The Crimson Gale hovers nearby, the desert sands blow familiarly around. Txori, however, is not comfortable, for she can hear the faint ticking that they were warned about. Chelsea had identified the artifact as a mechanical heart, that Naz-Pherat had warned them was used by the corrupt Telessandra to control her puppet to seek revenge upon the party. Everyone rapidly hops onto the Crimson Gale and they swiftly head back to the portal to Yu-Shan, with Sam talking down the Scarlet Empress’s obvious confusion and anger. The Scarlet Empress finally looks Sam in the eye and tells him, “As my descendent you will help me retake the throne,” which Sam is very quiet about afterwards.
Soon the ship is back at the portal, but Edelweiss is getting worried because the Crimson Gale certainly cannot fit in the portal. The sound is getting close enough that Txori can direct Chelsea to locate the approaching sound, and it’s none other than Ah Nold. This is exceptionally bad news, though news that only Sam, Txori and Grey recognize as such. The Scarlet Empress is becoming imperious and troubled again, so Txori scribbles a note that the Empress’s path back to the throne lies through Yu-Shan, so she immediately leaps off the ship and sets out to the portal. Everyone follows swiftly, and Edelweiss, waving goodbye forlornly, takes the Crimson Gale up high into the sky.
The Scarlet Empress walks brazenly past the Celestial Lions who are too dumbfounded to do anything, and the party keeps up, rapidly arriving back in Yu-Shan, meeting the Instructor and a dozen more Celestial Lions. Everyone is taken to a meeting room, including the Free Man and TJ, since apparently Grey’s messages got through and their names have all been cleared. The Scarlet Empress is very keen to get back to the Scarlet Throne, but Chelsea has done some examination of the engagement ring that Sam stole, and it operates by fundamentally altering the wearer’s worldview to one that the Ebon Dragon pleases. It is also synergistic with other forms of mind alteration, which fundamentally makes the Scarlet Empress very compromised and very dangerous. Sam bursts out that she has control over him with her ancestry, but the Empress silences him with a short bark. Txori offers to execute the Scarlet Empress, but she is instead brought down to a prison in the basement of the building they are in, under guard by Celestial Lions.
The Instructor is the last one to go, watching the party sit there in confusion, and he smoothly points out that he cannot condone executing the Empress, all the while insinuating that that is exactly what they should do. He leaves, bumping fists with the Free Man who gives the party a wink, and with TJ who also nods briefly at the party. Left alone, Txori decides she will use her diplomatic immunity to converse with the Empress, while Blake disappears into her shadow, and Chelsea accompanies Txori just to keep an eye on things. Grey stays behind with Sam in case the Empress has further control over him. Joshua decides they will need a distraction to escape again, and probably a patsy, so he goes to find the most dangerous one possible: Ah Nold.
Joshua briefly negotiates with the Celestial Lions outside the gate, warning them that something bad is coming, then steps through and finds Ah Nold pacing and furious. Ah Nold charges and Joshua barely manages to evade back into Yu-Shan, where Ah Nold pursues. Amidst the dodging and grappling, Joshua’s Magic Vision notes that Ah Nold has a yasal crystal socketed into his armor that holds a 1st circle demon within, so Joshua punches it back into Malfeas, leaving Ah Nold brutish, unskilled and minimally competent with his armor. Joshua is able to evade Ah Nold and lead him back towards the building.
Txori walks past several guards, including a Sidereal who notes that she is not fated to lose her diplomatic immunity nor kill the Empress. Blake, on the other hand, is now using a stealth charm that allows her to be completely invisible to fate, and is planning on doing exactly that. Txori arrives in front of the Empress, and the Empress’s admonishment that Txori help her escape falls on deaf ears due to Txori’s use of Sagacious Reading of Intent, that the Empress’s rise would lead to the downfall of Txori’s beloved South. They argue for a bit, then on Txori’s verbal signal, Blake leaps out of the shadow, dealing a brutally crippling strike to the Empress’s neck, leaving her blood-drenched and at her -4 health level. Chelsea, not hesitating in the slightest, immediately snaps the Empress’s neck. Blake returns to Txori’s shadow, and in the next moment, Ah Nold comes crashing through the walls, with Txori dodging through the hole he left, and Chelsea flying out on her telekinetic hoverboard.
The party regroup in front of the building and Joshua puts a big fist in his own face and lies in the rubble for a bit to evade any further involvement with Ah Nold, as Celestial Lions are now audible running him down. The party dashes for the exit, but finds their way blocked by a young girl who looks exactly like Blake – pale, blonde, raven feathers tattooed on her cheeks, and with the same face – and also a creature of darkness as obvious to Joshua. She claims the way they’re going is not safe and they should go with her. Lie detection shows her statement as half true, so on further questioning she reveals she is She Who Quests For Completion, with association with Professor Enriquez and Iselsi Kagami. Blake does not show up on this list, but possibly because Blake is currently invisible to fate. Kagami is apparently doing some dealing with the Underworld to enhance his network of spies, and that name is enough to convince Sam to go with this person. Everyone else follows suit, and the party heads out another portal from Yu-Shan. Next stop: the Raiton Academy, and a meeting about how to put Iselsi Samuel on the Scarlet Throne.
The party first has to figure out how to get into Malfeas, survive in Malfeas and get back out of Malfeas. Chelsea still has the equipment from the hell-portal she stole, so getting in or out could be just a matter of using it correctly, but there is also the option to travel five days through the desert wearing green, which is also considered. As for surviving, Grey needs some type of survival gear, and none seems forthcoming. Blake is also injured, so she may need to rest before they can begin.
Out of the desert, TJ arrives, eager to see that the party has survived. When he learns of their mission, his face falls, but he volunteers to get the party what they need. He says he will steal what they need, though he will undoubtedly get thrown in prison as well, he will also be cleared if they succeed in their mission. He heads into the portal to Yu-Shan, and some hours later, Rocky the Jokkun emerges from underground, carrying a glass of Celestial Wine for Blake and a Mayfly Mask for Grey. He wishes them good luck and sinks back down underground.
Plans are discussed, debated, and settled.The Crimson Gale is wreathed in green banners, and everyone wears green, and it sets sail low over the desert.While in transit Chelsea takes time to explain to everyone essentially everything she knows: the Ebon Dragon has a bride, identity unknown, that he is keeping in a palace that is being built in Malfeas.This bride is somehow integral to the invasion plans, and she is guarded by Infernal Exalted, the same sort of being that Chelsea is.She explains that there are demons of various calibers, as well as Akuma which are humans or Exalted of Creation that have sold themselves to the Yozis.She also warns about the weather, which is quite hellish, and that if night falls it’s the Ebon Dragon passing overhead.
After five days the Demon City becomes visible in the distance, its clamor and green sunlight unnaturally chilling to behold.Everyone dismounts and Edelweiss turns the ship around and leaves them behind.Grey has summoned a wind elemental to provide their loud noise for them to prevent the arrival of the Silent Wind, and as they enter the outermost layer of the Demon City, they can see many eyes watching them from the shadows.Chelsea knows the general location of the palace, and it’s quite some distance from here (several hundred miles) so Grey casts Azure Chariot to transport the entire party to the forest Szoreny near the palace (Blake has to hide in Sam’s shadow in order to fit everyone).They blaze through the sky, through several layers of the Demon City until they arrive in the forest of mirrors.
As they arrive and disembark, Sam uses Observer Awareness Method and notes they are being watched by something hidden in the forest.After localizing it, Chelsea uses her Spy Eye to see the observer, a demon with dark skin and bird legs with silver spikes for hair and silver eyes.She identifies it as Darake, the Stubborn Walker, Warden Soul of Naz-pherat.Grey realizes this sounds familiar and points out from the Scroll of Limbs that Darake is a component of the same demon that also spawned Minajikin, Thelonious and Altonellis.The party resolves to just head towards the city, noticing that there are massive hoof-shaped pools of silver in this forest.
Txori’s hearing and Sam’s earth sense tell them that Darake can jump into the silver pools and travel between them, soon appearing before them trying to act very impressive.His brash yet amiable demeanor is a bit odd for the party to experience, and when they say they have business at the palace (they are passing as cultists in servitude to one of Chelsea’s disguises) Darake says he has business there as well and follows along.They soon learn why he is called the Stubborn Walker, as he plows straight through buildings on his way there, leaving a massive trail of rubble for the party to pick through.
A massive stone stands in their way and Darake again just walks through it, carving a circular tunnel into the stone.Once the party follows him in, about halfway through the entrance collapses, and Sam can detect they are not alone.A deep, sinister voice greets them and suggests they light the space, noting that it knows Chelsea’s true identity.Chelsea then lights the area with her anima, revealing the cloaked black frame of Naz-pherat, the Collector of Fear, wreathed in purple flicking flames and with skeletal hands caressing a scythe.Naz-pherat reveals that he embodies Isidoros’s suspicion, and he loathes the Ebon Dragon for the suspicion he arouses for all his many double-dealing tricks over the millennia.Naz-pherat wants to know what the Ebon Dragon’s plans are but he and all his souls have been locked out, even forced into servitude for the invasion plans.He has been watching the party through the eyes of the Zolanski demons that Minajikin creates, and he wishes them to learn what the Ebon Dragon has in store for Isidoros.
Txori extracts a promise that if they provide this information they will be given safe passage out of the Demon City, and so a bargain is struck.The plan is for the Stubborn Walker to create the necessary diversion to enter the palace.Naz-pherat also warns that he is aware that Telessandra seeks vengeance against them for destroying her Mortal Market, and has sent a slave against them.He will be known by the clockwork construction where his heart should be.
Sam boosts everyone’s stealth abilities so they are well-placed to take advantage of the distraction.The Stubborn Walker walks directly into the palace wall, causing several demons to confront him, then two Infernals (one of which is a pale man with spidery golden veins and black hair who Chelsea seems to viscerally loathe) and finally a mysterious being in the shadow.Darake seems to care not a whit, even claiming that “Imma let you finish, but Berengiere has the most beautiful voice of all time!” before he gets thrown out on his ass.While this is happening the party slips into the palace, snooping through the hallways (with Angyalkae harpists piping music through the entire building, their elemental is now silent as they are).Little is learned from the outer rooms except for a room stocked with lies, including many reports of Chelsea’s death.After essence is recovered, the heart of the building is next.
Through a combination of detection abilities and Sam’s odd intuition of the layout, it is determined that the well-guarded stairs lead up to the second, third and fifth floors, but only a secret passageway can lead to the fourth floor and it is guarded by blood apes that need never sleep or eat.Sam successfully opens the secret door without triggering the pit trap.Chelsea kills the first two demons on the first floor through the wall with her mind powers, then Txori bursts up the stairs and puts five arrows into the four blood apes, killing them all.The party then enters the mysterious fourth floor, finding all their detection abilities struggling to penetrate it.
The fourth floor has clean, simple rooms with pictures on the walls of various Realm Dynasts, rendered as hellish versions of themselves, in a manner very upsetting to Sam.Snooping down the hallways, the party finds their vision, hearing, and smell are all impaired as though through fog, but intelligence is gathered from a number of Akuma/Infernal Realm Dynasts scheming to ignite civil war, possibly involving Sam’s gathering might in the South.This is marginally useful, but doesn’t carry the true importance they need.Down another hallway, they party finds another Dynast, this one obviously very important and powerful, surrounded by various large mirrors hammered upright into the floor. Txori rapidly deduces that she is having a negotiation session with Szoreny, the Silver Forest, and that the negotiation is not going well for Szoreny. He is failing to secure any concessions for his friend Isidoros, which the party notes with interest.
Since neither of these two rooms is passable while occupied, the party begins considering ways to get deeper into this complex, and finally a plan is devised. Txori writes a letter to the various Dynasts of middling importance, ostensibly from the negotiator, with a suggestion on how to improve their plans. There is a secret message hidden within this letter suggesting that the Dynasts should bring their own suggestions to her own negotiation. Chelsea slides the letter under the door using her telekinesis, and Drax shadows the gaggle of Dynasts as they soon come eagerly out the door to share their insight with the clearly more important Dynast. One of the obviously inexperienced politicos wonders aloud to his peers how to get Szoreny to agree to the execution of Isidoros’s Fetich, which earns him a savage smack from one of his peers. Txori’s ears perk up and her understanding of the negotiations she was perceiving becomes much more nuanced.
Soon the party is in the room previously occupied by the Dynasts, with a wealth of information on the fomenting of civil war within their grasp. Joshua begins composing a dense, coded Infallible Messenger for Grey to send to one of his superiors on which Realm patricians and nobles need to be executed by demon hunters, while Sam, Blake and Chelsea scout ahead through one of the two doors out of the room. The shroud that limits all perception is becoming stronger, necessitating a closer approach to the next room down another hallway, and on the other side of that door there is a powerful warrior that Chelsea recognizes as Decapitator Jones, wearing a massive sword carrying an eyeball on his back. He is idly dictating letters and discussing strategies with two robed cultists.
Backing up, the group scouts the other hallway, finding a room with two humans and two Blood Apes playing a game of cards. Blake identifies the two humans as powerful, and one matches the description of Chelsea’s ex. Both this room and the other have but one other door, leading perhaps towards the same destination.
The party regroups, and is becoming concerned about the Dynasts returning soon as Drax returns, so they hatch a plan to get into Decapitator Jones’s room. Everyone piles into the hallway and it is plain to see that the Dynasts were not very successful, lacking two of their number (they deduce these two were executed by the other Dynast, one being the loose-lipped novice). Now to get past Decapitator Jones silently, Sam transforms himself into Amber Veins, Chelsea’s ex, while Chelsea hides the rest of the party on the ceiling above the door. “Amber Veins” walks in and successfully bluffs Decapitator Jones into changing his guard assignment to watching the negotiator, claiming she’s been “at it again”. The eyeball on the sword is staring intensely at “Amber Veins” but Decapitator Jones seems not to notice, nor does he notice as the sword’s eyeball is fixed on the party on the ceiling as he struts down the hallway, through the door, terrorizing the Dynasts before slouching off to guard duty.
“Amber Veins” distracts the two cultists while Txori and Chelsea execute them, then their bodies are stuffed into a filing cabinet while Joshua rifles through more of these documents (all apparently various directives meant to be sent to various operatives in Creation and throughout Malfeas). The party then scouts through the next hallway, finding the fog becoming almost intolerably thick. At the next door, the Spy-Eye, hearing, and smell are barely functioning, but are able to penetrate into the room, which is a large war room filled with 3rd Circle Demons, Akuma, and Infernals. Demons are occasionally entering and leaving through several large hell-portals in the room, and the tables are filled with maps and charts. Everyone takes a turn with the Spy-Eye and Sam sees something impossible: the Scarlet Empress herself, dressed in regal finery and wearing an enormous diamond engagement ring, plotting the invasion of Creation.
What. The. Hell?
The party observes with strained patience to see how the operation works, and notes that there is a strange purple-black orb on the ceiling which is producing the miasma that is filling the entire floor. It appears to obscure detection of all kinds, making the various conversations within the room private, so that they cannot be eavesdropped on at all. Nevertheless, things are getting written down and various cultists are taking them out of the doors to be carried out. One such cultist is approaching the party’s door with a stack of papers, so everyone hustles back into the room, and Sam takes on the appearance of Decapitator Jones, holding the cultist’s attention until he is in the room, at which point Chelsea grapples him with her telekinesis. A highly involved questioning session ensues, with Joshua and Chelsea both capable of laying his secrets bare.
From their questioning, as well as Chelsea’s ability to question inanimate objects (including the papers he was carrying), the party finally learns the true horrible plan of the Ebon Dragon. There is soon (at the upcoming Calibration) to be a great wedding at the steps of the palace they are currently in. At this wedding, the Fetich Soul of Isidoros will be ritually sacrificed, and Isidoros will become something new. Currently a great unstoppable black boar, upon the death of his Fetich he will twist the skies into something new, changing and warping in nature so as to twist a path into Creation from Malfeas that any demon could make with a single step. Thus the invasion will begin, and with the Realm already in chaos, Creation will not stand a chance.
Chelsea is now feverishly praying to Naz-Pherat, expecting that he will receive her prayers and be alerted to his suspicions being correct. When asked if the cultist has any further use, he confirms that he does, because he has not yet shared that the miasma that fills these rooms becomes more dense and entangling the more fear those within have, and will grind any attempt to flee to a halt. They have no escape. Chelsea determines at this point to treat the head and neck as separate objects.
Now realizing the full gravity of their situation, the party concludes they must flee through one of the hell-portals. Chelsea has the necessary equipment to change its destination to their starting point and can probably be disguised as a cultist. The question remains, however, what to do about this invasion. Will telling the Sidereals be enough? Everyone concludes that no, that’s not good enough, this plan has to be sabotaged. So they have a new Best Plan Ever: Steal the Scarlet Empress.
