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Aphonion Tales: The Archducal Council -- Unedited notes (posts MWF, most recent 10/20/21)

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 50 (September 7, 2011):
9 Skard

We need a Grandmaster Redactor to remove Kit’s psychic slime; there are none in the Forest of Singing Leaves. The Grandmaster Farsensor wants to reach out to the Eldar from some other woods, probably on Khamista.

We all take a break for the day.

10 Skard

An orkish prisoner (Harash—does not have his adult name, has not killed a great animal or an enemy) arrives. He is more or less a guarantee of good behavior on the part of his father, who is the chieftain of one of the orkish tribes that were harassing the Northwest of the Archduchy. Brionna suggests making him a page; Alistair is basically appalled by the idea, but agrees that they may need to.

He bears the “gift of knowledge.” He takes prompting, but says, “Of the hordes that have been bought by the cat, there are as yet three that have not been seen because they march north and east towards Debonai. The infantry is slow to respond. They hope to make many raids. This is to delay Debonai’s response to those who have gone south. All the other hordes you have either smashed, driven away, or subbed.” He defines subbed as “made a tribe of your tribe.” We explain that we would say vassals.

He explains about the shamans and the Keepers of the Flame (who are “touched” from birth by animal spirits). I do not wish to be a shaman. They can never be chief; they can only advise.

“Blood sickness”—when a family has ruled long enough, all of them become like my brother. There is no spirit within the body, only flesh. (They marry their sisters. Alistair does not conceal his revulsion.)

There is only one more message that I was asked to bring from the Shaman. The Shaman wished you to know that there is yet one of the unseen seen within your lands, for the cat left him with us but he left our tribe and traveled into your land. When he left, he bore the seeming of a merchant who traveled into your land with a great quantity of oak.

Kit sends word out through her merchant agents.

We also talk about asking the elves about removing taint from wood/detecting tainted wood.

We contact the Grandmaster Farsensor; he mentions that wood speakers are common among his people. They could both eliminate the poison and detect it.

He talks to a counselor to the Queen to get some wood speakers (40 wood elves) to gate through.

Kit gets an image of the merchant that the unseen seen took, along with how he changed when the unseen seen replaced him. He was Alec; well, the merchant who bought our kine-hide was Alec.

Kit’s agent through the fan knows Alec the wood merchant. He was Hanalian, but exiled—apparently from drinking too much (although Kit suggests it may have been for being too nice).
[cont'd]
 

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CPaladin

Explorer
[Session 50, cont'd]
40 wood elves teleport through, more males than females. Many of them have never been out of the forest before. “We are here to serve.”

The Council explains the problem.

“A binary poison that partakes of some of the ancient poisons of the servants of the elder gods? Even our cousins among the Noldar disparage this. And the other part of the poison is in the wood?”

(One of the other elves whispers “But humans don’t eat wood!”)

“Once I have found my station, I have enough reagents to make a few vials of antivenom for any doses that we miss. But I only have a few doses worth.”

The Farsensor says: I am torn. I do not know if I should attempt a High Sweep or not. If he knows, he is capable of wounding me. Even if he is not aware, he may have hidden himself by reflex, and I would exhaust myself to no avail.

Dame Brionna says, We have used psionics to track them before. If they have communicated, he will know that.

F: That settles the question then. He will certainly be hidden, and it would be a waste.

11 Skard
We have a psionic meeting with the King of Debonai, an extremely frail young man we met at the Coronation. (We remember his brother much better.) He is seated in something throne-like but clearly meant to support him. His brother is with him as well. There is also a grizzled older man wearing full armor. Lastly, there is a fairly short woman, hair piled on top of her head, likely the psionic at the other end.

“Your majesty.”

“Your grace. It is a pleasure to see you, despite the problems.”

If I could prevail upon you general to brief the Archduke.

As your grace knows, all but one of the field armies of horse departed under the leadership of what I will charitably describe as possessed. Committed to a forward position in the Northwest, because a large horde of orks has attacked, the largest we’ve ever seen. In the absence of rapid response, our 12 field armies of infantry are pinned down in our major cities. The minor houses have devolved into violence against each other, although none has offered violence against the royal house. There was one assassination attempt, but that was apparently from beyond the country. The assassin has not been found. We never had the best intelligence service; we relied on the Inquisition. The Inquisition holds the Cathedral. It’s extraordinary; it’s as if they were struck at by those they knew, but except for the gate guards, none have a wound on their bodies. We feared plague, but there were no additional cases. The death rictuses were terrible to behold, and with them went the primary intelligence apparatus of the country. On the very day the nobles rose. Obviously coordinated, and coordinated for much time.

We believe that the land is basically held, partially due to the efforts of a travelling merchant in the south of the country. We gave them some lands and a minor title.

Without a more mobile force, one of several things will happen. The cities will start to starve; the Guard Cities will decide they need to stabilize the situation and will seize territory; or the armies will fall back and the orc hordes will devastate the northwestern section of the country.

Alistair mentions the additional three hordes that are marching on their southwest.

He proposes a more formal relationship. The king offers him marriage of his brother, whose children would inherit.

The Farsensor also says that the king was almost certainly poisoned by some source introduced starting when he was a child, and proceeding over much time.

These two are all that lived out of 5; same wasting sickness as the King, but it took them much earlier.

(The only countries with decent successions in our region: City of Life; the Guard Cities, but that’s just a military oligarchy; Masque’s empress has nobody to replace her (it would probably fall to the head of one of the largest Orders); elves and dwarves; Tang’s succession is completely safe, but it’s the only one) The clerk researched when this started happening, and found that it started 96 years ago. 102 years ago the Order of the Ram was driven out. 6 years later, everything went bad.)

Of course, Alistair’s grandmother wasn’t supposed to have inherited; older sister died tragically in an extraordinarily fishy carriage accident that decapitated her.

The Farsensor asks Dame Brionna, do you think it’s important that the younger brother has some minor, probably unaware, redaction ability.

We’re planning on shifting military support to aid Debonai, hiring mercenaries to aid them (committing the Order of the Vulture), and buying off the orks (which fails—too terrified of the people who hired them). We also send our orks north to pincer them.

[End Session 50]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 51 (September 29, 2011)

12 Skard
We talk about Lady Leansilas’s visit, scheduled for the 14th. The very high elves have really convoluted and interwoven honor system, with a super-stylized approach. She is apparently bringing us something, although we have no idea what. Some scholars think that the crazy honor system of the high elves is what is killing off both sides.

We talk about setting up the King of Debonai’s brother with one of the Brightspan daughters; Kit and Dame Brionna are not as fond of this idea as Alistair.

Alistair also raises the question of whether gender skews are part of the attacks on the royal families; Kit sets her scribe on it.

Day passes uneventfully

13 Skard
Day passes uneventfully

That evening, Dame Brionna is met by a highly disheveled Grandmaster Farsensor. He explains that Grand Lady Alviana Malquen'we, Princess of the Court of the OverQueen. Consort to Prince Silvanus Malquen'we of the Wood of Hope, and Mother of his heir; Paragon Redactor of the Court of Eternal Stars, Star Salutory of the Great Goddess and the Illuvatar, has responded to the request from my liege. She has translocated from the Elder Wood to a half-day away with a metaconsort, and travels here on unicorn back. She has never met a mortal before. She has never been away from the Court of Stars before, not even to her husband’s holdings in the Wood of Hope.

Dame Brionna wakes Kit, who gets the protocol people going.

Brionna asks the Farsensor whether she would want to stay in the palace; since the Court of Stars has no enclosed buildings, that might be a bad idea. We settle on putting her in the garden that the fae renovated.

Alistair is aware of her from bardic songs; there are elven songs dating back to the Second Age that refer to her. She is revered for her extraordinary ability to heal, even to heal the dead back to life without resurrecting them. But there’s no lore that she ever fought the Noldar. The songs do imply that she’s a First Comer.

In addition to informing the protocol people, who basically start running around like chickens with their heads chopped off, we inform the local Tor of fae (since we don’t want to offend them) and Lord Davion.

We send a voller out; it returns at about the tenth bell of the morning. The captain reports directly, looking dazed. “Commander—they would not board. They’re making their way on their beasts, and they’re healing on the way. People, beasts, even birds.”

Alistair sends runners to inform every butcher in a day’s travel of the city that they’re closed for a week.

We also start gathering children, informing people that she is to be greeted by the children of Canberry with flowers; we also basically buy out the flower markets of Canberry.

It is a full metaconsort of 14 other redactors; they are projecting a healing field some dozens of yards in radius.

We send a message asking the King of Debonai and his brother to teleport in, along with our senile duke and other people who should

We send some paladins to scare off any evil people to avoid any unfortunate incidents; the Grandmaster Farsensor says the paladins should only address themselves to her chamberlain, not to her, and not to her metaconsort. The chamberlain is himself a cousin of the Prince of MalquenWe, and a lord of the court, but he is not involved in the healing field, and he fought in the defense of the Wood of Hope.

The hours pass; reports flood in, especially to Kit. Virtually everyone who has approached has been healed, although two men just fell apart. They have been joined by a small coterie of hangers-on; brownies and sprites and slyths (air spirits).

As they approach, Dame Brionna goes out to greet leading an honor guard.
[cont'd]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
[Session 51 cont'd]
Alistair dresses, as much as possible, entirely in gifts from the elves. Lord Davion says that it would be appropriate for him to stay next to Alistair.

Dame Brionna really, really hopes that Alistair is as good at avoiding gibbering as he said he would be, because even as a basically asexual heterosexual, her beauty strikes her. The crowd parts for them, in awe surely, but Dame Brionna can, without psychic sensitivity, see where the field ends. Everyone is crowding into that field. A hunchbacked lady has her back heal and straightens up. A hearty man with an old worn out donkey suddenly has a healthy and able donkey. The group around her, like her, has only silk and crystal on them, except for the elves at the rear, who are grey elves mostly in crystal but very heavily armed, and also with metal weapons. Some of the children forget to throw their flowers; the flowers that do get thrown grow.

They make their way through the city, on the broad avenue through the gate that leads up through the city. The voller flies above them. Most of the way through the lower city when Dame Brionna sees a man in the vestments of a priest of Glor’diadel get a terrified look on his face, and then physically dissolves. Dame Brionna sends a paladin to investigate and find his name.

Alistair gets a 35 or so on his Will save, having been bedecked with every Will bonus he can get; that’s enough to prevent him from falling prone, although he is stunned for a while by the most perfect female form he has ever seen.

Greetings; Alistair stumbles through his response.

She steps to the King of Debonai, touches his forehead and pulls an almost visible black-green liquid from him. “Poisoned from birth? The spirit of the Noldar lives among you as well.”

