Aphonion Tales: The Archducal Council -- Unedited notes (posts MWF, most recent 9/26/22)

CPaladin

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

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

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

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

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

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

She deposits 499.5 osmium tuals.

Alistair offers her a title as a countess.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Not here…"

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

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

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

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CPaladin

Explorer
Session 108 (April 2, 2020)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He offers to send Gilbert as an emissary to them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[cont'd]
 

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CPaladin

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

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

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

The Council talks to Lord Davion about the memorials.

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

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

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 109 (April 16, 2020)

Chund 29 and 30 pass uneventfully.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CPaladin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Are there other sources of orichalcum ore?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 110 (May 13, 2020)

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

They speak to a theologian.

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

He promises to arrange for the psionic meeting.

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

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

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

Kit asks, “Who benefits if they fail?”

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

Dame Brionna asks, “who was his heir?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CPaladin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The psions manifest inflict pain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 111 (May 27, 2020)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They find and dispose of some traps.

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

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

<<Honored Mouth>>

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

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

<<Is that Lord Raf?>>

The image nods.

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

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

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

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

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

<<Is this a current situation?>>

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

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

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

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

An image of the ledgers appears again.

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

A nod, cautiously.
[cont'd]
 

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CPaladin

Explorer
[Session 111, cont'd]

Evening of 7 Tar-Chund

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

(Sounds like a seen-unseen.)

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

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

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

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CPaladin

Explorer
Session 112 (June 17, 2020)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alistair proposes a holy crusade against the Shadowlands.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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CPaladin

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

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

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

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

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

It raises a clawed thumb.

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

9 Tar-Chund
Lord Davion returns the following morning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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CPaladin

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Session 113 (July 1, 2020)

Tar-Chund 14
They receive a report of 4 field armies departing through the mountain pass to the Southeast of Holy Cortose. [Attached] They marched directly into a large white mist, with bits of flames. They did not emerge. The mists showed up about an hour before the army arrived—vollers of the Duchy of Ergmoth observed them disappear.

They call for Dame Constance and Grandmaster Farsensor. He begins scrying for remnants of the gate. He finds an area where, over 5 or 6 acres, everything is dessicated and dead. “Here. I can find the remnants of the gate. It sucked the life out of the earth as it worked.”

"Where did they go?"

“Dame Constance?”

She grumbles, and then her vision shifts far, far to the south to a huge island.

"I knew there was a third place. There are demons and eldritch spawn there. This is obviously the third place that they were trying to break through. It’s an abandoned land, no humans since the Day of the Dead when they were enslaved by the Argoni and it was cleared out. They are a pair of islands to the west of the islands of the Archbarony of Mandrath."

They discuss sending a devil to spy. The risk of discovery is too high, they conclude. So instead they send a psionic spy eye, because they have very weak psionic defenses, except perhaps for the githyanki. Dame Constance is confident that she eliminated the githyanki.

Kit contacts the spy mistress of Mandrath and tells her what they’ve found. They also ask her to keep track of any signs of food to supply the army.

Dame Constance notes that they placed seals to allow for the teleportation. "This was beyond domain magic. There was ritual magic stretching back months or years, likely with sacrifice. That sort of magic hasn’t been used at least since the Second Age. Humans are incapable of it, and it can kill elves. The Unseelie could do it, but likely wouldn’t. A sufficient sacrifice of elven and fey blood might allow an adept to do it. But it was likely done by Arthranax, most likely by indwelling in a human vessel. If we could find out where he had traveled, we might be able to find likely spots."

They ask the Sytryites for records of Hierarch Garret’s travels, to see if they can identify other possible sites he might have prepared.

They also renew our requests to the archives for studies of noble geneology and anything that seems out of place or planned, or arranged.

The Council calls for Bishop Waters, and they ask him about the Day of the Dead.

"It was a mistake. Each age ends with a day of the dead; the longer the Age has run, the more delicate the balance is. The Fourth Age was long, but no one thought that the balance was close to tipping. And then a certain elven prince of the highest blood got ahold of the color Blue, and forgot his theology and used the color Blue to attack Lord Morgoth, and instead of prevailing, he precipitated the Day of the Dead. He did all the proper things, did all the proper quests, became the Blue Mage, and then he wished that Krashmere were Blue, thinking that that would overthrow Morgoth. Within the ancient wood he ruled—the High Wood, daemons and loths erupted from the earth and the sky, and the dead arose, and there was carnage. Two thousand elves died. The Argoni moved fast to enslave and pillage in response.

[If you think this sounds like the action of a PC having catastrophic effects on the game world, you're not wrong. :) This was well before I started playing in Aphonion, however.]

"No one foresaw it. There were other odd movements. Neither the Eldar nor the Noldar nor the great oracles foresaw it.

"The Wood has been retaken—the Wood of Hope and Salvation is what the younger brother of the prince named it after he retook it. But it is still tenuous."

"Do you know anything of the Hierarch of Sytry named Garret?"

"Yes. He hoped he might ascend, but the other hierarchs voted against him and installed the present hierarch less than 3 years ago. Ultimately only two of the hierarchs voted for him, though he was thought to be a shoe-in."

They tell him that he turned to Arthranax.

"Extraordinary. He of all of them should have known better. He was highly trained in the arts of magic as well as priestly matters. I can’t imagine he was corrupted as a hierarch—that someone could be corrupted and then rise to be a hierarch seems more likely."

They decide they need to warn the Sytryites to be very careful vetting any replacement hierarchs and the new Knight Commander of the Knights of Truth.

The Council summons the Ambassador of Sytry. They ask after the Patriarch.

