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ZEITGEIST BSI: Bosum Strand Irregulars

roadtoad

aka skotothalamos
The Future is Now

The constables made their way into the next archway, prepared to see their future. Through the fog, they found themselves on the top floor of a five-hundred-foot-tall tower in the middle of a wasted, abandoned city. The tower rose into a spire above the floor they were on, and featured four balconies. On each of the balconies was a platinum loop, suspended like a doorway. Through one of the portals, the constables could see the gold-domed rooftops and spires of Alais Primos. Near the middle of the tower, a body lay on the ground, motionless. The large man’s face was obscured in shadow.

The howling wind picked up and the portal turned black. A shadowy wraith emerged from each of the four portals. The wraiths had fire in the eye sockets of their skulls, and were draped in robes that seemed to contain endlessly screaming ghostly mouths. The wraiths immediately attacked the minds of the constables, forcing them to re-enact tragedies that had happened before.

Cazara threw herself from the balcony, saved only by her Ring of Feather Fall and her Winged Bracers, which turned a terminal leap into more of a majestic swoop. Alienor starting shooting everyone, seeing Gale and her husband in front of her. IronPeak relived the war, charging everything in sight. Colleen lashed out at James, once again forgetting who as friend and who was foe. James escaped any negative effects, and Summer turned the tables on the wraiths, forcing them to relive the fall of Srasama, burning them with her radiant fires.

After they got control of their minds back, Colleen healed Alienor, but Alienor felt a pulse from her Rod of Negation. Finally realizing that the Rod was negating positive magic in addition to being able to dispel unwanted magic, Alienor decided the time was right to be done with the rod. She moved to the middle of the fight and cracked the bone over her knee, blasting everyone with the years of stored up magical energy held within the rod. Even that did not destroy the wraiths, but they were seriously weakened and the group was able to finish them off quickly enough.

When the wraiths vanished, they left small flames in their place. The group collected them in their hands, as they had done in the rooms of the past, but IronPeak stopped the others from combining them and ending the vision. She wanted to find out the identity of the dead man. Unfortunately, nothing she did could reveal his face. However, the more she studied him, the more she was reminded of bringing pants to Mister Mapple on the Avery Coast Railroad. Satisfied that she had her answer, she allowed the others to end the vision, which left them in a small bare room similar to the others. In the room were the six burned bodies of the constables themselves.

When they went to investigate their own bodies, the bodies disappeared. There was a new doorway available, and after taking a short break to catch their breath, the constables were off to another vision of the future.

In this one, Rock Rackus was leading them through a dense forest while flaming asteroids rained down from overhead. The stars had re-arranged themselves into a massive pair of gear-like constellations slowly turning. In between them, a galaxy was being pulled in and crushed. Rock yelled at the constables to get to the ship before they all got killed, and then a meteor hit the ground near them, opening up a fissure in the ground. The fissure revealed that the forest they were running through was sitting on a surface of crystal, and below the crystal was fire. Also, the fissure was now separating the constables from Rock, who kept running for the ship.

The thirty-foot span was little challenge for the constables. Cazara and Colleen leapt it easily, as did IronPeak after transforming into the form of a ram. James flew across with his Remarkable Rocket Boots, Alienor tried to teleport across by shooting Rock Rackus, but all she succeeded in was injuring the singer, as he was too far away for her magic to work. Summer scooped up Alienor and flew across with her.

As they reached the other side, a group of demons wrapped in gold chain appeared behind them. The demons were the same as those the group had encountered in the Vault of Heresies, though the Vault demons had chains of lead instead of gold. Xambria immediately recognized the Golden Legion of Egal the Shimmering. She excitedly shouted in Cazara’s head while Cazara put us much distance between herself and the demons as she could.

The demons teleported swiftly through the tangled forest, passing Colleen, James, and Alienor as they all ran for one ship, hanging in mid-air at the edge of a cliff up ahead. As Summer, Cazara, IronPeak and Rock Rackus closed in on the flying ship, they saw the flames of five torches similar to the fires of the previous visions. As the group scooped up the fires and looked ready to escape the vision, Summer was apparently caught up in the excitement and asked Rock to marry her.

“Sure thing, baby,” said Rock, “as soon as we get out of this!” Just then, the leader of the demons teleported next to Rock. His massive pincers grasped Rackus and tore him in two, throwing the pieces in two directions. The constables quickly combined the flames to end the vision before something else horrible happened.

They found themselves in a tiny room intended for one person to meditate. Summer tried to meditate, but just felt uncomfortable. Cazara took over, and felt herself content with her past, present, and future. The group looked around the temple for a direction. As they returned to the front room, they saw that the carving of Ingatan had been replaced by a fiery archway. With no fear, Summer went through the archway, followed by the others.

They found themselves on top of the temple. Ingatan’s four hands each held a flame. Suspended in space before them, they saw a silvery circlet with a chunk missing, matching the appearance of the ring around Apet. Summer grabbed the Arc of Reida and put it on her head. The sharp edges where the piece was missing cut into her forehead and the arc felt much heavier when she was wearing it than when it was in her hand.

Summer felt a pull to several places in Elfaivar. She knew that if she went to places where she had significant memories, she could relive those memories similar to the way Ingatan’s Refuge had given them visions of the past and future. Now, she had only to decide if she was ready…
 

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roadtoad

aka skotothalamos
Sharp Hat

After their success in Ingatan’s Refuge, the constables stayed the night again with the Children of Hewanharimau, enjoying another feast of delicious but unfamiliar meats. In the morning, they were trying to decide on their next business. Summer said the Arc of Reida was pulling her southward, and when she had asked the stars, they told her to go to Rumah Terakir, the “Last Home.” As the group discussed this, IronPeak got a Sending from Delft.

“They’ve spotted Tinker Oddcog in Ber. Get to Seobriga ASAP!” He somehow managed to teleport a newspaper clipping to her which said that Tinker had been seen in the company of Cazara’s old boss at the Executores, Glaucia Evora. The article implied that the gnome was going to be put in charge of military projects for Ber. No on thought this was a good thing, and the group told Summer her memories would have to wait.

Cazara said that she had some unfinished business in Elfaivar, in a place called Sentosa (which was annoyingly not on the map). She suggested that the group cut across Elfaivar to Rumah Terakir, and then catch up with the RNS Impossible on the south coast, whereupon they could sail to Seobriga. They made the appropriate arrangements and set off for Rumah Terakir.

Along the way, the made a stop at a Bloody Stump Trading post, picking up a few bullets and healing potions. The troll hand nailed to a tree was a strange landmark, but the small camp of Beran traders and the opportunity to sleep in something resembling a bed were too good to pass up.

After about six days of travel, the team arrived at a massive ruined city, seemingly about the size of Flint. The jungle had not invaded the borders of the city, however, and James said he thought he could see the auras of magical milestones protecting the perimeter of the city. The group warily entered, looking about for a secret entrance. Summer and Cazara inferred that the city they were looking for has shifted into the Dreaming and that there must be a portal somewhere.

A brief exploration of the city turned up three temples that were still more or less intact. A large Pyramid to Srasama was mostly intact, except for the destroyed statue of Srasama at its top. An amphitheater-like stepped depression into the ground seemed to be devoted to Ingatan, and a domed structure covered in animal carvings and whose only entrance was sealed by a massive stone looked like a temple for Hewanharimau. The group investigated Ingatan’s temple first.

The vertical surfaces of the ten-foot-high steps were covered in Eladrin writing. The writing obscured a second layer of writing magically hidden behind the first. Xambria excitedly started making notes and James put on his reading glasses to translate the text. It turned out that the writings were the enchanted transcriptions of people’s memories. The arcanists discovered that the writings could be activated through meditation and study, allowing a person to learn the skills of whomever had recorded their memories here. Most f the group decided it was worth a day’s delay to tap into that power. Alienor sort of harrumphed and spent her time smoking and exploring the ruins of the city.

After a day’s study with Ingatan, the group moved on to Hewanharimau. Cazara asked th building what was inside, and the building showed her images of a bronze urn filled with a bubbling red liquid, and also a brightly-glowing blue stone. James and Colleen worked out the engineering to remove the stone blocking the entrance, which mostly meant coming up with a rope that would be strong enough to allow Colleen to just pull the stone out of the way like a giant mechanical pack mule. Inside, the low, domed structure featured many carvings of animals, with a repeated theme of a tiger walking like a man. In the center of the temple, they found the urn full of blood on a stone plinth. Cazara, Summer, and IronPeak all had a drink. Colleen splashed the blood on her face, while James abstained entirely. Alienor waited outside, as she had done at the last temple.

Summer suffered no ill effects from the foul tiger’s blood. Ironpeak’s hands became furry and clawed, making it difficult for her to manipulate objects. Cazara was affected even moreso, as her opposable thumbs receded back up her forearms and her hands stretched into tiger-like paws. Realizing that there was more to becoming a Child of Hewanharimau than just drinking the blood of Hewanharimau, Cazara and IronPeak asked James to prepare a couple of Remove Affliction rituals. Deciding it would be rude to remove the “blessing” Hewanharimau in his temple, James headed outside, but his way was blocked.

A ghostly woman appeared, holding a brightly-glowing blue stone. “Will you stand against evil in all its forms?” asked the woman, in Elvish. James had no idea what she said, but Summer did. She held the First Blade of Srasama high and told the ghost that she came in the name of Srasama. The ghostly woman keyed more on Summer’s raised sword than her words and simply said, “Challenge accepted.”

The stone turned to a sword and the two began to duel. Summer cast spell after spell at the ghost, and the ghost kept changing her weapon from one form to another. First it was a bastard sword, then a longbow, then a great axe. At one point it was a whip, used to tie up Summer’s feat. Summer responded by channeling the energy of the triple goddess Srasama and teleporting to three places at once. Colleen tried to heal Summer at one point, but her exhortations had no effect; some abjuration was preventing any of Summer’s colleagues from interfering in the duel. The two circled the temple for several minutes, and Summer looked like she would lose, but she kept chugging healing potions and mocking the skill of the temple’s guardian. Finally, the guardian relented.

“You are a worthy champion,” she said, “to carry the Arsenal of Dhebisu.” She told Summer the story of how Hewanharimau had betrayed the other Eladrin gods in ancient times, and had been cursed to become a rakshasa, a demon in the form of a tiger that walked like a man. She told her that none could defeat Hewanharimau, and his great claws wiped entire villages from the map, until the hero Dhebisu hunted him down. She learned of his weakness from the great cats of the jungle, and when a meteor fell, she created her arsenal from it metal. Dhebisu mocked Hewanharimau relentlessly, much as Summer had just done with the temple guardian, and she was able to anger the rakshasa, forcing him to make tactical mistakes. Hewanharimau shot a poisoned arrow at Dhebisu, but she caught it and plunged it into his loins, killing him and insuring that he would never reincarnate. When Dhebisu passed from the world, this guardian brought her arsenal to the temple, hoping to find another champion who would stand against evil as Dhebisu once had. Now her duty was done, and she passed the stone to Summer.

Summer found that she could make the arsenal into any weapon she wanted. As a spellcaster (who just happened to cast spells using a sword), she did not have much actual use for the Arsenal. She gifted it to IronPeak after they were safely away from the temple. James did his rituals and Summer meditated before the group decided to tackle the temple of Srasama.

Inside, they found a archway flanked by two lion statues. They could feel the extraplanar energy radiating from the gateway. Summer yelled to Alienor that she had better come along, because everyone was going to the real city. Alienor followed, but only on the promise that it would be less boring than Rumah Terakir.

