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ZEITGEIST BSI: Bosum Strand Irregulars

roadtoad

aka skotothalamos
ObCon

The combined power of the Arc of Reida and the Navras Opera House went the constables’ minds across the sea to an island off the coast of Crisillyir. Alienor’s connection to her ancestor Amielle Latimer seemed to somehow be involved, as Alienor felt herself still aware of being Amielle’s ghost in present day. Before she could get her bearings, she was pulled away again, this time to inhabit a man by the unlikely name of Bruce McDruid, a pirate of sorts who was on his way to an Obscurati meeting.

Together with Bruce were Livia Hatsfield, an Obscurati spy in the Risuri government; Ken Don, a Crisillyiri librarian; Gran Guiscard, a singer who organized entertainers to spread Obscurati propaganda; and Oscan Ligurio, a Family snitch who did unsavory work that is better left unmentioned. Also on the boat were several Clergy members, a pair of unremarkable Obscurati members, and the Steelshaper himself, Leone Quital.

IronPeak had been drawn into the mind of Oscan; Summer was Gran; and Cazara was Livia. They traveled by ship and carriage to a run-down old mansion on a seemingly-abandoned island. Outside the mansion, they were met by Han Jierre, who greeted them with the practiced familiarity of a seventeenth-generation politician. Han thanked them all for making the journey, and said there would be a brief security sweep before continuing. Han’s assistant Bert produced a lantern (about the size of a pumpkin), into which he poured some special oil. When lit, the lantern’s purple light pulled everyone partway into the Bleak Gate, where they could see that the mansion was pristine and decorated for a party. Han handed out some rusted iron pendants to allow everyone to finish the transition into the Bleak Gate, and then the shadowlisk arrived.

The shadowlisk was a gigantic snake with stubby little legs and eyes that glowed like two miniature suns. As its eyesight passed over each of the travelers, they felt as though they would be burned, but only one of them was. A portly and pale clergy member suddenly became dark-skinned and athletic; the shadowlisk’s sight had burned away his illusory disguise. The snake-like beast grabbed the man and held him up as it burned him away almost entirely, leaving nothing but a twitching silhouette burned into the wall of the mansion.

As the other clergy members demanded answers, a quarter of ghosts came through the front door of the mansion. Among them were the ghosts of Reed MacBannin and Amielle Latimer. An ancient ghost named Vicemi introduced himself to the priests and croaked out the answer: the man was a spy; their fellow traveler had probably been killed some time ago. Meanwhile, Reed MacBannin’s ghost poured out a vial of blood on his hands, and then pulled the spy out of the wall by pulli gon his silhouette. Some guards took the man away to a dungeon. Reed MacBannin cheerfully noted that he’d be worried if there weren’t some spies trying to get in. He promised Han that he would find out whatever the man knew, and walked back inside. Amielle Latimer smiled at the door and said “Welcome to the Obscurati!”

The travelers moved into the mansion, where they saw faces familiar to the constables and to the people they were inhabiting. Lya Jierre was there, as were her brother Luc and his associate Ottavia Sacredotte. Former RHC Chief Inspector Margaret Saxby was in attendance as well. Livia was recognized by Risuri politician Catherine Romana, who was best known for proposing the “Dream Road” teleportation circuit in Risur. Gran met an excited fan, Ken met with a man who thanked him for letting his men use his library for illicit Obscurati research, and Oscan may or may not have been recruited by a halfling who seemed to be looking for assassins. As the mingled with the dozens of guests, the travelers marveled at the notion of an Obscurati Convention. By the time they were called to the second floor to meet with someone important, the name “ObCon” had been coined.

On the second floor, they were guided to the end of one of the long wings of the mansion. A huge room at the end of the hall contained a central fireplace with a lounge to one side of the room and conference table on the other. At the end of the conference table sat a large man who stood to greet them. The man looked for all the world like Mister Mapple’s evil twin. He was clean-shaven and had his white hair styled in a conservative fashion. He wore a tailored suit, complete with gloves.

“Welcome,” he said. “Call me Nicodemus. I want to thank you all for everything you have done for the organization. It is time to move to the next phase of the operation, and we feel it’s important that our most important members be given more information on what it is we’re trying to do. Quite simply, we’re going to change the world, and I’m so glad to have you all here to help. Please, sit, have a drink, and have a look at the informational packets provided. We have a chance to change the world to make it more to our liking. There are various ideas of how we could go about this, and this weekend is about sharing those ideas and then voting as a group.”

The travelers tore into their small pamphlets, which seemed to describe the plans of the Obscurati in great detail. As they started reading, however, they could feel the memory fading. They tore through the packets as quickly as they could in an effort to retain as much information as possible before them memory faded. It is, unfortunately, not a matter of record how much they retained and how much they forgot, so this report will not attempt to guess at such matters.

The constables re-joined their own bodies in the Navras Opera House. They hurriedly discussed all they had seen. They agreed that the Watchmaker’s plan (which seemed to take away free will) was evil. Summer opined that the Miller’s Pyre plan seemed not all that bad: just giving people more empathy couldn’t be that bad. But, of course, they all agreed that no matter what plan the Obscurati decided to go with, they were messing with the structure of the world, and that was too dangerous to allow.

This was also the first time the constables had to chat about all the other memories they had just experienced. When Cazara heard about Summer’s experience as Harkover Lee a hundred years prior, they both decided that he must be another dragon in human form. Cazara sent a message to Lee: “So, which dragon were you?” His response: “That’s on a need-to-know basis.”
 

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roadtoad

aka skotothalamos
Mother's Day, part 1

The constables rushed to Slate to have a meeting with King Aodhan about their vision of ObCon. They shared ad much as they could remember, together with the information that Livia Hatsfield and Catherine Romana were Obscurati members. When Cazara asked if Aodhan knew that Hatsfield was a spy, he said that, yes, she was his spy in the Obscurati.