“He is well, and he is safe. He speaks with the God, and the conversation is long. We believe he also seeks dispensation to stop suppressing psionics. Sytry is a rigid faith, but psionics can perhaps prevent corruption in the future.”

They encourage the patriarch to be cautious in selecting Hierarchs or senior Knights of Truth—there may still be hiding heretics.

“His confessor advises likewise. We may request that Grandmaster Farsensor visit and assist.”

The Council explains what happened to the four field armies.

[cont'd]
 

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[Session 113, cont'd]
19 Tar-Chund
They have a big party before Lammes; it’s pretty debauched and gets a little out of hand.

20 Tar-Chund
Lammes is a religious festival of fasting and penance. Alistair makes a big show of public participation, and does his best to observe perfectly what he’s supposed to do. He’s probably only mediocre at it, though.

Days pass.

As Skulltane approaches, there’s an obvious tightening of security. Report frequencies increase. But the countryside has been pacified, and the day passes peacefully.

12 Ras
They go to Dame Constance’s laboratory. There’s a strange Rube Goldberg device occupying most of the laboratory, with imps feeding balls into one end.

“So. I have done research, the nature of which I will not reveal to those of weak stomach, but: Jubilex has given allegiance to Arthranax. He has always been a laughing stock in the Abyss, and he believes he can get a better deal from Arthranax. He has renounced his allegiance to the Council of Six and through them to Borsh’tro. He has given his allegiance to Arthranax willingly. However, firstly, he has gained the enmity of Zuggtmoy, the Mother of Fungus, who rules the neighboring plane of Fungi. Other than Malacat, the present Queen of the Succubi, Zuggtmoy is one of the more reasonable of the rulers of levels of the Abyss. But, allegiance to Arthranax gives him an in in the Abyss. I was able to learn that through an intermediary he has been holding negotiations with the imprisoned Queen of Chaos. Even at my age and with my experience, my stomach wasn’t strong enough to do some of the things I would have needed to find out how long. The Queen of Chaos has an advantage; she is not as foolish as Jubilex, and she knows more of Arthranax’s history. Also, the Hells and the Abyss alike are riven with rumors of divisions within the celestial realm of Sytry.”

“Are their topics or speculations about this division?”

“Yes, especially among the devils. The devils were once angels. They remember, though they have bred over time. They believe a similar split is happening to Sytry. The great lords are not happy about this. The Nine Archdevils have ruled their realms under the despotic but largely benign neglect of Lord Paranswarm for thousands of years. They do not want rivals to their power. The minions are more concerned about being forced into warfare by their masters. Dispater’s are particularly vocal, because they would take the brunt of it. But I do not think that if there is a fall, they will go to the Hells. They could continue fighting an eternal war in the heavens. Or they could claw out a different realm. Lord Glordiadel could throw out rebels. But Sytry, though similar in aspect, is much weaker. The plane would support Sytry, but the Blue Star is in open rebellion, and is a god of greater power than Sytry.

“I captured a specimen, that once served Sytry and now serves the Blue Star. It came too close to the edge of its plane while I and several devils were observing.”

Sytry would have to permit Glordiadel to act in his realm in order to allow Glordiadel to force them out.

Dame Constance suggests that Gunnora might be able to help, and Sytry might be more amenable to accept aid from her.

They also discuss the Seductress—Dame Constance knows of her as a Duchess of Hell turned major demon, but Lord Davion referred to her as a Noldar. She might well be both, and Dame Constance would be inclined to rely on the knowledge of the great elves, rather than her books. A major Noldar could become a Duchess of Hell by sheer power.

"It is unfortunate that you likely cannot convince the Bleeding Lady to take action. I would be very cautious about approaching her, even through intermediaries. She has never forgiven the death of her beloved husband at the beginning of time. She is very powerful, but also insane."

They also inquire about the disappearance of the Prince of the Twin Cities of Pain.

"He is a demigod, perhaps greater, power Noldar. His absence, at a time when Arthranax is both consuming gods and godlings, and recruiting powerful allies including from among the great Noldar, seems concerning."

Dame Constance suggests summoning the Archivist, who can be compelled to answer 19 questions. They can be compound, but they must be very carefully formulated.
[End Session 113]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 114 (July 15, 2020)

13 Ras
A major blizzard roars outside.

The Council calls for Lord Davion. He has brought a nut roll.

Alistair asks, "Are there southern continents? All the ones we know of are in the northern hemisphere."

"There are. They are not civilized. Some tribes—human, ork, some trolls, the Old Men. They were the first humans—they weren’t quite perfect. A handful of elves, but not many, and wild elves, but who counts them, anyway?

"What do you mean the Old Men weren't perfect?"

"The Old Men were the first attempts of the human gods to make humans, and they didn’t get everything right. They are sometimes very violent; some of their organs aren’t right.

"There are some somewhat civilized coastal civilizations of people who came from the North—but they want nothing to do with the North. I have been there a few times to collect animals for my menagerie."

They adopt some koalas and things from Lord Davion’s expedition to the Southern continents.

"Wait... you said the human gods made the humans. I thought the human gods arose when humans came into existence, embodying our virtues and flaws."

"The human gods do embody human virtues, but they also created humanity—it's a little complicated, I'm afraid, and I'm not a theologian."

The Council asks about the Seductress. "She was a Noldar, and then she married a Duke of Hell—married may not be right—and stayed with him until he was displaced. She killed his replacement, and then left the Hells in a huff, and became a major demon. She still retains all her powers from that as well as her blood, and is thus one of the vanishingly few demons who are psionically powerful."

He shows them an image of her. It would allow them to trace to where she is, in her palace. "If there’s a cold forge and you can provide helpers, I can forge something that would be a strong but temporary protection. It might withstand attacks for ten or twenty attacks."

