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ZEITGEIST Tizbiz Zeitgeist Campaign

Lylandra

Adventurer
As we're about to retreat, we receive yet another message from Lya, asking for yet another parley. This time, she discontentedly congratulates us on what appears to be our victory for this challenge as her camp is being a total mess, orcs are screaming for their mommies and she fears that Griento is about to commit suicide.

(fortunately, we knew that Griento playing falling into utter despair was part of our deal. Auryn had been really worried for a moment)

As we see her move as a gesture of surrender, we promise Lya to release all of Griento's captured workers so that poor Griento and the rest of his workforce may understand that the Banshee of the Swamplands was, in fact, no one else but Auryn. Oh and sorry for causing a panic with the dragon projection. Lya then asks us to release Ulrik as well and we, again, explain that we don't know of his whereabouts.

“I understand”, she says, “But should you by any chance happen to get into contact with my young servant, then promise me to do your best to get him released. He's a loyal boy who won't betray me or Danor. Using force against him won't do any difference and I don't wish to see him harmed.”

Carlyle raises a brow in return as Lya wasn't so reluctant when it came to the other workers in her crew.

“Well, should he by any chance happen to be the guest of Risur, then I'm sure that he'll be treated humanely. We don't torture little boys where we come from and I guess it says a lot about your secret service that you simply assumed that we would do so. Still I'm thankful that our little competition turned out to be way more honorable that we anticipated, so thank you.”, he says and offers her a handshake as a sign that this game has ended.

Lya shrugs in return, shakes our hands and then orders Inez to teleport her back to Seobriga. Just when she's about to leave, Carlyle warns her to not make any grave mistake because of her defeat, but lets her go anyway. And while we got the gut feeling that Lya isn't the kind of person who'd just

storm into the Bruse's throne room to pull off some last minute backstab against either the Bruse or our team, we prefer to play it safe.

So we let Margit be in charge of the whole "release of our prisoners" process and ask Flying Spark and her to care for Griento should he really turn out to be depressed. We're pretty sure that Damata is simply putting up a show, but better be safe than sorry when it comes to your friends. Next, we take the skull of Cheshimox with us and ask Andrei to guard Liss until the whole construction process and this game are both officially over. Then we teleport back to Seobriga as well.

We arrive at the Summer Court's teleportatin circle shortly after Lya and announce that Liss just finished his part of the railway. We're brought before Grand Vizier Zarkava and repeat our announcement after which she asks us for a full report on our tactics and an event log of what happened in Camp Liss during the game. She then informs us that Lya Jierre reported a rules violation as one of her teammates, Ulrik, had gone missing. We return that we honestly don't know where Ulrik might be and that we got nothing to do with his disappearance and Zarkava seems content with our statement.


(Walking a thin line there, of course. But, again, not a violation of the game's rules as we got no direct involvement in Ulrik's disappearance)

The grand vizier adds that the matter of Lya's manservant will be looked into as soon as possible. Carlyle then mentions that we brought a special gift for the Bruse with us, a token from ancient times which we'd like to present to him: The skull of the Dragon Tyrant Cheshimox. The lizardwoman grins broadly in return and says that this might just be to the Bruse's liking, without a doubt.

We have to wait for quite a while then before all of us and Team Lya are summoned before the Bruse and his two advisors. Each of the two teams is given an opportunity to make a final statement before the judging and Lya starts by reminding the Bruse that allying with Danor will lead to a grand and prosperous future for Ber. Also, she and her team acted far more honorable than ours with our focus on illusion and deception and her manservant still missing.

Carlyle takes the opportunity to point out that the Bruse asked our teams to do him two favors while we actually did him five: We didn't just finish the railroad first and got Cavallo de Guerra to come to an agreement with the Bruse, but we also stopped the gnoll army's advancement for an indefinite time, layed the groundwork for a lasting peace between Risur and Ber by showing the Berans how to calm the sea fea and brought back the skull of Cheshimox as a gift for the Bruse. He then presents the artifact, and promises to tell the Bruse the story of how we came into its possession should he wish to hear it.

The Bruse simply nods at the two proclamations and then calls for the judges to make their votes. First, he hands the two "technical" points to Team Risur as we obviously won both challenges. Kenna Vigilante is the first one to cast her vote and she explains that she had been disgusted by the game's premise from the very start. Which is why she'd give her point to the loser team, Danor. We nod in silent agreement. Zarkava comes next and she states that the Risuri very obviously had shown more interest in a sustainable and equal partnership with their neighboring country than the Danorans, which is why she'd give her point to Risur.

Lastly, the Bruse raises his voice. He seems to understand that his vote doesn't really matter much at this point, so he scratches his head, shrugs, and then announces that he never really liked the Danorans anyway and thought our sabotage attempts to be much funnier than theirs. Especially the dancing robots. But the projected dragon was a bit over the top and disturbing. Still, his point goes to Risur, which leaves the final scoring 4:1 for Risur.

The Bruse then orders his guards to "bring the Tinker" and asks us to wait outside the throne room. We do as we've been asked and wait for what seems to be an eternity. Which leads us to the thought that the Berans must have put great effort into making sure that neither of our parties would be able to simply snatch and abduct the gnome. During this waiting time, Auryn congratulates Rush Münchhausen for his clever trick with the immovable rod, but it seems as if he's not really interested in her genuine praise and instead takes the opportunity to boast about his other feats. Which... makes her lose interest pretty fast.

After a long while, Team Risur is finally being called to the throne room. Kenna Vigilante asks us whether we'd like to question the gnome behind closed doors and we agree that this would be best in terms of secrecy.


(Yeah, you probably should have taken our offer to question him together when we first arrived at the Summer Court, Madame Jierre. Time to learn to cooperate next time. Seriously, we really put great effort to work with Lya instead of against her, and her being so stubborn only made us try harder because we know that she's intelligent enough to understand that we're the reasonable ones.)

After the doors are closed, we remind the Bruse and his advisors that we'd like to take Tinker along with us after the questioning and none of them seems to have any problem with our request. Then two of the palace guards present a small, black-haired gnome who seems to be talking to himself about machines or so. We try to approach him with all courtesy, but he seems to ignore our presence at first as he only got his machines on his mind. Which turns out to be quite literally the case.

“Don't you understand? Can't you big folk LISTEN?!” he says, quite manically, carefully stroking a little, mechanical ball, “They're talking to me, talking all the time. You just need to listen! No one ever listens!”

We remember that a certain Alexander Grappa did manage to talk to his golems and to give them a mind, so we don't simply brush Tinker off as being crazy.

“Who's talking to you, Mr. Oddcog?”

“The MACHINES of course. They're ticking and tocking and talking all the time. Just listen to them.”

“I'm afraid we can't hear them. But we know other machines who talked to us.” Auryn says softly. “Could you teach us? We wish we could understand them like you do.”

“Yes, they had names, too. Colin and Linus and Hunting. Do your machines have names, Mr. Oddcog?” Carlyle adds, looking at the gnome.

Oddcog seems a bit overwhelmed by our response, then confused and then he finally produces a pocket-watch, presses a button and loudly proclaims that “this wasn't my idea!”. He then counts down from sixteen, leaving us totally baffled for the moment. Then we suddenly hear a loud, whistling sound and a massive detonation happens right above us. We still don't know what's happening and so do the Bruse and his guards, but we do know that this is an attack and that someone is trying to kill us and possibly Tinker. So Carlyle reaches out to both Auryn and Tinker Oddcog to get all of us out at once.

“Please, don't try to resist my spell. I'll get us to safety.” he explains as calmly as anyone could ever be in a situation like this and casts a teleportation spell.


(He did think about saving the Bruse as well for a moment, but then realized that our mission was to get Tinker at any cost. So he didn't want to risk losing him.)

We reappear in the teleportation circle in Slate, but then realize in shock that we're missing one gnome in our party. So Carlyle risks teleporting directly into the throne room (even if he has only “seen it casually”) to get Tinker, only to see the gnome approach the Bruse with a small, mechanical ball in his hand.

“It wasn't my idea! I'm sorry!” he repeats before vanishing in a massive flash of light as the ball in his hands explodes in yet another massive detonation. Lumps of flesh and... strange, mechanical parts erupt from the place where Tinker had been standing a moment ago, brutally wounding Bruse Shantus in the process. Before we can even try to heal the burly minotaur, Kenna Vigilante and the guards rush to their Bruse, grapple him and break his neck as if was a simple twig. Then they turn to us.

We draw our weapons, ready to defend ourselves against whatever kind of coup this might be. Auryn tries to enchant some of them with her music, but these creatures seem to be totally immune to her spell.

“Whatever they are, they are certainly not humanoid. I guess they might be constructs” she shouts. Carlyle tests her theory with a few kukri slashes, only to see it confirmed when these “guards” reveal lots of mechanical parts underneath their flesh. So we don't hold back against these mechanical simulacra – except the Kenna one – until the throne room is struck by more explosives. Among these is some sort of gas grenade which starts spreading poisonous gas, so we make a beeline to the exit door. From which we hear the sound of ongoing combat on the other side.

Just when we're about to open the door, Rush forces it open from the other side, revealing that the Danorans are fighting a group of guards led by none else but Pardo, minister of rebellion.

“You're opposing them as well, I see. I hope you don't mind teaming up for now?” Lya suggests with an unnatural calm while she's striking against one of the guard-doppelgängers with her vibro-rapier.

We don't mid at all and focus on Pardo first and foremost. The gnoll reacts by casting clerical magic at us, which comes as a massive surprise as we didn't know that 1) constructs are able to do so and 2) the dead tyrant Gradiax is actually able to grant them spells.


(seriously, this shook at least Auryn on a metaphysical level as she was pretty certain that Gradiax wasn't a god. Which also meant that the sheer power of belief could be enough to cause miracles to happen)

The gnoll proudly proclaims that his dragon god will soon rule over all of Ber as it had been in the olden days and that he already revealed himself in the fields of Renza.

“Sorry to disappoint you, but that was actually me fooling your army with an illusion.” Auryn says with a most disarming smile, which causes Pardo to turn visibly angry in return.

“Bloody blasphemy!” he screams, throwing yet another foul spell at Auryn. But it turns out that his spells are no match for the sheer combat prowess of Team Danor and Team Risur. We decide to knock the Pardo-bot out and dissect the other guards. We then take Zarkava, who's still completely overwhelmed by the turn of events, and leave the palace alongside Team Danor. On our way out, we come across several guards which we check for mechanical parts. As soon as we realize that these are real orcs, goblins and minotaurs, we quickly inform them that a fake Tinker suicide-bombed the Bruse and that fake Kenna killed Shantus shortly after. They accompany us to a safe spot outside the palace where we try to explain what exactly had happened during the interrogation.

One by one, more soldiers and guards arrive at our meeting spot, exchanging information and, after a few moments of reconsideration, they explain that the palace had been bombarded by the nearby ammunition test facility that Tinker Oddcog had been working in. We offer them our help, but it seems as if the Berans prefer to take care of the situation themselves. So we simply warn them of the duplicant robots and decide to let them do their thing.

