Welkin sets a course for Vora-Dun, the sacred land of the nomadic Delzahn, after first making a pit stop to buy a bunch of food for the banquet. While en route, Txori takes time to educate everyone in basic Flametongue and also updates them on the customs of the notoriously aggressive and prideful Delzahn nomads. Sam and Welkin both Rosetta-stone Flametongue, while Ah Nold tries to increase his essence without enough experience points for it and thus stands around screaming in a constipated manner for a while. At some point, Sam manages to disguise Ah Nold’s battle armor to appear to be red jade instead of orichalcum, helping him pass off as a Dragon-blooded.
The Crimson Gale takes a circuitous route, partially to give Welkin time to develop his new charms, and arrives on the first day of the celebration. Vora-Dun is a two-square-mile raised plateau in the middle of the desert that the Delzahn people hold sacred, and when Welkin touches the Crimson Gale down on the outskirts of it, an Or-Khan and a large posse of nobles arrive and hostilely demand they remove themselves from this space that only Delzahn nobility may stand on. Ah Nold tries threatening him in his version of Flametongue, but since his Seven Visions Medallion contains the ghost of his first age incarnation who is from five thousand years ago, his Flametongue sounds archaic and confusing to listen to. Txori rapidly smooths things over by promising to have them land in the permissible area. As they fly by, Sam notes that many people who are not Delzahn nobility are in fact walking around in defiance of this supposedly sacred law, some serving a specific role and others being of mixed heritage.
The Crimson Gale lands on the flat plain near the easily accessible north face of the plateau, and another posse of Delzahn rapidly accost them. This one is led by an Or-Khan named Hungharn who is much friendlier and commits his people to helping unload the food. Soon the food is unloaded and the party is standing around, scheming to get more info.
Welkin finds a local watering hole populated by non-Delzahn merchants, mostly from the Guild. After chatting them up for a bit Welkin rapidly learns that support for Matajin is fading due to his inactivity for the last few years. He has ceased to be a strong leader and isn’t conducting raids or riding out to war, and some Or-Khans are probably plotting to overthrow him, particularly Armukh, who matches the description of the Or-Khan who kicked them off the plateau in the first place. Welkin is excited by this nugget and runs to find Ah Nold, who is amusing himself by beating nobles at feats of strength and duels. One noble actually beats Ah Nold in an archery contest, but Ah Nold goads him into a bare-handed duel, which he handily wins. Welkin starts acting as Ah Nold’s hype man, claiming even the khans bow before Ah Nold, leading another Or-Khan to challenge Ah Nold, and though Ah Nold wins handily again, he is starting to show his anima rather strongly so he takes a break. He is soon invited up to Vora-Dun to continue his run of challenges.
Txori has Grey making various fancy children’s toys and selling them, attracting quite a crowd of children. Eventually this attracts the attention of Hungharn, who invites Txori and Grey up to Vora-Dun to further ply their wares. Once up there, Txori asks Sam, who has unobtrusively tagged along, to watch for any children of the Khan. Soon Sam spots two boys who strongly resemble the Khan, but aren’t especially close in features to his daughter. Txori nudges Grey to them, and soon their mother, dressed as a woman of only middling social status, comes to tend to them and they ask her to buy one of the spring-loaded toys for them. She does easily, and Txori takes notes of this for later.
Now Welkin gathers everyone together for his master plan, refined with some discussion: he can implant a small fire explosion into one of Grey’s toys, Sam can disguise himself as an anonymous Delzahn noble and give it to Armukh with a letter which has Txori’s letter-within-a-letter suggesting it be given to the Khan and/or his daughter, staging an assassination attempt, which Welkin can take advantage of by arguing with Armukh immediately afterwards in the presence of others, and Welkin’s Listener-Swaying Argument charm will immediately convince everyone that Welkin’s accusations are completely valid. Armukh removed, the party ingratiated to the Khan, and a chance to scan the targets further with more information gathering charms and abilities. The perfect crime!!!
Txori writes the letter with the following information:
Plain text: Please accept this token of our gratitude for your excellent leadership and guidance. You are the finest and wisest of khans! Let your prized children enjoy this special gift purchased at great expense for our noble lord.
Hidden text: Please enjoy this barely adequate gift. It is cheap and foreign. Give it to one you hold in low esteem during the banquet, so his feeble offspring can further dull their minds.
