ZEITGEIST [ZEITGEIST] The Continuing Adventures of Korrigan & Co. - Page 110
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  1. #1091
    Caught up again. Dang, now I have to be all patient and stuff again.

    Major props for bringing the Jenny Greenteeth plot thread back in so masterfully. Feels really organically part of the Voice of Rot's whole B-plot.
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  2. #1092
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    Quote Originally Posted by SanjMerchant View Post
    Caught up again. Dang, now I have to be all patient and stuff again.
    Once every couple of days is the current schedule, although there'll be a long break in late July/August, most probably.

    Quote Originally Posted by SanjMerchant View Post
    Major props for bringing the Jenny Greenteeth plot thread back in so masterfully. Feels really organically part of the Voice of Rot's whole B-plot.
    Cheers for that. I wasn't sure how successful it had been from an outside perspective. For me, it's a small victory to have blended all these threads together finally, especially because I didn't know where they were going from the outset and had to wait for inspiration to strike. I'd also set myself the challenge of not spending sessions on side-quests so I had to draw them all into the main campaign or let them fade. (I broke the rule slightly with Rumdoom's quest to the deep ones and now this minor intrusion, but I stuck to the AP 99% of the time after the reboot.)
    Last edited by gideonpepys; Friday, 17th May, 2019 at 05:02 PM.
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  3. #1093
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    Session 226, Part One - Several Impossible Things Before Lunchbreak

    Several Impossible Things Before Lunchbreak

    Just three days after the events in Alais Primos, King Baldrey held an extraordinary council meeting in Torfeld Palace. It would have been sooner, but outside agents had been invited, and needed to be given time to respond, make arrangements and travel to Risur. So, in addition to the unit (all save Rumdoom, who was ‘busy’, and in any case, not fond of too much talking, particularly after the protracted speeches he had been forced to endure in Trekhom) the following dignitaries were present:

    From Risur there was Harkover Lee, Viscount Nigel Price-Hill, Stover Delft, Alden Wondermaker, Lauryn Cyneburg, Duchess Ethelyn of Shale, Hildegaard (representing Rumdoom) and the newly invested Governor Soliogn. (Thanks to her very public rescue of children on Cauldron Hill, Gale had enjoyed a late surge in support and narrowly won the Governorship of Flint only the day before. At the inauguration, King Baldrey gave a fine speech about the incredible symbolism of this moment, as it ushered in a new age both politically and ethically.)

    From elsewhere came Brakken of Heffinata, Vlendham Heid (with Kvarti in tow), Morgan Cippiano and Matunaaga. Matunaaga had come a day early and spent the time with his family. Glaucia had been invited but asked Brakken to come in her stead. Cippiano was here as Aulus Atticus had also declined (so precarious was the situation in Crisillyir) and everyone had finally stopped kidding themselves about the link between the Family and the Church.

    There had been a debate as to whether to invite Benedict Pemberton. Korrigan was initially unsure. Gupta successfully advocated for him (blushing only very slightly as she did so) but in the end, her effort was futile: Pemberton was invited, but declined: “Thank you, kindly, but I have too much on my plate right now. Keep me posted, though, won’t you? Let me know if I can be of any assistance.”

    Gale paced – or, rather, floated – back and forth, and kept glancing around as if she expected someone to attack. She wasn’t used to formal surroundings, or the confines of a single room, however grand. (Uru realised she was right, and that bombs usually went off at moments like this. However, he resisted the urge to slip under the table, unable to sense anything out of the ordinary.) Brakken quietly read the surface thoughts of aides who came and went just in case any of them were mind-controlled.