Minutes later the bombardment stops and we're being told that the situation is under control now. Carlyle then turns to Zarkava to ask her for one final audience with the Bruse. She's a bit skeptical at first, but he tells the minister that he's able to both talk to and send recently deceased spirits to the afterlife, and the Bruse may have crucial information he'd like to share before passing on. Also, he's used to interacting with spirits and values their input as much as he values the opinion of living people.

The minister finally agrees and leads Carlyle to the place where Kenna had killed the Bruse mere minutes earlier. She then returns to send for Cavallo de Guerra as the old orc would be Shantus' official successor.

Meanwhile, Carlyle calls the spirit of Bruse Shantus and apologizes that he wasn't fast enough to save him from the assassins. He then guesses that Shantus wouldn't be too happy about his demise, but the Bruse seems to be surprisingly calm. The minotaur explains that he's been pretty much surprised by his sudden death, but feels no remorse at this turn of events. After all, he died in a fight, even if he doesn't understand why Kenna Vigilante would have killed him. Carlyle does his best to tell him about the betrayal of Oddcog, Pardo and the robotic doubles, and he also promises him to avenge his death by bringing justice to the gnoll. He then asks Shantus for more information about the gnome as this might be crucial in finding and arresting Tinker.

Unfortunately, Shantus doesn't know much about him either. He tells Carlyle that Tinker had worked in many different research facilities, but he didn't really get along with the other researchers. So he switched projects continuously. He got fed up by the annoying gnome eventually and was actually quite happy when he first heard about the Danoran's request to interrogate Tinker and to take him away. Carlyle asks him whether someone else besides the Danorans had shown any interest in the Oddcog, but Shantus explains that no one cared. Only “his good friend Pendragon” and the “sly Folder” showed up occasionally to sell him their new tech.


(He obviously meant Pemberton and Fordren but couldn't get their names right. Oh and he actually called Fordren “Foltern” in German, which means “tortures” or “to torture”. Quite fitting.)

Regarding Pardo and his cult, both had unnerved him royally, but he thought the gnoll was rather cute in his stubbornness and superstition, and his advisors had told him to keep an eye on the gnolls, so he kept him around. Still he wouldn't have thought that the giggling lunatic would have had the guts to stage such a coup. Last but not least, he asks a favor of Carlyle: To get him a certain bottle of wine and give it to the future Bruse Cavallo as a parting gift. He then says that he hopes Cavallo will have better luck with the terrible job of being Bruse of Ber.

“I guess that's all, Mr. Carlyle from Risur. Farewell.”

Shantus then pats on the deva's shoulders for a last time and it seems as if he's transferring a part of his authority to Carlyle, who does his best to open up the spirit's path to his ancestors.


(I know I repeat myself when I say that "I know this isn't how it is supposed to work by the rules" but speaking to spirits and 'sending' them is too damn awesome. And yes, Carlyle's player has played FF10 and loves it. He's totally our Yuna ;) )
 

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Tizbiz

Explorer
I was very lucky that Mr. Carlyle decided to try to teleport away. Only because of that i had enough time to actually kill Bruse Shantus.

Concerning Lya's not cooperating with the RHC i reasoned, that she was under orders to get exclusive access to Oddcogg and was waiting for a better chance to get him. People often make unreasonable decisions because of politics.

As to the speaking to the spirits, i really prefer to roleplay that. If it helps to deepen the players enjoyment, i try to don't bother with rules as written too much.

I am looking forward to Lylandras next story, because of her characters reaction to risurs state secrets.
 
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Lylandra

Adventurer
Carlyle then returns back to the rest of us and tells us about his final encounter with the Bruse. We both agree that we'd need Margit at our side immediately as her divintaion magic might be crucial in finding out more about the Oddcog's whereabouts. Or whether he's still alive at all. Besides that, we'd like to attend to the interrogations of the Pardo and Kenna duplicants which are to be questioned as soon as the Executores arrive at the summer court.

It takes a while for Cavallo and his daughter, Corta Nariz, to arrive at court. He immediately speaks to the courtiers and soldiers and harshly condemns the cowardly attack on the late Bruse Shantus, whom he had always respected despite their differences. He also promises to nip this rebellion in the bud, then turns to us and directly asks us whether we'd support his campaign against the rebel gnolls. We reply that we'd love to, but add that we'd have to officially ask our government first, as this could be seen as risuri intervention in a civil war. Cavallo understands, even if he's not a big fan of too much talking and would like to see an end to this rebellion as soon as possible.

The old orc is then inaugurated in a short but grandiose ceremony and sworn in as the new Bruse of Ber. And it appears as if all of the summer courtiers are honestly celebrating Cavallo's ascension to Brusedom. However, it takes only a few more hours and the new Bruse finds himself surrounded by petitioners who are eager to make use of the new situation.

After a while, Cavallo rolls his eyes and bellows “Enough of this! I got a war campaign to plan!” before pulling his daughter aside to ask her to handle the other requests in his stead. She agrees, then looks at us and shrugs with a smile before patiently taking care of the petitioners. We spend the rest of the day trying to get to know more of the courtiers and sending messages to Risur to inform Delft and Lee about the death of Shantus, the disappearance of Tinker and the new Bruse's request.

(We're pretty sure that she's going to micromanage the shit out of Ber and the various tribes' requests. All while handling her kids AND her father. Someone give that woman a medal.)

When that long day finally reaches its end, both of us are assigned one of the still intact rooms of the summer palace and simply fall into our beds.

The next day, we wake up early to attend to the scheduled interrogations of the duplicant prisoners. However, the two robots seem to be pretty much inert and inresponsive. When the Executores can't get any information at all, we offer them to examine the robots with all kinds of magic and medical procedures. The Executores agree and we find out that these duplicants appear to contain no blood and function only by mechanical means. What we do find are traces of Witchoil, which may or may not hint at an Obscurati involvement. Margit also unsuccessfully tries to scry Tinker and it appears as if he's being warded by some other magic. Still this does mean that the gnome is still alive.

We inform the Zarkava about our findings and add that we're not the best tech experts, so it might be wise to find someone who knows more about robotics. We mention one Alexander Grappa, who'd be perfect for the job, but who's unfortunately not available at the moment (and we don't know whether we can trust him right now), before adding that there could be other candidates as well: First there's the obvious two: Fordren, who's residing at the summer court, but whom we don't trust, Pemberton, who's absent and who we don't really know much about, and Justin Rollins, whom we do trust but who's also a Risuri who works for the King of Risur. Which could have political implications.

Zarkava thinks about our proposal for a while and then decides to call for Mr. Fordren. Carlyle nods, takes a quick glance at Auryn and says “I guess you'd prefer to have me ask him if he's available?”

“I'd be glad.”

Carlyle then leaves the duplicants to search for Fordren in his company's tent. To his surprise, the man didn't even increase his security level after the attacks on the palace and is currently busy doing negotiations with a beran military official. When he notices Carlyle, he quickly finishes his deal and turns to the deva.

“Ah, Mr. Carlyle. What can I do for you? More B.E.A.R.s for the RHC?”

Carlyle shakes his head and then proposes that the new Bruse may have need for his expertise as he'd need to find out more about the mysterious assassins who killed Shantus. He hints that helping the Bruse might give him an advantage over his competitor Pemberton in the future, so this might just be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the businessman.

Fordren seems immediately interested and expresses his fascination with all that modern military tech that had been used for the attack on the summer palace.

“Not my invention, that's for sure. Though this arsenal is truly one of a kind. Gas grenades... what brilliance. Should've come up with this myself”

Needless to say that Carlyle is internally disgusted as said grenades had killed a lot of innocents just a day before. The two continue to chat about what could or could not have been a development of Fordren Industries and it appears as if even the insightful Gabriel Carlyle might have found his match in the sly talker that is Francis Fordren.

After a few minutes, Carlyle appears to be quite unnerved, as he states:

“I know you're well versed in your deals and loopholes, but let me make one thing clear: I've spent centuries dealing with scheming nobles, sly businessmen and silver tongues, and I'm far too old to get confused or distracted by words.”

Fordren smiles mischievously at such blunt honesty and switches subjects immediately.

“Speaking of distractions, I hope that the adorable Auryn Galadin is in good health as well? I've heard rumors that she'd been in the palace during the attack.”

“I guess she is. Shall I show you the duplicants?”


(Carlyle was quite unnerved that he couldn't read Fordren at all. He only seemed honestly interested in tech, but beat totally around the bush when it came to a possible involvement of his tech in the attack on the palace. He also couldn't get whether Fordren was trying to tease him regrading Auryn, whether it was playing to his obsession or simply a twisted sense of honest concern.)

Carlyle leads Fordren to the basement where the two inert duplicants are kept and explains that both of them are responsible for the assassination of Bruse Shantus. Problem is, they don't appear to work anymore and Ber needs answers. Fordren starts examining them immediately and appears to be utterly captivated by the tech. As he handles the heavy duplicants with much ease, we secretly guess that he could have a hidden prosthetic or advanced bionic arm, but keep quiet about our assumptions. Also, we try to make sure that the industrialist doesn't gain too much info from his analysis as we really don't want to see him reproduce said duplicants.

After quite a few moments of “fascinating” and “brilliant”, Fordren turns back to us (and the Executores) to state his findings. First, the duplicants are mere puppets who need puppeteers, so there must be someone controlling them remotely. Second, this mechanism is probably related to soul magic as he found traces of Witchoil, where one could easily place a fragment of someone's soul. Therefore, getting info from them will be nigh impossible as the duplicants themselves have no memory.

Based on this assessment, we examine them a second time and check for planar magic. As Fordren said, we find traces of Bleak Gate energy which may help in developing means to spot a duplicant in the future. Unfortunately, we aren't really able to trace back the energy trail to a concrete person, so we can only guess that the real Pardo and “Kenna” are hidden somewhere safe.

Last but not least, Auryn issues one final thought: What if lunatic Pardo tries to become the god of all gnolls and ruler of all Ber by developing and driving a dragon tyrant duplicant?
 


Andrew Moreton

Adventurer
Because there is a scene in Book 8 which calls out for it to be Ape shaped and human was close enough, although I am now tempted to make it a transformer
 

Lylandra

Adventurer
You mean the King Kong reference? I actually thought Borne to be a metaphor for the "robots gaining consciousness" debate, hence the giant android form. For his intended ritualistic use, I'd say that the added stability of a quadruped would make sense though :D
 

Lylandra

Adventurer
Session 38

After the duplicant's examination, we call it a day and return to our room as we got several messages to send to Risur. Auryn buries her head in books about magic, and turns suddenly quite pale when she comes across a section about magic of souls and the divine.

