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ZEITGEIST Tizbiz Zeitgeist Campaign

Lylandra

Explorer
Ber Games

Session 35

During our waiting period for the 2nd audience with Bruse Shantus, we take some time to gather more information about Pemberton and his business in Ber. So we ask for directions and are led to a wooden hut bearing the Pemberton Industries sigil. Unfortunately, Mr. Pemberton is absent and currently represented by an orc named Bradko. Said orc, who's clad in the proper suit of a businessman, claims to be Mr. Pemberton's sales agent and explains that his boss is currently on a business trip to southern Ber.

What's truly surprising though is the fact that Bradko happens to be the very same orc we saw roasting marshmallows with Mr. Fordren when we just arrived at court. And as Mr. Fordren and Mr. Pemberton are direct competitors, we do find this fact pretty odd at least. So we ask Bradko about his ties to both industrialists as we suppose that this guy is making a fool of either of the two or at least spying on one of them.

As we chat a bit with Bradko, we do realize though that he seems to be on good terms with both of them and assures us that he wouldn't do anything that could hurt either one's enterprise in Ber. On the contrary, Bradko seems interested in supporting both Permberton's and Fordren's interests to the best of his abilities. So maybe the two businessmen are only making everyone believe they're competitors while secretly sharing tech or something like that...

Anyways, we ask Bradko to deliver a message to Mr. Pemberton where we ask him for a short chat about the Shaggy Mk.2 and the automaton's specifications. Plus we wish to thank him personally for his help in Sawyer. To our surprise, Bradko hasn't even heard of Sawyer or Macdam, which is really weird as this is the main hub of Permberton Industries. He agrees to deliver our message though.

Next, Auryn plans to set up a dueling contest to gain more attention. Carlyle isn't so sure whether this is such a good idea as she'd risk giving away too much of her fighting style to possible future opponents like the danorans, but she assures her partner that she'd only be using basic techniques that will certainly be enough for the drunkards she'd expect to challenge her.

(yeah, she's got a lot more confident than she'd been about a year ago)

Auryn's assessment turns out to be right in the end and she manages to send all challengers either running or to the ground after one or two precise hits. Meanwhile, Carlyle stands at the sidelines of the dueling circle and spots Rush Münchhausen who's seemingly unable to pull free from Merton Goncala's firm grip. He overhears the hothead debating with the far more somber but half-deaf half-orc about whether or not he should teach that shining elvish knight a lesson. Merton wins the argument by saying that no one, not even Rush, would want to defy Madame Lya Jierre's orders. Seems as if someone's at least trying to avoid attention or trouble.

After Auryn's fighting session, we continue discussing our theories about Oddcog. We do talk about the possibility that the gnome hiding with the Bruse could be yet another Obscurati mission and that he might be using the growing industrialization of Ber to build yet another colossus. After all, it was Grappa who made Borne go rogue and he wouldn't be around this time. We keep that thought in mind and are then called to our audience with the Bruse.

Inside the court's castle, we meet up with Lya Jierre and her two bodyguards and are then brought to the audience room where the Bruse's two counselors are already waiting for us. It takes some time for the Bruse to finally arrive and he seems both irritated and amused at the situation presented to him. He says that he doesn't wish to decide yet which side to choose in this competition, so he'll just let a game decide whether the privilege of questioning Tinker Oddcog shall go to Danor or Risur. He mentions two challenges but leaves the details up to grand vizier Zarkava:

The lizard woman explains that the Bruse asks of two tasks that need to be completed before any team may even have a chance of seeing the gnome. One of these tasks is the completion of the Cantabrilla Railroad, a tedious venture that's processing much slower than the Bruse originally wished. The other task is dealing with Cavallo de Guerra, his old companion and stubborn rival.

For the Cantabrilla Railroad challenge, each team is assigned to a construction company: either the Liss company or the Griento building company. Each company has to complete 18 remaining miles of track until their contract is fulfilled. And whichever company finishes first will determine which of our two teams will be winner of this contest. Zarkava then says that his Bruseship has decided that that Danorans shall meet up with the Griento company in Renza while the Risuri shall support Liss who started in Reo Pedresco.

The grand vizier then adds that the remaining tracks are to be constructed in the untamed riverlands and includes bridges that need to be erected. After she finished her exposition, we ask the grand vizier for a minute of privacy as we wish to discuss our proceedings. We then privately talk about the idea of convincing the Bruse to let us side with Griento instead as we know him and trust that his enterprise will include a solid workforce. In the end, we decide to stick with Liss however, as we could use our good connections to Griento (which are yet unknown to everyone else) for a far more subtle strategy.

After our moment of privacy, Zarkava explains the situation of Cavallo who resides in Citada de Cavallo at the northern coast. She says that the old orc is an old companion of Bruse Shantus and Vairday Bruse back from the time when the first Bruse united the tribes of Ber. But while Cavallo de Guerra respected Vairday, he's been quite reluctant to accept Bruse Shantus as his superior. On top of that, he refuses to pay for the railway that shall connect his city and the rest of Ber. So the Bruse asks the emissaries from Risur to convince Cavallo to change his mind on both subjects.

Then the grand vizier shocks us all when she reveals the Bruse's challenge for team Danor: Instead of making Cavallo bend the knee, he wishes them to discredit the old orc by making him attack the border keep of Man Hill. Which is on Risuri ground and manned by our compatriot soldiers. Zarkava adds that the Bruse surely doesn't wish war with Risur and expects the risuri navy to obliterate the small attack force which would then allow Bruse Shantus to strip Cavallo of his responsibilities and ranks.

Besides these two tasks which would both earn one point, there will be three additional points to be awarded by the Bruse, Zarkava Ssa'lit and Kenna Vigilante. As the game is set to start tomorrow morning with the first sunrise, neither of the teams is allowed to leave the summer court before this time. In addition, each team shall appoint their members which will be noted on a special list. The teams are not allowed to directly harm each other, but this doesn't rule out third-party interference.

Lya takes the first turn to announce her team which consists of herself, Rush, Merton, and her servants Inez and Ulrik. Then it is our turn and we register Carlyle, Auryn and Margit as part of our team. By leaving out Flying Spark and still-undercover Burton, we plan to utilize the third-party rule to use them for possible interception missions later. We also ask Kenna Vigilante for a complete copy of the game's rules so we may see the full picture all the time.

The audience ends and the Bruse announces that he's going to enjoy seeing and hearing about our progress.

(So... Bruse Shantus just confirmed that he's more interested in sports than in everything else. Which was totally not surprising, even if the Man Hill mission was ludicrous in our eyes. We later discussed whether this game would be lunacy or an actually clever strategic plan.

The Cantabrilla Railroad challenge would force Danor and Risur to invest heavily in a bogged down infrastructure project and we guessed that this one could have been the idea of Kenna Vigilante.

But Cavallo was a whole different topic. Sure, the risuri mission of reasoning with the stubborn orc would spare him a lot of hassle, even if it would have been foreign agents that'd solve internal beran problems. But an attack on Man Hill would bear the risk of igniting a war between Risur and Ber, two nations with rather friendly relationships. Even if he could call it a rogue attack later, the damage would still be done, especially in times when Risur and Danor were about to make a lasting peace.)


After the audience with Bruse Shantus is officially over, we immediately discuss the issue of the Cavallo challenge. We agree that the relationship between Risur and Danor will inevitably take massive damage should Lya go through with her mission. After all, Bruse Shantus just openly called for Danor to incite Cavallo so much that he'd be tricked into attacking his neighbors. Auryn believes that we need to talk to Lya before the game officially starts to lay out the consequences for Danor and her peace efforts should she really try to make Cavallo attack Risur.

We believe that she'd be reasonable enough to find a more clever solution for the Bruse's strange challenge and also for the issue of our Oddcog troubles. After all, Lya is such a no-nonsense person that she'd most likely be fed up by the minotaur's idea of “fun” already. Carlyle agrees, but he'd like to wait for Lya Jierre to make the first move as he would like to assess whether she's truly willing to cooperate. Since she's been the one who called herself advocate of peace, he says, she's actually the one who'd lose most of all.

While we're still talking, we realize that Team Lya is about to withdraw from the castle, so we decide to follow them at a distance. When we see that they are entering the danoran tent, we turn invisible and approach the tent to listen to their conversations. What we do hear are disturbing cries coming coming from Ulrik. After a while, the cries ebb off and Ulrik starts speaking in a much more mature and calm voice. A voice that could very well belong to Nicodemus. Lya then explains to this person that she's very much in trouble and lays out some of the game's details, especially the part where she shall convince a foreign Lord to attack Risur. Nicodemus answers that he understands her troubles and that he'd suggest making a deal with Risur as far as this is possible. However, her mission has to be given priority in the end.

We withdraw back to our own tent as we expect Lya to ask for said deal soon. As we expected, Lya shows up not much later and utters the wish to talk about this delicate situation she's been put in by Bruse Shantus' challenge. She adds that she has really no interest in risking all of her work and effort towards a lasting peace with Risur because of one mad Bruse and his stupid game. We agree as we're not really keen on playing this game either and add that the Bruse has put all of us in a very dangerous situation. So we suggest to skip the parts where we'd be true competitors, just do our thing and then bring Oddcog to a neutral place where both factions would have the chance to question him together.

It appears as if Lya doesn't personally object to our plan, but she hints that her orders include bringing the gnome to Cherage which hardly qualifies as a “neutral place”. From her subtle comments we also get that these orders include Obscurati interests, so someone higher up in the organization most likely wishes to see Oddcog be brought to to Cherage.

So we take these hints as a basis for asking Lya whether she still feels obligations or any sense of affiliation with this group which is so clearly behind creating and letting loose Borne in Flint and therefore threatening to destroy our city. When Lya, again, tries to convince us that her contacts are really just trying to make the world a better place, we call her out on this naivete that doesn't seem to fit the canny, clever Lya Jierre we know. We agree that some party of this organization may have a noble goal in mind, but even she should be open enough to see how much terror, death and destruction their actions have brought to Risur.

Lya then confesses that the Ob's are mainly interested in getting Borne back under control so he won't wreak any more havoc and we answer that this doesn't make the situation any better at all. Borne, we explain, is not only a sentient being, but having him being controlled by a secret organization could be even worse than letting him run free. After all, he'd be the best weapon of mass destruction any wannabe-tyrant could dream of.

“But don't you see?”, she replies “No one could or would use such a weapon as he'd be instantly targeted by all other nations of Lanjyr. He'd be seen as a threat, yes, but one that doesn't harm anyone as long as every nation keeps their peace.”

Auryn and Carlyle both shake their heads in disbelief.

“But the Obscurati are no nation which would be targeted by anyone. They act in secret and cannot be held accountable for their actions as long as they remain in the shadows. They don't have to fear any consequences as long as they're not being caught by the officials. So no, an Obscurati tyrant could indeed do whatever he wishes with Borne and this thought is truly frightening.”, Auryn says.

“Speaking of Obscurati actions...” Carlyle adds, “They seem to fear us, too, as some of them already tried to assassinate us. And they even used your bodyguard as would-be assassin, therefore trying to blame the attack on you. So I'd think twice whether or not to trust them, Miss Jierre.”

Lya appears to really think about our last few arguments and then promises to use her place in the organization to gather more information and maybe lead the Obs to a less destructive course. We reply that while we do find her idea noble, we also believe Nicodemus to be one of these fanatics who wouldn’t let go of his reins at any cost. We do signal that we're open to conviction and also interested in having a peaceful chat with Nicodemus, but don't believe that he's ever going to agree to such an offer.

During our talk with Lya, we also realize that she must have been geased already as she's trying to avoid certain words or facts. All in all she then offers to hold back with her Cavallo challenge should we agree to finish our track shortly after her team. We agree that this is a fair offer indeed but explain that we'd have to discuss matters of such international impact with our king. So we suggest that we and her use our magical supplies to talk to both king and sovereign (and only them!) to discuss our mutual agreement before we take any action. Lya agrees to this suggestion and we make an appointment for an hour before sunrise to meet again.

(Phew, this was a pretty long and hard talk. We both like Lya and think her engagement to King Aodhan to be one of the best moves for peace, so we'd love to see her hard work come to fruition as we got that she's really interested in making peace.

Auryn harbors some doubts about Lya's ability to empathize though as she remembers their talk about Elfaivar and doing penance for their forefather's sins during the peace summit. And Lya didn't seem to understand her problem with the abducted women either. She just wishes that Lya could be the intelligent and wise leader she'd think she could be)
 
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Lylandra

Explorer
Of friendships, deals and lies

Just when we're about to discuss about how to proceed further, we spot a flock of birds emanating a magical aura. As we don't know whether these avians have been sent by the beran referees or whether they are actually danoran spy birds, we decide to ignore them for now and just let Carlyle link everyone's mind so we may communicate telepathically.

Regarding Lya's deal, we do hope that she'll get a positive reaction, so we don't have to take more drastic measures than we'd like to. Should our plan fail however, we agree to immediately contact Damata and Ejeka Griento to get them on board. Fortunately, Lya and company are completely in the dark about our connection to the family as even Luc Jierre didn't know that the Grientos and the Fernandez were more than just people who conincidentally traveled in the same train along the Avery Coast.

We also discuss the roles of each official and inofficial member of our team and decide that Margit will be officially in charge with managing and securing the Liss construction site. Flying Spark, who may take more liberties in his approaches as he's falling under the third-party rule, shall be both guardian and optional saboteur should Team Danor decide to take actions against Liss' tracks.

Burton will use his camouflage and disguise skills to get hired by the Grientos so he can act as spy, contact and possible saboteur later on.

(yeah, we always read the fine print, even if using Flying Spark who's clearly our co-agent as “third party” is certainly not intended. It did put quite the risk on both him and Burton, but the former is a deadly magical cannon with wings and the latter is the best deep cover agent we've ever seen)

Just when we're finished talking, Flying Spark announces that he's hungry for poultry and goes hunting for the birdies. Meanwhile, we cast a couple of Sendings to King Aodhan. We explain our dilemma that the Oddcog mission has the potential to threaten the peace process with Danor, add that we may strike a deal with Lya which may endanger getting Oddcog exclusively and ask how to proceed.

Aodhan responds that Oddcog has to be our top priority as the Obs' actions already threaten all of the world. However, we're free to agree to any fair deal of the Danorans. In response, we tell our King more about Lya's mission for Man Hill and ask for the outpost to be warned immediately. We also ask for financial support regarding the railway construction and for maybe one-upping our already generous offer for the minister of dragon affairs. Last but not least we mention that Lya might very well be a full Obs agent now.

In return, we get the coordinates for the Impossible and are asked to attend to a meeting aboard as soon as we're allowed to do. Which is after sunrise. So at least we'll be able to get a bit of sleep.