After a lot of feverish preparation and planning, the plan is executed. Chelsea enters first as a cultist, along with Grey and Txori, wearing cultist robes and carrying papers. Chelsea gets to work on a hell-portal while Txori keeps watch. Sam enters, still disguised as Decapitator Jones, with Blake still in his shadow (where she’s been for this entire trip) and Drax now merged into the shadow as well. Joshua enters last, as another cultist. Just as an Infernal from across the room notices something odd about Sam (presumably possessing Magic Vision), Chelsea completes the portal (despite Felhart now screaming in her ears) and moves Blake’s Shade Prison Amulet along the floor to this suspicious Infernal, breaking it right under her foot. Instantly, fifteen Hungry Ghosts manifest themselves, savagely mauling the Infernal and creating an enormous ruckus.
Sam, on cue, snatches the Scarlet Empress’s ring right off her finger, while Blake emerges from Sam’s shadow and executes an absolutely perfect choke hold and drags her through the portal back into Creation. Sam and Grey follow, with Txori blasting to Iconic Anima shooting arrows around slaughtering several Infernals, and Chelsea splattering some blood on the walls in the shape of the Dragon Fractal. Joshua, being last, punches the floor so hard it shatters the entire level of the building, leaping through the portal at just the right instant so that nothing is left in his wake but collapsing rubble.
Blake, Sam, Grey, Txori, Chelsea, Joshua, and the kidnapped Scarlet Empress are now standing in the desert, in front of a portal to hell that immediately flickers out, and gets smashed a moment later.
Kami and Chelsea make the necessary repairs to the Crimson Gale, while Olivia is gone fetching the artifact prizes for the party.Hunter and Blake disappear into the desert, entering the Underworld and training in its dark, inviting expanse.Kami trains Sam and Txori to develop their essence, all the while helping them envision a new future that they are to bring about.Chelsea completes work on the Crimson Gale’s cannon.TJ has disappeared into fate, telling the party that he will be available once a week for a few hours in an oasis a hundred miles to the west.He warns them that while his ally in Yu-Shan has successfully concealed all their fates, effectively faking their deaths, Welkin’s ghost will sooner or later be available for questioning either by some Deathlord or by the Yozis so they will only have a month at most of peace.
Once Olivia has returned, exchanging the Transcendent Phoenix Pinions, Soulsteel Razorclaws, Collar of Thunders, and parts for the Cornea of the Mind’s Eye for Sam’s family heirloom, the centerpiece for the Crown of the Craft-King.Kami finishes training Sam and Txori, and once Hunter returns with Blake, Olivia, Kami and Hunter take their leave, claiming that they’ll be in touch again soon assuming the Bull of the North doesn’t kill them all (ha ha… wait you’re serious?).
On a hot sunny day in an oasis in the midst of the ruins of a once-great city, TJ suddenly appears amidst the party, greeting everyone with a friendly yet slightly haggard demeanor.TJ presents a new mission to the party: locate the contaminant affecting the Free Man and neutralize it.TJ informs the party of an ally waiting for them at the Bureau of Secrets and several Sidereals that are likely to be reliable contacts, then secretly informs Chelsea (and Txori inadvertently) where he will be located, in case they are required to give information and must be indirect about who they will give it to.
After some planning, the party determines that Txori’s Eclipse Caste diplomatic immunity should get them into Yu-Shan, so they enter the hallway containing the portal and see two Celestial Lions standing guard.Txori respectfully approaches and claims business in Yu-Shan with the Free Man, which the Celestial Lions do not contest, but they are generally wary of Txori’s companions.Txori vouches for their necessity, and each party member claims to wish no chaos nor harm within the city (except for Blake who meekly states, “I’m just here” to the shrugging approval of the Celestial Lions).They are permitted into the great heavenly city of Yu-Shan, an enormous and beautiful city, more elaborate than anything they could have believed possible were they not laying eyes on it.
With a few easily followed instructions and Txori’s deep pockets (in Creation terms) the party quickly catches a boat ride to the Slightly Less Forbidding Manse of Kudzu, an office near the Forbidding Manse of Ivy.Loitering outside the building is a tall Northerner wearing monk’s robes and carrying a golden sigil of a bull, introducing himself as Joshua.With a glance he notes that two of his new allies are creatures of darkness, but this does not disturb him, and they move inside to continue their planning.Sam verifies Joshua’s identity, and some planning takes place.
Between TJ’s advice on the room number and Joshua’s knowledge of the building, they soon find themselves in an empty hallway outside the Free Man’s unassuming office.Txori detects two heartbeats and lowered voices discussing subcommittee budgets, one of which belongs to the Free Man.Chelsea is unable to penetrate the room with her (formerly Welkin’s) spy eye, however.The party is planning on entering and confronting the Free Man, but Joshua volunteers to go in first since he’s the only one who isn’t supposed to be dead.Everyone else backs up around the corner as Joshua knocks, and in a moment, a young woman with red star-flecked eyes answers and admits Joshua.
This breaking of the room’s barrier allows Chelsea’s spy eye to see into the room.With Hellscry Chakra active, she can see that the woman, a strange plant on a windowsill, and a strange stone acting as a paperweight on the desk are all of Malfeas.The woman is a Sidereal Akuma, and the plant is some kind of soulforged demon.Blake can smell the woman and the demon, and sizes them both up with Blood-Scenting Hunger, finding her to be Essence 5.Joshua appraises the woman, detecting her backing both in Yu-Shan and in Malfeas, and also noting that the Free Man is very tired and sloppy, but believes himself to be sharper than ever, having been manipulated by someone who regularly tampers with some of the essence-wielding objects within the room.Joshua begins to spin a story of TJ contacting him shortly before disappearing, which catches the Free Man’s attention so that he wards the room against scrying and commands his assistant, Mitia, to prepare to take Joshua’s statements.Chelsea’s view cuts off, to her dismay, but she and Blake have shared information with Txori, who is now scribbling a transcript of what is happening inside.
As Joshua stalls with a winding story of TJ warning him of a traitor within Yu-Shan, he reads Mitia’s intentions and learns that she is anxious, preparing to kill him at the first opportunity.The Free Man begins mapping out a course of action, and Mitia asks that Joshua step outside for just a moment while they consult.Once the door closes, Txori can hear her walk over to the plant on the sill and water it, and Blake is suddenly aware that the plant demon is expending essence.Within moments, the Free Man’s mumbling becomes more disjointed and quiet, and then he begins to snore quietly.Mitia then suddenly and barbarically crawls onto the walls and then the ceiling, and as the Free Man’s warding fails Chelsea can see into the room, almost losing her lunch as the young woman is now crawling, spider-like, along the walls with her elbows and knees bent unnaturally outwards.
Mitia knocks on the door, inviting Joshua back in, but Txori makes a “do not recommend” face, while Grey is busily casting Infallible Messenger to warn all three of their Sidereal contacts that this is happening.Joshua apologizes, saying he’s thinking of something, as he activates Solar Hero Form as Blake begins casting Soul Brand to apply a brand to Joshua.Mitia crawls into the shadows under the table and almost flickers out of existence, but finds she cannot, cursing quietly.Txori, Chelsea, Sam and Grey all glance at each other, preparing for the worst, as Mitia crawls back up the wall to the area over the door, preparing to launch an assault.
Joshua is the first to strike, punching through the wall above the door to grab and crush the Akuma, but she evades his strike, skittering away across the ceiling. Blake completes casting Soul Brand and places it on Joshua, plotting to break the Shade Prison Amulet she possesses. The Sidereal bursts through the door, suddenly gesturing outwards, and everyone can see fine spidery threads launching at them, except Chelsea who is behind the corner. Blake is wounded when one thread pierces her abdomen, but everyone else defends, and Txori retaliates with a storm of five arrows, one of which hits Mitia in the shoulder, wounding her. Sam attempts to grapple their foe but somehow she skitters out of his sure grip. Chelsea, determining that this foe is only half the battle, uses her telekinesis to attack the strange plant, cutting it in half. Each half seems to revert to a half of a strange, black oily creature she rapidly identifies as a demon known as Zolanski, progeny of the Midwife of Festivity, and the same type of demon that was in the music boxes.
Blake, wounded and furious, activates Shrouded Claw Attack, flips open her razor claws, and savagely tears through the Akuma’s defenses, besting even her Duck Fate attempt, and tears out her heart in a splattering of blood and vital organs. She feasts on her essence and at least some of her blood while everyone stares a bit awkwardly. After a bit, Blake calms down, though she’s still limping, and the party starts to try and determine their next move.
Chelsea inspects the Free Man, who is sleeping, and decides to use her Stone of Dream Entrance to see what the state of his mind is. She sees he dreams himself trapped in an endless desert, trying to find the way home. She appears as a disembodied voice, giving him two roads, one to normal Creation and one with Yozi architecture. He stands, confused, unable to determine which is the correct one, and Chelsea determines he may yet care for Creation but he may have lost his ability to see the way.
About this time, a squad of Celestial Lions appears with M. Chapman, and shortly thereafter more Lions appear with the Instructor. The corpse of Mitia has disintegrated into smoke at this point, but her clothes and blood that is covering Blake reveal her fate. The demon and the paperweight are both presented as evidence, but they also want to hear from the Free Man, who, once awakened, insists that Txori, Grey, Chelsea, Sam and Blake all be arrested. The other Sidereals are skeptical but he does outrank them, so Sam intervenes and persuades them of the truth. When the Free Man continues to be unreasonable, the Celestial Lions imprison the entire party as well as the Free Man in the Heavenly Palace of Luxurious Interrogation, a common place of imprisonment for Sidereals and other Heaven-allied prisoners.
There is food aplenty, and showers as well, and soon the party is clean and some have chosen to take the risk of eating. The Free Man is still sullen and bitter even after Chelsea talks to him though she detects a hint of fear behind the crankiness, so Txori hands him a napkin with a subliminal message, “What are you afraid of?” After a few moments the Free Man breaks down crying, terrified at his own inability to see Fate and what to do to save Creation. Chelsea, finally convinced he truly does want to save Creation, hands him her Heartsong Flute. The music plays and begins in a minor note, and though even Chelsea cannot read his heart with it, the Free Man himself is eventually soothed by the music, reading his own motivation and seeing it through the painful process of changing back to something that is closer to his heart’s true desire.
Afterwards, he is quiet and stands apart for some time, before returning, promising he has rid himself of the contamination, begging for the party’s forgiveness, and sending them on their final mission: They must infiltrate Malfeas and determine what the Yozi’s master plan is. All eyes slowly turn to Chelsea, and she looks fairly horrified at the prospect.
The Free Man claims he will break out from the prison, leaving an opening for everyone to escape from Yu-Shan, and he will soon be thrown in the Heavenly Dungeon of Not-Luxurious Interrogation and Screaming, but when they learn what they need to, they need simply send an Infallible Messenger to the Instructor and M. Chapman, and they will accomplish what needs to be accomplished.
The Free Man uses his incredible martial arts prowess to burst out through the walls of the prison, assaulting every guard at once, and then tears down the hallway in a rampage, while the party takes off at super speed (Blake’s and Joshua’s athletics charms, Chelsea’s hoverboard, and Grey’s Cirrus Skiff) and get out of Yu-Shan just in the nick of time.
Chelsea: Good morning your aspiring imperial majesty.
Someone: “We have legitimate business, I’m bringing myself in for questioning.” Jennifer’s response: “Interrogate me again…”
Eli: “So what do we call you now?” Dillen: “…Blake.” Alejo: “Wouldn’t it be amazing if she took the title The Abyssal Formerly Known as Blake?”
Joshua: “I’ll go in first, is that okay with everyone?” Txori: “Please stand in front of me, yes.”
Eli: “Grey has just IM’d all our Sidereal contacts with what’s happening.” Jennifer: “Chelsea mentally upgrades Grey from serf to citizen, well done.”
DM: “Mitia starts cursing in several different languages.” Txori: “It’s all going in the transcript, lady.”
Txori, to Blake: “How much of that is your blood?” Blake: “It’s all mine now!”
The Crimson Gale makes short work of the trip to the town of Klastin, while Txori remotely manages her business interests, Chelsea starts work on the cannon, and Sam ponders his apparent heirdom to the empire.
Arriving and landing outside of town, Sam disguises the non-Southern party members and they meander into town separately. Sam’s plan is to fake public intoxication so as to get himself thrown in jail alongside this mysterious person they are to rescue. With a cloak doused in cheap liquor to mimic the smell and with Txori, Welkin, and Chelsea shadowing him, Sam wanders into the town square. There, hanging in the gallows is a dead man with raven-feather tattoos on his face and pale skin and hair. Two guards are there, and Sam plays the part of a drunken buffoon, leading the guards to eventually decide to drag him to jail. They take him a few buildings over to a rickety wooden jailhouse, but upon entering, the guard on duty absolutely point-blank refuses to even allow Sam into the jail cell. He tells them instead to take Sam out back and beat him up.
The guards dutifully drag Sam out back to beat him up, but Sam successfully fools them into thinking he’s passed out. One of the guards seems mildly disappointed by this, but they leave. Sam waits until they leave, then transforms himself into one of the guards and rushes back in, saying he urgently needs to see the prisoner. The guard on duty believes it’s him but still refuses to let him in, and when Sam argues that the prisoner’s life is at stake the guard seems relieved that the prisoner might die soon (Debbie: “Oh right, forgot the prisoner is scheduled to be executed.”) Sam can see into the jail cell now but only sees a relatively small person completely covered in chains and ropes affixed to the far wall.
Sam resorts to violence, distracting the guard and hitting him with his fighting chain so badly that the guard is nearly killed. Sam drags him into a corner of the cell, then undoes enough of the chains to see the prisoner’s face. The prisoner is a young girl of about thirteen, blond and pale-skinned with raven wing tattoos across her face. She is confused and afraid and struggles to answer Sam’s probing questions, but she does say that the reason she’s to be executed is that “they saw my mark…”. Sam’s compassion kicks in since this girl resembles his long-lost sister Dora, so he frees her and piles the chains over the unconscious guard. They’re about to leave when Blake stops and says she needs her jacket, and a search of the jail shows no jacket.
Txori, meanwhile, finds this disrespectful treatment of the dead entirely unbecoming so she sets fire to the corpse, then to the town for good measure. In the ensuing chaos, people begin running to and fro, and a young boy wearing a very nice jacket runs into the jail looking for his dad. Sam steps into the storage closet, steps back out looking like the jail guard, takes Blake’s jacket from the child, then sends him on his way, promising he’ll be out soon. Now Blake and Sam can leave, with Chelsea in escort, soon to meet up with Txori (Welkin comments that he’d rather not know what happened).
The party interviews Blake, learning a little more about her: she was living at the Raiton academy but this town is her original home, but they executed her uncle and were about to execute her. She doesn’t share much more, though Sam detects she knows Qiriato, so they ask her about him and she says he’s a necromancer who graduated some years ago and wanted to travel. The ship is now on course for the meeting place, which Blake has heard of but doesn’t know much about.
Upon arriving at the Mountain of Fire and Miracles, the active (and perpetually lightning-struck) volcano is visible but shrouded in a fog. All around the mountain is a shantytown of worshippers (which Blake initially throws a fit about pretending to be), so the Crimson Gale lands outside of town and the party enters on foot, pretending to be worshippers on a pilgrimage. They see many people preparing to make the perilous journey to the top of the mountain, and some people returning with miracles performed while others scarred by the experience, and frequent stories of people not returning at all.
Bereft of other ideas for how to locate anything in this shantytown, Txori begins spreading rumors that connect the “great and glorious fire dragon” (Telessandra, Censor of the South) with Qiriato the Necromancer. As this proceeds, Sam suddenly notices he’s being watched by something fifty yards in the air, and Welkin determines that it is a necromantic zombie crow flying overhead. Blake seems to know much about this and advises that whatever necromancer is viewing them through this construct must be within fifty to a hundred yards away. Chelsea’s magic vision soon picks out a magical staff buried under a pile of rags in front of a cowled, shivering mendicant. The party fans out to discreetly surround this person while Blake and Sam (who is disguised as Blake’s “father” in having a similar body type, eye/hair color and tattoos) approach trying to give this man charity. He politely refuses it and reveals he knows they have been seeking him out, but interrupts himself with a start as he recognizes Blake.
Qiriato seemingly breaks his cover talking to Blake, and is confused for a moment when she feigns not knowing who he is.He pulls out his staff to confirm his identity.He asks what Blake is doing here and Blake replies that she has been looking for him.Qiriato is confused by this and apparently at least slightly suspicious, since he’s working a job, but he tells her and Sam to walk with him to a safe place.While on the walk, Qiriato inquires about Blake having finally found her family, relating to Sam that Blake was always thinking about where she was from.Sam explains he’s Blake’s father and that they escaped the town together and are no longer welcome there.Qiriato expresses shock, and also some surprise that Blake was permitted to leave the Raiton Academy, which causes Blake to suggest that it wasn’t exactly a sanctioned vacation. Sam feigns surprise upon learning that the leave was not approved, and Qiriato eyes Blake suspiciously.
