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  1. #211
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    Saving Doctor von Recklinghausen

    Session 36

    After our talk with Corta Nariz, we meet up with Cavallo de Guerra to tell him about our knowledge of the dragon worms. We find the old orc in the banquet hall where he's having breakfast with his four sea chieftains Babaro, Thrag Vidalia, Perroroso and Danovio. Alonsa is present as well and the six of them seem to enjoy their chat about pit fights.

    As soon as we greet them all, their eyes turn on us and Cavallo jokingly suggests that “the diplomats” may wish to proof their mettle in a fight. When we ask who would be our opponent then, Alonsa summons a hearth spirit which she directs to jump down the pit. Auryn offers to take on the spirit, but Carlyle insists that he cannot just sit idly by while the lady faces the dangerous opponent. Before Auryn can comment or maybe protest, he simply jumps down the pit and draws his weapon.

    As we expected, there is not much of a fight as Carlyle can defeat the spirit before it can get even close to harming him. The sea chieftains congratulate him with a roaring applause and one of them asks for an encore. So Alonsa offers to let Carlyle fight her giant war bear, Chupacabra. Carlyle agrees even if he's hesitant to harm such a majestic creature and secretly decides to be more gentle this time. But as soon as Chupacabra enters the pit and exchanges glares with Carlyle, the bear turns out to be quite tame and refuses to fight. Instead, it trots towards Carlyle and licks him all over his face.

    (A situation that was as challenging for Carlyle as a real fight would have been. He isn't really keen on being covered with bear drool.)

    Alonsa is very much surprised to see her bear act that friendly towards a stranger, so Auryn says that it seems as if both of them share an affinity for bears. She tells the half-giant about her encounter with Feroz, the war bear of Brakken Heffanita and mentions that this bear seemed to like her as well. Cavallo laughs at this turn of events and adds that there may be more to these risuri than meets the eye. Seems as if we finally managed to be in Cavallo's good books.

    The sea chieftains insist that we drink their traditional morning pint with them while we carefully tell Cavallo that we're having quite a good picture about the dragon worm infestation that's spread at the harbor region. Cavallo's mood turns a bit dark when we talk about the infection as being struck with parasites is traditionally seen as a curse or sign of bad character.

    “Oh but it is merely a hungry worm, a predator if you'd like to call it so. So what we need to do is find the proper weapon against this creature. And I wouldn't say that only weak souls are haunted by this predator as it had been originally feasted upon dragons.” Carlyle says and adds that he knows that these worms are usually spread through waters that had been dragon bathing grounds in the days past.

    Auryn then mentions that we got a call for help earlier this morning by someone we would call a friend. Someone who, coincidentally, happens to be the best doctor we know. On top of that, we think that he may have already found a treatment for the dragon worm, even if he's likely a prisoner of a goblin tribe.

    “So that's what this letter was all about. Thought that it'd be obvious to hand the letter of a risuri to his fellow compatriots.” Cavallo says with a smirk.

    We explain that this doctor isn't exactly a risuri, but rather a wandering philanthropist and someone we shared a short adventure with. Still the man is quite the miracle worker even if he doesn't use magic at all.

    We then turn the subject to Corta Nariz and her seemingly great political and organizational talent when all of a sudden Lya Jierre enters the hall, foaming with anger. She demands that the petition she's written should be discussed and assessed right now as she and Danor's needs have been ignored for too long. We're quite surprised to see such an outburst from the clever and usually calm politician and realize that this is nothing but one grand show.

    Lya continues her rant and, when her demands are being rebuffed again and again she throws her petition to the ground and storms off theatrically. Cavallo laughs at the tiefling's temper, commenting that she's quite the fiery temper for someone stemming from a technocracy. We on the other hand, saw Lya making well-hidden gestures towards the petition, so we decide to take a closer look on the sheet of paper once Cavallo and his crew are done with their breakfast.

    Cavallo seems to be quite relieved that this whole rivalry issue just got solved by itself. Especially as he makes it pretty clear that he didn't think too highly of the Danorans anyway. Still he's done with diplomacy and talks for now, so he rallies his men and leaves the hall. Which gives us just the moment we've been waiting for. We take Lya's note and find it to be a perfectly normal petition at a first glance. However, we do spot a hidden message inside the text that hints at something happening during the 8th hour the next morning.

    As we realize that going after von Recklinghausen might take quite a while, we decide to stay in Citada de Cavallo to see where Lya's hint may point to. So we put on orcish disguises and scan the harbor area for any kind of suspicious activities. After all, Lya just needs “someone” to attack Man Hill if she can convincingly blame it on Cavallo de Guerra afterward. We spot a lot of grand beran warships lying in the harbor and one smaller frigate which is just in the process of landing on a pier.

    After the ship has landed, an orcish officer leaves the ship making a beeline towards Citada de Cavallo. We suspect that this officer might be a messenger and so Carlyle follows the man while Auryn stays in the harbor to catch some rumors. She enters the most famous tavern in citada harbor and instantly befriends a young officer candidate who's all excited to finally get his chance to shine in the upcoming battle. When Auryn asks him what kind of battle he might mean as “we're not in a war, aren't we?”, the orc tells her about the risuri fleet, including the majestic Coaltongue, heading towards Ber which usually means that a naval battle is about to take place very soon.

    Meanwhile, Carlyle follows the messenger all the way to sea chieftain Babaro who is being told the very same news: That the risuri fleet is heading towards the beran strait and therefore Citada de Cavallo at full speed.

    Carlyle then returns to Auryn and we both exchange our newly gained info. It seems as if our safety plan to reinforce Man Hill just backfired as the berans might take the moving fleet as a sign of an impeding attack. We try to discuss possible means of explaining the fleet's movement, but then decide to tell Cavallo the truth. After all, he's an honest and down to earth man who loves his family and who'll most likely understand our need to protect our soldiers in Man Hill.

    So we ask to meet with sea chief Babaro and tell him that we know that he knows about our fleet. We then explain the whole situation to him: That both Lya Jierre and we got caught up in the dangerous game of Bruse Shantus. A game neither of us wanted to play, but are nonetheless forced to participate in as the result is of utmost importance for our two nations. And since it had been Lya's task to convince Cavallo to attack Man Hill, we decided to warn our soldiers and ask for reinforcements just in case.

    Now we do know that all of this may look like preparations for a per-emptive strike, so we promise Babaro that we'll put the fleet to halt immediately. In return, we ask for the promise that no beran forces will attack Man Hill while the fort is understaffed.

    The sea chieftain seems a bit disappointed that his moment of glory just ended before it even started, but he believes that we're more keen on helping his Lord Cavallo with his local problems. He promises that he'll talk to the other chieftains while we promise that we'll send a message to rear admiral Dawkins to ask him to stop the fleet before it gets too close to beran waters.

    So we cast a sending spell to reach out to Dawkins and explain the whole situation. He returns that he'll leave the fleet close enough for a last minute intervention at Man Hill and adds that he'll try to contact his old “friendly rival” Beshela. His reply ends with a “goddess bless you two” and we're quite sure that the worst has been averted now.

    We then talk about the possibility that someone might just get nervous and attack anyway, so we decide to go searching for von Recklinghausen right now. Carlyle takes the risk to teleport into the unknown yet again and luck would have it that we arrive at Lago Fuego in one piece and at the right spot. There, we find a dried out lake and a forsaken goblin village. We then take the directions “Elias” gave us in his note and follow them closely. By and by we spot the tracks of large insects and see goblin patrols in the distance. We decide to move around them though as we don't wish to pick up a fight yet.

