ZEITGEIST Tizbiz Zeitgeist Campaign

This detailed politicking is making me wish I could somehow devise, like, a video game version of the convocation, where all the members of the Obscurati are fleshed out with specific goals, and where there's a full roster of planes to use, and thorough rules for how they'd interact.

But then of course for the outcome to be meaningful, you'd have to actually be invested in the world, and have a chance to see the consequences . . . and that basically requires it to happen in the middle of a series of adventures.

(I never saw much Inuyasha, sadly.)

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Politics and Prayers

After the surprising Brave New world proposal, the discussion goes back and forth again. Bit by bit, another group begins to form around Dame Constance who seems to be keen on reaching yet another compromise with other factions. She, too, bases her idea on Miller's Pyre, but adds influences of the Panarchists and the Arboretum and calls it MAP.

In reaction to these plans, the seemingly smaller Colossus faction switches to Colossus Congress after a Risuri proposes that the powers of the “super heroes” shall be renewed every now and then by a Ritual of confirmation where at least half of the population would have to agree on refreshing the given powers. This way, it would be in the hands of the people to dismiss a possible abusive “protector”. We still don't believe that Colossus would make a good new world order, but that at least lessens the amount of harm that could be done by a single misled megalomaniac. Also, Livia stays in character and lauds the obvious influence of the Rites of Rulership.

Unfortunately, the Watchmaker's plan becomes worse by the debate as it seems like many Obs don't want to be subjected to mind control but don't mind keeping watch on those who are. The plan adds the creation of a demiplane for specific Obs officers who are tasked with watching the progress of the original plan on Lanjyr. This way, the Obs would be able to make adjustments in the planar plan should a threat arise. We call this a poorly disguised method of making sure that some privileged people with dubious backgrounds will live in comfort with their free will and with near omnipotence.

(One could easily make a dystopian novel or game out of this one... so many crazy ideas for stories and settings emerging from this adventure alone. And I'm not even talking about adventure 12)

After the official debate is ended, we take quite the time to court the head figures and potential allies of the MAP faction, as they seem close enough to our BNW. We easily gain the backing of the Aegis as our plan stressed out the importance of the planar barrier. Despite Carlyle's initial fear of what might happen if flight was reintroduced to our world, he supports Auryn's effort to appease the Sky League by explaining that yes, of course, Menhiru would allow for flight.

(Carlyle seems really terrified of the idea of Airships... Haffkrüger/Fordren/Gradiax on the other hand is thrilled even though that would mean that regular humans could soar the sky like dragons )

Then we meet up with several people who voted for Arboretum during the Straw vote and theorize that the healing powers of Ostea would likely have a positive effect on plant resistance and growth as well.

(Technically, a cut off leaf or veggie is just a wound waiting for a proper regeneration...)

Also, we try to sway the Arboretum followers by trying to explain what amount of maintenance their plan would require in order to prevent a total desertification of several areas. Regarding the original Pyre disciples, we explain that we're basically just using a slightly altered version of the original Miller's Pyre plan. We add that we're still open for changes regarding the planes of earth and death as well.

After a while, we get the feeling that we might be able to actually find a small majority during the next vote. Or at least a competitive result. The hour draws late and one by one the Obs switch to a more relaxed tone with drinks and relieved small-talk. We, too, order a round and withdraw to one of the cozy lounges to recapitulate the day's events.

After a couple of minutes, we realize that Amielle Latime seems to be the exception to this pattern as she stands (or rather floats) alone for a while before leaving the party. As we don't know how well she's able to handle what happened to her Watchmaker's plan, we decide to follow her stealthily and watch her.

It appears as if the ghostly lady is just tired of talking to the Obs and more interested in a casual conversation with the estate's guards. We guess that she's well acquainted with these guys as she is still a member of the Ghost Council. Amielle suggests a shooting competition among the guards where she emerges as the winner. She's a good sport though and orders a round of drinks for her “dear friends” which almost seems like a trick to gain the favor of the guards. We're a bit estranged as she of all would not be in need of friends or supporters, especially with the personnel. So we guess that there might be a reason for her to be nervous. Or maybe she's just not comfortable around the other Obs...

While being outside, we also spot several members of the Ghost Council who absorb Bleak Gate entities into their spiritual bodies to create more Ghost Conglomerates and get the feeling as if someone might have ordered to raise the security level once again.

We then return to our bedrooms to call it a day. But before she goes to sleep, Auryn takes the Humble Hook in her hands and tries to understand why that artifact would have chosen to come to her of all people. And then, before she even fully realizes what she's about to do, she utters a short, silent “prayer” to Triegenes:

“Triegenes, human who became god... I know it seems strange that, of all people on Lanjyr, an Eladrin like me is speaking to you. Trying to connect to you. But something that once belonged to you found its way into my hands on this very day. And I wish to understand what it could be that brought it to me. Because out there are thousands who praise your name, who have dedicated their entire life to you and your cause.

And yet here it is, this small hook, resting in my hands. And as strange as it may sound, since it found its way to me, I can hear the Song of Vekesh more clearly than ever before. As if he was trying to tell me to keep on walking down my path unerringly.

People worship you because you have shown them, demonstrated them the path to divinity. And some time ago, they must have believed that it was only them, only humans, who were meant, allowed to walk on that path. This was the time when they elevated themselves above 'others'.

I don't know what you are thinking about the wars waged between our two people. But if that hook had once been a part of you, if its essence and what it is sending out to me is something that you once felt or believed, then I know that you must feel deep sorrow. Sorrow, as your legacy, your deeds, your heroism, your sacrifice that delivered us from a tyranny, only led to more tyranny. That those who so strongly believe in you and your example almost killed another species, your neighbor in your name.

I don't know whether it is simply a case of late irony that your hook ended up with me. And I also don't know what your followers, your faithful disciples would say to that fact, what they would do to me if they knew who it was that is carrying their most holy relic right now. Maybe there will be a time when they understand. A day when I can reveal this secret. But right now, I am simply, selfishly grateful that it is with me. That it may very well be my guiding light in this darkness. So it may help me see what is right and what is wrong.

Maybe it is all in vain. I don't even know if you are able to hear me. Or whether it would mean anything to you that a child of Srasama is trying to talk to you. But I believe that you are a god of self-sacrifice, of selflessness and kindness. And I believe that you would wish for peace between our two people. No matter what the Clergy did to you and your teachings. And that is why I simply want to say thank you.”

(Now if Auryn was a proper crisillyiri Clergywoman, I'm pretty sure she would eventually have pulled a Luther after finding the Hook...)

Auryn doesn't receive a direct answer – nothing she had hoped for to be honest – but feels the same warmth and feeling of connection to the Hook she felt earlier when she picked it up. Then she goes to bed where she gets yet another impression from her new pendant: The same sense of sadness she felt before, but this time Macbannin's face appears in her mind, looking at her as if he's about to say his final goodbye. She tries to understand the messages and concludes that maybe the ex-mayor is just about to use his ancient witch magic to sacrifice himself in order to erase Vicemi Terio or whatever is the source of the Ghost Council's power.

After only a few hours of sleep, Leone/Grappa knocks at both our doors to inform us that he has been summoned to a secret meeting of the higher-ups among the Ob officers. We nod silently and stealthily follow Grappa to their meeting place so we may eavesdrop on whatever they may have to discuss.

From their voices we get that the people meeting there must be Leone, Nicodemus, Han Jierre and Cula Ravjahani. Nicodemus is the first one to raise his voice. He reports the recent movements of Borne through the Dreaming and concludes that the Colossus might be out to search for Kasvarina. He then states that, of course, the Obs deployed their own teams tasked with searching for the missing Matriarch, but explains that this won't be easy as she is veiled by the Obscurati's anti-divination ritual. Cula adds that this is very likely indeed and guesses that Asrabey (whom she appears to loathe) might be with the honored founder of the Vekeshi. And Asrabey has lastly been spotted in Elfaivar, so maybe her mentor might be close by.

Carlyle mentally curses Asrabey for this very obvious security gap as he might have requested more protection against divination in the Dreaming. But at least we now know where Kas might be, too.

The Obs guess that Kasvarina's memories might not have returned yet as she didn't put any effort into contacting them. Han Jierre calls this turns of events a bit unfortunate, but adds that for the next step, Kasvarina isn't really needed, so finding her isn't a priority. Nicodemus agrees, but we do get the strong sense that he's still drawn to her and won't give up on the Eladrin too soon.

They then discuss said next step, which includes bringing Borne back to our realm. They hint that they got a plan on how to achieve that and finish what they call “transplantation” which makes us fear that they do indeed plan to fill Nicodemus' spirit into the body of Borne.

During all this talks, Nicodemus casually reveals that he, Kasvarina and the Jierre family have been working on this Grand Design for over five centuries, so staying on schedule is crucial now. As their talk draws to the end, he dismisses the other officers and as Leone is about to leave, Nic pulls him aside and asks him for his leaning in the next round of votes. Grappa faithfully answers “Watchmakers” as this new version of the faction would definitely be something favored by Leone. And then, surprising us all, Nicodemus replies that it might be a good idea to vote for a “more wise” choice.

Andrew Moreton

I remember the discussion about scrying on Kasavarina as being a bit of an issue. Nic and Jierre should be able to defeat the Ob anti-scrying protocols , I believe I made sure that Athrylla was Mind blanking her so she was actually protected from scrying


oh you are right, they do have the rings! Maybe these things didn't exist when adventure 7 was written, so... yeah canonically, it should have been a mind blank

Andrew Moreton

This detailed politicking is making me wish I could somehow devise, like, a video game version of the convocation, where all the members of the Obscurati are fleshed out with specific goals, and where there's a full roster of planes to use, and thorough rules for how they'd interact.

But then of course for the outcome to be meaningful, you'd have to actually be invested in the world, and have a chance to see the consequences . . . and that basically requires it to happen in the middle of a series of adventures.

(I never saw much Inuyasha, sadly.)
Just saw this and was reminded by picking up Life of Moonson , the convocation would work well as one of the very large convention LARPS, played over most of the day with a lot of players trying to achieve their character goals. It has the right sort of scheming and different characters trying to settle big questions.