Once they’re in Qiriato’s log cabin, Blake explains that she had to flee her town and has nowhere else to go but to ask him for help.However, Qiriato claims that he can’t spend time with her or take her in until his mission is finished in three days time, but expresses that he would be willing to apprentice her afterwards.Sam’s charms reveal that there are dead bodies buried under the dirt floor, and his investigation shows that other people have come in to meet Qiriato here recently, including at least one very large set of footprints.Sam and Blake leave with a few questions answered but plenty more still to go.
Txori receives a report from her spies in the court of Sanity’s Weeping Wound, revealing a lot of excitement that they will soon possess a weapon capable of destroying Gem once and for all.Sam also reports that Qiriato has contact with the Hyaena, and they also have a common contact in an underworld bartender named Philipo.Txori and Grey return to the ship to attempt to contact the Hyaena to ask for advice.
A few moments later, Welkin detects two carrion crows leaving the cabin carrying messages to the Mountain of Fire and Miracles.The party decides to attempt to intercept the return messages, with Welkin cooking up plans for flash-bombing the necromantic constructs while Chelsea steals the contents of their letters.However, no messenger crows return, but instead down the mountain trundles a massive ogre-like fae creature.It spots Sam and comes after him, and when Sam manages to evade its senses, it spots Blake, who immediately jets away at super speed with the monster in pursuit.
Welkin sits at a bench reading some distance away, ignoring the scattering crowd, and subtly flicks an attack at the creature which seems to have come from the carrion crow overhead.The monster, enraged, flings its club at the bird, pulping it, then pulls out another club and continues its pursuit.The party soon notices two tiny faeries following the monster around.Sam catches up to Blake as she is running through the lightly forested area, helps her hide in the tree, then turns himself into the image of Blake and continues fleeing.As the ogre passes by, Chelsea probes its mind trying to determine who its master is, and the answer arrives that it obeys Countess Candela, who in turn works for a mighty Raksha lord called Great Green Scimitar.
As the beast pursues “Blake”,Sam hides, causing the ogre to become confused and angry.The faeries then spread out, preparing to track down their quarry, but in an instant Welkin explodes one with a grenade while Chelsea snags the other from her treetop vantage point with her telekinesis, silencing and immobilizing it in her grasp.
The ogre, now lost and confused, beings smashing the pilgrim camp, sending people flying and killing some, before Welkin uses another sneak attack to cause it to smash into Qiriato’s cabin.Qiriato stands up to the monster indignantly and berates it for losing its quarry.He commands it to go back home and it reluctantly complies, but Welkin’s spitwad on the back of its head enrages it and it whirls to slay Qiriato with a mighty charge.At that point, a massive skeletal dinosaur tail of vertebrae arises from the dirt around the cabin and spears the monster clean through its chest, with Qiriato glowering at it.The monster dies, the tail re-buries itself in the dirt, and Qiriato sits and sighs with frustration.
Chelsea probes the mind of her faerie, asking what their master hopes to gain, and images flash of the Countess coming across a familiar object of great value: a large metal box with a dial on it and a demon inside.The Countess has apparently been charged to sell it to the undead in exchange for great power and a mighty alliance.Chelsea asks how this is to be accomplished, and images flash through her mind of the Mortal Market, buried in the rock of the Mountain of Fire and Miracles, where some mortals come to partake in miracles while others are harvested for their minds, bodies, and souls.Telessandra presides over the entire affair, skimming from the profits of all, an unconscionable abuse of her powers.Chelsea drags from its mind the secret of accessing the Market, then deems the faerie no longer useful and casually kills it with her brain.
The party regroups and shares info, with no reply from the Hyaena to this point, and plan to go into the Mortal Market to try and learn more about this meeting and how to frame each side for betrayal.With some standard disguises (though Welkin’s isn’t very thorough) and some of Chelsea’s wares for barter, the party makes the pilgrimage up the mountain, soon finding the fork in the road with the dead tree at its center.With no unenlightened creatures watching, the party walks right through the tree and suddenly finds itself in the bustling hub of the greatest black market of human anywhere in Creation.Gods, elementals, ghosts, Raksha, and even a few Exalted walk the cavernous streets, buying and selling all manner of potent things.Chelsea and Welkin form one group, and Sam, Blake, and Txori form a second.
Not long after they have split up, a short, spectacled bureaucrat in fancy robes appears before Welkin, asking in very dry technical language if he is an agent of the Free Man.Welkin cautiously asserts he is, which permits the fellow to remit to his custody one individual wanted by the Free Man: Trajan Justinian Severus, or “Trevor” to Welkin and Chelsea.In a puff of smoke, the god has disappeared and TJ is standing there, with starmetal handcuffs and a very sheepish look on his face.He explains that he is worried that the Free Man has been compromised and called in a favor from his ally, Byerlo the God of Technicalities, to deliver him to the party.
Blake’s raven familiar Drax has followed Welkin and Chelsea, while Jack has followed Sam, Blake, and Txori.TJ reacts to Drax with alarm and suspicion when hearing he belongs to a new party member that they were instructed to pick up.Apparently TJ has no knowledge of this new party member, and sees no reason why they should even have her along.He becomes increasingly agitated, but the party doesn’t seem to be overly bothered by his shenanigans, and Chelsea is frankly more interested in his handcuffs than in him.TJ asks to be allowed to follow along, and Welkin agrees, interested to see where this is going.
Sam, Blake and Txori start browsing for human corpses as their cover for talking with people.Sam elects Txori to do the talking, but after their first vendor provides little information, Txori’s ears suddenly perk up, and she slips away after offering little explanation and promising to return soon.Sam is now stuck having to conduct business, and approaches a ghostly vendor with a number of corpses for sale.Sam indicates that he’s hoping to buy bodies for his daughter to practice her necromancy on.The ghost is very eager to conduct business, and after some suspicion from Sam and some conversation the ghost reveals he is willing to part with one of the bodies in exchange for the simple favor of viewing a particular Bonfire, if she is able.Sam and Blake huddle and Blake explains she can produce this bonfire, but it’s risky because it will attract other ghosts.Sam returns and expresses his reservations, and the vendor seems eager to accommodate, disappointed they will not do it now but hopeful that they will return as promised.
Meanwhile, Welkin and Chelsea are browsing wares with TJ in tow, and a Raksha vendor catches his interest, selling various small flying trinkets of various kinds.The only other customer is a haggard, poorly dressed mortal with a huge sheathed sword on his back who says nothing as Welkin admires the toys.Upon finding that the price for the more powerful tools is access to his dreams and emotions, Welkin balks, but the vendor suggests that he could also drink from one of Welkin’s crew.Welkin reacts with suspicion to the reference to a crew, and the vendor plays it off but it seems that something odd is afoot.About then, Sam and Blake catch up with Welkin and Chelsea, and the four of them decide to take TJ to a more private place for conversation.They find an inn that accepts money and is affordable for them so they get a two-bed room and pile in, leaving Drax and Jack to scout for them.
TJ explains that his suspicions of the Free Man have run deep, and he has put himself in danger betting that something is out of order.Sam scans his associates and is stunned to learn that TJ has hardly any left, including only the party and a few key allies still in Yu-Shan.TJ answers questions with increasing disinterest and it appears his adrenaline is finally wearing off and he hasn’t slept in days.As he is falling asleep he mumbles something about his journal but passes out first.
Chelsea volunteers to keep watch on their charge while the rest of the party works their other leads, starting with the Raksha vendor.Drax has been following the suspicious mortal with the big sword, and so Sam and Blake head to the vendor to pose as interested customers while Welkin attempts to tail the mortal.Sam chats for a bit with the vendor, then learns his associates and notes that the vendor knows Great Green Scimitar, with a mix of surprise and satisfaction.This emotion seems possibly noted by the Raksha vendor as they leave.Once they meet up with Welkin again, they note that they are being watched, and Welkin sends Jack to investigate.Jack sees a strange, powerful Raksha warrior slipping into the crowd, and Sam now notes that they are being watched by a wasp overhead, which Welkin subtly disposes of.Jack and Welkin now track their new target, the warrior Raksha, and when he slips into less-used tunnels, the party gathers around to chat while Welkin observes him discreetly using his spy-eye.The Raksha warrior meets another Raksha, they chat briefly, then the warrior saunters back into the marketplace.
Meanwhile, Chelsea snoops through TJ’s possessions, finding his journal and reading it, carefully using only her mind powers.She finds that the journal makes many notes as to what conversations he has had, almost as if to keep track.Felhart also notes the journal seems to be written by two different people in one.Chelsea snoops through TJ’s notes on his meeting with her, and is stunned to find that the forces of Yu-Shan had already discovered the nature of Infernals when they captured and dissected The Bro and Navralitova last year, and TJ suspects she is one.Felhart suggests this information is valuable to the Yozis, but Chelsea isn’t sure how to capitalize on this information.
The rest of the party is now debating working the vendor for more information, possibly by having Sam imitate the mortal with the sword, but Blake has the idea to work the ghostly vendor for information.Welkin heads back to the inn and tags out for Chelsea, useful for her lie detection, and also because Welkin wants to probe TJ’s dreams.TJ’s dream consists of two versions of himself, called Trajan and Justinian, arguing about what to do, and when Welkin reveals himself there, Justinian goes from angry to livid, while Trajan seems resigned to things going poorly.Justinian at one point mentions that he was the one who broke into the Crimson Gale trying to find the prophecy and this little interruption made them even.Welkin finally steps back out of their dream, with a lot on his mind.
Sam, Blake and Chelsea pay a visit to the ghostly vendor, who has reserved a room for the bonfire and agrees to share any information he has.Immediately upon the mention of the name Fists Covered in Dripping Blood, however, he immediately shows an inclination to not know anything, but some prodding by Sam gets him to explain that Fists has been here for a few weeks, preparing for some meeting, with his necromancy assistant Ashen Child of Night and Day and many warriors.The questioning then goes to Great Green Scimitar, about whom the vendor knows little, and then to Countess Candela, who the vendor lies about not knowing.With increased pressure, the ghost reveals that the Countess is very powerful and dangerous and her vengeance is legendary even among the Raksha.
Once the vendor puts two and two together that Fists and the Countess are to be meeting soon, he offers up the likely location: a special room that lies half in a shadowland and half in Creation, commonly used for such meetings.The vendor warns that these are both very powerful creatures and the party is putting themselves in great danger, and he muses on visiting his descendants.Blake casts the bonfire and they vacate the premises, returning to the inn to find TJ still sleeping.It is now coming to night time, so the party schemes for some time before sleeping in shifts.
Morning arrives, and Welkin has provided TJ with a bottle of alcohol and a request to meet in the dining area.TJ seems briefly disoriented about where he is before it seems to come rushing back to him.Chelsea questions him briefly about his plans, and TJ starts his drinking but stops after a bit and heads down to meet with Welkin.
Welkin confesses to TJ that he had bargained with Makarios for some of his equipment, and that the price of his most recent acquisition was to allow Makarios to possess him and walk around the ship.TJ is radically alarmed by this and openly states that murdering Welkin is now one of his priorities for endangering their missions.He returns to the room to collect his bottle of alcohol before he, Welkin and Chelsea head back to the ship to collect materials they will need to initiate the attempted betrayal of the Raksha by the undead: a store of cold iron, mixed in among their other wares they have acquired over their months of travel.While there, Welkin watches TJ inspect the table, and TJ starts cursing up a storm, verifying that the instructions to pick up Blake were inserted by Makarios while in Welkin’s body.Blake is apparently not even supposed to be here.Chelsea, Welkin and TJ bring the materials back to their room, leaving Grey behind to watch the ship still.
Meanwhile, Sam and Blake head out to scout the meeting room.Sam can sense corpses buried underground in the hallway outside the meeting room but none in the room itself.When checking to see if they’re being observed, Sam senses they’re being watched from down the hall, which leads into darkness and presumably the Underworld.Blake activates an ability that lets her see the spy: a ghost, twisted by the Labyrinth and clearly hostile, watching from within a wall.Blake impulsively charges it with super speed, darts behind the ghost, and punches it clean through while it is still intangible, and its scream of pain and surprise is cut short by its dissolution.
Blake and Sam check out the room itself but it seems largely empty and lacking much in the way of useful features for infiltration.They head back and meet up with the rest of the group (minus Txori who is still involved elsewhere).Sam checks again to see if they’re being observed and finds they are, this time from a room a few doors down.Welkin peers into that room with his spy eye and sees Iselsi Kagami in the room.Sam decides to go and confront his nephew, and Blake volunteers to go as well.When they reach the door, Blake slams it open and rushes in, immediately hitting a snare trap and being slung up to the ceiling by her ankle.Sam comes in, cuts her down, and converses with Kagami.
Kagami seems to have had a change of heart.After inspecting the fake prophecy, Kagami seems to somehow now be open to the possibility that the prophecy in fact is not about himself.He has consulted with the God of the Iselsi who confirmed that Sam matches the description of Iselsi Samuel, somehow cast out of fate and newly reentering it.Kagami does not fully understand, but has committed himself to Sam’s cause.He tries to persuade Sam to leave with him to begin building an army and allies for the coming war for the throne, but Sam believes the mission he’s on now is too important to leave to chance.Kagami is visibly frustrated but accepts his uncle’s decision.He says he will leave soon, to attempt to build Sam’s army in the city of Paragon.He first asks to pass important information to Sam in secret, and Blake heads back while Sam and Kagami’s meeting takes some more time.Afterwards, Sam returns to the room but does not share what else he’s learned.
Chelsea has been spinning cold iron into claws to be affixed to skeletal corpse fingers, and now that their materials are ready, Chelsea and Sam leave to secretly apply these weapons to the zombies, giving the impression that the undead betrayal of the Raksha is imminent and targeted.Blake sends Drax, her raven, to keep watch over them.Welkin wanders around the marketplace, discreetly asking questions about the Hyaena as a cover for their presence here, to try and throw off the many spies keeping eyes on them.Blake and TJ chat, and TJ’s probing questions soon reveal the depths of Blake’s lack of knowledge, including about her own past.TJ identifies her as a member of the Night Feathers, a secretive and diasporic clan that would rarely part with one of their own without good reason.Blake can’t remember her necromancy trials either, and TJ wonders aloud if the Trial of Sacrifice (technically the Trial of Decay) involved Blake sacrificing her allegiance to the Night Feathers, but Blake vehemently denies that she would ever do such a thing.
Around this time, Sam and Drax notice a wasp has been watching him and Chelsea adding their weapons to the corpses.Drax flies after it and out of Blake’s range.Soon Drax returns, but caught in a net over the shoulder of the huge Raksha warrior from the previous day.Sam can sense his approach via earth sense and he and Chelsea slip into the meeting room, but the warrior enters, cornering them there.The warrior releases Drax and identifies himself as Zyro-Kath.He claims to be an enemy of Great Green Scimitar and hopes to earn enough disrespect from him to do battle with him.Sam and Chelsea suggest they have similar aims, so Zyro-Kath gives them a meeting place to arrive at this evening, telling them cryptically to “bring cinnamon buns”.Drax leaves to fetch Welkin, and soon everyone is gathered again in the inn, after Sam and Chelsea have finished their task.
The evening arrives and cinnamon buns have been acquired, and the party arrives at the meeting place, which is a huge hall guarded by two Celestial Lions, who allow them to pass but balk at letting Blake pet them after sniffing her.Down the hallway they are met by Zyro-Kath, who guides them down a side hallway, stating that ahead was Telessandra’s chambers, and they are going to meet her trusted advisor.They arrive in a dimly lit room, and soon movement in it reveals that it is occupied by an absolutely enormous snake with glowing yellow-green eyes.Zyro-Kath presents a cinnamon bun of his own, asking if the serpent, named Tolta, will accept their questions, to which the serpent assents.
Rapidly realizing that the serpent will accept their cinnamon buns in exchange for questions on anything past or present and a few things future, the party huddles and prepares some questions.First they learn that the undead are hoping to acquire the music box from the Raksha, and that the Raksha are hoping to have Great Green Scimitar’s brother, Shield of Infinite Stars freed from the clutches of Sanity’s Weeping Wound.The Raksha are not planning any betrayal, and have hidden their box on a massive monster of metal and fire that wanders the desert waiting to be called, while the undead have stashed the corpse that is wielding a chained Shield of Infinite Stars in the Labyrinth, with a crafted staircase that leads to the tunnels below the meeting room.The undead are plotting a betrayal, providing no way for Shield to be released from the corpse, but nothing more aggressive than that, simply guaranteeing themselves a free escape.
With these vital facts established and the nucleus of a plan coming into shape, the remaining cinnamon buns are put to the party’s general use.Sam asks how to repair the damage from the Usurpation, and Tolta says that Sam must befriend both Dragon-Blooded and Solars, including a very powerful Solar on his trail named Kami.TJ’s question is what influences the Free Man’s decisions, and the serpent reveals that a traitor within heaven has poisoned the Free Man’s mind, making him more susceptible to suggestion while believing ever more firmly in his own willpower.Welkin asks for what purpose Blake was added to their group.The serpent detects that Blake was added to sow dissension, expose the group to risk when meeting Qiriato, and provide an opening for the Yozis to steal the music box.Chelsea asks if there is anything that will ever allow her to return to the good graces of the Yozis.The serpent peers long and hard into eternity and at last answers, “No.”Lastly, Blake asks what she sacrificed for her necromancy.According to the serpent, she was supposed to sacrifice her allegiance to the Night Feathers, but could not bring herself to do so, and so died instead, but in that moment of death a new power took hold of her and made her stronger than ever before.Her growth has been stunted but will soon blossom, according to the snake.