“So many sick?”

“Together with our cousin in the light, we will stay a half-week to heal

She sends for Queen Caitlyn’s cook. “The child will be healthy, and male, and now will be intelligent”

She’s being poisoned, you know. A very slow acting poison, it would sap the will and intelligence of the unborn child.

The unicorns are pastured with Dame Brionna’s warhorse; by the end of the visit, with an Int of 10, it gains Knowledge (Divine) 5; Knowledge (Philosophy) 5.

Queen Caitlyn’s cook is brought by a paladin. “A woman of your encampment?” “Yes.”

Dame Brionna hears: “What does a human mean by a woman?” “A female; one who gives birth.” “Of her own species?” “Yes—is she not?” “Should I unweave the shapechanging?” “Yes, but not here.”

Her guards hand Dame Brionna a pair of crystal cuffs.

We proceed to the Garden. They fly over the palace to get there, at our suggestion; Alistair flies with them.

Dame Brionna chats with the lord chamberlain/general about security matters, including the numerous assassination attempts and the security wards on the palace.

My brother saw humans in the Second Age; they did not build like this, they lived in tents made of skin, and they roistered with orks. I had not known that you had come so far.

Do you have a psionically transparent vessel? The farsensor prepared one.

I must remove it from her, break those strands that run from the Southeast, and transfer it to the vessel without it reporting back. It does not feel like the work of our cousins…

We explain that it is from the Abomination of Shur. She, with our permission, reads our minds about them. Ah, a cat demon. That explains the cook—a humanoid cat with a significant psionic armamentum.

Anatar’s influence.

It should hold the pablum in place for… no more than 60 years. If it approaches that, it should be transferred to a new vessel. The transference can be done by any master level redactor.

Would you like the fan to be fully attuned to you? Your powers are very young, and the fan… well, I will fully attune it for you. It will be better for you.

This is an unusual formation and should be recorded in the Archives. It is insidious.

Alistair sits with Kit’s head in his lap, and holds her hands.
Fort save DC 17; Kit fails, excruciating pain.
Fort save DC 19; Kit fails again, then fails a Will save and faints entirely.
Fort save DC 21; Kit fails a third time, returns to consciousness and sees an ectoplasmic extrusion; -1 to all Con based checks for the next month.

She then finishes the attunement for the fan.

When she wakes, Fort save DC 22; Kit permanently loses a point of Con.

We will deal with this cook now, and then return for we have given our word to the people.

You disgrace your people; you disgrace those who have found honor; you disgrace the spirit world from which you came; I name you filth, and show your true form. I turn you to the humans, to those who you have betrayed, to those whose servant you slew to take her place. I wash my hands of you, the Eldar wash our hands of you.

Out of the very sewers of the city, where there were still undead and demons present, one group after another leaves and tries to flee the city. The paladins and priests have a field day cutting them to pieces.

Sometime in the evening, a young squire slips up to Alistair. “Your grace—I was told to inform you that space has been given to the Lady… ummm” “Leansislas?” “Yes. She says she understands; she will wait.”

Alistair assigns his sister the task of making sure that the King of Debonai does not inadvertently produce any bastards. We consider trying to set him up with one of the Brightspan daughters?

Alistair welcomes Lady Leansislas, using the royalty and high nobility who have gathered to honor her. “My husband felt a great tie to your grandmother; they traveled together, shared research notes, and she had been to our holding. Our holding lies to the south in the Spice Lands. You know that my husband died fighting a battle against your mutual enemies aboard one of our ships. What you do not know is why he fought this battle. This psionically active pendant includes all of the knowledge he gained, about the disposition of the troops of the Abomination and the plans of the Abomination’s allies, as my husband gained by interviewing a member of the court of the Abomination as a coercer. We hope that it is useful.” She hands Alistair a pendant that looks like a crystal ball filled with a strange liquid that glows slightly.

I am a creator of Grandmaster class; I have specialized in enhancing the magic fabric of Spiga silk; before that I specialized in the crafting of stringed instruments. She agrees to think about spending 10 or 20 years crafting instruments and teaching, before going to the Havens, because that is such an insubstantial time.

Alistair asks the Grand Lady about his mother and the other erased people; she says that the methods we’re working on (with the two artifacts, one of Eldar make and one of Noldar make) is the best method, possibly the only one that would work.

[End session 51]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 52 (November 3, 2011)

Skard 15

We send little Lord Brightspan on messenger duty all around the palace to scan over people. We ask him to report on anything funny to the Sixth Daughter and to Dame Brionna. (About midday.)

Interrogating the cook:
Dame Brionna: We encourage you to tell us precisely what your mission here was.

The rakshasa is not intimidated, and fails his arrogance check, so he doesn’t pontificate. He silently stares at Dame Brionna.

“We have ways of making your death extremely painful. We have ways of making it go quickly. We could also just rip it from your mind, but I would prefer for you to remain sane and coherent.”

“But how could you let me die with honor?”

“What would it mean for you to die with honor?”

“A person of rank would have to strike me down, with my face to them.”

“I could guarantee that, in exchange for cooperation.”

“Your word as a paladin that my death will be honorable by the lights of my people?”

“By the Light of Glor’diadel, my god, I swear it.”

“You were clever to find me. There will be others soon, if there are not already. One of the lord’s servants, a quiet one, a small one, remained in the underways. The first sweep and the second sweep did not find him. He brings through others. Your wards are difficult, but your people do not remain within them. One of the ones he brought through is a coercer, he brings them down, draws out their memories. A powder of phoenix down and dragon’s blood I brought with me; it is now in the kitchen proper. To be placed beneath the Prince’s chair. And a focus I brought within the walls, but I do not know where that is now, for I put it down on a tray that I knew would be cleaned. It allows a preset series of commands placed there by a coercer to affect whoever first gazes into it. I do not know what the commands were, or who may have found it. It was put in the area where you keep your young ones.

Your lord has endured so many efforts on the part of my master. My lord is deeply concerned that he is a charmed one, whose set is to defeat my lord’s purpose. If he is a charmed one, he cannot be struck at directly, but those around him can be. The princess is the principle target, preferably before she is pregnant, but if necessary after. The mixture of phoenix down would summon an elemental even through the wards. Much is flammable in the dining hall, and the princess is flammable said the master. The down fire are concealed at the back of the vinegar cupboard.

By giving me honor, you protect my wife and kits. He cannot then in honor act against them for my failure. He will obey those; all who partake of the blood of the rakshasa, lawful or chaos, good or evil, will obey those.

Three primary, and three secondary: 1. If one dies with honor, their liege must provide for and protect their kits and kin. 2. Any agreement that is made and sealed in blood must be obeyed. 3. Those things which you have declared by your blood to be your truth and your way cannot be willingly abandoned unless you are willing to suffer the penalties for it.

Secondary. 1. Every rakshasa must choose a single path. Having chosen a path you can refine that, but you cannot change that. 2. There can be no mercy to the racial enemy. The vermin that serve the cthon must be fought until none of the rat cthon remain or until none of the rakshasa remain. 3. No rakshasa of the rank of baron or above may deliberately harm the powerless or the innocent, unless of course they be a servant of the cthon of rats.

Why would the prospective children of the princess not count as powerless or innocent? Once they are born, they would.

What has the Abomination of Shur declared to be his truth and his way? That he will divide all of the felines between himself and the Lord of Cats, and that he will strip away some portion of the power of the Lord of Cats and of those who serve him. There was a time, and I would swear to you, when he had a cleaner route than he has taken in recent decades.

What changed that?

You know that he was mortal once. When he became immortal, when he started step by step on the path, those greater than he took notice of him. The Lord of Cats did not deign to even give a flick of his paw to him, which showed how little he thought of him as a threat; and at least two greater demon lords, and other demons that were great but may not have been lords, spoke to him of friendship, and alliance, and the future, giving him power to strip away from the Lord of Cats until he was no more. It seemed to some as if they corrupted him to their way of thinking.

It seems you don’t agree.

Can you truly corrupt what is not already there? Those of us whose families have served him for generations… if there is no jealousy in your heart, do you become jealous?

Alistair says, I thought that the Abomination of Shur was indirectly aligned with the Horned Rat.

Dame Brionna asks, doesn’t that violate the second principle?Certainly the Lord of Cats would say so. But the Abomination would say, there is no reason to not be clever. And since the ultimate result would be to triumph against the cthon of rats, and against the Horned Rat who appears to be one of his avatars. That is why the lesser ones might be willing to come over. There is much conversation in the quiet of the evening.

I would argue… I would think that an argument could be made that my lord intends tremendous harm. But there is a trick in this. All of the prohibitions will cease to bind when he becomes fully a demon. It may be that they are already weakening. I do not like to think of this. It causes my soul to shudder.

Do not offer the coercer the deal that you have offered me. He is not of our blood, though he may appear to be. I cannot explain what he is. I do not understand it.

Can I take the picture from your mind? Certainly.

He appears to be a regal seeming rakshasa. He smells wrong. He looks like a noble of baronial rank, but all you need do is bend your nose to him and you can tell that he is not.

Your people do not smell as easily do they? Take a dog—it will cringe as far from him as it can get.

Where can we find the coercer? They are in the third ward of your city. There is a structure near one of the temples of light—it looks like a third story tenement that is covered over with boards. Go into the basement, there is an entrance to the sewer there. When last I saw them, there was the coercer, two bodyguards, and four others waiting to infiltrate.

There is a rumor within the palace, that you run more than your own life. That your great master is very fond of your counsel, to an amount that would seem unseemly among my branch of the rakshasa. The servants believe that her travels in the night are very clever. They admire her for it. Their betters do not believe it.

The guards do not seem to think about it. They gossip about other things—when Princess Caitlyn will deliver a child. They have a pool on it.

Dame Brionna mentions that she is in fact engaged to an honorable man who is a slave of the Abomination.

Is he a slave in the place of keeping? A great spire that rises out of the sea, the steps are grey and green stones. The worst of the master’s allies practice their great sorceries there.

The last I know of him, he was on a stone ship.

All that are being gathered to the great hold, the place of keeping, are taken there for a great sacrifice by the allies. They intend to let through a great mind on the turning of the next season. (Fall equinox, 75 days from now more or less).

All those who are there will have some special power.

I ask in return that there is a woodcut with my wife and kits. If you take the hold, treat them as well as you can.

Coercing device: it is the size of a cup for café or chocolate, a closed side, with many facets, it is glass, but it looks to be crystal. When you pick it up, you feel its power, but it does nothing until you look into it at your eye. It is most likely that it will contain… in the old days, it would contain knowledge and a command to study the knowledge. He is not one of us… it could contain anything. There would not be a compulsion to look at it, but it is a pretty thing, and young ones tend to pick them up.
[cont'd]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
[Session 52 cont'd]
We send paladins to look for it, we do some locate objects, we recall Lord Brightspan and warn him, we have people scry for it. We easily locate it; it’s on a shelf full of knick-knacks in the pages’ quarters. It appears to be empty.

