Ferros

Kabuto part 6
A-bloogy-woogy-woo!

The party descended into the mines once more, back to the obvious trap in search of some other clue to Georg’s employer and corrupter. As they neared the cave they’d faced him in before, they happened upon a strange mist emanating from the cave. Arryn and Reade waded into it with no problem, but the hint of corruption and Lorilla’s height made it a problem for her, giving her the most evil of asthma! She coughed a bit, but trudged on.

In the center of the cave lay two fountains of mist. As Reade and Lorilla rounded the corner, they rose to reveal zombies. As they prepared to attack, their heads and limbs flopped away to reveal a monstrous aberration underneath, bearing sharp claws in their wrists and a wide toothy mouth in the neck. Rows of eyespots and tendrils ran down their side and the unsettling noise of insectoid legs and their moist, scaly hide gave them a most unsettling appearance. Nonetheless, Reade was undaunted and responded with fire, which was surprisingly effective. The first one, in the body of Georg, attacked Lorilla, but fell soon to her and Reade’s attacks. The second, in the body of Jim, was more resistant, getting past her to attack Arryn. His past battles had hardened him, though, and he didn’t flee. A bolt of lightning struck through the creature as an arrow struck into Arryn from behind!

Reade turned to face the hidden assailant who appeared to be a ranger of some sort. With divided attention, though, he was unable to deal with the ranger and together it and the Jim-body-snatcher nearly brought Arryn down. The bard was able to stab a dagger into the Jim-beast and heated it, inflicting massive fire damage. Lorilla tried to respond with a powerful burst of necromantic energy, but the creature was completely unaffected. With a snarl, the ranger flung a bolt of corruption at Arryn, bringing him down, as he named the bard a traitor. Seeing his friend fall and nearly die, again, Reade whipped out his wand of magic missiles and smote the ranger. Outnumbered, and with his creatures killed by Lorilla, the ranger fled with one final pathetic arrow.

Victorious, they inspected the bodies and discovered that each held a black trillium in perfect health. They also found a useless key. Reade and Arryn determined that it could only have been grown in town. They returned to the surface and, the next day, used El Birbo Diablo to confirm that such flowers grew in Lady Kaishelm’s garden. With this new piece of evidence, they went to meet with Baron Kabuto. They explained their investigation into Father Agilmar’s death, and their suspicion of Monika’s involvement. Together they decided that there wasn’t quite enough evidence to charge her with the murder, but enough to ask a court for a search warrant.

Also they decided on a name: the Hallowed Hawks!

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Kabuto part 5
We're almost done.

In the tavern, Arryn badly asked the bartender about the sigil. He told them it was the symbol of Lady Monika Kaishelm, so they asked around. A middle-class white-collar couple in the bar told Arryn that Lady Kaishelm was tough to deal with, shrewd at business and generally being cold. Wanting a second opinion, they went to a shady bar serving miners and found a really drunk guy to talk to. Somehow Arryn’s shiny outfit made the drunk guy really impressed and, despite Arryn’s fumbling, he told them all about how Lady Kaishelm was devious and underhanded and totally involved in a murder that he knew nothing about. Confident in their conclusion, the party resolved to go confront her about it the next day during their appointment.

With their nerves up, they marched in (past the gates with the symbol) and had tea with the butler and maid. Then Lady Kaishelm entered: tall, auburn hair held up with a white bow, and glasses. They asked her very politely about the book and she said she didn’t have it. They asked about the murder and while she said she respected Father Agilmar for his views on books, she wasn’t devout and hadn’t been particularly close, nor did she know anything about his murder. Feeling shy about confronting her with the receipt and sigil, they left and kicked the dirt a bit.

First they went to confirm the validity of the receipt by talking to Vulfgang, the novice at the temple library. He looked up sales records and confirmed the receipt, reiterating he didn’t know the inventory as well as Father Agilmar had. They asked if either the Baron or Monika had been in lately and he said that both had come in within the past month as semi-regulars. The Baron was more devout, but Monika had a more sincere love of books. He also reminded them that the Baron and Monika were at each other’s throat for political power in the town, so they figured that Monika’s sigil in the satchel wasn’t enough to convict her as the Baron could’ve planted it to frame her. They needed a mentor, someone with better advice, so they went to see Captain Gisbert of the guard.

He sat and listened to their explanation, intrigued at the account of Georg and his subsequent death. He agreed that the sigil was not enough to convict on its own, but further investigation of Georg might yield a btter link. So the party returned to Georg’s apartment to look through his things for a better link to either the Baron or Monika. They didn’t find much of interest until they checked his bedroom. There, Lorilla found (and opened) a small locked, black-lacquered box. Inside, resting within velvet lining, was a crystal vial bound and capped with silver. And inside the vial was a volatile black liquid that rippled on its own. It was supremely corrupted, though no one recognized it at first. Arryn hypothesized it might be a concentrated form of corruption, sot hey took it back to the temple.

After sitting through services, they asked to speak to a head priest and were directed to Father Stefan. He took them to a confessional and listened to their story and looked at the vial. Seeing it, he made signs of protection and said prayers to Olim and to Manny. This intense reaction surprised the party. He told them it was liquid corruption, the stuff used to desecrate the temple and enslave people during the days of the Wyrd. Father Stefan implored them to keep it safe, refusing to keep it in the temple. With nowhere good to put it, they stuck it in Reade’s bag of holding.