As to the Mind blank I figured it was the same thing either the author had not decided on the Ob work around or forgot about it. My players though have the sort of minds who would have remembered when it came round in book 8 and I would have had to work hard to fix the issue without them coming up with a convoluted and possibly plot derailing conspiracy theory


Crossroads, part 3: Ghosts of the past

We return to our rooms and then one by one summon Eskrine and Macbannin for a private talk. To everyone's surprise, Auryn directly turns to the ghostly ex-mayor and reveals that she knows about his plans to sacrifice himself via witch-curse. Macbannin nods in silence and states that there's no reason to lie about this. He is very certain that Vicemi Terio is the anchor of the Ghost Council, the one original soul that lets them return and regenerate after their destruction. So if he found a method to erase Terio (whom he hates) from the equation, then the Council would be vulnerable. No matter the price. This, he explains, is what he tested when he killed Ramos Zoltan: He bound his life to the man and “killed” himself. But as Terio is a ghost, the method to kill that one would be just as fatal for himself.

Carlyle is very much shattered by the thought of such a noble soul sacrificing himself yet again, so he suggests that we all may bind our lives to his so Macbannin's soul may be preserved by ours. Just like we did with Nevard when we climbed Cauldron Hill. Or maybe some lantern oil could be able to bring the palace closer to our world where different laws of magic might work. Macbannin is grateful for our efforts and then finally suggests that if there was a way of making Terio eject him from the Chost Council, then one of our methods might just work for him.

He also asks Auryn how she came to know so much about his plans, and she reveals that this was an impression she got from the Humble Hook. Macbannin seems surprised, but adds that nothing happens without a reason, so this remnant of Triegenes might have chosen his new ally for a very specific one.

Regarding Nicodemus, we explain our knowledge to the other two: That he's an ancient spirit who simply possessed his current host, Andrei, who is also a very special person and a good friend of ours. Which is why we need to be absolutely sure that neither Haffkrüger nor Macbannin would really harm Andrei.

“Oh”, Macbannin responds, “now I understand. The feeling I had when I first saw him emerge from that box. Despite the fact that I am a ghost, I was shivering and in awe. As if this was 'the' Nicodemus, a person that could very well be his final incarnation.”

“Let's hope that he is not. Andrei has people who care for him. Who love him. We cannot let Nicodemus abuse him like that.” Auryn says. She then talks a bit more about their connection with the man and how they met him during that mad undercover trip. But when Auryn mentions the circumstances and that Andrei fought for first her new student and then herself, Haffkrüger/Gradiax appears to be more interested in the auction part than Andrei, so she ends this tale quickly.

(So it seems like he either still hasn't shaken off his predatorial behaviour or is playing mind games again. Needless to say that Auryn was very much disturbed by this sudden shift of focus, but she didn't want to drag Macbannin of all people into her personal struggles)

Regarding the other Obs, we manage to make Macbannin agree that we won't try to kill them but rather subdue and arrest as many of them as possible. They may not be able to talk about much if they got the Geas, but maybe there will be enough pieces of this puzzle to make a clearer picture. To achieve that, we stick to the plan of using the Lighthouse should there by happenstance be some of the blue oil we found in Knütpara.

After a while, Haffkrüger growls with discontent and mentally asks Carlyle why we're in for so much hassle if we could simply kill all of these bastards. At least that's what he'd prefer. Carlyle sighs a little, looks to Auryn and explains that King Aodhan explicitly asked to gain as much information about the Obs as possible, so if he wants to stay in the King's good graces, he should not go against his wishes. Plus, and this he stresses out with all seriousness, he'd personally consider him an enemy should he go on a murder spree among the Obs by himself.

(The way Carlyle stressed the last part out was meant as a statement on the verge of a threat. Not that I'd think Carlyle would consider Gradiax to think of him as a potential threat in the classical sense, but he does know that he's in high standing with King Aodhan. We don't know how the dragon received it though, but he did agree to the plan in the end)

We then ask Macbannin a bit more about the nature of his witch-curse. The mayor explains that the witches did fear the supernatural, so they developed a method to permanently eliminate a spirit or planar creature. When Auryn hears that, she concludes that this could include deva as well, as they harbor a supernatural touch and are reborn after each death. Macbannin then tells the tale about how he came to the curse as he found it with a mortally wounded man lying in a street near the Vantrys estate eight years ago.

This is when Kiov's skin turns a deathly white. When Auryn asks him what happened, he replies that he knows exactly what man Macbannin was talking about, as he was the one who wounded him.

“Eight years ago, this man and several others attacked the Vantrys estate. They killed Lady and Lord Vantrys... and me. But I did not go down without a fight. I've never found the reason why these men attacked the family, and now I am not really sure that the Vantrys were their true target. It could have been all my fault...”

Auryn looks very surprised by this revelation and places a hand on Kiov's shoulder.

"We don't know for certain. And it isn't your fault. But we'll follow that new clue, I promise.”

Carlyle nods sternly and then asks Macbannin whether he had any evidence of that incidence hidden inside his manor. The ghost shakes his head and adds that, after he studied the magic, he deemed it to be too dangerous to have it in his home. So he gave it to someone he could trust, the spirit of the Stag, Guardian of the Threshold.

“I'm sorry that I was so blind. I could have come to that conclusion by myself. I could have helped you back then. And now it is too late.”

“Don't blame yourself. I am glad even though it breaks my heart. And don't call it too late – do not do the mistake of underestimating us again.”, Carlyle says.

(Wow, that was some tough revelation. And the reason why all of our efforts to find the culprits had lead nowhere. Also... what the heck is that magic that even Macbannin is too afraid to keep? That man's home was full of dark tomes!

And of course, this will pay a heavy toll on Carlyle. To finally find a clue on the case that made him enter the RHC, only to find out that it might very well have been an attempt on his life that brought doom to the family he had protected for centuries.

Regarding Auryn, she was very well on the verge of going separate ways. But in that moment, she realized that Carlyle needed her, and she knew that she would never allow him to fall into darkness again. So she put away every thought that was stirring inside her for now)

After this shock, we agree that we'd need as many allies as possible if we want our plan to succeed. And the next and best candidate here would be Luc Jierre. So Carlyle casts a sending that doesn't reveal that we're already on this island but that asks the Jierre youngster about his current stance towards the Obs: He tells Luc that we haven't heard about him for a long period, so we are being a bit worried about his whereabouts. Also, should he have gained any useable information, we'd be more than happy to have it.

As Luc replies that this must have all been just one big misunderstanding and that the Obs are genuinely good people, we guess that despite all the evidence we've shown him and Ottavia, he still believes their lies. As we fear that he might have been indoctrinated further, we decide to not reveal our whereabouts and leave him out of the equation.

(That was a real bummer... we understand that he wouldn't be able to make an official statement, but that was a private sending, so we were pretty sure that he was still Team Obs)

Amidst our planning, we are being summoned to another gathering as the next vote is on schedule. Everyone attends again, and to our surprise the voting board now includes all of the new and changed proposals. Including ours. One by one the Obs cast their votes and in the end it seems as if our Brave New World could even get a small lead.

After this voting round has finished, Nicodemus speaks to all of us again. He thanks everyone present for having cast their vote to their best conscience. He then asks all officers who voted for Colossal Congress and Watchmaker-Watchmen to go to a separate room and closes the door behind them. We get an uneasy feeling from that sight, but stay focused on Nicodemus.

Nicodemus then turns to us to explain that those who left for the other room are a threat to the world as they are clearly only motivated by their selfish own gain. Such people, he says, only care for their own good and are not capable of making the world a better place for everyone. And as he had to talk a treacherous path full of backstabbing and betrayal for several centuries, he is left with no choice than to do whatever he can to prevent another catastrophe. Which means that he has to make sure that there will be no one to oppose the creation of a new, better world. Especially no one with the potential to be mighty and powerful.

Meanwhile, the lights turn blue and a familiar calmness surrounds us. As we're already used to this effect, we manage to not be affected but still allow Nicodemus to continue with his monologue. But as several ghosts start heading towards the room with the other Obs officers, we cannot simply watch while Nicodemus orders to have almost half his officers butchered.

(And this is where we were very much baffled that Nicodemus' choice of action was so very much alike our abandoned plan. Speaking of parallels, eh?)

“Stop it, Nicodemus! Please!” Livia shouts. “Wasn't it our idea to let everyone vote according to their own conscience? Wasn't it you who encouraged us to debate and to challenge our ideas? You were the one who told me to be brave and now it is you who fears his own comrades.”

Nicodemus looks very surprised at Livia as he didn't expect anyone to be able to move while being affected by the blue light.

“Yeah, ye promised me to shed light onto the murder of Ramos Zoltan and now yer the one who's 'bout to become a murderer! So much for the 'better world', bloody way to start it with a massacre!”

For a moment it seems as if we stirred something in Nicodemus, but he shakes his head and explains that they simply know too much to let them run free. With their knowledge, they will surely sabotage our efforts to set our Design in motion and try to gain control themselves. Which is why he, with great sorrow, sees no other choice.

“naughty word, you always have a choice!” Kiov bellows, followed by a reminder of Livia that Nicodemus told everyone that the Obs were hand-picked by himself, so their well-being falls into his responsibility.

“Just think about it, how can you claim to have the moral high ground, how can you deem yourself to be the 'true good person' if you kill those who think no less of themselves. As long as we are not able to deal with divergent opinions and ideas in a constructive way, we are no bit better than they are!”

But alas, it is in vain as Nicodemus' decision seems final. We're about to act, but are interrupted by Amielle, who draws her pistols and fires at Nicodemus. Who isn't really impressed by the hail of bullets. And as he appears to care for her, he tries to reason with her.

Which gives us the opportunity to intervene ourselves. Kiov opens the Absurdist's Web to fetch Carlyle's body while Livia, to everyone's surprise, casts an illusion spell that conjures the image of Isobel who calls out to Andrei to fight Nicodemus and regain control over his body. She then sings the first notes of the Song of Vekesh and turns to Nicodemus...

Wow, that's one hell of a flex on Nicodemus. (And if that colloquialism is unfamiliar, it basically means to show off, often for the purpose of cowing someone into submission.)


(Hah, thanks! Just the beginning of a pattern from this part on... our characters acknowledged that Nic has some pretty interesting, and even good ideas, but he always manages to screw them up at some point. If he'd just follow his own ethics more strictly...)