    Unfortunately, none of us speaks any goblin, so we have to use a comprehend languages spell which at least makes us able to follow their conversations. After a while we come to a cave entrance, leading to an intricate system of tunnels filled with lots of goblins and insects. We avoid them as well as possible and finally come to the conclusion that we might just got lost in a gigantic maze. As we're quite sure that the doctor will know more about these tunnels than we do, we hide in a small opening and send him a magical message, asking him for directions.

    He explains that we'll have to look out for a barricade and also warns us that the tribe's leader, a shaman, might not be happy to have us here. Oh and he's also the one controlling the giant insects. So we continue our journey during which we're being attacked by radiant force-beetles. They turn out to be quite tough, but don't pose too much of a threat and dissolve into light after some quick coordinated blows.

    We finally reach the barricade and the already mentioned goblin shaman. As we still don't wish to fight these strange goblins, we tell the shaman that we know that they got our friend, the doctor, and that we came here to help him with his work. The goblins are a bit suspicious as we're no orcs and that letter had been sent to “the nasty orcses” and not to humans. We explain that we got the letter from said orcs and promise that we'll try to convince them that driving the goblins away from their village wasn't the best of ideas.

    The chief is still wary but leads us to the doctor anyway as the weak lad could really need some help. We find Dr. von Recklinghausen in a rather poor condition while he's busy making medicine for the goblins. Still we're happy to find him in one piece and especially Auryn is more than glad to see him again after we said goodbye almost a year ago. The doctor is pleasantly surprised that it had been us who got his letter and found him. He then tells us how he got into this mess: He had simply tried to help these goblins getting rid of dragon worms and, after being successful, they simply refused to let him go, naming more and more ludicrous reasons for why they'd need to keep him there.

    “Just imagine how afraid my poor Lynn must be, especially after this metal mage debacle.” he says and then tells us that Lynn Kindleton might very well still be studying anthropological findings in Seobriga as he didn't want to expose her to sickly, and potentially dangerous goblins.

    (It seems as if he prefers to play the damsel in distress all alome)


    We decide that while we do wish to help these goblins who got chased out of their home, we're also running out of time and cannot afford to stay in these tunnels for a prolonged time. So we convince the doctor that he and we will have much better chances to get them their home back once the dragon worm infections in Citada de Cavallo have been dealt with. As soon as Dr. von Recklinghausen agrees, Carlyle takes him by the hand and teleports the three of us back to the fortress.

    We take him to the bathroom so he may finally take the shower he'd needed for weeks. After that, we tell him everything we got to know about the parasites so far, including the most likely source of the infection. He replies that we're quite correct with our findings and explains that he's found a rather quick, but painful, procedure to get a patient rid of the worms quickly. A procedure he's willing to share with us and the beran doctors. We praise him for his superior skills and suggest that we propose the procedure to Corta Nariz.

    Before we go to Cavallo's daughter, Auryn takes the doctor aside to thank him for his valuable gift that has proven to be effective against the most terrible of fiends and aberrations. After that, we do reveal that we now know that von Recklinghausen didn't flee from “Porter”, or Cillian Creed, alone, but also from Andrei. When the doctor doesn't recognize the name, we explain that Andrei von Recklinghausen is the name of his son, a young man he must have created years ago. Dr. Recklinghausen pales at this revelation and then confirms our theory.

    “My son... this poor creature... was the result of my hybris. I tried to create life from death, to create an Übermensch. And I succeeded, but the world and even I were not ready for him. So I put him to sleep, hoping that he may wake up in a better world.”

    The doctor sighs with grief, but we tell him about Andrei being a wonderful young man with a big heart, even if he's quite naïve and inexperienced. Auryn adds that Andrei knows nothing but love and care for his friends, including young Isobel, her eladrin student. We then offer Recklinghausen to visit Andrei once this mission is over so he may see who his son has become. After all, Andrei had been looking for his father as well.

    Dr. von Recklinghausen is a bit reluctant to agree yet, so we finally take him to Corta Nariz where he explains the whole procedure to her. She then calls for her son while Carlyle prepares some anesthetics to ease the boy's pain.

    And as the doctor promised, he's able to turn the dragon worm completely to stone. Corta is more than happy to see her son being rid of the terrible parasite and we offer her to heal all the sick citizens as well as long as the doctor gets to speak to her father soon. Corta agrees and we take it upon ourselves to tell the Lord about the successful treatment of his grandson.
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  2. #212
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    Treachery at sea

    When we get to Cavallo de Guerra and tell him that the mysterious captive of the goblins who called for help just offered a method to cure anyone of the Dragon Worms, the old orc seems a bit surprised but satisfied. He's having a hard time showing even small signs of joy though. We remind him that this all started because someone decided to drain the infested Lago de Fuego and add that the local goblins would be less aggressive if they were allowed to get both a treatment and allowed to return to their home.

    Then we turn the subject to the sea monsters we heard the chieftains talk about and offer to talk to our druids so they may help the berans receive the blessing from the sea and the sea fey. But before we explain the intricacies of the fey-mortal relationships, the Titans and the connection to the Dreaming, we'd like to discuss the Bruse once again. We then tell Cavallo that Bruse Shantus, despite being certainly not the wisest of beran rulers, still listens to his advisors when it comes to complex decisions. Which is why we'd try to propose making Corta Nariz the third advisor on his board. We explain that we've found Cavallo's daughter to be an extremely canny organizer who is both blessed with wisdom and intelligence and should the Bruse agree to make her the “minister of orc relations” or something like that, then this could help ease the tension between the two powerful men.

    Carlyle adds that he knows that this plan won't be a sure-fire success as the Bruse is one proud man, just like Cavallo himself. Which is why Cavallo would need to offer something in return should he hope to convince the Bruse to appoint Corta. Especially as Bruse Shantus already paid for his part of the railway to Citada de Cavallo while Cavallo might just be the one who'd profit most from the increased trade. After all, he's dependent on his ships which would be reinforced by risuri steel and importing said steel will be much cheaper once the railway is complete. And connecting all of Ber via railway is just the beginning, we say, as we'd still like to connect Risur and Ber on the long run.

    Regarding the seaway, we suspect that steam ships will become common in Ber, too, which is why sea trade will increase as well. Which also means that Clan de Guerra will continue to play a large role in beran politics. Even if it would be a diplomatic move to at least exclude risuri ships from the traditional pirate raids or so.

    “Very well then, you youngsters have a point.” Cavallo growls, while Carlyle and Auryn look at each other with a short chuckle as they're not exactly the definition of “youngsters”.

    The old orc then asks us to come to his office where he writes a long letter to Bruse Shantus which he demands to be delivered immediately. We offer to bring said letter directly to Seobriga and then teleport to the capital. Only to return back to Citada de Cavallo as Cavallo de Guerra would like to invite us to yet another banquet.

    This time, Corta Nariz and all of her children are present and she seems much more relaxed than before. At first, the feast is pretty much the standard beran affair until Cavallo de Guerra announces that attacking Risur, and especially Man Hill, is off limits from now on for an indefinite time. This angers Thrag Vidalia, one of the sea captains, who was looking forward to a grand naval battle in the near future.