    On the king’s behalf, his Principal Minister called the meeting to order and explained its primary goal: to decide how best to deal with the threat of the looming Gyre, and thwart the Obscurati. Thanks to their successful defence of Triegenes, the unit was now in possession of the Axis Seal Ritual, handed over to them by a grateful Aulus Atticus and a reluctant Arch Secula Degaspare. Harkover now explained how to replicate that ritual:

    • The ritual required a connection with eight different planes – Air, Earth, Fire, Water, Life, Death, Space, and Time. Most planes had two primary energies they could be used for. Each world chosen would lend some of its nature to the party’s homeworld.
    • Any physical object could function as an icon for a world; the Ancients used gold because they had tons of it and it was long-lasting. Crafting an icon required visiting a world and channelling its native energies into an object, which it absorbed over several days (perhaps even weeks). Then you had only to mark the icon with a symbol to represent the world.
    • A question remark remained over the reappearance of the sun. The ghost of Toteth Topec had told that was a last-minute inclusion. The ritual made no mention of it. Did something need to be put in the middle, or did the seal just need to be closed? (Uriel also wanted to know how the Ancients had put the seal in place to begin with, and suggested returning to talk with the ghost of Toteth Topec, if he was still haunting the High Bayou.)
    • Even the colossus wasn’t strong enough to survive the energy that poured out of the breach. Additional defensive magic was required. The Ancients had specific chants performed by several hundred allies at the site of the ritual to keep the energy from going out of control. The Ob apparently used those same chants, performed in nearby bunkers, and it was working until they were sabotaged by the servants of the Voice of Rot.

    Here was another threat that needed to be dealt with. Thanks to Kasvarina, the unit knew that the titan was coiled around the plane of time. What was he up to? And why did he want Kai Korrigan? Finding out the answer to that was another argument in favour of the main proposal:

    That they travel to the Gyre and find the planes they needed to fix the world.

    While the Ancients had as much time as they needed to make the ritual happen (notwithstanding their ongoing efforts to fend off multiple alien invasions) the unit did not have that luxury: the Gyre was drawing ever nearer, Av was close to possible destruction, and the Ob could regain the upper hand at any time.

    Leon’s explorations had taught them that regular teleportation was insufficient to take them to the Gyre. Telescopes were able to provide a visual reference for teleportation to nearby worlds, and masters of the art could teleport back to anywhere they had already been. (Home; back to a world they had already visited.) But no telescope was powerful enough to draw a bead on the planar motes clustered around the Gyre. (Could they build a telescope on the outermost nearby world? No: it would still be too far, and in any case there was not enough time.)

    Here, a heated but premature debate sprang up about which worlds to choose, should a solution be found. Unhappy at the idea of compounding the Ob’s arrogance, Uru advocated the status quo, though Brakken laughed at the idea of forgoing all the rich possibilities in favour of a solution chosen “ten thousand years ago by a bunch of alcoholic orcs who were high on primitive narcotics. It didn’t do them much good, either, in the long-run.”

    Uriel thought that improvements could certainly be made, assuming they could reach the Gyre: “Let’s see what’s up there…”; Alden Wondermaker reminded Uru of how far their bio-tech discoveries had come this this ‘new version of the world’; Leon broached the idea of leaving things as they were right now, only fixed; Lauryn Cyneburg pointed out that the Ob’s choices had been predicated on an element of coercion and control: “We don’t have their lanterns. Do we want to hand power straight back to them?” Leon said that they would have to do that as a last resort – if they couldn’t do any better, they would need to cooperate with the Ob to fix the world and “get the sun back”. But it was agreed that if changes were made, any element of control should be avoided. Heid asked them about what they learned at the convocation, and some of the unit mentioned Reed Macbannin’s faction, Arboretum. Matunaaga reminded them that this provided no barrier to outside invasion.

    Korrigan levelled with them all at this point: he felt that the isolation of the world should end. Matunaaga was unhappy at this prospect. “Consider our ongoing struggle to fend off the gidim. Their assault will never end and we cannot fight them off forever.” Korrigan disagreed. He thought they could. After all, had they not already done so? And with greater global unity and strength, and the removal of limits on mortal power, the world would be in a stronger position to resist. Matunaaga absorbed all of this and then nodded. Though no longer a member of the unit, he remained as loyal to Korrigan as ever, and yielded to his wisdom.