Crossroads, part 4: final parting

Meanwhile, one of the present ghostly conglomerate intervenes and erects a magical barrier between the group of Han Jierre, Vicemi Terio and Nicodemus to deflect Amielle Latimer's bullets and to protect the Ob officers from further interventions. Several ghosts enter the room where the non-BNW voting Obs are being held and it appears as if the Ghost Council, or maybe rather Terio, is about to execute Nicodemus' command on their own.

A few seconds later, we hear screams coming from behind the closed door, and we get that things are getting seriously bleak right now. Amielle is the first one to react as she ceases firing at Nicodemus and passes through the floor and the walls of the nearby room to help her fellow officers.

Nicodemus seems baffled at first at the appearance of the image of Isobel, but then something, or rather someone from inside of him sends his body shaking and keeps his eyes fixated at the image.

“Iso...bel. My...friends. You... will not... harm... won't... win!”

For a moment it appears as if the spirit of Andrei von Recklinghausen manages to gain the upper hand, and even his voice seems to be his own again. But then he shakes his head, points at the illusion and simply ends it by clenching his fist.

“What a pathetic nuisance. Terio, we're done here.”

(did anyone else feel reminded of the struggle between Hotaru and Mistress 9 at the end of the Sailor Moon season 3 arc? Well, unfortunately Andrei is only an X-Man and not the Guardian of Death and Rebirth ;)

As for the removal of Auryn's illusion... of course he was casting a still silent dispel magic. And yes, Tiz was as surprised as Nic at her choice of first action in this combat :D)

Vicemi Terio doesn't hesitate for a second as he erects a ward against teleportation on our side of the barrier and then escorts both Nicodemus and Han Jierre to a safe escape route. Meanwhile, Erskine Haffkrüger's eyes blaze with furious fire, but he manages to keep up his appearance as a semi-panicked dwarf.

“Lemme out! I'm too young to die!” he screams, runs towards the barrier and smashes at it violently with his bare fists. Bit by bit several other Obs officers who managed to shake off the blue light effect start pounding at the barrier, which gives the disguised dragon a perfect chance to hide in the crowd. And then he smashes the barrier for real.

(That guy... has to have such incredible strength. I know that dragons in ZG keep their stats even while in human guise – which I find pretty cool – but crushing a wall of force with one's bare hands is still a feat)

Margit aka Ken Don runs straight through the opening to go rescue the Obs under attack. She signals Amielle that “he” is on her side and that he's quite capable of channeling positive energy, so she'd better take cover.

Carlyle takes a while to shake off the confusing effect of switching to his real body again and Auryn quickly follows his lead by retrieving her own body from the web. As he wants to keep things under control right here, he asks Xambria to look after the Crisylliiri prisoner upstairs as another holy man could come in handy in defending against the ghost councilors.

Then Obscurati defense golems enter the scene, seemingly aggressive to everyone and we feel as if Nicodemus has decided to finally screw all of us after losing control of the situation. Fortunately, Macbannin arrives just in time and he's able to order the constructs to stop their advance and fight by our side. Next one to meet with us is Leone/Grappa who uses his powers to uproot the plate hidden underneath the beautiful floor which harbors a rune inscribed with a dimensional lock.

“Now you can move more freely, Mr. Carlyle.” he says and nods to Carlyle.

This leaves Cula Ravjahani as the one single senior officer who's left behind by Nicodemus and Han Jierre. After witnessing the fall of the magical barrier, she retreats swiftly to the garden area and draws her weapon, ready to defend herself against whoever may come her way. Carlyle, now fully back in control of his body, follows her and declares this convocation to be dissolved in the name of the RHC. He explains that he doesn't wish to hurt her, so she'd better give up and lower her weapon. She stubbornly refuses, enters a traditional eladrin battle stance and prepares to fight back. A reaction that is being met with a barrage of attacks from the blunt sides of two kukris.

A few seconds later, Auryn enters the scene as well and she calls to both to cease their attacks:

“Stop it, please! We're on the same side. None of us wishes to be part of this attempted mass murder!”

The she starts singing the first verses of the Dirge of Vekesh and this is what makes Cula listen for real this time.

“I am Auryn, daughter of Galadin, daughter of Kaealys, daughter of Launga, daughter of Kasvarina. And I doubt that the Matriarch would have wished for this bloodshed. So if you don't mind, I'd suggest we team up against these murderous ghosts” she says and points back inside.

Cula nods silently and finally joins our team against the Ghost Council assault. Together we meet with Ken Don and Amielle inside the room with the trapped officers. Ken Don's magic appears to be really powerful against the ghosts, but Carlyle also doesn't shy away from going up close with the conglomerates. In return, the ghostly abomination lashes out against him, an attack that is immediately retaliated by a twin fiery image of Srasama from both Cula and Auryn, who both take up against the singular councilors.

After a long fight, we manage to defeat the ghosts and save the frightened Obscurati officers. We quickly explain that not only did Nicodemus abandon all of “us”, he also called for their death, so they'd better be ready to face a few more hostile ghosts.

But we are soon being interrupted by a loud scream coming from upstairs. We get that this must be Xambria's new voice, so both Carlyle and Auryn make a beeline to the portal prisons. There, we are pretty surprised to see a shadowlisk and a ghost hovering over a black puddle on the ground. We see that this puddle is vaguely shaped like Xambria Meredith, so we instantly challenge both beast and master. As Auryn knows that neither Shadowlisks nor ghosts are particularly keen to be in bright sunlight, she starts a dance to conjure the divine light of Srasama while Carlyle starts a dimensional assault on both them.

The shadowlisk is totally surprised by this attack and Carlyle manages to slay it before a single ray of light touches its hide. The ghost however is almost blinded by the illumination and the two dissolve it with a combined attack. We then remember the tactic used by Macbannin to pull out the godhand from the shadowy puddle and retrieve our Dr. Meredith alive and only slightly hurt. After taking care of her wounds, we break the golden bonds of the portal dimension and enter the prison.

Auryn is the first to arrive before the cell of the Godhand who calls himself Vitus Sigismund. We introduce ourselves as RHC agents who came to gather information on the Obscurati convention but ended up in a vicious in-fight of the secret organization.

“No... this must be a trick. You are here to torture me again, aren't you?” the Godhand replies and insists that no one but the Clergy would be powerful enough to infiltrate this secret convention.

Carlyle gives him a quick laugh and reminds him that subterfuge has never been the true strength of the Clergy, hence why it were men like him who were trained to act as recon agents during the great wars. To which Vitus shakes his head again as he doesn't believe that of all people a “defect deva” and an “enemy fiend” would end up as a team in the RHC and claim to save him.

Auryn sighs at Vitus' arrogance.

Fine. I get it. You don't want us lowly creatures to release you. Then we'll take care of the rest and leave you to rot until you'll get eventually rescued by your oh-so-powerful Clergy. Seriously, we don't have time for this. There are people dying downstairs every second we keep wasting on you. What a fool I was to think that you could be of help...”

She and Carlyle then turn around and start releasing the other prisoners.

“Wait, what are you doing?! These are criminals! You cannot let them run free!” Vitus shouts from inside his cell.

“And we cannot let them die a horrible death inside the Bleak Gate either. We're RHC agents, we know how to keep an eye on criminals, so we're hardly 'letting them run free'.”

One by one we open the cells and are being met by confused, frightened but more or less gratuitous prisoners. Before we finally leave, Vitus eventually makes up his mind and decides that coming with us might be a better fate than staying here for all eternity. So we release him as well and keep a really close eye on him.

(Seriously, what is wrong with these guys? And yeah, Auryn's newfound big heart ends when Clergymen are involved. And dont't get me started on Carlyle. He would have gladly let him rot there)

We rush back downstairs only to see that the barrier dome to the Bleak Gate begins to falter and fall. Seeing this and the frightened Obscurati crowd finally seems to convince Vitus that this “rescue mission” might be for real, so he promises to fight alongside us against whichever Bleak creature may come at us. We fear that we may get overrun in time, so we contact the Impossible with our new ring powers and ask for an evacuation route from Mutravir – Bleak Gate side.

As we're kind of exposed inside the Palace and hope that Luc Jierre might be convinced that being on Nicodemus' side wasn't the best idea after all, we agree that we should retreat to the lighthouse and ask the Jierre scion to help us with possible defense mechanisms.

So we do our best to calm everyone down and explain that we'll have to go to a secure place until our vessel arrives. Yes, it will be an RHC vessel, but it will be a better fate than being drained by ghosts or Bleak Gate monsters. Bit by bit the Obscurati agree and we retreat to the lighthouse entrance.

There, we are being subjected to a rather unpleasant surprise as Vicemi Terio and parts of his ghost council apparently decided to stay behind and make sure that no one escapes this island.

“Now I understand why Kiov feared that Vicemi Terio like he was a literal demon” Carlyle mumbles and draws his Kukris.

“How pathetic. Time to let your measly attempt of a flight will finally come to an end. And now do me a favour and die!” and with these words, Terio immediately casts a necromantic spell at Carlyle.

Meanwhile, the ghost councilors are about to wreak havoc among the panicking Obs members. What neither Terio, not the council would have expected however was the fact that one of their own had decided to switch sides.

“I've waited so long for this moment. And I'll gladly return the favour, Vicemi Terio. Time for you to die.”

With these words, Macbannin draws his enchanted knife and stabs his own chest. In reaction, several ghost councilors writhe in pain, unable to make a single move. Terio, however, seems quite unaffected as he appears to be linked to yet another ghost conglomerate. As does Macbannin, who previously bonded his life force with ours.

Carlyle takes this sudden turn of events as an invitation to leash out against the vicious ghost. However, his attacks prove to be far less effective that he had hoped. Auryn joins him soon thereafter, visibly angry at Terios attempt at Carlyle's life. Erskine Haffkrüger summons a spell that locks ghosts in the tangible realm, increasing our effectiveness greatly. Terio tries to release his necromentic arsenal at Carlyle again, but this time Auryn has prepared for this to happen and so she manages to interrupt his spell, causing the magic to dissolve. Ken Don also remembers to use his suite of holy energy and channels healing spell after healing spell onto the ghosts.

This causes the conglomerate to spread all over the room, causing Ken Don to switch to channeling his holy power in a wider angle. Meanwhile, Macbannin continues to stab himself.

“Cursed council, I will make sure that all of you suffer horribly, just like I did! I will never forgive you for what you have done to my home, to my people! Die! Die, all of you!” he screams.

