Aphonion Tales: The Archducal Council -- Unedited notes (posts MTWF, temporarily, most recent 5/20/22)

CPaladin

Explorer
[Session 107, cont'd]
Young Lord Brightspan reports that there are a group of gray skinned elves purchasing property in the mid-city. They are attracting attention.

Dame Brionna summons the shadow elves, Lady Filovana, and the drow master crafters. The drow are enthusiastic. Just a bit of the touch is enough [to work on black boxes?]—you only need substantial power if there [... no idea how this sentence was supposed to end.]

"She has gone for Silunad-ceru (“the Salute to Death”). We knew she would after the incident ten years ago. She, from that time to this has been ready, and now she has found a purpose. She did not wish me to accompany her. My brother insisted that he go, but he has been her general for longer than I served her as scholar. I will do my duty here. The House of Arumgil will be upheld as a loyal cadet house of Aufaulgautharim.

"Were she to fall on Goldorim, despite her power, she would have fallen, and hastened the fall of her House. The one place she might tip the scales, she chose to attack. She will fall. But she will kill thousands of human troops before she falls herself."

They arrange for her to begin surveiling for people with the gift, and to begin training apprentices. She is a grandmaster redactor and a master coercer.

She tried to buy a house by offering half a tual. They explain that that was excessive, and that such coins should be deposited at the palace. They assign her a steward to assist her.

She deposits 499.5 osmium tuals.

Alistair offers her a title as a countess.

The Shadowelves are more inclined to worship their Lords and Ladies, than to worship the gods that created them and set them to war with each other, notwithstanding the fact that the Noldar forbid such things.

They get a report from the Inquisition army [I think--conceivably from Snannerkaz's forces, but that makes less sense]--A black laen voller attacked the usurper’s forces about 5 miles south of the capital. They’ve been trying to cross the line into Bormark for several weeks, and have been unable to because of the garrison. There are a lot of dead troops, and two dead drow—they descended for the fight. They’re crossing into Bormark now that the garrison is broken.

They contact the Archbaroness of Mandrath and suggest that they should commit a field army now.

Next day:
With the assistance of some minor human coercers, Lady Filovana extracts one of the Blue Flame entities.

The following day, she removes the other. Dame Constance destroys the essences. She tells Kit—"Killing them would have been wrong, because they hadn’t deliberately gone to serve the other side, but they are idiots."

"But being an idiot isn’t a capital crime."

"Not here…"

Three days later: They destroyed several garrisons along the line, until they reached the main fortress of the line. They killed much of the garrison, but all fell, at which point the ship exploded, destroying the fortress entirely. All told, they destroyed 2-3 field armies. The Kov of Bormark marched to seize the positions that were clear, and has asserted his loyalty to the Church of Paranswarm and his determination to abide by its determination of the disposition of the throne.

The Imperial Council travels to Lady Filovana’s house. They inform her, and the household enters mourning.

They send a message to the Patriarch of Sytry, asking for a meeting. He agrees to one on the 8th of Tar-Chund.
[End session 107]
 

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CPaladin

Explorer
Session 108 (April 2, 2020)

28 Chund
The Council receives a report from the Duke of Mortorose [Attached]. They discuss the large army gathering in Holy Cortose, and the dragons gathering nearby.

Kit summons a mage-sage specialist with expertise in dragons. He is, at best, eccentric and accompanied by a faerie dragon familiar, Gilbert.

"Red dragons are ordinarily in the mountains of Krashmere, and rarely drift that far west. At one time there was a fair population of crystal dragons there, some two thousand years ago. Crystal dragons are the least intelligent, least powerful, but most numerous of gem dragons. In the old days, they were quite mercenary—going for whoever paid them enough. They are also the laziest of the gem dragons. Most gem dragons are close to gnomes, some to hobbits, but the crystal dragons have been known to eat both.

"They’re not so good on the ground, although they could provide air support. They would be effective against human vollers—their breath is a storm of crystals that would tear them apart—but they couldn’t fight an elven voller.

"They honor their contracts—they learned that long ago. There can’t be more than a few dozen of them in the whole world. Crystals are purely neutral, neither good nor evil, law or chaos.

"There are rumors that the Eldron in the far north may have had a hand in breeding the crystal dragons. I do know that the gem dragons came later than the others, and that seemed odd.

"The only thing the crystal dragons ever learned to respect was other dragons. They learned to fear the Nolder, but never to respect them."

He offers to send Gilbert as an emissary to them.

The Council decides they need to scry to confirm that they are crystal dragons before they send Gilbert. They ask Grandmaster Farsensor to scry for us. He scries an image, and it flutters around, before focusing on a pair of dragons, indeed crystal. "There are a dozen of them, adult or older, by their size and battlescars. Some of them are older—there is a great wyrm, and I doubt any more could have hidden from me when I was looking for them.

"It’s odd—I’ve never heard of that many dragons in one region naturally, of any type. It must be fairly soon—how are they feeding them?

"The Pariah deities and their allies hate the small folk, because they can’t corrupt them, and because they can’t use them for eldritch powers. Also, they bear hatred, because they ignored them in the first invasion and the small folk served as unwatched spies for the Eldar and the Nolder. Their feeling that they were betrayed by the small folk is a weakness—it makes them overly focused on revenge even if it’s not useful."

He mentions that there is speculation among the elves about the Lady Gunnora, but refuses to say what the speculation is.

They call in the chief midwife of Gunnora for the City of Canberry.

They ask about the history, and about the implication about Gunnora.

"You know we came into existence shortly before all of that mess. And we were kind of looking for a deity at that time. The big people’s deities, they were all right, but they didn’t much care. So, some new deities came in, about the same time. One of them was Sytry and his lot, and one of them was Gunnora and her lot. She took to us, and we to her, she was about fertility and birthing, and we were too, and she was about agriculture. We’d never fought them in the old world. She did, but we did not. She’s more powerful here, then she was at home, but she’s still not powerful enough. Your great gods are powerful enough, together, but they hate each other more than is sane, even if their followers are starting to be sane. Even the old race of our world—the long-lived humans—some of them were corrupted. One of the reasons the Unspeakable lost here was because they spent too long looking for someone they could corrupt among the elves. They had sacrificed too many of the forces they had brought through to buy time.