They send someone to investigate whether they have a cold forge among the Noldar relics in the palace. He would need at least two mildly psionic assistants. One being a psychokinetic would be helpful, plus a handful of strong workers.

"You say that she is powerful psionically. How powerful?"

"The Seductress is a Paragon coercer, but that understates her power. I am myself a psychokinetic Paragon, but I could not possibly stand against her. The Bleeding Lady could be protected by her insanity; Goldorim would be protected by his evil; the master of the Aufaulgautharim could, but he would not—he is withdrawn. Princess Curinirim and the Prince of the Aufaulgautharim might be able to defeat her, but at peril of their lives, especially Princess Curinirim. The Overqueen could defeat her and live, but she does not leave the Steading of the Elvish Lords."

"Would the Eldar facing her restart the ancient war?"

"No. She is a renegade, in the truest sense—if she approached one of her cousins, it would cause them to destroy her, even at the cost of their own House. If the Eldar were to move against her, it would not be moving against one of her blood. The Queen of Singing Leaves might be convinced to move, but she would not be a match for her. Also, her magic grows stronger as you approach her; even a great elf might forget who she truly is as they approached her.

"I would note, that according to things I have heard from daemons, there is great resentment among the hordes of the Abyss, but her power is too great to overcome."

"What about within the Hells?"

"Her Duke of Hell has probably arisen again, but would he be an enemy or an ally? I do not know. I am not an expert in the Hells."

Lord Davion also mentions that there are some demon lords that have even turned to benevolence.

By the end of the conversation about the Seductress, Kit and Dame Brionna have completely forgotten about the southern continents. Alistair has not, but he is of course unaware that Kit and Dame Brionna would not remember the conversation.
[cont'd]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
[Session 114, cont'd]
Several hours later, the people from the Ministry of the Mind report that they did find a cold forge, way back behind the nethermost wine and root cellars. We ask that they search the whole palace, with wizards and clerics. There is also a matrix screen, with a full array, clearly of ancient elven make and complete. It was a communication array, but is currently completely unpowered. The runes on it are Eldron runes.

They travel down to look at it. There are doors even beyond it, but pretty far in the back, there’s a room with stuff that we assume is the cold forge, and off to one side a screen made out of sandstone with crystals in it.

“That we never be severed from the lords of crystal.”

They speculate that this may be an actual Eldron matrix, possibly linked to the Crystal City Eldron.

It’s distinctly connected to west and north, and asleep.

Lord Davion and Grandmaster Farsensor both confirm it as an Eldron communication matrix.

They shouldn’t be able to manifest here, because “this is the most heavily warded place I’ve seen outside Krashmere.”

Kit salutes the matrix, and a very severely dressed elf in robes woven entirely of psionic crystal appears in a three-dimensional image. “I greet you in the name of the Royal House of Canberry.”

“Canberry? I don’t think I recall a Canberry, but … ah you are from the old communication chamber. I heard that she passed to the North.”

“Can you tell us about her?”

“Her commitment was to the elements of the water and of the air. She built a simple dwelling, near the mountains but to the south. A few dozen rooms, and a small keep above, that was her only building, but she warded them well. She never departed her Eldron capacity in any way. We are saddened that she has departed. She was called Windwhisper. She was well allied with the fey, but she would not commit in the war. It was not for her and not for us, the kinslaying. She put wards of every sort. There was one who would have disturbed her work, who sought her attention in every way. She warded against him, psionically, magically, binding herself to the land through the fey alliance. And are the gifts still there?”

“What gifts?”

“There are crystal golems set to protect her. We are pleased. Her gifts to us still stand as well.

“We are the lords of Crystal. We would not divide ourselves in the great war, but we would also not follow our fathers in the path of our projects. We still tend to our people, and we can when we choose still leave our cities. Our cities still stand proud and beautiful and complete. The Eldron could not complete their projects, but we have completed our cities. With time, most of us grew tired of this realm and passed to the West. Those of us who remain attempt to protect our people from the evil to the North; many of our people are among the small folk.”

They talk about what’s going on in Hanal.

“You may stage any troops you need through our cities. We also have large food supplies that could help. Our reserves are enormous. Also, we must unlimber the vollers. They have not flown since the Second Age.”

They explain the situation with the alliance with Paranswarm. They agree that “the Ruby City will be opened to them and to you, and we will prepare our voller loads. Our vollers are well armed and we do not fear humans.”

He imparts the knowledge of how to activate the matrix and awaken it.

(She also had a defensive matrix; we resolve to find it.)

They ask after the one who was pursuing her.

"He was a primal incubus, connected to some demon lord."

"The Ram, perhaps?"

"The Ram was the incubus. He sought her, he pursued her, he found some fool to instantiate himself on this realm, but he could not have her."

They ask if he would be willing to provide a blessing for them. He agrees, but says his wife should do this.

A few hours later, a voller arrives at the fastest speed we have ever seen. It’s made of crystal, but ridiculously baroquely ornate. She is attended mostly by halflings, but a few gnomes. She is dressed entirely in woven crystal that glitters like rubies.

They discuss the shrinking population of the Crystal Cities. "I have argued that the crystals themselves are not conducive to fertility."

They discuss the idea of bringing priests of Gunnora.

Alistair also discusses bringing them in when the Eldron finish their project, and they agree.

She assumes that Caitlyn will not survive because of the twins, but we assure her that she will. She approaches the Empress Caitlyn, and lays hands on her belly, and the air crackles with energy. “I have endowed them as best as I can.” She also blesses Kit’s child, and senses that it is aware, and then opens additional psionic paths.