    Now that he had their attention, the king went on to say that he may have stumbled on a way for them to reach the Gyre: He had witnessed the disappearance of Weary Enid’s vessel from the summit of Cauldron Hill, when the Gyre was overhead, and the hill was eroding. The hags had been in the process of attempting to kidnap Kai and take him to the Voice of Rot. And where was the Voice of Rot? Why, the Gyre. Divinations had proven that the Bleak Gate was also there and it was this connection which was causing the hill (and everything on it) to be eroded and drawn upward.

    “So we just need to cover ourselves in soil from the hill?” asked Uru.

    “Why does everything with you have to involve soil?” asked Hildegaard, before the more constructive reply that this was not necessary came from Harkover:

    “You don’t have to disguise yourself as the hill. Just be on it when the Gyre moves overhead. The Mayor of the Nettles has examined this theory and confirmed it only this morning.”

    Maybe it was the memory of the soil she had ingested during her scouting mission with Uru, but Quratulain was suddenly sick in her mouth – so much so, that she was forced to lift her intimidating skull mask, with its glowing red eye – revealing her young, feminine face with its haunting blue eyes – and eruct into a kerchief. This done, she quickly replaced her mask, ashamed of her vulnerability.

    Concerned, Korrigan asked her telepathically if she was all right, then declared a lunch break.
    Last edited by gideonpepys; Saturday, 18th May, 2019 at 12:22 PM.
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  4. #1094
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    Session 226, Part Two - Kickstarter

    Kickstarter

    Over lunch they heard rumours. Across Lanjyr, huge numbers of snakeskins were being found, all white and hollow. Snakes were dying en masse by constantly shedding and reshedding their skin until muscle and bone became visible. Stover Delft (now back in charge of the RHC) shared his report of multiple suicides – whole families taking their lives, unable to cope with the bleak, new, sunless world.

    Danor was still in turmoil. In Han Jierre’s absence, Gardienne du Cherage, an Ob officer (present at the convocation) who originally was responsible for making Danor less hostile to Risur, was now doing mental gymnastics to convince Danor they must liberate Risur’s masses from the superstitious leadership of the King Baldrey. Her efforts were being resisted by Naz Duchamps and his allies, including much of the population of the capital who had witnessed the Risuri king’s brave actions in destroying the Godmind. Similar struggles were taking place in Trekhom and Alais Primos.

    Obscurati control had been impressively solid in the Malice Lands and Elfaivar, where there was little existing government to contend with. Model communities had sprung up, each an experiment to test different ways of solving local problems. The residents were all happy and cooperative, or so the Ob-endorsed couriers would have it. Elfaivar had been placed under the technocratic rule of Solace Petrov, a human economist (also present on Mutravir) who had catalogued the resources of the newly-cooperative eladrin survivors and brought them into the world economy by having them sell all manner of magic items once hoarded for an eventual war against the Clergy.

    Running counter to Obscurati propaganda was an underground network of Panoply newspapers. (Ironic, given their Millerite foundation.) Melissa Amerie and her global allies had continued to report the Continuing Adventures of Korrigan & Co. and enlighten the inhabitants of the world to their true saviours. They were more like mere leaflets now, without access to large printing presses, but they did the job.

    One story from rural Ber, confirmed by Brakken, was that of a one-armed eladrin who had lived harmoniously with the locals for centuries, and was attacked for unknown reasons by government (and presumably Ob-sponsored) forces, shortly after the Great Eclipse. The government lost the engagement, and the fugitive had disappeared. Local newspapers continued to receive boxes containing grisly trophies from the battle, and letters from the fugitive demanding, inter alia, that, “Kasvarina should come face me herself.”

    When the council meeting reconvened, they picked up where they had left off: If they took this newfound route to the stars, how would they get back?

    Lots of questions were asked that could not easily be answered: Would teleportation work to return them, as it did to come back from the nearby planes? Hadn’t Kasvarina returned from Reida to the Dream Palace and was it possible to make the journey that way? Could they pester Pemberton and send duplicants of themselves instead?

    Uriel determined that he would settle the matter with an urgent divination. Not here and now, but as soon as possible. They agreed to proceed with the discussion on the assumption that they would find a way to return. Now to decide how they would travel. Uru proposed a capsule of some sort, to protect them from the unknown elements. Lauryn Cyneburg rolled her eyes and said, “If only we had a flying ship of some kind.”