Shortly before sunrise, Lya Jierre returns to our tent and declares that sovereign Han Jierre agrees to our deal. Before she leaves again, she hands us a small chest containing a lily crest which we identify as the same fleur de lis that's symbolizing betrayal in danoran culture. We're very obviously disappointed by this development, but have to give Lya some credit for at least giving us an honest and honorable warning about her intentions.

As we now know what to expect from her team in the upcoming challenges, we decide to waste no time and put up a sending to Damata Griento in which we tell him that we'll have to meet him as soon as possible regarding his company's latest job for Bruse Shantus. He replies that we may meet this very same morning and calls for a meeting point near Renza.

After this message, we meet till sunrise and then teleport to the Impossible where Chief Inspector Delft has already been waiting for us. We tell him all about that mess we and Lya Jierre got ourselves into without sparing him all the details and add that it'd be really wise to officially end the engagement of King Aodhan and Lya Jierre. We then brief Delft about the game's rules and stress out the situation for each of our colleagues, especially as everyone who's not Margit, Carlyle or Auryn may intervene freely at the risk of being targeted themselves. Then we add that it would be quite interesting to get our hands on Ulrik, Lya's manservant, as he has voluntary first-hands experience with the Nicodemus transfer process and might be a key figure in understanding how this process works. So this might be a good mission for a second RHC team.

Regarding the railroad challenge, we discuss our financial framework and Delft responds that we'll be given appropriate allowance soon. We also ask our boss to get more information on Pemberton as we might try to ask him for an assessment of our plans for Borne should the Oddcog mission fail. And we really don't wish to hand someone top secret information we hardly know or hardly know whether or not to trust.

Should Lya be able to convince Cavallo to attack Man Hill, the fortress needs to get a warning and possibly reinforcements, the sooner the better. Delft promises that he'll do whatever he can and asks us to keep him informed every now and then.

(which is something we really tend to forget during abroad missions... it's basically “everything's fine as long as we don't call you, mom”)


Fortunately, we also get a map and illustrations of Renza, so we may just try to teleport there directly. One lucky Carlyle-port later and we find ourselves in a harsh landscape near a smaller town. There, we ask for the head of the Griento company and are being directed to Nagranha, a sort of construction outpost.

There, we meet with Damata who's really curious why a publisher and a pianist would be interested in railway construction. Then he spots the difference in hairstyle (Carlyle) and hair color (Auryn) and ask whether there's any kind of secret he needs to know before we proceed. We hint that there may be more to the two of us than meets the eye, assure him that we're truly his friends and that we don't wish to get him into trouble by telling him more about our mission than he needs to know.

Then we tell him that it would be of utmost importance for us that he finishes his part of the railway shortly after Liss as there will be a team of Danorans joining his men very soon who'll try to speed up the construction process. We promise Damata that we'll make up for any bonus payment he may lose due to the delay and hint that we may put in a good word regarding getting him involved in the construction of the most likely soon to be announced Risur-Ber railway.

Damatra Griento agrees that he still owes us a favor for saving him and his name when he was indebted to the Familia and so he promises to do the best he can to cause an unobtrusive delay. We take some time to discuss ideas on how such subtle self-sabotage may work and immediately think about spreading the obvious rumors about how a proper Danoran treats their workforce: They mistreat anyone below their status, dislike foreigners and try to control everything with a rigorous routine while being foreign lunatics themselves. On top of that, getting the Danorans involved was another one of the Bruses' strange “fun projects” which may cost the hardworking beran employees their jobs.

(trying to play the nationalist strings a bit. We know that berans tend to be a proud lot who hate being controlled)

In addition, Damata may try to appeal to the Danorans by letting his workers do their jobs extra carefully and slowly by checking every routine process at least twice. Senor Griento appears to warm up to these proposals and we end our brainstorming with a healthy breakfast. Before we leave again, we promise Damata to stay friends who'll come to his help again should he ever need it. Oh and we also ask him to say hello to Ejeka and the kids.

Next, we plan to get in contact with Liss constructions and assign both Margit and Flying Spark to their temporary new jobs. When we return, Flying Spark informs us that Lya Jierre and her two servants already left the summer court and boarded a ship while Merton Goncala and Rush Münchhausen simply “vanished”.

So we do the map-landmark-teleport again (and again, Carlyle's lucky streak when it comes to successful teleportation continues) to get to Reo Pedresco. From there, we lend horses to go to Aigotsura where we plan to meet up with Soutan Liss, owner of the Liss construction company. We're quite surprised though to see the lizardman in a friendly chat with none else but Mr. Pemberton who's drinking a... water cocktail with celery. And there we thought Fordren was the eccentric one.

Pemberton is trying to sell construction robots to Senor Liss and he's advertizing them under the new “Made in Flint” label, which they obviously (at least to anyone stemming from Flint) aren't. We're curious how Pemberton could have gotten wind of the label as he's never been much of a player in Risur, but we'd first take on his fake flintish bots.

So we approach the duo, introduce ourselves to Senor Liss and say hello to Mr. Pemberton whom we've already met back in Sawyer. We then state our pleasure to meet them both under such convenient circumstances as we already tried to contact Mr. Pemberton at court.

“There is just one small detail that we have to mention before the honorable Senor Liss decides on whether or not to buy these magnificent automatons: Unfortunately, they are not made in Flint, but most likely made in Macdam. Which is well known for its industrial prowess, but not at all affiliated with the esteemed circle of industrialists who established their supreme standards in Flint”, Carlyle adds, smiling confidently all while knowing that he probably just ruined Mr. Pemberton's advertisement.

“Oh yes, yes, but they are produced in Flint, Risur. Pemberton most recently bought a grand production site there.” Pemberton says, trying to save his face.

“Is that so? Lord Vantrys never mentioned Pemberton Industries applying for membership. Also, you'd most likely be able to name your factory's registry number then?”

“Gentlemen, there is no need for nitpicking, even if Mr. Carlyle is absolutely right about the label. I guess we can settle this little dispute with an appropriate discount on the automatons?” Auryn inserts, finally causing Liss to look both rather confused and happy when Pemberton agrees to reduce his price, even if he's still unable to afford all of them.

We take this as an opportunity to tell Liss that Risur would love to provide the difference and sign a second bill for Pemberton which allows him to claim the debt at the risuri embassy. Before the surprised railway construction specialist can ask us why the heck Risur would help him out this way, we explain the Bruse's construction challenge to him and ask him to allow us to support him. As we already secured him a lot of bots, he doesn't really know why he should decline our help and so we introduce him to our colleagues Margit Stenz and “dragon tyrant” Flying Spark, who'll both look out for any signs of danoran troublemakers.

Pemberton starts blinking heavily and seems less amused when we mention dragon tyrants, even if we initially don't understand why an industrialist from Macdam would have any troubles with these creatures. Liss takes a good laugh though and he welcomes the faerie dragon aboard his enterprise. We also warn Liss about possible sabotage attempts and are being told that he already has had troubles with roaming bandits before. We promise to try to hire additional mercenaries to protect the construction site, even if Mr. Carlyle and Auryn will have to take care of another mission and be absent for the next couple of days.

After informing Liss, we then turn to Mr. Pemberton and ask him for a short talk in private. We then thank him again for his help in Sawyer and hint that King Aodhan might wish to strengthen the bond between Macdam and Risur in the future. When Pemberton is a bit irritated by the fact that we, being risuri agents, take so much interest in a colonial city like Sawyer, we tell him that the security of Kellandia is of personal value to us.

Before we go into further detail regarding the colony, Auryn switches subjects and lauds Pemberton for the creation of the Shaggy Mk.2, a truly fearsome creation. However, she'd like to share one weakness of the bear-shaped automaton with Pemberton, as a sign of her goodwill. She then talks about how she had been able to free her partner from the Shaggy's clutches by striking a small cogwheel near its paw.

Suddenly, Pembreton is pretty much enthralled by the technical topic, tells her all about the paw's joints and asks her how she'd fix this weakness. As Auryn is not really that well-read in terms of technology, she suggests to hide the joint behind an additional layer of metal plates.

Carlyle takes the opportunity to point at the striking resemblance between Shaggy and Fordren Industries' B.E.A.R. He adds that the Shaggy is unmistakeably the superior creation, of course, but asks whether someone of them might have taken inspiration or more from the other.

“Oh, no, not, this is merely a coincidence. It appears that the Old Fox and I simply prefer the shape of a sturdy bear” Pemberton explains while unsuccessfully trying to tell this obvious lie. He then takes much effort to try to convince us that he has never had a closer relationship with Fordren and would not spy on his enterprise either. But he's so bad at telling these lies that we almost get the impression that he's not even trying.

However, as soon as Auryn hints that she does know Mr. Fordren personally, Pemberton gets totally interested in hearing her opinion on his competitor that she has to put quite the effort into changing subjects again without sounding rude or suspicious.

All in all, we get the impression that Pemberton does lie more than he speaks the truth when it comes to Fordren. He denies having ever been to the KATE (another lie) and we suspect he's been there because of Fordren as well as Pemberton Industries didn't officially exhibit their craft at the fair. We talk a bit about Guy Goodson as well and this time Pemberton doesn't even try to hide his disgust for the deceased industrialist. When we then tell him that it was Fordren Industries that profited most from Goodson's death (a semi-truth as Vantrys profited just as much), Pemberton utters a short laugh and claims that it is deals like these that show the Old Fox' ultimate cleverness.

After a while, Pemberton excuses himself as he's still got business to do at the summer court, takes his servant-bot Maggie and leaves.

(This whole talk with Pemberton was ultimately weird and we tried to wrap our heads around his possible relationship with Fordren. Our best guess back then was that Pemberton had been a senior student of Fordren, maybe even an admirer, who at some point broke up with him, took some of his schematics, improved them and established his own business.

But I promise you, it will get even weirder once we go out and try to see Fordren's side of this relationship.)
 
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Tizbiz

Explorer
Having a good relationship with the Griento's, i expected the constables to request his half of the railway to complete. Clever players .... took me totally by surprise to use him as the inside source to sabotage his own railway. :)

I had much fun to puzzle the players with the Pemberton/Forden relationship. Fordren is not part of the original adventure (in a way he still is) but suits some major secret political changes that fits my campaign.

Fordren is the danoran industrialist who bought Auryn when she was sold as an eladrin slave and the way this guy was written in Auryns story fitted a certain mindset to perfectly to be ignored. So i decided to use the orginal pemberton but to change his name and my interpretation of certain agreements changed his relationship to risur. Yet there was an other original character in the adventures that could take up the mantle of Pemberton. I was really happy it worked out later.
 
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Tizbiz

Explorer
As to Lya Jierre: My players had a very good relationship with her. I think that she had to have worked very hard on the peace between risur and danor. And at this point of the adventure she is still torn between her own goals and the Ob's . I thought that she would be pissed by the bruse's cleverness to use danor to clear up his domestic political mess and she would not want the constables to think she is their enemy.

Hinting the constables that she is going to play dirty was her way to save her face. It resulted in both sides really trying to avoid as much bloodshed as possible. :cool:
 
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Tormyr

Adventurer
Well done getting in Lya's thought process. I always read these session reports and think how amazing it would be to play with your Zeitgeist and WotBS groups, and then I realize that I probably would not be able to keep up on the role playing front.

Seriously, great work to you and [MENTION=6816692]Lylandra[/MENTION].
 

Lylandra

Explorer
Old Fox

Well, thanks :)

We took quite the effort in trying to win Lya over and she's still alive by adventure 8 (we haven't seen much of her after the beran episode) but we don't know about her true colors right now.

Actually we'd be glad to find another regular player who isn't annoyed by our rather slow pace and has enough time to play regularly. Or a DM who is as much into interweaving character background and development with the prepared plot as we are. And I do think that you'd fit in quite nicely :)

regarding the RP, it kind of emerged from our online-RPG past where all development is character-based and there is little pre-structured plot. Plus I regularly exchange thoughts with both Tiz (we do have a forum where I write down some of Auryn's thoughts) and Carlyle (being married has its merits in this regard as well). Who is really good at portraying different kinds of characters even if paladin-esque types tend to be his favorites.

---

We take some time to travel back to Reo Pedresco and hire a group of half-giant mercenaries to protect Liss, his workers and his shipments.

(As we already knew the city from our time preparing to play the Fernandez family, asking the right people was quite the easy feat.)

After that, we try to get more information about Mr. Pemberton's future interests before we head to Citada de Cavallo. So we teleport back to the summer court and ask for either him or Bradko. The local merchants tell us that they haven't seen Pemberton for a while, but then direct us to a local tavern where Bradko tends to spend his evenings. To our surprise, said orc is enjoying the company of Mr. Fordren and Brakken Heffanita who seem to be having a friendly chat over some ale and wine.

As Carlyle knows that Auryn isn't too fond of getting too close to Fordren, we both try to stay in the background and just observe the strange trio. But since we don't actively try to hide and aren't really unobtrusive people per se, this plan fails pretty soon and we're being invited to join their chat. Which we do, even if that means a lot of teeth clenching for Auryn.

We start the conversation by asking Fordren about his business in Ber, and more specifically at the summer court and find out that he's been establishing his business in this country for quite a while which is kind of surprising as he's not really known for meeting risuri working standards and berans are even stricter when it comes to exploitative working conditions. When asked about Lya Jierre, he says that no, she didn't hire him to support her strange Ber game team.

(Which is actually a relief as we discussed this scenario earlier and Auryn told Carlyle and Margit that she'd out Fordren as being a slaver as a last resort to remove him from the table. Even if that meant breaking her deal with him. Plus he'd most likely never be able to set foot into Ber after that.)

We hint that Pemberton might be a competitor then as he's currently desperately trying to make a name for himself. After all, he obviously used the Shaggy to one-up Fordren's B.E.A.R and hired the very same Bradko as his representative.

When we mention Pemberton, Fordren turns quite sour as he seems to be in Fordren's bad books. But then again, he doesn't wish to go into more detail about their relationship or break-up. When we suggest that Pemberton might have stolen or copied schematics from Fordren, he neither denies nor confirms it.

“The little sparrow does what he does. We'd better leave it like that.” Fordren says with a good amount of bitterness in his voice. Which is something completely new in his repertoire and we don't really get whether that “little sparrow” is meant to be a real nickname or simply mockery.

(The german word for sparrow is actually used sometimes as a rather old-fashioned nickname for children or lovers, especially in its diminutive form.)


We then tell him more about our experiences with the B.E.A.R. and tell Fordren about possible design flaws, including the programming. Like Pemberton, he's very keen on hearing our opinion and immediately jumps at smaller details. Plus it seems as if he's quite aware of the B.E.A.R.'s weaknesses.

After his technical interest is satisfies, Fordren then changes the subject (again, very surprisingly) to ask us about our reasons for coming to the summer court. Brakken already told him that we were trying to get an audience with the Bruse and he had obviously been asked by the Bruse's men to lend them some automatons, so there must be a bigger story behind all this.