    “The risuri took my very first ship and I still haven't gotten my revenge! What good is a sea captain if he is denied his satisfaction?!”

    To our surprise, it isn't Cavallo who admonishes the pretty drunk Vidalia, but Corta Nariz. Said orc just silently raises from her seat, walks towards the sea chieftain, exchanges a few whispered words with him and then returns to her seat. Just a moment later, Thrag Vidalia raises again and humbly excuses himself for crossing a line in front of the high chieftain and his honored guests. He then silently leaves the banquet as he clearly drank too much. We offer Corta a broad, thankful smile and get the feeling that, yep, she'd be just the right orc for Bruse Shantus.

    (Can I just say that Corta is a certified badass? That orc lady isn't just a brilliant strategist and micro-manager, she's also able to send a sea chieftain to bed with no supper. Had Lya not be so much invested in the Obs plan, these two would have made the perfect pair.

    I'd definitely rank her in my "favorite NPC" list.)


    We go to bed earlier (and less drunk) than last time as we still wish to see what Lya's letter was about and said event is to take place at the 8th hour the next day. The next morning, we first search the castle and then the harbor for signs that something might be amiss, but find that everything is just fine. Just when we're about to call the whole letter a well-prepared feint, we spot one large beran liner leaving the harbor. One look through our spyglass reveals that this must be the vessel of Thrag Vidalia, which may or may not indicate trouble.

    As we fear that the sea chieftain might not have taken his previous defeat lightly and might just try to attack Man Hill on his own accord, we rush towards Cavallo de Guerra to tell him what we saw and ask him whether he's seen Thrag Vidalia today. When Cavallo says that he hasn't seen any chieftain yet, we utter our suspect that at least this sea chieftain might just be about to start a war without Cavallo's permission.

    Cavallo, who vividly remembers yesterday's incident, is furious about this possibility, and calls Thrag Vidalia a treacherous fool should our suspect turn out to be true. He then orders his fleet to be mobilized immediately and to follow Thrag Vidalia's vessel. We offer Cavallo to bring him aboard said vessel the direct way as our spyglass might be sufficient to allow short-range teleportation. We also swear to defend the high chieftain with our life should Vidalia's crew try to attack him.

    “Shouldn't bet on only one ship when you can afford to sail with two” Cavallo answers, orders his men to keep mobilizing while we accompany him to the harbor to use our teleportation spell.

    As we expected, Thrag Vidalia's crew is very much surprised to see Cavallo de Guerra and two Risuri suddenly appear on deck. Cavallo demands to be taken to the sea chieftain at once as he has matters to discuss with him. Fortunately, the crew heeds his orders and hasn't really gone rogue yet. We're led to the captain's cabin where we see a wounded Thrag Vidalia sitting in his chair and a dead woman with dark skin lying in front of him.

    When the sea chieftain sees his Lord, he seems both confused and relieved at the same time.

    “Treason, my Lord Cavallo! These Risuri can't be trusted! This woman, another risuri... guest tried to kill me with her poison and mocked me with her stories of an imminent attack from Man Hill while I lay dying! But I'm stronger than she thought!”

    Now Cavallo's eyes are on us and we quickly remind Thrag Vidalia that he wasn't really “dying” when said woman coincidentally revealed her plans. We don't really get why she'd agree to such a suicidal plan though. Carlyle asks for permission to examine the poison and finds out that this was merely a paralyzing and not a deadly variant. Which makes this whole story really messed up.

    Fortunately, Cavallo demands to know what exactly happened from Thrag while he orders us to be disarmed for the moment. The chieftain explains that this woman claimed to be a risuri guest who was invited to the Lord's mother's home. She asked for a short tour and he invited her for breakfast. Then, she suddenly stabbed him with a poisoned dagger and he couldn't move. But then he managed to shake off the poison and strangled the assassin.

    As Thrag still bleeds, Auryn offers to heal the orc's wounds, but he's pretty skeptical at first. When she asks him to bring someone with magical knowledge so this person may examine what she's doing, the orc looks quite embarrassed as he doesn't have any spellcaster aboard.

    “You fear that woman's touch, Thrag? Never thought you'd be such a sissy. If she wanted to kill you, she'd have slit your throat by now and I'd have her head for it.” Cavallo grumbles sarcastically, but still not satisfied and Thrag reluctantly agrees to be healed.

    After finally healing Thrag, we closely examine the cabin and find some traces of magic on a scroll, in Thrag's cup and on the chieftain himself. But we also know that Cavallo does have to put a lot of trust in our magical findings as the crew lacks anyone to prove our assessment. We then tell the two about the mysterious Joe Pena who is both in league with assassins and capable of casting mind-altering magic. All in all, we suspect that either this Joe Pena or maybe even Lya hired that woman to paralyze Thrag and tell him that story about the “risuri attack” plot. She must have tried to flee but underestimated Thrag's stamina and fell victim to his vengeance.

    Carlyle adds that, should we truly wish to see either Thrag or Cavallo dead, we'd have had lots and lots of opportunities by now. And that we really have no reason to harm anyone of Cavallo's men. After all, we just helped Corta Nariz with the Dragon Worm plague despite being not on Cavallo's list of conditions.

    Cavallo takes a moment to draw breath and then asks Thrag what he's think about the whole situation now that we shed more light onto it. Thrag insists that this has to be all part of a big, treacherous risuri plot to weaken and then destroy the beran navy and Lord de Guerra shakes his head in disbelief.

    “You're truly a fool Thrag for letting your thirst for vengeance cloud your judgement. You should have known that my dear mother is currently residing in Seobriga, so this woman couldn't have been her guest. Also, my dear mother would have insisted that I'd give her guest a tour, not you. On top of that, these two risuri have shown me nothing but kindness and honesty. So you leave me no choice: I hereby strip you of your command. You may return to your quarters as soon as we reach the harbor.”

    Cavallo de Guerra then locks Thrag Vidalia in his very own cabin and takes command of the ship. Before he orders the crew to return to Citada de Cavallo, we offer to show the Lord one final sign that we're telling the truth: We invite him and his ship over to Man Hill so he may assess the situation there with his own eyes. Then we may wait until sunset to see if there's a risuri fleet entering the beran strait or not. Cavallo seems a bit uneasy by the thought of entering “enemy territory” at first, but then agrees as we truly got no reason to betray him right now.

    (So yes, Lya did warn us about this treacherous plan, even if she didn't go into detail. Which made us think that maybe she still cared about keeping peace with Risur. And yep, Thrag turned out to be an idiot. He won't be missed.)

    As soon as we and Cavallo set sail for the risuri coast, the sea turns totally calm and a soft breeze blows the ships' sails. The vessel gains momentum quickly which leaves Cavallo speechless as he's used to much more rocky weather in these seas.

    “It is the sea fey, Lord Cavallo. They know that we're friends of Risur and they're sympathetic to the risuri. Our old pacts make them protect our homeland as our first King borrowed the land from the fey. Which is why the Risuri pay tribute to them.” Auryn says softly while openly enjoying the strong sea breeze.

    (Yeah, it kind of helps when there is a friendly storm fey turned human somewhere nearby if you're trying to make a point about collaborating with the fey...)

    Cavallo seems impressed by the completely changed weather and currents and he hints that he might indeed be interested in gaining the fey's favor. We offer Cavallo to lend him druidic support for an eventual first contact with the local fey should he truly wish to walk this road and Cavallo gladly accepts it.