We summon all of the pages, starting with Abigail. We ask the Farsensor if he can detect who got it. "Oh… that’s a crude mind, isn’t it? The youngest one. So odd to say for your people. It’s the youngest one—the ork.

"It’s an interesting set of commands. He’s been given… oh, how incredibly clever. The series of commands the child has been given, he’s not even aware of. He’s been given just enough ability to map the wards, without realizing he’s doing it. He got it last evening. It’s strictly a method of reading out information and sending it on—burst mode when he goes outside the walls."

It extinguishes itself once it activates.

We need a decent coercer to transfer it.

Kit asks one of her rumor mongers. She’s excited, she’s energetic, she’s enthusiastic, she has no idea what psionics are except for the fact that they’re an important part of the kingdom.

We then have a fake version of the wards built out, designed to steer them into the strongest parts and make their attacks fail as much as possible. It then burst transmits off, and the Farsensor confirms that there is not a trace of it left in her head afterwards.

Dame Brionna chews out the Master of Pages for not maintaining a higher security approach.

The rakshasa does not know the Abomination’s true name. There are things that could be done to him if you had his true name, more and more as he becomes more and more demon. There are some who might know his true name; the lord demons may have exchanged such information to seal the pack. His first sorcerer might. All others who would know were slain a millennium ago.

Awkward meeting with Caitlyn:

Kit prepares for this, wearing a dress, one of her relatively non-low-cut gowns. She is looking as respectable council member as she can get.

She goes to meet Caitlyn in a very private, official meeting room.

“Good afternoon, your majesty.”

“Good afternoon, Dame Katherine.”

“Thank you for meeting with me.”

“You know far more of this place than I do. I’m honored you would wish to meet with me.”

“Well, you are an important person. And it’s about time that we met. What have you heard of my position at court?”

“That you are one of the Archduke’s advisors. That you were elevated from the commons for great service and loyalty.”

“That’s all you’ve heard?”

“Well… there are one or two that believe that you may be the Hand, but there are one or two that believe that every woman in the palace is the Hand. And there are one or two that believe that you may be the eye. And the body imagery used for this palace’s secret service is very disturbing.”

“You don’t know the half of it.”

“I am one of the people responsible for keeping you safe, and Alistair safe.”

“You seem to be doing a good job.”

“And I will continue doing that. My first job is keeping you and Alistair safe, and I will continue doing that. There is something else you need to know. It doesn’t change anything, and I will keep keeping you safe. I just came from seeing to the death of someone who was striking at you.”

“Oh…it’s not from one of your own people? Alistair seems an enlightened ruler.”

“No. We have outside enemies. It wasn’t the first and it won’t be the last. But that’s why the Council is here, and why all the body parts are there. To keep Alistair safe, and you safe, and Canberry. But the reason I said all of that first is that there’s something else you need to know. And I’m telling you so that you can hear it from me. Alistair and I… I’m not just his advisor. We’re closer than that, and we have been for some time.”

“Oh, that was not the rumor at all.”

“Really? I thought that it was one of the ones in circulation.”

“No, it was not one of the two rumors about his lover. The dominant one is that it’s the Captain of the Guard. The other is that the Mistress of the Bedchamber is actually the mistress of the bedchamber. Some people thought that the fact that would be so obvious is why it is so clever.”

“I have to be glad that I’m not obvious. It’s my job to not be obvious. But…”

“Now, you do realize that I have no wish to displace your personal affections. I do wish to bear his heir.”

“That’s what you’re supposed to do. I’m here to protect Canberry, and part of that means a stable succession, which means you getting an heir legitimately.”

“I am somewhat relieved it is you. I was inclined toward the Mistress of the Bedchamber, but she knows a great deal about fertility. I feared a bastard.”

“My first job is to see that you stay safe to give Alistair an heir. After that… I’m not making any promises.”

“After that, it won’t be important.”

“There’s no way I could ever be in your place, either. I’m a foreigner, and common born, and …”

“I think that I learned in the camps that the strength of your character is more important than the blood in your veins. I will rule my people because they wish me to be. Alistair will be a ruler because of his relationship to me, but his son will be a ruler in truth of both peoples. And I believe that Alistair will help my people become a nation again in truth.”

After a moment: Caitlyn says brightly: “Tea?” She chats calmly for a while, trying to make sure Kit is at her ease.

About an hour later, when Kit is getting ready to take her leave, alarms start going off all over the palace, and the palace wards flare up.

The alarms are slowly being shut off. But it appears that they were all simultaneously set off.

Dame Brionna asks the Sixth Daughter. "That had to be a very powerful magic or psionic wave. It may have had nothing to do with us, but it washed over here." Kit tries to contact the Farsensor, but finds it blocked by incredibly powerful shields. She then reaches out with her fan. One of her contacts responds. We all heard it. There was a great declaration from the fairgrounds; it wasn’t in a language I understood, and then there was a great flare of light.

Abruptly, the shields blocking psionics from going in and out drop. Kit then reaches out to the Farsensor—Kit senses a tremendous amount of energy, part of which he is generating.

<<We are well. Her most celestial presence detected one of the first-comers, one of the seen unseen, among the merchants.>>

Dame Brionna heads off. She sees the globe of energy before she gets there. Many of the festival goers are far closer to it than they should be. The globe is surrounding a figure that is going through a series of shapes more and more rapidly.

“May I ask what occurred here?”

“We were but walking through, and this creature was posing as a merchant. A merchant of highly spiced foods, and I sensed a sickness coming on the people who were eating the food. At first I thought it was an error, for humans do not always preserve foods well, meaning no offense. I reached out to correct the imbalance in the food, and he knew me, and I knew him. It was one of the seen-unseen, a hieshi. We contained it. If it remains in a full globe, it will die, but it must die. I do not know if you have any means to rip answers from its soul.”

“Can we coerce it?”

“Yes."

"Could you move it?”

“Yes. I can move it wherever you would wish, but I will not allow it to regain contact with its source.”

“I believe that my sense is that you have about an hour and a half left before he implodes.”

A coercer arrives. “What do you want forced out of it, m’lady?”

“For starters, who it is working for and what it was trying to do?”

“Distribute the final ingredient.”

“The spice—it’s the spice, they mixed it into the spice and were moving from fair to fair.”

“What other fairs? I’ll give you a map.”

“How long did it take to get to all of these places?”

“Doesn’t have a good sense. Doesn’t have time in its place.”

“If they don’t come into contact with the other parts, will wear off. In months. If it meets the other parts, will sicken and die.”

“Other images—fire and people with pitchforks and hoes fighting soldiers. Clear image of rioting. That’s what he hopes for with this.”

“Are there others?”

Beads of sweat roll down the coercers face. “His mind says that with his capture we’ve captured all but one.”

“He only knows his last guise—it’s last guise was as a wise woman travelling with herbs in the southeast, heading this way though. He knows that she was supposed to get here sometime shortly after him; he’s been here a day.”

Kit asks him to run through the others. He goes through them, listing the ones who were distributing poison.

Is there a ritual significance to the poison and the deaths?

I don’t see any. The significance seems to be that they hope it will cause rioting.

Who is his immediate superior?

Concept doesn’t make sense to him.

Who told him to do this?

He has a better understanding—I have a picture, it seems to be a human woman. An elegantly dressed, emaciated human woman, with gold at every point where she could have gold.

Alistair recognizes that image; that is the older sister of the fairly nice daughter of the Empress of Hanal. Somehow, she was responsible for bringing him here—like she summoned him? My expertise is only in psionics, not magic, but its image is that she brought him here.

Which of the Pariah Deities does it serve? The Goddess of the Pale Bone, and then the coercer collapses, although he does not actually lose consciousness.

The thing in the globe explodes, but as it explodes the elves contract the sphere and turn the explosion inside out.

[Dame Brionna gets a point of serendipity—In some random ways, upset the plans of the enemy or allow our own plans to come to fruition, one time. Five more calendar days and people would have started dying.]

We discuss what to do about this. Three possibilities come to mind: try to have her whacked directly; tell the Empress of Hanal; tell the Inquisition (and suggest that we haven’t been able to confirm that the Empress of Hanal is uninvolved in this)

[End Session 52]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 53 (December 15, 2011)

[Exposure to the elves bonus: +1 morale bonus to the City for the next 10 years; health benefit, 1d5 years of life added to the lives of everyone currently alive in the city; individual lives saved, Con scores fixed, etc.]

Skard 16
We talk to Lord Davion about grabbing/destroying the coercer.

Examining the crystal object; “these things have caused more wars than all of the jealousies of humans put together. People use these toys to manipulate human kingdoms, but even more the lesser people. He has no finesse—not paragon level, but he has great power reserves. And they are right—there is something wrong with it, although not demonic.” “Old One related?” “Perhaps… I never had much dealing with them.”

Lord Davion asks if he could contact an old friend, who he hasn’t seen in 7000 years, a member of the High Court of the Cities of Pain. He is a member of House Curini’rim. We agree but with some preparations to avoid “awkwardness” with the Princess from the other branch of the elves.

Lord Davion sends an invitation to his friend for 3 PM that afternoon.

Dame Brionna approaches the Eldar embassy. She can see both the very large group of very disciplined guards, and the huge crowds of people patiently waiting to be filtered through.

“Good commander, I hope that you are not being unduly disturbed by our people.”

“Not at all; the Lady is deeply moved and pleased to offer the succor of … of the Light to them.”

They step into private (he has something he wants to mention as well).

“This afternoon, an ally who is a friend of our Champion, will be visiting. He is a member of House Curini’rim, a member of the High Court of the Cities of Pain.”

“A yes, I remember him. He is a first-comer, as is the Lady, as am I. He was not a bad sort, although misled. There won’t be any problems.”

“Two things the Lady wishes you to be aware of. Some of the people who are coming to her have one or two parts of a tripolar poison. She thought you should know. She is cleansing them of the parts that they have in them.”

We know and are trying to deal; do you know what the poison would do?

“Oh, yes; a very serious thing. A tripolar poison—you know how those work?”

“Yes; salt, smoke, and spices.”

“That would work. It would begin with vomiting, and then proceed—degenerative, cannot be cured without deep redaction and skin. Over 10 days, dehydration and organ failure. Extremely painful. And the bodily fluids of a victim—sweat, blood, and vomit—would trigger any other victims exposed to even one part. It is unnecessarily cruel—the sort of thing that depraved minds would come up with.”

