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Aphonion Tales: The Archducal Council -- Unedited notes (posts MWF, most recent 11/26/21)

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 65 (June 12, 2014)

4 Tar-Skard
Kit meets with the Guildmaster in the same room in the palace with the screen and voice altering magic to interrogate Jerrit the Ferret. They bring in Jerrit, by a group of bruisers.

“So, Ferret. I hear you’ve taken some interesting jobs lately.”

“Yes… I always have interesting jobs.”

“Do you know the one I’m thinking of?”

“They came in the middle of the night. They didn’t ask me—they told me. Group of three of them. Biggest one was a wererat, I think. One faceless man—he creeped me out. I’ve dealt with wererats before. Just smooth skin on his face where there should have been features. The third one was just muscle—he used to sell his service, before the Archduke came. I said it was stupid—no one would believe it without the seal—but they said to just write it, and that everyone would believe it when they were done. Master told me to learn the hand—he used to work in the palace. He was Gavin—to us he was Gavin the Fox, don’t know what his name was here. He was a scribe here—no one knew he did other business. Or maybe she did.

"They said they could make it work, but they knew how, but that I knew the hand.”

“Who else knew you could do this hand?”

“No one alive. Just Gavin, but he’s been dead for a while.”

“Afterwards, what did you do?”

“Nothing—but they let my sister go. She lived in the flat above me…. They had the real paper, the right paper even. I couldn’t remember the name after I finished—like they had erased it from my mind. You don’t think somehow… Gavin’s alive? I went to his funeral.”

“When did he die?”

“Not long before the Archduchess. But dead’s dead!”

“So they tell me,” Kit says wryly.

“The muscle, if he’s local, we’ll find him.”

“I can tell you his haunts.”

“You’ll do that. And then we’ll keep your sister safe. The muscle, you tell us where to find him, and we’ll find him.”

“I thought they’d wiped out all of the wererats, but he were one, sure as I’m telling you. They have a certain stink to them. But he was a big one, bigger than most of them, 6’3” or 6’4”, carried a big hand and a half sword over his shoulder, a big sword, and I think he had chain on, though he had leather over it. But they both yielded all the time to that faceless one. And you could feel when he was looking at you, even though he had no eyes to look. It was like he could look into your mind, but no one can do that.”

“Did the wererat seem local?”

“No, he had a southerly accent. Most of my work has been for people coming from the south. But this? This could be thought of as treason. At the time, I had more focus than I’ve ever had in my life. I could only think of one letter at a time. It was only afterwards that I thought about it.”

Kit sends him out of the room, and sends the guards to secure the sister.

“There have been some rumors among the gutterrunners, the lowest thieves, of someone moving through the passages and not being there. A few weeks—I marked it up to getting a new crop and them being shaky.”

"What about the other that Jerrit mentioned?"

"I’m pretty sure I know who the muscle is. We’ll bring him in.”

“Thank you, Guildmaster. I know you want to keep a clean city as much as I do.”

“I know this Gavin. Best damn forger I’d ever seen. He worked for the Mouth. I can’t imagine him grooming the Ferret. Although if he weren’t a drunk…”
[cont'd]
 

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CPaladin

Explorer
[Session 65, cont'd]
The Council discusses the matter; they presumably have a traitor among the royal scribes—the paper, the seal—too many things that indicate access to the royal scriptorium. The Privy Secretary was corrupt, with unseelie ancestry.

The faceless one could be a sluaghe—they’re rare, but they can make themselves look like anything, but if they’re not fascinated by something, then they look like nothing. They are the ultimate devotees of eradication and oblivion among the unseelie—not as well known as the unseelie sidhe or redcaps. Each sluaghe pursues its goals in its own way—groups are almost never seen. The sluaghe’s greatest failing is that they never make simple plans—they love byzantine and complex plans.

The Council checks whether the Privy Secretary had any siblings or other relatives. Does have a distant cousin, serving in the city of Enclaves, but no other recorded family. Her cousin served as a Secretary to the Glordiadelian Bishop.

The Council plans to have Aunt Cecilia check the scribes; the Tor to hunt the sluaghe; and the skaven to deal with the wererat/skaven; Kit is also to talk to her scribe about how useful the Ferret would be.

"There is a messenger for the Archduke, from the most beautiful airship I've ever seen," reports a scribe. A dark elf officer, in a truly elaborate dress uniform, who has handed off his glass blade to a page, performs a ridiculously bow, and presents a platinum tube.

"I represent Sir Galeth Palantil of the Cadet House of Clenorim, and the party that has been sent by the lord of Aufalgautharim."

[letter attached]

The war sloop is completely made of black laen—anyone riding on it is completely immune to magic.

"The Aufalgautharim will not bestir himself from the City of Pain—especially not now. The King of Pain has not returned, and we believe that he has been destroyed. Perhaps by Morgroth in a fit of rage—they disagree from time to time. He may be a balrog of godlike power, but to Morgroth…"

Alistair invites Caitlyn to a private lunch in his private chambers.

She joins him. They have a very awkward conversation. :)

After the conversation, they have Dame Brionna send for the Drow. Dame Brionna dresses up in a ridiculous Guard Captain outfit. Caitlyn receives them in her receiving room, with us there as her fiancé and company.

“I greet you in the name of Aufalgautharim. These are my bona fides.” They appear to be on etched glass.

“It’s speaking to me and describing him, and every exploit he’s done in the last 400 years.” Caitlyn is taken aback, but then accepts his service.

After they leave, “Many Hands? He reacted to you.”

“Yes, Princess.”

“Do you know why?”

“Probably, Princess. My ancestors were fiddled with by the Goldorim. I think they were being cute. But I find my hands useful, and here I am. We were discarded. We were intended to be more capable at rune magic—one of the few forms of magic the Noldar do not get that the Eldar do. But we were no more capable than they were. I believe that I am the last of my kind.”

Lord Goldorim is mad, as are many of his close family. Lady Goldorim has been dead for centuries, but three of the four he keeps close are insane, and the last may be, but is more benevolent. He directed that we all be killed because we were defective, but we were released instead. Even the other Noldar fear him—except perhaps Lord Aufalgautharim. Even the Bleeding Lady does not get near him. But he rarely takes interest in affairs outside of Krashmere any more.

When did he?

In the old days, after the Kinslaying. That’s when he went mad originally. I was taught, originally, entirely a matter of the Eldar doing in the Noldar, although I learned later much the other way around. He went mad, and began taking innocents and changing them. He used so many drow for experiments, that his own cadet houses fled in fear, and some others followed them. His treatment of slaves is unimaginable. It is said he may have killed his own wife, though they were life bonded. If that happened, it deepened his madness further.
[End session 65]
 

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CPaladin

Explorer
Session 66 (June 26, 2014)

5 Tar-Skard
Kit gets a morning report about a drow mercenary offering information for pay; currently in a safe house. [Attached]

Kit asks her scribe, Alonzo, who Lord Dillion was. He was evacuated from the near Underdark by Enclaves to this palace. He was the leader of a trade expedition to a Drowan city, and he discovered a flesheating cult of death worshippers. He became a little paranoiac, so he was evacuated. His entire band was killed, he was from Mandrath, I’m quite sure.

Also asks her scribe whether he could use a good forger; he says, yes, definitely, he has several, but could always use more.

Alistair asks Bishop Waters to curse Jerrit the Ferret with a curse that makes him become violently ill after drinking alcohol. He’s then sent over to Alonzo.

The Council has the Minister of Magic summon Ak’dravon, the drow mercenary captain. They verify his identity via young Lord Brightspan. He’s one of the grungier and more flea bitten dark elves Lord Brightspan has ever seen.