As they tried to go through the portal, one of the lions came to life. The lion had ten heads, only one of which was attached to its body. The others floated around it, all looking at the constables. In unison, the ten heads asked, “Do you have the key?” No one knew what it was talking about. Various items were produced, including the Arsenal and a plain skeleton key, but the lion would have none of it. After an extended impasse, the lion looked at Summer and said (with ten voices), “I am receiving new instructions. Kasvarina Varal and her companions may enter the city of Sentosa.”

The group passed through the portal and were transported to a place that seemed to be the same city, but in its heyday. Hundreds of eladrin and few milled about. An invisible man in a fancy suit tipped his hat to the party, and a squad of Eladrin guards got their attention. “Athrylla is waiting for you,” the lead guard said. “Please come along.”

The guards escorted the group to the same Srasama temple they had just left, but this one was undamaged and seemed to have been set up as a seat of government. On the top floor of the pyramid, they met with the Matriarch of Sentosa, Athrylla Valanar.

“What brings you here, Kasvarina,” she asked, seeming unpleased with the name. “Are you still calling yourself Kasvarina Varal, ‘Scourge of the Revolution?’ What business do you and your band of demons and technological monstrosities have with us? Give me one good reason I shouldn’t throw the lot of you in my dungeon.”

Summer explained that she had no memories of who Kasvarina was and that she was using the name Summer now. She told Athrylla that Grappa had wiped her memories and regresses her to adolescence in the hopes that she could be reborn as a new person, but now Summer found she needed information on who she had been so she could atone for her sins and right the wrongs that she had once done, so she was using the Arc of Reida to regain her memories, and the Arc seemed to be pulling her here. She showed Athrylla the First Blade of Srasama and told her that the sword had chosen her and shouldn’t that be worth something? Cazara vouched for Summer, saying she has been inducted into the Vekeshi Mystics and was now on the right path.

Athrylla locked eyes with Summer. “I hope what you say is true. I can think of no better punishment for you than to have to relive the awful consequences of the horrible things you’ve done in your life. I could not devise a more perfect curse for you, ‘Kasvarina,’ and I hope you get what you deserve. That your own terrorist organization accepted you is typical. It’s disgusting that you named them for Vekesh, when you perverted his vision of patience into one of assassination. What’s the point in assassinating humans? They breed like rabbits and die in 80 years anyway. Go to Aozagi and remember Vekesh the way he was, not the way his message has been twisted. Go to Navras and remember Vekesh as he was. See if that helps you to see what you have done. Those ‘Mystics’ of yours brought nothing but hatred and more war to our people, and you should be ashamed of what they do! I know why that sword chose you, and I could tell you, but it will be far more satisfying to know that you’ll have to relive it and deal with the repercussions of your life. Go, find your memories, and then leave my enclave as fast as you can, before I change my mind and throw you in the dungeon anyway.”

Summer thanked her and made her way out as quickly as possible, not noticing in her haste that Zara stayed behind and had a private conversation with Athrylla about Vekesh.

Summer was being drawn to a house in the city. Cazara caught up on the way and no one even missed her. At the house, Summer explained to the owner that the Arc of Reida was pulling her here to relive her old memories, and if he didn’t want to get drawn into the mess, he might want to leave. The eladrin man decided it would be a good time to take his dog for a walk, and left the constables with free run of his house.

When Summmer crossed the threshold, she was no longer in the year 501. She could feel that it was instead 279 and she was Kasvarina and she and her husband Asrabey had just come back from a conference with Athrylla. Some of the others were drawn into the memory as well. James found himself acting out the part of Asrabey, expressing dislike for Athrylla and a desire to be home in Ushanti. Colleen and IronPeak found themselves in the roles of house servants, quietly eavesdropping on Kasvarina and Asrabey’s conversation. Alienor and Cazara found themselves strangely detached form the whole event, as invisible observers of the past. Kasvarina told Asrabey that he must go on a mission to the Unseen Court in Risur, and she may never see him again. Asrabey asked to sleep with her if this might be their last night together, but she rebuffed him, saying she was too focused on her journey to Aozagi in the morning, to visit the graves of her two daughters.
After that, the memory faded, and James felt most awkward.

Before they had much time to process the memory, Summer felt the Arc pulling her back toward the temple of Srasama. When they arrived, the place was empty save for two guard watching Athrylla’s throne room. The group was drawn even further back, to the year 111. Again Alienor found herself a detached observer, but the rest were drawn into their parts. Summer once again became Kasvarina. Cazara found herself playing the part of Athrylla. Colleen had become a third Eladrin Matriach named Latika. By inhabiting the three Matriarchs, the three of them inherently knew that they were the famous Triad of Endurance, who had led the Eladrin people out of the disaster of the Great Malice, and guided them for a century. Also present were IronPeak as general Sor Daeron, whose right arm was entirely made of salt, after being hit by a Clergy spell during the war. James was Daeron’s attache, and the two guards were other military leaders.

Kasvarina pleaded before the other two Matriarchs and the General for help. The Dragon Tyrant Rillego had kidnapped her daughter Masako and she needed help to rescue her. The other Matriarchs were not interested. They accused Kasvarina of being a bad mother who failed to protect her daughter. Athrylla argued that it may be a trap meant to ensnare more than one Matriarch at once, and was not worth the risk. Eventually, Kasvarina was able to secure the promise of a few soldiers, including Latika’s personal house guard. She left the room, telling the others she would teleport to Seobriga within the hour. After she left, before the memory completely faded, Athrylla, Latika, and Sor all had a self-satisfied feeling: Kasvarina had taken the bait.

The memory faded, and the others told Summer what they had learned, that she had been sold out by her fellow Matriarchs, and they had set the whole thing up to get rid of her, or punish her, or some other motive they were unsure of. Alienor said she had felt like intervening for a moment, but she knew it was pointless, since from the previous memory they all knew that Kasvarina had to fail, as both of her daughters were dead 168 years later. After some discussion, the group realized that it was possible that Masako survived this series of events, but died later. Summer was most struck by one fact: she was alive and her daughter was not. How could that have happened? She had to know. She had to get to Seobriga (and Aozagi, and Ushanti, maybe, but those could wait). Delft wanted them in Seobriga, Summer wanted to be in Seobriga, and Athrylla wanted Summer gone, one way or another. It was definitely time to leave Sentosa.
 


roadtoad

aka skotothalamos
I'm excited and curious about how your players are taking this delve into Summer's history.
They had a lot of fun with it. I had everyone who failed their WIS check take on one of the roles in the memory, going them their motivations and (some of) their knowledge. For this first session, I did have to feed people lines from time to time to make the memories have the right conclusions. In future, I plan to make up little cards that explain who the character is, what info they need to share, and what their goal is for the memory. They all seemed to have fun getting to stretch their roleplay muscles. :)
 

roadtoad

aka skotothalamos
Summer's player studied Japanese, so I had her give me a list of names to replace Launga, Dala, Bhalu, and Resal with names that would make sense for her. We all decided together that Kasvarina Varal was a post-Malice pseudonym used by Summer.

In our world, there are (at least) two dominant Elfaivaran cultures: that derived from Japan and that derived from India.
 

roadtoad

aka skotothalamos
Worth mentioning that Summer (a 13th-level Sorcerer/Bard hybrid) took out the level 20 Kolyarut all by herself, and I didn't level it down at all. She needed 15+ to hit it, and she dropped two 17s and two crits (and a 5) in 4 successive rounds. The +4d12 crit bonus of the First Blade of Srasama (which she uses as an implement) and three Potions of Vitality got her through with 2 healing surges remaining.

I figured it was going to be one of those "come back and try the test again when you're more powerful" moments. I was wrong.
 

roadtoad

aka skotothalamos
Across to Ber

After several weeks, the constables were making their way out of Elfaivar, by way of the Danoran colony of Port Perrault. The port was originally established as a base for privateers during a previous way with Risur, and so the town was a bit rougher than other Danoran settlements the group had visited. Alienor took the opportunity to hire a printer to make up flyers spreading rumors that the rumors of her death had been exaggerated, and that the Jierre family were corrupt. Alienor hoped to fuel the fires of rebellion in her home country, starting with the sailors of Port Perrault.

Harkover Lee was aboard the RNS Impossible. He had inscribed a teleportation circle on the foredeck of the ship, so that supplies could be sent to the constables as needed. He also made sure the constables were up to speed on their Ber mission. They needed to track down Tinker Oddcog, last seen in Seobriga in the company of Cazara’s old boss, Glaucia Evora. Minister Lee informed the constables that the RHC had attempted to contact Oddcog through a Sending ritual, which is limited to 25 words. Oddcog’s response was:

“Twenty-five words? Three, four, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-four, thirty! Behold: base five! I have thwarted your numerical orthodoxy!” Followed by a fit of laughter for a few seconds, which apparently counted as a single word.

Lee facilitated the acquisition of some supplies and then used the teleportation circle to return to Risur. The short journey across the sea was mostly uneventful, save for Summer idly deciding to start collecting husbands. Rock Rackus’s acceptance of her marriage proposal in the future has emboldened her. She expressed a desire to marry Mister Mapple as well (to save him from his fate). IronPeak seemed none too happy about this idea.

As they arrived at the port of Seobriga, the constables noticed the Lux Profectusque, Lya Jierre’s ship, was in the harbor. Once ashore, Alienor decided that her number-one priority would be to keep an eye on the ship. While the others explored the city and tracked down Oddcog, Alienor found herself a nice sniper nest on top of a tall warehouse, and kept tabs on the comings and goings on the Danoran ship. She noticed Lya Jierre’s notorious bodyguard Rush Munchhausen and his unmistakable paired Immovable Rods stalking about with some thugs, apparently also keeping an eye on activity in the harbor.

Meanwhile, the rest of the crew accompanied Cazara as she showed them around her former hometown, on the way to finding Glaucia. The weekly protests were in full swing, and the streets were full of orcs and lizardfolk and minotaurs in fancy wool dress clothes topped with the peculiar powdered wigs that had gone out of fashion a decade previous in Risur. The protesters waved different flags, each color-coded to a particular grievance. The constables did not partake. Cazara checked in at her old Executore office, inquiring after Glaucia. She was told that Glaucia was presiding over trials at the “courthouse,” which was a euphemism for the skeleton of the last dragon ruler of Seobriga. When the dragon Widoreva died, the citizens of Seobriga left her body where it fell, and eventually used her remains as a place to sit in judgment of one another.
In a coincidence that IronPeak would no doubt put down to a healthy dose of narrativium, Glaucia just happened to be presiding over the trial of Brakken of Heffanita that day, the arbitrator who the constables had met a few months prior before the aborted Danor-Risur peace summit. The bailiff asked if any of the group were there to testify in the defense of the Minotaur. No one took him up on the offer except for Summer. After a brief pre-interview with Glaucia, Summer was told to sit in the front row for the trial; she would be called as a character witness.

The trial started promptly. Brakken was paraded before the jeering throng, and Glaucia read out his alleged crime. He was accused of using mind control to violate the free will of others, breaking up a fight between a pair of orcs. Glaucia traced a ring of fire on the ground with her finger, and asked each witness to step into the Circle of Truth and give testimony. As each witness entered, she asked them to state the date and their name, and then to mis-state the date. When the witness said it was a different day than it was, the fire would rise up and slightly burn them. Once Glaucia was satisfied that the enchantment was working, she asked questions about the events.

The two orcs’ stories matched up. They got into a fight. One shoved the other into Brakken. Seeing a good opportunity to use a Minotaur as an improvised weapon, that orc then shoved Brakken at the other orc. Then, they both felt calm and did not wish to fight any more, a very un-orcish turn of events. Other witnesses confirmed the orcs’ version of events. Brakken was called, and he said that he asked the men to stop fighting. When pressed for more details, Brakken admitted to using his natural magical talent to sway the men in an effort to prevent harm to himself and them. He said that his calming influence would have subsided as soon as he left, and that he did no harm to the pugilists.