Sam transforms into an anonymous Delzahn noble, hands it to Armukh before the banquet, slips away and turns back into himself. At the banquet, Khan Matajin presents himself and his wife (not the same woman Txori met) to the guests, and the party commences. Once the primary eating has settled down somewhat, Armukh goes up to the Khan and presents his gift to the Khan. He goes to sit back down, and the Khan inspects it briefly (of course finding nothing unusual) and sets it aside. After a few minutes, Grey makes a show of standing and pointing at his toy, which Sam then sprints over and knocks the Khan and his wife over right as Welkin detonates the flame weapon, burning Sam for 1L but mostly making a big show. Welkin then immediately points in an accusatory fashion over at Armukh, claiming he intended to assassinate the Khan or his daughter. Armukh furiously and smugly refutes Welkin’s points, but the moment an argument is created the public’s mind is made up by Welkin’s magnificent charm (literally and figuratively) and hauls Armukh away to be executed for treason.
Sam rapidly chats up the Khan and his wife, enabling him to use Revelation of Associate’s Hunch. The Khan’s associates are his family and the Or-Khans, but his wife’s associates include the apothecary Willsa and a Raksha named Shynor the Taster at the top of her list. SUPER SUSPICIOUS. The Khan’s wife, soon becoming fearful for her daughter’s well-being, rushes off to check on her after insisting that Sam be handsomely rewarded. Txori uses Sagacious Reading of Intent and reads that the wife is indeed concerned solely for the safety of her daughter. The Khan seems somewhat listless still but rattled enough to be in agreement. Sam asks to consult with his colleagues which the Khan acquiesces to easily. Sam huddles with everyone else and the new plan is to ask to dine with the Khan and his family. Sam asks for this and the Khan immediately makes it so, retiring to the big tent with some of his clansmen escorting Sam, Txori, Grey, Welkin and Ah Nold in as well. The Khan notices that Sam is wounded and calls for the apothecary, who soon arrives with his young female assistant in tow. Ah Nold is finally rewarded for his incessant Measure the Wind + Essence Sight on everyone, finding that the apothecary’s assistant is an Essence 3 Raksha. He subtly informs the rest of the party as the apothecary tends to Sam’s burn wounds. Sam uses Revelation of Associate’s Hunch on both the apothecary and his assistant, finding two more Raksha names: the apothecary is connected with Barabella the Unfair, while the assistant is associated with both Shynor the Taster and Krengen the Hungry.
Txori, knowing she has diplomatic immunity with Raksha, whispers in the assistant’s ear that they have business to discuss. The Raksha keeps a poker face but soon announces in a bubbly fashion that she’s going to collect more herbs and bring Txori along. Once they’re outside the tent, Txori tries to get more information about what’s going on, but the Raksha claims they live there in peace and are doing everything they can to help out, including keeping the daughter alive. Txori trusts none of this but lets her go.
While Txori is out, the Khan’s wife and daughter arrive, the daughter brought in on pillows, clearly being sickly. Ah Nold thinks that killing the daughter will solve the most fate problems, but Clippy his armor’s god takes total exception to this, locking down the armor and giving Ah Nold a stern talking to about finding better solutions that involve saving lives. Soon the Khan’s concubine, the woman Txori met before, arrives with the Khan’s two sons. Everyone notices that the Khan’s wife does NOT like the Khan’s concubine that has borne the Khan’s two young boys, plus Ah Nold notices the Khan likes the concubine a lot more than his wife. Ah Nold also scans the daughter with Essence Sight and interprets it with his Seven Visions Medallion medical library, finding she is very sick in the lungs with some nonmagical disease and some type of moderate magic is keeping her alive.
Txori has arrived back, and soon the Raksha does as well, causing Txori to activate her paranoia senses. Ah Nold is keeping a super-close eye on the Raksha, especially for the next part of the plan. Grey asks about the daughter’s health and why no one has tried to use Seven Bounties Paste, rare but clearly affordable for one of the Khan’s stature. The Khan claims it has been tried and hasn’t worked, and Welkin insists that it should work, and thus it must have been mis-applied. This draws the apothecary into an argument with Welkin, and once again Listener-Swaying Technique rapidly causes everyone to believe they can see through the apothecary’s feeble lies. While he is dragged off, Welkin volunteers to fly and collect more Seven Bounties Paste, with Grey claiming he should be able to use it to cure her. In that moment Ah Nold barely notices the Raksha getting away, and he takes off after her, tackling her once she’s in the abandoned space between several tents. She tries to drain his Valor, but he instinctively activates Integrity Protecting Prana to dispel the effect, then beats her into unconsciousness and drags her back to the tent. There he presents the girl as being a Raksha, and when this is met with some dubiousness, he takes some Iron Leaf Bush pressings and touches her skin, causing it to sizzle and smoke. A gasp rolls around the room.