"However, there is an option if you feel that the elves would not suffice to stop them. Two others came through—Naiv and Arvan. But they sought no followers and have been forgotten. But they came through as well. Arvan’s adepts were powerful—they inflicted harm on the enemy and destroyed many of their lower creatures. But the training they gave, we know nothing of. Naiv was a goddess of Light—not the Sun, but Light itself. Her people in Hallek, they fought in the wastes until all of them died. Only when the last of them died, and their cities fell, did Naiv come through. Then Naiv and Arvan warned the council of gods, and then retreated to a small place in the outer planes. I would think that she might be willing to become a part of the religion of Glordiadel, if she were offered to be allowed to rebreed her people. Arvan was a god of balance, and he has never forgiven himself, at the same time as he cannot change his nature to exclude the evil."

She promises us an ancient book on this, taken from the Homeworld.

The Council discusses setting up an ostensibly pro forma civic religion in Enclaves, with Arvan at its secret center.

Arvan, Lesser God, Deity of Balance, dealt with adepts (psions), and was worshipped primarily by the elite classes (knights and above) from Hallek

Naiv, Lesser Goddess, Goddess of Light, Lawful Good, dwelt in High Hallek (the highlands and the mountains), and expected her folk to be good and lawful.

Gunnora filled a similar role in Hallek as she does in Aphonion. (Hallek was part of the world of the Dales—it was never united, and small, and had no greater gods.)

"We have been very concerned about this invasion, and we have kept track as well as we could, and even eliminated some minor servitors. But they are more aware of us than they were, and it is difficult for us to tread through the lands their cults were using and be ignored. We don’t make good sacrifices, but we do make good servants. Now, it’s difficult for us to get close. I can tell you that they are not near the strength they wish to be to strike. That is why they are still trying to use human servants. You have cleared out the city—we (clerics of Gunnora) can tell when they are nearby, although not pinpoint it. About 100 feet is easy, but identifying a specific person is very hard."

The Council discusses placing midwives at each of the gates, and throughout the refugee camps. She offers that she can gather perhaps 500 in the near future.

[cont'd]
 

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CPaladin

Explorer
[session 108, cont'd]
Kit gets contacted from the Kovanate via the fan: "The Kov of Bormark has sent a full field army, he has committed himself. He went to one of the memorial sites set up by the great lady on the ship, and his eyes have been opened. He has sent a field army to the east, to try to meet up with the Inquisition armies. Where the fortress near us was destroyed, there were four drowan bodies left behind with their hands crossed across their chests, and surrounded by the bodies of their enemies. They are surrounded by a clear energy of some sort, all their heads pointed to a central point, their feet pointed to the cardinal directions, surrounded by a circle of dead Hanalians. There is no decay, each drow with their hands clasped on their chests and swords, with the dead officers surrounding them in positions of defeat and prostration. And there is a clear voice speaking in elven, 'Altir alcamaral Aufaulgautharim.' And there is the banner with the Eldron leaf arranged under the dome. When I stand here, I know, I know that that is not the Queen-Empress. When I leave, that knowledge fades. At each fort except the last one, there is one of these. At the last one, where the ship exploded, they took the bodies of the drow, and they are being mutilated in the capital."

They talk with the midwife about Arthranax/the One Beside/The Blue Star. She says that if he has consumed the Blue Star and Berta, Sytry will not be long after. He would next go after a god with fewer followers, the great human gods have too many to be taken without a great deal more power—Dain, surely. Borsh’tro will be a later target. She asserts that they can stop his plans, but not destroy him, and thus the Gunnorans and hobbits want no credit in any of this, but will do whatever necessary.

Alistair arrogantly says that the House of Ashberry will see Arthranax destroyed, and that part of the difference between the small people and his people is their ambition and willingness to commit to greater things.

The Council talks to Lord Davion about the memorials.

"She is one of perhaps only two dozen Noldar in the world that could pull that off. Her loyalist troops were with her, and they took down these entire fortresses. She channeled the energy of those they killed. Morgrath is First Lord of Death, she channeled the soul energy of those killed, bound them to the bodies of her own fallen, and used the energy of those deaths to breaking an enchantment on a global scale, and changing the flow of time so that the effect will last indefinitely.

"I would have a remembrance dinner for her, even though I am not sure we were related, but we were of the same house, and she went to the West ultimately, as I intend to."
[End session 108]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 109 (April 16, 2020)

Chund 29 and 30 pass uneventfully.

On the morning of the 31, a polite guard intercepts Dame Brionna at the very beginning of the day. There is a messenger waiting for her, an elf, dressed beautifully, and with a mithril chased scroll. He is a noncom on an elven voller.

"My captain thought you should receive this immediately because we had close intelligence, and to remain with you for a few hours before I apport back."

This is a report from an elven scout voller, observing the battlefields of Hanal, dropping supplies, but not getting directly involved.

The Kov of Bormark sent a whole field army in a direct line east to make contact with the Inquisition line. The captain of the voller believes that he has over extended and could be cut off.

The Council pulls up the scrying map. They can see the destroyed fortifications, and tiny little pulsing gold circles.

They can identify areas of farmland that are not in the Kov’s control, but they seem distractions. The Kov’s men are definitely in a position where forces loyal to the usurper could be moved to cut them off.

They discuss what to do about this—they could send a large force as a feint, but that could get out of control. Out of Enclaves is not reasonable.

The Council identifies the idea of hiring Zorplona-Argoni, and then conclude that it would be better for Princess Anastasia to hire them, with Canberry as the intermediary. Princess Curinirim is amicable, offering 2500 uruk-hai, 50 battle barges, and some handful of drowan officers. Also a half-dozen orog. She views this as a useful way to eliminate some of their excess forces that aren’t needed now that they are no longer taking slaves.