(Alistair points out that the poisoning would look like plague then… and since plague is not possible because the Gods won’t allow it, an apparent plague would create the inference of severe divine displeasure.)

“Could the Lady purify the salt itself? Or create a purifying agent?”

“Let me consult the metaconcert.”

“The Lady says yes, but that she will need access to a high-level alchemical laboratory and several trained assistants. We are not trained to assist her in that.”

“I will consult with the Minister of Magic.”

The representative of the metaconcert folds her hands and waits.

<<Kit—make me look good.>>

Kit arranges things with the Minister of Magic. The Minister and nine other volunteers will be available.

Her Grace will be ready when we close the healing pavilion for the night.

Second: Are you aware that a certain number of the young people have the potential to become psionically aware, and not only are not being awakened, but are being drained and shut away.

Wait—deliberately?

Oh yes… we can see the cysts. I can see the cysts. It’s dreadful.

We would be most interested.

There is a similarity between the cases. I’ve collected the names. They all seem to be, oddly, if we understand your system correctly, in the upper levels of the gentry and the lower levels of the nobility. Some came who were only sick in that they carried a cyst. But it has happened so long and for so much time, that all she could do was lance the cysts to restore health, not remove the cyst.

All done while they were children, very young, well before menarche. After the weaning from milk, but before food becomes fully solid, that things must be done. Then only the seed is planted, but it is then self-perpetuating.

How does the seed get planted? Usually a mental image, the Lady’s guess is projected in, that scares the child of its own powers. Could be done through an object, more likely through a person.

(Alistair says this sounds like the effect we found on the Duke of Brightspan.)

Kit has a conversation with the Minister of Mind.

“That’s ridiculous… we test for psionic abilities at age 14.”

“That’s the thing… it happens at age 1 or 2.”

We have a list of names; we need to check their younger siblings. Wealthy families, too late for wet nurses, probably a nurse or governess, could be a toy shop.

Kit pairs up her people with the Minister’s.

We send out a bunch of people to search for the last seen-unseen; paladins, Kit’s people, city guards. We have them watched by location so we can find disappearances. They are strictly instructed that this is an intelligence gathering operation. We also have some strike teams put together—this is strictly seek and destroy.
[cont'd]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
[Session 53 cont'd]
3 PM
Alistair, Kit, and Lord Davion (in his extremely fine finest) greet him.

A slender elf, with the features of a first-comer, and a construct of silver filigree carrying a collection of books, step through. “Ah, how good to see you again.” Lord Davion hurries over and they do an air hug in the way of the elves.

“The Liege I now serve… his title does seem contrariwise—His Imperial Majesty the Archduke Alistair of Canberry.”

“Your Majesty, Lord Gregoniy, House of Curini’rim, Sacred Librarian to the Lord of Pain.”

“Thank you, Lord Gregoniy; you honor us with your presence.”

“Well, Davion said that you had a problem that I might help with, and I haven’t been out among humans since the Third Age, and I hadn’t seen Davion since he ran off with the circus.”

“So… in your own words, Your Majesty,” he leans on a silvery staff, heavily enough to suggest some frailties.

Has the rising begun?

Third Book of Dooms.

So they brought in a tetrapod. There has to be a seventh. They come in ones, sevens, and forty-nines. If there were forty-nine, there would already be a helaka. It is what they wish to summon. The Old Ones are shut out of creation; they have been from the beginning. The Creator and our Lord agree on that, and so it has been done. In the Second Age of mankind, they made a breakthrough. Our Master was weak, we were busy, so were our cousins, and we were not paying attention to what was going on that we should have. Five things rose out of the ocean, and they populated them with cultists, mostly humans—humans will worship anything at the drop of the hat. This place, that has risen again, is where a helaka was summoned. Had the Noldar and Eldar continued to ignore it, humanity would have been overthrown on this planet. We lost sixty of our number, mostly first-comers. We would not do that again.

“Are you capable of doing that again?”

“There are enough of us that we could stop one more helaka. Now then… if there’s a flat surface? He thinks at the robot, or golem, or whatever it is, and it lays down its stack of books and opens up one large one, with sparkling illustrations on each page. Ah yes. He passes a hand over it and a 3D image appears. The halasa, which you have been dealing with successfully. They have no form in their native form—pure protoplasm, but they can take any form, and more successfully than dopplegangers. (Doppelgangers were, we believe, created in a laboratory of their cultists, but are inferior.)

Hacka—the mindflayer like priest-warriors. The great hacka are drawn through from another place, but they are few—most are converted willing humans. They fight effectively, but their purpose is not to fight. They are to bring through the Heleka. And when it has killed and destroyed enough, it would bring through the Goddess of the Pale Bone.

The Heleka. It is like the Hacka, but much greater. There has only been one on this plane historically. But when it was brought through in the war of the Goddess of the Pale Bone, the Lord Goldor’im himself volunteered to go through the gate, investigate, and return only as the gate closed. He reported that in the world beyond, there were at least six more—a tetrapod like the hiesa do. We believe that when it came through, it was cut off from the font of power, and when destroyed was destroyed forever. We do not know what the Goddess of the Pale Bone is like.

The Hatta—like a pterodactyl. These also come through whenever there is a major summoning; they were frequently ridden by the cultists. When we assault the island—and someone will need to—we will face them.

Finally, large octopoid creatures underwater. We only faced two, and never gave them a name. Their skin is very resilient, and resists cutting and fire to an extreme degree. They sank some of our men-of-wars.

Also their cultists and warriors.

If you have encountered six of the hiesa in less than a year, they think you the greatest threat possible.

We show him the object—this might be from the seventh.

The leader is always the most powerful. Powerful, but crude. That fits. Distinctly not connected… I suspect that you are correct.

In the sewers—it can transform. Netting, thin string netting everywhere it might go. It must not be allowed to escape.

Sacred Librarian—are you then a high-ranking priest of Morgroth as well?

I am.

Then, as Defender of the Light, on behalf of the Church of Glor’diadel as a signatory to a Compact between our faiths, I inform you of the threat from the Old Ones and officially request your assistance and the assistance of the Temple of Morgroth.

Thank you—that will make explaining this to the Mistress of Skulls easier.

We set up the sewer nets. They head out. They fail to take it by surprise, but barely, barely win initiative. Strange gasses burble out of the sewers, and there is an explosion heard through muffled walls.

Five minutes later, <<We have him. It was arrogant, and did not try to flee.>>

As I said, I’ve fought these things before. That’s how my spine got twisted.

If you could obtain the Heart…

This is an artifact, a mechanical artifact called the Heart. You see that it’s made principally of this glowing red crystal—that’s psionically active, and surrounds an orb of psionically active liquid. It is the key to closing the gate permanently. It was made by seven Eldron smiths, who resisted the division at the Kinslaying. They wrought the Heart, with the intention of sealing away the Other forever. But unfortunately, one of the cults that served She of the Pale Bone became aware of it before it could be deployed. Through seduction, they coopted certain members of the human community that served the Eldron and they stole the Heart and gave it to the cultists. The cultists determined that destroying the Heart was impossible. We of the Noldar are powerful; the Eldar are powerful; the Eldron were more powerful, for their power was undivided. So they hid it, or placed it in some distant place, and then slew themselves. The Heart has never been seen since. We know that it is somewhere on the planet; we suspect it was somewhere on this continent. But we can’t trace it further. I don’t know. For all I know, there are clues, but I don’t know where to begin looking.

Would it affect the area around it passively?

Given its power, probably, even if it were encased in lead to prevent detection. But I do not know what effects. The seven Eldron went to the West as a unit, so distraught were they about the betrayal. There are perhaps another dozen Eldron, caught up in their research, but I do not know who they are, or where they might be. They might be able to provide information about its effects. Probably domain effects, but very subtle; likely not effects of chaos, but could be either of law or of powerful neutrality, if that is even possible.

Twenty questions:
1. How can we find the seventh? He’s gone to ground; but the spices continue to move forward. We split them up among a half-dozen unsuspecting merchants. She is hidden in the first village inside the border of the Duchy proper coming from the Southeast.

2. Time table? We are to distract and destroy you, to prevent both actions that must take place.

3. What are both actions that must take place? The summoning of the Heleka and the destruction of the seal in Seachen.

4. Who set this plan directly in motion? The ranking Hacka in service of She Who Will Come, created this plan 70 years ago and has guided it in all its permutations 70 years ago.

5. Other plans he was involved in besides infiltration of the palace and the poisoning? If it were possible, I was to replace a member of the Archduke’s Council, but one had abilities I could not replicate, the other had emotions I could not fraudulently imitate.

6. What is a list of all the people he’s sent to infiltrate positions of power in Canberry? All of those in the palace have been found and destroyed, unless there are some from our demonic allies I have not known about, but we still have the Grandmaster of Swords in the school in the Duchy of Furrows. We also still have… still have… still have… (real struggle) the Chancellor of the Cathedral. That has not been easy, but we maintained it. And the chief dispatcher for the primary service for nursing staff for the capital.

7. Why us? Why are we the target? There are four powers on this continent besides the Forest of Singing Leaves that could impede the great work; Canberry, Hanal, Masque, and the Confederacy of the South Kingdoms. We destroyed the South Kingdoms before hand. Hanal is neutralized by our agent within it. Masque struggles to survive. Canberry is the last that could impede it. Prophecy says that the great work may fail if Canberry remains strong; therefore, Canberry must not remain strong.

8. Who are their allies or minions among the royal and high noble houses of Drucien, specifically including the Imperial House of Hanal? The Crown Princess of Hanal, one of the Tangian Patriarchs (one of the Ones of Tang), the name of one of the remaining ranking nobles mentioned by Queen Caitlyn (who is here in Canberry). Also every single one of the defecting field army commanders of the defecting armies of Debonai.

9. What’s the nature of their alliance with the Abomination? He has considerable resources, and he is near unto the Seal. We will give him anything he desires. What he wants is godhood, and we hardly care because such things will be irrelevant when the lady arrives.

10. Are there other active tetrapods? Not yet. There are two other singles, that seek clues to find their way to the Heart that it may be further removed from prying hands.

11. Where are the other four places of power, and are they rising as well? The Islands of Terror, to the East of the continent, are rising. The other locations are not on this continent, and there is no power for them now.

12. Who are the half-dozen unsuspecting merchants? Names spew out and images form in the air next to Lord Greganiy

13. What can we do to stop the Heleka from being summoned? Either prevent enough of the pre-sacrifices, or storm the ceremony.

