Session 142 (April 13, 2022)
They address a long delayed letter from Zorplona-Moriquendarim. [Included below--it was long delayed in part because the PCs who sent it are in a much earlier time than this group, separated by about six months of game time.]
Unto the His Imperial Majesty, Alastair, Emperor of the Restored South Kingdoms, Archduke of Canberry, Chosen of the Light, Sovereign of the Heights and Depths, and Lord of his other domains,
Greetings from friends in the enclave of Zaplona-Moriquendi'rim.
It has come to Our attention that You and Your Empire are involved in the great battle against the forces of the Eldritch. As We too are engaged in battling this most ancient of evils We have attached documentation detailing the strengths and vulnerabilities of the Eldritch creatures We have encountered and studied to date.
Further, We have received reports that You have acquired a quantity of orichalcum for this effort. We have at Our disposal a methodology for the powdering and storage of this material allowing more measured quantities to be affixed to weapons, such as arrowheads, and used in spells to cleanse the taint. This will allow a single ounce to be reduced to over 50,000 motes. This both minimizes, though does not eliminate, the plane rending effects of utilizing orichalcum against Eldritch energies as well as stretching the available supply. If it isYour wish, the enclave of Zaplona-Moriquendi'rim would gladly host a representative, most effectively a mage or psychokinetian, while We assist You in this matter.
We hope this information is of assistance to You and can form the basis of a fruitful relationship between Our enclave and Your empire.
Should You choose to send a representative, future updates and intelligence can be provided and received through them. We thank You for Your stalwart bravery and Your efforts against the Eldritch.
May Your reign be long and prosperous,
Sent this the 23rd day of the month of Tar-Ghast, Year of the Wyvern, first cycle of the fifth age,
Lord Proconsul Hinuusinta Moriquendi'rim of Zaplona-Moriquendi'rim
They agree to share intelligence and gratefully wish to learn to use orichalcum better.
They summon Dame Constance, who comes with Dame Agatha, her chief assistant.
“According to the Libram Apothecarious, orichalcum can, when reacting with a material that causes explosions, rend a hole in reality, usually leaving a gaping hole to the Abyss, for no more than a few dozens of years.”
“Could the other outsiders use this to bring through more of their forces? The eldritch, perhaps?”
“No, only creatures from the Abyss.”
“Why the Abyss?” asks Kit.
“The upper layers of the Abyss—the ones ruled by the Council of Six—have been pushing hard to conquer our plane for many years. It has resulted in some contact between the planes, and of course the Shadowlands represents an area where they have succeeded. The punch through from an orichalcum explosion is nowhere near sufficient to create breach into planes that are presently controlled by the Unspeakable. They are strong enough to temporarily disrupt the fabric of reality in such a way that demons can pass through, as I said, for no more than a few dozen years.”
“That’s a few dozen years too many,” mutters Kit.
“I entirely agree. They're despicable creatures. They should be eradicated. All of my devils agree with this.”
“We’ve generated a variety of orichalcum explosions. Have demons passed through as a result of any of those?”
“No, I would have been able to detect it. The only such disturbance I detected on Drucien was far in the north. I surmise that the people who informed you about this must have used too much.”
“The Enclave of Zorplona-Moriquendarim has been fighting actively against the eldritch in their region.”
“So they got rid of the Unmentionable, and gained a few demonic foes. They're warning you against the same, I gather.”
“Indeed, which was particularly dismaying to us, because, as I said, we've been unaware of the risk.”
“Compared to the risk of the Unmentionable, it's very minor, really.”
“We cannot discontinue the use of orichalcum, but we may be able to be more careful with it.”
Dame Constance replies gravely, “I don't know of a method we could reduce the orichalcum to small enough particles to prevent any risk.”
“They said that psychokineticists could separate it into approximately 50,000th of an ounce, and that those would be small enough.”