Glaucia called Summer to the Circle. When asked her name, Summer said, “Summer,” and the flames burned her. Glaucia reminded her that she was to tell the truth while in the circle. Glaucia asked again, and Summer used her original name, a name barely remembered from her childhood, years before she had become Kasvarina: “Kuraguchi Yoku.” Glaucia then asked her to lie about the date, to make sure the Circle was working. Glaucia asked Summer how she knew Brakken and if she had ever seen him use his magical powers to affect the minds of others. Summer said she had actually seen the opposite: Brakken had been affected by the moods of those around him far more than he had affected them. She also shared that she herself had magical powers that sometimes got out of control. Glaucia asked if Summer thought she was a danger to herself and others. Summer responded that sometimes things got a little crazy, but she was working hard on using her powers for good and helping people, even though sometimes she hurts them when helping them, like that one time she lit James on fire to save him from being eaten by a Mimic. Summer went on for some time about how the intentions of a person had to be taken into account when judging their actions, and she took complete command of the courtroom, tapping into a latent talent for oratory. By the time she was finished, the entire “courtroom” was hanging on her every word.

Glaucia took some time to consider everything she had heard. She finally rendered her ruling. Brakken had meant to help those around him, and had acted honorably. No one present at the court was to speak ill of him in regards to this matter, or they would face the judgment of the court. However, Brakken had broken the letter of the law, and so must be punished with a mandatory beating. Glaucia asked Brakken to approach her “desk” at the nose of the dragon’s skull. She asked him to hold out his hands, and then she rapped him once across each knuckles with her cudgel, drawing his blood.

Later that night, Cazara and Glaucia got together for drinks at a nearby tavern called El Ano del Dragón. The two old friends caught up on each other’s lives. Eventually, Cazara asked about the wherabouts of Tinker Oddcog, and Glaucia said she had last seen him in the Bruse’s entourage. Apparently, the little gnome as being tasked with secret projects to modernize the Beran military. She had not seen him since, but figured the best place to ask would be at the Bruse’s summer court, a day’s journey up the road. She mentioned to Cazara that her influence might help the constables get an audience with Bruse Shantus, but she had a full docket the next day and would not be able to leave until the day after. Cazara thanked her and said she would get back to her.

Meanwhile, Alienor was getting very antsy about finding Lya Jierre. Summer could not detect her within the mile radius of her sword’s lady detector, so Cazara started asking the city. Not the people, but the city itself. The city told her that someone matching Lya’s description had left by the north road, heading toward the summer court, just a day before. Was Lya Jierre also searching for Tinker? Now the race was on. The constables needed to get to the summer court quickly. They resolved to leave early the next morning, but before that, they would have to deal with another of Summer’s recovered memories.
 

roadtoad

aka skotothalamos
A Beautiful Feathered Tyrant

Before leaving Seobriga, the constables dealt with another of Summer’s recovering memories. Summer felt the Arc of Reida pulling her to a part of town that Cazara recognized as home to a monument of the first time a foreigner slew a Beran dragon. Worried that the memory event might draw in bystanders, and therefore deprive them of their liberty, Cazara and IronPeak announced to the nearby citizens what was happening, giving them a chance to leave the area. Only about half left. The others seemed interested in seeing what would happen.

Night turned to day, and Summer found herself running through the streets of Seobriga, chasing the dragon Rillego as he carried her daughter Masako. Summer melted away and she was Kasvarina once again. As she shouted angrily at the blood-red dragon, her rage was channeled into a blade of lightning that collapsed a nearby building. Behind her, Kasvarina was pursued by the general Sor Daeron, whose right arm had been turned to salt by a clergy spell during the war 111 years prior. Behind him was Latika, another Eladrin matriarch. Rillego landed on a spire, holding Masako under one of his great claws.

Kasvarina tried to run to Masako, but Sor stopped her, summoning a wall of force in her path. She tried to teleport, but the gold bricks of the street stopped her from moving. Sor’s salt arm grabbed her. “We know, Kasvarina, and so you must pay, and not just with your death, but first you must lose all that you care for.” With that, Latika signaled the dragon, and Rillego vomited forth a torrent of fire onto Masako, burning away her flesh and killing her instantly.

Kasvarina shook herself free from Sor and flew toward Rillego, who launched himself into the air. Sor and Latika scrambled for cover in nearby buildings, but Kasvarina took her revenge on them first. She fired lightning at Sor’s refuge, collapsing the building around him. Latika escaped into a nearby street and waved for Rillego, who swooped down and picked her up. As they flew away, Kasvarina used her Unrelenting Geas spell to seize control of the dragon’s mind and force him to throw Latika to the ground, killing her as well. The constables who had not been drawn into the memory saw Sor Daeron escape the collapsed building as Kasvarina went to her daughter’s body, half burnt away by the dragonfire.

As reality came back, Summer was struck by what an awful person she must have been before, to be so hated by her fellow eladrin. IronPeak told her that Sor Daeron had been seen sneaking away, and James, who had been drawn into the memory in the role of Sor, remembered having a strong urge to go into hiding in Ber. But that information would have to be tabled for the time being; the constables were off to the Bruse’s summer court in the morning.

While the others slept, Cazara went to commune with her old apartment, in order to find out what had become of her old eladrin girlfriend Dhebisu, who had gone missing several years ago. Cazara had found evidence that she had been abducted and sold into slavery. The trail had led her to Risur, but then gone cold, and Cazara had joined the RHC to keep searching for clues in and around Flint. With her newfound ability to ask cities and buildings for information, she asked her old apartment building what had happened when Dhebisu had disappeared. The building told her that “Dheb” had trashed their apartment and then walked out under her own power. This information floored Cazara. Had everything been a lie? Much like Summer, she did not have time to chase this development; the group was on the road in the morning.

The next day, Cazara went to Glaucia and asked her to clear her docket for the day and join them immediately on the road to the summer court as Lya Jierre was undoubtedly also after Tinker Oddcog and the group would need Glaucia’s influence with the Bruse to have any chance of keeping the gnome from falling back under the influence of the Obscurati. Glaucia told Cazara that they could get through here day’s docket in about an hour if Cazara helped and they took care of the cases “old school” style. After a disturbing number of whippings and beatings outside the courthouse, with the crimes of the accused being shouted to the heavens, and the group was ready for their journey.

A carriage was acquired, to load James, Glaucia, Summer, and the great bulk of Colleen and her steamsuit. Cazara and IronPeak rode horses, and Alienor found a large domesticated lizard to ride. After about an hour of silence on the road, when the group stopped to water their horses (and lizard), Glaucia asked about the Risuri tradition of skyseeing. She wanted to know if everyone’s future was written in the stars, and if so, could someone see if she would ever get revenge against the Cult of the Steel Lord for what they had done to her family. She also pursued interesting questions about fate and predestination, and whether one could spite a prophecy by intentionally not doing what was foretold.

Summer gave her advice on divination, indicating that her visions of the stars were generally more vague than what Glaucia was describing. Usually, she felt more that she was getting advice about possible futures, rather than being told that one course of action would take place. Also, she advised against spiting the stars. IronPeak helpfully chimed in at this point to tell the story of the time they had angered Nem by throwing a train through a portal to an alien planet, causing the destruction of everything in a mile radius. Glaucia listened to all of this attentively, and then asked Summer to look into her future and see if revenge was in the stars for her. Summer promised to do so, and then they got back on the road.

Several hours later, the group was ambushed by Lya Jierre’s bodyguard, Merton Goncala. He attacked them with a mated pair of trained Tyrannosaurs (giant bird-like lizard beasts with brilliant plumage that the dragon lords of Ber had raised as status symbols). The Tyrannosaurs drove a herd of giant goats before them, each as tall as a man. Half the group made for the trees while the other half scrambled to exit the carriage. The brightly-colored male Tyrant knocked over the carriage, spilling everyone to the ground. Merton used a sonic grenade to obliterate the trunk of the tree that Cazara, IronPeak, and Summer had scaled, forcing them back to the ground. Merton’s main weapon was a large tuning fork that channeled sonic magic, but the group barely got a chance to see him fight as Colleen, Alienor, and IronPeak made short work of him. However, as he went to the ground, he faded into shadow and gave IronPeak a smug look. “See you in court,” he said.

The Feathered Tyrants were busy fighting over a delicious morsel who normally went by the name James M. Chinast. The male scooped him up in its mouth, but James struggled to get free. James’s wiggling appendages were too enticing for the female, and she bit off most of his left leg and ran off. Summer teleported James out of the male’s mouth and applied immediate first aid to keep James from bleeding out. James struggled to stay conscious, but managed to steady his musket long enough to bullseye the female as she fled into the wood, killing her just before she got out of sight.

The male was enraged and grabbed Glaucia in its mouth, intending to swallow her, but IronPeak used her gift with wild animals to calm the beast, eventually coaxing it to release Glaucia in exchange for a “treat” which was actually a Potion of Friendship. So mollified, the gargantuan bird-lizard beast accepted IronPeak as a new master, and even allowed himself to be ridden the rest of the way to the summer court by IronPeak (and her bear).

The line of petitioners at the Bruse’s Summer Court stretched more than half a mile from the Bruse’s fort-palace. The constables drove a small herd of eighteen goats ahead of their carriage, to use as T. Rex food. Their procession was stopped by an Orc Executore named Heiliana who asked them to please make camp like the other petitioners, and she would forward their request for an audience to the Bruse himself. They constables told her that they were representatives of Risur, here t see the Bruse on official state business, but that did not seem to sway Heiliana. She told them to make camp and wait to be called. Glaucia parted company with the constables at this point, offering to accompany Heiliana on her return to the Bruse.

As luck or political cachet would have it, the constables were called that night to “earn” their audience with the Bruse, but that is a tale for another time…
 

roadtoad

aka skotothalamos
Initializing Bruse Shantus

The constables were called to Bruse Shantus’s labyrinthine arena. The other petitioners had gathered in the bleachers to watch the festivities. The constables were guided to a raised platform where they were allowed to introduce themselves and were introduced to the rules of the game.

They would be participating in one of the Bruse’s “Adulthood Challenges.” The Adulthood Challenges were a series of competitive activities intended to replace the traditional Beran rites of passage, such as being mutilated by one’s elders or murdering a member of a nearby tribe. In this instance, it was taking the form of one of the minotaur’s favorite environments: a labyrinth. Forty-foot-tall hedges formed a maze on the floor of the arena. The constables would be expected to traverse the maze and emerge safely from the other side, overcoming all challenges that presented themselves. Flying or climbing over the tops of the hedges was prohibited, as was “using magic or technology to bypass the challenges.” Anyone who exited the maze from the opposite end would be granted an audience with the Bruse. The constables were given some glowing crowns so they could be more easily identified by the crowd, and then sent into the hedge maze. A few moments later, they heard someone shout, “Release the bears!”

The initial passageway through the hedge featured a twenty-foot-tall concrete wall on the left-hand side, only 20 feet high, blocking the way to a side passage. After much debate over whether they were allowed to go over concrete walls, the constables decided to take the straight path ahead of them. Cazara promptly fell into a pit trap. A glowing light shot into the sky from the bottom of the pit, and then it slammed shut as the crowd roared. The others pried the pit trap open, but there was no sign of Cazara at the bottom. Had she failed already? Had she simply been disintegrated? There was no way to know. IronPeak and Colleen stood on the edges of the false floor, counterweighting it so Summer, James and Alienor could cross, and then Colleen made the jump across, crashing into IronPeak and sending her flying.