With the last cinnamon bun being provided in gratitude, the party leaves, but runs into Telessandra (in human form, wearing a cape made of fire and reeking of arrogance) in the hallway.Telessandra spies the empty box and smirks, noting that they must have had their questions answered, since “My anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns, hun.”
The entire group makes it out of the hall unscathed, where they run into Txori and catch up a little bit.Soon Zyro-Kath wanders off and the party heads back to the room to plan and sleep.
After much scheming, the plan is to prepare apparent sabotage of the undead escape routes and have a letter delivered to Great Green Scimitar from Zyro-Kath that alerts them to impending undead treachery.The plan hits a bit of a snag when two ghosts spot the party in action.Blake leaps into action and savages one to death immediately, but Chelsea fails to grab the other with her telekinesis and it escapes into the wall.Txori wastes no time and leaves a note framing the Raksha for their actions and the party flees, with Welkin dispelling the bombs he had planted, much to his own disappointment.
Blake’s familiar Drax stays behind and soon observes a swarm of ghosts covering the scene, with two powerful individuals who are almost certainly Fists Covered in Dripping Blood and Ashen Child of Day and Night investigating as well.They leave after a while.Soon Txori’s spies embedded in Sanity’s Weeping Wound’s court report that this information made it back to Sanity’s Weeping Wound, who deployed four powerful ghostly assassins to reinforce the negotiation.
Sam seems to have had some idea or information come to him, and he leaves, promising to return soon.Drax checks on Great Green Scimitar, finding him pacing with the letter crumpled in his hand, meaning all has gone according to plan on that end.The rest of the party simply waits and sleeps, hoping that all their hard work will not be wasted on the next day’s climax.
Chelsea wakes early and stakes out the path from the outside to the meeting room with a good book.At the appointed time, a massive beast of obsidian and fire with Raksha noble riders and a box on its back snakes its way to the meeting room.Welkin and Txori are watching from a distance, and Welkin throws an ultra-long range bomb at the box that implants and is waiting to detonate.As the parade passes by Chelsea, she reaches out with her mind and alters the mechanism of the box so that any use or damage will immediately release the demon held within.The monster and the riders pass by none the wiser.
Blake, meanwhile, is waiting in the underworld, watching for trouble, and soon sees a zombie shuffle past with an incredible brilliant shield made of a million points of light chained to its arm.Blake sneaks after it, but as she enters the shadowlands she suddenly sees two horrible ghostly assassins surrounding her while dematerialized.She measures their strength, and as they seem to be plotting her death, she leaps on the first one and savages it, then leaps to the other but fails to make an injury.She trades strikes with the uninjured monster, battering it with her corpus-rending blows, and as it backs off its ally steps forward, who Blake cleaves in half with a powerful strike.The other monster compliments her jacket with a cold, evil voice and scampers back into the Underworld.As soon as Blake takes a step, she notices a black rose by her foot, and finds inspiration in the martial arts she was just using.While her anima is still flaring, she practices her martial arts, suddenly feeling the power of the Underworld building in her, and her essence and martial arts ability both grow.
Blake has just been trained in the Labyrinth, and is now coming back up the shadowlands hallway with the meeting already in progress.Activating her super-speed, she dashes past the Mata-Yadh and runs into Chelsea who is floating on her hoverboard already, watching the meeting begin.Soon, angry yelling becomes audible, and then in a blast of raw power and the stench of death, the skeletons from the hallway all rear out of their graves and attack the Mata-Yadh with their iron claws.The Mata-Yadh tramples them and begins disintegrating from their touch, while Raksha cataphractoi and spectral assassins begin battling in the meeting room.The fight soon spills out into the market, as apparently both sides had many additional warriors hidden throughout the market.A massive deadly brawl breaks out, and Blake and Chelsea are square in the middle of it, so they try to leave as quickly as possible.Suddenly a massive explosion reverberates from the meeting room, and Chelsea recognizes that the box has been detonated and released its trapped demon.
Sam arrives to meet with the rest of the party and rapidly deduces where the best vantage point is, and runs up to see Txori, Welkin and TJ watching from a distance.Sam uses Observer Awareness Technique and feels the gaze of an invisible, intangible entity within the market floor.When the fighting breaks out, Sam dashes down the floor with Welkin covering them, and Txori takes TJ back to the ship.Welkin tells them to bring the ship over if they aren’t out soon.
Sam catches up with Chelsea and Blake, and as the three push through the fleeing crowd Chelsea suddenly has a bad feeling, turning to see a strange black demon, barely humanoid in form and also covered in burns and ichors, pointing desperately at her.Then in the next moment, it is dead, and a demon is standing in their path.Twelve feet tall, with a massive tusked face and four massive arms, two of which brandishing curved green swords, this monstrous creature clearly intends violence on the party.
Sam begins by tripping the foe with his chain, causing it to topple to the ground. Blake then attacks the creature, dealing minimal damage, and is grabbed for her troubles.Sam manages to free her while avoiding severe damage, weaving between its legs and swinging his fighting chain about with deft precision.Welkin, judging the enemy to be too powerful for direct assault, beings embedding explosives in the ceiling and calls out to Chelsea, who notes the mouth of the volcano will also create a safe zone should the ceiling collapse.Sam is pancaked by a massive punch while attempting to duplicate his feat of sliding between the monster’s legs, and Blake attacks while in Hungry Ghost form, her focused rage having little effect and taking a severe sword blow to the side for her trouble.She is then sent flying into the party, but Chelsea catches her, and also pulls Sam to safety, then raises a massive shield around them as Welkin detonates the explosives.A huge cave-in ensues, boulders and rubble flying everywhere, while a choking cloud of dust completely enveloping the entire market.
As the stillness sets in, Blake can hear the Crimson Gale overhead, and locates the rope ladder and dashes up it at super speed.Chelsea flies up once the cloud starts to settle, and Sam climbs up the rope ladder as well, Welkin staying behind for last.As he is about to go, Qiriato shows up, bloodied and humiliated, making cryptic references to secrets kept even from Blake about her own nature.Welkin debates bringing him in but then leaves.
TJ is hanging off the rope ladder, refusing to even set foot on the ship due to trying to avoid the magical table.Chelsea moves him to the top of the gas bag and they cruise out of range of the volcano, but then Sam says they can’t leave yet, they have a meeting to attend in a few hours.She asks Grey to send a message to “Kami” asking them to meet him on their ship.Sam discusses what he was up to: he met with this group, and they want the trinket that he has been holding on to.It will apparently control something called the Golden Army, and they plan to use it to conquer Creation.Sam wants in on this, and Kami’s group will also purchase the trinket with powerful artifacts, but first there must be agreement.
Soon Kami, Olivia, Hunter and Jacob all arrive, and Sam says they are willing to make the exchange.Olivia can collect the information and fetch the artifacts, leaving Hunter and Kami behind for good will.TJ shouts down to avoid the table, and Hunter dashes up to fetch TJ, recognizing him from a previous encounter.TJ remarks that the table in the ship’s hold is a problem, and so Hunter puts TJ back on the gas bag per his request, while Jack snoops downstairs and finds the table blinking and glowing.TJ is taken back down and put into a side room to ward it against scrying with Olivia, Kami, Hunter and Blake inside, while everyone else goes into the meeting room.However, the table simply explodes in a fiery conflagration when activated.Welkin, Chelsea and Txori protect themselves with perfect defenses (and Txori spirits Grey out of the room entirely) while Sam is blown through a bulkhead and careening to the ground, but Olivia flies out with Kami and Kami heals Sam in mid-air, preventing him from exploding like a bug against a windshield on impact.Welkin manages to crash the ship in a believably lethal plummet while sparing the ship and crew, attempting to fake their deaths.
As the dust settles, TJ furiously storms over to Welkin, accusing him of being the leak that this party is suffering from.The demon that attacked Sam, Blake and Chelsea was no accident, and TJ’s pointed rage at Welkin for bargaining with demons and exposing his dreams to them is met with shock and disbelief.Chelsea wanders into the desert for a bit while everyone else sits around taking this in.Blake finds Hunter (standing upside down on the ship’s wreckage) and talks with him about being an outcaste Abyssal.When Hunter shows some interest and understanding of Blake’s condition, Blake asks Hunter to take her with him, to learn from him and become more knowledgeable and more powerful.Hunter seems to find this appealing and agrees.
Chelsea soon returns with Hellscry Chakra, a powerful demon-sensing charm, and notes that Welkin does in fact have residual demonic possession essence on him and is vulnerable to being tapped at any time.This news hits the party like a ton of bricks, as Welkin seems to be permanently compromised.His vice for power may finally have brought him to an end.The real question is, what happens next?
Eli: “Okay I missed most of that but I caught ‘public intoxication’ so that’s good.”
Debbie: “That’s Grey over there, he mostly stays on the ship and gets captured.”
Taylor: “They turned themselves down to death.” Debbie: “And for what?”
Debbie: “If you need anything just whisper and Txori will hear it and get it for you.”
“Most of our problems are solved by running away and then solving them later… preferably in their sleep.”
Jennifer: “Fighters are linear, wizards are quadratic, and then there’s… the e^x alted.”
Debbie: “Looking for you? No, we’re looking for ‘Hugh’, have you seen him?”
Someone: “Just find something you’re really good at and try to apply it to every situation!”
A chicken in every pot and a five foot step after every cleave!
Jennifer: “Well then count the head and body as separate objects and twist in opposite directions.”
Jennifer: “I am using my magic vision.” DM: “Everything here is magical.” Debbie: “–You are blind.” Dillen: “I imagine that she’s wearing night vision goggles and everyone is a tiny tiny sun.”
Debbie: “A five-arm?” DM: *confusion* (The joke is that the Raksha’s forearm was bigger than usual….)
Debbie: “So I feel like we’re being observed a lot.” DM: “Debbie sums up this entire mission.”
Jennifer: “Would you voluntarily go around with four fewer hands than you could?”
Sam: “So is anyone else coming with me?” Blake: “I’ll go with you!” Sam: “…. I was talking to the adults.”
Blake: “Will you accept bonfire visions? Cause I know a guy!”
Debbie: “So we find a local cinnabon.” Jen: “We’re at a magical marketplace, it’s next to the Starbucks. Cause they’re everywhere.”
Eli: “If you don’t forward this chain letter to warn your Raksha overlord…”
Dillen: MY CABBAGES!
Taylor: “I had to dispel those bombs, which has left me very… dissatisfied.” Alejo: “So you’ve got blue bombs?”
Sam: “Who here is TJ most attached to?” DM: “… Himself?” Dillen: “So he’s standing in front of a mirror?”
Sam: “I’m going to open with my strongest attack.” Alejo: “You’re going to find out who his contacts are?”
Taylor: “I’m going to set off explosions in morse code.”
Jennifer: “So it was a load-bearing botch? … Speaking of load-bearing, I’m going for the demon’s legs.”
Sam: “Let’s get into the safe zone.” Taylor: “Well it’s really more of a safe-ish zone.”
Sam: “I think they will use their army to help me conquer the Realm.” Blake: “You THINK? Can I get some percentages on that?”
Jennifer: “Solars: The Good, The Dead and the Yozi.”
The party has the strong hint that they need to stay on the move, as the Sidereals have suggested, and so they set course for Paragon.While en route, Sam has been pondering his interpersonal skills and decides to get to know Chelsea a bit better.He knocks on her door and asks to try playing her flute.Chelsea learns his virtues, motivation and intimacies, but notes that his motivation is in flux from the revelation that he is destined to save the realm or else it will fall.Chelsea also takes a turn playing the flute, and Sam’s budding skills serve him well as he reads her character well and even realizes one of the names from his Revelation of Associates Hunch on her is someone Chelsea loathes.
Once arriving in Paragon, they land at the outskirts and plan to split up, with Welkin posing as a merchant looking for deals to try and infer the direction of Paragon’s diplomacy (with Chelsea as his “bodyguard”), and Sam and Txori attempting to infiltrate somewhere with important diplomatic files.Grey is tasked to go to a local bar and learn more about the situation that way.
Sam uses his illusory armor to turn himself into a teenager doing a book report to ask people about where to interview someone for current events news.He soon notices that most of the citizens of Paragon are dressed in very drab colors except for a few clearly high-ranking people.It doesn’t take long for Sam to deduce the whereabouts of the diplomatic center of Paragon’s government, filled with diplomats who work at the various embassies of the other local powers.Since Sam wants to hit it once night falls, he spends the rest of the afternoon trying to learn all he can about local politics, but has to sort through a lot of contradictory information and doesn’t make much progress.
Meanwhile, Welkin has been paying attention to the transactions taking place and soon gets a picture that Paragon is arming itself, collecting raw materials for its military and increasing the price on foods for export to increase the local supply.Welkin sends Chelsea back to the ship to make a crate of fake grenades, then spreads rumors that he has weapons for sale.It’s not terribly long before a Paragon military merchant, Sangro, chats up Welkin and they soon are in a comfortable quiet room discussing materials for sale.Welkin emphasizes he liberated these munitions from a rebellion that was stamped out by the Wyld Hunt, and also lets slip that he does business with an airship and has recently made contacts in Chiaroscuro.The merchant asks to inspect the weapons, so Welkin says he must prepare his ship to receive visitors and will meet him again in a bit.
Welkin returns to the ship, gets Chelsea to make a bunch of crates be strapped down and not fit for inspection (and also filled with heavy things) and then the one crate is prepared with fake grenades.Welkin returns to the city walls to meet with Sangro again, this time with Chelsea in tow, and they escort the merchants to the Crimson Gale.There, Welkin shows him the crates filled with grenades, and they take several to a training field to the south.Sangro and Commander Castal, a special forces officer, watch as Welkin uses one grenade with extreme effectiveness (using Welkin’s Spirit Weapons charm of course), then as Sangro wishes to try one out, Welkin offers him another fake grenade, then uses Observer-Deceiving Throw to detonate the grenade when Sangro throws it.Everyone is highly impressed, and Welkin promises that once his crew returns from the city, he will begin delivery of the goods the following morning.
Since the sun is now setting, Sam and Txori walk up to the diplomatic headquarters, and Txori’s list of things to look for gets them in (since it also contains a message that everything is fine and no one will get in trouble).They hide until the guards leave, then scour the rooms for important files, and after a couple hours, Txori has made enough progress (and Sam has gotten them into enough locked doors) that she has an idea what’s happening.Paragon’s intelligence reports from the Varangian City-States reveal that the South is like a great disc with seven people pulling in different directions: Chiaroscuro and the Delzahn, the Lap, Paragon, Gem, the Realm, the Guild, and the Empire of Sand and Bone.The predictions all state that soon the disc will split in two, but in what direction is still to be revealed.Paragon has apparently taken this matter very seriously, as there are now Paragon spies in all of these other locations, furiously trying to discern who can be trusted.This doesn’t help figure out where the spy may be or how they’re operating, but it does give a hint as to who might be behind all this: the only one of the seven players without a strong presence in the Loom of Fate.
While finishing this up, Txori’s poking through other classified files reveals another interesting note: bounties.As she pokes through briefly, she suddenly sees that just three days ago a massive bounty was put out on a group of merchants operating out of an airship in the south.Earlier today someone in Paragon made good on this bounty by alerting someone called the Hyaena.Details are sketchy, but it does seem like the party is in a ton of trouble.
Sam and Txori get back to the ship well after midnight, and as they inform Welkin and Chelsea of their finds, a paper airplane sails onto the deck of the ship.It is tested for explosives, then read.It says simply that if they want to see Grey alive again they will bring the prophecy and the trinket to a particular address within the city before sunrise.Sam uses Observer Awareness method, finding that they are being watched, and subtly informs the rest of the party that someone is watching them from a position on the city walls over 200 yards away.Welkin uses his spy-eye to locate the viewer, a figure hidden in the shadows, wearing black metal armor and black evil-looking gauntlets, with exposed skin being a patchy, spotted, ugly affair.Txori is strongly tempted to put an arrow in him, but thinks better of it, hoping to find a less direct way of solving this new problem.
Txori inspects the letter more carefully, discovering to her surprise that it appears to have been written by someone stringently schooled in High Realm with a great deal of precision and a flair for creativity.The writer is clearly a native High Realm speaker, though the letter is written in Old Realm.This suggests the writer (and hostage-taker) is not the Hyaena at all but instead Mnemon Kagami.Welkin is unable to zoom in all the way to the address with his spy eye but can see it is some kind of public space.The party is planning on going in there to rescue Grey after constructing a fraudulent container for the trinket and prophecy, and dealing with both Kagami and the Hyaena as they go.