At first, we try to hide our intentions behind replacing the deceased ambassador and trying to negotiate trade deals, but then we both non-verbally agree to tell him a bit more about our concern about Borne. We explain that the Bruse is currently employing the man who helped building the Colossus which is why we'd like to ask that man, Oddcog, a few questions.

“Helped whom? I'm pretty sure that this Oddcog fellow didn't have the resources, nor the intellect to be the driving force behind such a construction and the risuri government didn't order that magnificent creation either, am I right?” Fordren adds calmly, but with a certain amount of curiosity.

As we don't really have reason to believe that Fordren is actually part of the Obs -after all, he's more of an egocentric than a misguided or fanatic idealist – we finally decide to tell him more about our knowledge of the conspiracy behind Borne's creation.

“Very well then.”, Carlyle starts, “I guess that more secrecy only plays into the conspirator's cards at this point. So let's bring some light into this obscure situation.”

He then carefully explains that the people behind Borne are a group of influential international conspirators who, at least partially, believe that they're trying to make the world a better place. Some of them, he says, are truly altruistic individuals, while others will fanatically follow their part of some plan we haven't fully figured out yet. He tells Fordren a bit about their suspected cell structure and their fondness of hiding their industrial structures in Bleak gate pockets. The Colossus Borne is by far the most terrifying of their endeavors and he's quite glad that the Obs cannot really control this gigantic child.

Fordren appears to be truly impressed by Carlyle's description of Borne, especially when it comes to fusing mind and machine. We are both quite concerned that we just did a big mistake by telling him so much that he might be interested in joining the conspiracy, but when Carlyle asks him about his own thoughts on the Obs, Fordren frowns for a moment before giving us quite the surprising answer:

“I believe that they should be stopped at any cost. As theoretically inspiring as this creation may be, such a being should have never been brought into this world and these people are lunatics who try to control the uncontrollable. They should be taught that they've gone too far.”

Now it is Auryn who's looking at her old enemy in disbelief as she really didn't expect Fordren of all people to be so reasonable. But then she realizes that an unstoppable force like Borne is a threat indeed to the industrialist's own strive for supremacy and she quickly focuses her thoughts again.

We then talk a bit about Leone as another constructor of Borne, a fanatic who was able to control metal as a means of showing Fordren that these Obs are dangerous individuals on top of that.

“Oh my, these powers remind me of someone these Berans talk about a lot: Maybe he's simply a progeny of this ancient Steel Dragon. Have you tried to trace his family's bloodline yet?”

“We had this thought as well. But we're not... that well read in Dragon Tyrant bloodlines”, Auryn says while being intrigued that he's actually the first other person to come to this conclusion. Especially as she knows that Fordren isn't really that interested in anything beyond his personal goals.

He then fascinates a bit about the theory behind Borne a bit as he's clearly interested in this mind-making magic or technology, even if he adds that this is highly disturbing. When Auryn reminds him that Borne appears to be a sentient, albeit child-like being and that stopping him might just mean murdering an innocent, he laughs a bit and adds that being empathetic with the most unusual of creatures is so typical for her.

“Not with all creatures” she replies coldly, which makes Brakken raise an eyebrow in response.

“And though I have to admit that the very core idea of the Obs of creating a better world is admirable indeed, I have to condemn their means and implementations of their plans. World peace and harmony between all people of Lanjyr should be the result of a mixture of hard diplomatic work and free minds coming together, not of people being forced to agree with one another. What's peace worth if it is nothing but the result of forced obedience, and not of free will?”

“Holding the mirror straight in front of me. You truly are a fascinating woman.”

Fordren's gaze locks at Auryn and for a moment it seems as if his grey predatory stare is dueling with her violet defiance. Then he turns more amused by the whole situation, even if his eerie fascination still lingers for a few moments.

Carlyle realizes the tension between the two and so he shifts the subject back to Flint where he explains that the Obs are being a financial threat to Fordren Industries as well. After all, they were in league with the Kell Guild who stole a few shipments of raw materials. This triggers a rather emotional response from Fordren who turns visibly angry.

“So you say they've STOLEN from ME?! They'll regret the day they put their filthy hands on MY property!” he shouts, breathing heavily, his eyes filled with pure fury.

Carlyle is surprised for a moment as he didn't expect such an outrage over such a seemingly marginal loss, especially not by a man of his stature. Auryn on the other hand winces for a split second before putting up a perfect poker face.

(She obviously got flashbacks that moment even if Fordren never directed his rage at her and simply left the scene whenever he had been dissatisfied by her stubborn defiance. But she knows his temper quite well.)

After this short outburst, Carlyle continues to say that Michael Carlyle may provide further insight into what has gone missing. He also mentions that it is likely that Fordren Industries might already be infiltrated by Ob members, so Fordren better check up on his own staff. He adds that the RHC already checked on Vantrys' workers and it seems as if this company is - fortunately – clean of Obs influence. Carlyle then takes this as opportunity to shift the subject yet again (he's really riding a slippery slope it seems) to ask Fordren about his interest in investing in risuri industrial companies.

Fordren relaxes pretty quickly and explains that he's trying to expand his business there and that he already has realized that one has to be honorable to stand a chance in today's changing environment. Goodson seemed like a good bet at the times, he says, even if he wasn't too content with that man's personal choices. He states that he's got a lot of respect for Risur as the nation stood the test of time which is another reason why he wishes to have good trade relations with the Risuri.

Carlyle agrees that this sounds like quite the good and even admirable plan for a Danoran. He adds that trying to adjust his business model to the local customs, especially in countries like Risur and Ber (where failing to meet the standards can get you beaten up by the Executores), is generally a good idea. Regarding Risur, he explains that there is this newly formed circle of Industrialists who set a new standard on production quality and working conditions, so anyone who wishes to stand a chance on the flinter market should probably think about joining them.

Fordren seems to be interested in this new movement, especially if his business partner and soon-to-be nephew in-law Vantrys is among its founders. Auryn then mentions that the circle was formed after a long history of civil protest among brave risuri citizens, something she calls both admirable and sympathetic. After all, Risur has become her home away from home which is why the people of Risur and their prosperity mean a lot to her. Even if they mostly belong to different races and follow different traditions than her own. So she kind of has two places to call home and hold dear right now.

“Is that so? Well, then maybe the two of us have more in common than you think. Maybe... you will even understand me in time.” Fordren says with a reminiscing sigh.

We then take a full circle to discuss the Obs again and Fordren signals that now that he knows more about these people, he has decided that they are indeed his enemy. After all, they are a threat to his business and his power.

“This is something we'll never have in common. In my opinion, power is not what you take but what you are being given by others. Their combined support, their trust, even their love. That is true power.”

“You're right, Miss Auryn. We won't come to an agreement here. You should keep your dependencies for yourself.”

After a few minutes of small talk, Fordren asks Brakken and Bradko to excuse him and the two of us as he'd like to have a private chat with the two agents of Risur. He then leads us to the beach of the summer court's large lake and explains that he'd like to talk about his relationship to Pemberton again. He admits that the two of them do know each other quite well as both of them studied engineering in Danor at the same time. We then ask him why Pemberton would deny any connection of them at all, but Fordren insists that he doesn't wish to go further into detail with the little sparrow. Again, we sense this strange, almost tender bitterness whenever he talks about this “little sparrow” (to our surprise, he never calls him by his first name).

He then tells us that he'd like to leave it like that and vanishes into the night.

( That was a pretty long and intense talk. In a hindsight, all of Fordren's strange behavior totally made sense, but back then we left the evening with even more questions than we had before.

I'll discuss the impact of Fordren on Carlyle and Auryn in a later post, when the two of them had more time to talk about him and Auryn's struggle to leave her past behind as this is yet another intricate subject. But now to this part:

First, he's declared himself to be an enemy of the Obs, yay! Even if this means that Fordren might play the role of temporary ally in the future and Auryn will have to deal with him. Still this is far better than having to fend him off constantly because he's trying to get his hands on Obs tech and use it for his own gain.

We took a bit of a risk to out the Obs to him, but we were pretty sure that he's too selfish to even think about lending the Obs his knowledge and inventions.

Then there is his strange fondness of Risur which we could not really place as he's a born Danoran, even if he has little ties with his home nation. We initially thought that he'd try to sell weapon to both parties should a fifth Yerasol war break out which is why he'd like to be on good terms with both nation, but his intentions seemed fully honorable. But then again, Fordren has never been a cheat. Ruthless, yes. But he'd rather crush his enemies than poison them with intrigue.

Add his strange relationship to Pemberton and his sudden rage regarding the Kell guild's theft to the equation and we were thoroughly confused.

So after this session, we tried to make sense of both Pemberton and Fordren and created this little fact sheet to test a few theories. You may guess which one(s) turned out to be right, but here are our facts plus a few of the theroies:

Fordren:

- Uses "little Sparrow" as nickname for Pemberton
- Seems to dislike/feel bitter about Pemberton, but doesn't want to talk about him
- Doesn't see a competitor in Pemberton
- studied engineering in Danor and stems from Danor
- became really angry when we told him about the theft of his shipments
- has honest intentions regarding Risur
- has no relations with Lya or the Jierre family
- Is worried about the Obs and will fight them
- Is as fascinated as Pemberton when it comes to tech, especially in terms of fusing mind and machine.
- Has a "second home" that is not Danor
- Solely interested in personal power
- Linked Leone Quintal with the bloodline of the Steel Dragon (which is something not even Harkover Lee thought of)
- Is still interested in Auryn and enthralled/fascinated whenever she speaks about their past

Pemberton:

- Uses the "old Fox" as nickname for Fordren
- got angry when we talked about Flying Spark being a Dragon Tyrant
- totally lied about his relationship to Fordren. Both know each othre quite well and it is highly unlikely that Fordren stole designs from Pemberton
- cheats for benefit
- is honestly interested in technical details of all kind
- was highly interested in Auryn's relationship with Fordren
- knows the B.E.A.R. quite well
- had been quite surprised when we appeared in Ber and Sawyer
- doesn't know jack about Flint and flintish industry
- dislikes Goodson
- had been to the KATE, even if he denied being there
- he's operating from Macdam (Fordren confirmed that he's stemming from there), but studied abroad in Danor

Theories (ranked from likely to crazy):

- Pemberton and Fordren both studied in Danor where they befriended each other. Maybe they were simply close, maybe they were lovers. Pemberton stole something (designs?) from Fordren which is why Fordren is mad about Pemberton. Still he doesn't deem the one who abused his trust to be a worthy competitor ("little sparrow"), so he just views him with disregard. Pemberton on the other hand is still fond of and even idolizes Fordren, even if he cheated on him. Which is why he secretly follows him. So he's no competitor either.

- Pemberton and Fordren are the very same person as he's a shapeshifter who tries to own the industrial market and play games in the mean time. Fordren is the "original" act, which is why he's much more defined. We didn't see magic on either of them as a shifter's abilities are natural.

- Fordren is a former Dragon Tyrant, which is why he's still thinking of Ber as his original home. Because of that, he's obviously forced to live in exile. Pemberton is the only one who knows about his little secret which is why he turned so angry when we mentioned dragons. No one insults dragon-senpai! They most likely met at a danoran university and were pretty close. Fordren fears that Pemberton may spill his secret, so he doesn't want to talk about his little weakness. Would explain why Fordren got so mad about someone stealing his property. And why he'sl obsessed with power. And Auryn.

Oh and did I mention that both are named after recent popes? Francis and Benedict. But that's just a funny coincidence. )
 

Lylandra

Explorer
orcish diplomacy

Now I'm curious. But no spoilers ;)

Any yep, we're currently chasing Kasvarina's memories with Cherage and Methia being the last two missing stops on our list.

---

Brakken soon leaves the tavern as well to wish us a good night. He casually mentions that this chat turned quite weird indeed and that he also sensed that there had been a lot of tension he couldn't lay his finger on, especially as he couldn't sense Fordren's emotions and thoughts at all.

“I have never seen such a secluded mind. Well, the sovereign of Danor came close, of course.”

The minotaur then turns to Auryn and looks her straight in the eye.

“But you...”

“What about me?”

“You appear to really hate this man. That fire inside of you is so hot, yet your words were precise and cold. I wonder what happened between the two of you.”

“Yes, I do. But we came to an agreement, so unless he breaks his vow I wouldn't either.”

“The price of peace. I see.”

Then Brakken leaves as well and soon it is only the two of us standing at the beach in a moonlit night. After he's gone, Carlyle expresses his astonishment about Fordren's open statements and his stance regarding the Obscurati. He stresses out that, of course, he has different reasons to go after them than we have, still knowing that he's basically on the same side as we are is quite the relief.

Carlyle then states that he'll never forget what Fordren had done in the past, even if he found the man he saw today to be quite sympathetic. Auryn is understandably more hesitant to agree, but she gets what he's trying to say. Even if she's going to need time to get the thought sorted that Fordren may be a potentially on their side against the Obs.

(Needless to say that she felt very uneasy despite the rationale telling her that it'd be better for Risur this way. From her point of view she just had fought a mock battle against her enemy. Even if she knew that his bitterness had been no bluff at all)


After this short exchange, we take the fastest route to Citada de Cavallo. We arrive very late and get rebuffed at first as the guards of Cavallo de Guerra aren't really keen on upsetting their lord by letting the hoof-lickers of Bruse Shantus into his castle. We react pretty much dismayed by the impolite treatment and return that we deemed Cavallo to be more honorable than to berate risuri ambassadors who are also Knights of King Aodhan.

Acting royally pissed seem to do the trick and so we're soon allowed to enter the castle. Our guide, an impressive half-giant woman named Alonsa Folián even invites us to sit at Lord Cavallo's banquet table and explains that of course we'll be given a room for the night. If we don't mind sleing in the room next to Lya Jierre's who arrived earlier that day, she says. So it seems like the competitors didn't wait to make their moves either.

Before we enter the banquet hall, we spot one young orc who's looking sickly and who seems to have an injured leg. The child is quickly shoved aside though and we remember that being sick is said to be a sign of weakness or corruption in this part of Ber. Alonsa also mentions the banquet being part of a series of festivities being held after a large abandoned dragon hoard had been discovered recently.

We're then being introduced to Cavallo de Guerra who's both annoyed and amused by the fact that Bruse Shantus sent not one but two foreign entourages to go on his nerves. Both we and Lya insist that this wasn't our idea of fun or diplomacy either. We stress out that Risur, being Ber's closest neighbor, tries to keep good relations with this country which is why we are ready to help find a way to end the strife between Shantus and Cavallo. We then mention the bond between our two nation, especially in terms of freedom, but also in to their combined effort against the Dragon Tyrants in the past.

Lya takes this as an opportunity to claim that this kind of approach is so typical for the Risuri... clinging to the past, hiding behind the accomplishments of old Kings who are long dead and trying to derive an ancient debt from something that happened 200 years ago all while they are only interested in benefiting their own nation.