When Carlyle asks her whether something's wrong, she states quietly that she just realized what kind of attack the lizard liches had used against him, and that there was usually no way anyone could survive the green fire of destruction. Which also means that she had been on the brink of losing him. Carlyle returns that risking his life is just a part of his job as a RHC agent, so he's known about the dangers beforehand.

Auryn explains that she knows about this being a part of his job perfectly well, but still there had never been a situation where the imminent threat of death had been so real. Which made her think about what would happen if one of them were to lose their life.

“Oh that's what you mean. I've had decades to think about death and I've taken... measures to help me deal with it.” Carlyle says.

He then explains that, being a deva, he had to decide what to do with the reality of being reborn again and again, and being faced with being a different person with every rebirth. Which is why he chose to write down detailed records about his life, his choices, and the people that mattered to him. This way, he hopes that he'll be able to re-connect with his previous lives and he believes that this was what he did when young Lord Nathaniel Vantrys had found him after his rebirth several years ago.

“Still I don't know if I'm really the same man I'd been before my second death. It feels... different, you know? The memories came back one by one, but I'm not sure whether they mean the same to me as they did when I experienced them the first time. And should I die another time, then I don't know whether I will ever be able to feel the same way I do right now.”

Carlyle sighs quietly and then looks at Auryn with a serious expression before stating that, in such an event, it would be up to her to decide whether or how to continue their relationship. He describes her the exact location of his secret records and asks her of one favor in case of his death: To unlock his memories for him. Without a “key” to access his memories on an emotional level, they will be little more than stories of another person, he explains. Detailed and present, yes, but distant.

In return, Auryn takes his hands to reassure him. “Don't you dare think that I will leave you when you're the most vulnerable. You know that I care for you and I will do whatever it takes to make sure you'll recover. I promise that I'll be there for you.”

“If there is still a 'me', that is. Truth is, even I don't know what would be best for next-life-me.”

Auryn chuckles at his statement. “Then let's make sure that this 'next life' stays far away from now.”

“Oh I will. Other than Stanfield, I'm not really keen on dying. But there is one thing you have to promise me: Should there ever be a situation where only one of us can make it out alive, that person has to be you. First, only you can ensure that we both 'survive'. And second, I... don't know whether I'd be able to deal with losing you. I can take... measures should such a pain be unbearable, but I don't want to experience it in the first place.”

He then explains that no, this doesn't mean that he would commit suicide and be reborn, but he'd rather manipulate his records to play down their relationship. Not that he'd done that before (at least as far as he remembers), but losing someone dear to him had almost destroyed him before.

(Carlyle's means of making bold statements. He surely won't say “I love you my sun and stars” or make any grand romantic gesture. He's talking much more between the lines. Note that he didn't feel the need to erase the memory of the woman he loved despite all the pain, yet openly muses about altering his notes about his feelings for Auryn...

Also note that this happened way before the second season of Discovery and we both felt surprisignly remninded on Carlyle's statement about his previous life when it came to the issue of Hugh.)


Auryn returns that she'll first make sure to give him some good memories that are worth remembering. And when he replies that they still got centuries of time to do so, she simply pinches his ear and kisses him.

After that exchange, we finally send a message to Delft just in case that he didn't got the memo from Slate. We tell him that Oddcog is still missing but alive and that mechanical duplicants had killed the Bruse of Ber. As we expected, he replies that he'd like to meet us for a more personal chat aboard the Impossible. And of course, we teleport there immediately and wait for his arrival.

As soon as he arrives with Lauryn Cyneburg, we hand him our written report and tell him more details about the assassination of Bruse Shantus. We ask our Chief Inspector to deliver the full report to King and Principal Minister as soon as he's ready to go, and add that we also got a request from the new Bruse to send him military aid against the rebels in the south. And as the Bruse specifically asked for our personal assistance, this would only need a short “make it so” from Slate.

Finally, we ask Delft about Grappa's disappearing and also why we had to get this info from Morgan Cippiano and not the RHC. Delft replies that this wasn't really crucial for our current mission and that Alexander Grappa wanted to go on a “holiday mission”. We're a bit relieved to hear that, but when we ask whether a senior RHC agent would accompany or at least shadow him on his trip, Delt confesses that he wanted to give the man some privacy. Which is really alarming, as Grappa would still be a top target for any Ob agent. And worse, should he turn out to be a double agent, we would have lost both crucial info to the Obs and would be unable to know about Grappa's true loyalties.

Delft reassures us that he's very certain about Grappa's trustworthiness and we'd like to believe that as well. Still, leaving him alone in times like these had been far too naive and Delft finally agrees to send Justin Rollins after Grappa.


(Delft can be such a trusting and naive fool and yet be so loveable and competent. I guess he's just totally socially inept and has a negative Sense Motive skill or so)

We return to the Summer Court shortly after and almost walk into Fordren, who appears to be taking a stroll. We do a quick chat about the duplicant tech, and it seems as if Fordren is utterly enthralled by all the possibilities this new tech could open up. We fear that getting him on board was just the worst idea ever, as he might be interested enough to reverse-engineer the duplicants. So we try to explain him that while yes, the duplicants could be used for good deeds (like letting people work safely from a remote position), letting this tech loose would usher in an era of chaos and distrust. After all, how could one possibly know whether the person in front of you was the real deal or just a cleverly played duplicant? Suicide-bombing could also become the next trend if said suicide was less literal than before.

We finally tell him that, while we cannot speak for our King, we're pretty sure that Aodhan would see the duplicants to be a threat to Risur and that he would most likely ban all further research and implementation. Even if the workers in Parity Lake could sleep easier if they knew that their health wasn't constantly at risk. To our surprise, Fordren seems to understand that argument and he serenely agrees that this tech should better be forgotten before it can be abused. He then simply continues his walk on the beach.


(And there's Fordren continuing to act totally strange. Well, one could say that he's simply being really eccentric, but... yeah. We'll see)

Next, we meet up with Margit who already used some divination spells to get more info on Tinker. She tells us that Tinker is on the Isle of Seals (Isla de las Focas) and that he's willingly working for the Lord of all Gnolls. She had one surprise though, when she wanted to get more information about the “Dragon God” that the gnolls worship, as she felt as if her request was being pushed away by a gentle hand.

“Not the hand of a dragon god, of that I'm certain. But some higher power for sure.” she says.

With these information at hand, we head to the Sea Chieftains who are, again, enjoying their morning beer. When we tell them about the Isla de las Focas, their mood drops instantly and they start complaining about the constantly bad weather and the uncontrollable winds surrounding the island. In response, Carlyle jokes about the obvious merryweather-pirates and reminds the fearful chieftains that the gnolls who live on the island have to deal with the bad conditions as well. Finally, we suggest that we could also ask our druid contacts for help. After all, Risur just sent a bunch of them to Citada de Cavallo to make a first contact with the sea fey.

When we see that the Chieftains are rather grateful for the offer, we also ask them to keep the Danorans out of the campaign. We remind them that we officially won the late Bruse Shantus' game for Tinker and are not really eager to have the Danorans sneak past us on the Isla. Barbao returns that the Danorans already promised to send a grand vessel to help dealing with the Gnolls, and rejecting them now might just cause a political scandal. We offer Barbao to ask for a second risuri war ship to join the flotilla which could substitute the missing danoran vessel, but ultimately agree that these are matters for the Bruse, not a single Chieftain.

Barbao then tells us that the experimental ammunition that had been used to destroy parts of the palace had been a development of Tinker Oddcog.

“Shantus was keen on having strange explosives like these, and we can all see now where this has lead him to”, the Sea Chieftain mumbles and we all curse the mad gnome for his – also mad – genius.

We then head to Bruse Cavallo as we'd like to discuss both the Danoran matter and using the illusory Gradiax a second time. Cavallo invites us for breakfast and then bluntly tells us that he cannot simply refuse the Danoran offer. He doesn't like them either, he explains, but Corta had a point in reminding him that Ber does not wish to make enemies with such a technologically advanced nation.

We try to persuade him by offering to send for a second risuri ship and we also remind him that it was Lya and the Danorans who tried to cause a rift between our nations for Shantus' blame game. We, on the other hand, did our best to help him and his family in times of need and worked hard to keep a good relationship with our neighboring country.

“Alright then, you got a point. I hope you understand that I cannot forbid thee Danorans to aid us, but I can use my authority of Commander in Chief to send them to the back row. I'll make sure to keep them busy with managing supplies so they won't have a chance to get near the front lines.”

We agree that this is a sound plan as we simply wish to keep the Danorans, and especially Lya and her entourage, off the island. Then we talk about the possible masterminds behind the assassination of Bruse Shantus. We're pretty sure that the gnoll “minister of rebellion” Pardo would be in the Isla, but also discuss whether Kenna Vigilante and Tinker Oddccog had been involved as well. After all, Kenna seemingly left her duplicant and might have been fed up with Shantus while Tinker might be mad enough to simply follow the orders of whoever promises him to be able to tinker around without too many restrictions.

We also share our suspicion that some of them (at least Tinker and Pardo) might have been up to building a mechanical Dragon Tyrant to unify the Gnolls behind their supposed God. So we ask the Bruse to make someone search his newly found Dragon Hoard for hints on typical draconic strategy as we guess that Pardo would try to make the best true dragon impression, including battle tactics. .

Just a we're ready to leave the Bruse, we are being approached by a bunch of palace guards who hastily report to the Bruse that all of the remaining duplicants have gone missing. What makes matters worse is that all of the mages who had been tasked with examining the duplicants are missing, too. As we fear that “someone” is just about to let everyone who knows about the duplicants disappear, we decide to look after Francis Fordren's whereabouts. Not that Auryn would particularly miss him should someone try to assassinate the guy, but we both agree that his vast knowledge on technology would be crucial at the moment.

So we take a look at his tent at the summer court and are pretty surprised to see the man sitting serenely in one of his comfy chairs, while talking to one of his business partners. We wait until he's finished his talk and then discreetly tell him about the missing mages and duplicants. We suggest that he'd hire good bodyguards as he might just be the next target on the list of whoever tries to keep us from uncovering the duplicant's secrets.

“Oh, my dear friends, I'm sure that I got nothing to worry about. Why don't we all go to this excellent tavern over there and share a glass of Pinot?”

We immediately realize that there is more to this “glass of Pinot” than just good wine, so we agree to follow Fordren's lead. He leads us down a back alley where he stops, turns around and then, without batting an eye, tells us that he is the culprit behind all this.

“Don't look so surprised. You were the ones who told me that this technology is dangerous, especially for Risur, and that the King would probably want to see it gone. So I decided to get rid of them. And to make sure that no one can possibly, er, duplicate this tech.”

Needless to say that both our eyes widen in surprise at this revelation.

“So... you destroyed the duplicants and... killed those who knew too much?” Carlyle asks, still shaking his head in disbelief.

“Oh no... no, no. I'm no barbarian. The duplicants are safely stored in the Treasury of Slate. And the mages... well, someone will make sure that they'll keep their secret by being offered good jobs in your secret service or so.”