Alistair negotiates an agreement. The battle barges will be rigged to explode—they must not be captured, because Hanal does not have the ability to make them. Princess Curinirim decides to send an arcanadaemon as the general. They agree on 1 tual for each lost battle barge, expecting most or all of them to be lost, and 4 gold per uruk-hai. She expects to be able to destroy all but about 2500 or 3000 of the troops from the four field armies near the south of the position—that might cause them to break and actually win the battle, or might just leave them depleted, but it should buy a week’s time or so for the Kov of Bormark.
[cont'd]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
[Session 109, cont'd]
Kit gets a message that a small band of dwarves is heading in towards us, and a large group of bandits has gathered to waylay them.

They ask Grandmaster Farsensor if he can scry them. There are 5 dwarves, dressed magnificently, carrying a gold casket (lined in lead).

There are about 200 normal looking humans, lurking in their path, in a way that looks ominous. They’re not professionally armed, but they’re armed. No insignia.

They decide to send a voller to pick up the dwarves, and then send Lord Brightspan with some troops who are well trained but not combat experienced to get a little experience and to smash up the bandits and take some prisoners to interrogate.

The dwarves insist that they give this directly to a member of the royal council. “It’s been a long trip. We had to fight bandits off twice—I almost wondered if someone told them what we were carrying.

“The bandits seemed to know what route we were taking. They hit us twice! There used to be seven of us.

“Well, we got the order, from your chief craftsman probably, a couple of months ago. We can’t deliver 130 ounces of orichalcum—we don’t have that much in reserve! So we brought the 10 ounces we had, and sought to negotiate a price for the rest. The offer wasn’t nearly sufficient—it costs too much to mine and refine to make an agreement at that price. We had sold 6 ounces over the course of the sainted late Archduchess’s reign. These 10 ounces we give as a gift to the Ecumenical Council. To produce another 130 ounces… in less than 10 years… it would require stopping all our other projects.

"If we focused the entire kingdom on orichalcum, we could probably produce 130 ounces in 2 years time, with no more than the loss of 20 lives."

"Are there other sources of orichalcum ore?"

"There’s a small vein in the Iron Hills on Khamista. No other sources on Drucien have ever been found.

"Do you understand the mining of orichalcum? The ore itself is rare, but then it must be specially smelted. When you smelt the ore, to remove the orichalcum, there’s always the risk of explosion. That’s because the orichalcum in its pure state interacts badly with other things in its ore, until it’s fully refined and purified—then it’s safe except in encounter with pure chaos. It takes about 100 tons of ore to smelt pure orichalcum. And then to forge it into anything specific, that requires a grandmaster gemsmith. We’ve always produced a small amount of orichalcum for its use against the enemy. But our primary industry is mithril. We have customers that we’ve developed over millennia for our mithril. And the price he quoted—suggesting 10,000 silver per ounce—I can’t do it.

"We’ve crunched the numbers. If we did it as the captain suggests—safely, in 5 years, perhaps 4, still delivering mithril—at that rate we could reasonably take 40,000 silver per ounce. We would be delivering mithril only in the raw form, because our master smelters and forgers and above would only be working on orichalcum."

Kit notes the need to guard against the enemy striking against them. Scrying or the like.

“I was wondering if we had rot in the kitchen.” He meant it metaphorically. The Council suspects seen-unseen or the like.

"There were a surprising number of explosions and accidents when they smelted the last two. We buried 4 of our young ones.

“Years ago, we fought a war in the tunnels against those who could take on our seemings but not our memories. We haven’t done that test in years. 290 years or so ago, but we stopped doing the test of blood after about 100 years. They cost us hundreds of dwarves the last time. If they’re back in numbers, we have a great problem. I’ll take your team back with us, and I’ll tell the priests.” He seems tired all of a sudden.

The Council talks about making protective jewelry. He suggests mostly mithril jewelry, with a small inset of orichalcum. For weapons, flanges on arrowheads or the like are best—melee weapons would be too dangerous.

He also reports a fairly noxious embassy from the temple of Sytry for the last 2 or 3 years. Apparently trying to engage in proselytization, but perhaps otherwise. They worry about whether the Sytryites may be infiltrators.

(The Council allocates some of the orichalcum to the team they’re sending into Masque to close the gate.)
* * *
The Council goes to the memorial dinner for the Princess Aufaulgautharim. Lord Davion hosts, and any of even vaguely Noldar blood attend, plus a smattering of their human friends, plus us. Lord Davion toasts her, and salutes her returning (which he can do with this group), and shares his memories. The young Noldar Lord shares his memories of the moon ritual. They pass out small glasses of a very potent wine. All those of any Noldar heritage drink down the glasses, perhaps an ounce. Alistair drinks his down, but Kit and Dame Brionna each basically take a ceremonial sip. Alistair experiences, in an incredibly short period of time, her life. Alistair gets a 16 on a Con/Wis check to see how he handles this. He gets a new skill: Common Noldar, 2 ranks. He also has a great realization about her life: She did some terrible things, but also some incredibly generous things. The Eldar are simply above things—they don’t do harm unless by error, they try to do some good, but mostly just stay above things. The Noldar are more like humans—they do terrible harm, but also quite good things.

The humans with the young Noldar lord are now psionically entwined with him, and were before this. So they were protected from this.
[End session 109]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 110 (May 13, 2020)

1 Tar-Chund
Alistair plans a reading group for The Grand Book of Strategy by the Lady of Pain and to translate the book.

They speak to a theologian.

"There is a link between the gods and their followers to a certain degree. That’s part of why it’s odd that Arthranax has very few followers but is a greater god.

"An attack on a god’s followers or hierarchy wouldn’t directly affect the god, but it would disrupt the temple. That would have an effect over the scale of a decade or more, as the temple suffers decay and worship lessens. It would not necessarily weaken the god, but it could separate their connection to this plane. That would take many years. That is very much how the Lady Gunnora came here.