“Oh, trust the elves to have figured out such things. Any of the elves, really,” she says as she looks towards Dame Agatha. Throughout the conversation, Dame Agatha has been taking all of the notes—unusual, because Dame Constance always took her own notes. The Council assumes that this is part of Dame Constance’s aging and succession planning, but does not ask-- “are you about to be dragged off to Hell for years and years?” seems a little blunt, even for Dame Constance. “Are they offering to assist you in this?”
“Yes, largely in offering training or assistance to our people. We will certainly take them up on that.”
“Very wise. I guess I hadn't really thought of the potentiality of the demons as being a major concern. I can see that it could be... yes, yes, you're correct, of course. I imagine this is why you're an emperor, and I'm just a diabolist. I assumed that since we could wipe out demons and we couldn't necessarily wipe out the other… Huh!”
“Again, nobody's arguing that that we should not use the orichalcum to defeat them. Just that we may want to be a little bit more it's circumspect about it.”
They send a representative to Zorplona-Moriquendarim to get assistance on orichalcum. The Minister of the Mind reports that they only have an adept psychokineticist to send, so they make do with that, but they also send a senior mage. They have a basic rundown on what Zorplona-Moriquendarim has discovered. The blooddriven are the most dangerous of the local servitors; they age over the course of 10 years, increasing in danger in time, before merging into the enemy after 10 years. They also have hive minds, but the hive minds are separate—they all have a connection to Lord Quinliart and through him to the Enemy, but they don’t talk directly to each other, which has slowed their ability to get reinforcements. They also confirm that two gray elves (from the Hidden Enclave) have been corrupted.
Kit also reports that there is a very artful new employee in Zorplona-Moriquendarim’s pleasure dome in Glittertowers, called the Marchioness, with a very select clientele. Kit sends the fanciest of Naughty Bits to investigate further and hear what can be heard. They send them by voller, and they will arrive on roughly the 30th of O-Tar. (27 hexes west, 154 hexes north; each step west is 21.65 miles, each step north is 25 miles, so 585 miles west and 3850 miles north, for a Pythagorean total of about 3900 miles. Human military vollers travel about 200 miles/day at ordinary speed, so it’s roughly a 20 day flight for military vollers. Trade vollers?)
Dame Brionna has a report from Clarence Strawberry. [Attached.] They are still getting refugees in the south, though not as frequently as previously. A group of “bandits” were pursuing a group of 200 refugees, and the Earl of Mountainmarch sent forces to defend them. He was able to defeat them, but at the cost of 40 ultra heavy foot, which suggests that the “bandits” were a much more capable force than normal bandits. The Earl of Mountainmarch is a direct vassal to the Duke of Grimcliff in Canberry, and he controls most of our aluminum and copper mines. He has a large number of dwarves and mines in his domain. They all speculate that there must be specific targets among the refugees—important refugees or people of mixed heritage.
They contact the Earl through a human farsensor.
“Oh, my lord Archduke,” the Earl says while getting down on one knee and bowing deeply. He's not young.
“Honored cousin, we wish to thank you for attending to the defense of the refugees recently. We had a few questions about the matter and we hoped you could enlighten us.”
“Of course, your Grace, in whatever way I can.”
“For bandits they inflicted far too heavy casualties.”
“These were no bandits. Your Grace, I've seen my share of bandits. You can't have mining communities and not have. They were disguised as bandits, but when you cut through raggedy clothing you come across high-quality armor. When you examine the bows, which have had attachments given them to make them look like peasant bows, they’re war bows from one end to the other. This is a troop of military personnel from somewhere. I have two alive. I refuse to resort to torture-- the Light of Glordiadel does not shine on such endeavor-- and they refuse to answer any question we put to them.”
“We of course approve of your refusal to engage in atrocities, and we would never suggest that you do otherwise. But we may have means that are more effective than simply questioning, without violating the principles of our Lord of Light.”
“Do you wish me to transfer them to your care? A unit of cavalry that came to the aid of my men but are actually service to the Duke himself are still here. We were fortunate. They saw the trail and decided to follow it from their patrol position.”
“Indeed, if you could send them via that means, do so.”
“I certainly will.”