    We arrive in Man Hill shortly after and signal our peaceful intentions via flag. The soldiers of the outpost are still pretty much awestruck to see “the” Lord Cavallo de Guerra leaving Thrag's big liner and they keep a close eye on the old orc. Cavallo on the other hand remembers being here a long time ago and wonders whether “this cozy little tavern” might still be open after all these years.

    Fortunately, said tavern is intact and open, so we share a good drink while waiting, gazing at the sea and looking for signs of a risuri armada. Cavallo seems to enjoy his stay as he takes several more hours of drinking and chatting until he's convinced that the whole invasion story was nothing but a bluff of the Danorans.

    “Damn the Bruse and his games. But at least I got free drinks in return.” Cavallo grumbles.

    Cavallo de Guerra then returns to Citada de Cavallo and we use the time at sea to send a message to our druidic contacts that Lord Cavallo would like to forge a friendship with the sea fey of the beran strait so his ships may travel more safely in the future. The druids return that they'll gladly be of help and will sent an entourage to Citada de Cavallo very soon.

    Cavallo seems finally satisfied with the whole situation and tells us that he'll make his peace with the Bruse and the payment should he accept his daughter as advisor in return. We return that anyone would be happy to have Corta around, so we're pretty sure that the Bruse won't deny this request. We then say goodbye to the staff at Citada de Cavallo, including Doctor von Recklinghausen who's still busy healing people in the harbor region. And then we finally return to Margit, Flying Spark and the railway construction team.
    XP Andrew Moreton, Tizbiz, Tormyr, RangerWickett gave XP for this post

  3. #213
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    von Reckinghausen the second // To heal

    Once we arrive at the construction site, Margit informs us about what happened during our time in Citada de Cavallo: There had been a bandit attack and one of the workers got wounded by a gunshot. She healed him up afterward and the rest of the workers were glad to have healing hands in their team. Flying Spark did a good job with patrolling the camp and construction areas and so far everything went according to plan. Still, Liss is kind of working at the edge of bankruptcy and they all hope that the new shipments arrive without delay.

    (We did play the first two days with Margit and Flying Spark to get used to the mechanics of the minigame. And we quickly realized that Liss couldn’t risk getting more than 1 materiel per day as any kind of disturbance would have been his ruin. But I'll talk more about the mechanics at the end of this or the next recap)

    We take some time to get accustomed to the working processes and the location and then assign our security staff (the half-giant mercenaries) to the most vulnerable parts of the track and camp.

    (Yeah, we just realized that we had basically hundreds of miles of potential targets in form of already constructed railway. And no way to protect all of it. So we placed them in the camp, the construction site, and the intermediate stops and switches)


    While we're busy structuring our staff, we smell traces of smoke and rush to find its source. To our surprise, the culprit is a small fire elemental who's nibbling our planks. So we banish the elemental and look for people who could have summoned the creature. As we find none at first glance, we use a fly spell to increase our field of vision. We then spot two rugged looking people riding away from our camp on a horse. Turns out that they're bandits, too, who got paid to summon this elemental near camp. And as dealing with bandits is none of our business in Ber, we tie them up and get them delivered to the next Executora.

    This evening, we receive a letter from Burton who successfully managed to infiltrate the enemy team. Team Griento, he says, is still busy with constructing mile 3 (we're at 4 already), but they got reinforcements today as Mr. Pemberton sold a lot of automatons to the Danorans. We curse the man for being such an unpatriotic capitalist, but understand that he's just a businessman in the end.

    (This came pretty surprising as we've been pretty sure that Fordren would supply the Danorans with his mechanical creations. After Pemberton's kind of charitable help in Sawyer, we expected him to be less of an opportunist, but it turned out that we got him totally wrong.)

    Burton also mentions that Lya and Ulrik returned to Griento's camp and that Lya brought a huge amount of money with her. So we send a message to Delft in which we tell him about Ulrik's current whereabouts and ask him for more money to maybe even the finances between us and Team Lya.

    We then discuss how to repay the two sabotage events and agree that neither of us would like to see Ber burning or harm innocent bystanders/workers. After all, Team Lya used non-lethal methods so far which were not much more than mere nuisances. We include both Margit and Flying Spark in our tactical discussion as we'd like to take advantage of the superior risuri magic and knowledge of myth and legend. Carlyle then mentions that we might just ask a friend of ours to help with the construction: After all, we know one “railway hero” who's used to fighting bandits and who's not so easily scared off by flying bullets. So he excuses himself to return to Flint and ask Andrei whether he'd lend us his strength.

    After he teleports back to his home, Carlyle heads to Andrei's apartment, but finds no white-haired inhabitant there. So he then checks up on Auryn's home, only to hear two people singing a strange duet on the inside. Turns out that Andrei is visiting Isobel on a regular basis. He also seems to have developed a weakness for crisillyiri fashion (Isobel loves his new clothes, he says) and Carlyle congratulates him on his new taste.

    He then tells him about his new job prospect in Ber and adds that he'll make sure that he's payed well. He'd also talk to Andrei's current employees, a construction company owned by friends of Cippiano, as he'd be leaving Flint for a couple of weeks. Andrei sounds interested, but asks to spend some time with Isobel before leaving. Isobel, of course, is less enthusiastic about Andrei's trip, but doesn't wish to stand in his way.

    So while Andrei uses his last hours in Flint to be with Isobel, Carlyle pays visit to Cippiano in his Cafe. He asks to lend Andrei for a while as his help might be pivotal in getting the upper hand against the conspirators. Don Cippiano thinks about the request for a while and then agrees, even if he needs to ask a friend's friend for a favor. He casually mentions that Andrei is a pretty skilled construction worker who'd surely make a good living of his work in time and Carlyle takes this as an opportunity to stress out that getting a variety of experiences would help him refine said skills.

    They then switch the subject to cakes and sweets as Mr. Cippiano offers Carlyle a late-night treat. He, again, sees an opportunity and asks Cippiano whether he could get more of the sweets as he'd like to buy a gift for his railway construction crew in Ber. He'd pay for that favor, of course. Cippiano laughs at this request and adds that he'd surely win any man's heart with some good cake and pastry. He orders some of his men to get him cake and then, again, quite casually tells Carlyle that this strange talking golem that started working at the RHC recently left Flint quite a while ago. But he's sure that Carlyle's already knew that. Hint, hint. Which leaves Carlyle pretty embarrassed, but he manages to hide said feeling.

    (Yeah, why would Delft even bother to tell us that Grappa left Flint. On his own. And most likely without anyone knowing. Yeah, Cippiano hit a sore nerve there.)

    Carlyle returns to the Liss construction camp two hours later. He's given a warm welcome back, especially as he's accompanied by Andrei who's carrying a lot of cake. We then rally our workers and introduce them to Andrei von Recklinghausen. And throw a small, spontaneous party. Needless to say that our crew is more than glad to have us all aboard.

    After the party is over, Auryn takes Carlyle aside to talk to him in private. It seems as if she's still troubled by her relationship to Fordren and explains that it isn't exactly easy for her to have him “so close” right now. She says that while she definitely knows that she's way stronger than before and that she already got the upper hand in their ongoing struggle, she still feels some kind of subconscious fear. A fear she doesn't know how to fight or put aside.