At a loss for clues, they sat in the tavern, where Arryn received an odd note from the waitress, “I found you.” He asked her and she said it’d been from a stranger, someone who looked as if he’d been in the woods. This wasn’t familiar to Arryn but he told the party he’d gotten other weird notes like this before. It didn’t seem to have any clue to their current predicament, but they decided to keep it in mind for later. First, they took a look at their current evidence. Their investigation of Georg hadn’t produced much, but it occurred to them that maybe a closer look at the ambush site, and his body, might yield some results. So off they went, back into the mines to see what remained.

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Kabuto part 4
It's a TRAP!

The party looked Georg up in the yellow pages, is what they should’ve done. Instead they went into the mountains and went one-by-one down every apartment they could find, detecting corruption until they found a really corrupted doorway. This was a bit silly, but I let it work. They met with Georg, who was sharp and sarcastic. He informed them he did have the book and would lead them to it. He led the way down into the mines. First down shaft T, and then branch R. From there they traveled to the fourth sub-branch into the P-tail. It should’ve been obvious, I’m not sure it was.

Once they arrived, they saw a great crystal in a dark cave and went up to attack it. Arryn actually turned out to be the biggest threat, with his shout and other thunder spells, so Georg attacked him, as did his friend Jim. They were anti-spirals. Then the crystal at the end of the room spawned some orbs. It was weird. Together, the crystal and Georg knocked out Arryn, who was promptly revived by Reade. Eizen and Lorilla made slow progress on the two anti-spirals as their regeneration made them hard to take down straight away, but Eizen had smiting powers and Lorilla had a second weapon. So that worked out for them. With the two anti-spirals down, the crystal hadn’t been spawning its orbs well, and Arryn thundered it down. It didn’t take kindly to this and knocked him out again. But instead of making sure he was dead by exploding orbs above him, the crystal focused on Eizen, who revived Arryn again. With a few more thunderclaps, the crystal was slain and revealed its treasure, the book!

Except it wasn’t the book, it was a satchel. Inside was a noble’s house sigil and a receipt. Georg had bought the book from the temple over a month ago. But there was no book to be found. The party neglected to loot the bodies and left to think in a tavern. As they arrived, they found a messenger from Sargent Matilda—Eizen was being called in for active duty to help with the problems on the border. Now with three, the party had an investigation to attempt.

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Kabuto Part 3
The investigation begins

The party had defeated two dreamless in their home and tied them up. A quick investigation of the apartment revealed they had rapiers and bows, but nothing else of identification. After a debate on who was best for intimidation, they began the interrogation, focusing only on one of the pair. She didn’t seem to know anything about the book or the murder of Father Agilmar, but she did refer to their creator, a person described as a miner, with scars on his face and arms, as their master. She confirmed that she and her friend were the only dreamless in town. Unable to get anything else out of her about the murder or corruption, Eizen went to fetch a guard to dispose of them lawfully.

The corporal in the guardhouse directed Eizen toward Captain Carrot. Eizen and the Captain conversed for a while and the Captain eventually took custody of the two dreamless, hinting at their eventual death. From there, the party decided to wander around and look for this master. Talking to the wizard’s apprentice, Captain Carrot, the temples, and people frequenting the bars, they narrowed the suspects down to a list of five. They knew to look for a scarred miner who lived in Lady Kaishelm’s mountain slums, so they went down to the mines in the morning and waited, watching people pass by.

A few miners matched the description and, when the foreman noticed them lounging around, they split the party to follow. Eizen and Reade followed a very professional miner named Thomas. He didn’t have much to say but they were able to confirm he wasn’t corrupted enough to be the antithesis. Arryn and Lorilla followed a very friendly man named Gerald, tailing their real target: Mechtild. During their lunchbreak they spoke with Mechtild and Arryn beat him at his scam-game. While Mechtild was slightly corrupted, they could tell he wasn’t the right guy and Gerald lived in the city, not the slums. With nothing to go on, everyone left the mines and, on the way out, noticed another man they identified as Georg, who looked very corrupted. As night fell, they returned to their tavern to debate their next action.

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Kabuto Part 2
The Intrigue

The Baron had proven unhelpful, so they looked around for a wizard, thinking he would have books. Townsfolk informed them that the most notable wizard was Lady Emma Fredenand over yonder. She had a large shop manned by her assistant Norbert Hildegard. He was nice, but young and inexperienced and mostly his duties seemed to consist of mixing and running errands. He took a look in their library but couldn’t find the book they were looking for. They asked who else might have books and he told them that the best places would be the Baron, Emma, the wealthy landowner Monika Kaishelm, and the Temple of Olim (who maintained the largest library in the city).