"Most of the followers of Sytry now are the results of proselytization. Most of the descendants of those who came over have loosened their ties. The devotees today, and all of the Knights of Truth, are of native stock. The ones he brought over are the Dale Folk—long lived, call themselves the Elder Race, have some intrinsic magical power. They must resent the casualties they took before coming over. They are now in Zest’qua, and have if anything aligned themselves with the Hastur and provide significant aid to the war. Some of them pay lip service to Sytry, and a few to the Creator, but most follow no deity."

* * *

They discuss what to do with the Sytryan patriarch, and whether there’s a risk of a coup against him. Alistair discusses the possibility of getting them to move while he’s there with Lord Davion, so Lord Davion could intervene to defend the Patriarch. Everyone else pushes back on this idea and insists that instead this means Alistair can't go there. They discuss meeting with the Patriarch without meeting in person.

The Council has a meeting with the ambassador from Holy Cortose. He says that there is a power struggle within Holy Cortose. "There is a large faction that believes we have not been sufficiently forward, and presses the Patriarch to attack the forces of Paranswarm. They argue persuasively that corruption cannot be tolerated and Darkness must be destroyed. But I think that it would be foolish—it would break the Ecumenical Compact and pin down the forces of Paranswarm when they are needed to act against actual corruption."

He says that a representative would not be appropriate, because Alistair is not a theological head. But a psionic contact would be acceptable, especially if it were necessary because of internal matters that needed to be attended to.

"The Knights of Truth would back him if he declared a crusade.

"He could not win an election today. It will only take a few to shift the balance in the Council, but it would only take a few corrupt ones to lead the rest. Given time, he will make the Council over as the elders die.

"The Patriarch must be informed, but the Council must not. The elders and conservatives would not believe any reports about the Blue Star, and it might actually trigger a coup."

He promises to arrange for the psionic meeting.

Grandmaster Farsensor comes to tell the Council that “there is a mighty lady who can only reach you by contacting me. I will connect you now, and bathe later.”

An image forms of Princess Curinirim. “I am sorry to discomfit the Eldar so, but he is more flexible than some, and there is information you should have. A new member of House Moriquendarim has arrived to take charge of the Enclave. While I far outrank him, I was never Enclave mistress. I have no intention of leaving. He has no intention of disrespecting me.

"The Lord Sovereign is Hinusintu Moriquendarim, a psychokineticist, and very, very young. His personal consort is Tinia Tivia Moriquendarim, a twilight elf. He has a seneschal, a bard and I think spy mistress, and a madame, perhaps the head of his harem, and all Twilight Elves. They are young, ambitious, and outmatched—I think they are intended to fail."

Kit asks, “Who benefits if they fail?”

“Hard to say. The King of the Cities of Pain has disappeared.

Dame Brionna asks, “who was his heir?”

“He was a minor god—he would have no heir. Perhaps more accurately a greater saint, but we view him as a minor god. This has created a great deal of disruption among the Moriquendarim, who were particularly loyal to him.

"This lordling—I think his sire is ashamed of him, and perhaps his choice of consort—if she is indeed his consort--he has already announced that he does not intend to return to slaving. He hopes to merchant luxury goods. They are all painfully young, the oldest barely into puberty. It’s possible that his sire meant to protect him.

"His sire is the offspring of the former Director of Region 9 of the Argoni. The former Director renounced his prior activities some 2300 years ago, and wandered away—reputedly he has buried himself in his magical work, almost like an Eldron—like he renounced his choice in the Kinslaying.

"He has 5 years to make the Enclave self-supporting, and pay a tithe of 10% per year, rising one percent per year to 20%, and then a head tax in a century or so. There is an elite legion of uruk-hai, the expenses of the palace, and the spells to bind the daemons—which must be maintained. It would take some 500 or 1000 gold per month."

"We want him to succeed, but have limited resources to aid him—our trade needs would only raise a fraction of that, but …"

Kit resolves to try to infiltrate the madame’s apparatus with elements of the Naughty Bits.
---

Grandmaster Farsensor suggests that it might be part of a matrix room where the psionic meeting will take place. That would be interesting—he’s unaware of anyone besides one of the blood who could power a matrix. He’s happy to facilitate the meeting and to observe the room.
[cont'd]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
[Session 110, cont'd]
Dame Brionna heads off to the dwarves to investigate. She brings Aunt Cecilia, notionally the ambassador, 5 squads of Dame Brionna’s people, and some of Kit’s people.

Aunt Cecilia expresses that she likes the dwarves, because they say what they think.

They have some people from the Ministry of Magic teleport them. This rather startles the dwarven guards.

Princess Cecilia admires the stonework the entire way down, quite pleasing the dwarves. She comments that her brother was an engineer, briefly. "He was many things—all of them briefly."

Princess Cecilia continues to have a delightful conversation with the King.

The King agrees to personally show Princess Cecilia and her entourage the mines. Dame Brionna sidles up to a paladin of Dain, likely the King’s chief guard. She mentions quietly that she expects there may be trouble. He nods, and starts making hand signals. The other guards suddenly start being more alert.They’ve been through about a mile of corridors and mine shafts, when they see a handful of human men approaching. In the very midst of discussing stone carving, Aunt Cecilia says, “Great Light, what is that?” She points directly at the foremost of the humans, or apparent humans. He instantly transforms. The Dwarf king pulls out a ceremonial mace and jumps in front of her.

The “human” is changing into something completely non-human and considerably larger than a human. This is not a seen-unseen. Brionna sends an image to Kit, who relays it to Lord Davion.

The Dwarf King and Dame Brionna take up the front of the creature, and her people can surround it. It’s important to decide who gets in the group around it. She leaves one slot for the Dwarf paladin. All of the other slots are taken by human paladins.

It has an AC of 27 in its natural form. It is large, with cat-like features, but they shift. It keeps shimmering. It has some features like a displacer beast, but they cannot look like people. The paladins hit it pretty hard, but it is not badly hurt. The mages cast spells at it, and it resists all their attacks—SR 30. The dwarf king swings his ceremonial scepter, which glitters, but he misses horribly.