This is where we turn from surprised to stunned. And confused. As we neither knew that Fordren, a Danoran, had such a close relationship to Risur, nor that he'd have such high-up contacts in the Treasury. Our first reaction is to tell Fordren that, generally speaking, we are quite content with this unusual turn of events. Still, this opens up way more questions than it answered and we hope that he'll help to clear matters up for us.

Unfortunately though, he cannot really tell us much more than that. He promises that he trusts Risur and its king, and swears that he means no harm for our country. Which is why he saw the need to remove the duplicants from the global equation, even if they are a marvelous technology. In return to this, we ask him whether he'd been involved in creating the first duplicant and whether this technology had originally been developed in or or Risur, but he cannot talk about that either.


(Surprise, surprise.... so Fordren is secretly working FOR Risur. Who would have thought that?)

We still thank him for the information and stick with our suggestion that hiring a bodyguard might not be the worst of ideas. A suggestion to which he offers us his serene smile in return. We then try to understand how such a person like Fordren could have possibly been involved with Risur. We guess that he might have been a part of Project X as the project heavily relied on Witchoil and also guess that Fordren might have pulled back and returned to Danor after the “Porter” incident. Which might also be the cause for his rift with Pemberton, who might be still involved with secret governmental research. We finally agree that our wild theories, while all plausible, will lead us nowhere. Which is why we ask for a personal audience with the King.
 

Lylandra

Adventurer
It takes a while this time, but we're finally being granted another audience in Slate. So we take the opportunity to directly ask King Aodhan and Principal Minister Lee whether and how Francis Fordren would be entangled with super secret projects of the risuri government. To our surprise, we're being rebuffed at first as these matters touch sensible levels of critical secrecy. Needless to say that Auryn is both disappointed and taken aghast.

“With all due respect, your majesty....” she says “how could a person like Fordren, a Danoran, a slaver, hold so much insight into critical secrets of Risur? How has the person whose duplicant technology has most likely led to the assassination of Bruse Shantus earned more royal trust than the people who try to dissolve the resulting crisis?”

Seeing both of our discomfort at the situation, King Aodhan bites his lip, takes a quick look at Harkover Lee and then raises his voice again.

“Curse my fondness of you, damn my trust in you, both of you.”

He then turns to the guards who are routinely stationed near the room's entrance.

“Out, all of you! Constables Auryn Galadin and Gabriel Carlyle and Principal Minister Lee remain with me. And shut these doors! None shall enter before we open them again”

All of the guards leave immediately, and when the doors are finally closed, Aodhan sternly states that whatever we're going to hear now is considered to be top secret, as only he in his function as King and those involving the secret know about it. This secret, he explains, has been kept by the monarchs of Risur for centuries, which is why he is quite reluctant to be the first one to share it with others. He reminds us that this secret could alter several political relations at once, so we have to keep it at all cost.

(Well, no problem. At least one of us is literally bearing the name of “Secret keeper”)

Aodhan then tells us about King Boyle, who helped the tribes of Ber in their battles against the fallen Dragon Tyrants. Boyle, he explains, ultimately decided that despite their tyrannical tendencies, simply killing all dragons would be wrong. So he offered those Dragons who wished to stay alive in the new, flightless world, a pact: To play dead, stay out of sight and swear to never ever harm Risur. In return, he offered the Dragons the protection of the land, a safe shelter that protected them from all sorts of divinations.

Gradiax the Steel Tyrant, ruler of southern Ber, had been one of those dragons who accepted the Pact of Boyle, which included to keep a humanoid form for a century. And it turns out that Francis Fordren is one of the alter egos Gradiax had developed over the years.

Needless to say that this revelation shocks us even more. It takes quite some time to process what we just heard, and it is Carlyle who regains his posture first. He asks Aodhan what would have motivated Boyle t make such a bold move. Sure, he had taken a risk and succeeded, but to what end?

“That is rather simple, and I believe that you understand his reasoning. After the death of Srasama, after the events of the Malice, after the genocide that happened to the Eladrin, Boyle did not wish to be the cause for yet another extinct race. Even if I doubt that the dragons would deem each other kin.”

With these words, he takes a quick look at Harkover Lee who's still listening without making any move.

“I understand. And I've never been more proud to call myself an agent of Risur and a servant of the King.”

Finally, Auryn nods silently while still breathing heavily. It seems like, despite her hatred for Fordren, she can agree that making an agreement with the former Tyrants would have been the more empathetic, more humane solution.

Aodhan then explains that yes, we were correct to assume that the persona Fordren had been involved in Project X until the Witchoil experiments had proven to be too dangerous to continue. He also confirms that a duplicant prototype had been in development although it had never been finished. Then Harkover Lee finally breaks his silence and guesses that Gradiax might have an offspring who would not be covered by the Pact of Boyle. He doesn't know for sure though as he doesn't meddle with the dragon's daily lives, but the Isla de las Focas had been the location of Gradiax' original hoard and the old geezer has no need for his relics and riches as he's only interested in tech these days.


(Well, Auryn would certainly disagree on the latter)

We share our thought of someone (Pardo...) possibly creating a Dragon duplicant, someone who just tries to use the name of Gradiax to unify the gnolls, and Lee agrees that this sounds like a clever plan as well.

Next, we discuss the problem of Lya Jierre who will most likely do everything she can to get her hands on Tinker. Even if we tried to make sure that she wouldn't get the chance to go ashore. Having her sneak around the island might also mean that she'd possibly stumble across any dragon that might or might not be there. We all agree that Lya must not know about the dragons' existence, and even less the Pact of Boyle and we explain that we already asked Bruse Cavallo to keep her vessel as far away from the island as possible.

Carlyle then reveals that, should things turn south, he'd volunteer to take care of this problem on his own. Still, he asks King Aodhan for permission as Lya is still his ex-fiancee. With a heavy heart, Aodhan agrees, even if he'd prefer a less bloody solution and is quite optimistic that we'd be able to find one.

As we're curious about the nature of dragons, Harkover Lee tells us that most of them are individuals, first and foremost, which is why they wouldn't call themselves a “people” - unlike the Eladrin. Which is also why they don't feel the need to make sure their people “survive” - occasionally they meet, mate and have eggs. Regarding Gradiax, he speaks with a mixture of disdain and respect. He had been a paragon of Tyrants, seemingly immortal, with records dating back 3000 years and maybe more. We muse that this may mean that Gradiax might feel that his life is ending which is why he might have felt the need to have an heir, but Lee explains that Old Gradiax didn't show any sign of Twilight when he last saw him. Oh and Gradiax wasn't really a family guy either, as he had many short-term lovers or mistresses, but never a true mate.

“I guess all he ever loved was himself.” Lee says dryly.

Should there truly be a young dragon offspring, Aodhan asks us to make the youngling the offer to enter the Pact of Boyle to make sure that their existence continues to be a secret. And should the hypothetical dragon refuse, we have to make sure that the secret is being kept anyway. Even if that would most likely infuriate Gradiax. Again, we promise to opt for a diplomatic solution to such a threat.

In case of such events, we assume that it would maybe a good idea to create an inert dragon duplicant ourselves. Which means that we'd ask Fordren to create one as he might be the only one who could provide us with a believable body. Which also means that we would have to tell Fordren that we know about his true identity. King Aodhan isn't really happy at this prospect as this could lead to unforeseen complications, but he ultimately agrees.


(Saving my big comments for the end this time... what a reveal!

So, first I have to say that I am incredibly happy that Tiz made the bold move of making Francis Fordren the human persona of Gradiax, who is not only a dragon, but the dragon tyrant. Which also confirmed one of Carlyle's whackier theories on Fordren. And it was just perfect. I actually re-read the background I had written for Auryn (which is floating around in an earlier post) and, reading the paragraphs with Gradiax in mind, it made even more sense. Of course, a dragon would want to collect treasure and of course he would not be so easily swayed by said "treasure's" pleas for freedom.

Second, there was so much going on in this eight-eyes dialogue. Starting with silently observing Harkover Lee (who was probably just as nervous as we were) who is obviously yet another dragon but who'd wait until adventure 9 to reveal his true name. So again, totally understandable that he would scare Auryn away when she dug too deep during the peace conference.

Then there was us actually emotionally pressuring King Aodhan into spilling the beans on the Pact of Boyle. I guess the King knew that he'd maybe lose at least Auryn's trust by making it seem like he was placing Fordren's needs above her own and he turned out to... like us so much that he would not risk that. Which in return made the bond between Aodhan and our two characters even stronger.

Especially Carlyle had been moved by Boyle's reasoning to offer the dragons a second chance as he - being originally from Crisillyir - knew that humans were quite masters of retaliation and hatred. A path that drove him away from his homeland. And it the end this had been one of the factors that eased Auryn's mind on that matter, even if it ultimately concerned her nemesis.

Her own feelings took quite the turns as she started with major doubts and stress, was completely shocked by the reveal, then felt betrayed for a moment only to end up being relieved in the end. She had thought about Delft who had ignored her request to do research about Fordren's involvement on Axis Island and also Price-Hill who had insisted to let Fordren be. Her first thought had been that Risur, the nation she risked her life for, and King Aodhan, the first male authority she had trusted had hidden and protected her enemy from her.

But then she realized that it was simply the other way round: That all this time, Aodhan had tried to keep her from trying to fight the most powerful dragon of all time. And that it had been this strange coincidence of being rescued by Risuri, and becoming a Risuri herself that had offered her an impenetrable layer of protection as the Pact forbade Gradiax to harm Risur or its citizens.

So in the end she knew that she'd be truly free from having to fear "Fordren" as long as the Pact would stand. And she realized that the fact that Fordren was actually a dragon in disguise was the sole reason for her freedom. Oh the irony.

Regarding Gradiax and his interests... well, we'll see into that in one of the next entries)
 

Tizbiz

Explorer
So, first I have to say that I am incredibly happy that Tiz made the bold move of making Francis Fordren the human persona of Gradiax, who is not only a dragon, but the dragon tyrant. Which also confirmed one of Carlyle's whackier theories on Fordren. And it was just perfect. I actually re-read the background I had written for Auryn (which is floating around in an earlier post) and, reading the paragraphs with Gradiax in mind, it made even more sense. Of course, a dragon would want to collect treasure and of course he would not be so easily swayed by said "treasure's" pleas for freedom.
The gamble i took paid out big time. As Lylandra said Auryn's past was fitting incredibly well to the dragon i had in mind. Educated, sophisticated with a sharp mind and ruthless yet not inherently evil. Looking at Pemberton who is just one of Fordrens many disguises I saw an old dragon that has had the mental might to fully adapt to the new age without despairing. My only worry was Auryn trying to assault him somewhere in public.

Watching Auryn interact with Fordren was a joy and he held his hand back as he at first felt he could toy with her or reclaim her whenever he saw fit. But then he grew fascinated by her growth and bravery and reflected on his own changed life. In a strange way they each helped the other grow and mature.

