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ZEITGEIST The chronicles of Team Big-hearted And Determined (B.A.D.)


Session 34
Courtesy of Ella's player

Our first day in Danor began well before the sun was up, with Ella sneaking into her fellow constables’ rooms and stealing their Feathers of Messenger Wind. This left her feeling rather guilty when John made her hot chocolate later, but... she’d only done what she had to do, right?

Meanwhile, Lisandra was blissfully unaware of the nighttime theft, and had been having a rather odd dream. She was lying down, being whispered to soothingly by an eladrin woman, but when she tried to get up she found she couldn’t - she was strapped down. As Lisandra started to panic the dream faded, leaving her with... an odd sense of familiarity.

This is a lot, so I'm going to give the shortest version I can.

Two parts of Lisandra's past have been left a mystery: the source of her ghost-speaking powers and her biological parents (she was found as a child abandoned in a Flint parish). I used this book to bring these mysteries to the light.

Lisandra’s biological father, Father Balthazar, is the corrupt Clergy figurehead in Nalaam. Commonly flanked by two once-humans-now-demons, Balthazar is no stranger to evil deeds. Perhaps the most sinister was his transition into false psychic lichdom, granting himself immortality in exchange for former half-eladrin lover (Riskasha Yero) eternal undeath. Her soul is bound to his corrupted Fourth Blade of Srasama.

Over the course of Lisandra's railroad adventure, she has dreams of increasing clarity. From her perspective as a small infant, she witnesses a ritual between Balthazar and Yero. Discovered on the walls of the Perpetual City by the couple, the ritual is completed with a Blade of Srasama. The ritual ends with Yero forsaking the crone and killing herself. Yero becomes a spirit, and immediately tries consoling Lisandra (Mori). Yero believes the ritual will bring the family immortality at the cost of her old body. This is of course a deception by Balthazar, who uses the now-corrupted blade to absorb Yero's spirit. As a psychic lich, Balthazar is required to write a memento, that is bonded to his Nemian Legend, a sentient collection of spirits that maintains Balthazar's immortality. As his first act of lichdom, Balthazar exerts his evilness by having the flesh flashed from Lisandra's arm, having the corrupted blade transform into a scalpel, then writes his momento on Lisandra's bones. The momento has imbued Lisandra with necromantic energy, giving her the ability to communicate with the deceased.

To destroy a Nemian Legend, one must conduct a ritual with the momento. For Balthazar, this will involve Lisandra finding Balthazar's corrupted blade, travelling to Nem (likely via Luc's lantern), and destroying the Legend.

A bit paranoid, Balthazar sends for his daughter to be throne into the volcano Enzyo Mons. Knowing he and his memento are immune to fire damage, he expects this plan will keep anyone from finding his memento and ending his lichdom. When Lisandra is delivered to the cathedral atop the volcano with his demands and a generous contribution to the church, the head priest falters. He recognizes the capability of the child, and knows she will be of use to The Family. Instead of casting her into the volcano, she sends her to a parish in Flint. He hopes her upbringing with indirectly draw her to The Family, which has set its eyes on the newly industrial city. And in a way, it did.

Balthazar believing he is a brilliant schemer, has no reason to believe Mori is alive.

Angharad and John hadn’t experienced any odd dreams, but they did notice their missing feathers. Upon investigation, Angharad found a single black hair on the floor and scratch marks at the window - as if someone with claws had broken in.

Whether from unwillingness to accept the evidence - or perhaps a desire to watch her squirm - Angharad approached Ella and asked her to help him look for clues about the theft. She reluctantly agreed and scanned the room, reporting that Illusion and flight magic had been used by the intruder. At which point Angharad started to wonder whether Gale might have stolen the feather?

We convened over breakfast and John revealed that his feather had also been taken - and based on the impressions in his carpet, by a small feminine figure. At this point Ella was pointedly avoiding looking at anyone. Lisandra checked and discovered that her feather was also missing. Ella excused herself from the meal to supposedly check on her own feather, but while she did go to her room and retrieve her Handy Haversack, she already knew exactly what was in there.

The next few days passed uneventfully in shopping and sightseeing: Lisandra made some social connections, Angharad visited Beaumont’s martial academy, and Ella investigated the local factories. Eventually Angharad approached Ella and asked her to look for planar energies in his room, just in case the feather thief had left any traces of that kind.

Already knowing it was hopeless, Ella nonetheless agreed, and after a cursory scan and a brief argument with Angharad she stalked out, wound up far too tight with too many conflicting emotions.

Lisandra, noticing the tension, had a heart-to-heart with Angharad and convinced him to try to make nice with Ella. Angharad decided that the best way to do this was to let Ella stab him. Lisandra immediately told him that that was a very bad idea - not that the kineticist listened.

He went to Ella’s room to apologise, but his attempt backfired when he inadvertently revealed that he’d been giving Andy secret combat training lessons. (Although he did at least manage to keep it to himself that Andy had psychic magic and Angharad had been teaching him how to lie better.) Ella was nonetheless furious and accused Angharad of going behind her back and betraying her trust - which was ironic really, considering what she’d been doing…

Regardless, Ella stormed out of the room and Angharad decided to leave her a friendly apology note: instructing her to stab him when she got back. He even left her a dagger to do the stabbing with! How thoughtful.

