats her up for a while, while Voice sneaks around and manages to see in through a window.  Orchid doesn’t seem to be sure what she’s doing, and when Voice arrives it doesn’t really help, but they have a civil conversation.

Orchid’s cousin works as part of the family’s mining company, and makes reference to a ghost that is haunting the major mineshaft outside the city.  Orchid and Voice perk up, and decide to take a look.

Sessions #18 and #19

The party regroups and decides to basically march back into the mansion where the strange Djala slave and the maned cat are hanging out.  Some minimal caution is undertaken when arriving (actually sneaking in the back door and using heightened senses to scout) and the slaves in the kitchen are soon questioned.  The persons of interest are not there, so the party bursts into the lavish dining room, upsetting the wealthy family eating dinner.  After some confusion and terror upon questioning, the residents all keel over with ugly black tentacle monsters bursting out of their chests.  The group can only stare in horror as these crawl in every direction, attempting to kill the servants and party members.

Surf and Orchid split off to explore up the nearby stairs while Voice and Loyal tear into the monsters.  Surf and Orchid encounter the Djala and a Lion-totem war-form Lunar watching from the balcony above the dining area and Orchid attacks immediately, though she has no effect on the Djala who slips through her chains like sand.  Her attack draws Voice’s attention, who leaps up using the chandelier and slams his daiklave right through the Lion lunar, knocking him unconscious and leaving him near death.  The Djala goes on the counteroffensive with tiny needles that are hard to see and impossible to block, but Star sends Charon behind the Djala to deliver a knockout bite.

The remaining monsters are quickly exterminated, and the party regroups with the two prisoners who happen to not be dead, chaining them with the essence-draining chains acquired from use on Golden Face.  Some questioning happens, though neither are very forthcoming with answers.  The Djala attempts to barter for her survival, which the Lunar does not take offense at, but her lavish promises of wealth and escape fall on deaf ears.  Ultimately Voice just kills them both for his amusement.

Now unsure of their next step, the party resorts to searching the possessions of the slaves in the slave quarters to figure out where to go next.  Star uncovers a magical scroll that bears a set of instructions for how to subvert the Varang City-States nobility against Iselsi Samuel (including a kill/corrupt list).  This scroll has a second part, which directs a group of Infernals to a hidden engine underneath Gethamane to activate an ancient Reality Engine, potentially disrupting the flow of essence through all of Creation.  Apparently the infernal was supposed to join this group once her work was complete in Varangia.

The party returns to Rakessa’s tower for the night and Star does an astrological reading on Gethamane, finding serious doom is potentially approaching from two different threats within the month.  This is all important to bring to Sam but the 10-day travel there, not to mention the extended travel time back to Gethamane, is daunting.  Orchid then realizes she misses TJ and wants to follow his scent, which they follow out of town and into some ruins that contain a stone archway that TJ’s scent vanishes into.  Star then activates a new power (installed while en route inside Fluffy) to open this portal to Yu-Shan, where they encounter three Celestial Lions guarding the entrance.  Star somehow manages to technobabble her way past them and they are now inside Yu-Shan.  They get directions from a Lion Dog to portals to both Gethamane and Paragon, and decide to check in with Sam first.  TJ has disappeared into the Heavenly Bureaucracy.

Exiting the portal into Paragon, the party checks in with Txori and her friend/bodyguard, as Sam is apparently leading an operation against the Empire of Sand and Bone.  Txori takes notes and also offers to get them back into Yu-Shan without fast-talking anyone.  They get through easily, and after traveling through Yu-Shan’s glorious canal network, arrive in the tunnels underneath Gethamane.

Orchid and Voice (and Charon) decide to head up to chat with Katrin Jadehand again, while Star wants to check back in with the pillar they encountered before in the Underdark.  They find the pillar thanks to Star’s eidetic memory, and now that her analytical capacities have been expanded, she is able to discern it is part of a network that creates an essence field that is keeping something contained within.  She’s not sure what.  Loyal and Surf are along for the ride and are somewhat disturbed by this information.