I was always wondering why a dragon would go into hiding but would risk it all in a silly old fashioned Coup d'état. My Fordren is a rich industrial multinational player. He already has his own kind of "realm" and there is no need for a small play ground in Ber's backyard. I felt he would honor his word and keep friendship with risur. Finally i found a solution. But that is a tale Lylandra is going to tell soon.
 
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Andrew Moreton

Adventurer
Very interesting. Some nice things done with Gradiax, I'll see what I can steal before my players uncover the truth on monday although they have already guessed Pemberton is a Dragon and suspect Harkover
 

Lylandra

Adventurer
So we return to the summer court, approach Fordren and ask him for yet another six-eyes talk. He realizes that we're being even more serious than usual, so suggests a second stroll at the beach.

“We know who you are, so no need for more secrets and lies.” Carlyle says calmly.

“I see. I've been warned in advance. You are quite the persistent lot.”


('Twas Harkover Lee who got the sending out in time. Guess he feared that Gradiax might overreact should he feel threatened by our knowledge of the pact)

“I take this as a compliment” Auryn replies cautiously while keeping a close eye on the man.

We then carefully ask him whether our assumption that another dragon, his offspring, might be hiding on the Isla, which is why we might need his help to prevent a catastrophe. He reminds us that we don't need to be that cautious as he knows about our intentions and then suddenly turns all talkative himself.

“You see, fifty years ago I had been quite lonely, so when I discovered this egg inside my old hoard I decided to incubate it. And then she... hatched! I didn't remember that whelplings are so tiny when they crawl out of their shells. And she, Teraklir, was of the most adorable kind.” Fordren says with what no one though he could ever display: Genuine, loving emotions for a person other than himself. He pauses for a while and melancholy enters his voice.

“But alas, she was crippled, deformed. Tainted. Born without both wing and claw. A disgrace.”

“A disgrace for whom? Not for you I suppose. And why would Gradiax even care for the opinions of lesser dragons?” Carlyle adds, instinctively supporting even the child of a dragon while playing with the elder dragon's pride.


Fordren nods sternly before he continues his tale. He explains that young dragons lack the ability to take on a human form, and he couldn't allow her to enter the realm of mortals without risking her and his wellbeing. So he created a single duplicant and gave it to her as a gift to explore the outside world. He also gave her one of his personas, the identity of the industrialist Benedict Pemberton, when he realized that Teraklir was as interested in technology as he.

(So yeah, this is what the “little sparrow” was all about. A father calling his daughter by a cute nickname. Even if the name lost much of its cutesy and was filled with bitterness over time)

He goes on to tell more about Teraklir's development after that. Like all young dragons she turned rebellious when she grew older and tried to cut herself off from her powerful father. Bit by bit she must have somehow been able to reverse engineer the duplicant technology (Maybe with a bit of help from Tinker Oddcog?) and, well, duplicated it. He guesses that she then developed a plan to replace people with key positions of power in Ber to eventually take over the country.

“A brilliant plan indeed, but utterly foolish and dangerous in the hands of a whelp. No surprise that she screwed it up in the end. Oh my, Teraklir, what chaos, what dangers you have put us all in.” Fordren says with an honest sigh while also praising his child's plan to basically usurp Ber.


“Dangers for all of us indeed” Carlyle adds. “You know that we cannot just let your child throw Ber into more chaos and we also cannot risk having her reveal the secret of dragons being alive”

For a moment, Gradiax just stares right through Carlyle with a look that could kill. We then swiftly add that King Aodhan has offered to let Teraklir join the Pact of Boyle if she wishes to do so, so she may continue living her life in peace. And as we also guess that Pardo and his gnolls know about the existence of living dragons, we'd also need a proper dragon duplicant to provide convincing evidence that the gnolls had merely been fooled by some clever tinkering.


(Well... literally Tinker-ing. Do not remind me of all the Oddcog puns)

Fordren seems to relax a bit but also states that convincing his stubborn daughter might be a fool's errand as she's solely focused on accumulating power right now.

“Damn you, little sparrow, why are you so desperately trying to prove your worth?”

This is where we just ignore the fact that both Gradiax and Teraklir are dragons and see the dilemma both father and daughter are trapped in: Gradiax, who is genuinely loving his child
(no matter what Lee has said before) and who is seemingly concerned that she might have maneuvered herself into a corner and said daughter Teraklir who seems to be trying to prove her worth to her father no matter her birth defects.

“Maybe someone who's as strong-willed as your daughter might help her see the trap she's sitting in right now?” Auryn asks carefully, resulting in a short laugh from Fordren.

But even he sees that allying with us in that regard might be his best chance of getting Teraklir out alive. He warns us that making her listen will not be an easy task as he, in his fatherly concern, also created a powerful defensive/offensive matrix tied to his lair that could empower his daughter to be on par with a fully grown dragon. A device so strong that it might make her feel invincible. He then offers us to tell us the means to disable said magical matrix if we promise to him that his daughter will live.


As we don't wish to see the dragon's secret unearthed and also see no reason to kill what must be a dragon teenager with too much power (especially one who also maybe suffered from her father's superiority complex), we promise to keep Teraklir alive. Fordren seems satisfied and so he tells us that the Matrix consists of 36 blue and 36 green gems, floating in a complex geometrical pattern. And that all we have to do to shut it down would be to collect all the gems. He explains that, while we'll be busy trying to infiltrate his hoard, he'll be on the move, too, trying to regain control over his old defensive mechanisms.

We promise to do our best to prevent a catastrophe, but also state that protecting Risur has to be our top priority. And as both of our parties need to make several preparations, we excuse ourselves and head back to our tent at the summer court.

(can I just say that Gradiax' experiences with Teraklir just added another layer to his relationship with Auryn? I can easily see him getting frustrated by a teenage Teraklir who shuts old dad out and basically works against him in some regard as Pemberton all while he wished to keep his little whelp he adored so much. He's just the one who'd have a hard time accepting that his offspring has a will of her own. So... fast forward to Auryn whom he thought would be much easier to control and keep. Which turned out to be so much not the case as well. )

There, both Auryn and Carlyle try to sort all of these new information out while trying to make sense of it. Auryn seems very much surprised by “Fordren's” love for his daughter and explains that she needs some time to process what she just learned from the King and what appears to be a 3000 years old dragon in the guise of a danoran industrialist. Especially if that includes maybe a spark of sympathy for said dragon.

“I... I just don't understand what I'm feeling right now. Relief? Concern? I mean... dear Srasama, Francis Fodren is a dragon. What does that mean?”


“It means that you are beautiful.”

“Pardon...?”

“It is true. You see, if the oldest of Dragons wanted you, and only you, then you have to be someone special. Someone who deserves the attention of beings of legends. Also, this millennia old dragon just entrusted you with the well-being of his only child and he has sworn to never harm Risur or any Risuri, so you'll be safe forever. And I also got the feeling that you made quite the impression on him”


(Yeah, of course this is just Carlyle's way of stating his own thoughts and feelings. I guess he just doesn't think that his own opinion is impactful enough to state it directly.)

Auryn laughs silently in response.

“Then it shall be relief. Isn't it funny that knowing that my 'enemy' is not a mere man but a dragon is making me feel truly free for the first time? It is as you said... he cannot harm me. He's bound to King Aodhan by his pact with King Boyle”


(which is obviously just Auryn-speak for “there is someone who has power over him and this guy is on my side”)


Next we decide that we should rejoin Bruse Cavallo and his war campaign against the gnolls on the Isla. We learn that it might take up to one week until he got all ships ready for departure and hopes that our reinforcements will be able to make it in time. We promise that the Impossible and another vessel will join the beran fleet in time and also contact druids who are willing to help us with weather magic. Margit joins their cause, stating that shaping nature and influencing the weather has always been her schtick. We add that there might be some strange floating Island above the Isla that could cause the strange storms surrounding the home of the gnolls, which is something we've learned from an ancient tome.


(Which is pretty much a lie as Gradiax had told us that he doesn't know the real cause, but he had once seen hints of an island in the sky when he had tried to reach it as a young adult. We do believe that the Ziggurat of Avilona might be up there somewhere, but chose to ignore it for the moment as it was basically off limits)

Bruse Cavallo also informs us that the Danorans will be among the fleet as well, but he already arranged for them to be part of the rear defense and not be allowed to leave the formation. We take this as a reason to talk to Harkover Lee about the Danorans once again. We explain that Lya Jierre will most likely try to sneak onto the Isla de las Focas and ask him for his orders. The Principal Minister agrees that keeping the Pact a secret has to have utmost priority, even if that means silencing Lya Jierre. Should we have to resort to such drastic measures, Lee promises to gently inform our King of his fiancee's demise.

After this is settled, Carlyle turns to Auryn who's looking quite miserable at the prospect of ending Lya's life.

“You do know that I don't take lives lightheartedly, don't you? But if we got no other choice, I will do it. We're agents of Risur and Harkover Lee relies on our ability to make the right choice. And Lya Jierre is no innocent or hapless person. She knows what she's doing, even if she keeps making the wrong decisions”

Auryn nods slowly. “I understand. And I agree. But I do believe that there is another way, one that does not involve bloodshed. See, we do know quite a bit about the Isla and the hoard, courtesy of Gradiax. We know the only route she could take to get inside that hoard. So we intercept her when she's trying to get in and... that's it. She will know nothing about dragons and we got no reason to eliminate her”

“A fine plan. Alright, we'll do it your way.” Carlyle says, visibly relieved about both the alternative plan and the fact that his partner has taken his last resort so relatively calmly.





 

Lylandra

Adventurer
(On to a rather long-ish post. I'll leave this one here as I could not get it out of my mind ;) )

So we join the beran fleet with two ships from Risur alongside the Lux Profectusque as they sail towards the Isla de las Focas. As we already expected, the weather turns from bad to storm as soon as we get closer to the island, but fortunately our weather druids are able to keep the storms at bay. Then we see that the gnolls haven't been idle either as they block off their island with a large fleet on their own. What really astonishes us is the fact that they got... rather small wyverns to attack us from the air. Wyverns which are mounted by... magically shrunk gnolls!

Fortunately, we know magical ways to fly as well, so we take to the skies to handle these unusual threats. Auryn flies close to one of their groups and utters a single, paralyzing note which makes the wyvern's wing motions stop as well, plunging them down into the sea. Meanwhile, Carlyle takes care of the rest.

From the ships below, we can hear several of the beran sailors cheer for us. But the cheers quickly turn to cries of surprise and shock when two large, automatically acting dragonboats approach the fleet, shooting fire. We take a closer look at the ships and realize that these are actual seaborne golems.

“These fools... let me show them the downsides of automatons” Auryn says with a big grin before taking a deep dive through the golem's fire. Then she takes control of the ships one by one orders them to turn around to shoot at the gnoll's fleet.