When Ella found the message though, what she saw wasn’t a weird Angharad apology, but a note telling her that the hotel was under attack by Obscurati agents and that she was needed downstairs.

Meanwhile, Angharad had been telling Lisandra just how poorly his conversation with Ella had gone, and the exasperated oracle was on her way to Ella’s room to smooth things over. She arrived just in time to see the wild-eyed tiefling slam the door open: note in one hand and dagger in the other.

It only took Lisandra a moment to deduce that something was very wrong and she tried to usher Ella back into the room where they could talk about it. Ella took a swipe at her with her claws, and Lisandra finally realised that Ella was suffering from Distant Madness. A very, very prolonged case of it.

The oracle tried to cast Delay Disease in the hopes of suppressing Ella’s madness until something more permanent could be done about it, but the tiefling was having none of it. When Angharad and John arrived after following the sounds of fighting, they found a scratched and bleeding Lisandra and an almost feral-looking Ella.

Their attempts to calm her down only led Ella to believe that they were all Obscurati assassins there to kill her, and things went downhill after that. As the tiefling became more and more desperate to escape, an insane Rage overtook her, turning Ella’s vision dark and showing her a vision.

It was the same memory the steel mill construct had shown her: of reaching out toward a blurred figure with kindness and forgiveness. Of approaching someone who was the source of hatred and resentment with hope. Something about the vision sent darkness crashing over Ella’s mind, and she fell to the floor unconscious.

Lisandra wasted no time in casting Delay Disease on her. It suppressed Ella’s distant madness for 24 hours and brought Ella back to consciousness. But while technically awake, she was still trapped in her own mind: no longer by insanity but by her own memories. Every action of the past three months passed before her mind’s eye: no longer distorted by insane paranoia and hatred but viewed with the cold eye of logic. So many unforgivable things that she couldn’t take back…

When Ella finally snapped out of her reflection an hour later, her friends were all still there: patiently waiting. Seeing the dried blood on their skin and the wounds her own claws had caused, Ella was overcome with guilt. She quietly apologised and returned her friends’ stolen Feathers to them. Upon questioning, she revealed a little of what she had done over the past few months...

Fireballing Kell’s factories, luring a band of his thugs to a secluded location and murdering them, alienating her own family, and - maybe worst of all - burning down her parents’ tree: the one they’d been buried under and the only thing she had left of them.

Her fellow constables each comforted her in their own way: Angharad expressing approval of all the Fireballs, Lisandra offering kind words and hugs, and John - the most practical of all - ensuring that by the next morning he had Remove Disease prepped and ready to remove the distant madness permanently.

The remaining days before the scheduled train trip passed quietly: with Ella in shock and recovering in the hotel suite, while the others either kept her company or left to gather information and keep up appearances. Notably, Lisandra heard a rumour that a number of grisly murders had been popping up around Beaumont - and also that some unfortunate ship’s captain had lost his ship to a termite infestation.

The morning of our departure we were at the station bright and early, and even in her troubled state Ella couldn’t help but be fascinated by the technological marvel of the Avery Coast train.

With the technologist suitably distracted, Angharad and Lisandra played up their roles as traveling nobility and were shown around the first class accommodations by the train conductor himself: Xorin Marchand. The staff seemed friendly enough - or at least the first class chef was certainly enthusiastic about having an opportunity to experiment with Danoran and Risuri ‘fusion’ flavours - and Angharad managed to snag an invitation to participate in “The Great Safari”. Basically the opportunity to shoot any Malice Lands monsters that tried to attack the train during its passage to Drakr.

As we settled in we met one of our undercover operatives - a security guard called Law Rightson - and a family of half-orcs from Ber called the Grientos. They would be staying in the first class rooms next to ours.

Shortly after the train got underway we were treated to a complimentary breakfast in the first class dining carriage: where we got to meet the rest of our traveling companions. Jacques was the captain of the unfortunate termite-infested ship that Lisandra had heard rumours about. Alexi was a traveling magic item trader with an adorable dinosaur companion called Emil. Bree was a scarred woman with a lot of colourful war stories to share with the Griento children. Emily was a tiefling war veteran with a fondness for tabletop roleplaying games. And Bethany was a quiet tiefling woman who took quite the interest in Angharad.

We had a few hours to mingle with them all before the train stopped at a large agricultural settlement, and two rather striking passengers boarded: a broad woman with a constant expression of disdain, and a humanoid figure of unknown features... shrouded head to toe in black cloth. The two were joined at the wrists by ornate bracelets of gold.

Intense curiosity gripped everyone as the two figures entered the first class lounge. Who are they? Where are they going? Why is one of them roleplaying as a mummy? Find out the answers to possibly none of these questions this week: on Zeitgeist!

DM Notes:

I ran this adventure with the red herring NPCs. I regretted it half way through, because the party spent a lot of time following up the red herrings. By the time the party faced down Boone in Nem, they had not once tailed Bree, Verzubak, Boone, Luc or Ottavia. On the positive side, it did test the limits of my GMing (having to GM group discussions/interactions, keeping tabs on 15+ NPCs at each stop). The players did enjoy it too.