Around the first turn was a new challenge: a twenty-foot-long pool of brackish water. right in the middle of an intersection. Upon further investigation, only the top foot of the pool was water; a darker substance lay below. After much speculation and experimentation concerning gelatinous creatures, various slimes and maybe a pudding or two (including an experimental Magic Missile at the darkness below the water), the group just decided to jump the pool or climb across the hedges adjacent to the pool. It was at this point that they heard a gunshot from elsewhere in the labyrinth. Either Cazara was alive, or she had just been shot. IronPeak climbed across the left hedge. On the right side, the hedge was interrupted by a passageway. James went for the shorter jump halfway across to the intersection, and then a second jump to join IronPeak. Instead, he jumped right into a pit trap and never made the second jump. Another light shot into the sky, the crowd roared again, and the group was down to four.

Summer climbed across the way IronPeak had gone, but lost her grip and fell into the water. Luckily, she as able to teleport away at the last moment, Colleen jumped (crashing into IronPeak again), and Alienor drank a potion of Water Walking. With only five minutes before the effects of the potion expired, Alienor hurried the group past two more pools of water and they came upon a three-way decision point. Opting for the first branch, they found themselves confronted by a passage that dead-ended into another concrete wall.

As they were deciding what to do with that, a bear emerged from one of the other passages, and they started to scramble over the wall, using Colleen as a ladder. On the other side was another bear. Alienor perched atop the wall and shot them both. Summer turned invisible and ran down a side passage, where there was another pool of water. She tried to stop, but then realized her momentum was carrying her too fast, so she tried to jump it, but lost her footing and just fell face-first into the ten-foot-deep pool of water and grease. The grease was too viscous for her to extricate herself from, and too dark to see through to try to teleport away, so she just floated down the bottom of the pond and started to accept her fate. IronPeak shoved past the oncoming bear and jumped in to save Summer. Fortunately, Summer’s invisibility wasn’t a hindrance, as the grease was too dark and thick to see through. IronPeak grabbed her and swam back up to the surface. Colleen tried to stop the bear, but it charged IronPeak and Summer, trying to shove them back into the pond. Summer decided she’d had enough of that, and just teleported across the pond.

In all the commotion, James came running to them from a side passageway. The pit trap had teleported him to the bottom of a different pit trap, and he had shouted for them, but they had been too busy to notice. When he heard the fighting, he had been able to figure out where they were. In his excitement to rejoin the group, he nearly triggered a pit trap right in front of himself, but he was able to jump it in the nick of time.

Colleen and IronPeak were able to beat back the bear, which had filed-down claws, and — in IronPeak’s estimation — was trained not to kill, but to subdue. The punishment that IronPeak and Colleen had done to it was enough to break its training, however, and it was turning to run when Alienor shot it dead. The resounding chorus of boos from the crowd drowned out whatever expletives IronPeak was shouting at Alienor.

The mostly re-united group made their way further through the labyrinth. While crossing another pit trap, another bear appeared, startling Colleen. She and James tumbled into the pit, leaving only Alienor, Summer, and IronPeak to handle the pair of bears coming from either direction. Summer found herself facing down a bear alone while IronPeak and Alienor scared off the other, bickering the entire time. Summer reached into her pockets for something useful, and found a hunk of goat meat she had been using as T. Rex treats. She offered it to the bear, and then tossed it into a corner, distracting the bear while she ran away.

Colleen rejoined the party from a nearby pit trap and they made their way to what seemed to be the exit, especially when they saw the mechanical bear blocking their path. As they sized up the massive mechanical beast with deadly sharp blades for claws, there was a convergence of five or six other bears. The group fought their way past the first wave of organic bears and then IronPeak engaged the mechanical bear, but ended up surrounded and cut off from the rest of the group. Summer tried to fly past the mechanical bear, with Alienor in tow, but if leaped up into the air and skewered them both. Alienor responded by exploding in a ball of fire and escaping its clutches. IronPeak and Alienor destroyed the mechanical bear and Summer made a run for the exit, with them following close behind. Colleen was in danger of being dragged down by a pair of organic bears, but a thrown healing potion from the others allowed her to stay on her feet long enough to escape just ahead of the bears.

The group (minus James, who had failed the test by falling into a second pit trap) was escorted to the Bruse’s temporary throne room, adjacent to his viewing balcony. There they found Cazara, who had been teleported to the pit trap nearest the exit, scared off one bear with a gunshot, and outwitted the mechanical bear to exit the maze far ahead of her colleagues. A crowd started to gather in the throne room and the group was told that the Bruse would hear their petition in a few minutes.
 

roadtoad

aka skotothalamos
More BS

As the constables waited for the Bruse to meet with them, a crowd gathered in the throne room. Dignitaries and those with petitions that were in the process of being considered were allowed to watch the proceedings. Glaucia Evora was there, as were Lya Jierre and her two bodyguards, Rush and Merton. The Bruse’s three main advisors entered: Zarkava Ssa’litt, the lizardwoman Vizier of Ber, who handled most of the day-to-day policy of the realm; Kenna Vigilante, the dragonborn Minister of Dragon Affairs, whose main responsibilities in modern Ber resembled those of a treasurer in other nations; and Pardo, a scruffy gnoll wearing only a tattered white shirt and carrying a dirty handkerchief. Pardo was the Minister of Rebellion, an honorary title given to one who speaks in opposition to the Bruse and represents those who are not represented by the other three.

Glaucia visibly bristled at the sight of Pardo, and he reciprocated. The two gnolls had no sense of keeping their enmity quiet. There would be no pretense of civility, even here. IronPeak picked up on this, and remembered hearing that the Cult of the Steel Lord venerated metal, and some devotees would not even deign to touch the holy substance, leading to them carrying handkerchiefs for those times when they had to turn a doorknob or use a handrail. Since the Cult of the Steel Lord had attacked Glaucia’s village many years ago and forced her to kill one of her own children, it was easy to get to the root of the gnolls’ hatred for one another.

The Bruse entered and addressed the constables. He introduced his advisors and talked at length about local happenings. He asked the constables if anything eventful had happened to them since the events on the Avery Coast Railroad, and they filled him in on the unclassified parts of the aborted peace talks, and the doomsday cult bombers they had faced, and the release of the Colossus. The Bruse mentioned that giant footprints had been seen in the western portions of his country, and he hoped they would have a chance to visit about that in the near future.

After an intolerable amount of small talk, Cazara finally pressed the issue and presented their request to see the gnome Tinker Oddcog, and have the chance to interview him. Tinker had designed the Colossus, and he would be the most helpful person to get it under control. Also, there were some matters of state security that needed to be discussed with Oddcog. The Bruse turned to Kenna Viglante and asked her to read the record form the day before. She informed everyone that there was already a petition outstanding with the Bruse’s court for the exact same request, put forth by the representative of Danor, Lya Jierre. Danor was offering five modern steam-powered naval vessels for the opportunity to meet with Tinker. The Bruse turned to the RHC ans asked what Risur was offering.

The constables offered a custom-built steamship, built to Beran ergonomic specifications, and the training of Beran engineers on the design of modern steamships so that Ber could gain the capability to build their own. The Bruse and his advisors took a recess to discuss their options. After a few minutes they returned. Kenna and Zarkava looked defeated and slightly upset; the Bruse had gotten his way again, and something stupid was about to happen.

The Bruse announced that there would be a vote to determine which of the two petitions to grant. He, Zarkava, and Kenna would each have one vote, representing “the heart, head, and purse-strings of Ber.” There would be two other votes, each to be decided by a contest between the two petitioners. Both groups would be sequestered until sunrise, and then the “race” would begin.

One challenge involved the unfinished transnational railroad of Ber. Two railroad companies were building toward each other, nearing completion of a rail line from the capital to the far shore of Ber. The two companies were, at last report, separated by 36 miles. Each group would be assigned a company, and the first team to get their company to reach the halfway point would win. The Risuri delegation was assigned to Liss Rail Construction, and the Danorans were assigned to Griento Railways, the company owned by Damato Griento, whom the constables had met while undercover on the Avery Coast Railroad.

The second challenge involved Cavallo de Guerra, the old orc warlord who helped unify the country with Vairday Bruse forty years ago. He had always been a thorn in Shantus’s side, believing that he should have been appointed as Vairday’s successor. Cavallo’s stronghold (Citado Cavallo) was not paying its share for the rail line connecting it to the capital (a different rail line than the one the groups would be working on). The Risuri delegation were tasked with getting Cavallo to agree to cooperate with the capital and pay up. The Danorans were tasked with destabilizing Cavallo’s credibility so he could be removed from power. In order to do this, they had to convince the old warlord to invade the nearby Risuri town of Manhill.

The Bruse seemed very pleased with himself, and exited quickly, saying he was going to do some stargazing. Some hors d’oeuvres were brought out and light chamber music began to play, allowing the crowd to mingle. Cazara went to Glaucia to get her opinion on the Bruse’s decision, but Glaucia was mostly concerned with leaving as fast as possible. She did advise Cazara that, as motivated as her group was to win, it would be unwise to do anything damaging to Ber or its citizens in a misguided attempt at victory. She then made a display of groping the door handle for Pardo’s benefit as she left.

Lya’s bodyguard Rush Munchausen came straight to Alienor and asked her how her “camp out” at the docks had gone. Then, barely waiting for an answer, he asked her whether the trial of Brakken or the attack of the T. Rexes had been more disruptive to the group’s progress, because he had a bet to settle with Merton. Alienor told him that IronPeak had captured one of the feathered tyrants, so it really had been a net profit. Rush was giddy at this. He laughed and openly mocked his co-worker for losing his treasured pets in a failed attack. For his part, Merton was stoic and simply watched the room.

IronPeak ran into Kenna Vigilante at the buffet table. Kenna happily picked through the offerings as IronPeak pressed her for dragon information. The constables had developed a theory that Leone Quital (the “Steelshaper”) might be the dragon Gradiax (“dead” former leader of the Cult of the Steel Lord), and IronPeak was hoping Kenna might have information, or be able to help her find the library so she could do her own research. Kenna clearly enjoyed talking with IronPeak, and (after loading up a plate to take with her) offered to take IronPeak to the library herself and help her with her research. The two headed off together.

Cazara, meanwhile, had turned her attention to Zarkava. Cazara had a hunch that the Vizier was not pleased with the current leadership of Ber. Cazara herself was not pleased with the direction the Bruse was taking the country, and wanted to see if Zarkava could be an ally in her plan to depose the Bruse. The two had a pleasant conversation about the weather and current events, while actually having a telepathic conversation about who would be a good replacement for the Bruse. While Zarkava wouldn’t go so far as to endorse Cazara’s first choice, Cavallo de Guerra, she did seem very receptive to the idea of getting someone else on the throne.

While all that was going on, Summer and Lya Jierre were meeting. Summer had a glamour up to hide her true face, so Lya started in with a diplomatic about how she was seeking a peaceful resolution to the whole thing, and how she thought the Bruse’s game was silly, and what if the two groups colluded to each only win one contest, thus forcing the Bruse and his council to actually make their own decision; Summer’s group could have the Cavallo challenge (since Lya really didn’t want to start a war), and Lya’s group could have the railroad challenge. Summer was not pulled in by Lya’s own false face, and she changed tacks, deciding to intimidate the Tiefling. For just a second, she revealed her true face, the face of Kasvarina Varal, who had helped build everything that Lya now worked for. Lya recognized her, called her a soulless bitch, and stomped out, triggering the chain element on her sword over and over. There would be no deal, nor any pretense of civility.

