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.”