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Session 35
Courtesy of Lisandra's player

Last session began at Keskay, as a new lot of passengers boarded the train, the most noticeable of which was Elanor Yanette, a rather lavish and intimidating woman, and her veiled companion, linked at the wrists in decorative gold cuffs. Also in tow was a dwarven man, Verzubak Tantalovich, seemingly enthusiastic about mathematics as he promptly began to oversee Emily’s game of strategy in first class. A charismatic blonde man named Ford Zugosky boarded, and an awkward gentleman named Leroy Flowers, dressed in an attention-grabbing red-suit, followed in by a bearded older gentleman with a slew of scrolls and papers that appeared to be an academic.

As passengers settled in, orders bowls of chips and slipped into tables to make new acquaintances, the BAD got to work. In the first class quarters, John met our final Keskay boarder, a tiefling man by the name of Olivert Boone who caught the sight or John… or should I say John’s gun, through the doorway and struck up conversation, inviting the gunslinging duid for a drink.

As John and his new gun-enthused friend joined the rest of the crew in the meals car, Angharad was bravely going where none other braved, slipping into a spare seat on Elanor’s table. The veiled woman’s humming halted at his presence, but Elanor remained impassive, eagerly devouring a plate of cream pastries. Once her flaky, sweet prey was devoured, she turned her hungry gaze upon the kineticist to inquire his interest. Price for conversation with her, it seemed, was a kiss on her hand, which Angharad stared at until the penny dropped and he reluctantly gave in to the social convention. But when the woman’s hand wandered to reveal a little more of her intimidating cleavage, Angharad’s attention promptly shifted to her much more modest companion. Just another scar for life to add to the collection. Though the veiled companion, Isobel, was not the chatty sort, he got a good look at the delicate gold chains linking them together and determined they seemed to be primarily decoration. Eventually, Elanor interrupted with an air of disdain and informed him not to speak to Isobel, that she did not enjoy it. His apologies were met with acceptance and another flash of cleavage that even the great Angharad could not brave, and the actor who played Henri exited stage-left with a hasty farewell.

Meanwhile Lisandra had set her attention on the man in red. He seemed a little shocked as she approached him, but recovered enough to wipe his chip-greased hand clean on the leg of his pant before shaking her hand. Well, he certainly wasn’t a first-class passenger, was he? They spoke of his threads, which he acquired in Flint, a supposed small town near the Anthras Mountains named “Gabro”. Apparently he had been there for work, inspecting some of the mines. He quickly changed the subject to Lisandra, employing the tedium of returning a question about her ‘pretty dress’ and inquired to where she was off to. When she mentioned travelling with her brother to Crysillir, Leroy abruptly excused himself and with an awkward departure left her curious considering none of the reasons why a man would take issue at them mention of a chaperone as she made her way over to the bar, ordering one of Kov’s ‘Risuri lattes’ and to eavesdrop on the bustling conversation between John and Olivert.

The tiefling regaled tales of his work adventuring and the pair made a toast, along with a morning dose of liquor, to good travels and fine weaponry. Olivert fawned over John’s weapon without restraint, asking of its origins and proudly showing off his own in return; a pistol brimming with fire magic by the heat radiating from the barrel. Both Lisandra and Ella caught the flirtatious vibe from the tiefling as they observed the conversation, but it seemed to be all a show for the feminine audience, as he winked in their direction before taking another drink.

Ella’s attentions redirected to Ford Zugosky, a small town politician from Ashkov, near Bhad Rhyzhavdut (Buhd RYEZ-hav-dut) headed for Cheurge to fundraise for his campaign. He spoke of the trouble of being a human, and a blonde one at that, running for mayor of a town composed of mostly Dwarven constituents, with the history between the Dwarved of Drakr and the golden-haired godhands of the Clergy. Enthusiastically, he ran his draft campaign slogans by Ella, who gave him some heart-felt advice about making sure to lead from the heart, and truthfully so and he accepted her advice gratefully.

Lisandra decided to try her chances joining John with his new drinking buddy as her coffee arrived. The expected flirtation and the kiss of the hand was all well and good, but the medium knew she had perhaps under-estimated the level of sleaze the tiefling exuded as his grasp never left her, diverting from her hand to linger down her arm and slip around her shoulder as he continued to chat. When she heavily dropped the reason for their travel was to organize a marriage contract, Olivert seemed vaguely disappointed and expressed that John should marry this ‘Enzo’ instead and Lisandra should shoot him a Sending when she was available.

Travels toward their first Enclave continued as certain dwarves discussed probability and gaming, the bearded academic debated magic theory with Alexi before leaving in a fluster. Angharad played protective big brother and inquired with the guard about which quarters Olivert was staying in. John brought Sidney out for her debut appearance in the meals car, with an ominous queue of music from the talented pianist as Kov got to work preparing a bowl of raw meats for the feline passenger.

Meanwhile Ella stuck up a conversation with Bree, who sat quietly, still on her own and no longer keeping an eye out for whoever she was waiting for. Ella offered her a drink and tentatively enquired about her missing friend. While the subject was a sore one, Bree seemed to be thankful for the company and despite her obvious military background, content to respectfully socialize with a Risuri. Ella was especially curious about the woman’s arm, to which Bree was happy to humble brag about how it was torn off by a summon jaguar in a scuffle against a druid. She said she had been approached by a very unconventional doctor after the battle who used a blend of science and magic to reanimate and attach her arm. Fascinated by the story, Ella asked to inspect the work, casting a little detect magic to find a mix of conjuration and necromancy magic keeping the lifeless limb attached and functional.