The constables followed Summer to Cauldron Hill, where her last recovered memory in Risur waited. Talking to Captain Dale, they secured access to the destroyed Obscurati facility, which was no longer in the Bleak Gate (usually). Summer and the constables descended into the wreckage, where they relived many memories of Kasvarina, Leone Quital, and Alexander Grappa running the facility. Kasvarina mostly worked on teaching the witchoil golems. She taught them and learned their different personalities, and they called her “Mother.” Their father was the man who had designed their consciousnesses: the “Mindmaker,” Grappa. After a series of such memories, Summer had a memory of Kasvarina sharing a bottle of wine with Leone Quital while they discussed the betrayal of Grappa. During their discussion, Quital noticed that Grappa was eavesdropping inside a nearby air vent. He used his magnetic powers to pull the vent from the wall with Grappa still inside. Grappa was taken away to a prison cell.

The final memory at Cauldron Hill involved Grappa’s bronze-golem servant coming to Kasvarina and telling her that Grappa wanted to talk. When she went to him, he used his mind powers to wipe away centuries of her memory. He told her that people are just the product of their accumulated experiences, and that he believed that Kasvarina was at heart a good person, but had suffered some horrible experiences. By wiping away those experiences and regressing her to her younger self, Grappa hoped that Kasvarina would return to the idealism of her youth, and then the memory ended. But the constables knew the rest of the story: Grappa and Kasvarina escaped in the early days of Summer. He and his golem were tracked down and destroyed by Quital, though Grappa was able to transfer his consciousness to the decapitated head of his golem, where it stayed until the RHC found it. Kasvarina wandered the Cloudwood until Gale found her and brought her to live with Nevard’s Skyseers. Kasvarina had no memory of even her name, and was called “Summer.”

The constables returned to a more regular schedule for a month or so before being called to a meeting with Clint City Governor Roland Stanfield. During that month, Alienor brought her daughter over to Risur from Danor to keep her safe. Alienor wanted her daughter to live with the Skyseers as Summer had, and to be watched over by Gale. Gale, of course, indicated that she could not take responsibility for a teenager, but she would do her best to make sure she was well taken care of. Alienor’s daughter wanted nothing to do with it, having been plucked from the cosmopolitan lifestyle of Cherage and dumped in the middle of a damp forest with a bunch of old hippies. Alienor put her foot down and insisted that she stay and learn about those different from herself, especially the eladrin.

At the meeting with Stanfield on the 1st of Autumn, the constables (and their boss, Delft) were informed that the Flint city government was not satisfied with the performance of the RHC in the city. The RHC’s best constables spent more time on international missions than they did dealing with the problems in Flint. Stanfield had Captain Dale read off a list of problems, from riots to maritime troubles, but Delft cut him off. He informed Stanfield that he had a classified mission to send the constables on, but he would do his best to reinforce the local RHC office with more fresh graduates from the academy in Slate. Delft then said the meeting was over and instructed his constables to leave.

On the carriage ride back, Delft told the constables about their new mission: to track down Leone Quital, the “Steelshaper.” Delft produced a letter from Alexander Grappa, who said he had been destroyed by Quital again during the collapse of the Cauldron Hill facility, but he had managed to transfer is own consciousness into the back of Quital’s mind. Grappa stayed hidden away while Quital was awake, but once Quital fell asleep, Grappa could take control of the body. Grappa said he needed the constables’ help to get free of Quital and get a body for himself. He offered a carrot in exchange for their help: information about an upcoming Obscurati meeting for which Quital was coordinating the travel plans of a half-dozen or so travelers. The meeting would take place on the 79th of Autumn, and Grappa knew where and how to get in, but he would only offer that information in person after the constables had rescued him.

The constables and Delft realized that ObCon had not yet happened. Somehow they had experienced a vision of the future!
 

roadtoad

aka skotothalamos
Mother's Day, part 2

With Grappa’s letter in hand, Delft and the constables agreed that their next step should be to track down Leone Quital and free Grappa from his mind. Then, with Grappa’s information, they could infiltrate ObCon and get closer to undermining the conspiracy’s plans. To start, they would need to follow Quital’s trail to the Crisillyiri city of Alais Primos, seat of the clergy. Delft told the constables to head to the docks, where the Impossible was waiting to take them to Crisillyir. He also told them that former Junior Constable Oksana Kozlov had been on sabbatical in Drakr these past six months. She had just returned to active duty and would meet up with them in Alais Primos. Before they left, he provided them with a full set of Communication Rings, which allowed for communication rituals (like Sending) to cross the barrier between the real world and the Bleak Gate. Harkover Lee had made them specifically for the constables, on the assumption that their travels would undoubtedly take them back to the Bleak Gate.

Upon arriving at the docks, Captain Smith rushed up to them, indicating that there was an incident aboard the ship. A woman with skin the color of the open sea and tentacles for hair was trying to install a magical “portal pad,” saying it was a gift, and could the constables please talk to her? They obliged, and the woman introduced herself as Beshela, Archfey of the Sea. She said that she had previously been allied with the Duchess Ethelyn, and the Duchess had warned of a terrible threat to Risur. Since the constables had defeated Ethelyn, they must be more powerful than her and best equipped to face this nebulous threat, and so Beshela was offering them a gift: a portal pad for their ship that would not only allow for teleportation to and from the ship, but also allow the entire ship to sail into the Dreaming or the Bleak Gate if need be.

The constables, especially Cazara, were wary of accepting a gift from the fey. As they were beginning to question Beshela on the specifics of the gift, they heard a crowd approaching, singing one of Rock Rackus’s bawdier songs. They all turned to watch as the crowd approached, led by Rock himself, who was accompanied by James. They marched to the dock, and when the song finished, Rock shouted up to the party. “I heard you need my help on your next mission!”

As everyone took a moment to let that sink in, the crowd grew restless. They had spotted Beshela and started to shout angrily about her supposed misdeeds. According to the crowd, she was responsible for every bit of misfortune that had befallen any of them on or near the sea. Accusations ranging from spoiled cargo to sunken ships filled the air. Just when it seemed a riot would begin, a dapper gentleman in a fine suit popped into being with his arm around Beshela. The man’s hat had a fancy ring made from polished copper, but where his face and hands should have been, there was nothing. Cazara recognized him immediately as fey emissary Copperhat the Headless.