They headed over to the temple and were directed to the library. Inside, Lorilla caught the novice librarian, Vulfgang, writing some fanfiction of a book by some Esterlands author with whom she was slightly familiar. Eizen didn’t understand the concept, so someone explained it to him while Vulfgang checked the catalog for the book. As he looked, Eizen looked through the shelves to find some books that might relate to his holy symbol, the Last Stand. He found something on history and mythology and checked them out for later. Vulfgang came back a few minutes later and said the book wasn’t in their catalog. Reade asked if anyone else might know about it and he echoed they could check with the Baron, Emma, and Lady Kaishelm. Reade pressed him if he would know anything else about this book and that’s when Vulfgang told them that he’d only taken charge of the library a few weeks ago, after the previous monk, Father Carolus Agilmar, had been found dead in the river.

This raised several eyebrows and the party thanked him and went off to deliberate. They started with checking out Lady Kaishelm’s estate, where a maid informed them that the Lady did not possess that book but would make an appointment for two days out. Then they figured to investigate more into the dead priest. They headed to the local guardhouse to speak to the Captain. He was intrigued at their interest, quickly noting the connection between their interest in a book and Father Agilmar’s death. The investigation hadn’t concluded anything odd, just that an old man had fallen into the river at some point during the night, but he confided a secret piece of information to Eizen, who told Lorilla and Reade, and strictly informed them to keep it a secret from the townsfolk. Higara had a bit of boneitis, but thought that was odd anyway. From this information, they immediately recognized that Father Agilmar had been killed by corruption, meaning there was at least one antithesis in town, probably more.

They went to take a look at the river bank where the man was found and Lorilla and Reade used detect corruption to affirm the presence of lingering corruption in the river and the bank. There was no detectable trail in the river, but Lorilla figured that he must have been killed upstream to have floated down, and so they walked back into town, noting small traces of corruption here and there. When they arrived near the docks the trail went cold, but Lorilla caught a hint of a mobile source of corruption in the crowd. She and Reade tailed the culprit, an ordinary-looking woman whom Arryn and Eizen couldn’t pick out from the crowd, as she went around shopping. Eventually she went home and they set up an ambush.

As soon as she stepped outside, they moved in to intercept. A quick hold person from Eizen immobilized her and they dragged her back inside her home under the cover of an illusion from Arryn. Inside, however, was a friend who immediately began battle by swiping a hand of strange black fire at Lorilla. Reade quickly blinded the two while the party set about knocking the second lady out. Before they could, the first recovered from her paralysis and Arryn moved in to grab her. She reacted by grabbing him with her black fire-hands and he badly attempted to suplex her. His height and lack of skill at this made it a significant problem and he fell over. Luckily Eizen and Lorilla managed to subdue her and pull her off of a dazed Arryn, while Reade knocked out her friend. Tying them up, the party inspected the room to find nothing of interest, and then brought in Higara to set about with their interrogation.

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Kabuto Part 1
The trip

The party left Bluesky City early with four days to arrive in Kabuto. It would have been unremarkable were it not for a strange woman who appeared on the side of the road. She wore robes of a wizard and waved the party down for help. Higara sent Arryn to say hello, but his seductive performance was underwhelming. Still, the lady was nice enough to inform them that her familiar had scattered some of her important items around and wouldn’t they be so kind as to look for them? Higara was very suspicious, but the party went to investigate anyway. She had taken a nap beneath a tree, she said, and in the tree they found her familiar, a pseudo-dragon who was feeling very uncooperative. Reade tried to get it to come down with some food, but it didn’t want to go anywhere. So they set about to look. Fortunately they were smart enough to have detect magic prepared ahead of time.

They found her spellbook in some rocks nearby and her spell component pouch in the same tree as the familiar. Reade thought he had sensed something down by the creek and went down to investigate while Higara talked with the lady. He asked where she was heading and why, trying to see who she was. He was very suspicious that she needed their help for a set of tasks that were so easily completed. She told him she was going to Bluesky to meet with a renowned golemancy professor. Higara asked for the details of the research interest, perhaps in an attempt to reveal her as a charlatan or perhaps out of genuine curiosity. Either way she launched into a very technical babble about the Bluesky golemancy techniques, noting they were very different from the ones she was used to back home (something about multicores vs. unicores). Higara was unfazed by the technobabble but even more suspicious that she would be unable to help herself.

Meanwhile Reade found her staff lodged in some rocks downstream, too far to reach even with mage hand. Luckily Eizen had retrieved a ring of water walking from Meg and was able to saunter down, grab it, and return easily. As they returned, Higara pulled Reade aside while Arryn tried to talk with the lady. Reade acknowledged that this whole thing was odd, but also noted that wizards needed their spellbooks to do much of anything. Still, he asked Higara to distract the lady for a few minutes while he identified the staff. It turned out to be much more powerful than he expected, and composed of some strange sort of magic, something he hadn’t really seen much before. Higara and the lady talked for a while but eventually, as Reade finished up, she decided she’d had enough. She firmly turned down the remainder of Higara’s conversation and suspicion and took her staff. Thanking the party, she stepped into the clearing and spoke to her familiar in some strange, guttural language. It joined her handily and she wrapped a large pair of wings around herself and in a flash of light, transformed into a young Bronze Dragon.

Most of the party thought it was cool. Higara was unimpressed. She informed them it was a simple test of their goodness, like one finds in any fairy tale. While she was grateful for their help, she noted Higara’s reticience and caution. She warned them to be a bit more open-minded and look at their adventure with less black-and-white morality than Higara’s patron would want, but promised to remember their assistance. Higara was a bit grumpy, the others were sufficiently awed, the dragon flew off toward Bluesky, and the party continued down the road.