Finally the train made it to Cheurge, where the passengers allotted for the evening to stay in the Enclave. Team BAD booked their suite, a joint room upon Lisandra’s request, and dropped off their luggage before quickly debriefing and setting about their work for the evening. Ella and ANgharad decided to tail Leroy, and Lisandra would follow Elanor while John made his way to some of the local drinking establishments to gather some general information on any passengers who dropped in for a drink.

Ella and Angharad followed Leroy to the same establishment as John and many of the train passengers for a drink. Alexi and Bree both drinking in solitude, while Olivert quickly put moves on a pretty patron for the evening and Verzubak busied himself with drunken speeches, lost dice games and buying a whole round for the room with what little he had left.

A while into the night Leroy left the bar in a hurry. Angharad and Ella followed, watching him tailing a shaggy-looking mark of his own into an alley out back. They watched, perplexed, as Leroy shoved the man, who promptly pulled a knife of Leroy and robbed him blind.

Meanwhile Lisandra had spent the evening subtly watching Elanor, who left the district after obtaining a pass from the local police. She followed the carriage to the gate in which it left, settling in for a rather long wait as she staked out the area for Elanor’s return. The pair returned, several hours later, accompanied by an armed escort back to the hotel, where the Team regrouped and debriefed for the evening.
Before the drama of the evening was over, Team Bad heard a tapping at their window. Their window on the seventh floor, with no complimentary balcony. A little perplexed, Lisandra cautiously pulled back the curtain to reveal a grinning man, quite athletic from what she could see--which was plenty, considering he only wore a coat and nothing else. He waved as she stared. At Angharad’s prompt, she opened the window and the pungent stench of bath oils followed the man in, along with the distant sound of guards screaming above.

He introduced himself as Mister Mapple and inquired if they had any pants to spare. As Angharad offered him a towel and Lisandra wandered off to find a hairpin to secure it, Mister Mapple discussed with Ella his bathing activities in the unrented penthouse above. As the guards pounded on the door, their barely clothed guest seemed to be enjoying himself immensely, and poised himself on the windowsill as Lisandra answered the door, before vanishing into the night. Curious Ella peeked out the window, to find him casually waiting at the ground floor for the guards to catch up and she cast Message to ask his first name. Mister. Mister Mapple, came the reply, before he sprinted off with the guard in tow.

As midnight approached, the team took Sidney for a walk and met their Guard contact, Law, for a quick rendezvous near the gardens. He reported that a death had occured in coach that morning, shortly after arriving at Keskay. A man had choked on a small nut in the common food car. He was found to be carrying a poisoned dagger and a portrait of a dwarf; bearded and bald-headed and a few of the team wondered if perhaps it was an image of Verzubak. They requested he keep tabs on Elanor the next day while on the train and pass on a message to Writha to try to keep tabs on Bree and Bree’s room for any further information she could uncover. They kept things brief, and returned to the hotel to settle in for the evening.

That night, Lisandra found her dream once again became a little stranger than normal. Again she dreamed of an Eladrin woman by her side, whispering wordless comforts to her as she was pinned down to a hard surface. Only this time three humanoid figures stood in the background, two that appeared to have wings. She tried to focus on them, but found her gaze kept returning to the Eladin. Opening her mouth to speak, to tell the woman she didn’t understand, the only noise that came out of her mouth was the sound of a baby’s giggle.

She awoke to find her companions getting ready for the day, and the group made haste to board the train before departure for the next leg of their journey. The first class meal car was a buzz with rumours of a murder in Cheurge, but the group’s attention promptly shifted to the Griento family, who bordered looking dejected, Damata carrying his badly beaten daughter in his arm, and his son sporting a black eye as they made their way through.

Several more passengers boarded at Cheurge, including Luc Jierre, as Elanor gossiped loudly about the apparent shut-in as she had a conversation with his companion in hand gestures. Despite the notable name-drop, Lisandra quickly approached Damata, quietly inviting him and his family to enjoy a private breakfast in their quarters together.

Away from the crowd, Damata opened up over walnut croissants and honey-nut oats that his family had been attacked by drunken militia when touring the city last night. His daughter had taken their insults poorly, which was often a little more violent than non-orcish temper tantrums, but before Damata could pull her away, she was beaten badly and his son had earned a kick to the face for trying to help his sister.

Interrupting Sidney’s epic pat session with the children, Lisandra called Dabbo over to inspect her wounds and ask permission to help ease the pain. With consent, she lay hands on the girl, calling on healing energy to ease the girl’s suffering. Grateful, Dabbo rolled her shoulder around with more ease and promised to fight alongside Lisandra in future. With breakfast coming to a close, the Griento’s returned to their quarters and the group decided to take Xorin up on his offer to show off the engine, and also submit a complaint to the conductor about the treatment of First Class passengers in the Cheurge Enclave. Along the way they took note of the cars and their contents, noting the many crates and containers in cargo as they passed through. One in particular was of a curious note; a crate filled with religious items and… was that snoring? Ella cast Keyhole and put her eye to the newly created hole, only to see an eye staring right back at her.

Bursting forth from the crate, a familiar, but thankfully very much clothed, man greeted them.

