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ZEITGEIST Tizbiz Zeitgeist Campaign

Lylandra

Adventurer
Session 47
Final Preparations

After that rather long talk, we start preparations for our trip to Elfaivar. But before we even pack our luggage, we decide to wrap up as much as we can as we don't know when we'd be able to return to Flint.

First, we pay Vitus Sigismund a last visit. It seems like the mills of diplomacy between Crisillyir and Risur are milling quite slowly, which is why he got deferred to a VIP prison in Pine Island. And despite the fact that his “cell” is a rather cozy, but nevertheless locked room, he still protests his captivity and longs to be back home. Which is something Auryn can relate to quite well under normal circumstances. Yet the fact that this guy is still one cocky Godhand dampens her level of sympathy quite much.

So we tell Vitus that we did everything we could to hasten the process, but at the end of the day we are just two agents, not high-ranking government officials. We also point out that even if the process got sped up eventually, he'd better not expect to be safe in Crisillyir as there might be Obscurati agents in every government institution. This, we guess, will be most likely due to the fact that the forces of oppression are quite strong in Crisillyir and therefore the reaction to said force will be much stronger, even if subtle and well-hidden than in a nation as liberal as Risur. Which in turn means that a theocratic, authoritarian regime will slowly but steadily drive even normal, disenfranchised people into the arms of the Obscurati.

When Vitus tells us about his good connections to the Cardinals, we remind him that at least one of them, a woman who looked as the most fervent disciple of the Theocracy, was an adamant believer in the Ob cause. So better expect knives in the dark, son. Also, it would be easier to make friends you can actually trust if he'd not spew vile prejudices into the faces of the people who actually wish to help him. Like, you know, an Eladrin, who is as much an enemy of the demons as the Crisillyiri.

In the end, Vitus seems that he's at least trying to think about what we told him which might, as we hope, be actually fruitful as he'll most likely have enough time to think in this locked room. We leave him with the promise that we'll take care of the Obs threat while he can not, so no worries about them going unchecked.

Next, we return to the RHC and read through Lord Price-Hill's reports of the questioning of Catherine Romana. He has one long paragraph detailing her substance abuse and her addiction to Fey Pepper, which at least doesn't effect her day-to-day-life too much, but is more than just a symptom of someone with too much money and plans. For her motivation, she seems entirely driven by the pursuit of power and control, which reminds us of Lady Saxby's sad downfall.

(I still love Saxby as a villain. Not overdone, not cliched, just a woman with too much ambition and a fateful miscalculation. I enjoyed both her as a cold-hearted, but effective boss and power player and a plotting antagonist. Would so love to see her side of the story in a drama...

Catherine on the other hand would have needed more love and screentime to really work as an enemy. We just knew her by the news and the Player's Guide. So of course our characters would have been shocked, but we as players barely knew her)


In the end, Price-Hill guesses that it was her noble bloodline as a descendant of an old Queen of Risur which led to her belief that she could or should be the next Monarch of Risur. Amd when she realized that her suggested Teleportation network would be too expensive and complicated to realize, she just grasped the next best straw that would promise more power more quickly.

We are just glad that we were able to arrest her and get her out of the levers of control. And we cannot help but muse that the seat of the Governor of Shale might be cursed with a curse of treason.

We then bid Margit, Flying Spark, Xambria Meredith and Inspector Delft goodbye as this mission to Elfaivar will be a very personal one. But as soon as we return to our home, we smell the biting smell of smoke and see that someone must have set one of the walls of Carlyle's house on fire. Which wasn't really effective as the Vantrys really invested a lot in good masonry. So we just put out the flames and find little damage to the structure. Still Carlyle is furious at this display of vandalism.

So we search for tracks of the arsonist and find the faint traces of a pair of cloven hooves – an obvious sign that this must have been the deed of a satyr. Which feels irritating as we don't remember making recent enemies of a fey, or, more specifically, a satyr. Also, Auryn points out that satyrs are generally hedonistic and not really spiteful. So even less reasons to utilize arson.

(Well, there is Beshela. But she would have sent no satyrs. And we'd have expected satyrs to maybe paint pornographic graffiti on the wall. Which is somehow... what we'd expect from Beshela as well)

So we follow the tracks and are then almost being overrun by a carriage whose driver very obviously didn't even try to drive around us. Now Carlyle is really angry, so he stops the driver and demands answers. At first, the man plays all innocent and explains that he has important cargo, so he needed to speed up a little and didn't see two people sharing his side of the road. But Carlyle instantly sees through the guy's lies and insists that he'd spill the truth as he is an RHC agent with currently little patience.

As Carlyle moves closer to the coach box, the man begins to choke and he cramps while foam runs from his mouth.

“...really? Extremist fanatics again?” Carlyle snores as he tries to get a closer look at the man to see if he's already gone. Then we hear the loud bang of a gunshot and a thin mist of blood erupts from Carlyle's back.

“Gabriel!” Auryn screams, both in surprise and terror.

“I'm fine. Hurts, but not lethal” he responds with a grunt.

Auryn exhales with slight relief, then quickly scans the street and buildings for signs of a shooter. Fortunately, her eyes catch the reflections of some goggles of a man clad in black standing on a rooftop with a rifle in his hands. And with a violet flash in her eyes, she activates her flying boots and casts a spell that locks the sniper in a state of euphoria to prevent him from committing suicide.

Meanwhile, Carlyle notices a third assassin who's firing a well-known poison gas ejecting drill mechanism at the carriage. This time, he smirks as the shot misses its target and the attacker very obviously didn't know that he is very much not affected by poisons. So he teleports at the guy and knocks him out with very little resistance. He then does the same with the trancing one before Auryn checks his wound for nasty surprises.

After Carlyle is healed up, we examine the dead assassin and find that he has one of those poisoned teeth that seem so en vogue right now. But unlike the dwarvish extremists, this one didn't use an ice-based poison. And for being able to interrogate our two captives, we perform a quick surgery and remove their poisonous teeth. Then we wake up the one Auryn had enchanted and place another enchantment on him to ask him about his mission.

Fortunately, this works wonders on the guy who explains that he has been blessed with the duty and honor to eliminate the threat of these two RHC agents. By his danoran accent and his professionalism we put the pieces together and deduce that these three guys must be members of the famed Porteurs du Mort, an elite squad of danoran assassins. So we collect the dead body and bring the surviving two to the RHC. Of course, Delft is very much unhappy by the fact that we seemed to have attracted the attention of Danor's most dangerous and deadly elite force, but as we are about to leave town anyway, he just wishes us the best of luck.

We instantly get that Han Jierre didn't take our knowledge about his involvement in the Obscurati too lightly, but also find it quite amusing that he's naive enough to think that we might not have already transferred said knowledge to our King.

As there seem to be no other assassins in sight, we continue our search for the arsonist satyrs, but this time being more on the lookout. Unfortunately, we lose his tracks in Cloudwood and guess that he might have used a Fey Crossing to the Dreaming. So we take a bit of time to gather information about recent fey activities in Cloudwood and beyond, but only learn that the overall activity has decreased drastically and that several Skyseers talked about signs of a grand catastrophe in the skies.

(The calamity from the sky? Wait, wrong game :D)

Being now fully on red alert, we decide to stock up on anti-divination measures and plan the best route to Elfaivar. We unanimously agree that the direct route wouldn't be feasible as this is just what the Danorans and Nicodemus would expect. Which means to neither cross “danoran” territory nor to approach from Kellandia or the Covenant on our way to Rumah Terakir.

As we discuss Nicodemus, we quickly talk about our idea of asking him about Andrei via sending, but defer the thought to whenever we get to Kasvarina and maybe have more information about her former ally.

Before we leave, we meet up with Shealis and ask her to continue looking for Isobel as well as to make sure that no idiot tries to scorch our home again. To our surprise, the dragon in the guise of an elf teen takes this “job” with delightfully grinned teeth.

For our route, we use new disguises and head to Seobriga to take a ship to Shaha, a rather unknown border city-state far in the east. From there, we continue by foot and only take off the disguise as soon as we're already deep in the jungle.

(This... is a nod to Shahalesti, isn't it?)

This is when Carlyle dons his camo-suit, which is just a regular but functional suit with a camouflage design. Which leads to a brief, delightful chuckle on Auryn's side, added by the comment that he does feel the need to be perfectly dressed even in the most uncommon circumstance.

So we venture the eastern jungles for a few days, a territory completely unknown even to an Eladrin like Auryn. Then one night, we suddenly spot the images of dancing Eladrin, obvious illusions, but nonetheless soothing and friendly. We suppose that these must be conjured up by the local Fey who try to welcome a newcomer to their territory, but decide to stay on watch. Then the Eladrin are joined by the images of elephants, which are an astonishing sight for Carlyle.

“I've only heard of them... and I must say they are truly impressive even if I know that these are mere images”, he whispers.

In return, Auryn decides to show whoever is conjuring these images a sight from her own, new home. So she casts an illusion of Vegepygmys who join the dancing Eladrin. This seems to change something in the illusion as the Eladrin stop their dance and become more corporeal. They greet us and invite us to make camp with them. They stay illusionary at core, but have a friendly chat with us and promise to keep watch as we sleep. As we see no deception in their faces, we decide to trust them.

After one of the best night's sleep we've had for quite while, we find that the company of Eladrin and elephants are gone. Still we find soft tracks on the ground that indicate that they might have been more than just an illusion.

(Such a cute little scene. And just a prelude to the wonders and illusions we're about to witness)
 

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Shaha was actually a real light reference to a game I ran where the rebels against a Tower of Babel era empire used a spell-casting tradition called Sha'a, where they needed no verbal components.

There was a Code of Hammurabi-esque set of rules that were magically enforced, and words had power, so by refusing to speak you eventually became unaffected by words and could thus resist the Word of Law.

I have a whole undeveloped concept for a society where those rebels ended up establishing a state in the ruins of Elfaivar after it collapsed. I really ought to flesh them out.
 

Lylandra

Adventurer
That sounds like a damn interesting setting. I'm always more keen on seeing and playing in worlds that offer unique quirks and rules instead of going with "PHB rules work somehow" no matter how crazy the setting. As long as it is consistent that is. Also, Shaha would make a good ally for the surviving Eladrin

The Three Temples

We continue our way through the eastern jungles and eventually find an old road, which we follow until we reach an abandoned city, now partially overgrown by plants. This one appears to be left behind in a planned manner without a hasty evacuation, and the signs of a huge old graveyard with many graves erected in the same period indicate that this must have happened after a funeral for those who died in the events of the Malice. We also spot a bigger monument, like a memorial to Srasama herself and offer short prayers to the goddess.

Following this road, we find several ruined villages and cities of various sizes, some very much intact, some showing signs of turmoil or even conflict. But most of them with memorials to the Malice. We pay respect to each and every one of them and are slowly filled with a sense of melancholy and sadness. Especially Carlyle is struck by flashes of memories and a certain sense of responsibility, but he chooses to turn his emerging emotions into respect for the fallen.

After more days of travel, we suddenly stumble across a gigantic footprint of Borne's size. Around this deep imprint, we also spot the traces of metal-clad boots and guess that these might be the footprints of Obscurati officers following Borne as Nicodemus might have told them that the Colossus might be heading towards his mother. As they are merely two weeks old, we feel that we're getting closer already and hope that having two people accustomed to moving in this terrain might help us to catch up with them.

We come across yet another city, and this time the overall architecture feels more “home” to Auryn than before. But it appears as if the metal-boot guys came through here as well as they left their nasty danoran graffiti on the walls of the ruined city.

“Damn these defilers” Auryn hisses as she uses her spells to clean the city.

Carlyle lets her take enough time to finish before we decide to follow the tracks again. One by one we find ancient cities that Auryn has actually heard of, this being the forsaken cities of Bharat and Ashkaran. Borne left his footprints there as well, and this time she cannot really blame him for the destruction he left in his wake as Borne is simply one giant child who doesn't know what he is trampling.

What is more interesting is the fact that there happens to be several satyr hoofprints as well, and those appear to follow the danoran footsteps with a short delay. We find this to be too unlikely to be a mere coincidence, but also cannot fathom a third party who would have a problem with both us and the danorans or the Obscurati. Maybe there could be a fey faction which believes that is was actually us who let loose the Colossus, but what would they know about the Obscurati?

So we just continue the triple tracks, but stay even more on alert. After a while, we come across a river with a body lying just on the riverside. We examine the dead man and find that this guy is yet another member of the Porteurs du Mort, so it appears as if Nicodemus and Han Jierre are combining forces once again.

(We really had hoped that this would be one personal crusade for Nicodemus while the other leaders would care less about Kasvarina. Especially as we “had Leone escape”)

Searching the body, we find a fetish that could be made by either a fey or an Eladrin, plus some really well-hidden tracks, which we follow. On the way, we spot even more fetishes and... stumble right into a mechanical trap that catches Auryn flat-footed. Fortunately, it leaves only a scratch on her neck as she dodges the very last second. It also makes a lot of noise, but that bothers Carlyle much less than the fact that this trap could have very much been lethal.

As he places a healing salve on Auryn's wound, an old Eladrin suddenly approaches us, arrow drawn and pointed at Carlyle.

“Stop right there! What are you doing on my ground? You have no place here.” the man shouts.