A clerk came by and informed both groups that the Bruse had provided cottages for their convenience, together with a trio of guards for each group, to make sure they did not leave the grounds before sunrise.

IronPeak and Kenna talked half the night away, going over the many dragons of Ber’s past. There was nothing conclusive that linked Gradiax to Quital, but there was no actual evidence of Gradiax’s death, either; he had simply stopped being an active influence over his subjects, and so his death had been inferred. Kenna gave IronPeak a tip: she warned of the dragon Cheshimox, a white dragon from Drakr who had emigrated to Ber centuries ago, bringing an enchanted chunk of glacier with him. He had killed an entire tribe of lizardoflk and then reanimated them to be his undead followers in his unnaturally cold realm in the midst of a tropical badland. She warned IronPeak that the rail line her group had been assigned would run uncomfortably close to Cheshimox’s old realm, and while the dragon himself had been dead for at least 200 years, his servants had made a few raids in the area as recently as ten years ago. Kenna eventually had to take her leave, but she invited IronPeak to accompany her on her morning run. IronPeak agreed, as long as it could be delayed until after sun-up, since she didn’t want to break the Bruse’s rules. Kenna agreed and left IronPeak to her books.
 

roadtoad

aka skotothalamos
Working on the Railroad

In the morning, IronPeak and Kenna went for a run to the nearby military base. While there, Kenna took IronPeak to the firing range and taught her some bullet-dodging techniques. The others, minus Colleen, made their way to a teleportation circle, where Xambria and Cazara had prepared a ritual to take them to Citado Cavallo, near the border with Risur. They sent Colleen ahead to Reo Pedresco to begin sorting out the rail construction task.

At Citado Cavallo, the constables were tasked with getting the old orc leader, Cavallo de Guerra, to pay his share of a rail line connecting the city with the capital. The Danorans were tasked with getting Cavallo to attack the Risuri town of Manhill across the bay. Such a move would undoubtedly undermine Cavallo’s credibility, allowing him to be replaced. Either way, the Bruse was going to get something he wanted.

At the gate of Cavallo’s citadel, an angry orc shouted down from the battlements, demanding to now what the group wanted. When they shouted back that they were here to see Cavallo de Guerra, the orc shouted back that he was Cavallo de Guerra and he would not be talking to any two-faced lackeys of the Bruse who were only here to trick him into paying for things he didn’t need. He told them to go back where they came from. Cazara shouted back, telling him that they were only working for the Bruse under duress, and were not interested in perpetuating the Bruse’s stupid way of running government. Cazara yelled that they could work together to “get the BS out of the Beran court.” A female Goliath advisor conferred with Cavallo and he relented. The gate was opened and the constables were shown to quarters near those occupied by Lya Jierre, who arrived ahead of them. Cavallo would meet with them all over dinner at mid-day to discuss business.

Alienor took the opportunity to wander the citadel, gathering rumors and information about the town. She heard some gossip about an embarrassing ailment affecting one of Cavallo’s grandchildren. She also heard that the ancient hoard of the dragon tyrant Furioso had finally been found. By draining the nearby caldera lake and many other lakes, Cavallo’s people had been forced to run off a local band of belligerent goblins to get the work done, but they had finally found the treasure of the long-dead dragon. In fact, the great pile of gold was currently occupying the greater part of Cavallo’s dining hall, so dinner would be served in the courtyard instead.

At the mid-day meal, Cavallo and his many advisors, family members, and assorted hangers-on took up their usual positions at his great table. The constables and Lya Jierre were seated near Cavallo so he could hear their petitions. IronPeak had arrived by now, and she spotted an adolescent orc boy being helped in to the courtyard by his mother. The boy’s leg was bandaged and had the characteristic splint of one afflicted by Dragonworms, a painful invasive parasite endemic to the wilds of Ber. Dragonworm was not usually found in cities, and especially not amongst the ruling class. Cavallo waved them away, and the boy’s mother hurried him out of the courtyard before he could cause embarrassment.

There were many negotiations between the three parties over a traditional orcish feast of many varieties of barely-cooked meats. The only utensils available were knives of various sizes, and it wasn’t completely clear if they were meant for transporting the food or defending it from your neighbor. After much conversation, during which Cavallo clearly favored Cazara and the other constables — dismissing most of Lya’s arguments out of hand — an agreement had been reached. The constables would remove the goblin threat to show that they could be trusted and so that Cavallo would owe them a favor. Then, he would do them the favor of doing what they wanted, in exchange for the blessing of the Risuri archfey of the sea, Beshela.

The goblins, of course, had left their traditional homeland, an no one knew where they were based, but one of Cavallo’s orcservants produced a letter from a foreign doctor who claimed to have been kidnapped by the goblins while working to treat their various ailments. In the letter, he gave directions to the goblin caves, and so the constables headed off an a good old-fashioned dungeon expedition.

After traveling for the better part of a day, aided by Cazara and Xambria’s travel rituals, the constables arrived in a strangely-familiar box canyon with a multitude of caves scattered around the walls. They were met by the leader of the tribe, a shaman named Willegu with a giant ant head on the end of his staff. The head twitched slightly, and giant ants could be seen peering out of the many caves. The constables told Willegu that they were here on behalf of Cavallo to try to get them to stop raiding, and to negotiate a peace. Willegu told the constables that they would stop raiding when the orcs let them back onto their ancestral lands. The constables also asked after the foreign doctor and the goblins produced their “pet monkey,” whom some of the constables recognized as Dr. Wolfgang von Recklinghausen.

Cazara said that the constables were empowered by Cavallo to grant them their land back, now that Cavallo had finished his project in the area. Willegu wasn’t going for it. He said he knew how Cavallo worked, and Cavallo would never offer up anything without getting something in return; in fact, usually he needed to owe the person a favor of some kind. Some other goblins had gathered to see what all the shouting was about (Willegu was just shouting at the group from the end of the canyon). IronPeak noticed that, unlike most Beran goblin tribes, these goblins were almost completely unaffected by Dragonworm. She asked about this, and Willegu said that his pet monkey was a very good healer who had cured them of the ailment. IronPeak told him about Cavallo’s grandson, and told Willegu that if he gave Cavallo the means to cure the boy, he would owe Willegu a huge favor. Willegu agreed, but said he did not trust the constables, so one of them would have to stay in the doctor’s place until Cavallo kept up his end of the bargain. IronPeak volunteered for that duty. It was late in the day, so the goblins invited the group to stay the night, which they accepted. The goblins offered them raw giant ant eggs for dinner, and provided them with a dirt-floored room with no furniture for sleeping. The giant ants skittered through occasionally on whatever business ants have, but it was a reasonably quiet night.

Cazara took the opportunity to ask von Recklinghausen about his creation, “Mister Mapple.” The doctor hung his head as he talked about his greatest failure, but he gave an ironic smile and told the tale of how the original Mister Mapple had been the head of his household staff, and the first man killed by the monster who was now using his name. Doctor von Recklinghausen told the group that his creation had murdered his wife and most of his household. Wolfgang had only barely escaped himself, and had fled the country, hoping to disappear in Ber, doing charitable work to atone for his sins. His flight had, of course, been tied up at the Danoran Consulate, but they knew that story already. Cazara told Wolfgang that his “monster” seemed like a good person when the constables had met him, and neither of them talked about the subject any more after that.

In the morning, IronPeak stayed with the goblins while the others returned to Citado Cavallo and took care of all the logistics needed to heal Cavallo’s grandson, draft a writ for the goblins to return home, and make a sending to get the king to make the proper supplications to Beshela. This took the better part of the day, and when they were finished, the constables thanked Cavallo for his help and teleported to Reo Pedresco to catch up with Colleen. IronPeak would catch up whenever she was released by the goblins.

In Reo Pedresco, they found their partner for the construction project, a lizardman named Surtan Liss. Liss had just come from an unsuccessful meeting with industrialist Benedict Pemberton, who was offering up a “steam crew” for an exorbitant price which Liss could not afford. The crew consisted of ten steam-powered men, similar in design to Colleen, but specialized for rail construction. Colleen was currently supervising the crew out at the far end of the rail line. Liss could not afford the price Pemberton was asking, but asked if the constables could negotiate on his behalf. They agreed.

Pemberton was very polite with them, though he had the air of a man who is used to getting his way based on his reputation but who was also trapped in a conversation with children who have no idea who he is. He told the constables that his crew was on loan for the rest of the day, and that if terms were not agreed upon, he would offer it to their opponent. The constables were unable to find a financial arrangement that Pemberton liked, but they did impress him enough that he decided to loan the crew to Liss Rail Construction for the duration of the project in exchange for the RHC granting James M. Chinast a one-month leave of absence to come work with him. Pemberton was clearly impressed with James’s mechanical hat, arm, and leg, and would clearly be looking to hire James away from the RHC in the future.

With the deal arranged, the constables felt successful and headed to their hotel for the night, where they were met by IronPeak, who had all sorts of interesting news. First off, she informed them that Benedict Pemberton was the number one financial contributor to the Royal Homeland Constabulary. In fact, she guessed that a good portion of their quarterly disbursement budget was due to his generous donations. Secondly, and more importantly, Lya Jierre had succeeded in Citado Cavallo. One of the sea chiefs had launched an independent a raid on Manhill and was spouting paranoid ravings about the Risuri fleet invading any minute now. A purple-skinned tiefling woman had been seen in the area of the sea chief’s estate the day before the attack was launched. The orc had been stripped of his position by Cavallo, but the damage was done. He was livid that the Bruse had sent people to him to undermine his credibility, and he was not likely to follow through with the rail funding that the constables had worked so hard to secure.

But that was a problem for another time; they had weeks of rail construction to oversee in an effort to win this challenge. Cazara and Xambria used rituals to help clear land and lower water for bridge construction. The rest helped in more mundane ways and railroad was proceeding at a good pace. Cazara even managed to get Rock Rackus (a charter investor in Griento Railways) to visit the Griento operation, which was great for worker morale, but awful for productivity. After a fortnight of rail work, just when everything was seeming routine, a scout reported seeing an army of undead marching toward the rail camp…
 

roadtoad

aka skotothalamos
Army of Darkness

IronPeak had been warned that the dragon tyrant Cheshimox had controlled this area many centuries ago. He had brought over a glacier from Drakr and enchanted the desert to support his preferred habitat. When the local lizardfolk had proved themselves incompatible with the cold weather, Cheshimox killed them all and raised them as his undead followers. Though Cheshimox had died centuries ago, his followers carried on out of habit.

With the undead army closing on their position, the constables gathered as many of the rail guards as they could and formed up a ragtag defensive line against their advance. James, Summer, and Xambria crafted an Undead Ward ritual for their “soldiers” to line up behind. Cazara sent Xambria to ritually reinforce the rails against sabotage while everyone was distracted by this strange attack.

Alienor lined up shot after shot with her long-range rifled musket with its telescopic sight, but it seemed that more than half of the enemies that she shot just got back up again. She retreated to the battle line and waited for the approach. Through her “scope” she had seen that they were mostly undead lizardfolk who seemed to be led by a foursome of lizardfolk priests riding a sled made from a massive dragon skull, The sled itself was drawn by ghostly beasts and was projecting an icy environment around itself, ensuring that its runners always had snow or ice to run on.

The constables struggled to keep their guard in order as the undead approached. Alienor opened up the fighting with some explosive shells from her rifle. Entire squads of zombified lizardfolk fell under her fire, but then just pulled themselves back together and kept on marching. The lizard priests led the way, blasting the constables’ battle line with icy breath from the dragon skull, dropping dozens of guards at once. Summer, James, and Colleen all set to healing those who could be helped. The priests’ own attack spells dispersed harmlessly at the barrier James and the others had crafted. One of them decided Alienor was too much of a problem and closed her off behind a forty-foot-tall wall of ice.