(I've never regretted to learn that nifty spell. It has become one of Auryn's signature spells and she managed to troll Lya really hard in adventure 9)

“Seems like we do have to risk less lives than we anticipated. I hope you don't mind this kind of 'mind-bending', Bruse Cavallo. Not like they have actual minds of their own” she chuckles as she takes a quick fly-over to the beran flagship before returning to our risuri vessels. Bruse Cavallo nods with a big grin before shouting the order to engage the enemy fleet.

The battle starts with lots of cannon fire on both sides. However, from one corner of our eyes we spot that one vessel seems to ignore the orders of the Bruse and head for the Isla on a different route as it is heading directly towards what's left of the storm: The Lux Profectusque. We signal the defection to Bruse Cavallo who orders the Lux to return to the formation immediately. But it seems like he's being ignored. Of course, Cavallo is infuriated by this willful disregard of his orders. We take the Danoran defection as a signal to hurry to the Isla immediately, so we take a smaller boat, turn it invisible and let Margit summon a tailwind to speed us up.

Fortunately, we do know how to find the entrance to the hoard of Gradiax as soon as we land on the island on a forsaken beach. Knowing the general direction, it is quite an easy feat to find the tracks leading to the grand caverns, so we take a few minutes to prepare for an ambush on Team Lya. It doesn't take much longer and the trio of Lya, Rush and Merton enters the entrance, discussing the curiosity of “feral gnolls” building a railway into their mountain. Then, we spring our trap, knocking each of them out before they realize what hit them. We tie them up and disarm them, then put them into a lorry so the gnolls won't spot and kill them should they happen to patrol the area. To make matters even more safe, Carlyle conjures an illusory wall to hide the lorry containing team Lya.

After taking care of the Danorans, we decide to head deeper into the mountain. After following the tracks for a while, we spot a group of gnolls handling pallets. They seem to be guarded by a pair of mechanical rhinoceroses and we find that the only way forward seems to be behind said pallets. So we have no choice but to engage the gnolls and their automatons. Auryn takes one of the rhinos and bends it to her will while Carlyle initiates combat with the gnolls. The second rhino takes this opening to impale Auryn's left leg, leaving her atop the raging automaton while ordering the other one to destroy its companion. Carlyle makes haste to disassemble toe second rhino with some mighty slashes before taking care of his wounded partner.

“Don't worry, it won't even leave a scratch” he says while pouring a healing liquid onto the gaping wound which starts to close immediately.

"Thank you. Don't know what I would do without you" she returns with an honest smile.

After Auryn is healed up again, we continue our descent through the tunnels. We finally arrive in what appears to be a cave where several gnolls are busy operating a pump and corresponding generators. We hear more yapping coming from other caverns and agree that this must be where the gnoll's base is located. We decide that the gnolls are not our primary concern as we're still looking for Tinker and Gradiax' daughter Teraklir. And as there seems to be an elevator in the pump cavern, we take out the gnolls and use said elevator to descent even deeper.

(Tiz told us afterwards that there were abducted people hidden inside these caverns who had been forced to operate their duplicants. We never expected that the duplicants were moved by hostages and thought they were defectors or totally different people. oops.)

After arriving at the ground level, we leave the elevator and find even more tracks and a lorry. Inside, we spot a severed duplicant's head which turns into the striking image of Tinker Oddcog as soon as we take a closer look. Tinker seems to be as insane as ever as he states that the machines talk to him and also that the “large folk” cannot understand his kind of art. We try to argue with him again and try to convince him to come with us, but the head then starts changing and finally turns into the head of Mr. Pemberton. He invites us to come down to his realm and talk like grown-ups (that being obviously meant as a jab at Tinker), so why don't we take the lorry to come to him.

We check said lorry for any possible kind of trap while the head turns inert again. When we find none, we decide to take the ride further down into the volcano. As we're drawing close to the end of the track, we spot countless unused duplicants standing at each side of the track and we get the uncanny feeling as if someone's about to replace half of Ber with them. When we finally arrive the end of the track, we find ourselves in a gigantic kind of forge where countless mechanical parts lay scattered on the ground. Also, we spot a non-moving conveyor belt and an eldritch object shooting a large, continuous laser beam at a lake filled with lava. We take a short glimpse at said object only to guess that this might just be the fabled eye of the Tyrant Yeref.

“There you are!” Tinker shouts, waltzing in with what appears to be an enormous mech-suit. “Look who's the small ones now!”

We try to approach the mad gnome diplomatically, asking him to join our team and help us uncover the secrets of the Colossus Borne, whom he helped to create. Tinker doesn't want to hear any of it though, so we try a different approach.

“Mr. Oddcog, you seem to know more about machines that we could ever do. Because you have a special gift of hearing their whispers. So... if you could just teach us how to listen and understand them... and maybe talk to them, that alone would help us so much.”

“Teach?! No! No, no no! I'm here with PEMBERTON! I'll stay with Pemberton and the machines!”

“Shush, Tinker. You still got work to do, don't you?” Pemberton says calmly as he enters the forge.

And Tinker simply does as he's been told. He then turns to us and smiles.

“Finally some company who's playing on a higher intellectual level.” he adds while looking around warily. He then doesn't beat around the bush as he immediately offers us to join him in his plan to take over Ber. After all, these barbarians are nothing more but wild, chaotic beasts who long for the hand of a strong leader.

"And you do think that a dragon girl is the ideal 'strong leader' for a people who made great efforts to leave centuries of dragon tyranny behind them?” Carlyle says with a smirk, leaving “Pemberton” awestruck.

“Don't look so surprised, Teraklir. We know who you are. We're not here to harm you, we're here to make you an offer. Abandon your conquest of Ber and join the Pact of Boyle. You can imagine what happens if the Berans find out who you are and that your kind still lives.” Auryn adds.

“This is HIS plan, isn't it?! Using his thralls to try to control me, that's so typical. Not this time. I WILL rule all of Ber. TINKER! Remove these pests!”

As Tinker returns still heavily armed, we withdraw to the forges' entrance to lure him out a bit. Then Auryn makes a dive for the cockpit, smashes its window open and charms Tinker while Carlyle keeps a close eye on “Pemberton”. Who makes a beeline to the control console which seems to be the thing that's operating the laser beam. Fearing that the enraged dragon might redirect the beam towards Tinker and Auryn, he uses a teleport spell to place himself between duplicant and console.

“It is enough, really. We're not here to harm you, so please don't try to hurt the one person who might understand you more than anyone else”

“You know nothing, puny human!” Pemberton says, while still moving towards the console. Which leaves Carlyle with no choice but to destroy the duplicant.

Meanwhile, Auryn lures Tinker out of the forge, only to realize that this Tinker is yet another duplicant. So we let him discard his steamsuit in the lave lake. Among the scarreted parts on the conveyor, we also find an almost finished mechanical dragon duplicant, which in turn means that we didn't really need the improvised version from Fordren. So we take the drakelicant with us and start searching for the real Teraklir.

We enter the next room only to find what appears to be cocoon-shaped sleeping capsules, two of which contain Tinker Oddcog and “Minister of Rebellion” Pardo. Then, we hear a sharp mechanical noise and other conveyors getting activated in the tunnels before hearing a familiar voice in our heads.

“I managed to regain control of the defense mechanisms. I can also deactivate the teleportation blockade at your signal. And...” he sighs mentally “...let me clean this up a bit. This should not be... duplicated by anyone”

We then see masses of unused duplicants being flung towards the lava lake as if they were moved by an invisible force.

“Let me take care of the sleeping ones. You go find my daughter. And give her the ring I put into your pocket, will you? She doesn't know how to transform yet.”

As soon as Fordren's voice is out of her head, Auryn starts searching her pockets immediately, where she finds a ring imbued with polymorph powers. Without giving the how and when too much of a thought, we then try to find Teraklir as quickly as possible. It doesn't take too long and we find an illusory wall, leading to another corridor which then leads to an enormous cave filled with mountains of ancient treasure.

But that's not all... as on top of all this splendor we see a colossal dragon, large as a house and surrounded by comparatively tiny blue and green floating stones.

“So, you finally found Gradiax the Terrible, Steel Tyrant and Master of Ber. Submit yourselves, mortals, and you may live.“

“Impressive.” Carlyle says “But you cannot fool us. We know who you are and you are still a half-century old dragon youth. So please, cast off your illusion. We do not intend to fight you.”

“I do not care for your intentions. This is MY realm and you shall suffer for your foolish resistance!”

Then the gigantic dragon opens his mouth to release its fiery breath. We take cover and agree that talking won't work at this stage.

“The stones. Blue is for offense. I take the left, you take the right.” Auryn whispers, then casts an acceleration spell before starting a dance of fire protection.

Carlyle nods and then twists time itself to come closer to the floating stones he starts collecting immediately. Teraklir instantly realizes what we are trying to do and flies into a full rage, attacking us with all her empowered form has to offer. We try to dodge and parry her furious attacks as good as we can, but still suffer some injuries in the process. Collecting the gems seem to work though as her claws grow much slower and smaller by each stone.

("Collect the stones before the dragon smashes you to pieces" is a wholly different type of encounter than your usual ones. Tiz said that the original Teraklir would have been too easy, especially as we eliminated Lya and Tinker out of the equation. So he took the stats of some way bigger draon and reducet it bit by bit. Which was quite painful at the beginning)

As soon as we got all the blue ones, we turn to the green stones. This time, Teraklir's offense is much weaker and she doesn't get a single hit on us. Still mad, but even a bit impressed, the dragon hisses “If you can defeat me, then maybe I'll give this king of yours a chance. But that won't happen.”

“When we defeat you” Carlyle replies, “then maybe our king will give you a chance.”

(this is funnier in German since “if” and “when” are the same word which can be used in a temporal and in a conditional sense.)

Auryn laughs briefly as she collects her part of the green stones. As soon as we got the last gem, the draconic matrix destabilized completely, dissolving the image of “Gradiax” to reveal the person underneath it: A red dragon, not much taller than a horse, wearing both a metal claw and a metal wing. Before Teraklir gets the chance for further attacks, Auryn points her weapon at Teraklir's chest and lets her eyes flash with violet light.

“We defeated you. There is no use in fighting us at this point. Surrender. Now.”

The dragon growls, but she still lowers her claws and ceases her hostilities. Then she laments that we ruined her perfect plan which would have certainly worked were it not for us and our interference in Ber. We agree that her plan was really clever and might have worked, but also remind her that Ber has some allies and friends in its neighboring countries which would have surely intervened the moment a Tyrant Teraklir would have proclaimed herself “ruler of Ber”. After all, that's what King Boyle did to help the Berans get rid of the Tyrants in the first place. The same King who, we remind her, had also defeated her powerful father.

“See, this is why we came here, Teraklir. To offer you to become part of the Pact of Boyle in the name of King Aodhan of Risur. It is neither in our, nor in the other dragon's interest that the world knows about you.” Carlyle explains.