He’s flea bitten, but actually muscular, wearing a mix of drowan and dwarven armor, with a high glass shield off to one side.

"I’m captain of a small band of drowan mercenaries. I’ve been through hell, and you were the only people who I thought I could sell the information to. I was traveling through the Underdark with a medium sized caravan when we met a mixed group of humans, who were doing surprisingly well for the Underdark, and a group of demons. Not the demons from my home city, but demons nonetheless. They weren’t after us, we were just in the way, but they killed us anyway. They turned aside into the old south tunnel. We went into one of the way houses after escorting the merchants out, and creatures came after us. Not demons, not humans, not were, I’ve spent 80 years in the Underdark, but I don’t know what type of creatures they were. Two of my men and I escaped. Moriquendarim destroyed the creatures.

"Legend says that there was a shrine up the Southern tunnel. The energies that come out of that place, those alone can slay you. I went up that tunnel a little way, far enough to see the energies—the light, the darkness, the colors—you could smell it. And they went straight up that tunnel like a burst.

"I did bring this with me. He pulls out a small pouch that seemed very heavy and lays it on the table. The Moriquendarim captain didn’t mind that I took it."

The Southern tunnel runs to underneath the Fallen Enclave in the north of Enclaves.

"The demons were goat demons, bull demons, but mostly goat demons. And one great thing—I think it’s called a thrall-carrier, a great big thing. Each carries a casket, with either its summoner or a more intelligent demon on its back. But the enormous strength or power they can bring to bear if you need to break something down, enormous. But if your concentration lapses for a second, just a second, my brother used to say, they’ll have killed five innocents or collapsed a building. That’s why they’re banned.

"You start to change if you get too close to the magical energy. They have no Noldar among them, and without that they would be changed.

"Didn’t perceive a creature there, but it was shaking—almost an earthquake, but not quite. A terrible thing in the Underdark.

"I will offer my maps, and my guiding skills to the group that you be sending. If we survive, then I dinnae ever want to return to the Underdark." (The Council promises that if they succeed he’ll be granted knightly rank and an appropriate position.)

He pulls out a head, clearly dead, with a silvery sheen over the flesh. Very gradually as we watch, it continually changes shape, just a little.

“You notice how it could almost be our cousin, but not quite? It almost looks like an elf, but not quite. Unseelie fae do you think?”

"Did you keep any treasure or trophies when you fought your way through?"

"Only a few things." He drops one in front of the Council (that he says he doesn’t want to sell), "and this that I probably will sell". The other thing is a huge plate, cut out of mother of pearl, with runic markings. The first one is a strange, shapechanging metal map, hanging from a chain of adamantium.

Alistair studies the “map” and gets a vision of small colored nodes, almost like a map, and then he basically gets a mind filled with a blast of colors. The small colored nodes rearrange themselves, and Alistair believes that that is the actual physical configuration of the area around the target changing.

Dame Brionna’s page reports that the front gate is under assault.

We tell Ak’dravon to put the map back in an extraplanar space, tell the guards to move him to a different secure location, and then Alistair and Caitlyn get sent to separate secure areas.
[cont'd]
 

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CPaladin

Explorer
[session 66, cont'd]
Two figures, both with silver sheens over their shifting monstrous features, are attacking the front gate. One of them is advancing on the gate, holding a long high glass sword that seems to be shifting in and out of reality. The other is just concentrating, but probably holding the gates open psionically. Dame Brionna orders the guards to dump the holy water cauldrons over the wall. It misses the warrior, but hits the psion squarely, who gives out a psionic shriek.

Kit calls to Grandmaster Farsensor, asking him to go to the gate, and then calls for the Minister of the Mind to reinforce him.

Dame Brionna orders the gate closed while the psion is distracted. The knight dives through the closing gate. “The Seal! Deliver the Seal of Ways to me!”

Dame Brionna draws her sword and actually manages to beat him on initiative.

“I have no wish to kill you, but I must have the Seal!”

Dame Brionna attacks, missing with the first attack but hitting with the second (a smite evil), hitting him for 26 points of damage. His armor attempts to grab the sword and steal it from her, and the sight of the appendages is nauseating and profoundly wrong.

The knight goes next, followed by the guards.

“May the Insanity of the Maelstrom take you, woman!” A flurry of blows come in, and Dame Brionna gets hit three times. He rolls absolute minimum damage and does 36 hp of damage. The light and power of Glordiadel blocks something from her soul.

The guards don’t accomplish much, but foul the knight’s sword a little.

Dame Brionna flings an orb of dispel magic. The humanoid component of the appearance fades considerably; it’s now much more of a gibbering monstrosity. The silvery sheen remains, but is now dull and less natural. And it’s armor class is lowered by 3 to 28. And there was a brief flare around him, as it came to the final thing. Dame Brionna then hits him twice with her sword, for 30 damage and 22 damage. The edges of the first wound are acting like troll wounds—regenerating back together.

He shrieks wildly. “It’s gone again! It’s gone again! It’s been concealed!” He shrieks, as if he’s lost his mind, and goes into a spinning dervish attack.

Guards 1 (11), 2 (21), 4 (13), 7 (will not be having children, 46 points of damage, falls in shock for 6 hours, bleeding profusely) hit once

Guards 3 (59 total) and 5 (28) get hit twice

Guard 6 missed.

Dame Brionna gets hit for 32 in two attacks.

Guards attack, hitting 3 times for 30 points of damage, plus a 54 sword crit (inapplicable, changed to 10), doing an additional 21 points of damage and cutting out a piece of his shoulder.

Round 3:A page runs up and hands Dame Brionna her spear. Dame Brionna attacks 3 times, hitting all three times. For 25 damage, 20 damage, and 26 damage.

His blood is very odd—it’s silver.

He drops out of the odd attacks he’s been doing, and his eyes lock on Dame Brionna.

The knight spits on Dame Brionna. Silver spit sprays on her. It burns her as it makes contact. She saves and takes half damage (19 hp). He then attacks guard 3, and fumbles, getting a 46 on the fumble roll, missing completely.

The guards attack, hitting 5 times including one crit. 50 hit points from the noncrits, 24 hit points from the crit, which is a 71 on the sword crits, and removes the knight’s eye.

Dame Brionna’s warhorse arrives, kicks him for 14 hp damage.

Outside the gate, it is now quiet.

Dame Brionna leaps onto her warhorse and heals herself.

One of the guards gives a shriek and collapses. Another guard bellows “The blood! The blood is moving!”

Dame Brionna crits him with her spear, rolls a 99 on the crit check, and decapitates him. The body is writhing. Dame Brionna orders the guards to back away. It is beginning to glow. After a moment, it explodes, because it cannot regenerate the spear’s damage. Dame Brionna gets splattered for an additional 24 hit points of damage, and goes unconscious.

<<Grandmaster Farsensor, is Dame Brionna alright?>>

<<I am without—I’ve defeated the sidhe. I think it was a sidhe, one time>>

<<Dame Constance, is Dame Brionna alive?>>

<<I’m moving towards her—there’s crawling blood about, but she’s alive. That thing might be a sidhe, or might have been once. Have a paladin heal Dame Brionna. They are absolutely inundated in madness—it’s not even Chaos, I’ve never seen anything like it.>>

<<How can we safely contain the bodies?>>

<<Lead—there are lead lined corpse boxes in my laboratory.>>
They send for the boxes.

Grandmaster Farsensor was able to defeat the psion, but was seriously challenged.