A pair of shadowy assassins fell on the healers, somehow having gotten behind the rail guards’ battle line. They managed to keep most of the constables and rail guard occupied long enough for the rest of the undead army to cross the distance to the ward. James warned that — since the skull of the dragon could shoot through the ward — if the sled broke the line, the entire spell would probably be broken. The troops would be well advised to engage the undead before that happened.

And so Colleen and IronPeak led their troops into the enemy formations. IronPeak manifested artillery shells from out of nowhere, blasting the lizardzombies to pieces. Alienor managed to phase through her icy prison and continued to hold down an entire flank by herself with exploding bullets. The sled went out of control and ended up blasting its own troops instead of the rail guards.

After that, there was just a little bit of mopping up to do. The Keepers of Cheshimox had gone on one final, glorious ride to honor their fallen dragon lord, and in the end they were destroyed. As the constables and their guards cleaned up the battlefield, they could not shake the feeling that the Keepers of Cheshimox were happy with this result.
 


roadtoad

aka skotothalamos
And the Winner is...

After fending off the last gasp of a long-dead civilization, the constables got back to the task of finishing the railroad that would modernize transport in Ber. Another week or so, and they had finished, making it to the goal a day ahead of Griento Railways. Rock Rackus, an initial investor in Griento’s business, spent the better part of a month keeping an eye on his investment (and distracting the workers enough to slow their production). There was a brief ceremony when the two railroads met. Griento and Liss jointly drove in a final golden spike, and the Constables teleported back to the Summer Court, where they would find out who had won the right to speak with Tinker Oddcog.

At the Summer Court, the group was told that the winner of the competition would be announced at an evening meeting with the Bruse and his advisors. It was going to be a grand affair, with any petitioners who had passed the Adulthood Challenge allowed to come and enjoy the food and festivities of court. That left James out, so he spent his time doing maintenance.

The meeting was held in the Bruse Shantus’s audience chamber above the labyrinth where the Adulthood Challenge had been held. On either side of the room were raised galleries for the spectators to watch the proceedings. At the far end of the room form the entrance was another raised platform for the Bruse and his advisors. Behind this area were large windows and doors leading to a balcony overlooking the labyrinth. The floor of the room was where the petitioners were gathered. There was a cocktail hour before the main event, with hors d’oeuvres and beverages available for all attendees. IronPeak noticed that Kenna seemed distant and distracted, and was not nearly as interested in the food as she usually was.

Zarkava called the meeting to order. The Bruse stood with Kenna and Zarkava at his side. Pardo skulked in a back corner of the advisor platform, looking surly, but no more than usual. The constables stood to one side of the floor, while the Lya and her two bodyguards stood to the other side. The Bruse announced that the Risuri group won the railroad challenge, and the Danoran group had won the Cavallo challenge. Zarkava announced her vote for the constables, while the Bruse voted for Lya’s team. That left Kenna Vigilante to reveal her vote. She called the whole thing ridiculous, said that Tinker should just come here and decide for himself, and abstained from the voting, leaving the contest deadlocked at two votes a side.

Tinker was already on his way to greet the winners; now he would just arrive and let the two sides plead their respective cases. Or, so went the plan. The gnome was brought in by a military escort, who spread out to strategic locations around the room, guarding doors and obvious trafficways.

Tinker eyed the assembled groups and said, “Everyone wants to talk to me; how exciting! Well, all I see is Obscurati, Obscurati, and more Obscurati.” He pointed at Lya, Summer, and Colleen in succession. “How typical of the Obscurati to fight against itself for someone who wants nothing to do with them any more. Make a big show for the Bruse, and no matter who wins, you get what you want. Well, I want you all to leave me alone. Leave! Now!” He pulled out a pocket watch. “You have exactly 16 seconds! 15… 14… 13…12…”

“He’s a bomb,” shouted Cazara. “Get out!”

Summer ran for the platform where the Bruse and his advisors stood. The guard by the stairs swiped at her with his bayonet as she ran by. Cazara saw that and just vaulted directly onto the stage, and opened one of the doors to the balcony. She waved frantically for the dignitaries to follow.

The guards, for their part, mostly moved to block the doors and keep anyone from escaping, though a few set upon the Bruse, stabbing him with their bayonets.

Alienor, never one to pass up a golden opportunity, pulled out her rifle amongst the chaos and shot Lya Jierre multiple times, but Jierre just spat fire back at her, barely even staggered from all the bullets. IronPeak tried to break through the line of guards at the doors to allow the others to escape, but she made no progress.

Lya drew her sword and marched straight for Alienor. Activating the chain filament around her sword blade, Lya tried to slice Alienor’s custom rifle in half. Alienor moved quickly and managed to pull her gun out of the way. In so doing, she exposed her arm instead, and Lya’s chainsword went right through flesh and bone, severing Alienor’s right arm just below the shoulder. Merton tried to follow, but his feet were tangled by a magical spider web from one of Alienor’s bullets.

Glaucia Evora was in one of the viewing galleries. She pounced on the single guard who had blocked the door, trying to tear her way through him and allow the crowd to make a run for it.

Kenna Vigilante calmly looked to the Bruse, under attack from his own guards, and she began to strangle him, throwing him to the ground. Bruse Shantus gasped and cast about for an ally to help him. No one volunteered.

Colleen shouted for IronPeak to get those doors open, and IronPeak obliged by manifesting an artillery barrage out of the ceiling, blasting the guards and destroying the doors they protected, as well as large chunks of wall and floor. The civilians were able to start filing out through the holes in the wall.

Lya’s other bodyguard Rush Munchhausen found himself tangles up in the same webbing as his counterpart, but he managed to extricate himself, accompanied by some truly vile language about Alienor’s entire family line. He deployed his paired Immovable Rods and dashed across the battlefield, kicking Alienor while she was down.

Tinker opened a panel on his chest and pulled out a comical black bomb, complete with a burning fuse. Eyeing his watch, he continued to count down. “11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6…”

Rock Rackus had showed up for the event (or at least for the drinks) and now he was trying to figure out how to escape. He gathered the other spectators on his side of the room, telling them that he had a way out, but they would need to gather close.

Pardo, Minister of Rebellion, member of the Cult of the Steel Lord, and all-around disgusting gnoll, stepped over to the fallen Bruse. “Steel endures,” he said. “Flesh rots.” He cast a spell rotting Bruse Shantus’s skin away, then he set upon the minotaur and bit him on the neck. As he pulled back from the neck wound, he seemed to be sucking out a glowing willowy substance. A necromancer would have recognized as a soul-eating spell.

Seeing your king’s soul being eaten right in front of you will shake you, even if you didn’t like him that much. Zarkava dashed for the balcony as fast as she could, hoping Cazara had a plan besides standing on the balcony when the gnome exploded.

When spending their requisitions before the excursion to Ber, Cazara had been very adamant that everyone needed a Guardian’s Whistle, which is enchanted to teleport a willing subject to your side, helping them escape a sticky situation. Summer made it to the balcony and blew hers, pulling Alienor away from the killing blow surely coming from Lya Jierre any second now. Summer used some magic to stop the bleeding from Alienor’s missing limb, and then she dashed right off the balcony, letting her Ring of Feather Fall do its work.

Cazara pulled out a feather and spoke to it. “I’m going to need some help evacuating Alienor.” Alienor looked confused and kept asking what the feather was for. Cazara told her to not worry about such things and blew her whistle, pulling IronPeak out onto the balcony. Cazara told Alienor to save Rock Rackus with her whistle, which she did.

Just as Gale was floating down from the roof of the building to collect Alienor, Colleen decided to tackle Tinker. If he was a bomb, she was going to either smother the blast or set it off before Lya Jierre could get away. The blast obliterated the room, including Colleen, many of the civilians that Rock had gathered, and Lya’s bodyguard Merton. Pardo, Kenna, and the guards survived the blast, though the skin over the metal skeletons was mostly torn away, revealing them to be machines.

As the balcony collapsed, Cazara and Zarkava were able to arrest their falls with magic. Rock disappeared in a puff of flower petals and leaves, while Alienor and IronPeak fell. Gale swooped in like a superhero to catch them both. IronPeak thanked her, but Alienor had been knocked unconscious by the blast and would have no memory of being saved (again) from a collapsing building by her former lover.

As they flew up over the building, IronPeak saw the arc of an incoming artillery shell. The area filled with Agony Gas, and all of the non-machine people were forced to flee.

Actual soldiers from the nearby military base showed up to face the machine people, and after a while they were defeated for the most part. Pardo escaped. The machine that wore Kenna’s face came crawling out of the rubble towards IronPeak, asking for help. With half of Kenna’s face, and half a steel skull, the machine told IronPeak that she could hear gnolls and the other prisoners, and they needed to be rescued. Then the machine collapsed, and the remaining part of its face turned from an imitation of Kenna to a generic, mannequin-like face.

The Cult of the Steel Lord, in association with Tinker Oddcog, had infiltrated the Beran military with mechanical replacements for actual people and then assassinated the Bruse. To what end? These were questions for the following day. For now, Zarkava was acting Bruse, and she almost immediately stepped down and named Cavallo de Guerra as her successor.

Cavallo was informed of what happened, and was brought in to lead the country. For more than four decades, de Guerra had not found a problem that could not be solved with lots of ships filled with angry orcs. When the arcanists traced Tinker back to Isla dola Focas, an island of the coast of Ber, Bruse Cavallo’s first official action was to declare war on the Cult of the Steel Lord and begin plans for an invasion of Isla dola Focas.

The constables were asked if they would like to assist, and they volunteered to go in ahead of the main force in an effort to rescue hostages.
 

roadtoad

aka skotothalamos
Welcome to My Volcano Lair

The surviving constables requisitioned a fishing boat and a squad of a dozen Beran soldiers. Their combined force would land on Isla dola Focas ahead of the invasion, and see if they could free the military hostages from the Cult of the Steel Lord before the Beran fleet arrived. James did a divination spell to track down Kenna’s whereabouts, using an old survey map of the island. She appeared to be inside a dormant volcano about five miles inland from the coastal city of Karch, home to some ten thousand gnolls.

Summer did a ritual to make their entire group appear to be gnolls for a few hours; hopefully long enough to reach their destination. They timed their approach to Karch to blend in with the other fishing boats from the city. As they approached the island, Summer felt attention drawn to the massive storm cloud stretching the entire distance between Isla dola Focas and the mainland.

Looking up, she felt herself overcome by a vision. She was floating in space, two hundred years prior, next to the constellation Draco and above the planet Avilona. Avilona, the plane of air, was balanced on a pin of white stone. Dense, swift clouds covered its face, and where they parted she could se glimpses of majestic towers. She felt as though she were being battered by waves, and the white pin shattered. Its head plunged into a hungry black gyre below and, with no noise, no grand cataclysm, the clouds of Avilona slowed, thinned, and vanished. She saw ruined spires falling to its surface. To her side, the stars of Draco plummeted into the vortex below and she was falling as well, with no wind to hold her aloft any more.

Summer told this story to Cazara and all they could talk about for the rest of the ride was how the Golden Icon of Avilona had been found in a sea cave on Axis Island, held in a broken column of stone which had eroded away and broken. Cazara recalled that Nicolas Dupiers, the miner they encountered in that sea cave had two other Golden Icons (of Urim and Nem) on him. She wondered if the other planets all had icons held in stone columns around Axis Island. The time information seemed significant as well: the vision had been of two hundred years in the past. It was around 200 years ago that the dragon tyrants suddenly fell out of power in Ber, overthrown and killed by their slaves. It was about 200 years ago that Danor first started waging war on Risur over control of the Yerasol Archipelago, which included Axis Island.