Right before they arrived, they were ambushed by a few bandits. It was nothing special, some poor archers in the underbrush, who were summarily dispatched by the party. They only got a close look at one, who wore a mask, so they couldn’t tell much about their assailants. There was a peculiar monk who bounced off of Eizen in his retreat, but after one archer was killed the others fled. It was a short encounter, and they moved on, entering town.

Kabuto is described elsewhere, but the party had no time to admire the environs. They went straight to the Baron’s place, intent on finding the manuscript for Elone. They walked up to his door and knocked, only to be greeted by a butler. A butler who informed them that the Baron didn’t have the book. And it’d be a week if they wanted to get an appointment. They said they’d get back to him, found a place to stay for the night, and sat down to think where the book could be.

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Bluesky City Part 1
Gathering information and making preparations

After arriving in a big commotion the previous day, the party laid low in a local establishment for a little while until it was time to visit with Sister Elone and reviewed their missions. Eizen reminded them that part of their purpose in coming here was to try and obtain some aid for Wilhorn’s Hold and Lyrise. Unfortunately, they had already made that task harder. He told them about his conversation with Matilda and her assessment of the situation. Normally she would have been highly supportive of this request, but they managed to screw up their entrance badly enough that she would have to think twice about it. She warned him that getting the support of the local nobles would be difficult as well, even without them making it harder on themselves. With that in mind, and having some time before they met with Elone, they decided to ask around the town and see who the local nobility was. By lunch they’d compiled a short list:

  • Countess Elizabeth Bligh: A countess from old money, conservative and values propriety.
  • Lord Jevalia: A younger, high-ranking knight who earned his position through dueling and heroics.
  • Ambassador Fingariel Orellia: The elven ambassador from Calisaele, known for being less snobby about alcohol than usual and often excited to try new stuff. Very good at his job.
  • Ambassador Ominia: A quiet and withdrawn illumian with an unpronounceable name. The ambassador from the Ominian Empire.
  • Tailor Mara: A local Tailor who often serves and works with the nobility, very dull when not talking about work.
  • Marquis Sillof: A younger noble from the south side of the mountains whose sheep and wine production has recently become very profitable with the sealing of Lyrise.

The party decided to try to speak with Ambassador Orellia later that evening, but first they had an appointment with Sister Elone. They arrived at the temple and were seated and served by a novice. It was very nice, but for some reason they were kept waiting for quite a while. When they were finally called in, it was Priestess Anna who met them, not Sister Elone. Anna informed them that Sister Elone, whom she referred to as the Oneiroi, was unavailable due to an urgent political meeting and that given the commotion yesterday had deemed the party not the best to associate with at the moment. In that vein, she bluntly informed them that while the church would provide echite to the Expedition, they would not be funding the party right now. Not only had they caused a small panic yesterday, but they were too inexperienced to handle a powerful vampire lord capable of converting souls directly to undead and somehow protected from the effects of the curse. Suitably chastised, the party humbly agreed. Even so, Anna and Elone were grateful for their efforts and impressed by their survivability and work ethic. She reassured them that the church wasn’t going to cast the party aside, but there were other jobs that needed doing and better fit the party’s current skills.

Their quest would be to go get a certain manuscript from the nearby town of Kabuto. Four days away and rules by a local Baron, the town housed a small library and this book only recently came to the attention of Sister Elone. Supposedly it contained material that would help relate to the curse, but so far Elone’s couriers couldn’t obtain it. Anna wouldn’t say why, but she didn’t think it was related to the happenings in the south border. She reassured them that this task would definitely be up their alley and that the church would continue to support the Expedition and they would be compensated with at least 1000 gp, depending on how well the quest went, of course. That was enough to get everyone to agree to sign up and away they went.

But by away, of course, they just meant they were off to look for Ambassador Orellia. With nothing to go on but his well-known love of diverse (but still classy) drinks, they set out to look through every bar until they found him. Predictably they failed, but in an interesting manner. The first place they attended was a bust, but the second was an elven artsy place. Despite knowing he preferred new wines, they were determined to see if he was here. Elves are a bit snobbish, though, and no one came to seat them. Luckily Reade and Arryn knew how to get attention, and took a seat at a table and began playing a game with stones, giving themselves a haughty, disinterested look as if they were only there out of gracious boredom. This was the right thing to do and pretty soon a few others joined in their game of Calvinball. While Arryn wasn’t familiar with it, he managed to do well enough to obtain the interest of one lady. They inquired about the ambassador and she offered to exhcange information if Arryn had something to give as well.

This was his big chance to shine as a bard, as a collector of stories, a legendary musician, and a master of seduction. “My lady,” he boldly declared, “I would sing for you a song worthy…of a song…”

Everyone stared at him. Lorilla leaned over and punched his arm, “You idiot! You’re supposed to say I would play a great song to your beauty or something.”