“Good day, Agents of King Kelland,” said Copperhat, before turning his “face” toward Beshela and making an exaggerated smooching sound. She detached herself from him and glared at him as he walked and teleported around the ship with no respect for the law of gravity. Cazara addressed him by name and asked him what he wanted. He walked up masts and stood on the undersides of sails as he asked the party whether they were trusting Beshela and accepting her gift. He hinted that the Unseen Court had been having some disagreements with some archfey. “It’s times like this when exciting and stupid things happen,” he said.

Copperhat then grabbed the portal pad and teleported with it to the dock. He dropped it from a high height and when it struck the wood of the dock, the dock began to dissolve into seaweed and run into the bay. “That would have been your ship!” It was around this time that Rock and the constables noticed that James had disappeared; he had been Copperhat in disguise all along. This enraged Beshela. She summoned a kraken and a stormcloud of acid rain and dove into the ocean. With Rock’s help, the constables were able to defeat the kraken, at which point it dissolved into so much seaweed.

After the fight, Copperhat congratulated everyone on their victory (in which, it should be noted, he had not actually participated in any meaningful way). “My work is done here. Rock, King Thisraldion is hosting a party this very night. Shall we away?” Rock eagerly agreed, and the two vanished an explosion of leaves and flower petals. As the constables took stock of what had just happened, Copperhat and Rock re-appeared. “I almost forgot,” said Copperhat, “I need a favor. I have an item I need kept safe, but I can’t be bothered to carry it. Would you do me the honor of carrying it for me?” At this, he produced a foot-wide glob of tangled spider web from his pocket. “Feel free to use it while you’re holding onto it. You’ll have some dead bodies on your hands in the near future and this will come in handy. Not sure quite what you’re up to, but I’ve got a knack. I can always smell a corpse in the offing.” The constables agreed to hold Copperhat’s Absurdist Web for him. A quick once-over by Summer revealed that it was an extradimensional holding space. Copperhat thanked them again and poofed back to the Dreaming.

The journey to Crisillyir was far less eventful. Upon arriving in Alais Pimos, Summer disguised everyone as humans, and Alienor hid her guns in the jacket she had taken off Lorcan Kell, as both non-humans and firearms could be trouble in the clergy’s most conservative city. They proceeded to the address Delft had provided them with for contacting Oksana. She answered the door, looking confused at the gaggle of humans on her threshold. Cazara flashed her badge and pushed her way past the dwarf into the apartment. “Undercover,” she explained.

Oksana had last seen active duty the night Lorcan Kell and his lieutenants slaughtered Pablo Duende, Garson “Bugtree” Wildflower, and Quentin Augst, the lawyer they were supposed to protect. Oksana had been carrying Augst to safety when Kell hacked them both down with his vicious machetes. Left for dead under the corpse of her charge, Oksana was revived by Magnus and the two escaped the carnage. Since that traumatic event, Oksana had been on sabbatical in her homeland of Drakr. While there, she had been exploring the various belief systems of her people, most significantly Eschatology. During her explorations of Drakr’s many libraries, she happened upon a heretical original text by William Miller. While studying the text, the ghost of Miller appeared to her in a vision and tasked her with bringing his original, unedited message to the people. This encounter infused Oksana with mental powers. She found she was able to control minds and even bend reality to her will. She set aside her old martial training and spent many months exploring her new powers and trying to find more of Miller’s original texts (which were supposedly all burned with him when the Clergy executed him as a heretic in the year 17).

The constables got her up to speed on the current situation, explaining about the Obscurati, Grappa, Quital, and ObCon. Oksana revealed that she had recently had a dream where she was Ken Don, the head of the Jeneva Grand Librarium in Alais Primos, and as him she had attended a convention just like the one they described. She filled them in on her situation in Alais Primos; she had arrived two weeks prior and been put up in this apartment by former RHC agent Joe Hobner. However, she had not heard from Joe in two weeks and was vaguely concerned. Before starting their pursuit of Quital, the constables decided to check up on Joe.

At Joe’s import/export business, they were greeted by someone who looked just like Joe Hobner, but who did not seem to recognize Oksana, referring to her as a customer. When she asked him to retrieve her fictional special order, he went into his back storeroom and tried to escape out the back door. Cazara was fastest in pursuit, but by the time she got into the alley, the imposter was already dead. Two kobolds squatted on his back, wielding bloody daggers. Cazara pounced on them in return and held them down as their boss arrived.

With a dramatic pillar of smoke, a kobold wizard teleported into the alley seated atop a pile of books. He wore dark robes and stroked his fleshy “whiskers” while smoking a pipe and flipping through a tiny book in his lap. The fact that he was doing three things with his two hands was somehow not remarkable. Cazara and IronPeak recognized him as matching the description of El Extraño, the spymaster of Ber. He opened with a monologue.

“I know all of your names. Do not be impressed yet. It is not impressive because I did not need my many loyal eyes for that. I work for Bruse Cavallo, and he told me your names while we ate dinosaur eggs in his castle. Still, it is not time to be impressed.

“I became interested in this conspiracy that has caused so much trouble, and I knew if I were them, I would kill your spies. Also, I knew where your spies were. Do not be impressed. It is not hard to guess that a former constable would still spy for his country. My eyes watched his home, and sadly they could not save him from this assassin. But then they watched the assassin, and now we have helped you.