One by one, the councilors fall and dissolve. And finally, Terio decides that this situation may get out of hand if he continues to let Macbannin just do his thing. So he convokes his power as the founder of the Council and ejects the former Mayor from the Ghost Council.

“Finally... cornered.” Macbannin whispers. “Checkmate, Terio.”

Then he casts his curse upon the elder ghost and kills him.

“Now time to clean up the rest of them.”

(Just want to applaud Macbannin for his balls of steel. And we were really happy that he made it out of that without having to sacrifice himself. Without spoilerin too much, but this isn't the last time that we've heard from him.

As to why I called this parts "Crossroads"... just happen to be a big fan of the Avatar series and the Crossroads of Destiny episode was a pretty good inspiration. We, too, could have been on the same side and walked on the same path. But Nic didn't need any crazy, manipulative sister to make his face-heel-turn)


Shipping Fools

We continue our focus on the conglomerate while Xambria Meredith and Vitus Sigismund take on the singular ghosts. After a while, we manage to dissolve all ghosts and the conglomerate. This Council, it seems, would a thing of the past. Macbannin thanks us for our support and the opportunity to get out of this mess without losing his unlife.

We then move to the interior of the Lighthouse in search for Luc Jierre or Ottavia. Unfortunately, neither of them appears to be present. We spot a faint aura of teleportation magic and understand that someone must have brought them away from here earlier. So it is up to us to understand this planar mechanism and find a way to bring all of us back to our plane. Fortunately, we got quite the bunch of tech experts with us and so we manage to configure the lights in a way that would transition us back to where we came from. Which turns out to be easier than we thought - by simply using witchoil and reversing the process.

As this takes some time however, we use this time to gather all information, evidence and notes we can find inside the lighthouse. After a while, the darkness of the Bleak gate vanishes and we're standing in bright light once again. As soon as we're back in our world, we spot a vessel approaching the island.

But what appears to be our rescue at first glance turns out to be one of the Crisillyiri vessels we spotted patrolling the area. Ships which most likely are affiliated with the Obs. And soon we remember that we asked the Impossible to come to the Bleak Gate side, so we make hasty contact with our ship and ask the crew to come to our aid on the “real world” instead.

Some Ob officers among our group remember these ships as well and suddenly start running off towards the shore as they seem to wish to avoid capture at the hands of the RHC. We call them to stop their approach as this ship is clearly preparing for battle and run after them to stop the fugitives. Simultaneously, we also start hurling long-range spells at the ship to keep it from reaching the shore. Unfortunately, our worst fears come true and the vessel starts firing its cannons at the fleeing Obs officers.

"Come back, you fools! They want to eliminate all witnesses, no matter whose side you were on!” we shout after them and do our best to catch the more oblivious ones one by one and bring them back.

Still the Obs ship massacres several of the Obs officers without hesitation. This gives us at least a pressing argument for the rest of the group to stay with us as we promise to protect them from any killer squads the Obs (or more likely Nicodemus) may deploy next. Some officers are panicking however and so we fall back to calming magic and soothing songs to keep them all together.

After what feels like an eternity under heavy fire, we finally spot the Impossible emerging from the Bleak Gate. At the same time, the Crisillyiri ship sends landing troops who advance to our temporary hideout. So we team up with those Obs officers who seem capable of defending themselves and form a defense line for the more vulnerable targets. And as soon as we see that our ship is close enough to board it, we call for a swift retreat.

This time, we really thank our gut instinct that we planned with the fastest ship in the risuri fleet for our extraction route as the Impossible quickly catches on speed thanks to the help of the wind magic of several druids. The enemy vessel tries to keep up with Captain Smith, but we outmaneuver them easily. After a while, we can also spot several undersea vessels trying to follow our ship, but they cannot even come close. We do instruct the captain and his crew about these strange boats though and explain that one of our rescues might be able to tell us more about them.

It takes some time, but as soon as we're on the high seas, we appear to be safe for now. We first thank our dear Captain Smith for this swift evacuation and are then hailed by Vitus Sigismund, who'd like to talk about his safe passage to Crisllyir now that we're out of danger. Unfortunately for him, we have to decline his request as we cannot simply make a detour on what could be enemy waters as the last ships under Crisillyiri flag clearly wanted to kill us. Also, we would like to have some answers from him first and would prefer to question him alongside the other Obscurati at the RHC.

Of course, Sigismund is not too happy about the prospect of “being treated like a criminal”. But we just reply that after saving his life, he could at least try and help us bring some light into this shadowy conspiracy. Also, considering the fact that there were a lot of Crisillyiri among the Obscurati, we believe that taking a direct route to Crisillyir wouldn't be safe for him as well.

“How can you know what is safe for me and what isn't? This is the holy nation of Crisillyir you're talking about and I have to report to my senior Geneu Credetos. I have to protest this treatment!”

In return, Carlyle tries to calm Vitus Sigismund down by explaining that we, too, do have to abide the chain of command and it wouldn't be our place to decide on what to do with him as mere RHC agents. This, he says, is to be solved via an official, but safe diplomatic channel between our two nations as the situation is more than just delicate.

The Godhand cannot say much against this obviously logical objection. However, he is quite concerned about the security onboard, especially as several of the Obs might try to flee and he really doesn't want anyone of them to escape justice. Being quite unnerved at this point, we promise him that we're quite capable of keeping people prisoner on a vessel we're quite familiar with, thank you. But if he insists, we can offer him to walk freely onboard (under surveillance of course!) and keep an eye on the other prisoners. Regarding their future treatment, we explain that we'll jail the Risuri and will contact the other nations regarding a possible rank of conspirators among their populace. After all, we say, as long as we cannot prove that they did commit crimes against Risur or its citizens, we'd better let their officials handle the legal affairs as the last thing we'd want is a war over a couple of imprisoned Obs.

“Well, the Crisillyiri will face the swift and just punishment of our Judicars, that's for sure”, Vitus says.

To which we respond that he surely does have a stern belief in the system and structure of his nation. And also add that he maybe should think about the fact that a lot of Ob officers do indeed stem from Crisillyir. So if that many people wish for a better world, then that might actually mean something. Also, we found at least one Cardinal, a librarian, and a nobleman among the Obs, so maybe the Obs have already taken deeper roots than he thought.

(Backing out of the choice to release Vitus Sigismund was a really clever intervention from Carlyle. We didn't want him to get off leash too quickly after him showing that he's just as ungrateful and arrogant as all the other Clergymen we've met so far. So maybe lettimg him cool down in our cells while the diplomats handle this situation - slowly - will humble him a bit.)

During our trip home, we contact our own harbor in Flint, as well as Delft and the officials in Slate. We make sure to stress out that Han Jierre is among the Ob leadership and that therefore all of Danor might be an integral part of the Conspiracy. Also, we got Catherine Romana, who is another high-ranking Ob officer, as our prisoner.

Then we send a sending to Asrabey and warn him that the Obscurati managed to track him to his presumed hiding spot, so he'd better be on alert for Nicodemus' agents trying to get back Kasvarina as the Ob leader hasn't given up on her yet. Asrabey is grateful for this warning, but replies that they are currently residing in a very safe space right now.

Last but not least, we send a magical message to Luc Jierre and ask him if everything is alright as we just found out that Nicodemus tried to kill all participants of the Obscurati Convocation and we're being worried for his safety. Luc replies that his situation is rather complicated right now, but he is alive and well. Still he cannot give us more details right now. We really don't know what to do with this message as he could be either extremely worried but under pressure from his family, be too afraid to just join us, or still be delusional about the Obscurati's true intentions.

So we decide to play it safe and not give him any more information. Still we got hope that he may some day have a change of heart and call us once the dust has settled.

(Luc's stance just remained a big mystery for so long. Honestly, I would have crossed my fingers for him being terribly afraid of his family for Luc has genuinely good intentions, he knows Andrei from our railway trip and wouldn't be content with Nic abusing him like that, and he doesn't have any reason to believe we were lying to him about the attempted massacre on Mutravir)


On difficult terrain

Back in Flint, we use pretty dense security measures to bring all of our prisoners to the RHC for further questioning. We spend the next couple of days writing reports and interviewing all of the Obscurati, especially the higher-ups. Of course, we quickly and discreetly release Erskine Haffkrüger and Ines Shalubi.

(This... must have really lead to some overcrowded cells...)

This way, we learn that nearly every Obs cell has been visited by Kasvarina at least once, so she may just be our best bet for finding someone with a full picture of the Obs' knowledge. We do find a few more puzzle pieces, but all in all the cells have acted pretty independently. Catherine Romana is quickly brought to the RHC headquarters in Slate, as the Lord Inspector himself wishes to take care of this important catch.

As we get that finding out more about Kasvarina might be the next logical step, we spend quite some time with Cula Ravjahani, who totally understands that she'll have to stay in our cells for quite some time as she is technically a person without citizenship. She appears to be fiercely loyal to Kasvarina, who is both her mentor and some sort of mother-figure. In this position, she doesn't really care whether Kas would be siding with Nicodemus or not, she'll just follow with whatever path her Matriarch chooses. All that she knows is that Kasvarina and she are both Vekeshi who devoted their lives to fighting injustice and protecting the weak and innocent.

“So she's your Matriarch in the most elfaivaran sense possible. That explains a lot.”, Auryn says.

“We're not so different, you and I. We walk the same path, we both believe in the teachings of Vekesh. And I do want to help my ancestor Kasvarina regain her memories so she can make her own choices. But that means that I'll have to protect her from Nicodemus' influence, as I am pretty sure that he simply wants his Kasvarina back, regardless of what she'd want. I hope you understand that we cannot let you run freely as long as this situation is so unclear. But I do promise that we will help Kasvarina find herself.”

To that Cula nods with a faint smile, as she'd of course prefer to be able to rush to her mentor's side. We promise her that we'll return with Kasvarina as soon as she is ready to meet her again, which brightens her mood a bit more.

We then talk to Livia Hatsfield, whose consciousness had been dormant during the whole convocation. We ask her to explain her motives for spying on our King in her own words and she tells us that she had been loyal to Duchess Ethelyn as she had shared her skepticism for the too quick industrialization of Risur. Being a half-elf who had spend most of her life in tune with nature and with Fey, she of course values these aspects of our culture very highly and feared that they'd be thrown under the bus for progress' sake.