    Carlyle agrees that she kind of won their battle for mental supremacy as she evolved from where she had started while Fordren basically stayed the same, even if she just learned about a few new facets of his personality. He's also quite certain that she won't have to meet him every other day as he'll surely take some time to scan his company for Ob infiltration. She thinks about his words for a while and then surprisingly states that she didn't regret her past confrontations with Fordren. On the contrary, experiencing that she was able to pull through these complicated situations helped her find normalcy, sovereignty and stability. But she isn't quite sure how this man would act in future meetings or whether he'd be able to keep his promises. Even if she technically has no reason to doubt his honesty when it comes to their pact.

    Auryn then asks Carlyle for his assessment of her nemesis. Carlyle doesn't need much time to think about his opinion and directly states that Fordren seems like a hardened and cold businessman who would not hesitate to use any trick he got up his sleeve. He shares Auryn's assessment that Fordren is mostly interested in his profit, wealth and benefit, even if he's capable of feeling remorse, bitterness and longing for something he cannot put his finger on yet. What's worrying though is the fact that he's still obsessed with Auryn and strangely fascinated by her, even if he doesn't know whether this obsession would eventually collide with the pact he made with her.

    But if one out aside all this baggage, then Fordren could turn out to be quite useful in the future as he's a powerful man who appears to oppose the Obs with an uncanny honesty. He also seemed to have honest intentions with Lord Vantrys which makes him hope that his protegee might have a brighter future in sight than a few years ago.

    “Let's put it that way: Other than Goodson, Fordren doesn't seem to overpower Lord Vantrys. He aims for a collaborative partnership in Flint. Despite being a shark, he has been tame so far. And I'd honor him for that. But should he make any mistake, should he ever touch you or try to make you his again, then I'll cut him open bottom to top.”

    Auryn looks very much baffled at this last statement as Carlyle dryly and calmly finishes his assessment.

    “And there you shot your arrow right through my heart”

    “Huh? I never thought that you, of all people, would like to hear me talking about violence.” Carlyle says, even more surprised than she was. But Auryn just shakes her head in return, laughing quietly.

    “No, that's not what I meant. I just couldn't imagine that you'd use such drastic words. After seeing your positive reaction to Fordren's stance towards the Obs, I feared that he'd be the literal 'enemy of my enemy' for you. But now I know that I got you wrong and your reassurance touched me. Gods, you really are like one of those perfect risuri damsels from your novels: Hot and cold, daring and shy, distanced and interested at the same time.”

    Carlyle just smirks and shrugs in return. Auryn then brings the subject back to Fordren as she tells Carlyle how and why the man brought her to the edge of losing herself. She explains that she first tried to negotiate, and then tried to gain his sympathy. When both diplomatic approaches failed, she then simply defied his wishes and neglected herself, hoping that he'd lose interest in time. She also tried to flee, but those attempts had not been successful. And when she realized that she couldn't hope for external help either, she felt into despair. But she wouldn't allow herself to lose hope and instead turned to a long-time strategy, knowing that she'd eventually be free as she'd easily outlive Fordren by centuries. So she just played along, saving her strength for developing plans and learning all about her “prison”. She survived two years playing this game, Auryn says, which is why Fordren might have thought to have won and made her his Charusheela even when she had always been Auryn on the inside.

    Carlyle thanks her for sharing this story with him as he starts to understand how hard it would be to confront such nightmares again and again. Auryn then moves on and removes her dearly beloved scarf (the magical one Carlyle gave her for her birthday), stating that she doesn't wish to let the scars of the past make her scared of her future. She then takes Carlyle's hand and carefully touches her scarred throat with the back of his hand.

    “I've never let anyone come near it after Killika had removed the golden choker. And I don't wish to be afraid of your touch.” she explains when Carlyle looks estranged by her gesture. Only to wince shortly after and breathe heavily as she feels... somehow being observed.

    “Everything alright? You seem troubled.”

    “I just felt as if something was watching me. Guess I'm being a bit paranoid right now...”

    “I don't think so.” Carlyle says, casting a magic detection spell before scanning the whole tent for magical sensors. When he finally finds what he's been looking for, her conceals it with his hands, calls for Auryn and shows her his findings. When Auryn takes a closer look, the sensor suddenly vanishes as if someone realized he or she has been found out.

    (Can I just say that Carlyle always taking Auryn serious despite her occasional neurotic tendencies is more than just charming? As long as his behavior isn't the subject of debate, he's so genuinely trusting, sweet and caring towards her.)

    We assume that this poor attempt at spying was conducted by Team Lya and brush it off as part of the game. Even if we both value our privacy. Carlyle then returns the subject to Auryn's scar (which isn't really made of scar tissue, but rather miscolored skin) and asks why she wouldn't ask Margit to heal her.

    “Margit, huh? Never thought about it.” she answers, signaling Carlyle that this isn't really about physical healing. Carlyle then offers to mix her a healing balm instead, which Auryn gladly accepts. Before the situation gets too awkward, Auryn then switches subjects to her friend Nymeia who still hasn't gotten her response from Carlyle. She says that all she wanted was to give Nymeia a chance when she encouraged her love-struck friend to invite Carlyle to tea, even if she knows that her friend's chances are pretty dim right now.

    “But she's a little girl. She should try dating people of her age.”

    “Then tell her you're too old for her. Politely. She may be young, but her intelligence would surprise you and being treated with respect shouldn't be a matter of age.”

    “And she'll swoon and sigh and blush.”

    “She's a young woman from Risur. So yes, she'll probably do that. And talk about botany, herbalism and alchemy. She even reads the same books like you!” Auryn counts before bursting into laughter at the absurd situation of advertising Nymeia despite her own attraction.

    “I know these feelings. I've been a young man as well, you know. A few centuries ago or so.”

    Auryn continues to laugh as she tries very hard to imagine a very young love-struck and very human Carlyle. He then promises to take care of “the Nymeia dilemma” before she grows quiet again as she reflects on the attack of the Crisillyiri. All of a sudden she then mentions a suspicion she had back then when the agents talked about killing and reprogramming Carlyle: That maybe the Vantrys incident wasn't meant to assassinate the noble family, but to force Carlyle's rebirth. And that maybe some Crisillyiri agents had tried to get their hands on said reincarnation to “reprogram” him. But Carlyle, unlike other devas, she says, was gifted with the ability to remember much more of his past lives than usual, which is why such a plan had not been fruitful.

    Carlyle frowns at this train of thoughts and agrees that there is some logic behind it. Even if he doesn't allow this idea to take root as if such a chain of events was something that mustn't be. Still he believes that meeting and talking to other devas in Flint might be a good idea as he knows next to nothing about other people of his kind. Especially in terms of handling reincarnations. He adds that, besides the obvious Stanfield, he knows exactly one other deva, a curator who had been an Eladrin in his first life.

    (That guy who he met in adventure three)

    He then talks a bit about his own first life and how he himself and his unit had been transformed by Srasama's fire. He explains that all of them had become devas. All but the one man he had killed to save his commander's life. The first human whose life he had ended, and a terrible human being indeed. He doesn't go into detail, but he roughly describes a soldier who had abused his position as interrogator to torture their captives, then shakes his head and explains that there is a fine line between soldier and beast. Still he'd think about maybe visiting his old comrades again, even if that meant going to Crisillyir again. The place he had to leave as he couldn't bear to hear the wailing of the dead.