“We don't want you to be hunted down. We don't want you to die. We hope that you can lead and make a life of your own, free from your father's shadow.” Auryn adds.

“In the guise of a weak human, I suppose. Disgraceful.”

“Strength does not depend on form. Perhaps you can understand this if you try to look at our world through the eyes of our kind. Your father wasn't afraid to do so, so why should you?” Auryn says, handing the Ring of transformation to the young dragon.

Teraklir finally agrees, takes the ring and promises to keep her identity a secret and never harm Risur or its citizens. We take this as a first step, but remind her that she's have to swear the oath in front of the King for it to be official. So we cast a sending spell to Harkover Lee to tell him the news and request a private audience as quickly as possible. As soon as Lee replies that we shall meet at the teleportation circle in Slate, we tell Gradiax to lower the teleportatoin ward, take the now-elvish looking Teraklir and teleport to our capital.

When we arrive in Slate, we're quite surprised to see that the place is warded off with lots of illusion magics. Also, all guards seem to have left the area and we are welcomed by King Aodhan and the Principal Minister. Our King is a bit astonished to see the teenage elf with the metal prosthetic, but he then directly proceeds to the official part of the Pact, making Teraklir, daughter of Gradiax, swear that she won't reveal her identity or try to harm Risur. In return, he welcomes her under the protection of the crown.

As soon as the short ceremony is finished, Teraklir states she's disappointed that she never even got the chance to prove her strength to Gradiax, and that she had to submit to a human on top of that.

“Don't hate yourself.” Carlyle replies. “Your father knew about your plan and he called it brilliant. But like any good father...” - Auryn is breathing heavily at this part - “...he was concerned about your future. He doesn't want to lose you, even if you don't care for him at the moment. And even he had to admit that creating the duplicants was a mistake. Such a technology is a threat to everyone.”

Auryn takes a moment and then adds that her people also once ruled over a great empire, the grandest the world had ever seen. And that their leaders could be seen as Tyrants, too, at least from the perspective of a slave. It took a catastrophe that nearly killed all of her people to see their mistakes and move on to another way of life.

“Think about it this way: Through our survival, through our change, we actually became stronger and wiser. And the next time the Eladrin will appear on the word's stage, we will be free from the shackles of our past.”

She then shakes her head as if she just realized that she had never thought about the Malice and their survival this way. Teraklir seems to remain skeptical, but she mentions that she'll maybe start her new life by studying magic and technology at Pardwright. We decide to leave her (and the eye of Yeref) in the able hands of Harkover Lee and King Aodhan.

(and this is how we managed to keep the whole Pact of Boyle stuff a national secret. This is also not the last time that we've seen Teraklir in action)
 

Lylandra

Adventurer
Since we left Team Lya in the entrance to Gradiax' hoard and do not plan to let them lot there, we return to the Isla after our delivery of Teraklir. Before we take care of them, we are hailed by a slender danoran buisnessman who's holding the shattered body of a dead gnoll in one hand.

“I must admit that I felt quite sad when I killed him. He's been such a nice and loyal fellow.” Fordren says with honest regret, though he makes it sound as if he just had to put his pet puppy to rest. Still, sacrificing Pardo was the only option if he wanted to keep his and Teraklir's secret safe. He then hands Pardo's body to us and leaves without turning back.

We then untie Lya and her two bodyguards and heal them up. We then straight up tell her that we got Tinker and brought him to Risur for further questioning while leaving out the other details about the how and where.

Lya sighs in response and replies that it seems as if we beat her this time. She asks about the state of the gnoll rebellion and whether we found the culprit behind the attempted coup. We present dead Pardo and Tinker's dragon dupicant and explain that the clever gnoll got Tinker to craft a draconic vessel for his soul. With this appearance, he tricked the gnolls into worshipping him as the returned Gradiax, thus inciting their wills to overthrow the seemingly weak Bruse. By defeating the Minister of Rebellion and revealing the truth to the gnolls, we hope to stop their foolish rebellion though and bring peace to Ber.

“Very well then. Seems as if Risur found new best friends in the beastmen. How fitting. I just hope that we'll never have to see each other's faces again.”

“Oh, I do hope that we'll meet again. We do not see you as an enemy” Carlyle replies. “And I do hope that you'll one day see the error in blindly supporting everything the Obs want you to do. Though I do wish to ask you for a favor: King Aodhan has stated his wish to talk to one of the Obs' leaders. He'd like to understand the motivation behind your group.”

“Huh, quite the strange thing to ask for. But I do know dear Aodhan and I think that this is an honest request. I'll see what I can do, but will give you no promises.”

We then bid her farewell and suggest that she, Merton and Rush should leave the Isla immediately as we fear that the volcano might just collapse every minute.

(Thanks, Gradiax, for the memo)

We then return to the beran fleet and deliver our evidences to Bruse Cavallo. It doesn't take much longer and the Bruse is able to defeat the rebel fleet who seem to suffer under their lack of leadership. Being victorious, Bruse Cavallo then invites us to join him in his big celebration in Seobriga. We thankfully accept, but mention that we do have to take some time to question Tinker. So please do not start partying during the next few hours, okay?

We then teleport back to the RHC HQ where Tinker is being held in an extra secure cell. Unfortunately for us, the poor gnome still seems completely nuts. The only thing that gets him motivated is the prospect of bging able to invent something (no matter what or for whom) and he laments having no tools or other material for his inventions. When we ask him about Borne, he gets starry-eyed and talks minutes about minutia details concerning his construction. He doesn't know jack about the Obs though. Not that he would care much about them either. He doesn't even remembet the names Kasvarina or Alexander Grappa. We also realize that this orb he's carrying with him all the time seems to be precious to him, so we take it from him to see if this can make the gnome more cooperative.

Thinker protests heavily, but he has no real say in this. We decide to leave him alone for a while and use the spare time to examine said orb.

(Session 39)

It takes us a day to figure out that it was actually the orb which drove Tinker to the crazy state he's been in. While trying to examine the thing, we start hearing whispers and decide to handle it carefully. After a while, Carlyle seems to be able to establish a connection to the “Godmind Urn” and as he attunes to it, the object shifts its form completely, turning from a mechanical device to a rather small metallic pin with the risuri coat of arms.

Carlyle states that, while he's still hearing these little whispers every now and then, he managed to drive them back to his subconscious. Also, they now center around all things Risur instead of machinery. Auryn promises to keep a close eye on her partner and warn him should his behavior start to shift from normal to obsessive.

(Being a Spirit Medium, Carlyle was of course able to fully utilize the Urn. He chose Risur as his preferred domain, as he sees himself as a protector of his nation)

When we return to Tinker, we find that he's kind of cured of his madness. He seems still unhappy that he's imprisoned and very eager to make himself useful. Or so. At least, he wishes to get back into some sort of workshop to start tinkering again. We agree that allowing Tinker to develop gadgets for Risur might be a good idea, as long as he's doing so under strict surveillance.

As the beran victory celebrations are still in development (Corta is pretty much a perfectionist), we head back to Citada de Cavallo to talk to Dr. von Recklinghausen about his lost “son” Andrei. We tell the good doctor that Andrei is currently working in the railway construction team of Liss, which is why this could be the perfect opportunity to reunite with him. Von Recklinghausen agrees that his work is basically finished here, but that he'll have to get back to Lynn Kindleton first, whom he had left in Seobriga. He's also quite nervous when it comes to Andrei and we sense that he's afraid of meeting him.

We agree that the doctor needs more time thinking about his relationship to his son and offer him to bring him to Seobriga, as we're being invited to the grand celebration by the Bruse. So the doctor says goodbye to the people in Citada de Cavallo and we all teleport to Seobriga. There, we part ways and head to the Bruse's palace.

On our way there, we notice a red-scaled kobold in our shadows who appears to be following us. We appear to ignore him, but keep a close eye on the small fellow. When we arrive at the Palace, we ask for an audience with Bruse Cavallo as Carlyle intends to keep his promise to the late Bruse Shantus.

To our surprise, we meet the red kobold again, and this time he's treating us with snacks courtesy of the Bruse. Carlyle asks him about his occupation and the kobold replies that he's one of the Bruse's many servants.

“Very well. Then would you kindly show me around the wine cellar? I owe the Bruse a favor and don't intend to disappoint him” Carlyle asks the kobold, who seems surprised. Nevertheless, he leads Carlyle down a few stairs into the large storage room. Carlyle takes some time to find the right bottle of wine (Bruse Shantus had been oddly specific) and then turns back to the kobold.

“So, would you now tell me who you really are? After all, you're a pretty lousy servant.”

“Oh, but I am a servant of the Bruse indeed. El Extrano, at your service. No need to be surprised.”

Carlyle raises his brow in return as he really got no reason to be surprised at all. Extrano quickly states that he's the master spy of Ber, which is why he'd like to know more about this wine conspiracy. Carlyle agrees and tells the kobold about his spiritual exchange with Bruse Shantus. He mentions that Shantus had asked him to bring Cavallo a specific bottle of wine, and that's all there is to know. Meanwhile, El Extrano tries his best to not appear surprised himself. He seems to be a nice and competent fellow, but tries really hard to make a good appearance.

When Carlyle returns from the cellar, we are called to meet Bruse Cavallo in his office. We see that his desk is buried in paper and the old orc seems glad for the distraction.

“I'm beginning to understand why Shantus turned out that way. This is just crazy. Whoever thought that 'bills' and 'double-checkings' were a good idea needs to have his head smashed in”

Carlyle explains that this is just the way it had worked back when he was still a wee child 500 years ago and that this sort of bureaucracy probably stems from Crisillyir, so no need for further punishment. He then hands the bottle of wine over to Cavallo and says that Bruse Shantus explicitly asked him to give that one to his old friend as a gift for his new reign. And he had to promise Shatus to make Cavallo drink a glass as well, he adds.

“Ha! That bull-head! Remembering stories like that... reminds me of why I liked him so much back in the days.” Cavallo shouts out with an honest laugh. He then tells us about that particular bottle of wine: After uniting Ber and having Roye Bruse taking the lead of the nation, they had received a cartload of wine bottles as gifts and signs of goodwill from all over the world. And as neither of them knew jack about wine, they didn't know how to choose the right bottle for their private celebration. So they decided to toss rings and see where they'd land. And the bottle Carlyle brought up right now was exactly the one Cavallo had 'won' during this game.

He then beheads the bottle with his saber (inducing a hard cringe from Carlyle) and fills three glasses.

“To Roye and Shantus! To old friends and new! And to the proudest nation this world has ever seen!”

“To Ber!” we reply, sip at our glasses and find that the wine is oddly drinkable. Cavallo then explains that he'll probably not stay Bruse for too long as he feels that his daughter Corta is far better suited for all that. We agree that she's a good candidate as well and state our hope that Risur and Ber will stay good friends in the future. We know that we cannot speak for our king, but feel that he wishes to forge a stronger bond to our direct neighbor as well.