Intrigued, the lady looked to Lorilla and asked her what she would do while Arryn mumbled and sputtered on the side. Lorilla said she was no artist save for the martial arts, but if needed she would deliver such a precise blow to her ladyship’s foes that her ladyship would know her devotion. The elf was impressed and asked if she would demonstrate and Lorilla vowed on her honor to do so if needed. The lady then revealed that a particular man (an arrogant mansplainer) had criticized her literary work most foully and she required a champion to seek satisfaction against him. Lorilla affirmed her commitment to be the lady’s champion, and so in the full public view of the bar the lady challenged this gentleman to a duel, proclaiming Lorilla as her champion. The man laughed and chose the rapier, overconfident in his ability to out-fight this smaller opponent. The lady handed Lorilla her own, elegant weapon and they squared off.

The group adjourned to a private courtyard and a referee was chosen. The duel was to satisfaction. Lorilla took her stance and faced her opponent, the fire of Mohorin burning blue in her eyes. Her fierce gaze and stance exuded confidence and her focus was unassailable, while her opponent’s sword wavered and his eyes darted around nervously. Even the onlookers, who had at first glance assumed Lorilla’s stature gave her the weaker position, could tell how this battle was decided. According to the rules of dueling, the gentleman could have forfeited at this time, but his pride wouldn’t let him. As he began to move his sword, Lorilla lunged and struck the back of his hand through his guard, just scratching the skin. He dropped his sword in shock and the lady proudly declared victory. As one young bard put it later on:

A stately pine looms
Against the little ash. At once!
Only his blood moved.

The elf introduced herself as the Lady Jemarillia Loridyllyne, or the Lady Jem for short. She was a collector and dealer of rare archaeological works. Reade showed her the scroll from Xianti and she became very excited. She informed them it was from a village in the Verdayl Empire, which once occupied the Esterlands, and was written in Middle Common. The content was boring, but the scroll was surely valuable. Considering how Reade had found it, she was willing to bet that the original owner or dealer was still in the city. She promised to make some inquiries as whoever dropped it would probably pay handsomely for its return. Additionally, in return for Lorilla’s skill she promised to obtain a brief audience with Ambassador Orellia the next day. Everyone ended the evening in high spirits, and grateful for each other’s assistance.

The next morning a messenger came bearing the Ambassador’s seal. He delivered an invitation for the group to attend lunch. After some preparation, they met in one of the city’s nicer lunchtime establishments with a terrific view of the sea. The Ambassador was a true gentleman, outgoing and interested in their accomplishments and stories without ever being boring or condescending. As they told of their adventure in Lyrise and their goals here, he asked a few shrewd questions to test their arguments.

“What is the nature of the threat within the country?”
“How do you expect aid to be given, as Lyrise is too dangerous to enter?”
“How does Calisaele benefit from either country providing aid to a dead land?”

Fingariel was a highly skilled diplomat, one of the best in Calisaele’s service. The threat posed by an army of the undead was clear, as was the nature of the help being asked for. But he needed to be sure that it was bad enough to require aid, and that the party understood the larger, geo-politi-spiritual picture. An army is bad enough, but can be defeated with stronger armies of which surely both Manscell and Calisaele have. Certainly it would be better to take care of this problem while still small, but together the countries could easily stand victorious against the undead of Lyrise. The real reason to intervene early was to prevent Myotismon from doing what Echoe had done long ago: build spiritual power through building a nation. The people of either country would rather spend taxes on a war than on prevention of a war, unless something greater than their nation was at stake. In these highly mono-theistic countries, the threat of an evil god gaining the same amount of power as their own, the threat of the spread of the Church of the Dead, was a much better motivational tool than merely preventing war (particularly in proud countries that had held off the Ominians). Orellia knew that had they tried this diplomacy in Jeberra, the officials would have laughed and challenged the vampire to bring his army against them. But forced conversion to an evil god would be justification for an immediate Holy War.

Once the party was led to this conclusion, Orellia relented, satisfied. He agreed to help them in their cause, despite their initial faux pas. He echoed Anna’s suggestion, though, that they not try again for a little while, let the military worry about the border and forget about them. They agreed and made preparations to set out for Kabuto the next day.

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The Hunt Begins
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The party needed echite and needed to do something with Meg. Before leaving Wilhorn’s Hold, they spoke with Wilhorn briefly to see if he wanted to keep Meg. He did not. However, Reade remembered an obscure (actual, real-life) bit of vampire lore: most vampires are compelled to count things. Reade was able to create small, illusory hourglass to hold her attention but he was concerned about the night. Fortunately, he was able to convince Wilhorn to part with a large, decorative hourglass that seemed it would last the night. They were a bit uncertain, and Wilhorn advised them to just kill her, but at Eizen’s request they refused and chained her to the hourglass, resetting it as needed and keeping watch. With that, they set out.

The trip was scheduled to take about two weeks: one to reach the border and another to reach Bluesky. A few days in they came upon a number of clothes strewn about the ground beneath some bushes. Curious, they poked around and found a nearby stream in which someone might have bathed, but there was no one there. Disappointed in the immediate lack of naked people, and without Eizen to remind them to look around, they shrugged and moved along.