“Isn't it funny how the danoran ambassador speaks of benefiting Risur when her own nation is so keen on benefiting from this whole situation that she'd try to convince the honorable Cavallo de Guerra to attack their neighbors? Only to lure him into a trap laid out by Bruse Shantus? And that said ambassador doesn't appear to think twice about the possible result of what could very well be the start of a war between our two nations. A war that would benefit neither Risur, nor Ber, but only Danor.” Auryn throws in confidentially as if she'd only waited for this opportunity.

Lya appears to not take any offense by Auryn's statement and we get that she's politician enough to separate her job from her personal feelings. She replies that Risur does look down on the “barbaric” tribes of Ber for sure which is why they'd always try to patronize their neighbor.

“Enough of this bickering!” Cavallo finally shouts after he's already been silent for quite a while. “A banquet is meant to be enjoyable! Bring in the food! Let the music play!”

As neither Lya nor we wish to upset our host, we cease the purely political animosities and feast on fine beran food and wine. During the banquet, Cavallo de Guerra confirms that his people have indeed stumbled across a dragon lair near Lago Fuego, including a large hoard with quite the amount of treasure. He mentions that the treasure was brought to his castle to be secured and appraised, and even hints that he may allow his honored guests to take a look at a true dragon's fortunes.

From his chat with his sea chieftains, we also get that Cavallo's navy seems to be troubled by either fey or sea monsters as his ships got attacked recently by unknown entities. He also doesn't get why he should pay for these damn tracks that Shantus would like to see connect citada de Cavallo with the rest of Ber. After all, he could find some workers who'd ram these “sticks” into the ground, but alas, he lacks the steel to forge said metal sticks.

We use this as an opportunity to mention that Cavallo's wine is of a pretty good quality and add that growing decent wine in Risur is no easy feat. So we might be able to negotiate trading wine for risuri steel.

As evening turns to night, Cavallo's four sea chieftains grow tired of faked etiquette and wine, so they turn to stronger spirits and reminisce about their past plundering. Some of them don't seem to be too fond of peace, Risur and having peace with Risur, so Auryn decides to do what she does best and starts singing beran shanties. The chieftains are positively surprised to hear that fresh take on their traditional songs, so they chime in and invite her to share a few spirits with them. Needless to say that she's getting heavily drunk in no time. Which doesn't keep her from singing though.

Carlyle takes this as an opportunity to keep an eye on Lya Jierre. The tiefling doesn't seem to be too keen on listening to shanties all night long, so she withdraws to her room. Once she realizes that Carlyle does follow her, she turns around and greets him with a disarming smile.

“Not what I'd expected from a man Bruse Shantus calls 'his rival'. But then, I don't know what I should have expected either.” Lya says casually and then turns to a window to gaze at the night sky.

Carlyle isn't in the mood for small-talk so he just says that he believes Cavallo de Guerra to be a wiser man than Shantus. He then tries to talk Lya out of following that Man Hill plan again as Auryn just put her cards on the table and Cavallo will be wise enough to avoid such an obvious trap. Lya agrees on his wisdom, but adds that this old warrior surely has much of his fighting spirit left. She then deflects any further attempts to read her true intentions and wishes Carlyle a good night.

As Lya does enter her room afterward, he uses the opportunity to take a sneaky stroll through the castle. This way, he does get a peek at the dragon's hoard and stumbles across a pair of orcish teens who are being worries about the girl's brother's condition as it appears that the young boy is infected by something malicious. Carlyle, knowing quite a bit about diseases and infections, remembers the sight of the young orc's leg and combines this image with the girl's description of his symptoms. He then realizes that the boy might just be infected with dragon worms, dangerous parasites which are immune to all sorts of fire, even a dragon's.

When he tries to share this news with his partner, he finds her utterly intoxicated but still humming while the other sea chieftains seem both drunk and drowsy.

“Din'now that senorita could take so much. An' I always thought Risuri to have sticks in their arses...” one of them mumbles before his head drops on a wooden table.

Carlyle picks Auryn up after making sure that she isn't really poisoned or anything. Which means that he basically has to drag her to their room as she cannot walk straight. She doesn't mind though as she takes this as an opportunity to get closer than necessary.

“You smell sooo good” she babbles while completely ignoring her surroundings.

“I know”

“You look good, too. Why do you have to be so handsome?”

“These are matters we should discuss on the morrow. Now you need to rest.”

Carlyle then brings her to bed and, after making sure that Auryn is asleep, decides to finally get some sleep as well. Only to realize that Lya Jierre (who's sleeping in the room next to us) is just as an uneasy sleeper as Auryn (at least when she's not passed out from drinking too much).

(Auryn being drunk made her lower her restraint in terms of showing her affection for Carlyle and yes, she totally got the hots for him. As I mentioned earlier, her emotions during that time were quite a complicated mess and Fordren added another layer of complexity. But it seems like Carlyle didn't wish to complicate the situation even more. Either that or it would have just felt wrong for him to even take the least bit of advantage of someone who couldn't think straight.)


The next morning, Auryn has one of the worst hangovers in her entire life. And as Cavallo's castle is pretty close to the sea, we're both being woken up early by squawking seagulls.

“Now I know why you hate these birds...” Auryn mumbles, hiding her head underneath her pillow.

Fortunately, Carlyle is very much used to help other people sober up in the morning, so he prepares an antitoxin and orders smoked fish for breakfast. After consuming both medicines, she's quite well again (even if she's still pretty tired). But to Carlyle's surprise, she does remember everything she said the evening before, so she reminds him with a chuckle that she still got to discuss a certain someone's smell.

Before the situation turns too awkward, Auryn explains that she's still attracted to Carlyle no matter what, but adds that she can usually restrain herself from acting inappropriately. Which, she confesses, isn't easy, but manageable. Carlyle seems a bit surprised by her need to distance herself from her attraction and asks her why she'd feel the need to do so.

“I just don't wish to overpower or harass you. Yes, I am attracted to you and yes, I'd love being close to you. But I got the impression that you don't really feel the same for me, despite our strong bond and our mutual trust.”

“But that's not... I am just reserved and you know that. Showing affection wasn't appropriate in my past life, and I'm still not used to it.”

“So you've never been interested in any woman for four centuries?”

“Oh, I have been. More than once.”

“And you've never shown them any sign of your affection?”

“I have.”

“Huh.”

“These were different times and different women. But I'd like to make a suggestion: After we finish our work here, we should spend an evening in one of these cozy tango bars. We both love dancing, don't we?”

Now this lightens up Auryn's mood quite a bit and she says that she'd love to do so. After this is kind of settled, we then talk more about this mysterious infection and whether curing Cavallo's grandchild could help us getting the old orc's ear. Carlyle says he's quite sure that the boy got the dragon worms and extracting them is usually a painful and slow procedure. When he mentions the parasite, Auryn remembers that these worms lay their eggs in warm waters and are often caught while bathing in places where dragons lived and bathed. Which is really odd as the boy seemed to young to be part of an expedition to Lago Fuego.

We also discuss helping Cavallo to get rid of these “sea monsters”, especially if they turn out to be fey. But then, we need more infos, so we decide to go looking for the sick child first.

Before we can get that far, we stumble into a messenger who delivers a mysterious message from a certain Elias who writes very eloquently that he's been captured by a tribe of goblins who he had tried to help. He asks to be freed and gives a rough description on how to find him. We're quite surprised to get this letter by sheer coincidence, but agree that Dr. Recklinghausen – who we're quite sure is the true identity of said Elias – might just be the one we need to help the sick orc boy. Seems as if fate smiles on us today.

After breakfast, we first wish to take a look at the grandchildren of Cavallo de Guerra to see if more of them got infected with dragon worms. We find them playing in the courtyard while being watched by Corta Nariz who's both Cavallo's daughter and the mother of the infected child. Auryn takes it on herself to make a good first impression on Corta Nariz and asks her whether she may play with the kids. The orc woman doesn't mind and Carlyle invites her to a game of chess in the mean time.

Carlyle takes the opportunity to chat with Corta and is being told that Cavallo's scouts drained Lago Fuego, which had been some sort of sacred place of the local goblin tribes. They later found the abandoned hoard in a nearby cave. Carlyle explains that these goblins might just be the cause of her child's infection as goblins often catch the dragon worms and they may be transmitted by swallowing contaminated water.

Corta understands this reasoning, but she insists that her child never bathed in Lago Fuego. She adds that there have been more cases of these parasite infections lately with sailors who enjoyed the hot springs near the harbor. Now that Carlyle has the full picture, he guesses that there has to be a subterranean connection between the reservoir of the waters of Lago Fuego and said hot springs. He adds that he cannot do much more for the boy as these worms are immune to magic and he's already treated in the best way he knows. But he does recommend to close the hot spring baths for now as these waters are most likely the source of the infections. And he also offers that we may take a closer look at the Lago Fuego area.

The of them also talk about the railway and her stance towards Bruse Shantus. Carlyle stresses out that the railway will improve Cavallo's financial situation on the long run, even if he has to make a one-time investment in the Bruses' project. He explains that the wine he tasted yesterday was quite exquisite and that he believes that it may sell quite well in foreign countries like Risur. Especially if Bruse Shantus agrees to construct a second railway which connects Risur and Ber, which will reduce the risks of bandit raids and allow for much cheaper exports. And should her father be interested in good relations with Risur, we might just help negotiate importing good risuri steel to Ber.

Regarding the Bruse, Corta explains that she knows that Shantus hasn't always been this indifferent towards his people's needs. When he asks her what could have happened to the Bruse to change his attitude that much, she just shrugs and answers “The tribes happened to the Bruse. The tribes can wear down the even sturdiest of minds and the greatest of warriors.”

Carlyle nods calmly at her statement and then says that being a good, patient and diplomatic politician is a much different task than being a good warrior.

(So we basically try to do what we're best at: helping people, gaining their trust and establishing good relationships. We also enjoyed our verbal sparring with Lya Jierre who's just as sassy and clever as we thought her to be. She made more than a worthy opponent during this challenge, even if she got the “bad guy” task and basically had to start playing dirty after we outed her intentions during the banquet.

Oh and we instantly loved Corta Nariz for being the one who holds everything together in Cavallo's fortress. She's just serious business.

And as this is the end of session 35 and there were a lot of “Auryn's thoughts” on this episode, I'd share a few of them especially as they will come up again in session 36 and 37.

All in all she had been quite surprised that she'd been so much in control during our talk with him. She got the impression that she had finally been able to meet him on equal footing and to verbally “dance” with him. Auryn also believes that he's going to honor their agreement despite the fact that he cannot let her go either. They are still in this weird power struggle which both of them took from a personal to a more philosophical level.

So she strongly believes that her true power depends on having allies she can trust and people who believe in her. Kind of like the power of the King of Risur depends on the trust of his people, but in a less metaphysical way. Fordren, on the other hand, believes that raw power is power and Auryn thinks that he'd love to regain his power over her. Despite the fact that he'd never broken her will and all of her submission had been an act.

She also knows that she has to actively put aside her urges to take revenge on Fordren. After all he might be a powerful ally against the Obs and she wishes to follow the true path of Vekesh. So exacting revenge on Fordren would only cement her being weak, too weak to let go and change. On top of that, she started to believe that maybe even Fordren could change in time, even if it wouldn't matter much to her.

Seeing Fordren showing true emotions also changed her view a bit. What if he desired power so much because he had been hurt or rendered powerless in the past? But even if she had these thoughts, she wouldn't bring herself to feel sympathy for him. And that is where her troubles with Carlyle began.

Rationally, she totally understands his “sympathy” and his rather positive view on the man as Fordren honestly and believably swore to act against the Obs. As an agent of Risur, bringing the organization down has to have priority over personal feelings and he's her fellow agent. On the other hand, she felt as if Carlyle wasn't able to understand what Fordren had done to her. That he had brought her very close to breaking down, to the edge of the abyss.

Yes, Carlyle had been there, too, but he had been able to eliminate the one who brought him there while Fordren lived and she had to live with him. Which is why she really needed his unconditional support. And also why any kind of positive emotion towards Fordren felt like betrayal, especially as, in her society, the husbands would be the last and strongest line of defense.

And of course she knew that she could rely on Carlyle no matter what. She just thought that he'd never understand her or feel the same way she did. Which is... also true for Auryn's attempts to show her affection. She really didn't understand why Carlyle would be so reserved towards her when he stated that he'd been more direct when it came to other women. In her opinion, this could only be either because he was only doing her a favor and wasn't really interested in her or because he felt so much for her that he was afraid to repeat the situation he had with that Vantrys daughter.

So yeah, it's complicated :) )
 

Lylandra

Explorer
Saving Doctor von Recklinghausen

Session 36

After our talk with Corta Nariz, we meet up with Cavallo de Guerra to tell him about our knowledge of the dragon worms. We find the old orc in the banquet hall where he's having breakfast with his four sea chieftains Babaro, Thrag Vidalia, Perroroso and Danovio. Alonsa is present as well and the six of them seem to enjoy their chat about pit fights.

As soon as we greet them all, their eyes turn on us and Cavallo jokingly suggests that “the diplomats” may wish to proof their mettle in a fight. When we ask who would be our opponent then, Alonsa summons a hearth spirit which she directs to jump down the pit. Auryn offers to take on the spirit, but Carlyle insists that he cannot just sit idly by while the lady faces the dangerous opponent. Before Auryn can comment or maybe protest, he simply jumps down the pit and draws his weapon.

As we expected, there is not much of a fight as Carlyle can defeat the spirit before it can get even close to harming him. The sea chieftains congratulate him with a roaring applause and one of them asks for an encore. So Alonsa offers to let Carlyle fight her giant war bear, Chupacabra. Carlyle agrees even if he's hesitant to harm such a majestic creature and secretly decides to be more gentle this time. But as soon as Chupacabra enters the pit and exchanges glares with Carlyle, the bear turns out to be quite tame and refuses to fight. Instead, it trots towards Carlyle and licks him all over his face.

(A situation that was as challenging for Carlyle as a real fight would have been. He isn't really keen on being covered with bear drool.)

Alonsa is very much surprised to see her bear act that friendly towards a stranger, so Auryn says that it seems as if both of them share an affinity for bears. She tells the half-giant about her encounter with Feroz, the war bear of Brakken Heffanita and mentions that this bear seemed to like her as well. Cavallo laughs at this turn of events and adds that there may be more to these risuri than meets the eye. Seems as if we finally managed to be in Cavallo's good books.

The sea chieftains insist that we drink their traditional morning pint with them while we carefully tell Cavallo that we're having quite a good picture about the dragon worm infestation that's spread at the harbor region. Cavallo's mood turns a bit dark when we talk about the infection as being struck with parasites is traditionally seen as a curse or sign of bad character.

“Oh but it is merely a hungry worm, a predator if you'd like to call it so. So what we need to do is find the proper weapon against this creature. And I wouldn't say that only weak souls are haunted by this predator as it had been originally feasted upon dragons.” Carlyle says and adds that he knows that these worms are usually spread through waters that had been dragon bathing grounds in the days past.