The party’s most careful precaution is to conceal the true container with the prophecy and trinket on the Crimson Gale, then instruct Edelweiss to leave and hide the ship far away.Plan A is to have Grey send Edelweiss an Infallible Messenger once he’s been recovered, and the backup plan is to send Chelsea up to the ship on her flying psychic surfboard.
Meanwhile, Chelsea makes a glowing purple ink for Txori to use, and Txori makes a duplicate of the prophecy but inserts a Letter-Within-A-Letter message that if the roots of the tree are watered, then the branches will prosper (hopefully implanting the message into Iselsi Kagami’s mind that if he is not the heir of prophecy then he should support he who is).Welkin also implants explosives into the letter and the trinket, and Chelsea’s magic vision determines that the explosives are not immediately identifiable as explosives but simply show the presence of some essence.
Armed with the fakes, the party heads into the city, keeping careful watch all around.As they approach the city square, Txori’s eye in the sky locates several shadowy figures on rooftops around the city square.The party can see a small cluster of hooded figures warming themselves around a small garbage fire in the city center, and Txori locates Grey among them (or else it’s someone else with a knife being held to the back of his neck).Sam’s awareness charm for knowing who is watching them barely succeeds, and he is only struck with the vague awareness that people are watching him.Chelsea’s magic vision detects no magic coming from the crowd by the fire.
A haggard, scruffy old man approaches the party, requesting the container.The party hands it over, and he walks it back to another man in the crowd with long hair who is concealing himself from the party’s eyes.Txori reads his emotions upon reading the note, and the only impression she gets is that he is confused.After a bit, he gestures, and a larger thug gets up with Grey from the fire and walks him over.At this time, Sam’s Earth Sense warns him that someone with potentially hostile intent is in the building right next to them, someone who does not have line of sight and is breathing like he’s asleep but nonetheless shifted towards them.Sam manages to share this with the party.
The thug says he has one question before he releases Grey, and seems bloodthirsty enough to earn the party’s cooperation.He asks how the party found out about the container in the first place.A vague answer does not satisfy him and he seems ready to kill Grey, so they tell the truth, which is apparently a bit of a disappointment to the burly man.He shoves Grey over and turns to leave.When the party asks who is hiding in the building next to them (with Welkin’s spy eye revealing a man in black with long hair and a blue jade left arm), the thug offhandedly comments it’s probably the boss, who is very sneaky.In a flash of movement the spy from the building darts out the door, killing the thug with a frost bolt to the head before sailing into the inky blackness of the night.
Shaken but not stirred, the party heads back to where the ship will land once Grey sends an Infallible Messenger to Edelweiss.Near the edge of town, however, Sam’s awareness charm reveals they are being watched by multiple individuals: someone on top of a building some blocks away (probably Kagami), someone hiding on top of the wall (probably the Hyaena again?) and a number of incorporeal entities nearby.Chelsea activates her magic vision and can clearly see a number of spectres following the party carefully.They don’t seem to be causing trouble, and the party hypothesizes that they are tools of the Hyaena, so Txori fires an arrow to land near the Hyaena telling him to eff off.After they keep walking for a bit, however, Chelsea notices that one of the spectres had followed the arrow, and soon a flash of blackness and evil seems to emanate from the wall where the Hyaena was hiding.The other spectres all dash off in that direction, and more evil magic blasts outwards, including some spectre body parts.The party is very weirded out and hustle back to the ship, which has landed.
Edelweiss has distressing news for the party as soon as they land: while she was in midair, the Sidereal who had recruited them had appeared on the ship, asking to see the object that had been recovered by the party (the prophecy and trinket), and when she refused, he evaded her and tried to find it, but failed.He left after a bit empty-handed, but she was concerned about it.The party then gathers around the table, collectively airing grievances for the Sidereals to hear, and Chelsea in particular muses about all the possible cool toys she might extract from the table if she is allowed to dismantle it.Then, because everyone is exhausted, they all go to sleep.
In the morning, the table is flashing blue, and what follows when they gather is an extended, profuse apology from the Free Man, explaining that his operative was acting without authorization and will be disciplined.The party is to stick to its mission and get out as quickly as possible, and a hint is dropped that it probably has to do with the undead.The party decides to put off dismantling the table for another day, and now plans to get to work on Sangro, whom they had promised a shipment of explosives.
The Crimson Gale lands at the appointed place, and Welkin meets with Sangro and the military specialists there to receive the explosives.The meeting goes very off-schedule for Sangro when Welkin starts quizzing him about the Hyaena while other party members stand around threateningly, finally piercing Sangro’s cool and getting him to explain that he is a patriot doing his duty. Sam takes an opportunity to ‘meet’ Sangro, getting some intelligence on Sangro’s contacts. Welkin implies he has a more important mission for the Hyaena and that this involves the safety of Paragon. Sangro is unnerved and suspicious, but Sam promptly starts arguing with Welkin about whether to talk with Sangro about this.Sangro is ultimately a patriot, and Welkin’s convincing win of the argument also convinces him to agree to arrange a meeting between the party and the Hyaena.He gives the party a time and place (that night, shady meeting room in a government building) to meet the Hyaena.
Welkin uses his spy eye to scout out the meeting site.After some discussion, Chelsea also uses it to scan for any magic (the discussion revolves around whether that would work; the conclusion is that it should).No magic or traps are detected, so that night Sam, Chelsea and Txori all go to the meeting site.Sam’s earthsense, Chelsea’s magic vision, and Txori’s hearing all reveal an invisible figure standing in the corner of the apparently empty room when they enter.Sam informs the figure that they know he’s there, so he drops his concealment charm and sits in the chair across from the three of them.The figure is apparently male, covered in bandages, wearing black armor and cloaked with black shrouds.
The Hyaena doesn’t even bother answering pointless questions, but does make it clear he needs something that they have that was stolen from a museum.Txori’s insight into the Hyaena needing something more valuable than money causes him to subtly confess that he needs it in order to earn the next clue on his search for something special.Sam’s Facebook charm identifies the Master as one of the Hyaena’s associates, confirming the connection.The Hyaena is reluctant to say much about what it is he’s trying to get except that it is called a Monstrance of Celestial Portion, which Txori might have some idea about.The Hyaena will not accept any other possible recompense, at one point pulling the bandages off his face to reveal mottled, spotted gray skin and sharp teeth.
The party needs a few moments to discuss, which they accomplish by Txori using her super hearing to hear Chelsea’s and Sam’s whispers and writing down their words and her own responses at super speed with Whirling Brush Method.The Hyaena knows the next step to finding his monstrance is somewhere in the west, and Sam suddenly realizes that one of the Master’s associates is a pirate lord, Wix Threefinger, the scourge of the oceans of the west, who fits the bill.Sam also identifies Sanity’s Weeping Wound as an adversary of the Hyaena who is trying to capture him to reclaim his essence, and from the information that the Hyaena used to work for the Deathlord known as the Bishop of the Chalcedony Thurible, the Hyaena is presumed to be an Abyssal Exalted.
Chelsea recognizes a kindred spirit in someone trying to escape a powerful, evil, domineering force in his life, and advises against trying to play him for anything, but Sam still wants more than to just make this guy go away, and says as much.The Hyaena does not take kindly to Sam’s extortion and threatens to kill him where he stands before his friends can help, but Txori steps in and says that if the Hyaena fails to kill them all at once, they will send a message to his enemies about him and what he’s after.This causes the Hyaena to hesitate, and upon further prodding about Sanity’s Weeping Wound he reveals that someone in the Perfect’s inner circle is possessed using some powerful arcanoi, and this is how Sanity’s Weeping Wound is manipulating Paragon.Txori accepts this information and reveals the name Wix Threefinger, which is all the Hyaena needs.As he leaves, he pauses and warns the party that more trouble will be coming for them because of what they carry.
The party finally has the break they need on the difficult case of what’s happening in Paragon, and has also made the most immediately dangerous threat go away, so they go sleep as a celebration.The next day the party plans to expose the traitor, using the information that the traitor must have the charms renewed every few hours, by having a meeting called to discuss something important.Txori ultimately concocts the most elaborate and elegant scheme to date to accomplish this: by giving a report to Sangro on explosives that comes with a letter.The report has an embedded message to give the letter to his superior.The letter comes with another letter, and hidden instructions in the text to give the letter directly to the Perfect.The letter for the Perfect contains huge amounts of intelligence on the Empire of Sand and Bone (all accurate due to Txori’s spies), and a subliminal message to immediately hold an hours-long meeting with his trusted advisors to reexamine the entire plan for the Empire of Sand and Bone (as if he wouldn’t already do that immediately).
Chelsea uses Welkin’s spy-eye to spy on the meeting happening in a basement area of the Perfect’s palace, though nothing can be heard.A lot of intense discussion seems to result, so the party decides to infiltrate the palace.Txori prepares a letter that she and Chelsea are accountants here to audit something, and Sam disguises himself as a guard and walks everyone right into the palace undetected.They find an unused room and Chelsea watches people as they come and go from the meeting room.Finally, a man leaves the room and rather than going to the latrine, leaves to go down some unused corridors.He enters a supply closet, inside which are a bunch of ghosts that immediately activate some runes and start enchanting him with evil magic.
Txori rapidly scribbles a note on a piece of paper.The text says simply, “Everything is crumbling.You know what to do.”The subtext is an instruction to immediately assassinate the Perfect.Chelsea and Sam go up to the closet and slide it under the door.A hideous (and invisible) spectral creature pokes its face through the door, hissing at them asking who they are, and when they claim they were sent, it says it can smell their lies.Right as it attempts to dart back through the door, Chelsea grabs it with her Mind-Hand Manipulation, sealing its mouth shut and squeezing the life out of it until it dies as they walk away slowly.Soon it expires, they dash around a corner, and the closet door opens.
Chelsea and Sam dash back to the room while Welkin follows the man with his spy-eye as he walks back the way he came with a determined purpose. He reenters the meeting room, slips up behind the Perfect and attempts to stab him to death, but the Perfect, long since enhanced beyond mortal ability, evades the assassination attempt and kicks his ass. The party immediately decides their work here is done and leaves.
A bit of time is spent in town as Chelsea buys scrap metal for turning into a cannon and Txori engages in some light war profiteering. They leave by late afternoon, but as they fly over the harbor Sam notices a strange, evil-looking ship pulling into Paragon’s harbor. An impossibly beautiful woman with power armor and large wings spots the ship and flies up after it. Welkin hightails it, but his spy-eye lets him see the woman attempting to coerce/seduce him into stopping, but he resists her charms with his Mariner’s Parable Defense and the ship outflies her into the desert.
The party struggles with an order for their mission, finally rolling Wits+Investigation for Join Scouting.
Alejo: “I’m sure these are completely legal explosives.” Jennifer: “Yes they fell out of a Hellstrider.”
DM, Re: shadowy assassin: “I mean, you can’t be sure this character is hostile….”
Alejo: “Is that a prophecy in your pocket or were you expecting to see me?”
Alejo: “Here’s the prophecy. it definitely won’t explode or take over your mind.”
Debbie: “‘Who’s holding the fake prophecy and trinket?’ I say loudly.”
Debbie: “Also Grey has a slight heart murmur so Txori can also tell who he is.”
Taylor: “Do you think there’d be some way to get an introduction while handing it over?”
Eli: “So it sounds like someone’s asleep in the room, which could be true despite there also being a murder person in the room.”
Debbie: “I don’t know, we could have an argument about it.”
Eli: Hyena + Kagami. But they’re not together. “It’s complicated?”
Eli: Just whisper to people, “it’s great to meet you”.
Alejo: “You know with all the party’s powers you could basically just write “MONEY” on rocks and use those.” Eli: “And spell it ‘munny’, just to make a point.”
Eli: “What kind of counteroffer are we going to make?” Everyone: “……….”
Eli: “How tough does he look, on a scale of 1 to us?”
Debbie: “Facebooking takes willpower.” Alejo: “For most people stopping facebooking is what takes willpower.”
Eli: “Is there somewhere a birdie can perch and hear this meeting?” DM: “Well this is in the basement.” Eli: “So like a tunneling birdie?”
In response to comments about why two accountants are being escorted into the palace, Jennifer: “It’s a union thing.”
DM: “The man disappears into the supply closet.” Eli: “We know what we have to do. We run into the room yelling SUPPLIES!”
Chelsea: “Captain, how would you feel about me mounting a cannon on the ship?” Welkin: “I would be happy to have you mount a cannon on the ship!”
Sam has immediate buy-in on this new mission, and Chelsea is quietly interested in both news about the Empress and possible new technology to learn about.Txori is quite reluctant, but when Dora whispers under her breath, “The Tri-Khan still trusts you” Txori knows she is being personally called out to help, so she sighs loudly.
As the party is getting ready to leave, Dora mentions one more thing, namely that the painting the party took from her shrine in the building contains a part of her awareness and it’s somewhat disorienting to have it separated from the shrine.She would prefer it be returned, though it can also be used by her to perceive what the party is up to.This triggers a bit of concern by everyone, and Txori asks if others can also have this similar power.When Dora misunderstands the question, Txori rephrases it to mention that they have one of Moya’s paintings as well.This startles and displeases Dora, who says the party needs to leave immediately.Just then another hooded and cloaked figure comes out of the temple approaching the party, and Txori’s hearing detects footsteps of a number of people on the roofs all around them.
The cloaked figure pulls off her hood, and it’s the sidereal Moccasin, there to slaughter the party!Chelsea immediately grabs Grey on her surfboard and flies away, while Sam sprints to the wall and leaps over it while Txori shoots an arrow at Moccasin as she’s starting to activate a martial arts form, though she dodges easily.Txori briefly tells Moccasin that her own kind sent them, which confuses Moccasin slightly, but she shrugs it off and attacks, causing Txori to use Leaping Dodge Method to evade the attacks, leap over the wall and join Sam on a run.The two quickly duck into a crowded building, Sam changes his appearance while Txori puts a scarf over her hair, and then they walk out right past one of the Ragara footmen trying to chase them.
Chelsea and Grey are escaping much more conspicuously, and the soldiers on the roofs (most of whom, it should be noted, are not even Dragon-blooded, and some of them are recognizable from Moya’s portraits).Chelsea starts yanking them off the roof with her mind as they fly by, finally butchering at least one in cold blood, much to Grey’s consternation.Once they have escaped, Grey seems quite disturbed, causing Chelsea to have to take control by recommending he send an Infallible Messenger to Txori telling them where to meet, then another to Welkin to pick them up.They head to the nearby harbor and hide under a pier to wait.
Txori and Sam wander over to the harbor, eventually finding Chelsea (still somewhat blood-splattered) and Grey.Soon Welkin arrives to pick them up, and it’s a several day trip back to Chiaroscuro!Once arriving in the early morning, everyone attempts to figure out where to start looking.Sam has the most confidence in his idea, which is that during their previous visit to Chiaroscuro he noticed there was an old part of town (made with the Chiaroscuro glass) that would be particularly difficult to break into.The party wanders through there after Sam disguises both Chelsea and himself as Southerners, noting the largest buildings are a museum and another repurposed temple.The museum seems mildly interesting, with suspicious statues and a janitor’s closet with a hidden back room, while the temple is quite dull, so more information is needed on this museum!
After some further scheming, the party scopes out the museum, looking for the part of the museum that gives the history of said museum.While the party is looking at the exhibit, two hooded and cloaked figures step purposefully into the room, stand for a few moments, then leave just as purposefully.Txori tracks them with her super hearing and also notes that their presence caused Chelsea’s heart rate to rise.She then informs the party that she has somewhere to go and she’ll be back.She then leaves, and the rest of the party spends a while learning more about the museum before concluding Chelsea won’t be back right away.
The museum apparently dates back to the first age, and aside from some obvious Dragon-blooded revisionist tampering, still retains an extensive collection dating back thousands of years.It is also apparently under the protection of a spirit named Daraley the Keeper of Light, who has a complicated relationship with Grandmother Bright.The party also notes that donations from wealthy patrons and from the Tri-Khan’s government are both needed to maintain this institution.This inspires some careful planning from the party.
The party returns to the ship, updating Welkin on their plan to have Txori pose as a wealthy potential donor and get access to the museum that way.Sam and Txori forget a letter from Ogode claiming they are good people, with an embedded message that revealing secrets to the party will be good for the museum.Armed with Sam’s disguises for everyone (including an absurd 20 successes for Txori’s disguise) the party sets out to the museum.It is late afternoon by this point and the crowds are thinning out when Sam, posing as Txori’s bodyguard, asks a worker at the gift shop who he may speak to on behalf of his wealthy employer about becoming a patron.A fresh-faced intern is rapidly dispatched on a run, and soon a wealthy Delzahn noble arrives, bearing jewelry and a sword, excited to meet the new potential patron.His name is Tanni, and he is charged with welcoming new patrons.