Three days later, right before the checkpoint, they came across a painter working on a scenic landscape of the foothills and mountains in the distance. He seemed really chill and asked if they would position themselves in the painting. Together they worked out a beautiful tableau of a traveling dwarf being hunted by a mysterious knight and his fiendish bloodhound. Mohorin stood at the back of the hunter while the dwarf ran toward aid offered by Vardalon, all while watched by the specter of death, looking into her hourglass at the dwarf’s fate. It was magnificent and we need to get someone to ink and paint it properly.
(I will insert the picture here later)

The next day they arrived at the border checkpoint. The guards recognized Eizen and spoke with him briefly, granting them passage. They looked grim and down on their luck, though. When asked about their business, Arryn informed the guards they had a message for Sergeant Matilda in Bluesky regarding the vampires. The guard’s face went pale and he ordered them to wait while he fetched his superior. Nervous, they waited for Border Captain Kathryn to arrive and told her the story so far. She summoned them to her tent to tell them why everyone looked so glum. About a week ago, mysterious undead appeared out of the woods, out of nowhere, and began harassing the border encampment. The first wave was brutal, but they managed to drive off the undead soldiers. Since then, though, the camp has been the target of repeated attacks every night and they haven’t been able to send word back to Bluesky for reinforcements due to reduced manpower.

Kathryn asked for the party’s help either in defeating the undead or in taking a message to Bluesky. She reassured them they would probably be able to hold out until the reinforcements arrived, knowing it would be at least two weeks. Arryn and Reade seemed willing to take a message, so she drafted a letter and entrusted it to the party: for express delivery only to Sergeant Matilda and not to anyone else in the front gate of the city near tons of gossipy and panicky people. >_>

So the party moved on. A few days later, as they crested the foothills they came upon a nest of snakes in the path. Thanks to their counting machine, they determined there were precisely 57 snakes. Thanks Meg! However, no one in the party was a herpetologist, and so despite how cute the snakes were, had no idea if they were venomous or not. Thus Reade carefully magicked them out of the way and they continued.

Nearing the city, about a day away, they stopped for lunch. As they ate, Reade noticed a glint of bronze in some rocks a little way away. His owl, El Diablo Birbo, said it was an old scroll case and he scrambled over in excitement to find it. It was old and rusted with some bare ornamentation. They tried to open it, but even using Arryn as a wrench they couldn’t manage it. Reade was disappointed but they put it aside for later.

Finally they arrived at Bluesky the next day. They joined throng of people gaining entrance and waited for the guards to look over folks’ as they came in. When the guards came up they asked what the reason for entrance was. And Reade, or Arryn, said, “Oh, we’re here to tell Sergeant Matilda about the border being attacked by undead. See? We have a letter from Border Captain Kathryn.” This did not go over well with the guard, who had just enlisted for the pay to support his granny only a few weeks ago, and was thus not trained or authorized to handle national emergencies. However, to his credit, he did the right thing and passed the buck up the chain. His boss, a corporal, came out to hear the story for the second time in front of a crowd of now scared onlookers and look at the letter. Like the underling before him, Corporal Fred had joined some twenty years ago to support his family and had since married and seen a kid grow up and move out and was now just here as a way to fill time, get a pension, and keep bread on the table. This meant he was also not trained to handle national emergencies, but he knew enough to go fetch his boss, the gate captain.

Captain Vimes was not authorized to handle national emergencies. But it turns out that being captain of the City Guard means you deal with them every so often, nipping them in the bud before they become national emergencies. Thus he had experience, and a certain gruffness that brooked no dissent or argument. At the sight of the letter he sent out riders to the border and ordered the gates closed. An escort was prepared for the party and their carriage thoroughly inspected. Nothing out of the ordinary was revealed except for a wayward snake, which Lorilla took a liking to and named Anastasia (she is a pretty snek). A cleric nearly scanned the party but Eizen quickly took him aside and persuaded him to let them in for Sergeant Matilda to handle. He released them reluctantly so they wouldn’t notice Meg.

The party was escorted by several soldiers to the city’s main compound with runners sent ahead to fetch Sergeant Matilda. Gossip, however, moves faster than people do and by the time they arrived a sizable crowd had assembled to watch Matilda and her guard wait on the steps in full regalia. She recognized Eizen’s illness and addressed Lorilla (as she was the highest ranking and best understood such things). Matilda, very loudly, welcomed this messenger from Mohorin and her retainers, thanking them for their aid in bringing messages when no one else could, doing what she could to help keep the people of Manscell and Bluesky City safe. Even though this wasn’t Lorilla’s home country, common enemies made allies of them both. A few paid urchins cheered and applauded, easing people’s tensions. Matilda invited the party inside to discuss further plans while the guard milled about outside looking impressive and dispersing the crowd.

Once in and safely in her office, she turned cold, demanding the letter from Kathryn. Reading it, she confirmed their account with Kathryn’s and technically thanked them for the news. It would’ve been nicer if they’d helped out, or if they’d not gone around shouting problems at the public, but she was very glad to receive the care of Meg, promising to extract lots of information from her. Meg cursed them, but she was met by two monks of Olim, not known for being yielding and they hustled her away. With that, the party asked for help with their quest: echite and so on for the expedition, but Matilda turned them away, telling them to go ask at the church of Echoe. She was not in the best of moods, but promised to speak to Eizen later, and thus dismissed them.