"Upon the rising of the Silver Moon, join us at the City of Ruby to meet with the Council. You will be safe there. All twelve of us will be there. We were over 200 at the time of the Kinslaying, but now we are twelve. We shall have special lembas prepared and the finest of dishes."

She offers us the blessing of the brothers, that the one who Creates grants long lives and the one who Destroys offers a quick passage through death into the next cycle beyond.

The voller departs with a great deal of light and color and showers of candies, and then when it’s over the walls, it flies away at flank speed. Each of the 200 candies grants a +1 Intelligence modifier to any child who eats it.

Kit executes the pattern to wake up the matrix.

An enormously cheery voice cries out, “It’s good to be alive! Oh, look at this, it’s a human."

They ask the matrix whether it knows where the defense matrix is.

“The defense matrix is in the defense chamber of course. You don’t know where that is? Oh… but the traps. It has many defenses. First I’m going to show you where it is, but we won’t open the door until the traps have been dealt with. It shows a map, with a secret corridor on it. You must go through the secret corridor, but don’t open the door. If you open the door, it incinerates everything in 120 feet. There also is or was a great energy gout inside the room that you must disarm, or it will irradiate everything in the room every 22 seconds. Once you have those disarmed, you can activate the defense matrix… maybe.

"It will reenergize all the runes in the palace, as well as setting up a defensive screen. It will take more energy to recharge, though. It will take a shielded grandmaster—should be a human. Once they survive the backlash, you’ll be able to talk to it. Farsensing would be best, they have the best chance of surviving."

They ask the matrix to scan Southern Drucien for things that it knows that are important that have been abandoned or forgotten.

They also ask it to contact the Hastur. It does so, just to open communication and let them know that Canberry has a communications matrix.

It explains that we’ll need a Keeper for the defense matrix. A Keeper needs to be very carefully trained and psionically active, but not necessarily strong.

There are war matrices in the Crystal Cities; one in the Lands of Lady Jane Peryton; several in the defensive line of the Hastur; a handful in the Noldar necropolises; and at least two among the Eldar, though none in their areas nearby. None of the ones on Drucien are currently operated. Each would need a full Circle to operate.
[End session 114]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 115 (July 29, 2020)

Ras 14
Lord Davion brings us a record of the Southern continent from the Archives. [Attached] Dame Brionna and Kit don’t know what this is about, because they can't remember the previous conversation. Alistair tests this on the grandson of the Emperor of Tarsh, who immediately forgets it. The wards don’t trigger at all.

Divine magic would be affected by the wards, but the direct action of a deity might not, Bishop Waters says. We call together Bishop Waters, Lord Davion, Grandmaster Farsensor, the Minister of the Mind, the Minister of Magic, and the Empress Caitlyn.

There are two Southern continents. Both are known to the elder elves. The further one is mostly uninhabitable, too far south, but the other has substantial woods and jungles. There are many early creations there—old humans, some of Morgroth’s early failed creations, and other such things. It might have been done to protect the creatures. Many of them are not successful, including several early takes on humanity. The map is from 2340 in the 3rd Age, some 4000 years ago. If the colony survives, it might be very difficult. The great elven gods could cause this effect, as presumably could Glordiadel and Paranswarm, and Berta likely could have before her destruction.

Grandmaster Farsensor expresses that he finds it difficult to focus his vision there.

Lord Davion expresses concern that the great enemy could get a foothold there and no one would know that he were there.

Empress Caitlyn is well aware of Beldron. There are valuable plants and animals there, alchemical matters, and so forth. The royal families of all the Southern Kingdoms knew of Beldron and traded with it regularly. There was a shipment of herbs three days before the intaking.

There was a viceroy in Beldron, more of a punishment than a reward, but still, it remained ruled by the Kingdom of the Isles. No one looked forward to an assignment to Beldron. We are unsure whether Beldron would be able to maintain its security without the Kingdom of the Isles.

The other settlers from the north were mostly pirates who settled there. Over a few generations, they would go native and become part of the continent, with no affection or contact with the north. Unlike Beldron, they would not have been followers of Berta.

Grandmaster Farsensor uses Dame Brionna’s blood to scry, and recognizes the city, which remains intact, patrolled by guards in the armor and livery of the Kingdom of the Isles.

There is a temple near the palace. It looks to be a temple of Berta, and remains fully operational. It looks just like we would expect a functioning temple of Berta to look—no signs of demon worship, although there are surely hidden cults, because Bertan lands always had demons among them.

In the palace, Dame Brionna recognizes Lord Uastros from her childhood—presumably the viceroy. He was a good warrior, a competent administrator, and loyal. He must have offended the old king somehow.

Grandmaster Farsensor guides a bird in to examine the documents that Lord Uastros is looking at.

(Grandmaster Farsensor also says that the fact that he can scry at all suggests a weak deity’s intervention—consistent with Berta and then Arthranax taking over after he consumed her.)

Lord Uastros is preparing a long account of taxes with a message to the king. He also reports that the barbarians to the west are becoming more aggressive and threatening the city—the implication is that he needs some reinforcements. He’s quite concerned about the lack of contact for three years, and that none of his messengers return. They’re clearly being intercepted, but if they headed to the old capital, they’d get wiped out anyway—the old capital is occupied by demons and demonspawn and is terribly dangerous.

The barbarians to the west start about 35 miles away. They are bizarre humans, not shaped normally but with heads in their bellies, one giant foot coming from their heads, and so forth. They have leather tents, longhouses, and a variety of other things. They have a group of other people who look like them tied up in the middle, and there is a person haranguing them. We can’t make out what he’s saying—it’s cacophonous noise—but he has carvings in his flesh that make us uncomfortable to look at, and he continues yelling at them, while they do not respond at all. And he suddenly leaps forward and strikes through one of them with a bronze sword and kills her. The others don’t respond or say anything.