The creature turns to the paladin of Dain, and almost contemptuously makes an odd motion with his claw. The paladin of Dain amazingly fails his fortitude save, and the creature is holding a heart in his hand, which he without hesitation shoves in his mouth and starts to chew, as the wounds start closing.

Lord Davion replies immediately to Kit. "That is a greater demon of the one we now know emulates the Blue Star." Lord Davion predicts that they will win, but that they will likely take casualties. Highly magically resistant, completely resistant to cold and lightning; can be affected by fire. Very low intelligence. Unknown psionic resistance, but probably low. There aren’t many of them—surprising that there are any on the Prime. But Arthranax did use them for deep infiltration. He bred them—probably related to the seen-unseen, that’s why they’re so good at shapechanging and infiltration. Lord Davion also heads out as back up.

One of the dwarves jumps into the breach and smacks it, but does no damage without a magic weapon.

The magi enchant the dwarf’s weapon, haste him, and bull’s strength Brionna.

The King beats his magic scepter to a bent twisted wreck against the creature.

The creature breathes a horrible miasma of acid for twenty feet in front of him, engulfing Dame Brionna and the King of the Dwarves. The King saves and would take half damage; Dame Brionna voluntarily fails her save to leap in front of the King; he takes no damage and she takes 68 points of damage. One mage and one cleric dodge the cloud entirely, and one mage and one cleric are engulfed and killed.

Dame Brionna throws a bag of orichalcum dust into its mouth. There is a deafening explosion, and she is hurled back 9 feet, taking 10 points of concussion damage. It was looking a little wounded, but not ragged, but now it is looking very damaged. It has gaping holes oozing some sort of hideous liquid. It is now in a rage.

Two other dwarves rush in, one thinking to pick up the paladin of Dain’s hammer.

Lord Davion teleports in, wearing a crystal breastplate and an evening robe, gesticulating with a laen sword—unusual, since he usually uses metal.

The human paladins are picking themselves up. The clerics run over and heal Dame Brionna, giving her a total of 52 hp back.

The King jumps on its leg, bites it with magical dentures and does 9 points of damage.

The psions manifest inflict pain.

The creature thrusts his hand forward, and it turns into a bony spur and elongates as it thrusts forward at Dame Brionna. It hits three times, with an impale, claw, and a bite. It does 26 hp, 14 hp, and 7 hp.

Dame Brionna does 71 points of damage, beheading it. She then keeps slamming his halberd into its dead body.

“A greater demon of Arthranax. Well, well, well. We’ll need to salt the wounds and burn the body to kill it permanently.”

Princess Cecilia teleported home. She’s very concerned about the “kingy.”

The king expels the Sytryites, but agrees to allow Dame Brionna to interrogate them first.

Lord Davion comments, "Demons like this are minions to the Demons Supreme of Arthranax, but there are even fewer of those. It will have a handler. There will be a handler nearby. There must be something to contain it—they’re not smart enough to engage in espionage on their own. It looks like the creature was purporting to have a vow of silence, based on how it was dressed."

The Sytryites report that Brother Aloysius was just traveling with them. They thought it was odd when he took a vow of silence, but some do. He also stopped writing—that seemed a little strange, but he continued to attend devotions. He had a hankering for dwarven food, so he did spend some time in the kitchens. That was just after the enormous lightning storm on the open road.

"They were sent as an expedition to meet with the dwarves by command of one of the patriarch’s advisors to discuss the purchase of orichalcum and to advise on certain things. Brother Aloysius was the leader of the group. He would have been the one to speak for us. He was supposed to convince the king to raise the level of orichalcum production. The honored council member thought it would be appropriate. He had gifts, but did not have the full confidence of the Council. A representative of the Most Reverend Algernon Brockton."

(Alistair gets 100 extra xp for noting that it has to be one of them, or one of their animals, because the handler had to be introduced on the open road.)

Lord Davion finds nothing in the kitchen. They report that he loved dwarven bread—they’ve never seen a human that liked that before.

Dame Brionna finishes checking the blood of the Sytryites, and goes to the stables. There is a missing horse. Both of the stable dwarf boys have had their throats neatly slit, and they have been bled.

One of the clerics casts speak with dead. “What did the creature that killed you look like?”

“It was a horse, and then became me, and slit my throat and drained my blood and drank my blood.”

Lord Davion notes, “Drank his blood? It will then be days before it can be detected by the test of blood.”

They call for a great assembly.
[End session 110]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 111 (May 27, 2020)

2 Tar-Chund
A scroll case is discreetly handed in to Alistair and Kit, with the characteristic burning at the edges that indicates teleportation.

It is a message from an Ear within the Enclave of Zorplona-Argoni. [Attached]

“Lord Raf” is how they refer to Quinliart Moriquendarim, who killed Alistair’s father and is the renegade in league with the Abomination of Shurr.

They believe that three years ago, Quinliart traveled south with one man-o-war and 2 scout vollers, and one of the scout vollers was shot down after gratuitously attacking a legion of Drucien.

Princess Curinirim attacked his facility in the mountains, and then he disappeared.

Action items from the letter from the Ear:
  1. Suggest that they search for a handler or the equivalent for the greater demon of Arthranax.
  2. Suggest to the Temple of Morgrath that Region 2 of the Aragoni ought not to be dealing with demon cults, especially not demon cults aligned with the Shadowlands.
  3. Continue trying to figure out what happened to Quinliart/Lord Raf. Perhaps offer to pay them for information on Lord Raf, or more for dealing with him.
Lord Davion and Dame Brionna begin planning to find the handler. Lord Davion suggests it is likely powerful in magic, but almost surely not psionic. He brings two faerie dragons out of his bag, briefs them, and they become invisible.

Lord Davion says that the only beings from their plethora that can attain both intelligent forms and unintelligent forms is a greater seen-unseen. But they were not known to have brought any through from their home plane. That suggests that Arthranax might be creating his own in our plan. Or it could be incapable of emulating a person well, but simply emulating a horse, and then taking on a very simple seeming of a person. In that case, it could be a seen-unseen, or something that had started as a creature such as a seen-unseen and then taken on greater power—“name” status as its used in demonology and so forth. We know that they have not breached the planar barrier sufficiently to bring through a greater seen-unseen—so if there is one here, Arthranax made it here.