“Leone Quital was spotted on the 28th of Spring in the Cathedral of Triegenes at Enzyo Mons. Do not be impressed that I know you are looking for him. His former associate, the gnome named Oddcog, cursed the man’s name repeatedly while he fitted me for my own mechanical battle suit. It was natural you would seek the Steelshaper at some point.
“We will work together. My eyes will follow you, look for threats and targets around you, and share what they see. If you disagree, my eyes will send couriers to share what they see, so that you don’t get upset and kill any of them. You should read this book, so you respect the value of little people.”
El Extraño tossed his tiny book to Alienor. She read the title: Codex of the Little People. The constables agreed to his help, but on the promise that he wouldn’t kill the people they were trying to question in the future. He said there were ways to question the dead, but agreed to try to have his people be more careful in the future. He asked Cazara to free the two she was currently pinning to the ground and they scampered up onto nearby rooftops. With another dramatic pillar of smoke, El Extraño was gone. Oksana tried to speak with the dead man, but discovered that he had no soul to speak to. El Extraño had at least provided them with the information that Quital had been seen going to the volcano just a few miles outside of town, where the devout made sacrifices that kept the caldera quiet these past 700 years.

Not looking forward to a day of canvassing dockworkers for any information about a ship that came into harbor five months ago, the constables decided to pursue some of Summer’s memories first. They followed the pull of the Arc of Reida to a hillside half a mile outside the city. When they arrived, the Arc altered reality out to the largest diameter yet.

The crackling edge of the reality shift stretched all the way back to the walls of the city, where the golden bells of the cathedrals were ringing, summoning a great enchanted shield for the entire city. The farmland between the hilltop and the city walls had turned from farmland to a battlefield. Around the constables was an entire Eladrin army from the time of the Great Malice. Half of them lay dead and the others stood in stunned disbelief. Between the army and the hilltop where the constables stood was a circle of six bonfires. At the center of the circle knelt Kasvarina, holding the charred remains of an Eladrin woman. In the air above Kasvarina, a shadow made of soot and ash hung in the air. Before the wind disperses it, the shadow looked like it was in the shape of a six-armed woman, one hundred feet tall. Kasvarina was out of her mind with grief and while she knew who the woman was that she held at the time, she could not remember who it was after the memory even ended. Alienor went to investigate one of the bonfires, and inside she found a fifteen-foot-tall flaming sword. She grabbed it.

As the memory faded, Alienor was somehow able to enforce her will on the sword and bring it back with her. She knew instinctively that it was the Third Sword of Srasama, embodying her aspect as the mother-protector. Summer collapsed to the ground, catatonic. Some local farmers who had been subjected to the memory panicked and ran. The constables made their way back into the city as quickly as they could.
 

roadtoad

aka skotothalamos
Manhunt

James, ever playing catch-up after side missions to create artificial limbs and party, disembarked in Alais Primos just in time to see the shadow of a massive six-armed woman dissipate just outside the walls. It did not take him long to find the constables, as they scrambled to don disguises and whisk a catatonic Summer into hiding before anyone started asking questions.

Though Summer had indicated pulls to three different locations, the constables decided that given her extreme emotional distress and the very public nature of the last memory, perhaps it was wise to wait for a new day before continuing to follow that thread. Instead, they set about their more immediate business of tracking Leone Quital.

Though El Extraño had given them a good lead, the constables decided to be thorough. They started at the docks, where they learned that the ship Quital hired out of Flint, the Cold Vessel, had arrived on Spring 20, but no passengers had been recorded. The workers on the pier remembered seeing Quital who wanted new clothes and was referred to a particular shop. By that time it was getting late so the constables decided to continue in the morning and crashed at Oksana’s flat.

After resting, Summer felt a bit better and was motivated to continue gathering the memories set in Alais Primos, as traumatic as they may prove. The constables agree to accompany her before continuing after Quital, and they all followed her to a chapel in the Grand Librarium.

The arc transformed a chapel into a room set up for triage, in the year before the Malice. Cots lined the walls instead of pews, set in private and magically soundproofed booths. Two dozen injured Eladrin lay in the cots, medically sedated and chained by the wrists to the walls. A single human man tended them.

The memory unfolded into a month’s worth of recollections. The man spoke to a few of his charges every day, asking what they believed, their opinions on the war, whether Elfaivar had any who would acquiesce to a truce, whether they had family back home. Every day, a few of his charges died.

He spoke to Kasvarina, too. She told him first that she hated priests, that her husband died in the first Holy War. When he speaks to her again he did not wear his Clergy robes, and told her that he was raised in the faith, but no longer believed. He introduced himself as William Miller.

After a week, only four Eladrin remained, including Kasvarina. She had regained much of her strength, and the man sat beside her bed. He removed her chains and she remained and spoke with him for a long time. He proposed that the two of them escape the city and try to negotiate a truce in Elfaivar. Kasvarina discussed the plan in its minutia with him, and then agreed. She wondered if some other of the patients could join them, and he informed her that she had been the only one left for several days.

He gave her medicine to sleep, and then quietly chemically executed the other three remaining prisoners.

The memory faded, and the group informs Summer what they saw of Miller’s scheming. Oksana, who felt a deep personal connection to Miller and his works, speculated that this event must have been the point at which Miller’s schism from the Clergy began - that his time working with Kasvarina must have changed him in some way. Cazara and Ironpeak were far less impressed, feeling his actions spoke far more of his character than his words. Summer felt a new memory pulling her to the third floor of the Jenevah Grand Librarium.

This memory took place not long after the last. Miller and Kasvarina met with a couple of bishops and a priestess. Miller explained that Kasvarina would represent the Eladrin in initial peace talks. He explained his reasoning for acting without the Church’s approval, and gently suggested that the Clergy’s leadership was corrupt and wanted replacing. The priestess signaled an alarm, and guards surrounded and bound the pair. The bishops told an inquisitor that Miller had disclosed heretical plans.

Miller tried to reason with them and Kasvarina advised dying with dignity. An inquisitor told her that they were not sentenced to death but to imprisonment on the Isle of Odiem. The pair were dragged away, Miller cursing and Kasvarina silent.

As the memory faded the group exchanged uncomfortable looks. Summer reported that the other memory pull in Alais Primos - one near the outer walls - had flickered out. She intuited that they could have learned nothing there that they had not learned already.