“Does anyone recognize the carvings in his flesh?”

Lord Davion says, “That is of the Abomination.”

Kit identifies it as a curse. It looks like he willingly accepted a curse onto himself in exchange for something.

The bird also approaches what looks to have been an old temple of Berta, but it has been struck down, trashed, and there is also a dead dog-headed person, wearing skin robes and a holy symbol of Berta.

There is no obvious military area, no clear leader other than Arthranax leader.

Finally, one of the strange humans eats the bird whole.

There were several weak psionic presences in the city.

By the end of the investigation, they’re quite confident that this was an effect of Berta, taken over by Arthranax, and used to both take the Southern Kingdoms and advancing that plot while also.

The Minister of the Mind is able to remember this and then remembers that he has seen books about the southern continents—we ask for copies of them. The Minister of Magic totally fails to understand this all.

They also discuss Keepers—it requires taking on a completely monastic lifestyle, with no personal connections.

They plan with Empress Caitlyn, and she arranges to send a ship to reach out to Beldron. They arrange to send a party of about six PC types—an ambitious archdeacon interested in taking a flier on becoming Bishop of Beldron, a wizard, a psion, some other supporters.
[cont'd]
 

Attachments

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CPaladin

Explorer
[Session 115, cont'd]
We meet with Lady Constance to inquire of the Archivist of Hell, a Duke of Hell, though he rarely remembers that. She smashes a fantastically valuable ruby, and burns it in a vessel.

About the Seductress (renegade of House Goldorim)
"Is the Usurper and pretender to the Throne of Hanal the Seductress?"

"It certainly is. It’s been terribly disturbing to watch."

"Who was or were her infernal paramours, and what is their current status?"

"Her paramour in Hell was Amenendiel. He is utterly destroyed. He does not even rise as larva. It’s very disturbing. She tricked him into accompanying her into the Abyss, where the Abyssal lord that she took as her paramour destroyed him. But that was before her son was born."

"Who is the son of the Seductress, any other children of hers, and what is their status?"

"Archduke Valek, commander of 30 legions in Dispater’s cult. She thought that betraying her husband to her lover and raising their son as a demon would be sufficient to turn him against the hells, but he fled back to the hells as soon as his wings were strong enough. He hates his mother, but what is he to do?"

"Does the Seductress have any major enemies who would be motivated to seek to defeat her?"

"Well, Valek would seek to defeat her, but he cannot enter the Prime with his legions, and alone he would be no match for even one of the elder elves with us. Malacat hates her, but she is not a warrior queen. You might be able to manipulate Dispater into action, but I’m not certain Dispater could even defeat her. He does appreciate Valek’s loyal servitude, which might motivate him to take some action if he could be convinced."

"Does the Seductress know that she’s allied with Arthranax, the One Other, and if so, why is she willing to work with him?"

"Oh, she most definitely knows who he is. She is willing to work with him, because she believes that she can handle him as she has Amenendiel and her paramour in the Abyss, and that together, if they play their cards right, they can wind up ruling these planes. He is not as greedy for life force as the other eldritch. But that would require her to destroy both Eiru and Morgroth, Glordiadel and Paranswarm, and all the hordes of hell; I find this tremendously unlikely, but she could create a lot of problems for you folk. She is correct that he is less greedy for life force."

"What is her plan, and what portions of it has she accomplished?"

"Her plan is his plan. They have formed a web of alliances, most of whom they are using, both on the mortal planes and the supernal planes, and they are acting now. They are greatly discomfited by not having won the battle in the Spicelands. They have been misleading She of the Bone and the One Beside into thinking they are loyal to the triads plan. They are not. They want you to seal them out, so they are not forced to move on from this plane—without those two, there is enough life force to sustain them indefinitely."

"Who are her major subordinates?"

"Remaining ones? The Lord of Rams. It took sleeping with him a few times, but the One Other is not jealous. Oh, and they’ve produced a small group of demonspawn that you may want to hunt out at some point. He cannot help himself. The Abomination of Shurr was her subordinate more than his, but has been eliminated. There are still a handful of his major nobles that answer to her. She has an alliance, both consider an alliance of convenience, with the Queen of Chaos. And the last of her major supernal subordinates is her former demon lover, Remriel, and they’ve drawn Jubilex in as well—but to call Jubilex a subordinate? I cannot do it."

"What is Remriel’s status in the Abyss and portfolio?"

"He is lord of the 540th plane; his power on the prime is over water and believable lies. There are all sorts of powers in the Abyss that lie routinely, but he is all about believable lies."

"What are her weaknesses?"

"Arrogance. It seems to go with the territory of anything that’s touched by the eldritch. But arrogance can be exploited, ask any lord of Hell."

"What personal defenses does she have?"

"She is incredibly diverse for one of the eldritch. An incredibly powerful psionicist. She also has powers from her role as a paramour of the eldritch. From her time in the Hells, her skin cannot be pierced by anything that is not holy; from her time in the Abyss, her skin cannot be pierced by any weapon that is not lawful. Oh, and her spell resistance—the great elves could get through it, but most humans could not. Oh, and she is a fairly powerful spellcaster. That’s about it. Oh, and her armor. The armor she took with her from Krashmere is Laen, still, which makes it dashedly harder to use orichalcum against her. It would affect her—she is tied in enough to Arthranax that some of the Eldritch weaknesses have rubbed off on her, but the laen makes it almost impossible to reach her."