Session #17

Orchid and Voice decide to stir up some trouble and bring Rakessa, enslaved by Voice’s will, along for good measure, with Star coming along to keep an eye on all of them as well.  Loyal and Surf stay behind to stake out for the next delivery of the Pandit’s drugs, Surf staking out in seagull form and Loyal disguising himself as Rakessa himself.

Orchid and Voice arrive in a somewhat crowded area and Orchid begins weaving her tales of corruption and indolence in the ruling class to the crowd, spreading fear that there is an astrological doom plainly visible in the skies that the wise ones are hiding from the people.  As her tone heightens the crowd becomes more and more rapt in attention, the crowd suddenly snaps as one and becomes violent, pressing forward to tear Rakessa limb from limb, but Orchid blasts back with a fiery burst of her own charismatic energy and disperses the crowd back into a scattering and trembling swarm.  Star notes that one of the slaves of one of the richest Pandits in the back of the crowd is exceptionally skilled in throwing weapons and martial arts despite her humble demeanor and low status, and points her out to Orchid and Voice before taking Rakessa back to the tower before any further harm befalls him.

Orchid and Voice shadow the slave and her owner and his family for a while before Voice decides to make a move to expose the slave, attacking her in order to force her to defend herself, and claiming she hides secrets.  She attempts to make her defense look clumsy, but Voice presses on until she is forced to use her full skills.  She reveals under duress, somewhat tearfully, that she belongs to an ancient and secret order of Djala martial artists, which has now been dreadfully revealed by the mysterious attacker.  Voice shrugs and lets them go, satisfied with exposing her secret, but Orchid follows them by rooftops (carrying Charon, Star’s familiar), curious where they live.

Meanwhile, a knock at the tower door reveals a young man who is clearly a courier with a small unmarked package to deliver.  Loyal, posing as Rakessa, invites the young man in and offers to read his fortune for free.  He “sees” that knowledge is power and luck, and sharing information will bring good fortune today.  The young man, eager to gain luck, shares many things of varying relevance but does not know the name of the person who has commissioned him to send these packages.  He does, however, share some pieces of information that might help track the origin of the packages, but is clearly bothered that he does not have much knowledge on this auspicious day.

As he leaves, Surf follows the young man, who is now obviously burdened by what he has heard.  He returns to a warehouse where other couriers are coming and going with packages, but soon he sets out on his own into the nicest area of town, and sneaking into a back door region of one of the compounds, knocks on a door.  Surf settled into a nearby tree and is somewhat startled to see a huge, bare-chested, scary-looking man with a lot of tawny hair answer the door.  He is suspicious of this courier’s strange questions and sudden desire for new information and, without any warning, kills the boy with his bare hand, literally ripping his heart out of his chest and eating it as he closes the door.  Orchid has arrived, tailing the rich people, and can smell the blood, and is also startled slightly to see Surf there, but they acknowledge each other.

Surf decides to poke around in this compound, turning into a cat and wandering in, meeting the other cats and taking one of their appearances.  She gets squeezed for a bit by some children and also spots the Djala slaves chattering quietly at one point, and eventually makes her way to the home office area.  The papers don’t seem to have anything of interest, but something very interesting does show up: a cat with a tawny mane, staring at her with orange unblinking eyes.  She briefly and cagily converses with the cat, wondering what his angle is (for this is clearly a Lunar), but before the conversation makes too much progress, Orchid’s chain snakes through a window, wraps around the cat’s tail and yanks him out the window, tossing him an impressive distance.  Orchid gathers up Surf and the two hightail it out of there, hoping to regroup with the rest of the party and figure out what their next move is.

Session #16

The party has some time before they depart, so Surf heads back to the Moral Ambiguity to meet with the still-chained Golden Face.  They discuss what his future may hold, and how his desire for vengeance may be satisfied against the Hyaena by teaming up with Sam and his people and luring the Hyaena to a confrontation in Paragon.  Golden Face points out that the Hyaena can only be found by learning what contracts he holds and locating his targets, but he says this in a speculative way that indicates this may be possible.  Surf makes Golden Face promise that he will not engage the Hyaena in a populated area and then lets him go to meet with Sam’s people.