    Would it be safe to take the Coaltongue? they wondered.

    Gupta thought back to the vision of the far future they had experienced in Ingatan’s Refuge: they had been running, pursued by chained demons, towards a ship that rested on dry land. At the time that had meant nothing to them, but now she remembered it was almost certainly the Coaltongue! “Wasn’t Rock Rackus with us?” she said. “And isn’t he on Av?”

    Unbelievably, at that very moment, Rock Rackus’ voice reverberated in Leon’s head: “I’ve learned to cast sending, and the fey taught me some new teleporting tricks. Where are you? You need my help. Expect a weedy-looking kind of guy with terrible fashion sense.”

    After a brief discussion, they told Rock where they were. Teleportation wards meant that the new arrival came to the palace grounds and they waited while he was shown in. It was none other than Swami Melanchol the medium from Flint, with his lank black hair and robes. They had last seen him on the docks when he was brought in to demonstrate that the spirits of the dead were lingering near their corpses instead of departing as they should have. Now he was host to the exuberant Rock and behaving in a far more flamboyant fashion than normal. Rock had brightened him up with a rose from the palace gardens, but had eschewed any gold decorations, and complained that Viscount Price-Hill’s gold medals were ‘in poor taste’.

    “I’m in the Bleak Gate,” he went on. “But I’m not dead. The Bleak Gate is on the inside of the Dreaming. And the Dreaming is about to smash into some giant gears in the sky. And there’s an army of devils in gold chains who are enslaving all the fairies.

    “See, I had a falling out with Thisraldion, and after he… she… he…” he paused to shake off his evident confusion. “Anyway, after that I started dating this ghost chick, and when the devils attacked Thistle Palace she helped me escape through a crack in the ground into the land of the dead. Turns out, this whole time the moon is hollow. Who the knew? Fey live on the outside and dead people unlive on the inside. Except every once in a while dead people disappear and go to the afterlife, or at least that’s how it used to work. But now all the dead people are piling up because they can’t go anywhere. So the inside of the place that used to be the moon is getting crowded and spooky. I just saw a dead whale fly overhead!

    “But that’s not the point. The point is the Dreaming, where all the ing faeries are, is in trouble, and I need you to be my back-up when I go to save them. My ghost-chick says that if you go on top of Cauldron Hill when the weird gears in the sky are overhead, you’ll get pulled to the Bleak Gate. Then we can go back through the big hole in the ground and get to Clover.”

    Before they could interrogate him further he declared, “The sad dude wants me out. I’m gonna teleport him back home. I’ll meet you at the Bleak Gate version of Cauldron Hill tomorrow. If you don’t show, I’m going to have to save the Unseen Court my mothering self.”

    With that, he vanished.

    All of a sudden, they had a deadline.
    Last edited by gideonpepys; Monday, 20th May, 2019 at 10:30 AM.
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  5. #1095
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    Session 226, Part Three - Wrapping Things Up

    How long would all of this take? Weeks? Months? It seemed like attuning with planes would take the longest time. Kai whispered in his dad’s ear that he thought he would be able to help speed things up, and Korrigan realised that Kai had a natural knack with planar energies of all kinds.

    Uriel didn’t care that any item would do – gold still seemed the most appropriate. He announced that he would create a dozen or so blank icons ‘just in case we need a few spares’. (While the others went on to discuss other matters, Morgan Cippiano, tugged Uriel’s sleeve. “How do you know how many you will need? You might make ten icons, then find you need ten more. Or say you decide not to link to one of these motes and then move on, but never find another. I think you will need many more than that. Just to be sure.”)

    Xambria spoke up for the first time in many days. She reminded Uriel about the vortex array she had salvaged from the gidim leviathan. That would enable them to sense the traits of distant motes without travelling to them unnecessarily.

    The rest of the meeting concerned practicalities – supplying and fitting out the ship. They also drew up a roster of who would be coming along – or who would be invited to come along at least. Crew members would be asked to volunteer. Those who wished to step down would be free to do so.

    Lastly, King Baldrey’s advisors assured him that they could hold the fort while he was away.