Auryn then mentions that we got a call for help earlier this morning by someone we would call a friend. Someone who, coincidentally, happens to be the best doctor we know. On top of that, we think that he may have already found a treatment for the dragon worm, even if he's likely a prisoner of a goblin tribe.

“So that's what this letter was all about. Thought that it'd be obvious to hand the letter of a risuri to his fellow compatriots.” Cavallo says with a smirk.

We explain that this doctor isn't exactly a risuri, but rather a wandering philanthropist and someone we shared a short adventure with. Still the man is quite the miracle worker even if he doesn't use magic at all.

We then turn the subject to Corta Nariz and her seemingly great political and organizational talent when all of a sudden Lya Jierre enters the hall, foaming with anger. She demands that the petition she's written should be discussed and assessed right now as she and Danor's needs have been ignored for too long. We're quite surprised to see such an outburst from the clever and usually calm politician and realize that this is nothing but one grand show.

Lya continues her rant and, when her demands are being rebuffed again and again she throws her petition to the ground and storms off theatrically. Cavallo laughs at the tiefling's temper, commenting that she's quite the fiery temper for someone stemming from a technocracy. We on the other hand, saw Lya making well-hidden gestures towards the petition, so we decide to take a closer look on the sheet of paper once Cavallo and his crew are done with their breakfast.

Cavallo seems to be quite relieved that this whole rivalry issue just got solved by itself. Especially as he makes it pretty clear that he didn't think too highly of the Danorans anyway. Still he's done with diplomacy and talks for now, so he rallies his men and leaves the hall. Which gives us just the moment we've been waiting for. We take Lya's note and find it to be a perfectly normal petition at a first glance. However, we do spot a hidden message inside the text that hints at something happening during the 8th hour the next morning.

As we realize that going after von Recklinghausen might take quite a while, we decide to stay in Citada de Cavallo to see where Lya's hint may point to. So we put on orcish disguises and scan the harbor area for any kind of suspicious activities. After all, Lya just needs “someone” to attack Man Hill if she can convincingly blame it on Cavallo de Guerra afterward. We spot a lot of grand beran warships lying in the harbor and one smaller frigate which is just in the process of landing on a pier.

After the ship has landed, an orcish officer leaves the ship making a beeline towards Citada de Cavallo. We suspect that this officer might be a messenger and so Carlyle follows the man while Auryn stays in the harbor to catch some rumors. She enters the most famous tavern in citada harbor and instantly befriends a young officer candidate who's all excited to finally get his chance to shine in the upcoming battle. When Auryn asks him what kind of battle he might mean as “we're not in a war, aren't we?”, the orc tells her about the risuri fleet, including the majestic Coaltongue, heading towards Ber which usually means that a naval battle is about to take place very soon.

Meanwhile, Carlyle follows the messenger all the way to sea chieftain Babaro who is being told the very same news: That the risuri fleet is heading towards the beran strait and therefore Citada de Cavallo at full speed.

Carlyle then returns to Auryn and we both exchange our newly gained info. It seems as if our safety plan to reinforce Man Hill just backfired as the berans might take the moving fleet as a sign of an impeding attack. We try to discuss possible means of explaining the fleet's movement, but then decide to tell Cavallo the truth. After all, he's an honest and down to earth man who loves his family and who'll most likely understand our need to protect our soldiers in Man Hill.

So we ask to meet with sea chief Babaro and tell him that we know that he knows about our fleet. We then explain the whole situation to him: That both Lya Jierre and we got caught up in the dangerous game of Bruse Shantus. A game neither of us wanted to play, but are nonetheless forced to participate in as the result is of utmost importance for our two nations. And since it had been Lya's task to convince Cavallo to attack Man Hill, we decided to warn our soldiers and ask for reinforcements just in case.

Now we do know that all of this may look like preparations for a per-emptive strike, so we promise Babaro that we'll put the fleet to halt immediately. In return, we ask for the promise that no beran forces will attack Man Hill while the fort is understaffed.

The sea chieftain seems a bit disappointed that his moment of glory just ended before it even started, but he believes that we're more keen on helping his Lord Cavallo with his local problems. He promises that he'll talk to the other chieftains while we promise that we'll send a message to rear admiral Dawkins to ask him to stop the fleet before it gets too close to beran waters.

So we cast a sending spell to reach out to Dawkins and explain the whole situation. He returns that he'll leave the fleet close enough for a last minute intervention at Man Hill and adds that he'll try to contact his old “friendly rival” Beshela. His reply ends with a “goddess bless you two” and we're quite sure that the worst has been averted now.

We then talk about the possibility that someone might just get nervous and attack anyway, so we decide to go searching for von Recklinghausen right now. Carlyle takes the risk to teleport into the unknown yet again and luck would have it that we arrive at Lago Fuego in one piece and at the right spot. There, we find a dried out lake and a forsaken goblin village. We then take the directions “Elias” gave us in his note and follow them closely. By and by we spot the tracks of large insects and see goblin patrols in the distance. We decide to move around them though as we don't wish to pick up a fight yet.

Unfortunately, none of us speaks any goblin, so we have to use a comprehend languages spell which at least makes us able to follow their conversations. After a while we come to a cave entrance, leading to an intricate system of tunnels filled with lots of goblins and insects. We avoid them as well as possible and finally come to the conclusion that we might just got lost in a gigantic maze. As we're quite sure that the doctor will know more about these tunnels than we do, we hide in a small opening and send him a magical message, asking him for directions.

He explains that we'll have to look out for a barricade and also warns us that the tribe's leader, a shaman, might not be happy to have us here. Oh and he's also the one controlling the giant insects. So we continue our journey during which we're being attacked by radiant force-beetles. They turn out to be quite tough, but don't pose too much of a threat and dissolve into light after some quick coordinated blows.

We finally reach the barricade and the already mentioned goblin shaman. As we still don't wish to fight these strange goblins, we tell the shaman that we know that they got our friend, the doctor, and that we came here to help him with his work. The goblins are a bit suspicious as we're no orcs and that letter had been sent to “the nasty orcses” and not to humans. We explain that we got the letter from said orcs and promise that we'll try to convince them that driving the goblins away from their village wasn't the best of ideas.

The chief is still wary but leads us to the doctor anyway as the weak lad could really need some help. We find Dr. von Recklinghausen in a rather poor condition while he's busy making medicine for the goblins. Still we're happy to find him in one piece and especially Auryn is more than glad to see him again after we said goodbye almost a year ago. The doctor is pleasantly surprised that it had been us who got his letter and found him. He then tells us how he got into this mess: He had simply tried to help these goblins getting rid of dragon worms and, after being successful, they simply refused to let him go, naming more and more ludicrous reasons for why they'd need to keep him there.

“Just imagine how afraid my poor Lynn must be, especially after this metal mage debacle.” he says and then tells us that Lynn Kindleton might very well still be studying anthropological findings in Seobriga as he didn't want to expose her to sickly, and potentially dangerous goblins.

(It seems as if he prefers to play the damsel in distress all alome)


We decide that while we do wish to help these goblins who got chased out of their home, we're also running out of time and cannot afford to stay in these tunnels for a prolonged time. So we convince the doctor that he and we will have much better chances to get them their home back once the dragon worm infections in Citada de Cavallo have been dealt with. As soon as Dr. von Recklinghausen agrees, Carlyle takes him by the hand and teleports the three of us back to the fortress.

We take him to the bathroom so he may finally take the shower he'd needed for weeks. After that, we tell him everything we got to know about the parasites so far, including the most likely source of the infection. He replies that we're quite correct with our findings and explains that he's found a rather quick, but painful, procedure to get a patient rid of the worms quickly. A procedure he's willing to share with us and the beran doctors. We praise him for his superior skills and suggest that we propose the procedure to Corta Nariz.

Before we go to Cavallo's daughter, Auryn takes the doctor aside to thank him for his valuable gift that has proven to be effective against the most terrible of fiends and aberrations. After that, we do reveal that we now know that von Recklinghausen didn't flee from “Porter”, or Cillian Creed, alone, but also from Andrei. When the doctor doesn't recognize the name, we explain that Andrei von Recklinghausen is the name of his son, a young man he must have created years ago. Dr. Recklinghausen pales at this revelation and then confirms our theory.

“My son... this poor creature... was the result of my hybris. I tried to create life from death, to create an Übermensch. And I succeeded, but the world and even I were not ready for him. So I put him to sleep, hoping that he may wake up in a better world.”

The doctor sighs with grief, but we tell him about Andrei being a wonderful young man with a big heart, even if he's quite naïve and inexperienced. Auryn adds that Andrei knows nothing but love and care for his friends, including young Isobel, her eladrin student. We then offer Recklinghausen to visit Andrei once this mission is over so he may see who his son has become. After all, Andrei had been looking for his father as well.

Dr. von Recklinghausen is a bit reluctant to agree yet, so we finally take him to Corta Nariz where he explains the whole procedure to her. She then calls for her son while Carlyle prepares some anesthetics to ease the boy's pain.

And as the doctor promised, he's able to turn the dragon worm completely to stone. Corta is more than happy to see her son being rid of the terrible parasite and we offer her to heal all the sick citizens as well as long as the doctor gets to speak to her father soon. Corta agrees and we take it upon ourselves to tell the Lord about the successful treatment of his grandson.
 

Lylandra

Explorer
Treachery at sea

When we get to Cavallo de Guerra and tell him that the mysterious captive of the goblins who called for help just offered a method to cure anyone of the Dragon Worms, the old orc seems a bit surprised but satisfied. He's having a hard time showing even small signs of joy though. We remind him that this all started because someone decided to drain the infested Lago de Fuego and add that the local goblins would be less aggressive if they were allowed to get both a treatment and allowed to return to their home.

Then we turn the subject to the sea monsters we heard the chieftains talk about and offer to talk to our druids so they may help the berans receive the blessing from the sea and the sea fey. But before we explain the intricacies of the fey-mortal relationships, the Titans and the connection to the Dreaming, we'd like to discuss the Bruse once again. We then tell Cavallo that Bruse Shantus, despite being certainly not the wisest of beran rulers, still listens to his advisors when it comes to complex decisions. Which is why we'd try to propose making Corta Nariz the third advisor on his board. We explain that we've found Cavallo's daughter to be an extremely canny organizer who is both blessed with wisdom and intelligence and should the Bruse agree to make her the “minister of orc relations” or something like that, then this could help ease the tension between the two powerful men.

Carlyle adds that he knows that this plan won't be a sure-fire success as the Bruse is one proud man, just like Cavallo himself. Which is why Cavallo would need to offer something in return should he hope to convince the Bruse to appoint Corta. Especially as Bruse Shantus already paid for his part of the railway to Citada de Cavallo while Cavallo might just be the one who'd profit most from the increased trade. After all, he's dependent on his ships which would be reinforced by risuri steel and importing said steel will be much cheaper once the railway is complete. And connecting all of Ber via railway is just the beginning, we say, as we'd still like to connect Risur and Ber on the long run.

Regarding the seaway, we suspect that steam ships will become common in Ber, too, which is why sea trade will increase as well. Which also means that Clan de Guerra will continue to play a large role in beran politics. Even if it would be a diplomatic move to at least exclude risuri ships from the traditional pirate raids or so.

“Very well then, you youngsters have a point.” Cavallo growls, while Carlyle and Auryn look at each other with a short chuckle as they're not exactly the definition of “youngsters”.

The old orc then asks us to come to his office where he writes a long letter to Bruse Shantus which he demands to be delivered immediately. We offer to bring said letter directly to Seobriga and then teleport to the capital. Only to return back to Citada de Cavallo as Cavallo de Guerra would like to invite us to yet another banquet.

This time, Corta Nariz and all of her children are present and she seems much more relaxed than before. At first, the feast is pretty much the standard beran affair until Cavallo de Guerra announces that attacking Risur, and especially Man Hill, is off limits from now on for an indefinite time. This angers Thrag Vidalia, one of the sea captains, who was looking forward to a grand naval battle in the near future.

“The risuri took my very first ship and I still haven't gotten my revenge! What good is a sea captain if he is denied his satisfaction?!”

To our surprise, it isn't Cavallo who admonishes the pretty drunk Vidalia, but Corta Nariz. Said orc just silently raises from her seat, walks towards the sea chieftain, exchanges a few whispered words with him and then returns to her seat. Just a moment later, Thrag Vidalia raises again and humbly excuses himself for crossing a line in front of the high chieftain and his honored guests. He then silently leaves the banquet as he clearly drank too much. We offer Corta a broad, thankful smile and get the feeling that, yep, she'd be just the right orc for Bruse Shantus.

(Can I just say that Corta is a certified badass? That orc lady isn't just a brilliant strategist and micro-manager, she's also able to send a sea chieftain to bed with no supper. Had Lya not be so much invested in the Obs plan, these two would have made the perfect pair.

I'd definitely rank her in my "favorite NPC" list.)


We go to bed earlier (and less drunk) than last time as we still wish to see what Lya's letter was about and said event is to take place at the 8th hour the next day. The next morning, we first search the castle and then the harbor for signs that something might be amiss, but find that everything is just fine. Just when we're about to call the whole letter a well-prepared feint, we spot one large beran liner leaving the harbor. One look through our spyglass reveals that this must be the vessel of Thrag Vidalia, which may or may not indicate trouble.

As we fear that the sea chieftain might not have taken his previous defeat lightly and might just try to attack Man Hill on his own accord, we rush towards Cavallo de Guerra to tell him what we saw and ask him whether he's seen Thrag Vidalia today. When Cavallo says that he hasn't seen any chieftain yet, we utter our suspect that at least this sea chieftain might just be about to start a war without Cavallo's permission.

Cavallo, who vividly remembers yesterday's incident, is furious about this possibility, and calls Thrag Vidalia a treacherous fool should our suspect turn out to be true. He then orders his fleet to be mobilized immediately and to follow Thrag Vidalia's vessel. We offer Cavallo to bring him aboard said vessel the direct way as our spyglass might be sufficient to allow short-range teleportation. We also swear to defend the high chieftain with our life should Vidalia's crew try to attack him.

“Shouldn't bet on only one ship when you can afford to sail with two” Cavallo answers, orders his men to keep mobilizing while we accompany him to the harbor to use our teleportation spell.

As we expected, Thrag Vidalia's crew is very much surprised to see Cavallo de Guerra and two Risuri suddenly appear on deck. Cavallo demands to be taken to the sea chieftain at once as he has matters to discuss with him. Fortunately, the crew heeds his orders and hasn't really gone rogue yet. We're led to the captain's cabin where we see a wounded Thrag Vidalia sitting in his chair and a dead woman with dark skin lying in front of him.

When the sea chieftain sees his Lord, he seems both confused and relieved at the same time.