We don't want to upset this man who is clearly a hermit and hasn't seen many people for a long time, so we tell him that we don't wish to invade, but just try to reach Rumah Terakir and wanted to ask for the way. Carlyle is still grumpy as he points out that he could have warned us earlier about the trap that could have just killed one of the few young Eladrin women. To which the old Eladrin sighs.

“I apologize, child. But I gave up dreaming long ago and had to learn how to defend what little I had left. I, too, had a sister and a mother. A home. But they took it from me. And you should be cautious to walk alongside one of them. Vicious snakes they are.”

Before Carlyle can protest as he was actually the one who cared for Auryn's injury, he asks us to leave as he doesn't want to be reminded of the past. Still he's glad that he was able to take out one of these “demon men” and will continue hunting them should they ever return. We ask him whether he's seen as satyr as well, but he did not spot any more trespassers. So we thank him for the information and follow his instructions.

After a while, we reach one gigantic city wall and understand that this must be the city we were looking for.

“Rumah Terakir. I've heard stories of this place since I was a child. Its temples should be much bigger than those near my home” Auryn says with a quick gasp as she approaches the grand site. And as we do not wish to climb over the walls (which would make us easy targets), we decide to go around the wall and look for an entrance. She comes across one pool though and is instantly attacked by tentacles hidden underneath the dark surface of the lake. She is quick to react though and pierces the tentacles with her rapier, thus keeping them from getting a hold on her limbs. Carlyle rushes in as well and severs several of the aquatic roper's limbs to help Auryn get away from the pool safely.

From a safe distance, we understand that the beast will survive and eventually regenerate its tentacles which could serve as some neat trap for unwanted interlopers. So we decide to spare it just in case that some more Porteurs du mort come along while we are busy scouting the city.

After moving past the city walls, our eyes fall onto three large buildings in the center which just look like ancient temples. As these structures might be good lookout points and we are both genuinely interested in the religious sites, we sneak through the empty streets and approach them. All while being on alert as there might be some Danorans already in the city. And as we already guessed, we spot one agent who's using a spyglass to scan the surrounding area. We manage to sneak up on him and ambush him quickly enough to prevent him from making a sound while knocking him out.

We then drag the guy inside a building and try to interrogate him about his comrade's whereabouts. But this one doesn't seem to be too talkative. All he can say is that he was on the lookout for RHC agents, which sets us on alert. Also, he really doesn't know where the others might be hiding, but at least we know now that there would be more like him out there. So we just leave him there for a later time.

After a while, we arrive at the temples without any further complications. On a closer examination, Auryn finds that the first temple is one of the cursed god Hewanharimau. She explains that this god of animals was exiled from their divine community after committing treason by infecting others with the curse of the were-tigers, but got eventually killed by a warrior named Dhebisu. A tale that would teach young Eladrin that they should never see their own role as more important than that od others. The temple appears to be sealed off and all signs of reverence have been removed a long time ago, so there must be some truth to this tale.

We climb the top of the temple and find an empty can of frog legs, but no further signs or tracks of the Danorans. There is also one deep shaft leading inside the temple and for a moment we muse that the Danorans might have chosen to go inside. But then we spot an urn sitting on an altar and guess that these savages would have just taken everything of value with them. As we also don't wish to come too close to possibly cursed or trapped relics of Hewanharimau, we decide to stay at a safe distance.

But as we withdraw our gazes from the dark below, a mysterious voice emerges from the inner temple which asks us whether we are willing to fight evil where ever it may roam. Auryn instinctively says yes while Carlyle is more hesitant.

“What do you mean by 'evil'?”, he asks back. “All too often people claim to fight an 'evil' that is ultimately subjective and something another might call 'good'. I'd rather fight for 'what is right' against “what is wrong' ”

But in the same instant, Auryn is whisked away into the inner temple. There, she sees herself eye to eye with what appears to be a wooden golem with the anatomy of an elvish or eladrin person. The construct demands that she'd show her true colors and prove that she is willing to fight.

“Draw your weapon! Stand your ground!”

“I prefer to not solve my conflicts with violence. True strength means that you can choose when to fight and when not to.”

Then Carlyle suddenly appears in front of the wooden golem via short-range teleportation.

“Leave her be! Let her choose her own way.” he demands, weapons drawn.

The construct acts quite irritated at this sight and it appears to scan Carlyle for a moment.

“You cannot enter the challenge. Another soul lies within you and I dare not interfere with her. But you, are you willing to show me your true colors?”

Suddenly, Auryn understands that this must be some sort of ritual combat which is not in any way related to the curse of this temple. So she nods to Carlyle with an accepting smile and draws her rapier. The construct bows swiftly and then unleashes a barrage of attacks with different kinds of weapons. Auryn parries all of them and then strikes at the creature's weak spots, wearing it down easily. After a while, it yields and deems her to be successful.

“Sometimes you have no choice but to fight. Remember this, when the time comes. My lady knew her time to strike” the wooden creature says while transforming its weapon into a ball of molten meteor steel. It transfers the material to Auryn's rapier which merges with the metal of her own blade. And all of a sudden, she realizes that this must be the fabled fallen star of Dhebisu, the arsenal which she used to slay a god.

“My mission here is done. Thank you for releasing me from my duty.” the guardian says with a bow before it vanishes into thin air.

After the creature is gone, Auryn turns around and embraces Carlyle with gratitude.

“Thank you for your support.”

He returns the embrace with honest relief and a warm smile.

“No one, not even one of your kind shall ever force you into doing something you don't want to. All you need to know is what is right and what is wrong and I believe that you got a fine sense for that.”

We leave the temple of Hewanharimau behind and move on to the next structure. This time, the upside-down pyramid indicates that this one would be the temple of Ingatan, god of knowledge and trickery. We take a bit of time to understand the illusory script hiding the true font of knowledge and Auryn even suggests that her name with its dual meaning of “keeper of secrets” and “kept secret” might have its roots in Ingatan faith. Anyhow, she has rarely seen people outside of Elfaivar being able to understand that Ingatan is more than just your standard trickster deity, and that knowledge can be a powerful tool, a precious treasure and a dangerous weapon.

“I know one demon who would wholeheartedly agree”, Carlyle adds in amusement.

“Don't you dare!” she replies, and then bursts into laughter.

Lastly, we come to the temple of Srasama only to find that this once holy place has been defiled by the Clergy. The once gigantic statue of the goddess lies broken, her ornaments razed and her braziers toppled. On top of that there are graffiti everywhere. We climb the broken monument and gaze upon the fantastic view over the ruined city. But every further sign of defilement fills Auryn's heart with anger.

“How dare they... she was the heart of this city! A city most likely abandoned before they even came here. I wouldn't defile a sacred place of Triegenes in an ancient Crisillyiri city, but yet they call us demons” she growls.

“Such small minds...” Carlyle says with an almost inhumanely somber tone before turning to Auryn.

“...they know nothing about the true nature of Srasama. What they broke were merely monuments and signs of reverence. But her spirit, her children, her followers, her faith, all of that lives on as long as you exist.”

He then lays his hand upon her cheek and it seems as Auryn's anger and fury vanishes the moment they touch.

“You're... right. They can never extinguish her spirit.”

And with this realization she feels as though a dark veil is suddenly lifted from her eyes. So we climb down the temple and decide to leave the past behind.

(Carlyle really one-upped the level of care, wisdom and support in this episode. As if he's trying to show that he can be a good Eladrin husband ;) Also, it appears as if the goddess aspect in him is growing stronger every time he returns to Elfaivar.)
 


Lylandra

Adventurer
A roaring welcome

We continue to scout the city in search for the other missing Porteurs du Mort, but only find the occasional pool where what seems to be images of Eladrin are added in the reflection of the sunlight. They seem oddly real though and as we get closer they appear to notice us, too. So we guess that these people might be real Eladrin in Sentosa and that these reflections might be echoes that appear due to the fact that the veil between Dreaming and Waking grow thin near the water.

Shortly after, we spot a column of smoke outside the city, so we decide to look for its source. But as we know the the Porteurs are no idiots, but rather professionals in the ways of deception and recon, we guess that this might just be a trap. Even if that would mean that these guys would most likely underestimate us. So we sneak to the general direction of the smoke while staying away from the main road. We spot another Porteur scout and manage to go unnoticed due to the help of an invisibility spell.

After a few minutes, we get close enough to see a camp inhabited by a group of Porteurs. It doesn't take much effort to see that this is a well-made illusion and only the group's wizard and warrior appear to be real. So we sneak around this camp in a wide circle and look out for the rest of the group. Hidden well inside the forest, we finally find two danoran artillerists next to a mortar station warded by a silence spell. We use the element of surprise to knock both of them out. To play a bit with the rest of them, Auryn then conjures an illusion of both her and Carlyle who openly walk up to the camp and greet the surprised Porteurs.

As we guessed, the group is very much irritated by that move for a second, but then gives a signal and the warrior draws his weapon.

“Whoa, whoa, we've come to talk and this is how you repay the favor? And here we thought that Danorans had manners” the illusory Carlyle says in a disappointed voice.

It takes another few seconds for the Porteurs to realize that the artillery strike won't come as planned. We use this further distraction to sneak up behind the two and try to knock them out as well. Unfortunately, one of them is able to send yet another signal before he goes down, which in turn causes a whole group of Porteurs to appear from a Bleak Gate pocket.

“That doesn't make any difference. There is still two of us.” Auryn says, tumbles right into the group and unleashes her single, perfect note that seems to freeze all of them in time. Which in turn leaves Carlyle's job of knocking them out one by one via kukri an easy one.

(I must admit that this is quite unfair as this combo is only possible due to Carlyle's unreasonably high wisdom save, so he isn't effected by Auryn's perfect note paralysis. We also had a lot of fun trolling the Porteurs with our illusion. Fight fire with fire ;) )

Somehow, one of the Danorans manages to break free from Auryn's spell, but he seems utterly terrified by what he just saw. So he runs away screaming in the general direction of the city gate. Only to collide with an invisible wall and fall down. We raise an eyebrow as this wall hasn't been there before, but then the wall turns into a portal from which a ten-headed lion guardian emerges.

Of course, the Danoran runs screaming into yet another direction while the lion doesn't seem to understand the concept of friend and foe. Carlyle signals Auryn that he's going to catch the Danoran so he won't summon more of them while she is making herself ready to defend herself against the guardian.

Just behind the large creature, she can make out the familiar figure of Asrabey who is arguing with an unknown Eladrin sentinel. As Auryn doesn't wish to destroy what appears to be a guardian of Sentosa, she uses a calming spell on the lion's body who turns inert for a moment. But that doesn't seem to have any effect on the rest of its heads. They all charge at her at once, but she manages to evade its barrage of attacks. She continues to parry while trying to find a strategy on how to pacify the other lion heads.

Seeing her fight the guardian appears to enrage Asrabey even further and he now screams and gestures wildly at the sentinel. It doesn't take too long and Carlyle returns, carrying an unconscious Danoran over his shoulder. He teleports beside Auryn and encases them both in a sphere of ice. And it seems as if the lion doesn't know what to do in this new situation as gnawing at the ice doesn't do much damage.

(Carlyle's player loves wall spells. He's quite creative when it comes to using them and simplified a lot of fights by using the right wall. Notable examples from WotBS are the final battle in Castle Korstull, a certain Monk, and the Generals in adventure 12. There will be more in Zeitgeist as well.)

This is when Asrabey has finally seen enough. He jumps right through the portal and draws his flaming sword.

“Call him off or I will slice him in two!”

This causes the other Eladrin to step outside as well and order the ten-headed lion to withdraw. As soon as Carlyle sees the creature move away and cease its attacks, he releases the barrier spell, melting the ice in the heat of the jungle.

“Small flower, are you unhurt?” Asrabey asks while also completely ignoring the presence of Carlyle.

“I'm fine, thanks. Good to see you, Asrabey. We had a bit of a squabble with a group of Danorans.” she replies with an earnest joy of seeing the Dreadnought once again.

(Carlyle on the other hand? Yeah, he doesn't really care for Asrabey although he acknowledges that he is quite the capable warrior. So this goes both ways. Stuff that happens when CN meets LG.

I've always been fond of the duo's dynamic with Asrabey with his almost over the top care for what must be "little Kas" in his eyes and his respect but "not care at all" for Carlyle. More on the specifics in this adventure a bit later, but I can say that the development in the later adventures was heart-wrenching)


The Eladrin sentinel then joins our group as well and introduces herself as Faedhraven, guardian of Sentosa. Auryn is a bit surprised by the fact that this city actually utilizes women guards, but she doesn't really mind as this is the Matriarch's business. As soon as Faedhraven understands who we are, she greets us with all honors as descendant of Matriarch Galadin and her Sahomi Gabriel Carlyle. We tell her that we came to find High Matriarch Kasvarina and help her with her lost memories. Also, we have a warning for Asrabey and High Matriarch Athryalla as Nicodemus and the Obscurati are after Kasvarina and will most likely try to infiltrate the city. To this, Faedhraven laughs lightly and assures us that no one can enter this city at will.

She also appears to be no friend of Asrabey as she continues to make snide remarks at the Dreadnaught, but he either fails to understand sarcasm or simply doesn't care. Faedhraven then escorts us to a small home where Kasvarina is currently residing. On our way there we get a glimpse of Sentosa, an unusually large city with an equally large population. We're also astounded by the fact that this city seems to have a really high population of women and children.

