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Saturday, 29th August, 2009, 12:52 PM #211
A 1e title so awesome it's not in the book (Lvl 21)
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Sunday, 30th August, 2009, 03:00 AM #212
Scout (Lvl 6)
Sunday, 30th August, 2009, 03:47 AM #213
Minor Trickster (Lvl 4)
Sunday, 30th August, 2009, 01:49 PM #214
A 1e title so awesome it's not in the book (Lvl 21)
Incidentally, Dranko's got about a 50% record on his clever epiphanies. He got it exactly right when he realized that the Company was ("void in the glass, I return to thee") trapped within a bottle, and he nailed it when he guessed Praska out of the blue. On the other hand, he was completely and utterly wrong when he guessed that the evil archmage Parthol Runecarver and the dwarven archmage (Kibi's grandfather) were one and the same.
He has concluded that the reason Praska has turned to the Black Circle is extreme jealousy that Dranko married Morningstar instead of staying close to Praska. Bitter jealousy pushed her over the edge.
He couldn't be more mistaken -- and man, is he full of himself.
Tuesday, 8th September, 2009, 04:23 AM #215
Thaumaturgist (Lvl 9)
Sagiro’s Story Hour, Part 296
Why You Should Clean Your Basement
Ernie pops a sweet fig into his mouth. “Oh good,” he says between chews. “A new delivery of proper nouns. We haven't had one of those in a while.”
They debate the meaning of Kibi's dream over brunch. “The Watcher” is a term oft used for the mysterious Goddess Uthol Inga, little worshiped in Charagan. The myths surrounding Uthol Inga and Her role in the escape of the Travelers from the great Adversary are contradictory. Her proponents maintain that Her liaison with the Adversary was a ruse, that She played the part of the Adversary's consort merely to learn his designs and gain his trust. When the Travelers fled, She delayed the Adversary long enough for the others to successfully imprison the Dark God.
Her detractors, most notably the Church of Werthis, claim that She truly was allied with the Adversary, and only fled with the others Travelers when Her lover turned on Her and tried to destroy Her.
Beyond that, the Company has no further insights in the dream. Kibi finds the notion that he'll need to provide a “lover's kiss” somewhat embarrassing.
It stands to reason that if Praska feared imminent discovery by the Diviners' Guild of Hae Charagan, said Guild would be a good place for the Company to go next in their search for her. After their meal Aravis teleports the group back across the Now Easily Crossable Sea. Because of the time difference it's early morning when they arrive; the gate to the Guild mansion is closed and locked. There's no one on guard. The party stands restlessly outside on the street for a couple of minutes, unsure of how to proceed.
“You're diviners!” Dranko grumbles. “Shouldn't you know that someone's here?”
Grey Wolf scratches his chin. “Maybe they know it's us specifically, and that's why there's no one out to meet us.”
Ernie nods. “The one guy we talked to did tell us he never wanted to see us again...”
Flicker examines the gate at Dranko's prodding . It's clearly trapped with some kind of incendiary spell.
At Dranko's further provocation, Flicker pops the lock, bypassing the trap. When Aravis takes him to task, Flicker protests. “But I was only doing what Dranko told me. And he's my boss!” In a stage whisper he adds, “He's the Oracle!”
“When you're on his business, fine,” Aravis admonishes. “But we're part of a different organization, and you should do what we all decide is best.”
“Want me to lock it back up again, then?” Flicker sulks.
Morningstar casts a sending to Ragmir, the diviner with whom they previously did business. It's Morningstar, Dranko, Ernie and company. We had a recent run-in with Praska and the Black Circle. Would you be willing to talk? We're outside.
The groggy reply: Mmm? Huh? What? Oh, Morningstar. [Yawn] Yes, I remember you. You're outside? I'll be right out to let you in.
“Flicker, lock the door again,” Dranko says quietly.
Three minutes later a disheveled man in pajamas comes walking down the front path. He's tall and portly, hair a shock of black curls. Ragmir stops at the gate and looks askance at the lock.
Dranko quickly explains. “The... er... the trap on your door is no longer active.”
“How do you know that?” Ragmir asks, eyes narrowing.
“We disarmed it,” Dranko admits. “It was... um... it was dark, and we were worried about you! But then Morningstar got a hold of you, and you sounded okay, so we figured we'd just wait out here. And anyway, we thought someone as skilled as you would know to expect us!”
Ragmir opens the gate. “Your name is Dranko, right? Well, let me tell you something that I'm surprised you don't know already. We are about a dozen diviners of significant skill. We do spend our time researching divinatory spells, and much of what we do is get paid to divine things our clients wish to know about. But we do not know every single thing that is likely to happen, going to happen, or will happen, even here on the grounds. I don't know what you had for breakfast, and I don't know what you're going to have for breakfast tomorrow, and frankly I don't care.”