Strategic questions about Hanal
"If the Church of Paranswarm deploys additional field armies, and the Crystal Cities provide support and a staging area, will the forces opposed to the Usurper of Hanal be able to prevail?"

"Firstly, define prevail."

"The range from deposing the Usurper on the one side to holding a meaningful portion of Hanal from her military control."

"The Field Armies of Paranswarm cannot depose her. They can hold enough territory within Hanal to keep her from achieving her goals within Hanal. If the Council of the Crystal Cities could be convinced to engage directly—not merely providing support and staging, but taking the field—that could be sufficient to depose her and eliminate her, but I find that extremely unlikely."

"What if any major strategic assets or plans does the Usurper have that have not yet been revealed?"

"Another entire army. Deep in the Underdark, in the southwest. She’s holding those in reserve. That is a major intelligence get."

"What is her plan in Hanal and what does she hope to accomplish there?"

"If she can hold it long enough, she is drawing the life from the soil itself. She is attempting to power, through the blood of her own people, additional forces for herself and Arthranax. She will let loyal covates and people in those lands to starve to death, with their life energy being drawn off to power her spiritual entities. Hanal was primed for this because of the blood fete; Hanal and Tarsh are the only lands with the blood fete, and Tarsh was too organized. She hopes to power herself and Arthranax to or above the power of Glordiadel and Paranswarm. Had Arthranax gotten all of the energy of Berta, he would not need this. But he did not get all of Berta’s energies. But they plan for redundancies. Remember that he does not use the same creatures as his 'friends,' and even I do not know them all."

Questions about other big mysteries?
"Where and in what status is the Prince of the Cities of Pain and is his disappearance connected to the machinations of Arthranax?"

"Yes. He has been taken captive and moved off the Prime Plane where he always resided. It’s a problem for the living gods of Morgroth. They are often embodied and thus vulnerable for things like this. But on a positive note, Arthranax is finding it harder to absorb the power of a demigod of Morgroth."

"Besides Berta, the Blue Star, and the attack in progress on Sytry and the Prince of the Cities of Pain, what are the other demigod or greater beings, if any, in the Aphonion sheaf of planes that Arthranax has consumed or is currently attacking?"

"He has consumed a few demon lords, but nothing major. If he can complete his consumption of the Prince of the Cities of Pain, the Lord of the Fields of the Dead, and especially if she can accomplish her goals as well, that would take him up to greater god status, more powerful even than your god Glordiadel or my god Paranswarm. That would still leave the elven gods as greater powers, and to fight a war with them when you are not on their level—iffy, I would think."

"Who are the currently unknown-to-us powerful mortal families or temporal or religious powers that have been corrupted or replaced by the minions of Arthranax?"

"I don’t know that I would consider them major on the surface, but they have coopted the Cult of Guanadar in the Underdark, because Guanadar is just an aspect of Jubilex. In the Underdark that is sufficient to threaten some of the non-matriarchal and non-cadet drow cities. One of the lords under the Baron of Augart, but only one." [Augart is reclusive, near the South Kingdoms; excellent ports, strong ships, adequate troops; part of Southern Drucien but not incorporated into the Empire; Paranswarmian]

"Where is Quinliart Moriquendarim, also called Lord Raf, and what’s he up to?"

"He has other names as well, you know. He has been a very busy boy for a long time. Up until 103 years ago, he was a loyal slaver and minion of the House of Moriquendarim and the Prince of the Cities of Pain and all of that, ran Zorplona-Moriquendarim like a clock, and then he overreached. You ever wonder why I’m an Archivist? Because nobody kills the Archivists. But then he overreached, decided they weren’t wealthy enough, but if they could take the Crystal Cities he would dominate the Noldar. So he attacked the Ruby City. It was not a success. His army was destroyed, one of his companions was slaughtered, and he retreated as a broken elf back to Enclaves. He thought his gods had failed him, and sought another. And he became a mole. And when he left, he took all the wealth that they had gathered for a hundred years, and now he and his forces, except his aide, Lord Alvinus, they are now in the Kingdom of the Isles, with his cousin, the Lord of the Seventh House. His cousin is not corrupted, but will not betray him, or his wealth. But he is truly despicable, even beyond the standards of Hell. He captured the elite of his own blood, and used them as sacrifices to the Abomination. He is beneath contempt of the Hells."

"As you know, we have a plan in motion with the old Globe of the Emperor of Masque. How can we ensure that our team arrives when the Globe is not phased out?"

"That concerns us all. The easiest way is to scry the area regularly, but you should keep the method of scrying concealed. Once it appears, you will have either 3, 7, or 9 days. If you see it appear, you will know the minimum amount of time. You could also get a bound devil of information to inform when it arrives."

"What is the Lord of the Ram up to and plotting?"

"Causing impregnations as rapidly as he can in small villages in northern Hanal which are being blasted almost as fast as they’re impregnated by Eldar and Noldar vollers."

"What do the Sytrian apostates who have turned to Arthranax as the Blue Sun intend next?"

"They’re waiting for transport. They will be moved far to the South. To an area I find disturbing to consider, to be hidden until they’re needed for their next strike.

"I believe that that is your nineteen questions. A pleasure. A free piece of advice: if he is forced to target another for consumption, it would be Borsh’tro. Borsh’tro is weakened, but he commands hordes of the Abyss. He is weakened, having been reduced to a greater demon lord from a god. My lord has sent a missive to warn him, but he may be too arrogant to listen.

"He’s been concealing it from everyone, but that happened on the Day of the Dead without anyone realizing it when the Age shifted."