14. Is that what they intend to summon on the equinox? Of course; without its touch upon the world, she cannot enter. Since the one you call the Creator and Eiru created this place and the Arch of Time and all that is within it, we were. Before thought and beginning, we were. Before plants, and elves, and humans, we were. And then those two who split the power of this place between them decided to cast us out. But this world can be ours as it was before.

15. Tell us more about this seal in the Seachen lands. The Seachen—benighted race of women. When last we rose, they were. And though of their men we corrupted many, their women we could not touch. And their wives rose against them and created what you know as the Matriarchy of Seachen. The Matriarch of Seachen, beneath her throne, keeps that great seal of stability. Until that seal is broken, She cannot return. Their whole structure is designed to protect it. Have you seen their intaking rituals? They continuously cut that we cannot infiltrate. It is a weak nothing, compared to the Heart, but it is enough as long as it is intact. A clay disk three feet across, inscribed in Elven, etched and filled with liquid silver and with crystals of power. But we will have it, and it will fall.

16. What is the source of power that is enabling the Islands of Terror to rise? Worship and sacrifices, lad. Only the elven sacrifices will enable the summoning of the heleka, but any sacrifice will give strength to the island. That is why we kill anything we can in service of the goddess.

17. Where are the two singles that seek the Heart active, and how can they be found? They answer only to the High Hacka; they are not of my Tetrapod, and I do not know their movements. They first went to the lands of Tang, but whether to search there or to get help from our agent there, I do not know.

18. Are there any other poisons besides the tri-polar poison that you are distributing or causing to be distributed? Yes; we’ve been distributing a liquid poison for some years, with the intention of clouding the minds of psionics in your service, with the intention of making it more difficult for them to develop their psionic powers. We distribute it through the water system.

19. How does that poison get in the water? We add it to the filtration system through cultists who are members of our cells. It was not difficult. Most of the city uses wells, and the filtration system is only guarded against destruction. Perhaps we should have followed our first impulse and put deadly poison in it.

20. Is there any way to identify the human cultists? Somewhere in their possessions, they will always have a small, polished bone. Nothing else is universal.

About that time the creature in the vat bubbles massively, and the entirety of the material suddenly becomes milky white.

Lord Curini’rim says, “It is dead. And I must ask for a glass of wine.”

That was the vilest mind I have touched since last I fought these creatures. They do not change, they do not improve.

I must inform the Princess on my way back. She must be informed. The Princess of my House is in her summer tower in Enclaves; she has a number of battle barges and troops, and she will offer them should you decide that invasion is necessary. Mind you, her commander is an idiot, but her troops are excellent.

Why does she employ him?

His blood demands as much. If you can convince the man to listen to his sergeants, the battle will go better. He is from the chief cadet house of the drow.

Davion found the Twin Cities of Death and the City of Pain boring; he never liked torture much, and found the rest of it rather boring, building large buildings that would never be used and then tearing them down. A circus was passing north of the Twin Cities of Death, from the Iron Cities to a port city, Bleurian, that has long since been buried. He was particularly taken with the fire eater. So he put on ear rounders and rouge—we are slightly pale, you may have noticed—so he went and joined the circus. Ten years later, when his parents noticed he was missing, they … asked us to go after him. Who could turn down a distraught mother, especially when she’s throwing around 5000 pound boulders with her telekinesis. I followed his trail… the trail of enormously well built up inns paid for with his hoard coins. I found him in the Magocracy of Perdun, now also sadly no more. I travelled with him for a few years to prove that I was a good sport. We ran into some troubles with those damn pirates; who knew that human mages could be so powerful just because they dipped into a color pool once upon a time? He went home, explained that he wasn’t coming home, and then ran his own circus for a couple of centuries.

Don’t confuse me with my brother.

Brionna: What did your brother do, run off to join a zoo?

He became a beast shaper, putting creatures from beneath the conflict of the Kinslaying in enormous pain. The two of them sought each other for several hundred years, and avoided each other successfully at the same time.

Davion, I must go, to inform the Princess, and then to the Council. I will inform your mother you are well; she still asks after you every 50 or 60 years.

I am of the second-comers; my mother was one of the first-comers; my father was dead before I was born in the Kinslaying. I do not understand my twin; I do not hate him anymore. I do not think he is happy.

My uncle has worked for thousands of years, he has maintained every book in the Sacred Library at one time or another. Should he fail, he would fall from favor as fast as I drop a gold coin.

He left the picture book, to be copied; for me to return in a decade or so when it is finished.

He also brought this, one of the five copies of the Book of Grand Strategy, by the Bleeding Lady. In translation, grants 5 points to leadership and 1 level in the combat class.

I have a suspicion that there is at least one Eldron in the Lormenon Hills watching over the gnomes and hobbits near the south coast of Khamista. Something struck down the invading troops en masse; something more powerful than me, more powerful than my uncle Greganiy, we know where the Bleeding Lady was and it was not her, and it wasn’t a dragon.

The different Eldron had different interests; some were cold-forgers, yes, but some were hot-forgers, and others. There might be one near the Crystal City. It always struck me as elven work, but there are no elves there. Most beautiful city on the continent. Perhaps an Eldron? Given that there are only a half-dozen at best, the only place on Drucien I can think there might be.

It was an Eldron that wrote the equation, that showed that the elven race was doomed. It moved both elven races into their present models.
[End Session 53]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
[I'm back from vacation and resuming regular posting]
Session 54 (October 3, 2012)
We confirm that Hanal is attacking the Crystal City; they’re also committing genocide against the hobbits and gnomes there. This is consistent with a strategy of trying to flush out Eldron.

Skard 17
We discuss handing off the Crown Princess of Hanal issue to the Inquisition. Also, since Hanal may be taking actions in the interest of the Goddess of the Pale Bone.

Kit presents a report--Hanal is in bad shape. And they appear to have succeeded in flushing out the Eldron of the Crystal City.

Concerns of Brionna: Can we identify the cultists by searching for the polished bone talismans that they carry? Alistair suggests having parish priests locate objects, and then tip off the guard. We send a message to the Archbishop.

Also, we still need to figure out what’s happening to the children that is impairing their psionic capabilities.
Possible routes to access children between 1 and 2: teething rings, toys, shoes;

Alistair arranges a sending to the chaplain of the Grand Duchess of Ergmoth:

“Defender of Light and Sacred Librarian of Cities of Pain must speak with Protector of Faith about urgent Ecumenical Council business. About principal enemies.”

A schooner from the Crystal City is arriving at extreme speed (faster than Eldar are capable of); we inform the Sacred Librarian (via the heir-apparent of Tarsh) and the Grand Lady of the Eldar (via young Lord Brightspan).

We also ask Field Marshal Brightspan to work with Lord Davion on planning an assault on the islands, assuming the support of Zorplona-Argoni and Forest of Singing Leaves.

About a half-hour later, Dame Brionna is informed that the Baroness Castillia is in the teleport chamber, along with a handful of her personal guard, and the Grand Duchess’s chamberlain. Dame Brionna and the Baroness exchange pleasantries.

“There is no doubt, Baroness. She is in their service, fully and willingly.”

“Your Majesty—the Empress of Hanal has been suffering a slow developing madness for several years, that neither the Church nor the Order of the Power of the Mind can cure. Her thought is no longer within the bounds of what might be called normal sanity.”

If Hanal were to fly apart, the northern coast would be like the Southern Kingdoms.

Our records show that there were at least two unaccounted for Eldron on this continent; and 4 on Khamista. It is said that one of them settled near the Lormennon hills, possibly more than one of them. It is also said that one of them may have been captured. (“Vile lies!” interjects the Curinirim.) The only place that I do not think they would be is Enclaves, as it includes both of the other lines of elves.

We discuss the idea that the Heart might be Enclaves.

The traditional story is that various groups started building villages on the coast of a river, thousands of years ago.

It could be Balansar, the God of Balance, mentions Lord Curinirim.

We discuss reaching out to the Lolthian drow to search the Underdark of Enclaves, which is where the Heart must be hidden if it is hidden there.

The Baroness says that she will contact the Protector, who can send the Inquisitor-General for Northern Drucien—he’s currently in Masque, but he can travel there rapidly by voller.

Are we confident he is not corrupted? He has recently been in the presence of the Protector, and she is granted certain powers by the God. After the prior Inquisitor-General was corrupted, additional precautions were taken.
[cont'd]
 

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CPaladin

Explorer
[Session 54 cont'd]
"Since you have given me so much insight," Lord Curinirim says, "let me give you some insight into my people. We follow Lord Morgroth, most of us, because we made a decision to follow him many years ago. He is a god, a great god, one of the greatest gods, but that is only a matter of degree. With the lesser races, we know that they have more need to follow religion. And the lesser races tend to be more united in attitude. We figured out years ago that they had to worship, and had to fear. For if they did not, we would be constantly having problems. The whip—if you want the orc, the ogre, the troll, to do what they want, you must use the whip. Only the drow were considered to have enough honor to make their own decisions, and many of them made it wrong.

"Why don’t they leave?
  • Inertia. I am sane. That is less true than for many of my relatives, on both sides. It has only been ten or fifteen thousand years. Why change a choice once made?
  • Family loyalty. Consider the Princess. She cares about her people more than herself. Given the love she bears for every injured cat, starving child, she might be well served if not by the returning, then by serving a human god, such as your god—he is a decent god, not very powerful, earthly, but decent, caring. I spoke with her about it, and she said, “would you come with me, uncle?” I am an old man—I have served the library since before the last moon rose. In the Kinslaying, we took blood. Some remember only the atrocities done to us, but I remember the atrocities we did, which were worse, and which burned our souls.
  • There is no path for the Returning, and many could not imagine serving a being who, were they to live for 100,000 or 200,000 years, they might be as great as."
* * *

There is an elf of some sort, perhaps grey, in some form of a military uniform.

Enthalien of the House of Stone Eaves (a grey elf house, almost as rarely seen as the Eldar). There are significantly less than 50,000 grey elves, at most. They are the only elven group that deliberately live in stone that are not in the Kingdom of Morgroth. They are known as military officers, although that has declined in the last thousand years.

"I bring word from the Voice and the hope for peace."

"We hope for peace as well, but I am afraid that I do not follow your meaning."

"The Voice speaks, for the first time in a thousand years, in his Crystal City to the north, offering an exchange of services." He holds out a scroll.

The scroll speaks. “Your grace, I am sorry to disturb you. However, there are few in the continent for whom we can ask for an exchange of services in tual. We have taken prisoners in the number of 3,000 men. We have detected 75,000 troops approaching. I have been aroused from a short period of meditation for the defense of my city. I unleashed the Falling Leaf against the last group, who numbered 25,000. I am willing to make payments into your treasury in osmium tual. I cannot retain them in my city—we do not have the capacity to house them. I remain.”