Once we arrive at the small manor, Faedhraven leaves us. Inside, we find a very frustrated Kasvarina who is currently trying to memorize events of Elfaivar's past. She also has a half-elven scholar named Kieran Sentacore as tutor. As soon as Kasvarina sees Asabey return with us, she is more than glad to leave her studies behind and greet her new guests. After the reunion we learn that Kasvarina is not allowed to leave her house at the order of High Matriarch Athryalla, which sounds very odd to us. Sentacore cannot really explain this either, but we choose to accept it as a fact for now.

Before we go more into detail with Kas, another Eladrin knocks at the door and introduces himself as Desok, an honored Rajput of Athryalla's guard. He explains that he was sent by the High Matriarch to ensure a safe journey through Sentosa and also act as our guide. We thank him for his service, but also let him know that we assume we don't have anything to fear in this fair city. Also, we will need some time to warm up with Kasvarina and her situation, so he can safely return to his regular duty for now.
 

Lylandra

Adventurer
A fractured mind and a broken heart

After Desok has left again, Kasvarina finally smiles for the first time as she now clearly remembers the moment when we met last time. Even though she admits that her whole sense of time and memory is completely muddled right now. Which appears to be utterly frustrating for her. She does remember a bit more now, including a bit more than just her first hundred years.

While we are busy talking to Kasvarina, Asrabey seems as frustrated as Kasvarina. Carlyle watches him for a while and then understands that while Asrabey is willing to give his life for his beloved Matriarch, he is also not used to seeing her in this weakened, confused state. A state in which she doesn't remember him at all.

“You don't think about giving up, do you?” he asks Asrabey. “That wouldn't be fitting for a man like you. I've seen a lot of men over the last centuries, and I have rarely seen anyone as enduring, persistent and loyal to his wife as you. These are truly some qualities to be proud of.”

“Maybe. But the woman I see right now has nothing of the wife I've known.” he sighs.

We take some time to tell Kasvarina (and Asrabey) about the Obscurati threat and the fact that Nicodemus and his most loyal will most likely be searching for her right now. Kasvarina nods and adds that she can add Borne to the list as the Colossus once appeared before Sentosa to look out for her. And when he could not find her, he turned north and left. Regarding Kieran Sentacore, she explains that this scholar is tasked with feeding her with information about the past and, more specifically, her past life. Athryalla has deemed this necessary when she learned about Asrabey's rather young age and realized that the warrior was quite the opposite of an academic. And of course this made Asrabey feel even more useless.

We then ask Kasvarina to tell us about the things she does remember of her past and she instantly mentions Pillai, the love of her life and father of her two daughters, Dala and Launga. She also remembers losing Pillai in the first war and the feeling of anger and loss. She swore revenge on the Crisillyiri Theocracy and entered the Eladrin forces of the second war willingly. Everything after that is still unclear as she only remembers that Dala died in the second war while Launga survived, but she adds that she must have lost Launga, too, after that. There are also figments and echoes of the faces of men she knew well and she guesses that these might be other husbands. Asrabey, she adds, is one of these faces, but she doesn't remember what she might have shared with him, or even being ever married to “that man”.

This affects Asrabey visibly as his marriage to Kasvarina had been his main drive over the last two centuries. We try to assure him that her memories of him will come back in time and that she then will be able to see all of the sacrifices he made for her.

(Ouch. One can only feel sorry for Asrabey, and this was the part where even Carlyle overcame his indifference and felt for him.)

Auryn then turns to Kasvarina again and tells her that while she is her family and will do her best to help her, there will be no better guide to lost memories than Gabriel Carlyle. Being a Deva, he has to deal with reincarnation, losing his past self and trying to unlock his past memories, so a Deva might be suited best for this job. She then encourages Gabriel to offer his guidance.

He nods in return and starts his counsel with the most important question of all: Whether Kasvarina actually wishes to remember her past life. He explains that right now, there are two options for her since she can either choose to remember her past life or stay the way she is and start anew. The first option would satisfy her need to know more about the person she was, but it comes at the risk of experiencing the darkness, her losses and all of the difficult or cruel decisions she has ever made once again, while she would also be confronted with personality traits she might find abhorrent now. The second option would keep her blissfully unaware and detached from the woman she was, giving her the chance to start a new life as a completely new person. Still she would never be able to fully understand why people would react a certain way or how she even ended up in the situation she is right now.

Kasvarina takes some time to think about Carlyle's proposals before she makes her decision:

“I need to understand the woman I was in order to see who I am and can be now. It is as you said, people react in a strange way when they see me and I wish to know why. Even though this woman is a complete stranger to me. I don't feel the need to become that woman again, but I want to remember what I did and maybe even why.”

In return, Auryn and Carlyle promise Kasvarina to help and guide her on this path. We even include Asrabey in this offer as both see that he is clearly suffering. In a first step, we tell her all about the tales we've learned from Matriarch Kaealys and her daughter Galadin and also remind her that she still has and will always have a family she can return to. Kasvarina is grateful for these stories, but also very much overwhelmed and confused as she barely knows us. So she asks us to tell us more about ourselves first and explain why we would care so much about her fate.

Carlyle is the first one to state his personal motives. He talks about the time of his first death and rebirth, and what this specific experience had done with him. That he felt disconnected from the life he had before, especially as a soldier of Crisillyir. That there was something else inside him while the world around him felt distorted, that he sensed the presence of the mourning dead and knew that he could not stay in such a place of tragedy, especially when he had been a part of it. He continues with his commanding officer who got him a new job in Risur and his need to serve loyally, something that helped him transition to his new life. But lately, the presence inside him has grown stronger and his tender sympathy for the Eladrin he had fought in his past life has turned to an honest need to care for them and their cause.

Auryn then talks about her childhood in Pallita, the path that was lain out for her. She continues with her need to know and experience more, her journey west and her tragic loss of Zahir. She, too, is fighting for the survival of Elfaivar and filled with a sense of duty for both the nation who saved her and helped her survive and her original home. In addition, she feels as if there is more than just one parallel between her and Kasvarina, so understanding more about the Matriarch and her motives would help her uncover her own personality, and maybe even her destiny.

“I didn't think too much about it, but now that you say it... it is like I am looking straight into a mirror. Maybe the threads of fate bind us even more than the bounds of blood” Kasvarina agrees, laughing with curiosity.

Auryn agrees though she immediately adds that she has a troubled relationship with “fate” as fate might be the ultimate death of true freedom. Still there are even more similarities between the two women as she tells Kasvarina about Carlyle's visions of her travels with the philosopher Miller in the Crypta. A man that Kasvarina doesn't remember at all.

“A defecting Crisillyiri, a man who was... close to you. Who walked with you through the cursed darkness, who held your hand.”

She looks at Gabriel and adds that the weight of the world becomes bearable once you don't have to shoulder it alone. Auryn then continues talking about her own experiences in Risur, how she came to be an RHC agent, how she eventually teamed up with Gabriel Carlyle, and how they stumbled across the Obscurati conspiracy. Following this trail led them both to Borne and to Kasvarina, a person her family had thought to be missing in action for decades. Auryn adds that Gabriel and she have since then become more than just professional partners, even though she would have never thought that she was even capable of feeling love. Especially for an ex-Crisillyiri.

All the while Asrabey stays silent as he appears to be deep inside his own mind. But when we take a break from our tales, he turns to Carlyle and says “You truly are a lucky man.”

We continue to stay in Kasvarina's new residence for another couple of days to show her our support and get accustomed to each other. During these days, we exchange stories, do some research with Kieran Sentacore and even include training sessions to try warm up Kasvarina's bodily memory as well as her mental. Somewhen in this process, Kasvarina tells us about a tale of an ancient artifact of Ingatan she has read in a dusty tome: A silvery crown, the arc of Reida, which is said to let a person relive their most important memories should they return to the place they experienced them in the first place. However, as much as this crown might help her with her memory problem, she would not be able to retrieve it as she is, as she reminds us, not allowed to leave her home.

We talk about the matter once again and Kasvarina cannot fully understand Matriarch Athryalla's order either. She tells us that Athryalla had some shady explanation that she'd be too vulnerable on her own, missing her memories and all that, but Asrabey would be able to make up for that with ease. So we guess that there might be some deeper rift between the two High Matriarchs, a rift Kasvarina would know nothing about as its truth is conveniently hidden behind the veils of amnesia.

“Very well then. Let us speak to her. If she honors the lineage of Matriarchs, she will at least listen to what a daughter of another and her Sahomi have to say.” Auryn says, packs her equipment and calls for Desok. Auryn says and Carlyle adds that asking for an audience might be a good idea as we two “outsiders” might be able to shed some light onto the shades of the past and get a clearer picture of what might have happened.

It doesn't take much time for Desok to appear in front of Kasvarina's residence and it turns out that he is still quite the young man despite his rank. To get to know him better, we first ask him for a tour through the Enclave and also mention that we'd like to ask for an audience with the High Matriarch. He agrees to both and points out that he is quite sure that High Matriarch Athryalla would be willing to talk to the Matriarch of Flint and her entourage. Which surprises Auryn as the only ones to call her by that name were the people of Pallita.

“I also heard tales from the Dreadnought and from the Unseen. You battled the Smoke Colossus in the Outside. You helped save Matriarch Kasvarina. You two can fight side by side with the Dreadnought. All while ruling a sheer gigantic enclave full of foreigners and standing up to a King.”

Auryn chuckles a little and quickly points out that while people call her “Matriarch of Flint”, she does not really rule this place as this would be the job of the Governor and the Mayors. She continues to explain the political structure of Risur, but it seems as if Desok sees this as yet another sign of the noble Matriarch's humility. This misunderstanding has its bright side though as Desok appears to be completely impressed by the pair and ever curious on our opinion.

(one can only imagine what Carlyle's thoughts on Desok's misinformation and the uncontrolled spread of false political information about Flint and Risur would be. On one side, equating the risuri King with “a King” in the Eladrin sense would be the polar opposite of what a monarch like Aodhan stands for, and having the rumor that Auryn actually runs Flint could be potentially damaging for diplomatic exchange. On the other side, this whole construct must be utterly hilarious to him.)

To Auryn's surprise, Desok is also a married man whose wife is of a similar age. He says that Matriarch Athryalla believes in strength in numbers, so she encouraged her people to have many children. Which is why we see so many young women right now. He then leads us to several training spaces and finally to the “Bound Leaf” tavern. We have a snack there and see that this place is run by goblins, another oddity. Oh and there is also Copperhat who is having a drink and whom we briefly greet in a friendly manner. We can only guess that he might have followed Asrabey from the Dreaming but leave him as he is now.

(that sneaky bastard... we didn't really try to investigate further though)

Next, we visit the forgery of a master weaponsmith who perfected the art of crafting supremely sharp weapons with a blue shimmer. Desok praises the excellent weapons, so we decide to go inside and take a look ourselves. On a first glimpse, these weapons appear to be masterworks, but as soon as Carlyle picks one up to assess its weight and feel, he feels a sharp sting that turns into excruciating pain.

“Sorry... my child...” he hears in a whispered voice inside of his head.

Carlyle is still Carlyle though and so he clenches his teeth and puts the weapon back into place without showing any obvious sign of discomfort. Auryn realizes his sudden cramp though and he mentally tells her that something about this weapon wasn't right as its touch was extremely painful. He repeats this process by briefly touching several other weapons and finds that all of them emit the same sense of torturous pain. After a while, the pain wears down as he realizes that Srasama's presence is now actively shutting him off the sensation.

He continues to tell Auryn about his results and we decide to get more information about these items from the weaponsmith. The Eladrin man is eager to tell us about the secret craftsmanship he had learned in Drakr and encourages us to not limit ourselves to our own culture when looking for an inspiration. He says that he is grateful that his master gave him his smithing tools as a gift when he eventually returned back to his elfaivaran home. We ask him to get a glimpse at these fabled tools and when he eagerly puts them on display, Carlyle gets the same sense of suffering. So we secretly check the place for traces of Witchoil, but find none.

Another discreet search for another possible source of pain is unsuccessful as well, so we decide to leave the matter for now. After all, that man is the most famous weaponsmith of Sentosa and no one but Carlyle seems to be able to pick up that sensation. So it might even be linked to a secret hatred of the Crisillyiri.

To continue our walk with Desok, we display our appreciation for the exquisite quality of the weapons and mentally agree to check this place later that night as Auryn doesn't wish to brush Carlyle's sensation off as being “exclusively Deva”.

Next, we come to a large building in the center of Sentosa that appears to be extremely well guarded. Desok calls this the “Anata Paudha” or “Lonely Companion” and we remember Gale's tale about this institution. As the mere thought about it is quite painful for Auryn, we prefer to not go inside. Desok explains that the Companions are an old tradition and a sacred duty, even if he doesn't know when and why it was first established. However, he knows that many children were born thanks to these women. Carlyle guesses that, if this institution was indeed that ancient and sacred, maybe it was the High Matriarch herself who has had good experiences with “experimentation”.

Both Desok and Auryn cough heavily to this idea, and Desok immediately calls this suggestion “indisputable” as the Matriarch would never be a Companion.

“If this is so 'indisputable', why would it be so sacred then?” Carlyle asks, but leaves the matter as it is.

(Oh yes, it is finally time to dissect the Anata Paudha / Akhela Sathi and what is wrong with it in my opinion. Tizbiz tried to save what was there to save by having Gale in opposition to the institution and limiting it to Eladrin with the noble pursuit of having more children without the complexity and constrictions of marriage or even an interpersonal relationship.