What the hell is Mister Mapple doing stowed away on our train? Who’s clothes is he wearing? What new acquaintances will our constables-in-hiding make today? Find out today, in the undercover adventures of Team BAD!

Lisandra's backstory is cool.

Sorry for suggesting red herrings. I guess I didn't consider including all of them, but more like, making them available in case the PCs latch on to someone you describe in passing. But it sounds like you're having fun.

Andrew Moreton

Yes nice backstory and evil villain. Some players really enjoy cool and weird secrets in their backstory which tie them into the plot.
I put in a lot of extra Red Herrings but they were not convincing enough and the players did not waste a lot of major effort on them. They did decide they really hated Elenor really fast and it was a matter of time before she was dealt with


Session 36

The players didn't chuck Mister Mapple off the train, despite thinking he was a risk to the mission. There was more discussion to be had between the party and passenger, and between passengers themselves. Unlike the impression I got from the book, Luc and Ottavia would often leave their chambers. Luc had a dash of social anxiety, and Ottavia had challenged him to confront it. Despite his discomfort, he would engage in short conversations with NPCs and PCs.

Regarding passenger interactions, one highlight was Alexi and Professor Sansdotter immediately entering an argument over the pragmatics of different magical communication.

As the party journeyed, the Professor regaled them with useful exposition (on the dead magic zone of Danor). His lecture was interrupted by Malia, who took the constables and others upstairs for a safari. Lisandra and Ella used this as an opportunity to judge personality based on the enjoyment, targets, and markmanship of passengers. Little did they know Malia used the safari for a similar purpose.

When stopping at the Malice Lands, Lisandra tailed Elanor (bumping into Mister Mapple on the way), Angharad kept an eye on the Grientos, and Ella hosted a small picnic on the hills to watch the aurora. John's player couldn't make this session. Everyone eventually met up on the hill, alongside a few red herring NPCs. Around this time, the city plunges into darkness and Angharad begins to drown (the elemental fire that constitutes his being was swapped with water). After a few seconds of the kineticist violently coughing up water, Angharad's connection with fire is restored and he slowly begins to feel better. Lisandra and Ella take Angharad to their hotel room to rest, before venturing outside to find their their security guard contact, who they had posted to outside Elanor's room. The timid guard blushes, telling the constables that he heard lewd moaning for most of the day.

The party rests and hops back on the train the following morning. Lisandra bumps into the rather pleasant Cardiff. The constables join Malia for another safari, Cardiff instructs Lisandra on how to use a rifle, and the bandit trap is sprung. Ella, who was discussing magic with Sansdotter in the second-class cabins was the closest to the Screaming Malice.

DM Notes

I didn't write up, but the red-suited Leory is based on a terrifying friend-of-a-friend who I met only once at a casino. When someone asked this man for one of his chips, he replied with a swift, apathetic "I will naughty word kill you." People laughed. I didn't. I know deep down this man has killed at least one person. Not for pleasure, but for obligation to the inevitable.

For the rest of the adventure, Leory's chip eating habits perplex the constables.


Session 37
Courtesy of Ella's player

We all have moments in life when we pause to reflect on what exactly we're doing, and how the hell we wound up here. For Ella, the most recent of these was while running toward a giant screaming hydra with nothing but her claws and a bunch of prepared spells that could just as easily spellblight her as do anything useful. That didn’t stop her doing it, she just knew how intensely stupid it was. As evidenced by immediately being bitten almost to death and punted through a train window.

Ella’s antics did succeed at getting the monster's attention though: drawing it away from the other passengers while Ella climbed out a window and hid on the far side of the train. Fortunately Angharad and Lisandra came dashing to the rescue: leaping across the tops of train carriages like the heroes in every action movie involving a train ever. And they were just in time too! As wriggling swarms of mini tentacle monsters descended on Ella. Because of course we weren't just fighting one monster. No, we were fighting the swarms of mini monsters that it could create by detaching its own heads and exploding them into masses of tentacled monstrosities.

You know, just your average screaming swamp hydra tactics.


The Screaming Malice attempts to derail the train and crush the party. Fortunately, the players realised what it was up to and repositioned.

Meanwhile John and the train guards were still on their way, and something suss was happening at the front of the train - but we didn't have time to worry about that. Angharad was busy mowing down mini tentacles with a cavalry saber, Lisandra was taking pot shots with a borrowed rifle and Ella was trying to bait the hydra away from the train. Not entirely successfully, as the giant monster turned its attention to Lisandra and almost bit her to death, and then snatched Harper the rapier-wielding half-elf off the roof and actually bit her to death.

The mysterious half-elf’s sacrifice was not in vain though, as a combination of rifle shots from John, the train guards, and the other passengers - and some saber stabbing fun-times from Angharad - managed to drive the monster away. As we watched it retreat we realised the fight was still far from over though: there were still distant humanoid figures milling around at the front of the train, riding some kind of odd-looking mounts.

Angharad ran right into the fray, coming across the closest two and managed to dismount one and scare the other off. As Lisandra detained the grounded bandit, Angharad chased and Ella chased the other. Unfortunately this accomplished little other than getting Angharad shot with a critical hit from a pistol. The rest of the bandits fled, mounts loaded with cargo, and we were left with only one bandit to interrogate.