The constables spent the rest of the afternoon following Quital’s trail. They checked in the clothing shop, where Quital had ordered clothes to be picked up on the 28th, and asked about a wine and cheese shop. The constables deduced that he had probably stayed at a nearby inn, which (they learned after Alienor flipped the concierge a Lucky Coin,) he had checked out of on the 28th. He had mentioned then that he was heading to Enzyo Mons.

The next day Cazara, Summer, and Ironpeak visited the mountain, leaving James, Alienor, and Oksana to investigate the wine merchant. The road up Enzyo Mons was lined with shrines to various Clergy Gods; the constables admired a shrine to Wilik, god of civilization, and Cazara paused to ask the Shrine of Dana the Far-Seeing what she had seen of Quital. The shrine remembered someone matching that description pass last Spring, carrying a curious metallic likeness of a human head. They reached the Cathedral at the top, and Summer asked the priests what they had seen. They indicated that they would not speak with her until she made an offering to the volcano, and she threw a number of coins into the net they’d set within the caldera. They confirmed that they had seen Quital, and that he had left via carriage with a younger man whose features were similar to Leone’s. When prompted by Cazara, the cathedral itself remembered him lobbing the golem head beyond the tithing net and into the volcano proper before he’d left.

When the Constables reconvened, those who had visited the cheese shop reported that the shop had not seen Leone, but that they had a shipment from the Quital Winery on the 28th. Alienor presented the bottle of Quital Wine she had purchased, with information about the Vineyard on the label.

Satisfied that they’d tied up all loose ends, the constables decided to head for Vendricce. Summer had a strong pull from the Arc of Reida toward Odiem, and the constables agreed to detour there just long enough to ascertain how much time those memories would take. It would not do to get trapped in the Crypta again, with Leone’s trail cooling so rapidly.
 

roadtoad

aka skotothalamos
of potential additional interest, Alienor's player commissioned Summer's player for a "romance novel cover" image capturing Alienor and Gale's torrid history:

Galienor.jpg
 

Aw man. That's wonderful. Do you have permission to use it for other things? I.e., would the artist be okay if we slipped it into a ZEITGEIST product?
 

By the way, I just listened to your Z playlist, and it delights me to no end that you included Kanye's "Power."

(And I had to get mp3s of a couple of the other songs. Nice mix.)
 


roadtoad

aka skotothalamos
I have handed session-reporting duties off to one of the players (Cazara). Future sessions will be written from the perspective of Dr. Xambria Meredith, who still resides in Cazara's brain.
 

roadtoad

aka skotothalamos
Want You Gone

The constables took a ship to near the Island of Odiem. They lowered a rowboat to get near the island, hoping to get a sense for where the memories would begin and how many there would be. As soon as they drew close, however, the memory swept them in and they had no choice but to follow.

Cazara, Oksana, and Alienor, who managed to stay apart from the memory, noticed immediately that something strange was happening. It seemed as though another magical effect pushed in on the area of the arc’s influence, surrounding a dwarf woman - not part of Kasvarina’s memory - who approached them. She wore Clergy robes, and introduced herself as Serafima. She said that the divinations were correct, that she was here to meet with us, and follow us through Kasvarina’s memory, that she might silence the area when the Sacrament of Apotheosis is described.

The lucid constables were not convinced, but the memory was moving on without them. They watched the intruder carefully as they descended once again into the Crypt.

When the Constables reached the room in which they defeated the mad Godhand, they noticed three statues that were not there when they last visited the crypt. They noticed too that these were not part of Kasvarina’s memory. Cazara pointed them out to Oksana, who performed an object reading ritual to determine their origin. She saw three Pemberton duplicants instructed to enter the vault and turning stony and still as they waited. The statues were then summarily marched to another room at Oksana’s urging, and the lucid constables turned back to the memory.

There they found Kasvarina and Miller standing before the Ashima-Shimtu and her pool. They were discussing whether they could just swim out through the well when the suspended demon stirred, shaking her chains, tensing with pain.

Miller started reading the inscriptions on the walls, relaying the story of the demonocracy: how Ashima-Shimtu betrayed them to save herself, how she was imprisoned here when she would not relinquish her greatest secret. Kasvarina wondered if she might have knowledge that could assist in the war. When Miller didn’t stop her, she drew the hook from Ashima-Shimtu’s lips.

The Demon spoke: “For the first time in centuries, Ashima-Shimtu can speak. She is pleased by this change, and welcomes those who come to seek knowledge. Her wish may be the same as her fellow prisoners – to bring down the vile Clergy – but the Lady of the Forked Tongue does not so casually risk the deception of strangers. Already her voice grows tired from disuse, and so she would ask her visitors to share their tale.”

Miller and Kasvarina spoke with the demon for a time, sharing their story as she shared hers. She told them how the Demonocracy used the Sacrament of Apotheosis in war, and how she gave it to Triegenes with hopes that he would make a better world. The holy man used it only once, when he had no other option, and never shared it with his followers. When Triegenes died his followers demanded to know the secret. Since then Ashima-Shimtu had hung there, meditating on the nature of evil.

With new knowledge of the Holy War between the Clergy and the Eladrin, she was willing to share the ritual again. She recommended that the pair return to the entrance of the Crypt and give details of the ritual in return for their freedom. Once the Clergy knew the rite they would bring out their God of War, she reasoned, and the Eladrin would know the secret to its defeat; the God brought forth would be invulnerable only if its attacker does not know its true name. To kill the Clergy god of war, she said, would kill the motivation to make war.

As Ashima-Shimtu was poised to begin her instruction, Serafima bustled to cast a silence over the room. She spoke a series of pseudo-thaumaturgical gibberish phrases that fooled no one, and earned her a bullet from Alienor’s gun before she blipped out of seeing.