    Then the meeting adjourned and they bid farewell to their visiting allies.

    Matunaaga stayed with his family as long as he could. Ayesha would travel with Kai on the Coaltongue, as would their younger children. Meanwhile, the gith would continue to patrol the skies, ready for any gidim resurgence.

    Uriel made a point of talking with Xambria now that she had spoken up, since she had remained sullen and silent for so long. Xambria felt she had performed her last act in helping to rid Ursalina of the gidim, and hoped that Uriel would consider allowing Gupta to end her existence now, instead of keeping her prisoner indefinitely. Uriel refused. He hoped that Xambria would soon see what he could: that she was vital to their effort to fix the world.

    Uru had spent the three days before the council meeting in the Anthras Mountains doing “fey titan stuff”. The Nice Spiders had asked to come with him and he accepted their offer enthusiastically, now that they were tooled up with machine guns. On discovering that Granny’s cave had entirely collapsed, he found another, suitable cavern deep beneath the earth and began to meditate to improve his connection with the mountains. He found at once that he became suddenly aware of the shadowy spaces beneath the peaks: the passes, nooks, caves and crevasses. These would be the places he held power. He had a vision of them filled with mists and webs, impassable but for his permission. When he returned to Flint, he had grown another two inches!

    After the council meeting, there was no time for him to return to the mountains, as he had planned. Instead he set about gathering munitions and equipment: Weapons to deal with demons, that sort of thing.

    Gupta sought permission to let the Ob know for certain that it was the Voice of Rot who sabotaged their ritual (just as they had shared the knowledge of how to defeat the gidim; existential threats trumped factional rivalry to her mind). Korrigan refused. “Nicodemus will find a way to turn it against us.” In truth, it had only really been an excuse to contact (and toy with) Wolfgang von Recklinghausen. She did that anyway, asking him why he had left without speaking with her. (Of course, he had, but she erased the memory.) Wolfgang replied, sounding forlorn: “I couldn’t find you. I thought you were avoiding me.” Gupta said that she expected him to seek her out. “Remember,” said Wolfgang, “I did come to find you. I helped to rescue you from the gidim. Doesn’t that count for anything?” Gupta did not respond. Instead, she went to party with the Dockers. (Thames Grimsley was pissed that he had lost the election, but still knew how to throw a good farewell party. Korrigan had already quizzed Morgan Cippiano about Family support for Grimsley. Cippiano was blithe and said they viewed him as a ‘viable candidate, with the interests of the working man at heart; just like us.’ ...)

    In a break from official duties, which consumed most of his remaining time, Korrigan met with Uriel to discuss Ashima-Shimtu. Uriel asked the king where he stood on the demon. “I might ask you the same question,” said Korrigan. “As I recall, you were once quite sanctimonious on the subject.” Uriel reassured him that he was not as rigid as Malthusis. “You know my thoughts on redemption,” said Korrigan. “Everyone deserves a second chance. Even demons.” Uriel said he would like to believe that, and was intrigued by the possibilities Ashima-Shimtu presented. Together they contacted her, and offered to meet.

    Ashima-Shimtu declined, but was happy to talk: “The caged bird enjoys her freedom. But she finds, now free, that the ascetic mode is difficult to maintain. All around her are mortal souls. Like a fox in the chicken coop, she knows temptation once again. But Ashima-Shimtu relishes her newfound capacity to resist!” Korrigan impressed upon her that it was resistance that was important. It was of no merit to be ‘good’ in the absence of temptation. Ashima-Shimtu added that she felt a second compulsion to reform – an emotion she found it difficult to compute, but might have been what humans called ‘gratitude’. “She was freed by those who had nothing to gain by it, nor were they suffering from a compulsion. Ashima-Shimtu finds this behaviour, and her own response to it, intriguing.”

    When asked about the legions of Egal the Shimmering, she said she did not know a great deal: They predated the Demonocracy, of which she was a part, and were driven away before the Axis Seal was closed. The Demonocracy was led by demons who were thereby trapped on this world. They thanked her for her help, urged her to behave, and ended the conversation with an open invite from Uriel to play chess.