Txori rapidly has Tanni wrapped around her pinky finger, due in part to the letter that dispels all doubt in his mind that Txori is a client to be trusted.Txori wishes to have a tour once the crowd has left, and so Tanni obliges excitedly, revealing the secret of the unlabeled statues as being guardians of the museum, ready to spring into action if any glass is broken after hours in the museum.When Sam asks about how to put large exhibits on display, Tanni leads them upstairs to behold several large exhibits surrounded by glass and statues.He also reveals that there is a substantial archive and records underground, which piques Txori’s interest.Tanni is willing to show Txori the archive and its secrets.
As the group begins walking back towards the stairs to the first floor, Sam uses Observer Awareness Method and finds that someone hiding behind an exhibit on the first floor is watching him.Sam conveys this to Txori, who uses her super hearing to locate this individual and once they’re on the first floor she wanders in that direction.Out from behind the exhibit strolls the janitor, mopping the floor, surprised to see a visitor at this hour.Sam rushes over to play Txori’s bodyguard and is stunned to see Gus Carp, the man whose house he had broken into on that fateful night hundreds of years ago.Luckily Sam manages a poker face and eventually recovers to interact with the janitor enough to learn his name, Tragg Carp, and to run Revelation of Associates Hunch on him, learning 22 names from all across Creation with no rhyme or reason behind them, from a pirate captain in the west to a snow witch of the north, to at least two ghosts.Tanni arrives and shoos Tragg away, and apologetically continues their tour of the archive.
Txori has a few moments alone with the records archive of the museum while Sam distracts Tanni by asking about Tragg, finding Tragg is well-liked and valuable at least to Tanni.After a while Tanni’s patience wears thin and he insists that they all attend the dinner put on by another wealthy patron.Everyone walks over with servants carrying lanterns, but once at the party Welkin rapidly finds a way to ditch the party and head back to the museum.He uses his eyepiece to peer through the museum from a distance, finding that the janitor is cleaning the manse with suspicious speed and is difficult to focus on.Welkin takes a moment to spy on his friends at the party, inadvertently alarming Sam when he finds he’s being watched by someone near the museum.Welkin splits his time between searching the museum for signs of a glowing parchment and watching the janitor until he notices the janitor is gone.Welkin does not see him around the building, though he does see a drunken filthy hobo wandering through the alleys.
Welkin heads back to the party, finding Txori bored to tears trying to talk with rich people and with curators and also clues Sam in to the fact that it was he who was spying on Sam.After a bit, a very noisy, ostentatious wealthy man arrives at the banquet and chats up Txori in an overly friendly way.Somewhat suspicious of this newcomer, Txori notes his dimensions and vital signs are identical to those of the janitor.Welkin spends some time getting Tanni to drink himself into a stupor, then once he passes out, Welkin invades his dream using his hearthstone, surrounding him with the museum’s exhibits telling their secrets to him.One of the exhibits, a set of weapons and armor from the Realm military operations in Chiaroscuro, tells Tanni that they hold a secret because it is the only exhibit that has never been moved or changed in hundreds of years.This starts Tanni awake, and he wanders off in a daze, while Welkin believes he has something new to work with.The party eventually leaves and gets some well-earned sleep.
The next day the party gathers a few blocks from the museum with Welkin spying on the noted exhibit using his spy-eye.After a time, he locates a container inside the chest plate of one of the suits of armor, with some purple glowing text inside.The parchment is rolled up and impossible to read clearly, though it is clearly in old realm.Txori borrows Welkin’s spy-eye and uses Discerning Savant’s Eye to read the text, writing it down and becoming extremely agitated as she does so:
When the Scarlet Queen falls
Her empire will go to slaughter
And chaos her only legacy will be
Unless her successor is eldest of water
Contenders will gather round
As the throne’s seat begins to cool
The sustenance of the empire
Depends on the blue blood to rule
Mind the roots of the family tree
For only he whose blood is most pure
Can claim the scarlet throne
And the life of the empire he will ensure
Though blood is old, filled with youth
Though fresh in face, long in tooth
Though asking little, mighty sleuth
Though trained in lies, speaks the truth
Everyone stares at the text here in confusion, except for Sam, who stares in total horror, since this is obviously very relevant to him.There is some thought given to just taking the text back to the Wanderer, but Txori decides that she’s going to mind-control the janitor into stealing the parchment and giving it to them.It’s clearly very important, and besides, there’s also a small, shiny piece of orichalcum inside it that they can’t identify.Txori prepares a powerful flyer labeling the exhibit for cleaning with a potent instruction embedded within, and Welkin prepares to invade the janitor’s dreams to weaken him.However, though Welkin sees the janitor sleeping in his bunk, when he tries to invade his dreams, the janitor is somehow already prepared for this and shouts Welkin down until they wake up.This causes the janitor to start laughing maniacally, which is extremely unsettling.
The new plan to drain the janitor’s willpower revolves around Jack, Welkin’s Tree Singer, who gets into the ducts as Welkin heads into the museum as night is falling.Jack starts singing, which transfixes the museumgoers, but the janitor is seen running around trying to find the Tree Singer and/or block his ears.Welkin goes up to the janitor and tries filibustering him with talk of shipments and cargo, causing the janitor to swat at Welkin in irritation, unintentionally revealing the extent of his power when Welkin’s narrow dodge is boosted by the janitor’s incredible essence score of at least 9.Welkin immediately calls for an abort, which causes the janitor to settle down, smile, apologize, and walk away.Welkin returns with the news for the party, which causes everyone to freak out somewhat, and now that night is falling, the janitor may soon appear in a different form.
Chelsea, meanwhile, has found herself mixed up with Chiaroscuro Yozi cultists, including one Lt. Colonel Buffalo who seems to be stretched for sanity.After assuming Chelsea was sent to assist them with their “special project,” they coerced her into studying their only remaining Music Box of Death, which Chelsea learns cannot be replicated without more of the Zolanski demons that are produced by Minajikin the Midwife of Festivity.After some careful questioning of one of the cultists, Chelsea deduces that the cultists deployed the other box without authorization, and are hoping to replicate it to regain favor with their Yozi overlords.Chelsea wishes to leave for a walk at the dawn, but the cultist with her fears she will leave and they will have no way to regain favor, and finally offers to escort her, which she accepts.After some meandering, Chelsea decides she’s had enough of this cultist and tries force-choking him to death, only to see his arms stretch unusually long out to assault her, and she is forced to dispatch him with a massive glowing light show, attracting a crowd, including other cultists.Chelsea manages to escape on her psychic surfboard, but she is gone for hours before she catches up with the Crimson Gale, with Edelweiss informing her that the party has returned to the museum.She returns there carefully, finding the party trying to figure out their next move.
With the party reunited and the sun slowly setting, a new plan of action must be cooked up.Some debate is held over whether to simply escape with the text of the parchment, but ultimately the decision is made to try and get the real parchment, if only to inspect the orichalcum device in the container as well.Some thought is given to drawing the cultists (apparently still searching for Chelsea) to the suit of armor, potentially by having an argument about whether Chelsea was hiding inside the armor.Sam changes his disguise to another random person and he and Welkin wander down the streets to the building teeming with cultists and start having an argument about whether the murderer “Erin” was in fact hiding inside the suit of armor in the museum.Using Welkin’s charm, the entire band of cultists is immediately fooled and sprints out the door to catch her in the act.Lt. Colonel Buffalo arrives, confused as to why his entire team of trained martial artists just ran out the door like dogs after a stray cat, and distrusts Welkin’s explanation and assaults him.Welkin dodges proficiently and continues to do so until Sam sneaks up behind the Colonel and smashes him on the back of the head, knocking him out, and they stash his unconscious form somewhere hidden and run back to the museum.
Txori has sent Onyx up to a window of the museum to observe the cultists as they jostle their way into the museum, assaulting any security that stands in their way, and quickly reaching the suit of armor on the second floor.Some cultists arrive with the curator, while others leave to find his family to threaten, and the curator helplessly informs the cultists about the keys to open these exhibits safely.Txori passes this information on to Sam, who has arrived and changes his appearance to the curator wearing some antique armor.Sam gets into the back room with the keys, but is accosted by a young female martial artist, Chun Lilan, who doesn’t fall for Sam’s fakeout and dropkicks into the wall.She steals the keys and runs back up the stairs with them, but the janitor has arrived and has scattered the cultists with a severe beatdown administered by his mop, and is now having a tense standoff with the cultists upstairs.The janitor is fully aware that these cultists have been sent as a diversion, but he is having trouble penetrating the illusion that has been placed over them with diplomacy, and his assault on the hulking green brute Negra resulted in his receiving an electric shock, so he’s wary of fighting his way out of this as well.
Chun Lilan reaches the top of the stairs two steps ahead of Sam, sees the janitor, and turns tail, crashing into him at the stairs.She recovers the keys and gets to the door of the museum, where she sees a note for her from Txori informing her she must leave the keys on the ground and return for them later, which she does.Now Txori has the keys, and she gives them to Chelsea to make fake copies of with a chunk of iron.Welkin, meanwhile, has copied the prophecy onto some napkins at a coffee shop, and sends an order of coffee and a sandwich to the second floor of the museum for the janitor.The waitress accepts the coin and brings them up the museum to the tense standoff where the janitor is still trying to talk sense into the remaining cultists.When he sees the napkin with the prophecy, he is shocked, and now accedes that opening the case to look at the contents might be wise after all.Another cultist is sent downstairs to the back room, where Sam is bringing the counterfeit keys now disguised as a random citizen.The brutish cultist arrives, demands the keys, and Sam throws them away and sprints out.
The cultist brings the fake keys (lacking the magical core) to the second floor.The curator instructs the cultists on how to safely open the exhibit, but because the keys are counterfeit, the glass shatters and the four statues of angels come to life, reaching out and vaporizing the cultists one by one.Instantly, the janitor was actually down the street eating his sandwich all this time, and the statues return to quiescence, leaving the suit of armor unguarded.From the window, Chelsea telekinetically lifts the case out of the suit, floating it over, and the party as a whole beats a hasty retreat.
The Crimson Gale is rapidly launched, and the next few days returning to the Isle of the Watchers are somber.The parchment is examined and found to have magical runes all over it that authenticates it as a genuine prophecy.Once the Isle of the Watchers is reached, Welkin parks over Kalinda’s mansion in the Stormy Plains, and Sam volunteers to go in alone.Sam can sense the presence of the Wanderer, his sister Dora’s ghost, and he shows her the parchment.She was not aware of its contents but claim that it makes sense, that it must have driven Iselsi Kane to believe that he alone could replace the Empress, but it’s obvious now that it refers not to Kane but to Samuel. She also identifies the other orichalcum device as an heirloom of the Iselsi, and the creator of the prophecy is the same person who was trying to stop them, none other than The Master, also known as The Chosen of Endings. Dora has few other words of wisdom, mentioning only that she has been able to hide the presence of the tracking device on the Crimson Gale from the Sidereals but she will not be able to do so for any longer, and that they will catch up with the party and learn what they know. She also mentions that Iselsi Kagami was the previous owner of the parchment and will be coming for it, as he presumably believes that the prophecy is about himself, and if he can be persuaded, then Sam will have a powerful ally.
Sam returns to the Crimson Gale, informs the party what the Wanderer told him, and also reveals that he is the subject of the prophecy.This bombshell is poorly received all over, as Welkin leaves in a rage, Txori starts drinking heavily, and Chelsea’s attempt to bridge the gap by offering Sam to play her magical flute is rebuffed.Welkin fumes alone in his cabin for a while, with Edelweiss briefly talking with him, suggesting that if Sam were to become the new Emperor, it would be a special kind of revenge.Txori drunkenly tries to destroy the table but Sam stops her, and Chelsea ponders her other secrets but decides not to share them.
Finally Welkin decides to move the Crimson Gale, since it’s still circling the Stormy Plains.It is at this point when the table begins to pulse with blue light.
End story 2.
Eli, on Welkin’s eye-spying: “This is definitely ‘because I can’ territory.”
Eli, on Barabella’s disappearance and Welkin’s new goggles: “There’s no explanation that will bother us.”
DM to Sam: “You’ll be disappointed to learn that everyone looking at you is within ten feet of you.” Debbie: “Except Welkin?” DM: “OH YES! You can tell someone’s watching you from the vicinity of the museum!”
Eli: “Due to your phrasing, you’re forced to wait a hundred years!”
Eli: “Curious Jack gets into trouble at the museum.”
Alejo: “I was drinking because I watched you in the bathroom and I wanted to forget watching you in the bathroom”
Chelsea: “How powerful are we talking about?” Sam: “Who’s the most powerful person you’ve met? More than that.”
Debbie: “I think before we start we should plan maybe.” DM’s thought: Greatest No Shit Sherlock to date?
Txori: “I wish I had your gifts.” Chelsea, smiling: “You know…that can be arranged.”
Txori: “Keep in mind these Sidereals are a fractious lot. The ones trying to kill us and the ones trying to make us kill other things probably aren’t even talking to each other, or if they are there are a lot of raised voices and no one’s listening.”
The journey to the Isle of the Watchers will take two days, time enough for the party to plan their scheme.Since this is a Realm island, Sam will disguise himself as a Dragon-blooded (not very hard) while the diverse population will allow Txori, Grey and Chelsea to appear as themselves.Welkin will have to take the Crimson Gale away to avoid Wyld Hunt detection, and will return when messaged to do so.The party will be dropped off at the edge of the Shadowlands known as the Stormy Plains and will have to make the trip on foot.Their cover story will be that Sam was injured by the undead (not untrue) and needs healing (also not untrue).Since any experienced healer would be able to tell that Sam was healing like an Exalted, the cover is that they are investigating the shadowland, and Sam is the Dragon-blood of the team.Sam uses his armor to change his appearance into a more attractive version of himself, so that if anyone pierces the illusion they will just think he is vain.
While flying over the Stormy Plains, the most salient feature is a single large apparently abandoned mansion on a small hill in the middle of the barren fields.Chelsea has a vague sensation that she knows this place, then realizes it is where Kalinda met her end (and in fact this was probably her home, or one of them, at the Usurpation).The party is successfully dropped off in a fog bank at the edge of the Stormy Plains, and walks on foot past the salt barrier and watch towers around the shadowland to the farmland beyond.On the several hour walk they stop to talk with local farmers, but no one has any unusual information to share about any recent events.As they arrive at the city, they can see the harbor as well as the massive Immaculate complex on the northeast tip of the island.Blending in with the crowd, they are soon met by an Immaculate monk who is helping direct traffic, and when they show him Sam’s injury they are quickly escorted to meet with V’neef Wira, the most accomplished healer on the island.
Wira chats up the group, works on Sam’s injury, and due to the unusual nature of the injury asks some questions about it.Sam tells the truth that he didn’t see the attack coming but it was something undead, as their story revolves around investigating the shadowland.This catches Wira’s attention, and she asks in a lowered tone if this has anything to do with the Prefect’s son.Sam plays it somewhat cool and says it might, they’re not sure.Wira lets slip that she’s a little miffed that when she couldn’t figure out what caused the Prefect’s son to not wake up that other healers were called in from the Realm but none of them could solve the case either.This gives the party a new direction for their investigation, and after thanking her and leaving, scheme how to get more information.
The next move is to try and get information from the Mayor, who showed up on Wira’s list of associates.After an amusingly awkward wait in the lobby that has Sam reluctantly pushed to the front of the line and Txori’s listening to the conversations in the Mayor’s office (which are apparently the height of mundanity), the party is ushered in and Sam opens by expressing gratitude for his treatment here on the Isle of the Watchers.This seems to surprise the Mayor, as perhaps he is used to more abrupt treatment from the Princes of Earth.The party tries to get more info on the shadowland, but there is apparently nothing to report.When probing about the situation with the Prefect’s son, there is more information, that the child simply did not wake up one day, and healers have been unable to find any explanation why.Sam claims to have been sent to investigate the situation and believes it may be connected to the shadowland somehow.Sam’s Revelation of Associates Hunch also reveals that Moccasin (as her alias Smiling Blossom) works both here and with the Realm military as an administrative assistant.With no further information here, the party thanks the Mayor and leaves, then plans to pump the Prefect for info next.
After Sam gives some consideration to impersonating Wira or other people, the decision is made to try and get info from the Prefect as they are now.Sam takes charge since he is the only obviously Dragon-blooded of the group, and once again is granted swift access to him.The Prefect, Ragara Kullon, describes in more detail that since his son Korodin has been asleep, spirits have begun haunting the house he lived in, and even when they moved the spirits pursued them.Sam claims to the Prefect that he has been sent to investigate this matter along with his colleagues.Txori, under her alias “Listening Bird”, shows sharp insight into the possible nature of the events, and claims her companion “Eater of Ghosts” (Grey) has talent not only as a healer but as an exorcist, and is the right man for the job.The Prefect takes out a badge and deputizes Txori on the spot, commanding that they get to the bottom of the matter immediately, stating that the badge will enforce his will even on his guards.The party immediately thanks the Prefect and hustles out.