Tossed out, the party sat in the square unsure of what to do. At first they’d had a good welcome, and then suddenly sent away with what was only technically a thank you. With nothing to do they struggled to open Reade’s scroll case. Eventually a nearby guard noticed and felt embarrassed on their behalf and popped the top off for them. The scroll within was in a very old script, hard to read, and in Middle Common besides. The best Reade could make out was that it was a Charter for the Village of Xianti. Intrigued, he put it back and they were about to go look for the church of Echoe when a commotion issued forth from the barracks. A rider in silver regalia and a white and red cloak bolted out. She wore an ivory half-mask and had carefully curled auburn hair. In the square she was joined by Matilda and some other mounted officers. The rider held aloft a faceted silver sword decorated with a rose and flourished it shouting, “For the Glory of Manscell!” Then they rode off toward the palace. Now, with the gossip off of them, the party headed off toward the temple.

They got lost.

Fortunately they had El Diablo Birbo to scout for them, but alas he wasn’t good at finding buildings. Neither Reade nor Arryn could describe it, but Lorilla knew from her studies about the symbols associated with Echoe and told Diablo Birbo to look for the moon. He was thrilled and led them straight there where they received a pamphlet from a novice. They spoke with her about getting an audience with a priestess and she got Priestess Anna. She was excited to see people from the expedition and informed them that they could meet with Sister Elone the next day.

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The Gambler and Monk
Or: know when to run

A group of shadows had gone by in the early morning, escaping the sun’s rays. Then a pair of golems on patrol. The sun was too bright too move but it wasn’t bored. Finally, three men passed by in the street, one after the other. These were the three to keep an eye on. They wandered through the streets, names appearing: Higara, Reade, Eizen. They were separated a bit, keeping within easy watch of the other in case something happened, but still allowing for a wide search area. A good strategy for later. It was hard to watch, but nothing tried to hinder its observation.

The men wandered through the city until evening, then returned to a house marked with a green orb. The shadows and specters stayed away from these houses and the golems didn’t investigate houses more than once-a-day. The men were talking about how the raven had seen some golems go into and leave a house with a box, and when they’d looked in that house, the orb had turned grey that evening. They said that it looked like the grey houses were concentrated along the main streets, though the alleys were full of lesser undead. Tomorrow they would try looking around again. The wizard was confident he could determine a pattern. They slept the night peacefully.

The next day they wandered the streets, keeping out of alleys and ducking down sidestreets to avoid golem patrols. Eizen and Higara returned to the house that the golem had visited the other day, but they didn’t find anything. Reade spent the day looking at patrol patterns and poking his head in houses to check the color of their orbs. He was more interesting. He witnessed golems go into a house and come out a while later without any box, and the orb within was grey immediately. That evening they all returned to their house to conclude that the golems had some sort of hub toward the city center. So at night they resolved to go out and look for it, just the three of them. Night was easier to move in.

As they moved around the city, they heard sounds of a golem and a person around a corner. Higara charged out and froze as one of the waiting ghosts used its power on him, aging him to a middle-aged man. Then at the voice, the other two perked up and joined the fight. They recognized it and named it, “Meg.” Move to a high point. Meg ran up the side of a building to use a crossbow, but the wizard and paladin stepped into mist and teleported up to meet her. Higara fled the battlefield, out of sight, pursued by one ghost while the other joined the fight on the rooftops. Meg bounced around a bit, swiping with clawed hands at Reade and Eizen, but was never able to get close enough to grab them, so she jumped down the other side. Eizen went to see and fended her off, but she ran and hid. They killed the ghost and the golem wandered off, since it couldn’t climb. They returned to the house, not finding Higara. Search for the warlock. Not found. Not found. There. His activities were noted and he returned to the others. They decided to wait for the morning.

In the morning they split up. Reade looked around at the city center. Eizen and Higara searched the area from last night. All they found was a house with a grey orb which had a dark circle on the floor surrounding the orb. No obvious tracks of Meg. Reade suspected a certain square in the city center, and found a house with a tall room for a good view. It was not secure. Grey orb. They went in. Shadows followed, but were swiftly dispatched. Reade spotted the golems entering an underground stairway in the square. They decide to investigate in the morning.

The stairs lead to an antechamber and tunnel, hollowed out post-curse and guarded by two powerful golems, infused with extra energy, and a locked iron gate. Within was dangerous, but noted. Back to the entrance. The three men came down in the morning and made a plan to bait the golems up the stairs. Eizen baited them, but they only went as far as the bottom step and would not climb. Even so, Reade cast grease and caused the golems to fall down. Eizen paralyzed one while Higara set the grease on fire. One golem returned to its post while the other was destroyed. Then the fire was put out and the second golem was swiftly dispatched from range. They decided to take a short rest to recover. A tactical error, knowing what was below.

As they settled in to their lunch, two ghosts materialized in the center of their group. They were unfazed, but the distraction was enough for the creature known as Meg and her partner, identified later as “David” to burst through the gate and attack. Higara fought off David’s poison gas, but Meg surprised Eizen, latched on, and began biting his neck, draining his blood. For several seconds Higara and Reade fought off the ghosts and recovered their wits, then Higara used his chain to pull Meg off of Eizen, who rose and healed himself. Meg escaped the chain and ran back into the cavern to shoot with her crossbow again. David attacked with spells and claws. The ghosts harried Reade and Higara until they decided to retreat. Eizen attempted to follow, attacking David first and then running. He was careless and a ghost reached into his heart as he ran past. He collapsed at the bottom of the stairs and the ghosts swarmed, draining his life force.