* * *
They ask the Sixth Daughter about the Southern Continents. There are tunnels that go all the way to the poles, but she knows of no exits on any continent other than the ice covered one at the pole. She can remember the continents, but thinks they are of no interest if there are no connections to the Underdark—it seems to have a different effect on her.
[End Session 115]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 116 (August 12, 2020)
Ras 15

Dame Brionna shares a report about an elven scout voller. [Attached] There was a surge of energy when they passed over the capital of Hanal, and they were fired upon by a more substantial ground attack than they have experienced before.

There is now an energy dome in place over the capital, and refugees fleeing with descriptions of dreadful events taking place in the capital. Refugees are coming here by voller.

Kit passes this on to Princess Anastasia.

Kit reports that she has a full list of the body parts—where everyone is. [Attached] That points to where we need replacements, including toes that are missing their legs; there are a lot of eyes that need redistribution.

Kit plans on: filling in ankles and toes that are missing; promoting some naughty bits to bosoms, increasing numbers of naughty bits; setting the eyes in the Barony of Augurt on finding the traitor in their nobility; building a network out in Enclaves and surrounding realms (e.g. Escilias); building up the halo (adding “rays”, moving some existing agents over to this; recruiting elderly devout women laity); getting more eyes in general.

In Masque: infiltrating the various orders would be really useful, but is challenging; almost all of the network is maskless, which makes them very hard to infiltrate the orders. Vulture, Spider, Pig should be easy to infiltrate. Wolf, Bear, and Horse are almost impossible to get into; Mantis is completely impossible.

They look over the price list. [Attached] The primary action items are promoting the use of maple syrup and promoting sugar and spice plantations in the Southlands, and seeing whether sugar and spices can be produced in the Southern Continent.

---
The Council sends a message to their ambassador to Augurt to warn the Baron’s younger brother that they have a traitor (quietly) and to encourage Augurt to join the Empire (overtly)

Alistair calls for the Ambassador from Mandrath.

They discuss the apostate Sytry armies on the island off the coast.

The fleet of Mandrath has been recalled; they should be able to contain the army against naval crossing, unless they bring in a separate warfleet to challenge the navy.

The imperial council receives permission to deploy “special assets” to help contain them. (They’re hiring submersibles from Masque.)
-----

We ask Mistress Burleytoes (the Gunnoran midwife/high priest) and the Mistress of the Bedchamber to attend upon us.

The cover story is that they’re consulting with them about the imperial pregnancies. Mistress Burleytoes insists on fully examining everyone.

Mistress Burleytoes agrees to speak to Gunnora about assisting Sytry in expelling Arthranax, in his guise as the Blue Star, from Sytry’s heaven.

They also discuss the slaughter in Hanal’s capital; she says that that means that they’ve begun the transposition. On their homeworld, when this happened, it would take months or even years. "Transposition elevates a single figure. It has never happened here, and the sacrifices here are weaker and they are less tied to this world, even with Arthranax. If they are only using humans, it will take years, and they cannot use drow blood. Half-elves, fey, light elves, Noldar would do—but that would be beyond them to capture. It will transpose her into the equivalent of She of the Bones, but now bound to Arthranax. The one thing that could accelerate it—to the category of months not years—would be a powerful elven ally. The transposition will make her a lesser goddess, but it will bind her to him in the way that the One Beside is bound to the Goddess of the Pale Bone. They tried to create a mate fro him in our world, but it failed. For what it’s worth—I think they’ll have more problems than they think.

"Also, if they’re trying this now rather than waiting, he believes his time is limited. He will probably remain a power, but if he is cast out of Sytry’s heaven, he will become one more gibbering demon—a little more powerful perhaps because he’s a god, but it will limit him."

They move on to discussing the problem of nobles who want to father children and especially sons. She suggests that some of the fey lords, who are almost gods, might be good choice. The Horned Lord is a god associated with deer, and fecundity. There is also a grain lord—less direct, but could make plants that encourage.

She suggests that they get an introduction to the Horned Lord through the Tor; he’s not hesitant to speak to mortals.

“Just do be careful, my lord. You must be clear to him that you’re not personally looking for increased virility.”

Kit emphasizes the importance of making sure that this doesn’t cause confusion with the Ram, or people continuing to venerate the Ram but pretending that it’s the Horned Lord.

They also ask about the parentage of the children of Glordiadel, or of the Weeping Woman. They arrived after the birth of Glordiadel’s children. But she does know that the Weeping Woman is not in fact the child of Paranswarm, but is the daughter of the Creator. Paranswarm has never been willing to refute her claim to be his daughter, but that is known by the hierarchs of several major temples. She came into being almost immediately after Paranswarm, but as a deliberate act of creation, not as a by-blow. Like all of the Creator’s children, she had no mother but was directly created from his essence. She is the weakest and youngest of the elven pantheon. Glordiadel’s children are his own—presumably there must be a mother, but perhaps not.
[cont'd]
 

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CPaladin

Explorer
[Session 116, cont'd]
They call for Bishop Waters.

They discuss the problem with nobles having problems fathering sons. They ask about the idea of promoting a society of the Horned Lord. A little veneration, but without actually worshipping him, and while remaining publicly Glordiadelian, would be tolerated.

He mentions that there are a smattering of other secret orders, so it wouldn’t be much worse than that.

"There are various secret orders of alchemists; there are secret societies that are from the Archduchy, plus new ones come up from the Southlands (without their religion, but they are keeping their societies); some craft orders, and the Lumbermen, who would be a problem if they actually did anything, but they’re infiltrated and harmless now. The alchemical orders are amazing—they can’t do anything, have no real alchemists among them, but they learn their little scripts and do their things. But the groups in Paranswarm end up doing dreadful things. A century or two ago, there was a fear that the alchemical orders would turn to demonism. But it never did, and over time it became accepted."