Voice and Orchid meet Surf soon after and deduce from her expression that she let Golden Face go, much to their own disappointment, but they accept it as her choice.  They also express that they are not sure what to do except keep running from the Bishop.

The next day, TJ arrives still in his disguise as a balding older man and escorts the group to the ship.  He mentions that this is a Realm warship that has defected to Sam’s cause, and while they believe Sam should be the next emperor, they are still struggling to accept anathema, and so follow a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which encourages everyone to disguise themselves, except for Star.  Orchid disguises herself as TJ, leading to some hilarity once they have boarded the ship, and she also claims that Star is their automaton when the crew isn’t sure what to do with her.

After a week’s sailing the ship arrives at Yane, the capital of the Varang City-States.  As the party disembarks and makes its way through the crowd of Realm soldiers and officers eager to join Sam’s cause, TJ leads Star (with Surf spectating) to a tall tower in the heart of the city.  They climb to the top floor of the tower and are met with a wizened, strangely casual man.  TJ asks where Pandit Ceybo is, and the man replies that he passed away and that he, Pandit Rakessa, is the new master of this tower.  TJ asks him to teach Star astrology, and he attempts to do so, but Star is unimpressed with the first day’s worth of learning.  This new Pandit also seems to always be smoking or drinking something.

Orchid and Voice are bored and so roam the town with Loyal.  When they note he is impervious to alcohol, they use him to win some drinking games (the fact that their haul of silver and jade is in the coral reef around Turquoise Island seems to motivate this somewhat).  They eventually head up to the tower to check in on Star, and find Star frustrated with her lack of progress despite her exceptional intelligence, memory and reading rate.  Star, tired of her teacher’s failure, sends Charon to bite him, knocking him out before he causes any trouble.  When Orchid hears about how Ceybo is the man that TJ was originally hoping to find, she summons his ghost from the dead.  Ceybo appears at her summons, confirming that he is dead.  He teaches Star a new way to look at the stars that begins to activate her new higher level of Astrology.

When asked, Pandit Ceybo claims he was killed by an angry mob that rallied out of nowhere against him.  This happened shortly after he had made the prognostication that the Varang City-States must unite behind “eldest of water” for the Scarlet Throne, or else Creation was doomed.  He had sent his findings to other Pandits, and his findings match those of Rakessa who made the same projections, meaning they are there in the stars for anyone who looks.  The group awakens Rakessa and asks him about the projections.  Rakessa reveals that when he made these projections, the next day a shipment of drugs appeared at his door, and it was “the best day ever.”  The group now suspects there is some conspiracy to keep the Varang City-States from joining Sam’s cause, and begin to plot a way to get to the heart of it.

Session #15

Most of both groups have gathered at the black metal warship as the Ship of the Dawn sails off, pirates cackling with glee.  Orchid, Voice, Loyal, and Star are joined by Hunter, Kami, Chelsea, Blake, and her twin She Who Quests for Completion.  Some introductions are exchanged and the party learns that these other people were on a mission for Iselsi Samuel.  Their primary task was to attempt to barter for an artifact called the Adamant Telescope, able to see at any distance even into other realms like the Underworld.  The telescope was and is still firmly affixed to Wix’s belt, but Kami and Chelsea had enough time close to it to learn how it was constructed (Chelsea smugly notes she has identified the demon core in the telescope that helps make it work).  She Who Quests was also trying to acquire a raw Abyssal (specifically Golden Face) for her master, but no one else seems excited to support her for this mission.  Also, Hunter was hoping to kill the Hyaena, but some dreams have to live on for another day.

Meanwhile Surf talks with Golden Face, as he explains that he was captured by the Hyaena and used as a pawn in Wix’s quest to learn the secrets of Tolta the Serpent.  She unchains him since she doesn’t need to trust him, as she is a much better swimmer than him.  When Surf asks if the rescue of the princess from the Great Dogg was his idea, Golden shrugs with a smile, and suggests he trusted Surf to do the right thing.  Surf seems troubled that the princess is still not truly free, but Golden Face counters that mortals can never be said to be truly free, as they are such small things.