    Leon tried to contact Lavanya. There was no response. By now he could barely remember when he had last seen her, or what had been said. This was always the way. Their dreamlike encounters seemed solid and real at the time, but turned to vapour afterwards. He also tried to communicate with the Thinker, to no avail. Then he began the prosaic task of loading up both the absurdist web, and the Dream Palace with rations and supplies.

    That night, Uriel did as he had promised, and performed a divination ritual to ascertain the likelihood of their return. He was rewarded with clear confirmation that they would find their way home. But he learned something else too, something that disturbed him, which he chose not to share with his colleagues right away.
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    Session 226, Part Four

    After the council meeting, Quratulain withdrew completely. She did not take up her normal place by the king’s side, as his (and Kai’s) constant guardian. When she was absent in the past, there was always a good reason. A hunch (and a couple of prompts from Kai) sent Korrigan looking for her in the wee small hours. He was glad that he did. Quratulain was in her chambers. She had removed her body armour and lay sprawled on her bed. Her abdomen betrayed obvious signs of superficial damage, and the walls of her bedchamber the evident scars of lightning strikes. “I’ve been taken over by a parasite,” she said. “I do not know what it is or where it came from. Perhaps the gidim implanted it? I have tried to cut it out, but it has proved resistant to my efforts. I tried to summon you mentally. Did it work?”

    Korrigan could not say if his hunch had been a consequence of her attempt or not, but told her that telepathy didn’t work like that. Leaving these technicalities aside for now, he offered to examine her. It didn’t take long for him to determine that she was pregnant.

    The news broke a month-old dream. Taken aback, Quratulain did not share it with Korrigan right away, but came down during breakfast later that same morning and confessed: Shortly before they set off for Ursalina, she had been visited in the night by the Father of Thunder, who had taken humanoid form. (The titan told her he was responding to her mental summons – a fact she omitted from her account to the king.) She dreamed of their sexual union that night, but never imagined it was real until now. Having firmly established the cause of her pregnancy, she appeared restored and sanguine. Contented, even?

    Later she asked Uriel to contact the Father of Thunder and give him the good news. Uriel sensed amusement in her tone, which was quite out of character. He realised this was a practical joke, and to reward her for this human display, went through with it, doing his best to act surprised when he was struck by lightning.

    Having reacted instinctively by blasting Uriel, the Father of Thunder responded when he heard the message: “Thank you for letting me know. I hope that mother and baby are doing well. Sorry about the lightning!”

    *

    The Quarry of the Clockwork King served as a dry dock for the Coaltongue. Admiral Smith oversaw preparations and final adjustments. When the unit began to gather, in the hours before they flew to Cauldron Hill, they received a message from Benedict Pemberton, requesting that they not shoot down his flier.

    With this agreed, it wasn’t long before they heard the buzz of an engine, and a Pemberton Industries dragon-flier came into land, piloted by Pardo (in duplicant form). In the rear section was another duplicant, this one unoccupied. They averted their eyes as Pardo disembarked. (His smock was, as always, too short and his gonads, as always, too large). Jumping to the ground, he raised his goggles and greeted them with a sideways snigger. Then he told them his master had sent them this flier to replace the one they had lost. “Not that you deserve it. But as a sign of his continued allegiance and support.” Pardo then requested that he and the empty duplicant be allowed to board the Coaltongue. “So we can be of assistance when we aren’t otherwise engaged.”

    Leon asked Uru to inspect the duplicants thoroughly, which he did. Pardo by turns sniggered and rolled his eyes. Uru declared them to be free from high explosives, and it was decided that – on balance – the risk was worth it. Pardo and the duplicant were welcomed on board.

    *

    Rumdoom was running late. Matters eschatological had detained him, he said, but he was on his way. It wasn’t far from noon, so they agreed to meet him in the plaza before the Mayor’s mansion in the Nettles. There, the Coaltongue descended to the cheers of gathered crowds, and lowered a gangplank for the Clockwork carriage to embark. It ran up on to the main deck, and Rumdoom and his retinue jumped out.