The original version however was... very problematic to say the least. First, its origin partially taking root in rape prevention...really? The whole idea of the Enclaves was centered around men who followed the teachings of Vekesh and willingly agreed to the Matriarchy and its long survival plan so they'd be the more emotionally stable and resilient types anyway. On top of that, the stereotype of men needing to have sex with a woman or become violent is pretty harmful and dangerously close to incel arguments. Also, I'd imagine that any rape would be harshly punished, most likely with exile.

Second, as Auryn said it many sessions ago, the institution basically gives every man the right to have sex at least once a year. No matter who it would be. Now if the Enclave was a “members only” club where every resident was hand-picked by the whole community then maybe it could be passable, but it includes even visitors, complete strangers.

Which leads me to my third point: The Lonely Companion is meant to be the party's inn. Which more than just suggests that male PCs – being visitors – can have their one night with an Eladrin woman. No matter their race, no matter their background. Which feels just plain wrong and sends a really harmful message.

Don't get me wrong, I am fully convinced that an eladrin society would be in general sex-positive to a point where the institution of marriage could become almost irrelevant in some enclaves (unless the Matriarchs go the 'selective breeding' route). But it could only work in a centuries-long stable construct with active choice on both sides.

How would I improve the Akhela Sathi was it my campaign? I think would make it an in-person Tinder hub. It is still an inn and the PCs can rest there. Then they realize that this is basically a place where horny Eladrin hook up with each other, can get drinks, a free and luxurious room and go their separate ways once they had their fun. Of course they can try and flirt with the visitors, but don't expect to have an easy time when you don't know the culture. Maybe one Eladrin would even be intrigued by the "exotic foreigners" and start asking kind of inappropriate questions to turn the whole trope upside down)
 

Your characters' parallels to Kasvarina's origin are fascinating. I am excited to see how this adventure goes. Also, my praise to Tizbiz for making Asrabey a sympathetically conflicted character.

---

I'm a bit conflicted with how we presented the Akela Sathi in the original adventure, because it was a brief few paragraphs about something that would have been incredibly complicated and fraught. I assumed the full history would have involved a horrific amount of f***ed up tragedy, and I imagined many groups would be uncomfortable with that, so I decided not to insert a long digression about that full history. If a group wanted to delve into it, that would be their choice.

But I suppose I should explain why I thought things would end up the way I wrote them.

I imagined the first few decades after the Great Malice would have seen a lot of atrocities, and while the short version of the history says that ...

A small portion of the population, buoyed by the guidance of the poet Vekesh, rallied around the few remaining Elfaivaran women in five demiplane enclaves that lay between the Waking and the Dreaming, and these sanctuaries provided a haven for new generations to be raised.

... that process would have taken a while and certainly wouldn't have been smooth and safe.

There would have been a number of warlords who wanted to secure territory and resources so they could rule the empire's ashes. And some of them might even have felt like they aligned with the Vekeshi idea of 'surviving,' but they saw control of women as being necessary for that survival. I'm imagining something like Gilead from A Handmaid's Tale crossed with society collapsing like something from The Walking Dead.

Only the enclaves would have taken the approach of 'maintaining civil rights' rather than 'martial law.' They might have had the moral high ground, but they'd have been outnumbered. Yes, eventually Elfaivaran society would be dominated by the commitment to selflessly defending their communities (and the women in particular), but I imagine most people who allied with the enclaves early on needed time to adjust their thinking.

The enclaves would have been prime targets for warlords who wanted to just kidnap women and treat them like breeding cattle, and those warlords would have pushed a lot of f***ed up sexist propaganda from those warlord groups.

Comparing it to 'incels' is kind of on the mark, because the way I understand that trend is that various bad actors are pushing grievances over sex to stoke resentment and drive a wedge that will make otherwise decent people become hostile to mainstream society and its values.

I'm sure a lot of Elfaivarans who weren't in the enclaves were convinced that the right thing to do was to tear those places apart. (And honestly, there's still probably a lot of that sentiment surviving even centuries later in the remote parts of the subcontinent.)

There would be decades of fighting before the warlords would finish picking each other apart and the Clergy invasions would wipe them out. Before then, the enclaves needed allies -- allies who maybe were sympathetic to high-minded ideals, but didn't want to feel like they were taking all the risk without getting anything in return.

I envision early Sentosa having various small militias defending it, some of which agreed with the moral goal of protecting women and rebuilding society, but a few that just wanted strength in numbers or maybe had some old grudge against whichever warlord was the biggest threat to the enclave, and were allies of convenience. Then at some point one of militia member raped a woman. The core population of the enclave would have called to execute the rapist, and the militia threatened to retaliate - violence that the enclave didn't want to risk.

And so as part of a compromise, Athrylla and the other women agreed to a concession where a handful of the women became the first ananta paudha - offering something the men wanted, but with strict requirements of behavior and duty. The safety of women would be formalized to a sacred duty, and so the original rapist would still be executed, and the ananta paudha would hold a position of highest prestige.

Like I said, it's f***ed up, but when your survival is at stake, people find ways to justify things they would previously have found reprehensible.

The women would have the right to refuse to anyone, and a core element of the 'behavior and duty' requirement would be to take lessons, to instill new customs and values, elevate empathy, and train some men to serve as teachers and group-parents of the children who would be born. It was a nexus to let the women exert control over men and make them into loyal servants. Over time, the Akela Sathi would become something close to an aristocratic court crossed with a school.

I certainly could have been clearer that, like, the intent wasn't that anyone who shows up can demand they get to sleep with someone.
 

Lylandra

Adventurer
Thank you for sharing your vision of the early Elfaivaran days after the Malice, this makes so much more sense now! I can only imagine how detailed the different places in ZG would have been with a complete Campaign Setting. And yep, I agree that a whole paragraph on just one place in Sentosa would have been over the top for the average group who maybe wouldn't even show the slightest interest in that place. Maybe a sentence or two would help clarify the background a bit more. Because from my point of view, it was more f***ed up in the original. (Especially when you consider that some other published modules use brothels for the PC's fun times)

Regarding the warlords... yeah, we'll definitely see more of their part of the equation in our campaign
 
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Lylandra

Adventurer
Audience in the City of Light and Darkness

Next, we come across a training ground and spot a group of people who are practicing unarmed combat. They spot us pretty quickly and pause their training to bombard us with questions. Most of them are very much intrigued by Carlyle as they can guess by his posture that he must be some sort of warrior. Oh and of course they have already heard about the story of our fight with the Danorans. So Carlyle takes some time to explain the physiological, mental and energetic background of his art.

They seem to be impressed and simultaneously draw parallels to their disciplined fighting style. What is even more intriguing is the fact that they appear to be strongly interested in firearms. We show them our pistols, even though we rarely use them, and they demonstrate a technique that lets them split bullets mid-air. This impresses us in return as we had previously feared that the advanced tech of the Danorans would be a real threat for the Eladrin. They wish to have more different types of firearms to refine their new technique and are more than willing to trade some rifles for one of these magnificent blue weapons.

Carlyle welcomes the opportunity as he is keen on examining one of them without constant surveillance. We thank the warriors for their input and also thank Desok for his guide before we return to our rooms in Kasvarina's house. Once we're back, Carlyle takes some time to examine the mystical weapon with everything he got, be that magically, spiritually and alchemically. Once again, the pain strikes him mercilessly before Srasama's presence buffers it like before. All in all he gets the impression that these weapons were somehow forged by infusing them with the pain and suffering of living creatures. So we agree on sneaking up to the forge once again to get a glimpse on what is going on there.

Once we reach the site later that night, we find it to be pretty forsaken. But after a while, we hear the faint sound of a muffled scream coming from the inside. So we sneak in and find a hidden door leading to the forge's cellar. We turn invisible and see how the smith, Iomar, tortures a human prisoner, then distills that essence of suffering and uses it to temper a new weapon. We spot even more prisoners, mostly humans who look like they could be part of the Clergy.

We agree that we've seen enough and withdraw to a safe distance from the forge to discuss on how to proceed further. We both agree that while we are surely no friends of these foreign colonists, we still cannot let them be used as fuel for the forge. Unfortunately, we don't have our usual RHC authority here, so we cannot simply arrest the weaponsmith. On top of that, Iomar appears to be a respected member of sentosan society, and we're not here to make enemies.

So we decide to use the one person with authority we knew and who we are sure to like us at least a little bit: Desok. We pay him a late-night visit and ask for forgiveness for this late disturbance. But matters could be urgent, as Carlyle just examined the weapon he got today and had a terrible vision afterwards. As “Sahomi Gabriel” is highly spiritually sensitive and his visions had always turned out to be true somehow, we'd ask him to go to the forge and see if everything is alright. Carlyle then tells him about shadowy figures being tortured and disturbing screams of pain.

Fortunately, Desok believes Carlyle's tale and agrees to check the forge. With a little help from our keen eyes for the “obviously hidden door”, Desok is able to catch Iomar in flagranti while he is busy torturing another one of his prisoners. So Desok arrests the smith and brings the prisoners in protective custody elsewhere as he cannot simply let foreign humans run free in Sentosa. We thank Desok for his trust and hope he won't get into trouble.

This goes for us as well as we are really unsure whether this move just the day before the scheduled audience with Matriarch Athryalla would be seen as positive help or negative intrusion and unwanted commotion.

The very next day, we are being called to the audience with the High Matriarch and it appears as if everything is still proceeding on schedule. So we dress up for the occasion: Carlyle dons his best suit while Auryn wears the ornament she was given by her mother after she left Pallita to formally found her own enclave.

“I won't ever be an equal to a High Matriarch, but she will hopefully acknowledge my role and status as a blooming woman and not treat us like outsiders.”, she explains.

We are then led to the top of the central pyramid of Sentosa, the seat of the triune Matriarchs. There we find three seats, one for each of the founding High Matriarchs Athryalla, Latika and Kasvarina. Which means that only one of them is currently occupied. We formally introduce ourselves to her and her court, and Athryalla encourages us to tell her more about us as she is quite interested in this foreign nation called Risur. We are a bit surprised as we thought her to be more focused on internal politics, but tell her everything she wishes to know about our political system and especially what “being King” in Risur means.

Athryalla laughs in a friendly manner and explains that she is no stranger to the outside world as, you know, she has been around for 500 years and has good contacts to the Fey of the Dreaming. Still she is glad that the current Monarch seems to have so much sympathy for Elfaivar. We promise we'll do our best to establish diplomatic contacts to Risur should she feel the desire and add that the colony of Kellandia is already en route to having really close ties with the surrounding enclaves, going so far as to founding the Covenant.

“Unforatunately, neither the Clergymen nor the Danorans of late are this interested in negotiations. If only she... well, she is the reason why you came here in the first place, or am I mistaken?”

We nod to this assumption and Athryalla shakes her head and explains that she cannot let Kasvarina venture outside again. Not as long as she is in this fragile condition. There are only two Matriarchs left, she says, and it is her duty to protect the remaining one beside her. It would be completely irresponsible to let her roam the wilds, especially with the Colossus and the Devilkin out there.

We understand, but add that we do know how to fight these treats, and we would be more than capable of protecting one Matriarch. But as we also sense that there would be bad blood hidden underneath that veil of verbal evasion, we point out that Kasvarina's continuous presence would actually endanger Sentosa itself as the Colossus feels drawn towards her and the Obscurati are currently searching for her as well. It is when we feel that Athryalla understands the danger she is in but still somehow places keeping Kasvarina inside above all this that we realize that something might be really off about this situation.

“May I speak openly, High Matriarch?” Auryn asks while making small gestures towards Athryala's guards.

“You may. Leave us, please.”

She then waves at her guards, who immediately withdraw beyond hearing range.

“I don't mean to be rude, but what would a High Matriarch fear so much that she'd risk the well-being of her whole enclave?”

Feeling caught off-track for once, Athryalla bites her tongue and falls silent for a moment.

“Kasvarina and I didn't part on the best terms, young flower. Ever since we started the restoration, we weren't exactly best friends. But then she turned her back on Vekesh and left our communal path behind. Vengeance became her sole motive. She even spat in Vekesh's face, when she founded her little conclave of assassins and called them 'Vekeshi'.”

That remark stings Auryn visibly as she didn't know how much the original Vekeshi would have been fixated on simply murdering Clergymen in revenge for the Malice before eventually becoming more than that.

“Her heart darkened so much that she was consumed by it. She even sabotaged my... oh my, young flower, I only tell you this because I see that you don't turn a blind eye to injustice even if you have to risk everything you came for, but Kasvarina, the true Kasvarina is much more malicious and dangerous than that weaponsmith you two had arrested last night. So I wasn't too surprised to hear about that conspiracy to murder her four centuries ago. Unfortunately, it failed though.”

She takes a deep breath once she sees the disturbance in Auryn's eyes.

“Hate me all the way you like. But you don't live to be the Matriarch of an enclave like Sentosa for five hundred years if you cannot make tough decisions. My enclave is my duty. Restoring Kasvarina isn't.”

Well, at least we know now that uncovering the crimes of Iomar didn't put us on bad terms with The High Matriarch. We tell her first that we are glad that she opened up to us so much, and promise we won't betray her trust . Still we get the feeling there might be more to this story as Carlyle gets a strong sense of shame once she talked about that assassination attempt.