However, she was horrified when she learned that Ethelyn had tried to kill her own brother, so she was quite open for the idea of improving the world once an Obs agent made contact with her. Most of all it had been curiosity that drove her deeper into the organization's arms as she wanted to know more about their concrete plan. But then, she began having second thoughts. Which is why she crafted her contingency should she not return from her trip to the convocation.

As she didn't experience said event herself, we quickly explain her what had happened on Mutravir and add that at least her gut feeling had been right. Still, even if she made sure to contact the Principal Minister, she'll have to make amends for her involvement within the conspiracy. Even if the information she passed on had not been crucial and simply based on natural principles of Risur. We then suggest that she'd better be not so naive to make the same mistake of being too dewy-eyed thrice in a row.

Since we now also know what happened to Andrei, we take on the heavy duty of informing Isobel about her boyfriend's whereabouts. First, we're quite surprised to see of all people Shealis (aka Teraklir) sitting in Auryn's old living room, drinking spiced tea with Isobel. She mumbles that she was just getting bored being all alone in this huge home with no servants and with no courses being currently held in Pardwright. So she thought she could maybe teach that “other girl” a lesson or two about growing a spine.

Of course, both Auryn and Carlyle are worried, but at the same time also a bit relieved to hear that the dragon teen didn't use her free time to cause trouble. Still we have to tell Isobel the dire news of Andrei being abducted by the same people we've been after the whole time. The young Eladrin immediately bursts into tears and Auryn does her best to comfort her. We do promise to do everything to find and rescue Andrei, but that doesn't help with the fact that we're most likely be forced to leave Isobel all alone again.

(This is... really tough for her. She must feel terrible knowing that she cannot do anything to help the one person she had developed feelings for while Andrei had done so much for all of us. Leaving Isobel like this just didn't feel right at all

Also, we were really surprised to see Teraklir actually do something for us. We were both wary of her presence, but thought that having her close would be far better than letting her go unchecked.)

Later that day, we're being summoned to an “inofficial council meeting” in Slate and we understand that our messages and reports on the convocation must have had quite the impact in the capital. So we teleport to Slate and meet in one of the warded conference rooms of Torfield Palace. Participants besides Delft, whom we brought with us, are of course King Aodhan and Principal Minister Lee, as well as Lord Inspector Price-Hill and an unknown “expert” of the Risuri Secret Service. One look closer reveals that this one must be a new alias of Gradiax as Lee is constantly exchanging stares with him.

Lee opens the meeting by asking us to recapitulate the events of the convocation, including the Grand Design of the Obscurati and ending with the prevented Massacre on Mutravir. King Aodhen, Lee, Price-Hill and Delft are both astounded and deeply worried by the news of an ancient mechanism with control over our planar layout. Especially as the Obscurati are now seemingly equipped with the means of changing said configuration. Aodhan states that these are disturbing news indeed as the simple existence of this device could shake up the political landscape of Lanjyr and create more conflict than ever before, so for now it would be of utmost importance to keep it a secret.

We all agree that the Obscurati most likely haven't thought through every possible effect this could have on the world down to a local level. Regarding Risur, we discuss a few consequences of planar altering and immediately see that losing Av would probably cause the nation to fall into chaos as the effects on the Fey and the Dreaming are unforseeable and most likely dramatic.

Regarding the fall of the planar barrier, we also stress out that this one is a pivotal part of our world's defense against the Gidim or the Demons, but it seems as if we're the only two participants who are really scared of losing the ward. We then discuss possible reactions of the Titans, including a simultaneous wakening of all of them, but Lee and Aodhan explain that even the Dragon's Fall didn't cause any Titan to cause more trouble than usual, so this would be the least of our worries.

Fortunately, we can reassure King and RHC officials that hopefully none of this won't happen even if the Obscurati succeeded with their plan as we made sure that the BNW setup would include Av. So all in all, the biggest threat to the world and Risur would lie in a falsely conducted ritual. We add that this is what could have damaged Avilona and caused the Dragon's Fall 200 years ago, so such a failure might still be dangerous.

In reaction to this, the “expert” clears his throat and adds: “Taking all this into consideration, I would suggest that no one attempts any alteration on the current configuration. This is the world we were all born into, and we shall leave it as it is.”

The others seem very much in line with this statement as they nod their heads in agreement.

“I'm sorry, your Majesty, but I have a slightly different perspective.”, Auryn injects.

“This configuration is one that was chosen by the Ancients to meet their needs. It is by no means perfect or ideal, in fact this world has many flaws. And we are not the Ancients. The people of Lanjyr are suffering and I have not yet heard a convincing reason why we should be bound to leave it this way for all eternity. Our plan is a good one, that would bring only improvements. I know that the ritual itself may be dangerous, and we shouldn't leave it in the Ob's hands. But we shouldn't dismiss it so easily.”

Suddenly, all eyes are on Auryn with looks ranging from suspecting an Ob in disguise to just being really surprised. It takes a few seconds of silence until Carlyle adds his thoughts to this bold statement:

“No matter how we think about the Plan, there is one fact we should definitely consider: The world we are living in is not our world's 'natural state'. So whoever claims that 'it has always been that way' is making a false statement. Before the Ritual, our world was without primary planar influence, but also without a planar ward against outside invasion. I don't wish to advocate that we should return to this state, but our current situation is a constructed one as well.”

“I understand. But for now, we shall leave our world as it is. And you will do everything in your power to stop the Obs from completing the ritual.” Aodhan finishes the discussion while nodding to the “expert”.

Of course we accept the final word of the King, leaving a strange gut feeling with Auryn. Carlyle then asks the King whether he'd prefer a new configuration or a complete dissolution of the ritual should we be left with no choice but to make an alteration, to which Aodhan decides that he'd rather have a more or less stable new order than a possibly fatal loss of all planar bonds.

We then talk about Macbannin's return as a ghost, and it seems as if King Aodhan is both surprised and glad to have him back in Flint. He says that after all what he's seen and heard about Reed Macbannin, this one must be one of the most loyal souls he has ever met, even if he's going to have a hard time returning to the Nettles. Regarding this, we suggest to not switch the title of Mayor back to Macbannin, as the people of the Nettles might have a hard time accepting a ghost. However, we believe that he would make a really good counselor for Mayor Smith as no one knows more about witch magic and witchoil than Reed Macbannin. Even though this would mean to expose his soul to the darkness that is Cauldron Hill again.

Regarding our Obscurati prisoners, King Aodhan states that we kind of put him in a diplomatic corner by arresting all of these possibly high-ranking citizens of foreign nations. He cannot risk making the arrests public as he doesn't want to have the beans spilled about the conspiracy yet. So his diplomats will be in for a tough time of clearing up the situation. Still he is glad that we gave Risur the opportunity to gather more information through interrogation. For Danor, he shakes his head in disappointment now that he can be sure that everyone in the Jierre family is somehow involved in the Obscurati. Which in turn means that the peace he and Lya had been working towards has suddenly been pushed far away as he doesn't know whether he can trust anyone from Danor anymore.

King Aodhan then puts out our reports on the interrogation of the Obs to decide on our next tasks. He explains that everything we've heard would pinpoint to a single Obscurati member who might be willing and able to talk: Kasvarina. As she is one of the architects of the Grand Design and also Nicodemus' confidant, unlocking her knowledge might be the turning point of this conflict. Also, Nicodemus himself might be after her, so she must be of great value to him and the organization and we mustn't let her fall into his hands.

We reply that we'd wanted to suggest the same plan as well as we are also really worried about what could happen to all of us, including Kas should she eventually return back to the Obscurati.

“That must not happen and that is why I would entrust no one but you with this mission: You have to bring her to our side. As an ally of Risur, Kasvarina would be invaluable and give us the edge we need against Nicodemus and the Ob.”

Of course this doesn't sit right with either of us. But as Auryn already butted her head with King Aodhan on the matter of the Grand Design, she just shifts uncomfortably and bites her tongue.

“I beg your pardon, my King, but trying to bring a person of her current mental state 'on our side' would be nothing less than mental manipulation. We'd be no better than those henchmen of the Mad King who recruited the newly reborn Deva into their ranks. That much you should know before you make your final decision on that matter.” Carlyle finally replies with an unusually worried and cautious voice.

Aodhan takes a deep breath before nodding to himself in reassurance.

“I understand your objection, but our hands are bound. And if there is no other way to unlock the secrets of the Obscurati, then you have to use everything in your power to get it.”

To this, both Auryn and Carlyle nod with a stoic, but very much resentful expression. Before we finally leave the meeting, Auryn states that Kasvarina is still a part of her family whom she won't betray, so she will do her best to help her ancestor find back to herself and her own path, free from Nicodemus' influence. That, she adds, would be all that needs to be done. We then bid everyone farewell and explain that we're going to contact Asrabey and have him lead the way to Kasvarina.

(That surely didn't go so well. I wonder if someone suspected that one of the Duo could go rogue. Maybe Lee, but after the rather unorthodox relationship of King Lorcan and Dame Melissa I think he's already used to tension.)

Andrew Moreton

It's interesting that your assesment of Nicodemus is pretty much the same as my players. But your party did make the morale choice I expected my players too, possibly my biggest suprise was when they made no effort to save the Ob officers. Instead just rescuing the God Hand and escaping, they were never sure if it was the right thing to do or not he was a fanatic which made him useful against the Ob but they knew it would come back to haunt them and it did.

I look forward to the decisions about the planar alignments , it is interesting that at this stage my players were solid for the planar barrier but in the end decided to abandon it. Although as a group they were at this stage less keen on staging things than you were .


Trying to rescue the Obs was definitely a risk, and not part of the mission, so I totally understand how your party made their choice. And yep, we also didn't know whether rescuing Vitus was going to fall back on us someday as to this point we've never met a decent Godhand. Tiz' personal dislike for rigid religious authorities might have played into their portrayal, but there they were and we already did our best to help Gene, so... ;)

Our real assessment of Nic started to really take form during adventure 8 when we learned more about his past. He's a very complicated man who can be utterly charming and benevolent, who has brilliant but slightly delusional ideas and who unfortunately has more than just a few streaks of narcism and unscrupulousness in his personality.