“Then what good is being a diviner?” Dranko asks.
“When we want to know something, we have an excellent chance of learning it.” Ragmir looks like he's had to give this kind of speech before, but to children. “But it doesn't mean we just know things.”
Dranko harrumphs. “I feel cheated.”
“Dranko,” Aravis says, “We're about to ask these people for help. Preemptively asking them what good they are seems a bit counterproductive, don't you think?”
Ragmir clears his throat. “Now, you said something about someone... Praska, of the Black Circle? Why don't you come in.”
Dranko makes small talk as they head down the front walk to the Guild house. “Yeah. She was getting ready to assassinate some of you. Because you were getting really close to finding her out.”
Ragmir nods, keeping up a calm front though some alarm shows in his eyes. “There is someone, we know, that has been keeping up Black Circle activities in the city.”
“That's her,” Dranko confirms.
“It's a 'her' then? That's good to know.”
“We also have some of her hair,” Dranko adds. “And we nearly got her, but she got away.”
“Hair? Even better!” Ragmir obviously finds this significant, and it's odd to hear his voice so upbeat as he adds: “And she was going to attempt murder on us?”
“Yeah,” says Dranko, as they step into the foyer. “But we destroyed the thing she was going to use as the murder weapon.”
“Thank you!” exclaims Ragmir.
Ernie then provides a full description of Null Shadows, leaving out no gory detail. Ragmir listens intently.
Aravis glances at the steep spiral staircase leading to the upper floors of the mansion. “It might be in your best interest, if you happen to come across one of the other Cauldrons, that you prepare non-magical defenses.”
“Big brutish bodyguards with mundane weapons,” Ernie suggests.
“Anyway,” Dranko says, “she was awfully worried that you were getting close to discovering where she was.”
“She should have been. And we are getting close.”
“When we try to divine her, our spells all get redirected,” Dranko explains. He tells Ragmir about the park bench in Djaw.
Ragmir nods again. “We've seen that bench through some of our spells, though there was no sign of this Praska. I'll tell you what we have learned – mostly one very important fact. We know what's protecting her from divinations. It's something called a Tome of Deceit. And that is what we're getting close to finding. Find the Tome, and I'll bet you can find Praska. I would have said we were two or three weeks away from tracking it down, but if you have hair, and a likeness, we might be able to narrow that to days.”
Ernie laughs. “Sir, I would like to give you lots of money to continue that work.”
“Belinda has been responsible for most of the progress on this case,” Ragmir says. “She is our most powerful diviner, and leader of the Guild.”
“I suggest we bodyguard her until this is finished,” Dranko says. “Though... you don't still want us never to come back, do you?”
“No, no,” Ragmir answers with a laugh. “I'm sorry about that. It was heat of the moment. I had never been assaulted back through a divination spell before. Since then we have made a study of the Black Circle. I doubt we know much more than you, but they are a cult of necromancy and divination; the Emperor, who nearly made egress at Verdshane, was a worshiper of it. Suffice to say it is a religion of foul folk who are up to no good. We didn't want them practicing their cult in this city, and we have had missives from high up in the nobility, that it would be a good use of our time and money to suss them out. We have been trying for almost a year and half. It is boggling, the layers of protection they have. They are divinatory masters themselves. It has taken every ounce of our effort and knowledge to make any headway. We've lost two members questing for rare reagents to power our spells. But, we are close. We are very close to finding the remaining superior of the Black Circle, operating here in the city.”
Dranko frowns. “How the heck did she end up being in charge? Praska's just a kid.”
“She applied herself?” Aravis deadpans.
“And we killed everyone else?” Grey Wolf adds.
Morningstar chuckles. “We did puree a whole bunch of them down in that basement.”
Their talk turns to Kivia. The party explains that across the sea, the Black Circle is mainstream and not considered evil. In fact, people of all religions give them life energy in exchange for knowledge.
Ragmir raises his eyebrows in disbelief. “I don't know anyone who would be stupid enough to do that!”
“You do now,” Flicker says sheepishly.
“Over there it is a common thing to do,” Aravis explains.
“They should stop!” Ragmir says, shaking his head. “ Can you imagine any good thing that the Black Circle might be doing with a huge store of 'life energy?'”
“We think they were using it to bring the planes into alignment,” Ernie says. “Which is ironic, when you think about how that ended. They lost a whole lot of life energy in Kallor.”
“Excuse me for changing the subject,” Kibi says, thinking of his recent dream. “Do you know anything about a splinter in Abernia? I dreamed that Abernia was in pain.”
“You mean the world?” Ragmir asks, confused. “I wasn't aware it had emotions, so no, I don't know about that.”