Osmium is an ancient crystal, used in the most ancient hoard coins, typically in eight-sided coins called tuals.

We can take the prisoners of war and house them humanely and properly. But while we would accept payment in tuals, we would prefer to ask for a boon--your assistance in warding out the Goddess of the Pale Bone.

You must do two things. You must recover the Heart. And you must find two more of the Eldron. We created the Heart out of an overabundance of caution. For none of us believed they would ever come here again, but they have. When last I knew, of the six of us who did not follow either the Path of the Light or the Path of Darkness, 1 ascended, 1 was destroyed by those who did not understand his path, and four remain. You have found me. I am no longer mobile. You must find two of the remaining three and bring them to me—were I to move, I would die, like a mortal.

That is the Shadow on her mind. There is a tremendous bloodletting among her people. And just before the attack a party passed to the south, bearing one of the royal bloodline—the least sane of them, but most pliable.

There will be terrible casualties when I reflect the attack upon them. They are too many for my armies without the use of my direct capabilities—we have only 300 of my guard and 2000 others. The ship alone will not be sufficient, and it is the only great voller I have.

I will tell you where the Heart was left. I will leave Lord Enthalien to assist you—he will only be able to speak for me on occasion.

The Heart has unfortunately gathered a collection of every sort of people around it. There was a compound underneath the river—we left a small group of grey elves and a small group of drow to guard it, there were a small number of both grey elves and drow that remained

It is a box, three cubits by two cubits by two cubits, as measured by the arm of an elf. It is made entirely of eog (the highest of the high glasses, above viridian, high glass, and laen). There are traceries and decorations in white gold and mithril, with diamond and ruby a few emeralds and some sapphires. They are spelled out in elven across the surface of the box—do not try to read them, they might imprison you forever. The gems are all psionically active crystals. The plane they are presently in has been consumed. There is nothing left there but themselves and their creatures. Their creatures are odd, and I have never been capable of discerning whether they are actually separate entities. Once the Heart is activated by three Eldron—and they must be true Eldron, who have chosen a path of neutrality and left both of the great gods—once the Heart is activated, it will physically vanish forever, but it will create a permanent barrier against the Goddess of the Pale Bone and all her servants. Not the One Other or the One Besides, but they are weaker, less organized, with fewer servants, and could be defeated by some of your gods.

Once we have it, how can we move it? It can be plane shifted, but must be moved physically within one plane.

If we brought it to the Crystal City, could you keep it safe? Yes. I have layered defenses—they will not guess how powerful the defenses are, even after this debacle.

We brainstorm about how to find additional Eldron. Groups of gray elves and drow in proximity or working together? Some Eldron seem to be patrons of humans (the Voice) or hobbits/gnomes; perhaps there are patrons of other races? A dwarven Eldron? Some other type?

Large aquatic elf population southeast of Khamista. We talk to the Sacred Librarian.

There have been several anomalous things noted. The gnomes and hobbits of the Larnelam hills. Three other things. Just off your northeast coast, a small tribe of aquatic elves living with a larger tribe of merman. On Khamista, north of the Kingdom of Bianca, north of the White Witch, in the permafrost, there is a dwarven dig. Not a normal dwarven dig—they have been digging and shaping a mountain for a very, very long time into a huge statue, perfect in every detail except that it has no face. I consider that odd—but we didn’t get any of the dwarves on our side, so I could be barking up the wrong horse. Lastly, apparently the aquatic elves off the Pirate Coast have built a domed city. Given that they don’t usually build cities at all—living in grottoes—this group built a domed city, within 25 miles of the Black Witch. And though they are not numerous, she has not destroyed them.
[End session 54]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 55 (November 11, 2012)

Skard 18
We meet with Baroness Castilia.

It is true that a large daemonic army marched on the Larnelam Hills some years ago; they took some of the hinterlands, and were then annihilated. We assumed it was some of the Eldar from the Steading of the Elven Lords.

A: The Noldar do not believe so.

Then it is almost surely an Eldron. A full tor of the faerie would be the only other group that could likely do that, and that is even less likely. [We discuss sending a united group—she suggests some Tarkenians to balance the Paranswarmians—perhaps 3 and 3.]

There is also a dwarven dig.

Ah yes. Batarak Dur. The dwarves there act very oddly—not like dwarves. They are very artistic. Dwarves are almost never artistic. And for generations on end? Unheard of. And the statue is not of a dwarf—the proportions are wrong, and there is no beard on the featureless face.

There are crazy people in those hills. Some of the dwarves go mad. Some are harmless, simply wandering off to eat roots and animals in the woods. But some are given a wide berth.

It is said that some of those who work on the face are those that go mad. But not all of them.

I believe that I have been told that those who are nulls show no such effect. [We discuss this—it could be an unintended side effect (maybe there’s a psionic artifact in the head?), that Eldron might not care, there might be something else going on.]

We should perhaps send either nulls or psions.

Kit says nulls—we can’t risk sending psions if they might be rendered insane. Baroness Castillia agrees, but says that they will have difficulty—the Grand Duchess does not favor nulls. But they will try to find 3.

The third site: the domed city of the elves: I can inquire of Tarsh, but I would caution you to not be as trusting of Tarsh as the rest of the Darkness.

We confirm that we understand this. It is still deeply unsettled.

I can provide you a base—my lands of Mandrath have ports, and I can find skilled sailors and a discreet warship. We will need to take a circuitous route to avoid the pirates. But we can also increase our patrols—we seek to avoid conflict, but we also maintain a clear line.

Two dioceses that I would suggest for recruiting people on Drucien. There is a diocese in Enclaves that is utterly loyal—devoted to the Weeping Woman mostly, but loyal. The other is the archdiocese of Masque. They are also loyal, but wilder.

We agree that the people from Enclaves would be best. (Unlike the Baroness, we are not concerned about the idea that the Weeping Woman might be heterodox.)

Kit contacts her agent on the fan in the Black Forest (the White Witch’s domain).

They have been working on Batarak Dur for 1000 years or more—1200 years or so. At first they would work to the point of death, without even eating. They have gotten better about personal maintenance over time-eating, bathing to deal with the lice. The Gray Covens keep an eye on them, there are only a few thousand. They appear no threat to the border. Two years ago, several small groups of four dwarves, better equipped than most, have headed out—at least six groups and possibly more, although if they went directly north, they would presumably have died, and if they went east, they would have gone straight into the Steading. They all headed out at the same time. We don’t know what they were looking for. They simultaneously left, precisely from the place of the statute on the twelfth bell of the fall equinox, two years ago. According to the official record, for the first several days (at least), they traveled precisely the same number of miles each day.

Have any psions traveled near to the statue? The Queen has ruled for many years—it is almost like she is not human. She commanded long ago—about two hundred years ago-- that none of the Gifted and none of the Covens are to approach the statue. We spy on them with flyers, but we do not approach them. They undoubtedly spy on us.

Kit: Was that when they started working on the face? Yes, and when the madmen started leaving the statue. They are immune to many spells, and extremely violent—at least some of them.

The first one took a great toll on the White Legions, and the White Legions are very well trained. They just kept coming until they were hacked into gobbets, as if they were propelled somehow. But they were not demonically active. They do not seem to have the same immunity to priestly magic.

It was the archbishop that brought the second one to a stop. He issued a rebuke against it, the way you might with undead?

She explains that she could investigate. It might be dangerous, but we kept our part of the bargain. We took her daughter, who was touched by the light—the daughter of a seraphim and her. And so she drove her lover forth, but begged for some way to save the child. And then within days a page of the court contacted her, and her predecessor’s predecessor offered to take in the child, raise it within a decent family within the light.
[cont'd]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
[Session 55 cont'd]
While Dame Brionna is on patrol in the lower quarter, with 3 guards: One of the guards disappears suddenly.

Dame Brionna and one of the other guards see the edge of the building that they are next to quiver. Dame Brionna pokes the side of the building with her polearm and the building attacks her. The polearm sticks into a sort of gelatinous substance; she pulls the pole back, and there’s a smoking mass at the end of the pole.

One of the other guards also attacks the building. The whole side of the building begins slurping off and heading rapidly for the sewer.

Brionna and the guards attack it with torches—it catches on fire, and then explodes. The bones of the dead guard (with a little flesh) are left behind.

Brionna sends the rest of the guard out searching for more of these things. One is found, but escapes into the sewer.

“Oh, are we getting another infestation of jellies? I thought we wiped them out seven years ago.”

We dispatch people to deal with it—mostly Kit’s people, and skewing towards the people who dealt with it last time. They locate the small pockets that have grown back, and the ministry of magic can deal with them. Which is pretty much regular sewer maintenance.

Kit meets with Baroness Castillia’s older advisor—the psion with the psionically active umbrella.

They meet in a private passageway. She has the umbrella open—crystals hang down all around it, like tassles. She spins the umbrella, and a shimmery surface forms between the two of them and the outside world.

“You are the Archduke’s security master?”

“Yes. And you are my counterpart?”

“A counterpart of sorts—I work for the Grand Duchess of Ergmoth, although the Baroness does not know. She is a dear friend of the Grand Duchess, but there needs to be a level head around, with a source of information.”

“The Grand Duchess cares about dealing with the cultists above all else. The Grand Duchess knows that your forces are strained, and that you are planning on making a purchase of mercenaries. I am authorized to offer you the service of five elite regiments of her mother’s kinfolk. It would only be 500, but they would be useful—they are powerful individually.”

“What is being asked in return?”

“A permanent commitment to thwarting the Goddess of the Pale Bone. You are young. You can only guide him partially. If she is not completely sealed off, she has other aspects.” She gives Kit a serious look. “The regiments can be available immediately, but they are only available for six months time.”

Drowan Wizard cavalry. Many advantages. Only a few energy lances among the officers.

Do you know of the other powers of the fan? It was made by the same artificer as the fan. The umbrella can create a zone of protection, as it is currently. It can apport myself and one other for several miles. The fan likely has similar abilities.

Lady Elsbeth Pecom—Kit gives her one of the boxes of gating.
[End session 55]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 56 (January 23, 2013)

Skard 19
Kit reports new problems and old problems all at the same time. She got a message this morning that is at least 7 months old. An agent in Hanal cut herself off from the Fan and her predecessor. There is weird stuff going on in Magdag; she thinks the cov is in on it. The cov of Magdag is not a friend to the nobles who support the sane daughter. The inquisitor of Magdag has been replaced. Also, the necropolis and precinct is being carved up and having sigils being carved and so forth. Hundreds of slaves are reported dead, death taxes paid by the cov, but actually being shipped south by ship (with weapons, in small groups on small boats). The heir to the throne (eldest sister) wants to kill Anastasia; intends to give her over to demons. (Middle sister is just insane.) The worst aspect is that this intelligence is more than seven months old. (There was a shortage of bonded couriers.) Kit has her secretary start trying to secure more bonded couriers.

