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”
- Welkin’s reaction to the janitor’s essence score
- 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.”