The party now has the room’s attention. Txori, with her heightened senses both physical and social, detects that the Khan’s wife is shocked but not surprised, and is quite concerned. While the Khan begins speaking about how these foul creatures will pay for their deceptions, the wife excuses herself, saying she must take her daughter away from here, for protection. She gestures to the guards to bring her daughter. Txori, not trusting this woman, rapidly scribbles down a recipe for some healing herbs and remedies while secretly embedding a message inside:
Your scheme is undone, throw yourself on the Khan’s mercy or vanish forever.
Txori hands it over to Laliara smilingly and lets them leave. At the Khan’s command, Ah Nold awakens Barabella and she is questioned. The Raksha is tortured and threatened and attempts some feeble lies, but when Sam reveals they already know the names of the other two Raksha, Barabella fails a Valor roll and rapidly spills the beans, confirming what was already suspected: the Khan’s wife contracted the Raksha to extend her daughter’s life to save her political marriage to the Khan. The Uliyat clan, to which Laliara belongs, has long been a power-seeking family, but this revelation still stuns the Khan as much farther than their usual shenanigans. He sends a guard to fetch his wife.
The guard does not return, and after about fifteen minutes the party is ready to go after them. Ah Nold is kept behind to keep watch over the Khan while Txori, Grey, Welkin and Sam all are led by another guard to the Khan’s sleeping tent. The main part of the huge, lavish tent itself seems to be unoccupied, but when they get to the back the guard is there, gently caring for a big rock sitting in Hallun’s bedding. There is also a large hole in the back of the tent sliced open with some bladed weapon. The guard shushes the party, warning that the princess needs her sleep. This provokes some exasperation amongst the party, and also confuses the hell out of their guide.
Txori sends Onyx, her clockwork raiton familiar, up to search the area. Thanks to an exceptional survival roll, Onyx rapidly locates both Laliara (meeting with Uliyat clan members who are bringing horses and traveling supplies) and another cloaked figure running the opposite direction at some considerable speed, carrying something in its arms. Once Txori shares this information, Welkin sends Jack, his tree singer after Laliara with instructions to sing for them, which will put them into a trance and eventually make them pass out. The goal is to delay them until they can be dealt with.
Onyx gets close enough to identify the runner as a Raksha carrying Hallun, so Txori, concerned for the child’s safety and furious that the child seems to be a pawn in this, uses There Is No Wind and Essence Arrow and a Conviction roll and Onyx’s spotting to shoot the Raksha from hundreds of yards away. The arrow arcs, blazing holy light, giving the Raksha a moment to try and dodge, and she ends up with one lethal damage as the arrow takes off an ear and part of her cheek. She falls but manages to keep the child safe, then looks around to try to see what happened. Thanks to a botched Stealth roll, she rapidly spots the clockwork raiton trying to pretend it’s a taxidermy, and tells it coldly that she has the child as a bargaining chip and will exchange it for one of her own (presumably Barabella). Then she keeps on running. She is getting away, as Sam is fast but not as fast as a Raksha, and Grey and Welkin aren’t having that much luck either. Txori climbs up onto a nearby tent and prepares for another shot while Welkin gets out his glider and uses his Wind Jewel to take off and rapidly catch up.
Txori gets a window for another shot and takes it, this time using a target arrow and the Righteous Judgment version of Essence Arrow (since apparently shaped Raksha do not count as creatures of darkness). This one hits brutally, disintegrating the runner’s knee as she is putting weight on it, causing her to crash to the ground, separating her shoulder and smashing up her face. Welkin rapidly arrives and lands nearby carefully (discarding his plan to clock her on a flyby). As he approaches, however, the Raksha looks at him and her eyes begin to glow, causing Welkin to reflexively launch a dart into each eye. These are thrown with such power that they snap her head back completely and slay her. She slowly begins to disintegrate as Welkin picks Hallun up and walks away. Sam soon arrives and takes the girl, trying to inspect her and seems to think she’s healthy (due to a botched medicine roll). Grey arrives a few moments later, taking Hallun, and when Sam suggests she is healed, Grey immediately identifies her as still being very sick.
They bring Hallun back to the Khan, with Ah Nold still holding Barabella in uncomfortable body locks. They report that Laliara is preparing to escape with the help of some Uliyat clan members, which riles up the Khan, even more when hearing that Hallun was in the grasp of another Raksha, most likely Shynor the Taster. The Khan demands to be taken to his wife immediately, which Txori does so with Grey and Welkin. Sam and Ah Nold, meanwhile, go back to collect the body of Shynor, with Barabella still in tow.