“Treason, my Lord Cavallo! These Risuri can't be trusted! This woman, another risuri... guest tried to kill me with her poison and mocked me with her stories of an imminent attack from Man Hill while I lay dying! But I'm stronger than she thought!”

Now Cavallo's eyes are on us and we quickly remind Thrag Vidalia that he wasn't really “dying” when said woman coincidentally revealed her plans. We don't really get why she'd agree to such a suicidal plan though. Carlyle asks for permission to examine the poison and finds out that this was merely a paralyzing and not a deadly variant. Which makes this whole story really messed up.

Fortunately, Cavallo demands to know what exactly happened from Thrag while he orders us to be disarmed for the moment. The chieftain explains that this woman claimed to be a risuri guest who was invited to the Lord's mother's home. She asked for a short tour and he invited her for breakfast. Then, she suddenly stabbed him with a poisoned dagger and he couldn't move. But then he managed to shake off the poison and strangled the assassin.

As Thrag still bleeds, Auryn offers to heal the orc's wounds, but he's pretty skeptical at first. When she asks him to bring someone with magical knowledge so this person may examine what she's doing, the orc looks quite embarrassed as he doesn't have any spellcaster aboard.

“You fear that woman's touch, Thrag? Never thought you'd be such a sissy. If she wanted to kill you, she'd have slit your throat by now and I'd have her head for it.” Cavallo grumbles sarcastically, but still not satisfied and Thrag reluctantly agrees to be healed.

After finally healing Thrag, we closely examine the cabin and find some traces of magic on a scroll, in Thrag's cup and on the chieftain himself. But we also know that Cavallo does have to put a lot of trust in our magical findings as the crew lacks anyone to prove our assessment. We then tell the two about the mysterious Joe Pena who is both in league with assassins and capable of casting mind-altering magic. All in all, we suspect that either this Joe Pena or maybe even Lya hired that woman to paralyze Thrag and tell him that story about the “risuri attack” plot. She must have tried to flee but underestimated Thrag's stamina and fell victim to his vengeance.

Carlyle adds that, should we truly wish to see either Thrag or Cavallo dead, we'd have had lots and lots of opportunities by now. And that we really have no reason to harm anyone of Cavallo's men. After all, we just helped Corta Nariz with the Dragon Worm plague despite being not on Cavallo's list of conditions.

Cavallo takes a moment to draw breath and then asks Thrag what he's think about the whole situation now that we shed more light onto it. Thrag insists that this has to be all part of a big, treacherous risuri plot to weaken and then destroy the beran navy and Lord de Guerra shakes his head in disbelief.

“You're truly a fool Thrag for letting your thirst for vengeance cloud your judgement. You should have known that my dear mother is currently residing in Seobriga, so this woman couldn't have been her guest. Also, my dear mother would have insisted that I'd give her guest a tour, not you. On top of that, these two risuri have shown me nothing but kindness and honesty. So you leave me no choice: I hereby strip you of your command. You may return to your quarters as soon as we reach the harbor.”

Cavallo de Guerra then locks Thrag Vidalia in his very own cabin and takes command of the ship. Before he orders the crew to return to Citada de Cavallo, we offer to show the Lord one final sign that we're telling the truth: We invite him and his ship over to Man Hill so he may assess the situation there with his own eyes. Then we may wait until sunset to see if there's a risuri fleet entering the beran strait or not. Cavallo seems a bit uneasy by the thought of entering “enemy territory” at first, but then agrees as we truly got no reason to betray him right now.

(So yes, Lya did warn us about this treacherous plan, even if she didn't go into detail. Which made us think that maybe she still cared about keeping peace with Risur. And yep, Thrag turned out to be an idiot. He won't be missed.)

As soon as we and Cavallo set sail for the risuri coast, the sea turns totally calm and a soft breeze blows the ships' sails. The vessel gains momentum quickly which leaves Cavallo speechless as he's used to much more rocky weather in these seas.

“It is the sea fey, Lord Cavallo. They know that we're friends of Risur and they're sympathetic to the risuri. Our old pacts make them protect our homeland as our first King borrowed the land from the fey. Which is why the Risuri pay tribute to them.” Auryn says softly while openly enjoying the strong sea breeze.

(Yeah, it kind of helps when there is a friendly storm fey turned human somewhere nearby if you're trying to make a point about collaborating with the fey...)

Cavallo seems impressed by the completely changed weather and currents and he hints that he might indeed be interested in gaining the fey's favor. We offer Cavallo to lend him druidic support for an eventual first contact with the local fey should he truly wish to walk this road and Cavallo gladly accepts it.

We arrive in Man Hill shortly after and signal our peaceful intentions via flag. The soldiers of the outpost are still pretty much awestruck to see “the” Lord Cavallo de Guerra leaving Thrag's big liner and they keep a close eye on the old orc. Cavallo on the other hand remembers being here a long time ago and wonders whether “this cozy little tavern” might still be open after all these years.

Fortunately, said tavern is intact and open, so we share a good drink while waiting, gazing at the sea and looking for signs of a risuri armada. Cavallo seems to enjoy his stay as he takes several more hours of drinking and chatting until he's convinced that the whole invasion story was nothing but a bluff of the Danorans.

“Damn the Bruse and his games. But at least I got free drinks in return.” Cavallo grumbles.

Cavallo de Guerra then returns to Citada de Cavallo and we use the time at sea to send a message to our druidic contacts that Lord Cavallo would like to forge a friendship with the sea fey of the beran strait so his ships may travel more safely in the future. The druids return that they'll gladly be of help and will sent an entourage to Citada de Cavallo very soon.

Cavallo seems finally satisfied with the whole situation and tells us that he'll make his peace with the Bruse and the payment should he accept his daughter as advisor in return. We return that anyone would be happy to have Corta around, so we're pretty sure that the Bruse won't deny this request. We then say goodbye to the staff at Citada de Cavallo, including Doctor von Recklinghausen who's still busy healing people in the harbor region. And then we finally return to Margit, Flying Spark and the railway construction team.
 

Lylandra

Explorer
von Reckinghausen the second // To heal

Once we arrive at the construction site, Margit informs us about what happened during our time in Citada de Cavallo: There had been a bandit attack and one of the workers got wounded by a gunshot. She healed him up afterward and the rest of the workers were glad to have healing hands in their team. Flying Spark did a good job with patrolling the camp and construction areas and so far everything went according to plan. Still, Liss is kind of working at the edge of bankruptcy and they all hope that the new shipments arrive without delay.

(We did play the first two days with Margit and Flying Spark to get used to the mechanics of the minigame. And we quickly realized that Liss couldn’t risk getting more than 1 materiel per day as any kind of disturbance would have been his ruin. But I'll talk more about the mechanics at the end of this or the next recap)

We take some time to get accustomed to the working processes and the location and then assign our security staff (the half-giant mercenaries) to the most vulnerable parts of the track and camp.

(Yeah, we just realized that we had basically hundreds of miles of potential targets in form of already constructed railway. And no way to protect all of it. So we placed them in the camp, the construction site, and the intermediate stops and switches)


While we're busy structuring our staff, we smell traces of smoke and rush to find its source. To our surprise, the culprit is a small fire elemental who's nibbling our planks. So we banish the elemental and look for people who could have summoned the creature. As we find none at first glance, we use a fly spell to increase our field of vision. We then spot two rugged looking people riding away from our camp on a horse. Turns out that they're bandits, too, who got paid to summon this elemental near camp. And as dealing with bandits is none of our business in Ber, we tie them up and get them delivered to the next Executora.

This evening, we receive a letter from Burton who successfully managed to infiltrate the enemy team. Team Griento, he says, is still busy with constructing mile 3 (we're at 4 already), but they got reinforcements today as Mr. Pemberton sold a lot of automatons to the Danorans. We curse the man for being such an unpatriotic capitalist, but understand that he's just a businessman in the end.

(This came pretty surprising as we've been pretty sure that Fordren would supply the Danorans with his mechanical creations. After Pemberton's kind of charitable help in Sawyer, we expected him to be less of an opportunist, but it turned out that we got him totally wrong.)

Burton also mentions that Lya and Ulrik returned to Griento's camp and that Lya brought a huge amount of money with her. So we send a message to Delft in which we tell him about Ulrik's current whereabouts and ask him for more money to maybe even the finances between us and Team Lya.

We then discuss how to repay the two sabotage events and agree that neither of us would like to see Ber burning or harm innocent bystanders/workers. After all, Team Lya used non-lethal methods so far which were not much more than mere nuisances. We include both Margit and Flying Spark in our tactical discussion as we'd like to take advantage of the superior risuri magic and knowledge of myth and legend. Carlyle then mentions that we might just ask a friend of ours to help with the construction: After all, we know one “railway hero” who's used to fighting bandits and who's not so easily scared off by flying bullets. So he excuses himself to return to Flint and ask Andrei whether he'd lend us his strength.

After he teleports back to his home, Carlyle heads to Andrei's apartment, but finds no white-haired inhabitant there. So he then checks up on Auryn's home, only to hear two people singing a strange duet on the inside. Turns out that Andrei is visiting Isobel on a regular basis. He also seems to have developed a weakness for crisillyiri fashion (Isobel loves his new clothes, he says) and Carlyle congratulates him on his new taste.

He then tells him about his new job prospect in Ber and adds that he'll make sure that he's payed well. He'd also talk to Andrei's current employees, a construction company owned by friends of Cippiano, as he'd be leaving Flint for a couple of weeks. Andrei sounds interested, but asks to spend some time with Isobel before leaving. Isobel, of course, is less enthusiastic about Andrei's trip, but doesn't wish to stand in his way.

So while Andrei uses his last hours in Flint to be with Isobel, Carlyle pays visit to Cippiano in his Cafe. He asks to lend Andrei for a while as his help might be pivotal in getting the upper hand against the conspirators. Don Cippiano thinks about the request for a while and then agrees, even if he needs to ask a friend's friend for a favor. He casually mentions that Andrei is a pretty skilled construction worker who'd surely make a good living of his work in time and Carlyle takes this as an opportunity to stress out that getting a variety of experiences would help him refine said skills.

They then switch the subject to cakes and sweets as Mr. Cippiano offers Carlyle a late-night treat. He, again, sees an opportunity and asks Cippiano whether he could get more of the sweets as he'd like to buy a gift for his railway construction crew in Ber. He'd pay for that favor, of course. Cippiano laughs at this request and adds that he'd surely win any man's heart with some good cake and pastry. He orders some of his men to get him cake and then, again, quite casually tells Carlyle that this strange talking golem that started working at the RHC recently left Flint quite a while ago. But he's sure that Carlyle's already knew that. Hint, hint. Which leaves Carlyle pretty embarrassed, but he manages to hide said feeling.

(Yeah, why would Delft even bother to tell us that Grappa left Flint. On his own. And most likely without anyone knowing. Yeah, Cippiano hit a sore nerve there.)

Carlyle returns to the Liss construction camp two hours later. He's given a warm welcome back, especially as he's accompanied by Andrei who's carrying a lot of cake. We then rally our workers and introduce them to Andrei von Recklinghausen. And throw a small, spontaneous party. Needless to say that our crew is more than glad to have us all aboard.

After the party is over, Auryn takes Carlyle aside to talk to him in private. It seems as if she's still troubled by her relationship to Fordren and explains that it isn't exactly easy for her to have him “so close” right now. She says that while she definitely knows that she's way stronger than before and that she already got the upper hand in their ongoing struggle, she still feels some kind of subconscious fear. A fear she doesn't know how to fight or put aside.

Carlyle agrees that she kind of won their battle for mental supremacy as she evolved from where she had started while Fordren basically stayed the same, even if she just learned about a few new facets of his personality. He's also quite certain that she won't have to meet him every other day as he'll surely take some time to scan his company for Ob infiltration. She thinks about his words for a while and then surprisingly states that she didn't regret her past confrontations with Fordren. On the contrary, experiencing that she was able to pull through these complicated situations helped her find normalcy, sovereignty and stability. But she isn't quite sure how this man would act in future meetings or whether he'd be able to keep his promises. Even if she technically has no reason to doubt his honesty when it comes to their pact.

Auryn then asks Carlyle for his assessment of her nemesis. Carlyle doesn't need much time to think about his opinion and directly states that Fordren seems like a hardened and cold businessman who would not hesitate to use any trick he got up his sleeve. He shares Auryn's assessment that Fordren is mostly interested in his profit, wealth and benefit, even if he's capable of feeling remorse, bitterness and longing for something he cannot put his finger on yet. What's worrying though is the fact that he's still obsessed with Auryn and strangely fascinated by her, even if he doesn't know whether this obsession would eventually collide with the pact he made with her.

But if one out aside all this baggage, then Fordren could turn out to be quite useful in the future as he's a powerful man who appears to oppose the Obs with an uncanny honesty. He also seemed to have honest intentions with Lord Vantrys which makes him hope that his protegee might have a brighter future in sight than a few years ago.

“Let's put it that way: Other than Goodson, Fordren doesn't seem to overpower Lord Vantrys. He aims for a collaborative partnership in Flint. Despite being a shark, he has been tame so far. And I'd honor him for that. But should he make any mistake, should he ever touch you or try to make you his again, then I'll cut him open bottom to top.”

Auryn looks very much baffled at this last statement as Carlyle dryly and calmly finishes his assessment.

“And there you shot your arrow right through my heart”

“Huh? I never thought that you, of all people, would like to hear me talking about violence.” Carlyle says, even more surprised than she was. But Auryn just shakes her head in return, laughing quietly.

“No, that's not what I meant. I just couldn't imagine that you'd use such drastic words. After seeing your positive reaction to Fordren's stance towards the Obs, I feared that he'd be the literal 'enemy of my enemy' for you. But now I know that I got you wrong and your reassurance touched me. Gods, you really are like one of those perfect risuri damsels from your novels: Hot and cold, daring and shy, distanced and interested at the same time.”

Carlyle just smirks and shrugs in return. Auryn then brings the subject back to Fordren as she tells Carlyle how and why the man brought her to the edge of losing herself. She explains that she first tried to negotiate, and then tried to gain his sympathy. When both diplomatic approaches failed, she then simply defied his wishes and neglected herself, hoping that he'd lose interest in time. She also tried to flee, but those attempts had not been successful. And when she realized that she couldn't hope for external help either, she felt into despair. But she wouldn't allow herself to lose hope and instead turned to a long-time strategy, knowing that she'd eventually be free as she'd easily outlive Fordren by centuries. So she just played along, saving her strength for developing plans and learning all about her “prison”. She survived two years playing this game, Auryn says, which is why Fordren might have thought to have won and made her his Charusheela even when she had always been Auryn on the inside.

Carlyle thanks her for sharing this story with him as he starts to understand how hard it would be to confront such nightmares again and again. Auryn then moves on and removes her dearly beloved scarf (the magical one Carlyle gave her for her birthday), stating that she doesn't wish to let the scars of the past make her scared of her future. She then takes Carlyle's hand and carefully touches her scarred throat with the back of his hand.