“I understand your motives, High Matriarch. But if you talked to the current Kasvarina only for a while, you'd see that this version of her doesn't want to go back to the way she was before. She heard all of these stories about her killing people and she... was shocked about them. She is in a state of confusion and loss as she knows that she lost her husband and her daughters, even if she doesn't really remember how or why that all happened. All she want to know is to understand what she did and the reasons why she might have done that. She fears she might have set plans in motion that may lead to even more suffering if these plans go unnoticed. And I promise that I won't let her cause any more harm.”

We then go on to stress out that the Planar plan of the Obscurati is already endangering the Dreaming and one could only guess what would happen should our neighbor plane get ripped away from our world. The existence of the enclaves above everything else would be threatened as they are drifting between the Waking and the Dreaming. And the Obs are our mortal enemy as well.

Athryalla is surprised to see that we are still vouching for Kasvarina then, as she appears to have been a major figure in the Obscurati hierarchy. But when she asks us about our motives for helping her, we explain that first, she is still a part of Auryn's family, secondly, she may help us all to save the world and thirdly, we want to give her that chance for redemption, to make amends for her past mistakes.

Carlyle in particular looks straight at the Matriarch and adds that he wants to help Kasvarina regain her memories to find the answers that may be key to ensuring the future of all Eladrin. Also, he sternly stresses out that he would not hold back to help her, too, would she ever be in a situation where she may be in a similar situation of distress.

(Oh my, I only realize now that this promise came back full circle at the end... Carlyle really had a huge development regarding the Eladrin)

“Very well then. You have my permission to look for the Arc of Reida. But you'll have to go to the Sanctum of Ingathan on your own. Consider it a test of your true abilities to show me you have what it takes to 'protect' Kasvarina. It won't be an easy task though as the Sanctum is in the middle of a contested territory between Clergy colonists and a band of Eladrin Were-tigers who may be in league with the Mad King Vardanis.”

Athryalla smirks shortly, but expresses genuine interest once she realizes that we are not intimidated by her quest.

“We'll return soon.” Auryn promises.

“And don't forget: Once we return and leave with Kasvarina, you'll be rid of Asrabey as well.” Carlyle adds with a roguish wink.
 


Lylandra

Adventurer
Session 48
The I of the tiger

We return to Kasvarina's home with a sense of accomplishment as we really feared that High Matriarch Athryalla might be a too tough nut to crack. But before we can share our success with Kasvarina, Kieran Sentarcore and Asrabey, we spot said Dreadnought in front of the house, carelessly sharpening his daggers.

As we see that the Asrabey is very obviously still feeling the frustration of being unable to be of help or even do anything besides sitting here and waiting, we join him and ask him about his thoughts. But to our surprise he doesn't really talk about himself, but rather Kasvarina. Turns out that he still places more value in her as he claims that his major problem would be the fact that his wife would be so weak and dependent on others.

“My wife has always been a strong warrior. But 'this' Kasvarina is unable to protect anyone, lest the whole of Elfaivar.”, he growls.

“May I remind you that it was the 'old' Kasvarina who built the Colossus, joined the Obscurati and whose plans now endanger all of Elfaivar? This 'weak' Kasvarina has the potential to grow strong again once she regains her memories. And then she will remember you and everything you shared.”, Carlyle replies, urging Asrabey to be patient just a little more.

Asrabey sighs deeply and continues to sharpen his blades. So we tell him that we at least have some good news regarding the Arc of Reida, so he should really join the rest of us for planning the next steps.

Once inside, we tell Kasvarina and Sentacore about our permission to go search for the artifact. We don't tell Kas too much about Athryalla's antipathy for “old Kasvarina” and just mention that she and the past version of Kasvarina had quite the different methods of dealing with the Clergy which is why she would be so cold and uncaring.

(Really didn't wish to disturb her any more while she was in this unstable state)

We then tell the three that the Matriarch insisted that we'd look after the Arc without Kasvarina, and we'd be happy if she had someone around her who she knew well. Fortunately, Asrabey agrees that it would be best for all if he just stayed in Sentosa with Kasvarina just in case she either remembered something important or some Ob would try to sneak into the city.

When we tell the group about the location of the Arc, Kieran Sentacore's eyes widen and he unpacks several old maps and scrolls to show us his vast knowledge. We let him do his historian magic and plan our path from Sentosa to the Sanctum of Ingatan. When Sentacore realizes that our trip would lead us close to the Perpetual City, the historian gets really excited and states that seeing or even visiting the city just once would be a dream come true for him. Auryn encourages him to follow this dream as we all could visit the city together once we're done with restoring Kasvarina's memories.

Carlyle bites his tongue however and then sends her a mental message telling Auryn that he wouldn't be so sure about that possibility. After all, Sentacore is no Eladrin and a kind-of prisoner from Danor. A prisoner who was just exposed to some of the more important secrets of a major Eladrin enclave. So he'd probably not be allowed to leave Sentosa for the rest of his life.

So we pack up and leave Sentosa as soon as we're ready. Our path leads us through the jungle for a whole week where we get the impression that we're very much alone in the wilderness. Then, we spot a gigantic mountain and realize that this must be the location of the Perpetual City. We venture closer until we finally spot the trail of a wooden carriage in the soft ground. It is accompanied by hoof-prints, so we guess it might just have been an ox cart that came through this clearance. And once we're closer to the peak of the mountain, we find a wooden watchtower.

So we continue our way in stealth mode in order to avoid any ruckus and get a clearer image of the situation in the city. Once we spot a scout in typical danoran clothing, we're glad that we took the extra precautions. We make a quick mental exchange and conclude that the Danorans wouldn't be here for no reason, so we'd risk the detour to take a closer look at the city.

We sneak down the crater and find a forsaken, but still magnificent ancient eladrin city. Unlike the other ruins, this one seems to be untouched by overgrowth and we quickly realize that there might be some subtle magic which keeps the jungle at bay. But as we venture deeper, the architecture changes bit by bit until Carlyle points at some really ancient but totally characteristic crisillyiri influences among the oldest buildings. And when we come to a larger, open space, we spot an inscription which mentions a family name that is clearly Crisillyiri. Carlyle remembers that name and also the lectures he had when he was in school: That the last descendant of this family had been executed for heresy because he had falsely claimed that Eladrin and Crisillyiri might have had the same roots.

Unfortunately, these hints are all we find about the theory that humans and Eladrin might have once lived side by side. We guess that the Danorans might have found more information, so we surprise the sole scout on the watchtower and ask him about the city. But alas, he doesn't know more than we already do, so we wipe his memory of this encounter and move on. After all, we still got an Arc to find.

So we continue in the general direction of the Sanctum of Ingatan until we finally find another road. As this road leads into the right direction and allows much faster travel, we follow its path for a while. We come across several smaller settlements which appear to be of Eladrin making, but which have been abandoned not too long ago. So we guess that we've finally entered the zone of conflict Athrylalla warned us about.

We continue down the road cautiously until we hear noises coming from somewhere further down the road. So we hide in the overgrowth along the road and spot a group of humans, obviously wearing crisillyiri clothing and armaments, who are transporting several injured on their carts. As this group is moving at quite the slow pace, we easily close the gap to them and follow them for a while. We see several claw wounds on the injured and guess that these might be soldiers who fought the Were-tigers, or Bagheva, as Athryalla called them. We also listen to their conversation and find that the group's morale is at a very low point. They are desperately waiting for the relief troops and have been far longer serving on the front lines than what they had signed up for.

We follow the crisillyiri soldiers to a small encampment surrounded by wooden palisades. Carlyle also smells the biting stench of pyre smoke, so we sneak in while being invisible and look for its source. As he had guessed,we find a still smoldering pyre where both human and eladrin bodies had been burned recently. Carlyle tries to connect to one of the deceased Eladrin and is able to summon the spirit of one man who died recently.

The Eladrin is very harsh and unfriendly at first, but Carlyle assures him that he is a friend who wants to help a fellow Eladrin woman. In addition, he would consider himself an enemy of the current Clergy, so any help he can provide us will probably weaken their enemy as well. The spirit sees the truth in his words and tell us about his home, Kanta Mahala, or Bramblehome. He tells Carlyle to look behind the curtain of the waterfall and to ask for Betronga, their leader.

Carlyle thanks the spirit for his trust and bids him farewell. We're about to leave this encampment when we suddenly hear commotion from further inside. So we sneak a bit closer and see that several of the crisillyiri soldiers are pointing hastily to the sky. We look into the same general direction and spot three larger figures advancing from the north. Before the Crisillyiri can get a better image on what these creatures could possibly be, they descend and disappear below the treeline.

We continue to stay hidden and listen to the soldiers' conversation regarding the strange sight and it appears as if they are in a heated debate on whether these would be larger birds or flying demons. In a flash of insight, Carlyle uses this uncertainty as a means to strike a heavy blow to their morale.

“Large birds? Haha, you fools, if you knew... if you only knew” he tells them mentally, one by one. with a truly malicious, demon-like undertone. Of course, the soldiers panic instantly and start looking for the source of these dark words.

“Now they know the true terror of uncertainty. Let's look for Kanta Mahala, these guys will most likely take the rest of the day to search for invisible demons” he tells Auryn mentally, this time in his usual voice. Still she senses a strange satisfaction and almost joy in his words.

(Telepathy or mental messaging in general can be a terrifying power in the hands of a creative player. And Carlyle is just the right person to know what trigger points he'd need to tap in an opponent.

As an anecdote, I had to tone down the psionic version of Sending in my WotBS campaign because the designers didn't realize it could easily be abused to constantly terrorize a person over a really long distance and for an almost infinite duration. Not that my players would have intended to use it that way, but the possibility was there...)


So we leave the crisilliyri encampment behind and follow the path to Kanta Mahala that we got from the eladrin's spirit. At first, we hurry as we want to make some distance to the encampment. But then we proceed with more caution as we know from our encounter with the eladrin hermit that traps can be quite deadly in these lands.

Just before we reach the final way to the Bramblehome, we start to hear more and more animal noises. Usually, more careless wanderers would interpret these sounds as a signal that wildlife is indeed abundant in this part of the forest, but both Carlyle and Auryn know the traditional signaling of eladrin scouts. Nevertheless, we continue cautiously, looking up to the trees every now and then to signal that we're quite aware of the hidden Eladrin.

Once the noises intensify, Auryn suggests Gabriel to go hide in the bushes as the scouts would be really close now and she doesn't know how the Bagheva would react to someone who looks so much like their Crisillyiri enemy. He agrees and makes a silent leap through space and time. It doesn't take Auryn much longer on the hidden path and she's all of a sudden being approached by a young Eladrin woman in hunter's leathers.

“And what would bring someone with such pretty garments to the territory of the Bagheva?” the woman asks with a raspy, almost feral voice.

Before Auryn can answer, the eladrin continues: “Seems to be one of the matriarch's kids. Smells like one, too. Your kind usually stays away from ours.”

“I am Auryn, and yes, I am the daughter of a matriarch. But I am not from Sentosa. My mother is matriarch Galadin of Pallita, but you'd probably never heard of it. I've come to find the Sanctum of Ingatan, for it is of utmost importance for the future of all our kind that we find an old relic of the god. So I'd be really glad if you could guide me to Kanta Mahala.”

When she realizes that Auryn shown no sign of aggression, the woman comes a bit closer and sniffs at her. She then nods and introduces herself as Talios Valanar, a scout from Bramblehome. This is a true surprise to Auryn as this young warrior apparently has the same name as matriarch Athryalla. Talios smirks when she mentions the matriarch of Sentosa whom she calls a very distant relative. She doesn't know exactly how they are related though as her ancestor must have left Sentosa several generations ago.

(In my headcannon, the original Bagheva went into the sealed temple of Hewanharimau and drank from the blood of the god. Maybe it was a stupid dare of one of the matriarch's kids, maybe it was a full-blown schism. But they were most likely exiled after that)

Auryn signals her interest in Talios' story, but she also has another point she'd like to talk about. First she asks the huntress to please stay no matter what happens next. She then tells Talios that she didn't come here all alone because no sane matriarch's daughter would do something that stupid and Talios laughs from all of her heart at that remark. Auryn then explains that she brought her Sahodar Mitra with her, a man she trusts with her life. She adds that he has quite the unusual appearance for an eladrin's Sahomi, so she hopes Talios will show him the same respect she'd shown her.

Talios seems intrigued, but also wary at this prospect. She nods again and Carlyle finally leaves the undergrowth to greet her. The Bagheva was very much ready to see a disfigured Eladrin, but she clearly wasn't prepared to see a human, lest a deva. So she transforms into a weretiger on the spot and growls at Carlyle. In reaction, he shows her his bare palms.

“Please, I mean no harm. Every word Auryn said was true. These people, these humans who may look like me are my enemy as well. We came here to look for the Sanctum, but we are ready to defend the Eladrin against the foreign intruders.”

Auryn adds that we two only recently learned of the conflict between the colonists and the Bagheva, which is why we would like to speak to their chief Betronga. Talios stays in her tiger form for a little longer before she calms down and transforms back. She seems still wary, but agrees to lead us to Kanta Mahala.
 

Lylandra

Adventurer
A cornered cat

Auryn adds that we two only recently learned of the conflict between the colonists and the Bagheva, which is why we would like to speak to their chief Betronga. Talios stays in her tiger form for a little longer before she calms down and transforms back. She seems still wary, but agrees to lead us to Kanta Mahala.