The boat arrives at the warship, which is called the Moral Ambiguity, and the group inspects Golden Face suspiciously.  The new group offers to bring the party to meet Sam, and since it is in the South it’s farther away from the Bishop so Orchid (who is posing as their leader) says that’s a great idea.  They use the old boat as target practice and Shan’ti helps sail the Moral Ambiguity in a southward direction through the Underworld towards a shadowland off the coast of the southwest.

That evening Orchid feels a strange presence in her mind, almost like another mind, but it disappears quickly.  She suspiciously comes after Golden Face, who denies any knowledge of what’s happening, but Voice detects that he may have a theory as to what happened, and despite Surf protecting him, Golden Face is eventually coerced into sharing that he is still in servitude to the Bishop and that the Bishop can look through the monstrances of Orchid and Voice anytime he likes to spy on them and what they are seeing.  This creates a lot of consternation, and they bring this concern down to Kami, Chelsea and Star, who are working on making an Adamant Telescope of their own.  Kami asks Chelsea to inspect Golden Face’s brain, which she is very capable of doing.

Chelsea delves into Golden Face’s mind by asking him what his orders are.  Images flash through her mind of receiving orders to capture the Hyaena, since the failure of the plague at Cherak has caused the Bishop to desire instead a weapon of mass destruction that the Hyaena possesses.  Golden Face laid a trap for the Hyaena but was in the Hyaena’s web all along, and was captured and used as bait.  Chelsea then mercilessly asks Golden Face what he wants, and images flash through her mind of revenge, especially on Orchid and Voice, and on the Hyaena and basically everyone, though his hands can’t seem to close around Surf’s throat.

Golden Face is now chained up and held prisoner, while Kami, Chelsea and Star work together on a device that can prevent the Bishop from looking through Orchid, Voice and Face’s eyes through their monstrances.  It is soon completed, but it is somewhat bulky, and has a radius of only about 5 meters, so they install it into Fluffy.  This takes the remainder of the time of their journey through the Underworld, into Creation, and across the southern sea to Paragon, home base of Sam’s alliance.

Arriving at Paragon, the large group disembarks and heads into the central building of Paragon, while all around them an obvious war effort is underway.  Soldiers of many denominations are marching and Dragon-blooded gliders fly overhead alongside winged Beastmen.  In the throne room of the greatest building sits the Perfect of Paragon and to his side on a more modest throne is Sam, the contender for the Scarlet Throne.  Kami introduces Sam, who speaks briefly on his own goals and those of the allies who have gathered around him.  Surf’s analysis of the social status reveals that Sam is the most powerful one in the room, but relies heavily on two others: an attractive dark-skinned woman taking notes behind him, and a paunchy, cranky elderly man in the audience.

Orchid speaks for herself and Voice hoping to escape the Bishop, while Surf expresses her desire to keep the seas whole and protect her friends.  Star then reveals her own mission: to use an Autochthonian version of Creation’s Astrology to determine why Autochthon is dying and how to save him.  Sam’s eye catches the older man in the crowd, which Star’s 360 vision also notes.  Sam then states he is sympathetic to their cause and hopes to earn their trust, and he will help them for now as well.  Specifically with regards to the Astrology mission that Star is on, Sam knows a guy (knowing looks) and also says that they can take a ship east to the Varang City-States to study more Astrology.  To learn more, he gives the group directions through the halls of the building they’re in to an unused room.

When the group arrives, a young man wearing a trenchcoat and a sardonic look greets them there.  He is a Sidereal ally of Sam and knows much about Astrology.  However, when he interviews Star about the potential of her Astrological abilities, his eyes bulge in disbelief and he has little he can even say.  Sam had already assigned a ship to Orchid, which the Sidereal TJ states they will take to the Varang City-States to learn more about Astrology.  TJ also promises to keep Star’s mission a secret at her behest.  Surf still has a couple meetings to attend to first (with Golden Face and also with Tamuz) so the group makes preparations to leave soon.