“Abernia speaks to Kibi sometimes,” Dranko explains with a grin.
“Odd,” Ragmir says. “But then you are a dwarven wizard, which shouldn't be possible in the first place.”
“I'm not the only one, you know,” Kibi says.
Ragmir smiles. “If you're referring to Cranchus, our divinations indicate that he is a myth. There is no such person.”
Kibi opens his mouth, but closes it again without answering. It would take too long to explain everything. Best to keep the diviners focused. Ragmir for his part has become lost in thought and doesn't notice Kibi's expression.
“So,” says the diviner brightly. “Hair?”
The Company sits with Ragmir and two of his fellow diviners and shares everything they know about the Black Circle. Morningstar warns them ahead of time that some of this knowledge might be dangerous for them to have, but Ragmir is undaunted.
“Yes, I'm aware of that,” he says gravely. “We deal in knowledge, day and night, night and day. Not all of it is safe to know. Sometimes we learn things that powerful forces would not wish us to have. But that's our job.”
The full dissertation is a lengthy one, as they leave out no detail from their sojourn in Het Branoi. When Aravis opines that the ultimate purpose of Het Branoi was to open a Gate to the location of the Adversary, Ragmir takes a sharp breath and holds up his hand.
“You mean the monstrous evil God from whom it is said that all the other Gods fled? And you think the Black Circle is the Adversary?”
“No,” Aravis clarifies. “But those who call themselves Black Circle seem to worship Him.”
Talk turns also to the Sharshun. Ragmir is aware of the Masking, and that many people cannot keep the name “Sharshun” in their heads. He himself can, and knows to be cautious.
“The Sharshun also worship the Black Circle,” Dranko says, “but they don't work well with Praska. Their leader is 'Darkeye,' who is crazy stupid powerful, and may be some kind of monster.”
Ragmir nods. “Yes. And their base of operations is somewhere in or around the Greatwood, though it's heavily warded and we've never even been able to pinpoint its location, let alone learn anything about it.”
As the discussion comes to an end, and Ragmir announces that there's no time like the present to get started on a new divination ritual to find Praska, Dranko makes an offer.
“I said this before, and I wasn't joking. If you're all going to be tied up chanting and casting and stuff, I'd like to offer my services as a bodyguard.”
“How much do you charge?” Ragmir asks.
“We charge that you find Praska,” Dranko answers. “And that you give me a scroll of sending while I guard Belinda, so that I can quickly summon the others in an emergency.”
Flicker agrees to stay with Dranko at the guild house, while the others teleport back to the Greenhouse. Ernie makes a report of all their recent findings to Ozilinsh via the crystal ball. Of special concern is the discovery that Thewana (Abernathy's former apprentice, who was later sent to work with the Archmage Grawly) was not only still alive, but working with the Delfirian military (and Tor) while calling herself 'Davarian.'
Ozilinsh is quick to put the pieces together. Back when Abernathy and Thewana drained the Delfirian throne, Tor's ancestor Davarian Firemount must have transferred his consciousness into Thewana's mind. Eventually he took over the body, killed Grawly, and fled to Delfir. Ozilinsh's best guess is that Thewana is effectively dead, and that Davarian is likely the only mind in Thewana's old body.
Dealing with Tor and Thewana is still very much an item on the Company's “to do” list.
Before long the floor of the Greenhouse basement is strewn with clutter. The wizards have been excavating the closets, piling up workbenches, alembics, test-tube racks and other accumulated oddments as they look for the papers pilfered so many months ago from the Black Circle's HQ in Kallor. Left alone for the nonce are three closets in the far back corner – the ones that contain various evil objects picked up on their adventures. When Grey Wolf strays close to one in particular, he can feel palpable Evil radiating through the door. The Book, wrapped in a blanket and locked away in a thick trunk, is emanating a muffled malice.
After an hour of excavation, Kibi finds what they've been searching for – a locked chest filled with books and scrolls. He hauls it over to a large table that Dranko uses when enchanting armor.
“I can't believe I forgot about this,” the dwarf mutters. He, Aravis and Grey Wolf start to spread the small library out on the table. When they've taken full stock, they realize it could take weeks to carefully read every page. (Especially true since the writing is in an unknown language of unknown characters, and slightly magical on top of that. With both comprehend languages and read magic active, the mages still have to read slowly and carefully to figure out what they're looking at.)
But, there's no need to spend weeks. Several hours should get them a basic skim of the material, and from there they can home in on topics of particular interest. Morningstar offers to help keep things organized. They set to work.