Magdag is one of the coastal cities.

We agree that we need to pass on the information to our allies in Darkness. We haven’t had any contact with Anastasia in some time. Last we knew, the Strom was with her.

We discuss the people searching for the wings of Ancalagon the Black; an amalgam of evil creatures from the deep south were searching for them. They made forays toward the area north of Enclaves, but they were driven forth.

We ask if Lord Davion is available, since he would likely know if the wings of Ancalagon are limited to transporting undead.

"The legend, which I can verify is truthful, states that the wings of Ancalagon, the Archon of black dragons, can move a great army by night to anywhere on the same continent, and of buttressing that army. The army must be an army of the dead. The buttressing would both make them resistant to turning, but also strengthen the bone to the strength of dragonbone. They would remain unintelligent, but be much more capable." Lord Davion thinks about Magdag for a while, and then recalls the acid springs. "Magdag is highly regarded among my paternal people as being an example of how utterly base human can be. If you take the normal Hanalian focus on the dead, the way that all of their cities build great necropolises over the huts in which many of the living live, Magdag takes that to new heights, with great farms of goats, pigs, and great fisheries, to support an army of workers that work on the necropolis of Magdag. Morgrathians and Noldar have been there; it is more debased than any orcish culture, but doesn’t know it. However, they have never given the ruling royalty of Hanal reason to doubt their loyalty. They have a large sea fleet, although very few followers.

"The battle of the red and green has persisted in Magdag; it has faded elsewhere in Hanal. All of the Hanalian nobles claim one shade or another in green. The slaves claim red; some in Magdag remember the red sun and the red moon, and remember that at one time they had cities and nobles in red. The early myths of humans stated that there was a sun for each moon. This was before the coming of the worship of Paranswarm, and the family—Thyastis’s family—ritualized the wearing of green and pushed red out of the culture. Those who followed the color red were common people; they waited for the red sun to redeem their labor, perhaps also with their blood. Green was originally war bands, which gradually became nobility. The other colors of the mystery schools were of course silver and blue. They ignored the purple moon altogether."

Alistair points out that the red moon is the moon of evil, the silver moon is the moon of good, with the lesser moons not as important.

"The struggle between red and green was the dominant struggle in Hanal; the silver school was much smaller, though powerful."

[cont'd]
 

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CPaladin

Explorer
[Session 56 cont'd]
We summon the Minister of Magic. The green moon is the moon of growth. There were other smaller factions once. The faction of silver was never large, but it had great power. At one time the silver faction included almost all of the mages. We never had any touch with them in our recorded history. There are few real mages in Hanal now; a handful, but mostly clockwork mages and engineers in the valarworks, the flame cannon manufactories. The flame cannons focus the sun’s energy through a series of prisms, producing as great heat as any fireball any wizard could make. They’re worthless at night. But deployed properly by day, they earn their name. There are a handful of court magicians; any of the level of strom or above is permitted a single house mage. They are generally trained in Paranswarmian academies elsewhere in the world. Many of the gifted are put to death by witchfinders as children, typically in the necropolises.

A: Would that create magical energy that could be used?

Yes, if they had any people who were capable.

Couldn’t be Paranswarm—totally opposed to the creation of mindless undead.

They called themselves the Silver Order.

The Minister of Magic and the Minister of Mind could scry on Hanal safely; but it would be an act of espionage and indeed an act of war. The Queen-Empress would almost certainly regard it as one.

Kit goes to speak to the Master Farsensor. Could the fan be compromised? It can’t be tapped—impossible. But it is not impossible to discover activity, not on the fan, but by the person.

She shows him the letter. She was the scion of a forging and merchant house, the Clan of Leutteur, they sold fine weapons, but were not well trusted because they purchased their iron from dwarves. Sometime about 4 months ago, a group of people came for them. Her father had great hope for her; he sent his daughter away. He was seized and is no more on this plane. He gave her to friends—merchant shipmen, they have hidden her. They are on the Lee Islands, but they have been attacked several times. They will never make it to the mainland—the things that hunt them are not mortal. Three minds: a great fish surrounded by mucus, an aboleth I think, but twisted even by their standards; one a demonic squire, child’s play for me, but for the crew of this ship, it would slaughter them like chaff; the last is a cat. They seek to prevent her from returning to you. She carries a package, and has carried it for months. I cannot touch this package, it has no signature.

I am seeking for the nearest elven ship. Oh. Would you request my counterpart, the Champion of the Court, to join us? It would be inappropriate for me to ask him, and he would have to contact the only ship close enough to reach them before the fish creature. There is a Noldar war schooner, a Moriquendarim pleasure vessel for a young Noldar, less than a millennium, in the area. If Lord Davion informed them, they could easily save her and the sailors. Actually, if Lord Davion and the Farsensor work together, they could teleport her directly here. They agree to move somewhere where there aren’t wards that will prevent her teleporting in.

They teleport her in. They then wander off.

"I have brought a package. This has greatly upset somebody. It is alive, but I’m not sure what it is. It has several of its brethren in Magdag and they have a lot of power. And they like to drink."

"You got it drunk and put it in your bag of holding? Good work."

She is Isabella; she had never forgotten her mother, who was from Canberry, the daughter of one of the merchant houses.

Kit takes her to Lady Constance, who brings it to a specially sealed prison cell. Oh, translucent. You don’t see that very often. It looks almost like a horned human, four feet tall, with translucent flesh and pearlescent bones. Not from this plane; not from the Hells or the Abyss; and very angry. Lady Constance summons a devil up. "That thing in the cage—"

"You should kill it."

"Yes probably, but what is it?"

"It’s a second stage bone abomination of the One Beside."

Kit says, "I thought we were dealing with the Goddess of the Pale Bone."

"You might be, but you are also dealing with the One Beside. He’s not good for much. He can raise a fair-sized undead army, but that’s all."

"Exactly how large a 'fair-sized army?'"

"Acting alone, maybe 5,000."

"There were 4 of these in Magdag," Isabella clarifies. "They stay close to the covs residence."

"What else can you tell me about him?"

"He has some fighting prowess."

"What would it take to summon one of these onto this plane?"

"You almost can’t. It’s said that there are a couple of artifacts that would let you do it. They’re not like the Goddess of the Pale Bone. There’s no real connection to this plane, and the One Beside has the least connection.

"The Horn of Moriquendarim could do that, but we know that that’s in the Twin Cities of the Gates of Death; you’d have to kill all of the Noldar to get that; there are the wings of Ancalagon the Black—they’re pretty connected to the undead you know. It can only be done on some moon or another when it’s full, or when you have that special festival. The one where the Red Moon and another moon is full. Then you can summon a bunch of them, but it would tap the wings for sixty days, leaving them without power until they recharged. They could have a wing—the first wing was up north near the steading of Lady Jane. The second wing was buried with another artifact under the City of Enclaves. I think it was part of a collection—not originally intended that way, but now it’s a collection. Many missions have gone searching for Ancalagon the Black. Many of his bones have power. Remember, he is the only Archon that has fallen. One of those expeditions found the wing and brought it back, and the guardians under the city talked among themselves and decided that it shouldn’t be in mortal hands. So they took it. It’s had some strange effects—some of the guardians have been changed. Into undead—intelligent sorts, but undead.

"Nobody sane among your race ever thought the wings of Ancalagon were a good idea."
[cont'd]
 


CPaladin

Explorer
Ah, someone had read the adventure from Dungeon with the house hunters. :)
Not surprising--the DM used to, at least, read pretty much everything released for D&D. I missed the sourcing on those ideas, because I never read Dungeon.

------
[Session 56 cont'd]
"The wings are intelligent. Put them in the hand of any person with basic magical powers, and it can figure out what needs doing. Summoning those things is a pyramiding move."

"Are there other stage abominations?"
"There are other stages, but they cannot be summoned with the wing. These are the least cut off of its servants. Also the least in power."

"Can a group of these summon more powerful ones? I don’t know, it’s never happened."

* * *
The Council brainstorms questions to be asked of the captured bone abomination, after being told that it can be compelled to answer five questions. When satisfied with their list of questions, the pit fiend proceeds with the interrogation.

"Who is it working for?"
"I work for the Consortium, we must bring this imprisonment to an end."

"What’s the big plan in Magdag?"
"The final move in the war will not be in Magdag, it will be deep in the South against the accursed women. Calculations suggest that there is not enough strength—too much had to be expended to restrain Canberry to keep it from the field for long enough. Calculations say that we need to add additional troops; only way to sufficient additional troops is undead, only way to add undead is the wing and us."

"What’s the Consortium?"
"The Three. All has been consumed except each other and the servants of the three. All others were bound in place and have been consumed. But the Three, though they tried to consume each other for ages, yet they exist. They must return to this universe that it might be consumed, that a thousand other universes must be consumed. The barrier must be destroyed."

"When are things going down?"
"As soon as the main army is in place, a transference will occur, and the undead will be transported through the agency of the wing. 15,000 improve our chance of victory, and 20,000 nearly guarantee it. It is days now."

"How is the Wing protected?"
"Sits in the great treasure chamber of the Necropolis of Magdag, guarded and surrounded by the servants of the Cov, both mortal and immortal that have been granted for his service of the cult. He is in so deep that he offered them his wife."

The pit fiend destroys the creature, and is released from its service in exchange for the interrogation.

Kit passes on the information about the Inquisitor in Magdag to her counterpart with Baroness Cecillia.
[End Session 56]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 57 (February 19, 2013)

Skard 19 (continued)
A psion patches Alistair through, with some difficulty, to a council chamber in black and blood red with gold sigils. There are three figures in the chamber—the Archduchess, who the Council has met before, on a kneeler; a man dressed entirely in black, seated on a small throne; and another man in a blackened steel mask.

Alistair discusses the matters.

"You are correct; it is unacceptable. If they can break the Seachen, in addition to controlling the treasures there, and likely elevating their temporary ally the Abomination of Shurr, they would be able to control the Spice Lands." The Archduchess continues, "We have identified all of the breakthrough points—one south of your continent, a smaller one in the mountains, one in Khamista, and one beneath the sea to the south of the Confederacy of the Isles. We would be able to share this with you." After a moment's thought, the Archduchess says, "I must handle this personally. I will take my guard. I will take our friend among the dark elves. I will take a brace of pit fiends. I will also gather such werewolves as there are."

The Council offers Lord Davion, if that is acceptable to their elven friend.

The Council send word to Lord Davion, who departs to the given coordinates for a safehouse in the capital of Hanal, from which they intend to strike. He disappears.