Was Axis Island so named because it was the axis of the world, or the solar system, or even the universe? If a pillar holding an enchanted icon related to a planet breaks and that planet loses its influence over the world, did one cause the other? Was Axis Island somehow projecting its influence over the planes to the rest of the world? Was it creating the reality they all lived in? The Golden Icons lost their power away from Axis Island, so was something on Axis Island giving them power, or was their power magnified by it? There were many things to investigate, but for now, they had an island to infiltrate.

They made landfall and skulked through the rough terrain of the island, heading towards the volcano. After an hour in the wilderness, they found a wide, well-used dirt road leading directly to the entrance of the place they were looking for. The road led to three large entrances into the mountain. One of the entrances had a pair of large mine carts at the end of a track. Investigating the mine carts, the constables found the disembodied head of a duplicant. Alienor picked it up and it became the head of Tinker Oddcog.

“I wondered when I’d see you again. Please, please, get in the cart. It will be a pleasant ride, and my subterranean domicile is far, far too large for you to have to walk all the way. So, so vast. You could get lost in it. Certainly your mind could. I have an inkling you’re going to get quite violent toward me, and our previous interaction was much, much too brief. So please, please: into the cart.”

When the constables protested that it was Tinker who had escalated the hostilities in their previous interaction, he claimed that he was under mind control — a mind control that he himself had designed, in fact — and it was a strange sensation. He also told them that they were walking into a trap but was suddenly cut off when the head changed to the face of Benedict Pemberton.

Pemberton had first been encountered a year prior, when Malkie and Mort had been unable to gain access to his exclusive party tent at the Kaybeau Arms & Technology Expo. Since then, they had little contact with him until coming to Ber, where he traded the use of a “steam crew” for the promise of James’s future services. James was a pioneer in the realm of personal prosthetics, and Pemberton wanted to make use of those talents. After that meeting, IronPeak had revealed to the others that Pemberton was a very generous contributor to the RHC’s coffers, and in fact their regular stipends for gear and expenses were mostly funded by the Pemberton Trust. Now, he was appearing before them, seemingly affiliated with the Cult of the Steel Lord, who had just assassinated the leader of Ber.

“Welcome to my volcano lair,” began Pemberton. “Now if y’all don’t mind, kindly either leave the premises or leave your weapons behind and get in the cart so we can talk in peace.” While Alienor negotiated an agreement that would see the constables and their soldiers enter the mine carts without leaving their weapons behind, Cazara made three quick Sendings to people who she thought needed to know about Pemberton:

“Have reached Pemberton’s volcano lair on Focas. Assuredly a trap, but hostages need rescuing. Mind control a risk. Please ready any help you can offer.”

She sent that message to Bruse Cavallo, RHC Chief Inspector Delft, and Principal Minister Harkover Lee.

Delft’s response: “Don’t die.”

Cavallo’s response: “Will send troops to back you up ASAP. Advance scouts in area. Will be available within an hour. Good luck!”

Lee’s response was longer in coming. Unable to delay any further, the constables got in the lead cart, with their guards following behind. The Pemberton head began to lobby for their support in his upcoming revolution. He argued that the high-turnover of short-lived leaders led to chaos and strife. Why, Flint, the most successful city in Risur, had had the same mayor for hundreds of years. Pemberton argued that what Ber needed was a leader with some experience, a leader with the lifespan to see things through. As he was working up to his conclusion, Cazara got her message from Lee: “I wish you’d told me earlier that Pemberton was involved. Be very careful with him. He used to be the dragon Gradiax the Steel Lord.”

“He’s a dragon,” said Cazara. “Do you think I want a dragon in control of my country again?” and then she punted his head out of the mine cart. The negotiations were over.

The carts pulled into a huge foundry room filled with open lava pits, conveyer belts, cat walks, a big steam turbine, bizarre mechanical contraptions, an obvious mine-cart-themed trap, some kind of big laser pointing into the lava, and a large steam-powered mechanical suit. Everyone leapt from the mine carts before they could be dumped into the lava. “Welcome,” said a mechanical reproduction of Pemberton’s voice, “I guess it’s time for hostilities. Tinker, be a good gnome and take out the trash.” As the steam suit charged various weapons systems, the voice came back in. “Except the human. We need him alive.”

The steam suit launched bullets and bombs faster than anything Alienor had ever conceived. Alienor dashed into a side chamber, where she found a strange display of four un-activated duplicants sitting around a table, looking like four mannequins having a discussion. The table looked like a zeppelin, and the room was filled with other, equally silly contraptions piled at the end of the conveyor belt coming in from the foundry.

Summer went invisible, Cazara leapt across the chamber and also went invisible, James rocketed into the air powered by his rocket boots, and the troops advanced on the steam suit and fired their carbines. Summer checked her sword to try and get a better lead on where Kenna and any other female hostages might be. She picked up a female presence hiding in the steam cloud above the giant turbine.
Cazara approached the obvious Important Door in the area the Tinkersuit was trying to guard. She opened it and looked inside, where she saw Benedict Pemberton and Tinker in an office/control room of sorts. Dozens of automated displays showed the status of various systems around the volcano complex. Tinker lay on a bed, in a trance or coma of some kind, and Pemberton watched over him. Pemberton gave a look toward the door when it opened, but the TInker-controlled steamsuit waved its hand and the door shut of its own accord. Luckily, Cazara had backed out of the way in time and was just outside the office, not having been seen by Pemberton before her potion wore off and she became visible again.

When she became visible, a new combatant joined the fight. On one leathery red wing and one mechanical wing, a dragon swooped down, crashing into Cazara with all its might. It chomped down on her and shook her like a rag doll. Cazara squirmed free, drank another invisibility potion, and then phased through the wall into the control room, while also manifesting the sound of herself running off in a different direction to fool the dragon. This prompted the dragon to activate its eye, made from enchanted ruby, that broke all illusions and invisibility around her, revealing Summer trying to figure out the controls to the giant laser nearby.
The dragon charged Summer, striking her with the steam-powered fist at the end of her prosthetic foreleg, sending Summer flying across the platform.

Cazara could see Pemberton talking into the end of a mechanical stick. His voice was projected to the outer chamber. “Now, you be careful out there, Tera.” After a pause, he continued. “Ain’t she a marvel, y’all? first of her kind in near two hundred years.”

Summer blinked the Tinkersuit into the Dreaming, breaking the real Tinker’s connection to it. Cazara saw the real Tinker suddenly awake with a start. Pemberton pushed him back down onto the bed, pulled out a knife and held it to the gnome’s throat. “Whoever’s in here,” he said, “y’all might want to be real careful, now.”

Tera leapt off the platform and plucked James off of his perch, flying away into the upper reaches of the room.

Alienor emerged from her search of Tinker’s various projects with a grenade launcher. She fired it at the escaping dragon but did not bring her down. In fact, the blast were probably more dangerous to her hostage than to her.

Cazara had had quite enough and she telepathically asked Tinker if he could go invisible or teleport or something. At first he said he couldn’t, but as he got his bearing, he said, yes, he definitely could, and he immediately did. And so Cazara shot Pemberton in the face, becoming visible as she did. His head half shattered because of course he was just another duplicant. Unlike other destroyed duplicants, however, Pemberton did not revert to a neutral form. He kept his shape.

Cazara and Tinker quickly made their peace. Tinker said he’d be glad to help Risur fight the Obscurati, and he had tons of ideas about how to stop Borne, and he hoped that he’d be allowed to explore some of his exciting technological ideas for the benefit of Risur, but first he just needed to grab his urn from under the bed. Cazara said that was fine.

Out in the foundry, the others were making peace with Tera, who told her story. Her egg had been kept by the Cult of the Steel Lord as a holy relic of their god-tyrant Gradiax. When Pemberton returned some years ago, he enlisted the most expensive mages in the world to figure out how to incubate a 200-year-old dragon egg. And so, seven years ago, she was born, but with some missing bits. Her left foreleg, wing, and eye were all missing and had been replaced with various enchanted and technological items. She was really looking forward to seeing what James could do for her and she didn’t see any reason for them to be fighting.

The constables promised to keep her safe and let James work on new, less-warlike prosthetics. She said she wouldn’t go with them, but would instead go to a secret place her father had told her to go. She consented to having James join her for the better part of her journey, so he could work on her limbs.
Tinker mentioned that he had recently heard from Alexander Grappa, and that the old Mindmaker had somehow transferred his consciousness to Leone Quital, the Steelshaper, and was hiding in the back of his mind, only able to take control when Quital slept.

TInker also told the constables everything he could remember about Borne: what his weak points were, how he had been designed to feel pain, the various environments he was designed to withstand, and many more details. The main gist seemed to be that it was designed to lift over 40,000 tons at once, survive at deep ocean pressures, and operate without any connection to other planes. Also, it had a small hollow in its chest, about the size of a pumpkin, that had a fuel line running to it. Tinker didn’t know the purpose of the pumpkin-hollow.

The constables brought Tinker home to Risur, having secured Ber as a solid ally in the war against Danor, and having gained a new leg up in the technological race that was coming.
 
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roadtoad

aka skotothalamos
History Lesson

The constables returned home to Risur after a long journey that had seen them help the Children of Hewanharimau overthrow a Crisillyiri colony, secure an artifact that held the key to Summer’s past, sow dissent in a Danoran colony, complete a transcontinental railroad, become witnesses to a coup in Ber, and meet the first dragon anyone had seen in two hundred years. It was an eventful trip.

On the way back, Cazara, who had tucked Pemberton’s robot head into her Gloves of Storing, contacted Harkover Lee to have him take possession of the strange artifact. He teleported to their ship. When Cazara produced the head from the extradimensional space inside her gloves, it still held the likeness of Benedict Pemberton. The constables demanded to know why they hadn’t been told that their primary financial benefactor was a dragon. Lee responded that such secrets were on a “need to know” basis, and they did not need to know until they were actually attacking his Volcano Lair. Had anyone suspected what Pemberton was up to in Ber, they certainly would have been warned. Upon trying to hand over the head, Pemberton’s eyes opened and he said, “y’all better run, I’m a bomb!” When no one responded, he simply disconnected his consciousness from the head and it reverted to a neutral form.

Cazara handed it over to Harkover, hoping there would be some way to use it to track Pemberton to his actual lair. Then the conversation turned to Pemberton’s daughter and whether Risur should take custody of her. Cazar asked Lee, “Do you suppose a dragon could ever be raised to serve the people instead of dominating them?” Lee responded that many things were possible, but it would be unwise to anger such a potentially powerful creature by taking her in against her wishes. Hopefully James would be a more positive influence on her life than her father. Lee thanked them for everything, and then teleported back to Slate.

The return to Flint was less eventful at first. Alienor put a plan into motion to remove her daughter from Danor and shelter her with the Cloudwood Skyseers. IronPeak went to visit her friend TitanFist, whose mysterious connection to IronPeak remains a mystery. Cazara wanted to go and visit with Duchess Ethelyn in Shale, with was convenient because Summer had some memories in Risur that she wanted to track down, and one of them seemed to be in Shale. They collected IronPeak and Alienor and headed out.

In Shale, the Arc of Reida drew Summer to a house, where a caretaker told them to come back the following day. When they did, the caretaker allowed them entrance under the condition that she could observe the phenomenon. The world shifted and suddenly it was eleven years earlier. in 490, Kasvarina was coming to visit the owner of the house, and Eladrin woman named Chatwood. As they sat for tea, Kasvarina demanded that Chatwood undertake a secret mission to accompany the Duchess Ethelyn and serve as her Skyseer. Chatwood was to serve Ethelyn faithfully except where Axis Island was concerned. Any visions about Axis Island were to be kept secret, and in fact Chatwood was to encourage Ethelyn and Risur to give up Axis Island to the Danorans without a fight.