Or rather, for the train guards to interrogate, since we are - after all - not meant to be constables.

The dead were collected - including Harper - and the traumatised passengers ushered back to their carriages as the train got underway. We were asked to stay in our room during the staff’s investigation into the attack, and were politely questioned. Ella shared what she knew of the Screaming Malice - that it’s summoned by sacrificial rituals, so its presence was likely planned for the attack - and Lisandra skillfully persuaded Xorin to keep us informed about the results of the investigation once it was over.

Fortunately we had a more immediate source of information in Writha (a cleaner contact on the train): who slipped us some details of the interrogation of the captured bandit. Apparently the bandits had a contact on the train who tipped them off on where to stage the attack, but no one knew who it was. The stolen cargo had been of an industrial nature, and the bandit leader was called Ronin. Writha also revealed that about 20 passengers and a dozen guards had died during the attack...

It was a sobering number, and prompted a brief heart-to-heart between Lisandra and Ella about not dwelling on the past and events we could no longer change. Meanwhile Angharad was being distracted by a Sending from Delft. The Inspector warned him that Ella was under the effects of Distant Madness and likely highly unstable - and that if she’d already gotten everyone killed then Delft had probably paid for this Sending for nothing. Good to see his priorities are still in order…

Fortunately, Angharad was still alive and able to respond: reporting that the Distant Madness was old news and the mission was going fine. Although with... admittedly more tentacles than expected. This prompted a brief lecture about laying off the drugs from Delft before the Sending ended.

That wasn’t the end of the day’s excitement though! Confined to our carriage and unable to do much, Lisandra decided to continue our investigations using more magical means. The oracle cast Clairaudience-Clairvoyance on 4 of the train carriages. The first to be spied on was Giles, and his mysterious black case: which - as it turned out - contained nothing more than a trumpet.

The second spellcast went to Leroy: sitting alone in a second class cabin and eating chips. So. Many. Chips. And so very slowly. Watching him was… possibly the most unsettling six minutes of Lisandra’s life, but she did notice a dark grey ring on one of his fingers.

The third Clairaudience-Clairvoyance went to the first class dining carriage, where some off-duty guards were talking. Apparently they’d found blood in the carriage the industrial cargo had been taken from, but no bodies to explain the blood… hopefully it didn’t belong to Mr Mapple...

Finally, Lisandra’s last magical spying session went to Dan: the older gentleman with nice glasses. Who apparently helps Professor Kipana with odd experiments involving strange eyewear? Perhaps he was just fitting the Professor for a pair of glasses? Or maybe they were testing a set of x-ray goggles! Who knows! Lisandra did note that both Dan and the Professor were wearing pale grey metal rings though…

Our speculation was cut short by the arrival in Trekhom: capital of Drakr and the most polluted city we’ve been in. The train’s 20 minute late arrival had already stirred up rumours at the station ahead of us, and the arrival of the damaged train and the shrouded bodies that were wheeled off of it only stirred up more concern. Soon train tickets were being refunded left and right as people decided that the Malice Lands wasn’t quite safe enough to travel through. Not until the giant tentacled monster problem could be dealt with at least.

In all this commotion Damata approached Angharad and asked if he’d like to attend a philosophical lecture with the half-orc? Sensing that there was more to this request than mere politeness - that, for some reason, Damata needed company - Angharad accepted, and Lisandra and Ella decided to tag along too.

Traveling through Trekhom was… eye-opening. Apparently the guards here aren’t afraid to throw around 5th level spells like Dominate Person - or Necromancy spells like Boneshatter - while doing their jobs. We also saw some of Drakr’s famed philosophical debates: with several dwarves yelling various ideologies at each other in a kind of “marketplace of ideas”.

Fascinating, but not as fascinating as the lecture we were about to see: being given by Vlendam Heid, the founder of the Eschatologist school of thought and the idea of finding a proper ending to things.

The dwarf proved to be a compelling speaker - especially to Damata - but it wasn’t long before Heid interrupted his speech to take special note of us: singling us out as survivors of the attack on the train. He sat companionably on the edge of the stage and spoke to us directly, asking about our experience with our own narrowly avoided ends.

Damata was first to respond, stating rather disconsolately that such a near-death experience had made him reflect on his own past mistakes. That he’d hurt his family and he didn’t know how to fix it without getting himself killed.

As the half-orc spoke the other audience members began to take furious notes, apparently enthralled with this insight. But not perhaps, so enthralled as the members of Team BAD. What has our half-orc friend gotten himself into? What did he mean by hurting his family? Why did he think trying to make amends would get him killed?

Find out the answers to hopefully some of these questions this week: on Zeitgeist.


Session 38

Team BAD learned of Damata's sad tale. They agreed to help.

Following the theater, Team BAD tracked a few suspects. The bloody and beaten Leory, who sulked in his room, ignoring Lisandra’s offer of medical care. Ella, who bore witness to a violent academic debate in Trekholm’s bar. And Angharad, who tailed Luc Jierre through a gathering of some sort, perhaps late to the party. After concluding his business, Angharad made his way to one of Trekholm’s holy cathedrals of law. He had his wounds banished from the record (if the Screaming Malice cannot pay damages, are there any damages to be paid?). Of course, Angharad took a moment to gaze into the roaring bonfire, recalling the history of the Ash Wolf (I conjured up a story of the Ash Wolf's lover).