The gates have been sealed, and large groups are gathering everyone in, in groups. Finally, after some time, at the same time as Aunt Cecilia points and says, “there, right there,” a young dwarf erupts into a different shape, and Lord Davion flies forward. Aunt Cecilia vanishes, and Dame Brionna begins trying to clear people out of harms way.

The dwarf great hall suppresses some of the creature’s magic, as the faerie dragons pop in and out of reality and cast spells at it, and Lord Davion battles it with his laen swords.

“It achieved a name—surely by killing so many people, it’s hard to understand. But it was not a greater seen-unseen. I also think it was the last of its kind on this world. It cursed me roundly, because it thought that it was the last hope of its master to stop the mining of orichalcum. It could not speak any tongue but its own.”

Dame Brionna asks, “how should it be disposed of?”

“Orichalcum dust would destroy it, but it would cause an explosion. Or perhaps a wizard could bind it…”

Dame Brionna suggests that, since this is a place where orichalcum is mined, that might be easiest, if the area could withstand it. The Dwarf King assures them that it can. So they scrape some orichalcum powder over the pool of goo, which then explodes and is clean.

They’re invited to the ceremony to honor the dead dwarves, every 5 years.

Dame Brionna sends her teams to search for traps around the orichalcum.

They find and dispose of some traps.

(They have considerable good will with the dwarves. The dwarves consider them friends.)

Kit takes out her fan, and focuses in on when of the six dots that had not appeared before, now with a slight red dot.

<<Honored Mouth>>

<<Thank you for reporting on that demon. That’s very important. They always have a handler—they’re not intelligent to act on their own. Investigate the staff. Possibilities for handler: the less dangerous possibility is a cultist of Arthranax, they will have a tattoo like this. The other possibility is a seen-unseen. The test is that they do not bleed as a person bleeds. They have ichor.>>

A picture forms in response of a tall, elegantly garbed Noldar male. He has a ring that looks like the tattoo she showed.

<<Is that Lord Raf?>>

The image nods.

<<So then since he’s not there, he must have an agent. Or perhaps controlled from afar.>>

The image shakes its head, no others with the tattoo. It indicates the Seneschal did careful far sensing investigation.

She also shows images of the casualties they took fighting the greater demon.

They suggest that it be burned and salted—they currently have it in a lead casket.

She suggests a drow officer, and a priestess of death with some form of undead standing behind and with it. The undead creature starts multiplying with skeletons.

<<Is this a current situation?>>

She nods. There’s then a huge floorplan of a palace, with a heroic image of the captain of the guard (her husband) and a handful of people.

She shows the map of the whole Enclave. One spot grows, and it’s filled with legions of uruks, and the seneschal shakes his head and purses his lips and explains something.

Kit asks for more information about Lord Raf. She projects an image of much time, and then a female Noldar they don’t recognize hands a scroll written on platinum to Lord Raf, and she flips her hands dismissively. Time passes, and they see a chamber, heavily ornamented, and a Twilight Elf sitting at a huge desk with an enormous ledger. The same Noldar enters, argues with the Twilight elf, and then stabs a dagger into the Twilight Elf’s heart. Then loads gems, and coins, and hoard coins into a bag of holding. Then the woman, in the chamber with the body, shakes her head, and then gestures and drow construct a crystal sarcophagus in the chamber, and she casts a binding over the sarcophagus. Then, after much time, another Twilight Elf comes in, and then the woman receives a scroll, gathers a whole group of drow, and departs. Then much time, then the younglings arrive.

Kit asks for any information about the children that were kidnapped and enslaved, if there are any records of where they were taken. If any are still alive, she wants to find them and return them to their families.

An image of the ledgers appears again.

<<Any way you could get a copy of those?>>

A nod, cautiously.
[cont'd]
 

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CPaladin

Explorer
[Session 111, cont'd]

Evening of 7 Tar-Chund

Lord Brightspan approaches. There is an unusual voller tying off; made entirely of white laen. It flies a personal noble’s flag, likely of an Eldar. Alistair dimly recognizes it as being one he saw in Enclaves. An officer steps in shortly, “Majesty, a personal representative of Dame Brenda of Enclaves.” Alistair remembers that there is a secretive, very wealthy Enclave, covered in trees.

A paladin of Eru enters, probably a gray elf, not Eldar. “My mistress has sent me to see you, your majesty, and your council.”

“We have been in Enclaves since it began, and before, and before that. We have adapted to conditions, we have kept to ourselves, we have provided balance to certain forces of our ancient foes. They are aware of us, but most of the rest of the City knows us only as standoffish, and wealthy, and as they learned millennia ago, uninvadable. Even if a way were found for us to work in concert with the foe, to sustain stability for a time, you should not count on Enclaves and its surround to be a stable force in the area for more than a brief span of years.”

The Council offers to be an intermediary with the Zorplona Moriquendarim, in particular Princess Curinirim—who she says is the only one with sufficient psionic power to matter.

They also discuss the idea of bringing in Balanzar to stabilize Enclaves. She is amenable to the idea, and offers to—through a blind—offer funding.

"Many years ago, before Enclaves, the area where we were, and the area to the West were used by many Eldron as workshops. The Kinslaying struck hard there. The Eldron had other elves as followers. We left our lord, but did not depart from Eru. Dame Brionna and two others remain from those days. We built our woods, and when the humans began to build their canals, and then their divisions among Enclaves, we did likewise, and we sent a representative when they call. We do not have contact, because we fear recreating a divide among the humans."

She gives us a lozenge of crystal that will allow Grandmaster Farsensor to make direct contact with the Dame.

(They are aligned with the Eldar, but not part of their political structure. They don’t even directly acknowledge the Overqueen. They do directly acknowledge the Hastur, and send some of their young there.)