Alistair asks Grandmaster Farsensor to contact the local Tor and ask a leader from the Tor if they would be willing to meet him at the elven tree in the garden.
[cont'd]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
[Session 66, cont'd]
Dame Brionna detects evil, and gets inconsistent results—sometimes detecting evil, sometimes not.

Dame Constance says, "If you need to summon the Librarian, let me know. He owes me a favor." Asked which Librarian, she says, "I was thinking of the Librarian of Dis."

Alistair meets with a sidhe from the Tor.

The sidhe wants to see the bodies himself. Alistair warns him that it’s in a less congenial location and then leads him to the laboratory.

The sidhe examines the body. “Your Grace. This is not an unseelie fae, originally. Unimaginably long ago, this was a seelie knight. Oh my—look at the energy infusions.”

He speculates that this may have been sent by the Archangel, not by the Order of the Ram. When the artifact was sealed away, legend said that both dark and light elves, and dark and light fae were part of the guard. His guess is that that was one of the light fae.

"It’s very difficult to predict, but my guess would be that they are all mad, but not all turned to this. By our nature, we are not easy to regiment, and to all be mad like this creature would be regimentation. All will be mad, but some will be responsive. This one you could never have reasoned with. Assume his master is ten times worse, because no fae ever willingly became this. And no Archangel would ever deliberately do something like this to a creature that did not wish it.

"Perhaps you should not open that casket… It is back to a semblance of life.

"The head is of a lesser creature—at one time a wood elf. There were 50 light and 50 dark that entered those chambers. All of the creatures that you have seen so far were once of light.

"If you are willing, my nephew will accompany your expedition."

They also talk about the sluagh. If it were an unseelie, they may have pointed out that they and they alone might be able to end everything.

The seelie promise to track down the sluagh.

The psion was a sidhe lady, the wife of the knight. There is nothing intelligent left there, but she cannot pass to the west until destroyed. They were battered by waves of evil and good, from balrog and archangel, until nothing but madness remained.

"The dark ones are probably even worse than these."

Alistair asks, "Might they be more influenced by the balrog’s goals, perhaps to take and wield the treasures instead of to guard them?"

"They might—that seems reasonable. Be extraordinarily careful in selecting only the most stable possible people."

The Council then plans for Alistair to make the rounds of the city to reassure the people (with Caitlyn, and watched over by a raft of Kit’s people and Dame Brionna’s people to keep him safe).

[End session 66]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 67 (August 14, 2014)

6 Tar-Skard
Alistair and Caitlyn make a grand tour through the city, screened by a whole bunch of both Kit and Dame Brionna’s people, with true sight and detect evil and psions keeping an eye out for trouble. Alistair’s aunt Cecilia leads the way.

Aunt Cecilia abruptly stops, and forges into the crowd, immediately followed by her assigned guards. She kneels down in front of a small child, and begins having a conversation with the six year old.

Alistair: “Lord Brightspan, can you tell me anything about that child?”

“Yes, your grace. He has the sight, but is blind.”

An old lady, clearly in massive deference to Aunt Cecilia (so she even recognizes extended members of the royal family).

Kit asks after her.

“I remembered her from her youth and mine. She used to serve in the palace. She was put out, through no fault of her own.”

“Someone wanted to break up a relationship?”

“If you want to be so crass. The other sister, who is now on Khamista, was more straight-laced than our Archduchess. She is not related to anyone, but the boy’s great-grandfather may be the Archduke’s grandfather.”

“His third-eye is strongly open, more than I’ve seen in anyone that young who was not psionic.”

The aunt on Khamista may have had her done away with if Aunt Cecilia hadn’t intervened. Gwendolyn’s son drank himself to death, but there may be other grandchildren.

The Council arranges for them all to be brought to the palace afterwards.

Nothing even vaguely negative happens.

The guards pick up several bullies that try to take the coins that have been given to young children.

At the edge of the middle city, Lady Cecilia rushes over to a Halfling woman (Mother Beatrice) and begins remonstrating about how she can’t tell a soul about what she knows, not even her acolytes. [I'm not sure what this is about. This may be a priestess of Gunnora realizing that Caitlyn is already pregnant, despite the fact that the formal public wedding has not yet taken place.]

"Who’s the second best?"

"Goody Margaret’s out in the farmlands—there’s been a rash of recent pregnancies, all due around the same time. These things happen. And things are much easier now that they’re not killing us. They? The goat. I mean, not him personally, I don’t think I’d be here. But his people."

In the lower city, everyone thinks that Dame Kit is the brains of the Council, and Dame Brionna is the brawn, with Alistair as just a figurehead.

They reach the palace. As soon as they walk in, Dame Kit notices that one of her people in the house staff is signaling for her.

“There’s a visitor that you may not want to bring to the Archduke. Not one that I know, but knows all the signs and cross-signs and says that she is the Northerly Innards.”

Dame Kit meets with the Northerly Innards. There is a young drow lady, who seems completely fine about meeting behind a screen. “Gisella Alleval, 5th daughter of the first house in Veldrinashar, reporting. Hail Glordiadel.

"The deep berthing beneath Zorplona Argoni should not be used to pass agents into the Underdark. While House Curinirim and Moriquendarim will never lose it completely, it cannot be used safely without sending through too many people to not be noticed throughout the Underdark. There are at least 30 agents placed—most drow hirelings, some of those creatures, 2 or 3 cambions, and a small group of men who bear about them talismans of the Ram. They all entered after the man passed through to reach you, and they all seek the thing he carried. There is an alternative—City of the Gates. There is a way into the deeps from the City of the Gates, where there is some business. It would require them to travel underground for most of the way. I am willing to offer myself as a guide to them.

"Dame Griselda Tharsveld will have to be spoken to—she is a hereditary knight approved by all four gatelords as gate guard, both the two of Darkness and the two of Light. She is Paranswarmian, with considerable devotion. If she gives you access there, you will be able to bypass the agents inserted into the underberth in Enclaves.

"I would present her with the reasons that it is necessary, and that there is no way that we will conduct trade in the underdark without their permission."
[cont'd]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
[Session 67, cont'd]
Dame Brionna sets out into the farmlands with a midwife-priestess of Gunnora, an exorcist priest of Glordiadel, and a bunch of Glordiadelian guards. All of the increased pregnancy rates are associated with an area around a river, with a waterfall. There’s magic around the water, and chaos, but no evil.

“Good fairies of the river, if ye be here, greetings and we would speak with you.”

A group of 5 river spirits, mostly women, but some men, come out of the water.

“We were left behind by our patron—he was rather in a hurry.”

“Who was your patron?”

“The Mad God, the consort of Whimsey. He told us to make the humans happier, and so we decided that humans are happiest when copulating, so we encouraged them to do so. Are you a holy knight?"

"Yes."

"Then you should know about the pair of sluagh. Instead of killing each other, they are working towards a common goal. One of them went to the City, and the other went off somewhere and hasn’t been back to its camp. They weren’t very far, just outside the range of our magic. I don’t think they wanted to copulate."

They lead Brionna to the camp, and then she gets touched on the eyes and everything she normally sees becomes wavy, but she can see many additional things, including little fae dancing around the feet of the big fae, and an almost-abyssal encampment that could hold 4 creatures. They only said there were 2, but there are 4 tents.

We tell the Tor about this. We also ask specifically what the issue is with the other two tents.

That night, there are flashes of light and flame that can be seen from the city walls. About 2 in the morning, a ragged young sidhe runner appears, and asks to see us.