The night concluded, with Lisandra once again plunging into a vivid dream.

The following day, the train was abound with rumours. Another body found in Trekholm. Could the killer be on the train, and responsible for the beast that attacked it? Many seem to think so. The mood was deary, with Team BAD occasionally bumping into the fellow passenger. Olivert at the bar, Luc and Ottavia snacking on cheese, Mister Mapple confessing his love for Isobel, Dan testing Ella’s skull for eccentricities, and Bree casually mentioning Caius Bergeron…

Now Team BAD finds themselves in Nalaam, the Decedent Playground. A city run by a cabal of mages. Both mana and coin flow freely here, with no temptation off the table. Before departing the train, they received a letter from Elanor Yanette, inviting them to the Nalaam Arena. The party departs, meeting with Damata who produces a bag of strange and powerful totems.


Session 39
Courtesy of Ella's player

Another day, another criminal organisation to threaten or bribe… Emphasis on the threaten this time. We arrived at the Stoneforge ready for a fight: armed with magical totems from Damata and some stylish warpaint! Or… well Angharad and Damata had warpaint. The rest of us were boring and plain-faced as we marched into the Stoneforge to speak on Damata’s behalf.

The actual speaking only lasted about... thirty seconds before we unanimously agreed that the naughty word in charge of this gang needed to die. ...Or at the very least receive a very physical lesson in not threatening our friends. Sylvester and his thugs were thoroughly educated in short order: by means of a Fireball, a dozen bullets and some sharp lioness claws. Lisandra did take a rather nasty hit from a human-bane dagger in the process, but got her own back by ordering the last two thugs standing to surrender and pin the blame for the missing money on Sylvester. Making sure that Damata and his family’s names were not mentioned in the process.

Satisfied that the Grientos were safe, we parted ways with Damata - although not without some tears, handshakes and hugs - and received an invitation to visit him and his family in Ber sometime. With the pleasant part of the evening thus concluded, we made our way to the Nalaam arena: to see what Elanor had planned. The arena turned out to be an absolutely massive building - guarded by security guards using magical telepathic earpieces. We managed to get to our first class viewing box without Ella dying of jealousy on the way - and ran into Professor Kipana on the way. He said his farewells and explained that he wouldn’t be getting on the train the next day, as he teaches here in Nalaam.

That left us with plenty of shady individuals still to investigate though - with Elanor first on the list. And no, I don’t care that we knew at that point that she wasn’t Obscurati. She was still on the list. Fortunately she was seated in the room right next to ours, so we had a clear view of her shmoozing three of the most notoriously corrupt and wealthy mages in Nalaam. This included the necromancer Nikola, the ex-druid Jamie the Weevil, and the Clergyman Father Balthazar. Elanor was attempting to sell them Isobel, who - as it turned out - was an eladrin woman raised as a sex slave.

While we were processing that information, the fighting in the arena had begun, and it wasn’t long before we saw a familiar face being dragged into the arena: Mr Mapple. He managed to survive the initial bear fight, at which point Elanor offered up a thousand gold pieces to have him fight something a little more dangerous instead. But before she did, she wanted to know one thing: his name. This demand sparked quite the speech from Mr Mapple - or, as he soon told us: Andrei (“Audrey”) Von Recklinhausen. After threatening to murder every single thing in the arena and build a corpse ramp out of it to tear out Elanor’s heart, he was sentenced to fight the pyrecat: a one-eyed beast as tall as an elephant that could breathe fire like a dragon.

In a show of badassery, Audrey almost managed to kill it before it set itself on fire and burned him horribly. Fleeing from the flames, he leapt off the cat’s back and stuck his axe into the wall just below our viewing balcony, staring up at us desperately. It didn’t take long for us to decide to help him - although Lisandra, oddly enough, was the most hesitant about it. John healed Audrey, Ella cast Glitterdust on the pyrecat, and Lisandra gave everyone communal fire resistance - although when she touched Audrey to transfer the spell she found herself drained of 5 points of Constitution. The man apologised to Lisandra profusely as he climbed into our room, then looked at us expectantly and asked if we were going to save Isobel.

We, of course, agreed. Because firstly: naughty word Elanor. And secondly: naughty word Elanor.

With the aid of Ella’s Haste we dashed around to Elanor’s room - the guards oddly moving out of our way as we approached, and the crowd in the rest of the stands going absolutely wild at the unexpected turn of events. On the way there, Lisandra cast a spell - a simple Divine Favour - and her left arm began to glow. This was only the first of many weirdnesses though, as we entered Elanor’s room to find one of the couches occupied by a very familiar figure: the red-haired half-eladrin woman from Lisandra’s dreams… the one who’d called her Mori. The one who seemed to be her mother...

Inscribed on the bone within Lisandra's (AKA Mori's) left arm is a momento, an autobiography of all of Father Balthazar's evil deeds. It sustains Balthazar's immortality, as well as Lisandra's ghost speaking powers and divine connection. Once Lisandra's fate destined her to meet with her Father, her arm began to ache and her dreams became more vivid, dredging up long forgotten memories. Now, her arm radiates with Nemian power.