* * *
[The Council discusses a document about the structure of the Aragoni. I'm not sure where this came from in game, but it's attached.]

Alistair and Kit discuss recruiting a Naughty Bit to infiltrate Lord Relenor’s floating brothel, in Region Eight.

It could be a very useful source of information, although highly dangerous.

* * *

Alistair begins to read the Book of Grand Strategy. He reads 15 minutes the first day, 45 minutes the second day, and starts to see a pattern. He appears to be in the course of summoning a daemonic field marshal. He appears to be bound into the book as a professor.

If he were released, he cannot be rebound by any in Canberry—he’s very powerful. He also would be bound to instruct, but would then be free. And instruct in what is a question. He would really like to manifest. The book is also very interested in blood, probably because the Lady of Pain created it and made the bindings.

Kit becomes the translating intermediary, because her translation can’t trigger the binding and evoke the field marshal bound into the Book, and dictating the translation to a scribe with no magical ability whatsoever.

Her scribe does not gain a feat in Grand Strategy, but does become a chess master.

* * *

Dame Brionna inquires of the artillery commander who brought down the scout voller.

“That was extraordinary. I suppose it was blind anger that made us return fire. It was sailing low—we were scouting beyond the borders, an entire legion. We were support troops. We saw a shadow passing over us—a great Nolder warship and two smaller vollers. It swept down and raked us with death rays, killing a half dozen men and some of the mules. I think it was sport to them? They were bored? In a fit of rage, I ordered us to return fire and we did. It was not large. We hit it, and it came down. And then realizing what we had done, we took hiding, because we could not bring down a man-o-war. We then came out of hiding and breaching military procedure, we raided the wreckage. It was all my fault. There was a single body—not a Noldar, nor a drow, but perhaps a Shadowelf or Twilight elf—and 4 drow. We stripped them of their belongings, and a single death ray mount. I let the men keep the coinage. The armor disintegrated over time—from the drow. The other elf was dressed in glass. That’s also in the armory along with the single death ray mount. We performed the rite of the Sun for the dead. There was an odd cage on board; pretty sure it was dead. It looked like a cross between an owlbear, and some sort of squid. It was dead, and the vegetation near it was dead, too. We buried it and blessed it.”

(Sounds like a seen-unseen.)

“Did anyone act strangely after that? Leave your unit?”

“Some were shaken up—we were a small unit, and we lost six. But not other than that.”

The Council sends out a group to look for the black boxes and to check on the body.
[End Session 111]
 

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CPaladin

Explorer
Session 112 (June 17, 2020)

8 Tar-Chund
The Patriarch of Sytry is on Khamista, and much further ahead in the day. As a result, they have to wake up bright and early, before dawn, to have their meeting while it’s still day.

Kit has a message from her source in Enclaves when she wakes up. She thinks it’s from the same person. The Moriquendarim is trying to fix matters from before, by turning the murdered treasurer into a mummy. Our agent is at risk of discovery, but we conclude there’s nothing we can do about it except to passively monitor the fan to see if anything changes. [Attached.]

The ambassador from Sytry arrives. Grandmaster Farsensor joins us to mediate the psionic connection. He arrives in all his floaty glory and offers us lembas.

He makes the largest, most grandiose psionic globe we’ve ever seen. A very stark, severe room—almost empty, pure white room, with a single gold armed chair—appears. There is a sun on a pure white arrow pointing up. A thin, not very old man, in plain white cotton robes with a very odd waist tie, like a monk’s belt, but made out of some very coarse brown thread. Other than two men in gilded armor that looks completely gold standing in the background, he is alone.

The Patriarch stands and nods, “I am glad to have this chance to speak with you. We have concerns as well, mostly in the last two days.”

They bring forward a lead crystal globe. The Farsensor focuses on it. It’s like there’s some sort of slime in the vessel, but occasionally rippling. “This began to fall two days ago, throughout the lands of Holy Cortose. It is not rain; it is in some way a curse. It is consuming the crops… and the serfs. The light has never fallen before and it began abruptly the night before last. Particularly as the Hierarchs have called so many troops here, and as we do not have many friends who could sell us grain… it is troubling. I assume it is a natural phenomenon, but…”

Alistair says that the Council thinks it is likely an attack.

(Dame Brionna concludes rapidly that the Patriarch is profoundly faithful, kind, and totally out of his depth—perhaps deliberately so.)

His advisors argue for an attack against the See of Darkness to the West. Hierarch Garret presses most fervently, but he is backed by the Grandmaster of the Knights of Truth. Hierarch Rafael argues in accord with the Imperial Council that the Paranswarmians would not break the Ecumenical Alliance—if they intended to attack, they would lawfully withdraw first.

Alistair begins describing the issues in Hanal, and the connection is attacked by three extraplanar sources—not psionic. Two are on the Abyss on different planes, one on the Ethereal. The Council calls for the Archbishop of the Light to reinforce them, and contacts Dame Constance and Lord Davion for back-up.

“I felt a great power; I have felt that before; something was trying to attack me.”

Alistair proposes a holy crusade against the Shadowlands.

He can connect that to the bannerets in Delwan. They hold part of the border with the Shadowlands.

"I will declare this crusade ex cathedra after I speak to the Knight Commander of the Knights of Truth."

Dame Constance arrives. “I can see the link to the Farsensor’s connection. I need to draw a bead on it, and I need to watch the connection.”

Alistair begins telling the Patriarch about the true nature of the Blue Star. Members of the outer guard begin rushing to assault the Patriarch; his personal guard are fighting to defend him.

They arrange for the ambassador to be teleported back with Lord Davion and the strongest coercers and farsensors (other than the grandmaster) they can rally, to defend the Patriarch.

Dame Constance finally identifies them and sends some black balls of energy after them. “They were a nest of githyanki, turned to chaos—I did not even know that it was possible. They were attacking from the etheric plane. They were attacking with magic.”

Kit asks, “What about the attacks from the Abyss?”

“Similar forces of evil, tied to this ancient evil in short-sighted stupidity. If you believe that the Queen of Chaos is stupid enough to believe, as was Berta, that she could make an alliance with this thing… that could explain many things.”