Ashima-Shimtu delivered her great secret to a rapt audience in memory while bullets and ice ricocheted around the cave. Alienor did her best to find the invisible dwarf with the Third Sword of Srasama, but the sword registered no women but the constables and Ashima-Shimtu. Most of the constables got hit with a stunning effect which effects prevented the bulk of the party from remembering what they had witnessed of these events, but it did not take everyone. When Ashima Shimtu finished her recitation, an icy simulacrum appeared and said: “I am Grandis Komanov, bringer of this world’s icy end, and you have given me the greatest weapon I could ever have.”

When the memory faded, the present-day Ashima-Shimtu turned to the party and said: “The prisoner of the Clergy remembers what horrors were wrought by her attempt to escape. She has accepted her punishment, and asks no others repeat her folly. She says this with no malice, only contrition.” She allowed the constables to teleport from her pool to their ship bound for Vendricce.


The details of the Sacrament as heard by Xambria Meredith are here transcribed and magically ciphered to be read on a top-secret need-to-know basis:

The ritual must be centered on an individual who represents the god or idea that is being invoked, and the power that person gains depends on how many followers that god or idea has, and how fervent. In addition to some archaic chants that take an hour, the ritual performers must sacrifice a lion, an eagle, a whale, and a dragon, then use their blood to adorn the subject with the name of the god or idea. Finally, the target must drink a cup of blood from a believer and recite the mantra, “Before I was nothing but words. Now I am all that is believed. I am faith made flesh. I am flesh made a god.”

The subject will rapidly transform into a physical incarnation, maintaining that form for a day. He’ll gain unrivaled strength and resistance to injury, but anyone who knows the name of the actual person within the incarnation will be able to harm it as easily as they would a normal person. Also, once the effect ends, the subject is severely weakened for days or weeks. Finally, if the incarnation dies, a backlash will strike the believers. How severe a backlash is relative to the intensity of their belief.
 

roadtoad

aka skotothalamos
To the Vineyard! (and beyond)

Putting aside the trepidation they felt after the complications at the Crypt, the constables continued to the Quital Vineyard. There they asked the building, the objects therein, and the help for information on Leone Quital’s movements. They learned that he had been there, but not for very long. Cazara had a quiet talk with the road, which complained that Leone had elected to take the “stupid new road,” and that it could not understand why one would choose such a conveyance over the freedom and quiet of humble passageways like itself.

And so, of course, the constables headed out to Drakr to search the rail lines.

They stopped first in Trekhom, where Summer felt a pull from the Arc. She led the constables to a tavern, where a group of Eladrin men were drinking and talking.

The memory began, and as the group in the tavern were drawn into it Kasvarina stalked up to one of them, a man heavier and shaggier than the Eladrin norm. The man in the memory was asleep in a corner, and Kasvarina doused him with water before dragging him outside. She asked about his mission, and the man (who the constables, through the magic of the Arc, knew to be Bhalu Varal, one of Kasvarina’s less-important husbands,) complained that she had sent him to kill too many people; that he didn’t think the relationship was worth the missions anymore. He thought maybe it was time for the Eladrin to die, anyway. With some boast, he said that he had vowed to devote his life to his mind, and to punish his body with the greatest beer the dwarves had crafted.

Kasvarina told him she would clean him up, that he was too valuable, but he was unconvinced. When the memory faded, Bhalu, having just witnessed his ex walking into his favorite bar AGAIN only to relive the end of their relationship in front of all his friends, seemed stunned. Summer awkwardly apologized for what she must have put him through, and Bhalu did not have much to say.

The constables moved on. They questioned the terse locals, and the rails themselves, and learned that Quital had been riding the rails in a private train all over Drakr. His pattern seemed random, but the constables remembered the unimpressive kobolds and requested their help. They learned through that information and a bit of elimination that Quital was probably in Mirsk.

The constables reached Quital’s private train just as it was pulling out of the station. Cazara jumped to the top of the train and started running to the engine, pulling far ahead of the group with her superior speed. The rest of the constables managed to board before too long, and followed at their own paces, employing magical help when the cars started to decouple to keep from being left behind. Guards appeared on top of the front cars and Alienor shot at them with gusto.

Cazara came to a car that seemed different, and she descended into it to see what it held. She ignored the inert iron golems she found there and continued forward, quaffing a potion of invisibility and phasing silently into the front car. There she came upon Leone Quital, eyes closed, concentrating. There was a rending behind her as Oksana attempted to block the mechanism that allowed the golems to ascend, but Quital, with his steel shaping, effortlessly repaired his defense and deployed it.

Alienor was shooting the guards, Ironpeak and Oksana found themselves amid a couple of very violent mechanical men, and Summer clung invisibly to the ladder between two cars. Another guard attempted to leave one of those cars and climb up top, but reconsidered after encountering an unseeable derrière halfway up the ladder he was reaching for.

Cazara, still invisible, still moving through walls, advanced upon the oblivious steel shaper and with a practiced motion slapped a pair of mage cuffs on him. The cuffs immediately started whistling shrilly and smoking slightly as Quital opened the top of his car like a tin of sardines and rose into the air. Oksana grabbed her chance and managed to get a thought into the man’s head that kept him, for a time, from doing much more damage to the party. He simply hovered, in step with the train, as he fought off the invading cogitation. Oksana, too, was stationary, and quite in the way of Ironpeak’s work with the iron golems.

It was in this way that, when Ironpeak felled one of the constructs, causing it to explode, Oksana was caught in the blast and thrown helpless from the train. Summer, shaking off her unintentional molestation, remembered her divinity and managed to bring the young dwarf back from the brink of death even as the train raced away from her.

Quital, still floating, battered by bullets and magic and anti-magic cuffs, recalled that he was in pain and shook off the lingering effects of Oksana’s unique magic. He flew from the train in a rage, lifted the entire contraption from the tracks and spun it, sending the constables flying.

By some grace none were under the train when he dropped it, and Alienor mounted its smoking remains with a Pemberton-manufactured grenade launcher over her shoulder. The blast from the Dragon’s bomb did for Quital, with a little extra drubbing from Cazara.