Concurrent with the party wizards studying their Black Circle reading materials, the Diviners Guild of Hae Charagan is starting the long divinatory spell that will (they hope) reveal something about Praska. Dranko and Flicker watch as Ragmir and his cohorts gather up scrolls, components and an assortment of glass jars, setting them up in a detailed pattern as directed by their leader Belinda. Praska's hair is set in the center of a chalked circle, in a small pot of some magical bubbling goo. The rogues watch with detached interest; they are more worried about watching the door, and keeping an open eye for any teleporters who might breach the building's defenses.
One thing becomes evident at once: about 80% of all the Black Circle papers are related to one specific subject: the casting of the spell that was meant to merge Abernia and Volpos. There are sheets and sheets of mathematical scribblings, and many derivations of equations used to model the synchonization of something called “planar shadow spheres.” Some of the end-point equations match what the Company found inscribed in the Black Circle's enormous ritual room. Other math relates to accounting for residual localized magic from “nearby operations.”
Morningstar, around midnight, casts a sending to Dranko: Dear Goddess, this is boring. Thank goodness my religious practice doesn't involve a lot of math.
Back at the Diviners' Guild, all ten of the resident diviners are hours-deep into their spell. Ragmir has told Dranko that they should be on track to have an answer the next day. There's some speculation, that Dranko cannot help overhearing, that Belinda might not be strong enough to crack the protection on the Book of Lies, even with the lock of Praska's hair. Worse, she could be in personal physical danger if the spell fails. The others are confident that she'll hold up.
In addition to all the math, the Black Circle archives contain copious notes for the exceedingly complex magic ritual that accompanies the equations. This is pretty clearly the spell Mokad & Co. were engaged in when the Company so rudely interrupted them. The wizards figure that if they were inclined to spend half a year studying this ritual, a year or so in preparations, didn't mind invoking the Black Circle, were willing to expose themselves liberally to that Evil Black Goo (called "Essence" in the literature), and felt like sacrificing Grey Wolf after all, they could probably arrange to merge Volpos and Abernia for real this time.
But of the greatest interest is this: there are books and scrolls outlining what is necessary to cast the spell of forced resurrection. (The Black Circle had decided that the surest way to guarantee Grey Wolf would be alive and in place when they needed him, would be to kill him ahead of time and then forcibly bring him back from the dead, in custody.) The notes on forced resurrection describe the preparation of the clear oily liquid discovered in a pit (which is mostly 'humors from slain Fiendish priests,' apparently), the necessity of having numerous objects from the subject's life (bones of the parents are specifically recommended), the requirement of 'the sacrifice of a traitor,' and of a Soul Shard created in something called a “Necromantic Forge.” One thing is abundantly clear from the description of the spell: the soul of the traitor is kept trapped in the Soul Shard, and is annihilated when the spell is cast. (But, of course, the spell was NOT cast, since Grey Wolf was never killed.)
The traitor, they know, is Califax. And Tomnic the Follower has recently concluded that Califax has no soul. The notes on forced resurrection even include a picture of a Soul Shard – a chunk of glistening, greasy black rock, about the size of a grapefruit.
Just like the one the Company took from the room where they found Califax, and which they still have in the basement. It's right over there, in one of those back closets.
It's now three in the morning; Morningstar and the wizards have done enough reading for one night. But Morningstar casts one more sending to Dranko.
Um. Dear? We should have read this stuff sooner. Apparently we have Califax's soul in the basement.
...to be continued...
Tuesday, 8th September, 2009, 05:38 AM #216
Guide (Lvl 11)
That's hilarious. I love it when that happens, as both a GM and a player (albeit in a DOH-facepalm kind of way as a player). Sounds like it's definitely time to take inventory!
Did you have the forced resurrection thing set up all along? I don't remember how resurrection worked pre-3e, and I don't remember whether they got the Califax rock before or after the campaign changed editions.
- Bob Huss
[H]e's dead and poisoned and possibly insane on another plane. It's a very stylish death, but a definitive one. - Piratecat
Tuesday, 8th September, 2009, 04:23 PM #217
Scout (Lvl 6)
When I read "Tome of Deceipt" I immediately thought of the eeeeevvviiilll book in the basement of the Greenhouse. Wouldn't that be a kick, if they had the object blocking divinations all this time? In addition to Califax's soul!
Tuesday, 8th September, 2009, 06:21 PM #218
A 1e title so awesome it's not in the book (Lvl 21)
Oh my goodness, we were so embarrassed. How do you tell a guy he's gone around soulless for a year because we forgot to look in a closet? Major faux pas.
Wednesday, 9th September, 2009, 02:14 AM #219
Wednesday, 9th September, 2009, 03:59 PM #220
All you have to do is tell Califax that it required reading to find his soul. He'll understand; after all, no one likes to read...
Besides, I think he'll have more of a negative reaction when you tell him that his soul is currently in the form of a large greasy, bad smelling chuck of rock.