Regarding the planar barrier and our planar plans... well, this duo loved to have more than one backup plan and usually tries to play it as safe as possible. We even got one backup just in case the ritual goes completely awry and our world ends up shattered in the Gyre graveyard...

Andrew Moreton

I think my players also had a greater concern about Nicodemus being in a position to fight which made the balance of threat seem bad to them.
I also liked Macbennin managing to survive, he was banished to they Gyre in my game but like you the players felt he had proved himself a loyal patriot so they made sure to erect a statue to him to honour his memory.
Nic is a very interesting villain very much a man with grand anf good objectives but the problem lies in implementing them his methods and his competence are both suspect, a nice change from the usual villains.


A future uncertain: My dearest friend

Once we're back in private, Carlyle stresses out that he won't the one to manipulate Kasvarina as this would just be wrong and against everything he believes in. So he asks Auryn to stay true to her creed as well as he knows that she is quite adept at influencing other people, which is really not a big deal with regular people but could prove to be fatal with someone who's in such a blank state.

In response, Auryn looks at Carlyle with wide, disbelieving eyes.

“Of course I won't use my powers on her. How can you believe that I would use my family as a tool? We're on the same side here, all I want is to help her remember what she has lost. I fully trust in our familial bonds and my ability to bring her light and happiness so she can see that she didn't lose everything when Grappa wiped her memory.”

She then falls quiet until we return back to Flint. There, Auryn brings up the subject of the attack on the Vantrys estate again and points out that Macbannin had given his evidence to “the Guardian”, so we should maybe contact Dawkins before we leave. Oh and don't you dare try to brush off the matter again, Gabriel.

(One way of exiting out of the Kasvarina and her troubles with Carlyle topic ;) )

Carlyle seems content with this short detour and so Auryn tries to send a sending to Dawkins to announce our coming visit to his home. However, she gets no reply from her friend and her face turns to ashen white as this had been exactly how the troubles with Andrei and his disappearance had begun.

So we both hurry to the Dawkins estate to ask if everything is alright with the Rear Admiral. Fortunately, Milena is present and can give us an all-clear as dear Morris just had yet another exacerbation of Yerasol-Malaria and is currently sleeping. She is a bit worried though as he has never had symptoms this severe, but the doctor was quite sure that he'll suffer no lasting damage.

Just as she finishes this sentence, we hear rumbling noises from upstairs. So Milena gives us the permission to enter Morris' room as she understands that we would clearly want to see him. Once we enter his room, we find Morris at full consciousness, albeit in a weak condition. He smiles slightly as soon as he sees us and excuses himself for being unable to get up yet even though he wishes he'd be in his office right now.

We explain that we just returned from a delicate mission, but have certain information we'd want to share with him. Then, we tell him about the weakened seal of Macbannin and that we found the root and probably the solution for this problem: Macbannin himself. Or rather his ghost. This give Dawkins a good laugh, as this would have been the most logical explanation of all. Then we explain the matter of the Planar Seal and how it came to be. Now this is something that worries Dawkins deeply, but he asks us to continue first as we clearly got more to tell him first.

So we ask him whether he would still have some dark information from Macbannin he had found with a dying man several years ago. Dawkins raises an eyebrow in return as if he had never thought that someone would ever mention these documents again.

“Yes, I still keep them safely stored. But alas, I gave that man the promise that no matter what I would only hand them out on his direct, personal request. So please understand that I would need something from Macbannin that qualifies as that sort of 'request'”

Of course we understand that such matters are quite serious for people like him, so we agree to get a written permission from Macbannin for the documents. Dawkins then explains why he would be so worried regarding the Planar Seal: One day ago, he was struck with an intense pain and the feeling as if the threshold between our world and the Dreaming was on fire. He collapsed, but in his subconscious mind, he then remembered that pain from a previous incarnation who had felt the same fire two centuries ago.

We put the pieces together and explain that it is very likely that two hundred years ago, some Obscurati might have tried to manipulate the seal and failed, which caused the dragons to lose their flight. So someone could already be at the ritual location and make first tests for the real one.

“This... also reminds me of an ancient, mythical tale of the Dreaming. One that existed before my first self was even born. Once there was a time when the Dreaming was limitless, borderless. We were and we were all that was. If what you say about the original state of this world is true, then maybe there is more to that myth than we thought...” Dawkins muses.

“Those must have been days of wonder... oh how I wish to see the world through the eyes of my youth again. So much that we have left behind. How I miss being simply the Commander of the Aurora, sailing with my crew to unknown shores. It was then when I first met you, my dear. I remember it like it happened yesterday”

With these words, Morris gently touches Auryn's cheek, a gesture that she promptly returns by placing her hand on his and smiling with her warmest of smiles.

“Just get well soon. And then we'll make sure to voyage again one day.”

“...and the first time I've seen your dance... even though you're standing right beside me, I can see you clearly prancing through the ballroom, turning everyone's heads.”

He laughs again softly and Auryn promises that next time she will be in Flint and not be on a pressing mission, she will return here and dance just for Morris Dawkins, her dear friend. But for now, we have to find Kasvarina and will be leaving the country soon. Dawkins wishes us good luck and adds that he'll make sure he's in his office and back to work soon.

Just as we're about to leave, we both suddenly see the brief vision of a radiant figure floating amidst a raging storm. We then go downstairs and say goodbye to Milena who is clearly not happy that everyone is so obsessed with work that they neglect their personal needs. And the moment we're finally leaving the estate, she briefly takes Carlyle aside and asks him in a whisper whether Auryn is alright as she seems strangely distant, like she was slowly erecting a wall around her.

“I know you two are close, and I am happy for you. But... something isn't right. She is more vulnerable than you'd think, and she needs someone she can open up to. I know now that Morris has always been that person for her, but with you being away on missions and all of that, I fear that we all might lose her...”

Carlyle seems a bit surprised at first, but he then nods to Milena and thanks her for her interesting insight. He then catches up with Auryn and as soon as they have left the estate, says that he is quite worried about Morris' condition. When Auryn replies that Morris is quite used to this depletion of his power and has always recovered from his fevers, Carlyle explains that something is different this time, something he had seen quite a few time in his long, previous life: That a person would become strangely sentimental and reminiscent near the end of their lifespan. As if they were looking back fondly at their memories to relive them just once more.

Auryn reacts pretty shocked to this revelation and doesn't know what to say. Instead, she just shakes her head in disbelief.

“No, no, this cannot be. He is so... strong, I've never seen anyone like him, and it is not like he's an old man yet. He has always recovered and I do believe with all of my heart that he will recover this time as well. I... don't want to think about living without him.”

Carlyle takes Auryn's hand in response as he understands that right now she doesn't even want to consider the possibility that this incarnation of the Old Stag may come to an end in the not too far future.

“I didn't want to frighten you. And what do I know about the lifespans of mortal fey incarnations? He may be decades away from his parting.”

(Remember her troubles with death? Imagine how the death of someone who is very dear to Auryn would affect her. She managed to deal with people dying, but just thinking about a friend's death gives her shivers)

With these last words, we return to our home without bringing up the subject again or even speak another word at all.

(What a way to finish adventure 7! Told you, it would end on a rather low key. Most of their personal issues will be resolved in the next bridge episode, so I won't talk about the background of this too much.

So, what can I say about this module from our perspective as players? Overall, we were really excited to finally get some background on the Obscurati plans. And my, what bold plans do they have! Nicodemus' revelation of the planar seal at the convocation and the whole crazy planar shenanigans of Lanjyr being connected to this were bombastic ideas. And as this was already revealed midway through the campaign, it opened up myriads of possible directions the campaign could take. I just wish that more modules would allow themselves to be as bold as this, as you'd usually see such a big reveal only during the final adventure.

I also very much enjoyed the portrayal of Nicodemus here, as we got to experience many facets of his persona. Usually, you can rarely get up close with your antagonist and by letting us play as his confidents, we were able to see both his softer spots and his deep flaws. From a storytelling point of view, this was just a fantastic move. I also really loved how our characters and the antagonists compare (especially Nic and Kas), and are very much similar to some extend. This was purely coincidental, but it also added a lot of depth and would, I believe, very much work in a novelized version.

What also worked really well was Tiz' use of additional material and letting us just do our thing at the convocation. From my personal perspective as a player, this was very much needed and staying sctrictly on script would have frustrated both of us. We know that the main point of the convocation is exposition, but the players need to be able to have more impact if they want to. This included the addition of a list of the actual planes that are used in each proposal, and a rough description of what they are doing in this setup. Again thanks to @arkwright for providing the list. Which was necessary to make our own improvements on the Miller's Pyre setup and develop the Brave New World plan. Also, ideally the future changes of the world would reflect on the results of the final vote of the convocation, of course with a twist as Nic doesn't know whether or not he's been duped into accepting a proposal with a backdoor from the RHC agents. But I get that this would be hard to implement as there could be a large number of likeable outcomes.

What was a bit disappointing was the role of Luc Jierre, or rather the lack thereof, and I get that this was due to the combined effect of the module being unsure whether he was still alive, switched sides or stayed loyal to the Ob at this point and the fact that Tiz didn't want to screw things up by having too many wild-cards, so he focused more on the "big ones" like Gradiax, who I believe deviates a lot from his original at this point. I truly believe that ZG, even though it would be much harder to implement corretly, could have benefitted from the more free floating choices of WotBS, like with the appearance and stance of Shalosha. A sentence or two would have been enough to give the DM a bit more direction on a possible recurring character here. Same with Lya Jierre.

Oh and in retrospect, I am a bit amused that the players obtaining the Humble Hook is really brushed over at that point. Usually, we were expected to turn in any kind of treasure we found to the officials. And we found this invaluable artifact on an official mission from our enemy faction. By real RAW, I suppose we were to hand it over to Delft, but... none of us really thought about it as that Hook clearly wanted to stay with Auryn. I love these kinds of "growing" artifacts by the way :) )
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Yeah, I really love your duo's dynamic and how it has parallels with Nicodemus and Kasvarina.

And now you're going to Elfaivar. I've actually sent the Elfaivar section of the upcoming setting book to a sensitivity reader who has a PhD in Indian literature, because I'm eager not to fall into bad tropes, and I recognize I exoticized the place previously.