    Rumdoom was holding a new hammer: black ice formed around the Stone of Not. He shrugged, looking slightly embarrassed. “Couldn’t think of anything else to do with it.”

    Didn’t it kill the last guy who wielded it?

    “That won’t happen to me,” said Rumdoom.

    Admiral Smith muttered something about having four doomsday weapons on board, and said it was a good job that sailors weren’t so superstitious these days. Then he gave the command to lift off again, and the Coaltongue sailed up towards the summit of Cauldron Hill.

    *

    As the Gyre inched towards its zenith, tension mounted on the Coaltongue. The crew were ready at their stations. But ready for what, exactly? No one knew.

    Most of the unit gathered on the main deck, looking upwards. To the west, they heard signs of terrain prying loose and saw clumps of the hill flying upwards, to vanish in an instant.

    With bated breath they waited their turn. The moment stretched impossibly.

    Then the Coaltongue was drawn skyward, with no sense of momentum.

    To observers down the hill, she ship whisked upward for a split second, then it was gone.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2k46GSH0AI

    End of Session
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  7. #1097


    (Sorry, I had to.)
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  8. #1098
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    Session 227, Part One

    Turning, turning…

    To the outside observer, to crowds gathered at the foot of the hill watching their departure, the Coaltongue behaved in much the same way as Weary Enid’s whale had done when the Gyre reached its zenith: moved suddenly upwards, impossibly fast, and then vanished; a smooth, silent, mysterious transition.

    But for those on board it was truly terrifying – from calm to chaos in a deafening instant. They found themselves flying upwards in a funnel of swirling thunderheads, where lightning spiralled and lashed like a living thing. Within moments winds stronger than a hurricane threatened to keel over the ship; anything loose was stripped away and carried off; any debris that was torn free exploded when it touched the inner edge of the storm funnel. The ship’s strange mascot, Sparklehorse, seemed strangely at home here and flew loops around the deck like an excited puppy.

    Miles away overhead, the funnel seemed to terminate in darkness, and minute by minute that black void grew closer. Uru and Uriel could see thousands of ghosts rising up with the ship.

    They took up their stations, and struggled to ensure the safety of the Coaltongue and its crew. Admiral Smith gave command over to King Baldrey; Uru headed belowdecks to lead the engineers; Rumdoom and his entourage went to the gun deck to secure the armaments as the ship was tossed and buffeted; Leon created portals to enable the crew to move easy from place to place; Gupta gave expert aid to whoever needed it most; Quratulain and Uriel acted as lookouts to warn of incoming danger.

    That pairing did not last long: before they even got in place a huge chunk of debris torn loose from the summit of Cauldron Hill smashed into the rearmost starboard arcane levitational and rendered it inoperable. Uriel immediately moved to raise up that section of the ship with telekinesis, leaving Quratulain as sole lookout. This was not a simple matter of keeping watch for flying objects, but of identifying and alerting the crew to pockets of rapidly shifting turbulence, of which there were few visual clues other than the drift of dust and debris in a storm that was constantly flashing with disorienting lightning. Quratulain was ideally suited to this task, however – able to calculate the movements of the storm in an instant and apply a predictive model to them. With her help, Korrigan was able to navigate the planar rift safely, without any more damage being caused to the ship, even as the storm grew even more powerful closer to the dark end of the vortex.

    Amielle Latimer then shouted a warning: Here, amid the strobing flashes of lightning, thousands of ghosts became visible, hanging in the air. Until this moment they had been aimless, but as they became aware of the party’s ship, they begin to groan in unison, “Ship! Escape! Escape!” And so the ghosts swarmed the ship, engulfing it like a vast amoeba.

    While unit and their more capable allies – Bhalu, Amielle, Matunaaga’s children and Ayesha – were able to fend off the ghosts, the same could not be said of the rest of the crew. Although the best of the best had been chosen for this mission, they were still ordinary people. Korrigan did his best to bolster their resolve, enabling all who could hear him to resist the baleful touch of the ghosts just a little bit longer, but they needed to rid the ship of the infestation before too many lives were lost.