Chatwood said she would go along, but only if she knew why, hinting that she wanted more information about Kasvarina’s secret society. Kasvarina told her that she would only be told what she needed to know. Chatwood was adamant; she would not do any more secret missions unless she knew the truth behind them. After too many refusals, Kasvarina made up her mind: this agent was no longer useful. Unable to bring herself to kill an Eladrin woman, she instead permanently blinded her and drove her insane, causing her to be locked away in the Shale Sanatorium for the past decade. When the memory faded, the caretaker pointedly asked the party to leave.

After a brief visit with Chatwood in the Sanatorium during which nothing useful was gained, the constables visited the former Duchess Ethelyn in the Bridge Tower. She welcomed them to her prison as old friends, with tea and cakes. Cazara asked if Ethelyn knew Kasvarina, but she said she did not. They asked about Skyseers who had been perhaps skittish about Axis Island, and the Duchess mentioned that her “handmaiden” Sokana had joined her about a dozen years prior and done exactly that. The constables were learning that Kasvarina always won, one way or another.

Upon their return to Flint, Summer felt a pull toward both the Navras Opera House and the old Obscurati facility in Cauldron Hill. She opted for the opera. At the Opera House, they were preparing for a play called Cauldron of Blood, about the struggle between King Lorcan Finn and the Red Contessa of Cauldron Hill a century prior. On Mondays, the opera was closed, and the constables were able to start the memory sequence without disrupting the opera’s business too much.

The rooftop tore away and they were pulled three hundred years into the past. Kasvarina walked with her friend Navras and asked him why he would build this wonder so far away from home, so far away from Elfaivar. Navras told her that he needed to go some place that had a clean energy and was uncorrupted by Kasvarina’s world view. He told her that she had corrupted his vision and created too many problems for the project he was trying to complete now. Only in a fresh environment like Risur could the Dirge of Vekesh be properly delivered any more; the “Vekeshi” Mystics had twisted the message beyond notice. Kasvarina asked if she could come to see Navras’s first performance and he threatened to have security ban her from the building.

The memory faded and the constables found themselves floating in a memory that was not Summer’s. The memory-capturing abilities of the Opera House seemed to have combined strangely with the memory-reliving abilities of the Arc of Reida, and they found themselves as floating invisible spectators on Navras’s first and only performance of the Dirge of Vekesh in his opera house. Cazara noted as an aside to Summer that clearly Kasvarina respected this man; when had she ever asked permission to do anything?

The Dirge was delivered in Elvish, but the magical properties of the Navras Opera House allowed each listener to fully understand not only the words, but their deeper context. Navras played a simple Eladrin guitar and sang alone. The Dirge followed the typical style of an Eladrin elegy: three verses; one each for the Maiden, Mother, and Crone aspects of Srasama. In the first verse, he sang of the Maiden’s joy and wonder. In the second verse, he sang of the Mother’s comfort and strife. For the third verse, when he should have sung of the crone’s burden of loss and death, he instead stayed silent and simply played the notes on his guitar. Navras then repeated the first two verses, with a slightly adjusted tone to indicate that he is mourning not the death of his nation, but of Srasama. in the final verse, the song comes to its point: it is only a mourning song if it ends in death. The Eladrin people are not defeated as long as they refuse to go with the crone into the afterlife. There is a plea for the listeners to seek retribution, but to not throw themselves to their deaths. No Eladrin man should sacrifice himself for revenge when there are still Eladrin women who need to be returned home safely. They should grieve, grow strong, and rebuild from weakness to prosper with strength.

When he finished, the room was filled with a memorable and life-affirming sorrow. The crowd cried, the singer cried, even the memory-ghosts cried. Before they could really take in what they had witnessed, the constables were whisked off to another memory captured in the walls of the opera house.

It was the year 401, a hundred years prior to their actual time frame, and they felt themselves inhabiting the various historical figures represented in the Cauldron of Blood play. IronPeak was drawn into the role of King Lorcan Finn, who was to face the Witches of Cauldron Hill this very night; his presumed successor, the knight Melissa Gahlot was to be played this night by Cazara; Harkover Lee, just as healthy as ever, was inhabited by Summer; and Alienor felt herself drawn into the personality of another noble Tiefling gunslinger, Amielle Latimer. Harkover Lee, King Lorcan, and Dame Melissa were meeting with the mayor of Flint, Roland Stanfield. Amielle had not yet arrived.

The four Risuri discussed their plans for the night. The witches of Cauldron Hill needed to be overthrown, and tonight there was an eclipse of the moon. There was some debate over whether this was a good omen or ill, but the Skyseer who was supposed to give them answers was running late. As they discussed how to deal with this, a Danoran ship sailed into the harbor under a flag of peace. Perhaps the hated enemy had some advice? They went outside and were met by a steam-powered runabout carrying Amielle Latimer. She said her “astrologers” had specific information about the eclipse of the moon and that according to them, tonight was the best time to strike, before the eclipse if possible.

Just then, the chief of police rushed up and told the gathering that Rebecca Lang, the Skyseer, had been spotted in the small nearby town of Parity Lake, being chased out onto the lake by a mob of commoners who were accusing her of being a witch.

The mayor argued that Lang could take care of herself and that they should just get up the mountain ASAP, but the king overruled him and the group mounted horses bound for Parity Lake. On the way, they were met by a hooded figure who stopped the procession to stab himself in the throat. As his blood gushed to the ground, it coalesced into the figure of the Red Contessa, leader of the Witches of Cauldron Hill. She told the gathered crowd (for many had gathered to watch the king pass) that she was their queen and they were her subjects. She told them that she was a far better monarch than King Lorcan, even though she’d been boiling their children alive for thirty years. She wanted an end to the hostilities; all they had to do was accept her as their queen and there would be no more hostage-takings. She claimed she already had more than she could use and waved her hand toward the mountain where dozens of fires began, apparently each one with a hostage inside. She claimed that she could solve the country’s problems, unlike King Lorcan, who let enemies into his harbor, and rode beside them like friends. She would take care of their enemies, she said, and with a wave of her hand the Danoran ship in the harbor exploded and she collapsed back into a puddle of blood.

The group redoubled their efforts to save Skyseer Lang. They found an unruly mob being goaded on by the beadle of North Shore, Husky Pete. Pete was up on a soapbox by the shore of the quaint fishing lake, inciting the others to violence. People were lighting pitch-soaked arrows and launching them toward a raft in the middle of the lake that assumedly held Rachel Lang and her fellow skyseers. Dame Melissa rode straight toward Pete as he was shouting “The witches are everywhere. They are among you. There are witches on the mountain. There are witches in the lake!” Melissa told Pete he could tell no lies, and through sheer force of will she made him turn his story in mid-pitch. “The witches are everywhere. I’m a witch, in fact, and you are all being controlled by me. There are witches on the mountain. There are witches in the lake!”

With spell of “Husky Pete” somewhat broken by the half-elf paladin, he transformed into a witchier countenance. Sister Deliria forced Melissa to attack Amielle. When Amielle shot the witch, the now-scattering crowd winced in pain all at once. Harkover Lee detected that she had some kind of magical connection to the crowd, and he broke her spell, allowing the witch to be taken down quickly. As she died, a black spirit flew out of her, cackling its way back up the mountain, and cursing them all.

The Skyseers thanked the king and mayor for saving them, and then Rachel offered up her vision to the king: “When the moon is near setting, and the glow of dawn waits to appear, the cauldron is unguarded, the coven exhausted and sleeping after their night of revelry. And a figure steps willingly into the boil and the bubble. The fire turns to ice, the cascade stops, the blood fades away. And then the sun rises, the witches turn to stone, and the mountain is purified.”

Now there was a decision to be made. The Danorans said to attack before the eclipse; the Risuri skyseers said to wait until dawn. Which should they do? King Lorcan made his decision. He would sacrifice himself heroically at dawn to crush the witches and cleanse the mountain, but first he would make sure that Dame Melissa fought against them heroically and survived, so that he could name her his successor before he went to his death.

Melissa and Amielle led a force of a hundred troops up the mountain. After losing nearly three-quarters of their number to some dark spirits, they were reinforced by another group of a hundred. They fought some witches and zombies and evil spirits at the pyres where the hostages were being burned. They freed thirty hostages and sent them back down the mountain with an escort of six of their most wounded soldiers. They arrived at the peak of the mountain after the lunar eclipse had begun, and from their perspective the moon was pouring blood over the whole mountain. They fought valiantly against the wtiches and their hundreds of minions, but in the end were forced to retreat from the battle. No more than half a dozen soldiers made it back down the mountain with Amielle and Melissa barely surviving.

Confident that Melissa had established her bond with the people, King Lorcan led the way back up the mountain before dawn. As the sun was just about to rise, he and Mayor Stanfield and Harkover Lee arrived at the summit. It was sticky with blood, but there were no witches to be seen. The witches’ black cauldron stood alone, slowly bubbling the blood inside. A few scattered revelers lay sleeping on the peak. Lorcan transferred his Rites of Rulership to Melissa and stepped willingly into the blood cauldron, sacrificing his soul to the Red Contessa and ensuring her rule over the city of Flint for a generation.

The witches of Cauldron Hill held sway over the city of Flint for many decades, until King Aodhan returned from the Third Yerasol War with a steamship capable of shelling the mount. Together with the powerful sorcery of Harkover Lee, they were able to break the witches’ hold over Flint and begin a new age of industrial revolution in the city. As the memory ended, the constables realized that it had always been this way, and any memories of a different history were quickly swept away.

As the memory faded, Alienor could feel that she had some kind of connection to Amielle Latimer. A blood connection perhaps? She was convinced that Amielle was her ancestor. As an orphan, this was amazing news for Alienor to find out. Unfortunately, she was too busy being drawn in to yet another strange event.

Somehow connected to Amielle Latimer’s consciousness, Alienor felt herself being pulled across the sea to an island off the coast of Crisillyir. It was modern day, and she was inhabiting the ghost of her ancestor as she watched a new crop of recruits coming in for their Obscurati orientation…
 

roadtoad

aka skotothalamos
I've, uh, got some historical rationalization to take care of now... shouldn't affect anything too major. I figure any delay in the Ob getting control of Cauldron Hill is countered by extra souls being poured into it by the witches. :D
 

roadtoad

aka skotothalamos
I just have to say: doing Diaspora basically scattered through the rest of Paragon Tier has worked better than I could have even hoped.

To wit:

Just after having her "go rescue your daughter from the dragon in Ber" memory, they got the mission from Delft/Lee to go find Tinker in Ber, so she could do the memory and all of Adventure 6.

At the end of Adventure 6, they've finally gotten enough visions and info to put together the importance of Axis Island (and, boy was it fun to watch them put the pillar/icon thing together). Someone asks, "When was the first Yerasol War?" Oh, uh right about then... So now they're thinking, yeah, the Ob wants Axis Island. The first memory after they get back to Risur: Kasvarina telling someone "Hey, make sure Axis Island falls to Danor."

It's just going so smoothly.

And, in 7, they'll get to chase Leone and catch up on Alais Primos and Drakr memories all at once. We'll see how that flows. :)
 


hirou

Explorer
And that's why I'm dying to play Bonds of forced faith with my group, quite a bit of history can be rewritten :D And scattering Diaspora is indeed working great, I'll think about trying this without Kasvarina in my party
 

Mythological Figures & Maleficent Monsters

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