The Crisillyiri subdued, the constables encouraged Grappa’s consciousness to surface. He told them about a certain Frost Giant Lich with whom he had been in contact - a creature the Obscurati had considered for an ally some time ago - who was trapped in a glacier somewhere to the north. He bid the Constables take him there, where the Lich had agreed to give him control over Quital’s body, and to give him the rituals necessary to do such soul-work himself. It was in this way, Grappa said, that the constables could slip unnoticed into the very midst of the conspiracy and so work to break it from the inside. The constables thanked Grappa for this information and folded him in Quital’s body into the Absurdist Web.
 


roadtoad

aka skotothalamos
Wow, so it's been forever since I'e had time to write up reports on our progress, but I wanted to share a picture one of my players made of his character, especially because it is so indicative of how her story is intertwined with the plot.

12189212_10206670917106250_8491545161509711854_o.jpg

This is Alienor Contessa Soliogn-Stark, mother to Mort Stark, who died when RHC headquarters was ground zero for an extraplanar disaster caused by Sijhen. She was raised by Gale, who belonged to her adoptive family. She was adopted into the Soliogn family when, as a young child, she survived the shelling of an orphanage in Cherage by future king Aodhan of Risur. She wears Lorcan Kell's coat, which she took after killing him in the Obscurati facility beneath Cauldron Hill. She also wears her mask of office, as the newest member of the Unseen Court and ambassador to Risur. Her right arm was severed in a duel with Lya Jierre during the Beran Revolution which saw Bruce Shantus assassinated. The baby she carries in her new mechanical arm is the newborn son of King Aodhan, born in the Dreaming and just now returning to the real world.

Campaign update: our group has just faced off against the Voice of Rot in the Dreaming and surrendered. They are probably on their way to the capital in our next session. I think it's time to compose a 4-month summary of events. :)
 


roadtoad

aka skotothalamos
Woo. We took an extended vacation in Barovia to give Ryan Nock & co. some time to put the final polish on the Zeitgeist Compilation. We will return to Zeitgeist tomorrow night!

A sort of "current status" update which will only make sense to those who have their own Zeitgeist Adventure Path to follow along in:

The Constables managed to create a new consensus at ObCon, crafting a new set of rules for the ritual. These rules have been published by Wizards of the Coast as Fifth Edition D&D. They didn't know that's what would happen when they did it, but we were all getting tired of the 4E character bloat.

After ObCon, the Constables finished up Summer/Kasvarina's memory collection by going to Methia and facing off with Nicodemus and Borne. They managed to open one of the portals atop the tower, but while everyone was trying to escape, IronPeak and Nicodemus's consciousnesses were both ripped from the bodies they were using, freeing Mr. Mapple and IronPeak's old friend TitanFist to control their own bodies. They leapt through the portal to the Dreaming without a second thought.

In the Dreaming, the Constables solved the "murder" of Rock Rackus easily enough, but played along with the various fey schemes just long enough to see who wanted them to do what. James decided to stay in the Dreaming, passing his Constabulary duties on to his Remarkable Mechanical Hat, which had gained sentience and was probably responsible for most of James's competence over the past year. The Hat built itself a new mechanical body and "Ms. Gear" is now the party's warforged wizard. The party ended up siding with the Hedgehog Court, which took over the Dreaming and became the new Unseen Court. Alienor became the new ambassador of the Unseen Court, and Beshela helped her deliver her baby, which she had kept secret from the group for a good 6 months. Mistah Knives tagged along with the group to be Alienor's nanny.

Summer successfully wooed Rock Rackus and the two were set to be married, but the Voice of Rot had to be dealt with first. They left Rock in the city while they rode with the Wild Hunt to the Black Needles. There TitanFist, whose fate was linked with IronPeak's through shared Goliath tattoos, took up the sword and surrendered to the Voice, launching the party and the Hunt back to Risur just in time to try to prevent King Aodhan's assassination.

They failed.

Lya Jierre slew Aodhan in front of them and then got away again. Alienor ran to her lover's side, offering to bring him back from the dead, but Aodhan refused. He could not even be swayed with the news of his newborn son. During the fight, the group managed to capture Catherine Romana. They used a variation of ritual they had used to infiltrate ObCon to eject Catherine's soul and finally free Xambria from Cazara's head.

Kong Aodhan proclaimed the entire party to be Duchesses to prevent Romana's political takeover. After the King's death, Harkover Lee informed TitanFist that he had named IronPeak as his successor. Since TitanFist looked like IronPeak, she would be expected to act the part until IronPeak's consciousness could be freed from Nicodemus.

side note: IronPeak and TitanFist were part of a Beran attachment to the Risuri Armed Forces in the Fourth Yerasol War. After the war, they accepted scholarships to the Citadel military school outside of Flint. Somewhere along the line, they were subjected to horrible super-soldier experimentation that only allowed one of them to be conscious at a time, essentially giving the conscious one the powers and abilities of both combined. The "IronPeak" we've known this entire time was IronPeak's consciousness driving TitanFist's body while IronPeak was supposed to be the dormant one. Nicodemus's psychic meddling finally gave TitanFist the ability to be herself, and she was not willing to be a team player. This almost sidetracked the entire plot until Harkover (or me as DM) convinced TitanFist ('s player) that TitanFist would be motivated to recover IronPeak so she wouldn't have to be acting King.

Back to main plot: the Duchesses went to stop Stanfield's portion of the Ob ritual. They missed their fifth or sixth opportunity to kill Lya Jierre, making her the best nemesis I've ever had in a D&D game. They ended up using the destruction lantern to destroy enough other lanterns that the ritual failed. When Stanfield rose as a Rakshasa after a long, two-session encounter, they players almost rebelled. He was immune to their attacks and teleporting after people. Finally, someone told TitanFist about the Arsenal of Debhisu she carried, and TitanFist put an end to Stanfield.

After the celebrations, TitanFist went to the Citadel to find IronPeak's body in hopes her consciousness had made its way back home. There she found out that the body had been sent to the Malice Land country of Arrovia (from which Wolfgang von Recklinghausen came), under Stanfield's order.