“I've never let anyone come near it after Killika had removed the golden choker. And I don't wish to be afraid of your touch.” she explains when Carlyle looks estranged by her gesture. Only to wince shortly after and breathe heavily as she feels... somehow being observed.

“Everything alright? You seem troubled.”

“I just felt as if something was watching me. Guess I'm being a bit paranoid right now...”

“I don't think so.” Carlyle says, casting a magic detection spell before scanning the whole tent for magical sensors. When he finally finds what he's been looking for, her conceals it with his hands, calls for Auryn and shows her his findings. When Auryn takes a closer look, the sensor suddenly vanishes as if someone realized he or she has been found out.

(Can I just say that Carlyle always taking Auryn serious despite her occasional neurotic tendencies is more than just charming? As long as his behavior isn't the subject of debate, he's so genuinely trusting, sweet and caring towards her.)

We assume that this poor attempt at spying was conducted by Team Lya and brush it off as part of the game. Even if we both value our privacy. Carlyle then returns the subject to Auryn's scar (which isn't really made of scar tissue, but rather miscolored skin) and asks why she wouldn't ask Margit to heal her.

“Margit, huh? Never thought about it.” she answers, signaling Carlyle that this isn't really about physical healing. Carlyle then offers to mix her a healing balm instead, which Auryn gladly accepts. Before the situation gets too awkward, Auryn then switches subjects to her friend Nymeia who still hasn't gotten her response from Carlyle. She says that all she wanted was to give Nymeia a chance when she encouraged her love-struck friend to invite Carlyle to tea, even if she knows that her friend's chances are pretty dim right now.

“But she's a little girl. She should try dating people of her age.”

“Then tell her you're too old for her. Politely. She may be young, but her intelligence would surprise you and being treated with respect shouldn't be a matter of age.”

“And she'll swoon and sigh and blush.”

“She's a young woman from Risur. So yes, she'll probably do that. And talk about botany, herbalism and alchemy. She even reads the same books like you!” Auryn counts before bursting into laughter at the absurd situation of advertising Nymeia despite her own attraction.

“I know these feelings. I've been a young man as well, you know. A few centuries ago or so.”

Auryn continues to laugh as she tries very hard to imagine a very young love-struck and very human Carlyle. He then promises to take care of “the Nymeia dilemma” before she grows quiet again as she reflects on the attack of the Crisillyiri. All of a sudden she then mentions a suspicion she had back then when the agents talked about killing and reprogramming Carlyle: That maybe the Vantrys incident wasn't meant to assassinate the noble family, but to force Carlyle's rebirth. And that maybe some Crisillyiri agents had tried to get their hands on said reincarnation to “reprogram” him. But Carlyle, unlike other devas, she says, was gifted with the ability to remember much more of his past lives than usual, which is why such a plan had not been fruitful.

Carlyle frowns at this train of thoughts and agrees that there is some logic behind it. Even if he doesn't allow this idea to take root as if such a chain of events was something that mustn't be. Still he believes that meeting and talking to other devas in Flint might be a good idea as he knows next to nothing about other people of his kind. Especially in terms of handling reincarnations. He adds that, besides the obvious Stanfield, he knows exactly one other deva, a curator who had been an Eladrin in his first life.

(That guy who he met in adventure three)

He then talks a bit about his own first life and how he himself and his unit had been transformed by Srasama's fire. He explains that all of them had become devas. All but the one man he had killed to save his commander's life. The first human whose life he had ended, and a terrible human being indeed. He doesn't go into detail, but he roughly describes a soldier who had abused his position as interrogator to torture their captives, then shakes his head and explains that there is a fine line between soldier and beast. Still he'd think about maybe visiting his old comrades again, even if that meant going to Crisillyir again. The place he had to leave as he couldn't bear to hear the wailing of the dead.

Auryn promises to protect his mind as she had done during their trip to the Bleak Gate and to Elfaivar should he really wish to visit his friends. Carlyle adds that he hasn't seen them in decades, so they maybe don't recognize him anymore. But there is one, a man who came to visit him in Flint on an irregular basis, a man who's still struggling with his “new” identity. He says that he sent him to Smithee so the medium may help him, but even then poor Eddie has never been whole again.

Auryn thanks Carlyle for this small insight into his private life and thoughts as she's usually the one who's talking about her thoughts and experiences.(Carlyle is better at listening, he says)
She then says that it's getting pretty late and points to her private room.

“I wouldn't mind to feel some warmth tonight” Auryn says, smiling mischievously.

“You realize that you won't exactly feel much when you're sleeping?”

“A bed isn't just for sleeping, you know? Being close to someone you like can be quite comforting sometimes.”

“Very well then. I don't mind sleeping next to you either.” Carlyle finally admits before changing into his sleeping attire and offering his partner a shoulder to sleep on.

(Yes, he's making a total fuss about being close to Auryn – or anyone else in that matter – as he really isn't used to bodily contact for comfort's sake. He sometimes just forgets that people do such things and then gets surprised when someone gets too close to him.

And yeah, now the cat's out of the bag regarding Auryn's feeling towards the “enemy of her enemy”. And she's pretty embarrassed to have doubted her partner because of this sore spot. Problem is that they're both beating around the bush to an extend that they regularly misunderstand each other. Even now, there is a large part of the Carlyle persona that Auryn doesn't understand (and that will continue to cause trouble) and vice versa.

On top of that, she's really not used to be rebuffed so much after Carlyle kind of agreed to be in a relationship with her and even asked her to be her exclusive partner. In her mind, Carlyle had been this closet romantic who secretly wished to live like Hector Fernandez. And while she didn't care much for romance, she would have expected her “lover” to be more openly into her. After all, she was used to being courted by confident men and women alike.

So it took her a while to realize that Carlyle's confidence and even his affection wouldn't be on open display. That he was a man of small gestures who implicitly defined their relationship in very casual sentences. That he didn't place too much value and importance in himself, other than these Eladrin warriors who had tried to impress her. And these Carlyle-erstics were both charming and irritating for her.

On the other hand, she wasn't really sure about her own emotional state either as she couldn't really place her many-faceted feelings towards the people she cared for. She knew that she loved Dawkins dearly, but she loved him like a mentor or an older member of her family. And her feelings for Gabriel were quite different, even if she trusted him just as much.

Without spoiling too much in this regard... she only said the three magic words when she faced “death” almost a year later...)
 

Lylandra

Explorer
Mind Games

Session 37

As Carlyle still only needs 2 hours of sleep (courtesy to his trusted Ring of Sustenance), he's already awake and making plans for the railway construction when Auryn gets up the next morning. Having had a good night's rest, she apologizes for doubting her partner when it came to his relationship with Fordren. Shaking off all this unconscious fear is quite hard, she says, even if she knows from the bottom of her heart that he'll always stand by her side.

“Let's just say that I'd welcome a little more trust.” Carlyle replies with a melancholic smile. “But for now, let's get down to business. Shall we?”

He then points at a few spots on the construction map and marks places Burton had mentioned in his letters to Margit and Flying Spark that he'd call weak spots in the Danoran's defenses. Securing our own team is pivotal as well and we still agree to not over-do possible acts of sabotage.

“We need to get creative, too, as the Bruse wishes to be entertained as well.” Auryn adds.

So we decide to first try out mind games and striking fear into the enemy workers without actually harming them. So we first order a bunch of Harkover Lee Specials (mostly illusion spells) via sending to prepare for our actions. Auryn then takes a closer look at Pemberton's automatons, tries out a few spells and finally asks to lend one of them for a bit of experimentation.

(Wanted to retrain a spell into “apparent master” as we switched to milestone leveling after adventure 5 and I really had no next level in sight. So she's going to learn how to control constructs the hard way.)

As we got a message that Rush and Merton disappeared yesterday evening, we ask Margit to perform a few divination spells on them and their plans. She's quite surprised by the results and tells us that “The world's end slumbers in icy depths”. Which is why we also prepare for possible radical Eschatologist attacks, crazy as that may sound. At least we can rule out frozen giants as these kind of guys only reside in Drakr, which is to the north, not to the south (where R&M went)

(she totally botched the roll. We took it seriously anyway.)

After one day of fairly normal work, we then receive another message from Burton including the names of a few foremen and a list of the danoran/Griento's materiel orders. Margit tries another divination for Rush's and Merton's next target and this time the result is “great is the lizardfolk's bounty”. So we suspect they might be sending local lizardfolk tribes after us and prepare accordingly. Burton confirms this suspicion in his next message as he says that the two bodyguards took both weapons and gold with them.

Before they can try to hit us hard, we decide to take matters in our hands and bring Margit to a switch at one of Team Griento's marshalling yards. She then uses a metal-bending spell to bend and block the switch. This way, we're able to delay their shipments by about half a day.

(We just realized that a metalbender like Leone would have been crazily effective at this job and were kind of happy to having gotten rid of him in the leak Gate complex)

We then continue building our tracks for a few days and keep a close eyes on the Danoran progress as well. They seem to play rather safely as well and so we see no need to hurry too much despite our sufficient financial boost.

As soon as the Danorans/Grientos reach the swamplands, we decide to utilize a story we heard from some of our older workers: Legends of will-o-wisps, eerie ghosts and even a banshee inhabiting the misty swamps, luring poor souls to their certain deaths. So we sneak to our rival camp at night, conjure magical mists and use othre spells to conjure floating lanterns. On top of that, Auryn cloaks herself in white robes and sings hauntingly beautiful but grief-stricken songs of death. She lures one of the orcish workers out to the swamp where we manage to kidnap him without much hassle. Just to make sure that the Banshee claimed her first victim.

Of course, we don't really intend to harm the guy. Instead, we bring him to our camp where we keep him in one of our tents and explain that he's just playing a part in a crazy game. And we'll certainly release him once this game is over.

Next, it is our team which is being attacked by Team Lya as we get a message that some lizardfolk bandits are attacking our shipment. Fortunately, we already knew that this attack was coming, so we take the half-giants and push the bandits back before they can do much damage.

To keep up our morale, we do a bit of team-building each evening where we share stories and sing songs and try to get to know each part of Liss' team personally. The evening after the attack, we receive another message from Burton who explain that he had successfully convinced Griento to hire him as a cook as he's terribly afraid of “the Banshee”. This, he'll be able to get a deeper insight into their logistics, he says. Also, Lya Jierre threw quite the tantrum when the workers refused to go into the swamp again after one of their comrades went missing, calling them superstitious cowards. She ordered Griento to fire all “striking” workers and hire others while luring the rest with extra payments.

We count this as a total success and continue our nightly terror. This time, we do not only kidnap a second orc, but also put one to sleep and alter his memories to make him remember seeing the actual Banshee take his comrade, killing him with a wail and turning him into an undead.

A day later, we receive the message that one of our locomotive's boilers has exploded. In order to save our loc and its cargo, we rush to the damaged engine and let Margit's repair magic do the job. Meanwhile, we find out that someone just put spirits instead of water into the cooling system. So we advise the drivers of the supply trains to always double-check their systems to prevent further incidents.

To take revenge on their explosive attack, we ask Margit to set the weather to “nasty” for a while. So she conjures torrential rain in the swamplands and lets the local rivers swell to the point that working there would be pretty unwise. Meanwhile, Carlyle takes a trip to the lower swamp to collect some herbs for a powerful laxative. He then brews a good dose of the drug and sends it to Burton, complete with instructions and stuff. Burton then says that he'll make sure to spice up this evening's stew a bit. On top of that, he hands us information on Ulrik and says that the young servant is a bit shy and usually using the outermost latrine of the camp.

We thank our goblin friend for his tip and hand this message to Delft via sending. The next day, Carlyle goes out into the wilderness again to look for wild beasts he may herd into the opponent's camp. He spots a herd of giant goats and two nearby tyrannosaurs. And as goats don't usually form a stampede without a reason, he rouses the dinosaurs and makes them chase the goats all towards Team Griento's encampment.

The same day, bandits try to attack us again, and this time they are armed with muskets and rifles. As we already expected another of such attacks, we mange to fend them off without too much hassle.

In the evening, we get a new letter from Burton who writes that there had been an incident with wild beasts today. He explains that 20 workers got eaten by a pair of hungry tyrannosaurs after a group of goats had trampled through their camp. But as megafauna is quite a common sight in these parts of Ber, this might just have been a terrible coincidence. Still he'd like to know whether we were behind the attack or not. Oh and the rest of them is panicking as everyone fears they might have caught Cholera.

Carlyle turns very silent when Auryn reads the message to him and Margit which in turn puts Auryn on alert. When she asks him whether “we” might have had anything to do with the animal attack, he confesses that he might have been looking for a scapegoat for a stampede earlier this day. And now he's feeling miserable that his action caused so many unplanned losses as he didn't see too much of a threat in the tyrannosaurs. After all, he would have been able to handle both beasts on his own.

“I guess, from now on, you shouldn't let me do these sort of missions all alone. I fear I might fall back into old habits which might get... even more people hurt.”

Auryn closes her eyes for a moment, takes a deep breath and then finally says “I guess you are right. This 'game' really brings out the worst of us. Curse the Bruse and his idea of 'fun'.”

“Curse him.”

“But please... remember that you are no longer exactly what people would call a 'mortal', so your potential will always be far beyond the power of a regular worker, or even a soldier.”

“I will.” Carlyle promises, his voice quite strangled with regret.

(In a hindsight, this scene was pretty powerful. It had all been fun and games – even if a bit frustrating to poke and be potentially poked where it hurts – until the giants in the playground underestimated their own power. A terrible reminder that with great power comes great responsibility. And one of the few moments when Carlyle felt almost overwhelmed with regret and realized what kind of danger he might pose.)

Auryn then brings out some notes and books she's been studying for quite a while now as she explains that she's working on something truly grandiose. When Carlyle spots the “Heraldry and Symbolism of the Tyrants of Old” and some rugged pieces of tapestry, he gets curious and asks his partner what kind of grandiose plan could involve so much history research. In return, Auryn grins mischievously, opens up the book and points at a symbol of a steel claw holding a gnoll skull.

“I'm going to bring back Gradiax, the Steel Tyrant.”
 
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Lylandra

Explorer
The return of Gradiax

Hah, who could have expected that 1) a gnoll army would be on the march and 2) Auryn would use You-know-who's true identity by sheer coincidence. I just thought "Oh well, if I'm going to use a dragon, why not use the one these rebel gnolls already claim to be returning"

Oh and warning: long post for completion's sake :)

---

Before she implements her plan, Auryn first decides to talk a bit more to the other construction workers of team Liss regarding Dragon Tyrants. One of the foremen tells her that there is really no Tyrant as well known as Gradiax since the gnolls of the south still appear to be worshiping their old master who had been ruling over all of southern Ber until two hundred years ago. Regarding other Tyrants, he had spotted an old mural depicting a dragon with a very long and slender neck on an old ruin recently, but he doesn't really know this one's name.