Session #14 and #14.5

The party has acquired a double-hulled outrigger, able to handle the open ocean (though only sort of), but Lumaria has taken off along with Salauriel and Franco Vithera on their own adventure now.  Voice, Orchid, Surf, Loyal and Star (along with Fluffy of course) set out in their new boat.  The new destination is a shadowland a day’s sailing away, the goal being to enter by dusk and leave at night.  However, the sailing doesn’t go too well, with Loyal and Surf struggling with the unfamiliar craft.  Orchid finds another solution, summoning an ancestral ghost from Surf’s island who was a master of sailing, and commissioning him to handle their craft.  The ghost, named Shan’ti the Sailor, handles the ship well, and despite being a bit behind schedule they will now be able to intercept the Ship of the Dawn.

A night’s sailing into the vast, dark ocean of the Underworld brings the party’s craft within sight of the massive, haunted-looking Ship of the Dawn.  Star’s telescopic vision and Voice’s heightened senses pick it out when it’s still far in the distance, and Surf decides to scout ahead as a dolphin.  As she approaches, she sees a second, much smaller boat next to the Ship of the Dawn, which is a strange low-riding, black metal catamaran.  She hears a number of voices engaged in what appears to be some kind of standoff, one of which is almost certainly the pirate captain Wix Threefinger.  The negotiations are prolonged and difficult to follow, but also seem to involve some kind of potential prisoner exchange, and also involve Wix’s possession of the Hyaena’s Monstrance of Celestial Portion.  The intruders seem to be trying to negotiate to acquire the “Adamant Telescope,” whatever that is, and Wix wants information on how to interface with Tolta, the All-Knowing Serpent that the Hyaena alone knows the current location of.

After listening for a while she swims back to report.  Loyal and Star decide to investigate as well, swimming towards the ship being towed by Fluffy, while Voice and Orchid want to take the ship for their own but seem to have trouble convincing Shan’ti to sail closer to the haunted ship.  They finally make their way over without the boat, keeping it in reserve.

As the various party members sneak into visual range of what’s happening on the ship, they can see that Wix and his pirate crew are having a spirited discussion with a squad of unfamiliar people: a tall man in all black with a massive black sword; a serious man dressed as a native of the West, with a backpack with a young child in it; twin young women with pale skin and hair and sporting raven feather tattoos, one of which has a really nice jacket; and a woman wearing green with long hair that seems to constantly be braiding and unbraiding itself.  This group seems frustrated but united against the pirate captain, and the crew has gathered closely around this group menacingly.  Surf’s mate, Golden Face, is also present, chained up and helpless, and with the chain attached to some type of contraption.

Star throws a chakram at the lookout in the crow’s nest, knocking him into the ocean, but he soon reappears at the top and calls down a warning.  Orchid and Voice decide to interject themselves into this discussion, and Orchid throws Wix off the ship, only to have him reappear in an instant.  They quickly realize that the crew of the Ship of the Dawn is literally unkillable, somehow.  Star decides to go snooping around, activating her Optical Shroud to get past the crew (she notices that the girl with the jacket flares her nostrils and looks right at her, but says nothing).

Loyal decides that a distraction is in order, and jumps up onto the mast of the ship, drawing his beamklaive, and the tall man (someone refers to him as Hunter) chases him up to the crow’s nest for a mock duel.  This somewhat obvious distraction is largely tedious, but gives Star time to work.  She snoops around belowdecks, picking up some ingots of magical materials from among the enormous treasure hoard, and finally finds what is probably the Monstrance of Celestial Portion.  She is able to damage (though not destroy) the massive device by removing some of the magical hinges.  A pressure wave is emitted by the sarcophagus-like artifact when the lid slides off, and all the Abyssals on the ship (Orchid, Voice, the twins, and the tall man) cringe like their ears had just popped.

Wix, seeing this action, grins and remarks that the Hyaena was almost certainly nearby and will probably be in soon.  The ocean starts bubbling around the ship, and Loyal decides to take a crack at killing Wix, but botches his athletics attempt and falls into the ocean, just as a monstrous sea serpent rears its head with a man standing on its head, menacingly staring at everyone.  Wix throws the lever to toss Golden Face into the ocean, causing Surf to dive after him, while Hunter attacks the Hyaena and they have an epic duel on the sea serpent’s head.  The other party members go back to back to protect themselves from the pirates.  The sea serpent attempts to swallow Loyal, so Orchid and Voice leap up onto its head and use Orchid’s chain to force its mouth open and save him.