After a not too long journey and several animal calls from Talios later, we finally arrive in a small village consisting mostly of tents and huts that are built near the Sanctum of Ingatan and its surrounding platforms. Talios calls to her kin and states that she got two visitors from Sentosa who would like to talk to Betronga. Of course this attracts the attention of a larger number of the Bagheva who are curious about the newcomers.

Then, suddenly, Auryn feels as if something at her side is moving on its own and she understands that this is her blade drawing itself. She immediately tries to stop the weapon and the moment she touches it, she senses that it, or more specifically the part that was added by the Arsenal of Dhebisu, considers the Bagheva to be its enemies. What makes matters worse is the fact that the Bagheva seem to understand from the tiny flashes of the weapon that this must be the weapon which once killed their god. Or ancestor. Or whatever the relationship of these people and Hewanharimau would be.

“Stop it! You asked me to fight an 'evil', but these people are clearly not evil. We have a common enemy. This is my choice, not yours. Let go.” she says sternly, keeping the hilt of her weapon in a firm grip.

Of course, the Bagheva are still wary to the point where they seem to be unsure whether to attack or to watch and wait. Several growl and draw their weapons, but they stay at a distance for now. With a deep exhale Auryn places her rapier back in its hilt and tries to appear as harmless and calm as possible.

“It is true, I carry the Arsenal of Dhebisu with me. But the Star of Dhebisu didn't choose me to fight you, it asked me to fight evil, and I believe that there might be demons, or Rakhshasas out there somewhere. But as I told the star, you are noble warriors who fight to defend their home, who have long outgrown the ancient strife of the fallen god. We share against a common enemy, these humans who try to invade your lands. So I humbly ask you to accept our assistance.”

“What is going on here?!”

The strong voice of a male Bagheva silences the occasional growl of the others, and he introduces himself as Betronga, the rajah of this clan. We are glad to finally meet Betronga in person and repeat that we came here to help the Eladrin defend their lands and also to find the ancient artifact known as the Arc of Reida. Betronga seems to be both curious about the two of us and also cautious as we are not exactly what he'd call allies at first glance. So he asks us to follow him to his hideout and wait in the company of his warriors while he finishes his talks with the noble emissaries first.

We immediately get that these emissaries would most likely be the very same winged creatures we saw in the sky earlier, so we calmly warn Betronga that these people are potentially dangerous and that their help will come at a price.

“These winged eladrin are sent by a person who calls himself 'King Vardanis', but don't be mistaken. There is nothing noble about him or his kind.” Auryn says.

“At worst, they will simply take what they desire. Just like they did with the small villages far to the north”, Carlyle adds.

“So you're augurs now? How can you know so much about them? And how shall I know that it is not you who are playing mind tricks with me?” Betronga replies, although his voice seems very unsure this time.

We explain in return that we simply encountered them in the past and know a bit about these “Mad Kings”, but we wouldn't dare deny Rajah Betronga the opportunity to get an idea of his own about these people. Betronga smirks and then asks us to wait near some ancient stone buildings. We nonetheless follow him silently until we are in hearing range of his meeting point, the inside of one of the stone buildings.

As we see that several other Bagheva are watching from the outside, we just join them and see what the chief has to talk about. While the dignitaries and Betronga are busy exchanging traditional welcomes, we see that a lot of the villagers and warriors appear to be injured in one way or the other, and we get that these wounds could stem from their conflict with the Crisillyiri. Regarding the Feladrin, the talks proceed as we thought: They merely exchange empty words and utter the prospect of support against the human invaders, but require the sworn loyalty of the Bagheva and submission to their King's rule in return.

Fortunately, the emissaries leave as quickly as they came and fly away to the north. After the talks are finished, Betronga asks to meet us in the same house. We introduce ourselves again and ask him how his meeting proceeded.

“Frustrating. Just as you foretold, augurs.” he hisses with a hefty sigh.

We return that we already guessed so from his sour tone, and comfort him with the fact that they didn't outright threaten or attack him like they did when we had the “honor” of talking to some of them. Now Betronga is all curious about our encounter with the Feladrin and we tell him all about the Covenant enclave and Sawyer, and their raid on our allies. Fortunately, we were able to save the abducted people from a cruel fate, be that either to be sacrificed to their demonic allies or to be enslaved as laborers or wives. And these allies, Auryn adds, were just what she had in mind when she let the Arsenal join her.

“Then our situation is dire indeed, it seems my choice is between poison, leash, or sword to the chest. Oh if only my father was still alive. He'd know what to do...”

Betronga then tells us about his father's death in a battle against the humans and suddenly, we understand how such a young man could have become the Rajah of the Bagheva. He says that he already sent out the arrow of war to the surrounding tribe, but they never came to help him. He then sent the same request to Sentosa as they are distant relatives, but they would be too much concerned with their own safety as they didn't bother to answer either.

We guess that maybe someone of the Crisillyiri or even the Feladrin intercepted the scouts as Matriarch Athryalla would have told us about the request once we asked her for permission to get the Arc of Reida. So we offer him to send the Matriarch another arrow of war as we're pretty sure that she'd at least let us bring supplies to the Bagheva. We also offer to heal the wounded with our magic, an offer the young Rajah gladly accepts.

So we interrupt our talk for a while and do a healing session with the Bagheva, who are truly grateful to receive the work of such skilled healers. We explain that this is the grace of Srasama, not just a skill, which inspires even more awe.

Once we return to Betronga, he appears to be impressed that we gave our help without asking anything in return first. We explain that we'd also like to make sure that the Bagheva are safe in their Kanta Mahala and that this shouldn't be too much of a problem as the Crisillyiri soldiers appeared to be worn-down as well. Still we are no savages, and we do know mercy, so we'd ask Betronga to solve this problem our way. When he asks him what “our way” would include, we just tell him that we'd like to give the humans the choice to leave peacefully and never return.

Carlyle is a bit more skeptical regarding the chances of success as he knows more than anyone else about the zeal of the Crisillyiri, especially if there is one godhand among them, but he agrees to at least try the peaceful route first. He promises Betronga that, should the humans show any sign of betrayal, he would not hesitate to fight them. Betronga is unsure whether this plan could work at all, but he is willing to try it our way as we are clearly wiser and more experienced than him.

Finally, we get to the Arc of Reida and the Sanctum of Ingatan and explain that this artifact is why we came here at the first place. Betronga doesn't care too mucha bout ancient faiths and artifacts, but he can tell us that this thing must have been secured very neatly by the old Guardians of the Sanctum as no one who dared to enter this place as able to come out alive. So his father eventually forbade his tribe to enter the inner Sanctum at all.

We both agree that the Arc can wait just a bit longer and leave Kanta Mahala to go look for the Crisillyiri encampment once more.
 

Andrew Moreton

Adventurer
My players got conflicted with this bit, some of them did not want to fight the Crisillyiri but after a long debate they realised they could not think of a way to get to the Arc without the help of the weretigers or killing them and could not think of a way to make the Crisillyiri to go away peacefully. They considered asking the God Hand they had saved from the Ob for help but realised he would be very much backing the Crisillyrir so would be of no help . In the end they decided they had to spearhead the Weretiger attack . It will be interesting to see if you managed to come up with a none violent solution
 

In gideonpepys's group, the PC with the Humble Hook, Korrigan, basically went up to Aulus Atticus and told him, "I bear the Humble Hook. I want you to withdraw, and my presence here is a divine message. The hook thinks you should leave without fighting." And Atticus was happy to have a higher authority give him an excuse for saving the lives of his soldiers. ZEITGEIST - [ZEITGEIST] The Continuing Adventures of Korrigan & Co.

In Andrew Morton's group , the party just bombarded Vigil Longis with magic, then killed the Clergy and didn't seem particularly bothered by it. ZEITGEIST - The affirmative action racial recruitment team of the RHC

In skotothalamos's (previously roadtoad's) group (the one where Kasvarina was an amnesiac PC named Summer who regained her memories during this adventure), the party also were pretty gung ho about driving out the Clergy, which ended up with the weretigers killing all the fleeing humans. ZEITGEIST - BSI: Bosum Strand Irregulars

I don't know if any other groups posted details about this scenario.

If I'd done a bit better of a job tying threads together, I'd have had the decision here have more direct consequences in the Act Three adventures.
 

Andrew Moreton

Adventurer
They really tried to think of a way not to attack the clergy camp but after they failed to come up with one, they decided they needed to do the job properly and make sure it was not reported back to Crisillyr that the Risuri were attacking. Then they were brutally efficient in annihlating the camp and leaving a few survivors for the weretigers to hunt down. But they would have liked a peaceful solution but could not think of any way to get one both sides would agree to and then it came down to they like the Eladrin more than the clergy and needed Eladrin allies
 

hirou

Explorer
Huh. So I guess my group is a minority. They didn't like the attitude of Clergy, but didn't want to kill them on behalf of weredrins, so they tried to sneak into the temple in the night. That plan went predictably wrong, in the end weretigers were forced to relocate to another place and Clergy triumphantly destroyed the temple.
 

Lylandra

Adventurer
our version of Vitus Sigismund would have definitely sided with the Crisillyiri, so he was completely out of the equation for us. As you'll see soon, the Humble Hook played a role in our solution for the conflict. I just wish we would have been able to use it more often.

In retrospect, I believe that "old Auryn" would have simply sided with the Bagheva and attacked the Crisillyiri, with Carlyle most likely backing her up as the Clergymen are clearly the aggressors here. This more experienced version, equipped with the Hook, would seek out a peaceful solution first. It helped that Carlyle is really good at playing mind games and finding clever ways of non-threatening intimidation.

It is really interesting to see how different groups handled the whole situation in a completely different way. But yeah, I would have loved to see Aulus Atticus again in Act 3. Finally a non-crazy Clergyman.
 

Lylandra

Adventurer
Spiritual diplomacy

This time, we agree that the deva part of our duo might have the upper hand in the talks as the soldiers might take Carlyle for being part of the reinforcements they are desperately waiting for. Still we don't really know what we're getting into, so we decide to wait till night falls and scout their encampment once more. This way, we learn that no only the morale is at a low point, but that there are also several wounded soldiers and apparently a lack of healing magic. What makes matters worse for the Crisillyiri is the fact that the reinforcements won't be coming for a long time, should they come at all. A fact that appears to be carefully hidden inside the commander's office desk.

“I knew they were cruel, but to let their own be abandoned without hope like that is yet another level of depravity”, Carlyle says mentally and we retreat for now.

The next morning, we both just walk to the gate out on the open and try to greet the Crisillyiri. Our politeness is returned with an arrow in front of our feet and a quick question whether the deva would be a soldier with a Were-Tiger prisoner. Carlyle quickly points out that Auryn is no Bagheva, or Were-Tiger as they'd call them, but rather an Eladrin emissary from another enclave who came here to negotiate. So, no prisoner, but a diplomat. Carlyle continues to ask to be able to talk to the one who's in charge here and he promises that we'll enter and leave peacefully.

The Crisillyiri tell us to wait as they'd relegate our request to a man called Aulus Atticus, a noble Godhand of the Clergy. Said Aulus Atticus appears to be a handsome and tall man who agrees to let us enter their encampment as he cannot sense any betrayal in our words. The soldiers are as confused and wary at our presence as the Bagheva were before, but Aulus seems to be untouched by their emotional instability. We thank the man for this opportunity to maybe solve this conflict with words rather than weapons, and Aulus is curious about the reason we came here.

Carlyle explains that we came here on behalf of the Bagheva, or Were-Tigers as they'd call them, who are merely trying to defend their ancient home from foreign invaders. Auryn adds that she has seen what the Crisillyiri did to her people, be they Bagheva or not. She talks about the abandoned villages, about the refugees who were driven off their land and families that got torn apart by this needless violence. Carlyle finishes the statement by explaining that many of these refugees now reside in a holy site, their last Sanctum that they are surely going to defend relentlessly until either them or the Crisillyiri are dead.

“I don't know how many wars you have fought in, noble Godhand, but I have fought the Eladrin on their home turf in the great war five hundred years ago. This is not an experience I want you to share. And the people I fought were not as cornered as the Bagheva are right now.”

He lets these words sink in for a moment before he continues.

“And I know that your soldiers are desperately waiting for reinforcements. Reinforcements, which as we both know, will never arrive. Meanwhile, the Bagheva have sent out a call to help to other clans and the nearby enclaves. And they are about to rally allies as you can clearly see by our presence.”

This news appear to deal another heavy blow to the morale of the surrounding soldiers who listened to our exchange with Aulus Atticus with great interest. Of course the Godhand realizes this as the spreading poison it could be, which is why he kindly asks us to continue our talk in his office. Carlyle smiles confidently as we agree to go inside.

Once inside, Aulus Atticus pretty directly states that he has no personal grudge against the Eladrin savages who live here, he is just following orders and doing his job. He'd also let the Bagheva live in peace should they bow to the Theocracy, renounce their heretical faith, convert to the Clergy belief and follow the divine laws of Crisillyir.

Auryn laughs softly at this proposal before she tries to appeal to the Godhand's consciousness.

“You do know that you are the ones who entered the territory of the Eladrin, forcefully, and are about to commit blasphemous acts against their faith?”

“But your lands were forsaken after the Victory. For the Theocracy, these are empty jungles and we need the resources.”