This only confirms Auryn's thesis that using Gradiax for her plan might just be the most feasible idea and so she asks Flying Spark to do some performance training with her. Carlyle, who's pretty much convinced that conjuring the image of a Tyrant might be the final straw for the opposing team, mentions that giving said Tyrant a group of “loyal followers” might add to the plan'tSplausibility, so he decides to repay the past bandit attacks with more bandits.

This time, he approaches some local lizardfolk bandits who he asks to just annoy the other construction team while wearing Gradiax' sigil and praising the Tyrant. And it seems like they're in for the cheap money.

Shortly after Carlyle returns from the lizardmen, we get a message from one of our trainyards. It appears as if one of our trains is barely able to move, despite the engine running at full power. So we travel to Renza and examine the locomotive. At first, it appears as everything is just working as intended, at least from a mechanical point of view. But then we start looking for traces of magic and finally find the culprit: An immovable rod, cleverly disguised as a regular brace.

We remove the rod and both share a quick laugh over this really clever and creative act of “sabotage” from most likely Rush Münchhausen. Sadly, the rod turns inert after we remove it, but we still keep it as a souvenir. And order to let some spare mages travel along the trains to check them for further magical sabotage.

(whoever thought of this plan: Kudos to a really creative and rather harmless obstruction. Discovering the rod was some good fun!)

Carlyle decides to repay the favor, but he doesn't want to throw out the cleverest plans just yet. So he simply sneaks to the opposing team's coal supplies and lets one of the coal heaps burn down. And as we anticipate a revenge action in an equal matter, we call for an additional coal-car so our trains would be able to run even if someone decided to burn down some coal. Turns out our assumption was quite correct this time.

This evening, we get another letter from Burton saying that the morale in Camp Griento is really close to the edge with people striking and some individuals even revolting. Some of them demand higher pay as this construction turned out to be far more dangerous than anticipated. Lya payed some of them to keep still and silent while she fired a couple of others. As the supplies turned out to be late again, many people had to work extra hours when they finally arrived, which was basically in the middle of the night. She and her team still have the golems they bought from Pemberton though. Oh and Lya almost lost it when she heard about her servant Ulrik's disappearance.

We could almost feel sorry for Lya as she surely never wished to participate in this stupid competition either. And as if this wasn't enough already, Auryn finally manages to finish her magical research and presents a totally obedient automaton to the surprised Liss and Carlyle. And one day later, she sneaks into Camp Griento, enchants 9 of their 10 golems and lets them walk off into the desert while dancing ballet.

The next day, we receive a letter from Lya, asking for a parley. We agree to talk to her and meet her and Inez a not far from Camp Liss.

“This game is such a terrible waste of time and nerves, don't you agree? I just wish we could let these two monsieurs finish their work without further interference.” Lya starts, looking unusually strained and tired.

We nod in honest agreement stating that we could think of better ways to spend our time and resources. But alas, the Bruse wanted it that way and a certain Jierre refused to accept a joint interrogation of Tinker Oddcog. Lya laughs it off faintly and then congratulates us to the obvious manipulation of her golems. Even if she really doesn't understand how someone would be able to do that.

“You really believe that Eladrin are nothing but savages who live in the jungle, dear? We wouldn't have been able to build one of the greatest empires in the world without some powerful resources and intelligence.” Auryn says, smiling confidently.

Lya then gets to one of her major points: The disappearance of Ulrik. She explains that her servant is extremely loyal and, should we have anything to do with him missing, we should probably give him back as he won't talk anyway. We return that we honestly don't have him as this would be against the rules of the Bruse's game anyway. Still, we confess that we eventually might have captured some of Griento's workers who we will return unharmed as soon as this game is over.

(a semi-truth backed up with a really good bluff. We do know almost for sure that some RHC team got their hands on Ulrik, but we truly don't know where he is or had any personal involvement.)

We then unsuccessfully try to appeal to Lya to just give up on Oddcog or the Obs altogether as we still got a lot of respect for her and her integrity and it pains us to see a damn fine woman like her being used as a tool for some conspirators. She understands where we're coming from, but still believes that she does what is right. So we go separate ways once again to finish what we started.

Two days later, we spot large clouds of smoke in the south. Concerned that this may be yet another attack from Team Lya, we decide to take a closer look and find a huge army of gnolls making camp in 5 different locations. We sneak up to listen to some of their conversations and learn that these gnolls are actually rebels from southern Ber who truly believe in the return of their old master, Gradiax. What's really terrifying is that they appear to be on the march northwards and threaten to cross both our construction sites soon.

We retreat a few meters and discuss on what to do now as we should probably evacuate both camps immediately. Still we don't know whether Lya would be sensitive enough to not try to win the race against the gnolls or not, thus endangering Griento and his team. Then, Auryn closes her eyes for a moment and finally says: “Alright. Let's give these gnolls what they want. I need to test my plan anyway.”

So we wait until night falls and conjure up a striking image of Gradiax, the Steel Tyrant, who approaches his faithful subjects with a booming roar. As we had hoped, the gnolls throw themselves to the ground and praise their supreme master. Gradiax praises his army for their loyalty and unbreakable steadfastness against this filthy usurper cow in the north. Still, he knows that great fervor comes with impatience and he needs them to wait for the right moment to strike his enemies when they are most vulnerable. So he demands them to wait until he signals all of his armies and supporters to attack the faithless. And it appears that these gnolls do heed the call of their draconic god.

(Fortunately, Auryn does speak a wicked draconic and has quite the intimidate skill.)

We repeat the process with the four other gnoll camps and are quite sure that they'll obey their god's demand for now. So we return to our camp and tell Liss about our little gnollish problem in the south. We decide that it'd be best to inform Seobriga and the Bruse immediately so the armies of Ber may take care of this rebel army. Getting soldiers to our respective camps should be quite easy now that the railway is near completion, we think. So we cast a sending to the Grand Vizier and warn her about the gnolls and mention that we managed to trick them into halting their approach for a while.

(In a hindsight, we were really fortunate to warn Zarkava and not Kenna Vigilante. We just thought that she'd be the most reasonable and wise of them all)

Half a day later, Lya asks for yet another parley to warn us about the gnoll army to the south. She explains that they appear to have halted for now, but they may still strike at any time now. Lya says that the situation right now might be too dangerous for both our teams and Griento's and Liss' workforce, so she already ordered a coordinated evacuation of her team a hour ago. She also informed Seobriga after she learned about the threat, so help may already be on the way. As soon as reinforcements arrive for both our sides, the construction process shall start anew, she explains. We thank Lya for her warning and mention that we spotted these gnolls and informed Seobriga as well. And as long as this threat remains, we'll personally guard our work force and only let them work while all our security personnel is present.

(Yeah, we didn't mention that the gnolls probably won't attack soon...)

So we continue our construction process (albeit really carefully) and it appears as if the gnolls leave us be for now. But then, we hear strange drums at night, their sounds coming from the south, and expect the worst. As we don't wish to leave our camp without protection, Carlyle volunteers to go looking for the source of said drums.

While he's outside, he suddenly gets the uneasy feeling as if there were raging spirits nearby, but he cannot really locate them. Meanwhile, the rest of us just realizes that the sounds coming from the sounds could be a mere distraction as there are additional, much quieter sounds coming from the north. So we brace ourselves and warn our security staff of the imminent attack.

It doesn't take much time to realize that there is a massive undead lizardfolk army trying to overwhelm us. Fortunately, Carlyle returns just in time so we may team up against these rotting creatures. Auryn and Flying Spark throw fireballs at some weaker looking hordes to great effect while Margit conjures a barrier of wind to protect us from projectiles. She then realizes that these are undead and therefore receptive to spiritual energy, so she channels her nature powers to harm them.

Then everything turns colder and colder as a harsh wind comes howling from the north. We suspect that whatever caused the dead lizards to rise may just be up there, so we head into this general direction and see two lizardfolk liches riding a sleigh decorated with a dragon skull.

When they spot us, they shout that their master, Cheshimox, will soon return and turn us all to ice. We suspect that the dragon skull might once have been part of said dragon Tyrant and we see that the two liches are about to conduct a strange ritual with it while still driving in our direction. We also believe that maybe eradicating the liches may end the undead invasion, which is why Auryn and Carlyle jump onto the sleigh and attack the undead. Turns out that they are more robust than they look though and retaliate with strong lightning spells.

Just when one of the lizards is about to finish the ritual, a severely burnt Auryn manages to pierce her rapier through the undead's skull. The other one witnesses his partner's demise and conjures a wave of green fire at Carlyle. He screams in agony, but shakes off the fire in the end and chops off the other lich's head.

As soon as both liches are dead, the sleigh beneath our feet crumbles and the icy ground starts warming up again. Without their masters, the remaining ghouls seem to be less effective or driven, but we still take the time to eradicate them all. Carlyle's spirit senses relax a bit but he still gets the impression that these undead had been following a path of righteous fury. As he doesn't know why they would attack us, he just assumes that maybe our railway is crossing some sacred territory or burial ground of the followers of Cheshimox.

Speaking about Cheshimox, we also carefully pick up the Tyrant's skull and examine it as soon as we're back in our camp. When we are sure that this thing poses no threat, we decide to give it to the Bruse as a gift upon the end of the game.

We then decide to go all-in and order a large quantity of supplies. When the shipment arrives as ordered, we then ask our workers to do extra shifts for two days and promise to pay them extra. And they'll get some cake, too.

(Andrei was really fond of the cake :) )

So while our workers do the best they can, we guess that it will be finally time for our last ace: The return of Gradiax. For this, we carefully hide Flying Spark inside the head of a magnificent illusion of Gradiax which we then let fly towards Camp Griento. Flying Spark first fires a bunch of fire spells in the general direction of the camp (he purposefully misses, of course) before an invisible Auryn (who is also busy controlling said illusion) uses another spell to magnify her voice into the booming roar of a great wyrm.

“FOOLISH MORTALS! BOW BEFORE THE MIGHT OF GRADIAX, BOW BEFORE YOUR ONE TRUE KING!”

Needless to say that all of Camp Griento immediately turns into a bunch of chickens. Even their guards totally panic at what must be the return of one of Ber's most feared dragon tyrants.

(I can only guess that Lya tried to tell them that dragons cannot fly, but... yeah. Mission accomplished :D )
 

Lylandra

Explorer
Since I currently don't have enough time for another recap and I promised some sort of feedback on the whole track-building challenge a few posts back, this one will be purely "mechanical" in nature.

As a disclaimer: We're not exactly your average D&D/PF crowd and certainly have adopted our own style and preference of play and we're also always a bit skeptical when it comes to what we call "mini-game mechanics" that deviate from the system we're playing. Carlyle's player moreso than I. Also, this is from a player's perspective and neither of us has read the source material, so we don't know how much was lost or added in our GM's adaption. So keep that in mind when it comes to my /our assessment of the second beran challenge ;)

All in all, we were not too happy with the way the whole challenge was presented despite being a really funny, crazy idea on paper (I mean... railroad building race? That's cool!). It just didn't integrate well into the rest of the campaign and kept us from getting as immersed into story and characters as we're used to. At least at first. And as I cannot really lay my finger on where it kind of failed to work well for us, I'll simply point out some problems we encountered during this challenge:

- from the very beginning, all of us had a hard time figuring out the parameters of the mechanics and how to influence them. Including our GM. We may have gotten it totally wrong, but from the way we read it, we started with only 1 materiel and therefore would have been screwed if anything happened to this resource. We asked for financial support via sending and got some more money (technically a favour from Risur?), but Tiz said that there were no guidelines on how much money to expect for what level of favor you could achieve. So he just gave us 10 "money" worth of funds as the Danorans had the same funding, which we had realized via Burton.

- also there were the means of "sabotage" and "counter-sabotage". We knew that we and our opponents couldn't just blow up the supply line or we'd lose points from both Kenna and Zarkava. So we first tried to just secure our line, which was, as it turned out, pretty much impossible, as the total track line would have been over 100 miles. So we felt as if it wouldn't really matter if we hired additional security personnel or not. As this realization happened at the very beginning of the challenge and we didn't really knew what kinds of nasty tricks the Danorans would throw at us, especially Carlyle's player felt pretty much helpless and didn't know what to do to make a difference. (I believe he said "there is NO way we can prevent them from screwing us up if they want to"). Also, we didn't really get a concrete grasp on how much sabotage would be too much for either of the two advisors (we were quite sure that the Bruse would be laughing hard at explosions though).

- speaking of supply lines, figuring out the terrain and logistics wasn't easy. I guess a map would have helped much - which is why I tried to draw one (Tiz isn't really good at drawing) so we could at least guess where, for example, a coal supply might be located and whether it would be realistic to reach it in one day.

- a really big topic (at least for us) is that the mechanics didn't really fit well with our abilities and roleplay. This had been a problem with the anti-Kell game in adventure 5 as well, but we decided to spare our troops and just do much of the work ourselves, so this wasn't a big deal. Here we were in the situation where we kind of *had* to use the mechanics to proceed. Which is where our playstyle collided with the adventure as we generally try to solve challenges by getting creative and/or talking to people.

For example, we argued a bit about the mishap chance and whether we would reduce it by simply escorting the train carrying the money and materiel. From our point of view, such an effort should have been possible, but it would have completely circumvented the mechanic as we'd just been able to buy 10 materiel at once without a chance of losing.

Story-wise we had Griento on our side, but Tiz understandably explained that this one trump card couldn't be enough to win the challenge. But he didn't know how much loss in time/morale/whatever "having Griento" would provide. Our actions also primarily targeted their morale (if I got this right), but the mechanics per se would have allowed Lya to simply pay more money to rise it up again. All in all, it didn't feel like we knew what our plans would really do mechanics-wise, or whether it would be worth all the effort instead of just playing the numbers game.

So in the end, I guess that having a minigame-free version of the challenge would have really helped us and prevented most of our frustration. Either this, or providing rules for the minigame that work far more seemlessly with the underlying system (PF, in our case). As you probably guessed from the last post, we somewhen decided to ignore the mechanics in terms of our character's actions and go crazy while still rolling the dice for our construction.

But, again, that's our preference of playing: Having rules that are consistent enough that we can easily extrapolate how to deal with situations that are not 100% covered by the system.

PS: as a little sneak-peek: Just started adventure 10 after going through two extremely powerful and emotionally challenging encounters. Really love the AP <3
 
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Lylandra

Explorer
Back again, but still busy :)

Guess I'll finish the next entry this weekend.

And yeah, our campaign is still waaay ahead of this recaps as we had to deal with "Wolf and Men", Majordomo Executus, a Cameo with a Margarita, a Dragon Damsel in distress, and Proto-Borg without a Queen (I guess?).

Gosh and I'd love to tell you all how we happened to end up with a king and an ex, and why I'm currently planning methods of mental therapy for one of Auryn's family members but that's still 3 adventures away.
 

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