    Auryn promises to protect his mind as she had done during their trip to the Bleak Gate and to Elfaivar should he really wish to visit his friends. Carlyle adds that he hasn't seen them in decades, so they maybe don't recognize him anymore. But there is one, a man who came to visit him in Flint on an irregular basis, a man who's still struggling with his “new” identity. He says that he sent him to Smithee so the medium may help him, but even then poor Eddie has never been whole again.

    Auryn thanks Carlyle for this small insight into his private life and thoughts as she's usually the one who's talking about her thoughts and experiences.(Carlyle is better at listening, he says)
    She then says that it's getting pretty late and points to her private room.

    “I wouldn't mind to feel some warmth tonight” Auryn says, smiling mischievously.

    “You realize that you won't exactly feel much when you're sleeping?”

    “A bed isn't just for sleeping, you know? Being close to someone you like can be quite comforting sometimes.”

    “Very well then. I don't mind sleeping next to you either.” Carlyle finally admits before changing into his sleeping attire and offering his partner a shoulder to sleep on.

    (Yes, he's making a total fuss about being close to Auryn – or anyone else in that matter – as he really isn't used to bodily contact for comfort's sake. He sometimes just forgets that people do such things and then gets surprised when someone gets too close to him.

    And yeah, now the cat's out of the bag regarding Auryn's feeling towards the “enemy of her enemy”. And she's pretty embarrassed to have doubted her partner because of this sore spot. Problem is that they're both beating around the bush to an extend that they regularly misunderstand each other. Even now, there is a large part of the Carlyle persona that Auryn doesn't understand (and that will continue to cause trouble) and vice versa.

    On top of that, she's really not used to be rebuffed so much after Carlyle kind of agreed to be in a relationship with her and even asked her to be her exclusive partner. In her mind, Carlyle had been this closet romantic who secretly wished to live like Hector Fernandez. And while she didn't care much for romance, she would have expected her “lover” to be more openly into her. After all, she was used to being courted by confident men and women alike.

    So it took her a while to realize that Carlyle's confidence and even his affection wouldn't be on open display. That he was a man of small gestures who implicitly defined their relationship in very casual sentences. That he didn't place too much value and importance in himself, other than these Eladrin warriors who had tried to impress her. And these Carlyle-erstics were both charming and irritating for her.

    On the other hand, she wasn't really sure about her own emotional state either as she couldn't really place her many-faceted feelings towards the people she cared for. She knew that she loved Dawkins dearly, but she loved him like a mentor or an older member of her family. And her feelings for Gabriel were quite different, even if she trusted him just as much.

    Without spoiling too much in this regard... she only said the three magic words when she faced “death” almost a year later...)
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  4. #214
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    Mind Games

    Session 37

    As Carlyle still only needs 2 hours of sleep (courtesy to his trusted Ring of Sustenance), he's already awake and making plans for the railway construction when Auryn gets up the next morning. Having had a good night's rest, she apologizes for doubting her partner when it came to his relationship with Fordren. Shaking off all this unconscious fear is quite hard, she says, even if she knows from the bottom of her heart that he'll always stand by her side.

    “Let's just say that I'd welcome a little more trust.” Carlyle replies with a melancholic smile. “But for now, let's get down to business. Shall we?”

    He then points at a few spots on the construction map and marks places Burton had mentioned in his letters to Margit and Flying Spark that he'd call weak spots in the Danoran's defenses. Securing our own team is pivotal as well and we still agree to not over-do possible acts of sabotage.

    “We need to get creative, too, as the Bruse wishes to be entertained as well.” Auryn adds.

    So we decide to first try out mind games and striking fear into the enemy workers without actually harming them. So we first order a bunch of Harkover Lee Specials (mostly illusion spells) via sending to prepare for our actions. Auryn then takes a closer look at Pemberton's automatons, tries out a few spells and finally asks to lend one of them for a bit of experimentation.

    (Wanted to retrain a spell into “apparent master” as we switched to milestone leveling after adventure 5 and I really had no next level in sight. So she's going to learn how to control constructs the hard way.)

    As we got a message that Rush and Merton disappeared yesterday evening, we ask Margit to perform a few divination spells on them and their plans. She's quite surprised by the results and tells us that “The world's end slumbers in icy depths”. Which is why we also prepare for possible radical Eschatologist attacks, crazy as that may sound. At least we can rule out frozen giants as these kind of guys only reside in Drakr, which is to the north, not to the south (where R&M went)

    (she totally botched the roll. We took it seriously anyway.)

    After one day of fairly normal work, we then receive another message from Burton including the names of a few foremen and a list of the danoran/Griento's materiel orders. Margit tries another divination for Rush's and Merton's next target and this time the result is “great is the lizardfolk's bounty”. So we suspect they might be sending local lizardfolk tribes after us and prepare accordingly. Burton confirms this suspicion in his next message as he says that the two bodyguards took both weapons and gold with them.

    Before they can try to hit us hard, we decide to take matters in our hands and bring Margit to a switch at one of Team Griento's marshalling yards. She then uses a metal-bending spell to bend and block the switch. This way, we're able to delay their shipments by about half a day.

    (We just realized that a metalbender like Leone would have been crazily effective at this job and were kind of happy to having gotten rid of him in the leak Gate complex)

    We then continue building our tracks for a few days and keep a close eyes on the Danoran progress as well. They seem to play rather safely as well and so we see no need to hurry too much despite our sufficient financial boost.

    As soon as the Danorans/Grientos reach the swamplands, we decide to utilize a story we heard from some of our older workers: Legends of will-o-wisps, eerie ghosts and even a banshee inhabiting the misty swamps, luring poor souls to their certain deaths. So we sneak to our rival camp at night, conjure magical mists and use othre spells to conjure floating lanterns. On top of that, Auryn cloaks herself in white robes and sings hauntingly beautiful but grief-stricken songs of death. She lures one of the orcish workers out to the swamp where we manage to kidnap him without much hassle. Just to make sure that the Banshee claimed her first victim.

    Of course, we don't really intend to harm the guy. Instead, we bring him to our camp where we keep him in one of our tents and explain that he's just playing a part in a crazy game. And we'll certainly release him once this game is over.

    Next, it is our team which is being attacked by Team Lya as we get a message that some lizardfolk bandits are attacking our shipment. Fortunately, we already knew that this attack was coming, so we take the half-giants and push the bandits back before they can do much damage.

    To keep up our morale, we do a bit of team-building each evening where we share stories and sing songs and try to get to know each part of Liss' team personally. The evening after the attack, we receive another message from Burton who explain that he had successfully convinced Griento to hire him as a cook as he's terribly afraid of “the Banshee”. This, he'll be able to get a deeper insight into their logistics, he says. Also, Lya Jierre threw quite the tantrum when the workers refused to go into the swamp again after one of their comrades went missing, calling them superstitious cowards. She ordered Griento to fire all “striking” workers and hire others while luring the rest with extra payments.

    We count this as a total success and continue our nightly terror. This time, we do not only kidnap a second orc, but also put one to sleep and alter his memories to make him remember seeing the actual Banshee take his comrade, killing him with a wail and turning him into an undead.

    A day later, we receive the message that one of our locomotive's boilers has exploded. In order to save our loc and its cargo, we rush to the damaged engine and let Margit's repair magic do the job. Meanwhile, we find out that someone just put spirits instead of water into the cooling system. So we advise the drivers of the supply trains to always double-check their systems to prevent further incidents.