He meets with Dame Brionna. “My lord bids me inform you… oh, just take them.” He hands her two bags. “The threat has been dealt with. He suggests you not display them on spikes as some humans are wont to do.”

“There were four tents. You have two bags.”

“That is true. It appears they expected two additional cohorts who did not arrive, but they prepared for them.” Their banners have sigils. “Oh—the lord suggests that if you are going to keep these, you keep them in the bags in which they are currently, which is lined with silver thread and threaded with moonlight, or in lead caskets that are properly sealed with magic. They shouldn’t be able to regenerate, but he isn’t taking any chances. We are forgoing the victory feast to bury our dead.”

“My liege bade me say that the idea of four sluagh operating in one unit is unthinkable. They are the most hateful and individualistic of all the unseelie, and but for the sidhe the most powerful. They are few in number, fewer than the sidhe. But they are also so, so difficult to breed, even many in the unseelie court would be happy to see them cease.”

“Would they be united in the service of one greater?”

“It would have to be great indeed, and the reward promised would have to be tremendous.”

“We would ask 3 days before any visitors come that we may honor our dead.”

7 Tar-Skard
Very familiar tapping on the door during breakfast.

Dame Constance reports that the sluagh heads have been separated into multiple different rooms and the spells have been reinforced. Several of the things are only mostly dead. According to the old tomes, it is nearly impossible to keep a sluagh entirely dead. And then they reincarnate, so it may be better to keep them imprisoned.

Dame Constance asks for more rooms, and more lead lined boxes.

The Council asks her to check the sluagh for demonic or pariah deity influence. The sluagh are very bad at reproduction, especially because they are all male, so they have to breed with other creatures. There were once only a dozen or so on the whole world, although they are now up to 3 or 4 dozen. The Council speculates that this may be the influence of the Ram.

The Council consults with the Mistress of Etiquette about the proper gift to the fae in condolence of loss of battle. “Oh, dear. The traditional gift would be a human child for a changeling. Failing that, a remembrance of their deeds, first read at the three day mark, and then at the rising of the Silver Moon each time for a year. One could attend the deed ritual, not the first one, which is highly ritual, and then commemorating their deeds.”

Do you know whether they were male or female? We don’t know. Statues for men are easier, because those should be in silver or white gold, whereas statues for women should be in yellow gold or high glass. What about poetry? Yes but it would have to be published widely abroad. The fae view humans as transient, even more so than elves do—the elves pass to the west, but the fae are linked to the land, much as the Archduke is, so when they die, they don’t really die, except in battle with their own kind, or with great powers of others. To lose a seelie fae now, in summer, when they are stronger—their enemies must have been of great power.

Dame Brionna meets with the elders of the four thorps, who are very elderly indeed.

The conversation goes poorly.

Eventually she explains that there are some fae by that waterfall making people randy.

They’ve basically resolved this issue. Also, the fae might clean up people’s memories a little.

Dame Constance reports: All right. I’ve looked at them. They’ve got interworkings with the Ram up to their eyeballs. Probably the rest is infected as well. Intersected for decades, probably a deal to increase their numbers. Question is what they agreed to in exchange.

Grandmaster Farsensor arrives; the Council asks him to scry on the pennants. He requests some pure salt, so that he can ward himself. He does not use his crystal, lest it bond to his skin, but does have it out and available in case it can advise him. “Yes, they are both alive. This one—he indicates one banner—is somewhere on an Abyssal plane, and he’s traveling, and there are human soldiers, a few hundred of them, with him. A handful of cambions with them as well. They are in a tight formation, and making good speed, they will eventually emerge again on the prime, but I don’t know where. This one—the grove that surrounds him smells of mango and cinnamon. He is sunk in water, his form altered so he almost appears to be a creature of the water. An oasis I think. He is waiting, watching the setting sun. Should I determine what he is waiting for? There’s a nontrivial chance that he would sense us. He’s very heavily shielded by magic, but I sense no psionics.

"He’s an hour west of us or so, based on the setting sun. An oasis an hour west—likely in the Spice Lands perhaps near the Seachen lands."

"If he’s trying to break the seal, we need to know."

"He awaits the presence of a woman, of considerable power. I see her face, but he does not know her name. He waits for her because she bears a key. He intends to take the key. He does not intend to kill her, but he would if he has to. The key leads to an ancient passage that only she is aware of, and he is aware of somehow. He intends to use the key to enter the passage because he believes it will take him to his goal. He aims for a way in so that he can emerge… is that possible? He intends to emerge beneath the seal. He bears a dimensional device with him linked to the Ram’s plane."

A loyal merchant identifies her as the Spice Mistress of Seachen. "Incredibly honest. Only woman who deals with any male merchants. I knew a man who tried to bribe her once…"

Many of the spices are as if they were freshly picked, even if they are years old. She is aging extremely well.

The Council summons the Seachen ambassador. She arrives to meet with Dame Brionna and Dame Kit.

Dame Brionna: "We have learned of a grave threat to one of your leaders. The Spice Mistress—we have information of an immediate threat to her."

"I have no means of contacting her quickly—I will need to send a messenger."

The Council has a device to enable a sending.

"She needs to turn away from her current plans and get to safety. There is an ambush at the oasis."

"The oasis of turquoise fountains? But that is the only source of…"

They describe it... a small oasis with a grove of mangos and cinnamon.

"That is it."

"There is an ambush there."

"She will need to go to safety and we will send troops…"

"No. Your troops would die. We intend to call on the great elves to deal with it—it is beyond humans."

Grandmaster Farsensor contacts Singing Leaves, and the Queen agrees to send a strike force. Grey elves, for there are so few Eldar, but the Council will hope they will be enough. The Council warns them to dimensionally lock the area.
[End Session 67]
 


CPaladin

Explorer
Session 68 (August 21, 2014)

8 Tar-Skard
Dame Brionna reports that a letter has arrived from Meredith the Dazzling. She reports an invading force of humans and demons, roughly equivalent to 8 field armies, attacked Zorplona Argoni. If Princess Curinirim herself had not been present, they might not have held the Enclave. However, they did. Moreover, this appears to have been a feint intended to keep Moriquendarim busy and out of the Underdark.

She also reports that her divinations report that for religious harmony and general peace, we must achieve our goals in the Underdark.

She reports that there were three breeds of demons present: marim, sharim, and tolrim, all wearing green. The only thing the Council can make of the green is that that is the color of Hanal—this might be connected to Hanal.

The Council asks Dame Constance about those varieties of demons.

“Those are the three breeds of goatmen in the Abyss. Only the tolrim are of great power, but they are not very numerous. The marim are not very powerful, but very numerous. The sharim could pass themselves off for satyrs if they could clean themselves up and become more amorous. The marim could be defeated by an ordinary human force, perhaps with a ratio of 3 or 4 humans to one. The sharim would take somewhat more. The tolrim would require heroes—they are immune to normal weapons, resistant to fire, and potent.

“It might be a voluntary association through a gate. I would request a report from the Mouth on Hanal. Masque’s loyalty is largely unquestioned, although there is an Order of the Goat. But it would have to be a large enough, organized enough country to support large scale summoning or gate work. There were three, but the southern kingdoms are essentially gone as organized forces. That leaves Masque and Hanal.

"What proof do we have that everything that landed in the far north, beyond the final mountains has departed? We were told that they had departed—after the demonologists failed to find the Wing of Ancalagon the Black and clashed with Lady Peryton’s forces. But that doesn’t make much sense, because we have reasons to know that neither of the wings were available there. (The Temple of Paranswarm has some scales; one claw was reputed to have been made into a powerful wand; of the rest of the body, we know not.)"