Alienor stayed in Risur to tend after Aodhan's young son (whose name I've forgotten, but I think it's French for "Matchstick"). Her daughter Bette, who was a cleric, joined the group for the excursion to Arrovia.

We used Curse of Strahd to get the players and DM used to 5e. We converted all of the characters to 3rd-level versions of themselves. Harkover took most of their treasure back. He claimed that in a crisis, such expensive items needed to be kept by the government. Everyone suspected him of just making a nice treasure horde to sleep on.

Lots of Curse of Strahd spoilers here. IronPeak (body and mind) was found. Strahd was defeated. TitanFist took over in his place as Dark Lord of (B)Arrovia. Bette stayed in the country to preach to the desperate.

And last week, we got Alienor and IronPeak made into 5e characters and Harkover presented King IronPeak with a list of four domestic and four foreign issues that needed dealing with. (I'm smushing adventures 10 and 11 together, letting them decide to deal with the four titans, Ursaliña, Drakr, Crisilyir, and the Forward Symposium in whatever order they like. I've got El Extraño working with Harkover to get foreign info in even though She Who Writhes still blockades the seas. I might have Pemberton come cruising in with his airship if they decide to just leave SWW in charge of the oceans. It's "epic tier." The books are just sort of vague outlines at the moment.

Anyway, I have a Father of Thunder to convert and only 20 hours left to do it!

Some day, maybe I'll backfill all the details.

maybe... :)
 

I dig Arrovia as Barovia, especially since Wolfgang von Recklinghausen was clearly a Dr. Frankenstein homage, and what good is a Frankenstein franchise without a Dracula?
 

roadtoad

aka skotothalamos
I dig Arrovia as Barovia, especially since Wolfgang von Recklinghausen was clearly a Dr. Frankenstein homage, and what good is a Frankenstein franchise without a Dracula?
Yeah, we had a Vampire PC early on in the campaign and that player and I pretty much agreed that Arrovia and Barovia were the same thing in our world. :)
 

roadtoad

aka skotothalamos
some 5e conversion work-in-progress:

Fifth Edition Rites of Rulership effects for King IronPeak:
Lord of the Land:
- As a bonus action, move up to four 5-ft cubes of natural terrain up to 5 feet each.
- Name a creature to prevent it from entering Risur via magic for one month
- When engaged in battle with a person or group vying for control of Risuri territory, gain the following benefits, based on the most powerful individual in that group:
-- A bonus to all six attributes equal to the difference in Hit Dice (max 30)
-- A bonus to regeneration equal to the difference in Hit Dice
-- Can treat self and opponent as the same size for any effect.

Monarch of the Masses:
- Regeneration 10
- Advantage to saves vs Charm, Fear, and Poison effects.
- When dropped to 0 hit points, all allies within three miles are knocked prone and cannot take reactions until the start of their next turn.
Crown of Risur:
- Treat Intelligence as 19 (does not stack with Lord of the Land bonus when fighting powerful enemies) (she had a Headband of Intellect already, so I had Harkover combine them)
- Know the names of all you can see.
- As a bonus action, say someone's name to end a Charm, Fear, or Poison effect on them. Once per creature per day.
 
Last edited:

roadtoad

aka skotothalamos
The Duchesses headed to Bole and managed to wrangle the Father of Thunder amidst his gigantic stampede by distracting him with vats of fungus beer and then climbing up him. Several Duchesses were riding him at once when he finally came crashing down. He thanked them for a glorious fight and promised that he could give them all healthy babies. They all refused, but he offered to help the Risuri harvest with his titanic fertilizing powers. He also said that anyone who did want lots of healthy babies should come back to this exact spot on the first day of spring.

From there, the Duchesses headed to Ber, where they had heard from Executore Glaucia Evora that the city of Ursaliña had gone silent. After talking to Glaucia, they dispatched some Ob shadow assassins whose boss seemed very upset about having to go back to the Ghost Council and break the bad news to Nicodemus. They used Glaucia's Divination spell to ask what would help them the most in Ursaliña. The divination told them to "Get out of the sun and into the bowels of the singing whale."

Not quite knowing what to do with that, they headed to the city and sought one of the few leads Glaucia had given them: a merchant named Flida. Flida recognized them as foreigners and asked them to "come in out of the sun." Flida told the group about the glowing flying thing she had witnesses recently and that locals had been acting strangely and disappearing. While this conversation was happening, a flying Gidim occupier known as an Oculus spotted the group and called in some reinforcements. The group mostly fell under a series of Modify Memory spells. Cazara and Summer did not fall under Gidim mind control, but thought it best to follow along and pretend they had.

The Gidim built up some fake memories of a detailed investigation that led to the Jaula de Oso fighting colosseum, where they hoped the King of Risur would be killed by the weird fleshwarped hybrid beasts the Gidim had been creating there: wicked creatures with the heads of owls and the bodies of a bears!

(The fight went quickly pear-shaped when Ms. Gear penned everyone in with her wall of fire and the owlbears started throwing themselves into the fire, dying, and being absorbed into an uberbear. As the TPK drew near, I advised everyone to thank Nicodemus for the fact they couldn't die from death saves. Cazara escaped after everyone else was down and I adjusted the Gidim plan to one of possessing them after they were unconscious)

After their horrible defeat at the arena, most of the Duchesses were taken into the Gidim Leviathan beneath the Bards' College. Cazara had vague memories (by way of having shared her brainspace with Xambria, who had shared brainspace with Sijhen) of how to implant an Oculus Prism in the base of her neck to appear to be a loyal Gidim thrall.

The infiltration went well enough. Cazara found Gear in a pile of discarded equipment, which included almost all of the group's gear (heh) except the crown of Risur.

more later...
 

Man, I'd already forgotten about the omnibear. I'm kinda amazed the Gidim took them down. Go go mind monsters!

What's the party roster now?
 

Mythological Figures & Maleficent Monsters

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