“Don't call it.. nevermind. Our people merely hid from you, they retreated to hideouts to regrow and revive our way of life. You entered our land, so it would be more appropriate for you to adapt to our customs. Leave them be and the Bagheva will cease the violence. That much I can promise.”

Carlyle adds that, should the Crisillyiri continue their attacks, they should know that they and the other aggressive colonists are just about to cause different groups of Eladrin to join forces, which is why they could easily be the best catalyst for forging a unified Elfaivar. An Elfaivar that could turn out to be an enemy of the Clergy once more, with a new conflict that could place Aulus and his men at the front.

“Do you really want to be the man who makes the Clergy an enemy of a unified Elfaivar, Aulus Atticus?” Auryn says in a tone as friendly and warm as she can bring herself to use. Which works surprisingly well, but may also be connected to the fact that this Godhand for once seems to be reasonable and not just a blind fanatic.

The Godhand takes a deep breath and then looks at Auryn for a while. His eyes eventually fall onto the small amulet hanging around her neck and he exhales a quiet gasp as his eyes widen.

“This pendant of yours, may I take a closer look?” he asks with honest curiosity and reverence.

Auryn agrees as she once again senses no ill intent from the Godhand.

“Sweet Triegenes, this is the real one, isn't it? The Humble Hook that was lost centuries ago. I can sense its holy presence. How did this happen?”

“It left its previous owner by choice, if this is what you ask. It wasn't content with his plans and morals and now wants to be with me it seems. Ever since the Hook joined me, it encouraged me to find peaceful solutions for conflicts. I know that it must be a cruel irony for a faithful of Triegenes like you that your most holy relic chose an Eladrin, but who are we to question its choice?”

“Who are we to judge the divine, indeed. Thank you, you have given me a lot to think about, emissary Auryn.”

He then serves us a bit of what little coffee he has left and stays silent for a while. When we finish our drink, Aulus Atticus asks us to give him two more days for consideration as he doesn't want to make a hasty choice. We agree since we also have to return to the Bagheva's Sanctum and bring their chief the news of our negotiations. So we leave the encampment in peace and walk down the road for a while. Of course, we stay on alert should the Crisillyiri be foolish enough to follow us to Kanta Mahala. But for once, our trust in the Godhand doesn't seem to be misplaced as we can sense no humanoid soul in a large radius.

Carlyle still wants to be extra sure and help the Bagheva by all means possible, so he asks Auryn to return on her own while he stays close to the encampment. This way he may be on alert just in case the Godhand or another Crisillyiri tries something funny.

Auryn takes a while to return to Betronga and the Bagheva, but she is warmly welcomed this time. She tells the young Rajah about her and her Sahomi's negotiations with the humans and adds that there might be an chance that they'd leave. Betronga is a bit worried about Carlyle's whereabouts though, but Auryn stresses out that Gabriel is quite capable of surviving in the jungle. She offers Betronga to personally deliver a message to the Bagheva's sister tribes as this was one of the reasons why the human leader may consider our proposal.

“Your words are more sharp than our spears then. I've never thought that talking could hold that much power.”

“You're welcome, Betronga.” Auryn says with a chuckle.

“Would you marry me?” the Rajah then asks all of a sudden.

“Pardon?”

“I mean it. Our clan needs a person like you. I'm young, but I know what I can and what cannot do. I need a mate who is wise, knowledgeable and patient, who is what I cannot be.”

Auryn smiles at Betronga, takes his hands and then declines his generous offer politely. She explains that while she has deepest sympathy for the Bagheva and will do everything she can to ensure their survival, her destiny is elsewhere. Also, she has already set her eyes on another.

(not that this would have worked in any kind of way. Betronga is basically a boy in Auryn's culture and what he desires in a partner is what she'd be looking for in her first husband as well.)

While they are waiting for Carlyle to return, Talios also shows her interest in the “enclave Eladrin”. She asks Auryn a lot of questions about her home and is quite astonished to hear that this young-looking woman is already 76 years old. She explains with some pride that the blessing of Hewanharimau had given the Bagheva the ability to grow into adulthood much quicker, and he gave them a good fertility and physical prowess on top of that. Auryn agrees that these are qualities she has seen in her mother's tiger companion as well, and that the ferocity of the Bagheva might be just what could be needed in these savage lands.

(She was being polite here. Of course she has a lot of respect for the Bagheva's fight for survival and their adaptability, but she finds their lack of knowledge and wisdom dangerous – two qualities that only come with age and experience. To her, Talios, Betronga and most of the others are a bunch of feral teens who would really be in need of guidance. But she also knew that she couldn't fill that role. And yep, she is clearly biased by her own cultural background)

Meanwhile, Carlyle is taking his time to watch the Crisillyiri encampment. After some time has passed, he spots a larger troop leaving the garrison to go on a scouting mission. He follows them for a while and understands that they are looking for a new place to settle in. The place they'd find viable would still be very close to the territory of the Bagheva though. So he uses a disguise spell to take on the look of an Eladrin scout and conjures the illusion of a small group of well-armored Eladrin warriors to accompany him. He makes sure that the Crisillyiri spot the group (who are obviously watching the soldiers) eventually to let them know that they are still being in Eladrin lands. As soon as they notice the Eladrin, the humans get all nervous, pack up and retreat to their encampment.

Once Carlyle is sure that the humans won't try anything funny too soon, he returns to Bramblehome and brings everyone up to date. Betronga is very much amused that this deva is using “the mind of the enemy as a weapon”, to which he adds that Auryn once used the image of a dragon tyrant to stop an army. The young Rajah laughs loudly at this story and thanks Carlyle for his help.

As we still have one day left until we're scheduled to hear from Aulus Atticus again, we offer Betronga to deliver the blood-stenched arrow of war to their closest sister tribe and he is again glad to have such a support on his side.

The day after, we return to the encampment to meet with the Godhand on official ground. In his usual calm, he states that he doesn't wish to endanger the lives of his men more than he already has. He still has his orders, but “his faith” appears to have sent him an unambiguous message that this is not the right place for him. He makes a small nod towards the Humble Hook and smirks. Instead, after he consulted the maps and prayed for guidance, the Godhand found a way to technically still obey his orders while also being able to leave these lands behind: To simply go southwards to a large, uninhabited valley. We both are really thankful for his wisdom and express our heartfelt relief.

(There you have it: A non-violent solution. And yes, Tinyhook was totally complicit in this solution. As players, we were both happy with the outcome as this is a very typical situation in a lot of games: Choose a faction to side with and then automatically become enemy of the opposing faction in return.

As the player who had the Hook, I was also a bit unsure about how to properly read the rules on how to gain and lose concordance. Especially in the cases where the owner or ally kills someone without trying dialogue – would that also count for self-defense or in a large battle like the War of the Pirates on Hunlow? Does one have to try dialogue with each and every opponent? What about lawful executions? Also, why is stopping combat with diplomacy on the list (this is one reason why I wanted to get my hands on Reason so desperately) but not avoiding encounters/solving conflict by diplomacy altogether? I think Tiz would have benefited from some hints in the adventures to when or how Hook-points could be gained or lost i.e. when such a thing like stopping combat with words would realistically work.

Regarding Auryn's mental state, she is actually quite happy in this Elfaivar episode. After her long talk with Gabriel before their departure from Flint, she finally realized that he would always be by her side no matter what. And when they both stood on the temple of Srasama and talked about the nature of the goddess, her path forward was suddenly very clear. She is also very glad that Gabriel was very much not like Asrabey and while she knew that Gabriel once had a very strong connection to another woman, this wasn't anywhere near the situation of Kasvarina and Pillai. Also, seeing that Athryalla actually has an interest in a good relationship to Risur gave her positive vibes that their project in Kellandia might be accepted in more enclaves – especially since Athryalla is one of the three original High Matriarchs)
 

Lylandra

Adventurer
The trial of Ingatan, or: There are four flames

We return to Betronga and the Bagheva and bring him the good news. The Rajah is very happy hearing about the humans' departure, but we all don't know for sure whether the colonists may return somewhen in the future. So we suggest we'd bring the arrow to a few more clans in the area and explain the situation to them. This way, Betronga's clan could rekindle the unity of the Children of Hewanharimau.

The Rajah joyfully accepts our offer and states that this way, the Bagheva may become Elfaivar's true surviving future. Again, we don't wish to rain on his parade, but we do remind him that not too long ago he sensed that his tribe was missing something. Something that the enclave of Sentosa may have plenty of. Auryn adds that she, too, learned a lot once she saw the different enclaves and now the Bagheva's way of life. Also, as a Risuri, she knows that there is strength in diversity, in different ideas and approaches to their people's challenges. So maybe it would be a wise idea to look to an enclave like Sentosa for inspiration as well.

“Matriarch Athryalla knows a lot about talking. She had opted for the diplomatic route even before both of us were born.”, Auryn explains.

It seems as if Betronga is at least interested in reforging the connections to Sentosa. Still, we first have to find what we came for at the first place: The crown of Reida. Betronga sees no problem in letting us enter the Sanctum after all we've done for him. He warns us though that there is a reason why this place is usually for secret-keepers only as even the cleansing ritual can be quite deadly.

Auryn laughs at this statement.

“Good that I am one of those 'secret keepers' then, eh?”

“Haha, I completely missed that, dear Aur-Ryn. Maybe this is an omen. Maybe you are meant to enter”

“Ingatan's ways are as mysterious as they are funny”

Carlyle nods, thinking about the strange but cohesive way the Temple of Ingatan in Rumah Terakir was structured. He adds that he knows a lot about the nature of time, which is why he would have a natural knack for dealing with an artifact linked to the planet of time. Betronga asks us to just take good care of ourselves, and then we enter the Sanctum.

We carefully examine the first rooms and find that the purification chamber has been trapped by those who left the Sanctum, so we avoid it. We also spot a fresco of Ingatan, carrying four flames. Auryn explains that these represent both the past and the future and guesses that the test could be linked to all four time scales.

So we decide to start this test in the correct chronological order and thus with the monochrome hall of the far past. The room switches immediately to a vision of the Coaltongue on the day we first met King Aodhan. The first person we see is Inspector Delft who tells us to go look for Duchess Ethelyn who has been suspiciously absent for a while now. All of a sudden, Delft is interrupted though as two ashen grey fire elementals appear and attack us.

“Now this is something that definitely didn't happen back then. Let us put the timeline back in order” says Carlyle and draws his kukris.

The elementals are not much of a threat, and we understand that this might still be a test after all. The moment the last of the grey creatures dissolves, the remaining embers form one small, harmless flame which we transfer to the statue of Ingatan.

We don't take much time to examine the mechanism behind this much further, but rather venture on to the next hall, this time tinted in red. As soon as we step in, the hall transforms again and we are suddenly standing in the workshop of Tinker Oddcog deep down in Gradiax' hoard.

At first, the room appears to be forsaken (which seems odd as we encountered both “Pemberton” and Oddcog back then, but then we see one transparent image of Fordren.

“Strange... you, why are you here? This is not your... this is not the time for you!” he says, but then vanishes again.

We then spot smaller flames lying all over the place and then feel that the room is getting hotter and hotter. So Auryn uses a flame warding dance before we split up to gather the flamelings one by one. Due to the protective aura, the fire doesn't harm us and we manage to unite the pieces in a timely manner. This then lets us ignite the red flame of the recent past.

(A first glimpse at the true nature of Gradiax and one thing he has in common with Carlyle: Time is his specialty)

We both agree that the next two rooms will be potentially difficult for us as they may give us insight into the future course of events. Nevertheless, we enter the hall of the near future, which is dominated by a yellow shine. The room twists as before, but this time we cannot make sense of the place we're being in. It appears to be on a large platform atop what must be a gigantic tower. The platform is walled with the occasional opening from which we can spot a city full of white houses way down below. In the middle of the platform is some sort of portal which may lead to another world as the sun is rising on that place while we're looking at a full moon on the sky above us. Right in front of the portal, we spot the body of a dead, large-framed man, but his face is veiled in shadows so thick that even Auryn's light spells cannot pierce them.

Then, all of a sudden, yellow flamelike ghosts appear in the openings and try to scorch us with flyby attacks. Carlyle retaliates immediately and dissolves one of the ghosts. Auryn does the same with the second one and then decides to go after the other two. This turns out to be a near-fatal mistake as her flight spell is being suppressed the moment she leaves the platform and she starts plummeting toward the ground. Luckily, she is able to roll around midair and catch the ledge with her arms. Which of course makes a perfect target for the remaining ghosts.

Carlyle dashes into her direction and hits one of the ghosts before it can reach Auryn. This leaves him with three parts of the yellow flame and gives Auryn enough time to crawl up the platform again. She warns Carlyle about the anti-magic field outside and hides behind the walls. The ghost stays out of the tower however, and we are being forced to think of a new strategy.

“Will you shoot it for me?”, Carlyle asks all of a sudden.

“Of course, but what will happen to the flame?”, Auryn replies.

“Don't worry. I will catch it.”

Auryn finally agrees, draws her (severely underused) bow and fires a salve of arrows at the ghost. It doesn't take too long and the elemental dissolves, leaving a flame behind that starts falling immediately. Carlyle then teleports directly to the edge of the platform and jumps after the flame. He combines the four parts midair, and all of a sudden the shadows in the dead man's face vanish and reveal that he is no one but our dear friend Andrei.

(we kind of suspected it the moment we saw the bulky frame. That was one low blow. Also, Carlyle, what a daredevil!)