Dame Constance plans on making an astral and divinatory survey.

Also reports that there is a man with a clock on his head waiting.

Kit reaches out to her agents in Hanal and in Masque.

“Ah. I was hoping you would contact me. There’s been a purge. The Order of Man struck in the middle of the night against the Order of the Goat, on behalf of the Holy Inquisition. We are fortunate that there were Mantis with them—I’m not certain that the Man and the Wolf would have been enough when they assaulted the Palace of the Goat in the capital. The local Inquisitor General ordered the purge, because the pregnancy rates of that speed and that number were not possible and that they had to be stopped. Many of the women… require more help than the Order of Man can offer. They… some of them… the older ones… are barely human anymore. Goat is one of the orders that historically kept their women away from the battlefield, cloistered. They took part of the Queen’s Guard, the Order of the Mantis, with their flame lances. When they cut their way into the harems, the older women… they were mindless, they had been turned into just living wombs. The Inquisitor General ordered that those that could no longer communicate be put down. Hundreds of prisoners have been taken to the temples by the Order of Man. They are systematically executing those with demon taint. The Inquisitor General has been granted a dispensation by the Adjunct, in the absence of the Protector, to see which of the prisoners were unwillingly coerced. The Society of the Hands of Hell have three valars en route, with those who can clean the unwillingly coerced. But several thousands of the Goat have escaped. The Queen has asked all her ambassadors to ask that no quarter be given to any refugees from Masque. Some might say that Queen Flana is less grounded than some, but I have never seen her as determined as this.

"Especially with the reports we are getting from Hanal… The reports that she is getting are that there is open rebellion now, that they have turned on the clergy in many places, and that the nobility are warring with the clergy and some of the common folk. We also hear that the common folk are fleeing their own farms, but with the nobles taking slaves to work their farms. It looks like the country may split in half. The Kov of Snatterkaz is still besieged, by a force of approximately 4 times his force. One of the nobles who are rallying to the Kov has reached him, a wealthy Strom. The rest are fleeing to the ice line, to the north. They need more flying ships. Without more vollers, it is very hard for an army to survive in the field in Hanal. The Queen has also offered 100 ornithopters. They are not very valuable in a pitched battle with vollers, but they can snipe and run.

"The malaise in the countryside seems to be lifting since the fall of the Palace of the Goat. Many people were reporting stillbirths, many more than expected. We’ve heard rumors that it was both in the capital and moving west towards the Brownlands, but we can’t verify those. It’s so difficult to get reports out of Yael. Will gather info and report back again in two days."

Alistair asks Bishop Waters to reach out to ecumenically minded members of the Inquisition, to get their report.

Dame Brionna and Alistair argue a bit about how much Canberry can intervene in this.
[cont'd]
 

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I am. I was a player in this world quite a while ago. It is quite a trip to see how things exist in "the present". Especially in the Enclaves- that's where my character was left. Although he might have moved elsewhere being a gray elf.

I'm a little disappointed in that I haven't seen any mention of the Courts of Chaos, but they're either located on a different continent or burned themselves out.
 

CPaladin

Explorer
The thread views suggest that it's being read by ~150 people. If that's wrong, I don't want to know, because it makes me happy to believe it and doesn't really matter! :)

I will say that I appreciate the occasional comments and the likes. It helps to stay motivated to stay on schedule, although obviously this week got a little away from me.
 

CPaladin

Explorer
[Session 68, cont'd]
A man wearing silk and steel, with a clock three feet high on his head and covering his face, approaches and inclines.

"I bring greetings from the Court of Queen Flana. I am Baron Tarangorm, and her majesty felt this important enough to send me from the Palace of Time."

He asks us to not tolerate refugees from Masque, especially those who wear the Masque of the Goat or appear to have recently removed their masks.

"30,000 have escaped the environs of the capital—we thought there were only a few thousand of them in total, but they were corrupted throughout and breeding in warrens beneath their holdings.

"They scattered, but at least 15,000 were fleeing southwards, toward the High Pass. We pursued them with ornithopters, but the ornithopters have a range of only 100 miles. They have at least 14,000 that made it into the pass, including 1000 females, all pregnant. If they do not head to the wilderness, your lands are the most likely.

"Never before have we opened our Palaces to public examination, but no Order Master has questioned the order to examine the other orders for similar taint. All of the positions, that were left absent after the King-Emperor’s disappearance have been filled—all except the Ant on a permanent basis. The Order of the Ant is primarily male, but it’s leader and marshal must be female. But no female of sufficient skill and strategic acumen has come forward to lead it, so a 'head drone' leads it on a temporary basis."

Dame Brionna asks that they consider protecting the Order of the Mink. They may be under threat under the circumstances—they are the order of camp followers.

"Your advice is most welcome.

"That which crawls out of Yael and it’s capital, that which disfigures the Brownlands and has made it worse there since the time of my great-grandfather, has gradually worsened, especially over the last two lifetimes. Two of our largest military orders are entirely devoted to containing it. Those who are born in the Brownlands are horribly mutated, terribly disfigured. Some have strange powers, some have dreadful cancers and sores. There blood does not breed true. I have seen with my own eyes a woman of Yael give birth to only blood and goop. Queen Flana has considered asking the Gunnorans to send train midwives. Yael contains nothing human, and yet threats come out and we need two military orders to restrain it—and considering sending a third. The King-Emperor decided that it needed to be dealt with permanently. So he had twelve great warlords, led by the Wolf, and he was born by slave bearers to lead the assault, protected by his throne-globe. We bandied about the idea that the throne-globe disappeared from the Palace, but that was a fiction. His throne-globe disappeared from a well-guarded forward camp, and a thousand Mantis warriors died defending it before it disappeared. None of us think that he might still be alive, though many of the commoners do.

"We do not know what is in Yael. Once the throne-globe disappeared, the idea of an assault collapsed."

What about Yar?—asks Dame Brionna.

"The capital of Yael, at one time. It was before my time, but it was said that it was a beautiful city before the explosion, that started the process of mutation and change."

"I had heard reports that Yar was still occupied by one of the Ancients."

"There are rumors, but we could not know. The aura of the place has grown so strong that we cannot even approach it."

They send a sending to Alistair’s sister, asking her to come to court (unless things are so messy she can’t, and then to send a report)

Her reply: “Mess here getting better. Lots of halves. Need more artisans and farmers. Will be there in 20 days.”

The high priestess of Gunnora meets with us.

They tell her the situation, and ask if she can detect where they are. She says that she can sense that. I will send all my acolytes and the bounders for the temple (their militant defenders).

The Council decides that they need to assemble a light army—ideally roughly three field armies of light cavalry, plus voller support.

Canberry starts assembling what armies they can—3 field armies of light infantry, one field army of light cavalry, one of medium cavalry, under the overall command of Field Marshal Brightspan. We encourage him to put Dame MaryAnne Rollinghills second in command, and to trust her advice on issues such as quarter.

He says that they will be ready the next day. Alistair plans on briefing all of the senior officers personally, prior to a special mass.

9 Tar-Skard
Alistair briefs the officers—it’s pretty somber and serious. Then he leads them off to a special mass. They head off.

10 Tar-Skard
Alistair gives Kit the Lens of Literacy that he had made for her. [I'm not sure if this was discussed in the previous notes. In a nutshell, Kit is only marginally literate--she can read simple things, but reading isn't easy for her. This is basically a result of growing up lower class. She's been handling this by having her scribe also double as her reader. So Alistair decided to surprise her with a magic item gift--a hand-lens on a necklace that allows the user to read any document, regardless of language or the users ability to read--and arranged for the Ministry of Magic to have it made for her. It was finished on this date, and Alistair gave it to her as a gift.]
[End Session 68]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 69 (October 16, 2014)

Tar-Skard 10
Reports from the capital are improving considerably.