* * *
Early the next morning, Kit comes in with a report. There’s a very elven messenger, who can’t enter the palace because the wards would destroy him, but wanted to mention Yel and Oknay.

Dame Brionna finds a briefing message: the God-Emperor of Masque used his troops to wipe out groups of trolls. Three areas resisted: Yar, Yel, and Oknay. Yar is inhabited by one of the ancients, but Yel and Oknay appear to be twisted, in ways similar to things in the lands of Borsh’tro.

There are layers and layers of wards; each of the elven groups that has come through has strengthened them (both Eldar and Noldar), and Alistair's grandmother (one of the greatest human mages in generations) strengthened them. At their base, the wards were probably dwarven—most of the construction of the palace was dwarven.

Alistair reaches down into the land, sensing with his connection. He senses the city, and finds a tremendous locus of health emanating out from the garden where the Princess stayed, which has radiated out over most of the city. Over in the direction of the inns of the inner city, there is a knot of Other. It doesn’t fit. It doesn’t feel like a sickness, like the servants of the pariah gods, but it feels different. It feels furtive, but it still has emanated out to a block or so of the city.

Dame Brionna and Kit head out to the inn, after insisting that Alistair can’t come with them. It’s late, but the common room shouldn’t be empty, even at this time of night, and the next day’s bread should be baking. But there is silence—not even the bartender is present. Also, Dame Brionna has started glowing. There is alteration magic washing over Dame Brionna—her armor is reacting to this, with the wards on it waking up and reacting and responding to the alteration magic.

“Prithee enter, dames. I would offer you refreshments, but I left an osmium tual downstairs with the innkeeper. I fear that none of his goods should be served anymore. I wish to meet with you speedily, because I know that I cannot long conceal my presence from the Princess." He is clearly an elf, looking mostly like a gray elf, but the glowing orange eyes and the hair that is a curtain of living flame is outside the normal gray elf repertoire (although it could be a fashion statement). "Once she is aware of me, I must flee quickly, or I will be eradicated. The West is no longer mine. My master has stayed in Yar. He has kept it clean."

“Clean of the miasma that claimed Yel and Orknay?”

“Yes. But someone needed to find out. There are creatures that have arisen, the worst in many years, that have come in the past year. The forces of Masque can barely contain them. I cannot bring the taint back with me to my master’s hall. You must get a message back to my master, free of the taint that is within me."

Dame Brionna uses her paladin sense: he is not evil, but there is something evil within him.

[cont'd]

[I think we received a players' handout in this session, but as far as I can tell it is lost to time.]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
[session 57 cont'd]
Dame Brionna says: "I am worried that the taint might corrupt the words you say."

"Not for the next half hour. In half an hour, do not trust anything I say. Within an hour, you must strike off my head. We have unfortunately found the sixth spot. There are always six breakthrough points. The sixth breakthrough is beneath Yel and Oknay, in the volcanic pit. Coming at it from without, my master can contain it; coming at it from without, my master can bind it.

"It must be removed from this world; this world must belong to its people, and to the gods that they created and that created them."

"Would he help eliminate them, working with others of his kind? "
"I think so. He hates the taint. All of the 49 of us that will remain in his service know. The children know. (“The Children?”) Each of the First that remain have found a focus. They were a race of the simplest humans. It would have corrupted them, and he would not have it. So he remained."

"I was Allorin of the Grey Wall, but I am become, and am becoming… I will not speak the name that I am becoming.

"Somewhere, they have found a great artifact. They could not have done it without the power of a great artifact. In Yel and Oknay they have the Globe. The God-Emperor of Masque was neither a god nor much of an emperor. But the Throne Globe’s powers were preservation, protection, and Order, in the sense of Law. It was an object intended to keep the God-Emperor alive forever. All of Masque searched for it, for something that had stolen it. But I think it remained in Masque. I could not get close enough, but I saw something feeding the vortex, providing it power. The God-Emperor knew that they were here, he hated them—they threatened his power. So he instituted ritual bloodletting.

"Before the coming of the Grand Duchess, the Temple of Paranswarm was more dangerous than it is now. Her Inquisition seeks out and destroys the threat. Before, the temple tended to lash out. It would have been viewed as more superstition. So instead, he made them a quasi-religious ceremony. The Temple—both of the great human temples—have always been pliable when people find something that keeps them faithful.

"The Cult of the Blood is a cult of all the high ranking nobles, requiring bloodletting for the monarch. The Ritual of the Blood is a public ritual, involving the clergy and the common people. The use of the three have kept the ranking nobility and most of the common people safe, once you get away from Yel and Oknay. Flana has continued those rituals; she knows what their real purpose is. I cannot guarantee that the Throne Globe is where I think it is. If the God-Emperor still lives, he is corrupted and changed.

"The Mantis and the Serpant have remained immune to any blandishments. Some of the mentally weakest orders may be infiltrated. Some of the mercenaries, of course. The Vultures of course. The Wasps are clean. Most of the orders are clean. The Vultures are somewhat… they are huge, and can be infiltrated. They number more than a million.

"The Serpents are trustworthy. I am not aware of any corruption among the Vipers, but there may be. The Serpents are not."

Kit: "What are the chances of this spreading out of Yel and Oknay?"

"We don’t know if they have a plan, or if they are simply keeping Masque busy and preoccupied from other matters."

"How to contact your master?"
"You must use a human psion—he will never answer an elf. Use a narrow band personal mode, unless you are close, in which case declamatory mode would work. He is in the midst of Yar. They never enter Yar—he would not permit it. They do not even know what he is. Narrow beam, from a human psion. He will hear that."

"Is there a way to close the vortex?"
"It can be contained. It would take considerable power, more than the master has to close it. The feeder—we think the globe, although it could be any artifact of at least that power—must be removed."

Dame Brionna decapitates him, and part of the corpse looks like an elf and part of the corpse doesn’t even look humanoid. They then clean the room.

[cont'd]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
[Session 57 cont'd]
The Council realizes that there’s a missing breakthrough point.

Dame Brionna says that there’s a bigger problem in Masque. She points out the various orders that might be corrupted and suggests that we need to talk to the Order of the Serpent about how to destroy the Throne Globe.

Kit tries to contact the master of Yar, using the fan to boost her sending if she can. “I have urgent news of your servant Allorin. How may I address you?"

"It has been so long since one who was not mine has addressed me. I was Bertram the Builder; it was I who directed the building of the Four Walls. I am called Bertram. I do not need honorifics after so many millennia."

Kit asks to bring Alistair and Dame Brionna into the conversation. Bertram bolsters her.

"You have hope of many things, and prolipses is in your favor. By my estimate, you can build an infrastructure to the South as almost a client kingdom. It is how many empires are built."

He would come to the Crystal City to use the Heart.

"If the Heart were used, her creatures would be barred from entering through the vortex, but others still could. The other two are much weaker—a manageable threat for the long-term. Still, much better to close the vortex altogether.

"Greater servitors cannot come through the vortex. Lesser creatures of the Goddess, however, make the corrupted humans much more dangerous.

"Even I could not resist corruption if I approached the vortex closely. My cousins… with their “gods”… might be able to. We will speak no more of it."

"Is it the case that Balansar was once an Eldron?"
"A pox on both their houses."

(The Council apologizes for asking.)

"Speak to the five most powerful enclaves and the one hidden. Tell them that there may be a source of instability—blame it on anything. They may be a new source of stability.

"I suppose it is possible that the one … you… speak to Baron Kalan of Vitall as well. I think he might be able to create an item that might temporarily lend them some stability. His capabilities are weak compared to what one might find elsewhere, but strong compared to human sorcerers."

"That must mean you are unaware of the Breakpoint in the Underdark under Zest’Qua. Something to do with symmetry. If you could disrupt any one of the portals completely, it would drive all of them into shut-down. It is beneath the local evil of Zest’Qua, the Shadowlands. It is near the border of the Shadowlands, under the major warpstone mine."

"Is that the source of the warpstone?"
"Yes. I do not think the forces of Chaos realize the source of the warpstone that they use, or of the ratmen that flee from this."

Speaks of becoming one with their focus as the ultimate goal.

We discuss the prophecy about Dame Brionna becoming the great lady of a great holdfast.
[End session 57]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 58 (March 19, 2013)

Skard 21

We talk to the Sixth Daughter about acting in the Underdark under where the Abomination of Shur’s army is encamped and perhaps preparing for ritual or domain magic. She says that a great house could not act quickly enough—it would involve too much politics, too much time. There are however 300 renegades (male, major warriors, significant sorcery) in the area; they raid the surface, as well as the great houses. They stay bought.

Leader is Denari, once of the House of Godeep. We send her as an ambassador, with the message that if she is harmed, it will mean war and their destruction. She has gems to offer as payment, and the offer of status—if they serve well, and if they are willing to abide by our laws and swear fealty, we could make them vassals and recognize their land claims.

We then talk to the Seachen ambassador—first, Kit furthers her efforts to find the leak in Kaitlyn’s court (including setting up tea between Many Hands, Dame Constance, and an observing psion); then Kit, Brionna, and the Seachen Ambassador have tea. (Alistair, meanwhile, spends his time chatting up his most recent object of interest (while his wife and girlfriend are in a diplomatic meeting…))

The Seachen Ambassador points out that there are seven stone buildings in the upper city that are thousands of years older than the rest of the city; elven techniques, with the stone almost melted together, but no reports of elves in the area. They are very well preserved, but modest building—none of the palaces or noble manors.

They then get into discussion of the military situation in the south. She is concerned, but confident—after all, they have battle hardened field armies and siege weapons. But the army is large, and of a dismaying persuasion. Dame Brionna informs her that the enemy army is tied to the Order of the Ram.

They discuss the refugees and the rakasta servants. She says that she thinks the Sultan of the Rakshasas may have been correct to refuse all offers of quarter.

They have not yet met one force—the gray elf and his force, withdrawn to the city and erecting a magical barrier with the Glordiadelian bishop. He seemed to think it was unwise to engage with them directly.

"Oh… not to put too delicate a point on this. But have you heard from the Noldar admiral? It was he that committed the schooner. We believe he has two more ships in reserve, including a man-of-war."

(Alistair notes through a mindlink <<if we could silence the energy weapon, then they would be in a position to launch a heavy aerial assault.>>)

She implants a mental signature in Dame Brionna’s mind.

Dame Brionna mentions that we know why the Abomination of Shurr seeks to attack Seachen.

The Ambassador doesn’t know what Seachen defends. The Queen of Singing Leaves told the Seachen that they must hold their lands with strong defenses, control the passions of their males, and settle there in particular.

We urge her to contact the Queen of Singing Leaves.
[Cont'd]
 

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