Txori and Grey conduct an experiment where they have some guards collect a number of homeless and/or impoverished citizens to spend the night in the Prefect’s “haunted” house.Meanwhile Chelsea and Sam appear at the Prefect’s house itself and meet his wife and children.Sam learned already from probing the Prefect that his wife is the god-blooded daughter of the god of this island.Chelsea has activated her essence sight, finding the entire house clouded with a miasma of foggy essence similar to the clouds of the Stormy Plains, though an aura around the mother keeps some of the clouds at bay.When they enter Korodin’s room Chelsea sees the fog is thicker and somehow emanating from around Korodin, though he and the Immaculate monk keeping watch over him also have an aura keeping some of the fog at bay.Sam sees none of this and asks the monk and the mother about this further but they seem to be at their wits’ end.
Txori and Grey have finished setting up their experiment, including Grey’s ghost wards on the house, and they meet Sam and Chelsea at the Prefect’s house.The update from Chelsea seems to confirm that Korodin himself is causing the spirits, not the house, but just to be sure the party spends the night sleeping in the Prefect’s other abandoned house, what a burden.In the morning, everyone seems to think that the best course of action now is to investigate the shadowland, and the creepy haunted mansion in particular, since they have no other good leads (the notion of scoping out Moccasin is floated but avoiding her is decided as more prudent).First the party reports to the Prefect, who heard from his wife already that some progress was being made.They ask about Ragara Diora, the Head Immaculate Monk of the temple, but the Prefect says that Diora is on a patrol around the shadowland, as he claims he would not assign his men any task he would not undertake himself.The party informs the Prefect that their next move is to investigate the shadowlands.
Txori waves her badge around and secures several horses for a fast trip down to the Stormy Plains.After less than an hour, they have arrived at the military post on a hill overlooking the Stormy Plains where they can stable their horses.They are met by a Dragon-blooded lieutenant who is somewhat skeptical of their plan to go in and warns them to avoid the haunted mansion, but makes no effort to stop them.As they head in, Txori’s incredibly fine-tuned senses barely register anything, and her focus distracts her from what Chelsea sees plainly as they enter the fog: a black-clad man on a glider lands at the camp, flying in from the ocean, just as they are out of sight of it.Chelsea mentions this man has a blue metal arm and a black mask, and this sounds an awful lot like the man who tried to blow up the Crimson Gale in Chiaroscuro, so Sam boosts Txori’s stealth and she sneaks back into the fog to listen in on the man’s conversation.His name is apparently “Kagami” and he is providing descriptions of Sam, Txori, Grey, and Ah Nold, though he apparently expects Ah Nold is not there and heard a report of his demise.Once confirmed that some people matching that description went into the shadowland he tries to recruit a force to go after them but no one at the post is biting, so he says he will be back soon with a more powerful force that isn’t afraid of the dark.He takes off on his glider.
The party doesn’t seem to have much of a plan at this point besides “run to the mansion and see what’s inside.”Once there, Txori listens at the door, hearing no suspicious movement or breathing, and Chelsea considers ringing the doorbell since it might still recognize her but decides not to give away just yet her association with this place.Ultimately Sam picks the lock and opens the door with a creak, and Txori immediately hears light footsteps approaching quickly.Indecision wracks the party just long enough for a feminine figure cloaked in black to come around the hallway, stop in shock at seeing the party, and demands to know why they’re there.She demonstrates familiarity with the party (especially Sam, calling him by his full name Iselsi Samuel) and asks where their airship is, commenting that Meticulous Owl is already on his way for payback with some friends from both his masters.Txori’s heightened hearing can soon make out his voice arguing his way through the bowels of this mansion which seems to connect to the Labyrinth.The girl, who identifies herself as the Wanderer, also says that Meticulous Owl also contacted someone else who is on the way named Countess Candela, the friend of the Sharp Lady that Sam identified when making a threat at the Ominous Oasis.Chelsea comments that it’s good to know she’s not the only member of the group who is being hunted.
The Wanderer demands to know where the party’s airship is, which is met with dumbfounded wordlessness, but only a moment later the Crimson Gale dives out of the storm clouds and lands near the entrance to the manor.Sam takes one look, turns to the Wanderer and says, “Thanks for the help!” and sprints off, only for the Wanderer to call out, “We will meet again soon,” which Sam replies while running, “Looking forward to it!”Txori, Grey and Chelsea also hustle over to the Crimson Gale and soon it’s in the air.Welkin estimates that the Wyld Hunt could be here any minute, and Txori can also hear the approach of Meticulous Owl and a number of other footsteps with him.Things are looking pretty dire.
At this moment, Txori demands a spare sail or other large scrap of fabric, which is quickly acquired.With a mop as her Whirling brush, Txori rapidly inscribes a few words in praise of the Wyld Hunt on it, implanting a subliminal message: “The real enemies are on the ground.”No sooner is this banner hung from the stern of the Crimson Gale than the door to the manor bursts open and Meticulous owl, three powerful-looking Abyssals and three deadly Infernals (two of whom Chelsea recognizes, one of whom is Kythor from her own circle) spill onto the plain looking for a fight.Meticulous Owl, still wearing a sling and bandages from Txori’s arrows, peers up at the silly banner, and the fact that there is a grain of truth to the banner is enough to allow him to perfectly resist the compulsion.He starts haranguing his compatriots to open fire, but after a moment sees that the Abyssals and Infernals are looking at each other with seething distrust and ducks back into the manor as they prepare to attack each other.
In the next moment the fog bank roils and discharges several skiff-type airships, bound demons and a massive earth elemental, all of which bear a number of Dragon-blooded.Arrows and cannons are pointed at the Crimson Gale, waver, then refocus onto the six figures standing in front of the manor and open fire.A brutal battle ensues, with the Infernals and Abyssals deploying perfect defenses to attempt to weather the massive volley of elemental attacks, and as they begin to become mote-tapped, the fight gets messy, and the Infernals and Abyssals might have a chance against two dozen Dragon-blooded if they fought back-to-back but appear doomed by their lack of cooperation and fall one by one.As the Dragon-blood who had attacked the party is there again, who Txori had identified by name as “Kagami,” Sam gets a strange feeling about him, thinking he somewhat resembles his older brother Karan.While it would be at least fifteen generations for mortals, Sam realizes with a jolt that it’s potentially only three generations for a Dragon-blooded lineage, and this could be a relative.
As the bloodbath proceeds on the ground, the party begins noticing a buzzing sound coming from the clouds around them.Txori fires a flare arrow at the nearest target as though there were no wind, lighting up a massive ladybug-esque creature with a green humanoid riding its back.The clouds begin raining ladybugs, with a massive and hideous winged monster bursting from the most distant cloud with Countess Candela at its head screaming that she will bring Samuel’s head to the Sharp Lady.Chelsea deploys a massive cylindrical force barrier around the Crimson Gale, stemming the tide of swarming creatures and forcing them to approach one by one from the prow and stern.Txori begins shooting them and Chelsea shoves them off the ship with her mind as they land, while Sam conceals himself in the shadows.Once the ship is out of the cylinder, Welkin throws the Crimson Gale into a barrel roll, shaking off many of the assailants, but then the monstrous mantis-dragon starts to catch up so Welkin opens the throttle to full speed due north.The behemoth is keeping steady with the Crimson Gale, so Txori fires four arrows at its wings in rapid succession, shredding them with uncanny precision, and it veers off to dive into the ocean as they exit the storm clouds.
With the Raksha threat gone for now, Welkin steers the ship back to the manor, where a dozen Dragon-blooded have formed a loose perimeter around the manor.Their attempts to set fire to the manse are unsuccessful and they appear to be debating how long to persist for.Welkin flies into the clouds and attempts to use his new spy-eye to look into the manor, but it’s taking him a bit.One thing he does manage to see after a bit is that in one room there is a Dragon-blooded in full white jade armor sitting in a chair in a plush room, discussing something with a hooded and cloaked figure.Sam also wants to know if the Dragon-blood the party met before is still alive, turning into him and asking Welkin if this person is still there.Welkin does in fact see him as part of the perimeter group.
Chelsea volunteers to fly down on her psychic surfboard and Sam, after infusing her with stealth ability, wants to go with her.Chelsea diplomatically omits the fact that she’s never even used this charm before, much less tried to carry anyone with it, but she manages to carry Sam and stealthily land on the roof of the manor without the Dragon-blooded noticing.There is a convenient skylight they can access near one edge of the roof, and much safer to get to than the windows.
Once inside, Chelsea stays on her surfboard and calls on her memory for how to get to the hearthroom, which had a hearthstone that among other things permitted limited reality warping in the manor.She successfully follows the trail according to her memory, but is stopped at the last big hallway by a large door that definitely doesn’t belong, with purple glowing runes inscribed all around it in strange patterns.Chelsea’s essence sight can also tell that the door is rigged to explode.Onyx has followed Chelsea and Sam, and by sharing senses Txori can use Savant’s Discerning Eye to decrypt the runes as a cypher for Old Realm, and has Onyx peck at the correct order of runes to disarm the bomb.Sam then picks the lock and the three float on Chelsea’s surfboard into the hearthroom.The walls moan gently as they pass into the fog, alerting a figure cloaked in black in the hearthroom.He turns, and he is black-skinned and foul-looking, with purple glowing runes all over his body that spell out swear words in every known language.He is initially brusque with the party, but when Chelsea claims ownership of the manor, the creature scoffs and says it was Kalinda’s dying curse that drew him to this place of power in the first place, and from here he now works to bring down the Dragon-blooded empire once and for all.Oops.
The creature, named Obscene Markings (a nephrack of considerable power), decides he’s done toying around with the party and one of his arms grows to a massive club with spikes.Chelsea notices the hearthstone, a storm-filled orb, on the pedestal in the middle of the room some meters away, so she steals it with Mind-Hand Manipulation and flies back the way she came at top speed.Her attempt to navigate through the confusing layout of the manor goes badly, however, and just as she thinks she’s getting back to the skylight room, she throws a door open… and finds herself staring at a Dragon-blooded soldier in full white jade armor sitting in a chair across from a hooded and cloaked figure of an old lady.Double oops.
The Dragon-blood, Ragara Diora, is startled in particular by the appearance of Kagami, and demands to know why he defied Diora’s orders for no one to ever enter the manor.“Kagami” asks why Diora broke his own rule, but Diora says he was protecting the empire.Sam subtly accuses him of treason, increasing his blood pressure.The old woman (of whom there is a portrait on the wall labeled “Ragara Moya”) sees Obscene Markings as he arrives and demands to know what’s going on.Everyone seems a little too familiar with each other here, and when Moya says Kagami and his friend must die to preserve the secret, Chelsea does the only thing that comes to mind: she seizes mental control of the hearthstone and puts a wall between themselves and the enemies.What follows is a delicious few minutes of Yakkity Sax as Chelsea and Sam flee from Obscene Markings and Ragara Diora through doors and hallways, changing the architecture in their wake.Finally they make it back to the skylight and burst through with no regard for stealth.
As Dragon-blooded arrows bounce off the underside of Chelsea’s psychic surfboard, they return to the ship, and Welkin, who has been watching the entire thing with his eyepiece, tells Chelsea to open the front door and move the enemies to that door.With a well-timed Rubik’s cube swap, Diora and Obscene Markings are suddenly standing at the front door, and in a massive volley of elemental and arcane power Obscene Markings is vaporized.What follows next is an incredibly awkward conversation with Ragara Diora, as he seems to be in a very compromising position, and his attempts to bully the other Dragon-blooded into dropping it aren’t working since these are dedicated Wyld Hunters and not his subordinates.He also accuses Kagami of being inside the manor, but Kagami clearly was not and has an alibi, so the weirdness of the conversation increases.Finally Diora and Kagami are both taken back to the Immaculate temple for further examination, leaving the manor wide open.
Sam and Chelsea fly back down to explore the manor, finding it abandoned even with Sam’s new earthsense awareness charms. An exploration of the outer rooms of the first floor reveal little of substance besides the room with the portrait of Ragara Moya (and portraits of various other Ragaras). The painting appears to have been willed into existence, as Sam sees that it is impossible for an ordinary brush to produce the painting as it is. Chelsea keeps one of the small portraits for reference.
Exploring deeper into the mansion, they come across another room with portraits, this one containing a center portrait of the Wanderer, with a face naggingly, almost infuriatingly familiar to Sam. Chelsea, noting a strong family resemblance, mentions this to Sam, who is suddenly thunderstruck by the realization that the young woman is his sister Dora, looking the exact same as the day she died hundreds of years ago. The painting is once again not made by mortal brush, and the other portraits are also of Iselsi who bear strong family resemblances to Sam.
Sam takes down the portrait and searches it, finding a note tucked into one corner. To Sam it reads: “Sam, see you soon, Dora”. However, Chelsea’s essence sight reveals the letter actually contains instructions to go to a certain address in the City of the Watchers. Chelsea doesn’t mention this right away, and Sam becomes distressed, hoping to find the Wanderer soon.
At this point they feel approaching footsteps, and Chelsea hides up the chimney while Sam conceals himself in the room. In walks Ragara Moya, who spots Sam and talks down to him like the Dragon-blooded boy that he is. When Sam identifies himself by name, Moya immediately grasps that the Wanderer somehow sent for him through fate, and elaborates that this manse allows both Moya and the Wanderer to manipulate fate because of its unique location and power. She asks about Obscene Markings, who Sam suggests is no longer useful, but Moya merely sighs and remarks that it may take him months to regenerate this time. She says that both she and the Wanderer are working to save the Realm each in their own way, but that they need Obscene Markings’s help to do it and he wants to destroy the Realm, which makes this all very frustrating. Chelsea starts to get the idea that the hearthstone she is holding may be more potent than she realized.
Moya is acting friendlier now, and asks if Sam grew up under another house. Sam confirms that some have called him Peleps Samuel. Moya begins digressing here and there, mentioning her own grandchildren do not have the same will that the Iselsi do, and expresses admiration that the Iselsi could have their house dismantled and still remain organized enough to claim their true heritage while pretending to live under another banner. Moya expresses frustration at how difficult it was to persuade Diora to implant Obscene Markings’s curse into the Prefect’s son, which was a necessary step to enable them to channel one of their more powerful spells that they are influencing the Loom of Fate with. When Sam asks about it, Moya scoffs and says the Wanderer may or may not choose to inform him about it.
Ragara Moya eventually leaves after mentioning she’s looking forward to hearing what the Wanderer has to say to Sam. Chelsea comes out of hiding and the two fly back on Chelsea’s psychic surfboard back to the ship. Welkin plots a circuitous route that can drop off the party within easy walking distance of the city, and the plan is to meet up with the Wanderer at her designated meeting place that Chelsea has read on the note.
As the Crimson Gale approaches the city (it is early afternoon by this point) Welkin calls up a fog bank that lets him drop the party off while keeping the ship hidden, and he quickly takes off, promising to return as soon as summoned.Sam reverts his disguise to look like a more handsome version of himself, and he, Txori, Grey and Chelsea all head into the city, finding the address to be of a moderately sized Immaculate temple in the poorer quarter of the city.This temple clearly makes reference to local deities and is staffed by different Immaculate monks than the ones in the major temple that houses the Wyld Hunt.
After wandering through the main part of the church, the party decides to go out back, where there is a small cemetery and a prayer garden dedicated to the five elemental dragons.While everyone is sitting around enjoying the garden, a hooded and cloaked figure arrives and sits next to Sam, and lo and behold it’s the Wanderer, AKA his sister Dora, who is clearly a ghost (Txori detects no heartbeat and no breathing, and Sam can see her eyes are empty black holes).
Dora and Sam have a brief chat, and soon Dora reveals that she knows her father arranged her death when she walked in on him and his family plotting to assassinate the Empress.She died, but her ghost was saved by someone called the Doctor, who she has worked for as an agent in the Underworld ever since.She knew Sam would come back, as his fate line disappeared instead of ending, and when she asked about the circumstances of his disappearance, Sam describes how he was caught in a trap and ended up in the future.Dora suggests he may have been sent on his mission secretly by their father, Iselsi Kane, in conjunction with a strange, magical piece of paper that Dora had seen her family poring over.
When the Iselsi attempted and failed to assassinate the Empress, most of them were killed immediately, but their older brother Iselsi Karan escaped with this magical paper and with an artifact armor that helped him evade fate tracking, so Dora lost track of him, but ultimately found him again in the South years later.He went on to have a son, and eventually a grandson, who is Iselsi Kagami.What Dora believes is that Karan hid the important paper somewhere in Chiaroscuro, where Kagami is based, somewhere well-protected and ancient.Dora can’t leave the island but she asks the party to locate whatever magical paper it was that compelled the Iselsi to attempt to assassinate the Empress.
Session Quotes! (So many good ones)
Jennifer: “I’ll have to find some scarf for my hair since it’s constantly unbraiding and rebraiding itself.” DM: “That’s fine, you can always say you’re god blooded–” Debbie: “Lice, lots of lice.”
Debbie: “But they might find out I’m Dragon-blooded.” Someone: “There’s worse people they could find out about.” DM: “Yeah like anyone else in the party.”