The room changes back as Ingatan accepts this unusual solution to his trial and we ignite the yellow flame in his hand. Auryn, however, is shocked by what she just saw. She tells Gabriel about Andrei's death and adds that this path of the future would break Isobel's heart.

“This is exactly why we need to remove Reida from our configuration. This future, this fate, is just too cruel. And knowing that it will most likely be inevitable...”

“Don't... please. Don't you start believing that this future is inevitable.” Gabriel pleads, and then embraces her tightly.

“This is but one possible future and while I see that Ingatan can play some damaging tricks, he isn't that cruel. I'd rather believe that this is an opportunity so we may change the outcome of this event. Never forget that time is my friend. He won't die on us.”

Auryn finally agrees to trust their power, even if both know that Nicodemus would be more than a match for them.

We then move on to the last test, the trial of the far future. This room is lit with a white light and transforms into a forest-y landscape. The next person we see is Rock Rackus and this time it is Carlyle who is dismayed by this sight. We appear to be on the run with several more people coming with us, but we know none of them. They are not bothered by our sight, so we guess they must at least be brief acquaintances. Then, we see meteors falling from the sky and our pace increases. In a clearing before us, we can see the destination of our flight: A ship that appears to be an airship!

Now it is Carlyle's turn to be shocked as this scenario has always been his worst nightmare. The meteors finally split the ground and separate us from the airship. Then, we see a rival group which is also trying to reach the ship: A bunch of kyton devils wearing golden chains. What is even more shocking is the fact that these devils all of a sudden teleport onto the ship despite them wearing golden chains.

So we guess that this vision might be a future where the Obs or someone else successfully changed the planar configuration in a way that removed Urim's blocking effect. Also, these guys are definitely part of the Golden Legion, so this part of our warning was obviously correct. Despite the fact that we could both just cross the gap to the devils, Carlyle offers all of us a safe passage by creating an icy bridge over the chasm.

(Elsa Carlyle? ;) Also yes, he does love these wall spells)

On the ship's deck, we fight the devils and finish them quickly, leaving us with the fragments of the white flame. Then, the cracks beneath the ship widen and this whole place appears to be crumbling to dust. We just hope that this wasn't our home we saw as we return to the white hall with the white flame of the distant future in our hands.

“Let's just hope that this was merely another possible version of the future as well...” Auryn says, breathing heavily after this world-shattering vision.

The test ends with the last flame in the statue's hands, and one of the walls opens up to reveal a wall of fire. This turns out to be merely an illusion (trickster god again...), which we may pass safely. All of a sudden, we find ourselves standing on the spires of Ingatan's statue where the Arc of Reida appears right in front of us. We carefully look at the artifact and are then being hailed by the Bagheva who don't understand why we would suddenly appear on top of the Sanctum.

We shout that we just finished the trial of Ingatan and got the Arc of Reida, so no worries, this is all part of the plan. Before we lay our hands on the Arc, we examine it with magic and then wrap it in a cloth as we fear it might imprint on us or something like that.

We then climb down the Sanctum again and thank Betronga for this opportunity. Still we have to return to Sentosa as quickly as possible, so we cannot stay for much longer. The Rajah understands us and then asks us to take him and Talios with us so he may speak to Matriarch Athryalla. We have given him much tot think about, he says, and so he'd like to try understand the enclave-dwellers a bit more. Carlyle agrees to teleport the four of us to the gate of Rumah Terakir. But the moment her casts the spell, he notices that something doesn't work as planned as he is slightly off-target and we all get slightly scorched.

“Sorry, I knew this could happen eventually. Nothing to be worried about.” he says, but Auryn deep down knows that Carlyle so far has never missed a target. She doesn't want to alarm the Bagheva though and so she keeps quiet. We are still close enough to the entrance so we are able to enter the enclave in a timely manner despite the mishap.

(And this is where I got major WotBS vibes. We knew we would be able to handle such an effect, but this was very obviously linked to the “burning threshold” Old Stag warned us about)
 

Lylandra

Adventurer
To shatter a Dreadnought

Faedhraven hails us at the entrance to Sentosa, and she appears to be her grumpy self again once she sees Betronga and Talios. We explain the situation to her and add that the Bagheva would rather turn to Sentosa for help than to ally with the Mad King Vardanis and she lets the four of us enter without too much struggle. She insist that they'd at least take a bath before meeting with the High Matriarch and Carlyle tries to ease the tense situation by adding that the bathhouse would only be a “cat's leap” away from here.

Then, all of a sudden, Betronga bursts into laughter.

“You... you are really funny!” he shouts, holding his stomach while the rest of the group looks at each other with surprised confusion.

“Finally someone who understands my humor. That means much to me, thank you Rajah Betronga.” Carlyle says with a roguish wink.

(Who would have thought that? We feared Betronga might take the joke as an insult, but he appears to be on the same level of bad puns as Carlyle)


The two Bagheva then leave to go to the bathhouse while we take some time to discuss the recent events and hide from Asrabey, as he'd surely insist that we'd use the Arc of Reida immediately no matter what.

Auryn appears to be still worried about the visions of the future, even though she wants to believe that the future is not set in stone yet. Still, the moment she tried to make her peace with “destiny”, her faith in their power to change their future was dealt yet another blow. Carlyle however sees their vision as a reminder that any kind of manipulation on the planar seal would be a really bad idea. He adds that he understands Auryn's stance, but states that their intertwined path would also be some sort of “destiny” and that she was actually the first one to desperately search for hints of that.

(Yeah, back after adventure 5, Auryn was looking for every little clue she could find to confirm that they were meant to be partners.)


We agree that some dash of destiny wouldn't be too bad, but that we'd still do everything we can to prevent this disastrous future we saw in the visions from happening.

We also talk a bit about Sentosa and Carlyle says that this city, beautiful as it may be, still has a lot of shadows, more than he originally anticipated. This could very much include Matriarch Athryalla whom even he finds hard to read, especially when it comes to her past relationship with Kasvarina. Auryn returns that she doesn't find it too odd that a woman of 500 years would have her secrets and know how to hide them. After all, he wouldn't be too different for a person who hardly knows him. She hopes to foster a good relationship with the Matriarch so that both her family and the connection between Risur and Elfaivar may prosper.

“You really are becoming a politician. I wouldn't have though you'd be able to brush away your feelings about the Ananta Paudha that easily.”, he replies.

Auryn sighs quietly. “I know. I am a bit surprised as well. Maybe because we have different priorities now. But I will ask her diplomatically about this institution if I get the chance.”

Then, we return the subject to the silver crown of Reida and the myriad of possible ways to use the artifact. Carlyle is a bit worried about the temptation it carries for him, as this artifact would be the greatest treasure for every Deva who tries to reconnect with his past lives. And as someone who died recently and had a lifetime of five centuries before that, this does feel tempting. But he'd also call it presumptuous to not allow himself to be a wholly different person in the next life.

“I wouldn't call it that. Not when you are involved. Your past self kept a large collection of notes about his life, and you have been eager to understand them, so this 'you' should be able to use the Arc without betraying who he is.”, Auryn says.

She adds that she would encourage him to use the Arc if he feels like it was the right choice. Also, she is very much certain that there are key characteristics that every incarnation of a deva would carry within them, even though the environment clearly leaves its mark on the new person.

“You're right. I might try it. But only if we have the time. And only if we don't risk to mess with Kasvarina's memories.”

We then move to the inn to rest for the night. The next day, we meet with Talios and Betronga and accompany them to the Seat of the Matriarchs. First, we introduce the two as representatives of their clan and mention that Talios would be a distant relative of the Matriarch. Athryalla is surprised to hear that, but she seems to welcome the opportunity to get to know more about this branch of her family. It becomes very apparent that the Bagheva and the denizens of Sentosa, especially their respective leaders differ a lot in terms of manners and character. Still they quickly agree that King Vardanis and the Crisillyiri colonists would be a potential threat to both their territories. Both sides seem to be open on a future cooperation and offer mutual support. The Matriarch is also surprised to hear that we managed to drive off the Clergy soldiers without bloodshed.

We then present the Arc of Reida and ask Matriarch Athryalla to honor her side of our agreement as we wish to give the artifact to Kasvarina. The Matriarch agrees to this as well, even though we get the impression that she is a bit nervous about that.

To our surprise, she'd like to talk more about making contact with Risur, and especially the monarch we mentioned. The Matriarch mentions the Ranamandala of old and that she knows from the times long gone that not all Kings are wicked monsters like Vardanis. Yes, she once tried the diplomatic path and failed, but this time, it might be different. Of course this is like water on Auryn's mill and she tells Athryalla about Kellandia and the progress her grandmother Kaealys and governor Roderick have made over the years. She explains that what once was a colony had become a place where Eladrin and Risuri could work in harmony and where technology was only used to protect. She adds that maybe other colonies might turn to a similar model in time, especially those founded by Berans. The others might need more political pressure though. But an ally like Risur might just turn out to be a powerful enough signal to make other nations stop founding new colonies on Eladrin lands.

Should this path of equal coexistence prove to be stable and steady, Auryn says, then maybe Elfaivar could just secure its future for the centuries to come. Athryalla seems a bit more cautious as she burned her fingers before with the Crisillyiri, but she understands where Auryn's optimism is coming from.

Before they part ways, Auryn then finally and carefully asks Athryalla about the Ananta Paudha, as this institution would be unthinkable in her home enclave.

“I understand your aversion and your troubles, my dear. But back then, we were so few Eladrin. We needed children and this way worked well. Our men have long learned to respect the tradition, and they would not dare make demands. And look at where we're now... almost back where we've been. At least as long as we stay inside Sentosa.”

Auryn nods silently as she sees that Sentosa is doing well despite what seem to be flaws in her eyes. She thanks Athryalla for her honesty and then we leave the pyramid to return to Kasvarina and Asrabey.

When we finally arrive at Kasvarina's house after the audience, we spot a very impatient Dreadnought walking up and down like a tiger in a cage. He seems very pleased when we inform him about our successful mission with the Arc.

“Honestly, I didn't expect less of you.” Asrabey says, finally at peace now. “If I'd ever had a daughter... no, you are very much like the daughter I've never had and will never have.” he adds and pats Auryn on the shoulder with a smile both proud and... almost mournful.

We all bring the good news to Kasvarina who is very eager to try out the Arc of Reida the moment we unpack the artifact. We urge her to play it easy before getting into the unknown head over heels, but she quickly places the crown on her head. She immediately feels drawn towards someplace else in Sentosa and we all follow her straight through the enclave.

Kasvarina's path leads her straight to what must have once been an inn which is now inhabited by an Eladrin family. Kasvarina seems to be in trance as she enters the place and we do our best to calm the family down and explain the situation to them. Around Kas, the room seems to shift just like in our visions in the Sanctum of Ingatan, turning it more opulent. We are pretty curious to find out where this vision may lead us, but Asrabey appears to know exactly what this is all about. And he doesn't like it at all.

“Oh no. I know tha-” he says and falls silent as if the trance is getting him as well. Then the Arc recreates Kasvarina's memory. Asrabey appears to be younger while Kasvarina stays very much the same at first glance. Then she turns to her husband and expresses her frustration about her unfruitful talks with Matriarch Athryalla. She states that the Crisillyiri will never learn and that any kind of negotiation with them will be futile, if not fatal. Then Kasvarina talks briefly about her own enclave, Ushanti, disrobes and dons her nightgown as she is about to go to sleep. She casually tells Asrabey that she'll send him to the Unseen Court and that she's unsure whether they will see each other again. Asrabey appears to be taken aback for a moment, but then regains his posture. He says he understands and will heed his Matriarch's command, but asks her to lie with him one last time.

Carlyle, of course, feels very much uncomfortable in this private situation (especially as he doesn't know what might happen next), but he doesn't say a word to not disrupt the memory. To his relief and Asrabey's dismay, she rejects him though as she has different issues on her mind and will visit her daughters' graves in Resal tomorrow.

The vision ends abruptly and the room turns back to normal. Asrabey, however, turns around and leaves the house without saying a single word.

“Asrabey, wait!” Auryn shouts and runs after him. But the moment he steps outside, Asrabey draws his Dream Staff, opens a semi-stable portal to the Dreaming and vanishes in a burst of flame. Carlyle stays with Kasvarina and helps her recover from this rush of emotions and memories. She regains her mental control and when Auryn returns, she looks utterly sad and heartbroken.

“I... don't understand. Once she felt something for him. She still did somehow. But in this moment, when she turned from him, her heart was cold as ice. Is this... was this really me? How could I have been so cruel?”

We both take her hands and do not leave Kasvarina's side until the immediate rush wears off. When she finally says that she's fine for now, Auryn offers to send a message to Asrabey as he only knows half the truth and will be just as heartbroken as Kasvarina, with the difference that he's all alone. But Carlyle closes his eyes and quickly shakes his head.

“Leave him for now. He needs his time alone. Right now, he won't understand a single word you say anyway. Contact him in a few days and he'll be ready to listen. Believe me, I've been there before.”

(Poor Asrabey. He's really getting the short end of the stick here. All in all you could say that he is very much like a character in a Shakespearean tragedy. Also, his continued loyalty to Kasvarina is so much more impressive once you get to know that they once parted like this. Carlyle still doesn't like him as he's too unstable for his taste, but he's starting to feel for him. Auryn however holds him very dear which will obviously lead to much drama in the upcoming adventures.)
 

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