“Once you cut away the disguises, did they have any rank, insignia or unit markings, or anything like that that might reveal where they were from?”
“Everything had been scuffed out or removed, your Grace. They're definitely not from any part of the Archduchy, and I do not know who is in the South anymore, so it is difficult for me to guess who it might be. I am sure they are not Cese Maian.”
“Are they of Southern stock?”
“Were they all human?”
“All of the ones that we were able to defeat were human. My commander tells me that one of the ones that escaped... what did he call it?”
They hear a younger voice reply, “A tiefling, your grace.”
“One of the commanders was a tiefling, whatever that is.”
“We’re familiar with them.”
“Also distinctive enough that we can start asking around,” adds Dame Brionna.
“Yes, we need to get a mental image of that person,” comments Kit.
“You don't happen to have any of that one's blood, do you?”
“Bring me the commander. I know he's resting from his wounds, but I need to speak with him,” says the Earl.
“Tieflings, my lord earl, are part demons or part devilkind, descendants of demons or devils, without being truly fiendish themselves, nor even half demons or devils, but grandchildren and great grandchildren and the like.”
Dame Kit knows through her agents throughout the Duchy that the Earl of Mountainmarch is older, craggy, and known to be extremely orthodox in his faith. His reaction to this information reflects that.
After a moment, the Earl speaks to someone the Council can’t see. “His Grace the Archduke wishes to know if anyone drew the blood of the tiefling you said was in command.”
“Your grace, please tell his ultimate grace that he was cut, as it were, by one of my men, with their secondary weapon. Unfortunately, that soldier rests in light, and his wound, by some abominable magic, healed itself. He retreated, but only when his force was reduced below a level where any competent commander could have expected victory. And if it pleases you, ultimate grace, I am fairly certain that they were after a very specific group of twelve among the refugees. Before I went to the healers to see to my own wounds, I took the liberty to separate those twelve out quietly. I was going to write a report to your grace, and to the honored dame that advises the Archduke, with the approval of my lord Earl. But apparently I do not have to.”
“If the secondary weapon of the soldier who wounded him and then died can be recovered, ideally with the blood that was on it...”
“The weapon was buried with his body, as a standard battle honor.”
“Then, please have the blood gathered off that weapon by an alchemist or skilled mage with an interest in alchemy, who will understand what it means to try to keep that blood usable for arcane purposes. I think we will go hunting.”
The Earl faithfully repeats everything Alistair says, even if the mention of “arcane purposes” causes a slight twist to his lip.
“Now, tell us about these refugees—the twelve.”
“Your grace, I've lived in these mountains all of my life. Those refugees are clearly fae blooded, though not of the fae that we are used to here. Perhaps brownies.”
The Council quickly agrees to contact the Tor to protect them. “Some of our fae friends will be coming to provide them individual protection.”
The Earl is much happier passing that along than he was saving blood for spell.
The Earl’s commander says, “I’ll personally see to their protection until then.”
You're not personally going anywhere until you're healed up,” commands the Earl. “I'll send your adjunct, and I'll send some squads from the other regiment in case just in case.”
“I’m capable of duty, my lord.”
“I'm sure you are, and I'd like you to remain capable of duty, and you have gaping wounds all over, and a lot of them take time to heal because they don't take to the clerics for some reason.”
Alistair interjects, “Wait! What do you mean by that?”
“Our priests have always been able to take care of all of our healing needs. Your grace, I mean no disrespect to the church.”
“No, of course not.”
“For some reason, their touch is not healing the wounds of my men. Their care has always triumphed over the wounds of the enemy before.”
“All the wounds, or only some?”
“Only some, but particularly, for example, the ones that my commander suffered, and they were unable to save the brave soldier who fought the tiefling.”
<<Those might need to be isolated until we can get a team to them with a redactor,>> Kit comments over the mindlink within the Council.