In the meanwhile, I'm about to start a short online game set in Elfaivar - nothing too serious; it just has a fair bit of ruined old cities that are good for adventuring. The plot I have in mind involves a group of Clergy bounty hunters pursuing a murderer who is seeking refuge among the enemies of the Clergy, and happens to stumble across a demiplane magical workshop from old Elfaivar that requires three keys to open. The search for those keys will take the PCs to the three main factions of new Elfaivar, and they'll have a chance to decide the fate of the (charming, helpful) fugitive murderer, as well as which faction gets their hands on the workshop, which can create beings like the ten-headed lion of Sentosa.


Ooh, that sounds interesting! I guess that the adventure is meant to be set in your post-ZG setting? So I'm pretty curious to see which "default world" you would envision after the events of the original campaign. It will most likely differ a lot from ours though in my headcanon it could be possible to have (and toy with) multiple universes each with their own "new Lanjyr". (I've been a bit on a Star Trek trip lately but one could easily envision even something as crazy as a mirror-Lanjyr where Elfaivar has won the Great War, the Vekeshi are a secret police agency and Risur is the aggressor in the Risuri-Danoran conflict while Miller and Millerism reformed Crisillyir into being a tolerant beacon of hope for humanity)

The ten-headed lion was a pretty neat creation and would have been a far longer (still memorable) encounter if not for the quick intervention of Asrabey and Carlyle. And yep, our second trip to Elfaivar was a real highlight.

Using a sensitivity reader is a good idea as well. I didn't find anything too obvious, but as a central european, I am no expert on Indian culture, and our own vision of the region was highly influenced by my own ideas which were formed when I had only access to the PG (which mentioned both India and Japan, if I remember correctly). So I guess we didn't have the 100% by the book Elfaivar anyway. For me, there were only two aspects that didn't fit as they used a bit problematic tropes: The original Ananta Paudha, which would on top have allowed any man, not just Eladrin to visit it (no, just... no! I'll explain more details about everything wrong with this element in the Sentosa chapter) and the "fallen Naaru syndrome" where you'd have more far more female Eladrin NPC than male ones up until adventure 8.

For my own design preferences, I tend to borrow, maybe reference, but not directly carbon-copy ideas from existing cultures and I try to avoid borrowing too many negative or stereotypical aspects. Like, say, referencing the story of Draupadi, or aspects of a traditional Hindu wedding ceremony, like the holy flame or the vows. Also, the original (fantasy) content needs to be larger than the referenced material. In the end, my parts of the reagion were based on the question how a non-european, but still fey-touched society could work that went from being pretty egalitarian and slightly xenophobic to a utalitaristic matriarchy after the turbulent events of the Malice. Still don't know what a person with an indian background would think of it.
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Andrew Moreton

Basing any part of any fantasy setting off a real world culture is complicated. I am totally insensitive to the usual fuss about this but I still think it is complicated because of the difference between reality and the fantasy world. In this case firstly the Eladrin are not human which means particularly given their long lifespan their culture will be different than any human culture, next Gods and Magic are real and demonstrable this will have a huge effect on the culture and make it differ from its real world analog. Belief in your faith is one thing but works very differently when your priest can actually perform miracles. As each RW culture we look at is derived from many changes and permutations over the years these are going to be so different when the nature of the world is so different, in particular the changes to religions and their replacement with new ones is going to be a lot harder when the priests can talk to their god and call on his power.

The past few years, I've played in a series of RPG campaigns using the Legend of the Five Rings setting (L5R, which is yes, probably what my brain was thinking about when I came up with the name Elfaivar). That setting is basically fantasy feudal Japan, complete with its own version of Bushido, cultural conventions that are pretty similar to what we typically see in 'samurai cinema' (even if that was only the norm during a century or so), and the whole aesthetic of katana, kimono, origami, and so on. It even uses some actual Japanese deities as 'fortunes' you can get blessings from. And yeah, the game is created primarily by white men in America.

But I haven't heard anyone complain about it (or at least, the current edition) as being insensitive or mocking. It uses cultural touchstones westerners are familiar with and introduces elements many Americans and Europeans might not know about, and then uses that as a jumping off point for telling stories about characters who are as real and believable as you'd see in any other setting. It doesn't seem to be derogatory to Japan, or trying to suggest that this fantasy world is somehow indicative of what modern Japanese people are like -- no more so than if, say, someone made a Downton Abbey RPG, and played to the tropes of that show.

I contrast that a bit with, say, how Pathfinder handled their 'Africa' analogue in the original setting guide. It was basically two biomes: knock-off Egypt (complete with the literal gods of Egypt) and 'darkest Africa' (a big jungle, with a 'Gorilla King,' and a few lost cities). In the second edition they've made an effort to actually, like, populate it with extant civilizations that are actually connected to the rest of the world and not just exotic backwaters.

When I designed ZEITGEIST originally, Elfaivar certainly was the least developed, and I hope as I try to correct that, the result doesn't look artificial or inconsistent with the rest of the world. You finished the campaign, right? Well, don't spoil the ending for me (haha), but in the canon we're going with, someone chose to resurrect the women killed in the Great Malice, which has three main consequences:

1. Internally, Elfaivar goes from having a sex ratio skewed in favor of men to something like a 10:1 ratio in favor of women.

2. Internationally, Elfaivar now is able to defend itself, and other countries don't know how to respond to the sudden shift in power, especially since they're not sure how fast the elves (this is 5e, so eladrin are back to being elves) will become a great power.

3. Politically, there's
a. one faction led by Athrylla that feels that Vekeshi's philosophy succeeded, and so the right course of action is to rejoin modern global society as a peer nation, open to trade and new technology;
b. and one faction led by a resurrected young woman named Adin who wants to reclaim lost territory through a mix of military alliances (with Risur and Danor) and military conquest (against Crisillyir and its colonies), while trying to rekindle traditional culture and rejecting modern industry;
c. and a final faction led by a very aged Dhebisu (who had the magical arsenal) who wants to keep the country a bit cut off from the rest of the world, encouraging the sense many foreigners have of Elfaivar being mysterious and unknowable, all while using underhanded tactics to put potential rivals against each other while Elfaivar regains its strength.

Anyway, don't let me deflect from your story.


Ah yes, L5R... I don't know too much about it, but Tiz is a huge fan of the setting and the system. While I'm very obviously an anime fan, play JRPGs and am interested in japanese culture, I've never been drawn towards it. Maybe because the closeness is too much for my personal taste (I'd also never wanted to play in a game world that's too reminiscent of, say, the Holy Roman Empire or the Crusades, even though I would play Downton Abbey or Jane Austen. Which is weird, I know ;) )

And no worries, I am quite interested in your canon future and some parts look quite familiar.


A future uncertain: Gabriel and Auryn

As soon as we return back to Carlyle's house in Stray River, he asks Auryn what's wrong with her as she is clearly not her usual self right now. But she just shakes her head and says that she's worried about Morris Dawkins' health and fears that there might be some truth in what Gabriel said earlier.

“I understand.” Gabriel replies, “but that's not all. And I am not the only one who sees that you are acting distant and troubled. Would you tell me about it?”

He then leads Auryn to a comfy couch and quickly brews a herbal tea. Auryn stays silent for a few moments, and then explains that to her, everything seems uncertain right now. To such an extend that she fears she cannot paint a clear picture of her future anymore. She states that wherever she may be heading now could lead her to both the brightest happiness and the deepest misery, and this is really frightening to her. She then adds that on top of that, after all that has happened during the last couple of days, she is being torn between “Risur” (or rather King Aodhan and his orders) and Elfaivar (or rather her family).

“I already thought it would affect you that way.”

“But that's not all. I thought about my stance, and came to the conclusion that my whole existence, the reason why I was born, was to secure our people's survival. It is my duty to give my all for the Eladrin, even if that meant that I have to sacrifice everything. So... under the worst circumstances, we may even find ourselves on different sides, and that thought breaks my heart. Even though I know that this is very unlikely and I do hope that this will never happen as I love Risur and I consider it to be my new home.”

Carlyle lets this sink in for a while. Then he replies that he can see where she is coming from and that her arguments are nothing he can dismiss. However, he asks her to consider that as an RHC agent, and sort-of confidant of the King, she has gained insight into some very deep secrets of the state, inside knowledge that would be able to harm Risur should she choose to side with Elfaivar and be in conflict with Risur.

“I'd even go so far to say that you could be potentially dangerous for Risur with all that knowledge. I don't see you going there, as not everyone manages to pass the loyalty check of the RHC, but if you really fear that you may break with Risur, you should seriously consider quitting before it is too late.”

She takes a heavy breath before directly stating that she doesn't wish to head into that direction and merely trying to assess the extreme possibilities. Which means that she by no means wishes to choose between the two nations. It is just that the last meeting with King Aodhan gave her reasons to think about her own stance. But that, if all was in her own hands, she'd do everything to forge a close bond between Risur and Elfaivar so their nations could stand side by side.

“That's at least what I was trying to achieve over the last couple of months.”, she adds with a sad voice. “It wasn't anything official, but I envisioned myself to be an emissary of both nations, to build these bridges you encouraged me to see. But all of this isn't enough. Not with the threat of Crisillyir on the horizon.”

“Now that sounds more like you”, Carlyle says and squeezes her hand in encouragement.

“Working hard, never giving up, being an example for us all. Not merely a hooded figure pressing a switch on a secret island to reset our world.”

“Kasvarina has been walking this 'rocky path' for over 500 years... and I am...”

“You are not her. For you, it would still be the easy route. I understand your point, but try to understand where Kasvarina's path has led her. This isn't where yours should end, too.”

Auryn nods slowly and sighs. She then adds that, without making a major change, she is very certain that nothing will ever change between Crisillyir and Elfaivar. Not without being able to radically shift the perspective of the people of Crisillyir. Once, she had the hope that after so many human generations the Crisillyiri would have changed. But every person she's met so far had proven that those who remained part of the nation harbored the same hatred and prejudice as the people who caused the Malice. Thus showing little interest in seeing or even understanding the perspective of Elfaivar.

Carlyle agrees without hesitation, but he continues that he doesn't believe that even a reset of the world would cause them to change overnight. From his own experience, the Hierarchs of the Clergy have little contact to people outside their spheres, so they have no reason to cease their fanaticism anytime soon, even if they were equipped with the power of empathy.

(Oh my, that would make one terrifying echo chamber...)