Our recent reinforcements rush in, and begin fighting the traitors. Eventually, Lord Davion returns, covered in blood, while the bishop continues to rally loyalists. “We have secured these halls. I recommend that you move soon to a more defensible place. Also, you are down a hierarch—Garret thought that he could take on me. He was not familiar with one of my race, and I had to demonstrate this by decapitating him repeatedly.”

Alistair confirms with the Patriarch that the fact that Garret’s head kept reattaching itself is indication of heresy.

They ask him to contact Sytry and warn Him of the threat from Arthranax. He agrees to contact Sytry. Also, Lord Davion continues to accompany the Patriarch to defend him.

Finally, they ask him to bless Alistair and his family. The Patriarch’s happy to do so, including blessing Kit's pregnancy--many Sytryite realms are not monogamous. He then goes off to commune with Sytry, and they release the connection.
[cont'd]
 

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CPaladin

Explorer
[Session 112, cont'd]
They send the faerie dragon to open contact with the crystal dragons, and find out if they’re now available to be hired. He brings a gift of gems.

They discuss how the attack happened. It could have been a spell left in the Patriarch’s chamber to monitor them. That’s the most likely since they were corrupted.

Dame Constance guesses that the ooze is chaos ooze, a material that infests some of the planes of the Abyss. Given time and enough of it, and it will ingest any biological form. It’s like gray ooze or the like. Given time, it can even etch stone. A rain of chaos ooze would require a very powerful spell. A domain level spell, or perhaps a boon granted to a magus or cleric not quite of that status.

A disheveled and bloody pit fiend appears with a pop. “Mistress… they are defeated.”

“You’re the only one left, aren’t you?”

It raises a clawed thumb.

“Well, that was expensive. Still, you did well. I release you from the rest of your service, and dismiss you to any plane other than this one.”

Discussing the ooze, she says, “Get me a sample, and I will confirm that it is chaos ooze, and perhaps determine a plane of origin. I don’t think it’s Zuggtmoy—she has a brain. Some of the others—Xanadar? Perhaps.”

* * *

Dame Brionna has a military report. [Attached] The battlelines in Hanal have stabilized and should be able to hold through the winter, and the Cov of Boromark has made contact with the Inquisition army. It probably doesn’t make a long-term difference in the war, since the usurper still has more power, but it stabilizes things.

The South Kingdoms have rallied around the crown, especially with the Empress’s new status. But there are lots of problems with rogue slavers—not officially Argoni, but selling to the Argoni. We need to counter them to retain support, but we don’t have enough troops there at present.

The Council plans to dispatch the entire 18th Field Army of irregulars and 3 legions of the cavalry and 2 legions of light crossbowmen of the 22nd. They also pass the word among the old nobility of the South Kingdoms that they need to act now to stabilize the area, suppress slaving, and build support for the Empress Caitlyn and Alistair, or that they will not continue to have meaningful titles.

(The 23rd and 24th field armies will now be up to the point of being green.)

9 Tar-Chund
Lord Davion returns the following morning.

"Once the Patriarch emerged secure, the Knights of Truth were unwilling to fight on either side. We were able to suppress the other side with some 4000 casualties, mostly on the other side. The Sytryites were brutal in suppressing them once they were confident that they were heretics.

"The oddest thing were the trio of demons I had to kill. They were disguised as angels of Sytry—I don’t expect demons to be that clever. All you have to do is look at their psychic signature, and the difference is clear. But they were physically disguised as perfect copies.

"Oh, and this might be useful to you. He holds out a small stone. It’s a hearing stone. Attune it by physical proximity, and set a trigger word, and you will be able to hear it. It was in the patriarch’s audience chamber.

"The matrix is a powerful, full matrix, Eldron or Eldar in make, possibly from before the division. It was a communication matrix, but has been repurposed. Even though someone has repurposed it, it doesn’t believe in intervening in human affairs. It is intelligent and immobile, but very powerful—more powerful than me," says Lord Davion. "It tolerated me, because it approved of what I was doing."

They plan on sending over Grandmaster Farsensor, when they can, to both examine the matrix and communicate with it, and to search out any lingering heretics or traitors among the Sytrites.

Dame Constance confirms that it is chaos ooze. She begins divinations on which plane it’s linked to, and therefore which demon lord—that will take 4 days.

13 Tar-Chund
Dame Constance reports on her results with the ooze.

“The chaos slime hails from the layer of the Abyss known as Shevacla, the layer of the Slime Pits, and Lord Jubilex. I would not have guessed that Jubilex would involve himself, but he either has, or lesser creatures following him have. The slime sample is largely composed of the get of Afithix, the shards of Lord Jubilex’s being that are continuously shed and thus have the hint of sentience. The entire rain of slime was barely sentient. The crops will not recover. It’s very close to the end of the harvest anyway—those that weren’t brought in, too late to plant anything new. Anything that wasn’t brought in, will almost all have rotted. By the spring, it will be cleansed. People who were burned by it can be healed. It will be as if they were burned by acid. Had they pooled, they might have been a larger danger.”

They send a message that the Sytryites need to check for anywhere it might have pooled and agglomerated, because it will grow in intelligence and gain spell abilities as it agglomerates.

They reach out to Glordiadelian realms on Khamista to encourage them to sell grain to Sytry.

They reach out to the Holy See of Paranswarm, informing them of the Sytry crusade, and encouraging them to redeploy some of their armies to Hanal now that the armies of Sytry are redeploying.

* * *

The faerie dragon also reports that the crystal dragons were hired to attack the Paranswarmians if the Paranswarmians attack Holy Cortose anytime in the next 5 years. The contract isn’t voided by the death of the person who created it—remains in place for the next 5 years no matter what.

The Council thinks about whether they can technically get the crystal dragons to fight the Hanalians, but the contract is probably too specific, and the crystal dragons are pretty smart.
[End Session 112. As a side note, at the end of this session, the PCs leveled up to 18th level, not that it matters much.]
 

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