After the audience, we say goodbye to Bruse Cavallo and head back to the entrance. Carlyle mentions that we should try to meet up with Fordren again as we still got matters to discuss. On our way out, we come across Mr. Pemberton who greets us. Auryn turns to him to thank him again for his help in Sawyer and wish him good luck with the new Bruse. But this time, Pemberton appears to have no knowledge about that episode in Sawyer, so we get that this 'Pemberton' has to be Gradiax again. Pemberton explains briefly that his old rival, Fordren, appears to have left his business in Ber behind, which is why he'd gladly fill in the gap.

After leaving the dragon in disguise behind, Auryn asks Carlyle about his business with Fordren.

“I'm worried for Nathaniel Vantrys. See, if Fordren is Gradiax, and Cecilia, Nathaniel's betrothed is a Fordren, then who is she? Just another one of his puppets? For once I thought that everything was fine for the young Lord, that he could find true happiness and now her love for him could be nothing more than an act.”

Auryn nods as she understands Carlyle's worries. She says that she didn't get any sign of dishonesty from the young woman, but better be safe than sorry. So asking 'Fordren' about his relatives would definitely be a good addition to our to-do list.

(As this basically finishes the plot of adventure 6, I guess that this is the best place to give my/our feedback from a player's perspective. Keep in mind that we don't know the original material and Tizbiz changed quite a lot in the later parts regarding Gradiax and Teraklir.

First, we overall enjoyed the adventure by itself. The tasks were pretty much sraightforward in itself (building a railroad and making friends with Cavallo, then unearthing the culprit behind the coup) but still offered some sweet twists and cameos (Recklinghausen's return, the Pact of Boyle, Fordren's true identity). The railroad wasn't really our favourite part, but I already discussed that in a previous post.

We really love Ber as a nation. The idea and history of the beran culture is really unusual and cool, most of the oddballs there are likeable and even Shantus' obnoxiousness and 'stupid game' made sense in some way. We really didn't get his motivation behind Lya's challenge towards Cavallo as this basically meant risking a war with Risur, but that's it.

The dragon revelation - also really cool! Especially due to our connection to Fordren. Tiz told us that it would have been Gradiax/Pemberton himself who'd staged the coup and we guess that he didn't want to reignite Auryn's hatred for the guy. It would have made us put effort to separte him from Teraklir though as Auryn wouldn't have stayed quiet about her relationship to Teraklir's father.

Also, Teraklir. That character has such a cool concept!

We also deviated a bit from the intended course of the adventure as we really found intended and unintended ways to keep the survival of dragonkind a secret to the world. It made a lot of sense to keep it that way from our character's and King Aodhan's/Harkover Lee's perspective, and it really helped staying on good terms with Ber.

Regarding the rest of our criticism... it doesn't apply so much to chapter 6 itself as to the grander scheme of Zeitgeist. Because all in all, the adventure was as impactful to the overall plot as a filler episode. Sure, the dragons being alive was a big reveal, but that's one little detail that didn't really come into play that much.

Getting Tinker was basically irrelevant as his "notes on Borne" had no impact at all - we didn't learn anything useful about the Colossus until we found Grappa in adventure 7. I guess he's kind of interesting for steamsuit pilot characters and he got this "technical development" memo, but... err... that would need a proper "tech tree" to be tangible. Like, every X months (or adventures) you can pick a tech that Tinker has finished his reseach upon and tadaa! Innovation! Including the option to specialize on said tech for bigger progress (electricity, propulsion, mech-suits for our army, whatever). I know that getting our hands on Tinker is "optional" as having Lya succeed needs to be a possibility, but that way it felt a bit lackluster.

Same thing with the Godmind Urn. The way it is written, the artifact is such a cool (and possibly powerful) tool. I know that there shouldn't be too much emphasis on it as only a Spirit Medium is able to handle it properly, but it never ever got used or even mentioned after adventure 6. I put a lot of effort into trying to figure out what and what not would be possible with the Urn, but unfortunately it got written off as some random +5 skill bonus.

This also applies to a lot of future custom artifacts that players can get their hands on in Zeitgeist (the Humble Hook, the Blade of Srasama, the Eye of Yeref, the Arc of Reida to some extend). Only the Arsenal of Dhebisu appears to truly matter at some point of the campaign. As someone who loves to dive deep into the lore and world of a campaign, I'd have loved to see more impact of stuff like that. Especially as I really put a lot of effort into connecting the Living Blade to the overall story of Burning Sky and the Torch played a pivotal role there as well.

Also, in hinsight, it didn't really matter that we made good friends with the Bruse at all. Adventure 10 & 11 made all berans readily believe the - hardly believeable - Ob lies, going so far as to prepare for a war with Risur. Which made us question why we even put so much effort into forging a friendship with our neighbors. But I guess I'll discuss this in further detail during adventure 10 & 11 ;) )
 
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You have some similar feedback to ours concerning several of the weaker points of the Zeitgeist adventure path's storytelling, the bits most dearly lacking in cohesion.
 
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Andrew Moreton

Adventurer
I think you are underestimating the role of Tinker in the campaign as published , he actually can if left with the Orb improve Risur's technology in quite remarkable ways, most of these do not impact on the pc's directly but by book 8 in my campaign we have introduced morse code radios and dynamite/TNT to the campaign which has remarkably improved the capabilities of the Risur military and communications.
He also provides the normal link to Leone and Grappa but your campaign may have handled that introduction differently.
The Orb itself is rather more than a +5 to skills, after looking at it my players were way too scared too touch it, that way lay madness and creeping towards being something other. Exactly what it does depends on the domain and there is not much guidance for more unnusual domains I think I may have had fun with Risur. Within my own campaign it would have helped one pc become a dragon, another would have been a lot like Tinker , the third would have gained the power to control and create air elementals getting stronger and weirder as time went on, and the last one they would have really regretted having the orb as she would have started to manifest as an incarnation of the end of the world. Unfortunatly they left it with Tinker
 

As written, the orb can be separated from Tinker without issue. He can still produce technological revelations.

The godmind urn is given no background lore whatsoever, and is never mentioned again, not even during book #10, Godmind. It is somewhat of a letdown.
 

Andrew Moreton

Adventurer
Your interpretation and mine differ on what happens when you take the urn away from Tinker.
I also would like more background on some issues but I am always keen on that, however to get every detail I could want we would have to have another 3 or 4 volumes the same size as the existing 3 which would have been a lot of work and a lot of extra money to spend. I could make the same points you make about every one of the dozens of RPG settings I have in this house , never has every detail of background and lore been covered not even Glorantha or Shadowrun which fill much more shelf space and are full of detail. In every campaign there must be blank space and that is where GM's earn their keep interpreting it as necessary for their campaign and for their players.
For instance I have spent hours working out much more of Kasavarina's life details before the Great Malice which 'could' have been included but without the special circumstances of my campaign very few players would want to sit through another Dozen of Kasavarina's memories without any relevance to the main plot.
The God mind urn if there had been another dozen pages on it , my players would have still walked away , so in many campaigns no more is needed. I know it's secret in my campaign if the players go back to it but that was a bit of thinking and creating on my part. Its quite clear that the urn and the Godmind of book 10 are completely unrelated one is a collective mind which has become unto a God so literally a GodMind, while the urn seems to contain the mind of a god or perhaps a protogod. The more I think about it the more I regret not inflicting it on my players , yet.
 

Lylandra

Adventurer
Yeah, my opinion is entirely based on player experience, and I am only one of two players. So who knows what's on the sourcebook and what's on the GM?

Regarding Tinker, I remember that there was this one handout, but I don't remember too much of it. Most of it had been combat boni or combat objects, so we didn't put too much thought into it. TNT & co are something that every good alchemist in PF can produce by himself anyway. Morse code / telegraphs and electricity would have been rather sweet as they'd eliminate our long-range communication difficulties. Tinker didn't care much for anything else and it was hinted that he'd been a disruptive, potentially lethal element, so we kept him under close surveillance. We as players would have needed something concrete, tangible, like said tech tree. Being subjected to overly much DM jurisdiction, especially in terms of flowing time / development progress can be difficult.

I know that the orb is potentially great, I took great lenghts to advocate for it myself. But my other two players were rather stubborn and didn't know what to do with it besides the +5. And since I was not the player whose character was able to interact with it, I let it fade to the background. Regarding the Humble Hook, that was the point where it affected me personally. But that's something for the discussion of adventure 11 :)

Agreed that Zeitgeist would have profited from more material, especially in the later parts. I wouldn't have minded to play one adventure in each of the larger nations post-Nightfall. Also agreed that a campaign this huge depends on the GM as no writing team can cover up for all the different possibilities and playstyles. Or keep everything 100% consistent all the time. I had to adjust a good portion of WotBS myself as well, but I'm also much into worldbuilding and consistency and know my players very well.

Please don't take my criticism too harshly, I just like to point out the aspects of the campaign that we (as players) would have loved to see turn out differently.
 

I personally believe that an area where the original Zeitgeist adventure path falls flat is that it frequently goes wide on subject matters and worldbuilding, instead of going deep. Rather than introduce a given topic (an NPC, a location, a magical phenomenon, an artifact, etc.), build upon it, delineate how it affects the rest of the world, and so on, thereby giving the GM a better perspective from which to build their own material, the adventure path more frequently introduces new ideas with surface-level information. You can see this with, for example, duplicants and mortal possession especially.

I would have rather had fewer introductions of new ideas, and more expansions of preexisting ideas. It is just my personal preference, though.
 

The narrative intent of adventure 6 is to shift gears from "defend Risur" to "globe trot in order to protect the whole world." I wanted to throw a lot of hooks at a party in hopes that they'd latch onto something they like in Ber, because ideally that makes the players care about 'saving the world' in a more personal way.

So I didn't need the events in Ber to matter too much down the line; I wanted to establish what the baseline of that area is, and introduce characters who could be the anchor point for later adventures showing the broad scope of the threat the Ob pose.

And yeah, it's meant to be a lighter romp, and more of a Bond film, whose villain can hopefully become one of those endearing bad-guy-allies later on.

I appreciate the criticism, though. Getting Tinker or not doesn't change the campaign too much.

As for befriending the Bruse not mattering, maybe I didn't present it well. The intended point was that after the Ob do their Axis Seal ritual, the rest of the world starts acting out of character, being magically manipulated despite knowing better. Only Risur - thanks to PC intervention in Slate and Flint - and a few strong-willed NPCs in other countries were able to resist. I think my idea was that whoever the Bruse was didn't really want to invade Risur, but felt like they needed to work with the Ob because everyone else was.

I certainly had my eyes more on the "hit the ending target for adventure 13" goal, and didn't plan as well for 10 and 11. When collaborating with the other author Liz on 11, she wasn't as deeply involved with the broader story arc, and so we focused more on making sure each individual act was a fun and epic conflict. I didn't push as much on building solid connective tissue with the rest of the narrative. My bad.
 

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