Kit contacts her agents in Masque about the stillbirths.

"The Order of Man has done all it can, but cannot figure out why. The Order of the Serpent has been called in; Baron Klahn has commanded that the top sorcerer-scientists examine it. This is towards the Gray Lands (the area around the Brown Lands), but this has never happened beyond the Gray Lands. Now this is affecting towns on this side of the barriers. The Queen-Empress has been considering relocating people, but the difficulty is that if the people who farm the lands, maintain the buildings, and raise the cattle and horses move away, there will be no one to support the Orders. The Queen-Empress has demanded answers, but the Grand Marshals fear that if the army must withdraw, the Gray Lands will fall to the Brown Lands and the clear lands will fall to the Gray Lands. Baron Klahn says that this must be unnatural—not simply natural spread of taint. The borders have been there for 1500 years. He fears that the thing that strengthens the Lost, those that dwell in the Brown Lands and seek to come forth, causes this as well. 1000 years ago, though powerful, the Lost were mindless, or at least without purpose. They come forth now in organized bands, seeking to break regiments. They have failed so far, but…"

There is a rapid knock at the door.

The Farsensor enters. “There is something powerful but subtle trying to bypass the wards. It was startled by their strength. It has not tried to break them—it could not. But as soon as I detected it, I came to tell you.”

--
The Council doesn’t know who such a creature could be, but it was not always there, obviously.

The indications from the wards are that someone was trying to trace Kit. She warns the agent and break the connection, and immediately the connection breaks.

"It must have been a device--something dealing with psionic slime, perhaps. Illithids are usually lawful. Could law be buried beneath planning and actions that are themselves chaotic? As far as I know, no illithid has ever demonstrated a tendency towards chaos—and the energy that was trying to trace you was chaotic."

The Council calls for Bishop Waters to address the theological question of law and chaos.

"More likely a traded device, than illithid directly. Likely a human or human seeming psionicist, but perhaps very old—maybe a lich?"

The Council discusses the fate of the God-Emperor’s throne-globe.

Alistair suggests that the Hastur might be the experts on the spread of chaos and energy and psionic. The Farsensor agrees, and agrees to seek an audience with the ruler of the House.

We roll a 2 (out of 12) on sanity, and a visibly elderly elf lady with a cat on her head is giggling in the teleportation cage.

The Council arranges for tea, a comfortable chair, and a place to put the cat when she realizes that it isn’t her hair. There’s a lot of art in the room—there wasn’t before.

Comments on Kit: "What dogs your steps… someone from your past, now seeking, creeping like a dog, like a rat. I think it proper that the one who hunts you be hunted and brought here. This creature from your past—it creeps in a place where there are many streets, water but it is not clear." Kit works on clearing out the area.

She reels off a string of ancient elven, which causes the room to lighten. "He has said that a device of the illithid, plus an ergolith, have fallen into the hands of chaos. Such a loss, so few were made. Ergoliths were artifacts, three were made, they can preserve a mortal almost indefinitely. Made by the Eldron, to preserve servants that they did not want to lose from the younger races."

"And all the blights have been cleaned out, except that one in the Old City. But he’s harmless—he’s one of the lookers, one of the beholders. It’s cataloguing all of the different rodents in the sewers, and inscribing them on copper plates. He’s meeting rats as they’re born, and accidentally made some of them intelligent. He’ll be up to the surface in several months. A couple of them are becoming very tiny wizards."

They steer her to discuss the Brown Lands.

"Humans are not very strong. We use them to contain the Shadowlands. They have been containing this threat as well. But this is not an open dimensional rift in the same sense—there is an open dimensional rift within it, but it is not the same thing. It does not go to the Abyss, although there is an enormous amount of energy coming out of it. It is an energy of change, but not in the same way as the Abyss. It is an energy of life, but not as we know it. It will change and alter life. I believe it is attached to your greater enemy, but it is not her. It must be attached to one of the other two? How do the other Pariah Deities survive? Why are they not consumed by her? Could they produce life, but simply life that cannot survive in this plane? I know too little of the ancient ones, but I believe that it may be the One Beside. If we seal the gates to the Goddess of the Pale Bone, it may deal with the problems."

(The Council arranges for an archivist to study the records of the Hastur about the history of the palace.)
[cont'd]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
[Session 69, cont'd]
"If it was from the early days of the Sundering, there may have still been Noldar and Eldar who could work together…" They discuss that that is becoming more common, and the Hastur Lady mentions a couple that love each other and have had children.

"Where are they?" asks Kit.

"I am forbidden to tell you, but I am happy to tell you…"

Alistair interrupts because Lord Silverleaves is present. "No! This is not appropriate company."

She then brings out cuffs, which need a drop of human blood to bind them to this place. Kit agrees to provide it, and then the cat arrives (lion sized) with a wounded and roughed up human prisoner. Kit cuffs him.

"Seal the gate first. Make sure that any of the children are not tainted—if they are, kill them, or give them a very rigorously moral upbringing. There is a very powerful lich, more of a vessel than a lich—I wouldn’t take it on, if I were you—I might, but the Farsensor would not; your Champion might succeed, but I wouldn’t risk him if I were you, certainly not until the gate is closed."

Kit recognizes the prisoner from Enclaves. "I remember you."

"You ignored me. You ignored me even after I left a steak near your hiding hole."

"What is your name and what are you doing in this city?"

"Darvan, and I followed you because I loved you and you ignored me, and then you fell in love with that King or Emperor or God or whatever, and I needed to kill you. I was going to throw myself off a cliff, and then a man in a robe explained what I needed to do, and provided me with a way to kill you. He put a spell in my bones, but now it won’t go off for some reason. I’ve been trying to set it off since I woke up."

Dame Brionna sends for the Minister of Magic, and sends Kit and Alistair out of the room.

Kit asks the Farsensor to see if he can lift an image from the mind. It’s shifting too much—concealing itself. Could be a sluagh, could be something else. Perhaps four weeks after you left the city.

Dame Brionna sends Kit and Alistair out of the room, then hits him across the face with a glove for the insult offered to Kit.

The Minister of Magic reports being unable to dispel it. Perhaps an elven archmage could, but he cannot.

The Farsensor says that it’s woven into the genetics—it cannot be undone.

Dame Brionna asks if his soul could be moved into a golem. "Perhaps—that would free his soul from the influence. We have a day, perhaps two, before the bracers decay. And the bones will detonate when the soul is removed (or when the bracers are removed)."

About 3 hours later, they return with an animated puppet. "We removed the soul successfully—the body detonated and could have killed everything in a 30’ radius. The energy was not of this plane, but it was fey energy. Dark fey energy, but fey energy nonetheless. The guess of a sluagh might be right. And sluagh have some precognitive abilities. It may have sensed that you would become significant. And the Forest of the Singing Leaves might last 1500 years more. If there is not a sufficiently powerful and stable human kingdom at that point, the continent cannot be stable."

They speculate about Kit’s ancestry. Bishop Waters will send someone to investigate genealogy. Also, it’s probably time to move Kit’s family to Enclaves. Alistair makes sure that Kit doesn’t have a poor opinion of her older sister.

[End session 69]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 70 (February 3, 2015)

Tar-Skard 11
Uneventful morning council; it’s midafternoon when something actually happens.