    To take revenge on their explosive attack, we ask Margit to set the weather to “nasty” for a while. So she conjures torrential rain in the swamplands and lets the local rivers swell to the point that working there would be pretty unwise. Meanwhile, Carlyle takes a trip to the lower swamp to collect some herbs for a powerful laxative. He then brews a good dose of the drug and sends it to Burton, complete with instructions and stuff. Burton then says that he'll make sure to spice up this evening's stew a bit. On top of that, he hands us information on Ulrik and says that the young servant is a bit shy and usually using the outermost latrine of the camp.

    We thank our goblin friend for his tip and hand this message to Delft via sending. The next day, Carlyle goes out into the wilderness again to look for wild beasts he may herd into the opponent's camp. He spots a herd of giant goats and two nearby tyrannosaurs. And as goats don't usually form a stampede without a reason, he rouses the dinosaurs and makes them chase the goats all towards Team Griento's encampment.

    The same day, bandits try to attack us again, and this time they are armed with muskets and rifles. As we already expected another of such attacks, we mange to fend them off without too much hassle.

    In the evening, we get a new letter from Burton who writes that there had been an incident with wild beasts today. He explains that 20 workers got eaten by a pair of hungry tyrannosaurs after a group of goats had trampled through their camp. But as megafauna is quite a common sight in these parts of Ber, this might just have been a terrible coincidence. Still he'd like to know whether we were behind the attack or not. Oh and the rest of them is panicking as everyone fears they might have caught Cholera.

    Carlyle turns very silent when Auryn reads the message to him and Margit which in turn puts Auryn on alert. When she asks him whether “we” might have had anything to do with the animal attack, he confesses that he might have been looking for a scapegoat for a stampede earlier this day. And now he's feeling miserable that his action caused so many unplanned losses as he didn't see too much of a threat in the tyrannosaurs. After all, he would have been able to handle both beasts on his own.

    “I guess, from now on, you shouldn't let me do these sort of missions all alone. I fear I might fall back into old habits which might get... even more people hurt.”

    Auryn closes her eyes for a moment, takes a deep breath and then finally says “I guess you are right. This 'game' really brings out the worst of us. Curse the Bruse and his idea of 'fun'.”

    “Curse him.”

    “But please... remember that you are no longer exactly what people would call a 'mortal', so your potential will always be far beyond the power of a regular worker, or even a soldier.”

    “I will.” Carlyle promises, his voice quite strangled with regret.

    (In a hindsight, this scene was pretty powerful. It had all been fun and games – even if a bit frustrating to poke and be potentially poked where it hurts – until the giants in the playground underestimated their own power. A terrible reminder that with great power comes great responsibility. And one of the few moments when Carlyle felt almost overwhelmed with regret and realized what kind of danger he might pose.)

    Auryn then brings out some notes and books she's been studying for quite a while now as she explains that she's working on something truly grandiose. When Carlyle spots the “Heraldry and Symbolism of the Tyrants of Old” and some rugged pieces of tapestry, he gets curious and asks his partner what kind of grandiose plan could involve so much history research. In return, Auryn grins mischievously, opens up the book and points at a symbol of a steel claw holding a gnoll skull.

    “I'm going to bring back Gradiax, the Steel Tyrant.”
    Last edited by Lylandra; Thursday, 6th June, 2019 at 09:11 AM.
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    I'm sad, and then suddenly I'm laughing my ass off.
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    The return of Gradiax

    Hah, who could have expected that 1) a gnoll army would be on the march and 2) Auryn would use You-know-who's true identity by sheer coincidence. I just thought "Oh well, if I'm going to use a dragon, why not use the one these rebel gnolls already claim to be returning"

    Oh and warning: long post for completion's sake

    ---

    Before she implements her plan, Auryn first decides to talk a bit more to the other construction workers of team Liss regarding Dragon Tyrants. One of the foremen tells her that there is really no Tyrant as well known as Gradiax since the gnolls of the south still appear to be worshiping their old master who had been ruling over all of southern Ber until two hundred years ago. Regarding other Tyrants, he had spotted an old mural depicting a dragon with a very long and slender neck on an old ruin recently, but he doesn't really know this one's name.

    This only confirms Auryn's thesis that using Gradiax for her plan might just be the most feasible idea and so she asks Flying Spark to do some performance training with her. Carlyle, who's pretty much convinced that conjuring the image of a Tyrant might be the final straw for the opposing team, mentions that giving said Tyrant a group of “loyal followers” might add to the plan'tSplausibility, so he decides to repay the past bandit attacks with more bandits.

    This time, he approaches some local lizardfolk bandits who he asks to just annoy the other construction team while wearing Gradiax' sigil and praising the Tyrant. And it seems like they're in for the cheap money.

    Shortly after Carlyle returns from the lizardmen, we get a message from one of our trainyards. It appears as if one of our trains is barely able to move, despite the engine running at full power. So we travel to Renza and examine the locomotive. At first, it appears as everything is just working as intended, at least from a mechanical point of view. But then we start looking for traces of magic and finally find the culprit: An immovable rod, cleverly disguised as a regular brace.

    We remove the rod and both share a quick laugh over this really clever and creative act of “sabotage” from most likely Rush Münchhausen. Sadly, the rod turns inert after we remove it, but we still keep it as a souvenir. And order to let some spare mages travel along the trains to check them for further magical sabotage.

    (whoever thought of this plan: Kudos to a really creative and rather harmless obstruction. Discovering the rod was some good fun!)

    Carlyle decides to repay the favor, but he doesn't want to throw out the cleverest plans just yet. So he simply sneaks to the opposing team's coal supplies and lets one of the coal heaps burn down. And as we anticipate a revenge action in an equal matter, we call for an additional coal-car so our trains would be able to run even if someone decided to burn down some coal. Turns out our assumption was quite correct this time.

    This evening, we get another letter from Burton saying that the morale in Camp Griento is really close to the edge with people striking and some individuals even revolting. Some of them demand higher pay as this construction turned out to be far more dangerous than anticipated. Lya payed some of them to keep still and silent while she fired a couple of others. As the supplies turned out to be late again, many people had to work extra hours when they finally arrived, which was basically in the middle of the night. She and her team still have the golems they bought from Pemberton though. Oh and Lya almost lost it when she heard about her servant Ulrik's disappearance.

    We could almost feel sorry for Lya as she surely never wished to participate in this stupid competition either. And as if this wasn't enough already, Auryn finally manages to finish her magical research and presents a totally obedient automaton to the surprised Liss and Carlyle. And one day later, she sneaks into Camp Griento, enchants 9 of their 10 golems and lets them walk off into the desert while dancing ballet.

    The next day, we receive a letter from Lya, asking for a parley. We agree to talk to her and meet her and Inez a not far from Camp Liss.

    “This game is such a terrible waste of time and nerves, don't you agree? I just wish we could let these two monsieurs finish their work without further interference.” Lya starts, looking unusually strained and tired.

    We nod in honest agreement stating that we could think of better ways to spend our time and resources. But alas, the Bruse wanted it that way and a certain Jierre refused to accept a joint interrogation of Tinker Oddcog. Lya laughs it off faintly and then congratulates us to the obvious manipulation of her golems. Even if she really doesn't understand how someone would be able to do that.