    Their initial attempts were lacklustre. The ghosts were not easy to fight. They tugged and pulled and molested all those who sought to repel them. Down in the engine room, Uru used Little Jack’s force-field to shield the engineers, and then hid. Uriel warded the ghosts off as best he could, while trying to maintain his telekinetic hold on the ship. On the gundeck Rumdoom did his best to protect his retinue, but other crewmen elsewhere on the ship were being attacked and injured.

    Quratulain led the way with her lantern blaster, single-handedly turning the course of the conflict, ripping through the ghostly hordes on the main deck, and obliterating half a dozen of them. Leon teleported into the capacitor and used the magic weaponry to forestall the approach of other swarms. The ghosts found him and dragged him back out, but he teleported back in again.

    For the second time in recent days, Korrigan unleashed the Symbol of the Sun, causing the ghost swarms to quail. Then Quratulain tore into them again, and all of a sudden the main deck was clear.

    In the engine room, from hiding, Uru unleashed a rapid-fire volley of shuriken, empowered by his ghostly entourage bracelet, and took out half of the ghosts in the engine room. Then he hid again. With no visible targets, as the engineers were shielded by a force-field, the rest of the ghosts swarmed upwards through the bulkhead. Uru used his ability to phase through man-made objects, reloaded, and killed that ghost swarm too.

    Leon teleported Quratulain down to the gundeck, to lend her firepower to Rumdoom, whose attacks weren’t doing as much as they might against these ethereal foes (although, in fairness, they hadn’t done much harm to him either). She cleared the gundeck too, and Gupta and Korrigan used their magical swords to find out where other crew were in danger, racing there as fast as they could.

    Flying along the passageways, Korrigan arrived first, and used his radiant, healing power to restore the injured crew. Then Uru arrived and put paid to the last of the ghosts.

    They had lost five crew members, but there was no time to mark their passing. No sooner had the ghosts been dealt with, another threat presented itself: The roar of the storm cut out in an instant and all at once up was down, and down was up. Having passed through the vortex, the ship now plummeted toward a midnight black reflection of Cauldron Hill and the city of Flint. Pemberton’s levitational components were not designed to function while upside down, and the ship could not arrest its fall until it was righted.

    Quick-thinking as ever, Leon used oil from the pocket plane ‘Walking on Sunshine’ which enabled those close by to choose their own orientation of gravity. All hands were ordered to emergency stations, and Uru was able to compensate for the missing crew with his ghostly entourage. He shadow-stepped back to the engine room, adjusted the ship’s flight profile and recalibrated the levitationals. Then Korrigan gave orders to the crew to fire the starboard guns, while pulling on the levitational discs with all their might.

    Just in the nick of time, the ship flipped over, slowed its descent, and swept across the gloomy analogue of Flint, towards Cauldron Hill. The crew gave an almighty cheer, Admiral Smith clapped King Baldrey on the back, and Uru took wee sip of charged witchoil from his hip flask. (He found the little screams invigorating, and the ghosts simply joined the others swirling around inside of him and made themselves at home.)
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  9. #1099
    Drinking Witchoil might be the creepiest thing Uru has ever done.
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  10. #1100
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    DM's Notes

    This section of the adventure, dealing with the tempestuous journey to the Gyre, was hugely enjoyed by the players, which came as a pleasant surprise to be me. I had thought it would play out as a bit of a grind, but it was challenging and exciting to the point where, during the mid-point break in the session, a couple of the players said, independently, "thanks for that, it was great!" Zeitgeist is always good for throwing curveballs, and the essentially non-combat nature of this encounter was unexpected and exciting.

    The characters were exhausted - in Cypher System you don't overcome difficult obstacles by a lucky dice-roll or two: you invest pool points to lower the difficulty and thereby deplete your resources and stamina. The unit has as number of epic-tier means to overcome this problem - full heals, regeneration, Rumdoom - but I relied on the deletirious atmosphere of the Bleak Gate to forestall any major respite during the next section, effectively nerfing their heals, to keep the pressure on.

    Looking ahead, it is clear that the whole first act will be a good-old-fashioned combat gauntlet, and what better way to start it than all ed up?

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