An officer approaches Dame Brionna. “Dame… we have an odd bird in custody. It flew over the walls and demanded to see someone of authority.”

Brionna heads over with a standard squad of detection people. A limb of a tree is bowing as if it had a considerable weight on it. A moving statue of a bird is perched on the tree.

The bird is a servant of Baron Klahn of the Order of the Serpent. The Baron’s daughter, the Lady Felicia of the 5th Order of Lunacy, is one and a half days behind me. The bird gives a jeweled scrollcase with a message from the Baron to her.

The scroll says that she’s bringing some objects that are associated with the mutations and stillbirths to consult with our “sorcerer-scientists”; also a runestone found with one of the warbands.

The Council arrange for a site at a lawful good celibate religious order—that should avoid creating issues with the objects.

They consult with the Mistress of Protocol. If other members of the Order are present, others shouldn’t address her directly—the air over her left shoulder is traditional. Alistair, of course, could also address her by name. There is also the other matter—she’s a were-copper dragon, about 25 years in age, and so a juvenile dragon, perhaps 20 feet in length. She’s known to prefer the hybrid form, but if she gets very upset she’s been known to lose control. She’s said to be a most staid and proper young woman. Except of course, the incident insistent suitor from the Order of the Wolf who was too forward… the Baron ran some experiments on him. Rumor has it that her mother was of that bloodline. Baron Klahn’s most vicious enemy within the court attempted to assassinate him, and she intervened, and he instead assassinated her. The Baron has been quite mad since then. She is an only child, but could not possibly inherit the Order.

They consult with the Minister of Magic; he suggests that they use Lord Rothgar’s old estate, some 10 miles outside of the city. The zone of mutations and stillbirths ranges 8 miles out.

The Council decides to meet her ornithopter with a set of vollars; Dame Brionna and some other paladins will meet her, because their holy order will protect them. Paladins of Paranswarm have been protected from the mutations, although Lyans have not.

* * *
Alonzo has the report on the family trees of the royal and noble families of Drucien, and any unusual gender distributions. The guess was correct, although it happened so gradually that the Mouth did not notice it and the Brain did not comprehend it. Over the past 4 generations, almost 5, the number of male births in most noble houses and royal families, especially patrilineal houses, has dropped to nearly one in four. Hanal has actually had an increase. The Kingdom of the Isles was the only house of the Southern Confederacy that was affected; that’s the house that Princess Caitlyn was from. The other houses continued to produce equal numbers of lords and ladies, until they were wiped out.

Enclave nobility, within the City of Enclaves, have the most severe ratio of anywhere—it’s six to one. There’s been quite a flurry of discussion within the temple about it; it’s been of particular concern because some of the families of lawful good enclaves have taken husbands in for their daughters from Hanal, and even in three cases from the Screaming Wood. Also, it can’t be associated with the water, because there’s no pattern among the commoners.

There was a great deal more formal feasting at weddings than in the old days.

The Council identifies refined sugar as the principal difference—most of which originates in the Seachen lands, and the Spice Lands.

The phenomenon has only been observed among humans, and only among people who incline towards law.

There is a considerably higher level, generation to generation, of oddities among the female children. Sometimes insanity, sometimes stupidity, and sometimes outbursts of extreme violence.

They arrange for some sugar to be bought, prohibit sugar within the palace, and summon the chief midwife of Gunnora.
[cont'd]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
[Session 70, cont'd]

"If it were a curse, we would have known about it," says the midwife of Gunnora. "A fine poison, you think? I wonder. Do you know anything about the Kingdom of Life? They are the only Glordiadelian kingdom where historically being a midwife of Gunnora was punishable by death."

The Body can’t keep Fingers and Toes alive in there, so the Council doesn't have adequate information. They are entirely insular, and have become substantially worse in the last century or so. They still trade, selling their drops of heavenly essence, sometimes as many as two dozen a year. There was a rumor that someone stole a drop of heavenly essence 60 years ago, and they closed their borders to travel. They are part of the Archdiocese of Enclaves.

"Did they sell any powerful fertility magics?"

"Almost any powerful life magic used to be available from the Kingdom of Life. Now, they only sell the drops of heavenly essence."

Kit hypothesizes that the Kingdom of Life was likely the source of all of this.

The Kingdom of Life is an island, and a sliver of land on either side of the inlet, with the springs of life on the island, along with the only city to speak of, and the golems.

The drops of heavenly essence were used to restore the life of a major monarch on Khamista, whose head had been removed. [Decapitation is one of several methods of preventing ordinary resurrection in Aphonion. The drops of heavenly essence can resurrect people who would otherwise not be able to be brought back.]

The Council has an alchemist examine the sugar: "There’s a very subtle taint of a type I’ve never seen before, but the sugar is tainted. I can’t tell precisely what it does. It would likely change in the blood, but I can only be suspicious. It might also cause hereditary changes."

The midwife points out the role of food in all of this; salt, spice, sugar. All things that the nobility use, all foodstuffs. There must be someone behind all of this.

The Council hypothesize that it might be one of the Six—the one who has gluttony and food as part of their portfolio. The Council decides that they need to sort out demonic loyalties and the ties between the mid-level demon lords that they know of, and possibly a higher level one behind all of this.

The Crown Prince of the Empire of Tarsh was the person whose head had been removed. The Sytryites destroyed the old samples of the drops of heavenly essence. They used to put them out in small golden vessels. And now they put them out in heavy, heavy bronze, with crystal to preserve the fluid, and lead around the crystal. They’ve been using these for 100 years. Not no way to compare it—the White Witch still has one in her treasury. She keeps three vials of the new fluid—for she has three daughters. Well, had; one has wandered from the faith of Paranswarm.

The Sytryites arrived about 1000 years ago. They started out by declaring that they were in charge of the Light, and then fought the temple of Glordiadel. They lost. They then sulked for 900 years, took a few minor things, and then Glordiadel blocked them from expanding. They had a resurgence about 100 years ago, because of a very fiery hierophant of Sytry—a determined evangelist, a militant, and an expansionist. He was from Drucien, but there was a concerted effort to get the Sytryites off the continent, and it mostly worked. They’re a major force on Khamista, though.
[End session 70]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 71 (February 24, 2015)

Tar-Skard 12
The Council asks the alchemists to look at the wine and chocolate; they ask the Ministry of Trade to identify other similar things that are traded in a wide network, especially if they come from the Spice Lands.

The day passes uneventfully; that evening, Kit hears a tapping in her mind. “There is something different about the ancient drops of heavenly essence. The drops are pearlescent, with specs of gold, swirling through them, moving, even after hundreds of years. The new ones are a dull gold, with no inherent moving. However, one was used to restore someone in our illustrious leader’s inner circle; she has returned to service as the chancellor of the exchequer. But the assistants say that she is more reliant on her assistants, as if her mind was less sharp. If anything, she has become more devout to Paranswarm—her faith has become more simple. She is still a close confidant of the White Witch, of course; the White Witch deigns not to notice. She has taken a new lover; members of the Inner Coven are permitted to take lovers, as long as they would have no claim on her line through their progeny (she is too old to have progeny of course, but his progeny would have no claim anyway—he is but a young lieutenant in the guard). She had shown no interest in lovers in many years. It is an odd alchemical compound. There are alchemical methods that would raise the dead, but none without hearts and brains except with the drops of heavenly essence."

The White Witch respects the Archduke, and hopes he may be the one to stabilize Drucien, which has long been on her mind since the fall of the South Kingdoms destabilized things.

Kit’s agent suggests reaching out through the Ecumenical Council—Archduke to First Mouth, to the White Witch. Kit asks her to check whether there’s anyone else who has used the new formula.