Star returns abovedecks and as the Ship of the Dawn starts to pull up its sails and begin moving, the various non-pirates decide to leave, either by one of the life boats or by psychic surfboard flown by the strangely braided lady.

Surf has saved Golden Face but decides not to unchain him yet and instead talk to him on the boat that the party had originally taken, with only Shan’ti as company, until everyone else arrives.  Hunter and the Hyaena are still battling, but everyone else is converging back to have a new meeting.

Session #13

(Sorry for the very delayed writeup, some details may be incorrect)

With the ship restocked with provisions and a fair breeze ready to take the ship where the party wills, Surf proposes the group return to her island, which is only four days sailing away.  Turquoise Island, as she calls it, is the home of some people she watches over, and also where White Winged Omen and Pearl Hunter are currently based, keeping an eye on her people for her.  Surf and Lumaria agree that this is a good place to take Salauriel to have her complete her initiation and hopefully train her some more.  It is somewhat out of the way of the main trade routes but still accessible with the ship they have now, so they set out.

The trip itself is relatively uneventful, though somewhat on edge for most of the group including the Alchemicals (who are busy with their research) and Franco Vithera (who is busy trying to teach Lumaria about the heritage that she and Salauriel both seem to share) because of the presence of the Lintha crew.  They seem to be kept in line by the Abyssals, so that’s holding for now, but it is a stressful situation.

When the ship reaches Turquoise Island, they come around the uninhabited side and drop anchor far out in the shallows, and Surf, Lumaria and Salauriel come ashore (at this point they learn that Salauriel does not have any shapes except her true forms, so they bring her ashore riding on Surf’s dolphin back).  The Alchemicals stay on the ship to work and the Abyssals stay on the ship to stay away from the island.

Surf brings Lumaria and Pearl Hunter to the manse, and find Pearl Hunter meditating there.  Pearl Hunter, the artist who drew both Surf’s and Salauriel’s tattoos, recognizes Salauriel from her trials, though Salauriel doesn’t have a good recollection of that time.  Salauriel’s trials apparently involved her being sent somewhere where the boundaries between Creation and Malfeas were thin, and she fell into Malfeas.  On further probing, it is revealed that Salauriel had already been exposed to the Wyld by the time she was brought in, and some Lunar elders had not wanted to even keep her.  Surf is getting a bad vibe off all this so she takes Salauriel away to train her herself, while Lumaria runs interference, catching Pearl Hunter spying on the two (though it’s only implied, for face’s sake).

Surf trains Salauriel in her first Sacred Hunt for a coral reef fish, which goes pretty well.  While this is happening, however, the Abyssals get bored and decide to swim to shore.  They run across the fish on the way, and Surf confronts them for ditching the ship, but they explain they got bored, like this should be obvious, and gesture that the ship is fine.

Just then, the ship explodes in a big ball of fire.  Surf is stunned, and immediately changes to a seagull to get as close as she can, quickly noting an albatross circling over the burning wreckage of the ship.  Soon Loyal (dragging Franco) and Fluffy (with Star embedded inside) appear out of the blast zone of the ship and swim to shore, while Surf reaches the albatross, who is in fact White Winged Omen as she suspected.  White Winged Omen claims he saw Lintha crewing the ship and acted appropriately, and Surf can’t really fault him for this.  They return to the land, where Star, Fluffy and Franco are fine (Loyal took some damage but he’s okay) and the group is reunited at the manse, meeting Lumaria and Pearl Hunter again.

White Winged Omen and Pearl Hunter hear Surf’s story about her leaving to find the corrupted Solar who is her bonded mate, who seems to have escaped repeatedly, and that night they use Lunar astrology to try and locate this individual.  Not only do they locate him, but they also locate “the frog” again (who Lumaria assumes is Carson), both are on a ship in the Underworld, relatively close by.  This is the party’s next target now, but first they must determine how to get there.

“Hey it’s your day to say ‘you’re welcome’, ’cause I’m gonna need that boat…”