After all, this fanaticism had been the reason why he left Crisillyir behind and became a Risuri. Regarding Elfaivar, he swears that he will protect the land with his life should Crisillyir dare to attack her people ever again and not simply try to settle on empty land. He then muses that after all he has seen in the Crypta, he cannot be sure whether or not the Clergy has already been corrupted by demonic influence or other dark forces as no feeling creature would treat an angel like Linia the way these people did.

“And that's only the tip of the iceberg. They experiment with Deva and use them as divine vessels, they summon undead specters from the Bleak Gate, imprison the innocent and infuse the souls of devils into people who simply know too much. Their actions are despicable.”

In response, Auryn touches the small fishing hook hanging on the necklace around her neck. She guesses that this corruption might have been the reason why the Hook abandoned the Clergy in the first place. Despite the fact that history claimed it had been stolen, it might even be an expression of Triegenes' rejection of the Crisillyiri teachings.

(And this is a question we couldn't find an answer to. Did Kasvarina kill the Hierarch who carried it and gave it to Nicodemus? Or was that assassination story a completely made up myth and the Hook chose Nicodemus as he was the only clergyman with a fitting personality?)

“And isn't it ironic that it came to me? Maybe Triegenes has a twisted sense of humor, but I also feel that it couldn't bear the true nature of Nicodemus and his ideas anymore. “

Now Gabriel smiles warmly at her.

“I don't know what happened between you, Nicodemus and the Hook, but I see this as a sign that maybe you should continue on your own path. It has chosen you, not him or Kasvarina.”

He then continues to discuss Nicodemus and assumes that, as he is most likely a disillusioned Crisillyiri himself, he could give us some pretty interesting insights into both structure and problems of the Clergy. Maybe it was the same reason that drove him and Nicodemus away from the Clergy, so they could even share the same perspective.

Auryn chuckles a bit and agrees that this would be quite the experience. Even though she isn't sure whether Nicodemus would consider this proposal as it would mean a risk for him. Gabriel explains that this exchange could be purely conducted by magical message, so no risk involved.

"Then, why not? Actually, I've already thought about asking Nicodemus to let go of Andrei via sending. There should be enough Obs who are willing to play their master's host.”

“I understand where you are coming from. But I think that we're in a tough situation here, as we also 'got' something that he wants: Kasvarina. And we'll both agree that leading him to her is out of question.”

He then takes a deep breath and continues:

“Even though... it could be the morally right thing to do. Andrei is an innocent bystander, he is not a part of this conflict. While Kasvarina... well, she somehow brought this upon herself I guess. After all, she is maybe the second or third in the Obscurati hierarchy.”

Auryn nods slowly and says that she understands his thought. Even if Kasvarina is a part of her family and maybe the only one who can give them more insight into the Obscurati and their plans. Still it was the issue of Kasvarina that shocked her so much during the meeting with King Aodhan and his entourage.

To this, Gabriel raises an eyebrow as he thought she would have been more content with the King's order. Which is why he issued his objection in the first place.

“No, why would I?” Auryn responds, really irritated this time. “I just didn't want to cause any more ruckus. It is as I said: All I wish to do is to show Kasvarina that despite everything that has happened and whatever she may have done, she still has a family. And even though she will have more than a fair share of scars, she needs to know that life in all of its facets can still be wonderful and worth living.”

“It is indeed. And it seems like you're never too old to learn that important lesson.”

He smirks slightly and then adds that there are a lot of issues he himself will have to tackle once the Obscurati threat is dealt with. Starting with Crisillyir and his relationship to the rather disturbing situation in the land that was once his home.

Auryn takes this as an unexpected opportunity to ask Gabriel whether these thoughts would include her, too, and whether he has settled on his feelings toward her. Which apparently really takes him by surprise.

“It isn't me who regularly questions our relationship or doubts if he's on the right path when there's trouble on the horizon or whenever we don't share the same opinion.”, he says calmly, but with a grain of sadness.

Which in turn surprises Auryn as she was previously the one who felt shut off. Nevertheless, she proceeds with her train of thought and explains that her possession of Livia Hatsfield allowed her to peek into the woman's inner working and compare her emotions to her own. Which has led her to the conclusion that she is indeed capable of and currently experiencing the feeling of love for him. As surprising as that may sound for a person who was raised with the notion that love was unnecessary to fulfill your duty.

To her continued surprise, Gabriel seems very little surprised by these “news”.

“So I hope that realization brought you more clarity.”

Auryn nods, but she seems slightly unhappy by his response.

(Again, they are still prone to miscommunication. Of course Auryn loves him, but she is still influenced by the thought that this would be a very daring, almost forbidden move and hopes that he'd encourage her by making a bold move himself.

Of course Carlyle loves her, but he has been certain of his commitment for a while and he is prone to being all private about his feelings. So he prefers to make passive statements that indirectly reflect his true thought. He just wished that she was being less turbulent and more stable. Also, he is very much not used to being close and has to remind himself that you'd need a bit more continual closeness in a working relationship.)

“Please don't think that there is a problem for me with us not having the same opinion. I just... sometimes feel as if there is so much that's more important to you. And that you don't really believe in me or my ideas.”

“But this isn't true!”

“And then there is the issue of Fordren. I know that he has been quite useful in providing information, and that he helped us all escape from Mutravir. But he's still giving me headaches and now he is taking more and more root in our inner circles. In places where I thought my fiercest allies resided. Like he's slowly unraveling my network of defense. A network that...”


“...that first and foremost includes a matriarch's husbands. Or future husband, in my case. As you know, my power and safety depend on others, and the husband is the last and most important part of defense. Only that Fordren doesn't know about your stance towards me. You even preferred him.”

This time, it is as if Gabriel is caught completely flat-footed. He takes a few moments to think about the whole issue, and finally signals that he understands Auryn's point.

“Ah... I see. So this is still about your power struggles with him? I didn't even know I had a role in all of this. But now it is much clearer to me. Rest assured that I do not prefer him, and my promise towards you still stands. But there is one fact that you're missing in your equation: That he and his power are as dependent on somebody else as you are.”

He then explains that, being a dragon, Gradiax was only able to survive because he bowed down before King Boyle and accepted the pact. And in this line, he is still dependent on King Aodhan's good will. Especially if he does want to play a role in the grand conflict of this generation. Still he was as unnerved as Auryn to see him appear in the King's council as even though he is a state secret, he doesn't need to have access to all other secrets of the state.

Auryn agrees and is able to see Gabriel's logic. But she also reminds him that despite the recent development, Fordren is still directly responsible for the suffering she had to endure, during what was easily described as the worst time of her life. And this wold in turn be something that Gabriel should be able to relate to, even if his scars stem from a different beast.

She then returns back to her traditions and explains that she is treading on completely unknown ground right now which is why she has to be absolutely certain to not follow the wrong path. Especially as she is making big sacrifices for her personal relationship, sacrifices that do not only include her, but her people as well.

Now Gabriel squeezes Auryn's hand again as he tries to encourage her to walk further.

“And do not believe that you are the only one who is in unknown territory. As you know, I haven't changed that much over centuries. After... well, I made sure to keep people at a safe distance. Change is... scary, I have to admit. But I try to accept changes in my life, I try to change myself and challenge my stances. Like living alone in a home far too big for one person. And now you're living here with me. I even let Teraklir stay despite the fact that I know that she's a brat. And a literal dragon. So in the end I think we both simply need some time. And this is something we both have plenty of.”

He then looks straight at her with a gaze both stern and pleading.

“Just please don't doubt us every time you're feeling off track. So far, I don't hesitate, but if you keep doubting, then maybe I will someday start having doubts as well. And that is no place I'd want to go.”

Auryn shakes her head in response and expresses that she, too, doesn't want to doubt as all she wants is one happy future. She then offers Gabriel to show her a vision of such a possible future and it appears as if he is quite curious to see it.

So Auryn concentrates a while on a spell and releases an illusion that fills the whole room. In this vision, an older version of herself is sitting in a room decorated with elfaivaran ornaments and decorum. She is wearing the dress of a matriarch and busy writing notes while sitting next to a stack of various papers. After a while, the door to the room opens and sunlight falls in. Then Gabriel enters the room, holding a small boy in his arms while being accompanied by a slightly older girl. What is quite remarkable is that he is also wearing the insignia of the governor of Flint. He then asks his dearest whether she is ready to depart and then casually talks about his afternoon tea with the Vantrys family. Auryn states that she is indeed ready, as she just finished her big speech for the peace treaty that is to be signed today. So after all this time of hard work, she finally managed to become the architect of peace she always wanted to be. She stresses out that this was only possible due to their combined work and the bold moves of the Alliances of Ber and Risur which made the political pressure on Crisillyir strong enough so they would yield. Auryn then takes her notes and joins her husband while telling her kids that they will be off on an important journey, so they'll have a lot of time to play in the garden of the Dawkins or fly with auntie Gale.

“What a wonderful, beautiful vision. I'd even say it was quite humble.” Gabriel comments with a warm voice.

Regarding this vision Auryn explains that she wants nothing more than to secure the future of her people. And being the Matriarch of Flint would enable her to be there for both Risur and Elfaivar while being the link that could connect both nations. Her enclave and the covenant enclave would be a good first step towards a better understanding between Risur and Elfaivar. For Gabriel, she says, she could envision him to be the next governor of Flint should this job be vacant any time soon or should the King feel the need for a fresh breeze.

Gabriel agrees that he wouldn't reject the offer should King Aodhan ask him eventually. He also encourages Auryn to continue with her enclave plans as this would be a wonderful place where the Risuri could learn more about Elfaivar, a place that would be “just a far off place” for most Risuri right now.

“Just promise me to tell me in advance should you feel that your loyalties for Elfaivar and Risur come into conflict. Your knowledge must never be a threat for Risur.”

“Agreed. But I will do everything that's in my power to make sure this will never happen. Even if I'll have to butt heads with some higher-ups in the process.”

She then chuckles and adds “And even if you are still one tough nut to crack when it comes to showing or even allowing yourself to feel emotions.”

To which Gabriel wraps his arms around Auryn and tilts his head to hers.

“You know that change needs time. Especially when I am involved. And this tough nut needs the occasional crack, so please feel free to continue cracking.”

(Yep, this was really just a one and a half hours long dialogue between the two. Which really helped to clean the mess both of them were stuck in after the convocation.)

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