Alejo, several times: “Immaculate Mastah!”
DM: “Is there any other dragon blooded charm that is as remotely unintentionally overpowered as Revelation of Associates Hunch??” Debbie: “I haven’t found one.” Jennifer: “Facebook!” DM: “It’s clearly meant as a get to know you charm, but as written it’s basically a mind probe.”
DM: “There is a huge, apparently abandoned mansion on a hill in the middle of the Stormy Plains.” Someone: “Oh that’s not suspicious at all.” Debbie: “Let’s go say our car broke down and we need to use their phone!”
Someone re:Revelation of Associates Hunch: “I’m just gonna download a few things from your brain”
DM: *giving NPC speech* Debbie: “I hate do this to you but I have to cut you off.” Jennifer: “Imma let you finish but–“
Lieutenant: “If I may just give you some advice though, there is a house in that shadowland you should avoid, few who venture in that direction survive.” Sam: “Yeah that’s where we’re going.”
Eli: “It’s not the shadowland that’s dangerous, it’s…. yeah… I’m trying!”
Eli: “We’ll have to investigate this house carefully, we’ll need food and rest, and some wine, no not wine, well maybe a little wine…”
Eli: “There is no peasant, only zuul…”
Eli: “I’ll just file that under ‘terrible news’…”
Eli: “Do we have some kind of “these are not the droids you’re looking for” charm for this ship?”
Eli: “I could put some kind of hidden message on the underside of the ship saying there’s nothing here.”
Eli: “’The real enemies are on the ground.’ That seems pretty truthy to me.”
Chelsea: “Get the shot off quick, I’m gonna shield us” Txori: “I don’t understand this, but I like it!”
Txori: “I don’t know about the rest of you guys, but as far as I’m concerned, there is no wind”
DM: “It sounds like the raksha just want Sam, you could chuck him over the side.” Jennifer: “That’s not a precedent I want to set.”
DM: “So, uh, the Crimson Gale can do barrel rolls huh?” Taylor: “My wits + sail roll will contest any determination that it can’t!”
Sam: “I turn my armor into a g suit.”
*Raksha monster dives into the ocean* Eli: “I feel safer already.”
Chelsea: “If you can help me be stealthy it would be helpful” Sam: “Okay I recommend doing this, this and this”
Jennifer: “I want to roll perception socialize to notice Sam’s reaction to this portrait.” DM: “It’s pretty obvious, this is his sister–” Jennifer: “8 successes!” DM: “Wow, way to waste a good roll. ‘I perceive you are in some kind of emotional turmoil.’ ” Debbie: “Thank you Counselor Troi.”
Welkin has already charted a course west, since they had been told the oasis was on the way to their next mission, so it’s an easy trip over the barren desert.While on their way, though, Txori receives a report from the elemental spies she placed in Sanity’s Weeping Wound’s courts.Apparently, they had missed a caravan worker who escaped into the desert and died of exposure, and whose ghost was then picked up by Sanity’s Weeping Wound’s forces and interrogated.Between that and the last report from the White Bone Mistress, they now have a good idea of what the Crimson Gale is like, including its shapeshifting power, and all spies throughout the South have been instructed to keep an eye out for it.This means that Welkin does not want to leave his ship unattended and also doesn’t really want Edelweiss to take the ship without any support away from Gem, so he says he will drop Sam, Txori and Grey at the outskirts of Gem and come back for them in a week or so.
Welkin drops the party at the outskirts of Gem under cover of night and takes off, leaving them only with instructions to locate their contact, who they only know by name and sight.Gem is a very, very large city of over a million inhabitants, but it seems at night the most active places in the slums are the water sale stations, when the water evaporates less.Visiting the nearest of these major stations, the party spots a woman who matches the description they were given.This woman also spots them, as she’s looking around using her essence sight, noticing a Realm-ethnicity man wearing an illusion of a Southerner and a woman wearing Orichalcum artifacts under her loose clothing (and also Grey, who doesn’t seem to stand out much).
They meet and go somewhere less conspicuous, and Crystal reveals that there is a weapon of mass destruction somewhere in this city that has been appropriated and, once activated, will likely shatter the crystals under Gem, set off the volcanoes, and generally kill everyone in Gem, leaving only an active volcano.This is apparently supposed to be for the First and Forsaken Lion to get a shadowland, but the volcano will prevent the shadowland from forming, and no one will be happy.Some probing from Txori prompts Crystal to reveal that she was the original constructor of this device, and Sam’s use of Revelation of Associates Hunch reveals all of Crystal’s acquaintances are demons or other Yozi servants.This is all suspicious as hell but Crystal seems fervently committed to keeping Gem from exploding, so they join forces.
The party snoops back around the water sale station and Crystal points out two cultists (identified from minor trinkets they’re carrying that are not commonly known to be cultist gear).Sam then buddies up to them using Crystal’s provided code phrases, and talks up his desire to serve the Yozis after a dream sent him here.The two cultists, Achmed and Billy Bob, are impressed with Sam and bring him back to their home, where Achmed probes him further on his dream.Sam uses Revelation of Associates Hunch again (which the DM is beginning to believe is way more powerful than intended) and mentions he was sent to meet with Bishop Agonidal, who happens to be Achmed’s bishop.Coincidence!!This further impresses both cultists, and they go to sleep so as to head up in the morning.Txori is able to hear all of this using her super senses and updates Crystal, then they all hide and rest as well.
Morning comes, and Crystal wants to send advice to Sam about how to get the cult’s attention, so she tells Txori about it, and Txori makes an ad: “Camels for sale!” with details that only Sam can read as advice: “Mention you had a vision of you toiling at a crystal sphere.Eat no more than 1 bug.”Sam gets it while walking up the hill with Achmed and Billy Bob, as Txori, Grey and Crystal tail them.They head into the market of Gem, underground in the lava tubes, and stop by a respectable shop built directly into the rock.Achmed, Billy Bob and Sam head to the back and talk with the shopkeeper in what is fairly plainly coded language, after which they are permitted into the back room.There they see a couple stock boys coming and going, and a thin elderly man studying a strange device of some kind.He sets it down and asks Achmed and Billy Bob who they have brought.Sam introduces himself, and after a bit of back and forth with a suspicious Bishop, Sam uses Revelation of Associates Hunch yet again, identifying the Cardinal Lieuchrie as the next man up the ladder.Sam claims no great skills but hard work, good hands and dedication to the Yozi cause.The Bishop raises an eyebrow, then snaps a finger, sending a stockboy running out the door (and past Crystal and Txori).The stockboy disappears down an alley and soon four big guards hustle through the door carrying a large wooden crate.They drop the crate in the back room, right in front of Sam, and then leave.Achmed and Billy Bob open the crate, revealing a bound, gagged and blindfolded wealthy man.The Bishop pulls out a big serrated knife for Sam to ritually sacrifice this man with, and as Achmed and Billy Bob start putting down newspaper, Sam remarks aloud what a proud day this is for him and he wishes his friends were there.This is definitely for Txori’s benefit.
Txori comes up to the guard at the front of the store and tells him that the Ashen Guard are on their way there, and hints that he should immediately tell the Bishop.The guard, being none too bright, immediately dashes back, with Txori, Grey and Crystal right behind him.As soon as the guard gets there and sputters out that the Ashen Guard are coming, the Bishop whirls and asks if he saw them.The guard blinks and says that Txori saw them, but what happens next is an ambush, as Crystal pins the Bishop to the wall with telekinesis, Txori dodges the guard’s attack (“You tricked me!”) and winds up outside the shop, and Achmed attacks Sam (“We trusted you!”) only to find himself strangling Billy Bob instead.Sam then whips the guard to a pillar with his chain, Txori shoots and kills the clerk who was pulling out a large firewand (which goes off and sets the shop on fire), and Crystal demands compliance from the Bishop while flashing her caste mark at him.Agonidal immediately cracks and says he doesn’t know where the device is but it’s deep underground.Meanwhile, Txori has Achmed and Billy Bob at arrowpoint but reads defiance in their eyes and kills them, while Sam takes his chain off the unconscious guard and wraps up the Bishop.Agonidal says the Cardinal is in charge of the device and it will be ready in less than a week, but rolls 5 successes on conviction after that point and refuses to give up any more info.He ceases to be useful awake at that point.
Txori unblindfolds and ungags the victim, getting his name and giving him the Bishop to do with as he wishes.The party goes to put out the fire, and while they’re doing that, the stockboy runs back in the shop, takes in the scene, and tries to flee, but Sam snags him with his chain.The stockboy knows very little, but offers to take the party to where they want to go, but it’s merely to the nearby guards, so Sam threatens him with the fire, and when it doesn’t work, he knocks him out and leaves him in the shop.
Sam steps into the back room alone, takes on the appearance of the Bishop, then comes out, and the four of them head over to the guards.They find at least eight in the room down the alley, and the Bishop immediately calls for four to escort them to the Cardinal.The guards immediately comply, walking them through the market and into the residential area of the wealthy.They stop at one of the great manors, and Sam tells them to wait outside.They are escorted in by servants and Sam calls to meet the Cardinal immediately.The party is kept waiting for only a few moments before Cardinal Lieuchrie arrives, smooth-talking and earnest (and encased in Demon armor, according to Crystal’s eyes).
The party’s story is that they need to modify the weapon of mass destruction to require fewer souls since the Despot’s people are getting suspicious of the disappearances.The Cardinal is surprised by this, especially since he says he was assured that Meticulous Owl was handling the Despot’s people, and questions their credentials, but the party claims they were sent by Xeroclea, and there was no time for any dream-missive or other communication, especially since they are specialists who can make the modifications.Once Crystal delves into lies about the geography of the region, the Cardinal appears totally convinced, and says he can escort them himself to the device through a secret door in his basement.Txori checks his words through Sagacious Reading of Intent and finds instead that he intends to imprison them all, so when they reach the stairs, Txori puts an arrow into the lock of the door that he was about to open with a big key, then points an arrow in his face.
The Cardinal is surprised and confused, of course, and when he is asked if the door leads to the Clown, he exclaims that of course it does, but Crystal sees through his feeble lies.Pressured by the entire party at his throat (and by Crystal’s caste mark), the Cardinal explains that he cannot bring the party to meet with the Clown, but he can bring them to meet with Meticulous Owl.The party goes along with this, so the Cardinal leads them out of his mansion and down the street a few blocks to another mansion.They are let in by an exceptionally frazzled butler who brings them to a waiting room with food and drink (and a dancer).
Txori heightens her senses to their limit and listens to the butler’s footsteps as they go up the stairs, and on the next floor he opens a door and speaks with someone, advising them that he has visitors who are familiar.With some brief banter between the mysterious host and the butler, and from the sound of his voice, Txori determines their host is the same man they rescued a few hours ago, and that the butler (and presumably everyone else in the house) thought that the returning man was an evil doppelgänger who has been dealt with already.Once the butler leaves, the host returns to writing down some note, which Txori is able to discern using Discerning Savant’s Eye and her absurdly good perception+awareness roll.Apparently the note is updating someone that this person is onto them, has sent descriptions and plans to send their heads in for identification.The note is placed into something that clicks and scrapes and then vanishes.
Txori manages to clue the rest of the party in on this imminent problem, and warns the Cardinal that his usefulness has come to an end.Crystal decides this is a hint, and telekinetically snaps his neck, much to Txori’s shock.The demon armor slithers off him and up a chimney, and the party arranges him to be reclining and resting.Once the merchant friend opens the door and finds them, the party indicates they should let the Cardinal rest, and step into another room.What follows is a bizarre conversation about all manner of things, with each side trying to indirectly get information out of the other.By the conclusion of it, it appears that this Meticulous Owl is a liar, a troublemaker, and is planning to kill off the party, but Txori gets him to agree to a binding oath to bring them to the Clown and for neither to harm the other until he is found.
Meticulous Owl leads them down the stairs, out some streets, and down into a mineshaft.Soon they arrive on a catwalk overlooking a large chamber, with Crystal’s weapon of mass destruction sitting in the center, and a number of slaves being fed into its soul-flaying chamber.Other slaves are being kept in cages, and pillars and piles of rubble lie all around.The Clown himself, Ja de Veon, is standing amongst the slaves, cackling as they are fed into the machine.Meticulous Owl calls out loudly, “Hey Ja de Veooon, we found you!”Battle is promptly joined, and Txori tries putting some arrows through Meticulous Owl’s chest, only to find he is impossible to hit, flitting around the room and stopping behind a pillar.Sam runs down to try and bring combat to Ja de Veon, who snaps a huge axe out of nowhere, and the two begin a fast-paced, cagey duel.Meticulous Owl tries throwing a crypt bolt at Txori, who dodges to behind another pillar, and then tries for Grey but botches and puts the crypt bolt through the machine, starting its countdown.
Crystal identifies how to stop the machine but suffers two setbacks: first, her use of Past Life knowledge to diagnose the machine causes her First Age Solar personality Kalinda to take over. Luckily, Kalinda wants the machine taken down as badly as Crystal does, if not more, so that’s not an immediate problem. Second, she botches her athletic attempt to get down from the catwalk, spraining her ankle, which is an immediate problem.Grey gets down with her and helps her over, so she can use her telekinetic abilities to put a stop to the machine, while Txori puts some arrows in Ja de Veon while Sam is still attempting to chain him up.Out of nowhere, Meticulous Owl hits Sam with a crypt bolt from the shadows, grievously wounding him, and he hobbles out of the way of Ja de Veon, who is also limping around from aggravated damage from Txori’s arrows.Crystal puts a stop to the machine, then gets back out of the way of trouble, while Meticulous Owl’s attempt at sneak attacking Txori isn’t nearly as productive as it was against Sam.Txori puts two arrows into Meticulous Owl, who just barely manages to hobble away, and after Sam sneaks up on Ja de Veon and wounds him further, Txori finishes him with an arrow as well.
At this point Txori and Crystal are both glowing like bonfires, but after dismantling the machine beyond repair and releasing the slaves (some of whom run screaming about anathema) there doesn’t seem to be much immediate response from the authorities, so once the anima banners have died down a bit the party vacates the premises.
Kalinda’s still in control for a while, and after some fruitless efforts to see if anyone in the party is anyone she used to know, she’s happy to spill the beans on why Crystal built a doomsday device in the first place: it was supposed to destabilize Creation in its area of effect so the Yozis could re-form it as they wished, but Crystal meant for it to be used somewhere where it wouldn’t destroy resources she actually needed, and definitely didn’t want it removed from her control and adapted into a shadowland-generator and every-adult-in-the-area killing machine, which is what Ja de Veon had intended. Apparently Crystal thinks her machine would have left the land too unstable to even settle into shadowland anyway, such that _no one’s_ goals would have been served by setting it off (and she’d be left with the blame for building something that “didn’t work”). The party listens politely, but naturally see no reason to improve their opinion of anyone involved.
Crystal regains control by nightfall and decides now is a good time to try and get back to Malfeas while the getting’s good, so she tracks down the Bishop, who had escaped thanks to Meticulous Owl, extracts the location of the nearest portal to Malfeas from him, then kills him, ostensibly leaving no loose strings.She gets back to her lab to find Amber Veins already there, much to her surprise, and her version of events that Felhart has coached her through doesn’t match what he has in his letter, nor does it match the truth as his own lie-detecting charm reveals.Stricken with the knowledge that she is now an outcast from Infernal society and liable to be locked up and executed, Crystal throws Amber Veins through a window with her telekinesis, grabs some of her lab stuff, and sprints back through the portal into Gem, stopping to yank out important parts of the portal once through.She returns to the party, asking if she can catch a ride on their airship, and the party seems to take it somewhat in stride.Welkin was already called by Grey’s spell, and soon arrives to pick up everyone and whisk them away to their next mission.
Debbie, Re: Taylor’s absence and Welkin’s taking the ship away: “Oh THAT’S why you did that”
DM: “Don’t suppose anyone questioned why Barabella is gone and Welkin has shiny new goggles?” Eli: “I would happily trade her for a fine bottle of wine.” Debbie: “Or maybe not so fine…” Alejo: “I will trade you for the amount of whiskey it would take to forget you.” Debbie: “That might be a lot of whiskey.”
Debbie, on seeing the contact: “Oh THIS is Jennifer’s character.” Alejo: “I’m glad you’re feeling better today, Debbie, we’re getting the sassy version.”
Jennifer, on über-sense vision charms: “The dust mites! THEY’RE EVERYWHERE!”
Crystal: “Well the machine runs on souls.” Txori: “I don’t care if it runs off sand and ground lamb, how does it kill people?”
Eli: “If we try to convince people honestly we’ll need strong evidence which doesn’t exist…” Alejo: “So we try to convince people dishonestly!”
The Yozi cultist greeting includes the phrase: “I for one welcome our Eternal Yozi Overlords.”
It is my sad duty to report that Taylor will be taking a break from Exalted to ensure that he completes his degree without any problems. Welkin will be an NPC, and we look forward to playing with Taylor again once he graduates!