The half-eladrin here is not Lisandra's mother who has long since perished, though her soul remains trapped within Balthazar's sickle (actually a corrupted Blade of Srasama). Instead, it is a demon under Balthazar's command. A fan of nostalgia, Balthazar has commanded the demon to use alter self to take the form of his semi-departed wife.

Contrary to popular belief, Balthazar cannot summon demons. He transforms humans under vile rituals to take their form then dominates them.

Lisandra wasn’t the only one shocked. Father Balthazar - the highest ranking clergy member in Nalaam - stared at the oracle as she came into sight and said: “You should not be here!” He scowled at Lisandra and as he did her glowing arm started to burn with pain. He looked at the half-eladrin woman and ordered: “Riskasha! Bring me her arm: a… memento Mori, if you will.” Then the punny twat vanished with a cast of a Teleport spell.

Lord Kulp - the arena’s master of ceremonies - ushered Isobel off to one side, leaving us plenty of room to murder Elanor and her allies. And murder we did.

John killed Jaime the ex-druid in a single volley of bullets - only to have him raised as a zombie immediately after by Nikola the necromancer. Meanwhile Sydney was chewing on Elanor’s butt and the half-eladrin - Riskasha - was picking up a double-bladed sword. As she walked toward Lisandra, her form shifted: changing from the familiar features of Lisandra’s dream mum to a winged demon with lash marks across her face.

Ella decided she wasn’t going anywhere near that and clawed Elanor instead. Audrey finished off the despicable woman by bull rushing her over the balcony into the arena below. She was likely dead when she hit the snow… but the blind pyrecat wandering around down there made sure of it. Meanwhile Lisandra was facing her personal nightmare by zapping the mum-turned-demon with an Admonishing Ray and John followed her example by filling the outsider with so many bullets that dropped dead.

Good thing… she wasn’t important… or anything… right? Aha… uh… anyway

It didn’t take long for the combat finish after that, with Audrey punching the zombie’s head clean off and Sydney ripping off the necromancer’s butt. Lord Kulp quietly invited us all to talk somewhere more… private… as the stands around us erupted in wild applause.

After some initial suspicion we followed him down some stairs to a secret chamber and had a nice chat. Apparently, Lord Kulp was quite pleased with our outright slaughter of three of his guests. We’d done him quite the political favour. And in thanks, he offered us the dead mages’ gear - which he agreed to turn into a Scroll of Sending for us. He also let slip some possible Vekeshi leanings… but we didn’t have time to investigate that, because Lisandra was having a quiet mental breakdown and Audrey Von flipping Recklinhausen was in the room.

Also Isobel. Who seemed somewhat unmoved by the whole affair - aside from a very quiet sense of satisfaction at the deaths of her former owner and future potential owners. Lord Kulp offered Isobel a chance at freedom: the opportunity to go wherever she liked, and after some thought she replied that she’d rather like to go to Flint, to meet Gale. Audrey volunteered to go with her and so it was settled - without any intervention on our part. Two more colourful characters to liven up our home city and give Delft a headache! I’m sure he’ll thank us later…

Having just saved Audrey’s life though, we rather thought that he owed us some answers, and - after much prodding - found out that Wolfgang Von Recklinhausen was, in fact, Audrey’s father. Also that Audrey was a living construct - a fact that Ella has thus far failed to share with the party. But it could explain his ability to drain the life from people he touches…

At this point Lisandra was on the verge of having a quiet mental breakdown so we said our farewells and retired to the enclave hotel to rest. There Lisandra had a dream: a dream of a now-familiar scene, but with quite different circumstances…

The red-haired half-eladrin woman - Riskasha - was performing a ritual: helped by Father Balthazar and a familiar winged demon. Riskasha called upon Srasama and then cut her own neck, using a 15 ft long black-stained blade that turned into a dagger in her hands. Riskahsa fell dead to the ground and her ghost rose from her corpse, turning to Lisandra to comfort her. "It's okay, Mori, it's going to be okay. We'll all live. Forever." But as her spirit spoke, Father Balthazar stepped forward and stabbed her with the black-stained blade. The ghost faded and her voice emanated from the blade: cursing him. Father Balthazar smiled and turned to Lisandra, speaking to the demon behind him as he gestured at one of the baby’s arms. "Pull back the flesh. I always preferred the medium of bone."

With a razor sharp quill and a vial of blood, he wrote on the bone of Lisandra’s left arm, leaving the oracle wondering WHAT THE HELL WAS HAPPENING!!! as she woke up. Being a calm and mature young woman, she reacted in the way any reasonable person would: by bursting into tears and being hugged until the world made some kind of sense again. Well… maybe not that last part… but she managed to pull herself together enough to get ready to depart for the train at least.

Ella and John gave her some personal space to prepare while they ferried luggage down to the lobby, where they were greeted by several excited rumours about their combat in the arena the previous evening. As well as talk about a grisly ritualistic murder that had taken place in the city - one very similar to the other murders that had occurred at each of our stops in previous cities.

Is there some kind of murderer on the loose? Perhaps on our very train? Could it be us? Ah, who am I kidding… we already know we’re murderers. More importantly: WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON WITH LISANDRA’S MUM? And are we ever going to do our jobs and find the Obscurati agents?

Find out the answers to almost certainly none of these GODSDAMNED QUESTIONS… (sigh)... this week, on Zeitgeist.

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