The Khan arrives and awakens Laliara, questioning her furiously as to her motives. His wife admits that she gave their daughter to Shynor, but she was not to be harmed, it was merely as a bargaining tool and she was assured Hallun would be safe. Nevertheless, this is clearly an act of treason, not to mention it causes Txori to completely lose it, as she has above all a soft spot in her heart for children, especially ones being used as pawns. Txori pledges to assist with any and all punishments to be doled out here. The Khan seems to be getting back to his old self, as he has all the Uliyat clansmen rounded up for questioning.
Meanwhile, Ah Nold and Sam arrive at where Shynor’s colored sand corpse was located, only the body is gone. Sam locates tracks and signs that something recently passed through the rock here. This is attributed to probably be the third Raksha, Krengen the Hungry, so when they return back and the party gathers together again (after the Khan says his business with the party is concluded for the moment) they question Barabella again for more information on Krengen. She describes him as a massive, shark-like Raksha with a sword with a shark’s mouth, and he spends most of his time off hunting or traveling underground with his Fey Beast which is in the form of a sand wyrm. Sam was able to identify some of the bits of rock in the track as being from deep bedrock, indicating this sand wyrm is capable of traveling deep into solid rock.
After some brainstorming, the new plan is to summon an Earth elemental and ask it for help in cleansing the Earth of this foul creature. It’s a four-hour summoning ritual, and about halfway through Txori can vaguely sense movement deep underground. Fortunately it doesn’t come any closer, and eventually the spell is complete. Before them stands a massive humanoid carved from living stone, a Jokun who explains his name is Rocky. Grey articulately explains their situation and asks for his help, and Rocky says if Grey simply releases him here he will gladly help deal with this creature. Since Jokun are known for their honor, Grey accedes, and Rocky rapidly develops a basic plan, which is that he will force the sand wyrm to the surface on the low ground near the edge of the plateau, and will keep it from resubmerging while the party deals with it. The plan is accepted, and everyone gathers for an ambush. Rocky also provides some diamonds he has lying around, and Ah Nold studs his Essence Gauntlets with them.
Rocky sinks into the ground, and the waiting begins. Welkin, Txori and Grey gather on the high ground, Ah Nold flies overhead while cloaked, and Sam uses his armor to appear to be Barabella. The real Barabella is knocked out and imprisoned on the ship, with Edelweiss watching over her.
About fifteen minutes after Rocky submerged, a rumbling begins, and soon a two-hundred-foot-long sand wyrm erupts from the ground, casting boulders aside like waves of water, with Rocky literally forcing it aboveground while grunting and straining.
Ah Nold dive-bombs the surprised sand wyrm and smashes it with his Essence Gauntlets viciously, wounding it. It thrashes and from its mouth Krengen the Hungry appears, disoriented and furious. Txori places a deadly shot at the sand wyrm, punching a hole through its mouth and side, causing it to uncoil and roll down to the ground. Krengen manages to keep his balance but he has no chance of noticing Sam who sneaks up (with 16 successes) on Krengen, wraps him with his fighting chain, and then in a fit of genius, wraps the other end of the chain around his own hands and appears by Krengen’s side, making it look like Barabella has been trapped by the same chain. With 11 successes on the larceny roll and a charm to mimic her voice, “Barabella” calls for help, completely fooling Krengen and distracting him. Welkin leaps in, not wanting to use firebombs since the assassination attempt the previous day was carried out with firebombs, so he leaps in with a triple javelin attack, two of which pin his arms and the third of which includes Jack farting on his face. All this leads up to Ah Nold striding up confidently and smashes Krengen’s face in, not completely killing him but certainly ending the fight.
Rocky thanks the party for the excellent encounter and promises to be available in the future if they need help purging the Earth of more monstrosities. He drags the fey sand wyrm underground and is gone. Now left with Barabella and Krengen, a discussion ensues on what to do with them. Finally they are collected and awakened and Welkin tells them that there is one open position for a crewman on his ship. Barabella is clearly terrified of Krengen but also has no loyalty to him so she soon volunteers if she will get protection from him. Welkin takes her back to the Crimson Gale to be indoctrinated, while the rest of the party drags Krengen back to the main encampment where Khan Matajin is still holding his inquisition of the Uliyat clan. Ah Nold presents Krengen, and the Khan makes a brief speech/trial, condemns him to death, and Ah Nold punches his face in, slaying him. The Khan has more business (trials) to attend to but has one of his noble relatives pull the party aside to discuss compensation for their heroics.