    “You really believe that Eladrin are nothing but savages who live in the jungle, dear? We wouldn't have been able to build one of the greatest empires in the world without some powerful resources and intelligence.” Auryn says, smiling confidently.

    Lya then gets to one of her major points: The disappearance of Ulrik. She explains that her servant is extremely loyal and, should we have anything to do with him missing, we should probably give him back as he won't talk anyway. We return that we honestly don't have him as this would be against the rules of the Bruse's game anyway. Still, we confess that we eventually might have captured some of Griento's workers who we will return unharmed as soon as this game is over.

    (a semi-truth backed up with a really good bluff. We do know almost for sure that some RHC team got their hands on Ulrik, but we truly don't know where he is or had any personal involvement.)

    We then unsuccessfully try to appeal to Lya to just give up on Oddcog or the Obs altogether as we still got a lot of respect for her and her integrity and it pains us to see a damn fine woman like her being used as a tool for some conspirators. She understands where we're coming from, but still believes that she does what is right. So we go separate ways once again to finish what we started.

    Two days later, we spot large clouds of smoke in the south. Concerned that this may be yet another attack from Team Lya, we decide to take a closer look and find a huge army of gnolls making camp in 5 different locations. We sneak up to listen to some of their conversations and learn that these gnolls are actually rebels from southern Ber who truly believe in the return of their old master, Gradiax. What's really terrifying is that they appear to be on the march northwards and threaten to cross both our construction sites soon.

    We retreat a few meters and discuss on what to do now as we should probably evacuate both camps immediately. Still we don't know whether Lya would be sensitive enough to not try to win the race against the gnolls or not, thus endangering Griento and his team. Then, Auryn closes her eyes for a moment and finally says: “Alright. Let's give these gnolls what they want. I need to test my plan anyway.”

    So we wait until night falls and conjure up a striking image of Gradiax, the Steel Tyrant, who approaches his faithful subjects with a booming roar. As we had hoped, the gnolls throw themselves to the ground and praise their supreme master. Gradiax praises his army for their loyalty and unbreakable steadfastness against this filthy usurper cow in the north. Still, he knows that great fervor comes with impatience and he needs them to wait for the right moment to strike his enemies when they are most vulnerable. So he demands them to wait until he signals all of his armies and supporters to attack the faithless. And it appears that these gnolls do heed the call of their draconic god.

    (Fortunately, Auryn does speak a wicked draconic and has quite the intimidate skill.)

    We repeat the process with the four other gnoll camps and are quite sure that they'll obey their god's demand for now. So we return to our camp and tell Liss about our little gnollish problem in the south. We decide that it'd be best to inform Seobriga and the Bruse immediately so the armies of Ber may take care of this rebel army. Getting soldiers to our respective camps should be quite easy now that the railway is near completion, we think. So we cast a sending to the Grand Vizier and warn her about the gnolls and mention that we managed to trick them into halting their approach for a while.

    (In a hindsight, we were really fortunate to warn Zarkava and not Kenna Vigilante. We just thought that she'd be the most reasonable and wise of them all)

    Half a day later, Lya asks for yet another parley to warn us about the gnoll army to the south. She explains that they appear to have halted for now, but they may still strike at any time now. Lya says that the situation right now might be too dangerous for both our teams and Griento's and Liss' workforce, so she already ordered a coordinated evacuation of her team a hour ago. She also informed Seobriga after she learned about the threat, so help may already be on the way. As soon as reinforcements arrive for both our sides, the construction process shall start anew, she explains. We thank Lya for her warning and mention that we spotted these gnolls and informed Seobriga as well. And as long as this threat remains, we'll personally guard our work force and only let them work while all our security personnel is present.

    (Yeah, we didn't mention that the gnolls probably won't attack soon...)

    So we continue our construction process (albeit really carefully) and it appears as if the gnolls leave us be for now. But then, we hear strange drums at night, their sounds coming from the south, and expect the worst. As we don't wish to leave our camp without protection, Carlyle volunteers to go looking for the source of said drums.

    While he's outside, he suddenly gets the uneasy feeling as if there were raging spirits nearby, but he cannot really locate them. Meanwhile, the rest of us just realizes that the sounds coming from the sounds could be a mere distraction as there are additional, much quieter sounds coming from the north. So we brace ourselves and warn our security staff of the imminent attack.

    It doesn't take much time to realize that there is a massive undead lizardfolk army trying to overwhelm us. Fortunately, Carlyle returns just in time so we may team up against these rotting creatures. Auryn and Flying Spark throw fireballs at some weaker looking hordes to great effect while Margit conjures a barrier of wind to protect us from projectiles. She then realizes that these are undead and therefore receptive to spiritual energy, so she channels her nature powers to harm them.

    Then everything turns colder and colder as a harsh wind comes howling from the north. We suspect that whatever caused the dead lizards to rise may just be up there, so we head into this general direction and see two lizardfolk liches riding a sleigh decorated with a dragon skull.

    When they spot us, they shout that their master, Cheshimox, will soon return and turn us all to ice. We suspect that the dragon skull might once have been part of said dragon Tyrant and we see that the two liches are about to conduct a strange ritual with it while still driving in our direction. We also believe that maybe eradicating the liches may end the undead invasion, which is why Auryn and Carlyle jump onto the sleigh and attack the undead. Turns out that they are more robust than they look though and retaliate with strong lightning spells.

    Just when one of the lizards is about to finish the ritual, a severely burnt Auryn manages to pierce her rapier through the undead's skull. The other one witnesses his partner's demise and conjures a wave of green fire at Carlyle. He screams in agony, but shakes off the fire in the end and chops off the other lich's head.

    As soon as both liches are dead, the sleigh beneath our feet crumbles and the icy ground starts warming up again. Without their masters, the remaining ghouls seem to be less effective or driven, but we still take the time to eradicate them all. Carlyle's spirit senses relax a bit but he still gets the impression that these undead had been following a path of righteous fury. As he doesn't know why they would attack us, he just assumes that maybe our railway is crossing some sacred territory or burial ground of the followers of Cheshimox.

    Speaking about Cheshimox, we also carefully pick up the Tyrant's skull and examine it as soon as we're back in our camp. When we are sure that this thing poses no threat, we decide to give it to the Bruse as a gift upon the end of the game.

    We then decide to go all-in and order a large quantity of supplies. When the shipment arrives as ordered, we then ask our workers to do extra shifts for two days and promise to pay them extra. And they'll get some cake, too.

    (Andrei was really fond of the cake )

    So while our workers do the best they can, we guess that it will be finally time for our last ace: The return of Gradiax. For this, we carefully hide Flying Spark inside the head of a magnificent illusion of Gradiax which we then let fly towards Camp Griento. Flying Spark first fires a bunch of fire spells in the general direction of the camp (he purposefully misses, of course) before an invisible Auryn (who is also busy controlling said illusion) uses another spell to magnify her voice into the booming roar of a great wyrm.

    “FOOLISH MORTALS! BOW BEFORE THE MIGHT OF GRADIAX, BOW BEFORE YOUR ONE TRUE KING!”

    Needless to say that all of Camp Griento immediately turns into a bunch of chickens. Even their guards totally panic at what must be the return of one of Ber's most feared dragon tyrants.

    (I can only guess that Lya tried to tell them that dragons cannot fly, but... yeah. Mission accomplished )
    XP Tizbiz, Tormyr gave XP for this post

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