After checking with the psion that the commander can’t hear him without the Earl repeating it, Alistair says, “You’ll need to watch the commander for any sign of unusual behavior. My captain of the Guard has a variety of groups of paladins of Glordiadel and priests and some adjuncts to them that we use to investigate certain matters that that are reflective of the touch of demons, or the like. We’ll send some out to look into this.”
“Your eminent grace, I am humbled by your willingness to send your own people to help me.”
“In the same way that you, as the Lord of Mountainmarch, had an obligation to defend those refugees that you so well rose to the occasion of, I have an obligation to my vassals and my people.”
“I am very pleased to hear that, my lord, and very thankful that you are our liege.”
“Does that surprise you? That ought to be what you would expect of your overliege?”
“I am an old man, your Grace. Things might have slipped a bit.”
“There was a difference between when you are in your youth, and my grandmother was in her prime, and when you were older and she was as well.”
“Forgive me, my lord, but yes.”
“She knew that as well as I did. And we can only be glad that she remained as hail and capable for as long as she did before her decline.”
“The blessings of the light upon her.”
“Indeed. Were there any among this group of soldiers who had strangely translucent flesh or a blue flame within them?
“No… but there were some that had... Commander, a tattoo?”
“I'm not sure it was a tattoo, my lord. It was a marking upon their flash, generally in the small of their back. A small blue sun marking.”
“That is a marking we have seen before, though usually on the sole of the foot.”
“These were distinctly on the small of the back.”
“I don't know what the significance of of the difference is, but that that helps us greatly in identifying who they were. Those are the followers of one of Lord Glordiadel’s cousins in the light, if you understand what I mean, in a heretical side cult.”
He nods grimly. “Of course, I should have suspected heresy.”
“I don't want to encourage you to be... let's just say we must always remember that we are Glordiadelian and not Paranswarmian.”
“Of course, my lord.”
“But if you hear of any reports of people following a blue star or a blue flame or a blue sun, those need to be passed up the line.”
“As you say, your grace, I certainly will do. So they are most typically found among the Sytryites?”
“Yes, but there are some who would get led into heresy from the Holy Church itself.”
“I will do my best to make certain that does not happen while I am alive, Your Grace, and I'm sure that my son will follow.”
“I'm certain that you will do admirably, and that he will as well.”
They ask for some more details about the refugees. They are all children, though mostly not young children, and none of their parents have been identified, though the rest of the refugees were attempting to protect them.
“The rest of the refugees were from a spice plantation at the very western edge of the Spice Lands-- they had been driven out. They were fleeing, and word apparently reached them that there was refuge up here. I fear that Cese Mai lacks the strength sustain its most outlying villages and plantations.”
“We are working to rebuild it; but, as you may know, this is the same heresy that their former archbishop fell into. You may be aware that he was removed by the Patriarch.”
“I was aware that he was removed. I had no idea why, though.”
“You see, this is why we need to walk an appropriate line in recognizing that the Church is a merciful, good faith and a faith that protects all of its people, and that does not view the harming of the innocent as an acceptable cost, while at the same time we need to find these these heretics, so they may be corrected if they have simply fallen into error and dealt with appropriately if they have knowingly engaged in evil.”
“Thank you, your Grace. I will meditate upon your words and pray with my confessor.”
“Thank you, cousin, for your worthy service in this regard. As I said, we will be sending some of the captain’s investigators, and some who have additional healing gifts beyond the norms of a typical priest, to assist in healing as well as to recover the blood and to defend the refugees.”
“Thank you, your Grace. I will see that chambers are prepared for them.”
“We know that there are these enemies active in your area. Make certain that you know of any among your people who have fae blood or elven blood, and that they are kept safe. You should be aware that this enemy may strike at them as well, and they must be kept safe.”
“You think they have more troops, then?”
“We know that their most capable escaped, and I would expect them to deploy more.”
They wrap up the conversation as the Earl asks his son to call up the informal militia and prepare the dwarves for possibly needing to fight.
The Imperial Council sends a message to Dame Constance and Dame Agatha that they expect to soon have a sample of blood of a tiefling who appears to be part of the enemy's operations.