Tar-Skard 13
Kit relays this in the morning.

Alistair suggests cutting out the middle-man; instead of going through the Ecumenical Council, they could approach the White Witch about buying a vial through her. The Protocol Officer for the White Witch’s embassy is a representative of her intelligence apparatus.

Kit invites the Protocol Officer (Lady Gretchen) for tea.

They exchange pleasantries. Lady Gretchen reaches out to make an agreement among ladies. And also provides two pounds of red tea from Khamista; "it is a favorite of many nobles on Khamista, said to enhance long life, and the supplies from the southern part of this continent are said to be strained. And the pirate isles would love another customer, and its quality is guaranteed."

"Do you take honey in your tea, Lady Gretchen?"

Kit then raises the possibility of acquiring drops of heavenly essence through the White Witch. Lady Gretchen mentions that the White Witch has cast the bones on his behalf, and believes that if he follows both his heart and his head, instead of either one on its own, he should do well.

She also reports some oddity within the Temple of Sytry that cannot be penetrated by Her Grace the White Witch. "We expect that they will set their sights upon the Archduke soon."

Lady Gretchen says that she will acquire a purchase of a drop on our behalf.

[cont'd]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
[session 71, cont'd]
Dame Brionna heads out by voller to meet the oncoming Lady Felicia’s ornithopters.

She alights from the most ornate of the ornithopters, with a masked Raven pilot.

The second most ornately masked Serpent compliments Dame Brionna.

"I have brought two wards for the area where the research will take place, as well as volunteers for the wards."

Dame Brionna: "Volunteers?"

"The Queen-Empress suggested that you would not appreciate the use of prisoners, so we brought volunteers—their families will be well compensated."

Dame Brionna explains that that will not be necessary.

They all travel to the old Rothgar estate. They bring out two strange devices, with strange magical tendrils, and chairs in the center of the devices. Those are the wards. There are a group of 15 desultory young people, mostly men but a few women, unmasked and with clearly less food.

"We are delighted to emplace things, but then, except for certain researchers who will be remaining, we will be departing."

Dame Brionna conveys a personal invitation to Lady Felicia to visit at the palace, which she accepts. As the last of the ornithopters takes off, she claps delightedly. "You do realize those were slaves."

"They may once have been slaves—there are no slaves in Canberry."

"I am delighted to see that. Even the Queen-Empress who is beginning to be called the Goddess-Empress, is unable to end slavery, although she would wish to. She has within her house, the house of the Mantis. The wards are also appalling. They suck out life energy to power the wards that are highly effective, but when the victim dies, they are reduced to dust and the wards failed."

She is very excited to come to the palace—wants to meet the people who are the example for the free people of Drucien.

"Our enemies have been plotting for about 100 years. Human divination is unable to pierce their defenses; it would take assistance from your allies." She also brings along her young assistants to visit; after screening, they all come to the palace. Lord Brightspan says that none of them show any sign of taint. One of them has real scales—small serpent scales on his leg.

One of the youngest has vertically slit eyes, and seems very nervous about being unmasked. He bears some resemblance to Lady Felicia.

"After they leave, a gift for each of you from my father. As a final holdout, Dame Brionna, a ring of flame lancing. Good for a total of 30 seconds. Once it is exhausted it will take at least six months to recover. Dame Katherine, for you, the Grandmaster my Father divines sons. And therefore he sends you these toys to protect them—three animals, made of metal and crystal. They are small, but they are vicious golems. When the children reach majority, they will simply become toys. And for you, your grace, you have a reasonable concern about the seen and unseen. This device will test any bodily fluid, not just blood. It is more delicate than most creations, as it is crystal, but it should last indefinitely."

The Council warns her about sugar obliquely; she warns us about tea, matching the White Witch’s warning.

"He also asks whether we have any midranked nobility, who might marry a woman with an interest in alchemy. Baron Klahn is concerned about my youngest sister, the daughter of his late official wife. There could be a purge within 15 or 20 years. With the threat that Hanal has become—some of the warlords that believe that the leadership of a woman weakens a country."

Sorcery-science is basically a form of necromancy—the use of life energy to power magic—but without any raising of the dead.

"We sent a team to investigate Yael and Yarr, with a group of boars. One boar returned—we believe it was let go. 30 years ago, they would have encountered only disorganized tribes. Today, they were crushed. Somewhere within the brown lands, there is a great force of power driving it. It could be the throne-globe, the greatest achievement of sorcerous-science. It could be used as a powerful scrying device. To pervert its purpose, would take power far beyond that that any of the sorcerer-scientists. But most necromancers would understand it well enough to understand its use. You don’t suppose that he still lives, and has simply been corrupted?"

The Council says probably not (although with more confidence than they actually have).

The Council also speculates about whether Berta might have been manipulated into shifting which gods she was aligned with.
[end session 71]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 72 (March 10, 2015)

Tar Skard 14
Kit wakes up feeling better (Con damage from having slime removed.)

Lord Davion emerges from skin; he’s unhappy about not having done better, but that’s to be expected. With his enormous saving throw bonus, he is in fact not permanently weakened on a roll of 11 (and there was much rejoicing); he goes into a rigorous routine of swordplay exercises to get back into shape, and completely wears out all of his sparring partners. His foe could not follow him because of Alistair’s binding to the lands.

Kit goes to meet the Bishop as he returns by voller, accompanied by Dame Brionna, 12 guards including a detection squad, and with a group of Kit’s people scattered about surreptitiously. One of Kit’s people observes via mindlink, “Doesn’t it seem weird that there are an awful lot of dockhands around?” Kit immediately sends to Brionna, “Something is wrong, form your people up,” and tries to move in front of the Bishop. Brionna tells her to get the Bishop up on her winged horse.

At that point there is a sudden bloom of chaos and evil centered on the largest knot of dockworkers. “Lord of Cleansing Flame (Carthaluma) burn them” is heard as if on the wind. A massive flamestrike engulfs Kit and the Bishop—the Bishop takes maximum flame damage, but no damage from the holy damage. Kit dodges all of the flame, but takes 40 points of soulburn from the raw chaos running over her body, leaving her barely up. Dame Brionna shouts, “Kit, go! Paladins, with me, charge!”

Dame Brionna contacts Alistair and says reinforcements are needed and a badly wounded Kit is incoming, and that she needs true seeing.

Dame Brionna rushes forward and strikes the crazy eyed, bare-chested man, with an open holy symbol of Borsh’tro. She does 66 points of damage on a holy smite with a charge with a lance. His last gasp before collapsing is “The cleric, you fools, not her!”

Dame Brionna’s priest casts Holy Smite, which nicely separates the sheep from the goats, as half of the dockworkers in the knot of dockworkers around the priest are blasted and turn into creatures of flickering flame—most of whom are blinded. Two other dockworkers, still in more or less human form, cast off their clothing as well and start grunting. One of them is blinded, and another one leaps from the platform—probably able to fly.

The Pegasus is flying faster than the creature of flame, heading back to the palace as fast as possible.

Dame Brionna charges back at one of the gray “humans” behind her, and hits it for 13 damage.

“Orlodu, great wyrm, lend me your strength!” His mouth disarticulates and he begins mouthing her armor, but doesn’t manage to hit.

Thousands of worms and vermin spew forth from the Orlodu follower.

Dame Brionna flame lances him. He dissolves into a mass of dirt.

Dame Brionna looks around, and sees a man-shaped pile of dirt on the ground below the dock—apparently the creature that jumped did not fly.
[cont'd]
 

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