The Khan’s cousin, Ogode, brings Txori, Grey, Sam and Ah Nold to a tent to discuss compensation, but the most important thing is the matter of Hallun still. The new court physician has estimated she has only a few days to live without the apothecary or the Raksha to heal her, and no Seven Bounties Paste remains in their supplies. Some debate crops up as to how to get her healed, with some leaning towards ferrying her to Chiaroscuro to save time. While this is going on, another Delzahn noble arrives and asks for a moment alone with the group. Ogode seems reluctant but allows it while he sends for Hallun. Once the noble is alone with the party, he asks who the party is, seeing through the cagey vague answers easily. Ah Nold uses Measure the Wind on the noble, finding that he’s an Essence 8 Lunar, who reveals his name is Tamuz when questioned. Kliptheros has some minimal information on Tamuz, and Ah Nold reveals he knows some of it, causing Tamuz to ask what his first age name was. Kliptheros reveals it to Ah Nold, who relays it, causing Tamuz to stroke his beard thoughtfully.
Tamuz asks how the party was able to crack the mystery of what was causing the Delzahn to fracture and resolve it so easily when he had been failing to do so for over a year. Kliptheros knows about Tamuz’s struggles with the Raksha so Ah Nold plays on that for a bit, pushing Tamuz’s buttons slightly. He is grateful to the party, however, and leaves them with a warning that if his own eyes in the crowd were able to spot that Ah Nold is in fact a Solar, other eyes would no doubt be able to as well, and the party had best leave and not come back anytime soon because the Wyld Hunt is likely to have spies around.
Tamuz leaves right as Ogode returns with Hallun and three of her cousins bearing her on pillows again. Txori tells Ogode that they have a vital timeline to keep and they cannot afford the time to ferry Hallun back, but they can ferry her there and leave her with family. Ogode is reluctant but allows it and leaves to tell the Khan while the party returns to the ship.
Meanwhile, Welkin and a newly domesticated Barabella arrive at the Crimson Gale. Edelweiss is not excited to see the Raksha is back, asking if she isn’t enough for Welkin, but Welkin points out that she should be useful to have around. Edelweiss mutters under her breath, “arrow fodder.”
Soon Hallun and her retinue arrive with the party. Welkin is sure to welcome Hallun to the ship (can’t have her failing any saving throws en route) and soon they’re off and cruising to Chiaroscuro. It’s not long, though, before Edelweiss reports to Welkin that the table belowdecks is flashing blue again. Welkin tells her to keep the ship on course for Chiaroscuro while he collects the party, and as they gather, Ah Nold makes Barabella get everyone sandwiches.
- Eli: “I fill everyone in on the “don’t’s” of this aggressive culture.” Taylor: “These all sounds like “do’s” to Ah Nold.”
- Someone asks Grey for his name, Eli responds “Fake name.” Alejo then interprets Grey as having said he is “Fakename” (Fah-keh-nah-meh)
- Taylor: “Then we give the toy with the bomb to Armukh.” Debbie: “How do we make sure he gives the toy to the Khan?” Taylor: “Letter within a letter!” Everyone: “AHHHHHhhhhh”
- Taylor’s Listener Swaying Argument charm is referred to as the “JFK Charm”, the “FOX News Charm”, and “Really Really Powerful”
- Welkin points the finger and blames Armukh, with Mariner’s Parable Defense active. Debbie: “I’m convinced by it.”
- Eli: “She’s got some kind of pneumonia or whatever going on.”
- Louis, arguing to kill the daughter: “It’s just an abortion at 72 months.” Later corrected to 105 months
- Sam: “I think she’s okay now!” Grey: *rolls* “Well she’s not injured but she’s still just as sick as she was.” Sam: “… That’s what I meant.”
- Ah Nold in the Sky with Diamonds…
- Louis: “Ah Nold takes exception to your negative characterization of brutes! Hashtag #SwoleAcceptance!”
- Rocky: “I’m gonna go 15 rounds with these guys” Everyone: “……..”
- Khan: “I see you are very powerful, you have a Prince of Earth among you!” Debbie: “Sam has a moment of panic before he realizes who he’s talking about.”
- Eli, Re: Tamuz’s advice and suspicions about him: “Look, even if this guy happens to be some monster born from a Yozi that’s been sexing a Neverborn, it’s still a good idea.“
- Alejo: “I like the idea that Ah Nold is an NPC and Louis is playing Clippy.”