Tactical error: Meg and David prepared for the return of the other two instead of killing off the paladin. Conjecutre: his proximity to the sunlight may have concerned them, and neither he nor his friends were threats; not a wise use of resources. Tactical error: Higara and Reade returned to drag Eizen up the stairs, using Higara’s chain instead of running. Conjecture: they assumed they were unlikely to be injured by one or two attacks and determined Eizen’s future ability was worth the risk, and they had no healing magic to use from a distance.

They pulled him up the stairs and he woke. Conjecture: his training with rocks was similar to being hit on the head by each step, causing him to rally to his faith and awaken again. He shouted profanity at Meg and David, identifying them, and the three ran away. Meg and David and the ghosts returned below. They were observed for a time preparing for the next assault. Then the three men were observed, back in the house from days ago where the other two, Lorilla and Arryn, lay with a sudden onset of bone-itis, which appeared to be clearing. With five of them, they too began to prepare to face the undead below the city.

Will continue to observe for the Master. Conjecture: the party is no threat, and will die.

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Back to Volea
Did they do anything? They leveled up...

With the ritual a success in Gospen, the party took a brisk look around. Although day was upon them, it was easy enough to see that though the fog was banished, the undead were not. The party took the day to rest and recover and make sure Ixy was protected, as she didn’t want to leave just yet. Particularly since about halfway through the day, the echite sphere beneath the temple began doing something odd. It began to spin and hum with a low, rumbling tone. No one had any clue what was happening beyond some sort of conjuration. Arryn sang a harmonic, and a hymn, which sounded nice but didn’t alter anything. Reade held up his echite to the sphere, and it sang like a bowl, but there was no change. Ixy suspected this was only the beginning of something bigger so she asked to stay for now, to be picked up later. As the party left, they noticed something else odd: outside the church, near the front-facing stained glass window, hovered 12 strange distortions in the air, almost like pockets of hot air. They were arranged into a clock-face and the 1 o’clock position was faintly illuminated. Waiting during the day didn’t change this, and so they hypothesized that perhaps it was a counter, measuring how many spheres like this had been “connected to the network.”

They traveled north along the main road, blazing a new trail through the fog. This time, the DM did add some encounters along the way, so hopefully it felt more interesting. As they rode, they noticed a red tinge to the fog in the distance. Initial scouting revealed that it was very far away, but it got bigger throughout the day. As it grew and grew they could see there was no going around it, and it appeared to be very windy. Finally the storm grew close enough to dig in. Reade and Arryn beneath the carriage, Lorilla and Higara inside, and Eizen out with the horses, keeping them from bolting. The storm broke ferociously, red winds howling about them, dust in their eyes, the carriage shaking about precariously.

The storm raged for ages. The wind blew through their clothes, biting into their bones like winter. It was all they could do to think of themselves and their continued mission here. The wind blew and blew until it seemed it had even scoured time itself, making an unearthly rhythm hypnotically stealing away attention and desire. The winds of Pandemonium blew for a long time, but eventually they abated. The party couldn’t say how long it had been but eventually the storm passed and the dust settled. For the most part they were unharmed, but Arryn seemed a bit lost in thought, swaying still to the rhythm of the storm. As they broke him out, they noticed a feather falling down. Finding this odd, Arryn reached back and noticed that he now had feathers growing out of the back of his neck. Large red ones, seeming faintly of evocation and giving off some sparks if burned. How odd. With the storm behind them, though, they continued to move forward.

The next day they sat down for a lunch by the Sartrune River, which they were following north to Volea. It was a lovely lunch until they were falling through the air. And then running to school naked. And then on fire in a carriage. And then eating candy trees. And then riding on dragons fighting zombies. And then back at home eating a pie of marigolds and whiskey birds. And so on and on and on and on. And then it was done. Barely any time had passed and they found themselves on the river bank again. A hundred dreams in the span of a minute with no explanation or consequences or anything to even say it had happened. Unnerved they continued along the road cautiously.

On the third day they finally approached Volea. As they came over a ridge to see the city, suddenly it disappeared and they found themselves somewhere else. As far as they could tell, north was still the same, and they weren’t in the fey. Someone looked at the sun and thought that maybe they’d just been displaced in time slightly. After some further travel, sure enough they came upon the city again. But nothing else happened and so they moved in, facing off against two golems guarding the entryway. It was a tough fight but they gained entry and began to explore.

The city was much like last time. The temple toward the city center was still walled off with no visible reason why. Anxious and antsy, Higara decided the best thing to do would be to charge the first group of patrolling golems, a group of three plus a ghostly friend (who aged Arryn by 10 years). Despite having a hard time with the golems outside, they adjust their tactics and make quick work of these last few. It still wasn’t pleasant and so they decide to camp out in a nearby house, making sure to find one that still has a green orb, of course. And so now they must decide what to do: stick around and investigate, or leave and go back to Ixy or Theld for information.

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