"Are there any saints that could be used to promote childbirth?"

"There are a couple of saints that relate to the home, or children, or fertility—but none of virility. Some of motherhood, but even there, it’s mostly after the children are born."

"We were also wondering who the mother of Glordiadel's children is. We assume they must have one?"

"The canon of the church says that the children of Glordiadel emerged from the essence of the god. A mother would imply a coequal or such, and there is none such in the doctrine. But it does seem strange, does it not? There is an old tradition in the faith that the children were born from the universe itself. But there is no theology behind it—it’s simply a tradition."

Bishop Waters asks to call for a true Doctor of Theology with deeper understanding to speak to them.

Alistair and Kit go to talk to the Tor, figuring this isn't really Dame Brionna's sort of conversation.

The Tor holds an instant feast in their honor.

Alistair and Kit ask after the Horned Lord.

“He’s a fine fellow, well-met, a pretty good hunter, and excellent in bed.”

He immediately starts speaking in fey. There is a flash of greenlight, and a completely naked figure, very attractive, with a stag’s head, appears.

He agrees to establish lodges, which will offer him the fruits of the hunt in honor of him, and he will give them blessings.

They set up Lucas, Alistair’s old "sporting" buddy, as the grand huntmaster of the lodge, and set up a set of oaths to keep them loyal to the Empire, that nobles in the lodges can’t father bastards until they’ve sired an heir, etc., and to hate the Ram and his followers (with some probably taking on the role of hunting followers of the Ram).

A magical tree with a lodge inside it forms outside the walls of the city.
[End Session 116]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 117 (Aug. 26, 2020)

Three uneventful days pass.

21 Ras
They review the family tree and discuss it with the court archivist. The Duchy of Canberry was founded 990 years ago by Duke Andor. They presume Duchess Lesse, his wife, was fey. That was 20 generations ago, so the generations are roughly twice as long as human average.

The women of the Ashberry family remain fertile much longer than normal; the onset of fertility is also early.

Lesse was found under a mushroom tree. She was a powerful mage, and Duke Andor fell in love with her immediately. She was said to be very pale. That’s consistent with Sidhe.

The special relationship with the fey dates to the founding of the duchy, according to the archivist.

We ask about the succession of Archduke Staven. He had three older siblings who were poisoned. Shortly after Staven’s marriage, his older siblings and their spouses all unfortunately died. That was about 500 years ago.

"There was a major famine through a lot of this section of Drucien because of the bombardments by Region 6 of the Argoni. They softened us up for a few hundred years before taking a significant number of slaves. And of course there was also the struggle within the Church. That was the time of the Three Patriarchs."

This was also at roughly the same time as the arrival of the church of Sytry and the church of Gunnora.

They ask whether Life sided with one of the anti-patriarchs; the archivist doesn’t know, but agrees to find out.

Alistair's grandmother’s heirs were born of her third husband, of the Forsythe family; she did have children with both of the first two husbands, but they were never viewed as suitable. His uncles were not very bright. She excluded them from the succession by fiat. Evan’s son, who is no longer in good health, had a reputation for the second sight. They ask that all of the descendants of Evan’s son be tracked down and brought back into the fold. The archivist agrees to follow after it.

Matilda Ashberry was Alistair's grandmother’s first cousin; she married into a Khamista royal family and then assumed power.

Archduchess Visaiss was psionically powerful; unusually so for a human. Around the end of her reign, Region 6 began to raid for slaves significantly. She reached past grandmaster—possibly paragon—in Creation, and grandmaster in redaction.

There are rumors that Visaiss did not have any of her father’s features. The Archivist believes that she was a throwback, not illegitimate. There are three reasons for his belief. First, the Tor recognizes her, and the Tor only recognizes based on their bloodline. That’s the strongest evidence. Second, they have Aimee’s papers—there’s nothing that suggests anything untoward. Third, Aimee was profoundly devout, and would likely have viewed an affair as impossible to imagine.

"I also know that she found it very difficult to conceive. We speculate that she prayed for intervention, or perhaps that she also had fey or elven blood."

The Balliers were a powerful shipping family from the now-lost Eastern Trade Cities on Khamista. Alistair's great-grandfather likely viewed that as a means to gain access to ports and power on the seas. But Gertrude passed in childbirth, and her husband never remarried. (They note this as weird; but it could be reflective of less-than-fully human heritage, since the great elves die in childbirth frequently.)

There is an extremely peculiar pattern: as best as can be told, every succession in the entire history of the house is parent to child, with the royal line never failing and passing to a cousin. There has also never been a civil war in Canberry. The nearest was with Brightspan, it could have developed much worse than it did. In almost 1000 years, only close to one civil war.

The only other example that’s even comparable is the Grand Duchy of Ergmoth, which has had 1500 years of unbroken succession—although even that was a little irregular in the last generation, when the old Grand Duke died under strange circumstances just after his children were born, with the Grand Duchess ruling in his stead.

Tudras, Staven’s younger brother, was sent off as an adventurer, and then disappeared. His sister-in-law even gifted him a drop of life.

They call for a master alchemist to check Alistair’s blood to make sure.

Bishop Waters does some divinations. Tudras was a powerful warrior, a successful merchant on Khamista. He had many children with many women—three wives, at least six other paramours who had children, including some elven descendants. It’s consistent with the Forsythe family actually being a cadet branch of Ashberry—Tudras changed his name repeatedly. He ultimately died at sea fighting pirates—they couldn’t defeat him, so they sank his ship (and his treasure, but that was just a regular merchant treasure).
[cont'd]
 

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