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!”